Joseph Tiefenthaler

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Joseph Tiefenthaler (or Tieffenthaler or Tieffentaller) (27 August 1710 – 5 July 1785) was a Jesuit missionary and one of the earliest European geographers to write about India.

Quotes[edit]

  • A spot particularly famous is known as Sita Rassoi, i.e. table of Sita, Rama's wife... Emperor Aurangzeb demolished the fortress called Ramcot, and erected on the same place a Mohammedan temple with three cupolas. Others say that it was constructed by Babor... Fourteen pilllars of black stone.. are located in the fortress.. The other two (pillars) are in the tomb of an unknown Maure (Muslim)... On the left one can see a square box... Hindus call it Bedi (i.e. the cradle) because formerly it was the house where Beschan (Vishnu) and his three brothers were born under the form of Ram... Subsequently Aurangzeb and some say Babar destroyed the place in order to prevent the heathens from practising their ceremonies. However, they have continued to practice their religious ceremonies in both the places knowing this to have been the birth place of Rama by going around it three times and prostrating on the ground.. On 24th of Chaitrra a large number of people gather here to celebrate the birth of Rama extremely popular throughout India...
    • Joseph Tieffenthaler, History and Geography of India, writing about Ayodhya. Cited by Harsh Narain The Ayodhya Temple Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources, 1993, New Delhi, Penman Publications. ISBN 8185504164, also in Peter Van der Veer Religious Nationalism, also in R.S. Sharma et al.: Historians' Report to the Nation, People's Publ., Delhi 1991.
  • Emperor Aurengzeb got the fortress called Ramot demolished and got a Muslim temple, with triple domes, constructed at the same place. Others say that is was constructed by ‘Babor’. Fourteen black stone pillars of 5 span high, which had existed at the site of the fortress, are seen there. Twelve of these pillars now support the interior arcades of the mosque. Two (of these 12) are placed at the entrance of the cloister. The two others are part of the tomb of some ‘Moor’. It is narrated that these pillars, or rather this debris of the pillars skillfully made, were brought from the island of Lanca or Selendip (called Ceylan by the Europeans) by Hanuman, King of Monkeys.
  • On the left is seen a square box, raised five inches from the ground, with borders made of lime, with a length of more than 5 ells and a maximum width of about 4. The Hindus call it Bedi, i.e. ‘the cradle’. The reason for this is that once upon a time, here was a house where Beschan was born in the form of Ram. It is said that his three brothers too were born here. Aurengzeb or Babor, according to others, got this place razed in order to deny them the noble people, opportunity of practising their superstitions. However, there still exists some superstitious cult in some place or other. For example, in the place where native house of Rama existed, they go around 3 times and prostrate on the floor. The two spots are surrounded by a low wall constructed with battlements. One enters the front hall through a low semi-circular door.
    • Description. Historique Et Geographique De L’ Inde. English translation published in "The Modern Travellers" in 1828. quoted in in Kiśora, K. (2016). Ayodhyā revisited.
  • “Emperor Aurangzeb got the fortress called Ram Kot demolished and got constructed at the same place, Muslim temple (Masjid) with three domes. Some believe that it was constructed by ‘Babbar’. Fourteen black stone pillars can be seen there, which existed at the site of the fortress. Twelve of these pillars now support the interior arcades of the mosque while two of the 12 (pillars) are placed at the entrance of the cloister, two others are part of the tomb of some ‘Moor’. It was narrated that these pillars, or rather the debris of the pillars skillfully made were brought from the island of Lanca or Selendip (called Ceylon by the Europeans) by Hanuman, the king of monkeys.
  • On the left is seen a square chest, raised five inches from the ground covered with lime, about 5 ells in length by not more than 4 in breadth.
  • The Hindus call it Bedi i.e. ‘the cradle’. The reason for this is that once upon a time, there was a house in this place where Befohan was born in the form of Rama besides his three brothers. Subsequently, Aurangzeb or according to another belief, Babbar, got this place destroyed in order to deny them the opportunity of practicing their superstitions. However, there still exists some superstitious cult in some place. For example, in the place where native house of Rama existed, they go around 3 times and prostrate on the floor.”
    • quoted in Kishore, Kunal (2016). Ayodhyā revisited.
  • “The modern town extends a considerable way along the banks of the Goggrah, adjoining the new city of Fyzabad, which, during the government of Sujah-ud-Dowlah, was the seat of the Court. “Its appearance, in 1770, is thus described by Tieffenthaler: “Avad, called Adjudea by the learned Hindoos, is a city of the highest antiquity. Its houses are, for the most part, only of mud, covered with straw or with tiles; many, however, are of brick. The principal street, running from S. to N., is about a league (mille) in length; and the breadth of the city is somewhat less. Its western part, as well as the northern, is situated on a hill; the north-eastern quarter rests upon eminences; but, towards Bangla, it is level. This town has now but a scanty population, since the foundation of Bangla or Fesabad; a new town where the Governor has established his residence, and to which a great number of the inhabitants of Oude have removed.’ On the southern bank of the Deva (or Goggrah), are found various buildings erected by the Gentoos in memory of Ram, extending from east to west. The most remarkable place is that which is called Sorgodoari, that is to say, the heavenly temple; because they say, that Ram carried away from thence to heaven all the inhabitants of the city. The deserted town was repeopled and restored to its former condition by Bikramajit, the famous king of Oojein. There was a temple here on the high bank of the river but Aurungzebe, ever attentive to the propagation of the faith of Mohammed, and holding the heathen in abhorrence, caused it to be demolished, and replaced it with a mosque with minarets, in order to abolish the very memory of the Hindoo superstition. Another mosque has been built by the Moors, to the east of this. Near the Sorgodoari is an edifice erected by Nabalroy, a former Hindoo governor.
  • But a place more particularly famous is that which is called Sitha Rassoee, the table of Sitha (Seeta), wife of Ram ; situated on an eminence to the south of the city. The emperor Aurungzebe demolished the fortress called Ramcote, and erected on the site, a Mohammedan temple with a triple dome. According to others, it was erected by Baber. There are to be seen fourteen columns of black stone, five spans in height, which occupied the site of the fortress. Twelve of these columns now support the interior arcades of the mosque: the two others form part of the tomb of a certain Moor. They tell us, that these columns, or rather these remains of skilfully wrought columns, were brought from the Isle of Lanca or Selendip (Ceylon) by Hanuman king of the monkeys.
  • On the left is seen a square chest, raised five inches from the ground, covered with lime, about five ells in length by not more than four in breadth. The Hindoos call it Bedi, the cradle; and the reason is, that there formerly stood here the house in which Beshan (Vishnoo) was born in the form of Ram, and where also, they say, his three brothers were born. Afterwards, Aurungzebe, or, according to others, Baber, caused the place to be destroyed, in order to deprive the heathen of the opportunity of practising there their superstitions. Nevertheless, they still pay a superstitious reverence to both these places; namely, to that on which the natal dwelling of Ram stood, by going three times round it, prostrate on the earth. The two places are surrounded with a low wall adorned with battlements. Not far from this is a place where they dig up grains of black rice changed into little stones, which are affirmed to have been hidden underground ever since the time of Ram. On the 24th of the month Tshet (Choitru), a large concourse of people celebrate here the birth-day of Ram, so famous throughout India. This vast city is only a mile distant from Bangla (Fyzabad) towards the E.N.E. On the high bank of the river is a quadrangular fortress with low round towers. The walls are out of repair, and it is unfurnished with inhabitants. Formerly, the governors of the province resided here. Saadut Khan, frightened by an evil augury, transferred the government to Bangla. It is now completely destroyed.
  • From the place where the guns are planted to Oude, a distance of two miles, the Goggrah flows in an easterly direction, making a double elbow; one near the western part of the city, the other at a short distance westward: turning then towards the N.E. by E., it washes the city of Oude; after which it returns to an easterly course, near the northern part. But it changes its course almost every year. Its channel is equal in breadth to that of the Danube, near the citadel of Ingolstadt in Bavaria, but the volume of its waters is not so great. During the rainy season, it extends to a great width, so that, in some places, it is above a league and a half across.
  • “Bangla or Fesabad was founded by Saadut Khan, after he had abandoned the city of Oude. A Persian by origin, he was for more than forty years governor of this province. He built a palace, planted an excellent garden in the Persian taste, and fixed his residence here. By degrees, this place became a large town. The present governor, his grandson, (Sujah-ud-Dowlah,) adorned it with numerous buildings, after the English had restored it to him in 1765, with the whole province. He also enlarged the market place, which was before confined, and strengthened the fortress with a fosse, round towers, and a rampart.”
  • “It is seated upon a hill somewhat steep, and fortified with little towers of earth at the four corners (of the enclosure). In the middle is seen a subterranean hole, covered with a dome of moderate dimensions. Close by is a lofty and very old tamarind-tree. A piazza runs round it. It is said that Ram, after having vanquished the giant Ravan, and returned from Lanka, descended into this pit, and there disappeared: hence, they have given to this place the name of Gouptar (or Gouptargath), You have here, then, a descent into hell, as you had at Oude an ascension to heaven.”
    • quoted in Kishore, Kunal (2016). Ayodhyā revisited. ch 8
  • “Avad, called as Adjudea, by the educated Hindus, is a city of very olden times. Its houses are (mostly) made up of mud only; covered with straw or tiles. Many (however) are made of bricks. The main street goes from South to North and it has a length of about a mile long. The width (of the city) is a little lesser. Its western and that of North as well, are situated on a mud hill. The North-East is situated on knolls. Towards Bangla it is united.
  • Today, this city has been hardly populated since the foundation of Bangla or Fesabad- a new city where the Governor established his residence and in which a great number (of inhabitants of Oude) settled in.
  • On the South bank (of Deva) are found various buildings constructed by the nobles in memory of Ram, extending from East to West.
  • The most remarkable place is the one which is called Sorgadaori, which means: the celestial temple. Because they say that Rama took away all the inhabitants of the city from there to heaven: This has some resemblance/similarity to the Ascent of the Lord. The city, thus deserted, was repopulated and was brought back to its earlier status by Bikarmadjit- the famous king of Oudjen.
  • There was a temple in this place constructed on the elevated bank of the river. But Aurengzeb, always keen to propagate the creed of Mohammed and abhorring the noble people, got it demolished and replaced with a mosque and two obelisks with a view to obliterate even the very memory of the Hindu superstition. Another mosque built by the Moors is adjacent to the one towards the East.
  • Close to Sorgadoari is a building constructed lengthways by Nabalray- a Hindu, a formerly lieutenant of the Governor (propraetor) of this region.
  • But a place especially famous is the one called Sitha Rassoi, i.e. the table of Sita, wife of Rama, adjoining to the city in the South, situated on a mud hill.
  • Emperor Aurengzeb got the fortress called Ramcot demolished and got a Muslim temple, with triple domes, constructed at the same place. Others say that it was constructed by ‘Babor’. Fourteen black stone pillars of 5 span high, which had existed at the site of the fortress, are seen there. Twelve of these pillars now support the interior arcades of the mosque. Two (of these 12) are placed at the entrance of the cloister. The two others are part of the tomb of some ‘Moor’. It is narrated that these pillars, or rather this debris of the pillars skillfully made, were brought from the island of Lanca or Selendip (called Ceylon by the Europeans) by Hanuman, King of Monkeys.
  • On the left is seen a square box, raised five inches from the ground, with borders made of lime, with a length of more than 5 ells and a maximum width of about 4. The Hindus call it Bedi, i.e. ‘the cradle’. The reason for this is that once upon a time, here was a house where Beschan was born in the form of Ram. It is said that his three brothers too were born here. Aurengzeb or Babor, according to others, got this place razed in order to deny them the noble people, opportunity of practising their superstitions. However, there still exists some superstitious cult in some place or other. For example, in the place where native house of Rama existed, they go around 3 times and prostrate on the floor. The two spots are surrounded by a low wall constructed with battlements. One enters the front hall through a low semi-circular door.
  • Not far from there is a place where one digs out grains of black rice, turned into small stones, which are said to have been hidden under the earth since the time of Ram.
  • On the 24th of the Tschet month, a big gathering of people is taken here to celebrate the birthday of Rama, so famous in entire India.” (pp. 252-54)
    • quoted in Kishore, Kunal (2016). Ayodhyā revisited. ch 11

About[edit]

  • “Tieffenthaler, in his encyclopaedic efforts to give as full a description of India as possible, touched practically on all possible subjects such as chronology, religion, history, manners and customs, revenues, natural history, natural products and mineral resources, art, architecture, monuments, buildings, town planning, etc., and gave for provinces, sometimes even for districts and cantons, long and interesting lists of their past rulers.” (p. 84)
    • S.N. Sen in ‘Journal of the Asiatic Society’ (Vol. IV, 1962 Nos. 3 & 4). quoted in in Kiśora, K. (2016). Ayodhyā revisited.
  • “Whilst two leading European nations are contending in the Carnatic and elsewhere for the supremacy over India in many bloody encounters, a modest missionary quietly and perseveringly pushes his way through pathless jungles and over arid plains, measuring in all thousands of miles, in order to make purely pacific conquest, and benefit thereby humanity – whilst Bengal, the East Coast, the Deccan and Gujarat are the scenes of bloody strifes which the greed of European nations has, if not originated, at least fostered, it is consoling to see that there are still men of science who are untouched by avarice and free from the thirst of gold. We sincerely desire the examples of intelligent travelers like Tieffenthaler might be imitated by some of the Europeans settled in those vast regions. Of what use are the endless armed squadrons, sent thither to uphold material interests, and bring Asia’s treasures to Europe whilst all means of advancing human knowledge are neglected? Prompted by the love of science, and filled with the zeal for the cause of humanity, I hope my wishes will be realized, and the public—I am sure—anxiously watch the efforts of this savant (Tieffenthaler) in the North of Bengal, and will receive with pleasure the results of his exploration in those hitherto little-known regions of Asia.”
    • M. Anquetil du Perron quoted in in Kiśora, K. (2016). Ayodhyā revisited.


External links[edit]

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