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Khojah Petrus Arathoon [Khwaja Petrus] [Coja Petrus] [Coja Petruse] [Cojah Petruse], Excerpt from Armenians in India: From the Earliest Times to The Present Day: A Work of Original Research
by Mesrovb Jacob Seth
[The Jagat Seths were a Bengali Jain banking family and the title of the eldest son of the family. The family sometimes referred to as the House of Jagat Seth, were a wealthy business, banking and money lender family from Murshidabad, Bengal region in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, during the time of Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah.]
(Member, Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal; Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland; Indian Historical Records Commission; Calcutta Historical Society; Numismatic Society of India; The American Numismatic Association; Bengal Library Association; and Examiner in Classical and Modern Armenian to the University of Calcutta)
1937

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-- The Black Hole -- The Question of Holwell's Veracity, by J. H. Little, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, Vol. XI, Part 1, July-Sept., 1915

-- Full Proceedings of the Black Hole Debate, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, Vol. XII. Jan – June, 1916

-- Interesting Historical Events, Relative to the Provinces of Bengal, and the Empire of Indostan. With a Seasonable Hint and Persuasive to the Honourable The Court of Directors of the East India Company. As Also The Mythology and Cosmogony, Facts and Festivals of the Gentoo's, followers of the Shastah. And a Dissertation on the Metempsychosis, commonly, though erroneously, called the Pythagorean Doctrine. Part II. By J.Z. Holwell, Esq.

-- Fort William-India House Correspondence and Other Contemporary Papers Relating Thereto, Vol. I: 1748-1756, Edited by K. K. Datta, M.A., Ph.D., Professor of History, Patna University, Patna

-- Holwell's Religion of Paradise, Excerpt from The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App


Chapter XXVIII: Armenians at Saidabad

Armenians formed their first settlement in Bengal in the year 1665 by virtue of a royal Farman issued by the Mogul Emperor Aurungzebe granting them a piece of land at Saidabad, a suburb of Murshidabad, with full permission to form a settlement there. Murshidabad was at that time the capital of Bengal, the richest province (Subah) of the Mogul Empire, justly styled by Aurungzebe, as the paradise of nations.

Bolts, in his Considerations on India Affairs, published in London in 1782, refers to the Armenian Settlement at Saidabad, as follows: —

"The Armenians, who have ever been a great commercial body in Hindustan, have also long had considerable settlements in Bengal, particularly at Syedabad. Their commerce was likewise established by the Mogul's firman whereby the duties on the two principal articles of their trade, piece-goods and raw silk, were fixed at three-and-a-half per cent."


For a period of about a hundred years since their settlement in that place, there is nothing on record of their activities — social, commercial or political. They were engaged in the peaceful pursuit of commerce, importing and selling piece-goods and exporting raw silk for which the Murshidabad district has always been famous.

By the middle of the 18th century, we find a large number of Armenians residing at Saidabad. The most notable Armenian merchant in the days of Nawab Ali Verdi Khan, the last of the great Nawabs of Bengal, who died in 1756, was Agah Petros, the son of Rev. Nicholas of Julfa. For his probity, urbanity, modesty and piety, he was a great favourite with Ali Verdi Khan, so much so that the nawab's wife used to call him brother and she would receive him and converse with him freely without observing purdah, (veil) contrary to the strict Mohammedan custom of those days. We are told by Thomas Khojamall that the grandees and the noblemen at the court of Nawab Ali Verdi Khan, paid great respect to the Armenian merchant and looked upon him, with great veneration, as a saint for his great piety. We shall have occasion to refer to this humane Armenian again when writing of the sufferings of the English prisoners who were taken to Murshidabad after the tragedy of the "Black Hole" of Calcutta in June 1756.

He died full of years and honours in 1767, and was buried in the Armenian churchyard at Saidabad where his revered grave, with a beautiful marble tombstone, can be seen to this day.

A few words about Ali Verdi Khan, the last of the great Nawabs of Bengal, may not be out of place. He was a stern but a just ruler, dreaded by the Mahratta freebooters, whom he turned out of Bengal. The English who were slowly capturing the trade of the country by peaceful penetration, dreaded him too as can be seen from the following episode. In 1749, an English man-of-war had seized some ships laden with the goods of various Hooghly merchants, Armenian and Mohammedan, and also containing valuable things belonging to the Nawab. Exasperated at the high-handed and unwarranted action of the English, Ali Verdi Khan immediately sent a parwana (order) to the Governor of Fort William, Calcutta, which concluded with the following menace, in which the terrible teeth of the fierce Bengal tiger were ominously visible. He wrote, "as you are not permitted to commit piracies, therefore I now write to you that, on receipt of this, you deliver up all the merchants' goods and effects to them, as also what appertains unto me, otherwise you may be assured a due chastisement in such manner as you least expect." The Council at Calcutta first attempted to pacify the infuriated Nawab by the present of a fine Arab horse, and at the same time contemplated measures of retaliation against the Armenian merchants of Calcutta, whose cause the Nawab had espoused. It soon appeared, however, that Ali Verdi Khan was in earnest and meant what he said, for he stopped the boats which were bringing down their goods, and cut off the supply of provisions at Dacca, reducing the Englishmen of that place to the greatest straits. He then surrounded the English Factory at Cossimbazar with troops, and finally compelled the English to accept the terms which he dictated. The English, the records say "got off after paying to the Nawab, through the Seths* [The Seths, the Rothchilds of India, were rich Indian bankers at Murshidabad, who through their immense wealth, played a very important part in Bengal politics, as can be seen later on.] twelve lakhs of rupees". On another occasion, Ali Verdi Khan demanded the estate of a rich Mohammedan who had died at Calcutta intestate and without any relatives. After his claim had been paltered with for many years, he again threatened to order an attack on the Factory at Cossimbazar, in 1751. The Calcutta Council knowing with whom they were dealing, immediately paid over the value of the deceased Mohammedan's estate, and were compelled to add a further sum on account of interest, lest they should rouse the ire of the Nawab and share the fate of the Mahrattas.

The next notable Armenian merchant at Saidabad was Khojah Petrus Arathoon, who achieved fame as a diplomat in the eventful days when Suraj-ud-dowlah, that monster of lust and cruelty, ascended the masnad (throne) of Murshidabad as the Nawab Nazim of Bengal, Behar and Orissa, as a successor to his grandfather, the great Nawab Ali Verdi Khan, referred to above, Khojah Petrus Arathoon, or the "Armenian Petrus", as Clive called him, played a very important part in the conspiracy which led to the overthrow of the young Nawab Suraj-ud-dowlah and the placing of a new Nawab on the tottering throne of Murshidabad.

The Armenian merchant-diplomat first appears on the scene, as a good Samaritan, immediately after the tragedy of the "Black Hole" when he spontaneously came to the assistance of the English in their hour of need, although he was afterwards misjudged by them and unjustly accused of having been a spy in the service of the Nawabs of Bengal from Suraj-ud-dowlah to Mir Kasim, as can be seen later on.

The humane Armenian hearing of the terrible sufferings of the English inhabitants of Calcutta, who with Drake, the Governor, had taken refuge in their ships at Fulta, after the fall of Fort William, he secretly supplied them with provisions for a period of six months and but for the timely succour of Khojah Petrus, the unfortunate English refugees at Fulta might have been starved to surrender before the arrival of the Army of Retribution from Madras under Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive on the 20th December 1756. Khojah Petrus was afterwards employed by Clive as a confidential agent in negotiating with Mir Jaffier for the overthrow of Suraj-ud- dowlah, the author of the "Black Hole" tragedy. And in 1760, when it was found expedient to remove the imbecile Mir Jaffier and place his son-in-law, Mir Kasim, on the Masnad of Murshidabad, Khojah Petrus' services were again requisitioned as he was known to be very friendly with Mir Kasim. And for all the valuable services which Khojah Petrus had rendered to the English in Bengal, at the risk of his life, there is nothing in the records to show that he had been rewarded for his loyalty to the British cause. Being unable to get justice from Clive and his colleagues in Calcutta, for his loyalty, once the crisis was over and the tide had turned in favour of the English, he addressed a long letter to the Court of Directors in London on the 25th January 1759, enumerating the various services he had rendered to the British cause in Bengal since the capture and sack of Calcutta in June 1756. The following is a copy of the letter: —


Letter from Petrus Arratoon to the Court of Directors dated 25th January 1759.

"Honourable Sirs,

It is with the most humble submission I assume liberty to address the following narrative to your Honourable Board, to set in a true and faithful light — the indefatigable pains, charges, and imminent danger myself and the persons therein mentioned underwent to relieve the miseries of the English Gentry after they had been extirpated from Calcutta by the invasion, of the Moor, and refuged on board their ships at Fulta and to be instrumental to bring matters to the happy state they are in at present.

The calamities and condition the English Familys were in on board their ships at Fulta, I need not describe, no doubt but the Honourable Company have had a very particular account of their dilemma and sufferings: I shall proceed to relate how far their deplorable state made impressions on one Abraham Jacobs (a Jew) and myself. The said Abraham Jacobs applyed himself to me with the prospect to join him to endeavour to contribute the English some relief. A proposition of that commiseration and humanity, I readily came into, solemnly plighted him my faith to yield them my utmost assistance with all imaginable alacrity, fervency and fidelity, even to the hazard of my life, upon this Abraham Jacobs remained in my house at Calcutta disguised in Moor's habit. We mutually consented and agreed the first step we were to take was to get the speech of Omichand* [Omichand was a Punjabi Hindu merchant of Calcutta and had acted for many years as agent for the English in their purchases of saltpetre and other Indian goods in Bengal. His real name was Amir Chand but he is better known as Omichand.] and to bring him over to be an instrument to promote our schemes who had great interest with the Moors and though Mr. Drake and Council addressed him twice before to no effect, he not so much as giving them an answer, yet we were so fortunate as to prevail with him to join our cause, and the first thing we effected was to obtain the country people to bring provisions to Fulta market which they were restrained from before — We likewise conveyed boats and lascars to attend the ships, and indeed we studied and laboured and left no stone unturned to yield them all the conveniences and necessarys we possibly could obtain either by interest or present out of our shipwrecked fortunes, for there were no favours, scare humanity to be expected from such mercenary wretches without the prevailance of presents. We then proceeded to advise Major Kilpatrick to send a letter to Monickchund, Governor of Calcutta, which he did and we delivered it to him and were so happy to have him receive it favourably and returned an answer. This success spirited us to advise the Major to write to Coja Wazeed and Jugut Seth and we carried these letters to Hughly and delivered them to the said Coja Wazeed and Jugut Seth's gomastas and returned with satisfactory answer to the Major. The good consequence of these correspondences was the obtaining of a cessation of hostility or disturbances of the Moors towards the English, which continued till the arrival of His Majesty's Squadron. The said Abraham Jacobs and myself were almost incessantly employed in travelling up and down the river, carrying them all the assistance we could and giving them advices of all the occurrences we could learn, which brought on us great expenses by keeping a great number of servants, boats, small presents to the Moor's under-officers not to impede or molest us, as well as the inexpressible trouble and anxious fears lest we might be betrayed. As I hinted before, our fortunes were for the major part shipwrecked at the sacking of the town and our circum- stances were at a very low ebb. All the money we received from Mr. Drake and Major Kilpatrick at Fulta amounted to no more than Rupees 150 and 380, which last sum was employed on this occasion. It was thought necessary towards accommodating matters with the Nabob we should have the King's phirmaund to produce if required, which was lost, but William Frankland Esquire accidently found among his papers the copy of the phirmaund, which we got fair translated, and paid that sum to an officer at Hughly who had the Mogul's chap [seal] to affix it to the same. In the beginning of October 1756, Omichand went to Muxadavad [Murshidabad] in order to endeavour an accommodation when the said Abraham Jacobs wearied out with continual fatigue fell sick at Chinsurah so that the whole weight of affairs fell alone upon me, to be perpetually employed backwards and forwards to Fulta etc. as prementioned, till the arrival of His Majesty's Squadron, Admiral Watson of glorious memory and Colonel Clive, who finding nothing could be effected by fair means with Seraj-ud-dowla, he being a Prince whose word could in no wise be depended on, perfidious in his nature and a promise-breaker, which occasioned hostility to commence on the side of the English, and after retaking Calcutta* [Calcutta was retaken by the British on the 2nd January 1757 and Drake, the former Governor, reinstated as President.] the Colonel and his army encamped to the northward of the town, and the Nabob soon marched his army from Muxadabad and encamped very near him. However a treaty was set on foot, and I was employed to negociate between both partys, but the brave Colonel Clive rightly conceiving the Nabob trifled and did not mean to come to any terms of accommodation, he judged it necessary to compel him by force of arms, accordingly he gave him battle, and God was pleased to crown him with victory which brought the Nabob to terms of peace which being settled and Articles confirmed he returned with his army to Muxadabad.

Afterwards William Watts Esquire and I were sent thither to receive what compensation was agreed on in the treaty of peace. A part thereof was received, the remainder withheld by the Nabob. Here words can't express what trouble Mr. Watts and self had in attendance and endeavouring to get from him the remainder. That gentleman perceived plainly the Nabob was dealing treacherously with the English, and had information he was privately perfidiously concerting measures with the French, and his behaviour confirmed Mr. Watts in the same, for which he sent me to demand from the Nabob the remaining money, he threatened if Mr. Watts presumed to make any further demand, to take his life away. Due advice of these particulars were remitted to Calcutta. In the interim, Mr. Watts, whose whole study was taken up for the good of the Company and publick cause, sent me to Jaffir Ally Cawn, one of the Nabob's noblemen, and who tacitly was disaffected with the Nabob's treacherous proceedings to him. I was to lay open a new scheme, which I did and had I been detected, nay even suspected herein, it would have cost Mr. Watts and me our lives, but to proceed. I brought Jaffir Ally Cawn to a concession to Mr. Watts' proposal, and to enter into the scheme, and appointed a day for Mr. Watts to have an interview with him in private, to accomplish which I provided in readiness a covered palankeen such as the Moor women are carryed in, which is inviolable, for without previous knowledge of the deceit no one dare look into it. At the appointed time Mr. Watts was carried to Jaffir Ally Cawn's house, and there concluded and confirmed the scheme until an answer of approbation could be had from the Select Committee at Calcutta. As soon as the same arrived, I requested leave of the Nabob for Mr. Watts and self to retire for three days to the Garden House without the city which being granted we lost no time to make our escape from thence to meet Colonel Clive who was on the march with the army for Muxadavad, and by the blessing of Providence got there safe, a narrow escape indeed, for had we deferred our flight three hours longer, though we acted with the greatest conduct and secresy till matters were ripe for action, we should have both been taken and put to the most miserable death. Your Honours may be pleased to observe here what risque Mr. Watts and self ran of our lives for your interest. I need not mention the wonderful effects and issue our labour has produced. What a happy change in the state of your affairs, to have a peaceable possession of Calcutta confirmed to you, etc. But I must beg leave to exhibit to Your Honours that though I have gone through such great travel, pain, anxiety, and dangers in assisting the English familys in the depth of their distress, being instrumental towards the happy Revolution, yet Your Honours have not taken the least notice or mention of me nor of Abraham Jacobs, my fellow labourer, until the fatigues, as prementioned, afflicted him with sickness, nor even the expenses we disbursed have not been repaid us, which incites me to believe that my services have not been represented to Your Honours. If they have, I have reason to believe not in a clear and genuine but very faint light, for had your Honours been made truely and particularly sensible of my vigor, fervency and fidelity in your service, I flatter myself, I should have been honoured with some instance of Your Honours' favour, therefore, I humbly refer this genuine, but short narrative in regard to the particulars, to your Honours' serious consideration, and hope you will consider me worthy of the gratuity to have some post in Your Honours' service conferred on me, and not forget the service of Abraham Jacobs, as in your wisdom you shall judge, I merit, or such reward as Your Honours shall deem fit. Permit me, Honourable Sirs, to tender my sincere wishes for prosperity and success to attend you in all your affairs, and most respectfully to subscribe, Hanourable Sirs, Your most obedient and faithful humble servant,

PETROSS ARRATOON."


We have not however, been able to find out yet what reply the Court of Directors gave to the above letter, as the Records are silent on that point, but it is not likely that the Court of Directors would have ignored that valuable historical document entirely. And in order to prove by documentary evidence the important part played by Khojah Petrus in the negotiations which led to the establishment of British rule in Bengal, we shall now proceed to give some extracts from state letters and documents of the time which shed a flood of light on the history of the negotiations and the principal actor therein, as unfortunately very little is known of that great Armenian merchant-diplomat of Calcutta, who at the risk of his life, helped the English in their hour of need.

In a letter to Mr. Pigot, dated Camp, 25 January 1757, Colonel Clive writes: —

"Yesterday his (Nabob's) Prime Minister despatched one Coja Petrus, an Armenian, to me, desiring I would send a trusty person with our proposals, intimating that the Nabob was desirous of settling matters in a private manner without the mediation of the French. I have desired the gentlemen will send their proposals very fully explained that we may lay them before the Nabob as soon as possible."


On the 2nd February, 1757, we find Suraj-ud-dowlah again sending Coja Petrus to Clive asking for the despatch of envoys, but he did not wait for a reply.

On the following day, writing from Camp, Clive commences his letter to the Select Committee at Fort William, as follows: —

"Gentlemen — Coja Petruse is returned with a letter and present from the Nabob and I propose despatching the commissaries to him without delay, therefore request you will send me the proposals immediately."


On the 6th February 1757, we find Clive writing to the Nabob in the following terms:

"I sent two gentlemen to treat with you about a peace at Nabobgunge where, by your letter, and the promise from your own mouth to Coja Petruse, I expected they would have found you, instead of which they found you in Calcutta. This action sufficiently shows you meant only to amuse me."


In a letter from Mr. Watts to Colonel Clive, written 10 coss from Hooghly, and dated the 18th February 1757, we find the following: —

"I have certain advice from Coja Petrus and from two gentlemen I sent on purpose to Chinchura that the French are sending their effects there, they saw several boats loaded with chests, chairs, pepper, cotton etc., etc., some carrying on shore, so that you will find nothing but an empty shell. I am informed the Danes give the same protection, but of this you will be able to get better intelligence than I."


In a long letter to the Secret Committee at London, dated Camp opposite to Barnagul, Clive writes on the 22nd February 1757, as follows: —

"On the 3rd instant letters came in from the Nabob proposing to restore our settlement and make some reparation for the effects taken, and desiring proper persons to be sent to confer with him on the subject, at the same time the van of his army appeared in sight, and passed along towards Calcutta, just without reach of the cannon of our battery to the eastward.

Coja Petrus, an Armenian, who brought the Nabob's letters assured me that the Nabob had by his own mouth promised to wait at a place called Ganga where he then was till the conference was over and I directly wrote him testifying my satisfaction at his pacifick intentions and that two gentlemen would be deputed immediately to treat with him.

The next day, being the 6th, the Nabob decamped and removed to Dum Dumma, and the Armenian was again sent to me with a letter from Rangeet Roy desiring if we meant peace to transmit our proposals to the Nabob who was inclined to comply with them."


In a letter from Mr. Watts to Colonel Clive, dated the 26th April 1757, we find the following: —

"Mir Jaffier two days ago sent for Petrus privately and told him the Nabob [Suraj-ud-dowlah] was greatly disliked, that he ill used and affronted everybody, that for his part whenever he went to visit him he expected assassination, therefore allways had his son and forces in readiness, that he was persuaded the Nabob would not keep to his Agreement and says he only waits till Monloll [Mohan Lall] is well and for some forces that are expected from Patna in eight or nine days to attack us. Mir Jaffieir therefore sent for Petrus and desired him to tell me that if you are content, he, Raheem Cawn, Roydoolab and Bahaudar Ally Cawn and others are ready and willing to join their forces, seize the Nabob and set up another person that may be approved of."


In a letter dated the 14th May, 1757, Mr. Watts writes to Colonel Clive as follows: —

"Mir Jaffier likewise having expressed an utter distrust and disgust at his being any ways concerned in the Treaty, and as delays are dangerous, I therefore with Petrus had a meeting with Mir Jaffier's confident [Omar Beg] who set out to-day with the accompanying Articles, which he says he is sure Mir Jaffier will comply with."


In a letter to Colonel Clive, dated the 8th June 1757 Mr. Watts writes from French Gardens, Chandernagore: —

"I have not been duped as you must know by this time and be convinced Omichand has been the occasion of the delay. As a further proof, I enclose you copy and translate of a letter from him to Petrus. Please send for Petrus' brother [Khojah Gregory, better known as Gorgin Khan] and ask him upon oath if Omichand did not dictate and he wrote such a letter to his brother [Coja Petrus]. If this will not satisfy you and Omichand's address has more weight than my proofs I will send you the original with his own signing. Let me beg of you to comply with this request not to divulge what I have inclosed or write you to Omichand till I am in place of security, as he is implacable in his resentments and may be induced to discover everything by writing up here [Chandernagore] in order to sacrifice Petrus and me to his resentment. The Nabob [Suraj-ud-dowlah] and Mir Jaffier are at open variance and it is apprehended troubles between them will soon ensue."


Omichand's letter to Coja Petrus, in the handwriting of Khojah Gregory [Gorgin Khan] was written in Armenian, the following being a free translation of a part of the letter which Mr. Watts sent to Clive with a copy of the original as stated above. The translation was no doubt made by Khojah Petrus himself for Mr. Watts.

"Omichand's compliments to Petrus.

There's letters gone for Mr. Watts to forbid his coming down till permission is given from hence. You and I are one: let us consider what is for our own interest and act so as to make it pass that we have had the whole management of this affair. If our friend [Mr. Watts] is not set out, keep him a few days: affairs are not settled here, hereafter I will write you the particulars. You have a good understanding, therefore there is no occasion to write you much. Our success depends upon each other. All my hopes are in you."


Facsimiles of Omichand's original letter with the rough copy of the same, were published by Sir Richard Carnac Temple, Baronet, in the Indian Antiquary, Vol. XLVII for November 1918. In the original copy, Omichand has signed his name in Hindi (Punjabi) as Amirchand. There is no signature on the copy and neither of them bears any date, but they must have been written on the 4th or 5th June 1757, as Mr. Watts refers to it in his letter of the 8th June which he wrote to Clive enclosing the letter in question. Needless to add that the clever plan of the wily Omichand miscarried because the Armenian Petrus remained true and loyal to the English, as in the past. Had Khojah Petrus complied with Omichand's request and kept back Mr. Watts, things would have taken a different turn and the British cause would have been endangered, since Omichand was no friend of the English and for his double dealings he got his desserts shortly after when the infamous forged treaty* [ ] was drawn up and shown to him as a reward for his treachery, villainy and chicanery. *Clive, the heaven-born hero of Macaulay, played a shabby trick on Omichand which was quite unworthy of an Englishman of his position. For his participation, as an intermediary, in the conspiracy for the overthrow of Suraj-ud-dowlah, Omichand, claimed thirty lakhs of rupees as compensation for the heavy losses which he said he had sustained when Suraj-ud-dowlah had taken Calcutta in June 1756. He threatened to inform the Nawab of the plot unless his claim was satisfied. Clive, who was more than a match for the wily Punjabi, closed his mouth by means of a trick. He had two treaties drawn up, one on white paper and the other on red. The former, which was the real treaty, contained no stipulation as regards the compensation to Omichand and it was not shown to him. The latter guaranteed Omichand's claim and was shown to him. It may be mentioned here that on the sham treaty Admiral Watson's signature was forged, by Clive without any compunction whatsoever, and when, some years after, he was arraigned before the House of Commons for the shameless forgery, he told his accusers nonchalantly, that he would do it again a hundred times! After the conspiracy had succeeded, par excellence, Omichand came to receive the promised amount, under the terms of the red treaty, but he was shockingly disillusioned when Clive showed him the white treaty by which he was to receive nothing. It was a case of "the biter bit".

As Omichand 's letter to Khojah Petrus is rather an important document, from a historical point of view, inasmuch as it served to put Khojah Petrus on his guard to save Mr. Watts from falling into the hands of Nawab Suraj-ud-dowlah, as Omichand had cleverly planned, we shall therefore give a verbatim translation of the original Armenian letter, which, with the rough copy, were found among the Clive MSS. some years ago by Sir George Forrest.

Here is the translation: —

"To the most illustrious Sahib of Sahibs, Aga Petrus,

Be it known humbly in the service of him who is written above that up to the present time we have no favour from the Sahib. We are very anxious, and hearing of the arrival of Amirchand, I came to Gorothi and enquired about the real state of affairs about my Sahib.

He [Amirchand] told me to write these few words. Amirchand offers his devotions in the service of the Sahib. He says that they have written to Wach [Watts] from this place that no one is to come till we do not write. It remains that you and I are one. What will be good for us, do that. Be thoroughly manly till the end and everything is ours. And about your home, be of easy mind, I am here. And if the friend who is to come with you has arrived, it is good, if not, delay him for a few days, as there have been no deliberations here yet. I will write to you what is necessary to-morrow [when] the deliberations are over. It is not expedient to write details, because you are a wise man, moreover, my weal is yours and yours is mine. My entire affair I have left open to your wish. No more.

Amirchand."


Sir Richard Carnac Temple, in his interesting article on "Side-lights on Omichand" which appeared in the Indian Antiquary for November 1918, referring to the above letters says:

"Reviewing the conditions surrounding this remarkable letter, one cannot help considering what would have happened had Agah Petrus acted as Omichand desired and kept Watts in Murshiadabad until Surajuddaulla had him in his power. Clive's letter of 5th June 1757 to Watts shows that had Watts failed in his mission, as he would have done, if Omichand had had his way, Clive, for some months at any rate, would have dropped his scheme of deposing Surajuddaula and setting up Mir Jaffier as Nawab Nazim under British suzerainty, and the world-famous battle of Plassey would not have been fought. No doubt so worthless a prince as Surajuddaula would not long have retained his power and no doubt Clive would in time have found means to obtain supreme authority in Bengal, but it would have had to be achieved in some other way. There was nothing then but the loyalty of Agha Petros to prevent the success of Omichand 's proposal and a complete change in the story of British supremacy in India as we know it. The letter we have been discussing therefore just missed being of the first importance in history."


In a letter written by Colonel Clive to the Select Committee at Fort William, from Cutwa, on the 15th June, 1757, at noon, we find the following: —

"I arrived last night at Cutwa and as the sepoys who came by land are a good deal fatigued, I shall only proceed to Mirzajore to-day where I shall disembark the cannon etc., and I expect to reach Agra Diep in two days, to which place I shall order all the small boats. Mr. Watts with the gentlemen of Cossimbazar joined me yesterday afternoon, also Coja Petrus and a Moorman from Mir Jaffier. They left the city the 13th at night and acquaint us Mir Jaffier's party daily increases. The gunners and Laitee Cawn have joined him, so that there is the greatest probability of a happy issue to the expedition."


In a letter, without date, but received by Colonel Clive on the 23rd June 1757, Jafar Ali Khan [Mir Jaffeir] writes as follows: —

"Your note is arrived. Your trusty man is taken. 1 congratulate you on executing your design. Meirza Aumer [Omar Beg], or Mr. Watts or Coja Petrus, send one of them to me. I am here on the bank of the lake agreeable to your desire."


After such a brilliant record of valuable services, the loyal Armenian becomes the target of the attacks of the arrogant members of the Calcutta Council who forgetting the immediate past, falsely and unjustly accused him of treachery and disloyalty, as can be seen from the following extracts:

In their letter to the Honourable the Secret Committee for Affairs of the Honourable United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies, the Council* [The Council at Fort William, Bengal, was then composed of the following members: — Eyre Coote, P. Amyatt, John Carnac, W. Ellis, S. Batson and H. Verelst.] at Bengal wrote under date, Fort William, the 11th March 1762, as follows: —

"The Armenian Ministers of the revolution Cojah Petruse and Khojah Gregory [Gorgin Khan] are in the highest degree of favour with the Nabob [Mir Kasim] and his adherents, the former resides in Calcutta, retained by Cossim Aly Chan [Nawab Mir Kasim], a known spy upon every transaction of the English of which he never fails to give his master the most regular intelligence, as was too apparent to Colonel Coote and Major Carnac, when they were at Patna. The latter of these Armenians has posts of the greatest trusts near the Nabob's person; and through the means of these men the Armenians in general are setting up an independent footing in the country, are carrying on a trade greatly detrimental to our investments in all parts, and commit daily acts of violence, which reflect no small odium on the English, who are supposed to encourage their proceedings."


The Court of Directors in their reply to the long letter of the Calcutta Council, said

"this paragraph [36] requires no answer from us,"


which goes to show that the cool-headed English gentlemen who presided over the destinies of the Company's trade in India, attached no importance to the false and venomous accusations of their self- interested servants in Calcutta against the two Armenians whose friendship for the English and their loyalty to the British cause was above reproach, for in the Address to the Proprietors of East Indian Stock regarding the revolutions in Bengal, it is stated that "Mr. Holwell being well apprized that Coja Petruse (to whom the Company owed much in the last revolution, but much more in this) had the greatest weight with, and influence over Cossim Aly Khan [Nawab Mir Kasim], had secured him on the side of the Company, and at a private interview with him, at Mr. Holwell's garden, on the same day of the conference between the Governor and Cossim Aly Khan, Mr. Holwell framed a rough plan of the terms which must be insisted on for the Company, in lieu of the protection and support to Cossim Aly Khan, which Coja Petruse engaged he would promote, to the utmost of his power and influence. The next morning, the 24th September, Mr. Holwell communicated his conference with Petruse and laid the rough plan before the Governor and the Select Committee, who approved of it, with little variation, and the 25th was appointed for the conference between him and Cossim Aly Khan."
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Part 2 of 2

After such valuable services to the British cause in Bengal, the loyal Armenian was painted black by the Calcutta Council who stigmatized him as a "spy" in the service of the Nawab.

In the proceedings of the Calcutta Council for 24th March 1763, Mr. Batson laid before the Board the following minute: —

"The evil designs of the Nawab [Mir Kasim] against us appearing now in a glaring light, and it being well-known through the whole country that Coja Petruse, the Armenian, acts as the Nawab's spy in this place, Mr. Batson proposed that he and his family be turned out of Calcutta immediately and desires it may be put to the vote.


The motion contained therein being put to the vote, agreeably to Mr. Batson's desire, the Members delivered their opinions, but Mr. Watts who knew Coja Petrus intimately since the dark days of the fall of Calcutta and the tragedy of the "Black Hole" in June 1756, and had always spoken highly of his loyalty, because he had saved his life, as we have seen, yet he did not hesitate to echo the sentiments of some of the members and stated that: —

"Petruse is well-known to be an intriguing person and to have raised himself, 1 believe, being a spy betwixt us and Seraja Dowla. During Clive's Government he was ordered to quit this Settlement (Calcutta) and not to have any connections at the Durbar, for having spread and told the Chutta Nawab Meeran (Meir Jaffeir's son) that Colonel Clive intended to take away his life, I therefore think he ought to be ordered to quit this Settlement, that his constituents cannot suffer any losses by our taking such a step, as his business can be carried on equally the same as when he was absent in a late visit to the Nawab."


But fortunately for Khojah Petrus, who had evidently become the victim of the hatred and malice of the Calcutta Council, the President pointed out that ordering a merchant of long standing out of the Settlement would be arbitrary, and would shake all confidence, but he was forbidden to act for the future as Vakil to the Nawab (Mir Kasim) and to the chagrin of his crestfallen enemies, Khojah Petrus was honourably acquitted by the Government. A glorious instance of British fairplay and justice indeed. Later on, the much harassed but loyal Armenian was suspected by Major Adams to have been a spy for the Nawab Mir Kasim during the memorable campaign of October 1763, and was seized as such and ill-treated, but he finally convinced the Government of his innocence and unshaken loyalty to the British cause by writing to them on the 21st November 1763 as follows: —

"Your petitioner begs leave to observe to this Hon'ble Board at Ouda Nulla, a place where the enemy had strong works and great forces, your petitioner by direction from Major Adams wrote two letters to Marcar and Arratoon, two Armenian officers, who amongst others commanded the enemy's forces, and intimated to them that as the English always favoured and protected the Armenian nation, so the Armenians in justice ought to direct their steps towards the good of the English.

That he is now about 14 or 15 years or thereabouts an inhabitant of this Settlement, and took up arms in the Factory when Seraju Dowla came down against Calcutta, when the English abandoned this place and retired to Fulta, and were in great distress there for provisions, your petitioner by carrying and bringing letters found means to introduce a correspondence between Raja Manukchand and Major Kilpatrick, which opened a passage for provisions to the English at Fulta. The King's Firman being lost in the capture of the place [Calcutta] Your petitioner with a copy of it that was saved by Mr. Frankland, ventured up to Hooghly and got two attested copies of it drawn out with the Cazie's seal fixed to them, and brought and delivered them to Mr. Drake at Fulta. In short, your petitioner was as useful and serviceable to the English at Fulta as he could, until the arrival of their forces and the retaking of Calcutta, and your Petitioner was no less serviceable to the English when Seraju Dowla came to attack Calcutta the second time, as he was the person by whose means in carrying and bringing letters between Colonel Clive and Seraju Dowla, a general accommodation and peace was brought about, your petitioner afterwards went up with Mr. Watts to Cossimbazar where he did render all the services that he was ordered very zealously, and the same zeal animating him in spite of the numberless dangers to which he was exposed, he went between the English and Jaffir Ally Khan till the treaty was formed between them, and even to this day whatever the Hon'ble the President and Council have been pleased to order, your petitioner has always faithfully executed."


For his loyalty to the British in Bengal, Khojah Petrus suffered much. Here is another instance. During the campaign in the second half of the year 1763, when the British were fighting against Mir Kasim, the last independent Nawab Nazim of Bengal, Behar and Orissa, whose formidable army was under the command of Gorgin Khan, the youngest brother of Khojah Petrus, Major Adams, who commanded the British troops fearing lest Gorgin Khan or the other Armenian commanders of the Nawab might harm the British prisoners in the hands of the Nawab, kept (as a precautionary measure) Khojah Petrus as a hostage in his camp, as can be seen from the letter which the Major wrote to Governor Vansittart on the 3rd October 1763.

"We had a report yesterday that Coja Gregore [Gorgin Khan] had been wounded some days ago by a party of his Mogu cavalry who mutinied for want of their pay between Sonage Gurree and Nabob Gunge. It is just now confirmed by a Hircarra arrived from the enemy with this addition that he died the next day and that forty principal people concerned were put to death upon the occasion, though it was imagined that the Moguls were induced to affront and assault Coja Gregore by Cassim Ali Cawn who began to be very jealous of him on account of his good behaviour to the English. If this should prove true, Coja Petruce can be of no further service to us. I, therefore, would recommend sending him down to Calcutta, but shall wait the directions of the Board on that head.

I must confess this piece of news gives me some concern as by all accounts he behaved very well to our gentlemen. And it was that only that occasioned him to fall under Cassim Ali Cawn's displeasure. Had he lived, he might probably have assisted in effecting their escape, as we hear he frequently was the means of saving their lives as well as the Setts [Seths] and other prisoners."


And for trying to save the lives of the British prisoners, out of love and affection for his brother Khojah Petrus, who was a staunch friend of the English, Gorgin Khan, "one of the greatest men of the age," according to Marshman, lost his precious life by falling a victim to the rage of the Anglophobe Nawab Mir Kasim of Bengal. Had he lived the blood-curdling massacre of Patna would have been prevented through his influence and the Juggut Seths would not have been cruelly murdered by the Nawab Mir Kasim.

That well-informed researcher and learned antiquarian Sir Richard Carnac Temple, in his illuminating article on "Side-lights on Omichand" in the Indian Antiquary for November 1918, writes of Khojah Petrus in the following terms: —

"Petros Arratoon, usually known as Coja (Khwaja) Petrus (Petrose), was an important Armenian merchant, whose brother Grigor Arratoon (Gorgin Khan) was a general of Mir Kasim. He had resided in Calcutta since 1748 and had rendered valuable service to the English at the time of its capture and in the negotiations following its recapture. He seems to have accompanied Watts and Omichand to Murshidabad, as he is mentioned in a letter of the 18th February [1757], immediately after their arrival, and subsequent letters show him to have been employed as an emissary by both Watts and the Nawab. On the 24th April 1757, Mir Jaffir, Surajuddaula's Bakhshi or Paymaster General, who had previously agreed to countenance Yar Lutf Khan's pretensions, but had since been approached by the Seths as a more suitable candidate, sent for Petros and desired him to tell Watts that he could secure the adhesion of the Nawab's chief officers in support of his own claims it these were put forward: "This scheme" Watts considered "more feasible than the other" and he urged its adoption by Clive, who readily acquiesced, since he was doubtful of the wisdom of setting up so comparatively an unimportant a man as Yar Lutf Khan, while Mir Jafir, brother-in-law of the late Nawab Governor, Alivardi Khan, was a personage of weight and influence."


Khojah Petrus or Petros — the Armenian name for Peter — had two younger brothers in Bengal, one of them was the famous Khojah Gregory or Gorgin Khan — the Commander-in- Chief of Nawab Mir Kasim of Bengal — and the other, an eminent merchant, Barsegh (Basil) Arratoon by name, who suffered much at the hands of Governor Harry Verelst and Francis Sykes in 1767, as can be seen later on.

Bolts, the well-known author of Considerations on India Affairs, who espoused the cause of the much-harassed Armenian merchant, calls him Parseek Arratoon.

It is sad however to reflect that all the three brothers suffered in some way or other for their loyalty and devotion to the English in Bengal. The first, Khojah Petrus, after a brilliant record of valuable services to the British, as we have seen already, was pilloried and accused afterwards of disloyalty, intrigue and espionage, and was even threatened with expulsion from Calcutta with his family. The second, Khojah Gregory, or Gorgin Khan — Nawab Mir Kasim 's Minister and Commander-in-Chief — and one of the greatest men of the age, lost his precious life for being kindly disposed towards the English during the latter end of the regime of the Anglophobe Nawab Mir Kasim of Bengal, whilst the third, Barsegh (Parseek) Arratoon, incurred the displeasure of Governor Harry Verelst for being a successful and an independent merchant and therefore a thorn on the side of the self-interested Governor and his clique in the glorious days of the memorable but infamous "Monopoly of Salt, Betel-nut and tobacco," when the servants of the Company were reaping a fair harvest from trading privately to the detriment of the Company's trade.

Hitherto we have seen Khojah Petrus in the light of a clever diplomat. Let us now see him as a private individual and a successful merchant of Calcutta. He was the head of the Armenian community in Calcutta and was held in high esteem by his compatriots for his benevolence and his charities. He built the beautiful Armenian church at Saidabad* [There was a brass tablet on the north wall of the Armenian Church at Saidabad — dedicated to the Virgin Mary — with an inscription in Armenian, from which it appears that the church was built by Khojah Petrus to the memory of his revered parents, Arathoon his father and Hosannah his mother, Dastagool his wife, Khojah Gregory [Gorgin Khan] and Agah Barsegh his brothers and all his blood relations, whether dead or alive. This tablet is now in the picture gallery of the Armenian church at Calcutta.] near Murshidabad, in 1758, entirely at his own expense, in memory of his parents. He repaired and embellished the Armenian church of Calcutta in 1763 and built two additional altars inside the church, one on the right side of the main altar, in memory of his brother Gorgin Khan, who was assassinated near Monghyr, and the other on the left side to commemorate his memory. Joseph Emin, an Armenian of Calcutta, in his "Life and Adventures" printed in 1792 in London, calls Khojah Petrus "the earthly God of the Calcutta Armenians" which clearly shows the high esteem in which he was held by his countrymen.

It may be mentioned, en passant, that Khojah Petrus was a personal friend of Warren Hastings and when that much maligned statesman was badly in need of funds for his subsistence in England after his successful administration in Bengal, he obtained an accommodation of Rs. 12,000 from his Armenian friend in Calcutta after vainly trying to get it from his own Indian Diwan. And this loan, it may be added, was not repaid by Warren Hastings till 10 years after when he came out to Madras.

His son, Agah Aiathoon Petrus, founded in 1820 the Armenian Alms House in Calcutta where thousands, nay tens of thousands of itinerant and poor Armenians from all parts of the world, have found shelter all these years and blessed the memory of the devout Founder, who according to the Armenian inscription on the black marble tablet which can be seen to this day over the gate of the building "was zealous of the glorious deeds of his illustrious and hospitable ancestors."

Khojah Petrus, the diplomat, the merchant prince and the respected head of the Armenians in Calcutta, died in 1778, aged fifty-three years, and his revered grave can be seen in the chancel of the Armenian church of Nazareth, Calcutta, with a long inscription, on a white marble stone, in classical Armenian verse, of which the following is a translation: —

"The eminent princely chief Agah Petrus Arathoon of Erivan, New Julfa, [Ispahan] of the family of Abraham, was a lustrous hyacinthine crown of the entire Armenian nation. He worked assiduously and expended lavishly. His generosity towards the destitute orphans and widows was without parallel. By his frequent munificent gifts he erected handsome and well- embellished churches. He departed in the hope of salvation at the age of fifty-three, and was placed in this tomb with pomp, in the year of our Lord 1778, the 29th of August, and in the year 163 of the era of Azaria, the 12th day of the month of Nadar."


His widow, who survived him by 27 years, died in 1805 and lies buried beside her husband under a black marble tombstone with an inscription in classical Armenian of which the following is a translation: —

"This is the tomb of Dastagool, the daughter of Agah Minas of the family of Khojah Minas of Erivan [a parish of Julfa] and wife of Agah Petrus. She departed this life on the 3rd of June 1805."


It is to be hoped that when the history of those eventful years, which saw the dawn of a new era in Bengal, comes to be fully written, the deeds of the Armenian Khojah Petrus will not be forgotten and his valuable services to the British in Bengal will not be ignored, as in the past.

The Armenian inhabitants of Saidabad and Agah Manuel Satoor in particular, rendered valuable assistance to the English when Holwell and his fellow-captives, the survivors of the "Black Hole" tragedy, were taken as prisoners to Murshidabad by the order of Suraj-ud-dowlah.

According to Thomas Khojamall, a contemporary, Agah Petrus, the son of Rev. Nicholas, referred to on page 325, being a man of great influence at the court of Murshidabad at that time, succeeded in releasing the women prisoners by making valuable presents to the high officials. Having brought them to his house, he kept them for some days before sending them to the Dutch Settlement at Chinsurah and from thence to Calcutta, supplying all their needs and requirements.

One of these English women was Mrs. Frances Watts, the wife of William Watts, Senior Member of the Supreme Council of Calcutta and Chief at Murshidabad, who but for Khojah Petrus Arathoon's protection would have fallen into the hands of the infuriated Suraj-ud-dowlah as we have seen already on pages 331-332. After Watts' death in England, his widow returned to Calcutta and on the 1st June, 1774, she married the Rev. William Johnson, a chaplain in the Presidency of Fort William. She was known thenceforth as the "Begum Johnson." Her end came in 1812, at the ripe old age of eighty seven and her funeral was attended by the Governor- General and all the high officials. She was buried in St. John's churchyard where her grave, known as the "tomb of Begam Johnson," an imposing massive old structure, can be seen to this day. She had married four times and on her tombstone the names of the four husbands, with the dates of their marriages, are faithfully recorded. According to the interesting epitaph, she was "the oldest British resident in Bengal, universally beloved, respected and revered." She was born on the 10th April, 1725, at Fort St. David, on the Coromandel coast, where her father, Edward Crook, was the Governor.

And but for the chivalry of the Armenian Agah Petrus Nicholas, (not to be confounded with Khojah Petrus Arathoon) this remarkable English lady might have fallen a victim to the bestiality and the savagery of Suraj-ud-dowlah — the monster in human form.

There are no Armenians at Saidabad to-day, for like Chinsurah, it was deserted when it lost its commercial importance, by the middle of the last century, and the only vestiges of the once prosperous Armenian colony in that place are the Armenian church which is crumbling very fast and a large number of graves in the churchyard, with beautiful tombstones, most of which are broken and damaged and need repairs very badly, otherwise they will disappear in the course of a decade or two.

In the Library of the Armenian church at Calcutta, founded by the late Mr. A. G. Apcar in 1896, in memory of his daughter, Mary Araatoon Gregory Apcar, who died in London in 1895, there is a beautiful and a well preserved manuscript copy of a collection of 306 hymns, canticles and melodies composed in ancient Armenian, by the Fathers of the Armenian Church from time to time.

The work, as can be seen from the title-page, was compiled by Petrus Amirjan, a chorister, but the date and the place of the compilation is not given. It appears from the colophon (hishatakaran) that the copy which is now in the Calcutta church Library was made at Saidabad from the original of Petrus Amirjan, by a young Armenian, named Arakiel, the son of Mahtesy Johanness, who laboured for four months, with great zeal and devotion, and completed his self-imposed task on the 17th August, 1757.

The colophon tells us that the paper was supplied by Martyrose, the son of Arathoon and the cost of the binding was borne by Petrus, the son of Rev. Nicholas, the pious and the zealous warden of the Saidabad Armenian church. We are further told that Carapiet, the son of Mathew, helped the copyist by reading the original, thereby enabling him to revise the copy. The volume, according to the interesting colophon, was presented by the scribe, Arakiel Mahtesy Johaness, to the Armenian church at Saidabad, on the 3rd August, 1759, in memory of the persons enumerated above, who had participated in its production. The devout copyist entreats all those who may see or use the book to pray for the repose of their souls, and God shall have mercy on them "on the day that has no night" (haooorun anerekee).

The manuscript is composed of 320 quarto pages, measuring 10"x7-1/2". It is beautifully written, like print, with a reed pen on thick hand-made glazed paper, in jet black Indian ink, with the headings and the first letters of the lines in red ink. Although written 180 years ago, it is in a very fair state of preservation, despite the damp climate of Bengal.

We reproduce that article, in entenso, as it confirms all that we have said in the past thirty years, after our several visits to that historic ancient church, that the present caretaker is not a fit person to be in charge of that place.

Let the Gazetteer speak: —

"Times have changed in Berhampore as well as everywhere else, and the Armenians have given place to others in the local commercial world. The places where they lived are levelled to the ground, and down in Saidabad, where their residences were, one only finds grass and moss-grown ruins. The very roads over which they walked have disappeared, and all that remains of this ancient colony is an occasional walled-in plot of land. To the question 'what place was this?' the guide invariably replies — 'A rich Armenian merchant lived here. He was ruined, and the house fell'. The crumbling decay of ages, however, has spared to some extent the old church. Time has dealt more gently with it than with the old town, [Saidabad] and it stands a grim and time-stained monument of an almost forgotten prosperous community of merchants. The sacred building is now only a dilapidated barn. Its walls are bare and crumbling. The inscriptions, mostly in the Armenian tongue, on the upperstones of flat graves are slowly being obliterated, and the little niches and stoups that once marked the spots where the faithful were wont to bless and sprinkle themselves are almost invisible by the accumulation of the dust and the dirt of fifty years of cruel neglect. The font, in the sacristy, where the ancestors of many of Calcutta's prominent Armenian citizens of to-day were admitted into Holy Church, is now a receptacle for rags, whilst on the other side of the building, in another vestry, wherein the registers and vessels of the altar were once carefully guarded, was found a specimen of faded millinery probably cast on one side as useless by one of the caretaker's children. The main body of the church is absolutely a dreary waste; a place of desolation, the evidences of a former grandeur on the inner roof and walls but accentuating the impression of that condition.

But this is not all. For in the east end of the building towers a tall structure that was once the centre of devotion and worship [the altar] of the old-time Armenian community of the district. Aloft, stands a huge picture frame [the altar piece] from which the ragged edges of canvas still flutter, and one is told that from here at one time looked down on the worshippers a beautiful picture of Christ. It is satisfactory to know that this beautiful work has been removed to Calcutta and duly preserved. Underneath this great frame-reredos are three rows, one on the top of the other, of quaintly painted panels, all in a fair state of preservation, representing incidents in the life of Christ and the ministry of his apostles. From the point of view of artistic merit, these are perhaps unimportant, but they have a history contemporary with that of the church itself, and are or should be of far too great interest to those who love the memories of the time when their ancestors knelt beneath them, to be allowed to be the perching places of the caretaker's poultry which alas, appears to be their only present use. Little or none of the altar furniture has been left in the church. In one of the vestries is a tangled mass of lampware and old chains, and on the masonry altar-table were seen two old candle-sticks and an ancient wooden book-rest. The verandah surrounding the building, and the tiny compound in which it stands, are covered with grave-stones of Armenians, who lived and flourished in the district between the years 1758, when the church was built, and 1858, when the last burial is believed to have taken place. The last date appears to be the 17th December, 1858, the grave, inscribed in English, being that of S. M. Vardon Esquire.  

The church is now rarely visited save by the curious and according to the caretaker, himself an Armenian, with an imperfect knowledge of English, each year produces two or, at the most, three faithful persons who linger within the once sacred precincts to offer a prayer for the souls of the faithful departed whose last resting-places are within the shadow of the historic old building."


The above unbiased account of the deplorable state of the Saidabad church, by an independent eye-witness, should serve as an incentive to those who, as custodians of the ancient church and its lands, are responsible for their preservation. It is to be hoped that when these lines meet their eyes, they will be up and doing before it is too late, for if there is a violent storm or an earthquake, the tottering edifice will collapse, smashing to pieces the large number of beautiful marble tombstones in the three verandahs round the church, and then, woe to those through whose negligence and apathy, the sacred edifice will be no more, for the troubled spirits of all those who lie buried there, will, under the leadership of the good and Godly Khojah Petrus, builder of the church, enter a strong protest before the throne of the Almighty for the destruction and the desecration of their hallowed graves.

In this connection we may mention that for the desecration of a few graves in the old Armenian cemetery in Colootollah Street, Calcutta, by converting a portion of the consecrated ground, on the west side, into a stable, in 1888, a God-fearing member of the Armenian community of Calcutta, the late Mr. A. G. Apcar filed a suit in the Calcutta High Court against the then warden of the Armenian church of Calcutta and had him removed from office, and as a result of that suit, the present Scheme for the Management of the properties and the funds of that rich church came into existence.

In August 1894, when we paid our first visit to the Saidabad church the then caretaker of the church, a good and a Godly old gentleman, named Mackertich Lucas Khojamall, told us that when he was placed in charge of the church by the late Mr. A. G. Apcar, in January 1890, he found that a large portion of the ground on which the priest's quarters were originally standing, with a number of graves adjoining it, had been let out by his predecessor, to local farmers for sowing mustard seed!

Shade of Khojah Petrus Arathoon!

In striking contrast to the Saidabad church, the sister church at Chinsurah (which as we have seen in a previous chapter, is likewise deserted) is kept fairly clean by the present caretaker, at a very heavy cost however, but then that man does not desecrate the place by rearing cattle and poultry, like the illiterate, uncouth, unkempt and unwashed vandal at Saidabad, who like Alexander Selkirk, is "the lord of the fowl and the brute." His employers should, if they wish to save the church from further desecration, replace him by a God-fearing Hindoo durwan, who will, we are sure, have more respect for the sacred edifice than the ungodly villager from Charmahal, who has been a heavy burden on his employers, as they have had to support not only him and his Indian wife, but have spent thousands of rupees for the education of his children during the past thirty years.

In his diary for the 29th December, 1816, the late Agah Owenjohn Elias of Calcutta, who was a native of Saidabad, where he was born in 1786, gives the names of all his ancestors and relations who lie buried in the Armenian churches at Saidabad, Chinsurah and Calcutta. The graves of seven of his relatives, who were buried in the Saidabad church, cannot be traced to-day. The tombstones on their graves, which must have been grand, as they were all wealthy people, have disappeared. Where have they gone? The present caretaker, who as we have said, is "the monarch of all he surveys", may perhaps be able to explain. It may be noted that large marble tombstones have a special fascination for washermen all over India who pay good prices for thick slabs.

In this connection we may mention that some of the tombstones which were there when we first copied the inscriptions in August 1894, have also disappeared. It may interest our readers to know that one of them bore the date 1726 and it was to the memory of Mackertoom, son of Agajan, another marked the last resting place of Ogostos of the family of Chugnaz, who died in 1750, whilst a third bore the date 1763 and it covered the mortal remains of Pogose, the son of Hyrapiet of Kars, who was known by the nickname of "Khalash".

It appears that the ground on which the Saidabad church was erected, was the old Armenian cemetery, as there are a few tombstones still in situ, which bear dates anterior to the erection of the church in 1758. This was nothing unusual in those olden days, as the Calcutta Armenian church of Nazareth was also erected on the old cemetery, so were the churches at Dacca and Madras.

Khojah Petrus Woskan, a wealthy and a public-spirited Armenian merchant of Madras, constructed in 1726, as we shall see in a succeeding chapter, a beautiful stone bridge of many arches, over the river Adyar in Madras, on which he spent the large sum of 30,000 hoons, or pagodas, the pagoda being then worth Rs. 3/8, and he had the foresight to place a fairly large sum in the Company's treasury, the annual income accruing therefrom to meet the necessary repairs.

The Armenian merchants of the olden days who erected churches in India, lacked the foresight of Khojah Petrus Woskan, as they made no provisions for the upkeep of the sacred edifices, with the result that when the Armenians deserted Agra, Delhi, Gwalior, Surat, Patna, Saidabad and Masulipatam, their churches fell into decay and dilapidation, some of them having disappeared already, as has been pointed out in these pages. One of the Armenian merchants of Saidabad, Petrus Stephen by name, left in 1801, the handsome bequest of Rs. 31,700, the annual income to be distributed amongst the officiating priests of the Armenian churches at Saidabad and Calcutta and the poor Armenians of Saidabad, Calcutta and Julfa. The annual income of the Trust in 1801 was Rs. 1305, but owing to the reduction in the rate of interest on Government Securities, the Trust now yields an income of Rs. 970 only per annum. This sum is distributed, in terms of the will of the testator, as under: —

1. To the officiating priest of the Saidabad church Rs. 320
2. To the officiating priests of the Calcutta church, Rs. 320
3. To the poor Armenians of Saidabad, Rs. 110
4. To the poor Armenians of Calcutta, Rs.110
5. To the poor Armenians of Julfa, Rs. 110

The devout testator stipulated in his will that once a week the officiating priests of the Armenian churches at Saidabad and Calcutta, were to offer prayers and celebrate the holy Mass for the repose of the souls of the testator (after he was dead) and of his deceased wife Ooroogloo*, [Oroogloo, the wife of Petrus Stephen, died on the 2nd February, 1801, aged 41 years, and was buried in the Armenian churchyard at Saidabad, where her grave, with a beautiful black tombstone can still be seen, with a long inscription in old Armenian. The graves of Petrus Stephen and one of his brothers cannot be traced. The grave of his brother David who died on the 31st May, 1800, is in the Calcutta Armenian churchyard. He left a bequest of Rs. 5500 to the Armenian church of Calcutta, the annual income, amounting to Rs. 275, to be equally divided between the church and the local poor.] as also of his brothers who had predeceased him.

But as there have been no officiating priests at Saidabad since 1860, the annual income left for that incumbent, as per item 1, has been paid, all these years, to the officiating priests of the Armenian church at Calcutta, which is not in accordance with the provisions of the will of the devout testator.

Similarly, the amount left for the Armenian poor of Saidabad, as per item 3, has been paid to the Armenian poor of Calcutta, which is also contrary to the wishes of the testator.

Since the devout testator has already provided for the priests and the poor of Calcutta, as per items 2 and 3, the annual income left for the priests and the poor of Saidabad, which by an irony of Fate have ceased to exist, should have been spent on the repairs of the Saidabad church, and not allowed that sacred edifice to fall into dilapidation and to complete the destruction of the deserted church, the present caretaker has, with impunity, converted the place into a barn where his cattle and poultry desecrate the sacred edifice and the consecreted grounds daily!

Should these lines meet the eyes of the Official Trustee of Bengal, in whose able hands the Trust is placed, or those who are directly responsible for the administration and the distribution of the income, we hope they will see that the annual income of Rs. 430 is not diverted into other channels, as in the past, for we feel certain that the soul of the devout testator must be revolting against the misfeasance of his Trust.

The Armenian church at Saidabad, dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary, closed its doors in 1860, and for 75 years no prayers have been said or Masses celebrated in that church "for the repose of the souls of the devout Petrus Stephen, his wife and brothers," yet a sum of Rs. 24,000 has been paid to the officiating priests of the Calcutta Armenian church for services which they have not performed. Had this large sum been expended on the repairs of the Saidabad church, it would have given the sacred edifice a fresh lease of life for another hundred years.

We venture to hope that this humble appeal for the preservation of that ancient church will not fall on deaf years, as it is the only memorial left of the once prosperous Armenian colony at Saidabad. We feel certain that the officiating priests of the Calcutta Armenian church, will, gladly forego that annual income when it is proposed to devote the same for the preservation of the house of God, where, for a hundred years, (1758-1860) their predecessors have invoked the blessings of Heaven on their devout congregation through the celebration of Holy Mass every Sunday morning.

Deserted Saidabad, on the portals of which the ominous word ICHABOD* [Ichabod is a Hebrew word which means "the glory is departed."] is writ large, can be proud of another eminent Armenian merchant who flourished there in the early part of the last century. Though he did not possess great wealth like the famous Khojah Petrus Arathoon, the merchant- diplomat, yet he was a great and an equally illustrious member of the Armenian community of Saidabad, whose name and deeds deserve to be recorded in letters of gold for the valuable services which he rendered to the cause of national education in India and the East. Whilst the Armenian merchants of his day were piling up huge fortunes at Calcutta and elsewhere in India and the East, Manatsakan Sumbat Vardon, a merchant of Saidabad, saw the urgent need of national education in India and with a praiseworthy zeal, he founded after strenuous efforts, the "Armenian Philanthropic Academy" in Calcutta. The Academy, which opened its doors on the 2nd April, 1821, still continues its useful work in educating poor boys, mostly from the Armenian villages of Charmahal in Persia.

We shall refer to this venerable institution when writing of the educational activities of the Armenians of Calcutta during the first-half of the 19th century when the community could be justly proud of men like the Rev. Joseph Stephen, Aviet Gentloom, Arratoon Kaloos, Johanness Arathoon Isahak Aganoor, Martyrose Mackertich David, Mesrovb David Thaliadian, Johanness Avdall, Thaddeus Catchick Avetoom. Pogose Vejinian and several others, who by their literary efforts gave an impetus to the spread of national literature in India, by founding printing presses, publishing journals and works of literary merit in the ancient language of Armenia, a language which has always had the Armenians in India and the East amongst its most ardent and enthusiastic admirers.

Although the times have changed and the printing establishments, with the authors and the journalists, who kept them going, have disappeared long ago, still it is gratifying to note that there is one solitary literary worker to-day, who walking in the footsteps of the immortal Mesrovb David Thaliadian, the patriotic poet, author, journalist and educationist of India, keeps the glimmering torch of the classical Armenian burning by writing books and articles in that charming, but neglected language, a language which can vie with Latin, Sanscrit and ancient Greek, in beauty, elegance and richness. But we have digressed.

Manatsakan Vardon, the great benefactor of Armenian youth thirsting for knowledge, departed this life at Saidabad on the 13th day of October, 1827, aged fifty five years, and his revered grave can be seen in the now deserted Armenian church of that place, with a beautiful white marble tombstone, on which are inscribed twenty eight lines in ancient Armenian verse.

Should these lines meet the eyes of the present Managers of the "Armenian Philanthropic Academy", now known as the "Armenian College", we would suggest that on the anniversary of his death, which falls on the 13th October, some ten boys be sent up to Saidabad, annually, to pay homage to the revered memory of the FOUNDER, by placing flowers and burning candles and incense over his forgotten grave, so that they may, from their youth, learn to honour and respect the memory of national benefactors, since it is said that "sweet is the memory of departed worth".

They should be taught to learn by heart Longfellow's beautiful Psalm of Life, in which the poet has said that: —

"Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Foot-prints on the sands of Time".


The deserted Armenian church at Saidabad, should in future, become a place of pilgrimage for the boys in the College founded by Manatsakan Vardon, and for that reason alone, if for nothing else, the church should be kept standing and in good repair as an ancient monument and a landmark of the once prosperous community whose bones rest under the shadow of that sacred edifice, erected by Khojah Petrus Arathoon to the glory of God and for the preservation of the Christian religion in a purely Mohammedan province ruled by bigoted Moslems of Suraj-ud-dowlah type.

As an alumnus of the Armenian College, where we studied, as a day scholar, for six months only, in 1890, we have during the past forty five years, paid several visits to the shrine of the Founder, as a humble pilgrim, praying over his grave and seeking inspiration for our labours in the thorny fields of national service.

It appears that the Armenian community of Calcutta during the first half of the 19th century, being deeply immersed in money-making, were rather slow in appreciating departed worth, for whereas the great philanthropist Agah Catchick Arakiel died in 1790, yet no tribute was paid to his memory till 1837 when a memorial tablet was placed in the church which he had endowed with a valuable English tower- clock and a handsome two-storeyed Parochial House, both of which are still serving the purposes for which they were put up. In the same way nothing was done to perpetuate the memory of Manatsakan Vardon, the Founder of the "Armenian Philanthropic Academy", till the year 1846, when a marble tablet was put up on the walls of the institution, with appropriate inscriptions in Armenian and English, the following being a copy of the latter.

"Sacred to the memory of MANATSAKAN VARDEN, Esquire. This tablet is erected by the members of the Armenian Philanthropic Academy at Calcutta, in acknowledgment of the high esteem and veneration in which he was held by their community, for his virtues in social life and zeal in behalf of the education and welfare of his countrymen, and in which he was at all times ready, equally with his purse and heart, and by his means, as well as the donations of other benevolent Armenians, founded this Philanthropic Academy, which dates its existence from the 2nd April 1821. Born at Julfa in Ispahan, on the 6th September 1772, died at Syedabad in Moorshidabad, on the 14th October 1823."

We must point out, however, that the members have made a serious blunder in recording the date of the demise of the Founder, who died at Saidabad in 1827, and not in 1823, as inscribed in the bilingual inscriptions which can be seen in the institution to this day. Had the zealous members of the Academy, with the Rector, Johanness Avdall, as their Nestor, consulted the records of the Academy or the registers of the Saidabad church, the glaring error would have been obviated and the Founder's soul would have rested in peace, instead of being troubled, over the shortening of his already short life by four years! This is how history is often distorted through wrongly-dated memorials.

It may be argued, however, that the date of the death of Manatsakan Vardon, as inscribed on his tombstone in the Saidabad Armenian church, may not be correct, but fortunately we have the unassailable evidence of the late Agah Owenjohn Elias, a resident of Saidabad, who gives the 13th day of October, 1827, as the date of the demise of the Founder of the "Armenian Philanthropic Academy."

And were the perishable memorials erected at Saidabad and Calcutta, to disappear some day, in the natural order of things, the revered name of MANATSAKAN VARDON will remain indelibly inscribed, forages to be, on the roll of the immortals.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Wed Mar 31, 2021 6:39 am

Jagat Seth
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 3/30/21

Image
Jagat Seth

Born: Fateh Chand, Died 1763, Murshidabad, Bengal, Indian subcontinent
Nationality: Bengal ( Under Nawab of Bengal)
Occupation: Business
Known for: Role in Battle of Plassey
Title: Jagat Seth Original name =mahatab chand

Image
House of Jagat Seth

The Jagat Seths were a Bengali Jain banking family and the title of the eldest son of the family. The family sometimes referred to as the House of Jagat Seth, were a wealthy business, banking and money lender family from Murshidabad, Bengal region in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, during the time of Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah.[1]

The title

Jagat Seth was a title conferred by the Nawab of Bengal and can be interpreted as "banker or merchant of the world".[2] House of Jagat Seth Museum contains personal possessions of Jagat Seth and his family including coins of the bygone era, muslin and other extravagant clothes, and Banarasi saris embroidered with gold and silver threads.

Jagat Seth, also the title for the powerful moneylender family he belonged to, looked after the mint and treasury accounts of Bengal during the Nawabi period. He played a key role in the conspiracy involving the imprisonment and ultimate killing of Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah. His house, complete with a secret tunnel as well as an underground chamber, where illegal trade plans were hatched, is what has been converted into the aforementioned museum.

Death

Jagat Seth Mahtab Rai and his cousin Maharaj Swaroop Chand were captured and shot dead on the orders of Mir Qasim shortly before the Battle of Buxar in 1764. Jagat Seth was considered to be a traitor as he financed the British during the Battle of Plassey, which led to the death of Siraj ud-Daulah and the eventual start of the British Raj.

References

1. "Jagat Seth".
2. Asher, Catherine B.; Talbot, Cynthia (2006). India Before Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-521-80904-7.

External links

• The Rise and Fall of the Jagat Seths
• Bengal banker Jagat Seth who gave loans to East India Company, financial tips to Aurangzeb The Print
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Wed Mar 31, 2021 6:45 am

Ramkamal Sen [Ram Comul Sen]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/2/21

The Calcutta School-Book Society in the years after being set up in 1817, constituted of a managing committee of sixteen Europeans members and eight Indians. Some eminent people included amongst others were Mrityunjay Vidyalankar, Tarini Charan Mitra, Radhakanta Deb, Ram Comul Sen [Ramkamal Sen] and Moulvi Aminullah. Mrityunjay and Tarini Charan, who was also one of the secretaries along with Mr. F. Irving, were teachers at the Fort William College and Radhakanta Deb was a philanthropist from Calcutta. These few people shaped what would be the beginning of the "Bengal Renaissance"...

Ram Comul Sen [Ramkamal Sen] (1783–1844) was born in Hooghly district and was the son of a Persian scholar. Famous as a scholar, writer and lexicographer, Ram Comul Sen [Ramkamal Sen] worked in Dr William Hunter’s Hindustanee Printing Press as a compositor in 1804 before becoming its manager in 1811. He was also an accountant at both the Asiatic Society and the Sanskrit College. Ram Comul [Ramkamal Sen] became the secretary of the Asiatic Society and also held the post of superintendent of the Sanskrit College in 1835. Amongst his other illustrious posts, he was the principal of the Hindu College in 1821 and a dewan at the Royal Calcutta Mint in 1828. He was one of the founders of the Calcutta Medical College, the only Bengali on the committee and he was the president and founding father of the Zamindar Sabha [Landholders' Association] in 1838. With the permission of Dr William Carey, Ram Comul set up the Agricultural and Horticultural Centre and was influential in setting up the Calcutta Museum with the help of Dr Wallich, a Danish botanist. Apart from these, Ram Comul Sen was instrumental in the systematic eradication of social traditions like drowning dying people in the Ganges and impaling others during Chadak. He made significant contributions to the Bengali language with his compilation of a dictionary from English to Bengali working for over one and a half decades on its two volumes. His grandson, Keshav Chandra Sen, was one of the leaders of the Brahmo Samaj.

-- Calcutta School-Book Society [Calcutta Book Society], by Wikipedia


Ramkamal Sen
Born: 15 March 1783, Gariffa
Died: 2 August 1844 (aged 61), Kolkata

Ramkamal Sen (Bengali: রামকমল সেন) (1783–1844) was the Diwan of the Treasury, Treasurer of the Bank of Bengal and Secretary of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta.

Childhood

Born at Gariffa village on the banks of the Hooghly River, he proceeded to Kolkata in 1791 for his education [1]

His grandson was the pre-eminent social reformer and founder of the Nababidhan Brahmo Samaj, Keshab Chandra Sen"[1]

Career

A self-made man, starting as a petty compositor earning eight rupees a month,[2] "He worked for several years in a Hindustani press after which he was appointed as a clerk in the Asiatic Society".[1] Shibnath Shastri writes, "by dint of his capabilities, hard work and diligence, he rose to be its indigenous secretary. He was subsequently nominated a member of its committee."[3]

In 1812, he secured a job in Fort William College.[3] Finally, he rose to be a Dewani of the Treasury, and treasurer of the Bengal Bank.[1]

Social Work

He was connected with many of the social activities of his time. When Hindu College was established in 1817, he was a member of its committee. After a failed first attempt to remove Derozio from the school for preaching Christianity, he also became principal of the newly established Sanskrit College for sometime.

Sastri wrote: "Babu Ramkamal Sen acting as their mouthpiece, ... called a Committee meeting, and moved that Mr Derozios's manners and conduct was such as to injure the morals of the boys in touch with him and he should be removed from the staff of masters."[1]

He was a member of the Medical Commission set up by Lord William Bentinck.[3]


Ramkamal Sen was well known as being a staunch pro-sati activist and lifelong opponent of Ram Mohan Roy. He publicly opposed (with Radhakanta Deb) Roy's agitation against sati (the practice of forcing Hindu widows to be burnt on their husbands funeral pyre).[4] He was also President of the Gaudiya Sabha, (a prominent association of Bengali Hindu ultra-conservatives).

Dwarkanath Tagore was of the firm conviction that at those times "the happiness of India is best secured by her connection with England". Dwarkanath was no doubt a loyalist, and a sincere one at that, but he was by no means a toady. Servility was as far from his character as was lack of generosity from his nature. He was also firm in defending the interest and sentiments of his people against European prejudices. With this in view, he established on 21 March 1838 an Association for Landholders (later known as the Landholder's Society). The association was overtly a self-serving political association, founded on a large and liberal basis, to admit landholders of all descriptions, Englishmen, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. What is interesting is that it cut across racial and religious divides being founded along with his old rival Raja Radhakanta Deb with whom he had earlier founded the Gaudiya Sabha. It was the first political association in India to ventilate in a constitutional manner the grievances of the people or a section of them that were outspoken. From this grew the British Indian Association, the precursor to the Indian National Congress.

-- Dwarkanath Tagorem by Wikipedia


Along with Radhakanta Deb, he was appointed as an Indian member of the "Tea Committee" in 1834.[5]

1818- The Temperance Movement is founded as a result of rampant alcoholism brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Members seek salvation for the drunken men with "tea and god on their side". This movement eventually inspired the word "teetotaling"...

1832- Tea is planted experimentally in Nilgiri Hills of South India by Dr.Christic.

1833 - By an act of the British Prime Minister Charles Grey, the East India Company loses its monopoly in the trade with China, mostly in tea.

1834- The "Tea Committee", appointed by the Governor-General Lord William Cavendish Bentinck, reports that tea can be successfully grown in India. The Indian Tea Committee sends its secretary, George James Gordan to China for tea seeds, Chinese workmen and information on the cultivation and manufacture of tea. Experiments with tea planting are conducted in the Darjeeling region of India.

1835 – (i)The East India Company starts the first tea plantations in Assam, India. (ii)The first consignment of Java tea reaches the Amsterdam market.

1835-36-The Scientific Commission in India recommends the introduction of Chinese tea plants in Upper Assam. C.A.Bruce is appointed Superintendent of tea culture in Assam.

1836-In addition to experimental plantings of China tea, C.A. Bruce raises a nursery of indigenous Assam tea at Sadiya.

1837 - The first American consul at Canton, Major Samuel Shaw, trades cargo for tea and silk, earning investors a great return on their capital and encouraging more Americans to trade with China.

1838 –The first export shipment of eight chests of Assam tea is sent to London. The first tea from Indian soil and imported Chinese tea plants is sold. A small amount is sent to England and quickly purchased due to its uniqueness...

1840 (i) The Assam Company takes over two third of the government tea garden in North Eastern India. (ii)American clipper ships speed up tea transports to America and Europe. (iv)Anna the 7th Duchess of Bedford invents "Afternoon Tea" to abolish the "sinking feeling" she experienced during the long gap between breakfast and dinner. It becomes a lasting English ritual.

1842-Tea cultivation starts in Dehradun, British India.

-- 19th Century, by Tea World, an initiative of KKHSOU


In the same year he published an English-Bengalee dictionary in 2 volumes with 58,000 words which was commissioned by the Serampore Baptist Mission (1817–1834). Another famous book that he co-authored was Hitopadesha in 1820, a collection of fables modelled on Aesop's.

References

1. Sastri, Sivanath (1907). Ramtanu Lahiri: Brahman and Reformer. Translated by Sharat Kumar Lahiri. S. Sonnenschein & Company limited. pp. 180–.
2. Mitra, Peary Chand (1880). Life of Dewan Ramkamal Sen.
3. Sastri, S. (1903). Ramtanu Lahiri O Tatkalin Bangasamaj. pp. 48–. (in Bengali)
4. Sharma, Hari Dev (2002). Raja Rammohun Roy: The Renaissance Man. pp. 26–.
5. Mukherjee, S. (1976). "Emergence of Bengalee entrepreneurship in tea plantation in a Bengal district, 1879–1933". Indian Economic & Social History Review. 13 (4): 487–505. doi:10.1177/001946467601300403. S2CID 144122014.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 3:52 am

William Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/2/21



Image
The Right Honourable The Earl Amherst, GCH PC
Lord Amherst in the uniform of the St James's [Westminster] Loyal Volunteer Regiment. Arthur William Devis, 1803.
Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William
In office: 1 August 1823 – 13 March 1828
Monarch: George IV
Prime Minister: The Earl of Liverpool; George Canning; The Viscount Goderich; The Duke of Wellington
Preceded by: John Adam (Acting Governor-General)
Succeeded by: William Butterworth Bayley (Acting Governor-General)
Personal details
Born: 14 January 1773, Bath, Somerset
Died: 13 March 1857 (aged 84), Knole House, Kent
Nationality: British
Spouse(s): Sarah Archer ​(m. 1800; died 1838)​; Lady Mary Sackville ​(m. 1839)​
Alma mater: Christ Church, Oxford

William Pitt Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst, GCH, PC (14 January 1773 – 13 March 1857) was a British diplomat and colonial administrator. He was Governor-General of India between 1823 and 1828.

Background and education

Born at Bath, Somerset, Amherst was the son of William Amherst and Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Paterson. He was the grand-nephew of Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst, and succeeded to his title in 1797 according to a special remainder in the letters patent. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford.[1]

Ambassador extraordinary to China

Image
Lord Amherst wearing the parliamentary robes of a baron.
Portrait by Thomas Lawrence, 1821.


In 1816 he was sent as ambassador extraordinary to the court of China's Qing dynasty, with a view of establishing more satisfactory commercial relations between China and Great Britain. On arriving at Pei Ho (Baihe, today's Haihe), he was given to understand that he could only be admitted to the Jiaqing Emperor's presence on condition of performing the kowtow. To this, Amherst, following the advice of Sir George Thomas Staunton, who accompanied him as second commissioner, refused to consent, as Macartney had done in 1793, unless the admission was made that his sovereign was entitled to the same show of reverence from a mandarin of his rank. In consequence of this, he was refused entry into Peking (Beijing), and the object of his mission was frustrated.[2]

His ship, the Alceste, after a cruise along the coast of Korea and to the Ryukyu Islands on proceeding homewards, was totally wrecked on a submerged rock in Gaspar Strait. Amherst and part of his shipwrecked companions escaped in the ship's boats to Batavia, whence relief was sent to the rest. The ship in which he returned to England in 1817 touched at St Helena and, as a consequence, he had several interviews with the emperor Napoleon (see Ellis's Proceedings of the Late Embassy to China, 1817; McLeod's Narrative of a Voyage in H.M.S. Alceste, 1817).[2] There is undocumented speculation that in one of the interviews, Napoleon said, "China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep. For when she wakes, she will shake the world."[3]

Governor-General in India

Amherst was Governor-General of India from August 1823 to February 1828. The principal events of his government were annexation of Assam leading to the first Burmese war of 1824, resulting in the cession of Arakan and Tenasserim to the British Empire.[2][4]

Amherst's appointment came on the heels of the removal of Governor-General Lord Hastings in 1823. Hastings had clashed with London over the issue of lowering the field pay of officers in the Bengal Army, a measure that he was able to avoid through successive wars against Nepal and the Marathan Confederacy. However, his refusal in the early 1820s during peacetime to lower field pay, resulted in the appointment of Amherst, who was expected to carry out the demands from London.

However, Amherst was an inexperienced governor who was, at least in the early days of his tenure in Calcutta, influenced heavily by senior military officers in Bengal such as Sir Edward Paget. He inherited a territorial dispute from John Adam, the acting Governor-General prior to his arrival, which involved the Anglo-Burmese border on the Naaf River and this spilled over into violence on 24 September 1823. Unwilling to lose face in a time of Burmese territorial aggression, Amherst ordered the troops in.

The war was to last two years, with a price tag of 13 million pounds, contributing to an economic crisis in India. It was only due to the efforts of powerful friends such as George Canning and the Duke of Wellington that Amherst was not recalled in disgrace at the end of the war.


The war significantly changed Amherst's stance on Burma, and he now adamantly refused to annexe Lower Burma, but he did not succeed in repairing his reputation entirely, and he was replaced in 1828. He was created Earl Amherst, of Arracan in the East Indies, and Viscount Holmesdale, in the County of Kent, in 1826. On his return to England he lived in retirement till his death in March 1857.[2]

Family

Lord Amherst married twice, and remarkably, both his wives were dowager countesses of Plymouth. His first wife was Sarah, Dowager Countess of Plymouth (1762–1838), daughter of Andrew Archer, 2nd Baron Archer and widow of Other Windsor, 5th Earl of Plymouth (died 1799). She was more than ten years older than him, and the mother of several children. They were married in 1800 and were blessed with two sons as well as a daughter Lady Sarah Elizabeth Pitt Amherst. Sarah died in May 1838, aged 76, after about 38 years of marriage. Lady Amherst's pheasant was named after Sarah; it was at her instigation that the species was introduced from Asia to Bedfordshire. The genus Amherstia, a Burmese flowering tree, is also named after her.

In 1839, a year after the death of his first wife, Lord Amherst, aged 66, married the widowed daughter-in-law of his first wife. This was Mary, Dowager Countess of Plymouth (1792–1864), elder daughter and co-heiress of John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset, and widow of his stepson Other Windsor, 6th Earl of Plymouth (1789–1833). Although this was an unusual marriage, it was not forbidden by either Church law or civil law. His second wife had no children, from either of her marriages.

Lord Amherst died in March 1857, aged 84 at Knole House in Kent, the seat of the Dukes of Dorset, a property which his second wife had inherited. He was survived by his second wife, Lady Amherst, heiress of Knole, who died in July 1864, aged 71.[5] Lord Amherst was succeeded in his titles by his second and only surviving son, William.

See also

• Barrackpore mutiny of 1824

Notes

1. Lundy, Darryl. "Peerage.com". The Peerage.[unreliable source]
2. Chisholm 1911.
3. Reported as "unverified" except for publication in The Mind of Napoleon, ed. and trans. J. Christopher Herold (1955), p. 249. Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), p. 43.
4. Karl Marx, "War in Burma—The Russian Question—Curious Diplomatic Correspondence" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12 (International Publishers: New York, 1979) p. 202.
5. Lundy, Darryl. "p. 2803 § 28026". The Peerage.

References

• "Amherst, William Pitt". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/445. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
• A. Thackeray and R. Evans, Amherst (Rulers of India series), 1894.
• This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Amherst, William Pitt Amherst, Earl". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 852.
• Webster, Anthony. (1998) Gentlemen Capitalists: British Imperialism in Southeast Asia, Tauris Academic Studies, New York, ISBN 1-86064-171-7.

External links

• "Archival material relating to William Amherst, 1st Earl Amherst". UK National Archives.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Sat Apr 03, 2021 5:09 am

William Hunter (publisher)
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/2/21

Ram Comul Sen [Ramkamal Sen] (1783–1844) was born in Hooghly district and was the son of a Persian scholar. Famous as a scholar, writer and lexicographer, Ram Comul Sen [Ramkamal Sen] worked in Dr William Hunter’s Hindustanee Printing Press as a compositor in 1804 before becoming its manager in 1811. He was also an accountant at both the Asiatic Society and the Sanskrit College. Ram Comul [Ramkamal Sen] became the secretary of the Asiatic Society and also held the post of superintendent of the Sanskrit College in 1835. Amongst his other illustrious posts, he was the principal of the Hindu College in 1821 and a dewan at the Royal Calcutta Mint in 1828. He was one of the founders of the Calcutta Medical College, the only Bengali on the committee and he was the president and founding father of the Zamindar Sabha [Landholders' Association] in 1838. With the permission of Dr William Carey, Ram Comul set up the Agricultural and Horticultural Centre and was influential in setting up the Calcutta Museum with the help of Dr Wallich, a Danish botanist. Apart from these, Ram Comul Sen was instrumental in the systematic eradication of social traditions like drowning dying people in the Ganges and impaling others during Chadak. He made significant contributions to the Bengali language with his compilation of a dictionary from English to Bengali working for over one and a half decades on its two volumes. His grandson, Keshav Chandra Sen, was one of the leaders of the Brahmo Samaj.

-- Calcutta School-Book Society [Calcutta Book Society], by Wikipedia


Image
William Hunter
Colonial Williamsburg shop sign
Born: early 1700s, Yorktown, Virginia
Died: August 14, 1761, Resting place Williamsburg, Virginia
Occupation: printer
Known for: publisher in the Colony of Virginia
Children: William Hunter Jr.
Parent(s): William Hunter (Sr.); Mary Ann Hunter

William Hunter (died August 14, 1761) was a colonial American newspaper publisher, book publisher, and printer for the colony of Virginia.

Biography

Hunter was born in Yorktown, Virginia at an unknown date in the early eighteenth century.[1] His parents were William Hunter Sr. (d. 1742), a merchant of Elizabeth City County, and Mary Ann Hunter (d. 1743). Shortly after the deaths of Hunter's parents, his sister Elizabeth married John Holt, a merchant, printer, and the mayor of Williamsburg (1752—1753).[2] Since all of Hunter's sisters were minor children and had no parents, they moved in with Elizabeth and her new husband at his house.[2] Hunter and his sisters lived in the large house of the "Ravenscroft property" (two half-acre lots) owned by Holt from 1745 to 1754 at the corner of Nicholson and Botetourt Streets in Williamsburg. Hunter was then the owner of the property after Holt's death in 1754, until his death in 1761.[3]

Hunter was a journeyman apprentice under Virginia's first "public printer" ("printer to the public") William Parks.[1] He was an adult in 1749 and was the foreman of Parks' print shop.[4] Upon Parks’ death in 1750, Hunter took over his position as the official government "public printer" for the colony of Virginia.[5] He was the "public printer" for the House of Burgesses in the colony of Virginia from 1751 to 1761.[1][6]

The House of Burgesses was the elected representative element of the Virginia General Assembly, the legislative body of the Colony of Virginia. With the creation of the House of Burgesses in 1642, the General Assembly, which had been established in 1619, became a bicameral institution.

From 1642 to 1776, the House of Burgesses was an instrument of government alongside the royally-appointed colonial governor and the upper-house Council of State in the General House.

When the Virginia colony declared its independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain at the Fifth Virginia Convention in 1776 and became the independent Commonwealth of Virginia, the House of Burgesses became the House of Delegates, which continues to serve as the lower house of the General Assembly....

In 1652, the parliamentary forces of Oliver Cromwell forced the colony to submit to being taken over by the English government. Again, the colonists were able to retain the General Assembly as their governing body. Only taxes agreed to by the assembly were to be levied. Still, most Virginia colonists were loyal to Prince Charles and were pleased with his restoration as King Charles II in 1660. He went on directly or indirectly to restrict some of the liberties of the colonists, such as requiring tobacco to be shipped only to England, only on English ships, with the price set by the English merchant buyers; but the General Assembly remained.


-- House of Burgesses, by Wikipedia


Hunter's salary was increased from Parks' last salary of £280 per year to a yearly salary of £300 when he became the official "public printer" for Virginia in 1751. His salary was increased to £350 per year in 1759.[6] Hunter's print shop foreman was Joseph Royle.[7]

The print shop where Hunter did his daily work for Parks on Duke of Gloucester Street was only about a block away from where he lived at the "Ravenscroft property" at the time he was an apprentice working for Parks.[3] Hunter did the printing of the Virginia Gazette and took over the newspaper upon Parks' death on April 1, 1750.[8] He remained publisher of the Virginia Gazette from January 3, 1751 until his death in April 1761.[1] Hunter started his own identity of the Gazette with "no. 1" in February 1751.[9] It contained news of the Virginia colony, neighboring colonies, and news from England and parts of Europe. Hunter bought out Parks' print shop in 1753 for £288 for the printing presses and associated equipment.[10]

Hunter was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin.[1] In 1753, he and Franklin were appointed deputy postmaster general as co-directors of the colonies.[1][11] Franklin was responsible for the northern areas and Hunter was responsible for areas south of Annapolis, Maryland, a position Hunter held until his death.[11]

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print shop reconstructed

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Printing press

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Printing press set-up

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Printer demonstration

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Printing work replicated

Works

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Hunter's store next door to print shop

Hunter's main work consisted of printing the laws of Virginia, the publication of the Virginia Gazette newspaper, and maintaining a bookstore.[1] In 1754, Hunter printed George Washington's first official report, The Journal of Major George Washington: An Account of His First Official Mission, Made as Emissary from the Governor of Virginia to the Commandant of the French Forces on the Ohio, October 1753-January 1754.[12][13][14]

Printed cover page samples of Hunter's publications:

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The Virginia Gazette, February 14, 1751

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1754 Journal of Major George Washington

Some additional publications credited to Hunter are:

• 10 editions of The journal of the House of Burgesses from 1752 into 1761.[15]
• 5 editions of The speech of the Honorable Robert Dinwiddie, Esq; His Majesty's lieutenant-governor, and commander in chief, of the colony and dominion of Virginia; to the General Assembly. from 1755 into 1757.[16]
• 4 editions of Acts of Assembly passed at a General Assembly, begun and held at the capitol, in the city of Williamsburg from 1732 into 1754.[17]
• 3 editions of A letter to the Right Reverend Father in God the Lord-B-----p of L------n. Occasioned by a letter of His Lordship's to the L--ds of Trade, on the subject of the act of Assembly passed in the year 1758, intituled, An act to enable the inhabitants of this colony to discharge their publick dues, &c. in money for the ensuing year, from Virginia of 1759.[18]
• 3 editions of Anno regni Georgii II. Regis Magnae Britanniae, Franciae, & Hiberniae, tricesimo tertio of 1759 into 1760.[19]
• 3 editions of Anno regni Georgii II, Regis Magnae Britanniae, Franciae, & Hiberniae, tricesimo secundo of 1758 into 1759.[20]
• 3 editions of Anno regni Georgii II, Regis Magnae Britanniae, Franciae, & Hiberniae, vicesimo nono of 1755 into 1756.[21]
• 2 editions of The duty of living peaceably with all men recommended, in a sermon (on Romans XII. v. 18.) preached at Williamsburg, November 11th 1759. Before the General Assembly of Virginia. By the Revd William Giberne, Rector of Hanover Parish, King-George County. ; Printed at the request of the worshipful the House of Burgesses of 1759.[22]
• 2 editions of Anno regni Georgii III. Regis Magnae-Britanniae, Franciae & Hiberniae, secundo of 1761.[23]
• 1 editions of The speech of the Honourable Francis Fauquier, Esq; His Majesty's lieutenant-governour, and commander in chief, of the colony and dominion of Virginia, to the General Assembly of 1760.[24]

See also

• Alexander Purdie (publisher)
• Joseph Royle (publisher)
• Isaac Collins (printer)
• David Hall (publisher)
• John Holt (publisher)
• Elizabeth Timothy
• Louis Timothee
• Jane Aitken

References

1. Bryson 2000, p. 526.
2. Tenny, Anne (1981). "David Holt of Virginia, and John Holt of Williamsburg and New York City". National Genealogical Society Quarterly. National Genealogical Society. 69 (29): 254.
3. "Previous Archaeology". Ravenscroft Site. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
4. Ford 1959, p. 31.
5. Wroth 1964, p. 43.
6. Virginia State Library 1908, p. 108.
7. "History of Ravenscroft / William Hunter". The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
8. "History of the Ravenscroft Property". The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
9. Thomas 1810, p. 361.
10. Wroth 1964, p. 67.
11. Navarro 2001, p. 21.
12. Virginia State Library 1908, p. 148.
13. Ford 1959, p. 11.
14. "A History of The Virginia Gazette". vagazette.com. The Virginia Gazette. 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
15. "The journal of the House of Burgesses". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
16. "The speech of the Honorable Robert Dinwiddieauthor=". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
17. "Acts of Assembly". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
18. "A letter to the Right Reverend Father in God the Lord-B-----p of L------n". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
19. "Anno regni Georgii II. Regis Magnae Britanniae, Franciae, & Hiberniae, tricesimo tertio". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
20. "Anno regni Georgii II, Regis Magnae Britanniae, Franciae, & Hiberniae, tricesimo secundo". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
21. Anno regni Georgii II, Regis Magnae Britanniae, Franciae, & Hiberniae, vicesimo nono. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. OL 18462071M.
22. "The duty of living peaceably with all men recommended". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
23. "Laws, etc. (Session laws : 1762 Jan.)". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
24. "The speech of the Honourable Francis Fauquier, Esq; His Majesty's lieutenant-governour, and commander in chief, of the colony and dominion of Virginia, to the General Assembly=". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 17 October 2013.

Bibliography

• Bryson, William Hamilton (2000). Virginia Law Books: Essays and Bibliographies, Volume 239. American Philosophical Society. ISBN 0871692392.
• Ford, Thomas K. (1959). The Bookbinder in Eighteenth-century Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. ISBN 0910412154.
• Navarro, Bob (2001). The First Executives. Xlibris Corporation. ISBN 1462820786.[self-published source?]
• Thomas, Isaiah (1810). The history of printing in America, with a biography of printers, and an account of newspapers. To which is prefixed a concise view of the discovery and progress of the art in other parts of the world.
• Virginia State Library (1908). Report of the Virginia State Library, Volumes 5-7. Virginia State Library, Division of Purchase and Printing.
• Wroth, Lawrence C. (1964). The Colonial Printer. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0486282945.

External links

• Inventory of Estate of William Hunter 1761
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Radhakanta Deb
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/2/21

The Calcutta School-Book Society in the years after being set up in 1817, constituted of a managing committee of sixteen Europeans members and eight Indians. Some eminent people included amongst others were Mrityunjay Vidyalankar, Tarini Charan Mitra, Radhakanta Deb, Ram Comul Sen [Ramkamal Sen] and Moulvi Aminullah. Mrityunjay and Tarini Charan, who was also one of the secretaries along with Mr. F. Irving, were teachers at the Fort William College and Radhakanta Deb was a philanthropist from Calcutta. These few people shaped what would be the beginning of the "Bengal Renaissance"....

Radhakanta Deb (1784–1867) was the grandson of Maharaja Nabakrishna Deb, who was a trusted munshi to the East India Company and had received the decoration of the Knight Commander of the Star of India and his title of 'Raj Bahadur', based on merit for his service under Sir Warren Hastings and Robert Clive. Radhakanta was an accomplished scholar, and like his father Gopimohan Deb, was one of the foremost leaders of the Calcutta Hindu society. Radhakanta was fluent in Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit and also developed a good knowledge of English. He published an eight-volume dictionary of the Sanskrit language called Shabdakalpadruma, between 1822 and 1856, which met the needs of educational institutions, the court of law and students learning Sanskrit. He was also the recipient of several international awards including honours from the Royal Asiatic Society, London. Radhakanta Deb also had a keen interest in promoting elementary education and was involved as director of the Calcutta Hindu College, 1817. He was involved in establishing the Calcutta School-Book Society in 1817 and Calcutta School Society in 1818. He worked towards improving and reforming primary schools. In 1851, he was appointed the President of the British Indian Association. Radhakanta Deb was also founded the Dharma Sabha (Association in Defence of Hindu Culture), a social conservatism body that opposed Lord Bentinck’s abolishing of Sati by a government law in 1829. Radhakanta’s attitudes toward culture and intellectual development are reflected best in his publications for the Calcutta School-Book Society.[3]

-- Calcutta School-Book Society [Calcutta Book Society], by Wikipedia


Sir Raja Radhakanta Deb Bahadur (10 March,1784– 19 April,1867) was a scholar and a leader of the Calcutta conservative Hindu society, son of Gopimohan Deb of Shovabazar Raj who was the adopted son and heir of Maharaja Nabakrishna Deb of sovabajar Raj.[1][2]

An accomplished scholar, Radhakanta was proficient in Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. He published Shabda Kalpadruma, a Sanskrit language dictionary. Hara Kumar Tagore another contemporary Sanskrit scholar and scion of Tagore family had assisted him in compiling Shabda Kalpadruma.[3] He also wrote articles that were published in Ishwar Chandra Gupta's newspaper Sambad Prabhakar.[4]

Radhakanta Deb always showed a marked interest in promoting education, particularly English education among the Hindus; he also advocated female education.[2] Radhakanta Deb was actively involved in the establishment and activities of the Calcutta School Book Society in 1817 and the Calcutta School Society in 1818.[2] Radhakanta was an active member of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India since its establishment in 1818. He was founder-president British Indian Association in 1851, a position he held till his death.[2] He helped David Hare and funded founding of the Hindu College in Calcutta.[1]

Despite his contribution to the cause of education, he was a strong upholder of social conservatism. Although sati was not practised in his own family, he came forward to defend the custom when the Government contemplated its abolition. When Lord William Bentinck's government had finally abolished sati by regulation in December 1829, Radhakanta Deb, along with his conservative Hindu friends, was the leader a society called Dharma Sabha (founded by his father Gopi Mohun Deb), protested against this measure by presenting a petition to the Governor-General on behalf of the orthodox section of the Hindu community.

References

1. Kunal Chakrabarti; Shubhra Chakrabarti (22 August 2013). Historical Dictionary of the Bengalis. Scarecrow Press. pp. 154–155. ISBN 978-0-8108-8024-5. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
2. AF Salahuddin Ahmed (2012). "Dev, Radhakanta". In Sirajul Islam and Ahmed A. Jamal (ed.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
3. Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, p. 611
4. Indrajit Chaudhuri (2012). "Sangbad Prabhakar". In Sirajul Islam and Ahmed A. Jamal (ed.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
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Gopi Mohun Deb
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/2/21

Gopi Mohun Deb (1798-1847)[1] was one of scions the Shovabazar Raj family, a noted philanthropist educationist and foremost leader of Calcutta's Hindu society.

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Shobhabazar Rajbari

The Sovabazar Raj family, seated at Sovabazar Palace were the Zamindars of Shobhabazar. The clan begins with a Maharaja Naba Krishna Deb Bahadur left behind two sons, adopted son Raja Gopimohan Deb (1768) and his own son Raja Raj Krishna Deb. Raja Gopimohan Deb was founder director of Hindu College and founder of famous Dharma Sabha. He offered much precious gold and silver to Maa Kali of Kalighat. A very well known scholar in Hindi, Parsi, and English. His son was Radhakanta Deb, whereas Raja Rajkrishna Deb (1782–1823) had eight sons.

• Shiv Krishna
• Kali Krishna
• Debi Krishna
• Apurba Krishna
• Kamal Krishna
• Madhab Krishna
• Narendra Krishna Deb

The Zamindari consisted more than half of Sutanuti and thousands of acres of lands in several districts of Bengal (now parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh).[1][2]

-- Sovabazar Raj, by Wikipedia


He was son of Ram Sundar Deb and was later adopted by his uncle Raja Naba Krishna Deb.[1][2] Raja Naba Krishan later had a son from his marriage in later life named, Rajkrishna Deb (Raja Bahadur), with whom Gopi Mohun shared the affairs of Sovabazar Estate, jointly.

Gopi Mohan was a noted Persian scholar and one of the first five founder members and Directors of the Hindu College along with David Hare and others.[2] He was given title of Raja Bahadur by British and was generally referred to as Raja Gopi Mohun Deb.

He was the founder of famous Dharma Sabha, a conservative Hindu religious body, which spoke on views and rights of Hindus.[1]

His son Raja Radhakanta Deb was also a noted a scholar and a leader of the Calcutta Hindu society.

References

1. A Biographical Sketch of David Hare - by Peary Chand Mitra, Gauranga Gopal Sengupta - 1979 Page 176
2. [1]

See also

• Shobhabazar Rajbari

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

Shobhabazar Rajbari
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/2/21

Image
Shobhabazar Rajbari
The Thakurdalan inside the "Palace"
Alternative names Sovabazar Rajbari
General information
Status: Residential building
Address: 33 to 36 Raja Nabakrishna Street
Town or city: Kolkata
Country" India
Construction startedL Main building: probably predates 1757; Nat Mandap: 1830s
Owner: The house: private; Nat Mandap: Kolkata Municipal Corporation

Shobhabazar Rajbari (Shobhabazar Royal Palace) is the palace of the Shobhabazar royal family located in the Indian city of Kolkata. Maharaja Nabakrishna Deb (1737–97), founder of the Shobhabazar Rajbari (at 35), started life as a modest aristocrat but soon amassed considerable wealth in his service to the British, in particular by his role in assisting to topple Siraj ud-Daulah. During his lifetime Raja Nabakrishna Deb built two houses. The building at 35 Raja Nabakrishna Street (known as Shobhabazar Rajbari or "Baag ola Bari - House with the lions"), on the northern side of the road, was the one first constructed by him, subsequently inherited by his adopted son from his elder brother Gopimohan and his descendants including his son Radhakanta Deb. The house at 33 Raja Nabakrishna Street (known as Choto Rajbari) was built by him when a son was born to him later in life, and was left to his biological son Rajkrishna and his descendants.

Role in Cultural and Social life of Bengal

• Raja Nabakrishna Deb celebrated Durga Puja in 1757 on a grand scale after the British defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah at the battle of Plassey. Lord Clive and Warren Hastings were in the list of invitees.
• It was here that the first civic reception of Swami Vivekananda after his return from Chicago Parliament of Religions was organised in 1897 by Raja Binoy Deb Bahadur.


Features

Although originally a saat-mahala house the most intact of the remaining spaces is the courtyard with the thakurdalan. A saat khilan thakurdalan with multi-foliate arches supported on pairs of squared pilasters. Pairs of columns with plain shafts rise up between the arches to support the entablature above.

The main residence

Image
The Nat Mandap.

A large central courtyard with the thakurdalan at the northern end. A paanch khilan takurdalan with multifoil arches supported on compound columns. the double storey wings on either side of the courtyard connect the thakurdalan with the naach ghar to the south. The roof of the naach ghar has fallen through and very little of the superstructure remains.

The Nat Mandap

A set of eight massive Tuscan columns support a wide projecting cornice at roof level. Two rows of multifoliate arches at the northern end provide access to the nabaratna temple at the rear.

Gallery

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Outside View of Shobhabazar Rajbari

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The Main Entrance also called the Singhadwar (literal translation: Entrance or Door with Lions)

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A closer view of the Durga idol at Shobhabazar Rajbari in 2006

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Old painting of Durga Puja in Kolkata, possibly at Shobhabazar

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Painting of Raja Rajakrishna Dev at Shobhabazar Rajbari Thakurdalan

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Durga Puja 2016 at Shobhabazar Rajbari

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Raja Narayan Deb of Shobhabazar Rajbari

References

1. "Shobhabazar Rajbari, Shobhabazar, Calcutta". Retrieved 24 March 2012.
2. "Shobhabajar raajbari". Retrieved 24 March 2012.
3. "Shovhabazar Raajbari". Retrieved 23 March 2012.

External links

Kolkata/North Kolkata travel guide from Wikivoyage

See also

• Nabakrishna Deb
• Shobhabazar
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Nabakrishna Deb
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/2/21

Image
Raja Nabakrishna Deb (1737–97)

Maharaja Nabakrishna Deb
Born: 10 October 1733
Died: 22 December 1797, Kolkata, India
Known for: Royal, Raja, Aristocrat, Treachery

Maharaja Nabakrishna Deb (also known as Raja Nabakrishna Deb, archaic spelling Nubkissen) (1733–1797), founder of the Shovabazar Raj family, was a prominent Raja and close confidante/ally of Robert Clive. He was the key figure in the plot against Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula although some believed him to be a traitor of India, who sold his motherland to the British and enabling them to rule India.[1]

Early life

Raja Nabakrishna Deb lost his father, Ramcharan Deb, early in life but his mother took care to ensure that he learnt Urdu and Persian initially and later Arabic and English. Deb was appointed Persian teacher of Warren Hastings in 1750. At one point of time he was munshi (clerk-cum-interpreter) of Governor Drake, advised the British on foreign relations and was a great supporter for the establishment of British power in India. He started his life as a Munshi for Lakshmikanta Dhar or Noku Dhar, the famous banker and businessman of Kolkata, from where he was recommended to Robert Clive when the latter was looking for an able clerk-cum-interpreter. He had carried out confidential work for the British East India Company, prior to and during the Battle of Palashi. After the death of Siraj ud-Daulah, Deb along with Mir Jafar, Amir Beg and Ramchand Roy earned eight crore rupees (approximately 600 million US dollars in present-day value) worth of treasures from the secret treasury.[2]

Achievements

Durga Puja


He is also famous for the Durga Puja he organised in his newly constructed grand Shobhabazar Rajbari (King's Palace) in Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1757, as a patron of numerous performing artistes, and his philanthropy.[2] The puja in the magnificent palace continues even today.

After his victory in the Battle of Palashi, in 1757, which laid the foundation for British rule in India, Lord Clive wanted a grand thanksgiving ceremony but the only church in Kolkata had been razed to the ground by Siraj ud-Daulah, during his attack a year earlier. When Deb came to know of Clive's desire, he advised, "Offer your thanks at the goddesses' feet at my Durga Puja." "But I am a Christian," protested Clive.

"That can be managed," smiled the wily Deb.

Lord Clive drove in his carriage all the way from his residence in what was then known as New Town (part of the city where the British people used to live) of Kolkata to Shovabazar in the Old Town (where the natives used to live), for the Durga Puja.
Thereafter, it came to be known as the "Company Puja".[3]


Raja Nabakrisna Deb set a pattern for the puja which became a fashion and a status symbol among the upcoming merchant class of Kolkata. The number of Englishmen attending the family Durga Puja became an index of prestige. Religious scruples fell by the wayside. The Englishmen attending the dance-parties, dined on beef and ham from Wilson's Hotel, and drank to their heart's contentment.[3]

While barowari (community) pujas subsequently took over in a big way, the Durga Pujas of the old zemindar and Royal families in and around Kolkata still attract crowds. Shovabazar Rajbari organised the 250th Durga Puja in 2006.[4]


Later life

With Lord Clive backing him, Deb earned the title of Maharaja Bahadur in 1766. The position offered him some administrative powers also. Later he became a political banyan (a powerful middleman) of the British East India Company. When Warren Hastings took over as governor (Governor General of Fort William in Bengal) in 1772, he became even more powerful. In 1776, he earned the talukdari (landholder with peculiar tenure) of Sutanati.[2]

It is one of the inevitable results of a foreign occupation that the history of modern India as written by Englishmen – and no one else has cared to write it – takes little account of the Indian helper whose aid has been essential, and whose advice and knowledge has been invaluable, to the men who built up the fabric of English rule. Nowhere, perhaps is this reticence or history more marked than in the case of Maharaja Nubkissen, the friend and counsellor of Clive and Hastings who beginning life as the Persian tutor of the latter, rose to be the Company's interpreter and crowned career as their political banyan. Mill makes no reference to him: Orme does not mention him, and his name is absent from the pages of Sir John Malcolm. Yet he was no ordinary man, and the influence and power wielded by him during the thirty years which precede his death in 1797 was extraordinarily large.[5]

-- Cotton, H.E.A.


It is beyond reasonable doubt that along with Mir Jafar, Jagat Sheth, Omichund and Krishna Chandra Roy, Ram Chandra Roy, Ali Beg; Nabakrishna Deb also played a crucial role in turning India to a British colony, instrumental in the plot against Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula.[6] [1]

He created a sensation in those days by spending Rs. 1 million (1 million) for the sraddha (the last rites ceremony by Hindu tradition) of his mother, feeding the poor, honouring the learned, and doing everything on a grand scale. He constructed the 50 km (31 mi) road from Behala to Kulpi (presently in South 24 Parganas district) in what was then jungle territory.[2]

He organised a conference of learned men in his Rajbari and patronised many musicians. Harekrishna Dirghangi, Nitai Baisnab and other kabials enjoyed his hospitality. He donated to different causes irrespective of religious denominations. He gave money to start the Calcutta Madrasa, donated land for St.John's Church and earned a reputation as a philanthropist.[2]

Family

He left behind two sons, one adopted and the other his own begetting. His adopted son, Gopi Mohun Deb (Raja) was famous for his musical taste. His natural born son was Rajkrishna Deb (Raja). He had one grandson on the adopted side – Radhakanta Deb (Raja, Sir). His natural born son was father of eight distinguished sons, prominent among whom were Kali Krishna Deb (Raja Bahadur), Kamal Krishna Deb (Maharaja) and Narendra Krishna Deb (Maharaja Bahadur, Sir). All of them, and some others belonging to subsequent generations in the family, have roads named after them in Kolkata. His most recent descendant, Agnish Krishna Deb is currently living in Kolkata.

Historical Palace Shobhabazar Rajbari

Main article: Shobhabazar Rajbari

Raja Nabakrishna Deb (1737–97) founder of the Shobhabazar Rajbari, started life modestly but soon amassed considerable wealth in his service to the British, in particular by his role in assisting to topple Siraj ud-Daulah. During his lifetime Raja Nabakrishna Deb built two palaces. The palace at 33 Raja Nabakrishna Street, on the northern side of the road, was the one first constructed by him, subsequently given over by him to his adopted son Gopimohan. He built the palace at 36 Raja Nabakrishna Street when a son was born to him later in life and left it to his natural son, Raja Rajkrishna and his descendants.

Gallery

Image
Thakurdalan at Shobhabazar Rajbari

Image
Singh Dwar (Lion gate) at Shobhabazar Rajbari

Image
Natmandir at Shobhabazar Rajbari

See also

• Shobhabazar
• Shobhabazar Rajbari

References

1. "Durga puja's colonial roots - Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". 21 October 2012. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
2. Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Biographical dictionary) (in Bengali), Vol I, 1998 edition, p 242. ISBN 81-85626-65-0
3. Jaya Chaliha and Bunny Gupta, Durga Puja in Calcutta in Calcutta The Living City Vol II, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, Oxford University Press, first published 1990, paperback edition 2005, pp 332–333. ISBN 0-19-563697-X
4. Mukherjee Pandey, Jhimli (30 September 2006). "Shobhabazar Raj Bari". Family tradition alive in the City of Joy. Times of India. Retrieved 18 February 2007.
5. Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, p288-289, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
6. Sarah Menin (24 February 2004). Constructing Place: Mind and the Matter of Place-Making. Routledge. pp. 156–. ISBN 978-1-134-37909-5. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
6. Samsad Bengali Charitabhidhan (Vol.1) ( Biographical Dictionary) ed. Anjali Bose. ISBN 978-81-7955-135-6
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Durga
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/5/21

-- Nabakrishna Deb, by Wikipedia

-- Gopi Mohun Deb, by Wikipedia

-- Radhakanta Deb, by Wikipedia

-- Shobhabazar Rajbari, by Wikipedia

-- Durga Puja, by Wikipedia

-- Durga, by Wikipedia

-- The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future, by Cynthia Eller

-- Interesting Historical Events, Relative to the Provinces of Bengal, and the Empire of Indostan. With a Seasonable Hint and Persuasive to the Honourable The Court of Directors of the East India Company. As Also The Mythology and Cosmogony, Fasts and Festivals of the Gentoo's, Followers of the Shastah. And a Dissertation on the Metempsychosis, commonly, though erroneously, called the Pythagorean Doctrine, Parts I, II, and III, by J.Z. Holwell, Esq.

-- India Tracts, by Mr. J. Z. Holwell, and Friends.

-- The Black Hole: The Question of Holwell's Veracity, by J. H. Little

-- Full Proceedings of the Black Hole Debate, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society

-- History of Hindostan; From the Earliest Account of Time, To the Death of Akbar; Translated From the Persian of Mahummud Casim Ferishta of Delhi: Together With a Dissertation Concerning the Religion and Philosophy of the Brahmins; With an Appendix, Containing the History of the Mogul Empire, From Its Decline in the Reign of Mahummud Shaw, to the Present Times, by Alexander Dow.

-- Reflections on the Present State of our East-India Affairs; With Many Interesting Anecdotes Never Before Made Public, by Gentleman Long Resident in India

-- The History of British India, vol. 1 of 6, by James Mill

-- The History of British India, vol. II, by James Mill

-- The History of British India, vol. III, by James Mill

-- The Golden Bough: A study of magic and religion, by Sir James George Frazer

-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism With Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in its Relation to Indian Buddhism, by Laurence Austine Waddell, M.B., F.L.S., F.R.G.S.


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Durga
Mother Goddess; Goddess of Preservation, Strength and Protection
Durga slays the Buffalo demon, Mahishasura
Affiliation Devi, Shakti, Adi-Parashakti, Chandi, Kali
Weapon Chakra (discus), Shankha (conch shell), Trishula (Trident), Gada (mace), Bow and Arrow, Khanda (sword) and Shield, Ghanta (bell)
Mount Tiger or Lion[1][2]
Festivals Durga Puja, Durga Ashtami, Navratri, Vijayadashami
Personal information
Siblings Vishnu[3]
Consort Shiva[4][note 1]
Manipuri equivalent Panthoibi[5]

Durga (Sanskrit: दुर्गा, IAST: Durgā) is one of the principal Hindu deities, described to the goddess of war, strength and protection.[6][7][8] Her legend centres around combating evils and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity, and Dharma the power of good over evil.[7][9] Durga is also a fierce form of the protective mother goddess, who unleashes her divine wrath against the wicked for the liberation of the oppressed, and entails destruction to empower creation.[10]

The earliest depiction of Durga is found in the seals of Indus Valley Civilization.

The Harappan Goddess of War?
by Harappa.com
January 15th, 2017
[Sitewide Search for "Durga" at Harappa.com yielded Zero "0" results]
https://www.harappa.com/category/blog-subject/seals

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"The Harappans had a goddess of war connected with the tiger, another large feline that was once native to the Indus Valley. On a cylinder seal from Kalibangan (Image 1, 2), a goddess in long skirt and plaited hair holds the hands of two warriors in the process of spearing each other. Next to this scene, the same deity is shown with an elaborate horn crown and the back part of a tiger as a continuation of her body. The hair of the two warriors is arranged into the double bun' or chignon at the back of the head, characteristic of Late Early Dynastic Mesopotamian kings on the warpath. As in the later South Asian tradition, this tiger-riding goddess of war apparently received water buffaloes in sacrifice. There are several Harappan images of a man who spears a water buffalo while placing one of his feet on the head of the beast. This pose came to signify 'victory' in Mesopotamian glyptic art during the reign of Sargon the Great (2334-2279 BCE)."

Asko Parpola, The Harappan Unicorn in Eurasian and South Asian perspectives, p. 158.


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The Pashupati Seal is a steatite seal that was discovered at the Mohenjo-daro archaeological site of the Indus Valley Civilization. The seal depicts a seated figure that is possibly tricephalic (having three heads). It was once thought to be ithyphallic, an interpretation that has been questioned by many critics and even supporters. The man has a horned headdress and is surrounded by animals. He may represent a horned deity. The seal is kept in the National Museum of India in New Delhi.

It has one of the more complicated designs in the thousands of seals found from the Indus Valley Civilization, and is unusual in having a human figure as the main and largest element; in most seals this is an animal. It has been claimed to be one of the earliest depictions of the Hindu god Shiva, or a "proto-Shiva" deity. The name given to the seal, "pashupati", meaning "lord of animals", is one of Shiva's epithets. It has also been associated with the Vedic god Rudra, generally regarded as an early form of Shiva. Rudra is associated with asceticism, yoga, and linga; regarded as a lord of animals; and Shiva may be depicted with three heads. The figure has often been connected with the widespread motif of the Master of Animals found in ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean art, and the many other traditions of horned deities.

The seal was uncovered in 1928-29, in Block 1, Southern Portion of the DK-G Area of Mohenjo-daro, at a depth of 3.9 meters below the surface. Ernest J. H. Mackay, who directed the excavations at Mohenjo-daro, and dated the seal to the Intermediate I Period (now considered to fall around 2350-2000 BCE) in his 1937-38 report in which the seal is numbered 420, giving it its alternate name.

The seal is carved in steatite and measures 3.56 cm by 3.53 cm, with a thickness of 0.76 cm. It has a human figure at the centre seated on a platform and facing forward. The legs of the figure are bent at the knees with the heels touching and the toes pointing downwards. The arms extend outwards and rest lightly on the knees, with the thumbs facing away from the body. Eight small and three large bangles cover the arms. The chest is covered with what appear to be necklaces, and a double band wraps around the waist. The figure wears a tall and elaborate headdress with central fan-shaped structure flanked by two large striated horns. The human figure is surrounded by four wild animals: an elephant and a tiger to its one side, and a water buffalo and a rhinoceros on the other. Under the dais are two deer or ibexes looking backwards, so that their horns almost meet the center. At the top of the seal are seven pictographs, with the last apparently displaced downwards for lack of horizontal space.

Interpretations

Marshall's identification with proto-Shiva


An early description and analysis of the seal's iconography was provided by archaeologist John Marshall who had served as the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India and led the excavations of the Indus Valley sites. In addition to the general features of the seal described above, he also saw the central figure as a male deity; as three-faced, with a possible fourth face towards the back; and, as ithyphallic, while conceding that what appeared to be the exposed phallus could instead be a tassel hanging from the waistband. Most significantly he identified the seal as an early prototype of the Hindu god Shiva (or, his Vedic predecessor, Rudra), who also was known by the title Pashupati ('lord or father of all the animals') in historic times. In a 1928–29 publication, Marshall summarized his reasons for the identification as follows:

My reasons for the identification are four. In the first place the figure has three faces and that Siva was portrayed with three as well as with more usual five faces, there are abundant examples to prove. Secondly, the head is crowned with the horns of a bull and the trisula are characteristic emblems of Siva. Thirdly, the figure is in a typical yoga attitude, and Siva [sic] was and still is, regarded as a mahayogi—the prince of Yogis. Fourthly, he is surrounded by animals, and Siva is par excellence the "Lord of Animals" (Pasupati)—of the wild animals of the jungle, according to the Vedic meaning of the word pashu, no less than that of domesticated cattle.


Later, in 1931, he expanded his reasons to include the fact that Shiva is associated with the phallus in the form of linga, and that in medieval art he is shown with deer or ibexes, as are seen below the throne on the seal. Marshall's analysis of the Indus Valley religion, and the Pashupati seal in particular, was very influential and widely accepted for at least the next two generations. For instance, Herbert Sullivan, wrote in 1964 that Marshall's analysis "has been accepted almost universally and has greatly influenced scholarly understanding of the historical development of Hinduism". Writing in 1976, Doris Srinivasan introduced an article otherwise critical of Marshall's interpretation by observing that "no matter what position is taken regarding the seal's iconography, it is always prefaced by Marshall's interpretation. On balance the proto-Śiva character of the seal has been accepted." Thomas McEvilley noted, in line with Marshall, that the central figure was in the yoga pose Mulabandhasana, quoting the Kalpa Sutra's description "a squatting position with joined heels" used with meditation and fasting to attain infinite knowledge (kevala). And Alf Hiltebeitel noted in 2011 that, following Marshall's analysis, "nearly all efforts at interpreting the [Indus Valley] religion have centered discussion around [the Pashupati seal] figure". A lot of discussion has taken place about this seal. While Marshall's work has earned some support, many critics and even supporters have raised several objections.

Doris Srinivasan's reinterpretation

Doris Srinivasan, a professor of Indian studies, raised objections to Marshall's identification, and provided a new interpretation for the figure, where she postulated the lateral projections were cow-like ears rather than faces. In 1975-76, she published a journal article titled 'The So-Called Proto-śiva Seal from Mohenjo-Daro: An Iconological Assessment' in the academic journal Archives of Asian Art. In 1997, she reiterated her views in a book titled Many Heads, Arms, and Eyes: Origin, Meaning, and Form of Multiplicity in Indian Art.

According to her, the two extra faces could be reinterpreted as possible ears, and the central face has predominant bovine features. She has drawn similarities between the central figure of seal 420, and other artefacts from the Indus Valley such as the horned mask from Mohenjo-Daro, the terracotta bull from Kalibangan, and the depiction of a horned deity on a water pitcher from the archaeological site of Kot Diji. She has also noted that the yogic posture of the figure is repeated on a number of other seals and sealings, some of which indicate that the figure receives worship. On the basis of these observations, she suggests that the figure of seal 420 could be a divine buffalo-man.

Dravidian Interpretations

Scholars who consider the Indus Valley Civilisation to be associated with Dravidian culture have offered other interpretations. According to Alf Hiltebeitel, Professor of Religion, History, and Human Sciences at George Washington University, the horned figure could be identified with Mahishasura, the buffalo demon enemy of the Hindu goddess Durga. He has also argued that the tiger depicted in the seal could represent the goddess Durga who is often depicted as riding a tiger (or a lion) in the Hindu pantheon. He also suggested that the surrounding animals could represent the vahanas (vehicles, mounts) of deities for the four cardinal directions.

Herbert Sullivan from Duke University interpreted the figure as a female goddess on the grounds that the so-called erect phallus actually represents a girdle, a feature he had found only on female figurines. The American archaeologist Walter Fairservis tried to translate what he considered to be a Dravidian inscription, and was of the view that the seal could be identified with Anil, the paramount chief of four clans represented by the animals. The Finnish Indologist, Asko Parpola has suggested that the yogic pose could be an imitation of the Proto-Elamite way of representing seated bulls. He attempted to translate the inscription which he considers to be an early form of Dravidian, and found that the figure represents a servant of an aquatic deity. He finds that the animals depicted on the seal best resemble those associated with the Hindu god Varuna who could be associated with the aquatic themes which are prominent in the Indus religion.

Vedic Interpretations

There are some scholars who think the seal represents a Vedic deity, and believe that this points to an Indo-Aryan identity of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The Indian archaeologist, S.R. Rao who is credited with discoveries of a number of Harappan sites, identified the figure in the seal with the Vedic deity Agni. He attempted to translate the text and claimed that the evidence pointed to the three-headed blazing, fire god Agni who belongs to the Vedic pantheon. The animals represent the various clans which accepted the supremacy of Agni.

E. Richter-Ushanas identified the figure with the sage Rishyasringa who was born with horns, and who officiated the sacrifice of King Dasaratha in the ancient Indian epic Ramayana. The considers the four animals to be a representation of the four seasons, and found similar motifs on the Gundestrup cauldron discovered in Denmark. Other scholars such as Talageri, Rajaram and Frawley, have postulated that the cauldron presents compelling evidence towards India as the home of the Indo-European people. S.P. Singh identified the figure with the Hindu god Rudra who is associated with the storm and the hunt. He identified the surrounding animals with the Maruts who are storm deities and sons of Rudra. His argument for this identification is based on hymn 64 of the first mandala (book) of the Rigveda which compares the Maruts to various animals, including a bull, an elephant, a lion, a deer, and a serpent. M.V.N. Krishna Rao identified the figure with the Hindu god Indra. He argued that the tiger could be ignored since it is much larger than the other animals, and the two deer could also be ignored since they were seated under the table. Then he combined the first phoneme of each of the animals, and the word 'nara' meaning man, and arrived at the term 'makhanasana' which is an epithet of Indra.

-- Pashupati seal, by Wikipedia


There are several hints to her in the early Vedic texts and by the time of the epics, she emerges as an independent deity. According to Hindu legends, Durga is created by the gods to defeat the demon Mahishasura, who could be only killed by a female. Durga is seen as a motherly figure and often depicted as a beautiful woman, riding a lion or tiger, with many arms each carrying a weapon and often defeating demons.[2][11][12][13] She is widely worshipped by the followers of the goddess centric sect, Shaktism, and has importance in other denominations like Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Under these traditions, Durga is associated and identified with other deities.[14][9]

The two most important texts of Shaktism, Devi Mahatmya and Devi-Bhagavata Purana, reveres Devi or Shakti (goddess) as the primordial creator of the universe and the Brahman (ultimate truth and reality).[15][16][17] While all major texts of Hinduism mention and revere the goddess, these two texts center around her as the primary divinity.[18][19][20] The Devi Mahatmya is considered to be as important a scripture as the Bhagavad Gita by the Shakta Hindus.[21][22]

Durga has a significant following all over India, Bangladesh and Nepal, particularly in its eastern states such as West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam and Bihar. Durga is revered after spring and autumn harvests, specially during the festivals of Durga Puja and Navratri.[23][24]

The word Durga (दुर्गा) literally means "impassable",[23] [6] "invincible, unassailable".[25] It is related to the word Durg (दुर्ग) which means "fortress, something difficult to defeat or pass". According to Monier Monier-Williams, Durga is derived from the roots dur (difficult) and gam (pass, go through).[26] According to Alain Daniélou, Durga means "beyond defeat".[27]

The word Durga and related terms appear in the Vedic literature, such as in the Rigveda hymns 4.28, 5.34, 8.27, 8.47, 8.93 and 10.127, and in sections 10.1 and 12.4 of the Atharvaveda.[26][28][note 2] A deity named Durgi appears in section 10.1.7 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka.[26] While the Vedic literature uses the word Durga, the description therein lacks the legendary details about her that is found in later Hindu literature.[30]

The word is also found in ancient post-Vedic Sanskrit texts such as in section 2.451 of the Mahabharata and section 4.27.16 of the Ramayana.[26] These usages are in different contexts. For example, Durg is the name of an Asura who had become invincible to gods, and Durga is the goddess who intervenes and slays him. Durga and its derivatives are found in sections 4.1.99 and 6.3.63 of the Ashtadhyayi by Pāṇini, the ancient Sanskrit grammarian, and in the commentary of Nirukta by Yaska.[26] Durga as a demon-slaying goddess was likely well established by the time the classic Hindu text called Devi Mahatmya was composed, which scholars variously estimate to between 400 and 600 CE.[18][19][31] The Devi Mahatmya and other mythologies describe the nature of demonic forces symbolised by Mahishasura as shape-shifting and adapting in nature, form and strategy to create difficulties and achieve their evil ends, while Durga calmly understands and counters the evil in order to achieve her solemn goals.[32][33][note 3]

There are many epithets for Durga in Shaktism and her nine appellations are (Navadurga): Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayini, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. A list of 108 names of the goddess is recited in order to worship her and is popularly known as the "Ashtottarshat Namavali of Goddess Durga".

Other meanings may include: "the one who cannot be accessed easily",[26] "the undefeatable goddess".[27]

One famous shloka states the definition and origin of the term 'Durga': "Durge durgati nashini", meaning Durga is the one who destroys all distress.[citation needed]

History and texts

The earliest evidence of Durga like goddess comes from cylindrical seal in Kalibangan of Indus Valley civilization.[35][36]

One of the earliest evidence of reverence for Devi, the feminine nature of God, appears in chapter 10.125 of the Rig Veda, one of the scriptures of Hinduism. This hymn is also called the Devi Suktam hymn (abridged):[37][38]

I am the Queen, the gatherer-up of treasures, most thoughtful, first of those who merit worship.
Thus gods have established me in many places with many homes to enter and abide in.
Through me alone all eat the food that feeds them, – each man who sees, breathes, hears the word outspoken.
They know it not, yet I reside in the essence of the Universe. Hear, one and all, the truth as I declare it.
I, verily, myself announce and utter the word that gods and men alike shall welcome.
I make the man I love exceedingly mighty, make him nourished, a sage, and one who knows Brahman.
I bend the bow for Rudra [Shiva], that his arrow may strike, and slay the hater of devotion.
I rouse and order battle for the people, I created Earth and Heaven and reside as their Inner Controller.
On the world's summit I bring forth sky the Father: my home is in the waters, in the ocean as Mother.
Thence I pervade all existing creatures, as their Inner Supreme Self, and manifest them with my body.
I created all worlds at my will, without any higher being, and permeate and dwell within them.
The eternal and infinite consciousness is I, it is my greatness dwelling in everything.

– Devi Sukta, Rigveda 10.125.3 – 10.125.8,[37][38][39]


Artwork depicting the "Goddess Durga Slaying the Buffalo demon Mahishasura" scene of Devi Mahatmya, is found all over India, Nepal and southeast Asia.

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9th-century Kashmir,

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13th-century Karnataka,

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9th century Prambanan Indonesia,

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2nd-century Uttar Pradesh.

Devi's epithets synonymous with Durga appear in Upanishadic literature, such as Kali in verse 1.2.4 of the Mundaka Upanishad dated to about the 5th century BCE.[40] This single mention describes Kali as "terrible yet swift as thought", very red and smoky coloured manifestation of the divine with a fire-like flickering tongue, before the text begins presenting its thesis that one must seek self-knowledge and the knowledge of the eternal Brahman.[41]

Durga, in her various forms, appears as an independent deity in the Epics period of ancient India, that is the centuries around the start of the common era.[42] Both Yudhisthira and Arjuna characters of the Mahabharata invoke hymns to Durga.[40] She appears in Harivamsa in the form of Vishnu's eulogy, and in Pradyumna prayer.[42] Various Puranas from the early to late 1st millennium CE dedicate chapters of inconsistent mythologies associated with Durga.[40] Of these, the Markandeya Purana and the Devi-Bhagavata Purana are the most significant texts on Durga.[43][44] The Devi Upanishad and other Shakta Upanishads, mostly dated to have been composed in or after the 9th century, present the philosophical and mystical speculations related to Durga as Devi and other epithets, identifying her to be the same as the Brahman and Atman (self, soul).[45][46]

Origins

The historian Ramaprasad Chanda stated in 1916 that Durga evolved over time in the Indian subcontinent. A primitive form of Durga, according to Chanda, was the result of "syncretism of a mountain-goddess worshiped by the dwellers of the Himalaya and the Vindhyas", a deity of the Abhiras conceptualised as a war-goddess. Durga then transformed into Kali as the personification of the all-destroying time, while aspects of her emerged as the primordial energy (Adya Sakti) integrated into the samsara (cycle of rebirths) concept and this idea was built on the foundation of the Vedic religion, mythology and philosophy.[47]

Epigraphical evidence indicates that regardless of her origins, Durga is an ancient goddess. The 6th-century CE inscriptions in early Siddhamatrika script, such as at the Nagarjuni hill cave during the Maukhari era, already mention the legend of her victory over Mahishasura (buffalo-hybrid demon).[48]

European traders and colonial era references

Some early European accounts refer to a deity known as Deumus, Demus or Deumo. Western (Portuguese) sailors first came face to face with the murti of Deumus at Calicut on the Malabar Coast and they concluded it to be the deity of Calicut. Deumus is sometimes interpreted as an aspect of Durga in Hindu mythology and sometimes as deva. It is described that the ruler of Calicut (Zamorin) had a murti of Deumus in his temple inside his royal palace.[49]

Legends

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'Durga in Combat with the Bull, Mahishasura', 19th century painting

The most popular legend associated with the goddess is of her killing of Mahishasura. Mahishasura was half buffalo demon who did severe penance in order to please Brahma, the creator. After several years, Brahma, pleased with his devotion appeared before the demon. The demon opened his eyes and asked the god for immortality. Brahma refused, stating that all must die one day. Mahishasura then thought for a while and asked a boon that only a woman should be able to kill him. Brahma granted the boon and disappeared. Mahishasura started to torture innocent people. He captured heaven and was not in any kind of fear, as he thought women to be powerless and weak. The devas were worried and they went to Trimurti. They all together combined their power and created a warrior woman with many hands. The devas gave her a copy of their weapons. Himavan, the lord of Himalayas, gifted a lion as her mount. Durga on her lion, reached before Mahishasura's palace. Mahishasura took different forms and attacked the goddess. Each time, Durga would destroy his form. At last, Durga slayed Mahishasura when he was transforming as a buffalo.[50][51]

Attributes and iconography

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Durga as buffalo-demon slayer from a 6th century Aihole Hindu temple, Karnataka;

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in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu.

Durga has been a warrior goddess, and she is depicted to express her martial skills. Her iconography typically resonates with these attributes, where she rides a lion or a tiger,[1] has between eight and eighteen hands, each holding a weapon to destroy and create.[52][53] She is often shown in the midst of her war with Mahishasura, the buffalo demon, at the time she victoriously kills the demonic force. Her icon shows her in action, yet her face is calm and serene.[54][55] In Hindu arts, this tranquil attribute of Durga's face is traditionally derived from the belief that she is protective and violent not because of her hatred, egotism or getting pleasure in violence, but because she acts out of necessity, for the love of the good, for liberation of those who depend on her, and a mark of the beginning of soul's journey to creative freedom.[55][56][57]

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Durga killing Mahishasura in a Durga Puja celebration in Bengal

Durga traditionally holds the weapons of various male gods of Hindu mythology, which they give her to fight the evil forces because they feel that she is the shakti (energy, power).[58] These include chakra, conch, bow, arrow, sword, javelin, trishul, shield, and a noose.[59] These weapons are considered symbolic by Shakta Hindus, representing self-discipline, selfless service to others, self-examination, prayer, devotion, remembering her mantras, cheerfulness and meditation. Durga herself is viewed as the "Self" within and the divine mother of all creation.[60] She has been revered by warriors, blessing their new weapons.[61] Durga iconography has been flexible in the Hindu traditions, where for example some intellectuals place a pen or other writing implements in her hand since they consider their stylus as their weapon.[61]

Archeological discoveries suggest that these iconographic features of Durga became common throughout India by about the 4th century CE, states David Kinsley – a professor of religious studies specialising on Hindu goddesses.[62] Durga iconography in some temples appears as part of Mahavidyas or Saptamatrkas (seven mothers considered forms of Durga). Her icons in major Hindu temples such as in Varanasi include relief artworks that show scenes from the Devi Mahatmya.[63]

In Vaishnavism, Durga whose mount is Lion, is considered as one of the three aspects or forms of Goddess Lakshmi, the other two being Sri and Bhu.[64] According to professor Tracy Pintchman, "When the Lord Vishnu created the gunas of prakriti, there arose Lakshmi in her three forms, Sri, Bhu and Durga. Sri consisted of sattva, Bhu as rajas and Durga as tamas".[65]

Durga appears in Hindu mythology in numerous forms and names, but ultimately all these are different aspects and manifestations of one goddess. She is imagined to be terrifying and destructive when she has to be, but benevolent and nurturing when she needs to be.[66] While anthropomorphic icons of her, such as those showing her riding a lion and holding weapons, are common, the Hindu traditions use aniconic forms and geometric designs (yantra) to remember and revere what she symbolises.[67]

Worship and festivals

Durga is worshipped in Hindu temples across India and Nepal by Shakta Hindus. Her temples, worship and festivals are particularly popular in eastern and northeastern parts of Indian subcontinent during Durga puja, Dashain and Navaratri.[2][23][68]

Durga puja
Main article: Durga Puja

Durga festival images

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Durga Puja pandal with a Durga idol with 1 million hands standing on top a bull's head to symbolize her victory over Mahishasura in Kolkata,

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Dancing on Vijaya Dashami,

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women smearing each other with colour,

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and family get together for Dashain in Nepal.

As per the Markandeya Purana, Durga Puja can be performed either for 9 days or 4 days (last four in sequence). The four-day-long Durga Puja is a major annual festival in Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand and Bihar.[2][23] It is scheduled per the Hindu luni-solar calendar in the month of Ashvina,[69] and typically falls in September or October. Since it is celebrated during Sharad (literally, season of weeds), it is called as Sharadiya Durga Puja or Akal-Bodhan to differentiate it from the one celebrated originally in spring. The festival is celebrated by communities by making special colourful images of Durga out of clay,[70] recitations of Devi Mahatmya text,[69] prayers and revelry for nine days, after which it is taken out in procession with singing and dancing, then immersed in water. The Durga puja is an occasion of major private and public festivities in the eastern and northeastern states of India.[2][71][72]

The day of Durga's victory is celebrated as Vijayadashami (Bijoya in Bengali), Dashain (Nepali) or Dussehra (in Hindi) – these words literally mean "the victory on the Tenth (day)".[73]

This festival is an old tradition of Hinduism, though it is unclear how and in which century the festival began. Surviving manuscripts from the 14th century provide guidelines for Durga puja, while historical records suggest royalty and wealthy families were sponsoring major Durga puja public festivities since at least the 16th century.[71] The 11th or 12th century Jainism text Yasatilaka by Somadeva mentions a festival and annual dates dedicated to a warrior goddess, celebrated by the king and his armed forces, and the description mirrors attributes of a Durga puja.[69]

The prominence of Durga puja increased during the British Raj in Bengal.[74] After the Hindu reformists identified Durga with India, she became an icon for the Indian independence movement.[citation needed]The city of Kolkata is famous for Durga puja.

Dashain

In Nepal, the festival dedicated to Durga is called Dashain (sometimes spelled as Dasain), which literally means "the ten".[68] Dashain is the longest national holiday of Nepal, and is a public holiday in Sikkim and Bhutan. During Dashain, Durga is worshipped in ten forms (Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri, Mahakali and Durga) with one form for each day in Nepal. The festival includes animal sacrifice in some communities, as well as the purchase of new clothes and gift giving. Traditionally, the festival is celebrated over 15 days, the first nine-day are spent by the faithful by remembering Durga and her ideas, the tenth day marks Durga's victory over Mahisura, and the last five days celebrate the victory of good over evil.[68]

During the first nine days, nine aspects of Durga known as Navadurga are meditated upon, one by one during the nine-day festival by devout Shakti worshippers. Durga Puja also includes the worship of Shiva, who is Durga's consort, in addition to Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya, who are considered to be Durga's children.[75] Some Shaktas worship Durga's symbolism and presence as Mother Nature. In South India, especially Andhra Pradesh, Dussera Navaratri is also celebrated and the goddess is dressed each day as a different Devi, all considered equivalent but another aspect of Durga.

Other cultures

In Bangladesh, the four-day-long Sharadiya Durga Puja is the most important religious festival for the Hindus and celebrated across the country with Vijayadashami being a national holiday. In Sri Lanka, Durga in the form of Vaishnavi, bearing Vishnu's iconographic symbolism is celebrated. This tradition has been continued by Sri Lankan diaspora.[76]

In Buddhism

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The Buddhist goddess Palden Lhamo shares some attributes of Durga.[77]

According to scholars, over its history, Buddhist Tantric traditions have adopted several Hindu deities into its fold.[78][79][80] The Tantric traditions of Buddhism included Durga and developed the idea further.[81] In Japanese Buddhism, she appears as Butsu-mo (sometimes called Koti-sri).[82] In Tibet, the goddess Palden Lhamo is similar to the protective and fierce Durga.[83][77] Several aspects of Tārā is believed to have originated as a form of the goddess Durga, notably her fierce guardian form.[84]

In Jainism

The Sacciya mata found in major medieval era Jain temples mirrors Durga, and she has been identified by Jainism scholars to be the same or sharing a more ancient common lineage.[85] In the Ellora Caves, the Jain temples feature Durga with her lion mount. However, she is not shown as killing the buffalo demon in the Jain cave, but she is presented as a peaceful deity.[86]

In Sikhism

See also: Chandi di Var

Durga is exalted as the divine in Dasam Granth, a sacred text of Sikhism that is traditionally attributed to Guru Gobind Singh.[87] According to Eleanor Nesbitt, this view has been challenged by Sikhs who consider Sikhism to be monotheistic, who hold that a feminine form of the Supreme and a reverence for the Goddess is "unmistakably of Hindu character".[87]

Outside Indian subcontinent

Goddess Durga in Southeast Asia

Image
7th/8th century Cambodia,

Image
10/11th century Vietnam,

Image
8th/9th century Indonesia.

Archeological site excavations in Indonesia, particularly on the island of Java, have yielded numerous statues of Durga. These have been dated to be from 6th century onwards.[88] Of the numerous early to mid medieval era Hindu deity stone statues uncovered on Indonesian islands, at least 135 statues are of Durga.[89] In parts of Java, she is known as Loro Jonggrang (literally, "slender maiden").[90]

In Cambodia, during its era of Hindu kings, Durga was popular and numerous sculptures of her have been found. However, most differ from the Indian representation in one detail. The Cambodian Durga iconography shows her standing on top of the cut buffalo demon head.[91]

Durga statues have been discovered at stone temples and archaeological sites in Vietnam, likely related to Champa or Cham dynasty era.[92][93]

Influence

Durga is a major goddess in Hinduism, and the inspiration of Durga Puja – a large annual festival particularly in the eastern and northeastern states of India.[94]

One of the devotees of her form as Kali was Sri Ramakrishna who was the guru of Swami Vivekananda. He is the founder of the Ramakrishna Mission.

Durga as the mother goddess is the inspiration behind the song Vande Mataram, written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, during Indian independence movement, later the official national song of India. Durga is present in Indian Nationalism where Bharat Mata i.e. Mother India is viewed as a form of Durga. This is completely secular and keeping in line with the ancient ideology of Durga as Mother and protector to Indians. She is present in pop culture and blockbuster Bollywood movies like Jai Santoshi Maa. The Indian Army uses phrases like "Durga Mata ki Jai!" and "Kaali Mata ki Jai!". Any woman who takes up a cause to fight for goodness and justice is said to have the spirit of Durga in her.[95][96]

Notes

1. In Hinduism, encompassing Shaktism, Shaivism, and Vaishnavism, consider her intrinsically identical and interchangeable with Shiva, her spouse.
2. It appears in Khila (appendix, supplementary) text to Rigveda 10.127, 4th Adhyaya, per J. Scheftelowitz.[29]
3. In the Shakta tradition of Hinduism, many of the stories about obstacles and battles have been considered as metaphors for the divine and demonic within each human being, with liberation being the state of self-understanding whereby a virtuous nature and society emerging victorious over the vicious.[34]

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External links

• Hinduism portal
• India portal
• Religion portal
Durgaat Wikipedia's sister projects
• Media from Wikimedia Commons
• Quotations from Wikiquote
• Durga at the Encyclopædia Britannica
• Durga Battling the Buffalo Demon: Iconography, Carlos Museum, Emory University
• Devi Durga, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution
• Overview Of World Religions – Devotion to Durga
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