Monday, 18 October 2021

''Bibigarh massacre'', Cawnpore (Kanpur) and the Memorial - ''The Angel of Pity''- a brief note

Cawnpore memorial (UP), India

Above image: The Angel of Pity' in the Memorial Garden, Cawnpore, 1867...........

Bibigarh well, Cawnpore (UP) 1857.

Above: Bibigarh, Cawnpore. well (now barricaded) where bodies were thrown in. Photo taken in 1858 by Major Robert Christophe.........................

''During the Indian Rebellion (1857-1859) by the Indian soldiers against the East India company's atrocities places like Cawnpore, Delhi, Lucknow and Meerut (where it began in June 1857) in the north Indian states became scenes of rioting and rampage, hell holes of mayhem and confusion.  The bodies of several of the victims of the Cawnpore massacre were thrown down this well near the Bibigarh meaning  the "House of Women," and it refers to a house originally built” by a British officer in Cawnpore for his Indian mistress in July 1857. 

Cawnpore where massacre took place,

A small memorial  came up at the well site after  Cawnpore was recaptured by the British forces.  This was later replaced by a Memorial Garden over which Carlo Marochetti's angel and Henry Yule's memorial screen were erected. The inhabitants of Cawnpore were forced to swallow  the cost of the memorial ie  £30,000 as a sort of punishment for the massacre. The funny thing is they had nothing to do with the massacre.  For  about 85 years it was  the iconic site of imperial remembrance in the British Raj. It is said in the later part of the 19th  century it  was  visited more frequently by Europeans than the Taj Mahal. After India's independence in 1947  the monument was removed in 1949.

The idea of a suitable memorial was mooted by Charlotte, Countess Canning (1817-61) and her sister Louisa Anne Beresford, Marchioness of Waterford (1818-91)  with the figure of an angel executed by Baron Carlo Marochetti (1805-67) and a screen by Colonel Sir Henry Yule (1820-89) and C. B. Thornhill, Commissioner of Allahabad and superintending architect. (see Keene 44, and "The Cawnpore Memorial"). Photographic print from a Photograph by Samuel Bourne, 1865. Courtesy of the British Library's Online Gallery.

The Merciless killing  of seventy-three women and 124 children at Cawnpore in July  was said to be a horrible and the single most traumatic episode of the uprisings of 1857. Some historians like David come up with  a casualty  figure of 254. This unexpected turn of event  and the resultant tragedy had  a deep  impact on the British psyche  because it was the first time that women and children  became the victims of the British men's atrocities  and consequently they took the brunt of native hostility. I

In the aftermath, it got the worst out of the British  indulging in  acts of retaliation in other places. This resulted in the death of a million Indians  over a period of time according many historians. Brigadier Neil, Gen. Havelock and Officer William Raikes Hodson  alone killed Indian natives in thousands. The latter, after the recapture of Delhi in 1857 not only captured the three heirs of the last Mogul ruler (aged 82) Bahadur Shah Zafar but also executed them point blank in the presence of a huge  tumultuous crowd near the famous Khooni Gate Delhi.  Before execution, they were  stripped  of their signet rings, turquoise arm bands and bejeweled swords. The princes'  bodies were ordered to be displayed in front of a  kotwali, or police station, and left there to rot and to be seen by all so that people won't raise their voice against the English company.

Amaresh Misra, a writer and historian based in Mumbai, “It was a holocaust, one where millions disappeared. It was a necessary holocaust in the British view because they thought the only way to win was to destroy entire populations in towns and villages. It was simple and brutal. Indians who stood in their way were killed. But its scale has been kept a secret,” Misra said.

His conclusion is based on  three principal sources. Two are records pertaining to the number of religious resistance fighters killed – either Islamic mujahideen or Hindu warrior ascetics committed to driving out the British.

The third source being British labour force records: They   show a drop in manpower of between a fifth and a third across vast swaths of India, which as one British official records was “on account of the undisputed display of British power, necessary during those terrible and wretched days – millions of wretches seemed to have died.'

While the British forces vented their anger, to the growing dismay of Lord Canning and others – "I protest against meeting atrocities with atrocities," declaimed Disraeli (qtd. in Dalrymple) – two women planned a more substantial memorial for the defenseless victims of the uprising, who had met such brutal deaths.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

''Massacre Ghat'' - harrowing place of Kanpur (Cawnpore) and 1857 Sepoy Rebellion

1857 Massacre Ghat, Kanpur (Cawnpore)

Above image:  The Massacre Ghat or Satti Chaura Ghat is a popular  ghat in Kanpur (Cawnpore) City, Uttar Pradesh.  It is located on the south bank of the River Ganges, but  the river already drifted  far away from the bathing ghat.  The ghat has been around for centuries - far back pre-colonial days. That  in the past, some women committed ''Sati'' there, and  a small temple was built in  their honor  has made this place more poignant.(credit goes to the British who abolished this age old tradition of sati meaning voluntary immolation of a widow on her husband's funeral pyre). Here,  the initial events of the Indian Rebellion  named as the Siege of Cawnpore, took place. On the 27th. June 1857, around 300 British men, women and children were killed according to the English Co records. But historians say it was purely accidental and not planned before. .............

execution Indian rebels before cannons. 1957

The First War of Independence or the  Sepoy Rebellion by the Sepoys of the East India company  that started off at the Meerut Cantonment  on 10  May 1857 was not a preplanned one. It happened unexpectedly and the soldiers and the people  who suffered stoically availed themselves of the opportunity to express their pent-up abomination and anger for the unjust English company's rule in India.  So, it  was the culmination of  simmering hatred for the British  who had been misruling India since the middle of the 18th century.

Cawnpore siege 1857

Above image: Blowing Mutinous Sepoys From the Guns, Steel Engraving, London Printing and Publishing Co., 1858. As part of revenge against massacre, the British caught the Indian Sepoys stationed in Kanpur (Cawnpore),  tied them up before the cannons and blew them up. An extreme act of savagery against innocent people. ............................

Racial discrimination in the army, in the govt. offices, exploitation of Indian lands both cultivable and forest lands, dishonest annexation of Indian rulers' kingdoms  - example: annexation of Awadh (part of UP) in February 1856  and   the  state of Jhansi (Madhya Pradesh) in 1857 by  the British under the terms of the Doctrine of lapse by Lord Dalhousie  and a host of other grievances  made Indians angry. Royal members of many families  became part of the upraising against the EIC when it  began to spread across the northern states.  By June 1857, the Indian rebellion had spread to several areas and places like  Cawnpore, Meerut, Agra, Mathura, and Lucknow  became scenes of  mass rioting, rampage and brutality. 

Massacre Ghat, Cawnpore, June 1857. India

When the rebellion was spreading like a wild  summer bushfire  and inching toward Delhi, the Siege of Cawnpore was   an important  episode in the history of India's first major  rebellion which punched a big hole on the British Empire. People in the area never expected this sudden turn of political event.  Neither the  besieged Company forces and nor the  civilians  of  Cawnpore (now Kanpur) were  prepared for an extended siege. 

.Massacre Ghat, Cawnpore (Kanpur), India,

.It was at the  Ghat near the Ganges in Cawnpore (Kanpur) events became topsy-turvy   Earlier  it  was nicknamed as Massacre Ghat by the East India Company officials in their British Colonial records and the events led them to tag it  the Siege of Cawnpore.  This Ghat has become historically important since the Indian Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. 

.Location map. Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh)

On June 27, 1857 at  the Satti Chaura Ghat, Kanpur, about  300 British men, women and children were  rounded up and killed  by the hell-bent mob and  later this place gained notoriety as the  Massacre Ghat. Unfortunately, those who escaped from the clutches of death here,  as  fate had it, were later brutally killed in  another place; it is called  the ‘Bibighar Massacre.’  The  rioting  rebels got a bad rap because of these massacres at two different locations and the victims included women and children.  

Massacre in the boats, Siege of Cawnpore, June 1857.

After almost three weeks, the company forces  including Indian soldiers  under Officer  Wheeler surrendered to Nana Sahib who headed the rebellion  in return for a safe passage to Allahabad via the river Ganges. Nana Sahib was the adopted heir to Baji Rao II, the ex-Peshwa of the Maratha Confederacy.

Chaura Ghat, landing place  2nd massacre

Cawnpore was an important garrison town for the East India Company forces  and the sepoys there  were not a part of the war. However,  the European families were  not comfortable and began to shift into the entrenchment (a military position fortified by trenches). The Indian sepoys were asked to collect their pay one by one, to avoid an armed  confrontation. Threatened by the fortifications sepoys  protested against it. In the ensued minor skirmishes,  a lieutenant fired on his Indian guard when drunk, and was jailed for a night. On the following day rumors were thick in the air that the Indian troops  would be  summoned to a parade to be  massacred. Not prepared to take risks, in June, 1857 the sepoys joined the rebellion  against the East India Company.

The evacuation  under Peshwa Nana Saheb did not go as planned  and the British thought  it was a safe passage to Allahabad.  The  sudden commotion while getting into the boats, panicked the Sepoys who  fired  at the departing British.  At that  moment  somebody fired a shot possibly from high  banks. Immediately,  boatmen jumped overboard and  prevented a few  cooking fire in the process. The fire soon  engulfed a few boats.

According to Morbray Thompson, in his book ‘Story of  Cawnpore’,   mentioned about the eye witness. He said that   the British  were the first to open fire  on Indian boatmen and this forced Nana Saheb’s men to go for retaliation. Many historians are of the view that  ''Sati Chaura Ghat massacre was  not a premediated or a one   and it happened as a result of  confusion.'' 

When  the East India Company forces stationed in Allahabad marched to Cawnpore, midway  women and children who had been captured by the sepoys were killed and their remains  thrown into a nearby well. Following the recapture of Cawnpore and the discovery of the massacre, the  furious company forces  retaliated and captured rebel soldiers and local civilians.  This came to be known as the Bibighar massacre.

 Renamed as Nana Rao Ghat it is a mute spectator to the horrors of the 1857 Sepoy rebellion.  Standing in the serene  Ghat is a small white temple. The sanctity of his place and the nearby Ganges  will replace the scar left behind  here by the English company  and the natives.   The  holy river  has changed it course and drifted   1 km from here - Ghat toward  Shuklaganj as if it does not want to part of a place where the humans became wild animals. The ghat  is, indeed, a traumatic and desolate place where the Indian history is written in blood.  

Weeds have grown all over the place and the district administration has not done anything to clean up this dry area. Ita ghat for name sake as the river moved away from it. Only during the monsoon the river widens its banks and reaches this place.

Saturday, 16 October 2021

The ''Memorial Hall'', Park Town, Chennai and its link with Sepoy rebellion of 1857

 Memorial Hall - Madras - 1860

The Great Rebellion of 1857, often dubbed as the Sepoy Mutiny or Rebellion that started off at the British Cantonment of Meerut city  over the use of  grease made from pig and cow fat (to be used in the cartridges) to fire the new model Enfield rifles (Pattern 1853), became a serious issue over the mishandling of the protests by the Muslim and Hindu (pig and cow fat were offensive to them) soldiers by intemperate British officers. They  refused to bite off the edge of  lubricated cartridges.  The protests in the barracks  snowballed into a big rebellion and over a short period engulfed the northern states.  Nagpur, Kanpur, Lucknow and Delhi and the near-by places became pitched battle grounds between  British forces and  former Indian soldiers. No doubt a few hundred British including civilians lost their lives. On the Indian side the casualty ran into  a million. It is unfortunate the official records do not come up with the correct figures. 

The Memorial Hall, Chennai (Park Town).

The memorial Hall, Parktown, Chennai.

William Stephen Raikes Hodson, whose grave is at La Martiniere , Lucknow, UP  was a  British officer with no mercy and no scruples. After the capture of Delhi he arrested India’s last Mogul king and  shot dead point blank his three princes near the Khooni gate.  Ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled in Burma till his death in the prison there.  ''The Butcher of Allahabad"  Brigadier General James Neill  whose  large  statue on arterial Mount Road in Madras was removed in the 1960s after protests by the people. He was in action near Kanpur and  killed Indians in thousands in 1860; a large number of them were innocent.  He became a celebrated hero in England. 

The English people who had been in India away from their land were in a fix after the rebellion was suppressed by the British army under the East India company's rule with great struggle. At last  when the rebellion was over they  breathed a sigh of relief.  Later, the British Crown took the administration directly as the company misruled the subcontinent with corrupt and arrogant officials.  Overcome by Christian belief in God's deliverance and to put the horrors of war on the back burner, some memorials came up  and the most celebrated ones are in  Lucknow, Cawnpore and Delhi - the places that witnessed the dark  and nasty side of the rebellion massacres, killing of large contingent of Indians, etc.

However in the case of southern India in particular, Madras presidency there were no protests and brutality  when the rebellion was on in the northern states. The British residents of Madras wanted to have a memorial built in the form of a Town Hall and the cost of construction was met through public subscription. The architects were Captain George Winscom and Colonel Horseley, the latter redesigned it. Architecture: Classical Greek, resembling Greek temple in purer form. 

The memorial was  dedicated "to the glory of God as a memorial to the goodness of forbearance of the Almighty God in sparing this Presidency from partaking of the Sepoy Mutiny which devastated the sister Presidency of Bengal in the year 1857.''

On the frieze just below the triangular pediment is the inscription: "The Lord hath been mindful of us: He will bless us", taken from Psalm 115:12.

Because of  lack  periodic repairs and  interest in old colonial buildings, like many other structures, this one shows the ravages of time and climatic changes on the exterior. The hall, I understand, is in fairly  good shape, however the entire building needs revamping  in order to be strong enough to last  in the coming decades.


Brodie' castle (T.N. Govt. Music College), Chennai built in 1768 - to be refurbished soon

Brodie's castle

Above image: Formerly Brodie's castle built in 1798 now houses T.N. Government Music College, affiliated to Tamil Nadu Dr. J Jayalalithaa Music and Fine Arts University; the office of  the Vice Chancellor of the  TNJJMFA functions in  the main building.  The campus has a  vast amphitheater  built a decade ago but  is completely in disuse. In  2018 there was a proposal to  shift it to a new campus in Sholingnallur comprising 32 acres of land to help  decongest the traffic on the near-by roads in Adyar. The students and teachers did not like to leave this  quiet campus, besides they had to face hardship travelling long distance to the proposed new campus. Nor the  heritage lovers had liked the idea of demolition of this  site which is declared as a heritage structure  by the Madras High Court. Good news is the building and the site will be retained and soon the site will be renovated back to old glory.............

Brodie's castle (Music College),

TN Govt. Music college (Brodie's castle)

Brodie Castle built in 1798 b
y the British East India Company's  civil servant and businessman, James Brodie (1769-1801) on the banks of Adyar river is one of the earliest colonial building in the city of Madras (Chennai).  It was built on a land of   eleven acres   on the north bank of the river in Quibble Island of  Adyar; it was   gifted by the  EIC in 1796.  Adyar was then on the outskirts of Madras - out side the city limits.  This building with a fine garden around,  is supposedly one of the nicest and coolest places  to spend the summer hot season for two reasons  - its location near the river and the  tall ceiling that keeps the  interiors always cool and comfortable for the occupants.  In the colonial days visitors to this building always enjoyed  sitting and chatting on the spacious verandah overlooking the river.  

TN Govt. Music college (Brodie's castle),Chennai

Writer Humphrey Trevelyan in his book, ‘The India We Left’ mentioned, ''most imaginative of the merchants’ palaces, with its long drawing room jutting out into the Adyar river and catching every breeze”.  Today, Brodie Castle is aptly  renamed ‘Thendral''- in  Tamil meaning ''breeze'' is a serene and tranquil place.

Brodie, a native of Scotland,  lived here  for a short period but later when he was down on luck and  facing decline in his  fortune, he  rented  out the house to tenants. His  first tenant was Sir Thomas Strange, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Madras.  Brodie, who was part of the Scottish Brodie clan, had a castle in Chennai built for his stay here. It was a classical  residence  with a Scottish touch. The  two castellated turrets in Scottish style  give an impressive look. The 65-ft-tall structure was one of the tallest structures  constructed during  the  EIC's rule  outside  George Town.

TN Govt. Music college (Brodie's castle),Chennai

Trading on his own account, Brodie had a row with the EIC and this impacted his business operations in India. Being fond of boating, he had built steps from his residence to access the river. One day his wife had a dream that her husband would die by drowning in the river. As ill-luck would have it Brodie'  died in 1801 in a freak boating accident.   

Soon after his unexpected death,  the family sold the property to the business family of   Arbuthnot  who resided in it for a while.  Brodie was heir to the chief of clan Brodie, whose seat was Brodie Castle  located 3+1⁄2 miles west of  Forres in Morayshire (also called Moray),Scotland. Brodie Castle is now owned by the National Trust for  Scotland.

One of interesting aspects of Brodie's castle in Adyar  is  it has direct access to the building  through the upper floor just like many garden houses on the river front. For example  the Madras club and  many structures have raised plinths. The advantage is you can take precautionary measures in case of flooding in the river. 

The Tamil Nadu Govt. Music College (imparting Carnatic music) has been functioning here since 1956-57.  Since 2014  it has been   affiliated  to Tamil Nadu Dr. J Jayalalithaa Music and Fine Arts University (an institution   named after former CM, a dynamic woman administrator and a film  artist). The heritage building has  20 spacious rooms and halls  and  classes are held in the rooms. To impart classical music no  place  can be  better than this site which is away from automobile traffic and din, and free of air pollution. A quiet place to indulge into the world of soul-stirring Carnatic music the site is worthy of its name ''Thendral'' where your strained nerves get  loosened by the tantalizing  breeze blowing across the river. Another advantage is it is close to the seashore.

TN GOVT. Music college (Brodie's castle)

Because of  lack of periodic repairs, etc., the  White structure is losing its pleasant look  and cracks are  already developed on the wide walls and in some places on the exterior the plastering  comes off. 

This building that is on Greenways road and covers most of RK Mutt road is already taken up for repair and conservation work. Rs. 2 crore estimate was sent to the PWD (TN Govt.) for approval.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Tamil Nadu Archives building is to be renovated. TNA is one of the largest and oldest one in India

 Tamil Nadu Archives, Chennai

The Madras Record Office, presently called Tamil Nadu Archives (TNA), in Chennai is one of the oldest  and largest Government archives  facilities in this country.   Government documents - both post independence and the British era stored and archived in TNA are  of great help to the historians and researchers.  TNA also houses the early colonial period records - good collection  of  East India Company,  Dutch East India Company records, etc dating back to  late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and volumes related to various southern  Princely States.

Two old heritage buildings - TN Music School ( built in 1796; formerly called Brodie’s Castle)  on Greenways Road   and the building that houses the govt. records(archives) in Egmore are set for restoration by the TN government. 

The Tamil Nadu Achieves red-brick building (1909)  is not in good condition  The broken windows and pealing of plaster on the  exterior mar the look of this Indo-Saracenic structure.  Quite disturbing is the  addition of building that has impacted  on the heritage elements  and aesthetics. Experts say that special care will be take to  renovate the structure so that it will be a roll model for other heritage buildings of colonial period that require renovation.  Once renovated, the building can be maintained carefully as it has limited footfalls meaning  access to the building is very much restricted  to the limited staff and those who use it  for research, etc. In the case of public building, periodic maintenance is a necessity. 

The Tamil Nadu Archives, in Egmore, was built in

.Tamil Nadu Govt. Record office

The growth of the office of the archives in  Chennai is an interesting one.  First initiated  in  1672 William Langhorne, the Governor of Madras, the govt. records - transactions,  treaties, revenue, etc.,  for future reference and record  were first housed  in council room at Fort St. George  (the present day Secretariat-Assembly complex). 

As the volume of records kept growing and  became unmanageable due to lack of space, in 1805 Lord William Bentinck, then Governor of Madras presidency  constituted a separate Record Office to keep them in  one location. The office functioned in a few rooms   in the  old ‘Fort Square’ of  Fort St. George with  three writers and supporting staff to index, to look after and to issue records promptly on requisition from various departments for reference.  Earlier  collecting information from the govt. record was a  cumbersome job. 

The Record office until 1909 functioned at different locations.  In 1826, the record office   moved into  building called the ‘Pillar go down’ (known as the ‘Old Banqueting Hall/ Rajaji hall) then the site of the present Council Chamber. Again in  1888, it was moved over the ground floor of the Secretariat buildings  upon shifting of  the Govt. press that found a place in the Mint building. Here,  the documents were kept in open  record rack.  Then called the “General Record Office”, it became an integral part of the  the Chief Secretariat.

It was S.C. Hill,  who headed the Records of the Government of India, (when Lord Curzon was the Viceroy), and the Government of Madras in 1907  gave final shape to  the proposal of centralizing the records. It  included   construction of a separate building for  the secretariat records, but also for  the Board of Revenue and the  Collectorate  One C.M. Schmidt, the Registrar of the Chief Secretariat inaugurated the office  and continued  his position for a period. 

In 1909, the Madras Record Office was constituted on an independent basis with a separate establishment; and in 1910, a full-time Curator was appointed,  Henry Dodwell, M.A., an officer of the Educational Department,  was in charge of the new office.  As to the building   decision was taken to rebuild  Grasmere (govt. Bungalow) for the archives and the building contractor was   P. Loganathan Mudaliar (later in the early 20th century Tarapore-Loganathan company became a major building construction contractor in Chennai).  The  cost of new archives building built in Indo-Saracenic style with red bricks was ₹2.25 lakh. An additional ₹1.25 lakh was spent on stacks and furniture.  The building had  enough  open spaces for future expansion and constructed to provide maximum protection to the records. In October 1909 the building was opened and in the same year    came up  the administrative block and six record stacks  The seventh stack  and later 8th and 9th stacks were added  in 1929 and in 1938 respectively. Further additions were made in the later years after 1974.  In 1999 a new building for housing the Archival Library was constructed.


Digitization of archives

 In the view of increasing  applications roughly 50 to 80 each day from people seeking information t the State Archives  already started the digitization of all the records including  those of East India Company data and other colonial era data. In the last few years they provided information to   65000  persons. The cost of the Tamil Nadu Innovation Initiative Schemes for digitization  would be around  Rs 12.68 crore.”  The Tamil Nadu Archives have vast collection of records from various departments of the erstwhile Board of Revenue, the Secretariat, records from Collect orates, district court dating from 1670. The digitization work had begun in 2020 in earnest  to provide online access of the data to students and others. The State Planning Commission had approved a sum of of Rs 2.46 crore for the online service. It will be a  boon to the college students and history teachers. 

Besides the library is a veritable storehouse of knowledge and has more than 230000 books periodicals research papers, etc.,  and  lots of students, researchers and academics make a beeline to this place for reference and research. No doubt, the huge and diverse collection of rare books dating as back as from  1633 and rare records  in Dutch, Danish and Persian language will benefit the enlightened the historians and researchers.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Mogul era diamond-crusted spectacles to be auctioned by Sotheby's of London

diamond-emerald studded Mogul era

For the rich and famous  elite of Europe and America India has been of great interest to  them in the area of rare artifacts, antique brass idols, breath-taking  diamond crusted jewelry, etc. They know very well the diamonds of past era mined from Kollur mines (Golconda) are flawless and of superior quality with very low impurities. There has been a demand for the jewelry from the collections of Mogul rulers, Indian Maharajahs and the Nizam of Hyderabad. The proposed auction of diamond-crusted spectacles of Mogul era of India by Sotheby's (a British-founded American multinational corporation headquartered in New York City)  of London toward the end of this month was a welcome news for the aristocrats and the rich because they did not know what to do with their vast wealth!!

When  the  world famous Auction Houses like Sotheby's or Christie put up India related jewelry, etc., from the Mogul or Maharajahs' collections  at an auction you  can expect a large turnout of the rich and elite because they know very well that the items to be auctioned are something special, exotic and carry amazing workmanship. 

That a  pair of rare unrecorded diamond and emerald crusted spectacles from an unknown Indian princely treasury will be sold at an auction in London by  Sotheby's  later this month (October 2021) is  an exciting news. The items to be sold at the auction are neither jewelry nor some kind of rare artifacts; it is a rare gift from the other part of the globe to observe  the kaleidoscopic world through diamonds and emeralds - just eye-glasses. 

Mogul era spectacles with diamonds,

According to the famous auction house Sotheby's who caters to needs of eccentric and weird English aristocrats  and others  the lenses were set  in the Mughal-era frames around 1890. The lenses made with diamonds were not meant for poor eye sight problem, rather they were  thought to provide enlightenment.  Sotheby's said that a diamond and an emerald were shaped into the two spectacles.

To get the attention of the rich and famous, they came up with an interesting  catchy caption, a sort of publicity gimmick: Emeralds were believed to have miraculous powers to heal and to ward off evil. The likelihood is the successful bidder at the ensuing auction will be  protected or insulated  from possible ''spell'' or some kind of sorcery  by wearing the unique specs. 

Edward Gibbs, chairman of Sotheby's for Middle East and India, said,  ''These extraordinary curiosities bring together myriad threads - from the technical mastery of the cutter and the genius of craftsmanship to the vision of a patron who chose to fashion two pairs of glasses quite unlike anything ever seen before,"    As part of wide publicity before the scheduled auction  sale, the spectacles  were  exhibited  for the first time in Hong Kong between  7-11 October  and  will be on display  in London (between  22-26 October).  Sotheby's says the rare and fascinating spectacles - one of a kind in the world, will be offered at auction for £1.5m-2.5m ($2m-$3.4m) each; indeed a whooping sum.  This unique item of beauty and belief is supposedly a  status symbol. It contains  a diamond pair named the Halo of Light, and the emerald pair named the Gate of Paradise.

Mogul era diamond crusted spectacles.

No doubt  the quality and purity of  gemstones  used in the specs is superb with fine luster.  Further  stones of this size would no doubt have  gotten the attention of the ruler. 

As to the origin of these specs or which ruler commissioned them, the  historical  record is not clear. Belonging the the dynasty of Mogul  that ruled the subcontinent in the 16th and 17th centuries, this rare pair of  spectacles will bear testimony to the  ingenuity and  artistic talents of the goldsmiths of the past era. They remained in a private collection for almost half a century  In  1890, the lenses were placed in new frames and decorated with rose-cut diamonds.

Regarding the origin of  precious stones, the diamond lenses - cleaved as a pair from a single natural diamond - are thought to be from the  Kollur mines (Andhra state) of Golconda kingdom in southern India. The teardrop-shaped emeralds are believed to be from a single natural Colombian emerald.

Normally ordinary lenses  are used in the specs  to improve eye-sight. But the Mogul spectacles have filters - apparently, they were   aids for spiritual  awakening or exhilaration The diamonds are set to   illuminate and emeralds are  used  to heal and  ward off evil. 

The auction house said the use  of  precious stone to watch events by the royals  of Europe was in vogue in the past era.  Roman Emperor Nero used the  surface of a precious green stone to watch gladiatorial contests.  Nero's tutor, Seneca, was quite familiar with  refraction of light, mirrors, and optics and was  thought to have made first-ever spectacles.

Commenting on the Mughal pieces, in a brief interview to Sotheby’s, famous art historian and writer William Dalrymple said ''The owner was taking an extraordinary risk because the original diamond which was split to create the lenses must have been between 200-300 karats." .

A couple of rare and  prized spectacles, studded with diamonds and emerald lenses from Mughal era of India, it is expected might fetch  around £4 million  at the  auction  to be held in London toward the end of this month.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

The Rajkumar College (RKC), one of the oldest schools founded by royal families of Kathiavad, GJ

The Rajkumar college, Rajkot, GJ.

India has lots of pretty old schools  established in the early 19th century CE. With exceptions most of them  were founded by the Christian missionaries  to impart education to the European community and also to the local people. They engaged in educational activities in the midst of their evangelical work in the nook and corner of India.  There were many schools established by the rich Indians  to cover the native of various communities. Among them there were some  schools founded by the princely families to exclusively educate their children  so that they could get better education and be trained to run the princely states. One of the reputed schools is Rajkumar college of Rajkot, Gujarat.

Rajkot location map.

The Rajkumar College ( often referred to as  RKC) in Rajkot, Gujarat,  one of the oldest K-12 institutions in India  was  established in 1868 by 27 erstwhile princely states of Saurashtra (Kathiawad) for imparting education to  children from their royal families.  It was  granted permission  ''under the royal decree of the British Crown to impart a wholesome and complete finishing education to the young princes of Kathiwar to enable them to rule their provinces better and be groomed into the ideal noble gentlemen.'' Post independence ‘RKC’ accepts students aged from 5 to 18 from all walks of life.

Rajkumar college, Rajkot, GJ.

Rajkumar college, CBSC residential

 Set on a  huge land comprising  26-acre (105,000 m²) campus in the prime area of Rajkot, the building was  designed by Colonel Keatinge and was formally opened by the Governor of Bombay Presidency, H. B. Sir Seymour Fitzgerald  in 1870.  It is mentioned that  the size of campus has been reduced to 11 acres presently and it  includes besides college buildings, housing sporting facilities,  offices, etc. 

Rajkumar college, Rajkot,

The college became a public school  in 1938, thanks to the efforts made by  founding members.  The college motto is Yasya Bhuddhi, Balam Tasya  meaning "Power is where there is knowledge". Another plus is it  is a founding member of the Indian Public Schools Conference and a member of the Round Square conference of schools, a worldwide association of more than 60 schools. The latter  encourages  students to travel between schools and tour the country or do community service, thus giving them wide exposure outside the realm of education. 

It was in 2001 the college,  for the first time, encouraged co-education opening  its doors  wide open  for aspiring  girls. Earlier, it had been a boys'  domain for more than 100 years. The school had around  50 girls initially  with  boarding facilities. With the expansion of school and its reputation on the increase  more girls showed  interest in joining RKC, the Rajkumar College for Girls, a secondary school was opened  on 24 March 2011 by Kamla Beniwal, Governor of Gujarat. 

The Rajkumar College Administration  runs what is called  ''Priyalok Villas'', a pre-school program for the kids; it in 1909 functioned in Hyde sanatorium and now it has a separate building.  The advantage is it has  access to all the facilities  available at the  Rajkumar College.

This college gives importance to sports and their teams actively participate in inter public school competitions  at district/ /state/national level events. Likewise students are encouraged to play an active role in  various cultural activities, public speaking /recitation/debates, etc. Besides improving their academic potential, the school focuses on  their creativity, interpersonal relationship and personality development through service. 

Once the students successfully passed out  the portals of the school, they are well trained to take on further challenges at the college level, this way the school prepares  them at the  early stage itself to confront  problems in public life, personal life and in the work-space.


The 27 members (hailing from royal families)  of  the prestigious college recently ( 3rd week of Sept. 2021) conducted an election to the Board of Trustees . Surprisingly, it was an inconclusive one as the  polling resulted in tie on five out of seven seats on Sunday with the election officer saying that his office would approach the Gujarat High Court for further directions.

Polling for the four seats of ‘A’ Group comprising 11 large erstwhile princely states in Saurashtra as well as to the three seats of ‘B’ Group comprising 10 smaller erstwhile princely states was conducted at RKC campus from 9 am to 5 pm.,_Rajkot