Our Heritage

Blog about Heritage, Monuments, Ruins and much more…

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”.


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…


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…





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.


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”.


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.


“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 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.



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.


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”.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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::


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


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.


Mirza Najaf Khan Baloch

Mirza Najaf Khan Baloch

That night of 1736, a family with royal blood in their veins, ran into the forest to save the remaining members from brutal invasion of Nader Shah. Some of them survived and continued living in the Balochistan province, which now falls in Pakistan. Some say, this family was from the Safvid Dynasty of Persia. God had a different plan for two siblings from this family. Khadija Sultan Begum Sahiba, the daughter of family, born at Isfahan (Persia) in 1732 later became the third wife of Izzat-ud-Daula, Nawab Mohd. Muhsin Khan Bahadur, the eldest son of Mirza Ja’afar Khan Beg, nawab of Oudh. Nawab Muhsin was deputed as special ambassador to the Shah of Persia. Khadija Sultan Begum Sahiba’s elder brother, Mirza Najaf was a young adventurer. He could not save his family from Nader Shah, but the warrior in him never allowed him to rest. He joined the court of Oudh (Awadh) and with time, rose to power, as the Deputy Wazir of Oudh. He became popular with the name of Mirza Najaf Khan Korai Baloch, but at the time of death, his full name with title was:

His Excellency, Bakshi ul-Mamlikat, Vakil-i-Mutlaq,
Amir ul-Umara, Rustam-i-Hind, Zulfiqar ud-Daula,
Nawab Mirza Najaf Khan Bahadur,
Ghalib Jang


The Mughal General

The Mughal FlagNajaf Khan is known as the most powerful Mughal General, during the dying days of dynasty. He strengthened the Mughal army by introducing better battle formation and weapons. He is also known for the introduction of ‘Firelock’ musket into the Mughal Army. He fought under the Mughal flag in the famous Battle of Buxar in 1764. During this battle, he was part of the Oudh Army. Later, in 1772, he was moved to Delhi to serve as the highest commander of the Mughal Army. He served this rank only for a decade, which was enough for him to streamline the soldiers and train them with better techniques.

His army had around 90,000 highly trained soldiers and 250 canons. Soldiers were paid timely premium salaries to ensure the best out of them. In times, when Mughal court was not very strong, Mirza Najaf Khan managed to keep the loyalty and moral of soldiers high. It was his vision and expertise, that made Mughal army one of the strongest in country. Even Frenchmen and other European soldiers found their way into his army.


Najafgarh-GateMirza Najaf Khan realized that after British (who were more like allies than enemies now), the biggest threat is from Rohillas and Sikhs. He marched several kilometers away from the capital of Shahjahanabad to establish a military outpost, which would guard Delhi against such attacks. He built a strong fort, known as Najafgarh. Today, only one gate of this fort survives. Some say that the Stable and Mosque also survived, but are now being used as some government buildings within the Najafgarh town.

Today, Najafgarh is the most populous constituency in Delhi. Some prominent personalities, other than Najaf Khan, that belong to Najafgarh are:

  • Chaudhry Brahm Prakash Yadav, first chief minister of Delhi
  • Sushma Yadav, first female general secretary of Delhi Pradesh Congress committee and first secretary of All India Mahila Congress
  • Virender Sehwag, cricketer
  • Rajbir Yadav, Alderman of South Delhi MCD
  • Jitender Yadav, Mr. India
  • Many other noted athletes and army officers

Najafgarh is also known for the battle of Battle of Najafgarh, fought during the siege of Delhi in 1857. After the death of Najaf Khan, the (fort of) Najafgarh became a stronghold of Zabita Khan, the Rohilla Afghan chief.

Death and Aftermath

Mirza Najaf Khan Baloch died on April 26, 1782 in Delhi. He left behind an adopted son named Najaf Quli Khan (Not8 to be confused with the Quli Khan buried in Mehrauli Archaeological Park, behind Qutub Minar). It is said that his son had converted from Hinduism. He was nowhere close to the strength and talent of Najaf Khan Baloch and could not succeed him.


Grave of Najaf Khan Baloch

His Tomb is probably the last Charbagh of Delhi. It is an unfinished structure, with only the crypt connected to four corridors. The platform on top contains a rough cenotaph. A proper building must have been in plans but during the dying days of empire, there was no one to finish the project. This brave soldier rests in a corner opposite the Safdarjung Airport.


In less than 12 months of his demise, Delhi was attacked by Baba Baghel Singh Dhaliwal. The Red Fort was captured and emperor had to run away. He entered Delhi through a hole in wall near Kashmere Gate, where his 30 thousand soldiers had camped (We still call that place tees-hazari). “Hole” in punjabi is known as “Mori”. Some claim that Mori Gate is named because of that hole made by Sikhs. He was supported by soldiers from the armies of Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgharia and Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. As they captured the Red Fort, Maharaja Jassa Singh Ahluwalia reached Delhi and Baba Baghel Singh decided to install him as the Emperor of Delhi. This was protested by S. Jassa Singh Ramgharia and S. Ahluwalia voluntarily stepped down before coronation. The Mughal Emperor then sent Lady Sombre (Begum Samru) to Delhi to strike a deal between Sikhs and Mughals. A treaty was signed and Delhi was released by Sikhs. In some future article, I shall detail out the treaty, and how Sikhs Shrines of Delhi were given to Sikhs as a barter.

In next 5 years, the Mughal Army seized to exist. Mirza Najaf Khan Korai Baloch was the Last Brave commander of Mughal Army.

– Vikramjit Singh Rooprai

The Radcliffe Award

This award, given to India in the form of “Radcliffe Line”, was the most bloody and painful gift ever. The Prime Minister Clement Attlee of the United Kingdom stood in London Parliament on 20th February 1947 and announced:

  1. British Government would grant full self-government to British India by June 1948 at the latest,
  2. The future of Princely States would be decided after the date of final transfer is decided.

On June 3rd 1947, Lord Mountbatten, then Viceroy of British India proposed the following plan:

  1. Principle of Partition of India was accepted by the British Government
  2. Successor governments would be given dominion status
  3. Implicit right to secede from the British Commonwealth

This plan got Royal Assent from King Geroge VI of England on 18th July 1947 as the “Indian Independence Act 1947”. It was “An Act to make provision for the setting up in India of two independent Dominions, to substitute other provisions for certain provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935, which apply outside those Dominions, and to provide for other matters consequential on or connected with the setting up of those Dominions.

The Act’s stated that:

  • division of British India into the two new and fully sovereign dominions of India and Pakistan, with effect from 15 August 1947;
  • partition of the provinces of Bengal and Punjab between the two new countries;
  • establishment of the office of Governor-General in each of the two new countries, as representatives of the Crown;
  • conferral of complete legislative authority upon the respective Constituent Assemblies of the two new countries;
  • termination of British suzerainty over the princely states, with effect from 15 August 1947, and recognized the right of states to accede to either dominion
  • abolition of the use of the title “Emperor of India” by the British monarch (this was subsequently executed by King George VI by royal proclamation on 22 June 1948).

The Act also made provision for the division of joint property, etc. between the two new countries, including in particular the division of the armed force.

Following this act, Cyril John Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe, a British Law Lord was sent to India on 8th July 1947. He was given just 5 weeks cut India into two parts, based on religion. Two separate boundary commissions were setup, one for Punjab and one for Bengal. Both were chaired by Radcliffe. The Punjab Boundary Commission consisted of Justices Mehr Chand Mahajan, Teja Singh, Din Mohammed and Muhammad Munir. The Bengal Boundary Commission consisted of Justices C. C. Biswas, B. K. Mukherjee, Abu Saleh Mohamed Akram and S. A. Rahman.

He started drawing the bloody line, which is popularly known as the Radcliffe Line. It divided India between the modern day India and the Pakistan (which later split into East and West Pakistan).


Problems & Loopholes in procedure

  1. Radcliffe never visited India before this date
  2. He couldn’t travel the length and breadth of India during his 5 week stay
  3. He kept distance from Lord Mountbatten and other Indian Politicians, who knew India well, in order to stay unbiased (which in-turn proved fatal)
  4. There was no outside participant (such as United Nations)
  5. There was lack of sufficient survey data and regional demographics
  6. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were kept in the border commissions, but their internal fight made the decision tougher. Worse, the family (wife & 2 children) of Sikh Judge was killed a few weeks earlier.
  7. Britain was in ‘war debt’ and could not afford arranging for adequate resources.
  8. Punjab Border Commission was to draw a line right through homeland of Sikhs and Bengal Border Commission was to draw line through Chittagong, home to Buddhists in order to divide India between Hindus and Muslims.
  9. Buddhist tribes in Chittagong Hill Tracts had no official representation and were left without any information to prepare for their situation during partition.
  10. Line could be drawn only through the British controlled areas, leaving as many as 562 princely states to the hands of their rulers to decide, which side to join. States like Kashmir and Junagadh had ruler from different religion than their majority population, which ended up in major conflicts.
  11. Major states like Hyderabad, Jodhpur, Rewa, Gwalior, Jaisalmer, Bahawalpur comprised most of the Indian land and were forced to choose one side.
  12. Hindu majority areas like Khulna and Buddhist majority Chittagong Hills were given to Pakistan while Muslim majority Murshidabad and Malda fell in India. Similarly, major Sikh settlements of Lahore, Rawalpindi & Multan went to Pakistan while Muslims rich Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and Ludhiana were given to India.
  13. Sindh, from where the name “Hind”, “Hindi” and “Hindustan” is derived, was given to Pakistan leaving as many as 1.4 million Hindus in a stiff. Half of them fled to India.
  14. Several important factors were ignored by Radcliffe, which was complained by every party in India.
  15. A rough line was drawn on paper, leaving several regions in dilemma. We still have few homes in Bengal, where one room is in India and other in Bangladesh
  16. Entire process of division was kept secret and only core committee knew of the draft
  17. Partition was declared on 17th August 1947, two days after Independence. Many villages hoisted flag of different countries for 2 days, until the confusion was cleared on 17th. For example, Malda was taken by East Pakistan Administration and Pakistani flag was hoisted, until Indian Administration reached after 4 days with correct documents and replaced the flag.
  18. Since Partition was declared after the British handed over control, the responsibility of Law & Order during Migration was left to the hands of newly formed governments, who were still taking account of their security strengths and weaknesses. It took them several months to get law enforcement agencies in place, during which, the mass massacre happened.
  19. Only 50,000 security personnel were deployed in Punjab, to protect 14 million migrating individuals. There was less than 1 soldier per square mile.

Eleven days before returning independence to India, Lord Mountbatten works with his advisors to divide India peaceably. New Delhi, India, August 4th, 1947. (David Douglas Duncan)


  1. India had population of 390 Million during partition, out of which 30 million were to fall in East Pakistan and 30 million in West Pakistan.
  2. 14 million people were displaced, making it largest mass migration in history
  3. As per one estimate, 500,000 were killed
  4. 7.2 million Muslims, who reached Pakistan in hope of their ‘own’ country were branded as “Muhajir” (Migrant)
  5. Approximately 80,000 women were abducted during movement. Less than 30,000 were recovered by 1954. Much more were raped and killed.
  6. Several minor battles were fought to annex the princely states and the regions under control of Portugal. Operations of Hyderabad, Goa, Dadar & Nagar Haveli and Sikkim are prominent.
  7. The Hindu ruler of the state of Jammy and Kashmir decided to not to choose any side. However, soon after the partition, the tribal forces from Pakistan invaded Kashmir. Maharaja of Kashmir requested India of protection, at which Lord Mountbatten asked him to sign the Instrument of Accession before any help can be provided. Half heartedly, Raja Hari Singh signed the instrument and Jammu-Kashmir officially became part of India. Soon Indian Forces reached Kashmir to help Kashmiris from invading tribal forces. However, a major portion was already taken and instead of massive bloodshed, Nehru chose UN’s intervention for the peaceful resolution. The matter is still a major reason for conflict between the two countries and is considered as the ground for various wars and cross border terrorism.

Taj, the foreign connection


This article is part of my Taj Mahal Series

On 17th June 1631, as Arjumand Banu Begum, aka Mumtaz Mahal, the most favourite wife and Empress Consort of the Mughal Emperor Badshah A’la Azad Abul Muzaffar Shahab ud-Din Mohammad Khurram, aka Shah Jahan died, the Mughal Court started planning for the grand burial of the late queen. She left the mortal world while giving birth to her 14th child in Burhanpur, where her husband, the Emperor was fighting with rebels. She was buried in a pleasure garden called Zainabad, originally constructed by Shah Jahan’s uncle Daniyal on the bank of the Tapti River. The Emperor went into secluded mourning for almost a year and when he came out, he was a changed man with all the sadness reflecting from his face and attire. Meanwhile, in December same year, her body was taken out from her grave and in a golden casket, transported to the then capital of Mughal Empire, Agra. There, the body was buried in a garden on the banks of Yamuna and as Emperor reached Agra after finishing his campaign in Deccan, the garden was taken from the king of Jaipur, Raja Jai Singh for an exchange of a prestigious piece of land within city. In 1632, the construction of the grand mausoleum started, which was later called “The Taj Mahal”

clip_image002While there are numerous things to talk about the great Taj Mahal, this article focusses on the foreign connection of the Taj. In coming editions, I will try to write more about Taj and unveil more secrets of this magnificent wonder of the world.

Taj Mahal was not built overnight. It took decades to reach the final finial and plant the last tree. Architects, Masons and Material from different countries was sourced to construct this finest piece of Mughal Architecture. The structure was built using rubble masonry, covered with layer of bricks, which were baked locally. The sandstone used in the tomb was sourced from Fatehpur Sikri, which is around 40-45 Kms away from Agra. The famous white marble for Taj Mahal was brought from Makrana in Rajasthan (some 400 Kms away). The marble of Makrana is known to be finest and decorates many other famous buildings including Victoria Memorial of Kolkata, National Assembly of Pakistan, Jain Temple of Mysore & Dilwara, Ambedkar Park of Lucknow, Birla Temple of Jaipur and Makrana Emitra Campus. Jasper for the building was sourced from the region of Punjab. This building is decorated with Jade and Crystal, which were imported from China and turquoise came from Tibet. The Lapis Lazuli was sourced from Afghanistan, Sapphire from Sri Lanka and Carnelian from Arabian region. Onyx and Amethyst came from Persia. It is said that in all, 28 types of semi-precious stones were used on Taj Mahal, which were sourced from all over South Asia. Some say that the cost of the construction of this building was around 50 Lakh Rupees, while some debate that it might have gone up to 6 Crore (Which sounds a little impractical, given the state of royal treasury back then).


Ustad Isa, an architect from Shiraz, Iran is considered by few to be the chief architect of Taj Mahal. While this claim was challenged by few, who named Ustad Ahmed Lahauri (also from Iran) as the chief architect. The claim of Ustad Ahmad being the chief architect was put forth by his son Lutfullah Muhandis and was verified by many modern research scholars. Abd ul-Karim Ma’mur Khan and Makramat Khan were the Imperial Supervisors for the construction. Ismail Afandi was bought in from Ottoman Empire to design the dome. Qazim Khan from Lahore was asked to cast the solid gold finial. Amanat Khan from Shiraz (Iran) was the chief calligrapher of Tomb. Mir Abdul Karim and Mukkarimat Khan of Shiraz were incharge of finances and management of daily production. Puru from Benarus in Iran was the supervisor of all architects. Chiranjilal, a lapidary from Delhi was the chief sculptor and mosaicist while Muhammad Hanif was the supervisor of masons

clip_image006Another interesting name that appears in picture is of Geronimo Veroneo, an Italian, who lived in Agra and died in Lahore in 1640. The European Scholars celebrate him as the chief architect of Taj Mahal. This claim was made by Father Sebastian Manrique, an Augustinian Friar whose purpose in India was to secure the release of Father Antony, who was being held as a prisoner by the Mughals in Lahore. And it was here in Lahore that he met the executor of Geronimo, named Father Joseph De Castro. It was Castro who told Father Sebastian about a famous Venetian jeweller who came to India in the Portuguese ships but died on his way in Lahore and was later buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery Padres Santos in Agra. However, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French gem merchant, who was travelling in India during the construction of Taj Mahal has given the most accurate account of its construction and did not mention anything about Geronimo. Peter Munday, another traveller who has left a complete record of his travels, was in Agra around that time. He knew Geronimo well and mentions that he met him several times, but does not state anything more than the fact that he was a goldsmith.

While there is lot that can be said and written about Taj, I reserve more for my future articles. No doubt, this marvel leaves its impression on every spectator and reminds us of the great artistic capabilities of the people back in 17th century.

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