Sunday, 7 May 2017

Visual Evidence for Posture as Punishment in Indian Schools

By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES



 A Hindu school exhibiting native punishments.
Benares, circa 1860. Artist unknown.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:7/(IS).

Since writing the article Postural Punishments in Indian Schools,1 I have recently come across a series of eleven paintings depicting schools in 19th-century India held in the South & South East Asia Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

In this series, the painting entitled 'A Hindu school exhibiting native punishments' contains naturalistic representations of a school teacher (likely a guru-mahashay) and nine children. The guru is wielding a stick (daṇḍa) while six male students, wearing white and green skullcaps, sit on a raised platform. They appear to be listening and studying from their books. One of the boys has his hand raised as if wanting to ask a question. 

In the foreground of the painting, three more boys are illustrated: one is squatting while pointing his finger at something, another is squatting with his wrists tied in front, and another boy is reclining on his back with his arms bound in front of his legs and his legs bound behind his head. The inscription on the back of the painting reveals that this is a "Native Hindu school exhibiting native punishments".


Detail of the bound postural punishment.
A Hindu school exhibiting native punishments.
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:7/(IS).

This figure (shown in detail above) is supporting evidence for the account of bound punishments described by Rev. Alexander Duff in his article 'The System of Discipline' in the Calcutta Review.2

In my previous article, I considered the similarities between several of these punishments and some āsanas of yoga. In this case, some of the attributes of the reclining punishment are similar to those of the Haṭhayogic posture named yoganidrāsana, which is described in the 17th-century Haṭharatnāvalī (3.70).3

Once again, this raises the issue of the intersection between postural punishments, yoga and tapas, as I previously surmised:
Here, the line between a corporal punishment and a yoga posture becomes as thin as the historical one between tapas and yoga. The distinction is a matter of context and interpretation. Nonetheless, one might infer that using such postures as a form of punishment in schools may stem from their association with ascetics (tapasvin). 1

The remaining ten paintings in this intriguing series are featured below.


Gymnastic Exercises. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:9/(IS).


A Muslim school - the teacher smoking a huqqa. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:10/(IS).


Sword playing. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:6/(IS).


An arithmetic lesson. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:1/(IS).


A Sanskrit school - a pandit instructing five Brahmin students. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:3/(IS).


Fakirs of various sects attending a lecture on Vedanta philosophy. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:2/(IS).


A missionary school - some students wearing European-style trousers. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:5/(IS).


A writing lesson-a teacher with six students. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:8/(IS).


Children playing goli dunda. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:11/(IS).


Children playing kabaddi. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:4/(IS).




NOTES:

1 Jacqueline Hargreaves, Postural Punishments in Indian Schools, 9 January 2017. http://theluminescent.blogspot.in/2017/01/postural-punishment-in-indian-schools.html

2 Haṭharatnāvalī 3.70:
atha yoganidrāsanam -  
pādābhyāṃ veṣṭayet kaṇṭhaṃ hastābhyāṃ pṛṣṭhabandhanam |  
tanmadhye śayanaṃ kuryād yoganidrā sukhapradā ||
Having wrapped the legs around the [back of the] neck and binding the back with both hands, the yogin should sleep (śayana) in this [posture]. Yoganidrāsana bestows bliss.
   Haṭharatnāvalī of Śrīnirvāsayogī, Ed. M. L. Gharote, P. Devnath, and V. K. Jha. Lonavla: Lonavla Yoga Institute, 2002.

3 Alexander Duff (Editor), Art. I The state of Indigenous Education in Bengal and Behar, No. IV, Vol. II, Second Edition, Calcutta Review Vol. II, October - December, 1844, Third Edition, Calcutta: W. Thacker and Co.; London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1846.  (p. 334)



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