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.