5 Ganesha Stories, 5 Environmental Thoughts

This year’s Ganesha walk was a vibrant one. 2nd of August 2014 was high summer, but one of the pleasanter days, with some showers, and breeze. It was lovely walking along the river, not feeling that thirsty, walking across some muddy bits. Stopping by woods, under trees and besides lush river banks, twelve of us engaged with some Hindu stories and reflection on nature. The Ganesha walk is a gentle two mile walk starting at Grindleford train station car park. The little café at Grindleford is a welcome feature of our start point, to pick up water and even some big lunches if needed! I always like to have a little peek at the book shelf, which stocks many interesting publications on the Peak District National Park, its trails, biodiversity, history and its people. Starting at 11 am, we usually aim to get to Hathersage train station around 2.30 pm, stopping for lunch and a couple of breaks on route. We finish at Hathersage train station, we ask participants to bring £1.70 with them, to get themselves on the train to Grindleford- the starting point. So we end up on a circular route, half walk, and half train journey, so people can get back to their cars, vans etc.

Myself and Anne Goodwin, a ranger on shift at Brunts Barn, who is a writer and very interested in storytelling, and Hindu tales, lead the walk. We narrate the stories using pictures as props, and also natural features of the National Park. This year, I decided that I have some bright ideas, and want to pick up one key point for reflection from each story. Anne was game for it and so came about this ‘ 5 stories, 5 environmental thoughts’ scheme.

So here the outline of our scheme. We felt it was quite well received!

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If you want to listen to the whole stories, you will have to join us on the walk next year, or research them yourselves!

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Since childhood I have enjoyed listening to Puranas that are set in the outdoors, and my dance training also helped me imagine the outdoors artistically. As I was training as a ranger in 2010, these were my only connections with the outdoors, unlike some of my fellow trainees who had been walking for quite some years before they embarked on ranger trainee. I would hear from rangers the names of rock formations, and I would be reminded of the shiva lingham, my only point of association with the rock! I pressed on along those lines and then began to think out of the box. When I saw that the Hindu Samaj in Sheffield do a visarjan (immersion) of the Ganesha idol, I thought people would enjoy a walk in the countryside and developed the Ganesha walk. The outdoors and nature may not be familiar to us Indians and Hindus, as in it isn’t that common to hold maps and tramp the countryside, but it is integral to our life in other ways, I discovered. I wanted to explore. Well, after all, that is the remit of the ranger – to explore the landscape, so I was going to physically explore, culturally explore and spiritually explore. Avadhutta Dattatreya (a Hindu teacher) famously talks of many birds and animals as his teachers, as a ranger I find I learn a tremendous lot from observing nature, and I began to discover that I can make a tremendous lot of sense from what I am learning using Hindu philosophy. I was hooked to this connection now – Rangering and Hindu Philosophy!

It was in the midst of this journey that I was interviewed by radio 4 about the work I was doing on a chap called Edward Carpenter, who many decades ago, was going through the same process – understanding nature and making sense of it, living very near the Peak District. He visited India, met a guru, and was hooked to Hindu philosophy! So I discovered I wasn’t the only one exploring the landscape through Hinduism in the heart of the north of England!

Actually I am told on good authority, these explorations/ thoughts are not alien to the British Isles, and could be very very old indeed! I received a fascinating letter, written by the fireside by a radio 4 listener. It took me on a wonderful journey of language and ritual in the British Isles! It struck a chord in him, the correspondent wrote, listening to a ‘magnificent and original programme’ on Radio 4, where I spoke of the Ganesha walk. His letter struck a chord with me, that willingness to open up and explore and marvel at discoveries, and particularly to communicate that!

He wrote about the Ganesh festival celebrations in Sheffield,

” Your mention of Ganesha being washed in the river Don struck a chord with me, a chord that may go back many thousands of years.

The old languages of Britain (Celtic, and later Teutonic) are descended from the same language as Sanskrit. In an impressive family tree from millennia ago, the eminent archaeologist Barry Cunliffe speaks of a ‘proto Indo-European language’ which branched out into three, one of which went East and evolved into Sanskrit, the other went to Mongolia and onwards to America and yet another went to Europe and obliterated older native languages (of which Basque, Finnish and Hungarian survive today). The European language further fragmented and became Greek and Roman and around 6,000 years ago, another split led to Celtic and Teutonic. The Celts invaded Britain and from it evolved Manx, Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gallic. The Teutons became the Anglo-Saxons and also the Norse invaders. The Peak District was taken over by the Anglo-Saxons or Norse invaders.

Eilert Ekwall, author of Oxford dictionary of English place-names and English river names says Don is from the British ‘Dana’, an old name for water, related to Sanskrit ‘ danu’ (rain or moisture)

The origins of many Welsh and English words for the basics of life seem to have links with Sanskrit and the Proto Indo European. (look up mother, father, water, tree, door, oak, sky, earth, horse, door) It seems in short, the ancestors of Welsh and Anglo-saxons carry the same words as the people of India, as we are all from the same source.

The Welsh legends are based on families, I do not see them as ‘Gods’ exactly (perhaps a Victorian word for these beings?), but as characters who live for so long and are so archetypal that they appear, compared to our short lives, to be immortal. The Vikings who came to the Peak District had tales of the Aesir and the Vanir: Orin, Thor, Frey and Freya, Loki etc etc, much is known of the male gods as their stories were written down, but the stories of the fertility deities such as Frey and Freya (brother and sister) (as in Friday) are few. I remember in ‘Gods and myths of Northern Europe’ (H.R.Elis Davidson) that there is a record of a ceremony, witnessed by a Christian missionary, of carts containing idols of Frey and Freya being wheeled into the lake in Denmark for the idols to be washed.

I know very little of the ninth legends, and forget what I’ve read in the Upanishads and the Bhagvad Gita, but my feeling for all the stories of Krishna, Siva, Brahma, of Ram and Hanuman and Lakshmi, has been one of recognition. I feel deeply that the tales passed down to us in Britain are from the same source or wellspring as the tales that are told from India. Now how much the spread of language reflects the spread of actual people, or if language colonises a native people who then switch tongues, I do not know. But the washing of Ganesh in the Don seems right to me.

I do not know if you are aware of ‘well dressing’ (at Tissington, Buxton etc) where flower pictures adorn springs (always sacred to Celts) or of garland Days, when a main is dressed all in leaves like a giant bush mounted on a horse (at Castleton, I think) India without elephants!

I feel your work in the Peak District is completing a circle.”

Signed off as ‘your distant cousin’

Isn’t it all just amazing! I am so very pleased to have also received a bibliography for further reading on these ideas, which I very much look forward to reading.

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BBC One Countryfile 6th July 2014

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Part I

Helen Skelton: This beautiful landscape provides quiet sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities that flank it.

A third of Sheffield is actually in the Peak District, which makes it the only UK city to have a National Park within its boundaries.

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Chamu Kuppuswamy:   I do a walk called Elephant in the Park walk.

HS: right

Chamu Kuppuswamy: This year it is on the 2nd of August.

HS: When Chamu Kuppuswamy first moved to Sheffield she began looking for connections between the Peak District and the country of her birth, India. What were your first impressions of the Peak District then?

CK: oh, one of..wonderful countryside and I thought it was very very quiet, compared to cities I have lived in India, of course.

HS: And what about you in terms of your friends, your family and your culture – why did you think it was so important to find links with India?

CK: In some of these places kind of my memory was jogged of.. you know.. about having read something about India about this place. That kind of said well actually there must be a lot of different links that will be really interesting to find out in which case I can have my own sort of global interpretation of the National Park and that really sparked the whole thing off.

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HS: One of the most exciting links that Chamu found was here in Millthorpe.

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Edward Carpenter was one of the village’s former residents. Socialist, poet and philosopher, he had a fascination for Hinduism that led him on a life changing journey to India. So he was sort of a pioneer in that he went to India, he liked what he found about Hinduism and he brought it back here.

CK: Absolutely. He went to India because of all that he had heard about India. And he also visited a guru over there. So he really strengthened his knowledge of Hinduism.

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[music]

HS: This is Carpenter’s former home in Millthorpe, where I am meeting Helen Smith. Fascinated by the life of Edward Carpenter, also known as the Saint in Sandals, she’s researched his life extensively for her Phd.

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HS: Helen, these look intriguing! Tell me about these.

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Helen Smith: They are, I think. I think people would have been very surprised when these appeared in this area in the 1890s. These sandals actually represent sort of Edward Carpenter’s relationship to India, and the things that he liked about India, things that he brought back from India. These sandlas representative of something that was freedom for him, freedom in terms of dress, and also the freedom of understanding that he found in India and brought back over to the Peaks with him.

HS: And this is something that people wanted him to sort of spread the word about.

HeSm: Yes, absolutely.

HS: I believe this is a letter from Gandhi.

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HeSm: It is, yes. A little bit later on Carpenter had been working into the early 20th century trying to spread these ideas. And that brought him to the attention of Gandhi and Gandhi’s circle. And Gandhi was very keen to write to Carpenter to ask him to sort of take his ideas out into Gandhi’s wider circle. And to spread the word even more. So that highlights its importance really, in sort of things like the Indian independence movement as well.

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HS: Carpenter’s connection to India flourished on his return home. His walks in the Peak District were now further inspired by ideas of Hinduism and soon it influenced his writing.

[Indian music background] [voice] You are not to differentiate yourself from nature. It is only under such conditions that the little mortal creature becomes gradually aware of what he is.

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HS: But there is an even more colourful local character who brought these two cultures even closer together. Thomas Wardle was a silk dyer.

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From 5000 miles away in the Peak District he made a breakthrough that changed the livelihood of Indian silk dyers bringing new vibrancy to previously near worthless fabric.

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As expert dyer Glen is hoping to show us.

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G: The fabric when it first come to him, it weren’t useful. When the silk is woven it goes through with gum so it doesn’t break.

HS: So when you say there was gum on it, they put that on to strengthen it?

G: strengthen it, so they could weave it

HS: So he found a way to get that gum off it and that it could take dye?

G: yeah, yeah. And what he did was he prepared the fabric with soap, alkali and then bleached the fabric, then he could get the range of shades he wanted to get like pink, lighter shades of blue and so on. If it wasn’t, we would be looking at dark greys, or browns or blacks or

HS: So initially people were looking at Indian tussur silk and saying, that is useless, that’s no good to me. And Thomas Wardle said.. ahn.ha..we can make this work.

G: Well, what he did was pretty remarkable really

HS: So Thomas Wardle has left a legacy among silk dyers, has he left a legacy in India?

CK: I think he absolutely has. He gave the Indian silk industry their new market , which is there were more and more people now who were interested in tussur silk.

HS: And Wardle found another use for tussur silk, producing a fabric called seal cloth, which became a huge success when used to make waterproofs. And where would the Peak District be without them?

Absolutely no need for waterproofs today. But what about the rest of the week – Countryfile Weather Forecast.

 

Part II                                     

Rugged moorlands, picturesque dales, the Peak District was Britain’s first National Park.

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And one of our most accessible. Around 20 million people live within just an hour’s drive. 10 million people visit the Peak District each year. And it is surrounded by diverse northern towns and cities. But 1% of the people who come here are from ethnic minorities.

Earlier we met Chamu Kuppuswamy, she has discovered some surprising connections between the peaks and her native, India. In an area synonymous with the right to roam movement back in the 1930s, Chamu is at the forefront of a new kind of campaign – encouraging people from ethnic minorities to get out and enjoy what the area has to offer.

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CK: This place is just amazing in terms of being actually able to walk in it, and actually get anywhere you want, and with the help of a map you are able to explore so much of the countryside, which for me was unprecedented.

HS: So walking and rambling isn’t something that you would have done in India?

CK: No, certainly not. I mean, we do a lot of walking but in cities, but nothing like in the countryside. The countryside is really offlimits. And there’s lots of dangers, hazards, and also there isn’t a map you could use. Therefore it is not somewhere you would naturally do to go for a walk.

HS: What do you think is stopping people from ethnic minorities coming out and enjoying the Peak District?

CK: A number of different factors. Information about the fact that there is access, and there is the right to roam in this area is one of the least known bits of information, I think, because National parks are looked at more as conservation areas, where people don’t actually inhabit. Because that’s the kind of Parks people encounter in India.

HS: So why do you think it is important for people to come out here?

CK: oh! I think, for anyone to come out into nature is really really great. I think you can experience the sort of tranquillity, and experience the sort of pleasure that you can’t get from any other activity.

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[music]

HS: Once she was out and about, Chamu couldn’t get enough. You trained to be a ranger yourself. What do your parents back in India think of this strange sort of hobby of yours?

CK: First of all, they asked me- Is it safe? You know, if you go, do you actually patrol on your own?

Chamu’s regular walks reveal the links with her Indian heritage and are a great way of getting more people from ethnic minorities into the Peak District.

Debjani: I love cities, that on a nice day like this, I can be out in the Peak District.

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Vithal Patel: My principle is the world is my school, and nature is my book. You learn lot of things from the nature really, lot of understanding through the nature.

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Pragya: I guess I like everything about the Peak District. Its green, its peaceful, its calm and I am like pretty much into the flora. Everything I come here I find something new to look at.

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HS: There is no end to Chamu’s passion for this area. Researching links with India, becoming a ranger, leading walks, and one more thing – dancing.

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These ruins of a house from 500 years ago provide the perfect stage for Chamu’s performance.

Annapoorna Kuppuswamy sings – Sarasi jaakshulu jhalakha made ..with dancers bells sounding

HS: Chamu has written, choreographed and is now performing this dance, inspired by nature and her connection with the Peak District.

AK sings: Sarigha cheerulu mela

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CK: the techniques are replete with inspiration from nature. This is the sort of first ever time we have actually done it together as a group outside. It is absolute fascinating, just walking up on the grass and feeling the stone over there, is a completely different experience to sort of being in a classroom where the surface is very different.

AK sings: ..tharuvu neekita

HS (whispering): I am going to going on a limb here, but I am pretty sure that this is the first time we have done Bharathanatyam, Indian dancing in the National Park on Countryfile. I think Tom Heap should do all his reports like this from now on!

AK sings: Sarasi jaakshulu…

With moves like this, it’s no wonder word seems to have gone around!

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Claps..

HS: From the John Craven School of Dancing.

John Craven: laughs

HS: That was impressive. Thank you. What a fantastic way of ending the show.

JC: It was wonderful, wasn’t it?

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Transcribed by Chamu Kuppuswamy

Our 100th blog post!

In search of peace

by Aishu Hari

I thought I had lost my Saturday morning sleep when I agreed to go on a walk in the Peak district along with few friends. I did not know what was in store for me. I thought to myself- “It better be good because I had sacrificed my sleep for it!” What I experienced was nothing short of a paradise.

The previous day before the peak district walk my favorite team had lost a very crucial match in the Indian Premier League that was going on at that time. I was upset and I thought I would just bury myself inside my pillow and vent out my feelings all day. I was nothing close to doing what I was thinking I would be doing since the entire day I spent was worth each minute. It all started with a bus ride from the Sheffield Hindu Samaj temple. I had heard a lot about Peak district and it is even in the list of the ‘to-do’ things when you are in Sheffield. But being the more of an indoor person that I am, I never pushed myself to explore the place. I am so glad that I finally did and that experience took away all the worries and stress I was facing the previous night. Firstly, the place by itself is very beautiful and is a sight to behold. But what takes away the cake is that it is one place where four of the five elements meet. I saw the clear blue sky, pure sparkling water and could feel fresh air on my face every time the wind blew. It is something that one must witness to understand what it really feels like to be at this wonderful place. At that moment, I understood why exploring Peak district was in the ‘to-do’ list of every student who was studying at the University.

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It was not just the scenery and the greenery that I witnessed that day, there was more to it! I tasted a different cuisine which was very interesting, I visited a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Derwent Valley Mills World), had a look at a very old cotton mill, saw colorful ducks swimming peacefully not worried about anything happening around them, understood what it means to walk through the woods along with friends. It was as if we were all going for an adventure trip, only it was an adventure mixed with a lot of additional information. All this felt like a welcome change, from the monotonous routine of typing away to complete all the assignments to spending time with the environment. A different experience altogether, a nicer one at that!

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There came a point where I just closed my eyes and stood there just to see how it felt when interacting with nature. Then I thought to myself, never mind the lost sleep, never mind the lost match, never mind the stress of an upcoming deadline. I knew I had found peace in this place and then nothing else mattered!

Aishu is studying Masters in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield

New connection discovered! Professor Robert Home’s research on Edwin Richards

Following the Radio 4 programme on the heritage project, I received an email from Professor Robert Home, Professor in Land Management at Anglia Ruskin University. Professor Home has researched the history of town planning in the British empire, and he writes that Captain E.P.Richards was a key figure in the early 20th century planning of Calcutta. In his email, Professor Home said

His (Richards') huge report on Calcutta (1914) is being reprinted, & I did some research about Richards for it at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, which revealed his Derwent 
connection, so I attach the short notes I made last year. The Derwent/Birchinlee connection I found most interesting, as no doubt you will too. 

Note on Richards

Edwin Percy Richards was born on 9 September 1873, and was the third generation of public works engineers in his family. His grandfather was ‘a builder engaged in railway and other large works’, his father E.Melville Richards worked on main drains and sewers, canals and other works in Manchester, Wolverhampton and Burslem before becoming municipal engineer of Warwick. The young Edwin attended Warwick School (1882-90), then trained as an engineer in his father’s office, and followed him into the Incorporated Association of Municipal and County Engineers in 1899, becoming a full member in 1910. He served for three years as an engineering assistant to contractors on main drainage schemes in Manchester, Glossop, and Newbury, and worked in local government, in Rochdale (1897-1900) and Southend (1900-1).

Between 1901-8 he worked for the Derwent Valley Water Board, as ‘one of the senior engineers and personal civil engineering assistant’ to the Chief Engineer. The Board had been constituted by Act of Parliament in 1899 to supply water to the cities of Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield from new reservoirs in the Peak District of Derbyshire. The project offices for the great new Howden and Derwent dams were in the village of Bamford, and, to transport the million tons of masonry needed for the dam walls, a temporary Bamford and Howden railway was laid between 1901 and 1903 connecting the Howden dam some seven miles to a new stone-quarry. Richards worked on the railway design, but more important for his later activities in India was the planned worker housing at Birchinlee, known locally as Tin Town (after its corrugated iron structures). Public concern over the poor living conditions of navvies on public works projects, which were high-lighted by casualties on the Woodhead tunnel project high in the Pennines, combined with the idea of ‘model settlements’ built by philanthropic employers such as Cadbury at Bournville and Lever at Port Sunlight, so that the provision of worker housing was included in the Derwent Valley Water Board’s statutory responsibilities.

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Navvy settlements were to enter into local folklore, with many reservoirs and railways having their own ‘tin towns’, as they were known to local residents. The model village of Birchinlee was laid out on formal lines, with dormitories for single men, huts for married men with families and separate huts for foremen all arranged in formal rows separated by trackways, with three stone-revetted platforms as bases for the houses. The best building, at the physical centre of the village, was the recreation hall with its high pitched roof, decorative gables and tower, while the canteen became a dedicated drinking hall (to the annoyance of the local temperance society), and the police station was strategically located overlooking the village approach road, ensuring that all visitors could be monitored. Other buildings included hospitals, school, post office, shops, public bath house, railway station, and waste incinerator. Birchinlee Tin Town at its peak had a thousand residents, but was always intended to be temporary, and after the dams were opened was dismantled in 1913-14. (During the Second World War RAF crew used the Howden reservoir to train for the famous Dambuster raid in 1943. The Board was abolished in 1974 and its responsibilities transferred to the Severn Trent Water Authority.)

The stone-laying ceremonies for the dams took place in June 1907, and Richards moved on within the year, to India and a position as executive engineer in Madras. By the time the Derwent dams were opened in 1912, he had been promoted the previous year the post of city engineer to the Madras Corporation. In January 1912 he was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the higher status professional qualification opening further opportunities for his advancement. In his membership application he listed his responsibilities in Madras as city engineer over 440 miles of roads, 15 bridge widenings, 25 miles of main sewers and 600 manholes, electric lighting and tramways, and storm water schemes. He also applied his inventive mind to designing and patenting new drainage machinery.

In British India it was a time of discontent and pressure for change. The partition of Bengal in 1905 had resulted in widespread public agitation, leading to the attempted assassination of Governor-General Hardinge in 1912, and the British to move the capital from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911. In Madras Governor Lawley was promoting civic improvements, and reforming the legislative council under the Indian Councils Act of 1909 (the Morley-Minto reforms), to admit the election of Indians to membership. Richards could contribute through infrastructure projects and urban , as other engineers were doing, urban improvements, especially in the Presidency towns of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, seeking to demonstrate the tangible beneficial aspects of colonial rule.

Soon after adding MICE to his name, Richards was appointed to the newly constituted Calcutta Improvement Trust, and before taking up his duties there in September 1912 seems to have toured Europe visiting improvement schemes and absorbing the fashionable and emerging town planning movement, becoming a founder member of the Town Planning Institute which was created in 1913.

Richards may have moved jobs from one single-purpose authority to another via Madras, but there was a big difference between them – the one in a remote valley in the High Peak, the other a teeming tropical port-city – and he seems to have had little grasp of the political realities of Calcutta or his place in the official hierarchy. In the Derwent Valley the engineers were in charge, the masters, but in British India the ICS officials saw themselves as the natural rulers, conceding only grudgingly to the political pressures from the Indians and regarding technical staff like Richards – and Dr.Simpson before him – as very subordinate – on tap but not on top. Richards may have embraced with enthusiasm the new town planning approach, but under-estimated the inertia and cautiousness of British officials in India. His grand designs for a comprehensive improvement approach were just too ambitious and expensive for chairman Bompas and the trust members to accept, and were an undisguised accusation of past neglect. What he called the streetless state of Calcutta was ‘a giant defect, and of extreme gravity’.

Parts of his report could hardly be expected to make him friends with his employers. who had presumably been involved in drafting the Calcutta Improvement Act which he accused of being ‘almost useless for the great task set’, having been ‘not created under a Town Planning Act, but only under a local Housing Act (based upon the 1890 Housing of the Working Classes Act)’ xiv. Other statements could hardly have endeared him to the Trust members: ‘Calcutta and her suburbs cannot possibly be town planned, or controlled, or be moderately improved under the existing Improvement Act’. He attacked the modest improvement schemes that were proposed: ‘What a farce and a disgrace and acknowledgment of failure would it be at Calcutta – to spend all the money on one suburb, or, which it would really come to, on one half or so of suburban land’ 307.

Richards returned to England. The circumstances of his leaving India are unclear, but, given the statements in his book, it seems probable that he was dismissed by Bompas. In 1914 he was living at Hawkhurst, Belle Vue Road, Ware, Hertfordshire.

There is no evidence that he ever returned to Calcutta after producing his 400-page report, and it is likely that his technical advice and physical presence were probably unwelcome. There are other examples of technical advice being unwelcome and unacceptable to colonial administrators: Lanchester’s Zanzibar report, planners in Nigeria, Geddes. Nevertheless, when Bompas wrote a short note on his own retirement, he claimed the road improvements that Richards had promoted 13 years before.

Meanwhile the First World War intervened, and Richards was employed as an army captain with the Leicestershire Regiment and the Gordon Highlanders, serving in France on the Western Front, although he reached his fortieth birthday when the War was one month old. After the War Richards returned to the East as chief engineer and deputy chairman of the Singapore Improvement Commission 1920-27, but left before the Singapore Improvement Trust came into being in 1928. Now in his mid-fifties, he finished his career as a consultant engineer.

The energy and enthusiasm with which Richards approached his Calcutta brief seems to have been typical of the man. As a young engineer working in Newbury he became a member of the Geological Society, and wrote a paper on the geology of the district. In later life he was an active mountaineer and ski-er in the Alps, and when mainland Europe was open to British visitors after the Second World War climbed the Matterhorn at the age of 75. He enjoyed a long retirement on the south coast at Worthing, and died at the age of 88, on 14 November 1961. His Asiatic colonial service in the three port-cities of Madras, Calcutta and Singapore had occupied barely ten years of his working life.

References

Membership lists of ICE & IMunE. Richards’ obituary notice is in Proceedings of ICE 23 1962, p.540-1.

Brian Robinson, Memories of Tin Town: the Navvy Village of Birchinlee and its People, Northend,Sheffield, 2001

Bevan, B. The Upper Derwent: 10,000 Years in a Peak District Valley Stroud, Tempus Publishing, 2004.

Bevan, B. Tin Town: An Archaeological Survey of Birchinlee Village, Peak District National Park Authority, 2000.

Folklore of the Santal Parganas. Translated by C.H. Bompas [the Editor of Material Collected by the Rev. O. Bodding]. London; printed in Holland, 1909

 

Chamu Kuppuswamy

Shooting for BBC Countryfile in the Peak District National Park

I had a really good experience on Friday with the BBC Countryfile programme makers as I travelled with them while they worked on making a piece for their episode on the 6th of July 2014. They captured my work as ranger on the heritage project, talked to those who have researched for many years on the themes we are working on, recording artefacts, places and people and then entered the grand finale recording dancers at work in the beautiful surroundings of the Peak District on a bright sunny and warm summer’s day!

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It was great, but I am really not sure what the storyline is going to be, and I led the project that Countryfile has just filmed! I am a bit trepiditious about the final product. There are subjects that need to be sensitively handled.

The most exciting part of the filming for me was the opportunity I got to introduce my dance students to the Peak District National Park, in their ‘dancer’ mode! This has opened up an amazing opportunity to start working seriously on internationalising and bringing exciting new additions to the repertoire of Bharathanatyam! I think it will be great to incorporate Britain’s Nature into Bharathantyam – don’t you? As a ranger/peak district mosaic champion, it gives me the chance to create new directions in minority/niche engagement in National Parks and to strengthen the legacy for the project, involving young people in it. It builds on heritage (remember Edward Carpenter already brought Hinduism into the National Park a hundred years ago) and builds a new contemporary understanding of heritage. For those of you at the Hindu Samaj last year, you would have watched my students perform at the Hindu Samaj premises, now you watched them perform outdoors – thank you all!

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As Helen Skelton, the presenter of our piece said, it was Groundhog Day! Well, not quite! Every material shot for the programme was shot numerous times, from various angles, with and without sound, peppered with capturing atmos. I wish I could do this sort of thing whenever I shoot a photo or video! Setting off early at 7.40 was a good idea for this sort of thing! We overran by three quarters of an hour, but that was not too bad at all. Most people were in high spirits! The power of the camera, eh! Or the sunny weather and the dance?  the BBC brand perhaps? Well, I better not start my IP brain up!

I need to hone my skills as a ranger. After all that careful research to identify locations suitable for the various bits of the heritage story, I had gone and plonked us at a spot for which we needed special permission to shoot in. Bugger 😦 And this was what caused all the delay and phone calls. #dentedpride. Next time, I know to be more careful, when working to the pace and fickleness of a TV shoot!

I was extremely pleased that the researcher managed to get Helen Smith (our Carpenter expert) on the shoot. I thought that was the best interview of the day. Great questions from Helen, and great responses from Helen 🙂 Pity we couldn’t have Dr. Brenda King who has spent years researching Sir Thomas Wardle. Without her, the result is always going ‘to be a weak version of a strong history with many aspects to it’. I hope I am proved wrong!

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Thanks to all for spending the time and taking part in the day! I hope you all like yourselves on TV when the programme is on!

Chamu Kuppuswamy

How to walk the spiritual path? Literally!

Watch this fantastic film from our heritage project as it takes the long view of the ‘walks’ component of the project – starting from researching stories and preparing a route card to walking in the landscape and developing an enlightened view of nature that is summarised in Edward Carpenter’s own words.

Once we had completed our research, through reading of books and materials, and working with primary material from the Edward Carpenter Collection held in the Sheffield Archives, we had collected information that had played itself out in the landscape years ago. The walks component enabled us to play it out again in the landscape in our own way and bring new understandings about our shared heritage. We were building up on, picking up the threads from where Edward Carpenter left off. We were telling the story of his discovery and adventure into understanding the relationship between us and nature through Hinduism and with the help of rangers, enabling everyone to chart to their own journeys into the special landscape of the National Park to help understand and experience this relationship between human and nature.

In the final part of this short film, Shayast Panezai reads from ‘Adam’s Peak to Elephanta’ (page 178)-

“You are not to differentiate yourself from Nature. We have seen that the Guru Tilleinathan spoke of the operations of the external world as ” I,” having dismissed the sense of difference between himself and them. It is only under these, and such conditions as these, that the little mortal creature gradually becomes aware of What he is. This non-differentiation is the final deliverance. When it enters in the whole burden of absurd cares, anxieties, duties, motives, desires, fears, plans, purposes, preferences, etc., rolls off and lies like mere lumber on the ground. The winged spirit is free, and takes its flight. It passes through the veil of mortality and leaves that behind. Though I say this non-differentiation is the final deliverance (from the bonds of illusion) I do not say it is the final experience. Rather I should be inclined to think it is only the beginning of many experiences. As, in the history of man and the higher animals, the consciousness of self—the local self—has been the basis of an enormous mass of perceptions, intuitions, joys, sufferings, etc., incalculable and indescribable in multitudinousness and variety, so in the history of man and the angels will the consciousness of the cosmic and universal life—the true self underlying — become the basis of another and far vaster knowledge.”

This is the first of our short film releases on our project.

Ps: The route card sample shown here is not a Edward Carpenter route, prepared by volunteer ranger Mike Pupius. It is a silk route, which is another part of the project, and was prepared by another group that was charting out a silk route walk in the south western part of the Peak District National Park.

Chamu Kuppuswamy

Responses to our Radio 4 programme

A number of interesting and appreciative comments have come through to Thursday’s episode of BBC radio 4’s ‘Open Country’ which featured our project. The following is an excerpt from each of these public responses

sarah campbell blog

In my mind’s eye I saw hot silk saris shimmering against the grey stone walls and skeins of threads reaching across the hilly moorland.”

wrote Sarah Campbell, who Brenda King introduced to me as a very eminent textile designer. Sarah caught up with our episode as it was rebroadcast early one weekend morning, and after listening to our programme and letting her imagination run, she says it was ‘a great way to greet the day’

Sarah’s blog – http://sarahcampbelldesigns.wordpress.com

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It was with great interest that I read David Haden’s own inquiry in the directions we have taken in the project. In his blog post ‘Hindus and the Peak District’, he has posted this tantalising snippet – a result of a bit of online research.

“he recounted the true story of his own encounter with a wandering Hindu in the vicinity of Bakewell and Monsal Dale”

I am now able to present a fuller extract from the chapter ‘Writers in the Dales’ from The Discovery of the Peak District: from Hades to Elysium (p.178)

“Rhodes, whose writing we are told could occasionally emulate that of Sir Walter Scott or Samuel Johnson, may have been subconsciously affected by the latter’s Rasselas when he recounted the true story of his own encounter with a wandering Hindu in the vicinity of Bakewell and Monsal Dale. His narrative has pathos and is as moving as Defoe’s graphic description of his meeting with the lead miner’s wife at Brassington a century earlier. In this case Rhodes and a stranger he had met at an inn were travelling in his gig when they came upon ‘a man clothed in an English great-coat, with a white turban on his head; his gait and appearance, even at a distance, bespoke him the native of another country’. Rhodes’s companion had apparently served in India and spoke to the wanderer in his native tongue. He replied, ecstatic with emotion, that he had not heard his mother tongue since he had left India on a vessel bound for Hull. On arrival at that port ‘ he was no longer useful and therefore discarded’. He was now seeking another ship to take him home. He spoke no English, had no food and was quite lost. Rhodes’s companion wrote on a card the name of a gentleman in Ashbourne who had resided for some years in Calcutta and suggested that he help this lost ‘Child of Nature’ to his native land.”

Ebenezer Rhodes was a Sheffield man and a Master Cutler, very interested in the Peak District and spent a lot of time in the Dales.

Fascinating stuff! Why did the sailor (could have been a lascar, see an early blog post here) not remain in Hull and look for the next ship to take him home? How did he get to the Peak District? Was he a Hindu? What language was it that they conversed in? Who was this Ashbourne resident who had lived in Calcutta? What happened in Hull (or perhaps we should be asking what are these practices) that meant the lascar was not ‘useful’ and therefore ‘discarded’?

Thanks David for your interesting blog piece on our radio programme.

David’s blog – http://potbanks.wordpress.com/

pick of the week snip 6 April 2014

And finally a radio response to our radio programme!

Hardeep Singh Kohli, a British writer, comedian and radio and television presenter who is a prominent supporter of Scottish independence chose his favourite programmes from the week’s offerings on Radio 4 and our programme made it to his list! In Radio 4’s ‘Pick of the week’! [Listen from 10.18 to 13.10, available only until Sunday, the 13th of April, 6 pm] he says

“I am all for making connections between my dual heritage – Scotland and India but I hadn’t realised that in the heart of the Peak District there are secrets from colonial British India”.

And here’s how our project inspired him. Or perhaps particularly the Elephant in the Park [https://heritagehindusamaj.wordpress.com/heritage-walks/] walk, Hardeep says

“Its inspired me to propose a short series of programmes myself “Shiva skis Glenshee, Durga goes dancing in the Dales and Buddha in the Brecon Beacons”

Ha ha, Hardeep! We already thought of at least two of these – Durga dancing in the Dales – See my blog post here , a new dance production is in the pipeline. We will send you an invite, Hardeep! And Buddha in the Brecon Beacons – See Mindfulness workshop here. Great minds and all, Hardeep 🙂

Chamu Kuppuswamy