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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.

The Auction of Taj Mahal

This article is part of my Taj Mahal Series

“Henceforth, let the inhabitants of the world be divided into two classes – Them as has seen the Taj Mahal; and them as hasn’t.”

– Edward Lear

In my series of articles on Taj Mahal, I am going to introduce you to an interesting episode of our history, where one of the British appointed Governor General, Lord William Bentinck, who had absolutely no respect for or interest in Indian Heritage, decided to auction off the Taj Mahal.

When celebrated English author, poet and illustrator Edward Lear wrote the quote mentioned above, he tried to depict the mesmerizing sight of the great Taj Mahal. Countless visitors since ages have praised the beauty of Taj. But one man, sitting on the top position had some other evil plans about this beauty. Lieutenant-General Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck became the Governor General of India for just two years from 1833 to 1835. In these 2 years, he saw the bad state of finances. To improve the financial state of the government, he took a very stupid decision, which was to auction, what we today regard as the ‘Wonder of World’.

During British Raj, it was a practice of Rich British families to visit decorated Mughal buildings and dig precious stones to be taken back as souvenirs. Taking a hint form this malpractice, Lord Bentinck decided to dismantle the Taj Mahal and auction off the precious marble. Part of the marble was to be sold to Indian nobles and rest was to be sent to Britain, for further sale. Idea of trying to sell majority of marble in India rather than in Britain came because an earlier attempt to sell marble from Red Fort of Delhi was not a successful. The cost of transporting marble to England came out to be more than the bid.

The British had earlier sold the Taj Mahal to Seth Laxmichand of Mathura for Rs. 1.5 Lakh, who, when reached the Tomb for possession, faced a major opposition from the Hindu and Muslim residents of Taj Ganj, the colony established by Emperor Shahjahan, which is said to have the descendants of workers, who made Taj Mahal. Seth Laxmichand had to retreat and the sale was called off.

Bentinck_williamThen Lord Bentinck came with better arrangements and ensured that such problems do not hamper the auction. On July 26, 1831, an advertisement to sell Taj Mahal was published in an English daily of Kolkata. Auction started with seths of Mathura and Rajasthan. The next day, auction continued with English Bidders. Once again, the Taj mahal was sold to Seth Laxmichand for Rs. 7 lakh. But the cost of dismantling and taking off the marble was so high, that it was practically impossible to make profit out of it. Once again, the auction had to be called off.

Lord Bentinck went back to his thinking table and finally managed to sort out the cost issue. Historian, Prof. Ramnath in his book ‘The Taj Mahal’, mentions about this incident. British author HG Cannes also mentioned about this incident in his book ‘Agra and Naibr Hoods’. They wrote Lord Bentinck finally managed to arrange an auction, which cannot be called off as all the hurdles have already been taken care off and this one was well planned.

As the second auction was arranged, the seths and the British once again were invited. Then came into picture, an unknown soldier from the British Army, who secretly reported the matter to the Member Parliament of his constituency back in England. The matter was taken to the British Parliament and London office immediately ordered the Indian Governor General to give up this stupid idea. We will never know who this unsung soldier was, who saved the precious Taj and gave India its share in the list of Wonders of World.

Much later, Lord Curzon, called for an auction on 7th February 1900. Many old paintings and precious carved stones, which included some material from Taj Mahal was auctioned. Even Lord Hastings had many precious stones from Taj Mahal sent to London.

However, there have been incidents where looters didn’t bother to do the formality of auctioning. Historian E.B. Havell records that the Jats of Bharatpur, under Suraj Mal, carried away the fountains and the fish tanks of Machhli Bhawan of Fort. Later, other parts were taken by Lord Bentick for auction. Similar looting was done at Taj as well. In 1784, the Jats carried away the silver doors of Taj, which were estimated at Rs 127,000, when installed by Shahjahan. They were studded with nails, the heads of which were silver rupees.

Manucci writes, the first plunder of Taj took place in 1691, when Jats, under the command of Rajaram and Ramchhera took away great gates of bronze, studded with precious stones and plates of gold and silver.

No matter what Taj has seen and suffered, it is still counted as one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in Indian Subcontinent.


As I finished my lecture at India Habitat Centre, a person approached me and congratulated me for the way I presented the history of Delhi. He gave me many points and asked if I would like to dive deeper into the history and try to find out the history of every single locality of Delhi. While we were talking, he gave many pointers to work on, one of which caught my immediate attention. This person, named Nataranjan Bohidar (Roni) wrote me this:

Pythagoras_in_Thomas_Stanley_History_of_PhilosophyThe Greek influence in India is to be sought in the fact that the greatest mathematician of 3-d triangles, the father and inventor of TRIGONOMETRY, was Pythagoras…and he comes form the Greek town of Samos, which is the name that we still call the Samosa by …and the
samosa by shape must be  a  tribute to this 3-dimensional genius, PYTHAGORAS ! What are the chances it came to India from Greece …what
are the chances Pythagoras born 150 years in Samos before Alexander, was well known to the military commander and his Generals introduced samosa to Alexandrias all over the world  and so too to Sikanderpur?

Note: India-Pakistan has multiple towns with name Sikanderpur. These are the territories given to nobles of Alexander (locally known as Sikander) after Alexander’s alleged victory over India, who established townships and named after him.

This made me thinking, is really my favourite snack an instrument to learn the 3-Dimensional triangle.


A quick search on Wikipedia revealed that the word Samosa can be traced to Persian word sanbosag. In Arab countries, the name changed to Sanbusak or Sanbusaj. Afghanis call it Sambosa and Tajakistan knows it by name Samboosa. Turkic speaking nations call it Samsa and Portuguese speakers call it chamuça.

Samosa is a triangular fried pastry with savory filling within a finely milled wheat flour. In its initial days, Samosa was filled with ground lamb, beef or chicken. However in India, Potatoes cooked with onion, peas and spices is filled. It got associated with Indian subcontinent during the Mughal Period (16th century). It has been an important snack prepared in the royal kitchen. Interestingly, there is also a building in Akbar’s capital Fatehpur Sikir, which goes by the name “Samosa Mahal”. It got its name due to its 3 sides. This triangular palace with multiple rooms and a small gusal-khana was built for one of the nobles of Akbar’s court. Name of this noble is no longer known. The landscape of this building has changed slightly with time.

Pythagoras-MünzOldest written reference of Samosa is by Abolfazl Beyhaqi (995 AD – 1077 AD), an Iranian historian, who mentioned about it in his work Tarikh-e-Beyhaghi. This work is the most authentic account of Ghaznavid empire, which was spread from Iran to Afghanistan (including parts of Pakistan and India). Based on this account, researchers deduced that the Samosa originated somewhere in Middle East before 10th century. It should be noted that this land was part of Ancient Greece till 7th-8th Century. The island of Samos, from where Pythagoras came is situated to the immediate west of this mainland Abolfazi talked about. We know that Pythagoras was very famous in this region because we get his image and work depicted on coins from 3rd century.

Some claim that Samosa was introduced in India by traders from Middle East in 13th or 14th century. Hazrat Amir Khusrow, the famous sufi mystic, poet and disciple of Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya (ra), who also worked as the royal poet in the court of Slave emperors wrote in 14th century about Samosa, prepared with meat, ghee and onion. Ibn-i-Battuta, the famous Moroccan traveller, who visited India during the reign of Muhammad bin Tughlaq wrote about a small triangular patty, which he calls Sambusak (the name Samosa is known by in Arabia, from where Battuta came). He says that Sambusak is stuffed with minced meat, almonds, pistachio, walnuts and spices, was served before the third course, of pulao.

In 16th century, Akbar’s minister Abu’l Fazl ibn Mubarak wrote a complete account of Akbar’s administration, known as Ain-i-Akbari (Constitution of Akbar). He mentions the recipe for Qutab, which he says, the people of Hindustan call Sanbusah.

While samosa originally started with a filling of minced meat and became popular as a potato filled pastry, there have always been experiments with it. These days shops across the globe serve samosas filled with various items like macroni, pasta, noodles, cottage cheese, cauliflower, meat, mushroom, peas, and almost everything else that can be eaten. Interestingly, the most popular filling of Samosa, Potato is also not from India. It originated in Peru somewhere between 8000 and 5000 BC. Like potato, many other common food items that we consume in India were traded into the subcontinent.

I will now stop writing and head to my nearest Samosa shop. Time to pay tribute to Pythagoras.

Bon Appetite!!!

Diwali, beyond Lord Rama

The famous south Asian festival of Diwali (Deepavali) is said to be celebrated because on this auspicious day, Lord Rama of Hindu Mythology returned from a 14 year long exile, during which he also won the battle against King Ravana of Lanka. Lord Rama’s subjects celebrated his return by lighting up earthen lamps. With time, as the religion spread across borders, culture and festival also reached remote pockets of South Asia.


Diwali is not a single day festival. It is a series of celebrations, which begins with Dhanteras and ends 4 days later with Bhai Dooj. In different parts of Indian subcontinent, Diwali is associated with different stories.

  • As per Ramayana, Diwali is the day of return of Lord Rama from exile
  • As per Mahabharta, Diwali is the day of return of Pandavas from exile
  • Many believe that Goddess Lakshmi was born on the day of Dhanteras and on the night of Diwali, she married Lord Vishnu
  • Some believe that on this day, Lord Vishnu came back to Lakshmi in Vaikuntha, hence the prosperity, happiness and good health is returned
  • Nepal & East Indian region celebrates this festival as Kali Pooja or Mahanisha Pooja
  • In Braj, this day is attributed to Lord Krishna’s lifting of Mount Govardhan
  • In southern and western part of India, offerings are made to Lord Ganesha (along with Lakshmi) as he is worshipped before starting anything new. Diwali marks the beginning of New year as per Indian Calendar
  • In Some parts, it is the day when Lord Krishna defeated Narakasur and hence started the festival of Nark Chaturdashi
  • Legendary King Vikramaditya was coroneted on this day.

Besides Hinduism, other religions also celebrate Diwali in their own form. Here’s an account:

Jainism – Lord Mahavir’s Attainment anniversary

Lord-MahaviraBhagwan Vardhman (aka Mahavira), last of the 24 Tirthankars of Jainism attained Nirvana (or Moksha) on the Kartika Chaturdashi in Pavapuri (Bihar). Lord Mahavira is regarded as an important reformer of Jainism and his teachings comprise most of the modern Jain philosophy. According to Kalpsutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, Lord Mahavira attained moksha on dawn of amavasya (new moon). He further states that many gods were present there, illuminating the pitch dark night. To symbolize the incident, where master’s light is kept alive even in darkness, 16 Gana kings, 9 Malla and 9 lichchhavi of kasi and kosai illuminated their doors.

गये से भवुज्जोये, दव्वुज्जोयं करिस्समो

means: Since the light of knowledge is gone, we will make light of ordinary matter

Another reference is found in Harivamsha Puran, written by Acharya Jinasena. This reference is also the oldest reference to the word “Diwali”. It mentions the word Deepalikaya, from which, the word ‘Deepawavali’ and later ‘Diwali’ is believed to be born. This puraan states:

ततस्तुः लोकः प्रतिवर्षमादरत् प्रसिद्धदीपलिकयात्र भारते |
समुद्यतः पूजयितुं जिनेश्वरं जिनेन्द्र-निर्वाण विभूति-भक्तिभाक् |२० |

means: The gods illuminated Pavanagari by lamps to mark the occasion. Since that time, the people of Bharat celebrate the famous festival of “Dipalika” to worship the Jinendra (i.e. Lord Mahavira) on the occasion of his nirvana.

It is also believed that Gautam Swami, the chief disciple of Lord Mahavira attained complete knowledge (Brahmgyaan/Kevalgyaan) on this day. This incident makes the occasion even more important.


Buddhism – Ashok Vijayadashmi

ashokaIt is said, that on this day, Ashoka the great, the legendary Mauryan emperor from 1st century BCE converted to Buddhism. After numerous battles and bloodshed, he decided to give up everything and adopt the path of peace. He started following the teachings of Lord Buddha and thus became one of first rulers to widespread Buddhism across the subcontinent. He places edicts across the length and breadth of his kingdom, with inscriptions about Buddhism. His edicts are important as one such pillar gives India its national emblem and also the famous ‘Chakra’ in the national flag of India.

Ambedkar_BarristerAnother interesting event is associated with Bharat Ratna Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, 1st Minister of Law & Justice in Independent India and a major contributor to the constitution of India. He is known for his exemplary work in the reformation of Dalits (Scheduled Casts) in India.He, at one point decided to convert to Sikhism. The idea was dropped after a long meeting with Sikh scholars and religious leaders as he found out that he will be getting a second grade status within Sikhism. He then started looking for a religion, which treats everyone as equally as the religious law teaches them to. On 14th October 1956, he finally converted to Buddhism in Nagpur along with 500,000 followers. This is exactly 30 days before Diwali, but many Ambedkarites associate the event with Diwali and remember Ambedkar on this day.


Sikhism – Data Bandi Chhor Divas


After the martyrdom of 5th Sikh master, Sri Guru Arjan Dev jee, time was tough for his followers. Most respected figure in Sikh community after the Guru himself was Baba Budhha Jee. Baba Buddha jee gave two swords to next Guru, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib jee during the coronation and requested him to stand up against the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and his atrocities. Guru Hargobind Sahib jee, the 6th guru of Sikhs built the fort of Lohgarh in Amritsar and maintained a strong force of 700 horses, 500 Infantry, 300 horsemen and 60 gunners. While he preached peace and humility, he also encouraged his followers to be trained in martial arts and self defence. They even fought 4 defensive battles against local Mughal generals and won them all.

Jail-GwaliorFortMughal Emperor Jahangir was told that the Guru is strengthening his army and establishing a state within a state. He is preparing for the revenge of his father (which was not true). Jahangir sent his trusted nobles Wazir Khan and Guncha Beg to arrest the Guru. Wazir Khan was an admirer of Guru and so instead of arresting him, he requested Guru to come to Mughal court, as the emperor wants to have a dialogue with him. Guru agreed and accompanied him to royal court, only to be arrested and confined to the fort of Gwalior. Guru Hargobind was kept in the Baoli of Gwalior fort, along with other 52 kings from neighbouring kingdoms. As the legend goes, Jahangir fell ill soon after the arrest. Witch-Doctors suggested that Jahangir’s illness is because of the curse of Guru and the Mughal court should immediately release him. Noorjahan convinced Jahangir to release Guru and the official orders were sent to Gwalior Fort. 52 other imprisoned kings stood in front of Guru and said that they will allow Guru to leave the prison only if he takes everyone with him. If not, then Guru should kill all 52 kings and free them from this mortal life. The matter reached Jahangir and he said, ‘those who can hold on to Guru’s robe can walk away’. Everyone spent the night stitching pieces of their robes to Guru’s robe, making it long enough that all 52 Kings could comfortably hold it. Next day, which was also the Day of Diwali, Guru Hargobind Sahib jee stepped out of Fort with 52 kings holding his robes and celebrating their freedom. Since that day, Sikhs celebrate Diwali as Bandi Chhor Diwas.


Islam – The communal harmony

While the modern day Islamic preachers recommend that Muslims should not participate, or even congratulate non-Muslims during their pagan festivals, things were different a few centuries back, at least in Hindustan. Especially during the Mughal rule, the Hindu-Muslim harmony was at its peak. Akbar had Indian religious stories translated to Persian and made pictorial books of the narration. Dara Shikoh had major contribution to the unity and later Jahangir, Shahjahan, and even Aurangzeb kept distributing gifts and sweets on Diwali to their Hindu nobles. The later Mughals were even more generous. The first Ramlila committee of Delhi, named Shri Ram Lila Committee was established by last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. They still perform in same traditional way, like they did 180 years ago for Emperor’s soldiers.

Not just Diwali, other Indian festivals were also celebrated by Muslims in the subcontinent. Baba Bulleh Shah, the famous 17th century sufi mystic wrote “Holi khelungi, keh bismillah. Nam Nabi ki ratn chadi, boond padi allah allah”.

Indian Subcontinent is a land of diversities, but they still bind with each other via common festivals and celebrations. It is amazing to see, how beautifully the culture has mixed over time. After the British invasion of India and their divide and rule policies, the cultural and religious conflict started. I and many like me always pray for the communal harmony and happiness to return.


[UPDATE - 01 November 2016]

The Diwali Bonus

This year, I got a forwarded message talking about the annual Diwali bonus. When I searched about it, I found multiple blogs mentioning the same thing. In most cases, even the language was same. I tried to find truth of that article but couldn’t find any authentic proof online. I will check it from the government archives whenever I get chance, but till then, I decided to put it here for public discussion.

NOTE: The below statement is unverified and is all over internet. I will appreciate if my readers can shed some light on this and help me find the authenticity of this claim:

Earlier, there was a concept of weekly salary payments. (I think this is where the Hafta Wasooli concept came from). This way, one would get 52 salaries a year. But British factories started the concept of monthly salaries (Probably because all the material was sent to England and finances were processed from there, which would take multiple weeks to get cleared). In monthly salary system, only 48 weeks were paid to employees and remaining 4 weeks (1 month) was deducted. During 1930-1940, multiple protests were staged against this. Therefore, from 30th June, 1940, the British factories in India agreed to give that additional 1 month salary and it was to be paid as Diwali Bonus. Later, people forgot the reason to start Diwali Bonus and it was reduced to distribution of a small percentage of salary or even just chocolates/gifts in some cases.

(If any of my readers find any additional information related to this claim, please share it in comments below)


Vikramjit Singh Rooprai

God’s Hexagram

The StarHexagram, or the six pointed star is a common symbol and popular by the name of Megan David or the Star of David. It is a considered to be a Jewish symbol and can be seen in the Flag of Israel. History tells that in Judaism, the symbol first appeared in a Synagogue of Israel in 3rd or 4th century, where it was purely a decoration motif. Few other synagogues of same period bear a Pentagram (5 pointed star). More meaningful usage appears in 11th century to decorate manuscripts. Much later, this symbol became popular and was associated with Judaism officially. However, the Hexagram was used in many other parts of world much before it became popular in Israel.


The Origin

Hexagram is a generic shape. It is difficult to ascertain the origin, given the limited information in this regards. We can only study the oldest usage and appearance of the symbol. In my earlier article, I discussed about Swastika, which appears in various religions and communities with different names. Similarly, Hexagram also appears almost everywhere and there is a possibility that the symbol was created by different people with no connection to each other.


The Hindu Theory

In Hinduism, the Hexagram is more commonly known as Shatkon or Satkona (Shat = six, Kona = corner/angle). It is the union of Shiv (Male) and Shakti (Female). Here, Shiva, or the Purusha is represented by symbol “ᐱ”, which is a symbolic representation of male organ. Shakti, or Prakriti is represented by symbol “ᐯ”, which denotes the female womb. They are both combined to form “”. This is called Shanmukha, which represents “Origin”, or the formation of life. Shanmukha literally means Six faced. Hindu deity Kartikeya, Shiv and Shakti’s progeny, is also represented with six faces.

Hexagram is also used in Yantras in Hindu religion. Yantras are used in rituals.



Anahat Chakra or Padam Sundra

The Anahat Chakra or Anahatpuri is one of the seven chakras of Yoga, which is associated with well being, emotions, love and devotion. It contains a lotus flower with twelve petals and an encircled hexagram.


Hexagram in Jainism & Buddhism

Vajrayogini, the highest yoga-tantra Ishta-Devi is practiced to avoid ordinary death and reaching higher spiritual paths. She is a high spiritual figure in Tibet and other areas where Buddhism is practiced. In Tibetan Mandalas, she is drawn in a Hexagram. Some old versions of Tibetan Bardo Tholo (Book of funerary texts) contains Hexagram with Swastika. In Tibetan, it is called the “origin of phenomenon” (chos-kyi ‘byung-gnas). Hexagram is also seen at many places in Jain and Buddhist texts.



Judaism and Christianity

341px-Krusevo-saint-nikola-church-hexagram bulgarian christian hexagram_1820Leningrad_Codex_Carpet_page_e

Judaism considers Hexagram as Star of David. While the symbol was used in Jew and Christian texts from centuries, the official use of the Hexagram to represent the Jewish community started from First Zionist Congress in 1897. Soon, it was being used in everything related to Judaism. It became popular to an extend that the flag proposed in first congress later became the official flag of Israel (with minor modifications).

Hexagram can be seen in many churches, where it is part of the architectural patterns. However, at few places, Jesus Christ is depicted in the Hexagram. Star-of-David

One important thing in case of “Star of David”, which usually goes unnoticed is that it is not 2 triangles overlapped. Megan David is actually two triangles interlocked. In almost all other cases, it is the overlapped triangles.


Hexagram in Islam

If you have been to Saudi Arabia, you would know the difference between a Pentagram and a Hexagram. A 5-pointed star has been widely accepted by modern Islamic fundamentalist and they discourage the use of the 6-pointed star. However, this move is more political than religious. Islam considers Moses as one of its prophets and his name appears more than any other prophet in the holy texts. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all Abrahamic religions and share common roots and beliefs. In South Asia, the Hexagram can be seen on almost all ancient Islamic structures, from tombs to mosques.

In examples below, we have the name “Allah” written inside an Hexagram. It can be seen in the Mosque of Makhdoom Sabzwari in Mayfair Garden near Hauz Khas, New Delhi. The wall on right side is from an unknown tomb in Lado Sarai area of Delhi, where Hexagrams and regular hexagons are used as decorative geometric patterns.

MakhdoomSahibMosque LadoSarai

Below, on the left is the Tomb of Sheikh Yusuf Qattaal in Khirki village of New Delhi. This tomb is known for its intrinsic Jaali work. The patterns are derived from Hexagrams. On right, we have the Mehrab of the Mosque of Jamali Kamali in Mehrauli Archaeological Park (Delhi). The mehrab has Hexagrams as medallions.

YusufQattaal JamaliKamali

Humayun's-Tomb Qutub

(Left) Hexagram on Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi. (Right) Hexagram inside Alai Darwaza, one of the oldest surviving true dome gates of South Asia inside Qutub Complex.

Shinto (Japanese)

Hexagram is a common symbol in Shinto. There, it is known as Kagome Crest and can be found in almost all Shinto temples, dating back to 5th century BC.


Rashtrapati Bhawan, Delhi

The Rashtrapati Bhawan and Secretariat designed by Lutyen and Baker is an amazing example of the amalgamation of South Asian and European architecture. Hexagram can be seen almost everywhere in these structures.



The Seal of United States of America

Notice the 5-pointed stars in the US Seal. These stars form a Hexagram.



There is a lot more about the Hexagram than what I have mentioned in this article. But I will stop here to avoid converting this article into a mini-book. Please feel free to read through the links given below for more understanding on this subject

For further reading, you may refer to:

– Vikramjit Singh Rooprai

Swastika, in common culture

220px-HinduSwastika.svg When famous Bollywood actor Amir Khan said ‘All is Well’, I was wondering, how come such a beautiful and powerful line was not discovered earlier. Then one day, when I was explaining the symbols on mosques and temples to some college students, I pondered over the name “Swastika”. A little more research and I found that this name is actually three words combined to one. “Su” here means ‘good’ (as in Su-Prabhat, Su-vidha, Su-Kumar etc). “Asti” means ‘to-be’. Along with a diminutive suffix ‘Ka’, it becomes Su-Asti-Ka, which means “It is good” or “All is well”. With time, it became the synonym of good health and wealth. 5000 years ago, during the Indus valley civilization, this symbol was established and widely used. It was a synonym for sun, power, strength and good luck. Many believe, that this symbol is actually the characters of Brahmi Script, written in calligraphic form. While some debate that the symbol used for Swastika is as old as 10,000 BC as it appears on a late Palaeolithic figurine of mammoth ivory in Mezine, Ukraine. However, most of the historians and archaeologists confirmed that it is actually a stylized figure of stork in flight and not a true Swastika symbol. Hence, the honour of oldest use of Swastika is still with the Indus Valley Civilization.

With time, people started migrating from the Indus Valley. They went to lands far-far away and established new colonies. With them, they also took this auspicious symbol of prosperity and luck. It was spread across the globe and became popular with many names. It went to China to be called ‘Wan’, while in England, it became popular with the name of ‘fylfot’. From Ethopia to Ghana, it was called ‘nkotimsefuopua’ and appears at various occasions. Germans started calling it ‘Hakenkreuz’, which also became the official symbol of bath party and was made (un)popular by the third reich, Adolf Hitler. In Greece, it was known as tetraskelion and gammadion. Before Hitler adopted this symbol, it was used by many other armed units. Swastika was the official emblem of Finnish Air Force till 1945. Latvia called it Ugunskrusts and used as the official air force symbol till 1940. The 45th Infantry division of the United States Army used swastika as a unit symbol until 1930s. They even fought Germans wearing the swastika badge in World War I. Swastikas and the similar Greek key symbol appear in decorative features of a number of U.S. federal, state and local government buildings including schools and county courthouses.

clip_image003 clip_image005

Very few people know that the famous brewery group Carlsberg’s first logo was a Swastika, which was discontinued in 1930. Many other companies like KRIT Motor Car Company, Crane Valve Company, Buffum Tool Company, Washington Charcrete Company, Duplex Adding Machine Company and Swastika Flour used it in their logos in past. Famous author Rudyard Kipling was a big fan of Swastika and used it as his personal emblem on the covers and flyleaves of many editions of his books, signifying his affinity with India. Even the theosophical society included it in their logo, along with the famous start of David, the Ankh and Ouroboros. Swastika also appeared on currency notes of Russia in 1917 and on stamps of Britain. The ancient Greek coins were stamped with Swastika symbol. Collectors have identified more than 1,400 different swastika design coins, souvenir or merchant/trade tokens and watch fobs, distributed by mostly local retail and service businesses in the United States.

In 1925, Coca Cola made a lucky watch fob in shape of Swastika. The Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company also made a ‘Good Luck’ token featuring Swastika. Harvard University Library has a 1908 leather watch fob with a brass swastika that was created for the presidential campaign of William Jennings Bryan. America, in 1917, made good luck medals during World War I, bearing a Swastika. The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. displays the original propeller spinner from Charles Lindbergh’s aeroplane Spirit of St. Louis, manufactured in early 1927. A swastika, left-pointing, was painted on the inside of the spinner cone along with the names of all the Ryan Aircraft Co. employees that built the aeroplane, presumably as a message of good luck prior to Lindbergh’s solo Atlantic crossing. In Mathematics, the equation (x4 – y4 = xy) creates a curve, which is known as ‘the Swastika Curve’. Swastika even found its space in Chinese and Japanese scripts, where it is an important alphabet.

clip_image007The “Legion Freies Indien” (Free India Legion) aka “Indian Volunteer Legion Regiment 950” was an Indian military unit raised during World War II in Germany. It was co-founded by Subhash Chandra Bose and became popular by name “Azad Hind Fauj”. It was originally established with intention to confront the British and free India. However, due to outbreak of World War II, it got involved in other battles and the soldiers were killed or captured. The legion did not survive post 1945. Captured soldiers were deported back to India, where they were tried for treason in Delhi. Along with their flag bearing a Tiger and words “Azad” & “Hind”, they proudly carried the Swastika flag during their days in Germany.

While swastika remains a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, it is also popular worldwide. Due to America’s reaction against Germany, its wide use in the Americas was stopped, however, it still is used as a running pattern in architecture and craft. In Asian countries, one can encounter swastika at every step in one or other form.

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