Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Wed Sep 02, 2020 10:25 am

Part 1 of 2

Mystical Imperialism, Excerpt from "Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia"
by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac
© 1999 by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac

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CHAPTER TEN: Mystical Imperialism

THE YEAR IS 1891. A RUSSIAN FRIGATE, THE PAMIAT AZOVA, lies in Colombo harbor. The imperial party, composed of the twenty-two-year-old Tsarevich Nicholas and a miscellany of Grand Dukes, Princes, and Guard Officers, is stopping at Ceylon. The heir to the Throne of all the Russians is midway through a ten-month Asian Grand Tour suggested by his father Alexander III in the hope that Nicky will get to know his future Central Asian subjects and, equally important, forget his mistress, the tiny ballerina of the Maryinsky Theater, Mathilde Kschessinska. In India, Nicky has found the tiger shoots and balls irritating, complaining to his mother, the Empress Marie Feodorovna, "How intolerable it is to be once again surrounded by Englishmen in their scarlet uniforms." She has replied, urging him to be "very courteous to all the English who are taking such pains to give you the best possible reception." She warns that he must set his personal comfort aside -- "you will do this, won't you, my dear Nicky?" Above all, he must" dance more and smoke less in the garden with officers just because it is more amusing." The Tsarevich must "leave a good impression with everybody everywhere."

Perhaps the most important member of the party in the context of our story is Prince Esper Esperovich Ukhtomsky (1861-1921), whom we will meet again as the sponsor of Agvan Dorzhiev at the Russian court. Ukhtomsky's father founded a steamship company to link the Baltic with India and China via the Black Sea. His son, while still a St. Petersburg student, developed a scholarly interest in Buddhism and had become Russia's most important collector of Tibetan and Mongolian art. Upon graduation, Esper Esperovich entered the ranks of the Department of Foreign Creeds in the Ministry of the Interior. He is now its chief. He is a member both of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society and the Russian Committee for the Study of Central and Eastern Asia. A staunch protector of the Buriats, the Mongol people living around Lake Baikal in Siberia, Ukhtomsky leads the Eastern lobby which also includes such influential figures as the Finance Minister, Count Sergei Witte, and the Buriat society doctor, Pyotr Badmaev. These men are advocates of an aggressive forward policy in Asia, and are known collectively as vostochniki, or "Easterners," or in their most extreme mode as proponents of Zheltorossiya, or "Yellow Russia."

Chosen to accompany the Tsarevich on this trip, Ukhtomsky will recount their adventures in the multi-volumed 'Travels in the East of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, when Czarevitch 1890-91, in which he will give vent to his pan-Asiatic notions: "We are, and must be supported by the idea of an ever-possible advance of the irresistible North over the Hindu Kush." The book will be published in many editions, assuring Ukhtomsky's future position as Tsar Nicholas's consultant on eastern affairs.

The Tsarevich is hardly ignorant about the East. In 1881, when the intrepid Przhevalsky became his tutor on Central Asia, Nicholas was much taken by the explorer's exploits and tales of lamas and Buddhism. Nor will the intensely religious Nicholas be immune to occult persuasions -- after the birth of the hemophiliac Tsarevich Alexis, the Romanov court would become a collective for seers, monks, and mystics. As Count Witte explained: "A soft haze of mysticism refracts everything he beholds and magnifies his own functions and person."

Now his imperial highness informs the Russian Consul in Colombo that he wishes to "have the honor of meeting" Colonel Olcott (1832-1907), a retired American officer who sports an enormous Santa Claus beard and is the champion of a worldwide Buddhist revival. It happens that Henry Steel Olcott, now resident in Colombo (the Sinhalese are Buddhists), is also the "chum" and associate of the Tsar's compatriot Helena P. Blavatsky. Together in 1875 they founded the Theosophical Society.

The Russians have already called at Adyar, near Madras, where the Society has established its international headquarters. Ukhtomsky is convinced of the deep spiritual kinship between Russia and "the East," in which he includes Islam, Brahminism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.
In his book, Ukhtomsky inserts remarks assuredly designed to alienate his British hosts:

Clearly history is preparing new and complex problems in the East for the colonizing states of Western Europe, which are not really at home in Asia (as we Russians always have been, and still are, without being aware of it) ... The journey of the Tsarevich through the civilized countries of the East is full of deep significance for Russia. The bonds that unite our part of Europe with Iran and Turan, and through them with India and the Celestial Empire, are so ancient and lasting that, as yet, we ourselves, as a nation and a state, do not fully comprehend their full meaning and the duties they entail on us, both in our home and foreign policy.


Olcott, in the fourth volume of his memoir, Old Diary Leaves, recalls the delightful hour-long meeting with the Tsarevich's party aboard the frigate. He is particularly drawn to Ukhtomsky "because of his intense interest in Buddhism, which for many years he has made a special study among the Mongolian lamaseries." The Prince invites Olcott to make a tour of the Buddhist monasteries of Siberia and asks for a copy of the Theosophical Society's Fourteen Propositions so that he "might translate them and circulate them among the Chief Priests of Buddhism throughout the Empire." Which, Olcott notes with satisfaction, he did. As for his compatriot Mme. Blavatsky, Ukhtomsky is enthusiastic about the "Russian lady who knew and has seen much."

The age of mystical imperialism had dawned.

NOT JUST RUSSIA BUT ALL EUROPE WAS DRAWN TO THE ESOTERIC religions and spiritual spices of the Orient. Starting in the Georgian Age, British merchant fleets sailed homeward with mystical creeds and Sanskrit grammars mixed with more earthbound cargoes. The timing was propitious: the light from the East arrived at a moment of moral crisis and revolutionary upheaval in the West. Chance seemed to clear the path. Alexander Hamilton, an East India Company servant fluent in Sanskrit, was taken prisoner in Paris during the Napoleonic wars, and taught Sanskrit, then almost unknown in Europe, to his fellow captives. One of his pupils was the Romantic poet Schlegel, who returned to Germany in 1808 and wrote the first book there on the language and creeds of the Indies, sparking a fashion. So smitten was the philosopher Schopenhauer on reading The Upanishads that he called it "the solace of my life," adding hopefully, "it will be the solace of my death."

This anxiety about the afterlife became especially acute after the appearance in 1859 of Darwin's Origin of Species, with its unspoken challenge to Genesis. Across Europe and America, disciples flocked to new faiths of every kind, ranging from the occult arts to the science of spiritual healing. Unbelievers scoffed and cried fraud, but persons of standing in the West concerned themselves with Spiritualism, Reincarnation, Channeling, the Brotherhood of Masters, Great White Lodges, Cosmogenesis, and a host of Secret Doctrines said to spring from the timeless wisdom of the East. Still, even as they scoffed, the worldly saw a gleam of utility in the otherworldly. Thus it happened that in Russia and England the Mystical Channel developed into an interesting new medium for imperial intrigues, or in some cases anti-imperial agitation. It was, however, a medium that eluded easy manipulation, and a cloak of ambiguity shielded its avatars, so that it was often hard to say who was using whom.

This was especially true of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-91), whose precise loyalties were the focus of exasperated speculation for decades in Britain and Russia. Madame Blavatsky, the author of The Secret Doctrine and other bulky occult works, has never been out of print or entirely forgotten. Self-described as "a hippopotamus of an old woman," HPB, with her hypnotic gaze, seems to spring from faded photographs. In his memoirs, Rudyard Kipling recalls that his father, Lockwood, who knew her well, spoke of Madame Blavatsky as "one of the most interesting and unscrupulous impostors he had ever met."

Soon after her arrival in 1879 at Simla, then in its heyday as summer capital of British India, everybody who counted had an opinion about HPB, as she was commonly known. She sailed to India from New York, where she first gained her reputation as a clairvoyant and where she and her devoted disciple, Colonel Olcott, had founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. "TS" Lodges rapidly multiplied, and HPB and the Colonel were anxious to propagate the new faith in India, nearer to its cradle in Tibet.

Blavatsky's fascination with Tibet and Buddhism dated from her childhood. Her maternal grandfather, Andrei Fadeyev, was administrator for the Kalmyk settlers in the Caspian seaport region of Astrakhan, and while her father was away on military duty, Blavatsky's mother -- who wrote a novel about Kalmyk life -- took her to live with the Fadeyevs. Distant ethnic cousins of the Buriats, the Kalmyks had migrated from Dzungaria in Central Asia to the lower Volga region in the seventeenth century but were still practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. Helena met and was impressed by the Kalmyk leader Prince Tumen [Prince Tseren-Djab Tumen' (1824-1864)] and his Tibetan lama.\

Russian and other foreign travelers who visited the migratory Kalmyks in the 18th and 19th centuries took note of their musical ability. They reported that most of the musicians playing the dombra, a two-stringed, triangular-shaped musical instrument, were women. (The instrument's strings were made from sheep intestines.) One of the most prominent foreign visitors was Alexandre Dumas père (1802-1870), a famous French novelist and dramatist, who visited the Kalmyk steppe in October 1859. He was entertained at a dinner in his honor at the mansion of Prince Tseren-Djab Tumen' (1824-1864) by an orchestra of Kalmyk musicians who played overtures by Mozart and Rossini.

-- Kalmyks, by Encyclopedia.com


Somewhat later she would claim that the tenets of Theosophy had been vouchsafed to her by just such lamas, her "Himalayan Masters" during the seven years she claimed to have spent in Tibet. There she learned of a divine hierarchy of Masters, or Mahatmas, the terms being synonymous, who belonged to an invisible Brotherhood headed by the Lord of the World who inhabited Shambhala, the source of universal wisdom, located by Blavatsky beyond Tibet, somewhere in the Gobi Desert.

First in the chain of command was Buddha, then came a series of Masters, of whom the most accessible to HPB were Morya (known simply as M) and Koot Hoomi (called KH), each in the Hindu mode enjoying a variety of incarnations and tasks (KH attended the University of Leipzig and curated an underground Occult Museum). Others in the Brotherhood included Jesus, Confucius, Solomon, Lao Tze, Moses, Abraham, Plato, Mesmer, and the two Bacons, Roger and Francis. The Brotherhood was hidden from most mortals, and was sometimes persecuted by humans under the influence of the Dark Force, but it communicated with Adepts, like Madame Blavatsky, through letters written in gold ink or other psychic means. According to Peter Washington in his history of Theosophy, Madame Blavatsky's Baboon (1995), her cosmology was a blend drawn from Buddhism and other more improbable sources, notably the mystical novels of Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

Fascinated, baffled, and scandalized by this new High Priestess and her American consort, the powerful along with the obscure, Indians as well as Europeans, flocked to Theosophy, so that by 1885, 106 lodges had been chartered in India, Burma, and Ceylon, out of 121 lodges worldwide. An important reason for its popularity among Indians was that Theosophists took Buddhism and Hinduism seriously, not with the sneering condescension of many Europeans. In fact, it was her extravagant regard for Hindus and visible contempt for their rulers that caused HPB to be regarded as a spy and placed under British surveillance.

The movement also had its political spillover among Europeans. A notable convert was Alfred Percy Sinnett, the influential editor of The Allahabad Pioneer, then the leading newspaper in India, whose rising star was Rudyard Kipling. Another catch was Allan Octavian Hume, the wealthy son of the radical Scottish parliamentarian Joseph Hume. "AO" was a decorated hero of the Great Mutiny, the "pope" of Indian ornithology, and a high-ranking civil servant. Hume eventually broke with Blavatsky, and took up the national cause.

Hume met Blavatsky and Olcott at Allahabad, and, after spending some time with them, concluded most of the phenomena linked with her, about which Sinnett wrote a book, were genuine (Sinnett 1881). Hume, the son of Joseph Hume, a Radical social reformer who had been active in the movement to repeal the Corn Laws, joined the East India Company in 1849 and rose to a high position in the Indian Civil Service, though he never got the seat on the Viceroy's Council for which he hoped (Wedderburn 1913). It is possible that one of the reasons he failed to attain the highest offices was his clear commitment to social and political reform in India. In 1882 he retired to Simla, where he became a confident of the new Viceroy, Lord Ripon.5 Hume joined the Theosophical Society in 1880, became the President of the Simla Branch in 1881, and seems to have provided the financial backing that enabled Blavatsky to begin publishing The Theosophist.

Before long, Sinnett and Hume began to send letters to, and supposedly receive letters from, two of the Great White Brotherhood - Koot Hoomi and Morya.6 The process of communication depended on the role as an intermediary of Blavatsky, whose authority over the Theosophical Society rested largely on her unique ability supposedly to communicate with the Mahatmas. Hume and Sinnett wrote their letters and gave them to Blavatsky who placed them in a wooden box, from where they dematerialised, supposedly having been called away by the Mahatmas. The replies from the Mahatmas apparently precipitated from nowhere, they were found sitting in the shrine, they fell from the ceiling, or they dropped on to a pillow. Understandably Hume became a bit discouraged by this indirect form of communication, and so he began to try to exercise his own occult powers in the hope of developing an ability to communicate directly with the Mahatmas. Eventually, in 1883, he broke with Blavatsky and resigned his post in the Simla Branch of the Society. He did so just before the now notorious Coulomb Affair. (When Blavatsky and Olcott returned to London early in 1884, they left Monsieur and Madame Coulomb in charge of the Theosophical Society's headquarters at Adyar; the Coulombs then made a number of allegations about the fraudulent ways Blavatsky produced the phenomena associated with her, and an investigation of the shrine in her room lent support to what they had said.) Hume, however, continued to believe in the existence of the Mahatmas and their mission despite both the Coulomb Affair and his personal disagreements with Blavatsky (Ripon Papers). Certainly he thought that the Mahatmas guided not only his spiritual growth, but also, as we will see, his political work...

Hume was probably the single most important individual for the formation of the Indian National Congress. He said that in 1878 he read various documents that convinced him large sections of the Indian population violently opposed British rule, and some even plotted rebellion (Wedderburn 1913: 78-83).11 These documents were communications he had received supposedly from the Mahatmas - Koot Hoomi and Morya. In one of the letters the Mahatmas supposedly sent Sinnett, they explained how the Great White Brotherhood successfully had controlled the Indian masses in the Rebellion of 1857 so as to preserve Imperial rule, which apparently was necessary to bring India to its allotted place in a new world order (Morya 1923: 324). Now the Mahatmas seemed to be directing Hume to maintain the correct balance between east and west (Ripon Papers). Certainly Hume thought the Mahatmas were superhuman beings with a special interest in the welfare of India. He believed their occult powers meant they possessed an unquestionable knowledge of Indian affairs; and, of course, their intense spirituality meant they were undeniably trustworthy. From their exalted position, the Mahatmas saw India was in danger, and, knowing of Hume's interest in the East and his political contacts, they had come to him to avert the danger. They had decided to reveal some of their wisdom to him so he could do what was necessary to forestall chaos. Even after Hume had turned against Blavatsky, he continued to believe in the Great White Brotherhood, their powers and their mission. Now he thought the Mahatmas, with their impeccable credentials, had chosen to pass some of their understanding on to him so he might act accordingly. They had warned him of an impending catastrophe so he might ward-off the disaster of which they wrote. His desire to do so now informed his political work. Hume tried to influence politics in two ways. First, he tried to convince Ripon to reform the administration of India so as to make it more responsive to the Indian people (Ripon Papers). Second, he tried to promote an all-India organisation so as to give voice to the concerns and aspirations of the Indians themselves (Wedderburn 1913).

Early in 1885, Hume helped to bring about the formation of the Bombay Presidency Association. Really, however, he wanted to create an all-India body, and he immediately used the Bombay group as a springboard from which to advance his idea of an Indian National Union. Soon he acquired the backing of the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, as well as the Bombay group, for a proposal to schedule an all-India political conference to be held in Poona during December 1885. His quarrel with Blavatsky meant, however, that he had to work hard to win over the theosophists of the Madras Mahajana Sabha and the Indian Association of Calcutta. By May, he had visited Madras not only to discuss his proposals for the Poona conference with the members of the Mahajana Sabha, but also to put forward his views on the way the Theosophical Society should revive itself in the wake of the Coulomb fiasco. He did enough to convince the local leaders to fall in with his plans for an Indian National Union. Next Hume travelled to Calcutta where he seems to have contacted several prominent members of the Indian Association. Although Sen decided to give his backing to Hume, many of the others did not, preferring instead to go ahead under Banerjea's leadership with their alternative conference. An outbreak of cholera in Poona forced Hume to change the venue of his proposed conference, but, finally, in December 1885, the Indian National Union convened in Bombay (Indian National Congress 1885). Those present immediately renamed themselves the Indian National Congress, and when the Congress next met in December 1886, it did so in Calcutta, thus ensuring the adherence of Banerjea's alternative National Conference (Indian National Congress 1886).

The Indian National Congress was formed by nationalists from all over India together with a retired British official. Hume worked alongside some of the people he had met at the annual conventions of the Theosophical Society -- Malabari, Rao, and Sen - in order to arrange the founding conference of Congress. The Theosophical Society made it possible for someone like Hume to work in the way he did alongside Indian nationalists, and if he had not done so, it would have been, at the very least, more difficult to found an all-India political body. "No Indian could have started the Indian National Congress," G. K. Gokhale later wrote: "if the founder of the Congress had not been a great Englishman and a distinguished ex-official, such was the distrust of political agitation in those days that the authorities would have at once found some way or other to suppress the movement" (Wedderburn 1913: 63-4).


-- Theosophy and the Origins of the Indian National Congress, by Mark Bevir


In 1885, on retiring from the civil service, Hume summoned the first meeting of the Indian National Congress, in the hope of winning a greater role for Indians in administration under the British Crown. Over time, under Gandhi and Nehru, the Congress became the main propellant of independence, and in India today Hume's role as forerunner is still remembered and acknowledged. (The thirteen-year-old Nehru was, in fact, initiated into the Theosophical Society by its third leader, Annie Besant, and the "thrilled" youngster later saw "old Colonel Olcott with his fine beard.")
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Thu Sep 03, 2020 7:53 am

Part 2 of 2

Theosophy's links to Indian nationalism were of special concern to British officialdom because of Blavatsky's Russian connections. Born the daughter of Baron von Hahn, into the lesser ranks of Russian-German nobility, she was the cousin of Count Sergei Witte -- railway magnate, Russian Finance Minister, and (as of 1904) Prime Minister. So widespread was the belief that HPB was a Russian agent that for months she was followed everywhere by Major Philip D. Henderson, chief of the Simla police, prompting indignant protests by Colonel Olcott. In 1884, she was accused of serving "Russian interests" by a special investigator, Richard Hodgson, employed by the Society for Psychical Research, a charge amply ventilated in the press and furiously denied by Madame herself.

The question which will now inevitably arise is — what has induced Madame Blavatsky to live so many laborious days in such a fantastic work of imposture? And although I conceive that my instructions did not require me to make this particular question a province of my investigation, and to explore the hidden motives of Madame Blavatsky, I should consider this Report to be incomplete unless I suggest what I myself believe to be an adequate explanation of her ten years' toil on behalf of the Theosophical Society. It may be supposed by some who are unfamiliar with her deficiencies and capacities that the Theosophical Society is but the aloe-blossom of a woman's monomania, and that the strange, wild, passionate, unconventional Madame Blavatsky has been "finding her epos" [epic poem] in the establishment of some incipient world-religion. But a closer knowledge of her character would show such a supposition to be quite untenable; not to speak of the positive qualities which she habitually manifested, there are certain varieties of personal sacrifice and religious aspiration, the absence of which from Madame Blavatsky's conduct would alone suffice to remove her ineffably far from the St. Theresa type.

As Madame Blavatsky in propria persona, she can urge her followers to fraudulent impersonations; under the cloak of Koot Hoomi she can incite "her" Chelas to dishonourable statements; and as an accomplished forger of other people's handwriting, she can strive to save herself by blackening the reputation of her enemies. She is, indeed, a rare psychological study, almost as rare as a "Mahatma"; she was terrible exceedingly when she expressed her overpowering thought that perhaps her "twenty years" work might be spoiled through Madame Coulomb; and she developed a unique resentment for the "spiritualistic mediums," whose trickeries, she said, she "could so easily expose," but who continued to draw their disciples, while her own more guarded and elaborate scheme was in danger of being turned inside out. Yet I must confess that the problem of her motives, when I found myself being forced to the conclusion that her claims and her phenomena were fraudulent, caused me no little perplexity.

It appeared to me that, even should the assertions of Theosophists that their Society has been partly dependent upon the gifts of Madame Blavatsky prove to be the reverse of truth, the sordid motive of pecuniary gain would be a solution of the problem still less satisfactory than the hypothesis of religious mania. More might be said in support of the supposition that a morbid yearning for notoriety was the dominant emotion which has stimulated and sustained her energetic efforts in the singular channel which they have so long pursued. But even this hypothesis I was unable to adopt, and reconcile with my understanding of her character.

At last a casual conversation opened my eyes. I had taken no interest in Central Asian perplexities, was entirely unaware of the alleged capacities of Russian intrigue, and had put aside as unworthy of consideration the idea — which for some time had currency in India — that the objects of the Theosophical Society were political, and that Madame Blavatsky was a "Russian spy." But a conversation with Madame Blavatsky, which arose out of her sudden and curious excitement at the news of the recent Russian movement upon the Afghan frontier, compelled me to ask myself seriously whether it was not possible that the task which she had set herself to perform in India was to foster and foment as widely as possible among the natives a disaffection towards British rule. [45] [There is a special rule in the Society providing for secret membership. Madame Blavatsky's influence is felt, moreover, far beyond the limits of the Society. When she returned to India, at the end of last year, an address of sympathy was presented to her by a large body of native students of Madras, of whom, apparently, only two or three were Theosophists.] Madame Blavatsky's momentary emotional betrayal of her sympathies in the onset of her excitement was not rendered less significant by the too strongly-impressed "afterstroke" of a quite uncalled-for vituperation of the Russians, who, she said, "would be the death-blow of the Society if they got into India." That she was ever seven years in Thibet there is much reason for disbelieving. In a letter she wrote to a Hindu from America, she professed no more than that she had acquired some occult knowledge from some wandering Siberian Shamans, which, being interpreted, probably means, if her statement has any foundation of truth at all, that she learnt their conjuring performances. According to her own account, in one of the Blavatsky-Coulomb letters, it appears that before her acquaintance with Madame Coulomb at Cairo, in 1872, she had been filling a page which she wishes to be "torn out of the book" [46] [That this life page was partly known to Madame Coulomb, and that Madame Blavatsky feared her in consequence, is borne out by the fact that, in a dispute which arose, in 1880, while Madame Blavatsky was at Ceylon, between Madame Coulomb and another member of the Society at its headquarters, then in Bombay, Madame Coulomb boasted of her power. Her boast was apparently justified upon Madame Blavatsky's return. Madame Coulomb was supported by Madame Blavatsky, and therefore also by Colonel Olcott, and the dispute resulted in the withdrawal from the Society of some of the most influential members at Bombay, who regarded the action taken in the matter by the founders as wanting in straightwardness. I have had personal interviews with some of these ex-members, who consider that the recent exposures of the Coloumbs have thrown much light on the formerly mysterious behaviour of Madame Blavatsky and Madame Coulomb in connection with the Bombay episode.] of her life. This part of her history does not at present concern us, except that it proves the story of her Thibetan experiences to be fabulous. But the letter also refers to her sojourn at Cairo and her later adventures, and it appears that she and a certain Madame Sebire had established a Society in Cairo, which was evidently "spiritualistic," and which failed; that shortly after parting with Madame Coulomb in Cairo, she went to Odessa, taking Madame Sebire, who dragged her into an enterprise of "making some extraordinary inks," which proved a losing speculation; that from Odessa she proceeded to India, where "she remained over eight months, and then returning by Odessa to Europe, went to Paris, and thence proceeded to America," where the Theosophical Society was established. The same letter contains the following explanation to Madame Coulomb, clearly in order that the latter might understand that the new Society was on a different basis from that which Madame Blavatsky had countenanced, in 1872, in Egypt.

"We believe in nothing supernatural, and discard every miracle — those of the Jewish Bible especially. But we are believers in and students of phenomena, though we do not attribute every manifestation to 'spirits' of disembodied people solely, for we have found out that the spirit of the living man was far more powerful than the spirit of a dead person. We have quite a number of members theosophists in Ceylon among the Buddhist priests and others.

"How far this agrees with your present ideas I do not know. But I hope you will answer me frankly, dear Mrs. Coulomb, and say what you think of it. And thus we may be able to elucidate more than one mystery before we meet each other again."


It seems, then, that Madame Blavatsky, a Russian lady, the daughter of Colonel Hahn (of the Russian Horse Artillery), and quondam widow of General Blavatsky (Governor during the Crimean War, and for many years, of Erivan in Armenia), assisted in starting a spiritualistic Society in Egypt, which failed; that she afterwards spent eight months in India, and then proceeded to America for what would appear to have been the express purpose of becoming an American citizen, "for the sake of greater protection that the citizenship of this free country affords." The fact, moreover, that she was an American citizen was urged on her behalf when, upon her arrival in India, she was for some time subjected to the surveillance of the Indian Government as being possibly a Russian agent. She apparently made the mistake in the first instance, of adopting "an attitude of obtrusive sympathy with the natives of the soil as compared with the Europeans," as Mr. Sinnett tells us ("The Occult World," p. 25); but she soon remedied this error by obtaining the public adhesion to her following of such men as Mr. A. O. Hume (see p. 273) and Mr. Sinnett. And without attempting to show in detail how strongly the patriotic feeling of the natives has been enlisted in connection with the Theosophical Society, or how well the procedure of Madame Blavatsky may be shown to comport with the view that her ultimate object has been the furtherance of Russian interests, I may quote several passages which, I think, suggest meanings which Madame Blavatsky would hardly dare to blazon on the banner of the Theosophical Society. Thus Colonel Olcott wrote, and apparently italicised the sentence, in a letter from New York to a Hindu, in 1878: —

"While we have no political designs, you will need no hint to understand that our sympathies are with all those who are deprived of the right of governing their own lands for themselves. I need say no more."...


The following passage is from a fragmentary script which forms one of the Blavatsky-Coulomb documents; on one side of the paper are written a few broken lines in Russian, the full significance of which is dubious without their context, and on the other side are written these words: —

military men, more than any other, must remember that the approaching act of the Eastern drama is to be the last and the decisive one. That it will require all our efforts, every sacrifice on our part, and requires far more careful preparations in every direction than did the last war. They must remember, that to sit idle now, when every one has to be busily preparing, is the highest of crimes, a treason to [47] [The letters "Ru" crossed out in this place may be observed in the facsimile in Plate I.] their country and their Czar.''

"He who hath ears let him.


(A facsimile of the manuscript of this passage is given in Plate I.) While I was in India Madame Blavatsky obtained a partial knowledge of the substance of this document (which I had no permission at the time either to show to her or to publish), and she said that it was probably a portion of a translation which she had made from a Russian work, and was not her original composition. Be this as it may, I cannot profess myself, after my personal experiences of Madame Blavatsky, to feel much doubt that her real object has been the furtherance of Russian interests. But although I have felt bound to refer to my own view on this point, I suggest it here only as a supposition which appears best to cover the known incidents of her career during the past 13 or 14 years. That she is a remarkably able woman will scarcely be questioned by any save those of her followers whose very infatuation of belief in her "occult relations'' is perhaps the most conspicuous proof of that ability which they deny; and it would be no venturesome prognostication to say that, in spite of recent exposures, she will still retain a goodly gathering of disciples on whom she may continue to inculcate the ethics of a profound obedience to the behests of imaginary Mahatmas. The resources of Madame Blavatsky are great; and by the means of forged letters, fraudulent statements of Chelas, and other false evidence, together with the hypothesis of Black Magicians, she may yet do much in the future for the benefit of human credulity. But acting in accordance with the principles upon which our Society has proceeded, I must express my unqualified opinion that no genuine psychical phenomena whatever will be found among the pseudo-mysteries of the Russian lady alias Koot Hoomi Lal Sing alias Mahatma Morya alias Madame Blavatsky.

-- The Hodgson Report: Report on Phenomena Connected With Theosophy, by Richard Hodgson and the Society for Psychical Research


In fact, documents first published in 1993 suggest that British suspicions were not entirely off the mark. In a seemingly authentic letter from Odessa in December 1872 to the Director of the Third [Intelligence] Section (discovered by the American scholar Maria Carlson), HPB set forth her qualifications as an agent to "Your Excellency and my native land," with this candid explanation: "Hundreds of people believed and will undoubtedly believe in spirits. But 1... must confess that three-quarters of the time the spirits spoke and answered in my words and out of my considerations, for the success of my own plans. Rarely, very rarely, did I fail by means of this little trap, to discover people's hopes, plans and secrets. I have played every role, I am able to represent myself as any person you may wish."

What the Third Section, precursor of the notorious Okhrana, made of this offer is not known.Yet there was nothing secret about HPB's association with Mikhail Katkov (1818-87), the publicist and journalist whose Moscow Chronicle was read by all who mattered in St. Petersburg, where its influence (in the estimate of George Kennan) nearly outweighed the rest of the press together. Once a liberal advocate of parliamentary democracy, Katkov had by the 1870's become an almost fanatical reactionary, an apostle of imperial expansion to the East and South, and an opponent of liberal reforms and of Russia's alliance with Germany, which he helped terminate. Portly, heavily bearded, and known for his percussive enthusiasms, Katkov presided at a huge dinner table, surrounded by his eleven children, two adopted nephews, and assorted hangers-on. He was not a groveler, and in a famous 1887 editorial courted Alexander Ill's wrath by exposing the details of a secret defensive treaty, the Dreikaiserbund, signed by the emperors of Russia, Austria, and Germany.

Madame Blavatsky was a frequent and well-paid contributor to the Chronicle, which serialized her book on occult India, From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan. When Katkov died in 1887, she contributed an effusive panegyric, speculating that "some dark forces" might have been to blame since the "riffraff" in Berlin and Austria were rejoicing that he could no longer "crush their lying brains under his heel."

And now, HPB moved with a master's dexterity as rumors of a Sikh rebellion against British rule swirled around her. The Sikhs, fierce fighters whose support of the Raj tipped the scale during the Great Mutiny, were said to be plotting a revolt in collusion with their exiled Maharajah. His name was Duleep Singh (1838-93), and he was Queen Victoria's favorite Indian prince, a vivid, undeservedly forgotten personage. His life was the stuff of a grand opera scored by Puccini, but with a libretto by Durrenmatt.

DULEEP SINGH WAS THE HEIR OF RANJIT SINGH, THE LION OF Lahore, under whose leadership the Sikhs became masters of the rich and fertile "Land of Five Rivers." Their rule was enforced by the Khalsa, a disciplined army second in India only to that of the East India Company. With its elephant-drawn field cannons, its European officers, and its 53,000 infantrymen, all smartly dressed in red jackets and blue turbans, the Khalsa was, in the words of then Governor-General Sir Henry Hardinge, Britain's "bravest and most warlike and most disruptive enemy in Asia." While Ranjit Singh lived, the Punjab was allied by treaty to the British, but his death in 1839 led to a chaotic struggle for succession. Ranjit Singh had forty-six wives and left four acknowledged sons, of whom Duleep Singh was the last. The boy's mother was Rani Jandin, the old Lion's youngest wife, and his true father (it was commonly gossiped) was her lover, a former bhishti, or palace water-carrier. No matter: Ranjit Singh acknowledged the child as his own, and the Rani, herself the daughter of a palace doorkeeper, was by all accounts the cleverest of the Lion's mates.

As Ranjit Singh's various offspring and relations slew each other, Rani Jandin managed in 1843 to have her son proclaimed Maharajah on his fifth birthday, with herself as Regent. There followed a test of wills with the Khalsa, whose commanders threatened to install their own candidate on the throne at Lahore. To fend off the army, the Rani and her ministers encouraged its commanders to do battle with British forces now mobilizing on the far bank of the Sutlej. The result was the first of two Sikh Wars, both of which, after considerable exertion, the Company's soldiers won. ("Another such victory and we are undone," murmured Hardinge after the Battle of Ferozeshah in 1845.) When the Khalsa surrendered in a solemn ceremony, a grizzled warrior cried out as he lay down his musket, "Aj Ranjit Singh mar gaya" (Today Ranjit Singh is dead).

Having prevailed, however, the British drew back from annexing the troublesome Sikh state, and instead turned the Punjab into a protectorate. Duleep Singh remained on the throne, under the tutelage of an astute Resident, Sir Henry Lawrence. The arrangement was not a success. The Rani and the Resident quarreled constantly and bitterly, and the former was finally banished by the latter, who complained of "her general misconduct and habits of intrigue." A fresh uprising on her behalf led to the Second Sikh War, in which British troops ostensibly fought in the name of Duleep Singh -- and having won, expeditiously removed him from his throne. A new Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, saw no alternative to outright annexation of the Punjab, and the elimination of "a brat begotten of a bhishti, and no more the son of old Ranjit Singh than Queen Victoria." In 1849, the ten-year-old Maharajah, warned that hesitation could only make things worse, signed away for himself and his heirs "all right and title to the sovereignty of the Punjab" and all its state property, expressly including "The gem called the Koh-i-Noor," which was to be surrendered to the Queen of England.

The Koh-i-Noor, the Mountain of Light, was unearthed in the sixteenth century and originally weighed 787 carats. The diamond passed from Mughal Emperors to Afghan Emirs, then to Ranjit Singh, and eventually to Henry Lawrence's brother John, who (so the story goes) carelessly mislaid it in a waistcoat pocket until its recovery from a forgotten tin box by an aged servant who thought it nothing more than a "bit of glass." The gem, the size of a pigeon egg, was presented to the Queen with the compliments of the East India Company, and shipped westward under armed guard in 1850. It was last worn in state by the present Queen Mother at the 1937 coronation of her husband George VI.

There remained the matter of what to do with the "brat"-not a simple problem. His mother had just fled to Nepal, where she was certain to be a focus for disaffection, leaving the East India Company literally in loco parentis. The Governor-General approved putting the young Maharajah under the guardianship of a Scottish medical officer, Dr. John Login, who found for him a suitable young companion named Tommy Scott. The Maharajah liked Tommy, learned fluent English, absorbed such alien curiosities as The Boys' Own Book, and found nourishment in the Holy Scriptures. In 1850, on turning twelve, Duleep Singh announced his determination to "embrace the Christian religion," a decision that caused anxiety in Calcutta lest the Sikhs suspect coercion. After an inquiry, Lord Dalhousie found no improper influence. "This is the first Indian prince," he marveled to a colleague, "of the many who have succumbed to our power and acknowledged it, that has adopted the faith of the stranger. Who shall say to what it may lead? God prosper and multiply it!" Duleep Singh did more than embrace the religion of the stranger: he cut his hair, and "broke caste" by conspicuously making tea with his own hands.

In 1854, on Dalhousie's recommendation and with the approval of the Company's Court of Directors, Duleep Singh sailed to England. Soon after his arrival, the fifteen-year-old Maharajah was presented to Queen Victoria, who was then thirty-five. She was enchanted; it was first of many meetings and led to a close friendship and extensive correspondence. As the Queen wrote in her journal, after receiving him, "He is extremely handsome and speaks English perfectly, and has a pretty, graceful and dignified manner. He was beautifully dressed and covered with diamonds ... I always feel so much for these deposed Indian princes." She reported all this to her Viceroy, Lord Dalhousie, adding that it was "not without mixed feelings of pain and sympathy that the Queen sees this young prince, destined to so high and powerful a position, and now reduced to so dependent a one by our arms .. .it will be a pleasure to us to do all we can to help him and to befriend and protect him."

Victoria was as good as her word. It is difficult not to be touched and impressed by her voluminous correspondence with, and about, Duleep Singh, as generously extracted by Michael Alexander and Sushila Anand in Queen Victoria's Maharajah (1980). She stuck by him, and forgave his worst trespasses. At her insistence, he was called Maharajah, was granted what appeared to be princely pension of £50,000 per annum, and was portrayed in his regal sash and aigrette by the court artist Winterhalter. With his pension, he acquired Elveden Hall, near Thetford in Suffolk. There the "Black Prince" played host at elaborate hunts for titled guests, including the Prince of Wales; the Maharajah himself was reckoned the fourth best shot in Britain, once felling a record 780 partridges with a thousand cartridges. Duleep Singh was well aware how much he owed to the Queen. At one of their meetings, Victoria graciously placed in his hands the Koh-i-Noor, and with deferential tact he returned it, saying "It is to me, Ma'am, the greatest pleasure to have the opportunity, as a loyal subject, of myself tendering to my sovereign, the Koh-i-Noor."

The Queen approved the Maharajah's unconventional choice of a bride, named Bamba, half German and half Ethiopian, whom he met at the American Protestant Mission in Cairo. Victoria understood his conflicted silence during the Indian Mutiny-after all, "his best course was to say nothing." She loyally (if vainly) backed him up when he protested that his pension was subject to excessive deductions and was inadequate to the style of life he was expected to maintain. She remonstrated gently when the Maharajah went public with his grievances in angry letters to The Times. ("If I might advise you -- it would be better not to write to the papers. It is beneath you to do so.") What proved beyond Victoria's healing words was the midlife crisis (as we would call it) that followed when the Maharajah discovered he was not an English squire, but an Indian Sikh.

IN 1861, DULEEP SINGH WAS ALLOWED A VISIT TO INDIA, WHERE he was greeted with the prescribed twenty-one-gun salute, yet the authorities cautiously forbade a trip to the Punjab. He was permitted a reunion in India with his half-blind mother (still a "she-devil" in the view of the Viceroy, Lord Canning). As much to be rid of her as to accommodate him, the Government approved the son's request to allow her to sail with him to England. There the Rani died two years later. The reunion reconnected the Maharajah with a painful past. He now heard a very different view of his patrimony, and how it was taken from him. Each subsequent quarrel over money, each real or imagined snub, each refusal of his principal demand -- an impartial hearing of his grievances -- rubbed raw his sense of loss. To placate the Queen, Prime Minister Gladstone agreed to proffer a seat in the House of Lords, but what might have been an interesting experiment failed as the Liberals lost the next election.

Duleep Singh was by now the father of two sons and three daughters, and as his household bills grew, so did his anger and frustration. In the 1880's, he began examining his rejected religion. He listened intently when two Indian cousins, one of them the Sikh militant Thakar Singh Sandhanwalia, journeyed to Elveden with important tidings. It appeared that Nanuk, the Hindu founder of the Sikh faith, prophesied that an Eleventh Guru named Deep Singh would be stripped of his inheritance, forced into exile, and suffer great hardships before returning in triumph to the Punjab during a war between the bear and the bulldog. After that, the Eleventh Guru would purify the Sikh religion. The import seemed obvious: Duleep Singh was Deep Singh, whose descendants were destined, as the sacred books promised, to reign for three generations "over the land between Calcutta and the Indus," with the propitious advent of a war between Russia and England.

In 1885, it so happened, England and Russia were briefly at the brink of war over the occupation by the Tsar's forces of the Pandjeh, a disputed tract in eastern Afghanistan. It also happened that the Maharajah's cousin, Thakar Singh, headed a Sikh reform group, Singh Sabha, allied with the Theosophists. Not only was Thakar Singh Madame Blavatsky's prime link to the Punjabi Sikhs, whose creed she studied and greatly admired, but he was a possible author of her occult Mahatma Letters. Thakar Singh made no secret of his hostility to Christian missionaries, or his ardor for Sikh liberation. He now became the Maharajah's principal champion and intelligence source within India.

In the midst of the Pandjeh crisis, professing a wish to show his loyalty, Duleep Singh sought permission to sail to India in support of the British cause. In Calcutta, his offer was seen as a ruse by intelligence operatives -- especially Colonel Henderson, who had shadowed Madame Blavatsky in Simla. Secret cables were rushed to Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, the Foreign Secretary of India, detailing a plot in which Duleep Singh would accompany a Russian army through Central Asia, and incite a rebellion by native troops, who would sabotage rail and telegraph lines, aided by a cabal of disloyal princes. The memory of the Mutiny was fresh, and the scenario seemed all too plausible.

Hence the consternation in Calcutta's Government House when the Maharajah on his own authority embarked in March 1886 on the P & O steamer verona. Prior to his departure he released this open letter, addressed to "My beloved Countrymen," saying that obedient to his destiny he was returning to India "to occupy a humble sphere" and begged forgiveness for converting to Christianity when he was very young. Yet in resuming his Sikh faith, he had "no intention of conforming to the errors introduced into Sikhism by those who were not true Sikhs -- such, for instance, as wretched caste observances or abstinence from meats and drinks." He was compelled to write his open letter "because I am not permitted to visit you in the Punjaub ... Truly a noble reward for my unwavering loyalty to the Empress of India." He signed himself "Your own flesh and blood, Duleep Singh."

Once on the Verona, the Maharajah wrote a farewell note to his Empress blaming her ministers and begging her forgiveness for not personally paying "my last homage before starting for India." A second message, consisting of a single word, went by telegraph to his Sikh friends in India: "Started."

In India, anxious officials pondered Duleep Singh's proclamation and the intercepted telegram. On their desks were intelligence dossiers detailing symptoms of unrest ("The spirit of the Sikhs is not dead and they are full of national fire") and signs of incipient rebellion, fanned by the vernacular press. So what was to be done? The safest but legally dubious solution was to arrest the Maharajah in Aden, then under the authority of the Indian Government, relying on a catchall regulation adopted in 1818 permitting arrests to prevent "internal commotion." But could the measure be used against a British subject (and regal favorite)? It says much about the panic in Simla that even the leading liberal on the governing council, Sir Courtenay Ilbert, ruled out "for reasons of State" further deliberations over legality. With the approval of the Viceroy, Lord Dufferin, an arrest warrant was issued naming the Maharajah but not his children ("We must not court ridicule by serving warrants on babies"). In Aden, the British Resident boarded the Verona and as courteously as he could, avoiding the word "arrest," informed Duleep Singh that he could not proceed further. Passengers and crew cheered in support as the Maharajah and his brood, all prisoners of state, filed down the gangway.

They were incarcerated in the Residency, and from there Duleep Singh fired angry cables to the Viceroy protesting his use of the word "disloyal," and refusing to return to England until he was promised a full and fair hearing. Lord Dufferin was polite but unyielding. From Balmoral, the Queen did her best to plead her friend's case: "The Queen Empress thanks the Viceroy for his last kind letter of the 5th of May about the poor Maharajah Duleep Singh. He was so charming and so good for so many years that she feels deeply grieved at the bad hands he has fallen into and the way in which he has been led astray,& the Queen thinks it will have a very bad effect in India if he is ill-used & rather severely punished & especially if the Maharanee (an excellent pious woman) & their six children especially the two boys, quite Englishmen, are in poverty or discomfort." The Queen offered to speak to the Maharajah when he calmed down, and reiterated her wish that he or his son be given a British peerage with suitable emoluments.

In Aden, Duleep Singh was formally initiated into his ancestral faith, in a ceremony witnessed by the prescribed five Sikhs. The Maharajah had already sent his family back to England, and in his lonely misery he had become something of a hero to his people. "Poor Duleep Singh!" wrote the editor of the Lahore "Tribune. "Your countrymen can only weep for you." When his appeal for an impartial inquiry was once again rejected, he cabled the Viceroy: "I return to Europe. From 1st of July next I resign the stipend paid to me under Treaty of Annexation, thus laying aside that iniquitous document." In June, he boarded a French mail steamer bound for Marseilles, and proceeded directly to Paris. Once settled there, he confided his plans to a ducal shooting-partner: "I wrote yesterday to the Russian Ambassador offering my services to the Emperor and requested a passport which as soon as I receive I shall go to St. Petersburg. If I am well received by the Emperor I shall go to the border of India. If not I shall go to Pondicherry [a French possession] and be a thorn in the side of Lord Dufferin."

The Maharajah's arrival in Paris occurred at a turbulent moment. On Bastille Day, huge and boisterous crowds shouted and sang their support for General Boulanger, the Minister of War, who many believed was destined to crush Germany and regain Alsace-Lorraine. In the event, Boulangism proved to be bombast, and within a few years the General meekly accepted banishment to Brussels, where he committed suicide on the grave of his mistress. But the movement confirmed a popular hunger for assertive militarism, and presaged the unraveling of Bismarck's intricate system of alliances binding Germany to Russia and Austria-Hungary. Out of the ferment a new alignment arose, pairing an odd couple, Republican France and Tsarist Russia, a partnership solemnized in 1894, with profound reverberations two decades later.

It was a confusing moment, and a shrewder participant than Duleep Singh could have misread shifting signals. He expected a heartfelt welcome from the Russian charge, and instead was brushed off with a letter saying the Imperial Government "protects peace" and had no wish to provoke troubles in India. A more candid explanation can be inferred from the charge's cable to the Russian Foreign Minister, Nikolai Karlovich Giers ("probably the most seasoned and able statesman of his time, after Bismarck," in the view of George Kennan). The charge, Prince Ernest Kotzebue, reported that Duleep Singh had shown him a letter he had just received from Queen Victoria, asking if she should believe rumors that he was offering his services to the Russians. In questioning him, Kotzebue continued, "I have come to know that he hopes to extract a large sum of money from the English Government. Hence, it is to be feared that the offers which the oriental Prince makes us are only a means of blackmail." It was what Giers needed to know. The son of a Lutheran postmaster who had risen through merit, Giers was a firm advocate of restraint and stability. He wished to preserve Russia's alliance with Bismarck, was dismayed by the Pandjeh war scare, and strove to calm Anglo-Russian relations. He had no use for the forward-school adventures in Central Asia supported by his most nettlesome critic, the Muscovite editor Mikhail Nikiforovich Katkov.

Katkov had his own sources in France, and learned soon enough about Duleep Singh. The likely go-between was his paper's Paris correspondent, Elie de Cyon (1843-1910), a figure out of a Conrad novel: born a Russian Jew, trained as a scientist, and at the time an ardent proponent of a Franco-Russian alliance. In his memoirs, Cyon claims he tried to interest the French in giving military aid to Duleep Singh, without success. In turn, Cyon was introduced to the Maharajah through Patrick Casey, an Irish expatriate who, with his brother James, had befriended a fellow enemy of the Crown. Thus the Sikh prince, who once caroused with the Prince of Wales, now toasted the Empire's downfall with Fenian revolutionaries.

The Caseys tutored the novice rebel in conspiratorial ways and ferried through the print shop his increasingly militant proclamations. Katkov liked what he learned, and cared not a whit what the Foreign Ministry thought. He invited Duleep Singh to Moscow and volunteered The Moscow Gazette's backing, which then meant a good deal. Katkov's paper was described in 1886 by a British visitor, Sir Charles Dilke, as the most powerful in the world "because it is all powerful or nearly all-powerful in one great empire." Katkov was at his polemical prime. In one celebrated article he likened the visits of Giers to Bismarck to the supine pilgrimages of Russian princes to the Golden Horde of the Tartars: "If Germany stands so high, it is because Germany stands on Russia."

In Paris, two problems attended Duleep Singh's departure in March 1887. He had acquired an English mistress and lacked a passport (Russia was among the few countries that required a passport). The Maharajah decided to take along eighteen-year-old Ada Wetherill as his honorary wife, and to embark for Berlin under the alias "Patrick Casey."Between trains at the Berlin terminal, the putative revolutionary was victimized by a pickpocket who made off with his money and travel documents. From Moscow, Katkov came to the rescue. He contacted a crony at the Interior Ministry, who made sure the frontier officials waived the rules for the Maharajah -- a fact seized upon by Giers, when informed of this wire-pulling by a complaining British Ambassador. "C'etait un acte de trahison!" the Foreign Minister protested, and promised to do all he could to prevent further mischief- making by the Maharajah. When the Tsar learned of all this, he remarked to his Foreign Minister, "It is passing strange that the British Ambassador should have at his disposal better police than I have."

Nonetheless Duleep Singh was allowed to remain in Moscow, a tacit tit-for-tat for British hospitality to Russian revolutionaries viewed as terrorists and criminals. Unable to obtain a personal audience with the Tsar but with Katkov's coaching, in May the Maharajah laid before the Imperial Government "the humble prayer of the Princes and people of India for deliverance from their oppression." Writing directly to Alexander III, Duleep Singh boldly guaranteed the "easy conquest of India" since he was able "to raise the entire Punjab in revolt." Should an invasion of India be undertaken by Russia, he added, "an army of not less than 200,000 men and 2,000 cannons" would be required. The Maharajah promised that other Indian princes, if allowed ro manage their own affairs, would pay "a large tribute annually to the Russian Treasury," possibly as much as ten million pounds.

This dramatic proposal did not have its intended effect. Tsar Alexander was cautious in deeds if not always in words. "I am glad that I have taken part in actual warfare and seen with my eyes the horrors which are inevitably connected with a military action," he once wrote. "After such an experience, not only will a ruler never desire war, but he will employ every honourable means of sparing his subjects the trials and terrors of armed conflict." Moreover, the Tsarina, Marie Feodorovna, was the sister of Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, so the Tsar was the brother-in-law to the heir to the British throne. The invasion scheme was so wild, its author so unsteady, that even a bolder Tsar would have drawn back. Still, Alexander III did pencil in marginal notes that indicated interest, and he did authorize further discussions by others with the Maharajah.

In India, HPB, possibly through Elie de Cyon or Thakar Singh, got wind of the purported Sikh plot. Either through genuine misunderstanding, or as a deliberate diversion, she claimed that France was the external force diabolique, and used her information to counter doubts about her loyalty to India. In great alarm, she wrote to a friend, the editor A. P. Sinnett, in February 1887, that through "some theosophists" she learned of "this horrid conspiracy" and wanted to "upset these French plans." She concluded fervently: "I am ready to become an infamous informer of your English Govt., WHICH I HATE, for their sake, for the sake of my Society and of my beloved Hindus ... Ah! if only Master would show me the way! If he would only show me what I have to do to save India from new blood-shed, for hundreds and perhaps a thousand innocent victims being hung for the crime of the few. For I feel, however great the harm will be done, it will end with the English having the best; Master says the hour for the retirement of you English has not struck, nor will it till the next century."

HPB appealed to Sinnett to pass on her warning to the Viceroy, and to accept her gesture as proof she was no Russian spy, begging him as a gentleman and man of honor not to compromise her needlessly because "I would indeed be regarded as an infamous mouchard, an informing spy, and this shame is worse than death."

Nothing came of what Colonel Henderson called "the Dalip Singh business." Whatever hopes the Sikh prince had for Russian encouragement expired with the fatal stroke that claimed Mikhail Katkov, "The Thunderer," on August 1, 1887. Though Duleep Singh lingered in Russia, he knew he was beaten. He married his British companion, who had borne him two daughters, settled in Paris, and there suffered a disabling stroke in 1890. Soon thereafter he dictated to his son Victor a letter to Queen Victoria begging her forgiveness for all he had done "against You and Your Government." The Queen graciously pardoned him, and saw her Maharajah for the last time in 1891 at Grasse: "He is quite bald and vy. grey ... I asked him to sit down-and almost directly he burst into a most terrible and violent fit of crying .. .it was vy. sad-still I am so glad we met again and I cld. say I forgave him." He died two years later, at fifty-five, and following a church service was buried in a stone vault at Elveden. Among the wreaths was one "From Queen Victoria."

So matters rested until 1997, when Swiss banks, responding to a global campaign to identify holders of accounts unclaimed since 1945, published 1,872 names. Most were Holocaust victims, along with a miscellany of Nazis, Fascists, and collaborators. One entry was for Princess Catherine Duleep Singh, "last heard of living in Penn, Bucks in 1942." With this clue, Christy Campbell, an enterprising reporter for the London Sunday Telegraph, checked old Buckinghamshire directories, found the princess's name, and located her will, filed in 1943 after her death. She wished her ashes to be interred in Elveden, her father's Suffolk estate, later the home of Lord Iveagh, head of the Guinness family, but no mention was made of any Swiss bank accounts. The princess was one of Duleep Singh's three daughters by his first marriage. Campbell's story, headlined "Nazi Gold Fortune Awaits the Heir of the Maharaja," was picked up by papers all over India, and he hoped a lawful claimant would come forward.

It developed that the Maharajah's five daughters and two sons all died childless; in the jargon of genealogy, they were fin de ligne. As the reporter learned from a Punjabi historian, this was the result of the curse of Gobind Singh, the great Sikh spiritual leader, who had a golden treasure box buried with him. The guru warned that whoever touched it would "vanish from the light," a warning ignored by Ranjit Singh, who dug it up, passing the curse to Duleep Singh. But other descendants of the old Lion came forth in India. Campbell flew to Amritsar to meet Ranjit Kaur, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Ranjit Singh, a descendant of Sher Singh, the Maharajah assassinated before the five-year-old Duleep was enthroned. Ranjit Kaur recalled her mother's description of meeting two of Duleep's daughters, Sophia and Bamba, during a homecoming in the 1920's at the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore: "My mother remembered exactly how the princesses looked, one in bottle-green, the other in a maroon sari in fine French georgette ... My mother cried; they looked so beautiful, our cousins, come here after so many years. The princesses cried too. They could not bear it. They could speak no Punjabi; they had to speak through translators with the fine English accents they had been taught. ..Then the police broke up the crowd. It was too dangerous politically. My mother never saw them again." The matter of the legal title became moot when the box in the Zurich bank vault was finally opened. It was empty.
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Emissary to the White Tsar, Excerpt from "Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia"
by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac
© 1999 by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac

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CHAPTER ELEVEN: Emissary to the White Tsar

FEW FIGURES OF IMPORTANCE IN THE IMPERIAL DUELS OF Central Asia have been so commonly misrepresented as Agvan Dorzhiev (1854-1938), the Buddhist lama and Russian subject who fought long and worthily for Tibetan nationhood. It was his presence that brought British bayonets to Lhasa in 1904, an event whose magnitude required a suitable provocation. So Dorzhiev "was elevated to the position of Evil Genius at the Court of the Dalai Lama, two parts Rasputin to one part Macavity the Mystery Cat," in the apt phrase of Patrick French, the biographer of Sir Francis Younghusband, leader of the Tibetan expedition. Indeed Dorzhiev in one of his aspects was Macavity. When he so wished, he left no tracks. It did not help his cause.

At least three times Dorzhiev passed invisibly through India, slipping over frontiers and eluding police scrutiny while a guest at Buddhist monasteries, but his appearances at the Russian court were not secret-they were announced in the press. For Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, angered and humiliated by lapses of his intelligence service, the import was plain. Tibet was supposedly closed to foreigners, and the Dalai Lama returned unopened urgent messages from Curzon. Yet here was a presumed Russian agent commuting across the Himalaya, lending substance to reports that the Tsar had already signed a secret pact with China to allow Russian officials and mining engineers into Tibet. "I am myself," Curzon wrote in 1902 to the Foreign Secretary in London, "a firm believer in the existence of a secret understanding, if not a secret treaty, between Russia and China about Tibet; and, as I have said before, I regard it as a duty to frustrate their little game while there is still time."

Was there really a "little game"? It cannot be ruled out. The British themselves prompted its initial moves. In 1868, the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society published the first in a series about Tibet based on clandestine visits by Indian pundits posing as pilgrims. This "cunning enterprise" was noted with keen interest in St. Petersburg by the military-scientific section of the General Staff, writes the Russian scholar Alexandre Andreyev. Among the many nationalities in the Russian Empire were several groups of Mongolians -- a potential indigene cadre for similar forays. In recently opened archives, Dr. Andreyev found that as early as 1869 the Imperial Geographical Society and the General Staff tried to recruit the Russian equivalent of pundits among Buriats and Kalmyks.

The Buriats were a Mongolian people who for centuries lived near Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia. Revered as the "Holy Sea" or "Blue Miracle," the lake is a natural wonder nonpareil. It is the earth's deepest body of fresh water, filling an abyss fifty miles wide, 250 miles long, and more than a mile deep, with a surface area (12,162 square miles) bigger than Belgium. Near its shores the Buriats tended their livestock, pursuing a nomadic life that persisted after their conversion in the seventeenth century from shamanism to Tibeto- Mongolian Buddhism. The Kalmyks, also Mongolians by virtue of language, culture, and appearance, belong to a clan that migrated circa 1632 from Dzungaria in Central Asia to the lower Volga region. Renowned for their horsemanship, Kalmyk warriors joined Cossack cavalry regiments and fought so well against Napoleon that Alexander I awarded them a fertile domain whose revenues were to be used for schools and hospitals. Protected by royal favor, the Kalmyks adhered to Buddhism and looked to Lhasa as their Holy City-ideal potential recruits for Tsarist secret services.

Andreyev found that in 1869 a senior officer on the Imperial General Staff proposed sending a Buriat, Naidak Gomboev, as part of a religious delegation of pilgrims who eventually proceeded to Tibet in 1873. What came of this plan is unclear. Mysteriously, key prerevolutionary fiIes relating to Tibet are still missing in the archives of post-Soviet Russia. But it appears that Agvan Dorzhiev was among the pilgrims who made their way to Lhasa, so that a connection with the General Staff is not implausible. Even so, the core question is how Dorzhiev viewed his own role, and what his purposes were -- and on this, the record seems clear. Far from being a Russian agent, Dorzhiev saw himself as Tibet's emissary to the White Tsar. His purpose was to create a Tibetan-Mongolian federation in collaboration with Russia. As events dictated, he changed his tactics. Dorzhiev continued to pursue the same goal in Bolshevik times, and did so until his death in Stalin's Gulag. A learned monk as well as statesman, a tutor to the Dalai Lama, Dorzhiev was among the first to acquaint the West with the rich traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. His influence reached the United States. He was the "root lama" to Geshe Wangyal, who in 1955 resettled in Freehold Acres, New Jersey, and there founded what was to be the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery open to Americans.

If Dorzhiev had realized his dreams for Tibet and Mongolia, he might well have won a niche beside Gandhi, Sun Yat-sen, and Thomas Masaryk in the pantheon of nation-builders and freedom-seekers. Regrettably for the people he championed, it was not to be.

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GHOOM MONASTERY, NEAR DARJEEUNG, WAS THE UNMONITORED way station to India for monks and mystics. Here in 1885-87 Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, met Sarat Chandra Das, the pundit who covertly explored Tibet for the British. Years later, Madame's American disciple, Colonel Olcott, stopped at Ghoom, where he was given (as he describes in Old Diary Leaves), a white silken scarf that the Panchen Lama presented to Das during the pundit's stay in Tashilhunpo. Das also gave the Colonel rare Tibetan texts that were forwarded to Madame. Subsequently, having founded the Buddhist Text Society in Bengal, Sarat Chandra Das invited Olcott to address its first general meeting. In an intricate feat of deduction, K. Paul Johnson, a scholarly explorer of the esoteric tradition, maintains in The Masters Revealed (1994) that among the real-life models for Madame Blavatsky's Tibetan Masters were Das and his fellow pundit Ugyen Gyatso, along with their Tibetan patron, Losang Palden, the chief minister of the Panchen Lama.

In 1900, British police questioned Das about a mysterious Buriat and a Kalmyk who had recently visited Ghoom. The monks were guests of the Mongolian abbot, Sherab Gyatso. Like Das and Ugyen Gyatso, the abbot was a British agent, and like them received 55 rupees a month for supplying information on suspicious visitors. In their responses, all three agents were "economical with the truth." The Buriat was Agvan Dorzhiev, then one of seven teachers of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, and the Kalmyk was his companion, Ovshe Norzunov.

Dorzhiev was not someone easily lost in a crowd; he had the manner of command and a calm but determined gaze. Born of devout parents in remote Buriatia, schooled in a local datsan or Buddhist monastery, Dorzhiev early on showed a facility for languages, especially Tibetan, the difficult lingua franca of lamaism. At fourteen he set off for Urga, the Mongolian capital, to continue his studies, and five years later traveled to Tibet with his tutor, the Great Abbot Penden Chomphel, just possibly, as Andreyev speculates, at the behest of the Russian General Staff.

In a memoir written around 1924, Dorzhiev asserts that he set off for Tibet, via Alasha, Kumbum, and Koko Nor, together with the Mongolian princes and lamas, dispatched to accompany there the eighth reincarnation of the Urga Khutuku, the Grand Lama of Mongolia. Dorzhiev wished to remain in Lhasa but was refused permission on the grounds he was a prohibited "foreign European." Unfazed and persistent, he appealed his case, and eventually was permitted, in 1880, to enroll in one of the seminaries at Drepung, the largest Tibetan monastery, where he earned the Buddhist equivalent of a doctorate of metaphysics. So completely did Dorzhiev dispel suspicion that after the enthronement of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama he joined the inner curia, initially as the Work Washing Abbot, whose duty it was to sprinkle saffron-scented water on His Holiness. So taken was the young pontiff with Dorzhiev that when the Thirteenth attained his majority in 1895, the outsider from Siberia became his chief political adviser.

Nga-Wang Lopsang Tupden (Thupten) Gyatso (1876-1933), the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lam.a,was the first Incarnation in more than a century who actually ruled. His four predecessors passed away before coming of age, their demise reputedly assisted by their Regents, a circumstance not unwelcome to the Ambans, the representatives of China in Lhasa, who preferred childish god-kings. The Thirteenth survived, having taken the precaution of putting his own Regent under house arrest, and his reign lasted almost four decades. He strove to end Tibet's Chinese bondage and did win de facto independence though not recognized statehood. "His courage and energy were inexhaustible," writes his friend and biographer, Sir Charles Bell. "He recoiled from nothing."

The search for the Thirteenth followed the usual practice. When a Dalai Lama "retires to the heavenly fields," the oracles at Nechung and Samye provide clues to the whereabouts of the next incarnation or tulku. A council of lamas carries out the search. To prevent powerful nobles from adding to their privileges, the Dalai Lama was customarily chosen from a peasant family. Besides the appropriate physical signs, like long ears and tiger skin marks on his legs, the candidate must recognize the possessions of his predecessor, such as the dorje, a ritual object shaped like a dumbbell, connoting the thunderbolt of the Hindu god Indra. When high lamas verified that the spirit of the Twelfth had passed into the three-year-old Thirteenth, the news was transmitted to Peking and after his confirmation by the Manchu Emperor, the young boy was ceremoniously enthroned.

During the Dalai Lama's minority, a Regent, himself a tulku, was chosen by a National Assembly, composed primarily of monks, and the Kashag, or cabinet, consisting of three laymen and one monk, nearly all from noble families. But real power lay with the monasteries and their puissant abbots. As much as a third of the male population joined Buddhist orders, and of these as many as fifteen percent were "fighting monks," armed and rebellious. When they descended on Lhasa and terrorized the populace, they had to be quelled by the Dalai Lama's own troops. Nor did they eschew politics. The enormous monasteries nearest Lhasa, Drepung, Sera, and Ganden, were particularly troublesome. The Chinese, realizing their power, sought monastic support by lavishing quantities of "presents." Complicating matters was the role of the Chinese Resident or Amban, who took sides in internal politics.

At the center of this labyrinth, ensconced in the immense Potala, was the Dalai Lama, plus his parents and siblings, newly ennobled and frequently meddlesome. Tibet in 1895 was an outlying province of a crumbling Chinese Empire, whose Manchu rulers had been humiliated only that year in a disastrous war with Japan. Peking was too weak, too corrupt, and too remote to defend Tibet against "the powerful elephants from the south," the British. For their part, the British were frustrated in their negotiations with Peking and Lhasa. In 1885, the British obtained Chinese permission to send a mission from India to Tibet, only to have the project vetoed by Lhasa. As compensation, Peking was obliged to recognize British annexation of Upper Burma. This followed a clash concerning the ill-defined status and frontiers of Sikkim, over which China and Tibet both claimed authority. To enforce their own claims, the British destroyed a frontier fort and routed a Tibetan force, causing the Amban to proceed to the disputed border and negotiate directly with the Indian Foreign Secretary. The resulting 1890 treaty defined a border, acknowledged British control of Sikkim, and provided for opening a British trade mart within Tibet. Yet when the Government of India tried to open that mart, Tibetans objected, insisting China had no right to negotiate in their name. Protests caromed from Lhasa to Peking, and exasperated British officials suspected that China covertly encouraged Tibetan obduracy.

Such was the setting when Dorzhiev advised the youthful Dalai Lama to seek the protection of the White Tsar.[i] The Buriat played skillfully on the fears of his monastic brethren, who had been warned by the Chinese that the British wished to abolish lamaism, and who feared the trade mart would open the way for missionaries. In his memoir, Dorzhiev recalls the advice he gave to Tibetan high lamas. When the question of seeking help from foreign Christians arose, he said, "because Russia is the enemy of Great Britain, she will come to the assistance of the Land of Snows to prevent her being devoured." Under the White Tsar's tolerant rule, he maintained, "the pure teachings of the Buddha flourished among the Torgut [Kalmyks] and the Buriats." He reminded them that the Tsarevich passed through Buriatia on his Asian Grand Tour, bestowing favors on its inhabitants. Dorzhiev cited the legend of Shambhala, which he located somewhere in Russia, and explained that Nicholas II was also an incarnation. "Such a Bodhisattva-tsar," he said, "could also bestow favors on Tibet." As if to confirm Dorzhiev's prescience, in 1890 a French expedition led by the Central Asian explorer Gabriel Bonvalot and the Due de Chartres's eldest son, Prince Henry of Orleans, appeared on Tibet's borders. Stopped north of Lhasa by Tibetan officials, the Chinese Amban, and an armed escort, the Prince (according to Dorzhiev's memoir) urged Tibetans to befriend the French and Russians, "the strongest powers in the world," who had recently become allies. This coincided with the statement by the omniscient Nechung Oracle that spoke of a prince: "An emanation of a Bodhisattva [seemingly d'Orleans but possibly the Tsar] is in the North and East." The oracle also pointedly repeated a pungent proverb, "Even dog fat can be good for a wound."

It was therefore determined that Dorzhiev should go to Russia, a momentous decision since no Dalai Lama had ever appealed to foreign Christians. Even if he failed to obtain the White Tsar's help, the Lhasa authorities reasoned, Dorzhiev could call attention to Tibet's plight. In 1898, wearing the thumb-ring of the Nechung Oracle for good luck, Dorzhiev and two companions set out for St. Petersburg via India. He traveled as a Mongol claiming Chinese citizenship, using a passport provided by the Amban in Lhasa. When the party was challenged by a suspicious Tibetan border guard, a bribe and three prostrations eased its passage.When stopped by British police at the Indian frontier, Dorzhiev showed his Chinese passport, persuading them that although he was Mongolian, he was a Chinese citizen who had "decided to return to his homeland by the easier sea route." Finally, after pausing near Darjeeling, the party boarded a train bound for Calcutta.

Buddhism originated in India, and the pilgrims visited Bodhgaya in Bihar, where Buddha attained enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi tree. From Calcutta, they continued by sea to Peking. Finally, on reaching his old home in Buriatia, Dorzhiev received the essential letter from Prince Esper Ukhtomsky (1861-1921) inviting him to St. Petersburg.

Prince Ukhtomsky was the logical intermediary. He had spent most of 1886 studying "the Lamaist question," reporting on conflicts between the proselytizing Orthodox missionaries and the Buriats. Traveling incognito, he visited the Buriats and their datsans, and conferred with their clergy in Urga and Peking. Unlike Przhevalsky, the apostle of the carbine and whip, Ukhtomsky did not belittle Asian cultures, and instead approached Buddhism and Islam with sympathetic curiosity. As to missionaries, the Prince ventured the skeptical notion that their conversions were often the result of bribes.

Ukhtomsky himself leaned to the mystical, and as a student of Theosophy, the occult, and esoteric Buddhism, he was increasingly drawn to the "luminous realms" of Asia "where hatreds and the fraternal quarrels among nations dissolve before the divine power." He believed fervently, as Schimmelpenninck van der Oye has documented, that the Buriats were a central element of Russian policy in the East. "Trans-Baikalia is the key to the heart of Asia, the vanguard of Russian civilization on the frontier of the 'Yellow Orient,'" he remarked. Thousands of lamaists made annual pilgrimages to Mongolia and Tibet, bringing into "this Asiatic wilderness" ideas of the White Tsar, and these non-Slavs would be drawn to the giant Russian Empire "not by cruelty but by kindness."

In 1895 Ukhtomsky found a new platform as editor of the St. Petersburg News, and in its columns he published his most celebrated sentence, seized upon ever since by Russophobes: "Properly speaking, in Asia we have not, nor can we have, any bounds, except the boundless sea breaking on her shores." Since Russia was on a "higher spiritual plane" than Britain, the Prince felt, there was no need to emulate its crude brand of imperialism, which was merely a cover for commercial exploitation. Russia had no reason to employ force since "it could depend mainly on benevolence to fulfill its manifest destiny." All of this was divinely ordained, and would occur through "some process of natural fusion." He criticized British India for its "exotic mushroom universities and expensive administrative reforms carried out with all the blind energy of self-sufficient ignorance," and scoffed at the irony lurking "in such cheap catchwords as 'native congresses,' 'a free native press,' 'the right of natives to be citizens of a great colonial empire.'" Russia offered the antidote to the evils of Western imperialism: the more the East was exploited, "the brighter becomes the name of the White Tsar." Largely forgotten today, his editorials were viewed in London, Berlin, and Paris as litmus words on Russia's Far Eastern policies.

WORKING WITH PRINCE UKHTOMSKY WASAN EQUALLY INTERESTING figure, Zhamsaran (Pyotr Aleksandrovich) Badmaev (1851- 1919). A fashionable practitioner of Tibetan medicine and an adviser on Mongolian affairs to the Russian Foreign Ministry, he was also the most influential Buriat in St. Petersburg. When Badmaev converted to Orthodox Christianity, none other than Alexander III acted as his godfather at the ceremony. Yet it was his Tibetan medicine that won him access to the Romanov court. In his laboratory he prepared an entire pharmacopoeia of alchemic remedies, "infusions of asoka flowers," "Nienchen balsam," "black lotus essence," "nikrik powder," and the "Tibetan elixir of life," which he prescribed for Petersburg's upper classes. Eventually, he would be summoned to treat the hemophiliac Romanov heir, Alexis. It was also whispered that he successfully treated the Tsar for a stomach ailment with a mixture of henbane and hashish -- "the effects of which were marvelous." Although some thought his presence sinister, according to James Webb, an historian of the occult, Badmaev "stood head and shoulders above the crowd of magi and holy fools who clamored around the steps of the throne."

Among those seeking his herbal pills and potions was the Finance Minister, Sergei Witte (1849-1915). The prime architect of Russia's forward policy in East Asia and godfather of the Trans-Siberian Railway, Witte wrote approvingly in his memoirs of Badmaev's plan to construct a 3,500-mile spur to the already overlong railroad. Although Alexander III was skeptical about the project, dismissing it as "all so new, strange, and fantastic," Witte's enthusiasm swayed the Government. In 1893, it advanced two million rubles to P.A. Badmaev and Co. to extend the railway from Irkutsk on Lake Baikal to the Chinese city of Lanzhou across the Gobi Desert. Ostensibly, the new line would help expand Russian trade in Central Asia.

The deeper motive was to provide a commercial cover for thousands of Buriat infiltrators who then could foment a pro-Russian revolt against the Manchu Dynasty. The resulting territorial gains would make possible a Pan-Buddhist confederacy in Central Asia under the White Tsar. Count Witte, then the dominant figure in Russian politics, supported the plan, which comported with his own grand design: "From the shores of the Pacific and the heights of the Himalayas, Russia would dominate not only the affairs of Asia but those of Europe as well." Or, as he put it in a confidential note to Nicholas II: "Given our enormous frontier with China and our exceptionally favorable situation, the absorption by Russia of a considerable part of the Chinese Empire is only a matter of time."

When Badmaev became aware of his compatriot Dorzhiev's influence in Lhasa, he was quick to sense new opportunities for employing Buriats and Kalmyks. "I am training young men in two capitals -- Peking and Petersburg-for further activities," Badmaev informed the Tsar. By 1895, Tibetan reluctance to entertain foreign Buddhists had been somewhat overcome, and Badmaev's Buriat emissaries were apparently entertained in Lhasa by none other than Dorzhiev himself. The intelligence they gathered was so highly regarded that Nicholas II bestowed gold medals on two of Badmaev's Buriat agents, Ochir Jigjitov and Dugar Vanchinov. In appreciation for his hospitality, Dorzhiev received a gold watch inscribed with the imperial monogram, which he collected on his visit to Buriatia in 1898.

The most successful of Badmaev's proteges was Gombodjab Tsybikov (1873-1930), a leading member of the Buriat intelligentsia and a teacher at the Oriental Institute in Vladivostok. Tsybikov was at one level a Russian agent, but like Dorzhiev, as the historian Robert Rupen points out, in working for a Greater Mongolian State he was also a nationalist who later came into conflict with Soviet authorities. In a mission for the Imperial Geographical Society, Tsybikov succeeded in entering Tibet from Amdo traveling as a Buddhist pilgrim. In 1900-1901, he visited not only Lhasa but a number of monasteries. Using his camera surreptitiously, he returned to Russia with a portfolio of photographs, including some of the earliest of Lhasa, along with a bundle of Tibetan texts, earning him the Geographical Society's Przhevalsky Medal. He also provided notes on Tibet's government and population, the size of the standing army and the Chinese garrison, the practice of polygamy and polyandry, and the independent position of women.

As to Badmaev's ambitious railway scheme, nothing came of it save for the loss of the two million rubles advanced to his company. Nonetheless, Badmaev retained his mansion on the Vyborg road and his position at court, where he advised the Tsar not only on medical matters but on politics. Rasputin's biographer, Rene Fulop-Miller, asserts that Badmaev's files combined medical and encoded political data. In any case, before his death in 1919, the obscure Buriat doctor transformed a small Tibetan pharmacy into a great sanitarium, and spawned a homeopathic dynasty whose cures are today available on the Internet.

HAVING PROMOTED BADMAEV AT COURT, UKHTOMSKY NOW BECAME Dorzhiev's principal sponsor. Through the Prince's mediation, the lama appears to have met with the Tsar at Peterhof, his palace on the Gulf of Finland. By this time, the once shy and sensitive Tsarevich was the Autocrat of All Russia. Yet after reigning four years, Nicholas still disdained politics, hated confrontation, and had difficulty asserting himself. He was bullied by his uncles and, as his Empire veered from crisis to crisis, browbeaten by his wife, the Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. His cousin, Grand Duke Alexander Mikailovich, recalls in his memoirs that the slightly undersized Nicholas dreaded being alone with his outsized uncles: "the instant the door of his study closed to outsiders -- down on the table would go with a bang the weighty fist of Uncle Alexis ... two hundred and fifty pounds packed in the resplendent uniform of Grand Admiral of the Fleet Uncle Serge and Uncle Vladimir developed equally efficient methods of intimidation ... They all had their favorite generals and admirals ... their ballerinas desirous of organizing a 'Russian season' in Paris; their wonderful preachers anxious to redeem the Emperor's soul... their clairvoyant peasants with a divine message." The Tsar's irresolution caused his War Minister, General Vannovsky, to lament that he "takes counsel from everyone: with grandparents, aunts, mummy and anyone else; he is young and accedes to the view of the last person to whom he talks." Still, it should be noted that Witte, who preferred Alexander to his son, asserts in his memoirs that Nicholas "has a quick mind and learns easily. In this respect he is far superior to his father."

Into these murky waters waded the emissary of the Dalai Lama. No official account of the lama's audience with the White Tsar has turned up -- the Russian archives are silent on the matter so we have only Dorzhiev's own recollection: "When I talked with him [Nicholas II] about Tibet, he told me how Russia would help Tibet not to be lost to enemy hands." When the Tsar consulted with his Foreign Minister, Count Lamsdorff, his War Minister, General Kuropatkin, and his Finance Minister, Witte, they suggested through Ukhtomsky that a Russian official be sent to Lhasa. Dorzhiev replied: "Definitely do not send a European. The nobles, ministers, ordinary monks and lay people have made an oath not to allow them. For the moment, there is no way to send anyone." If the Tibetans allowed Russians in Lhasa, other Europeans would not be far behind. Dorzhiev relates that "this made him [the Tsar] a little displeased." As to Russian help in countering the British and Chinese, the Tsar asked "to receive the request officially in written form" from the Dalai Lama. On both sides, the meeting fell short of expectations, but a dialogue had opened between Lhasa and St. Petersburg.

From St. Petersburg, Dorzhiev traveled south to the lower Volga, where he sought to renew and strengthen ties between the geographically separated Kalmyk and Central Asian Buddhists. There he met Ovshe Muchkinovich Norzunov (born ca. 1874), whom we have met as the other invisible guest at Ghoom monastery. An educated Kalmyk from the province of Stavropol, Norzunov was to become Dorzhiev's steadfast lieutenant.

Dorzhiev continued his "sondage politique," traveling to Paris in quest of further allies. His Russian friends introduced him to the anthropologist and Buddhist scholar Joseph Deniker, and through the professor he met a number of French notables interested in Buddhism, including Georges Clemenceau and (it would appear) Alexandra David-Neel, a devotee who by sheer grit later made her way to Lhasa. At the Musee Guimet, Dorzhiev conducted a lamaist ceremony, which was translated by Buddha Rabdanov, an eminent Buria t-- and recorded on wax cylinders. While in Paris, Dorzhiev purchased a phonograph and cylinders, as well as photographic equipment.

On his return to Russia, Dorzhiev was reunited with Norzunov, who, it was now agreed, would attempt a pilgrimage to Lhasa. The two traveled to Urga, Mongolia's capital, then separated as the Kalmyk headed toward Tibet. Norzunov passed as a Mongolian pilgrim until his caravan crossed the Gobi, when, after being halted by Kurluk Mongols, he was discovered to be a Russian. His accent and the European jacket beneath his fur garment gave him away.A bribe sufficed to satisfy the Kurluks, who guided him part of the way to Nagchu, where he eluded the Tibetan border guards who had earlier blocked Przhevalsky. Braving March gales, Norzunov arrived safely in Lhasa and there presented the Dalai Lama with a letter from Dorzhiev "describing in detail the greatness of the Russian people, the critical situation of China and expressing the opinion that the connection with Russia promises a great future for Tibet."

After six weeks in Lhasa, Norzunov headed home, following the favored route through Darjeeling, Calcutta, Peking, and Urga, arriving in Russia in August 1899. He bore an urgent summons to Dorzhiev to return as soon as possible to Lhasa, where the emissary was received by the Dalai Lama "with trust and charity." At the Great Lhasa Chanting ceremony, tens of thousands witnessed Dorzhiev's presentation to the Dalai Lama of diamonds, silks, and silver ingots cast as horseshoes, some of them gifts of the White Tsar. Dorzhiev wisely took care to provide the monasteries with their portion of Russian largesse.

Even so, the Buriat's successes, and his new rank as Senior Abbot, provoked murmurs of envy and displeasure. According to Deniker, some were scandalized by a photograph of Dorzhiev with a Russian lady. He was forced to destroy the photographic equipment-considered demonic by the monks -- that he had brought from Paris. In the pontiff's court, according to Dorzhiev's memoirs, dissension had become open and bitter:

In those times, the influential people of Tibet had these things to say about politics. Some thought, "Since the kindness of the Manchu Emperor has been so great, he will not forget about us even now. Therefore, we should not divorce ourselves from China." Others said, "The Chinese government will collapse before long. Therefore, so long as we have no agreements with the enemies [the British] nearby, we will certainly be conquered. So it would be good if we had close relations with them." Still others said, "The Russians, being very rich and powerful, we would not fall into the enemy hands. Also, since they are far away, they could not devour us. But for just that same reason, it is difficult to work with them."


In St. Petersburg, meanwhile, Norzunov accepted a commission from the Imperial Geographical Society to photograph Tibet with a camera it provided him. He very probably met with the Tsar. A note from Ukhtomsky to Nicholas II asked him to receive two Kalmyks, one being Norzunov. "You know how I love Buriats," remarked the ever-hopeful Prince, "but Kalmyks are closer and more akin to us on account of their martial character and other virtues. We have not yet had the last word on the awakening of Central Asia." In January 1900 Norzunov stopped in Paris, where at Dorzhiev's request, he took delivery of four crates of steel begging bowls that had been ordered to replace an earlier shipment lost when a coracle capsized in a Tibetan river. On his departure from Marseilles on the steamer Dupleix, he took aboard one of the crates; the remaining three were to follow on another ship. He arrived in Calcutta that March with a passport from General Nipi Khoraki, the Governor of Stavropol, and a letter of introduction to the French Consul. Concealing his identity, Norzunov registered at the Continental Hotel as Myanoheid Hopityant, an employee of Stavropol's Post and Telegraph Department.

His troubles began when British customs discovered he was carrying a .45 caliber sporting rifle, and confiscated it. Tipped off by a Russian-speaking Briton that he was about to be arrested, Norzunov panicked. He decamped for Darjeeling by train. In spite of his Chinese disguise, he was spotted and placed under house arrest at Ghoom monastery by the Deputy Police Commissioner for Darjeeling. Police records describe him as about 5 feet 10 inches tall, "broad and well built, head now shaved, Mongolian features, slight moustache twisted down Chinese fashion, medium complexion." His age was given as twenty-six. He at first told his interrogators he was a trader from Peking taking the less arduous route to Lhasa. Later he altered his story: he was a Khalkha Mongolian named Obishak. Under further questioning, he finally admitted he had come from Marseilles by way of Calcutta.

From Ghoom, Norzunov managed to get word of his plight to Dorzhiev, who was then about to depart for Russia. Cool as Macavity, Dorzhiev arrived in May at Ghoom as Abbot Sherab Gyatso's guest, carrying a document certifying that Norzunov was a Buddhist who had already made a pilgrimage to Lhasa. When his document failed to impress the British, Dorzhiev felt he had had no choice but to continue his own travels.

A police escort took Norzunov to Calcutta and placed him under arrest. During his detention, Thomas Cook & Son cleared up the matter of the crates of begging bowls that had been impounded, along with the rest of Norzunov's luggage. They forwarded 590 metal bowls, two phonographs, and a camera to Lhasa. Norzunov was expelled from India aboard the Dupleix to Odessa, "on the ground that it is undesirable that a Mongolian or quasi-Russian adventurer with several aliases should trade with Tibet through British India." In a final interrogation, Norzunov produced a letter of recommendation from Prince Ukhtomsky, on the stationery of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society, describing him as a member "undertaking a journey to Tibet on a pilgrimage and in the interests of commerce and science." Norzunov now acknowledged his travel expenses had been paid for by a rich Chinese Mongolian lama from Urga named "Akchwan Darjilicoff" who had studied in Lhasa before visiting Europe. The same rich lama had ordered the steel bowls in Paris from J. Deniker and Cie. He was merely the courier.

Two months after his expulsion, the indefatigble Norzunov was again on his way to Tibet, which he reached in winter 1901.While in Lhasa, he took the photographs commissioned by the Geographical Society. They were published along with an introduction by the American diplomat William W Rockhill in The Century magazine in 1903.

"DARJILICOFF'S" NAME MEANT NOTHING TO NORZUNOV'S interrogators and it would appear that neither the Abbot of Ghoom nor Das volunteered further reports on the matter. (It was their silence that earned Sherab Gyatso, Ugyen Gyatso, and Sarat Chandra Das their probably unwarranted reputation as double agents.) The real Dorzhiev, having thwarted his would-be captors, made his way by sea to China, where he witnessed the Boxer Rebellion. He recorded his impression of a Boxer massacre at the Chinese city of Aigun on the Amur River: "Those who killed everyone and burned the city down without leaving a trace may have been men, but their brutality was greater than that of tigers and leopards." Finding Peking besieged by Chinese rebels, he proceeded to Japan, then to Vladivostok, and traveled by train and steamer to St. Petersburg, only to learn that his patron, Prince Ukhtomsky, had just been dispatched to Peking. To break the tedium of waiting for a royal audience, Dorzhiev revisited Paris, and ordered more begging- bowls.

Eventually, Dorzhiev, armed with a letter from the Dalai Lam.a, met with Tsar Nicholas on September 30, 1900, at Livadia, the Tsar's palace at the Crimean resort of Yalta. This time the audience was reported in the columns of the Journal de Saint-Petersbourg. Having witnessed the Boxer massacres in China, the lama was now convinced that the intrusion of Europeans and their missionaries in Asia could have catastrophic results. As described by the Russian Foreign Ministry, the purpose of this mission was to seek "the intercession of Russia for Tibet, which is menaced ... by England, mainly from Nepal." There was the ritual exchange of presents, but otherwise the White Tsar proffered little. Dorzhiev made better headway with the Minister of War, General Kuropatkin, who promised the Tibetans the "cannons of the latest make" which the Russians had captured during the Boxer Rebellion. All this Dorzhiev reported on his return to Lhasa, where he presented the Dalai Lama with the Tsar's gifts, a gold watch studded with diamonds, and a "gorgeous set of clerical vestments."

In 1901 Dorzhiev and Norzunov were again on the move, passing through Nepal en route to Petersburg. According to a British intelligence report, Dorzhiev's abrupt departure from Lhasa was prompted by the Chinese Amban, who, angered by his unauthorized diplomatic negotiations, issued a warrant for his arrest. In Katmandu, Dorzhiev visited monasteries and made offerings of powdered gold and saffron at the great Bodh-Nath stupa. In a boastful moment, he showed the chief lam.a the inscribed watch worth 300 rupees given him by the Russians-an episode promptly reported to the British. At the Nepalese border, British guards searched his luggage but failed to find the gifts he was carrying from the Panchen Lama, or the letters from the Dalai Lama intended for the Tsar. Nor did border officials discover Norzunov's Russian passport, which he had hidden in the sole of a boot, or the films tucked in a small box inside his trousers. In Colombo, with the assistance of the Russian consulate, the party of six embarked without incident on the Russian liner Tambov on June 12, 1901, bound for Odessa.

There Dorzhiev and his party were accorded a rousing welcome, complete with roses, blaring music, and crackling fireworks. The Russian press described the group as "Extraordinary Envoys of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. "The British Consul General, in a hastily cabled report, remarked that when the Grand Lama's mission disembarked, "they were met with real Russian cordiality, with bread and salt on a gold-plated tray," all of which "produced a deep and pleasant impression on the Lamas." As much pomp surrounded Dorzhiev's audience with the Tsar at Peterhof. The Dalai Lama's letter, written in Tibetan with a copy in Mongolian, was resoundingly firm: "The Buddhist faith of the Tibetan people is threatened by enemies and oppressors from abroad -- the English. Be so kind as to instruct my ambassadors how they may be reassured about their pernicious and foul activities." The Tibetan pontiff made no specific requests for assistance, but rather expressed a hope for protection. A passage suggesting Dorzhiev's influence asserts: "Your Majesty does not reject people who confess different religions ... and especially expresses solicitude towards the Buddhist Kalmyks and Buriats."

In a careful response, Nicholas was noncommittal. His Majesty expressed pleasure "about your wish to establish regular connections between the Russian State and Tibet" and ventured the hope that "given the friendly and fully well-disposed attitude of Russia, no danger will threaten Tibet in her fortune hereafter."

Besides meeting with the Tsar, Dorzhiev conferred with Finance Minister Witte, War Minister Kuropatkin, and Foreign Minister Lamsdorff. When asked if St. Petersburg might open diplomatic relations with Tibet, Dorzhiev responded that if the Russians allowed a consulate in Lhasa, the British would want representation as well. The Dalai Lama's emissary suggested instead that Russians could open a consulate just across the Chinese-Tibetan border, with Buddha Rabdanov as consul. With its advantageous location and a telegraph connection to Lhasa, the consulate could promptly pass news from Tibet to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Authorized the following year, the consulate was opened at Ganding in Szechuan, in autumn 1903.

As before, Dorzhiev returned to Lhasa laden with gifts and, according to his memoir, "documents written in solid gold letters stating the relations between Russia and Tibet." But this was not a treaty. The Buriat's missions had not achieved Lhasa's overriding objective, a formal alliance in which Russia would agree to protect the Tibetans. In his invaluable recollections, published in 1926, the Russian diplomat Ivan Yakobevich Korostovets provides a sense of the lama's negotiating style: "Dorzhiev spoke with marked authority and expertise, and mightily pleased the Tsar, in spite of his fantastic plans, which were not to be realized and which implied a Russian advance across the Himalayas in order to liberate the oppressed people ... He behaved in a very modest way yet demanded respect, while at the same time he was mysteriously anxious to avoid attracting the attention of the English to his mission."

Aside from specialized academic works, little attention has been paid by biographers to Nicholas II's obsession with the East. Following his Asian Grand Tour in the company of Ukhtomsky, the Tsarevich consented in 1893 to serve as chairman of the Siberian Railway Committee, a major Witte project. Indeed, his support for Witte's ambitious schemes contributed to the ill-starred Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, which in turn contributed to the Finance Minister's downfall. Many of the Tsar's advisers justifiably complained that Russia's limited resources were squandered in Asia. The War Minister, General Kuropatkin, noted with alarm in his diary entry for September 22, 1899: "The Emperor is restless on foreign policy matters. I consider one of the sovereign's more dangerous character traits to be his love for mysterious lands and individuals such as the Buriat Badmaev and Prince Ukhtomsky. They inspire him with fantasies about the Russian Tsar's greatness as ruler over all Asia. The Emperor is drawn to Tibet and similar places. This is all very worrisome, and I shudder about the harm these delusions may cause to Russia."

In March 1903, Kuropatkin communicated his fears to the Finance Minister: "I told Witte that our sovereign has grandiose plans in his head: to absorb Manchuria into Russia, to begin the annexation of Korea. He also dreams of taking Tibet under his orb. He wants to rule Persia, to seize both the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles."

Despite Witte's successes as Finance Minister -- during his ten-year tenure, the revenues of the empire nearly doubled -- he was brought down in 1906 after Russia's military debacle in the East, his demise hastened by the intrigues of his rivals. Witte was demoted to the purely ceremonial post of President of the Committee of Ministers. As his stock declined, so did Ukhtomsky's. Yet if Dorzhiev failed to obtain the wholehearted support for Tibet he sought from the Russians, his missions played to the worst fears of Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, who was rarely half-hearted about anything.

_______________

Notes:

i. The Russians carefully cultivated the belief that the Tsar was the ''tsagan'' or "White Khan," the heir to Ghengis Khan. What we know as the Golden Horde was actually called the White Horde by the Russians, thus the appellation "White Tsar."
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Thu Sep 03, 2020 10:29 am

Photographs, Excerpt from "Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia"
by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac
© 1999 by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


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Photo 1: William Moorcroft (far left), disguised as a Hindu pilgrim, explores western Tibet in this 1812 watercolor by his turbaned companion Hyder Hearsey -- the only certain likeness of the elusive Moorcroft.

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Photo 2: Mohan Lal, the astute Kashmiri munshi, or secretary, who in 1842 vainly warned the British of the imminent Afghan rising at Kabul.

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Photo 3: Sir Alexander Burnes, the British Resident at Kabul, murdered while serving an Afghan policy he opposed.

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Photo 4: George Eden, first Earl of Auckland and Governor-General of India, the ill-starred begetter of the First Afghan War.

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Photo 5: Emir Nasrullah Khan, who tormented two British officers in his notorious "bug pit" while waiting for a letter from Queen Victoria.

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Photo 6: Emily Eden's portrait of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, the aging Lion of Lahore, on whose Sikh army the British excessively relied.

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Photo 7: The Bolan Pass, the fifty-mile defile through which the Army of the Indus and its 30,000 camels tramped into Afghanistan in 1839.

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Photo 8: Afghan irregulars, superior marksmen whose lethal jezails outdistanced the British musket, the Brown Bess.

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Photo 9: Dr. William Brydon, completing the retreat from Kabul, in Lady Elizabeth Butler's celebrated The Remnants of an Army.

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[i]Photo 10: Januarius MacGahan, the young American correspondent whose accounts of the "Bulgarian Horrors" supplied tinder for the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.


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Photo 11 General Mikhail Skobelev, fearless (and ferocious) in subduing Central Asians, who rode into battle in spotless white.

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Photo 12: Major Sir Louis Napoleon Cavagnari meeting with Kabul chiefs three months before his murder in Kabul in September 1879 ignited the Second Afghan War.

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Photo 13: Lord Lytton, on the Viceregal throne, circa 1877, his slouching posture due to a physical condition that many misread as indolence.

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Photo 14: Madame l3Iavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, an agent of mystical influence in British India during the 1880s.

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Photo 15: Lord Curzon and his Chicago-born Vicereine, Mary Curzon, at a tiger hunt, circa 1902.The Viceroy's rigid stance was due not to pride or arrogance but a painful steel brace to support an infirm spine.

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Photo 16: Duleep Singh,Victoria's favorite maharajah, portrayed in the glory of his youth by the court artist Winterhalter.

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Photo 17: Sarat Chandra Das, the pundit who posed as a Buddhist pilgrim. His missions to Tibet in 1879 and 1881 benefited scholarship as well as the Raj.

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Photo 18: The "Lhacham" as photographed by the "Pundit."

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Photo 19 A rare photograph of Agvan Dorzhiev, the Dalai Lama's envoy to the "White Tsar," who passed invisibly through India to Russia.

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Photo 20: Dorzhiev, leaving the palace at Tsarskoye Selo Palace near St. Petersburg after an audience in 1901 with Nicholas II.

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Photo 21: Nikolai Przhevalsky, in martial regalia, circa 1885, pondering his next moves as Russia's preeminent Asian explorer.

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Photo 22: Pyotr Kozlov, Prezhevalsky's dashing successor, who outlived the 1917 Revolution but like his mentor failed to reach Lhasa.

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Photo 23 The Lamas (and British agents) of Ghoom Monastery. Lama Ugyen Gyatso (left) stands next to the Mongol Abbot Sherab Gyatso, seen with four other lamas in a circa 1895 snapshot.

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Photo 24: Francis Younghusband -- full beard, brooding brows and black cap -- while leading a secret mission to Kashgar in 1891 with fellow Britons George Macartney (left), Henry Lennard (with dog) and Richard Beech.

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[i]Photo 25: Colonel Younghusband's army, dwarfed by the Potala, forcibly entering Lhasa in 1904, the last such feat of the imperial age.


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Photo 26: Sartor Exploratus: The diplomat William Rockhill donning native garments like those he wore during his Tibetan forays for the Smithsonian Institution, in 1888-89, and 1891-92.[/i]

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Photo 27 William Montgomery McGovern, disguised as a "Tibetan coolie," reached Lhasa in 1923, causing the nettled British to question his honor (undeservedly).

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Photo 28: Sir Aurel Stein as he looked on the Silk Road to his human companions and his successive terriers, all named Dash.

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[i]Photo 29: Pictures from an Expedition. The Roerich party in Urga (Ulan Bator) in 1927. Nicholas Roerich, white-bearded, sits alongside Pyotr Kozlov, hat in his lap; George Roerich is at far left in back row.


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Photo 30: Nicholas Roerich is greeted a year later by Colonel F.M. Bailey standing on the right in the garden of the British Residence at Gangtok, the Russian unaware of Bailey's hostile backstage role. Helena Roerich is seated on the right.

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Photo 31: Charles Bell, in his diplomatic uniform, with the Thirteenth Dalai Lama (seated) and the Maharaj-Kumar Sidkeong of Sikkim in 1910. During the pontiff's Indian exile, Bell as political officer in Sikkim was his British host.

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Photo 32: The Panda Hunters. Suydam Cutting (center) flanked by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (left) and Kermit Roosevelt at Yunnan, China in 1929, in their Field Museum quest for the Giant Panda. The baffled Chinese assumed all three were sons of the "King of America."

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Photo 33: "The Lhasa Ladies," as they were called by the British diplomat Frank Ludlow: Phunkang Shape, a Tibetan noble, is flanked by his wife Kuku on the left and his sister Kay."

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Photo 34: Hitler's cordial handshake with Sven Hedin followed the Swedish explorer's speech opening the Berlin Olympics in 1936. A German Olympic official looks on.

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Photo 35: Ernst Schafer, hands crossed, presides at dinner in Lhasa with other members of the SS mission to Tibet in 1939. Second from the left is Bruno Beger, later tried as a Nazi war criminal; fifth from the left is Tsarong, and second from the right is Mondo, one of the four "Rugby Boys."

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Photo 36: Captain Brooke Dolan with his Lhasa Apso, "Miss Tick," as photographed by Major Ilia Tolstoy, co-leader of the secret OSS mission in 1943, Lhasa's first official contact with Washington.

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Photo 37: His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, age seven, in his first meeting with Americans at an audience at the Potala. Tolstoy presented a signed photograph of President Franklin Roosevelt.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Thu Sep 03, 2020 10:34 am

Part 1 of 2

Curzon's Hour, Excerpt from "Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia"
by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac
© 1999 by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


CHAPTER TWELVE: Curzon's Hour

GEORGE NATHANIEL CURZON WAS NOT YET FORTY WHEN HE was named Viceroy of India, and his lovely Vicereine, nee Mary Leiter of Chicago, was not quite thirty when they sailed eastward on the P & O liner Arabia. Their arrival at Bombay on December 30, 1898, was Curzon's noontide. No Viceroy had more ardently sought the position, none was better prepared, and certainly none had seen more of what everybody then called the Orient. Not merely India and China, not just Japan, Siam, and Korea, but also Bokhara and Samarkand, the shores of the Caspian, the "singing sands" of the Sinai, the long-inaccessible Great Mosque of Kairwan in the Sahara, the throne of the Afghans in Kabul -- all this Curzon had seen. His two-volume Persia and the Persian Question (1892), for which he had worn out horses, boots, and guides, immediately became the standard authority.When his Pamirs and the Source if the Oxus (1896) won a gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society, Curzon confessed the honor gave him greater pleasure "than it did to become a Minister of the Crown."

Curzon's tireless voyages were the more impressive considering his disability, a curvature of the spine that tormented him until his death in 1925. Pain was chronic, and contributed to a peevish sarcasm that so hindered his political career. The steel corset that encased his frame, writes Harold Nicolson, "gave to his figure an aspect of unbending perpendicular, affecting also the motions of his mind: there was no middle path for him between rigidity and collapse." For Curzon, everything came down to a reasoned application of a focused will. In demanding too much of himself, he too often vented scorn on the less efficient, the less driven. "Try to suffer fools more gladly," gently remonstrated his friend and putative superior, Lord George Hamilton, the Secretary of State for India in London, "they constitute the majority of mankind."

Curzon belonged to the privileged minority, and he knew it. His forebears crossed the Channel with William the Conqueror and thereafter pursued with more tenacity than distinction the family motto, "Let Curzon holde what Curzon helde." For eight centuries, the Curzons kept tenure of their estates in Derbyshire, 10,000 acres, and for generations sent a succession of Members to Parliament, most of them lackluster backbenchers. Their one indisputable achievement was construction of a Palladian masterpiece, Kedleston, whose noble exterior and majestic rooms were completed felicitously by Robert Adam. Here Curzon was born in 1859, the eldest son of the fourth Baron Scarsdale, a clergyman and, like many upper-class fathers, a nonchalant parent.

Young George, his two brothers, and six sisters were left mostly in the care of a stern governess, Miss Paraman, who succumbed to "paroxysms of ferocity" while dealing with her charges. She insisted (to quote Nicolson again) on "obedience, success and the more detailed forms of religion." The lessons of discipline stuck, but the unjust punishments he suffered bred in Curzon a combative spirit, redeemed by his quickness of mind and (when he wished) personal charm. In 1872, he entered Eton, where he won every academic prize, proved a rebellious trial to his masters, developed the curvature of his spine, suffered the loss (at sixteen) of a caring mother, and fell under the spell of the Indian Empire.

By his own account, that epiphany occurred during a spirited address to the Eton Literary Society by Sir James Fitzames Stephen, friend and adviser to Viceroy Lytton, a despiser of liberal soppiness, and uncle of the yet-unborn Virginia Woolf. Stephen said (as Curzon recalled) "that there was in the Asian continent an empire more populous, more amazing, and more beneficent than that of Rome; that the rulers of that great dominion were drawn from the men of our own people; that some of them might perhaps in the future be taken from the ranks of boys who were listening to his words." The seeds thus planted germinated at Oxford and flowered during a visit to India in 1887, when "the fascination and, if I may say so, the sacredness of India" persuaded Curzon that there was no higher honor than serving at that altar. He had found a vocation, in much the same spirit that others turn to cloth and cowl.

WHEN CURZON WENT UP TO BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD, IN 1878, he was already dubbed The Coming Man. "Everyone remarked his present eminence and predicted his future fame," recalled his near contemporary Winston Churchill. At Oxford too he seemed to waltz to the summit, becoming president of the debating society, the Oxford Union; dominating the Conservative society, the Canning Club; turning out prize-winning essays on recondite themes. Only once did his ability to cram fail him, when he gained only a Second Class rather than the all-important First in his final examination. "Now I shall devote the rest of my life to showing the examiners have made a mistake," the embarrassed paragon remarked. He compensated by winning the most coveted Oxford fellowship, to All Souls.

Still, Curzon's precocity was too amply evident. Of his speaking style, a Balliol colleague said, "He spoke copiously, even long, was more inclined to overpower than to persuade, and in repartee or sarcasm was apt to be too heavy handed." His non-admirers had their revenge in the "accursed doggerel" that followed him past the grave. In lines for a student masque, ascribed to his schoolmates J. D. Mackail and Cecil Spring Rice (later boon companion to Theodore Roosevelt), his overbearing manner was rendered thus:

My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,
I am a most superior person,
My cheek is pink, my hair is sleek,
I dine at Blenheim once a week.


Not entirely fair or accurate: the private Curzon was self-deprecatory, relished telling jokes against himself, and sought out unconventional and witty friends, one being his classmate Oscar Wilde. "You are a brick," Wilde wrote Curzon after the latter had defended the former in an undergraduate contretemps. "Our sweet city with its dreaming towers must not be given entirely over to the philistines." Curzon never shied from jousts across political fences, though his lance could be sharp. On joining a club (the Crabbet) founded by the rakish anti-imperialist Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, he once with a bland smile addressed his host: "My dear Wilfrid, your poetry is delightful and your morals, though deplorable, enchanting. But why are you a traitor to your country?" (Subsequently Curzon won the club's laureate award, with a poem in praise of sin.)

Curzon's airs were superior, but not joyless. Still, on one root question he was invariably earnest. The British Empire, he believed, was "the greatest instrument for good that the world has seen." Moreover, the noble work of governing India was "placed by the inscrutable decrees of Providence upon the shoulders of the British race." At Oxford, this claim of divine stewardship was linked to classical Greece and the teachings of Plato by the eminent theologian and professor of Greek, Benjamin Jowett, the Master of Balliol and one of the moral legislators of Victorian England.

Under Jowett, Balliol became Oxford's intellectual flagship, and his owlish countenance was among the monuments that important visitors all wished to see. He cultivated the influential, and kept a notebook listing the names of acquaintances likely to help his college or its students, his mission being "to inoculate England with Balliol." A bachelor with a grumpy distaste for small talk, "The Jowler" was easier to admire than like. His cutting remarks instantly circulated, such as his tart summary of a colleague's windy sermon: "All that I could make out was that today was yesterday, and this world the same as the next." Or as he remarked to Margot Asquith, wife of the soon-to-be Prime Minister (also of Balliol): "My dear child, you must believe in God in spite of what the clergy tell you."

Jowett had a particular interest in India; his two brothers had served and died there. Like other eminent Britons before and afterwards, he tended to see the subcontinent as a blackboard on which new theories could be chalked and analyzed. He belonged to a tradition that began with Benthamites ("the greatest happiness for the greatest number"), Christian evangelicals, and reformers like Lord Macaulay and Sir Charles Trevelyan. Liberals and conservatives alike assumed that Western education was the key to raising native peoples from sloth and ignorance. To this Jowett added a practical corollary: that the Indian Civil Service could provide India with a governing elite that was disinterested and benevolent, in the fashion of the Guardians in Plato's Republic (which Jowett translated). These Guardians were to be generalists, their minds honed by Greek and Latin, though Jowett also saw merit in studying Sanskrit, Vernacular Indian History, Economics, Land Tenure, and Religions-all courses at the School of Oriental Studies inaugurated by the university in 1883. The best university men, some of them Indian, were to be chosen through rigorous tests, which as a member of the Committee on Examinations, Jowett helped prepare.

Jowett once confided to his longtime friend and confidante Florence Nightingale, "I should like to govern the world through my pupils." He made an impressive start. Those who passed the ICS examinations were obliged to attend a university for a probationary two years. Jowett offered a place at Balliol to each successful candidate ("poaching," his academic rivals snorted) and provided all entrants with a special tutor (Arnold Toynbee, uncle of the noted historian). Consequently more than half the probationers chose Oxford in the 1890's, compared with Cambridge's twenty percent. According to Richard Symonds's tally in Oxford and Empire (1986)1 600 of 2,200 Balliol matriculates from 1875 to 1914 obtained imperial posts, half in the Indian services. Within Britain, Balliol accounted for more than forty seats in the House of Commons -- and for seventeen years, from 1888 to 1905, three successive Viceroys of India were Jowett's pupils.

It was a heady triumph for The Jowler, Oxford, and Plato. Indeed there was a striking likeness between the Platonic prescription and India, where the British hierarchy replicated that in The Republic: Guardians at the peak, the warriors next, followed by merchants and Other Ranks at the bottom. As remarked by Philip Mason in The Men Who Ruled India (1954), the four basic Hindu castes -- sages, warriors, traders, and menials -- likewise corresponded with this pyramid. Mason, a Balliol man who served twenty years in the Indian Civil Service, notes that the British Guardians were a caste apart from those they ruled. They were forbidden to own land or engage in trade, and were governed by their elders-all this "on exactly Plato's principles." In India as in Plato's ideal state, the military was subordinate to the civil, but (as in The Republic), some of the ablest officers could be chosen for the Political Department and thus rise into the ranks of the Guardians.

A fine scheme, but with a palpable catch. As with Plato, Jowett's focus was on good government rather than self-government. The Raj was a paternalist autocracy imposed by an alien race, and while its admirers made much of its good works -- schools, courts, hospitals, roads, irrigation -- little was said about consent of the governed. Jowett himself believed qualified Indians should be represented in the highest councils. Yet progress towards bureaucratic power sharing, much less elective government, was glacial, slowed by the hostility of lower-status Europeans. As for Curzon, his inability, or rather unwillingness, to reconcile efficiency and democracy proved his undoing in what would be the last classic imperial adventure, the British invasion of Tibet.

"THERE IS MORE GREAT AND PERMANENT GOOD TO BE DONE IN India than in any department of administration in England," Jowett wrote to Lord Lansdowne, the first of his three pupils to accept the Viceroyalty. In that spirit, Curzon grasped the same reins. He had now completed his great voyages, gained valuable experience as parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Lord Salisbury and secured his financial independence with an interesting match. In 1895 he married Mary Victoria Leiter, whose father founded the Chicago dry-goods emporium that became Marshall Field. "Of family, as the word is here understood," sniffed The Times of London some years later, "he had none; of position, none save that which he created for himself." Yet his daughter was to occupy (as her biographer Nigel Nicolson observes) the most splendid position that any American, man or woman, held in the British Empire.

Mary's face complemented her father's fortune (reckoned by Nicolson at $20 million in 1890's dollars). At five-foot-eight, with her wisp of a waist and captivating gaze, she was the belle of every ball after her debut in Washington, where the first Englishman to propose to her was Cecil Spring Rice of the British Legation, co-scribbler of the Oxford "superior person" doggerel. At a London ball in 1890, she met George Curzon. Both were smitten. There followed a protracted, on-again, off-again long-distance courtship that survived his sending texts of his speeches instead of billets-doux. He finally proposed in 1893 but insisted their engagement be kept secret for two years so he could visit Afghanistan, "my last wild cry of freedom." The wedding was in Washington, the marriage successful. Mary was self-assured and sweet-tempered, and when George accepted the Vice-royalty, she passed inspection at Windsor by the Queen Empress, who informed Curzon his wife was "wise and beautiful."

Having settled in Calcutta at Government House (whose design, auspiciously, was inspired by Kedleston), the new Viceroy made clear that he was not going to be a Great Ornamental, the phrase applied to his sedate predecessor, Lord Elgin. Curzon plunged into his work, assaying such diverse questions as creating a new North-West Frontier Province, coping with a threatened famine by a timely visit to Gujerat (the rains came along with him, confirming belief in his miraculous powers), founding a steel industry, launching a Directorate of Criminal Intelligence, stabilizing finances and currencies, and always riding herd on a bureaucracy that he faulted as dilatory. He hated the system of circulating endless minutes among departmental chiefs: "All these gentlemen state their worthless views at equal length, and the result is a sort of literary Bedlam." "Efficiency of administration," he admonished, "is a synonym for contentment of the governed."

Curzon took personal charge of the Foreign Department, whose policies were of keenest interest to him, involving as they did relations with Russia, China, Persia and the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and -- a recent and exasperating item -- Tibet. It appeared that the Tibetans had trespassed into British-ruled Sikkim, demolishing boundary pillars. They also obstructed compliance with the Anglo-Tibetan Convention of 1890 and the ancillary Trade Regulations of 1893, providing inter alia for the establishment of a British trading mart within Tibet. To these injuries was added insult when the boyish Thirteenth Dalai Lama returned, apparently unopened, urgent missives from the Viceroy that had been delivered by a Bhutanese landowner named Ugyen Kazi. Or so Curzon had been told. Later, he doubted whether Kazi had ever reached Lhasa or was to be trusted at all.

Adding to his perplexity was a dispatch in October 1900 from the British charge in St. Petersburg. Enclosed was an item from a Russian newspaper reporting that Nicholas II had at his palace in Yalta received Agvan Dorzhiev, described as the "first Tsanit Hamba to the Dalai Lama of Tibet." "I have not been able, so far," the charge added, "to procure any precise information with regard to this person or to the mission on which he is supposed to come to Russia." Curzon shrugged at first. He then learned that Dorzhiev was a Russian Buriat who passed through India under the noses of Bengal police, his presence unreported by the same native agents, Sarat Chandra Das, Lama Ugyen Gyatso, and the Abbot Sherab Gyatso, on whom Curzon relied for intelligence on Tibet. The cumulative effect was to change the Viceroy's stance on Tibet from "patient waiting" to "impatient hurry."

This sense of urgency was rooted in Curzon's long-held belief that Russia's ultimate ambition was dominion of Asia. "It is a proud and not ignoble aim, and it is worthy of the supreme and material efforts of a vigorous nation," he observed in a 1901 Minute. Yet if Russia were entitled to her aims, "still more so is Britain entitled, nay compelled, to defend that which she has won, and to resist the minor encroachments which are only part of the larger plan." Piecemeal concessions were to be shunned, he maintained, since each morsel "but whets the appetite for more, and inflames the passion for a pan- Asiatic dominion." Curzon's fears were quickened by events in China: the chaos in Peking during the Boxer Rebellion, the steady Russian penetration of Mongolia and Manchuria, and the likelihood (as speculated by George McCartney, the British watchdog in Kashgar) that Russia would next devour Chinese Turkestan, bringing Cossacks to the very borders of Tibet.

That Russia might invade India or its neighbors was scarcely farfetched to Curzon, who was quick to recall that Napoleon and two Tsars -- Paul and Alexander I -- seriously discussed a joint assault. Such an operation was now more feasible because Russia was at India's doorstep and could speed troops across the steppe by rail. In 1888, Curzon had been among the first foreigners to book passage on Russia's new Trans-Caspian Railway, and saw for himself the alarming mobility made possible by steam and steel. The Russians themselves advertised these possibilities. Curzon noted in Russia in Central Asia (1889): "General Prjevalski, in one of his latest letters, dated from Samarkand only a month before my visit to Transcaspia, recorded his opinion of the line, over which he had just travelled, in these words: 'Altogether the railway is a bold undertaking, if great significance, especially from the military point if view in the future'" (Curzon's italics).

So what should be done regarding Tibet? The Viceroy advised his superiors in London to bypass China, whose claims of suzerainty over Tibet were a "farce." British dealings "must be with Tibet and Tibet alone." It was essential "that no-one else should seize it, and that it should be turned into a sort of buffer state between the Russian and the Indian Empires." Soon enough, he warned the Secretary of State for India, Lord George Hamilton, "steps" might be required "for the adequate safeguarding of British interests upon a part of the frontier where they have never hitherto been impugned." Hamilton's response -- this was July 1901, when Britain was already mired in the Boer War -- cautioned that consultation was essential before taking "steps." "Strong measures," however justified, "would be viewed with much disquietude and suspicion."

Curzon bided his time. In 1902-3, circumstances played into his willing hands, and his Tibetan project became inextricably associated with its chief executor, Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942).

SOLEMNLY GOOD-LOOKING, YOUNGHUSBAND GAZES FROM UNDER imposing brows from his page in imperial history. The Dictionary of National Biography describes him as "soldier, diplomatist, explorer, geographer, and mystic," much the sort of fellow who might appeal to Curzon, as he did when they first met in 1894. Fittingly, the venue was Chitral, a lofty kingdom on the far edge of India's North-West Frontier, where Captain Younghusband was Political Officer. Curzon's irritating certitude, his House of Commons debating manner, grated at first, but the young officer soon discerned other qualities: warmth, tenderness, loyalty, and political views that matched his own.

Younghusband was the frontiersman's frontiersman. Born in the Indian hill town of Murree, he was a son of an Indian Army general and a nephew of the explorer Robert Shaw, the first Briton known to cross the Himalayas to Yarkand and Kashgar. In a familiar rite of passage, young Francis returned to England for schooling at Clifton and Sandhurst, winning a Guards commission. Once back in India, he embarked on missions that took him from the Indus to the Afghan border; from Kashmir to Kulu; then in a great arc from Manchuria's Long White Mountain to Peking and across the Gobi Desert. His transit of China, and his explorations of the High Pamirs and the Karakorum, won him the Founder's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society (1890), resulted in a well-received book (The Heart of a Continent, 1896), and led to memorable encounters on two occasions with Tsarist officers scouting the nebulous boundaries of the British, Russian, and Chinese empires. Meeting with Colonel Grombtchevski in the High Pamirs, he posed for photographs and debated with him in French on the logistics of invading India. Then ungallantly, he misled the Russian about nearby passes, recommending a route "leading from nowhere to nowhere," without grass or fuel. When Colonel Yanov, after equally friendly libations, ordered Younghusband to leave "Russian territory," the Briton did so under protest, yielding only because he lacked an escort and faced thirty Cossacks. There were no hard feelings; Yanov pressed a gift of venison and apologized for being required to behave like a policeman. An official apology later followed from the Russian Foreign Minister for what was said to be a misunderstanding.

At Chitral on the North-West Frontier in 1893-94, under arrangements possible then, Younghusband was granted a leave of absence to report for The Times of London on a campaign by the legendary Guides (in which his brother George was an officer). A dynastic war was underway among Chitrali claimants to the throne; Russian meddling was suspected, and a British unit was under siege at a remote fort. Two relief columns were mobilized, one marching from Peshawar, the other from Gilgit. Against the odds both survived punishing passes, lifted the siege, and left the fort with a reinforced garrison. Younghusband recounted this for The Times and more fully in a book (co-authored with his brother). It was during this campaign that he met Curzon, who on returning to Britain used his firsthand authority to persuade the Government to hang on to the Chitral fortress lest the Russians take it first (which, it became known later, they planned to do).

At this time, something else important happened to Younghusband. At Chitral, he read The Kingdom of God Is Within You by another former frontier officer with a mystical temper, Leo Tolstoy. "It has influenced me profoundly," he wrote in his diary. " ... I now thoroughly see the truth of Tolstoi's argument that Government, capital and private property are evils. We ought to devote ourselves to carrying out Christ's sayings, to love one another (not engage in wars and preparations for wars) and not resist evil with evil." Tolstoy did not explain how all this could be done, Younghusband added, but said a few great ones, like Columbus, must find the way: "And this is what I mean to do."

Thereafter Younghusband the spiritual explorer cohabited with Younghusband the martial imperialist, a curious joint pilgrimage with many odd detours. Certainly Tolstoy did not deter him from obtaining an extended leave to travel to southern Africa, where, as a Times correspondent, he again sang the praises of Pax Britannica. There he met Cecil Rhodes, visited Rhodesia, and was present in Johannesburg at the time of the Jameson Raid, the botched attempt to stir an uprising against the Boers. Younghusband evidently knew of the raid beforehand, and seemingly approved the operation in collusion with Flora Shaw, the newspaper's Chief Colonial Correspondent. At a dramatic public inquiry on the affair in London, Miss Shaw artfully managed to protect both the newspaper and Younghusband from charges of complicity in a rash act of war.

The fuss subsided and Younghusband returned to India, where his superiors took him down several pegs by posting him as Resident in Indore, not a very challenging or visible assignment. He wrote in discouragement to Curzon in August 1901 asking whether he should resign from the Indian Political Department. "I have always had the ambition to work at the great main questions of Asiatic Policy," he said, "and it is to these that I now wish to turn my undivided attention." At around this time, the Viceroy -- who advised him to stay put for the moment -- knew he had found the right man to lead a mission to Tibet.

IN 1902, MIDWAY IN HIS FIVE-YEAR TERM, CURZON PERSUADED A doubtful Cabinet in London to authorize a Coronation Durbar for Edward VII. Not only was the Durbar an accepted feature of Indian life, he contended, but it would be "an act of supreme public solemnity" demonstrating the Raj's unity and strength. It was to take place in Delhi, seat of the old Mughal Empire, in January 1903, its pageantry more "Indo-Saracenic" than "Victorian Feudal," with Curzon himself as impresario. "You talked about stage management," Curzon confided to a friend in London. "That is just what I am doing for the biggest show that India will ever have had." The Coronation Durbar reflected not only Curzon's love of pomp but his heartfelt belief that the "Oriental mind" thrived on spectacle. On a famous occasion years before, he turned up for an audience with the Emir of Afghanistan wearing medals and decorations purchased from a theatrical costume shop. As it transpired, in the event at what people called the "Curzonization," a million or so onlookers had plenty that was genuine to gape at. Column upon column of heralds and dragoons, plus veterans of the Mutiny, preceded the Viceroy and Vicereine, borne aloft on a silver howdah. Next in the elephant procession were the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, representing the Crown, leading fifty Indian princes, in exact order of precedence. As The Times correspondent (one of a pampered brigade of journalists) wrote, the effect was like "a succession of waves of brilliant colour, breaking into foams of gold and silver, and the crest of each wave flashed with diamonds, rubies and emeralds of jewelled robes and turbans, stiff with pearls and glittering with aigrettes." At the climactic State Ball, four thousand breaths stopped as the Viceregal couple entered, he in his white satin knee breeches, she in her instantly celebrated dress, fashioned of cloth-of-gold encrusted with emeralds in the pattern of peacock feathers. For Curzon, it was a gratifying success, the only serious blemish being his home Government's refusal to let him announce -- in the fashion of Oriental potentates -- a reduction in salt taxes (he was allowed only to hint vaguely at "measures of financial relief").
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The Durbar did not appeal to Younghusband. During its preparation, Curzon summoned him to Delhi, and the frontier officer felt the Viceroy's idea of presiding from the old Mughal throne was "a little too much." But when Younghusband found himself next to Curzon at a lavish lunch the following day, the Viceroy talked "literally the whole time" about the frontier, the newly formed Central Asian Society, and local problems at Indore. It was an audition. On being summoned afresh to Simla in May 1903, a dumbstruck Younghusband was offered the starring role. He was to lead a mission just within the borders of Tibet-not yet to Lhasa itself because of delicate political considerations that, Curzon hinted, were subject to change. All this was settled during the Simla season. "My dear Father," wrote an exhilarated Younghusband. "This is a really magnificent business that I have dropped in for."

In subsequent discussions, Curzon stressed that Younghusband was not to do or say anything without prior approval that might bind the Government of India or displease the Viceroy's skittish superiors in Whitehall. Curzon had obtained a green light for sending a Tibetan Frontier Commission, comprising up to a dozen Britons and officials and an escort of 200, to Khampa Dzong, just within the Tibetan frontier. In July 1903, the Commission arrived at the Tibetan town, camped at 16,000 feet in the valley below a massive frontier fort, and there lingered for five futile months, unable to find anybody willing to address long-standing British complaints. The Chinese Amban sent an unhelpful underling, and the Tibetan delegates refused even to carry messages to Lhasa. Younghusband the soldier used his free time to write a lengthy memorandum on Russian penetration of Tibet, while Younghusband the mystic awoke at dawn to glimpse the first rays gilding the summit of Everest.

Events then played into Curzon's hand. While the Commission languished, the Tibetans arrested two Sikkimese scouts who were on intelligence missions for the British. They were reportedly tortured, possibly executed, while their distraught families pleaded for their release. The Viceroy seized on the plight of the prisoners as "conspicuous proof" of Tibet's "contemptuous disregard for the usages of civilization." Another telegram reported a Tibetan act of aggression against Nepalese yaks. These lesser grievances were subsumed within a much graver cause for concern: persistent and credible reports that Russia and China had concluded a secret agreement giving the former exclusive rights of access to Tibet.

Curzon pressed the case for advancing further into Tibet at a difficult time for his long-serving Conservative Government. The Boer War, which broke out in 1899, unexpectedly proved Britain's severest military test since Waterloo. It had taken three years and an imperial force of 500,000 men to subdue some 40,000 Boer commandos, whose leaders agreed to indulgent surrender terms in May 1902. The Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour, was also caught up in a Cabinet crisis. His Colonial Minister, Joseph Chamberlain, formidable with his pince-nez, had challenged the sacrosanct tenets of free trade by speaking out in the summer of 1903 for imperial tariff preferences. In an effort to mollify and straddle, Balfour reshaped his Cabinet in September. Chamberlain was out, but so were ardent free-traders, among them Lord George Hamilton, the Secretary of State for India. Into the Cabinet as Chancellor came Chamberlain's son Austen, while to succeed Hamilton, Balfour turned to St. John Brodrick, once Curzon's schoolmate at Eton and Balliol.

Balfour's was a familiar dilemna. He did not wish a tired Government to seem indecisive, yet he certainly had no wish to plunge Britain into another costly colonial war. It was in this spirit that Brodrick, the new Secretary of State for India -- Curzon's senior by a few years, but his junior in ability -- advised that a "full estimate of expenditure" was essential before any further advance into Tibet. In any case, an advance was contingent on "a rupture of negotiations," which Brodrick failed to notice had already occurred. Curzon responded in a long, tactful cable recapitulating the Government of India's decades of frustration with an incommunicado neighbor. He estimated only a small force, costing £153,000, would be required. The matter went to the Cabinet, which approved a cautionary policy statement. Brodrick's telegram of November 6, 1903, read in full:

In view of the recent conduct of the Tibetans, His Majesty's Government feel that it would be impossible not to take action, and they accordingly sanction the advance of the Mission to Gyantse. They are, however, clearly of the opinion that this step should not be allowed to lead to the occupation or permanent intervention in Tibetan affairs in any form. This advance should be made for the sole purpose of obtaining satisfaction, and as soon as reparation is obtained a withdrawal should be effected. While His Majesty's Government consider the proposed action to be necessary, they are not prepared to establish a permanent mission in Tibet, and the question of enforcing trade facilities in that country must be considered in the light of the decision conveyed in this telegram.


The negatives were strong yet the telegram cast but a dim light on the meaning of " obtaining satisfaction," "reparations," and "enforcing trade facilities." The haze from Whitehall proved as hazardous as the lofty terrain, averaging more than 14,000 feet above sea level, into which Younghusband now led a British expeditionary force.

IT SEEMS A LAW OF POLITICS THAT A GROWTH HORMONE IS LODGED in military estimates. Colonel Younghusband (as he now was) had a long wish list as he began discussions with Lord Kitchener, India's recently appointed Commander-in-Chief. Yes, Kitchener agreed, he could provide a lot of "white faces" to accompany native troops. He assigned to the mission a Maxim gun unit from the Norfolk Regiment, a half-company of sappers, eight companies of Sikh Pioneers, six companies of Gurkhas, and a Royal Artillery battery with two ten-pounder screw guns. Moreover, said Kitchener, "I will give orders that not a single man is to be under six feet."

Yet Brodrick's telegram posed a nice problem. Officially, the expeditionary force was an escort, authorized to accompany Younghusband as Commissioner as far as Gyantse, some 150 miles within Tibet. This meant naming a separate commander for the escort. The officer chosen -- Brigadier General J.R.L. Macdonald of the Royal Engineers -- brought to the operation both an abhorrence of risk and a determination to prove himself "the General Officer Commanding." The question of who was in charge so exasperated Younghusband that twice during the mission he threatened to resign.

Macdonald's caution was understandable. "No military force, before or since, has faced such vehement opposition from climate and terrain," writes Peter Fleming in Bayonets to Lhasa (1961), a careful reconstruction. Eager to get moving, Younghusband chose to defy the elements and head into the subzero Tibetan winter. Some 2,000 fighting men, most of them Sikhs and Gurkhas, assembled at Siliguri, the railhead of a narrow-gauge spur of the Darjeeling line. There were no base facilities. Everything had to be improvised-tents, latrines, water supplies, and hovels for the porters. Far more daunting was arranging portage. Pack animals consumed ten pounds of fodder or more daily, and those in forward columns exhausted whatever grazing could be found. The deeper into Tibet, the more strenuous the exertions to support the spearhead. In a musty report on supply arrangements, Fleming found a cumulative tally of the creatures that supported Curzon's "small force": 7,096 mules, 5,234 bullocks, 6 camels, 138 buffaloes, 185 riding ponies, 1,372 pack ponies, 2,953 Nepalese yaks, 1,513 Tibetan yaks, and 1,111 Ekka ponies. Casualties for this herd approached 9,000.A laconic final entry enumerated the human contingent in the supply chain: some 10,091 porters, of whom eighty-eight were to die of frostbite and exhaustion.

As interesting in a different vein is the "Kit List" kept by Younghusband and uncovered in the India Office Library by his biographer, Patrick French. The expedition leader's kit included sixty-seven shirts as well as nineteen coats (a full dress coat, a morning coat, an Assam silk coat, two jaeger coats, a Chesterfield coat, a poshteen long coat, a Chinese fur coat, etc.) plus a shikar hat, a khaki helmet, a white panama, a thick solar topi, and the imperial cocked hat. These habiliments, along with tents, a bath, beds, rifles, swords, and other impedimenta, were crammed into twenty-nine containers that were carried (as French reminds us) "up and down the mountain passes,through forests and icy rivers, over dry plains where your eyeballs could freeze in the sockets."

Sensing a good story, Fleet Street editors vied for the right to accompany the mission. Five correspondents joined the march, cabling their copy on the unrolling telegraph lines that linked the expedition to the world behind. Tibet did not disappoint. It was the last inhabited place of any importance to close its borders to Europeans, and in forcing its gates the Younghusband Mission wrote the epilogue to five centuries of Western exploration.

TIBETANS DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF THE CARAVAN THAT crawled like a huge caterpillar through Jelap La, the pass leading to the Tibetan plateau. When anything went wrong with a mule's load, which happened often on rough track with no shoulder, the mule had to be halted. This meant halting the entire caravan. "Multiply that appreciable interval by the number of mules in the rear, say five hundred, and you find that it takes perhaps a full half hour before the five-hundredth is on the move again," recalled a subaltern who under the pseudonym "Powell Millington" wrote a light-hearted account of his adventures.

It was December, and the mission encountered no resistance as it advanced into the Chumbi Valley. The conflict rather was within the expedition itself. At Macdonald's orders, the escort occupied a fort at Phari, violating a promise by Younghusband that no hostile action would be taken so long as the Tibetans held their fire. The colonel reprimanded the brigadier general, though it made military sense to garrison the well-positioned fort. Thus commenced what became a leitmotif: the differences over protecting troops versus alienating Tibetans.

The differences surfaced again during a first clash with Tibetans, at the village of Guru in March. Here the defenders threw up a barricade that could not be bypassed, behind which were a thousand matchlock rifles. Macdonald urged a surprise attack, which Younghusband overruled in favor of a parley. The Tibetan delegates adamantly insisted that the invaders had no business in their country and had to turn back. When the British force nevertheless advanced, stones and oaths flew and a Lhasa general allegedly fired the first shot at a Sikh soldier. The Norfolk gunners now directed their two Maxims, nicknamed Bubble and Squeak, at the astonished and terrified Tibetans. "I got so sick of the slaughter," the unit's commander wrote to his wife, "that I ceased fire, though the general's order was to make as big a bag as possible ... I hope I shall never have to shoot men walking away again." To Younghusband, it was a "terrible and ghastly business" but somehow not a massacre since the Tibetans were armed and incited by "a fanatical Lama from Lhasa."

To the Tibetans, it was a massacre, the more disgraceful, they complained, since as a token of good faith their fighters had defused their matchlocks during the parley and were unprepared when the Maxims opened fire. The Tibetan toll was 628 killed, 222 wounded. British casualties were twelve wounded, none mortal. Macdonald reported that the escort fired 1,400 machine-gun rounds and 14,351 rifle rounds.

The action at Guru did not play well in England. There were hostile questions in Parliament and adverse press comments concerning (as The Spectator wrote) "an expedition which has never been popular, if only because we are obviously crushing half-armed and very brave men with the irresistible weapons of science." Nor did Younghusband's cause benefit when, having reached Gyantse, he authorized what seemed a provocative sortie, sending Bubble and Squeak and all his cavalry forty miles eastward toward Lhasa. He had no authority to go beyond Gyantse, and the rest of the escort and its commander were then billeted westward at Chumbi. When Macdonald learned of the sortie, he immediately ordered a recall. Younghusband forwarded his telegram by a slow pony and appended his own contrary message to the commanding officer: "On political grounds I would have the strongest objection to your returning, unless the enemy have so increased in strength that the result of a conflict would be doubtful."

What spared Younghusband greater trouble was an unexpected Tibetan assault on the mission compound, known as Chang Lo, in the environs of Gyantse. Since encamping in April, the British found the friendliness of the local inhabitants "almost excessive," The Times's correspondent reported. A popular street song captured the mood:

At first enemies of our faith they were,
And then "Outsiders" we labeled them;
But when in the land their rupees did appear,
They became known as sahibs and gentlemen.


Thus lulled, the garrison was caught off guard on May 5 when 800 Tibetans stormed the compound at dawn. But their musket barrage caused more noise than injury and awakened the defenders, whose rapid fire killed upwards of 200 attackers. Total British casualties were two wounded. The subaltern writing as "Powell Millington" found this baptism under fire almost agreeable, given the inaccuracy of the Tibetans' jingal muskets and chunky bullets: "If what you desire on the battlefield is mild excitement with the minimum of risk, I would recommend exposing yourself to jingal-fire at, say, from six- to twelve-hundred yards."

"The Tibetans as usual have played into our hands," Younghusband all but gloated in a private message to Curzon. His official telegram made the skirmish sound like a dramatic and deadly ambush:" Attack confirms impression [ had formed that Lhasa Government are irreconcilable ... I trust that Government will take such action as will prevent the Tibetans ever again treating British representative as I have been treated." Replying from London, Brodrick agreed that "recent events make it inevitable that the Mission must advance to Lhasa unless the Tibetans consent to open negotiations at Gyantse," for which they deserved a month's grace. Yet the Secretary of State wished it" clearly understood" that the Cabinet contemplated no departure from the narrow goals set forth in his earlier telegram. That same May, in a consequential turn of events, Curzon embarked on home leave for Britain, becoming the first Viceroy to do so. The acting Viceroy in his absence was Lord Ampthill, the Governor of Madras, able and careful but without Curzon's authority or elan.

Curzon's homecoming began a long slide downhill. To be sure, he was greeted in May 1904 with the fanfare due a Viceroy who, unusually, was as famous at home as in India. He was "Imperial George," his oval face recognizable in cartoons and caricatures. But as he accepted the Freedom of the City of London, honorary degrees, and the Wardenship of Cinque Ports, he suffered "constant and almost unendurable pain" in a neuralgic right leg. Worse, Lady Curzon, who preceded him by four months, was ill throughout the summer and suffered a miscarriage in September. From unsanitary drains (at a Cinque Ports castle in England, not India) she contracted peritonitis, complicated by pneumonia and phlebitis. Newspapers in Britain and India published daily bulletins on her progress. Her recovery was slow, but sufficient for her to return to Calcutta with her cherished George in November 1904.

Nor did Curzon's public life prosper. Indian controversies dogged him. The most aggravating concerned Lord Kitchener, the Commander- in-Chief recently chosen with Curzon's full approval, who bridled at his subordination to the military member of the Viceroy's Council. Kitchener's bluff regimental heartiness concealed an aptitude for conspiracy. He hinted that he would resign unless the traditional "dual system" of providing for civilian control of the British Indian Army was scrapped, its evils being described in scary press reports that he inspired. His case impressed a susceptible Prime Minister. The Russo-Japanese War had broken out, creating fresh uncertainties in Asia. Prime Minister Balfour's Conservatives were heading into a difficult election and could ill afford an open break with Kitchener, a national hero. The essential point seemed clear enough -- whether the Government of India should retain the power of giving orders to the Commander-in-Chief, or whether he "should be largely emancipated from that control," as summarized by Ampthill, writing as acting Viceroy. Curzon had on his side precedent, good sense, and the support of a flotilla of imperial grandees.

Yet to Curzon's dismay and astonishment, Kitchener was supported by the Secretary of State for India, once his closest friend, St. John Brodrick. They had known each other since 1874, when as Brodrick liked to recall, a "tall, breathless, pink-cheeked and well-groomed boy with black hair" entered his railway compartment en route to Eton. The two attended Balliol, served in Parliament together, and when they were apart Curzon for years wrote a weekly letter to "Brodder." We cannot know what turned Brodrick against Curzon -- envy, an unwitting slight, or an unrequited crush-but the Viceroy set himself up for his humiliation. Rather than step down after his highly successful five-year term as Viceroy ended, he sought a second term. In a penciled note written late in life, Curzon said of Brodrick: "Burning to distinguish himself at the India Office as the real ruler of India, as distinct from the Viceroy, egged on by Councillors bitterly hostile to me, in a position to gratify a certain latent jealousy of my superior successes in public life ... he rendered my service under him one of incessant irritation and pain, and finally drove me to resignation."

Francis Younghusband knew nothing of this as he advanced from Gyantse to the gates of Lhasa.

ON AUGUST 3, 1904, THE BRITISH MISSION HAD ITS FIRST GLIMPSE of the gilded roofs of the Potala. In the press cliche of the day, the Forbidden City was finally unveiled. Younghusband's boldness was widely applauded, even in Russia. He had led with minimal losses a major expedition over the "Roof of the World," fighting land battles at higher altitudes than any previous European force. He had done so against the recommendations of "Retiring Mac," his overcautious escort commander who had strongly opposed advancing to Lhasa and once there, proposed an immediate withdrawal. Instead, on Younghusband's orders, the British encamped for seven weeks at a compound not far from the Dalai Lama's Summer Palace on the outskirts of Lhasa.

As before, the British Commissioner's most difficult task was to locate a competent partner to conclude the agreement that was the object of his mission. The Dalai Lama was not to be found -- he had fled to Mongolia days before, accompanied by Dorzhiev. It thus seemed a promising start when the Chinese Amban, Yu-t'ai, arrived in a sedan chair to pay an official call at the British compound. Ignoring Macdonald's warnings, Younghusband on the next day returned the Amban's call, riding through Lhasa armed only with a ceremonial sword, accompanied by a small escort. Nothing untoward occurred. Yu-t'ai welcomed him with fireworks, band music, tea, and cigars. The Amban said he was willing to help, but that the Tibetan authorities were still paralyzed by shock and confusion. "Everyone is in fear, not of us, but of each other," as Younghusband wrote.

Taking advantage of the hiatus, the British soldiers and their press contingent explored Lhasa, becoming the first Britons to do so since Thomas Manning's solo visit nearly a century before, in 1812. "We found the city squalid and filthy beyond description, undrained and unpaved," reported the disenthralled Daily Mail correspondent, Edmund Candler. "Not a single house looked clean or cared for. The streets after rain are nothing but pools of stagnant water frequented by pigs and dogs searching for refuse." Still, Candler allowed that above this squalor the Potala towered superbly, "its golden roofs, shining in the sun like tongues of fire." The Times's Perceval Landon found more to admire. A pilgrimage path, he marveled, worn smooth and slippery by millions of feet, wound around the Potala to a gigantic stone, its entire surface containing a carved gallery of Buddhas of all sizes and colors, jostling each others' knees in their profusion: "at a distance in the sunlight it looks as if a vast carpet of vivid color has been thrown over the face of the rock." (Shortly thereafter, Landon raced back to London ahead of his colleagues so that his book, The Opening of Tibet, might be published first, but he had to settle for a photo-finish in 1905 with Candler's lively if thinner The Unveiling of Lhasa.)

Still, despite a diligent search, neither the press brigade nor British officers found any evidence of a significant Russian presence in Lhasa. They did come upon the two Sikkimese scouts, whose alleged torture and rumored execution had served as a casus belli. It appeared that neither had been starved or mistreated, beyond an initial beating, during nearly a year of close confinement. None of this was helpful to a British Government trying to justify the invasion. The question now became what kind of salvaging agreement could be wrested from the Tibetans.

CURZON AND YOUNGHUSBAND WERE IN ACCORD ON THE outcome they desired: a permanent Tibetan relationship with British India, certified by the presence of a British Agent in Lhasa. To be sure, Tibet was nominally part of China, yet so was Nepal, and a British Resident had been posted there for years. The Government of India had tried to do business with Lhasa through China, but in vain. A British voice was needed where it mattered, in Lhasa. The home Government did not concur, and its fears were embodied in a single name: Major Cavagnari, the British Envoy in Kabul whose murder in 1879 led to the Second Afghan War.

Whenever Tibet came up in the House of Commons, Cavagnari's fate came up too. "The association connected with the name of Cavagnari," Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, speaking for the Liberals, warned Parliament in May 1904, "does not seem to invite us to undertake a similar policy today." Kitchener said he was sure that a Resident serving in Lhasa would be murdered, and so advised the Government. Curzon sought to counter these arguments during his home leave. The analogy was incorrect, he maintained in a memorandum. Tibet was not an independent state with a warrior culture, as was Afghanistan, but a remote dependency of a declining China. Why should Britain disallow herself from what Russia was doing in Mongolia, another Buddhist state that also was nominally a Chinese province?

Yet it was apparent by summer 1904 that Curzon's moment had passed. Against him were the Prime Minister, most of the Cabinet, his Commander-in-Chief, Lord Kitchener, and his old chum and nominal superior, Brodrick. The home Government's caution was understandable. Britain was now in a naval race with an ever more threatening Germany, and was leaning ever more eastward to Russia, whose ambassador was raising awkward questions about Tibet. "All that H.M.G. [His Majesty's Government] as a whole know or care about Tibet," Curzon wrote to Younghusband from England on July 13, 1904, "is that it is a nuisance and an expense; and all they want to do is to get out of it in any way that does not involve positive humiliation. This is the not unnatural attitude of an administration never strong and now tottering to its fall."

There were personal considerations. The Tibetan mission was, au fond, Curzon's war. The Viceroy's rigid stance and thunderbolt dispatches did not win friends in Parliament. "Let me beg you as a personal favour," Sir William Harcourt said to him when his Vice-royalty began, "not to make war on Russia in my lifetime." Or, as Arthur Balfour liked to complain, Curzon behaved as if India were an independent country, and not always a friendly one at that.

In Lhasa, meanwhile, Younghusband the soldier-mystic somehow got along with the Buddhist monks. Pressing hard against restrictions imposed by London, and on two points exceeding them, Younghusband gained Tibetan adherence to a nine-point Convention. It was signed in September 1904 with appropriate pomp -- the monks in red, the Chinese in blue, and the British in imperial braids -- in the Dalai Lama's audience hall in the Potala. Representatives of Tibet's National Assembly and Council, the abbots of Drepung, Ganden, and Sera monasteries; and Ganden Tri Rinpoche, the Regent in the absence of the Dalai Lama, agreed that (1) Tibet would respect the Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1890 and Sikkim's borders, as defined in the text; (2) the Government of India could establish trade marts in Gyantse, Gartok, and Yatung; (3) amendments to the 1893 Trade Agreement would be negotiated separately; (4) no duties were to be levied on goods from India beyond tariffs mutually agreed to; (5) roads leading to the trade marts were to be kept in repair by Tibetans; (6) Tibet was to pay an indemnity of 7.5 million rupees (£500,000) for the dispatch of armed troops to Lhasa, payable in seventy-five annual installments; (7) as security for the indemnity, the British were to occupy the Chumbi Valley until it had been paid and until trade marts were open; (8) all fortifications between Lhasa and the British frontier were to be demolished; and (9) Tibet was to have no dealings of any kind with any foreign power without British consent. A separate article appended to the accord gave the British Agent at Gyantse the right to visit Lhasa "to consult with high Chinese and Tibetan officials on such commercial matters of importance as he has found impossible to settle at Gyantse."

At first glance, it seemed all the British could have wanted. Moreover, the Chinese Amban helped negotiate and witnessed-though he did not sign -- the first direct agreement between Tibet and Britain. Even Brodrick was initially favorable, and telegraphed his congratulations, but hardly had the wax seals cooled than the Secretary of State changed his mind. The separate article giving British agents the right of access to Lhasa was (he now thought) an attempt to achieve by stealth what the Cabinet had expressly forbidden, entangle Britain in Tibetan affairs. The £500,000 indemnity was too high and the 75-year occupation of the Chumbi Valley too long, conflicting with assurances that Britain had given Russia and exceeding Younghusband's instructions. When Brodrick consulted his Cabinet colleagues, he found they too believed Younghusband had "sold" them. Balfour concurred. From his Scottish home, the Prime Minister wrote on October 6, "Younghusband, by disobeying our orders, has placed us in a very false position," paraphrased by Brodrick as "Arthur Balfour considers the honour of the country is involved in repudiating Younghusband."

New instructions flew from Whitehall to Lord Ampthill, still the acting Viceroy. He was to amend unilaterally the Tibetan Convention by revoking the provision for visits to Lhasa, limiting the occupation of the Chumbi Valley to three years, and reducing the indemnity by two-thirds to 2.5 million rupees (which the Chinese immediately paid, thereby reaffirming their claim to control Tibet). An interesting private letter to Ampthill from Sir Arthur Godley, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the India Office, offered a disinterested civil servant's view. Godley hoped the official verdict would be appreciative of Young husband's "really important achievements, and as little harsh towards his errors" as was consistent with a full statement of the case. Four or five months ago ("as I reminded Mr. Brodrick"), his note continued, it seemed that Younghusband would come back from Lhasa without a treaty and with Britain's tail between its legs. "The actual situation is very different now, and I think they ought to show some gratitude to the man to whom their escape from a very awkward position is due."

Younghusband knew he risked censure for stretching his authority. He was taken aback by its vehemence, even meanness, as he became the surrogate for the real target, Lord Curzon. A few decades earlier Younghusband's man-on-the-spot initiative would have made him a hero. Now it was "dishonourable" to get better terms for his country than his masters sought. Brodrick even tried to deprive him of the victor's customary knighthood, and failing that, saw to it that he received the lowest grade, a KCIE. The controversy effectively ended Younghusband's public career. Sir Francis subsequently headed the Royal Geographical Society, promoted Britain's first Everest expeditions, and devoted himself to the World Congress of Faiths and to spiritual treatises like Life in the Stars (1927) and The Reign of God (1930). He died peacefully in July 1942, during the Blitz, in the arms (as his surprised biographer Patrick French determined) of his married mistress, Madeline Lees.

Lord Curzon, having resigned as Viceroy in August 1905, suffered a more grievous loss a year later, the death of Lady Curzon, who had borne him three daughters. She was thirty-six. Curzon replied by hand to nearly all 1,150 letters of condolence. Her burial was at Kedleston in a tomb he designed. He composed her epitaph: "Perfect in love and loveliness / Beauty was the least of her rare gifts ... She was mourned in three continents / And by her dearest will be / For ever unforgotten." For eleven years after his resignation as Viceroy, Curzon was excluded from politics. He served, not happily, as Foreign Secretary after World War I, hoped to be Prime Minister but was passed over in 1924, and died the following year. Brodrick having done what he could to injure Curzon, tried without success to repair relations with his former friend. Macdonald wound up his military career as commander of a minuscule garrison in Mauritius.

Yet the unhappiest victims were assuredly the Tibetans. The scale of their offenses -- destroying frontier pillars and incarcerating British spies -- did not warrant the massacre at Guru or the invasion of their capital or the huge indemnity. They were losers in a second, profounder sense. Had Britain carried out the agreement Younghusband obtained, the long-term result would have been to enhance Tibetan claims for autonomy within the Chinese Empire. Having decided to end rather than defend Tibet's isolation, Britain could have worked to achieve for Tibet the status of a neutral buffer state, as Curzon proposed. We are left with what happened. Curzon's moment was over in 1904; the Younghusband mission was an anachronism; and nearly a century later the matter of Tibet remains unfinished business.
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John Lockwood Kipling
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/3/20

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John Lockwood Kipling
Portrait of John Lockwood Kipling, by Hollinger.
Born: 6 July 1837, Pickering, North Yorkshire, England
Died: 26 January 1911 (aged 73), Tisbury, Wiltshire, England
Occupation: Art teacher, illustrator, museum curator
Spouse: Alice McDonald (m. 1865)
Children: Rudyard Kipling

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John Lockwood Kipling and Rudyard Kipling, c.1890

John Lockwood Kipling CIE (6 July 1837 – 26 January 1911) was an English art teacher, illustrator, and museum curator who spent most of his career in India. He was the father of the author Rudyard Kipling.[1]

Life and career

Lockwood Kipling was born in Pickering, North Yorkshire, the son of Reverend Joseph Kipling and Frances nee Lockwood,[2] and was educated at Woodhouse Grove School, a Methodist boarding school. He met his wife Alice MacDonald while working in Burslem, Staffordshire, where his designs can still be seen on the façade of the Wedgwood Institute.[3]

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John Lockwood Kipling and Alice Kipling in India during 1870

Alice was the daughter of a Methodist minister, the Reverend George Browne Macdonald. Kipling married during 1865 and relocated with his wife to India, where he had been appointed as a professor of architectural sculpture in the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay (now Mumbai), and later became its principal.[3]

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Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy and his Chinese secretary (1783–1859) portrait at the Sir J. J. School of Art

The Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art (Sir J.J. School of Art) is the oldest art institution in Mumbai, and is affiliated with the University of Mumbai. The school grants bachelor's degrees in fine art and sculpture, and Master's degrees in fine art.

The School founded in March 1857, was named after Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy, a businessman and philanthropist who donated Rs. 100,000 for its endowment.

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Sketch of Jejeebhoy, 1857

Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, 1st Baronet Jejeebhoy of Bombay, CMG (15 July 1783 – 14 April 1859), also spelt Jeejeebhoy or Jeejebhoy, was a Parsi-Indian merchant and philanthropist. He made a huge fortune in cotton and the opium trade with China. He was considered Bombay's most worthy son.

Jejeebhoy was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1783, the son of Merwanjee Mackjee Jejeebhoy and Jeevibai Cowasjee Jejeebhoy. His father was a textile merchant from Olpad, Gujarat, who migrated to Bombay in the 1770s. Both of Jeejeebhoy's parents died in 1799, leaving the 16-year-old under the tutelage of his maternal uncle, Framjee Nasserwanjee Battliwala. At the age of 16, having had little formal education, he made his first visit to Calcutta and then began his first voyage to China to trade in cotton and opium.

Jejeebhoy's second voyage to China was made in a ship of the East India Company's fleet.
Under the command of Sir Nathaniel Dance, this ship drove off a French squadron under Rear-Admiral Charles-Alexandre Léon Durand Linois in the Battle of Pulo Aura.

On Jejeebhoy's fourth voyage to China, the Indiaman in which he sailed was forced to surrender to the French, by whom he was carried as a prisoner to the Cape of Good Hope, then a neutral Dutch possession. After much delay and great difficulty, Jejeebhoy made his way to Calcutta in a Danish ship. Undaunted, Jejeebhoy undertook another voyage to China which was more successful than any of his previous journeys.

By this time Jejeebhoy had established his reputation as an enterprising merchant possessed of considerable wealth. In 1803, he married his maternal uncle's daughter Avabai (d.1870) and settled in Bombay, where he directed his commercial operations on an extended scale. Around this time, he changed his name from "Jamshed" to "Jamsetjee" to sound similar to names of the Gujarati community. By the age of 40, he had made over two crore rupees, a staggering sum in those days. Further riches came to him from the cotton trade during the Napoleonic Wars. He bought his own fleet of ships. Lord Elphinstone, then Governor of Bombay, said of him, "By strict integrity, by industry and punctuality in all his commercial transactions, he contributed to raise the character of the Bombay merchant in the most distant markets."

In 1814, his co-operation with the British East India company had yielded him sufficient profits to purchase his first ship, the Good Success, and he gradually added another six ships to this, usually carrying primarily opium and a little cotton to China. By 1836, Jejeebhoy's firm was large enough to employ his three sons and other relatives, and he had amassed what at that period of Indian mercantile history was regarded as fabulous wealth.


Jejeebhoy was known by the nickname "Mr. Bottlewalla". "Walla" meant "vendor", and Jejeebhoy's business interests included the manufacture and sale of bottles on the basis of his uncle's business. Jejeebhoy and his family would often sign letters and checks using the name "Battliwala", and were known by that name in business and society, but he did not choose this assumed surname when it came to the baronetcy.

In 1818, he formed the business, trading and shipping firm "Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy & Co." with two other associates Motichund Amichund and Mahomed Ali Rogay as Jejeebhoy's business associates. He was later joined by a Goan Rogério de Faria. His voyages to China resulted in a long trading partnership with the Canton based company Jardine Matheson & Co. The connection with Jeejeebhoy was instrumental as Jardine and Matheson built up their great firm, continuing the profitable and amiable association with the Parsi entrepreneur. Jeejeebhoy long continued as one of the close associates who served as underwriters to Jardine, Matheson and Company. A tribute to their connection exists even today in a portrait of Jeejeebhoy which hangs in Jardine's Hong Kong office. He was seen as the chief representative of the Indian community in Bombay by the British Imperial authorities.

In the 1920s, the U.S. threw its weight behind Chiang Kai-shek, whose Kuomintang Party was fighting the Communists and several other warlords for control of China. The U.S. was competing with the other colonial nations for control of China, which had a cheap labor force and represented billions in profits for U.S. corporations and investors. The problem was that the Kuomintang supported itself through the opium trade. It's well documented in the diplomatic cables between the U.S. government and its representatives in China. Historians Kinder and Walker said the Commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, "clearly knew about the ties between Chiang and opium dealers."

Anslinger knew that Shanghai was "the prime producer and exporter to the illicit world drug markets," through a syndicate controlled by Du Yue-sheng, a crime lord who facilitated Chiang's bloody ascent to power in 1927. As early as 1932, Anslinger knew that Chiang's finance minister was Du's protector. He'd had evidence since 1929 that American t'ongs were receiving Kuomintang narcotics and distributing it to the Mafia. Middlemen worked with opium merchants, gangsters like Du, Japanese occupation forces in Manchuria, and Dr. Lansing Ling, "who supplied narcotics to Chinese officials traveling abroad." In 1938 Chiang Kai-shek appointed Dr. Ling head of his Narcotic Control Department.

In October 1934, the Treasury attache in Shanghai "submitted reports implicating Chiang Kai-shek in the heroin trade to North America." In 1935 the attache reported that the Superintendent of Maritime Customs in Shanghai was "acting as agent for Chiang Kaishek in arranging for the preparation and shipment of the stuff to the United States."

These reports reached Anslinger's desk, so he knew which KMT officials and trade missions were delivering dope to American t'ongs and which American Mafia drug rings were buying it. He knew the t'ongs were kicking back a percentage of the profits to finance Chiang's regime.

After Japanese forces seized Shanghai in August 1937, Anslinger was even less willing to deal honestly with the situation. By then Du was sitting on Shanghai's Municipal Board with William J. Keswick, a director of the Jardine Matheson Shipping Company. Through Keswick, Du found sanctuary in Hong Kong, where he was welcomed by a cabal of free-trading British colonialists whose shipping and banking companies earned huge revenues by allowing Du to push his drugs on the hapless Chinese. The revenues were truly immense: according to Colonel Joseph Stilwell, the U.S. military attache in China, in 1935 there were "eight million Chinese heroin and morphine addicts and another 72 million Chinese opium addicts."

Anslinger tried to minimize the problem by lying and saying that Americans were not affected. But the final decisions were made by his bosses in Washington, and from their national security perspective, the profits enabled the Kuomintang to purchase $31 million worth of fighter planes from arms dealer William Pawley to fight the Communists, and that trumped any moral dilemmas about trading with the Japanese or getting Americans addicted.

It's all documented. Check the sources I cite in my books. Plus, U.S. Congressmen and Senators in the China Lobby were profiting from the guns for drugs business too. They got kickbacks in the form of campaign funds and in exchange, they looked away as long as Anslinger told them the dope stayed overseas. After 1949, the China Lobby manipulated public hearings and Anslinger cooked the books to make sure that the Peoples Republic was blamed for all narcotics coming out of the Far East. Everyone made money and after 1949 the operation was run out of Taiwan, with CIA assistance.

-- The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, by Douglas Valentine


The Keswick family (pronounced with a silent "w", "Kezzick") are a business dynasty of Scottish origin associated with the Far East since 1855 and in particular the conglomerate Jardine Matheson.

As tai-pans of Jardine Matheson & Company, the Keswick family have at some time been closely associated with the ownership or management of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, the Indo-China Steam Navigation Company Ltd., the Canton Insurance Office Ltd, (now the HSBC Insurance Co), The Hongkong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company Limited, Star Ferry, Hong Kong Tramway, the Hong Kong Land Investment and Agency Co Ltd, and the Hongkong and Whampoa Dock Co Ltd.

The Hon. William Keswick (1834–1912)

The founder of the dynasty, he was born in 1834, in Dumfriesshire in the Scottish Lowlands. His grandmother, Jean Jardine Johnstone was an older sister of Dr. William Jardine, the founder of Jardine Matheson & Company. His father Thomas Keswick had married Margaret Johnstone, Jardine's niece and daughter of Jean, and entered the Jardine business. The company operated as opium traders and had a major influence in the First and Second Opium Wars although the company stopped this trading in 1870 to pursue a broad range of other trading interests including shipping, railways, textiles and property development.

William arrived in China and Hong Kong in 1855, the first of five generations of the Keswick family to be associated with Jardines. He established a Jardine Matheson office in Yokohama, Japan in 1859. He returned to Hong Kong to become a partner of the firm in 1862. He became managing partner (Taipan) from 1874 to 1886. He left Hong Kong in 1886 to work with Matheson & Co. in London as a senior director responsible only to Sir Robert Jardine (1825–1905), a son of David Jardine, William Jardine's older brother and the head of Mathesons in London.

-- Keswick family, by Wikipedia


An essentially self-made man, having experienced the miseries of poverty in early life, Jejeebhoy developed great sympathy for his poorer countrymen. In his later life he was occupied with alleviating human distress in all its forms. Parsi and Christian, Hindu and Muslim, were alike the objects of his beneficence. Hospitals, schools, homes of charity and pension funds throughout India (particularly in Bombay, Navsari, Surat, and Poona) were created or endowed by Jejeebhoy, and he financed the construction of many public works such as wells, reservoirs, bridges, and causeways. By the time of his death in 1859, he was estimated to have donated over £230,000 to charity. His philanthropic endeavours began in earnest in 1822, when he personally remitted the debts of all the poor in Bombay's civil jail...

Jejeebhoy's services were first recognised by the British Empire in 1842 by the bestowal of a knighthood and in 1857 by the award of a baronetcy. These were the very first distinctions of their kind conferred by Queen Victoria upon a British subject in India.

On Jejeebhoy's death in 1859, his Baronetcy was inherited by his eldest son Cursetjee Jejeebhoy, who, by a special Act of the Viceroy's Council in pursuance of a provision in the letters-patent, took the name of Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy as second baronet.

-- Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, by Wikipedia


Operations were managed by a committee headed by the Chief Justice of Bombay. The School's first class was in drawing, and began on 2 March 1857. Classes were held at the Elphinstone Institution. John Griffiths became Principal of the School in 1865. He later became famous for copying the murals in the Ajanta Caves temple complex, a project which lasted from 1872 to 1891, and which the School's students assisted in.

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A portrait from the Welsh Portrait Collection at the National Library of Wales.

John Griffiths (29 November 1837 – 1 December 1918) was a British artist who worked in India, noted for his Orientalist works.

He was born in Llanfair Caereinion, Montgomeryshire, on the 29 November 1837, son of Evan Griffiths and his wife Mary Evans of Machynlleth; on his father's death, his mother became housekeeper to Sir James Clark, physician to Queen Victoria. The boy was brought up by his uncle Richard Griffiths, of Neuadd Uchaf farm, Llanfair. Noting his artistic leanings, Sir James had him trained at what is now the Royal College of Art. He then worked at the South Kensington museum, now the V&A, and was engaged in decorating its buildings. He became a Professor of Art and moved to Bombay in 1865 as the principal of the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Bombay. His chief associate and friend there, was John Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard Kipling (Griffiths was a godfather to Rudyard). It was under Griffiths's superintendence that much of the decoration of the new public buildings of Bombay was designed. Griffiths undertook many commissions, including work on the Victoria Terminus and the High Court. After his decade in Bombay, Griffiths was appointed Principal of the Mayo School of Art and Curator of the Museum in Lahore, now in Pakistan.

One of his major works was the copying of paintings in the Buddhist temples at Ajanta which were published in two large folio volumes "The paintings in the Buddhist Cave Temples at Ajanta".

-- John Griffiths (artist), by Wikipedia


In 1866, management of the school was taken over by the Government of India. Also in 1866, Lockwood Kipling, who had become a professor of the School in 1865, established three ateliers for (i) Decorative Paintings, (ii) Modelling; and (iii) Ornamental Wrought Iron Work, and became its first dean. He was the father of the author Rudyard Kipling, who was born on the School's campus. In 1878, the school moved to its own building, where it is currently situated. The building was designed by architect George Twigge Molecey, in neo Gothic architecture. The School campus, including the Kipling House, better known as the Dean's Bungalow, is classified as Grade II heritage structure by the Government of Maharashtra, and underwent a restoration in 2002-2006, and again in 2008.

Drawing instruction as a subject was introduced in 1879 and a programme for training drawing teachers was started in 1893. In 1891 the Lord Reay Art Workshops (now known as the Department of Art-Crafts) were established.

The School had an important tradition in architecture. In 1900, the School offered its first course in architecture, taught by John Begg, later Consulting Architect of Bombay and of the Government of India.

John Begg, commonly known as Jack Begg, (20 September 1866 – 23 February 1937) was a Scottish architect, who practised in London, South Africa and India, before returning to Scotland to teach at Edinburgh College of Art from 1922-1933...

He arrived in India in 1901 as Consulting Architect to Bombay. In 1906 he became Consulting Architect to the Government of India. He, with George Wittet, was responsible for the evolution of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. Begg's best-known building is the General Post Office in Bombay.

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Madras High Court

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The Victoria Memorial

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The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

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Islamia College

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The Rambagh Palace

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Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore

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Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

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Ahsan Manzil in Dhaka

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Curzon Hall in Dhaka

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Tajhat Palace in Rangpur

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Rose Garden Palace

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Chittagong Court Building

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Mysore Palace

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Mumbai GPO, reminiscent of the Gol Gumbaz

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Khalsa College, Amritsar

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Daly College, Indore

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Chepauk Palace

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Lahore Museum, Lahore

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Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Building, Karachi

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Patiala Block of King Edward Medical University, Lahore

Indo-Saracenic, also known as Indo-Gothic, was a revival architectural style mostly used by British architects in India in the later 19th century, especially in public and government buildings in the British Raj, and the palaces of rulers of the princely state, reflecting and imitating contemporary and earlier high Indian architecture. It sought to replicate from Imperial Indian architecture, including Rajasthani, Mughal and Maratha eras, which the British regarded as the classic Indian style. The basic layout and structure of the buildings shared commonalities to that used in contemporary buildings in other styles, such as Gothic revival and Neo-Classical. Saracen was a term used in Europe until the 19th century referring to Muslim and/or Arabic-speaking people and regions of the Middle East and North Africa.

The style drew from western exposure to depictions of Indian buildings from about 1795, such as those by William Hodges and the Daniell duo (William Daniell and his uncle Thomas Daniell). The first Indo-Saracenic building is said to be the Chepauk Palace, completed in 1768, in present-day Chennai (Madras).

Bombay and Calcutta (as they then were), as the main centres of the Raj administration, saw many buildings constructed in the style, although Calcutta was also a bastion of indigenous European Neo-classical architecture fused with Indic architectural elements. Most major buildings are now classified under the Heritage buildings category as laid down by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and protected.

The style enjoyed a degree of popularity outside British India, where architects often mixed Islamic and European elements from various areas and periods with boldness, in the prevailing climate of eclecticism in architecture. Through architects and engineers transferred from India, the style was adopted in British Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) and the Federated Malay States (present-day Malaysia). The British were also keen to transfer the style outside the Indian Empire and the British Far East to the United Kingdom itself, with several examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture going up in the country, for example at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, and the eccentric Sezincote House in Gloucestershire.

The wider European version, also popular in the Americas, is Moorish Revival architecture, which tends to use specific South Asian features less, and instead those characteristic of the Arabic-speaking countries; Neo-Mudéjar is the equivalent style in Spain.

-- Indo-Saracenic architecture, by Wikipedia


He served as President of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland in 1932.

-- John Begg, by Wikipedia


A complete 4-year programme was established in 1908 under Begg's assistant George Wittet. In 1917, architect Claude Batley became a visiting professor; he was Principal of the School from 1923 to 1943, and is commemorated in the Claude Batley Architectural Gallery for architectural exhibitions, opened in 1996.

In 1896, the Draughtsman's classes, the nucleus of the Department of Architecture, were added. This Department was later organised for a 3 years Diploma Course which was duly recognised by the R.I.B.A. Board.

In 1910, the Sir George Clarke Studies and Laboratories were built for the advanced study of crafts, pottery being the first craft taken up for study. In 1929, the head of the School was renamed "Director", and in 1935, the Department of Commercial Art was also started.

In 1937 M.R. Acharekar was appointed deputy director and continued his tenure till 1939. Shri. V. S. Adurkar was the first Indian head of the school, succeeding Claude Batley as Director in 1943.

-- Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art


Their son was born soon after, in December 1865, and was christened Rudyard after Rudyard, Staffordshire, the place where his parents had first met;[3] their daughter Alice Kipling was born in 1868. His life-long friend John Griffiths, whom he had met whilst working together at the South Kensington Museum and worked with him at the Bombay School of Art, became Rudyard's godfather.[4] During 1870–1872 Kipling was commissioned by the government to tour the Punjab, North-West Frontier and Kashmir and make a series of sketches of Indian craftsmen as well as various sights and antiquities in these regions.[5][6][7] Several of these sketches are presently at the Victoria and Albert Museum whilst others were printed in a number of books.[3]

During 1875, Kipling was appointed the Principal of Mayo School of Arts, Lahore, British India (present day National College of Arts, Pakistan) and also became curator of the old original Lahore Museum which figured as the Wonder House or Ajaib Ghar in Kim,
[8] not to be confused with the present one.[9] He retired back to England in 1893.

Everybody... hurrying up to the Wonder House to view the things that men made in their own province and elsewhere. The Museum was given up to Indian arts and manufactures, and anybody who sought wisdom could ask the Curator to explain...

'Is it true that there are many images in the Wonder House of Lahore?'...

'That is the Government's house and there is no idolatry in it, but only a Sahib with a white beard. Come with me and I will show.'...

The Sahib in the Wonder House has talked to him like a brother...

'And the Sahib of the Wonder House talked to him—yes, this is truth as a brother. He is a very holy man, from far beyond the Hills...

Maybe thou wilt be such a Sahib as he who gave me these spectacles...in the Wonder House at Lahore. That is my hope, for he was a Fountain of Wisdom—wiser than many abbots.

-- Kim, by Rudyard Kipling


Kipling illustrated many of Rudyard Kipling's books, and other works, including Tales of the Punjab by Flora Annie Steel. He also worked on the decorations for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and friezes on the Crawford Market in Bombay. The friezes of the Crawford Mark are done in a Romano-gothic style. The west entrance displays trader and sack-scales with porter, planter and water carrier around a well-head, while the east features several bullock carts.[10] John Kipling designed the uniforms and decorations for the Imperial Assemblage at Delhi during 1877, organized by the Viceroy of India, Lord Lytton, at which Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India.

During his tenure as the Principal of the Mayo School of Art, Lahore, he patronised indigenous artisans and by training and apprenticeship transformed them into craftsmen and designers. One of his protégés was Bhai Ram Singh, who assisted him in his imperial commission for decorating the Durbar Room at Osborne House. Kipling also remained editor of the Journal of Indian Art and Industry, which published drawings made by the students of the Mayo School.

He died in 1911, and is buried in the parish of Tisbury, Wiltshire.[11]

During 2017 the Bard Graduate Center had an exhibition of his work: John Lockwood Kipling: Arts & Crafts in the Punjab and London.[1]

Main published works

• Beast and Man in India: A Popular Sketch of Indian Animals in Their Relations with the People, Published by Macmillan and Co, London, 1891.
• Inezilla: A Romance in Two Chapters, by J.L.K. Reprinted from The Chameleon, Allahabad, [1873].
• Across the Border: Or, Pathân and Biloch, by Edward Emmerson Oliver, Illustrations by John Lockwood Kipling. Published by Chapman and Hall, 1890.
• Tales of the Punjab Told by the People, by Flora Annie Webster Steel, Richard Carnac Temple, John Lockwood Kipling. Published by Macmillan and co., 1894.
• The Two Jungle Books, by Rudyard Kipling. Illustrations by J. Lockwood Kipling, C.I.E., and W. H. Drake. Published by Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., New York, 1893.

Image
Illustration for a chapter capital in the 1895 edition of The Two Jungle Books (1895), a compilation of The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, both by his son, Rudyard Kipling.

Image
Bas-relief from a series illustrating Kim.

Image
Mayo College, Ajmer, India Coat of Arms designed by (John) Lockwood Kipling.

Image
Cryptic dedication page with Arabic inscriptions.

Image
Wood Carver at Shimla, pencil and ink drawing by J. Lockwood Kipling, 1870.

See also

• Lockwood Kipling Fountain

References

1. John Lockwood Kipling, C.I.E. New York Times, 24 January 1892.
2. John Lockwood Kipling thepeerage.com.
3. Drawing by John Lockwood Kipling, and Biography Archived 21 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine Victoria & Albert Museum.
4. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1055 ... iths-john/
5. "Lockwood Kipling: Arts & Crafts of Punjab and London". The Heritage Lab. 15 January 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
6. "Book Illustration by John Lockwood Kipling". victorianweb.org. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
7. "Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London – Exhibition at V&A Museum". Owlcation. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
8. Tarin, O, in 'The Kipling Journal', June 2008, pp 10–21
9. For details see Peter Hopkirk, Quest for Kim:In Search of Kipling's Great GameLondon: J Murray, 1996
10. Steggles, Mary Ann; Barnes, Richard (2011). British Sculpture in India: New Views and Old Memories. Norfolk: Frontier. p. 235. ISBN 978-1-872914-41-1.
11. Papers of John Lockwood Kipling University of Sussex.

Further reading

• The Pater: John Lockwood Kipling His Life and Times 1837–1911, by Arthur R Ankers, ISBN 1-871044-00-6
• The Kipling Papers: A List of Papers of John Lockwood Kipling 1837–1911, Joseph Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936, and of Some Papers of Josephine, Elsie and John Kipling from Wimpole Hall, Cambridge. by University of Sussex Library. Manuscripts Section, Rudyard Kipling. Published by University of Sussex Library, 1980. ISBN 0-85087-014-3.
• Official Chronicle of the Mayo School of Art: The formative years under Lockwood Kipling. (1875 to 1893), Researched and Introduced by Nadeem Omar Tarar. Samina Choonara (editor). National College of Arts, Lahore, 2003, ISBN 969-8623-00-0

External links

• Kipling Archive University of Sussex.
• Works by John Lockwood Kipling at Project Gutenberg
• Works by or about John Lockwood Kipling at Internet Archive
• Works held by the Victoria and Albert Museum

***********************************

MacDonald sisters
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/4/20

Image
Georgiana Burne-Jones, née Macdonald c.1882, photographed by Frederick Hollyer

The Macdonald sisters were four Scottish women born during the 19th century, notable for their marriages to well-known men. Alice, Georgiana, Agnes and Louisa were the daughters of Reverend George Browne Macdonald (1805–1868), a Wesleyan Methodist minister,[1] and Hannah Jones (1809–1875).

Biographies

There were 11 children in the MacDonald family: seven daughters and four sons. Mary (1834–1836) was the firstborn; followed by Henry (1836–1891), nicknamed Harry, who introduced his younger sisters Georgiana and Agnes to his artistic friends, known as the Birmingham Set (a group of artists which included William Morris); then Alice; Caroline (1838–1854); Georgiana; Frederic William (1842–1928); Agnes; Louisa; Walter (1847-1847); Edith (1848–1937), who never married and lived at home until her mother's death; and Herbert (1850–1851).[2]

The Birmingham Set, sometimes called the Birmingham Colony, the Pembroke Set or later The Brotherhood, was a group of students at the University of Oxford in England in the 1850s, most of whom were from Birmingham or had studied at King Edward's School, Birmingham. Their importance as a group was largely within the visual arts, where they played a significant role in the birth of the Arts and Crafts Movement: The Set were intimately involved in the murals painted on the Oxford Union Society in 1857, and members William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Charles Faulkner were founding partners of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. in 1861.

The group initially met every evening in the rooms of Charles Faulkner in Pembroke College, though by 1856 its dominant figure was Edwin Hatch.

The primary interests of the Birmingham Set were initially literary – they were admirers of Tennyson in particular – and they also read the poetry of Shelley and Keats and the novels of Thackeray, Kingsley and Dickens. The turning point in the group's interests took place when Morris and Burne-Jones, and through them the rest of the group, discovered the writings of John Ruskin and took to visiting English country churches and making pilgrimages to the medieval cities of France and Belgium.

In 1856 members of the Set published twelve monthly issues of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, which was created to propagate the group's views on aesthetics and social reform.

-- Birmingham Set, by Wikipedia


Alice

Image
Alice Kipling

Alice (1837–1910) was born on 4 April in Sheffield.[3] She married John Lockwood Kipling whom she had met at Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire. They married in March 1865, after he was made Architectural Sculptor and Professor of Modelling at the School of Art and Industry in Bombay during the preceding January. Alice became the mother of Rudyard Kipling on 30 December 1865.[4] Lord Dufferin once said, "Dullness and Mrs Kipling cannot exist in the same room."[5][6][7]

Georgiana

Image
Georgiana Burne-Jones, about 1870, by her brother-in-law Edward Poynter

Georgiana's (1840–1920) father was relocated by the Methodist Conference to a Birmingham circuit and it was here that Georgie was born on 28 July 1840.[8] Agnes (1843–1906) and her sister Georgiana received attention from prospective suitors who were in the Birmingham Set. She married the pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones, a member of the Set, during 1859. They had three children, Philip, Christopher and Margaret - although Christopher died in infancy.[4] She became in time the mother-in-law of John William Mackail and grandmother of Denis Mackail and Angela Thirkell (born Angela Mackail).

Agnes

Image
Agnes by her husband

Agnes was a talented pianist and thought to be the best looking of the sisters.[9] She and her sister Georgiana received attention from prospective suitors who were friends of her brother and members of the Birmingham Set.[4] She eventually married the future president of the Royal Academy Edward Poynter during 1866 in a double wedding with her quieter sister Louisa. Poynter appeared to be a manic depressive and he would paint continuously until finally collapsing when a work was finished. He was unemotional and it was Agnes who supplied the affection in their household.[9] Her husband later produced paintings of two of her sisters. She, Jane Morris and her sisters Louisa and Georgiana are thought to be the inspiration for figures of Burne-Jones' 1864 painting Green Summer.[10] Agnes is thought to have died during 1906 from cancer despite an operation in 1903.[9]

Louisa

Image
Louisa Baldwin 1868, by her brother-in-law Edward Poynter

Louisa (1845–1925) married the industrialist Alfred Baldwin during 1866 in a double wedding with her sister Agnes and Agnes' fiance Edward Poynter. Alfred and Louisa were the parents of a son who became UK prime minister Stanley Baldwin. After his birth Louisa seemed unhappy with her life in Worcestershire where her husband was an ironmaster. She had at least one miscarriage and spent time in a bath chair and days alone in darkness. Later commentators have noted that she would recover when on holiday and have proposed that her illness was due to hypochondria. She was in time the grandmother to Oliver and Arthur Baldwin, respectively the second and third Earls Baldwin of Bewdley. Louisa wrote novels, short stories, and poetry, sometimes credited as "Mrs Alfred Baldwin."[11][12][13]

Further reading

• Judith Flanders. A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne Jones, Agnes Poynter, and Louisa Baldwin. ISBN 0-393-05210-9
• Ina Taylor. Victorian Sisters. (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987) (Shortly to be republished by Ellingham Press)

References

1. Ina Taylor. Victorian Sisters. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London p6 1987 ISBN 029779065X
2. "Person Page 2925". Thepeerage.com. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
3. Taylor, Ina Victorian sisters 1987 Weidenfeld & Nicolson p13 ISBN 029779065X
4. Jump up to:a b c Jill Berkiminez (15 October 2013). Dictionary of Artists' Models. Routledge. pp. 91–. ISBN 978-1-135-95914-2.
5. "The Life of Rudyard Kipling", Charles Carrington, 1955, p. 51.
6. http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/rg_rival1.htm
7. The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling - David Gilmour - Βιβλία Google. Books.google.gr. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
8. Taylor, Ina Victorian sisters 1987 Weidenfeld & Nicolson p14 ISBN 029779065X
9. Jump up to:a b c "Macdonald sisters (act. 1837–1925) | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-76071#odnb-9780198614128-e-76071.
10. Living in Wolverhampton, 1862-1867, Historywebsite, Retrieved 7 July 2016
11. "Baldwin, Louisa". Retrieved 2008-06-04.
12. Louisa Baldwin at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
13. Mrs. Alfred Baldwin at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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Madras Mahajana Sabha
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/4/20

Madras Mahajana Sabha was an Indian nationalist organisation based in the Madras Presidency. Along with the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, Bombay Presidency Association and the Indian Association, it is considered to be a predecessor of the Indian National Congress.

Origin

The first organisation in the Madras Presidency to agitate for the rights of Indians was the Madras Native Association which was established by publicist Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty in 1849. This organisation did not survive for long and was eventually disbanded.

In May 1884, M. Veeraraghavachariar, G. Subramania Iyer and P. Anandacharlu established the Madras Mahajana Sabha. The office of the Sabha functioned in the beginning at the office of The Hindu, Ellis Road Junction, Mount Road. P. Rangaiah Naidu was elected President of the Sabha in 1885. In September 1885, the Sabha in collaboration with the Bombay Presidency Association and the Indian Association, sent a delegation to England.

The Mahajana Sabha held its first conference between 29 December 1884 and 2 January 1885. The Sabha adopted a moderate policy in its early days. However, still, its aims and objectives were considered seditious. In December 1895, on his visit to Madras, the Viceroy of India, Lord Elgin refused to receive the welcome address from the Madras Mahajana Sabha.

History

The member’s of the Mahajan Sabha felt the necessity of creating an organization at All India level to relieve and free the nation from the clutches of British rule and solve the problems of Indians. The members of the sabha expressed the idea very strongly in the conference held at Adayar Theosophical Society which was attended by many patriots and leaders, who materialized it later by forming The Indian National Congress later. Madras Mahajana Sabha was considered to be a unique and holy organization which has paved the way for India's national freedom by the South Indians. Thus the Sabha has voiced out the fundamental rights of our countrymen such as national freedom and other common social issues for the welfare of our fellowmen since 1884. It has developed very close relationship with the Indian National Congress and its activities since 1920 onwards.

Consequently in 1930, the Sabha organized the Salt Satyagraha movement on 22 April in Madras George Town, Esplanade, High Court and Beach areas. The members of the Sabha were attacked savagely by the British police and shed their blood for the national cause. As the Sabha insisted on a legal enquiry about the injustice done towards the participants of the Satyagraha, a three-man commission under the leadership of Justice T.R Ramachandra Iyer has enquired thirty people and submitted its report to the government.

When a similar attack was repeated on 27 April in the Public Meeting of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, at Pycrofts Road by the British Police, advocate Sri Govindasamy was killed as the police opened fire. Again it was the Madras Mahajana Sabha which took strong steps to set upon enquiry commission about the murder of Sri Govindasamy and Diwan Bahdur Sri R. N. Arogyasamy Mudaliar headed the commission that brought out the truth to the World. Once again in 1942, many members of the Sabha took part in the Quit India Movement and were imprisoned.

When the British government banned the Congress Party, Madras Mahajana Sabha conducted numerous exhibitions to instigate the patriotic feelings in the hearts of their countrymen such as All India Khadi Exhibition and Swadeshi Exhibition.

The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhiji, delivered a speech at the meeting of Mahajana Sabha on 24 October 1896. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru also participated in the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Sabha.

The Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of the Madras Mahajana Sabha were held on 31 January 1945.

It has the daily copies of The Hindu Newspaper since 1932. They were donated to the Hindu Library in 2001. The library possesses all type of books on History, Science, Biographies of leaders, particulars about the world countries etc. apart from the renderings of popular writers.

In addition, the Sabha ran a nursery school in the name of Sri Kamarajar for the children of the very poor and downtrodden people like rickshawman, scavengers and labourers until 1996.

The Sabhas Executive Committee members met Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, frontier Gandhi at Raj Bhavan, Madras on 31.12.1969.

Hindi was taught freely in the evenings at the Sabha, which was functioning behind the LIC building, Anna Salai till 1990. government and private company employees learned Hindi here were benefited.

Since 1980 to 2001, the Sabha met great financial assistance for its administration. The then administrators like P.G. Nataraja Mudaliar, Myilai M.P. Gnanasundram, K.Ramanathan and C.T. Shanmugam have rendered great service and assistance for the functioning of the Sabha during this period. Their services during this period is remarkable and praiseworthy.

The centennial year celebrations of the Sabha were conducted in the year 1985. Many leaders with historical importance took part in its various events. The Sabha has awarded mementos to Fifty Thyagies on this occasion.

Madras Mahajana Sabha celebrated its 125th year in 2010.
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Coulomb Affair
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/4/20



The Coulomb Affair was a conflict between Emma and Alexis Coulomb, on one side, and Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society, on the other.

Blavatsky met Emma and Alex in 1871 in Cairo. They founded the short-lived Société Spirite. In August 1879, Emma and Alex contacted Blavatsky because they had financial problems. They were stranded in Sri Lanka, and Blavatsky helped them to get to Mumbai and tried to find a job for them. As she couldn't find a job for them, she provided them with a position in the Theosophical Society, where they were doing various chores, such as cooking and gardening. In February 1884, Blavatsky and H. S. Olcott travelled to Europe. After their departure, a conflict between the Coulombs and the Theosophical Society escalated. The Coulombs tried to blackmail and threaten Blavatsky, whereupon Blavatsky dismissed them. When the theosophists inspected Blavatsky's room after the Coulombs had to leave, they found secret doors in her room. Alexis claimed that he constructed these secret doors for Blavatsky. Theosophists have said that Alexis' constructions were obviously newly built, and the secret doors could not be opened or closed silently or without strong effort.

After the Coulombs were dismissed, they went to their Christian missionary friends of the Free Church of Scotland, and gave them letters that were allegedly written by Blavatsky to Emma. These letters suggested that Blavatsky was a fraud. The chaplain George Patterson published extracts from these letters in the Madras Christian College Magazine. The incident became well known all over India and also in America and Europe. Blavatsky then immediately published a reply in several newspapers. Blavatsky and Olcott then travelled back to India in the end of 1884. Soon afterwards the Hodgson Report was published, which also severely damaged Blavatsky's reputation. The report also contained the allegations of the Coulombs.

In 1986 and 1997, Vernon Harrison of the SPR published a study on the Hodgson Report. The Blavatsky–Coulomb letters were destroyed by Elliott Coues, an enemy of Blavatsky, so that they cannot be studied today anymore.

See also

• Hodgson Report
• Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky

Literature

• Besant, Annie: H. P. Blavatsky und die Meister der Weisheit. Theosophisches Verlagshaus, Leipzig 1924
• Coulomb, Emma: Some account of my association with Madame Blavatsky from 1872 to 1884. Lawrence Asylum Press, Madras 1884
• Harrison, Vernon: H. P. Blavatsky und die SPR, Eine Untersuchung des Hodgson Berichtes aus dem Jahre 1885. Theosophischer Verlag 1998; ISBN 3-930623-21-8
• Hartmann, Franz: Wahrheit und Dichtung, Die Theosophische Gesellschaft und der Wunderschrank von Adyar. o.O. 1906

External links

• "The Theosophical Movement 1875–1950", Cunningham Press, 1951 (page 82ff.)
• "The Collapse of Koot Hoomi" by Rev. George Patterson, Madras Christian College Magazine (1884)
• "Statement of a Visitor" by Franz Hartmann, reprinted from Report of the Result of an Investigation into the Charges against Madame Blavatsky Brought by the Missionaries of the Scottish Free Church of Madras, and Examined by a Committee Appointed for That Purpose by the General Council of the Theosophical Society, 1885, pp. 139–144.
• "The Testimony of Emma Coulomb" by Emma Coulomb, from "The Report of the Committee Appointed to Investigate the Phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society," Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1885.
• "The Coulomb Conspiracy Against Theosophy", ch. 13 in H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement, by Charles J. Ryan, 1937

******************************************

Hodgson Report
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/4/20



Report of the committee appointed to investigate phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society,[1] commonly called the Hodgson Report was an 1885 report by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) on Helena Blavatsky and purportedly apported Mahatma Letters.

History

Richard Hodgson, a member of the SPR and a research worker of paranormal phenomena, was sent to India. Hodgson's task was to examine if the mode of appearance attributed to the Mahatma Letters represented genuine psychical phenomena. In December 1884 Hodgson arrived in Adyar. He eventually concluded that the evidence supported Emma Coulomb, and that various inconsistencies, misrepresentations, and provable falsehoods in sworn statements by certain Theosophical Society members destroyed their credibility. He included in his research examination of the physical spaces where phenomena had been reported, including architectural features that had been concealed or removed from their original placements. Hodgson wrote a 200-page report, in which Blavatsky was described "as one of the most accomplished, ingenious, and interesting impostors in history."

The report considers at length if letters from Blavatsky provided by the Coulombs as evidence for fraudulent activity were genuinely from her hand, the consistency and credibility of various people who claimed to have witnessed psychic phenomena that occurred through Blavatsky, possible methods by which many purported phenomena might have been humanly produced, and references to various accounts of these phenomena as they had been published or circulated in public knowledge. The Hodgson report is detailed and contains extensive appendices.

Blavatsky's reputation was seriously damaged due to the Hodgson Report, and she wrote on 14 January 1886: "That Mr. Hodgson's elaborate but misdirected inquiries, his affected precision, which spends infinite patience over trifles and is blind to facts of importance, his contradictory reasoning and his manifold incapacity to deal with such problems as those he endeavoured to solve, will be exposed by other writers in due course – I make no doubt."[2][3](p33)

Vernon Harrison's examination of the Hodgson Report

In 1986, Vernon Harrison, a researcher of paranormal phenomena and member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), attempted to undermine the accuracy of the Hodgson Report. According to Harrison, the Hodgson Report is not a scientific study, it "is flawed and untrustworthy" and "should be read with great caution, if not disregarded."[3](xii, p75) Harrison blamed the SPR committee "for publishing this thoroughly bad report" without a fact checked critical reading of it and "the quondam Council of the Theosophical Society for their failure to allow their founder fair defense."[3](p33) Harrison concluded that the report's "errors of procedure, its inconsistencies, its faulty reasoning and bias, its hostility towards the subject and its contempt for the 'native' and other witnesses, would have become apparent; and the case would have been referred back for further study." Since Blavatsky "was the most important occultist ever" investigated by the SPR, the process was a wasted opportunity.[3](p33)

Harrison accused Hodgson of selection bias and wrote that "whereas Hodgson was prepared to use any evidence, however trivial or questionable, to implicate HPB, he ignored all evidence that could be used in her favor. His report is riddled with slanted statements, conjecture advanced as fact or probable fact, uncorroborated testimony of unnamed witnesses, selection of evidence and downright falsity."[3](viii, p32) Harrison does not address whether there was any real phenomenon.

He concluded that Hodgson's case against Blavatsky was not proven, and that there is no evidence that the Mahatma Letters were written by her. However, the Hodgson report did not just deal with forgery, but addressed the crude psychic tricks used by Blavatsky such as her séances where spirits respond to her with "raps" on the table, the dropping of Mahatma Letters from the ceiling and onto peoples heads, and various letters written by Blavatsky incriminating herself, and the actions of Theosophists to cover up the fraud.

Harrison criticizes Hodgson for failing to conduct himself as if he were in a court of law. However, Hogdson was not in a court of law, but was a parapsychologist sent to India and reporting back to the Society of Psychical Research. It is likely Hodgson had hoped to find the phenomena true. Harrison does not address the evidence that Blavatsky was simply another fraudulent medium using "spirit rapping" such as that uncovered by the Seybert Commission in 1887. The investigations of mediums in the late 1880s dealt a blow to spiritualists worldwide.

Harrison believes that the Hodgson Report "matters a great deal" since it "is still accepted by many compilers of encyclopedias and dictionaries as the last word on" Blavatsky.[4] Harrison does not "claim to demonstrate from an analysis of [...] Blavatsky's 'ordinary' writing that she could not have been responsible for the" letters attributed to Koot Hoomi.[4]

The Madras Christian College magazine made a similar analysis of fraud on the part of Blavatsky,[5] and addresses Blavatsky's ruses because the Madras Christian College had previously written positively concerning Blavatsky.

See also

• Coulomb Affair
• Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky

References

1. Hodgson, Richard; et al. (1885). "Report of the committee appointed to investigate phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society". Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. London: Society for Psychical Research. 3: 201–400. ISSN 0081-1475.
2. H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings 7:9
3. Harrison, Vernon (1997). H.P. Blavatsky and the SPR : an examination of the Hodgson report of 1885. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press. ISBN 9781557001177.
4. Harrison, Vernon (Jun–Jul 1997). "Replies to criticism". Sunrise Magazine. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press. ISSN 0562-6048. Archived from the original on 2000-01-17. Retrieved 2015-01-24.
5. Patterson, George (Sep 1884). "The collapse of Koot Hoomi". Madras Christian College Magazine. Madras: 199–215, with a Postscript on pp. 241–242.

Further reading

• "Annie Besants critique of the Hodgson Report". blavatskyarchives.com. Blavatsky Study Center. Transcribed from Besant, Annie (Mar 1891). "The Great Mare's Nest of the Psychical Research Society". Time. London: 193–204.
• Coleman, William E. (1999). "Critical historical review of the Theosophical Society". blavatskyarchives.com. Blavatsky Study Center. Transcribed from The Religio-Philosophical Journal. Chicago: 264–266. 1893-09-16. OCLC 6056674. Missing or empty |title= (help)
• First report of the committee of the Society for Psychical Research appointed to investigate the evidence for marvellous phenomena offered by certain members of the Theosophical Society. London: National Press Agency. 1885. OCLC 230974874.
• Hastings, Beatrice: Defence of Madame Blavatsky (Band 2). The Hastings press, Worthington 1937
• Hodgson, Richard. "The Theosophical Society : Russian intrigue or religious evolution?". blavatskyarchives.com. Blavatsky Study Center. Transcribed from The Age. South Melbourne. 1885-09-12. Missing or empty |title= (help)
• Hodgson, Richard (1894). "The defence of the theosophists". Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. London: Society for Psychical Research. 9: 129–159. ISSN 0081-1475.
• Hubbell, Gabriel G. (1901). Fact and fancy in spiritualism, theosophy, and psychical research. Cincinnati: Robert Clarke. OCLC 397415.
• Kingsland, William: The real H. P. Blavatsky, a study in theosophy and a memoir of a great soul. J.M. Watkins, London 1928
• Knoche, Grace F. (Jun–Jul 1997). "H. P. Blavatsky and The Society for Psychical Research". Sunrise Magazine. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press. ISSN 0562-6048.
• Sinnett, Alfred P. (1886). The "occult world phenomena" and the Society for Psychical Research. London: G. Redway. OCLC 22622155.
• Solovyov, Vsevolod S. (1895). Leaf, Walter (ed.). Modern priestess of Isis. London: Longmans, Green. OCLC 468865051.
• Vania, K. F.: Madame H. P. Blavatsky, her occult phenomena and the society for physical research. Sat Publishing Co., Bombay 1951
• Waterman, Adlai E. (pseud. of Carrithers, Walter A.) (1963). The "Hodgson report" on Madame Blavatsky, 1885-1960 : re-examination discredits the major charges against H.P. Blavatsky. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House. OCLC 21518496. Transcribed in "Obituary" (PDF). blavatskyfoundation.org. Fresno, CA: Blavatsky Foundation. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2005-05-12.

External links

• Harrison, Vernon (1997). H.P. Blavatsky and the SPR : an examination of the Hodgson report of 1885 (Online ed.). Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press.
• "Controversies surrounding H.P. Blavatsky's work & the teachings of Theosophy". blavatskyarchives.com. Blavatsky Study Center. 2009-04-29. Archived from the original on 2009-05-27. Retrieved 2015-01-23.
• "Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, was unjustly condemned, new study concludes" (Press release). London: The Incorporated Society for Psychical Research. 1986-05-08. Reported in "Press release of Society for Psychical Research – 1986". blavatsky.net. Blue Ridge, GA: Theosophy Foundation.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Sat Sep 05, 2020 3:10 am

A religion of the book? On sacred texts in Hinduism
by Robert Leach
Zurich Open Repository and Archive, University of Zurich
2014

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Abstract

In this article I provide an overview of the identity, role and function of sacred texts in Hinduism. Hinduism’s tremendous diversity extends to the numerous ways in which different types of texts have been identified as sacred and used by Hindu practitioners. It would be a mistake to attempt to summarise the role of sacred texts in the lives of Hindus, since different texts have had different roles and performed different functions. In the following, therefore, I address what I identify as the four major types or categories of sacred text in Hinduism independently of each other, while noting the commonalities they share, and some of the ways in which texts belonging to the different categories have engaged with one another. The first three of the four categories of text I address consist of Sanskrit works, and the names of the categories are Sanskrit terms which have been applied by Hindus to their own literature (Veda/Śruti; Smṛti; Tantra, Āgama and Stotra). In the final section, I depart from using “insider” terminology and address “sacred texts in vernacular languages”.

Keywords: Hinduism, sacred text, scripture

Introduction

This article is intended as an overview of the identity, role and function of sacred texts in Hinduism. Such an endeavour is beset with potential difficulties, not least in that Hinduism is itself a modern term, not used before the latter half of the 18th century, and with no obvious equivalents in Indic languages before that time. Applying the term Hinduism to the past, then, is frequently problematic, though in general modern scholarship is in agreement that there are important continuities between the present-day phenomenon of Hinduism and codes of ritual practice, narrative traditions and religious customs that emerged in South Asia in the second half of the first millennium before the Common Era (BCE).

Identifying the “scriptural” or “sacred” literature of Hinduism is also significantly more complex than with other major religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Hinduism has no historical founder, no universally recognised hierarchy of authority, no universally adhered-to teachings, practices or beliefs, and there is no single sacred text to which all Hindus pay tribute. Using concepts such as “scripture” and “sacred text” creates its own problems when confronting the diverse textual traditions and linguistic cultures that are a part of Hinduism, and for this reason, I structure the following account around terms which Hindus themselves have used. These terms belong to Sanskrit, the oldest of South Asia’s living languages, and the language in which by far the most influential and widely disseminated texts in Hinduism, at least until the middle of the second millennium CE, are composed. The overwhelming priority given to Sanskrit literature in the following account is itself not unproblematic, since the vast majority of the people we retrospectively identify as Hindu have not used or understood this language. However, it is also unavoidable given that Sanskritic culture has left by far the largest literary record of any translocal, premodern language in South Asia, and that those excluded from this culture often left no record at all.


The Vedas and Śruti

The period during which the many texts included within the Veda (literally “The Knowledge”) were composed, collected and arranged into a canon lasted approximately 1200 years (c. 1600-400 BCE). The Vedic texts were orally composed and were transmitted from teacher to pupil, as they are to this day in some parts of South Asia, without the aid of script.1 This has necessitated exceptional feats of memorisation and an extremely strict emphasis on correct recitation. Although archaeology is increasingly shedding light on aspects of Vedic society and religion, these texts are our most important source of information about the Vedic period. Whilst precise dates for individual Vedic texts are extremely difficult to establish, and are likely to remain so, the chronology of their composition, and of the distinct historico-linguistic layers internal to individual texts, is less so, and has persisted as a major focus of scholarly research since the pioneering philological work of the great German Indologist Hermann Oldenberg (1854-1920). It was Oldenberg, also, who first mapped in detail the southeastward expansion during the Vedic period of the Sanskrit speaking “Āryans” (ārya, “noble”) whose priestly class composed the Vedas. More recent scholarship has sought to trace this movement with greater precision and to explain the reasons for its occurrence. Since the majority of the texts are oriented towards ritual practice, and comprise mostly unsystematically formulated liturgical material for the performance of the Vedic fire sacrifice, information about Vedic society, myth, religious belief, the intricacies of ritual, and canon formation, has to be laboriously extracted from the texts, and a great deal of past scholarship on the Vedas has been devoted to piecing together such information.

The earliest and most prestigious text within the Vedic canon is the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā (“Collection of the Knowledge of Verses”), an anthology of 1,028 poems arranged in ten books or “cycles” (maṇḍala), the vast majority of which were composed in the Greater Punjab in the northwest of the subcontinent between c. 1600 and 1200 BCE.2 These “poems” consist primarily of verses of praise and invocation, addressed to various gods and local tribal chieftains, which were intended for recital at the annual Soma sacrifice, centred on Indra and celebrated at New Year. Principal among the gods addressed are Indra, the god of war and paradigmatic Āryan alpha male; Agni, the deified ritual fire into which sacrificial offerings to the gods are made; and Soma, the deified sacred drink (and the plant on which the drink is based).

The poems often contain the names of their authors, as well as the names of the clans or tribes to which these authors belonged. These poets did not intend their compositions to be collected alongside poems by members of other tribes, with whom there was often conflict, and to be anthologised in the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā. This occurred in a later period (c.1200-1000 BCE) in the region of Kuru, southeast of the Greater Punjab, once Kuru kings had unified most of the 50 or so Ṛgvedic tribes to form what has been called the first “state” on Indian soil. This period remains something of a dark age in Indian historiography, but its importance to subsequent developments in South and Southeast Asian society and religion is paramount, since it was in this time and place that the priestly class, the Brahmins, formed an alliance with the warrior nobility and, as documented in one of the latest Ṛgvedic poems, began to promote the idea that society consists of four social classes. It was also here that Ṛgvedic ritual practices were systematically reformulated in the creation of the new, elaborate Śrauta rites, some of which are performed in traditional parts of India and Nepal to this day.

Śrauta is a Sanskrit word that means "belonging to śruti", that is, anything based on the Vedas of Hinduism. It is an adjective and prefix for texts, ceremonies or person associated with śruti. The term, for example, refers to Brahmins who specialise in the śruti corpus of texts, and Śrauta Brahmin traditions in modern times can be seen in Kerala and Coastal Andhra.

-- Śrauta, by Wikipedia


These innovations resulted in the production of new ritual texts which were assembled according to the division of priestly labour in the new rites: the Sāmavedasaṃhitā (“Collection of the Knowledge of Melodies”) being the property of the priests responsible for singing the verses of the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā; 3 the Yajurvedasaṃhitā (“Collection of the Knowledge of Ritual Formulae”) that of the priests who perform most of the ritual actions, accompanying them with the recitation of ritual formulae (mantra); and the slightly later, and to many minds inferior,4 Atharvavedasaṃhitā (“Collection of the Knowledge of [the sage] Atharvan”) that of the priests responsible for rectifying any mistakes in the performance with the recitation of incantations. Each of these collections borrowed and adapted verses from the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā.5

The Vedic Saṃhitās (Ṛg-, Sāma-, Yajur-, Atharva-) are the foundational texts of the four Vedas: the Ṛgveda, Sāmaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. During the next five or six hundred years the priests of each Veda considerably enlarged their textual corpus by composing numerous other works. These fall into four main text-types, listed here according to the approximate chronology of their composition: Brāhmaṇa (exegetical texts, interpreting the rituals and explaining their hidden meanings); Āraṇyaka (“wilderness texts”, discussing the more secret and dangerous rituals); Upaniṣad (secret teachings, containing early metaphysical speculation and introducing important new ideas into the Vedic worldview such as rebirth, the character of which is dependent on the quality of one’s actions (karma), and mokṣa, liberation from rebirth); and Kalpasūtra (discussed below). To further complicate issues, since the time succeeding the anthologisation of the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, all Vedic texts, including the Saṃhitās, have existed in multiple versions – a consequence of local differences in ritual and pronunciation between different groups of Brahmins within each Veda. These differences led to the recognition of separate Vedic schools (śākhā), each of them associated with a particular Brahminical community in a particular geographic area. This meant that, for virtually the entirety of the Vedic period, there was no Vedic “canon” to speak of, only a canon of texts accepted by each school (Witzel 1997).

This situation changed around the end of the Vedic period (c. 500-400 BCE), when a final process of Vedic canon-formation took place in northeast India (the region of modern-day Avadh and Bihar). Here, all texts, other than the Kalpasūtras,6 belonging to all schools in each of the four Vedas were declared [by who?] to be equally authoritative and part of the unitary Vedic canon, from this time forward spoken of as “the Veda” or Śruti. Very little was added subsequently. The term śruti, meaning “that which is heard”, indicates the new idea that the unitary Veda has no author/s, but was revealed to and seen by inspired primordial seers (ṛṣi) who recited it to their pupils – thus, the Veda has been heard by all generations of Veda-reciters subsequent to the first. The system of Vedic exegesis which asserted the unity and authorlessness of the Veda became known as the Mīmāṃsā. Later Mīmāṃsā authors argued for the eternality and authorlessness of the Veda, and of the sacred Sanskrit language, on the grounds that since there is no recollection of an author (or first reciter), we have no basis to assume the existence of one, or reason to doubt that persons in the past learnt the Veda just as those in the present do, i.e. by hearing it recited by a teacher (McCrea 2011). The idea of the eternality and authorlessness of the Veda was very influential, and was later accepted by several important philosophical schools, including those located within the tradition of Vedānta, based on the exegesis of the Upaniṣads. However, it was not accepted by all. Monotheistic traditions first referred to in the later portions of the Sanskrit Mahābhārata (c. 3rd-4th Century CE), attributed authorship of the Veda to God, as did, from around the 6th century CE, the influential philosophical school of Nyāya.


Charvakas, according to Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha verses 10 and 11, declared the Vedas to be incoherent rhapsodies whose only usefulness was to provide livelihood to priests. They also held the belief that Vedas were invented by man, and had no divine authority.

-- Charvaka, by Wikipedia


A quotation of the Cārvāka from Madhavacharya's Sarva-Darsana-Sangraha states: "The three authors of the Vedas were buffoons, knaves, and demons. All the well-known formulae of the pandits, jarphari, turphari, etc. and all the obscene rites for the queen commanded in Aswamedha, these were invented by buffoons, and so all the various kinds of presents to the priests, while the eating of flesh was similarly commanded by night-prowling demons."

-- Ashvamedha, by Wikipedia


The Veda has occupied an ambiguous position in Hinduism. On the one hand, many Hindus have proclaimed it their most authoritative and sacred body of literature. On the other, for the past two thousand years its contents have been almost completely unknown to the vast majority of Hindus, and have had virtually no relevance to their religious practices. In the last centuries before the Common Era, access to the Vedic texts was limited to male members of the three highest social classes, and since at least the second century CE, Hindu law-makers have declared that only male Brahmins are eligible to study the Veda. Between then and now, the great majority of the people we retrospectively identify as “Hindu” have been deliberately excluded from the Veda, and for most of this period we have little means of knowing whether such people accepted its authority. In ancient India, the maintenance of the Veda’s exclusivity was largely dependent on two factors: first, that it was prohibited to commit the Vedic texts to writing; second, that Brahmins were the guardians not only of the Vedas, but also of Sanskrit. By excluding all except male Brahmins from learning Sanskrit, the Veda was kept out of the majority’s reach. However, after the Sanskrit of the Vedas had developed, in the last centuries BCE, into the distinct, post-Vedic “Classical Sanskrit”, the content of the Vedas became inaccessible even to many Brahmins. Already in the Mānavadharmaśāstra, a Brahminical text composed probably around the 2nd century CE (Olivelle 2004), there is a reference to Brahmins who recite the Veda but do not understand it, and ethnographies attest to the existence of such persons today. This neglect of the content of the Vedas, together with the sustained emphasis on their correct recitation, signals the prevalent belief that the sacredness of these texts is in their sounds rather than their meaning. Thus, to recite correctly, or to hear such a recital, is intrinsically efficacious.

According to Watts (2006), texts function as scriptures through the ritualisation of three primary “dimensions”: semantic, performative and iconic. If we apply this typology to the Veda, for the majority of its history we can say that its semantic dimension has counted for very little, and that its performative dimension has been ritualised to by far the greatest degree. There is also textual evidence starting from around the end of the first millennium CE that, in spite of continued prohibitions against writing down the Vedas in some quarters, manuscripts of Vedic texts have been worshipped by theistic traditions, normally alongside other manuscripts, as physical manifestations of god’s knowledge. However, this practice appears never to have been the predominant mode of engaging with Vedic texts.

Finally, the authority of the Veda has also been implemented outside of the ritual context. Perhaps the most striking example of this is that, up until modern times, Hindu legal traditions have affirmed that the Veda is, theoretically, the highest authority in all matters pertaining to correct behaviour (dharma), both public and private. In practice, though, the highest authority has in fact rested with an elite group of specialists in such matters, namely “those who know the Veda”, and the legitimacy of these specialists’ pronouncements on legal issues has been determined a priori by the identity of their authors as knowers of the Veda, rather than a posteriori by appeal to particular passages in Vedic texts. In various different ways, the Veda has provided a transcendent source of authority for Hindu traditions.

Smṛti

As a textual category, Smṛti, meaning literally “memory, remembrance”, emerged later than Śruti and has had a much broader purview. Before it came to denote a specific body of literature, the term smṛti indicated “remembered norms” viz. “tradition”, especially as an authoritative source of knowledge, alongside the Veda, in matters relating to proper conduct (dharma). When it came to refer to texts, during the 2nd century BCE at the earliest, Smṛti referred exclusively to the genre of Dharmaśāstra (discussed below), and this appears to have remained the case for several centuries (Brick 2006). While both the early history of Smṛti and its later elaboration and rationale in Mīmāṃsā apologetics have been studied in detail in recent years, there is as yet no scholarly consensus as to precisely when, and with what justification, texts other than the Dharmaśāstras began to be included within the category. However, it is clear that the definition proposed by the 5th century Mīmāṃsā author Śabara allows a considerably broader conception of Smṛti than had been admitted in earlier times. In his commentary on the foundational text of his school, the Mīmāṃsāsūtra (c. 200 BCE?), Śabara argues that Smṛti designates those texts which retain the essential purport (although not the exact wording) of Vedic texts which have been lost or forgotten, but whose former existence can be inferred from the fact that authoritative persons (i.e. Vedic Brahmins) still follow their dictates. Seen in this way, as Pollock (1997) points out, Smṛti texts are themselves Vedic. This definition of Smṛti opened up the category to such an extent that it was never really closed thereafter, and there has been no universal agreement since Śabara as to which texts can be included as Smṛti, and which cannot. In the following, I will address the few texts which are generally held to be uncontroversially included within this category.

i.) Śāstra: Vedāṇga and Dharmaśāstra

In modern Sanskrit-English dictionaries, the term śāstra, from the verbal root śās-, “to instruct”, is commonly given as a Sanskrit term for scripture. This may be partially justified insofar as it was used, from an early period, to denote the Veda, but in reality Śāstra designates a much broader class of texts, many of which would not ordinarily be understood as “scripture”, however vaguely defined. The term appears to have originally signified the technical treatises dealing with the six disciplines recognised as being ancillary to the study of the Veda (Olivelle 2010). The six disciplines, known collectively as Vedānga (“the limbs of the Veda”), are ritual (kalpa), astrology and astronomy (jyotiṣa), phonetics (śikṣā), prosody (chandas), etymology (nirukta), and grammar (vyākaraṇa). The authoritative texts which address these disciplines, nearly all of which were composed after the Vedic period, are generally acknowledged to have been authored by humans.7 The earliest of these belong to the genre of Kalpasūtra (“Aphoristic Rules on Ritual”) -– the only Vedāṅga works which will detain us here -– in which there are three kinds of texts: Śrautasūtra (instruction manuals for the performance of public Vedic rites); Gṛhyasūtra (appended to the Śrautasūtra; manuals for domestic rites, especially the rites of passage); and Dharmasūtra (normative and descriptive guides to all aspects of correct individual and social conduct as well as to matters relating to civil and criminal law). Although the Kalpasūtras are Vedic in the sense that they are composed in Vedic Sanskrit and are identified as belonging to one or other of the Vedic schools (śākhā), they have never been considered a part of Śruti. This is most likely a consequence of their relatively late composition and of the fact that they are essentially instruction manuals for the correct performance of actions enjoined in the earlier literature. However, although they have been excluded from what was originally (and in some senses remains) the most authoritative body of Sanskrit literature, the Kalpasūtras have arguably played a more important role in the day-to-day lives of Hindus than has any Śruti text. In order to explain this, it will be helpful to briefly address the Śrautasūtras and Gṛhyasūtras together, and then to look at the Dharmasūtras.

Although plenty of information concerning the Śrauta rites can be extracted from the earlier Brāhmaṇas, these texts do not offer priests detailed, step-by-step guides to carrying out the rituals. This is the reason for which the Śrautasūtras were composed and have been transmitted between generations of priests for two and a half thousand years. Unlike the Śruti texts, there are no intrinsic benefits to be had from reciting and hearing or reading the Vedic Sūtras other than the communication and acquisition of the information they contain – their value is in their content.8 As many of the Śrauta rites have been replaced by other forms of ritual (see below) and have become obsolete, or only rarely performed, so the Śrautasūtras have declined in importance. The Gṛhyasūtras, on the other hand, have retained a more central role in the lives of Hindus, a consequence of their subject matter – domestic ritual – and the greater breadth of their intended audience – male householders belonging to the three highest social classes. Chief among the domestic rites enjoined in the Gṛhyasūtras are the so-called rites of passage or, better, “life-cycle rites” (saṃskāra), the most important of which are those performed at the conception of the embryo, birth, initiation into Vedic study, marriage, death, and the worship of the departed ancestor. Each of these are still performed today within traditional Brahminical families.

Although the content of the Dharmasūtras (“Aphoristic Rules on Proper Conduct”) overlaps to a considerable degree with that of the Gṛhyasūtras, containing as they do a wealth of information on ritual performance, especially on the life-cycle rites and the reparatory rites to be performed in case of mistakes in the ritual procedure, these texts also came to represent a tradition independent from the other Vedic Kalpasūtras, and indeed from the Vedic schools in general. The name of this independent tradition is Dharmaśāstra, and it is principally constituted by the Dharmasūtras, orally composed from c. 300-50 BCE (only four of these texts are extant), and several later works in verse, principal among which is the Mānavadharmaśāstra (“The Law Code of Manu”), also called Manusmṛti, most likely composed during the 2nd century CE. These texts offer both prescriptive and descriptive accounts of correct ritual, social and ethical behaviour, the first two of which differ according to one’s social class and the stage of life one is at. More than religious belief or cultural custom, it is the dharma of the Dharmaśāstra that has been central to the identity of Hinduism as a religion.

ii.) Itihāsa and Purāṇa

The category of Itihāsa (“[narratives which tell of] the way things were”) includes India’s two great epics, the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa. Both of these have existed, for over two thousand years, in a variety of artistic genres including dance, theatre, film and television, as well as in numerous literary versions in many of the vernacular languages of India and Southeast Asia.9 In both cases, their earliest extant forms are immensely long Sanskrit texts in verse, the bulk of which were orally composed over several centuries between c. 400 BCE–400 CE.10 This period saw myriad changes in the religious and political culture of northern and central India, many of them brought about by the rise to prominence of Buddhism and, to a lesser extent, Jainism. These changes and their far-reaching consequences are too numerous to list here, though mention should be made of the transformation of the Vedic priesthood (the Brahmins) into proponents of a tremendously successful religious and socio-political ideology based on Brahminical superiority (see Dharmaśāstra), and of the emergence of monotheistic traditions which, without wholly repudiating the authority of the Veda and its sacrificial cult, established new forms of worship centred upon the veneration of images of god in temples and at shrines. The foundations laid by these innovations gave support to a religious culture which is retrospectively identified as “Hindu” as distinct from “Vedic”.

Although the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa include, though by no means confine themselves to, much of the same sort of religious, ethical and metaphysical doctrine as can be found in earlier Sanskrit literature, they do so within a framework derived from more popular (as opposed to priestly) storytelling traditions. Both were recited and performed by bards at the courts of rulers and, unlike the Veda, they were not memorised word for word but could incorporate new themes, subplots and characters in each retelling – a detail that accounts for their long gestation periods as well as their great length. At some stage around the beginning of the Common Era, both texts began to be written down, and their transmission passed into the hands of Brahmins. However, unlike the texts covered thus far in this article, the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa claim to address themselves to women as well as men, and to members of all social classes. As with the Vedas, regional and cultural differences among the Brahmins responsible for transmitting the Sanskrit epics led to there being numerous versions of both texts, and both have been handed down in two principal recensions, one from the north and one from the south of India. In the 20th century, Indian scholars compiled critical editions of the Sanskrit manuscript traditions of both texts (in the case of the Mahābhārata, 1,259 manuscripts were collated) and much of the subsequent scholarship on Itihāsa has been based on these editions. While the identification and dating of the two texts’ multiple layers has dominated philological work, there have also been numerous recent studies on the religious, philosophical, political and aesthetic dimensions of the epic traditions, as well as, for instance, structuralist and gender-based approaches to epic narratives.

The central story of the Mahābhārata tells of a bitter succession conflict, culminating in an 18-day war, between two sets of cousins for the ancestral realm of the Bhārata clan, the kingdom of Kurukṣetra in northern India. The most celebrated (and studied and translated) section of the Mahābhārata is the Bhagavadgītā (“The Song of the Lord”), which has often been treated, both by medieval commentators and modern scholars, as an independent text.11 As with the Mahābhārata in general, scholarship on the Bhagavadgītā has been dominated on the one hand by philological approaches, and on the other by approaches which take the text as a meaningful whole and interpret it according to different theoretical perspectives.12 The Gītā, as it is affectionately known, takes place about midway through the story as the two sides are lining up for battle, and it consists mostly of Kṛṣṇa’s exhortation to Arjuna, one of the major heroes of the Mahābhārata, to go forth and fight. Arjuna’s unwillingness to do so derives from the fact that many of his family members and former teachers are among the enemy. Kṛṣṇa, who is ostensibly Arjuna’s charioteer, reveals himself to be the supreme god, manifest on earth in order to restore dharma. His exhortation primarily involves a discussion of traditional concepts (e.g. sacrifice, dharma and karma) set within a new monotheistic framework. In several places the Gītā describes itself as an upaniṣad, thus laying claim to the status of Śruti, and indeed for most Vaiṣṇavas (worshippers of Viṣṇu), and for many non-Vaiṣṇava Hindus, it is among the most sacred of all texts, and is in some parts of India an object of temple worship. Scholars generally agree that the identification of Kṛṣṇa with Viṣṇu belongs to the latest layers of the Mahābhārata (it is not found in the Gītā itself). It is also in these later layers that the Mahābhārata calls itself the “fifth Veda” and claims the mythical seer Vyāsa as its author.

The Rāmāyaṇa (“The Career of Rāma”), which tells the story of the exemplary warrior-prince Rāma and his retrieval of his devoted wife Sītā from her evil abductor King Rāvaṇa, also claims in one of the apparently later layers of the text that it is equal in authority to the Veda.
The Rāmāyaṇa, though, presents itself as a literary work, indeed as the very first work of poetry, composed by the inspired poet-seer Vālmīki, which perhaps explains why F. Max Müller, in his preface to The Sacred Books of the East (1879) declared that it is not a “Sacred Book”, calling it instead a “national epic”. Certainly the Rāmāyaṇa has held something akin to the status of national epic –- as Goldman and Sutherland Goldman (2010) write, “Its episodes and characters are known to every stratum of [Indian] society, every region of the country, and the adherents of every religion.” However, it has been interpreted especially as a treatise depicting the ideal Hindu state, a sort of poetical rendering of Dharmaśāstra, and has been used by Hindu rulers, especially against Indian followers of Islam, to justify a particular idea of divine Hindu kingship. Further, its influence extends well beyond South Asia, as is evident from the fact that versions of the Rāmāyaṇa have been written in, for instance, Old Javanese (9th-10th century), Khmer (16th/17th century), and Thai (18th century). Moreover, its hero Rāma is worshipped by millions of Hindus, either as the supreme god or as an incarnation (avatāra) of Viṣṇu. There are temples to Rāma, as well as depictions of scenes from the Rāmāyaṇa on temple walls, all over India, as well as numerous temples to its other central characters. For many millions of the Hindus who worship in these, the Rāmāyaṇa is the exemplary narrative of god’s life as a man engaged in the destruction of evil and the restoration of dharma. Like the Mahābhārata, sections of the text are regularly declaimed at festivals and in temples across South Asia, a practice which is considered meritorious both for the reciters and the audience, even if the majority among the latter do not understand Sanskrit.

The term Purāṇa (“Ancient [Tales]”) denotes a vast body of mostly Sanskritic literature which began to be written down in the early centuries of the Common Era, as well as a vibrant but little-studied performative tradition in various vernacular languages which continues to this day.13 According to tradition, Vyāsa, the mythical author of the Mahābhārata, is also the author of all the Purāṇas. There are said to be 18 Major and 18 Minor Purāṇas though in reality there are many hundreds of texts in this genre. Like the Sanskrit epics, the Purāṇas align themselves with the Veda, the rituals and myths of which they appropriate, adapt and expand to fit with their own monotheistic (or, better, henotheistic) theology.14 As well as appropriating Vedic rituals and myths, the Purāṇas also consciously appropriate the Veda’s scriptural status, and many Purāṇas explicitly call themselves Purāṇaveda and identify themselves as transmitting the infallible knowledge of the Veda, in the form of Purāna, to the general populace (Smith 1994). Thus, in common with Itihāsa, the Purāṇas claim to be accessible to women and to members of all four social classes (varṇa). Unlike the epics, these texts do not revolve around a central narrative: their contents are a miscellaneous collection of complex cosmologies, elaborate genealogies, stories of the exploits of deities and kings, and descriptions of law codes, rituals and pilgrimages to holy places (many of which are still adhered to or undertaken today). Some of these texts are very long (in several cases considerably longer than, for instance, the Rāmāyaṇa), though they are not intended to be recited or read from beginning to end.15

In keeping with the idea that the Purāṇas occupy the same textual territory as the Veda
, they often contain passages (called phalaśruti, “the fruits of hearing [the text]”) which list the worldly and soteriological benefits that can accrue from hearing part of the text in recital. In many cases, these “fruits” are assured to the listeners regardless of whether or not they understand the verses in question, and irrespective of their own personal religious allegiance. In other words, according to the authors of these passages, it is the very sounds of the Purāṇas that are sacred, and in these contexts, as with the Vedas, sound has primacy over content. In addition, the Purāṇas also offer some of the earliest examples, within a Hindu context, of the idea of the holiness of manuscripts. Many Purāṇas list the soteriological benefits that accrue from copying manuscripts of one or other Purāṇa, from keeping, displaying and worshipping a Purāṇic manuscript in one’s house or temple (in which cases all members of the household or temple are eligible to receive benefits), and from passing such a manuscript on to others. In these cases, then, the written form of a Purāṇa functions in a similar way to its sonic form: to use Watts’s (2006) terminology, in these instances the ritualisation of the performative and iconic dimensions of Purāṇic scripture takes precedence over the ritualisation of its semantic dimension.

On the other hand, the content of the Purāṇas has a much more important place in the Hindu imagination than has, for example, the content of the Vedas. A great many of South Asia’s most popular stories of gods, sages and demons, known to millions of Hindus and retold today in multiple media, are found in the Purāṇas. Especially important in this regard is the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, composed in South India in the 9th- 10th century CE. This work, which remains the most studied and translated of all Purāṇas, and which has inspired a large body of commentarial literature, is a central religious text for the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition, founded in 16th century Bengal. The main focus of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is the adoration of Kṛṣṇa as the supreme god, and it tells numerous stories of Kṛṣṇa’s exploits, including his romantic adventures with the cowherd girls in its famous tenth chapter, which would already be known to its intended audience (Narayana Rao 2004). For worshippers of Kṛṣṇa, including Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is recited, listened to and read, therefore, not in order to impart or acquire information about Kṛṣṇa, but as means of celebrating and expressing devotion to him.

Tantra, Āgama and Stotra

From around the 5th or 6th century CE, certain sectarian theistic traditions in North India began producing scriptural works, commonly bearing the suffixes tantra (“ritual system”) or āgama (“that which has come down”), which often present themselves as constituting a higher and more specialised revelation than that presented by the Veda.16 Within the Hindu context, the majority of these texts claim to have been authored by either Śiva or Viṣṇu, and the followers of such Tantras or Āgamas are called, respectively, Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava. There are several distinct Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava Tantric traditions, and these are primarily distinguished from one another by the mantras they use in rituals, and by their scriptural canons. The contents of Tantric texts are predominantly liturgical: many are primarily intended as manuals for the Tantric preceptor carrying out the initiation rites (by which one becomes a member of the tradition) and the preparation for and performance of the post-initiatory worship of a range of deities.17 This worship may take place in a temple or in private. The texts also list the rewards, including supernatural powers and liberation from worldly existence, that accrue from undergoing initiation and worshipping god or gods in the ways prescribed. However, these texts are not merely “manuals” for the preceptor, they also address various theological and cosmological topics, and many of them consist of parts apparently intended for the initiate alongside the parts intended for the preceptor. Not only is access to these texts prohibited to the uninitiated, even for those who have undergone initiation access would be mediated by one’s preceptor or guru. Some texts declare that they are to be read only with a guru, and that it is a sin to read them otherwise, and some use deliberately obscure language and references in an apparent attempt to obstruct “outsiders” from accessing their content.18 For such reasons, the Tantras are often described as being “esoteric”, in contrast to Itihāsa and the Purāṇas which are, are at least theoretically, available to everyone, including those who follow the Tantras. Tantric texts, and the practices they enjoin, are exclusive only insofar as they are the exclusive preserve of those who have been initiated into the tradition: they do not make exclusive demands on their followers, who are allowed, and in many cases encouraged, to practice the more mainstream Purāṇic rituals as well as those of the Tantras.

The Tantras and Āgamas also have much in common with the Purāṇas and, like the Purāṇas, they frequently list the soteriological and worldly benefits that ensue from hearing a particular text being recited, or from worshipping the manuscript of this or that text. One Vaiṣṇava Tantra from the 12th or 13th century even declares that, for a member of that tradition, it is enough to recite the names of the Tantras of that tradition to ensure that one will be liberated from rebirth at death. Many works instruct initiates to worship the text by which they received initiation, and to safeguard it from falling into the wrong hands. The importance of texts for Tantric traditions is conveyed by the fact that in this context the term tantra can mean both “text” and “tradition”: perhaps more than any other Hindu traditions, Tantric traditions are “religions of the book”. Many of these works also present themselves as being actual physical manifestations of god, so that in reading, reciting or worshipping the text the adept is directly worshipping god.

The genre of Stotra (“Hymn of Praise”) shares several features with the Tantras and Āgamas. There are innumerable texts of this type, composed in many South Asian languages, and they are still being composed and published to this day. Stotras are mostly short works in verse which directly address a deity, offering praise and seeking favours of a salvific or “worldly” nature. Many Stotras are contained within larger works (including the Yajurveda, the epics, the Purāṇas and the Tantras or Āgamas), though they have often been used independently, and many Stotras constitute independent texts in themselves. Śiva and Viṣṇu are the most commonly addressed deities alongside the goddess. Stotras are often sung in temples during worship (pūjā), where they can function both as devotional hymns, understood as “offerings” to the divine addressee, and as liturgical texts accompanying the performance of certain rites. It is commonly understood that the recitation of such hymns, seen as an act of worship in itself, automatically brings benefits to the reciter. Unlike the Tantras or Āgamas, Stotras are not the exclusive preserve of certain sects, and many are used across sectarian boundaries. Some Stotras consist entirely of the different names by which the god to whom they are addressed is known. Several of the most popular of these Nāmastotras (“Hymns of Praise of [God’s] Names”) are addressed to Rāma (or Rām in the now more commonly used Hindi).

Sacred Texts in Vernacular Languages

Relative to the large body of scholarship on Sanskrit literature, the study of the sacred vernacular literatures of South Asia is still in its infancy, with the majority of texts still in need of critical editions. A consequence of this is that general overviews of Hinduism and its sacred literature have tended to underestimate, or else completely ignore, the important role of vernacular texts and traditions. To cite just one example, Everyman’s Library’s Hindu Scriptures has, over the course of three editions (1938, 1966, 1996) and three different editors, included, in part or whole, 19 texts, all of them in Sanskrit. And yet, in terms of the sheer numbers of Hindus who have identified, utilised and responded to sacred literature, sacred texts in verncaular languages have enjoyed a much more prominent position over the past millennium (“the vernacular millennium” in the words of Pollock 2006) than have any Sanskrit works which, for social and linguistic reasons, are accessible only to a minority. It is commonly said that Sanskrit is the sacred language of Hinduism, yet this claim obscures the fact that many vernacular languages have also been regarded as sacred, and many vernacular texts considered, by their followers, equal in authority to the Veda.

The relations between Sanskrit and vernacular, and between the Veda and vernacular sacred texts, is often addressed directly by the latter. The South Asian vernacular language with the longest literary history (approximately 2000 years) is Tamil, and it is in Tamil literature, between the c. 10th and 12th centuries CE, that we first find vernacular texts referred to as Veda and declared superior to the Sanskrit Veda since they are available to everyone regardless of social class. Perhaps the most important Tamil text equated with the Veda is a large collection of devotional (bhakti) poems addressed to Viṣṇu, the Nālāyira Divyaprabandham (“The Divine Collection of 4000 [Verses]”), compiled around the 10th century CE by Nāthamuni, the alleged founder of the still-living Śrīvaiṣṇava tradition. The Śrīvaiṣṇavas call this text the “Tamil Veda”, and from around the 12th century, they have recited sections from it alongside sections from the Sanskrit Vedas during temple worship, at weddings and funerals, and during daily worship at home. The poems in this collection are thought to have been revealed by Viṣṇu through the 12 Āḻvār poets (c. 7th-9th centuries CE), all of whom are worshipped as saints, in the form of icons, in Śrīvaiṣṇava temples. The most sacred among the poems collected in the Nālāyira Divyaprabandham is the 1000 verse Tiruvāymoli of Nammāḻvār, a poet belonging to a peasant caste who lived in the c. 9th century CE. The Tiruvāymoli is thought by Śrīvaiṣṇavas to contain the essence of the Sāmaveda. Among the other Āḻvār poets, the most notable and arguably the most popular, is Āṇṭāḷ, the only female Āḻvār. There exists a comparable collection of Śaiva bhakti poetry in Tamil, composed from the c. 6th-10th centuries by the 63 Nāyaṇār saints, and collated in the 11th century Tirumurai, later to form part of the scriptural corpus of the Tamil Śaiva Siddhānta, a distinctive bhakti-oriented school of a pan-Indian Tantric tradition. In the following century the poet Cekkilār composed the Periyappurāṇam, a hagiography of the Nāyaṇār saints that was revered as the “fifth Veda”, and eventually incorporated into the Tirumurai.

The second longest literary history among the Dravidian languages of South India belongs to Kannada, and the earliest extant sacred texts in this language are the devotional Vacanas (“Sayings”), short prose poems addressed to Śiva, composed by male and female members and forebears of the Vīraśaiva or Liṅgāyat movement from the 11th or 12th century CE onwards. Basava, the alleged 12th century founder of this “bhakti protest movement” (Ramanujan 1973), which rejects the Veda and caste hierarchy, formulated the following oft-quoted pithy dismissal of Vedic tradition: “Parrots recite. So what?” (ibid.: 76). Other important sacred works in South Indian vernacular languages include Nannaya’s Mahābhāratamu, an 11th century retelling of the Mahābhārata in Telugu, and two versions of the Rāmāyaṇa in Malayalam: the 13th-14th century Rāmacaritam, known to have been ritually recited in northern Kerala (Freeman 2003: 462), and the 16th century Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇam, whose author Eḻuttacchan declared Malayalam the equal of Sanskrit, and his composition equal to the Veda.19 The cultural media via which such works have been transmitted and encountered are predominantly performative (ibid.: 438).

North Indian sacred literature in vernacular languages has also been primarily orally composed and performed and, as in South India, many important early works (in e.g. Assamese, Oriya and Bengali) are translations or retellings of Sanskrit texts. These include Jñāndev’s creative commentary in Marathi on the Bhagavadgītā, the Bhāvārthadīpikā or Jñāneśvarī (13th century), in which the author vows to place Marathi and Sanskrit on the same royal throne. A passage at the end of this work has become a popular prayer among Marathi speakers, and the work as a whole occupies a place in Marathi culture which is normally reserved for sacred works in Sanskrit. North Indian vernacular literature commonly transcends traditional social hierarchies, and several low-caste and female authors enjoy a prominent status, with their texts recited as part of the liturgy in temples. Many works claim that their raison d’être is to make available sacred works in Sanskrit to the local populace, though several of these have far transcended such secondary status. Perhaps the best example here is the Rāmcaritmānas (“Lake of Rāma’s Deeds”), a 16th century retelling of the story of Rāma composed by Tulsīdās in the eastern Hindi dialect of Avadhi. The Rāmcaritmānas is experienced by most of its audience in oral or musical performance, being ritually recited (despite the fact that few modern Hindi speakers understand its archaic language) or acted out at popular festivals across northern India. However, it has also achieved widespread eminence as a written text, whether inscribed on temple walls, as an object of temple worship, or in the scores of printed editions found throughout the subcontinent. For the majority of Hindus in North India, it remains the most popular narrative account of the life and career of Rāma, more popular than the Rāmāyaṇa itself, and it has been described by several Western observers as “the Bible of Northern India” (Lutgendorf 1991: 1).

References

Brick, D. (2006) “Transforming Tradition into Texts: The Early Development of Smṛti”, Journal of Indian Philosophy 34: 287-302.

Freeman, Rich (2003) “Genre and Society. The Literary Culture of Premodern Kerala”, in Sheldon Pollock (ed.) Literary Cultures in History. Reconstructions from South Asia, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 437-500.

Goldman, Robert and Goldman, Sally Sutherland (2010) “Rāmāyaṇa”, in Knut A. Jacobsen et al. (eds.) Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Volume Two, Boston, Leiden: Brill, 111-126.

Jamison, Stephanie W. and Brereton, Joel P. (trans.) (forthcoming) The Rigveda, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lutgendorf, Philip (1991) The Life of a Text: Performing the Rāmcaritmānas of Tulsīdās, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

Malinar, Angelika (2007) The Bhagavadgītā: Doctrines and Contexts, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McCrea, Lawrence (2011) “Mīmāṃsā”, in Knut A. Jacobsen et al. (eds.) Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Volume Three, Leiden, Boston: Brill, 643-656.

Narayana Rao, Velcheru (2004) “Purāṇa”, in Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby (eds.) The Hindu World, New York, NY: Routledge, 97-118.

Olivelle, Patrick (trans.) (2004) The Law Code of Manu, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Olivelle, Patrick (2010) “Dharmaśāstra: a textual history”, in Timothy Lubin, Donald R. Davis Jr., and Jayanth K. Krishnan (eds.) Hinduism and Law: An Introduction, New York: Cambridge University Press, 28-57.

Pollock, Sheldon (1997) “The ‘Revelation’ of ‘Tradition’: Śruti, Smṛti, and the Sanskrit Discourse of Power”, in S. Lienhard and I. Piovano (eds.) Lex et Litterae: Studies in Honour of Professor Oscar Botto, Alessandria: Edizioni dell’Orzo, 395- 417.

Pollock, Sheldon (2006) The Language of the Gods in the World of Men. Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

Ramanujan, A. K. (trans.) (1973) Speaking of Śiva, London: Penguin Books.

Smith, Frederick M. (1994) “Purāṇaveda”, in Laurie L. Patton (ed.) Authority, Anxiety and Canon: Essays in Vedic Interpretation, Albany: SUNY Press, 97-138.

Watts, James W. (2006) “The Three Dimensions of Scriptures”, Postscripts 2.2-3: 135-159.

Witzel, Michael (1997) “The Development of the Vedic Canon and its Schools: The Social and Political Milieu”, in Witzel (ed.): Inside the Texts, Beyond the Texts. New Approaches to the Study of the Vedas, Cambridge: Harvard Oriental Series, 257-345.

_______________

Notes:

1 Evidence suggests that writing was introduced into the Indian subcontinent by the Persian conquerors of Gandhāra (in the extreme northwest) in the second half of the 6th century BCE. Gandhāra is the homeland of what is possibly the earliest Indic script, namely Kharoṣṭhī, which is derived from the Aramaic script. The earliest evidence for writing in Kharoṣṭhī, or indeed in any Indic script, is dateable to the reign of Aśoka (c. 269-232 BCE).

2 There is, as yet, no complete, reliable English translation of the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, though this is set to change in 2014 with the greatly anticipated forthcoming translation of Jamison and Brereton.

3 Thus, the Sāmavedasaṃhitā consists almost entirely of verses from the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā. The ritual role of the priests associated with the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā was the simple recitation (rather than singing) of its verses.

4 Certain conservative traditions have never accepted the authority of the Atharvaveda, and recognise, therefore, only three Vedas.

5 These adaptations show that although the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā was clearly highly regarded, it was not yet sacrosanct.

6 Hence, the Upaniṣads are considered to represent “the end of the Veda” (Vedānta), and are indeed often referred to in this way.

7 However, their authors are also often considered to be “seers” (ṛṣi), and for instance Patañjali, author of a 2nd century BCE grammatical text, has, from around the 13th century, been considered an incarnation of Śeṣa, the divine grammarian.

8 However, there are references in later literature (from the c. 9th or 10th century CE) to these texts being worshipped, alongside the Vedas and other works, in their written form.

9 Popular retellings in modern times include Peter Brook’s nine hour play The Mahabharata (1985), and the hugely popular Hindi TV serials of the Ramayan (dir. Ramanand Sagar, 1987-8) and Mahabharat (dir. Ravi Chopra, 1988-90).

10 The Mahābhārata is approximately four times the length of the Bible, the Rāmāyaṇa about the same length as the latter.

11 The first translation into a European language was by Charles Wilkins into English in 1785. Subsequent important translations of the text include those by A. W. von Schlegel into Latin (1823) (which attracted the attention of G. W. F. Hegel and others), and Richard Garbe into German (1905).

12 Malinar (2007) combines both approaches.

13 There is also a smaller, albeit substantial, corpus of Jain Purāṇas, written in a variety of South Asian languages, including Sanskrit. These will not be discussed here.

14 The Purāṇas continue theistic trends observable in the later layers of the epics, with certain texts, such as the Viṣṇu Purāṇa and the Devī Māhātmya of the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa clearly emphasising the sectarian worship of one particular god or goddess.

15 Accordingly, much of the scholarship on the Purāṇas has approached these texts through particular themes, concentrating on recurrent myths and modes of worship or literary style etc. rather than treating each text as an individual whole.

16 Not all Tantras and Āgamas present themselves as being superior to the Veda. For instance, the South Indian Vaikhānasa tradition, which produced a large body of scriptural literature from the c. 9th century, refers to its texts as Tantra and Āgama, but identifies itself as a Vedic school. In addition, there are Jain and Buddhist Tantras, which do not identify themselves in relation to the Veda at all.

17 There is no uniform rule as to who is eligible for Tantric initiations – particular traditions have their own criteria, which are liable to change over time. Some traditions accept only male members of the three highest social classes, others accept male and female initiates from all social classes.

18 Such strategies have, historically, affected scholarship on the Tantras. In the last 30 years or so, however, real advances have been made in this area, and today the text-critical study of the Tantras and their commentaries is one of the fastest growing areas in South Asian textual scholarship.

19 Kampaṉ’s 12th century retelling of the Rāmāyaṇa in Tamil, the Irāmāvatāram, the verses of which are inscribed on temple walls across central and southern Tamil Nadu, predates both of these.
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