THE ARTS SOCIETY CAMBRIDGE
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22 March 2018India from Three Angles

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India from Three Angles Oliver Everett Thursday 22 March 2018

Oliver Everett's career started in the Diplomatic Service including a posting to India.  He was educated at Cambridge University and undertook post-graduate work at Tufts University and the LSE.  He is Librarian Emeritus at the Royal Library, Windsor Castle.  He leads NADFAS tours to India.

In this Special Interest Day we shall look at India's early history, the construction of the Taj Mahal and then Britian's great contribution to the study of India

We shall begin our day with a talk starting from the Indus Valley civilisation (3000BC to 1500BC) and continues with the Aryan invasion from 1500BC and with the brief but significant invasion by Alexander the Great in 326BC. The Mauryan Empire (320-180BC) was the first full scale indigenous empire in India. Its most powerful Emperor, Ashoka, spread Buddhism over much of the country with his famous columns, rock inscriptions and stupas. The second great Indian Empire, the Guptas (320-480AD), created a sophisticated society with flourishing arts, architecture, sculpture, literature, sciences, economics and administration. Cave and rock temples are described and illustrated, including the remarkable wall paintings at Ajanta and the sculpture at Ellora and Elephanta. Hindu temples developed all over the country from the 5th century AD onwards and became increasingly complex and extraordinary. The Muslim invasion of India at the end of the 12th century introduced new forms of architecture and art. 

After our break for coffee/tea we shall look closely at the magnificent Taj Mahal, built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The lecture traces the origins of its design, its site in Agra, how it was built, the craftsmen, the interiors and its surrounding buildings and gardens.

Finally, after lunch (which is not included)  we look at Britain's historical involvement with India which is sometimes criticised. And there were undeniably dark and culpable episodes. But a number of British individuals were very dedicated to India and made great contributions to the study of its history, languages, religions, archaeology, architecture, topography, sociology, zoology and botany. The talk describes the very successful work in those fields of a series of Britons who are not often given the recognition they deserve. Between Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General, and Lord Curzon, a most prominent Viceroy, there were civil servants, soldiers, judges, doctors, engineers, surveyors and others who immersed themselves in the local culture and revealed a great deal about India's amazing past.