From river to well, sea to canal…

Next Wednesday, 23 November we will be holding a Creative Writing Workshop in the Reading Room here at the RAS. This event is in celebration of Explore Your Archives Week, a national campaign that encourages people to go to an archive and discover new delights. We ran a similar workshop last year, using the theme “Tea and Testimony”, and participants were inspired by a variety of material from the Collections on a tea theme. We are delighted to welcome back Emma Filtness, Lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University, to lead the workshop. This year we are heading for a watery theme to help your creativity “flow”. Writ in Water will run from 7-9pm on 23 November and is a free event. There are a few places left, so if you would like to be part of it, please let us know on info@royalasiaticsociety.org

I will not give you a spoiler by posting some of the Collections that will feature in the writing workshop – you will have to come to see those. But when I started researching to create the event, I discovered we have many water-related items. So, to tempt you to come and discover more (or in case you can’t make the workshop and would still like some prompts) here are some of our Water Collections that will not be part of the workshop.

A man drawing water from a well
A man drawing water from a well

This watercolour painting is one of 98 in an album of drawings from c.1890. They depict monuments of Lahore, Amritsar, Delhi and Agra; rulers, princes and warriors of the Punjab; trades and occupations, and were executed by a Punjabi artist working in Lahore. They were purchased by Henry C. Fanshawe, an Indian Civil Servant, in 1896 and bequeathed to the RAS in 1923.

 

Water Scene, Madras
Water Scene, Madras

This water scene from Madras is one of 63 prints in an album dating from 1870-1880s. This was donated to the RAS by Sir George Granville Leveson Gower who was a civil servant and Liberal politician. He held political office as Comptroller of the Household, 1892-1895, and later served as a Commissioner of Woods and Forests from 1908 to 1924. This album, unfortunately, has suffered from water damage and some of the photographs are stuck together – so it has become one of the items on our conservation wish list.

 

Tomb at Bijapur
Tomb at Bijapur

This drawing shows the tomb of Muhammad, son of Ibrahim Adil Shah II, at Bihapur. If you look carefully at the inscription, the artist informs us that this dome is bigger than the one on St. Paul’s Cathedral (and Wikipedia claims it is the 2nd largest dome in the world). That artist was Major-General John Briggs (1785-1875) who served in the Madras Army and subsequently became a senior administrator in Mysore and Resident at Nagpur (1832-5). This is one of three of his drawings of monuments in Bijapur acquired by the RAS. Current images of the tomb do not seem to show the water that is in this picture. It would be interesting to know if there is still water near the tomb.

The final water image for this blog comes from our Hodgson Collection of pictures. Brian Houghton Hodgson donated many architectural drawings of Nepal but this one is somewhat different:

Vishnu rescues the royal elephant
Vishnu rescues the royal elephant

This delightful gouache painting was a copy made for Hodgson by an artist working in Kathmandu in c.1823. It pictures Vishnu flying down on Garuda to rescue the royal elephant from the clutches of a water-creature. Hodgson donated the picture, one of three at that time, in 1826. They were brought by Lt. Col William Francklin (1763-1839), who served in the Bengal Native Infantry. He was also an orientalist and published books about his travels through India. We have copies of his Journal of a route from Rajemehul to Gour. A.D. 1810-11 , his Researches on the tenets and doctrines of the Yeynes and Boodhists: conjectured to be the Brachmanes of ancient India and Observations made on a tour from Bengal to Persia, in the years 1786-7 : with a short account of the remains of the celebrated palace of Persepolis .., along with other books, manuscripts and his own drawings.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our watery excursion. Please do come and join us on Wednesday if you can, when many more water-themed delights will be out on display. There are limited number of places so make sure you book one, if you would like to come. And if you are inspired by any of these images to write something. please share it with me on nc@royalasiaticsociety.org.