Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Fairlawn Hotel - a 235 year old colonial heritage site

Fairlawn Hotel, Kolkata
235 year old Fairlawn Hotel, Kolkata. Wikimedia Commons
The Fairlawn Hotel on Sudder Street, Kolkata is a historical hotel that had been run by a British family without a break for successive three generations. This hotel that carries the colonial charm and legacy was a famous hang out for the people of all walks in particular, from the rich and famous. 
Fairlawn Hotel, Kolkata Flickr
The boutique hotel's fame was so good, it attracted such well-known people as film producers  Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, actor Patrick Swayze and writers Dominique Lapierre and Gunter Grass. It was here the late Bollywood vintage actor Shashi Kapoor met his future wife - Jennifer Kendal. The hotel was up for the grabs and the successful bidder was the Diamond Oberoi  group that ownes Elgin chain of  Hotels and resorts. The earliest owner was Rosie Sarkies from whom her daughter Violet Smith got the precious property. The last inheritor was
Jennifer Ann Fowler,  daughter of Violet smith.

Rosie Sarkies, said she was happy to leave the hotel in the “best possible care”. But the sadness at letting a family legacy go was unmistakable. The reason behind the sale of this iconic hotel was, being in the UK, with mother having been gone (2014), Jennifer Fowler found it tough to run the hotel. Mrs. Smith lived at the hotel till her death in 2014, but Fowler found it difficult to run the business as she is settled in the UK with her family. 

Fowler’s mother never missed her birthday and other parties, and the hotel on Sudder street was a beehive of activities when she was leading the parties on the balcony in typical British style. Upon Violet Smith's death in 2014 at the ripe age of 93, a pale of gloom descended on this sunny hotel and her 70 year old daughter found the going tough  because of her family commitments . Her husband was not well either. Steps to sell the hotel had been taken when Mrs. Smith was alive. At this old age flying between England and Kolkata was not a good proposition.
An elaborate sale agreement envisages the protection of the employees of the hotel about 100 people who will be working under a new boss.  On their part, the Oberoi management assured that the core heritage values of the hotel will be retained and the restoration work won't meddle with old charm and the colonial aspects of this fine hotel that has been around for more than two centuries

According to Mrs. Fowler's lawyer, P K Jhunjhunwala, the sale was with respect to  Fairlawn Hotel Pvt Ltd and not that of the premises that were owned by someone else. At last the Fowlers took off after a memorable Indian-style farewell Their innings in Kolkata had been a long one since the colonial time. The staff garlanded them and gave them red roses to record their love, affection and gratitude for having been a boss for too long a time. By the same token, the staff welcomed the new owners of this wonderful heritage hotel. For the Fowlers, it was a wonderful new journey to Taunton, Somerset, a journey laden with sweet memories of Kolkata and the  235-year-old building and nearly a century old hotel which they held close to their hearts recently. 

Time keeps changing and what is yours today may be someone else's tomorrow or later.

Tomb of Mogul ruler Aurangzeb, Khuldabad.

Tomb of Aurangzeb
Tomb of Aurangzeb, another view. TripAdvisor
Above image:  The Tomb of the great Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb, Khuldabad,MH. Down to earth 
a simple & ordinary tomb with no embellished interior Nor is there a big ornate mausoleum.  It is  in a small,shabby lane and is poorly maintained. There are other tombs in the dargah. People working here earn by way of showing the place to the visitors..............................
Aurangzeb's tomb in
Mogul ruler Aurangzeb (Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad; 3 November 1618 – 3 March 1707) also known by his  regal title Alamgir (Persian:"Conqueror of the World"), ruled the empire effectively for 49 long years (1658 to 1707). Being the last effective Mogul ruler, he spent much of his time and money on war expeditions and his empire reached the greatest  extent in the Indian subcontinent during his successive reign. His empire's annual income was about $ 450 million, ten times more than some of the European countries of his time. The GDP was around 25% in 1700; the largest economy in the world then. Under his rule lived more than 150 million people, mostly Hindus and other faiths. 

 Unfortunately, on the domestic front, Aurangzeb earned the ire of the Hindus as he seriously practised religious persecution , unlike his predecessors who were secular to a large extent.  The introduction of the Jizya tax, destruction of Hindu temples, and execution of the ninth Sikh guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, his grudge against the Shia Muslims  were cited by his critics. Some others argue he did build the Hindu temples and employed Hindus in his kingdom. Let us leave this contentious issue as it is. His continued war expeditions against the Marathas, in particular, unwanted military expenses had a run on the Mogul treasury and towards the end of his reign, the Mogul economy was in a shambles. In the aftermath of his death, the Moguls lost their supremacy as a ruling dynasty  in the Indian subcontinent and this led to their representatives or Nawabs declaring themselves as independent of the Mogul empire and became local rulers. 

The Tomb of Aurangzeb, is located in Khuldabad, close to the tomb of his beloved wife whose mausoleum is called Bibi-ka-Maqbara near Aurangabad.  Maharashtra, India. In  marked  contrast to other Mogul tombs, which are large 
well decorated monuments of unique Mogul  architecture, including the Taj Mahal, his tomb is in an unmarked grave as per his wish. It is in the  the dargah complex or shrine of Sheikh Zainuddin who happened to be his spiritual "Guru"
Tomb of Sufi Saint Bahar-ud-din and Aurangzeb. Wikimapia
Upon his death in 1707 at Ahmednagar, Aurangzeb's  body was then  taken to Khuldabad after his son Azam Shah and daughter Zinat-un-Nissa. The platform over the tomb is made of red stone, less than three yards in length. There is also a "cavity" in the middle of the ground.  After his burial, he was given the posthumous title of "Khuld-makan" ("he whose abode is in eternity"). Lord Curzon, Governor General and Viceroy of India from 1899–1905) during the Raj visited this site and was surprised by its simplicity. Then he took personal interest in the grave and had the then  Nizam of Hyderabad (who was the ruler of the region)  construct a 'pierced marble screen' around it
marble screen Tomb of Aurangzeb, Khuldabad.My Favourite Things
. The tomb is roofed by "the vault of the sky". The additions included the gateway and the domed porch in 1760.

:Tomb of Aurangzwb, marble screen. /
It is quite unfortunate that the great Mogul ruler did not spend his last days in peace and to meet the cost of his tomb, it is said, that he stitched the caps and had  spent just Rs.14 and 12 annas on his tomb. No other Mogul tomb is as simple as this one and this was in accordance with his wish.  Aurangzeb's full name is written on a marble plate located in one of the corners of the tomb.

The tombs of the first Nizam, Asaf Jah I, his son Nasir Jung, and those of Aurangzeb's son Azam Shah and his wife are also located in the dargah of  Sheikh Zainuddin.Tit-bits:

Khuldabad  or Khultabad) is a town and a Taluka of Aurangabad district in Maharashtra. Centuries ago it was known as  Rauza meaning garden of paradise. It is called the Valley of Saints or the Abode of Eternity, because in the 14th century, several Sufi saints chose to reside here. Located in this town are The dargah of Zar Zari Zar Baksh, Shaikh Burhan ud-din Gharib Chisti & Shaikh Zain-ud-din Shirazi along with the tomb of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and his trusted general Qamar-ud-din Khan, Asaf Jah I the first Nizam of Hyderabad. Spiritually well-oriented place, hence this place was chosen by Aurangzeb to have his eternal rest, which, in real life he failed to get because of his repressive rule and harboring hatred toward other faiths. .

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Bibi-ka-Maqbara, Aurangabad - Interesting facts about this mausoleum

Bibi Ka Maqbara
Among the beautiful Muslim architectural  structures of India, none has more fascinated me than the one  5 km  away from Aurangabad city, Maharastra. Yes, the one I'm referring to is Bibi-ka-Maqbara (English: "Tomb of the Lady"). It is not a highly embellished structure. Nor is it a massive one with tall ornate minarets. Then what is so special about it?  Surprisingly, its simple and unassuming, but grand appearance that dominates the landscape. To put it in a nutshell, it is personification of simplicity that brings out its beauty and grandeur. Many experts make a comparison between the Taj and this mausoleum. These two monuments have their own charm and beauty, but their appeal is different. The fact is both of them leave behind you a lasting impression. This uniqueness makes them quite appealing. 
Bibi Ka Maqbara
The following are the inspring facts about Bibi-ka-Maqbara: 
01. Dilras Banu Begum, beloved consort of Mogul ruler Aurangzeb,  due to complications caused by the delivery, died a month after the birth of her 5th son Muhammad Akbar, on 8 October 1657. The Mogul ruler was grief stricken and his son Azam Shah fell sick.
Dilras Banu Begum ,wife of Aurangzeb hardboiled
02. Dilras Banu Begum, a princess hailing from famous  Safavid dynasty of Iran (Persia),  was the daughter of Mirza Badi-uz-Zaman Safavi (titled Shahnawaz Khan), who was the Viceroy of Gujarat. She married Prince Muhi-ud-din (later known as 'Aurangzeb' upon his accession) on 8 May 1637 in Agra. Dilras was his first wife and chief consort,

03. In 1660, Aurangzeb, three years after his wife's death,  chose a place in Aurangabad  as her final resting place and  commissioned a mausoleum - Bibi Ka Maqbara ("Tomb of the Lady") in memory of her.

04. It was the first monument (except the Pearl Mosque in Delhi), built by  Aurangzeb who never  built  monuments during his reign. He preferred spending money and time on war expeditions.!!
Maps of IndiaAurangabad, Maharastra.

builder of the mausoleum Azam Shah.
05. Bibi Ka Maqbara is a  mausoleum built in 1678 by  Aurangazeb's son, Prince Azam Shah in the memory of his mother  Dilras Banu Begum (posthumously known as Rabia-ud-Daurani or Begum Rabia Durani).
Mausoleum,Bibi Ka Maqbara, Aurangabad. YouTube
06. The Taj, is the mausoleum of Dilras' mother-in-law, Mumtaz Mahal, who herself died in childbirth.

07. This mausoleum  is  widely believed to be a replica of the famous Taj Mahal at Agra built by Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb's father in memory of his wife.

08. Aurangzeb, after his death, was  buried a few kilo meters away from her mausoleum in Khuldabad.

09. Bibi-ka-Maqbara is also called the 'Dakkhani Taj' (Taj of the Deccan). It is the principal monument of this  historic city of Aurangabad. It is so designed that it's reflection falls on the pond in the garden when the Sunlight hits the mausoleum.

10. It is also called a poor man's Taj Mahal because of poor imitation. It is obvious the layout and surrounding of the tomb  are  very much similar to Taj Mahal,  But, when it comes to  architecture it does not have an aura about it as the Taj has. But,it  fails to produce the magic of the Taj. The main reason is lack of impressive decorations and highly accentuated and embellished interior and exterior  portions. Further, choice of stones for the construction work. It is not entirely made of marbles.
 Bibi-ka-Maqbara,Aurangabad. Pierced stone Jali screen. wikipedia

11. The  four towering minarets are similar to  Taj Mahal. An octagonal lattice-screen of white marble surrounds the raised plinth supporting Rabia Daurani's grave inside the tomb.
Bibi Ka Maqbara
 12. Bibi Ka Maqbara is said  to have been built between 1660 and 1661 C.E. According to the "Tarikh Namah" of Ghulam Mustafa, the  construction  cost  of the mausoleum was Rs. 668,203-7 ( seven annas).
Bibi Ka Maqbara
Interior, Bibi Ka Maqbara
 13. This mausoleum was designed and erected by Ustad Ata-ullah, a Persian  architect and Hanspat Rai, an engineer respectively (vide inscription inside the mausoleum)
14. Marble stones were brought from far-off mines near Jaipur to this region through a vast number of bullock carts. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1605 – 1689) reported that more than 300 bullock carts, drawn by 12 oxen laden with marble transported them to the Golconda area.

15. The mausoleum is laid out in a Charbagh, formal garden. It stands at the centre of a huge enclosure measuring approximately 458 m. N-S X 275 m. E-W. Baradaris or pillared pavilions are  at the centre of north, east and western part of the enclosure wall. 

16. The mausoleum is covered with marble up to the dado level. Above the dado level, it is made of locally available Basaltic  rocks (of volcanic origin - Hawaiian type) up to the base of the dome; the latter is again built of marble. So, as it is mentioned above, it is not entirely made of marble like Taj Mahal.

17. When commissioned,  Aurangzeb wanted to build a grand structure on par with the Taj. Later, he gave up his expensive  plan because of poor funds available. Already much money was spent on  war expeditions against the Marathas and others. Hence, this mausoleum is devoid of ornate features, gemstone impregnated outer walls, richly styled interior, etc. 

18. Here, the  mortal remains of Rabia Daurani are kept  below the ground level with  an octagonal jali  marble screens around the tomb. The access is through  a descending flight of steps. 

19. The roof of this chamber is at ground level of the mausoleum  and is pierced by an octagonal opening and  a low barricaded marble screen. The advantage is one can view the tomb  from the ground level itself

20. A high square platform that supports the mausoleum with four minarets at its corners, is accessed  by a flight of steps from the three sides.

21. Later addition included a mosque built by the Nizam of Hyderabad and consequently the west side access to the mausoleum is closed.
Mosque built by Nizam of Hyderabad. en.wikipedia org
22.  The yearly October Bibi Ka Maqbara festival is quite famous organized by MTDC.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Formidable Daulatabad Fort, Aurangabad

Located at a  distance of 16 km from Aurangabad Railway Station  in Maharashtra, on the way to Ellora Caves Daulatabad is an ancient hill fort (14th century).It was on the caravan route (sixth century AD).  Since it a best preserved Fort, this old fort attracts a lot of tourists. Built on a 200 m high conical hill, this triangular shaped  fort was defended by a moat and  glacis. It is said to have been the most powerful fort during the medieval period. The entire fort complex consists of an area measuring approximately 94.83 hectares. The combination of hill and land fort is divided into small sectors encircled by fortification walls. The moat is 40 feet deep with mechanical drawbridges and filled with crocodiles.
Daulatabad Fort, Aurangabad, MHRemote Traveler

Daulatabad Fort was built by Yadava king Bhillama V in 1187 and the  city was then called 'Deogiri', meaning the hill of gods. 

The fortification included a few parts.  Ambarkot was built  for common people. Mahakot area having four distant lines of enclosure walls served the residential area for higher class of the society. The Kalakot was exclusively  the royal residential area with double line of fortifications. During the reigns of different dynasties, additional structures and improvements were made and as a result the fort size grew in size.
Daulatabad Fort, Aurangabad, MH. Alamy
Daulatabad Fort AurangabadBest Tourist Places
Mention my be made of such  structures as stepped wells, Kacheri (Court) building, Bharat Mata Temple, Hathi haud, Chand Minar, Aam Khas, Royal Hammam, Chini Mahal, Rang Mahal, Andheri, Baradari, water cisterns and 10 unfinished rock cut caves belonging to the Yadava period. 

Baradari , Daulatabad fort , Aurangabad,MH Alamy
Among  them, Chand Minar with a soaring tower  rising  to a height of approximately 210 ft (64 m) high and 70 ft (21 m) in circumference at the base, is an interesting one.  The four-storied tower was adorned with Persian glazed tiles and carved motif and it was built  in 1447 AD by Ala-ud-din Bahmani to commemorate his capture of the fort. It is believed that Chand Minar was used as a prayer hall  in the earlier times.  Inspired by the Gutb Minar of Delhi. Hasan Gangu built the Chand Minar as a replica of the Delhi tower. 

Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq captured this region and made the city his capital  in 1327 AD and called it Dauladabad 'the abode of wealth'. Muhammad bin Tughluq (r. 1325-1351), who was more known for his eccentricity than for his military prowess  forcibly moved the entire population of Delhi for two years before it was abandoned for lack of water. Then his capital was shifted back to Delhi. He built a myriad of water canal system and water storage tanks, etc. But, it did not wok well here

The history of this fort is an interesting one changing hands  frequently and it signifies its strategic importance and right location. It is an impenetrable fort, and it is a tough job to get access into the fort.
The fort came under Bahamani rulers under Hasan Gangu in 1347 AD and Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar in 1499 AD. Nizam Shahi dynasty in 1607 AD made it their  capital. The Chini Mahal (literally: China Palace), is in ruin. Once it was  a building of great beauty. In it Abul Hasan Tana Shah, the last of the Qutb Shahi kings of Golconda, was imprisoned by Aurangzeb in 1687. Later it was possessed by  the Moguls, Marathas, Peshwas and finally the Nizams of Hyderabad in 1724 AD took control and kept it  till India's independence.

How does this fort differ from other forts? What are the advantages this fort has? These moot questions linger the minds of the visiting tourists. The following may be worth to note:

01. There are no separate exits from the fort. It is a sort of box canyon, same way in and same way to get out.  

02. This plan is to confuse the enemie who will be driven deep into the fort and may face danger

03. Absence of parallel gates and this reduces the momentum of the invading army. 

04. Misleading location of the flag mast which is on the left hill will  obviously mislead the enemy who may turn left and get into trouble. In reality, the real gates of the fort are on the right and this will confuse the enemy.

05. Hardened iron spikes fixed on the gate will injure the intoxicated elephants  that were used as a battering ram to break open the gates. The presence of spikes would cause  the elephants to die of injury.

06. Yet another interesting features are the Complex arrangement of entryways, curved walls and  false doors. All these designed  to confuse the enemy inside the fort. The trapped  enemy soldiers will ultimately became a prey to the hungry  crocodiles.

07. The shape of the hill is rendered smooth so that expert mountain climbers can not climb the slippery slope.

08. The outer wall comprising  2.75 miles (4.43 km) in circumference, once enclosed the ancient city of Devagiri and between this and the base of the upper fort are three lines of defences and the enemy soldiers have to break these fortifications to access the summit.

09. The hill itself is  200 meter high. At the summit, and at intervals on the slope, are placed massive old cannons facing out over the surrounding countryside These cannons are designed for wide firing range and a threat to the enemy.

08. Also on the hill at the mid way, there is a cave entrance meant to confuse the enemies.

This fort is worth a visit, as it provides quite hiking opportunities to the tourists.,_Maharashtra

Friday, 16 February 2018

Murder of W.C Rand ICS British India official, Pune 1897

Martyrs, Chapekar-brothers, MaharastrAsia Observer
Statue of Chaphekar Brother's At Chinchwad,en.wikipedia. org
During the early colonial rule under the East India company and later under the Raj after 1857, countless men an women laid their lives to free India from the oppressive and unjust British rule that rendered India, once a rich nation with GDP more than 23 in the 1600s, a poor nation in August 1947 - when the British left the Indian shores. The entire nation owes a debt of gratitude to these freedom fighters who scarified their lives so that the later generation could breathe the  fresh air and enjoy full freedom without any obstacles. Among them there are many unsung heroes who are unknown across India. The Chapekars brothers - three of them hailing from Maharastra belong to this category. In south India, in particular, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, if you mention their names, the people and also school children will blink their eyes and their answer will never come in affirmative. The assassination of high rank British officials in Pune may be worthy of interest to those who are not familiar with  the Chapekars three brothers, who were freedom fighters.    

Towards  the end of 1896, plague  became  an epidemic in Bombay presidency and it affected the people of Bombay  and near by Pune cities. Since the Plague endemic became a menace and began to spread like the summer bush-fire, the then British Raj took serious efforts on a war footing to check the spread of this dreaded disease. The Governor of Bombay instituted "The Plague Committee" under the chairmanship of W.C. Rand an ICS officer, trained in administrative work in a special institution in London  meant for the administrative work in India.  Rand was posted as a Special Officer to take care of Pune, its suburb and the cantonment area. The Governor's order was that steps should be taken seriously with out affecting the sentiments or the religious practices of the Hindu and Muslim communities within the Jurisdiction of Pune city. Governor's order assured the people that female members of the communities would be examined by the women members only.

On 12 March 1897, officers and men – both British and native assumed duty under the command Major Paget of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI). As part of their duty they had to visit nook and corner of the city and take the needed steps to put down the spread of the epidemic. In reality, what they did was just opposite of Governor's orders; they sent the male members in certain places. Their inhuman action included: gate-crashing  into private houses, examination of occupants, compulsory stripping of women by males, forced evacuation to hospitals and segregation camps, removing and destroying personal possessions including idols, restrictions on moving out of the city, conducting funeral in marked cremation spots if  death caused by plague,etc. Besides, if the orders are breached the subjects will be liable for prosecution. 

On 19 May 1897, The Committee completed the report on Pune Plague. W.C. Rand in his report to the Governor mentioned that  the total estimated plague mortality was 2091 and further stated:  "It is a matter of great satisfaction to the members of the Plague Committee that no credible complaint that the modesty of a woman had been intentionally insulted was made either to themselves or to the officers under whom the troops worked".

Prior to the presentation of the report  lots of prominent people sent complaints to Rand about the barbaric act by the troops. They fell on the deaf ears of Rand, no action was taken. A distorted report on Poona Plague was prepared. The report contained blatant lies - simply travesty of truth. The truth is the modesty of Hindu women was outraged in public view in the name of controlling the epidemic. There were  reports that two Indian women were raped and one of them committed suicide. It is said blasphemous acts like discarding of Hindu idols in the Puja room and other valuable possessions was done with impunity. The entire Hindu community of Puna was outraged and the accusing fingers were pointed toward Rand. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, wrote to Her Majesty the Queen:   "..............The government should not have entrusted the execution of this order to a suspicious, sullen and tyrannical officer like Rand". In the meantime there were denials and carping comments on the non-cooperation of the community, etc.

The Chapekars brothers, Damodar, Balkrishna and Wasudeo  who settled settled at Chinchawad near Pune from an early age were men of patriotic disposition.  Being staunch Hindus they were quite upset  over the way the religion was subject to humiliation and criticism in the name of reformation. They blamed the British  and their scant respect for the religious  sentiments of the Indian people.  They formed an organization called “the society for the removal of obstacles to the Hindu Religion” under which they imparted military training to  certain people to guard the religion.  The Chapekar brothers had long been watching the British Sahibs and their actions ; disappointment  was writ on their face over their discriminatory attitude towards Indian natives.

In March 1897, the troops' (DLF) under the command Major Paget) drew the curious attention of the Cpapekar brothers  and they became embittered. No sane military troops in the name of plague control would stoop to such a low level and strip the women's clothes in public view and assault their modesty.  For this maniac act by the DLF, they held the peevish and indignant Rand responsible. The brothers got to-gather and decided to do away with Rand at any cost. They also chalked out a plan to kill him publicly with meticulous care. 

An opportunity was offered to them on a silver platter.  According to his autobiography by  Damodar Hari, the brothers preferred the Diamond Jubilee of the coronation of Queen Victoria  in Pune that fell on  22 June 1897.Reason: Damodar Hari believed a lot of Europeans including officials of different ranks would  turn up at the Government House  for the jubilee celebrations; a suitable chance to  kill Rand. The brothers Damodar Hari and Balkrishna Hari selected a spot of Ganeshkhind road (now called Senapati Bapat Road), by side of a yellow bungalow. The vantage spot would give them the needed view  to shoot at Rand. Each of the brothers carried  a sword and a pistol. Balkrishna's kit included  a hatchet as well. They reached Ganeshkhind,  and when they reached  the Government House at 7.00 – 7.30 in the evening, the darkness had already set in.  At the Government House, it was a grand celebration with some interesting events. The security  were not suspicious of their movements with swards and hatchets carried by them; they hid them  for use later under a stone culvert near the bungalow. As finalized by the brothers , Damodar Hari waited at the gate of the Government House, and when Rand's carriage emerged, ran 10 – 15 paces behind it.  When  the carriage reached the yellow bungalow, Damodar made a pre-determined signal  "Gondya ala re"for Balkrishna to take action.The plan was Damodar  would join him soon and both of them would shoot  at Rand to ensure of his death.  Damodar Hari opened  the flap of the carriage, raised it and took a shot. Thing did go as had planned before because Balkrishna Hari lagged behind and Rand's carriage kept going.  Balkrishna Hari became suspicious of the  occupants in the following carriage. Immediately he fired at the  the back head of Lieut. Ayerst, Rand's military escort. Ayerst who was in the  second carriage died on the spot.   As for Rand, he died in the David   Sassoon Hospital on 3 July 1897. Two British officials of high rank  were assassinated  on the same day by the Indian natives for their injustice done to the sentiments of the Indian people. 

Based on information given by the Dravid brothers, Damoder Hari was arrested for the murder of British official.  In his statement, recorded on 8 October 1897, Damodar Hari told the revenge was taken  for the DLF atrocities such as breaking of idols, excess on Indian women, mockery of Indian practices, etc., committed  during search operation to control plague. His statement was good enough foryhe prosecution to move the case  and he was charged under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.  He was hanged to death  on 18 April 1898. Balkrishna Hari, who was at large, was finally betrayed by his friend and was caught in January 1899, The betrayers - Dravid brothers were killed by another brother Vasudeo Hari.  Mahadev Vinayak Ranade and Khando Vishnu Sathe, were arrested  for having shot to death chief constable Rama Pandu later on the same evening of 9 February 1899. The  Chaphekar brothers Balkrishna Hari, Vasudeo Hari, and Ranade, in a trial court, Pune were sentenced to death by hanging; Vasudev Hari: 8 May 1899, Mahadeva Vinayak Ranade: 10 May 1899, Balkrishna Hari :12 May 1899. With respect to Sathe, a juvenile, he was awarded  10 years Rigorous Imprisonment. 

This sensational assassination in  colonial India under the direct Crown administration  drew the attention of the world media  and tacitly showed the darker side of the oppressive and dictatorial rule. Across the Globe, it dented the British image and their continued misrule and exploitation in India and was no way different from the misrule under the East India company rule. 

Gokhale, a patriot and freedom fighter remarked, while on a visit to Britain, that British soldiers "let loose on the town" of Pune were ignorant of Indians' language, customs, and sentiments. Moreover, he claimed – in marked contradiction to Rand's above-quoted statement – to be in possession of reliable reports regarding the rape of two women, one of whom committed suicide rather than live with shame.


01. Damodar Chapekar  was a lawyer by profession and the British Army stationed in Shimla refused to enlist him. He was quite upset about this incident.  Deccani is Damodar's last name and refers to him as such  (The New York Times, dated 4 October 1897).

02. Subsequent trial  mentioned that Damodar was from the Brahmin caste (New York Times dated 4 November 1897).

03. Both articles also gave the information that he was the one who tarred Queen Victoria's statue.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Pune plague 1896-97 and British atrocities

Plague in Bombay 1896 near Pune The Indian Express
The road to India's independence was riddle with a tough one. It was not that India got her freedom without blood-shed and violence. Though Gandhiji chose non-violence and civil dis obedience as a means to free the fetters on India, it did not yield the desired results as we all know. Then and there, in the early 18th and 19th century, violence against the British misrule did raise its ugly head whenever there were lapses in the administration.

 More than a century ago smallpox, plague, typhoid, etc., were dreaded diseases  and the medical technology was  not well developed to handle them well. Nor were there tested medicines to cure them.

As part of the global 3rd plague pandemic  that affected many countries in  1896-97, Pune, Maharastra (then Bombay Presidency) was struck  by bubonic plague. The epidemic was raging  without any remedy in sight. By the end of February 1897, the epidemic was so bad and horrible, the mortality rate jumped far beyond the established norm - almost double the normal rate. In 26 days of February 1897, there  were  657 deaths (0.6% of the city's population). Part of the reason attributed was the natives refused to cooperate. They would rather die from plague than move out of the city like nomadic tribes with their possessions left behind in their home. At last,driven by fear of the epidemic half of the city's population  moved out to safer places. Part of the city, now, became a ghost town.

The British Raj formed a  Special Plague Committee headed by W. C. Rand, an Indian Civil Services officer,  by way of a government order dated 8 March 1897. The purpose was to prevent the spread of the plague epidemic and to eradicate it for good with jurisdiction over Pune city, its suburbs and Pune cantonment. The Bombay Presidency governor's direction  assured the public that no Muslim and high caste Hindu women be examined and no quarters would be entered except by  women. The serious measures were taken by the government for their own good. Orders included respect of caste and religious practices of the people.

Under command of a Major Paget of the Durham Light Infantry on 12 March 1897, 893 officers and men – both British and native – were ordered to go ahead with their  plague duty to deal with an urgent situation, developing in the city. The drastic measures they followed while on duty included the following, in contrast to what the Governor's orders had mentioned, 

01. Forced entry into private houses, 02. Forced stripping and examination of occupants (including women) by British officers in public, 03. Forced evacuation to hospitals and segregation camps, 04. Removal and destruction of  personal possessions. It is said Hindu idolsincluded, 05. Restrictions and prevention of moving out of the city, 06. The occupants of the house or building  were required by the Plague committee to immediately report  to the government about deaths or illness suspected to have been caused by plague, 07. Funerals were declared unlawful, if not, properly registered, 08. The committee had an absolute right to mark special funeral grounds for funeral services to the corpses suspected to have died from plague. Absolutely, people should not use the unmarked funeral ghats in violation of government restrictions. 09. Violation of such emergency measures or disobedience  will subject the offender to criminal prosecution.

Soon after this humiliating and insulting search by the troops under Major Paget, the people of Pune were furious over the oppressive and humiliating measures taken by the British officials in contrary to the Governor's assurance. Chairman Rand remained unmoved, not responding to countless complaints received from various cross sections of the communities. This careless and discriminatory attitude of Rand and other Bobs towards Indian natives made the people more incensed because the  officers were not sensitive to the objections raised by the people.

In the meanwhile, after the plague duty by the troops was over, The Plague committee's deliberations  completed on 19 May 1896. The report pointed out that the total people died from plague was around 2091. Rand on his report to the government expressed his satisfaction and mentioned that the tradition and customs of the people had been given due consideration and there were no complaints about insults to the modesty of Indian women.   
The British India's distorted version of its plague report and their continued denial angered one section of freedom fighters who were disappointed about their being dishonest and lethargic in this serious matter.

Damodar Hari Chapekar (1870-1898), Balkrishna Hari Chapekar (1873-1899, and Vasudeo Hari Chapekar (1879-1899 ), commonly called  Chapekar brothers were Indian freedom fighters. They decided to put and to the British officials who insulted the Indian natives and humiliated their traditions publicly. On 22 June 1897, the Chapekar brothers with two accomplices  assassinated of W. C. Rand, the British plague commissioner of Pune and his escort Liet. Ayerst. On 8 May 1899 after a  court trial, the brothers were hanged to death.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Hindu God of Shiva and His mystic attributes

Mystic Hindu God Shiva. Wallpaper Images
Śhiva, meaning  the auspicious one,  one of the Hindu Trinity Gods, is  the Supreme Being  and creates, protects and brings about transformation (every thing keeps changing) within Shaivism. He is an embodiment of destruction. So, it is obvious he is a multifaceted personality. Among the greatest of the names of Shiva  is Nataraja, King of Dancers or Lord of Dancers, which is  a pan Indian concept, and has found great expression in Tamil Nadu. Unlike the stone images of Nataraja in other states, the bronze  sculpture of Tamil Nadu is  well-known all over the world. It gained popularity during the Chola period. The amazing image of Anandathandavam - the dance of ecstasy has become a cult figure. The patronage of temples by Cholas, the great devotees of Shiva, played a key role in popularizing Nataraja bronze image. 

Shiva's mystic attributes:

.. Shiva is a mystic god who is either formless or having a form.

.. He has an irresistible aura about Him that can not be  resisted.

.. Shiva is the Supreme being who creates, protects and transforms the universe.

 .. He has neither beginning nor ending. Unlike God Vishnu, the Protector,Shiva has not taken any incarnation - avatar. 

.. He  has both  benevolent and fearsome depictions. In his benevolent form he is all-pervading, leading an ascetic life  on one hand and on the other, a Grihastha (house holder) with a wife (consort) - Parvati  and sons Ganesha and Karthikaya (Subramanya).

.. In his fearsome form, he is depicted as slaying fearsome demon. Yes, he annihilates the evil forces as a last resort. Hence,  He is a destroyer and enjoys the cremation ground. But, what does he destroy? He destroys the heaven and earth (Prapanjam) at the close of a world cycle, promoting cataclysmic forces- the endless cosmic cycles of destruction and creation.  He also destroys the fetters that bind each soul. Where does his burning ground exist? it is not a human burning ghat, but it is the place where  the hearts of His lovers  are laid waste and desolate. It is the place where ego is put to flame; where illusion /Maya and deeds are destroyed. It is his Crematorium, not the Mayanam,  meant for the earthly creatures. His wild, but graceful dance, is just awe-inspiring and blissful, signifying the  ever-changing forms of the universe.

.. His contrasted names  bring out the duality of Shiva's fearful and auspicious attributes The name Rudra represents Shiva's fearsome aspects, so is Kala  (time) and Mahakala (great time). the latter implies destruction of everything. Bhairava means fearful or terrible, closely associated with annihilation.

.. The name Śaṇkara ("beneficent") represents His   benign form (the word coined by Adi Sankara).
.. He  is also known as Adiyogi - ( Guru for the Yogis) and is the patron god of yoga, meditation and arts. The concept of Yoga originates from Him.

.. He is transcendent and unchanging absolute Brahman.

.. He is a dynamic force, representing cycles of birth and death and relief through Anugraha. He causes the destruction of the earth on one side and is responsible for its creation. His balancing act signifies the universal equilibrium between destructive forces and constructive forces operating on this earth.

.. He has a third eye (on the forehead). It represents knowledge with which he burned the desire to ashes.

.. He wears ashes all over his body symbolic of transient nature of things around us. So, the pursuit of eternal soul and spiritual liberation is essential. Material happiness  loses its luster soon and is transitory.

.. He is, unlike God Vishnu,  is not fond of Alankaram - decoration of flowers and  wearing of expensive jewelry. Being renounced, he leads the life of a sage, protecting his devotees and removing their delusion. To him every thing around him is Maya - ever changing, not a permanent entity.
With a few exceptions, many of His temples are not Prarthana sthalas, lacking pomp and colorful festivals!! He is not the God of wealth, but of Mukthi (salvation - release from the human bondage of commitments in  life, death cycles, sentiments etc.

.. He believes in woman's equality and her place in life. His Arthanareswarar Thatva- half man and half woman confirms this. She is part of the energy that creates and remains his complimentary partner. 

Being Divine, he is a mystic and  embodies nothingness. The cosmos is a vast expanse of  empty space, everything comes from nothing above and gets back to the same space once the cycle is over. The cycle continues. His representation of ether (space) as one of the Pancha Boothas (five elements) at Chidambaram Nataraja temple, Tamil Nadu confirms his all pervading 'nature'.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Mahasivaratri worship - important facts

13 February, 2018 Maha Shivaratri. Twitter
In Hinduism, there are countless festivals dedicated to Gods and Goddesses. Maha Shivaratri is a major, but an ancient  festival and has been around for centuries.  It signifies  "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in life by way of paying obeisance to Lord Shiva, a Trinity God in charge of destruction in the Hindu pantheon. According to the Hindu calendar in every lunar month - there is  a Shivaratri on the  13th night/14th day. But the one that falls once a year in late Winter - February/March, (dark half of Phalgun)  before the arrival of Summer, assumes importance and is called  Maha Shivaratri, meaning "the Great Night of Shiva". This year Mahashivaratri is celebrated on 13 February.

The following are interesting facts of Maha Shivaratri festival:

.. Shiva represents Poornathvam (completeness) and Mangalam (auspiciousness) meaning that He blesses his true devotees with everything that is good for them.

.. Shiva's devotees worship Shiva in three ways -  -aruvam (formless), ooruvam (having a form) and Aruvaroovam (lingam - neither a form nor formless). Shiva is commonly being worshiped as Lingam and Maheswara  Moorthis.

.. There are Shiva temples representing certain aspects of his personality. They are called 'Sthalas'  There  are  Sthalas dedicated to five elements (Pancha Boothas), five exotic Thandavas (dances), five Sabhas (mandaps / theaters), Jyothirlingas (in the form of fire / Agni), Mukthi (salvation),etc.

.. On Shivaratri (night of Shiva), Parvathi, consort of Shiva  prays intensely to be with Him. She married Him on this day.

.. On Shivaratri, pujas are held independently at four Jaamams (kaalam /timings)  for the welfare and prosperity of the people.

.. The benefits of Shiva Darshan ( praying to the lord right before him ) are based on the times of  observance: First jaama prayer (7. 30 to 9.30 pm)  will help  cure ailments. Prayer at Somaskandar shrine is good; prayer at second jaamam  (11.00 pm to 12.30 am) will improve wealth, success in business. Worshiping Dakshinamoorthy  is recommended; third jaama  prayer (2.30 t0 3.30 am) will remove sins. It is essential to pray at Lingothbhavar shrine in the sanctum and fourth  jaama prayer (4.30 to 6.30 am) will help get a roof over the head (a place to live with peace of mind and satisfaction). Worship at Chandrasekara shrine in the temple. 

.. During the second Jaamam if devotees undertake Girivalam - going around the Arunachala hill at Thiruvannamali, Tamil Nadu  behind the vast Shiva temple complex is good for the health, self contentment and success in any undertaking. 

.. On this night devotees must  observe the following: 01. Abishekam (anointing - pouring holy water,etc., over the deity) - this will purify the soul, 02. Reverentially marking the shivalingam with kunkumam. This will help the devotees lead a virtuous and right life, without deviating into the dark part of the life, 03. Offering Prasadams (Naivedhyam) to the lord. This will help the devotees success in life and gain longevity and 04. Lighting of an oil lamp. This will not only give the devotees a spiritual orientation and knowledge, but also self contentment in everything.  Further, it unveils our ignorance and understand the transient nature of this universe.

.. A day before Shivaratri is day of Pradosham so, having food only once is good and in the evening  offering prayer to Shiva (Moolavar in the sanctum / Srikovil or Garbagraha) at the temple is normally done.  The whole night should be spent by way of meditating on Shiva or reading stories from Puranas. This will impart right thinking and  chalking out our lives on the right direction with blessing from God.

.. It is said that the devotees on the following day in the early morning, after head-bath, should visit the nearest Shiva temple and  do prayer with devotion and dedication. They should fast the whole day. In the evening visiting the Shiva temple again is a must. Participating in all four Kaala (jaama) pujas at the temple will give them peace of mind,happiness and good for the welfare of the family. Their nagging problems will gradually go away.

.. In the event the devotees are unable to follow the above, participating in the temple prayers  or doing japa is recommended. 

.. Such fasting and meditation on the festival days are conducive to good physical and mental well-being of the devotees. Chanting of  the mantra 'Om Namah Shivaya'  is an important part of Shiva worship.

.. Anointing the Shivalinga is an essential part of Shivaratri because as per the mythology Lord Shiva swallowed the deadly poisonous scum  coming out of serpent Vasuki (during the churning of the sea of milk) by the Devas - celestial  and Assuras - demons. He did it with a view to saving the Devas as the poison was coming  on their side and to prevent Lord Vishnu (in the form of Koorma - Tortoise) from becoming  dark-skinned due to the effects of poison. The lump of poison was held in his throat (hence he is known as Neelakandan). Consequently, with poison within the throat portion,  the body of Shiva was radiating heat.  It is said that anointing the Shivalinga will help reduce the radiation and keep the lord cool.

.. Further, in order to ward off bad effects of the poisonous scum in his throat, the lord must keep himself awake the whole night. So, Shivas' ardent devotees keep him awake from dozing by way of  doing prayers, pujas, etc., throughout the night. 

.. Across India, all Shiva temples will be open the whole night during Shivaratri and the devotes throng them and engage in prayers, etc.

.. Offerings of bael leaves (bilva leaves) are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred as, it is said, Lakshmi resides in them.

.. Participation of women in prayers during Shivaratri is essential as Parvati herself leads the prayer for lord's recovery from the effects of poison. 

.. If unmarried girls pray to Shiva on this auspicious occasion, Puranas/ Sastras say, they will  be blessed with  a compatible husband to take care them through out their lives. 

.. Shiva worship has a unique place among the true Hindu followers. Brahma fasted on this auspicious occasion  and got Saraswati as his consort, besides becoming in charge of Creation. As for Vishnu, he received  the Chakraytham (divine  disc) and married Lakshmi. In addition, he was endowed with the responsibility of Protecting all  creatures - both living and non-living things on earth. 

Ref:  Based on several sources.