Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

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Durga Puja
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.

Ramakrishna ashrama's religious activities include satsang and arati. Satsang includes communal prayers, songs, rituals, discourses, reading and meditation. Arati involves the ceremonial waving of lights before the images of a deity of holy person and is performed twice in a day. Ramakrishna ashramas observes major Hindu festivals, including Maha Shivarathri, Rama Navami, Krishna Ashtami and Durga Puja. They also give special place to the birthdays of Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and other monastic disciples of Ramakrishna.[29] 1 January is celebrated as Kalpataru Day.[30]

-- Ramakrishna Mission, by Wikipedia

Durga Puja
Durga killing Mahishasura with her lion (replaced here with a horse). Lakshmi and Ganesha flank the left while Saraswati and Kartikeya flank the right
Observed by: Bengali, Odia, Maithils and Assamese communities as a socio-cultural and religious festival
Type: Hindu
Celebrations: Worshipping Hindu deities, family and other social gatherings, shopping and gift-giving, feasting, pandal visiting, and cultural events
Observances: Ceremonial worship of goddess Durga
Begins: On the sixth day of Ashwin shukla paksha[1]
Ends: On the tenth day of Ashwin shukla paksha[1]
2020 date: 22 October - 26 October
Frequency: Annual
Related to: Mahalaya, Navratri, Dussehra

Durga Puja (pronounced [dʊrɡa puːdʒa]), also called Durgotsava (pronounced [dʊrɡoːtsəʋə]), is an annual Hindu festival originating in the Indian subcontinent which reveres and pays homage to the Hindu goddess, Durga.[2][3] It is particularly popular and traditionally celebrated in the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Tripura and the country of Bangladesh, and the diaspora from this region, and also in Mithilanchal regions of Bihar and Nepal. The festival is observed in the Indian calendar month of Ashwin, which corresponds to the months of September–October in the Gregorian calendar,[4][5] and is a ten-day festival,[6][2] of which the last five are of significance.[7][5] The puja is performed in homes and in the public, the latter featuring temporary stage and structural decorations (known as pandals). The festival is also marked by scripture recitations, performance arts, revelry, gift giving, family visits, feasting, and public processions. [2][8][9] Durga puja is an important festival in the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism.[10][11][12][/b][/size]

As per Hindu scriptures, the festival marks the victory of goddess Durga in her battle against the shape-shifting asura, Mahishasura.[13][14][A]

Asuras (Sanskrit: असुर) are a class of beings in Indian religions. They are described as power-seeking clans related to the more benevolent Devas (also known as Suras) in Hinduism. In its Buddhist context, the word is sometimes translated "titan, "demigod", or "antigod".

According to Hindu scriptures, the asuras battle constantly with the devas. Asuras are described in Indian texts as powerful superhuman demigods with good or bad qualities.
In early Vedic literature, the good Asuras are called Adityas and are led by Varuna, while the malevolent ones are called Danavas and are led by Vritra.[2](p 4) In the earliest layer of Vedic texts Agni, Indra and other gods are also called Asuras, in the sense of their being "lords" of their respective domains, knowledge and abilities. In later Vedic and post-Vedic texts, the benevolent gods are called Devas, while malevolent Asuras compete against these Devas and are considered "enemy of the gods".[2](pp 5–11, 22, 99–102)

-- Asura, by Wikipedia

"The Goddess or The queen of the warring weapons." Lha-mo (or pal-ldan-Lha-mo); Skt., Devi (or Sri-Devi). And also, in Tibetan, dMagzor rgyal-mo.

This great she-devil, like her prototype the goddess Durga of Brahmanism, is, perhaps, the most malignant and powerful of all the demons, and the most dreaded. She is credited with letting loose the demons of disease, and her name is scarcely ever mentioned, and only then with bated breath, and under the title of "The great queen" — Maha-rani.

She is figured, as at page 334, surrounded by flames, and riding on a white-faced mule, upon a saddle of her own son's skin flayed by herself. She is clad in human skins and is eating human brains and blood from a skull; and she wields in her right hand a trident-rod. She has several attendant "queens" riding upon different animals.

She is publicly worshipped for seven days by the Lamas of all sects, especially at the end of the twelfth month, in connection with the prevention of disease for the incoming year. And in the cake offered to her are added amongst other ingredients the fat of a black goat, blood, wine, dough and butter, and these are placed in a bowl made from a human skull.

-- 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.

Thus, the festival epitomises the victory of good over evil [???!!!], though it is also in part a harvest festival celebrating the goddess as the motherly power behind all of life and creation.[16][17] Durga puja coincides with Navaratri and Dussehra celebrations observed by other traditions of Hinduism,[18] in which the Ram lila dance-drama is enacted, celebrating the victory of Rama against Ravana, and effigies of Ravana are burnt.[19][20]

The primary goddess revered during Durga puja is Durga but celebrations also include other major deities of Hinduism such as Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity), Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge and music), Ganesha (the god of good beginnings), and Kartikeya (the god of war). In Bengali and Odia traditions, these deities are considered to be Durga's children and Durga puja is believed to commemorate Durga's visit to her natal home with her beloved and nice children. The festival is preceded by Mahalaya, which is believed to mark the start of Durga's journey to her natal home. Primary celebrations begin on the sixth day (Shasthi), on which the goddess is welcomed with rituals. The festival ends on the tenth day (Vijaya dashami), when devotees embark on a procession carrying the worshipped clay sculpture-idols to a river, or other water body, and immerse them, symbolic of her return to the divine cosmos and her marital home with Shiva in Kailash. Regional and community variations in celebration of the festival and rituals observed exist.

Durga puja is an old tradition of Hinduism,[21] though its exact origins are unclear. Surviving manuscripts from the 14th—century provide guidelines for Durga puja, while historical records suggest that the royalty and wealthy families were sponsoring major Durga puja festivities since at least the 16th-century.[22][10] The prominence of Durga puja increased during the British Raj in the provinces of Bengal, Odisha and Assam.[23][3] In today's time, the importance of Durga puja is as much as a social and cultural festival as a religious one, wherever it is observed.

Over the years, Durga puja has become an inseparable part of Indian culture with innumerable people celebrating this festival in their own unique way while pertaining to tradition.[3]


In West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, and Tripura, Durga puja is also called Akalbodhan (literally, "untimely awakening of Durga"), Sharadiya pujo ("autumnal worship"), Sharodotsab ("festival of autumn"), Maha pujo ("grand puja"), Maayer pujo ("worship of the Mother"), Durga pujo,[24] or merely Puja or Pujo. In Bangladesh, Durga puja has historically been celebrated as Bhagabati puja.

Durga puja is also referred to by the names of related Shakta Hindu festivals such as Navaratri, celebrated on the same days elsewhere in India;[3] such as in Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala, and Maharashtra,[ b] Kullu dussehra, celebrated in Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh;[C] Mysore dussehra celebrated in Mysore, Karnataka;[D] Bommai golu, celebrated in Tamil Nadu; Bommala koluvu, celebrated in Andhra Pradesh;[E] and Bathukamma, celebrated in Telangana.

History and origins

Further information: Durga and Akaal bodhan

Durga is an ancient deity of Hinduism according to available archeological and textual evidence. However, the origins of Durga puja are unclear and undocumented. Surviving manuscripts from the 14th-century provide guidelines for Durga puja, while historical records suggest the royalty and wealthy families to be sponsoring major Durga Puja public festivities, since at least the 16th-century.[10] The 11th or 12th-century Jain text Yasatilaka by Somadeva mentions an annual festival dedicated to a warrior goddess, celebrated by the king and his armed forces, and the description mirrors attributes of Durga puja.[4][25]

The Dadhimati Mata Temple of Rajasthan preserves a Durga-related inscription from chapter 10 of Devi Mahatmya. The temple inscription has been dated by modern methods to 608 CE.[26][27]

The name Durga, and related terms, appear in Vedic literature, such as in the Rigveda hymns 4.28, 5.34, 8.27, 8.47, 8.93 and 10.127,

Rigveda 4.28

HYMN XXVIII. Indra-Soma.
1. ALLIED with thee, in this thy friendship, Soma, Indra for man made waters flow together,
Slew Ahi, and sent forth the Seven Rivers, and opened as it were obstructed fountains.
2 Indu, with thee for his confederate, Indra swiftly with might pressed down the wheel of Sūrya.
What rolled, all life's support, on heaven's high summit was separated from the great oppressor.
3 Indra smote down, Agni consumed, O Indu, the Dasyus ere the noontide in the conflict.
Of those who gladly sought a hard-won dwelling he cast down many a thousand with his arrow.
4 Lower than all besides hast thou, O Indra, cast down the Dasyus, abject tribes of Dāsas.
Ye drave away, ye put to death the foemen, and took great vengeance with your murdering weapons.
5 So, of a truth, Indra and Soma, Heroes, ye burst the stable of the kine and horses,
The stable which the bar or stone obstructed; and piercing through set free the habitations.

Rigveda 5.34

1. BOUNDLESS and wasting not, the heavenly food of Gods goes to the foeless One, doer of wondrous deeds.
Press out, make ready, offer gifts with special zeal to him whom many laud, accepter of the prayer.
2 He who filled full his belly with the Soma's juice, Maghavan, was delighted with the meath's sweet draught,
When Uśanā, that he might slay the monstrous beast, gave him the mighty weapon with a thousand points.
3 Illustrious is the man whoever presseth out Soma for him in sunshine or in cloud and rain.
The mighty Maghavan who is the sage's Friend advanceth more and more his beauteous progeny.
4 The Strong God doth not flee away from him whose sire, whose mother or whose brother he hath done to death.
He, the Avenger, seeketh this man's offered gifts: this God, the source of riches, doth not flee from sin.
5 He seeks no enterprise with five or ten to aid, nor stays with him who pours no juice though prospering well.
The Shaker conquers or slays in this way or that, and to the pious gives a stable full of kine.
6 Exceeding strong in war he stays the chariot wheel, and, hating him who pours not, prospers him who pours.
Indra the terrible, tamer of every man, as Ārya leads away the Dāsa at his will.
7 He gathers up for plunder all the niggard’s gear: excellent wealth he gives to him who offers gifts.
Not even in wide stronghold may all the folk stand firm who have provoked to anger his surpassing might.
8 When Indra Maghavan hath marked two wealthy men fighting for beauteous cows with all their followers,
He who stirs all things takes one as his close ally, and, Shaker, with his Heroes, sends the kine to him.
9 Agni! I laud the liberal Agnivesi, Satri the type and standard of the pious.
May the collected waters yield him plenty, and his be powerful and bright dominion.

Rigveda 8.27

HYMN XXVII. Viśvedevas.
1. CHEIF Priest is Agni at the laud, as stones and grass at sacrifice:
With song I seek the Maruts, Brahmaṇaspati, Gods for help much to be desired.
2 I sing to cattle and to Earth, to trees, to Dawns, to Night, to plants.
O all ye Vasus, ye possessors of all wealth, be ye the furtherers of our thoughts.
3 Forth go, with Agni, to the Gods our sacrifice of ancient use,
To the Ādityas, Varuṇa whose Law stands fast, and the all-lightening Marut troop.
4 Lords of all wealth, may they be strengtheners of man, destroyers of his enemies.
Lords of all wealth, do ye, with guards which none may harm, preserve our dwelling free from foes.
5 Come to us with one mind to-day, come to us all with one accord,
Maruts with holy song, and, Goddess Aditi, Mighty One, to our house and home.
6 Send us delightful things, ye Maruts, on your steeds: come ye, O Mitra, to our gifts.
Let Indra, Varuṇa, and the Ādityas sit, swift Heroes, on our sacred grass.
7 We who have trimmed the grass for you, and set the banquet in array,
And pressed the Soma, call you, Varuina, like men, with sacrificial fires aflame.
8 O Maruts, Visinu, Aśvins, Pūṣan, haste away with minds turned hitherward to Me.
Let the Strong Indra, famed as Vṛtra's slayer, come first with the winners of the spoil.
9 Ye Guileless Gods, bestow on us a refuge strong on every side,
A sure protection, Vasus, unassailable from near at hand or from afar.
10 Kinship have I with you, and close alliance O ye Gods, destroyers of our foes.
Call us to our prosperity of former days, and soon to new klicity.
11 For now have I sent forth to you, that I may win a fair reward,
Lords of all wealth, with homage, this my song of praise. like a milch-cow that faileth not.
12 Excellent Savitar hath mounted up on high for you, ye sure and careful Guides.
Bipeds and quadrupeds, with several hopes and aims, and birds have settled to their tasks.
13 Singing their praise with God-like thought let us invoke each God for grace,
Each God to bring you help, each God to strengthen you.
14 For of one spirit are the Gods with mortal man, co-sharers all of gracious gifts.
May they increase our strength hereafter and to-day, providing case and ample room.
15 I laud you, O ye Guileless Gods, here where we meet to render praise.
None, Varuṇa and Mitra, harins the mortal, man who honours and obeys your laws.
16 He makes his house endure, he gathers plenteous food who pays obedience to your will.
Born in his sons anew he spreads as Law commands, and prospers every way unharmed.
17 E’en without war he gathers wealth, and goes hisway on pleasant paths,
Whom Mitra, Varuṇa and Aryaman protect, sharing the gift,of one accord.
18 E’en on the plain for him ye make a sloping path, an easy way where road is none:
And far away from him the ineffectual shaft must vanish, shot at him in vain.
19 If ye appoint the rite to-day, kind Rulers, when the Sun ascends,
Lords of all wealth, at sunset or at wakingtime, or be it at the noon of day,
20 Or, Asuras, when ye have sheltered the worshipper who goes to sacrifice, at eve
may we, O Vasus, ye possessors of all wealth, come then into the midst of You.
21 If ye to-day at sunrise, or at noon, or in the gloom of eve,
Lords of all riches, give fair treasure to the man, the wise man who hath sacrificed,
22 Then we, imperial Rulers, claim of you this boon, your wide protection, as a son.
May we, Ādityas, offering holy gifts, obtain that which shall bring us greater bliss.

Rigveda 8.47

HYMN XLVII. Ādityas.
1. GREAT help ye give the worshipper, Varuṇa, Mitra, Mighty Ones! No sorrow ever reaches him whom ye, Ādityas, keep from harm. Yours are incomparable aids, and good the succour they afford.
2 O Gods, Ādityas, well ye know the way to keep all woes afar.
As the birds spread their sheltering wings, spread your protection over us.
3 As the birds spread their sheltering wings let your protection cover us.
We mean all shelter and defence, ye who have all things for your own.
4 To whomsoever they, Most Wise, have given a home and means of life,
O'er the whole riches of this man they, the Ādityas, have control.
5 As drivers of the car avoid ill roads, let sorrows pass us by.
May we be under Indra's guard, in the Ādityas’ favouring grace.
6 For verily men sink and faint through loss of wealth which ye have given.
Much hath he gained from you, O Gods, whom ye, Ādityas, have approached.
7 On him shall no fierce anger fall, no sore distress shall visit him,
To whom, Ādityas, ye have lent your shelter that extendeth far.
8 Resting in you, O Gods, we are like men who fight in coats of mail.
Ye guard us from each great offence, ye guard us from each lighter fault.
9 May Aditi defend us, may Aditi guard and shelter us,
Mother of wealthy Mitra and of Aryaman and Varuṇa.
10 The shelter, Gods, that is secure, auspicious, free from malady,
A sure protection, triply strong, even that do ye extend to us.
11 Look down on us, Ādityas, as a guide exploring from the bank.
Lead us to pleasant ways as men lead horses to an easy ford.
12 Ill be it for the demons' friend to find us or come near to us.
But for the milch-cow be it well, and for the man who strives for fame.
13 Each evil deed made manifest, and that which is concealed, O Gods,
The whole thereof remove from us to Trita Āptya far away.
14 Daughter of Heaven, the dream that bodes evil to us or to our kine,
Remove, O Lady of the Light, to Trita Āptya far away.
15 Even if, O Child of Heaven, it make a garland or a chain of gold,
The whole bad dream, whate’er it be, to Trita Āptya we consign.
16 To him whose food and work is this, who comes to take his share therein,
To Trita, and to Dvita, Dawn! bear thou the evil dream away.
17 As we collect the utmost debt, even the eighth and sixteenth part,
So unto Āptya we transfer together all the evil dream.
18 Now have we conquered and obtained, and from our trespasses are free.
Shine thou away the evil dream, O Dawn, whereof we are afraid. Yours are incomparable aids, and good the succour they afford.

Rigveda 8.93

Doesn’t exist.

Rigveda 10.127

1. WITH all her eyes the Goddess Night looks forth approaching many a spot:
She hath put all her glories on.
2 Immortal. she hath filled the waste, the Goddess hath filled height and depth:
She conquers darkness with her light.
3 The Goddess as she comes hath set the Dawn her Sister in her place:
And then the darkness vanishes.
4 So favour us this night, O thou whose pathways we have visited
As birds their nest upon the tree.
5 The villagers have sought their homes, and all that walks and all that flies,
Even the falcons fain for prey.
6 Keep off the she-wolf and the wolf, O Urmya, keep the thief away;
Easy be thou for us to pass.
7 Clearly hath she come nigh to me who decks the dark with richest hues:
O Morning, cancel it like debts.
8 These have I brought to thee like kine. O Night, thou Child of Heaven, accept
This laud as for a conqueror.

-- The Rig Veda, translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith

0 references to "Durga" --

2 references to "Durgaha":

7 All beings know these deeds of thine thou tellest this unto Varuṇa, thou great Disposer!
Thou art renowned as having slain the Vṛtras. Thou madest flow the floods that were obstructed.
8 Our fathers then were these, the Seven his, what time the son of Durgaha was captive.
For her they gained by sacrifice Trasadasyu, a demi-god, like Indra, conquering foemen.

11 Beside a thousand spotted kine I have received a gift of gold,
Pure, brilliant, and exceeding great.
12 Durgaha's grandsons, giving me a thousand kine, munificent,
Have won renown among the Gods.

-- The Rig Veda, translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith

and in sections 10.1 and 12.4 of the Atharvaveda[28][29][F]

Atharvaveda 10.1

A charm against witchcraft
1 Afar let her depart: away we drive her whom, made with hands, all-beautiful,
Skilled men prepare and fashion like a bride amid her nuptial train.
2 Complete, with head and nose and ears, all-beauteous, wrought with magic skill
Afar let her depart: away we drive her.
3 Made by a Sidra or a Prince, by priests or women let her go.
Back to her maker as her kin, like a dame banished by her lord.
4 I with this salutary herb have ruined all their magic arts,
The spell which they have cast upon thy field, thy cattle, or thy men.
All fall on him who doeth ill, on him who curseth fall the curse!
We drive her back that she may slay the man who wrought the witchery.
6 Against her comes the Angirasa, the Priest whose eye is over us.
Turn back all witcheries and slay those practisers of magic arts.
7 Whoever said to thee, Go forth against the foeman up the stream,
To him, O Krityā, go thou back. Pursue not us, the sinless ones.
8 He who composed thy limbs with thought as a deft joiner builds a car,
Go to him: thither lies thy way. This man is all unknown to thee.
9 The cunning men, the sorcerers who fashioned thee and held thee fast,--
This cures and mars their witchery, this, repellent, drives it back the way it came.
With this we make thee swim.
10 When we have found her ducked and drenched, a hapless cow whose calf hath died,
Let all my woe depart and let abundant riches come to me.
11 If, as they gave thy parents aught, they named thee, or at sacrifice,
From all their purposed evil let these healing herbs deliver thee.
12 From mention of thy name, from sin against the Fathers or the Gods,
These herbs of healing shall by prayer release thee, by power, by holy texts, the milk of Rishis.
13 As the wind stirs the dust from earth and drives the rain cloud from the sky,
So, chased and banished by the spell, all misery departs from me.
14 Go with a resonant cry, depart, like a she-ass whose cords are loosed.
Go to thy makers: hence! away! Go driven by the potent spell.
15 This, Krityā, is thy path, we say, and guide thee. We drive thee back who hast been sent against us.
Go by this pathway, breaking loose for onslaught even as a host complete with cars and horses.
16 No path leads hitherward for thee to travel. Turn thee from us: far off, thy light is yonder.
Fly hence across the ninety floods, the rivers most hard to pass. Begone, and be not wounded.
17 As wind the trees, so smite and overthrow them: leave not cow, horse, or man of them surviving
Return, O Krityā, unto those who made thee. Wake them from sleep to find that they are childless.
18 The charm or secret power which they have buried for thee in sacred grass, field, cemetery,
Or spell in household fire which men more cunning have wrought against thee innocent and simple,—
19 That tool of hatred, understood, made ready, stealthy and buried deep, have we discovered,
Let that go back to whence it came, turn thither like a horse and kill the children of the sorcerer.
20 Within our house are swords of goodly iron. Krityā, we know thy joints and all their places.
Arise this instant and begone! What, stranger! art thou seeking here?
21 O Krityā, I will cut thy throat and hew thy feet off. Run, begone!
Indra and Agni, Guardian Lords of living creatures, shield us well!
22 May Soma, gracious friend, imperial Sovran, and the world's Masters look on us with favour.
23 Bhava and Sarva cast the flash of lightning, the weapon of the Gods, against the sinner who made the evil thing, who deals in witchcraft!
24 If thou hast come two-footed or four-footed, made by the sorcerer, wrought in perfect beauty,
Become eight-footed and go hence. Speed back again, thou evil one.
25 Anointed, balmed, and well adorned, bearing all trouble with thee, go.
Even as a daughter knows her sire, so know thy marker, Krityā, thou.
26 Krityā, begone, stay not. Pursue as 'twere the wounded creature's track.
He is the chase, the hunter thou he may not slight or humble thee.
27 He waits, and aiming with his shaft smites him who first would shoot at him,
And, when the foeman deals a blow before him, following strikes him down.
28 Hearken to this my word; then go thither away whence thou hast come; to him who made thee go thou back.
29 The slaughter of an innocent, O Krityā, is an awful deed. Slay not cow, horse, or man of ours.
In whatsoever place thou art concealed we rouse thee up therefrom: become thou lighter than a leaf.
30 If ye be girt about with clouds of darkness, bound as with a net.
We rend and tear all witcheries hence and to their maker send them back.
31 The brood of wizard, sorcerer, the purposer of evil deed.
Crush thou, O Krityā spare not, kill those practisers of magic arts.
32 As Sūrya frees himself from depth of darkness, and casts away the night and rays of morning,
So I repel each baleful charm which an enchanter hath prepared;
And, as an elephant shakes off the dust, I cast the plague aside.

Atharvaveda 12.4

On the duty of giving cows to Brāhmans, and the sin and danger of withholding the gift
1 Give the gift, shall be his word: and straightway they have bound the Cow
For Brāhman priests who beg the boon. That bringeth sons and progeny.
2 He trades and traffics with his sons, and in his cattle suffers loss.
Who will not give the Cow of Gods to Rishis children when they beg.
3 They perish through a hornless cow, a lame cow sinks them in a pit.
Through a maimed cow his house is burnt: a one-eyed cow destroys his wealth.
4 Fierce fever where her droppings fall attacks the master of the kine.
So have they named her Vasa, for thou art called uncontrollable.
5 The malady Viklindu springs on him from ground whereon she stands,
And suddenly, from fell disease, perish the men on whom she sniffs.
6 Whoever twitches up her ears is separated from the Gods.
He deems he makes a mark, but he diminishes his wealth thereby.
7 If to his own advantage one applies the long hair of her tail,
His colts, in consequence thereof die, and the wolf destroys his calves.
8 If, while her master owneth her, a carrion crow hath harmed her hair,
His young boys die thereof, Decline o'ertakes them after fell disease.
9 What time the Dāsi woman throws lye on the droppings of theCow,
Misshapen birth arises thence, inseparable from that sin.
10 For Gods and Brāhmans is the Cow produced when first she springs to life,
Hence to the priests must she be given: this they call guarding private wealth.
11 The God-created Cow belongs to those who come to ask for her.
They call it outrage on the priests when one retains her as his own.
12 He who withholds the Cow of Gods from Rishis' sons who ask the gift
Is made an alien to the Gods, and subject to the Brāhmans' wrath:
13 Then let him seek another Cow, whate'er his profit be in this.
The Cow, not given, harms a man when he denies her at their prayer.
14 Like a rich treasure stored away in safety is the Brāhmans' Cow.
Therefore men come to visit her, with whomsoever she is born.
15 So when the Brāhmans come unto the Cow they come unto their own.
For this is her withholding, to oppress these in another life.
16 Thus after three years may she go, speaking what is not understood.
He, Nārads! would know the Cow, then Brāhmans must be sought unto.
17 Whoso calls her a worthless Cow, the stored-up treasure of the Gods,
Bhava and Sarva, both of them, move round and shoot a shaft at him.
18 The man who hath no knowledge of her udder and the teats thereof,
She yields him milk with these, if he hath purposed to bestow the Cow.
19 If he withholds the Cow they beg, she lies rebellious in his stall.
Vain are the wishes and the hopes which he, withholding her, would gain.
20 The Deities have begged the Cow, using the Brāhman as their mouth:
The man who gives her not incurs the enmity of all the Gods.
21 Withholding her from Brāhmans, he incurs the anger of the beasts,
When mortal man appropriates the destined portion of the Gods.
22 If hundred other Brāhmans beg the Cow of him who owneth her,
The Gods have said, She, verily, belongs to him who knows the truth.
23 Whoso to others, not to him who hath this knowledge, gives the Cow,
Earth, with the Deities, is hard for him to win and rest upon.
24 The Deities begged the Cow from him with whom at first she was produced:
Her, this one, Nārada would know: with Deities he drove her forth.
25 The Cow deprives of progeny and makes him poor in cattle who
Retains in his possession her whom Brāhmans have solicited.
26 For Agni and for Soma, for Kāma, Mitra and Varuna,
For these the Brāhmans ask: from these is he who giveth not estranged.
27 Long as her owner hath not heard, himself, the verses, let her move
Among his kine: when he hath heard, let her not make her home with him;
28 He who hath heard her verses and still makes her roam among his kine.
The Gods in anger rend away his life and his prosperity
29 Roaming in many a place the Cow is the stored treasure of the Gods,
Make manifest thy shape and form when she would seek her dwelling-place.
30 Her shape and form she manifests when she would seek her dwelling-place;
Then verily the Cow attends to Brāhman priests and their request.
31 This thought he settles in his mind. This safely goeth to the Gods.
Then verily the Brāhman priests approach that they may beg the Cow
32 By Svadhā to the Fathers, by sacrifice to the Deities,
By giving them the Cow, the Prince doth not incur the mother's wrath.
33 The Prince's mother is the Cow: so was it ordered from of old.
She, when bestowed upon the priests, cannot be given back, they say.
34 As molten butter, held at length, drops down to Agni from the scoop,
So falls away from Agni he who gives no Cow to Brāhman priests.
35 Good milker, with rice-cake as calf, she in the world comes nigh to him,
To him who gave her as a gift the Cow grants every hope and wish.
36 In Yama's realm the Cow fulfils each wish for him who gave her up;
But hell, they say, is for the man who, when they beg, bestow her not.
37 Enraged against her owner roams the Cow when she hath been impregned.
He deemed me fruitless is her thought; let him be bound in, snares of Death!
38 Whoever looking on the Cow as fruitless, cooks her flesh at home,
Brihaspati compels his sons and children of his sons to beg.
39 Downward she sends a mighty heat, though amid kine a Cow she roams.
Poison she yields for him who owns and hath not given her away.
40 The animal is happy when it is bestowed upon the priests:
But happy is the Cow when she is made a sacrifice to Gods.
41 Nārada chose the terrible Vilipti out of all the cows Which the
Gods formed and framed when they had risen up from sacrifice
42 The Gods considered her in doubt whether she were a Cow or not.
Mirada spake of her and said, The veriest Cow of cows is she.
43 How many cows, O Nārada, knowest thou, born among mankind
I ask thee who dost know, of which must none who is no Brāhman eat?
44 Vilipti, cow, and she who drops no second calf, Brihaspati!
Of these none not a Brāhmana should eat if he hope for eminence.
45 Homage, O Nārada, to thee who hast quick knowledge of the cows.
Which of these is the direst, whose withholding bringeth death to man?
46 Vilipti, O Brihaspati, cow, mother of no second calf—Of these
none not a Brāhman should eat if he hope for eminence.
47 Threefold are kine, Vilipti, cow, the mother of no second calf:
These one should give to priests, and he will not offend Prajāpati.
48 This Brāhmans! is your sacrifice: thus should one think when he is asked,
What time they beg from him the Cow fearful in the withholder's house.
49 He gave her not to us, so spake the Gods, in anger, of the Cow.
With these same verses they addressed Bheda: this brought him to his death.
50 Solicited by Indra, still Bheda refused to give this Cow.
In strife for victory the Gods destroyed him for that sin of his.
51 The men of evil counsel who advise refusal of the Cow,
Miscreants, through their foolishness, are subjected to Indra's wrath.
52 They who seduce the owner of the Cow and say, Bestow her not.
Encounter through their want of sense the missile shot by Rudra's hand.
53 If in his home one cooks the Cow, sacrificed or not sacrificed.
Wronger of Gods and Brāhmans' he departs, dishonest, from the world.

-- The Hymns of the Atharvaveda, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith (1895-6)

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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

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Part 2 of 3

A deity named Durgi appears in section 10.1.7 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka.[28] While the Vedic literature uses the word Durga, the description therein lacks legendary details about her or about Durga puja that is found in later Hindu literature.[31]A key text associated with Durga puja is Devi Mahatmya, which is recited during the festival...

The Devi Mahatmya or Devi Mahatmyam (Sanskrit: devīmāhātmyam, देवीमाहात्म्यम्), or "Glory of the Goddess") is a Hindu religious text describing the Goddess as the supreme power and creator of the universe. It is part of the Markandeya Purana...

It is difficult to ascertain when, where, why and by whom these were written...

The oldest surviving manuscript of the Devi Māhātmya (part of Markandeya Purana), on palm-leaf, in an early Bhujimol script, Bihar or Nepal, 11th century...

The three early printed editions of this text vary from one another. The Calcutta edition ends abruptly in chapter 136, leaving the narrative of Dama halfway. The Bombay and Poona editions have complete narrative of Dama, which ends in chapter 137.

The text has been translated into English by many, including those by C.C. Mukherjee (1893) and F. E. Pargiter. However, states Coburn, Pargiter's focus was reconstruction of India's political history, not other contents of the Purana. Pargiter's work and conclusions have been widely disputed, after he published his translation in 1904.

A good translation of the Devi Mahatmya text within the Markandeya Purana, states Gregory Bailey, was published in 1991 by Thomas Coburn.

-- Markandeya Purana, by Wikipedia

The Devi Mahatmyam describes a storied battle between good and evil, where the Devi manifesting as goddess Durga leads the forces of good against the demon Mahishasura—the goddess is very angry and ruthless, and the forces of good win. In peaceful prosperous times, states the text, the Devi manifests as Lakshmi, empowering creation and happiness. The verses of this story also outline a philosophical foundation wherein the ultimate reality (Brahman in Hinduism) is female. The text is one of the earliest extant complete manuscripts from the Hindu traditions which describes reverence and worship of the feminine aspect of God.

-- Devi Mahatmya, by Wikipedia

Durga was likely well established by the time this Hindu text was composed, which scholars variously estimate Durgato date between 400 and 600 CE.[32][33][34] The Devi Mahatmya scripture describes the nature of evil forces symbolised by Mahishasura as shape-shifting, deceptive, and adapting in nature, in form and in strategy to create difficulties and thus achieve their evil ends. Durga calmly understands and counters the evil in order to achieve her solemn goals.[13][14][G]Durga, in her various forms, appears as an independent deity in the Indian texts.[35] Both Yudhisthira and Arjuna characters of the Mahabharata invoke hymns to Durga.[36] She appears in Harivamsa in the form of Vishnu's eulogy, and in Pradyumna's prayer. The prominent mention of Durga in such epics may have led to her worship.[37][4][38]

A display of sculpture-idols depicting Rama and Narada praying to Durga

The Indian texts with mentions of Durga puja are inconsistent. A legend found in some versions of the Puranas mention it to be a spring festival, while the Devi-Bhagavata Purana and two other Shakta Puranas mention it to be an autumn festival. The Ramayana manuscripts are also inconsistent. Versions of Ramayana found in north, west, and south of the Indian subcontinent describe Rama to be remembering Surya (the Hindu sun god) before his battle against Ravana, but the Bengali manuscripts of Ramayana, such as the 15th-century manuscript by Krttivasa, mention Rama to be worshipping Durga.[39] According to some scholars, the worship of the fierce warrior goddess Durga, and her darker and more violent manifestation Kali, became popular in the Bengal region during and after the medieval era, marked by Muslim invasions and conquests.[40]

The significance of Durga and other goddesses in Hindu culture is stated to have increased after Islamicate armies conquered regions of the Indian subcontinent.

According to yet other scholars, the marginalisation of Bengali Hindus during the medieval era led to a reassertion of Hindu identity and an emphasis on Durga puja as a social festival, publicly celebrating the warrior goddess.[42]From the medieval era up to present-day, Durga puja has been celebrated as a socio-cultural event, while maintaining the roots of religious worship.[43]

Rituals and practices

Structure of a Durga sculpture-idol being made at Kumortuli;

Lady carrying offerings for the puja;

Sandhi puja on the day of Ashtami;

Immersion of the sculpture-idol on Vijaya Dashami.

Durga puja is a ten-day event, of which the last five days involve certain rituals and practices. The festival begins with Mahalaya, a day on which Hindus perform tarpaṇa by offering water and food to their dead ancestors. The day also marks the advent of Durga from her mythological marital home in Kailash.[3][5] The next significant day of the festival is the sixth day (Sashthi), on which devotees welcomes the goddess and festive celebrations are inaugurated. On the seventh day (Saptami), eighth (Ashtami) and ninth (Navami) days, the goddess along with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, and Kartikeya are revered and these days mark the main days of worship with recitation of scriptures, puja, legends of Durga in Devi Mahatmya, social visits to elaborately decorated and illuminated pandals (temporary structures meant for hosting the puja), among others.[44][45][46]

Durga Puja as a harvest festival

Om you are rice [wheat...],Om you are life, you are the life of the gods, you are our life, your are our internal life, you are long life, you give life, Om the Sun with his rays (....)

— Hymn to start the Durga Puja, Translator: David Kinsley[16]

Durga puja is, in part, a post-monsoon harvest festival observed on the same days in the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism as those in its other traditions.[47][48] The practice of including a bundle of nine different plants, called navapatrika, as a symbolism of Durga, is a testament practice to its agricultural importance.[16] The typically selected plants include not only representative important crops, but also non-crops. This probably signifies the Hindu belief that the goddess is "not merely the power inherent in the growth of crops but the power inherent in all vegetation".[16]The festival is a social and public event in eastern and northeastern states of India, where it dominates religious and socio-cultural life, with temporary pandals built at community squares, roadside shrines, and temples. The festival is also observed by some Shakta Hindus as a private home-based festival.[49]The festival is started at twilight with prayers to Saraswati.[50] She is believed to be another aspect of goddess Durga, and who is the external and internal activity of all existence, in everything and everywhere. This is typically also the day on which the eyes of the deities on the representative clay sculpture-idols are painted, bringing them to a lifelike appearance.[50][51] The day also marks prayers to Ganesha and visit to pandals temples.[52]Day two to five mark the remembrance of the goddess and her manifestations, such as Kumari (goddess of fertility), Mai (mother), Ajima (grandmother), Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) and in some regions as the Saptamatrikas (seven mothers) or Navadurga (nine aspects of Durga).[53][9][54] On the sixth day major festivities and social celebrations start. [3][5] The first nine days overlap with Navaratri festivities in other traditions of Hinduism.[55][20]The puja rituals involve mantras (words manifesting spiritual transformation), shlokas (holy verses), chants and arati, and offerings. These also include Vedic chants and recitations of the Devi Mahatmya text in Sanskrit.[46] The shlokas and mantras praise the divinity of the goddess; according to the shlokas Durga is omnipresent as the embodiment of power, nourishment, memory, forbearance, faith, forgiveness, intellect, wealth, emotions, desires, beauty, satisfaction, righteousness, fulfillment and peace.[56][H] The specific practices vary by region.[60]

The rituals before the puja begins include the following:[61]

• Bodhana: Involves rites to awaken and welcome the goddess to be a guest, typically done on the sixth day of the festival.[62]
• Adhivasa: Anointing ritual wherein symbolic offerings are made to Durga, with each item representing a remembrance of subtle forms of her. Typically completed on the sixth day as well.[63]
• Navapatrika snan: Bathing of the navapatrika with holy water done on the seventh day of the festival.[64]
Sandhi puja and Ashtami pushpanjali: The eighth day begins with elaborate pushpanjali rituals. The cusp of the ending of the eighth day and beginning of the ninth day is considered to be the moment when per scriptures Durga engaged in a fierce battle against Mahishasura and was attacked by the demons Chanda and Munda. Goddess Chamunda emerged from the third eye of Durga and killed Chanda and Munda at the cusp of Ashtami and Navami, the eighth and ninth days respectively. This moment is marked by the sandhi puja, involving the offering of 108 lotuses and lighting if 108 lamps. It is a forty-eight minutes long ritual commemorating the climax of battle. The rituals are performed in the last 24 minutes of Ashtami and the first 24 minutes of Navami. In some regions, devotees sacrifice an animal such as a buffalo or goat, but in many regions, there isn't an actual animal sacrifice and a symbolic sacrifice substitutes it. The surrogate effigy is smeared in red vermilion to symbolize the blood spilled.[65] The goddess is then offered food (bhog). Some places also engage in devotional service.[66]
• Homa and bhog: The ninth day of festival is marked with the homa (fire oblation) rituals and bhog. Some places also perform kumari puja on this day.[67]
• Sindoor khela and immersion: The tenth and last day, called Vijaya dashami is marked by sindoor khela, where women smear sindoor or vermillion on the sculpture-idols and also smear each other with it. This ritual signifies the wishing of a blissful marital life for married women. Historically the ritual has been restricted to married women. The tenth day is the day when Durga emerged victorious against Mahishasura and it ends with a procession where the clay sculpture-idols are ceremoniously taken to a river or coast for immersion rites.[68][69] Following the immersion, Durga is believed to return to her mythological marital home of Kailasha to Shiva and the cosmos in general. People distribute sweets and gifts, visit their friends and family members on the tenth day.[70] Some communities such as those near Varanasi mark the day after Vijaya dashami, called Ekadashi, by visiting a Durga temple.[71]
• Dhunuchi naach and dhuno pora: Dhunuchi naach involves a dance ritual performed with dhunuchi (incense burner). Drummers called dhakis, carrying large leather-strung dhaks create music, to which people dance either during or not during aarati. Some places, especially home pujas, also observe dhuno pora, a ritual involving married women carrying dhunuchis burning with incense and dried coconuts, on a cloth on their head and hands,

Dhaks, played during the pujo;

Dhunuchi naach on Navami;

Women taking part in sindoor khela on Vijaya Dashami.

Decorations, sculptures, and stages

A craftsperson sculpting the face of the sculpture-idol;

Durga puja pandal decorations in Kolkata;

Interior decorations of a pandal;

Street lights installed during the festivities.

The process of the creation of clay sculpture-idols (pratima or murti) for the puja, from the collection of clay to the ornamentation is a ceremonial process. Though the festival is observed post-monsoon harvest, the artisans begin making the sculpture-idols months before, during summer. The process begins with prayers to Ganesha and to the perceived divinity in materials such as bamboo frames in which the sculpture-idols are cast.[72]

Clay statue is being made

Clay, or alluvial soil, collected from different region form the base. This choice is a tradition wherein Durga, perceived as the creative energy and material, is believed to be present everywhere and everything in the universe.[72] In certain traditions in Kolkata, a custom is to include soil samples in the clay mixture for Durga from areas believed to be nishiddho pallis (forbidden territories; territories inhabited by the "social outcasts" such as brothels).[73]

The clay base is combined with straw, kneaded, and then molded into a cast made from hay and bamboo. This is layered to a fine final shape, cleaned, painted, and polished. A layer of a fiber called jute, mixed in with clay, is also attached to the top to prevent the statue from cracking in the months ahead. The heads of the statues are more complex, and are usually made separately.[72] The limbs of the statues are mostly shaped from bundles of straws.[72] Then, starting about August, the local artisans hand-paint the sculpture-idols which are later dressed in clothing, are decorated and bejewelled, and displayed at the puja altars.[72][74]

A man building statue in Rangpur, Bangladesh

The procedure for and proportions of the sculpture-idols are described in arts-related Sanskrit texts of Hinduism, such as the Vishvakarma Sashtra.[75]

Environmental impact

A Durga sculpture-idol in the river, post-immersion.

The sculpture-idols for the puja are traditionally made of biodegradable materials such as straw, clay, soil, and wood.[76] In today's times, brighter colored statues have increased in popularity and have diversified the use of non-biodegradable, cheaper or more colorful substitute synthetic raw materials. Environmental activists have raised concerns about the paint used to produce the statue, stating that the heavy metals in these paints pollute rivers when the statues are immersed at the end of the Durga festival.[76]

Brighter colors that are also biodegradable and eco-friendly, as well as the traditional natural colors, are typically more expensive compared to the non biodegradable paints.[77] The Indian state of West Bengal has banned the use of hazardous paints, and various state government have started distributing lead-free paints to artisans at no cost to prevent pollution.[78]

Animal sacrifice, symbolic sacrifice

Further information: Shaktism and Animal sacrifice in Hinduism

Sacrifice of a buffalo during Durga puja, in Assam.

Shakta Hindu communities mark the slaying of Mahishasura and the victory of Durga with a symbolic or actual sacrifice. Most communities prefer symbolic sacrifice, where a statue of the asura is made of flour or equivalent, is immolated and smeared with vermilion, symbolic of the blood that had spilled during the battle.[65][79] Other substitutes include a vegetable or a sweet dish considered equivalent to the animal.[80] In certain instances, devotees consider animal sacrifice distasteful, and practice alternate means of expressing devotion while respecting the views of others in their tradition.[81]

In communities performing actual sacrifice, an animal is sacrificed, mainly at temples.[82] In Nepal, West Bengal, Odisha and Assam, animal sacrifices are performed at Shakta temples to commemorate the legend of Durga slaying Mahishasura.[83] This involves slaying of a fowl, goat or a male water-buffalo.
This practice is rare among Hindus outside the regions of Bengal, Odisha and Assam.[84] In these regions, the festival season is primarily when significant animal sacrifices are observed.[84]

The Rajputs of Rajasthan worship their weapons and horses in the related festival of Navaratri, and some historically observed the sacrifice of a goat, a practice that continues in some places.[85][86] The sacrifice ritual, supervised by the priest, requires slaying of the animal with a single stroke. In the past this ritual was considered a rite of passage into manhood and readiness as a warrior.[87] The Kuldevi (clan deity) among these Rajput communities is a warrior goddess, with local legends tracing reverence for her during Rajput-Muslim wars.[88]

Pandals and theme-based pujas


Two theme-based pandals in Kolkata.

Months before the start of Durga Puja, youth members of the community collect funds and donations, engage priests and artisans, buy votive materials and help build pandals centred around a theme, which has rose to prominence in recent years. Such themes have included sex work,[89] celebration of humanity,[90] marginalisation of queer persons and transgender persons,[91] folk culture,[92] celebration of cinema,[93] womanhood,[92] pro-environment themes,[94] while others have chosen metaphorical themes such as celebration of maati (literally, soil or ash) and "finding one's own light".[95] Pandals have also been replicated on existing temples, structures, and monuments[96][97] and yet others have been made of elements such as metal scraps,[98] nails,[99] and turmeric[100] among others. Durga puja pandals have also been centred around themes to acknowledge political events such as the 2019 Balakot airstrike and to protest against the National Register of Citizens of India.[101][102]

Designs and sculpture-idols are made by commissioned artisans, which is also a team effort involving labourers, architects, and community representatives hosting it. The budget required for such theme-based pujas is significantly higher than traditional pujas. For such theme-based pujas, the preparations and the building of pandals are a significant arts-related economic activity, often attracting major sponsors.[103] Such commercialised pujas attract crowds of visitors. The growth of competitiveness in theme-based pandals has escalated costs and scale of Durga puja in eastern states of India. Some segments of the society criticise the billboards, the economic competition, and seek return to basics.[104] The competition takes many forms, such as the height of statue. In 2015, an 88-foot statue of Durga in Kolkata's Deshapriya Park attracted numerous devotees, with some estimates placing visitors at one million.[105][106]

Regional celebrations and observances

Durga puja at Bagbajar, Kolkata, example of a sarvajanin barowari puja.

There exists variation in worship practices and rituals associated with Durga puja, as is the case with other Hindu festivals, in the Indian subcontinent.[107] Hinduism accepts flexibility and leaves the set of practices to the choice of the individuals concerned. Different localised rituals may be observed regionally, with these variations accepted across temples, pandals, and within families.

[108] The festival is most commonly associated with Bengali Hindus, and with the community having variability and differences in practices. There may exist differences of practice between the puja of theme-based Pandals, family pujas (with puja of erstwhile aristocrat families known as bonedi puja), and community pujas (known as barowari pujas ) of neighbourhoods or apartments. [108]

The rituals of the puja also varies from being Vedic, Puranic, or Tantric, or a combination of these.[108] The Bengali Durga puja rituals typically combine all three. The non-Bengali Durga puja rituals tend to be essentially Vedic (srauta) in nature but they too incorporate esoteric elements making the puja an example of a culmination of Vedic-Tantric practices.[109]

Historical evidence suggests that the Durga puja has evolved over time, becoming more elaborate, social, and creative. The festival had earlier been a domestic puja, a form of practice that still remains popular. But it had also come to be celebrated in the sarvajanin (public) form, where communities get together, pool their resources and efforts to set up pandals and illuminations, and celebrate the event as a "mega-show to share".[110] The origins of this variation are unclear, with some sources suggesting a family in Kolkatta reviving such celebration in 1411 CE. While other set of sources suggest that a Bengali landlord, named Kamsanarayan, held a mega-show puja in late 16th-century Bengal.[110] Yet, this festival of Bengal is likely much older with the discovery of 11th and 12th-century Durga puja manual manuscripts such as Durgotsavaviveka, Durgotsava Prayoga, Vasantaviveka and Kalaviveka.[111] The rituals associated with the Durga puja migrated to other regions from Bengal, such as in Varanasi, a city that has historically attracted sponsorship from Hindus from various parts of the Indian subcontinent including Bengal.[112] In contemporary India, Durga puja is celebrated in various styles and forms.[113]

Durga puja festivities by dancers and musicians in Calcutta, circa 1830s-40s;

Patna style painting of Durga puja, circa 1809.

Durga puja is a widely celebrated festival in the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, and Odisha.[114] It is celebrated over a five-day period. Streets are decked up with festive lights, loudspeakers play festive songs as well as recitation of hymns and chants by priests, and pandals are erected by communities. The roads become overcrowded with revellers, devotees, and pandal-hoppers visiting the pandals on puja days. It often creates chaotic traffic conditions. Shops, eateries, and restaurants stay open all night; fairs are also set up and cultural programmes are held.[115] People form organizing committees, which plan and oversee the pandal during the festivities. Today, Durga Puja has turned into a consumerist social carnival, a major public spectacle and a major arts event riding on the wave of commercialisation, corporate sponsorship, and craze for award-winning. For private domestic pujas, families dedicate an area of their homes, known as thakur dalan, for Durga puja where the sculpture-idols for worship is placed and decorated with home-dyed fabric, sola ornamentations, and gold and silver foil decorations. Elaborate rituals like arati are performed and prasad is distributed after being offered to the deities. As a tradition, married daughters visit their parents and celebrate the Durga puja with them, a symbolism alluding to Durga who is popularly believed to return to her natal home during the puja.[116]

Durga puja at the Shobhabazar Rajbari, in Kolkata, example of a bonedi puja.

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.

-- Shobhabazar Rajbari, by Wikipedia

Durga Puja is also a gift-giving and shopping season for communities celebrating it, with people buying gifts for not only family members but also for close relatives and friends. New clothes are the traditional gift, and people wear them to go out together during Durga puja. During puja holidays, people may also go to places of tourist attractions while others return home to spend Durga puja with their family. [116] It's a common trend amongst youngsters and even those who are older to go pandal-hopping and enjoy the celebrations.[117]

The organising committees of each puja pandal hires a purohita (priest) who performs the puja rituals on behalf of the community.[118] For the priests, Durga puja is a time of activity wherein he pursues the timely completion of Vedic-Puranic-Tantric ritual sequences to make various offerings and perform fire oblations, in full public view, while the socio-cultural festivities occur in parallel.[119] The complex puja rituals include periods of accurate and melodic scripture recitation. The puja involves crowds of people visiting the pandals, with smaller groups visiting family pujas, to witness the celebrations.[120] On the last day, the sculpture-idols are carried out in immersion processions across Bengal, following which they are ritually immersed into rivers or other waterbodies. The immersion ceremony continues till a couple of days after the last day of puja. [121]

Immersion procession for Durga puja, with the sculpture-idols being carried by people on bamboo poles.

According to some scholars, the ritual of immersing the Durga sculpture-idol into the river attracted the attention of colonial era travelers to the Bengal region from Europe, such as Garcin de Tassy and Emma Roberts. In 1831, Tassy reported that similar rituals were annually observed by the Muslim community in Bengal. Shia Muslims observed Muharram over ten days, taking out processions in memory of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn ibn Ali, and then cast a memorial Imam's cenotaph into a river on the tenth day. Tassy further stated that the Muslim rituals included the same offerings at the annual observation of Muharram that the Hindu rituals included during Durga puja.[122] According to yet other scholars, the ritual of immersion in water by Hindus for Durga puja in Bengal and Ganesh Chaturthi in the western states of India, may have grown because members of the Hindu community attempted to create a competing procession and immersion ritual to that of Muharram, allowed by the colonial British Indian government in the 19th and early 20th-centuries.[123]

Durga puja in New Delhi, 2014.

In Maharashtra, the city of Nashik and other places such as CIDCO, Rajeevnagar, Panchavati, and Mahatmanagar host Durga puja celebrations. While in Delhi, the first community Durga puja was organised near Kashmiri Gate by a group of expatriate Bengalis, in 1910, a year before Delhi was declared the capital of British India. This group came to be the Delhi Durga Puja Samiti, popularly known as the Kashmere Gate Durga puja.[124] The Durga puja at Timarpur, Delhi was started in the year 1914.[125] In 2011, over 800 Durga pujas were held in Delhi, with a few hundred more in Gurgaon and NOIDA.[126]

Sculpture-idols in Cuttack, Odisha for Durga puja, bedecked with jewellery.

In Odisha, Durga puja is the most important festival of the people of the state. Durga puja is a very important festival for Odias, during the 4 days of the festival, the streets of the city turns into a wonderland throughout the state, people welcome the arrival of their maa by rejoicing themselves, eating tasty food, wearing new clothes, seeing different pandals across the city, family gathering and gift givings. In 2019, ninety-seven pandals in Cuttack alone, Odisha were reported to bedeck respective sculpture-idols with silver jewellery for Durga puja celebrations; such club of pandals termed regionally as Chandi Medha. The state capital is famous for the modern themes and creativity In the pandals, while the Western part of the state has a more retro decoration theme to the pandal. In the northern parts of the state particularly Balasore, durga puja is celebrated with much fervor and the odia diaspora abroad especially in Australia, which originates 95% from the district of Balasore celebrates the puja in the same manner which is done back home in Balasore.[127] In September 2019, 160 pandals were reported to be hosting Durga puja in Cuttack.[128][129]

While in Tripura there were over 2,500 community Durga puja celebrations in 2013. Durga puja has been started at the Durgabari temple, in Agartala by King Radha Kishore Manikya Bahadur.[130][131]


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]

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 [Plassey], 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]

-- Maharaja Nabakrishna Deb, by Wikipedia

Beyond being an art festival and a socio-religious event, Durga puja has also been a political event with regional and national political parties having sponsored Durga puja celebrations. In 2019, West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee announced a grant of ₹25,000 to all community organised Durga pujas in the state.[132]

In 2019, Kolkata's Durga puja was nominated by the Indian government for the 2020 UNESCO Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.[133][134] Durga puja also stands to be politically and economically significant. The committees organising Durga puja in Kolkata have close links to politicians.[90] Politicians patronise the festival by making donations or helping raise money for funding of community pujas, or by marking their presence at puja events and inaugurations.[90] The grant of ₹25,000 to puja organising committees in West Bengal by a debt-ridden state government was reported to cost a budget a ₹70 crores.[135] The state government also announced an additional grant of ₹5,000 to puja organising committees fully managed by women alone, while also announcing a twenty-five per-cent concession on total electricity bills for puja pandal.[135] The government had made a grant of ₹10,000 each to more than 20,000 puja organising committees in the state, in 2018.[135]

A 2013 report by ASSOCHAM states West Bengal's Durga puja to be a ₹25,000 crores worth economy, expected to grow at the compound annual growth rate of about 35 per-cent.[136] Economic slowdowns in India, such as in 2019, have hence affected corporate sponsorships and puja budgets for public celebrations.[137] In August 2019, the Income Tax Department of India had allegedly sent notices to various Durga puja organising committees in West Bengal, against which the ruling party of the state, All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC) protested.[138][139] The Central Board of Direct Taxes denied sending any such notices,[140] to which AITMC politician Madan Mitra is reported to have said that the intention may have been to enquire if tax deducted at source had been deducted on payments to vendors for organising community pujas.[90]
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Part 3 of 3

Media attention

Durga puja has been a theme in various artistic works such as movies, paintings, and literature. Shown here is Pratima Visarjan by Gaganendranath Tagore, depicting a Durga puja immersion procession. This painting inspired the colour scheme of the Indian film, Kahaani.

The day of Mahalaya is marked by the Bengali community with Mahishasuramardini — a two-hours long All India Radio programme — that has been popular in the Bengali community since the 1950s. While in earlier days it used to be recorded live, a pre-recorded version has come to be broadcast in recent decades. Bengalis traditionally wake up at four in the morning on Mahalaya to listen to the radio show, primarily involving recitations of chants and hymns from Devi Mahatmyam (or Chandi Path) by Birendra Krishna Bhadra and Pankaj Kumar Mullick. The show also features various devotional melodies.[141]

Dramas enacting the legend of Durga slaying Mahishasura are telecasted on the television. Radio and television channels also air other festive shows, while Bengali and Odia magazines publish special editions for the puja known as Pujabarshiki (Annual Puja Edition) or Sharadiya Sankhya (Autumnal Volume). These contain works of writers, both established and upcoming, and are more voluminous than the regular issues. Some notable examples of such magazines in Bengali are Anandamela, Shuktara, Desh, Sananda, Nabakallol, and Bartaman.[142]

Celebrations outside India

Durga puja in Germany, in 2009;

Durga puja in the Netherlands, in 2017.

Durga puja is celebrated commonly by Bangladesh's Hindu community. Some Bengali Muslims also take part in the festivities.[143] In Dhaka, the Dhakeshwari Temple puja attracts visitors and devotees.[144] In Nepal, the festivities are celebrated as Dashain.[2][8]

Beyond south Asia, Durga puja is organised by Bengali communities in the United States of America.[145] Durga puja celebrations have also been started in Hong Kong by the Bengali diaspora.[146]

Celebrations are also organised in Europe. The sculpture-idols are shipped from India and stored in warehouses to be re-used over the years.[147] According to BBC News, for community celebrations in London in 2006, these "idols, belonging to a tableau measuring 18ft by 20ft, were made from clay, straw and vegetable dyes". At the end of the puja, the sculpture-idols were immersed in River Thames for the first time in 2006, after "the community was allowed to give a traditional send-off to the deities by London's port authorities".[147] In Germany, the puja is celebrated in Cologne,[148] and other cities. In Switzerland,[149] puja in Baden, Aargan has been celebrated since 2003. In Sweden, the puja is celebrated in cities such as Stockholm and Helsingborg.[150] In the Netherlands, the puja is celebrated in places such as Amstelveen, Eindhoven, and Voorschoten. In Japan Durga Puja is celebrated in Tokyo with much fanfare.[151][152]


1. 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 & society emerging victorious over the vicious.[15]
2. Navratri Puja,
3. Kullu Dussehra,
4. Mysore Dussehra,
5. "Bommai-kolu",
6. Example Sanskrit original: "अहन्निन्द्रो अदहदग्निरिन्दो पुरा दस्यून्मध्यंदिनादभीके । दुर्गे दुरोणे क्रत्वा न यातां पुरू सहस्रा शर्वा नि बर्हीत्॥३॥ – Rigveda 4.28.8, Wikisource It appears in Khila (appendix, supplementary) text to Rigveda 10.127, 4th Adhyaya, per J. Scheftelowitz.[30]
7. 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.[15]
8. Various versions of Devi mantra exist.[57] Examples include: [a] "We know the Great Goddess. We make a meditation of the goddess Durga. May that Goddess guide us on the right path. (Durga Gayatri Mantra, recited at many stages of Durga puja);[58][b] Hrim! O blessed goddess Durga, come here, stay here, stay here, take up residence here, accept my worship. (Durga Avahana Mantra);[59] etc.


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4. Kinsley 1988, pp. 106-108.
5. Encyclopedia Britannica 2015.
6. Doniger 1999, p. 306.
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10. McDermott 2001, pp. 172-174.
11. Foulston & Abbott 2009, pp. 162-169.
12. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 7-8.
13. Daniélou 1991, p. 288.
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49. McLean 1998, p. 137.
50. Amazzone 2012, pp. 57-59, 63, 66.
51. Charles Russell Coulter & Patricia Turner 2013, pp. 148, 158-159, 256-257, 301.
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55. Ellwood & Alles 2007, p. 126.
56. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 50, 150-151.
57. Brown 1990, pp. 143-147.
58. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 153-155, 63, 90, 177 etc.
59. Rodrigues 2003, p. 113.
60. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 17-24, 31-39.
61. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 71-74.
62. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 38-44, 84-87.
63. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 44-45, 120-127.
64. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 46-54, 132-136.
65. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 277-278.
66. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 210-213.
67. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 62-63, 224-229.
68. Rodrigues 2003, pp. 244-245.
69. McDaniel 2004, pp. 168-169.
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81. Katznelson & Jones 2010, p. 343.
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84. Fuller 2004, pp. 46, 83–85.
85. Harlan 2003, p. 22.
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• Kinsley, David (1989). The Goddesses' Mirror: Visions of the Divine from East and West. State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-88706-835-5.
• Kinsley, David (1988). Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-90883-3.
• Kinsley, David (1997). Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-91772-9.
• Lochtefeld, James G (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8.
• McDaniel, June (2004). Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-534713-5.
• Khanna, Vikas (2015). Indian Harvest: Classic and Contemporary Vegetarian Dishes. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1-63286-200-6.
• London, Ellen (2004). Bangladesh. Gareth Stevens. ISBN 978-0-8368-3107-8.
• McDermott, Rachel Fell (2001). Mother of My Heart, Daughter of My Dreams: Kali and Uma in the Devotional Poetry of Bengal. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-803071-3.
• McDermott, Rachel Fell (2011). Revelry, Rivalry, and Longing for the Goddesses of Bengal: The Fortunes of Hindu Festivals. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-12919-0.
• McLean, Malcolm (1998). Devoted to the Goddess: The Life and Work of Ramprasad. State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-3689-9.
• Melton, J. Gordon (2011). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-59884-206-7.
• Monaghan, Patricia (2009). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-34990-4.
• Monaghan, Patricia (2011). Goddesses in World Culture. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-35465-6.
• Sree Padma (2014). Inventing and Reinventing the Goddess: Contemporary Iterations of Hindu Deities on the Move. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-9002-9.
• Phillips, Charles; Kerrigan, Michael; Gould, David (2011). Ancient India's Myths and Beliefs. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4488-5990-0.
• Rao, Saligrama Krishna Ramachandra (1988). Pratima Kosha: Descriptive Glossary of Indian Iconography. IBH Prakashana.
• Rocher, Ludo (1986). The Puranas. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3447025225.
• Sen Ramprasad (1720–1781). Grace and Mercy in Her Wild Hair: Selected Poems to the Mother Goddess. Hohm Press. ISBN 0-934252-94-7.
• Rodrigues, Hillary (2003). Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess: The Liturgy of the Puja with Interpretations. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-8844-7.
• Tripathi, Salil (2016). The Colonel Who Would Not Repent: The Bangladesh War and Its Unquiet Legacy. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-21818-3.
• " - Hindu mythology". Encyclopedia Britannica. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
• Isaeva, N. V. (1993), Shankara and Indian Philosophy, SUNY Press, ISBN 978-0791412817
• Pintchman, Tracy (2014), Seeking Mahadevi: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess, SUNY Press, ISBN 978-0791490495

Further reading

• Banerjee, Sudeshna (2004). Puja: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Rupa and Co, Calcutta. ISBN 81-291-0547-0.
• Bhattacharyya, BK (6 October 2008). "Earthen sculptures of Goddess ". The Assam Tribune. Archived from the original on 1 April 2012.
• Dutta, Krishna. (2003) Calcutta: a cultural and literary history. Signal Books, Oxford, United Kingdom. ISBN 1-902669-59-2.
• Muthukumaraswamy, M.D.; Kaushal, Molly (2004). Folklore, public sphere, and civil society. National Folklore Support Centre(India). ISBN 978-81-901481-4-6. (Chapter 6: "Of Public Sphere and Sacred Space: Origins of Community Puja in Bengal.")
• Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (2001). Puja Beginner, Devi Mandir. ISBN 1-887472-89-4.

External links

• Media from Wikimedia Commons
• News from Wikinews
• Texts from Wikisource
• Resources from Wikiversity
• Puja Samagri on Aastha
• Puja at the Encyclopædia Britannica
• Puja 2020 Date, Time, Muhurt - Astha Darbaar
• Puja at Curlie
• History of Puja in Bengal
Site Admin
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Wed Apr 07, 2021 5:29 am

Pashupati seal
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/6/21

The Pashupati seal, showing a seated and possibly tricephalic figure, surrounded by animals; circa 2350-2000 BCE

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.[1] The man has a horned headdress and is surrounded by animals. He may represent a horned deity.[2] The seal is kept in the National Museum of India in New Delhi.[3][4]

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.














-- Seals and tablets with inscriptions from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, by

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.[2]

Discovery and description

A view of the Mohenjo-daro excavation site. The DK-G Area where the seal was found lies north-east of the Great Bath seen in the foreground.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

An impression made from the steatite seal

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.[8][9]


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.[10] 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.[6]

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.[10][11] 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".[12] 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."[13] 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).[14] 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".[15] A lot of discussion has taken place about this seal.[16] While Marshall's work has earned some support, many critics and even supporters have raised several objections.[1]

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.[17] In 1997, she reiterated her views in a book titled Many Heads, Arms, and Eyes: Origin, Meaning, and Form of Multiplicity in Indian Art.

Mahishasura, the buffalo demon being slayed by the goddess Durga

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.[18]

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,[19] 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 ridding 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.[20][21]

Herbert Sullivan from Duke University[22] 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.[12] 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.[23] 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.[21]

Vedic Interpretations

Agni is the god of fire, and a prominent deity in the Vedas.

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.[24] 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.[21]

See also

• Gundestrup cauldron
• Cernunnos
• Gutasaga


1. See e. g. James G. Lochtefeld, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, vol. 2: N–Z. The Rosen Publishing Group, New York 2002, p. 633, who doubts the connection of the seal to Shiva, given the supposedly late age of the god.
2. Werness, Hope B., Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in World Art, p. 270, 2006, A&C Black, ISBN 0826419135, 9780826419132, google books
3. "Walk back to the past: Take a tour of the Harappan civilisation in a Delhi museum". Hindustan Times. 29 July 2017.
4. "Pre-History & Archaeology". National Museum India.[permanent dead link]
5. Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark. "Mohenjo-daro: Introduction". Archived from the original on 2013-12-01.
6. Mackay 1928–29, pp. 74-75.
7. Mackay 1937–38, plate XCIV; no. 420.
8. Possehl 2002, p. 141.
9. Marshall 1931, p. 52.
10. Marshall 1931, pp. 52-57.
11. McEvilley 1981, pp. 45-46.
12. Sullivan 1964.
13. Srinivasan 1975–76, p. 47.
14. McEvilley 1981, pp. 47-51.
15. Hiltebeitel 2011, p. 399.
16. Bryant, Edwin, p.163
17. Srinivasan, Doris (1975–1976). "The So-Called Proto-śiva Seal from Mohenjo-Daro: An Iconological Assessment". Archives of Asian Art. 29: 47–58. JSTOR 20062578.
18. Srinivasan, Doris (1997). Many Heads, Arms, and Eyes: Origin, Meaning, and Form of Multiplicity in Indian Art. 181: Brill. ISBN 9004107584.
19. Hiltebeitel, Alf. "Alf Hiltebeitel". Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.
20. Hiltebeitel 2011, pp. 399-432.
21. Bryant, Edwin (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. Oxford University Press. pp. 163. ISBN 0199881332.
22. Sullivan, Herbert (1964). "A re-examination of the religion of the Indus civilization". Google Books.
23. Ratnagar, Shereen (2006). Trading Encounters: From the Euphrates to the Indus in the Bronze Age. Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 9780195666038.
24. "Rigveda, Book I, Hymn 64". Wikisource.


• Hiltebeitel, Alf (2011). "The Indus Valley "Proto-Śiva", Reexamined through Reflections on the Goddess, the Buffalo, and the Symbolism of vāhanas". In Adluri, Vishwa; Bagchee, Joydeep (eds.). When the Goddess was a Woman: Mahabharata Ethnographies - Essays by Alf Hiltebeitel. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-19380-2.
• Mackay, Ernest John Henry (1928–29). "Excavations at Mohenjodaro". Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India: 67–75.
• Mackay, Earnest John Henry (1937–38). Further excavations at Mohenjo-Daro : being an official account of archaeological excavations at Mohenjo-Daro carried out by the Government of India between the years 1927 and 1931. Delhi: Government of India.
• McEvilley, Thomas (1981). "An Archaeology of Yoga". RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics. 1 (1): 44–77. doi:10.1086/RESv1n1ms20166655. JSTOR 20166655. S2CID 192221643.
• Marshall, John (1931). Mohenjo-Daro and the Indus Civilization: Being an Official Account of Archaeological Excavations at Mohenjo-Daro Carried Out by the Government of India Between the Years 1922 and 1927. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-206-1179-5.
• Possehl, Gregory L. (2002). The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. Rowman Altamira. ISBN 978-0-7591-1642-9.
• Srinivasan, Doris (1975–76). "The So-Called Proto-śiva Seal from Mohenjo-Daro: An Iconological Assessment". Archives of Asian Art. 29: 47–58. JSTOR 20062578.
• Srinivasan, Doris Meth (1997). Many Heads, Arms and Eyes: Origin, Meaning and Form in Multiplicity in Indian Art. Brill. ISBN 978-9004107588.
• Sullivan, Herbert P. (1964). "A Re-Examination of the Religion of the Indus Civilization". History of Religions. 4 (1): 115–125. doi:10.1086/462498. JSTOR 1061875. S2CID 162278147.
• Bryant, Edwin (2001). The quest for the origins of vedic culture the Indo-Aryan migration debate. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195137774. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
Further reading[edit]
• McIntosh, Jane (2001). A Peaceful Realm: The Rise And Fall of the Indus Civilization. Boulder: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3532-9.
• McIntosh, Jane (2008). "Religion and ideology". The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-907-2.
• Thapar, Romila (2004). Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24225-8.
• Witzel, Michael (February 2000). "The Languages of Harappa" (PDF). Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies.
• Wright, Rita P. (2010). The Ancient Indus: Urbanism, Economy, and Society. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-57219-4.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Thu Apr 15, 2021 10:38 pm

Gautama Maharishi
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/15/21

Gautama Maharishi
An Early 19th Century Painting Showing Maharishi Gautama
Religion: Hinduism
Spouse: Ahalya
Children: Shatananda and others
Parents: Gotama (father)
Honors: One of the Saptarishis (Seven Great Sages Rishi)

Gautama Maharishi (Sanskrit: महर्षिः गौतम Mahariṣiḥ Gautama), also known as Vamadeva Gautama[1] was a Rigvedic sage in Hinduism, who is also mentioned in Jainism and Buddhism. Gautama is prominently mentioned in the Ramayana and is known for cursing his wife Ahalya, after she had an relationship with Indra. Another important story related to Gautama is about the creation of river Godavari, which is also known as Gautami.


Vamadeva Gautama was the founder of the Vamadeva family. Most of the hymns in Mandala IV of the Rigveda are attributed to him.[1] He was the son of Gotama.[2]

[W]e Gotamas with hymns extol thee, O Agni, as the guardian Lord of riches,
Decking thee like a horse, the swift prizewinner. May he, enriched with prayer, come soon and early...

Thus to thee, Indra, yoker of Bay Coursers, the Gotamas have brought their prayers to please thee...

O mighty Indra, Gotama's son Nodhas hath fashioned this new prayer to thee Eternal,
Sure leader, yoker of the Tawny Coursers. May he, enriched with prayer, come soon and early...

Prayers have been made by Gotamas, O Indra, addressed to thee, with laud for thy Bay Horses...

Thus Agni Jātavedas, true to Order, hath by the priestly Gotamas been lauded.
May he augment in them splendour and vigour: observant, as he lists, he gathers increase...

O JĀTAVEDAS, keen and swift, we Gotamas with sacred song exalt thee for thy glories' sake.
Thee, as thou art, desiring wealth Gotama worships with his song:
We laud thee for thy glories' sake...

O Gotama, desiring bliss present thy songs composed with care
To Agni of the pointed flames...

They drave the cloud transverse directed hitherward, and poured the fountain forth for thirsting Gotama.
Shining with varied light they come to him with help: they with their might fulfilled the longing of the sage...

The Gotamas making their prayer with singing have pushed the well's lid up to drink the water.
No hymn way ever known like this aforetime which Gotama sang forth for you, O Maruts,
What time upon your golden wheels he saw you, wild boars rushing about with tusks of iron.
To you this freshening draught of Soma rusheth, O Maruts, like the voice of one who prayeth.
It rusheth freely from our hands as these libations wont to flow...

The Gotamas have praised Heaven's radiant Daughter, the leader of the charm of pleasant voices.
Dawn, thou conferrest on us strength with offspring and men, conspicuous with kine and horses...

Ye lifted up the well, O ye Nāsatyas, and set the base on high to open downward.
Streams flowed for folk of Gotama who thirsted, like rain to bring forth thousandfold abundance...

Gotama, Purumīlha, Atri bringing oblations all invoke you for protection.
Like one who goes straight to the point directed, ye Nāsatyas, to mine invocation...

Through words and kinship I destroy the mighty: this power I have from Gotama my father.
Mark thou this speech of ours, O thou Most Youthful, Friend of the House, exceeding wise, Invoker...

The Gotamas have sung their song of praise to thee that thou mayst give,
Indra, for lively energy.
We will declare thy hero deeds, what Dāsa forts thou brakest down,
Attacking them in rapturous joy.
The sages sing those manly deeds which, Indra, Lover of the Song,
Thou wroughtest when the Soma flowed.
Indra, the Gotamas who bring thee praises have grown strong by thee.
Give them renown with hero sons...

A Warrior thou by strength, wisdom, and wondrous deed, in might excellest all that is.
Hither may this our hymn attract thee to our help, the hymn which Gotamas have made...

-- The Rig Veda, translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith


According to Valmiki Ramayan, Gautama's eldest son with Ahalya is Satananda. But according to Adi Parva of Mahabharata, he had two sons named Saradvan and Cirakari. Saradvan was also known as Gautama, hence his children Kripa and Kripi were called Gautama and Gautami respectively. A daughter of Gautama is referred too but her name is never disclosed in the epic.[3] In Sabha Parva, he begets many children upon Aushinara (daughter of Ushinara), amongst whom eldest in Kakshivat. Gautama and Aushinara's marriage takes place at Magadha, the kingdom of Jarasandha.[4] According to Vamana Purana, he had three daughters named Jaya, Jayanti and Aparajita.[5]

Ahalya's curse

Gautama (left) discovers Indra disguised as Gautama fleeing, as Ahalya watches.

The Ramayana describes Ahalya as his wife. Their marriage is recorded in the Uttara Kanda, which is believed as an interpolation to the epic. As per the story Brahma, the creator god, creates a beautiful girl and gifts her as a bride to Gautama and a son named Shatananda is born. The Bala Kanda mentions that Gautama spots Indra, who is still in disguise, and curses him to lose his testicles. Gautama then returns to his ashram and accepts her.


1. Jamison, Stephanie; Brereton, Joel P. (2014). The Rigveda - the earliest religious poetry of India. Oxford University Press. p. 556.
2. Jamison and Brereton 2014, p. 563-564.
3. "Puranic encyclopaedia: a dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature". 1975.
4. Mahabharata Sabha Parva Section XXI
5. "Puranic encyclopaedia : a dictionary with special reference to epic and Puranic literature". 1975.
• Doniger, Wendy (1999). "Indra and Ahalya, Zeus and Alcmena". Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-15641-5.


Gautama Dharmasutra
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/17/21

I have a larger vision or fantasy of original Indian Buddhism as an ocean with many icebergs, each representing the local textual traditions...of the different parts of the Indian world. Those icebergs are mostly gone...We have the Pali canon...the partial Sanskrit canon...They had a common core but they had many different texts in and around that basic commonality... and... there's no hope of finding them mainly for a simple physical reason, the climate of...India proper is such that organic materials...never last for more than a few hundred years. There are really no really old manuscripts in India proper. You only get the ancient manuscripts from the borderlands of India, in this case Gandhara which has a more moderate climate.

-- One Buddha, 15 Buddhas, 1,000 Buddhas, by Richard Salomon

Gautama Dharmasūtra is a Sanskrit text and likely one of the oldest Hindu Dharmasutras (600-200 BCE), whose manuscripts have survived into the modern age.[1][2][3]

The Gautama Dharmasutra was composed and survives as an independent treatise,[4] unattached to a complete Kalpa-sūtras, but like all Dharmasutras it may have been part of one whose Shrauta- and Grihya-sutras have been lost to history.[1][5] The text belongs to Samaveda schools, and its 26th chapter on penance theory is borrowed almost completely from Samavidhana Brahmana layer of text in the Samaveda.[1][5]

The Samaveda (Sanskrit: सामवेद, sāmaveda, from sāman "song" and veda "knowledge"), is the Veda of melodies and chants. It is an ancient Vedic Sanskrit text, and part of the scriptures of Hinduism. One of the four Vedas, it is a liturgical text which consists of 1,549 verses. All but 75 verses have been taken from the Rigveda. Three recensions of the Samaveda have survived, and variant manuscripts of the Veda have been found in various parts of India.

While its earliest parts are believed to date from as early as the Rigvedic period, the existing compilation dates from the post-Rigvedic Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit, between c. 1200 and 1000 BCE or "slightly rather later," roughly contemporary with the Atharvaveda and the Yajurveda.

Embedded inside the Samaveda is the widely studied Chandogya Upanishad and Kena Upanishad, considered as primary Upanishads and as influential on the six schools of Hindu philosophy, particularly the Vedanta school. Samaveda has the root of music and dance tradition of this planet.

It is also referred to as Sama Veda....

R. T. H. Griffith says that there are three recensions of the text of the Samaveda Samhita:

• the Kauthuma recension is current in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and since a few decades in Darbhanga, Bihar,
• the Rāṇāyanīya in the Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gokarna, few parts of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh
• and the Jaiminiya in the Carnatic, Tamil Nadu and Kerala...

Just like Rigveda, the early sections of Samaveda typically begin with Agni and Indra hymns but shift to abstract speculations and philosophy, and their meters too shifts in a descending order. The later sections of the Samaveda, states Witzel, have least deviation from substance of hymns they derive from Rigveda into songs. The purpose of Samaveda was liturgical, and they were the repertoire of the udgātṛ or "singer" priests...

The Samaveda consists of 1,549 unique verses, taken almost entirely from Rigveda, except for 75 verses. The largest number of verse come from Books 9 and 8 of the Rig Veda. Some of the Rigvedic verses are repeated more than once. Including these repetitions, there are a total of 1,875 verses numbered in the Samaveda recension translated by Griffith.

Samaveda samhita is not meant to be read as a text, it is like a musical score sheet that must be heard...

The Kauthuma recension has been published (Samhita, Brahmana, Shrautasutra and ancillary Sutras, mainly by B.R. Sharma), parts of the Jaiminiya tradition remain unpublished. There is an edition of the first part of the Samhita by W. Caland and of the Brahmana by Raghu Vira and Lokesh Chandra, as well as the neglected Upanishad, but only parts of the Shrautasutra. The song books remain unpublished.

A German edition of Samaveda was published in 1848 by Theodor Benfey, and Satyavrata Samashrami published an edited Sanskrit version in 1873. A Russian translation was published by Filipp Fortunatov in 1875. An English translation was published by Ralph Griffith in 1893. A translation in Hindi by Mridul Kirti called "Samveda Ka Hindi Padyanuvad" has also been published recently.

The Samaveda text has not received as much attention as the Rigveda, because outside of the musical novelty and melodic creativity, the substance of all but 75 verses of the text have predominantly been derived from the Rigveda. A study of Rigveda suffices.

-- Samaveda, by Wikipedia

The text is notable that it mentions many older texts and authorities on Dharma, which has led scholars to conclude that there existed a rich genre of Dharmasutras text in ancient India before this text was composed.[6][7]

Authorship and dates

Testimony during a trial

The witness must take an oath before deposing.
Single witness normally does not suffice.
As many as three witnesses are required.
False evidence must face sanctions.

— Gautama Dharmasutras 13.2-13.6 [8][9]

The Dharmasutra is attributed to Gautama, a Brahmin family name, many of whose members founded the various Shakhas (Vedic schools) of Samaveda.[1] The text was likely composed in the Ranayaniya branch of Samaveda tradition, generally corresponding to where modern Maratha people reside (Maharashtra-Gujarat).[1] The text is likely ascribed to revered sage Gautama of a remote era, but authored by members of this Samaveda school as an independent treatise.[10]

Kane estimated that Gautama Dharmasastra dates from approximately 600-400 BCE.[11] However, Olivelle states that this text discusses the progeny of Greeks with the word Yavana, whose arrival and stay in substantial numbers in northwest India is dated after Darius I (~500 BCE). The Yavana are called border people in the Edict of Ashoka (256 BCE), states Olivelle, and given Gautama gives them importance as if they are non-border people, this text is more likely to have been composed after the Ashoka's Edict, that is after mid 3rd century BCE.[12] Olivelle states that the Apastamba Dharmasutra is more likely the oldest extant text in Dharmasutras genre, followed by Gautama Dharmasastra.[2] Robert Lingat, however, states that the mention of Yavana in the text is isolated, and this minor usage could well have referred to Greco-Bactrian kingdoms whose border reached into northwest Indian subcontinent well before the Ashoka era. Lingat maintains that the Gautama Dharmasastra may well pre-date 400 BCE, and he and other scholars consider it to be the oldest extant Dharmasutra.[13][3]

Regardless of the relative chronology, the ancient Gautama Dharmasutra, states Olivelle, shows clear signs of a maturing legal procedure tradition and the parallels between the two texts suggest that significant Dharma literature existed before these texts were composed in 1st millennium BCE.[14][15][7]

The foundational roots of the text may pre-date Buddhism because it reveres the Vedas and uses terms such as Bhikshu for monks, which later became associated with Buddhists, and instead of Yati or Sannyasi terms that became associated with Hindus.[13] There is evidence that some passages, such as those related to castes and mixed marriages, were likely interpolated into this text and altered at the later date.[16]

Organization and content

The text is composed entirely in prose, in contrast to other surviving Dharmasutras which contain some verses as well.[13] The content is organized in the aphoristic sutra style, characteristic of ancient India's sutra period.[17] The text is divided into 28 Adhyayas (chapters),[13] with cumulative total of 973 verses.[18] Among the surviving ancient texts of its genre, the Gautama Dharmasutra has the largest portion (16%) of sutras dedicated to government and judicial procedures, compared to Apastamba's 6%, Baudhayana's 3% and Vasishtha's 9%.[19]

The contents of the Gautama Dharmasutra, states Daniel Ingalls, suggest that private property rights existed in ancient India, that the king had a right to collect taxes and had a duty to protect the citizens of his kingdom as well as settle disputes between them by a due process if and when these disputes emerged.[20]

The topics of this Dharmasūtra are arranged methodically, and resembles the structure of texts found in much later Dharma-related smṛtis (traditional texts).[5]

Gautama Dharmasutras

Chapter / Topics (incomplete) / Translation Comments

1. Sources of Dharma

1.1-4 / Origins and reliable sources of law / [21]

2. Brahmacharya

1.5-1.61 / Student's code of conduct, insignia, rules of study / [22]
2.1-2.51 / General rules, conduct towards teachers, food, graduation / [23]

3. Stages of life

3.1-3.36 / Student, monk, anchorite / [24]
4.1-8.25 / Household, marriage, rituals, gifts, respect for guests, behavior during times of crisis and adversity, interaction between Brahmins and the king, ethics and virtues / [25][26][27]
9.1-9.74 / Graduates / [28]
10.1-10.66 / Four social classes, their occupations, rules of violence during war, tax rates, proper tax spending, property rights / [29][30]

4. Judiciary

11.1-11.32 / The king and his duties, judicial process / [31]
12.1-13.31 / Criminal and civil law categories, contract and debts, theory of punishment, rules of trial, witnesses / [32][26]

5. Personal rituals

14.1-14.46 / Death in a family, cremation, impurities and purification after handling corpses / [33]
15.1-15.29 / Rites of passage for ancestors and the death of loved ones / [34]
16.1-16.49 / Self-study of texts, recitation, annual suspension of Vedic readings / [35]
17.1-17.38 / Food, health, prohibition on killing or harming animals to produce food / [36]
18.1-18.23 / Marriage, remarriage, child custody disputes / [37]

6. Punishment and penances

18.24-21.22 / Seizure of property, excommunication, expulsion, readmission, sins / [38]
22.1-23.34 / Penances for killings animals, adultery, illicit sex, eating meat, different types of penances / [39]

7. Inheritance and conflicts within law

28.1-28.47 / Inheritance rights of sons and daughters on man's property, on woman's property, levirate, estates, partition of property between relatives / [40]
28.48-28.53 / Resolving disputes and doubts within law / [41]


Duties of a graduate

He should not spend the morning, midday or afternoon fruitlessly,
but pursue righteousness, wealth and pleasure,
to the best of his ability,
but among them he should attend chiefly to righteousness.

— Gautama Dharmasutra 9.46-9.47[42]

Maskarin and Haradatta both commented on Gautama Dharmasūtra – the oldest is by Maskarin in 900-1000 CE, before Haradatta (who also commented on Apastamba).[43]

Olivelle states that Haradatta while writing his commentary on Gautama Dharmasutra titled Mitaksara[44] copied freely from Maskarin's commentary.[43] In contrast, Banerji states that Haradatta's commentary is older than Maskarin's.[45] Asahaya may have also written a commentary on the Gautama text, but this manuscript is either lost or yet to be discovered.[45]


Daniel Ingalls, a professor of Sanskrit at the Harvard University, states that the regulations in the Gautama Dharmasutra were not laws for the entire society, but were regulations and code of conduct that were developed and applied "strictly to one small group of Brahmins".[46] The Gautama text was part of the curriculum of one of the Samaveda schools, and most of the rules, if enforceable, states Ingall, applied to just this group.[46]

It is quite likely, states Patrick Olivelle, that the ideas and concepts in the Gautama Dharmasutra strongly influenced the authors of the Manusmriti.[19][47] Medieval texts, such as Apararka, state that thirty six Dharmasastra authors were influenced by Gautama Dharmasutras.[48]

See also

• Arthashastra
• Manusmriti
• Upanishads
• Vedas


1. Robert Lingat 1973, p. 19.
2. Patrick Olivelle 2006, p. 178 with note 28.
3. Daniel H.H. Ingalls 2013, p. 89.
4. Patrick Olivelle 2006, p. 186.
5. Patrick Olivelle 2006, p. 74.
6. Robert Lingat 1973, pp. 19-20.
7. Timothy Lubin, Donald R. Davis Jr & Jayanth K. Krishnan 2010, p. 38.
8. Robert Lingat 1973, p. 69.
9. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 100-101.
10. Timothy Lubin, Donald R. Davis Jr & Jayanth K. Krishnan 2010, p. 40.
11. Patrick Olivelle 1999, p. xxxii.
12. Patrick Olivelle 1999, p. xxxiii.
13. Robert Lingat 1973, p. 20.
14. Patrick Olivelle 2005, p. 44.
15. Robert Lingat 1973, pp. 19-22, Quote: The dharma-sutra of Apastamba suggests that a rich literature on dharma already existed. He cites ten authors by name. (...)..
16. Robert Lingat 1973, pp. 19-20, 94.
17. Patrick Olivelle 2006, p. 178.
18. Patrick Olivelle 2005, p. 46.
19. Patrick Olivelle 2006, pp. 186-187.
20. Daniel H.H. Ingalls 2013, p. 91-93.
21. Patrick Olivelle 1999, p. 78.
22. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 78-80.
23. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 80-83.
24. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 83-84.
25. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 84-91.
26. Daniel H.H. Ingalls 2013, pp. 89-90.
27. Kedar Nath Tiwari (1998). Classical Indian Ethical Thought. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 88–90. ISBN 978-81-208-1607-7.
28. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 91-93.
29. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 94-96.
30. Penna, L. R. (1989). "Written and customary provisions relating to the conduct of hostilities and treatment of victims of armed conflicts in ancient India". International Review of the Red Cross. Cambridge University Press. 29 (271): 333–348. doi:10.1017/s0020860400074519.
31. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 96- 98.
32. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 98-101.
33. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 101-103.
34. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 103-106.
35. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 107-108.
36. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 108-109.
37. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 110-111.
38. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 111-115.
39. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 115-118.
40. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 118-126.
41. Patrick Olivelle 1999, p. 126.
42. Patrick Olivelle 1999, pp. 92-93.
43. Patrick Olivelle 1999, p. 74.
44. Robert Lingat 1973, p. 114.
45. Sures Chandra Banerji (1999). A Brief History of Dharmaśāstra. Abhinav Publications. pp. 72–75. ISBN 978-81-7017-370-0.
46. Daniel H.H. Ingalls 2013, p. 90-91.
47. Patrick Olivelle 2005, pp. 44-45.
48. Timothy Lubin, Donald R. Davis Jr & Jayanth K. Krishnan 2010, p. 51.


• Daniel H.H. Ingalls (2013). Roy W. Perrett (ed.). Theory of Value: Indian Philosophy. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-70357-8.
• Timothy Lubin; Donald R. Davis Jr; Jayanth K. Krishnan (2010). Hinduism and Law: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-139-49358-1.
• Patrick Olivelle (1999). Dharmasutras: The Law Codes of Ancient India. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-283882-7.
• Patrick Olivelle (2005). Manu's Code of Law. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-517146-4.
• Patrick Olivelle (2006). Between the Empires: Society in India 300 BCE to 400 CE. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-977507-1.
• Robert Lingat (1973). The Classical Law of India. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-01898-3.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Sun Apr 18, 2021 6:13 am

The Ordeal [Purrikeh/Parikyah] in India, Excerpt from Superstition and Force
by Henry Charles Lea

If any One of the Partners by Affinity, at the Time of sharing and dividing their Property, concealed any Part of the Effects, and this Circumstance should afterwards appear, that Part shall then be divided equally among all not the other Partners, and the Man who concealed it. But if any One of the Partners still continues suspicious, he shall undergo the Purrikeh, that is Ordeal for him; whoever is not suspicious of him, he shall perform the Purrikeh....

If a Man brings a regular Suit against another, and that Person absolutely denies the Claim, in that Case, the Plaintiff shall be held to prove his Claim; if the Plaintiff has neither Writing nor Witnesses for his Proof, the Defendant shall perform the Purrikeh (that is) an Ordeal, to satisfy the other.

-- A Code of Gentoo Laws, Or, Ordinations of the Pundits, From a Persian Translation, Made From the Original, Written in the Shanscrit Language, by Nathaniel Brassey Halhed


So far, indeed, were the Barbarians from reposing implicit confidence in the integrity of their fellows that their earliest records show how fully they shared in the common desire of mankind to place the oath under the most efficient guarantees that ingenuity could devise. In its most simple form the oath is an invocation of some deity or supernatural power to grant or withhold his favor in accordance with the veracity of the swearer, but at all times men have sought to render this more impressive by interposing material objects dear to the individual, which were understood to be offered as pledges or victims for the divine wrath. Thus, among the Hindus, the ancient Manava Dharma Sastra prescribes the oath as satisfactory evidence in default of evidence, but requires it to be duly reinforced—

“In cases where there is no testimony, and the judge cannot decide upon which side lies the truth, he can determine it fully by administering the oath.

“Oaths were sworn by the seven Maharshis, and by the gods, to make doubtful things manifest, and even Vasishtha sware an oath before the king Sudama, son of Piyavana, when Viswamitra accused him of eating a hundred children.

“Let not the wise man take an oath in vain, even for things of little weight; for he who takes an oath in vain is lost in this world and the next.

“Let the judge swear the Brahman by his truth; the Kshatriya by his horses, his elephants, or his arms; the Vaisya by his cows, his corn, and his gold; the Sudra by all crimes.”

And in the more detailed code of Vishnu there is an exceedingly complicated system of objects to be sworn upon, varying with the amount at stake and the caste of the swearer...

The black Australioid Khonds ... Not only do they constantly employ the ordeals of boiling water and oil and red-hot iron, which they may have borrowed from their Hindu neighbors, but they administer judicial oaths with imprecations that are decidedly of the character of ordeals. Thus an oath is taken on a tiger’s skin with an invocation of destruction from that animal upon the perjured; or upon a lizard’s skin whose scaliness is invited upon him who may forswear himself; or over an ant-hill with an imprecation that he who swears falsely may be reduced to powder....

The hill-tribes of Rajmahal, who represent another of the pre-Aryan Indian races, furnish us with further developments of the same principle, in details bearing a marked analogy to those practised by the most diverse families of mankind. Thus the process by which the guilt of Achan was discovered (Joshua vii. 16-18), and that by which, as we shall see hereafter, Master Anselm proposed to identify the thief of the sacred vessels of Laon, are not unlike the ceremony used when a district is ravaged by tigers or by pestilence, which is regarded as a retribution for sin committed by some inhabitant, whose identification thus becomes all-important for the salvation of the rest. In the process known as Satane a person sits on the ground with a branch of the bale tree planted opposite to him; rice is handed to him to eat in the name of each village of the district, and when the one is named in which the culprit lives, he is expected to throw up the rice. Having thus determined the village, the same plan is adopted with respect to each family in it, and when the family is identified, the individual is discovered in the same manner. Another form, named Cherreen, is not unlike the ordeal of the Bible and key, not as yet obsolete among Christians. A stone is suspended by a string, and the names of the villages, families, and individuals are repeated, when it indicates the guilty by its vibrations. Thieves are also discovered and convicted by these processes, and by another mode known as Gobereen, which is a modification of the hot-water ordeal. A mixture of cow-dung, oil, and water is made to boil briskly in a pot. A ring is thrown in, and each suspected person, after invoking the Supreme Deity, is required to find and bring out the ring with his hand—the belief being that the innocent will not be burned, while the guilty will not be able to put his hand into the pot, as the mixture will rise up to meet it....

It is among the Aryan races that we are to look for the fullest and most enduring evidences of the beliefs which developed into the ordeal, and gave it currency from the rudest stages of nomadic existence to periods of polished and enlightened civilization. In the perfect dualism of Mazdeism, the Yazatas, or angels of the good creation, were always prompt to help the pure and innocent against the machinations of Ahriman and his Daevas, their power to do so depending only upon the righteousness of him who needed assistance. The man unjustly accused, or seeking to obtain or defend his right, could therefore safely trust that any trial to which he might be subjected would be harmless, however much the ordinary course of nature would have to be turned aside in order to save him. Thus Zoroaster could readily explain and maintain the ancestral practices, the common use of which by both the Zend and the Hindu branches of the Aryan family points to their origin at a period anterior to the separation between the kindred tribes. In the fragments of the Avesta, which embody what remains to us of the prehistoric law of the ancient Persians, we find a reference to the ordeal of boiling water, showing it to be an accepted legal process, with a definite penalty affixed for him who failed to exculpate himself in it:—

“Creator! he who knowingly approaches the hot, golden, boiling water, as if speaking truth, but lying to Mithra;

“What is the punishment for it?

“Then answered Ahura-Mazda: Let them strike seven hundred blows with the horse-goad, seven hundred with the craosho-charana!"

The fire ordeal is also seen in the legend which relates how Sudabeh, the favorite wife of Kai Kaoos, became enamored of his son Siawush, and on his rejecting her advances accused him to his father of endeavoring to seduce her. Kai Kaoos sent out a hundred caravans of dromedaries to gather wood, of which two immense piles were built separated by a passage barely admitting a horseman. These were soaked with naphtha and fired in a hundred places, when Siawush mounted on a charger, after an invocation to God, rode through the flames and emerged without even a discoloration of his garments. Sudabeh was sentenced to death, but pardoned on the intercession of Siawush. Another reminiscence of the same ordeal may be traced among the crowd of fantastic legends with which the career of Zoroaster is embroidered. It is related that when an infant he was seized by the magicians, who foresaw their future destruction at his hands, and was thrown upon a huge pile composed of wood, naphtha, and sulphur, which was forthwith kindled; but, through the interposition of Hormazd, “the devouring flame became as water, in the midst of which slumbered the pearl of Zardusht.”

In Pehlvi the judicial ordeal was known as var nirang, and thirty-three doubtful conjunctures are enumerated as requiring its employment. The ordinary form was the pouring of molten metal on the body of the patient, though sometimes the heated substance was applied to the tongue or the feet. Of the former, a celebrated instance, curiously anticipating the story told, as we shall see hereafter, of Bishop Poppo when he converted the Danes, is related as a leading incident in the reformation of the Mazdiasni religion when the Persian monarchy was reconstructed by the Sassanids. Eighty thousand heretics remained obstinate until Sapor I. was so urgent with his Magi to procure their conversion that the Dustoor Adurabad offered to prove the truth of orthodoxy by suffering eighteen pounds of melted copper to be poured over his naked shoulders if the dissenters would agree to yield their convictions in case he escaped unhurt. The bargain was agreed to, and carried out with the happiest results. Not a hair of the Dustoor’s body was singed by the rivulets of fiery metal, and the recusants were gathered into the fold.

Among the Hindu Aryans so thoroughly was the divine interposition expected in the affairs of daily life that, according to the Manava Dharma Sastra, if a witness, within a week after giving testimony, should suffer from sickness, or undergo loss by fire, or the death of a relation, it was held to be a manifestation of the divine wrath, drawn down upon him in punishment for perjured testimony. There was, therefore, no inducement to abandon the resource of the ordeal, of which traces may be found as far back as the Vedic period, in the forms both of fire and red-hot iron. In the Ramayana, when Rama, the incarnate Vishnu, distrusts the purity of his beloved Sita, whom he has rescued from the Rakshasha Ravana, she vindicates herself by mounting a blazing pyre, from which she is rescued unhurt by the fire-god, Agni, himself. Manu declares, in the most absolute fashion—

“Let the judge cause him who is under trial to take fire in his hand, or to plunge in water, or to touch separately the heads of his children and of his wife.

“Whom the flame burneth not, whom the water rejects not from its depths, whom misfortune overtakes not speedily, his oath shall be received as undoubted.

“When the Rishi Vatsa was accused by his young half-brother, who stigmatized him as the son of a Sudra, he swore that it was false, and, passing through fire, proved the truth of his oath; the fire, which attests the guilt and the innocence of all men, harmed not a hair of his head, for he spake the truth.”

And the practical application of the rule is seen in the injunction on both plaintiff and defendant to undergo the ordeal, even in certain civil cases.

In the more developed code of Vishnu we find the ordeal system exceedingly complicated, pervading every branch of jurisprudence and only limited by the amount at stake or the character or caste of the defendant. Yet Hindu antiquity is so remote and there have been so many schools of teachers that the custom apparently did not prevail in all times and places. One of the most ancient books of law is the Dharmasastra of Gautama, who says nothing of ordeals and relies for proof wholly on the evidence of witnesses, adding the very relaxed rule that “No guilt is incurred in giving false evidence in case the life of a man depends thereon.”

This, however, is exceptional, and the ordeal maintained its existence from the most ancient periods to modern times. Under the name of purrikeh, or parikyah, it is prescribed in the native Hindu law in all cases, civil and criminal, which cannot be determined by written or oral evidence, or by oath, and is sometimes incumbent upon the plaintiff and sometimes upon the defendant. In its various forms it bears so marked a resemblance to the judgments of God current in mediæval Europe that the further consideration of its use in India may be more conveniently deferred till we come to discuss its varieties in detail, except to add that in Hindu, as in Christian courts, it has always been a religious as well as a judicial ceremony, conducted in the presence of Brahmans, and with the use of invocations to the higher powers....


The ordeal of boiling water (æneum, judicium aquæ ferventis, cacabus, caldaria) is the one usually referred to in the most ancient texts of laws. It was a favorite both with the secular and ecclesiastical authorities, and the manner in which the pagan usages of the ancient Aryans were adopted and rendered orthodox by the Church is well illustrated by the commendation bestowed on it by Hincmar, Archbishop of Reims, in the ninth century. It combines, he says, the elements of water and of fire; the one representing the deluge—the judgment inflicted on the wicked of old; the other authorized by the fiery doom of the future—the day of judgment, in both of which we see the righteous escape and the wicked suffer. There were several minor variations in its administration, but none of them departed to any notable extent from the original form as invented in the East. A caldron of water was brought to the boiling-point, and the accused was obliged with his naked hand to find a small stone or ring thrown into it; sometimes the latter portion was omitted, and the hand was simply inserted, in trivial cases to the wrist, in crimes of magnitude to the elbow; the former being termed the single, the latter the triple ordeal; or, again, the stone was employed, suspended by a string, and the severity of the trial was regulated by the length of the line, a palm’s breadth being counted as single, and the distance to the elbow as triple...

As a means of judicial investigation, the Church, in adopting it with the other ordeals, followed the policy of surrounding it with all the solemnity which her most venerated rites could impart, thus imitating, no doubt unconsciously, the customs of the Hindus, who, from the earliest times, have made the ordeal a religious ceremony, to be conducted by Brahmans, with invocations to the divine powers, and to be performed by the patient at sunrise, immediately after the prescribed ablutions, and while yet fasting....

The modern Hindoo variety of this ordeal consists in casting a piece of gold or a metal ring into a vessel of boiling ghee, or sesame oil, of a specified size and depth. Sacrifices are offered to the gods, a mantra, or Vedic prayer, is uttered over the oil, which is heated until it burns a fresh peepul leaf, and if the person on trial can extract the ring between his finger and thumb, without scalding himself, he is pronounced victorious. In 1783 a case is recorded as occurring at Benares, in which a Brahman accused a linen-painter of theft, and as there was no other way of settling the dispute, both parties agreed to abide by the result of the ordeal... So lately as 1867 the Bombay Gazette records a case occurring at Jamnuggur, when a camel-driver named Chakee Soomar, under whose charge a considerable sum of money was lost, was exposed by a local official to the ordeal of boiling oil... it was performed by placing a small silver ball in a brazen vessel eight inches deep, filled with boiling ghee. After various religious ceremonies, the accused plunged in his hand, and sometimes was obliged to repeat the attempt several times before he could bring out the ball. The hand was then wrapped up in tender palm leaves and examined after an interval of three days...

In almost all ages there has existed the belief that under the divine influence the human frame was able to resist the action of fire. Even the sceptic Pliny seems to share the superstition as to the families of the Hirpi, who at the annual sacrifice made to Apollo, on Mount Soracte, walked without injury over piles of burning coals, in recognition of which, by a perpetual senatus consultum, they were relieved from all public burdens. That fire applied either directly or indirectly should be used in the appeal to God was therefore natural, and the convenience with which it could be employed by means of iron rendered that the most usual form of the ordeal. As employed in Europe, under the name of judicium ferri or juise it was administered in two essentially different forms. The one (vomeres igniti, examen pedale) consisted in laying on the ground at certain distances six, nine, or in some cases twelve, red-hot ploughshares, among which the accused walked barefooted, sometimes blindfolded, when it became an ordeal of pure chance, and sometimes compelled to press each iron with his naked feet. The other and more usual form obliged the patient to carry in his hand for a certain distance, usually nine feet, a piece of red-hot iron, the weight of which was determined by law and varied with the importance of the question at issue or the magnitude of the alleged crime. Thus, among the Anglo-Saxons, in the “simple ordeal” the iron weighed one pound, in the “triple ordeal” three pounds. The latter is prescribed for incendiaries and “morth-slayers” (secret murderers), for false coining, and for plotting against the king’s life; while at a later period, in the collection known as the Laws of Henry I., we find it extended to cases of theft, robbery, arson, and felonies in general. In Sweden, for theft, the form known as trux iarn was employed, in which the accused had to carry the red-hot iron and deposit it in a hole twelve paces from the starting-point; in other cases the ordeal was called scuz iarn, when he carried it nine paces and then cast it from him. These ordeals were held on Wednesday, after fasting on bread and water on Monday and Tuesday; the hand or foot was washed, after which it was allowed to touch nothing till it came in contact with the iron; it was then wrapped up and sealed until Saturday, when it was opened in presence of the accuser and the judges. In Spain, the iron had no definite weight, but was a palm and two fingers in length, with four feet, high enough to enable the criminal to lift it conveniently. The episcopal benediction was necessary to consecrate the iron to its judicial use. A charter of 1082 shows that the Abbey of Fontanelle in Normandy had one of approved sanctity, which, through the ignorance of a monk, was applied to other purposes. The Abbot thereupon asked the Archbishop of Rouen to consecrate another, and before the latter would consent the institution had to prove its right to administer the ordeal. The wrapping up and sealing of the hand was a general custom, derived from the East, and usually after three days it was uncovered and the decision was rendered in accordance with its condition. These proceedings were accompanied by the same solemn observances which have been already described, the iron itself was duly exorcised, and the intervention of God was invoked in the name of all the manifestations of Divine clemency or wrath by the agency of fire—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the burning bush of Horeb, the destruction of Sodom, and the day of judgment. Occasionally, when several criminals were examined together, the same piece of heated iron was borne by them successively, giving a manifest advantage to the last one, who had to endure a temperature considerably less than his companions.

In India this was one of the earliest forms of the ordeal, in use even in the Vedic period, as it is referred to in the Khandogya Upanishad of the Sama Veda, where the head of a hatchet is alluded to as the implement employed for the trial—subsequently replaced by a ploughshare. In the seventh century, A. D., Hiouen Thsang reports that the red-hot iron was applied to the tongue of the accused as well as to the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet, his innocence being designated by the amount of resultant injury. This may have been a local custom, for, according to Institutes of Vishnu, closely followed by Yajnavalkya, the patient bathes and performs certain religious ceremonies; then after rubbing his hands with rice bran, seven green asvattha leaves are placed on the extended palms and bound with a thread. A red-hot iron ball or spear-head, weighing about two pounds and three-quarters, is then brought, and the judge adjures it—

“Thou, O fire, dwellest in the interior of all things like a witness. O fire, thou knowest what mortals do not comprehend.

“This man being arraigned in a cause desires to be cleared from guilt. Therefore mayest thou deliver him lawfully from this perplexity.”

The glowing ball is then placed on the hands of the accused, and with it he has to walk across seven concentric circles of cow-dung, each with a radius sixteen fingers’ breadth larger than the preceding, and throw the ball into a ninth circle, where it must burn some grass placed there for the purpose. If this be accomplished without burning the hands, he gains his cause, but the slightest injury convicts him. A minimum limit of a thousand pieces of silver was established at an early period as requisite to justify the administration of this form of ordeal in a suit. But the robust faith in the power of innocence characteristic of the earlier Hindus seems to have diminished, for subsequent recensions of the code and later lawgivers increase the protection afforded to the hand by adding to the asvattha leaves additional strata of dharba grass and barley moistened with curds, the whole bound around with seven turns of raw silk. Ali Ibrahim Khan relates a case which he witnessed at Benares in 1783 in which a man named Sancar, accused of larceny, offered to be tried in this manner.... The ordeal took place in presence of a large assemblage, when, to the surprise of every one, Sancar carried the red-hot ball through the seven circles, threw it duly into the ninth where it burnt the grass, and exhibited his hands uninjured.... Even in 1873, the Bombay Gazette states that this ordeal is still practised in Oodeypur, where a case had shortly before occurred wherein a husbandman had been obliged to prove his innocence by holding a red-hot ploughshare in his hands, duly guarded with peepul leaves, turning his face towards the sun and invoking it: “Thou Sun-God, if I am actually guilty of the crime, punish me; if not, let me escape unscathed from the ordeal!”—and in this instance, also, the accused was uninjured.

A peculiar modification of the hot-iron ordeal is employed by the aboriginal hill-tribes of Rajmahal, in the north of Bengal, when a person believes himself to be suffering from witchcraft. The Satane and the Cherreen are used to find out the witch, and then the decision is confirmed by a person representing the sufferer, who, with certain religious ceremonies, applies his tongue to a red-hot iron nine times, unless sooner burnt. A burn is considered to render the guilt of the accused indubitable, and his only appeal is to have the trial repeated in public, when, if the same result follows, he is bound either to cure the bewitched person or to suffer death if the latter dies....


The ordeal of fire, administered directly, without the intervention either of water or of iron, is one of the most ancient forms, as is shown by the allusions to it in both the Hindu Vedic writings, the adventure of Siawush, and the passage in the Antigone of Sophocles (pp. 266, 267, 270). In this, its simplest form, it may be considered the origin of the proverbial expression, “J’en mettrois la main au feu,” [Google translate: I put my hand in the fire] as an affirmation of positive belief, showing how thoroughly the whole system engrained itself in the popular mind. In India, as practised in modern times, its form approaches somewhat the ordeal of the burning ploughshares. A trench is dug nine hands in length, two spans in breadth, and one span in depth. This is filled with peepul wood, which is then set on fire, and the accused walks into it with bare feet. A more humane modification is described in the seventh century by Hiouen-Thsang as in use when the accused was too tender to undergo the trial by red-hot iron. He simply cast into the flames certain flower-buds, when, if they opened their leaves, he was acquitted; if they were burnt up, he was condemned....


In India the ordeal of cold water became simply one of endurance. The stream or pond was exorcised with the customary Mantras:—

“Thou O water dwellest in the interior of all things like a witness. O water thou knowest what mortals do not comprehend.

“This man being arraigned in a cause desires to be cleared from guilt. Therefore mayest thou deliver him lawfully from this perplexity.”

The patient stood in water up to his middle, facing the East, caught hold of the thighs of a man “free from friendship or hatred” and dived under, while simultaneously an arrow of reed without a head was shot from a bow, 106 fingers’ breadth in length, and if he could remain under water until the arrow was picked up and brought back, he gained his cause, but if any portion of him could be seen above the surface he was condemned. Yajnavalkya says this form of ordeal was only used on the Sudras, or lowest caste, while the Ayeen Akbery speaks of it as confined to the Vaisyas, or caste of husbandmen and merchants. According to the Institutes of Vishnu, it was not to be administered to the timid or those affected with lung diseases, nor to those who gained their living by the water, such as fishermen or boatmen, nor was it allowed during the winter.

Although, as we have seen, the original cold-water ordeal in India, as described by Manu, was precisely similar to the European form, inasmuch as the guilty were expected to float and the innocent to sink, and although in this shape it prevailed everywhere throughout Europe, and its tenacity of existence rendered it the last to disappear in the progress of civilization, yet it does not make its appearance in any of the earlier codes of the Barbarians. The first allusions to it occur in the ninth century, and it was then so generally regarded as a novelty that documents almost contemporaneous ascribe its invention to the popes of that period...


We have seen above that a belief existed that persons guilty of sorcery lost their specific gravity, and this superstition naturally led to the use of the balance in the effort to discover and punish the crime of witchcraft, which all experts assure us was the most difficult of all offences on which to obtain evidence. The trial by balance, however, was not a European invention. Like nearly all the other ordeals, it can be traced back to India, where, at least as early as the time of the Institutes of Vishnu, it was in common use. It is described there as reserved for women, children, old men, invalids, the blind, the lame, and the privileged Brahman caste, and not to be undertaken when a wind was blowing. After proper ceremonies the patient was placed in one scale, with an equivalent weight to counterbalance him in the other, and the nicety of the operation is shown by the prescription that the beam must have a groove with water in it, evidently for the purpose of detecting the slightest deflection either way. The accused then descended and the judge addressed the customary adjuration to the balance:—

“Thou, O balance, art called by the same name as holy law (dharma); thou, O balance, knowest what mortals do not comprehend.

“This man, arraigned in a cause, is weighed upon thee. Therefore mayest thou deliver him lawfully from this perplexity.”

Then the accused was replaced in the scale, and if he were found to be lighter than before he was acquitted. If the scale broke, the trial was to be repeated...


The ordeal of the cross (judicium crucis, stare ad crucem) was one of simple endurance and differed from all its congeners, except the duel, in being bilateral. The plaintiff and defendant, after appropriate religious ceremonies and preparation, stood with uplifted arms before a cross, while divine service was performed, victory being adjudged to the one who was able longest to maintain his position. An ancient formula for judgments obtained in this manner in cases of disputed titles to land prescribes the term of forty-two nights for the trial. It doubtless originated in the use of this exercise by the Church both as a punishment and as a penance...

In India a cognate mode is adopted by the people of Ramgur to settle questions of disputed boundaries between villages. When agreement by argument or referees is found impossible, each community chooses a champion, and the two stand with one leg buried in the earth until weariness or the bites of insects cause one of them to yield, when the territory in litigation is adjudged to the village of the victor...


The ordeal of consecrated bread or cheese (judicium offæ, panis conjuratio, pabulum probationis, the corsnæd of the Anglo-Saxons) was administered by presenting to the accused a piece of bread (generally of barley) or of cheese, about an ounce in weight,1079 over which prayers and adjurations had been pronounced. After appropriate religious ceremonies, including the communion, the morsel was eaten, the event being determined by the ability of the accused to swallow it...

In India, this ordeal is performed with a kind of rice called sathee, prepared with various incantations. The person on trial eats it, with his face to the East, and then spits upon a peepul leaf. “If the saliva is mixed with blood, or the corners of his mouth swell, or he trembles, he is declared to be a liar.” A slightly different form is described for cases in which several persons are suspected of theft. The consecrated rice is administered to them all, is chewed lightly, and then spit out upon a peepul leaf. If any one ejects it either dry or tinged with blood, he is adjudged guilty.

Based on the same theory is a ceremony performed by the pre-Aryan hill-tribes of Rajmahal, when swearing judges into office preparatory to the trial of a case. In this a pinch of salt is placed upon a tulwar or scimitar, and held over the mouth of the judge, to whom is addressed the adjuration, “If thou decidest contrary to thy judgment and falsely, may this salt be thy death!” The judge repeats the formula, and the salt is washed with water into his mouth...


From ancient times in India there has been in common use an ordeal known as cosha, consisting of water in which an idol has been washed. The priest celebrates solemn rites “to some tremendous deity,” such as Durga or the Adityas, whose image is then bathed in water. Three handfuls of this water are then drunk by the accused, and if within fourteen days he is not visited with some dreadful calamity from the act of the deity or of the king, “he must indubitably be acquitted.”...


The appeal to chance, as practised in India, bears several forms, substantially identical in principle. One mode consists in writing the words dherem (consciousness of innocence) and adherem (its opposite) on plates of silver and lead respectively, or on pieces of white and black linen, which are placed in a vessel that has never held water. The person whose cause is at stake inserts his hand and draws forth one of the pieces, when if it happens to be dherem it proves his truth. Another method is to place in a vessel a silver image of Dharma, the genius of justice, and one in iron or clay of Adharma; or else a figure of Dharma is painted on white cloth and another on black cloth, and the two are rolled together in cow-dung and thrown into a jar, when the accused is acquitted or convicted according to his fortune in drawing Dharma....


In India, the accused was required to undergo the risk of a fine if he desired to force his adversary to the ordeal; but either party could voluntarily undertake it, in which case the other was subject to a mulct if defeated.1214 The character of the defendant, however, had an important bearing upon its employment. If he had already been convicted of a crime or of perjury he was subject to it in all cases, however trifling; if, on the other hand, he was a man of unblemished reputation, he was not to be exposed to it, however important was the385 case.1215 In civil cases, however, it apparently was only employed to supplement deficient evidence.—“Evidence consists of writings, possession, and witnesses. If one of these is wanting, then one of the ordeals is valid.”...

The absence of satisfactory testimony, rendering the case one not to be solved by human means alone is frequently, as in India, alluded to as a necessary element; and indeed we may almost assert that this was so, even when not specifically mentioned, as far as regards the discretion of the tribunal to order an appeal to the judgment of God...

These regulations give to the ordeal decidedly the aspect of punishment, as it was thus inflicted on those whose guilt was so generally credited that they could not find comrades to stand up with them at the altar as partakers in their oath of denial; and this is not the only circumstance which leads us to believe that it was frequently so regarded. This notion is visible in the ancient Indian law, where, as we have seen, certain of the ordeals—those of red-hot iron, poison, and the balance—could not be employed unless the matter at stake were equivalent to the value of a thousand pieces of silver, or involved an offence against the king...

In fact, the ordeal was practically looked upon as a torture by those whose enlightenment led them to regard as a superstition the faith popularly reposed in it. An epistle which is attributed both to Stephen V. and Sylvester II. condemns the whole system on the ground that the canons forbid the extortion of confessions by heated irons and boiling water; and that a credulous belief could not be allowed to sanction that which was not permitted by the fathers....


In the Institutes of Manu there are very minute directions as to evidence, the testimony preferred being that of witnesses, whose comparative credibility is very carefully discussed, and when such evidence is not attainable, the parties, as we have seen above, are ordered to be sworn or tried by the ordeal. These principles have been transmitted unchanged to the present day.
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Historical Analysis of Land Ownership
by Rajesh Kumar



The problem of land ownership at present cannot be resolved without understanding the land ownership structure of the past. The past plays an important role in shaping our perceptions and ordering our priorities. Naturally, the solutions we find for the contemporary crisis are affected by our past. Hence, it is important to see how our ancestors understood land ownership.

There is a general consensus among experts that the question of land ownership came into existence in the post-vedic era because during the Rig vedic era, the Aryans were pastorals and cattle was the main index of wealth. Land ownership was not prevalent at that time. In the post-vedic era, due to use of iron implements in agriculture, people started staying in one place. We find reference to land ownership in the post-vedic book Aitareya Brahman in which it is written that when Vishwakarman Bhuvan donated land to the purohits for performing yagna, Prithvi protested. This suggests that it was not possible to donate land without the consent of the community. In other words, land ownership was based on community and there was no concept of individual ownership of land.

According to dharmashastra expert of Mahajanpad period, Gautam, any property that was the means of livelihood, could not be divided, and this, most probably, also included land. With the development of villages inhabited by a wide spectrum of communities and professionals, the question of ownership of land that was not attached to an identifiable property became equally perplexing. The fact that there was common ownership of land can also be verified in Rishi Jaimini’s Mimamsa sutras. Under this arrangement, no king can give away all the land of his kingdom since the earth belongs to all.

During the Maurya era, political philosopher Kautilya was in favour of the king’s control over all agricultural land, but he did not sponsor the notion that the king should be the owner of all the land. Possibly, Manu was the first person to have talked about king’s first right of ownership of the land. But this does not necessarily mean that he is the absolute owner of all the land. According to Manu, the king owns half of all that comes out of mines, because he is lord of the earth and protects it. The concept of king’s ownership over all land was first propounded in the post-Gupta period by Sage Katyayan who said that the king is the owner of all land and therefore, he has right to one fourth of all the products of land. At the same time, he also accepts that one who lives on land, should be the man acknowledged as its owner. A similar sentiment is expressed in Narad Smriti. Contrary to this, the Narsingh Puran clearly says that the land belongs to the king and not to the farmer. One can say that Narsingh Puran is the first text which gives the king the total ownership of land.

According to Narad, if a family has been enjoying the fruits of a land for three generations, then they have the legal rights over it. However, the will of the king can facilitate transfer of the land to another farming household. This implies that the king’s right can infringe upon the individual’s right. Chinese travellers Fahien who came to India during the Gupta period and Hiuen Tsang who came during King Harshvardhan’s rule noted that the land belonged to the king. Writing in the post-Gupta period, Brihaspati noted that during the division of ancestral property, shudra putras (lower caste sons) of upper caste men would not get a share. Besides, the division of grazing land was also an accepted practice. So, division of land and the continuation of accepting it as private property started during the Gupta period [mid-to-late 3rd century CE to 543 CE].
The rules for sale of land were first laid down by Brihaspati. Kautilya talks only about the sale of house and the land attached to it, but he does not talk about sale of land per se. After Brihaspati, it was Katyayan who made rules in this regard. According to him, land which is taxed could be sold to pay the tax. According to Brihaspati, during sale of land one must mention the number of wells, trees, water sources, fields, ripe crops, fruits, ponds, tax houses etc. Here, one may conjecture that Brihaspati was delienating terms of selling an entire village.

According to Gautam and Manu, if a plot of land stays under possession of a person for 10 years or more, then it becomes his property. Yagyavallabh extended this period to 20 years, but none of them talked about land in this context. Vishnu, Narad, Brihaspati and Katyayan increased this period to three generations that is 60 years and also included land under this. With the 11th century Mitakshara law, the time period was increased to a 100 years and in the 13th century under Smriti Chandrika it was increased to 105 years. This makes it clear that the concept of individual ownership of land could not be challenged any further. So, we see that during the beginning of the ancient period, there was community ownership of land; by the end of the ancient period the stress was on the king’s and individual ownership of land, even though it appears that these two rights are in conflict with one another. Due to king’s ownership of land, the king could grant land to temple priests, powerful nobles and employees in return of services rendered to the king. And under the concept of individual ownership of land, the person who received a grant of land from the king could hand it over to farmers on patta. From the above it appears that since the early middle ages, there were more than one claimant for land and each had legal backing for it. A similar situation was prevalent in feudal Europe at that time, though there were some fundamental differences.

During 1200s, when the Muslim sultanates were established in north India, there was a change in the pattern of land ownership. The land under the Sultanate was divided into three parts. The first was ‘khalsa’ land which was directly under the Centre, the second was ‘Ekta’ which was given to the officers in lieu of their salary. The officers were expected to take their salary from the revenue generated from the land and return the remaining to the Centre. The third type of land was donated to scholars and priests. Since land was in plenty, the question of ownership was relatively less intimidating. Khoot, Mukaddam and Choudhary were the intermediate land owning class. Of them the Khoots had the status of zamindars, while Mukaddam and Choudhary were heads of villages and were prosperous farmers. This intermediate land owning class used to collect tax from the farmers and deposit it in the Central treasury. But, during the era of Allauddin Khilji, the powers of the intermediate class were taken away and the State’s employees were given the task of collecting tax directly from the farmers. In the rural society, the land owning farmers and the landless farmers lived side by side, but only the land owning farmer paid the taxes.

During the rule of Sher Shah Suri, the ‘Jabt’ system was introduced and the tax was based on the size of the holding. All cultivable land was measured and each farmer was given a title deed in which the tax to be levied was also mentioned. The direct relation with the state saved the farmer from exploitation by the zamindars and other intermediaries. During the Mughal period, the situation remained unclear, as had been during the Sultanate regime. It is possible that the state and other sections had right over the same plot of land, but there was no concept of total ownership of land. During this period the influence of the zamindars increased and they amassed enormous social clout. Akbar divided the land under him into ‘Khalsa’ and ‘Jagir’. The Mansabdars, whose salaries were derived from the revenue of the land given to them, were known as the Jagirdars. Along with them there was a large class of Zamindars, who, in turn, were divided into three categories. The farmers were of two types – the ‘Khudkashta’ and ‘Pahikashta’. The former were farmers who tilled their own lands and the latter were landless peasants who tilled other people’s land. One may deduce that the settlement pattern during the Mughal period led to the rise of several claimants to the same plot of land.

The question of land ownership once again came to the forefront during the British. It was in Bengal that the British rule first tried to solve this problem. In the beginning, all the land was considered to be that of the ruler and revenue collection was based on contract. The highest bidder of a tract of land was given the right to collect the revenue. After experimenting with several models of revenue collection, the then governor general Cornwallis accepted that the Zamindars had the right of ownership of land and this ownership passed from father to son. This was done so that if a zamindar failed to give the promised revenue on time, his land could be auctioned. When lands of the zamindars were auctioned, it was the traders who usually purchased them. During the British period, industries had declined and for the traders there was no safer investment than land. However, the zamindars lived in the cities and the problem associated with absentee landlordism started cropping up.

The main aim of the absentee zamindars was to extract the maximum amount of revenue from the farmers and little from the tillers. Gradually, the new generation of the zamindars also started living in the cities and their motive too was to extract the maximum amount of revenue from the farmers.

Apart from Bengal, the ownership of land was given directly to the farmers in the rest of the country upon the payment of fixed revenue called malguzari. If they failed, their land had to be mortgaged or sold to pay the dues. In south India, the farmers used to deposit the land revenue directly to the government, while in Punjab and other parts of north India, the Mahal, who represented the farmers, used to collect revenue. Over a period of time, the British increased their demand for land revenue and to ensure that it could be collected, they made land a saleable property. So whenever a zamindar, farmer or Mahal failed to deposit the revenue on the given date, his ownership of the land was auctioned and the land revenue was collected. Prior to the British rule, such auctions of confiscated land was rare. In most of the cases the land on which people could build houses or land that was to be donated for religious purposes were bought and sold. Even during the British period, 40 per cent of the area came under the princely states and the pattern of ownership on this land was based on concepts that varied from the medieval to modern.

After independence, the question of land was discussed in detail at the Constituent Assembly and Parliament. Since India had decided to become a democratic republic, it was decided that a land distribution should be more just and equitable. Egged on by the Centre, the State governments passed the Zamindari abolition act and other similar acts to bring about some regularity in the ownership pattern of land.

After zamindari was abolished, the zamindars were given compensation of their land and it was distributed among those who had been tilling them. In most of the States, the zamindari system was abolished by 1956. But the absence of land records made it difficult to implement laws abolishing zamindari. According to one study, the area under kashtakars (share croppers) had come down from 42 per cent in 1950-51 to around 20-25 per cent in the beginning of the 60s. This did not mean that the share croppers had become owners, rather it meant that the landowners had evicted them. On the other hand, the compensation given to the zamindars was often inadequate and varied from State to State.

There were several hurdles to the abolition of zamindari system. In Uttar Pradesh, the zamindars were allowed to keep land for their personal cultivation, but there was no limit to this holding, as a result of which the absentee landlord could save their land from acquisition. However, some of the bigger landlords did cultivate land on their own and invested in the land, which were included in goals of land development. The land owners also tried to block the implementation of the Act by misusing the path of judicial remedy. However, by 1960, zamindari was abolished in most parts of the country except in some parts of Bihar. While on the one hand, the big landowners were the main losers; on the other hand, the sharecroppers who had been working on the same land for years gained the ownership of the land. According to a rough estimate, due to abolition of zamindari system, two crore sharecroppers got land.

Efforts were made to improve the sharecropping system and there were three main ingredients to it. The time period for registering as sharecropper was kept at six years. Moreover, the land revenue was reduced from one fourth to one sixth of the production. However, to get ownership rights, the sharecropper had to deposit a lump sum land revenue. For example, in Andhra Pradesh it was only after the payment of eight years’ land revene that a farmer could acquire rights over the land he tilled. Despite these Acts, the right of the absentee landowners to start farming and the loosely framed concept of personal cultivable land meant that many sharecroppers were evicted from the land. Since the agreements between the farmers and the landlords were rarely documented, the legality of sharecropper’s claim could not be verified. But even then a large section did benefit from it. To improve the lot of sharecropper, the Operation Barga was launched in Bengal by the Left government in 1978 and by 1990, over 14 lakh Bargadars were registered. The main aim of Operation Barga was to provide security to the sharecropper on the land he tilled. He could no more be evicted on the land owner’s whim and it also ensured that his rights were passed on to his successor. The division ratio between the sharecropper and land owner was kept at 75:25 and if the land owner invested in the seeds and fertiliser, then it was a 50:50 share between the two. Training camps were set up during Operation Barga where officials from more than 10 departments interacted with 30 or more agriculture labourers and sharecroppers to devise strategies on implementing Operation Barga in that area. At first Operation Barga was hugely successful, but later it could not sustain its momentum because the holdings of landowners were no bigger than that of most sharecroppers of the area and because many started cultivating their own lands.

Under the Hadbandi Act, no family could keep cultivable land above a certain limit. In 1946, the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha had kept 25 acres as the maximum limit of cultivable land a family could keep. However, there was a great delay in framing the rules under this Act and different State governments fixed different limits as a result of which the impact of this act lost its intensity. In a country like India where the average holding of 70 per cent of the farmers was less than 5 acres, the threshold limit of land holding fixed by the State was very high. In Andhra Pradesh it was fixed between 27-132 acres depending on the type of land. In most states the threshold limit was fixed on an individual basis and there was provision to increase it. Even with its limitations, this act was an important milestone in the programme of land reforms. It greatly succeeded in ending the land market and concentration of land.

The landowners often took advantage of the loopholes in the land reform laws. At some places they managed to evict their sharecroppers and to save their land from the Hadbandi Act. Moreover, they started keeping land in fictitious names. It was then that Vinoba Bhave, a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, started the Bhoodan movement. The movement appealed to the individual landowner to donate land to the landless.

The main thrust of the Bhoodan movement was to address the conscience of the landowner and get him to donate one sixth of his land. The land thus procured was distributed among the landless. By March 1956, the movement started losing momentum after getting more than 40 lakh acres of land. It was found that most of the donated land was either barren or locked in litigation. Efficient distribution, too could not be ensured. By the end of 1955, the Gramdan movement was also launched. Once again the inspiration of this movement was Gandhiji who believed that all land belonged to God. Under Gramdan, all the villagers had joint ownership over the land in the village. This movement started in Orissa. Even though it held a lot of promise, by the 60s the Bhoodan and Gramdan movement lost their momentum. But by these movements an effort was made at land reforms which not only complemented land reform legislations but also encouraged the farmers to enter politics and increased the number of farmer producers’ cooperatives among other things.

So, we find that the pattern of land ownership changed from community ownership in ancient India to individual and then to king’s ruler’s ownership.

In the middle ages the king\sultan and zamindar\farmer had concurrent rights over the same plot of land. In the British era, due to excessive land revenue extracted from farmers, land became a saleable product. In independent India, the laws of land ownership were framed to ensure that each farmer had a minimum amount of land with him, but this target could not be reached. Although, some of the disparities in land ownership were addressed over the years by movements such as Bhoodan and Gramdan, there are still many with large tracts of land and many more who are landless while it remains to see how dexterously the government handles social inequality arising out of uneven distribution of land. An empathetic approach is sought from the big land-owners.

(The writer is an engineer and has published four books on history)
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Land System in India: A Historical Review [Excerpt]
by Rekha Bandyopadhyay
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 28, No. 52, pp. A149-A155 (7 pages)
Dec. 25, 1993



Owing to the cold season I could not observe the condition of the wheat actually growing in the fields, but I learned at the above village that in that locality the wheat crop was considered ordinary when it was at the rate of two bushels from two pecks of seeds, and unusually abundant when the rate reached three bushels. In the neighborhood of Lhasa four or five bushels are obtained from two pecks of seeds, if the weather proves favorable, but three bushels are passed as fair.

This testifies to the primitiveness of the methods of farming obtaining in Tibet. One cannot but be surprised at the ill-kept condition of the fields which, with their ‘rich’ deposits of pebbles, cannot be termed cultivated land in the proper sense of the word. I do not mean to speak ill of the Tibetans, but this curious neglect of cleaning the land is a fact; indeed, it is a universal feature of the country. I once suggested to a native farmer the advisability of removing the pebbles, but the reply was simply that such practices were not endorsed by tradition. Tradition is to the Tibetans a heavenly dictate, and controls all social arrangements. Those residing in more civilised parts of the country, however, entertain somewhat more progressive ideas, and have learned to utilise the products of modern ingenuity from the West. The case is quite different with the mass of the people, who are still laboring under a thousand and one forms of conservatism...

In Tibet, as in other countries, taxes are assessed on cultivated fields, but, as the Tibetans are practically strangers to mathematics, as stated in a preceding chapter, a very curious and primitive method is adopted with regard to the land-measuring which forms the basis of the assessment.

The method consists in setting two yaks, drawing a plough, to work upon a given area, the assessment being made according to the time taken in the tillage. In other words, the different plots of cultivated lands are classified as lands of half a day’s tillage, or a day’s tillage, and so on, as the case may be, and assessed accordingly....

The nation is so credulous in the matter of religion that they indiscriminately believe whatever is told to them by their religious teachers, the lamas. Thus for instance they believe that there are eight kinds of evil spirits which delight in afflicting people and send hail to hurt the crops. Some priests therefore maintain that they must fight against and destroy these evil demons in order to keep them off, and the old school profess that in order to combat these spirits effectually they must know when the demons are preparing the hail. During the winter when there is much snow, these spirits, according to the priests, gather themselves at a certain place, where they make large quantities of hail out of snow. They then store the hail somewhere in heaven, and go to rest, until in the summer when the crops are nearly ripe they throw down the hail from the air. Hence the Tibetans must make sharp weapons to keep off the hail, and consequently, while the spirits are preparing their hail, the Tibetans hold a secret meeting in some ravine where they prepare ‘hail-proof shells,’ which are pieces of mud about the size of a sparrow’s egg. These are made by a priest, who works with a servant or two in some lonely ravine, where by some secret method he makes many shells, chanting words of incantation the while, whereby he lays a spell on each shell he makes. These pellets are afterwards used as missiles when hail falls in the summer, and are supposed to drive it back. None but priests of good family may devote themselves to this work. Every village has at least one priest called Ngak-pa (the chanters of incantations of the old school) and during the winter these Ngak-pas offer prayers, perform charms, or pray for blessings for others. But the Tibetans have a general belief that the Ngak-pas sometimes curse others. I was often told that such and such person had offended a Ngak-pa and was cursed to death.

Having spent the winter in this way, the Ngak-pas during the summer prepare to fight against the devils. Let me remark, in passing, that Tibet has not four seasons, as we have, but the year is divided into summer and winter. The four seasons are indeed mentioned in Tibetan books, but there are in reality only two.

The summer there is from about the 15th of March to the 15th of September and all the rest of the year is winter. As early as March or April the ploughing of the fields and sowing of wheat begins, and then the Ngak-pa proceeds to the Hail-Subduing-Temple, erected on the top of one of the high mountains. This kind of temple is always built on the most elevated place in the whole district, for the reason that the greatest advantage is thus obtained for ascertaining the direction from which the clouds containing hail issue forth. From the time that the ears of the wheat begin to shoot, the priest continues to reside in the temple, though from time to time, it is said, he visits his own house, as he has not very much to do in the earlier part of his service. About June, however, when the wheat has grown larger, the protection of the crop from injury by hail becomes more urgent, so that the priest never leaves the temple, and his time is fully taken up with making offerings and sending up prayers for protection to various deities. The service is gone through three times each day and night, and numberless incantations are pronounced. What is more strange is that the great hail storms generally occur when the larger part of the crops are becoming ripe, and then it is the time for the priest on service to bend his whole energies to the work of preventing the attack of hail.

When it happens that big masses of clouds are gathering overhead, the Ngak-pa first assumes a solemn and stern aspect, drawing himself up on the brink of the precipice as firm as the rock itself, and then pronounces an enchantment with many flourishes of his rosary much in the same manner as our warrior of old did with his baton. In a wild attempt to drive away the hail clouds, he fights against the mountain, but it often happens that the overwhelming host comes gloomily upon him with thunders roaring and flashes of lightning that seem to shake the ground under him and rend the sky above, and the volleys of big hailstones follow, pouring down thick and fast, like arrows flying in the thick of battle. The priest then, all in a frenzy, dances in fight against the air, displaying a fury quite like a madman in a rage. With charms uttered at the top of his voice he cuts the air right and left, up and down, with his fist clenched and finger pointed. If in spite of all his efforts, the volleys of hail thicken and strike the fields beneath, the priest grows madder in his wrath, quickly snatches handfuls of the bullets aforementioned which he carries about him, and throws them violently against the clouds as if to strike them. If all this avail nothing, he rends his garment to pieces, and throws the rags up in the air, so perfectly mad is he in his attempt to put a stop to the falling hailstones. When, as sometimes happens, the hail goes drifting away and leaves the place unharmed, the priest is puffed up with pride at the victory he has gained, and the people come to congratulate him with a great show of gratitude. But when, unluckily for him, the hail falls so heavily as to do much harm to the crops, his reverence has to be punished with a fine, apportioned to the amount of injury done by the hail, as provided by the law of the land.

To make up for the loss the Ngak-pa thus sustains, he is entitled at other times, when the year passes with little or no hail, to obtain an income under the name of “hail-prevention-tax;” a strange kind of impost, is it not? The “hail-prevention-tax” is levied in kind, rated at about two sho of wheat per tan of land, which is to be paid to the Ngak-pa. In a plentiful year this rate may be increased to two and a half sho. This is, indeed a heavy tax for the farmers in Tibet, for it is an extra, in addition to the regular amount which they have to pay to their Government...

Most priests have some landed property, and some of them breed yaks, horses, sheep and goats in the provinces, though it would be rare for one of the middle-class to have more than some fifty yaks and ten horses. These animals are also employed in ploughing the fields, but no more than ten lots of land may be ploughed by two yaks in a day. The priests can hardly lead a well-to-do life without such property or some private business, for what they are given from their temples and by the believers is not sufficient for them.

Few priests are without some private business or other—indeed, most of them are engaged in trade. Agriculture comes next to trade, and then cattle-breeding.
Manufacturers of Buḍḍhist articles, painters of Buḍḍhist pictures, tailors, carpenters, masons, shoemakers and stone-layers are found among the priests; there is hardly any kind of business in Tibet, but some of the priests are engaged in it. There are, besides, many kinds of business in which none but priests engage. The lower class of priests as well as the middle-class engage in trade, but some rich priests have as many as from five hundred to four thousand yaks and from one to six hundred horses. They have from one to six hundred lots of land, each lot being as large as will take two yaks to cultivate in a day...

The Tibetan administration is of an anomalous description—a hybrid partaking of feudalism on the one hand and of the modern system of Local Government on the other.

The relation between Peers and commoners apparently resembles feudalism. The first recipient of the title was granted a certain tract of land in recognition of his service, and there at once sprung up between this lord of the manor, as it were, and the inhabitants of that particular place a relationship akin to that between sovereign and subject. This lord is an absolute master of his people, both in regard to their rights and even their lives.

The lord levies a poll-tax on the inhabitants, and even the poorest are not exempted from this obligation. The levy varies considerably according to the means of the payer, from say one tanka paid by a poor inhabitant to even a hundred paid by a wealthier member of the community. Besides, every freeholder must pay land tax, the land held by him being understood theoretically to belong to the lord. However heavy the burden of the poll-tax may be, each person is obliged to pay it, for if he neglects to do so he is liable to be punished with flogging and the confiscation of his property to boot. The only means of escape from this obligation consists in becoming a monk, and there must be in the Tibetan priesthood a large number of men who have turned priests solely with this object of avoiding the payment of taxes....

However, when it is remembered how heavy are the burdens imposed on the shoulders of the people, it is not strange that they should try to evade them by entering the Order. The condition of even the poorest priest presents a great contrast to that of other poor people, for the priest is at least sure to obtain every month a regular allowance, small as it is, from the Hierarchical Government, while he can expect more or less of extra allowances in the shape of occasional presents from charitable people. But a poor layman cannot expect any help from those quarters, and he has to support his family with his own labor and to pay the poll-tax besides. Very often therefore he is hardly able to drive the wolf of hunger from his door, and in such case his only hope of succor lies in a loan from his landlord, or the lord of the manor wherein he resides. But hope of repayment there is none, and so the poor farmer gets that loan under a strange contract, that is to say, by binding himself to offer his son or daughter as a servant to the creditor when he or she attains a certain age. And so his child when he has reached the age of (say) ten years is surrendered to the creditor, who is entitled to employ him as a servant for fifteen or twenty years, and for a loan which does not generally exceed ten yen. The lives of the children of poor people may therefore be considered as being foreclosed by their parents. Those pitiable children grow up to be practically slaves of the Peers.

The relationship existing between the Peers and the people residing on their estates, therefore, partakes of the nature of feudalism in some essential respects, but it cannot be said that feudalism reigns alone in Tibet to the exclusion of other systems of Government. On the contrary a centralised form of Government prevails more or less at the same time. The Peers, it must be remembered, do not generally reside on their own estates; they reside in Lhasa and leave their estates in charge of their stewards. And they are not unfrequently appointed by the Central Government as Governors of certain districts.

Consequently the Tibetans may be said to be divided into two classes of people, one being subject to the control of the lords of the manors and other to that of the Central Government. Not unfrequently the two overlap, and the same people are obliged to pay poll-tax to their lords and other taxes to the Central Government.

The work of revenue collection is entrusted to two or three Commissioners appointed from among the clerical or lay officials of higher rank, and these, invested with judicial and executive powers, are despatched every year to the provinces to collect revenue, consisting of taxes, imposts and import duties, these being paid either in money or kind...

The classes who are entitled to enter the Government institutions are only four:

1. Ger-pa, Peers; 2. Ngak-pa, the manṭra clan, 3. Bon-bo, the Old Sect clan; 4. Shal-ngo, families of former chieftains...

The fourth class is “Shal-ngo” and is composed of the descendants of ancient families who acquired power in the locality on account of their wealth in either money or land. The Tibetans are in general a highly conservative race, and therefore they succeed in most cases in keeping intact their hereditary property. Their polyandrous custom too must be conducive to that result, preventing as it does the splitting up of family property among brothers. By far the great majority of the Shal-ngo people possess therefore more or less property; and even a poor Shal-ngo commands the same respect from the public as his richer confrère.

Common people are divided into two grades, one called tong-ba and the other tong-du. The former is superior, and includes all those common people who possess some means and have not fallen into an ignoble state of slavery. Tong-du means etymologically “petty people,” and their rank being one grade lower than that of others, the people of this class are engaged in menial service. Still they are not strictly speaking slaves; they should more properly be considered as poor tenant-farmers, for formerly these people used to stand in the relation of tenant-farmers to land-owners, though such relation no longer exists....

Peers are also traders, mostly by proxy, though some of them refrain from making investments and are content to subsist on the income derived from their land....

I shall next briefly describe the finance of the Tibetan Government.
It must be remembered, however, that this subject is extremely complicated and hardly admits of accurate explanation even by financial experts, for nobody except the Revenue Officials can form an approximate idea of the revenue and expenditure of the Government. All that I could get from the Minister of Finance was that a considerable margin of difference existed according to the year. This must partly come from the fact that taxes are paid in kind, and as the market is necessarily subject to fluctuation even in such an exclusive place as Tibet, the Government cannot always realise the same amount of money from the sale of grain and other commodities collected by the Revenue authorities. Of course anything like statistical returns are unknown in Tibet, and my task being hampered by such serious drawbacks, I can only give here a short account of how the taxes are collected, how they are paid and by what portion of the people, and how the revenue thus collected is disbursed, and such matters, which lie on the surface so that I could easily observe and investigate them.

The Treasury Department of the Papal Government is called Labrang Chenbo, which means the large Kitchen of the Lama. It is so-called, because various kinds of staples are carried in there as duty from the land under his direct jurisdiction, and from landlords holding under a sort of feudal tenure. As there are no such conveniences as drafts or money orders, these staples have to be transported directly from each district to the central treasury, whatever the distance. But the taxpayer has one solace: he can easily obtain, on his way to the treasury, the service of post-horses, such service on such occasions being compulsory. The articles thus collected consist of barley, wheat, beans, buck-wheat, meal and butter. But from districts in which custom-houses are established various other things, such as coral gems, cotton, woollen and silk goods, raisins and peaches are accepted. Other districts pay animal-skins, and thus the large Kitchen is an ‘omnium gatherum.’ Truly a strange method of collecting taxes!

One peculiarity in Tibet is the use of an abundant variety of weights and measures; there are twenty scales for weighing meal, and thirty-two boxes for measuring grain. Bo-chik is the name given to a box of the average size, and it measures about half a bushel. But tax-collectors use, when necessity arises, measures half as large or half as small as these, so that the largest measure holds three quarters of a bushel, while the smallest holds a quarter. The small ones are generally used to measure the staples from provinces such as the native place of the Dalai Lama, or such as have personal relations to some high officials of the Government. Thus, though a favored district is supposed to pay the same number of bushels as the others, it pays in reality only one-half of what the most unfortunate district has to pay. Nor is the measure used for one district a fixed one; it may change from year to year. Suppose one of the most favored districts has produced a great rascal, or rebel, or has done anything that displeases the Government. The whole people of that district are responsible for it; they are obliged to pay by the largest measure, that is, twice as much as they did in the preceding year. Thus the various kinds of offences make it necessary to have thirty-two varieties of measures and twenty of weight.
It is to be noted however that when the Government has to dispose of those stuffs, it never uses the larger measures, though if too small ones are used, it certainly causes complaints on the part of the buyers; hence the middle-sized ones are mostly used. All expenses of Government, such as salaries for priests and officers and wages for mechanics and tradesmen in its service are paid with an average measure...

In each province there are two places where the collection of taxes is made for the Government, one of which is the temple, and the other the Local Government office; for the people are divided into two classes: (1) those who are governed by the temple and (2) those who are governed by the Local Government. They pay their taxes to the Central Government through their respective Governors. In each local district, there is what is called a Zong. This was originally a castle built for warlike purposes, but in time of peace it serves as a Government office, where all the functions of Government are carried on, so taxes are also collected there. The Zong is almost always found standing on the top of a hillock of about three hundred feet and a Zongpon (chief of the castle), generally a layman, lives in it. He is the chief Governor of the district and collects taxes and sends the things or money he has gathered to the Central Government. The Zongpon is not paid by the Central Government directly, but subtracts the equivalent of his pay from the taxes he has collected. The Central Government does not send goods or money to the Local Government except on such few occasions as need special help from the national Treasury. The people under the direct jurisdiction of the Central Government are sometimes made to pay a poll-tax. The people who belong to the nobility and the higher class of priests are of course assessed by their landowners, but there is no definite regulation as to their payment to the Central Government; the people of some districts pay, while others are exempt....

Officers and priests in Tibet can each borrow fifteen hundred dollars from the Government at an interest of five per cent a year and they can lend it again at fifteen per cent, which is the current rate of interest in Tibet, though usurers sometimes charge over thirty per cent. Thus any officer can make at least ten per cent on fifteen hundred dollars without running much risk. If an officer or priest fails to repay the loan the amount is not subtracted from his next year’s loan. Compound interest is unknown in Tibet however long the debtor may prolong his payment; it is forbidden by the law....

The supplementary resources of the Pope’s revenue are subscriptions from the members and laymen, the leases from meadow-lands in his personal possession, and profits acquired by his own trading, which is carried on by his own caravans. The Pope’s caravans must be distinguished from those of the Treasury Department....

The property of the Grand Lama, after his death, is divided in the following way: One-half of the property (in fact a little more than half) has to be divided among his relatives in his native place, and the remaining half is distributed as gifts among the priests of the Great Temples and those of the New Sect. In the case of an ordinary priest, if he leaves property worth five thousand dollars about four thousand is used in gifts to the priests and for the expense of lights, and almost all the remaining thousand is used for his funeral expenses, leaving perhaps three hundred to his disciples. In cases when a priest leaves very little money, his disciples are obliged to borrow money to supply the want of gifts and money for lights in his honor—a custom entirely foreign to the laity.

-- Three Years in Tibet, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi

II. Pre-Independence Era

Ancient India

Ancient India depicts a complex set of land relations involving private ownership, royal administration and communal rule of villages. This multiple structure is a complete whole comprising three different layers [Powelson 1988]. Land tenure in one layer or level would be completely different from the other. Hence quite often we find conflicting pictures from authors who stress on only one type of relationship. A brief discussion about three formations will clarify the issue. Private ownership finds justification in the writings of Manu [Burnell 1884]. According to him land belongs to the person who clears it. This refers to the age of abundance and free possession. Later, geographical constraint of demographic factors made good quality land comparatively scarce. At this stage private ownership was acquired through land grants or assignments. Reference to land grants is found in vedic literature where grants to brahmins were revenue free with right of alienation [Majumdar 1977]. During the Maurya period [322-180 BCE] private land transfers were marked by public ceremonies [Kautilya]. By this time private ownership had acquired a stronghold in the social structure. The ruler, though having an overlordship, was unable to abolish private purchase, sale or donation [Nigam 1975]. All these evidences show that private owners possessed the right to alienate land owned by them. But this kind of absolute ownership was exercised by religious grantees only. The case was different with others. These landholders were closely watched by village officers of the king. Their land was liable to confiscation for improper use or partial use. Though land transfer was theoretically possible, the following constraints were present on the right of transfer: (a) Sale was to be made within the same group or sect only, and (b) any proposal of alienation needed to be sanctioned by the elders of the group.

Such a constrained ownership cannot be termed private in the modern sense of the term. The overlordship of these private lands belonged to the king or the supreme ruler. From time immemorial, the ruler (whether indigenous or foreign) was the sole owner of land in India [Blunt 1936]. The homogeneity of products, urban planning and the nature of dwellings of the Harrappan period also show the existence of a centralised authority [Rafique 1973]. The reign of a sovereign continued over the ages. The epic period refers to the supremacy of the ruler and is mentioned in the writings of Megasthenes. From the vedic times India had a stratified social structure. The village evolved as a self sufficient unit of society based on the caste system. It developed its own support system. The complementary relationship between groups of dominant peasant castes on the one hand and artisan and peasant classes on the other, was a special characteristic of Indian rural economy. In essence this oft-quoted system centred round the organisation of production and distribution of the hereditary occupational castes. The non-agricultural castes were compensated by traditionally fixed shares of village produce and in some cases by small plots of land. But these castes always retained some measure of freedom to sell their goods and services for extra income. The payment made by the village was meant to assure them of their minimal subsistence [Dharmakumar 1982].

The village structure was quite organised. Reference to village organisations and councils is found in old inscriptions. Village organisations were very powerful during the Hindu period. All land belonged to the village community. The king exercised minimal influence. At times since the village was inhabited by a particular tribe, village authority was akin to tribal authority. The land distribution was not completely static. Migration and demographic changes brought about alterations in the distribution pattern of the village land. Village organisations became the centre of power after the Gupta period when central authority was comparatively weak and emerged as "nuclear areas of corporate institutions" [Stein 1969].

In the south two types of village organisations predominated: (a) 'Brahmadeya' (a group of villages controlled by a brahmin organisation) and (b) 'Periyandu' an extended locality by organisations of commoners. The decentralisation of authority and emerging role of the village organisations started during the Gupta period. The process started in the south and gradually extended over the sub-continent.

These village organisations were considered as the embryo form of future feudal structure. The king or his intermediary claimed a part of the produce of the land. The revenue was collected from village individuals and deposited in a common pool. Some common expenses of the village were paid out of this pool. The share of the overlord was given by the village committee (as representative of the village people) [Desai 1954]. Thus land as a thing of value was regarded as being part of an aggregate wealth of the community rather than belonging to a single person [Neale 1969]. But the system was not free from exploitation and class differentiation. The contribution to the pool differed among different people. The headman enjoyed some revenue free allotments. The persons controlling the pool and the class favoured by the dominant group paid lower rates of revenue. To compensate, the lower strata of peasants had to pay more. Growth of hierarchical structure and evolution of the position of intermediaries with landed estates were considered as feudalistic features by some [Tod 1984]. But others [Desai 1954] have refuted the notion. According to them those types of societies, though bearing a close resemblance to feudal type, had a striking difference. The intermediaries were the kins of the ruling authority. Nowhere had the military tenure entirely obliterated the original tenure by blood and birthright. This has generated a controversy about Indian feudalism amongst the academics. The Encyclopedia Britanica (CBM: 9: 363) alludes this comparison as follows: "There is considerable controversy among historians as to whether the feudatory pattern (in India) can be accurately described as feudalism. Some argue that, although it was not identical to the classical example of feudalism of western Europe, there are sufficient similarities to allow the use of the term. The counter argument is that the emphasis on the economic contract, essential to the western European feudalism, was absent in India or was at least not clearly stated. But whether the trend indicated feudalisation or not, it created considerable change of land relations, politics and culture and the major characteristics of that change was decentralisation [Powelson 1988].

Medieval India

The medieval period exercised considerable influence in the evolution of intermediaries. The Muslim rulers engaged the military personnel and paid them with a ;lot of land for their services. Over a period of time by a process of commendation these free proprietors lost their independence and therewith their allodial tenure became feudal.

Early jagirs could not be inherited or transferred. But they could be confiscated by the sovereign if the intermediary left his service. In the following centuries, these rules were modified as the intermediaries (jagirdars and zamindars) established local power enabling them to retain their status and pass this on to their sons. When zamindari rights became alienable, the land belonging to the zamindar was divided among his sons on his death. Thus zamindari rights became scattered through inheritance. As a result, two type of landowners emerged.

Each lineage was divided into the more powerful branch which held the fort and other less powerful branch who held lesser village privileges. The former were termed intermediary or secondary zamindars who might collect revenue from their less affluent kinsmen (who were known as the village or primary zamindars). These primary zamindars were sometimes also called pattidars. The intermediary zamindar's rights solely extended to land revenue collection at a superior level or fiscal overlordship of lower landowners. The primary zamindar was the landholder having immediately proprietary dominion over the soil, including a restricted power of mortgage and alienation as well as the right to locate cultivators, control the waste, sink wells and plant groves. They were generally found to be settled as dominant lineages in a number of contiguous villages. The important aspect was not only the territorial extent but also the depth of penetration of the lineage groups over the agricultural community. Their grip was most tenacious where the primary owners were identical with the cultivators [Dharmakumar 1982]. The division of land rights continued further. The small landowners ceded their rights to the large landowners and became their dependents, on condition that they retained the heridatary use of their land. The continuous extension of land made it impossible for the large landowners to collect revenue without the help of others. Thus sub-infeudation evolved creating differentiation of land control rights over land under direct or indirect supervision. The land cultivated directly by the zamindar was termed "Siror Khas" land to distinguish it from land which was allotted to sub-intermediaries for cultivation. From this allotted land zamindar used to take a portion of the produce as his due for overlordship.

The identification of different levels of land rights in India has been long ridden by the confused use of terms. The term zamindar became predominant in the 17th century replacing or altering with a large number of local terms signifying the same or similar land owning right as 'khoti', and 'maqqadam' in Doab Satarabi and 'biswi' in Awath, 'bhomi' in Rajasthan, 'bhant' or 'vanth' in Gujarat. The zamindar in Persian language means keeper or holder of land. The suffix 'dar' implies a degree of control or attachment, but not necessarily ownership. The ownership right originated during the Mughal period when the term implied hereditary claim to a direct share in the produce of land under his possession. The peasant group was called 'muzari,' 'asami' or 'raya.' Application of similar terms to denote different land rights in different regions added to this confusion. The term taluqdar (for example) in northern India meant a big zamindar engaged on behalf of a few smaller zamindars to pay revenue to the government. His rights were hereditary but not transferable. In Bengal the same term was used to denote a person of a lower status than zamindar.

The supreme overlordship of land rested upon the ruler. Variety in land relations originated from the revenue exactions. The land close to the capital was kept under direct control of the ruler. Hence these khas lands had wage tenancy. But land extending to the furthest corner of the kingdom was difficult to control directly and representatives were appointed, thus giving rise to three-tier relationship in land [Irfan Habib 1963].

Revenue rates were also not uniform. Of course varying revenue rates accounted for various types of land (according to inscriptions in earlier days). During Nizamsahi period, land was divided into irrigated and unirrigated types and again both types were subdivided into four groups and revenue was charged giving due importance to these differences. Land revenue accounted for the larger part of the agricultural surplus.

Mughal tax was not proper rent or even land tax as it was a tax on the crop. Though the system reduced expenses of collection and vexation of revenue collecting authorities, it kept the peasants ignorant about the amount they had to pay. To reduce the chance of exploitation of the peasantry, annual assessment was made on the basis of area statistics. Measures were adopted to curb the power of the intermediaries by keeping their possession of land as temporary by transferring them yearly or every two or three years. Also there was a provision of award of promotion or demotion by changing the size of their territory on the basis of their performance. To prevent the intermediary from charging more than the authorised taxes -- a copy of the revenue paper was kept with the permanent local official (kanungo). But the short-term arrangement only enhanced the desire for maximal unauthorised exaction. In its cumulative effort, such pressure not only inhibited extension of cultivation, but also involved the Mughal ruling class in a deepening conflict with the major agrarian classes (the zamindars and the peasantry). By early 1850 there was growing official restiveness that land control was passing steadily into the hands of the non-agricultural classes. The majority of the intermediaries were finding it difficult to afford to maintain the requisite contingents and farmed out their assignment to bankers and speculators from the cities who emerged as rapacious absentee landlords. The board of revenue observed that the nature of transfer was far more complex than could be explained by the crude categorisation of landlords and tenants or of agriculturist or non-agriculturist classes.

Till this time estate was unit of account in the revenue records and brought under one head the lands for which a particular person or group had revenue paying responsibility. Extension of land control rights of the larger intermediaries and the consequent sub-leasing created constant dualism between the proprietary and cultivating rights -- the former yielding rental income and the later agricultural surplus. Thus a distinction was created between the unit of account and unit of cultivation. The transfer of proprietary rights, however, mostly left the cultivating units undisturbed. Hence the village and the peasantry remained passive in the face of agricultural conflict involving change of ownership.

British Period

The British realised that land was the key factor in the process of Indian economic development and they must control land in order to stabilise their rule over the continent. But they found the prevailing land systems quite perplexing. With a multitude of claims upon land by numerous people at various levels of hierarchies, it was difficult to attribute a particular land to a particular person. Nor did the system appear similar to the British system of feudalism although it was termed feudal or semi-feudal.

Their first effort was to fix the legal owner of the land. In 1769, the company divided parganas into 15 lots each and auctioned them with revenue to be paid to the company. Till this time rent had to be negotiated and adjusted to the ability to pay. But the British emphasis in legality and consistency resulted in dispossessing farmers who could not pay fixed amounts of revenue. Again auction sales placed the ownership of land beyond the reach of the poor persons attached to the soil and created a new aristocracy who were originally moneylenders or traders. The new owners squeezed the peasants to pay the speculative land revenue. Famines, land abandonment and decline in revenue made the government understand the failure of the scheme but they attributed the failure to the short period of land settlement. The government expected that lengthening the period of lease would create an incentive to invest and make the landlords innovative. But the extension of period of tenure did not bring the desired change. Land revenue increased four-fold (compared to the level before the assessment). The zamindars were so heavily taxed that they kept themselves busy in shifting the burden to the ryots. The dispossession of zamindars due to non-payment continued.

The British East India Company, super-imposing 18th century western concepts of private property on a very different indigenous land system, assumed that the 'revenue farmers' in fact owned the land, even though they neither worked on it nor invested in it. Ignoring any rights of the actual tillers, the permanent settlement of Bengal in 1793 gave the zamindars the right to fix their terms with the cultivators in return for a fixed land revenue from the zamindars to the state. The latter was payable in cash while the rents to be paid by actual cultivators to the zamindars were not. By this single piece of legislation, actual tillers of the soil became tenants, while a class of revenue farms became de facto owners of the land though they did not cultivate. An exorbitant increase in revenue demand weakened the position of the zamindars. Appointment of active revenue farmers (jagirdars) and collectors (amils) disrupted the patron-client relationship of landlord and tenants which served as insurance against natural calamities. The confiscation of estates by British government for non-payment of revenue added to the disruption of the rural sector. The labour force was set adrift creating labour shortage. Because nobility was getting dispossessed of land therefore capital provided by the nobility for improvement of land was sharply reduced. As a result of all these, by the middle of the 19th century the whole agrarian sector was in a decaying condition. Rural inhabitants dependent on agriculture were emigrating. The villages deteriorated and their revenues declined.

The case of Oudh and northern India was quite different. The taluqdars of Oudh were owners of large estates and had complete control over the resources of these areas. The British policy was to curb the strength of the taluqdars. From 1764 to 1801 the British government gradually tightened the noose on Oudh. They installed British troop in Oudh under the pretext of helping the nawab to keep the taluqdars under control. Payment for these troops was made by handing over half of Oudh to British in 1801 and the other half in 1856. They acquired the adjacent provinces. The British, however, extended the contract of the taluqdars by a period of five years after which the lease was terminated.

British government faced a dilemma in changing the land relations of Oudh and the northern parts. This region had a tradition of communal village proprietorship and the taluqdars still had considerable influence over the area. Hence a system of mahalwari settlement involving mostly the original taluqdars was introduced. But the assessment was quite high. A number of properties went out into arrears. Inexperienced management, depression and frequent occurrence of natural calamities made the situation worse. Distress sales increased during 1839-59 [Metcalf 1979]. To ease the situation and prevent the speculative rise in land prices the government started leasing property in arrears and wanted to restore the original landholder by accepting payment of the arrears through rent. When the owner failed to pay the arrears even after this arrangement, auction sale was the only option left to the government. As a result land relations changed considerably and there was a shift from old landholding class to new commercial class.

Tanjore Committee criticised zamindari and ryotwari forms and suggested the introduction of mahalwari system in Madras. But southern India had a long tradition of ryotwari settlements. Zamindari or mahalwari system was considered unacceptable in this region. The government introduced mahalwari for a short period but soon changed to ryotwari system in Madras. It was considered successful and extended to other regions. The changeover from mahalwari to ryotwari was necessitated to eliminate the village officers. These officers were suspected on concealing the exact amount of village resources and thus usurping part of the revenue. Changeover to ryotwari system, however, did not solve the problem. Even after the change revenue gain was negligible. The company-appointed intermediaries quickly perceived the opportunity for advancing their social and economic interests under the canopy of company protection. Within a short period they established themselves as a complex layer of adept and influential manipulators between the company and the ryots [Stein 1969]. By the middle of the 19th century, the land revenue systems and consequent tenurial structures exhibited a pattern of striking provincial variations. Zamindari system in Bengal, ryotwari and peasant proprietorship in Bombay and Madras, and a hybrid system of mahalwari (where esffective ownership of most land was vested in cultivators but revenue was rendered communally by the village) prevailed in Punjab, north-west provinces and Oudh. It seems ideological distaste for landlordism born of utilitarian philosophy was a major foce behind the development of ryotwari and mahalwari settlements [Stokes 1978].

Substantial land transfers and sub-infeudation occurred as creditors supported by the westernised legal system attempted to secure peasant debtors' land by foreclosing mortgages. It led to the creation of a large agrarian proletariat. The beneficiaries of this change were the moneylenders and traders. They had a parasitical attitude to agriculture. They did not typically dispossess peasant debtors from the land; used the forms of land mortgage as methods of coercion, thus exercising substantial control over agricultural activities and production. They occupied the position of the rich peasants having an established figure in the village, intensifying their wealth and power through more subtle measures of market control. This group appropriated the economic surplus which was the prerequisite for development.

After 1870 constructive efforts were made to improve agrarian conditions. In the estates under the direct control of the government, new crops and new methods of cultivation were introduced. To encourage dissemination of new technologies the government gave monetary assistance to those landowners who had initiative. Thus the commercial process was initiated in several pockets but could not penetrate the traditional sector. As a result dualism evolved in the agrarian sector.

The modernised parts worked on commercial lines with fully developed modern technology and know-how. A new type of commodity production was taking shape here. It was marked by a fundamentally new (as compared to the traditional) structure of the production process, in which modernised labour played an increasingly important role on the basis of expanding intersectoral commodity exchange. The traditional sector with low income and consequent low rural demand for producer goods, extensive arrears in debt and subsistency continued to hold back the revolutionary influence created by the modernised sector. Hence restructuring of the agrarian economy was the essential precondition for accelerated development of the economy. A built-in depressor characterised by exploitation of the peasantry, low capital intensity and traditional methods of production were operating all over the country which resulted in virtual stagnation of the economy as a whole.

After independence, the primary task was to remove the stagnation and provide initiative to the mass of poor cultivators. The need for agrarian reform to change the prevailing structure and build on egalitarian distribution pattern was earnestly felt. From the modest approach of abolition of intermediaries and provision of security of tenure, the programme included numerous issues which reduce disparities and contradictions in social and economic spheres and thus facilitate economic development.
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Part 1 of 2

Tibet's Cold War: The CIA and the Chushi Gangdrug Resistance, 1956-1974
by Carole McGranahan
University of Colorado Boulder
Article in Journal of Cold War Studies
Vol. 8, No. 3, Summer 2006, pp. 102–130
July 2006
© 2006 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology




Colorado’s mountain roads can be treacherous in the winter, and in December 1961 a bus crashed on an icy road in the middle of the night.1 The crash delayed the bus’s journey, and morning had already broken by the time the bus pulled into its destination, Peterson Airfield in Colorado Springs. The coffee had just begun to brew when airfield workers discovered that they were surrounded by heavily-armed U.S. soldiers. The troops ordered them into two different hangars and then shut and locked the doors. Peeking out the windows of the hangars, the airfield employees saw a bus with blackened windows pull up to a waiting Air Force plane. Fifteen men in green fatigues got out of the bus and onto the plane. After the aircraft took off, an Army officer informed the airfield employees that it was a federal offense to talk about what they had just witnessed. He swore them to the highest secrecy, but it was already too late: The hangars in which the scared civilians had been locked were equipped with telephones, and they had made several calls to local newspapers. The next day the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph ran a brief story quoting a student pilot who said that “several Oriental soldiers in combat uniforms” were involved. The short story caught the attention of a New York Times reporter in Washington, DC, who called the Pentagon for more information. His call was returned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who killed the story not only by uttering the words “top secret national security,” but also by confiding to the reporter that the men were Tibetans.

A Tibetan proverb states that “an unspoken word has freedom, a spoken word has none.” But the freedom of things unspoken is not without limits. Secrets, for example, though supposedly not to be told, derive their value in part by being shared rather than being kept. Sharing secrets—revealing the unspoken—often involves cultural systems of regulation regarding who can be told, who they in turn can tell, what degree of disclosure is allowed, and so on. As a form of control over knowledge, secrecy is recognized in many societies as a means through which power is both gained and maintained.2 Together, Tibet and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) present the irresistible combination of two twentieth-century icons of forbidden mystery and intrigue—Tibet, Shangri-La, the supposed land of mystical and ancient wisdom; and the CIA, home of covert activities, where even the secrets have secrets.

The Tibetans in Colorado were members of a guerrilla resistance force that fought against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from 1956 through 1974. Begun as a series of independent uprisings against increasingly oppressive Chinese rule, the resistance soon grew into a unified volunteer army, known as the Chushi Gangdrug Army. The Chushi Gangdrug Army fought against the PLA first from within Tibet and later from a military base in Mustang, a small Tibetan kingdom within the borders of Nepal. For much of this time, the resistance was covertly trained and financially supported by the U.S. government, specifically the CIA. Stories of this guerrilla war were secret for many years. Because the operation encompassed multiple governments and the clandestine transfer of men, money, and munitions across international borders, it is perhaps no surprise that information about the resistance, and more specifically about U.S.-Tibetan relations, was suppressed until recently. Secrets of the Tibetan resistance, however, are not always as they appear. They are not only political but also ethnographic, built on cultural systems of meaning and action.

In this article, I contend that our understanding of the Tibetan resistance must include attention to cultural as well as historical and political formations. Our analysis of the Tibetan resistance must not remain just a historical or political project or a story viewed solely through a Cold War lens. Instead, ethnographic detail and explanation, and the nuances of culture and community, must be included if we are to achieve the fullest possible understanding of the transnational and continuing saga that is the Tibetan resistance. An ethnographic approach is useful because the resistance is not one that was crafted solely, or even predominantly, in offices in Washington, DC. Instead, the resistance was forged through conversation, debate, and action among its own members and leaders at least as much as it was organized in dialogue with U.S. officials. Anthropology relies on a similar methodology—participant observation, in which the researcher engages in face-to-face and everyday interaction with research subjects over an extended period of time (often years) within host communities. My exploration of contemporary perspectives on the Tibetan resistance is through a tripartite analysis—one that is historical, political, and anthropological. In addition, my inquiry is not situated solely at the level of the state or government; it is focused instead on the resistance movement itself and the individuals who constituted it.

The article is based on primary and secondary sources generated mainly from within the Tibetan refugee community. Over a five-year period from 1994 to 1999, I collected oral histories of the resistance from leaders of the resistance as well as regular soldiers. In addition, I have examined a number of Tibetan-language books and articles about the resistance published from the late 1950s to the present, many of which contain information and insights not yet appreciated by outside observers.3 Finally, I have consulted the small but growing secondary literature on the resistance in English, including some of the thousands of hits that turn up in an Internet search for the “Tibetan resistance.”
The case of Tibet presents a mostly unexplored example of covert Cold War military intervention. By the mid-1950s the Tibetan Chushi Gangdrug army had already defined the PLA as a threat to Tibetan national security, but the intervention of the U.S. government provided external confirmation of the threat that China posed to Tibet. The covert nature of U.S. military assistance to the Tibetans, however, meant that this external validation was not presented to the world. Unlike the Korean War, in which Jennifer Milliken argues that outside intervention constituted “a particularly significant moment in the broader process of (re)constituting the Western security collectivity,”5 Tibetan resistance to the Chinese remained mostly insignificant for much of the Western world. Resolutions on Tibet at the United Nations (UN) were introduced by weak, peripheral states—Ireland and Malaya in 1959, and Malaya and Thailand with the support of El Salvador and Ireland in 1961— albeit often with the encouragement of U.S. diplomats. For the most part, the United States, even while supporting the Tibetan resistance (and exile government), framed the Tibet-China conflict in international forums such as the UN in the language of human rights rather than of state sovereignty. Among the many results of this policy is a degree of ambiguity regarding where the Tibet-China conflicts fits in terms of academic discourse as well as political negotiation. Is this conflict purely an “internal issue” as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would have it, or is it an international issue, one between two states, as the Tibetan government-in-exile sees it? Given that at the time of the PRC’s incorporation of Tibet, Tibet was de facto an independent state,6 and that multiple states were involved in either actively or involuntarily facilitating the Tibetan resistance, it is important to situate discussions of Tibet within an international framework of analysis.

Anthropology and Cold War Studies

Anthropologists are increasingly turning their attention to studies of the Cold War. From the study of U.S. intelligence and military operations, especially among marginalized groups and countries, to the study of weapons complexes and on to the conceptual and disciplinary apparatuses directing our academic labor as well as everyday life and international affairs around the world, anthropologists are approaching Cold War pasts and post–Cold War presents with an analytical energy reminiscent of disciplinary debates during the Vietnam War.7 In anthropological terms, bringing culture into analyses of political and military history provides important vantage points from which to understand the workings of power, especially in cases of international action and intervention.8 In the merging of ethnography and Cold War studies, culture contributes much more than a variable for explaining anomalous phenomena. 9 Instead, culture provides and pervades backdrops, logics, and structures of all parties and institutions involved. Just as an analysis of the Tibetan resistance requires an understanding of the cultural principles that directed systems of authority and action among the guerrillas, so too does culture have a latent yet orchestral presence in the actions of the U.S. government in Asia and elsewhere. As understood by anthropologists, culture is an all-pervasive and ordered system of meaning that is learned and shared by members of a group. Although all cultures are unique and holistic, appearing habitual or normal to their members, contestation and constraint are also important elements of culture. Everyday life, political violence, economic systems, and the state and nation-building projects that characterize the post- 1945 era are all cultural products, in some respects sharing universal features and in other respects maintaining an autonomy built on culture and notions of difference.

Difference has long been a key element of anthropology, specifically in terms of describing and explaining the “otherness” of cultures outside Euro- American norms.10 John Borneman argues that in the United States, anthropology’s focus on global otherness, rather than solely on different communities within the nation, aligns the discipline (intentionally or not) with the conceptual apparatus of foreign policy.11 Early anthropological concepts used in analyses of American Indian communities, for example, helped shape U.S. policy toward these communities. The policies in turn became a template for state strategies vis-à-vis non-European foreigners.12 In highlighting the political applications of native/other anthropological categories, Borneman argues that “through its institutionalized focus on defining the foreign, anthropology may best be thought of as a form of foreign policy.”13

In the case of the Tibetan resistance, the outline of CIA programs and training drew on prior operations, with modifications made while the Tibet program was under way.14 The modifications were usually made or suggested by CIA officers in the field with the Tibetans, rather than those back in Langley. The Tibet operation both did and did not fit into Cold War models; it lasted significantly longer than most CIA operations and was a project built on a lack of anthropological or intelligence information.15 In both its anomalous and its conforming aspects, the Tibet-CIA connection was an important part of the foreign relations of both countries for two decades.

Recently, anthropologists and international relations scholars have begun a sustained discussion of how the theoretical arguments of each field push the other to further clarity or to revision of long-established disciplinary thought. The most provocative example of this joint enterprise is the edited volume Cultures of Insecurity: States, Communities, and the Production of Danger, in which an interdisciplinary team of scholars convincingly show the value of considering culture and the state within the same analytical frame.16 In a foreword to the volume, the anthropologist George Marcus argues forcefully for an ethnographic engagement with the mainstream of international relations, as well as a critique built on the terms of the field itself.17 His proposal is expressly anthropological because, as all beginning anthropology students learn, the goal of ethnography is to combine emic (inside) perspectives with etic (outside) perspectives in our collection and analyses of data. One example of such an ethnographic endeavor is Hugh Gusterson’s study of the Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons laboratory. Gusterson describes his work as not just providing a constructivist alternative to the mostly positivist nuclear studies, but also as breaking with “the radical separation of the domestic and international levels of analysis that has been a defining feature of dominant thinking in international security studies, especially (neo)realism.”18 Understanding U.S. nuclear weapons projects requires understanding the culture of nuclear weapons laboratories, including the relations of weapons scientists to local institutions, national movements, and international politics.19

The study of CIA involvement in the Tibetan resistance is no different. An assessment of this complicated relationship is predicated on ethnographic understandings of the various groups involved. Rather than looking solely at political costs and strategies, an ethnographic approach begins with an explanation of the cultural factors that drive the operative political calculus within which costs, strategies, and the like are determined. The CIA has been subject to much more rigorous (though not necessarily ethnographic) evaluation than has the Tibetan resistance.20 In this article, therefore, my focus is primarily on the Chushi Gangdrug resistance army as interpreted by three groups—the resistance itself, the Tibetan government-in-exile, and agents of the U.S. government. Although each group presents itself as unified, they actually comprise individuals and factions whose views range from consent to dissent in relation to the group’s center. A closer look at the resistance allows us to see more clearly how the making of the refugee Tibetan community and exile Tibetan state was tied into Cold War politics at global as well as local levels.

The Founding of Chushi Gangdrug

The Tibetan resistance began as a series of independent uprisings in the eastern region of Kham (Khams). In 1949 and 1950, officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and PLA took over the administration of villages throughout Kham, and eventually in all of Tibet. This “liberation” of the Tibetans was initially tempered by a policy of relative generosity and tolerance in terms of the changes made in the region. However, as sweeping changes were gradually introduced, the situation deteriorated. Local lay and religious leaders were stripped of power, and much that had previously defined normal life in Kham was disturbed. Khampa villagers from all social backgrounds soon began to rise up in protest. These protests were often coordinated by the families and monastic leaders whose authority the Chinese had attempted to undermine. As conditions worsened in the region, people began to head west toward Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

Khampa Tibetans entering the Lhasa area set up camps on the outskirts of the city. Leaders of the various districts of Kham met and devised plans to sponsor a long-life ceremony for the Dalai Lama and to present him with a golden throne. Along with this public show of support for the Dalai Lama, the leaders decided to unite their formerly separate citizen-soldiers into a unified volunteer army. The independent armies, which had fought under the name bstan srung dang blangs dmag, or “volunteer troops to defend religion and country,” now took the name chu bzhi gangs drug dmag, the “Four Rivers and Six Ranges Army,” in reference to the “four rivers [and] six ranges” of Kham. On 16 June 1958 the united army known as Chushi Gangdrug held its inaugural ceremony in the Lhoka region south of Lhasa.21

The inaugural included a cavalry parade, a ritual procession of a photograph of the Dalai Lama, and the unveiling of the newly-designed Chushi Gangdrug flag. The flag consisted of two deities’ swords with a religious thunderbolt and lotus flowers on the handles set against a background of yellow, the color of Buddhism.22 The army’s headquarters, along with a secretariat and finance department, were established at Triguthang with a total of roughly 5,000 volunteer soldiers. Four of the volunteers were selected as top commanders, five were chosen as liaison officers between the army and the community, five others were to take care of supplies and equipment, eighteen were designated as field commanders, and a captain was appointed for each group of ten soldiers.23 Altogether, thirty-seven units of varying size, grouped by district of origin and assigned names corresponding to letters of the Tibetan alphabet (e.g., ka, kha, ga, nga), were organized.24 The commanders drew up a code of conduct with twenty-seven rules including prohibitions against stealing, rape, entering houses while on a mission, and harming innocent people. The code also stipulated that soldiers were to protect local people from bandits. This last rule was important because the Chinese authorities had been paying bandits, who roamed throughout Tibet, to pose as Chushi Gangdrug soldiers who would terrorize villages, steal, rape women and nuns, and kill innocent people.25 A merit system was also introduced, including, for example, a cash prize of 500 Indian rupees for the capture of a Chinese army officer’s possessions or documents.26

The founding of Chushi Gangdrug served not just to unify disparate groups in their resistance to the Chinese, but also to institutionalize international resistance activities already under way. Following the signing of the “Seventeen-Point Agreement” between China and Tibet on 17 May 1951, several high-ranking Tibetan officials, including Prime Minister Lhukhang and one of the Dalai Lama’s elder brothers, Gyalo Thondup, decided to travel to India to consult with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Part of the advice Nehru gave them was to encourage a people’s democratic movement that would be recognized by the world as a legitimate alternative to the Chinese. Lhukhang and Gyalo Thondup conveyed this information to Lord Chamberlain Phala, who in turn encouraged such a development in Lhasa. The Mimang Tsogpa (mi mang tshogs pa), or People’s Party, was soon formed under the leadership of Alo Chhonzed, with sixty-two members representing all three provinces of Tibet.27 The leaders of Mimang Tsogpa protested the Dalai Lama’s 1954 trip to China, urging him not to go, and met him in Kham on his return to Lhasa in 1955. Members of the group also distributed pamphlets and put up posters in Lhasa protesting the Chinese presence and calling on Tibetans to unite against the Chinese. Andrug Gompo Tashi, a Mimang Tsogpa officer who would later lead Chushi Gangdrug, later recalled distributing leaflets that “exhorted all Tibetans to unite and protect their freedom and country in an active and not—what was until now—passive posture.” 28

In 1956, as conditions worsened in Kham, including the bombing of four monastic complexes, Mimang Tsogpa began a series of public protests against the Chinese. They delivered a letter of protest directly to the Chinese authorities calling on Chinese forces to leave Tibet.29 The Chinese authorities demanded that the Tibetan government arrest those responsible. The local officials arrested three of the organizers, one of whom later died in jail. In the meantime, many Tibetans, who were secretly meeting in Lhasa and elsewhere to determine what could be done, all arrived at the same conclusion—that outside help was needed. A group of Khampa Tibetan traders met with Gyalo Thondup to ask him to contact foreign countries for military aid, unaware that the Americans had already approached him regarding the situation in Tibet. 30 In the summer of 1956, the Far East Division of the CIA had decided to support the independent Tibetan resistance in their fight against the Chinese. Gyalo Thondup sent the traders back to Lhasa, where they linked up with Andrug Gompo Tashi and began to organize the resistance army.

Chushi Gangdrug’s military inauguration in 1958 angered the Chinese authorities, who began to pressure the Tibetan government to disband the volunteer army. On several occasions the Tibetan government sent emissaries to Chushi Gangdrug headquarters, some of whom ended up joining the resistance. 31 The volunteer army included battalions from the northeast region of Amdo as well as troops from Central Tibet and even several Nationalist Chinese soldiers, but was composed mostly of troops from the eastern region of Kham. Thus, although the resistance army was a pan-Tibetan unit, it was dominated by Khampa Tibetans, a phenomenon never fully appreciated by outsiders.

The Eagle and the Snow Lion

The United States and Tibet do not have a long history of governmental relations. Contact was first made under President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942, shortly after the United States had entered World War II. The U.S. government wanted to transport supplies over and through Tibet to troops in China. Roosevelt sent two undercover Office of Strategic Services envoys to Lhasa to seek approval.32 The mission was successful, but the next interaction between the two countries did not come until 1947–1948 when a Tibetan trade mission, traveling on Tibetan passports, came to the United States as part of a global mission to strengthen Tibet’s international economic and political relations at a time of growing political pressure from China.

With the Communist takeover in China in 1949, U.S. interest in Tibet grew exponentially. Histories of the Tibetan resistance, therefore, are not just Tibetan histories but a part of the broader history of the Cold War. Tibet had an important role in U.S. Cold War strategy in Asia as both a counter to Communist China and a facilitator of U.S. relations with Pakistan and India. 33 Although many Americans who were politically involved with Tibet at this time developed strong personal support for the Tibetans, Tibet remained for the U.S. government, as it had been for the British, a “pawn on the imperial chessboard.”34 The Tibetans themselves, to use the words of a former CIA officer, were thus “orphans of the Cold War.”35

South Asia was never divorced from Cold War politics.36 The departure of the British from India in 1947 led to the partition of the subcontinent and the emergence of the independent states of India and Pakistan. The two countries were quickly embroiled in a contentious dispute with each other and were also pulled into Cold War battles involving the United States, the Soviet Union, and the PRC. Pakistan was first closely linked with the United States and then later on with China. India took a different route, publicly proclaiming a nonaligned status while secretly courting and being courted by Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. The secretive, constantly changing, and often contradictory allegiances among governments in the 1950s and 1960s resulted in several armed conflicts—the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Indo- Pakistani War of 1965, the ongoing insurgency in Kashmir, and the Tibetan conflict with China.37

It was China that pulled South Asia into the Cold War, often over border disputes involving Tibet. Tibet’s new status as an occupied country and a site of Cold War conflict was a significant departure from its status in the preceding fifty years. During the first half of the twentieth century, Tibet kept a low international profile.38 Its affiliation with China, based on a religious-political relationship, ended when the Qing Dynasty fell. From 1911 on, Tibet was an independent state, uninvolved in any of the world wars but ideologically and religiously supporting the Allies in World War II. In turn, the British and later the Americans encouraged Tibetan political independence, though only to the point where it would not seriously upset China. Despite ideological and other differences between successive Chinese regimes, each was interested in bringing Tibet within the Chinese political orbit.39 Mao Zedong’s China was no different in that respect.

From the start, Mao announced that his intention was to “liberate” Tibet and restore it to the Chinese motherland.40 He was true to his word—Chinese troops entered eastern Tibet in the spring of 1950 and quickly secured control over all of Tibet by occupying Lhasa in the fall of 1950. After an initial period of attempted cooperation with the Chinese, the situation disintegrated rapidly for the Tibetans. In eastern Tibet, people began a series of independent revolts, which the Chinese brutally suppressed using air strikes and ground warfare. The U.S. government had offered aid to the Tibetan government after China invaded, and the Tibetans asked the United States for military aid in 1955. The CIA established its Tibet program the next year. An initial group of six Tibetans were trained on the island of Saipan and then airdropped into Tibet. In the meantime, the previously independent groups of Tibetans who had been fighting the Chinese were brought into the united resistance movement. CIA training of Tibetan soldiers continued in the United States, first at a secret site in Virginia and then, starting in May 1958, at the equally secret Camp Hale in Leadville, Colorado. Over the next six years, several hundred Tibetans were trained at Camp Hale in a variety of guerrilla war- fare techniques such as paramilitary operations, bomb building, map making, photographic surveillance, radio operation techniques, and intelligence collection.

“The [Tibetans] were the best men I worked with,” says Tony Poe, a retired CIA officer who trained the Tibetan soldiers and later worked in Laos. Poe is believed to be the real-life model for the character of Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.41 He and the other American instructors are remembered fondly by the Tibetans themselves. “They were good people” (mi yag po red) is a common refrain I heard during my research. Despite the mutual admiration of the Tibetans and Americans, a series of misunderstandings marred the relationship. The United States was mainly interested in preventing the spread of Communism rather than providing serious and committed aid to Tibet.42 A second, and more serious, misunderstanding remains unexplored in most discussions of the resistance—namely, the importance of regional allegiances and identities within the Tibetan community.

Tibetan social and political divisions were far more complex than is often realized. The importance of such affiliations was not fully recognized by CIA officers involved in the Tibetan project. This oversight had a dual impact— first, it impaired the U.S. government’s ability to administer and advise the resistance; second, it complicated the internal dynamics and organization of the resistance, affecting relations with the United States and the trajectory of the resistance in general. Three factors help to explain this shortcoming. First, U.S. intelligence analysts had little information about Tibet. What they did know was based on British sources that downplayed the importance of regional variations and focused mainly on Lhasa. Although the British Chinese Consular Service had officials posted in eastern Tibet, the bulk of Britain’s information about Tibet was collected by officers associated with British India and focused on central Tibet. Second, the primary contact between the Americans and the Tibetans was Gyalo Thondup, who was from the northeast region of Amdo and thus not always sympathetic to Khampa systems of authority. Finally, only one CIA officer could speak any Tibetan.43 Communication was otherwise done through Tibetan and Mongolian interpreters, whose knowledge of English ranged from superb to rudimentary.

The CIA officers’ failure to recognize the importance of regional identity for the Tibetans was ironically at odds with the officers’ strong personal admiration of the soldiers they trained. According to resistance veterans, this misunderstanding proved disastrous in several respects. The CIA vetoed soldiers’ suggestions to organize operations around native-place and regional allegiances. On one occasion, a crack unit of guerrillas were sent against their wishes into an area of Tibet in which they did not have local support. They were ambushed by the Chinese, and all but one were killed.44 On a broader level, the administration of the resistance was hindered because of misinterpretations of connections between the different leaders of the resistance, and between the leaders and the soldiers. The CIA’s military-style ranking of the men was based on an achieved status, whereas among the guerrillas themselves achievement and military prowess did not outrank ascribed statuses. For the most part, the leaders were men with long-established social power that was legitimated through the same sort of personal and place connections that existed in Tibet prior to the Chinese invasion. The resistance force, despite being a unified army, retained strong elements of autonomy and allegiance based on native-place networks. The district-based loyalties of soldiers and battalions were at times subordinated to their allegiances to the united resistance, but at other times these loyalties were parallel to or even greater than their commitment to the army. U.S. efforts to organize battalions according to a place-neutral scheme were unsuccessful. Until the end, military resistance operations were primarily organized around native place-based encampments.

Region and the Tibetan Resistance

Prior to 1959, Tibet comprised a series of regions connected through shared cultural traditions, a shared religion, and a variety of political arrangements that linked the provinces with Lhasa. From 1642 through the 1950s, successive Dalai Lamas or their regents ruled Tibet. Under the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan state combined religion and politics in an administration that encompassed ritual and performative aspects of allegiance and extended a high degree of autonomy to certain areas within its sphere of influence.45 Organized hierarchically, the state was maintained in Lhasa and was represented in territories outside Lhasa in various forms. In most, though not all, of central Tibet, aristocratic and monastic leaders from Lhasa governed estates and the laborers attached to them. In other parts of Tibet, such as Kham, an estate system did not exist. Instead, affairs were mostly controlled by hereditary kings, chiefs, and lamas, some of whom belonged to lineages initially appointed by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Among them were leaders antagonistic to the central Tibetan government even when respectful of the Dalai Lama. As such, the structures and dynamics of state-local relations, far from being consistent throughout Tibet, varied widely in different regions as well as over time.

The region of Kham consists of more than thirty districts, referred to as pha yul. Each district is composed of a series of villages and monasteries of varying sizes and sects, often separated by huge mountain ranges and the rivers that cut through them. Systems of governance prior to 1950 varied by district—some were kingdoms, others were chiefdoms, and still others were governed by hereditary lamas.46 A handful of the districts were led by officials directly appointed by Lhasa or by the Chinese authorities in Sichuan. Relations between districts—and between monasteries—were often tense. Feuding was common, and bandits roamed the mountainous terrain. Differences between districts were marked in both secular and sacred ways, through dialect, clothing, and ornamentation, as well as through lamas, sects, and the deities associated with local landscapes. Not all districts or monasteries were assumed equal, and some were nominally or entirely under the stewardship of others. Despite the pronounced differences between regions, outside views of Tibet have tended to focus on Lhasa. To some extent, this has led to extrapolation from central Tibetan sociopolitical configurations to the rest of Tibet without taking due account of regional variations.

The Chushi Gangdrug resistance force was organized in ways that reflected the sociopolitical frameworks of eastern Tibet rather than the aristocratic and monastic hierarchies of central Tibet. On the battlefield, trust, loyalty, and familiarity were crucial. Guerrilla units were based on native-place affiliations, with troops from the same district forming a unit. Leaders of the units were often the same men who had been leaders in their districts—men from elite families or wealthy traders. Although these systems of power and authority were not designed to be as flexible or collaborative as the unified resistance required, they were the system used for military units during the entire period.

The “supreme leader” of the resistance was Andrug Gompo Tashi, a trader from the eastern Tibetan district of Lithang. Although some of the leaders of these native-place battalions had sociopolitical status greater than that of Andrug Gompo Tashi, his status as head of the Chushi Gangdrug resistance was unchallenged. As a result, an inordinate number of men who rose to positions of prominence within the resistance were from Andrug Gompo Tashi’s district of Lithang.

In addition to Andrug Gompo Tashi, Gyalo Thondup was the other major figure of the resistance. Gyalo Thondup was one of several intermediaries between the Tibetan and U.S. governments and was the main liaison between Chushi Gangdrug and the United States. Although other Tibetans had taken part in discussions with U.S. agents in both India and Nepal in the early 1950s regarding Tibetan resistance to the Chinese, Gyalo’s status as brother of the Dalai Lama trumped the connections that any other Tibetan had to offer. In the eyes of the U.S. government, Gyalo was not just an intermediary; he was the chief architect of the Tibetan resistance.47 However, the Chushi Gangdrug soldiers themselves did not always view Gyalo Thondup’s position so favorably. For the soldiers, Gyalo was more of a patron than a leader of the resistance, an intermediary of the highest status, responsible for managing U.S. aid. As the brother of the Dalai Lama and a native of the northeast region of Amdo, Gyalo Thondup was a worldly individual educated in China and a political figure who operated at levels well above those of the average resistance soldier and of their mostly provincial leaders (including Andrug Gompo Tashi). Hence, Gyalo was—and still is—seen as a benefactor of the resistance. In the minds of resistance soldiers, Gyalo was the unofficial and at times renegade official for the Tibetan government-in-exile who coordinated both Tibetan and external support for the resistance.

The status of patron is an esteemed one in Tibetan society. The contributions of a patron are acknowledged and praised, and the patron’s efforts bolster rather than detract from the authority of the group being sponsored. For resistance members, Gyalo Thondup’s contributions to the resistance did not outweigh those of Andrug Gompo Tashi but were assessed differently and were accorded different historical weight within the organization. In contrast, the CIA dealt with Chushi Gangdrug mostly through Gyalo Thondup, rather than taking account of the horizontal divisions within the group’s ranks or the authority of Andrug Gompo Tashi, whose influence continued well after his death in 1964.

In line with these trends in leadership and organization, the resistance saw itself as a mostly autonomous entity. In exile, veterans depict the resistance organization as having been an equal partner to, rather than subordinate of, the U.S. and Tibetan governments. The inability of the Tibetan government’s own army to fight against the PLA, along with the necessarily secret relationship between Chushi Gangdrug and Lhasa, enabled the resistance to enjoy a large measure of autonomy vis-à-vis the Tibetan government that carried over into exile. Indeed, relations between the resistance and the Tibetan government army were never more than lukewarm. Although some army officers joined the resistance, others had disdain for the guerrilla force.48 The Tibetan resistance movement was not a creation of the CIA, of Gyalo Thondup, of the Tibetan government, or even of Andrug Gompo Tashi. Rather, it was a grassroots organization formed in response to Chinese oppression. The managed autonomy that defined the Chushi Gangdrug battalions in Tibet continued into organizational efforts in exile. The many leaders of the group were assisted but not directed by outsiders.

This last point—the guerrillas’ view of the resistance as an autonomous organization—is not to be brushed aside. Time and again, former leaders and soldiers explained to me that the Chushi Gangdrug’s decisions about policy and actions were internal affairs. This was true of activities both inside and outside Tibet. For example, after the escape of the Dalai Lama into exile in March 1959 and almost a full year of battles with the PLA, many Chushi Gangdrug units had to flee to India. Once in India, the soldiers were not allowed to cross the border back into Tibet, and many took jobs building roads in Sikkim. Displeased with this situation and anxious to continue the struggle, they sent messages to Andrug Gompo Tashi and Gyalo Thondup in Kalimpong asking that a meeting be convened. More than 200 leaders and 3,000 soldiers of Chushi Gangdrug subsequently gathered in Gangtok to discuss their options, including the popular suggestion that they return to Tibet to resume fighting. The participants approved three major decisions: first, to appoint two Chushi Gangdrug representatives to each office of the Tibetan government-in-exile; second, to set up military operations in Mustang in neighboring Nepal; and third, to accept aid from the United States rather than Taiwan, which had tried to recruit Tibetans in India to serve in the Taiwanese army. The meeting in Gangtok, and especially the decision to continue sending men to the United States for military training and to establish the Mustang army camp, gave new life to Chushi Gangdrug operations in exile. The meeting instilled in many Tibetans an admiration of and hope in the United States that continues to this day. Although the admiration was mutual for Americans working closely with the Tibetans, sentiment at higher levels regarding Tibet was less personal and more practical—what could the Tibetans do for the United States?

Documents, Wristwatches, Histories

In November 1961, CIA Director Allen Dulles appeared at a meeting of the U.S. National Security Council’s Special Group carrying an unusual item— the bloodstained and bullet-riddled pouch of a Chinese army commander.49 No less graphic than the pouch was what it contained—more than 1,600 classified Chinese documents described as not merely an “intelligence goldmine” but “the best intelligence coup since the Korean War.”50 The pouch and documents were well traveled, having been carried on foot by Tibetan guerrillas out of Tibet through Nepal and into India, where they were whisked away to the United States on transport aircraft. The Tibetan soldiers who captured the documents were part of the Chushi Gangdrug volunteer army’s Mustang force.

The Tibetans did not enjoy uniform support in Washington.51 In the early 1960s, with the transition from the Eisenhower to the Kennedy administration, senior officials debated whether the covert operation in Tibet should be continued.52 Allen Dulles’ dramatic introduction of the blood-stained bag literally “shot through with explanation” could not have been better timed.53 The documents in the pouch were of priceless value to the U.S. government. At the time, little intelligence information existed about the PRC. China presented itself as a perfectly functioning state, one that was militarily secure, with a population that was flourishing. The documents revealed just the opposite: that the Great Leap Forward had failed catastrophically and had led to widespread famine in China, and that serious internal problems had arisen in the military and the party.54 The importance of these documents to the CIA was unparalleled, and the scholarly community responded in kind when the materials were released several years later.55 Nowhere, however, was it revealed how the U.S. government had obtained the documents. Although President John F. Kennedy approved the continuation of the Tibetan project, the story of the men who captured the documents remained a secret.

The Tibetan government was also interested in the documents, though for a different reason. After leaving Lhasa, the only evidence the Tibetan government could obtain of the atrocities committed by Chinese troops was the oral testimony of Tibetan refugees. These testimonies were valuable but not as valuable as hard documentary evidence. The materials captured by the guerrillas contained crucial and tragic confirmation of the magnitude of violence in Tibet. The documents showed that in Lhasa alone more than 87,000 Tibetans had been killed by the Chinese military from March 1959 through September 1960. This evidence of Chinese atrocities was invaluable for the Tibetan government when it presented its case in the diplomatic language of international law. For the Tibetan government-in-exile, as for the CIA, the substance of the documents was what mattered rather than tales of how and by whom they had been obtained. The Dalai Lama’s autobiography, published in 1990, indicates that the documents were “captured by Tibetan freedom fighters during the 1960s.”56

Considering the importance accorded to the documents by the U.S. and Tibetan governments, one might expect that the former guerrillas would highlight this event in their narrations of resistance history. But as I soon found, this is not the case at all. They neither begin nor end their accounts with any mention of the documents, and they often did not refer to them at all. Why is it that this particular achievement so valued by the U.S. and Tibetan governments, is not remotely as memorable for the former soldiers?

Following the 1959 Tibetan exodus into South Asia, the resistance operated out of Mustang, the ethnic Tibetan kingdom that jutted up from the borders of northern Nepal into Tibet. In Mustang, the men established camps from which they could periodically sneak across the border into Tibet, raiding army camps, dynamiting roads, stealing animals, and collecting information and transmitting it by radio to the United States. One of their goals was to ambush PLA convoys, kill the soldiers, and confiscate all their weapons, supplies, and materials. On one especially successful raid they captured a large pouch stuffed with documents. The documents were all in Chinese, a language that none of the Tibetans could read. A veteran named Lobsang Jampa was one of the few who did mention the documents to me. He recalled:

There was a man called Gen Rara. He was very popular among us. He led an attack on the Chinese and secured some very important documents from a Chinese official. This proved very useful to us. . . . We sent those documents on. But I don’t know what they were about.57
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Other veterans who referred to the documents were similarly nonplussed. In Pokhara, Wangyal Lama explained, “our soldiers attacked Chinese trucks and seized some documents of the Chinese government. After that the Americans increased our pay scale. Nobody knew what the contents of those documents were. At that time, questions weren’t asked. If you asked too many questions, others would be suspicious of you.”58 Baba Yeshi, the general who was in charge of operations in Mustang, said that

a group of thirty Tibetans on horse traveled into Tibet. . . . Nine days later the group returned with uniforms, hats, diaries, Chinese government documents, and a lot of ammunition. . . . All that was captured resulted from the ambush of two Chinese convoys in western Tibet. [I] sent the diaries and government documents to Darjeeling. . . . [Later] four CIA officials congratulated me on overcoming such difficult initial conditions and praised me for our success in attacking the Chinese. As a reward the CIA gave me an Omega chronograph.59

Apparently, the Americans did not realize that the Tibetans had discriminating tastes in timepieces. Khampas had dominated the transnational Tibetan trade industry, and many of the resistance soldiers were former traders who possessed a sophisticated knowledge of the market value (and not just the use value) of international commodities. On this topic, Lobsang Jampa adds that at an earlier time “we were also given Omega wrist watches by the American instructors. They also gave us one trunk full of other watches. These watches were of cheap quality, and some of our soldiers did not want them.”60 What the soldiers did want was the restoration of Tibet to the rule of the Dalai Lama and the opportunity to return to their homes—that is, for life to return to “normal.” Captured documents of unknown importance were but a small victory and, at that particular moment, difficult to regard as a concrete step toward their goal. The marginality of the Tibetans to broader U.S. Cold War goals vis-à-vis China and beyond was the result of a larger set of discourses, institutions, and experiences. Yet, as Anna Tsing has shown in the case of the Meratus in Indonesia, people often engage and challenge their marginality.61 One way that Tibetan soldiers dealt with this marginality was by denying it. They placed the resistance, unlike the Omega watches, squarely within the realm of the valuable. Many of them were convinced that they would defeat China diplomatically if not militarily and return to Tibet well within their lifetimes.

The Mustang Generation: Tibetan Resistance Operations in South Asia

Hope for Tibet was cultivated in action. As long as the Mustang army was actively engaged in strikes against China, the soldiers felt they were contributing to the collective project of regaining Tibet. Mustang’s geographic location made it a politically strategic, albeit geographically difficult, base for resistance operations in Tibet. Following the Gangtok resistance meeting, the men who were chosen as leaders were sent for training in the United States, and other recruits received training in India before heading to Mustang. In Mustang itself, CIA-trained graduates provided instruction to other soldiers. U.S. assistance to the Tibetans in Mustang began during the first year of operations, at a time when the guerrillas were in dire straits. Two airdrops of supplies (arms, ammunition, food, etc.) were made in 1962 and another in 1965. Through 1969, the CIA provided financial assistance to the Tibetan resistance movement via the intelligence headquarters in Delhi. Even after the CIA’s role ended, however, the Mustang-based operations continued for another five years.

The guerrillas referred to the Mustang force as the “Lo Army,” which was divided into battalions of approximately 100 men each.62 Each battalion conducted military exercises and received weaponry and warfare training. The battalions rotated in and out of Tibet, traveling at night and sleeping in the forest or in boulder fields during the day. Their activities in Tibet were a combination of guerrilla maneuvers and intelligence-gathering. They carried out raids in the summertime, when the mountain passes were still covered with snow but the danger of frostbite was less. Resistance life was not romantic and was plagued by the uncertainties of external support, by internal squabbles, and by changing relations with the local Mustang population. The resistance benefited not only from the support of the King of Mustang, but also from the silent consent of the Nepali government.

Nepali officials, including King Birendra himself, visited Mustang for discussions with resistance leaders, and Nepali intelligence officers were stationed in Mustang throughout the years of operations. Just as the government of Nepal was aware of the Tibetan presence in Mustang, so too was the government of India cognizant of Tibetan resistance activities originating in South Asia. The difference was that India not only knew about the revitalized Chushi Gangdrug activities but was also, along with the United States, a direct participant in them.

In addition to the Mustang guerrilla force, the Chushi Gangdrug pursued a number of other efforts from exile. The CIA continued to parachute groups of Colorado-trained soldiers into Tibet for operations throughout the country.63 Tibetan guerrilla units also entered Tibet on foot from India for intelligence- gathering missions. Unlike in Nepal, however, the Tibetan units in India were not independent of local militias or government. Instead, they were incorporated into them. Tibetans were trained by the Indian Central Intelligence Bureau (CIB) and, after training, would either stay with the CIB or go on to a leadership post in a new Tibetan force in the Indian military. On 14 November 1962, in the midst of a Sino-Indian border war, the Special Frontier Force (SFF), an all-Tibetan force popularly known as “Establishment 22,” was formed.64

The Mustang Tibetans regarded the SFF as the Chushi Gangdrug branch in India. In addition to Establishment 22, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs set up an Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBF) under its auspices in October 1962. Both forces were stationed in border areas. As understood by the Tibetans, the ITBF included Tibetans in its ranks, whereas Establishment 22 was specifically created “to restore independence to Tibet.”65 Based in Dehra Dun, the SFF was initially trained by both U.S. and Indian officers but was led by four Tibetan commanders—Ratu Ngawang, Gyatso Dhondup, Jampa Kalden, and Jampa Wangdu. Both Ratu and Gyatso were from Lithang, Andrug Gompo Tashi’s district; Jampa Kalden was from Chamdo; and Jampa Wangdu was from Lhasa.66 The Americans pulled out of Establishment 22 after U.S. relations with India soured in the 1970s, and the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB) moved in. The trainers and equipment changed from American to Soviet.67 In 1971 the Tibetan force was used in India’s war with East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Fifty-six Tibetan SFF soldiers were killed in battle, and 580 Tibetan soldiers were decorated with medals for bravery by the Indian government.68

Although the withdrawal of American support did not stop activities in India, it did eventually stymie efforts in Nepal. Several years after U.S. funding was cut off, the Nepali government ended its policy of turning a blind eye to covert operations against the PRC from within its borders. Pressured by the Chinese authorities, the government of Nepal tried to force the guerrillas to shut things down, publicly calling them “bandits” and claiming not to have known that guerrillas were there in the first place. Not until 1974, however, did the Tibetan soldiers finally decide to call it quits. Even then, they did so only in deference to the pleas of the strongest unifying force in the Tibetan exile community, the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama’s brother-in-law carried a taped message from the Dalai Lama to the soldiers in Mustang by hand. The Tibetan spiritual leader urged the soldiers to surrender, saying that it would not be good for them to fight with the Nepalese army. Having received orders from the Dalai Lama himself, the guerrillas finally ended their operations and turned over their weapons to Nepali officials.

The resistance operation ended in drama and tragedy: splits within the organization, six-year-long jail terms in Nepal for a number of the leaders, the resettlement of many soldiers in lowland refugee camps, preferential treatment for those who cooperated with the Nepali government, and the daring attempt by one resistance leader and his men to escape to India, only to be ambushed and killed by the Nepali army. The dissolution of the Mustang force in 1974 left the Tibetan soldiers in grim circumstances. Many could not speak Nepali and had no money or obvious means of livelihood. Upon release from prison, most of them were resettled in refugee camps run by the Nepali government and the International Committee of the Red Cross. As a result of political splits within the resistance force, some of the veterans’ camps were dissociated from the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Nonetheless, even when the Mustang operation was terminated and the soldiers were scattered about, Chushi Gangdrug continued to operate. The head office in Darjeeling, and later Delhi and Dharamsala, maintained a political and social (and at times antagonistic) presence in the refugee community. In Nepal, Mustang veterans formed an organization called “Lo-thik” to address issues of social and economic welfare. Members of the group were from all regions of Tibet, and the Lo-thik provided (and still provides) a pension to veterans based on their years of service. Pension funds are generated through different Chushi Gangdrug business ventures in Nepal and India. No pension funds are given to the veterans by either the Tibetan government-in-exile or the U.S. government.

The end of the Mustang operations marked the close of a specific chapter in the history of the Tibetan resistance. The resistance continues in the form of Chushi Gangdrug, a social and political organization with a military past, and as a component of the Indian Army. Yet, the dissolution of the Mustang army signaled the end of an autonomous Tibetan military force. Although the U.S. government regarded the Mustang operation as primarily an intelligence- gathering force, the Tibetans themselves viewed their activities as part of a military battle, not just the gathering of information. For many of the veterans, the loss of U.S. support and the order from the Dalai Lama to leave Mustang made them pessimistic about what the future might hold. Nonetheless, the support provided by the United States and the close bonds between Tibetan trainees and CIA instructors sustained the former guerrillas’ belief that the West in general, and the United States in particular, might provide help to Tibet in the future. Many observers in the West, however, focused not so much on the plight of the Tibetan soldiers as on their connection to the CIA.

Secrets Told and Untold

The story of the “Colorado Tibetans” that opened this article is an example of how the story of the resistance as a government secret dominates the literature on the CIA-Tibet connection. As words not quite “unspoken,” but spoken only to a select few, secrets have the freedom and the license to travel, circulating not just as acknowledged silences but also as truths to be pursued and revealed. Thus, although many Tibetans feel obliged not to divulge resistance secrets, outsiders are not bound by the same constraints.69 In the late 1960s and early 1970s, despite the best efforts of the U.S. and Tibetan governments to keep things under wraps, bits and pieces of what was going on began to slip out. A series of investigative and speculative articles appeared, some romanticizing the resistance and others criticizing the CIA, the Tibetan government, or both.70 Currently, the literature in both English and Tibetan on the resistance is growing, albeit along somewhat different tracks and in both cases giving away some secrets while still keeping others.71

Admittedly, guerrilla resistance and government intelligence work are, by their very nature, secretive enterprises. In this case, the history is doubly secret because of the international political climate at the time—the height of the Cold War—and because independence remains an elusive goal for the Tibetan resistance and exile community. Only recently did the U.S. government begin releasing information about its involvement with the Tibetan resistance. In Asia, even less official information is available. The Nepalese government publicly denied any knowledge, not to mention approval, of the Tibetans’ use of Nepalese territory for resistance operations. Privately, however, the King of Nepal had told the U.S. government as far back as 1950 that he was willing to aid the Tibetans.72 In India today, the public knows little about its government’s cooperation with the United States in aiding the Tibet resistance.

Indeed, not until April 1978, when rumors began to circulate that the Ganges, the most sacred river in India, had been polluted by the government, was there even the slightest public hint of India’s role vis-à-vis Tibet.73 The Indian government caused a stir when it acknowledged that the rumors might be true. It turned out that India and the United States had conducted a series of secret operations against China in 1965, including the installation of plutonium- 239 devices to monitor Chinese missile launches and nuclear explosions on the high reaches of the Himalayan peak of Nanda Devi. Later, when intelligence teams went to retrieve the sensors, a 33-pound pack containing two to three pounds of plutonium could not be found. Intelligence officials assumed—rightly, as it turned out—that the monitors had been swept away by an avalanche and had perhaps ended up in the Ganges River, which runs past Nanda Devi.

Other secrets are only beginning to come to light, such as the revelation that the Tibetan resistance provided key intelligence information to the U.S. government, including information about PLA military capacity, internal dissent in China during the Great Leap Forward, and information about the first Chinese nuclear tests at Lop Nor in northern Tibet.74 Secrets between governments persist and are a key part of the history of the resistance, yet what for India, Pakistan, Nepal, and the United States was an official secret, was for the Tibetans much more. For the Tibetan community, the story of the resistance is not just one of clandestine politics or government secrets; rather, it consists of multiple stories—personal tales of serving the nation and the Dalai Lama, accounts of the armed struggle for their country, and continuing debates over facets of communal identity in the exile community.

The resistance was ultimately unsuccessful in regaining Tibet, but that does not diminish its historical importance for the resistance movement. Many Chushi Gangdrug veterans consider the resistance a key part of recent Tibetan history and view their own combat experiences as defining moments in their lives. For veterans, the resistance was important in defending Tibet against the Chinese and in defending and protecting the Dalai Lama in his escape from Tibet. Although one might expect that the story of the popular armed struggle for Tibet would be at the center of national narratives of modern Tibet, it is not. Histories of the Tibetan resistance have not yet secured a place within state-sanctioned national history in exile. One of the reasons that stories of the Tibetan resistance are not a part of official Tibetan history is the Tibetan cultural practice that I call “historical arrest.”75

Set against the backdrop of forty-four years of exile, Chushi Gangdrug now stands for more than a guerrilla resistance army. Since 1974, Chushi Gangdrug has had a social and political, not just military, presence in the Tibetan community. Cutting across all of these organizational facets, however, is the predominantly Khampa nature of the organization. Although Tibetans from other regions participated in the resistance, Khampas still dominate the leadership posts and the membership, and Chushi Gangdrug is widely perceived as a Khampa organization. As such, the resistance does not easily fit into standard narratives of Tibetan struggles against China, which have been primarily celebrated as diplomatic or non-violent. The one exception is the holiday on 10 March commemorating a popular revolt in Lhasa in 1959. By contrast, there is no community-wide holiday in exile that commemorates the Chushi Gangdrug resistance. As with sectarian and other alternative histories of Tibet, the regional inflections of resistance histories are discouraged in favor of homogenized, and at times sanitized, histories of Tibet. The experiences of Tibetan soldiers, and resistance history in general, remain “subjugated knowledges” in the Foucaultian sense, having been “arrested” in favor of other ways of telling the story.76 The factors that determine what counts as history are themselves historical and political products rather than fixed cultural practices. Amid the social and political chaos of Tibetan geographic dislocation, the possibilities for telling resistance history are generated in and by local, national, and global forces at work both during and after the Cold War.

Conclusion: Ethnography and Cold War Studies

How should we tell Chushi Gangdrug history as part of Cold War history? More fundamentally, should we tell Tibetan resistance history as part of Cold War history? My work with Tibetan veterans suggests that they see their struggle as one of Tibetans against the Chinese, rather than a broader international effort against Communism. They do, however, regard their struggle as a joint one in which Tibetans worked with individuals from other countries, supported by foreign governments—the U.S. and Indian governments, among others. Although my field notes and interviews include numerous comments to the effect that “the Americans didn’t really want to help Tibet, they just wanted to bring down Communism,” overall I find that resistance veterans, regardless of their current political orientation, are supportive of the Dalai Lama (though not invariably of the Tibetan government-in-exile), grateful to the CIA for the help it provided, and proud of the resistance’s part in the quest for Tibetan independence. Tibetan views of the guerrilla movement are, in this sense, a part of Cold War history—that is, Tibetans were not just acted on; they were actors in Cold War struggles. Although in understanding the Tibetan resistance we must take account of cultural-historical aspects unrelated to Communism and global responses to it, we also need to pay attention to the constraints imposed by the Cold War on Tibetan actions and opportunities. Tibetan understandings of the military-political struggle of 1956–1974 need to be incorporated into our broader study of the United States and the Cold War in Asia.77

In fitting Tibet into broader macro-histories of the Cold War, I stress here the magnitude of understanding the resistance on its own terms before trying to understand it in relation to the United States. The cultural, historical, and political context of the resistance is undoubtedly linked at points to the United States, but resistance existed before the U.S. government got involved and exists beyond its connections to the United States. The connection to the United States, though important in its own right, should not obscure other, equally vital aspects of the resistance, such as the specifically Tibetan brand of organization and administration and the sociopolitical location of the resistance in the Tibetan exile community. We must, therefore, pursue both local and global levels of inquiry—local in the United States, India, and China, as well as in Tibet, and global in terms of the broader Cold War context.

In the Tibet-China conflict, securities and insecurities are intimately bound together. The PRC is fixed as an objective and external threat, but the social and cultural meanings associated with this threat are culturally subjective understandings of the conflict. As understood by the Tibetan guerrillas, for example, the threat was much more immediate and localized than the global spread of Communism, which was the main threat perceived by the U.S. government. Each bundle of insecurities reflects back on cultural imperatives and identities, often but not always put into operation through state institutions and technologies. In regard to the Tibetan resistance, the processes through which the resistance took place and was categorized were not inevitable or only internal. Rather, these processes were contingent on hegemonic geohistoric structures and typologies and remain so today.78 The local complexities of cross-cultural Cold War politics, argues anthropologist Joseph Masco, are to be found in “investigations of how people experience insecurities across a broader sphere of relationships.”79 In closing, I follow his advice in suggesting a different sort of Cold War intervention, one that will consider histories such as that of the Tibetan Chushi Gangdrug resistance not just at the level of the state but also at the ground level, looking at actors and institutions such as resistance battalions and CIA training teams. As research continues on this topic, we may begin to unravel not just the secrets of U.S.-Tibet relations but also the cultural logics behind them. Only through such collaborative scholarship will a full picture of the Tibetan resistance in all its endeavors, relations, and perspectives be possible.


The initial version of this article was prepared for “The Cold War and Its Legacy in Tibet: Great-Power Politics and Regional Security” conference at Harvard University. My thanks to Mark Kramer and all at the Cold War Studies Project at Harvard University for organizing the conference, and to the participants and audience for their useful feedback. Thank you also to anonymous journal reviewers for comments and suggestions, as well as to John Collins, Eugene Mei, Ann Stoler, Lucien Taylor, and audiences in Berkeley, Boulder, Chapel Hill, Chicago, and Park City for constructive and critical engagement with earlier versions of the paper. Research support was provided by the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Social Science Research Council, and the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan. Finally, thanks are owed to the many Tibetan veterans and retired U.S. intelligence officers who took the time to discuss their stories with me.



1. David Wise, The Politics of Lying: Government Deception, Secrecy, and Power (New York: Random House, 1973), pp. 239–262, 557–559.

2. Georg Simmel, “The Secret and the Secret Society,” in Kurt H. Wolff, ed. and trans., The Sociology of Georg Simmel (New York: The Free Press, 1950), pp. 307–376;Michael Taussig, Defacements: Public Secrets and the Labor of the Historical Negative (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999); and Stanton K. Tefft, ed., Secrecy: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (New York: Human Sciences Press, 1980).

3. Examples include Tsongkha Lhamo Tsering, Tsan rgol gyal skyob, Deb bzhi pa, Glo smon thang du bstan srung dang blangs dmag sgar chags tshul dang Bod nang gray dmar la phar rgol ‘thab ‘dzings ji byas dngos rjien lo rgyus deb phreng gnyis pa bzhugs [Resistance, Volume IV: An Account of the Establishment of the Tibetan National Volunteer Defense Force in Mustang and Operations against the Communist Chinese inside Tibet, Part II] (Dharamsala: Amnye Machen Institute, 2003); Tsongkha Lhamo Tsering, Tsan rgol rgyal skyob, Deb Gsum pa, Glo smon thang du bstan srung dang blangs dmag sgar chags tshul dang Bod nang rgya dmar la phar rgol ‘thab ‘dzings ji byas dngos rjien lo rgyus deb phreng dang po bzhugs [Resistance, Volume III: An Account of the Establishment of the Tibetan National Volunteer Defense Force in Mustang and Operations against the Communist Chinese inside Tibet, Part I] (Dharamsala: Amnye Machen Institute, 2002); Tsongkha Lhamo Tsering, Bstan rgol rgyal skyob, Deb gnyis pa, Bod nang du drag po’i ‘thab rstod byas skor, 1957 nas 1962 bar [Resistance, Volume II: The Secret Operations into Tibet (1957–1962)], Tashi Tsering, ed. (Dharamsala, India: Amnye Machen Institute, 1998); Tsongkha Lhamo Tsering, Bstan rgol rgyal skyob, Deb tang po, Sku’i gcen po llha sras rgya lo don grub mchog gi thog ma’i mdsad phyogs dang gus gnyis dbar chab srid ‘brel ba byung stang skor [Resistance, Volume I: The Early Political Activities of Gyalo Thondup, Older Brother of H. H. the Dalai Lama, and the Beginnings of My Political Involvement, 1945–1959], Tashi Tsering, ed. (Dharamsala, India: Amnye Machen Institute, 1992); Phuntsok Tashi Taklha (Stag llha phun tshogs bkra shis), Mi tshe’i byung ba brjod pa, 3 vols. (Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1995); and Phupa Tsering Tobgye (Phu pa Tse ring sTobs rgyas), Gangs can bstan srung dang blangs dmag: sMar khams sgang gi rgyal srung dmag ‘thab lo rgyus [The Tibetan Volunteer Army to Defend Buddhism: The History of Markham’s Battles to Defend Tibet] (Dharamsala, India: Narthang Press, 1998).

4. Gompo Tashi Andrugtsang, Four Rivers, Six Ranges: A True Account of Khampa Resistance to Chinese in Tibet (Dharamsala, India: Information and Publicity Office, 1973); Dawa Norbu, “The 1959 Tibetan Rebellion: An Interpretation,” China Quarterly, Vol. 77 (1979), pp. 74–93; Jamyang Norbu, Horseman in the Snow: The Story of Aten, an Old Khampa Warrior (Dharamsala, India: Information Office, Central Tibetan Secretariat, 1979); Jamyang Norbu, “The Tibetan Resistance Movement and the Role of the C.I.A.,” in Robert Barnett and Shirin Akiner, eds., Resistance and Reform in Tibet (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), pp. 186–196; Kunga Samten Dewatshang, Flight at the Cuckoo’s Behest: The Life and Times of a Tibetan Freedom Fighter (As Told to His Son Dorjee Wangdi Dewatshang) (New Delhi: Paljor Publications, 1997); Brief Introduction of Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force and Welfare Society of Central Dhokham Chushi Gangdrug of Tibet (Delhi:Welfare Society of Central Dhokham Chushi Gangdrug, 1998); Roger E. McCarthy, Tears of the Lotus: Accounts of Tibetan Resistance to the Chinese Invasion, 1950–1962 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co, 1997); John Kenneth Knaus, Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival (New York: Public Affairs, 1999); Kenneth Conboy and JamesMorrison, The CIA’s SecretWar in Tibet (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2002); andMikel Dunham, Buddha’s Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Communist Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet (New York: Penguin, 2004).

5. Jennifer Milliken, “Intervention and Identity: Reconstructing the West in Korea,” in Jutta Weldes et al., eds., Cultures of Insecurity: States, Communities, and the Production of Danger (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), p. 91.

6. Melvyn Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State (Berkeley: University of California, 1989).

7. Examples include Joseph Masco, The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006); David H. Price, Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004); Laura Nader, “The Phantom Factor: Impact of the Cold War on Anthropology,” in Noam Chomsky et al., The Cold War and the University: Toward an Intellectual History of the Postwar Years (New York: The New Press, 1997), pp. 107–146; Eric Wakin, Anthropology Goes to War: Professional Ethics and Counterinsurgency in Thailand (Madison: University of Wisconsin, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1992); and Hugh Gusterson, Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

8. On this point, see Pamela Ballinger, “The Politics of the Past: Redefining Insecurity along the ‘World’s Most Open Border,’” in Weldes et al., eds., Cultures of Insecurity, pp. 63–90.

9. “Introduction: Constructing Insecurity,” in Weldes et al., eds., Cultures of Insecurity, pp. 1–33.

10. On the concepts of difference and otherness in anthropology, see Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983).

11. John Borneman, “American Anthropology as Foreign Policy,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 97, No. 4 (1995), pp. 663–672.

12. Ibid., p. 667.

13. Ibid., p. 665. See also the articles in Talal Asad, ed., Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter (London: Ithaca Press, 1973); Dell Hymes, ed., Reinventing Anthropology (New York: Pantheon Press, 1972); and George Stocking, ed., Colonial Situations: Essays in the Contextualization of Ethnographic Knowledge (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991).

14. On failed attempts to teach nation-building to the Tibetans, see Knaus, Orphans of the Cold War.

15. On other special operations in Asia, see Richard J. Aldrich et al., eds., The Clandestine Cold War in Asia, 1945–65: Western Intelligence, Propaganda, and Special Operations (London: Frank Cass, 2000).

16. Weldes et al., eds., Cultures of Insecurity.

17. George Marcus, “Foreword,” in Weldes et al, eds., Cultures of Insecurity, pp. vii-xix.

18. Gusterson, Nuclear Rites, p. 223.

19. Ibid.

20. Wise, The Politics of Lying; Victor Marchetti and John Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974); Chris Mullin, “Tibetan Conspiracy,” Far Eastern Economic Review, No. 32 (5 September 1975), pp. 30–34; and Christopher Robbins, Air America: The True Story of the CIA’s Mercenary Fliers in Covert Operations from Pre-war China to Present Day Nicaragua (London: Corgi Books, 1979).

21. Andrugtsang, Four Rivers, Six Ranges.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.

24. Brief Introduction, p. 3; and Tachen, interview, Kathmandu, 23 April 1998.

25. Lobsang Jampa, interview, Kathmandu, November 1997. See also Andrugtsang, Four Rivers, Six Ranges; and Thubten Khentsun (Thub bstan mKhas bstun), dKa’a sdug ‘og gi byung pa brjod pa [A Tale of Sorrow and Hardship] (Dharamsala, India: Sherig Pharkhang, 1998), p. 36. Lobsang Jampa also states that the Chinese would put Khampa clothing on dead Chinese soldiers and take photographs for propaganda purposes.

26. Lobsang Jampa, interview, Kathmandu, November 1997; and Tachen, interview, Kathmandu, November 1997. According to several resistance veterans, these rewards were hypothetical only.

27. Gyato Kelsang, interview, New York City, 12 April 2000. See also Alo Chhonzed, Bod kyi gnas lugs bden ‘dzin sgo phye ba’i lde mig zhes bya ba a lo chos mdzad kyi gdams, spyi lo 1920 nas 1982 bar [The Key That opens the Door of Truth to the Tibetan Situation: Materials on Modern Tibetan History] (Canberra: self-published, 1983); and Tsering Shakya, The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet since 1947 (London: Pimlico, 1999), pp. 144–147.

28. Andrugtsang, Four Rivers, Six Ranges, p. 40.

29. Gyato Kelsang, interview; Lobsang Jampa, interview; and Ratu Ngawang, interview, Delhi, 5 December 1997. See also Andrugtsang, Four Rivers, Six Ranges.

30. Gyalo Thondup, interview, Kalimpong, June 1999. See also Tsering, Bstan rgol rgyal skyob, pp. 25–31.

31. Paljor Jigme Namling (rNam gling dPal ‘byor ‘Jig med), Mi tshe’i lo rgyus dang ‘bril yod sna tshogs [My Life History and Other Stories] (Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1998). See also Khentsun, dKa’a sdug ‘og gi byung pa brjod pa.

32. The early history of U.S.-Tibet relations remains murky. Journalist Tom Laird contends that in the 1940s U.S. nuclear weapons intelligence operations in Asia involved Tibet, a factor that might help explain why such secrecy shrouds U.S.-Tibetan affairs. See Thomas Laird, Into Tibet: The CIA’s First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa (New York: Grove Press, 2002).

33. S. Mahmud Ali, Cold War in the High Himalayas: The USA, China, and South Asia in the 1950s (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999); and Albert Siegfried Willner, “The Eisenhower Administration and Tibet, 1953–1961: Influence and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy” Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1995.

34. Premen Addy, Tibet on the Imperial Chessboard (New Delhi: Academic Publishers, 1984).

35. Knaus, Orphans of the Cold War.

36. Robert J. McMahon, The Cold War on the Periphery: The United States, India, and Pakistan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).

37. Ali, Cold War in the High Himalaya, provides the most comprehensive view of the Cold War in South Asia with relation to Tibet.

38. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet; TseponW. D. Shakabpa, Tibet: A Political History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967); and Tsepon W. D. Shakabpa, Bod kyi srid don rgyal rabs [Political History of Tibet], 2 vols. (Kalimpong, India: Shakabpa House, n.d.).

39. Dawa Norbu, China’s Tibet Policy (Richmond, UK: Curzon Press, 2001).

40. Shakya, The Dragon in the Land of Snows; Norbu, China’s Tibet Policy; and Warren S. Smith, Tibetan Nation: A History of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996).

41. Tony Poe, interview, San Francisco, 17 December 1999.

42. For example, Baba Yeshi, the chief leader in Mustang through the early 1970s, states: “In the beginning, I thought that the Americans were helping us, really helping us, to regain our country and our freedom. But, later, after many things, seeing what they gave, what they asked for, I realized they were only looking for their own benefit.” Baba Yeshi, interview by Thomas Laird, Kathmandu, December 1993.

43. This was Bruce Walker, who, posing as a member of the U.S. Air Force, studied Tibetan at the University of Washington in Seattle. His classmates included two now prominent Tibetologists— E. Gene Smith and Melvyn Goldstein. Bruce Walker, interview, San Francisco, 7 January 2000.

44. This story has been told to me several times. A written version is available in Tsering, Bstan rgol rgyal skyob, deb gnyis pa.

45. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet; and Geoffrey Samuel, Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993).

46. For a brief review of Khampa social, religious, and political organization by district, see Samuel, Civilized Shamans, pp. 64–86. On the political status of Kham in the early twentieth century, see Carole McGranahan, “Empire and the Status of Tibet: British, Chinese, and Tibetan Negotiations, 1913–1934,” in Alex McKay, ed., The History of Tibet, Vol. 3: The Tibetan Encounter with Modernity (Richmond, UK: Curzon Press, 2003), pp. 267–295.

47. Knaus, Orphans of the Cold War.

48. Namling, Mi tshe’i lo rgyus dang ‘bril yod sna tshogs; and Sonam Tashi, Bod dmag gcig gi mi tshe [Life of a Tibetan Army Soldier] (Dharamsala, India: Sherig Pharkang, 1997).

49. The “5412 Special Group” was a secret group focusing on covert activities under National Security Council Directive 5412. Its members were the national security adviser; the deputy secretaries of state and defense; and one staff member, an assistant to CIA Director Allen Dulles. Unlike the NSC itself, the Special Group “was usually able to decide and coordinate the government’s covert programs on the spot without its members having to check with their principals.” Knaus, Orphans of the Cold War, p. 351 n. 46.

50. Ibid., p. 249; and McCarthy, Tears of the Lotus, p. 236.

51. Tibet was, of course, linked to China in U.S. policymaking. On U.S. policy toward China during the Cold War, albeit without reference to Tibet, see the collected essays in Robert S. Ross and Jiang Changbin, eds., Re-examining the Cold War: U.S.-China Diplomacy, 1954–1973 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2001).

52. One of the most vocal opponents of the Tibet operation was John Kenneth Galbraith, the ambassador to India under President John F. Kennedy. For a discussion of Tibetan policy under Dwight Eisenhower, see Willner, “The Eisenhower Administration and Tibet.”

53.Walter Benjamin, “The Story-Teller,” in Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. by Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), p. 89.

54. Knaus, Orphans of the Cold War, pp. 249–250; and McCarthy, Tears of the Lotus, pp. 231–236.

55. The documents were released to the Library of Congress in 1963 and were published as J. Chester Cheng, ed., The Politics of the Chinese Red Army: A Translation of the Bulletin of Activities of the People’s Liberation Army (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1966).

56. Tenzin Gyatso the 14th Dalai Lama, Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama (New York: Harper Collins, 1990), p. 148.

57. Lobsang Jampa, interview.

58. Wangyal Lama, interview, Pokhara, Nepal, April 1998.

59. Robert Ragis Smith, “A History of Baba Yeshe’s Role in the Tibetan Resistance,” B.A. thesis, Johns Hopkins University, 1998. I thank General Baba Yeshi, his son Lobsang Palden, and his daughter-inlaw Dolma for sharing this manuscript with me. As it is a direct translation of Baba Yeshi’s own autobiography, I have changed the pronouns from “he” to “I.”

60. Lobsang Jampa, interview.

61. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, In the Realm of the Diamond Queen (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993).

62. Tibetans commonly refer to Mustang as “Lo,” after the name of the kingdom’s capital, Lo Monthang.

63. See Tsering, Bstan rgol rgyal skyob.

64. The most detailed history of the Special Frontier Force is found in Conboy and Morrison, The CIA’s Secret War in Tibet.

65. Ratu Ngawang, interview, Delhi, 5 December 1997.

66. Jampa Kalden, interview, Dharamsala, 22 June 1999.

67. Ibid.

68. Brief Introduction, p. 21.

69. Georg Simmel, “The Stranger,” in Wolff, ed. and trans., The Sociology of Georg Simmel, pp. 402– 408.

70. George Patterson, A Fool at Forty (Waco, TX:Word Books, 1970); George Patterson, “Ambush on the Roof of the World,” Reader’s Digest, March 1968, pp. 59–64; Adrian Cowell, “I Saw the Secret Shooting War with China,” Argosy, Vol. 364, No. 5 (1967), pp. 29–33, 96–97; and Michel Peissel, The Secret War in Tibet (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1972).

71. Jeff Long, “Going After Wangdu: The Search for a Tibetan Guerrilla Leads to Colorado’s Secret CIA Camp,” in Michael Tobias, ed., Mountain People (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986), pp. 112–118; Hugh Deane, “History Repeats Itself: The Cold War in Tibet,” CovertAction, Vol. 29, No. 2 (1987), pp. 48–50; Fred Lane, “The Warrior Tribes of Kham,” Asiaweek, 2 March 1994, p. 17; William M. Leary, “Secret Mission to Tibet,” Air and Space, Vol. 12, No. 1 (December 1997/January 1998), pp. 62–71; Melinda Liu, “When Heaven Shed Blood,” Newsweek, 19 April 1999, p. 27; John B. Roberts III, “The Dalai Lama’s Great Escape,” George, October 1997, pp. 130– 133; John B. Roberts III, “The Secret War over Tibet,” The American Spectator, December 1997, pp. 31–35, 85; and Paul Salopek, “How the CIA Helped Tibet Fight Their Chinese Invaders,” The Chicago Tribune, 25 January 1997, p. 4. On the Tibetan side, see the film The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet, directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzin Soman (White Crane Productions, 1999).

72. “Mis. Dev. Relating to Tibet,” Cable No. 683, from New Delhi to Department of State, 30 March 1950, in U.S. National Archives.

73. See Ali, Cold War in the High Himalaya, pp. 1–3.

74. Knaus, Orphans of the Cold War; and Liu, “When Heaven Shed Blood.”

75. Carole McGranahan, “Truth, Fear, and Lies: Exile Politics and Arrested Histories of the Tibetan Resistance,” Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 20, No. 4 (November 2005), pp. 570–600.

76. Foucault describes “subjugated knowledges” in two ways: first, as “historical contents that have been buried and disguised in a functionalist coherence or formal systematization”; and second, as “a whole set of knowledges that have been disqualified as inadequate to their task or insufficiently elaborated.” Michel Foucault, “Two Lectures,” in Colin Gordon, ed., Power/Knowledge (New York: Pantheon, 1980), pp. 34, 38.

77. CaroleMcGranahan, “Empire Out of Bounds: Tibet in the Era of Decolonization,” in Ann Stoler, Carole McGranahan, and Peter Perdue, eds., Imperial Formations and Their Discontents (Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, forthcoming).

78. On geohistoric categories in the international realm, see Fernando Coronil, “Beyond Occidentalism: Towards Post-Imperial Geohistoric Categories,” Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 11, No. 1 (1996), pp. 51–87.

79. Joseph Masco, “States of Insecurity: Plutonium and Post–Cold War Anxiety in New Mexico, 1992–96,” in Weldes et al., eds., Cultures of Insecurity, p. 226.
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