The dubashes never cease to amaze. A couple of weeks ago, a comment on my YouTube channel or my Insta feed asked me if I knew of Dubash Enugula Veeraswamiah, of the East India Company who went on a pilgrimage to Varanasi. I had never heard of such a person. I then searched online for references and came up with what I can only say is a treasure trove. Enugula Veersawamy’s Journal (Kasiyatra Charitra) is the name.
Dubash Enugula Veeraswamiah’s Life
His life can be stated in brief as follows – born around 1780 or so, Veeraswami or Veeraswamiah, was the son of Enugula Samayya Mantri. Not much is known of the father beyond the fact that he died when his son was very young. Brought up by his mother (sadly like all Indian histories, there is no mention of her name), Veeraswami became proficient in English, Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit by the time he was 12, and was employed by the Board of Trade even at that age. He rose to become interpreter or Dubash to the Collector of Tirunelveli. By the age of 15 he was in Madras and over time became head interpreter at the Supreme Court.
A resident of Tondiarpet, Veeraswami was a man of many charities, remembered in particular for the public kitchen he set up during a famine in Guntur the 1830s. When he retired from service, the Company commended him for his work, and he was gifted a gold snuff box. A man of scholarly temperament, he was a close friend of the Telugu lexicographer CP Brown. He was also very close to Komaliswaram Srinivasa Pillai, who was the biographer of Pachaiyappa Mudaliar and a pillar of his eponymous trust. Veeraswami became a sanyasi in his final days and passed away on October 3, 1836.
Dubash Enugula Veeraswamiah’s Pilgrimage to Varanasi & Journal
On May 18, 1830, Veeraswami set off by palanquin on a journey to Varanasi. A large entourage accompanied him. He returned on September 3, 1831. What is of interest is the journal that he maintained during the pilgrimage. This was addressed to his friend Srinivasa Pillai and entirely in Telugu. It is an invaluable record of road conditions at the time, towns and villages en route and the practices of people at the places he halted. On his return there was an attempt to translate the travelogue into English but this did not happen.
His friend Srinivasa Pillai it is said worked on a Tamil version of the journal, but I am yet to see a copy of it. The original being in Telugu, it was perhaps but natural that Madras did not take much notice of the work, even though Veeraswami lived and died here. It was left to the Oriental Research and Manuscript Library of Andhra Pradesh to take up the task of translating the journal into English.
This institution was the brainchild of PV Narasimha Rao when he was Minister of Education of that State. The travelogue was translated into English by PR Sitapati IAS and V Purushottam and was published by the Institute in 1973. It can be downloaded for free from archive.org. This article is based on facts given in that publication.
Significance of the Travelogue of Dubash Enugula Veeraswamiah
Veeraswami’s journal assumes great value for those who research how people went to Varanasi in the 19thcentury. It should be read in conjunction with the Tristhali Yatra Lavani that describes Raja Serfoji’s pilgrimage in 1820-21. The composer Muthuswami Dikshitar journeyed to Varanasi in the 1790s but of that pilgrimage we have no details. Among the dubashes, Ananda Ranga Pillai is famed as a diarist. Veeraswami’s journal, though much smaller, is equally valuable.
This article appeared in The Hindu dated August 16, 2023 and can be read here – https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/the-dubash-who-wrote-a-travelogue/article67191712.ece