Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

Postby admin » Sat Oct 31, 2020 3:40 am

Claiming India: French Scholars and the Preoccupation With India During the Nineteenth Century
by Jyoti Mohan, Doctor of Philosophy, 2010
Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Maryland, College Park in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 2010
Advisory Committee: Professor Jeffrey Herf, Chair; Professor Richard Price; Associate Professor Paul S. Landau; Professor Mrinalini Sinha (Pennsylvania State University); Professor Hervé Campagne
Directed By: Professor Jeffrey Herf, Department of History
© Copyright by Jyoti Mohan 2010

Abstract

My dissertation examines the image of India which was created by the French academics of the nineteenth century. This image of India was distinct from the British image of India partly due to the different intellectual and political traditions in France, as well as Anglo-French national rivalry and the position of France in India as a subordinate or 'subaltern‘ colonizer. For instance, the French image of India was marked by its reliance on the spiritual and religious aspects of India, and its antiquity and 'Aryan‘ heritage, while the British described India primarily as a land of Oriental despotism and oppressed masses alleviated only by British colonial rule. I have examined the specifically French creation of India by French writers from the early modern to the early twentieth century to demonstrate the history of French interest in India. I have also looked at the interest of scholars in different nineteenth century disciplines like philology, anthropology, history, and religion in creating a specifically 'French‘ image of India in terms of race, caste and Hinduism.

Dedication

For my mother whose perseverance saw me through…

Acknowledgments

This enormous and time consuming project has seen more milestones of my life than I would sometimes like to remember. On the other hand, with the hindsight that historians are notorious for, I cannot imagine that this thesis would have taken the form it has today, without these milestones. For my husband who has painstakingly supported me in my often bewildering mood swings for eight years. My children, Nandika and Arjun, taught me that there are other important and fulfilling roles in life. My brother Anand was always my most exacting critic and without his interest in my dissertation, I can truly say it would never have been completed.

My friend and co-conspirator since our days of graduate school, Marcy Wilson, has been around for my marriage, the birth of my two children and has constantly reminded me that it was worth finishing even when the kids enticingly beckoned for me to shelve the project indefinitely. Several people provided much intellectual sustenance- Professor Richard Price, Professor Paul Landau, Professor Jeffrey Herf, Professor Mrinalini Sinha, Professor Brett Berliner, and Professor Gyanendra Pandey. The companionship of several participants at the University of Liverpool‘s project on France- Britain-India shaped this project in important ways. In particular, the feedback of Ian Magedera and Kate Marsh was indispensible.

My biggest debt of gratitude is to my mother. She put her own life on hold to become chief babysitter and housekeeper, leaving me free to do research. More importantly, her emotional support and desire to see me finish kept me from quitting during my most depressing and lonely periods. Thank you amma.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

• Dedication
• Acknowledgements
• List of Tables
• List of Figures
• Prologue: The History of Britain and France in India
• Introduction: Why a French image of India?
o The 'Oriental Renaissance‘ and the place of India
o 'Orientalism‘ and India
o Themes
o A note on terminology
• Chapter 1: India: A land of wonders or of monstrosities? The writings of missionaries.
o Background
o The Muslim Enemy
o The Origin of the Indian Religion
o The effects of 'civilization‘
o Conclusion
• Chapter 2: The 'sublime‘ civilization of India: The pre-occupation of philosophes
o Enlightenment India- a shift from Ecclesiastical writing
o Montesquieu and the notion of the 'Oriental Despot‘
o Voltaire and the Vedam
o Montesquieu and Voltaire redux
o Conclusion
• Chapter 3: The Business of Serious Academics: Indology and the Study of India
o An ancient civilization: searching for Sanskrit
o Here to Stay: A Parisian Monopoly
o A changing tide: the end of romanticism
• Chapter 4: The Era of Empiricism and the rise of Philology
o The new Philology
o Buddhism and its Indian Origin
o Tassy and the study of Indian Islam
o Scholars have practical considerations too
o British preoccupations
o Conclusion
• Chapter 5: The Glory of Ancient India Stems from her Aryan Blood: The development of 'scientific Anthropology‘ in relation to India
o The Study of Man
o Topinard and the anthropometric method
o Gobineau and Race
o Le Bon and India
o British and Aryan India
o Conclusion
• Chapter 6: Recasting India in French Indology: Hinduism and the Caste system
o Caste and the 'racialization‘ of India
o Caste and Race
o Barth and the 'Hinduization‘ of India
o The British and the uses of caste
o Conclusion
• Chapter 7: Writing histories, creating 'India‘
o Duruy and Aryanism
o Anglo-French colonial rivalry
o Conclusion
• Chapter 8: Imperial showcase: the visual presentation of 'India‘
o Conclusion: Was India really 'French‘?
• Bibliography
• Bibliographic Aids
• Journals and Newspapers
• Primary Sources
• Secondary Sources
• List of Tables
o Table 1: List of articles about India in the Magazin Encyclopédique ou
Journal des sciences, des lettres et des arts, 1795-96
o Table 2: List of articles about India, 1803- 1805 in the Journal des Débats
et des Décrets
o Table 3: Distribution of articles on India by topic: Journal des Savants, 1817-99
o Table 4: Graph of articles on India by topic: Journal des Savants, 1817-99
o Table 5: Table of articles on India by topic: Journal Asiatique, 1822- 1902
o Table 6: Graph of articles on India by topic: Journal Asiatique, 1822- 1902
o Table 7: Table of articles on India by topic: Revue des Deux Mondes, 1829- 1900
o Table 8: Comparison of article content among articles on India, Journal Asiatique, 1822- 1902
Table 9: Comparative graph of article content among articles on India, Journal Asiatique, 1822-1902
o Table 10: Comparison of article content among articles on India in the Bulletins de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris, 1822- 1902
o Table 11: Comparative graph of article content among articles on India in the Bulletins de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris, 1822- 1902
o Table 12: Comparison of article content among articles on India in the Journal Asiatique, Revue d‟Ethnographie, Revue d‟Anthropologie and Bulletins de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris, 1860-1900
o Table 13: Comparative graph of article content among articles on India in the Journal Asiatique, Revue d‟Ethnographie, Revue d‟Anthropologie and Bulletins de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris, 1860- 1900
• List of Figures
o Figure 1: Map of Franco-British military rivalry, 1740- 61
o Figure 2: Postcard of French India posts
o Figure 3: Types of inhabitant of Pondichéry in 1832
o Figure 4: Bayadère
o Figure 5: Jeweler
o Figure 6: The Maharana of Udaipur with the English Resident
o Figure 7: Samboe-Singh (sic) the Maharana of Udaipur
o Figure 8: 'Minas: a half-savage tribe in Rajputana‘
o Figure 9: 'savages of Chota Nagpur‘
o Figure 10: Rajput warriors
o Figure 11: 'Brahman of Mysore‘
o Figure 12: 'Hindu Pandit of Udaipur‘
o Figure 13: The racial map of India
o Figure 14: Map of L‘Inde coloniale
o Figure 15: Postcard representing the Pavilion of Inde Française at the Exposition coloniale internationale, Paris, 1931
Figure 16: The exterior of the Pavilion
o Figure 17: The Pillars of the pavilion
o Figure 18: The inner courtyard
o Figure 19: Panel depicting India
o Figure 20: The Hindustan Pavilion
o Figure 21: Postcard of the French India pavilion at the Exposition Universelle of 1889
o Figure 22: Postcard of the French India Pavilion at the Exposition Universelle, Paris 1900
o Figure 23: The India palace at the Wembley Exhibition, 1924-25
o Figure 24: Indian courtyard at Wembley
o Figure 25: The India Pavilion at night
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Re: Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

Postby admin » Sat Oct 31, 2020 3:53 am

Prologue: The History of Britain and France in India.

As the causes and purposes of British colonialism in India differed from those of France, so too did their respective forms of colonial rule. The French derived more national pride and less economic sustenance from their colonies. Their colonial territories were therefore used as showcases for their policy of assimilation and later association, rather than the openly expressed British policy of profit first. So for example, the railroads in French West Africa represented the mission civilisatrice first and economic benefit second, while in India the railroads served a primarily economic and military function. This is my understanding of British and French colonialism. This chapter provides a brief historical background of French and British colonial progress in the subcontinent and of their differing needs in an understanding and study of 'India‘.

This brief foray into the motives for British and French colonial activity in the nineteenth century is essential to any understanding of how and why colonization and portrayals of colonies by the West differed. My dissertation seeks to look not just at the French construction of India during the nineteenth century, but also how and why it was unique and different from the British portrayal of India.

Colonial interest in the subcontinent began with commercial interest and was bound to economic plans. The first recorded French expedition to the subcontinent was in 1604 followed by another in 1615.1 These were both mercantile and failed for lack of money and patronage. However the French government under the aegis of Cardinal Richelieu, realized with these expeditions as well as the reports which were filtering back to Europe with the expedition of the English East India Company, that the subcontinent‘s riches were worthy of attention. Reports of the fabulous 'wealth of Ind‘ piqued the interest of the scholar-discoverer- merchants of the period, and the Compagnie d‟Orient was founded in 1642. The Compagnie remained fairly ineffectual until Colbert revived the flagging trade with the Orient with the formation of the Compagnie des Indes Orientales or the French East India Company in 1664 which, following the monopolistic companies of the day was given the monopoly of trade from Madagascar to China. In March 1665 the first expedition of the French East India Company departed for the Indian Ocean consisting of four ships: Saint-Paul, Aigle-Blanc, Taureau, and the Vierge de Bon Port.

François Caron was named the first Director of French trade in the subcontinent in 1666 and in 1668 the first Comptoir or trading agency of the French was established in Surat, and then at Masulipatam in 1669. These Comptoirs were factories or fortified depots, also called 'loges‘ which were established with the permission of the local ruler by the various European countries trading with the subcontinent at the time- English, French, Portuguese and Dutch. It is important to remember that these Comptoirs were merely a form of 'sub-letting‘ from the local rulers- the Europeans held the land upon which the Factory was built on condition that they paid the ruler a portion of the revenue realized from the area. Yet over time, many factories began fortifications, initially to ward off the predatory attacks of other European trading companies and later as a means to assert their independence from the local ruler. The beginning of colonial empires thus began with these unassuming little factory depots. Each loge or Counter was under the charge of a Chief, who in turn was accountable to the Chief of Surat Counter who was the Director of all FEIC affairs in the subcontinent by 1670.

In 1672 the supreme French authority or Conseil Souverain or Conseil Superieur or Supreme Council was shifted from Madagascar to Surat. Caron‘s illustrious successor François Martin founded Pondichéry in 1674 in time to revive the French EIC which was facing hard times. This was the first land which the French actually owned in the subcontinent, having being granted this land by the ruler of the area. Pondichéry was situated in an enviable position- a port town which was easily accessible to trade, the town was much sought after by all the colonial traders including the Dutch, who conquered it in 1693 and returned it to the French with the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 after actually improving the fortifications. By 1701 all French operations in the Indian Ocean were shifted once again to Pondichéry with the head of Pondichéry being designated Governor.

In the meantime the spice trade and wealth of the subcontinent had attracted the attention of a group of English merchants, who in 1600, successfully petitioned Queen Elizabeth I to grant them a monopoly of English trade in the East. They floated a company, named quite obviously the East India Company. Basing their initial operations in the subcontinent on the West coast town of Surat, the English East India Company fought fiercely for domination among European competitors, eventually defeating and driving the Dutch and Portuguese father east into South East Asia. Determined to exploit the rich trade, the English East India Company persisted in obtaining royal charters from the Mughal emperors which gradually increased their territorial and economic strength in the subcontinent. For their bravery in battle the natives now began calling them 'Company Bahadur‘ or brave company.2 By the end of the seventeenth century, the British East India Company was faced only with French competition for the subcontinent.

The rivalry between the English and French began in 1688 with 1744-48 and 1756- 63 being two episodes when the war flared up more strongly. On the French side the war is described more in terms of the efforts of individuals like Francois Martin and Dupleix.3 Francois Martin was born in Paris in 1642, and died in Pondicherry in 1706. Along with Bellanger de Lespinay, he was dispatched to India to explore the prospects of trade and empire. An excellent soldier and general who commanded the loyalty of his troops he established Pondichéry in 1674 and successfully resisted Dutch invasions upon the port in 1693 and 1698. He eventually became the governor of Pondichéry and remained there until his death. He fortified the town and constructed the first version of the European town with its central fort and surrounding structures. Martin also maintained excellent relations with the local rulers as well as the natives -- a policy which continued to be followed by other French notables to the advantage of the French enterprise in the subcontinent.

The next notable French figure in the subcontinent was La Bourdonnais, who was born at Saint- Malo in 1699 and died in Paris in 1755. An administrator for the FEIC he became the Governor of the Isles de France and Bourbon. Leading attacks on the English establishments in the subcontinent he was successful in many of his battles even capturing Madras in 1746.

The maximum scholarship on any figure in French history on the subcontinent has been done on François Joseph Dupleix, who was born in 1697 and died in ruin in 1764.4 Dupleix became the first 'Governor- General of French India‘ and was the creator of the brilliant plan of intervening in the local disputes of rulers to gain control of territories- a plan which failed for the French because of lack of support but was successfully implemented by the British to conquer the whole of the subcontinent. Dupleix‘s greatest military successes came during the Austrian War of Succession in 1740 when Anglo- French colonial rivalry flared up in the subcontinent. Having fought off the British in the three wars of the Carnatic and forged alliances with several native kingdoms, Dupleix managed to expand French territory in the subcontinent. The French Empire in the subcontinent was at its apogee under him and supporters of French colonial policy as well as admirers of Dupleix point this out frequently. Unfortunately his military skills were not matched by his conciliatory skills towards the Directors of the FEIC who felt that he was squandering precious resources on war instead of expanding trade. Deaf to his insistence that trade needed to follow the flag and that territorial conquest was necessary to establish French economic profit in the subcontinent the Directors recalled him to Paris in 1754 and gave up valuable territorial gains made by France in the subcontinent to Britain in the Treaty that was concluded in the aftermath of the wars. Cut off from his pension and ostracized in France, Dupleix died in disgrace, penniless.

The successor to Dupleix‘s chequered career was Lally-Tollendal, who was also a great general and continued to advance French interests in the subcontinent. The French Empire in the subcontinent was at its height under the stewardship of Dupleix, Lally, and Bussy (see map. 1). There was a period of victory from 1750 when the French managed to occupy most of the Deccan, Carnatic, Bengal, Madras, Fort Saint- David, and Devikota. From 1754 onwards internal dissension between Dupleix and La Bourdonnais led to a weakening of French power. In 1754 the French in the subcontinent were only in a handful of settlements. This period was also the height of the Anglo- French rivalry in the subcontinent with the Seven Years war flaring up in India by 1756. In 1761 Pondichéry was captured by the British and demolished, but restored to France by the Treaty of Paris of 1764 along with the four other Comptoirs and Loges (Masulipatam, Calicut, Casimbazar, Jugdia, Dacca, Balasore, and Patna). The military successes of the French ended for the most part with the Treaty of 1764. In what many Indophiles lamented as a continuing policy of shortsightedness, the French government concluded the Treaty of Paris with England and brought the War to an end by giving up the major chunk of her territories on the subcontinent to Britain in exchange for the return of her colonies in Canada. This effectively spelt the death knell of Imperial aspirations for France in the subcontinent even though they continued to pose the most consistent European threat to England for empire in the region until the outbreak of Revolution in 1789 effectively brought all external engagements of France to a hurried end.

The last weak attempt of the French to consolidate their position in the subcontinent took place in the aftermath of the Treaty of Paris. Trying to build relationships with local rulers, particularly Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan of Mysore, the French tried ineffectually to challenge the growing British strength in the subcontinent. The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1787 meant that all attention was effectively focused on Paris. Despite Tipu‘s desperate efforts to forge a military alliance with the new Republic5, France was in too much chaos to pay much attention to her colonies. The National Assembly in France went to the extent of denouncing all colonies in keeping with their belief in universal equality, and most of France‘s colonial possessions followed Paris in declaring loyalty to the Revolution and the ideals of the Republic, even drawing up official resolutions and sending embassies to Paris.6 Although the situation did not last long and France reclaimed her colonial possessions in the subcontinent under the Directory, the damage had been done. French relations with native rulers were all but dead and the Comptoirs were now isolated French posts surrounded by native kingdoms or British territory. Captured by the British in the course of the Napoleonic Wars, they were finally returned to France in 1817 with stringent restrictions about fortifications.7 Surrounded by the burgeoning British Indian Empire these Comptoirs languished as sleepy outposts in the French colonial empire for the better part of 150 years, content to watch the world go by, and occasionally aiding the colonial effort in South East Asia.8

The failure of French colonial ambitions in the subcontinent has most traditionally been attributed to the working of the FEIC and the bureaucratic control wielded over its activities by government appointed officials in Paris.9 Unlike the English East India Company, which reported to the Crown but had a considerable degree of independence in its daily activities, the French EIC had to receive prior approval for its actions; approval which was usually too late to secure the gains hoped for. While this study does not involve this aspect of history, this explanation is simplistic at best and ignores the myriad other factors at work, both in the subcontinent and in France.

From 1817 to 1947 the Comptoirs continued in a state of tranquility. With the independence of British India10 the movement for independence in French India gained momentum until finally France gave up her colonial claims on India in 1954. French colonial writers describe this period from 1817 to 1954 as one where the French India posts developed educational, economic, political, and judicial structures in peace and harmony with their colonial masters.11

Despite their insignificant territories French presence in India continued well into the twentieth century through the agency of mercenaries who were in the employ of native princes, as well as travelers, tourists and the occasional missionary. Mercenaries who had been employed in native courts, many of them deciding to 'go native‘ and begin collections of Indian artifacts and literature thoroughly immersed themselves in an understanding of India from a local point of view.12 More importantly, being in the employ of natives, their diaries, letters and memoirs were a far more sympathetic and positive account of India and its people than those of British officials, who often found themselves at loggerheads with their subjects.13

France‘s colonial career in India in fact, extended beyond the British Empire in India. While British India acquired its independence in 1947, the French Comptoirs were declared independent of France only in 1954 and in fact, the actual union with India occurred after a brief military siege of Pondicherry in 1963. Ironically 'French India‘, as the Comptoirs and loges were collectively called, outlasted the Raj, and ensured that the French were the longest lasting colonial power in India, from the first French Governor General of Pondichéry, François Martin in 1699 to 1963: a career of 264 years in comparison to the British colonial administration of 190 years.14

Given their lackluster military performance in India how did France become the leader in Indic studies in the nineteenth century? More importantly, why? The maintenance of the Comptoirs in India was a source of continual curiosity for French travellers to India in the nineteenth century. Many scholars who have studied the Comptoirs stress that the economic attractiveness of the India trade continued far beyond the downfall of colonial hopes. Louis Dermigny for example, stressed the continued commercial attractiveness of India to French merchants after the FEIC‘s monopoly was revoked in 1769 in the aftermath of the Seven Years War.15 Paul Butel who has studied the private archives of individuals to explore the trade between India and French ports like Bordeaux and Marseilles, notes the petition of a merchant, Louis Monneron whose company was based in Pondichéry till 1787 to the National Assembly and later again to Napoleon stressing the importance of maintaining the trade route via the Suez.16 As Butel points out there was a tendency among both ports and Parisian financial circles of returning to the commercial routes of the Indian Ocean which had created so many fortunes in the eighteenth century.

Some nineteenth century writers like Victor Jacquemont were frankly contemptuous of French individuals who sought to glorify the French presence in India. Writing to his father in 1831 he declared that ―Our microscopical establishments In India are always ridiculous, and a humiliating anomaly in the event of war. Young M. Desbassyns wishes to attach a degree of importance to Pondicherry of which it is not susceptible.'17 But Jacquemont was an honored guest of the British administration in India and bound to praise the efforts of the British to bring comfort to what he perceived as an impoverished and oppressed India.18

More often, French travellers in India entertained the romantic notion of an India which might have been colonized by France. In this perception, the Comptoirs provided a pleasant image of what might have been- a stable, sometimes sleepy peace pervading the Comptoirs which, at least on the surface, presented a picture of total harmony between French and Indian in opposition to the upheavals and growing unrest in British India during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Visiting Chandernagore in 1863, Rousselet recalled his pride at seeing the tricolor waving over the town, yet saddened by the deserted aspect of the sleepy little town which once ruled Bengal and now possessed no economic or political advantage asked, ―Why does France persist in retaining this insignificant spot of ground? Is it to remind us of what we might have been in India and of what we are? Is it for the military importance of a place where treaties forbid us to keep more than fifteen soldiers?…'19 Yet, at the end of his travels in India Rousselet recalled the pomp and splendor with which he was received by every Indian prince and the hospitable manner in which he was treated, even though he was merely a scholar visiting India for his own means, with no official commissions to execute. He surmised that perhaps the reason for his effusive welcome in India was that when he undertook his journey in 1863, France had arrived at the apogee of her glory and power, and that her name might be said, without boasting, to have filled the universe.20

There is therefore nothing surprising in the fact that the sovereigns of India, seeing in me, certainly not the official representative of the great country then admired and feared by all, yet a scientific traveler of that nationality, should have been anxious to testify, by the honours they lavished upon this Frenchman, the first who had ever visited their courts, their esteem and respect for the name of France. Thus my own humble and obscure individuality only received the marks of respect intended for my country.21


By the twentieth century, the expansion of French colonial power and the fever of nationalistic patriotism that Jules Ferry had aroused in 1890 and sought to exhibit in the series of Expositions Universelles in the latter half of the nineteenth century had created many an armchair French colonialist. A consummate imperialist, Pierre Loti provided the romantic voice to members of this generation of French men and women in conjuring up an exotic quality to the colonies. Writing, ―Oh! 'the colonies'! How can I describe all that was evoked in my head, merely by the sound of that word. A fruit from the colonies, a bird from there, a shell, at once became enchanted objects for me.'22 Loti overcame the despondency of Rousselet in remarking about Chandernagore that ―nothing, in the marvelous India that I have seen or that I have yet to see, could be as appealing for me as this tiny corner of old France, lost on the edge of the Bay of Bengal.' 23

In emphasizing the extent to which the French were in sympathy with Indians, the Comptoirs presented a picture of harmony. Representing an anomalous amount of effort in relation to their size and political significance the Comptoirs were the best recorded of all French colonies and contain several hundreds of volumes recording every aspect of administration, politics, military affairs, personal letters exchanged between French notables as well as Indian notables, an extensive record of births, deaths, marriages, maps and plans of the Comptoirs, cadastral surveys, records of the Chaudrie, budgets and receipts etc.24

Moreover they functioned as proof that the French colonizing mission was far superior to the English. Unlike French rule in Africa and South East Asia which tended to be crude, and often violent, the Comptoirs were an image of peaceful coexistence and understanding between ruler and ruled, as a result of the enlightened French policies of assimilation and association.

The reality was more complicated. French India certainly had more political rights than British India, but colonial ideology dominated every aspect of life. This was most visible in the architecture of the Comptoirs. In Pondichéry, for example, Preeti Chopra argues that the construction of Pondichéry as a colonial town reflected the anxieties and needs of the French rulers in the eighteenth century.25 At a time when the town was central to French territorial ambitions in India, the central aspects of town planning were incorporated- the use of a few grand public buildings situated in the center of the town in order to serve the needs of government as well as to impress the local population26, and the gridiron plan of the European town which was separated from the native parts by a canal or an early version of the cordon sanitaire which characterized the French settlements in North Africa and South East Asia. This built environment also reflected the French process of constituting an elaborate local government in the French comptoirs. Despite their small size, the comptoirs possessed the most meticulous colonial administration of the nineteenth century, which maintained detailed annual records.

Chopra also argues that the built environment in Pondichéry reflected French colonial history in India, being the effort of a few prominent individuals, as well as reflecting the French policy of assimilation by allowing the natives free access into the European town. Chopra‘s latter argument is undermined by the fact that while natives were allowed free access to visit the European town, they were, for the most part, barred from purchasing homes in the European town, thus maintaining the cordon sanitaire. However for the purposes of public discourse the illusion of assimilation was successfully maintained in the built environment of Pondichéry. The claim to assimilate the Indians was also made with the early inclusion of natives into local political roles. Unlike the British who tried to minimize the role of Indians in the administration until late into the nineteenth century, the French emphasized their policy of inclusion by allowing natives to stand of election in local elections and hold some administrative posts. Yet as the complex story of the late nineteenth century 'king maker‘ Chanemougam, in Pondichéry politics demonstrates, natives could wield considerable power behind the scenes, but the natives who were elected tended to be Europeanized, and often educated in France.27 While supporters of France‘s colonial role in India point to the accommodation of local and religious law by judging Hindus and Muslims according to the Manusmriti and the Sharia respectively, as well as the simultaneous creation of republican institutions which allowed the comptoirs not only to have a voice in self government but also allowed a representative in France28critics of colonial rule have pointed out that the caste based laws which were created only increased the divisions in native society which cementing the power of the French in mediating caste conflicts.29 Moreover the creation of a republican administration and French educational institutions were more evidence of France‘s mission civilisatrice which was further echoed in the selection of French political figures or at most, Europeanized, Christian natives to participate in local and national government in Pondichéry and Paris.

After the downfall of the French empire in India, the town was destroyed a rebuilt at least three times, but the fundamental plans of the town planning were followed in each rebuilding. In 1906, Brossard described the main monuments of the European town or the Ville Blanche as the Hôtel du Gouvernement, the hospital, the promenade along the pier, the cathedral of Notre-dame des Anges, a statue of Dupleix, the municipal offices of the local government and court, the College of Foreign Missions, three large temples and the marketplace and offices of the Bank of Indochine. In contrast the native town of Ville Noir had one Jesuit Church, a local college and the prison.30 As a result, Pondicherry as it exists today still resembles a town from the colonial past. The 'downtown‘ area is constituted by the erstwhile French town with broad avenues, old homes and public buildings preserved from colonial times and a broad promenade along the beach front all of which accompany other remnants of the colonial past such as the still existing French street names, various monuments to French rule, buildings like the Romain Rolland Public Library and the ever present local policemen, who, in complete difference from the rest of India, maintain their old white and red colonial uniforms complete with round hats. Chopra convincingly suggests that French colonial rule has been replaced in the present day with 'ashram rule‘ where the Aurobindo Ashram (which established itself in Pondicherry under Shri Aurobindo in the early twentieth century31 and flourished under his chosen successor, a French female disciple simply referred to as 'Mother‘32) which acquired most of the land and buildings of the French colonial era and continues to maintain the colonial architecture, has established an informal colonization of the town and its inhabitants, through its strong connections with France, and French education.33 In all areas of the main town, the reminder of France‘s colonial presence can be seen in the frequent monuments, street names, and French schools and institutes, as much as in the frequent sight of French tourists to India who make the often arduous journey to witness this old colony of France. It can be heard in the thick Tamil-accented French which is spoken as much as the local Tamil language. It can be tasted in the array of French bakeries and restaurants which exist alongside the local vegetarian Indian eateries.34 As a testament to French colonial presence, Pondicherry presents a striking image of a town forgotten in history, where the calm of colonial life in the last century, complete with the physical and auditory sense of colonial order is only shattered by the sudden and chaotic descent into the shrill hullabaloo and teeming marketplaces of modern day South India, as one deliberately exits the geographical space of the former colonial town.

These issues become central to any examination of French views of India. Even academics were influenced by several factors. In the case of Indologists the inevitable fascination with the Orient pervaded Europe during this period and motivated the German Indological movement. Additionally there was a complex history of France in India consisting of a stinging defeat at the hands of Britain as well as the far less combative French presence in native courts combined with shifting academic discourses and the developing needs of national identity and colonial conquest. For example, historian and member of the Académie Française Joseph Naudet, in his eulogy to Eugene Burnouf claimed that although France had lost her temporal claims to India, she was still the intellectual master of India through the work of the Indic scholars of the nineteenth century, reinforcing the confluence of academic with colonial agenda.35 Admittedly not all academics were aware or consciously influenced by all of these factors. However the reception of their works in France as well as the concomitant image of India which was created in France cannot be distinguished from French circumstances in India in any scholarly analysis.

Britain, on the other hand, had specific requirements for learning about India. Triumphant in India after defeating Dutch, Portuguese, and French colonial armies the British began waging a number of wars to conquer India. Beginning in 1767 with the Battle of Buxar, native kingdoms quickly fell in the latter half of the eighteenth century to the well-trained fighting units and the shrewd political schemes of the British East India Company and its officials. By the end of the eighteenth century, the East India Company was master of a substantial portion of the sub-continent, to the extent that administration and rule became a central concern. To this end the efforts of Company officials to learn Indian languages, religion, and custom were encouraged and funded. The Indian possessions were foreign enough from British conceptions of daily life to warrant the establishment of a special college with native tutors, first at Fort William, Calcutta in 1800 and then in Haileybury, England in 1806, to train prospective officials going out to India about the customs, religion and beliefs of their Indian subjects.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, consolidation of rule was considered a key component to successfully exploiting the economic resources of India. The focus thus turned to understanding contemporary social norms, religious beliefs and languages of the different parts of the sub-continent to better communicate and trade with the natives. The writings by Company officials as well as British academics36 echo this need for a practical understanding of contemporary natives as well as maintenance of a system of rule which was already beginning to draw criticism and resistance.

The turning point in Western writings about India came with the Mutiny or Rebellion of 1857. Shaken to its very core, Britain realized that India was too valuable to lose. Company rule was officially ended as Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India in a grand coronation which began the era of the Raj and included many of India‘s native rulers who signed loyalty to their new sovereign37. Britain announced that it had taken on the mantle of rule from the Mughals.38

Realizing that the Rebellion which had nearly toppled British rule in India had not been a lesson only for them, but also to the millions of subjects whom they ruled, and who were confident that they were strong enough to overthrow firangi (foreign) rule, the first task of the Raj was to establish control over their teeming subjects. The process of cataloguing, classifying, and dividing Indians into their different castes, sects, and religions now began. Touted as an attempt to better understand and catalogue the unique social system of the Indians, the Census of India now sought to collect information about individual castes, races, and religions. In reality the Census was a powerful tool to divide Indians so that they would never again be able to overcome caste, regional and religious prejudice to unite against British rule. Simply put, the Indians would be too busy fighting with each other, to present a united front against the British. This policy of 'divide and rule‘ which was incorporated through official means like the Census, as well as unofficial avenues like the popular press was a spectacular success. Never dreaming that they had been manipulated, Indians were indoctrinated into a new, Western understanding of their own social and religious identities in a masterful British colonization of native knowledge whereby the rulers learned about India from the natives, and then taught their own teachers a version of Indian history, religion and society which had been interpreted through Western intellectual filters.39 While the educational policy of the British, popularly described as the 'downward filtration theory‘ has been criticized as a massive failure in the field of education, it achieved its desired result in creating a Western discourse of India among Indians themselves. As eminent, educated Indians began to understand their own history and culture through popular Western theories like Marxism, Liberalism and Progressivism they began to echo the British criticism of India as culturally stagnant, and a religious cesspool of competing identities. While they may have failed to communicate Western education to their less fortunate brethren, this idea of caste and religion as barriers to a 'modern India‘ which would resemble British society percolated down to the masses, thus completing the British conquest of India.

Modern India is still trying to decolonize her past and present and scholars have only very recently begun to explore this aspect of psychological colonization which has had a longer impact than any other aspect of British imposition- economic or political. In the meantime, as Indians continue to quarrel over religious, sectarian and caste identities, one can only hope that a study of this type of colonization, which traces the origin of the discourse and description of some of the identities in India, will lead to a better understanding of the process of decolonization.

Image
Figure 1: Map of Franco-British military rivalry, 1740- 61. Taken from A History of Modern India edited by Claude Markovits (London: Anthem Press, 2004): 211.

_______________

Notes:

1 Edward Farley Oaten, European travellers in India during the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 1909 (New York: AMS Press, 1971 reprint): 124.

2 See M K Gandhi, Hind Swaraj and Other Writings. Edited by Anthony Parel (Cambridge: CUP, 1997): 39.
 
3 For most of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, French historical works on India focused primarily on these individuals. For example tens of French theses were written on the subject of Dupleix.

4 See for example, Alfred Martineau, Dupleix, sa vie et son oeuvre (Paris: Société d‘éditions géographiques, maritimes et coloniales, 1931), Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreuil, Dupleix; ou, L'Inde conquise (Paris: Librarie d‘Amérique et d‘Orient, 1942), Henry Bionne, Dupleix (Paris: M. Dreyfous, 1881). The Library of Congress alone lists over 30 works in multiple languages relating to Dupleix and his times.

5 Tipu Sultan sent embassies to the Revolutionary Government in Paris seeking French military aid. See Binita Mehta, Widows, Pariahs and Bayadères. India as Spectacle. (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press and London: Associated University Presses, 2002): chapter 3.
 
6 Jeremy D. Popkin, 'Revolution in the Colonies and the French Republican Tradition‘, French Politics, Culture and Society, Vol. 25, 2007.
 
7 S P Sen, The French in India (Calcutta: University of Calcutta, I947).
 
8 The comptoirs served as ports of call on the way to and from South East Asia. During the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries Pondichéry also supplied labor, administrators, and traders to the area. Emmanuel Divien, The Development of Tamil Society in Pondicherry, 1706- 1898. PhD Thesis, University of Madras, 1975.

9 See G B Malleson, History of the French in India: From the Founding of Pondichéry in 1674 to the Capture of That Place in 1761 (London, 1868): passim, Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot, A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Volume VI. Translated from French by Robert Black. (Boston, Dana Estes and Charles E. Lauriat: SD): chapter LIII. Project Gutenberg EBook. Accessed on 9/15/2009
 
10 I use the term 'India‘ for the late nineteenth century and beyond since the British had now defined the geographical limits of 'India‘.
 
11 For example, Louis Rousselet, L‟Inde des rajahs: Voyage dans l‟Inde centrale et dans les présidences de Bombay et du Bengale (Paris: Hatchette, 1875) and Pierre Loti, L'Inde (sans les Anglais) (Paris: Calman-Levy, 1903).

12 Jean Marie Lafont has written extensively on French nationals who served under native princes. See Indika. Essays in Indo- French relations 1630- 1976 (New Delhi: Manohar, 2000) and La présence française dans le royaume sikh du Penjab: 1822-1849 (Paris: École française d‘Extrême-Orient, 1992).
 
13 For example the account of India by Xavier Raymond, Aide de camp of the King of Awadh, and Dubois de Jancigny the French attaché to China, titled, Inde (Paris: Firmin Didot frères, 1845).
 
14 From Clive‘s military success in 1757 to the independence of India in 1947.

15 Louis Dermigny, La Chine et l‟Occident. Le Commerce à Canton au XXVIII siècle. (Paris, 1964). Quoted in Paul Butel, ―French Traders and India at the End of the Eighteenth century‖, in Merchants, Companies and Trade. Europe and Asia in the early Modern Era edited by Sushil Chaudhury and Michel Morineau (Cambridge England: CUP, 1999): 298.
 
16 Ibid.
 
17 Victor Jacquemont, Letters from India. Describing a journey in the British Dominions of India. Tibet, Lahore, and Cashmere during the years 1828, 1829, 1830, 1831. (London, 1834):117.
 
18 Jacquemont‘s letters were first published in English since he was on a trip which was sponsored by the Royal Asiatic Society. Indebted to his English patrons, his letters carried an introduction by his English publisher which frankly avowed the value of his work as an 'impartial‘ judge of British rule in India, even an 'unwilling advocate‘ by virtue of his being from France which had been defeated in India by Britain. See ibid: introduction.

19 Louis Rousselet, India and its Native Princes. Travels in Central India (Bickers & Son: London, 1882): 593.
 
20 Ibid: 615.
 
21 Ibid: 616.

22 Pierre Loti, Le Roman d'un enfant, Edited by A F Whittem (Boston, NY, Chicago: D C Heath and Co: 1915): 30.
 
23 Pierre Loti, L'Inde (sans l‟Anglais) (Paris: Calman-Lévy, 1903): 227.
 
24 Emmanuel Divien, The Development of Tamil Society in Pondicherry, 1706- 1898. PhD Thesis, University of Madras, 1975.
 
25 Preeti Chopra, 'Pondicherry. A French Enclave in India‘, in Forms of Dominance: On the architecture and urbanism of the colonial enterprise edited by Nezar Alsayyad (Brookfield: Aldershot, 1992):107 and passim. Also see Preeti Chopra, French colonial urbanism: a case study of Pondicherry. M.A Thesis. University of California, Berkeley, May 1993.
 
26 In fact Chopra suggests that the British were inspired by the example of Pondichéry when they built the Calcutta and Madras. Ibid: 126-129.

27 Jacques Weber, ―Chanemougam, the King of French India', EPW, Feb. 9, 1991.
 
28 Jacques Weber, Acculturation et assimilation dans les Établissements français de l‘Inde', Comtes Rendus trimestriels des séances de l‟Académie des Sciences d‟Outre-Mer, vol. 38.2, (1978): 187-215, 219-224, ―Les institutions representatives en Inde au XIXe siècle', Les Cahiers du Sahib, no. 3, (1995), ―La politiques républicaine d‘assimilation dans les comptoirs de l‘Inde', in Révolution française et ocean Indien. Prémices, paroxysms, heritages et deviances edited by Claude Wanquet and Benoît Julien. (Réunion: Université de la Réunion and Paris: L‘Harmattan, 1996).
 
29 Narayani Gupta, ―The Citizens of French India: the issue of cultural identity in Pondicherry in the XIX century', Les relations historiques et culturelles entre la France et l'Inde XVII- XX siècles. 2 volumes. (Sainte-Clotilde: Le Chaudron, 1987).
 
30 Colonies Françaises. Géographie pittoresque et monumentale de la France et de ses colonies. Edited by Ch. Brossard. (Paris: E. Flammarion, 1906).

31 Aurobindo was in fact an exile from British India, a nationalist who sought refuge within the boundaries of 'France‘. It was in Pondichéry that he experienced a spiritual awakening and established his ashram.
 
32 Mirra Richard, herself of African and Jewish parents, came to be Aurobindo‘s foremost disciple whom he named his successor and a manifestation of the female divine- 'the mother‘.
 
33 The 'Mother‘ emphasized the relationship with French language to the extent that most of her closest disciples were fluent in French and many aspired to study in France.
 
34 See http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/03/30/tr ... herry.html. Accessed 9/22/2009.

35 Joseph Naudet, ―Notice historique sur MM. Burnouf, Père et fils', in Histoire de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles- lettres (Paris, 1854): 310.

36 Such as Edmund Burke and James Mill.
 
37 Louis Rousselet, India and its Native Princes. Travels in Central India (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 reprint): 276.
 
38 Victoria was crowned on the Peacock Throne first belonging to Akbar and Shah Jahan and the Durbar was replica of Mughal coronations, symbolizing that the British considered themselves to be the natural successors to the Mughals, rather than foreign interlopers. This was an important strategy of legitimization. See ibid.

39 See for example, Gyanendra Pandey, The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India (Delhi: OUP, 1990).
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Re: Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

Postby admin » Sat Oct 31, 2020 4:10 am

Introduction: Why a French image of India?

An empire is partly a fiction. No nation can close its hand around the world; the reach of any nation‘s empire always exceeds its final grasp. An empire is by definition and default a nation in overreach, one nation that has gone too far, a nation that has taken over too many countries too far away from home to control them effectively.40


This dissertation examines the process by which images and histories of India41 were created in nineteenth century France. In reality colonial histories often tell us more about the concerns of the colonizing power than an accurate account of the colony. My dissertation examines the different 'Indias‘ produced by French academics and studies some of the appropriations of these 'Indias‘. While France did not colonize India, the existence of the Comptoirs42 until 1954 established French colonial presence in India. So in a sense France continued to be a colonial power in India even though it was no longer the dominant colonizing power. As a result of this situation, France was in a unique position in India as a subordinate colonial nation—a subaltern. This dissertation refers to France as a 'subaltern‘ in India with reference to this historical situation where France continued to occupy colonies in India as a secondary, or subaltern power. This approach is taken from Kate Marsh who notes that, 'French language writing on India cannot be examined and appreciated fully without engaging methodologically with France‘s politically subordinate status in India, thus proposing, instead of the traditional binary relationship between colonizer and colonized, a triangular model composed of India (the colonized), the 'subaltern colonizer‘ (France), and the dominant colonizer(Britain).‘43

I do not seek to define what India 'really‘ was (an impossible task!)44; rather, I aim to study the process of creating India in the French imagination. An important argument for this project is that the colonial imagination, which constructed unreal, 'phantasmatic‘45 images of colonies did so in order to further specific national colonial aims. This imagination was embedded in an artificial archive of knowledge, expressed in part, through academic monographs and museum exhibits. As Thomas Richards notes, the notion of 'empire‘ and the unity that the term suggests was conferred by creating an imaginary world—through documentation and paperwork, through literature and exhibitions, through intellectual peregrinations—which served to convince both the métropole and the rest of the world about their territorial overlordship over what was really a 'paper empire‘,46 an empire in thought, an epistemological empire. The project really involved a 'colonization of knowledge‘ where one nation could convince itself, the 'colonized‘ nation and the global onlookers that it ruled over a land by virtue of copious claims to do so—all of which were expressed in print. The nineteenth-century empire was thus an empire of knowledge where colonial nations evoked their empires and their rule over them by pointing to their monopoly of knowledge about that empire. This dissertation uses this idea to examine the intellectual archive which comprised 'India‘ in French academia. I use the works of French experts on Indian culture, popularly called 'Indologists‘, during the nineteenth century to study this intellectual archive. Particularly important was the work of Antoine de Chézy, Eugene Burnouf, Julien Vinson, Sylvain Lévi, Auguste Barth, and Emile Sénart. I also use a corpus of work by Gustave le Bon and Paul Topinard which defined India as a racial entity, thus incorporating the French imagination about India into the prevailing anthropological debates of the mid- nineteenth century.

The final aspect of this dissertation deals with what Nicholas Bancel and Pascal Blanchard call 'colonial memory‘. From colonial imagination and the creation of an archive came colonial memory. Despite the death of the colonial era, the modern world is still left with many vestiges of the colonial past. Some of these are real- architecture, language, and government. But far more deep-rooted and therefore more influential in the way people imagine one another is colonial memory. For Nicholas Bancel and Pascal Blanchard, 'colonial memory‘ is a construct, created by the players in a nation‘s colonial history, as much as by the literature, films, music, plastic arts, it is essentially the ―official memory' of colonization. According to them, ―memory, as an intercession between the realities of the present and the recessive logic of the narrative that orders a direction to these, is a process, a permanent reconstruction, and (also) leaves immediate, indelible tracks, (which are) incorporated in the social imagination.'47 This dissertation treats the popular uses to which the academic images of India were put as part of 'colonial memory‘. Whether academic monographs inspired school textbooks, or artistic masterpieces, they can be interpreted as the introduction of the erudite into the popular imagination and memory. In attempting to bridge the gap between the intellectual archive and popular memory, I look history textbooks of French and francophone school children in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to assess the impact of intellectual creations of 'India‘ on the 'colonial memory‘ of school children.

Whether or not these images embodied the 'true India‘ is not as important in this study as the rationale behind the conception of a specific India. The lens through which different European powers like Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, and Denmark viewed India was as varied as the images of India which were created. So, for example, British images of India were those of an unruly country in need of British guidance48; while Germany created a romantic image of a country which had given birth to language and civilization49, and, by contrast, Portugal focused on her little island of Catholic converts in a sea of Hindu idolaters.50 The very diversity of such images exposes the fallacy that histories were unbiased accounts. Moreover different perspectives illuminate different aspects of realities as well. Colonial histories often tell us more about the concerns of the colonizing power than an accurate account of the colony. My dissertation examines the different 'Indias‘ produced by French academics and studies some of the appropriations of these 'Indias‘.

These differences are important in studying not only the trajectory and impact of colonial policy and implementation in France, England, Portugal and Denmark (the remaining colonial powers in India in the nineteenth century), but also provide an insight into present day conceptions in France of what constitutes India and how different communities in India perceive themselves. The erstwhile French India posts, for example define their 'Indianness' in ways that can be traced directly to the specifically French project of constructing a cultural image of India. Religious tension between Hindus and Muslims, as a conspicuous example, is lacking in these areas, although caste distinctions are prominent in the way Pondichériens identify themselves.51 Contrast this to the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, which was part of British India and where not only caste, but also communal tensions run high.52 As Narayani Gupta points out, there were also differences in political experience- the Comptoirs came to representative government through developments in France while British India had to mount a campaign for the same rights.53 This dissertation is the first work to examine the different academic French conceptions of India.

The 'Oriental Renaissance‘ and the place of India.

Focus on India was not unusual in nineteenth-century Europe. The Neo- classical Renaissance of the Long Century was supplemented by an intense interest in the Orient as an exotic entity. Raymond Schwab dedicated a considerable part of his life to documenting this 'Oriental Renaissance‘ in nineteenth century Europe.54 Following Schwab, William Halbfass55, Roger Pol-Droit56 and Alex Aronson made similar attempts to document the enormous influence of India and the East in the development of nineteenth century European philosophy57 These scholars adopted the term the 'Oriental Renaissance‘, after the work of Edgar Quinet58 for this philosophical movement to the East. Camille Jullian, writing about the work of Orientalists Silvestre de Sacy and Abel Rémusat noted that, 'Their articles in the Journal des Savants, everywhere reprinted, suggested to the learned world that the Orient was at that time absorbing all the scholarly energy of France.‘59

In part, the focus on the Orient came about as a result of colonial ambitions in the East and the desire of European colonizers to 'know‘ their Eastern subjects in order to better exploit and govern them.60 Many scholars who have studied the Comptoirs stress that the economic attractiveness of the India trade continued far beyond the downfall of colonial hopes. Louis Dermigny and Sudipta Das for example, stressed the continued commercial attractiveness of India to French merchants after the FEIC‘s monopoly was revoked in 1769 in the aftermath of the Seven Years War.61 Paul Butel who has studied the private archives of individuals to explore the trade between India and French ports like Bordeaux and Marseilles, notes the petition of a merchant, Louis Monneron (whose company was based in Pondichéry till 1787) to the National Assembly and later again to Napoleon stressing the importance of maintaining the trade route via the Suez.62 As Butel points out there was a tendency among both ports and Parisian financial circles of returning to the commercial routes of the Indian Ocean which had created so many fortunes in the eighteenth-century.

But the images of India which were popular with French academics derived only partly from colonial and economic interests. During the nineteenth-century, French academics used India to demonstrate a plethora of theories. Earlier scholars of Indology took their cue from Schwab whose impressive documentation of the Western preoccupation and development of Oriental studies is simultaneously a tribute to the pure pursuit of knowledge. His 'Oriental Renaissance‘ was a veritable encyclopaedia of developments in Oriental knowledge and studies in the West but it made no connection with larger intellectual or political currents which impacted the extent and trajectory of Oriental studies. As a corrective to this otherwise impeccable scholarship, this dissertation explores some of the religious, philosophical, and anthropological discourses that French Indologists created for India, just as Kamakshi Murti has studied the effects of German Indology in the discourses of racism which developed during the twentieth century.63 Murti argues that German Indologists claimed a spiritual, if not a territorial connection with India by virtue of the 'Aryan‘ parallels in the past of the two countries. In the French case, where India could easily have been a French rather than a British colony, the need to 'claim‘ a mastery of India was linked directly to national pride. At the beginning and the end of the nineteenth century India figured prominently in colonialist rivalry with England. While this rivalry was articulated largely by the colonialist press and by individuals, often the academic discourse on India was appropriated to serve these ends. While this Anglo-French rivalry is not a central aspect of this dissertation, since the academics who are the subjects of this dissertation did not directly engage in this rivalry, some applications of academic research to colonial agenda will be mentioned where such evidence is uncovered.

In a telling statement of French disappointment in losing her Indian Empire, Naudet claimed that although France had lost her temporal claims to India, she was still the intellectual master of India through the work of the Indic scholars of the nineteenth century.64 According to Schwab,

…it was England‘s great disgrace to be too self-seeking in India to avoid violent reactions, after fits and starts of adaptation…The conquerors felt obligated to defend their conquest, which meant exalting their own race and religion…reinforcing the English prejudice of Western superiority and minimizing, for the parent state, the phenomenon of the Oriental Renaissance.65


Despite the fact of French defeat in India, perhaps because of her marginal political position Schwab attributes the development of 'a scientific passion which no ulterior political motive could alter.‘66

French studies on India were thus shaped and legitimized by the loss of India. Binita Mehta argues that France‘s unique relationship with India stemmed from this territorial loss and that France‘s short-lived hopes of colonizing India and the loss of India created a powerful hold over French dramatists.67 According to her, nineteenth-century French views of India were influenced to some extent by the loss of France‘s Indian colonies after nearly a century of fighting the British. The French wished to recapture their past glory in India, and they accomplished this through literature.68 In her study of journalistic representations of India in the twentieth century, Kate Marsh also notes that since France never actually colonized India, but had to be content with ruling over five tiny Comptoirs in place of the dreams of an Indian empire, French writing on India must be interpreted in the context not just of romanticism, but of a yearning for 'what may have been‘ – the unreal nostalgia for what had been and a romantic projection of what may have been.69

Mehta focuses on plays and Marsh on the polemic of journalists. This dissertation examines academic views and works on India. Among French academics there was no such overt yearning, or rhetoric of empire. Despite French marginalization in India, Paris was indisputably the center of Indic studies well into the nineteenth century. In fact the first Chair of Indology at the Collège de France was created in 1815, and the pre-eminent Journal Asiatique in 1822, well after the French dream of Empire in India was laid to rest. Indology continued to survive and flourish in Paris. Part of this fascination with India was due to the revival of Classical studies, but French scholars, having taken up Indological studies from an interest in human history could not escape the public view that having irrevocably lost India to the British the French could at least claim a superior understanding of India. This understanding led to clearly different images of India from the colonizing British works which stressed the backwardness of India and her need for British tutelage, or even the occasional American evangelical work emphasizing the oppression of Indian religion.

'Orientalism‘ and India

Edward Said published an influential book, titled 'Orientalism‘ in which he argued that the colonizing West had constructed an exotic, essentialist 'Other‘ which embodied the civilizing mission, by defining the East as degenerate, effeminate, despotic and superstitious, among other epithets.70 Overnight no scholar examining colonial history could ignore Said. Among the scholars who vigorously agreed with Said was Rana Kabbani71 who was influenced by his theoretical writings about the construction of the Orient in colonial imagination as an exotic and diametrically opposite land to the civilized West.

Many scholars have studied the creation of India in the popular sphere. Binita Mehta, for example, cites the ―invention' of India in the West as a constant theme in Western writing on India from ancient times.72 Jackie Assayag73, Srilata Ravi74, Christian Petr75, Jean Biès76, Catherine Weinberger-Thomas,77 and Richard Andersen78 also focused on the hold which India had upon the popular French imagination. Based on studies of French plays, poems, novels, travelogues and operas these scholars posited the creation of an India which was dominated by clichés of bayadères, oriental tyrants, widows, and brave European adventurers. The plethora of scholarly literature produced in the wake of Said‘s Orientalism paid due homage to the influence of India in the creation of Western, specifically French Orientalism.79 The exoticism of nineteenth-century literature was echoed in art. As Amina Okada notes, the lithographs, etchings and watercolors in travelogues, and journals like Le Tour du Monde and Le Monde Pittorresque reinforced the notion of 'India‘ as a land of princes, spirituality, demons and barbaric customs (like thuggee and sati), bayadères and beauties, of beautiful landscapes and a vestige of France‘s colonial dreams.80 Another theoretical framework which proved valuable to this study is the Foucauldian discussion of 'power-knowledge‘ by ruling classes of people to create and disseminate powerful images of their subjects, which eventually, came to be internalized by these very subjects.81 Importantly, Foucault‘s model allowed for a degree of agency and choice to be exercised by subject populations. An important area where natives had considerable agency was in the relaying of information about their cultures and pasts to their colonial masters. Bernard Cohn argued that co-operation and resistance by Indians in their relations with European colonialists produced a distinct interpretation and understanding of the Indian past.82 Cohn‘s work was unique in arguing for a relationship between Indians and European colonizers, in contrast to earlier works which had presented Indians as entirely passive in the creation of 'India‘. Even if Indians were in an inferior position, they were the primary informants who contributed to the discourse of Indology.83 While this dissertation focuses on French writings about India, an enormous corpus of literature which necessitated the exclusion of Indians as direct agents in the dialogue of history, it is crucial to remember that Indians often participated in the production and dissemination of these images, and in focusing on French academia I do not mean to negate or minimize the contribution of Indians.

The application of Said and Foucault to South Asia has led to groundbreaking works like Carol Appadurai Breckendridge and Peter Van der Veer‘s edited volume on Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament: perspectives on South Asia.84 This volume demonstrated that Said‘s open-ended model of Orientalism could be applied to specific linguistic and literary developments in colonial South Asia. The work of the Subaltern Studies collective which studied the perspective of groups and individuals outside of the hegemonic power structure, was also crucial to re-conceptualizing the power discourse in the description of South Asian colonial history, particularly Ranajit Guha‘s Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India85 and Gyanendra Pandey‘s The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India.86 These works have been immensely helpful in conceptualizing the argument of this dissertation.

According to Amartya Sen, India has been represented in three ways in Western writings: exoticist, magisterial and curatorial.87 Ronald Inden has similarly categorized Western writings on India as possessing 'descriptive‘ and 'commentative‘ aspects which claim to represent the thought and acts of the Indian to the reader,88 'explanatory‘ or 'interpretive‘ aspects which intervene between the reader and the Indian to explain the apparently distorted thought of the Oriental to the rational Western reader,89 and 'hegemonic‘ accounts which present the Indian civilization in the authoritative voice of the colonizer.90 Echoing Schwab and Naudet‘s sentiments about British writings being tainted by the necessity of rule, Sen and Inden present 'hegemonic‘ accounts as possessing the least accuracy of all Indological accounts.

An excellent narrative and analytical work is Inden‘s Imagining India, which examines the use of various metaphors about India in Western writing, such as India as a female, Indian thought as a dream, Hinduism as a jungle or a sponge and caste society as a centrifuge.91 He notes that his study is about the agency of individuals, specifically the capacity of people to order the world around them. In respect to imperial formations centered on India, Inden posits the existence of two periods: the Anglo-French period where Orientalist discourse and notions of India in the West were dominated by the Anglo-French schools of thought, and the imperial formation of the US and USSR in the contemporary period. According to Inden, such a framework is made possible by the fact that earlier, Spanish- Portuguese thought formations of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries were dominated by Christian theology, while the Anglo-French (in which he includes the German and American Orientalist schools) centered primarily on the Hegelian-Marxist notion of a natural science or philosophy.92 However, in analyzing the entire Western discourse on India prior to the twentieth century in terms of the Hegelian model, Inden simplifies the complex process of identity formation and colonial and political aims which co-opted India as a metaphor or example of the 'other‘. Moreover in assigning all Europeans the simple position of power over India, Inden also negates the important distinctions which came to represent different descriptions of India- British, French, German, and Portuguese.

The Foucauldian model is adopted as an approach in this dissertation to argue for the influence of French images of India. Since France was part of the ruling colonial West, the academic study of India in France had far greater impact in the West (on German and American Indology, for example) than any academic studies by Indians themselves.93 Foucault‘s model also allows for a multiplicity of images. For instance, popular stories like Voltaire‘s Zadig et la destinée (1747), Lettres d'un Turc sur les Fakirs et sur son ami Bababec (1750), Histoire d'un bon brahmin (1761), and Bernadin de Saint- Pierre‘s La Chaumière indienne (1790) were full of the standard clichés of India as a land of serpent charmers, fakirs, exotic women, a land of danger and sensuality. While these images continued to dominate the theatrical and literary representations of India in nineteenth-century France, the new generation of academics strove to break away from their romantic predecessors and establish themselves as scientists who followed a rigorous academic process of investigation and presentation and did not allow their opinions to cloud their research. The Indologists of the nineteenth century tried to capture the essence of India in a progression of dominant 'isms‘. Thus India as a land of Brahminism gave way to India as the land of Buddhism, which was subsumed by India as the land of the Aryans and then to a hybrid 'Hindu‘ entity.

Themes

This dissertation is divided into thematic chapters which begin in the eighteenth century with the first concerted French effort to 'define‘ India. Each chapter contains a brief summary of the British discourse on India, to highlight the difference in the construction of 'India‘ by the territorially dominant British, and the intellectually dominant French. The first chapter focuses on a group of proselytizing Jesuit missionaries in India, whose letters describing India and the state of religion were compiled into the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses.94 The impressions and images of India sent back by the missionaries are contrasted with a fourteenth-century work, the Mirabilia Descripta by a Friar Jordanus to account for the changing images of India over the centuries. In particular, the chapter highlights the focus of missionaries on the origins of Indian religion and its antiquity in relation to Christianity and Islam, as well as the anti-Muslim direction of their writings. The chapter also examines the change which occurred from Jordanus in the fourteenth century to the Jesuits of the Lettres in the eighteenth century, in moving from a relatively favorable view of Indian society and customs to describing the same customs as springing from superstition and idolatry. I argue that the specific direction of writing by the missionaries of the Lettres was a product of their social and political views, especially the emerging colonialism in the West.

Chapter two continues the eighteenth-century focus by examining the works of French philosophes, particularly Voltaire and Montesquieu and describing their impressions of India. The chapter looks at the continuity of certain aspects of French writing such as the anti-Islamic stance and the notion that regardless of the state of contemporary India the Indians had once possessed a great civilization. The chapter also looks at the difference in their impressions of India and suggests that personal belief among other motives may have played a large role in these differing images which nevertheless became very influential among the French intelligentsia. For instance, Voltaire‘s search for an alternative model to the Judeo- Christian ethic may have been instrumental in his emphasis on the antiquity of Indian religion. Similarly, Montesquieu‘s belief that Western democracy was the best form of government led him to describe the East, including India, as possessing a despotic government and backward customs.

Chapter three describes early academics who focus on India- Anquetil Duperron, Joseph Deguignes, and Antoine de Chézy. These were romantic in their conception and presentation of India even while intensifying the study of Indian languages and literature as part of their scholarly enterprise.

Chapter four describes the decisive break which took place in the first quarter of the nineteenth century between the older French Indophiles who romanticized India, and the new breed of social scientists who saw India as a vast repository of ethnological and scientific knowledge. This chapter also describes the manner in which older descriptions of India were swept aside as representing the romantic and exotic desires of the Enlightenment savant. The new academic, personified by Eugene Burnouf used scientific tools of linguistics, philology, and history to re-address the past of India and define it without the hyperbole and romanticism of the past. Yet these academics also had certain agenda in creating some new images of India and furthering other images which had been created in the previous century. Among the older images of India which continued to be emphasized were the antiquity of Indic civilization and the key role of brahmins in society. New trends in Indology included the importance of philological and linguistic comparisons and a focus on Buddhism.

By the middle of the century India had become essential to French academia. Even scholars like Paul Topinard who did not care for Indic learning now harnessed India as an example in their work on civilization and the development of society. The fifth chapter of this work examines the transformation of India from a specific and esoteric area of study to a general example for anyone who wished to talk about the development of human society. The chapter deals with the reasons behind this sea change- the center stage of anthropology as a discipline which eclipsed all other social sciences for the rest of the century as the definitive and scientific study of man. I talk about the description of India in a few works on anthropology such as Gustave le Bon‘s Les Civilisations de l‟Inde and Louis Rousselet‘s L‟Inde des Rajahs, as well as the use of India as a racial example in the Bulletin de la Société de l‟Anthropologie, Paul Topinard‘s L‟Anthropologie and Gobineau‘s Essai sur l‟inégalité des races humaines. In all these works, the key descriptor of India was race. From being described linguistically, culturally and religiously, the new anthropologists explained the history of India in terms of her racial make-up. Specifically the explanation for the contemporary image of India as a colony of the British as well as the common description of the superstitions and despotism in India were explained as the result of the dilution of pure races through intermixing. Thus India was cited as an example for the proposition that chaos and degeneration would ensue from the dilution of race.

The sixth chapter expands on the theme of the fifth by continuing the discussion of India in anthropology and the new categories which became the descriptors of India in France. The pre-eminence of race was too insistent to ignore and Indologists who had hitherto kept aloof from racial categorizations now explained their theories by alluding to India‘s position in a racial ladder of evolution. The chapter focuses on the work of the foremost Indologists of the later nineteenth century -- Auguste Barth, Emile Sénart, Sylvain Lévi, and Julien Vinson. In their studies of religion, caste, and language these scholars integrated the popular theories of race, whether to agree or take issue with them, thus cementing the new image of India as a land where race was the key to understanding history, culture, and religion.

The seventh chapter looks at the hybrid histories of India which were written both for the general public as well as for school children in France in the end of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. In terms of popular knowledge, these textbooks represented the extent of information that the common French man/ woman had about India and are thus important to examine. My research indicates that the academic images of India which had been created in the upper echelons of learning were carried through in school textbooks ranging from elementary to secondary school books. I examine textbooks written by Victor Duruy in the late nineteenth-century, and histories by Jules Isaac and Albert Malet written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These histories drew together a complex version of the various images of India which had been created in the intellectual chaos of the previous century to provide a powerful- and sometimes the only- idea of India to the common Frenchman/ woman. Duruy attributed all other facts about India- antiquity, religion and the caste system- to the mix of races in India. Isaac and Malet stressed the colonial period of India and insisted that India was being misgoverned by Britain when compared to the enlightened colonial rule that the French had introduced in their colonies. They hammered home the ideas of India and the images of a country that were created out from the colonial ideology of the nineteenth century. The histories therefore form a grand summary of colonial memory, a final proof of the very superficial process by which such images were constructed but the strength with which they endured.

The last chapter of the dissertation moves directly into the public sphere by examining the representation of India at the grand colonial Exhibitions which were held in France and in England from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. In particular the representation of India at the Empire Exhibition at Wembley, England in 1924-25 and the Exposition coloniale de Paris, 1931 are highlighted as examples of 'India‘ in each country.

In this manner I propose to look not only at the images of India which were constructed in France by academics who were in touch with a small number of fellow intellectuals and university students, but also to look at the images of India which were disseminated at the most basic levels in the educational system, and in the public sphere. Wherever possible, I link up the isolated world of academia with the larger political debates of the time, especially with relevant debates on colonial policy and colonial ideology which cements the connection between the academic works of the time with the popular, political need of the day.

A note on terminology

My definition of what constitutes 'France‘ and 'French writings on India‘ is broad. It encompasses any corpus of work that was produced by a French citizen, that is to say, someone born in France. I recognize the huge diversity of intellectual beliefs which drove the French intellectuals of the nineteenth century, and do not ascribe French works on India to any particular group of intellectual theories or a particular school of thought. While my thesis focuses on specific philosophical and colonial agenda which impelled Indic studies in France to follow particular themes, I also recognize the unique intellectual tradition of French academia (deriving in large part from the republican tradition of the nineteenth century) which equally inspired these Indic works. Regretfully this fascinating aspect of scholarship has been relegated to a secondary place in my dissertation in response both to my own primary interest in colonialism as well as the dictates of evidence in my sources.

Following from the previous statement is also a consciousness that the 'French‘ as a group cannot be simplified into projecting a simple, monolithic image of India. The images of India which were produced in France were complex in their contradictions, and ran the gamut from Anglophiles like Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire95 and Gustave le Bon96 who believed that British colonization was the best thing to happen to India, to Anglophobes like Pierre Loti who wrote his opus on India to exclude the British.97 Romantic images of bejeweled dancers and opulent maharajahs which dominated the operas98 and popular literature of Jules Verne99 existed alongside serious academic inquiries into quantifiable anthropometric measurements of Indians by Paul Topinard100 and philological comparisons of Indian grammars by Eugene Burnouf101 and Julien Vinson.102 France, like India, cannot and should not be generalized as possessing a myopic, tunnel view of India as a land of exoticism, or a land of degeneration. However at different times and during certain events in the nineteenth century, 'India‘ was often presented as a recognizable entity. This dissertation looks at the specific entities of 'India‘ which resulted from defined scholarly projects, leading to a phase of 'Brahmin India‘ from the work of Voltaire at the beginning of the nineteenth century, 'Buddhist India‘ following the work of Eugene Burnouf by 1840, India as a land of degenerate races following Gobineau and Le Bon from 1860- 1885, and 'Hindu India‘ during the era of Sylvain Lévi and Auguste Barth from 1890 to the early twentieth century.

What constitutes 'India‘ in this dissertation? I have already argued that 'India‘ was more an idea of the West, rather than a geographical, cultural, religious, linguistic or even a historical reality. If the notion of 'India‘ was really so ephemeral, how can I define it? Really speaking, this dissertation is not about what really constitutes India. Rather, it looks at what 'India‘ meant to the various writers of the nineteenth century. While offering a critique of the Western notion of 'India‘, I must admit that I am not qualified to judge what 'India‘ really is or stands for. Apart from a tenuous political unity which sprang from the creation of the Raj, Indians have little in common and would be hard pressed to define a common heritage. 'India‘ in this dissertation stands for the mythic creation of the West, often imbued with a simplicity and unity she really did not possess. Similarly I use the term 'Indo-China‘ for the French South East Asian colonies of Vietnam and Cambodia. I accept that the construct of 'Indo-China‘ is as mythic as that of 'India‘. Yet the term is used to convey the sense of French colonial domination over the area.

Image
Figure 2: Postcard of French India posts

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Notes:

40 Thomas Richards, The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire (New York and London: Verso, 1993):1
 
41 It is important to distinguish between the geographical entity of India and the people. I refer to India as the people who inhabit the South Asian region, comprising roughly the modern nations of India and Pakistan.
 
42 After French defeat in the Seven Years‘ War during the eighteenth century, French colonies in India were limited to five small trading posts or Comptoirs—Pondichéry, Karaikal, Yanaon, Mahé and Chandernagore. The French had complete control over these posts, which eventually came to represent 'mini-France‘ in India, in the sense of mimicking French colonial government and life.

43 Kate Marsh, Fictions of 1947: Representations of Indian Decolonization in French-language texts (New York: Peter Lang, 2007): 13.
 
44 As Sunil Khilnani points out in The Idea of India, the need to define India in finite terms was a product of the colonial denigration of the land and people. This led to multiple definitions of India, each bounded by specific geographical, ideological, philosophical, and cultural agendas, each necessarily lacking in a holistic view of India. Sunil Khilnani, The Idea of India (Delhi: Penguin, 1997).
 
45 I take this term from Panivong Norindr, Phantasmatic Indo-China: French Colonial Ideology in Architecture, Film and Literature (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996). Norindr uses various moments in French literary representations and colonial representations of 'l‘Indochine‘ to argue that these constituted an unreal, imagined romance, far removed from reality, and that the very notion of 'Indochine‘ itself was a 'phantasmic‘ creation in French colonial imagination.
 
46 Thomas Richards, The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire (New York and London: Verso, 1993): 4

47 'La mémoire, comme intercession entre les réalités du présent et la logique recessive du récit qui ordonne un sens à celles-ci, est un processus, une reconstruction permanente, et elle laisse aussi des traces, immédiates, indélibles, incorporées dans l‘imaginaire social.‘ Nicholas Bancel and Pascal Blanchard, ―Mémoire coloniale: resistances à l‘émergence d‘un débat', Culture post-coloniale 1961- 2006. Edited by Pascal Blanchard and Nicholas Bancel (Paris: Éditions Autrement, 2005): 24

48 See for example, James Mill‘s monumental History of British India (London: Baldwin, Craddock and Joy, 1817).
 
49 See Friedrich Max Müller, India: what can it Teach Us? A Course of Lectures Delivered Before the University of Cambridge (Cambridge: Longmans Green, 1883), Lecture I.
 
50 See The Goa Inquisition, Being a Quarter-centenary Commemoration Study of the Inquisition in India, edited by A.K Priolkar (Bombay: Bombay University, 1961).

51 Jacques Weber, ―Acculturation et assimilation dans les Établissements français de l‘Inde. La caste et les valeurs de l‘Occident', Comptes rendus trimestriels des séances de l‟Académie des Sciences d‟Outre-Mer, tome XXXVIII-2-1978: 187-215 and 219-224. This is not to say that the French India posts have never seen any communal conflict. However, the records of the Chaudrie, or local Tribunal courts would indicate that skirmishes between castes were more the rule. Religious conflicts, when they did occur, were often due to outside influence, and as such, the French administrators were not particularly concerned with the possibility of religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims. Narayani Gupta also notes the caste distinctions were emphasized in the Comptoirs while religion was the basis of distinction in British India. Narayani Gupta, ―The Citizens of French India: the issue of cultural identity in Pondicherry in the XIX century', Les relations historiques et culturelles entre la France et l'Inde XVII- XX siècles. 2 volumes. (Sainte-Clotilde: Le Chaudron, 1987): 164-65.
 
52 This aspect of Anglo- French colonial difference in India has been tentatively approached by Niels Brimnes, Constructing the Colonial Encounter. Right and Left Hand Castes in Early Colonial South India. (Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 1999), and Emmanuel Divien, The Development of Tamil Society in Pondicherry, 1706- 1898. (PhD Thesis, University of Madras, 1975).
 
53 Narayani Gupta, ―The Citizens of French India: the issue of cultural identity in Pondicherry in the XIX century', Les relations historiques et culturelles entre la France et l'Inde XVII- XX siècles. 2 volumes. (Sainte-Clotilde: Le Chaudron, 1987).

54 Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984).
 
55Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1988).
 
56 Roger Pol-Droit, L‟Oubli de l‟Inde (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1989).
 
57Alex Aronson, Europe Looks at India (Bombay: Hind kitabs, 1946).
 
58 Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984): 11.
 
59 Camille Jullian, Extraits des historiens français du XIX siècle (Paris: Hatchette, 1906). Cited in Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984): 99.
 
60 See for example. Lewis Pyenson, Civilizing Mission: Exact Sciences and French Overseas Expansion, 1830-1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1993) and Michael A. Osbourne, Nature, the Exotic, and the Science of French Colonialism (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994).

61 Louis Dermigny, La Chine et l‟Occident. Le Commerce à Canton au XXVIII siècle. (Paris, 1964). Quoted in Paul Butel, ―French Traders and India at the End of the Eighteenth century', in Merchants, Companies and Trade. Europe and Asia in the early Modern Era, edited Sushil Chaudhury and Michel Morineau (Cambridge England: CUP, 1999): 298. Sudipta Das, Myths and Realities of French Imperialism in India (New York: Peter Lang, 1992).
 
62 Ibid.

63 Kamakshi P. Murti, India: the seductive and seduced "Other" of German Orientalism (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001).
 
64 M Naudet, ―Notice historique sur MM. Burnouf, Père et fils', in Mémoires de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles- lettres 20 (Paris, 1854): 310.
 
65 Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984): 43.

66 Ibid: 45.
 
67 Binita Mehta, Widows, Pariahs and Bayadères. India as spectacle (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, and London: Associated University Presses, 2002): 14.
 
68 Ibid: 156.
 
69 Kate Marsh, Fictions of 1947: Representations of Indian Decolonization in French-language texts (New York: Peter Lang, 2007) :19

70 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978).
 
71 Rana Kabbani, Europe's Myths of the Orient (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1986).
 
72 Binita Mehta, Widows, Pariahs and Bayadères. India as spectacle (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, and London: Associated University Presses, 2002): 27.
 
73 Jackie Assayag, L‟Inde fabuleuse: le charme discret de l‟exotisme français : XVII-XXe siècles (Paris: Kimé, 1999).
 
74 Srilata Ravi, L‟Inde romancée: l‟Inde dans le genre romanesque français depuis 1947 (New York: P. Lang, 1997).
 
75 Christian Petr, L‟Inde des romans (Paris: Ed Kailash, 1995).
 
76 Jean Biès, Littérature française et pensée hindoue des origines à 1950 (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1974).
 
77 L‟Inde et l‟imaginaire. Edited by Catherine Weinberger-Thomas. (Paris: Purusartha, 1988).
 
78 Richard Anderson, India in romantic and Parnassian French poetry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950).
 
79 For example Lisa Lowe, Critical Terrains. French and British Orientalisms (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), Dorothy Figuiera, Translating the Orient: the reception of Sakuntala in nineteenth-century Europe (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), and Jenny Sharpe, Allegories of Empire. The figure of woman in the colonial text. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993).
 
80 Amina Okada and Enrico Isacco. L‟Inde au XIXe siècle: voyage aux sources de l‟imaginaire. (Marseille: AGEP, 1991).

81 Michael Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1995). In this edition, the term 'power-knowledge‘ is replaced by 'governmentality‘.
 
82 Bernard Cohn, Colonialism and its forms of knowledge (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).
 
83 Bernard Cohn, 'The Command of Language and the Language of Command‘, in ibid.
 
84 Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament: perspectives on South Asia. Edited by Carol Appadurai Breckendridge and Peter Van der Veer (Philadelhia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993)

85 Ranajit Guha, Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India (Harvard, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1998).
 
86 Gyanendra Pandey, The construction of communalism in colonial North India (Delhi: OUP, 2006).
 
87 Amartya Sen, ―Indian Traditions and the Western Imagination', Daedalus, Vol. 126, No. 2, Human Diversity (Spring, 1997): 1-26.
 
88 Ronald Inden, Imagining India (Oxford: UK ; Cambridge, Mass., USA: Basil Blackwell, 1990): 38. He provides the example of Louis Renou.
 
89 Ibid: 42. Inden criticizes this as being too reductionist in explaining the Indian within one single rubric or logic.
 
90 Ibid: 43.

91 Ronald Inden, Imagining India (Oxford: UK ; Cambridge, Mass., USA: Basil Blackwell, 1990): 1
 
92 Ibid: 32.
 
93 For example, the prominence of Indian reformer and intellectual Raja Ram Mohun Roy among European intellectuals was due to his mastery over English and his popularity with European Indologists.

94 Lettres Édifiantes et Curieuses, Ecrites de Missions Etrangères, par quelques Missionaires de la Compagnie de Jésus (Paris: Nicolas Le Clerc, 1702 to 1776), 34 volumes.

95 Jules Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire was a distinguished statesman and savant who wrote numerous books on India and Indian religions. He was an ardent supporter of colonialism and believed that the British model was worth emulating.
 
96 Although Gustave Le Bon‘s best known works deal with the psychology of the crowd, his theories were derived from his work on India and Africa. Le Bon was a lifelong Anglophile, in 1882 even speaking out against the French policy of association in the colonies in favor of the British model of imposing Western language and government in the colonies. See Martin Deming Lewis, . ―One Hundred Million Frenchmen: the 'Assimilation‘ Theory in French Colonial Policy', Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol 4.2 (Jan. 1962).
 
97 Pierre Loti, L'Inde sans les Anglais (Paris: Kailash Ed, 1992 reprint)
 
98 For example La Veuve de Malabar (1770) of Antoine- Marin Lemierre, Bayadères of Catel (1810), Lakmé of Delibes(1883), Lalla Roukh of Félicien David (1862), and Le Roi de Lahore of Jules Massenet (1877).
 
99 One of Verne‘s most enduring characters in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1869-70) and Journey to the center of the Earth (1864) was Captain Nemo, who was an Indian. Verne also included India in his novels Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), The Begum‟s Millions (1879) and The Steam House (1880).
 
100 Paul Topinard, L‟Anthropologie (Paris, 1876).
 
101 Eugene Burnouf, Observations grammaticales sur quelques passages de l'essai sur le Pali (Paris, 1827)
 
102 Julien Vinson, Revue de linguistique et de philologie comparée (Paris, 1884).
 
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Re: Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

Postby admin » Sat Oct 31, 2020 4:38 am

Part 1 of 2

Chapter 1: India: A land of wonders or of monstrosities? The writings of missionaries.

This chapter is about French writing about India before the nineteenth century. It contextualizes the historical interest that France had in India, and links the intellectual influences of the longue durée in French views of India, specifically the religious view of India. Interest in Indian religions, particularly Hinduism103, was a constant in French writing about India from the early modern period. Initially the focus on Indian religion was the work of missionaries who accompanied explorers to the East looking for heathens to convert to Christianity. This aspect of proselytization was also prominent in sixteenth and seventeenth-century writings of travelers and traders. The later works were intended to be both a catalogue of curiosities and strange customs, and helpful advice for subsequent travelers and traders to interact successfully with Indians. Religion continued to pique the interest of Enlightenment philosophes who searched for spiritual and philosophical traditions which were distinct from the Classical tradition of the Christian Church. India and China in fact provided the intellectual impetus for the Enlightenment attack on the Church. Since the origin of scholarship in Enlightenment Europe that studied the 'Orient‘ was spurred by the works of missionaries writing about the East, it becomes crucial to examine the image of India described in these works.104

I focus on two works: the fourteenth- century Mirabilia Descripta of the Dominican missionary Jourdain du Séverac and the later letters of Jesuit missionaries which were compiled into the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses. I decided to use the Mirabilia, because it is the first extensive account of India written by a Frenchman. The Lettres édifiantes represent the latest attempt of men of the cloth, to describe India, before the full scale advent of Imperialism. These two works are by no means definitive works on India. However they were extensively quoted by others writing about India and therefore offer one image of India that was cited by French writers.

The first section of the chapter provides a background of early French writing on India. The next two sections describe the similarities between the works of Jordanus and the Jesuits in terms of their anti-Muslim stance and their agreement as to the antiquity of Indian religion. The following section accounts for the differences in their argument and opinion by suggesting that the entry of colonialism into the proselytizing mission of the Jesuits led to a more severe criticism of Indian religion. Finally the conclusion sums up the main points of this chapter and links it to the larger project of this dissertation.

Background

An overview of pre-nineteenth century French writings reveals that there were specific professions or occupations that presented India. Broadly, one can speak of 'missionary views‘105, and 'secular views‘106. A substantial body of research already exists on the works of secular travelers.107 The work of missionaries is only now being examined. This chapter focuses on missionary writings for three reasons. Firstly, it fills a gap in the scholarship on pre-colonial modern India.108 Secondly, the work of missionaries becomes especially important for this intellectual history, because the aim of French missionaries in India by the late seventeenth-century was to record information as amateur scientists as much as it was to effect conversions to Christianity. The mission writings are representative of the earliest educated Western descriptions of India. These early representations were considered so valuable that nineteenth-century works on India relied greatly on missionary accounts of the previous centuries. Citing Pierre Filliozat, William Halbfass in his essay on India and Europe noted that,

The birth of Indology as a real science is the result of a collaboration between Indian traditional scholars and French missionaries. The first work that can be recognized as an achievement is a grammar of Sanskrit written in Latin, in about 1733. It is probably the work of J.F Pons, a Jesuit, who resided in India, especially at Chandranagore, Karaikal and Pondicherry, in the first decades of the eighteenth century.109


Thirdly this chapter explores the possibility that French views of Indian religion dominated French writing about India from the early modern to the modern period. Interest in India during the middle ages was sporadic at best and limited to missionaries who sent back reports of the strange lands and the heathens whom they had attempted to convert. Some scientific interest in the Indian systems of medicine and astronomy did present itself during medieval contact with the Arabs, who had adopted many of the astronomical and medicinal practices of India. As the famous twentieth-century Indologist Jean Filliozat points out, however, the possibility of appreciating India for itself was remote in the hyper-religious environment of medieval France.110 It was only with the Renaissance and later on with the Enlightenment that Europe would truly be ready to accept the possibility that there were other cultures as developed as they.111

Among the rare missionaries in India was the French Dominican missionary Jourdain de Séverac, who visited India as far back as the fourteenth-century. His account and observations about India and the people of India are contained in a couple of long letters,112 as well as the Mirabilia, 113 and formed the beginning of a valuable corpus of information available to missionaries who made the long, arduous, and often dangerous journey to India in subsequent centuries. Jordanus is a particularly important source because he was among the first Western missionaries in India.114 He wrote his Mirabilia while at the Papal court in 1329, and soon after was appointed the first Latin Bishop of Columbum in South India. These incidents combine to make him an influential source.115 I examine the work of Jordanus in contrast to the later writings of the Jesuits. By the seventeenth century the new geographical and scientific discoveries and incipient long distance trade between Europe and the East led to an increased vigor in seeking information about new lands.116 As R. K. Kochhar points out, traders only explored the coast line of India. Geographical exploration was left to the Jesuits, who had the training, the time, and the opportunity to criss-cross the country. They had also the necessary discipline to make careful observations, to record them faithfully, and to transmit them regularly.117 In 1687 Louis XIV sent a mission of fourteen Jesuits to Siam. Designated 'Mathematicians of the King‘ they were to collect whatever information they could about the country and its culture in order to understand the peoples of India, Siam, China, and Japan.118 Expelled from Siam in 1688, only three Jesuits made it to the coast of India alive, including Pères Bouchet and Richaud. The observations of these missionaries along with others who were traveling in India at the time were recorded in the collection Lettres édifiantes et curieuses.119 By the time the Jesuits of the Lettres édifiantes began sending back their impressions of India their views were certainly not as favorable as Jordanus. However, in examining both Jordanus‘ work as well as the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses one can see the beginning of a 'French‘ image of Indian religion.120 Moreover, the Lettres are important simply because, as Kate Teltscher points out, between the years 1700 and 1750 Europe viewed India primarily through the medium of the letters of the French Jesuits.121 In terms of geography these two works both focus on the southern part of India thus providing a long-term picture of continuity and change in the representation of peninsular India until the eighteenth-century. I use Jordanus as an early work and the Jesuit Lettres as the latest representation of India by French missionaries, thus comparing and contrasting the 'missionary view‘ of India from the thirteenth to the eighteenth- century. There are a number of common elements in the work of Jordanus and the Jesuits, including a consistent anti-Muslim stance, coupled with an intense interest in the origins of Indian religion, and a more tolerant view of Indian religion as opposed to Islam.122 In contrast Jordanus was more forgiving of the peculiarities of the Indians while the Jesuits had harsher criticisms, even though Europe knew more about the East by the eighteenth century.

The Muslim Enemy

The first common feature of 'missionary views‘ from the fourteen to eighteenth centuries was their anti- Muslim view. In the context of the Crusades and the long standing antipathy between Christianity and Islam as the two major proselytizing religions of the world, this is not a surprising element of Jordanus‘ writing.123 Traveling to India in order to convert the heathen peoples of the East, Jordanus came into direct conflict with the Muslims. In fact, as James Ryan points out, most Christian martyrs in this period suffered at the hands of the Muslims, since they ―courted confrontation…knowing full well they had offended Islamic sensibilities.'124 As a result of their activities four missionaries were put to death in India, an event which Jordanus, who was traveling at the time, missed. He returned in time to bury the martyrs ruing his narrow escape from their fate. ―Woe to that most evil hour, the hateful hour, in which for the salvation of others I so unhappily separated myself from my holy companions, ignorant, alas for me! of their future crowns."125 His account of the Muslims was therefore extremely harsh. At various points in his text Jordanus contrasts the Muslims with other people unfavorably. The following quote contains his impression of the Persian Muslims whom he contrasts with the Hindus.

This Persia is inhabited by Saracens and Saracenised Tartars, and by schismatic Christians of divers sects, such as Nestorians, Jacobites, Greeks, Georgians, Armenian, and by a few Jews126… the people of this realm live all too uncleanly, for they sit upon the ground, and eke [sic] eat upon the same, putting mess and meats in a trencher for three, four, or five persons together. They eat not on a table-cloth, but on a round sheet of leather, or on a low table of wood or brass, with three legs. And so six, seven, or eight persons eat out of one dish, and that with their hands and fingers; big and little, male and female, all eat after this fashion. And after they have eaten, or even whilst in the middle of their eating, they lick their fingers with tongue and lips, and wipe then on their sleeves, and afterwards if any grease still remains upon their hands, they wipe them on their shoes. And thus do the folk all over those countries, including Western and Eastern Tartary, except the Hindus, who eat decently enough, though they too eat with their hands…127


Jordanus‘ use of descriptions like 'unclean‘ and 'decent‘ indicate his belief that the Persians and the Tartars, who were mostly Muslim, were unhygienic, and uncivilized while exonerating the Hindus from the charge. His criticism stemmed from the growing science of hygiene in Europe which was motivated, in part, by the plagues which had struck Europe as a result of bad hygiene. However, at the time that Jordanus was writing, most of Europe was still in a state of 'the great unwashed‘ and although they did use rudimentary cutlery to eat, most often these were not washed after meals either!128 In effect, there was little sanitary difference between the use of cutlery for eating in Europe, and the use of hands for eating in the East. In India where the tradition of eating with one‘s hands still exists, the unsanitary aspect was removed by the otherwise extreme cleanliness practiced, particularly through the insistence on frequent washings. In fact the notion that Muslims were unclean was a common myth which had grown out of the antagonism of the Crusades.129 The fact that Jordanus singled out the Muslims cannot be dismissed. His description of Arabia, for instance, is unequivocally critical. ―The natives of this Arabia are all black, very crafty and lean, with voices like that of a little boy. They dwell in caverns and holes on the ground: they eat fish, herbs and roots, and nothing else.'130 Or even stronger, ―This Turkey, which is called Asia Minor, is inhabited by the Turks, and by a few schismatic Greeks and Armenians. Which Turks be most rascally Saracens, and capital archers withal, and the most warlike and perfidious of all mankind.'131 Lamenting the lack of missionaries in the East to effect conversions, he lashed out at the ―preachers of the perfidious and accursed Saracens…For their preachers run about, just as we do, here, there, and everywhere over the whole Orient, in order to turn all to their own miscreance. These be they who accuse us, who smite us, who cause us to be cast into durance, and who stone us…'132 The adjectives which stand out strongly in these quotes are 'craft and lean‘, 'rascally Saracens‘, 'perfidious‘, 'warlike‘ and 'accursed‘. They are all used in connection with Islam rather than an indictment of the inhabitants of Turkey. For instance, Jordanus heaps abuses only on the Saracen Turks, while noting that there were some Greeks and Armenians living in Turkey, emphasizing his concern that the preachers of the Saracen (Islamic) religion attempt to convert people to their own 'miscreance‘ -- presumably Islam. In fact, the thirteenth century was the era when Christians and Muslims were competing to covert Africans and Asians.

The anti-Islamic sentiment was a strong characteristic of missionary writings even in the seventeenth-century. By the time of the Jesuit missions the need to openly avow one‘s allegiance to Christ was no longer considered a glorious way to achieve martyrdom. Rather the Jesuits stressed the fact that they were working to effect conversions and foolhardy denunciations of Allah and the Prophet Mohammed would not achieve much towards this goal.133 Nevertheless, these missionaries considered Islam to be far worse than any other Indian religion. For instance, Father Bouchet134, writing in the first decade of the eighteenth century about his travels and efforts at conversion in the southern kingdom of Carnata in India wrote,

The Preachers of the Gospel are frequently imprisoned, and otherwise abused, in their Mission; which is owing to the Avidity of the Mohammedans, who are but too apt, of themselves, to persecute `em, from the natural Aversion they bear to the Christian Name…The Indians [under the Muslims] are quite miserable, and reap very little Benefit from their Labours.135


Bouchet does not similarly criticize non-Muslim Indian rulers of exploiting their subjects, making the emphasis on the cruelty and oppression of 'Mohammedans‘ the central theme. Further evidence of the animosity of Muslims to Christian missionaries is found in the letter of Father De La Lane to Father Morgues in 1709 that

The Country is very populous, and abounds with a vast Number of Towns and Villages; but 'twould be much fuller of Inhabitants, if the Moors or Mohammedans, subject to the Great Mogul, who subdued it, did not impoverish their People by their perpetual Exactions…The Oppression in which the Heathens live under the Government abovementioned, would be no obstacle to propagating our Religion, were not the Moors, at the same Time, the implacable Enemies of the Christian Name.136


Once again, there is no mention of the numerous Hindu feudatories of the 'Great Mogul‘ in exploiting the people even though historians have pointed to the general equality in the economic conditions between Hindu and Muslim feudatories of the Mughals during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.137

Father Mauduit, the missionary in charge of the mission at Pondichéry who had established the mission there some years before had already described the Muslims as having ―infested all the Country…The Face of the Country is beautiful, and seeming very populous; but it was more so before the Moors had usurped it.'138 Mauduit‘s primary mission was to explore Carnata and the opportunities for conversion there. In his extensive travels through the area he describes his encounter with a friendly Muslim Doctor as ――a Person of Learning and Capacity…a worthy Man…yet this Doctor was a Mohammedan, that is, a Person still more remote from the Kingdom of Heaven than the Heathens themselves.'139 If any clearer example of Mauduit‘s animosity to Islam can be found, it is in his conclusion.

The Advantage I have gained by these Journies is, I now know the several Places wherein Missionaries may be sent. The Season seems to be come, for us to labour with Success at the Conversion of the Idolaters of those Countries, which have so long been overspread with Darkness. All imaginable Dispatch should be used, lest the Mohammedans, who get Possession of all these Countries by insensible Degrees, should force the Inhabitants of them to embrace their abominable Religion.'140


Jordanus had expressed a similar anguish about the power that the Muslims held in India. In his primary task of conversion Jordanus acknowledged that the Hindus were idolaters. Yet he wrote of Hindu idolatry favorably as compared to Muslim rule. Describing the conquest of central India by the Khilji Sultanate of northern India, Jordanus wrote,

In this India the greater part of the people worship idols, although a great share of the sovereignty is in the hands of the Turkish Saracens, who came forth from Multan and conquered and usurped dominion to themselves not long since, and destroyed an infinity of idol temples, and likewise many churches, of which they made mosques to Mahomet, taking possession of their endowments and property. 'Tis grief to hear, and woe to see!141


As Maduit and Jordanus stressed, the Muslims were accused of destroying the beauty of India and looting the wealth of the country. But their greater crime was the aggressive spread of Islam in their dominions. While both Idolatry and Islam were heathen religions, the latter in its direct challenge to Christianity was considered by them to be the greater evil.

The conclusion of Mauduit‘s letter and even of Jordanus‘ anti- Islamic rhetoric seems to indicate that the primary proselytizing purpose of the missionaries in the East was to counter the spread of Islam by effecting conversions to Christianity. In this aspect the missionaries were united.

The Origin of the Indian Religion

Jordanus and the Jesuits were also unanimous in proclaiming the antiquity of Indian religion, and the essential unity of a religious power despite the worship of several idols. According to Jordanus, ―They make idols after the likeness of almost all living things of the idolaters; and they have besides their god according to his likeness. It is true that over all gods they place One God, the Almighty Creator of all those…'142 The supposition that Indians recognized a single Godhead among the thousands of Hindu gods and goddesses and the understanding that these were all different manifestations of a single divinity continued to exist among Frenchmen who studied Hinduism. Filliozat points to Blaise Pascal, a seventeenth-century intellectual, who noted that, the very existence of 'false religions‘ proved that there was a greater truth and a greater power.143 Pascal shrewdly pointed out that the fuss was not about 'false‘ religions as much as it was about the surprise that so called savages could have a religion, thus putting not only theories about what constituted civilization to the test, but also questioning the greater power of Christianity, since 'savages‘ obviously knew about the Great Deluge and other mythic events.144 By the time the Jesuits were writing their letters, the origin of Indian religion was a matter of great interest. Many of the Jesuits who traveled to India were also intellectuals and men of science. Several of them were members of the Académie des Sciences145 and the tone of the Lettres they sent back grew increasingly more scientific as the eighteenth century progressed. The Lettres reflect this trend towards recording information about a country and its people not only for the purpose of conversion but also to further knowledge.146 For instance, Father Bouchet provided extensive comparisons between Hinduism and Judaism in a long letter.147 ―In this present Letter I shall set before you, and I compare some Conjectures, which, I believe, will be thought important. The Design of them is to prove, that the Indians borrowed their Religion from the Books of Moses and the Prophets.'148 Bouchet then proceeded to compare and analyze incidents and figures in Hindu religion and mythology to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and incidents in the Old Testament.149

Among these Customs, which the Indians must necessarily have borrowed from the Jews, and still practice in this Country, I include their frequent Bathings, their Purifications, their extreme Aversion to dead Bodies, the bare touching of which, they imagine to be Pollution. Add to these, the different Order and distinction of Castes; and the inviolable Law, by which all Persons are commanded not to marry out of their own Caste or Tribe.'150


He concludes his letter:

I will here end the long Letter which I have taken the Liberty to address to your Lordship. I therein have given you an Account of such Particulars as were told to me by the Indian Nations, who, in all Probability, were antiently [sic for ―anciently'] Christians, but fell back, many Ages since, into the Errors of Idolatry…You may perceive, that, at the same Time we win over these abandon‘d Nations to Christ, we endeavour to be of some Service to the Literati in Europe, by our Discoveries in Countries with which they are not enough acquainted.'151


These comparisons between Hinduism and the Old Testament clearly set out the reason why Europeans tended to look upon Hinduism more favorably. According Brett Berliner, the 'Christianization of Hinduism‘ where individual elements of Hindu mythology were compared to Christian mythology may have accounted for the long standing admiration that many Frenchmen held for India.152 After all as Father De La Lane put it, ―I shall now give you a Sketch of the Religion of these Indians. They doubtless are truly Idolaters, since they worship strange Gods. Nevertheless, it appears plainly to me, from some of their Books, that they had antiently [sic for ―anciently'] a pretty distinct knowledge of the true God.'153 The comparisons between Christianity and Hinduism as possessing the same fundamental beginnings began in the time of Jordanus and continued in the work of the Theosophists down to the colonial period.154 In their anti-Muslim stance and their opinion that Hinduism held a long-lost belief in the True God, missionaries were united through the centuries. Apart from rhetorical denunciation of the 'false prophet‘ Muhammad and 'false God‘ Allah, none of the missionaries writing about India actually described what they found so objectionable about Islam or Muslims. In sweeping statements they presented Muslim rulers as harsh tyrants-- cruel Despots who laid the land to waste and oppressed their non-Muslim subjects. In reality, historians of modern India have demonstrated that individual rulers had their own policies—some were tyrants, others benevolent.155 Religion had little to do with these regimes—there were Hindu and Muslim tyrants, just as there were enlightened rulers of both religions. The fact that missionaries chose to single out Muslim rulers for criticism highlights the antipathy they had for Islam, which, according to religious historian Tomoko Masuzawa stemmed from a long standing anti-Semitic feeling in Europe.156

The effects of 'civilization‘

There were many differences between the views of Jordanus and the later Jesuits. Although they both held that Hinduism had once been a 'true belief‘, Jordanus held a more favorable view of the Indians than the Jesuits. His account of the Hindus was relatively gentle and descriptions of the caste system and customs like Sati were described without the condemnation of later Jesuit writers.

Take for example, Jordanus‘ description of sati:

In this India, on the death of a noble, or of any people of substance, their bodies are burned; and eke [sic] their wives follow them alive to the fire, and, for the sake of worldly glory, and for the love of their husbands, and for eternal life, burn along with them, with as much joy as if they were going to be wedded; and those who do this have the higher repute for virtue and perfection among the rest. Wonderful! I have sometimes seen, for one dead man was burnt, five living women take their place on the fire with him, and be with their dead [sic].157


Jordanus did not experience the revulsion that later Jesuits described. Instead he described the ceremony as resulting in 'worldly glory‘, 'eternal life‘, 'joy‘, 'virtue‘ and 'perfection‘- a 'wonderful‘ ritual in its performance and the attitude of the performers. In contrast to later Jesuit observers of sati, Jordanus‘ description stressed the voluntary aspect of sati where widows chose to burn with their dead husbands. His admiration for the satis- the women who burnt themselves- stands out against the descriptions of the later Jesuits. There was not a single word of remonstration or criticism in Jordanus‘ account of sati. Almost four hundred years of history and the beginning of colonialism changed this view. A French Jesuit missionary in India wrote about sati in 1701:

'Twas with Tears I beheld the Sad Remains of a diabolical Ceremony which the Moors have endeavoured to abolish, since their being Masters of the greatest part of this Country. Not many Days before, a Woman, either out of the Love she bore her deceased husband, or from a Desire of spreading her Name, had thrown herself on the funeral Pile, whilst her Husband was burning on it, and in this manner had been consum‘d to Ashes. There were still seen the Necklaces, Bracelets, and other Ornaments of that unhappy Victim of Satan, hanging on the Boughs of the Trees, which stood round the Place where this Sad Ceremony was performed…158


The above quote stands out in its condemnation of the custom of sati as a 'diabolical‘ and 'sad‘ ceremony which had consumed a 'victim of Satan‘. It also presents a stark contrast to Jordanus‘ description of sati as being a ceremony which added to the glory of women who performed it, a ceremony which was 'wonderful‘ and not 'diabolical‘ in its difference from Europe. While Mauduit described the same motives for Sati—love or a desire for glory— as well as the voluntary nature of the act, he described the performer as 'that unhappy victim of Satan‘. Considering that Jordanus was as fervent in proselytizing as the Jesuits of the eighteenth-century, the change in European views of strange and exotic customs from being 'boundless marvels‘159 to being 'monstrosities‘160 came with the addition of a colonizing motive to the religious zeal.161 All of Jordanus‘ descriptions of the nature and culture of the people of India were written from his own experiences or from the explanations of natives. He included aspects of India based on its variance with Europe—as a catalogue of the strange and fantastic. While in Turkey and Islamic India he played the outraged missionary, in southern India he played the tourist- taking simple delight in witnessing exotic rituals. He employed a narrative style at all times, justifying customs like Sati in terms of the natives‘ belief that it brought greater glory to the Sati. His proselytizing and resulting criticism was directed entirely towards Islam. By the time the Lettres were being written, the European economic interest in India was well advanced, and trading depots, factories and a flourishing trade in cotton, tobacco, tea, spices and other luxury goods had begun a period when European traders scrambled to secure their footing in India by establishing their own colonies. The Lettres of the Jesuits were translated into English solely because they provided valuable information- geographical, social, political and religious- which helped English merchants in their dealing with the Indians in the south of India. For their part, the Jesuit missionaries could not have been unaware or even uninfluenced by the emerging theory that European, Christian culture was a superior civilization which owed other, lesser civilizations the opportunity to develop through the mission civilisatrice. What is interesting to note in this transition is that the voice of the native has been removed. While Jordanus described the customs and religion as explained to him by the natives, the Jesuits presented their own understanding of these customs. Even where explanations were sought, the Jesuits dismissed them as irrational and further evidence of the backwardness of native customs. While the latter‘s‘ understanding of native customs could very likely be colored by Enlightenment discourses about individual rights, their refusal to accept anything other than a European moral compass was a new development of the colonial era.

These impulses were missing in Jordanus, who wrote,

In this lesser India are many things worthy to be noted with wonder… Here be many and boundless marvels; and in this First India beginneth, as it were, another world; for the men and women be all black, and they have for covering nothing but a strip of cotton tied around the loins, and the end flung over the naked back…162


The part of Jordanus‘ work which describes 'lesser India‘ includes parts of South India, including the Malabar, which were later to become the working grounds of the Jesuits.

About the personal qualities of the Hindus, Jordanus added to his observation about their cleanliness to attribute to them the qualities of being 'true in speech and eminent in justice, maintaining carefully the privileges of every man according to his degree as they have come down from old times‘163 Jordanus further demonstrated his sympathetic view of Hinduism in analyzing their abstinence from beef. Traditionally cited as a common superstition of Hindus, Jordanus notes that the Indians, ―never kill an ox, but rather honor him like a father; and some, perhaps even the majority, worship him…This is because oxen do all their services, and moreover furnish them with milk and butter, and all sorts of good things.'164

Jordanus even compared the Hindus‘ idol worship to the veneration of idols of the Virgin Mary in Europe. According to him, in south India, the Hindus often asked their Gods for boons, particularly to be cured from an illness. Upon their boon being granted, they adored their Gods and carried around their idols much in the manner of processions bearing the Virgin Mary in Europe.

In this Greater India many sacrifice themselves to idols in this way. When they are sick, or involved in any grave mischance, they vow themselves to the idol if they should happen to be delivered. Then, when they have recovered, they fatten themselves for one or two years continually, eating and drinking fat things, etc. And when another festival comes round, they cover themselves with flowers and perfumes, and crown themselves with white garlands and go with singing and playing before the idol when it is carried through the land (like the image of the Virgin Mary here among us at the Rogation tides); and those men who are sacrificing themselves to the idol carry a sword with two handles…and after they have shown off a good deal, they put the sword to the back of the neck, cutting strongly with a vigorous exertion of both hands, and so cut off their own heads before the idol.165


In this as in other descriptions Jordanus does not use a single negative word; rather his comparison of aspects of Hindu celebration to Christian celebrations and praise for the Virgin Mary lends it a legitimacy which has its origins in the devotion of the Hindus. Part of Jordanus‘ description of India and Hinduism came from the development in western Christianity. While the Church had begun isolating certain Christian sects and practices that it did not approve of, fourteenth-century Christian belief was far more accepting of flamboyant rituals of adoration than the more rigid Christian structure of post-Reformation Jesuit writing. As Masuzawa notes, though the church had defined 'pagan‘ rituals as non-Christian, even Saint Augustine was willing to take a more tolerant view of heathens.166 In contrast the evangelical missions of the seventeenth-century and later treated idolatry or heathenism or paganism as a distinct form of religious practice which was looked upon as false religion.167 This development meant that Jordanus was not only willing to believe and accept rituals in non-Christian lands as comparable to European practices, but that the Jesuits were more likely to condemn these practices as 'un-Christian‘.

By the time of the Jesuit missions the Hindus were 'idolaters‘ who displayed their ignorance and backwardness in their stubborn adherence to superstitions and ritualistic beliefs. For example, according the Father Martin,

All the Indians (to speak in general) worship some Deity; but alas! How ignorant are they of the true God! Blinded by their Passions still more than by the evil Spirit, they form monstrous Ideals of the supreme Being; and you wou‘d scarce believe me, shou‘d I name the vile and infamous Creatures to which they pay divine Honours. 'Tis my Opinion, that no Idolatry among the Antients [sic] was ever more gross, or more horrid, than that of these Indians.168


Every letter of the Jesuits contains reference to the idolatrous and superstitious practice of the Hindus followed by a description of the Jesuits‘ efforts to convert them to Christianity. A clear difference of opinion is present in the description of Jordanus and a Jesuit priest, Father Tachard relating to the polyandrous Nair community of southern India. Jordanus‘ description of polyandry in the Malabar was focused on property and inheritance:

In this India never do [even] the legitimate sons of great kings, or princes, or barons, inherit the goods of their parents, but only the sons of their sisters; for they say that they have no surety that those are their own sons, because wives and mistresses may conceive and generate by some one else; but 'tis not so with the sister, for whatever man may be the father they are certain that the offspring is from the womb of the sister, and is consequently thus truly of their blood. 169


For whatever reason Jordanus focused on property and inheritance in this aspect of Malabar life rather than any judgment about the morality of polyandry. In this manner he noted the custom and shied away from personal comment. This same community was described by Tachard in 1702 as,

In this Country, called Malleami, there are Castes as in the rest of India. Most of them observe the same Customs; and in particular they all entertain the like Contempt for the Religion and Manner of the Europeans. But a Circumstance, that perhaps is not found elsewhere, and which I myself could scarce believe, is that, among these Barbarians and especially the noble Castes, a Woman is allowed, by the Laws, to have several Husbands…This Custom, which is somewhat monstrous, as well as many other…are founded on the Religion.170


In contrast to Jordanus, Tachard was clearly appalled at the Malayali custom of polyandry and denounced it. The disjunction in these accounts regarding the ethical and moral aspects of custom came with the rise of European power in India.

An interesting aspect of the Jesuit letters was their status in society. Unlike Jordanus who describes no such ostracism, the Jesuits record their need to present themselves as Indian ascetics in order to avoid ostracism. According to Tachard, ―The Missionaries who were settled in Caroovepondi, had resolv‘d, at their Entrance into that Mission, to assume the Habit, and lead the Life of the Sanias Bramins, or religious Penitents.'171 In fact this circumstance was so strongly felt that it was no matter of choice. By the seventeenth-century, Europeans had made themselves heartily disliked in India by their complete indifference to the customs of the area. As Father Martin explained,

The people of Madura have no Communication with the Europeans, who, by their riotous Excesses, have corrupted all the Christians in India…The Missionaries lead an extremely mortified Life…They are not known to be Europeans; for were the Natives to have the least Notion of this, the Fathers would be obliged to quit the Country…Several Motives prompt the Indians to have the Europeans in so much Horror. Great Cruelties have been committed in their Countries; they have been Eye-Witnesses to the most shocking examples of Vices of every Kind…172


On one occasion, Father Bouchet, in order to protect the lives of other missionaries, had to admit his own European roots. This was considered to be an extreme step and only the fact that Bouchet was already well respected in the area made it possible for him to continue working.173 Among the habits which the Jesuits had to adopt was strict vegetarianism, since eating flesh of any kind would have prohibited social intercourse with the higher castes. They also had to prove their own high caste status by employing brahmin cooks.174 Mauduit explained the need to live with such austerities.

I must observe that it is absolutely necessary the Missionaries should lead a Life of the greatest Mortification, in order to win over the Heathens, who would shew [sic] no Regard to the Law of the true God, nor to the Preachers of it, were these to live with less Austerity than their Bramins and Sanias.175


Since Jordanus made no mention of any special changes he made in his habits or demeanor, one can assume that he made it a point to respect the customs of each country through which he had traveled, or that his oddities did not offend the local population. By the mid-seventeenth century, however, the Europeans had become so confident of their superiority that they flouted the laws of the nations they traded with- eating meat, disobeying the rules of social interaction and etiquette- and consequently became social pariahs. When the Jesuits entered South India their first task was to make themselves acceptable members of society, which they could only accomplish by posing as brahmin ascetics from the North.176 In fact, Bouchet even took on the name of Periya Sanjivinatha, meaning 'Revered master of spiritual healing‘.177 Since North Indians were fair-skinned, the Jesuits could pass for North Indian brahmins in order to gain an audience with the people of South India. As Dhruv Raina178 and Ines Županov179 point out the custom of accomodatio was common among Jesuits who thought that they would not otherwise be able to effect conversions.

In their attempt to fit in with the local population, the Jesuits also made it a habit to court the brahmins. Interestingly enough, their letters indicate the great contempt which they held for the brahmins as the chief perpetrators of superstition and idolatry, but simultaneously speak of the necessity to court and convert them since the brahmins were the religious leaders and one brahmin convert would surely serve as an example to many other lower castes. Tachard, in his description of the state of the various missions in the South summed up the successes of the missions in terms of the number of brahmin converts in each mission. 'Father de la Fontaine was extremely fortunate in the very Opening of his Mission…That Father has already baptized a great many Bramins.‘180 So as De La Lane wrote to Father Morgues, ―No Sort of People in the World can possibly be prouder then the Bramins, stronger Opponents of Truth, or more puffed up with the Ideas of their superstitions and Nobility.'181 Yet the Jesuits tried their hardest to convert the brahmins. In his efforts to establish a mission at Carnata, Father Mauduit describes his persuasive words to a group of brahmins that Indians ―may be in an Error, in imagining that Bruma (Brahma), Wistnou (Vishnu), and Routrem (Shiva), are Gods worthy of Adoration; since that these pretended Deities were only so many vicious, corrupt Men, who were ranked among the Gods, merely by the Flattery of their Fellow-creatures.' Having made this speech on their misconception, Mauduit then recorded their response.

The Bramins list‘ned to me very calmly, and without seeming to regard the Contradictions they necessarily fell into, nor the ridiculous Consequences which they were obliged to own resulted from what they said. At last, finding the Attack grow still warmer, their only Refuge was to withdraw without saying a Word. This gives a tolerable Idea of the People of this Country, and shews that the Conversion of a Bramin is not so easy a Matter as might be imagined. Few Converts have been made here this Year.182


On another occasion, Mauduit recorded his stay at the house of a brahmin. ―I lay, at Alcatil, in the House of a Bramin, who daily worshipped the Devil, under the Name and Figure of Poolear.183 Seeing this Idol standing in the Room where I was to lie, I thought proper to throw it upon the Ground.'184 In a testament to the peaceful nature of the Indians as well as their tolerance of the missionaries, Mauduit recounted that the brahmin, seeing his idol desecrated the next morning, and a makeshift Altar in its place, left to allow Mauduit to complete his prayers in peace.

This drew several Persons to the house, which gave me an opportunity of speaking to them concerning God; and of observing, how unhappy they were, in not being acquainted with the Supreme Being, sole Author of all Good. They listened attentively to me, but were not affected, not one of them then discovering the least Desire to turn Christian.185


Given the rough and ready methods of the Jesuits, it was not surprising that they failed to convert many brahmins. However they persisted in their efforts to convert brahmins, deeming this so important that they made many concessions, allowing new converts to maintain their caste purity. In 1702 Mauduit wrote,

"I am to observe that Catechists of a lower Caste, cannot be employed in instructing such Indians as are of a higher caste. The Bramins and Shootres, who are the principal and most extensive Castes, have as much Aversion to the Parias, who are under them, than any Prince in Europe could entertain for the Dregs of the People. These Bramins and Shootres would be dishonoured in their native Place, and lose all the Privileges of their Caste, should they listen to the Instructions of a Person whom their Countrymen consider as an abominable Wretch. We therefore are obliged, to appoint Parias- Catechists for the Parias, and Bramin-Catechists for the Bramins; a Circumstance which gives us no little Trouble, it not being easy to procure such, especially of the latter. Nothing is more difficult than to convert the Bramins; for these being naturally haughty, and puffed up with Notions of their exalted Birth, and their Superiority over the rest of the Castes, they thence are found less tractable and more strongly attached to the Superstitions of their Country.'186


It seems that caste barriers were a huge problem in effecting conversions, even among other castes. According to Father De La Lane,

The Indians are extremely sober, they never committing any Excess, either in eating or drinking. They are born with a natural Aversion to all Liquors which intoxicate; are very reserv‘d with regard to Women…are vastly charitable to the Poor…are of a very mild Disposition; whence nothing shocks them so much as a hasty Temper and Anger. Such being their Frame of Mind, 'tis certain many would then turn Christians, were they not afraid of being expelled from their Castes.187


Considering that society, particularly in South India, functioned around the institution of caste, which dictated each person‘s social, economic and political life, the fear of losing caste can be understood. A person who 'lost caste‘ effectively lost his whole support system, his social network, extended family and even his economic community.

A Person who is expell‘d from his Caste is lost to all Refuge or Asylum. His Relations must not hold the least Correspondence with, not even give him so much as a little Fire; and if he had any Children, he never finds an Opportunity to marry them; and thus is forced to either starve, or to enter into the Caste of the Parias, which, among the Indians, is an Act of the blackest Infamy.188


The efforts of the Jesuits to accommodate Indian customs in their efforts at proselytization reached a dead end in the infamous Rites Malabars. Jealous of the success that Jesuits claimed to have in converting peoples in the East, other Catholic orders petitioned the Vatican, based on the conversion of the people of the Malabar region of South India where the Jesuits had effected many conversions by maintaining caste purity. They challenged the Jesuit method of conversion by claiming that a convert who still held on to his previous beliefs and rituals was not a true, believing Christian. Under pressure from these groups, particularly the Dominicans and Franciscans, and despite the pleas of missionaries in India that the allowances made to Indian Christian converts was only meant to be an initial effort to demonstrate the superior religion, the Church ruled in 1744 that such converts were not 'true‘ converts and that no convert could profess the Catholic faith and still retain his loyalty to customs dictated by Hindu life.189 From then on, the number of converts to Christianity in India dropped drastically, until the Anglicans began proselytization in a big way in the nineteenth century.190

In spite of these struggles the Lettres enjoyed a wide readership. According to Sylvia Murr, the Lettres Édifiantes were published when the Jesuits were struggling to maintain their legitimacy in the face of decreasing funds from the Church and the competition of other orders. They were also meant to boost confidence in readers‘ faith at a time when the Church was under attack from non-believers and the philosophes.191 As Kate Teltscher notes, the Lettres enjoyed wide circulation in part because they were written to persuade individuals to contribute to the cause of proselytization in India and elsewhere.192

According to the historian of science R K Kochhar, although the spread of the Christian faith was the most important plan of the Jesuits, their activities had a scientific dimension about them also, being the first European men of learning in India.193 As Kochhar points out Bouchet was the first person who, having traveled extensively in the southern part of India, was able to produce a reliable map of the peninsula, which the celebrated geographer D‘Anville later used as a blueprint for his maps of South India. The Jesuit mission sent by Louis XIV made the first attempt to study Indian languages. These men applied themselves with vigor to the study of the local languages in the South, particularly Tamil and Telegu which were spoken by the majority of the area they served. Bouchet was fluent in Tamil and was considered a scholar by his fellow missionaries.194 They also applied themselves to the study of Sanskrit believing that this would give them a greater understanding of the foundation of Indian religion and cultural traditions. As Tachard described in his survey of the missions,

Father Mauduit applies himself to the Grandan, which is the learned Language of the Country. A Jesuit, to make his Ministry still more useful to the Indians, must understand their Books writ in that Language; and appear learned in the Sciences professed by their Doctors. The Bramins, who set themselves up as the only learned Men in this Country, won‘t permit such Authors as treat of them to be translated; and are prodigiously jealous of them, from a Persuasion that Learning is the true Characteristic of Nobility.195


In studying these languages and writing detailed accounts of their impressions of the Indians they encountered, as well as producing rudimentary grammars, dictionaries and linguistic guides for other missionaries to use, they provided an invaluable service to later generations of Indologists who used these works as their fundamentals to learning about India. For example, a signal service to the study of local languages was performed by Ariel, a missionary in Pondichéry, who had compiled a Tamil grammar and collected a wealth of Tamil manuscripts and sent them to Paris where Charles d‘Ochoa organized them. Père Coeurdoux was another missionary in Pondichéry who was in touch with Voltaire, Anquetil- Duperron, and other academics, providing them information about Indian culture, history, science etc.196 In fact it is no coincidence that until the notion of the academic as a rational man of science became dominant with the Enlightenment many scholars of India were deeply religious and began their studies on India as part of an effort to understand a 'heathen‘ religion or to trace the roots of pagan religion.197
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Re: Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

Postby admin » Sat Oct 31, 2020 4:39 am

Part 2 of 2

Conclusion

There is no clear image of India which emerges from the fragmentary writings of the early modern period, but there are certain aspects of writings which stood out. The first aspect was the relatively moderate tone which was used to describe Indian religion as compared to the anti-Islamic invective. The second was the intense interest that the brahmins of India generated. Established as the chief interpreters of religion, they were naturally the first to be consulted on any aspect of religion that travelers were curious about, and equally they formed the first group to be targeted for conversion. In fact this focus on the brahmins and on caste in India may well be the first 'French‘ aspect of writing about India. As Kate Teltscher points out, by the mid-eighteenth century, one can talk of specific national images of India in Europe. The Jesuit dedication to 'going native‘, courting the brahmins, learning Sanskrit and engaging brahmins in long theological debates came to be identified as typically French in stark contrast to the writings of the Lutherans and Anglican missionaries who came to India in the eighteenth century.198 The latter tended to work in North India, completely eschewed the Jesuit practice of accomodatio and focused on effecting mass conversions among the lower castes. While this was more an accident of history rather than any conscious 'French‘ action, the readership for these French Jesuits‘ accounts of India remained primarily French—therefore these accounts informed the French public, particularly the savants, about India.199

An examination of the writings of French missionaries who visited India points to the efforts of these men to create an image of India for their Western readers. Since they comprised the majority of Europeans who ventured into the country (as opposed to traders who limited themselves to the ports) their writings were virtually the only first hand accounts of interior regions in India to be available in Europe. When Jordanus was writing in the thirteenth century, notwithstanding the hyperbole to which he was partial in describing fruits which could feed six men and trees of immense proportions,200 the rare written description of India in the early modern period tended to focus on its difference from Europe. Much of this difference was described in terms of religion, but there were also accounts of the geographical marvels, like the monsoons, which Europeans traveling to the East would have first encountered in India, as well as the different flora and fauna of the area. Jordanus and Pascal also pointed to the fact of idolaters existing in India, but were far more moderate about the religions of the East than may be found in the more extreme rhetoric of the later Jesuits. These issues were relevant to the political context of their writing and it is a fact that after the crusades, an anti-Muslim rhetoric was almost de rigueur in all works describing the East. As opposed to Jordanus, later Jesuits were not only steeped in their own religious fervor, but were also subject to the aggressive economic mission that Europe had launched in Asia, particularly India and China. The Jesuit missions to Asia were corollaries to the steady commercial traffic to the East by the late seventeenth-century and the Lettres reflect the need to document the different aspects of the country in order to provide information about the land and people. As outlined in the introduction to each volume of the Lettres, the Jesuits needed compilation of information in order to better effect conversions- in India, America and China. Yet the availability of their accounts to the reading public meant that these descriptions could be used by secular writers (such as the philosophes, who cited the Lettres widely as discussed in the next chapter) as well as manuals of information to traders and colonialists to these countries. Many of the missionaries were directly connected to the colonial enterprise, since the French ships usually carried at least one missionary onboard when they made voyages to India. These men were to provide to the spiritual needs of the French, but once they had established their missions, they also actively converted the native population.

This chapter serves two purposes for the larger dissertation. Firstly, it traces some of the long held notions of India in France back to the early modern era. Secondly, it establishes the concept of a 'French‘ image of India which was distinct from other countries‘ writings about India. The next chapter follows the foundation which the Jesuits provided in the writings of Enlightenment philosophes.

_______________

Notes:

103 I use the term 'Hinduism‘ to denote a broad range of religious beliefs which were thought to be 'Indian‘, in opposition to Muslim, Jewish, and Christian beliefs among Indians.
 
104 According to Županov, accounts of the Jesuits provided much of the philosophes‘ information about India. Ines G Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth Century India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999): 44

105 I use the term 'missionary views‘ to broadly indicate the views of men whose primary aim in writing about India was for the purpose of spreading Christianity.
 
106 I use the term 'secular views‘ to represent the views of men who traveled to India as merchants, mercenaries and even tourists as opposed to missionaries who were sent to India in pursuit of their evangelical duties. While many of these men were deeply religious and expressed their opinion of Indian religion, their fundamental purpose in traveling to India was not to effect conversion, so they have been grouped into 'secular views‘.
 
107 Most of the current research on India in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries has used the works of travelers and observers like Jean Baptiste Tavernier and Le Gentil, physicians like François Bernier and Charles Dellon, engineers like Legoux De Flaix, architects like Claude Martin, and most of all mercenaries like Allard, Ventura, Réne Madec, Law de Lauriston, Dubois de Jancigny, Gentil, Claude Martin and Benoit De Boigne. For travelers see Edward Farley Oaten, European travellers in India during the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 1909. (New York: AMS Press, 1971 reprint); and Distant lands and Diverse Cultures: the French Experience in Asia 1600- 1700, edited by Glenn J Ames and Ronald Love (Westport Ct and London: Praeger, 2003). For the work of mercenaries see Jean Marie Lafont, Indika. Essays in Indo- French relations 1630- 1976 (New Delhi: Manohar, 2000) as well as La présence française dans le royaume sikh du Penjab: 1822-1849 (Paris: École française d‘Extrême-Orient, 1992).

108 The scholarship on 'secular‘ writers like Tavernier, Bernier, Charles Dellon and Le Gentil is fairly extensive. Apart from numerous translations of their accounts and monographs dedicated to these individuals, it is very common for their works to be used as sources for the modern period in Indian history. For instance, Binita Mehta, Widows, Pariahs and Bayadères. India as spectacle (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, and London: Associated University Presses, 2002) ; and Kate Teltscher, India Inscribed: European and British writing on India, 1600- 1800 (Delhi: OUP, 1995) are among the more recent works which examine the impact of these writers on the image of India in France.
 
109 Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe. An essay in understanding. (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1988):44. Cited from P S Filliozat, ―The French Institute of Indology in Pondicherry,' Weiner Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens 28 (1983): 133. I have discussed this issue on pages 74-76.

110 Jean Filliozat, ―La naissance et l‘essor de L‘Indianisme', Bulletin de la Société des études indo-chinoises de Saigon, Vol 29, issue 4, (1954): 268.
 
111 Ibid.
 
112 The two letters of Jordanus to missionaries wishing to work in the East are in the BNF, dated to Oct 1321 and Jan 1324. They total about 29 pages. Friar Jordanus, Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East. Trans. Col. Sir Henry Yule. Hakluyt Society Publication no. 31, first series, (1863): preface, iv- vi. The Mirabilia was previously published in Receuil des Voyages et de Mémoires publié par la Société de Géographie, vol. 4 as Description des merveilles d'une partie de l'Asie: imprimé d'après un manuscrit du XIVe siècle par le P. Jordan ou Jourdain Catalani, ed. Eugène Coquebert de Montbret. The Mirabilia was also partially reproduced in Henri Cordier, Mirabilia Descripta-Les Merveilles de l'Asie, par le Père Jourdain Catalani de Séverac (Paris : P. Geuthner, 1925).
 
113 Published as Friar Jordanus. Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East. Trans. Col. Sir Henry Yule. Hakluyt Society Publication no. 31, first series, 1863. Also published as Receuil des Voyages et de Mémoires publié par la Société de Géographie, Vol. 4.
 
114 John of Montecorvino was possibly the first to visit India on his way to China in 1291-92. See James Ryan, ―European travelers before Columbus: The fourteenth century's discovery of India', Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 79 Issue 4 (October 1993). http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? ... ehost-live. Accessed on 12/31/07.
 
115 As pointed out in Ibid.
 
116 In the preceding years there had been several Jesuit missions which had attempted to effect conversions in North India. A notable work was that of Father Pierre Du Jarric, who came to the Mughal court during the late sixteenth-century. Jarric studied the writing of all previous Jesuit missions in India and compiled a Histoire des choses plus mémorables advenes tant en Indes orientales…which essentially detailed the Jesuit missions thus far in India. His work was translated and published in English in 1926 as Akbar and the Jesuits: An Account of the Jesuit Missions to the Court of Akbar (Oxon: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005 reprint). A valuable account of Jesuit Missions, Du Jarric did not concern himself too much with a description of the country and people; hence I have left it out of this study.
 
117 R K Kochhar, 'Secondary Tools of Empire: Jesuit Men of Science in India‘, in Discoveries, Missionary Expansion and Asian Cultures, edited by Teotonio R de. Souza (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1994): 175.
 
118 Ibid.

119 The Lettres which deal with India are records by Pères Tachard, Papin, Bouchet, Pons, Calmette and Mauduit and Coeurdoux. They contain detailed descriptions of the people and customs, which allow a better analysis of their image and representation of India for this study. The Lettres seem to have gone through several versions and translations. According to Ines G Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth Century India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999), a total of 34 volumes were published between 1703- 1776, edited by LeGobien (vols 1-7), the China expert du Halde (9-26), 27,28,31,33,34 by Patouillet and possibly René Maréchal or J B Geoffrey for vols. 29, 30, 32. In addition a number of translated, abridged, and altered versions were published well into the nineteenth century: 12- 13. In this study I refer to the earliest English translation of the Lettres, which was published even before the French originals were compiled. This edition was compiled by John Lockman under the title of 'Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. (London: T. Piety, 1762, 2nd Ed). The first edition was published in 2 volumes in 1743, London, by John Noon. The French originals were published periodically by the Paris Jesuit Mission in 34 volumes dating from 1702 to 1776 as Lettres Édifiantes et Curieuses, Écrites de Missions Etrangères, par quelques Missionaires de la Compagnie de Jésus (Paris: Nicolas Le Clerc). For a description of the various versions of the Lettres, see David Clines, ―In Search of the Indian Job', Vestus Testamentum, Vol. 33. 4 (Oct., 1983): 399- 404.
 
120 There is an emerging corpus of scholarly work which examines the work of the Jesuits in relation to science, astronomy and their interaction with the native people. Although these aspects are not central to this work, they are valuable additions to the history of South Asia. See for example, S.M.Razaullah Ansari, ―Introduction of Modern Western Astronomy in India during 18-19 Centuries', History of Indian Astronomy, edited by S.N. Sen and K.S. Shukla, (New Delhi: INSA, 1985): 363-402; Jacques Pouchepadass, ―L‘Inde au miroir de l´histoire et des sciences du temps présent', Passeurs d´Orient. Encounters between India and France, edited by F.Gros (Paris: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1991): 52-57; Dhruv Raina, Nationalism, Institutional Science and the Politics of Knowledge: Ancient Indian Astronomy and Mathematics in the Landscape of French Enlightenment Historiography, (Institutionen för vetenskapsteori, Göteborgs Universitet, 1999) Rapport Nr. 201, Dhruv Raina, ―Jean-Baptiste Biot on the History of Indian Astronomy (1830-1860): The Nation in the Post-Enlightenment Historiography of Science', Indian Journal of History of Science 35.4 (2000): 319-346; Dhruv Raina, ―Betwixt Jesuit and Enlightenment Historiography: The Context of Jean-Sylvain Bailly‘s History of Indian Astronomy', Revue d‟Histoire de Mathématiques 9 (2003): 101-153; Virendra Nath Sharma, ―The Impact of Eighteenth Century Jesuit Astronomers on the Astronomy of India and China', Indian Journal of History of Science 17.2 (1982): 345-352; Ines G Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth Century India. (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999); Ines G Županov, Missionary Tropics: The Catholic Frontier in India (16th-17th Centuries) (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005).
 
121 Kate Teltscher, India Inscribed: European Writing and British Writing on India, (Oxford and Delhi: Oxford India Paperbacks, 1995): 5.
 
122 I use the term 'Indian religion‘ because this is the term used both by Jordanus and the Jesuits, in preference to 'Hindu religion‘. Presumably they used the term in recognition of the fact that there were many sects and groups within Hinduism to the extent that the only common features of Hinduism were likely to be geographically determined (i.e. people followed the same customs within a particular region) rather than united by religion.
 
123 Rana Kabbani also argues that the anti-Muslim view of Europe was a post-crusade development. Rana Kabbani, Europe's Myths of the Orient (London: Macmillan, 1986): 4

124 James D. Ryan, ―Missionary Saints of the High Middle Ages: Martyrdom, Popular Veneration, and Canonization', The Catholic Historical Review 90.1 (2004): 7. Ryan notes that Islam, like Christianity, being a proselytizing religion, came into conflict with the European missionaries, especially the Franciscans and Dominicans who regularly challenged the Muslims with their open denunciations of Allah and the Prophet.
 
125 Arthur C. Moule, "Brother Jordan of Séverac," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1928): 373. Cited in Friar Jordanus. Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East. Trans. Col. Sir Henry Yule. Hakluyt Society Publication no. 31, first series, (1863): 17.
 
126 Ibid. In several passages Jordanus dismisses sects of Christianity which he found as heretics. The people of Ethiopia, for instance, ―are all Christians but heretics.': 46. In India, Jordanus speaks of, ―a scattered people, one here, another there, who call themselves Christians, but are not so, nor have they baptism, nor do they know anything else about the faith…' : 23. Furthermore, ―Of the Caspian Hills I say that there they sacrifice sheep upon a cross, and they call themselves Christians, though they are not so, and know nothing of the faith': 51. In terms of the history of the period, Jordanus displays a fairly typical view of 'heretics‘ since the Catholic Church was actively engaged in defining the limits of Catholicism and heresy during this period. See Malcolm Lambert, Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation. (Maldren, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2002).

127 Ibid: 9-10.
 
128 Norbert Elias, The Civilising Process, (Oxford, 1978- 1982), Vol 1: 99- 113. Also Roy Wood, The Sociology of the Meal (Edinburgh, 1995). The custom of washing one‘s hands before and after meals seems to have come into existence in the homes of the rich only by the late fifteenth-century. See Paul Lacroix, Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period. Project Gutenberg E-Book.
 
129 The common description in medieval and early modern times of the 'filthy Saracen‘ grew into a conviction which continues to be popular in the West- that of Muslim uncleanliness. See Western Views of Islam in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Perception of Other. Edited by David R. Blanks and Michael Frassetto, (New York: St. Martin‘s Press, 1999).
 
130 Friar Jordanus. Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East. Translated by Col. Sir Henry Yule. Hakluyt Society Publication no. 31, first series, (1863): 45.
 
131 Ibid: 58.
 
132 Ibid, 56. Also see James D. Ryan, ―Missionary Saints of the High Middle Ages: Martyrdom, Popular Veneration, and Canonization', The Catholic Historical Review 90.1 (2004): 1-28 for details of the suffering of Jordanus at the hands of the Muslims.
 
133 Father Martin to Father de Villette, Balasore Bengal. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 1. (London: T. Piety, 1762, 2nd Ed): 2.
 
134 Bouchet arrived in India in about 1688 and was appointed to establish a new mission at Madura in 1702. He was then appointed Superior of the Mission in Carnata. Father Tachard, Superior of the Jesuit Missions in India, to Count De Crecy. Pondichéry, Feb. 1703. Ibid: 481. For information about Bouchet, see Francis Clooney, Fr. Bouchet‟s India: An 18th Century Jesuits‟ Encounter with Hinduism, (Chennai: Satyam Nilyam Publications, 2005).
 
135 Father Bouchet to Bishop Huet, formerly Bishop of Avranches. Ibid, Vol 2: 374.
 
136 Father De La Lane to Father Morgues, Pondichéry, Jan. 1709. Ibid: 373.
 
137 There has long been a debate between economic historians of India regarding the state of decline [notably Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India 1556-1707 (Delhi: OUP, 1999)] or of economic growth [notably Shireen Moosvi, People, Taxation, and Trade in Mughal India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008)]during the Mughal period of Indian history. The state of the economy and of the oppression of the people stemmed from the demands of the cities and of the landowning class (zamindars) regardless of their religion. Moosvi emphasizes the religious compositeness in the ruling class under Mughal rule.
 
138 Father Mauduit to Father le Gobien, Carnata. Jan 1702. Ibid, Vol 1: 430.
 
139 Ibid: 432.
 
140 Ibid: 440.
 
141 Friar Jordanus. Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East. Translated by Col. Sir Henry Yule. Hakluyt Society Publication no. 31, first series, (1863): 23.
 
142 Ibid: 24.
 
143 Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, philosopher and spiritual writer, was born in 1623 at Clermont- Ferrard and died in 1662 in Paris. His most known work is a collection of essays titled „Les Pensées‟ which although unfinished, is essentially an apology for the Christian Religion 'which the increasing number of libertines rendered so necessary at that time.‘ See Blaise Pascal, Pensées, no. 817. Trans. W F Trotter. (1660). Cited in Jean Filliozat, ―La naissance et l‘essor de L‘Indianisme', Bulletin de la Société des études indo-chinoises de Saigon, Vol 29, issue 4, (1954): 268.

144 Blaise Pascal, Pensées, no. 818. Trans. W F Trotter. (1660). Also, Jean Filliozat, ―La naissance et l‘essor de L‘Indianisme', Bulletin de la Société des études indo-chinoises de Saigon, Vol 29, issue 4, (1954): 268.
 
145 According to Georges Naidenoff among the Jesuits who were also members of the Académie des Sciences were Fontenay, Tachard, Gerbillon, Lecomte, Bouver, and Visdelov. See Georges Naidenoff, ―Endeavours of the Missionaries', in The French in India: from Diamond Traders to Sanskrit Scholars, edited by Rose Vincent (Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1990). Also see the decline of Jesuit membership in the Académie during the eighteenth-century in James E. McClellan III, ―The Académie Royale des Sciences, 1699-1793: A Statistical Portrait”, Isis, Vol. 72, No. 4 (Dec., 1981): 555.
 
146 As Županov points out, the Jesuits used the epistolatory form of writing. The goals of the order as stipulated by Ignatius Loyola were two fold. The first was service and the glory of god; the second the service of the Jesuit order to enable the realization of these goals. The founder had prescribed subjects for Jesuit writing, especially for those stationed outside Europe. There were to be four components of Jesuit written composition and correspondence cast in a specified narrative form. The first were accounts of kings and nobles, and these were to be recorded as dramatic, theatrical vignettes. The second was to deal with the life, habits, and customs of the common people, and these virtually took the form of ethnographic descriptions. Naturally there were disputes within the order and it was prescribed that these disputes be couched in dialogical or polemical terms. And finally, their own individual ambitions were sublimated in the rhetoric of sainthood and utopianism. See Ines G Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth Century India. (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999): 7.
 
147 Wilhelm Halbfass also notes Bouchet‘s comparison of Indian beliefs with Hebrew beliefs. See India and Europe. An essay in understanding. (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1988): 44.
 
148 Father Bouchet to Bishop Huet, formerly Bishop of Avranches. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 2 (London: T. Piety, 1762, 2nd Ed): 241. For a good discussion of this topic, see David Clines, 'In Search of the Indian Job‘, Vestus Testamentum, Vol. 33. 4 (Oct., 1983): 398-418. Also see, Francis X. Clooney, Fr. Bouchet‟s India: An 18th Century Jesuits‟ Encounter with Hinduism, (Chennai: Satyam Nilyam Publications, 2005).
 
149 Father Bouchet to Bishop Huet, formerly Bishop of Avranches. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 2 (London: T. Piety, 1762, 2nd Ed): 241- 63.
 
150 Ibid: 264. 
 
151 Ibid: 277.
 
152 Brett Berliner, Department of History and Geography, Morgan State University. Personal communication, December 2006.

153 Father De La Lane to Father Morgues, Pondichéry, Jan. 1709. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 2 (London: T. Piety, 1762, 2nd Ed): 377.
 
154 Louis Jacolliot was a prolific writer, colonial official and fervent believer that Christianity was derived from Hinduism. His works on the subject include La bible dans l‟Inde (1869) and Christna et le Christ (1874). Jacolliot‘s ideas were extensively quoted by the famous Theosophist Madame Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled (1877).
 
155 See The Cambridge Economic History of India: c.1200-c.1750 (Cambridge: CUP, 1982). Edited by Tapan Raychaudhuri, Irfan Habib, Dharma Kumar, Meghnad Desai.
 
156 Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005): Chapter 6.
 
157 Friar Jordanus. Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East. Trans. Col. Sir Henry Yule. Hakluyt Society Publication no. 31, first series, (1863): 20-21.

158 Father Mauduit. Written from Carnata, 1701. From John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 1, (London: T. Piety, 1762. 2nd Ed): 425.
 
159 Friar Jordanus. Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East. Translated by Col. Sir Henry Yule. Hakluyt Society Publication no. 31, first series, (1863): 12.
 
160 Father Bouchet to Bishop Huet, formerly Bishop of Avranches. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 2, (London: T. Piety, 1762. 2nd Ed).
 
161 Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak, 'Can the Subaltern Speak?‘ in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988)

162 Friar Jordanus. Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East. Translated by Col. Sir Henry Yule. Hakluyt Society Publication no. 1, first series, (1863): 12
 
163 Ibid: 22.
 
164 Ibid: 25.
 
165 Ibid: 32-33.
 
166 Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2005): 48.
 
167 Ibid: 58- 64.
 
168 Father Martin to Father De Villette. Marava in the Mission of Madura, Nov. 1709, John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 2, (London: T. Piety, 1762. 2nd Ed): 416.
 
169 Friar Jordanus. Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East. Trans. Col. Sir Henry Yule. Hakluyt Society Publication no. 31, first series, (1863): 32.
 
170 Father Tachard, Superior- General of the French Mission of Jesuits in the East Indies, to Father De La Chaize. Pondichéry, Feb. 1702, John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 1, (London: T. Piety, 1762. 2nd Ed): 168-69.
 
171 Father Tachard, Superior of the Jesuit Missions in India, to Count De Crecy. Pondichéry, Feb. 1703. Ibid: 481.
 
172 Father Martin to Father de Villette. Ibid: 5.
 
173 Father Martin to Father le Gobien. Aoor Madura, Dec 1700. Ibid: 459- 463.
 
174 Father Tachard, Superior of the Jesuit Missions in India, to Count De Crecy. Pondichéry, Feb. 1703. Ibid: 481. I use the spelling 'brahmin‘ throughout the thesis to indicate a particular caste among the Hindus, as distinguished from 'brahman‘ which is often used interchangeably to denote the Upanishadic Universal Soul or Godhead. While the difference in reality lies in pronunciation, I have used a different spelling in order to avoid confusions between the two terms.
 
175 Father Mauduit to Father Le Gobien, Sept. 1700. Ibid: 9.
 
176 Dedication to vol. 2 by J B Du Halde, Ibid: 364.
 
177 Francis X. Clooney, Fr. Bouchet‟s India: An 18th Century Jesuits‟ Encounter with Hinduism, (Chennai: Satyam Nilyam Publications, 2005): 3.
 
178 Dhruv Raina, ―The Mystery of French Jesuit Manuscripts on Indian Astronomy: The Narratology and Impact of a Late Seventeenth Early Eighteenth Century Project', (paper presented at a workshop on 'Looking at it from Asia: the processes that shaped the sources of history of science.’ Recherches Epistémologiques et Historiques sur les Sciences, Paris, Sept 2006).
 
179 Ines G Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth Century India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999):5. She notes that following Nobili‘s introduction of the practice of accommodatio in India, almost every Jesuit in India chose one or the other side, writing 'opinions‘ or condemnations, providing arguments for and against this practice. Her work also details the manner in which the practice of accommodatio was accomplished in India.
 
180 Father Tachard, Superior of the Jesuit Missions in India, to Count De Crecy. Pondichéry, Feb. 1703. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 1, (London: T. Piety, 1762. 2nd Ed): 487.
 
181 Father De La Lane to Father Morgues, Pondichéry, Jan. 1709. Ibid, Vol 2: 387.
 
182 Father Mauduit to Father Le Gobien, Carnata, Jan. 1702. Ibid, Vol 1: 423.
 
183 The Elephant headed deity Ganesha, who is worshipped in the South under the name of Pillayar.
 
184 Father Mauduit to Father Le Gobien, Carnata, Jan. 1702. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 1, (London: T. Piety, 1762. 2nd Ed): 425
 
185 Ibid: 426.
 
186 Father Mauduit to Father le Gobien, Carnata. Jan 1702. Ibid: 420-21.
 
187 Father De La Lane to Father Morgues, Pondichéry, Jan. 1709. Ibid, Vol 2: 376.
 
188 Ibid: 377.

189 For more information about the Rites see E. Amann, ―Malabares (Rites)' DTC, 9: 1704-1746. Also see J. Bertrand, Mémoires historiques sur les missions des ordres religieux et spécialement sur les questions du clergé indigène et des rites malabares d'après des documents inédits. 2. ed, (Paris: P. Brunet,1862).
 
190 Anglican missionaries targeted lower castes for conversion, offering them an egalitarian society and the possibility of employment in the households of colonial administrators. The history of Christians in modern India reflects the efforts of different groups of missionaries- Southern Indian Christians are pre-dominantly Catholics who were converted by the Jesuits or even earlier. They cling to a caste hierarchy based on their caste in Hinduism prior to conversion and the caste rules, especially relating to marriage are strictly followed. The Church of North India is Protestant, dominated by Anglican congregations, who willingly gave up their caste status upon conversion since most of them were lower castes anyway.
 
191 Sylvia Murr, 'Les conditions d'émergence du discours sur l'Inde au siècle des Lumières, Inde et Littératures', Purusartha, 7, (1983): 239
 
192 Kate Teltscher, India Inscribed: European and British writing on India, 1600- 1800 (Delhi: OUP, 1995): 80.
 
193 R K Kochhar, 'Secondary Tools of Empire: Jesuit Men of Science in India‘, in Discoveries, Missionary Expansion and Asian Cultures, edited by Teotonio R de. Souza (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1994): 175. Kochhar describes the scientific and geographical studies of various men of the Jesuit Mission in India including Bouchet, Richaud, and Boudier.
 
194 David Clines, 'In Search of the Indian Job‘, in Vestus Testamentum, Vol. 33. 4 (Oct., 1983): 404. Father Martin was an expert in Bengali.

195 Father Tachard, Superior of the Jesuit Missions in India, to Count De Crecy. Pondichéry, Feb. 1703. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix‟d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 1, (London: T. Piety, 1762. 2nd Ed): 487.
 
196 See Louis Renou, The Influence of Indian Thought on French Literature (Adyar, 1948): 2-3.
 
197 The most famous example of this kind being Anquetil- Duperron whose life‘s work on India was dictated by his quest for Judaic origins.
 
198 Kate Teltscher, India Inscribed: European Writing and British Writing on India (Oxford and Delhi: Oxford India Paperbacks, 1995): 8, 74-75.
 
199 Sylvia Murr has commented on the connections between the Jesuits and Enlightenment savants in 'Les conditions d'émergence du discours sur l'Inde au siècle des Lumières, Inde et Littératures', Purusartha 7 (1983): 233-284
 
200 Friar Jordanus. Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East Translated by Col. Sir Henry Yule. Hakluyt Society Publication no. 31, first series (1863): 12- 20.
 
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Re: Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

Postby admin » Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:43 am

Part 1 of 2

Chapter 2: The 'sublime‘ civilization of India: The pre-occupation of philosophes

By the middle of the eighteenth century, France was a contender for the Empire of India. The French East India Company, which had been created in 1664, was now master of a significant part of Southern India, in addition to being a player in the politics of peninsular India. This was a period when the French colonial aims were directed primarily at India and North America. The intersection of missionary work with travel and colonial activity201 led to a burgeoning study of India among secular savants in the mid-eighteenth century. Some scholars now began examining India not as a potential ground for conversion to Christianity but as a peculiar society extremely different from Europe, which warranted further study. The interest in India was also encouraged by the Enlightenment which sought to look beyond the borders of Europe in its quest for new knowledge. It was in this context that an agenda for defining India in specific terms emerged. In fact the academic interest in the Orient was one of the defining characteristics of the Enlightenment. One could argue that though the Enlightenment lead to a burst of Oriental studies the reverse was equally true and that the discovery of the Orient (particularly India) was a founding pillar of the Enlightenment.202

This chapter provides a historical bridge between the thematically 'older‘ writings of the missionaries and the 'modern‘ writings of academics.203 Among the changes that occurred were the individuals who wrote about India and their motives, although this did not necessarily change the image of India in France. The long standing animosity to Islam continued during this era even though many other aspects of India changed in the French imagination.204 This chapter is divided into sections which focus on these elements of continuity and change. The first section describes the people who were writing about India and their motives. The second examines the views which continued to command popularity, followed by the conclusion.

Enlightenment India -- a shift from Ecclesiastical writing

I focus on the dominant savant view of India during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment in France as represented by the writings of the philosophes- specifically the work of Montesquieu and Voltaire. These writings constituted a definitive shift from missionary accounts of India. Although missionaries continued to travel to India and produce accounts of their observations and exchanges with the local population, the reading public in France looked to more mainstream works produced by savants, when they chose to learn about India. In part this was due to the fact that accounts produced by missionaries were largely preserved as Church records. While scholars eager to learn about India had previously tried to access these sources it was no longer necessary to do so since there was an increasing body of work readily available in personal libraries and larger collections like the Bibliothèque du Roi. Moreover the Enlightenment now defined academic and accurate studies as those which were dispassionate and rational, containing none of the religious motives which missionaries had.205 This was a definite French academic trait and one that was held in great respect throughout the following centuries. The philosophes‘ lens on India as a rational academics and savants made it an acceptable academic focus and countless Indologists and savants of India later credited the work of Montesquieu and Voltaire as among their first introductions to India.

Why only Montesquieu and Voltaire? Although Rousseau was a well known Enlightenment philosophe he wrote very little directly about India.206 While Rousseau undeniably read on the state of politics in the East in order to form his theory of the Noble Savage and the creation of different forms of social contracts in different parts of the world he did not directly refer to India or to Indians. Therefore he has been omitted in this chapter.207 In addition the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d‘Alembert208 was a major achievement of Enlightenment savants and contained 685 entries on India. However, in keeping with the spirit of the Encyclopédie, these entries were mostly related to the description of economy, botany, medicine, trades, art, and crafts. The few entries which display personal opinions about the customs and religion of India varied from entries by Voltaire (which reified the opinion he explained in his detailed work on India) to entries by the Chévalier de Jaucourt and Deleyre which continued the older missionary opinion that India was a land where superstition and backward customs abounded.209 The Encyclopédie certainly demonstrated that a plethora of views existed about India in the mid-eighteenth century. However, in the context of the nineteenth-century, Indologists seldom used the Encyclopédie as a reference for their knowledge about India. Therefore the academic view of India was not influenced by the entries in the Encyclopédie. On the other hand, Indologists of all nationalities continued to cite the work of Voltaire and of Montesquieu during the nineteenth century, which makes them relevant to this chapter.

An interesting aspect of the study of India by the philosophes was that despite all their protestations about knowledge for its own sake and about the importance of reason, their own view of India was clearly driven by certain agendas. In fact as Raymond Schwab points out a massive movement to discover and study Oriental texts (a movement he termed the 'Oriental Renaissance‘) arose due to Enlightenment efforts to find an alternative to the Renaissance in Europe as a source of intellectual and spiritual inspiration.210 Missionaries had educated savant France about the antiquity and religion of India. Now the quest of the philosophes to find alternatives to the Greco- Roman model of antiquity led to a re-examination of India and China.211 Thus India arrived in the salons of Paris and the libraries of the philosophes. Virtually every savant worth his salt now made it a point to mention his knowledge of India and Indian religion in essays in addition to peppering discussions of humanity, the origin of man and civilization with references to the ancient culture and peoples of India.212 In particular, Voltaire used the example of India to question the long held European notion of the Greco-Roman origin of civilization. In fact, as Sylvia Murr, Halbfass and several others note, Voltaire was not interested in India for itself but rather as a vehicle for his theories about the age of the world, origin of man and origin of religion and civilization.213

Another aspect was the lack of first-hand knowledge. While all accounts of India had previously been written by men who had traveled there, Voltaire‘s intellectual status in France made him an authoritative voice about India even though he never went there. Although Voltaire aimed at exposing the inherent greatness of India, because he conducted his studies exclusively in France, he perpetuated the theory that Europe was better equipped to study other cultures merely because she possessed their material artifacts. Since the Bibliothèque Royale already had an impressive collection of Indic texts214, the study of India could be undertaken in the heart of France with no sacrifice as to the academic integrity of the work!215 In fact as Raymond Schwab noted, there were a scant handful of Indologists who actually went to India in the nineteenth century.216

Montesquieu and the notion of the 'Oriental Despot‘

The earliest work of French philosophes on India was by Montesquieu. Montesquieu‘s Persian Letters (first published in 1721) were a critique of French society ostensibly written by a Persian traveling in France to his friend in the East, encompassing not only the former‘s impressions of the West but also containing descriptions of 'oriental‘ society., Building on the success of this work, Montesquieu published his greatest work in 1748, titled 'Esprit de Lois‘. In this he explained the birth and development of different political systems and thereby different laws which prevailed in different parts of the world. This work began with the assumption that the British political system of constitutional monarchy with an element of democracy was the best form of government. Montesquieu‘s subsequent explanation of other political systems was built upon the fundamental premise that the less a system resembled the British system, the more inferior it was. Montesquieu was not unusual in this view which was very common in the hyper-colonial environment of eighteenth-century Europe.217. His great contribution to the debate was to attribute differences in political systems to climate. Montesquieu provided not only an explanation for the greatness of Europe, but also a legitimate reason for the continued dominance of Europe and of European civilization based on climatic factors. He wrote, for example, that

People are therefore more vigorous in cold climates…This superiority of strength must produce various effects; for instance, a greater boldness, that is, more courage; a greater sense of superiority, that is, less desire of revenge; a greater opinion of security, that is, more frankness, less suspicion, policy, and cunning. In short, this must be productive of very different tempers. Put a man into a close, warm place, and for the reasons above given he will feel a great faintness. If under this circumstance you propose a bold enterprise to him, I believe you will find him very little disposed towards it; his present weakness will throw him into despondency; he will be afraid of everything, being in a state of total incapacity. The inhabitants of warm countries are, like old men, timorous; the people in cold countries are, like young men, brave.218


Not only did Montesquieu state that the physical courage and ability of man sprang from the climatic temperature, but also his moral and ethical sense. So, ―If we travel towards the north, we meet with people who have few vices, many virtues, and a great share of frankness and sincerity. If we draw near the south, we fancy ourselves entirely removed from the verge of morality...'219[/quote]

According to Montesquieu, from this heat in the south, which encompassed the East, one could see the logic behind their peculiar political and legal institutions. He even attributed the state of petrifaction that Western writers typically characterized Eastern societies as having fallen into, as a result of the heat. Under his theory, with the excessive heat sapping one‘s energy there would be an unwillingness to change, because change involves energy. ―This is the reason that the laws, manners, and customs, even those which seem quite indifferent, such as their mode of dress, are the same to this very day in eastern countries as they were a thousand years ago.'220

Following from this exposition linking political systems to the climate Montesquieu popularized the notion that the East was ruled by despots who wielded absolute power over their subjects.221 His elaboration of the legal systems of the world including that of India was based on the effects of Oriental despotism and the climate on the customs and morals of people.

Montesquieu was not unreasonably harsh about India. He held the view that the climate was responsible for the inferior laws of the Indians and that under the circumstances they could do no better. The peculiarities which the climate brought on were responsible for the contrary nature of the Indians. So for instance the Indians were ―naturally a pusillanimous people…But how shall we reconcile this with their customs and penances so full of barbarity? The men voluntarily undergo the greatest hardships, and the women burn themselves; here we find a very odd compound of fortitude and weakness.'222 According to Montesquieu, the answer to this paradox was to be found in what he described as 'the principle of Metempsychosis or total inactivity‘.223 Arguing that this principle was responsible for most of the peculiarities of Indian religion, he presented it as the logic behind the customs and manners of India which had remained unchanged for centuries. Even sati could be explained as a result of this indolence. According to him,

As it inspires men with a certain horror against bloodshed, very few murders are committed in the Indies; and though they seldom punish with death, yet they enjoy a perfect tranquility…On the other hand, women burn themselves at the death of their husbands; thus it is only the innocent who suffer a violent death.224


In his Persian Letters, Montesquieu included an interesting vignette about the mental indolence of Indians regarding sati. Describing a situation where a new widow was preparing to commit sati merely because she wanted to follow tradition, Montesquieu presented an amusing conversation where brahmin urged her to become a sati in order to unite with her dead husband.225 Upon hearing this, the widow abandoned all plans for sati since she had suffered enough at her husband‘s hand while he was alive! While this is an amusing account, the ignorance displayed by the widow as to the purpose of sati was presented as the mental inactivity of the East, where one did things, without questioning of tradition merely because it was too hot to exert oneself!226 Montesquieu‘s argument, simplified, was that India, being a hot country, was subject to the lassitude of mind and morals which heat undeniably brought on. The Indians, seeking a rationale to explain their inertia created the principle of Metempsychosis or total inactivity, as a divine philosophy which legitimized their state of inactivity. ―The Indians believe that repose and non-existence are the foundation of all things, and the end in which they terminate. Hence they consider entire inaction as the most perfect of all states, and the object of their desires. To the Supreme Being they give the title of immovable.'227

Montesquieu‘s understanding of Metempsychosis or the principle of transmigration was incorrect.228 His references to India concluded with Metempsychosis as the explanation for the customs which any rational Western mind would have found barbaric. He went so far as to explain the Indians‘ aversion to beef as a result of Metempsychosis.

The opinion of the metempsychosis is adapted to the climate of the Indies. An excessive heat burns up all the country: they can breed but very few cattle; they are always in danger of wanting them for tillage; their black cattle multiply but indifferently; and they are subject to many distempers. A law of religion which preserves them is therefore more suitable to the policy of the country…The flesh of cattle in that country is insipid but the milk and butter which they receive from them serve for a part of their subsistence; therefore the law which prohibits the eating and killing of cows is in the Indies not unreasonable.229


Montesquieu went so far as to write an apologia for certain customs of India which had been criticized by missionaries. For instance he wrote about polygamy that it was the natural result of the sexual indulgence produced by the hot climate.230 Even the curious case of the polyandrous Malabar Nairs was explained as the hyper-sexuality of the tropics.231 The unequal relations between men and women as well as the seclusion of women were also explained as a result of the climate.

The women should not only be separated from the men by the walls of the house, but they ought also to be separated in the same enclosure, in such a manner that each may have a distinct household in the same family. Hence each derives all that relates to the practice of morality, modesty, chastity, reserve, silence, peace, dependence, respect, and love; and, in short, a general direction of her thoughts to that which, in its own nature, is a thing of the greatest importance, a single and entire attachment to her family…. We find the manners more pure in the several parts of the East, in proportion as the confinement of women is more strictly observed…Hence it proceeds that in the empires of Turkey, Persia, of the Mogul, China, and Japan, the manners of their wives are admirable.

But the case is not the same in India, where a multitude of islands and the situation of the land have divided the country into an infinite number of petty states, which from causes that we have not here room to mention are rendered despotic.

There are none there but wretches, some pillaging and others pillaged. Their grandees have very moderate fortunes, and those whom they call rich have only a bare subsistence. The confinement of their women cannot therefore be very strict; nor can they make use of any great precautions to keep them within due bounds; hence it proceeds that the corruption of their manners is scarcely to be conceived.

We may there see to what an extreme the vices of a climate indulged in full liberty will carry licentiousness. It is there that nature has a force and modesty a weakness, which exceeds all comprehension. At Patan the wanton desires of the women are so outrageous, that the men are obliged to make use of a certain apparel to shelter them from their designs.232


Thus Montesquieu provided a rationale for the seclusion as well as a warning about the dire consequences of allowing a large measure of freedom to Eastern women. In fact not only did polygamy follow from the hyper-sexuality of the hot climate but also the need for seclusion.

It is not only a plurality of wives which in certain places of the East requires their confinement, but also the climate itself. Those who consider the horrible crimes, the treachery, the dark villainies, the poisonings, the assassinations, which the liberty of women has occasioned at Goa and in the Portuguese settlements in the Indies, where religion permits only one wife; and who compare them with the innocence and purity of manners of the women of Turkey, Persia, Hindostan, China, and Japan, will clearly see that it is frequently as necessary to separate them from the men, when they have but one, as when they have many…These are things which ought to be decided by the climate. What purpose would it answer to shut up women in our northern countries, where their manners are naturally good; where all their passions are calm; and where love rules over the heart with so regular and gentle an empire that the least degree of prudence is sufficient to conduct it?233


Montesquieu‘s portrait of India was meant to highlight the inferior civilization, manners, and morals of Indians. His work, however, also maintained that this level of culture and political organization was inevitable given the heat of the tropics. He argued that although the customs and laws of the Indians were barbaric when compared to the West they were suitable for the people they governed. Montesquieu presented India as the territory of the Oriental Despot. In fact his rationale for the prominence of religion in Eastern politics arose from his description of the Oriental Despot. Characterizing the influence of religion in Eastern politics Montesquieu explained it as the necessary form of checks to the arbitrary power of the Despot.

Though despotic governments are of their own nature everywhere the same, yet from circumstances — from a religious opinion, from prejudice, from received examples, from a particular turn of mind, from manners or morals — it is possible they may admit of a considerable difference…It is proper there should be some sacred book to serve for a rule, as the Koran among the Arabs, the books of Zoroaster among the Persians, the Veda among the Indians, and the classic books among the Chinese. The religious code supplies the civil and fixes the extent of arbitrary sway.234


In effect Montesquieu denied any possibility of self- improvement or progress, which was a powerful argument for European colonizers who used the notion of the backwardness of the East as a justification to colonize and 'civilize‘.

Voltaire and the Vedam

Voltaire was the first academic who presented a coherent image of India which was not marked by contradictions. Even Montesquieu was contradictory in his description of India and its customs, at once describing them as weak and cowardly; but also ―mild, tender, and compassionate.'235 Similarly, while Montesquieu justified the absolute power of religion in the East as the necessary check to despotic power, he also criticized the same religion which caused fissures in society.236 Voltaire‘s was the first work to simultaneously provide a single line of reasoning when it came to explaining the various customs and manners of India and to write positively of a country which was now poised to challenge the great Greco-Roman civilizations of Western antiquity. Thus while Montesquieu only compounded the sense of contradiction which Europeans reading or learning about India had, Voltaire set out to provide a rationale for their actions in terms which were understood by the West.

In stark contrast to Montesquieu‘s sporadic and critical discussion of India, Voltaire, arguably the most important of the philosophes, discussed India at length in his writings.237 Writing some years after the Esprit des Lois had been published and drawn by accounts of the wealth of information that ancient India was credited with, Voltaire was also impressed by the work of British Orientalists such as William Jones, Halhed, and Holwell. Voltaire acquired an extensive library of works relating to India.238 His interest in India found its way into his own writings as well. His primary work on India was Fragments sur quelques révolutions dans l'Inde and sur le mort du Comte de Lalli which he wrote as an addendum to his work on Annales de l'Empire.239 In addition, India appeared prominently in his lectures on Ancient and Modern History, on philosophy, and in his letters to other luminaries of the French Enlightenment. Although he never traveled to India he expressed a keen desire to do so in a letter to Paul Gui de Chabonan in 1767.240

Voltaire also made frequent references to India in his many operas and plays, many of which were set in an Indian context.241 He introduced images of India as well as aspects of France‘s recent relations with India to the people of France through his historical works, plays, and operas. For the first time, there was a sense of a vague, exotic land called India in the French imagination and over the course of the next few decades; this land came to acquire certain specific characteristics which defined it as 'Indian‘.

Fragments sur l‟Inde consists of roughly two sections. One traces the history of French activities in India until the loss of most of the French territories in the subcontinent during the Seven Years War. It deals with the establishment, expansion, and decline of French trade in India, from François Martin to Lally. The second part of Fragments sur l‟Inde is a compendium of all of Voltaire's thoughts and ideas on India which he put together from various articles, letters, and communications regarding the discovery of Hinduism in India. Voltaire was also sufficiently interested in India to include sections on Vedic religion, the brahmins, and Mughals in his Complete Works.

Here he made an important departure from British Orientalists scholars and provided another key aspect to the French representations of India. Jones, Halhed, Holwell, and other Orientalists had focused primarily on ancient India and the so-called Sanskrit texts of Hindu religion.242 The emphasis was on the strictly theoretical greatness of Indian civilization -one that did not exist in the present. The recovery of ancient texts served to underline this theory of a great, albeit bygone era in India.243 The works of the ancients demonstrated that India had been a great civilization. Since there were few texts to document the changes which had occurred in India in religion, society, economy and polity from the ancient times to the current period, academics had to be content with the study of ancient India through its texts, even though modern India was clearly far removed from the prescriptions of the ancient texts. What is significant about Voltaire‘s work on India was that he appropriated the Orientalist praise for the theoretical framework of Hindu culture based on the ancient texts and applied it to an actual description of the contemporary Hindu. His work on India was in no way meant to represent the ideal of Indian culture but, in fact purported to represent the reality of eighteenth century India. This was a marked departure from other works on India, Orientalist or otherwise. The works of Jones and other British Indologists had focused on the translation of ancient Sanskrit texts, and had highlighted the past in India‘s accomplishments whether cultural or temporal. Voltaire argued that where such advanced writing existed there was sure to be some indication of the forward thinking that had produced such writing. He therefore believed that India still had great thinkers and could easily regain her cultural and spiritual greatness since the spirit of the ancients was still present in the contemporary Indian.

Voltaire sought to defend the social and psychological backwardness that Indologists had criticized. He avoided the common themes found in the works of British Indologists which described the 'mildness' of the Indian as 'weakness'. Though he noted the easy conquest of the Indians by numerous invaders, he did not attribute it to the enervation and effeminacy caused by climate or even describe the fickleness and dishonesty of Indians described so well in later British works.244 In his representation of India as a 'good‘ civilization, Voltaire acknowledged that there were undesirable irrationalities and superstitions as well as cruel and barbaric customs like Sati. Yet he sought to excuse these shortcomings by comparing these customs with other ancient civilizations revered in the Western world and by attempting to present some sort of explanation for the logic behind these drawbacks.

The Indians being at all times a trading and industrious people, were necessarily subjected to a regular police; and that people whom Pythagoras visited for improvement, must have enjoyed the protection of wholesome laws, without which the arts are never cultivated; but mankind, even in the midst of sensible laws, have always indulged ridiculous customs. That which constitutes the point of honor and religion among the women, inducing them to burn themselves on the bodies of their husbands, existed in India from time immemorial, and is yet not abolished. Their philosophers throw themselves alive into funeral piles, through excess of fanaticism and vainglory…It would be very difficult to reconcile the sublime ideas which the Brahmins preserve of the Supreme Being, with their superstition and fabulous mythology, if history did not present the same sort of contradictions among the Greeks and Romans.245


In this passage Voltaire accepted some of the common criticisms leveled at Indian culture by contemporary writers, mainly missionaries. Yet he attempted to provide some sort of mitigation for the horrific crime of sati which had horrified the western world and instantly reduced India to the status of a barbaric backward country. It was no coincidence that he mentioned the self-immolation of Indian male philosophers and sages immediately following his note on sati. While he did not excuse either custom, the inclusion of males in examples of self-immolation went a long way towards combating the common assumption that Indian civilization was brutal towards its women, sati being a prime example of the low esteem in which women were held. Voltaire‘s sentence about sages choosing to immolate themselves made two significant points. The first and more obvious point was that self-immolation was not a custom reserved for women but also indulged in by philosophers and sages who were highly respected members of society. The second sought to place sati alongside the self-immolation of sages in pointing to the voluntary nature of the two types of death, rather than the popular descriptions of sati as involuntary suicides by women who were coerced into it by their families. The last sentence of the passage was also an influential defense of Indian customs. In making the reference to the prevalence of superstitions and similar customs of self mortification among the sages of ancient Greece and Rome, Voltaire basically put Indian culture on par with the ancient civilizations of the West and argued that one could not mitigate the greatness of India based on criticism which could equally be leveled towards the cradle of Western civilization.

Attempting also to defend Indians for their customs, superstitions and supposed religious corruption he divided Indians into three categories -- the learned brahmin, keeper of the secrets of ancient learning; the Oriental Despot; and the hardworking masses.

The learned brahmin was the custodian of the ancient religion of India, a noble idea derived from Aryan minds and consisting of a single Godhead and a system of ethics applicable even today.

As India supplies the wants of all the world but is herself dependant for nothing, she must for that very reason have been the most early civilized of any country, and by a like consequence necessarily have had the most ancient form of worship. It is most probable the religion of India was for a long time the same as that of the Chinese government, and consisted only in the pure and simple worship of a Supreme Being, free from any superstition and fanaticism.246


Being responsible for theological ideas, the brahmins naturally assumed the roles of philosophers and scholars. They taught the West science, astronomy, geometry, and arithmetic, the game of chess, the solar calendar, and the concept of the zodiac. Voltaire wrote, "The Greeks, before Alexander, traveled to India in quest of science. There the celebrated Pilpay, about two thousand three hundred years ago, wrote those moral fables which have been translated into almost every language of the known world."247 In a fictional dialogue between a Jesuit and a brahmin, intended to demonstrate the achievement of Indian astronomy Voltaire stressed the notion of the necessity and inevitability of events. The brahmin claimed that the deaths of kings, the wars in Europe and the current political condition were predicated on the position of the planets.248 Describing the writings of Arian, Strabo, and Pliny attesting to the scientific and technological development of India as well as Pythagoras' travels in India, Voltaire concluded that the brahmins were great intellectuals. Ironically these same scientific achievements, including the advanced system of astronomy, was ridiculed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as the signs of a superstitious and stagnant society who believed more in the predictions of the stars than in reality.249

One can clearly see the defense of Indians in these passages of Voltaire. Ancient Indian civilization was a 'sublime‘ religion of monotheism and pure worship. Yet modern day India had degenerated into a corrupt, base form of this praiseworthy ideal. In these passages Voltaire accepts the charge by missionaries that India was a polytheistic, idolatrous land, yet asserted that this state of affairs was a recent phenomenon, a corruption of a purer state of mind which was brought about by other peoples who, over the course of several centuries had invaded and spoiled the pristine thought of the ancient Indians. Certainly the concept of the indolent, oppressive, and debauched Oriental Despot arose only with the Islamic invasions as did the description of the passive, superstitious, ignorant masses, oppressed for generations by Despots and brahmins.250 As Assayag points out, in arguing for the corruption of Hindu thought by the foreign Muslim element Voltaire was able to argue that the brahmins had successfully preserved their purity.251

These Brahmins...were the peaceable rulers of a mild and discerning people, and were at the same time the chiefs of religion…simple and rational… [and founded on] universal reason…The Brahmins ceased to rule in India long before the time of Alexander the Great…even in their decline, they gave many proofs of that kind of virtue which is compatible with illusions of fanaticism. They continued to acknowledge one supreme God, in the midst of the multitude of subordinate deities, which popular superstition adopted in all countries in the world. Strabo expressly says that, in the main, the Brahmins acknowledge only one God…The seven years of probationership among the Brahmins, and the silence enjoined during that term, were still in force in the time of Strabo. The celibacy to be observed during this novitiate, the abstaining from the flesh of domestic animals, were laws which they never transgressed, and which still subsist among them. They held one God, the creator, preserver and avenger, and believed the fall and degeneracy of man; and this opinion is everywhere to be met with among the people of antiquity…Apuleius, Quintus Curtis, Clemens Alexandrinus, Philostratus, Porphyry, and Palladio all agree in their encomiums on the extreme temperance and frugality of the Brahmins, their life of retirement and penance, their vows of poverty, and the contempt they show for all the vanities of this world…Their belief in one God only, for which they are so esteemed by all philosophers, continues with them, in the midst of the numberless idols with which their country abounds, and the extravagant superstition of the common people.252


In this passage as in others devoted to the description of the brahmins253 Voltaire provided a vigorous opposition to the Jesuit descriptions of brahmins as worshipping millions of Gods and believing in every kind of superstition and religious excess. The brahmin even in decline held to high moral and ethical beliefs and in fact, abstained from following the religion of the masses which thrived on idolatry, polytheism, and superstition.

Much of Voltaire's preoccupation with the greatness of brahmins and their noble religion sprang from the Enlightenment attack on the Church.254 By describing their belief in a single Godhead, and the greatest antiquity of their religion, Voltaire sought to prove that the Church's teaching and theology were derivative of Hinduism.255 Voltaire was very interested in the influence of India on Greece,256 the greatest antiquity of the Indian civilization,257 the resemblance of Sanskrit to Indo- European languages,258 the similarity between several Hindu and Catholic customs and therefore, of the originality of Hinduism upon which Christianity was founded.259 The fact that the Indian civilization pre-dated the Chinese meant that India had taught the Chinese the concept of monotheism.260 Moreover, the origin of the notion of the single Godhead, of the Sovereign Being, invisible, incomprehensible, formless, creator and conserver, just and merciful, was contained in the Vedam, the Shastah and the modern books of the brahmins.261 Thus despite the superstitions and ritual in modern India, the notion of monotheism originated with the brahmins.262 The earliest man, called Adimo by the Hindus, was appropriated as Adam in the Old Testament, as was Brahma who became Abraham.263 The religious significance of a purifying dip in the Ganges appeared as the baptism in Christianity.264 The Hindu pantheon of Vishnu, Shiva, Surya, Varuna, Bhumi, and others were appropriated by the Greeks and Romans and therein into early European religion.265 In these and other passages Voltaire posed an important challenge to the Church. In the first place, he argued that Christianity, the basis for modern Western civilization and the foundation for the 'civilizing mission‘ was in fact, based on non-Western ideas and religions. This in itself would have completely destroyed any pretensions that missionaries may have had about converting 'heathens‘. Along with the non-Western origins of Christianity was the assertion that monotheism, that great definer of advanced religions, was in fact the contribution of the most polytheistic religion in the world. It says much for the intellect and philosophical maturity of Voltaire that he was able to look beyond the numberless manifestations of Gods in Hinduism and recognize what all Hindus have always acknowledged- the essential oneness of the Divine and the unification of all manifestations of God into a single Godhead.266 This feature of Voltaire's writing was heavily influenced by the Enlightenment search for pre-Christian intellectual and theological roots. Voltaire was by no means alone in his quest for ancient religions, for non-Western roots of Christianity, or in his belief that being Christian was not proof of being civilized. In no way overtly denigrating the efforts of missionaries in the Orient, and at times even praising their efforts to educate and enlighten Orientals, he nonetheless used fictional dialogues, suggestions as to the intellectual development of India and most of all, the argument that Christianity was derived from the Vedic religion, to build a case against the Church.

Montesquieu and Voltaire redux

In comparing the views of Montesquieu and Voltaire on India, it is interesting to note that although they both used many of the same sources their conclusions were markedly different. It seems logical to conclude therefore that both used their sources selectively to prove their own arguments. Both used the works of ancient Greek writers like Strabo, Pliny and Diodorus as well as the travel accounts and memoirs of men like François Bernier and Jean- Baptiste Tavernier. Both drew extensively on the Lettres of the Jesuits, although Voltaire minimized their importance considering them biased. Voltaire, who was writing later on, also used the work of British Indologists like Holwell, Nathaniel Halhed, and Alexander Dow267, while Montesquieu had used travelogues and accounts of the colonial enterprise like Collection of Voyages that Contributed to the Establishment of the East India Company.268 While Montesquieu used his sources literally, drawing descriptions of Indian customs and manners directly from them, Voltaire used his sources more critically, interrogating the validity of their claims. Montesquieu‘s list of subjects of India, such as the caste system, sati and the condition of women, and the peculiar customs of India such as polyandry among the Nairs of the Malabar for instance, almost seem imported from the Lettres, which he used liberally in his citations.

On the other hand, Voltaire chose to minimize the information about India which was sent back by missionaries even though he had access to them. It seems that missionary accounts were included in his work only as bridges to what he perceived as gaps in the knowledge about India provided by Orientalists scholars. While missionary accounts naturally tended to harp on the backwardness of India and the need for conversion, the Orientalists were the new breed of scholars who glorified Indian civilization. In effect, Voltaire‘s choice of sources made his opinion about India as a highly developed society a foregone conclusion. From his sources Voltaire skillfully created an 'India' that represented the Enlightenment ideal of an advanced and accomplished civilization, worthy of emulation in many ways. In a sense Voltaire was among the first to write about India romantically as a land of scenic and utopian beauty. For the next half century most acceptable views of India were presented as romantic visions of a land of great antiquity and cultural achievement.

Voltaire constantly emphasized the antiquity of Indian civilization through its ancient learning, arts, literature, and the gradual evolution of the caste system. Debating the relative antiquity of Indian and Chinese civilizations, he finally came to the conclusion that the Indian was the older.

It is probable that the Brahmins existed long before the Chinese had their five kings; and what gives rise to this great probability is, that in China the antiquities most sought after are Indian, and that in India there are no Chinese antiquities.269


The other evidence for the superior antiquity of India, according to Voltaire, was the 'Shasta' and the discovery of the 'Ezour- Vedam' which proved, by their theological ideas, to be older even than the Chinese religion.270 Incidentally, the notion of the 'Shasta‘ was derived from Holwell who equated it to the Sanskrit 'Shastra‘ meaning sacred text, while the Ezour Vedam appears to have been some sort of commentary on the Vedas, which Voltaire claimed, was of the greatest antiquity.271

This antiquity of Indian civilization gave rise to a unique and sought-after morality.

Those ancient Brahmins were doubtless as bad metaphysicians and ridiculous theologists as the Chaldeans and Persians, and of all the nations that are to the east of China. But what a sublime morality!

According to them life was only a death of some years, after which they were to live with the Divinity. They did not confine themselves to being just towards others, but they were rigorous toward themselves. Silences, abstinence, contemplation, the renouncing of all pleasures, were their principal duties. Likewise, from the sages of other nations, they were to learn what was called Wisdom.272


This description of the brahmins of ancient India was a classic Enlightenment view, one that once again challenged the supremacy of the Christian Church by pointing to traditions of asceticism and notions of self- control, frugality, and discipline in non- Christian cultures. The brahmin was the antithesis of the corrupt Christian clergy, and the epitome of the new ideal of detachment and meditative living. He was perceived as the living repository of the philosophy of ancient India. Looking for a civilization that pre-dated the Greek, and a link to the theological and philosophical ideas of the ancient Greeks, Voltaire believed that this missing link was India. Drawing upon ancient Greek accounts of India, he described the Indians as

remarkable for their mildness as our northern race for their roughness… In general, the men inhabiting the south East part of the globe have received from nature gentler manners than we who dwell in the western hemisphere. Their climate naturally disposes them to abstinence from strong liquors and meats, foods which inflame the blood frequently to a degree of madness; and although the natural goodness of their dispositions may have been corrupted by superstition and the repeated irruptions of foreigners, yet all travelers agree that these people have nothing of that petulance and sourness in their nature which had cost so much pains to control in the people of the North.


There being so great a physical difference between us and the natives of India, there must undoubtedly have been as great a moral one. Their vices were in general less violent than ours.273

Apart from its stark contrast to Montesquieu‘s description of a passive civilization and a country where

The heat of the climate may be so excessive as to deprive the body of all vigour and strength. Then the faintness is communicated to the mind; there is no curiosity, no enterprise, no generosity of sentiment; the inclinations are all passive; indolence constitutes the utmost happiness; scarcely any punishment is so severe as mental employment; and slavery is more supportable than the force and vigour of mind necessary for human conduct.274


Voltaire‘s was an image of an ideal people, who possessed few faults and a sweetness and mildness of disposition which was praiseworthy. What in Voltaire‘s account was seen as mildness was described by missionaries as 'weakness‘ and 'insinuating‘. Where Montesquieu described the Indians as indolent in contrast to the noble races of the colder North, Voltaire described them as mild, abstinent and possessing far fewer and less offensive vices than Europeans. In this description of India, Voltaire chose to focus only on ancient Greek accounts of thriving trade and industrious people. Following on the great achievements of the ancient brahmins, he lamented that India, in the current day, practiced a degenerate form of the noble 'religion of Brahma'. Science and the arts languished and brahmins either oppressed the masses and preyed upon their superstitions, or chose to become ascetic and live in solitary contemplation of their great philosophies.275 Despite his obvious knowledge and use of later writers like Bernier and Tavernier, he did not mention them or their criticism of the superstitions of the common people. In all justice, he tried in all his essays on India to isolate what he believed to be indigenous, leaving out all external influence which may have changed Indian civilization. Containing none of the rhetoric which denounced Indians as a class of lazy idlers and drunken degenerates as voiced especially in the missionary accounts of India, Voltaire in fact suggested that many of the current ills of Indian society were imported into India with the constant stream of foreign invasions and were totally unnatural to the disposition of the Indian. Specifically, he suggested that Muslim invasion was probably responsible for this decline276 and thereby accepted and perpetuated the idea of the Sultanate in India being a dark age. To him, the invasion of the Muslims into India caused a corruption of the pure Hindu mind.
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Re: Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

Postby admin » Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:44 am

Part 2 of 2

Conclusion

By the time Voltaire came along the essential elements of the French story of India were already in place. An aspect of French writings on India which was already present by the time of Voltaire was the anti- Islamic sentiment. In this issue, both Montesquieu and Voltaire were united. According to Montesquieu, Christianity was most conducive to a moderate government, and Islam to a despotic government.277 In fact the Esprit can be seen as an opposition of two major forms of civilization- the liberal West and the despotic East- the former characterized by Christianity ―which ordains that men should love each other, would, without doubt, have every nation blest with the best civil, the best political laws; because these, next to this religion, are the greatest good that men can give and receive,'278 the latter by Islam which is a despotic and unfree religion. To this extent, the progression from the works of the missionaries in their anti-Islamic rhetoric, to the secular work of Montesquieu on the hierarchy of political systems and law is clear. Although the subject was entirely new, the opinion was an old one.

As a corollary to the anti-Islamic stance the sympathetic view of India was a foregone conclusion. So while Montesquieu bemoaned the despotic government of the East, including India and China, he wrote of the specific customs of these countries in an apologist tone which explained the reasons for the existence of each of the customs which seemed so barbaric to the West.

Voltaire, while also presenting India as a foil to the negative image of Islam, needed to be more circumspect, since he also posed brahminism as a good philosophy that could provide much intellectual fodder for Europe and even a model to rival the Greco-Roman model of European antiquity. While on the one hand, Hinduism was theoretically acceptable as a philosophy to many intellectuals in Europe, how was one to account for the many social evils present in India? Having separated the ancient theology of brahminism from the more contemporary form of Indian religion which Voltaire described as Hinduism (and along the way elevated the former to the level of an omniscient and sublime philosophical concept and its followers to the position of enlightened individuals) it was difficult to separate the ideal from the reality without creating a scapegoat. This scapegoat, conveniently hated and misunderstood by Europeans for centuries, was Islam.279 Already misrepresented in Europe, it was easy enough to accept a reductionist view of Indian civilization as having taken a sudden turn downwards as a result of the Islamic invasions. This theory was a powerful sentiment in all French writings on India and echoed what many Hindus in India already felt about the Muslim conquerors thus reproducing and legitimizing a communalist view of history.280 In fact, Jackie Assayag attributes the Hindu-Muslim conflict presented in plays like La Harpe‘s Les brames to Voltaire‘s influence.281 Tracing La Harpe‘s beliefs to his preceptor Voltaire, she sees the former‘s representation of the Muslim tyrant and oppressor as a reflection of Voltaire‘s belief.282

Voltaire was an example of how the French created their own understanding of 'India‘ as a foil for their own agendas. The antecedents of French interest in India, encompassing religious, economic, and political motives were woefully inadequate in terms of presenting a coherent picture of the land and its people. Voltaire was the first secular writer to create a notion of 'India‘ and what defined 'Indian religion‘ from the erratic and seemingly unconnected descriptions which had preceded him. Yet, given the vastness of the land and its sheer diversity, Voltaire‘s image too presented a select idea of India which was fed by the intellectual passions and needs of the day.

Voltaire presented India as the land of brahmins. This land had withstood the onslaught of many foreign peoples and religions that had corrupted its society in many ways but it was essentially brahminic in thought and composition. In Voltaire‘s own definition this claim to being 'brahminical‘ was basically equated with a brahminical notion of India. As Bernard Cohn pointed out in his seminal study on Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge, the brahmins as the traditional transmitters of the academic tradition in India were the most forthcoming to Europeans in India as translator, informants etc simply because they were by and large the people who could communicate with the foreigners. Naturally, the information they provided about Indian customs and religion tended to be very heavily brahminical rather than influenced by popular religion which was seen by the brahmins as a crude and unsophisticated culture. So the early image of India as Hindu was further refined by its emphasis on a brahminic core and purity as is reflected in Voltaire‘s writings.283

As the foremost philosophes of the day the opinions of Voltaire and Montesquieu carried into a number of projects. In particular, their views about India were identified by specific groups- Montesquieu was cited as justification for British colonization of India. As Joseph Lew points out, the model of the 'Oriental Despot‘ created by Montesquieu was used by the British to justify colonial expansion in India amidst concerns of the enervating effect of the Indian climate on the robust British men.284 As a result his views have frequently been cited in works which examine the British colonial mission and policy in India.285 Voltaire on the other hand provided no such justification for colonization in India. His views were enthusiastically espoused by Orientalists like William Jones, but otherwise used by French Indologists as representing a view of India uncorrupted by the sordidity of governance.

By the end of the eighteenth century India was established in the French imagination as a land of complexity driven by brahminic religion. The brahmins were simultaneously intellectuals possessing the most advanced scientific and philosophical knowledge and the oppressors of the common people who were fed on a staple diet of superstition and rituals. They were the ideal image to counter the anti-Islamic concerns of the French. As the nineteenth century progressed, many aspects of the image of India presented by Voltaire would change, including the glorified image of brahmins. Yet despite all the vicissitudes which the image of India underwent, the basic notion that India was an accomplished civilization, remained the same.

This chapter emphasizes the elements of continuity and change in the long term image of India in France before the beginning of the nineteenth century. The next chapter looks at the early academics of India who were influenced by this Enlightenment view of India.

_______________

Notes:

201 For the history of the early French colonial enterprise in India, see S P Sen, The French in India: First establishments and struggle. (Calcutta, 1947).
 
202 According to Raymond Schwab, too often we forget that to approach India then seemed like a prerequisite for a profound understanding of humanity. Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance: Europe's Discovery of India and the East, 1680-1880 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984): 14.
 
203 I use 'older‘ in the context of the developing image of India in France to refer to writings which presented a clear binary opposition between East and West in terms of the inferiority of the East. While 'Orientalism‘ continued in the writings of academics, these were more subtle as compared with earlier writings. Any inferiority of the East was 'proven‘ as a result of rational, scientific studies, rather than the impressionistic writing of earlier authors. These later writings are therefore called 'modern‘.
 
204 According to Tomoko Masuzawa, the European feeling against Islam arose from anti-Semitism, since both Muslims and Semites were considered to belong to the Semitic race. Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions, Or, How European Universalism was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism: Or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

205 As Robert Bartlett puts it, reason or philosophy would thus take the place previously occupied by (what claimed to be) the divine or its representatives. Robert Bartlett, 'On the Politics of Faith and Reason: The Project of Enlightenment in Pierre Bayle and Montesquieu,‘ The Journal of Politics, 63.1 (Feb. 2001): 1-2
 
206 Jean- Jacques Rousseau‘s best known work, The Social Contract published in 1762, outlined a new political theory of governance based on the belief that man in a pure state of nature is fundamentally good, if uncultured- a 'noble savage‘ in effect who created a social contract in order to ensure that his freedom and rights were guaranteed. While the individual lost his natural rights by submitting to the general will he ensured that his right to life and liberty were maintained.
 
207 In other works, Rousseau demonstrated his knowledge of India. For instance he refers to an Inquisitor in Goa as an example of religious intolerance in his Confessions, Vol 2, (New York: Blanchard, 1857): 327. He also refers to Jean Chardin‘s Voyages de monsieur le chevalier Chardin en Perse et autres lieux de l'orient (Amsterdam, 1711).
 
208 The Encyclopédie was the lifetime work of Denis Diderot and Jean d‘Alembert who intended to encapsulate all human knowledge in this work. The work was published as 32 initial volumes from 1751- 1777 with over 70,000 entries provided by a number of authors. The philosophical spirit of the Encyclopédie was taken from the Enlightenment emphasis on reason over faith; of observation over doctrine- the authors of the various entries therefore supplied information which was to be based on scientific research and observation rather than religion and doctrine. For more information about the Encyclopédie and its impact see, Philip Blom, Enlightening the World: Encyclopédie, The Book That Changed the Course of History (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Diderot‘s personal contribution to information about India was in the form of fragmentary writings which never became popular. See Michèle Duchet, Diderot et l'Histoire des deux Indes: ou, L'écriture fragmentaire. (Paris: A.-G. Nizet, 1978).
 
209 Denis Diderot and Jean d‘Alembert, Encyclopédie (Paris, 1765). See for example Deleyre, vol. 6: 393-401 and Le Chevalier de Jaucourt, vol. 17: 240- 143. Both Deleyre and Jaucourt cited the Lettres Édifiantes among their sources.
 
210 Raymond Schwab, La Renaissance orientale (Paris: Payot, 1950).
 
211 Anquetil- Duperron was an early scholar to make this connection. See Siep Stuurman, 'Cosmopolitan Egalitarianism in the Enlightenment: Anquetil- Duperron on India and America,‘ Journal of the History of Ideas, 68.2 (April 2007): 255- 278.
 
212 All the major French philosophes cited India at least occasionally- Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau and Diderot.
 
213 See Sylvia Murr, 'Les conditions d'émergence du discours sur l'Inde au siècle des Lumières, Inde et Littératures', Purusartha, 7, (1983), D S. Hawley, ―L'Inde de Voltaire‖, Studies on Voltaire and the 18th century, vol. CXX. (1974), Jackie Assayag, L‟Inde fabuleuse: le charme discret de l‟exotisme français XVII- XXe siècles. (Paris: Éditions Kimé, 1999): 82, Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe. An essay in understanding. (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1988): 58.
 
214 Once again, the efforts of French missionaries yielded the first extensive library of Indian manuscripts outside of India. By the middle of the eighteenth century the academic interest in India extended to beyond immediate conversion and in 1718 the librarian of the Bibliothèque Royale, Abbé Bignon called for missionaries to collect Indic manuscripts and send them to the newly created Oriental section of the library. Felix Lacôte noted the presence of a wonderful collection of Sanskrit manuscripts organized by Père Pons by 1750 at the Bibliothèque du Roi which since no one had completely deciphered Sanskrit no one could yet read! See Felix Lacôte, ―L‟Indianisme‖, Société Asiatique: Livre du centenaire (Paris: La Société Asiatique, 1922). In 1739 the first catalogue of Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telegu manuscripts available in France were published as part of the Catalogus manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Regiae. The catalogue listed 287 works including some of the Vedas, the Epics, Puranas, dramas, poetry, grammars, dictionaries, and works on rhetoric, astrology, logic, philosophy, metaphysics and science. Pons also produced a rudimentary Sanskrit grammar in Latin. See Jean Filliozat, ―La naissance et l‘essor de L‘Indianisme‖, Bulletin de la Société des études indo-chinoises de Saigon, Vol 29, issue 4, (1954): 272.
 
215 In fact by the nineteenth century, the European mania for collecting artifacts and original texts from colonies meant that in many situations, better sources were available in the West rather than in the colony! There is an impressive body of work which deals in detail with the implications for this craze for collecting. In particular see Bernard Cohn, Colonialism and its forms of knowledge (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996) and Carol Breckenridge, ―The Aesthetics and Politics of Colonial Collecting: India at World Fairs‖, Comparative Study of Society and History, 31.2 (April 1989).
 
216 Quoting Louis Renou, ―scholarly contact with living India was secured by a small group of Anglo-Indians- Colebrooke, Wilson, and others. It is important to remember that aside from Anquetil- Duperron, and until Emile Sénart in 1887, Foucher in 1895, and Sylvain Lévi in 1897, no major French Indic scholar visited India.‖ Raymond Schwab, the Oriental Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984): 47.
 
217 During the eighteenth century, the colonization of the Americas and India was well under way, resulting in several wars and conflicts between competing colonial powers.

218 Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws (London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1914). Translated by Thomas Nugent, revised by J. V. Prichard. Book XIV: Of Laws in Relation to the Nature of the Climate; part 2: Of the Difference of Men in different Climates. Http://www.constitution.org/cm/sol.htm.

219 Ibid.

220 Ibid, Book XIV: Of Laws in Relation to the Nature of the Climate, Part 4. Cause of the Immutability of Religion, Manners, Customs, and Laws in the Eastern Countries.
 
221 Hence the term 'Oriental Despots.‘
 
222 Ibid, Book XIV: Of Laws in Relation to the Nature of the Climate, part 3: Contradiction in the Tempers of some Southern Nations. In these passages, Bernier and Tavernier were his sources.
 
223 Ibid, Book XXIV: Of Laws in relation to Religion Considered in Itself, and in its Doctrines, part 21: Of the Metempsychosis.
 
224 Ibid, Book XXIV: Of Laws in relation to Religion Considered in Itself, and in its Doctrines, part 21: Of the Metempsychosis.

225 Montesquieu's Persian Letters (1721). Translated and annotated by John Davidson (Gibbings and Co: London, 1899) 3 vols. Letter CXXVI, Rica to * * *. Http://www.wm.edu/history/rbsche/plp/.

226 Ignorance is a universal phenomenon and in this particular example, there was nothing peculiarly Eastern or climate-driven to explain the widow‘s actions. In fact one could argue that since she abandoned her plans for sati once she learned of the outcome, she had broken with tradition.
 
227 Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws (London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1914). Translated by Thomas Nugent, revised by J. V. Prichard. Book XIV: Of Laws in Relation to the Nature of the Climate; part 2: Of the Difference of Men in different Climates. Http://www.constitution.org/cm/sol.htm. Book XIV: Of Laws in Relation to the Nature of the Climate, part 5. That those are bad Legislators who favour the Vices of the Climate, and good Legislators who oppose those Vices.
 
228 In fact the principle of Metempsychosis demands just the opposite. Since one‘s deeds in this life determine one‘s rebirth in a higher or lower level of being, one must constantly strive to improve so that the end of rebirth can occur with the achievement of moksha or unity with the universal Godhead. The alone will end the cycle of rebirth and transmigration.
 
229 Ibid, part 24: Of the local Laws of Religion.
 
230 Ibid, Women: Book XVI: How the Laws of Domestic Slavery Bear a Relation to the Nature of the Climate; Part 2: That in the Countries of the South there is a natural Inequality between the two Sexes. Women, in hot climates, are marriageable at eight, nine, or ten years of age; thus, in those countries, infancy and marriage generally go together. They are old at twenty: their reason therefore never accompanies their beauty...These women ought then to be in a state of dependence; for reason cannot procure in old age that empire which even youth and beauty could not give. It is therefore extremely natural that in these places a man, when no law opposes it, should leave one wife to take another, and that polygamy should be introduced.'
 
231 Ibid, Book XVI: How the Laws of Domestic Slavery Bear a Relation to the Nature of the Climate; Part 5: The Reason of a Law of Malabar. In the tribe of the Naires, on the coast of Malabar, the men can have only one wife, while a woman, on the contrary, may have many husbands. The origin of this custom is not I believe difficult to discover. The Naires are the tribe of nobles, who are the soldiers of all those nations. In Europe soldiers are forbidden to marry; in Malabar, where the climate requires greater indulgence, they are satisfied with rendering marriage as little burdensome to them as possible: they give one wife amongst many men, which consequently diminishes the attachment to a family, and the cares of housekeeping, and leaves them in the free possession of a military spirit.
 
232 Ibid, Book XVI: How the Laws of Domestic Slavery Bear a Relation to the Nature of the Climate; Part 10: The Principle on which the Morals of the East are founded.
 
233 Ibid, Part 11: Of domestic Slavery independently of Polygamy.
 
234 Ibid. Book XII: Of the Laws That Form Political Liberty, in Relation to the Subject, Part 29: Of the civil Laws proper for mixing some portion of Liberty in a despotic Government.
 
235 Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws (London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1914). Trans. Thomas Nugent, revised by J. V. Prichard. Http://www.constitution.org/cm/sol.htm. Book 14, Of Laws in Relation to the Nature of the Climate; Part 15. Of the different Confidence which the Laws have in the People, according to the Difference of Climates… In contrast again to the tyranny of depots and religion which he described in detail in another section of this work, he also described that, ―Hence their legislators repose great confidence in them. They have established very few punishments; these are not severe, nor are they rigorously executed. They have subjected nephews to their uncles, and orphans to their guardians, as in other countries they are subjected to their fathers; they have regulated the succession by the acknowledged merit of the successor. They seem to think that every individual ought to place entire confidence in the good nature of his fellow-subjects…They enfranchise their slaves without difficulty, they marry them, they treat them as their children. Happy climate which gives birth to innocence, and produces a lenity in the laws!'
 
236 Ibid, Book XXIV: Of Laws in relation to Religion Considered in Itself, and in its Doctrines; Part 22: That it is dangerous for Religion to inspire an Aversion for Things in themselves indifferent. ―A kind of honour established in the Indies by the prejudices of religion has made the several tribes conceive an aversion against each other. This honour is founded entirely on religion; these family distinctions form no civil distinctions; there are Indians who would think themselves dishonoured by eating with their king. These sorts of distinctions are connected with a certain aversion for other men, very different from those sentiments which naturally arise from difference of rank; which among us comprehends a love for inferiors. The laws of religion should never inspire an aversion to anything but vice, and above all they should never estrange man from a love and tenderness for his own species. The Mahometan and Indian religions embrace an infinite number of people; the Indians hate the Mahometans, because they eat cows; the Mahometans detest the Indians because they eat hogs.'
 
237 For a detailed discussion of Voltaire‘s views and constructions of India, see Jyoti Mohan, ―La civilisation la plus antique: Voltaire's Images of India', Journal of World History, Vol 16.2, June 2005: 173- 86.
 
238 For an exhaustive list of the books in Voltaire's library relating to India, look up D S Hawley, 'L'Inde de Voltaire', Studies on Voltaire and the 18th century, Vol. CXX. (1974).
 
239 Voltaire, Oeuvres Completes de Voltaire: Annales de l'Empire: Fragments sur quelques révolutions dans l'Inde and sur le mort du Comte de Lalli, vol. 24. (Paris: Imprimérie de la Société Littéraire, 1785-89). (Henceforth 'Oeuvres…‘)
 
240 Voltaire, Correspondence Edited by Theodore Besterman, corr. 13663 (Paris: Gallimard, 1964)
 
241 For example, Zadig et la destinée,(1747), Lettres d'un Turc sur les Fakirs et sur son ami Bababec (1750), Histoire d'un bon brahmin (1761), Le blanc et le noir (1764), Aventure indienne traduite par l'ignorant (1766), La Princesse de Babylone (1768) and Le Taureau blanc (1774).
 
242 Many of these texts which were 'discovered‘ by Orientalist scholars and sent back to Europe during the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth century to be translated by French and British scholars were later discovered to be fakes. In fact Voltaire‘ s primary source about Indian religion and philosophy, the Ezour Vedam, which he described as one of the major theological texts of the Hindus (probably confusing it with the Yajur Vedam) was discovered to be a much later work, of dubious quality and questionable authorship. See Ludo Rocher, Ezourvedam. A French Veda of the eighteenth century (Philadelphia, 1984).
 
243 This was a constant theme of British Indology in India. While ancient India had seen a glorious period, this was now a bygone time and contemporary India was rooted on social mire which provided much of the legitimacy for the colonizing mission. In fact India had sunk to such depths of degeneracy that she had failed to recognize her own great past and it was left up to British Indologists to patiently retrieve the old texts and customs. See, for example, James Mill, The History of British India. Six vols. (London, 1818).
 
244 The use of adjectives like 'effeminacy‘ and 'lassitude‘ was commonly applied to oriental peoples in the eighteenth century, but in the case of India, these took on a new meaning when the British defined certain sections of the Indian people in these terms in the nineteenth century and later, in order to justify the mechanisms of Imperial rule. For an interesting example of this sort and how it was worked into the rubrics of governance, see Mrinalini Sinha, Colonial masculinity: the 'manly Englishman' and the' effeminate Bengali' in the late nineteenth century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995).
 
245 Voltaire, 'Ancient and Modern History‘, The complete works of Voltaire. Edited by Theodore Besterman (Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire and Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968): 42-43.
 
246 Ibid: Vol 15, part 2: 180.
 
247 Ibid, Vol. 13, part 1: 39.
 
248 Voltaire, ―Dialogue entre un brachmane et un Jésuite sur la nécessité et l'enchaînment des choses', Mélanges. (Paris, 1961)
 
249 See, for example James Mill, The History of British India. Six vols. (London, 1818)
 
250 In fact, Voltaire criticized Montesquieu for his stereotypical presentation of the 'Oriental Despot‘. According to Voltaire, a 'despotic‘ regime was far more serious than the rule of Eastern princes, who had been misrepresented by Montesquieu. See Commentaire sur l‟Esprit des lois. Oeuvres completes. ed. Moland (Paris, 1890), XXX, 409. Cited in Franco Venturi, ―Oriental Despotism', Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol 24. 1 (Jan- March 1963): 135-136.
 
251 Jackie Assayag, L‟Inde fabuleuse: le charme discret de l‟exotisme français XVII- XXe siècles. (Paris: Éditions Kimé, 1999): 82- 83.
 
252 Voltaire, The complete works of Voltaire. Edited by Theodore Besterman (Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire and Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968): Vol. 15, part 2: 180- 183.
 
253 For example, the section titled 'The Brahmins, the Veda and the Ezour-Veda‘ in Voltaire, Additions a l‟Essai sur l‟histoire générale &c. Et sur l‟esprit & les moeurs des nation, [sic] depuis Charlemagne jusqu‟à nos jours (Amsterdam, 1764).
 
254 See Robert Bartlett, 'On the Politics of Faith and Reason: The Project of Enlightenment in Pierre Bayle and Montesquieu,‘ The Journal of Politics, 63.1 (Feb. 2001): 1-28.
 
255 This challenge to the Church was to become a consistent feature of French writings on India albeit not a very influential school of thought. The nineteenth century French colonial administrator and prolific writer, Louis Jacolliot for instance wrote several books on the originality of Hinduism and the derivation of Christianity from India. Some of his wider works on this topic include Christna et le Christ. (Paris: A. Lacroix et cie, 1874) and The Bible in India: Hindoo origin of Hebrew and Christian revelation (New York: Carleton, 1870).
 
256 Voltaire, Correspondence Edited by Theodore Besterman, corr. 13663 (Paris: Gallimard, 1964). Vol. 105. Letter Number 17249.
 
257 Ibid: numbers 8370 and 13548
 
258 Ibid: number 13702.
 
259 Ibid: numbers 12405, 12763, 18677, and 18756. Many writers have commented upon this aspect of Voltaire's writing on India, including Rocher, D S Hawley , and Sylvia Murr, 'Les conditions d'émergence du discours sur l'Inde du siècle des Lumières, Inde et Littératures', Purusartha, 7, (1983)
 
260 From Voltaire, ―The Ignorant Philosopher', The complete works of Voltaire. Edited by Theodore Besterman (Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire and Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968): 277.
 
261 Oeuvres …, Vol 19. The actual quotation reads "Parmi tant d'opinions extravagantes, et de superstitions bizarres, croinons-nous que tous ces païens des Indes reconaissant comme nous un Etre infiniment parfait? Qu'ils l'appellent l'Etre des êtres, l'Être souverain, invisible, incomprehensible, sans figure, créateur et conservateur, juste et miséricordieux, qui se plaît à se communiquer aux hommes pour les conduire au bonheur éternal? Ces idées sont contenues dans le Veidam, ce livre des anciens brachmanes, et encore mieux dans le Shasta, plus ancien que le Veidam. Elles sont répandues dans les écrits modernes des bramins.': 415.
 
262 As the previous chapter indicated, Voltaire was not the first to study the similarities between Christianity and Hinduism; in fact the missionaries as far back as Jordanus had already drawn parallels between the religions and the Jesuits had made detailed theological comparisons between these ancient religions. However, Voltaire was the first to claim the greater antiquity of Hinduism and therefore the notion that Christianity was derived from Hinduism and not vice versa.

263 Quoted in The British Discovery of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century, edited by Peter Marshall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970): 33.
 
264 Oeuvres… Vol 19: 413.
 
265 Oeuvres… Vol 19: 413.
 
266 Interestingly Voltaire used the Lettres for much of his information about the religion and customs of the Indians to challenge the Church! Where the Lettres had described superstitions and barbaric practices, Voltaire presented these as evidence of the advanced civilization of ancient India.

267 See François Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire. Trans. Archibald Constable. (1968), Jean-Baptiste Bernier, John Zephaniah Holwell, Interesting Historical Events relative to the Province of Bengal and the Empire of Indoustan, Vol 2. (1767), Nathaniel Halhed, A code of Gentoo Laws, or Ordinations of the Pundits (1776), and Alexander Dow, The History of Hindostan (1768).
 
268 For example, cited in Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws (London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1914). Translated by Thomas Nugent, revised by J. V. Prichard. Http://www.constitution.org/cm/sol.htm. Book XVI, How the Laws of Domestic Slavery Bear a Relation to the Nature of the Climate, 3. That a Plurality of Wives greatly depends on the Means of supporting them.
 
269 From Voltaire, ―The Ignorant Philosopher', The Works of Voltaire, Vol 18, part 2, (Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire and Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968): 277. (Henceforth 'Works…‘).
 
270 Works …, Vol. 24: 479. Ludo Rocher has written an excellent monograph on the origins, possible authorship and various recensions of the Ezour Vedam. See Ludo Rocher, Ezourvedam. A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century. (Philadelphia, 1984)
 
271 The first French version of the Ezour Vedam appeared in 1778. Voltaire was presented with a copy by a French official in Pondichéry, a Chevalier de Mondave. The text was supposed to be a translation of an original Veda, made by the missionary Roberto de Nobili although this was later proven false. Voltaire donated his copy to the Bibliothèque Royale at Paris.

272 From ―The Ignorant Philosopher', Works …, Vol 18, part 2: 227.
 
273 ―Ancient and Modern History', Works …, Vol 13, part 1: 179.
 
274 Ibid.
 
275 Works …, Vol. 15, part 2: 190.
 
276 Works …, Vol. 15, part 2: 175.
 
277 Ibid, Book XXIV: Of Laws in relation to Religion Considered in Itself, and in its Doctrines, part 3: That a moderate Government is most agreeable to the Christian Religion, and a despotic Government to the Mahometan.
 
278 Ibid, part 1: Of Religion in General.
 
279 See for instance the relations between Christian missionaries and Muslims in James Ryan, 'Missionary Saints of the High Middle Ages: Martyrdom, Popular Veneration, and Canonization‘ The Catholic Historical Review 90.1 (2004): 1-28.
 
280 The irony of such a process is that Indians had no 'history‘ before the colonial experience. Therefore 'history‘ as India came to learn it was solely a product of Western writing and understanding of India‘s past. Legitimating Indian 'history‘ came by being viewed through a Western lens, Indians having no sense of 'rational, logical, unbiased history‘ despite the fact that all of the source material for these Western histories was in fact Indian! The earliest histories which were taught to Indians were naturally written by logical, rational Western historians, who did not allow biases to cloud their judgment. Having concluded, on the basis of faulty and incomplete knowledge that Islam had wrought the downfall of the Hindu civilization, the West accepted this as yet another fait accompli for their belief that Islam was a destructive religion. In a vicious cycle of intellectual colonization, this theory was taught to all Indian students who had been brought up to believe in the superiority and rationality of the Western thought process. An excellent account of the creation of communalism is Gyan Pandey, The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India, (Oxford and New York: OUP, 1990). Pandey recounts through a careful analysis of the historical record how the communal past, so long transmitted as an intrinsic part of India‘s social web, was in reality a creation of the complex processes of nineteenth century colonialism and emerging Indian nationalism. This is a good example of how colonialism created a past which did not exist, just as this study seeks to study the many images of India which were created to accommodate French political and colonial agenda.
 
281 Written by La Harpe in 1783, Les brames presented many of the key ideas of the Enlightenment, such as the nature of man, development of civilization, the origin of religion and the place of the Oriental Despot within an Indian setting. The tragedy portrayed an Indian Muslim ruler as an evil tyrant and his Hindu subjects as suffering under his despotic oppression. See Jackie Assayag, ―L'Inde dans le théâtre des Lumières une tragédie théologico-politique inédite de Jean-François de la Harpe : Les Brames (1783)', Purusartha (1998), vol 20: 301- 325.
 
282 Jackie Assayag, L‟Inde fabuleuse: le charme discret de l‟exotisme français XVII- XXe siècles. (Paris: Éditions Kimé, 1999): 95
 
283 In an interesting turn of events however, the heavy British reliance on brahmins changed after the Mutiny of 1857. In their push to build a strong and unchallenged Empire in India the British tried to divide up the loyalties of their Indian subjects by using various theories to justify preferential treatment of different groups, castes, and religions at different times. These theories in turn led to groups of Indians like Hindus, Muslims and Parsis for example, jockeying for positions within the Raj, in exactly the way the rulers had envisioned, and internalizing the definitions and artificial past that the British had created for them, simply because it suited them, economically and socially, to do so. Historians have studied the creation of 'martial‘ castes. It is not the subject of this work and in fact requires a separate historical inquiry but I propose that the basis of the present day caste wars can also been traced to this creation of artificial pasts during the colonial period. During a period when both Indians and British were seeking to benefit from each other, brahmins were quite willing to be portrayed as learned, erudite, upper caste and privileged. As the nineteenth century progressed however, economic vicissitudes and new processes of caste formation created a distinct and rigid hierarchy (see Nicholas Dirks, Castes of Mind, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002) in place of the previous fluidity and looseness of the caste identity. Lower castes seeking to improve their position and their economic and social status looked around for scapegoats and found it in the upper castes, particularly in the brahmins, who according to colonial histories, had oppressed the common people for centuries. This was the beginning of a long and bitter battle against the upper castes, especially the brahmins, which in many ways, defines the socio-political scene of India even today.
 
284 Joseph E. Lew, ―The Plague of Imperial Desire: Montesquieu, Gibbon, Brougham and Mary Shelley‘s 'The Last Man‘', Romanticism and Colonialism. Writing and Empire, 1780- 1830. Edited by Tim Fulford and Peter Kitson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998): 272.
 
285 For example, James Mill, in his opus, The History of British India (London, 1818) made copious references to Montesquieu to justify British colonial rule in India. Contemporary scholars like Udayon Misra, The Raj in Fiction: A Study of Nineteenth Century British Attitudes Towards India. (Delhi: B.R. Pub. Corp, 1987) and Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge: CUP, 1994) have noted the frequent use by British colonial officials and writers, of Montesquieu‘s model of Oriental Despotism to justify their presence and activities in India.
 
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Re: Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

Postby admin » Sat Oct 31, 2020 6:22 am

Part 1 of 2

Chapter 3: The Business of Serious Academics: Indology and the Study of India.

India was full of surprise: an original and profound philosophy, a delicate poetry which was at once naïve and all-comprehending, exquisite art, refined morals and a civilization which was older than all others…286


The newest group to turn to the study of India was the academics.287 In some cases these individuals began as religious scholars who then joined academia. In other cases they turned to India because of the interest that it had generated in the French Enlightenment. Since these scholars eventually devoted themselves almost exclusively to the study of India, presumably with scholarly purpose. I term them the early 'Indologists‘.288 This chapter describes the work of the first such Indologists- Joseph Deguignes, Anquetil-Duperron, and Antoine Chézy. Chézy belongs chronologically in the nineteenth century but his romantic vision of India which reflected Voltaire‘s image has led to his inclusion in this section.

For the most part the work of scholars on India echoed Voltaire‘s search for the origins of civilization in India.289 Assuming that Sanskrit texts were the key to understanding India‘s brahminic culture Deguignes, Duperron and Chézy focused on finding original or translated Sanskrit texts and basing their writings and image of India on these. The elements of continuity in the academic image of India thus include the search for Sanskrit, the romantic ideal of India, and the dominance of Paris.

An ancient civilization: searching for Sanskrit

The first aspect of continuity was the importance of antiquity, and as a result, the focus on Sanskrit. Just as Voltaire had emphasized the value of the Indian civilization because it was the oldest, nineteenth-century scholars followed a search for the oldest texts which represented the civilization of India. The emphasis on antiquity meant that the oldest language, Sanskrit, had to be studied. Unfortunately, Sanskrit had not yet been deciphered. According to Henry Yule, 'The earliest direct intimation of knowledge of the existence of the Vedas, the earliest sacred texts of the Indic Aryans, appears to be in the book called De Tribus Impostoribus said to have been printed in 1598, in which they are mentioned. This knowledge probably came through the Arabs. Thus we do not trace back any direct allusion to the Vedas in European books, before the year 1600 or thereabouts. There seems good reason to believe however that the Jesuit missionaries had information on the subject at a much earlier date. St. Francis Xavier had frequent discussions with Brahmans, and one went so far as to communicate to him the mantra "Om śrīnārāyana nāmah.”290 In 1559 a learned Brahman at Goa was converted by Father Belchior Carneyro291, and baptized by the name of Manuel. 'He afterwards (with the Viceroy's sanction!) went by night and robbed a Brahman on the mainland who had collected many MSS., and presented the spoil to the Fathers, with great satisfaction to himself and them.‘292 While Yule‘s work notes that information about the Vedas existed in Europe from about the end of the sixteenth-century, these references continued to be vague. Voltaire popularized the Ezour Vedam which was later discovered to be a fake.293 The first accurate reference to a Veda occurred in Pierre Sonnerat‘s late eighteenth-century work.294 Since Sanskrit had not been deciphered, Enlightenment scholars, including Voltaire, continued to use Arabic and Persian translations of the Vedas, in addition to gleaning some information from the writings of missionaries.

The reason for the inaccessibility of the Vedas seems to have been the unwillingness of brahmins to translate the ancient information of which they were the custodians.295 Once the colonial enterprises of the eighteenth century began establishing their territorial hold in India there was naturally a greater accessibility to these texts. While the sacred texts were the most prized, since Sanskrit had not yet been deciphered and brahmins blocked European access to them, European scholars turned to 'secular‘ literary texts. The first expression of this focus on India was therefore the 'discovery‘296 and translation of ancient Indian literature. The first breakthrough came with the British Indologist William Jones‘ translation of the ancient Sanskrit poet Kalidasa‘s famous play, Shakuntala from an existing Persian version. Following Jones, there was a spate of translations of Sanskrit texts which had been translated during the middle ages into Arabic and Persian. Scholars launched a search to collect 'original‘ Sanskrit texts and decipher Sanskrit. Sanskrit had a certain aura in Europe since it was considered the language of the ancients of India. The German Schopenhauer, believed that ―Sanskrit literature will be no less influential for our time than Greek literature was in the fifteenth century for the Renaissance.'297 This esteem for Sanskrit was partly due to the emerging theory that Sanskrit was the language of the early Indo-European or Aryan people who were the ancestors of most of Western Europe. In fact the earliest scholars of India were philologists who compared the linguistic and philological similarities between Sanskrit and the Indo-European group of languages. Jean Filliozat, the twentieth century Indologist summed up the significance of India for many scholars of the nineteenth century by pointing out that India was not merely of isolated academic interest, but was in fact the answer to many burning philosophical questions, and provided a view of the human condition.298 Quoting Max Müller‘s work 'India, what can it teach us‘, Filliozat pointed out that India was not merely of interest because of her ancient languages, culture or religions as Müller had described, but because the knowledge of Sanskrit contained the key to knowledge about the ancient Indo-European community. According to Filliozat,

…on the importance of India like [in the] human field. If India imports us [interests us/ occupies us], indeed, it is not only for the value in our eyes or the interest for us of its knowledge, its thought, its institutions, its arts: it is not only because it can teach us something about our ancestral past, owing to the fact that it kept many traces of a [linguistic] community of origin of [between] its Sanskrit with our languages [European]…299


Another reason why Sanskrit was the locus of Indic studies at this time was the reverence which brahmins had for the language. Once the British were established as the rulers of Bengal by 1767, the brahmins were the group who most readily acted as interpreters and informants to Europeans, and informed European views about Indian society and culture. As Bernard Cohen points out, even though they were unwilling to part with their knowledge of Sanskrit, their views about the primacy of Sanskrit texts were communicated on to the European scholar who came to look upon Sanskritic texts as the definitive guidelines for law, religion, and politics.300

Since Sanskrit had not been deciphered, the earliest French academics who studied India had to rely on translations. Among these scholars was Joseph Deguignes. Joseph Deguignes, arabist and sinologist was one of the new breed of historians who envisaged a universal history of the world. He set out to study the Indian manuscripts available in Europe in order to fill the gaps which Bossuet the father of universal history had left in his seventeenth century work.301 Bossuet had ignored the existence of the greater part of the globe except for Europe and the limited non-western contacts of the Jews, Greek, and Romans. Unlike the philosophes who merely dabbled in academic research Deguignes extensively read up on his subject. Impatient about learning the language however, he chose to rely on Arab and Chinese texts about India for his work.302 He introduced India in his first great work titled Histoire générale des Huns, des Turcs, des Mongols et autres Tartares occidentaux which was published in 1756.303 Deguignes‘ interest in India was further piqued by his discovery of an Arab version of the Sanskrit text Amritakunsha or the Pot of Ambrosia which described the science of levitation, divination, and yoga.304 He also researched several historical texts written in the medieval period in Persian. He was first to translate portions of these, and then to use these to produce his own historical articles on India. He furthered his knowledge about India with copious correspondence with a Tamil scholar who was a linguist and spoke French fluently. Maridas Poullé or Maridas Pillai305 of Pondichéry was a scholar of French and Latin, who had played an invaluable role as intermediary and interpreter to missionaries, voyagers, and scholars alike, from Père Coeurdoux to Le Gentil the astronomer. Pillai was the inspiration for Deguignes‘ works on India, providing him with a French translation of the Bhagavatam which in turn was Pillai‘s own Tamil version of the Bhagavata Purana.306 From this work came Deguignes‘ Réflexions sur un livre indien intitulé Bâgavadam, which was published in 1777 and firmly placed India within the scope of 'universal history‘. Following this work Deguignes also had three other works on India published in 1780 as Recherches historiques sur la religion indienne et sur les livres fondamentaux de cette religion qui ont été traduits en chinois. He was able to clearly establish the trade and diplomatic contacts between India and China which had led to the exchange of cultural and philosophical ideas and the compilation of Chinese books on Indian religion307 but he was not the first to establish the link between Buddhism and India. That discovery was made by Eugene Burnouf and is discussed later in the dissertation. The value of Deguignes‘ work was summed up by Filliozat when he wrote that because of him 'the civilization of India was no longer an enigma that one had no means of deciphering. It took its place among the world‘s other civilizations, and the science of Indian antiquity found its methodology.'308 Deguignes‘ arrival at the study of India via the study of Arabic and Chinese texts also highlights the importance that India had for Enlightenment scholars. I have called him an early 'Indologist‘ despite his academic specialization elsewhere, solely due to the prominent inclusion of India in his works.

Soon after this initial effort, Anquetil-Duperron undertook the study of India. Born Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil Duperron in Paris in 1731 he is considered the earliest French Indologist. Originally intended for the Church, he studied at the University of Paris, the Collège Mazarin and also with the noted Jansenist scholar Comte Caylus. After his studies he returned to Paris and continued his studies in Hebrew at the Bibliothèque Royale when he learnt about the existence of an Avestic manuscript, the Vendidade Sade, in Oxford in 1754. By this time Anquetil was convinced that the key to all European culture lay in the early Indo-European works. Even though he was particularly interested in the ancient culture of the Zoroastrians of Persia from the Avestic works available to him he also formed the theory that Sanskrit was the oldest link to the Indo-Europeans and therefore that the key to all human thought lay in Asia. According to Anquetil, ―Asia is an uncultivated/ unknown land which we other Europeans have neglected. Yet it is where humanity took its source [originated].'309 He thought that India and the opening of Sanskrit literature to the West could provide a scientific basis for the Bible and even establish the presence of an ancient people to rival the ancient civilization of the Jews. In fact, although Anquetil‘s works were not published until much later, he wrote in his letters that India could well constitute 'the missing link‘ between the civilizations of the East and West by providing a common history for all mankind. It is from Anquetil and other such scholars that Voltaire eventually formed the idea that the achievements of an ancient non-Western civilization could rival the Western model of the Greco-Roman civilization.310

At the time the West had not yet deciphered Sanskrit. The best that Anquetil could do was to obtain a sample of Sanskrit letters from Oxford. Finding these measures inadequate for his study Anquetil decided to go to India in search of the key to understanding and reading Sanskrit as well as a search for Zoroastrian manuscripts to further research the Near East and Persia. He was engaged by the Compagnie des Indes and arrived in India in 1754. He remained until 1762 when he returned to Paris via England. In this time, he was affiliated with and remained in contact with several societies like the Académie des inscriptions et belles- lettres311 as well as official organizations like the Bibliothèque du Roi and the prominent French functionaries in India including the governors of French India. In 1763 the Abbé Barthélemy, a member of the Académie des Inscriptions had asked the Père Coeurdoux312 to collect and compile a list of words and a basic Sanskrit grammar. Although Coeurdoux‘s efforts did not bear fruit, Anquetil maintained a constant correspondence with him from 1768-1775 and was greatly aided in his studies on Sanskrit by this correspondence.313

He therefore not only constantly communicated his observations and findings to academics in France but also made the most of his sojourn by means of his well placed contacts in India. In a sojourn which was marked by trials including illnesses, heat exhaustion and academic setbacks, Anquetil persevered in his attempt to converse with Parsi high priests and brahmins in an attempt to learn Persian and Sanskrit and trace the roots of the Judeo- Christian tradition back to India. In a letter to Comte Caylus he described his excitement at being able to converse with some brahmins as well as his anxiety to recover the Indian texts which would definitively link the ancient histories of India and Greece.314 According to Deloche and Filliozat, Anquetil grew to hold three strong beliefs about India during his travels in the Indian subcontinent in an extensive and exhaustive search for manuscripts and knowledge. Firstly, despite his personal vicissitudes and hardships in India he began to believe in the essential equality of all races. This belief sprang from his wide knowledge of Oriental texts and his admiration of the level of civilization he had seen in Asia. His belief was also significant since he remained a religious Christian throughout his lifetime, yet in advance of his time was able to perceive the qualities of other peoples without subjecting them to a Eurocentric yardstick of measurement. Secondly, he grew to love India and Indians. Thirdly, arising from his love for India, he was convinced that the English enterprise in India was fundamentally unfair.315

Anquetil also tried to find the key to deciphering Sanskrit. He tried to retrieve the old Sanskrit works in two ways. First he used a Persian version of the Upanishads and his conversations with Parsi high priests to produce a French translation of the work. In doing so he provided a valuable linguistic channel for retrieving works once thought lost. He proved that ancient works continued to exist in modified forms in other languages and cultures and therefore could be retrieved. For example, he wrote to Caylus during his travels of his hope that the Egyptian script could be deciphered using the Indian script.316 He also petitioned the Catholic missions for their compilation of Sanskrit letters and received an incomplete Sanskrit vocabulary which was compiled by all the Catholic missions which had worked in India. He used this in conjunction with another dictionary and grammar which was available in the Bibliothèque Royale due to Royal direction for compiling a collection of Indian works. As a linguist, he was a thorough perfectionist.

Anquetil continued in his lifetime to harness his scholarship on India to humanism317 and the study of human nature. He believed that there were essentially two ways to understand humanity - either by studying metaphysics and deconstructing man and his abilities and achievements, or by studying history and examining people in action. He stated in his Discours Préliminaire ou Introduction au Zend Avesta that it was the latter course which appealed to him.318 Anquetil laid out a detailed path by which he proposed to ensure that his work was as historically objective as possible. The precautions he took included providing extensive descriptions of his experiences, attempting to recover as many ancient texts as possible rather than having to rely on later interpretations and interpolations, learning the languages in which the texts were written (Anquetil himself mastered Persian, Sanskrit, Zend, Avestan, and Pahlavi while in India) and undertaking to learn about and observe the people and their country, customs, sciences, arts, morals and politics.319 Halbfass has also commented on Anquetil‘s determination to study India as dispassionately as possible, citing the latter as writing, 'let us study the Indians as we study the Greeks and Romans- critically, but respectfully, and without ridiculing them‘.320

Convinced that the key to further knowledge lay in learning the local languages, Anquetil proposed a radical idea. He suggested that the only way to learn about the world was to appoint a number of traveling scholars in different parts of the world. These académies ambulantes would then try to gather as much knowledge about the area they were stationed at and bring that knowledge back with them to France. A total of eighty such scholars were proposed to be appointed with two each in Chile, Mexico, Peru and Canada accounting for eight in the Americas; two each in Senegal, Cape of Good Hope, Ethiopia and Cairo accounting for eight in Africa; four each at Marseilles and the port of Lorient in France to co-ordinate the efforts of all the other scholars, and finally a total of forty-eight scholars appointed all over Asia, including two each at Constantinople, Baghdad, Isfahan, Delhi, Astrakhan, Tartary, Tibet, Chinese Tartary, Kamchatka, Peking, Canton, Siam, Patna, Bengal, Pondichéry, Surat, Ceylon, Mahé, Pune and Bassora, and four each in the Isles of the Indian Ocean and the China Sea Islands.321 According to Anquetil, 'Most of the travelers are satisfied to ask the Brahmans (and it is the same process with the ministers of religion in all countries) about the basis of their doctrines, what they believe on this and that; some of them go so far as to procure excerpts from their theological books. The answers, the excerpts, may be accurate, but they might also be analogues of the circumstances, the mind, or even the views of the one asking the questions. The only way to know the truth is to learn the language well, to translate the fundamental works for oneself, and then to confer, book in hand, with the scholars of the country which the materials treat.'322

By 1771 he published the Zend Avesta.323 In 1786 the first four Upanishads were published as part of Anquetil‘s Recherches sur l‟Inde. He proceeded to translate fifty Upanishads from Persian to French and later into Latin. By 1787 he had completed this project and the fifty translations were published in 1801-02 as the Oupnek‟hat.324 Legislations Orientale was completed and published from Amsterdam in 1778 as well as his contribution to Bernoulli‘s Descriptions Historique et géographique de l‟Inde on the history and geography of India.325 This corpus of work was the foundation for later Indologists‘ work. In fact, Anquetil‘s work on the Upanishads was considered so accurate that French Indologists began other translations and interpretations of these only after the 1840‘s.

Unfortunately Anquetil did not fare well during the Revolution. Jailed briefly for his religious views during the Terror in 1793 he nevertheless produced and published prolifically until his death. His papers and manuscripts were donated to the Bibliothèque Nationale in 1808 and 1837 by the noted Orientalist Silvestre de Sacy and comprised 25 volumes of translations, dictionaries, grammars, and alphabets compiled during his travels.326 In addition three full volumes of his correspondence make him a valuable and well documented source for early studies on India.

The writing of British and French writers on India in the period following the Enlightenment was remarkably similar. The belief that the origins of Indian thought and civilization lay in the ancient language of Sanskrit meant that British scholars like William Jones, Charles Wilkins, Nathaniel Halhed, and H T Colebrooke who were among the first member of the Asiatick Society of Calcutta focused on retrieving literature and laws believed to be the original Sanskrit versions of the ancient period. These British writers were frank admirers of Sanskritic civilization and the brahmins, whom they understood to be the bearers of the ancient civilization of the Indo-Aryans. In their writings these British men echoed the Enlightenment image of India popularized by Voltaire to a large extent.

For instance, William Jones drew parallels between the religions of India, Greece, Egypt, Persia and other ancient civilizations based on the anthropomorphic nature of all ancient religions. That their civilization could compare with the other great civilizations of the ancient world was proof of the high sophistication of the ancient Hindus. In a striking comparison with Voltaire‘s view about the high morality of the ancient Indians327, Jones wrote,

We are told by the Grecian writers, that the Indians were the wisest of nations; and in moral wisdom, they were certainly eminent…I am not disinclined to suppose, that the first moral fables, which appeared in Europe, were of Indian or Ethiopian origin.328


In addition, Jones also saw the achievements of Hindus in medicine, astronomy, mathematics, science, literature and the arts as proof of the high development of the Hindu mind.

The Hindus are said to have boasted of three inventions, all of which, indeed, are admirable, the method of instructing by apologues, the decimal scale adopted now by all civilized nations, and the game of chess…but, if their numerous works on grammar, logick, rhetorick, musick, [sic] all which are extant and accessible, were explained in some language generally known, it would be found, that they had yet higher pretentions to the praise of a fertile and inventive genius.329


Despite the common search for Sanskrit texts, the motivation for Jones‘ work lay in the Anglo-French military rivalry over India. According to Charles Allen, the French, rivals of the British as much in scholarship as in war, had stolen a march by proclaiming themselves leaders of a renaissance orientale.330 Anquetil had been ignominiously removed from India when the British invaded Pondichéry in 1761- he returned to France, laden with at least two hundred Indian manuscripts thus underlining France‘s intellectual superiority in India. In his Zend Avesta, Anquetil criticized the low quality of British scholarship on India prompting a stinging counter criticism by Jones, who was moved to further scholarship as much by this national rivalry as by his admiration of India. When Jones published his version of the Shakuntala based on Persian versions of the original Sanskrit texts, he became an overnight hero in Britain for redeeming English scholarship. The British popular press stressed the intellectual superiority of Jones over Duperron repeatedly. The common perception that Jones had redeemed English scholarship was captured in an Oxford don, Professor Hunt‘s letter to Jones. ―I have read it (Jones‘ criticism of Duperron‘s translation of the Zend Avesta and his aspersions on the latter‘s academic qualifications) over and over again, and think the whole nation, as well as the University and its members, are much obliged to you for this able and spirited defence.'331

In 1803 an event of great importance to the future of Indology occurred, which was driven by France‘s collection at the Bibliothèque du Roi. Anquetil had struggled to decipher Sanskrit in the late eighteenth-century, but the British scholars in Calcutta finally succeeded. Unfortunately the hostile relations between England and France at the time meant that it was difficult to communicate these findings with French scholars.

Alexander Hamilton, a British naval official, who was an Indophile and member of the Asiatick Society of Bengal, arrived in Paris in 1803 to study the Sanskrit manuscript collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale, when the rupture of the Treaty of Amiens transformed him into a prisoner. He was treated with respect nonetheless and upon the urging of his Parisian friends, he agreed to teach Sanskrit to a small group which consisted of his protector Volney; Langlès, Fauriel, Burnouf senior and the German Friedrich Schlegel. Thus the secrets of Sanskrit were finally revealed to France.

Here to Stay: A Parisian Monopoly

Despite the tumult of the Revolution, efforts to further Indic studies in Paris continued. At the forefront was the republican Louis-Mathieu Langlès. A well known Orientalist, he was appointed professor of Persian languages and literature at the newly founded École speciale des langues orientales in Paris in 1795. The École was to be attached to the Bibliothèque Nationale. While Langlès was fascinated with India his contribution to Indic studies in France was largely in the realm of translations. Halbfass points out that Voltaire‘s legacy of using India as a foil against the claims of primacy and exclusivity of Christian revelation continued in the work of Langlès.332

In 1801 France had lost even her small Comptoirs in India. Occupied by the British during the Napoleonic Wars they were returned only in 1815. There was no more support for the Indian empire in France. Yet attention to penetrating Indic knowledge continued. Indology survived and even flourished during the tumult of the Revolution. Even while the cutting edge work in learning and translating Indian texts were being undertaken by the British in Calcutta, French academics who were interested in Indology kept up with the latest trends in scholarship. During the Revolution, scholars had kept up with Indic studies through the publications of the Magazin Encyclopédique. The Magazin did not publish any new research but contained detailed reviews of the Indological work of British scholars.333 The Journal des Débats, created shortly after the first meeting of the Estates General in 1789, also carried articles of interested relating to India during the first Empire.334 By 1803 Alexander Hamilton had imparted his knowledge of Sanskrit to Parisian academics. This single occurrence gave Paris the edge in Indological studies even though Chézy, the first great French Indologist of the nineteenth-century was a self-taught sanskritist! Once Sanskrit was introduced to Parisian Indologists a spate of translations of the Indic texts in the Bibliothèque were undertaken. By 1805 the Asiatick Researches of the British Indologists at Calcutta335 was translated and published in French by the Imprimérie Impériale as Recherches Asiatiques, ou mémoires de la Société établie au Bengale pour faire des recherches sur l'histoire et les antiquités, les arts, les sciences et la littérature de l'Asie. A number of scholars including Langlès, Cuvier, Delambre, and Lamarck contributed to the editing and publication of these translations. Paris was poised to take over from the Indologists in Calcutta as the leader in Indic studies. According to Lacôte, ―Paris, which counted famous orientalists, was designated to become the first center of Sanskrit studies in Europe: if there were not any pandits there, as in Calcutta, one had [there] the famous collection of manuscripts of the Library.'336 Parisian Indologists had great pride in the collection of Indic manuscripts held at the Bibliothèque and continued to acquire more during the nineteenth century.337 In 1823 the government agreed to purchase a number of Sanskrit letters for 2000 francs.338 If for no other reason Paris was the center of Indological studies outside of India because of the quality and quantity of Indian manuscripts held at the Bibliothèque. As McGetchin points out most German Indologists had to travel to Paris to study Sanskrit since they possessed no manuscripts of their own, and, as in the case of Jules Mohl eventually became French citizens. Furthermore German students who were interested in Indic studies flocked to the Parisian pundits Antoine de Chézy, Silvestre de Sacy, Louis Langlès, and Alexander Hamilton. These included eminent Indologists like Friedrich and August Schlegel339, Franz Bopp340, Jules Mohl341 and Max Müller.342 In fact the majority of appointments in Germany to chairs of Indian languages during the early nineteenth-century were students of de Sacy. According to Henri Dehérain,

There is no other country in Europe where he had as many contacts as in Germany. Every university there possessed a chair of Oriental languages. The occupants of these chairs during the first part of the nineteenth Century, with only a few exceptions, were his former students. The list is long:... Bopp [in Berlin] ... Freytag in Bonn, Gottfried Kosegarten in Jena...343


A new Chair of Sanskrit was created at the Collège de France in 1815, the first major appointment in Europe. The Collège was the pre-eminent school of Indic studies during the nineteenth-century. By 1830 the Ecole nationale des langues orientales, also called Langues O created a chair of Hindustani. In 1868 the Ecole des Hautes Etudes at the Sorbonne was founded and soon after a chair of Indian literature was established there, as well as several posts or 'directions d‟études‘ relating to the study of Indian philology or religion at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes.

In 1821 the Société Asiatique was formed in Paris. Apart from the Asiatick Society of Bengal which was based in India, this was the first society for Asian studies that had been formed in Europe, the London Asiatic Society only being founded in 1825. Silvestre de Sacy was the first chair in 1822 and the Duc d‘Orleans, later king of France was the honorary Chairman. The Duc was an active participant in the Société‘s meetings and other undertakings, contributing generously of his time and money to the Société and often acting as its spokesman in the public sphere where he publicized the activities of the Société and its members, stressed the importance of Asia in understanding human history and even asked for subsidies. After he ascended to the throne he subsidized the Société from royal funds.344 In 1823 the Société began publication of the Journal Asiatique, which again was the premier publication for European Indologists.345 The Presidents of the Société during its first century of existence were a veritable who‘s- who of Indology, including Silvestre de Sacy (1822-1829 and again from 1832-34), Abel Rémusat (1829-1832), Amédée Jaubert (1834-1847), Joseph Reinaud (1847-1867), Jules Mohl (1867-1876), Garcin de Tassy (1876-1878), Adolphe Régnier (1878-1884), Ernest Renan (1884-1892), Barbier de Meynard (1892-1908), Emile Sénart (1908-1928) and Sylvain Lévi (1928-1935). The majority of these officials were Indologists, as is clear from the above list. After 1935 the presence of French scholars studying the Far East became prominent, but Indologists continued to form a formidable portion of the Société. The first ten years of the journal, the old series, numbering from one to ten contained mostly translations of Indian texts. The articles included the work of German, British and French Indologists. The Journal was published as Nouveau Journal Asiatique from 1828 to 1835, after which it was published as Journal Asiatique, troisieme série. Since this time, from 1835 to 2009, the journal has been published in a series consisting of 10 years and 20 volumes, with six issues each year, except for 1920 when it was necessary to reduce the number of issues to 4. The new series, starting in 1830, listed literature reviews, extracts of originals translated into French, lists of works published or encouraged by the Society, a list of the Society‘s members (both French and foreign), minutes of the meetings of the Society, death notices, letters to the Editor, reports on bibliographic catalogues and collections as well as advertisements for new works. In addition the society sponsored the publication of most of the important works on Indology in the nineteenth century, like the translations of Indian texts by Antoine Chézy, Eugene Burnouf and James Darmestetter. As the incumbent president, Sénart remarked during the festivities marking the centenary of the Société, ―The annals of our society during this century are the annals of French Orientalism; the Society continues to be a constant inspiration.'346

Meanwhile British scholars at the Asiatic Society of Calcutta continued to study India. The legacy of William Jones‘ romantic view of India continued with Charles Wilkins‘ publication of the Bhagavad Gita in 1785. In describing the Bhagavad Gita as the source of all religious revelation for the brahmans, Wilkins focussed only on the brahmins of North India, worshippers of Vishnu. Describing them as extremely intelligent and possessing a sophisticated intellect, he also distinguished between the intellect of the brahmins and the credulous and ignorant masses, whom the former lived off, by playing on their fears and superstitions. Despite the laudatory description of Indian thought, Wilkins also represented the emerging school of imperial administrators (although William Jones also began his study of Indian texts as a result of his belief that it was necessary for improved administration) who judged Hindu thought by its closeness to Western norms of achievement The monotheistic nature of Hindu worship i.e. the focus of worship being on Krishna, as representative of the Godhead, raised the intellectual achievement of the Brahman for Wilkins, since they had come close to the western notion of one God and therefore had moved away form the polytheistic nature of anthropomorphic religions.

Other British administrators who took up the study of Indian texts from an interest in administration included Nathaniel Brassey Halhed. Upon studying various Indian legal texts Halhed stressed the extent to which the Hindus had been misunderstood and reduced to idolaters and false believers. He pointed to the very highly developed legal system of the Hindus as proof of their advanced thinking. Reiterating the high level of intellectual achievement he described the various grammars- of Sanskrit particularly, as evidence of the high cultural, literary and intellectual level attained by the Hindus. The extreme precision and extent of legal provision for the exercise of justice was for Halhed, proof of the complex social structure and civilization of the Hindus.

More important than these contributions to translating Sanskrit texts was the fact that British works were directly aimed at establishing colonial law in India. To that end, scholars like Halhed also recognized that while the brahmins might claim that authority in India emanated from ancient Sanskrit texts, it was necessary to learn vernacular languages in order to effectively rule the different Indian provinces. French Indologists continued to study Sanskrit texts as the key to understanding India. So the study of Sanskrit as the key to understanding the ancient civilization of India continued to be dominated by Paris.
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Re: Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

Postby admin » Sat Oct 31, 2020 6:23 am

Part 2 of 2

A changing tide: the end of romanticism

Some aspects of the image of India in France continued from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. But there were other changes taking place, notably in the change from romantic writings to scientific writings. In the first decade of the nineteenth Voltaire‘s romantic view of India flourished beyond the narrow scope of the salon and was incorporated into the Académie which had published the work of Deguignes,347 and Duperron348 in the eighteenth century.349 Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Langlès also viewed India in romantic terms. Another scholar, Louis Langlois, believed that literature was the expression of society.350 To him, understanding Sanskrit literature was a window to understanding the nature of Indians, especially since the unchanging nature of the customs and traditions of India and Indians were captured by their writers.351 Based on the study of translated Sanskrit literature, Langlois described the Indian as gentle, tranquil, pacifist, and moderate, occupied with his destiny and religion more than with politics or laws. He was a stranger to progress, change and the movement of civilization looking instead for monotony, triumph over passion and over the bodily needs by recourse to philosophy and conquering emotions.352

The last great romantic Indologist of the nineteenth century in France, Antoine Chézy353 was also the first French Indologist of note in the nineteenth century. A student of Silvestre de Sacy who taught Persian at the Collège de France, he began his academic profession as a scholar of Persian. But soon, Chézy was drawn to Indic studies after reading Kalidasa‘s Shakuntala which had been translated into various languages and had undergone many academic interpretations after William Jones‘ first work on the play. Caught up in this great Indic wave, Chézy decided to make the shift from Arabist to Indologist. Yet afraid that this shift in interest would annoy his teacher Chézy studied Sanskrit on his own in secret even though Alexander Hamilton had acquired a sizable student following in Paris by this time. Without either a grammar or a dictionary Chézy mastered Sanskrit by surrounding himself with the mass of Sanskrit manuscripts available at the Bibliothèque Nationale. He pored over the early seventeenth and eighteenth-century attempts at putting together grammars, and added to that knowledge with the latest publications of the Asiatick Society of Bengal. Based on this study he managed to learn the language and published his best known work in 1830. This was his translation of the Shakuntala, the play which had inspired him to pursue Indic studies.

Chézy‘s work was a breakthrough for Indic studies because he had managed to acquire and translate the play directly from the Sanskrit, without the need for a brahmin to translate or act as an intermediary. Thus even though the brahmins were still recalcitrant, Europeans could now access Sanskrit texts. According to Filliozat,

The ―Essay Informing of Grammar' preserved at the Library of the King was thus not without playing a meritorious part in the beginnings of Indianism in allowing for the first time, a European to [be] initiated to Sanskrit without the help of a pandit, before the time when the printed [Sanskrit] works thanks to the pandits could make initiation relatively easy.354


This was a first for Indic studies and set the tone for subsequent standards of Indology. Jean Reynaud commented on the importance of Chézy‘s work when he noted that ―For several years almost all the progress made in France toward an understanding of the Sanskrit language and its treasures has resulted from the work of a single man: Chézy.'355 Following Chézy‘s work there was a scramble to learn Sanskrit and to translate 'original‘ Sanskrit texts rather than relying on other translations. Chézy‘s work had demonstrated the enormous gulf that existed between the linguistic, poetic, and literary quality of the original and the translated Arabic or Persian version. More than ever, Chézy‘s translation of the Sanskrit play underlined the high literary quality of the language and therefore of the people who had used it. From now it became a point of academic integrity to use original texts rather than using later versions of popular literary works, or relying to contemporary interpretations. This endeavor literally opened up the ancient literary canon to the West, both in terms of massive manhunts to uncover copies of original texts as well as analyses of these texts. In 1832, the well known liberal scholar Jean-Denis Lanjuinais completed a French translation of the Bhagavad-Gita directly from Sanskrit. Soon Vedic studies led to studies of Hinduism and Vedism, as well as exploring the linkages between ancient religions. Chézy‘s translation set off a chain of studies in comparative philology and the historical links between ancient civilizations. Although he was not as prolific as some of his counterparts like Burnouf356, Chézy devoted himself to teaching357, and his importance, both as an individual and an academic, is memorialized in a biographical article written by his first teacher, Silvestre de Sacy in the Mémoires de l'Académie de belles-lettres et inscriptions. 358

During Chézy‘s brief lifetime, an important shift occurred in the study of India. This shift was a move to study Indic literature in a more precise, scientific fashion. In a controversy that erupted within the Société Asiatique, French Orientalists became divided into two camps: the Florists or those who romanticized the Orient and focused on the style and flourish of Oriental literature and the anti-Florists who wanted to rely entirely on direct translations from Oriental texts and do away with romanticism.359 The rift within the Society was obvious enough to be mentioned in the various Journals of the day. For instance, the Revue Brittanique noted the rift between those members of the Society it termed 'Whigs‘ and the group who opposed them, and warned that the Journal was in danger of closing since the members who opposed the Whigs were publishing their work in other journals.

It is said that there does not exist a perfect harmony between the members of the Asiatic Society… this schism, indeed, is extremely prejudicial to the interest of the newspaper; distinguished orientalists are to insert their productions [publications] in other collections, and, inter alia; in the collection of the Memoires of the Geographic Society.360


Among the prominent Indic Florists were Chézy, Langlois and de Tassy. The early years of the Société Asiatique were dominated by them. The Florists emphasized the romantic, aesthetic, and poetic element of the East rather than precise translations- characteristics which led to their derision as 'philologer-poets‘.361 Naudet describing Chézy as the archetypal Florist wrote of him as

of a gentle and melancholy nature, with an elegant and classical imagination, was above all in love with the forms of poetry of that language [Sanskrit] that appeared to be an emanation of Eden. Because of his desire to be systematic, or the desire to attract an audience to this unknown literature more easily, he only showed its beauty adorned in gauze and embroidery. He applied himself to transposing these strange and gigantic figures into proportions and French structures of design, substituting an artificial ideal for an actual ideal.362 360 ―On dit qu‘il n‘existe pas une harmonie parfaite entre les members de la Société Asiatique…ce schisme, en effet, est fort préjudiciable aux intérêt du journal; des orientalistes distingués sont insérer leurs productions dans d‘autres recueils, et, entre autres; dans la collection des mémoires de la Société de Géographie.' ―Littérature orientale', Revue Brittanique, vol. 17, (Mar- Apr. 1828): 277- 78.


The faction opposing the Florists wanted a more rigorous, scientific examination of texts. By the mid- 1820‘s the disagreement had become personal363 with the established Florists seeking to exclude the anti-Florists from positions in the Société Asiatique. In 1826 the president of the Société Asiatique, de Sacy advocated the position of the Florists by suggesting the exclusion of anti-Florists from the Journal Asiatique. In response the anti-Florists voted to replace the Florist Garcin de Tassy with the anti- Florist Burnouf as assistant secretary of the Société. Chézy was furious and his ire was noted by Burnouf who wrote "This excited a rage by the de Chézy party which expressed itself in every means possible and which truly causes me quite a fright."364 The serious dissension almost led to the dissolution of the Société by 1828. In 1852 Jules Mohl noted that the Société had narrowly ―escaped the great danger of internal dissension.'365

By 1829 the older generation of Florists who held the executive positions in the Société Asiatique were beginning to relinquish their hold over the Société. De Sacy retired and Chézy left the helm of the Journal Asiatique. The anti-Florist Abel Rémusat replaced Sacy as the president of the Société and Burnouf became the Secretary. The death of Chézy in 1832 was the last blow to the Indic Florists who had no more well connected teachers.

The victory of the anti-Florists led to the domination of this group within the Société and Journal Asiatique. As Douglas McGetchin points out, although individual Florists like Langlois and Lanjuinais continued in their romantic focus, the institutional shift from romanticism to scientific examination was made in the years of the Florist controversy.

In the early years of the nineteenth century the image of India in France and in Britain was of an ancient civilization which had proved its intellectual and philosophical greatness through the corpus of Sanskrit brahminic literature. Despite the actual situation of India being a land of frequent military warfare as the British sought to expand their empire, the presentation of India in scholarly works and popular operas alike was of a romantic, lyrical civilization summed up in Chézy‘s starting flourish to the inaugural issue of the Journal Asiatique- "The Greek muses would today make homage to their sisters on the banks of the Ganges and suspend for a moment the scholarly harmony of the lyre to give room to the sounds, perhaps a little delicate, of the Indian lute."366

The next chapter opens up a new era in French Indology. Reflecting on Florist works like Chézy‘s as 'erotic and emotional rubbish‘367, the anti-Florists like Jules Mohl and Burnouf inaugurated the nineteenth-century quest for empiricism in the field of Indology. Yet the shift meant significant changes to the trajectory of Indic studies in France and, as a result, the image of India in France. These issues are the main theme of the next section.

Table 1: List of articles about India in the Magazin Encyclopédique ou Journal des sciences, des lettres et des arts, 1795-96. Paris, Imprimérie du Magazin Encyclopédique.

Year / No / Title / Author / Content


1795 / 2 / Notice sur les travaux typographiques et littéraires des Anglais dans l‘Inde / Louis Langlès / Bibliographic catalogue
1795 / 3 / Suite de la Notice sur les travaux typographiques et littéraires des Anglais dans l‘Inde / Louis Langlès / Bibliographic catalogue
1795 / 4 / - / - / -
1795 / 5 / - / - / -
1795 / 6 / Notice sur l‘Indoustan, tirée des manuscripts de la Bibliothèque Nationale / Louis Langlès / Bibliographic catalogue
1795 / 6 / The history of Hindostan, c‘est-à-dire, Histoire de l‘Indoustan, de ces arts, de ses sciences, envisages dans leur connexion, avec l‘histoire des autres grands empires de l‘Asie, aux époques les plus reculées, avec un grand nombre de planches explicatives, par l‘auteur des Antiquités de l‘Inde. / Louis Langlès / Book review
1795 / 6 / Le mort de Raynal / - / Death notice of Abbé Raynal
1796 / 1 / Notice sur la vie et des ouvrages de Gauillaume- Thomas Raynal, member de l‘Institut national, lui à la séance publique de 15 germinal / Joachim Le Breton, secrétaire de la classe des sciences morales et politiques / Biography of Raynal
1796 / 1 / A Journey overland to India, etc; c‘est-à- dire, Voyage dans l‘inde par terre, et en partie par une route qui n‘a été pratiquée jusqu‘ici par aucun Européen, par Donald Campbell / - / Book Review


Table 2: List of articles about India, 1803- 1805 in the Journal des Débats et des Décrets

Number / Date / Title / Author / Content


- / Oct. 30, 1803/ Spectacles: review of Aline ou la Reine de Golconde, playing at the Thèâtre de l‘Opéra-Comique / - / Theater review
- / Feb. 20, 1804 / Translation of Robert Percival‘s work on Ceylon: Voyage à l‘île de Ceylan / P F Henry / Travels
- / Mar. 1, 1804 / Mémoire sur les laines et les moutons du Cachemire et du Boutan, le à la Société d‘agriculture de Paris, dans la séance du 7 frimair, an IX / Le Goux de Flaix / Travels
- / - / Voyage à l‘île de Ceylan, part II / P F Henry / Travels
- / Mar. 11, 1804 / Histoire naturelle des deux Eléphans… de l‘Inde / - / Travel/ accounts of curiosities
- / - / Mémoire sur les laines et les moutons du Cachemire et du Boutan, le à la Société d‘agriculture de Paris, dans la séance du 7 Frimaire, an IX. Part II / Le Goux de Flaix / Travels
- / Apr. 10, 1804 / Notice des travaux de la Classe de littérature et histoire anciennes de l‘Institut Nationale. The article included a 3 page discussion of Anquetil Duperron‘s opinion of India / C. Ameilhon / Comparative literature
- / May 10, 1804 / Anecdotes Anglaises. / - / Colonial rivalry between England and France
- / June 9, 1804 / Notice historique et critique sur cette question: Est-il vrai que / Le Goux de Flaix / Travels/ Ethnologies
- / - / les veuves de l‘Indoustan soient dans l‘usage de se brûler sur le bûcher de leurs époux? / - / -
- / Oct. 22, 1804 / Notice regarding a new edition of the Lettres Édifiantes / - / Book announcement
- / Nov. 10, 1804 / Histoire d‘Hérodote, including extracts from his accounts of Persia and India / - / Book review
- / Nov. 21, 1804 / Histoire d‘Hérodote, including extracts from his accounts of Persia and India Part II / - / Book review
- / Dec. 20, 1804 / Lettre à M. le Senateur Lanjuinais, à l‘occasion de ses extraits du livre sacré des Hindous, traduit du persan en latin, sous le titre d‘Oupnek‘hat, par M. Anquetil du Perron / - / Scholarly critique/ review
- / Jan. 10, 1805 / Deuixième lettre sur l‘Oupnek‘hat de M. A D P / - / Scholarly critique/ review
- / Feb. 19, 1805 / Review of Langlès‘ Recherches sur la découverte de l‘essence de rose / - / Book Review
- / - / Notice of the death of Anquetil Duperron / - / -


In addition, articles on geography, theology, mythology, and fables, articles on Egypt, China, the Middle East, Ancien colonies and the Indian Ocean carried many references to India. Letters to the editor also included reflections on articles pertaining to India- An XII, 3 trimestré (pgs. 505, 573), An XIII, 2 trimestré (Pg. 187- 89).

_______________

Notes:

286―L‘Inde réservait donc cette surprise: une philosophie originale et profonde, une poésie delicate, naïve et savante à la fois, un art exquis, des moeurs raffinées, une civilisation antérieure à toutes les autres!' Felix Lacôte, ―L‘Indianisme', Société Asiatique: Livre du centenaire. (Paris: La Société Asiatique, 1922): 220-221.
 
287 While Voltaire was arguably very academic, I use the term academic here to demarcate individuals who lived solely by their research and publications and were appointed to academic positions.
 
288 I use the term Indology to denote a field where the study of India is accomplished through a textual study of historical works in various Indian languages. An Indologist would be an expert in at least one Indian language. The terms Indology and Indic studies are interchangeable.
 
289 The similarity between the work of Voltaire and of Deguignes end here. The two were opposed in their view of the unity of human history, Chinese history and the history of the Church. See J. G. A. Pocock, Barbarism and Religion: Narratives of Civil Government (Cambridge: CUP, 2001): 114- 117.
 
290 ―I salute you oh Lord Narayana.'
 
291 The only reference to this missionary appears in Yule‘s text. However, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary named Belchior Carneiro appears frequently in missions to the Far East. He was a central figure of the Goa inquisition and eventually went on to become the Bishop of Macao.
 
292 Henry Yule. Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. New ed. William Crooke. (London: J. Murray, 1903), 961-62. Http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... 407.hobson. Crooke, who edited this version, mentions that he was unable to locate the actual book in the British Library.
 
293 See Voltaire in Chapter two: 98.
 
294 Henry Yule. Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. New edition edited by William Crooke. (London: J. Murray, 1903): 962. Http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... 407.hobson. Sonnerat explained the nature of the Vedas in the works St. Pierre and Chaumière Indienne.
 
295 This reluctance to impart knowledge about their ancient religion can be found described in most of the early works, particularly those written by missionaries, including the Lettres Édifiantes.
 
296 Interestingly, European Indologists claimed to have 'discovered‘ ancient texts of India even though these had been around for centuries and were widely disseminated all over Asia and even parts of the African continent. Islamic writers in particular had translated many of these texts earlier and in fact the first access to Indian texts came to Europe through these Islamic translations. Yet European scholars still looked upon their findings as 'discoveries‘ based on the argument that the texts that they were studying were the 'original‘ Indian texts and not adaptations or later versions. This claim in itself was false since the oral tradition of learning in India meant that any written texts were versions of the original which had been committed to writing only centuries after being passed down orally.
 
297 Quoted in Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984): 13.
 
298 According to Trautmann, the timing of the comparison between Sanskrit and Germanic languages in the late eighteenth and nineteenth-century can be directly traced to the translation of Sanskrit by Jones, Anquetil-Duperron and others. Thomas R. Trautmann, 'Languages and Nations‘, in The Dravidian Proof in Colonial Madras (CA: University of California Press, 2006): 40-41.
 
299―…sur l‘importance de l‘Inde comme domaine humain. Si l‘Inde nous importe, en effet, ce n‘est pas seulement pour la valeur à nos yeux ou l‘intérêt pour nous de son savoir, de sa pensée, de ses institutions, de ses arts: ce n‘est pas seulement parce qu‘elle peut nous apprendre quelque chose sur notre passé ancestral, du fait qu‘elle a gardé maintes traces d‘une communauté d‘origine de son Sanskrit avec nos langues...' Jean Filliozat, 'La naissance et l‘essor de l‘indianisme‘, Bulletin de la Société des études indo-chinoises de Saigon, Vol 29, issue 4, 1954: 1.
 
300 Bernard Cohn‘s chapter on 'The command of language and the language of command‘, in his book, Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge (Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1996) deals with this issue more thoroughly.
 
301 Jacques-Benigne Bossuet was a seventeenth century French Bishop. Considered one of the greatest orators in French history he wrote his Discours sur l'histoire universelle as part of his duties to tutor the Dauphin in 1681. The work was a philosophical treatise where he described God‘s historical relationship with man in much the same manner as the Old Testament. According to him, the value of such a work was that 'This kind of universal history is to the history of every country and of every people what a world map is to particular maps. In a particular map you see all the details of a kingdom or a province as such. But a general map teaches you to place these parts of the world in their context; you see what Paris or the Ile-de-France is in the kingdom, what the kingdom is in Europe, and what Europe is in the world. In the same manner, particular histories show the sequence of events that have occurred in a nation in all their detail. But in order to understand everything, we must know what connection that history might have with others; and that can be done by a condensation in which we can perceive, as in one glance, the entire sequence of time. Such a condensation, Monseigneur, will afford you a grand view.‘: 4.
 
302 Deguignes was an Arabist and Sinologist by training. He was a professor of Arabic studies (Syriac) at the Collège de France. His interest in India came through his familiarity with various Arabic language texts which had translated Indian texts or had narrated the Muslim conquest of India.
 
303 An important aspect of French Indological studies was the active role it played in Anglo-French colonial rivalry. This rivalry was mostly articulated by officials, and later, by scholars. I deal with this aspect of Indological studies later in this chapter. However, it is interesting to note that while in Deguignes‘ time this rivalry was non-existent, the twentieth century Indologist Jean Filliozat who was very much involved in the colonial rivalry pointed out that the identification of the Greek reference to Sandrokottus as Chandra Gupta Maurya, which was credited to William Jones, was really the discovery of De Guignes who made this claim as early as 1772.
 
304 The following information about the text is via email from Eric Lewis Beverley 'The text is 'Amrita-kunda', which would be a pool or tank of nectar/ambrosia. At least that is the Sanskrit name of the text - the Arabic translation was Hauz al-Hayat, I believe. From what I recall, this is an Arabic translation of a Sanskrit mystical text found current in Northeast India that eventually became a fairly prominent text in the Middle East (and perhaps through there, Europe). The text has also been referred to by Carl Ernst in the context of Muslim mysticism in ―Situating Sufism and Yoga", Annemarie Schimmel Memorial Lecture, Royal Asiatic Society, London, Dec. 11, 2003.‘
 
305 Pillai was one of the few native Pondichériens who not only corresponded regularly with the French but also kept records of his correspondence and his work. Along with the diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai, Maridas Pillai‘s records form an important narrative of native history.
 
306 The reason why Deguignes did not ask Pillai for a Sanskrit version is a mystery. The unpublished papers of Pillai are preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale. The most recent publication of his work is J.B.P. More, La Civilisation Indienne et les Fables Hindoues du Panchatantra de Mardas Poullé (Paris, Collection Archéologie et Histoire, De Boccard, 2004) and J.B.P. More, Bagavadam ou Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Ouvrage religieux et philosophique indien traduit par Maridas Poullé de Pondichéry en 1769 (Paris: Éditions Irish, 2004).
 
307 Chinese travelers and later on, Buddhist pilgrims coming to study at the great Buddhist universities in India like Nalanda had left accounts of their travels and their descriptions of the customs and people they encountered, as early as the Mauryan period of India history in the 3rd century A.D.
 
308 Quoted in Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984): 152.
 
309 ―L‘Asie est une terre inculte que nous négligeons nous autres Européens. C‘est pourtant où le genre humain a pris sa source.' Anquetil Duperron, letter dated June 19, 1759 from Surat to Comte Caylus. Lettres Inédites d‟Henri IV et de plusieurs personages célèbres. (Paris: Henri Tardieu, An X (1802)): 222.
 
310 Although Anquetil‘s works were published later than the time Voltaire was writing about India, Voltaire possessed many such views by French adventurers and travelers in his personal library including works by Réne Madec, Abbé Raynal, Thèvenot, Tavernier etc. In addition he debated this view in his letters and was informed of scholars like Anquetil by his correspondents. For a complete list of the works on India found in his library see the appendix in Daniel Hawley, ―L'Inde de Voltaire', Studies on Voltaire and the 18th century, vol. CXX. (1974).
 
311 Much of Anquetil‘s work was first published in the Mémoires of the Académie. At least seventeen articles by Anquetil were published in the Mémoires de l‟Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres between 1763- 1785. See Zend-Avesta, discours préliminaire, commentaires et notes J. Deloche, M. et P.-S. Filliozat. (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 1997): 49-50.
 
312 Renou notes that Coeurdoux was one of the first to suggest the link between Sanskrit and the Classical languages of the West. Louis Renou, The Influence of Indian Thought on French Literature (Adyar, 1948): 2-3.
 
313 Coeurdoux and Anquetil corresponded about several topics other than Sanskrit grammar, among which they exchanged the view that Sanskrit was possibly as old as Greek and Latin. Lettres Inédites d‟Henri IV et de plusieurs personages célèbres. (Paris: Henri Tardieu, An X (1802)).
 
314 Letter dated Dec 15, 1754 from the Orient. Ibid: 219.
 
315 According to Deloche and Filliozat, Zend-Avesta, discours préliminaire, commentaires et notes J. Deloche, M. et P.-S. Filliozat. (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 1997): 52, Anquetil describes the huge drain of wealth from Bengal following the British victory at the Battle of Plassey as well as the exploitation of that country by Europeans. But the threefold conclusion is the opinion of Deloche and Filliozat, indicating that academic rivalry between the French and English still exists.
 
316 Letter dated Dec 15, 1754 from the Orient. Lettres Inédites d‟Henri IV et de plusieurs personages célèbres. (Paris: Henri Tardieu, An X (1802)): 219. Presumably Anquetil meant the Sanskrit script when he referred to the 'Indian script‘. The theory was based on a belief in the interaction between ancient civilizations and cultural exchange which would have lead to common practices in culture and language.
 
317 I use this term to indicate the belief in the essential equality of all people and the ability of all humans to distinguish between right and wrong based on rational thought.
 
318 Zend-Avesta, discours préliminaire, commentaires et notes J. Deloche, M. et P.-S. Filliozat. (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 1997): 5- 6.
 
319 Ibid: 7- 10.
 
320 Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe. An essay in understanding. (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1988): 369. Cited from Anquetil Duperron, Recherches historiques et géographiques,appendix: 66.
 
321 Zend-Avesta, discours préliminaire, commentaires et notes J. Deloche, M. et P.-S. Filliozat. (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 1997): 66-69.
 
322 Quoted in Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984): 159-160.
 
323 Anquetil- Duperron, Zend Avesta, ouvrage de Zoroastre (Paris: N. M. Tilliard, 1771). 3 vols.
 
324 Anquetil- Duperron, Oupnek‟hat (Strasbourg: Levrault, 1801).
 
325 Jean Bernoulli, Description historique et géographique de l'Inde (Berlin: Impr. de C.S. Spener, 1786-1789).
 
326 George Sarton, ―Anquetil-Duperron (1731-1805)', Osiris, Vol. 3 (1937): 213.
 
327 Although their views were similar, Voltaire posited India as an alternative to the Judeo-Christian tradition, while Jones has traditionally been viewed as conforming to Mosaic tradition. See Sharada Sugirtharajah, Imagining Hinduism: A Postcolonial Perspective (New York: Routledge, 2003): chapter 1.
 
328 William Jones, Asiatick Researches, vol. 1 (1789): 258.
 
329 Ibid: 259.
 
330 Charles Allen, The Search for the Buddha: The Men Who Discovered India's Lost Religion (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2004 reprint): 43- 44.
 
331 Cited in Garland Cannon, The life and mind of Oriental Jones: Sir William Jones, the father of modern linguistics (Cambridge: CUP, 1990): 44.

332 Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe. An essay in understanding. (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1988): 58.

333 Table 1 is a sample of articles published in the Magazin in 1795 and 1796. The Magazin had replaced several scholarly journals which had suspended publication during the Revolution, including the Journal des savans [sic], Journal encyclopédique, Journal de Physique, Journal d‟Histoire naturelle, Annales de Chymie, and Esprit des Journaux. As the table illustrates the only French contribution that was not a book review was Langlès‘ bibliography of Indic works in the Bibliothèque nationale, but French academics were trying to stay current with Indic works.
 
334 Table 2 provides a sample of Indic articles in the Journal from late 1803 to early 1805.
 
335 The earliest interest in a journal dedicated to Indian studies was the publication of the Asiatick Researches by the Asiatick Society of Bengal, formed by the initiative of William Jones in Calcutta towards the end of the eighteenth century. By the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the Asiatick Society of Bengal was a respected and reputed society and had gained acclaim in the academic world for its efforts towards furthering an understanding of Indian history and civilization. In France this achievement was duly recognized by the increasing numbers of French academics subscribing and contributing to the journal.
 
336 ―Paris, qui comptait d‘illustres orientalistes, était désigné pour devenir le premier centre d‘études sanskrites en Europe: si l‘on n‘y avait point de pandits, comme à Calcutta, on y possédait la fameuse collection de manuscrits de la Bibliothèque.' Felix Lacôte, ―L‘Indianisme', Société Asiatique: Livre du centenaire. (Paris: La Société Asiatique, 1922): 220-221.
 
337 Jean-Marie Lafont‘s study of the French officers in the court of various Indian princes during the nineteenth century reveals that they were avid collectors and amateur patrons and archivists of the arts and literature of their kingdoms. Many had written about the histories and cultures of their regions thus contributing greatly to French knowledge of India. Some of these notable French mercenary- savants served at the courts of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the kingdom of Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan like Maistre de la Tour, Loustaunau, Saint-Lubin , de Montigny, Chevalier du Drence, and Benoît de Boigne under the Marathas, Allard, Henri Court and Ventura at the court of Ranjit Singh of the Punjab and Gentil and Claude Martin at the court of the Nawab of Awadh. Most of these men were also high court functionaries and therefore had the material means to accumulate these collections and become patrons of local art and architecture. They also corresponded with scholars in France and initiated hunts for local manuscripts which enriched their own personal libraries as well as collections of Indic manuscripts in France. In 1836, for example, Court and Allard, who were employed in the Punjab under Ranjit Singh and were enthusiastic patrons of local art received a text titled ‗Instructions de l‟Académie‟. The text was issued by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles- Lettres following the advice of a select committee composed of Walkenaer, Eugene Burnouf, Raoul- Rochette, Fauriel and Langlois all of whom were respected Indologists. The document issued to Court and Allard laid out directions to further archaeological surveys in the Punjab. The Académie also asked for maps, site descriptions, and texts of inscriptions, drawings of monuments and bas-reliefs and even the collection of texts which existed in Punjab libraries to be sent as additions to the Indian collections of the Bibliothèque. Jean-Marie Lafont, Indika. Essays in Indo-French Relations, 1630- 1976. (Delhi: Manohar, 2000): ch. 3.

338 L. Finot, ―Historique de la Société Asiatique, ' Le Livre du Centenaire, 1822- 1922. (Paris: Société Asiatique, 1922): 12. 
 
339 The Schlegel bothers were the founders of the German school of Romanticism as well as the German school of Indology. August Schlegel held the first Chair of Indology in Germany at Bonn in 1818.
 
340 Based on his philological comparisons of Sanskrit, Latin and Germanic languages, Bopp was appointed to the first Chair of Sanskrit and comparative Grammar in Berlin by 1821. He was among the earliest philologists and attributed much of his inspiration to his Parisian teacher Chézy.
 
341 Mohl was to become so attached to Parisian Indology that he would settle down and take French citizenship, as well as rising to become the secretary of the Société Asiatique by its 25th year.
 
342 Müller, easily Germany‘s most famous Indologist, began his career as Burnouf‘s student in Paris. Douglas T. McGetchin, ―Wilting Florists: The Turbulent Early Decades of the Société Asiatique, 1822-1860', Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 64, No. 4 (2003):567
 
343 ―Mais dans aucun pays d'Europe, Silvestre de Sacy n'eut autant de relations qu'en Allemagne. Toute Université y possédait une chaire de langues orientales et de cette chaire le titulaire fut pendant la premiére moitié du XIXe siécle à quelques exceptions près, un de ses anciens élèves. La liste en est longue:... Franz Bopp ... Freytag à Bonn, Gottfried Kosegarten à Iéna...." Henri Dehérain, Silvestre de Sacy (Paris, 1938): xxxii. Cited in ibid: 568. Despite his encouragement of Indology, de Sacy did not publish a single original piece on Indology, which is why he has been omitted in this chapter. 
 
344 Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984 ): 82.
 
345 See Société Asiatique, Le Livre du Centenaire (1822- 1922). (Paris, 1922)
 
346 ―Les annales de notre Société, pendant ce siècle, sont les annales meme de l‘orientalisme française; elle en est l‘inspiratrice constant.'Société Asiatique. Les Fêtes du Centenaire. (Paris, 1922): 10.
 
347 Deguignes, 'Recherches sur quelques événemens qui concernent l‘histoire des Rois Grecs de la Bactriane, & particulièrement la destruction de leur Royaume par les Scythes, l‘établissement de ceux-ci le long de l‘Indus, & les guerres qu‘ils eurent avec les Parthes‘, Vol 25, (1759); 'Réflexions sur un Livre Indien, intitulé Bagavadam, un des dix-huit Pouranam ou Livres sacrés des Indiens, dont la traduction a été envoyé en 1769 à M. Bertin, Ministre & Secrétaire d‘Etat‘, Vol 38, (1777); 'Recherches historiques sur la Religion Indienne, & sur les Livres fondamentaux de cette Religion, qui ont été traduits de l‘Indien en Chinois. Premier Mémoire. Etablissement de la Religion Indienne dans l‘Inde, la Tartarie, le Thibet & les Isles‘, 'Recherches historiques sur la Religion Indienne. Second Mémoire. Etablissement de la Religion Indienne dans la Chine, & son Histoire jusqu‘en 531 de J.C.‘, 'Recherches historiques sur la Religion Indienne. Troisième Mémoire. Suite de la Religion Indienne à la Chine‘, Vol 40, (1780); 'Observations historiques & géographiques sur le récit de Pline, concernant l‘origine, l‘antiquité des Indiens, & la Géographie de leur pays, avec des recherches sur les principals révolutions de l‘Inde‘, Vol 45, (1793), Histoire de l‟académie royale des inscriptions et belles lettres. (Paris: Imprimérie Royale)
 
348 Anquetil- Duperron, 'relation abrégée du voyage que M. Anquetil- Duperron a fait dans l‘Inde pour la recherche et la traduction des ouvrages attribués à Zoroastre‘, vol. 1762, 'Mémoire dans lequel on établit que les livres zends déposés à la Bibliothèque du roi le 15 mars 1762‘ May 1769 (part 1), Jun 1769 (part 2), 'Observation sur trois cartes…‘, 1776.
 
349 The Journal de Savants was the leader in publishing articles about India. Between 1665- 1797, when the Journal was suspended during the Revolution, the articles published on India equaled 162. gallica.bnf.fr.
 
350 Louis Langlois, Monumens Littéraires de l‟Inde ou Mélanges de literature sanscrite (Paris, 1827): 3.
 
351 Ibid.
 
352 Ibid: 4
 
353 Born at Neuilly in 1773, Chézy was originally prepared to follow his father‘s profession as an engineer. In 1799, however, Chézy succeeded in obtaining a post in the oriental department of the national library.
 
354 ―L‘<<essai informe de grammaire>> conservé à la Bibliothèque du Roi n‘a donc pas été sans jouer un rôle méritoire dans les débuts de l‘indianisme en permettant pour la première fois à un européen de s‘initier au sanscrit sans le secours d‘un pandit, avant le temps où les travaux imprimés grâce aux pandits pouvaient rendre l‘initiation relativement facile.' Jean Filliozat, ―Une grammaire sanscrite du XVIII siècle et les débuts de l‘indianisme en France', Bulletin de la Société des Études Indochinoises, 29.4, (1954): 276.
 
355 Quoted in Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984): 94.
 
356 Burnouf complained to M.Bopp that ―Mr. [de] Chézy, as you ought to know, says that he will publish everything and publishes nothing." ("Mais M. Chézy comme vous devez savoir, dit qu'il publiera tout et ne publie rien.") Burnouf to Bopp, 14 Nov. 1825 letter. Cited in Douglas T. McGetchin, ―Wilting Florists: The Turbulent Early Decades of the Société Asiatique, 1822-1860', Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 64, No. 4 (2003): 569
 
357 Bopp wrote to A. W. Schlegel on 13 February 1825 with resignation: "There's not much to expect out of de Chézy; perhaps his students will accomplish more." Cited in McGetchin: 570.
 
358 Silvestre de Sacy, Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de m. de Chézy, lue à la séance publique de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, du 14 août 1835. (Paris, Impr. de C. Eberhart, 1835).
 
359 Douglas T. McGetchin, ―Wilting Florists: The Turbulent Early Decades of the Société Asiatique, 1822-1860', Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 64, No. 4 (2003): 565-66. The controversy has also been referred to in L. Finot, ―Historique de la Société Asiatique, ' Le Livre du Centenaire, 1822- 1922. (Paris: Société Asiatique, 1922)
 
361"philologues poètes" F. E. Schultz, "Sur le grand Ouvrage historique et critique d'Ibn-Khaldoun, appelé: Kitab-ol-iber we diwan-ol moubteda wel khaber, etc." Journal Asiatique 7 (1825): 218. Cited in Douglas T. McGetchin, ―Wilting Florists: The Turbulent Early Decades of the Société Asiatique, 1822-1860', Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 64, No. 4 (2003): 570.
 
362 ―douce et mélancolique [sic] nature, [sic] imagination élégante et classique, s'était épris surtout des formes et de la poésie de ce langage qui lui semblait une émanation de l'Éden; et, soit esprit de système, soit désir d'attirer plus facilement son auditoire à cette littérature inconnue, il n'en montrait les beautés que parées de gaze et de broderies, et il s'appliquait à ramener aux proportions et au dessin de la physionomie française ces étranges et gigantesques figures, substituant un idéal artificiel à l'idéal véritable." Joseph Naudet, Notice Historique sur MM. Burnouf, Pere et Fils (Paris, 1854): 27. Cited in McGetchin: 568-69.
 
363 Chézy was a particular target for the anti-Florists, with Schlegel calling him the "remora of the Sanskrit ship." Felix Lacôte, "L'Indianisme," in Le Livre du Centenaire (1822-1922), ed. Société Asiatique (Paris, 1922): 221-22; Finot writing almost a hundred years later derided Chézy as well. ―"Then in 1833, M. de Sacy made a funeral eulogy for Rémusat and [de] Chézy, whom he called 'the two colossi of Asian studies.' [de] Chézy, a colussus!" ("Encore en 1833, M. de Sacy, faisant l'éloge funèbre de Rémusat et du Chézy, les appelle 'ces deux colosses des études asiatigues'. Chezy, un colosse!") Loius Finot, "Historique de la Société Asiatique," Le Livre du Centenaire: 17
 
364 "Cela a excité dans le parti Chézy une rage qui s'exhale par tous les moyens possibles et qui vraiment me cause quelque effroi." Eugène Burnouf's letters to Christian Lassen on 4 April and 8 May 1826, quoted in Finot, "Historique de la Société Asiatique," Le Livre du Centenaire: 16-17. Cited in McGetchin: 573.
 
365 Jules Mohl, Vingt-sept Ans d‟histoire des etudes orientales: Rapport faits à la Société Asiatique de Paris de 1840 à 1867. 2 vols. (Paris: Reinwald, 1879-80), vol. I: 450.
 
366 Antoine Chézy, 'L‘Ermitage de Kandou‘, Journal Asiatique, Jul 1822, vol 1: 3.
 
367 Douglas T. McGetchin, ―Wilting Florists: The Turbulent Early Decades of the Société Asiatique, 1822-1860', Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 64, No. 4 (2003): 569.
 
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Re: Claiming India, by Jyoti Mohan

Postby admin » Sat Oct 31, 2020 7:07 am

Part 1 of 2

Chapter 4: The Era of Empiricism and the rise of Philology

For me, Gentlemen, I think, to the honor of scholarship, that work of the erudite men who devoted their life to the study of India will not be sterile for the old story of this country. I have the hope that the meeting of, as well of efforts, will finish some day by rebuilding the most brilliant and perhaps the richest literary history as people can offer to the curiosity and the admiration of Europe.368


With the eclipse of the Florists a new era of Indology dominated by empirical, scientific comparisons began. The harbingers of this change were Eugene Burnouf, Abel Rémusat, and Jules Mohl. Many of the anti-Florists were keenly interested in the natural sciences and wanted to bring a similar accuracy to their work on linguistics. Accordingly the period from 1835- 1855 saw an increased focus on philology. In return, natural scientists like Cuvier noted the impact that linguistics had on their studies. Cuvier specifically noted the contribution that French Indic linguists had made through their work on the ‘sacred books of the Hindus‘ to help open human history.369 This chapter looks at the new beginning that Indology and the image of India in France made in the nineteenth century with the advent of comparative philology.

Indology was funded primarily by the government in France. The major institutions of Indology- the Collège de France and the Sorbonne- were both supported financially by the government. In addition the major vehicles of Indological publications were financially supported by the Government. The Journal de Savants was (and is) the journal for the Institut Française, specifically the Académie des Inscription et Belles-Lettres which was (and is) the Humanities group within the Institut. Additionally the Société Asiatique and its journal, the Journal Asiatique, was funded by the Académie des Inscription et Belles-Lettres since its inception in 1822. As Schwab points out, the close relationship between the Société Asiatique and the restoration government of Louis Philippe was common knowledge, with the latter being a generous patron and even holding the position of Honorary Chairman of the society. The prestigious position of Orientalism in French academia was cemented by the fact that the ‘Orientalist group‘ constituted (and continues to constitute) one of four informal groups comprising the Académie des Inscription et Belles-Lettres. By the early nineteenth century, all higher education in France was funded by the government, with teachers and professors being state employees. The connection between the fortunes of Indology and the interests of the State, particularly in research institutions like the Collège de France, Sorbonne, and the Académie des Inscription et Belles-Lettres are undeniable. According to Schwab, ‘These [Oriental] studies were important to the State…by quieting national memories.‘370 France in the mid- nineteenth century was still smarting from her military loss to England in the previous century. According to Jennifer Pitts, the Restoration government, in an effort to recapture France‘s prior glory as well as to prove itself an adequate replacement for Napoleon, sought without success to rebuild the empire in India, Indochina and West Africa.371 In this context, France‘s shifting colonial interests (to North Africa and South East Asia) meant that Indology was no longer politically useful. The status of Indology therefore became precarious by 1840. In order to preserve itself, the discipline needed to appeal, if not to popular demand, then at least to immediate intellectual needs, such as the need for increased Buddhist studies in response to France‘s expanding colonial empire in the Far East. These were the changes which took place in Indology during the period from 1835- 1855 and which were reflected in the image of India in France.

The new Philology

The major change which had occurred in Indology was the view of scholars on how to go about studying India. The older school of romantics, which focused on the achievements of Sanskritic culture, was now eclipsed by scientific academics who put aside the content of the writings as being representative of hyperbole and focused instead on grammar, syntax, and the comparison of languages. The era of philology was inaugurated in Indic studies- important for the links it demonstrated between Sanskrit and other languages of antiquity. By the third decade of the nineteenth-century, scholars who had been looking for clues to the origin of the Indo-European stumbled upon the linguistic affinities between the classical languages of the West and many of the languages of the East, especially Sanskrit and Avestic. As Burnouf put it, ―the common relationship of the dialects of Europe… and which presented the more striking analogies with Greek, Latin and the Germanic and Slav dialects… it is the Sanskrit of the Brahmans.'372 These contributions to the study of man and history made philology valuable. According to Burnouf, ―The family ties which link it [Sanskrit] with the idioms of erudite Europe are undeniable, and this result, most singular of those was obtained in this day [through] philology, is also most obviously demonstrated.' 373 He saw the similarities between Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and the Germanic and Latin languages. But unlike Voltaire and the earlier Florists, Burnouf cautioned against using comparative philology to build theories about the relative antiquity of civilizations and the notion that India was the source for the Greek and Roman cultures. In 1840 he wrote in his translation of the Bhagawata Purana, ‘I don‘t need to point out that I found here absolutely no trace of Greek or Christian ideas where the Indian works in which up to now such ideas have supposedly been positively identified.‘374

By 1826 a breakthrough occurred with the publication of a joint work by Eugene Burnouf and Christian Lassen titled Essai sur le Pali. In the words of Joseph Naudet,

E. Burnouf proposed a more virile and more serious object; he wanted to seek the traces of the filiation of people, the family ties between the East and the Occident, and the hereditary titles of European races, conserved in the analogies of the signs of their thought; to disentangle and promulgate the laws of decomposition of the originating idioms in the old languages and the modern languages, to find finally by/ through grammar, the great epochs of the history of the human family.375


Therefore a scholarly interest in discovering the linguistic origins of different people was already becoming popular. In the case of India, the close study of languages, particularly of Sanskrit, was related to the search for the origins of Indo-European or Aryan languages. As Naudet points out, Burnouf‘s work was an important milestone in the linguistic comparison of Indo-European languages and therefore of the Indo-European people.

Based on the linguistic similarities between the dramas which had been written in a common language called Prakrit and dated to the early centuries AD in India and Sanskrit, Burnouf and Lassen were able to prove that the former was a vernacular, vulgar form of the more refined Sanskrit. Furthermore there were linguistic and philological similarities between Prakrit and another vernacular called Pali in which most of the Indian Buddhist texts were composed. By a rigorous process of comparison and dating, Burnouf and Lassen were able to conclusively prove that Pali had Sanskrit origins.

Linguistic studies looked at the different versions of texts and analyzed the changes in syntax and grammar making it possible to date the different recensions of a text, and interpret the differences in presentation and storyline as the result of historical process. Since many texts were written late in the historical period, relying on oral transmission for preservation the written text could offer valuable clues about the material culture of the time, as well as changes which occurred in religion like the expansion of the pantheon and the development of new sects.376 Indologists rely on this method to the present day, with the most popular studies having being performed on the highly prolific epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. According to Burnouf,

Man is however not forgotten in the other productions of the religious spirit of India, and the great Epics which recall the heroic history of the Brahmans and of the warlike caste [and] show it to us in the milieu of a society which combines the most advanced refinements of civilization [and] naivety of primitive manners.377


In his inaugural lecture to the College de France, Burnouf stressed the study of Indian history as a result of the philological study of Indian languages. He emphasized the advantage of being able to date and situate events in Indian history chronologically by studying the development and evolution of Sanskrit and its dialects, particularly Pali and Prakrit.378 In terms of history writing, Burnouf introduced the chronological timeline into Indic studies with his clear demarcation of the Vedic and Buddhist eras. According to Naudet, ―E. Burnouf clarified these questions in a new day [of Indic studies], and, by determining the relative times of Brahmanism and Buddhism, he introduced an element of chronology into the history of India, which seems to be unaware of real divisions of time.'379 As a direct result of the linguistic and philological methods of comparison which were favored by Burnouf, Indologists were able to create of an understandable chronological timeline for India in the place of the eighteenth-century image of India as being in a spaceless, timeless continuum, where religious belief, custom and ritual were ostensibly practised as they had originally been conceived of hundreds of years ago with no change or rupture. So rather than speak of a vague concept of India, scholars now traced the historical changes and progress of Vedic, post- Vedic, and Buddhist India.

Buddhism and its Indian Origin

In his lifetime, Burnouf published 7 monographs, 18 articles in the Journal des Savants, and a total of 36 articles and miscellaneous items in the 5 series of the Journal Asiatique. A master linguist, he had published on the Zend, Cuneiform, Sanskrit, Pali, and Nepalese languages. But his greatest achievement was the association of Buddhism with India. With Burnouf‘s debut work the origins of Buddhism in India were discovered and a huge period in Indian history hitherto forgotten now opened up to Western study.

Once the Pali Buddhist canon had been translated, Burnouf decisively established the great antiquity of these texts thereby proving that Buddhism had originated in India. Burnouf also demonstrated the common link between the Northern and Southern traditions of Buddhism380 and the Great and Little traditions.381 Although the work bore the imprint of two scholars, Burnouf was almost solely credited with the findings. Lassen went on to carry out notable work on Pali but Burnouf shot to fame as the man who had discovered a new religion of great antiquity. In doing so he was able to open up the entire Buddhist canon to scholars who had been searching in vain for the origins of Buddhism in the Far East.

Burnouf also opened a new chapter in the history of India by focusing attention on the Buddhist period. No longer was the interest of scholars solely on the Vedic period of Indian history. With Burnouf‘s Essai…, Buddhism and the Buddhist canon opened the way for a shift in Indic studies in France to the post- Vedic period. Burnouf undoubtedly also provided a greater service to Indian history than he realized. With the philological discovery of Pali and its connection to Sanskrit, historians now began to look more closely at the post- Vedic period as a real historical era, rather than a blur between the Aryan period of Indian history and the Islamic invasions of the medieval period. The Buddhist era, as it was termed, now attracted the attention of scholars who discovered the existence of Republics and Empires, like the Mauryan empire, and discovered that northern Indian had an evolved system of monarchy and self- governing republics.382 Continuing on his discovery Burnouf traced the spread of Buddhism to Nepal, Sri Lanka and beyond through the Pali canon.

In 1844 Burnouf published Introduction à l‟histoire du Buddhisme Indien, the first great French scholarly monograph on Buddhism which established the Indian origins of Buddhism, emphasized a textual approach to Eastern religions, and made Buddhism into an object of western scientific knowledge.383 By 1852 he had completed a work on the Lotus Sutra. Burnouf was single handedly responsible for turning the focus of Indic studies in France from Hinduism to Buddhism. French schools created a specific degree in Buddhist studies due to his work.384 The numbers of Indologists focusing on Buddhism and the numbers of manuals of Buddhism written for erudite and common readers alike increased exponentially. For example, from its founding in 1822 until 1825, the Journal Asiatique published only three articles on Indian Buddhism out of a total of about 30 articles focusing on India. After the popularization of Burnouf and Lassen‘s Essai…the number of articles on Indian Buddhism jumped to ten articles out of a total of 63, in the period from 1827- 1836; a jump from 10% to almost 16%. Thereafter, studies on Buddhism continued to be published in the Journal at a steady pace until the number jumped once again towards the end of the century.385 The articles on India in the Journal des Savants exhibit a similar pattern.386 The image of India in French academia was definitely changed.

Tassy and the study of Indian Islam

Another aspect of Indology which shifted was the view of Islam. While older writers had described Islam in India in critical terms, while simultaneously acknowledging its formidable presence in the subcontinent, Indologists in the nineteenth century completely ignored it. Only two major scholars made Indian Islam their focus among a plethora of French Indologists during the long century, an unusual omission for a group which studied the Indian past so assiduously. In most cases, Islam was acknowledged to be an important influence in the sub-continent, but Indologists focused on Sanskrit. Burnouf‘s only reference to Islam was in the context of historicizing India‘s past. Noting that the study of documents had revealed that India had remained the same from the descriptions in the Epics to the Muslim invasion of the eleventh-century, according to Burnouf, ―Thus, being pressed on numerous and decisive documents, the historian will recognize the ancient India of the Mahâbharata and Râmâyana, in India such as it appears to us at the beginning of the eleventh-century A.D, to the time of the Moslem invasion.'387 So while Islam was not necessarily described in disparaging terms by Indologists it simply did not figure into the works of most Indologists. For the most part therefore, Islam in India was ignored. However the rare reference to Islam in India was usually in the vein of disparagement. For example, even though Garcin de Tassy focused his study on Indian Islam, he noted that the fanaticism common to Islam, and especially the antagonism between Shi‘as and Sunnis, had been watered down by contact with Hindu tolerance. According to him, ―The Indian tolerance came to decrease Moslem fanaticism in India. There Sunnites and Shiites do not have this animosity between them which divides the Turks and the Persians; they usually live in good relations and share, with a few exceptions, in the same religious holidays.'388 Earlier than Tassy, Langlès had already expressed this same opinion in stronger terms.

It was there [that] the term of the wars and the persecutions [were] caused by the outraged ambition and the zeal of the Arabs for their religion: because idolatry had its martyrs. This persecution ceased only little by little: the softness of the climate and the character of the Indians made the successors of these Arabs and Mughals lose, in continuation [time], the species of fanaticism that their predecessors [had] expressed.389


Thus, even though Tassy belonged in the camp of the Florists the older antagonistic view of Islam expressed by the romantic writers of the previous century was now giving way to a more neutral, incisive opinion. The new generation of scholars in beginning from the 1840‘s now expressed their opinion of Islam in India, not by what they wrote about Islam, but rather by choosing not to focus on that aspect of India.

The exclusion of studies on Islam in India is an interesting aspect of French Indology, especially in the context of their claim to be the leading Indic scholars in the world. A rare academic who focused on Indian Islam, Garcin de Tassy noted the irony in the exclusion of this aspect of India when he pointed out that in contemporary India, regional languages (particularly Hindustani which was a hybrid language in between Hindi and Urdu) was far more in use than dead and elite languages like Sanskrit. In particular, the fact that this language along with Indian Islam, was practiced by some twenty million people in North India alone, made the subject worthy of attention.

The religion of the Hindus generally draws the attention of the savants who deal with India, and of the travellers who, after having traversed the beautiful provinces of them [Hindus], communicate the fruits of their research to the public. It is not thus [with] Muslim culture in India, which was nevertheless during several centuries the religion of the Government of most of the peninsula on this side [of the] Ganges subjected to the sceptre of [the] Mogol [Mughal], and which is professed still today by several sovereigns of this vast region, and by twenty million individuals of which the number increases every day. The savants spoke little about it; also one is generally unaware of what, precisely, is the state of this religion, [and] its characteristics. This lack of positive data is especially felt by those who want to read the Hindustani and Persan works/ writings in India, and decipher the inscriptions of the Moslem monuments of this beautiful part of the world… [in order] to partly fill the gap is why I announce, I undertook work that I submit today to the friends of India.390


In 1829 the Imprimérie royale had published a Hindustani language manual which also contained copies of some Hindustani texts. By the late 1830‘s this was complemented by Garcin de Tassy‘s Histoire de la littérature Hindoue et hindoustanie, published initially by the Asiatic Society of London in 1839 and 1847 which also broadened the scope of Indic studies to include works written in the popular dialects of North India, which had remained outside the scope of Sanskritic and Buddhist scholars. Interestingly, despite the craze for Indological work in Paris, Tassy‘s work was published by the London Asiatic Society rather than the Société Asiatique of Paris.391 A quote from the Asiatic Journal, published in the Revue Brittanique, noted that the French had chosen to study Indian languages like Sanskrit and Pali as opposed to the British, who had chosen contemporary languages like Persian and Turkish which would allow them to maintain diplomatic relations in the region. In effect the French took charge of India‘s past and the British of India‘s present.

Eastern literature has made fast progress in France for a few years; the savants do not limit themselves any more to the languages necessary for diplomacy and trade, such as Persian, Turkish or Arabic; they embrace in their studies the faded Sanskrit, Chinese, Georgian… research which they deliver on the history and the philology of the East are [contained in the] collections of the Journal Asiatic, the Journal des Savants and some other periodic writings, which can give [us] an idea of the importance of their work.392


Correspondingly Tassy also made another huge contribution to Oriental work by compiling Mémoire sur des particularités de la religion Musulmane dans l‟Inde d‟après les ouvrages hindoustani and Notice sur les fêtes populaires des Hinduous d‟après les ouvrages hindoustani. Both works were initially published as articles in the Journal Asiatique393 and the former was later published as a book. These were catalogues of the festivals, customs, and religious celebrations of Hindus and Muslims as described by contemporary writers of Hindi and Urdu which became very important to British colonial officials in India.394 Tassy patiently compiled an extensive selection of works in Hindi (which was the language of ordinary Indians, especially in the rural areas of Northern India), Hindustani (which was derived from Urdu and Persian and was very elegant, being spoken mainly by the Muslim elites), Urdu and Dakkhani (which was a version of Urdu spoken by Muslims in Southern India). It included the many genres of prose and poetry, a presentation of the complexity of composition and the elegance of expression on these works. An important aspect was the inclusion of the works of women poets and authors. The huge three volume work contained extracts of the works of all the authors listed there as well as short biographies.

In terms of academic oversight, there could be two possible explanations for the exclusion of Indian Islam from the mainstream of French Indology. The first and most convincing was that since the French chose to highlight only the Sanskritic culture of India, Islam was simply out of the purview of French Indology. This reasoning points to French Indologists making clear choices about which aspects of India to highlight and which to ignore, thus demonstrating the artificial process by which images of India were constructed. Despite their claims to be rational, scientific scholars French Indologists only wanted to see and present India in terms of her ancient and Sanskritic civilization.

The second possibility is Jean Marie Lafont‘s reasoning that due to the methodical nature of French academics, Islam was treated as a different academic field, with different principles governing its study and a different administrative structure established for its study.395 As Tassy realized, Indian Islam had acquired a syncretic nature that was entirely unique in the Islamic world. Centuries of co-existence with Hinduism had led to certain hybrid religious ceremonies which borrowed heavily from the Hindu culture of lavish feasts and pageantry.

I thus will describe, according to the works which I have just indicated, the proper festivals in Moslem India and also the solemnities used in Persia or even among all Moslems, but [also] what distinguishes India from the particular ceremonies. I will speak about some superstitions practised by the Moslems [of India] born of contact with the Hindus; I will give finally the Biography of several very famous Moslem saints of India, but [who are] unknown out of its limits… What [is] especially striking in the external worship of the Moslems of India, is the deterioration which it underwent to take the indigenous aspect. They are these additional ceremonies and these uses [are] not very [much] in conformity, or contrary with the spirit of Coran, but which were established imperceptibly by the contact of the Moslems with the Hindus… Indeed the worship of Mahomet was too simple for a country where an allegorical religion and idolatry which speaks to the directions and imagination dominates, rather than with the spirit and to the heart.396


For a scholar of Islam, the variation in Indian Islam would have been a matter of great academic interest. Tassy studied the contrast between practices which ‘conformed‘ to Middle Eastern Islam and to the Koran, and those which went against the ‘spirit of Muhammad and the Koran‘, but formed an essential part of Indian Islamic practice. He also analyzed the transformation of Islam as a result of Hindu contact. Yet his works were mentioned only in footnotes by French scholars of Islam.397 In contrast, the French studied the origins of Sanskritic Buddhism in India, but also engaged with the development of Buddhism in China and the Far East.398

One must remember that the French Comptoirs in India possessed a minority of Muslims. As the judicial records as well as the state registers indicate, the primary concerns in French India were related to inter-caste disputes.399 Therefore, the possibility that academic foci were at least indirectly influenced by colonial ambitions cannot be ignored. In the case of India, colonial agendas may be read into what was not studied, rather than what was.

Scholars have practical considerations too.

While the end of the Florist debate meant that India was studied more scientifically in the spirit of the nineteenth-century quest for empiricism and science, it also meant that institutional Indology was marginalized. The political and financial repercussions of the 1830 Revolution meant that universities were starved of funding, affecting Indic studies. As McGetchin points out, the Société Asiatique suffered from a lack of members and funds between 1833- 40.400 Mohl echoed the financial deprivation of Indic studies in his 1846 report to the Société.401 According to McGetchin, by adopting a more exacting scholarly agenda, the non-Florist scholars eventually cut themselves off from a more popular intellectual culture. Thus even if the scientific scholars had purged their Florist colleagues from positions of power in the Société Asiatique by shifting to a method less accessible outside the university, they began to lose the Société's popular appeal.402 He points out that literary taste in France still tended to the florid and romantic, and by distancing themselves from this tradition of eloquence, the Société made it harder to procure popular and institutional support for itself. Popular references to India came partly through the works of Edgar Quinet‘s Génie des Réligions,403 Michelet‘s Bible de l‟Humanité,404 Victor Hugo‘s Orientales, Etienne Jouy‘s plays (Les Bayadères and Tippo-Sahib), Philarète Chasles and Joseph Méry‘s short stories, Lamartine, Vigny and Leconte de Lisle‘s poems, Théophile Gautier‘s novels, Flaubert‘s writings and Baudelaire‘s art.405

Schwab uses the example of Balzac‘s literary character, Louis Lambert, to highlight the continued belief among literary circles in Paris, that India was a romantic and ancient nation. He imbued in Lambert the phrases ‘smiling images of blissful love‘, ‘the Bible…[was] part of the traditional history of the antediluvian peoples who had shared a universal history‘ and the belief that the Greeks had borrowed their civilization ‘both from the Hebrew Bible and the sacred texts of India‘.406

Thus on the one hand the popular literary conception of India as a land of romance and bliss continued to be propagated. Among the Indian words which Rémusat noted in French romantic literary vocabulary and in nineteenth-century French dictionaries were ‘rajah‘, ‘pariahs‘, ‘sutras‘, ‘kshatriyas‘, ‘nabob‘, ‘avatar‘ and ‘bayadère‘.407 On the other hand serious scholars like Burnouf continued to warn against romanticizing the Orient. In the preface to the Bhagawata Purana he noted that ‘Philosophical fragments…should not be confused with dogmatic passages, and one should not seek in them what we in the West understand, strictly speaking, as philosophy…‘408

According to McGetchin the lack of popular reception to the changed study of India led to the decline of Indic studies in France at a time when German Indology was at its height. He cites Lacôte, ‘The Burnouf school, aging among unfavorable circumstances and the indifference of the public powers, was not able either to form a new generation or to deliver what one expected of them.‘409 As a result, Indic studies in France ‘dozed for twenty years‘410 and ‘the entire university organization put itself in opposition to any adept recruited by Sanskrit studies.‘411 Yet Schwab points out that in the period from 1825- 69 the Revue Brittannique published twenty articles on the religions of India and China.412 Similar articles were published in the Revue Européene, Correspondant and Revue de Paris.413 The Revue des Deux Mondes actually saw a steady increase in Indic articles from twenty-six between 1829- 39 to twenty-nine between 1840- 49 and thirty-seven between 1850- 59.414 The Encyclopédie des gens du monde, Dictionnaire de la conversation, Encyclopèdie du XIX siècle and the Dictionnaire universal d‟histoire et de géographie contained several articles and entries on India and Indic scholars.415 Schwab has also noted the popularity of books with Indian themes in Lorenz‘ Catalogue de la Libraire, and Brunet‘s Manuel du Librairie.416 What seems more likely in the light of Schwab‘s evidence is that a shift took place in Indic studies away from brahminic texts.

Burnouf‘s work had already highlighted the importance of Indian Buddhism as the source of Far Eastern Buddhism. Yet Buddhism was not as important in the study of Indian history, offering at best a brief philosophical interlude to the staunchly held brahminic beliefs.417 It is possible then that Indologists struggling for institutional support viewed the French colonial empire in Indo-China as the answer to their quandary. Through a study of Indian Buddhism, they could support the practical aims of France by furthering an understanding of Indo-Chinese Buddhism, and simultaneously ensure their own academic relevance.

As Penny Edwards points out the school of Buddhist studies which emerged in Europe during the early nineteenth-century found its initial inspiration in India and remained dominated by Indologists well into the 1900s.418 Masuzawa notes the particular importance of the French school of Indology in the recovery of Buddhist texts.419 Scholars agree that the breakthrough in the study of Buddhism began when the British East India Company servant, Brian Hodgson gifted tens of Buddhist texts and documents in Sanskrit to the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, the Royal Asiatic Society in London and the Société Asiatique in Paris. As Masuzawa notes, the first two societies did not pay much attention to this gift, preferring to continue their focus on Sanskritic texts of Hinduism.420 Since Buddhism had virtually died out in India, and Britain was more occupied by the task of learning about India, this neglect makes sense. For France however, the urgency of the colonial enterprise in Indo-China at this time made these texts a most opportune discovery for learning about Indo-Chinese and Chinese religion.

Following in Burnouf‘s steps, the study of Buddhism in France focused solely on the retrieval of texts and the reconstruction of textual Buddhism which formed the foundation for the elaboration of Buddhism as a religion. As Max Müller noted in 1862, while Burnouf acknowledged the importance of Buddhist texts and literatures in Tibet, Mongolia, China and Ceylon, he insisted that the ‘original‘ and ‘purest‘ form of Buddhism was contained the in the Sanskrit corpus sent by Hodgson from Nepal, the remaining being corruptions of the original.421 As Masuzawa points out, in the judgment of the scholars, the actual on-the-ground manifestations of Buddhism were subjects more suitable for the attention of missionaries, casual observers, and travelers chronicling foreign curiosities than for serious-minded philologists who should dedicate their labor first to the reconstructions of ―original Buddhism' and subsequently to the study of its historical developments.422 Insisting that the scientific approach to the study of Buddhism involved the use of verifiable texts, Buddhism was reconfigured within the European imagination423 and projected onto the colonial present of Indo-China as being solely Indic in origin and as deriving all its purity from Indic texts on Buddhism.424 As Lamairesse noted,

Descended from the high plateaus of Asia, the Aryan race populated all the Occident, conquered India and Persia, acted by this one [similarly] on the Semites, and finally, by India, printed its seal [left its mark], in all [of the] Far East. Today Aryan civilization goes up towards [returns to] its cradle; the Slavic, English, and French ones [races], inserted each day more narrowly [colonizing the interior] in Central Asia and the Chinese empire; it is thus for us of most interest to know the current result of the action and the influence of the religions resulting from the Indian Aryans on these countries [Far East]; and the key of this influence is especially [found] in the life of the Çâkyamouni Buddha.425


In turn this led to an interest in India‘s influences globally including South East and East Asia. Felix Lacôte noted that the French were among the leaders in trying to link Indian influences in Asia, especially in Indo-China.426 He cited the efforts of Etienne Aymonier who stressed the extent which India had influenced Indo- China, from the use of Sanskrit by the Indo-Chinese royalty to the heavy brahminical influence in the bas-reliefs of Angkor, as well as the sanskritist and sinologist Edouard Huber. Lacôte noted also that the École Française d‟Extrême- Orient founded in 1899 and based first in Saigon and later in Hanoi was an important institution for studies on India and Indo-China.427 As Louis Finot points out, Emile Sénart was a leading scholar in the domain of Asian studies, and that ―… he exerted a dominant influence on the foreign relations of French orientalism and our scientific enterprises in Asia.'428 According to Finot, Sénart was instrumental in the establishment and growth of the EFEO. ―But the happy influence of Mr. Sénart was especially felt in Indo-China. He had formerly been interested in the Aymonier mission and the deciphering of the Sanskrit inscriptions brought back by this voyager. When Mr. Doumer resolved to create the Ecole Français d‟Extrême-Orient, Mr. Sénart was the first to open it by his design and, with his friends Auguste Barth and Michel Bréal, the charge to realize the EFEO.' 429 Émile Sénart, a leading Indologist completed his life of the Buddha which laid emphasis on the Indian tradition of royalty. The work titled Essai sur la légende du Buddha was published in 1875 in Asiatick Researches. He also studied Buddhist inscriptions in India and in Indo-China. Following Sénart, Louis de La Vallée Poussin wrote on popular Buddhism and the yogic and tantra derivations of Buddhism which were practised in Nepal, Tibet and the Far East.

The work of later Indologists like Bergaigne and Barth‘s Inscriptions sanskrites de Campâ et du Cambodge also merged the Indic and Indo-Chinese interests. Louis Finot, prominent Indologist and first president of the EFEO declared in his inaugural address that the EFEO would study the part of Indochina which owed its monument, its customs and its culture to India.430 By 1928 French scholars had begun publication of Bibliographie Bouddhique, a primary French source for Buddhist studies of all types.

Finot also pointed out lack of academic interest in French Indo- China made it an easy target for Orientalists from rival European nations underscoring the close connection between scholarship and colonialism and urging greater academic focus on Cambodge.431 Despite the scholarly focus on the colonial influence of India in South East Asia, the French government did not similarly stress this ‘Indian‘ heritage of Indo- China in popular representations of colonialism. It was left to British academics to mention this aspect of Indo- China‘s past. I have looked at this issue elsewhere.432 The logical explanation of this discrepancy can be found in the exigencies of colonial history and in the unfortunate but inevitable influence of colonial policy and rivalry on scholarship.

Whether academics inspired colonial projects or were inspired by them remains unclear. However their work closely paralleled the development of the colonial project and ideology. For instance, the articles of the Journal Asiatique clearly indicate that the dip in Indic subjects came at the mid-century when France was actively colonizing Indo-China.433

In yet another example where academic and political aims combined, the French Ministry of Public Education funded a mission by Delaporte to India in 1876 to study the relationship between Hindu and Cambodian art. Soon after Delaporte published an account of his journey434 and emphasized the similarities between the height of the Khmer Kingdom and the brilliant Indian empires. He also stressed the duty of France in reviving ‘the marvelous past of these people.‘435 Certainly, the French interest in Buddhism became doubly significant with colonial expansion in the Far East.

British preoccupations

While French Indologists continued studying India almost exclusively from Sanskrit texts, the British had moved to practical considerations of understanding contemporary India and Indians. Studies like Tassy‘s work on Indian Islam, was useful both for its study of Indian Muslims who were a substantial portion of India‘s population, as well as its contribution to the understanding of vernacular literature. Similarly the neglect of Buddhism stemmed from the fact that at least in India, Buddhism had virtually died out.

Instead British writers looked to the history of India as a window into a contemporary understanding of the country. The production of colonial histories was part of a colonizing apparatus, which privileged the narrative of the colonial historian and justified the existence of the colonial state. The first and most important process was the appropriation of native histories and the voices of natives. Histories could only be claimed to be rational and legitimate if written by a member of the civilized, colonizing classes, who set out, ostensibly to make sense of the chaotic, disordered past that faced them in the mission of civilizing 'natives'.

Once this task of appropriation was complete, the historian set out to construct a 'history' from the mass of tradition, superstition, legend, and myth that confronted him in the colony. The appellation of 'history' to his work meant that the task was undertaken in the spirit of academic, rational, and scientific inquiry. The historian's task was to separate the wheat from the chaff, thereby privileging certain sources and aspects of his material over others. As Thapar points out, historical interpretation can therefore become a two-way process- where the needs of the present are read into the past, and where the image of the past is sought to be imposed upon the present.436

The process of historical interpretation was aimed at the explanation of certain phenomena in the Indian past. Therefore, there was no 'total' history of the colonial past. In the first place the different political interests operating within the EIC set the foundation of the Raj on competing interpretations of the Indian past. This basic layer of historical exploration was followed by a far more nuanced and sophisticated discourse which was used to bolster the growing administrative and state apparatus. Indian history, assimilated thereby to the history of Great Britain, would henceforth be used as a comprehensive measure of difference between the peoples of these two countries. Politically that difference was spelled out as one between rulers and the ruled; ethnically, between a white Herrenvolk and blacks; materially between a prosperous Western power and its poor Asian subjects; culturally between higher and lower levels of civilization, between the superior religion of Christianity and indigenous belief systems made up of superstitions and barbarism- all adding up to an irreconcilable difference between colonizer and colonized.437

All claimed to be writing their histories 'from the earliest times' thus leading the reader to believe that the subject had no history before the historian gave it a voice. Thereby India had no history before the beginning of the historical chronicle.

As Guha points out,

…the substitution of Indian culture by colonialism was completed in two successive movements- the abolition of the historic culture of the Hindus followed by the supersession of that of the Muslims. Taken together, these two movements amounted to a deletion of the entire pre-colonial past of our people who were then compensated for that loss by the gift of a new history- a foreshortened history with the colonial state as its subject.438


Also they tended, when discussing religious developments in India, to conflate the state with religion. Thus divisions of history were the Hindu period, Buddhist period, Mohammedan period, and finally the British period. As Gyan Pandey points out, this production of politico-religious states tended to play out in colonial historical narratives as explanations of Hindu- Muslim violence and communal antipathy with no regard to time, space and political experiences of people.439 Colonial history was emptied of all contextual narrative except the linear progression of the Indian state from a state of anarchic, religious rivalry to the superior, secular qualities of the 'just British state'. In this exercise of political legitimacy the British created stereotypes of ethnic groups as 'quarrelsome' or as 'weak', 'fanatic', 'martial' etc, also thereby setting the stage for an official policy of exclusivism, and patronage of certain groups to the antagonism of others. The colonial state, through this production of 'history' was thus also setting the stage for a successful tenure as the only neutral presence by furthering a policy of division.

British histories were set by the political and professional background from which authors wrote. Each constructed his own image of India, which sometimes conflicted with each other. Yet the focus on different aspects of the Indian past tended to dovetail neatly into a grand explanation of the legitimacy of the colonial state thorough the superiority of the civilizing mission and the record of colonial rule as a civilizing force.

Among the widely read histories of India were the works of Edmund Burke and James Mill. A conservative defender of British politics, Edmund Burke nevertheless viewed the Empire and its practices of rule with deep reservations. Foremost in impeaching Warren Hastings, Burke openly admitted to the moral and political excesses of the British EIC officials. Primarily concerned with communities that were threatened, he recognized India as a political community of individuals with a history, tradition and social structure of their own. He also admitted that these institutions had been fractured by the British seeking their own personal enrichment. Burke was really concerned about India also because of the moral impact he saw as rebounding on England itself- in his opinion the decayed morals of men such as Warren Hastings was bound to be detrimental to social order and cohesion in Britain. Burke tended to view the Indian past as dark, but unlike most of his contemporaries and successors in Indian affairs, he admitted that this view of the Indian past could be a result of his own ignorance and lack of comprehension rather than an indictment on the backwardness of India and therefore a reason to deny them political self- determination. Burke saw India as possessed of a system of law, society and government that was ideal; the result of centuries of development and possessed of all the checks and balances needed. While British justice needed to be applied to India, this was to ensure that plunder and mis-rule no longer took place. India had to be governed according to Indian experiences and tradition lest the fabric of Indian society be destroyed.

The first real 'historian' of India, James Mill never visited India, yet his History of India started the flood of historical works on India. Written from a political- philosophical point of view, Mill was writing a rationalistic, utilitarian history440 and therefore saw no good o f India's past achievements. Applying his own conceptions of civilization to judge India, he found only the worst forms of priestly despotism and superstition. The political and legal systems too were despotic and Indian law was too vague to provide any relief. Religion was solely the power of the brahmins and consisted of useless and harmful ceremonies rather than morality of ideas of improvement. The social system and the state of education were dismal. India was in an inferior state of civilizational development. Hindu society lacked a sense of historicity, development, and progress and was hence backward, savage and based on myths. Without modern tools, art, sculpture and architecture were too ornate and yet inferior to the West. A slight but passing improvement came with the Muslim invasions of India, which injected some sense of historicity into India, a belief on one God and political unity; yet Muslim India continued to be despotic and therefore the character of the people and essential Indian venality remained unchanged. The real development of India could only occur under the superior civilizing influence of the British.

Another group of British writers were military historians, who focused essentially on political histories, accounts of battles, and the transference of political power. In most of these accounts, the state of society appeared only when it was fundamental to an understanding of statecraft. This group was amongst the first writers of 'Indian' history. The dominant theme in most of their writings was a description of the chaotic political structure and weakened military apparatus of native kingdoms, which justified the colonial conquests of these areas.

Joseph Davey Cunningham joined the East India Company's army and went out to India as a cadet of sixteen. His experiences and interest in Sikh affairs was published in 1849 as the History of the Sikhs. The work was based primarily on official records, personal observations, and narratives like the Adi- Granth, Dabistan- I- Mazahib and the Siyar-ul-Mutakherin for the period before colonial interaction. Describing India as being in a state of universal resentment, peasant against their masters, aristocracy against rulers, Cunningham described the internal politics of the Sikhs, the canny rule of Ranjit Singh and the reasons for the Anglo- Sikh wars after his death. Ultimately however, Cunningham saw the alleviation of problems in the establishment of a good English administration and the spread of Christianity.

Grant Duff, inspired by the friendship of Elphinstone and his experiences as Political Agent at Satara, wrote a History of the Marathas. This was his only historical work and did not see any revisions or subsequent editions after its first publication in 1826. While the work had great merit in being a pioneer effort in recording information about regional kingdoms in India, Duff was criticized for his dreary prose, omission of certain historical events, and factual errors. The reason for these may lie in the use that Duff made of his sources. Despite trying to be as scientific as possible, Duff used primary documents in the Archives of the Raja of Satara, other documents and especially land records held by other nobles, eye-witness accounts of battles and significant political events, and Hindu and Muslim chroniclers rather than local Maratha chroniclers. While Duff believed that this body was the most historically true literature available, there were several biases- biases of official sources, of eye witnesses, of the Hindu and Muslim chroniclers in favor of or against certain social groups, in their narration of events etc. Ultimately however, the work was meant to justify the imperial mission, in the light of the chaotic infighting among the Maratha princes.

As opposed to French writings, the British writings on India tended to focus essentially on socio-economic and socio-political issues- who owned the land, how was the wealth from the land shared between the proprietors and the state and finally on the relationship of power and property at the local level.441 These constituted the first historical writings on India. Later on extended political narratives were developed as the state apparatus expanded. In all these needs of the ruling state, the distance between the colonizers and the natives ensured that accurate information about these issues was not available. Therefore history was a convenient alternative- by researching the past of India administrators hoped to understand local structures of economy and power. In doing so however, they brought with them traditions of European history- writing, political philosophies and the discipline of a Western academic subject which produced a very different kind of knowledge that they sought to understand.442 In doing so they also tended to privilege certain types of narratives like written accounts, while dismissing oral narratives, and local legend443.
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