Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Great Warrior Queen Hazrat Mahal of Awadh and major Indian rebellion of 1857

Great freedom fighter Queen Begum Hazrat Mahal of Awadh. Journalist Cafe

 Begum Hazrat Mahal (c. 1820 – 7 April 1879),  the second wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Wajid Ali Shah played no less role during the 1857 Indian rebellion  than other rulers and both the begum of Awadh, as she was commonly called, along with  Rani Jhansi  Lakshmi Bhai hogged the limelight in  the Indian history of early freedom movements. These women were not only highly spirited, but also were courageous and fought against the British forces though the odds were against them.  This great uprising of 1957 and 1958 finally  led to the control of Indian subcontinent under the direct administration of the British Government, London.
Great freedom fighter Queen Begum Hazrat Mahal of Awadh SlideShare
Begum Hazrat, not deterred by her husband's exile  during the rebellion found  asylum in Nepal where she died in 1879. Upon her husband's exile in Calcutta by the EIC's military, with firm determination and  support from her people, she revolted against the oppressive English company rule.  Her courage and guts were rare among the women in those days in a men-dominated world. Her firm resolve  to save Awadh was unprecedented and she put in as much efforts as she could recapture the kingdom from the English company by taking the role of her son's regent. She ran the affairs of the kingdom effectively and at the same time organized a well-trained army of women under  Uda Devi as its commander. 

She  opposed the tricky Doctrine of Lapse introduced by wily  Lord  Dalhousie who expected her to surrender to the English company.  She fought tooth and nail against the mighty British forces and, at the last moment, before the fall of Lucknow, the  seat of power, she fled to Kathmandu, Nepal.  She put her  son, Prince Birjis Qadr, the Wali (ruler) of Awadh in charge and his military commander being Raja Jai Lal Singh. But, later  she  gave it up for certain practical reasons. It was on March 6, 1858, led by the British Commander-in-Chief, Colin Campbell, thousands of British troops – English, Scottish, Sikh, Bengali and even Nepali – began the final assault of the ancient city of Lucknow. Already, Cawnpoor and Delhi were seized from the rebels and the same situation prevailed at Jhansi and Gwalior where the British forces with support from contingent troops had an upper hand. By 21 March 1958, it was over for the Awadh kingdom.
Her fighting qualities and and her strategic military moves came in for admiration even from the British. William Howard Russell’s much-quoted line from ''My Indian Mutiny Diary'' sums up his feelings at the time – “This Begam exhibits great energy and ability. She has excited all Oudh to take up the interests of her son, and the chiefs have sworn to be faithful to him. The Begum declares undying war against us.” An 1858 edition of The Times in London made a statement praising Hazrat Mahal, “The Begum of Awadh shows greater strategic sense and courage than all her generals put together.”

Queen hazrat Mahal, Awadh.
Thanks to the efforts of  "Pasi respondents who  first documented the story of Begum Hazrat Mahal in print in the 1971 Census records. For unknown reasons, the name of Uda Devi was left out, however during the peak of Indian rebellion, it was  a Pasi Palton (a platoon of Pasis)  who rescued Begum Hazrat Mahal from imprisonment by the British (Census of India 1971: 2). The story of Uda Devi came to be known and placed on record in the later period. In 1990,  the Virangana Uda Devi Smarak Sansthan." was formed in memory of the great woman who was behind Hazrat Mahal's solitary fight against the dishonest EIC army. She was quite appalled by the demolition of Mosques and temples by the English company   to build new roads, etc and she told them that their equal treatment of other religions was mere farce and were not sincere in their approach towards other religious faiths.
Tomb of Queen Hazrat Mahal, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Above image:   Indian Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri laying a wreath on the tomb of Begum Hazarat Mahal to mark her 139th death anniversary at Jame Masjid, in Kathmandu, Nepal on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. ...........................................
As for Hazrat Mahal, she was a courtesan by profession and  was part of the  royal harem of Awadh rulers. Being smart and intelligent, she won the heart of the ruler and became the junior queen of Awadh (wife of last Tajdaar-e-Awadh) and the title 'Hazrat Mahal' was bestowed on her after the birth of their son, Birjis Qadra. It was in 1856 the EIC, a proxy government that ran the Indian subcontinent for the British Crown,  annexed Awadh under the pretext of poor administration by Wajid Ali Shah. a true alley of the British; the latter  proved that they were untrustworthy and responsible for the down fall of a rich kingdom - Awadh. The same story was repeated across India and the Indian natives' abomination for the cunning EIC operations had begun to boil and later overflowed in form a powerful rebellion the British Empire never saw before. Incidentally, a major part of present state of UP was under the kingdom of Awadh. 
begum hazrat mahal park, Lucknow, UP. Rock-cafe
 Hazrat Mahal worked closely with Nana Saheb, another ruler and freedom fighter against the British forces,  but later joined the Maulavi of Faizabad in the attack on Shahjahanpur. When she moved over to Nepal to escape being caught by the English company, the  Prime Minister Rana Jang Bahadur, due to  reprisal by the English, denied her permission. However, later gave her asylum in 1859.  It is  said that Rana was given a huge amount of jewellery by the Begum and her son, in exchange for which the former had given her Thapathali palace. Subsequently, while her son Birjis Qadar chose to go back to his father in Calcutta after Queen Elizabeth granted amnesty to the family  on the occasion of the jubilee of Queen Victoria (1887), Begam Mahal chose to stay in Nepal and died after 30 years in 1879.  Had India become a free country by then, perhaps Hazrat Mahal would have landed in Lucknow to lead her country. Unfortunately, it never happened until August, 1947.
Queen Hazrat Mahal   was buried in a nameless grave in the grounds of Kathmandu's Jame Masjid.   The tomb of Begum Hazrat Mahal near Jama Masjid is in  central part of Kathmandu Ghantaghar and Jama Masjid Central Committee is taking care of this grave of a great woman who wanted the British forces to leave India for good. In the capital city of Lucknow there is a famous park named after her called Hazrat Mahal Park. On 15 August 1962, Mahal was honored at the Old Victoria Park in Hazratganj, Lucknow  in memory  of her courageous role during the great Indian rebellion, the culmination of which was due to unbearable oppressive rule  and poor treatment of the Indian natives. by the race-conscious British
Next month on 18 April 2019 Mahal's 140th death anniversary will be coming up at Jame Masjid, Kathmandu. .

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Last Mogul ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar,1857 great Indian rebellion and his shabby treatment by the British

Last Mogul ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar,
Mirza Abu Zafar Siraj-ud-din Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar (24 October 1775 – 7 November 1862), being the second son and successor to his father Akbar II after his death on 28 September 1837, was the last Mogul ruler  in the Indian subcontinent. Unfortunately, not withstanding his being a ruler of the once most powerful dynasty his  regal authority and power were  confined  only to the walled city of Old Delhi (Shahjahanbad). The East India company dishonestly took away many Indian kingdoms and the mogul empire was not an exception  Bahadur Shah's  relationship with his father was not a cordial one and it was his mother  Mumtaz Begum who compelled Akbar II  to declare her son, Mirza Jahangir, as his successor.  He was not his father's preferred choice as his successor. 
Last Mogul ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar and his wife, Pinterest
In the wake of the Indian rebellion of 1857 against the oppressive EIC rule, Bahadur Shah got a bad rap though he was not involved directly except for the the fact that  he was, just for name sake, the head of the rebellion as he happened to be a  well-respected Mogul ruler accepted both by the Hindus , Muslims and others.   Many violent incidents took place against the East India company officials and the army and the British assumption was that they were carried out under the direction of Bahadur Shah. Very much perturbed by the violence let loose by the rebels, the Mogul ruler wanted to distance himself as he preferred a peaceful protest. Quite irritated, the EIC officials arrested  Bahadur  and sentenced him to spend the rest of his life in exile; he was sent to Rangoon, in British-controlled Burma (now in Myanmar), after convicting him on conspiracy charges. Earlier, the East India Company exiled Jahangir after he attacked their resident in the Red Fort,  paving the way for Zafar to assume the throne. Now, the same British company stripped his regal power and and sent him to Burma.  .
PM MOdi visiting Bhagadur Shah Zafar's tomb.
 Bahadur Shah Zafar  of the Mogul dynasty was known as  the king of Delhi to Palam.  The Mogul empire became fragmented for various reasons. The Maratha Empire  rendered the Mogul empire powerless in the deccan in the 18th century and the regions of India under Mughal rule had either been taken over  by the Marathas or declared independence and turned into smaller kingdoms. The Marathas installed Shah Alam II in the throne in 1772, under the protection of the Maratha General Mahadaji Shinde and maintained suzerainty over Mogul  affairs in Delhi. The East India Company became the dominant political and military power in mid-nineteenth-century India. Outside the region controlled by the Company, hundreds of kingdoms and principalities, fragmented their land. However, the Mogul emperor was respected by the English Company and  gave  him a pension to maintain his family and his retinue.  The emperor  gave  the Company the rights to collect taxes from Delhi and maintain a military force in it.  Zafar never had any interest in the affairs of the state. Nor did he have any  "imperial ambition" to recapture or expand his rule. By chance he had to lead the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against  the British  and the hell-bent mobs were indulged in violence which he never approved. Nor  were the rebels  instigated by him. Fate had it that he carried the stigma of having instigated the violence against the company rule.
English company arresting the last Mogul ruler Zafar.
Above image: Capture of the emperor and his sons by William Hodson at Humayun's tomb on 20 September 1857. Military officer, mercilessly killed Zafar's sons and grandson near Khnooni Darwaza, Delhi by shooting them point blank. The Mogul dynasty was eliminated for good by the EIC officials.................................

When  the British  were on the verge of putting down the rebellion across the north Indian states, in particular Delhi,  Zafar took refuge at Humayun's Tomb on  the outskirts of Delhi. Major William Hodson, a hot-headed, merciless military officer led the army and arrested   Zafar on 20 September 1857 and on the following day  Hodson  brought  his sons Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan, and grandson Mirza Abu Bakr under his own authority on a bullock cart and near the Khooni Darwaza near the Delhi Gate, in a flash, shot them dead  point blank without any prior warning. Severed heads of his three sons and grandson were brought before him and it is believed, they were hung near the gate for several days, a sort of warning to those who would resort to revolting against the British authority.  Hodson happened to be a cold-blooded murderer  and Gen. Reginald Dyer of Jallianwallah Bagh massacre (1913) fame surpassed him in mass murder  by driving the innocent people like cattle on a ranch before a shower of bullets at he only exit gate. These two go down in Indian history as the bloodiest  and cold-blooded murderers of Indian people. As of today  either the British Crown or the British Government apologized to the Indian people for the wrong committed by their forefathers in the past. A simple note of sorry will suffice. Perhaps magnanimity may be an anathema to the race-conscious British administration!!

The trial on the Indian rebellion took place at the Delhi Red Fort and  lasted for 41 days, had 19 hearings, 21 witnesses and over a hundred documents in Persian and Urdu, with their English translations, were produced in the court.  It was the first case to be tried at the Red Fort. The EIC meetings were normally held in Calcutta with respect to commercial dealings.

Bhagadur Shah Zafar was tried and found guilty on four counts:
01. Aiding and abetting the rebels of the troops, 02. Encouraging and instigating war against the British Government, 03.  Assuming the sovereignty of Hindoostan and  04.  Causing and being accessory to the murder of the Christians.
   ...........  Proceedings of the April 1858 Trial of Bahadur Shah Zafar 'King of Delhi.

Bahadur Shah II' contention that he was helpless before the rebels who  apparently used to affix his seal on empty envelopes, the contents of which he was absolutely unaware of. The eighty-two year old poet-king was  so harassed by the rebels  he was  neither willing nor capable of providing any real leadership. His polite argument before the trial  court on the 20th day was of no use and he could not prove neither his  innocence  nor his disapproval of violence against the English. The trial was biased  and the Emperor's age, frail nature  and lack of assertiveness never drew the attention of the trial court. One Hakim Ahsanullah Khan,  Zafar's most trusted confidant and both his Prime Minister and personal physician, under duress, betrayed him by providing evidence against him at the trial in return for a pardon for himself.
Responding to Hodson's guarantee on his surrender, Zafar was not sentenced to death but exiled to Rangoon, Burma, where he died in November 1862 at the age of 87. His wife Zeenat Mahal and some of the remaining members of the family  went along with him.  The British treated the last Mogul ruler  in a shabby manner by taking him and others at 4 a.m on 7 October 1858 to Rangoon, Burma in bullock carts escorted by 9th Lancers under command of Lieutenant Ommaney.

Tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Emperor of India, Yangon,
Zafar died on Friday, 7 November 1862 at 5 am and  was buried at 4 pm near the Shwe Degon Pagoda at 6 Ziwaka Road, near the intersection with Shwe Degon Pagoda road, Yangon. The shrine of Bahadur Shah Zafar Dargah was built there after recovery of its tomb on 16 February 1991.

Bahadur Shah Zafar was a  well-known  Urdu poet, having written a number of Urdu ghazals. Unfortunately a part of his work was was lost  during the tumultuous Indian Rebellion of 1857. However, a  large collection of his works did survive, and was compiled into the Kulliyyat-i-Zafar. The court that he maintained was home to several prolific Urdu writers, including Mirza Ghalib, Dagh, Mumin, and Zauq.

Soon after the Indian rebellion, the greedy  occupying English Army ransacked the  Red Fort and stole anything that was valuable - ancient objects, jewels, books and other cultural items were taken which can be found in various museums in Britain. For example, the Crown of Bahadur Shah II is a part of the Royal Collection in London. Thus, the British Empire across the world was built amidst murder and mayhem, dishonest wheeling dealing, treachery and treason, and waling of millions of people, in particular Indians. Every exhibit in the British Museum  from the Indian subcontinent and other places is stained with blood and curses.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Daring Nana Sahib and '' Bibighar Massacre'' at Cawnpore (Kanpur)

A portrait of Nana Sahib, the Peshwa Memorial atop Parvati Hill in Pune,India Wikipedia
Great freedom fighter Nana Saheb (ex-ruler) Tom Williams
 Since August 1947 India has been a democracy and and the democratic tradition is being continued even today. Next month, the Indian people will be electing a new ruling party at the center to run the Indian government for the next five years. When the British  made Indian subcontinent a free country, as it was their wont to follow the ''Divide and Rule'' policy, they created Pakistan and India, the former being a Theocracy (based on religion). As of to -day, the former still remains a breeding ground for the terrorists who kill their own people and others in the name of religion. Obviously, that country is facing un uphill task to get the government going.  With reference to freedom struggle, countless women and men lost their lives to free India from the British who had a firm grip on India. the reason being India's vast resources and their perennial source of money flowing from the Indian subcontinent. The British turned India, once a rich country into a poor one with poverty and emaciated people.  Whereas they became rich and prosperous with their treasury full up to the brim. Among the early freedom fighters Nana Sahib made a mark for him self as a dedicated patriot and warrior.

Nana Sahib (born 19 May 1824 – disappeared 1857), born as Dhondu Pant  was an Indian, Maratha aristocrat, who led the Cawnpore (now spelled Kanpur) rebellion of 1857, a historical event that gave the Indian natives of various religious groups and ethnicity to express their deep anguish and hatred for the English company that landed n India  in the 17th century to  engage in mercantile trade activities. Greedy and grasping, taking advantage of India's unorganised and non-cohesive political scenario, they pocked their nose in the affairs of Indian rulers, and in the following decades, they had not only begun to take over the Indian lands but  also treated the natives with destine and arrogance. As for  the British Crown, the EIC became its Proxy Government as the vast income from the Subcontinent began to fill in the coffers of the British government which was almost empty when they established the first trade link in India centuries ago.    

Coming back to Nana Shahib, though he was entitled to a pension from the English East India Company, being the adopted son of the exiled Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II, the company' refused to continue the pension after his father's death.  He made a vein  appeal to the English company  that refused to restore the pension on ground that he was not the natural son of his father citing the doctrine of lapse, an annexation policy  introduced by lord Dalhousie who was the Governor General of the East India Company in India between 1848 and 1856. However, it was articulated by the Court of Directors of the East India Company as early as 1834 and several smaller states were already annexed under this doctrine

The company's consistent and unjust refusal and their arrogant policies  against the Indian natives  not only angered Nana Sahib but also other Indian rulers as well who lost their throne on filthy grounds.The   princely states of Satara (1848), Jaipur and Sambalpur (1849), Baghat (1850), Nagpur (1853), and Jhansi (1854), etc fell to the British  who ingeniously used this tricky doctrine as a ruse  to gabble up rich Indian kingdoms upon which they had set their eyes a long time ago. The other policy called  doctrine of lapse was also  an annexation policy applied by the British East India Company in India until 1858. The tricky part is: According to the doctrine, any Indian princely state under the suzerainty of the British Company (the dominant imperial power in the subcontinent), as a vassal state under the British subsidiary system, would have its princely status abolished (and therefore annexed into British India) if the ruler was either "manifestly incompetent or died without a male heir". Obviously, ''The doctrine Lapse'' and ''Subsidiary Alliance'' and their impact on Indian polity  were widely regarded by many as illegitimate.  The British officials were the ones to decide whether the prospective  rulers were competent enough to run the state!! The ensuing  major rebellion of 1857 gave the frustrated Indians  a chance to  vent out  their anger and revenge against the English company who openly practiced racial discrimination and used dubious ways to steal  Indian lands.

Nana Sahib, with support from his people, revolted against the  dishonest English company. Being a highly  spirited man he  forced the British garrison in Kanpur to surrender, then executed the survivors, gaining control of Cawnpore for a few days. He later disappeared, after his forces were defeated by the  British army  that recaptured Cawnpore (Kanpur). He went to  Nepal Hills in 1859, where he is thought to have died.
Lord Dalhousie East India Co.
East India Co.  The disastrous doctrine of Lapse. SlideServe
 The Siege of Cawnpore was an important historic event  in the Indian rebellion of 1857 because it made the British come to their senses to what extant they drove the gullible Indian natives to desperation. The besieged  British Company forces and civilians in Cawnpore  were caught unawares and were  unprepared for a long  siege and surrendered to rebel forces under Nana Sahib, in return for a safe passage to Allahabad. However, due to quirk of irony under  violent  circumstances, their evacuation from Cawnpore turned into a massacre, and most of the men were killed. When EIC 's rescue force from Allahabad marched into Cawnpore,  an unexpected bizarre incident took place. It was the killing of about 120 British women and children captured by the Sepoy forces and this incident came to be known as  the Bibighar Massacre in which the  remains of victims were thrown down a nearby well in order to hide the evidence. 
1857 Indian rebellion, Cawnpore,
 Above image: Up to 1,000 British troops, their families and loyal sepoys were holed up in Gen Wheeler's entrenchment in Kanpur for three weeks in June 1857 where they were constantly bombarded by a local prince, Nana Sahib's army............................................

The massacre came to light upon the recapture of Cawnpore and the   massacre became an excuse for the British to dispense vigilante justice - eye for eye and nose for the nose. In the aftermath, inspired by the 'War Cry'  ''Remember Cawnpore '' came the widespread retaliation on the part of the EIC  against captured rebel soldiers and local civilians.This resulted in large scale killing of native Indians and the soldiers that ran into tens of thousands. But the British media played down this and never gave a true picture.  The British did not even spare the innocent Pundits - priests.
1857 rebellion, massacre of British Army, Cawnpore.
Above image:  The British boats were stuck on mud banks preventing departure and, amid much confusion, the soldiers were subsequently captured or massacred by Nana Sahib's rebel army...............................

Nana Sahib won the trust  of Charles Hillersdon, the Collector of Kanpur, and the understanding was that  Nana Sahib would assemble a force of 1,500 soldiers  who were ready to help the British, in case the rebellion spread to Cawnpore.  On 6 June 1857, at the time when the  Indian  rebellion  was in full bloom,  the East India Company's contingent forces at  Cawnpore, took refuge at an entrenchment in the northern part of the town. In the midst of a chaotic situation  opening up at  Cawnpore, Nana Sahib and his army  got into  the British magazine and the soldiers of the 53rd Native Infantry stationed there under the EIC thought  that Nana  and his Army had arrived there to guard the magazine at the request the Company. 

However,  no sooner had Nana entered the  magazine, than he announced that he and his army were part of the rebellion against the Company, and  were part of  a vassal of Bahadur Shah II. He took possession of the Company treasury and expressed his desire  to restore the Maratha confederacy under the Peshwa tradition, and decided to capture Cawnpore. He asked the soldiers  no to proceed to Delhi and instead get back to Cawnpore  to  help him defeat the British. The soldiers being hesitating initially later agreed to  join Nana when he promised to double their pay and reward them with gold, if they were to destroy the British entrenchment.

Nana Sahib sent a letter on 5 June 1857 to General Wheeler informed him of his proposal to attack the company' entrenchment  on the morning at 10 am of 6 June. The British evacuated town and took shelter in a hastily constructed entrenchment on the outskirts. The Company forces were ill-prepared for this attack . Nana Sahib got additional rebel forces to attack the entrenchment adequately prepared for the attack but managed to defend themselves as the attacking forces were reluctant to enter the entrenchment. In the first phase Nana's soldiers lacked interest though by 10 June there were as many as  twelve thousand to fifteen thousand Indian soldiers
However, the entrenchment was steadily losing its soldiers and civilians  due to successive bombardments, sniper fire, and assaults from the  rebels and further, the situation turned very bad as the British army ran low on water supply, food and medicine.  The sniper fire and the bombardment continued until 23 June 1857, but, Nana's forces  were unable to gain an entry into the entrenchment by the end of the day. General Wheeler's personal morale had been low,  when his son Lieutenant Gordon Wheeler was decapitated in an assault on the barracks At last Nana sahib made a deal with the Army under  Gen. Wheeler for the safe passage  of Europeans to Allahabad provided they would surrender to him unconditionally.  

Finally, after having no other choice, Wheeler decided to surrender, in return for a safe passage to Allahabad. After a day of preparation and burying of the  dead, the Europeans decided to leave for Allahabad on the morning of 27 June 1857. A spirited Indian ruler who lost his land and princely life rattled the tough British officers  to register Indian people's hatred for the dishonest wheeling and dealing of the English company.

When the British reigned the control over Cawnpore, on 19 July, General Havelock resumed operations at Bithoor. Major Stevenson led a group of Madras Fusiliers & Sikh soldiers to Bithoor and occupied Nana Sahib's palace without any resistance.  The British troops seized guns, elephants & camels, and set Nana Sahib's palace on fire. As for Nana Sahib who fled to Nepal, his whereabouts became a bone of contention.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Shivaratri - festival dedicated to lord Shiva - the first Yogi in the universe!!

Shivaratri festival  4th  march 2019

 As far as the Hinduism is concerned, there is no dearth of festivals associated with trinity Gods Shiva, and Vishnu (Sri Krishna) along with goddess Shakti who goes by different names such as Durga, Bhavani, Kali, Bhagavathi, etc. From mythological point of view . the very purpose of in carnation/avatar of Sri Vishnu, in particular, was to establish Dharma and  and fair-justice  to eliminate the evil/negative forces that are inimical and ruinous  to the welfare of the people.  Unlike God Vishnu, God Shiva does the same duty without taking any avatar. He is a sort of ''Yogic Purusha'' bent on the elimination of such internal evil forces  within our body  as ego, arrogance and  presumption that lead the people to commit unbearable mistakes, causing harms to others.  Shivaratri  is about the tearing off the veil of  ''ignorance" and  removal of ''darkness''  engulfing the people. The  adiyogi or the first guru realized his consciousness at the material level of existence.  The man who meditates upon God transcends time, space and causation. The resultant spiritual exhilaration gives him ever lasting happiness, but  the material wealth, which is transient in nature, gives more pain than pleasure. The former is ever-lasting, but the latter is not.  The origin of the Shivaratri  is not clear and is a vague one, but an essential fact is, it has been around for centuries across India

Lingaraj Temple Odisha 360
Thiruvannamalai temple ; Tamil
In the Kashmir region Stradivari goes by the name of Haerath or Herath.  In West Bengal, Maha Shivaratri is observed with intense devotion by unmarried girls seeking a suitable groom, often visiting Tarakeswar temple.  At the huge Arunachala temple in the temple town of Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu. Mahashivaratri is celebrated on a grand scale. On this day, a  large preponderance of ardent Shiva devotees undertake what is called  'Girivalam'/Giri Pradakshina (going around the Arunachala hill), a 14-kilometer long stretch,  bare foot walk around  the hill. A giant oil  lamp  is lit on the hilltop at sunset and it  differs from  the famous  Karthigai Deepam.  At this temple Shiva represents one of the Pancha boothas - Agni (fire) The major Jyotirlinga Shiva temples of India, such as in Varanasi and Somanatha come alive and  lots of devotees visit them. In Gujarat, the festival is held at Junagadh where bathing in the Murghi kund is considered holy. According to the legend, Lord Shiva himself comes to bathe in the Murghi kund.
Rajarajeswara  Shiva temple at Thalliparamba,kerala, Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri, a popular Hindu festival celebrated annually in honor of Lord Shiva across India is an interesting one.  In every lunar-solar month of the Hindu calendar there is a  Shivaratri  on the 13th night/14th day. The one that falls  once a year in the late winter (February/March, or phalgun) before the onset of the Summer, gains religious importance and is called Maha Shivaratri which means "the Great Night of Shiva".

It is not like most other Hindu festivals which are celebrated during the day.  The Maha Shivaratri is celebrated at night, devoid of  cultural revelry,  it is a solemn event well-known for  introspection - self-analysis, meditation, concentration and self-control. The whole night vigil at the Shiva temples marks, social harmony and integration of various communities for a common purpose -  meditation on Shiva,  and an all night vigil at Shiva temples is part of prayer.

''During the Vigil Night of Shiva, Mahashivaratri, we are brought to the moment of interval between destruction and regeneration;
it symbolizes the night when we must contemplate on that which
watches the growth out of the decay. During Mahashivaratri we have to be alone with our sword, the Shiva out of us.
We have to look behind and before, to see what evil needs eradicating from our heart, what growth of virtue we need to encourage. Shiva is not only outside of us but within us. To unite ourselves with the One Self is to recognize the Shiva in us''.
—The ...............................   Theosophical Movement, Volume 72.

On the day of Shivaratri, devotees stay awake whole night, engaging themselves in meditation and prayer. The most important part being fasting and focusing attention on the ethics and virtues of life that shape the human mind.  Integrity, honesty, self-control humility and forgiveness are vital to every human being to achieve victory over oneself.  Normally, on this day, devotees  visit the near-by Shiva temple and participate in the prayer, bhajans, etc or go on pilgrimage to Jyotirlinga temples. The latter needs time and money to undertake a holy trip and devotees form groups and visit the temples across India with a guide.
Every Hindu festival has a sort of some mythological story. The Hindu scriptures say the churning of the celestial ocean Samudra Manthan by the Asuras on one side and Devas on the other using the giant serpent Vasuki  as a giant rope was done with a view to getting the Amritha -  the nectar of immortality. The Asuras were particular about getting it.  The poisonous scum that initially came out on the side of Devas very much affected them, endangering their lives. In the process God Vishnu turned deep blue.  Upon prayer both by the Asuras and Devas,  God Shiva swallowed the poison and thus saved them and the universe. Lord's consort Parvati, concerned about Shiva's health, held his throat for a day and night to avoid the poison getting down the throat. The poison never  got into his body, however,  his throat  turned blue as the poison lodged there for ever. Hence Shiva assumes the name of Neelaknda, the name quite popular in Tamil Nadu and also in other southern states.
To prevent damage to the lord, Goddess Parvati stayed whole night and day, so we too engage in fasting and do Jagaran (being awake for the entire night). The festival of Maha Shivaratri marks the fasting and meditation on God  as was done by Pavati. .

At Major Shiva temples across India, the Shiva Lingam is worshiped throughout the night by anointing it  it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., amidst  the chanting of the Mantra ''Om Namah Shivaya''. Offerings of bael (Bilva leaves) leaves are made to the Lingam. as they are sacred;  it is said, Lakshmi resides in them. 

 People  who utter the Panchakshara Mantra, ''Om Namah Shivaya'' during Shivaratri, with  dedication  and devotion will be freed from all sins and get  salvation- deliverance from the cycles of birth and death and the associated pains with them. Thus, they, it is believed, will live in the quiet world of eternal bliss in the shadow of the Lord.    
 "Maha Shivaratri symbolizes the last holy bath of the Kalpvasis and as  per the mythology, this day is awaited in the heavens as well," This is a very rare coincidence and the Sangam area will remain more crowded than previous years since it is the last bathing day,"Today, the Kumbh Mela in UP's Prayagraj is set to witness the last dip at the Sangam, or the holy confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri. 

This Mela, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, was held in Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj from January 15 on Makar Sakranti to March 4 (Maha Shivratri) this year. It is celebrated four times over a course of 12 years.  Some scriptures point out this is the night of Shiva's dance. Many Puranas deal with The Maha Shivaratri; mention may be be made of the Skanda Purana, Linga Purana and Padma Purana. Though there are different versions about Shivaratri, the primary objective is self analysis and this is done by way  of  meditation on God, fasting, paying obeisance to icons of Shiva such as the Lingam. This is also the night on which both lord Shiva and Parvati  got married and began their virtuous path of life.
Chidambaram temple.  Natyanjali ~ Siva Travelogue
Chidamparam temple, TN Goibibo
Chidamparam temple corridor close to the tank./ Chennai Focus

The Indian dance tradition traces its historical roots to Shiva temples across India. This festival marks the a historic  confluence of  well-known artists of various tradition for annual  colorful dance festivals at major Hindu temples such as  Konark,
Dance festival. Khajuraho Temple, Odisha The Hindu
Khajuraho, Pattadakal, Modhera and Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu). This graceful dance event is called  Natyanjali, literally "worship through dance", at the Chidambaram temple which is famous for its sculpture depicting all dance mudras in the ancient Hindu text of performance arts called ''Natya Shastra''. It draws artists from various schools from Tamil Nadu and other states as well. Equally famous are the dance festivals at  Khajuraho Shiva temples, a major fair and dance festival on Maha Shivaratri day. 

The  annual dance festivals at Chidambaram (TN) and Khajuraho (Odisha)  temples, where  dance is held against the backdrop of the temples, offer unique  visual treat to the visitors.The  artists from other states show their skills in nuances of their respective age old dance traditions.  As for the rasikas,  it is indeed a rare opportunity to watch performances in such an aesthetic setting  and it is a delightful experience that will be long cherished by them. By the same token, for the well-trained artistes they get a better exposure in a different environment.  This dance event has been around for several centuries and the state tourism departments give solid support to preserve our cultural matrix and ethos to maintain the unbroken continuity despite  the onslaught of  western influence.


Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Charles Dickens, a racist who never treated his wife Catherine well!!

Charles Dickens. International Policy Digest
Among the giants in the English language literature, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was a highly respected story teller  and still he works are liked both by the public and the researchers. Equally questionable  is the other side side of his life and it  was known that he had scant respect for other ethnic groups. Nor did he treat well  his better-half Catherine, his companion of two decades and mother of 10 children  by him.  Suffice to say he was a man of complex personality that is overshadowed by his amazing spree of literary works that  created a niche for him in the world of English literature.  Let me give a brief note on his personal life later.  First let me focus on his racist attitude and how his tongue wagged in dealing with the non-whites, etc.  With such a biased view of other ethnic people, it is no doubt. in  some of his works one could see a streak of racism running  here and other which he dealt with unashamedly, not withstanding the fact that never had he failed to express his sympathy towards the disadvantaged in England. Such a prejudicial view  of  other races shows him in bad light and, more often than not, he is tagged as racist and xenophobic in his journalism and fiction.
Catherine DickensWikipedia
Catherine Dickens 
c.1847 by Daniel Maclise
 Above image:  Catherine Thomson "Kate" Dickens (née Hogarth; 19 May 1815 - 22 November 1879) was the wife of English novelist Charles Dickens, and the mother of his ten children. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1815, Catherine came to England with her family in 1824. She was the eldest daughter of 10 children to George Hogart,  a journalist for the Edinburgh Courant, and later became a writer and music critic for the Morning Chronicle, where Dickens was a young journalist, and later the editor of the Evening Chronicle. Catherine and Dickens became engaged in 1835 and were married on 2 April 1836 in St Luke's Church, Chelsea. They set up a home in Bloomsbury, and went on to have ten children. In June 1858 Charles and Catherine Dickens separated. The  exact reason of the separation is unknown,  however rumor was thick in the air that Dickens had romantic escapades with  Ellen Ternan and/or Catherine's sister, Georgina Hogarth.................................... 

An obvious case in point is his famous work ''Oliver Twist'',   first published in a serial form between 1837 and 1839.   In this work  his racist bent of mind  comes to the brim. The portrayal of Fagin, a Jewish character who ran a school for the pickpockets in London, is  seen by many as deeply antisemitic. Normally, the ethnicity of the fictional characters is never mentioned by great workers of repute because the personality of the character is more important than his religion or ethnic background. Believe it or not, the  famous novel refers to Fagin 257 times in the first 38 chapters as "the Jew"  According to Nadia Valdman, who specializes on the  portrayal of Jews in literature,  'Fagin's  characterization  was drawn from the image of the Jew as inherently evil, that the imagery associated him with the Devil, and with beasts''.
Charles Dickens.
 The complex and paradoxical approach of Dickens  towards  his   support for various liberal causes  on one hand, and on the other, his crass display of racism,  nationalist chauvinism and imperialist mentality or superiority  ( now it is referred to as Britishness)  made him become a  controversial figure  and consequently, he won more brickbat than laurels.  His carping tongue never failed to impact other  ethnic groups across the globe.  Though he was against slavery in America, during the civil war there he sided with the southerners and also mentioned the absurdity of giving votes to the American blacks! It implies that he never gave due importance to the equality of human races  in a democratic set-up. As for the Native Americans, he considered them dirty, cruel, and constantly fighting among themselves and others. His literary work on ''Noble Savage is a blend of his sympathy for the native American Indians and the arrogance of European colonialism in the New World where the Indian natives  had been enjoying freedom and fresh air before the arrival of Europeans on the shores of America.
1857 the great Indian rellion Alamy
Dickens' racism toward the Natives of India came to the fore during the 1857 Rebellion against the wily, dishonest and corrupt  East India Company that cheated on the Indian natives. rich Maharajahs and Nawabs in every  conceivable manner without any scruples.  Dickens was much in rage over the massacre in which over a hundred English prisoners, most of them women and children, were killed, and on 4 October 1857 he wrote a letter to Baroness Burdett-Coutts: Reacting to the massacre of the British in Cawnpoor (Kanpur), Dickens, without verifying facts and what the British were doing to the natives of India, made very damaging  and nauseating remarks that  angered the Indian leaders. 

Dickens  in a letter to  Emile de la Rue on 23 October 1857, about the so-called Indian Mutiny of 1857 : “I wish I were Commander in Chief over there [ India ]! I would address that Oriental character which must be powerfully spoken to, in something like the following placard, which should be vigorously translated into all native dialects, “I, The Inimitable, holding this office of mine, and firmly believing that I hold it by the permission of Heaven and not by the appointment of Satan, have the honor to inform you Hindoo gentry that it is my intention, with all possible avoidance of unnecessary cruelty and with all merciful swiftness of execution, to exterminate the Race from the face of the earth, which disfigured the earth with the late abominable atrocities [2,000 British killed in the 1857 Indian War of Independence - Indian Mutiny] (see Grace Moore (2004), “Dickens and the Empire. Discourses of class, race, and colonialism in the works of Charles Dickens”
(Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot , UK ). 

Dickens had no idea under company rule to what extant the Indian subcontinent had  been squandered and the a natural resources exploited  by the British Bobs to scale up the British economy. Nor was he aware of how many thousands of  revolting Indian  soldiers and innocent Pundits were killed by some maniac East India company military men. Countless Indian soldiers were blown before the powerful cannons. The British Crown finally stepped in to save their neck and the colony so that they could  loot and keep filling the coffer as much as they could before leaving India for good in the future.

As for Dickens'  relationship with his wife, a recent article by one Palko Karasz (vide: ''The Hindu'' dated 25 February 2018 (''Dickens tried to send his wife to asylum, letters show'') is an interesting one.  Dickens' separation from his wife was never revealed to the public and he was very particular about keeping it as a secret. More damaging and unethical act was he wanted his wife imprisoned for good in an asylum. Considered as the ''more damning  account of Dickens' behavior than others'', the revelation came from  one John Bowen, professor of 19th century English literature  at the university of York in north England whose article appeared in the ''Times' Literary Supplement'' published recently. The analysis was made based on the letters kept at Harvard University, USA.

Dickens never wanted the dark side of  his life exposed  as this would damage his reputation, social status and legacy. So what he did was he burned almost all the letters;  However, scholars and biographers, driven by curiosity,  wanted to go deep into his private life and toiled to bring out the truth about Dickens and his relationship with other women. Ms. Catherine never mentioned about her separation from Dickens and, at last, 10 years later after Dickens' death,   she  confided in  Edward Dutton cook, a theater critic and her neighbor in Camden, North London.  Dutton wrote as many as 98 letters about Dickens and his lousy treatment of his wife. The Harvard  University (Houghton library)  got the letters written by Dutton  through auction in 1984.  

The letters  written by Dutton to his friend, a journalist bring to light the mean and maniac character of a man  who strode the English literary world like a giant. He made a vein attempt to send his wife  to the asylum as he had no proof.   Dutton in his letter pointed out that Dickens lost interest in his wife as she grew old and became unattractive. How could Dickens expect  his wife, a mother of 10 children,  to remain ever charming and beautiful  while wilting under age.  His racism and the treatment of his wife will ever remain a blot on this weird literary wizard in the English language.