Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Late Sri C.Rajam Aiyar, industrialist and his institution Madras Institute of Technology

Sri rajam Aiyar, industrialist(1882-1955) en. wikipedia. org.
Unlike the present day when hundreds of engineering colleges are offering various courses to the prospective students - thanks to the liberal education policy of the state government in the past two decades - in the 1950s, 1960s there existed a handful of Engineering colleges in this region offering quality engineering education with good faculty and lab facilities. To cite examples AC College of Technology, Chennai, Alagappa University, Karikudi, Annamalai University, Chidambaram  PSG college of Engineering, Ramakrishna College of Enginnering, the latter two at Coimbatore, etc were popular in the late 50s and 60s. At all these institutions, merit was the main criterion and the seat allocation was not based on caste as it is to day. Since politically India was young and so many public works projects and private companies were coming up across India, there was a shortage of people with engineering skill, particularly, in the late 1040s. 

A preponderance of people of younger generation of today may not be aware of the existence of a prestigious engineering institution in Madras (now Chennai) that attracted students from all over India. This popular institution offered many quality engineering courses both practical and theory including Aeronautical  engineering and Metallurgical  with superb lab facilities. What is so special about this institution? It had excellent and dedicated faculty and apart from it, it offered only three-year diploma courses in engineering and the qualification for admission was any Bachelor's degree with Physics, Chemistry and Maths as main subjects. Merit was the prime condition and the seats were limited. Meritorious students would get some kind of financial aid from the institution. A striking aspect of this institution is no sooner had the students passed out of the portals of this college than they got a job without any difficulty with a descent salary relevant to that time.

Can you imagine who founded this unique institution located in Chrompet in Chennai?  It is none other than one C. Rajam Aiyar (28 November 1882 – 21 July 1955), one of the premier industrialists of yester-year Madras city. A man of superb ability, foresight and business management skill, Sri Chinnaswami Rajam Aiyar climbed the ladder of life way down at the bottom of the rung. He climbed every step with firm determination and matching hard work. Considered as an important industrialist of that time, he was a stickler for discipline and would appear in crisp Khadi dress. The sterling quality about him is he was a man of action and never in his life had he made compromise on  quality of either his products or of his services. 

You will be in surprise if you come to about his family background. Bestowed not with  either a rich family background  or education in a posh Angelo Indian Christian school, Mr. Aiyar came from a very humble family background with no education beyond high school. No doubt his fighting spirits, inquisitive mind and innate business acumen stood him in good stead through out his eventful life. 

Born in Swamimalai near Kumbakonam, Thanjavur District,  Sri. Rajam Aiyar had a chequered career. He joined the Salem Government Weaving School in 1904 to master the art of weaving process and  over a period of time, having gained considerable practical experience, he started a hand loom factory (fly shuttle loom) to produce dhotis, towels, shirt material etc.  In early 1909, Rajam got into leather goods business with Mysore Tanneries financially backed by his  friends. It was a successful venture and later in 1918, Rajam founded India Company Private Limited with three partners and in the year 1923 this company became the agent of Tata Steel Limited and were trading 2,000 tons of steel per month. This business dealing  turned Rajam into successful business man in Madras. In  1932  Rajam Aiyar  founded the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation Limited and subsequently in 1933 he started two more companies: Nagapatnam Electric Supply Company Limited and Indian Steel Rolling Mills Limited. His ventures were quite lucrative.  He was the chairman of five companies: India Company Pvt. Ltd., Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation Ltd., Nagapatnam Electric Supply Company Limited, Indian Steel Rolling Mills Limited and Garage Limited. The initial paid up capital of these companies was more than Rs.5 million at that time. He was also in the Car Agency.  In those days in cities' and towns, distribution of electricity was handled by private companies. Sri Rajam' s  companies handled them well and  outages were rare in those days. 

What made Ayiar start the engineering institution in the suburb of Chennai? It was in 1949 Sri Rajam Aiyar founded Madras institute of technology with a view to imparting quality engineering education with matching practical knowledge. Upon his visit to his steel factory (close to the railway station) at Nagapatnam, Mr. Aiyar realized he had to depend on German engineers to fix certain technical snags in the machinery and it did affect the productivity od his company. This made him ponder over the dearth of well-qualified Indian engineers in those days due to lack of adequate engineering colleges. Not to depend on foreign engineers and to fill up the gap in the shortage of engineers in India, he started an engineering institution that gave more emphasis on practical knowledge than theory so that the students from this institution could handle the job in the workshop or factory with confidence. He was well assisted by his friends - such as M. Subbaraya Aiyar, M. K. Ranganthan, K. Srinivasan, C. R. Srinivasan and L. Venkatakrishna Iyer.

In his personal life, Sri Rajam Aiyar faced many ups and downs which he handled them with aplomb. But, the loss of one of his sons and wife impacted his personal life very much. Submitted himself to the edit of god, he kept going and had begun to lead a humble and detached life. The materialistic life did not give him the much needed lasting peace of mind. Being charitable as he was, he never gave up his idea of starting an engineering institution. As a first step, he did not hesitate to sell his long-cherished dream house 'India House'', a palatial residence in the heart of Madras. The house along with other property fetched him a whooping sum of Rs 5 lakhs, a huge sum in those days. The money was used to build the institution - MIT.

Most of the students graduated from this institution became successful in their respective  professions  and some of them held responsible positions in the government. The first prime minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ’s speech at the first convocation (October 9, 1952) of Madras Institute of Technology highlighted the efforts by the founder and his companions: “Anyhow, the most impressive fact of this young and growing institute is that you, having started from small beginnings, are making good progress more with your own efforts, than what you could have if you had an easier time, having all things put before you”.

The late President Dr. Abdul Kalam,  an expert of international repute in rocket-missile technology  was an alumnus of this institution. Unfortunately, this institution could not function independently and in 1978 it was taken over by Anna university - a state-run institution. Now named Anna Institute of Technology, this institution offers 4 year degree courses in engineering and the 3 year diploma course offered earlier was done away with. 

This writer visited this great institution in 1955 along with my cousin who was a student here. I myself saw a big hanger with a small plane standing inside. It was a sprawling institutions with various workshops for the students. It was one of the earliest institutions in India to have offered Diploma courses in many fields, including Chemical engineering, Metallurgical engineering, Automobile Engineering, Electronic and Instrumentation engineering  and Aero-Engineering.
Sri Rajam Aiyar was a patron of classical music, in particular, Carnatic music and it was Mr. Aiyar who sponsored a Musical Concert at Soundarya Hall, Chennai in which the doyen of Carnatic music MS Amma made her Madras debut on 28 December 1933 accompanied by her mother Shanmuga Vadivu on Veena and Gururajappa (brother of Chowdiah) of Mysore on violin.

In the educational history of Madras, Sri Rajam Aiyar's legacy is well-etched and the MIT (now Anna Institute) is a lasting tribute to this humble visionary who was nationalist and who believed in hard work and discipline. Only senior citizens like me can walk down the memory lane and remember with gratitude great people like Sri Rajam Aiyar who is a source of inspiration to young entrepreneurs who want to tread a different path rather than the  beaten-up one. 
Shri C. Rajam died on 21 July 1955 at the age of 73. Sri Prakasa, Governor, C. Rajagopalachari, Kasturi Srinivasan, C. R. Srinivasan, C. Subramaniam and M. Bhaktavatsalam, among others, offered their condolences to the family at his residence. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Historical St. Mary's Church, Ft. St. George, Chennai and its long line of pipe organs

St. Mary's church, Ft. St. George, Chennai.

St. Mary's church, Ft. St. George, Chennai.

St. Mary's church in  Fort. St. George, Chennai, Tamil Nadu  is the  oldest Anglican church East of the Suez and also the oldest British building  in India. Often referred to as  the 'Westminster Abbey of the East', it was consecrated on  28 October 1680 by the Chaplain Rev. Richard Portman.  Construction work began  on 25 March 1678 - on the  Lady Day, hence it got the present name. From 1739 till 1768 when East India company was represented by an Agent, there was no church in this area and the religious services were held in the dinning room of the factory in the settlement area. The church came up later to meet the spiritual needs of the Europeans living in this area. The church was built with special roofing technique  to withstand canon and artillery fire from the enemies.  The church's architect, it is believed, was either Edward Foule, Master-Gunner of Fort St. George, or William Dixon, Chief Gunner of the Fort, in 1678.; this confusion being due to lack of clear historical records.  The church has close links with colonial administrators like Robert Clive Who got married here in 1753 and  Gov. Elihu Yale of Yale university, USA fame. 

Well-known for its unique European style of design, the church is the earliest one in India to have used pipe organ for its church services. Since 1867, for various reasons, the church has replaced its organ four times and the present organ is the fifth one. The latest one is in an alcove to the left facing the altar.  There is a spacious gallery at the western end of the nave, resting on carved Burma teak pillars. It originally housed the seat for the Governor. In 1761, this was enlarged to keep an organ, and provided with the two curved staircases, which still exist, to access the gallery from outside.  However, in the nineteenth century, the gallery was altered to its present size, and consequently the organ was removed later in 1884, coinciding with the addition of the new sanctuary.

The first pipe organ was installed roughly 10 years after the church was founded. It was bought from one Captain Walden and installed in 1687. Until 1718, it had been in service when  a new pipe organ was imported from England, accompanied by  organist John Smith Windsor. This man spent his life time with this church here  till his death in 1735. In 1746, the French after their successful raid on Madras, took away the organ to Pondicherry (then a French settlement close to Cuddalore, TN) as a war-trophy. When the English recaptured Madras, the English placed an order for the second organ. In 1751, a new organ arrived and the price tag was just 300 pounds. It was not in use  until in 1759 when a new  ensemble was arrived. That why did the supplier  Mr. Bridges take so much time to install it is a moot question that can not be answered easily. But, this organ served the church well for more than a century. In 1794, a great classical music concert was held in Madras and the instrumentalists  from the elite community here  played such compositions as Messiah, Judas, etc. Amazingly, the organ was used as part of the music concert. An interesting fact is among the audience were the two sons of Tipu Sultan who were being held hostage there, pending enquiries about war crimes. Apparently, it was related to the revolt against the British soldiers in the Vellore fort near Arcot, TN.
St. Mary's church, 18th C pipe organ. chennai.
In 1859, the second organ was replaced with the third one  donated by Sir Adam Hay in memory of his son Cap. John who was military Secretary to Gov. Harris. Until  1890s, this organ was used for the church services . In 1894 the 4th organ was delivered after an appeal was made  by Rev. A.C. Taylor.  The installation of this organ took place when Rev. C.H. Malden was  heading the church.  During the WWII the fourth organ was donated to the local church Holy Emmanual Church in George Town. Parts of the organ at his church were used  to repair the organ at St. Marks Cathedral on Chapel Church street, Madras, The old organ remained un-repaired due to non-availability of spares further complicated by the import restrictions in the wake of WWI. 

The historic organ did not play after 1960, however, the CSI (church of South India)  took efforts and commissioned one Christopher Gray  from the UK. He was an organ specialist and was given the task of restoring the old organ back to old glory. It had been  regularly played for the past 110 years during the Sunday service, but  was out-of-use since 2004 due to dirt accumulation and damage of metal pipes.

 For various reasons, the organ has not been used for a long time. The church services were never  accopanied by pipe organ music. At last, the melody  filled the church hall after a gap of two years, thanks to the efforts by an English pipe organ restorer Christopher Gray. It was  rededicated to the Church on 7 january 2007 by Dr Richard Marlow, a renowned artist, professor and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, at 'A Pipe Organ Recital' function. The pipes pealed again and failed to function later. It was bought for a sum of Rs.7120.00  and arrived at St Mary's from England in the 19th century. 

With the advent of ''Electronic Keyboard'', many churches prefer them to the old ones that need spares and it is difficult to repair them if they malfunction. Further, there is a lack of skilled pipe organ players in this region. The electronic musical gadgets are no match for the old instruments but a few people are available to repair them. Yet another hitch is lack of spares for the old organs.
The sound produced from the age-old musical instruments was soulful; it appealed to our heart and mind and in the case of modern electronic musical instruments, they lack this.  

World's tallest statue '' Statue of Unity'' in honor of Indian patriot Sardar Patel,

Patel's statue -  ‘Statue of Unity’ on Sadhu Bet Island, Gujarat
The Statue of Unity , the world's tallest statue is a  deserving tribute to the Indian statesman and founding father, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1875–1950) in the state of Gujarat, India. With a height of 182 metres (597 ft), it is located on a river island - Sadhu Bet Island near the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the river Narmada in Kevadiya colony, 100 kilometres (62 mi) southeast of the city of Vadodara. This giant statue was dedicated to  the nation on 31 October 2018 by PM Modi who was the brainchild behind this mammoth project. While CM of Gujarat Mr. Modi made an announcement about this project on 10 October 2010. The statue and its surroundings occupy more than 2 hectares (4.9 acres), and are surrounded by a 12 km2 (4.6 sq mi; 3,000 acres) artificial lake formed by Garudeshwar dam on the Narmada river downstream. The total project cost was around Rs. 2980 crores 
Statue of unity, - Saedar Patel, Gujarat
An interesting fact is this huge project was completed within a short span of time -mere 33 months - indeed, a world-record-breaking time. Majestically standing above the quiet waters of the Narmadha river, PM Modi's long-cherished vision was made into reality by the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Trust (SVPRET) and Sardar Sarovar Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) by following innovative engineering techniques and to surmount the challenges. With the spirit of dedication  and right approach, they overcame the hurdles and made this statue a unique one  in the world. A true honor to a great freedom fighter, befitting his tall stature and and dedicated patriotic role in India's freedom struggle against the wily British.

Patel's statue is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty  on the Liberty Island off New York. Surprisingly, 210000 cubic meters of concrete, 6500 tons of structural steel, 18500 tons of re enforcement steel, besides 1700 tons of bronze went into the construction of this statue. Yet another interesting feature of this statue is  there is a viewing gallery at 134 meters high above the ground and it can accommodate 200 people at a time. This is not tried in any giant statues in India before. Two express elevators are in service to take the visitors to the top and base.  The statue is built to withstand winds of up to 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph) and earthquakes measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale. This is aided by the use of two 250-tonne tuned mass dampers which ensure maximum stability.  It was designed by a well-experienced Indian sculptor Ram V. Sutar.  
‘Statue of Unity’ on Sadhu Bet Island, Gujarat

Known as the architect of independent India, Patel played played no less role in freeing India from the oppressive British rule. He was solely responsible for building a united India by undertaking the most difficult job - integrating more than 550 Princely States who had an option to join either the Indian Union or Pakistan or remain independent. PM Modi said, '' The Statue of Unity (of Patel) is a symbol of both the unity of heart and geographical  integrity of our mother land.It is a remainder that  divided, we may not be even able to face ourselves. United, we can face the world and scale the heights of growth and glory .... He saved India from Balcanization."

Armed with political acumen, integrity and good administrative skill, never had Patel failed to pay due attention to the poor and marginalized people. As he happened to be a man of action and, not of words, the farmers, traders and industrialists had deep trust in him. His political  and military strategy  along with his innate ability and sagacity  to implement them were in full display during the integration of Hyderabad province comprising 80,000 sq. miles  when the Nizam was was misled by certain anti-Indian Union activists. Patel launched what was called ''Operation polo'' to convince Nizam to join the Indian Union and not to fall prey to Pakistan's false promises and diabolism. In this case, a bit of coercion and military action was inevitable.  As for the princely state of Travancore, the then Dewan Dr. Sir. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar and the ruler initially hesitated to join the Indian Union and later  came around and joined the Indian Union.  Thus Patel placed a major role in the integration of this states and a couple of states in Gujarat.

Post-Independence period was a turbulant one and on purpose the British left India in the lurch. But for Patel's  timely political  action and foresight, the Dominion of India would not have become a reality and it was indeed a distinguished accomplishment in modern Indian history without causing any complex political  or social problems leading to unrest, revolt and bloodshed. With respect to Kashmir Nehru and his cronies bungled it when they got the first distress call from the then Hindu Maharajah. The action came late from Nehru's side and Pakistan already intruded Kashmir and  held part of Kashmir illegally. As of now the Kashmir problem still persists with no solution insight. If patel were in Nehru's position, Kashmir won't not have become a contentious issue. His two letters to Nehru pointed out threats from China in the frontier states and India's internal security. 

Patel  had political differences with Nehru and was at loggerheads with him on many political matters, but his ego and self-esteem never stood between them, as protecting the larger interest of the Congress party was more important to him than other issues. Being a man of large heart,  to save the image of the party, he withdrew his candidacy for Congress President's post in favor of Nehru in 1946, thus proving his loyalty to Gandhiji. He never lived for himself nor did he live for his personal esteem or economic gain. He lived for his mother land, its Democratic process and growth. 
Lord Mountbatten, the last Gov. Gen. of India remarked about Patel, ''By far the most important achievement of the present government is the unification of the states into the Dominion of India. Had you failed in this, the results would have been disastrous  ...'' 

A strong and united India owes a debt of gratitude to this man of nerve and steel whose patriotic zeal and persuasive skill made the Princely states join the Indian Union. 

This project won appreciation as well as criticism, especially from the media and other party leaders. It is  alleged that people's hard-earned money is being wasted on projects like Statue of Unity though several villages of the area and other places  are still devpoid of basic facilities like schools, hospitals and drinking water. 


Patterson Clark/The Washington Post
Approximate heights of various notable statues:
1. Statue of Unity 240 m (incl. 58 m base)
2. Spring Temple Buddha 153 m (incl. 25 m pedestal and 20 m throne)
3. Statue of Liberty 93 m (incl. 47 m pedestal)
4. The Motherland Calls 87 m (incl. 2 m pedestal)
5. Christ the Redeemer 38 m (incl. 8 m pedestal) 

6. Statue of David 5.17 m (excl. 2.5m plinth)

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Giant statues of Hindu God Hanuman across India

God Hanuman who  plays a crucial role in the great epic of Hinduism the Ramayana, is an ardent devotee of Sri Rama and his consort Sita. Known for his valor, wisdom and devotion to duty, no doubt, he is being worshipped across India by devotees with deep devotion. In almost all towns and cities of India there are shrines exclusively dedicated to Sri Hanuman and invariably most of them have a a small idol installed in the garbagriha. Thee are shrines that have medium size Hanuman idol measuring up to 10 to 15 feet in height.  Across India only a handful of places have gigantic statue of Sri Hanuman whose height is more than 90 feet, in variably made of stone. Such huge statues of Sri Hanuman attract the attention of devotees who visit such shrines to take his blessings to give them strength and mental prowess to face unsolved problems and mental agony in their lives. Such huge idols of Sri Hanuman, besides being awe-inspiring,  is also a source of solace and tranquillity for countless devotees. He also goes by the name of monkey god. 

Since Sri Hanuman is a celibate God, his idol is normally not worshipped at Hindu homes. Devotees make tulasi mala, butter as offerings to him at his temples. To have their wish fulfilled or upon fulfilment of their wish, devotees offer Vada Mala (garland)  consisting of 101 or 1001 small vadas  and so on. The vadas are made by temple priests upon prior request and payment of cost of making the Prasadam. In Tamil Nadu at certain Anjanaya temples, it has been a tradition among  college students, in particular, to make vada mala offering as a way of expressing their gratitude to Sri Hanuman for their success in  tough exams. Here, the driving force is trust and positive approach, further strengthened by Bhakti. 

Tallest statue under construction, Srikakulam Distt.
Among the tall Hanuman statues of India, the tallest one under under construction is  at Madapam near Narasannapeta in Srikakulam District in Andhra Pradesh and the height is whooping 176 feet. I believe the construction is not yet over. 

Veera Abhaya Anjaneya Hanuman, Vijayawada.

Above image: The statue of  Veera Abhaya Anjaneya Hanuman Swami is the second largest and tallest one in india. Situated near Vijayawada (about 30 km from the city) in a small village Paritala, Andhra Pradesh  and  close to NH-9, the statue is 135 feet (41 metres) tall; it is taller than Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (38 m, including 8 m pedestal). It attracts  devotees in thousands. 
Hanuman statue, Jakhu hills.
Hanuman statue, Jakhu Hills, Shimla
Above image: The third tallest Hanuman statue is on the outskirts at Jakhu Hills in Shimla, once the  erstwhile summer capital of the British Raj, Himachal Pradesh. Red in color, its height is around 108 feet on the hill whose altitude is over 8000 feet above MSL. It  was unveiled in 2010, overlooking the entire city and constructed at a cost of Rs 1.5 crores; the Hanuman temple here is an ancient one.
Shri Sankat Mochan Hanuman statue, Delhi.

Above image: On New Link road, Karol Bagh, Delhi is a giant statue of Sri Hanuman and is 108 feet tall. Named Shri Sankat Mochan Hanuman statue, it  is one of the major public attractions in Delhi and the statue is an engineering marvel; the hands of the statue move, making the devotees feel that the Lord is tearing his chest to show the two  small idols of Lord Rama and his consort  Sita inside the chest, symbolic of his devotion to them.  It is the fourth  highest Hanuman statue in the world founded by Brahamleen Nagababa Shri Sevagir Ji Maharaj (25 Jan, 2008) near Jhandewalan metro station. Also close to the main premises is a temple (Mandir) dedicated to Siddha Shri Shani Dev.
idol Hanuman Murti at Nandura in

Above image: The fifth tallest idol Hanuman Murti is at Nandura in Maharashtra. Its height is 105 feet and this idol, which  is the major attraction on NH6,  is mostly  built with white marble, but other colors are used  at right places .

01. The other tall statues of Hanuman above 75 feet are 104 feet  tall Hanuman idol of Dham Shahjahanpur, UP and  80 feet tall statue of Hanuman of the Ram Tirath temple at Amritsar in Punjab.

02. The name, ‘Hanuman’ actually in Sanskrit means ‘disfigured jaw'. Hanuman who enjoyed serving Lord Rama is believed to have  applied sindoor all over his body for Lord Rama’s long life.

03. Pawanputra Hanuman is said to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva and is considered to be an embodiment of of strength, devotion, and perseverance. He is seranjeevi - ever living and is fond of meditating upon lord Rama.

04. In the Kurushetra war in the Mahabharata, Arujuna's chariot was adorned with the flag displaying the image of Sri. Hanuman.
Flag with Hanuman's image in Arjuna's chariot.
The flag was symbolic of Arjuna's victory in the crucial war fought between Pandavas and Kauravas; Arjuna, being one of the five Pandava brothers who never deviated from the path of righteousness.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Inspiring rock-cut cave temples of India - 37 interesting facts

Mahabalipuram open rock-cut temple complex, TN
Above image: The 7th- and 8th-century CE religious monuments in the coastal resort town of Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site  on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, about 60 kilometres (37 mi) south of Chennai. This  complex has  400 ancient monuments and Hindu temples, including one of the largest open-air rock reliefs in the world. The group contains several categories of monuments - rock reliefs (particularly bas-reliefs); stone-cut temples monolith structures, etc  built between 695 and 722 by the Pallava rulers; archaeological excavations dated to the 6th century and earlier. Unlike the rock-cut temples of Maharastra and Odhish, these were built on a rock  terrain close to the Bay of Bengal ...................................

 India, with its proud ancient civilization and old culture is endowed with the largest number of rock-cut structures in the world. Believe it or not, there are more than  1,200  known rock cut structures across India; a whooping number and each one exhibits some kind of artistic and architectural excellence of global importance. They are mostly Buddhist  shrines / monasteries.  Many of these  exquisite stone carvings. are found in places far away from urban areas in the forested mountain terrain. These wonderful stone-carved rock-cut  medieval  structures tell you how good and talented our  ancient people were in the area of  structural engineering, stone carving  and craftsmanship centuries ago. 

 Rock-cut architecture is a unique and distinctive practise of creating a structure by carving it out of solid natural rock and it requires certain rock out-cropping  that can be carved easily without breaking or chipping and such sites should be at a higher level so that flooding  and excessive raining won't affect them. Indian rock-cut architecture is invariably religious in nature. 

01. In India, caves have long been regarded as places of sanctity, sacred places to be revered. Regardless of nature, whether they are natural or man made, caves  are believed to hold the same sanctity. 

02. Ancient humans used the natural caves for the purpose of shelter to reside  and keep themselves safe from wild animal attacks. Later when they  began to worship  nature etc caves became shrines.  Some kind of divinity /spirituality was attached to them. Minor alteration of cave took place during the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods, up to about 6000 BC. In the fringes of Deccan region, the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, a World Heritage Site  and grotto, researchers found  primitive tools and decorative rock paintings because of massive erosion of sandstone outcrops. 

03. From them evolved the free-standing religious structures - Hindu temples, etc.  The sanctum or garbagraha  is the innermost part of any Hindu temple. Small in size and poorly-lit,  it retains the cave like ambiance  with the presiding idol in the center. Except through a small hole, at most temples, sunlight does not enter the sanctum. Mostly oil lamps are  used inside the srikovil as it is divinity-personified. 

04. The Barabar caves form the oldest rock-cut architecture dating back to the  3rd century BC. Other early cave temples are found in the Western Deccan region made of Basaltic (volcanic) rock  and many of them are  Buddhist shrines and monasteries, dating between 100 BC and 170 AD. 

05. It is said in  the early stages of cave architecture,  the cave temples were wooden structures that did not last for a long time. The prominent feature that draws our attention is the shrines are adorned with  a wood-like theme in solid rock; Only skilled craftsmen could bring out the look of timber texture, grain, and structure in hard stones. 

06. Among the Indian caves temples, the Karla Caves, the Bhaja Caves, the Bedse Caves, the Kanheri Caves, and some of the Ajanta Caves form the earliest ones.

07. What is so important about these caves centuries ago?   As found in the relics and inscriptions, these cavestemples  had religious as well as commercial connotations,  because Buddhist missionaries  were on the move from one place to another often accompanied by traders on the busy international trading routes through India. As they lacked lodging facilities, these cave temples in the wooded areas served them well for rest and food. 

08. Early rock-cut temples were simple in nature. As time went by more and more wealthy traders and rulers found them useful and   donated funds. Hence later  cave temples had elaborate facade, ornate pillars,  etc as they  were  commissioned by wealthy traders. It shows the prevalence of booming maritime trading in SE Asia.
09. Free standing structural temples  came up in the 5th century, however, the interest in rock-cut temples continued unabated. Equally a large number of rock-cut temple were built side by side by the rulers and others.  The Tiruchirapalli Rockfort temple dedicated to Lord Ganapati, TN is a good example. Shiva temple dedicated to Thayumana Swami in the Rockfort complex is a typical rock cut temple carved out of the huge outcrop.  Pallava rulers built them.  
10. One could see more refinement and sophistication in design and architecture in the later rock-cut temples. The Ellora Caves is a well made structure. The monolithic Kailash Temple, last excavated rock-cut temple, may baffle our imagination. 

11. These cave temples till 12 the century were structural in nature carefully made with well-cut brick like rock stones.  Also found are  a number of rock reliefs, relief sculptures carved into rock faces, outside caves or at other sites 

12. During the  time of the Buddha (c. 563/480 or c. 483/400 BCE) natural caves  were widely used by Buddhist monks,  ex. the Saptaparni Cave, southwest from Rajgir, Bihar.  This site is associated with some parts of Buddha's life. Buddha is believed to have spent much of his time here before  his death - paranirvana  and the monks held a council here after his demise.  

13. The Buddha himself  was instrumental in using the caves - natural or man-made as religious retreats  for meditation and spiritual experience;  he also also used the Indrasala Cave for meditation, Such natural retreats, would last for over a millennium as they are made of tough rocks. Far removed from town and cities, the serene surroundings suited the monks for their religious practices. Since Buddha's time rock-cut temples had become popular. 

14. It was in the  3rd century BCE  Indian rock-cut architecture began to develop with well-defined and sophisticated designs. Ex: the  state-sponsored Barabar caves in Bihar, personally dedicated by Ashoka circa 250 BCE.  
250BCE Barabar caves
15. These artificial caves were known for their technical proficiency in the area of cutting hard rocks to a desirable geometrical fashion and polishing it to give a mirror-like finish. The Sitamarhi Cave, 20 km from Rajgir, 10 km south-west
of Hisua (belonging to the Mayura empire) like Barabar  caves, have well polished structures without any inscription, but smaller than the latter. No details are available as there are no inscriptions.  

16. The Jain Son Bhandar Caves in Rajgiri, generally dated to the 2nd-4th centuries CE, are similar to Barabar caves structurally, but the rock polishing was irregular. It is likely they may be older than Barabar caves or of the same period.  
Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, 2nd C BCE. Odisha
17. There occur both natural and artificial caves near  the capital  city of Bhubaneswar, Odisha called  Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, situated on two adjacent hills -  Udayagiri (meaning sunrise hill)  and Khandagiri; the former has 18 caves and the latter 15 caves,  There are  finely and ornately carved caves built during 2nd century BCE. It  is believed. that most of these caves were carved during the reign of King Kharavela and monks used them for residential purpose.

18. In the western India, building of  a spate of religious caves picked up and lasted till 6th century CE and it was after the Barabar caves. But unlike them, polishing of stone was not done, this being due to the nature of rocks - mostly Basaltic rocks that are not as rigid as granite is or it could be due to lack of funds. 
Polished interior of Sudama, Barabar Caves, 3rd C
19, The great caves like  Karla Caves (1st century CE) or the Ajanta Caves (5th century CE)  are devoid of polishing.  As for Mauryan caves,  they  were commissioned by the government with funds, but  later caves lacked  polishing, etc as  they were sponsored by the public. This being due to financial crunch.

20. For purely political reasons, efforts  to build cave temples shifted to western India. The fall of Mauryan empire (2nd Century BCE) and persecution  of Buddhism in the later period- during the reign of Pushyamitra Sunga caused the exodus. 
Gautamiputra vihara at Pandavleni Caves,2nd century CE
21. Religious building activities (Buddhists or Jain) continued in the Deccan region  until the 2nd century CE, culminating with the Karla caves or the Pandavleni caves. These caves  were characteristic of apsidal plan with a stupa in the back for the chaityas, and a rectangular plan with surrounding cells for the viharas. These caves were used for residential as well as for religious purpose.Topography of the Basaltic terrain in the western ghat with flat top suited them well.
Ist C  The Great Chaitya in the Karla Cave, MH

Viharara, Ajantha caves MH
Above image: A monastery, or vihara, with its square hall surrounded by monks' cells. Ajanta Caves, no. 4.....................

22. Excavated in the 1st and 2nd centuries, Kanheri Caves  and those at Ajanta were  occupied continuously by Buddhist monks from 200 BCE to 650 AD. These caves/monasteries  were used by the traders for rest and relaxation while on travel.  As more funds were made available for cave building by the prosperous trader and royal patrons the  later caves exhibited embellishments and sophistication, etc in terms of artwork, fine carving  and decoration. Donors left their inscriptions  with their name etc.  Greeks -Yavanas made a solid contribution roughly 8% of the contributors. Buddhist ideology  gave importance to mercantile trade activities.

23. Facades were added to the exteriors while the interiors  were designed for  specific uses, such as monasteries (viharas) and worship halls (chaityas).

24. Over a period of time one could see transition in structural designs;  caves began to look like  free-standing buildings and such structures needed good expertise and skilled persons  and craftsmen to complete  them, taking into account, foundation, and structural engineering  and weight of the overlying structure.  The artisans  created wood grains, wooden features in rocks, reviving their roots in wooden structure.

25. The Buddhist and Jain cave Basadi, temples and monasteries are quite interesting and  many with gavakshas (chandrashalas) are the early examples of rock-cut architecture. The religious leaders taken to asceticism, preferred natural caves, etc away from urban areas.    

26. The earliest rock-cut garbagraha -sanctum, similar to free-standing ones, later had an inner circular chamber with pillars to create a circumambulatory path (pradakshina) around the stupa and an outer rectangular hall for the congregation of the devotees.
Ajantha caves  MH  Cave 19, 5th-century
27. Of the caves, the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, a World Heritage Site located in the  Sahyadri mountains attract lots of tourists from India and abroad. They contain  30 amazing rock-cut cave Buddhist temples of beauty  carved into the sheer vertical cliff  of a gorge near a waterfall-fed pool. Located close to the main trade-route, these  

28. Buddhist caves spanning  six centuries beginning in the 2nd or 1st century B.C played a crucial role in those days - a period of intense building activity at this site occurred under the Vakataka king Harisena between 460 and 478. They have  a rich variety of decorative sculpture, nice;y carved columns and carved reliefs  including exquisitely carved cornices and pilaster- a tough stone work.  

29. What surprises the visitors is how beautifully the skilled artisans crafted living rock to imitate timbered wood ex.lintels, grain and intricate decorative carving in  construction. Such decorative elements were meant for enhancing the beauty of the ambiance, rather than any other purpose. 

Entrance to Jain Badami
30, In the later periods, the Hindu rulers of South India, impressed by the rock-cut temples of western India,  built many cave temples  dedicated to Hindu gods and goddesses. A case in point is the Badami Cave Temples at Badami (Karnataka), the early Chalukya's capital, Belonging to the 6th century there are four cave temples (three Hindu temple and one Jain temple) carved out  from the sides of cliffs. They exhibit  attractive architectural elements such as decorative pillars and  brackets and also finely carved sculpture and richly etched ceiling panels. There are are many small Buddhist cave shrines close-by.

31. Rock-cut architecture slowly gave rise to  ornamental  step wells in India, dating from 200–400 CE.Later, the construction of wells at Dhank (550–625 CE) and stepped ponds at Bhinmal (850–950 CE) took place.
Rockfort temple,Tiruchi TN. built by Pallava.
32. The credit goes to the Pallava rulers of south India who dramatically created  monolithic copies of structural temples in the south. As for the extension of rock-cut temples down south, the pallavas did not go  beyond  Arakandanallur, exception being the Tiruchirapalli Rockfort temple complex on the south bank of the Cauvery River. The Rockfort complex has two separate temples dedicated to Ganapati and Shiva; the former is atop the hill. 
33. Pancha Rathas is an example of monolith Indian rock cut architecture dating from the late 7th century located at Mamallapuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is near Chennai city. 
Kailash TempleEllora cave 16
36. The Kailash Temple, or cave 16 as it is known at Ellora Caves located at Maharashtra on the Deccan Plateau, is a huge monolithic temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. and is equally famous as Ajanta caves are. There are 34 caves built at this site, but the other 33 caves are carved into the Deccan Basaltic terrain. The Kailash Temple was ingeniously created  by excavation from top to bottom - 100  feet deep down into the volcanic basaltic cliff rock. Commissioned by ruler Krishna I, it is believed that it took 100 years to finish the work. 

37. For unknown reason, south of the cauvery, there are no rock-cut temples though good hard rock outcrops  and hills are available

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Shivaram Rajguru and others who murdered police officer John Saunders - British India

Shivaram Hari Rajguru (24 August 1908 - 23 March 1931) an agitated  Indian freedom fighter took to revolutionary ideology to fight against the British who had taken over India and had been exploiting Indian lands, insulting Indians by way of dissemination and were responsible for pushing the Indian economy to the lowest level. They, during their occupation,  vastly improved the British  economy  at the cost of Indian suffering. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, there arose  several groups of Indians across India, burning with patriotic zeal, who took to violence as a last recourse to deal with repressive British officers. Rajguru, hailing from   Maharashtra, is known mainly for his involvement in the assassination of a British Raj police officer.

Born on 24 August 1908 into a  a Deshastha  Brahman  family to Parvati Devi and Harinarain Rajguru, he  lived at Khed on the banks of the river  Bheema near Pune. Having lost his father when he was barely six, he and his brother were burdened with the responsibility of taking care of his family  He had his early education at Khed and later studied at New English High School at nana ka bara in Pune. He moved over to Varanasi where he learnt Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures. Here, he got a chance to get exposed to the ideas of Indian revolutionaries

Being an adult  charged with evolutionary  mind, it is quite obvious, he was drawn to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA)  that wanted free India to be ruled by Indians and were resolute to achieve their goal at any cost. Rajguru became a good marksman and could handle guns well.  Rajguru, like countless revolutionaries. strongly believed that the the nonviolent civil disobedience preferred by Mahatma Gandhi won't make a dent in the obdurate British mind  believed that ferocity and letting loose terror against the oppressors  would be  far more effective against British rule than  Gandhi's Satyagraha that might be self-defeating and would yield little results. HSRA organization made their presence felt in many places  as the members of this group wee inspiring Indians, the British  kept an eye on them. The Lahore Conspiracy Case (December 18, 1928) and the bombing of the Central Assembly Hall in New Delhi (April 8, 1929) are cases in point.  Being a courageous man he was willing to  do any sacrifice to free India from vice-like grip the British had on India and its people. Only free India became his watch word.

Rajguru joined the group of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Chandeasekara Asad and they were mostly operating in Punjab and UP with  with Kanpur, Agra and Lahore as his headquarters.  and took part in the assassination of a British police officer, J. P. Saunders, at Lahore in 1928. It was a premeditated attack on the police officer and it was done to avenge the death of  an eminent freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai who died a fortnight later after he had been  hit by police while participating in a protest march against the Simon Commission. The public opinion was that  Rai's death  was due to police brutality.  Chandrashekhar Azad, Shivram Rajguru, Bhagat Singh and Jai Gopal were given the task of  killing the British police officer  who ordered the lathi-charge purportedly John Saunders?  On 17th December 1928, while Saunders came out of his office and started his motor-cycle, he was shot dead in front of the police headquarters at Lahore by Rajguru. Shivaram Rajguru, along with Sukhdev Thapar, who was the accomplice of the legendary Bhagat Singh, spearheaded the attack. Rajguru then went into hiding in Nagpur.  On his travel to Pune,  Shivaram  Rajguru was finally arrested. Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar were then convicted of their crime and sentenced to death. Paradoxically, their target  was senior Police officer  James Scott who had ordered  his men to lathi-charge the protesting group  against the Simon Commission (1927) that visited India to discuss Indian political reforms. The commission did not include any Indian member that infuriated the Indian leaders across India. It was yet another insult on the Indians by the Raj. 

The three men   and 21 other co-conspirators were tried under the provisions of a regulation that was introduced in 1930 specifically for that purpose. All three were convicted of the charges.

The Tribune in its front pages announced the executions of Rajguru and others  scheduled for hanging on 24th March, Three activists were hanged a day earlier on 23 March 1931. They were cremated at Hussainiwala at the banks of the Sutlej river in the Ferozepur district of Punjab. Shivaram Rajguru was too young to die just only 22 years old at the time of his execution: he became a young martyr like Bhagat Singh.

Legacy: His birthplace of Khed. MH  has since been renamed as Rajgurunagar in his honour. Rajguru Market, a shopping complex at Hisar, Haryana, was named in his honour in 1953

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Cadmiumb in jewelry, a threat to human health

Cadmium in jewelry.
In most cultures across the globe jewelry is regarded  as a status symbol, for its material properties, its patterns or designs, or for meaningful symbols.  The Royal families world over were fond of them, particularly the royal British family, leave alone Indian Maharajahs and Nawabs of yore.  There are pieces of Jewelry to adorn nearly every part of the human body, from hairpins to toe rings. Though jewelry is designed for men, women and children. It is the  women who are  the most consistent wearers the purpose is to enhance their beauty and look that may get the attention of other people. They give them confidence and improve their aura!! In the case of Indian women, jewelry is  a regular ornament and they wear them in plenty on important family functions, etc. It is a chance for them to flaunt their rich collection and prove their status in the society.  Those who can not afford costly gold jewelry,  turn to imitation jewelry with a glitter; , this is true of Indian as well as European women. Wearing imitation, cheap jewelry gives them a safety net in societies where thefts, robbery and mugging are frequent. In India, especially in Tamil Nadu,  motor-bike chain snatchers are a menace to the women wearing gold jewelry. Dazzling pieces of jewelry attract women more than others  when attending important functions or parties, and they wear attractive bracelets, ear studs, rings etc to match their dress. Many of  them  may not be aware of the lurking dangers in them because  the low priced cheap attractive pieces of jewelry are a storehouse of  hazardous elements such as cadmium. lead, nickel, etc. Among them, cadmium is the most notorious one. Lately, in the western countries people are advised by certain agencies not buy jewelry or any stuff containing above elements. So, 'all that glitters is not gold, rather it is a shining path to to the grave'

Cadmiun jewelry
Cadmium contamination can more impact children's health than adults. It has a long list of  proven bad effects and both adults and children should avoid jewelry or any other products associated with cadmium.  

 As mentioned the negative effects of cadmium on the body are numerous and can impact nearly all systems in the body, including cardiovascular, reproductive, the kidneys, eyes, and even the brain. 01. Ingestion of cadmium causes poisoning, 02. The danger is once inside the body, it keeps accumulating and it is impossible to get rid of it, 03. There is a likelihood kidneys are likely to shrink by 30% and form stone, besides it may lead to multi-organ failure, 04.  The compounds of this metal being carcinogens, it may lead to lung cancer and prostate cancer, 05. Researchers report  some of them are neurotoxic; they  cause neuron cell death and it may affect the growth of brain. 06. Apart from making bones fragile ((Itai-ltai) in the case of children, it affects the renal and dopaminergic systems, 07. Cadmium affects blood pressure, 08 Cadmium may affect testosterone levels in the case of males.
As for the unborn, this hazardous metal can adversely affect its growth. Cadmium has the rare ability to cross the placenta and get accumulated in the foetal tissues.  In the case of pre-natal exposure to this metal, it is likely it will result in poor brain development, reduced weight during birth and birth size. 

Responding to an API (Associated Press International) investigation that reported  high levels of the known carcinogen in the Disney movie-themed pendants “The Princess and The Frog” and other children’s metal jewelry imported from China,  the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, that  had tested  for cadmium in children's metal jewelry  for several weeks finally  disclosed the recall. Lab tests done on 103 pieces of low-priced children’s jewelry as part of AP’s original investigation found 12 items with cadmium content above 10 percent of the total weight. One item consisted of 91 percent cadmium by weight. The popular Pendants from four “The Princess and The Frog” necklaces had a cadmium content  between 25 and 35 percent cadmium, according to the testing. Federal consumer safety regulators announced the recall of the toxic pedants and jewelry containing traces of cadmium way back in Feb 2010. 

The recall marks the first time any consumer product - “The Princess and The Frog” pendants has been recalled in the United States because of cadmium. The items had been on sale at Wal-Mart stores in the US since release of the animated Disney movie. Wal-Mart, the main retailer, pulled out the two items from its shelves. CPSC immediately warned the  parents to discard all pieces of inexpensive metal jewelry, pointing out that children who chew, suck on or swallow a bracelet charm or necklace may be endangering their health. The recent research also suggests cadmium  can harm brain development in children.
Soon after Wal-Mart pulled the items, the CPSC’s chairman warned the
parents to throw away all pieces of inexpensive metal jewelry, noting that children who chew, suck on or swallow a bracelet charm or necklace may be endangering their health.

In spite of the risk involved in wearing cadmium jewelry, and its first ever recall in Feb 2010, surprisingly in the 3rd week of October 2018, Jewelry with the toxic metal cadmium is showing up on the shelves of national retailers  across the US according to a recent news
The nonprofit organization Center for Environmental Health reported that some jewelry pieces sold with women's dresses and shirts were  nearly pure cadmium, which could  cause cancer and reproductive harm after prolonged exposure. The reappearance of cadmium since the recall of children's jewelry has surprised the 
consumer advocates  who thought cadmium had disappeared from the US  kid's jewelry market.
Unfortunately no laws address the Adult jewelry. Lab testing done on 31 adult jewelry items purchased from retail stores were at least 40 percent cadmium, and most were more than 90 percent, according to results shared exclusively with the AP

Under the state's Proposition 65, businesses must inform consumers about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer or other reproductive harm. The nonprofit Org. has settled Proposition 65 claims against 36 companies, including Gap Inc. and Target Corp., which agreed to not sell jewelry with more than 0.03 percent cadmium.

The jewelry industry helped write voluntary U.S. standards following the AP investigation, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission did not mandate any cadmium limits.