The book Introducing India edited by K. N. Bagchi and W. G. Griffiths was first published in 1947 by the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal as the Society used to be called then. In connection with a scheme for expansion of its activities, the Society instituted a course of lectures on popular subjects. It was decided that a selection of them would be issued in form of a volume with illustrations and entitled Introducing India. The reprint of the book came out in 1990. This is the second reprint of the book.
I hope the readers would be benefited by a number of scholarly articles along with a few popular one.
Introduction to Part I
Recently in connection with a scheme for the expansion of its activities the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal instituted a course of lectures on popular subjects open to the members, their friends, and any of the public interested in such subjects. These lectures were well attended, but it was felt that a certain number were of sufficient merit to justify an appeal to a wider audience than those who listened to them within the walls of the Society's rooms. It was resolved therefore that a selection of them should be issued in the form of a volume with illustrations and entitled "Introducing India". For this purpose Dr. B. C. Law has most generously donated the amount of Rs. 3,000/-.
The present publication is the first of the series, and will give an idea of the .character of the lectures as a whole. Attention may be directed to them as follows: The Article on "The Temples of India" by Sir Norman Edgley, has presented us with an interesting account of the development of Hindu religious architecture, as exemplified by the various temples which have made the building art of India such a fascinating study. The lecturer has traced the growth of the temple structure from the very earliest times, beginning with the religious foundation on which they were visualized, through their gradual evolution as actual buildings, until they assumed that grand form as inspiring monuments of art and architecture, appealing not only to the spiritual emotions of those who worshipped there, but also to the aesthetic senses of all those who appreciate great and lasting works of art.
A natural sequence to the foregoing is the article on the "The Gods and Goddesses of India" by Prof. J. N. Banerjee as it gives the reasons for these great creations of stone which house and sanctify the deities and their following. The lecturer explains in a most convincing manner the "true significance and purpose of Indian image-worship", so that one fully understands the movement underlying this great religion, which binds its following into one religio-cultural system of immense strength and profound depth.
Dr. R. B. Pal has taken as his subject the "Dawn of Law in Ancient India", and puts before his audience the early records of the manner in which early India began its legal code, basing its procedure on divine authority, a study of more than ordinary interest.
"The People of India" was an address delivered by Dr. W.G. Griffiths in which he provides a useful outline of the various races which make up this complex aggregation comprising the population of this country.
Nothing that the art history of India can produce is more romantic than the account of the interpenetration of the classical ideal into the Buddhist movement of n?rth-west India beginning more than two thousand years ago. Prof. Eric Dickinson who has made an intensive study of this aspect of Indian Art illustrated his lecture with some remarkably graphic examples of the Greek and Roman influence on the plastic art of the monasteries in Gandhara. Although the effect of the Asiatic Greek contact on the stone sculpture of the North West was well known, the lecturer produced small and exquisitely modelled busts and figures in stucco which proved that a second phase of this classical movement took place at a later date and corresponding more to the Roman rather than to the Hellenic pattern.
A rather misty period of Indian history is that of the early middle centuries of the first millennium, and Sir Norman Edgley in his" A Glimpse of India Thirteen Hundred Years Ago" endeavours by means of a study of the records to penetrate into this indefinite but most interesting era. By means of the writings of that earnest pilgrim and indefatigable traveller Hieun Tsang, he throws considerable light on the conditions of the late Buddhist movement and the country as a whole at the time of this enterprising Chinese investigator of the seventh century A.D.
A subsequent period, also regarding which information is of the utmost value, was provided by Mr. L. R. Fawcus in his lecture on the "Travels of Marco Polo," the Venetian's journeys to and fro from the Far East, although well authenticated, reading more like romantic fiction than realistic facts, but they supply material which has formed the basis of much modem investigation and serious study.
"Ancient Historic Sites of Bengal" have been the object of considerable investigation but Dr. B. C. Law in his lecture brought many unknown facts to light, and put before his hearers a view of these remains of the utmost value and one which will stimulate others to further study. Historical feminity received a generous tribute from Mr. Justice N. A. Khundkar, in a lecture entitled "Three Moghul Ladies" which included also a description of a royal pegeantry exceeded at no other period and in no other country. A later historical chapter is written by Dr. R. C. Majumdar in his "Bengal as Clive found it", a paper of a most purposeful order, and treated in a scholarly and at the same time sympathetic manner.
An insight into that interesting and picturesque aboriginal tribe "The Santals" is provided by the researches of Rev. W. J. Culshaw, who gives much additional information in his lecture regarding the manners and customs of these attractive but ingenuous people, while Mr. C. S. Mullan deals in the same way with the "The Hill Tribes of Assam" leading his audience into the recesses of the mountains where these inhabitants of the eastern regions of India practise their peculiar rites and ceremonies.
The country of Sikkim, a small State but which harbours so much that is worthy of study, is fully described by Mr. A. J. Dash, whose knowledge of the mountains, valleys and rivers so closely associated with the magnificent peak of Kanchanjunga, is unrivalled. "Jungle Life in Bengal" is ably dealt with by Mr. L. R. Fawcus, the flora and fauna of this vast tract being most graphically pictured.
That highly experienced worker in the piscatorial field, Dr. Hora, relates the result of his many years of research on the "Food and Game Fishes of Bengal", a subject of vital consequence at the present period of dietetic stringency in India. Many will read with interest Mr. Tyson's deductions on the "Impact of War upon the Industries of India", wherein the lecturer outlines with considerable technical skill the achievements and potentialities brought about during the eventful years which have recently ensued.
The object of the Society in publishing these lectures in their present form is to make them available by these means to a larger circle of readers, and so stimulate interest in the various aspects of cultural research in the country.
The Editors are indebted to Mr. Percy Brown for the illustrations and drawings facing pp. 4. 5. 8 and 58 which are taken from his work on "Indian Architecture". The photographs facing pp. 6. 7 and 9 have been kindly supplied by Messrs. Johnston & Hoffmann. Ltd., Calcutta. The map facing p. 51 is from one issued by Messrs. Bemrose & Sons Ld., London.
The editors are aware that there are a number of printing errors in the body of the book, and also that its publication has been long delayed by a series of unfortunate occurrences, each of which contributed its part: printing press strikes: the Calcutta "disturbances" of 1946; certain changes in Staff at the Society, etc. Nevertheless what is here presented ought to lead to a deeper appreciation and understanding of India.
Introduction to Part II
This book carries on the theme of Part I of Introducing India which was first issued in 1947. During the war, the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal offered to the Armed Forces, members of the Society and their friends a series of popular lectures designed to acquaint the learner with something 'of India's Past and Present. The lectures proved to be very popular and Part I of Introducing India, which contains a representative selection of these lectures, has had a wide distribution.
Part 11 carries on this series of popular discussions. Some of the lectures found in this volume were delivered in the presence of the Armed Forces, while others are of a much more recent origin. Such lectures still continue and have proved of wide interest and significance.
There are eight chapters in this book, each one written by a competent authority in his particular field. They do not aim to be technical, but seek to bring to the reader a fresh appreciation of our Indian heritage and a better understanding of its bearing on life today.
The Editors believe that each article, complete in itself, will afford an interesting and instructive basis for a wider study of the subjects dealt with. After reading the article by Mr. Percy Brown one would wish to go over the ground at Delhi and view with new insight that which he here describes. Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterji has given us a most authoritative and informative article on 'Language in India' . No one is better able than he to handle this fascinating subject. Much of what he writes has a direct bearing on the question of India's national language.
"Impressions of Old Calcutta" are presented in a lighter vein by Mr. Harry Hobbs, a long time resident of this great city. John Gawsworth has written understandingly of Indo-Anglian poetry. He evaluates its significance in the Indian milieu and considers its future outlook.
Dr. Stella Kramrisch is an authority on Indian sculpture. She takes the symbolisms of the architectural forms and shows how they minister to the central meanings of the Hindu faith. The patronage of many of the Muslim rulers and their contribution to Sanskritic learning is ably discussed by Dr. J. B. Chaudhuri. It clearly shows the interplay of one 'faith upon another during the centuries that the Muslims ruled Upper India.
The last two articles are concerned with military matters. Sir Jadunath Sarkar gives a valuable historical sketch of the European military system as found in India during the Mughal times. We see its strength and weakness and its effect even till today. Finally Dr. R. C. Majumdar discusses the subject of the Bengalees as a martial race. With his profound historical background Dr. Majurndar demonstrates fact that in the earliest records down to the end of the 18th century "Bengal had a military reputation of no mean order."
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