Our Heritage

Blog about Heritage, Monuments, Ruins and much more…

Third house of Indian Parliament

We are all aware of the two houses, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, of the Indian Parliament. However, if you look at the design of Parliament, it has Four halls instead of two. Three halls on sides for the houses of Parliament and the fourth one in centre, for the joint session. Originally, Indian Parliament, or the Council House as it was termed then, was comprising of 3 houses. The State Council, Central Legislative Assembly and the Chamber of Princes.

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Council of State originally had 60 members when it started in 1919. The Viceroy or the Governor General of India was its ex officio president. In 1937, its size was increased to 260 members and in 1947, it was dissolved, to be later taken over by Constituent Assemblies of India and Pakistan respectively. Today, this upper house in India is known as the Rajya Sabha.

The Central Legislative Assembly, or the lower house, originally had 145 members representing different provinces of India. Out of these, 103 were elected, and rest nominated by upper house. Of these 103, 51 came from general constituencies (30 by Muslims, 2 by Sikhs, 9 by Europeans, 7 by Landlords and rest by businessmen). It was abolished on 15th August 1947 until in 1952, as India became republic, the Legislative Assembly was renamed as Lok Sabha and became functional under the new Constitution of India. Though its members are still known as MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly).

Then comes the third house, which was also abolished in 1947. While Council of State and the Legislative Assembly merged into the Constituent Assembly and later remerged as Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively, this one house had no representation left in the new independent system of Republic of India. Hence, on 15th August, 1947, as India was divided into Dominion of India and Dominion of Pakistan, this one powerful house was abolished and forgotten for ever. This house was the Chamber of Princes, or the ‘Narendra Mandal’. It was established in 1920 by a royal proclamation of King Emperor George V, so that the princely states can have their say in the administration of India and voice their needs to the British crown. This decision was one of the most important decisions as it abolished the British policy of isolating Indian princely states from each other.

House first met on 8th February 1921. Initially, it had 120 members. Of those, 108 were representing major states, hence were members in their own right. While remaining 12 were elected to represent 127 smaller states. This left 327 minor states with no representation. Also, major states like Baroda, Gwalior and Holkar refused to join it. They met only once a year, with an appointed standing committee meeting more often. The house appointed a Chancellor as head of the house. The first chancellor was Major General His Highness Sir Ganga Singh, Maharaja of Bikaner, who presided over the house from 1921-1926. His successors were Adhiraj Major General His Highness Sir Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala (1926-1931), Colonel His Highness Sir K. S. Ranjitsinhji, Maharaja of Nawanagar (1931-1933), Colonel His Highness Sir K. S. Digvijaysinhji, Maharaja of Nawanagar (1933-1944), Hajji Major General His Highness Sir Hamidullah Khan, Nawab of Bhopal (1944-1947).

In 1940, as the discussion of Indian Independence was gaining momentum, the Chamber of Princes felt its heat and convened in the month of March. On 12th March 1940, they resolved:

“The Chamber of Princes, while welcoming the attainment by India of its due place among the Dominions of the British Commonwealth under the British Crown, records its emphatic and firm view that, in any future constitution for India, the essential guarantees and safeguards for the preservation of the sovereignty and autonomy of the States and for the protection of their rights and interests arising from treaties, and engagements and sanads or otherwise, should be effectively provided and that any unit should not be placed in a position to dominate the others or to interfere with the rights and safeguards guaranteed to them, and that all parties must be ensured their due share and fair play; And that, in any negotiations for formulating a constitution for India, whether independently of the Government of India Act 1935, or by revision of that Act, representatives of the States and of this Chamber should have a voice proportionate to their importance and historical position.”

Despite of this resolution, the chamber was dissolved and never revoked. Instead, the princely states were annexed into the Dominion of India and Dominion of Pakistan one after another the hall dedicated for Chamber of Princes was later converted into Parliament Library. As a compensation, a Privy Purse was established.

The Privy Purse was a payment made to the royal families of erstwhile princely states after they agreed to merge their state with India and lost all ruling rights. In 1947, the states were required to sign the instrument of accession with India and cede defence, communication and foreign relations to India. Later, in 1949, most of these states were completely merged. The amount of privy purse was determined by several factors, including the revenue of state, gun salute enjoyed during British Raj and antiquity of dynasty etc. While the smaller states were given a privy purse allowance, as low as Rs. 5000 per annum, states like Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, Baroda, Jaipur and Patiala received a privy purse above Rs. 10,00,000. 102 privy purse were between 1-2 lakh rupees. Government of India kept reducing the privy purse with every succession in family.

When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi abolished the Privy Purse in 1971, rulers of erstwhile states decided to contest in elections, hoping that their subjects would elect them into parliament, where they can voice their needs properly. However, most of them were left red faced after shameful defeats with huge margins. Popular rulers, like Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi could earn only 5% of total votes, in a 2-way contest.

Finally, the Privy Purse came to an end. Many of the nawabs and kings became more active in politics, while others went to start their business.

 

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Jim Corbett, Hunter who saved tigers

 

THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN NRI ACHIEVERS’ JULY-2016 EDITION

 

Jim_CorbettThis month, we celebrate the birthday of a fearless hunter, who turned into a saviour for tigers in India. I came across this story while I was sitting on the shore of Kosi River of Uttarakhand.

Few days back, I went to Namah Resorts in Dhikuli, Jim Corbett Park. I was interested in the lost temple of Vairapattana, which was supposed to be around this resort. I stayed there for few days, enjoyed the impeccable hospitality, and kept enquiring about the lost Shiva Temple. They pointed me to a direction and surprisingly, at mere 300 steps, I found the remains of Ancient Shiva Temple. My mission was complete, but during my discussions with staff and naturists at this resort, I learned few more things about the area.

One of the resident experts at Namah Resort asked me, if I know about Jim Corbett. I replied with a smile, “Yes! You made us interact with Mr. Imran Khan, the best known naturists in Jim Corbett National Park. He told us everything about flora and fauna.” He continued, ‘No Sir, I meant, James Edward Corbett’. I was quite. I have heard of him, but why is this gentleman emphasising so much. He praised Corbett and we retired to our room appreciating the spectacular sunset view across Kosi river. As I reached my room, I started reading about Colonel James Edward Corbett of the British India Army. By this time, Namah team sent me a wonderful Mocktail as reward for participating in one of their contests. Sipping this mocktail in the balcony of my cottage, I paid my homage to Google Baba and got started.

Colonel Corbett was born in Nainital in 1875 to the postmaster of Nainital, William Christopher Corbett. He spent his entire childhood in the region. During winters, the James Corbett with his other 15 siblings and parents used to stay in their family home downhill, what we now know as Corbett’s Village or Kaladhungi. After schooling, he was employed by Railways. He was so well versed with the jungle, that he could identify most animals and birds by the sounds they make. Soon, he became famous as the hunter, who would save locals from man eating tigers and leopards. His most famous kill was the tiger known as Bachelor of Powalgarh. Powalgarh is a connected reserve near Ramnagar. We were taken to Powalgarh the next day to show the site, where Corbett killed this tiger. We also have the largest tree trunk of this region in the vicinity. Corbett wrote a book titled ‘Man Eaters of Kumaon’. He mentions of several kills that he made and how he accomplished those victories. Interestingly, the only one to accompany him was his favourite dog ‘Robin’. His expeditions were all on foot. His book talks about the strategies he made to hunt man eaters in Champawat, Thak, Muktesar, Chowgarh, Rudraprayag, Kanda, Pipalpani and many more. The Panar Leopard was known to have killed as many as 400 people, before being slayed by Corbett.

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When Corbett analysed his kills, he found out that most of the man eaters had porcupine quills embedded deep in their feet. Some even had un-healed gunshot wounds. While I was discussing this with our nature expert at the Namah Resort, he explained that years of research has revealed that porcupine is the most common reason for tiger’s pain, unrest and forcing him to target slow moving targets like humans. Jim Corbett, when realized this, turned into a saviour of animals. He bought a camera and started filming tigers. I met James Champion a while back. He is son of Frederick Walter Champion, companion of Jim Corbett in his expeditions to understand and save tigers. He gave me few insights on how Corbett turned into a conservationist and led campaigns to protect tigers. Corbett and Champion established India’s first nature reserve, the Hailey National Park in 1936. It was named after Lord Hailey, governor of United Provinces (now Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh) from 1928 to 1934. His efforts laid the foundation of Project Tiger of Government of India, which helped us realize the reducing number of tigers and forced to take measures to save them. Today, his Hailey National Park covers 520 square kilometres of hill area near Nainital (Originally it was 323 sq. Km). It houses around 110 tree species, 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species and 25 reptile species. Initially, the proposal was to make it a Game Reserve, where British could come and enjoy hunting as a sport, while animals move freely. Princely state of Tehri Garhwal had already cleared most of this forest to save from invading Rohillas. When land came completely under British and restoring forest was underway, Jim Corbett played an important role to ensure that it stays as a Nature Reserve and not a Game Reserve. He emphasized on protecting the Tigers. He told, how careless hunting activities are turning tigers into man-eaters. His efforts were fruitful and the park was established. Later, in 1954 it was renamed as Ramganga National Park. But within 3 years, the Independent Indian Government gave credit to Jim Corbett and renamed this oldest national park of India as ‘Jim Corbett National Park’.

Until 1947, Corbett and his sister lived in Gurney house in Nainital. The house was sold to Mr. Sharad Prasad Varma, which is now passed to his granddaughter Ms. Nilanjana Dalmia. Corbetts retired to Kenya, where Jim Corbett kept working hard to protect the wildlife. He was escorting Princess Elizabeth of England during her Kenya visit and they were staying in Tree Tops Hotel when King Geroge VI passed away. Next morning, when Elizabeth was told about this incident, she came down from Tree Tops and left for England as a Queen. Corbett wrote the famous lines that day in the visitor log book of Tree Tops:

For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess, and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience, she climbed down from the tree the next day a Queen—God bless her.

He passed away on 19th April, 1955. We celebrate Corbett’s 231st birthday this 25th July.

– Vikramjit Singh Rooprai

We are/were ‘1’

PHOOLWALON KI SAIR

SAIR-I-GULFAROSHA.N

When Mughal conquered India, they adopted the Indian lifestyle and respected religion of locals. From Akbar offering Chhatar to Hindu temples and donating land for Golden Temple of Sikhs, each Mughal emperor was involved in some or other interfaith activity. The communal unity was at its peak with many Jain, Hindu and Sikh nobles serving in the Mughal court. British realized this strength of Indian people and decided to implement their Divide and Rule policy. They identified Aurangzeb as the pivot, during whose rule, maximum forceful conversions and temple destruction took place. The fact that these incidents happened only in the areas where Hindu/Sikh groups started mutiny against Mughal crown was deliberately removed from History books. It was projected that Mughals, especially Aurangzeb were always bad. Following their Divide and Rule policy, all events that exhibit Hindu Muslim Unity were banned, including the one I am going to talk about today:

It was year 1812. East India Company had penetrated to Mughal court completely and a Resident Officer was living inside the Red Fort, controlling the administration of India. Coins were struck by British Mints and name of Mughal Emperor was removed from currency. Emperor Shah Alam II had died, for whom people started saying

‘Badshah Shah Alam, Az Delhi, Ta Palam’

clip_image002It meant, Emperor Shah Alam’s rule is from Delhi (Red Fort) to Palam (present day Delhi Airport) only. Shah Alam II’s son, Akbar Shah II was the puppet king and Archibald Seton, a Scottish East India Company Administrator was the appointed Officer in Red Fort. Next in line to throne, Crown Prince Mirza Jahangir was against British way of working. One day, this reckless young prince of 19 insulted Seton by calling him Lullu. Seton did not react then. Perhaps he did not understood the meaning of the word. Few days later, when Seton was returning from court, Mirza Jahangir, sitting on the roof of Naubat Khana, fired a shot at him, missing Seton completely. While Seton escaped unhurt, his orderly lost his life. Angry with this, British arrested Mirza Jahangir and sent him to Allahabad fort. Back then, it was famous that a political prisoner, who is sent to Allahabad Fort, never returns alive.

clip_image004The Mughal court tried its best to save him, but the administration was in British hands completely. Having failed at every door, Empress Mumtaz Mahal, mother of Mirza Jahangir came to the shrine of Sufi Saint Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (ra) in Mehrauli, Delhi. She took a vow that if Mirza Jahangir returns safely, she would offer a sheet (chadar) of flowers at the Dargah.

After few years of praying, Mirza Jahangir one day miraculously returned to the Red Fort. The Empress approached Emperor Akbar Shah II and told him about her vow. Emperor was more than happy to be a part of pledge. They both decided to start from the Red Fort with sheet of flowers for the Shrine. News spread like jungle fire and everyone in and around the Palace got ready to walk with the royal family, to pay homage to Sufi Saint resting in Mehrauli.

It was the month of September. Convoy started with all the praise singing and merry making. When they reached the outskirts of Mehrauli, Mughal Emperor stood by the Temple of Ma Yogmaya and said, Mehrauli is known for this deity and it will be a sin to pay respect to Sufi Shrine and not visit the Hindu Temple.

Yogmaya Temple in Mehrauli is considered to be one of the Temples Pandavas built. It is attributed to Maa Yogmaya, sister of Lord Krishna, who was replaced with Krishna upon birth to save him from his evil uncle Kans. This temple gave this area its name ‘Yoginipura’. She is also known as Maha Maya or Mehraa.N waali maayi (mother of graces) and some say, the name ‘Mehrauli’ is a distorted version of ‘Mehra.N Waali’ (NOTE: Mehra-waali = Mehravali = Mehrauli).

Emperor Akbar Shah II entered the Hindu Temple and offered a Pankha (fan) to the deity. He then went to the Muslim Shrine to fulfil rituals of offering Chadar. For seven days, entire court was shifted to Mehrauli and with all the merry making and celebrations, people were very happy. Emperor ordered to repeat this event every year. A palace, called Rang Mahal was constructed as every year, entire Mughal court used to get shifted to Mehrauli for 7 days. Every year, Mughal Emperor would come with everyone from Red Fort and around, with a sheet of Flowers and a decorated Fan for Temple. This festival became popular with name ‘Phoolwalo.N ki Sair’ or ‘Sair-i-Gul-Farosha.N’.

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Rang Mahal was later termed as Lal Mahal. Mirza Jahangir could never become king. Instead, his brother, who was a poet and had no interest in ruling the country, Mirza Sirajuddin aka Badshah Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’ was made emperor. Zafar added portion to this palace and it is today popular with name Zafar Mahal.

Emperor Akbar Shah II and his family got buried in this Zafar Mahal, next to the shrine. Emperor Zafar also designated a place for his grave next to his father, but since he was exiled to Rangoon, he could never return and fulfil his last wish.

In early 1940s, British imposed ban on all activities that exhibited communal harmony. So was the fate of Phoolwalon ki Sair. It was stopped for almost 2 decades, until in 1961, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru asked the mayor of Delhi, Mr. Nooruddin Ahmed and a scion of prominent family Shri Yogeshwar Dayal to revive the festival. On September 6, 1962, Pt. Nehru played the part of the Mughal Emperor and the festival was celebrated like old days. He continued to do so until his death, after which, his daughter Indira Gandhi took special interest in the festival. She invited other states of India to participate, so that the festival of Communal Harmony becomes the festival of National Communal Harmony.

Phoolwalon ki Sair is celebrated till date, for 7 days, every September. It is managed by Anjuman-i-Sair-e-Gulfaroshan, a society governed by notable Hindus and Muslims of Mehrauli. Pankha and Chadar are offered by President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister of Delhi, Lt. Governor of Delhi and different state governments. Pity, that we are too busy in propagating religious biasness, that we pay no attention to such celebrations.

Lost Heritage: Sikh legacy in Pakistan

17th December 2015: I got a call from S. Gurpreet Singh Anand called me and invite me over tea. I was excited to meet him as he had just put me in touch with Janab Faqir Syed Saifuddin of Fakir Khana Museum of Lahore. Faqir sahib comes from the legendary family of Faqir Azizuddin, the trusted minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

So on 19th, I reached his office in West Delhi. As expected, I received a warm welcome by this warm gentleman. Later I learned that he is an avid traveller, who also holds the honour of being first Sikh on North Pole, and perhaps only Sikh to cover both North and South pole. As I made myself comfortable, he presented me with a book, which in few minutes became the most precious possession in my book collection. He gifted me Amardeep Singh’s “Lost Heritage: Sikh Legacy in Pakistan”.

LostHeritage-Cover

I love books and have collected all kinds of, that I could get access to. But this case was different. When I held this book in my hands, I had a very strange vibe, something unexplainable. It was a mix of excitement and nostalgia. As I removed the layer of shrink wrap, my fingers were trembling. This has never happened before. As a practice, I turned the book and read back cover. Then checked index. S. Gurpreet Singh Anand jee was watching me and waiting for me to react. But all my reactions had travelled back in time and here I was sitting like a wax statue, staring at the precious contents of this book with stone eyes.

This book is about what Sikhs have left in Pakistan and how partition has separated Sikhs on both sides of border. Book starts with introduction of a Sikh doctor serving in Pakistan and later author introduces his audience with more Sikhs in active service in Pakistan. Book is a systematic journey through Gurudwaras, Forts, Havelis, Schools and other buildings related to the Sikh Raj. The chapters on Faqir Khana Museum and Princess Bamba Collection will force readers to time travel into the bygone era of Sarkar Khalsaji, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. As Faqir Syed Saifuddin Sahab show rare artefacts from Sikh Raj, the book takes a different turn.

LostHeritage-AuthorAuthor has travelled across West Punjab, North-West Frontier and Pak Administered Kashmir to gather information. It has 60 chapters with 507 photographs and lots of rare information. Author, S. Amardeep Singh, born in India and studied at Dehradoon and Manipal Institute of Technology, now lives in Singapore. He is an amazing photographer and his exhibitions and work is appreciated across globe.

From Havelis to Gurudwaras, Amardeep did not leave a stone unturned. But the most interesting part is that he mentioned about revered Muslim Sufi Saints. Many modern day self proclaimed religious preachers would love to draw a line between Sikhs and Muslims. Whereas, there was a very high level of religious harmony back then. When connecting with god, religion is perhaps the last thing that would matter. Our Gurus and Sufi saints understood this well. May be that’s why, there are so many Muslim contributors to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee and Sain Mian Meer Sahib of Lahore laid the foundation of Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Amardeep visited many Forts and gave a detailed description. While talking about Forts and Havelis, he did not restrict himself to the Sikh religion, but to the fact, that the property was built, modified or at least used by the Sikh Rulers/Nobles. There are many structures which were built before Sikhs took over and All that SIkhs left is now being used by modern occupants. Some are government offices, some schools, some residences and some are simply lying abandoned in a a dilapidated state.

While the content of this book is very precious, what forced me to take a bow and salute the Author was his photography skills. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the pictures. They were simply perfect. Books has some shots, which made me wonder, how did he manage to get this shot. The frame, the composition, lighting, everything seems perfect.

Now I am confused. What should I call this book? “A travel guide”, “A Coffee Table Book”, “A Photo-Journal”, “A Heritage Guide”……. Perhaps, this unique masterpiece is a combination of all.

I must thank Mr. Amardeep Singh jee for his brilliant talent and effort in putting up this masterpiece for rest of the world.

If you wish to buy this book, www.lostheritagebook.com should help. Book is already available on Amazon US and will be soon available on Indian e-Comm portals as well. Till then, one can order it from this website.

I clicked few pages for you…

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Bateshwar: Temples of Dacoits

“Come to Red Fort to meet me this Sunday”, said Sh. K.K. Muhammed, the then Superintending Archaeologist of Delhi Circle ASI. “Where in Red Fort?”, I asked. He said, “just say my name and guards will direct you.”
Till this point, all I knew was that K.K. Muhammed is just another ASI officer and I wanted to seek his permission for my Delhi Heritage Photography Club’s next event. But when I reached Red Fort to meet him, he turned out to be a legend, a great human being and master of his work. He used to stay in the Chapel inside Red Fort, which was temporarily converted to his residence. While sipping tea, he showed us his collection of photographs from the site of Bateshwar in Morena District (Madhya Pradesh). Please note that this Bateshwar is different from Bateshwar in UP. The UP Bateshwar is on banks of Yamuna River between Fatehabad and Etawah. It is a complex of 101 small Shiva temples, painted white and still in use. The one we are talking about is deep in ravines of Chambal. When Muhammed sir started narrating the story of this restoration, every line gave me Goosebumps. So here’s the secret of Bateshwar of MP…

Site of Bateshwar originally consisted of 200 temples (mostly Lord Shiva) from Gujjar-Pratihar Dynasty. It is located deep in ravines of Chambal and were occupied by Dacoits like Nirbhay Singh Gujjar and Ram Babu Gadariya. The Temple Complex was in very bad shape. Stones were lying all over, mixed with each other. When KK Muhammed was made Superintending Archaeologist of Bhopal circle ASI, he asked for the most challenging archaeological site. His staff pointed to this Bateshwar and suggested him to avoid that path. But he did not listen. Through a mediator, Mr. Muhammed approached the Dacoits and requested them to allow the restoration of these temples. While I can go on and on explaining how things unfolded in this magnificent bollywood-like epic, I think it is better that you hear it directly from Mr. Muhammed:

 

Some clicks from the site…

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Location:

The Presidential Palace of India

Rashtrapati Bhawan, Delhi

Rashtrapati-Bhawan-(15)The “Rashtrapati Bhawan” has several secrets hidden under its facade, with some amazing facts tending to surface to surprise you. Right from its regal metal gates to the opulent residence cum office of the President of India, it has quite a few magical stories buried in it. For example, in the middle of the road connecting the Gates and the Building, we have the huge Jaipur Column. Did you know that barely any steel was used to build this Viceregal Palace but the Jaipur Column, funded by the then Maharaja of Jaipur Sawai Madho Singh, has a Steel Beam running through its entire height of 145 feet (44.2 meters), topped by a bronze lotus from which rises the six-pointed glass star, all of it weighing a little more than five tonnes! On the double base of column, the original plan of Delhi as designed by Jaipur-ColumnLutyen, is etched. Lutyen had placed Lord Hardinge’s statue at the foot of the column, but post-Independence this was shifted to the coronation grounds, where King George V laid the foundation stone of the new capital during his coronation in 1911. King George’s majestic statue was placed in a canopy near India Gate, which too was removed along with all other statues from Lutyen’s Delhi, all of them finding a resting place in the Coronation Grounds. The Jaipur Column also has the British Seal, a special image of King George and commemorative text etched on it.

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4 panels on Jaipur Column
(From Top left, clockwise – King George: North; Emblem: South; Text: West; Map: East)

Edwin Landseer Lutyen, chief architect of New Delhi, got this job thanks to his royal connections. He was married to the daughter of Lord Lytton, former viceroy of India. He planned the city for some 60,000 people, a city that today houses some 170,000,000 plus. Lutyen got his good friend Herbert Baker to be his co-architect, and both of them were excited about this partnership, until it ended because of this very project. Baker wanted to raise the two secretariat buildings connected with Rashtrapati Bhawan and level the space between them. Lutyen was against this because then the view of Viceroy House (Rashtrapati Bhawan) will be blocked. The heavy debate was won by Baker, and as a result, when we reach the foothill of Raisina, the Rashtrapati Bhawan is hidden behind the slope and appears only when you reach on top. This disagreement over the slope, which ended a long and trusted relationship was described by Baker as “the unhappiest in all my life’s work”.

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Lutyen also gave very deep thought to which trees ought to be planted where. King’s Way (Rajpath) was decorated with Jamun Trees, Queen’s Way (Janpath) had Arjun Trees lining it, Imli was for Akbar Road and Neem Trees were planted on Lodhi Road. A total of 10,000 trees were planted in the new city, making it the then greenest capital on earth. Luckily Delhi is still considered to be one of the greener capitals even today. It is very interesting to know that Lutyen was not a fan of Indian Architecture. But the then viceroy Lord Hardinge insisted on his introducing Indian styles, and that is when Lutyen traveled across India and fell in love with the Mughal style. Even the same red & buff sandstone material that the Mughals used in their buildings was chosen for this palace. Most of us think that Rashtrapati Bhawan’s dome was inspired by the Sanchi Stupa, but this is only a half-truth. Actually, Lutyen was very much inspired by St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, so he tried to blend both to create a dome with characteristics of both.

Rashtrapati-Bhawan-(16)

“To the south of city, 27 Kilns came up to make the 700 million bricks or so that was needed for the project …. About 700 men were employed, to produce some 200,000 pounds worth of work in teak, shisham …. and other Indian woods. There were 84 miles of electric distribution cables and 130 miles of street lighting, 50 miles of road…….” Describes Edwin Lutyen. All pillars have bells carved, similar to temples in India along with the elephant motifs on the pillar-crowns. The huge main gate was wrought out of iron and has its motifs and designs taken from the Red Fort of Delhi.

The-Palace

The Pillars of the main complex are borrowed from Roman architecture, topped with brackets inspired by Indian Temples. The palace has 340 rooms, 227 columns and 37 fountains. The estate around it also has a cricket ground, eight tennis courts and a golf course. On 13th February 1931, the new capital was inaugurated, and the hard work of chief engineers Hugh Keeling, S. Teja Singh Malik and contractors Haroun-al Rashid, Sujan Singh and his son S. Sobha Singh (father of legendary writer Khushwant Singh) became an enduring reality. After few days, Mahatama Gandhi was invited to the palace. But the Indian politicians were in no mood to celebrate as they were mourning the death of Motilal Nehru (father of Jawaharlal Nehru). In 1947, as India got independence, the Viceroy’s house was turned into the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the Council house into the Indian Parliament. And India Gate? This was not called India Gate then, but was “The Great India War Memorial”.

Also read: Ceremonial Changing of Guards – Rashtrapati Bhawan. This ceremony is practiced in almost all countries. In India, it is open to public on Saturdays.

 

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North Block

The Armenian Tawaif

In modern day, word ‘Tawaif’ is associated with prostitution. However, Tawaifs were originally respected members of the feudal society of India and considered as an authority on etiquettes. Tawaifs are also known as Kanjaris in North India. They were the courtesans in Mughal era, who were expert in music and dance. They were the elite female, masters of Urdu Poetry, whose job was to entertain the nobles through their dance, music and poetry.

On June 26, 1873, a girl was born to William Robert Yeoward and Victoria Hemmings in Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh). Her father was an Armenian Jew and mother was born and bought up in India. They named their daughter ‘Angelina Yeoward’. Like her mother, she was also trained in Indian music and dance. When she was 6, her parents parted ways and later Victoria, her mother, took her to Banaras in 1881. Victoria was accompanied by a Muslim Nobleman ‘Khursheed’. In Banaras, Victoria converted to Islam and adopted a new name ‘Malka Jaan’. Her daughter, the star of our story, Angelina Yeoward was renamed as ‘Gauhar Jaan’.

GuhagharMalka Jaan became popular by the name Badi Malka Jaan, as there were three other Malka Jaan, younger than her. She became an accomplished singer & Kathak dancer of Banaras. In 1883, she moved to Calcutta to establish herself in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, who had settled in Matiaburj near Calcutta. She became so popular, that within 3 years, she earned enough money to buy herself a building at 24 Chitpore Road (Now Rabindranath Sarani) for Rs. 40,000. Her daughter Gauhar Jaan started her training at this place. She was being trained by the founding member of Patiala Gharana, Ustab Ali Baksh along with Ustad Kale Khan of Patiala and Ustad Vazir Khan of Rampur. She also started learning Kathak from grand uncle of Pandit Birju Maharaj, the legendary Pandit Brindadin Maharaj. Her Dhrupad training started in parallel with Srijanbai and Bengali Keertan with Charan Das. She soon became proficient in Rabindra Sangeet and was writing with penname ‘Hamdam’.

Gauhar Jaan made her debut performance in the court of Dharbhanga Princely State (Bihar) at the age of 14 in 1887. She was soon appointed as the court musician. In 1896, she started performing in Calcutta and was called as ‘First Dancing Girl’ in her records.

In 1902, The Gramophone Company approached Gauhar Jaan to record India’s first ever record. This was a major milestone in Indian Music Industry and Gauhar Jaan became the pioneer, establishing her name in history for ever. She sang a Khayal in Raag Jogiya. The record format required the song to be 3 minute long. Gauhar Jaan developed this format for them. At the end of every song, she recited ‘My name is Gauhar Jaan’, which was a practice for records in those days. Gauhar Jaan charged Rs. 3000 per sitting, which was a huge sum in those days. F. W. Gaisberg, the owner of Gramophone Company noted that Gauhar never wore same jewels or dress twice. Even her motorcade was nothing less of royalty. Gauhar recorded more than 600 songs in 10 languages for them in next 18 years.

In 1910, she visited Madras for a concert in Victoria Public Hall. She impressed Tamils so much that her songs were translated and published in Tamil Music Books. By this time she was at the peak of her career. Next year, in 1911, King George V came to India for his coronation. Gauhar Jaan had the ultimate honour of performing during the coronation ceremony. She sang a duet ‘Ye hai Tajposhi ka Jalsa, Mubarak ho Mubarak ho’ with famous Jankibai of Allahabad.

Mallika-e-Ghazal, Padma Shri, Akhtari Bai Faizabadi, popularly known as Begum Akhtar was one the most famous Ghazal, Thumri and Dadra genres of Hindustani Classical Music. It is said that Akhtari Begum wanted to pursue her career in Hindi Films. But after listening to Gauhar Jaan, she gave up the idea of performing in films and started concentrating on Hindustani Classical Music. Gauhar Jaan’s Sarangi player, Ustad Imdaad Khan became Begum Akhtar’s first teacher.

14fr_jaan2_jpg_115741gGauhar Jaan lived a lavish lifestyle. Nazrana for 1 sitting was 1000-3000 Rs., which was an outlandish sum in those days. Some speculated that she made over 1cr back in early 1900s, making her the richest and one of the earliest Millionaires of India. She flaunted her money so much, that Rs. 12,000 was spent on her cat’s marriage and another 20,000 on a party, when her cat gave birth to kittens. When Gauhar went to perform in Datia, entire train was booked for her. Cook, Cook’s assistants, private Hakeem, Dhobi, Barber and dozens of her servants travelled with her. She was nothing less than a Diva of Divas. She decided to move out of Calcutta. She became court singer of Darbhanga, and later Rampur. From there, she moved to Bombay for a short period.

On 1st August 1928, Gauhar Jaan was appointed as the Palace Musician in the court of Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV of Mysore. In less than two years, as she turned 56, her financial state was bad. She had lost most of her money to the lavish lifestyle she kept. Her travel and lawsuits also cost her a fortune. While she was still respected, her patrons were reduced and the inflow of gifts and money had almost stopped. On 17th January 1930, Gauhar Jaan died almost penniless.

 

* This article was also published in NRI Achievers Magazine

Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal

Karol Bagh, the busy market of Delhi, has a hidden secret. The area is identified by Delhi’s new landmark, the huge Hanuman Statue next to Bagga Link Services. Right behind this Bagga Link, a small serpent road goes deep into the Southern Ridge of Delhi. As you advance few hundred meters on this road, a strange structure on your right will cast a spell on you.

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This structure is claimed to be the most haunted place in Delhi. There are no metal gates to be locked. The only thing that guards this massive structure is a note written at entrance, which tells people to not to come near this place after sunset.

I had an unofficial chat with one of the govt employees associated with this place. He told me that no security guard deployed by govt survived his job for more than 2-3 days. He added, “I don’t believe in all this, but there is something suspicious & scary here”.

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What is Bhooli Bhatiyari?

2Bhooli Bhatiyari (or Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal) is a Hunting Lodge built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq in 14th century. It has its resemblance with another of Feroz Tughlaq’s structure, ‘Malcha Mahal’. The structure is entered by a huge rubble masonry gate, which takes you to a small zone. Another doorway with corbelled arches welcomes you to the huge open square courtyard. On sides, we have rooms, used by people who stayed here during the hunting season. Towards north, it has a semi-circular structure accessed through a plight of stairs. On one corner, we have a modern toilet, which was built by Delhi Tourism in hope to promote this place. But it lies deserted as no govt guard was able to come near this place. We can imagine, that the hunters back in Tughlaq days could have seen the entire ridge from this mini-fortress.

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This structure also has those elements, which are commonly seen in Mosques and Palaces built by Junan Shah Tilangani.

On outside, the Lodge has bastions like a fort. The entire plan of this Lodge appears as if this was a safe house of the Emperor during some calamity.

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Why the name “Bhooli Bhatiyari”?

There are two theories behind this title. One theory suggests that this place, after the Tughlaq Dynasty, became abode of a sufi saint named ‘Bu Ali Bakhtiyari’. Bhooli Bhatiyari is simple a distorted form of his name. The other theory suggests that there was a Bhatiyarin (a tribal lady from Rajasthan), who forgot her way and ended up here. After her, the place became famous as ‘Bhooli Bhatiyari’.

Is it Haunted?

Personally, I never had any haunting experience at this place. I have been there alone, with family, friends and with huge groups during Photowalks. But perhaps the scaring spirits in this area don’t like me. The closest we went were when we were doing a Photowalk and 2 of our group members decided to drift away from the group. They went deep into jungle and tried to click a white wall that they saw. When they adjusted their cameras, standing next to the wall, they realized that the wall just vanished. They came back running to me and narrated the story.

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If you have experienced anything special here, do share with me.

Bhagat Singh, Martyr Vs. Reformer

Bhagat_Singh_1929_140x190Last 23rd March, all social media walls were flooded with patriotic messages, praising Bhagat Singh, who was hanged on this date for the murder of a British Officer. People have been flaunting T-Shirts with Bhagat Singh’s photograph printed on it and many have sported a Bhagat Singh sticker on their car bumpers. Many other changed their Facebook profile picture to Tricolor or Bhagat Singh’s portrait. Is this what Bhagat Singh really wanted? Was he just another revolutionist, who bombed British assembly, murdered an officer and kept on spreading non-violence? Why did he give himself, knowing that he will die, at a young age of 23?

Sardar Bhagat Singh was born in 1907 near Faislabad. He was one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian Freedom Struggle. British tried their best to suppress his voice. Even Gandhi stood openly against his style and is even alleged by some to be an active conspirator against him. Gandhi, during his lifetime, maintained that he is an admirer of Bhagat’s patriotism. However, many of Gandhi’s speeches hint otherwise. For example, Gandhi have been sending letters to British to save many other prisoners from hanging, but in case of Bhagat Singh, he sent a letter on the day of hanging, knowing that it can never reach viceroy on time. Also, Gandhi was strictly against the Capital Punishment in general. But after Bhagat Singh’s hanging, he said “The government certainly had the right to hang these men”.

What exactly did Bhagat Singh do to deserve all this?

After Independence, when the history books were being re-written, everything was re-painted in Gandhi style. People, who were not following the Gandhian philosophy did get a mention in books, but partially. Deeper facts were kept aside, to be unveiled by research scholars sometime in future. For example, what we read in schools is, Bhagat Singh was a patriot, who was devastated by the murder of Lala Lajpat Rai by British. To take a revenge, he, along with Rajguru, shot ASI Saunders in 1928. This murder was a case of mistaken identity, as Saunders was not involved in Lathi Charge on Lala Lajpat Rai. Original culprit was his superior James A. Scott. Chandershekhar Azad gave cover fire to Bhagat and Rajguru, so they can escape. Next year, Bhagat Singh decides to strike again. This time, the motive was not to kill anyone, but to give a jolt to this sleeping government. He, along with Batukeshwar Dutt, threw two bombs in Assembly, making sure that no one is hurt. Instead of escaping, they stood there and shouted “Inqlaab Zindabad” (Long live the Revolution). After the chaos was over, police was surprised to see them still standing and shouting. So they were arrested and put under trial. They were sentenced to life imprisonment. Later Rajguru & Sukhdev were also arrested and all were sentenced to death for killing a British officer. During his imprisonment, Bhagat Singh fought against the ill-treatment with prisoners. He also rose voice against the law, which deprived prisoners of reading and writing.

What I wrote above is all true. But it is just one side of coin. There is more to Bhagat Singh, which is part of history, but could not find space in major publications. The philosophy of Bhagat Singh is slowly surfacing with his growing popularity.

After killing Saunders, Bhagat Singh went into hiding. He came back without a turban and beard, so no one could recognize him. He joined Hindustan Republican Association (HRA). With his Marxist ideology, he turned HRA into Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). He undertook several reforming projects to ensure equality amongst all, even those imprisoned.

When Bhagat Singh was imprisoned in Mianwali Jail, he witnessed discrimination between Indian and European prisoners. He was able to convince other Indian prisoners to go on an indefinite hunger strike. British tried everything, from placing food items in cells to forcing milk/juice down their throats but strikers did not break. Political pressure was building, both inside and outside the prison. Ultimately, the British had to accept their demands of equal standards of food, clothing, hygiene and toiletries. They also had to accept the demand of accessibility of books and newspaper to political prisoners. Bhagat Singh then wrote several letters and a diary, which gives deeper insight on his philosophy.

Bhagat Singh called himself an Aethist. People, including his own family criticized him for being so. Few days before his hanging, he wrote a piece titled ‘Why I am an Atheist’ to answer all the criticism. He cleared that the fear of God has been created by humans to hide their weakness, limitations and shortcomings. If you turn Aethist, you are a stronger person, who can turn a revolution into success.

Bhagat Singh realized that mere road protests will not affect the Government. He believed that to achieve complete Independence (Poorna Swaraj), a much bigger shock is needed. He decided to give himself for the cause. He prepared a strategy and as the first step of that, he threw that non-lethal bomb in Assembly. He stood there to be arrested, so he can have better say in public. He defended himself in court and his speeches during case proceedings served as fuel for the independence movement. His letters from Jail, his diary and his protests done in Prison changed the way government functioned for ever. After Independence, when India’s new constitution was being written, inspired by the original British Constitution, some rules enforced by Bhagat Singh were incorporated. He even wrote to the British officer, stating that he should be shot and not hanged, as he is a war prisoner and should be treated like one. His death, as he expected, created news across the country and inspired every freedom fighter, to stand against the British.

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He was largely supported by mass during his time. Several leaders of Congress and other parties were in favour of Bhagat Singh, except Mahatma Gandhi.

Lover, lunatic and poet are made of the same stuff.
(First line in Bhagat Singh’s Jail Diary)

Kureh Khak hai Gardash main Tapash sai Meri ,
Main Voh majnu huan Jo Jindo’n main Bhee Azad Raha

{{Every tiny molecule of Ash is in motion with my heat,
I am such a Lunatic that I am free even in Jail}}
(Urdu lines from first page of Bhagat Singh’s Jail Diary)

The Ancient Clock–Jantar Mantar

On one fine day of 1719 AD, the courtiers of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah were having a heated argument about how to accurately calculate the auspicious date and time for Emperor’s travel plans. While they were fighting with each other, one member of the Mughal Durbar was sitting quietly, thinking, why don’t we have an instrument, which can give very accurate date and time. By this time, this courtier had decided that he will construct a high precision astronomical observatory.

0 Maharaja_Sawai_Jai_Singh_II_ca_1725_Jaipur._British_museumThis courtier was Saramad-i-Rajaha-i-Hind, Raj Rajeshwar, Shri Rajadhiraj, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, Maharaja of Amer (later Jaipur). He was an ally of Mughals and had great interest in mathematics, architecture and astronomy. After the debate in court, he held a discussion with the Mughal Emperor, and took his approval on constructing astronomical observatories.

Jai Singh was influenced primarily by the Islamic school of astronomy. He studied the work of the great astronomers. Early Greek and Persian observatories contained elements that Jai Singh incorporated into his designs, but the instruments of the Raja Jai Singh’s observatories, are more complex, or at a much greater scale than any that had come before, and in certain instances, are completely unique in design and function.

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The first observatory was built in Delhi. Some people argued that the observatory was built in 1710, but Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, author of Athar-us-Sanadid correctly calculated the date as 1724. Raja Jai Singh had his estate near Delhi, which was known as JaiSinghpura. This estate today comprises of area from foot-hill of Raisina to Janpath and parts of Connaught Place. His palace/haveli/bangla was used by 8th Sikh Guru and is today known as Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.

After this first observatory in Delhi, he built similar observatories in Jaipur, Benaras, Ujjain and Mathura. The Ujjain observatory was painfully demolished by land mafia. Out of other 4, only the largest sundial, the Jaipur observatory is operational because rest 3 are surrounded by high rise buildings or trees, thus obstructing sunlight. All these observatories are accurate to half of a second, which is better than European instruments available at that time.

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Originally, these observatories were called “Yantra” or “Yantar”. In many north Indian accents, people often pronounce “Y” as “J”. Thus, Yantar soon became Jantar. “Mantar” means a formula, or in this context, a calculation. Thus we get the present name for these observatories “Jantar Mantar”.

A Jantar Mantar complex constitutes of multiple ‘Yantras’ (instruments). Each instrument serves its own unique task. Instruments from the Delhi Jantar Mantar are::

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5Samrat Yantra (supreme instrument): is ‘an equinoctial dial. It comprises of a triangular gnomon with the hypotenuse parallel to the earth’s axis, and on either side of the gnomon is a quadrant of a circle parallel to the plane of the equator’.

Jai Prakash Yantra: This consists of two concave hemispherical structures to ascertain the position of the sun and other heavenly bodies. It has a long tower with stairs attached to it, from which, the experts would accurately calculate time.

4Ram Yantra: These are twin structures, circular in shape with pillar in centre. The walls and floor of which are graduated for reading horizontal (azimuth) and vertical (altitude) angles.

Misra Yantra (mishrit/mixed instrument): This combines multiple instruments in 1. These instruments are:

  • Niyata Chakra: Indicates the meridian at four places, two in Europe and one each in Japan and the Pacific Ocean; half on an equinoctial dial
  • Dakshinottara-bhitti-Yantra: This one is used for obtaining Meridian Altitudes
  • Karka-rasi-valaya Yantra: This instruments indicates the entry of the Sun in the Cancer

The Jaipur Jantar Mantar on the other hand, consists of 14 major instruments. These include the instruments from Delhi Observatory.

Each of the instrument is carefully angled at the latitude of the location where it is built. The height of each building and its marking are very carefully calibrated and an expert can predict eclipses, tell time, track stars and determine celestial altitudes and related ephemerides

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Jantar Mantars are instruments of high precision and excellent craftsmanship. Unfortunately, we have lost the art to modern clocks. However, we must respect the talent and hard work of our forefathers, who made the modern day possible.

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