Modern India : The First Burmese War
Abolition of Sati
| ||India's History : Modern India : Prohibition of Sati - 1829|| |
Within the Indian culture, the highest ideal for a woman are virtue, purity, and allegiance to her husband. From this tradition stems the custom in which a wife immolates herself on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband as proof of her loyalty. This custom in which a woman burns herself either on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband or by herself with a momento after his death is now referred to as sati or, in England, as suttee. In the original meaning, "Sati" was defined as a woman who was "true to her ideals". A pious and virtuous woman would receive the title of "Sati." Sati was derived from the ancient Indic language term, sat, which means truth. Sati has come to signify both the act of immolation of a widow and the victim herself, rather than its original meaning of "a virtuous woman".
The term"sati" is associated with the Hindu goddess Sati. In the Hindu mythology, Sati who was the wife of Lord Shiva, consumed herself in a holy pyre. She did this in response to her father's refusal to invite Shiva to the assembly of the Gods. She was so mortified that she invoked a yogic fire and was reduced to ashes. Self-sacrifice, like that of the original Sati, became a "divine example of wifely devotion". The act of Sati propagated the belief that if a widow gives up her life for her husband, she will be honored. Socially, the act of sati played a major role in determining the true nature of a woman. Self-sacrifice is considered the best measure of judging the woman's virtue as well as her loyalty to her husband. The following applies to the ideal wife: "if her husband is happy, she should be happy; if he is sad, she should be sad, and if he is dead, she should also die. Such a wife is called a Patrivrata". The upbringing of many Indian girls emphasized the concept of Patrivrata as the only way for a woman to merit heaven.
This concept of meriting heaven through self-sacrifice became embedded within the minds of many as the only assurance for a female to gain salvation. A female's life must be lived in full devotion to her husband; otherwise she will be doomed for eternity and will live a cruel existence as a widow. According to Ananda Coomaraswamy: "Women were socially dead after the death of their husbands and were thought to be polluting". Only a woman who is sexually and legally possessed by a husband is respected within the Indian society.
By sacrificing herself a widow saves herself from the cruel existence of widowhood and ends the threat she possesses for society. She is considered a member of society who has unrestrained sexual vigor, and thus may harm society with immoral acts. A widow was seen as having irrepressible sexual powers and could be a danger to her society. Remarriage in India was not favored. A widow was not allowed to remarry, nor was she able to turn to religious learning, and hence lived a bleak and barren life. The pain that a sati endures on the pyre was less painful of an experience than the torture she must endure physically and emotionally as a widow. If a widow decided not to join her husband, she was separated from the social world of the living and considered to be a "cold sati". She was only allowed to wear rags and was treated by her family and members of society as an impure, polluted being. The prohibition, in which she is unable to adorn herself, was considered justifiable, done for the widow's "own interest".
The British government in 1829 prohibited the custom of sati. British India declared the practice of sati as illegal and punishable by criminal courts. Such a law revealed much about the British thought and opinion of India and its customs.
East India Company takes over the Administration
Company's Charter renewed
| ||India's History : Modern India : Renewal of Company's Charter; Abolition of company's trading rights : 1833|| |
Renewal of Charter
After the separation of the Company’s commercial and political financial accounts, tracking charges to Indian territorial revenues became somewhat easier. Company accounts distinguished a class of territorial expenses incurred in Britain that were chargeable to the Indian revenues. After the 1833 Charter Renewal that abolished the Company’s commercial operations, calculating what were called Home Charges become straightforward anything spent by the Company in Britain was an expense for the Indian treasury. Whether all these charges represented a transfer of wealth from India as a drain or tribute or whether some or all should be considered payments for services rendered is a difficult question and one that this paper cannot really answer. However, the impact of the Home Charges upon Indian budgets between 1815 and 1859 is clear.
It was only after passage of the Charter Act of 1833 had closed India Company trading operations that a shift occurred. After that date, the regime began a systematic policy of building and improving public works. For example, the regime invested 2.2 million sterling in improving three grand trunk roads: Peshawar-Delhi-Calcutta; Calcutta to Bombay; and Bombay to Agra. In the 1850’s the state began work for the first time on new irrigation projects. The Ganges Canal that tapped into the perennial water flow of the Himalayan river sources, finished in 1854, cost 1.4 million sterling. The Kaveri, Godavari and Krishna river systems in the south were also completed.
These long-term East India Company fiscal data reveal several characteristic features of the Company’s fiscal approach: First, decision-makers at home and in India were bent on creating a usable revenue surplus each year suitable for commercial investment (until 1833) and paying dividends to the holders of East India Company stock. To do so, they raised their revenue demands in each territory acquired to levels equal to the highest assessments made by previous Indian regimes. Second, those surpluses produced were never adequate to meet the combined administrative, military and commercial expenses of the Company. Third, the Company resorted to borrowing on interest-bearing bonds in India and at home in steadily rising amounts to meet its obligations. Fourth, the escalating cost of the East India Company armies and of incessant warfare formed the greatest single fiscal burden for the new regime. Finally, the Company allocated negligible funds for public works, for cultural patronage, for charitable relief, or for any form of education. The Company confined its generosity to paying extremely high salaries to its civil servants and military officers. Otherwise parsimony ruled. These characteristics marked the East India Company fiscal system from its inception to its demise in 1859.
Abolition of Slavery
| ||India's History : Modern India : Tripartite treaty between Shah Shuja, Ranjit Singh and the British : 1838|| |
The debacle of the Afghan civil war left a vacuum in the Hindu Kush area that concerned the British, who were well aware of the many times in history it had been employed as the invasion route to India. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, it became clear to the British that the major threat totheir interests in India would not come from the fragmented Afghan empire, the Iranians, or the French, but from the Russians, who had already begun a steady advance southward from the Caucasus.
At the same time, the Russians feared permanent British occupation in Central Asia as the British encroached northward, taking the Punjab, Sindh, and Kashmir. The British viewed Russia's absorption of the Caucasus, the Kirghiz and Turkmenlands, and the Khanates of Khiva and Bukhara with equal suspicion as a threat to their interests in the Indian subcontinent.
In addition to this rivalry between Britain and Russia, there were two specific reasons for British concern over Russia's intentions. First was the Russian influence at the Iranian court, which prompted the Russians to support Iran in its attempt to take Herat, historically the western gateway to Afghanistan and northern India. In 1837 Iran advanced on Herat with the support and advice of Russian officers. The second immediate reason was the presence in Kabul in 1837 of a Russian agent, Captain P. Vitkevich, who was ostensibly there, as was the British agent Alexander Burnes, for commercial discussions.
The British demanded that Dost Mohammad sever all contact with the Iranians and Russians, remove Vitkevich from Kabul, and surrender all claims to Peshawar, and respect Peshawar's independence as well as that of Qandahar, which was under the control of his brothers at the time. In return, the British government intimated that it would ask Ranjit Singh to reconcile with the Afghans. When Auckland refused to put the agreement in writing, Dost Mohammad turned his back on the British and began negotiations with Vitkevich.
In 1838 Auckland, Ranjit Singh, and Shuja signed an agreement stating that Shuja would regain control of Kabul and Qandahar with the help of the British and Sikhs; he would accept Sikh rule of the former Afghan provinces already controlled by Ranjit Singh, and that Herat would remain independent. In practice, the plan replaced Dost Mohammad with a British figurehead whose autonomy would be as limited as that of other Indian princes.
It soon became apparent to the British that Sikh participation—advancing toward Kabul through the Khyber Pass while Shuja and the British advanced through Qandahar--would not be forthcoming. Auckland's plan in the spring of1838 was for the Sikhs--with British support--to place Shuja on the Afghan throne. By summer's end, however, the plan had changed; now the British alone would impose the pliant Shuja.
|Attached: Modern India : The First Burmese War|