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The Icon of Mother in Late Colonial North India: 'Bharat Mata', 'Matri Bhasha' and 'Gau Mata'



In the metaphor of nationalism, it is the female body and the many faces of 'mother' - motherland, mother tongue, motherhood - have served as the most universal and potent symbols of imagining the nation. The symbol of mother was especially effective because it could take on different meanings in different contexts. This paper examines how and why the metaphor of mother was used in multiple fields in late colonial north India, with a special focus on the UP. Hindu publicists of UP particularly worked the icon of the mother into narratives of nation, language and cow, thereby sharpening the contours of community identity.
Economic and Political Weekly November 10, 2001 4291
In the construction of nationalism, the
modern nation has often been expli-
citly imagined through gendered meta-
phors, particularly that of the female body.1
The many faces of ‘mother’ – motherland,
mother tongue, motherhood – have parti-
cularly proved to be potent symbols.2
Several studies have examined this icon
in colonial India, particularly in Bengal.3
The maternal metaphor was not limited
to the representation of the nation, but
extended to linguistics, which in turn
strengthened regional, as well as national
identities.4 Less however has been said on
ways that this phenomenon was expressed
in other parts of the country, particularly in
north India.
This paper examines how and why the
metaphor of mother was used in multiple
fields in late colonial north India, with a
special focus on the United Provinces
(henceforth UP). Hindu publicists of UP
particularly worked this icon into narra-
tives of nation, language and cow, sharp-
ening the contours of community identity.
Swami Shraddhanand stated:
The first step which I propose is to build
one Hindu Rashtra Mandir at least in every
city and important town....The Rashtra
Mandir will be in charge of the local Hindu
Sabha.... While the sectarian Hindu temples
are dominated by their own individual
deities, the Catholic Hindu Mandir should
be devoted to the worship of the three
mother-spirits: the Gau-mata, the
Saraswati-mata and the Bhumi-mata. Let
some living cows be there to represent the
plenty. Let ‘Savitri’ be inscribed over the
gate of the hall to remind every Hindu of
his duty to expel all ignorance and let a
life-like map of Mother-Bharat be con-
structed in a prominent place, giving all
its characteristics in vivid colours so that
every child of the Matri-bhumi may daily
bow before the Mother and renew his pledge
to restore her to the ancient pinnacle of
glory from which she has fallen!5
This symbolism was evoked largely to aid
men in the service of the nation. The
emotional appeal of the symbol of mother
was combined with modern scientific
arguments and economic ‘facts’ about the
earth and the cow.
Mapping the Mother/Nation
Bharat Mata Temple at Banaras
The identity of the country and the nation
was often expressed and represented in
terms of devotion to the goddess Bharat
Mata or Mother India, who was inevitably
a Hindu. The cult was imbued with moral
fervour, and in the process religious,
cultural and aesthetic aspects were
politicised. The ideology of motherhood
could be specifically claimed as their own
by the colonised and could help in
emphasising their selfhood. In the case of
Bengal, Bharat Mata was often a cultural
artefact, or a distinct personality, repre-
sented in different situations as a glorious
figure of abundance; as the powerful mother
Kali and Durga, a destructive ‘shakti’; or
as an enslaved, all-suffering figure, a
tearful victim and a frail widow.6
While such emblems can be seen in
north India,7 there was also another image
in which the nation as mother took on an
entity of a detailed physical map, namely
the Bharat Mata temple, the first of its
kind, built at Banaras in the early 20th
century. One goes today to the holy city
of Banaras and sees in this temple not the
anticipated altar, shrines and images, or
the mother figure of woman shown in
different moods as reflecting the state of
the nation, but instead, within the spacious
sanctuary, surrounded by a brass rail, a
huge relief map of the country. Here Bharat
Mata is not a distinct personality in her
own right but a metaphor for a fixed,
bounded space. It is different from the
images one associates with a temple, or
even of Bharat Mata. How is one to in-
terpret this phenomenon?
It has been argued that the drawing of
modern and precise maps was an emblem
of the rational and scientific nature of the
west, a working of power-knowledge by
European powers and colonialism, a pre-
lude to possession, and a tool for enabling
mastery of the world. The scientific map
became a metonym for colonial moder-
nity.8 David Harvey has shown how the
modern maps, in the period of enlightened
modernity, were stripped of all elements
of fantasy, religious belief and rich and
sensuous spatial stories of medieval carto-
graphy, and instead became strictly func-
tional systems, with factual ordering of
space and mathematically rigorous depic-
tions.9 Hindu nationalists, through a de-
tailed and precise mapping of the nation
The Icon of Mother in Late Colonial
North India
‘Bharat Mata’, ‘Matri Bhasha’ and ‘Gau Mata’
In the metaphor of nationalism, it is the female body and the many faces of
‘mother’ – motherland, mother tongue, motherhood – have served as the most universal and
potent symbols of imagining the nation. The symbol of mother was especially effective
because it could take on different meanings in different contexts. This paper examines how
and why the metaphor of mother was used in multiple fields in late colonial north India,
with a special focus on the UP. Hindu publicists of UP particularly worked the icon of the
mother into narratives of nation, language and cow, thereby sharpening the
contours of community identity.
Economic and Political Weekly November 10, 2001
in a temple, with the emotive name of
Bharat Mata, were able to combine (or
hybridise?) science with emotion and
modernity with traditional beliefs.
Shivprasad Gupt, a staunch nationalist
and a wealthy person of Banaras, built the
Bharat Mata temple. A Vaishya, he was
initiated into the Vallabh Sambraday at an
early stage. Later he was attracted towards
the Arya Samaj, and in 1904, he became
a member of the Kashi Agarwal Samaj. He
was close to Madan Mohan Malaviya and
Swami Shraddhanand. He was also the
founder of Kashi Vidyapeeth at Banaras,
and of the newspaper Aaj.10 He had a
“love for Hindutva, Hindi and Bharat
Mata”.11 It was his greatest desire and
obsession that people should worship the
map of India as that of the motherland or
of the mother.12 The idea of a Bharat Mata
temple was thus born. How should Bharat
Mata be represented? The inspiration came
from a clay map of India drawn on the
floor, in the widow’s home of Ghondo
Keshav Karve at Pune. Shivprasad was
motivated to create a similar physical
map of India at Banaras. He decided to
use marble for the image of ‘janani
The foundation stone of the Bharat Mata
temple was laid at the complex of Kashi
Vidyapeeth in 1918. The sculptors, led by
Durga Prasad, were largely from Banaras
and all were Hindus.14 The result was a
majestic structure of one storey, built in
stone. The marble carving of the map of
India, right at the centre of the temple was
extremely detailed and minute, drawing
extensively from modern technologies of
map making. Gandhi inaugurated the
temple in 1936. Many leading personali-
ties like Abdul Gaffar Khan and Sardar
Patel were present at the time.15 In his
speech on the occasion, Gandhi said:
In this temple there are no statues of gods
and goddesses. Here there is only a map
of India raised on marble. I hope that this
temple will take the form of a worldwide
platform for all religions, along with
Harijans, and of all castes and beliefs, and
it would contribute to feelings of religious
unity, peace and love in this country.16
The temple was an attempt at creating
a composite religious and national identity
and was seen as a place where all – Hindus
and Muslims, high caste and low caste
Hindus – could technically come and
worship. An intercaste dining feast was
organised, after giving doms and chamars
‘sunlight’ soap to ‘cleanse’ themselves in
the nearby well and enter the temple.17
The temple personified a symbol of pride,
faith and confidence in Bharat, where all
could express their loyalty and dedication
to the nation in terms of devotion and
sacrifice to the cause of one’s sacred
motherland. Inside was the poem ‘Matri
Mandir’ by the famous poet Maithlisaran
Gupt, written specially for the temple:
Bharatmata ka yeh mandir, samta ka samvad
sabka shiv-kalyan yahan hai. paven sabhi
prasad yahan....
Sab tirthon ka ek tirth yeh, hriday pavitra
bana lein hum,
ao yahan ajatshatru ban, sabko mitra bana
lein hum.
(This is the temple of Bharat Mata, where
equality speaks. It is auspicious for all, and
all receive blessing here. It is the epitome
of all places of pilgrimage. Let us purify
our heart. Like Ajatshatru, we should make
everyone our friends here.)18
Yet there was an overwhelming use of
upper caste Hindu symbols. The news-
paper Aaj took out a special edition on
Bharat Mata on the occasion, and pub-
lished poems eulogising a combination of
nationalist and Hindu image.19 Another
poem written in praise of the temple stated
that after bathing in the Ganges and after
a visit to Vishwanath temple, a glimpse
of the mother made the day complete for
a person.20 The temple had the hymn
‘Vande Mataram’ inscribed at its gate.
During its inauguration, there was a
‘havan’, with offerings and recitations from
all the four Vedas by eight orthodox
brahmin specialists.21
The iconic representation of Bharat Mata
in the sculptural map was a modern sci-
entific representation, an artistic expres-
sion and a devotional act. Daud Ali has
further argued that Bharat Mata pointed
to a new political reality of bourgeois
nationalism, very different from the con-
cept of Bhudevi in medieval India.22 Unlike
Bengal, in the Bharat Mata temple, the
female figure representing Mother India
was absent, and instead concretised into
a political and geographical body of a map.
The map identified Hindu nationalism with
the land of India. At the same time, the
map was imagined as ‘mother’, as a
gendered entity in a temple, inventing a
tradition, and linking it to a poetics of love
and longing.
Its body mapping drew from the techno-
logies of cartography and from the work-
ings of the new science of geography,
geometry and mathematics, giving vivid
descriptions of the land. Though some
recent scholars problematise mathematical
cartography, its significance was not ques-
tioned by Gupt or the chief sculptors, who
took it for granted, and used it extensively
to carve out the nation’s map. Bharat Mata
was transposed upon the geographical
territory of India.23 Though there was an
allegorical figuration of nation as mother,
she was actually portrayed only as cities,
districts, rivers and mountains. But this
was not just ‘prakrti’. Instead its specific
physical details were emphasised. Bharat
Mata here was a sovereign territory, with
set boundaries and a fixed map, which had
to be extremely detailed, accurate and
precise, with exact scientific measurements.
Thus in his description of the temple, the
fundamental preoccupation of Shivprasad
Gupt was the height and length of the map,
the number of marble pieces that went into
its making, the marking of various coun-
tries surrounding India, the measurements
of all places in feet, length and heights.
In brief, the map created the ‘true’, ‘com-
plete’ and ‘pure’ picture of India, and the
men who built it were thanked for it. The
map was to aid not only in the study of
the womb of the earth, geography and
geology, but also help in the understanding
the mystery of Indian culture, its develop-
ment and its special essence.24 It was a
symbol of a patriotic act, but could also
equally lay claims to a fixed geographical
space, a nation carved.
Mother as map as nation also served to
define a loyal political citizenry, devoted
in the service of the nation. The children
of the nation attained an existence,
personhood and identity in the metaphor
of boundary. These dutiful children were
largely articulated as the male Hindu sons
of the nation, who were promoted as
constituting an ideal Indian. In fact, the
conceptualisation of the ‘Indian’ was one
of the major currents in Indian nationalist
thought by the turn of the 20th century,
and the ideological preoccupation of the
Bharat Mata temple gave him a concrete
presence. One wonders if it was inadver-
tance that Shivprasad Gupt in his article
called it ‘Shri Bharatmata Mandir’, which
literally translated would mean ‘Mr Mother
India Temple’, giving the mother a male
prefix, and enclosing her as a male entity.25
Mother as map was so all encompassing
and huge, that all had to inevitably sub-
merge their separate identities in her pres-
ence. At the same time, there were political
implications of worshipping India as a
Hindu religious idiom and deity. The use of
Mother India in a temple freed Hinduism
from its religious dogma and converted it
Economic and Political Weekly November 10, 2001 4293
to a political rhetoric. Though it was
explicitly stated to be a place where all
could come, the very fact that a symbol
of worship was enclosed in a monument,
which was called a temple and had the
hymn ‘Vande Mataram’ inscribed at its
gates, meant that implicitly it defined
national identity in terms of Hindu piety
and activism. The image of Mother India
and the discourse of spirituality were so
pervasive and potent that even those
political leaders who staunchly opposed
Hindu sectarianism resorted to using it.
Such uses suggest that there were innocu-
ous cultural and political pieties. At the
same time, each such use had the potential
to foster, among Hindus, identities imbued
with devotion to Mother India and pride
in India’s superior cultural heritage.26 The
Bharat Mata temple can thus be seen as
a mark of the basic confusion and conflation
between Hindu/Indian/nation. Some have
even pointed out the psychological horror
Muslims feel in identifying country with
the Mother goddess, as the ‘punitive’
Muslims take it to be self-castration.27 The
symbol of Bharat Mata, and that too en-
closed in a temple, expressed Hindu nation-
alism, alienating the Muslims further.
The Bharat Mata temple of Banaras was
conceived with ‘noble’ sentiments, and a
spirit of nationalism, and using the map,
it could claim to be as precise and scientific
as anyone else, but the structure and the
idea itself also marked the inherent limi-
tations, ambiguities and contradictions of
such imagery. It is not insignificant that
today almost all schools run by the RSS
have a map/figure/temple of Bharat Mata
in their complex.28
Language Debates
Scholars have shown how from the late
19th century especially, language became,
both among the Muslim gentry and the
Hindu upper castes, a means and symbol
of community-creation.29 King proposes
that the Hindi movement animated a Hindu
communal consciousness in pre-indepen-
dence India.30 The assertion of Hindi by
the upper caste Hindu literati was an at-
tempt to assert a distinct community iden-
tity and to prepare themselves for a cul-
turally hegemonic role in the new nation.31
The Nagari Pracharini Sabha of Banaras
and the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan of
Allahabad sought to Sanskritise Hindi,
removing Persio-Arabic words and
marginalising the spoken forms of Hindi
like Avadhi and Braj.32
The propagators of the Hindi language
deployed potent gender symbols at this
time. Language was animated as a person
and represented as a matter of identity. It
was not just Hindi as ‘matri bhasha’ or
mother tongue that was important, but
gender icons were effectively used to mark
out boundaries between Hindi and Urdu
and also between Braj Bhasha and Khari
Boli, leading to the assertion of the Nagari
script. The imagery of mother tongue was
endowed with overt political meanings,
but it also revealed a tension. While Hindi
was upheld as a respectful female in
opposition to Urdu, the femininity of the
language itself was a hindrance in debates
between Braj and Khari. Here femininity
came to be equated with degeneration.
Hindi as Mother
The Hindi language itself was personi-
fied as a Hindu mother. Numerous poems
were written extolling the good qualities
of the Hindi language, depicting her not
only as a mother, as a powerful mother
goddess, but also the hope and soul of
Hum hind tanya hain – hindi matu humari.
Bhasha hum sab ki ek matra hindi hai,
asha hum sab ki ek matra hindi hai….
Bharat ki to bas pran yahi hindi hai.
(We are the sons of Hind – Hindi is our
mother. Our only language is Hindi. Our
only hope is Hindi. This Hindi is the life
of India.)33
Hindi was the pride of India:
Sab se saral saloni, priya devnagari tu.
Sab hinduon ke shir ki, hai pujya pagri tu.
(My dear Devnagari, you are the simplest
and most lovely. You are the revered turban
on the heads of Hindus.)34
At the same time, the current pathetic
situation of the language mother was la-
mented by leading writers like Maithlisaran
Gupt and Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi.35 An
indifference to the Hindi language was like
disregarding your own mother.36 In his
address given as the chairman of 13th
Hindi Sahitya Sammelan in March 1923,
Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi said:
Who is the mother of Hindi?… I just want
to say that the mother tongue of a person
is as important as his mother or mother-
land. One mother gives birth, the second
gives a space for playing, wandering and
for a worldly existence, and the third makes
human life happy by giving the power to
express one’s mental thoughts and im-
pulses. Do we not owe any debt to such
a mother tongue? Do people not feel like
shedding tears when seeing the distressful
state of such a mother tongue?37
The modern and new Hindi propounded
by the likes of Dwivedi and organisations
like Nagari Pracharini Sabha, posed a
further problem. It lacked a known past,
and thus a clear link was established with
Sanskrit to lend it greater lustre. Hindi was
declared the daughter or granddaughter of
Sanskrit, which was seen as having united
India into a coherent entity, into one heart,
in ancient times, and Hindi was to play the
same role now.38 Nagari Pracharini Sabha
tried to show that other languages like
Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi were sisters of
Hindi, since it was assumed that they had
a common source in Sanskrit. In fact, they
were all taken to be basically Hindi, attired
in various dresses.39 Even other north
Indian languages were shown as dialects
of Khari Boli. The University of Allahabad
was particularly active in the propagation
of such ideas.40
Lewd or Chaste, Feminine or
Christopher King has pointed out how
the two languages of Hindi and Urdu were
represented as women: Hindi was a patient
and respectable Hindu wife or a brahmin
nurturing matron; while Urdu was nothing
less than a heartless aristocratic strumpet
or a wanton Muslim prostitute.41 Further,
in some plays, queen Devnagari was as
much the image of the new middle class
Hindu housewife as of any queen; Begum
Urdu was the unreformed, the uncontrolled
Urdu was so bad and erotic that its
knowledge had to be denied to respectable
Hindu women. For Harischandra, there
was little doubt that Urdu was the language
of dancing girls and prostitutes.43 The
important work of Arya Samaj for the
education of girls bore testimony to the
fact that whereas boys’ schools had facili-
ties for the teaching of Urdu, girls’ schools
provided for Hindi alone – a differentia-
tion that was consistent with the concept
of women being emblematic of the purity
of Hindi society.44 Mahadevi Verma, the
great ‘Chayavadi’ poetess, also stated that,
in the private schools set up by the kayastha
educational trusts and in the government
schools for girls attended by kayastha girls,
women’s education was conducted almost
entirely through the medium of Hindi and
girls were not pushed to learn Urdu as boys
were.45 Women were seen as having no
Economic and Political Weekly November 10, 2001
practical use for Urdu as they were not
seeking employment.46 Urdu was not only
a prostitute, but also not worth studying
for women. Later, with assertions that Urdu
was truly Islamic, its appropriateness for
Hindu women was further reduced.
Urdu was not only, attacked because it
was ‘vulgar’ like a prostitute, but also
because it was effeminate. Kayastha
Samachar carried on a debate at the height
of Hindi-Urdu controversy, and gendered
terms were deployed by various positions.
In his attack of Urdu, a writer declared it
effeminate, which in turn was equated
with ‘denigration’:
The entire range of Urdu poetry is
characterised by an effeminacy as degrad-
ing to the intellect as are vice to a people,
and if the truth must be told the effeminacy
of Urdu poetry and songs has been in
keeping with the growing effeminacy of
the people who had the keeping of Urdu
literature. The high-sounding and elabo-
rate forms of expression in Urdu have
become almost the by-word and are a subject
of standing amusement.47
While disagreeing with some of the
arguments raised in this article, the rejoin-
der too agreed on the effeminate nature of
Urdu, declaring it to be an ungrateful
daughter of Braj Bhasha.48 Condemning
its impact on India, the article quoted a
The masters of Urdu were the descendants
of those people whose language was
Persian, and therefore they introduced in
Urdu all the metres, all the interesting and
gaudy images, and the different kinds of
styles peculiar to Persian. And the wonder
is that by their sweetness and beauty they
succeeded in ousting those ideas of Bhasha
which were so indigenous to the country;
so much so indeed that the literary class,
as well as the common people, quite forgot
the songs of the Koel (the Indian Cuckoo)
and the Papiha (the Sparrow-Hawk) and
the scent of the Champa and the Chameli
(Jasmine) and began to sing the praises of
Hazar and Bulbul (Nightingale), Nasrin
(Eglantine) and Sambul (Spikenard) which
they had never seen.49
The article pleaded that Urdu was inca-
pable of giving expression to Hindu ideas
and aspirations.50 Raja Shivprasad, who
was to become a staunch supporter of the
Nagari script, wrote:
To read Persian is to become Persianised,
all our ideas become corrupt and our
nationality is lost…. All the evils which
we find amongst us we are indebted to our
‘beloved brethren’ the Muhammadans.
Manliness is the first thing which they have
entirely extinguished from the land’.51
(emphasis mine)
Further, new words in Hindi had to be
coined, to do away with Hindustani words
used daily. Urdu was made fun of for its
‘inadequacies’ in the use of words, and the
Nagari characters were declared much more
clear. Madan Mohan Malaviya alleged that
the Urdu script created more confusion
than clarity.52 For example it was said that
the introduction of Nagari would prevent
the word ‘chhadi’ (stick) being mistaken
for ‘chhuri’ (knife) and the word ‘kishti’
(boat) for the word ‘kasbi’ (prostitute).53
The lack of use of Hindi words was con-
stantly lamented and acquired further
potency in the case of women. Saraswati,
the most famous literary magazine of the
period, complained of the use of the word
‘Musammat’, commonly used as a prefix
to any woman’s name in schools, univer-
sities and law courts at that time. It was
stated that while Hindu men had Hindi
words like ‘Babu’, ‘Munshi’, ‘Pandit’ and
‘Lala’ constantly prefixed to their names,
there had been no equivalent Sanskrit or
Hindi word commonly used as a prefix to
female names. It requested the government
to use words like ‘Shrimati’ or ‘Kumari’
for Hindu women.54
Hindi however was not a homogeneous
language, and there were various ‘bolis’
which were prevalent at this time. Which
form of Hindi should prevail? By the late
19th century, Khari Boli Hindi had won
acceptance as a vehicle of prose but not
as an instrument of poetry, for which Braj
Bhasha was still more celebrated.55 What
followed was an intense debate, with
proponents on both sides. Shitikanth
Mishra, in his landmark work, calls it a
struggle of two periods – one of ancient
idealistic religiosity identified with Braj
Bhasha, and the other of modern realistic
utility recognised through Khari Boli.56 In
the earlier phase of these debates, there
were some supporters of Braj Bhasha, even
among the leading literary personalities.
However, in the arguments that followed,
there was a slow emergence of Khari Boli
from a defensive to an offensive position,
leading to its eventual triumph.57
While various arguments were given for
and against the two languages, what in-
terests me here is the way gendered ter-
minology was deployed in different
arguments around linguistic identities. We
have already seen how the poetry domi-
nated by ‘nayika bhed’ had faced the charge
of obscenity. The language of such poetry
was also bound to come under attack. Braj
literature was identified with a poetic
tradition focusing on the life and loves of
Krishna and erotic literature of dubious
moral value, particularly unfit for the
consumption of women. The process began
with Bharatendu Harishchandra himself.
Though he composed many poems in Braj
Bhasha, when it came to works on and for
women, he preferred Khari boli. He pio-
neered the Hindi journal Balabodhini,
which became the first women’s journal
in the language. The subject matter was
extremely controlled, even censored in
nature. There was a new and pronounced
puritanism in the themes and the conven-
tional Braj Bhasha, printed so extensively
in Harischandra’s other journals, was here
entirely absent, as considered too erotic.
The older musical forms were similarly
suspect for releasing erotic energies.58
On the other hand, Khari Boli lacked any
such erotic tradition and could more easily
become a vehicle of not only prose, but
also of nationalist themes and ideas.59 The
journal Saraswati became the chief
vehicle for the propagation of such senti-
ments. A debate emerged in its pages
regarding the superiority of Khari Boli
over Braj, with its editor Mahavir Prasad
Dwivedi vociferously propagating Khari
Boli, ‘new’ Hindi and the Nagari script,
both for prose and poetry.60
George A Grierson was a staunch sup-
porter of Braj and Avadhi poetry, and of
Hindi written in a simple style, without
Sanskrit words. He said, “Sanskrit is a
grandmother and Hindi is a granddaughter,
and it does not look well when a grand-
daughter dresses herself in her grand-
mother’s clothes”.61 Mahavir Prasad
Dwivedi, however, carried on a regular
correspondence with him, extolling the
virtues of Khari Boli Hindi poetry, and
the use of Sanskritised Hindi. He attempted
to convince him of their utility in the
present day.62 In one of his letters, Dwivedi
We speak Hindi… and it is only right that
we should write poetry in the language
which we speak…. The age of these (Surdas,
Keshav, Bihari) is past. We must now
adopt ourselves to the exigencies of the
current times…. It appears you are not in
touch with the current Hindi literature….
I am confident, in about 20 years hence,
not a single stanza of poetry will be com-
posed in Braj Bhasha or Avadhi…. I am
sending you separately two issues of
Kanyakunj, a monthly magazine. Each
contains a piece of poetry (in Khari Boli)….
I have received numerous letters, even
from ladies, appreciating these pieces.63
Economic and Political Weekly November 10, 2001 4295
Eventually, it was Dwivedi’s prediction
which proved to be correct. In the 11th
Hindi Sahitya Sammelan it was emphasised
that Khari Boli was much more dignified
as it was not tainted by luxurious eroti-
cism. Such erotic poems written in other
languages had caused great harm to soci-
ety, and a Khari Boli poet was aware that
this was not the time for such poetry.64
By the 1930s, almost all ‘high’ literary
poetry came to be composed in Khari Boli.
With the beginning of ‘Chayavad’ move-
ment in Hindi literature, a series of highly
talented poets established Khari Boli as the
medium of Hindi poetry once and for all.65
The supporters of Khari Boli further
drew a straight line between the sweetness
and melodiousness of Braj and femininity,
making it further unsuitable. Balkrishna
Bhatt thought Braj Bhasha so feminine
that it was appropriate for no mood
except ‘shringar ras’.66 During the second
meeting of the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan,
held at Allahabad in 1911, Pandit
Badrinath Bhatt declared that the day of
Khari Boli’s rival had passed. Replying to
those who extolled the superior qualities
of Braj, he remarked caustically that in an
age when India needed men, the excessive
sweetness and melodiousness of Braj
had turned Indians into eunuchs.67 The
old school of Braj Bhasha was identified
with emotion, which had feminine over-
tones, while the new school of Khari Boli
was distinguished by reason, suggesting
manly feelings.68
The equation between Khari Boli and
masculinity has been lucidly expressed.
Scholars have stated that Khari Boli was
first used in 1803 by the poet Lallulal in
his work ‘Premsagar’, composed at Fort
William.69 But why the name Khari Boli?
Various views have been propounded on
this, and most of them equate the use of
the term with bourgeois and masculine
qualities. It was regarded as ‘mardon ki
boli’ (language of men).70 Further,
Grahambeli stated that ‘khari’ came from
‘khara’, which meant standing erect or to
rise up. B S Pandit also identified the word
‘thath’ with an erection.71 In his work on
Khari Boli, Lalit Mohan Awasthi argues
that behind the name ‘Khari Boli’, there
was a clear reflection of bourgeois culture,
and its sense of pride and superiority.
Simultaneously, it was a masculine lan-
guage, which stood straight and upright.72
Ramnaresh Tripathi, while writing a satire
on Khari Boli said:
The thing is that in the poetry of Khari Boli
all works are done while standing, like to
rise up, to run, to walk, to beat, to break,
to crack, to climb the height of success,
to move forward etc. There are no moods
like separation, beauty, laughter, pain, peace
or wonder. There is a domination of just
the four moods of bravery, fearsomeness,
rage and ugliness. There is thus no scope
in it to sit or lie down. In Khari Boli there
is a description of all things standing erect,
hence its name.73
This was a time when Khari Boli was
actually still evolving and there was a
constant search for new names and words.
It was emphasised that it would be better
such words were of the masculine gender.
Thus in the fifth Hindi Sahitya Sammelan
at Lucknow it was stated that though in
the Hindi language, it was important to be
aware of the masculine and feminine
gender, it was equally crucial to use the
masculine gender where there was any
doubt. Further, it was argued:
If new words are spoken in the feminine
gender, then the masculinity of our speech
uselessly gets reduced and words signify-
ing femininity get increased. If this con-
tinues then Hindi would soon be reduced
to a language of women. In Lucknow
words like motor and kamiz are used in
feminine gender, which shows the
delicate nature of people. However, now
such days are past when delicacy was an
identification of rich people…. New
words… must be spoken in the masculine
gender now.74
Khari Boli thus introduced a ‘symbolic
order’, whereby the nation was to be
distinguished from a past in which the
language of erotic and ‘feminine’ was Braj.
When the Malviya family started
Abhyudaya at Allahabad, which was to
become the leading vernacular Hindi
newspaper of the time, Madan Mohan
Malaviya justified its name by saying that
all the monthly magazines coming out at
that time, like Saraswati, Madhuri,
Manorma, Prema and Prabha had femi-
nine names. If one wanted to convey to
the youth a new message, then a
newspaper or magazine had to have a name
which was suffused with manly strength
and virility.75
The use of gender icons and symbols in
language debates revealed an ambiguity
and a paradox. While Hindi was identified
as a mother or a wife, and in that sense
language itself was feminised, the spoken
and written language had to be ‘mascu-
line’. The gendering of language thus used
multiple arguments in different contexts,
using the female both to endorse and to
condemn, to appropriate and to reject.
Cow as Mother
The cow was to emerge as an enor-
mously potent and sacred symbol of the
Hindu nation in the late 19th-early 20th
century, especially in north India. She had
the potential to be represented as the mother
of all Hindus and of a Hindu identity and
nationality, requiring protection from non-
Hindus. The cow protection movement in
north India between 1880 and 1920 has
been competently and extensively studied
by scholars in recent years, with emphasis
on violent agitations and riots around it,
as well as its organisational aspects.76 It
has been noted that there were two distinct
phases in the agitation, an earlier urban
phase and a later rural campaign.77 Fur-
ther, it involved a struggle not only over
a ‘sacred symbol’ but also, locally, over
‘sacred spaces’, and over occasions that
were used to highlight the issue.78
Recently, Peter van der Veer has com-
mented on the cow as mother of the Hindu
nation. He raises some interesting points,
linking Hindu love for mother cow and the
protection of her body to brahmanical
rituals, to devotional religion, to the cow
as a nurturing mother goddess, and to the
usefulness of her products.79 Christopher
Pinney too highlights how locally pro-
duced mass visual images played a crucial
role in the organisation as well as the
ideology of the cow protection agitation.80
In these, the body of the cow itself was
invested with the divine and she herself
became a proto-nation. This new space of
the cow-nation embodied a Hindu cosmo-
logy, with the sacred inscribed onto
her body.81
In UP, as elsewhere, new ‘sabhas’ and
‘gaushalas’ sprang up in the late 19th
century, giving the movement a much more
systematic form, and the preachers and
emissaries came to have a much wider
influence. The greater ease of communi-
cation and the spead of news gave a boost
to the movement.82 The availability of print
made it easier to publish mass posters,
distribute handbills, print poems, bhajans
and plays in praise of mother cow.83 A
newspaper entitled Gausewak was regu-
larly published at Banaras from the 1890s,
and another called Gaudharma Prakash
was issued monthly at Farrukhabad. A
drama in Hindi called Bharat-dimdima
Natak, published at Lucknow with copies
sold at railway book-stalls, highlighted the
grievous condition of India at the present
time owing to cow-slaughter.84 Pictures
Economic and Political Weekly November 10, 2001
of the cow were also circulated and
exhibited at many meetings. One depicted
a cow in the act of being slaughtered by
three Muslim butchers, and was headed
‘The present state’. Another exhibited a
cow, in every part of whose body groups
of Hindu deities and holy persons were
shown. A calf was at her udder, and there
was a woman sitting before the calf hold-
ing a bowl waiting for her turn. The woman
was labelled ‘The Hindu’. Behind the cow
was a representation of Krishna labelled
‘Dharmraj’. In front, a monster was assail-
ing the cow with a drawn sword entitled
‘Kaliyug’, but which was largely under-
stood as typifying the Muslim community.
While explaining the meaning of the pic-
ture, a Hindu remarked:
The Hindu must only take the cow’s milk
after the calf has been satisfied. In the
‘Dharmraj’ of the Satyug no Hindu would
kill a cow, but the Kaliyug is bent upon
killing the cow and exterminating the kine.
As every man drinks cow’s milk just as
he as an infant has drawn milk from his
mother, the cow must be regarded as the
universal mother, and so is called ‘Gau
Mata’. It is matricide to kill a cow. Nay
more, as all the gods dwell in the cow, to
kill a cow is to insult every Hindu.85
Cow as a ‘universal mother’ has long
had an emotional and religious appeal for
Hindus, and is associated with many ritual
performances. She is Kamadhenu (god-
dess who fulfils every wish) and Lakshmi
(symbol of wealth and good fortune).86 In
this period too, the movement reached
deeply into the Hindu psyche, turning the
killing of a cow into matricide.87 In ap-
peals to ban cow-killing at places like
Mathura and Ayodhya, religious and
emotional arguments were extensively
deployed. Mathura was seen as a birth-
place of Krishna, who was identified as
the keeper and protector of cows.88
However, in a colonial context, the decline
of cows was linked to a decline in the
physical strength of Hindus and to increas-
ing child mortality, which were equated
with the collapse of the nation in this age
of ‘Kaliyug’. Kriparam Mishra, general
secretary of Hindu Sabha and of Garhwal
Radha-Krishna Gaushala wrote:
Today our mother cow is being slain by
the infidels in innumerable numbers.... Our
helplessness, mental weakness and physi-
cal impotency is explicitly telling us that
among the many reasons for such changes
[today], the main one is the decline of cow
The cow was now much more directly
linked with building a strong nation, a
nation of Hindu men who had grown weak
and poor from lack of milk and ghee. For
a body of healthy sons, cows became
essential. The only way out was to ensure
that cows thrived, not so much for them-
selves as for the nation.90 The material
body of the mother cow was equated with
Hindu nation, where she was the benevo-
lent mother, whose womb could provide
a ‘home’ to all. Like a mother, she could
feed her sons with milk, making them
stronger. The message was strengthened
by many images depicting a woman milk-
ing the cow, who was transformed into
Yashoda. However, this was not the only
imagery associated with the cow. In an-
other one, the Hindu goddess Ashtabhuja
Devi was depicted riding a lion and fu-
riously attacking two butchers who had
just decapitated a cow. Not only pictures,
but even matchboxes with this picture were
in circulation in UP as well, with the
government occasionally debating if they
should be proscribed.91 Thus the image of
cow could also evoke an aggressive gender-
ed imagery, and it seemed that the cow
herself embodied and was reincarnated as
a ferocious goddess. Myths were reinvented
and reinterpreted in such images, aiding
Hindu nationalist aspirations. The cow was
now directly linked to the well-being of
the nation itself.
This strong association between the
Hindu nation and cow could be strength-
ened by giving it a concrete, physical base
via gender. The distressed nation had to
be given physical power. This may explain
why the petitions, memoranda and appeals
submitted to the government by various
‘gaurakshini sabhas’,gaushala’ societies
and Hindu individuals and groups, often
relied on hard economic ‘facts’. The ‘use-
fulness’ of the mother cow in economic
terms – giving milk, ghee and energy – was
repeatedly emphasised. Thus for example
a memorial of one Parmanand Sadhu of
Rishikesh, Dehradun, which claimed to be
signed by five lakhs of persons, contained
elaborate statistics showing that the cow
in one day could provide food for 436,108
persons.92 A Bill ‘to provide for protec-
tion and improvement of milch and agri-
cultural cattle’ was drafted by one
Girdharilal Agarwal. Complicated statis-
tics were deployed to highlight the present
pathetic state. It was further stated:
That this unsatisfactory state of things both
as regards the number and quality of cattle
has led to an abnormal rise in the price of
cattle, crops, milk and milk products on
the one hand, and on the other to the poor
physique of many of the population.93
Another aspect of this economic appeal
was that it could become yet another way
to pursue an economic boycott of Muslims
and make the Hindus economically more
prosperous. Muslims had been condemned
earlier in the name of the Gau Mata; now
they had to be beaten economically. Hand-
bills and posters were distributed to this
effect. One handbill, printed at Kashi, and
later banned, appealed to Hindu brothers,
and stated that if they really wanted to
protect their Gau Mata from ‘gaubhakshak’
Muslim ‘mlecchas’, then they must take
an oath today before god that they would
buy no desired item from Muslim shops.94
A similar handbill was titled ‘Message
from Mother-Cow: For the Protection of
the Cow, Buy Every Item from Hindus
Alone’.95 Both the handbills stated that
they should not only be read, but narrated
to others. In most of the villages of Faizabad,
letters were circulated claiming that an
‘akashvani’ had warned not to give charity
to Muslims, not to sell cattle to them and
to have no dealings with them.96 This
movement can be seen as a point of con-
vergence, where an emotional appeal and
economic logic combined.
This dual appeal could be seen else-
where. The language of cow protection
could transcend barriers and stereotypes of
modes of communication and language.
The movement could with equal ease adopt
an attacking, aggressive, ‘masculine’ lan-
guage on the one hand and on the other
take on the mode of ‘soft’ poems, bhajans,
requests and tears, ‘feminising’ its appeal
and address. A poem ran:
Aansoon baha rahi hain, dukhia ho hai
Sansar palti hain, bharat ki hain ye maiya.
(The cows are shedding tears in their
sadness. They nourish the world, they are
the mothers of India.)97
At the same time, the appeals for the
protection of the cow were addressed by
and to Hindu men, largely of upper castes,
and later extending to intermediate castes,
especially the yadavs. The intermediate
castes ‘used’ the movement to fulfil their
own caste dynamics and needs. It largely
addressed a differentiated Hindu commu-
nity. A significant feature of the movement
was that it led to an ‘entente’ between the
publicists of Arya Samaj, Sanatan Dharma
Sabhas and other Hindu bodies. Its leaders
were mostly brahmin officials, schoolmas-
ters or pleaders, and its main adherents in
1893-94 were the Hindu trading and bank-
ing classes, with several prominent rajas
Economic and Political Weekly November 10, 2001 4297
giving their support.98 Between 1910-13,
the leading enthusiasts of the movement
in UP were Suraj Parshad, a brahmin of
Kanpur, Awadh Behari Lal, a bania of
Mainpuri, Gauri Shankar of Allahabad,
Maheshanand of Moradabad, Swami
Atmanand of Jalaun and Bhagwan Das of
Haridwar. All of them gave extensive
lectures and distributed pamphlets and
booklets.99 ‘Snowball letters’, using a
gendered imagery, became a significant
feature of the propaganda. The sin of incest
was constantly evoked in many of the
‘patias’, addressed to men.100 The cow as
mother was not so useful in her own right,
but her utility rested precisely in producing
a body of brave and strong men who could
build and defend the nation.101 Thus the
responsibility for her protection also rested
on them.
Prati varsh ghat rahi hain, kuch hain bachi
Kyon dhyan ho na dete? hokar kathor
(Every year they decrease and only a few
are left. Brothers why don’t you pay at-
tention to them and become strict?)102
Or went another:
Mard unhi ko janen hum jo rakshak hain
gau mata ke.
(We consider as men only those who are
the protectors of mother cow.)103
Often the cow herself was personified
and her condition lamented; the Aryan
race was called to come to her protection,
just as sons arise in defence of their
mother.104 At the same time, these strong
men were not identified with all Hindus.
It was emphasised that for the protection
of Gau Mata, each household had every
day to contribute from its food supply one
‘chutki’, equivalent to one paise, per mem-
ber, and that the eating of food without
setting apart the ‘chutki’ was an offence
equal to that of eating a cow’s flesh.
However, the very same rules also stated
no cow was to be sold to a chamar, nat
or banjara, and that a chamar was not to
be employed to look after cows.105 This
was an indicator of the movement’s arti-
ficiality in a sense, in that it made implicit
divisions between Hindus. But it was also
perhaps another reason for the potency of
the symbol of Gau Mata, which could
divert attention from such divisions on
the ground.
Cow imagery was also important be-
cause of cow’s association with domesti-
city. She was seen as a foster-mother, and
an integral part of India’s family.106 Like
the woman at home, the cow was a
‘domestic animal’, and both the woman
at home and the domestic cow proved
potent mothers. Like the women’s breasts,
cows’ udders were a metonym for nour-
ishment and livelihood. Milk flowed from
both and both signified a domestic space
where no outside invasion or penetration
could be tolerated. In fact, the cow was
even better than the woman, as she could
not think, speak, argue or write, and ac-
cepted her domestic status without any
protest. The cow’s dumbness and mute-
ness were repeatedly emphasised,107 as
they made her body even more sacred than
the real, physical, birth-giving mother. It
was a body one could easily love and be
devoted to. She could be possessed and
protected. One could easily kill and die for
her, sharpening the lines between Hindus
and British, Hindus and Muslims. The
British and the Muslims, it was said, had
not only increased the suffering of the
Hindu people, and invaded their private
space, but dispossessed them of their chief
wealth, the cow. The cow protection move-
ment thrived on this crisis – in family and
domestic space, in health and well-being
of the nation. The mother cow symbolised
their sorrows and hopes, and gave a sanc-
tity to family, community and the nation.
In UP, as many places elsewhere, icons
of motherhood underwent a reworking and
a rearticulation. The nation’s map, Hindi
language and the cow were issues in their
own right, performing separate functions.
However, the metaphor of mother gave
them a deeper meaning, and was used in
all to send distinct messages, also reveal-
ing a deep paradox. Bharat Mata no longer
signified simply an allegorical country or
a birthplace, but took the shape of a geo-
graphical genealogy – physically bounded,
with specific location. Her outlines and
borders were marked and defined, and the
female figure herself became less promi-
nent. Similarly, Matri Bhasha in the form
of Khari Boli Hindi at one level used the
metaphor of origin and nurture through
the emotional icon of mother, wife and
daughter. At the same time, it condemned
languages for their effeminacy. Instead, it
found a masculine language much more
appealing and useful to represent its as-
pirations and to uphold the nation. Gau
Mata was an important symbol, whose
emotional appeal was intensified by eco-
nomic arguments, turning it into a material
symbol for a strong nation of Hindu men.
There were some similarities between
all these images. The use of gender icons
and symbols, particularly of the mother,
offered a combination of traditional and
modern. The symbol of mother was espe-
cially effective because it was imprecise
and malleable and could take on different
meanings in different contexts. The lan-
guage of motherhood evoked various re-
productive relationships, while being
simultaneously disembodied and limited
in meaning. The maternal metaphor was
constantly evoked for designing the nation,
even if it often remained a bodyless and
a wordless feminine body, taking the shape
of maps, masculine gendered words or
statistical figures. The nomenclature of
‘mother’, applied in different situations
and even in areas where not explicitly
needed, reinforces the extent to which the
symbolic (and actual) roles of women
mattered in the construction of a Hindu
nationalist identity.
[The paper is a part of a larger work on ‘Obscenity,
Sexuality, Community: Gender and Hindu Identity
in Late Colonial North India’, which is to published
as a book by Permanent Black, Delhi. I am grateful
to Peter Robb and Chris Bayly for their comments
on the paper.]
1 George L Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality:
Respectability and Abnormal Sexuality in
Modern Europe (New York, 1985); Andrew
Parker et al, ‘Introduction’, in Andrew Parker,
Mary Russo, Doris Sommer and Patricia Yaeger
(eds), Nationalisms and Sexualities (New York,
1992), pp 5-12; Afsaheh Najmabadi, ‘The
Erotic Vatan (homeland) as Beloved and
Mother: To Love, To Possess, and To Protect’,
Comparative Studies in Society and History,
39, 3 (July 1997), pp 442-67; Barbara Einhorn,
‘Introduction: Links across Difference, Gender,
Ethnicity and Nationalism’, Women’s Studies
International Forum, 19, 1/2 (January-April
1996), pp 1-3; Nira Yuval-Davis, Gender and
Nation (London, 1997).
2 This is a common imagery deployed in many
regions, especially in assertions of nationalism.
For example, see Obioma Nnaemeka (ed), The
Politics of (M)Othering: Womanhood, Identity
and Resistance in African Literature (London,
1997); Saraswati Sunindyo, ‘When the Earth
is Female and the Nation is Mother: Gender,
the Armed Forces and Nationalism in
Indonesia’, Feminist Review, 58 (Spring 1998),
pp 1-21; C L Innes, ‘Virgin Territories and
Motherlands: Colonial and Nationalist Repre-
sentations of Africa and Ireland’, Feminist
Review, 47 (Summer 1994), pp 1-14.
3 Tanika Sarkar, ‘Nationalist Iconography: Image
of Women in Nineteenth Century Bengali
Literature’, Economic and Political Weekly
(henceforth EPW), 22, 47 (November 21,
1987), pp 2011-15; Jasodhar Bagchi,
‘Representing Nationalism: Ideology of
Economic and Political Weekly November 10, 2001
Motherhood in Colonial Bengal’, EPW, 25,
42-43 (20-27 October 1990), WS-65-71; Indira
Chowdhury Sengupta, ‘Mother India and
Mother Victoria: Motherhood and Nationalism
in Nineteenth Century Bengal’, South Asia
Research, 12 (1992); Samita Sen, ‘Motherhood
and Mothercraft: Gender and Nationalism in
Bengal’, Gender and History, 5, 2 (Summer
1993), pp 231-43; Sugata Bose, ‘Nation as
Mother: Representations and Contestations of
‘India’ in Bengali Literature and Culture’, in
Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal (eds),
Nationalism, Democracy and Development:
State and Politics in India (Delhi, 1997),
pp 50-75.
4 Sumathi Ramaswamy, ‘En/gendering
Language: The Poetics of Tamil Identity’, Com-
parative Studies in Society and History, 35,
4 (October 1993), pp 683-725; idem, Passions
of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil
India, 1891-1970 (Berkeley, 1997), pp 97-
5 Swami Shraddhanand, Hindu Sangathan:
Saviour of the Dying Race (np, 1926), pp 140-
41. The book ends with these lines.
6 Sarkar, ‘Nationalist’, pp 2011-15; Bose,
‘Nation’, pp 50-75.
7 For example, the cover of Saraswati, 2, 1 (July
1938) had a picture called ‘Bharat Mata’, in
which was shown a sad woman, who appeared
a widow. She wore no jewellery and had a son
sitting on her lap and a daughter nearby, who
looked equally sad. A magazine contained an
allegorical article in which India was repre-
sented as a mother weeping over the loss of
her once renowned children and deploring
their degradation, Vasundhara, May 1907,
Native Newspaper Reports of the United
Provinces of Agra and Oudh (henceforth NNR),
1 June 1907, p 663. The statue of Bharat Mata
as a symbol of love for country and unity was
incorporated in the Ramlila procession at
Allahabad from the early 20th century,
Harimohandas Tandon, ‘Ankahi Kahani Pajwa
Ramlila Ki’, in Mahant Baba Hathiram, Pajwa
Ramlila Committee Smarika, No 1 (Allahabad,
1980), p 19.
8 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities:
Reflections on the Origins and Spread of
Nationalism (London, 1983), pp 163-85;
Matthew H Edney, Mapping an Empire: The
Geographical Construction of British India,
1765-1843 (Chicago, 1997).
9 David Harvey, The Condition of Post-
modernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of
Cultural Change (Oxford, 1980), pp 245-52.
10 For a sketch of his life, see Shivprasad Gupt,
‘Sankshipt Atmkatha’, in Rameshchandra
Tiwari and Krishnanath (eds), Kashi Vidya-
peeth Hirak Jayanti Abhinandan Granth
(Varanasi, 1983), pp 85-88; Vinaykumar
Sarkar, ‘Rastraratn Shri Shivprasad Gupt’ and
Indr Vidyavachaspati, ‘Swargiya Shivprasad
Gupt’, in Krishnanath (ed), Rashtraratn
Shivprasad Gupt (Varanasi, 1971), pp 53-61
and 62-68 respectively.
11 Interview with Dudh Nath Chaturvedi, ex vice
chancellor, Kashi Vidyapeeth, at Banaras on
February 18, 1998.
12 Interview with Prakasa by H D Sharma on
December 18, 1967, Oral History Transcript,
No 103, p 30 (Nehru Memorial Museum and
Library, New Delhi) (henceforth NMML).
13 Shivprasad Gupt, ‘Shri Bharat Mata Mandir’,
in Krishnanath (ed), Rashtraratn, pp 109-11.
Parts published in Hindi Pracharak, 14, 11
(November 1936), pp 229-31.
14 Names of sculptors mentioned inside the
15 Photographs in Ravi Prakash Pandey (ed),
Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth –
Kaustubh Jayanti, Kaustubh Granth (Varanasi,
16 Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Bharat Mata Mandir’, in
Tiwari and Krishnanath (eds), Kashi, p 387.
17 Interview with Shyamdas Singh, at Banaras
on February 18, 1998. He works at the temple
since 1968, and before him, his father and
grandfather looked after the temple. Today the
temple is not really a place of worship and has
more of a historic value. ‘Puja’ is held in the
temple on January 26 and August 15.
18 Poem is just placed inside the temple.
19 Aaj, October 25, 1936.
20 Kavivar ‘Chanchrik’, Gram Geetanjali
(Gorakhpur, 1938, 3rd edn), p 26.
21 Gupt, ‘Shri’, p 111; Gopal Shastri ‘Darshan-
Keshari’, ‘Shri Shivprasad Guptasy Krityani’,
in Tiwari and Krishnanath (eds), Kashi, p 101.
22 Daud Ali, ‘From Bhudevi to Bharatmata:
Fragments in the History of Place and Patri-
archy’, unpublished paper.
23 Ali, ‘Bhudevi’.
24 Gupt, ‘Shri’, pp 109-11.
25 Gupt, ‘Shri’, p 109.
26 Lise McKean, Divine Enterprise: Gurus and
the Hindu Nationalist Movement (Chicago,
1996), pp 146-57, 286-89; idem, ‘Bharat Mata:
Mother India and her Militant Matriots’ in
John S Hawley and Donna M Wuff (eds),
Devi: Goddesses of India (Berkeley, 1996),
pp 250-280.
27 Surjit Hans, ‘The Metaphysics of Militant
Nationalism’ in Alok Bhalla and Sudhir
Chandra (eds), Indian Responses to Colonial-
ism in the Nineteenth Century (New Delhi,
1993), p 193.
28 Tanika Sarkar, ‘Educating the Children of the
Hindu Rashtra: Notes on RSS Schools’, in
Praful Bidwai, Harbans Mukhia and Achin
Vanaik (eds), Religion, Religiosity and
Communalism (New Delhi, 1996), pp 237-48.
29 Suniti Kumar Chatterji, Languages and
Literatures of Modern India (Calcutta, 1963);
Amrit Rai, A House Divided: The Origin and
Development of Hindi-Urdu (Delhi, 1984);
Krishna Kumar, Political Agenda of Edu-
cation: A Study of Colonialist and Nationalist
Ideas (New Delhi, 1991); Christopher R. King,
One Language, Two Scripts: The Hindi
Movement in Nineteenth Century North India,
(Bombay, 1994).
30 In the process King challenges the position of
Amrit Rai and the earlier one of Suniti Kumar
Chatterji, who consider Urdu a significant
deviation in the Indian language tradition, and
regard it as divisive and parochial.
31 Kumar, Political, pp 125-27; idem, ‘Hindu
Revivalism and Education in North-Central
India’ in Martin E Marty and R Scott Appleby
(eds), Fundamentalisms and Society:
Reclaiming the Sciences, the Family, and
Education (Chicago, 1993), pp 536-57.
32 King, One, pp 33-41; Shitikanth Mishra,
Khariboli ka Andolan, (Kashi, 1956); Naresh
Prasad Bhokta, ‘Marginalisation of Popular
Languages and Growth of Sectarian Education
in Colonial India’, in Sabyasachi Bhattacharya
(ed), The Contested Terrain: Perspectives
on Education in India (New Delhi, 1998),
pp 201-17; Mohammad Hasan, Thought
Patterns of Nineteenth Century Literature of
North India, (Pakistan, 1990).
33 Manoranjan Prasad, Rashtriya Murali (Kashi,
1922), p 51. Also see Bharat Jiwan, March
28, 1892, p 3.
34 Jagannarayan Dev Sharma ‘Pushkar’, Hindu
Gayan, Part I (Banaras, 1927).
35 Maithilisharan Gupt, Padya Prabandh, Part
I (Prayag, 1912), pp 66-68; Mahavir Prasad
Dwivedi Rachnavali, Vol 13, ed and comp
Bharat Yayavar (New Delhi, 1995), p 53.
36 In the context of Tamil language a similar
point has been made elsewhere, see Rama-
swamy, Passions. Oriya language was also
viewed as under threat in this period, not just
from its own degeneration, but also from outside
forces, Pragati Mohapatra, ‘The Making of a
Cultural Identity: Language, Literature and
Gender in Orissa in late Nineteenth and Early
Twentieth Centuries’, unpublished PhD thesis
(SOAS, University of London, 1997).
37 Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi Rachnavali, Vol 1,
p 65.
38 Chandrikaprasad Tripathi, ‘Shikshalayon mein
Hindi ke Dwara Shiksha Dene ki Avashyakta’,
Saraswati, 17, 1 (July 1916), p 55.
39 Kashi Nagari Pracharini Sabha, Hindi Kya
Hai (Banaras, 1900), pp 1-2.
40 Dhirendra Varma, Hindi Bhasha ka Itihas
(Allahabad, 1933); Babu Ram Saksena,
Evolution of Avadhi (A Branch of Hindi)
(Allahabad, 1937).
41 King, One, pp 135-37, 173.
42 Christopher R King, ‘Images of Virtue and
Vice: The Hindi-Urdu Controversy in Two
Nineteenth-Century Hindi Plays’ in Kenneth
W Jones (ed), Religious Controversy in British
India: Dialogues in South Asian Languages
(Albany, 1992), pp 124-47. The two plays
analysed here are Pandit Gauri Datta, Nagari
aur Urdu ka Swang (Meerut?, 1883-1900)
and Munshi Sohan Prasad, Hindi aur Urdu
Ki Larai. (Gorakhpur, 1884). Of the latter, I
saw a 2nd edn of 1929.
43 Vasudha Dalmia, The Nationalisation of Hindu
Traditions: Bharatendu Harischandra and
Nineteenth-Century Banaras (Delhi, 1997).
44 Kumar, Political, p 129; Krishna Kumar,
‘Quest for Self-Identity: Cultural Conscious-
ness and Education in Hindi Region, 1880-
1950’, EPW, 25, 23 (9 June 1990), p 1248;
Madhu Kishwar, ‘Arya Samaj and Women’s
Education: Kanya Mahavidyalaya , Jalandhar’,
EPW, 21, 17 (26 April 1986), WS-9-24.
45 Karine Schomer, Mahadevi Varma and the
Chhayavad Age of Modern Hindi Poetry
(Berkeley, 1983), pp 152-53.
46 Satyavati Devi, ‘Striyon ko Kaisi Shiksha aur
Sahitya ki Avashyakta Hai’, Madhuri, 10, 1,
6 (January 1932), p. 788; Ved Prakash, April
1907, NNR, 11 May 1907, p 564.
47 N Gupta, ‘A National Literature for Hindu-
stan’, Kayastha Samachar, 4, 1 (July 1901),
pp 25-26.
48 Manohar Lal Zutshi, ‘A National Literature
for Hindustan: A Rejoinder’, Kayastha
Samachar, 4, 6 (December 1901), p 501.
49 Zutshi, ‘Rejoinder’, p 501.
Economic and Political Weekly November 10, 2001 4299
50 Zutshi, ‘Rejoinder’, p 504.
51 Shivprasad, Memorandum Court Character
in the Upper Provinces of India (Banaras,
1868), p 1.
52 M M Malaviya, Court Character and Primary
Education in the North Western Provinces
and Oudh (Allahabad, 1897).
53 Bharat Sudasha Pravartak, May-June 1900,
NNR, 26 June 1900, p 323.
54 Saraswati, 17, 2 (February 1916), p 139.
55 G A Grierson, The Modern Vernacular
Literature of Hindustan (Calcutta, 1889),
p 107.
56 Mishra, Khariboli, p 5.
57 For details of debate between Braj Bhasha and
Khari Boli, see Mishra, Khariboli; King, One,
pp 33-37.
58 Dalmia, Nationalisation, p 247.
59 King, One.
60 Harprakash Gaur, Saraswati aur Rashtriya
Jagran (New Delhi, 1983); Lalit Mohan
Awasthi, Khari Boli Hindi ka Samajik Itihas
(Bombay, 1977), p 243-44.
61 Letter by Grierson to Ayodhya Singh
Upadhyaya, 24 June 1915, Linguistic Survey
of India Records c 1900-c 1930, S/1/5/7 (India
Office Library and Records, London).
62 Correspondence regarding Hindi Poetry, S/1/
63 Letter from Dwivedi to Grierson, 10 June
1907, Cawnpore, S/1/5/4.
64 Lakshmidhar Bajpei (ed), Ekadesh Hindi
Sahitya Sammelan, Part II (Prayag, 1926), p 79.
65 King, One, p 36.
66 Dularelal Bhargav (ed), Sahitya Sumen
[collection of Essays by late Balkrishna Bhatt]
(Lucknow, 1937, 5th edn), p 23.
67 Quoted in King, One, p 36.
68 S/1/5/4.
69 Usha Mathur, Khari Boli Vikas ke Arambhik
Charan (Allahabad, 1990); Mishra, Khariboli,
70 Mishra, Khariboli, p 5.
71 Quoted in Mishra, Khariboli, pp 5-6.
72 Awasthi, Khari, pp 5-6.
73 Quoted in Mishra, Khariboli, p 245.
74 Pancham Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, Part I
(Lucknow, 1928, 2nd edn), p 31.
75 Interview with Kshem Chandra Sumen by
Hari Dev Sharma on 17 August 1971, Oral
History Transcript, No 210 (NMML).
76 Anand A Yang, ‘Sacred Symbol and Sacred
Space in Rural India: Community Mobilisation
in the “Anti-Cow Killing” Riot of 1893’,
Comparative Studies in Society and History,
22, 4 (October 1980), pp 576-96; Peter G Robb,
‘Officials and Non-officials as Leaders in
Political Agitations: Shahabad 1917 and Other
Conspiracies’ in B N Pandey (ed), Leadership
in South Asia (New Delhi, 1977), pp 179-210;
Peter Robb, ‘The Challenge of Gau Mata:
British Policy and Religious Change in India,
1880-1916’, Modern Asian Studies, 20, 2
(1986); G Pandey, ‘Rallying Round the Cow:
Sectarian Strife in the Bhojpuri Region, c
1888-1917’ in Ranajit Guha (ed), Subaltern
Studies II: Writings on South Asian History
and Society (Delhi, 1983), pp 60-129;
Gyanendra Pandey, The Construction of
Communalism in Colonial North India (Delhi,
1990), pp 162-200; Sandria B Freitag,
Collective Action and Community: Public
Arenas and the Emergence of Communalism
in North India (Berkeley, 1989), pp 148-74.
77 Sandria B Freitag, ‘Religious Rites and Riots:
From Community Identity to Communalism
in North India, 1870-1940’, PhD thesis
(University of California, Berkeley, 1980),
pp 126, 139.
78 Yang, ‘Sacred’, pp 582-87.
79 Peter van der Veer, Religious Nationalism:
Hindus and Muslims in India (Berkeley, 1994),
pp 86-99. His treatment is effective in high-
lighting the gendered imagery of the cow in
general terms. Nevertheless, in the specific
context of the cow protection movements of
this period, previous associations of cow with
mother were continuously shifted or
elaborated on.
80 Christopher Pinney, ‘The Nation (Un)Pictured?
Chromolithography and “Popular” Politics in
India, 1878-1995’, Critical Inquiry, 23
(Summer, 1997), pp 841-47; idem, ‘Indian
Magical Realism: Notes on Popular Visual
Culture’, in Gautum Bhadra, Gyan Prakash
and Susie Tharu (eds), Subaltern Studies X
(Delhi, 1999), pp 221-224, 230-33.
81 Pinney, ‘Nation’, pp 841-47.
82 210-213 and 2 KW/December 1893, Public,
A, Home Department (henceforth Home Deptt)
(National Archives of India) (henceforth NAI).
83 A number of handbills and pamphlets of this
kind were published and distributed in UP.
Ambika Dutt Vyas, Gausankat Drama, trans.
Shiv Nandan Sahai (Bankipore, 1886); Swami
Alaram Sanyasi, Bhajan Gauraksha Updesh
Manjari (Prayag, 1892); Badri Narayan,
Bhajan Gauraksha Gopal Darpan (Lucknow,
1917); Rameshwar Sharma, Gauraksha
Prachar Natak (Moradabad, 1919); Kriparam
Mishra ‘Manhar’, Gauraksha Prakash
(Moradabad, 1925); Ramsharan, Hindu ki Gai
(Banaras, 1927).
84 210-213 and 2 KW/December 1893, Public,
A, Home Deptt (NAI).
85 210-213 and 2 KW/December 1893, Public,
A, Home Deptt (NAI). Also mentioned in
309-414/January 1894, Public, B, Home
Deptt (NAI).
86 Veer, Religious, p 87.
87 Pandey, Construction, p 180.
88 100-102/May 1910, A, Home (Political)
Department (henceforth Home Poll) (NAI);
71-73/January 1912, A, Home Poll (NAI);
Pioneer, 31 October 1913; 5/10/1938, Home
Poll (NAI).
89 Manhar, Gauraksha, p 6.
90 Prayagnarayan Tiwari, ‘Gau Mata’, Adarsh
Hindu, 5, 1 (May 1926), p 32.
91 86-104/February 1912, B, Home Poll (NAI);
7-13/May 1912, B, Home Poll (NAI); 9/
December 1913, Deposit, Home Poll (NAI).
92 1-4/December 1913, A, Home Poll (NAI).
93 786/1922, Home Poll (NAI).
94 Gopal Das, Sri Ayodhyaji ki Sacchi Yatra
(Kashi, 1933?). Such derogatory terms were
constantly used against Muslims, especially
in cow protection propaganda.
95 Ayodhya Das, Gaumata ka Sandesh:
Gauraksharth Harek Vastu Hinduon se hi
Kharidiye (Kashi, 1933?).
96 1-4/December 1913, A, Home Poll (NAI).
97 Pushkar, Hindu, p 17. Also see Narayan,
Bhajan, pp 7, 9, 28.
98 309-414/January 1894, Public, B, Home Deptt
99 1-4/December 1913, A, Home Poll (NAI).
100 Pandey, Communalism, p 185.
101 Achalram Maharaj, Hindu Dharma Rahasya
(Agra, 1939, 2nd edn), p 255.
102 Pushkar, Hindu, p 17.
103 Sanyasi, Bhajan, p 8.
104 Jagatnarayan, ‘Gaupukar’, Gaudharma
Prakash 1, 5 (December 1886), pp 2-6. This
was a monthly magazine published by
Haridwar Gaurakshini Sabha.
105 210-213 and 2 K W/December 1893, Public,
A, Home Deptt (NAI).
106 309-414/January 1894, Public, B, Home Deptt
107 Poem on the cover of Gaudharma Prakash,
1, 5 (December 1886); 71-73/January 1912,
A, Home Poll (NAI).
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... 4 The association between cows, Hindus, and nationalism was strengthened by the emergence, in the same period, of the mother-goddess Gau-Mata (Cow-Mother). Gau-Mata's iconic image-a white bejeweled cow, rounded body studded with Hindu deities-graced pamphlets and calendars distributed widely across northern India in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Gupta 2001;Pinney 2004). Gau-Mata came to stand as a symbol of Hindu (often collapsed with "Indian") community and nationhood alongside other maternal embodiments of "national territory," especially the goddess Bharat Mata, or India Mother (Ramaswamy 2010; cf. ...
... Gau-Mata came to stand as a symbol of Hindu (often collapsed with "Indian") community and nationhood alongside other maternal embodiments of "national territory," especially the goddess Bharat Mata, or India Mother (Ramaswamy 2010; cf. Gupta 2001;Pinney 2004). The guru's movement to have Gau-Mata constitutionally enshrined as Rashtra-Mata (Mother of the Nation) draws on precisely this century-old connection between the cow and the nation, even as it represents it as primordial. ...
... reached deeply into the Hindu psyche" in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The widespread circulation of images and texts that depicted the cow nourishing bovine and human (Hindu) children with her milk lent affective weight to claims that the "well-being of the Hindu nation" depended on the consumption of cow milk and ghee (Gupta 2001;Gould 2004). ...
This essay asks how conceptualizing love as work might provide a fresh perspective on love’s politics. In offering an ethnographic account of how love for Gau-Mata, the Cow-Mother of the idealized Hindu nation, fuels a right-wing Hindu nationalist politics of cow-protection in India’s central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, I suggest that the specific arrangements of labor through which affective attachments are organized critically shape the ethics and politics of love. More specifically, I depict how different kinds of situated labor produced varied kinds of love in the conjoined social worlds of right-wing gau-rakshaks (cow-protectionists) and rural women dairy farmers in Uttarakhand. For these social actors, genuine love for the cow manifested in a willingness to labor for her. Yet their understandings of what this loving labor entailed differed starkly. This article examines three distinct kinds of work—protection, service, and care-labor—that these actors variously undertook out of love for the cow. It traces how these different labors produced a varied set of relationships, affiliations, and obligations that crucially shaped the ethics and politics of love. Ultimately, I show, attending to the varied labors of love in situated social worlds reveals how love can condition a variety of often conflicting political and ethical possibilities, working simultaneously as a force of transcendence, fascist violence, and repair.
... Le mouvement nationaliste a aussi encouragé la production littéraire « moderne » dans les langues vernaculaires, sous couvert d'authenticité culturelle, d'accès des oeuvres au plus grand nombre et au titre de la résistance au colonisateur 40 . La langue maternelle symbolisait aussi la « mère », métaphore féminine pour désigner la nation 41 : une manière, pour la littérature, de participer au projet nationaliste (Gupta, 2001). En effet, des années 1850 au début du 20 e siècle, progressistes puis 39 « Becoming absorbed in these worlds helped Zakira Begamas it did other young girls of her time and place to construct a sense of the kind of person she wanted to be and what she wanted to do with her life when she grew up. ...
... Les Indiennes nationalistes elles-mêmes adoptent ces métaphores familiales et se présentent comme les mères de la nation, s'assimilant à la mère-patrie. Cette conception de la maternité symbolique finit par devenir un trait caractéristique du nationalisme indien (Gupta, 2001 Dans la littérature du début du 20 e siècle, la portée croissante du courant nationaliste se traduit par la multiplication de romans où les personnages expriment leur fierté nationale. Ils sont souvent des héros de l'histoire indienne, magnifiés par ces oeuvres fictionnelles. ...
La thèse porte sur les lieux dans lesquels se fabriquent les identités féminines en Inde. La relation des femmes à l’espace souligne le caractère genré et genrant des lieux. La recherche, qui s’inscrit en géographie littéraire, prend pour terrain un corpus de six romans et douze nouvelles publiés par la maison d’édition féministe militante Zubaan. Ces œuvres sont écrites par des auteures indiennes contemporaines, donnant voix et visibilité à des femmes de différents milieux sociaux, religions et régions. Les fictions littéraires dépeignent la vie intime et le quotidien de femmes ordinaires, mères, filles, belles-mères, domestiques. Les personnages éclairent la question des identités féminines dont la profondeur et la complexité sont considérées ici au prisme des spatialités. En contre-point, la contrainte imposée par l’ordre patriarcal est omniprésente dans ces textes, régissant la vie des femmes dès leur naissance, dans le quotidien le plus banal et lors des étapes marquantes de l’existence. De la maison aux espaces collectifs, et dans la variété des situations sociales et spatiales, la pratique des lieux par les femmes est marquée par le contexte social et religieux des héroïnes, l’époque et l’effet de génération. Les normes spatiales de genre sont transmises et reproduites mais les femmes qui le peuvent négocient leur liberté de mouvement tandis que d’autres parviennent à s’échapper par le rêve ou des opportunités d’études et/ou d’emploi. L’identité de genre des héroïnes se construit ainsi par et avec l’espace. Des motifs spatiaux sont repérables : limites, plus ou moins explicites ou tangibles, spatialités statiques ou mobiles. Les récits dessinent une cartographie sensible des lieux féminins, portée par la multiplicité des points de vue et des situations.
... RSS's devotion to motherland/fatherland, and the provocative declarations of men's history and power to defend her, extend further to visualize rivers and places, animals and forests, as icons of mother. In metaphorical representations by Hindu nationalism in north India, the female body and the many faces of 'mother'-motherland, mother tongue, motherhood-have served as the most universal and potent symbols of imagining the nation (Gupta, 2001). Consequently, the icon of mother India enables Hindu nationalist parties to make specific claims regarding ownership of land, the exercise of sovereignty over it and legitimacy of rule (Ramaswamy, 2001). ...
This article analyses the environmental politics of Hindu nationalism in India after 2014, which is deeply enmeshed with aggressive nationalism. Taking as its case study articles, newspaper reports and visuals published in the Organiser, a leading magazine of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), it focuses on four ubiquitous environmental themes—imagination of a great Hindu motherland; icons of mother embodied in river and animal; climate change and renewable energy and the idealization of Prime Minister Modi as an environmental saviour—that are visible in its pages. Through these themes, India is projected as a great ancient ecological Hindu nation while hatred and violence are directed against ‘polluted’ Muslims. The ascendancy of Hindu nationalists to power since 2014 has indeed resulted in radical changes which have signalled multiple governmental ‘green’ initiatives and brought climate change and renewable energy to the centre stage. However, and as this article illustrates, these are couched in an optic of purity and pollution, as well as caste and religion, on the one hand, and mobilization of corporations and mega ‘clean’ industrial projects, on the other, which are propagated in the name of people, development and environment.
... but as a goddess is something exceptional, as we see in Dixit's writings. Worshiping Mother India as a goddess, the map of India as an embodiment of a female deity, building her temples, carving statues and printing posters of Mother India had become a common phenomenon in India (Gupta 2001Ramaswamy 1997) but acts such as regarding the language as a goddess were not so common in Nepal. Hindi nationalists often called Hindi a daughter of Sanskrit and Urdu her co-wife. ...
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This paper will focus on a 20th century Nepali intellectual, Ram Mani Acharya Dixit (1883–1972), and his trans-border activities for the promotion of the vernacular by investigating his integration of the progress of a language with his nation, his apotheosis of the vernacular and his devotion in strengthening prose writing for the sake of the development of the divine mother tongue. Foregrounding his linguistic activities such as writing, publishing and printing in Nepal and India, with Benares in particular, it will try to answer questions such as: What was the motivating factor that inspired him to write and publish in the Nepali language? Was he in any way influenced by the Hindi language movement that was at its peak in North India of the time? How influential was Dixit’s role in standardizing Nepali? Besides this Nepali language standardization concern, the paper will also examine Dixit’s idea of serving mother, motherland, mother tongue and [Hindu] religion through service to a language.
Drawing on approaches from the history of emotions, Eve Tignol investigates how they were collectively cultivated and debated for the shaping of Muslim community identity and for political mobilisation in north India in the wake of the Uprising of 1857 until the 1940s. Utilising a rich corpus of Urdu sources evoking the past, including newspapers, colonial records, pamphlets, novels, letters, essays and poetry, she explores the ways in which writing took on a particular significance for Muslim elites in North India during this period. Uncovering different episodes in the history of British India as vignettes, she highlights a multiplicity of emotional styles and of memory works, and their controversial nature. The book demonstrates the significance of grief as a proactive tool in creating solidarities and deepens our understanding of the dynamics behind collective action in colonial north India.
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Nineteenth-century colonial jurists, sociologists, and Indian nationalists revived the ancient Indian legal concept of rakshasa marriage by bride capture after vanquishing her kinsmen, which the Hindu “lawgiver” Manu condemned but permitted to the warrior caste alone. Only the Kshatriyas, India's designated sovereigns, could break patriarchal and brahmanical authority in this way. But rakshasa marriage was also identified with the demon Ravana, who abducted Sita in the epic Ramayana , and with Hindu nationalism's Muslim enemy. Preoccupied with the loss of kshatriyahood, Hindu nationalism uniquely premised sovereignty on the power to dispossess enemy Fathers of their women: from Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay's celebration of epic hero Arjuna and Krishna's own rakshasa marriages, to the appropriation of this supposedly Muslim method by the architect of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883–1967). Transcending the “sexual contract” in the Indian case, rakshasa marriage's association of bride capture and miscegenation with sovereignty sheds new light on gendered Partition violence, beyond brahmanical notions of (defiled) purity and honor.
This article focuses on the Health and Child Welfare Exhibition held in colonial Calcutta in 1920. Despite a few scholarly references, however, there has been no detailed study till date. The vicereines of India launched child welfare exhibitions motivated by the transnational exhibitory baby health week propaganda initiative to curb infant mortality. These exhibitions were also locally organised and collaborative in nature with an urgent nationalist appeal. The study critically engages with select Exhibition lectures about so-called ‘clean’ midwifery and ‘scientific’ motherhood given by famous Bengali medical practitioners and other prominent professionals, predominantly men and a few women. These drew intimate sociobiological connections between the problems of ‘dirty’ midwifery, ritual pollution, improper confinement, insanitary childbirth, insufficient lactation and the excessive maternal and infant deaths in Calcutta. The central argument is that these public lectures primarily focused on the very making of the ‘ideal’ Indian nursing mother, often imagined as the traditional yet modern bhadramahila mother figure, for rejuvenating community and national health and vigour. Correspondingly, it highlights the transnational resonance of famous Frederic Truby King’s ‘mothercraft’ popularised as childcare by the clock. The paper is, therefore, guided by the twin purposes of filling the gap in our knowledge about child welfare exhibitions in colonial India and illuminating extant scholarship on the global infant welfare movement.
'Imagined Communities' examines the creation & function of the 'imagined communities' of nationality & the way these communities were in part created by the growth of the nation-state, the interaction between capitalism & printing & the birth of vernacular languages in early modern Europe.
From James Rennell's survey of Bengal (1765-71) to George Everest's retirement in 1843 as surveyor general of India, geography served in the front lines of the British East India Company's territorial and intellectual conquest of South Asia. In this history of the British surveys of India, focusing especially on the Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS) undertaken by the Company, the author relates how imperial Britain employed modern scientific survey techniques not only to create and define the spatial image of its Indian empire but also to legitimate its colonialist activities as triumphs of liberal, rational science bringing 'civilization' to irrational, mystical, and despotic Indians. The reshaping of cartographic technologies in Europe into their modern form at the beginning of the nineteenth century, played a key role in the use of the GTS as an instrument of British cartographic control over India. The success of these new techniques in mapping British India depended on the character of the East India Company as a gatherer and controller of information, on its patronage system, and on the working conditions of surveys in the field. Drawing on a wealth of data from the Company's vase archives, the author shows how these institutional constraints undermined the GTS and destabilized this high point of Victorian science to the point of reducing it to 'cartographic anarchy'. Thus, although the GTS served at the time to legitimate British rule in India, its failure can now be seen as a metaphor for British India itself; an outward veneer of imperial potency covering an uncertain and ultimately weak core.