ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

1857Subscribe to 1857

Reactivating the Past

Nondescript memorial stones and small shrines in several regions of Uttar Pradesh commemorate those dalit heroes who played a significant role in the events of 1857. For dalits in the region, these shrines are sacrosanct structures where their heroes are worshipped, while stories and legends relating to them are used to fashion a new history for the marginalised, one that glorifies the role dalit rebels played in 1857.

The Mutiny Novel

The Indian Mutiny of 1857 marked a shift in governance from the Mughal emperor to the East India Company. The literature of this period indicates a movement away from India as an adventure space to India as a domestic space. This essay examines two novels, to show the dissolution of a romantic and picturesque India; instead it is a land that is feminised, determined and bound to its colonial masters.

1857 and Ideas about Nationhood in Bengal

The events of 1857 have been represented in divergent ways. Most popular of such interpretations have been those that link 1857 with the emergence of nationalism in the country. This article draws on accounts, actual and fictional, written by the Bengali literati to explain the various discourses shaped by 1857. In the Bengali nationalist imagination an understanding of 1857 was derived via the conceptual category of the "samaj".

Historians and Historiography

The many interpretations of the events of 1857 since the 150 years of its occurrence need to be seen in their historiographical context. This explains the narrow religious focus that contemporary observers bestowed on it as well as the nationalist aspirations that were seen to characterise 1857, as historians in the years immediately following independence in 1947 sought to establish. The important presence of 1857 in the creation of an Indian history and identity explains the many "myths" traced to it by various communities and groups, as well as the abiding interest of historians in the various facets of that special event. These are all aspects of 1857 that this special issue seeks to explore.

Music and Society in North India: From the Mughals to the Mutiny

The period from early 18th century leading up to the Mutiny of 1857 witnessed massive political and socio-cultural turmoil which impacted the evolution of musical culture as well. This paper synthesises existing historical work on the complex evolution of musical culture in northern India during the period, focusing on the origins and development of those forms that became identified as mainstream classical Hindustani music in the 20th century.

On the Rebellion of 1857

Colonial arguments about 1857 largely centred on the nature of India and the way it should be ruled. For their part, Indian arguments after independence were similarly debates about Indian nationhood. These debates continue to the present: was there a multicultural polity in place or a monocultural identity at work? The various arguments on the nature of 1857 as also history of the idea of a rebellion are also in a subliminal sense a debate on identity and developing a nationhood.

History as Revenge and Retaliation

Savarkar's account of 1857 has served to legitimise retributive violence in the name of Hindu nationalism. It is based on a conception of how the history of the "Hindu Rashtra" ought to be written, while enunciating a model of politics based on the opposition between "friend" and "foe".

The Rebel Army in 1857

Debate persists as to the role of the Company's soldiers in the events of 1857. There were several regiments that were at the head of the resistance against the British, but as this paper argues, in very many instances, their resistance was not representative of wider class and caste interests. A reading of the mutiny across its many centres reveals that the sepoys' resistance, while largely unplanned and even spontaneous, did not reflect the desire to reimpose the traditional order of things, or to even espouse the interests of the old peasant society from which many of them, especially those in the Bengal army, hailed. Moreover, there were also signs that the institutions or the initial order the sepoys sought to establish in centres such as Delhi or Gwalior were more "democratic" and egalitarian in character.

Dalit 'Viranganas' and Reinvention of 1857

Contemporary Hindi dalit popular literature has emerged as a critical source for deeper insights into dalit politics and identity. This paper examines the ways in which this literature has dealt with the role of dalit women in the revolt of 1857. It interrogates both conventional and historic writings on 1857 and mainstream portrayals of dalit women and also dalit writings on the subject.

Inscribing the Rani of Jhansi in Colonial 'Mutiny' Fiction

This paper scrutinises four, little-known, 19th century "Mutiny" novels, illuminating their fascinating diversities, as well as the politics of representation. It reveals how some of these texts cast the rani of Jhansi as cruel and licentious, situating her role in the Rebellion within contemporary colonial stereotypes. However, two unusual novels, Philip Meadows Taylor's Seeta (1872) and Michael White's lesser-known Lachmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi (1901), interestingly enough, drew upon the paradigm of the warrior-woman and projected her as a fearless freedom fighter in a manner that surprisingly fed into later Indian nationalist iconography.

Mangal Pandey: Film and History

Debate over the film, Mangal Pandey, has raged on its putative lack of objectivity on the one hand, and on the other, on its depiction of an event that still has the power to "move" people. Ever since films emerged as a mass medium of significance, the notions of the "public sphere" in democracy have changed as well. This is especially so over remembering an event such as 1857, on which Indians continue to have very differing opinions. This paper argues that concerns over the film, as with 1857 itself, speak of an unresolved question of Indian democracy, i e, whether the two domains of Indian democracy, comprising the "elite" and the "subaltern", can ever combine to produce a "politics of the people". Such a politics would give Indian democracy both a working sense of sovereignty and a lively sense of being truly a democracy.

Remembering 1857

To discuss the practice of memory and its relations to politics, social scientists rely on three kinds of practices - memorialising, memorising and the act of remembering/forgetting. The commemoration of "1857" is unique in that official celebrations of the event have been instituted even as 1857 continues to refigure in myths and endures as a symbol of popular resistance. The articles in this special issue address the seeming contradictions and complexities that "remembering" 1857 involves, and the tension that prevails between different kinds of recall.

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