December 3, 2012

Black Waters: The Strange History of Port Blair

Tavarikh-i ‘ajib (Black waters: The strange history of Port Blair) is an account of the British penal colony of Port Blair, located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean. The British first established a naval base and penal colony on the islands in 1789, which they had abandoned by 1796 because of disease. Following the Uprising of 1857 (also known as the Sepoy Rebellion), the British authorities in India saw a new need for a secure prison in a remote location, and construction began in Port Blair later that year. In subsequent decades, many political prisoners were housed in the Cellular Jail, also called Kala Pani (Black Waters). Muhammad Jafar (1838–1905) was deported to the Andaman colony for his part in the 1857 uprising. In this book, he describes the life and customs of the islanders, the rules and regulations for the management of the convicts in the period 1858–79, and the people in authority at the penal colony. He also highlights major events, such as the 1872 assassination at Port Blair of Governor-General Lord Mayo. The book includes a table of Hindi and Urdu words and phrases and Arabic equivalents. Other tables detail the many languages spoken in the colony. The work is illustrated with drawings of the inhabitants and of local flora and fauna. It was first published in 1890; this copy is the second, revised and expanded, edition of 1892.

A History of Sindh: Volume I

The prolific Urdu author and journalist Abdulhalīm Sharar (1860–1926) was born in and spent much of his life in Lucknow (in present-day Uttar Pradesh, India). He produced biographies, historical novels, romantic novels, histories, essays, and other works. Tarikh-e-Sindh (A history of Sindh) is one of Sharar’s major historical works. Permanent settlement in Sindh, a province of present-day Pakistan, dates back to about 7000 BC. The Indus Valley civilization, one of the world’s oldest cultures, flourished in Sindh in 3300–1750 BC, rivaling those of Egypt and Mesopotamia in size and sophistication. Sindh became a Persian province in the sixth century BC, and was conquered by Alexander the Great in about 326 BC. In the ensuing centuries, Buddhist Greco-Bactrians, Scythians, Persians, and Rajputs held sway in the region. In 711 AD, the Umayyad general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh with a force of 20,000 cavalry and five catapults. The Arab conquest was followed by widespread conversion to Islam, the building of Mansura as the capital, and development of a port city at Debal. Muslim geographers, historians, and travelers over the centuries wrote about or visited the region, sometimes using the name "Sindh" for the entire area from the Arabian Sea to the Hindu Kush.

The History of the Urdu Language

This work, published in Delhi in 1920, is a history of the Urdu language from its origins to the development of an Urdu literature. Urdu and Hindi share an Indo-Aryan base, but Urdu is associated with the Nastaliq script style of Persian calligraphy and reads right-to-left, whereas Hindi resembles Sanskrit and reads left-to-right. The earliest linguistic influences in the development of Urdu probably began with the Muslim conquest of Sindh in 711. The language started evolving from Farsi and Arabic contacts during the invasions of the Indian subcontinent by Persian and Turkic forces from the 11th century onward. Urdu developed more decisively during the Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526) and the Mughal Empire (1526–1858). When the Delhi Sultanate expanded south to the Deccan Plateau, the literary language was influenced by the languages spoken in the south, by Punjabi and Haryanvi, and by Sufi and court usage. The earliest verse dates to the 15th century, and the golden period of Urdu poetry was the 18th–19th centuries. Urdu religious prose goes back several centuries, while secular writing flourished from the 19th century onward. Modern Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and is also spoken by many millions of people in India.

Family Practitioner

Homeopathy was introduced to India in the 1830s by John Martin Honigberger (1795–1869), a Romanian-born student of Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843), the German physician regarded as the founder of homeopathic medicine. Honigberger spent some 15 years in Lahore, where his early patients included Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab and the son of the Maharaja’s military advisor, General Jean François Allard. Homeopathy first flourished in Punjab and Bengal, before spreading to other parts of British India. In this book, Mirza Allah Baig Lakhnavi gives concise instructions for the purchase and safekeeping of homeopathic medicines. He describes homeopathic treatments, in which practitioners use highly diluted preparations to induce symptoms similar to those needing a cure, a principle Hahnemann called “let like be cured by like.” The author discusses such remedies in relation to a wide range of ailments, from minor dermatological problems and stomach upsets to serious diseases of the heart, kidneys, and liver.

Dictionary of Urdu Terms Used in Newspapers

Ziauddin Ahmad Barni (1890–1969) was born and educated in Delhi, where his father and one of his brothers were instrumental in the development of Urdu newspapers and several members of the family were renowned calligraphers. Proficient in Farsi and English, he worked in the Oriental Translator’s Office in Bombay (present-day Mumbai), until his retirement in 1948. He also wrote for the Bombay Chronicle in both English and Urdu. In 1915 he published this dictionary of terminology in common usage in the Urdu newspapers of the day. Entries are alphabetically arranged, and there is particular attention to the explanation of ambiguous words. The book also includes a description of the systems of government in India and in the United Kingdom and provides notes on important events and dates.

Panjabi Grammar: A Brief Grammar of Panjabi As Spoken in the Wazirabad District

Thomas Grahame Bailey (1872–1942) was a Church of Scotland missionary in India who made extensive studies of northern Indian languages. After studying Hindi and Urdu at the London University School of Oriental Studies, he went on to publish books on Panjabi (now usually called Punjabi), Himalayan dialects, Urdu, Kanauri, Kashmiri, Shina, and other languages. Panjabi Grammar: A Brief Grammar of Panjabi As Spoken in the Wazirabad District was written at the request of an official of the government of Punjab, in what was then a part of British India. Bailey chose to write about the language as it was spoken in the villages lying within ten miles (16 kilometers) of the town of Wazirabad, and gave preference to “village Panjabi, as being purer and more vigorous than city speech.” The book provides an overview of Punjabi grammar, in English with transliterations of Punjabi words. Topics covered include pronunciation, the gender of nouns, cases, regular and irregular verbs, tenses, and adjectives and adverbs. Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language, widely spoken in a number of distinct dialects in present-day northwest India and eastern Pakistan.