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Goethals News Bulletin
Goethals Indian Library & Research Society, Kolkata
Vol. VII No. 3 July - September 2004

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

News Update

  • Fr. Aubrey A. Mascarenhas SJ, Director, Heras Institute of Indian History and Culture Mumbai, visited the library on the 15th of June. Fr. Aubrey was impressed with the collection of books, plates and periodicals. He was also interested in the various techniques used in the preservation of all the rare and priceless items in the library.

  • The Study area of the library was painted and renovated in the months of June/July and is now more convenient for study and research purposes.

  • The Library staff thank Mr. Partha Sarathi Banerjee for the gift of a wall clock to the Library.

  • The library has received a number of email enquiries from around the world, on a variety of issues, over the last few months.



Fr. Felix Raj, “Thiruvalluvar, His ideas on Economics and their Relevance Today,” Vidyajyothi, August 2004, Delhi.

Researchers at Goethals

  • Fr. George Pattery, SJ., from Santiniketan visited the library to do research on Christianity in Bengal.

  • Mrs. Mary Ellis Gibson, from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, USA, who is a Fullbright research scholar, did a study of English language poetry in 19th Century Bengal.

  • Fr. Saby Vazhappally, SJ, from Bangalore, did research on Christianity in Bengal, Animananda and Swami Brahmabandhav Upadhyay.

  • Dr. Kailash Pattanaik from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan visited the library to do research on John Beames.

  • Dr. Ananda Bhattacharya from the West Bengal State Archives visited the library to do research on the History of Bengal.

  • Mr. Indranil Bhattacharya from the Educational Media Research Centre (E.M.R.C.) of St. Xavier’s College, did research and video-filming in the library, he took photos of Jagdish Chandra Bose from old books.

  • Fr. Jesuraj Ramappan, SVD, from Khristojyoti Mahavidyalaya, Orissa, visited the library to go through books on the history of the Christian Missions in India.

  • Student Researchers: Sweta Agarwal, Neha Agarwal, Neha Kedia, Dhrubojyoti Gomes and Enaka Mukherji.


A Flemish Artist in Bengal, 1791-1803
Francois Balthazar Solvyns

Calcutta in the late eighteenth century was an unlikely place for a Flemish marine artist, born to a prominent Antwerp merchant family. For Francois Balthazar Solvyns (1760-1824), however, it was to be his home for thirteen years, between 1791 and 1803. The product of his work there, a portrait of the Hindus in a collection of more than 250 etchings, would consume his life. With the commitment of an ethnographer to faithful representation and with the sensibilities of an astutely observant artist, Solvyns combined the informational and the aesthetic in an unrivaled visual account of the people of Bengal.

As a young artist in the Austrian Netherlands, Solvyns had been under the patronage of the Hapsburg governors, but political upheavel in 1789 soon left him adrift, and in 1790, he set sail for India to seek his fortune. From the 1760s onwards, India, and Calcutta particularly, had begun to attract European professional artists. By 1791, when Solvyns arrived in Calcutta, a number of painters, of varying talents, had already spent time in Bengal. The most prominent were Tilly Kettle, John Zoffany, William Hodges, Thomas and William Daniell. Where Kettle and Zoffany largely pursued portraiture in painting nabobs and nawabs, British merchant officials and Indian princes, Hodges and the Daniells portrayed India in its natural beauty and ‘scenic splendors’. It was for Solvyns to portray Indians, the people of this fabled land in their customs, manners, and dress, in their occupations and festivals.

In his early years in Calcutta, Solvyns worked as something of a journeyman artist and was even employed for a time in decorating coaches and palanquins, but in 1794, he announced his plan for “A Collection of Two Hundred and fifty coloured Etchings: Descriptive of the manners, Customs and Dresses of the Hindoos.” The collection was published in Calcutta in a few copies in 1796, and then in greater numbers in 1799. Divided into twelve parts, the first section, with 66 prints, depicts ‘the Hindoo Castes, with their professions’. The sections following thereafter portray servants, costumes, means of transport (such as carts, palanquins, and boats), modes of smoking, fakirs, musical instruments, and festivals.


History of St. Xavier’s
by (Late) Fr. A. Verstraeten, S.J.

1891: The Rector is still Fr Neut, besides him and the Treasurer, there are 8 Jesuits working in the College and 13 Jesuits in the school, there were 4 lay brothers working for the whole College, and 8 lay teachers.

During the year, there were 736 students of whom 311 were in the College and 425 in the school. Whereas last year there were 124 boarders, this year the College began with 58 boarders, because many of the former boarders had been transferred to St Joseph’s College Darjeeling.

Last year, St Xavier’s boys took part in the Middle School Examination, two of the boys stood first respectively in first and second division, and were awarded scholarships.

In the course of the year, the dormitory vacated by the boarders who had gone to Darjeeling, was transformed into a first class museum of physics instruments, with the generous help of Indian friends of Fr. Lafont. A new chemistry laboratory was also provided.

On 22 January, Fr. Lafont delivered a lecture at the IACS on “General Methods in Chemical Analysis”. On 28 January, at the University Convocation, two gold medals were awarded to J. Platel of St. Xavier’s, who recently joined Baliol College at Oxford.

On 18 April, at a Range Contest, of the Calcutta Rifles Volunteers, attended by 8 teams from different colleges St. Xavier’s was winning in the shooting contest, winning also the Hardwood Cup with a score of 507, the second best score being 462.

On 15 April, St Xavier’s Cadets Prize Distribution took place, an important event in the annals of the College. After manual and other exercises by the Cadets the prizes were distributed by Mrs. Galway, the wife of the Director-General of Ordinance. - From the “Goethals Archives”.


Calcutta in 1809

Calcutta, that city of palaces, and Fort William, are now too well known, and have been too much changed since my visit to need any mention. The government-house is worthy of being the superior seat of the Indian legislature. The numbers of the adjutant (a species of stork) birds, “so stately and grave”, that are seen reposing quietly on its flat roofs and surrounding balustrades, appear like so many fixed ornamental figures. They are so tame that they allow the persons kept to clean away their ordure to shove them off with their brooms before they will quit.

The cadets used to amuse themselves by shooting the kites on the open esplanade, which lies between Calcutta and the Fort. When one is shot or wounded, others are attracted to the spot in numbers, often to share the fate of their companion. I had some snipe shooting near Barasett, a few miles from Calcutta, where meat, poultry, fish, oysters, bread, butter, and vegetables, are good and in abundance, as well as remarkably cheap. All descriptions of European supplies are moderate and at times may be procured at a lower rate than in the places from whence they are exported.

The navigation of the river is rather intricate from the shifting of the sands, notwithstanding it possesses great commerce with most parts of the world, as denoted by the number of ships anchored close to the city.

- An extract from “Thirty years in India” by Major H. Bevan Manning and Mason. London. 1839. Book No: 4/109(1). Pp 9,10.


Kipling’s Vision of India

Kipling’s experience of Indian life led him to concern himself with opposite poles of Indian society, the very high and the very low, with a noticeable gap in the middle. But it was more than just experience that led him to polarize Indian society in this manner, for at both ends of the social scale he found ideals and values that he was predisposed to admire. He saw an India that was traditional in social structure, and the limitations of his vision were emphasized by the fact that he was prepared, by temperament and background, to appreciate the virtues of a quasi-feudal society. The Indian princes were autocrats and warriors; whatever their defects and Kipling knew how backward and corrupt they could be, as The Naulahka testifies - they had about them the glamour of the European Middle Ages, a glamour that appealed to a young man who had once written Pre-Raphaelite verses in his private notebook. These aristocrats do not play a large part in Kipling’s poems and stories, if we except The Naulahka, but when they appear, they are found in heroic ballads like ‘With Scindia to Delhi’ and ‘The Dove of Dacca’, where their virtues are idealized. When Kipling writes the stirring lines,

“Four things greater than all things are, Women and Horses and Power and War,”

one feels that the author is not merely giving his speaker values that are ‘in character’: he is somehow involved himself.

But the feudal virtues are not restricted to the aristocracy, and Kipling found something to admire among peasants and servants as well as among princes. In the first place, men of these classes could display remarkable ingenuity in hoodwinking the sahibs or one another. Mowgi the sweeper, hero of ‘The Great Census’ is a good example - he becomes rich merely by going from town to town posing as a tax-gatherer and recruiting agent: the inhabitants bribe him to go away. Eventually the reporter meets him in a chain-gang; after hearing his story, he offers to make him his body-servant as soon as his jail term is over.

- An extract from “Kipling in India” by Louis L. Cornell, Macmillan. U. K., 1966. Book No: 6A/106. pp. 148, 149.


History and Heritage of Tibet

The seventeenth century saw the introduction of Dalai Lama government by a system depending on spiritual lineage through reincarnation. This system will be discussed in greater detail later (pp. 65ff). Its appearance coincided with renewed Mongol influence and the rise of the dGe-lugs-pa or Yellow Hat sect. Although their beginnings lay in the career of the reformer Tson-kha-pa (1357-1419) it was in 1578 that the abbot the dGe-lugs-pa monastery ‘Bras-spungs (Drepung), bSod-nams rGya-mtsho, converted the chief of the Tumed, one of the Mongol tribes, and acquired for the Yellow Hats a powerful secular ally at a time when in Tibet itself they were in conflict with the Karma-pa, a sect which enjoyed the protection of the princes of gTsang. The chief of the Tumed Mongols, Altan Khan, conferred on bSod-nams rGya-mtsho the Mongolian title of Tale or Dalai, meaning ‘ocean’, a term expressive of spiritual eminence, and it was subsequently applied retrospectively to his two predecessors in the dGe-lugs-pa tradition. The Mongols’ interest in Tibet and their protection of the dGe-lugs-pa was reinforced by the discovery of the fourth Dalai Lama reincarnation in the great-grandson of Altan Khan; another Mongol chief, Gushri Khan of the Qosot tribe, allied himself with the fifth Dalai Lama (1617-82) on whose behalf he intervened in Tibetan affairs in 1642, defeating the Prince of gTsang and his Karma-pa allies, and establishing himself as King of Tibet with the Dalai Lama as its religious leader. In this way the Patron-Priest relationship of earlier Mongol days was re-established and with it, as before under the Yuan dynasty, a high measure of secular authority for the priest. Under the fifth Dalai Lama the dGe-lugs-pa became the dominant school and remained so until 1959; monasteries belonging to other sects were taken over or reorganised and new monasteries were built. The well-known Potala at Lhasa, the imposing palace-monastery of the Dalai Lamas, dominating the capital from its hill some three hundred feet above the level of the town, was constructed in its present form under the fifth Dalai Lama. He encouraged scholarship and good religious conduct and his statecraft was such that regents, the secular authority representing the Mongol king, became completely subservient to him, especially after the death of Gushri Khan in 1655.

The death of the ‘Great Fifth’, as he came to be called, led to renewed troubles in Tibet and the growth of Chinese influence.

- An extract from “Heritage of Tibet” by W. Zwalf. British Museum Publication, London. 981. Book No: 52/111. pp 32.


Mails & Emails

I was happy to spend a couple of hours seeing the valuable collections of rare books and the priceless plates that have been very well preserved in the library - the digital print-outs are masterpieces in themselves. It seems the exhibition held recently in your auditorium was very well received by the scholars and the public of Kolkata - and you do receive many enquires from scholars around the world either personally or through the wonderful web-site that you have established.
Fr. Aubrey A. Mascarenhas, SJ, The Heras Institute, Mumbai

I was really surprised to see the collections in the library. All the journals and books are kept nicely. The atmosphere of the library is calm and suits scholars. The library is really a ‘Treasure Island’ for the scholars because of the rare materials it possesses. It was my first experience and I believe I can utilise, regularly, the Goethals Indian Library.
Dr. Kailash Pattanaik, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan


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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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