A scholarly work on early Indian influence in South-east Asia
Early Interactions Between South and Southeast Asia: Reflections as a Cross-Cultural Exchange, Pierre-Yves Manguin, A. Mani and Geoff Wade (Eds.), Manohar Boooks, Pp 514 (HB), Rs 2,750.00
This book, an outcome of 23 papers presented at a conference in Singapore in November 2007 on ‘Early Indian Influences in Southeast Asia’, focuses on the ways in which Asian polities and societies interacted over the centuries in past. As many as 27 authors carried out research on the interactions between Southeast Asia and South Asia in the period between 500 BCE and CE 500. The introductory chapter is given by PY Manguin while the remaining chapters in the volume are divided into sections with 10 papers in Part I relating to the new archaeological evidence from South Asia and Southeast Asia based on archaeological evidence unearthed on both sides of the Bay of Bengal in recent years, while Part II comprising 13 papers addresses the issue of localisation of South Asian cultures in Southeast Asia.
In Part I, Lam Thi My Dzung presents an overview of the archaeological cultures in Central Vietnam during the period from 500 BCE to CE 500; the transition process in Central Vietnam from Sa Huynh to Champa as are reflected in the archaeological sites and artefacts and the discussion for the delimitation of this early historic period and the so-called Sinicisation, Indianisation and the impact of indigenous elements. This paper shows that beginning from the early centuries of the Common Era, Brahmin priests, Buddhist monks, scholars and artisans introduced into Southeast Asia indigenous artefacts by Indian merchants. He clarifies, “I argue that the spread of goods and culture from India and China reflected the grafting of Indian and Chinese commerce on to a pre-existing infrastructure of Southeast Asian networks.”
Ian C Glover and Berenica Bellina say that excavations at Khao Sam Kaeo yielded evidence of agate and carnelian ornaments were made with the most skilful Indian manufacturing techniques and correspond to the most sophisticated production even rare in India. The presence of metallic vessels and hard stone and glass ornaments, some of which suggest to the authors that dynamic regional networks had established and sustained relationships with the Indian subcontinent as early as the 4th-2nd centuries BCE.
Phaedra Borvet says trans-Asian trade in ceramics made in the Indian subcontinent as early as the 4th-2nd centuries BCE and that to establish the borrowing of stylistic Bengalese outlines and of an Indian technique to some of KSK’s local predictions and the circulation of Indian craftsmen and potters in the Thai peninsula, during the same period.
Boonyarit Chaisuwan says that the Andaman Coast in southern Thailand had trade links with Indian merchants who distributed not only Indian goods but Roman products and items that imitated the original Roman goods. The Roman items came to Southeast Asia because at that time the Romans had already founded many trading stations in India. Phu Khao Thong in Thailand was an important bead-manufacturing site and many artefacts display overseas contact, especially with India. Among the notable artefacts is a rock crystal lion pendant (which was also found in Taxila), inscribed shards in both Tamil-Brahmi and Brahmi scripts related to the 2nd-4th centuries CE.
Similarly artifacts and other evidences have been found in West Java, in Sumatra, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand to show Indian influence.
These new studies as seen through the papers presented by scholars emphasise the influence of Indian cultural elements in Southeast Asia in respect of artistic, architectural, linguistic and religious attributes as they crossed the Bay of Bengal to reach the shores of Southeast Asia.
(Manohar Publishers and Distributors, 4753/23, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002; www.manoharbooks.com).
Snippets from real life
Visiting Old Friends: A Study in Remembrance, Margaret Chatterjee, Promilla & Co., Publishers, Pp 50, Rs 150.00
The book carries snippets about the life and work of eight friends of the author and who hailed from countries as varied as South Africa, Australia, Germany, Greece, England, Russia and America.
Margaret talks nostalgically about Fr. MacLean of USA and how he showed her around the city – the Potomac and the surrounding areas – where he belonged. As he suffers from a particular form of illness, he stays near a hospital. In between the treatment and during the periods of remission, he does move about a little, but this period is getting less and less, yet his “spirit will never come to an end” but inspire others, says Margaret.
The others Margaret mentions include Merietta T. Stepaniants, a Russian professor at Diplomatic Academy and recipient of the UNESCO chair in philosophy, who has many publications to her credit and believes, “A civilisation without violence is an ideal towards which we are called upon to march untiringly; a lighthouse illuminating the path, lest mankind perish in darkness.”
Though the sketches are very personal, the style of writing is incisive and enjoyable to read who admire good English language.
(Promilla & Co., Publishers, C-127 Sarvodaya Enclave, New Delhi-110 017; www.biblioasia.com).
Cast in village caste, power politics
Tales of a Wasteland, Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu’, Global Vision Press, Pp 480, Rs 495.00
This story is set in village Paranpur where caste politics has gained strong footing. Political parties too consider it right to organise themselves along caste lines. All is fair in power politics.
Here is located the old haveli of Paranpur Estate built by Shivendra Mishra who had prayed to Mother Tara to make him “from a pattanidar to zemindar, from zemindar to Rajah, from Rajah to Maharajah”, but she did not hear his prayers. He remained a pattanidar and died as one.
In this village lives Tajmani, a little girl belonging to the lower caste, who goes to attend the annual village fair where her bullock-cart is declared the winner in the race of bullock carts. A young boy named Jeet, who also happens to be a descendant of Shivendra Mishra, also participates in the same race, but loses and cries on losing to her. She reprimands him, “What a boy! You’ve grown so big and you cry because your bullocks have lost?”
When they grow up, they become close friends. Jitendranath Mishra or Jittan Babu as the young boy is now called on growing up, the lamp of the family, has returned home after ten to fifteen years’ absence. He has some wasteland left with him with a large portion of 1,200 bighas of it acquired by the government, much to his chagrin. Meanwhile his proximity to Tajmani raises many eyebrows in the village and all kinds of gossip starts making the rounds. They believe that Tajmani’s nose-ring has been removed by Jittan Babu, meaning that she has become his mistress. They whisper that just because she has done so, she has started looking down upon others from the low caste. A villager says scathingly, “She’s become a Brahmini. What airs!” Another says, “She tries to stir up the fear of the haveli! Jittan Babu is a Babu in his own home. Let him keep his nattin in his haveli.”
Unperturbed at all the talk, Tajmani blatantly begins to live in Jittan Babu’s haveli and soon discovers that he is in dire circumstances money-wise and this becomes obvious when Jittan Babu says that he will give up consuming milk and milk products and his drinks in order to do penance and save money. Tajmani persuades him not to inflict injury upon his body and offers to help him out.
The book presents the trials and travails of villagers, the poor and the not-so-poor. Life throbs and pulsates through each page. On its broad canvas, the life of two generations is inimitably presented to create unforgettable characters through episodes and dialogues in an idiom that reveal the well-known author’s power over words. ‘Renu’ raises a deeply moving cry against an unjust social order coupled with compassion for man; his freedom from bitterness against the establishment and his love of common humanity. His story is supported through creation of a half a dozen powerful living authentic figures with whom he peoples his world and sets against the wasteland perpetrated by Nature on man. It is this that sets him apart as a major creative genius.
(Global Vision Press, 4855/24, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002)
A moving tale of unrequited love
Ten Days: The Hope of a New Dawn, Azharuddin, General Press, Pp 184, Rs 125.00
This is the story of an ordinary guy named Zeeshan Akhtar, who harbours extraordinary dreams. It is through this protagonist that the author endeavours, in this first novel of his, to portray the similarities in the lives of the young generation in a developing country, where often the dreams and aspirations of the youth get thwarted by society owing to jealousy or antagonism.
Zeeshan leaves his parents, sisters and girlfriend Ria Dutta behind in India to go and study at Sydney in Australia, where he bears the brunt of mindless racist attack. When he first lands in this country, he has not even the wildest dreams thought that things would take such a downturn. He is admitted to Epworth Hospital where an Australian journalist named Amanda Stewart is deputed to interview this victim of the racial riots.
Zeeshan, while lying in bed, goes back to high school days as he is reminded of his Grade XII days when he is deputed to organise the freshers’ party to welcome the Grade XI students. He asks Ria Dutta to assist him on the podium. Gradually they draw close and decide to get married when he returns from Australia.
Amanda meanwhile, tries to extract as much information as she can about his life, peeling off layer after layer of his life to make him realise his shortcomings, loopholes, desires and dreams and this serves as his life saviour as he is able to give vent to his feelings. After ten days of rigorous rehabilitation and cure, Zeeshan recovers and realises that he cannot return to India without seeing Armanda first. He locates her office but she refuses to see him because of what he had said to him when she had gone to see him. He leaves a message for her, telling her that he is leaving Australia for good and would like to see her once as he has something to tell her.
She goes to Epworth Hospital to see him but he has left for the airport by then. She rushes to the airport but is too weak-willed to face him. She hides behind the stalls because she does not want to create a scene and cry, beg and entreat to stop him from going. Slowly, the aircraft takes off, soaring high in the sky as she stands miles below, staring at it. “Both of them failed to say what they had in mind but in a way, it was good because the feeling of incompleteness would keep each other’s memory fresh in each one’s mind and what all happened Down Under.”
This is a moving story of unrequited love.
(General Press, 4228/1, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002; [email protected])