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Goethals News Bulletin
Goethals Indian Library & Research Society, Kolkata
Vol. VII No. 2 Bulletin  April-June 2004

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


Daniell’s Art Show

The art exhibition of the famous British Painters, Thomas and William Daniell, was hosted by the Goethals Indian Library and Research Society at St. Xavier’s Auditorium, from the 2nd to the 5th of April, 2004. The "Oriental Scenery" exhibition were inaugurated by Dr. Pratap Chandra Chander, former Union Education Minister. Among the distinguished guests at the function were His Grace Archbishop Lucas Sircar, Mr. Raghu Mody, Mr. B. M. Khaitan, Prof. Saugata Ray, Fr. J. Maliyekal, Fr. Felix Raj the GILRS GB Members, many Jesuits and friends. The event was sponsored by the Rasoi Group of Companies.

The exhibition was a huge success. There were a large number of visitors. The Daniell’s Paintings, as well as the Old Calcutta prints of William Wood and James B. Fraser were appreciated by all who attended. The curios and antiques of the library were put on display for this special and memorable occasion. The art show may become an annual feature. There are several ambitious plans to promote the art collections of Goethals.

The "Daniell Art Exhibition" was planned and co-ordinated by the Staff of the Goethals Indian Library and Research Society.

The Governing Body and the Staff of the Goethals Indian Library and Research Society express their sincere gratitude to Mr. Raghu Mody and his dedicated Staff at Rasoi Court for their generous help and guidance in Organising the Exhibition.

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Researchers at Goethals

  • Fr. Clement Ekka, SJ visited the library to do research on the Andaman Islands.

  • Mr. Mark Jackson, a Phd. candidate from the University of Alberta, Canada, did research on modernity, cultural representations and cultural theory of Urbanization.

  • Fr. Santosh Mondol, the Parish Priest of the Cathedral Church at Krishnagar visited the library for materials on Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, to be used for his thesis.

  • Dr. Miltiades A Spyrou and his wife from Greece visited the library to do research on the Greeks in 18th and 19th Century India.

  • Mr. Bidyarthi Dutta, a research scholar in Jadavpur University did research on library and information Science.

  • Ms. Amrita Saha visited the library to do research on Indian literature.

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Daniells’ Oriental Scenery

‘Oriental Scenery’ is the title given to the monumental six-volume work of 144 hand-coloured aquatint engravings made by Thomas Daniell (36) and his nephew William, a lad of sixteen, from a selection of their drawings produced in India. These publications introduced many of India’s most famous buildings and sites to the European Public. While the Daniells would probably have chosen to be remembered for their oil paintings, it is the volumes of Oriental Scenery, which secured their artistic reputation.

The Daniells’ Oriental Scenery is "the finest illustrated work on India" (Tooley). Daniells spent nine years in India making studies, sketches and drawings of the scenery, architecture and antiquities, and then devoted a further thirteen years back in their country from 1794, to publishing their remarkably accurate aquatints. In Britain, the impact was explosive. A cult of Indian architecture, landscaping and interior decoration arose, with the Royal Pavilion at Brighton as its centerpiece. The Daniells gave the people of Britain their first accurate look at the exotic sub-continent. Their great achievement lies in satisfying the European craving for the picturesque while remaining responsible and accurate to their subjects.

The uncle-nephew team sailed out from Gravesend in April 1785, destined for the East. They arrived in Calcutta via China early in 1786 to explore the sublime, the exotic and the picturesque India. Their spirit was symptomatic of the first stirring of the romantic movement of the time. Some of the earliest glimpses of the city of Calcutta - its many new Palladian buildings, roads and river ghats, temples and churches, and forms of transport, old and new- are captured in Thomas Daniell’s twelve coloured aquatints, Views of Calcutta."

The notion of India as a country rich in subjects, suitable for artists steeped in picturesque visions, had particular consequences for the Daniells. This notion grew partly out of the popular Grand Tour of the Continent undertaken by English collectors. While the consequent influx of imported works of art deprived local artists of commissions back in England, the fashion for European painting and antique sculpture helped to create new patterns in English taste. There was an increased interest in travel and a growing curiosity in the customs, culture and architecture of distant lands. The preference for exotic subjects was nowhere better fulfilled than in the fascination with India, knowledge about which was fuelled by reports of the East India Company’s exploits as well as by publications of travelers’ accounts, many in newly commissioned translations.

In a sense, the Daniells used the best technology of their time to obtain exact perspective control: the Camera Obscura, and an innovative reproduction method for serial printing of aquatints so obtained. They embellished this process with an imaginative use of artistic license in the final composition in order to convey a greater sense of the overall site than a narrow perspective could accurately portray. The Camera Obscura invented in Italy in the fifteenth century also became popular among English Artists. It consisted of a large box with sloping sides, one of which was left open for a curtain to be hung. The scene to be depicted was reflected by means of an angled mirror through a glass lens into the box and onto a sheet of paper laid at the base. Simply tracing a pencil over the outlines of the upside-down image captured the reflection. The camera obscura made it possible for the Daniells to record a multitude of views at the greatest possible pace, thereby permitting the artists to travel almost continuously with only minimal delays to complete their preparatory drawings.

More than any other work of art produced at the turn of the nineteenth century, Oriental Scenery contributed the most to the dispersal of knowledge about Indian history, architecture and geography, while at the same time demonstrating that Indian subjects could be artistically reconciled with an essentially European aesthetic. The Daniells must be credited with truly popularizing the Indian style and their aquatints served as a fertile source for a whole host of imitations in England and on the Continent.

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Chengez Khan

This celebrated conqueror, who was born at an encampment in Tartary, called Dekun-buldok, in January A.D. 1155, was eldest son of Pisuky Behadoor, a royal prince who had become famous among the Tartar tribes for warlike exploits. At Pisuky’s death, great part of his subjects revolted, presuming on the youth of Chengez Khan, who was then only thirteen years of age. This drew him into wars with those ferocious tribes, and with the neighbouring Khans, in which he continued to be engaged from that time to his fortieth year, with various success, - sometimes carrying off the herds and horses of his competitors, and sometimes defeated, and taken captive in his turn.

From his fortieth to his forty-ninth year, was the first great era of his successes, in the course of which he added greatly to the number of his troops, and subdued various tribes that were hostile to him.

At length, in 1202, having overcome a powerful prince named Uny Khan - the most considerable with whom he had hitherto waged war - he was that year proclaimed Great Khan by the class that had submitted to him. And thus supported and established, he proceeded next to subjugate the Naiman and Mickit tribes, bordering on China, as well as others to the west; and seeing himself then in a condition to attack greater powers, and his way open on that side, he invaded China repeatedly.

- An Extract from "Indian Reminiscences" by G. A. Addison London. 1837. Book No: 24/121 pp. 232, 233.

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The Presidency Jail

After crossing the Chowringhi Road, and passing on our left the residences recently built for the Government officials, and on our right the old tank known as Birjoo Talao, we find on our left the Presidency General Hospital, and on our right the vegetable garden cultivated by the unwilling hands of the native denizens of the Presidency Jail. A turn to our right brings us to the central gateway of the Jail.

In the centre of the Jail compound is a tank, and to the North of it is a huge Barrack which, according to tradition, was once the hunting-box of Suraj-ud-Daula. The basis of this belief is two-fold :

  1. The Jail is still called by natives hurrinbari- i.e. the deer house;

  2. Suraj-ud-Daula is the only name of a Nawab of Dacca familiar to Calcutta ears. Hurrinbari, however was the playful native name for the place, where His Majesty’s pets were constrained to dwell long before the present Jail came into use.

In 1767 Calcutta had two Jails, one in Lall Bazar, "a very clean, wholesome place." the other in the Burra Bazar, "a confined place and must occasion much sickness." Of these two places of incarceration, one was the House of Correction for petty offenders: the other the Jail proper for convicted felons and debtors. A letter of the Board to the Court of the Hon. East India Company, dated November 30th 1778, shows that the present Jail must have been erected in this year. The wall round the Jail dated from the end of the year 1783. So far it was only the jail which had been removed to the maidan, but in 1783 a Mr. Hare, late Sheriff of Calcutta, offered to erect a new House of Correction or "New Hurrinbari" within the precincts of the Jail, in return for the site of the "Old Hurrinbari" and the sum which had been thought necessary for its repairs. The Lall Bazar Jail was converted into the Company’s Printing Works in 1787.

- Extract from "Thacker’s Guide to Calcutta", by Rev. W. K. Firminger. Thacker, Spink & Co. Calcutta 1906. pp 104. Book No: 9C/130.

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Religion: Life Commitment

Gandhi’s own interpretation of other religious experiences provides us with the key to interpret his religiousness. Referring to faith in Jesus Christ he said: "My interpretation […] is that Jesus’ own life is the key to His nearness to God; that He expressed, as no other could, the spirit and the will of God. It is in this sense that I see Him and recognize Him as the Son of God. Gandhi viewed his own life, including the khadi work, as a search for truth: "[…] my sole purpose is to seek truth by thought, word and deed. That is the thing 1 am mad about, the thing for which I am living and for which I am hoping to die." What he confessed in the introductory part of the Autobiography, can be asserted of his entire life:

What I want to achieve, - what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years, - self-realization, to see God face to face. I live and move and have my being in pursuit of this goal. All that I do by way of speaking and writing, and all my ventures in the political field, are directed to this same end.

This incessant search for, application of, and worship of, Truth was Religion (with capital R) for him. From the functional point of view Truth is Religion as distinguished from religions, and may be qualified as ‘core-religion’. It refers to the basic religiousness that is present and active in every one in the form of truth or truthfulness. - An extract from "Gandhi.

– The Believer: An Indian Christian Perspective by George Pattery, SJ. pp 23. Book No: 6 BG/167.

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The Indian Museum

Leaving the Asoka Gallery, we must now turn our attention to the Museum itself. In 1866, an Act was passed by the Governor-General in Council to provide a Public Museum "to be devoted in part to collections illustrative of Indian Archaeology and of the several branches of Natural History, and in part to the preservation and exhibition of other objects of interest, whether historical or physical, in part to the records and offices of the Geological Survey of India, and in part to the fit accommodation of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and to the reception of their library. Manuscripts, Maps, Coins, Busts, Pictures, Engravings, and other property." It was subsequently found impossible to find room for accommodation of the entire collection of the Asiatic Society.

The vast building facing the maidan with a frontage of 300 feet, was designed by Mr. Walter B. Granville, and at a cost of 140,000 pounds was completed in 1875.

- Extract from "Thacker’s Guide to Calcutta", by Rev. W. K. Firminger. Thacker, Spink & Co. Calcutta 1906. pp 180. Book No: 9C/130.

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On the Canara Caves in Salsette

On the north of Bombay, and opposite to Mahim, lies the Island of Salsette, of which Tanna is the capital, on the eastern side; and, this being the frontier coast towards the Mahratta country, is defended by a small fort, which is garrisoned by two companies of Sepoys.

Salsette has long been celebrated for its subterranean temples, of which those of Canara, situated near the centre of the island, are the principal.

On the morning of the 16th November, 1800, I set out early from Poullec to visit them, and crossing the ford at Sion, proceeded on, through a romantically beautiful tract of hilly country, which is but little cultivated.

I reached the entrance to the caves, where the first object that strikes the eye, is a flight of rude steps, leading into a large cave or temple, through a lofty and extensive portico, which is hewn out of the solid rock, and ornamented in the front with a colonnade of plain pillars, formed to support the immense surface of the roof.

On the right and left hand of the portico, there are two colossal statues, chiselled from the stone wall in bas-relief, and rising to the height of about twenty-five feet. These figures are of an uncouth form, and are decorated with various fantastic ornaments, such as ear-rings, &c.

- An Extract from "Indian Reminiscences" by G. A. Addison, London, 1837. Book No: 24/121. pp 222, 223.

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Publications
by Fr. Felix Raj

  1. "Years of Decline" - On West Bengal’s Economy: The Statesman, 4 April, 2004.

  2. "Victory over Death: Easter - A Celebration of New Life", The Statesman, 13 April 2004.

  3. "Selloff Politics" - On the PSE Disinvestment Strategy in India: Indian Currents, 18 April 2004, pp.26-29.

  4. "Daniell’s India" - On the Oriental Scenery Aquatints of Thomas & William Daniell, The Statesman, 25 April 2004.

  5. "Millennium Development Goals", Indian Currents, 9 May 2004.

  6. "Distant Goals - on Millennium Development Goals", The Statesman, 16 May 2004.

    Fr. Felix Raj has been nominated to the Board of Trustees of the International Institute of Development Studies, and to the Board of Advisors to the Institute of Business Management & Research, Kolkata with effect from May 1, 2004.

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New Arrivals

Communal Identity in India: Its construction and Articulation in the twentieth century edited by Bidyut Chakrabarty. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Eternal Relevance of Sanatana Dharma: Hinduism and Neo-Hinduism to Mankind by Jnanendranath Ray. Firma KLM. Kolkata. 2004.

History of Bengal edited by R. C. Majumdar, in two volumes B. R. Publishing & Co., Delhi. 2004.

Literary Cultures in History: Reconstruction from South Asia edited by Sheldon Pollock. Oxford University Press. 2004.

Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy by Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal. Oxford University Press. New Delhi. 2004.

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Mails & Emails

I am an associate professor of Oriya literature. I first got the News letter of your library from my friend George Pattery. I am interested to visit your library.
Kailash Pattanaik

I am interested in the "Hindu Religious Pictures" found in your website. Are they available in prints?
Angira Goswami, Kolkata

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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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