Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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

Part 1 of 2

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN 1902, MIDWAY IN HIS FIVE-YEAR TERM, CURZON PERSUADED A doubtful Cabinet in London to authorize a Coronation Durbar for Edward VII. Not only was the Durbar an accepted feature of Indian life, he contended, but it would be "an act of supreme public solemnity" demonstrating the Raj's unity and strength. It was to take place in Delhi, seat of the old Mughal Empire, in January 1903, its pageantry more "Indo-Saracenic" than "Victorian Feudal," with Curzon himself as impresario. "You talked about stage management," Curzon confided to a friend in London. "That is just what I am doing for the biggest show that India will ever have had." The Coronation Durbar reflected not only Curzon's love of pomp but his heartfelt belief that the "Oriental mind" thrived on spectacle. On a famous occasion years before, he turned up for an audience with the Emir of Afghanistan wearing medals and decorations purchased from a theatrical costume shop. As it transpired, in the event at what people called the "Curzonization," a million or so onlookers had plenty that was genuine to gape at. Column upon column of heralds and dragoons, plus veterans of the Mutiny, preceded the Viceroy and Vicereine, borne aloft on a silver howdah. Next in the elephant procession were the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, representing the Crown, leading fifty Indian princes, in exact order of precedence. As The Times correspondent (one of a pampered brigade of journalists) wrote, the effect was like "a succession of waves of brilliant colour, breaking into foams of gold and silver, and the crest of each wave flashed with diamonds, rubies and emeralds of jewelled robes and turbans, stiff with pearls and glittering with aigrettes." At the climactic State Ball, four thousand breaths stopped as the Viceregal couple entered, he in his white satin knee breeches, she in her instantly celebrated dress, fashioned of cloth-of-gold encrusted with emeralds in the pattern of peacock feathers. For Curzon, it was a gratifying success, the only serious blemish being his home Government's refusal to let him announce -- in the fashion of Oriental potentates -- a reduction in salt taxes (he was allowed only to hint vaguely at "measures of financial relief").
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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

Part 2 of 2

The Durbar did not appeal to Younghusband. During its preparation, Curzon summoned him to Delhi, and the frontier officer felt the Viceroy's idea of presiding from the old Mughal throne was "a little too much." But when Younghusband found himself next to Curzon at a lavish lunch the following day, the Viceroy talked "literally the whole time" about the frontier, the newly formed Central Asian Society, and local problems at Indore. It was an audition. On being summoned afresh to Simla in May 1903, a dumbstruck Younghusband was offered the starring role. He was to lead a mission just within the borders of Tibet-not yet to Lhasa itself because of delicate political considerations that, Curzon hinted, were subject to change. All this was settled during the Simla season. "My dear Father," wrote an exhilarated Younghusband. "This is a really magnificent business that I have dropped in for."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Lockwood Kipling and Rudyard Kipling, c.1890

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

Life and career

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

John Lockwood Kipling and Alice Kipling in India during 1870

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

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

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

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

Sketch of Jejeebhoy, 1857

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hon. William Keswick (1834–1912)

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

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

-- Keswick family, by Wikipedia

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

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

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

-- Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, by Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

-- John Griffiths (artist), by Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

Madras High Court

The Victoria Memorial

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

Islamia College

The Rambagh Palace

Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

Ahsan Manzil in Dhaka

Curzon Hall in Dhaka

Tajhat Palace in Rangpur

Rose Garden Palace

Chittagong Court Building

Mysore Palace

Mumbai GPO, reminiscent of the Gol Gumbaz

Khalsa College, Amritsar

Daly College, Indore

Chepauk Palace

Lahore Museum, Lahore

Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Building, Karachi

Patiala Block of King Edward Medical University, Lahore

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

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

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

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

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

-- Indo-Saracenic architecture, by Wikipedia

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

-- John Begg, by Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

-- Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

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

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

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

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

Main published works

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

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

Bas-relief from a series illustrating Kim.

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

Cryptic dedication page with Arabic inscriptions.

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

See also

• Lockwood Kipling Fountain


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

Further reading

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

External links

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


MacDonald sisters
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/4/20

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

-- Birmingham Set, by Wikipedia


Alice Kipling

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


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

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


Agnes by her husband

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


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

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

Further reading

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


1. Ina Taylor. Victorian Sisters. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London p6 1987 ISBN 029779065X
2. "Person Page 2925". Retrieved 2015-11-26.
3. Taylor, Ina Victorian sisters 1987 Weidenfeld & Nicolson p13 ISBN 029779065X
4. Jump up to:a b c Jill Berkiminez (15 October 2013). Dictionary of Artists' Models. Routledge. pp. 91–. ISBN 978-1-135-95914-2.
5. "The Life of Rudyard Kipling", Charles Carrington, 1955, p. 51.
7. The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling - David Gilmour - Βιβλία Google. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
8. Taylor, Ina Victorian sisters 1987 Weidenfeld & Nicolson p14 ISBN 029779065X
9. Jump up to:a b c "Macdonald sisters (act. 1837–1925) | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-76071#odnb-9780198614128-e-76071.
10. Living in Wolverhampton, 1862-1867, Historywebsite, Retrieved 7 July 2016
11. "Baldwin, Louisa". Retrieved 2008-06-04.
12. Louisa Baldwin at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
13. Mrs. Alfred Baldwin at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
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Madras Mahajana Sabha
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/4/20

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also

• Hodgson Report
• Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky


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

External links

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


Hodgson Report
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/4/20

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


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

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

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

Vernon Harrison's examination of the Hodgson Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also

• Coulomb Affair
• Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky


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

Further reading

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

External links

• Harrison, Vernon (1997). H.P. Blavatsky and the SPR : an examination of the Hodgson report of 1885 (Online ed.). Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press.
• "Controversies surrounding H.P. Blavatsky's work & the teachings of Theosophy". Blavatsky Study Center. 2009-04-29. Archived from the original on 2009-05-27. Retrieved 2015-01-23.
• "Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, was unjustly condemned, new study concludes" (Press release). London: The Incorporated Society for Psychical Research. 1986-05-08. Reported in "Press release of Society for Psychical Research – 1986". Blue Ridge, GA: Theosophy Foundation.
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A religion of the book? On sacred texts in Hinduism
by Robert Leach
Zurich Open Repository and Archive, University of Zurich




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

Keywords: Hinduism, sacred text, scripture


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

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

The Vedas and Śruti

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

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

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

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

-- Śrauta, by Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

-- Charvaka, by Wikipedia

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

-- Ashvamedha, by Wikipedia

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

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

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


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

i.) Śāstra: Vedāṇga and Dharmaśāstra

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

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

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

ii.) Itihāsa and Purāṇa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tantra, Āgama and Stotra

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

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

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

Sacred Texts in Vernacular Languages

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Malinar (2007) combines both approaches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 Kampaṉ’s 12th century retelling of the Rāmāyaṇa in Tamil, the Irāmāvatāram, the verses of which are inscribed on temple walls across central and southern Tamil Nadu, predates both of these.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Sat Sep 05, 2020 5:44 am

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Accessed: 9/4/20

The Name's Slick, Tom Slick

There's very little doubt that Tom Slick did some work for the CIA. He certainly would have been the right person to have on board for such an ingenious project -- namely, to do a bit of localized spying under a carefully scripted ruse of looking for a bunch of Yetis. Not only did Slick have a genuine fascination for cryptozoology in general and the Abominable Snowman in particular, but he moved in a lot of powerful circles with numerous Significant people -- many of whom were linked to the secret worlds of spying, the CIA, official chicanery, and Intelligence gathering. One of those, and a good friend to Slick, was Sir Ellice Sassoon, 3rd Baronet, GBE, a resident of Shanghai who spent a great deal of time protecting and advancing Western interests in the Far East and the Orient.

-- Chapter 9: A Yeti-Hunting 007, from "True Stories of Real-Life Monsters" [Excerpt], by Nick Redfern

The following is an extract from a letter purporting to be written by Madame Blavatsky from Poona to Madame Coulomb at Madras in October, 1883:—

Now, dear, let us change the programme. Whether something succeeds or not I must try. Jacob Sassoon, the happy proprietor of a crore of rupees, with whose family I dined last night, is anxious to become a Theosophist. He is ready to give 10,000 rupees to buy and repair the headquarters; he said to Colonel (Kzekiel, his cousin, arranged all this) if only he saw a little phenomenon, got the assurance that the Mahatmas could hear what was said, or give him some other sign of their existence (?!!) Well, this letter will reach you the 26th, Friday; will you go up to the Shrine and ask K. H. (or Christofolo) to send me a telegram that would reach me about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, same day, worded thus: —

"Your conversation with Mr. Jacob Sassoon reached Master just now. Were the latter even to satisfy him, still the doubter would hardly find the moral courage to connect himself with the Society.  

"Ramalinga Deb."

If this reaches me on the 26th, even in the evening, it will still produce a tremendous impression. Address, care of N. Khandallavalla, Judge, Poona. Je ferai le reste. Cela coutera quatre ou cinq roupies. Cela ne fait rien.

[Google translate: I will do the rest. It will cost four or five rupees. This do nothing.]

Yours truly,

(Signed) H. P. B.

The envelope which Madame Coulomb shows as belonging to this letter bears the postmarks Poona, October 24th; Madras, October 26th; 2nd delivery, Adyar, October 26th; (as to which Madame Blavatsky has written in the margin of my copy of Madame Coulomb's pamphlet: [1] ["Some Account of my Intercourse with Madame Blavatsky," &c.] "Cannot the cover have contained another letter? Funny evidence!") Madame Coulomb also shows in connection with this letter an official receipt for a telegram sent in the name of Ramalinga Deb from the St. Thome office, at Madras, to Madame Blavatsky, at Poona, on October 26th, which contained the same number of words as above...

I will begin with number 1, relating to the Sassoon telegram. The matter is rather complicated, and the details of my investigation are given in Appendix: I. Here I will briefly state the results. Firstly, it became clear to me from conversations with Messrs. A D. and M. D. Ezekiel, who spent much time with Madame Blavatsky during her visit at Poona in October, 1883, and from the written statement of Mr. N. D. Khandalvala, in whose house she stayed, that the actual circumstances during her stay there were quite consistent with the letter. Secondly, I have been unable to obtain any trustworthy evidence for the existence of such a person as Ramalinga Deb, who was represented by Madame Blavatsky as a Chela, residing in Madras, of the Mahatma with whom she professed to be in occult communication. Thirdly, a careful comparison of Madame Blavatsky's attempt to disprove the genuineness of this letter (see Appendix I.) with the statements of Messrs. Ezekiel and Khandalvala appears to me to strengthen the case against her; for it leads us to the conclusion that she must have made a specific pre-arrangement for a conversation, the whole point of which was that its subject should have arisen extempore...


Some of the details which follow, and which serve to explain the extract quoted on p. 211, I have learnt from the oral statements of Messrs. A. D. and M. D. Ezekiel, and the written statements of Mr. Khandalvala shown to me by Dr. Hartmann.

Madame Blavatsky, on her way from Bombay to Madras, in October, 1883, stayed at Poona several days at the house of Mr. N. D. Khandalvala, a member of the Theosophical Society. On October 23rd she dined at the house of Mr. Jacob Sassoon, who was desirous of seeing some ''phenomenon.'' Madame Blavatsky despatched the letter from which the extract is taken, to Madame Coulomb on the morning of the 24th. While driving with Mr. A. D. Ezekiel on the afternoon of the 24th, she expressed her desire to call upon Mr. Sassoon. Probably she intended, when she wrote to Madame Coulomb, to arrange for a conversation with Mr. Sassoon on the afternoon of the 26th, when the subject of the telegram would be mentioned — only, of course, after much entreaty by Mr. Sassoon for some phenomenon; but, finding that Mr. Sassoon purposed leaving Poona on the 25th, she was compelled, if she was to impress him at all, to take the needful action earlier than she had anticipated. On this afternoon, then, of the 24th, after refusing to show Mr. Sassoon any phenomena, she professed, by some "occult" mental process, to get the opinion of Ramalinga's Master; but, having imperfectly heard his answer, she wished mentally, as she said, that Ramalinga should communicate to her the words in writing, that she might satisfy herself that she had heard aright. She wrote down at the time the words she expected to receive, and said that Ramalinga would send a telegram to her at once, or that she might not receive it till after a day or two. The telegram did not arrive till the 26th. Madame Blavatsky's explanation of the delay is that Ramalinga sent on the words late to Mr. Babajee D. Nath, who copied them and gave them to Madame Coulomb to be sent by telegram. This explanation was given to me by Madame Blavatsky, and appears also in the letter professedly written by her on October 26th to Colonel Olcott. Madame Blavatsky was too shrewd openly to lay stress upon the telegram, but I have no doubt, after conversations with Messrs. A. D. and M. D. Ezekiel, who were present at Mr. Sassoon's on the 24th, and at Madame Blavatsky's receipt of the telegram on the 26th, that she wished the occurrence to be regarded as " phenomenal," notwithstanding Mr. A. D, Ezekiel's statement to the contrary in his letter to the Times of India.

It may be pointed out in passing that Mr. Babajee D. Nath lends his sanction to Madame Blavatsky's explanation, and thus, the Blavatsky-Coulomb letters being genuine, implicates himself in the fraud.

The statement made by Madame Blavatsky when the September number of the Christian College Magazine appeared in Europe is as follows: —

The third letter, supposed to be written from Poona, is an entire fabrication. I remember the letter I wrote to her from Poona. It asked her to send me immediately the telegram contained in a note from Ramalinga if he brought or sent her one. I wrote to Colonel Olcott about the experiment. He thinks he can find my letter at Madras. I hope to either get back Ramalinga's note to me or obtain a statement of the whole matter from him. How could 1 make a mistake in writing, however hurriedly, about the name of one of my best friends? The forgers make me address him — ''care of H. Khandalawalla'' — when there is no such man. The real name is N. D. Khandalawalla.

Now, in the first place, the H originally printed in the Christian College Magazine was a misprint or a miscopy for the N in the original document.

As for the letter supposed to have been written to Colonel Olcott, it proves nothing, even were it written at the time it professes to have been written, viz., October 26th, 1883. Colonel Olcott alleges that he found this letter among his papers at Madras on his return thither at the end of last year, though he was unable to tell me how, when, or where he had originally received it. I was afterwards informed by Mr. Damodar that Madame Blavatsky had sent it through him to Colonel Olcott, whom he was accompanying on his tour in 1883. My opinion is that this letter, which was shown to me, is ex post facto, and was not written earlier than towards the end of last year. There are two statements in the letter which appear to me to point to its having been written at the later date. One of these is Madame Blavatsky's expression of her deep distrust of the Coulombs; the other is the following: — Madame Blavatsky, after writing that Ramalinga objected to give the words to Madame Coulomb, and gave them to Babajee, who gave them to Madame Coulomb to be sent as a telegram, continues: " I received the telegram to-day, but as it said, 'Master has just heard your conversation' — when it was not 'just now' but yesterday that the conversation took place — it was a glorious failure!" Now the letter is dated October 26th, therefore "yesterday" would be October 25th. But the conversation took place on October 24th. If the letter was written a year after the events, the mistake is intelligible enough. It was probably concocted after the appearance of the Christian College Magazine in Europe, and then — if we are to regard Colonel Olcott as a dupe in the matter — sent to Mr. Damodar for insertion among Colonel Olcott's papers.

I have also seen the letter alleged to have been written by Ramalinga at the time, and it appeared to me to be written, in part at least, in the disguised hand of Madame Blavatsky. It is curious, too, that in this letter Ramalinga is represented as expressing a great dread of Madame Coulomb; and I may say here that my inquiries have not enabled me to discover that Mr. Ramalinga Deb's existence has ever been other than imaginary.

But a more serious flaw in the attempted explanation by Madame Blavatsky yet remains. Messrs. Khandalvala and Ezekiel maintain that Madame Blavatsky could not have written to Madame Coulomb on the 24th after the conversation took place at Mr. Sassoon's in time for her letter to reach Madame Coulomb on the 26th. She declares in her statement that she asked Madame Coulomb to send her "immediately the telegram contained in a note from Ramalinga if he brought or sent her one," and from her supposed letter to Colonel Olcott it appears that this expected telegram related to the Sassoon conversation. Hence this alleged request must have been made before the aforesaid conversation occurred; and it is apparently not denied by Madame Blavatsky that she did write to Madame Coulomb on the morning of the 24th. On Madame Blavatsky's own showing, therefore — if Messrs. Ezekiel and Khandalvala are right concerning the time of the conversation and the subsequent events which prevented her afterwards writing a letter — a specific pre-arrangement must have been made by her for a conversation, the whole point of which was that its subject should have arisen extempore.


I may here notice some of Madame Blavatsky's allegations concerning other extracts which I have quoted. These allegations, among others, were published in a pamphlet issued in 1884, by the Council of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. Against extract (6), p. 213, she said: "There is no 'Maharajah of Lahore,' hence 1 could not have spoken of such a person, nor have been attempting mock phenomena for his deception." I do not suppose that any one who is familiar with Madame Blavatsky would maintain that she could not have written Us Maharajah de Lahore ou de Benares simply because there was no Maharajah of Lahore but only of Benares.

Concerning extract (7), p. 213, Madame Blavatsky said: ''All depends upon knowing who is 'Christopholo ' — a little ridiculous figure in rags, about three inches high; she wrote to say it had accidentally been destroyed. She joked over it, and I too." In reference to another extract (14) — where ''Christofolo" occurred, she said: '' 'Christopholo' was a name by which she [Madame Coulomb] called an absurd little figure, or image of hers. She gave nicknames to everything." And in B, Replies she wrote a propos of extract (7) (which occurs at the end of a letter about her intended movements for the next few months, and other practical matters), ''I deny having written any such thing on that same letter. I remember her telling me in a letter her magic Christopholo had melted in the sun, and I may have answered her something to that effect. But that after the serious letter that precedes I should write such bosh is impossible, not in my style at all."

Concerning extract (13), p. 215, she wrote: ''I could never, in writing to her who saw the man every day, use all his names and titles. I should simply have said, 'Dewan Bahadur,' without adding 'Rajanath Bao, the President of the Society,' as if introducing to her one she did not know. The whole name is evidently put in now to make it clear who is meant." Now I think it is probably true that Madame Blavatsky would not usually write the full name and titles of Mr. Ragoonath Rao, and I account for her having written them in the present case by supposing that she had just written them in the K. H. hand on the envelope of the Mahatma document she had prepared, and that they were consequently running in her mind.

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

Sassoon House, Shanghai, China

The Sassoon family, known as "Rothschilds of the East" due to the immense wealth they accumulated in finance and trade,[1] is of Baghdadi Jewish descent and international renown. It was based in Baghdad, Iraq, before moving to Bombay, India, and then spreading to China, England, and other countries. It is said that the family descended from one of the court families of the Iberian Peninsula in the twelfth century.[2]. They later served as Financial Advisors to Islamic Rulers.

From the 18th century, the Sassoons were one of the wealthiest families in the world, with a corporate empire spanning the entire continent of Asia.[3]


David Sassoon (seated) and his sons Elias David, Albert (Abdallah) & Sassoon David

The Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

The name of the family strongly implies a local, Mesopotamian origin for the family. The family name of Sassoon is also commonly shared by many Armenian and Kurdish families and tribes who all originate from the mountainous district of Sason (whence the family and tribal names), west of Lake Van, in upper Mesopotamia in modern Turkey. It is, however, possible that some Spanish Sephardi blood was mixed with the primarily Mesopotamian Jewish Sasoons.


It is said the family descended from Joseph ben Solomon Ibn Shoshan, one of court official of the Iberian Peninsula in the twelfth century.

Sassoon ben Salih (1750–1830) and his family were the chief treasurers to the pashas of Baghdad and Southern Iraq. His sons David (1792–1864), and Joseph (1795–1872) fled from a new and unfriendly wāli, in 1828 David first went to the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr and in 1832 to Bombay, India, with his large family. In Bombay, he built the international business called David S. Sassoon, with the policy of staffing it with people brought from Baghdad. They filled the functions of the various branches of his business in India, Burma, Malaya, and east Asia. He cemented the family's dominant position in the Sino-Indian opium trade. (See First Opium War.) The family's businesses in China, and Hong Kong especially, were built to capitalise on the opium business.[1] His business extended to China – where Sassoon House (now the north wing of the Peace Hotel) on the Bund in Shanghai became a noted landmark – and then to England. In each branch, he maintained a rabbi. His wealth and munificence were proverbial; his philanthropy across Asia included the building of schools, orphanages, hospitals, and museums with the proceeds of the drug trade. On his death, tributes to him were made from across the continent by Muslims, Christians, Parsees, Jews, and Hindus.[3]

Joseph Sassoon sons

Joseph Sassoon went to Aleppo, Syria, where he established a merchant house and later his business interests spread to Alexandria, Thessaloniki, and Athens, which included a shipping company and a money exchange house. His five sons branched out in many directions: his son Moses Sassoon (1828–1909) returned to Baghdad before moving to Egypt where he built the financial house Joseph Sassoon & Sons, which later expanded and became an agent for Crédit Foncier in Egypt. In 1871 Moses' son Jacob Sassoon (1850–1936) was one of the largest cotton plantation owners in Egypt, and owned cotton mills; during the American civil war his older brother Nissim (1840–1917) had made a fortune exporting Egyptian cotton to England making him Egypt's largest cotton exporter. In 1927, with Misr Bank and other Egyptian businessmen, Jacob Sassoon founded of Misr Spinning and Weaving Company (Arabic: شركة مصر للغزل والنسيج), also known as Misr Helwan or the El-Ghazl factory owning 61% of the company's shares. Jacob Sassoon also founded Egypt Crédit Foncier with the Joseph Vita Mosseri, his grandson Eliau Joseph Sassoon was an architect, and designed the Asicurazione de Trieste Building. Eliau Sassoon was also a real estate investor and developer, who foresaw the unparalleled growth of Cairo and the lucrative effect such expansion would have on land values. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of the properties he invested in were located at the nexus of the elegant European quarter of Ismailia or in the choicest parts of Kasr al-Dubara, and later, in Garden City, Zamalek, and Giza. In 1952 his grandson Eliau (Elias) Nissim Eliau Joseph Sassoon (1928–2010) founded Banque Du Caire with Maurice Joseph Cattaui (1925–2009).

Eliau (Elias) Nissim Joseph Sassoon

Eliau (Elias) Nissim Eliau Joseph Sassoon (Hebrew: אליהו נסים אליאו יוסף ששון) (1928-2010), (always called Elias), born in Aleppo, Syria, to Nassim Eliau Sassoon (1911–1988) a wealthy merchant, banker, and former partner at Safra Freres a bank based in Aleppo, and Messouda Sassoon (born Shamash) (1911–1992).

Elias Sassoon was Joseph Sassoon's most influential and wealthiest descendant, in 1940 he was sent to Alexandria to attend the prestigious boarding school, Victoria College. He later joined his family's business in 1946 where he worked for the family's business in Egypt.

Among the many holdings, the family had at the time included interests in the Burmah Oil Company, Turkish Petroleum Company and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, a textile factory, a large cotton export business and interests in both the General Company of Commerce and Industry of Greece (later Attica Enterprises Holding S.A.) and Atlas Maritime.

In 1947 Elias focused his attention on three primary sectors: the new booming oil exploration industry sweeping the Middle East, shipping and banking. With a £5000 loan from his father, Elias invested in Standard Oil adding to his family's existing holdings in the company.
That same year he married Hannah Rochel Jacque Sassoon (née de Menasche) (1929–2009), granddaughter of Baron Jacques Bohor Yacoub Levi de Menashe (d.1916).

His great-grandfather, David Solomon Sassoon (1871–1956) had been an investor in Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, which later partnered with Standard Oil to provide markets for the oil reserves in the Middle East. In 1906, SOCONY (later Mobil) opened its first fuel terminals in Alexandria with financing provided by David Solomon Sassoon. Elias Sassoon was a devoted Zionist and considered the British anything but friends to the Jewish people because of their blockade in the Mediterranean to refugee vessels carrying Jewish refugees fleeing the horrors of World War II, and although to a lesser extent, he considered the British government as culpable nonetheless in the atrocities against world Jewry.

Two extracts from contemporary sources will introduce and suggest the theme to be expanded. The first extract is from Roosevelt's own files. The U.S. Ambassador in Germany, William Dodd, wrote FDR from Berlin on October 19, 1936 (three years after Hitler came to power), concerning American industrialists and their aid to the Nazis:

Much as I believe in peace as our best policy, I cannot avoid the fears which Wilson emphasized more than once in conversations with me, August 15, 1915 and later: the breakdown of democracy in all Europe will be a disaster to the people. But what can you do? At the present moment more than a hundred American corporations have subsidiaries here or cooperative understandings. The DuPonts have three allies in Germany that are aiding in the armament business. Their chief ally is the I. G. Farben Company, a part of the Government which gives 200,000 marks a year to one propaganda organization operating on American opinion. Standard Oil Company (New York sub-company) sent $2,000,000 here in December 1933 and has made $500,000 a year helping Germans make Ersatz gas for war purposes; but Standard Oil cannot take any of its earnings out of the country except in goods. They do little of this, report their earnings at home, but do not explain the facts. The International Harvester Company president told me their business here rose 33% a year (arms manufacture, I believe), but they could take nothing out. Even our airplanes people have secret arrangement with Krupps. General Motor Company and Ford do enormous businesses[sic] here through their subsidiaries and take no profits out. I mention these facts because they complicate things and add to war dangers.8

Second, a quote from the diary of the same U.S. Ambassador in Germany. The reader should bear in mind that a representative of the cited Vacuum Oil Company — as well as representatives of other Nazi, supporting American firms — was appointed to the post-war Control Commission to de-Nazify the Nazis:

January 25. Thursday. Our Commercial Attache brought Dr. Engelbrecht, chairman of the Vacuum Oil Company in Hamburg, to see me. Engelbrecht repeated what he had said a year ago: "The Standard Oil Company of New York, the parent company of the Vacuum, has spent 10,000,000 marks in Germany trying to find oil resources and building a great refinery near the Hamburg harbor." Engelbrecht is still boring wells and finding a good deal of crude oil in the Hanover region, but he had no hope of great deposits. He hopes Dr. Schacht will subsidize his company as he does some German companies that have found no crude oil. The Vacuum spends all its earnings here, employs 1,000 men and never sends any of its money home. I could give him no encouragement.9

And further:

These men were hardly out of the building before the lawyer came in again to report his difficulties. I could not do anything. I asked him, however: Why did the Standard Oil Company of New York send $1,000,000 over here in December, 1933, to aid the Germans in making gasoline from soft coal for war emergencies? Why do the International Harvester people continue to manufacture in Germany when their company gets nothing out of the country and when it has failed to collect its war losses? He saw my point and agreed that it looked foolish and that it only means greater losses if another war breaks loose.10

The alliance between Nazi political power and American "Big Business" may well have looked foolish to Ambassador Dodd and the American attorney he questioned. In practice, of course, "Big Business" is anything but foolish when it comes to promoting its own self-interest. Investment in Nazi Germany (along with similar investments in the Soviet Union) was a reflection of higher policies, with much more than immediate profit at stake, even though profits could not be repatriated. To trace these "higher policies" one has to penetrate the financial control of multinational corporations, because those who control the flow of finance ultimately control the day-to-day policies.

-- Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, by Antony C. Sutton

In 1952 he cofounded Banque Du Caire with his childhood friend Moise Joseph Maurice Cattaui (1925–2009). By then Elias Sassoon had expanded his family's business to France, Brazil, South Africa and the United States where the family exported cotton to and had maintained trading posts since the 1800s.

The Sassoons believed that Mesopotamia (now Syria and Iraq) contained substantial reservoirs of oil, the forerunner of the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) the Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC). David Solomon Sassoon was among the first to secure the interest of the Imperial German banks and companies, already involved in the building of the Berlin–Baghdad railway, which he played an active role in its financing. This German interest was followed by British interests when David Sassoon became an agent for the Rothschilds in Ottoman Empire. In 1911, in an attempt to bring together British and German interests competing in the region, Sassoon formed a consortium of British investors composed of banks and companies and formed the African and Eastern Concession Ltd.

In 1953 Elias Sassoon used these networks of interests to expand his family's investment interests to include mining concessions in Africa. In 1957 the new Egyptian post-revolution government under Nasser nationalized all European particularly British and French companies and banks. The government also began expelling foreigners and the Jewish community of Egypt once again, despite its many contributions to the country's artistic, economic, political, and academic fields found itself under the government's harassment and intimidation, many were forced to leave the country with no more than one suitcase and most had their assets and properties seized by the Revolutionary Council.

The Sassoons were among those, whose assets were confiscated and in 1966 Elias Sassoon and his wife were taken to the port in Alexandria and expelled from the country. Elias’ wife who was an Egyptian citizen was declared non-citizen, and at the request of the Egyptian government, Elias's Syrian citizenship was revoked. They were given laissez-passer (travel documents) and ordered aboard a ship bound for Greece, however, their son Edouard Elias Sassoon (1948–1985) who was a medical student at the University of Alexandria was denied exit visa.

The government accused Elias Sassoon of using his family's banking network to help smuggle assets belonging to members of the Jewish community out of the country and demanded that he return his assets held in Europe before his son is allowed to leave. After paying what amounted to ransom money, totaling £4 million and the intervention of both the French and the Greek governments, Edouard Sassoon joined his family in 1971, with his wife Josephine Celine Esther (née Cattaui) (1949–1994), daughter of Moise Cattaui who was also denied exit visa after her family was expelled from the country in 1964.

Elias Sassoon had established Sassoon Cattaui Investment Holding (later, Providence Group), a privately owned family hedge fund with Moise Cattaui in 1961 in Switzerland with assets from the Sassoon Family Trust, which had been formed in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1910. In 1970, the partners moved the company Curaçao (Netherlands Antilles) a private family investment group, which is not required to register with the SEC or comply with reporting requirements under the Dodd–Frank, reform act. It is said that at the time of formation of the Fund, the total value of assets under management in 1961 was £25million.

The Fund invested in commercial real estate properties in the U.S., Canada, and Greece as well as in precious metals, oil & gas, and securities. The Fund also speculated in the currency markets, among its many holdings are: BHP Billiton, the co-investor in Le Méridien Hotel company with Air France, American Express, GM, Wells Fargo Bank, HSBC, Lehman Brothers, Exxon Mobile, Conoco Phillips, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Microsoft, Sun Microsystem, Midland Bank, stockbroking firm Frankel Pollak (which was later sold to Sasfin Bank, a Sassoon family bank based in South Africa) and S&P. It is rumored that at the time of Elias Sassoon's death, the Fund, which is not required to file its financials with the SEC had over $100 billion of assets under management, most of which are assets of both the Sassoon and Cattaui families.

David S. Sassoon sons

Sir Philip Sassoon, John Singer Sargent, 1923

Sassoon's eight sons also branched out in many directions. The Sassoon family was heavily involved in the shipping and opium production industry in China and India.

Elias David Sassoon

Elias David (1820–1880), his son by his first wife, had been the first of the sons to go to China, in 1844. He later returned to Bombay, before leaving the firm to establish E.D. Sassoon & Co. in 1867, with offices in Bombay and Shanghai.

Jacob Elias David Sassoon, 1st Baronet of Bombay
Birthdate: 1844
Birthplace: Hong Kong
Death: October 22, 1916 (71-72), Bombay | Mumbai, India
Immediate Family: Son of Elias David Sassoon and Leah Sassoon
Husband of Rachel Simon Isaacs
Partner of 施湘美 Mary Sheung Mei Zimmern
Father of 孫志昌 SUEN Chi-Cheung and Unknown Sassoon, Infant
Brother of Sir Edward Elias Sassoon, 2nd Baronet of Bombay; Hannah David; David "Nunkie" Sassoon; Meyer Harry Sassoon; Joseph Sassoon and 3 others

-- Jacob Elias David Sassoon, 1st Baronet of Bombay, by

Another son, Albert Abdullah David Sassoon (1818–1896) took on the running of the firm on his father's death, and notably constructed the Sassoon Docks, the first wet dock built in western India. With two of his brothers he later became prominent in England, and the family were friends of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. One daughter of the family, Rachel Sassoon Beer, joined her husband in running a number of British newspapers, including The Sunday Times (1893–1904) and The Observer, which she also edited.

Portrait of Siegfried Sassoon by Glyn Warren Philpot, 1917. Fitzwilliam Museum

Of those who settled in England, Sir Edward Albert Sassoon (1856–1912), the son of Albert, married Aline Caroline de Rothschild, and was a Conservative member of Parliament from 1899 until his death. The seat was then inherited by his son Sir Philip Sassoon (1888–1939) from 1912 until his death. Philip served in the First World War as military secretary to Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and, during the 1920s and 1930s, as Britain's undersecretary of state for air. The twentieth-century English poet, one of the best known World War I poets, Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967) was David's great-grandson.

Another descendant of David Sassoon is the British banker and former Treasury's commercial secretary James Meyer Sassoon. He was mentioned in the Paradise Papers as one of the beneficiaries of a tax exempt Cayman Island trust fund worth $236 million in 2007 and defended it as being of non UK origin.[4]

The branch which carried on the rabbinical tradition has been represented by Rabbi Solomon David Sassoon (1915–1985), who moved from Letchworth to London and then to Jerusalem in 1970. He was the son of one David Solomon Sassoon (1880–1942) who collected Jewish books and manuscripts and catalogued them in two volumes.

The bulk of this collection is stored at the British Library in London, England. Some examples of this collection are maintained at the University of Toronto Library in Toronto, Canada. None of these priceless works are presently stored in the United States.

David Sassoon was the son of Flora Abraham, who had moved from India to England in 1901 and established a famous salon in her London home. Solomon Sassoon had two sons, Isaac S. D. Sassoon and David Solomon Sassoon, who are both rabbis.

Family tree

Sassoon family tree

Tomb of David Sassoon, Pune, India


1. "SASSOON". Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
2. Jacobs, Schloessinger, Joseph, Max. "IBN SHOSHAN". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
3. Siegfried Sassoon: A biography, Max Egremont, (London 2005)
4. "James Meyer Sassoon". International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. 5 November 2017. Retrieved 5 November 2017.

External links

• Elkebir Family Tree, showing the ancestry of the Sassoon family back to the 18th century.
• Family Sassoon, About Sassoon family, Ozar Yisrael Encyclopedia, J. D. Eisenstein, Volume 10, p. 75
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Sassoon". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.


E.D. Sassoon & Co.
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/6/20

Elias David Sassoon

Offices of E.D. Sassoon & Co. in Bombay

Jacob Sassoon

Former "Sassoon House", today "Peace Hotel″

E.D. Sassoon & Co., Ltd. was a trading company operating in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century predominantly in India, China and Japan.


E.D. Sassoon & Co., Ltd. was founded in 1867 by Elias David Sassoon (1820–1880), the second son of David Sassoon (1792–1864), after he had broken away from his family's company, David Sassoon & Co., because of personal resentments between him and his brothers. The new company started to trade in dried fruits, nankeen, metals, tea, silk, spices and camphor from modest offices in Bombay and Shanghai.[1] But it soon focused on exporting opium, cotton and piece fabrics from India to China.[2]

E.D. Sassoon & Co. soon proved to be more energetic than David Sassoon & Co. and by the later Edwardian years its capital was two to three times as much (£1.25m to £1.5m) as the nominal capital of David Sassoon & Co. (£0.5m).[3] The company later expanded its operations to the Persian Gulf ports, Baghdad and Japan. From 1879[4] onwards it also bought up poorly performing cotton mills in Bombay and turned them into successful operations.

After the death of Elias David Sassoon in 1880, his eldest son Sir Jacob Elias Sassoon (1844–1916) took over the business and further branches were opened in Calcutta and Karachi. The firm also purchased property in Shanghai. But in 1907 the United Kingdom signed a treaty agreeing to gradually eliminate the opium exports to China over the next decade while China agreed to eliminate domestic production over that period. Following this treaty E.D. Sassoon & Co. retreated from the opium trade, eventually stopping it completely.[5] Instead the company invested further in its cotton mill business in Bombay. By the First World War E.D. Sassoon & Co. had grown into India’s single largest textile group and was renowned for their advanced production technology.

In 1909 Sir Jacob Elias Sassoon also played a very prominent role in forming the "Eastern Bank", taking advantage of the banks facilities to make themselves less vulnerable to fluctuations of the Indian rupee. On 1 January 1921, E.D. Sassoon & Co. Ltd was incorporated as a private trading and banking company, giving up its old partnership structure.[6]

After the death of Sir Edward Elias Sasoon (1853–1924) and his younger brother Meyer Harry Sassoon (1875–1924) within a year, Sir Edward Elias Sassoons son Sir Victor Sassoon (1881–1961) and Meyer Harry Sassoon's widow Mozelle Gubbay (1872–1964) became the main owners of the company with combined business assets of £15 million. Sir Victor Sassoon became the chairman of the company and Meyer Harry Sassoon's son-in-law, Derek Fitzgerald (1892–1967), was appointed manager of the London and Manchester branches.

In 1927, E.D. Sassoon & Co. Ltd was already the largest cotton mill owner in Bombay, where it was still headquartered. When the Great Depression in 1929-30 drove E.D. Sassoon's biggest competitors into bankruptcy, the company took them over. By the time the Second World War broke out in Europe, E.D. Sassoon & Co. owned 15 cotton mills and was with over 30,000 employees Bombays largest private employer.

The profits generated in Bombay were reinvested in luxury real estate and hotels in Shanghai. In 1923 E.D. Sassoon & Co. had bought the majority of shares of the established produce firm "Arnhold & Co."[7] of Shanghai, which in turn controlled the "Cathay Land Company". The latter owned several apartment buildings and a hotel in Shanghai and offered the perfect basis for further investments in Shanghai property.[8]

In 1928 Sir Victor Sassoon established the "E.D. Sassoon Banking Company Limited" as a subsidiary of "E.D. Sassoon & Co. Ltd", to coordinate the trading interests of his family.[9] In March 1930 E.D. Sassoon & Co. new headquarter was opened at "Sassoon House" in Shanghai.

The Second World War brought many changes to the E.D. Sassoon Group. Although the war boosted production rates, thanks to the soaring demand of the allied armies, the firm decided to dispose of the cotton mills in Bombay in 1943[10], fearing problems as foreign owners once independence to India was granted. In May 1949 Shanghai was under the control of a communist regime and seemed an unhealthy place for the company's head office, so this was transferred to Nassau in the Bahamas in 1950. It is thought that Nassau was chosen because there were no forms of personal or corporation tax in place and Sir Victor Sassoon planned to live there, which he did until his death in 1961.[11]

After Sir Victors Sassoon's death the banking subsidiary, E.D. Sassoon Banking & Co. Ltd., was sold in 1972 to the merchant bank "Wallace Brothers & Co. (Holdings) Ltd" and renamed "Wallace Brothers Sassoon Bank Ltd." in November 1974, which in turn was taken over by the Standard Chartered Bank in 1976.[12] The parent company, E.D. Sassoon & Co., continued to operate as a separate company from 1972 until 1978 when it became "DK Investments (Crosby Square) Ltd." (4 Crosby Square, City of London).

The "Sir Victor Sassoon Heart Foundation", set up by Lady Sassoon after her husband’s death, are run from Nassau, where the family still lives.

See also

• Companies portal
• David Sassoon
• Sassoon family
• David Sassoon & Co.
• List of trading companies
• History of opium in China


1. Stanley Jackson: ″The Sassoons - Portrait of a Dynasty″, Secon Edition, William Heinemann Ltd., London 1989, p.48 and 51, ISBN 0-434-37056-8
2. Madhavi Thampi: "India and China in the Colonial World", Social Science Press, London/ New York 2017, p.40; ISBN 978-1-138-10269-9
3. Stanley Chapman: "The Rise of Merchant Banking", Routledge, London/ New York 2006, p.131, ISBN 978-0-415-48948-5
4. In 1879 E.D. Sassoon & Co. moved from just trading in cotton into the cotton mill business by purchasing the bankrupt Alexandra Mills, which had been founded in 1869 by Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata (1839-1904).
5. David Faure (Editor): "Society - A Documentary History of Hong Kong", Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong 1997, p.125, ISBN 962-209-393-0
6. Stanley Jackson: ″The Sassoons - Portrait of a Dynasty″, Secon Edition, William Heinemann Ltd., London 1989, p.200, ISBN 0-434-37056-8
7. Arnhold & Co., based in Shanghai, had branches in Hankow, Tientsin, Canton and London. Apart from its controlling stake in the Cathay Land Company it was a leading distributor of building materials and engineering equipment. E.D. Sassoon & Co. sold its controlling interest in Arnhold in 1957.
8. Stanley Jackson: ″The Sassoons - Portrait of a Dynasty″, Secon Edition, William Heinemann Ltd., London 1989, p.212, ISBN 0-434-37056-8
9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
10. E.D. Sassoon & Co.'s cotton mills were sold in 1943 to the Indian trading company "Messrs Aggarwal & Co.", which integrated them into their "The India United Mills Limited". These in turn were nationalized in 1974 by the Indian government. In the early 2000s they were wound down together with other textile mills in Bombay.
11. ... &nv2=place
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Sat Sep 05, 2020 6:22 am

Henry Rhodes Morgan [Rhodes E. Morgan]
by Theosophy Wiki
Accessed: 9/4/20

General Morgan

Major-General Henry Rhodes Morgan was an early Anglo-Indian member of the Theosophical Society, who had retired from the British Army. He and his wife were staunch friends of the Founders and defended H. P. Blavatsky during the controversy started by the Coulomb conspiracy. NOTE: The 1938 Theosophical Yearbook lists the general under the name Rhodes E. Morgan.

Personal life and career

The Major-General and Mrs. Morgan lived at Ootacamund, a hill station where he was one of the first English settlers in 1845. Their home was called "The Retreat."[1] He worked for the English Government in India as a Forest Officer and Inspector and wrote a book entitled Forestry in Southern India encouraging forest conservation. Mrs. E. H. Morgan "studied scientific agriculture and was responsible for introduction into Ooctacamund of Australian Eucalyptus, Assam tea plant, and to a great extent the cinchona."[2] The couple had eight children, of whom only three survived to 1938.[3] The general died in June, 1909.[4]

Theosophical Society involvement

In the summer of 1883 Mme. Blavatsky and Col. Olcott stayed with the Morgans for a short vacation in the benign climate of the Nilgiri Hills. Agriculture was an interest that Col. Olcott held in common with the Morgans. HPB wrote to Alfred Percy Sinnett:

I am at the Morgans. General and Generaless, six daughters and two sons with four sons-in-law constitute the family of the most terrible atheists and the most flapdoodlish or the most kind Spiritualists. Such care, such kindness and regards for my venerable self that I feel ashamed...[5]

The general was the President of the local Doddabeta Theosophical Society.

During the Coulomb controversy, a letter was published in the Madras Christian College Magazine purportedly written by Mme. Blavatsky to Emma Coulomb, mentioning a visit of the General to Madras. Morgan demanded an opportunity to examine the original letter, and then published a letter in the Madras Mail stating in strongest terms that the HPB letter was determined to be a forgery by three experts.[6]


• Forestry in Southern India.
• Reply to a Report of an Examination by J. D. B. Gribble. 2nd ed. Ootacamund: Observer's Press, 1884. 21 pages. The British Library has two copies.[7]


1. Virginia Hanson, Masters and Men: the Human Story of the Mahatma Letters (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 179.
2. "Morgan, Mrs. E. H.," 'The Theosophical Year Book, 1938. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 202.
3. 1938 Year Book, 202.
4. 1938 Year Book, 202.
5. H. P. Blavatsky, The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett and Miscellaneous Letters (London: T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., 1925), ???. A. T. Barker, editor.
6. Vallah Bulla statement dated September 21, 1884. Adyar Committee Report, 1885, 133-134. As presented in Michael Gomes, "The Coulomb Case" Theosophical History Occasional Papers Volume X (Fullerton, California: Theosophical History, 2005) 47.
7. Boris de Zirkoff letter to British Museum Department of Printed Books (predecessor to British Library). July 16, 1955. Boris de Zirkoff Papers. Records Series 22. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Mon Sep 07, 2020 1:41 am

Philip D. Henderson
by Theosophy Wiki
Accessed: 9/6/20

Major Philip D. Henderson was a British Chief of Police who was a member of the party at the picnic at Simla at which Madame Blavatsky produced the cup and saucer phenomenon. He joined the Theosophical Society that day and his membership diploma was produced phenomenally on the spot. Colonel Henry S. Olcott described the event:

Major Henderson asked her to explain the science of it, but she said she could not, as he was not yet a Theosophist. He said he meant to be one. “When?” said she. “To-morrow” he replied. Mrs. Sinnett said “Why not to-day?” “So I will,” said the Major; “come Madame produce me a diploma on the spot!” “If I do, will you really join us?” “I will.” “Then you shall have it.” She looked here and there and walked about near us a few moments, then sat down on the edge of a little bank. “If you want the diploma, you must hunt for it yourself; the ‘Brother’ who is helping me says it is rolled up tied with about 50 feet of blue twine and covered with creeping vines,” she said to the Major. The party all went to searching and presently Major Henderson, raising the low branches of a deodar shrub and parting the grass said “I have it!” He really had — one of our diplomas filled out to Major Philip D Henderson as Corresponding Fellow, and an official letter on my Headquarters letter-paper, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HANDWRITING and signed “Faithfully yours — (the name in Tibetan characters) for H. S. Olcott, President of the Theosophical Society”! Fancy my astonishment! The letter was dated October 2/3 — that is at the point (or night) between the two days and it referred to a conversation that had taken place between Major Henderson and Madame Blavatsky on the preceding evening.

As Mr. Mahmood and Mrs. Reed were with us at the Sinnetts’ until midnight, and at 3 A. M. Madame sent Babula to enquire what Mr. Sinnett was calling a servant for and waking her up, you see that not even an enemy could suspect her of any fraud: the more so as it was the Major who asked for the diploma in the wild woods, 3 or 4 miles from home, and got it himself from beneath a small tree which Madame had not even approached.[1]

He immediately became suspicious and resigned. Col. Olcott wrote about the Major's change of mind as follows:

Two of the gentlemen — the Major and the one who last joined us — strolled away together, and, after a half-hour, returned in a very serious mood. They said that, at the time when the cup and saucer were exhumed, they thought the circumstances perfectly convincing, and were prepared to uphold that view against all comers. They had now, however, revisited the spot, and made, up their minds that by tunneling in, from the brow of the hillock, the articles might have been put where they were found. This being so, they regretted that they could not accept the phenomenon as perfectly satisfactory, and offered H. P. B. the ultimatum of doing another phenomenon under conditions to be dictated by themselves. I leave anyone who was acquainted with H.P.B., her family pride and volcanic temperament, to picture to himself the explosion of wrath that followed this speech. She seemed about to take leave of her senses, and poured out upon the two unfortunate sceptics the thunder of her wrath. And so, our pleasant party ended in an angry tempest.[2]

Major Henderson thereafter joined H.P.B.’s critics. He may have been the "amorous major" referred to by the Mahatma Koot Hoomi in Mahatma Letter No. 3c.[3]


1. Henry Steel Olcott letter to Damodar K. Mavalankar. October 4, 1880. Quoted by C. Jinarājadāsa in "The Early History of the T.S.: XVIII The Cup and Saucer Phenomenon" The Theosophist 47.1 (October, 1925), 71-72.
2. Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves Second Series (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 235-236.
3. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 233.


Cup and Saucer (phenomenon)
by Theosophy Wiki
Accessed: 9/6/20

Paul Zwollo holding precipated teacup at Adyar. Also in the cabinet are phenomenally produced teapot and the portraits of Stainton Moses and Yogi Tiravalla.

On October 3, 1880, in a picnic-breakfast organized by Mr. A. P. and Mrs. Patience Sinnett at Simla, Madame Blavatsky was responsible for a phenomenon involving a cup and saucer.

C. Jinarājadāsa described the object:

[url]It is evidently not an ordinary cup. but a chocolate or bouillon cup with a lid. Its pattern is turquoise blue (not green as Colonel Olcott says) with fleur-de-lys stamped in gold. The height of cup with lid on and saucer is 6½ inches, and the diameter of the saucer 6⅞ inches. The bottoms of the cup and saucer bear a red impress: “Paris. Ernie Fils et Patoneille, Rue Paradis 20. Exposition Univ. 1878. Medaille d’Argent."[1][/url]

In a letter dated October 4, 1880, Colonel Olcott wrote to Damodar K. Mavalankar:

Great day yesterday for Madame’s phenomena. In the morning she, with Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett, Major Henderson, Mr. Syed Mahmood (District Judge, Rai-Bareilly), Mrs. Reed of Ajmere, and myself went on a pic-nic. Although she had never been at Simla before, she directed us where to go, describing a certain small mill which the Sinnetts, Major Henderson, and even the jampanis (palki-wallahs) affirmed, did not exist. She also mentioned a small Tibetan temple as being near it. We reached the spot she had described and found the mill — at about 10 A. M.; and sat in the shade and had the servants spread a collation. Mr. Mahmood had joined our party after the baskets were packed and so when we wanted to have tea we found we were one cup and saucer short. Somebody asked Madame Blavatsky to produce one by magic. She consented; and, looking about the ground here and there, finally called Major Henderson to bring a knife and dig in a spot she pointed to. He found the ground hard and full of small roots of a young cedar tree near by. These he cut through and pulled up to a depth of say 6 inches, when something white was seen in the black soil; it was dug out, and lo! a cup decorated in green and gold, exactly matching the others Mrs. Sinnett’s servants had brought. Madame told the Major to dig more; he did so, and at last found a saucer to match the cup! They were embedded in the ground like stones naturally there, and the cedar roots grew all around them like a net work, and one root as large as your little finger had to be cut away to get at the saucer.[2]


1. C. Jinarājadāsa, "The Early History of the T.S.: XVIII The Cup and Saucer Phenomenon" The Theosophist 47.1 (October, 1925), 69-70.
2. Henry Steel Olcott letter to Damodar K. Mavalankar. October 4, 1880. Quoted by C. Jinarājadāsa in "The Early History of the T.S.: XVIII The Cup and Saucer Phenomenon" The Theosophist 47.1 (October, 1925), 70-71.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Mon Sep 07, 2020 3:03 am

Bhavani Shankar [Bhavani Rao] [Bhavani Shanker] [Bhavani Shankar Ganesh Mullapoorkar]
by Theosophy Wiki
Accessed: 9/6/20

Bhavani Shankar, December 1884

Bhavani Shankar Ganesh Mullapoorkar, also known as Bhavani Rao, was an early associate of the Founders of the Theosophical Society. He retained a lifelong interest in Theosophy until his death in 1936. He was a chela of Master K.H.

According to Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett:

Bhavani Rao or Bhavani Shanker, a chela who lived for a while at the headquarters of the TS in Bombay. He was present there with HPB and others at the time of the "Vega incident" connected with the medium Eglinton... He traveled some with HSO [Henry Steel Olcott] about India and was with him at Allahabad, India at the APS [Alfred Percy Sinnett] home at the time of the plaster cast phenomenon on March 11, 1881. Probably he is the person referred to by APS [Alfred Percy Sinnett] on p. 222 of OW [The Occult World], who transmitted some messages for him at Allahabad. According to SH [A Short History of the Theosophical Society], p. 165, he was one of a group at the headquarters of the TS (then in Bombay) in January 1882, to whom M [Morya] appeared. Ross Scott, Damodar, "and others" were in the group. ML [Mahatma Letters' index; OW, pp. 130, 222; D, pp. 191, 331; SH index.[1]

Involvement with Mahatma Letters

Bhavani Shankar was involved in the transmissions of some of the letters from the Masters to Mr. Sinnett. He wrote:

I was staying with Sinnett at Allahabad. H.P.B. was at Bombay. One night, Sinnett asked me to try and get a letter through to ‘Master K.H.’ He gave me the sealed letter. I went to bed, putting the letter under my pillow. I was trying to read, but my curiosity made me look under my pillow once –- the letter was still there -– twice –- the letter was still there –- but the third time I looked it had gone, and I distinctly saw the shadowy outlines of the Master K.H.[2]

He received some letters from Master K.H.:

H.P.B. again absent. I was in the train with Colonel Olcott and Damodar. A letter from Master K.H. was –- by no normal means -– put inside my leather satchel-purse, the strap of which was around my neck, the bag itself being in a deep pocket of my costume. The letter was not there when we started. The letter was addressed to me.[3]

The originals of these letters have not been published or identified.

Witnessing visits of Masters

He saw some of the Masters in their subtle body:

In the month of January 1884, I was at Jubbulpore with Brother Nivaran Chandra Mookerjee, who was then the Secretary of [the local branch of] the Theosophical Society. One night, while I was with him, I was [talking] to some twenty-seven members of that Branch and they were listening to me with great attention. On a sudden, there was deathlike silence for some time. I then felt the influence of Madame Blavatsky’s Venerated Master [Morya], and it was so strong that I could not bear it. The current of electricity generated by an electromagnetic battery is nothing when compared with that current generated by the trained will of an Adept. When a Mahatma means to show himself to a chela, he sends off a current of electricity to the chela indicating his approach. It was this influence which I felt at that time. A few minutes after, the Mahatma [Morya] was actually present in the room where the meeting of the members was held and was seen by me and Bro. Nivaran while some of the members only felt the influence. All the members would have seen him much more vividly, had it not been for the fact that he did not materialize himself much more objectively. I have seen the same Mahatma, several times in his [astral] double during my travels in the North [of India]. Not only have I seen Madame B.’s Master in his double but also my venerated Guru Deva "K.H." I have also seen Master [K.H.] in his physical body.[4]

At least in one occasion, he met his Master in his physical body:

I was alone in Berabanki, near Lucknow, Oudh. H.P.B. was in Bombay, when I received a letter from the ‘Master K.H.’ bidding me go and see him in Kashmir. I recognised the Master’s writing. . . . I went to Kashmir, and I saw the Master in his physical body.[5]

On 15 December 1883, he wrote a letter to Damodar from Moradabad, telling him he had met his guru (Damodar 331-2 / MTL 271-2 / ICM 10-13). KH confirmed that such a meeting had taken place in a letter to Pran Nath (LMW 1:26-7).[6]

After Mr. Sinnett published his book The Occult World where he talked about the Masters, some Spiritualists claimed the Masters were but disembodied spirits. Bhavani Shankar and Martandrao B. Nagnath sent a letter to the London Spiritualist saying the following:

In common with some other Theosophists of Bombay, we have had, on several occasions, the honour to see these ‘Brothers’ of our Society’s First Section. We have thus been led to know that they represent a class of living, not ‘disembodied’ men or ghosts -- as the Spiritualists would insist upon; that they are in possession of the highest virtues and psychic capabilities, and have, as we are assured from the opportunities we have been permitted to enjoy, ever exerted such powers for beneficent purposes, regarding the whole humanity as a Universal Brotherhood, but keeping aloof from the world for reasons best known to themselves.[7]


• The Doctrine of the Bhagavad Gita

Online resources

• Statement of Mr. Bhavani Shankar published by The Blavatsky Archives Online.


1. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 219-220.
2. H. P. Blavatsky and Phenomena by Laura I. Finch
3. H. P. Blavatsky and Phenomena by Laura I. Finch
4. The Esoteric World of Mme. Blavatsky Chapter 12 by Daniel Caldwell
5. H. P. Blavatsky and Phenomena by Laura I. Finch
6. The Theosophical Mahatmas by David Pratt
7. See "First Report of the Committee of the Society for Psychical Research, Appendix XII" at Published by Blavatsky Study Center
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