Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria was the longest reigning monarch in the English, Scottish or British History.

Aside : The kingdom of Great Britain was formed in 1707 by the union of England (England and Wales) with Scotland. In 1801, The Kingdom of Great Britain united with the Kingdom of Ireland to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland which became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland when 5/6th of Ireland seceded from the union.

 

Victoria - Self Portrait -1835
Victoria – Self Portrait -1835

Princess Charlotte was the daughter of Prince Regent George, first in line to the British throne and the only legitimate grandchild of King George III. The death of Princess Charlotte in childbirth brought about a succession crisis that forced Prince Edward (Third son of King George) to marry at the age of 50. After King George III and his sons and daughters, there were no legitimate heir to the throne of the British Empire. Prince Edward married Princess Victoria, who was a widow with two children from her first marriage.

Princess Alexandrina Victoria was born on 24th May 1819. She was named Alexandrina after her Godfather, Emperor Alexander I of Russia. At her birth, she was fifth in line to the British Throne. Her father and the King died within a week of each other in 1820. Her uncle, Duke of York died in 1827 and the other uncle King George IV died in 1830, making her the heiress presumptive to her last surviving uncle, King William IV. At the age of 18, on June 20 1837, King William IV died making Victoria, the Queen of United Kingdom.

She married Prince Albert in 1840. Her white wedding dress was unusual as normally wedding dress were more colorful. This apparently started the tradition of white bridal gowns in Christian marriages.

During her long reign, she was target of assassination by Edward Oxford in 1840, John Francis in 1842, John Bean in 1842, William Hamilton in 1849, assault by Robert Pate in 1850, Roderick Maclean in 1882. She lived a charmed life.

She was crowned the Empress of India in 1877. He full title now was “Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India.”

Queen Victoria was the Grandmother of the Royal Houses of Europe. Her daughter Victoria married Frederick, the Crown Prince of Germany and Prussia (who later became Frederick III, German Emperor and King of Prussia). Queen Victoria’s first grandchild, Wilhelm, through her daughter Victoria became Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia after Frederick III. Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Maud (daughter of Edward VII) was the Queen of Norway. Another of Victoria’s granddaughter, Alexandra was the Empress Consort and wife of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II. Marie, again Victoria’s granddaughter, was the Queen consort of Romania as wife of King Ferdinand I. Victoria Eugenie, Queen of Spain and wife of King Alfonso XIII was also a granddaughter of Victoria. Edward VII, son of Victoria was the King of United Kingdom and Emperor of India. The current Queen of United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II is also a descendant of Victoria.

During the Victorian Era, the British Empire reached the zenith of its expansion and power. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 was suppressed and the East India Company nationalized with the passing over of all administrative duties to the British Crown. The EIC was dissolved in 1874. The British Empire extended to six continents and the Victorian Era saw the establishment of dominion of Canada, the Crimean War (Leo Tolstoy was the first War Correspondent), the tripling of population of Australia due to Victorian Gold Rush(Its province of Victoria is named after, you guessed it right, Queen Victoria), Irish famine which resulted in almost a million dead in Ireland and million more emigrated to Canada, America and Australia. Victorian Era was also a boost to technology and sciences. Railroads, electricity, Telegraph, Telephone, Theory of Evolution were all products of the Victorian Era. The first postal stamp, the penny black, with the profile of Queen Victoria was issued in 1840 to make the post a pre-payment system rather than an On-Delivery payment. The first football league was founded in 1888. The oldest tennis championship, Wimbledon was first held in 1877. Victoria’s rule was also the time of giants like Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, George Elliot (Mary Ann Evans), Lewis Carroll, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Oscar Wilde, John Stuart Mill, Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes and Dracula were the product of the Victorian Era.

Victoria died in 1901, the first year of the 20th century, a century that was shaped to a large extent by her rule and that of her descendants. Her son, Edward VII, the future King of United Kingdom and her eldest grandson, Wilhelm II, now the Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia were at her deathbed.

Knowledge of Praising

The battle of Megiddo took place on c. April 16th, 1457 BCE. In the battle, Pharaoh Thutmose III defeated an alliance of Canaanite and Mittani kingdoms. It opened a way for Thutmose to expand further northward. The importance of this battle lies in the fact that it is perhaps the first battle to have been recorded with considerable and reliable details.

The bible says that the end of the world will be in the form of Armageddon (Nothing to do with the movie). The word Armageddon is frequently used to refer to the end of times. But Armageddon does not refer to an event. It in fact refers to a place Har Megiddo, mount of Megiddo, where the battle between the Messiah and Antichrist takes place. Thus it is fitting that the place where the first battle properly described took place would be the place for the final battle as well.

The Mittani signed a treaty with the Hittites in 14th century BC. This treaty document is the first exhibit of Indo Aryan language. The treaty is drawn with the blessings of Indara (Indra), Mitras (Mitra), Nasatianna (Nasatya or Ashwins) and Uruvanass (Varuna). There is neither any evidence of Agni or Soma (The primary Gods of Rigveda) nor of Rama or Krishna, the major Gods of Modern Hinduism.

Avesta, the collection of holy texts of Zoroastrian purported to be written sometime in the middle of second millennium BCE, has some things in common with Rigveda. There is marked interchangeability between the sounds h and s in the words used in the two. Thus we have Ahura (Asura), hepta hindu (Septa Sindhu) and daha (dasa). The religious concepts are however reversed. Thus we have Ahura (Ahura Mazda) as the chief God in Avesta while the Vedic religion terms Asura as the demons. Indara (Indra) is demonic in Avesta as are the other Deavas. This could be interpreted as resulting from a religious dissension between the original group of people in the Persian-Mittani-Western end of the Indian subcontinent. One group favoring Ahura going to Persia while the other migrating towards India. The modern Parsis (Root word Persia) are the descendants of these Zoroastrians. They later migrated to India during the eastern expansion of Islamic Caliphates. Thus we see that the two branches eventually merged geographically.

The Rigveda (which means knowledge of praising (or verse)) as we know now was maintained through oral tradition till the Gupta period (4th to 6th CE) when it was written down in Brahmi script. Rigveda is believed to have been composed during the Iron Age (around 800 BCE). Rigveda is divided into 10 mandalas or family book of which the first and the tenth are the youngest and longest. Each mandala is purported to be written by a Rishi. Eg.,Maharshi Vashishta is credited with composing the seventh mandala while Vishawamitra composed mandala 3. The oral tradition of memorizing the text included techniques like padapatha and samhita. The primary deities to whom the hymns are devoted are Indra and Agni. Other Gods mentioned include Soma, Varuna, Savitr, Aditya and Ashwins among others.

The famous Gayatri Mantra is a part of third mandala of Rigveda attributed as we have seen to Vishwamitra. Gayatri in fact refers to a Sanskrit meter that contains a structure of 3 lines with 8 syllables each. Thus, theoretically there are many Gayatri mantras. The recitation starts with Om Bhur bhuvah svah, which is known as mahavyahrti (Great utterance) and is a prefix recommended by Taittiriya Aranyaka to be applied to all recitations. It is not a part of the Gayatri Mantra. Following this is the Mantra proper. The meaning of the Mantra – “May we attain the excellent glory of Savitar the God so may he simulate our prayers.” The mantra is thus dedicated to God Savitr and hence is also known as Savitri.

Mandala 10 contains hymns like Nasadiya Sukta, Hiranyagarbha Sukta and Purusha Sukta. Nasadiya Sukta (It is narrated in the opening credits of the series Discovery of India) is believed to be the earliest account of agnosticism. Hiranyagarbha Sukta (Song in the ending credits) deals with the creation of the cosmos while the Purusha Sukta is dedicated to Purusha from whose different body parts Gods (Indra and Agni from the mouth) and various Varnas appeared.

 

PS. It took me a long time to write this post. The really bad quality of writing demonstrates it amply.

The immortals of Harappa – Part III

End of Indus Valley Civilization:

The end of IVC was not sudden as is believed to be. Sir Mortimer Wheeler after examination of a group of skeleton contended that the bodies were the remnants of mass massacre perpetrated by invaders (Aryans?). Later analysis though showed that the people were not victims of violent crimes but sever anemia. It is now believed that economics and climate change may have resulted in the decline of the cities and the subsequent decline of the civilization. A L Basham writing during the middle of the 20th century believed in the decline due to Aryan invasion theory.

The remains of horses were found in the late Harappan period suggesting a movement of horse riding people. Later houses in the cities were further subdivided into smaller portions that indicate movement of refugees, perhaps running away from the horse riding invaders. The image of “Horse riding invaders” makes its appearance again during the 16th and 17th century in Central and South America again in the form of Conquistador. Fine tools like the shaft hole axe were found in the upper levels probably left behind by the invaders.

It is possible that the cities were already declining when the invaders came leading to migration away from the cities. Eventually the civilization collapsed and was assimilated into the invading culture. Barui people in Baluchistan still speak a language very identical to Dravidian languages lending credence to the theory that Dravidians were inhabitants of Northwest India but were later forced or moved on their own volition to the southern parts.

The immortals of Harappa – Part II

Harappan seals:

Scribe or Proto-Shiva?
Scribe or Proto-Shiva?
Seals
Seals

Harappan seals are perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the IVC. The seals were often made of steatite (Also known as soapstone as it feels soapy to touch). The seals were flat and depicted animals, humans, hybrids along with a still undeciphered script. The script was read right to left like the Arabic family of languages. The seals had a little hole in the back which was probably used to tie the seals. Probably the seal was worn as an amulet around the neck or perhaps the amulet on the arm of the Priest-King was a seal. Or perhaps the seal was used to tie the goods that was exported probably to indicate the authenticity of the origin of the goods. One interpretation is that the seals were similar to modern day logos. General length of the script was around 6 symbols while the longest that is known was 17 symbols long. This is too small to accommodate description of something. Its possible that the seals consists of names of the Harappan Apple and Microsoft and Google. Perhaps the animal on the seal indicated the specialty. Thus the one with the elephant would be the monopoly on elephant trade while the one scribe (?) could be a services company that provided accounting or other clerical support. Or perhaps they indicated the official bureaucracy. Some similarity have been found of the symbols with those found on Easter Islands which is half the world away and existed in different time periods. Did the immortal Harappans made Easter Islands their new home?

Do they look alike?
Do they look alike?

Religion:

The Harappan civilization does not show a presence of religious buildings. Even burial rituals appear to be rare. No elaborate icons or religious carvings have been found. Burials consisted of items of daily use compared to the elaborate pyramids that the Egyptians were building at around the same time. Perhaps the Harappans did not believe in an after life. Like the later Indians, Pipal tree was probably held sacred. A seal depicts a Goddess on the Pipal tree being worshipped by a horned man and what appears to be priestess. Bull appears on many seals as also a man in a yogic position which some historians believe to be “Proto-Shiva”. He was perhaps a fertility God. Terracotta female figurine with red color applied on the “maang” were also found. Small statues of “Mother Goddess” have been found perhaps indicating a fertility cult of worship. Some seals showed swastikas too. All these elements were later absorbed by the following civilizations.

Technology :

The blades of IVC were flat without the midrib which made them liable to be easily bent. The Sumerians already had much better blades. Why the Harappans did not import them will like so many other questions remain unanswered. Toys with movable heads, small toy carts, beads were also found. The domestic fowl or the chicken was first domesticated in the IVC. Cotton, Rice and perhaps the water buffalo were also first domesticated in IVC. The Pottery in Indus Valley mostly contained black designs of animals and plants and abstract shapes on red background.

Dancing Girl:

The Dancing Girl
The Dancing Girl

 

One of the most amazing piece of art found in the IVC is that of the “dancing girl”. The bronze statue is almost 4500 years old. She is naked with one arm completely filled with bangles which reminds me of similar bangles used by modern day Banjara.

Banjara Woman
Banjara Woman

She is very thin with what is believed to be a provocative (?) posture. It is generally believed that she belonged to a class of temple dancers or prostitute. But it begs the question of why anyone would make a costly (?) statue of a prostitute? Was it a gift from a lover appreciating her beauty? Who was she? Was she a famous princess or a famous priestess? What did she do in her life? Was she just an imagination of the metal worker or was she based on some real person? Who was she?

The immortals of Harappa – Part I

Time : 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE – Almost 1500 to 2000 year period. Mature Harappan period lasted from 2600BCE to 1900 BCE. Compared to IVC, American civilization is just 235 year old. Ancient Egyptian civilization is supposed to have begun with the union of Lower and Upper Egypt by Menes around 3100 BCE and lasted till 31 BC when Mark Anthony and Cleopatra were defeated by Augustus Octavian. Sumerian empire lasted from 26 century BCE to 23rd Century BCE when it was followed by Akkadian empire. Thus the three great civilizations of the ancient times were contemporaries at one time or the other.

Place : The IVC was mainly located in North Western Indian subcontinent from modern northern Maharashtra to the eastern edges of Iran and to Northern Pakistan. The Mohenjo Daro and Harappa were the two main cities with the later giving its name to the culture. The ancient name of the Civilization or of a prominent city of the civilization could be Meluhha or Melukka from Sumerian sources.

 

Location of Indus Valley Civilization
Location of Indus Valley Civilization

Economy : The cities were located with an eye towards trade. They were located close to rivers (Mohenjo Daro, Harappa, Kot Diji ) or closer to the sea (Lothal, Surkotada) to facilitate transport and trade. Some sites like Mehrgarh and Novsharo were located close to the land passes or the source of raw material. Harappan seals and weights were found in Mesopotamia and sites in Persian Gulf indicating extensive trade. Sumerian sources mention that the trade with the land of Meluhha consisted of ivory, Lapis Lazuli, wood and gold. The sea ports of Lothal and Surkotada must have facilitated trade with the southern parts of India as well. This could be an explanation of presence of Harappan art forms in the Edakkal caves. Overland trade with the Persians via the Bolan Valley was also maintained. Copper was mined in Rajasthan, Lapis in the mountains of Chagai Hills, wood from Gujarat. Carefully standardized weights and length rods were found in the remains of the cities. The chert weights were in the ratio of 5:2:1 with a unit being of 28 grams. The presence of these weights indicate an understanding of mathematics and also the presence of a strong central authority across the cities that standardized them. Another reason could be trade imperatives as the need for a standard weight might have been felt by the merchants in all the trading cities even in the absence of a central authority imposing it. Harappan were adept in metallurgy with copper, tin, bronze and tin being used. A “dockyard” has been found in Lothal and there is considerable controversy regarding its use. A warehouse near the dockyard could be the place of exchange of materials and a marketplace. Cotton was used for the first time in the Indus Valley. It was also an important export item from India even in the ancient times.

 

Mohenjo Daro Weights
Mohenjo Daro Weights

Cities :

Cities exhibit extensive planning. In Mohenjo Daro. The plan of the cities remained constant for hundreds of years. When the old buildings collapsed, new ones were constructed with exactly the same plan with minor variations. For at least a thousand years the street plan remained the same. Read that sentence again. For a thousand years the street plan remained the same! Look around you, how many buildings or streets have the same plan for even a hundred years? What about having an entire city with the same plan for a hundred years? Even with a liberal estimate of generation span of 30 years (For ancient times it should be 20 years), more than 30 generations saw the same city. The city must have entered into the thoughts and life of the people. It was a symbol of stability with its crenelated surrounding walls and 30ft wide streets. People from far off villages would rarely come to the city and when they did come they would have been in awe of the majesty of it. Perhaps there were laws preventing people from changing the layouts. The civilization was in contact with the advancing civilizations of Mesopotamia but still they did not adopt their advancements even simple ones like shaft hole axe. Why were the rulers against change? There were no evidence of large scale military presence in the cities thus it is unlikely that the rulers maintained order by force. The religious structure, that we will come to see later, also was not very pervasive. It is a wonder why and how they maintained their extreme conservatism. Was it a ghost city? Or a holy city? People just maintained the city but no one lived there? This is highly unlikely due to the cost involved and the evidences point to people living there.

An awesome shaft hole axe found in Bactria
An awesome shaft hole axe found in Bactria depicting a double eagle headed man fighting a tiger

The city contained a artificial platform or mounds to its west about 30ft above ground. The “citadel” contained the administrative and religious buildings. The effort required to build the citadel must have been tremendous and would have required considerable motivation. Perhaps the cities were threatened with frequent raids and had enemies in the nearby areas. The cities may have been the center of wealth (unlikely as little evidence is found of wealth but it could also have been looted through the centuries) or center of authority over the surrounding areas. These could have necessitated protection.

Mohenjo Daro Citadel showing the Great Bath
Mohenjo Daro Citadel showing the Great Bath

The city was laid out in a grid pattern with intersecting roads. The houses had a central courtyard with rooms around it facing inwards. There were no windows facing the roads. The houses were made of mud bricks and contained their own baths and wells. The cities had extensive drainage network not seen anywhere else till the Roman empire. The drains were built with kiln fired bricks. The city had huge baths. The presence of public bath as well as baths in houses indicate an observance of ritual purity very similar to what is seen in modern Hinduism. The architecture of the city shows knowledge of surveying and geometry indicating the knowledge of these sciences.  Maintaining the city for hundreds of years must have required a very efficient bureaucracy. How did they maintain their record is a mystery. The Indus script that has been found seems to be too complex for usual record keeping and must have been mostly ceremonial in nature. How did they keep their records? Did the ravages of time destroy these records or did they memorize everything? The later Vedic period’s stress of memorization of religious texts and the techniques developed to aid in memorization may have its origins in the IVC cities bureaucratic practices.

Sewers in Mohenjo Daro
Sewers in Mohenjo Daro

The cities do not show any evidence of a royal palace. What was the ruling structure of the cities like? Did they have an imperial system? An oligarchy? A theocracy? A statue of a “priest king” has been found with its eyes semi closed with a band on his head. The semi closed could represent meditation or could be because the statue is of a person of mongoloid origin. It is unlikely that we will ever know who he was. Was he a philosopher? Great King? Warrior? Or just a vanity bust of a rich merchant? The cloth which covered only one shoulder is very finely depicted. There is a band on his upper arm. Is it a sign of his authority like we have sleeve insignia or shoulder patches in the modern armies depicting ranks or was it just a religious amulet? Depicting it in a statue must have indicated its importance. The design of the cloth may have also indicated the social status. The ancient Roman/Greek senators had distinctive costume. Is the statue wearing such a “uniform”?

The "Priest King" of Mohenjo Daro
The "Priest King" of Mohenjo Daro
Roman Senators
Roman Senators

It is possible that the cities were independent city states like the Greek city states with extensive trading. The cities may have been in competition with each other with their own spheres of influence but perhaps not engaging in large scale warfare. The competition must have been mostly economic and trade related. But the uniformity of structure of the cities do not support this. It is possible that apart from the rival ry in trade, the cities exhibited a common underlying cultural and religious nature. Thus even when they were rivals in trade, they had the same social and architectural structure because  of religion.

Some image courtesy a very good article on http://www.andaman.org/BOOK/F1-IndusCivilization/indus.htm.