Monday, 16 July 2018

Martyr Madan Lal Dhingra 109 years ago was hanged to death by the British court in London -Indian freedom struggle

Shaheed Madan Lal Dhingra iStampGallery.Com Revival of True Indi
Come August, 2018, 109 years ago, a young Indian student in England gave up  his life for our country so that in the later years we would be free from the unjust British rule and breathe fresh air of freedom. That 26 year old man was none other than Shaheed Madan Lal Dhingra, Punjabi. hailing from a rich family. We got our freedom through sweat , blood and sacrifices of people like Dhingra, Vanchi, VOC and others, but unfortunately, our present politicians with, no firm ideology, are bleeding us while they are wallowing in ill-gotten money. What outrages the people is they have no qualms about their lack of integrity and efficiency when they are in power. Their motto is: 'Their family welfare is more important than people's welfare'.  This great patriot Madan Lal Dhingra remains unknown in many states, in particular, Tamil Nadu due to lack of awareness  and it is a shame. It is our duty to pay a lasting tribute to  Indian freedom fighters who laid their lives during the colonial days.
Shaheed Madan Lal Dhingra (Punjabi: (18 September 1883 - 17 August 1909), an Indian revolutionary and freedom activist, while he was a student took active interest in protests against the British occupation of India. When he went abroad for higher studies, his patriotic zeal never declined, rather it became prominent.  His assassination of   Sir William Hutt Curzon Wyllie, a British official became one of the few  first acts of revolution abroad  in the 20th century for  Indian independence movement that gripped the entire country.     
Madan Lal Dhingra was born on 8 February 1883 in a Punjabi family in Amritsar, India, his father was a civil surgeon and all his brothers had their education abroad.  When he was a student at the Government College University, Lahore in 1904 he  headed a students' protest rally against the principal, refusing to wear the college Blazer  made of cloth imported from England for which he was expelled from the college. At that time Dhingra was a student in the Master of Arts program. Being a man of independent thinking, he slowly became obsessed with India's fundamental problems, poverty, extensive impoverishment and famine partly created by the British Raj. He was drawn close to nationalist Swadeshi movement as the British were dumping imported clothes,etc and damaging India's vast cottage industries. Only Swaraj - Self rule alone could solve India's mounting problems and it would  stop exploitation of Indians by Britain.  Dhingra had a brief chequered career in India as his labor union activities got him into trouble. Upon his brother Dr. Bihari Lal's advice, from Mumbai he went to England in 1906 for higher studies and there he joined University College, London, to study mechanical engineering. Financial help came from his elder brother. 
Sentenced 17 Aug. 1908 Martyr Madan Lal Dingra. Twitter
In the early1900s, India House in Highgate became a hub of Indian political activists  and  Indian revolutionaries. Here Dhingra came under the influence of noted Indian independence and political activists Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Shyamji Krishna Varma. They were much impressed by   Dhingra's commitment to India's  freedom struggle by any means including assassination of British officials in India, thus toeing the line of thinking of  Savarkar. He allegedly gave Dhingra arms training and soon began to frequent a shooting range on Tottenham Court Road. He became an active member of  a secretive society, the Abhinav Bharat Mandal founded by Savarkar and his brother Ganesh. The purpose was to free India from the British, if need be through the cult of violence.
Shaheed Madan Lal Dhingra iStampGallery.Com
Back in India the partition of Bengal into East Bengal (predominantly Muslims) and West Bengal (predominantly Hindus) in 1905 under the direction of Lord Curzon, using administrative efficiency as an excuse, became a serious political issue and the freedom fighters and others thought it was a ploy to drive a wedge between two communities - Hindus and Muslims.  No doubt this unwanted partition enraged people like Savarkar, Dhingra, and others. Dingra's political activities affected his family's peace and prestige and ultimately his father  Dr. Gitta Mall officially disowned him. 

Earlier Dingra's attempt to assassinate
Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, the  ex-Governor of Bengal, Bramfield Fuller could not materialize as the timing was not suitable to him. So, he decided to target Curzon Wyllie who  had joined the British Army in 1866 and the Indian Political Department in 1879. His distinguished service got him promotion quickly and at last he became Political Aide-de-Camp to the Secretary of State for India. Further, being  the head of the Secret Police and he had been trying to gather  information about Savarkar and other revolutionaries. So, Dingra made up his mind to target him as Wylie was spreading the net wide on the revolutionaries.
On the evening of 1 July 1909, the Indian National Association at the Imperial Institute, London  hosted the annual 'At Home' function. Also present  at the gala function were a large number of Indians and Englishmen. Sir Curzon Wyllie, political aide-de-camp to the Secretary of State for India was to be present and  Dhingra never wished to miss the opportunity to shoot Wylie. When Wylie was leaving the hall with his wife, Dhingra fired  five shots, four of which hit their target. Cawas Lalcaca[, a Parsee doctor who tried to save Sir Curzon, was hit by the 6th and 7th shot  and died.

Dhingra's suicide attempt, having been failed, he was arrested by the police.  Dhingra was tried in the Old Bailey on 23 July. He argued for himself and did not have a lawyer for him. He said he killed Wylie Curson  as part of his patriotic duty to free India from the oppressive and inhuman rule. It was exploitation of land and people by the British masters all the way. Further, it may be taken as a   revenge for the inhumane killings of countless Indians by the British Government in India who wanted their Home Land back. His killing of Cawas Lalcaca was just accidental. He was sentenced to death by the British Court. When the judge handed down  his verdict, Dhingra is believed  to have stated: "I am proud to have the honor of laying down my life for my country". Madan Lal Dhingra was hanged on 17 August 1909 at Pentonville Prison.

Dhingra's actions also inspired some of the Irish, who were fighting their own struggle at the time.
 Dhingra made the following statement before the court (vide: Wikipedia):
   '' I do not want to say anything in defence of myself, but simply to prove the justice of my deed. .......''

  '' ..... if it is patriotic in an Englishman to fight against the Germans if they were to occupy this country, it is much more justifiable and patriotic in my case to fight against the English. I hold the English people responsible for the murder of eighty millions of Indian people in the last fifty years, and they are also responsible for taking away ₤100,000,000 every year from India to this country. ............. the English people have no right to occupy India, and it is perfectly justifiable on our part to kill the Englishman who is polluting our sacred land. I am surprised at the terrible hypocrisy, the farce, and the mockery of the English people. They pose as the champions of oppressed humanity—the peoples of the Congo and the people of Russia—when there is terrible oppression and horrible atrocities committed in India; for example, the killing of two millions of people every year and the outraging of our women......''

Khudiram Bose,18 year old patriot was hanged to death 110 years ago - British India

Patriot KhudiramBose  too uoung to die at the gallows Making India
Prafulla Chandra
Come August, 110 years ago, a young boy and a Bengali patriot Khudiram Bose, in his teens, was hanged to death for killing two British women in  Muzaffarpur, Bihar.  In many Indian states he remains relatively unknown in spite of being one the youngest revolutionaries of the Indian freedom struggle to die at18.
During the struggle for India's freedom, the attitude of the British administration directly under the Crown had not changed after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 and the racial discrimination in jobs, exploitation of Indian lands, dumping of British products and destruction of cottage industries  continued in a subtle manner. Though a large section of people wanted to be free democratically, a small section felt the British were hard nut to crack and the only recourse was to instill fear in them by killing British officials to hasten the process of getting freedom. Besides, they thought, such assassinations would get world-wide publicity,  show the British in bad light and  bring into focus how much the Indian natives hated the British rule . Among the Indian states, Bengal became a breeding ground for innumerable freedom fighters and some of them became revolutionaries and encourage violence against the foreign rulers. Unfortunately their love for the country, sacrifices to free the country  go unnoticed. This is true of Khudiram Bose, a young student of Midnapore Collegiate School.  Bose was heavily influenced and inspired by freedom fighters like Aurobindo Ghosh who later became a spiritual leader.

The Indian Panorama
Khudiram Bose (3 December 1889 – 11 August 1908) was an Indian Bengali revolutionary and was against the British oppressive rule. He could not reconcile himself to the fact that Indians were discriminated against by the British who exploited the Indian resources and the gullible Indians. Having become a revolutionary, he took to violence as the only way to make the British understand how much abomination the Indians  had for their unjust rule in India.
Patriot Khudiram Quora
Khudiram, along with his associate Prafulla tried to assassinate District Judge, Mr. Kingsford  by throwing bombs which blew up the carriage in which Kingsford was supposed to be in, but he was not. Two British ladies were killed in the incident. When the police closed in on Prafulla,  he committed suicide  to avoid torture and pain. Khudiram was arrested and tried for the murder of the two ladies and sentenced to death. When facing death, Kudiram was just 18 years, 8 months 8 days old, making him one of the youngest revolutionaries in India 
The Quint

Mahatma Gandhi who said, '' that the Indian People will not win their freedom through these methods" did not appeal for the reduction of punishment for the young man. Instead, he felt sorry for the death of two innocent British women. A section of the Indian population was 'aghast at Gandhiji's attitude as he had not even an iota of sympathy for a young boy in his teens who gave up his life for this country'.

Born on December 3, 1889 in the small village named "Habibpur" in Midnapore district of Bengal, Kudiram Bose  lost his parents at a young age and was brought up by his sister Aparupa Roy. He attended the school  and college at Medinapore where in 1902-1903 Sri Aurobindo and Sister Nivedita respectively organized public lectures, besides conducting secret meeting with revolutionary groups. Khudiram, being patriotic attended these secret sessions that gave him inspiration to join the revolutionary group. Having  joined Anushilan Samiti, he got in contact with people inspired by Barindra Kumar Ghosh of Calcutta. At the age of 15 he became a volunteer and distributed pamphlets against the British rule and this landed him in jail.  
Patriot Khudiram Bose. Towards Freedom
Hem Chandra Kanungo (Hem Chandra Kanungo Das), an associate of  Barindra Kumar Ghosh in 1907 learned the art of bomb making  in French. Back in India, he worked with Barin Ghosh again. Now, they chose a target one Douglas Kingsford who was the Chief Magistrate of the Presidency court of Alipore, and had handled the trials of Bhupendranath Dutta and other editors of Jugantar, sentencing them to rigorous imprisonment.  The court cases popularized the Anushilan Samiti's ideology of revolutionary nationalism that approved terrorism as a way to achieve the goal. It was popular among a small section of the people. 

 Kingsford, arrogant as he was,  also earned the ire of nationalists when he ordered the whipping of a young Bengali boy for participating in the protests that followed the Jugantar trial. As Chief Magistrate of Calcutta Presidency, Kingsford had passed several verdicts giving severe punishments  to  young political workers and at one stage, he became a maniac, bent on giving harsh sentences even for light crimes.
abortive attempt on Kingford
Hem  made a futile bid  to  assassinate Kingford with a book bomb at a time when he was transferred to Muzaffarpur in 1908 in northern part of Bihar on promotion as District Judge. Resolved to assassinate Kingford, Anushilan Samiti  after initial survey of the town - Muzaffarpur in April sent  Prafulla Chaki and  Khudiram Bose with  explosives (6 ounces of dynamite) and other materials to be used to kill Kingford.

The  Calcutta police got  the scent that there was a plan afoot to finish notorious judge  Kingsford and  alerted the Muzaffarpur police officials. Kingsford was warned about the impending danger to his life, but he never paid any attention to it. However, his security was beefed up at his residence and other places. 

On the trail of Kingford, Khudiram changed his name to "Haren Sarkar", and Prafulla to "Dinesh Chandra Roy", and they checked into a  residence in a 'dharmashala' (free, charitable inn).  For the next few days both of them  keenly watched the daily routine  activities of Kingford and his security, taking notes of target's timings at the court, the club and his house. They decided to carry on their plan  on the evening of 29 April and the place was near the British Club, Kingford'd favorite recreation place. The park across the club gave Khudiram and Prafulla  a good view of the club As the police were close by, they changed the plan..
For three weeks, the duo went under the different names and moved around the town without raising suspicion. Following day in the evening - 30 April 1908 they came to the same spot and the presence of police alerted them and they hid behind a tree.  Kingsford was busy  playing bridge that night at the club with his wife and the wife and daughter of Pringle Kennedy, a leading pleader of Muzaffarpur Bar. Around 8.30 Pm, they finisedh the game and ready to go home. 

Kingsford and his wife were in a carriage right  behind the one carrying Pringles. The crux of the problem was both  horse- drawn carriages were identical in appearance and  Khudiram and Prafulla had no idea which carriage was carrying Kingford, Further, it was almost dark.  As the ladies carriage was just near Kingford's  compound  to go past it, two men ran towards it from the opposite or southern side of the road where they had been hiding under the trees.  One of them or both (?) lobbed a bomb into the carriage. After the explosion, the carriage was shattered and the English ladies were severely injured and later both of them succumbed to horrible injuries. As for Kingford, it was the edit of providence that he had to stay alive.

As this incident took place before 9 PM, the entire town was cordoned off by the police who were on the look out of the culprits. They were carrying a bounty of Rs.1000.00 on them. Kadiram, after his execution attempt, chose the country side and walked  a long distance non-stop around 25 miles  and was finally caught at a place called "Waini" (Now known as Khudiram Bose Pusa Station or Pusa Road Station) by the cops after some struggle.
As for Prafulla Chaki, he walked long distance and a resident, knowing well he was the assassin the police were looking for, took pity on him helped him get back to Calcutta. Unfortunately luck ran out quickly on him.  At Mokamagha where he had to take a train to Calcutta, a police inspector saw him and altered the near by police station. When a posse arrived, after unsuccessful firing at the Indian sub Inspector, Prafulla tried to escape from the railway station. Finally exhausted, to avoid mental agony and torture, he shot himself to death.
Patriot KhudiramBose
On 1 May, the handcuffed Khudiram was brought from that station to Muzaffarpur.  Kudiram took the entire responsibility for the murder and did not want to betray his associate who was already dead which he did not know. After a long trial and appeals to higher courts to reduce the sentence, finally on 11 August 1908 at 6 am young and daring freedom fighter was hanged to death. He never appeared disturbed nor had he  shown fear when he was taken to the gallows and the cap drawn over his head. Khudiram Bose was just 18 years of age  he was sentenced to death. The entire Bengal mourned his death and it gave a boost to India's freedom struggle. As for the British, they  again opened the Pandora's box, this time in Bengal.

William Wedderburn ICS, founder of the Congress, who worked with the Indian freedom fighters

Sir William Wedderburn, 4th Baronet, JP DL (25 March 1838 – 25 January 1918), a Scottish man,  born in Edinburgh, was the  son of Sir John Wedderburn, 2nd Baronet and Henrietta Louise Milburn.  He was a civil servant and politician.  Educated at Edinburgh University, he joined the Indian Civil Service  to take up a job in India as his father and an older brother had done before.  He attempted to bring about reforms in banking to solve the problems of peasants during his working career. The British India government put his  reforms on the back burner and gave him no support.  He retired to help found the Indian National Congress and support local self-government.
William Wedderburn ICS, politician and Indian sympathizer. Wikipedia
Indian freedom struggle.  Quora
Entering  the Indian Civil Service in Bombay in 1860,  he began his official duty at Dharwar (Karnataka) as an Assistant Collector, later he served as District Judge and Judicial Commissioner in Sind and subsequently he worked in different capacity,  holding a variety of positions. He was secretary to Bombay Government, Judicial and Political Departments; and from 1885 acted as Judge of the High Court, Bombay. He retired as acting Chief Secretary to the Government of Bombay in 1887.
statue of Annie Besant and a bust of ‘Sir William Wedderburn Bart
Sir William Wedderburn and the Indian Reform Movement.  eBay
While on assignments in the rural parts of India, he got first hand  information on the problems being faced by the Indian farmers such as famine, poverty, loans, etc and when he got down to the bottom of it he found out the peasants' grievances were up to their neck. They  were appalling and needed to be addressed. It was primarily caused by money lenders; actually they were almost like loan sharks demanding exorbitant interest on the loan.  Wedderburn  came up with a novel idea  and  suggested that co-operative  agricultural banks be established to provide credits  to the needed farmers at reasonable rates. The proposal was supported in India but was blocked by the India Office in London. The indifferent attitude of the British India government disappointed him, so he took the cudgels against the bureaucracy.
Indian freedom struggle against the british.
Wedderburn, toeing the line of  Lord Ripon wanted to introduce certain reforms  to develop local self-government and equality to Indian judges. Then, Indian judges were not treated on par with British judges by the judiciary.  Indian judges could not try British subjects / convicts in their courts!! The British India government did not like his reforms that would favor the Indian natives and became suspicious of Weddeburn's loyalty to the British government. Many in officialdom went to the extent of  considering him  a 'Traitor" on account of his humane and sympathetic attitude toward Indians. This resulted in the denial of  a judge post in the Bombay high court because Wedderburn gave priority to aspirations of Indians to rule their land. Being an honest and unbiased official, he retired as early as 1887.  He plunged into India's freedom struggle through democratic means  and became a Congress man.  Along with Allan Octavian Hume he was a founder of the Indian National Congress and served as its president in 1889 (4th session; Bombay session) and 1910 (Allahabad Silver Jubilee Sessions). INC was formed to fight for freedom from Britain through democratic means. 
 “What are the practical objects of the Congress movement? They are, to revive the national life, and to increase the material prosperity of country; and what better objects could we have before us? Lastly, as regards our methods, they are open and constitutional, and based solely on India's reliance upon British justice and love of fair play.”  From the Presidential Address - William Wedderburn I.N.C. Session, 1889, Bombay
Indian freedom struggleGiGlee Magazine
Politically inspired, he worked with most influential Congress leaders in Bombay and in 1890 he chaired the British committee of the Indian National Congress. He attempted to support the Indian freedom movement through parliamentary action in Britain  and through publications. In the course of his work he became a close associate of G. K. Gokhale of the Congress. While in England, he served as Liberal Member of Parliament for Banffshire from 1893 to 1900.
He never failed to associate himself with the Indian affairs and considered a true friend of Indian movement. He was a member of many Royal Commissions  on India and  was the chairman of Indian Parliamentary Committee besides being the Chairman, British Committee of the Indian National Congress.  In 1910 he took serious efforts to sort out the differences  between Hindus and Muslims  and preferred a constitutional solution rather than  militant actions; the later will yield no results but apathy.
He succeeded to his brother's (Sir David)  baronetcy in 1879, adding that rather confusing Bart to his name. His wife was Mary Blanche Hoskyns and by her had two daughters, one was born in Pune.   He died at his home in Meredith, Gloucestershire on 25 January 1918 (aged 79).


01.  In the YMCA building, at 49 Moore Street (Second Line Beach, Chennai (Madras) there were  a statue of Annie Besant and a bust of ‘Sir William Wedderburn Bart”. They were, it, is believed, from the Gokhale Hall. Their connection with the YMCA building is a riddle. I don not know whether they are removed from the present location!

02. Wedderburn was member of the Welby Commission on Indian Expenditure (1895-1900), of which Dadabhai Naoroji was also a member.

03. He was the founder of the Congress and its president in 1889 and 1910.

04. He remained the Chairman of the British Committee of the Congress from July 1889 until his death

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Irish MP and ''Quaker'' Alfred Webb who supported India's freedom struggle

Alfred Webb supported Indian freedom movement,

Alfred John Webb (1834–1908),  an Irish Quaker, hailing  from a family of activist printers, was a no-nonsense  politician of independent thinking  who globally supported people's freedom and fundamental rights. Having become  an Irish Parliamentary Party politician and Member of Parliament (MP), he was an enthusiastic participants  in nationalist movements around the world. He was a staunch supporter of Issac Butt’s Home Government Association, a pressure group that called for Home Rule in Ireland (May 1870) and the United Irish League that was launched in Jan, 1898 and their motto was: ''Land for the people''.  As Alfred Webb had been watching the struggle going in India and the protests to get freed from the British yoke, he took keen interest in the nationalist movements going on in the subcontinent,  Obviously, there was no surprise that  he came over to  Madras in 1894 and became the third non-Indian (after George Yule and William Wedderburn) to preside over the Indian National Congress that was founded in 1855 - first modern  national movement emerged in the British Empire in Asia and Africa.

Alfred Webb, only son of the three children of Richard Davis Webb and Hannah Waring Webb, was a native of Dublin. In those days there existed a group "called ''Quakers" and this group, being humane and just as they were, supported reforms such as suffrage, the abolition of slavery and anti-imperialism. The people in the British colonies world over underwent untold misery and suppression of justice with no solution in sight.  Webb's family ran a printing shop in Dublin and  printed booklets for many of these causes and, in turn, their regular customers grew to include other similar organizations.

Hindustan Times front page on August 15, 1947.Hindustan Times

While  taking a keen role in Irish politics, Alfred Webb  found time to  write a Compendium of Irish Biography. In 1865, he began to take  more active interest in Irish politics and was first elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom on 24 February 1890, when he won a by-election for the West Waterford constituency. He was again returned for West Waterford in the 1892 general election, this time as an anti-Parnellite MP.

His  politically motivated family began to focus on the welfare of British colonies  where the natives were subject to oppressive rule. Alfred Webb and his family became  and had been an unequivocal opponents of the opium traffic into China which affected the Indian land owners on one hand and on the other the health of the Chinese population.  Webb, being a close friend of Dadabhai Naoroji (Indian patriot and MP British Parliament 1892 -1895), a key member of the Indian National Congress, was closely watching the Indian situation. It was Naoroji who invited Webb to preside over the Indian National Congress  session in 1894 in Madras (Chennai).

India freedom struggle

His fellow Quaker activist Catherine Impey founded in 1888 a journal in support of Anti-Caste, Britain's first anti-racism. Besides being a supporter of the journal, Webb went one step ahead  to rally subscribers and activists for the journal around the world. Along with Dadabhai Naoroji, Webb requested people to support the new association  so that globally people would be free from such evils such as racism, slavery and exploitation as the new society stood for the Furtherance of Human Brotherhood’.

Sir Henry John Cotton, KCSI Liberal MP who supported Indian freedom struggle


Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton, KCSI (13 September 1845 – 22 October 1915) was  a young  officer of  the Indian Civil Service (ICS),  at a time when the Indian subcontinent was just out the worst rebellion Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 and the administration came under the direct Crown government, London.  He is not only known for his administrative skill and hard work but also for his personal interest in India-centric problems. He is well remembered for his solid contribution toward education and development of NE India. Further, he was primarily responsible for starting a college in Guwahati, a remote poorly developed town in those days.  

Born in 1845 in the city of Kumbakonam (now in Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu)  in the Madras region of India, to Indian-born parents of English descent, Joseph John Cotton (1813-1867) and Susan Jessie Minchin (1823-1888), he was educated at Magdalen College School in 1856, Brighton College in 1859, and King's College London in 1861. After he successfully passed the Indian Civil Service Examination, a tough entrance exam essential for a career in India he had  joined the British India government. In 1867 in Freshwater, Isle of Wight, Cotton married Mary Ryan (1848-1914). The couple had four children - two sons and two daughters.

 Arriving at at Midnapore, Bengal, Cotton worked under  his immediate superior  William James Herschel, then the local magistrate. From here, Cotton moved up the professional ladder with ease, each time proving  his skill and ability to carry on his work with conviction. 

In 1872 he was posted to Calcutta, and in  the following year he became  Assistant Secretary to the Bengal Government by Sir George Campbell, and later worked under Sir Richard Temple. In 1878 he became magistrate and collector at Chittagong; in 1880 he became Senior Secretary to the Board of Revenue in Bengal. He saw further progress in his career and this time,  Cotton became Revenue Secretary to Government, Financial and Municipal Secretary, and then a member of the Bengal Legislative Council where he had a chance to interact with powerful people.
There was no stopping of his upward mobility in his professional career and his commitments to work helped him get a covetous job -  Chief Commissioner of Assam (1896 to 1902), during which time Assam and other regions were struck by  a powerful earthquake in 1897.With concerted efforts, he handled the emergency situation well. 

Focusing his attention to the neglected field of education in the NE part of India, he committed himself to starting a college there.   On November 3, 1899 in Guwahati, he made the announcement to establish a college in Assam, the records mention. In 1901, Cotton College was started and on May 27, 1901, Sir Cotton said that it was affiliated to Calcutta university. The college that began with 39 students and 5 teachers, now has become a leading institution with more than 5000 students and 244 teachers. Lately, it has become a state university.
Home Rule exponents. Annie besant and Tilak YouTube

 In his 1885 book New India, or India in Transition (revised edition 1907) Henry Cotton openly supported Home Rule   and advocated his cause. Indian home rule movement began in India in the back ground of World War I and in 1910s  Annie Besant, freedom fighter of Irish descent  and freedom fighter Bal Gangadra Tilak advocated  Home Rule with only Indian participation.  Sir Cotton was not happy the way the British ran the administration, paying least attention to the aspirations of the Indians for a Home land.  He was quite sympathetic toward Indian struggle for freedom and his frequent interactions with Indian leaders gave him a chance to be the President of the Indian National Congress in 1904 - one of the few non-Indians to do so. For effective administration  and efficiency  Lord  Curzon mooted the idea of partition of Bengal, which Sir Cotton opposed vociferously. The partition of Bengal  took place on 16 October 1905 and it separated the largely Muslim eastern areas from the largely Hindu western areas. This irritated the Hindus  who recognized it as a ploy to "divide and rule" policy. The  invasion of Tibet (Dec.1903 to Sept. 1904) by the British under the Tibet Frontier Commission, again proposed  by  Lord Curson irked Sir Cotton.

After returning to England, he served as a Liberal Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Nottingham East from 1906 to January 1910 and continued to evince keen interest in India's freedom and never failed to give his support for it. There he formed a radical pro-Indian parliamentary group, and  was highly critical of  his own government's actions in India. Already in poor health, he was narrowly defeated in his attempt for re-election in 1910. In spite of his poor health and financial constraints  he was an active writer and activist on behalf of Indian rights until the end of his life.
In 1911 he published his memoirs, Indian and Home Memories. Sir Henry Cotton died at his home in St John's Wood, London, in October 1915.


Guardian. Retrieved 25 July

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Koothambalam, Kerala temple's theater space - additional intetesting facts that you may not know

. Koothambalam - Kerala Kalamandalam, ThrissuFlickr
small Koothambalam Peruvanam Temple,

In the state of Kerala, a store house of various cultures, often called   God's own country, there is a plethora of art forms - classical, martial and folk  developed over a period of time under the patronage of past rulers.  These art forms need space for retention, performances and growth. Classical forms are presented within a closed space like Koothambalam in a temple complex. Kalari forms the space for martial art forms like Kalaripayattu which is also taught in Kalari; but, this art  form is performed in many other spaces. Thayyam, a folk art form is held in front of the temple in the villages  in the open space without curtains or a stage. Here, I am mainly concerned with - temple theater.

 Koothambalam is a creative, blessed  space or  theater preferably on the temple premises exclusively for staging Koothu, Nangiar koothu and Koodiyattam, the ancient ritualistic  and traditional art forms  in the state of Kerala.  Built as per Nātyasāstra of Bharata Muni, the location  has to be between the Prakaras of Bahyahara and Maryada within the temple.  In Kerala around 14 prominent temples have Koothambalam which gained popularity only in the 16th century and a few reasons are : a. Availability large amount of money to the rulers through mercantile trades with foreign countries. b. Knowledge of scriptures on Natya Sastra by the local Brahmins who were patronized by the rulers, and c. Above all  excellent grasp of carpentry by the skilled local carpenters who had good interaction with foreign carpenters. These social changes gave  impetus to the construction of a closed space for performing arts close to the divinity - an exclusive platform to patronize such art forms that formed the socio-cultural fabric of Kerala.

That  the "concept of performing for the God" gets prominence when performances are held in the temple theater _Koothambalam is quite acceptable. This is true in the case  debut performers who dedicate their first ever performance to the presiding God.

With reference to my earliest post on 'Koothambalam':  https://navrangindia., I would like to add the following facts about Natayagraha.

01. The Koothambalam is  sanctified  with Tantrik rites as there is a spiritual link with the temple and the dancing space. etc.

02. Since Lord Shiva  is a cosmic dancer (Nataraja) and is the Lord of dances, at Koothambalam  dances  are performed in the Shaivite tradition, irrespective of the presiding deity.

03. Yet another aspect is this space is  conceptualized as Nandikeswara, the vehicle of Lord Shiva.

04. The stage within the hall is  the most important part of the Natyagraha and is strongly believed to be  as sacred as the temple sanctum or Sri Kovil.

05. The stage is normally built  facing the deity and artists on the stage  perform facing the  deity.

06. Regardless of which direction the main deity in the temple is facing west or east, the Koothambalam has to be to the right side of it.

07. Three important parts of Koothambalam are the roof, the super structure and adishana on which these rest. Thy are built as per guide lines.

08. An interesting feature is there is  a roof within the main roof of the auditorium.

Irinjalakuda: Koothanbalam. stage and ceiling.Tthe hindu com

Main stage and hall, KoothambalamNTD India
Above image: Koothambalam roof structure has hundreds of rafters connected to form a net shaped ceiling, finally connected to a number of koodams. This requires a highly talented and precise erection work. Spaced wooden carvings above the stage - Natya mandapam will improve acoustics, essential for the success of the performance....................................

Koothambal, interior.
09. In contrast to the main hall,  the roof over the stage is elaborate and ornamental so as to produce good acoustics. Any small whisper can be picked up and transmitted across the audience far and wide. No distortions in the sound. The ceiling and the breaking-up of its surface into ornamental sections  normally will improve the quality of acoustics.
carved ceiling for acoustics  Koothambalam Images and Imprints
10. The stage wooden ceiling has 49 squares. Nepathya is a small room (something like green room) for the artists. The upper part has narrow jallis for free flow of fresh air.

11. As per Bharata's guide lines,  Kothambalam gives the feeling of a mountain  cave like structure (shailaguhakar); Trellis frames allow  gentle breeze without disturbing the on-going performance and the low protruding roof cuts down Sun's glaze.

Theater seating arrangement.
12. As for seating in the theater, tiered seating is not followed nowadays, not so centuries ago. It was caste-specific, people from different castes seat in any place. In the past tiered seating was allowed and Brahmins used to sit close to the stage.

13. As mentioned in Bharata's Nataya Sastra, the drummers and other accompanists perform facing  the East on the stage, even in the case of main deity facing west.

14. Unlike Bharata's treatise on Natya, Kothambalam has three rows of pillars - outer , middle and inner one.

15.  Regarding shape of the dancing space, only square and rectangular shaped Koothambalams are common.

16. The space for the audience is close to the stage and it helps the audience to enjoy the performance at close quarters. In a way, it improves the visual treat for the audience.

17. While the performences are going on a Villaku - oil lamp with three wicks has to be kept going without interruption.

18. The Koothambalam and other ancient temples in Kerala began to use copper plates on their roofs after the Portuguese (15th century) introduced the technique in the region. It gives extra protection to the slante and tiled roof of the Koothambalam against the harsh SW monsoon that brings in lots of rain here.

19. Because Shaivite tradition is followed, invocation of Lord Shiva is done by using tantrik rites.

20. As for temple architecture, the principles are taken from the ancient texts, but the construction materials keep changing from time to time.