Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Page 3 Party at Vizag in 1828

“On the 22nd of May a splendid entertainment, consisting of a dinner, a dance, and a supper, was given by Goday Sooria Narrain Row, a distinguished and opulent native, to the ladies and gentlemen of the European portion of the community, on the occasion of the marraiges of his son and daughter…” begins an article in the Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany, Vol. 25. The Sooria Narrain Row (Gode Suryanarayana Rao) mentioned here is the father of Mr. Jagga Rao of our observatory fame (see blog January 29, 2010). The marriages had earlier been performed in the Indian style, and this party was chiefly a reception for the European crowd.

The reception was held at Mr. Row’s mansion, where a pandal was erected, leading to the garden house; dinner was served in a brilliantly lit hall with ‘superb mirrors’ at either end of it and decorated with European engravings. A lamp with ‘richly painted moons’ hung over the table. As for the dinner, it had “every dainty usually served up at an English entertainment, an excellent desert, choice wines and other beverage.” And as if this were not sumptuous enough, at midnight, supper was served, which “might well have done duty for a dinner.”

While some of the crowd danced, “others were amused by the exhibition of a fine set of native dancing-girls, and a display of blue lights and fireworks... Amongst the novelties of the evening was the exhibition of a Highland piper in the service of his Highness (the Rajah of Vizianagaram who was among the guests), who, in full costume, played reels, pibrochs and laments, and who was no contemptible performer on the pipes of his nation. ”

“The ladies retired at rather an early hour, occasioned probably by the great heat: but many gentlemen tarried over the bottle in due respect to the exertions to please their hospitable entertainer, and retired not until pleasure was in danger of becoming a fatigue.”

The guest list included around fifty Europeans from Vizagapatam and neighbouring stations and the Rajah of Vizianagaram.

Source: The Asiatic Journal and Montly Miscellany, Vol. 25.

About the Asiatic Journal
“The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany” has some “miscellaneous” stories about the East India Company-dominated areas of Asia. It was published twice a year and I imagine its contemporary readership included people in Asia who wanted to know what was happening to their kin in the region and people in Britain who had Indian or Asian connections.

It gave details of births, marriages, deaths, appointments and transfers of people of British origin living in the East, which items were probably read as we read obituaries, wondering if we’ll find in them the announcement that someone we distantly know had died.

As far as Vizag goes, there are few entries, four or five announcements about deaths, births etc. per issue and occasionally, maybe once in three years, an article about some event of importance in the settlement. The few entries breathe life into the wood and clay characters of history.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Where the monks meditated

Here’s a link to a blog with beautiful pictures of Thotlakonda . Very atmospheric !!/

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vizag Fort and a Couple of Paintings

The Vizagapatam Gazette mentions that a fort was built in Vizagapatam in the 1700s, but says that no traces of it remain at the time of the publication of the Gazette (1903).

I later came across a pen-and-ink and water-colour drawing of Dolphin’s Nose in the British Library’s Web site, which has what looks like the ruins of a fort wall in the foreground. Also in the picture is a boat similar to ones that can be found on Bhimli beach even today. Amazing given that the painting is dated 1795. It was painted by James Tillyer Blunt (1765-1834) as part of a set of 31 drawings of landscapes in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Madras and Mysore done between 1788 and 1800.

In this series, there is also a drawing called “North View of the Walled City of Vizagapatam” by Elisha Trapaud (1750-1828). This one too has the Dolphin’s Nose in the background. In the middle ground are the three hills with the Venkateswara temple, the dargah and Ross Hill chapel, below which lie what looks like the barracks surrounded by fort walls. From the looks of it, my guess is that this place is somewhere around the area of St. Aloysius School.

Following are the links:

Painting 1 :

Painting 2:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Echoes 2

"...and deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
The echo of a distant tide
Comes billowing across the sand..."
--Pink Floyd

The Battle of Vizagapatam

Ripples of the Napoleonic War were felt in Vizagapatam in September 1804, when a French squadron led by Contre-Admiral, Charles-Alexandre Durand Linois, attacked the British Royal Navy’s ship HMS Centurion and two East Indiamen (armed merchant ships) led by Captain James Lind and anchored in the harbour. On the British side, one man died, two of the three ships engaged in battle were damaged, and one was captured, while on the French side, five men died, six were wounded, and all three ships that fought in the battle suffered severe damage.

The attack was one in a series of French raids against East India Company vessels. In 1803, before war was declared, Napoleon had ordered a squadron to sail under Linois into the Indian Ocean to set up garrisons in the French and Dutch colonies in the region and to attack British merchant ships that were lightly protected. Linois attacked British ships in the South China Sea (South of Mainland China and Taiwan and west of the Phillipines), in the Mozambique Channel (between Madagascar and Africa), off Ceylon (Sri Lanka), along the Indian coast of the Bay of Bengal, and Pulo Aura (east of Malaysia) before he engaged in the battle at Vizagapatam.

Both sides claimed victory, though Napoleon privately admonished Linois for abandoning the battle too early. When Linois wrote that he cut short the battle to minimize damage to his ships, Napoleon replied, “France cares more for honour, not for a few pieces of wood.”



Engraving by Thomas Sutherland after a painting by Sir James Lind

Defence of the Centurion in Vizagapatam Road, Sept 15th 1804, dated 1818, source National Maritime Museum

  Picture sourced from: Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I've constructed a timeline of important events in Vizag's history, based on the Vizagapatam District Gazeteer by W. Francis. It gives some perspective on how the place developed and how different sets of people and rulers viewed and made use of the city.  It also helps me get to know the gaps in my knowledge.

I've had to list out the events in my timeline here, as I do not know how to export an excel timeline into the blog's format.

6th and 7th century BC

Visakha referred to in Brahmanical and Buddhist texts, assigned by Professors Macdonell and Rhys David to the 6th and 7th century BC

4th centry BC

Visakha referred to by Katyayana and Panini

260 BC

Ashoka conquers Kalinga; important because Vizag is believed to have been part of the Kalinga kingdom

6th century AD

Chalukyas conquer Kalinga; Vengi Kingdom established

1078 AD

Anantavarman-Choda-Ganga's 72-year rule begins -- (Inscriptions from this king found in Vizagapatam)

1089 AD

Simhachalam inscription of Koluttunga I of Chola dynasty confirms the success of his invasion of Kalinga

1267-68 AD

Ganga king, Narasimha I builds mukhamandapam, natyamandapam, enclosing arcade of Simhachalam temple

1385-86 AD

Inscription of Reddi kings of Kondavidu in Guntur dist. who penetrated to Simhachalam

1434-35 AD

Ganga king, Banudeva IV's minister usurps throne and establishes Gajapati dynasty

1515 AD

Krishnadevaraya invades Gajapati kingdom, halts at Simhachalam, sets up victory pillar at Potnuru


Mukunda Harichandana, a Telugu by birth, seizes the throne from the Gajapatis


Muslims of Golconda seize control of Harichandana''s territory -- the 5 Northern Circars

English get the Golden Firman for trade in the Sultanate of Golconda.


Dutch settlement at Bheemili


English settlement at Vizagapatam


Aurangazeb defeats Golconda kings; Northern Circars under Mughal rule, at least in name


Bussy appoints Ibrahim Khan as Faujdar of Chicacole.


Rebellion and defeat of Ibrahim Khan by Bussy


Captain Forde, sent by Clive, captures French dominated Northern CIrcars with help from Ananda Razu of Vizianagaram.


Clive obtains from the Mughal emperor a firman granting the 5 Northern Circars to the East India Company


Vizagapatam made capital of the district


Sepoys mutiny in Vizagapatam


Printing press set up in Vizagapatam


Smaller vernacular missionary schools closed; one central Anglo-vernacular school started, which eventually developed into a high school

REFERENCES: Francis, W.; Vizagapatam District Gazeteer; Asian Educational Services; first published, Madras 1907

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Echoes 1

It is possible to think yourself into the past; you just cannot have too much faith in your conclusions.
- Lars Fogelin; Archaeology of Early Buddhism; 2006; Altamira Press. p. 75