Sahib and Collector

Posted by Maddy Labels:

Sayippum Collectrum

In colloquial Malayalam, Sayip is loosely associated with a Western (white) foreigner. However I discovered that it is mostly a usage conveying respect. Did it originate from the word Sahib? Perhaps! Anyway I have heard the usage ‘Sayip’ associated with one of these two gentlemen who I will venture to introduce to you.

Tellichery – a place once called the Paris of Kerala, the city of cricket, circuses, tennis and cakes. So many great luminaries came from this birthplace of Malayalam literature. There was a time and period in Malabar (The original Malabar in Kerala not Malabar-Florida) when two great persons lived in the same town, in a country and locale totally alien & mysterious to both. They ended up loving the town, the very region itself and easily merged with the local populace. The city gratefully honored them, one with a road and the other with a statue. One of them is Gundert Sayip, the other William Logan. Both have become part and parcel of Kerala and are always the first to be quoted when people dredge the annals of Malayali history. Both came to India for purposes different from what they are known for today. Malayali’s will always respect and love them for taking pains in recording their place & times in the world’s documented history.

William Logan (1841-1914) – Sadly, other than the few notes that Logan was a Scotsman sent by the British East India Company to the Madras Civil service, not much information about the person himself or his life exists in the public domain. Starting as a Judge in 1873 at Tellichery (and elsewhere since 1855), Logan became the Malabar collector in 1875 and lived at East hill Calicut. I believe his bungalow is now the VKKM museum. However, his name to fame was the authorship of a fine 1200 page manual in two parts by 1887 called the Malabar manual, in which he recorded all that he could about the people of Kerala, their history, culture and varied practices. (‘A Collection of Treaties, Engagements And Other Papers Of Importance Relating To British Affairs In Malabar’ written by him is sometimes referred to as the Part3) He was supposedly pretty good at spoken Malayalam, Telugu and Tamil. In history, Logan is titled the Gazetteer of Malabar. Now what was a Gazetteer supposed to do? Gazetteers became popular in Britain in the 19th Century, many of whom were Scottish, documenting activities to meet public demand in Britain for information on an expanding Empire. Logan simply put, produced in ‘Malabar manual’, the work of an enlightened administrator, an assiduous scholar and an authority on British affairs in the region. People of Tellichery have not forgotten him. A road with his name can be found in the town.

Beginning 1836, several Mappila outbreaks were reported till the end of the century, in which Mappila tenants killed the Hindu landlords. Strong measures were taken to suppress the Mappila unrest. In 1855, four Mappilas killed H.V. Conolly, the District Magistrate of Malabar at Calicut. One of the grievances of Mappiilas was said to the lack of sites for Mosques and burial grounds. William Logan was appointed as the special Commissioner to enquire into the land tenures and tenant rights in Malabar and highlighted the agrarian discontent and poverty among the Mappilas as the causes of the unrest.

Logan with all humility states in the preface of his work "I shall consider that I have failed in one main object if I do not succeed in arousing a feeling of interest on many points whereon I have necessarily touched, but briefly in this work." He was appointed Collector of Malabar in 1875, at a crucial stage of the history of Malabar, and he was well equipped for the role, having served the area for more than 20 years as judge, special commissioner, and magistrate, and had gained a wealth of knowledge in the process. Logan loved the land and the people, and his tenure made him a real "Kerala man.
Noted historian and former chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research, Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan opines "Logan was sincere and serious about the task entrusted to him. He was an efficient Collector who had an affinity with the people of Malabar. The personal contribution is evident all along. The details given by Logan with regard to dress, festivals and other social customs go a long way in providing insights on the social history of Malabar. The cultural heritage of Malabar, the race for hegemony in the trade of pepper and spices, the Mysorean invasion, and finally British supremacy find mention in his book”.

Those who want to take a peek at the exhaustive accounts of life in Malabar in those days can try out the Malabar manual,

Taj Residency Calicut has a Logan suite that has a Scottish flavor & a Logan’s bar; well I guess that is one way of remembering the man!!

Rev. Dr. Hermann Gundert (1814 –1892) Dr. Gundert was born at Stuttgart
in Germany on February 4, 1814. Educated at the grammar school there and the Maulbronne seminary later, he studied Protestant theology and philosophy at the Tubingen University. It is said that his desire was to be a soldier, but his sister’s sudden death changed his priorities and he took up evangelical work. In 1836, he left Germany for India to work as a private tutor. He traveled extensively in the erstwhile Madras province with an unquenchable passion for learning the languages and cultures of the people. It was after his marriage to Julie Debois from Switzerland that Gundert joined the Basel Mission in 1838. On an invitation from the Basel Mission to take over the mission establishment at Thallassery - Malabar, Dr. Gundert moved to his Illikkunnu residence in 1839, where he lived for 10 years, if not for anything else, but also to enrich Malayali literature and the educational system.

Gundert's bungalow today is a tourist attraction, which also houses part of the Nettur Technical Training Foundation - a unique institution started by the Swiss Foundation. Before 1839, he was posted in Chittur in Andhra Pradesh, Nagerkoil, Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. From 1849 till 1856, Dr. Gundert was posted in Chirakkal near Kannur where he stayed till he was transferred to Mangalore in 1856.In 1857 the British colonial administration appointed Gundert as school inspector of Canara and Malabar. By 1859, however, poor health forced Hermann Gundert to return to Germany, where he went on to manage the Calw publishing house from 1862 until his death in 1893. The revered German priest and lexicographer compiled a Malayalam grammar book, Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam (1868), the first Malayalam-English dictionary (1872), and translated the Bible into Malayalam.Gundert also published the first ‘Patamala’ textbooks for children.

Gundert was no ordinary Pietist missionary. Not only was he fluent in English, German, French, and Italian, but he was just as capable of preaching in Hindi, Malayalam, and Bengali. He was almost as fluent in Kannada, Telugu, and Tamil, and was familiar with at least ten other languages.

Gundert was commonly known as Gundert Sayip – the person created the first Malayalam to English Dictionary – In his own dictionary completed in 1872, he defines Sayip as ‘a lord or a Gentleman’. That he sure was…a fine Gentleman!!! The people of Thalassery have honored him by a statue in the city

Some very interesting notes – Gundert published the very first formal and free (actually the Malayala Panchangam was the first published paper) Malayalam newspaper ‘Rajya samacharam’(though quite evangelical in tone) in 1847? He continued on with another newspaper, the more popular paper Paschimodayam (Malayala Manorama started theirs in 1890). It was Gundert’s intent to publish a newspaper that influenced the need to standardize grammar & text. In 8 years, i.e. by 1855, he had mastered the Malayalam language, for example by going to the markets and listening to people conversing. Such was his love for the people he worked with. Through his paper, he introduced people to life in the West, about English folklore, Germany, Netherlands, the French revolution and so on…

I studied at the BEM School at Palakkad for some 4 months before I moved on to Sainik School. Little did I know that BEM schools had much to do with our beloved Gundert Sayip. Herr Gundert’s BEM’s were the first to start schools as early as
1847 in Kallayi!

How many of you know that our revered Gudert sayip is the grandfather of Nobel Prize winner Herman Hesse? Hesse's mother Marie Gundert (1842-1902), was born in Tellichery. Hesse's fascination for Indian philosophy and Buddhist mysticism is reflected in the famous book "Sidhartha".
Herman Hesse said of Gundert, his grandpa - He understood all of the languages of man, more than thirty, and perhaps even those of the gods, perhaps of the stars as well, he could read and write Pali and Sanskrit, he could sing songs in Kanarese, Bengali, Hindustani, Singhalese, he knew the prayers of the Muhammadans and Buddhists, although he himself was a Christian and believed in the triune God, he had spent years and decades in eastern, hot, dangerous lands, had journeyed by boat and by ox cart, on horseback and mule, no one knew as well as he that our town and land were but a small part of the earth, that there were a thousand million people with different beliefs to our own, with different customs, languages, skin colours, gods, virtues and vices.

Those interested in his original Malayalam-English dictionary can download it
here. Those who are interested in the first newspaper may read this exhaustive report on it.

Sayippinum collectorkum Malayalikalude nandi..

Pictures - from here & there - thanks to the originators & posters!!