These books are a combination of jaw-dropping factoids and fabulous visuals. Almost always, there’s little content of any significance in them.
The British abolished Sati in 1829. This direct intervention into Hindu customs by “outsiders” led to the hastening of the social reform movement among Hindus in the 19th century.
Of course, the orthodox elements continued to hold dearly on to their outmoded customs. They continued to oppose interventions in the Hindu customs by the new colonial rulers.
Reading General Charles Napier’s quote in the book reminded me of another one by Sir Andrew Scolbe. Sir Scolbe introduced the Age of Consent Bill in 1891, which raised the marriageable age for girls from 10 to 12.
The orthodox Hindus, led by Lokmanya Tilak, vehemently opposed the Bill. Tilak apparently was not opposed to the content of the bill. He was intolerant of the British, and was unwilling to let them abrogate the right to decide.
The controversy flared uncontrollably. However, the Bill was passed. Sir Scolbe got all the support he needed from the likes of MG Ranade and Gopal Krishna Gokhale, among many others.
Sir Scolbe justified it by declaring, “The balance of argument and authority is in favour of the Bill...even if it were not so, were I a Hindu, I would prefer to be wrong with Professor Bhandarkar, Mr. Justice Telang and Dewan Bahadur Raghunath Rao, than to be right with Pundit Sadadhur Turachuramani and Mr. Tilak.”
A politically wounded Tilak, isolated in Pune, decided that the best manner in which he could recapture his position was to do something dramatic.
Oh, yes. I bought the book. More about it this month.
Sati illustration from the book