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Captain James Macmurdo (Founders and Guardians of The Asiatic Society of Mumbai)

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Back of the Book Captain James Macmurdo (1785-1820), the first British Resident of Cutch, was a military officer of the British East India Company, who combined his official duties with the quest for knowledge and scholarship on the early nineteenth century Kathiawad, Cutch and Sindh to write comprehensive accounts on them. Though he is not a well-known scholar, and has no book to his credit, his long accounts and his official reports were pioneering works on this subject and have made va...
Back of the Book

Captain James Macmurdo (1785-1820), the first British Resident of Cutch, was a military officer of the British East India Company, who combined his official duties with the quest for knowledge and scholarship on the early nineteenth century Kathiawad, Cutch and Sindh to write comprehensive accounts on them. Though he is not a well-known scholar, and has no book to his credit, his long accounts and his official reports were pioneering works on this subject and have made valuable contributions to the historiography of Gujarat and Sindh.

Macmurdo's accounts show his deep study and knowledge of geography, history, geology, social and political life of that time. He collected information not only from books but also from his minute observations of the places he visited, and from his dialogues and communication with the local people. He had learnt Persian, Hindustani and Gujarati and also had picked up the dialects of Cutchi and Sindhi. He, thus, could sketch a graphic picture of the social and political life of the early nineteenth century.

Dr. Kunjlata Shah was the former Head of the Department of History at S.N.D.T. College of Arts and Commerce for Women, Church gate, Mumbai. She has authored a book, Ahmedabad, A Society in Transition (1818-1914).

About the Author

Dr. Kunjlata N. Shah was the former Head of the Department of History at S. N. D. T. College of Arts and Commerce for Women, Church gate, Mumbai. She has conducted a course on Indian Civilization in Historical Perspective at the New York University in 1988 and Indian Religions at the Agnes Scott College, Georgia, and USA in 1996.

Dr. Shah is a member of the Executive Committee of the Museum Society of Mumbai, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralay, Mumbai and a member of the Advisory Board of the Heras Institute of Indian History and Culture, St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. She has authored a book, Ahmedabad, A Society in Transition (1818-1914) and more than thirty research papers on various aspects of the social history of Gujarat and Mumbai which have been published in reputed research journals and anthologies.

Foreword

During his tenure of six years as President of the Asiatic Society, Dr. Aroon Tikekar took several initiatives with a view to resuscitating the culture of research and scholarly studies focused on Mumbai, Maharashtra and Western India. The project for bringing out Monographs of about 100 pages on the Founders and Guardians of the Asiatic Society occupied a pivotal place in his vision. He was a scholar who was deeply interested in the 19th century India. It was his firm conviction that the Asiatic Society had contributed substantially to 'intellectualizing Mumbai' under the leadership and inspiration of a group of scholars who could be truly called the Founders and Guardians of the Society. He had a grand plan for publishing Monographs on 26 such outstanding personalities. He encouraged research scholars associated with the Society to undertake the writing of these Monographs and guided them about the resource material, particularly the material which was available in the Library of the Asiatic Society itself. He had explained that "during two centuries and more of its fruitful existence, its members have made pioneering and lasting contributions to many fields of higher enquiry, philosophical as well as empirical. Much of this contribution has been recognized and lauded by the world of scholarship in India and outside. However, there were some scholars associated with the Society whose significant contribution to various fields such as iconography, numismatics, epigraphy, geology, geography, folk-lore and allied subjects has remained unknown or underestimated. The yields of their intellectual labour deserve to be brought to light”.

The five year project envisaging publication of at least 25 such Monographs became a part of the Society's 'Five Year Plan' Though the initial schedule of publication could not be maintained, 15 Monographs have been brought out so far as listed below:

1. Edward Moor by Dr. Mridula Ramanna.
2. John Faithfull Fleet by Dr. Leela B. Jois and Dr. Purnima Srikrishna.
3. Sir George Birdwood by Dr. Vijaya Gupchup.
4. Alexander Kinloch Forbes by Mr. Deepak Mehta.
5. The Jervis Brothers — George Risto Jervis & Thomas Best Jervis, by Prof. J. V. Naik& Dr. Prabha Ravi Shankar.
6. Sir James Mackintosh (1765-1832) Founder of the Literary Society of Bombay (1804) by Ms. Mrinal Kulkarni.
7. William Erskine (1773-1852), Secretary of Bombay Literary Society by Dr. Usha Thakkar.
8. Rev. P. Anderson (1816-1857), the author of The English in Western India by Dr. Louiza Rodrigues.
9. WE. Frere (1811-1880), President of both the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (BBRAS) as well as the Bombay Geographical Society by Dr. Usha R. Vijailakshmi
10. Dr. George Buehler (1837-1898): Philologist & Epigraphist by Ms. Vaishali Karmarkar.
11. Dr. George Buist (1805-1860) by Dr. Aroon Tikekar
12. William Henry Sykes (1790-1872) by Dr. Sonali Pednekar
13. Peter Peterson (1847-1899) by Dr. Namrata Ganneri
14. John Briggs ((1785-1875) by Dr. Prabha Ravi Shankar
15. Henry John Carter (1813-1895) by Dr. Ravinder Kaur Cheema
The implementation of the Plan received a sudden set-back when Dr. Aroon Tikekar passed away on 19th January, 2016. This was a cruel blow to the members of the Society and to the large circle of his friends and admirers. It was clear that in the absence of Dr. Tikekar, the stewardship of the project would have to be entrusted to a rather than an individual. Accordingly, the Society constituted a Committee with Dr. Usha Thakkar as the Chairperson and Dr. Mridula Ramana, Mr. Yogesh Kamdar and Prof. Mangala Sirdeshpande, as the members. The Committee was to complete the unfinished task because that would be the best way of paying homage to the memory of Dr. Tikekar. The Committee has toiled to motivate the scholars who were assigned the work of certain Monographs. By maintaining a constant follow-up the Committee has been successful in getting 8 Monographs to the stage of publication. The Committee deserves thanks for its endeavours and good wishes for its efforts to get more and more Monographs completed so as to fulfil the vision of Dr. Tikekar.

Introduction

Captain James Macmurdo (1785-1820), the first British Resident of Cutch, was a military officer of the British East India Company who combined his official duties with his quest for knowledge and scholarship on Kathiawad, Cutch and Sindh to write comprehensive accounts on the early nineteenth century. He sent these well written accounts to the Literary Society of Bombay for publication in its journal. Though he is not a well-known scholar, and has no book to his credit, his well-researched long articles and his official reports written to the Bombay Government are pioneering works on the subject and are considered valuable contribution to the historiography of Gujarat and Sindh.

This monograph, about Captain James Macmurdo, is divided into six chapters. The first chapter briefly delineates Macmurdo's short but eventful life and also gives some insights into his character. He came from Scotland to India at a very young age to join the army of the British East India Company. He was fortunate to begin his military career under Colonel Alexander Walker, the resident of Baroda, known for his humanitarian outlook and work. Macmurdo was influenced by him immensely the chapter traces Macmurdo's military career in Kathiawad, Cutch and Mauritius and dwells on his mission to discipline the pirates who had infested the coasts of Kathiawad, Cutch and Sindh. His role as the British Resident of Cutch is also briefly examined.

The second and third chapters of the monograph specifically, deal with Macmurdo's military activities in Kathiawad. An informative journal or rather a diary he maintained while travelling through the North Kathiawad from 1809-1810 helps in tracing his activities in the early phase of his career in Kathiawad in the second chapter. The journal throws light on the life and spatial peculiarities of the peninsula of Gujarat in the early nineteenth century. In the first part of the journal, he describes his journey from Mallia to Samla and in the second part, his travels from Samla to Deodar and back to Radhanpur. This journal vividly portrays the places he visited or noticed in the passing, especially in terms of its flora, fauna, terrain, geographical features and the people he met including their manners and their particular customs. His intensive study of the political life of Kathiwad is revealed in the detailed descriptions in the journal. This chapter also explores his account of the history and society of the small district of Okhamandal. He describes at length the unique traditions of the pilgrimage at Dwarka. An interesting eye witness account of the worship of the idol of the Jain Tirthankar Parisnath (Parshwanath) in the desert of Parkur and a visit of the Sangh of Jain pilgrims is similarly depicted.

The third chapter begins with the illuminating historical sketch and the account of Okhamandal that Macmurdo had prepared and submitted in 1812 to the Government of Bombay. It inscribes its history, geography, geology, vegetation, people and their customs. He discusses in detail about the Waghere community whose main source of livelihood was piracy. Later in the second half of 1813, he was appointed the agent of Jhalawar, the frontier district of Kathiawad. Despite the busy and harrowing nature of his work, he found time to collect information about the nine districts of Kathiawad with regard to history, geographical features such as rivers, mountains, terrain, important places, vegetation and produces to prepare an exhaustive account of Kathiawad for the journal of the Literary Society of Bombay. In this article, he examines the state of the society and discusses the Rajputs and Kathee communities in detail. The ceremony of Kasoomba drinking, the practice of erecting pallias or memorial stones, the custom of infanticide and tragas or memorial stones, the custom of infanticide and tragas are critically commented on in this account. Macmurdo’s report to the government of Bombay on Kathiawad is also covered in this chapter. In this official report, Macmurdo examines the military resources of the Kathiaward and makes observations on how o improve its condition and restore its prosperity , which he thinks can be brought about only by the liberal and enlightened policy and protection of the British.

The fourth chapter is on Sindh and the river Indus. It gives a comprehensive and detailed description of Sindh in the early nineteenth century, dealing with varied topics like Sindh’s history , products, animals , cities , commerce, seaports , export and import, revenue, population, people, manners and customs, dress, food , Hindus in Sindh, Language, government , army, the Afghan rule and the British policy The chapter outlines the history of the family of the Kalhoras who ruled before the Talpura Amirs in Sindha and narrates how to sect mendicants rose from the prayers carpet to the throne of Sindh . Macmurdo was greatly intrigued by the river Indus He was more interested in the present course of the river than its ancient state and so, tries to trace the course of the river from Bhakar in the north to the delta region. He gives in detail a picture of the terrain, places, and cities though which the river passes. He mentions the ten mouths or Baris of the river connecting the river to the sea. He also attempts to trace the course of the river at different periods in the ancient times with the help of native histories. He admit that he different his views from many eminent scholars such as Dr. Vincent who, from many eminent scholars such as Dr. Vincent who from etymological researches and analogies, had tried to establish the locations of the Celebrated places in ancient history.

Contents

  Foreword vi
  A Note from the General Editor ix
  Introduction xii
I Captain James Macmurdo (1785-1820) 1 - A Biographical Sketch 1
II James Macmurdo on Kathiawad - Part I 7
III James Macmurdo on Kathiawad - Part II 29
IV James Macmurdo on Sindh and the River Indus 48
V James Macmurdo in Cutch and his Writings on Cutch 65
VI Evaluation 81
  Notes 85
  Bibliography 89

 

Sample Pages




Item Code: NAP581 Author: Kunjlata Shah Cover: Paperback Edition: 2018 Publisher: Indus Source Books ISBN: 9789385509377 Language: English Size: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch Pages: 126 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 160 gms
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