Posts Tagged ‘South Indian history’

Earliest photography course in Asia

December 9, 2007

Apparently was offered in Madras in 1855! Malavika Karlekar has more details:

The army officer, Linnaeus Tripe, gives an interesting and well-documented account of bullock-cart travel during his extended photographic trip in south India. Photography had arrived in Madras soon after the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839. As in the other two presidencies, the colonial middle-classes took to it with much alacrity — to be soon followed by Indians. Bourne and Shepherd did not travel so far south, and the initiative was left to H.R. Wiele and his partner, a Theodor Klein, who was born of German parents in Madras, to set up one of the best-known studios in the region. This was around the 1880s. Earlier, in 1855, photography had been introduced as a subject in the Madras School of Industrial Art (the present College of Arts and Crafts). One of the earliest institutions in Asia to offer the subject, the principal, A. Hunter, encouraged students to record agricultural practices and indigenous implements. The following year, the Photographic Society of Madras was started by Walter Elliot. Elliot belonged to that select group of civil servants who combined an exacting full-time occupation with other interests, in this case natural history and photography.

Apparently, as early as 1857, there was a photographic expedition:

Prior to his trip, Tripe located informants who were asked to supply information about local antiquities, natural phenomena and of course, ‘native races’. He set out from Bangalore on December 12, 1857 and reached Madras almost five months later via Salem, Srirangam, Trichy, Madurai, Pudukkottai and Tanjore. He used four bullock carts built at the Bangalore arsenal to transport equipment and his staff. Despite the discomfort of hot weather and an exhausting tour, he produced 275 large 14 inches by 12 inches paper negatives, sixteen 14 inches by 11inches dry collodion negatives on glass plates and 160 stereographs, also on glass plates.

I would love to see the photographs from Salem district, since (a) my district was part of Salem district during the British rule, and (b) according to the piece

Tripe had photographed all the major temples and architectural buildings in the region and had made interesting landscapes of Salem district and documented life within the palace of the ruler of Pudukkottai as well.

What is more, Karlekar also tells us that the photographs were published as albums with annotations by scholars such as G U Pope. Karlekar’s piece is full of nuggets like this; a must-read piece; don’t miss it.

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A bit of south Indian history

December 3, 2007

A couple of book reviews from the latest Hindu book review section that I noted; one pertains to studies on fortification in South India, while the other deals with a bit of Indian music history, and both are, of course, strongly recommended.

Here is Kesavan Veluthat on Jean Deloche’s Studies on fortification in India:

Sumptuously produced, this volume brings together a few articles of Jean Deloche, largely on fortification in South India. Deloche’s studies are known for meticulous research, and this volume is no exception.

Forts and temples are among the more numerous and impressive public structures of historical India. While there is a considerable body of literature on the latter, fortification cries out for the attention of the scholar. The present volume is a contribution in this direction. In the words of Deloche it “barely indicates even the outline of such a history and has a far less ambitious aim.” Modesty apart, his success is immoderate.

All in all, the book is a solid contribution to a neglected area of scholarship in Indian history.

I am curious to know if the section on Mysore hill forts deals with those that are in the present day Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts of Tamilnadu (which, I hail from), like Kundani, Jagadevi, Denkanikota, and so on; as a matter of fact, both  the towns Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri themselves have their own forts.

T N Venkatasubramanian recommends Sreeni Nambirajan’s The mystic citadel of 22 srutis music:

The author has approached the subject of ancient music from an Indian perspective and has explored the Indian musicological literature in depth.

The entire exercise has emanated from the curiosity of how and why. Did the medieval musicologists fail to unlock the codes clamped on the “22 Sruti music” of the ancients?

In chapters I, II and IX, the author establishes the “Sadja-grama” format but is unable to locate mathematical models in vogue. Hence his quest for a scientific and mathematical rationale for our music. Chapter IV explains how only 22 simple fractions are mathematically feasible in an octave.

Chapters VI and VII bring out symmetry and consonance respectively. The author has done well in conceptualising a circular model by mapping the 22 Srutis (on the perimeter) and the seven-Svara spectrum (on the diameter axis).

This book is a valuable addition to music research on 22 Srutis and is essential reading for anyone who is interested in the theory of Indian music.

Sound interesting, if a bit complicated.

Take a look!

The luck of South Indians

November 10, 2007

Ram Guha writes about Somnathapura, which leads him to muse on the luck of South Indians to have lead a reasonably strife-free civil life:

Of all the regions of the world, perhaps only Oceania has been as lucky as South India. Since the early battles between the European colonisers and the indigenous communities, the massed guns have been silent there too. But they have been used elsewhere — thus Australians and New Zealanders died in their tens of thousands during the two World Wars, fighting to protect their British monarch. This massive loss of life scarred generations of their countrymen, those who had lost sons and fathers in lands faraway.

Of all the regions of India and the world, only we in the South have been exempt for so long from the horrors of war and civil strife.

Take a look!