historic-india

The Khasis are a tribe in India that grow their own bridges. For generations they have passed down the art of tree-root manipulation, forming centuries-old ‘living bridges’ out of the powerful roots  of the Ficus elastica trees. Source Source 2 Source 3

Photo: anselmrogers-wiki cc /  amusingplanet

Photo: amusingplanet / anselmrogers-wiki cc

Photo: amusingplanet

Necklace

India (Punjab or Rajasthan), Mughal, 18th - 19th century

Gold, precious and semi-precious stones and pearls

Pictorial representations and literary accounts of jewelry from the Mughal era abound, for the wearing and appreciation of jewels and gems was considered an art in itself. The memoirs of Jahangir, for instance, record his decisions to wear certain pearls or rubies for important occasions, but the practice was not limited to royalty alone—travelers to India noted the quantity of jewelry worn by all members of society. Because very few of these pieces survive, most seventeenth-century jewelry is known only from paintings and written descriptions; extant pieces from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are much more numerous. This particular necklace, composed of diamonds, rubies, pearls, and imitation emeralds set in gold, might represent work for a new class of patrons, the British in India.

Onake Obavva (?-1777): Whack-a-Mole Champion, South India Division, 1777-present

(click here for bigger version on the main RP site!)

“Onake” Obavva lived in the fort town of Chitradurga at a rough time in its history. Hyder Ali, one of the most powerful warlords of the time, had been going buck wild with his army, conquering town after town. Chitradurga, blissfully, had been left out of it, due to its leader being cool with Hyder. Until said leader decided to switch sides. This was a move that did not go unnoticed by Ali, nor unpunished.

But Ali had a problem: Chitradurga was a total pain in the ass to get into. After multiple attacks, bribes, and meetings with informants he found one weakness: a tiny crack in the wall (a kindi), that could fit one person at a time. Figuring that even that was better than nothing, he hatched a plan: he’d send in troops single-file. When enough had entered, they would start attacking. They even knew that the guard for that area regularly took off for lunch. Ali had thought of everything.

Everything, that is, save the guard’s wife. Enter “Onake” Obavva.

Hyder was not wrong on the guard being a lazy doof. Sure enough, he wandered back home, started stuffing his face, pausing only to proclaim, “woman! Water!” Since they had none in the house, Obavva went to a stream near the kindi to refill their supply - only to find Hyder’s soldiers approaching the fort. Realizing her city was about to be invaded, she grabbed a heavy pestle nearby and proceeded to set the Indian high score for whack-a-mole.

Within seconds of the first soldier popping his head out of the kindi, she had caved it in with her onake. Calmly, she dragged out his lifeless body, shoved it to the side, and set up for the next soldier.

Unfortunately for the soldiers, they were in stealth mode. So when soldier #2 didn’t hear anything from soldier #1, that was totally the plan - he wasn’t supposed to be making any noise! Really, from that perspective, she was just helping them out, as none of them would make noise ever again.

The next bit of her life went something like this:

Whack head. Crush skull. Shove corpse.

Whack head. Crush skull. Shove corpse.

Whack head. Crush skull. Shove corpse.

Again. And again. And again.

Meanwhile, her doofus husband was just noshing away at a piece of naan.

After a truly exhausting amount of homicide, her thirsty husband wandered out for some water - only to find his bloodied, panting wife standing over a towering pile of corpses. In some tellings, by this point she had murdered upwards of a hundred men.

Her husband sounded the alarm, and the guards finally reinforced the poor beleaguered woman, pushing back the invaders. She died that day, although the reasons vary from telling to telling. In most versions, one of the invaders finally got through and fatally stabbed her (and had his head subsequently caved in for his trouble). In others, she dropped dead of exhaustion – which, if the hundred man murder spree is true, is somewhat understandable.

Oh, and she was part of the a Beda community, a group often considered to fall under the Dalit (“untouchable”) grouping in the fucking bullshit caste system.

So here’s to “Onake” Obavva: whack-a-mole champion, South India division, 1777-present.

IN OTHER MEDIA

Unsurprisingly, Obavva shown up in a couple movies (although this poorly-reviewed 2011 one seemingly has almost nothing to do with her). She also has more than one musical number devoted to her. You can find a couple on YouTube – this one is my favorite on account of her awesome rage face at around the 5 minute mark. 

ART NOTES

I pictured this moment as being an extended musical number, but one as sanity-crushingly awful as Afro Circus or It’s A Small World. No musical progression, just the same irritating melody over and over. Every time a soldier would pop out of the hole, they’d come out singing a new line, which Obavva would quickly silence:

We’re all here to sack this fort, nobody’s ever gonna thwar-CRACK

Coming on up through the wall, couldn’t possibly stop us a-CRACK

Nilay’s running kind of mute, I should probably follow sui-CRACK

Last three guys are surely fine, I’ll be too if I hold the li-CRACK

CHORUS:

We’re snea~kin’, we’re cree~pin’, we’ve got this garri, son!

Why  bother even look ahead? I’m sure this war’s been wo-CRACK

(Obavva) I’m wha~acking, I’m cra~cking, I’m caving in your head

Send all the bozos that you want, I’ll send them all back dea-CRACK

Although I’ve been well prepared, I must admit I’m somewhat sca-CRACK

Do not want to head up there, but Raj picked truth and I picked da-CRACK

Guys, these stairs, there’s so much blood - and I think I just heard a thu-CRACK

Why’s this roof starting to drip? And hey wait, is that Nilay’s li-CRACK

CHORUS:
We’re snea~kin’, we’re cree~pin’, we’ve got this garri, son!

Why bother even look ahead, I’m sure this war’s been wo-CRACK

(Obavva) I’m wha~acking, I’m cra~cking, I’m caving in your head

If my hubs don’t come back here soon he too will turn up dea-CRACK

Careful, guys, this stairwell’s slick! Huh, what’s the red stuff on that bri-CRACK

Who the hell would think to store / meat chunks in here during a  w-CRACK

Uh, maybe this plan went south - swear that’s part of Dhruva’s mou-CRACK

Eesh, this fort’s begun to smell. These small red lumps sure stink like h-CRACK

CHORUS:
We’re snea~kin’, we’re cree~pin’, we’ve got this garri, son!

Why bother even look ahead, I’m sure this war’s been wo-CRACK

(Obavva) I’m wha~acking, I’m cra~cking, I’m caving in your head

Where the fuck is that doofus to whom I am sadly w-CRACK

Come on just let me turn back, can’t you tell we’re under atta-CRACK

Give love to my kids and wife, clearly I don’t value my l-CRACK

Really, y'all, can’t we retreat? Only fools would face certain defea-CRACK

Okay, who here just crapped their pants? It’s me, cause I don’t stand a ch-CRACK

CHORUS:
(Obavva and last soldier) They’ve bled here, they’ve fled here, they’ve quite messed up the stairs

Still, guess I’ll press ahead, hope to catch them unawa-CRACK

(Obavva, to pestle) Oh bu~ddy,  you’re bloo~dy, you can’t make naan again

Oh look, that asshole hubs of mine, come on let’s go make frie-CRACK

I dare you to put this to music. Or make your own. And mail it to me.

CITATIONS

By far the most thorough writeup of Obavva’s legend and the details surrounding it was in Splendors of Royal Mysore by Vikram Sampath

The claim that she massacred hundreds of men is from Chitradurga’s tourism website, so take that with a grain of salt. 

Most tellings don’t paint the husband as a doof, but I thought it was funnier that way. And really, who leaves the one weak point in the entire city unguarded to go on a long lunch break? In the middle of a war, no less!

SHOUT-OUTS

Y'all had some trouble with this hint! Well, it just gets trickier next week. Well done, ye mighty:

wholockedindiennenjeallje, Airan S., daminotaur, Alana Ju, Gigi Paderes, Meena Seetharaman, Tony, Miichan, ladyzweihander, @Steampunk_Gypsy, Miscriant, Jo Mako, tadanoitsuki, Ladyzfactor

NEXT WEEK ON REJECTED PRINCESSES

Be forewarned, the hint (which is for a historical figure!) is very difficult:

This “crane princess” earned her divine greatness - and legendary armor - with bombs.

Submit hints here, please! 

Bracelet with Miniature Portraits

India (Delhi), Mughal/British Raj, c. 1860 - 1870

Watercolors on ivory and gold

The six segments of this bracelet feature miniature portraits of three Mughal emperors and their consorts. Indian artists adopted the technique of painting portrait miniatures on ivory with watercolors from British artists living and working in India during the 19th century. This delicate bracelet is, therefore, an interesting example of the cultural exchange between East and West during the period of European imperialism.

india + iran for the kiss meme! 

They’re both wearing the fashion of Mughal India- I’m kind of taking inspiration from the fact that the Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal- who was an Iranian noblewoman :) Safavid Iran/Persia greatly influenced Mughal aesthetic and culture too.

India doesn’t have a tilaka on his forehead because the Mughal emperors were Islamic, not Hindu (though of course, a big proportion of Indians during the Mughal era were still Hindus).