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Goethals News Bulletin
Goethals Indian Library & Research Society, Kolkata
Vol. III No. 3 Bulletin July-September 2000

News Update | Articles | Researchers | New Arrivals | Mails & Emails


News Update

  1. A number of Students and ex-Students of St. Xavier’s College photographed old views of the College from the Old Photo Albums at the Goethals Library, for use in the Special Millennium Issue of the College Magazine.

  2. The Goethals Library site has been revamped and made more interesting and interactive. All are invited to visit the site (www.goethals.org) and send suggestions and queries.

  3. The library will host an Exhibition from the 21st to the 31st August, on the various plates in the library.


The Salt Lake Story

When the late Dr. B. C. Roy, who was often referred to as "Mr. West Bengal" was the Chief Minister of Calcutta, the Hooghly needed to be dredged, so as to increase its depth. Dredging would result in a lot of soil being removed and the problem was lack of place to dispose of this material.

Fr. Julian Henry was a Jesuit priest at St. Theresa’s at that time and a good friend of B.C. Roy. The reclamation of the Salt Lake which prevented the expansion of Calcutta on the East and forced it towards the North and South was one of the many dreams of Fr. Henry. He suggested this idea to Dr. Roy and recommended that the removed soil from the Hooghly could be deposited over the marsh land of Salt Lakes. B.C. Roy adopted this idea and went ahead with the project.

Three Engineering companies from Yugoslavia, referred by Fr. Julian Henry, came to do this collosal job. The Hooghly was successfully dredged and all the surface silt and soil which was extracted, was spread over the marsh land. By the process of evaporation the marsh area finally dried. The layer of alluvium, silt and dredged material on the marsh land was four feet high.

It was the period of the Bangladesh war. Several refugees inhabited the land thus formed. Later the refugees had been relocated and planning of a township was taken up.

Courtesy: Calcutta Jesuit Magazine ‘Calcutta Calling’ Oct-Nov 1968, No. 60, Frs. H Rosner SJ and Beckers SJ.

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St. Xavier’s - Events 1905

"The playground has been considerably enlarged during the year. The Observatory wall has been pulled down and the compound has been increased by the addition of a good hundred feet.

At the limit runs a pucka drain and beyond that again a beautiful garden has been laid out under the artistic eye of Father Francotte. A summer house in the middle, over which a creeper is spreading its tendrils, ornamental gateways leading to parterres bright with flowers, cozy nooks which shut out the sun’s rays and a cool avenue on two sides bordered with low trees whose branches fall caressingly over your face, all seem to have sprung into being at the magic touch of a fairy’s wand.

At the same time a meteorological instinct which has never failed, has transferred the rain-gauge and the solar thermometer to these ideal surroundings where nature combines with Art to cater to the advancement of Science."

- Extract from "The Xavierian", Vol I, 1905, No I, p 1.

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Tribals in the Tea Industry

The clan (according to British usage) has lost its traditional functional value in the life of tribal and non-tribal plantation workers at present. Most of them find difficulties now-a-days even to recollect their clan names. The clan at present is only taken into consideration at the time of marriage. The clans are totemic and exogamous in nature, and these people choose their partners in life from the clans other than their own. The clan totems are not worshipped but these people maintain totemic restrictions in the form of not doing any harm to the totemic objects. The rule of clan exogamy and totemic restrictions are also found to have not been followed rigidly in some cases……..

Marriage may be considered as the most important social institution which controls and regulates the social behaviour of the persons concerned and also determines the status of the child in the family……

It has been found that 11 tribal communities are involved in inter –Tribal marriage alliances in 31 cases out of 200 marriages under special study. The groups involved are Oraon-Kharia (4), Mahali-Munda (2), Munda-Oraon (7), Lohar-Munda (3), Munda-Kharia (4), Mahali-Lohar (1), Lohar-Oraon (2), Nepali-Lepcha (2), Nepali-Bhutia (1) ,Bhuzel-Oraon (1) , Khurshit-Munda (1) and Asur-Munda (3)………

The plantation labourers mostly speak ‘Sadri’ (a pidgin form of dialect derived partly from corrupt Bengali and Hindi and partly from tribal dialects). Some of these tribal folk, namely, Oraon, Munda, Santal, etc. speak in their Mother-tongue at home and amongst themselves, though they know "Sadri ", quite well….

The tribal employees in the plantation industry live in isolated groups near the gardens, and feel somewhat comfortable in getting the desired atmosphere. The permanent employees who live in the rent free factory quarters cannot have the facilities to maintain the group solidarity in the true sense. They very often pay a visit to the paras or hamlets of their community brethren after routine working hours and their community brethren also from time to time come to their quarters ……

Due to the change in their basic economy (i.e. the economy based on agriculture) to cash economy after coming to the industry , we find marked changes mainly on the material life of these tribals. Their social life , in close association with the material culture as also their religious and psychological aspects have been found to be slightly affected..…

- An Extract from "Impact of Tea Industry on the life of the Tribals of West Bengal" by A. K .Das and H. N. Banerjee. Government of West Bengal.Calcutta.1961.Book No.7A/103.

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New Arrivals at the Library

  1. Freedom by Santi Nath Chattopadhyay. Naya Prokash. New Delhi. 1998.

  2. Sri Aurobindo "The Hour of God", compiled by Manoj Das. Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi. 1995.

  3. Bankimchandra Chatterjee - Essays, edited by Bhabatosh Chatterjee. Sahitya Akademi. Calcutta. 1994.

  4. Traditions and Institutions of the Santals, by L. O. Skrefsrud, P.O. Bodding and S. Konow. B. Prakashan. New Delhi. 1994.

  5. The Rise of Modern China by Immanuel C. Y. Hsu. Oxford University Press. New York. 2000.


Book Sections 51 - 57

Section 51 takes us to "the Land of the Rising Sun", Japan.
Section 52 invites us to "the Forbidden Land" of Tibet.
Section 53A discovers the Philippines, in all its majestic splendour.
Section 53B takes us on an exciting excursion to the Malay Archipelago.
Section 54 focuses on the South- East Asia, which is the land south of China, formerly Siam.
Section 55 gives us details of "the walled City" of China and Indo-China.
Section 56 contains an interesting collection of Bibliographies and other books of General reference and research use.
Section 57 takes us to the fascinating "Land of the Pharoahs", we catch a glimpse of Egypt, the Pyramids and the Legends of the Sphinx.

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Fundamentalism

From an article: "Hindutva, Secularism and Dialogue", by Fr. Felix Raj, The Statesman, June 24, 2000:

"……We are all painfully aware of what is going on in our country these days: Demolition of mosques, destruction of Churches, rape of Christian nuns, killing of priests, harassing and terrorising of minority communities, reconversion of dalit and tribal Christians, and so on. These are nothing but inhuman and barbaric manifestations of the fundamentalist forces, which point to an insecure and dangerous future. In all these, we see a serious threat to secularism and consequently a danger to democracy and peaceful and harmonious co-existence of Indians belonging to diverse religious faiths and belief systems.

In Indian context today, more than ever, as Romila Thapar says, caste, regional and other identities are replaced by religious identity, which "is used as the basis for political and social ideology. Such identity irons out diversity and insists on conformity for it is only through a uniform acceptance of the religion that it can best be used for political ends. The attempt is always to draw in as many people as possible since numbers enhance the power of the communal group and are crucial in a mechanical view of democracy. The political effort requires domination over other groups and where the number is larger becomes superior and majority group. The major one is said to be Hinduism today.

The attempt to establish a single Hindu community or Hindutwa in India by violent, fanatical and fundamentalist groups is a development of recent times. It is an attempt to make Hinduism a Semitic religion like Christianity and Islam. It is a departure from the past when Indian society was constituted of a variety of communities based on location, occupation, caste, sect and so on, but not bound together by one religious identity. One of India’s eminent historians, Romila Thapar, puts this in correct perspective (I recommend her book, History and Beyond, Oxford, 2000, especially the chapter on "Imagined Religious Communities?"):

What is alarmingly surprising is the attempt to bring all diverse caste and religious communities under the one umbrella of Hinduism! ‘The inclusion of the "lower caste" people as Hindus was contrary to the precepts of Brahmanism. This all-inclusive approach was a new and bewildering feature for the multiple sects and castes’ (Thapar). Thus the present attempt to force these communities to come under one Hindutva fold is both communally and politically motivated.

It is a type of syncretism. An unhealthy syncretism! Christopher Jaffrelot calls it a "Strategic Syncretism".

Talking about syncretism, I am reminded of the beautiful approach of the Bauls and Sufi Fakirs of Bengal. Rabindranath Tagore observes, "The real history of our country bears testimony to the devotion of synthesis which has been shared by the common people as the innermost truth in their emotional depths. This devotion can be located among the Bauls – their syncretic tradition emerging as a common heritage of both Hindus and the Muslims who came close without hurting each other" (Introduction to Haramoni by Mohammad Mansurudin, 1927).

This is what should be encouraged. Otherwise, the syncretic endeavour would sound more like the anecdote told of a group of students who wanted to fool Darwin. They assembled together the limbs, wings, feelers and tail of different insects and brought the odd creature to him and asked, "What bug is this?" With a quick eye, Darwin seemed to have replied, "A humbug"!

All true religions have an immense potential for tolerance. Each religious community claims that theirs is the most tolerant religion of our time. Their claim is true so long as they recognize other religions as different ways leading to the same goal. Tolerance is a normative value, yes, but it is not an answer to the fundamentalist danger to unity and integrity of our country. In today’s context what we need to affirm and perpetuate is:

  1. Rootedness of every believer in his/her religion,

  2. Acceptance of the other and his/her religious belief and practice, and

  3. Dialogues between different religions.

These are the principles that will pave way for a healthy atmosphere of respect, tolerance and acceptance of each other, of each religious tradition and enable us to live together as Indians in peace and harmony.

It is not out of place to highlight what our educational institutions can contribute in this venture at this juncture: For example, study of all religions should be stressed besides other subjects, religious and spiritual leaders could be invited to address the students on different occasions, religious festivals and feasts need to be celebrated in schools etc. All these would go on to make a huge difference in inculcating and promoting in the minds and hearts of students a love for the people of other faiths and communities, besides enriching their own religious traditions and experiences. In this way schools, colleges and other educational institutes could, in an authentic sense, become temples of holistic and integral learning.

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Researchers at the Library

  1. Mr. Boria Majumdar, ex-Xavierian, is a scholar currently engaged in preliminary research on the Social History of Indian Cricket from 1880 to 1983.

  2. Ms. Nitya Rao from Mumbai visited the library in March. She did research on the Gendered Livelihoods and changing Resource Relations in the Santal Parganas for her Ph.D. thesis at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, U. K.

  3. Fr. Mathew Areeparampil, S.J. visited the library in March. He was from the Tribal Research and Training Centre at Chaibasa. Fr. Mathew was very interested in our tribal section.

  4. Mr. Bordas Liviu Joan, from Romania, visited the library in March. His subject of research was the Austrian Missionaries in India. Mr.Bordas is doing his Ph.D. at the University of Bucharest, Romania.

  5. Student researchers from St. Xavier’s College who visited the library regularly were David Hamilton, Rockey Passagne, Medha Roy, Bodhisatya Basuthakur, Pinki D’Cruze, Viranchi Kedia, Bipasha Biswas, Sushmita Bhattacharjee, Asmita Boral, Nandini Mukherjee, Raju Gomes, Paul Khan, Rajiv Prahladka, Anup Gomes, Indrajit Sutradhar, Rajdeep Basu, Henry Gomes, Amit Kirtania, Silva S. Harry, John Mondal, Soumyadeb Biswas, Premanjana Banerjee and others.

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Mails & Emails

Dear Father,
In 1996 1 had the great pleasure of visiting Calcutta. While I was there I visited the College library in order to see the Library’s copy of the Bengal Catholic Herald.

Since that time 1 have maintained my interest in researching the connection between the Church in India, in particular the Archdiocese of Calcutta, and the Church in Australia for the period of the 1800’s. In 1851 two letters from Australia were written to India and were printed in the Bengal Catholic Herald.

They were from Bishop Murphy of Adelaide, South Australia to the Archbishop of Edessa, dated 1st September and 24 October respectively.

Is it possible to obtain a copy of each of these letters?
Br. Rory, FSC, St. Bede’s College, Australia.

Dear Father,
Thank you for the Goethal’s Newsletter. The little authoritative snippets become a treasure trove for people like me who give workshops and seminars constantly. You need information, but you also want it to be reliable: the newsletter provides both. Kudos to the Director and the team.
Joe Saldanha, SJ., Director, IJELP, Jamshedpur.

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Goethals Indian Library & Research Society, St. Xavier’s, 30 Mother Teresa Sarani, Kolkata-700 016, India.
Tel: 0091-33-2280 1919; email: goethals@vsnl.com  Web-site: www.goethals.in 
Director: Fr. Felix Raj, SJ; Library Asst: Mr. Warren Brown; Computer Asst: Mr. Sunil Mondol

 

 
 

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