ELWIN, H. Verrier

ELWIN, Harry Verrier Holman. Dover 29.8.1902 — Delhi 22.2.1964. British Anthropologist in India, Indian Citizen. Son of the Right Rev. Bishop Edmund Elwin (1871–1907) of Sierra Leone and Minnie Holman, lost his father when seven. Educated in Cheltenham, studies of English literature and theology from 1921 at Merton College, Oxford. Ordained as priest. Went to India as member of Christa Seva Sangha in 1927, remained in their monastery in Pune until 1931. Gradually retired into lay life, collaborating with Gandhi and I.N.C., in 1935 finally gave up his priesthood and membership of the church. In 1932-46 and 1949-53 he lived among tribals in Central India (Chattisgarh), first in order to help Gonds, from 1936 on also as a scholar. Citizen of India 1954. In 1940 Ethnographer to Bastar State, 1944 Anthropologist to Government of Orissa, in 1946-49 Deputy-Director of Department of Anthropology, Government of India, from 1954 Adviser for Tribal Affairs in North-East Frontier Agency in Shillong, 1960-61 Member of Scheduled Tribes Commission. Married 1940 Kosi, a Raj Gond of 13, one son, divorce 1949, and then Leela, of Pardhan tribe Chattisgarh, three sons.

Elwin was both respected and controversial figure. Frequent fieldwork in Chattisgarh, in Orissa (from 1942 on), in North-East India (1947 among Nagas, 1952 in Assam and Manipur, from 1954 in N.E.F.A.), also in West (1949) and East Africa (1950). He was very productive author.

Publications: Christian Dhyana: or, Prayer of loving Regard. 19+74 p. L. 1930; Richard Rolle: a Christian Sannyasi. 106 p. Madras 1930; Christ and Satyagraha. 54 p. Bombay 1930; Studies in the Gospels. 91 p. Madras 1931; Religious and Cultural Aspects of Khadi. Madras 1931, 2nd ed. 31 p. 1964; Truth about India – Can we get it? 105 p. L. 1932; St. Francis of Assisi. 16+135 p. Madras 1935; with J. C. Winslow, The Dawn of Indian Freedom. 224 p. L. 1931.

Silken Twine: the Diary of a Jungly Sahib. 243 p. L. 1936.

Leaves from Jungle: Life in a Gond Village. 243 p. L. 1936; The Baiga. 550 p. 56 pl. L. 1939; The Agaria. 35+292 p. Bombay 1942 (a primitive blacksmith tribe); Muria Murder and Suicide. 29+259 p. 50 fig. L. 1943; The Muria and their Ghotul. 29+730 p. ill. Bombay 1947; Bondo Highlander. 20+290 p. 72 pl. Bombay 1950; The Tribal Art of Middle India. 17+214 p. 229 fig. Oxford 1952; The Religion of an Indian Tribe. 24+597 p. 72 pl. L. & Bombay 1955 (Saora).

Folk-Tales of Mahakoshal. 26+523 p. 1944; Folk-Songs of the Maikal Hills. 30+410 p. 1944 (with S. Hivale); Folk-Songs of Chhattisgarh. 61+466 p. L. 1946; Myths of Middle India. 16+532 p. Specimens of Oral Literature of Middle India 4. Madras 1949; Tribal Myths of Orissa. 55+700 p.Specimens of Oral Literature of Middle India 5. Calc. 1954.

Songs of the Forest. 170 p. L. 1935 (with Shamrao Hivale); Stories from India. 1-4. Madras 1949; When the World was Young: Folk-tales from India’s Hills and Forests. 84 p. N.D. 1961.

– “Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth among the Tribesmen of the Maikal Hills”, JASB 3:9 Letters, 1943, 99-148, and further articles, often in Man in India, small notes in the Man.

Religious Banditry: Missionary Conversion of Aboriginal Hindus. 112 p. Delhi n.d. (1956?)

A Philosophy for the N.E.F.A. 17+296 p. ill. Shillong 1959; A New Deal for Tribal India. 6+146 p. N.D. 1963.

Studies in N.E.F.A. Folklore. 1-2. Shillong 1955; Myths of the North-East Frontier of India. 22+448 p. Shillong 1958; The Art of the North-East Frontier of India. 16+211 p. Shillong 1959; India’s North-East Frontier in the 19th century. 32+473 p. L. 1959; Nagaland. 108 p. Shillong 1961.

Edited: India’s North-East Frontier in the 19th century. 473 p. L. 1962; The Nagas in the 19th century. 12+650 p. 12 pl. Bombay & L. 1969 (extracts from contemporary literature).

The Story of Tata Steel. 117 p. Bombay 1958.

Motley. 273 p. Bombay 1954.

A philosophy of love: Patel memorial lectures. 114 p. Delhi 1965.

Novels: Phulmat of the Hills. 300 p. 1937; A Cloud that is Dragonish. 264 p. L. 1939; Traitor’s Gain. 19??; 28 Poems. 19??, new ed. 35 p. Dimapur 2012.

Posthumously published autobiography: The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin. 356 p. O.U.P. 1964.

The Kingdom of the Young. 19+261 p. Oxford 1968 (abridged version of The Muria and their Ghotul. Calcutta 1947).

N. Rustomji (ed.): Verrier Elwin, philanthropologis: selected writings. 12+385 p. Shillong 1989.

Sources: Autobiography (above)): *G.K. Bera, The Oriental Anthropologist 2002, 81-96; C. von Fürer-Haimendorf, Man 64, 1964, 114f.; *R. Guha: “Between Anthropology and Literature: The Ethnographies of Verrier Elwin”, JRAnthrInst N.S. 4, 1998, 325-343; Who Was Who 1961-1970; Wikipedia

*R.C. Guha, Savaging the Civilized. V.E., His Tribals and India. 12+398 p. Chicago 1999; *Bh. Misra, V.E.: a pioneer Indian anthropologist. 162 p. Bhubaneshwar 1987; *D. O’Connor, Din-sevak. V.E.’s Life of Service in Tribal India. 1993; photo in his 1964 book.

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