Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Mind-boggling Bhoramdeo temple, Chhattisgarh state - well-known for erotic sculptures

Chhattisgar: BhoramdeoTemple,

Bhoramdeo Temple, Chhattisgarh
Among the important temples of  Chhattisgarh  state the Bhoramdeo temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva  is an interesting one. Famous for erotic sculptures it is located in the mountainous region and  the Bhoramdeo temple complex  has  four temples. Among them,  the earliest one is a brick temple. The main  temple here is the Bhoramdeo temple that has fine  architecture. Unlike earliest  brick temples here, this one is made of hard stones This temple has  fine mid-blowing  architectural features that include  erotic sculptures whose distinct style of presentation is similar to those in the Khajuraho temple and the Konarak Sun Temple in Odisha. Hence, this temple  is tagged as  the "Khajuraho of Chhattisgarh". The Bhoramdeao temple complex is in the midst of a wooded area at the foot of the Maikal range of hills  in the Daksina Kosala region,  18 km from Kawardha town, Chhattisgarh state. Nearest major city is Raipur. 

BhoramdeoTemple /
Above image: A freeze of an external face of the temple with images of gods and erotic sculptures from 'Kama Sutra'...... .......................

Dating back to the Kalachuri period (10th-12th centuries), the sculptures and architectural style that were dominant in Central India in west Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan  were called Chedi or Haihaya (Heyheya) (northern branch). They have  close  similarity with those sculptures found in nearby archeological sites such as Janjgir, Kalachuri, Narayanpur and Ratanpur sites.  The early temples were made of bricks  during the rule of Pandus and they have close affinity with those  built in Kharod, Palari, Rajim and Sirpur in the state.

Chhattisgar: BhoramdeoTemple
Built by Laxman Dev Rai & Gopal Dev of Faninagvansh  Dynasty, the temple complex is heart-throbbing poetry in stone",  and the credit goes  to Nagwanshi Kings. These rulers, who ruled the southern Koshal region (part of Chhattisgarh), practiced tantrism. The temple  is dated between the 7th and 12th centuries. The name  Bhoramdeo owes its origin to the ''Gond Tribals'' of the area who worshiped  Lord Shiva as Bhoramdeo.
Main tower with open "half shelters" facing south BhoramdeoTemple/

 The temple complex has a colorful arch and near-by a sculpted image of Nandi (the bull), the vahana  of Shiva, From this entrance there is a well laid out esplanade which leads to the temple complex which is on the banks of a lake. 

The stone-made Bhoramdeo temple, is dated back to the 11th century and is older than the Khajuraho Group of temples. Its architecture is stunningly beautiful. One could see on the outer wall small carved  images in profusion built in a typical architectural style called the Gurur type. It is just owe-inspiring and this style is different from the north Indian Nagara style of architecture. Its structural uniqueness and elegance  lies in the receding rows or tiers placed successively upwards in the top part of the temple tower.
 A large platform or plinth that is built to height of 5 feet (1.5 m ) forms the first stage. The platform has many sculptures of Hindu deities carved on the exterior faces.  The temple constructed on  this platform measures 60 feet (18 m) x 40 feet (12 m) and is of conventional  Hindu temple, comprising a mandapa (hall), followed by an antral or passage leading to the Garbhagriha or sanctum (9 feet x9 feet ) where  a Shiva Linga, is  enshrined. The mandapa, square in  plan is supported by four main central pillars, apart from the peripheral pillars. All the three enclosures are linked by passageways.

On the exterior and interior walls of the temple are found the bass reliefs in the entablature part of elephants, mythical figures and sensuous sculptures. The sensuous carved figures on the exterior walls represent the nuances of Kama Sutra and the erotic postures. It is to be noted that they reflect on the  then prevailing social, cultural, architectural and religious ethos in the region and there was nothing to be ashamed of. These sculptures are  nicely crafted in three tiers on the exterior face of the temple up to the pinnacle and are housed in niches. It is a meticulous job well done by the sculptors of those days. As for the sculpted images arranged in rows on the outer faces of the main tower, they  vary in size from 1 foot to 1.5 ft to 2 ft in descending order from the top of the tower to its lower end. The base of the main tower is wide enough  to provide stability to the main tower.

The lowest tier of the exterior walls is embellished with sculptures of lions and elephants. Here,  the sculptures are made of black and ochre stones (black stone is used to carve pantheon gods while Ochre stone is used for other sculptures). The entrance doors are flanked by images of mythological figures, which are  1 or 2 ft in height. An interesting feature is on the southern face of the shikara or tower  where the Ganesha image has six arms and well turned up  trunk. There are some interesting images of gods. one being 
Shiva Linga, with a hooded serpent; the other one is a  stone slab of Vishnu and Lakshmî mounted on Garuda with a king offering prayers.

The Istaliq temple or the temple built with dried or burnt clay bricks is close to  the main Bharamdeo temple. Built between 2nd and 3rd centuries this temple is in ruins, and the sanctum has no doors without an entrance hall or mantap. The tower above the sanctum  terminates in the middle

In the temple complex there is an  open-air museum that  has a large collection of archaeological features unearthed from the area; they are dated to 2nd and 3rd centuries. Of particular interest is  display of Sati pillars, which have unique architectural motif in which couples are carved in squatting amorous postures called the "alingana-mudra".
 A recently built  Hanuman temple painted in red colour is also seen on one side of the courtyard. A draped Kal Bhairava sculpture is also seen in the complex at its exit end.

Cherki Mahal, the last temple in the complex, is in a thickly wooded area . It has  a nicely decorated entrance and a sanctum with a lotus decoration in the roof. 

Madwa Mahal,  dedicated to God Shiva is  located about a kilometer away from the main temple. The west facing temple is built like a marriage hall or pandal (fabricated structure), known in local parlance as  "Madwa". It is believed to have been built in memory of  of the wedding of Nagwanshi king Ramachandra Dev and Haihawanshi Queen Raj Kumari Ambika Devi that took place in 1349.
The temple has an impressive  Shiva Linga erected over 16 pillars.

The  outer  walls of this temple have 54  well-carved  explicit erotic images in various  postures  as explained in the ''Kama Sutra''. As mentioned earlier, it is a reflection of the prevalence of  the tantric culture during the rule of  the Nagawanshi kings.

The Hastings Diamond, gift from the Nizam of Hyderabad, Deccan.India to King George III

Warren Hastings Gov. Gen. Ft. William, India

Above image: Warren Hastings (6 December 1732 -22 August 1818), an English statesman, was the first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William (Bengal), the head of the Supreme Council of Bengal, and thereby the first de facto Governor-General of India from 1774 to 1785. He was replaced by General Charles Cornwallis, the Earl Cornwallis; In 1787, he was accused of corruption and impeached in the House of Commons for crimes and misdemeanors during his time in India, especially for the alleged judicial killing of Maharajah Nandakumar but after a long trial, he was acquitted in 1795. He was made a 'Privy Counselor' in 1814. The house sat for a total of 148 days over a period of seven years during the investigation. The House of Lords finally made its decision on 24 April 1795, acquitting him on all charges.(  ...........................................................

World famous diamonds never fail to have  their own  fascinating history which may be replete with all kinds of  exciting events embodying romance, tragedy and wired adventures.  As these  expensive diamonds are symbolic of man's arrogance  and opulence, people normally take keen  interest in the weird stories related to the stones. None of them acquired a peculiar sensationalism as the Hastings diamond did. Its association with  Gov.Gen. Warren Hastings and his trial of financial irregularities had a ripple effect in the newspapers. It was a fodder for the caricaturists who had spun various funny caricatures involving the ruler of England and Hastings. No doubt, these cartoons kept a large section of English people agog.  For the first time, people  and the media realized the power of caricature and their impact on the public who wanted a break from the routine, dry newspaper reports. Since the royalty was involved in this case, it generated additional interest. The lampooning of the English ruler and the consequent laughter  burst at the seams. The English public had a jolly good time out of this unexpected development in the royal palace.
Above image: George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820) was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until  the union of the two countries on 1 January 1801; after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death in 1820.  He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two predecessors, he was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hanover...................................... (
Have you ever heard of Hastings Diamond? Does the name sound weird? We have heard about many famous diamonds looted from India and the curses they carry and the purported tragedies they left behind in the course of their journey from one family to another. To many of you like me the Hastings diamond may sound strange. You may feel compelled to conclude that it was worn by  none other than Warren Hastings himself  who took charge of East India Company after the exit of Robert Clive, the man who was responsible for annexing Bengal in the 18th century Bengal in the 17th century. Warren Hastings was a good administrator  and liked India very much.

The Hastings Diamond is not as famous as those of sparkling diamonds such as Kohinoor, Orlov, Nassak, Arcot, etc. It  is a large. brilliant  Golconda diamond, weighing 101 carats. Named after the British Governor General of India, Warren Hastings (1732-1818), it was given to King George III  on 14 June 1786, as a gift of
Mir Nizam Ali Khan
Mir Nizam Ali Khan, the ruler of Hyderabad, Deccan. Hastings was the Gov.Gen. from 1773 to 1784.

 At that time when this impressive diamond was given to the king, Hastings was on trial facing charges of corruption and financial irregularities in the ESI operations in India. The impeachment of Hastings was in the advanced stage  at the trial in London.  With a view to getting out of this tangled  trial proceedings, Hastings was anxious to secure the favour of  king George III; This made him agree  to act as  a courier of this valuable diamond from the Indian ruler. He did nothing to deny  the general idea that the diamond was his personal gift to the King, rather than the Nizam’s.

Acquittal came about after a pretty long deliberations, arguments, counter arguments by the House of Lords  and the committee. The proceedings against Hasting assumed sensationalism in the English media when the charges of his indictment were read, the twenty counts took Edmund Burke two full days to read it.  Though wiggled out of the financial irregularities, the story of  the presentation of the diamond to the king became public. This unexpected publicity bonanza that was a special bonus to the scoop-hungry British media, put Hastings in a bind. It was construed in the press that the gift of diamond   by Hastings  was meant to get a favorable verdict. Put it simply, this diamond and other lesser diamonds were the  purchase price of Hastings' acquittal It  interesting to note that one observer of the trial, a man called Horace Wimpole, commented that “Innocence does not pave his way with diamonds. The favorable verdict ricocheted in the press, resulting in a plethora of  caricatures, showing the King as “The Great Stone Eater”, and ridiculing the King for his greed. The English king got a bad rap for no fault of his. So was Warren Hastings whose preoccupation with his trial failed to reveal the name of the person who gifted the stone. One caricature showing Hastings wheeling the king to market in a burrow saying '' What a man buys, he may sell again''. In another, the king was shown as kneeling with his mouth wide open, Hastings throwing diamonds into it!! Hastings messed with the king's name so badly that the ruler became the subject of the most scathing political satire of his time in cartoons and songs. The lampooning of the royal head kept the British  readership very busy - a fun to get respite from stressed life.
Hastings Diamond and king George III
Above image: George III was a popular subject of public ridicule. Here, the monarch is depicted sitting in latrine when Hearing is throwing diamond stones into his mouth.........................................

A couple of years earlier, England lost the American colonies and as the British monarch had been turned into a bozo in the matter of diamond handed over by Hastings, now he had to swallow  yet another public embarrassment.'

Streeter in his book The Great Diamonds of the World quotes Thomas Wright from his Caricature History of the Georges this ballad that was written in “honor” of the occasion:

''I'll sing you a song of a diamond so fine,
That eon in the Crown of our Monarch will shine;
Of its size and its value the whole country rings,
By Hastings bestowed on the best of all kings.
Derry down…...........

From India this jewel was lately brought o’er,
Though sunk in the sea, it was found on the shore,
And just in the nick to St. James’s it got,
Conveyed in a bag by the brave Major Scott,
Derry down''   ….................................

''Madam Schwellenberg peep’d thro’ the door at a chink,
And tipped on the diamond a sly German wink,
As much as to say, “Can we ever be cruel
To him who has sent us so glorious a jewel?”
Derry down…............................

Now God save the queen! While the people I teach,
How the king may grow rich, while the Commons impeach,
Then let nabobs go plunder and rob as they will,
And throw in their diamonds as grist to his mill.
Derry down…''

As of today, the whereabouts of this diamond is not known. Some jewellery historians speculate that the round brilliant cut diamond Tiara in the Westminster  is the Hastings Diamond. But, it weighs less than  30 carats, it is likely that Tiara is not the right candidate,

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Colesworthy Grant's Memorial, Calcutta - first Colonial animal activist and crusader

Memorial, Calcutta. Colesworthy Grant /
Memorial, Calcutta. Colesworthy Grant /
Located  close to the  Writer's Building in Kolkata, West Bengal towards St. Andrews church, in the busy part of the administrative district, there is a small colonial monument  dedicated to a man  called Colesworthy Grant who was instrumental in establishing the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  Indeed, he did a pioneering work in the area of animal rights and their welfare way back in the early period under the English company.  Presently, the society being the largest of its kind in the world is functioning across the globe. As far as India was concerned,  it was the efforts of Colesworthy Grant that made this society a popular one. The monument is so small, one might miss it if one walks past on the sidewalk.

According to the plaque on the monument, it came into being in 1881 in memory of  Colesworthy Grant, a  worthy man whose main preoccupation  was of defending and protecting animal rights. His crusade against  cruelty to animals began to create a lasting  awareness among the people and at one stage achieved considerable success in the early decades of the 19th century. Thanks to the efforts of Colonel Richard Martin, an Irish politician, who took the matter before the legislature and  and finally the  act in 1822 was passed - one of the early acts of  animal rights legislation.  Richard Martin took one step forward and founded the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824. Presently, the society being the largest of its kind in the world is functioning across the globe. As far as India was concerned,  it was the efforts of Colesworthy Grant that made this society a popular one
Hastings diamond.
James Pinspep1799-1840, Orientalist.
According to biographer Pyarichand Mitra, who happened to be Grant's colleague, he was of both Scottish and Irish decent  and landed in Calcutta in 1832 at the age of nineteen.  The purpose was to join his elder brother who had a business in Kolkuta, making  clocks and designing mathematical instruments. We have no record regarding his contribution towards clock-making, however, from the media articles on him  we learn that he was a good portrait artist and made a mark in his chosen line of work. One surprising fact is, he never learned the art work from somebody and he was a  self-taught artist and got the handle on the nuances of it the hard way .
john marshman, English jourlalist and historian
William Carey, British
Grant's works were mainly focused on the popular personalities of Kolkata and many periodicals/magazine, etc like the Indian Review, Calcutta Review, Calcutta Christian Observer and the India Sporting Review published his works. The quality of  his work done with sincere efforts was excellent and won him laurels. He ended up  with a total of 169 such sketches over a period of 12 years, starting from 1838. He specialized in  lithographic portraits.
Among his sketches  the following may be worthy of mention: The sketch of of James Prinsep, who did pioneering work on the great  Emperor Ashoka  and the Ashokan edicts.  Many of his sketches of famous personalities of the 19th century survived today. and are famous now.  In the colonial period,  the ethnological study of the native castes and professional classes gained importance and Grant was in his full flow when he sketched them under the title of ''Oriental Heads''. The present generation of Indians,  from his vivid  pictures and writings, may get a glimpse of  how the natives of  previous centuries wore tradition dress according to their castes, professions, etc.
Grant's sketch
Grant's sketch Armenian Church, Rangoon.
Grant  travelled many parts of the subcontinent  and never failed to draw picture of what he saw. He went to Rangoon (Yangoon) in Myanmar and to an Indigo factory in Nadia, West Bengal. In addition, he also covered the life of Angelo Indians and their lives in Kolkatta and from the letters he wrote to his mother in England, we understand  how much he loved Calcutta (Kolkata), the capital of East India Company that ran the proxy government for the British Crown.
Grant's sketch
Realizing the need for a mechanical institution and and training in drawings, he founded a Mechanical Institution in 1839 in the city with a view to imparting specialized training in these areas. Being an artist of good repute, he taught drawing to the prospective students. As ill-luck would have it, the institution run by grant and his brother fell apart midway for various reasons. However, the famous  Bengal Engineering College (now the Indian Institute of Engineering, Science, and Technology, Shibpur) and the Government Art College had their roots in Grant's early institution.

Founded in Kolkata  in 1857 in the year of the great rebellion against the British, the Bengal Engineering  was functioning on the premises of  the popular Presidency College due to lack of space and this college has a touch of Grant's legacy.  Here, he was a teacher of  drawing in the Civil Engineering Department,  and he held this post till his death in 1880. The memorial plague of Grant in the auditorium of the Bengal Engineering College (IISER), Shibpur bears testimony to his reputation and the esteem he earned while he was teaching there .

Grant's artistic ability was of immense help to yet another institution in Kolkata and, at the invitation of  Dr. F.J. Mouat, Grant was actively involved in the preparation of a unique project - compilation of  the bilingual anatomical atlas in English and Hindi. Colesworthy Grant sketched anatomical drawings for teaching human anatomy in the Calcutta Medical College. His sketches were so fine, it helped the medical fraternity understand the various delicate parts of the human body.

Mitra recalls Grants crusading work in protecting animal rights. In those days  traveling and transportation of goods were a major hurdle, the people and the government depended on animals in particular, bulls, horses and camels in the desert areas to transport construction materials, mercantile goods, etc, besides riding carts pulled by horses and oxen. When transporting heavy loads of goods on them, they were forced to work for several hours, pushing them beyond their physical limit.   There was none  ''to plead for the alleviation of their suffering''.

Grant's  sustained efforts to protect the welfare of the animals finally bore fruits leading to the formation of  the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ on 4th October 1861. The objectives of the  Calcutta branch was to create consciousness against cruelty to animals through publications and by reaching out to the educational institutions. The Society's continuous campaign  was instrumental in  introducing two legislation for animal rights, Act V and Act XV, “for prosecuting individuals guilty of inhumanity to animals.” The hospital founded by the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, continues to  function in Calcutta, taking care of the sick animals.

Colesworthy Grant' name  will remain etched  in the Indian history of animal welfare for ever. He was the one who made the people across the globe understand that ''working animals'' are part of our society and their rights to live with dignity and welfare are as important to us as  those of our fellow humans.

Friday, 16 August 2019

The myth of Holwell's ''Black Hole'' tragedy memorial, Kolkata and the number of casualties

Black Hole Tragedy,Kolkata. survivor John Z. Holwell.
The  casualty of Calcutta's Black Hole incident (1756) that took place when the English company was just a trader in Bengal, has been a subject of discussion for a long time. The general consensus among the well-known historians has been that it was purposely hyped up by the English company that was involved in a number of illegal trade  activities in Bengal, frequently breaking trade treaty with the ruler and not paying customs duty to his administration. Besides the company, there were many illegal private  English traders operating in that area and not paying taxes  and the English officials were making money on the sidelines. This appaling situation angered the Nawab.  This tragedy became a fodder for the English company  to get sympathy from the British public and  a chance to expand their mercantile activities manifold in Bengal of course, using  army power.
.Black Hole memorial built by Holwell,
 For the Nawab of Bengal, an independent ruler, the presence of the East India Company in his land was  irksome one - some thing like letting the poisonous Black widow spider  crawl on his body. Besides non payment of customs duty taxes that caused heavy loses to the Nawab's treasury,  an open abuse of special grants made by the then Mogul ruler in Delhi,  the English company without  his written consent, began the fortification of Fort William, Calcutta, thus enhancing their military prowess. On top of it, the English company became mischievous and gave asylum to the offending officers  in the Nawab's administration. This galling act by the English irritated the Nawab to such an extend he decided to wage a war against the English company as they failed to correct the mistakes. With a huge army, countless elephants and numerous cannons, Siraj overcame the resistances in the city and finally captured Calcutta in June 1756. After a  two-day siege of Ft.William the Bengal army seized it.  Roger Drake, the administrator of the fort could not hang in there and finally on June 19 fled to a nearby place called Phalta, leaving behind a number of Angelo Indian soldiers and civilians under the command of John Zephaniah  Holwell, who happened to a senior administrator with no training in military.
Black Hole memorial now in St.John's graveyard, Kolkata
On the evening of 20th June Holwell and others surrendered to the Nawab's army who herded them into a small room measuring 14 feet by 6 feet with two small windows for ventilation. The prisoners were now under the custody of a local commander. Mind you  Nawab Siraj -ud-daulah was not aware that the British prisoners were crammed in a dungeon on the premises of Ft. William. In fact this dungeon was once a guard room of the old Ft. William. After the incident, the room was not there as new spacious and safe Ft. William came up later  in the same place.
A fenced display of the Black Hole of Calcutta. (1908),en.
 It seemed there was a sort of communication gap between the Nawab's soldiers and the commander who unintentionally left  captives in the overcrowded dungeon  to suffer all through the grueling night. A big unintentional mistake made by the Nawab's army  cost the Nawab dearly. It was to become a famous tragedy in the history of British Empire on which many books were written. Following day, it resulted in the death of 123 people out of 142 (according to Holwell). Cause of death: mainly due to suffocation, heat and possibly stampede. The cell which was already known as the  Black Hole before this unfortunate incident in 1756 later became  popular across the world as a symbol of 'torture and punishment of prisoners' in a dungeon.  Holwell himself wrote that out of 146 only 23 survived. His account of the Black Hole had a very limited impact on his contemporaries, media and the people in 1758.
Photograph of the replica of Holwell Monument -1905, Calcutta.
Holwell Monument, Calcutta.
 Holwell, who survived the Black Hole tragedy was the main eye- witness and his  written account on the number of causality was taken as authentic record by some  British media and authorities. Holwell went ahead and erected a tablet, at his own expense, on the spot to commemorate the victims. However, this tablet fell into ruins  later and became a hang out for the vagabonds and hobos. Lord Valentia, a visitor to Calcutta in1803, wrote,''The Black Hole is now part of a godown or warehouse; it was filled with goods and I could not see it.'' Commerce gained an upper hand and not the commemoration of victims!! The Black Hole made a dramatic reappearance when Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1840 described it as a great crime memorable for its 'singular atrocity'!!

 For the East India company it was a great opportunity to justify their skirmishes with the local Nawab.  The dungeon was portrayed as the first chamber of horrors in Bengal, an objective proof Indian ignominy and pretext and justification of conquest and violence.  However, conscientious historians  considered Holwell's account of the tragedy as over-exaggerated bordering on travesty of truth. He became a stooge in the hands of the English company who encouraged him to paint the ruler in the bad light which would provide them justification to their activities against the Nawab. One could see diabolism in the vilification of Nawab Siraj.  The crux of the matter is it possible to herd 150 people in a small room in Ft William? Was there any proof that the Nawab himself  had ordered the local army commander to put all the 150 white people in the same small room with poor ventilation  and leave them right there so that they could face slow death due to suffocation?

 Ramesh Chandra Mazumdar, historian is of the opinion  Holwell's account on  the number of casualty in the 'Black Hole' incident is not a reliable one. Stanley Wolpert, historian of good repute contended that  Nawab Siraj had no idea about the imprisonment of English people in the dungeon in Ft. William. Nor had he ordered his men to confine them in the prison. On purpose, the English company victimized him and made him a scapegoat with view to relegating their atrocities to the background. In a study by Prof. Brijen Gupta in 1959 pointed out that the incident did occur and  only 21 people survived  the ordeal in the dungeon in 1756 and the rest about 43 faced painful death.

 The question may arise about  the  15 meter tall obelisk to commemorate the victims of the Black Hole that came up later between Writer's building and GPO (close to Ladigi)in Kolkata. In fact, it was Lord Curzon who in the beginning of the 20th century, restored the crumbling Holwell Monument  as there was no other Black Hole tragedy memorial in honor of the victims. However, in the later years in July 1940 this memorial was shifted to a much safer place in the graveyard of St. John's church. During that period India's independence activities peaked and it was suspected that the Black Hole memorial would be pulled down by the highly spirited freedom fighters. 

As far as the number of casualty of 1756 Black Hole incident is concerned, it was more of a conjecture to hoodwink the British public by the dishonest EIC than of a true presentation of the truth.. There are no valid reports to support  Holwell's account. Deposition given by eyewitness can not be always true. Some times, it may be misleading. In this case, Holwell, on purpose bungled the facts to confound the public. British historians realized that that if Holwell's  written account were true, that small room was not good enough to stake  all 143 victims horizontally. Though myth repeated several times may impact the society, it can not become a historical fact. Because of this myth Black hole incident had earned a permanent niche in British India history. Truth will never lie hidden for a long time and one day it may wiggle out and get exposed.  Historians  now realized Nawab Siraj was a victim of EIC 's wrong campaign and finally faced death after the Battle of Plassey at the instigation of Robert Clive  and James watts.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

India's Independence Day, 2019 
. Netaji in Singapore
 1943. On this day "Provisional Government of free India" was established in Singapore under the leadership of Netaji.

Subhash Bose after resignation from the post of Congress president.
Gandhi and kasturi Bai
Pictures from the 1947-1948 Indo-Pak war fought over Kashmir
India’s first Republic Day parade in
Below here I have reproduced an article on India's freedom
posted on15th August, 1947  by one Matt Boughton:
15th August 1947 - India gains independence from the UK
"We need to be the change we wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi

''Yesterday we looked at the end of the Second World War, and one of the major and rather immediate after-effects of that was the dissolution of the European Empires and their strange, anachronistic grip on Asian and African territories. There was no greater representation of this anywhere in the world than Britain's ownership of India which had stretched back nearly two centuries, seen as "the jewel in the crown", the British quite unashamedly casting themselves as a necessary "civilising" force on this vast, alien subcontinent. Britain's presence in India had shaped how they saw themselves as a nation and in an age of Empire there was very little opposition to what would now seem an incredibly bizarre situation, an enormous and polar opposite land ruled by a country which would fit in its pocket. In the 20th century the status quo began to seem more and more ridiculous, before the crescendo of two world wars, a shifting global balance of power, a new socialist British government and an inspirational Indian independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi resulted in a resigned exit.

Europeans had established trading posts in India from the great explorations of the late 15th century onwards, with Britain arriving there in 1612 and attempting to edge out the Dutch and Portuguese presence which was already well-established. The French muscled in too but in the early 18th century the decline of the Mughal Empire which had ruled much of India since Genghis Khan presented an opportunity to seize significant power in the area. From 1757 onwards the East India Company asserted their control over the area region by region until by 1835 the British ruled enough of India to demand English be taught in schools and beginning a modernisation of traditional Hindu values such as the caste system, child marriage and the highly controversial practice of "sati" in which a recently widowed woman would throw herself on her husband's funeral pyre. While the abandonment of some of this might have been welcomed by many, other more benign social customs were also suppressed and some became increasingly indignant of British power. However a rebellion in northern and central India in 1857 backfired, as the British government took control of the East India Company and effectively subsumed the country into its Empire. Now there was an official Secretary of State for India in the British Cabinet and a Governor-General (or Viceroy) sent in to keep order. In 1876, their rule was so established that Queen Victoria became Empress of India.

And so began the British Raj, extending over pretty much the entirety of present day India, Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh, excluding Goa which would remain Portuguese into the 1960s and Pondicherry which remained French until the 1950s. Over the next few decades, opposition to British rule was rather muted within India, any objections largely lodged over the extent to which Indians should have a hand in government, with very few advocating independence, or "swaraj" as Gandhi would later call it. By 1907 a radical group had emerged with the ideal of overthrowing the Raj, though they were vastly outnumbered by the moderates who simply wanted reform and any momentum it had seemed to fade. However, the First World War would change everything, Britain surprised to find India completely supportive of its fight against Germany, throwing men and resources behind the war effort. In the end, 1.3 million Indian soldiers would stand with the British Army but as the conflict dragged on, Indian nationalists began to feel they deserved some kind of reward once it was all over, and the extremists and moderates pulled together in a united front. The British were quick to realise what was happening and agreed to "gradual development of self-governing institutions" which became a power-sharing "diarchy" in 1919. This might have placated nationalists but the Amritsar Massacre in April that same year, in which the British military opened fire on a group of demonstrators, killing somewhere between 379 and 1,500 people (depending on whether you believe the British or Indian estimates), severely dented any hope for the diarchy, particularly when its instigator Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer was hailed as a hero back home.

Enter Mahatma Gandhi, fresh from the civil rights fight for Indians in South Africa, returning home in 1915 with a new understanding of the power of non-violent civil disobedience in order to bring change. This vision was crucial because it allowed millions of normal Indians to become sympathetic to the cause, transforming a minority view into an almost national one. Gandhi urged a programme of "non-cooperation" which took in boycotts of British imports, educational institutions and law courts, resignation of Indians from government and, most importantly, refusal to pay taxes. It didn't last long because in 1922 an angry mob burned down a Raj police station in Chauri Chaura, killing 23 policeman, disgusting Gandhi and forcing him to abandon the programme for the sake of his non-violent ideals. He was subsequently put in prison for 2 years but in the meantime he had inspired so many in India that a new peaceful nationalist movement prospered without him. In 1928 the Congress demanded India be granted dominion status by the end of the decade or a second programme of non-cooperation would be launched. This did not transpire and so the Congress switched its aims to full independence, Gandhi re-appearing to lead the new resistance, embarking on his famous 250-mile march in the spring of 1930 and spearheading the various civil disobedience episodes of the early 1930s.

Ironically the real gift to Indian independence would be world war, again. India were "announced" as joining the war by the British Viceroy, at which point the political parties rebelled, resigning from local government, though at the same time over 2 and a half million Indians joined the volunteer army on behalf of the British. Gandhi sought to calm the civil disobedience movement during the war, adamant that real freedom could not be reached through a total collapse of British power. As in the First World War, they again expected something in return for their support but by 1942 they had failed to reach any agreement with the British government and so launched the "Quit India Movement". This called for a new programme of civil disobedience, though the timing was questionable with the Japanese army knocking at India's door. So the British panicked, imprisoning Gandhi (yet again) and the Congress leaders, banning the party entirely. Then as the war finally came to a close 3 years later, the political landscape back in the motherland was radically altered.

Clement Attlee's socialist Labour government had little interest in Empire, especially given their precarious post-war financial situation and a promise to deliver sweeping new welfare and healthcare reforms within the UK. India was restless and Britain had neither the appetite nor the resources to quell that spirit, the British people exhausted from decades of foreign conflict. A series of mutinies within the Royal Indian Navy in 1946 made the matter a priority and the government announced that they would award independence no later than June 1948, a date brought forward by the new Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, as agitation between the Hindu and Muslim factions began to rapidly increase. Religious barriers became a real issue in the lead-up to independence, the nationalist leaders in India agreeing on a partition of the country, appalling Gandhi and many others who were vehemently opposed. The Hindu and Sikh areas became "India" while the Muslim areas would become "Pakistan", the historical reality finally realised on 14th (Pakistan) and 15th (India) August 1947. 3 years later India had a constitution, enshrining a sovereign, secular and democratic republic which has survived, and though its economy was slow at first, that would all change by the 1990s. Real poverty still exists though and tensions with Pakistan continue to this day, with 4 wars erupting between the two in the period between independence and 1999. In fact while the religious dispute might seem alien to many in the West, their nuclear rivalry has been a real cause for global concern. As a new nation though, its sustained democracy has been impressive.

Gandhi remained disgusted by the partition, having envisioned religious unity, and indeed half a million were killed on the border areas when riots broke out on the stroke of independence, many desperately trying to switch sides. Gandhi wouldn't live to see the two nations forge ahead as he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist in January 1948. A nation mourned, with 2 million lining the 5-mile funeral route, and it could be said that in death he had finally managed to link the new state with the wider Indian people and highlighted the dangers of religion being in any way linked to the constitution''.

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."
........ Mahatma Gandhi
Posted 15th August by Matt Boughton

''Salt Satyagraha Memorial'', Dandi, Gujarat - legacy of Indian freedom struggle in the British Raj

Gandhiji collecting a handful of salt Dandi, April
The Salt Satyagraha Memorial has come  up in the  coastal place at Dandi, Gujarat  where  Mahatma Gandhi concluded the historical salt march in April 1930  in protest against the British Raj which vehemently introduced tax on  cooking salt as if they were not content with centuries of exploitation of Indians and their natural resources.  No doubt this memorial, on a land of 15 acres and built at a cost of over ₹70 crore, is commendable and an ambitious one; but one is at a loss to understand why it was   inaugurated in haste? The memorial work is still going on, not yet completed. The salt-making unit is not working.
Dandi, Salt Satyagraha Memorial
 The inauguration of the memorial took place in January 2019 by the PM Narendra Modi  when the work was on. Consequent of its hasty inauguration,  countless people including those involved in the project were  saddened as the the civil work was shoddy. The good news is since its inception the number of visitors is on the increase, sometimes reaching 30,000 on weekends.  Surprisingly, a regular visitor to this memorial is one  Ramesh Asmar,  grandson of  a Gandhian who participated in the salt march. He still keeps the China clay jar in which his grandfather brought back salt.

New York Times 6 April, 1930.
There are many features that attract the attention of the visitors. 

01. There are  24 narrative murals depicting  the important interactions that Gandhi had at the 24 halts in the march. Made of clay and cast in silicon-bronze, the murals were the creation of  a team of talented sculptors from Hyderabad’s Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University. To make the terrain etc look real, the sculptors travelled  the original route taken by the patriots.

02. Among the murals one mural gets the attention of the visitors. It tells us how the laborers were hired to carry lights so that the marchers could  find the path ahead.  In another mural we learn how teenage students  were sent ahead on bicycles to get valid  information for the marchers. They were called ‘arun tukdi’.
Salt march March- Apr. 1930. Sathyagrahis who accompanied gandhiji.
03. At the end in a big area stand  tall life-size statues of the 80 marchers who accompanied Gandhiji and who were subject to lathi- charge, etc.  They were sculpted by 40 artists from India, Austria, Bulgaria, Burma, Japan, Sri Lanka, Tibet, U.K. and the U.S. “Some statues were created by master sculptors to give a broad idea of how the marchers should look,

04. The main attraction is Gandhiji's statue. His statue was made by well-known sculptor Sadashiv Sathe. The statue is 5 -meter tall , overlooking a lake. It is  between two 40-meter tall giant pillars that hold up a heavy 2-ton illuminated glass cube., symbolic of  a single salt crystal.  
Dandi. two tall pillars carrying salt crystal with lancer
05. As for the the V-shaped pillars, they  symbolize Gandhi’s hands. After sundown, the salt crystal comes alive with laser lights.
salt march memorial, dandi tree shaped solar
06. The pathway is uniquely decorated with  40 solar trees  with 12 panels, reflecting the ethos of self-sufficiency in power generation. Here, the solar panels are shaped like tress, giving an inspiring ambiance.

07. IIT- Powai, Bombay’s electrical engineering staff and students were involved in this unique and thought-provoking solar project.
 The solar panels sustain the entire memorial and even generate 25% surplus electricity. 
08. Kirti Trivedi, former professor from IIT’s Industrial Design Centre made a sizable contributions to the design. The job was given to the team in 2011. The light pyramid, the salt cube, the lake, the main Gandhi statue, the sculptures of the 80 marchers, and the 24 murals - all these  were designed by him to give a modern touch to an historic event that took place in 1930.

Any visitor to this salt memorial, having  some knowledge of Indian independence movement, will go nostalgic - to  relive colonial history.  The salt padayatra/March was an arduous one, it happened in the hot summer time - a long  stretch of  241 mile journey  through semi- arid terrain to the coastal town of Dandi.  On March 12, 1930, Gandhi set out  along with 80 satyagrahis, unmindful of button-wielding police force who wanted to stop them. Being defiant as he was, Gandhiji  concluded the 24-day march in Dandi village, and on April 6, picked up a handful of salt, thus breaking the salt law. The simple act became a sensational news across the world and the foundation of the empire had developed more cracks, by then. The British realized that India's freedom was not far off. 

In Southern India C. Rajagoplachari (Rajaji; later he became the  first Gov. General of India and CM of Madras state) repeated the same act and undertook padayatra  toward the end of April 1930 from Tiruchirapalli city to coastal village of Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu. He collected a handful of salts along with great leaders like Kamaraj Nadar, Kakkan, Sardar Vedaratnam pillai and others. The British collector of Tanjore (Thanjavur) announced severe punishment to those who would provide the marchers with food, etc. The salt march was a great success because the natives refused to cooperate with the British. Janitor refused to clean the toilet and laundrymen refused to wash the white men's clothing, etc. The Englishmen were in the soup.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

The Gwalior Monument, Kolkata - a legacy of Angelo-Maratha war - early colonial rule

There are many memorials in India  to honor  the soldiers who lost their lives in the World War I and II. Mind you, India had nothing to do with WWI and II and was drawn into the war as it was under the colonial rule. India had a fine well-trained military officers and soldiers and they fought both wars for the British. Likewise, the British, when they ruled India, built war memorials to the officers and men who were killed while on duty. The Gwalior memorial in Kolkata  is an interesting one.

Gwalior Monument Kolkata
Gwalior Monument along the Hoogley river,  Kolkata

The Gwalior Monument, Kolkata - c1912-14,  an octagonal cenotaph about 60 feet high, crowned with a bronze dome cast from guns captured from the Marathas was erected in 1847 by Lord Ellenborough, the Governor-General of India.  It was a grand memorial to those men who died  during the Gwalior War in 1843. The memorial is also known as Ellenborough’s Folly, or The Pepperpot.
Gwalior Monument Kolkata
Designed by Colonel H Goodwyn of the Bengal Engineers and constructed by Jessop and Company, the memorial was the brain-child of  Lord Ellenborough. The base is a single storied white marble structure with a spiral staircase leading to a marble cenotaph on the upper floor from the inside. The unique feature is
Gwalior Monument along the Hoogly riverfront, Kolkata
the top  of the monument is built like a Mogul 'chhatri' or umbrella supported by 8 bronze pillars. The dome of the cenotaph is crowned with a bronze dome cast from guns captured from the Marathas.  From here,  one can see the Hoogly river, the Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu. However, entry is restricted. The Kolkata Circular Railway  line goes alongside the memorial between the Eden Gardens and Prinsep Ghat railway stations, and provides a view of this monument.

Gwalior campaign was a strange one. Two battles were fought on the same day, and no fighting after that, but it resulted in the death of  eight hundred British soldiers and over three thousand Marathas.

Gwalior, just  two hundred miles south of Delhi, had been part of the powerful Maratha Empire, which  controlled the majority of India. However,  the British  victory in 1818  had changed the political scenario as the English company  had a strong hold over most of the sub-continent. Since 1818 the city had been  ruled by a British-approved maharajah, but in 1843 the ruler's death created a strange political situation  and the legal heir happened to be a minor boy. When the young rajah, Jayâjî Râo Sindhia, was deposed and an anti-British government established, diplomatic attempts to redeem the situation having failed  failed, Ellenborough recalled the British Resident, and sent in Gough.
Lord Ellenborough on 13 December 1843  wrote to the Maharani of Gwalior warning her that she should dismiss the regent and  reduce the size of her army. The bold Maharani never responded  to Ellenborough's  communication. This paved the way for the Gwalior Campaign.

Gen. Sir Hugh Gough, in violation of  the treaty of 1804 with Gwalior,  on 29 December 1843 raided the town  with 14000 men and  40 guns. The town was known for its beautiful palaces and riches,  The Gwalior War at Maharajpur  and the Marathas under Bhagerat Rao Scindia had 18,000 men and 100 guns. It was a pitched battle and finally the British emerged victorious. The British lost 787 men and the Marathas about 3000 men and 56 guns. On the same day at Punniar, 20 miles from Maharajpur, the left flank of Gough's troops under General Grey defeated a huge army of 12,000 Marathas and captured 40 guns.