TRAVEL JOURNALISM IN THE CONTEXT OFPHILOSOPHY, HISTORY AND CULTURE: A PORTRAYALOF TAMILNADUIN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE (1900 –2000) JOJAN JOB, M.A.(MC&J)., M.Phil., M.A(Phil), M.Phil Department of Journalism, SFS, Madras Christian College, Tambaram, Chennai – 59. PH:9382888921
When Ross Pesman reviewed The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, in Australian Book Review, the reviewer wrote, “Everything travels and travel is a metaphor for everything, travel and travel writing have become the subject of intense scholarly interest and debate. Travel, once largely the domain of geog-raphers, and travel writing, previously relegated to the status of a sub-literary genre, now engage attention from literary studies, history, anthropology, ethnography and, most fruit-fully, from gender and post-colonial studies”( May 2003:13)
The Aim and Purpose of the StudyThe aim of the study is to examine the articles on TamilNadu published in National Geographic in the context ofphilosophy, history and culture. All the articles were writtenin the period of 1900-2000. The researcher will seewhether these articles reflect the Tamil Nadu according tothe period of writing in various levels. The researcher willalso try to find out how the western media like NationalGeographic magazine portray Tamil Nadu through thearticles. Even though the world changes many timeswestern journalism likes to see India as mystic land. Theresearcher would like to study the purpose of the magazinein the context of Orientalism, postmodernism and culturalstudies also.
Travel Discourse in National Geographic Travel writing is a multifaceted process. It isrepresenting a culture, which reflects on the mind ofthe narrator as well as his attitude on the object henarrates. The attitude is molded by the culture hewas brought up and the culture he has interactedwith all these mirrors on his writings. So from theacademic point of view it is a discourse to beanalyzed because here the big question arises -Who writes for whom and what perspective hewrites?. In a travel writing the beautiful interplay ofself, place and other is portrayed.
National Geographic- A brief historyThe National Geographic Society (formed inJanuary,13,1888), headquarters inWashington.D.C in the U.S, claims themselves asone of “the largest non-profit scientific andeducational institutions in the world.” The NationalGeographic magazine is currently published in 32language editions in many countries around theworld with more than fifty million readers’ monthly.
Linda Steet (2000: 19)writes: “Nowhere in the world is there another magazineexactly like the National Geographic…. Its purposeis and always has been to promote science andeducation, and it educates in the most effective wayby portraying this thrilling world and its life inclear, vivid, comprehensible manner, stripped ofdull, technical verbiage, and mirrored in manystriking pictures.
Gilbert H. Grosvenor, who gave shape to the policies of National Geographicgave guiding principles for the magazine in 1914. Linda Steet (2000:17-18) in herwork Veils and Daggers summarizes the same:•“The first principle is absolute accuracy. Nothing must be printed which is not strictlyaccording to fact. The Magazine can point to many years in which not a single articlehas appeared which was not absolutely accurate.•Abundance of beautiful, instructive, and artistic illustrations.•Everything printed in The Magazine will be as valuable and permanent value, and so beplanned that each Magazine will be as valuable and pertinent one year or five or tenyears after publication as it is on the day of publication. The result of this principleis that tens of thousands of back numbers of The Magazine are continually used inschool rooms.•All personalities and notes of trivial character are avoided.•Nothing of a partisan or controversial character is printed.•Only what is of a kindly nature is printed about any country or people, everythingunpleasant or unduly critical being avoided.The content of each number is planned with a view of being timely. Whenever anypart of the world becomes prominent in public interest, by reason of war,earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc., the members of the National Geographic Societyhave come to know that in the next issue of their information about that region,presented in an interesting and absolutely non-partisan manner, and accompanied byphotographs which in number and excellence can be equaled by no otherpublication”.
Presenting the Orient in National Geographic as OtherSo the society and the culture of another part of the Globe issystematically covered and presents in front of the literatecosmopolitans, urban world of the developed nations as a newdish from the oriental world. National Geographic do this forthe past hundred years. No doubt, they educate the people. Nodoubt, they unveiled the visuals of the east to the popularmindset of the American and European community. But onlywith the hidden agenda of the portrayal of the Asia and Africa asthe mystery. Only with the view that, as Kipling opined, east donot know how to represent them.
Discourse Analyses To analyze the articles in National Geographic, used the discourseanalyses –Waitt (2006, 64-65) discusses various aspects of discourseanalysis. “(i) to explore the outcomes of the discourse in terms of actions,perceptions, or attitudes rather than simply the analysis of statements/texts; (ii) to identify the regulatory frameworks within which groups ofstatements are produced, circulated and communicated within whichpeople construct their utterances and thoughts; and (iii) to uncover the support or internal mechanisms that maintaincertain structures and rules over statements about people, animals,plants, events, and places in existence as unchallengeable, „normal‟, or„common-sense‟ rather than to discover the „truth‟ or the „origin‟ of astatement”. Waitt (2006, 64-65)
OrientalismIt was Edward Said (1995:12) who studies seriously on the one ideawhich he described in his work Orientalism. “Orientalism is the discipline by which the Orient was (and is)approached systematically, as a topic of learning, discovery, andpractice. But in addition I have been using the word to designate thatcollection of dreams, images and vocabularies available to anyone whohas tried to talk about what lies east of the dividing line. These twoaspects of Orientalism are not incongruent, since by use of them bothEurope could advance securely and unmetaphorically upon theOrient.”
Aspects of Caption Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins (1993:76) study in detailabout the captioning in National Geographic Magazine seriously.They write “At National Geographic, captioning pictures is separate fromboth writing and photography, and equally important. Becausemarketing studies show that 53 percent of subscribers read onlypicture captions, not the text, editors see captions as a crucialopportunity to give these casual readers a fix on the article-toexpose them to its major themes and give them some informationto carry away with them. Thus it has established a separatedepartment charged with legend writing, which employed thenwriters in 1989. Each writer is assigned one article each month toresearch and caption.”
Articles and captions Published on Tamil Nadu during the Period of 1900 – 2000 Title, Date, Pages Selected Captions of Photographs Selected Quotes from the ArticlesThe Madura PORCH OF A THOUSANDTemples PILLARS, MADURA - Photo: J.SMarch 1908 Chandler, Page 220218-222 GOLDEN LILLY TANK, MADURA – Photo: J.S Chandler, Page 221A Hindu Religious During this ceremony the gods areFestival anointed with perfumed oils from theJune 1909 lemon, saffron, banana, coconut,582-583 sugar, raisins; then milk is poured over, and the devotees eagerly secure the sacred draught enlighten the forehead and eyes, and then drink what remains in their palms, after which incense and camphor gum are burned. These vast throngs show slight regard for caste, and the rule of seclusion for women is apparently forgotten. Page 582
The Temples of A WONDROUSLY RICH The Temple (Shrine) atIndia TEMPLE OF SOUTH Chidambaram and great gopuraNovember 1909 INDIA, CHIDAMBARAM, in background. The gopuras, or922-971 Photo: W.M. Zumbro, Page pagodas, at Chidambaram are 946 A HINDU ASCETIC OR the oldest in southern India and HOLY MAN, Photo: W.M. marvels of sculptured Zumbro, Page 947 ornament. The temple is A UNIQUE SNSCRIT enormously rich and contains an LIBRARY: TANJORE, unequaled treasury of jewels Photo: W.M. Zumbro, Page and silver cars. Page 959 949 Holy man with an armful of A GEM OF DECORATIVE ARCHITECTURE:TANJO peacock feathers and his head in RE, Photo: W.M. Zumbro, an iron cangue that prevents Page 950 him from lying down or leaning back. Page 959
CORRIDOR IN THE GREAT TEMPLEAT RAMASWARAM: THE CORRIDOR IS In the Palace at Tanjore the670 FEET LONG: THE PILLARS ARE library is particularly rich inMONOLITHS: THE TEMPLE HAS ANANNUAL INCOME OF $200,000, Photo: Sanscrit manuscripts, some 8,000W.M. Zumbro, Page 951 of them are like are these wood-KARUPASWAMY OR GODWORSHIPPED BY THE ROBBER bound volumes, consisting ofCASTE, Photo: W.M. Zumbro, Page 952THE GREAT TOWER OVER THE strips of talipot palm leavesENTRANCE TO THE HINDU TEMPLE engraved with a sharp metalAT SIRI RANGAM, Photo: W.M.Zumbro, Page 961 stylus. It is the unique SanscritTHE ROCK-CUT TEMPLES OFMAHALIPURA,NEAR MADRAS, Photo: library of India, collected there inW.M. Zumbro, Page 962 the sixteenth century. Page 960 The robbers never go out on a stealing expedition without first getting consent of their god. Page 960
MORNING BATH ANDTOILET OF THE PIOUS ATSECUNDERAMALAI, NEARMADURA, Photo: W.M.Zumbro, Page 966CROWD OF HINDUS AT ARELIGIOUS FESTIVAL ATSECUNDERMALAI, NEARMADURA, Photo: W.M.Zumbro, Page 967ENTRANCE TO THE GREATTEMPLE OF MADURA, Photo:W.M. Zumbro, Page968
The Indian A HINDU FESTIVAL – Photo: Thousands of Indians travelCensus of 1911 John J Banningra night in the bullock carts of theJuly 1911 All people attending these festivals country, the common mode of633-638 on the night of the census were travel between the thousands of counted by special enumerators. villages that have no railway Page 635 service. The heat of the day A WANDERING makes the night the pleasantest MENDICANT- Photo: John J time for travelling, so provision Banningra had to be made for these also; Over 4000,000 holy men wander and tollgate keepers, as well as from temple to temple in India, and the keepers of caravansaries, special provision had to be made to were appointed as enumerators count them. Page 637 to count the noses of all passing through their gates or stopping at their “pettahs,” or inns. Page 635
Religious THE SCARED ROCK AND Four miles from Madura is thePenances and TEMPLE OF rock of Tirupurankundram (HillPunishments Self- TIRUPURANKUNDRAM Photo of the Holy God Puran), sacredInflicted by the : W M Zumbro to the god Subramaniam. Here,Holy Men of India Four miles from Madura is the rock twice a year, thousands ofDecember 1913 of Tirupurankundram (Hill of the worshipers from all over South1257-1314 holy god Puran) sacred to the god India gather for a religious Subramanian. Here, twice a year, festival. thousands of worshipers from all It is a gay throng that over South India gather a religious assembles rich in bright colors, festival… On the top of the rock is fascinating in its varied life and a Mu hammedan mosque and at the movement – the easy pose of the foot is the temple of Subramanian. village youth, the quaint charm Page 1258 of the Indian maiden, the confused babel of voices. Here is a little microcosm of the great India. Page 1257
COMMUNING RELIGION AND These great religious assemblies wouldBUSINESS – Photo : W M Zumbro never be complete without the religiousThese festivals serve the triple purpose of a asectic or Sadhu. Here one sees him incamp meeting, a country fair and a market full power crowned with glory andfor the Indian devotee combines business honour. Page 1257with religion in an interesting way. It is a gay The sadhu sitting unmoved by sun orthrong that assembles, rich in bright colours rain regarding not heat or cold, light orfascinating in its varied life and movement… darkness, the pangs of hunger nor theHere is a little microcosm of great India. ties of families bathing betimes, hisPage 1258 thoughts turn within his gaze centeredA YOUTHFUL PILGRIM- Photo : W M on the tip of his nose in meditation, isZumbro the fitting emblem of the people as heSometimes at pilgrimages a little boy is seen is their most cherished ideal. Page 1259carrying a kavadi (a heavy decorated frameof wood) in the fulfillment of a vow madeby his parents. Notice the different sectmerks worn by the bystanders on foreheads.Page 1259
CARRYING THE KAVADI-Photo : W M ZumbroCarrying a Kavadi around thescared rock is a favourite penancein Southern India. The Kavadi awooden frame elaboratelydecorated with flowers and feathersis held above the head by onehand. Note also another form ofpenance the iron chain beneath thechin supported by a pin driventhrough the cheeks from side toside. Page 1278
A PENANCE AT TIRUPURANKUNDRAM-Photo : W M ZumbroAmong the pilgrims will be found many personswho while not professional ascetics, are vowed tosome art of penance while visiting the sacred rock.Sometimes it takes the form shown in the picture ofcarrying a heavy load on the head while making thecircuit of the rock. Page 1280Devotees parading through the streets bearing greatearthen pots filled with for at the Mariammal festival,Palani. Photo: Rev. W. P Edward Page 1287THE ROLLING PENANCE- Photo : W MZumbroOne of the most common forms of penance is thatof rolling the body on the ground, often for verygreat distances. The man shown in the picture isrolling around the sacred rock at Tirupurankundram.Page 1291
The Marriage THE TEMPLE When the gods got marriedof the Gods ELEPHANTS – Photo : the people are merry indeed.December John J Banninga Then hundreds and thousands1913 On all great occasions in throng to Madura from all the1314-1330 India, whether religious or villages of South India, for it social the elephant in his may be expected that the gods gay trappings plays an will be in good humor on such important part. Here we an occasion and be willing to see the elephants of the bestow the blessings so long great temple at Madura withheld. Page 1314 ready to lead the procession at the marriage of the gods. Page 1315
THE NORTHERN The whole ceremony seemsGOPURAM AT MADURA– very impressive when judgedPhoto : John J Banninga by the seriousness of those These ornamental pyramids or who perform it, but to thegopurams; the gateway into the Western onlooker it seems togreat temple at Madura, are belong to the same age as thecovered with life-size stucco map of the universe which isfigures representing all sorts of painted on one of the walls….gods, goddesses and heroes of In this the earth is representedHindu mythology. Page 1323 in the centre of the seven seas that are supposed to surround it- seas of water, air, butter, ghee, honey etc. Page 1315
DETAIL OF A GOPURAM Then there is a great shout fromAT MADURA – Photo: Bouror the people, and they drag it along,and Shajol sometimes only for a few feet, andThis picture shows the then again for a couple hundredbewildering entanglement of yards. There is no steering gear, sosymbolism found on these wooden wedges are used to putgopurams where many of the under the wheels. By slipping downgods of the Hindu pantheon find the greasy surface of these wedgesa place. These curious gateways the car is swung around corners onare found only in the south of a large circle. Page 1327India and are characteristic of Many of the poor outcaste people,Dravidian architecture which who are not allowed in the innertakes its name from the precincts of the temple, make useDravidians, who belong to the of this occasion to see and worshipoldest known race inhabiting the gods. Judging from theirIndia. Page 1325 believing that they see the god himself, and that they worship the image as such. Page 1327
ALMS FOR THE ASCETIC –Photo: John J BanningaThis is a characteristic picture ofHindu life. The ascetic standsimpassive; his begging-bowl in hishands, neither asking for norrefusing the alms of thefaithful, while the school-boyrequires merit by contributing tothe support of the holy man. Thisascetic can be recognized as adevotee of Vishnu by the beads ofbasil wood he wears. Note thesandals. Page 1328
THE MAHAMADKHAM FESTIVAL ATKUMBAKONAM – Photo: Dr W.E. GruldBathing is intimately connected with the religious life ofthe Hindus, every temple has its tank for ceremonialbathing, ablutions, and lustrations. The sacred waters ofthe River Ganges, especially at Benares are popularlysupposed to remove the guilt of sin, and thereforeattract pilgrims from all over India. The water in thegreat tank at Kumbakonam, in the Tanjore district ofMadura, is popularly supposed to come from the riverGanges, by a subterranean passage from miles long,once every 12 years. The picture shows the great tankfilled with pilgrims waiting for the auspicious momentto bathe. Page 1312
The Cobra, Not in fear but in faith, a The cobra is not the vicious killerIndia’s Good woman of Madras makes an imagined by the uniformed. The gentle,Snake offering of rice and coconut to a handsome Tamil people among whomSeptember 1970 large and deadly cobra which had we live had named it well: Nulla Pambu-393-409 been released on a termite the “Good Snake” mound. Indian devotion to the When I first heard the name, I snake as a symbol of fertility admit it struck me as odd. From earliest found earlier expression in a times the snake has been widely reviled: serpent deity hooded by seven “thou art cursed above all cattle, and cobras. About ten feet tall, it was above every beast of the field; upon thy carved in rock at Mahabalipuram belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou 13 centuries ago. Photo: Harry eat,” thunders God to the serpent in Miller, Page 393 Eden (Genesis 3:14). Among the Hindus, however, this Biblical curse would seem heretical. For them the cobra has deep religious significance, primarily as a symbol of fertility. Page 394
Analyses of Travel Discourse and Captions onTamil Nadu in National Geographic Travel writing is an activity which makes one to gobeyond his own native area by that way, he/she contributeto the study of culture of presenting ones past of theworld to public in written language. When we analyse all the seven (7) articles on TamilNadu published during the period 1900-2000, we can seethe that Said‟s study is very relevant. Tamil Nadu advancedin all the areas of education, science, technology andtransport. But National Geographic likes to portray onlyone side of the culture that will create enthusiasm amongthe western audience.