Category Archives: India

Persian Nader Shah vs. Moghul Empire

From A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind, by Michael Axworthy (Basic Books, 2016), Kindle Loc. 2997-3027:

Crowned shah, with his western frontiers secure and in undisputed control of the central lands of Persia, Nader set off eastward to conquer Kandahar. The exactions to pay for this new campaign caused great suffering and in many parts of the country brought the economy almost to a standstill. Nader took Kandahar after a long siege, but he did not stop there. Using the excuse that the Moghul authorities had given refuge to Afghan fugitives, Nader crossed the old frontier between the Persian and Moghul empires, took Kabul, and marched on toward Delhi. North of Delhi, at Karnal, the Persian army encountered the army of the Moghul emperor, Mohammad Shah. The Persians were much inferior in number to the Moghul forces, yet thanks to the better training and firepower of his soldiers, and rivalry and disunity among the Moghul commanders, Nader defeated them. He was helped by the fact that the Moghul commanders were mounted on elephants, which besides proving vulnerable to firearms were liable to run wild—to the dismay of their distinguished riders and anyone who happened to be in their path.

From the battlefield of Karnal, Nader went on to Delhi, where he arrived in March 1739. Shortly after his arrival there, rioting broke out and some Persian soldiers were killed. So far from home, and with the wealth of the Moghul Empire at stake, Nader could not afford to lose control. He ordered a ruthless massacre in which an estimated thirty thousand people died, mostly innocent civilians. Prior to this point, Nader had generally (at least away from the battlefield) achieved his ends without excessive bloodshed. But after Delhi, he may have decided that his previous scruples had become redundant.

With a characteristic blend of threat and diplomacy, Nader stripped the Moghul emperor of a vast treasure of jewels, gold, and silver, and accepted the gift of all the Moghul territories west of the Indus River. The treasure was worth as much as perhaps 700 million rupees. To put this sum in some kind of context, it has been calculated that the total cost to the French government of the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), including subsidies paid to the Austrian government as well as all the costs of the fighting on land and sea, was about 1.8 billion livres tournois (the standard unit of account in prerevolutionary France). This was equivalent to about £90 million sterling at the time—close to the rough estimate of £87.5 million sterling for the value of Nader’s haul from Delhi. Some of the jewels he took away—the largest, most impressive ones, like the Kuh-e Nur, the Darya-ye Nur, and the Taj-e Mah—had a complex and often bloody history of their own in the following decades.

Nader did not attempt to annex the Moghul Empire outright. His purpose in conquering Delhi had been to secure the cash necessary to continue his wars of conquest in the west, for which the wealth of Persia alone had, by the time of his coronation, begun to prove inadequate.

Nader’s campaigns are a reminder of the centrality of Persia to events in the region, in ways that have parallels today. A list of some of Nader’s sieges—Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, Mosul, Kandahar, Herat, Kabul—has a familiar ring to it after the events of the first years of the twenty-first century. It is worth recalling that Persians were not strangers in any of the lands in which Nader campaigned. Although he and his Safavid predecessors were of Turkic origin and spoke a Turkic language at court, the cultural influence of Persian was such that the language of the court and administration in Delhi and across northern India was Persian, and diplomatic correspondence from the Ottoman court in Istanbul was normally in Persian, too. Persian hegemony from Delhi to Istanbul would, in some ways, have seemed natural to many of the inhabitants of the region, echoing as it did the Persian character of earlier empires and the pervasive influence of Persian literary, religious, and artistic culture.

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Safavid Persia as “Gunpowder Empire”

From A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind, by Michael Axworthy (Basic Books, 2016), Kindle Loc. 2728-37:

Militarily, the Safavid state probably reached its apogee under Shah Abbas the Great and Abbas II. But despite its classification with Ottoman Turkey and Moghul India as one of the Gunpowder Empires (by Marshall G. S. Hodgson), there is good reason to judge that the practices and structures of the Safavid Empire were transformed less by the introduction of gunpowder weapons than those other empires were. Cannon and muskets were present in Persian armies, but as add-ons to previous patterns of warfare rather than elements transforming the conduct of war, as they were elsewhere. The mounted tradition of Persian lance-and-bow warfare, harking back culturally to Ferdowsi, was resistant to the introduction of awkward and noisy firearms. Their cavalry usually outclassed that of their enemies, but Persians did not take to heavy cannon and the greater technical demands of siege warfare as the Ottomans and Moghuls did. The great distances, lack of navigable rivers, rugged terrain, and poor roads of the Iranian plateau did not favor the transport of heavy cannon. Most Iranian cities were either unwalled or were protected by crumbling walls that were centuries old—this at a time when huge, sophisticated, and highly expensive fortifications were being constructed in Europe and elsewhere to deal with the challenge of heavy cannon. Persia’s military revolution was left incomplete.

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British Indian POWs in New Guinea

From Hell’s Battlefield: The Australians in New Guinea in World War II, by Phillip Bradley (Allen & Unwin, 2012), Kindle Loc. 6755-6767:

As far back as 10 December 1944, the first two Indian prisoners of war had been found by an Australian patrol. Indians had been brought in by the Japanese to work in labour companies, and these two had walked for forty-five days from Wewak. The advance towards Balif in March gathered up more emaciated Indians: Sandy Pearson released some who had been kept in bamboo cages and were unable to stand. In March 1945, Gavin Long talked to a released Indian who had been captured in Singapore and brought to Wewak with about 500 other POW-slaves. Long wrote, ‘I have never seen a man so thin, he was literally skin and bone.’

The 2/8th Battalion recovered 102 Indian prisoners of the Japanese. Despite their starving condition, they refused bully beef because their Hindu faith proscribed it. One man who had survived a Japanese massacre fifteen days previously had been carried in on a stretcher. He gratefully ate biscuits and then gathered all the fallen crumbs and placed them in his shirt pocket.

By the end of the campaign, 201 Indian prisoners had been rescued by the 6th Division, the only survivors of around 3000 who had been brought to Wewak in May 1943. As Jemadar Chint Singh later wrote, ‘At this hour of our calamity the Division worked as [an] Angel for us.’ The angels kept particularly close to Singh: of the handful of Indian prisoners recovered from Japanese control at the surrender, he was the only one not on board during an aircraft accident in which the rest perished.

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Filed under Australia, Britain, food, India, Japan, labor, Papua New Guinea, slavery, war

Some Loanwords in Indonesian/Malay: A

From: Loan-Words in Indonesian and Malay, ed. by Russell Jones (KITLV Press, 2007), ignoring the far too numerous loans from Arabic, Dutch, and English.

Chinese

aci (Amoy) elder sister
ahsiu (Amoy) dried, salted duck
a i (Amoy) aunt (addressing younger than speaker’s mother)
akew (Hakka) term of address for boy (‘little dog’)
amah (Amoy) female servant
amho (Amoy) secret sign, password
amoi (Chiangchiu) younger sister; girl
ampai (Amoy) detective
angciu (Amoy) red wine
angco (Amoy) dried Chinese dates (Z. jujuba)
ancoa (Amoy) how can that be?
anghun (Amoy) shredded tobacco
angkak (Amoy) grains of red sticky rice (O. glutinosa)
angki (Amoy) persimmon (D. kaki)
angkin (Amoy) waist belt
angkong (Amoy) grandfather
angkong (Amoy) ricksha
anglo (Amoy) heating stove
anglung (Amoy) pavilion
angpai (Amoy) card game employing 56 cards
angpau (Amoy) present given at Chinese new year
angsio (Amoy) braise in soy sauce
angso (Amoy) red bamboo shoot
apa (Amoy) dad, father
apak (Hakka) old man, ‘uncle’ (lit. father’s elder brother)
apék (Amoy) old man, ‘uncle’ (lit. father’s elder brother)
apiun (Amoy) opium
asuk (Hakka) ‘uncle’, father’s younger brother

Hindi

abaimana anal and urethral orifices (with regard to ablution)
acita fine rice
anggerka gown
antari inner
arwa saw-edged knife
aruda rue (bot.)
ayah Indian nurse

Japanese

anata you
arigato thank you
aza hamlet

Persian

acar pickles
adas fennel
aftab sun
agar in order to
agha nobleman
ahli versed in; member of
aiwan hall
ajaibkhanah museum
akhtaj vassal
almas diamond
anggur grape
anjir fig
arzak beautiful gem
asa mint
asabat nerve
asmani heavenly
atisnyak fiery, glowing
azad faultless

Portuguese

alabangka lever
alketip carpet
alpayaté tailor
alpérés ensign, sublieutenant
andor (obs.) a litter on which images of saints were borne
antero whole
aria lower away (naut.)
arku bow (of a kite)
aria, aris-aris bolt rope, shrouds (naut.)
arkus arches (triumphal, with festoons)
armada armada, squadron, naval fleet
asar roast; barbecue

Sanskrit

acara program, agenda
adi beginning, first, best, superior
adibusana haute couture
adicita ideology
adidaya superpower
adikarya masterpiece
adimarga boulevard
adipati governor
adipura cleanest (etc.) city (chosen annually)
adiraja royal by descent
adiratna jewel, beautiful woman
adisiswa best student
adiwangsa of high nobility
adiwarna glowing with colour
agama religion
agamiwan religious person
ahimsa non-violence
aksara letter
amerta immortal
amerta nectar
amra mango
ancala mountain
anda musk gland
Andoman Hanuman
anduwan foot chain
anéka all kinds of
anékawarna multi-coloured
anggota member
angka number, figure
angkara insolence, cruel
angkasa sky
angkasawan astronaut; broadcaster
angkasawati astronaut; broadcaster (fem.)
angkus elephant-goad
angsa goose
aniaya violation
anjangkarya working visit
antakusuma cloth made from several pieces
antar- inter-
antara (in) between
antarabangsa international
antariksa sky
antariksawan astronaut
antariksawati astronaut (fem.)
antamuka interface (of computer)
antarnegara international
anugerah (royal) favour
anumerta posthumous
apsari nymph
arca image; computer icon
aria a high title
arti meaning
Arya Aryan race
aryaduta ambassador
asmara love
asmaraloka world of love
asrama hostel
asta cubit
asta eight
astagina eightfold
astaka octagonal bench
astakona octagon
astana palace
asusila immoral
atau or
atma(n) soul

Tamil

acaram wedding ring
acu mould, model
andai possibility
anéka various, diverse
anékaragam various kinds
apam rice flour cake
awa- free from
awanama anonymous
awatara incarnation
awawarna blanched, decolorized

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Slavery in the Dutch East Indies, 1600-1800

From: Being “Dutch” in the Indies: A History of Creolisation and Empire, 1500–1920, by Ulbe Bosma and Remco Raben, tr. by Wendie Shaffer (National U. Singapore Press, 2008), pp. 46-47:

While Mestizo communities were growing rapidly in the colonies in South Asia, Java and the Moluccas, things were looking very different in Batavia. Here the social spectrum was, in a manner of speaking, weighed down under the burden of two opposing immigrant streams. On the one hand were the large numbers of newcomers from Europe. They continued to occupy the upper ranks in the Dutch East India Company, fashioning their world with their conventions and status norms. Among the newcomers were thousands of soldiers living in the garrisons who were not permitted to marry. On the other hand, the city swarmed with slaves who had been brought there from neighbouring regions and who, after manumission, filled the ranks of the urban proletariat. During the 17th and 18th centuries between 200,000 and 300,000 slaves were transported to Batavia. Indeed, the majority of those living in Batavia had a background of slavery. Inside the city walls, where about 20,000 people lived, at least half the population were slaves and 10 per cent were Mardijkers [interesting etymology!—J.]. Most of the extramural communities also consisted of former slaves and their children. The demographic effects of the slave trade were enormous: when slavery was abolished in 1813, population growth ceased for a long time.

The Europeans were the largest group of slave owners. There are no statistics recording how many slaves there were per household in Batavia, but figures from other comparable cities can offer some idea. In Colombo in 1694, 70 per cent of the slaves were owned by Europeans, with an average of almost 11 slaves per household; on Ambon these figures were respectively 59 per cent and almost five. In Batavia the Mardijker community fluctuated with the number of Europeans in the city, which suggests a close correlation between the number of Europeans and the emancipation of Christian slaves. There appears to have been an almost insatiable demand for slaves. The whole of Batavia — from the company’s dockyards to household personnel, from orchestras to agriculture — depended on slave labour. The ubiquitous slaves also provided easy sexual contacts for their owner. Presumably, sexual relations between masters and their slaves were so common, and so much a matter of course, that they were seldom given special mention.

Slavery left other traces on the pattern of urban life. It was customary for Europeans to baptise their slaves. This practice took off after 1648, when baptised slaves were admitted to the religious celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the Dutch Reformed Church. In Protestant churches it was not the sacrament of baptism but that of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist or Holy Communion) that admitted a person into the community of Christian believers. Furthermore, many Batavian Europeans took pride in emancipating their baptised slaves. They would usually do this in their wills. Some of the emancipated slaves would, not surprisingly, be the natural children of slave women and European fathers. Once they had been baptised and emancipated, these former slaves merged into the Mardijker community. The Mardijkers were a flock of varied plumage. Initially, most of the slaves in Batavia came from India and Bali. This changed between 1660 and 1670, when the VOC halted its slave trade from India and Pegu (southern Burma) and, after the capture of the southern Sulawesi kingdom of Goa, channelled the extensive slave-trade network from Makassar to Batavia. The slaves of Indian origin living in Batavia quickly became a minority group. After some decades, this shift in slave supply areas resulted in the establishment of a Malay-speaking church in Batavia. The slaves from India tended to speak Portuguese, and the lingua franca in most households with slaves would probably also have been Portuguese. Thus, after their emancipation, slaves from India as well as the East Indies joined the Portuguese-speaking community. Between October 1688 and February 1708 there were 4,426 people accepted into the Portuguese-speaking church, while in the Malay-speaking church the number is no more than 306. With time, the Portuguese language began to fade out of use, and so during the 18th century the balance shifted. In the 1780s each year saw about 30 people joining the Portuguese congregation, while 31 were accepted into the Malay church.

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Filed under India, Indonesia, language, Malaysia, migration, Netherlands, Portugal, religion, slavery, Sri Lanka

Borrowed Gender Distinctions in Malay

There was an interesting discussion a couple of weeks ago on the An-lang (Austronesian languages) listserv about how those languages distinguish gender. Here’s my heavily copyedited rendition of the posting by Waruno Mahdi, whose breadth and depth of knowledge about Malay is hard to match.

The situation in Malay is similar to that described by Paz Naylor for Tagalog/Cebuano/Hiligaynon in the Philippines. The language did not originally have gender-specific terms, other than for ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘aunt’, ‘uncle’, ‘elder brother’, perhaps also ‘elder sister’. There are also gender-specific honorific titles in Malay folklore, where hang appears before a man’s name and dang before a woman’s name.

Terms for animals can be made gender-specific by adding the attribute jantan ‘male’ or betina ‘female’ behind the gender-neutral noun. That usage is already widespread in the earliest (16th-century) manuscripts, and does not appear to reflect late external influence.

The corresponding pattern for distinguishing male and female human terms is to add lelaki ‘man’ or perempuan ‘woman’ after the head noun. This usage is likewise attested in early manuscripts, but not as frequently as the usage for animals. The most frequent headword with those attributes was anak ‘child’, and the resulting construction distinguished ‘boy/son’ and ‘girl/daughter’.

Another such headword in earliest sources was raja ‘king’, a loanword from Sanskrit. In the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) one can find raja perempuan used to mean ‘female king, reigning queen’ (not simply ‘king’s wife’).

Malay borrowings from Sanskrit go back to the first millennium A.D., but the rise of word pairs marked specifically for gender in Malay did not occur until fairly recently. The term for ‘madam, milady’ in the earliest Malay manuscripts was tuan putri (‘master, sir, milord’ + Sanskrit loanword for ‘daughter’). The male equivalent of putri in Sanskrit is putra ‘son’, but the two words were used differently in Malay. Putra ‘son’ was fully incorporated into the language, giving rise to derived forms such as berputrakan ‘to have as son’, whereas the usage of putri was restricted almost exclusively to the expression tuan putri attached to the proper names of noble women. In a quick search of Ian Proudfoot’s MCP, I only came across a single deviant example in Hikayat Bayan Budiman, in which putri is used in both singular and plural to mean ‘princess’.

The rise of morphologically distinguished gender pairs dates to the 1930s in Indonesian Malay, where saudara ‘sibling’ had come to be used as term of address between indigenous Indonesians (somewhat like the word citoyen during the French Revolution). Political gender-correctness then demanded a term for female compatriots (equivalent to citoyenne), so the Sanskrit pattern of putra ‘son, prince’ vs. putri ‘daughter, princess’ (in their modern meanings) was extended to create saudari as the female counterpart to saudara. This pattern was later extended to create many more gender pairs, such as mahasiswa vs. mahasiswi for male vs. female students.

In response, David Gil notes Malay usage of mister (< English) to mean ‘white person’, whether male, female, singular, or plural. Whereupon Mahdi observes that similar antecedents, sinyor (< Portuguese senhor) and menir (from Dutch mijnheer), applied only to white males. A funny example he cites is a brand of Javanese herbal medicine (jamu) from the early 20th century known as jamu cap Nyonya-Meneer (lit. ‘missus-&-mister brand herbal-medicine’), with a picture of a Dutch couple on the package.

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A Costly Victory in Sri Lanka

Writing in The Atlantic, Robert Kaplan offers an awfully grim retrospective on how Sri Lanka won its 26-year war against the Tamil Tigers.

Though it was only a one-day news story in the United States, a momentous event occurred last spring, with worldwide military significance. After 26 years of heavy fighting, the Sri Lankan government decisively defeated an ethnic insurgency, killing all of its top leadership, whose bodies were displayed on national television. Massive victory parades followed.

The Tamil Tigers were no ordinary insurgency. Built on the ethnic hatred of the minority Hindu Tamils against the majority Sinhalese Buddhists, the movement was among the best organized and most ruthless to have emerged anywhere since the Second World War. The Tigers boasted their own air force and navy to go along with their unconventional ground troops. They helped pioneer the use of suicide bombers. (Recall that it was a female Tiger suicide bomber who killed Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.) They regularly embedded their fighters among noncombatants, using them as human shields. In other words, they were as organized and heartless as any insurgent group in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Tamil Tigers, moreover, had a brilliant, charismatic leader by the name of Vellupilai Prabakharan, who was venerated by many ethnic Hindu Tamils to the same extent that radical Muslims have venerated Osama bin Laden. His following was cult-like and was largely responsible for the war that killed 70,000 people since 1983, in an island of only 22 million people. Compare that to the deaths of 3,000 in the World Trade Center out of a population of 300 million in the United States. So when the Sri Lankan government displayed Prabakharan’s body on television last May, it represented the culmination of a counterinsurgency campaign that the U.S. could only dream about….

The war was won using techniques like the following, which the United States could and should never employ.

The insurgents are using human shields? No problem. Just keep killing the innocent bystanders until you get to the fighters themselves.… The Sri Lankan military indiscriminately killed large numbers of civilians—as many as 20,000 in the final months of fighting, according to the United Nations.

Bad media coverage is hurting morale and giving succor to the enemy? Just kill the journalists.… No journalist I met in Colombo was willing to cross the line and publicly attack the government.

The international community disapproves of your methods and cuts off military aid because of the human rights violations you’ve committed? Again, no problem. Get aid from China, whose assistance comes without moral lectures. That’s just what the Sri Lankan Government did. In return, the Chinese got the right to help construct a deep water port in Sri Lanka, close to world shipping lanes….

via RealClearPolitics

Kaplan adds a few other harsh observations in an interview with Michael J. Totten.

The Sri Lankan government was elected in 2005 to win the war. And it has done that. Extremely brutally. It’s a government that’s very nationalist Sinhalese Buddhist. These are not the Richard Gere’s “peace and love” Buddhists. These are the real blood and soil Buddhists, where Buddhism is like any other religion when it’s threatened and it’s defending a piece of territory. It can be very brutal….

In Sri Lanka you have a majority Sinhalese Buddhist population that thinks like a minority. They have a minority sense of oppression. Although they have 75 percent of the population while the Tamils have only about 18 percent, there are 60 million more Tamils nearby in southern India. So they’re kind of like the Iraqi Shias and the Serbs, other majorities who feel like minorities, and can be twice as brutal because of it.

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Filed under India, nationalism, religion, Sri Lanka, war