Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Locals: The unknown, unsung heroes

History is as much about anonymous contributions as the more trumpeted ones. Who did those monks living high up on the hills of Pavuralakonda, Bavikonda, and Thotlakonda depend on for food and labor? There must have been a thriving village or two down by the sea whose residents fed the monks and worked at the monastery, but we know nothing about them.

Who were those weavers and craftsmen whose products the Europeans valued enough to cross miles of ocean to take back to their land and whose labor they tried to harness? We hear that the cloth produced in and around Vizag was highly valued, but who made it? And did these craftsmen form guilds and unions as did their more organized counterparts in the south? And did they ever sail to the Andamans and further east to Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Phillipines?

And who was this person only identified as a “native artist” who filled Patrick Russel’s publications with the most detailed and beautiful sketches of fishes and serpents that won the scientist his fame in England? We’ll probably never know.

Vizag's staple: Sketch of the king fish (Vanjaram) by an unknown "native" artist for Patrick Russel's book, "Descriptions and figures of two hundred fishes; collected at Vizagapatam on the Coast of the Coromandel." 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Where the Dutch buried their dead

Late last year, I visited Kummaripalem (Bheemili), where, in a green plot among palm trees and weeds, the Dutch had buried their dead between 1661 and 1720. 
The Madras District Gazetteer of 1907 mentions 13 graves and all of them seem to have survived the century since it was written.
The pictures below show 2 gravestones…

…and the 13th one taken from higher up on the steps leading down from the road to the cemetery.

I could not read the inscriptions on many, and the oldest grave I could find was from 1663.

This cemetery is not as well-known as the one on the beach, which was a later addition and is better-maintained.

References Francis W., Madras District Gazetteer, Vizagapatam, (Madras, Government Press: 1907)