Bharat ki Chhap - Episode 9: Stagnation & a Changing World
Director: Chandita Mukherjee; Cinematographer: Ranjan Palit
Duration: 00:49:24; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 10.932; Saturation: 0.062; Lightness: 0.402; Volume: 0.236; Cuts per Minute: 7.185; Words per Minute: 77.114
Summary: This episode narrates the decline of science and the growing European interest in India. We travel to Jamasalaya in Gujarat, a ship-building port, where ships were made for European sea-faring in the 17th century. We understand the importance of the Renaissance in Europe, and its effects in Jaipur's Jantar Mantar (astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh). Finally, we head to Mysore, where we see a rebelling Tipu Sultan develops armaments and his defeat as the beginning of colonial rule.
Bharat ki Chhap:EPISODE 9
Stagnation and a Changing World (1600-1800 A.D.)
1. Shivaji Fort And The End Of Mughal Empire
This episode begins with a visit to Shivaji fort. This marks a time in our history of the breakup of the Mughal empire, and local principalities were being formed again as had happened earlier. This is also the time of the Bhakti movement and Tukaram, who talks about God in a direct and personal relation, not mediated by a Brahmin or a pundit who tells what ritual is to be performed, how much money should be given to ensure your place in heaven and so on. The Bhakti movement goes to almost all corners of India, and people are talking to god like to a parent, brother, sister, a child. This is completely new and a threat to the authority of upper caste people and the caste system itself.
People in the Bhakti movement also formed cohesive communities, where people helped each other and were not acrimonious or feudal. It wasn’t just about a poet and his lovely songs that became popular. It was about a community that gathered around this figure. Many of these movements across history have originated from the lower classes or castes, whether the Bhakti or Sufi movement, Purandaradasa or Guru Nanak all had origins as peasants, craftspeople or artists.
2. Sufi is now more associated with a musical genre rather than a movement, like sufi music or sufi rock. Even though it originated as a belief or a longing even. The dargahs in east Punjab that were abandoned during partition are now being taken care of by the dalits in the region; the poorest of the poor Hindus are tending to the dargahs now, singing qawalis and living there. In this scene the iconoclastic values of those in the Bhakti movement are being shown, their militant temperament of rebellion against the existing order.
In this period we find that any regional king challenging the centre won a place in the local people's hearts. Shivaji's fort here, Bhopalgarh - known today as Banurgarh - is not very famous. But it bordered the Bijapur kingdom and stories are still told of Shivaji's conflicts with Bijapur's Adil shahi rulers. Aurangzeb's last days saw the Mughal empire weaken. One cause - and also effect – was the growth of a number of regional movements. Shivaji, starting out as a small jagirdar,
swore to establish a Maratha kingdom. He encouraged a new sense of unity, in which language, religion and region were combined. Yet we can see in this a sort of nationalism,
for there was, then, no sense of unity at a national level. How ironical that today Shivaji is the ideal for those who sow discord among people in the name of language and religion.
This group is singing Tukaram's abhangs
(hymns). Tukaram was Shivaji's contemporary. His abhangs
in Marathi stressed equality and unity.
We devotees of Vishnu are soft as wax
But we can also be as hard as steel
To the good man we can give our all
But we can take the life of the one who heeds us not
It's significant how, besides love, and devotion, there is a militant spirit here as well. The Sufi and Bhakti traditions helped regional languages to grow, along with social awareness. Kabir, for instance, and Akho of Gujarat, said that Sanskrit could not serve to reach people. These bhaktas
(devotees) chose to write in their local languages. Most of them were non-brahman - Kabir was weaver, Tukaram a shopkeeper, in Mirabai's hymns we hear an oppressed woman's voice. Purandaradas, Nanak – all had peasant or artisan origins. Chaitanya's hymns in Bengal, the Gurbani
in Punjab, the rebellious Sufi writings - most literature of the time is religious. Many saints and pirs
advocated social reform. They opposed orthodoxy and casteism, and their following grew.
Nissim: In places, this awakening took a political form. The Maratha revolt was on; now the Bundelas, Jats, Sikhs, Afghans also took up arms. Aurangzeb and the later Mughal emperors had to face wars and rebellions on every side.
Maitreyi: This rampant division was to help the British greatly. Yet, when they first came here as traders, the Mughal empire was all-powerful, with Jehangir on the throne. The East India Co. Had not found it easy then to gain a foothold in Surat.
3. Noorjahan Ka Bhapka, or stories still missing from the archive:
In the process of shooting 12 episodes and one concluding episode, each of 50 minutes, we came across and heard of hundreds of things that we wanted to shoot. For this episode we had in fact shot an entire segment on Noorjahan ka bhapka but were unable to include it.
From an incidental mention of Noor Jehan ka bhapka we attempted to unravel the story of its origins and current use. Noor Jehan ka bhapka literally means the steam pot or bhaap or steam making pot of Noor Jehan. Seemingly Noor Jehan may have wanted her own source of income for her enjoyments and luxuries because she was not only an inventor of the bhapka but a shrewd businesswoman who used it to make money. The bhapka is a steam pot which technically can be described as a distillation device. It was used to extract many things from the rose. One is the ittar i.e. the oil of roses, then rose water which can be added to food, put in bathwater etc., gulkhand which is the jam made out of rose petals. The latter is made after the rose oil has been extracted and the remaining mass of rose residue is cooked with some gudh (jaggery). This also has a delightful smell is put in paan, or eaten with roti like murabba.
Surat, on the west coast, was the chief Mughal port, even before the European traders arrived. Situated south of the Tapti, it was directly linked to the western sea routes. Only a structure or two remains of the Portuguese, English and Dutch warehouses. One is now a school, another a rest-house.
And these ruins – the English EIC's first base in India. The East India Co. Was formed on the last day of 1600. The British needed an imperial firman
to trade in Surat, which the Portuguese did their best to prevent. It took twelve years of diplomatic effort for the British to achieve their goal.
Surat became the centre of British trade. The chief exports then were spices and indigo. Once the British and Dutch began to export textiles, that surpassed all other items. The growing demand in Europe led to a boom in textile production. Yet no improvements in technology took place. Many more artisans were called to Gujarat instead, and the work divided into stages - such as in the making of gold and silver threads. Besides, production was organised by middlemen. The profits went to them, and to the moneylenders. The artisans had no capital and were too poorly paid to introduce new techniques. The wealthy did not care to invest in such experiments
Their money was spent on rituals and charities.
European goods were not in demand in India, except from some objects of luxury. So our textiles and spices earned bullion in return - gold and silver from South American and African mines. For example, the bullion that came from England in 1680 alone, was worth more than £120,000! Our ancient trade with Rome was of this nature - then, too, our exports brought gold in return.
4. Ports And Routes Of this Time: The Ain-a-Akbari reveals in the atlas of Mughal empire that the only way to get to the West was Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh, to Surat and then across the sea. Similarly anyone coming to Agra or Delhi had to come via Surat, which was the big port while Bombay was still in the distant future.
Boatyards at Jam Salaya have existed for a really long time. These are boats made entirely built of wood and excepting for few iron nails and htings there is no metal in them so they cant be caught on radar. They can stealthily travel in the dark, and often the sailors on these boats use wind power and the sails rather than motor power. This is perhaps why the wooden boats of Jam Salaya are often used for smuggling as well in the contemporary.
The British also wanted large quantities of saltpetre, a mineral used in making gunpowder. The Mughals realised the inherent danger,
and banned saltpetre export. Why, then, were the British given other concessions? Our navigation and military technology were weak,
while The British had these advantages. The Mughals were forced to give in on some counts - paving the way for British rule in India. Ironically, many European ships were Indian-built!
Jam Salaya, Jamnagar, Gujarat
5. The Craft Of Boat Building
One remarkable aspect of science and technology in India is how it persisted even though there were often not textual records since crafts people were not always literate, or did not know how to make designs and maps. In this scene the master mistry Isaag Bhai is asked – what is your design or your drawing, on the basis of which you will build a large wooden ship. And he says the design is in my mind, when I saw the piece of wood then I meditated on the log and I knew what shape of boat would emerge.
The workers in the boatyard slice the wood according to his instructions and put it together. And this is Isaag Bhai’s skill, that by an unknown algorithm in his head he is able to convert a truckload of wooden logs into a boat. This is a kind of knowledge that is not shareable and can’t be recorded really, and so is often disregarded by scholars.
That Isaag Bhai can look at the logs and imagine a great big ‘brig’ or giant ship, is remarkable and is a form of knowledge that is hard to archive or even hold onto. He can’t abstract from this to other or all ship building tactics and therefore in a sense according to modern standards of science, he knows nothing. Even if it is actually a fairly complex series of things and acts that are being put together in his head. Perhaps the only corollary in the contemporary everyday is that of the blouse tailor who looks at the body of a woman, takes 16 different specific measurements and makes her a fitting blouse, as opposed to the standardized sizes of the west (size 0, 6 or 12).
Also how people put together mangalore tiles to make their roofs, or floor tilesin a specific pattern. There are several such similar examples of how knowledge and skills that are inarticulate or have not been articulated are infact part of the everyday fabric of science and technology in our lives.
Where can I find master-carpenter Isakbhai?
Amrita: So the work's going well!
Isakbhai: Yes, quite well
Amrita: Are many wooden ships built in this port?
Isakbhai: About 200 every year.
Amrita: You said you'd show me those plank joint?
Isakbhai: Yes, I'll just instruct my men and we'll go down.
Jamsalaya, near Jamnagar on the Gujarat coast is among the few places where the old ship-building tradition still survives. This 350-ton ship, the Sufiya-al-Olia
is the largest being built this year. Europe's supremacy in the 17th and 18th centuries owed much to its sea power and its ships. We, too , had been seafaring traders for centuries, and we had expert boat- and ship-builders. Gradually Portugal, Holland, England - all began to have ships built here.
In Mughal miniatures I've seen rabetted joints like these. Our ship building differed in some ways from the European technique - as in these skilfully made joints. The planks are arranged so that there is no gap between them and the surface is smooth. They inserted cottonwool soaked in oil to fill gaps. The wood expanded in water, making the ship waterproof. European ships had ordinary joints, filled in and coated with oakum for waterproofing. Made of tar and fibres, oakum was expensive. A 500-ton ship built here could save the British upto £1,000 a fairly large sum in the 18th century.
And the labour was cheap, the craftsmanship good. Teakwood was easily available. No wonder the Europeans had their ships made here. The Sufiya-al-Olia,
too, is in the Indo-European mould. Such ships are called brigs. One Indian borrowing from the European technique was the use of nails. Earlier, they used to make holes in the planks and tie together with ropes of coconut fibre.
The Europeans were apprehensive - what if the ropes gave way and let the water in?
Yet Indian sailors had long voyaged in such ships to far-off countries. But to meet the European need they had to adopt nails. And perhaps they realised that nails were stronger.
Amrita: Could I see the ships plans?
Isakbhai: Well, the plan is only in my head - I know the relative proportions etc.
Maitreyi: Master carpenter Isakbhai told Amrita that he never draws plans on paper. He relies on memory and instructs his workers orally. This has been a weakness of our scientific tradition. Until knowledge and experience are set down so that others may have access to them, the learning is confined to a few apprentices. If it stays oral, rules and principles are not formed. It does not develop beyond a point; nor can its basic tenets be applied to other fields.
Nissim: We're discussing the period from 1600-1800. Centuries before this, India, China and the Arabs had vigorous seafaring traditions. The Chinese had, long ago, invented the compass. Why, then, by the early 16th century was it Europe alone that commanded the seas and ruled over the world's nations for centuries?
Maitreyi: There are no easy answers - we have to look at a number of related factors. One, Asian ships rarely ventured mid-ocean. They sailed along the coast from port to port following their centuries-old trade routes. The knowledge of routes and stars needed for this was handed down orally to each generation. New instruments, maps etc would have been required if they had sailed the high seas – a need never felt.
Nissim: What, then, impelled the Europeans to risk to mid-ocean dangers? What was happening in Europe then? The old land route to Asia was now blocked by the Ottoman empire. Thus sea routes for trade had to be found.
Maitreyi: Also, in the new cities a new merchant capitalist class was emerging. These people needed markets to sell their goods; they were ready to invest capital in better ships, improved instruments, the search for new lands. Christian missionary zeal also played a part.
Amrita: The Renaissance was on in Europe - a new age, which inspired a new self-confidence. There was a desire for new knowledge, an openness in thinking, which encouraged science and the arts to grow. I have some slides which provide a glimpse of that age.
6. Renaissance: The renaissance in Europe, in particular the ideas of Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72) and the tenets of Renaissance humanism, consider man to be the centre of the universe (Encyclopedia Brittanica on Renaissance). New ideas were coming from the Greek, Arabs, India and China and were also travelling. Ibn-Al-Haytem or Al Hazen from Basra was a great scholar and he eventually lived and died in Cairo, Egypt.
He absorbed all these influences from different countries. His works on optics had a far-reaching influence on everybody. His philosophy was absorbed even into paintings, and led to the laws of perspective being deployed by the Dutch masters in their paintings. Or even Italian masters and the depiction of objects as we really see them, near or far. In the world of paintings this was radical and revolutionary, since up till then art was two dimensional.
See this clip from 1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets about Ibn Al Haythem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zORAtVjl23E
7. Measures across the World: There was an obsession during this period with accurate observations, which also had its link to practical and financial reasons. Long sea voyages were undertaken, trade agreements and insurance was dependent on accuracy. The artist, scientist and mechanic their jobs overlapped after the renaissance, and the symbol of this union was Leonardo Da Vinci, who worked and made innovations in different fields.
He also tried to understand the workings of the human body and make mechanical devices based on this study of human and animal body movement.
To aspire to human flight is perhaps an ancient desire in all cultures, as is evident from the story of Udhan Khatolas in India, or Icarus from Greece who fell to his death when he flew too close to the sun.
A new worldview and a changing society can be seen in the paintings. Now man was the centre of the universe. The new ideas touched all aspects of life. The Renaissance, though born in Europe, owed much to contact with the Arab world. This contact led to the wisdom of ancient Greece being rediscovered. Arab learning, too, was absorbed - this included Chinese and Indian science. An example is Al-Hasan's work on optics, which had a far-reaching influence. It brought into painting the law of perspective - the depiction of objects as we really see them, depending on how near, or far from us, they are.
Accurate observation was also needed for long sea voyages and in trade and the search for new lands. Such were the times that the roles of artist, scientist, mechanic tended to overlap. The symbol of this union is Leonardo da Vinci. He tried to know the secrets of nature to understand the workings of the human body.
He drew designs for machines. He studied the anatomy of birds and imagined human flight. To observe, understand, experiment -
this was the character of the age which began with the Renaissance.
An important aspect was the attempt to understand nature. Thus, besides astronomy, physics and maths grew. There were some Indians who were interested in science, who knew of developments in Europe. Yet work here was confined to refining old knowledge.
The astronomy of scholars like Jaisingh was limited to accurate records and predictions.
8. Scholars In India And Books:
Scholars in India like Jai Singh and Tipu Sultan were aware of the happenings in Europe around this period of their Renaissance. They sent emissaries out who found out things for them and bought books for them and then they translated these books into their languages. They got foreign journals delivered to them. As with other parts of the world, they too were obsessed with accuracy and correctness and objectivity of observation.
If you go the libarary in the city palace museum in Jaipur you will see a collection of all sorts of Latin and French tomes. How did they get here? Which agents have gone and bought them, or which book sellers sent it to India.
Scholars like Tipu Sultan and Jai Singh would send some people down to the port of Surat, who would then take a boat to Europe or a passing trading ship, and buy all these books that we see in the libraries here. Tipu Sultan was having regular correspondence in French with many people. He was a member of the Jacobian society which was a socialist society and used to receive socialist tracts, though ironically he was a royal feudal himself.
Amrita: Jaisingh must have known of Newton's Principia,
published in the year of his birth. The work of Copernicus and Galileo must have been familiar to him.
Maitreyi: He is criticised for his pre-telescopic astronomy. Yet he must have used the telescope, for he writes about the moons of Jupiter, which are invisible to the naked eye.
Amrita: Yet European scholars used the telescope widely only after 1800.
Maitreyi: Yes, Jaisingh was unique in his own time and society.
9. Jaisingh’s Story, or Telling Time In The Medieval Ages:
Jaisingh had an obsession with time and calendric sciences and tuning up the calendar to actual observed phenomena in the sky above. He built these huge instruments. Other instruments like sextants made in brass get shaky and worn out. The angles are not exactly correct and they are hand held so subjectivity of the user is also involved.
Jaisingh had heard about Ulugh Beg’s observatory, which were about masonry structures which were unshakeable. He took the permission of the then Mughal emperor Mohammad Shah Rangila who was drunk and barely aware of what was going on. He gave Jaisingh permission, and he set up 5 observatories in Benares, Gwalior, Ujjain, Jaipur, Delhi.
These sites were chosen because of their altitude, and on account of their latitude and longitude. They were comparisons of the readings from all these places. It took a number of years to do this elaborate operation. Most architecturally attractive one is in Jaipur though these are built to be instruments and not beautiful architecture. Its sad that how to use those instruments or readings is not known very well today and the only ones who use it now are astrologers and oracles, and not really scientists. I wish there was a way that school children were told how to take readings of the sun on the day they visit these ancient observatories and you know somebody was doing something to connect us with these structures rather than seeing them as symbolic and beautiful things from the past.
Lot of scholars criticize Jaisingh because they say he had telescopes and why didn’t he use them. Why did he insist on these pneumonic instruments that he built? Why didn’t he look at the sky through telescopes?
That’s because Western science often valorizes what they do and they see it as the only way possible to deal with a phenomenon. So they say that if he wants to know about the stars, about movement of constellations in the sky and so why is he not using telescopes. It is like a toy for him, that brings distant objects closer to see the moons of Jupiter.
But Jaisingh’s objective was not to peer at the sky but he wanted to make a calendar. Then the Mughal empire could have fixed dates for holidays and Holi on different days across the empire, or farmers that have to pay lagaan on a fixed day. Everything could be scheduled especially for bureaucracy to manage. He wanted to make a standardized calendar, to predict eclipses, time of dawn and dusk at different times of the year and other things with to do with the productivity of the farmer. He wasn’t interested in the solar system out there. We should be aware and wary of judging the quests at an earlier time.
The trouble with Jaisingh was that he was not encouraged by the society that he lived in, his whole vision of peace and of building this new city Jaipur that is a planned city – all this was far ahead of his time. His planned city had market places with shops and residential spaces for crafts people, it was beautifully and thoughtfully laid out with broad avenues and mohallas. It was not much appreciated by people around him and it went the way of the entire Mughal empire.
A Mughal feudatory, he later built the city of Jaipur. He was a descendant of the Kachchwaha Rajputs, rulers of Amer for some 600 years. Akbar's policy of unity was accepted by Jaisingh's ancestor, Bhar Mal, who married his daughter to Akbar. Later, Mansingh of Amer was Akbar's commander-in-chief. Jaisingh was 13 when he came to the throne in 1700. Aurangzeb was then in power. In the wars of succession after Aurangzeb's death, Jaisingh, too, was forced to take sides. Eventually, he earned much prestige. Under Mohammed Shah 'Rangila', he held many key posts.
Amer Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Despite military campaigns, postings in Malwa, Agra etc, he kept alive his childhood interest in astronomy. Later, when in Amer again,
he was able to devote more time to astronomy. He made a book of his astronomical tables - the Zeij Mohammed Shahi
In the preface, Jaisingh writes - The observes star positions differ from those given in existing tables. Sawai Jaisingh found that the rising and setting of planets, times of eclipses, these things also differed. Affairs of state and of religion depended on these, and so he represented the matter to the Emperor, who replied, “Since you are learned in science, do you labour to ascertain the point in question”. Then he built instruments of his own invention in Shahjahanabad, Jaipur, Mathura, Benares, Ujjain. The places of the stars were daily observed and a book written in His Majesty's name. When the places of stars, times of new moons, eclipses of sun and moon and planetary conjunctions are computed by the book, they will arrive as near as possible at the truth. They are, in fact, seen and confirmed every day at the observatory
Guide: This small Samrat Yantra
shows the local time from six a.m. Onwards. Nine thirty, ten – and five, ten, fifteen past ten.
Raghu: How much does it vary from Indian Standard Time?
Guide: By 25 minutes. If you add that difference, it should be 10:40 now.
Raghu: That's right!
Some 300 years earlier, another astronomer-king - Ulugh Beg of Samarkand - had also had large instruments built. His work greatly influenced Jaisingh.
Ranjan: Raghu, wasn't Jaisingh's astronomy aimed mainly at an accurate calendar for rituals?
Raghu:Also administration. But yes, his astronomy was limited. What was unique was his reliance on observation of which he kept records. He invented instruments, used the method of science.
He believed large masonry instruments would be stable, and therefore more accurate. Also, fine etchings on small metal instruments were not easy to make. Nor are such instruments very durable. But the very size of Jaisingh's instruments make them difficult to modify or improve. A small change in design would cost much labour. Nor can such instruments be made in large numbers.
European instruments had scope for improvement. Jaisingh adopted the traditions of Greece, Arabia, Central Asia. He sent for books from Europe. Here is Ptolemy's Al Majast
which Jaisingh had translated from Arabic. For over 1,000 years it was a basic text for Arab and European astronomers. There are also books from Jaisingh's time - Grosser's Atlas,
De la Hire's Tabulae Astronomicae,
Flamsteed's star catalogue and instruments descriptions. And yes, Jaisingh's own Zeij Mohammed Shahi
. It refers to the elliptical orbits of planets - till then, Asian tradition saw the orbits as circular.
Jaisingh's city plans for Jaipur are also kept here.
Right, it's over to you!
Jaipur was founded in 1727. Fifteen centuries after the Kushana cities, this was India's first large, planned city. The old city is still quite unchanged. This is Badi Chaupar -
where two main streets intersect. These chaupars
served as meeting places. The city had to be populated, made prosperous. Jaisingh invited traders, had mansions built offered tax concessions. Many traders were thus attracted to Jaipur. Roads were the hub of city life. First-floor balconies afforded a view of royal processions and festive celebrations. Shops were built on the ground floors. The wares then sold in Jaipur's shops can be found even today. Many handicraft traditions still survive. Tye-and-dye fabrics, enamelling.
Raghu: Ranjan, why do you think Jaisingh built this city?
Ranjan: Well, his importance as a Mughal administrator was growing, so he had a large army and a large civil establishment. Amer's population, too, had grown. And he had a good architect, Vidhyadhar, who may have inspired him to plan his new capital.
Raghu: Also, the Mughal empire was disintegrating - could Jaipur have been a declaration of independence by Jaisingh? His own city, named after him?
Ranjan: Yes, that's quite likely.
10. Exchanging books with the West:
Jaisingh and Tipu Sultan are both aware of what’s happening in the west, they are aware and sending for books, telescopes, guns. Jaisingh built several very big cannons which had names like ships.
The things that they were looking for couldn’t be found in older texts. They were trying to create a synthesis between the craft knowledge that they had access to and scientific ideas locally and across the world that they had access to. Both were interested in economic opportunities and trade for themselves and their people because they would stand to earn from taxation of income. Their contemporaries were not interested in these things.
11. We chose Tipu and Jaisingh for BKC because these are the most outstanding and prominent even if there were other individuals trying things on their own. There were no schools or universities where this kind of curiosity that these rules had as individuals could be encouraged and cultivated. It could have been possible for people to get trained or educated in aspects of science and technology and encouraged to invent. Patronage didn’t go that far.
There were people experimenting with fireworks, gunpowder and explosives and few inventors who went after individual things but not about a more expansive idea of life or principles of science involved.
The interest in explosives and firecrackers was eventually to create a missile which would carry a pack load and explode when it landed. Cannons could only fire heavy cannon balls only within viewing distance. A missile or rocket could go to unseen places and cause damage.
After Jaisingh, his Jantar Mantars began to crumble. His findings were not used by calendar-makers, who still relied on outdated information. His emphasis on observation was also in vain. 250 years later, the Jaipur and Delhi Jantar Mantars are tourist attractions.
And they reflect Jaisingh's deep interest in science. But it's a pity that he was unable to give his age a new direction.
He seems isolated in his own time. More people like him might have made a difference. Had other places seen a similar economic progress - and had that been a spur to technology - then we might have been better prepared to confront the rising British power.
12. Tipu and Jaisingh were attempting to find a cohesive view of the world, but they too faced opposition to their ideas and other difficulties. Tipu was always caught in battle with British and he was eventually defeated and controlled. The British tried to destroy his reputation and still he was popular amongst people, and after his death they tried to erase him and didn’t allow anyone to commemorate him.
Tipu was associated with a tiger- the tiger of Mysore. He commissioned someone to make a mechanical toy where the British solider is being bitten and eaten up by the tiger. The British took it off to the Victoria and Albert museum even though it’s a propaganda thing against them.
Jaisingh’s achievements as prince of peace and scientist and thinker, and all that went away with the end of the Mughal empire.
The British raj then was growing
Hear, oh hear, this was clearly so
Was it so clear? Today, we know
Did people then sense how the wind was blowing?
Time passed, and at last they noticed the trend
That cannon, guns, ships had won the day
The printed book was a means to this end
The Mughals and rajas no longer held sway
In the west arose
the winds of change
Nobody recognised them
and this was strange
They blew, foul and fair, everywhere
Reason dispelled darkness
The earth was not the centre
New ideas ushered in
the age of the inventor
Yet the answer is unclear
Why did that revolution not happen there?
Nissim: By the 18th century, Indian rulers began to realise that the British were no ordinary foes. Tipu Sultan of Mysore seems to have had an especially keen sense of the events of his time. In this respect he stands apart from the Marathas and the Nizam, who sided with the British against Tipu.
Maitreyi: Jaisingh's interest in science had been personal. In Tipu's Mysore, technology was used to meet the challenge and to fulfill daily needs. Other parts of the country were also making progress - Agra was flourishing, Murshidabad was a big centre for silks and ivory. The Industrial Revolution had not yet affected our handicrafts and markets.
Nissim: We've chosen Mysore as an example because events there came together in a unique way, encouraged and shaped by Tipu Sultan's foresight.
By the late 18th century Mysore was the only kingdom still opposing the British. The EIC might have agreed to a compromise as it was nearly bankrupt. Tipu, however, was not willing to negotiate. The Anglo-Mysore wars begun in Hyder Ali's time continued. Inevitably, this atmosphere led to innovations in the area of military technology. Weapons were improved, and troops were better organised. There was a greater emphasis on infantry. Tipu's soldiers had guns and muskets made in Mysore. He also set up a cannon foundry.
The good quality iron found in the area was used for making rockets as well. Rockets were first used in warfare in 13th century China, and later in Europe till the cannon made rockets obsolete. Some 250 years later they were revived in Mysore. This was where gunpowder and weapons were stored.
Tipu's army made improved rockets and used them very effectively. The cylinder was now made of iron, which solved the problem of premature explosion. Also, more gunpowder could be packed in. These rockets had a range of upto two km. In the Anglo-Mysore wars rockets created much confusion in British ranks.
Tipu issued several economic ordinances. One aimed to stop landless farmers being exploited. If a farmer ran away due to oppression the landlord would be fined. Tipu's idea of justice was linked to economic progress: God breathed life into clay and gave it a human form. Then some were blessed with power and status, honoured with wealth and kingship, that they might help the weak, helpless and poor, and increase the well-being of the people.
Maitreyi: Justice seems to have been uppermost in his mind. He took a keen interest in the French Revolution. A king in sympathy with a revolution to end monarchy! He studied the American Revolution as well.
Nissim: The American Declaration of Independence strengthened Tipu's nationalist feelings. He sent for books on every subject from Europe, wrote to the French Academy about matters of science. He tried to apply all the latest knowledge, and was curious about everyday, useful things.
Maitreyi: Yes – ranging from improved fodder for army cattle to getting a European text on the barometer translated.
Mysore's wealth was based on its forests and agriculture. Along with sandalwood and pepper exports, there was an emphasis on manufactured goods. After their victory over Mysore the British asked the EIC's Dr. Francis Buchanan to conduct a survey. Buchanan made a comprehensive report of the area's agriculture, trade, industries. He drew sketches of craft and agricultural tools. The excellent local breeds of cattle impressed him. He described the glass, steel and oil industries.
Tipu's policy was to foster self-reliance by acquiring the relevant technological know-how. He sent for silkworms and their eggs from Muscat and for people trained in silk production. And so began Bangalore's silk industry. The experiment failed at that time, but it was a beginning.
13. Stealing Silk: Tipu Sultan stole silk from China. He sent a trade delegation out to china who did industrial espionage for him and brought back silk worm eggs and mulberry seeds. The Chinese had so bred the silk worm that it would only eat mulberry leaves and wouldn’t survive on any other plant. With this ingenious twinning, they ensured that even if silkworms were stolen they didn’t last long away from a mulberry tree. The cocoons were then harvested for silk and only a few were kept for breeding.
The Chinese zealously guarded their knowledge about how to make silk, and forbade foreigners from taking mulberry seeds or a silk worm egg out o the country. Yet Tipu sent a party of Indian people who managed to secretly get those. They were gone for 5 years and were suspected to be dead, but they did return to India. That is how the silk industry of Mysore and the silk farm in Chenna Patanam started, and it is still there today. Till then in india we only had vanya or wild silks, such as the tussar, moogha, matka and so on. To get the shiny white silk, the specific silk worm from China was needed.
Government Silk Farm, Channapatna, Karnataka
Bangalore Fort, Bangalore
While Srirangapatna was the capital, Mysore's commercial centre was Bangalore. Every Indian currency was valid here, wrote Buchanan.
These ruins are all that remain of Bangalore's fort. How desolate it seems! It's hard to believe it is in the middle of the city. Then you recall that Tipu's Mysore was just as isolated - surrounded by enemies.
4 May, 1799 - Cannons boomed relentlessly, till this wall was breached and the British entered. Tipu was killed in the fighting. Hours later, his corpse was found along with those of his men – here. The British destroyed everything. After Tipu, the kingdom of Mysore disintegrated. Enterprise and progress received a severe blow.
One question remains - if the final victory had been Tipu Sultan's, would the story of science and technology here have been different?
14. At the end of this episode, there is a comparison with Europe and India. Europe was moving ahead very rapidly because they were using science and tech as a kind of weapon to take over the world and industrial revolution was all about that. In India we didn’t have environment conducive to scientific research and invention and all that, until the freedom struggle. Which was a long way off right now. It is then that the nationalists realize that they need to take science seriously and need to develop a kind of educational base and scope for it, labs for experiments etc. All this would happen after independence.
Nissim: Not only Tipu Sultan, but Jaisingh too - and before him, Akbar's courtier Fatullah Shirazi. Between 1600 and 1800 there were many individuals interested in science, but each was, in a sense, alone - not part of any broader movement. Europe was, in this respect, very different.
Maitreyi: Many scientific societies came up in that period - the Royal Society of London, the French Royal Academy. The sciences were now taught in universities. The Renaissance had changed people's perceptions. And long sea voyages had brought to the fore people trained in mathematics, used to fine work as in compass or map making. The time was ripe for the scientific revolution which gave birth to modern science.
Nissim: Galileo saw the universe through his telescope and Leeuwenhoek looked at micro-organisms through the microscope. Newton's Law of Gravity and calculus, Linnaeus' biological classification, Harvey's study of human anatomy - and then techniques, from pendulum clocks to chronometers for ships. The steam engine, metallurgy, so much else!
Maitreyi: All this occurred because of a unique environment. Bishop Spratt of the Royal Society of London said that science was growing not just due to scholar's efforts but that mechanics' workshops, sea voyages, sports, gardens, farmers' tools -all played their parts. Those engaged in these activities should be made members of the Society. And the language of science should not be Latin, but everyday English, which has an intimacy and an ease of expression that farmers, artisans, merchants may comprehend.
These were the views of a bishop - and this is the type of environment science needs. Would our
religious gurus have thought like this? This was one reason why Europe moved ahead. Science was used like a weapon - something the Industrial Revolution was to encourage. In India, an environment conducive to science revived only with the freedom struggle - when we realised we could never triumph unless we adopted science.
Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai
Science was used to serve the selfish ends of Empire
Not just British, Portugal also shared the desire...
for spoils. French, Dutch, Spanish bands ...
hoisted flags in foreign lands
Oppressed were India, Asia, Africa
Defeated were Australia and South America
These regions began to lag behind
While they progressed who ruled by force
Technology and science were on their side
The colonies had no recourse....
Victoria Memorial, Kolkata