ELLIOT, Walter

ELLIOT, Walter. Edinburgh 16.1.1803 — Wolfelee, Roxburghshire 1.3.1887. Sir. British (Scottish) Civil Servant, Indologist, Epigraphist and Naturalist in India. Son of James E. and Caroline Hunter (d. 1824), educated privately and in Cumberland and Doncaster. Appointed into a writership in E.I.C. he came to Haileybury in 1818 and to India in 1821. Learned Tamil and Hindūstānī with good success in Madras. From 1823 assistant to the collector and magistrate of Salem, soon moved to South Maharashtra, which was then under Madras. Travelled much: in 1826 visited Satara, in 1828 Bijapur, in 1832 Gujarat. Assistant in Dharwar until 1833, when he came to England on a furlough. During the journey he visited Egypt, Palestine, and Greece, and arrived in England only in 1835. From 1836 Secretary to the Governor of Madras, Lord Elphinstone (his cousin), until his retirement in 1842, then member of the Board of Revenue. In 1845 surveyed the situation of Guntur district, attracted attention with his able report, and was nominated Commissioner of Northern Sirkars. He was there until 1854, when he became member of the Council of the Governor of Madras. In 1859-60 Vice-Chancellor of the University of Madras. In 1860 he retired and returned to Scotland, lived the rest of his life in Wolfelee. In his last years nearly blind. Died suddenly. K.C.S.I. 1866. LL.D. 1879 Edinburgh. Married 1839 Maria Dorothea Hunter Blair, four sons and two daughters.

Official duties took much of Elliot’s time. He was interested in Indian revenue and education and in relations of missionaries, Hindus and Muslims. He was an eager supporter of missionary work. Since the 1820s he devoted his free hours to archaeological, epigraphic and scientific studies. With the help of a young Brahman, Ranga Rao, he studied on palaeography. He collected about 400 South Indian coins and during his visit in Guntur a collection of Amaravati sculptures – both came then to British Museum. During a storm water broke to the hold and destroyed his manuscript, drawings, etc. In addition to several Indian languages he knew Arabic and Persian. He was also an enthusiastic hunter, ornithologist and botanist.

Publications: A number of epigraphical articles since 1837 (and nearly until his death) in JRAS, MJLS, JASB, IA; e.g. “Hindú Inscriptions”, JRAS 4, 1837, 1-41, republ. with corrections and emendations of the Author, MJLS 7, 1838, 193-232 (Cālukya, Kalacuri, Yādava, Kādamba, etc.)

– “Observations on the language of the Goands, and the identity of many of its terms with words now in use in the Telugu, Tamil and Canarese”, JASB 16:2, 1847, 1140-1152 (German tr. ZKM 7, 1850, 280-293).

– “Comparative List of Upanishads”, JASB 20, 1851, 607-619.

Flora Andhrica. A vernacular and botanical list of plants commonly met with in the Telugu Districts of the Northern Circars. 1. 194 p. Madras 1859; articles on plants and animals

– “Numismatic Gleanings”, MJLS 19, 1857-58, 220-249 & 20, 1858-59, 75-99; Coins of Southern India. International Numismata Orientalia 9 (3:2). 11+159 p. L. 1885.

– “The Importance of Early Dravidian Literature”, IA 16, 1887, 158-160.

Sources: A. Arbuthnot, JRAS 19, 1887, 519-524 and D.N.B. 17, 1889, 262-264, rev. by *R.E. Frykenberg, Oxford D.N.B.; Buckland, Dictionary; Wikipedia with photo

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