Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fable of Kashmiri (not so) Beauty as told George Forster

A traveler in the service of The East India Company, George Forster left Calcutta, on May 23, 1782, on a long and strenuous overland journey to England. Letters on a Journey from Bengal to England, through the Northern Part of India, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Persia, and into Russia, by the Caspian Sea, first published as a series of letters in 1798, is an interesting and entertaining narrative account of his two year long overland journey that started in 1782 and ended in 1784. He traveled from Bengal to St. Petersburg disguised as: a Mughal merchant, a Turk, an Arab and a Georgian. This was a time when foreigners were barred from entering the valley of Kashmir and George Forster tried unsuccessfully to dodge the spies of Afghan ruler of Kashmir by donning the garb of a Turkish merchant. He passed through the north-eastern hilly tracts of the Punjab in February - April 1783. On arriving in Kashmir in 1783, on subject of Kashmiri beauty, George Forster wrote that:

The Kashmirians are stout, well formed, and, as the natives of a country lying in the thirty-fourth degree of latitudes, may be termed a fair people; and their women in southern France, or Spain, would be called Brunettes. But, having been prepossessed with an opinion of their charms, I suffered a sensible disappointment; though I saw some of the female dancers most celebrated for beauty, and the attractions of their profession. A coarseness of figure generally prevails among them, with broad features, and they too often have thick legs. Though excelling in the colours of their complexion, they are evidently surpassed by the elegant form and pleasing countenance of the women of the western provinces of India.


The focus was now shifting towards looking at Kashmiri beauties in a more ‘realistic’ manner.
Francois Bernier, who can rightly be blamed for spreading a favorable opinion of the Kashmiri beauty, in spite of all his cleaver stratagems for seeking beauty, failed to notice the legs. If comments made by Forster can be termed unfavorable, then the comments made, around fifty years later,  by Frenchman Victor Jacquemont, can be termed outrightly rude.

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This is page 2 of the series Fables of Kashmiri Beauty
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next page:
  • Fable of Kashmiri (un) Beauty as told by Victor Jacquemont: page 3
  • Fable of Kashmiri Beauty (yet) as told by G.T. Vigne: page 4
  • Fable of Kashmiri beauty (types) as told by Walter Lawrence: page 5
  • Fable of Ugly Kashmiri as explained in a Magazine: page 6
  • Fable of Kashmiri Beauty (generally) as told by Younghusband: page 7
  • Guide to the Fable of Kashmiri Beauty as given in a Tourist Book: page 8

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