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Publisher Description

The circumstances attending the murder of Mr. A. M. T. Jackson in Nasik in December 1909 led to the raising of a small subscription among his friends, to be devoted to a memorial in some shape or form, showing the respect and affection with which he was regarded in Western India. A large part of the fund then raised was expended on the purchase of his valuable library, which now forms a part of the collection owned by the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. It was subsequently decided that the balance could not be better spent than in defraying the cost of publishing certain folklore materials which he had collected and intended, at the time of his untimely death, to publish in the pages of the Indian Antiquary. These materials were the result of an enquiry set on foot by him about the year 1900. His plan of operation was to forward, through the agency of the Education Department, Crooke’s list of folklore questions to schoolmasters in various parts of the Presidency. The question paper is given below; the replies form the raw material from which these notes have been compiled. For convenience they are divided into two series: Gujarat and the Konkan.

I desire at the outset of these introductory remarks to explain that, when at the request of the memorial committee I undertook the task of seeing these notes through the press, I did not contemplate any critical handling of the materials found in the papers made over to me. I had neither the leisure nor the knowledge to carry out Mr. Jackson’s intention, i.e., to edit the notes carefully with such criticisms and comparisons as his ripe scholarship would have suggested. I make no claim, therefore, to have effected more than to have rescued from the wastepaper basket a number of replies to questions regarding the beliefs of the people in Gujarat and the Konkan. The notes as now presented doubtless contain much that is trivial, and possibly many inaccuracies; but among them students of folklore may on the other hand discover material of real value—such as they are, they will, I trust, repay careful study, and perhaps serve one day to form the basis of a further and more comprehensive examination of the folk-lore of the Bombay Presidency—an examination which should not be too long deferred, for the old practices and beliefs are yearly tending to decay and vanish in contact with the spread of education. The field for enquiry is wide and rich, but workers fail to come forward; and meanwhile the old beliefs and practices slowly disappear. On the subjects with which these notes deal, much information of value has already been collected and recorded by another oriental scholar, the late Sir James Campbell, K.C.I.E., and will be found partly in the pages of the Bombay Gazetteer, and partly in the notes on the Spirit Basis of Belief and Custom which he published from time to time in the Indian Antiquary. The present notes carry striking confirmation of Sir James Campbell’s theory regarding the extent to which beliefs and religious practices in this country can be traced to the desire to propitiate spirit presences. It may be remarked that Campbell’s work in the domain of Indian folk-lore does not seem to have received the notice that it deserves in the works of writers on folk-lore generally, possibly because so much of it is buried in the pages of the Bombay Gazetteer or in scattered numbers of the Indian Antiquary. The notes would amply repay the labour of republication, with a summary and suitable index. They deal very fully with spirit worship and possession, witchcraft and magic, and the evil eye. They differ from the present notes in being to a large extent comparative, assembling under the various heads of ancestor worship, spirit haunts, spirit possession, exorcism, etc., kindred beliefs from all parts of the world. Doubtless his work to no small extent suggested to Mr. Jackson the line of enquiry which is contained in the question paper. From the materials accumulated by these two scholars a comprehensive study of the folk-lore of western India may one day be compiled.

July 7
Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria