In January they have a feast called Pongall the preparation for which lasted several weeks - This feast celebrates the return of the Sun to the North-ward - or as we shu'd [sic] say the turn of the year.
- Elizabeth Gwillim to her sister Hester Symonds James, 1802

Gwillim Project
Newsletter Issue 12

Welcome to the twelfth issue of the Gwillim Project's newsletter marking the end of January and beginning of February. This newsletter features updates, a reading about Pongal, the celebration of the new year as described by Elizabeth Gwillim, and links to relevant virtual resources and events. 
The Tamil Celebration of Pongal
The celebration of Pongal takes place at the beginning of the Tamil calendar year in mid-January. Dedicated to the Hindu sun god and harvest, it celebrates with the ‘Pongal’ dish, rice boiled in milk with jaggery. In writing of the festival to her sister in August, Elizabeth Gwillim was still struck by the festivities, remarking, “nothing cou'd exceed the gaiety of the appearance of the streets in the towns & the Villages.” Houses are cleaned and decorated, as are cows and the vases used to prepare the Pongal. Lady Gwillim enjoyed the celebratory atmosphere, describing the wreathes of flowers that adorn vases and cows in detail, noting their elegance. It was not all to her preference, but she clearly delighted in the decoration of the cows, “when these white Bullocks have their horns dyed of a bright coral colour & are dressed with flowers, they are extremely beautiful & when drawing the Bandy which is like a little throne, one cannot help thinking of a carriage in some Romance.” Mary Symonds' paintings illustrate the cows, vases, and garlands of flowers, but there are none that depict this celebration in particular.
(Elizabeth Gwillim to Hester Symonds James, August 23, 1802.)

Canada celebrated its twelfth year of Tamil Heritage Month in January, with the theme of 'Tamil Women Excellence.' Tamil Heritage Month aims to celebrate language, literature, traditions, arts, and culture of Tamils around the world, while educating Canadians of all backgrounds. This year, the month highlighted the achievements of Tamil women in the world. January was chosen for its association with the Pongal festival, as it is the most widely-celebrated festival amongst Tamils around the world.

New in the Field

A new publication by network member Minakshi Menon, "Indigenous knowledges and colonial sciences in South Asia," is free to read here. It introduces a special edition of the journal South Asian History and Culture. 

The Indian Ocean World Centre (IOW), is hosting a winter speaker series featuring a different speaker February though March, every Thursday from 17:00-19:00, EST.
More information on the presentations can be found here.
The registration form is here.

In an open lecture, Frieda Beauregard, Director of the McGill Herbarium, will discuss Lady Francis Ramsay Simpson’s plants from Rupert’s Land.
February 16, 12:00-13:00.
No registration required, join here.

Don't miss the Aga Khan Museum’s two-day virtual symposium titled “Hidden Stories: Global History, Local Networks.
The event hosts an international group of researchers, museum, and library professionals in which a Silk Roads cultural tradition and related object(s) will be explored. It is free-of-charge and will be taking place on two days:
February 24, 10:00-15:30 EST 
February 25, 10:00-15:15 EST.
Student Research Assistants

A big thank you to our Research Assistant, Maryam Rahimi Shahmirzadi for all of her help with the Gwillim Project in the Fall semester. We wish her luck in her next endeavors. 

We welcome Ciel Haviland, is in the History MA-Thesis program at McGill. Studying the colonization of plants with a particular emphasis on decorative blooms, she is writing her thesis on Elizabeth Gwillim's interest in botany. Ciel is excited to help with various aspects of the projects, including the monthly newsletter.

Carleigh Nicholls is finishing up her PhD in History at McGill, which focuses on late seventeenth-century Scottish political and legal history. She is looking forward to joining the Gwillim Project, where she will be helping to revise scientific and common names in the library catalogue. 
As always, please reach out if you have questions or anything you'd like to see in the next newsletter:
Header Image: Untitled (catalogue no. 106.39), Mary Symonds [?], 1801-7 Madras Album,
The South Asia Collection, Norwich, UK.

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