Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Bena Das, an Indian woman patriot who tried to assassinate Stanley Jackson, the Gov. of Bengal and former English cricket player

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, though freedom struggle across India  was the domain of men, there were countless women who proved their courage, perseverance  and indomitable spirit  as freedom fighters and earned a unique place for themselves  in the history of our freedom movement. They left the hearth and home in the comfort zone  for a purpose and sought the life of sacrifice, suffering and imprisonment to protest against the British and their despotic rule.  Many of them hogged the limelight, but some remained unsung and unnoticed till their death. On among them is Bena Das. Less than 21 years old, a student of an institution, Bena Das is a forgotten woman freedom fighter and revolutionary  from West Bengal, yet she has made a niche for herself in the history of Bengal.  

Beena Das, Freedom fighter. prashantb.wordpress.com

Bina Das (1911–1986) was one of the most daring women revolutionaries and nationalists of Bengal. Daughter of a well-known Brahmo teacher, Beni Madhab Das and a social worker, Sarala Devi, at  a very young age Bena Das was very much saddened by the painful freedom struggle going on across India against the  unjust and oppressive British rule. Since, the Colonial India had its capital in Calcutta (Kolkata), it is quite obvious that Bengal became a breeding ground of freedom well-known fighters such as Nataji, Sri Aurabindo, C.R.Das, et al (the list goes on). The suppression of freedom movements by the ruthless British administration who broke every law of human decency, the untold suffering and racial slurs and discrimination faced by the millions  of impoverished  Indians left a deep wound in the mind of Ms. Bena Das and impacted her psyche. Drawn  more by patriotism than by her studies and, further,   to have more involvement in the freedom struggle. she  joined the "Jugantar" revolutionary club ( it was one of the two main secret revolutionary organizations operating, in the guise of a fitness club in Bengal for Indian independence) to fight against the British. Besides, she was a member of Chhatri Sangha, a semi-revolutionary organization for women in Kolkata. The interesting aspect of this unique  young woman is  she  carried on her patriotic activities while she was a student of St. John's Diocesan Girls' Higher Secondary School, South Kolkata. Then she was not even 21 years old.  

In those days when freedom movement was going on vigorously,  a section of patriots, took to violence as a way to free India unlike Gandhian who preferred non-violence to achieve the same goal. Bena Das, being a gutsy woman, thought violence was one of the ways to get the attention of the higher ups in the government and the scoop-hungry media world over; in addition, it will instill fear among the British officials. Weighing the pros and cons, she decided to  assassinate a leading British official to get the global attention and other western countries  will come to know  more about the British misrule and how the Indian nationalists  are being hounded like dogs by the British using the brute force of the police.

Stanley Jackson, Cricket player. Stanley Jackson © Getty Images

Above image:  Stanley Jackson:  He was  a conservative politician and the Governor of Bengal 1927–1932. Jackson was a great batsman with  15,901 First-Class runs at 33.83 and 31 centuries; he played  20 Tests  and scored 1,415 runs (average of 48.79).  He captained the English team five times. He spotted the cricket talents of Ranjitsinghi and was responsible for his inclusion in the  Cambridge First XI and the awarding of his Blue.. .........

On 6 February 1932, Bena Das, neither a trained assassin nor good at handling hand guns,  made an abortive attempt to assassinate the Bengal
Gov. of Bengal, Stanley Jackson,CricketCountry.com
Governor Stanley Jackson, in the Convocation Hall of the University of Calcutta. 
She walked to the dais with the revolver concealed under her gown, She pumped in five shots - two missed. In the meantime, the Vice-Chancellor, Hassan Suhrawardy, a trained military man trying to protect the Governor, in a 
jiffy, jumped towards Ms. Bena  to pin her down, not before three shots rang out from her gun, whizzing past dangerously. One bullet injured  Prof. Dineshchandra Sen. The Governor, who happened to be the all-England cricket captain,  had a close call. Fortunately,  no major mishap had happened. Ms. Bena Das faced the trial and during grueling interrogation, she never gave in  and refused to reveal  her accomplishes. She  was sentenced to nine years RI - rigorous imprisonment.

Photo: Article published on Reading Eagle,in1932www.inuth.com/i
hoto: Article published on Glasgow Herald in 1932InUth.com
 No sooner was she  released in 1939 from the prison, undaunted by her tough jail life, than she had joined the Congress party. Again, she went to jail - 1942 - 1945, this time  for her active participation (in 1942),  in the Quit India movement led by Gandhiji. Her  patriotism and her various constructive political activities gave her a strong base to serve the people of Bengal. She won the laurels from many quarters and consequently from 1946-47, she was a member of the Bengal Provincial Legislative Assembly. She married Chandra Bhaumik in 1947 who was an active member of he Jugantar.  She became a member of  the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. from 1947–51.Bina Das wrote two autobiographical works in Bengali: Shrinkhal Jhankar and Pitridhan.

 As ill-luck would have it, Bena Das' life in her last days was a poignant one, spent in loneliness and isolation in Rishikesh after her husband's death. Here, she died in obscurity on  26th December 1986  The most heartrending fact is this great woman patriot's body was recovered from the road side in a partly decomposed state and the passers-by had no idea who she was and her selfless  contribution to India's freedom. Her identity was established only after a month or so. In countless cases, neither the central or the state governments fail to recognize the contribution made by certain freedom fighters, not to speak of giving them a decent  and comfortable shelter and medical care till they die. Bena refused the dole offered by the government.  Many of these worthy patriots die  either unsung or unheard of and Bena Das is an unsung freedom fighter 

In the southern states like Tamil Nadu, because of the  prevalence of linguistic chauvinism, the contribution made by women freedom fighters like Bena Das from other states is not known.





Monday, 11 December 2017

St. John's Diocesan Girl's school, one of the oldest in Kolkata

St. John's Diocesan Girls' H.S. School,Kolkata stjohndiocesan.in
Soon after the British Government directly took over the administration of India after 1857 from the East India company that had run the proxy  government for the Crown, much emphasis was placed on western education and, in this respect, many missionaries arrived in India in the late 19th century to impart sciences, languages etc., based on Western models. Besides male missionaries, female missionaries also landed in India and many of them realized that Indian  woman's position in the conservative and superstitious Indian society was quite pathetic as  she was not allowed either to venture out of home or attend schools. The belief had been that education was of no use to the women whose area of activities was their home, in particular, kitchen. Their responsibility was to take care of domestic chores and the needs of the family. The women missionaries  decided to open schools to educate the young girls to understand the values of knowledge  and the need to become literate.  St. John's Diocesan Girls' school in Kolkata is one among the  girls institutions founded by women missionaries. 

St. John's Diocesan Girls' school, one of the oldest girls' schools in Calcutta (Kolkata), West Bengal, was

Angelina Margaret Hoare ,cnicalcutta.org

founded in 1876 by one Angelina Margaret Hoare (17 May 1843 – 10 January 1892), a  devoted British missionary from Kent, England along with Ms. Millman, missionary from England.  It was located at Elgin and Sarat Bose Roads in South  Calcutta. Apart from doing missionary work, Angelina paid  serious  attention to  the advancement of woman's education in British India so that she could read and write, face challenges in her society  independently and help  other women come out of the conservative closet and lead their lives with confidence. This way  women would  be of immense help to their families, neighbors, communities  and the nation. 

Kolkata. St. John's Diocesan Girls' H.S. School,campus en.wikipedia.org
In 1894, the administration of the school was handed over to the Sisters of the Community of John the Baptist Convent, Clewer, England and the school was named St. John's Diocesan by the Clewer Sisters of John the Baptist from Windsor, Berkshire.

With  respect to admission to the school, initially, Ms. Angelina Hoare had poor response from the local community  and had to be content with few students. In those olden days, in the conservative society, girls had no access to basic education in many parts of India. However, over a period of time, the school grew in stature; so was the number of girl students getting into the school. That it became the only reputed Christian woman's institution  in the entire NE India from 1908-31 bears testimony to the hard work and dedication shown by the teachers and the school management of St. John's Diocesan school.

Ms. Angelina was a woman of foresight, vision and above all catholicity. She was of the strong opinion that the school belonged to all people in the society regardless of social status or group. One could understand her true belief about the Diocean School from her letter to her brother in England. She died in 1892 when she was just 48 years old.

Unfortunately, the school earned the ire of the British government in the wake of a  serious incident againt the government. A student of this school,  one Beena Das (who happened to be a freedom fighter) on 7 April 1931 shot the then Governor, Stanley Jackson. This resulted in the  loss of  recognition of the  status of the school by the British Government. During its earlier days till the 1970s it was a coeducational institution and after1970s, it has become  exclusively a girls' educational institution, devoted to their  advancement and better educational opportunities. 


Monday, 4 December 2017

Why is St.Paul Church, Diu, India a unique one? - some interesting facts

St. Paul’s Church,Diu, India. My Simple Sojourn
During the Portuguese colonial rule, a number of beautifully designed churches came up in their settlement(s). The Portuguese,  the later colonists British, French  and Dutch, landed in India not only to to explore their mercantile trade prospects, but also to introduce Christianity among the natives. Hence, they began building many churches and brought in a lot of preachers, in particular Jesuits from Portugal.

In the Diu island on the west coast of India,  there existed three churches that had been built after the island was taken over by the Portuguese in the 16th century. St. Paul’s Church, named after St. Paul, the Apostle of Jesus, is a popular  one and it s the island's last remaining fully-functional church. The Church of St. Francis of Assisi, the first church built in Diu in 1593, is now used as a hospital and the other one St. Thomas Church is converted into a museum. Famous for its unique Baroque - Gothic architecture, it was completed in 1610 AD; work began in 1601. Diu that has a chequered history remained in the possession of the Portuguese from 1535 until 1961  when the Indian Union took over the island.

The historical church is unique for the following reasons: 

01. Dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception this church is the largest one on the island.

St.Paul Church,Diu,Goa, India 1610 AD  interior.diu.gov.in
St.Paul church,Diu,Goa, India. ashimanarain.
 Above image: Interior of St. Paul, Diu, India. Furniture and wood paneling made of superior quality wood. Built in 1610 by the Jesuits from Portugal...........

02. The interior of the church has a well decorated  wooden paneling and furniture  made from quality wood, including lavishly carved 400 year old impressive pulpit. 

03. Its eye-catching volutes and shell like motifs are inspiring. Besides, the fascinating and delicate wood carving makes it the most elaborate and distinct among all the Portuguese churches in India.

St.Paul church,Diu,Goa, India.www.nrigujarati.in
 Above image: St. Paul Church, Diu, India: Note the details on the facade of the building...........

04. Yet another feature is the detailed front elevation that adds  zest to its appearance.

Statue of Mary, St.Paul church,Diu,Goa, India.TripAdvisor
Statue of Mary, St.Paul church,Diu,Goa, India.Crazy Travellers
 Above image: St. Paul Church, Diu, India: Wooden statue of Mary. Highly ornate made from single 
log of Teak wood. St. Paul’s Church is the best representation of the Baroque-Gothic
architectural style of the Colonial reign in the Diu Island...............

St Paul church, close view. pulpit.10yearitch.com/
St Paul church, pulpit. 10yearitch.com/

05. In many churches the statue is made of marble or any other hard stone. Here, the mesmerizing statue of compassionate Mary in the altar is made from a single log of Burmese teak wood  that is lined  and lit up with 101 candles, an amazing piece of wood  work that may baffle our imagination.

Altar. St.Paul church,Diu, India 0yearitch.com
Beautiful painting. St.Paul church,Diu, India
 06. Above the altar are found Priceless old paintings and  nice statues thatenhance the divinity of this place of veneration.

07. The front part of St. Paul church is similar to the Bom Jesus Basilica  in Goa, but for a third story  as well as compartments formed by the buttresses as in the Goan church

08. A distinct feature  of this church is the religious images made in ivory and the objects made in silver have strong local influence in this Jesuit Church. The reason attributed to it is the highly skilled  native artists / artisans  were not trained to recreate the original Jesuit architectural designs. Such work needs special training, besides  knowledge of the religion. Religious images made from ivory or metals are rare in many churches.

09. The Feast of the Eleven Thousand Virgins to mark the commencement of the school year and the other one  on 25 January to mark the conversion of St. Paul are the two important religious events associated with this church and lots of Christian attend these joyous events. These events have been observed for centuries. 

10. Singing in the church was not an accepted practice among the Jesuits who came to India in the early days,  however, over a period of time, it became part of important ceremonies. 



The tomb of Sher Shah Suri. Sasaram- second tallest tomb in India

 tomb of Sher Shah Suri,,Sasaram,Bihar, Flickr
 tomb of Sher Shah Suri,,Sasaram,Bihar, wikipedia
 Sher Shah Suri (hailing from present day Haryana state, India; 1486–22 May 1545), founded the Sur Empire in North India, with its capital at Delhi. An ethnic Pashtun, Sher Shah  served in the mogul army and later became a commander under Babur.  He was appointed the Governor of Bihar in 1537 and during this period Babu's son Humayun was away  elsewhere on expedition, Sher availed himself of this chance, took control of Bengal (crowned in 1540) and established the Sur dynasty.`He was an excellent administrator and military strategist and during his
Sur Dynasty Shah Suri.  en.en.wikipedia.orgw

Above image: Imaginary sketch work of Sher Shah Suri ( 1486–22 May 1545) by Afghan artist Abdul Ghafoor Breshna; Spouse:  Malika Bibi (?).issues: Islam Shah Suri (Jalal Khan) and Adil Khan.........

Postal stamp in honor of Emperor Suri. Rainbow Stamp Club
five year rule, he made certain reforms in the civil and  military organization. He was the first one to issue the  first Rupiya from "Taka" and re-organised the postal system of India, besides reviving  the historical city of Pataliputra (Patna) which had been neglected since 7th century. He was instrumental in laying Grand  Trunk Road from Chittagong in the frontiers of Bengal province  in NE India to Kabul in Afghanistan in the far NW  of the country. He died on 22 MAY 1545 in an accidental gunpowder explosion in the fort of Kalinjar of Rajputs, Bundelkhand while on a war expedition. As he could not penetrate the sturdy fort, he was in the middle of blowing up the fort walls with explosives  and was seriously injured.
 tomb of Sher Shah Suri,,Sasaram,Bihar, wikipedia
 Sher Shah Suri's mausoleum (Tomb ) stands on the GT road in the middle of an artificial lake in Sasaram town, Bihar.

Sasaram town, Bihar.Maps of India

This imposing, beautiful Indo-Islamic structure was buiilt between 1540 and 1545 and its architect was  Mir Muhammad Aliwal Khan. The tomb was constructed  during the reign of  Sher Shah and  his son Islam Shah. According to the inscription,  the date of completion was  August 16, 1545, three months after the death of Sher Shah.The octagonal main tomb is topped by a dome, 22-metre in span and surrounded by ornamental domed kiosks. These kiosks, it is said, were once covered by coloured glazed tiles. This mausoleum is made of  red sandstone  almost square shaped and is often referred to as the second Taj Mahal of India. The tomb (at the centre of the lake) is  on a square stone plinth with domed kiosks, impressive chhatris at each of its corners.  Surrounding the main dome are eight pillared cupolas on the corners of the octagon of the chamber walls. The interior of the tomb is  well ventilated and lit as light passes `through large windows on the top portion of the walls fitted with stone jalis of varying patterns.In addition, there are stone banks and stepped moorings on all sides of the plinth, that can be accessed from the mainland through a  broad stone bridge. Its height from the floor to the apex of the dome is 101 feet and its total height above the water is over 150 feet. The octagon forming the tomb has an interior diameter of 75 feet and an exterior diameter of 104 feet. The tomb is the second highest in India which attracts tourists


01. Sasaram sometimes (also spelled as Sahsaram), is the administrative capital of Rohtas district, Bihar.

02. . Suri's father's tomb - tomb of Hasan Khan - is also in the same town and goes by the name of  Sukha Roza.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Jag Mandir, Udaipur where the British took asylum during 1857 Sepoy mutiny

Maharana Swaroop Singh, reign 1842- 1861Eternal Mewar

 The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857  was, no doubt, a violent and serious  rebellion against the harsh British rule in India. Unfortunately, in Europe and in the west  this revolt was purposely portrayed as a senseless, unreasonable and bloody  uprisings by Indian soldiers spurred by falsehoods about  insensitivity to religious sentiments by the EIC. The Vellore mutiny (of Tamil Nadu headed by the sons of Tipu Sultan)) on 10 July 1806 was the first instance of a large-scale and violent mutiny by Indian sepoys against the East India Company, predating the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 by half a century. However, the 1857 uprising that began as a small  mutiny on 10 May 1857 in the garrison town of Meerut  developed into a series of mutinies and rebellions  across many parts of north India and it later came to be known as the first war of independence. At many places like Kanpur, Lucknow and Delhi, the rebels in thousands attacked the British officials and a few hundred British officers, women and children were killed during the rebellion.  Countless British families, fearing danger to their lives, took refuge in many places and were protected by their friends and also by the royal members of the princely states.

1857 sepoy Mutiny Getty Images
Above image: Mutineers attacking magazine at Delhi 11 May 1857. Lieutenant Willoughby, who died of his wounds, gave the order to the defending garrison to .............

Maharana Swaroop Singh ascended the throne in 1842, after the death of his predecessor Maharana Sardar Singh who had no son and before his death, he formally adopted his brother Swaroop Singh as his nominated heir. Being a good administrator, Maharana Swaroop Singh took  the responsibility of bringing economic reforms to revive the bad financial conditions of Mewar. He developed a cordial relationship with the East India company and its officials. When needed, he never failed to  support the British living in Mewar and surrounding areas and prove his loyalty to them. During his reign, a crucial and difficult situation developed as a result of the Sepoy rebellion going on in other parts. The repressive British rule, harsh taxes and the discrimination faced by the Indian soldiers in the army (thousands of soldiers were killed mercilessly in retaliation by the British forces) had impacted his state as well, leading to a tense situation. The British, working in his region, were facing threats and before situation getting worse, they sought the help of Swaroop  Singh, a man of amicable disposition.  

Numerous European families fled from Nimach  and sought asylum. Maharana Swaroop Singh with a view to protecting them from imminent danger to their lives, arranged for their safe stay in the lake palace that can be approached only by boat.  To avoid taking risk and to protect his guests, the Rana had all the  town’s boats  destroyed so that the rebels won't have an access to the island palace and cause trouble to the innocent Europeans. Swaroop Singh helped repulse mutiny at Nasirabad, Neemuch and  Nimbahera by sending his troops, thus earning the trust of the British Company.  The Europeans enjoyed the generous hospitality of the ruler within the safe prescient of Jag Mandir palace till the rebellion was put down later by the British forces in June 1958.

After the Independence of India from the British rule, on 15 August 1947, at the initiative of Maharana Bhupal Singh, the Mewar kingdom merged with the Indian union in 1949 along with other princely states of Rajasthan.




Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan and Maharana Karan Singh of Mewar - their geniality and friendship

Jag Mandir Palac on Lake Pichola en.wikipedia.org,
Among the beautiful palaces of India, Jag Mandir`, Udaipur is a unique one. Not only is it known for the fine architecture but also for its history. This palace that once served as the summer resort for the royal family of Sisodia Rajput ruling class bears testimony to the lasting friendship and cordial relationship 
the Mewar rulers had with the Mogul rulers, in particular, between Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan, the builder of the world famous Taj Mahal  and Maharana Karan Singh. The hospitality shown by Karan Singh to the Mogul prince and, by the same token, the act of  indebtedness on the part of the Mogul prince when he became the emperor are simply exemplary and and these past rulers stand as  good role models to our politicians who spend much of their time indulging in revelry, tit-for-tat and mudslinging.  

"A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is 
an expression of humility. It is a foundation for 
the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being".                .............James E. Faust

Emperor Shah Jahan. Eternal Mewar

 Jag Mandir, also known as  the "Lake Garden Palace"is  a historical and fascinating palace ingeniously built on an island in the picturesque Lake Pichola in Udaipur city, Rajasthan. It took a long period to complete this big and well embellished palace. The construction work lasted three generations,  actively involving three Maharanas of the Sisodia Rajputs of Mewar kingdom.  Maharana Amar Singh, started the construction work in 1551, followed  by his son Maharana Karan Singh (1620–1628) and it was finally completed by Maharana Jagat Singh I (1628–1652). It is called   "Jagat Mandir" in honour of the last ruler of Mewar Maharana Jagat Singh.

That this amazing palace has had close links with the Mogul dynasty, may surprise you. If you go as far back as 1600s, in his youthful days,  Prince Khurram (later came to be known as Emperor Shah Jahan) had a row with his father Emperor  Jehangir  who was ill-advised about Prince Khurram  over successor to the throne. In 1663 Khurram's revolt infuriated his father and he wanted to reprimand him. Anticipating danger to his life by his father's advisor as a result of his keen desire to ascend the throne, Khurram  sought the help of the then Maharana Karan Singh and took refuge in his kingdom. Incidentally, Khurram's mother happened to be a Rajput princess`. The Maharana gave him full protection and mad him reside in the City Palace (Delwada Ki Haveli) along with his wife Mumtaz Mahal and his two young sons, Prince Dara and Prince Aurangzeb before shifting 

Gul Mahal on lake Pichola, Udaipur www.thehistoryhub.com
Above image: It was at Gul Mahal on the lake Pichola (now part of Jag mandir palace), Prince Khurram (later became Emperor Shah Jahan) stayed with his family when he was exiled by his father Jahangir. The beautiful cupola, fine flooring and inlay work inspired Shah Jahan to build a structure grand in style. The result was the Taj Mahal at Agra, 
a mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal ............ 

them to Gul Mahal in the midst of a lake that was first built in 1551. Later Karan Singh built it as  a domed pavilion for Prince Khurram  for his comfortable stay there. (It was later enlarged by his son Jagat Singh). This isolated place gave the Mogul prince and his family a safer place to live during the troubled time than the other one they stayed before. Khurram remained under Mewar's protection during 1623–1624. Maharana Karan Singh' son Jagat Singh  converted it into a huge palace and named as the Jag Mandir palace. 

Maharana Karan Singh. eternalmewarblog.com

It is a paradox to note that Karan Singh showed his hospitality to Mogul prince who once defeated his father Maharana Amar Singh in a battle in 1614 and part of his land was annexed by the mogul dynasty. However,  Karan Singh became an envoy in the Mogul court  and over a period of time there developed a close, cordial and lasting relationship between the prince and Karan Singh. Kurram took him into confidence and discussed matters related to succession to the throne  and the problem he had among the royal members. At last, when serious rivalry  cropped up between him and the ruler, Khurram was forced to live in exile and  took refuge in Karan's palace.  

Jag Mandir Palac on Lake Pichola, Udaipur. The History Hub

Congenial situation developed in the Mogul household, in the wake of Khurram sending his sons Dara and Aurangzeb to the Mogul court as hostages. His father became subdued and made a compromise.  Following the death of Jahangir in 1627, Prince Khurram ascended the Mogul throne and then came to be called Emperor Shah Jahan. In fact when he was in Badal Mahal at Udaipur, he was made the heir to the Mogul throne.

As a sign of respect Karan Singh and Khurram exchanged their turbans. Further, to express his  gratitude to the Mewar ruler for his timely help during his predicament and turbulent period,  Khurram not only restored six districts to the Mewar kingdom, which had been earlier annexed by the Moguls but also presented a unique ruby jewel to Jagat Singh, son of Rana Karan Singh. Upon  Karan Singh's death in 1628, Jagat Singh (1628–1652) became the ruler of Mewar  and was instrumental for making many additions to the Gul Mahal that was renamed  the Jag Mandir, after himself. Actually Gul Mahal is part of Jag Mandir.

Though cordial relationship had been in place between Mewar ruler and Mogul rulers, occasionally there were threats from Aurangzeb. However, the Mewar kingdom faced  real and formidable threats  from the Marathas who caused considerable damage to the kingdom. This forced Mewar to have a military alliance with the East India company under  "Treaty of Paramountcy" that envisaged  restoration of all the hereditary territories and protecting the state from any future invasions, This ultimately led to the restoration of glory and pride of Sisodia Rajput dynasty of Mewar. 

Shah Jahan's sojourn in Gul Mahal gave him immense inspiration to construct the most beautiful and  richly embellished  structure called the Taj Mahal. Jag Mandir's (Gul Mahal) intricate inlay work, impressive dome and artistically designed interiors impressed him so much that he developed a keen interest in
building richly and tastefully decorated structure that will make him an immortal figure. 


Friday, 1 December 2017

Karthigai Deepam festival at Thiruvannamalai, Tiruchi and Madurai cities, Tamil Nadu

 India is a land of different festivals, of  varied cultures and traditions. The Hindus  from various regions of India  celebrate the festivals with same religious fervor as we find in other regions. Karthigai Deepam is also a  festival of lights that takes place after  Deepavali.  Karthikai Deepam ( Karthikai Vilakkidu  in Tamil) is an important  festival being  widely observed across South India. particularly, in Tamil Nadu. It falls in the month of Kārtthikai (mid-November to mid-December) as per Tamil calendar. On the Karthikai day,  the moon is synchronous with the constellation Karthigai (Pleiades) and pournami. This constellation looks like  a group of six stars in the firmament  resembling a pendant from the ear. This festival marks the birth of god Karthkaya (Murugan / Subramanya (son of lord Shiva; the other being Ganapathi). In the neighboring state of Kerala, this festival  goes by the name of Thrikkarthika and in countless temples  rows of oil lamps on the Vilakku madam around the outer walls of temples enhance the beauty and sanctity of the place of worship. in many other states it is called  Kartik Purnima, but is held on a different date!! This year, the main part of Karthigai Deepam  festival - lighting of Mahadeepam falls on 2 December and it is a main event at Arunachaleswarar temple, Thiruvannamalai town, Tamil Nadu. It is  more than 1000 years old, patronized by many saints of Tamil region.  

Karthigai Deepam at Thiruvannamalai temple. Sampath Speaking
The the most sacred  part of this unique festival is lighting of oil lamps at homes, temples and  in  the work place. The idea behind this festival is to  get rid of the old, unwanted things in the house and replacing them with new ones and it has philosophical connotation, implying elimination of bad or negative thoughts, ignorance  and replacing them with positive  thoughts,  just like a ray of light dispelling darkness.  Hence, in this festival oil lamps are personification of holiness and prosperity.  The place where it is lit gets sanctified, creating positive energy. When you light a series  of oil lamps at home, it brings in happiness, so much so, in the temples oil lamps create an atmosphere of reverence, respect  and devotion to the all pervading god.

Kerala, Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, manoramaonline.com
Thiruvannamalai temple, Tamil Nadu. Deccan Chronicle
On the  Karthikai day, Lord Shiva appeared at Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu as a huge column of fire, stretching from the earth to the heaven, suggesting God is fathomless, no end, no beginning and  is omnipresent. Behind the Arunachaleswarar temple at this town on the Arunachala hill, it has been a tradition for centuries to light a giant oil lamp in the evening. After the Maha deepam is lit  on this hill, across Tamil Nadu in all Hindu homes, oil lamps (preferably earthen lamps) will be  lit. At the Arunachaleswarar temple it is a ten day long festival beginning with flag-hoisting on the golden mast (Dwajasthambham) and  coming to a close following Karthikai deepam. During the festival  days, around the mada streets, each day there will be a procession of the deities (Utchavars). The car (chariot / Ther) festival falls on the 7 th day and deities would be taken out on five  colorfully decorated  huge wooden chariots. Devotees  would pull them manually along the  four mada streets. The highlight of the festival is lighting of the Karthigai Maha Deepam on the temple premises and on the hill. This would be followed by  three-day float festival (Theppa Thiruvizha / Theppo Urchavam) which  will be held in the huge temple tank.
Karthigai. Arunachaleshwara Temple, Tamil nadu. Poompuhar
Since Thiruvannamalai town happens to be the main venue of this festival, normally more than 800,000 devotees would attend the 10 day festival.  Among the devotees, a large section  of them would perform  “Girivalam”(walking barefoot around the Arunachala hill, covering roughly 14 km during  the full moon night chanting prayers)  around the hill, when the Maha Deepam is lit. 

 Uchipillayar temple,'Karthigai Deepam,Tiruch, the Hindu com.
karthigai deepam wick Tiruchi rockfort. www.thehindu.com
Above image: Tiruchi rockfort. An auspicious start, temple employees carrying  huge cotton wicks for the massive lamp to be lit atop the Rockfort Thayumanaswamy Temple in Tiruchi,  Tamil Nadu for the forthcoming Karthigai deepam festival, on 2 December 2017.......................... 

 On the Karthigai deepam day in the city of Tiruchirapalli, “Karthigai deepam”  will be lit in the evening around 6 pm on a cauldron made of copper atop Rockfort Sri Thayumanaswamy Temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva).  A large number of devotees  will participate in this holy festival with utter devotion and reverence. According to temple authorities, the  deepam will keep going  for three  long days.  It is quite interesting to note that
preparation for the big-sized wick for the “deepam” will be taken up at least one week before the festival.  A whooping 6,000-metre cotton cloth is used for  making the  giant wick, and about 1,000

Location map,Indo Vacations

liters of ‘iluppai’ and gingely oil besides ghee will be used  to get the deepam going. The Maha deepam with all its brilliance  atop the rock fort will be visible all around the city.  Later there will be a procession of idols around the nearby streets. 

Karthigai deepam, Meenakshi temple, Madurai .thehindu.com/
At Madurai Meenakshi temple, TN this festival  is  held with religious fervor and piety; oil lamps will be lit in front of houses and business houses. In the past the lighting of one lakh clay lamps on the temple premises  was a major event as part of  the ‘Karthigai Deepam’ celebration and it drew lots of devotees to the temple. It was a grand sight to see the illumination around the temple tank enhancing  the beauty, grandeur and godliness of this famous temple.  

Karthigai deepam, Thiruparamkundram temple.thehindu.com

At the near-by Subramaniya Swamy temple, Thiruparamkundram, Maha Deepam will be lit in the evening after puja.  At the entrance of homes around the temple, as in other places, people will light the clay lamp after Maha Deepam is lit atop the hill. According to the temple officials, preparation for the Maha Deepam here is done by the team from Thiruvannamalai and it takes quite a few days to make the preparation. Normally 120 meters of cotton cloth, 5 kgs of camphor  and about 350 liters of oil and ghee are needed for the Maha deepam.

 In all temples dedicated to Subramanya, Ganapathi, Shiva and Vishnu, Karthigai Deepam festival is observed with piety.Temples are well decorated with Kolam/rangoli and rows of oil lamps. The belief has been that the new year will bring in happiness, prosperity and self-contentment.