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The Seven Sisters of India: Tribal Worlds Between Tibet and Burma (African, Asian & Oceanic Art) Hardcover – December, 2000

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A beautifully illustrated book, India Through the Lens accompanies an exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC. Essays by Vidya Dehejia, John Falconer, David Harris, Jane Ricketts, Gary D. Sampson, Charles Allen, and Michael Gray introduce chapters that focus on the work of particular photographers or genres. Included are the work of native Indian photographers, especially Lala Deen Dayal, who photographed the architecture and landscapes of his country in detailed albumen prints that are superior to anything done since. Samuel Bourne's landscape views of isolated Indian villages were surely the earliest taken of these areas. We see the photographs of the British Raj, including those by Samuel Bourne (Bourne & Shepherd), and the delicately hand-colored portraits by Herzog and Higgins. Also included are Felice Beato's 1857-58 photographs of the Lucknow attack and the picturesque 1860s landscapes of Donald Horne Macfarlane, a talented amateur. Some of the maharajas themselves took up photography, and the son of one of them, Shamarendra Chandra Deb Burman, became an accomplished photographic chemist and photographer, winning medals in England and Calcutta. The reproductions are of the highest quality, and the readable and well-researched texts enrich our understanding of early photography in India. This book will help erase the notion that photography was advanced mostly by photographers working in England, Europe, and America. Highly recommended for history of photography and India studies collections. The Seven Sisters of India is a beautifully illustrated and highly informative book that focuses on seven relatively unexplored and isolated Indian states that border China, Tibet, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. What results is the most comprehensive book available on the subject. The authors (not social scientists but a doctor and a musician, respectively), who have traveled extensively in Asia and done fieldwork in northeast India for two decades, have produced three other books and numerous articles on the western Himalayas. Nearly all the photographs in this book are theirs, and they are fine, indeed. The book is organized into individual chapters that cover matriarchal tribal structure, daily life, religious rituals and fertility rites, varied geographies, ancestor worship, sun and moon cults, the arts of weaving and dance, and the head-hunting practices that were the emphasis of the last book on this region 50 years ago. They also discuss Christian missionary influences. For those who are tempted to assert that no part of the world has been left unexplored or unexploited by tourism, this book is a powerful rebuttal. The authors set themselves the task of presenting a balanced portrait of the many tribes and 500 distinct ethnic groups in this isolated region, and they have succeeded in producing a first-rate book based on personal observations and delightfully free of scholarly theories and analyses. Recommended for anthropology and India and Asian studies collections. Kathleen Collins, Bank of America Archives, San Francisco
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A beautifully illustrated and highly informative book that focuses on seven relatively unexplored and isolated Indian states."

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Product Details

  • Series: African, Asian & Oceanic Art
  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Prestel Publishing (December 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3791323997
  • ISBN-13: 978-3791323992
  • Product Dimensions: 12.1 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,560,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
accompanied by an informative text that serves as a colourful introduction to a barely known region, linked to mainland India via the narrow 'chicken neck' corridor of Cooch Behar (with Bhutan to the north, Bangladesh to the south). From the Himalayas through the jungles to the fertile valleys of River Brahmaputra, the seven states of NE India are home to anthropologically/linguistically/culturally diverse peoples: Tibeto-Burmans, Austroasiatics, Indo-Aryans.
Yet the authors focus, quite understandably, on the unifying elements. Hence the topics visited: animistic-shamanistic Donyi-Polo (Sun-Moon) belief system, traces of solar and lunar cults (chapter 4), as well as religious syncretism (ch. 10); Christian missionary activities (ch. 11); ritualized dance traditions, festivals, etc. (ch. 7-8); material culture: tubular long-house structures (up to 90-m-long, ch. 5), textile and jewelry art (ch. 6); hunting, the significance of mithan buffalo, animal sacrifices (ch. 9, 11); megalith cultures (Khasis, Mizos, Nagas) related to ancestral worship, funerary rites, and fertility cults (ch. 12); tattooing and the once widespread practice of head-hunting (ch. 12); clannish or tribal societies where matrilineal descent is held in high esteem (Khasis, Jaintias, Garos, et al., ch. 13); the Hindu Tantric Mother Goddess Kamakshya/Kali's (blood) cult in Assam and vestiges of human sacrifices (pp. 159-63).
While there is no shortage of folkloric and mythological accounts, historical references are lot more sporadic.
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