Volume 59 Number 1, September 2007
James Tod’s Rajasthan
|Specifications:||136 pages, 106 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241 mm|
Lieutenant Colonel James Tod served as the East India Company’s political agent to the Western Rajputana states in the early 19th century, and while working there he undertook extensive research on Rajput history and polity, and amassed large collections of manuscripts and paintings. While the importance and aesthetic delight of Tod’s collections are beyond doubt, the accuracy and political objectives of his history have always been controversial matters. This book explores not only his collections but his work as an author, and the reception of his ideas by other scholars and writers as well. The chapters are all written by experts on Tod or on Rajasthani art and history; and each of them explores one aspect of his collections, or their broader context in Tod’s life and times.
Giles Tillotson was formerly Reader in History of Art at SOAS (University of London) and has also been Director of the Royal Asiatic Society. He edited the earlier Marg volume, Stones in the Sand: The Architecture of Rajasthan (2001) and is the author of many other studies of Rajput architecture and history, of which the most recent is Jaipur Nama: Tales from the Pink City (2006). He is now based in Delhi.
Introduction: James Tod and the History of Rajasthan
Tod’s Collection of Rajasthani Paintings
Reading and Riding: Horses in Image and Text
Tod as an Observer of Landscape in Rajasthan
Illustrating the Annals: The Architectural Views of Waugh and Ghasi
The Tod Collection of Indian Manuscripts at the Royal Asiatic Society
The Coin Collection in the Royal Asiatic Society
M. Nasim Khan
Tod’s Annals as Archive and History
Recovering the Heroic History of Rajasthan: Tod and the Prithviraj Raso
Tod and Traders
Lawrence A. Babb
Tod vs Mill: Clashing Perspectives on British Rule in India and Indian Civilization
Lloyd I. Rudolph
Lt. Col. James Tod served as the East India Company's political agent to the Western Rajputana states in the early 19th century, and while there he undertook massive research on Rajput history and amassed large collections. This makes him one of the most important British historians of India. While the importance of his collections are beyond doubt, the accuracy and political objectives of his history are controversial. This book explores aspects of his collections and the reception of his ideas by other scholars, and in Rajasthan today.
When James Tod left Rajasthan finally in 1822, he took with him to England the large collection of coins, manuscripts, inscriptions, and works of art that he had assembled as an aid to the historical studies which would occupy him for the rest of his life. This collection included, uniquely for that time, many contemporary Rajasthani paintings, mainly from Udaipur, which he had acquired as gifts or as commissions from local artists. Later he presented them to the Royal Asiatic Society in London. They include portraits of the Rajput nobility, genre scenes and historical or mythological subjects. Other works of art associated with Tod which are also discussed in this article are a historical scroll-painting in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the major 17th-century Udaipur illustrated Ramayana manuscript, a large part of which is now in the British Library.
The chapter illustrates and discusses a number of equestrian portraits of Mewari rulers (Maharana Bhim Singh and some of his thakurs) that were collected by or given to James Tod during his stay. Focusing especially on the depiction of the horses in these images, the chapter argues that the manner in which horses were idealized by Mewari artists can be understood in relation to a body of specialist local knowledge on horses and their care. This knowledge was common at court, and is also recorded in treatises both ancient and modern, a copy of one of which – the Ashvapariksha – is also contained in the Tod collection. The chapter outlines the contents of these texts and shows how their comments are reflected in the paintings. As in all of the paintings discussed in the article, the horse is at once idealized and naturalistic, holding within its painted narrative the features suggested by the texts and the character of the individual horse.
James Tod's textual depictions of Rajasthani landscapes in his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan (1829,1832) show his awareness of contemporary European aesthetic preoccupations with the picturesque in visual portrayals of landscape, which sought to provoke delight and astonishment in the viewer through light and shade effects and a brooding atmosphere. He combined this with the British colonial government's requirement of accuracy and useful information in topographical surveying. Focusing on three sites from Tod's 1820 journey to Marwar (Kumbhalgarh, Pushkar, and Udaipur), and three sites from his later 1821–22 journey to Bundi and Kota (Mukundwara, Ganga Bheva, and Mahanal), the essay analyses Tod's strategies of textually evoking landscapes. These include comparisons with well-known European archeological sites, allusions to European mythology alongside details on Rajput mythology, a certain 18th-century rational humanism, a Romantic sensitivity to ruins and imposing natural phenomena like virile mountain scenes and sublime waterfalls as well as an attraction for Rajput heroes of the past. Thus, in spite of Tod's being a part of the British colonial establishment, his text gives much importance to aesthetic renderings of landscapes.
The first edition of James Tod's famous book, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, contains numerous illustrations: engravings that are based on drawings which were commissioned by Tod while in Rajasthan. Two artists are principally involved: Patrick Waugh, a kinsman of the historian who was also the captain of his bodyguard, and a professional artist from Udaipur named Ghasi. The chapter discusses a selection of their drawings, made at Baroli, Chandrawati, and Chittor (all in southern Rajasthan), and shows how the range of pictorial styles they employed relates to and reflects the spectrum of Tod's own attitudes towards Rajasthani landscape and ancient architecture. Tod was at once archaeologist, historian, collector, and man of sentiment; and all of these responses show in the now neglected illustrations.
The manuscripts brought back to England by Tod are the core of his collections; numbering over 170. They were the most valuable source material for the writing of the Annals. This essay gives a flavour of the contents of the manuscripts and of their diversity in language and subject matter. By quoting a letter from Tod to a fellow collector in India, Colin Mackenzie, the writer provides an insight into Tod's motives and thinking.
The large and valuable collection of coins that used to be in the collections of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, cannot presently be found, except for 1273 specimens which have been part of the Society's holdings for over 160 years. The rest of them might have been engulfed by fire, some have gone astray, some have been relocated to the collections of the country's most prestigious institutions. Some were sold to auctioneers while others seem to have disappeared without a trace. A careful examination of the Society's records and the very small number of published coins shows that the richness and number of coins and their nature and sources are more than one could imagine. Although the history of the remaining part of the collection remains obscure, the present study underlines certain elements that indicate that the main part of the present collection is from Tod's bequest mostly found in and around Mathura.
This chapter analyses the arguments and rhetoric of Tod's Annals and shows that its enduring success depends in part on its ability to speak two "languages", reflections of the diverse intellectual traditions from which it derives. As a product of the European Enlightenment, Tod writes in a style informed by Western classical ideas and values, and that this framework encourages him to look for parallels between India and Europe. Tod's classical learning combined with India's traditions of historiography, depending not only on local texts and source material, but being influenced by methods and idioms of Rajasthan's bards as well.
Tod's engagement with local sources could sometimes lead him astray. Discussed here is his most famous blunder. More than 100 times in his Annals he mentions a text known as Prithviraj Rao. Like his Rajasthani contemporaries, Tod accepted this text's claims - an eyewitness account of the defeat of the great Rajput King Prithviraj Chauhan written in the late 12th century by one of his court poets. It was later shown to be a 16th-century work. Its later date makes it more interesting - it was composed to boost Rajput self-esteem when the Mughals were conquering them, making it mythic with a purpose. Tod's accepting it at face value has ramifications for his sympathetic engagement with the Rajputs' self-image.
Tod held the trading communities of Rajasthan in high esteem, especially the Jains, but he knew far less about them than about his beloved Rajputs. His knowledge of Jainism and Jain religious life was likewise scanty, despite the fact that his research assistant was a Jain mendicant; indeed, he seems to have believed that Jainism and Buddhism are the same religion. For Tod, the Jains were mainly of interest because of how they fit into his theories of the history of Indian civilization, theories deeply rooted in the error-ridden Mosaic anthropology of his day. But despite the gaps in his knowledge and his many mistakes of fact and interpretation, Tod's keenness as an observer of Rajasthani society and statecraft enabled him to see more clearly than others that the relationship between Rajputs and members of the region's trading communities was at the foundation of the way political authority was shaped and exercised in old Rajasthan.
This essay follows Tod into his retirement in England, to consider his testimony to a parliamentary committee charged with revising the East India Company charter. Tod's deposition is contrasted with fellow eminent historian James Mill's engagement with India which was diametrically opposed and they disagreed on every point. It brings out how Mill's view prevailed in the short term but how the 1857 Revolt brought about a reversal of policy, with an alignment with local rulers that was in line with Tod's advice. Tod's patiently acquired experience and wisdom are shown to have had a lasting impact not just on the British understanding of Rajasthan but on the governance of India as a whole.