Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Setu in Confessions of a Thug (1839)

Colonel Meadows Taylor (September 25, 1808 – May 13, 1876), was an Anglo-Indian administrator and novelist, employed in the service of the Nizam of Hyderabad in a variety of positions from military to civil.

He had produced several works of fiction based upon contemporary or near-contemporary historical background. The first of his Indian novels, Confessions of a Thug, was published in 1839, in which he recounted the events related to the suppression of Thugee. This was followed by a series of other books - Tippoo Sultaun (1840), Tara (1863), Ralph Darnell (1865), Seeta (1872), and A Noble Queen (1878), all illustrating periods of Indian history and society.

In the most acclaimed of his novels, Confessions of a Thug, he has narrated a very interesting discussion between two of the characters (both Thugs) - one Hindu and the other a Mohammedan. They are talking about the Rama Setu in the fictious narrative, which is reproduced below in the scanned page from the book.

The most interesting part to note here is the Mohammedan Thug's reference about the Setu as Adam's bridge in a revered sense. He explains the story related in Islamic theology about a bridge which Adam had constructed and says that Setu is that bridge.

The text not only displays the amazement of the author about Setu, in the way the explanation is expressed, but also reflects on the deliberate contemporary efforts of the British, around early nineteenth century to brand Setu as "Adam's Bridge" and justify doing so, like they did with many other places and geographies of India (another example is Mt Everest which before British period was known as Gaurishankar in India and Sagarmattha in Nepal)

hits since Chaitra 7, 2064 Vikram (March 26, 2007)