Saturday, 18 November 2017

Srirangam Ranaganatha temple gets the covetous Merit Award, 2017 from UNESCO

Srirangam temple, Tamil Nadu
Above image: The golden Vimana  with its gable with Paravasudeva image over the sanctum (garbagraha/Srikovil) at Srirangam. The idol of Sri Ranganatha is there - both moolavar and utchavar;  there are other small  gopurams as well........

Among the Hindu temples of India, in particular south India, the  Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple of Srirangam, Tamil Nadu,  dedicated to Lord Vishnu in a reclining form (anandasayanam) on the recoiled bed of serpent Adishesha   is not only a popular pilgrimage center but  also an important tourist place.  This  temple is glorified in the Thiviya Pirabandham, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Alvar saints of Bhakti movement from the 6th to 9th centuries is foremost in the  the list among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu. Regarding the history of the evolution of  Vaishnavism  starting with Ramanuja  in the 11th-century  and his predecessors Nathamuni and Yamunacharya, the temple played an indispensable role in the spread of bhakthi.  

The recent good news about this temple of great antiquity is that it has won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Merit 2017 for cultural heritage conservation. The temple bagged one of the four Awards of Merit from a jury comprising nine international conservation experts convened from 9 -11 Aug. 2017 at UNESCO, Bangkok, which considered conservation projects from 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region. According to a communique from UNESCO sent to the temple, dated November 1, the temple has been selected for the Award of Merit for 2017.

Srirangam Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple Imgur
Srirangam Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is the first temple in TN to receive a UNESCO award.  The other monuments in India that received the Award of Merit this year were Mumbai's colonial structures Christ Church and Royal Bombay Opera House. The selections were made from  43 applications received from 10 countries across the Asia Pacific region, 

As for the Srirangam temple, the UNESCO team gave due importance to the massive restoration work undertaken way back in  June 2014 at the initiative the late CM. Ms. Jayalalitha (who represented the Srirangam constituency).

The mammoth  restoration project was  carefully done in phases, at a cost of about ₹25 crore, with financial support   from the  state government as well as private donors. The kumbabishekam was performed in two stages — in September and November 2015. The renovation of the temple  was a tedious one, involving painstaking work by experienced sthapathis, under the guidance of experts in archaeology for over a year. This kind of massive restoration work was not undertaken in the last two centuries or so. The crucial aspect of this project, covering the vast temple was the daily puja and temple rituals were not intercepted and they went on as usual regularly. 

Srirangam temple, restored granaries. TripAdvisor
Including seven prakaras and 21 towers, along with the huge  236-feet-high rajagopuram,  the restoration work covered every part of the temple without tampering with their heritage value. Even the age old giant temple granaries to store grains donated by the devotees were restored back to old glory. The path from thayyar sannidhi was reopened. 

1000 pillar hall, Srirangam temple, Tamil nadu. ghatroads.in9
About mind-boggling 60,000 tonnes of construction wastes /debris were  removed in the course of  renovation. The public, for the first time, had an access to see such awe-inspiring  restored structures like hundred-pillar and thousand-pillar mandapams (halls) and various other mandapams, Several sculptures in the numerous sub-shrines were also restored.  Among the 40 sub-shrines, majority of them were closed for decades  earlier. The restoration work, for the first time, revealed the presence of  fine historical structures at the base of the shrines of Thondaradipodi Azhwar and Vitala Krishnan near the southern entrance.  According to the temple official, "It is very satisfying that the hard work has been recognized".
 "The project has revealed the original fabric of 
the shrines, water bodies and landscape within 
the temple’s four inner enclosures, which were 
once obscured under layers of inappropriate modern additions and tons of debris. Employing traditional construction materials and techniques, the restoration work was carried out in an authentic manner by local craftspeople in accordance with ancient building principles and rites. The temple today attracts great attention among its devotees 
and supporters, whose renewed sense of pride 
and  custodianship will ensure its long-term 
sustainability,” commented the (UNESCO) jury".

Srirangam. 1870 photo-temple gopurams

Inside, Ranganatha Swamy temple, Srirangam.

01. The location, on an island between the Kollidam and Cauvery rivers, has  made the temple  vulnerable to flooding  and the government takes precautionary measures during the Monsoon seasons. 

Fortified boundary wall, Srirangam
Above image: The temple is surrounded by 7 concentric huge, tick walls; this is a portion of the outermost wall. And the total length of these walls around the temple is slightly more than six miles.  The walls were fortified after the 14th century invasion from the Delhi Sultanate...........

Painted “map” of Srirangam Temple,
Srirangam Old Mottai gopuram,
Above image:  Gateway at Srirangam - 1847 - "This is plate 23 from James Fergusson's 'Ancient Architecture in Hindoostan'. Srirangam near Tiruchirapally is the site of one of the largest temple complexes in India. The gateway sketched by Fergusson is incomplete: the tower had not yet been added. It belongs to the Ranganatha Temple, a pilgrimage site famed for its annual Vaikuntha Ekadasi festival, dedicated to Vishnu. The scale of the gateway impressed Fergusson as nearly unrivalled in India.  The present temple has seven concentric walls and 21 towers or gopurams. Although worship at the site goes back earlier, the temple itself was founded in the 11th century. It was continually augmented between the 13th and the 17th centuries. The mostly 16th and 17th century gateways are brick and plaster pyramidal towers increasing in size from the innermost enclosure. The gateway of the seventh enclosure is one of the tallest in India (72 metres, or 236feet)......................

02. The temple was looted and destroyed by the Delhi Sultanate armies during the reign of Alauddin Khilji of the Khilji dynasty (from 1296 to 1316) in a massive raid on various cities of the Tamil Pandyan kingdom (including Madurai) in early 14th century. During the murderous invasion (1323 AD) led by military general Ulagh Khan of Delhi Sultanate, according to 'Koyilozhugu,' a true  record of events relating to Srirangam temple, about 12000 Vaishnavites were brutally murdered while they were defending the army to prevent entry into the temple.

03. The main idol of Sri Ranganatha was already been taken  to the Vishnu temple - Sri Adhinayaka Perumal at Gopurapatti village where it had been kept for decades and the daily puja rituals for Ranganathar were done here.  The idol was taken back to Srirangam only  when normalcy was restored  and later the temple rituals commenced after a long break. So was the tradition of singing and dancing as part of  Bhakti movement that had a long break.  

Sriragam location map.

04. Thanks to the Thanjavur Nayak rulers, the temple was rebuilt in late 14th century,  the site became fortified and expanded with  additional  gopurams (towers) in the 16th and 17th centuries. 

05. The temple  covers a vast area of  155 acres (63 ha) with 50 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions and many water tanks, forming the complex. 

06. The temple town is an important archaeological site, showcasing  the early and mid medieval South Indian society and culture. 

07. Not only was the temple  a spiritual center, but also a major economic and charitable institution that ran  education and hospital facilities, a free kitchen etc. Besides, with temple donations and gifts it received, the administrators  financed regional infrastructure projects for the benefits of the people. 

08. The Surprising fact is the  Srirangam temple is the largest one in India and one of the largest religious complexes in the world. The outer tower that is 72 metres (236 ft) tall was  completed in 1987 at the initiative of the late Jeer of the Ahobila Mutt. 

09. Srirangam temple is often considered as one of the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world, the still larger Angkor Wat, Cambodia  being the largest existing temple, not a functional one.  

10. The temple follows Thenkalai tradition of Sri Vaishnavism, but surprisingly, all the temple priests (Bhattacharyas) working here  are staunch followers of Vadakalai Sampradayam!! 

 The award of Merit Certificate by The UNESCO  Award of Merit to Srirangam temple will go a long way and  encourage the administrators of other great old temples and other monuments across India to seriously engage in conservation and restoration exercises  to get them  back to ancient glory without disturbing their heritage values. The tough restoration work done at the Srirangam temple  few years ago  will positively give a fillip to such future restoration work at other historical temples of Tamil Nadu that are not well managed. 


Friday, 17 November 2017

Richard Roskell Bayne - an amazing British architect of colonial India

Richard Roskell Bayne (1837–1901), an English architect who practised in Calcutta and other Indian cities between 1866–90 was an employee of the East Indian Railway. As a railway engineer, he built bridges, train stations, and bungalows, but he also had the opportunity to design monumental buildings such as the East India Railway Office and the New Market in Kolkata, the Hussainabad clock tower, Lucknow, UP and Oak Grove School at Mussoorie, Himachal Pradesh. 

Legacy Art Galleries - UVic
Richard Roskell Bayne, born in Warwickshire, England, 7 July 1827, received his early  training in architecture from his father. In 1858, while he was a student at University College in London, Bayne took up a job in the office of the British architect, Charles Barry.  In 1864, he passed the Royal Institute of British Architects Voluntary Architectural Examination, and was also awarded  a  medal. It gave him a chance  to make an extensive sketching tour in Europe in 1864-1865. Having gained considerable experience in designing various structures in Europe, Bayne joined  the East India Railway Company on 20 March 1866 as an engineer and moved  over to Calcutta. His long stay in British India, was productive and he designed many buildings, etc. After retirement from the railway company on 30 April 1890,  he settled down in British Columbia and opened an architectural office in May, 1891. He died in Victoria on 4 December 1901, and is buried in the Ross Bay Cemetery. The following are some of Bayne's wonderful creations that still bear testimony to his unique style and creativity.

Mayo Memorial Hall, Allahabad:

Mayo Memorial Hall, Allahabad - Govt of Uttar Pradesh
 Above image: Located near colonial building  Thornhill and Mayne Memorial in Allahabad, UP,  the Mayo Memorial Hall is a  beautiful colonial building - a sort of Public Hall meant for public meetings, balls and receptions. It has a majestic 180-ft tall tower that is quite visible all around the site. Designed by the famous architect R. Roskell Bayne, it was built in 1879 and named after Viceroy Lord Mayo (Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo KP GCSI PC ; 
21 February 1822 – 8 February 1872), who was assassinated on  8 February, 1872. The tragedy occurred when he was on an inspection trip to the Convict Settlement at Port Blair in the Andaman Isles, the Bay of Bengal................

New Market, Kolkata: 

New Market Kolkata, en.wikipedia. org. 

Above image: New Market is a market in Kolkata  on Lindsay Street at Free School Street (Mirza Ghalib Street). Originally it was an  enclosed market, today in local parlance, the entire shopping area is often known as "New Market". It was built in Victorian Gothic style designed by Bayne. It was opened on  first  of January 1874 and it was the first municipal market of Calcutta. It was used to be called Hogg market............... 

Husainabad Clock Tower,  Lucknow:

tHussainabad clock tower, Lucknow,Uttar Pradesh Tourism
the Hussainabad clock tower, Lucknow, UP Wikipedia
Above image: Husainabad Clock Tower,  Lucknow city, Uttar Pradesh, India.  It was  built in 1881 by Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider to mark the arrival of Sir George Couper, 1st Lieutenant Governor of United Province of Avadh.  The  cost of of construction of this 67 meter (219 feet) tall structure was Rs. 1.75 lakhs. Located near Rumi Dharwaza, it was designed by Bayne using the Big Ben of London as a model. It is one of Baynne's best creations, again showing his abiding interest in Victorian and Gothic style of design in dealing with public buildings. Its huge pendulum has a length of 14 feet.............

Oak Grove School at Mussoorie:

The Oak Grove School Mussoorie, HM,Boarding School India
Above image: Oak Grove School at Jharipani, Mussoorie is a well-known residential and boarding  public school, owned and run by the Northern Railway. It is located on a scenic hill top, covering 256 acres of land. The school was founded on 1 June 1988 during the Raj, mainly catering to the children of Indian railways. Only 25% of the seats were reserved for the outsiders and I presume, the same rule is being followed now by the management. The school has three semi-independent sections: Oak Grove Sr. Boys' School (commenced 1888), Oak Grove Sr. Girls' School (1890s) and Oak Grove Junior School (1912). The buildings were designed by The chief engineer of EIR Mr. Richard Roskell Bayne designed the building in his favorite Gothic style of architecture, taking the mountainous terrain into account..........,Mussoorie

Howrah, East Indian Railway. IRF
Above image : East India company Railway building. One of the earliest railway buildings in India. The EIR was formed in London 1 June 1845...............

Thursday, 16 November 2017

All Saints Cathedral, Allahabad - an inspiring colonial place of worship!

The All Saints Cathedral,Allahabad, India.YouTube Nivalink

The All Saints Cathedral,Allahabad, India.YouTube 

All Saints Cathedral, located in Allahabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is a fine example 13th century  Anglican church  designed in  Gothic style in Asia  by the famous British architect Sir William Emerson.  He was such a reputed architect, he had already designed the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, Crawford Market in Bombay and the Muir Central College in Allahabad (now part of University of Allahabad). On the  first of November 1887, the church was consecrated and the anniversary of this church is celebrated as All Saints’ Day (1st November)  The church comes under  the management of  the Church of North India  and is located at the intersection of  MG Marg and SN Marg.  Amazingly, it has been in existence for more than 146 years since its inception during the colonial period.

The work on the church began on 10 April 1871 on a land  granted  by  the Lieutenant Governor of North Western Provinces, Sir William Muir and  the foundation stone was laid by Elizabeth Huntly Wemyss, wife of Sir William Muir.

All Saints Cathedral located in

The church was designed in such a way as to keep the indoors  cool and  congenial during hot summer season.  The high ceiling  supported by huge arches and porches were of some help during hot season. The red-tiled roof is made of  Cream and red coloured sandstone. The Church is surrounded by a well-maintained garden. The nave of the church measures 40 feet wide and  130 long and the overall  dimension of the church is 240 feet long and 56 feet wide inside. It could accommodate 300 to 400 people  at a time. There are  plaques in the church that carry the names of different British officers, their cause of death, etc., during the colonial  rule in India.
he All Saints Cathedral
The church, the pride of Allahabad,  has  well decorated pulpit and it exhibits exceedingly fine piece of workmanship in alabaster by Mr. Nicholls of Lambeth from Mr. Emerson’s designs. There are two transepts on the north and south respectively, a chancel with an ambulatory, a central tower at the intersection of the nave and transepts and a west porch. The church has a lantern tower, that enhances the beauty of this structure and it is  called Victoria tower in honor of  Queen Victoria.

The ambiance of the church is serene and relaxing; people of different faiths come here from different walks of lives to get their grievances redressedin this place of veveration.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Alfred Park, Allahabad, India steeped in colonial history

Chandrasekhar Azad Park , informally known as Bagh is an important public park in the city of Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Since the public park  was  built in 1870 to mark Prince Alfred's  visit to the city, earlier it was called Alfred Park. Being the largest park in the city, it covers an area of 133 acres. It was renamed after freedom fighter Chandra Shekar Azad, who suffered untold miseries  and finally gave up his life in 1931 during the tumultuous freedom struggle movement in India.

In the wake of the Sepoy mutiny of 1857, the base of the British imperialism began to shake and the administration of colonial India came directly under the British Government in London. The military administration came up with many strategies to see to it that Indian soldiers of different regions, religions  and caste remained segregated and the regiments were introduced on caste liles.  In 1870, old cantonments, where the trouble brewed during the rebellion, particularly, in Meerut were  converted into a parks. New areas were developed for stationing the Barracks.

The Afred  park is  in the neighborhood of George town and is surrounded by Tagore town, Civil Lines and the University of Allahabad, one of the oldest universities in India. An important fact about this  huge colonial park is, it has some interesting  heritage and recreational sites.

Chandra Shekhar Azad Memorial, Alfred Park:

The spot where Azsad died (1931)
Above image: Alfred Park, Allahabad, UP: The tree in in the park  where Chandra Shekar Azad died on 27 Feb. 1931.The British  cremated his body without informing his relatives. He was a great freedom fighter until his death right here. He was a man of courage and wisdom. A true follower of Lala Lajpat Rai, yet another freedom fighter of great repute.........

The memorial is dedicated to freedom fighter Azad. Chandra Shekar Azad (23 July 1906 – 27 February 1931) was a daring freedom fighter and openly rebelled against the British rule. He was involved in Kakori Train Robbery (9 August 1925) and in the shooting of J.B. Saunders to avenge the killing of  freedom fighter and patriot Lala Laipat Rai at Lahore (in Pakistan) in 1928. Azad died at Alfred Park in Allahabad on 27 February 1931.The police surrounded him in the park after somebody blew the whistle on him. He was wounded while defending himself and  his partner Sukhdev Raj. As the shooting continued, he killed three policemen and wounded some others. To avoid being caught and later faced execution at the British hands, he shot himself to death in this park. The public was angry, when the British cremated Azad's body secretly. The British further earned the ire of the natives as their prepressive rule continued without a break. Since his death in Alfred park, Chandra Shake Azad has become a cult figure and even now the people here revere him hold him in great esteem.

Victoria Memorial, Alfred Park:  

Alfred Park, allahabad. Victoria Memorial
It is a big  canopy made of Italian limestone, dedicated to Queen Victoria of England. Opened on 24th of March 1906 by James Digges La Touche, there used to be a   a huge statue of Queen Victoria under the canopy which was later removed.

Thornhill_Mayne Memorial, Alfred Park:  

Thornhill Mayne Memorial

Thornhill Mayne Memorial, built  in 1864, houses the biggest library in the state of Uttar Pradesh and was designed by Richard Roskell Bayne. It is an amazing building that touches your heart.  Mayne funded the construction  at the time when he was the commissioner of Allahabad. It was opened in memory of Cuthbert Bensley Thornhill. It is a memorial to a commissioner's friendship with Collector Mr. Mayne who converted it into a public library.  This building  served  as the House of Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces during the colonial era. It  is a remarkable example of Scottish Baronial architecture.

Alfred park, Allahabad, location  map. Wikimapia
The other heritage sites are Prayag Sangeet Samiti, a music training institute and  Madan Mohan Malviya Stadium.  Being the biggest park, it attracts a large amount of people. according to an estimate, approx 5000 people visit this place.

Chettikulangara Devi temple, Kerala - an inspiring place of worship

Chettikulangara Sree Bhagavathi temple,Kerala. /

Chettikulangara Devi is believed to be the supreme mother goddess, Shakthi Devi or Parasakthi in Hinduism. It is believed that she has almost all the attributes lord Shiva has. In Tamil there is a saying: "Shakthi ellaaiel, Shivam ellai"meaning 'if there is no Shakthi, there is no Shiva'.

Among the Bhagavathi temples  of the state of Kerala, Chettikulangara Sree Bhagavathi temple is one of the most popular ones being visited by lots of people. Located at Chettikulangara in Mavelikkara taluk (about 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) west of Mavelikkara of Alappuzha district, here the presiding deity in the Srikovil or garbagraha (sanctum) is Sree Bhadrakali, an incarnation of Parasakthi or simply Shakthi who appeared  from the third eye of Lord Shiva. The purpose of her incarnation / avatar was to  to kill the demon king Daruka who caused unbearable pain and suffering to the people, including the sages and celestial gods. The word  'Bhadra' means good and 'Kali' means goddess of time. It has long been a tradition across India, particularly, in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal that people  worship Bhadrakali  for prosperity, protection  and salvation as she is an embodiment of all the three, including creation and destruction, symbolizing her origin from Lord Shiva. She is responsible for  Kundalini shakthi as well.

As for this age-old temple, steps are afoot to get this temple listed under the UNESCO World Heritage List and the UNESCO gathered enough information about this temple, its age old tradition, customs such as Kuthiyottam, Kumbhabharani, etc., festivals, puja protocols and others. 

oil lamps stand. Chettikulangara Devi Temple Kerala
The temple, which is 1200 years old,  has 13 "Karas" or territories and is at the center of the oldest four Karas. At this temple, Thantric  worship is being followed and the Thantric rights belong to Plackudy Illom, With its Tharavadu (Base) in Ambalapuzha. Plackudy is one among the ancient Thantric families of Kerala. It implies that  Vedic Agama worship is not followed here.
Next to Sabarimala temple , this one receives   
the second largest  income by way of donations, hundial collections, etc., under the administration 
of Travancore Devaswom Board. The temple receives collections worth several crores of rupees annually.   Sometimes  a  single day collection 
alone may run into more than one crore rupees.
A single type of offering is called "Chanthattam". Temple prasadams such as Appam, Aravana, etc., are made at Sabarimala from the offerings of Nellu (paddy) made at  the Bhagavathi temple.  The income from the temple is so enormous,  it is widely used to take care of pujas, etc at other temples under the  Travancore Devaswom Board.

There are certain facts that may be worthy of mention. Kuthiramoottil kanji and Therummoottil kanji, offerings at Chettikulangara Devi temple, carry the Geographical Indication (GI) tags. Surprisingly, ten  other names closely associated with the temple have protection under the trademark and patents regime. Example: Chettikulangara Amma, Chettikulangara Kumbha Bharani, etc. Sree Devi Vilasam Hindu Matha Convention, Chettikulangara, an organisation of 13 karas or regional societies, has also applied for design patent for kuthira and theru as well as jeevatha, the deity’s palanquin.

The temple accounts for several festivals and the important ones are as follows.  

The"Parayeduppu": The deity ("Devi") of Chettikulangara temple is taken out in procession for Parayeduppu on the Makayriam star of the Malayalam month Makaram. 

Kumbha Bharani: This falls  in the month of February or March. The date is fixed according to the Malayalam Calendar KollaVarsham. The Chettikulangara Bharani is in the month of Kumbha and the day which has the star Bharani and hence the name Kumbha Bharani. The highlight of the festival is Kuthiyottam and Kettukazhcha. 

Ethirelpu Ulsavam: This annual temple festival is a long one - for 13 days.  On the tenth day following the Kumbha Bharani, the annual festival is celebrated. The tradition has it that  each day of the festival is organized by residents of each Kara numbering 13. Special rituals are held on the temple premises  that attract a lot of devotees.

Aswathy Ulsavam: The unique rituals are held with devotion and dedication during the Aswathy festival and they bring out the importance of firm bondage and human pathos resulted due  the time of separation between the people and their revered goddess  Bhagavathy. Held on the Aswathy day in the month of Meenom, this festival is attracting a large number of visitors.

Sheherwali Jain community, financiers of the French, British and Nawabs 300 years ago!! - some facts

House of jagat Seth, Murshrabad,WB.
Have you ever heard of the Indian community whose prominent members were offering finances to British and French companies roughly 300 years ago? The answer is Yes, it is recorded in history that they not only financed the foreign companies but also handled the finances of rich Indian nawabs.  The Sheherwalis were rich Jain merchant families who migrated from the semi arid regions of Rajasthan to conduct business in Bengal, then a fertile place.It is not an easy job to get name in business in a strange land far off from the native place. Sheherwalis achieved success in their business dealings by dint of hard wok, business acumen, integrity  right decision and above all adoptation to a new place. They gained enormous trust in the business community.

 Some exciting facts of Sheherwali Jains:

01. The name Sheherwalis originated from the fact that they were itinerant traders who moved from town to town ( sheher).

 02. An interesting fact that many people are not aware of is that the Sheherwalis, with their  strong belief in non-violence, shunned the use of silk  and  developed the concept of ahinsak or non-violent silk hundreds of years ago. The Sankaracharya of Kanchi  Math, Tamil Nadu - late senior Pontiff (Periyavar), a few decades ago, asked the people to avoid dress or sari made from pure silk as it involved killing of  countless silk cocoons (they had to be boiled as part of the process).

03. Roughly  300 years ago Manikchand, a Rajasthani Jain merchant settled in Bengal gained the confidence and trust of the first Nawab of Bengal , Murshid Quli Khan (1704 to 1725). He advised the nawab to shift his seat of power from  Dhaka and establish a city bearing his own name on the banks of the river Hooghly.

04. Through the efforts of Manikchand, a discrete village  of Maksudabad became the  town  of Murshidabad (established in 1717) with  palatial buildings, mosques, temples, mints, etc. 

05. Manikchand became the Nawab’s personal banker, trusted friend  and also the first Dewan receiving the title ‘jagat seth’ (banker of the world). Emperor Farruk Siyar, upon  his accession to the throne of Delhi in 1712, honoured Manik Chand with the title of "Nagar Sheth" (Banker of the city).

06. Thus, in the town of Murshidabad with the pioneering efforts of enterprising Manikchand, the Sheherwali culture  and tradition began on a strong base and flourished for a long time.

Jagat Seth, Banker &friend of Siraj.
07. When the East india Company under Robert Clive captured Bengal and other places in 1757 and later, the Murshdabad nawabs lost their political clout and their history faded into insignificance. However,  the culture of the Sheherwalis kept going unabated. Manik Chand died in 1714 and under the administration of  Fateh Chand, his nephew and successor ran the financial house effectively.
08.  A number of Jain families  came here and settled down in Murshidabad and other neighboring towns of  Azimganj and Ziaganjj
. They also started adopting the local ways of living, including food, dress customs and language, slowly evolving as a prosperous community distinct from the Marwaris.
The title of Jagat Sheth, bestowed on Fateh Chand by emperor Mahmood Shah in 1723, shows his capability and the good name his banking house had gained in the country.

Sheherwali dinner party,
09.  Being careful investors, Sheherwalis  became wealthy business people in Bengal and lived in big mansions designed by French and English architects. 

10. The community's rich cultural heritage was strong as  corroborated by their 14 richly ornate Jain temples in Murshidabad.

11. It was the  "
Sheherwali business people who  introduced a system of doing transaction with hundis, or promissory notes, instead of actual money". 

12. During the reign of Murshidabad nawabs, Bengal was a prosperous province and  the revenue of 20 million silver coins  was sent to the Mogul ruler  through the system of  hundis. Manikchand made enormous profits by way of commission.As for his successor, Fateh Chand, his house minted coins and bought much of the foreign bullion imported into Bengal. This way, they earned more  profits annually. 

After Fateh Chand, his grandson Mahtab Chand succeeded to the title in 1744. He and his cousin Maharaja Swarup Chand were influential and were close to nawab Alivardi Khan. His successor Siraj-ud-daulah  sidetracked  the brothers and they ultimately conspired against him with the English and Siraj's relatives. 

14. The Sheth brothers had good terms with nawab Mir Jaffer, however, his  successor Mir Qusim, for political reasons, assassinated the Sheth brothers in 1763. When East India company seized power from the nawab, the house of Seth began to slide down hill. Though the ESI gave special treatment to their financial house in minting coins, their fortune declined drastically when the British shifted the capital to Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1773.

15. After  Mahtab Chand the title of 'Jagat Sheth' lasted for six generations. The last of the clan Fateh Chand  inherited the title in 1912. After his death his successors  did not assume the title in the colonial period.

16. The Sheherwali community financed many firms in Europe and became leading money lenders. Once Prince Dwarakanath Tagore, a wealthy Bengali man, had borrowed money from them.

17. The
credit  goes to Sheherwali community  for setting up one of the region’s first jute mills in Bengal and this gave them the chance to head prominent business associations in Bengal. Further, they made their foray in other industries as well. Not contended with earning lots of wealth, they engaged themselves in charity and  philanthropy by way of  constructing hospitals, schools and colleges in Murshidabad.

18. This community adopted the attire of Bengal; men gave up pagri (headgear of Rajasthan) and adopted the local tradition. Women gave up their traditional dress - lehengas and odhanas and began wearing saris, but they adopted their own style.

19. This community favors  vegetarian food  and the members introduced several varieties of their vegetarian cuisine.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Bhangarh Fort- first ranked haunted place in India !!

Are there ghosts in the world ? How many of us believe in such mysterious spirits?  Haunted places, world over, attract lots of people, including women, but the riddle attached to them always remains unsolved. Is it a mere hearsay or figment of some adventure seeking people's mind? No acceptable answer is available so far with solid proof. However, such places where paranormal forces are believed to be active never fail to get the attention of the people who are keen to understand the mystery behind them. Obviously, they have a penchant for these weird places.  In India, there are many haunted places across the states in the forts, palaces, mountains, etc. Not many of them deserve our attention. The historically old Bhangarh fort in Rajasthan is an exception. it is more famous for the tales of haunting than for its historical significance. 

A trip to such places may give us a unique experience as it is packed with anxiety and unwanted imagination. Once you get there and see for your self the much-talked about  eerie stuff,  you may feel satisfied or perplexed when you get get back home with a lingering question: Are there ghosts in this world?  

Exterior of Bhangarh Fort,

The 17th century  Bhangarh Fort in Alwar district of Rajasthan is a famous tourist spot for a different reason. It is not a richly embellished and stately 
fort as one may imagine, but it ranks first in the list of haunted places in India. There are tales of how the fort became a haunted place. Yet another mystery is many of the dwellings here are roofless!!. Why is it so? It's rich history is overshadowed by incidents of paranormal activities within the fort, hence it a major tourist destination for people who seek adventure and heroism.  Built in 1573 AD by Katchwaha ruler of Amber Raja Bhagwant Singh for his younger brother Madho Singh I, it was named by Madho Singh after his grandfather Man Singh who was  Mogul ruler Akbar's  celebrated general.

Bhangarh fort, rjasthan, Hindu temple. Holidify

The fort is at the foot of the hills on a sloping terrain in the Aravalli range of hills bordering  with Sariska Reserve  and the nearest village is Golakabaas. The lower slope of the hills has ruins of the king's palace that is surrounded by trees and pond with small water falls. 

The notice board displayed by the ASI warns that no one is allowed to remain in the fort after sundown. This is in consideration of the purported paranormal activities  in the fort  after the fall of darkness!! As for the mystery, there are two versions. One version has it that a tantrik (magician), who was well-versed in black magic wanted to marry the local princess of Bhangarh by the name of Ratnavati (daughter of Chatr Singh), a beautiful woman. Stories of her amicable nature and beauty were thick in the air and many royal families wanted to take her as their bride. Knowing that there were many suitable royal princes ready to seek her hand, the tantrik decided to get her at any cost, using his magic. One day, when the princess was buying local scent (Ittar) from a shop, the magician managed to replace  it with his love potion so that it would put a spell on the princess and make  her oblige him. Being an intelligent woman, she understood the magicians ulterior motive and threw the potion on the near by boulder. In a jiff, unexpectedly, the boulder came down the slope and crushed the magician to death. 

 At the time of dying, the magician cursed that  Bhangarh would be destroyed soon and become deserted as no one could  live within its boundaries. In the later years, the Mogul army invaded this place and killed the people, including the princess. 

The fort has a forlorn and wretched look and appears to be spooky and this being due to  the curse of the  tantrik. Local people believe that the fort is haunted by none other than the magician with unfulfilled ambition and the princess  who died a spinster. The  place is condemned to desolation for ever and if any body builds a roof over his dwelling, it will collapse mysteriously.

 The other version has it that a Sadhu  by the name of   Baba Balu Nath was living in a small stone house atop the hill on which Raja Bhagwat Singh built a fort in accordance with the wish of the Sadhu that the shadow of the building in the fort should not fall on his dwelling. Sadhu was quite pleased, however, it was not so in the case of  Raja Ajab Singh who constructed additional structure whose shadow fell right on the sage's dwelling. The hermit who had been living peacefully there for a long time without any outside intrusion was quite furious that the ruler went back on his word and disrespected a venerable sage. His curse caused this place to become deserted, gloomy and uninviting. There occurs a small stone hut called  tantrik ki chatri overlooking the fort. 

After the death of Chatr Singh, Ajab singh took over the reigns. At that point of time, the population had begun to dwindle for various reasons and soon after the famine in 1783, the remaining villagers migrated to other places for their livelihood and survival. 

Inside the fort, there are ruins of old structure and they were believed to be jauhari (market) bazaars, houses of dancing girls (nachan ki haweli). The fort has four beautiful gates through which one can enter the town and a three storied structure to be explored.  Also lie within the fort are Someshwara  and other Hindu temples and a step well. In the interior part lie temples dedicated to Shiva and Hanuman.  Many parts of the fort and its precincts are fairly  preserved. Its ramparts and fortifications stand amidst the ruins of the ghost town by the same name.  The fort and the surrounding establishments around it were a self-contended thriving place.

 That this beautiful, but deserted fort  is really haunted or not is a moot questions and  many local people say they never saw or heard of any paranormal activities. This mystery behind this spooky place attracts more people to visit this site.