V1 mulberry

V1 mulberry
Kuppam, AP, 2010

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Tipu Sultan and sericulture for Mysore

In the kingdom of Mysore on the Deccan plateau of South India it was the ruler, Tipu Sultan, who sponsored and organised sericultural development, possibly following initiatives of his father, Hyder Ali. On the eastern side of the peninsula, in Madras, the initiative came from an individual enthusiast, Dr James Anderson, in the English East India Company’s medical service. The Company’s Madras Government, its Board of Directors and officers in London were soon involved and intermittently supportive. The Mysore and Madras initiatives were separate and almost entirely independent. In the period from 1780 to the end of the century, four Anglo-Mysore wars continued a series of cruel hostilities which had started in the first half of the century, primarily between the French and the British, with their varying allies. With sericulture being attempted first on the Mysore side and then on the British, in Madras, there was perhaps rivalry but certainly no scope for co-operation in sericulture or anything else. The wars involved widespread destruction in both Mysore and Madras. There was an assault on Bangalore, its capture and year-long occupation by the British, and three attacks on Tipu's capital, Srirangapatna which was also the seat of his sericultural experimentation. The last assault, in 1799, ended in its and Tipu's destruction. The wars had resulted first in the ceding of half his kingdom to the British and their Indian allies, and finally to the effective elimination of Mysore as an independent power.
Well before this final defeat, some slight evidence for the progress of the Mysore sericultural project had begun to emerge in Madras from Anderson’s own project and the connections and enquiries it produced. After the fall of Srirangapatna, records of Tipu’s government fell into British hands and were sent to Calcutta (Wilks 1810: xvii), though this failed to save most for posterity, while his extensive libraries were from the beginning more widely scattered. The extent to which his sericulture project itself was officially documented at the time is unknown, but miscellaneous sources throw some limited light on it and its progress.    
A story of Tipu’s first involvement, with interesting pointers at least, comes from Abdul Quddus, a leading enthusiast of the early twentieth-century silk trade. His family’s history went back to the beginning of the 19th century and before. Their account of sericulture’s beginning starts with a Chinese ambassador at Tipu's court presenting him with a silk cloth. This was, it is claimed, quite new to Mysore[1] and to have had the result of resolving Tipu to introduce its production into his kingdom. He therefore sent off two deputations, one to Bengal, from which it returned four years later, the other to China which took twelve years to return. Both yielded cuttings of mulberry and these were sent to 'Dhungur', probably Dhanaguru, a village 12 kilometres east of Malavalli town, and to Kunigal, now in Tumkur District. Bengal also yielded silkworm eggs and the cocoons produced went to Srirangapatna, or more exactly perhaps to Tipu's nearby industrial village of Ganjam, for reeling and then for weaving (Quddus 1923: 6). He clearly had some success with such plans, though as evidence, this story with its absence of dating is inevitably open to doubts at several points.
It is filled out to some limited extent, however, by more definite evidence from fragments of Tipu’s own government records in the form of letters obtained by the British after the fall of Srirangapatna. Of these, about 35 boxes were carried away, amounting to some 2,000 items sent via Fort St. George in Madras to Calcutta. Amongst them, three relating to sericulture were identified and translated soon afterwards. The earliest, numbered CCLVIII was addressed “To Meer Kâzim, Dâroga at Muscat, 24th April1786.” This had instructions for several transactions, including to “Get the Dullâl [broker] to write to his agents in different places, to collect silkworms, and persons acquainted with the manner of rearing them, and [having procured them] let them be despatched to us.(5)”  The English footnote entered here states that “The instructions of the Sultan to the Meer-Asofs or revenue department (issued 1793) contain particular regulations respecting the culture of the silkworm.”
 It was followed up by a letter numbered CCLXXII [272], of 6 May following, repeating requests for the silkworms, amongst other things. The third and most substantial letter, numbered CCCLXXV [375], was addressed “To Syed Mahommed, Kileadâr[2] of Seringapatam”, and dated nearly five months later, 27 September 1786. It read: “Buhâûddeen and Kustoory Runga, who were sent [some time since] to Bengal, for the purpose of procuring silkworms, are now on their return [to Seringapatam], by way of Sedhout. On their arrival, you must ascertain from them the proper situation in which to keep the aforesaid worms, and provide accordingly. You must, moreover, supply for their food [leaves of] the wood or wild mulberry trees, which were formerly ordered to be planted [for this purpose]. The number of silkworms brought from Bengal must likewise be distinctly reported to us. We desire, also, to know, in what kind of place it is recommended to keep them, and what means are to be pursued for multiplying them.” It continued:”There is a vacant spot of ground behind the old palace, lately used as a Tosheh-khâneh,or store-house, which was purchased some time ago with a view to building upon it. Prepare a place somewhere near that situation, for the [temporary] reception of the worms.”
                                                                                                                         (Kirkpatrick 1811: 418-19)   
These letters show therefore that in 1786, in a period when Tipu was at war with both his powerful northern neighbours, the Marathas and the Nizam’s Hyderabad, between the Second and Third Anglo-Mysore Wars, and when Anderson was starting his major campaign for the introduction of cochineal production in Madras, ahead of his silk project, Tipu was already seeking silkworms, mulberry and expertise from Muscat, the ancient port and link in the long-distance east-west trade on the Arabian coast of the Gulf of Oman, and also from Bengal. The September letter, with its directions to the Governor of the Fort at Srirangapatna for receiving the worms, suggests that this was still very near the beginning of his campaign to start sericulture there. Hardly any knowledge of silkworms or sericulture was yet available and few plans yet made. The precious footnote (5), its information drawn presumably from the end of the period of the letters, and  perhaps from letters which were not included in Kirkpatrick’s translated and published selection, then shows that, whatever the success or lack of it from the initiatives of the ‘80s, by 1793 a new initiative was under way. It shows also that it was the Revenue Department that was now in charge of it.
As was standard practice for Tipu’s government, detailed regulations for that essential department had been made and an elaborate set of those of 1793 were amongst the documents to which Kirkpatrick’s requested procedure of translation and publication was applied. The Mysorean Revenue Regulations of 1793[3] throw at least an indirect light on the context and methods of the government in relation to development at the time. The manuscript of these regulations was ‘procured’ in the course of the Coimbatore campaign by a Colonel in the British army, John Murray. It was in Persian and ‘under the seal of Tippoo Sultaun’. In June 1792 it was lent to the British authorities for translation into English and printing. A copy from this printing then ended up as a spectacular quarto volume in the library of King George III in London, beautifully bound in red leather with elaborate gold tooling.[4] What the document shows is, amongst other things, the vigorous policy for the development of the economy of his countryside and kingdom that Tipu was pursuing at the period. Tax concessions for the encouragement of planting and production of numerous crops were proclaimed: e.g. for sandalwood, tamarind and sikakaubee (mimosa asperata) used for washing the hair and body, for beetle leaf and ‘beetle nut tree plantations’ (Articles 24-26). For this last, no tax would be due for 5 years, to be followed by a half rate from the 6th year until they bore fruit. Then they would pay full rate or a share of the produce ‘whatever is the custom’.[5] The 29th Article concerns the conduct of a census detailing the houses and resources of the ‘ryuts throughout districts, and aggregated systematically’. Instructions for carrying it out follow: “To obviate the ill consequence of apprehension being excited in the minds of the Ryuts, it will be proper, when you commence the numeration of the houses and inhabitants, to give it out that the purpose for which you are come to their houses is to see whose expenses exceed their means, and to assist such persons with Tuccavie[6]: in this manner you are to get the numeration effected.”
There is no evidence here that by this date any such methods had been extended to mulberry planting or to sericulture itself, but in Bengal, the Company’s efforts to extend production with incentives have already been noted. There is no evidence that they were not used by Tipu also. Sericulture itself in its early stages is bound to have been highly localised and may well not have yet been tried in the district to which the surviving regulations belong. There is, however, as mentioned above, some passing evidence from the publications of the Scottish enthusiast in Madras, Dr James Anderson, which supports the achievement of sericulture at the earlier period. One Robert Andrews, the British officer in charge at Trichinopoly, reported meeting two men from 'Warriore' in Trichinopoly (Tiruchirappalli) in 1791, who told him that they had been sent to Mysore under Hyder Ali’s regime and had been employed there in silkworm rearing at Srirangapatna They apparently returned home after the 2nd Anglo-Mysore War ended in 1784 (Andrews [1791(c): 70 & foll.]). Since Hyder died in the December of 1783, this suggests that rearing at Srirangapatna must have begun before that date. Andrews seized the opportunity to set them to work at rearing and was impressed to find them constructing and using chandrikes. He reported: “Without any instruction from me, they have formed a frame for the worms to spin on, which answers perfectly well. It is made as follows: they prepare a split Bamboo Matt about five feet square upon which they place edgeways, a fillet of split Bamboo about four inches in width as thus [a small sketch apparently drawn in by hand]. This is of several yards long and is placed on the Matt thus [again drawn in]. The worms work in the open squares and form their cocoons in those spaces’ (Anderson [1791(a): 3]).[7]
Anderson commented that this was proof that Tipu had the Bengal 'Chunderkee', which was not surprising since his information was that he had had three hundred people there from Bengal 'seven years ago', i.e. in about 1784. It was Bengalis apparently who took care of the reeling at Srirangapatna. The Warriore men did not know about it since, they said, Tipu had brought people from Bengal to perform that part of the enterprise (Anderson [1791: 70; 1791(a): 5-6]). Later Andrews acquired a third worker who claimed he had himself been sent to Bengal by Tipu to perfect his knowledge of reeling. Progress is also suggested by the claim in the same year, 1791, that silk cloth, understood as being from Mysore raw silk, was being supplied from Srirangapatna.
The war of 1789-92, with heavy destruction along the route taken by the army to reach Srirangapatna, and Cornwallis' assaults on it, cannot have helped, but immediately after it, in 1793, we find provision for an expanded silk industry. Kirkpatrick (1811: 419) writes that it was: “a very favourite, though, I believe, an unsuccessful pursuit with the Sultan; who actually established, or proposed to establish, no less than twenty-one principal stations within his dominions, where the breeding of the silkworm was directed to be attended to with the utmost care and diligence. These stations were specified in one of the sections of the instructions issued to the Meer Asof, or revenue department, in the year 1794.”
From the sparse evidence so far assembled, it looks therefore as if there were two phases, separated by war. A first in the mid 1780s, was probably chiefly at Srirangapatna. This is not, climatically, amongst the areas of Mysore which would subsequently be found so suitable for silkworm rearing. It depended largely on Bengalis and, occasionally perhaps, people sent for training to Bengal, as well as a few others with experience of silk like the weavers brought in from Wariur. The second phase, in the 1790s, and probably aware of Anderson’s initiative in Madras and lessons being learnt there, made an attempt to expand across a range of localities with government silk farms.
The main basis of the silkworm ultimately established in Mysore is likely to have been a yellow bivoltine race, of Chinese origin but obtained from Bengal. Losing its hibernating character in south Indian climatic conditions, and perhaps by some happy genetic mixing over this difficult initial period, it diverged from races known elsewhere. Adapting and breeding true, it became, through various vicissitudes which will be investigated at later stages of the story, the 'Pure Mysore Race' of the twentieth century. It is perhaps significant that Kunigal and surrounding areas, said in Quddus’ origin story above, to have been one of Tipu's first two centres, subsequently became known as the prime source of reliable stock for breeding silkworms as well as production of cocoons. The worms may well have survived in Mysore, that is to say, in the short run and in occasional fortunate and climatically favourable places.
Despite the Third and Fourth Anglo-Mysore Wars which came, with considerable destruction, to sieges of Srirangapatna itself, plans for more organised and widely distributed centres for government-regulated silkworm breeding and rearing were clearly attempted. It is only too likely that imported worms would rarely have survived breeding through any considerable number of generations. As can be seen from experience in Madras at much the same time, and from generations of effort for sericultural development in southern India, and in Bengal, loss of worms and uprooting of mulberry from time to time have been only too common. What was doubtless a catastrophe for sericulture as for so much else in Mysore in 1799, did not mean the total loss everywhere of mulberry and silkworms, and rudiments of experience that had been acquired. From them in the early nineteenth century a more than viable industry would again struggle forward.

[1] Though this seems unlikely, his father’s regime was not given to luxury and as a pious Muslim, Tipu himself may have followed the religious tradition treating the use of silk and gold for clothing haram for men, exceptions  being possible for medical reasons. Worn by men, silk could be regarded as improperly luxurious display, but it was not prohibited to women. See numerous online discussions and sources, e.g. (accessed  30.7.2012)  http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090703064133AAf6pIB
[2] See Glossary: Killadar: the commandant or governor of a fort or castle (OED)
[3] This was for a particular district or region: ‘to be observed by the present and future Aumils and Serishtadars of the Second District of Aumloor, dependent on the Cutchery of Awulputum’. A note for Article 22, p. 63, identifies ‘Akraunputtun’ as ‘Agran Puttum’, meaning the ‘Magazines of Seringapatam which is frequently called Puttun by the natives’.
[4]  Today to be found in the King’s Library within the British Library in London.
[5] The regulations need serious analysis, at least to establish the articles that were relevant to concessions for development. As it is, it looks as if it is not securing development but revenue which is predominant. The other kinds of regulation need to be looked at too: it was the inhumane ones which undoubtedly made the document’s appeal for propaganda purposes. Here the purpose for which its evidence is being used is quite different.
[6] See Glossary: taccavi. It may look as if it must have been some kind of official support for the impoverished, but more likely an ‘advance or loan for agricultural production’ (Parthasarathi  2001).