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1 Sapir, Maps, and Jewtown (Synagogue clock tower: "We end our years like a sigh." Sapir travels south from Cochin.)
2 Alleppey Canals to Kottayam ("like the Garden of Eden, fruitful and full of branches, with gardens and orchards on both sides")
3 Alleppey Canals and Villages (Banyan trees, toddy, and wharf)
4 Trivandrum, Kanyakumari (Rajahs, palanquins, fruit and spices)
5 Kottar, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin (Old Kottar, Cattle, Tamil plains, and temple towers; Sapir departs for Ceylon)
6 Madurai (Shrines, animal images)
7 Temple chariots (in Madurai and elsewhere)
8 Kodai to Kochi (Betel supplies, Leelu of Cochin; end of our journey)
Appendix: list of research leads and annotations for my translation, based on our travel in south India:
I saw and tasted coconut toddy, which is a pale white liquor, and saw the men’s culture in which it is drunk. Sapir wrote about “a good beverage similar to barley beer, which is white and thin, and they drink it to open the heart and to quench the thirst” (Slides 3)
I saw and photographed huts walled and roofed with leaves from coconut trees. Sapir wrote of the use of coconut leaves for “the covering of tents and lodges, booths and huts – for most of the inhabitants of the villages, gardens, and orchards – and for the covering of boats and ships” (Slides 2, 4)
Sapir: "To cool down from the burning of the sun and the heat, and the foods which they season with the pepper of India, they constantly munch and chew in their mouths the leaves of the betel tree." Many Indians still chew betel today; we took photos of some sellers of ingredients for betel mixtures. (Slides 8)
Sapir traveled in “a raft with two boatmen to steer it” and in “shallow fishing barges.” Instead I saw people traveling in narrow open fishing boats, until I discovered a photo of a “rice barge,” which is twice as wide as a fishing boat and is covered over by woven coconut leaves for a roof. I guess this is what Sapir traveled in. (Slides 2, 3)
I saw these scenes along the rivers and canals near Alleppey: “on the great river Mangatah which swells and passes in front of Cochin, and large ships and mighty craft (tzi ‘adir) pass through it, and it is poured out to the great sea, the Indian Sea, near the coastal city of Alleppey (‘ilpi) and Quilon (qalian). (From this great river, other rivers (ne-harot) and canals/waterways (ye‘orim) continue further in many directions. And on them people pass in small ships (se-finot ke’tanot) and fishing barges (sirot dugah).)” (Slides 2, 3)
“And we steered and went as we had steered from Cochin to here, four days and four nights” The wording might mean that the boatmen moved Sapir’s boat through punting, since he does not mention rowing, and “steering” is a form of locomotion a lot like punting. Punting is possible in these narrow canals. - Was it possible to travel so far in only 4 days? They traveled also at night.
Could Sapir have traveled from Cochin to Travandrum on the canals? Today this is impossible because the canals are blocked by roads between Quilon and Trivandrum and between Kochi and Alleppey, but I heard at the palace of the rajah of Trivandrum that he had a certain food sent to him every morning by canal from Alleppey. I have since confirmed from two books about 19th-century Kerala that people could travel by canal all the way from Cochin to Trivandrum.
“The waterways were not wide and on their banks, on both sides, was a land fruitful and full of branches” – which is what we saw (Slides 3)
“High, broad trees in the shade of whose vines (daliyot: vines, trailing branches) dwelt the keepers of the gardens and orchards” – what kind of tree would this have been? I think Sapir meant Banyan trees, which I saw along the canals and in most cities. Banyan trees have roots hanging down from the branches, which would look like vines. (Slides 3)
In Trivandrum, the raja’s “head was shaven and covered by a small red turban inlaid with crown jewels of ruby, sapphire, and emerald with a wreath of gold inlaid/embroidered around it” - At rajahs’ palaces today (in Trivandrum and Mattancherry) I saw paintings of rajahs from the 19th century, and there were gems sewn into their turbans, and a feathery extension that lifted up from the turban, often with more gems. (Slides 4)
Palanquins: “The nobles and the great princes are ... carried in a box called a “palqi” [palanquin] which is lifted on the shoulder of four human beings." I saw several old palanquins at two royal palaces (Trivandrum and Mattancherry) (Slides 4)
“And the rest of the fruits of the tree and greens and beans are found here in plenty, and nothing like them has been seen or exists in the lands of Europe. Also many varieties of all kinds of spices, cassia and cinnamon, clove and peppers according to their kinds, and Muscat nuts and betel, numerous in the land, and the tree which makes the banana fruit.” We explored many markets, including the famous one in Trivandrum called Connemara, and the older market in Kottar, and took photos. (Slides 4, 5, 8)
“Cattle (or oxen), which are very big and of great strength, and they have a large fat back [hump] like a camel and they sway back and forth (heinah v’heinah), and also large horns overlaid with brass. And they are swift (qlei ha-meirotz) like horses, and there were some which the people of the land would venerate, exalting and honoring them and covering their horns with silver, and they do not do work with them because they are holy to them (k’doshim heimah lahem).” Most cows in southern India today don’t have humps, but oxen do. I saw no horns overlaid with brass, but Prof. N. Muthumohan of Madurai Kamaraj University said that on the festival of Pongal people decorate cows’ horns with whatever they can afford, including silver. (Slides 5)
“The worshipers, the men and the women, would raise upon/over their heads an image of a horn” – Dr. Muthumohan did not recognize this ritual, and he grew up in southern Tamil Nadu. Alphie, who lives in southern Tamil Nadu and is manager of the YMCA in Trivandrum, said he sees ecstatics who insert spears in their cheeks and arms, wrap a cloth around their heads holding two cow horns in place. I also saw on Indian TV, warriors wearing head gear with two horns, one on each side. – I need to research this further.
“The great city of Kottar” – we discovered and explored this town within the larger newer city of Nagercoil. Kottar has old buildings and a distinct architecture. (Slides 5)
“The great city of Tuticorin (tutegri), which stands on the shore of the sea” – unfortunately, our trip to Tuticorin took place on a rainy morning. The rain was so heavy that we just stayed in the bus station of Tuticorin and never saw the ocean or a harbor. (Slides 5)
“And from there to the great city of Tuticorin” – what route did Sapir take from Kottar? Dr. Muthumohan says that a coastal route has existed for a long time. But Sapir described “flat land and small hills” and “many villages and people dwelling in huts and also cities and towns” along the route, and this suggests the more populous area inland along the Tamil plains. Traveling inland by train toward Tirunelveli, we saw small hills, especially in the south near Kottar, and great flat plains. Toward Tuticorin, we saw hills again. (Slides 5)
“In every street and market and at every corner and on roofs of the houses stand gods (elilim)” – we didn’t see this often in Kerala (or hadn’t yet noticed it), but in Tamil Nadu, we began to notice small shrines in the middle of street blocks and at corners, and I took photos of a number of them, especially in Madurai. (Slides 6)
“Outside before the gate of the city” – which city? The largest city in Tamil Nadu today which Sapir might have entered is Tirunelveli. I took photos of the gopuram of the main temple. (Slides 5)
“On the roofs of the temples of their illusions (batei ta`ato`eihem), all of them covered (m’tsufot) with graven images (p’silim) and gods (elilim) of all kinds of living beast (b’heimah hayah), and abominable bird (`of sheqetz) and creeping thing (remesh), and everything that is on the earth.” – this is a good description (from Sapir’s viewpoint) of a gopuram, the wedge-shaped gateway leading into temples in the south of India. (Slides 4, 5, 6, 7)
“Great wooden wheels (galgalim), of the height of three men, and they have small disks (‘ofanim), and upon them were of all kinds of images (tziyurim). All the graven images of the likeness (p’silei t’munat) of these circled round and round the wheels and the disks. On the days of their festivals all the people of the city gather together and lift them on their shoulders, because they are an exhausting burden even for hundreds of men, and they move it around the city in every road, with a great tumultuous voice, songs, and dances.” - - What would this wheel have looked like? Is Sapir referring to sacred cars used for transporting divine images on festival days? Unfortunately, I found only two sacred cars on my trip. These were kept in storage in plain tin sheds. The wheels were rather new and only about 7 feet high. The design of the wheels was plain: two concentric circles painted between the rim and the hub of the solid metal wheel. The body of the car, however, was elaborate: intricately carved dark wood, covered with images of gods and animals, and hence, suggestive of Sapir's phrase about wheels, “all kinds of images.” (Slides 7)
Dr. Muthumohan said that wheels of these cars, of great proportion or smaller, could have various designs on them, including small wheels. He thought the images of wheels (on the wheels) would have spokes, six spokes or a multiple of six. – Did Sapir mean that the chariots had both large and small wheels, like the chariot of Velluvar (large wheels at the four corners of the chariot, smaller wheels in the middle to help support the chariot)? Or did Sapir mean that the large wheels had smaller concentric wheels inside them? Or small circles placed along the rim with images inside, or a combination of concentric and separate circles? Sapir uses two Hebrew words for wheel but not the Hebrew words for circle. (Slides 7)
Sapir writes that he found many biblical names among Indian men, and he theorizes that large numbers of Jews came to India in ancient times but gradually assimilated, leaving only their names and some influence on Hindu rituals. – I too noticed many biblical names, but these all belonged to Christians in southern India, who give their children biblical names such as Abraham, Esther, Gideon, Samuel, Paul, Joseph, Daniel. This means that Sapir could not distinguish the names of Christian Indians from those of Hindu Indians.