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Contribution to The History of The Wheeled Vehicle In India

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Contribution to The History of The Wheeled Vehicle In India
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Item Code: NAL260
Author: Jean Deloche
Publisher: Institut Francais De Pondichery
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 9788184702019
Pages: 157 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 11.0 inch X 8.0 inch
weight of the book: 576 gms

About the Book

This book is a contribution to the history of the wheeled vehicle in India. In the first part we examine the present carriages, their types and their distribution; then, in the light of these clearly discernible facts, we intend to interpret the sources concerning, on the one hand, the wheeled vehicles from Protohistory to the Mughal period, and on the other hand, the changes introduced by the transport revolution of the middle of the 19th century.

It shows that, prior to the British period, the northern plains of India were favoured with a variety of vehicles for travelling and for goods traffic, many of them with a rudimentary form of suspension, while in the Deccan, most of the country carts were heavy, ill-constructed and not fit for distant journeys.

The reason why the people of Hindusthan showed much greater ingenuity than those of the Deccan concerning the construction of carts is perhaps due to the fact that, over the centuries, greater attention was given to roads and their maintenance than on the peninsula: at least since Asoka, the sovereigns of the Gangetic Plain were interested in the question of roads, and particularly in the good condition of the Grand Trunk Road and the axes leading to the Gulf of Cambay.

 

About the Author

Jean DELOCHE, a senior member of the Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient and the French Institute of Pondicherry, has devoted his academic career to the study of Indian History. Among the numerous books and articles written by him, can be mentioned: Origins of the Urban Development of Pondicherry according to Seventeenth- Century Dutch Plans, 2004; Senji (Gingi) A Fortified City in the Tamil Country, 2005; Studies on Fortification in India, 2007; Adventures of Jean-Baptiste Chevalier in Eastern India, 2008; Four Forts of the Deccan, 2009; Pierre Sonnerat, Nouveau Voyage aux Indes Orientales (1786-1813), 2010; A Study in Nayaka-Period Social Life: Tiruppudaimarudur Paintings and Carvings, 2011; Ancient Fortifications of the Tamil Country as Recorded in Eighteenth-Century French Plans, 2013.

 

Foreword

This work is the outcome of various studies. Initially, our purpose was to gather information on the carriages of the Mughal period in order to complete a general study on Transport and Communication in India prior to Steam Locomotion, since then published.' but as the documents concerning this period are insufficient in this particular field (a few literary sources, a rare iconography), we had to considerably extend the scope of our investigation in terms of time. We tried, on the one hand, to gather the various sources of the earlier period, by making an inventory of the representations provided by archaeology, and, on the other hand, to accumulate as much information as possible concerning today's carriages: a thick dossier from which the elements of this study have been taken.

The synthesis put forward here is provisional. For years we have amassed notes, indexes and outlines, which periodically, following a visit to a monument, a reading or a meeting, were improved or changed, each explicit question raising a further question, each unproven hypothesis being reconsidered. We could continue ad infinitum. It was time to stop and communicate the fruits of this work to others.

I wish to express my gratitude to all those who, by their kindness, competence and knowledge, have helped with the completion of this book."

 

Introduction

The history of the wheeled vehicle in India remains unexplored. Given the present state of our knowledge, it is not possible to explain the origin of the form of draught animal equipment or of the types of vehicles used in Ancient and Medieval India. All we can say is that, in the various representations of carriages we have collected, certain characteristics have been preserved through the Ages until today. It is not a rare occurrence to note devices still known to village cart-wrights in these documents.

A careful examination of today's farm carts would allow us to partly overcome the inadequacy of the ancient documents and throw light on certain obscure problems raised by the sources.

The main features of material civilisation are the fruits of long development and, for lack of extensive and precise information, we believe that to question the past through today's facts is a method which is not only legitimate but fecund, and explains the plan of our study.

In the first part, we examine the present carriages, their types and their distribution. Then, in the light of these clearly discernible facts, we intend to interpret the sources concerning, on the one hand, the wheeled vehicles from Protohistory to the Mughal period, and on the other hand, the changes introduced by the transport revolution of the middle of the nineteenth century.

 

Contents

 

  Foreword ix
  Abbreviations x
  Illustrations xi
  Introduction xiii
I. Present-Day Country Carts 1
  Principles of Classification 2
1. The Wheel 4
A. Types of Wheels 4
a) Solid or Semi-Solid Wheels 4
b) Radially Spoked Wheels 6
c) Wheels with Paired Cross-Bars 8
d) Thickness of the Felloe 8
B. Size of the Wheels 10
2. Axles, Supports, Body 10
II. Carriages in Indian Iconography 13
  Introduction 13
  Sources for the Ancient Period 13
  Vehicles in Classical Literature 13
  Archaeology 14
1. Wheeled Vehicles in the Protohistoric Period 15
A. Miniature Wheeled Carts from Protohistoric Times 16
B. Wheeled Vehicles Depicted in Rock Paintings 16
2. Wheeled Vehicles in the Early Historic Period 20
A. Miniature Wheeled Carts from the Early Historic Period 20
B. Carts with Radially Spoked Wheels Depicted in Stone Reliefs from the Early Historic Period 20
a) War and Processional Chariots 22
b) Farm Carts with Radially Spoked Wheels 24
3. Wheeled Vehicles in Peninsular India (7th c.-13th c.) 28
A. Farm Carts with Solid Wheels 28
B. Carts with Radially Spoked Wheels 30
  Bullock Carts 30
  Horse Carriages 32
4. Wheeled Vehicles in North-West India (8th c.-16th c.) 32
5. Wheeled Vehicles in North India (16th c.-19th c.): Rudimentary Form of Suspension Units 34
6. Shafts, Four-Wheeled Vehicles 40
A. Shafts 40
B. Four-Wheeled Vehicles 42
  Concluding Remarks 47
III. Distribution of Country Carts and the Revolution in Road Construction in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century 49
1. The Long Survival of Carts with Solid Wheels 50
2. Road Construction and Expansion of Carts with Radially Spoked Wheels 52
a) Peninsular India 53
b) Contrast with the Northern Plains 55
c) Regional Diffusion of Technology 56
d) European Influences 56
  Conclusion 59
  Appendices 61
1. The Wheel with Paired Cross-Bars: a Matter for Investigation 61
2. Examples of Country Carts: Bihar, Panjab, Tamilnadu 65
  Bihar Country Carts 65
  Panjab Country Carts 65
  Tamilnadu Country Carts 70
3. Litters and Palanquins 73
  Sources 74
A. Litters Carried by Means of Two Shafts 74
B. Litters Carried by Means of a Single Pole, Palanquins 75
C. European Influences 79
D. Litters in Bihar at the End of the Nineteenth Century 82
  Photographic Plates 83
  Bibliography 119
  Index-Glossary 139
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