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Cultural possession, imperial control, and comparative religion: the Calcutta perspectives of Sir William Jones and Nathaniel Brassey Halhed.

This article focuses on the contrast between the attempts of Sir William Jones and those of his fellow Orientalist, Nathaniel Halhed, to introduce the Hindu deities and their native devotees to a Western audience, both within the colony and in Europe. Works written by imperial administrators in Bengal represent a distinctive discourse of Orientalism, and it will be considered to what extent they constitute a case of possessing India culturally [pace Edward Said] or of being culturally possessed by India.

Nathaniel Brassey Halhed (1750-1831) enjoyed his time at Oxford and the culmination of his literary and libertine researches was to publish with Richard Sheridan a verse translation of The Love Epistles of Aristaenetus (1771). Halhed, who used to sign his letters to Sheridan as LYD (lazy young dog), was sent out to India in 1772 to cure him of his riotous behaviour. In England he had been a rival with Sheridan for the hand of Elizabeth Linley and in Calcutta he lost no time in presenting his poetic and personal addresses to the most attractive women, married or single, of Fort William. (1) In contrast with the conventional picture of the nabob, however, India ultimately exerted a maturing influence upon Halhed. The Calcutta catalyst proved to be Halhed's meeting with Warren Hastings, Governor and Governor-General of Bengal from 1772 to 1785.

A key plank of Hastings's rigorously Orientalist policies was to establish the authority of the British government in Bengal on Indian laws, which necessitated European judges' familiarity with native laws, and the reassurance of the British public concerning the sophistication of these laws. This had led to the employment of eleven learned Brahmans by the Revenue Board from 1773 to 1775 to compile for use in the courts of the province a Sanskrit law code that was subsequently rendered into Persian. In choosing Halhed to translate the Persian text into English, Hastings, always astute in recognizing and recruiting potential Indologists, cured him of his aimless dissipation. Halhed's A Code of Gentoo Laws (1776) effectively marks the transformation of libertine into Orientalist; its preface reveals Halhed's intense fascination with Hindu culture. Two years later, having become expert in Bengali, the principal medium for commercial transactions, Halhed published A Grammar of the Bengal Language. Increasingly, Halhed's concerns were with the control of language and the language of control.

One of the first of Halhed's Indian poems, `The Bramin and the River Ganges', written while he was at work on his translation of the Code, was sent to Hastings on 22 May 1774. As the first European privileged to receive the full cooperation of Hindu pandits, it is perhaps not surprising that, in this poem at least, he initially appeared to empathize with the `care-worn Bramin':
 Silent and sad (where Ganges' waters roll)
 A care-worn Bramin took his pensive way,
 Prescient of ill, in agony of soul
 Tracing his country's progress to decay.
 Age on his brow her furrow stamp had wrought,
 While sorrow added to th' impression deep:
 And melting Nature at each pause of thought
 Snatch'd the indulgent interval to weep.
 Thus straying, as he wearied out with pray'r
 Each fabled guardian of that hallow'd wave;
 To soothe the misery of vain despair
 The river's goddess left her oozy cave. (l. 1) (2)


In her response the river goddess Ganga, despite her `oozy' environs, demonstrates an almost `British' stiffness of upper lip/bank as she berates in pronounced `masculine' tones this lamenting stereotype of the feminized Hindoo, this lethargic and torpid Gentoo: (3)
 `O lost to thought and obstinately blind!
 Weak man!' she cried, `thy baseless passion cease:
 Rouse from this torpid lethargy of mind,
 And wake at last to comfort and to peace.
 Smile, that no more ambitious spoilers range
 Thy labour's fruits relentless to devour:
 Smile to obey (and hail the happy change)
 The rule of reason for the rod of pow'r.' (l. 13)


Smile and obey, you are now under British imperial control. The `unreasoning' Hindu is slow to recognize the benefits of `the rule of reason', having been habituated to the rod of Asiatic despotism. But now, you lucky Hindu people, the East India Company is in control, and as Hegel was to write in his Philosophy of History: `The English, or rather the East India Company, are the lords of the land; for it is the necessary fate of Asiatic Empires to be subjected to Europeans.' (4) A case, pace Gayatri Spivack, of white men saving brown men from other brown men. The goddess Ganga reminds the forgetful Bramin of the successive waves of invasion and conquest that had proved the unmaking of India:
 Hast thou forgot how Tartar fury spurn'd
 The suppliant meekness of the patient sage;
 How bigot zeal the groves of science burn'd,
 While superstition sanctified the rage? (l. 21)


The animus against the Muhammadan superstition absorbs his Eurocentricity to the extent that here Halhed allows of Indian rationality sufficient to people the groves of Hindu science. Nor does Halhed neglect to kick the Mughal empire while it is down. The rhetoric of this poem's polemical preoccupations problematizes the normal gendered relationship between East and West as the mighty Indian mother goddess is made the mouthpiece not of company propaganda but of a politically divisive fear of Islam, that fanatical cousin of Christianity.
 Hast thou forgot each prostitute decree,
 Each venal law the pliant Coran sold:
 While the fleec'd suitor famish'd on his plea,
 And judges wallow'd in extorted gold? (l. 25) (5)


But it must be remembered that Hastings, the dedicatee of the poem and the object of Halhed's panegyric, might well have found such censure of Muslim law highly embarrassing. Apart from the political necessity for being (and appearing to be) even-handed towards both religious groups, Hastings was actively engaged in sponsoring the translation of key Islamic law codes. In July 1774, only two months after the composition of this poem, Hastings obtained an Arabic text of the important Fatawa al-Alamgiri, originally compiled for the Emperor Aurangzeb, and was subsidizing its translation first into Persian and subsequently into English. (6)

Hastings's enthusiasm for Islamic art and literature is similarly well documented; his library contained 190 volumes in Arabic and Persian. (7) He owned a beautifully illuminated Shah-nameh and an exquisite Kulliyat-i Sa'di, and his interest in contemporary Muslim literature extended to patronage of the sufi poet Mir Kamar al-Din. (8) In his admiration for the memory of Akbar, whose legislation was remarkable for its justice and humanity and whose rule was marked by religious toleration and patronage of the arts, Hastings encouraged Francis Gladwin's translation of the A'in-i Akbari, which he saw as containing the original constitution of the Mughal empire. (9) Hastings, fully aware that it was knowledge from the Muslim elite that was of most practical use to the British in their conquest of parts of India, also valued the historical investigations of Jonathan Scott, his Private Persian Translator, which took their cue from Robert Orme's thesis that the reign of Aurangzeb and his successors was the key epoch of Mughal Indian history. (10) Intent upon his mission to codify both Hindu and Muslim law as `consonant to the ideas, manners and inclinations of the people for whose use it is intended', Hastings was concerned that the translation of Islamic legal texts was not keeping pace with Halhed's own work on the Hindu code. (11)

Ganga, meanwhile, continues to spout anti-Muslim propaganda; the degenerate Mughals not only corrupted justice, but disrupted commerce and culture, whitening the deserts with the bones of Indian kings:
 What could Mahommed's race degen'rate teach,
 Themselves to spoil alone and ruin taught?
 Neglected Commerce wept her silent Beach,
 And Arts affrighted distant dwellings sought.
 Think then on what ye were--destruction's prey--
 How low, how worthless in the scale of things!
 While havock stain'd with Indian gore her way,
 And deserts whiten'd with the bones of kings. (l. 29) (12)


The mighty Ganga, her anger now in full flood at the memory of Mughal oppression, excoriates the base ingratitude of her grovelling acolytes:
 Ingrateful Hindus! when a tender hand
 Pours balm into your wound; is't right to weep?
 Your guardian's anxious efforts to withstand,
 Who wakes to labour but that you may sleep!
 Are murmurs, then, and tears the tribute just,
 Are plaints, to wisdom and to mercy due,
 That raised your grovelling functions from the dust,
 And open'd life and freedom to your view? (l. 38)


There are, of course, piquant ironies inherent in Halhed's making the Vedic goddess Ganga insist that the Hindus must be guided like children by the modern rational West in the shape of the `guardian' Governor-General, `the parent, not the ruler of the state'. The idea that Hastings `wakes to labour but that [the Hindu] may sleep' anticipates Hegel's characterization of Indian thought `as imagination shorn of "distinct conceptions", that is, of rational ordering'. (13) Hegel compares it to the working of the mind asleep, and indeed thought as dream has been a dominant metaphor in the study of the subcontinent. The Hindu, irrational, illogical, unrealistic, and subjective requires the rational, scientific, and enlightened European `to raise [his] grovelling functions from the dust'. Where now are `the groves of science' (l. 23) burned by the `bigot zeal' of Islam? It will be seen that Halhed's concern is not internal consistency, but to indicate the comprehensive advantages that accrue from Company rule, and from `Him who broke despotic slav'ry's tie' (l. 58).

Halhed continues to utilize a favourite Rousseauistic image; that of the parental and animating hand of Hastings tending his Indian garden. (14) As well might the exotic sensitive plant resent the gardener's tender care as the recalcitrant Hindus complain of Hastings's rule.
 The frail exotic might as well accuse
 Th' officious kindness of the planter's care,
 That shelters it from autumn's sickly dews,
 And blunts the keenness of December's air. (l. 45)


Notwithstanding the fact that this renders Hastings vulnerable to the pejorative connotations of being something of an East Indian planter, Halhed, adopting the `improving' ethic of the Enlightenment, favours the image in the knowledge of his patron's abiding interest in botany. (15) Thus an absolute contrast is established between Hastings and his predecessor Clive, who in the rhetoric of earlier anti-Company propaganda was frequently depicted as a despoiler of the paradisal garden that was India. (16) The reductive comparison of Hindus with botanical specimens, however, would seem to anticipate later constructions of India involving `a rationalization of the irrationality of the Indians by pointing to a natural cause. Indian civilization is conceived of on the analogy of an organism [...] fundamentally a product of its environment'. (17)

Halhed (or should I say Ganga) returns to the benign paternalism of this gardening metaphor when he turns to the influence that Hastings will exert upon scientific researches:
 Yet, not confin'd to legislation's sphere,
 `Tis He shall bid fair science too take root;
 Shall nurture ev'ry plant that she may rear,
 And teach her tender scyons how to shoot:
 And haply animate some vent'rous eye
 T' explore the mysteries concealed so long:
 To trace where learning's earliest sources lie,
 And ope the fountains of Sanscritian song. (l. 65)


Again at first the implication would seem to be that Western rationality and objectivity are required to graft scientific method on to the irrationality and subjectivity of the subcontinent. However, the references to concealed mysteries and `learning's earliest sources' betray Halhed's growing realization that Hindu learning, in Hastings's words, `comprises many of the most abstruse sciences, and those carried to a high degree of perfection many ages before the existence of the earliest writers of the European world'. (18)

If Halhed's panegyric on Hastings can be seen to blur Halhed's appreciation of the antiquity of Hindu science, we must nevertheless acknowledge the truth of his large claims; this is not merely the partiality of the protege. According to Peter Marshall: `That there was a coterie of potential scholars and a foundation of knowledge, which made the [Indological] feats of the 1780s and 1790s possible, was largely the achievement of Warren Hastings, Governor or Governor-General of Bengal from 1772 to 1785' (p. 243). Nor should we underestimate Halhed's own contribution in this field. He was the first beneficiary of systematic panditic instruction; the first to be involved in Hastings's great project of the codification of Indian law; the first European to gain a complete knowledge of Bengali; and his Grammar of the Bengal Language was the first book ever printed in Bengali script, earning its printer, Charles Wilkins, the title of the `Caxton of India'. He was the ground breaker for both Wilkins and Sir William Jones, inspiring Wilkins to become the first European with a perfect knowledge of Sanskrit, and anticipating Jones's famous 1786 pronouncement (that the classical languages of India and Europe descend from a common source) by some eight years. (19)

Jones had been senior to Halhed at Harrow, and during the period of Halhed's studies of Persian at Oxford, the two men, with their common interest in the Middle East and their mutual acquaintance in Sheridan, had maintained a desultory correspondence. In 1774, the date of Halhed's poem, William Jones was admitted to the bar, making his first appearance at Westminster Hall. Despite the fact that in that year he published his Latin commentary on Asiatic poetry, any thoughts of Bengal were far from his mind; the Welsh circuit towns of Cardigan and Carmarthen bulked larger in his thoughts than Calcutta. (20) In view of this it is interesting to consider how neatly Oriental Jones fits Halhed's prescriptive description of `some vent'rous eye' animated by Hastings to `ope the fountains of Sanscritian song' (`The Bramin and the River Ganges', l. 72). Both as translator of Kalidasa's Sakuntala (1789) and of Jayadeva's Gitagovinda (1789) and as the poet of `Hymns to Hindu Deities' (1784-88) Jones accomplished exactly that. Remarkably similar imagery occurs in Jones's `A Hymn to Surya', written twelve years after Halhed's poem in 1786, where the Vedic Sun-god is made to depict Jones liberating Sanskrit learning from the abysm of the past:
 He came; and, lisping our celestial tongue,
 Though not from Brahma sprung,
 Draws orient knowledge from its fountains pure,
 Through caves obstructed long, and paths too long obscure.

 (Selected Works, p. 152, l. 184)


The year before in 1785 Jones, while he was learning Sanskrit with the aid of a pandit at the university of Nadia, had composed two hymns to two deified rivers, the Ganges and the Sarasvati. Perhaps with a fuller understanding of both the active maternal principle of the Hindu cosmos and the centrality of water to Hindu theology, Jones's `A Hymn to Ganga' involves a more convincing evocation of the Vedic river goddess. Its propaganda is more subtle, lacking both the panegyric bias and the racial divisiveness of Halhed's poem, but its political message is equally clear. `A Hymn to Ganga', as he explains in its prefacing argument, `is feigned to be the work of a Brahmen, in an early age of Hindu antiquity, who, by a prophetical spirit, discerns the toleration and equity of the BRITISH government, and concludes with a prayer for its peaceful duration under good laws well administered' (Selected Works, p. 124). Here, as in `A Hymn to Surya', Jones poses as a Hindu poet, taking upon himself the sacred thread of the Brahman as interpreter of the Laws of Manu, emphasizing continuity and good government. Jones can thus be seen to apply a novel syncretic spin to the Saidian concept of appropriation. His imposture denies to Indians the power to represent themselves and appropriates that power to himself, but it is an appropriation that involves a characteristic blurring of Self and Other.

Despite the supposed decadence of feudal Muslim rule in northern India which Halhed had excoriated, Jones's experience in Bengal had confirmed that its economy was neither feudal nor stagnant, and that Calcutta had been a dynamic centre of commercialism long before the rise of Company power. `Since', as C. A. Bayly has reminded us, `Indians controlled the bulk of the means of production, commerce and capital [...] syncretism was the only possible course' (pp. 370-71). Like Halhed (see ll. 31-32 and 53-54), Jones stresses the reality of the commerce/liberal arts nexus in the subcontinent, but without indicting the Mughal empire for the decline of each. In the East as in the West Jones locates the intersection of sophisticated culture and mercantile trade as the Ganges which `by th'abode of arts and commerce glides' (l. 139), and `A Hymn to Ganga' underscores the centrality of water in culture, communications, and transport. Jones utilizes the sacrality of Ganga Mata (Mother Ganga), the fluid embodiment of sakti, (21) whose waters nourish like mother's milk, and he appropriates her centrality as a symbol of all India to sanctify both commerce and the British colonial endeavour:
 Nor frown dread goddess on a peerless race
 With lib'ral heart and martial grace,
 Wafted from colder isles remote:
 As they preserve our laws, and bid our terror cease,
 So be their darling laws preserv'd in wealth, in joy, in peace!

 (`A Hymn to Ganga', l. 165)


Such an Orientalist conception of mutual respect, shared commercial interests, and reciprocal acknowledgement of traditional ethical codes naturally reflects a civilized and civilizing context for Jones's professional commitments as a jurist and Supreme Court judge. (22) It is not difficult, however, to trace an underlying concern with legality and legitimizing of British rule, and this is perhaps the closest Jones gets to the postcolonial concept of the anxiety of empire. (23)

Whereas Halhed, looking back to a pristine, monotheistic, and classical Hinduism, had subscribed to the contemporary prejudice against popular Hinduism, Jones appreciated that this theory of historical deterioration was somewhat simplistic. Nor did he support a caste-based dichotomy. Jones did not simply reinforce the distinction between a rational ethical Brahman elite and the repulsive superstitions of the masses. He viewed Bengal as a crucial site in the evolution of Hinduism reflecting a vigorous continuity between a classical devotional text such as Jayadeva's Gitagovinda and the practices of contemporary Bengali devotees. He appreciated how the doctrine of bhakti (loving devotion) could in some respects link popular fetishism and learned Vedantism.

Another unpublished poem sent by Halhed to Hastings in 1784 (ten years after `The Bramin and the Ganges') (24) provides a representative example of the contemptuous reaction to popular Hinduism. (25) Its very dedication, `To Brahm or Kreeshna: An Ode on Leaving Benares', establishes Halhed's monotheistic programme and limited understanding of Hinduism, for these are not alternative names for a primordial Creator. Halhed laments a profound falling away; the `proud turrets' of the holy city of Benares are mocked by the puppetry of priestcraft; the purity of `the mental gaze' has been polluted by the manipulation of `doting superstition'. Halhed has here radically altered the focus of his religious attack; in `The Bramin and the River Ganges' the `bigot zeal' of `Mohammed's race' was responsible for Hindu degeneration, but in `To Brahm or Kreeshna' it is the `bramins' themselves who are viewed as the polluting enemies of monotheism. It is not the external conqueror that has proved the unmaking of India; India was self-conquered by caste and Brahmanism. Here the `bramin' is not merely `care-worn', torpid, and ungrateful for the benefits of Company control, he is the very source of `the priest-rid mis'ry of the blinded throng' (l. 50), the author of a deluded polytheism:
 Behold, on Caushee's yet religious plain, *
 (Haunts where pure saints, enlighten'd seers have rang'd)
 The hood-wink'd Hindu drag delusion's chain.
 What boots it, that in groves of fadeless green
 He treads where truth's best champions erst have trod?
 Now in each mould'ring stump, and bust obscene,
 The lie-fraught bramin bids him know a god. (l. 18)

 [Halhed's note: * `Benaras']


Although by Hastings's protege, this is hardly the Hastings line. In the covering letter sent to Hastings with the poem, Halhed attempts to account for the violence of his animus against modern Brahmans:

In excuse for it I can only say, that I really intended to speak of the learning, the integrity, the virtue, the philosophy and the disinterestedness of Bramins. But that when I came to `sweep the sounding lyre,' the devil of one of them could I find--and Mrs. Melpomene or whoever is the proper officer on these occasions obliged me to say what I have said. As a poet I might plead the privilege of fiction. But alas it is all sober fact! And therefore I cannot possibly have hit the sublime. (26)

Halhed here in the Benares of 1784 appears as a contemptuous philosophe, effectively anticipating Volney and revolutionary French polemic against insidious priestcraft and tyrannical despotism. In some respects Halhed's position seems close to that of Charles Grant, who served in India throughout the Hastings era, and later promulgated a firmly evangelical and deeply unsympathetic version of Hinduism. Appointed in 1787 to a commanding position on the Board of Trade in Calcutta, a friend and near neighbour of Jones, Grant became on his return the most powerful figure in the East India Company administration, and used Halhed's A Code of Gentoo Laws and Jones's translation of Manu to demonstrate in his influential `Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain' (1792) that the `whole fabric' of Hinduism was `the work of a crafty and imperious priesthood'. (27)

There is a striking irony in the fact that the views of a path-breaking Orientalist, trained under the aegis of Hastings, and in the very year of the foundation of the Asiatick Society, should coincide with those of James Mill, whose History of British India (1817) reveals an Anglicist and utilitarian bias against the Brahmans who `artfully clothe themselves with the terrors of religion' in their endorsement of a traditional caste-ridden, superstition-ridden India. (28) The hegemony of Mill's text was ultimately to result in aggressively Westernizing policies in the subcontinent of the 1830s when the very concept of Indian civilization was judged oxymoronic. Unlike Mill, however, Halhed desires a return to the `intellectual fire' of the Gita, which he saw as `containing the most ancient and pure religious principles of the Hindoos'. (29)

The greater ritual purity of the Brahmans was generally associated with a metaphysical speculation of a higher order by those Westerners intent upon discovering in Hinduism either a species of monotheism or something approximating to deism. Jones's `Hymn to Narayena' (1785) presents just such an inherently deist conception of the immortal invisible which elides any distinction between the Vedantic and the Mosaic:
 Wrapt in eternally solitary shade,
 Th'impenetrable gloom of light intense,
 Impervious, inaccessible, immense,
 Ere spirits were infus'd or forms display'd,
 Brehm his own Mind survey'd, (l. 19) (30)


Jones appears both more sensitive and more cautiously discriminating concerning the priestly caste; for example in a letter of 1790 to Jonathan Duncan, the Resident and Superintendent at Benares: `With all my admiration of the truly learned Brahmens, I abhor the sordid priestcraft of Durga's ministers, but such fraud no more affects the sound religion of the Hindus, than the lady of Loretto and the Romish impositions affect our own rational faith.' (31) This is not to claim, however, that there were not lapses of consistency in Jones's position. In `A Hymn to Lacshmi' (1788) he moves from a pious invocation of the goddess in the tones of a bhakta (devotee): `Thee, Goddess, I salute; thy gifts I sing', to a condemnation of Brahmanical wiles:
 Oh! bid the patient Hindu rise and live.
 His erring mind, that wizard lore beguiles
 Clouded by priestly wiles,
 To senseless nature bows for nature's God.
 Now, stretch'd o'er ocean's vast from happier isles,
 He sees the wand of empire, not the rod: (32)
 Ah, may those beams, that western skies illume,
 Disperse th'unholy gloom!
 Meanwhile may laws, by myriads long rever'd,
 Their strife appease, their gentler claims decide;

 (Selected Works, pp. 162-63, l. 238)


Jones's appeal to Lakshmi to enlighten the erring Hindu sits ill with the evangelical Serampore note struck by the subsequent hope that enlightenment should issue from `western skies'. The `wizard lore' of the Brahmans (as opposed to Hindu law codified by the British) will be dispelled by the more potent Prospero-like imperial magic as symbolized by `the wand of (British) empire'. The final couplet of the ode: `Though mists profane obscure their narrow ken, | They err, yet feel; though pagans, they are men' (ll. 251-52), provides an unconvincing conclusion for a hymn to a Hindu divinity, revealing an uncharacteristically Eurocentric condescension.

Although the Brahmans had at first refused to initiate Jones into the mysteries of their sacred Sanskrit, (he turned to the Vaidya [the medical caste] Pandit Ramalocana for aid in mastering the language) his increasing friendship with Brahman scholars at Krishnanagar, (33) and his close collaboration with his team of legal pandits, many of whom were Brahmans, led to a real and reciprocated respect. (34)

In his writings Jones no longer accused the Brahmans of intellectual pride and, although his researches into Sanskrit literature confirmed the frequency of the topos of the Brahman's curse as a controlling plot device revealing the traditional obeisance accorded to the priestly caste, he attempted to mitigate this representation. His mock-epic version of one such narrative from the Mahabharata, features the story of Arjuna's (one of the five princely Pandava brothers) unknowing sin in separating with his arrow an ambrosial (and Brahman-owned) fruit from its `parent stalk'. (35) Jones's `The Enchanted Fruit; or, The Hindu Wife' (1784) uses a playful comparativist stance to reflect upon the contrasting significance of Hindu fruit and Judaic apple. This is no irrevocable original sin, but `Crishna' himself advises that the holy fruit may be restored to its branch only if each of the Pandavas and their polyandrous wife Draupadi confesses his/her innermost sins. Such shrift will avoid the dire prospect of a Brahman's curse. Jones's poem, however, also provides a less severe representation of the priestly caste. It highlights Draupadi's confession of a youthful romantic attachment to her handsome Brahman pandit as he related the divine eroticism of Krishna's dance with the milkmaids:
 `While this gay tale my spirits cheer'd,
 `So keen the Pendit's eyes appear'd,
 `So sweet his voice--a blameless fire
 `This bosom could not but inspire.
 `Bright as a God he seem'd to stand:
 `The reverend volume left his hand,
 `With mine he press'd'--(SelectedWorks, p. 95, l. 473)


Although the culmination of Draupadi's confession, `The Brahmen ONLY KISS'D MY CHEEK', seems playfully innocent, it is sufficient to return the eponymous holy fruit (the property of a `pious Muny' or inspired Brahman) to its native bough. (36) Such a representation, particularly within the context evoked in the poem of a Hindu golden age, with its relaxed and accommodating morality, epitomized in the significantly capitalized rule, `WHAT PLEASETH, HATH NO LAW FORBIDDEN' (l. 21), and the fact that Draupadi has received special dispensation to marry all five of the heroic Pandava brothers, effectively humanizes the austere stereotype of the Brahman. (37)

Similarly, in Phebe Gibbes's Hartly House, Calcutta (1789), perhaps the earliest novel set in India and written from first-hand knowledge, the Rousseauistic heroine Sophia Goldsborne and her handsome young Brahman tutor are depicted as falling in love. (38) Sophia's sympathetic reaction to Hinduism is intensified by her boredom with the suits of male compatriots to the extent that only the author's apparent belief that Brahmans are necessarily celibate, and more conclusively the Brahman's death of a fever, save metropolitan sensibilities from the spectre of miscegenation.

It is clear from internal evidence (Letters xxiv-xxv describe in some detail Hastings's departure from India in February 1785) that the events described in Hartly House, Calcutta take place at exactly the time of Halhed's trip to Benares and the composition of his `To Brahm or Kreeshna: An Ode on Leaving Benares', written before he followed Hastings to England. According to Halhed, what condemns India to centuries of decline and stagnation is the greed for power of the priestly caste, preventing ordinary Hindus from being agents of their own destiny. The masses of devotees, the close proximity of the living, the dying, and the dead, the stench of the funeral pyres, the excesses of asceticism--this was not the exalted enlightenment of the Bhagavadgita; Benares it seems was all too much for Halhed:
 Streets choak'd with temples--Gods at ev'ry door--
 But canst thou, Kreeshna! not incens'd behold
 Thy bramins grind the faces of the poor?
 Thy bramins, did I say?--degen'rated herd,
 Offspring of Narack, * lucre-loving race, (l. 62)

 [Halhed's note: * `Hell']


It was not as a `degen'rated herd' that German Romanticism, entranced by the translations of Wilkins and Jones, was to view the Brahmans. Alert to the cultural and racial ramifications of Jones's ground-breaking formulation of the Indo-European thesis in his `Third Anniversary Discourse' (1786), the Germans saw in the Brahman the very essence of Hindu culture in the fragrant garden of Europe's childhood. Referring to Sakuntala, Herder hymns India as a holy land and identifies himself with the Brahman Kanna, the keeper of the sacred grove and guardian of hermetic wisdom. (39) Goethe, August and Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis, Majer, von Dalberg, Hegel all fell under the spell of `the beautifully wrought one' (a phrase which effectively embraced both the refinement of Sanskrit and the sexuality of Sakuntala); moreover they were united in their admiration for the Brahman. Jones had helped provide a role-model to rival the Bard and the Druid: the Brahman as poet-priest and philosopher-theologian, at once ascetic and erotic. (40)

Here we can begin to appreciate Jones's contribution to establishing the speculative philosophical and aesthetic thought of his age. He prefigures and anticipates the romantic idealists in his emphasis upon subjectivity, and the high value he placed on myths and symbolic forms the utilitarians were to denigrate or ignore. Both the romantics and the utilitarian Anglicists can be seen to have a vested interest in preserving the Otherness of India; the romantics fascinated with those very features of Indian civilization, spiritual, mysterious, medieval, exotic, that the utilitarians condemn as worthless and ripe for Westernization.

As we have seen, the iambics of Halhed's ode construct a contrast between the elevated `monotheism' of pristine Hinduism, with its `primeval Reshees' worshipping, `One great eternal, undivided Lord' (l.8) and what he judges to be the debased and debauched ritual of the cults he had witnessed at Benares:
 What pious Hindu hails not Doorgha's vault?
 Nich'd in an angle of the seven-foot space
 Stands a gaunt semblance of th' ill favour'd hag:
 Her grizzled carcase and unseemly base
 Veil'd in a squalid yard of scanty rag.
 A silver'd convex marks each garish eye,
 Her hideous visage shines imbrued with ink:
 And as the bramin waves his lamp on high
 The satisfied adorer sees her wink. (l. 40)


Halhed's hostility towards the worship of Kali/Durga was doubtless a reaction to enormous explosion of interest in this sakta goddess and her worship in late eighteenth-century Bengal. Rachel McDermott has examined how the celebration of Durga Puja (a nine-day autumn festival to celebrate the fertilizing effects of the goddess's fiery prowess) reflects the shifting power configurations between the Muslim nawabs, the Hindu zamindars, and the East India Company. (41) She points to debate amongst historians concerning the reasons for this increased attention to Durga and her festival; some scholars argue that it reflects increase of Hindu wealth under the nawabs' lenient rule prior to the Battle of Plassey (1757), whereas others see it as the product of a new climate of stability and opportunity under the British after the transfer of power in 1765 to the East India Company, which itself patronized Durga Puja. (42)

Claims concerning festival patronage are overlaid with sectarian polemic or political rhetoric asserting the relative value of Muslim and secular Company rule, but what clearly emerges is European attendance and even involvement in the festivals. John Scott, relying upon largely sympathetic sources in Holwell and Dow, represents the Puja in his `Serim; or, The Artificial Famine' (1782) as a virtually vegetarian affair; the `Grief and Terror' are the product of famine created by harsh Company policies:
 Bring Joy, bring Sport, the song, the dance prepare!
 `Tis Drugah's Feast, and all our friends must share!
 The year revolves--nor fruits nor flowers are seen;
 Nor festive board in bowers of holy green;
 Nor Joy, nor Sport, nor dance, nor tuneful strain:
 `Tis Drugah's feast--but Grief and Terror reign.
 Yet there, ingrate! oft welcome guests ye came,
 And talk'd of Honour's laws and Friendship's flame. (43)


William Ward, however, writing from Serampore mission with a very different religious and political agenda, precisely noted that the blood of 65,535 goats was shed by Raja Isvarcandra to propitiate Durga during the course of one Puja. (44) Josiah Conder, disgusted with how `at Doorga feasts, the Christian fair | Did graceful homage to the mis-shaped gods, | And pledged the cup of demons', waxed positively nostalgic for the `righteous sword of Mahomed, which gave | The shaven crowns of those infernal priests | To their own goddess, a meet sacrifice,--| Fresh beads for Kali's necklace'. (45)

Having illustrated these `hell born mockeries of things sublime', Halhed's poem concludes with a prayer for an enlightened return to `the simple science of the one supreme', illuminated by the soaring spirit of unadulterate Hinduism: `So shall thy sastra sea-girt nations cheer: | So Kreeshna's light in northern darkness shine (ll. 83-84).

In many ways Jones would have underscored Halhed's concluding sentiments, but not his poetic approach; `Kreeshna's light' would never shine in Europe if Orientalists focused on the `garish eye' of Kali. Halhed lacked Jones's subtle syncretic approach. Jones's own `Ode to Durga' avoids the grim iconography of a hideous four-armed naked and emaciated black woman who delights in severed heads and wears necklaces of skulls. Determined not to submerge his readers in a blood bath, Jones represents the goddess in her Parvati aspect as a tender deity of devout intellect, a beautiful neophyte, `Smooth-footed, lotus-handed', braiding wreathes of sacred blossoms for the ascetic Siva. (46)

Jones is as fascinated as Halhed with the concept of the energy of the Eternal Mind, but Jones's interpretations of Vedic thought are better tailored to achieve Occidental acceptabilility. (47) Jones was not at all unsympathetic to the devoted fervour of popular cults, and found no difficulty in accepting the apparent eroticism of temple imagery which was to appall Goethe's sensibilities, writing in his ground-breaking `On the Gods of Greece, Italy and India' (1784): `It never seems to have entered the heads of the legislators or people that anything natural could be offensively obscene; a singularity, which pervades all their writing and conversation, but is no proof of the depravity of their morals' (Works, III, 367). Although anxious to airbrush elements of popular Hinduism likely to confirm Europeans in their prejudices concerning Indian savagery, Jones was appreciative of the continuity between ancient Sanskrit devotional texts and contemporary popular cults. (48) Jones's Orientalism did not simply impose a colonialist discourse upon India, facilitating British administration. It also fostered Indian nationalism by helping to liberate Sanskrit writings from exclusive Brahman control, enabling the still vital Sanskrit tradition to be accessed by Indians themselves, and thereby allowing the values of the Indian past to nourish its future. (49) Jones was concerned, in Inden's prescriptive terms, `to present Indian ideas and institutions as human products every bit as rational (or irrational) as those of the modern West' (p. 446).

Ultimately the contrast between Jones and Halhed underlines the complexity of cultural pressures upon those men actually involved with the governing of India not only in their encounter with the alien and the exotic, but in their attempted translation and transmission of those foreign cultures. Where Jones used his classical training to discover similitude both in terms of Indian continuity and a syncretic East/West synthesis, Halhed's classicism betrayed a distrust of the vernacular (this despite his work on Bengali) and a refusal to tolerate a developing and dynamic Indian society. Halhed's early intellectual promise was never fulfilled; in England without Sanskrit or recourse to informants he was a returned Nabob progressively possessed by a fixation with deciphering hidden allegories in translated Hindu texts, increasingly embittered by the Hastings impeachment, and finally obsessed with the millenarianism of Richard Brothers and Joanna Southcott. Jones in Calcutta remained determined to demonstrate that the acknowledged legislator could be both moral agent and servant of power. His millennial vision involved extending the empire of reason, fully aware that the creation of colonial knowledge was a dialogic process where native informants, whether Brahman pandits or Muslim maulavis, were not seen as subaltern.

(1) For an important and scholarly biography of Halhed, see Rosane Rocher, Orientalism, Poetry, and the Millennium: The Checkered Life of Nathaniel Brassey Halhed 1751-1830 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983).

(2) See Rosane Rocher, `Alien and Empathic: The Indian Poems of N. B. Halhed', in The Age of Partnership: Europeans in Asia before Dominion, ed. by Blair B. Kling and M. N. Pearson (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1979), pp. 215-35, 217-19. The poem is quoted here from London, British Library, Add. MS 39,899, ff. 2-3, from which Rocher's text shows slight deviations.

(3) For a more dynamic representation of the Brahman, as symbol of opposition to Company policies, see Eyles Irwin's `Ramah: or, the Bramin', allegedly based upon a suicide he witnessed while revenue collector in the Carnatic. In protest at Hastings's military support for the Muslim nawab of Arcot's invasion of Tanjore (1777), a Brahman hurls himself, with Bard-like defiance, from the summit of a temple, to `leave a lesson to the British throne!', not before prophesying the ultimate defeat of the Cross by the Crescent of Islam (Eastern Eclogues (London: Dodsley, 1780), pp. 24-25).

(4) G. W. F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. by J. Sibree (New York: Dover, 1956), pp. 142-43.

(5) Occasionally the picture looked different from the metropolis. John Scott (of Amwell), a Quaker admirer of Sir William Jones, saw the East India Company as the criminal and avaricious tyrant, creating the devastating `artificial' famine of 1769-70. By contrast: `When Timur's House renown'd, in Delhi reign'd, | `Distress, assistance unimplor'd obtain'd'. Scott's footnote reads: `The famous Mahometan tyrant, Auranzebe, during a famine which prevailed in different parts of India, exerted himself to alleviate the distress of his subjects. "He remitted the taxes that were due; he employed those already collected in the purchase of corn, which was distributed among the poorer sort. He even expended immense sums out of the treasury, in conveying grain, by land and water, into the interior provinces, from Bengal, and the countries which lie on the five branches of the Indus." [Dow's Indostan, vol. iii. p. 340.]' (`Serim; or, The Artificial Famine', The Poetical Works (London: Buckland, 1782), p. 141).

(6) See P. J. Marshall, `Warren Hastings as Scholar and Patron', in Statesmen, Scholars, and Merchants: Essays in Eighteenth-Century History Presented to Dame Lucy Sutherland, ed. by Anne Whiteman and others (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), pp. 242-62, 246.

(7) P. Gordon, The Oriental Repository at the India House (London: Murray, 1835), p. 4.

(8) See Marshall, p. 245.

(9) Reprinted in Representing India: Indian Culture and Imperial Control in Eighteenth-Century British Orientalist Discourse, ed. by Michael J. Franklin, 9 vols (London: Routledge, 2000), v and vi.

(10) Jonathan Scott (not to be confused with John Scott of n. 5) concluded that a fuller understanding of recent history might be gained from an insight into the history of the Deccan, see An Historical and Political View of the Decan (London: Debrett, 1791), reprinted in Representing India, iv. C. A. Bayly demonstrates that those who first understood the importance of information to the empire also realized that it dictated the impermanence of empire, see Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 2. This understanding is crystal clear in Hastings's comment that: `[Indian writings] will survive when the British dominion in the East shall have long ceased to exist, and when the sources which it once yielded of wealth and power are lost to remembrance' (`Letter to Nathaniel Smith' prefacing Charles Wilkins, The Bhagavat-Geeta (London: Nourse, 1785), reprinted in The European Discovery of India: Key Indological Sources of Romanticism, ed. by Michael J. Franklin, 6 vols (London: Ganesha, 2001), 1).

(11) In 1780 Hastings founded a Muslim college or madraseh meeting the costs of the site, the maulavi's stipend and his pupils' fees out of his own resources. See Marshall, `Warren Hastings as Scholar and Patron', pp. 246-47. Jones published The Mohamedan Law of Succession to the Property of Intestates (London: Dilly, 1782) before going to India.

(12) It is instructive to compare competing representations of Islam from the metropolis, although of a slightly later date. Coleridge and Southey's 1799 collaboration on a poem entitled `Mahomet' produced fourteen hexameters by Coleridge in which `th'enthusiast warrior of Mecca' is represented as a Unitarian imperialist and revolutionary tyrant:
 Prophet and priest, who scatter'd abroad both evil and blessing,
 Huge wasteful empires founded and hallow'd slow persecution,
 Soul-withering, but crush'd the blasphemous rites of the Pagan
 And idolatrous Christians.


For Francis Wrangham, in a poem dedicated to Lady Anna Maria Jones: `'T was Mecca's star, whose orb malignant shed | It's baleful ray o'er India's distant head.' The Muslim invaders embodied `the Lust of Empire and Religious Hate': `Witness imperial Delhi's fatal day, | When bleeding Rajahs choked proud Jumna's way' (The Restoration of Learning in the East (London: Baldwin, 1816), pp. 436-37). Eight years later Josiah Conder, in more Coleridgean vein, admires the monotheistic `zeal iconoclast' of the `Saracen' which `swept away the unhallow'd trumpery' of Hinduism, (The Star in the East (London: Taylor and Hessey, 1824), ll. 47-48).

(13) Ronald Inden, `Orientalist Constructions of India', Modern Asian Studies, 20 (1986), 401-46, 407-08. Jones, on the other hand, was to view Halhed's Code of Gentoo Laws as `a proof of the similarity, or rather identity, which pure unbiassed reason in all ages and nations fails to draw. [...] Although the rules of the Pundits concerning succession to property, the punishment of offences, and the ceremonies of religion, are widely different from ours, yet, in the great system of contracts and the common intercourse between man and man, the POOTEE of the Indians and the DIGEST of the Romans are by no means dissimilar' (Essay on the Law of Bailments (London: Dilly, 1781), p. 114).

(14) Halhed was to use this image again, in an untitled poem of 1784 also sent to Hastings in a letter. Here it is Calcutta itself that is the `frail exotic' soon to lose its protective governor:
 Say can a frail exotic's tender frame
 Repel the torrent, or defy the flame?
 Your animating hand first gave it root,
 Your quick'ning influence bade its buds to shoot;
 Can it but wither, when those beams are gone,
 In air ungenial, and a foreign sun?'

 (British Library, Add. MS 39,899, f. 6)


(15) `At his new house at Alipur, near Calcutta, he created a garden for "curious and valuable exotics from all quarters", such as Cinnamon trees from Ceylon' (Marshall, p. 251). For Jones's pioneering and culturally sensitive botanical researches, see `Botanical Observations', The Works of Sir William Jones, ed. by Anna Maria Jones, 13 vols (London: Stockdale and Walker, 1807), v, 62-162.

(16) See, for example, Gentleman's Magazine, 42 (1772), 69.

(17) Inden, `Orientalist Constructions of India', p. 441.

(18) I.O.R., B.R.C., 9 December 1783, Home Miscellaneous, 207, p. 172. Halhed himself wrote: `The Raja of Kishenagur, who is by much the most learned antiquary which Bengal has produced within this century, has lately affirmed, that he has in his possession Shanscrit books which give an account of a communication formerly subsisting between India and Egypt; wherein the Egyptians are constantly described as disciples, not as instructors, and as seeking that liberal education and those sciences in Hindostan, which none of their own countrymen had sufficient knowledge to impart' (preface to Grammar of the Bengal Language (Calcutta: Hoogly Press, 1778), p. v).

(19) In the preface to his Grammar of the Bengal Language he wrote: `I have been astonished to find the similitude of Shanscrit words with those of Persian and Arabic, and even of Latin and Greek: and these not in technical and metaphorical terms, which the mutation of refined arts and improved manners might have occasionally introduced; but in the main ground-work of language, in monosyllables, in the names of numbers, and the appellation of such things as would be discriminated on the immediate dawn of civilization' (pp. iii-iv). He also uses the epithet `refined' (p. xiii), a term Jones was to echo in describing the nature of Sanskrit; see `The Third Anniversary Discourse' (1786) in my Sir William Jones: Selected Poetical and Prose Works (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1995), p. 381 (hereafter cited as Selected Works).

(20) Poeseos Asiaticae Commentariorum (London: Cadell, 1774).

(21) Dynamic divine energy personified as female.

(22) There is a certain naivete, if not a departure from the principle of historical contingency, in some recent `exposures' of the political dimension to Jones's translation of Hindu culture. Nigel Leask cites the preface to `A Hymn to Narayena' as an instance of Jones `show[ing] his hand': `The fact that Jones--a political liberal in England--undoubtedly "respected" Sanskrit language and literature [...] should not blind us to the ultimate rationale of his labours' (Romantic Writers and the East: Anxieties of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 98). Kate Teltscher is similarly eager to expose Jones's research as serving colonial administration and `a tradition of mastery', (India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India 1600-1800 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 223). Jones was never anxious to conceal `the rationale of his labours', finding no difficulty in reconciling his admiration for Hindu culture with his desire to participate in efficient government and sympathetic legislation. Neither this reconciliation nor Hastings's projected reconciliation between the British and the Indians is necessarily complicit with Eurocentric cultural hegemony.

(23) An early reference to colonial guilt appears in Thomas Campbell as he addresses the `Children of Brahma': `The Nurse of Freedom gave it not to you! | She the bold route of Europe's guilt began | And, in the march of nations, led the van!' (The Pleasures of Hope (Edinburgh: Mundell, 1799), p. 26).

(24) Halhed was in India from 1772 to 1778 and from 1784 to 1785; Jones from 1783 until his death in 1794.

(25) The poem is preserved in British Library Add. MS 39,899, ff. 6-8.

(26) See John Grant, `Warren Hastings in Slippers: Unpublished Letters of Warren Hastings', Calcutta Review, 26.51 (March 1856), 59-141, 80. Eight years earlier, in 1776, Halhed had found the Brahman pandits who helped him `truly elevated above the mean and selfish principles of priestcraft', adding, `Few Christians would have expressed themselves with a more becoming reverence for the grand and impartial designs of providence in all its works, or with a more extensive charity towards all their fellow creatures of every profession', (preface to A Code of Gentoo Laws (1776), repr. in Representing India, iv, xxi).

(27) Written to provide ammunition for the unsuccessful 1793 attempt to insert a `pious clause' (to sanction missionary activity in India) into the Company's Charter, it was circulated in manuscript form in Leadenhall Street and Westminster. Its publication in Parliamentary Papers, 1812-13, 10, Paper 282, pp. 44-45, aided the success of such a clause in 1813. Ironically, Burke had used Halhed's Code for an opposite purpose (to show that Asiatic governments were not despotic) during the impeachment of its initiator, Hastings, while Halhed himself, in a series of pamphlets and letters to the newspapers signed `Detector', sought to defend Hastings's policies. See Rocher, Orientalism, Poetry, and the Millennium, pp. 101-13.

(28) James Mill, The History of British India, 5th edn with notes by H. H. Wilson, 10 vols (London: Madden, 1858), I, 128-40. Compare Southey's portrayal of Brahmans and the `monstrous mythology' (Peacock's phrase) of Hinduism in The Curse of Kehama, in Poetical Works, 10 vols (London: Longman, 1838), viii. For Shelley's equally pro-evangelical view that the Hindus need emancipation from Brahmanism, see `A Philosophical View of Reform' (1819) in Shelley's Prose, ed. by David Lee Clark (London: Fourth Estate, 1988), p. 238. Francis Wrangham appears to confound Brahma with the Brahmans; seeing the patriarchal truth that God is All and One obscured by a `learned darkness' proceeding from `selfish Brahma', who `for his Caste it's proud distinction claim'd', The Restoration of Learning in the East, p. 434.

(29) For his enthusiastic poetic response to reading Charles Wilkins's translation of the Bhagavadgita, see Rocher, Orientalism, Poetry, and the Millennium, p. 124.

(30) Selected Works, p. 108. This ode, together with Jones's preceding prose argument illustrating the thesis `that the whole Creation was rather an energy than a work', is a fascinating locus for Romanticism. Halhed is mentioned in the argument for his work on Vasishtha's commentary on the Rig Veda.

(31) The Letters of Sir William Jones, ed. by Garland Cannon, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), II, 856. Henceforth abbreviated to Letters.

(32) Compare Halhed's `The Bramin and the Ganges', l. 20, see above p. 2.

(33) Krishnanagar was the capital of Nadiya under Raja Krsnacandra (1728-1782), and the most celebrated centre of Hindu learning and culture in Bengal. Rocher has argued that Jones's association with the non-Brahman Ramalocana `for a language that was primarily a brahmanical preserve fostered an antibrahmanical stance', but as she points out, after meeting the pandit Radhakanta he was won over to the Bengali Brahmans (`Weaving Knowledge: Sir William Jones and Indian Pandits', in Objects of Enquiry: The Life, Contributions, and Influences of Sir William Jones (1746-1794), ed. by Garland Cannon and Kevin R. Brine (New York: New York University Press, 1994), pp. 51-79, 58-60).

(34) Jones seems proud of the Brahmans' favourable verdict on his compositions in Sanskrit: `This verse has given me a place among the Hindu poets: [...] they call me a Hindu of the Military tribe, which is next in rank to the Brahmanical.' He writes of the `exquisite pleasure' gained from conversing with Brahman informants, `that class of men who conversed with Pythagoras, Thales, and Solon' (Letters, II, 747-48; 756).

(35) Symbolically, he might well have thought of Sanskrit as the Brahman-owned enchanted fruit appropriated but ultimately restored by the Ksatriya (the military or governing caste); see the preceding note.

(36) In the recension Jones consulted, Draupadi's confession is not of youthful indiscretion but of a certain sexual rapaciousness: `Although I have five husbands I would like to have one other man for my great husband'; see Alf Hiltebeitel, The Cult of Draupadi (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1988), p. 288.

(37) In his playful botanical description of Draupadi as `Polyandrian Monogynian', Jones orientalizes the Swedish botanist Linnaeus as a `learned northern Brahmen' (l. 67).

(38) Hartly House, Calcutta (London: Dodsley, 1789). Although many Company servants, including Jones's friend, Colonel William Palmer, took Indian wives, such an alliance as this text suggests would become unthinkable in the later days of the Raj.

(39) The European embracing of Sakuntala as a representational icon of Hindu civilization is far from an `Orientalist' distortion; it reflects the judgement of the Indian poetic tradition. See Edwin Gerow, `Plot Structure and the Development of Rasa in the Sakuntala', Journal of the American Oriental Society, Part I, 99 (1979), 559-72; Part II, 100 (1980), 267-82 (Part I, p. 564).

(40) Occidental and sentimental identification with the Brahman occurred earlier in the century with Eliza Draper who, during a visit to England from Bombay in 1767 to recover her health, addressed Laurence Sterne as `her Bramin'. Sterne, apparently flattered to be regarded as a spiritual teacher, adopted the persona and feminized a reciprocal appellation, calling her `my Bramine'. The Journal to Eliza was rediscovered only in 1851 and not published until 1904, but in A Sentimental Journey (1768) Sterne compares an other-worldly Franciscan with a Brahman; see `A Sentimental Journey' with `The Journal to Eliza' and `A Political Romance', ed. by Ian Jack (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 6; pp. 130-88.

(41) Rachel McDermott, `Unanswered Questions on the Relationship between Politics, Economics, and Religion: The Case of Durga Puja in Late Eighteenth-Century Bengal', paper read at the University of Chicago `Bengal Studies Conference', 28-30 April 1995, published at www.libuchicago.edu/LibInfo/ SourcesBySu...a/Rachel.l.html.

(42) `The most amazing act of worship was performed by the East India Company itself: in 1765 it offered a thanksgiving Puja, no doubt as a politic act to appease its Hindu subjects, on obtaining the Diwani of Bengal (including Bihar and Orissa). The sum spent is cited variously as having been between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 30,000' (Calcutta, the Living City, Vol. I: The Past, ed. by Sukanta Chaudhuri (Calcutta: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 25).

(43) Scott's note reads: `Drugah; a Hindoo Goddess. "Drugah Poojah is the grand general feast of the Gentoos, usually visited by all Europeans (by invitation), who are treated by the proprietors of the feast with the fruits and flowers in season, and are entertained every evening with bands of singers and dancers." Vide Holwell's Indostan, vol. ii' (Poetical Works, p. 144).

(44) William Ward, Account of the Writings, Religion and Manners of the Hindoos, 4 vols, (Serampore: Mission Press, 1811), III, 116.

(45) The Star in the East, ll. 113-15; 126-29. Emma Roberts mentions the scandal caused by eminent English performers playing Handel at a Durga Puja, Scenes and Characteristics of Hindostan, 2 vols (London: Allen, 1837), II, 360.

(46) Although Teltscher concedes that he `assessed his audience's standards of propriety with considerable accuracy', she takes Jones to task in that his Hymns `convey a sense that Hindu culture cannot be transmitted directly, but must be mediated or europeanized', (India Inscribed, pp. 215, 219). Margery Sabin's response is salutary: `One does not need to engage in what she calls "hagiography" of Jones to wonder what "direct" transmission of Hindu or any foreign culture could mean in the eighteenth century or even now' (review of Teltscher, Essays in Criticism, 47 (1997), 177).

(47) Jones's study of `the Vayds and Purans of the Hindus', had confirmed the identification of the Vedantic school of Indian philosophy with Platonic thought, and it is with a certain deist bias that he traces in poems such as `A Hymn to Narayena' or `A Hymn to Surya' the metaphysical relationship between the beautiful and variegated veil of nature and the Supreme Mind which continuously creates it.

(48) Jones was faithful to the spirit of contemporary Bengali Hinduism both in his attention to the cult of sakti and in his representation of the cult of Vaishnavism (devotion to Vishnu). See my `Accessing India: Orientalism, Anti-"Indianism", and the Rhetoric of Jones and Burke', in Romanticism and Colonialism ed. by Tim Fulford and Peter Kitson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 48-66, 60-61.

(49) Instructive in this regard is the early-nineteenth-century example of an eager European collector of Sanskrit manuscripts whose efforts were frustrated by an Indian merchant who `bought up the manuscripts and presented them "to poor Brahmans sooner than they should fall into the hands of Europeans"', which Bayly cites as evidence that `some Hindus already regarded Sanskrit learning as a precious resource of national civilization' (Empire and Information, p. 255).
MICHAEL J. FRANKLIN
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
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