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Smadhi of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia

Guest post by S. Gurdev Singh Rooprai

Image result for jassa singh ramgarhia 

It was the 11th of March in 1783, when 3 Misls of Sikhs, Karorsinghia Misl, Ahluwalia Misl, and the Ramgarhia Misl joined hands to conquer Delhi’s Red Fort. The campaign was led by Baba Baghel Singh of Karorsinghia Misl and after the victory, he started the construction of historical Gurudwaras on sites associated with Sikh Gurus in Delhi. While he was involved in that, S.Jassa Singh Ramgarhia also participated in that for some time, and while returning, he uprooted the Mughal Imperial throne, where Aurangzeb once sat and ordered the beheading of the 9th Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Teg Bahadur. This throne was taken to Amritsar, the seat of Ramgharias. It was installed in the Ramgharia Bunga in the periphery of the Golden Temple, and still rests there. Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was a great ruler, a skilled engineer and a great general. Punjab was divided into 12 Misls until Maharaja Ranjit Singh came and united all of them to form one country. These misls collaborated with each other from time to time, to protect the area from invaders like Abdali and even Mughals.

While reading about the glorious history of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, one question that popped into my mind was about the memorial (samadhi) of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. I have read nearly 20 books so far, written on his life by different authors. Most of them mention that after the demise of the Maharaja in 1803, his memorial cenotaph (Samadhi) was built by his son S. Jodh Singh (1757-1816), near the bank of river Beas in his capital of SriHargobindpur. The Samadhi has washed away due to flood sometime later and today, we have no trace left of it.

This bothered me because we know that S. Jodh Singh, besides being a great warrior, was also a skilled engineer like his father. How can he make the mistake of erecting a memorial in the flood zone of a fierce river?

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SriHargobindpur is a historic city on the banks of river Beas, in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab (India). The land for this was purchased by 5th Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji in 1587 from Rohillas. It was named Gobindpur at that time. Later, after his martyrdom, the town was captured by the Chandu’s relative with the support of Mughals. Chandu is the same Mughal Noble, who was instrumental in bringing the 5th Guru to his martyrdom. It was liberated by the 6th Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Hargobind Ji in 1629. The Guru then constructed a mosque for the Muslims and a Temple for the Hindus in the town. There is also a beautiful Gurudwara constructed later in the honor of the Guru. When the Guru liberated this town, the devoted sikh families started to settle here and the population of the town grew to 4000 and since then, it became famous with the name of SriHargobindpur.

After conquering Jalandhar Doab, Riarki, and nearby Hill kingdoms, S. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia started planning for a more stable empire and a full-fledged capital. Sri Hargobindpur was a perfect location from all aspects. It was at the optimum height from the river, had scenic beauty, and also safer than other towns, given its geographic situation. He then fortified the town, with 5 gates and made it the capital of his kingdom. As per a few records, by this time, the population of the town had reached nearly 20,000.

In February 2019, I made my maiden visit to this town and explored many historic landmarks. I also walked along the bank of river Beas. A few buildings inside the town exist but in dilapidated condition. Palace and Court of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia still stand, but a portion of Baradari and few rooms have caved in. Some structures are being restored now.

Along the bank of the river, there was no trace of the Samadhi. One major question that was bothering me that how can they construct the Samadhi of Maharaja outside the walls of the capital, against the medieval practice, and that too at the site, which was prone to frequent natural calamities. Perhaps, there is something that was not explored properly or is still hidden from researchers.

Tomb-JassaSinghRamgharia

The next day, I started exploring the streets of the fortified town. While roaming around, I stumbled upon an octagonal domed structure, some 300 yards eastwards of the Lahori Gate. It was inside a courtyard, locked from outside. I couldn’t see much from there, but the neighbors defined the building to me. I returned to Amritsar and started reading about samadhi architecture.

In a couple of months, I returned to the site with more information on the Samadhi architecture in this belt. This time, another learned person from the town accompanied me to this compound. Luckily, we found the gate open. As we entered, the samadhis built in Punjab (both India and Pakistan) started flashing before my eyes. This building was exactly the same.

Tomb-JassaSinghRamgharia-sideTomb-JassaSinghRamgharia-DoorTomb-JassaSinghRamgharia-Inside

Tomb-JassaSinghRamgharia-PanelFor several years, the family of Gauri Shankar is living in this compound. But they do not possess any legal documents for the ownership. Within this compound, in a corner, we have this octagonal building in a 15’ X 15’ block. The walls are 12’ high and have a dome on top of it. The building is made of Nanakshahi bricks and contains stone jalis on each side. Arches and decorative elements on the wall exhibit the excellent craftsmanship of the era. Each wall is about 3’ thick and the building has a single door on one side. Walls also have alcoves in them. To the right of the door, there is a tiny staircase leading to the upper level, which has an opening in the middle of about 3’ diameter. The stucco work on the exterior is almost gone and building up to 4’ from the ground is crying desperately for restoration.

In front of this octagonal building, at a distance of some 15’, there is a small well, which has been excluded from the compound with a low boundary wall. The well is also of small nanakshahi bricks and has an empty cavity, which at one point of time, contained a slab bearing the name of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. Some people informed me that a while ago, few men vandalized the slab and one major reference to the site were lost forever.

Samadh-JodhSinghThis building is neither a gurudwara nor a palace. It matches the Sikh Tombs built in Punjab, on both sides of the Indo-Pak border. For example, the memorials in Pothohar in Pakistan. The area of Fateh Jung village contains few cenotaphs/tombs, which has artwork on the inside. In the Maha Singh Bagh of Lahore, we have the Samadhi of Sardar Maha Singh father of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Near the Baradari of Lahore, we have the Samadhi of Maharaja Sher Singh. In village Mangat, district Mandi Bahauddin, Pakistan, we have the Sikh Samadhis. In India, we have Samadhi of Shahid Baba Mangal Singh in village Mughal, District TaranTaran, Punjab. Also, the tombs of the Sodhi family in the Guru-Harsahai area of Ferozpur. The samadhis of General Fateh Singh (from the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh)and his family in Amritsar. Samadhi of Bhai Desa Singh near Gurdwara Baba Atal Ji and Samadhi of S. Jodh Singh son of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia inside the compound of Gurdwara of Baba Deep Singh Ji at Amritsar (in pic). All these are perfect examples of the Sikh Samadhi architecture. Even the memorials of Baba Atal Jee and Baba Deep Singh jee in Amritsar are octagonal and small. Later larger Gurudwaras were constructed around them.

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(left: Samadh of Bhai Desa Singh, Amritsar. Right: A dilapidated Samadh in Amritsar)

Samadhi-AmritsarSamadhi-Amritsar-Inside1Samadhi-Amritsar-Inside2

(Samadh of General Fateh Singh, Amritsar, and imagery inside it)

It is a matter of consideration that S. Jodh Singh Ramgarhia, being a skilled engineer, cannot choose a site in the flood plains of a river for the construction of his father’s memorial. History suggests that even S. Hari Singh Nalwa used to consult him while making forts and check posts at Jamrud, Pakistan.

Memorials of other family members of the Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia have already been traced to sites, where they died. Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was the only person to die in SriHargobindpur in 1803 A.D. and therefore, his tomb has to be within the walls of the city. Since this is the only building that exists, matching the tomb architecture, it has to be the building, that the Ramgarhia community has been looking for.

I would urge the government machinery and private organizations, or individuals, who care for heritage, to step up and try to save this historic structure. Even a little more delay can result in permanent loss of this piece of heritage.

– Gurdev Singh Rooprai.

Lohri – The Harvest Festival

Originally posted in NRI Achievers Magazine

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As the Sun travels towards south on the celestial sphere, the Dakshinayana Period is observed as per ancient Indian philosophy. This period starts from Karka Sankranti (Cancer) on July 16 and goes till January, which is celebrated as Makar Sankranti (Capricorn). In western world, this transition from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana is known as Winter Solstice. In simpler words, Winter Solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year. This event is celebrated across globe and all ancient cultures mark it as one of the most important days of the year. Let’s have a look:

It has been proven that the Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland have their primary axes carefully aligned on a line of sight pointing to winter solstice Sunset and Sunrise respectively. These monuments were sites of worship and celebration.

In Northern Europe, a 12-day winter solstice is celebrated in form of a festival called ‘Yule’. Many modern day Christmas traditions and practices are inherited from this festival.

Traditionally, the Winter Solstice in European region is celebrated on 25th December. In Asia, it is celebrated few weeks later, on 13th/14th January. This period is also the period of harvest and of utmost importance for all cultures, that depend on agriculture.

The Julian calendar starts from 14th January and the Russian Orthodox church still celebrates it as the Old New Year. This Julian new year, aka Orthodox new year is also celebrated in many European & African countries including Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, Moldova, Ukraine, Wales, Switzerland, Scotland, Herzegovina, Morocco, Libya and Montenegro. In many regions, it is also known as Little Christmas. Traditions in some of these countries are similar to how we celebrate in South Asia, especially the Bonfire.

Now let’s talk about South Asia. Being primarily into Agriculture, this festival of Harvest is one of the most important festivals in region. Hindu Tradition celebrates this date as Makar Sankranti. The Punjab region calls it Maghi. Instead of celebrating it on exact date of Winter Solstice, festival is observed on the last day of month, in which Winter Solstice occurs. Technically, this celebration is the passing of winter solstice and harvest. Maghi or Makar Sankranti is also seen as the start of new financial year. The new year’s eve is celebrated as Lohri in North India. If we look at the geographic position of North India, 13th January is the day every year, after which sunrise starts to happen earlier every morning until June, when this cycle reverses.

Global Economy used to rely on Barter System for ages. My mother tells me that her grandfather used to repair tools and equipment used by farmers. For most of the repairs, he was not paid. But during harvest, every farmer in village would come to gift a share of their crop. There were special store rooms and silos, where this harvest was kept. The extra stuff was sold to get money for rest of the year and silos were always full for food till next harvest season. In such happy times, it was obvious that many traditions were born. For example, before Lohri, children would go from door to door asking for treats. Kite flying, participating in fairs and dance is the most common of all. Since the Lohri night would be the longest night of year, everyone would gather around a bonfire and spend time singing, dancing, celebrating and hoping for better time ahead.

As we know, men used to work in farms. A boy born in any house that year becomes more important for families, as he would grow up to support in Agriculture. Lohri slowly became a festival, where families would celebrate the birth of a boy. The tradition still continues.

A very interesting character associated with this festival of Lohri is Rai Abdulla Bhatti, popularly known as Dulla Bhatti in Pakistan and Northern India. He was a Muslim Rajput, born to Farid and Ladhi in Pindi Bhattian same day as Prince Salim (later Emperor Jahangir) was born to Akbar. Someone prophesized that Salim would survive only if he is nursed by a Rajput woman. Hence, Emperor Akbar invited Ladhi to be the wet nurse of his beloved ‘Shekhu’ (as he called him). Despite of the fact that Ladhi’s husband and father-in-law rebelled against Akbar’s land revenue law (Zabt System) and died fighting against the throne, this decision was taken keeping in mind that Ladhi comes from the bravest Rajput Muslims families of region. Another reason of this diplomatic decision was to keep a check on her and her son Dulla, so he cannot be a rebel like his father and grandfather. But Dulla Bhatti kept his family legacy and became the local hero, the Robin Hood of Punjab. He rebelled against Mughal court, looted from the rich noblemen and distributed everything amongst the poor. He was known to support poor girls and arrange for their marriages with heavy dowry. Since the Zabt System of Akbar and his finance minister Todar Mal took away the land of many landlords, they were all supporting Dulla Bhatti. These landlords had no money left and Dulla became their biggest support for survival. Fearing that more and more people are joining Dulla, Akbar had to shift his capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Lahore for several years. Ultimately, he was arrested and executed publically by Mughals, in the Landa Bazaar of Lahore. But his legacy remained in the form of folklores and every Lohri, tales of his bravery are sung, blessing sons to be as brave as him. The most popular folk-song, attributed to him is:

Sunder mundriye ho! Tera kaun vicharaa ho!
Dullah Bhatti walla ho! Dullhe ne dhee vyayae ho!
Ser shakkar payee ho! Kudi da laal pattaka ho!
Kudi da saalu paata ho! Salu kaun samete ho!
Chacha gaali dese ho! Chache choori kutti ho!
zamidara lutti ho! Zamindaar sudhaye ho!
Ke Gin Gin bhole aaye ho!
Ek bhola reh gaya! Sipahee far ke lai gaya!
Sipahee ne mari itt! Bhaanvey ro te bhaanvey pitt!
Sanoo de de Lohri, te teri jeeve jodi!

This festival of harvest is known with different names in different parts of the country. From Pongal to Bihu and from Bhogi to Lal Loi, the celebration of winter solstice has its own charm and different folklores to tell. The stories shall remain alive in our hearts, as long as we continue to embrace our past.

108 – The Magic Number

108-Pentagon

Most religions originated from India consider 108 as a sacred number. The beads of prayer rosary count up to 108. Vedic scholars gave so much importance to ‘108’, that it practically reflects in all auspicious things. Many temples reflect this number in their design. But why is this number so important? Let us answer this question from different aspects.

The most important aspect is Astronomy. Number 108 is well explained in the work of legendary astronomer Varha Mihir (505-587 CE). He was one of the nine jewels of King Yashodharman Vikramaditya of Malwa, with his capital in Ujjain. Varaha Mihir, established an observatory in Mihirapuri. Some accounts suggest, the area known as Mihirapuri is now called “Mehrauli” (A locality in Delhi). Out of several notable works of Mihir, the most important was ‘Panch Siddhantika’ (literally: 5 Treatise). It is more of a summary of earlier astronomical works. The first siddhant (out of 5) is the Surya Siddhanta, where he talks about using Sunlight to perform various calculations. In one of the experiments, it is stated that if one measures the shadow casted by a long pole on a particular day (equinox) at a particular time (noon), and apply the formula given, s/he can obtain the diameter of sun and distance between sun and earth. It may not be just a coincidence that a pillar of wootz steel is standing in Qutub Complex. (Area around Qutub Complex is considered to be the site, where Varah Mihir once had his observatory and school. Also, Wootz Steel was developed in Vidisha, from where Mihir comes). Surya Siddhanta mentions that distance between earth and sun is approximately 108 times the diameter of sun. Similar calculation exists between earth and moon. This is what modern research tells:

Diameter of Sun: 1.391016 million Km.
Average Distance between Sun and Earth: 149.6 million Km.
Calculation as per Surya Siddhanta: 1.391016 X 108 = 150 Kms.

Diameter of Moon: 3,474 Kms.
Average Distance between Moon and Earth: 384,400 Kms.
Calculation as per Surya Siddhanta: 3473 X 108 = 375,192 Kms.

Further, Atharvaveda divides the ecliptic into 27 houses or mansions, and calls them ‘Nakshatras’. Each of these 27 Nakshatras cover 13°20’ of the ecliptic. Further, each Nakshatra is divided into 4 quarters (padas). 27 X 4 = 108. Hence, 108 represents the complete ecliptic.

These 27 Nakshatras are: Kṛttikā (the Pleiades), Rohinī (Aldebaran), Mrigashīrsha, Ārdrā (Betelgeuse), Punarvasu, Pushya, Asleshā, Maghā (Regulus), Purva phalguni, Uttara phalguni (Denebola), Hasta, Chitrā (Spica), Svāti (Arcturus), Vishākhā, Anurādhā, Jyeshthā, Mūla, Purva ashadha, Uttara ashadha, Shravana, Dhanishta, Satabhishak (Sadachbia), Purva bhadrapada, Uttara bhadrapada, Revati, Ashvini, Bharani.

Next, Indian Vedas suggest that Sun is the master, and has 12 zodiac signs. Sun is also related with Lord Brahma, which is represented with number 9. 9 X 12 = 108.

As per Hindu belief, Lord Shiva has 108 Mukhya Shivganas (attendants), with Lord Ganesha as their leader. The Gaudiya Vaishnavism believes that Lord Krishna has 108 Gopis. The Sri Vaishnavite tradition has 108 temples of Vishnu. There are 108 Upnishads. Indian Tantra system suggests that we breath 21,600 times in a day, out of which 10,800 are solar energy and 10,800 are lunar energy. That is 100 times 108. Natya Shastra of Rishi Bharat has 108 Karanas (movements of hands and feet).

In Jainism, there are 108 ways of Karma influx.
4 Kashays (anger, pride, conceit, greed)
3 karanas (mind, speech, bodily action)
3 stages of planning (planning, procurement, commencement)
3 ways of execution (own action, getting it done, support/approval)
4 X 3 X 3 X 3 = 108

Japanese tradition says that there are 108 earthly temptations, a person must overcome to achieve nirvana. In Taoism, there are 108 lords.

Buddhism believes that there are 108 feelings. This number is reached by multiplying 6 senses (smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight, and consciousness) with the 3 types (painful, pleasant and neutral). It is further multiplied by the factor ‘internally generated’ or ‘externally affected’ and with the time period – Past, present or Future. So 6 X 3 X 2 X 3 = 108.

Even Christianity mentions the number 108. According to one belief, from Soul’s day (November 2) to Christmas (December 25), there are 54 days and 54 nights. This can also be translated to 54 positive and 54 negative units. In this sense, Number 108 (54 + 54) would symbolize the progress from darkness to the light. According to some texts, Jesus had 108 disciples (excluding apostles).

According to Ayurveda, there are 108 pressure points in the human body. There are 108 energy lines converging to heart chakra.

There are 54 letters in Sanskrit. Each having a masculine and a feminine form (Shiva and Shakti). 54 X 2 = 108.

There are many branches of martial arts, that have 108, or its factors as some significant element. In most cases, there are 108 steps to certain technique, or 108 techniques in total.

Interestingly, at 108 Fahrenheit, the human body’s vital organs begin to fail from overheating.

There are 108 lies a human can tell, 108 desires a mortal can have and 108 delusions, that a man encounters.

 

…. And, 108 is the emergency number in India.

Athar-us-Sanadid by Sir Syed

It is said, that history is written by the victors. This makes the role of Historians doubtful. However, there are cases where certain facts are available and mentioned by multiple authors/travellers, yet, some historians fail to interpret them correctly.

When I started studying Delhi’s monuments, I was told to read Athar-us-Sanadid by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. We all know Sir Syed as a reformer and founder of various educational institutions in India. His contribution to the field of education cannot be ignored and at the same time, he was also instrumental in devising various acts, that still influence the constitution of India. He also has a very huge list of religious and academic work to his credit.

His work, Athar-us-Sanadid is one of the oldest compilation of Delhi’s monuments and is regarded as the oldest bible of Delhi’s heritage. I had to learn Urdu to read that book, only to find that Prof. R. Nath had translated his book decades ago. However, now that I can read Sir Syed’s work, I spent quality time reading and analysing it. There were few things that did not make any sense, but being new to this field, I felt as if challenging Sir Syed’s work would be blasphemy.

As I read more, I realized that Sir Syed’s work has numerous flaws. I have read several pages and I would like to use this post for a detailed discussion on his work:

What is Athar-us-Sanadid?

Athar-us-Sanadid is Urdu work, originally published in 1846. It was the first attempt of any Indian author to present Delhi’s heritage in vernacular language. The original work was divided into 4 parts, covered in about 600 pages. The work was presented in the Asiatic Society, London, where they requested it to be translated to English. Sir Syed and Mr. Roberts, the district magistrate of Shahjahanabad started its translation. It was then, when they found that this original work is full of flaws and is not organized properly. Sir Syed had to stall the translation and fix the flaws. In the preface of second edition, Sir Syed mentions “The original work was then found to be insufficient and full of defects, and the need to re-write it afresh in order to remove those drawbacks was realized. Hence the translation work was postponed and the book was re-written afresh.

However, I feel that even in this second edition of 1854, many of the flaws were not fixed, perhaps, new were introduced.

Flaws in Athar-us-Sanadid

This Blog post will get too long if I were to discuss every page of Athar-us-Sanadid. However, to spark the conversation let me point out following things:

  1. About Qutub Minar, Sir Syed mentions that the first door of minaret faces Northward, as the hindus always have it, whereas Mohammedans always have it eastward.
    Fact: Direction of gate depends on many factors in Hindu Vastu Kala. We have numerous temples facing West, East or South. Also, It is not important that Muslims buildings face eastward. We have strong examples from Feroz Shah Kotla, Khirki, Bijai Mandal and few others. Even Taj Mahal has entry from South.
  2. More about Qutub Minar, he mentions that it is customary for Hindus to commence building without any platform. But mohamedans first make a platform and then erect the building.
    Fact: There is only 1 temple (brick temple near Kanpur), that I am aware of, where we do not have a platform. All other Hindu buildings are made with a platform. Take Temples, or even if we talk about towers, take example of Kirti Stambh in Chhittorgarh. Platform is an important element everywhere and has a strong significance in Vastu Shastra.
  3. Sir Syed mentions that the first level of Qutub Minar was made by Prithvi Raj Chauhan (Rai Pithora, as he mentions), but his conclusion is majorly based on above two points, which we know, were written without gathering proper information about Hindu architecture.
  4. Sir Syed attributes talks about Indraprastha and says that King Indra (the god of rain) distributed pearls in this area and hence it is called Indraprastha. Kind Indra, the king of sky is also the king of this land.
  5. Sir Syed attributes King Anangpal Tomar with the construction of Old Fort.
    Fact: Anangpal built Lal Kot of Mehrauli and not Old Fort. Ain-i-Akbari mentions this fort as Kaurav-Pandav ka Qila. The present fort was built by Sher Shah Suri. On reading complete description of Sir Syed, I realized that he mixed up Lal Kot and Shergarh
  6. Sir Syed mentions that Qila Rai Pithora was built in 1143 AD.
    Fact: Prithvi Raj Chauhan was born in 1149 AD
  7. Sir Syed mentions at one place that Mehrauli is called so because of ‘Meher-i-Wali’. Wali here is refered to Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki
    Fact: Mehrauli is a corruption of Mihirapuri. The name finds mention in Jain Pattawalis and in records of several travellers, who came to the observatory of Varah Mihir, which was in Mihirapuri (now Mehrauli).

I want to mention several more, but the post will become very long. I may keep adding information to same blog in future, if required.

Please feel free to correct me, if I am wrong. And in case you have better information to add, please use the comments section below.

Ramayana

Maharishi ValmikiRatnakar, a robber once tried to rob sage Narad. It was a routine job for him, to kill and rob travelers. But this time was different. Narad asked him, you do all this for your family, but will your family also share the load of your sins. This left Ratnakar deep thinking. He checked with his family and to his surprise, they did not agree to share the burden of his sins, regardless of the luxuries it provided. At this, Ratnakar asked Narad to teach him the right path. Narad told him the story of Lord Ram and also said, you should chant God’s name. But the name he gave was ‘Mara’ (means dead). So Ratnakar started meditating and chanting MARA-MARA-MARA…MA.RA.MA.RA.MA.RAMA.RAMA.RAM….RAM-RAM-RAM-RAM……

His chant soon became Lord Ram’s Name. But by the time he could master his worship, he was buried deep in anthills. When he reached the divine stage, the holy voice from heaven told him to rise and gave him a new name: Valmiki (means Ant-hill in Sanskrit).

This robber turned into the biggest saint of all times. It is said that when Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya, he had to disown his pregnant wife. His wife, Sita, took shelter at Sage Valmiki’s ashram. Rishi Valmiki also wrote the famous epic Ramayana and taught it to Sita’s children, Luv and Kush, which they recited in Ram’s court. That’s how their father Ram recognized them and momentarily reunited with his wife Sita.

Since then, hundreds of versions of Ramayan have been written. While most are mere translations, some were written from scratch, according to regional beliefs. The biggest challenge has been that the original Ramayana story was told to Valmiki by Narad and then passed to Luv and Kush. The original text was lost long back but it did travel orally to different regions and cultures. Saints and Poets from all across tried to interpret the epic in their local language. During this interpretation and translation from oral traditions, many aspects of the story were changed. However, one common and most important thing remains constant in all versions: Ramayana is actually a compilation of teaching of ancient Hindu sages. It presents these teachings in a nice narrative, where each character, starting from Lord Rama to Ravana and Sugreev are fundamental to cultural consciousness of the region, where Hinduism was prevailing.

Most importantly, Ramayana is not restricted to Hinduism. Muslims of South India incorporated the message of Ramayana in their poems and the work is called Mappillapattu or Muslim Ramayana. Jains have their own version of Ramayana, where Lakshmana kills Ravana instead of Rama, for which he is pushed to hell along with Ravana. Rama is characterized an upright person who at the end sacrifices his kingdom, becomes a Jain monk and attains Moksha. They also believe that Ravana will one day be born as a Jain Tirthankara.

The Buddhist version is much different from others. Here, King Dashrath was ruling Banaras (Varanasi) and not Ayodhya. He gave birth to Ram, Laxman, and Sita through his first wife. To save these siblings from his second wife, he sent the trio to Himalayas. 12 year later they come and now Ram and Sita became consorts and ruled the kingdom. Interestingly, abduction of Sita has no mention in this version.

Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th spiritual master of Sikhs also wrote the story of Ram in his bani ‘Ath Chaubees Avatar’ in Sri Dasam Granth. Even Guru Granth Sahib mentions characters and message of Ramayana at several places. ‘Salok Mahalla 9’ in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, written by Guru Teg Bahadur (9th Sikh guru) says:

Ram gayo, raavan gayo, jaako bahu parivaar, Kahu nanak thir kichh nahi, supne jiyo sansaar’. Means, both Ram and Ravan, who had such big family left this mortal world. Nanak says, nothing is stable. This world is like a dream.

Interestingly, while over 300 versions of Ramayana exist, Maharishi Valmiki is said to have written two versions himself. The other version is called ‘Adbhut Ramayana’, where after killing 10-headed demon Ravana, Lord Rama travels to Pushkar to kill his elder brother, the 1000-headed Ravana. Later in this narration, Sita transforms into Goddess Mahakali or Shakti. The best part is that even Lord Ram prays to Goddess Shakti with 1008 divine names, which glory the virtues and attributes of the Goddess.

Rishi Ved VyasRishi Ved Vyasa also authored a version of Ramayana, where an entire episode of maid Mantara provoking Queen Kaikayi to send Ram to exile was not an act of cruelty. Goddess Saraswati came as Mantara to play her part in the larger drama of destiny. Ram was born to remove the evils of Ravana, hence Saraswati helped the situation. Since Ram knew of the abduction of Sita, he ensured that Sita had her illusion born of fire in place. Here, all characters and their acts are portrayed as spiritual messages.

 

 

In Sri Lanka, the version of Ramayana depicts Ravana as Hero. Malaysian version places Dashratha as the grandson of prophet Adam and Ravana receives boons from Allah. Also, Laxman is a hero instead of Ram. In Thai version, Sita is the daughter of Ravana and Mandodry, while Hanuman is the main hero, instead of Ram or Laxman. Despite all these variations, the core message of humanity and spirituality remains same.

India’s Uncle Sam

This article originally appeared in NRI Achievers Magazine October 2016 Issue

Field_marshal_SHFJ_ManekshawAmerican Uncle Sam is famous across globe. India had her own Uncle Sam, who came from a Parsi family and was once the most powerful man in country. He was popularly known as Sam Bahadur and made India proud at many fronts. This article is about Padma Vibhushan Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, the commander in chief of Indian Army.

Born on 3rd April, 1914 to Captain Dr. Hormusji Manekshaw and Hilla in Amritsar, Sam was 5th of 6 children. He completed his education from Amritsar and from Nainital and joined Sherwood College. Wanting to become a gynaecologist, he requested his father to send him to London. But his father refused. He was unhappy with this and in those days, Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode was in process of setting up the Indian Military Academy. As an act of rebellion, Sam became part of IMA’s first intake against his father’s will.

During his IMA days, he appeared to be the most witty and notorious cadet. He had many firsts credited to his name like the first Gentleman Cadet (GC) to be awarded an extra drill and first GC to ask for a weekend leave. He was one of the first 22 cadets to graduate from IMA and commissioned as Second Lieutenants on 1st February 1935. Along with him, Muhammed Musa and Smith Dun also graduated, who later became the Army chiefs of Pakistan and Burma respectively, while Sam Bahadur took over as 8th Army Chief of India. General Manekshaw also became the first Indian Field Marshal.

Sam Manekshaw has always been the most outspoken and witty officer. Some of his statements have become history. Here are few:

1. On June 8, 1969, on the centenary of Sherwood College, speaking of his days at college, Sam said “College had prepared me for war in World War II as I learnt here to live alone and independently, to fight without relent, tolerate hunger for long periods and to hate my enemy.”

2. Speaking of Indian Army’s Gurkha Regiment (which he joined after passing out IMA), Sam said: “If anyone tells you he is never afraid, he is a liar or he is a Gurkha”.

3. When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked about readiness of Indian Army for 1971 war, he said “I am always ready sweetie”

4. One of his most apt comment was on politicians, when he said “I wondehe said “n politicianssidleger and then moved to Nainital and joined Sherwood College. This article is about most powerr whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of the defence of the country can distinguish a mortar from a motor; a gun from a howitzer; a guerrilla from a gorilla, although a great many resemble the latter.”

5. During 1962 Indo-China war, Indian soldiers were retreating and Sam Bahadur was sent to command this army. He reached there and said: “Gentlemen, I have arrived and there will be no withdrawal without written orders and these orders shall never be issued.”

6. During Indira Gandhi’s tenure, there was a rumour that Army has grown so big that they will soon takeover. Prime Minister called Manekshaw and asked her about these rumours. Sam looked into her eyes and said: “You mind your own business and I mind mine. Your kiss your own sweetheart and I’ll kiss mine. I don’t interfere politically, as long as nobody interferes with me in the army.”

7. Manekshaw was his with 7 bullets during a battle and when he was taken to hospital, doctor tried to engage him in a conversation. He asked Sam what happened, to which he replied in his own witty style: “I was kicked by a donkey.”

8. He said “Pakistan would have won the 1971 war” when some reported asked him, what if he would have joined Pakistan along with the regiment he was serving in 1947.

9. In Mizoram, there was an armed conflict and the commanding officer was avoiding it. General Manekshaw sent him a pack of bangles with a note that read: “If you are avoiding contact with the hostile, give these to your men to wear.” The commanding officer then decided to get into battle with his unit and returned victorious. He was then presented with another note from the General that read “Send the bangles back.”

10. Indira Gandhi wanted to go on a war with Pakistan immediately but Manekshaw was asking for few months of preparation. When the ministers sitting in meeting pressurised him to get into action immediately, he protested verbally. Mrs. Gandhi requested everyone to step out of room and had a dialogue with Sam Manekshaw in private. As everyone left, Sam said: “Prime Minster, before you open your mouth, would you like me to send in my resignation on grounds of health, mental or physical?”

11. Before partition, Yahya Khan was working with Manekshaw in same unit. He purchased Sam’s motorcycle for Rs. 1000, which was never paid. During 1971 war, Yahya Khan was the president of Pakistan. After India stood victorious and Bangladesh was born, Manekshaw said: “Yahya never paid me the Rs. 1000 for my motorbike, but now he has paid with half his country.”

12. General Sam wanted to ensure that Indian Army never indulges in the brutal trends of victorious armies to spoil and dishonour the women of defeated land. So he instructed his men during 1971 war that “When you see a begum, keep your hands in pocket and think of Sam.” As a result, there was not even a single case of robbing/dishonouring by Indian Army.

13. When some ministers in a meeting objected that Sam always address Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister and not as ‘madam’, he reminded them that the title ‘madam’ is reserved for the head lady of a brothel.

 

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Although Sam was one of the most powerful, brave and jolly general we had, his style of speaking to politicians made some of our leaders uncomfortable. As a result, he was denied all the post-retirement privileges and was not even given due salary. It was only after President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam met him and ensured that his arrears of 30 years are cleared and he was then presented a cheque of Rs. 1.3 crore. On June 27, 2008, at the age of 94, Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw passed away in Military Hospital in Wellington (Tamil Nadu) due to complications from Pneumonia. He was put to rest in Parsi cemetery in Ooty, but his funeral was not attended by any politician or even military top brass.

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.

Powalgarh

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

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”.

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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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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.

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“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.

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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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