An Elephantine Caper

Shanti LBJ - the little big Jumbo

When a few American politicians and bureaucrats, especially the kind who like practical jokes, bored with the goings on in Capitol Hill, get together, what would you think could happen? This is such a story, an incredible one and as I often think about it and smile, I wonder if the offices of Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders could ever be home to such mirth. The 60’s was according to Senator Jim Wright, a time when politics was fun. As he put it, in the heady days of the New Frontier and the Great Society, before the Vietnam War split the country into angry camps, political practitioners enjoyed their trade.

The date was the 27th of Dec 1963, and Texas state senator and democrat Don Kennard of Fort Worth was on his way to a pre New Year party in Athens, TX. Kennard later famed for his herculean filibuster efforts, was one of the most vibrant senators of his time, a bear of a man who enjoyed a good story and always one who possessed a hearty laugh (Paul Burka – Texas times). To set a timeline, JFK had been assassinated a month ago and LBJ had taken over.

As Kennard was leaving his home, his phone rang and the man who announced himself at the other end of the line, a gruff sounding official from the US customs service was curt “Sir, I just got a message from our San Francisco office. They are holding an elephant for you out there, addressed to you, COD. I need to find out how you want to handle it.”

Spluttering and dumbfounded in parts, Kennard, a booming Texas man could only exclaim “An Elephant? For me?”

“Yessir,” the customs man continued, “sent on a collect basis, shipped from someplace by air…yeah, from Cambodia, by airfreight. The freight charges due from you are $1,400.00.”

Kennard was alarmed, for he was never one who had money left over in his accounts. “Fourteen hundred you said?”

“Yeah, not to mention the $38 per day custodial charge during the two weeks we have to keep it in quarantine”, continued the customs man.

“Who in the dickens sent the elephant to me? Was it a man named Newbold?” Asked Kennard.
“Message don’t say” muttered the customs man.

The stunned Kennard weaseled out, stating that he would get back in a day or two, after his return from East Texas. In any case the elephant was in quarantine.

For those who are politically savvy, this might be a bit of a surprise for Kennard was never one to be caught short of words. You see, Kennard is often remembered for his 29-hour, 22-minute filibuster to gain a four-year status for the University of Texas at Arlington. Compare that with the oft mentioned 8 hour speech of Krishna Menon and you will note the magnitude of the speaking effort.

Now as many of you will surmise, the story has something to do with a Newbold. Who on earth could
it be, you’d think and assume correctly that for him to be capable of this, Newbold must be an interesting person. Well, you see, Bill Newbold, a reporter and a onetime TV news anchor for WBAP-TV, was at that time working for the US information agency in Cambodia. He was a good friend of Marshall Lynam, the man who documented this story. Senator Jim Wright was the Democratic U.S. Congressman from Texas who served 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and was the Speaker of the House from 1987 to 1989 was on the other hand, planning mischief. Wright had just witnessed death, riding in the motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Lynman worked for Wright and was his chief of staff. All large hearted Texans, Fort Worth natives, and believe me, there are more to come.

We flashback to a party held some months ago. Bill, a stocky blond Texan, as you can imagine, usually held his audience spellbound with his tales from the East and now he was in a party extolling the flora and fauna of that faraway country with Kennard and Lynam amongst others, listening.

“The little ocelots are beautiful, Newbold (quoting Wright) exclaimed. When I get back to Cambodia, I'm going to get a pair sent to the Fort Worth Zoo.

Ocelots! Kennard exploded in mock contempt. That's the trouble with Fort Worth! We think too small. Don't send mangy ocelots. Send elephants! Send something big enough to challenge our imagination!

I must remark here that Ocelots are not native to Cambodia, nor are Siberian tigers, as Lynam mentions in his version of the story. He goes on to say that Newbold had delivered a couple of Siberian tiger cubs to the Fort Worth zoo after that discussion. I believe that Newbold must have meant Asian Tigers.

Kennard had a reason to mention the elephant, for the Zoo’s principal attraction and the favorite among children, a Burmese elephant named Penny had died a couple of years ago. She had been named Penny after a Star-telegram newspaper campaign where people donated a penny apiece. After 20 years of boredom at the zoo, entertaining long streams of visitors, she became somewhat violent and the zookeepers decided that she had to be put down. The stir crazy elephant was shot down with 5 shots from a high powered rifle, just like her predecessor Ruby was. The children of the area clamored for another and so an elephant was high on the local wish list. Cambodia was famed for its elephants, so why not get Newbold to cough up one? That was the idea that flashed through the crafty politician Kennard’s mind.

Wright, Curtis and Lynam made a note of this, but kept silent. Kennard kept pestering Newbold - at least a little elephant. Now a person who is picky is bound to ask, who is Curtis? Well Lawrence Curtis was the only non-politician in the bunch. He was the Fort Worth zoo director, having moved there from Dallas and a good friend of the politicians.

Some days later, when Lynam met Wright, the latter came up with the idea of playing a practical joke on Kennard. He suggested that they trick Kennard with a cash on delivery elephant from Cambodia. The two friends had a hilarious time imagining Kennard’s expression when faced with the situation. But Lynam soon found out that his boss was quite serious. Wright added that it had to be done right, and that the delivery message will have to come from a credible source such as a friendly US Customs agent.

And that was how the unnamed customs agent called Kennard. The agent reported later to Wright that Kennard did appear to be shocked and at a loss of effectual speech. The rouge group snickered and giggled, and settled down to more pressing matters such as governing the US public, the gag having been played to perfection.

But they were not to know then that this little telephone prank would start an unstoppable circus of
events. The tricksters assumed that Kennard would call Newbold in Cambodia to check and tell him that he, Kennard had not meant to order a shipment of an elephant and pay it with $1,400 of his own money, only to get shocked to hear the retort from Newbold that he had done no such thing. Kennard, they were convinced, would be ridiculed by all and sundry for being the butt of such a silly joke.

Well, as you can imagine, matters did not quite turn out as expected. Kennard came back home,
collected his senses and called the customs man again, only to be assured that the pachyderm was anxiously waiting in the bay area pending instructions from its new master. In Fort Worth, Kennard spread the word around, as newspapers said, moaning in discomfort, but instead of being ridiculed, he found himself elevated to a hero status. His daughter was overjoyed to imagine that she would have a play pal of her size, and was wondering how it would be if she took the little elephant to her school. Curtis the Zoo director was overjoyed, he assumed that the Zoo would get to keep the little fella, and assured Kennard that he would take care of all the itty bitty details and even presented Kennard a book on caring for elephants, hoping that it would convince Kennard about the elephantine proportions - feeding an elephant would turn out to, thereby convincing him to move the animal to the zoo, which as you know needed one.

Anyway Kennard reveled in the role of a foster father for the elephant ‘child - to – come’. He imagined the massive opportunities the animal presented, the possibility of lots of TV time, public events and continued newspaper coverage. You see, for a professor, the need is to get published, for a politician the desire is to be in public view for the maximum time. He first decided to go to his friendly newspaper ‘the star-telegram’ with the news. The city desk man wanted to know who had sent the elephant. Kennard mentioned that it was perhaps Bill Newbold. The reporter called Cambodia, where things were however in turmoil.

Bill Newbold had been kicked out by the King Norodom Sihanouk who believed that the Americans were trying to overthrow his rule. Newbold was transferred by the state department to Hong Kong. The city reporter did not know all this and as he could not get Bill, got a hold of his father Charles who worked for the same newspaper, some floors below. Charles explained that his son was in limbo, moving to Hong Kong but his mother agreed that it was perfectly possible that her son sent across an elephant. After all, he had sent the tiger cubs some time ago!

Chester Bowles
Newspapers splashed the story on page one, announcing how the moaning senator found himself to be the owner of a 635 pound elephant shipped COD. Two days later, the newspaper continued headline coverage, stating that they had tried to trace the elephant in the US customs, only to find that it was not traceable. Meanwhile Kennard was getting exhausted with the thought that he had to pay all this money for an elephant. He was wondering how somebody could send an elephant COD! Curtis though looking forward to the gift, stressed that the zoo had no budgets to acquire elephants. Kennard also picked up the nickname Sabu, the elephant boy.

Senator Wright who had been keeping tabs on the story, was getting worried that Kennard might resort to a public fund collection (which Kennard actually did) drive with little school boys and girls donating their lunch money and all that, because he knew there was no elephant. It would become a dynamite of a political disaster and the fuse had already been lit. Curtis meanwhile reported to the press (falsely) that Jim wright had assured him about the elephant clearing customs and that the furry animal was enroute Fort Worth. The populace was expectant. The politicians who planned the prank on the other hand, were seen sporting hunched shoulders and gloomy countenances. But another shocker was to come, the reporter contacted the longshoremen’s union in San Francisco who emphatically stated that they had not unloaded any elephant at the wharfs. Confusion was rampant.

Jim Wright
A grim meeting took place between Lynam and Wright. Wright explained that he had not talked to Curtis and told Lynam that he now had an urgent errand to find an elephant, pronto. The aide had heard many requests, but never one to acquire an elephant, and Lynam in the end agreed to try.

Meanwhile the associated press got wind of the story of the senator who was gifted an elephant COD and the news spread countrywide. Phone calls poured in, including from republicans who as you know have the elephant as their party symbol. Kennard insisted that his was a democratic elephant, there was no chance he would give it to the republicans. Besieged with calls about the elephant, he started to redirect callers to check with Lawrence Curtis about the latest situation. Curtis by now suspected that something was amiss and shared his suspicion with Kennard.

The despondent Kennard had no choice but to agree. To tide over the situation, they took to utilizing delay tactics. Enlisting friends in the Zoo fraternity, reports of the imaginary elephant’s movement across the US on road from the west coast started to hit the airwaves. Yeah, it was here, the truck just left, yeah it passed by two days ago and so on.

In Washington, Lynam was frantically trying to find an elephant, and worrying about the ‘expenses to come’ in getting one, if they did find one. Finally in desperation, he called the Zoo superintendent, who suggested that Lynam contact the state department. Apparently he had heard some rumors that there was a Raja in India who was trying to gift a baby elephant to the Americans.

L Curtis
With that the story moved to the South of India, a location just a couple of miles away from my ancestral home in Pallavur, to Kollengode. The nearby Anamalai (elephant hill) forests were home to many elephants and as you can imagine, where there are elephants and ivory, there is always some amount of poaching, sad to say. A mother elephant had been trapped in an elephant trap and died. The little 10 week old baby elephant it left behind was adopted by the Kollengode Raja. The girls of the Venganad palace had named her Shanti (peace) and the elephant had a gala time playing with them, as the children took to feeding it milk with a baby bottle.

The elder raja living in Madras had other ideas, he wanted to gift this little animal to the children of the United States. He contacted Chester Bowles, the Ambassador who was not too keen. Bowles incidentally had been appointed Ambassador to India a second time in 1963 and he was a passionate advocate for stronger relations between the United States and India. So he could not offend this mild mannered Maharaja and offered to spread the word back in the states and see if somebody was interested. The state department staff who were in a pickle, so to say, wanted to offload this unnecessary baggage at the earliest.

Meanwhile Newbold had reached Hong Kong found that his new-found notoriety as a procurer of animals was the talk of the embassy. He was asked what he had actually done with the elephant, which had been shipped but had not reached its consignee. Newbold was flabbergasted. He wisely decided to stay under the radar.

Now, were the politicians Wright and Lynam interested in Bowles’s offer? Yes, of course they were interested. Godsend, was what they thought. They quickly got in touch with Bowles who happened to be a friend of Wright’s and he promised to speed up the arrangements as long as Wright worked out the approvals in the US. The bureaucratic wheels were spun faster and an approval was speedily obtained.

The story of course had a nice culmination, Wright called a news conference and explained the caper
(he even had a donkey named ‘meanwhile’ – the Democratic symbol or a symbol of a jackass - giftwrapped and delivered to Kennard) and the fact that though it had started as an innocent prank, it had worked out right and that an elephant named Shanti was on its way, really, this time, to Fort Worth, thanks to the Raja of Kollengode. The people took it with a lot of humor and goodwill, and the papers were enthralled with the breadth of the caper.

Newspapers worked overtime, the Baytown sun reported - LBJ are the Initials of New Elephant Owned by Senator. After providing a brief on the prank, the paper continued - But "instant elephant," Wright found, is one thing the American economy has yet to produce. So Wright sent Kennard the animal closest to his Democratic heart—a donkey. As Wright went on an elephant hunt, he arranged to ship the donkey to Kennard for presentation to the Fort Worth Zoo. The donkey was dubbed "Meanwhile," and Wright said the promised elephant would sport the LBJ initials with his name of "Little Big Jumbo."

Lawrence Curtis flew to India and motored down to Kollengode, to take delivery of the elephant which was sent by truck to Madras, then by a commercial airline to America. Wright and Kennard agreed to foot Curtis’s travel bill, but I do not yet know if it exceeded the $1,400 he would have otherwise spent for the COD. I did notice that there was some delay in making Shanti’s airfreight payment to American Airlines, and that some legal action was in the offing, but I believe it was eventually settled.

The Indian newspapers reported the event - Director Lawrence Curtis of the Fort Worth (Tex.) zoo, accepted the gift of an 11-month-old elephant given as a token of appreciation for what America had done for India. American families in Madras attended the ceremony at the residence of U. S. Consul General Albert Franklin. Curtis will leave Madras Wednesday night by air with the elephant, named Shanti. Curtis was also presented with a pair of tusks from Shanti’s mother and a framed picture of Shanti with Venugopal Varma, Raja of Kollengode, the town whose children decided upon making a gift of Shanti. In return a crystal elephant was presented to Venugopal Varma by Curtis.
A special Maha Ganapati homam was conducted at the palace, before Shanti was handed over to the Americans.

The American DOS newsletter put a different spin - The 11 month-old female elephant, “Shanti,” was a gift to American children from the children of the Rajah of Collengode "as an expression of thanks for all that America has been doing to help our country in our hour of need." Albert B Franklin US Consul general in Madras found a home For Shanti in the United States with the aid of Congressman James C Wright of Texas. She was shipped to the Fort Worth zoo early in April.

Shanti arrived in Fort Worth, already a celebrity, on April 4th 1964. She was accompanied by the raja’s son, 24 year old Venugopal raja who took leave from his Kothari estates job for a month, to accompany the pachyderm. Both the Raja and Shanti were accorded honorary (unfortunately Shanti is named Shani in the document) Texas citizenships. The Texans were particularly careful to ensure that the young man was treated well and not offended in any way, they even checked in advance about his diet and if alcohol could be offered.

Shanti was welcomed and declared ‘a little minister without portfolio’ by R Friedman, the mayor of F Worth. Wright had this to say “The rajah's son, who had; always wanted to visit America, accompanied the young animal as "mahout," or caretaker. With much fanfare, a presentation was made at the zoo. The "mahout" stayed on for six weeks as Kennard's house guest.

Of course Bill Newbold continued to garner credit for sending the elephant, while Lawrence Curtis got his wish, a new elephant in his menagerie and took over as its foster father. Curtis himself faced multiple issues later in his working life and moved on to the Riyadh Zoo. All the other key characters of the story lived happily ever after, mostly doing well in politics (regrettably almost all of them are no more today). Lynam went on to write a lovely story ‘The great Washington elephant hunt’, on which this article is almost entirely based upon. I owe my thanks and gratitude to him for documenting it so hilariously, for posterity. The storyline is augmented with facts obtained from Kennard’s personal file on the Shanti episode, which I am in possession of.

Sadly though, while Shanti (aka cutie pie) is still remembered by the people of Fort Worth (new elephants are still being named after her) she died after a good eight years in Texas, of kidney disease, in 1972.

Somebody may have noticed a comment that Kennard got a nickname ‘Sabu’. Why would they call him that? Who is Sabu? That will be a story for another day.

Stories I never told the speaker – Marshall S Lynam
Box 21, Folder 19 ‘Elephant Shanti’ from, Don Kennard papers
US State Department Newsletter #36 April 1964

Reports on - The Baytown Sun from Baytown, Texas, Jan 2nd 1964, Park city daily news Dec 31st 1963, The Tuscaloosa News - Dec 30, 1963, Gettysburg times, Toledo blade, Reading eagle, Times daily…..

It is presumed that, the amply mustachioed son of Venugopala Raja, named Vasudeva Varma Raja was the one who made the visit to Texas with Shanti. There is some confusion and the names are often interchanged in the files and the newspaper reports. Perhaps one of the girls who played with the elephant is Jaya Jaitly (daughter of KK Chettur, Indian Ambassador to Japan, who figured in one of my previous Jumbo stories) the well-known Indian politician.

Pics courtesy  - Kennard colelction, websources, DOD newsletter

Charles Whish At Calicut, and the Madhava School

The man who discovered the medieval Madhava school of Kerala Mathematics

Whish was certainly some character. At an age when many others toyed around with other exciting facets of human life, Whish studied Indian languages, excelled in Sanskrit and Malayalam, wrote and published the very first book ever written on Malayalam grammar, studied various Hindu scriptures, the Malabar Zodiac, their alphabetical notations of numerals and finally perused the complicated works of mathematics scholars. Remember now that we are talking about a person who predated Gundert and Logan, who incidentally spent entire days as an Assistant criminal judge in Calicut, just a few decades after the English (We are now talking about the 1820-1834 time frame) had finally got a foothold in India. He cultivated friendships with the learned people in Calicut and Malabar and understood not only their psyche, but also got close enough to understand the religious scriptures and astronomy and astrological methods. By the age of 38, the man was lost to this world, dying prematurely. Surely his friends would have remarked then that he had somehow upset the gods. I would however say that he was not yet ready for this world. His studies were alas, lost again to the world, suppressed so to say by lesser human beings envious of the painstaking and revolutionary work, for over 100 years, till finally CT Rajagpal and Mukunda Marar took it up in 1940. Now there are so many books and papers on the subject broadly termed as the Madhava School, the Kerala school of Mathematics or the Nila School.

Whish was the person who actually brought it all to light and tried hard to tell people how important that discovery was. As that information collected dust in the Asiatic society’s binders, people studied Newton’s theories of fluxions and Leibniz’s discoveries, heralding the subject which we know as calculus, today. It took another 150 years after Newton’s methods were burned into the brains of Math students that the discoveries and Calculus studies of mathematicians like Madhava and his students who predated Newton, came to light. Even today, as the work of Kerala School is finally gaining acceptance, the man who discovered it, Charles Whish is only mentioned in passing. Barring a scholarly paper by Sarma, Bhat, Pai and Ramasubramaniam, there are only passing mentions about this East India Company official who led such a varied and interesting, but short life in Malabar. I don’t think he missed a single day, or hour of his life, so busy was his life, so valuable his contributions to the world.

A remarkable young man, Charles was born to Martin and Harriet in 1794. It must have been tough, for the young lad was sandwiched right in the center between 7 elder to him and 7 younger. Martin worked for the excise department, but seems to have come to India sometime for it is said that Charles was born in India. Nevertheless Charles went to England for his studies, graduating from the newly established East India College close to London as a writer (administrator). He would have studied law, economics of course, and math from Dealtrey (the author of the book on fluxions) and Bewick Bridge. Literature and oriental languages would have been dealt with briefly. Whish passed the College examinations 'with credit' in 1810, aged 15 and in the following term won prizes for Persian and Hindustani. He was soon shipped off to India and straightaway went to the College of Fort St George in Madras (aka madras school) established for the purpose of training and graduating new EIC officers in Indian languages and publishing text books for that purpose. Whish was involved with these activities for the next few years and we find that he published the first Malayalam Grammar text book.

The school intended to pass out a batch of junior native civil officers from the college and work closely with the so called Dravidian ideas of FW Ellis, its founder. “Before the college was established, a junior civil servant on his arrival at Madras, was at once nominated to a situation, (generally in the interior) whence he was periodically summoned to the Presidency, for examination in the native languages, by a committee annually appointed. It was one of those committees which suggested the establishment of the college, in order to supply the want of tolerable native teachers, and of nearly all elementary books for the study of the native languages, then loudly and justly complained of; and to form a more permanent body, for the systematical examination of young men entering on the public service. With the exception of this last duty, the chief objects of the college, as explained in the paper suggesting its first establishment, were to print anew the few elementary books which then existed; to encourage by pecuniary rewards the composition of such others as were required; and to educate a class of natives for the situation of teacher to the junior civil servants.”

New works, illustrative of the Carnataca have been produced by one of its oldest members, Mr. M‘Kerrell, who has been followed by Mr. Reeves. Others on Teloogoo have been published, both by the present and a former college secretary, whilst two others of its students, Mr. Whish and Mr. Viveash, are engaged in similar works on the Malayalam (circa 1826) and Mahratta languages; and an extensive class of well-informed native teachers, of nearly every one of the numerous languages in use in the Peninsula, has at length been formed, aided by a subordinate class of candidates for that office.

Whish passed out with a first class in Malayalam in 1814, 5th ranked in Tamil, was highly placed in law and placed on par with another student Dent in all these subjects. In the passing out speech they are singled out “The Gentlemen whose names stand in the first Class of the third classification, namely Messrs. Viveash, Chamier, Whish, and Dent, have made a progress in the study of the two languages which entitles them in our opinion to receive the highest salary, namely 100 Pagodas pr. month and we accordingly recommend that it be granted to them. Mr. Whish and Mr. Dent, have fully qualified themselves for promotion, and should their services be required we have no doubt that they will prove highly useful in whatever department it may be pleasure of the Right Honorable the Governor in Council to employ them.”

CM. Whish's Malayalam Grammar and Dictionary was the first publication in that language with which the fort St College was associated as far back as 1815.By 1815, he is posted as the register of the Zillah of South Malabar and by 1823 to Malabar, presumably to Calicut. He rose to the position of Sub Collector and joint magistrate of Malabar in 1826 and in 1827 took the position of assistant judge and joint criminal judge of Malabar continuing on until 1830 when he was posted to Cudappah in the same post. For some reason he was not employed in 1831, was reinstated in 1832 and died prematurely in 1832, at Cudappah.

Let us now take a look at his contributions, both as a civil servant and those a result of his study of the methods of the Malabar zodiac. We saw that as a register, and later a criminal judge he was pally with both Murdoch Brown and Thomas Baber. Baber as a person who had a high regard of the native populace, was very much Whish’s sounding board on many aspects, as we will see soon. Perhaps it was his friendship with the Raja of Kadathanad, one Sankara Varma, an intelligent man and acute mathematician, as Whish himself testifies, which put him on the track to understanding the special methods used by Hindu mathematicians. Varma had by then authored the Sadratnamala, a book on Hindu astronomy ‘comprehended by two hundred and eleven verses of different measures, abounding with fluxional forms and series’. The details Whish gathered from the various texts he perused convinced him that the mathematics school which once existed in Kerala was far advanced than previously thought and that they predated relatively more modern solutions proposed by Newton and Leibniz. This prompted him to write a paper on the subject ‘on the Hindu quadrature of the circle and the infinite series…..”. It is now felt that he wrote this originally in the 1820-25 time frame, when he was a register and dealing with South Malabar. It took quite a few years before it was first read, then published by the society. During this period we now understand how Whish had to fight with the EIC who were at cross purposes when it came to depicting the intellectual capacity of the native population.

To understand his turmoil, we have to get to know two more people who were on the same track, again people who were neither historians nor mathematicians. They were Lt Col John Warren, a Frenchman indigo planter. During the 1805-1811 period he was in Madras, in temporary charge of the new observatory there and then he took to documenting the methods used by the South Indian in reckoning time. He returned to France in 1815, but continued with his research and published a voluminous record now named Kalasankalita. Obviously his path crossed that of Whish while he was at the St George College and their correspondence continued after Whish had been posted to Malabar. He was, as you can imagine, Warren’s source for the research in Malabar. George Hyne was an assistant surgeon and medical officer of the EIC and very much involved in the literary society, a naturalist and botanist dabbling in the field of flora and fauna.

We note from the contents of the Kalasankalita and the studies conducted by Sarma and team that Warren had started his own research after meeting a Hindu astronomer/astrologer. As the Asiatic society report states - In 1814 Captain John Warren, one of Colonel Lambton’s chief assistants in the Trigonometrical survey, at the suggestion of Mr. F. W. Ellis, prepared a paper on Hindu astronomical computations, and another on the Muhammadan Kalendar. It treats almost exclusively of the methods employed by the Brahmins in Southern India, explaining in detail the arithmetical processes for determining chronological and astronomical elements. The author deprecates any charge of trying to support the views of Bentley, or of the partisans of Bailly: his object “is merely to explain the various modes according to which the Natives of India divide time, and to render their Kalendars intelligible.” Very strange of course is the fact that Warren makes no acknowledgement to the inputs from Whish, but praises those from Hyne. We can perhaps infer from this that Whish had already fallen out of favor, due to his pro native views and also the fact that Warren and Hynes were considerably senior in age and position in the EIC bureaucracy.

Warren quotes Hyne mentioning that Whish had sent him details of his mathematical findings and that Whish felt that the knowledge was totally indigenous. He goes on to add however Whish’s change of mind -  I requested him to make further inquiries, and his reply was, that he had reasons to believe them entirely modern and derived from Europeans, observing that not one of those who used the Rules could demonstrate them. Indeed the pretensions of the Hindus to such a knowledge of Geometry, is too ridiculous to deserve refutation. We can also infer that Hyne was the person behind this strong belief for Warren explains later referring to - Mr. Hyne’s opinion the Hindus never invented the Series referring to the Quadrature of the Circle which were found in their possession in various parts of India; and that Mr. Whish, from whom he had obtained some of those which were communicated to the Madras Literary Society, after having first expressed a belief that they were indigenous, had subsequently reasons for thinking them entirely modern, and derived from the Europeans ; observing that not one of the Jyautish Sastras who used these Rules, were capable of demonstrating them.

But Whish was not too happy about the direction he was forced to follow and finally published the paper in his own name, in 1832, well after the above faux pas. In it he made his conclusion clear “Having thus submitted to the inspection of the curious eight different infinite series, extracted from Brahmanical works for the quadrature of the circle, it will be proper to explain by what steps the Hindu mathematician has been led to these forms, which have only been made known to Europeans,
through the method of fluxions, the invention of the illustrious Newton. Let us first, however, know the age of these works; and as far as can be determined, the authors. First, then, it is a fact which I have ascertained beyond a doubt, that the invention of infinite series of these forms has originated in Malabar,, and is not, even to this day, known to the eastward of the range of Ghats which divides that country, called in the earliest times Ceralam, from the countries of Madurai, Coimbatore, Mysore, and those in succession, to that northward of these provinces.” He also provides details of each of the books, their authors and his opinion on their dating.

Whish also offers to provide the proofs and demonstrations, but very soon he was transferred to Cudappah and met an untimely death. Was it a punishment transfer out of Malabar due to his ‘going native’? You can also see that he loses his job after moving to Cudappah for a year before reinstatement in Cudappah. The paper was eventually published after his death, in 1834. Though it was by now in print, it was largely ignored by the academics.

We also note that the British continued to cast doubts on Whish’s deductions even after the paper was published. CP Brown’s book listed under references has a chapter ‘On Fraudulent documents’ where he refers to obtaining the opinion of one Ayyah Sastri, Hynes’s learned Brahmin assistant and atheist who demonstrates how easy it is to create false attributions. Sastri stating that it is easy to fool an Englishman, accuses Whish of quoting a reference named Tantra Sangraha which does not exist as it does not figure in Whish’s collections! It is a pity that such rubbish was published by Brown, as the work does exist in the collection and the book is now a well-known reference. But it is also a fact that there was an element of misquoting in Whish’s paper - KV Sarma explains that the equations referred to were not part of Tantrasangraha, but in the commentary by Sankara - The Sadratnamala.

Whish’s input to his Kalasankalita was perhaps the detail on the Malayali Kollam era and this was separately published by CM Whish as a paper titled – On the origin and antiquity of the Hindu Zodiac. Another paper titled ‘on the alphabetical notation of the Hindus was published by Whish, but the TLSM feels it is a paper apparently written by George Hyne and was wrongly attributed to Whish which is likely at first look. What is primary to all these studies is the Whish’s understanding of the Katapayadi system of using letters to depict numerals as letters, words or usage of slokas for long numbers. Unfortunately most works that detail the Kerala method attribute the first paper on the subject to CF Fleet and forget that Whish had actually explained it much earlier, in 1832.

Whish of course had many other interests as is evident from the papers he left behind. He studied the early history of Kerala, wrote about the Cheraman Perumal epoch, the Kollam calendar, the Jewish and Catholic copper plates, was adept at the ancient Malayalam vattezhuttu transcription

He frequently collaborated with Thomas Baber at Tellicherry on translations and dating of archaic Malayalam inscriptions and was the second person who provided a translation of the Jewish copper plates (the first was FW Ellis and third was Gundert) of Cochin, using his knowledge of vattezhutu as well as old Malayalam and Tamil. The Jewish plates were transliterated in 1821, when it is recorded - Mr. Baber called the attention of Mr. C. M. Whish, an excellent Tamul scholar, versed in the ancient as well as the modern character, to the subject of this inscription. Whish states that the basis of the translation is based on his skill at deciphering the script on the stone engraving at the Tiruvannur kshetram near Calicut and the Nedumprayar kshetram at Kavalappara – Palghat. By then he had inspected and worked with over 100 such temple inscriptions.

He explains - These inscriptions are perfectly unintelligible to the inhabitants of Malabar of the present day, not so much from difficulty arising from the character in which they are written, for it is a mere form of the present Kole-Elutta adapted to incision upon stone (with some peculiar characteristic variations); but particularly, from the peculiarity of the language in which they are written; it being an ancient dialect) the intricacy of which none other than the old Tamul dictionary, which is now publishing by the Board of Superintendence for the College of Fort St. George, can solve, aided by a competent knowledge of the Shen-Tamul. He observes that no mere scholar of modem Tamul or Malabar languages, ignorant of High Tamul, can expect to understand so ancient a record; such will perhaps agree in the reading, but be perfectly ignorant of the meaning of the terms, most of which will be as unknown to them as Greek.

His understanding of the Katapayadi system, was presented in the paper on the alphabetic notations and of course, in the paper on the Hindu quadrature, he introduces Aryabhatiya, Sankara Varma (Sadratnamala), Somayaji (Charana Padhati), Talakulattara nambudiri (Tantra Sangraha), Cellalura nambudri (Yukti Bhasha) and so on. The paper on alphabetic notations

Nick Balmer, referring to the notes of Thomas Hervey Baber mentions that Baber was an ally in the works completed by Whish and that they frequently met at Baber's house at Tellicherry during the Monsoon every November which was more like an annual holiday.  While Whish served at Calicut as a civil administrator, Thomas Baber was the magistrate, collector and judge. Both were fluent in Malayalam, and both spent prolonged periods studying Indian texts surviving in the Temples in Tellicherry, and Calicut. We can find an interesting occasion when Thomas Baber (thanks and due acknowledgement to Mr Balmer for this tidbit) passed severe criticism on the way Whish judged an 80 year old blind man (on a crime of bribery) and sentenced him to such a large fine (well beyond the rule) that he would have spent his old age in jail for this minor crime. I would guess that by that time Whish was being blackballed by the EIC bureaucracy, and was starting to toe the line.

Anyway soon, he was transferred to Cudappah, lost his job, got reinstated and died soon after, slipping into obscurity till Marar and Rajagopal came up on the Quadrature paper a hundred or so years later.

After Whish’s untimely death and burial at Cudappah, his collection was gifted to the Royal Asiatic society Library in London, by his brother, where you can still view the considerable collection of some 300 granthams (for details see attached image).

A remarkable man, indeed….

Carnatic chronology, the Hindu and Mahomedan methods of reckoning time explained - By Charles Philip Brown
On the alphabetic notations of the Hindus – CM Whish
On the Hindu Quadrature of the Circle, and the infinite Series of the proportion of the circumference to the diameter exhibited in the four S'ástras, the Tantra Sangraham, Yucti Bháshá, Carana Padhati, and Sadratnamála – CM Whish
The discovery of the Madhava series by Whish: An episode on Historiography of Science – UKV Sarma, Vanishri Bhat, Venketeswara Pai, K Ramasubramanian
An overview of Indian mathematics - J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

Note: This is a short article on CM Whish and his work, leading upto to the announcement of the discovery of the Kerala School of Mathematics. The details of the 14th-16th century school and its works, plus the great teachers are covered in a number of interesting books, such as those by GG Joseph, Kim Plofker etc. There are also interesting hypotheses (Joseph, Arun Bala) on how this information perhaps traveled westward and got used by European scholars and mathematicians. If there is sufficient interest, I can provide an overview one of these days.

Madhava’s picture - A digital image of Madhava drawn up by the Madhava Ganitha Kendram, a voluntary association working to revive his works, with inputs provided by descendants of the mathematician-astronomer, Courtesy Telegraph Feb 25, 2014