Thursday, 25 February 2021

Mairie (Town Hall), an impressive historical French-styled building, Puducherry, India finally restored

Restored structure. the Mairie (town hall), Puducherry, India.

"Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved"..............Thomas Fuller.

The union territory of Puducheery (also known as Pondicherry or Pondy), the neighboring territory of Tamil Nadu, South India, was once a well known French Settlement just like Chandanagar (French name Chandernagor) city  near Kolkata of West Bengal and is  well known for buildings and bungalows built in Indo-French architecture. As a matter of fact French India had  five principal (Chef-lieu) communes -  Pondichéry, Chandernagore, Karikal, Mahé and Yanaon.

The well-planned coastal city  of Puducherry was the hub of commerce during the French rule  in the 19th and early 20th century.. When the French left Puducherry  for good, they left behind  a host of French-styled buildings of varied designs. Particularly, in the French quarters, there are many such buildings  that carry the legacy of French rule. The Puducherry state carrying on the French culture  and heritage,  even the police men wear French-styled uniform  in Puducherry, Karikal districts and other territories under its administration. During the British colonial rule, the French   continued to retain the settlement  despite several wars with them. The hostility between these two colonial powers  had  persisted since the time of East India company rule. 

Not withstanding the fact  the French established colonies in India  way back  in the 17th century itself, only toward the end of the 19th century they introduced  civil administration. A French Metropolitan Decree, dated 12 March 1880 adopted a six-year term of office for Mayors (Maire), municipal councilors (Conseil Municipaux) and commune panchayats (Communes). Thus French India has seen a French system of municipal administration. Being an effective administrative machinery in French India, it had several distinctive and efficient  features. The French civil administration stood apart and  served as a role model for hassle-free administration in French India. This city hall (Maiie), considered a symbol of the French colonial power, provided a premise for the registry office, and especially for the mayor. 

Mairie, Puducherry, original building

The Mairie, Puducherry, India. prior to 2014

Mairie in ruins, Puducherry.

Mairie, Puducherry in the early 2010s  prior to 2014

Among the impressive buildings built in French style,  the Mairie (meaning Town Hall in French) on Goubert Avenue (beach road) is worthy of mention. Built in 1870-71, this iconic structure  facing the Bay of Bengal had been in a state of neglect and disuse  for a long time  and collapsed  on 29 November 2014. to the dismay of heritage lovers.  The restoration work actually began in October 2016   when the work was in progress a part of the building that was supposed to be strong collapsed while the workers were away. Because of protests from various quarters over the poor up keep of this and other buildings,  the state government  began the restoration work  in 2017 and   the project  that was funded by  the World bank progressed slowly.  The restoration of this building that served as the  administrative  and political landmark  was  at last completed in 2020 after considerable delay. It was dedicated to the nation by the Indian PM Modiji  a few days ago on his visit to the city.
The Mairie, Puducherry,

Above image: It is a good example how innumerable impressive heritage monuments disappear across India. Reasons: Lack of interest in maintaining  historical monuments  and sheer carelessness on the part of administration both at the state and central levels.. Puducherry,  once  served as a role model for  preservation and heritage conservation in India and across Asia in the early 1960s,  now lost the stature for various reasons, one being political. Many newspaper articles, especially The Hindu and The Times of India, Indian Express   sadly noted that  many buildings, steeped in history,  had been lost through neglect. In the case of Puducherry, despite a UNESCO award,. many such building are slowly dying, one among them is  the iconic French-era Mairie, or Hotel de Ville (Town Hall).  At stake is Pondicherry’s French  Heritage’ and legacy..............................

The structure was  too weak  to face the fury of  incessant  NE retreating monsoon rains in 2014 and  the it caused the collapse.  Very much affected were  central part and major portions on the northern side, including rooms on the ground and first floor of the building. However,  the four walls and southern portions survived  with cracks.  Soon after the collapse of this unique structure, there arose a necessity  for the government agencies to evaluate all the  French heritage structures in Puducherry. Both the heritage experts and the government agencies had  swung into action  and made concerted efforts to save the the town hall building and the remaining iconic structures at the earliest.

Restoration work in progress. The Mairie, Puducherry, India.

The restoration work stalled for a while on account of disagreement over the right   choice of construction materials  for the building. The crux of the matter was traditional construction materials  had to be used in the  new structure to retain the heritage value and splendor. The heritage experts from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and other agencies and the Government  finally arrived at a reasonable agreement over the use of  conventional method to rebuild Mairie.

The INTACH’ experts gave preference to  lime mortar and ‘Madras-terrace roof’ technique  as the  the traditional methods give better life than the modern RCC structure that may last 40 or 50  years where as the PWD, Govt. of Pondicherry  recommended .reinforced cement concrete (RCC) and cement mortar and cement plaster. Further, the  the INTAH engineers wanted to stick to original drawings to rebuild the structure, using the original materials and construction techniques  as followed in the past.  The  cost of the project  Rs.15 crore  was funded by the world bank.

According to PPH ( The People for Pondicherry’s Heritage, a citizens’ body) , the  Congress-led coalition government was  now  taking steps  to construct a RCC look-alike of the Mairie despite knowing that it  was  possible to reconstruct it using traditional methods. The old features include on the eastern and western façade of the building  arcaded entrance with a verandah on high plinth accessed by a broad flight of steps in dressed granite and   colored galleries on the first floor and a large ceremonial hall with wooden flooring,

One of the biggest administrative buildings for more than 100 years, it was classified under A Grade for its heritage value and B Grade for its architectural, cultural and  streetscapes significance.. Since 1870-71, no major restoration work has been carried out. .It is among the other historical sites like Light House, Customs House and French Consulate on the Beach road  the Mairie  served as the office of the municipality offering services marriage registration, etc. besides holding public functions. It also served as the local assembly in the 1880s, but also saw the first-ever democratic exercise during 1871 to 1900, much before the first general election was held in British India.


Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Nanda Devi, second highest peak, India and the mystery of missing plutonium!

Reproduced from the early post:

Nanda Devi (altitude : 25,643ft /7815m) is the second highest mountain in India, next only to Kangchenjunga, which is higher on the border of India and Nepal. Considered  as the highest mountain in the world before Geodetic computations in 1808,  Nanda Devi is part of the Garhwal Himalayas, and is in the state of Uttarakhand, between the Rishiganga valley on the west and the Goriganga valley on the east. 

Mount Nanda Devi, India.

Nanda Devi, a highly revered peak, is considered as among the most difficult Himalayan climbs by Tenzing Norgay, the man who first reached the roof of the world  Mt. Everest along with Edmund Hillary (29 May 1953). This peak played a vital  role during  an important  clandestine missions in the 1960s. Unlike other peaks, Mt. Nanda Devi became a mysterious peak for decades and was not approachable by many mountain climbers. But for  a few exceptions such as army or IMF sponsored expeditions,  nobody was allowed  either  to climb or explore Nanda Devi. Reason: Supposedly  environmentally fragile place.  Mount Nanda Devi was shrouded in mystery for decades and finally the veil over the  puzzle was removed to let the public know the naked truth.  Read further:.......

In the early 1960s, the sudden and unprovoked war (1962) with India, ended in favor of China. The Communist China's military muscle became a subject of discussion, so it became a necessity to keep a tab on China's military activities.  China's had first successful nuclear tests in Xinjiang province in 1964,  and it made India and other countries to install a device on Nanda Devi to keep track of its military threats.

Route to Nanda Devi,

In October 1965, the US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) together  wanted to have a sophisticated nuclear-powered sensing device installed on the summit to keep an eye on China.

Location map of Nanda Devi.

The daunting task is to take the heavy tracking  device uphill  and install it atop the peak. It was a tough  job  considering, the difficult mountainous route, the weight of the device - roughly 56 kg, tall 8 to 10 feet antenna, two transceiver sets,  and nuclear auxiliary power (SNAP) generator. Most importantly, the dangerous job was to set atop the summit the generator’s nuclear fuel, consisting of seven plutonium capsules  safely kept in a special  steel container.

A mountaineering team consisting of  Americans and  four army men was  entrusted with the job of installing the device on  top of Mt. Nanda Devi. The team was led my one  Manmohan Singh Kohli, an ace mountaineer and when the team reached  Camp IV on 18 October, 1965 at over 24,000ft, an unexpected thing had happened. A terrible blizzard and severe cold conditions  hampered the tough endeavor. The blizzard being severe, the leader was left with one choice - either to move up or abandon the mission for the time being. Being a smart leader,  Kholi gave up the assault  to save the lives of his men. Had he not taken the right decision  “many would have been under the snow to day in the eternal grave in the snow-clad mountain.

Expedition Poster: Nanda Devi East. blogger

The nuclear-powered generator, nicknamed Guru Rinpoche by the climbing Sherpas, after the Buddhist god, was already emitting unusual heat and when the porters and others came to know that the heat was due to  radioactive  fuel, they realized the inherent danger and became agitated. Unable to move the generator uphill with them, the team safely kept  it near Camp IV and returned to safety. The crux of the matter is what they left behind at higher slopes of Nanda Devi was  the deadly stock of plutonium, which was “about half the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima”, according to the team leader Kohli.

When the team returned to the mountain in May 1966 to resume their work, to their utter dismay, the container with Plutonium (it is an alloy of Pu-238 with 18 percent Pu-239. Pu-238 gives off far more heat than Pu-239) was missing and they made a vain attempt to find it. Theories and dangers of radiation were thick in the air. Nobody knew what had happened to the nuclear fuel pack. Team leader was of the opinion that the life span of the nuclear fuel was just 100 years and it is likely that the it lay buried in the snow as a result of a snow avalanche,

Nanda Devi temple. Flicker. com

Officer  and ace mountaineer Captain Kholi.

Above image: Captain M.S. Kohli climbed Mt. Everest in 1966 and got an Arjuna award from the Indian Govt.  He also scaled Mt. Annapurna. Captain

Believed to be the  20th century’s dangerous  mountaineering - cum-espionage operation ever  conducted on the slopes of the second highest peaks in the world, the mission tested the limits of human stamina, tenacity  and courage.  The US and Indian team,  as part of the installation of the  surveillance device and retrieval, witnessed as many as one dozen tough ascents, involving countless  daring people between 1965 and 1968, according to Captain Kohli.

Mt. Nanda Devi, India.

Since the fear of plutonium contamination of a vast area, stretching from the terrain of Rishiganga along the river Ganga  up to Kolkata and  the threats to millions of people  along the river became a serious issue,  the US and Indian teams monitored the entire stretch for some period. They continuously checked  the various water resources  and rocks  for any trace of radiation according to Prabhat Kumar Ganguli, the author of Nanda Abhiyatra, a book written in Bengali. Captain Kohli’s 8th Indo-Tibetan Border Police Battalion (from Tapovan) was actively involved in checking the radioactivity in the Rishi Ganga area.   In his 2005 book, "One More Step", Kohli described in detail the scare of nuclear contamination. When a team led by  one Rawat went up to retrieve the device from Nanda Kot in the summer of 1968, the device was very much there with the cover prized and the perpetual radiation made a  spherical cave around it in the ice. What about the plutonium capsules? There was no trace of them!! No body understood the ramification of missing plutonium on Nanda Devi, a perineal source of water  for the Ganga river and its repercussions. Fortunately, there was no calamity on account of this unexpected mishap, and it was a blessing in disguise.

It was only in 1967, the Americans, with the help of Kohli and other Indian climbers such as Sonam Wangyal, H.C.S. Rawat, et al successfully installed a second nuclear-powered listening device on the neighboring peak, the 22,510 ft Nanda Kot. The device worked well almost  for a year before developing a snag. The faulty Nanda Kot equipment  was removed away in 1968 in a helicopter by the Americans,  After reading countless reports and studies made by top Indian scientists, mountaineer Kohli concludes. “According to me, the plutonium capsules will remain hot and melt the snow. It is a mystery whether it formed a cavity or traveled to the bottom of the glacier or got stuck somewhere in between. I see very little chance of radioactivity. No chance,”

The news of  the CIA-IB furtive operation and the missing plutonium broke out  in the international media, for the first time in 1977 in the American magazine 'Outside'.  The sensational  adventure on Mt. Nanda Devi led to  national and international outrage and the then PM Morarji Desai had to admit to the secret mission in Parliament, and further stated that no other device was kept on the Indian soil as the faulty device was already taken away from Nanda Kot by the Americans in 1968.  In 1993 the team that did environmental study had found the steel case in the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. The steel cover had been prised  away because of extreme forces of Nature.

The unfortunate fact is several  Sherpas who carried the nuclear device  up hill later died of cancer due to exposure to radiation. The mystery around the missing plutonium continues to haunt many Himalayan mountaineers and according to one author  Stephen Alter (who wrote Himalayan Journeys In Search Of The Sacred And The Sublime) “There’s a lot of speculation and rumor surrounding those events, but it’s difficult to say exactly what happened.” According to the former VP of IMF Kapadia, the “threat of radioactivity is certainly there”.

American author and climber Pete Takeda, authored the book An Eye At The Top Of The World: The Terrifying Legacy Of The Cold War’s Most Daring CIA Operation.  ...."Some experts will say that the plutonium represents a major health threat. Others dismiss the danger as no more hazardous than an airport X-ray machine. The truth lies somewhere in between,” he writes over messages on Facebook.

The missing plutonium issue that has layers of riddle wrapped around it, is an enigma that  represents the horrible legacy of  CIA tactics in  a clandestine espionage operation. This brings out the recklessness of men to challenge the sanctity  of  serene nature, unmindful of the threats to a vast human population living on the banks of the Ganga river.  In case something goes awry, the consequences will be disastrous. 


Nanda Devi in local parlance means  Blissful Goddess and she is the  the patron - goddess of the Uttarakhand Himalayas. In view of its  religious significance and delicate Eco System, Mt. Nanda Devi sanctuary was closed to climbers and others in 1983. The surrounding Nanda Devi National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Harish Kapadia  built a small stone temple at the base camp, a place named Chaubata in  memory” of his son, Lt.  Nawang Kapadia of 4/3 Gorkha Rifles. He was  killed in a terrorist attack in Kashmir. The temple is dedicated to the supreme goddess of the region, Nanda Devi -the goddess who has protected the innocent Indian people by way of preventing a big national calamity.

This post is based on the following interesting article.

                                             (corrections made 28 March 2017)

Is there a link between the recent glacier burst on Mt. Nanda Devi and loss of nuclear device set by India and the USA in 1965?

CIA_IB nuclear device installation, Nanda Devi peak, India

It is reported that on 7 February 2021  a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke  away and the glacial melt water, caused the  flooding of Dhauliganga and the Rishiganga rivers. One dam at the Dhauliganga hydropower project at Reni village was destroyed and another suffered a partial collapse. Initial reports said nine people were dead and 140 missing. Water levels on the Alaknanda also rose to a dangerous level.  
The glacier burst tragedy that took place in the state of Uttarakhand, N. India in the recent past  had left behind a trail of destruction, loss of lives and properties and in the wake of this incident, the villagers of Raini in the Tapovan area of Chamoli district were seriously concerned about this unforeseen natural disaster that is said to have been caused by human error committed decades ago.  A strange mood of anxiety and foreboding has settled on the village and in the district. 

CIA-IB installing nuclear device, Mt. Nanda Devi,

Now, the villagers' apprehension about the safety of their future is quite reasonable. The consensus among them and the some of the news media has been that the root cause of this calamity could have been   more due to a radioactive device that  had been  buried somewhere in the Nanda Devi mountain  (at 25,645 feet) since the middle of 1960s. than other reasons.  After a long passage of time - roughly 55 years, its exact  location of burial is still a myth.  With a view to keeping a tab on the  activities of the communist China and its military expansion, the plutonium  radioactive device   weighing around 56kg, including an 8-10ft-high antenna, two transceiver sets system, the remote sensing device which was supposed to keep track of any further nuclear tests by China after 1965, is said to be  have been clandestinely planted during a secret   Government classified  joint expedition in 1965 by  the  Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States  in association  with  the Intelligence Bureau of India.  

The US climbers, undertook this secret, but difficult  mission under the guise of 'The Air Force High Altitude Test Program' (HAT) to cover up this secret mission.  The  main component  was generator's nuclear fuel - 7 plutonium capsules in a special container.  As for the power of plutonium, it  was “about half the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima,” said team leader Manmohan Singh Kohli, an ace mountain climber  in an interview with Live Mint.  There was an urgent need to monitor  China which had conducted a nuclear test  at  Lop Nor in Barren Sinkiang province on October 16th, 1964.  Since early 1960s, China has been a rogue country  and a threat to India's national security.

Location of  Mt. Nanda Devi.

Location Mt. Nanda Devi, India.

China site of nuclear test,

 Already the military regime illegally seized Tibet  and  forced  Dalai Lama, the religious leader of Tibetans to take refuge in India during the Nehru  administration. Later China invaded the border areas of India; the country was not well prepared for a sudden  invasion and had to face defeat. During  the Vietnam War, the Chinese gave the US tough time  and posed  a new threat to the already embattled US intelligence.  At that point of time, the US reconnaissance satellite  technology was not good enough  to spy on China's nuclear capabilities and their clandestine activities. The emerging China factor pushed the USA to get engaged in a covert operation with India which had just begun to strengthen its military capability. 

Mt. Nanda Devi, India

Above image:  Mt. Nanda Devi  or the blessed goddess is the highest mountain peak of India in the state of Uttarakhand. and it is strategically located.  A fine vantage point to keep an eye on arrogant and nasty  eastern neighbor–China, the peak lies just 500 miles from Sinkiang  and presents a challenging ascent  for even the best of mountaineers. CIA's initial plan of planting  the device at 27,000 feet  was changed  as the  inputs suggested that  same results could be achieved at an altitude of  25,645 foot, eliminating the risk levels on the higher slopes.  At places  where temperatures could go down - 40 degree Celsius, the people in charge of installation of the device on the first expedition could feel the heat radiating  from the  thick container that housed plutonium-238..The Nanda Devi South glaciers provide copious supply of water across many Indian  states. .................

"Apparently in October of 1959 it was confirmed that China, with Soviet assistance, had established a nuclear test base at Lop Nor with all intentions of testing a nuclear device. U-2 flights over China were becoming extremely dangerous, so powers thought if they could put a monitoring station on top of some Himalayan mountain with a clear shot towards Lop Nor they could gather all the information they needed. Before a decision was made as to what mountain would be selected, it was a given it would be at a very high altitude." CIA wires.

1965 CIA and IB team,spy mission to Nanda Devi.

 In an extremely cold and glacial environment on the summit of the Himalayan mountain of Nanda Devi, the sleuths decided to install   a nuclear-powered surveillance device  to watch the Chinese To get the device going continuously for years, the source of power  was a problem. In such a harsh environment on the peak neither battery  device nor solar powered device could meet the primary needs - durability  long life and continuous monitoring. Further, such a  device  needed a periodic check which was impossible as  Nanda  Devi peak happened to be one  the most difficult peaks to be accessed by the  expert mountaineers. 

CIA-India secret mission. Nanda Devi,

As ill-luck would have it, despite long preparations and  adequate precaution, the CIA's one of the most difficult and secrets operations  atop the mountain  ended  in a fiasco; it was an abortive mission to set up the nuclear device on the higher slope of the mountain. Reason: In the middle of their  installation operation near  the summit, they were hit by a severe blizzard  and their lives were in danger. With no options open,  CIA and Indian sleuths  abandoned  the  covert mission midway to escape  from near  death-like situation.  When the team  returned to the spot in the year 1966, they could not find the device. The device is said to have a life of around 100 years out of which 45 are still left. However, many  question the veracity of the story put out by the CIA. It is learnt that the radioactive material used in the device is  an alloy of Pu-238 with 18 percent Pu-239 which is considered the most effective combination to prolong the life span of the material and generate maximum energy

The nuclear device  and the equipment were lost  under the piles of ice and  it was an Herculean task to retrieve it.  Now, the villagers and others are being haunted by a long-held suspicion  that the nuclear device that lies buried in the Nanda Devi mountain one day may cause  serious damages to their lives, the placid environment and the water resources in the Indo-Gangetic plains.  The moot question is: Did the  buried  nuclear device due to  over heating  and possible radiation  trigger  the recent glacier  burst and Chamoli flash floods?   Some experts  say that Chamoli flash floods and many other disasters on the Himalayan mountain are  primarily caused by global warming and  climate change.  The floods,  severely damaged  two  Dhauliganga hydro power projects that were in progress and loss of  countless lives, etc.,  at Raini village.  A total of  32 bodies were found to date while 174 were missing and the casualty figure was going up as days went by.   This unexpected havoc brought back fears of old tales and rumors  related to a lost radioactive material in the Nanda Devi glaciers.

Indian nuclear scientists are unable to give proper explanation  on the status of the nuclear device buried in the mountain   in the absence of details. However, way back in 1965  American senator Richard Autier   and famous Russian scientist Arthur Compeleene warned India about the  radio active  device,  saying that lakhs of people might  be affected if there was  leak of  radiation.

Water sources to River ganga, India.

According to one Mohan Singh, a resident of Raini village who took part  part in many expeditions in Nanda Devi glaciers,  the flash floods were not the result of any device. With the passage of time the  buried nuclear instrument  has become a myth eventually.   However, a few people associated with the 1965  expedition  feel "The device is dangerous and may be the cause of these floods  from the meting the snow." It is likely, the melting of glaciers might have taken at close points within in the perimeter of the device and the gushing melt water down the slope  triggered the Chamoli flash floods. 

What's  so surprising is the  half-hearted  interest shown by the  USA and India in the matter of  mishap  due to  damaged  device for various reasons and the  possible consequences on the environment, water resources and millions of people living in the Gangetic plains along the river Ganga and its tributaries.  Such a possibility of  mysterious  emerging scenario is not given serious attention and is  just  ignored. The former India Mountaineering Federation vice-president Harish Kapadia said  long ago in the interview with Livemint, "The sherpas who carried the gadget had a lot of exposure, and the threat of radioactivity is certainly there."   The real  danger  was the  radio-active poisoning of the Rishi Ganga, the river that drains the Nanda Devi  melting glaciers into the Ganga river.  Between 2004 and 2007 tests done d by climber Pete Takeda of samples from the peak area, showed evidence of the Plutonium. The  then union government ignored his  findings.  In 2018,  the state cabinet minister of Uttarakhand Satpal Maharaj  said that he had urged the Indian Prime Minister to take action in this regard.  Several years ago the USA's attempt to clean up the the areas on Nanda Devi slopes  where the plutonium container was lost was met with failure. The plan  was to  use  Rubber hoses to wash away the rubble and dig out the nuclear device. Though theory wise, it was possible, practically speaking, it did not go well because  the mound created by the successive avalanches was almost as big as the Giza pyramid.  

The fear of plutonium contamination of  a vast land, stretching from the terrain of Rishiganga along the river Ganga  up to Kolkata  city on the east and  the threats to millions of people  along the river  is very much there.  In the recent Chamoli flash floods caused by the glacier burst, people along the banks could not bear the foul smell emanating from the gushing  melt water. What is the reason for this foul smell?  No proper explanation is forthcoming. With far better advanced technology in the area of satellite imaging, both the US and India  can work together to  fish out the deeply buried nuclear device buried in the glaciers of Mt. Nanda Devi. Until it is  dug out, we have to keep our fingers crossed with apprehension.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Colonial All Saints’ Cathedral (1851), Nagpur, India

All Saints’ Cathedral, Nagpur,

All Saints’ Cathedral, Nagpur,

The city of Nagpur,  in the Vidarbha region  of Maharashtra  is home to many old churches built during the  early colonial period under the East India company's rule.  Though many of the European missionaries landed in India with a view to  spreading the Gospel of Love as propounded by Christ, a preponderance of them like Stephen Hislop, founder of Hislop college, Nagpur, Fred Schwartz of Thanjavur- Tiruchi of  Tamil Nadu  and a host of other missionaries  focused  more on western education and making it available to the people of  all communities including those from  the lower strata of the society. More than 1200 to 1600 years ago  the Indians were quite  well versed in the areas like  maths, astrology, astronomy, architecture, medicine etc. However, the system of western education was knew to them. The Scottish man who was instrumental in the spread of western education in the Vidharbha area was Stephen Hislop, a young missionary.

Nagpur, Maharashtra, location map.maps of

Entrance.. All Saints’ Cathedral,Nagpur,

All Saints’ Cathedral, Nagpur, MH.

All Saints’ Cathedral of Nagpur founded by Col. Elliot in 1851 was designed by John Harley Maxwell  (1822-1892), a  native of Glen cairn, Scotland. He was with Bengal Engineers and  worked in many places across India like Punjab, Gwalior. Using the church of England as  a model, he followed the Victorian style of architecture for this church.    

Interior. All Saints’ Cathedral, Nagpur, MH

All Saints’ Cathedral, Nagpur, MH, tripadvisor,com

All Saints’ Cathedral, Nagpur, MH, tripadvisor,com

Standing across the VCA stadium, the church forms an important land mark with its unique English style of design in this part of the city.. As there was a growing demand for additional churches in this part,   some churches came up late to meet the demand.   The church has  impressively  designed stained glass paintings depicting .angels. Chandeliers, furniture and church bell - all of them were  imported from  Britain. One of the rooms in the premises has lots of information on the military history of the  English company, visitors to EIC etc.

Monday, 1 February 2021

The Scottish Church (1840) Nagpur's oldest Church, founded by Fr. Stephen Hislop

Oldest Scottish church 1940, Nagpur, India.

 Founded by Sir Stephen Hislop, a young missionary from Scotland  with support from other Scottish missionaries  to fulfill the spiritual needs of the Scots working for the East India company  and others, it is one of the oldest churches of Nagpur.  Presently standing across the Life Insurance corporation (LIC) square in the prime area of this big city, it is not an impressive church. Nor does it have strong Gothic architectural features or tall spires with bell tower as one  would in the early colonial churches.  The  most attractive feature  of this church is its  simplicity, no embellishment.

Nagpur location map,

As racial segregation was adopted in some places across India, this church was built to cater to the Europeans and only after India's independence in August 1947, Indian Christians were allowed to attend the mass, etc.  Because of time factor and ageing this old church was restructured in 1920  and divided into two parts,  so that it could survive much longer and suit the present needs Yet another reason is  the near-by Agnes Henderson Memorial  Church  looked very much similar to this  church;    For unknown reasons, this heritage church 's  altar had remained not  renovated since 1840  that is roughly 180 years.


Scottish Missionary Stephen Hislop, Nagpur

Postal stamp, Sept. 2018 Hislop College,Nagpur.

 Stephen Hislop  (1817–1863), was a Scottish missionary, educator and an earth scientist.  He landed in  Nagpur on February 13, 1845  after travelling  580 miles  from Bombay  on horse back with some camels  to carry his baggage.  His main mission was to concentrate on humanitarian work. He carried on his missionary and educational work for 18 long years in the Vidarbha Region (region around Nagpur)  along with one Robert Hunter, editor of the Encyclopedic Dictionary. Besides, he also studied the coal fields near Nagpur. His  enthusiasm  coupled with motivation led him to start a Boy's school in 1846 in Sukrawara area, old  Nagpur (now in Maharashtra), then part of Central provinces  and later Hislop College in 1883. In 2009, the college celebrated its 125th anniversary. He took the initiative and with other like-minded missionaries  started the Scottish Church. The biography on Stephen Hislop  was published in 1888 by George Smith..

Historical Loghagad Fort, Lonavala, Maharashtra

Lohgad fort, Lonavala, MH, main gate.

Lohagad  Fort is one of the fairly preserved  forts in the state of Maharahstra, befitting its location and sturdy structure it is referred to as an Iron Fort. Invariably, the past rulers, using various innovative methods carried out the fortification work in a  a way as to protect the kingdom from the invaders, particularly from the north and Southwest.  Location of them on the hills is an additional advantage. Such rulers glorify the forts  as they form the  main defensive structure  Lohagad Fort  has a chequered  history  and with respect to  its earlier history, it  was under the control of various dynasties  spanning several centuries. Earliest rulers included   Rashtrakutas, Nizamshahis, Yadavas,  and Chalukyas. Later  Mughals, Bahamanis and  Satavahanas managed the fort. 

Lonavala, MH. location map.

Lonavala,-Mumbai Hwy, MH. 2hr drive.
Built by Guru Govind Singh to serve as a prison, the history of this old fort is intertwined with  the most prominent Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji. . Located on a plateau - part of the Deccan about 624  meter from MSL, accessing the fort on the hill by the invaders is a tough job as their movement could be  easily watched by the defensive forces at a higher elevation. The  hill is part of the Western Ghat  chain and unlike the Ghat areas of Kerala, Tamil Nadu  etc., this place is made of dark basaltic rocks (extrusive  igneous rocks formed by volcanoes).   Dividing the basins of the Pavana and the Indrayani rivers, the Lohagad fort overlooks Pavana on the south of the mountain range. The buttressed spur formed by the extending  mountain is  called Vinchukata.

Lohagad fort, Lonavala, MH,

Lohagad fort, Ganesh Darwaza (gate), wikipedia.

Western Ghat mountains near Lonavala, MH, credit: wikipedia. 

This fort with multiple entry, is an important tourist destination because of its location, quiet luxuriant  greenery, fine meadows, cascading water falls, misty hills offering a fine vista of scenic beauty. One can see small hills in the surrounding areas.  This fort and the surrounding places are quite  famous for  casual  hiking in a clean atmosphere, free from urban chaos and noise. The best time to visit this historical fort is during the months of September and March, Monsoon season is not the right choice as it rains a lot during that period starting from June to August. However, many tourists prefer this particular season. The fort  can be reached from any of its four entrances―Hanuman Darwaja, Ganesh Darwaja, Maha Darwaja and Naray. The Maratha rulers controlled this fort for  long period, however  this fort came under the Moguls for a short period- about 5 years.  

Lohagad fort, Lonavala, MH.tour my India com.

.As lots of  working people visit this place from near by cities of Pune and Mumbai, to have fun and relaxation, it is crowded on the week ends.  Situated at Lonavala, it is about 60 km from the city Pune 96 km from Mumbai and there is another fort near-by called Visapur fort. It  is just 11 km from Malavali railway station. One of the main attractions in Lonavala is  an old dam - Bhushi Dam, built uin the late 1860s.   


National Trust properties of UK and their connection with EIC and colonialism

National trust owned Mont acute House, Britain

Since the unjust capture of Bengal province  (believed to be the imperial “golden goose”) of the Indian subcontinent  in the later part of the 18th century by Robert Clive and his cohorts of the EIC, hundreds of research paper  and news paper articles  had dealt with the subject  of  dishonest colonial expansion, the greed for land expansion, looting, exploitation of Indian resources and labor and how the vast  Indian revenue  helped  England bring about the industrial revolution in that country. In 1750, India accounted for 25% of world economic production in contrast to  England’s 1.9% . Bengal was at the center of that production..  Robert Clive said, “We have at last arrived at that critical period, which I have long foreseen; I mean the period which renders it necessary for us to determine whether we can, or shall, take the whole to ourselves.”

During the early English rule under the EIC, the proxy government under the dictates of the British Crown, the corrupt and oppressive company rule saw countless Britons becoming filthy rich after their long stint in  the English company and how many of the pilferers were rewarded with a  peerage by the crown administration, London. Living in a palatial villa back home with their retinue, their style of living was almost similar to affluent Maharajahs and Nawabs of India. But the nouveau  riche English men with weird titles lacked   just one thing;  harem which almost every Indian ruler had;  apparently an acceptable  custom among the Indian monarchs. 

 A new revelation by UK’s National Trust  has  surprised the English people and those from the former British colonies.  The National Trust never minced its words and told the media about the source of  at least 50  valuable properties in England and Wales  and their links with the East India Company, whose employees earned a bundle  till 1857  in India and returned home and lived like Maharajah and Nawabs  building  large stylish houses  with all kinds of embellishments. Some of  their decedents followed suit and lived in splendor  and  style worthy of  their special title. 

Robert Clive's statue, Britain.

Above image: A statue to Robert Clive in Shrewsbury, Britain. His house in Claremont, Sussex, purchased from wealth he made in India and the Powis Castle in Wales, which has a large collection of Indian items are among properties managed by National Trust.(Reuters.)

The National trust   owns and effectively manages  large country houses,  hundreds of historic houses, forts, castles and pastoral  public spaces. Source of money:  Without any hesitation and scruples the British Bobs  looted the treasures from the fallen rulers' palaces, forts,  etc., got hefty commission from the rich rulers and other royal members. In the early stages while running the trading operations in Bengal, the English company never paid the customs duty to the ruler for years. Apart, the administrators in collusion with their employees, on the side line, carried out mercantile trading activities without any permit from the ruler. This way many had  multiple sources of income. Obviously, they were wallowing in money  and had the audacity to carry on this unethical trading activities with their muscle and firing power.   

The wealthy  retired individuals  fresh from India referred to as ‘White Nabobs had all the luxurious under the  stars and sun and, obviously, had  political clout  and access to the royal court. There were many of them in the power corridor of the royal palace  and found a niche  in the Westminster Abbey in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The death of Floyd in the USA by the city  cops  of Minneapolis  last year had  created a public backlash  against racism  across the USA and Europe,  especially, in the  U.K, giving emphasis to "the Black Lives Matter" campaign.  This  initiated  many governments and organizations to  go down to the roots of  ancestral properties of the rich   and the National Trust has identified 93 properties  that had links with  colonialism,  slavery and slave traders  during the heyday of British Empire.

Naional Trust, England.

Above image: National Trust, UK: A   charity and membership organization for heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, there is a separate and independent National Trust for Scotland.  Founded in 1895 by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley to "promote the permanent preservation for the benefit of the Nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest".   One of the largest landowners in Britain, it was given statutory powers, starting with the National Trust Act 1907. 

Robert Clive, founder of British Empire.

The said  National Trust properties are popular tourist destinations in the UK with people in thousands daily making a beeline to them. Such  time-honored  places  castles, forts,  both  archaeological and historical  monuments, parks,  etc., attract large people from all over the world.

Powis castle near Welshpool, Wales, owned by NT.

This  frank public acknowledgement by  the National Trust  that their properties'   financial sources came from the East  India company operations in India and elsewhere, and to slavery and colonialism, is first of its kind  and their bold revelation should be appreciated. Of the many properties, two of them have links with .Robert Clive, the first governor of Bengal presidency: his house in Claremont, Sussex, purchased from wealth he made in India and the Powis Castle in Wales, which has a large collection of Indian items. He started of his life in Chennai (Madras, Tamil Nadu as a clerk in the settlement of Ft. St. George. 

Powis Castle, Wales

Siraj-ud-dualah's palqui,

Above image: A palqi that once belonged to Siraj-ud-daula of Bengal which ended up here in this place. It was left by Siraj-ud- daula, when he fled the Battle of Plassey (BengaL) on 23 June 1757?. It became the property of Robert Clive.

Tipu Sultan's personal tent.

Above image: Tipu Sultan's tent owned by Edward Clive; the British dwon the battle against Tipu Sultan  of Mysore at the Battle of Seringapatam in 1799.  In contrast to the plain-colored fabric of the exterior, the interior is highly decorative, consisting of panels with repeated acanthus-cusped niches, with vases of symmetrical flower heads and stems.. 

At Claremont, purchased with the wealth he (Clive) had made in India, he built a new house, intended to be his main residence and to display the treasures he had amassed. In the early 1770s, Clive had begun acquiring Old Master pictures, which were intended for the Great Room at Claremont” according to  Lucy Porten of the National Trust:“  At the time of his death, the house, unfinished and unfurnished, was a repository for his various collections, including that of ‘Indian Curiosities’ (still unpacked at that point). Robert’s son, Edward (1754–1839), would become 1st Earl of Powis, following his marriage to Lady Henrietta Herbert (1758–1830) in 1784, and Governor of Madras in 1798”.

 Claremont House, England.

Above image:  When the Duke of Newcastle died in 1768, his widow sold the estate to Robert Clive, founder of Britain's Indian Empire.  Then just 50 years old, it was aesthetically and politically out of fashion.  So, Lord Clive, now a fabulously rich British Nabob, wanted a big mansion  with better design  and impressive frontage matching his wealth looted from Bengal  in the late 1700s. Old structure came down and it was replaced by  a new one.  Lancelot "Capability" Brown to build the present Palladian mansion on higher and dryer ground.  Clive  spent over £100,000 on rebuilding the house and a complete remodeling of the celebrated pleasure grounds. However, Clive never got a chance to adorn the richly appointed interior with his collection of Old Masters, Indian artefacts and other fine works, let alone test his new home’s marble plunge bath and other novel amenities. He committed suicide in 1774, the year of its completion  The Battle of Plassey benefitted the Company and its officers in Bengal at the expense of the Indians. After the fall of ruler Siraj, Clive looted his  treasury, leaving  nothing for the new puppet ruler Mir Jafar, Clive’s ally.  Clive took a jagir, an endowment of tax revenue for life, and, at the age of 33, became one of the richest men in England ..............

Their heterogeneous  collections, totaling  about  1,000 objects from about 1600 to the 1830s, are now on display  at Powis Castle and include ivories, textiles, statues of Hindu gods, ornamental silver and gold, weapons and ceremonial amour from India and East Asia.”

Lord Curzon's Kedleton Hall.

Above image:  The Kedleton properties, etc owned by Lord Cuirzon's descendents. George Nathaniel Curzon (1859–1925), who gave Bodiam and Tattershall Castles to the National Trust, had been Viceroy of India from 1889 to 1905. He was the main organizer of the Delhi Durbar (1903) and first man to start a Golf  Course  up on the hill  of Naldehra, close to Shimla (Himachal Pradesh).  It was one of the highest golf courses  in the world, first one in India. Being a lover of Indian monuments, he brought an Eastern flavor to the house. An Indian museum remains, along with the fine sculpture and furniture, all of which Francis Curzon (1924–2000), 3rd Viscount Scarsdale, gave  to the National Trust, with the assistance of  the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund, in 1987.Lord Curzon  was an upright and efferent administrator and he never had a scandalous life in India. His favorite hill station was Shimla, the summer capital of British India. 

Included in the list of India-related properties are:  Lord Curzon’s Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire; former governor of Madras Ronald d’Arcy Fife’s Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire; the home of Francis Syke (one of the ‘nabobs’), Basildon Park, Berkshire; and Rudyard Kipling’s home Bateman’s in east Sussex.

The trust manages  innumerable  properties   purchased at different periods  covering a wide span of tine with ever changing political, cultural and social  scenarios globally,  but their research into their links with the slavery, colonialism, etc  is part of  their s commitment to  correct historical narratives  as they are classified in a broader sense.  It will help us give proper information on the relevant properties and the historical facts they carry. 

A significant number of those in our care have links to the colonization of different parts of the world, and some to historic slavery. Colonialism and slavery were central to the national economy from the 17th to the 19th centuries”. according to the officials of NT. This post is based on the following articles. 


Britain and slavery.
Britain and  slavery.

Above image: From the cartoon ‘Slave Emancipation; Or, John Bull Gulled Out Of Twenty Millions’ by C.J. Grant. In Richard Pound (UCL, 1998), C.J. Grant’s ‘Political Drama’, a radical satirist rediscovered‘. Available at <

"Previously unseen documents reveal how Britain’s wealthiest families received millions of pounds in compensation after slavery was abolished in Britain’s colonies in 1833.  Their descendants include Prime Minister David Cameron", the man who on his visit to Jallianwalla Bagh, Punjab. India a few years ago  mumbled when he was asked about Britain not tendering apology to the Indian people for the atrocities committed  during the colonial rule in India by the EIC and later  by the Crown admiration. 

 According to a study conducted   over a period of three years by Historian Dr Nick Draperas  based on  46,000 records of compensation given to British slave-owners "as many as  many as one-fifth of wealthy Victorian Britons derived their fortunes from the slave trade and the records show exactly who received what in payouts from the British Government when it was abolished – to the potential embarrassment of their descendants who still indirectly enjoy the proceeds.  The British Government paid out £20 million to around 3,000 families for loss of their ‘property’ when slave-ownership was abolished.  This represented a staggering 40% of the Treasury’s annual spending budget and equates to around £16.5 billion in today’s terms

By judiciously investing their slavery compensation money in banks that made  them  special offer - cash and credit, the planters who owned the slaves,  could prolong and even expand their place in economies and societies built on the plantation system and the exploitation of black labor.