POLIER, Antoine-Louis-Henri

POLIER, Antoine-Louis-Henri. Lausanne ?.2.1741 — near Avignon 9.2.1795. Swiss Officer and Traveller in India. Born in a French Huguenot noble family naturalized in Switzerland, son of Jacques H. E. Polier and Jeanne-Francoise Moreau de Brosses. He had a good education and showed interest in mathematics. Invited by his uncle Paul-Philippe Polier, a General-Major in Indian army, he joined British Indian army in 1758 and arrived in 1759 at Madras. After cadetship became Captain and Chief Engineer in Calcutta in 1762. Under Clive he was even the Commandant of Calcutta, but later, as the Directorate was suspicious and unfair towards foreigners, withhelding promotion, he quitted the army in 1776 and accepted service under Nawab Shuja ud-Daula of Oudh, participating in the siege of Agra. Later he served under Shah Alam, the Mughal. Nominated by his friend Hastings a Lieutenant-Colonel he joined again British service and was located in Lucknow, where he became acquainted with Ram Chand. In 1789 he returned to Europe leaving behind his two Indian wives and children, married again (two sons) and settled in France. He was murdered when travelling to receive an inheritance.

Colonel Polier wrote in 1780 the manuscript, which was then published in 1809 by the canoness (of Prussian order of the Holy Sepulchre) Marie-Élisabeth Polier (1742–1817), his cousin. The large work contains, i.al., a 250 pages résumé of the Mahābhārata, which Dumézil deemed excellent. His major informant was the Pandit Ram Chand, who also had taught Sir William Jones. The colonel himself spoke well Urdū and was much interested in Hindu religion. His large collection of Oriental manuscripts ended in Paris and London, miniatures in Berlin.

Publications: “The process of making Attar, or Essential Oil of Roses”, AsRes 1, 1789, 332-335.

– Mythologie des Indus. 1-2. P. & Rudolstadt 1809 (edited by Marie Elisabet P., his widow).

Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; Dumézil in Kuiper Vol. 1968, 430–435; *Dumézil, Le Mahabharata et le Bagavata du colonel de Polier. P. 1986; *C. Regamey, “Un pionnier vaudois des études indiennes: A.-L. de P.”, Mélanges Georges Bonnard. Genève 1966, 183-209; *Schwab, Ren. orientale. 168-170; *Ganda Singh, “Colonel Polier’s Account of the Sikhs”, JASB 4:1, 1959, 73-87; *Sanjay Subrahman, “The Career of Colonel P. and Late Eighteenth-Century Orientalism”, JRAS 3rd S. 10, 2000, 43-60; N.B.G.; Wikipedia with three paintings representing Polier among other people, French version with further details and references.

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