Missionaries and a Hindu State: Travancore, 1858-1936. (Reviews of Books)

By Irschick, Eugene F. | The Journal of the American Oriental Society, January-March 2002 | Go to article overview

Missionaries and a Hindu State: Travancore, 1858-1936. (Reviews of Books)


Irschick, Eugene F., The Journal of the American Oriental Society


Missionaries and a Hindu State: Travancore 1858-1936. By KOJI KAWASHIMA. Delhi: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1998. Pp. xi + 252. $26, Rs 540.

In this book, Koji Kawashima argues that missionaries and the state in Travancore worked together to reach interactively constructed educational and medical goals. His work also shows that these goals partly emerged "from below" as a way to construct the "population." He also Wants to show that Travancore became a site where Hindu rajadharma as a political ideal was articulated. If we were to formulate it more theoretically, Kawashima's work shows conclusively that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries governmentality came to form the central preoccupation in the state and society of Travancore. In a sense, over the period of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Travancore became more and more Hindu at the same time as it became more and more modern. In many ways, both these projects were aided by missionary work.

The book is divided into two. By far the major part of the book lies in chapters three, four, and live. These chapters concern the way in which the educational and medical projects between the missionaries and the state developed. The first two chapters set the stage for Kawashima's presentation. His last chapter deals with the way in which processes in Cochin, the neighboring state, did or did not reflect those in Travancore.

Though Travancore was a "Hindu State" in the early part of the nineteenth century, missionaries there were permitted to provide Christian religious instruction during school hours. It became apparent that many non-Hindus exposed to this teaching relished the material and mastered it much better than did the Christians. In the beginning, missionary English schools were used to train bureaucrats for the state, but students gradually abandoned missionary schools to get a Malayalam education in state schools. Much missionary energy was devoted to educating the lower castes, an unstated contract on which the state came to depend. Women's education later came to be important for the missionary enterprise. State education sought to inculcate a good sense of Travancore's history, geography, and role as a Hindu state.

During the last years of the nineteenth century, members of the lower castes (Ezhavas, Parayas, and Pulayas) began to express an interest in getting access to the state educational system. These desires were accompanied by the growth of voluntary organizations, which sought to raise the political and social position of these groups. By far the most famous of these was the SNYDP Yogam that sought to articulate the need for Ezhava revival. But there were several others. As a consequence of these agitations, Travancore State announced in 1904 that it would bear the entire cost of the primary education of all of these lower castes. In the decade between 1910 and 1920 the number of students in state schools increased very greatly. But, in the years after World War I a crisis developed in the state because many of the lower caste members threatened to leave the Hindu fold. …

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