“Read all about it” – The Baton arrives in India

The Queen’s Baton arrives today(11.10.2013) in the capital of India, Delhi, which hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2010.
We can “read all about” the Baton’s arrival in the newspapers, and it is with a newspaper we start our story of an early connection with India. Newspapers proliferated in what was then British India (between 1612-1947), and it perhaps comes as no surprise that a Glasgow graduate was involved in the running of one of these Indian newspapers, The Bombay Gazette.  Addison noted that The Bombay Gazette was founded by John Stevenson, MA 1816, the first person sent to India by the Scottish Missionary Society in 1823. Examples of these early newspapers are held at the British Library, and the copies of the Bombay Gazette show that by the time Stevenson went out to India, the newspaper was on its third run (First printed 15 August 1792; Second print 7 April 1813 – 31 December 1814; Third print 3 January 1816 – 30 December 1841), but Stevenson’s involvement coincided with the papers longest run of publication.

However, Stevenson was better known not for writing about India, but translating India and introducing one of its languages, and its rich religious and cultural heritage through literature to the Western World. During his long residence in India (only returning to Scotland in 1854 upon his retirement), the Reverend Stevenson became an accomplished Sanskritist and grammarian of the Marathi language. A prominent orientalist and ethnographer, Stevenson was also president of the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and was one of the earliest translators of the Vedas, which are the four holiest books of the Hindu religion, written in Sanskrit and believed to be one of the oldest books ever made. The University Library holds a copy of Translation of the Sanhitá of the Sáma Veda (London : Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, 1842).

Stevenson died on 11 August 1858. However his linguistic ability stayed in the family and his nephew William Barron Stevenson became Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages at the University from 1907 to 1937.

 We are still uncovering new connections with India, so if you have any stories, please do contact the project.  


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Filed under Commonwealth of Nations, South Asia

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