P. C. Mukherji and Theosophical Archaeology – Part one
- Published: Friday, 21 June 2019 09:58
Andrew Huxley – England
Introduction by Professor James Santucci
“P. C. Mukherji and Theosophical Archaeology” provides a fascinating insight in the colonialist view of archeology in India and the Theosophical perspective. Furthermore, the value of The Theosophist from its inception in 1879 to the end of the nineteenth century cannot be overstated. Aside from archival material, many of the activities and interests of its leaders are chronicled in the pages of both the journal and its Supplements, the latter especially serving as a veritable goldmine for historians. This was evident in Professor Baier’s article, “Mesmeric Yoga and the Development of Meditation within the Theosophical Society” (Vol. XVI, No. 3-4), as also in the present article. Keeping in mind the third reason for establishing The Theosophist (“the necessity for an organ through which the native scholars of the East could communicate their learning to the Western world, and, especially, through which the sublimity of Aryan, Buddhistic, Parsi, and other religions might be expounded by their own priests and pandits, the only competent interpreters”), it is no wonder that the policy of the Theosophists, especially its leaders Blavatsky and Olcott, was what Dr. Huxley describes as “Indology for the Indians,” a view that was in direct opposition to the colonialist policy to Belittle and conquer. How the Babus and pandits fared vis-à-vis government agencies such as the Archaeological Survey of India, is illustrated in the example of Rājendralāla Mitra and Purna Chundar Mukherji. Of the two, Mukherji takes on an added importance for those interested in Blavatsky’s erudition concerning Indian archaeology and history, for instance the controversy over the Buddha’s dates. Her response is pertinent today, especially with the varying opinions appearing in Heinz Bechert’s collection entitled When did the Buddha Live?: The Controversy on the Dating of the Historical Buddha (1996).
The author, Dr. Andrew Huxley, was Emeritus Professor in the School of Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (London) from his retirement in 2013 until his death on November 29, 2014. From 1984 to 2012 Dr. Huxley was Lecturer of Southeast Asian law at SOAS and an authority on Burmese Buddhist Law and on the pre-colonial legal history of Southeast Asia. In 2012, was appointed Professor of Southeast Asian law in 2012 and in 2013 delivered his inaugural lecture, “T. W. Rhys Davids and the Forged Relics of the Buddha,” which can be viewed on YouTube.