The Shiites pp 63-76 | Cite as

Representations of Muharram in British Fiction and Memoirs from the Raj

  • David Pinault


Sir Arthur Lothian, one-time British Resident at Hyderabad representing the Empire’s interests in that Native State, recalled in his autobiography his first arrival in India in 1911. Fresh from Oxford and newly landed at Calcutta as a member of the Indian Civil Service (ICS), the young Lothian received somewhat of a jolt when he tried to leave Calcutta to begin his first assignment:

After a day or two spent in collecting the necessary kit for my life up country I set off by train for Jessore in the evening. The great Moslem festival of Mohurrum was then being celebrated, and the route to the station lay through Sealdah Square, which the police had made the turning-place for rival processions that reached that nodal point from all directions. Unfortunately the police arrangements had broken down somehow, and the various processions had got mixed up and started fighting. When I arrived at the square in an old ticca gharry [a hired closed cab], it was a seething mob of men belabouring each other with swords and lathies [weighted bamboo cudgels]. They did not attack me, but the gharry was badly jostled, and it was a very scared driver and bewildered young civilian that got through to the relatively quiet oasis of the station. The sea of dark excited faces, without a white one visible amongst them, brought home to me, as nothing which I had read had done, how relatively few white people there were in India, and the narrowness of the margin on which law and order depended.1


Newspaper Article Short Story District Officer Sacred Tree Religious Devotion 
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  1. 1.
    Sir Arthur C. Lothian, Kingdoms of Yesterday (London: John Murray, 1951), 2.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sir William H. Sleeman, Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1973), 482–483. First published in 1844.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Philip Woodruff, The Men Who Ruled India: The Guardians (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1954), 179.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
  5. 5.
  6. 6.
    Rudyard Kipling, “The City of the Two Creeds,” Civil and Military Gazette (Lahore), October 19, 1885. Reprinted in The Readers’ Guide to Rudyard Kipling’s Work, ed. Roger L. Green and Alec Mason (Canterbury: Gibbs & Sons Ltd., 1961), vol. 1,582–590.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Rudyard Kipling, “The City of the Two Creeds,” Civil and Military Gazette, October 1,1887. Reprinted in Kipling’s India: Uncollected Sketches 1884–88, ed. Thomas Pinney (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), 265–269.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Review of Kipling’s In Black and White, in The Athenaeum (London), September 13, 1890, p. 348.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    John Campbell Oman, The Brahmans, Theists and Muslims of India (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907). Oman’s description of Muharram in Lahore occurs on pp. 279–310.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Ibid., p. 298.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Ibid., p. 300.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Ibid., pp. 300–301.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Ibid., p. 305.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    A.E.W. Mason, The Drum (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1937), 12.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Compare Mason, op. cit., p. ii, with Colonel Algernon Durand, The Making of a Frontier: Five Years’ Experiences and Adventures in Gilgit, Hunza Nagar, Chitral, and the Eastern Hindu-Kush (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1900), 281.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Durand, op. cit., 279–280, 285.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Mason, op. cit., 100–101.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    Ibid., pp. 112, 114.Google Scholar

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© David Pinault 1992

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  • David Pinault

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