University of Heidelberg
South Asia Institute

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17th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies
Heidelberg, September 9 - 14, 2002

Panel 50 papers

Vernacular Newspapers and Periodicals:
Their Influence on Modernity, Reforms and Trends in Nineteenth-Century Mysore
J. V. Gayathri


In India, the history of the press is bound up with that of the spread of western ideas and civilization. The genesis of printing technology and the starting of newspapers in India resulted in the quicker dissemination of knowledge. Mysore, the territorially second largest Princely State, during the fifty years of direct British rule under the Commissioners from 1831-1881, witnessed the origin of printing presses. The pioneers were the Wesleyan mission who established a printing press in 1840 to publish textbooks for school children. Though the Christian Missionaries introduced printing for the purpose of spreading the Gospel, with the support of the educated elite, they took the initiative in advocating social reform movements and protested against archaic social customs and practices prevalent in the orthodox Hindu society. Abolition of child marriage, performance of widow re-marriages, anti nautch activities, introduction of English education, impetus to female education, upliftment of the depressed classes, and other such foundations for an ideological revolution were laid. A secular and progressive atmosphere was created with the involvement of educated middle-class Caste Hindus who directed the movement from above the social pyramid. The activities of the Brahma Samaj, Arya Samaj and other organisations expressed concern about many social problems of the society through public lectures and write ups in journals. Some newspapers effectively provided news on politics, entertainment and administration affairs.

The Mysore Vrittanta Bodhini was the first vernacular weekly newspaper started in Mysore in 1859 which was prevalent till 1898. Bhashyam Bhashyacharya, its editor, who was indirectly supported by the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, had studied in the Wesleyan Mission School and had his high school education completed at Madras. He was proficient in Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. He started Karnataka Prakashika, another Anglo-Vernacular weekly in 1865. The year 1866 saw the birth of the Anglo-Vernacular weekly Mysore Gazette, the official organ of the Government of Mysore, edited by Col. L. Richette. It conveyed to the people of Mysore State, through the medium of their own vernacular, a knowledge of all administration orders, changes, reforms and other important government measures which made them take interest in the affairs of Mysore. Other leading vernacular Kanarese newspapers of Mysore in the nineteenth century were: the Vrittanta Patrike (1887), the Mysore Deshabhimani (1892), and Anglo-Vernacular weeklies like Mysore Star (1890) and Suryodaya Prakashika (1892) which through their writings and reports created public awareness for necessary social change. The press in Mysore State championed the cause of reforming Hindu Society and favoured changes in the customs and practices of the Hindus, inspite of the continued altercation between the Press and the Government. In this paper an attempt has been made to evaluate the importance of the vernacular press in advancing the cause of intellectual, social and progressive views among the traditional Hindu society of Mysore.



Periodicals of fame and periodicals of shame:
popular print and reforming tastes in colonial Bengal
Anindita Ghosh


My paper discusses the significance of reformist ideologies in Bengali society in the nineteenth century, against the backdrop of the ‘Bengal Renaissance’. Literary tastes and cultural ideologies, I argue, served as important markers of identity in colonial Bengal, and print became an effective tool for wielding them. Bhadralok or educated middle class identity was structured on the ruins of the non-bhadralok - but literate - ‘other’, and literary boundaries effectively helped define social boundaries. My study enables me to closely examine the different layers of the Bengali middle class, their social aspirations and world-views, as well as the tensions within.

I study literary journals and magazines of the period, and assess their impact on contemporary tastes and reading habits. The Bengali intelligentsia (bhadralok) of this time were involved in a campaign to improve the cultural standards of the people. This civilising drive began as part of the move initiated by British scholars, officials and missionaries alike, but soon acquired a life of its own as increasing numbers of the educated joined in. A regular crop of literary journals and magazines delineated the parameters of 'useful' and 'responsible' reading. Literary societies also came up to serve an active programme of composition, translation, and publishing. But what impact did this programme have on the cultural life - more closely, the reading habits - of Bengali society? I attempt to answer this question by turning to examine the actual readership of the period.

My quest leads me to the wider circle of less educated and part-literate readers, far beyond the confines of gentile society, whose numbers had greatly increased over the second half of the nineteenth century. I thus also explore the commercial book market, and demonstrate how a vast section of consumers of serial print – like thrillers, romances and mysteries – continued to thrive on very different kinds of aesthetics and reading preferences. The reformist ideologies of the literati seem to have made little or no impact on them. However, I see this not simply as a clash of cultures of ‘high’ and ‘low’, but also as a meeting point - of convergence and similarities.



The ideas of social reform and Gujarati journals in the late nineteenth century
Riho Isaka


This paper aims to examine the way in which the elites in nineteenth-century Gujarat began to publish vernacular periodicals as part of their social reform movements and how their changing ideologies of reform were reflected in the style and contents of these periodicals. So far most of the works on social reform in Gujarat, with a few exceptions, have analysed writings of individual reformers or focused on specific incidents which provoked active public debates on reform. Although they have illustrated in detail individual intellectuals' ideas or public opinion on specific issues at specific points in time, they give us little insight into more general and gradual changes which took place in reform movements of this region.

In this paper, I will first illustrate the process in which many vernacular periodicals began to be published and distributed in late-nineteenth-century Gujarat, mostly in association with voluntary associations which had been organising reform movements. The paper will then focus on the famous Gujarati journal, Buddhiprakash, published since 1854 by the Gujarat Vernacular Society, the leading literary association of this region. This journal claimed to aim at 'enlightening' and 'improving' people and society, and published essays on a wide range of topics, including philosophy, history, language, literature, biography, science, and contemporary news in India and the world. It also introduced the current news of Gujarat regarding education, social reform and literary activities. Through examining these articles over half a century, various changes can be discerned in the style and contents of the journal. This, in turn, enables us to discuss how reform movements expanded among different groups of people, which influenced the nature of this journal. It also shows the process in which specific ideas of reform and 'ideal' society—‘ideal’ women, family, education, literature and life style-- established their dominance over others during this period.




The Journalism of Master Ramchandra of Delhi College
Gail Minault


In the generation before the Indian revolt of 1857, the cultural and literary life of the city of Delhi was rich and vibrant. It was an age that witnessed the flowering of Urdu poetry with the careers of Ghalib, Zauq, and Zafar, the emergence of the Urdu political press, and the ferment of religious controversy. It was also a time of intellectual interaction between the new British rulers and the Mughal service elites of North India (whether Hindu or Muslim), who still retained their administrative and cultural importance.

The institution of learning that both contained that intellectual interaction and abetted the flowering of literature and the press was Delhi College. This institution had two sections, a madrasa and a college with a western curriculum, but its chief innovation was that all subjects, whether oriental or western, were taught in the vernacular, Urdu. This required collaboration between the European administrators and the Indian teachers and students at the college to translate and publish texts on scientific and literary subjects. The college established its own press that published not only textbooks, but also periodicals containing articles about contemporary developments in science and technology, international events, and serialized translations of popular works of literature and biography.

The chief figure in the development of the periodicals that issued from Delhi College press in the 1840s and 50s was Master Ramchandra, the mathematics professor at the college. A North Indian Kayastha, Ramchandra rose from a relatively humble background to achieve renown both as a mathematician and especially as an Urdu stylist, known for his clear, unpretentious prose. He edited two of the journals published by the college: Muhibb-e-Hind, a monthly scientific and literary journal, and Fawaid un-Nazirin, a weekly newspaper. In the pages of these periodicals, Ramchandra made western innovations in science and technology available to the literate public of North India, but also articulated an ideology of reform that involved openness to knowledge from wherever it issued. Ramchandra had a voracious intellect that reflected the ideas that were being discussed at the college and among the intellectuals in Delhi at the time. This paper will discuss the contents of the Delhi College periodicals and Ramchandra’s contribution to Urdu journalism and public opinion.



Nineteenth-Century Tamil Journals
Srilata Mueller


The numerous vernacular journals which emerged in the Madras Presidency in the mid-19th century saw themselves as contributing to that pan-Indian public discourse concerning social and educational reform, women's issues as well as the dessimation of a nationalist consciousness which would mould indigenous political opinion. At the same time, these journals were also self-consciously vernacular. Edited, sponsered and published as they were by scholars and historians of Tamil literature with the intention of attracting an erudite readership many of these journals also sought to forge a specifically Tamil and Dravidian cultural consciousness through a series of ideological monographs on Tamil literature, language and history. These journals, how many of them existed, their circulation and readership, is yet to be clearly determined. Two monographs of recent origin have attempted to shed light on this neglected area of Tamil literature. This paper will address some of these issues and present in broad outline a review of the literature.




Hindi Journalism 1877-1906
Mariola Offredi


In this paper I will be discussing two important periodicals (Hindi Pradip, Prayag, 1877-1909; Bharatmitr, Calcutta, 1878-1935) that appeared during the second and third phases of Hindi journalism, which fell, respectively, from 1877 to 1889 and from 1890 to 1906. The quarter century they span immediately follows the first phase of Hindi journalism, 1826-1876, when pioneering attempts to create a vernacular press evolved into more sophisticated efforts such as those found in the periodicals launched by one of the leading figures of nineteenth-century publishing, Bhartendu (“Bhartendu” Hariscandr, 1850-1885). During the second phase, with which this paper opens, Bhartendu´s energising effect on literary, social and political journalism was channeled in various directions which fused, however, into a new outspokenness towards social and political issues. This change was brought about by the passing of the Vernacular Press Act IX of 1878 (An Act for the Better Control of Publication in Oriental Languages, 1878). Ratified on 14 March 1878, when the Viceroy Lord Lytton was in office, the Act’s restrictions applied only to the vernacular press. The authorities were now entitled to demand from the publisher and printer of a vernacular newspaper a written undertaking that they would not print news or articles that would arouse discontent among the people towards the Government; after receiving a first warning, offenders’ printing tools would be confiscated. Of course, the publisher could have the proofs censured. English-language papers, even those published by Indians, were exempt from every single one of the curbing measures introduced by the Act, which only added to its unpopularity. To bypass the Act, the editor of the Bengali journal Amrt Bazar Patrika started to print his paper in English the day after it came into force.




Delhi Urdu Akhbar. Transformations and Continuities in the Constitution of Public Opinion
Margrit Pernau

This paper will look at Delhi in the first half of the 19th century, and try to locate the emergence of public opinion in the period of transition between the late Mughal Empire and the early colonial rule and between a communication system characterized by the central place of the oral transmission and manuscript culture, and a system bases on mass print culture.

The Delhi Urdu Akhbar, published from Delhi since 1837, was the first newspaper to be written exclusively in Urdu. The aim is to situate this paper within the tradition of the courtly akhbarat and the earlier Persian newspapers on the one hand, and the contemporary English periodicals on the other hand, in order to gauge how far the transformation of the emerging public sphere has to be seen as a result of British colonial influence and how far it links up with older traditions.

The analysis of the surviving volumes of the DU so far located (1840-1841, 1853-1854) shall focus on the following questions:

What constitutes “news”, what topics are chosen for reporting and discussion?

What constitutes the “political”, which events are seen to have a political relevance, how are they depicted?

How are the British integrated into these pre-existing cultural models, how does this integration in turn transform the model?

In a next step we shall try to locate the emerging print culture in the wider context of the public sphere in Delhi, and look for the other spheres in which public opinion was shaped. Which impact did these more traditional venues have on the Delhi Urdu Akhbar, how was it situated in the factions pre-dating its existence, how did it in turn react on them?

Finally we will turn to the internal evidences for the emergence of a translocal public sphere, on the one hand through the creation of a common frame of reference and shared knowledge, on the other hand through the exchange of information and mutual quotation among newspapers.




Discrete Didacticisms: The Orunodoi, the Jonaki and the Sadhana;
Three Periodicals in Colonial Assam
Jayeeta Sharma


This paper will explore the role of ‘periodical culture’ in nurturing and contouring ideas about their collective destiny by a section of the indigenous intelligentsia in colonial India, with reference to Assam. This will be done through a study of the commonalities as well as the divergences in the agendas of three Assamese language periodicals published between 1846 and 1923. These are the Orunodoi, published by the American Baptist Mission from Sibsagar (Assam) from 1846; the Jonaki published from Calcutta from 1899 as the organ of the Assamese Language Improvement Society and the Sadhana, published from Guwahati from1923 as the organ of the All Assam Muslim Association.

All these periodicals took up what they saw as their main tasks of spreading useful knowledge and rejuvenating vernacular culture, in the new public sphere of Assam. It is also possible to trace how their specific agendas of religious dissemination or community consolidation influenced the way in which their writing and reading publics were able to interact with each other, and the common space of an emergent Assamese ‘nation’. By examining these three representative publications over a broad span of time, I hope to shed some light on how their didactic projects were keeping pace with the evolving imaginings of nation.

This paper forms part of my ongoing doctoral dissertation, which is to look at the mythologies through which a nation is being imagined in this particular space.



Politics, Public Issues and the Promotion of Urdu Literature:
Awadh Akhbar, the First Urdu Daily in Northern India
Ulrike Stark


Launched in 1858 by the famous Lucknow publisher and print-capitalist Munshi Newal Kishore, the Awadh Akhbar was one of the most influential and long-lived Urdu papers in northern India. It was also the first Urdu journal to go daily in 1877. This paper will sketch the growth of the Awadh Akhbar from bi-monthly to daily and analyse the various factors accounting for its popularity and commercial success. It will explore the journal´s claim to be a 'modern' newspaper which, emulating English models, covered local, national and international news, hereby introducing the vernacular reading public to new concepts of informational culture while retaining some of the features of traditional news writing. Against the backdrop of the criticism frequently raised against the Awadh Akhbar on account of its loyal, allegedly 'anti-nationalist' stance the extent and implications of colonial patronage will also be discussed. In focusing on several political and social reform issues I try to show how the Awadh Akhbar in fact was walking the tightrope between the support of government and a self-styled role of representing 'native' opinion and public grievances.

Focusing on the illustrious range of editors and contributors to the Awadh Akhbar, the paper in its second part examines the journal´s role in promoting Urdu literature and in providing a forum of discourse to the Urdu literary elite. Through the example of Ratan Nath 'Sarshar' and his famous Urdu novel Fasana-i Azad, published in instalments in Awadh Akhbar from 1878 onward, I will discuss how new publication modes engendered by print culture entailed a new and highly successful genre of 'serialized literature'. In combining entertainment with issues of social and political relevance this serialized literature reflected contemporary reading tastes while also encouraging new forms of reader-writer interaction.

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