Bhupendranath Datta

Swami Vivekananda was one of the towering icons of the Bengal Renaissance. A man who inspired Hindus with his call of “Arise, Awake and Stop Not Till you reach your goal”. And his clarion call, inspired the nascent revolutionary movement in India, as well as a whole generation that began to discover the pride in their roots and heritage. He made youth shake off their inferiority complex bred for years by a Macaulayized education system, that showed India as a savage, inferior nation. But how many know of his younger brother who played an equally significant role in the freedom movement.

Bhupendranath Datta,was a close associate of Aurobindo during the revolutionary movement, editor of the Jugantar patrika, that motivated many youth in Bengal to lay down their lives for the cause of freedom, was part of the Indo-German conspiracy, would later become a noted anthropologist and sociologist.He was born on September 4, 1880 in Kolkata, the youngest of three brothers after Narendranath Datta and Mahendranath Datta, to a lawyer Vishwanath Datta and his devout wife Bhuvaneshwari.

His brother renouncing all family ties, to become Swami Vivekananda, and the sudden death of their father, proved to be a tough phase in his life. The rightful claim of his mother to their property were dismissed by relatives, and in a helpless state she had to move with her children to Ramtanu Bose Lane, where their maternal grandmother took care of them till her passing away in 1903.

He studied from the Metropolitan institute founded by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and later joined the Brahmo Samaj, which would shape his value system too. He was especially influenced by Shibnath Shastri, and his advocacy of wholesale social reforms. Around the same time his brother had gained world wide fame after his address at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, and later would establish the Ramakrishna Math in Kolkata. His brother’s passing away in 1902 at a very young age of 39 affected him deeply. His mother actively supported the Ramakrishna Math till her demise. His other brother Mahendranath Datta was an equally fascinating character, who explored most of Continental Europe, Middle East and North Africa by foot, travelling from place to place. Incidentally both of them remained bachelors till their death.

It was the time when Bengal was gripped by the fervour of the revolutionary movement, Swami Vivekananda’s lectures on the glory of India, and his call to awaken and arise had stirred the nationalist consciousness. Bhagini Nivedita meanwhile played an active role in encouraging the revolutionaries, donating around 150 books of hers to the Anushilan Samiti and addressing the youngsters. It was during one such address at the Town Hall on the glory of ancient India and Hinduism, that influenced Bhupen a lot. He was also influenced by the teachings of Italian thinker Mazinni, as well as events like Japan’s victory over Russia in the 1905 War.Bhupen would regularly read out Swamiji’s Lectures from Colombo to Almora, at every fitness club, Akhara of the Anushilan, Jugantar revolutionary networks.

In 1902 he plunged into the independence movement, joining the Bengal Revolutionary Society founded by Pramathanath Mitra. He later became an active member of the Jugantar movement, that had spun out from the Anushilan Samiti along with Aurobindo and his brother Barin Ghosh.Four years later, he would become the editor of the Jugantar Patrika, the mouthpiece of the Jugantar movement in Bengal that started out as a fitness club, along with the Anushilan Samiti. Most of the members of these two movements later joined Netaji’s Forward Bloc, or the Communist party, while some ended up with the Indian National Congress. As an editor he began to advocate violent resistance to overthrow the colonial rule.

The readers may think that they are weak and they lack the strength to fight the all powerful English. The answer is, do not be afraid. Italy has wiped off the stain of slavery with blood. Is it too much to ask for thousand young men of Bengal who are prepared to sacrifice their lives to free their motherland of stigma and slavery?’

Without bloodshed the worship of the Goddess will not be accomplished. And what is the number of English officials in each district? With a firm resolve you can bring the English Rule to an end in a single day.

When he disregarded the warnings of the British officials against publishing such inflammatory content, he was arrested on charges of sedition in 1907. He did not back down, proudly claiming

‘I am solely responsible for all the articles in question. I have done what I have considered in good faith to be my duty to my country. I do not wish the prosecution to be put to trouble and expense of proving what I have no intention to deny. I do not wish to make any other statement or to take any further action in the trial.’

His open defiance, and refusal to cooperate with the British court, made him a hero in the eyes of the public, and he was sentenced to one year rigorous imprisonment. In prison, Nivedita presented him with the Peter Kroptokin’s “Career of a Revolutionary” as well as four volumes of Mazinni’s writings. She also looked after his mother while he was in prison. Bhupen was punished severely for his non cooperation, being made to grind oil mills, as well as regular assaults by the jailors. The punishment became even harsher when the Alipore Bomb case trials began.

On his release in 1908, Bhagini Nivedita advised him to leave for the US, to avoid being deported to the notorious Cellular Jail, as the Govt cracked down after the Alipore trials. She arranged for his stay there, as well as providing the aid for his education. His accomodation was arranged at the India House there, where he met many other revolutionaries and thinkers like George Freeman, who exposed the British exploitation of India. He finished his post graduation from Brown University, and it was during his stay here he was attracted towards socialism and communism.

However he suffered many personal blows in 1911, first his mother passed away when he was abroad. and in the same year, his mentor Bhagini Nivedita, who had been a major source of support in all ways too passed away, as well as another benefactor Ms.Sarah Bull.

He later joined the Ghadr party, and with the outbreak of World War 1, left for Germany, which by then had become a center for many Indian revolutionaries in Europe. Germany too wanted to use the Indian revolutionaries against their common enemy, the British, with their Kaiser himself authorizing the effort. He became a secretary of the India Independence Comittee in Berlin in 1916 and later the German Anthropological Society in 1920 and German Asiatic Society in 1924.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Ghadar party began to plan an armed uprising against the British, with Indian emigrants in US, Canada and the Far East.  While these revolutionaries had the arms and money, they lacked the leadership, and Rash Behari Bose filled that gap.  It was Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, a US returned Ghadarite who convinced Rash Behari to lead the movement in India.  Rash Behari had both the brains as well as the physical strength to pull off this uprising, and Feb 21, 1915, was when it was planned.

As per plan Indian soldiers and officers in the British army, would revolt, capture British officers and take over. However thanks to a traitor called Kirpal Singh, the plans were leaked out, and the revolt was put down. Many of the conspirators were captured, and Vishnu Pingle, Bhai Kartar Singh were among those captured and executed.

Bhupen in the meantime was influenced by the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the formation of the Soviet Union. He felt that only a socialist-communist alliance would back India’s independence. Along with another revolutionary M.N.Roy, he went to Moscow in 1921, joining the Comintern, where he attended their annual conference along with Birendranath Das Gupta. He presented a paper to Lenin on the political condition of contemporary India, and also obtained a degree in Anthropology from Hamburg in 1923.

In spite of his leftist leanings, he disagreed with them on not working with the Nationalist leaders, whom the Communists felt belonged to the bourgeois class protecting their interests. He realized that a sustained independence movement needed the Nationalists support to be truly broad based. On his return to India, he joined the Indian National Congress, and at it’s annual conference in 1930, he proposed fundamental rights for farmers, as well as chairing two annual conferences of AITUC. More drawn to communist ideology, he actively supported the newly formed Communist Party of India, as well as being part of the Workers and Peasant Party(WPP). He began to propagate communist ideals among youth, influencing many to join CPI.

An excellent orator, he was much sought after to deliver the address to the party meetings, and in a letter to S.A.Dange he wanted that Congress should only welcome those with communist ideals. Addressing the Young Comrades League at Rajshahi in April 1930, he would motivate many youngsters to abandon anarchism and come over to communism.

When the British Govt cracked down against several trade unionists in the 1922 Meerut conspiracy case, the Leftist movement fell into disarray. Bhupen Da played a crucial role in reorganizing the Communists again along with Panchu Gopal Bhaduri, Kali Ghosh, Bankim Mukherjee and others. He was also active in many union movements be it the Kharagpur railway workers, TISCO employees in Jamshedpur or the May Day rallies in Kolkata. When the terrible Bengal famine broke out in 1943, he did his best to mobilize aid and relief to the affected, running community kitchens, distributing food.

His communist leanings however did not stop him from differing with them on many occasions, especially their decision to oppose Quit India and taking part in the War after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. He did not accept their stance as the freedom being fake, and gave all the support to Nehru. He was more a moderate who felt that the Nationalist and Communist movements could coexist. And for this reason the hardline communists felt he was too moderate, while the Congress leaders felt he was a hardcore Leftist.

He was an excellent writer, his two books in Bengali, ‘Bharater Dwitiya Swadhinata Sangram’ (‘The Second Freedom Struggle of India) and ‘Aprakashito Rajnitik Itihas’ (Unpublished Political history), have been an important resource for later scholars on Indian freedom struggle. His book on his brother, Swami Vivekananda:Patriot-Prophet, gives an excellent insight into Swamiji’s ideology.He also spread the message of Swamiji as well as Ramakrishna Mission among the masses, as well as their numerous social welfare activities.

Bhupen spent the last years of his life in their ancestral home along with his brother Mahendranath Datta. He turned down the freedom fighter pension from the Govt, preferred to live an austere, simple life not craving for recognition or privilege. He finally passed away in 1961, a man who was as great as his more illustrious brother. Much like his brother, he questioned every idea on it’s merit, not blinded by ideological positions. A true patriot who loved India, took pride in it’s ancient glory, and always stood by the masses.


Bhupendranath Datta, Swami Vivekananda – Patriot-Prophet

The Life of Swami Vivekananda, by his Eastern and Western Disciples

Sumit Sarkar, The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal

Posted in Bengal, Bengal Renaissance, Indian Freedom Struggle, Indian History, Modern India, Revolutionary Movements | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Architectural styles in Telugu states.

When one looks at temples in the Telugu states, what stands out is the sheer diversity of architectural styles- Chola, Chalukya, Kalinga, Vijayanagar, Kakatiya, even the smaller ones like Ikshawakus. The Telugu states, were more often a battle ground for various kingdoms and dynasties, with constant battles often fought here for supremacy, this has resulted in distinct style of architecture of the temples here.

If one takes a look at the various temples in Telugu states itself, most of them have different styles, in the same complex, for eg Simhachalam Temple, has elements of both Kalinga and Vijayanagar architecture. This is because these temples were begun by a kingdom,later renovated by other rulers, each bringing in their own style of architecture giving them a distinct look.

Srimukhalingam located in Srikakulam district, was the erstwhile capital of the Eastern Gajapatis, and the Shiva temples here are built in typical Kalinga style of architecture.

Someswara Swamy temple at Srimukhalingam
Someswaara Swamy temple at Srimukhalingan
Srimukhalingam Temple Complex

While the Sun temple at Arasavalli is very much in Kalinga style, Srikurmam temple, the only temple dedicated to Kurmavatara has a very distinct Southern style, due to it’s renovation by Vijayanagar rulers.

Sun Temple at Arasavalli
Srikurmam Temple

Andhra Pradesh is also famous for the Pancharamas. Again 5 temples dedicated to Shiva. The story goes that Kartikeya had to kill the Asura, Taraka, who had grown powerful because of the Shivalinga he was wearing. Kartikeya, had to break the Linga, in order to kill Taraka. And the spots where it fell, became the Pancharama. Apparently Vishnu had to order the Gods to nail those lingas from growing further. Most of these temples were built by the Eastern Chalukyas, and the architectural style is pretty much of that time.

4 of the 5 Pancharama Temples are located in Godavari districts- Draksharama, Kumara Bheemarama(Samalkot), Somarama( Bhimavaram) and Ksheerarama(Palakollu). This region being under the rule of Eastern Chalukyas, they all have the same architectural style.

Draksharama Bhimeswara Temple
Kumarama Rama temple, Samalkota
Somarama Temple, Bhimavaram

The Simhachalam Temple near Vizag, was built during the reign of the Chalukya Cholas, but was renovated by the Eastern Gangas, Gajapatis when it was part of the Kalinga empire, and later by the Vijayanagar rulers, when Sri Krishnadeva Raya captured this area.

Simhachalam temple has elements of various architectural styles, the Vimana of the sanctum sanctorum is similiar to Konarak, while the large mandapas, sculpted pillars are more the Vijayanagar style.

Vimana of Simhachalam Temple
Simhachalam Temple, Vishakapatnam

Again if one looks at Guntur-Krishna region, most of the major temples here- Amaravati, Mangalagiri, Ponnur, Chebrolu, were renovated during the reign of Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu, the very tall Galigopuram at Mangalagiri was his contribution.

Managalagiri Lakshmi Narashima Temple

The Raja Rajeswara Temple built at Vemulawada in honor of Shiva, is a typical example of Chalukyan temple architecture, large enclosure, towering gopurams. located on the banks of the Godavari river, this is worth a visit.

Raja Rajeswara Temple, Vemulawada

Alampur is famous for it’s Navabrahma Temples, which is a complex of 9 temples dedicated to Shiva. The architectural style here is that of the Badami Chalukyas who ruled in the early 7th-8th centuries, different from the traditional Dravidian architecture.

The Arkha Brahma Temple, one of the more well known of the Navabrahma temples. If you notice while the exteriors tend to be quite plain, the interiors of the temples are richly decorated.

Arka Brahma Temple, Navabrahma Complex, Alampur
Vishwa Brahma Temple, Navabrahma Complex, Alampur
Vira Brahma Temple, Navabrahma Complex, Alampur

Nagarjuna Konda, near the Nagarjunasagar Dam. Also called as Sri Parvata, it is one of the very prominent Buddhist sites in India. In ancient times the capital of the Ikshavaku dynasty, it was where the great Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna resided.

Nagarjunakonda complex

Warangal, erstwhile capital of the Kakatiya empire has some stunning monuments and temples, that bear testimony to their architectural brilliance. While the Warangal Fort itself is in ruins, one of the gateways has for long, been a common motif in the Telugu states.

Kakatiya Kala Thoranam, Warangla
Ruins of Warangal Fort
Ruins of Warangal Fort

The Kakatiya Kala Thoranam as it is called, was one of the four main gateways to the Warangal Fort, and has been adopted by the Telangana Government in their state logo. The interesting feature of the fort is it’s circular pattern, enclosed by 3 concentric walls. The fort was primarily built with huge granite blocks placed against each other, with no mortar used,also had a lot of the pillared mandapas, with ornate carvings of animals, flowers, that was a primary feature of Kakatiya architecture( later adopted by the Vijayanagara rulers).

Another testimony to the architectural brilliance of the Kakatiyas is the 1000 Pillared temple, dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Surya. Though attacked during the Tughlaq invasion, it nevertheless managed to survive, and we can still see it in splendor. Built in a star shaped( characteristic of the Hoysalas), it gets it’s name from the 1000 pillars here. But the beauty is that none of the pillars obstructs any person from seeing the Lingam. Constructed on a raised platform, it has perforated stone screens and rock cut elephants.

1000 Pillared Temple, Warangal
1000 Pillared Temple, Warangal
1000 Pillared Temple, Warangal

We had temples named after Gods, even rulers, but this must be the only temple in the world named after it’s sculptor. Dedicated to Shiva, the Ramappa temple is another testament to the Kakatiya style of architecture. Ornate carvings adorn the ceilings, and the interiors combine light and space so beautifully. Another interesting aspect is the bricks in the roof of the temple, which are so light, that they can float on water. Also look out for the exquisitely carved Nagini statues here.

Ramappa Temple, Warangal
Ramappa Temple, Warangal
Ramappa Temple, Warangal
Nagini at Ramappa Temple, Warangal

Lepakshi in Anantapur district is a perfect tribute to the Vijayanagara style( which in turn was a mix of Kakatiya, Hoysala, Chalukya styles of architecture). The giant Nandi is one magnificent piece of sculpture.

Lepakshi Nandi

The Veerabhadra Temple at Lepakshi is a testimony to the brilliance of the Vijayanagara style of architecture. Typically it has the assembly hall( the Ranga Mantapa), the ante chamber( Antarala) and the garba griha the sanctum sanctorum.

Naga Lingam at Lepakshi Temple
Lepakshi Temple

The pillars are richly carved with images of gods, saints, dancers, musicians, and the columns have eaves in a hanging shape. Also look out for the paintings on the ceiling here.One more interesting feature in Lepakshi is the Hanging Pillar, which has a small gap underneath through which you can pass a cloth.

Lepakshi Temple
Murals on the ceiling of the Lepakshi temple
Famous Hanging Pillar at Lepakshi temple

The Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy temple at Tadipatri in Anantapur district, is another testament to the brilliance of the Vijayanagara architectural style. Very ornate carvings, raised mandapa and the interesting aspect is the Shiva Linga here is surrounded by water.

Tirumala temple itself is a combination of various styles ranging from the Cholas, Pandyas in the early ages to the Vijayanagara rulers, who actually built a major part of it.

Tirumala Balaji Temple

The Sri Kalahasti temple near Tirupati, is one of the Panchabhutha Kshetras. 5 Temples dedicated to Shiva in the form of the five elements. The temple here is built in typical Dravidian style, with towering gopurams, large walled enclosures.

Srikalahasti Temple

Chandragiri fort near Tirupati, is again a perfect example of the Vijayanagara style of architecture, with domes, arches, latticed windows. This incidentally was one of their capitals.

Chandragiri Palace

One more excellent example of the Vijayanagara style of architecture, is the Kodandanda Rama temple at Vontimitta, Kadapa district. Here the murthi of Sita Rama and Lakshmana is on one single stone.

Kodanda Rama Temple, Vontimitta

Srisailam one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, was built extensively during the reign of the Reddy kings and later the Vijayanagara rulers, again the large Mukha Mandapam, the large gopurams were pretty much elements of Vijayanagara style.

Sri Sailam Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple, one of the Dwadasa Jyotirlingas

Again Mahanandi in Kurnool district, was built by the Badami Chalukyas in 7th century, but most of the later structures in temple were built by the Vijayanagara rulers, making it a mix of different styles.

Mahanandi Temple

Yaganti temple with it’s massive Nandi that keeps growing every year, is more representative of Vijayanagar style, with the gopurams,large walls.

Pushkarnis at Yaganti Uma Maheswara Swamy temple
Nandi at Yaganti Uma Maheswara Swamy temple, that keeps growing in size every year
Yaganti Uma Maheswara Swamy temple

Pushpagiri complex in Kadapa dt, dedicated to both Shiva(Vaidyanatheswara Swamy) and Vishnu(Chennakesava Swamy), has one of the most diverse styles of architecture in one complex, having been under control of various rulers. It was built at various times by Ikshavakus, later Pallavas, Cholas, Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas and the Vijayanagara Empire, giving it a very distinctive look. Add to it both Vaishnavite and Shaivite temples in one complex.

Pushpagiri Temple complex
Pushpagiri Temple complex
Pushpagiri Temple complex

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Rani Rashmoni

During the 1840s, the fishing communities in Bengal along the Hooghly were facing a major survival crisis. The Ganga was the lifeline of these communities, especially between February and October, when they would set out to net the famed hilsa in large quanities. The East India Company, sensing a lucrative opportunity here, imposed a tax on these fishing boats claiming they obstructed the ferries. In reality it was more a revenue collection measure for the Company.

When the helpless fishermen, approached the elite landlords of Kolkata, seeking support, most of them turned their backs not wanting to offend their patrons in the Company. Disheartened, the fishermen turned to their last resort, at Jaanbazar in Central Kolkata. The widow of a wealthy businessman, Raja Chandra Das, who was born into a humble Mahishya family on September 28, 1793 near Halisahar in the Northern Paraganas, to Harekrishna Biswas and Rampyari Devi.

Rashmoni Das, would go on to become more well known as Rani Rashmoni, the founder of the Dakshineshwar Temple in Kolkata, a close associate ot Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. One of the most remarkable women ever in Indian history, who financed the construction of Ghats across the Hooghly, took the British head on and played a major role in the Bengali Renaissance.

With her mother passing away when she was just 7 years old, Rashmoni was married off at 11 years to a much older Raja Chandra Das, of Janbazaar, one of Kolkata’s wealthy zamindars, and a successful businessman too. Their family had made their wealth, transporting bamboo across the Beliaghata Canal, and building warehouses on the canal, to store goods ranging from musk to muslin.

Rashmoni would play an important role in her husband’s business. looking after their Estate affairs. It’s believed that the famous Babughat and Ahiritola Ghat were built on her advice. With the death of her husband, it was left to Rashmoni to handle the affairs of the Estate, at a very young age. For the next thirty years, with her keen business acumen, she grew the estate from strength to strength, reached out to the poor and downtrodden, took the British head on, at a time when most of Kolkata’s upper class gentry was either hesitant to, or were in league with them.

As in her confrontation with the British over the fishing rights on the Ganga river, when she offered the Company, Rs 10,000 , as she took lease of a 10km long stretch of the Hooghly. After she got the lease documents, she placed two massive iron chains across the Ganga at Metiabruz and Ghusuri where the river arched like a bow. and invited the fishermen to caste their nets in that zone. As the fishing boats flocked to the zone, all the traffic on the river came to a halt, and the Company officials demanded an explanation. Rashmoni pointed out that the constant river traffic was affecting the livelihood of fishermen in her property, and as a leaseholder she was entitled under British law to protect the income she was getting from her property.

She put it across to the British, that she had no compunctions in going the legal route, and would not unshackle the river, till a verdict was reached in court. With steamships, barges piling up on the riverfront, the Company officials were forced to repeal the tax, giving fishermen full access to the rivers. Rani Rashmoni had humbled the British , using their own tactics, and protected the rights of the native fishing communities.

But then that was the Rani, who did not hesitate to take on the high and mighty, and fought fiercely for what she believed in. She persuaded Dwarakanath Tagore, grandfather of Rabindranath Tagore, to part with two of his estates, to repay the loan he had taken from her husband. Considering the power and influence of the Tagores at that time, it was one daring step. She maintained her own private army, the lethels,to take on oppresive zamindars and British indigo planters.

When the British authorities stopped Puja processions with drums and celebrations, claiming it disturbed peace, she defied orders, and led the processions herself. When she was fined Rs 40, people turned out in large numbers to pay the amount, once again forcing the British to take back their decision. On another occasion, some British soldiers misbehaved with the women in her estate, and she got them arrested, imprisoned in her palace. When the enraged British soldiers laid siege to her Janbazaar estate, she took the sword in her own hand, and stood to defend her subjects, and their family deity Raghunath Jee.

Her biggest achievement though would be the construction of Dakshineshwar Temple complex, on the banks of the Hooghly. It’s believed that once on a pilgrimage to Kashi, Maa Kali herself appeared in a dream to her, and ordered her to build a temple for her on the banks of the river, and offer daily Anna Bhogh. She purchased a 20 acre plot, from an Englishman Jake Hastie, then known as Saheban Bagicha, and began the construction of the temple, that took around eight years to complete. However not many of the priests were willing to consecrate the temple built by a woman, that too from a Shudra community. It was then a poor Brahmin from Kamarpukur, Ramkumar Chattopadhyaya, agreed to do the installation of the deity. And then on May 31, 1855, Kali Maa was installed in the temple, and Ramkumar served as the head priest.

Ramkumar’s younger brother Gadhadhar arrived soon, and his rather unorthodox ways of worshipping Kali Maa, did not go down too well with many of the priests and people in her estate, who called him a madman. Gadhadhar would spend hours in trance before Kali Maa, often lie on the ground, calling out for her, pining for her. The Rani would observed secretly his worship to Kali maa, along with her son-in-law Mathur Babu, and found in him a divine manifestation. She allowed Gadhadhar to worship Kali Maa in whatever way he choose, overruling the objections of others, and would soon make him the head priest.

This Gadadhar would become more famous as Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, who in turn considered the Rani his own mother. As Bhagini Nivedita put it, without Rani Rashmoni there would have been no Dakshineshwar, Gadhadhar would not have become Shri Ramakrishna, nor would Narendranath Dutta go on to become Swami Vivekananda. In a way Rani Rashmoni Devi, laid the foundation of the Bengali Renaissance.

The Rani herself was an ardent devotee of Kali Maa, her official seal was engraved with “Shri Rashmoni Das, belonging to the feet of Kali”. One of the grandest Durga Puja celebrations was at her Janbazaar home, that included the traditional all night jatras. Eden Gardens was actually part of her estate, which she later donated to the Eden sisters, of then Governor General, Lord Auckland.

Apart from Dakhshineshwar, she also got a road constructed from Subarnarekha River to Puri Jagannatha Temple for the benefit of pilgrims. She donated generously to the Imperial Library, now the National Library in Kolkata, as well as the Hindu College, now the Presidency University. When a band of thugs were harassing people in the Sunderbans, she persuaded them to give up their plundering, and granted them facilities to fish in the delta, transforming them.

Rani Rashmoni, passed away on February 19, 1861 at the age of 67, but not before leaving a rich legacy in the form of Dakshineshwar and her many charitable works. A woman born in a humble family, who went on to manage one of Kolkata’s richest families, built temples, defied the British and always stood for the poor and downtrodden, a truly great lady.

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Veer Savarkar-Assasination of Arthur Jackson

Arthur Jackson was the collector of Nashik since 1907, a mild mannered man, proficient in Sanskrit and Marathi.  Also a learned Indologist, who wrote many papers on Indian history and culture, affectionately called as  Pandit Jackson by the locals.  Fond of the beauty of the Godavari, and the richness of Sanskrit, he often felt that he must have been a Shastri at Nashik in his earlier life. He often carried the image of a people friendly officer, mingling with the common folk at large, and prided himself on his carrot and stick policy, which he felt was effective in controlling the unrest in Nashik.

The fact is when it came to the revolutionaries he was as ruthless, notwithstanding the veneer of civility.  He banned public meetings in Nashik, did not take action against English officers, who behaved rudely with the local Indians. When an English engineer William, killed his coachman, he released him on lack of evidence.  When Babasaheb Khare defended a group of youth who were convicted for shouting “Vande Mataram”,  he barred him from practicing in the court. And the final straw was convicting and arresting  Tatya’s elder brother Babarao Savarkar for printing a 16 page book of the poems of the revolutionary Kavi Govind.  

After Savarkar had left for England, the Abhinav  Bharat organization he had founded still continued to be active.  While the local revolutionaries began to collect the arms and ammunition needed,  those abroad had managed to send copies of a bomb making manual they found in Paris.  Krishnaji Gopal Karve, popularly called as Anna Karve, a young lawyer from Nashik,  began to make the bombs and experimented with them at Pen. However having suffered ten years RI( Rigorous Imprisonment) he did not go public with his experiences. But he did teach many other youngsters the art of bomb making in private. Vinayak Deshpande who would later be hanged for the assasination of Jackson, Ramachandra Bhate,  Shridhar Barve, Shankar Soman were some of those trained by Karve in bomb making.

While Pen, Nashik, Kothur, Aundh and Pune, emerged as centers of bomb making, the largest of them was at Vasai.  Ramchandra Bhate who was working as an art teacher at Vasai, started the Abhinav Bharat branch there, which attracted many people.  Gangadhar Gokale, Dr. Parulkar, Bapurao Wagh, Advocate Thakur were some of those who had become part of Abhinav Bharat.  When Gopal Rao Patankar, went to Vasai, he was introduced to some of the members there by  Bhate. And it was decided, that Dr. Parulkar and Bhate, would get the raw material from Bombay itself, while Patankar along with the other members of the Vasai, chapter would provided the funding. And thus one of the major bomb making units was started there.

The revolvers sent by Savarkar from London, were secretly bought by Chaturbhuj to Mumbai where Patankar received them and stored them at Pen. And these revolvers made their way to Karve, ironically.  Because Karve at one stage was with the Abhinav Bharat, but he quit, as he felt secret societies should not make their activities too public. Patankar, was the one who made the deal, as he needed money to buy the chemicals and apparatus for bomb making. In the meantime Karve who was seeking to shoot dead Judge Davar,  was looking for a good revolvers. Patankar sold the pistols he stored at Pen to Karve, who in turn kept them with Ganu Vaidya for safe keeping.

Anant Kanhere, hailing from Nizamabad, was eagerly seeking to carry out an assasination in Nashik, asking Ganu “If there is so much repression going on in Nashik, why don’t you revolutionaries assasinate the Britsh officers there”. A shocked Ganu excused himself saying the time was not really appropriate.   Kanhere claimed he was prepared to go it alone, if none would support him, which Ganu promptly informed to other members.  It also did not help matters that Ganu panicked, claiming he would confess under police torture.  Karve felt that Kanhere’s life should not be unnecessarily put in danger, and with none of the other members willing to come forward, Karve vetoed the assasination idea.

Kanhere however was too restless by now, wanted to emaluate Madanlal Dhingra, who had become famous after his assasination of Curzon Wylie. He informed Wamanrao Joshi that he was prepared to assasinate Jackson all by himself. Karve who was in Nashik, agreed to go along and he sent Vinayak Deshpande to Aurangabad to fetch Kanhere, who arrrive in the city on December 21, 1909.  Karve ordered 3 Browning pistols from Ganu Vaidya, and also some poison to Kanhere to commit suicide in case he was captured.  He also wrote a statement for Kanhere, to explain why he commited the assasination, as the latter was just a lad of 16 years. He also asked Kanhere to use the alias of Ramprasad Tiwari and give his residence as Kashi.

December 21,1909

As Jackson was preparing to leave Nashik,  there were a number of farewell programs arranged for him. Around the same time, the Marathi play Sharada was being shown in the city, and Jackson, being a fan of Marathi theater, wanted to see it and the performance of Bal Gandharva.  This was the right time for Kanhere ,  and around 8 PM he came to the Vijayanand Theater, armed with the pistols. Jackson arrived at 9:30 PM, and as he made his way to the seating, Kanhere whipped out his pistol and shot him in the back, after which he came in front of Jackson and shot him there. As he attempted to kill himself, Kanhere was captured by the Dy. Collector Khopkar, and another guest Mr. Jolly.  Jackson, however lay dead on the floor, the objective was achieved.

The police cracked down, on Abhinav Bharat,  Ganu Vaidya was arrested, and on discovery of some pistols in his house, he mentioned Karve’s name.  Karve was caught, and under very severe torture, he disclosed the name of Patankar, who in order to save his bomb factory at Vasai, confessed that it was Chaturbhuj who gave him the arms.  And finally on being caught, Chaturbhuj confessed that the pistols were sent to him from London by Savarkar. Not just that he also volunteered to become an approver and a state witness.  

The crackdown intensified on Abhinav Bharat, and most of it’s members were arrested.  And many were subjected to severe torture, some of them cracked under it, confessed. Not just the accused, even the witnesses were subject to severe torture by the police, led by one Guider.  No news came out of the police atrocities, even worse the accused could not even see their relatives nor hire a lawyer under the new draconian regulations.  After collecting all the evidences through torture, intimidation and offering inducements, the authorities instituted a separate case, under IPC 302.  Kanhere, Karve and Deshpande were sentenced to death by hanging, and on April 19,1910, they were hanged at Thane. Soman, Wamanrao Joshi and Ganu Vaidya were sentenced to exile for life, while D.P.Joshi was given 2 years rigorous imprisonment.  Savarkar, wrote an article in Talwar from Paris, on the event, under the heading Martyrs of Nashik, which would be used against him. 

Posted in Indian Freedom Struggle, Indian History, Maharashtra, Revolutionary Movements, Veer Savarkar | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Land of the Ranas-Raj Singh

In my last post on Mewar, I had taken a look at the life of Rana Amar Singh the son of the legendary Maharana Pratap, who fought a long battle with Jahangir, before signing a peace treaty with him to bring peace to Mewar.Continuing the series,will take a look at the succesors of Amar Singh, especially Rana Raj Singh and his conflict with Aurangzeb.

Amar Singh was succeeded by his son Karan Singh II, whose reign was relatively peaceful after ages of conflict. He enlarged palaces, strengthened existing defenses, and during his time, the Jain temples at Ranakpur, were renovated.

He also constructed the water ditches that ran all along the walls of Lake Pichola in Udaipur, that diverted the storm water to Lake Udai Sagar which in turn was used for irrigation. He also built the Gol Mahal, and the dome at the Jagmandir Island Palace, as well as a tank in the Krishna Niwas at Udaipur.

Karan Singh’s successor Jagat Singh I, completed the construction of the Jag Mandir palace located in Lake Pichola, that would later become popular as a summer resort for the royal family. He also tried to rebuild the walls of the Chittorgarh Fort and strengthen it’s defenses. However when Shahjahan heard of it, he sent an army under Saidullah Khan, as it was in violation of the treaty signed with Rana Amar Singh, of not building any defense walls around the fort.

It was Jagat Singh’s succesor Rana Raj Singh I, whose reign would be well remembered for his conflict with Aurangzeb and the way he skillfully negotiated with the Mughals in the interests of Mewar.

Raj Singh was born on September 24, 1629, the eldest son of Rana Jagat Singh I and Maharani Medtaniji, he would go on to become a great ruler, respected by the people, an excellent administrator. He was known for his charity, donating gold, silver, precious metals to people, honoring scholars, artists, poets, undertaking many welfare works.

One such was building the artificial lake of Rajsamand, after which the town nearby is named, to provide employment to the people of the region, often hit by drought.Over 60,000 workers were employed in this task, and all kind of water extraction techniques were employed, the main dam was completed on June 26, 1670. The Ranas in fact built many lakes and tanks, that provided employment as well as helped in irrigation of the drought hit region.

He renovated many temples, gave protection to Hindu priests being persecuted under Aurangzeb. The famous temple of Shrinathji at Nathdwara, was built during his reign. The original deity was actually located at Govardhan near Mathura, however when Aurangzeb, attacked Mathura, and destroyed the temples there, the deity was shifted to Agra for close to 6 months. Afterwards in order to protect it from the Mughal emperor, it was Raj Singh who got the deity. It’s believed that the wheels of the cart which wad carrying the deity, sank axle deep in the sand, at a village called Sihad. The priests realized that this place was the choosen one for Shrinathji, and that led to the construction of the Nathdwara temple there in 1672, by Goswami Damodar Das Bairagi.

When the war of succession broke out between Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh, both of them sent messages to Raj Singh to fight on their side. However he decided to remain neutral, as either way the result would not have been beneficial to Mewar. Instead taking advantage of the chaotic situation, he embarked on his own campaign, under the pretence of a “Tikadaur” which was traditionally taken in enemy land.

He swooped down on various Mughal outposts in 1658, imposing his own levies and taxes, as he captured Mandal, Banera, Shahpura, Sawar etc. He also attacked the parganas of Malpura, Tonk, Chaksu, Lalsot, and returned with the spoils back to Udaipur. Later in 1659,he attacked Dungarpur, Banswara that were under Mughal rule, and bought them under Mewar. His son Bhim Singh captured Idar, in Gujarat’s Sabarkantha district and also plundered the Mughal trading outposts of Ahmedabad and Vadnagar.He would go on to become a thorn in the flesh for Aurangzeb, refusing to pay the Jiziya tax, to the extent that Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj, taunted the Mughal emperor to collect it from Raj Singh if he had any guts, instead of harassing ordinary citizens.

The other famous incident was with Charumati, the Rathore princess of Kishangarh, and sister of it’s ruler Man Singh, whose beauty made Aurangzeb desire her. He forced Man Singh to send his sister, in marriage to him, however Charumati refused, saying she would rather commit suicide than marry Aurangzeb. Realizing that only Rajsingh could face Aurangzeb, Man Singh asked his sister to write a letter to him, to protect them.

Charumati wrote the letter to Raj Singh, claiming you are a devotee of Eklingji, just as Krishna came and saved Rukmini from the evil Shishupal, please marry me and save me from the clutches of Aurangzeb. Mansingh also wrote saying, that if you elope with Charumati, our kingdom would not be saved from Aurangzeb’s wrath, so please come and capture us, we would surrender to you.

When Aurangzeb came to know of Charumathi’s marriage with Raj Singh, he was enraged, and sent a farman demanding to know why he went against the Mughal emperor. He also grabbed the Parganas of Gayaspur and Vasavar and gifted them to Raj Singh’s rival Hari Singh of Dewalia. A shrewd Raj Singh realizing he had no chance in a conflict with the Mughals, and sent a message via the Udaykaran Rawat of Kotariya.

In 1679, when Jaswant Singh of Marwar passed away, Aurangzeb interfered in the succession of the kingdom, leading to widespread resistance by their general Durgadas Rathore, that would soon lead to the Rajput war, lasting for close to 28 yeas, till the Mughal emperor’s death in 1707. Being related to Ajit Singh of Marwar, Raj Singh gave all the support fighting many a battle with the Mughal forces, as well as giving refuge to Durgadas Rathore during the conflict.

Also the famous story of Hadi Rani, occurred during Raj Singh’s reign, the wife of his commander, Ratan Singh Chundavat. She was the daughter of Sangram Singh of Bundi, her real name was Salah Kunwar. It’s believed that when Ratan Singh reluctant to go to the battle field, asked her to give something as a token of remembrance, she cut off her head and gave it to him. Her sacrifice moved Ratan Singh, who fell upon the enemy forces with a vengenance.

Rana Raj Singh one of the great rulers of Mewar, a wise administrator, ruler and patron of scholars and poets, was sadly poisoned by his own men on orders of Aurangzeb and passed away on October 22, 1860. His legacy would however live on in the form of Rajsamand Lake and the Nathdwara Temple.

Posted in Indian History, Medieval India, Mewar, Rajputs | 1 Comment

Tilka Manjhi and Telang Kharia

Jharkhand whose name literally means “Bush land” or “Forest land” had a long history of resistance to the British colonial rule.  Among the numerous tribes that make up the state, the Santhals are one of the dominant ones, primarily in the south eastern part of the Chotanagpur plateau and Midnapore in West Bengal. While they lived in the valley, the Mal Paharias primarily inhabited the hills.

The British acquired the Junglemahal region, primarily covering Midnapore, Burdwan, Birbhum and Bankura, from Siraj-ud-daulah in 1750, followed by taking over the Santhal Parganas, Chotanagpur in 1765, and the entire Dewani of Bengal, Bihar, Odisha after their victory at Buxar. With the East India Company directly collecting taxes, they collaborated with the mahajans( money lenders) to grab the tribal land against unpaid loans. The tribals were in effect reduced to tenants or laborers on their own lands. Also the British followed a policy of divide and rule, pitting the hill dwelling Paharias who were more nomadic, followed the Jhum( slash and burn) cultivation, against the Santhals who lived in the valley and practiced a more settled form of cultivation.

Tilka Manjhi who raised the first major revolt against the British exploitation was born on February 11, 1750 in a small village near Sultanganj in Bhagalpur district. While it was not clear, whether he was a Paharia or Santhal, his real name was Jabra Paharia. He got the moniker of Tilka from a local Paharia term meaning “a man with angry red eyes” owing to his fiery rebellious nature, while Manjhi was due to his position as the head of the village later.

At the age of 20 itself, Tilka Manjhi was rallying the tribals in Bhagalpur against the Company rule, urging them to reclaim what was their rightful lands. The trigger was the devastating famine that hit Bengal in 1770, where over 10 million starved to death and Bihar, Santhal Parganas were the worst hit areas. The Company instead of providing assistance, collected taxes even more forcibly from the starving peasants and tribals.

Tilka Manjhi rode on the anger of the masses against the Company rule, as he made a daring raid on the treasury at Bhagalpur, overpowered the guards and distributed the money among the peasants and tribals. This event, made him popular in the eyes of the long suffering masses, as he became a Robin Hood figure of sorts.

Warren Hastings, then Governor of Bengal, sent an 800 strong forced under Captain Brook to capture Tilka and crush the revolt. However inspite of the atrocities inflicted on the Santhals, they failed to capture him. By 1778, Tilka Manjhi united all the various tribes in Jharkhand, Bihar, as he launched an attack on the Ramgarh cantonment. So furious was the assault, that the British with all their advanced weaponry could not counter, the tribals with very primitive weapons.

Realizing the threat, the British appointed August Cleveland, a very shrewd oficer as the Collector in charge of Bhagalpur, Munger and Rajmahal districts. Cleveland, used the typical divide and rule tactics, learning Santhali to communicate better with the natives, giving tax exemptions, and also raising an army unit from the hill tribes. The tactic worked as around 40 tribes in the Santhal Parganas region, accepte the Company’s authority.

Though Cleveland tried to win Tilka over by offering him a position in the army, as well as granting tax exemptions, he refused to fall for their luring. He kept organizing the various tribes, sending messages on sal groups to those which had not accepted the British rule, as he managed to win their support. He then made a daring raid on Bhagalpur in 1784 taking the British by surprise. Cleveland was killed when a poison tipped arrow from Tilka’s bow hit him, as they retreated to the jungles again.

The raid on Bhagalpur, and Cleveland’s death rattled the British even more, as they sent a strong force under Lt. Gen Eyre Coote to end Tilka’s revolt and capture him. With one of his own men betraying his location to the British, Tilka had to flee in the face of a British attack on his hideout. While Tilka managed to escape, many of his fellow comrades, were killed in the raid.

Though Tilka still carried out the raids from the forests near to Bhagalpur, the British blocked all the routes, leaving him with no option but to engage with them in the open. He was finally captured on January 12,1785, with his hungry and tired forces being overpowered. He was executed on January 13,1785 in one of the most brutal manner ever. Tied to horses, he was dragged for miles, and then hanged from a banyan tree. He was just 35 when he laid down his life for the cause of freedom.

Tilka Manjhi’s sacrifice would not go in vain,he inspired many other tribal revolts in Jharkhand, like the Santhal revolt of the Murmu brothers, and later Birsa Munda’s. A statue of him has been erected at the Bhagalpur court, where he was hanged, while the University at Bhagalpur has been named after him too. Many Santhali folk songs sing about his bravery and sacrifice.

Antother such hero from Jharkhand, belonged to the Kharia tribe, primarily found in the East Singhbum, Gumla and Simdega districts. They are also found in large numbers in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, while in Bengal, they are concentrated in Purulia, along with West Midnapur and Bankura. They are primarily divided into three groups- Hill, Delki and Dudh Kharia.

Telang Kharia born on February 9, 1806,  at Murugu village of Jharkhand’s Gumla district, to Thunya Kharia, a storekeeper in the palace of the Chotanagpur Nagvansi king of Ratu, and Ratni Kharia. A brave, honest lad by nature, who like most Adivasis was involved in agriculture and animal husbandry. He often was witness to debates on social, political issues in the court of the king, which made him develop a deep interest in them.

From a long time, the Adivasis had their own traditional , autonomous form of self-governance, called the Parha system. The sytem however was under threat from the British who had established their rule over the Chotanagpur region. The tribals now had to pay revenue called malgujari on their own land which they had been cultivating for centuries. Reduced to penury, exploited by the local zamindars and sahukars, who were hand in glove with the British, they led a miserable life. Forever under the threat of debt, their lands were confiscated by the sahukars when they could not repay the loans.

It was against this oppresive setup that Telanga Kharia began his revolt, organizing people and raising awareness in them. He created a parallel form of Government setting up Jury Panchayats all across Gumla, Simdega, Sisai, Kolebira and Chainpur. He set up Akharas to train his followers in usage of arms, wrestling, and raised an army of around 1500 trained men. Using guerilla tactics, he began to launch a series of ambush attacks against the British, and their stooges.

From 1850-60, Telanga led an intense revolt against the British in Chotanagpur, as he primarily launched attacks from his forest hideout to avoid detection. However with one of the Zamindar’s agents informing the British about his presence, they surrounded the Jury Panchayat, and arrested him. He was first sent to Lohardaga prison and later on to Kolkata, where he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

After his release from prison, he again met his followers at the Sisai Akhara, with an intention to renew the movement. With the information reaching the British, they planned to get rid of him now.

April 23, 1860

Telanga was offering his prayers at the Sisai Akhara, when one of the British agents Bodhan Singh, ambushed and shot him dead, as he collapsed on the spot. However his followers immediately carried his body to the forest, so that the Britishers could not find his corpse. Crossing the Koel river, they burried his body at the Soso Neem Toli village of Gumla district. This place is now known as Telanga Topa Tand, and is a pilgrimage spot for the Kharia community. His sacrifice is commemorated by the Adivasis here annually on this date, and a week long Sahid Telanga Mela is organized at the Dhedhouli village of Gumla district.

Posted in Indian Freedom Struggle, Jharkhand, Jharkhand, Jharkhand Tribal Revolts, Revolutionary Movements, Tribal Revolts | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Dr Raja Ramanna

The Pokhran experiment was a landmark in the history of nuclear research in the country. It was an assertion of the technological advancement India had determined to perfect in the post-independence era.- Dr Raja Ramanna

One of the great scientific achievements of modern India has been Pokhran I on May 18, 1974, when it carried out it’s first ever peaceful nuclear test. And the man behind this feat, was one of the most multifaceted personalities ever, an eminent nuclear physicist, technologist, administrator, a gifted musician, Sanskrit scholar. Handpicked by Homi J Bhabha himself, he would go on to lead the team for Pokhran I.

Dr. Raja Ramanna, born on January 28, 1925 in Tiptur, located in Tumkur district, to Ramanna and Rukmini, he was a student of Bishop Cotton’s, Bangalore and later Madras Christian College, where he studied arts and literature. His mother came from a well to do family, daughter of a district judge, with a passion for literature. She was fluent in English as well as Kannada, composing poems and articles, as well as a very traditional, religious lady. His father was in the judicial service, a sports enthusiast.

While his early education was in Mysore, he later joined the Bishop Cotton School in Bangalore, where he developed an interest for classical music. He would later graduate from MCC with a degree in Physics, as well as a BA in Classical Music, his twin passions. And finish his Post Graduation in Physics from Bombay University later on, as well as a Post Graduation in Music too.

He got his PhD in Nuclear Physics from King;s College, London in 1954 and did his research at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, which is where he gained his expertise in nuclear technology. Along with his work in nuclear Physics, Ramanna also continued to follow his passion in Classical Western Music, Western Philosophy, straddling two different worlds at the same time.

On his return to India, he joined BARC, where he worked under Homi Bhabha on classified nuclear projects, whom he considered his major influence. He had earlier met Bhabha in 1944, through Dr Alfred Mistoswki, of the Trinity College of Music. He joined TIFR on December 1, 1949 when it was still in it’s development phase, and began to work on nuclear fission. He would soon contribute in several areas of nuclear physics, as well as organizing the physics program at BARC. When India’s first research reactor Apsara was launched in 1956, Ramanna looked after the neutronic experiments, while A.S. Rao was the electronics specialist in cosmic ray studies, as well as the control and instrumentation work. Homi Sethna managed the logistics support, heading the Indian Rare Earths Ltd, that supplied the material for the swimming pool reactor, while K.S.Singhvi handled the theoretical physics of the reactor, N. Bhanu Prasad was responsible for overall design of the reactor, and V.T.Krishnan handled the construction part.

Ramanna would make significant contribution in the process of neutron thermalisation, slowing down constants in water and berrylium oxide by using a pulsed neutron source. The neutron spectra emerging out of these moderating assemblies were also studied. Apsara, once commissioned, made intense thermal neutron beams available for basic research, motivating Ramanna to undertake a program of experimental investigations of secondary radiations, emitted in thermal neutron-induced fission of U235. The stochastic theory of fragment mass and charge distributions in fission is a unique contribution of Ramanna to fission theory. The theory, which was based on the model of a random exchange of nucleons between the two nascent fission fragments prior to scission, could explain most of the observed features of fragment mass and charge distribution in low energy fission and their dependence on the excitation energy of the fissioning nucleus.

 With the sudden death of Bhabha, it was Ramanna who too over as directing officer of India’s still fledgling nuclear program, as well as taking the initiative to develop the first nuke as well as the Pokhran Test site.

Ramanna designed and developed the first nuclear weapon in India, as well as sourcing the material needed. In 1974, he met Indira Gandhi and informed her, that India was ready to conduct nuclear tests on it’s own. With Indira giving permission, he travelled all the way to Pokhran where the nuclear Test site was set up by him earlier. All the preparations for the test were conducted under extreme secrecy.

The first nuclear device in India was flown from Trombay to Pokhran, as Ramanna along with his team, had it installed, and made the necessary preparation in time for Indira Gandhi’s visit.

May 1974, Operation Smiling Buddha

India’s first ever nuclear test. The man behind it Dr. Raja Ramanna, along with Dr. Homi Sethna, India entered the exclusive nuclear club.

You have done enough for your country; don’t go back. Stay here and take over our nuclear programme. I will pay you whatever you want.- Saddam Hussein to Dr. Raja Ramanna.

While Indira rewarded Dr. Ramanna with the Padma Vibhushan, Saddam Hussein, approached him in 1978, when he was on a visit to Baghdad to develop their nuclear bomb. Needless to say Dr. Ramanna was literally scared out of his wits by Saddam’s proposal, and after a sleepless night, took the first flight out of Baghdad, that was one narrow escape for him.

In his later years however Ramanna called for peaceful use of nuclear energy, and advocated disarmament. He would later serve as director of DRDO, and was a scientific advisor to the Defense Ministry in 2000. He was a gifted musician too, an expert piano player. He authored a book on The Structure of Music in Raga And Western Systems. His autobiography Years of Pilgrimage is worth a read too.

He also served for some time as Minister of State for Defense in the VP Singh Govt, and was a nominated member of Rajya Sabha from 1997-2003. And was closely associated with IIT, Mumbai.

Dr Raja Ramanna passed away on Sept 24,2004 at the age of 79, but his legacy would forever remain in the form of Pokhran I, and his sterling work in India’s nuclear program, especially after the sudden death of Bhabha.

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G. N. Ramachandran

“If you think you know it, then you do not know it, and if you know that you cannot know it, then you know it”.

One of the biggest advances in the field of molecular biophysics, has been the discovery of the triple hellical structure of collagen, that enabled a better understanding of the peptide structure.The Ramachandran plot has become a standard description of protein structures in the text books.

And the man behind this discovery,  G.N. Ramachandran or GNR as he was known, one of the great Indian scientists of modern era, who was an equally good Vedic scholar, studied the Upanishads in depth and interpreted their teachings. His contributions in molecular biophysics, especially protein structure, were worthy of a Noble, which like most other Indian scientists was denied. He set up two centers for molecular biophysics at IISc, and University of Madras, both of which are among the best in the world today. He was also deeply interested in Indian classical music and philosophy.

He was born on Oct 8, 1922 at Ernakulam, the eldest son of G.R. Naryana Iyer, a maths professor at Maharajah’s College and and Lakshmi Ammal. Much like the Travancore Maharaja, the Kochi Maharaja was an equally wise and enlightened ruler.In a way Kerala was fortunate that both the major royal families- Travancore and Kochi, had the foresight to invest in education, set up excellent universities and colleges, laying the foundation.

Because of his ability and thoroughness he became the most senior and respected member of the department and retired as the Principal. He had a very sharp mind in mathematics and he used to teach me mathematics. I had been exposed to most of the theories in analytical geometry even before I went to college. When I was in high school, he would bring books on mathematics from the library and give me some challenging theorem to prove every day. He would write equations and ask me to solve them. He was a wizard in mathematics

His father would later retire as the principal of Maharaja’s College, and he credited his interest in mathematics to him.He  later joined St.Josephs. Trichy in 1939, topping the Physics Honors course in the entire Madras Presidency. Though his father wanted him to join the Civil Services, he was not interested, and he later joined the Electrical Engg dept at IISc.

“Raman had great respect for students who were better than him in mathematics. He gave me another problem to study the scattering of light by small particles, 3 or 4 times the wavelength of the radiation used.”- G.N.Ramachandran

However motivated by the fact that the Physics Department there was headed by the legendary C.V.Raman, whom he considered one of his biggest influences, other two being Linus Pauling and William Bragg, he switched to what he called his first love. Raman was particularly impressed by his ability to solve the Raleigh-Jeans problem in optics, and the way he tackled it with rigorous proof. He recommended him for a scholarship, gave him an associate degree too, and would be his mentor in many ways.

He got his MSc from Madras University in 1944, his thesis was on propagation of light through optically heterogeneous media. Even after Post Graduation, he still continued his PhD under Raman, his doctoral research included photo-elasticity and thermo-optic behavior of different solids such as diamond, fused quartz. His research contained some of the earliest applications of X-Ray diffraction, and also coined the term topograph for such pictures.

He went to Cambridge in 1947, to purse his research at the Cavendish Laboratory, headed by William Bragg then. However he could not directly work with Bragg and instead was assigned to Dr. Wooster. He also attended Dirac’s lectures on Quantum Mechanics and met one of his idols Linus Pauling at Cambridge, whom he particularly admired for his work on the polypeptides structure. In fact, his ideas on Chemistry were to a great extent shaped by Pauling’s works, and he even composed a limerick on his idol. He worked in three projects there- instrumentation, electronics and the development of a mathematical theory to study diffuse X-ray diffraction, and use it in determining the elastic constants of crystals.

On his return to India in 1949, he was appointed as Asst Professor of Physics at IISc, however his mentor Raman was no longer there, having left IIsc and started his own Raman Research Institute. He was put in charge of the  X-Ray Diffraction Lab there, that would later become a major research center at IISc.In 1952, he shifted to Madras University, on the request of it’s Vice Chancellor , Dr. A. Lakshmanaswamy Mudaliar, a long time Raman associate, to head the newly formed Physics Dept there. Mudaliar had actually wanted Raman to do so,but expressing his inability to do so, he recommended Ramachandran instead. 

Ramachandran who was thirty years, took charge of the Physics Department that was housed in a single room and a lab at the AC College in Guindy. It had only two members, other being Alladi Ramakrishnan for theoretical physics, and soon the Department would grow under his guidance.He organized two major international conferences in 1963, 1968, managing to get in the likes of Linus Pauling,Paul Florty and others, ensuring that the University got global recognition.

Unfortunately with the retirement of Mudaliar, GNR did not have the support, and with the next VC Sundara Vadivelu playing dirty, he resigned from Madras University in 1970 and came back to his first love IISc, which was being headed by Satish Dhawan then. Dhawan gave him the responsibility of setting up new Dept of Molecular Biophysics at IISc, in 197, that would soon became a major center of structural biology research.

His major contribution would be the discovery of the triple helical structure of collagen, motivated by the remarks of J.D.Bernal that it’s structure theory was not satisfactory. He came out with this theory in a paper co-authored with Gopinath Kartha in 1955.

He was equally fascinated by Fourier Transforms, applying them for developing the theory of Image Reconstruction from X-Ray Radiographs. In 1971 NGR alongwith A.V. Lakshminarayana published a seminal research paper on 3 D Image reconstruction, that would lead to the development of CT Scan. In 1976 he came up with Boolean Algebra Vector Matrix Formulation based on Fundamental theory and Mathematical philosophy.

The death of his wife Rajalakshmi in 1998, devastated him emotionally, and his later years were spent grappling with depression, and psychiatric problems. Afflicted by Parkinson’s disease, he passed away in Chennai on April 7, 2001, one of the great Indian scientists of modern India was no more.

G.N. Ramachandran was acclaimed as a scientist of Nobel Prize caliber by Linus Pauling, Francis Crick among others. Unfortunately forget Bharat Ratna, he was not even given a Padma Award, nor has his contribution been given due recognition, except in IISc. He  was truly one of the great scientists of modern India, on par with the likes of Raman, J.C.Bose, S.N.Bose, Bhatnagar, Sarabhai, Bhabha. A scientists who deserved the Nobel, much like Yellapragada, SN Bose but never got it.

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1965 India Pakistan War

Though the 1965 War between India and Pakistan started in September 1965 when the Indian army crossed the LoC to launch an attack, it’s genesis could be traced back to Operation Gibraltar in August 1965,when the Pakistani began to settle large number of infiltrators into the Kashmir Valley, to create a large scale insurgency using the local inhabitants.

India had suffered a humiliating rout in the 1962 War against China, and was still coming to terms with it. Jawaharlal Nehru had passed away, the new incumbent Lal Bahadur Shastri was still yet to be tested. In the meanwhile Pakistan, signed a border agreement with China in 1963, where it handed the Shaksgam Valley to make the alliance stronger. Pakistan felt that with India in a demoralized state following the 1962 rout, it was the best time to launch an attack. The Indian Army was still rebuilding post 1962, it was not militarily as well equipped as the Pakistani Army was, then supported by the US. The Indian and Pakistani forces had earlier clashed in the Rann of Kutch during February.

Pakistan felt emboldened following it’s clash in Rann of Kutch, with India, that gave it a strategic advantage of sorts. The Indian Army struck back during May 1965 capturing three important posts in Kargil sector, and forcing a ceasefire of sorts on July 1, 1965. The Pakistani forces under estimated the capablity of the Indian Army, and began to work on a master plan to liberate Kashmir from what it considered Indian occupation.

Though the operation was a failure, the Pakistani army followed it up with Operation Grand Slam, whose main aim was to seize the vital Akhnoor Bridge in Jammu and Kashmir. India had by then captured the Haji Pir pass in a hard fought battle amidst the most daunting terrain and inclement weather. It’s another thing that the hard fought gains of Haji Pir was squandered when the Indian political leadership handed it back to Pakistan as per the Tashkent Agreement.

With Grand Slam, resulting in a stalemate, the Indian Army opened up a new front on Sept 6, 1965, in Punjab, crossing the International Border led by WWII veteran Major Niranjan Prasad. Earlier they had forced Pakistani infiltrators out of Kargil too, taking control of the strategic town.  It was a win-win strtagy ensuring  that the Pakistan Army was forced to divert it’s resources to Punjab, easing the pressure on those in Kashmir. 

This was the conflict that saw large scale aerial combat between both the sides.  In thee 1948 War, the Indian Air Force was primarily involved in logistics and transport, but during the 1965 War, they played a major role in the combat, giving support to ground forces, and dog fights. IAF evolved from what was purely a support, transport unit into a full fledged combat unit. It was also the first time aerial dogfights took place in an Indo-Pak conflict, IAF flew around 4000 sorties , while PAF flew around 2600 odd.

Burki a small village located in Pakistan’s Punjab province, right near the border, just 11 km from the  Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, and located on the banks of the BRB(Bambawali-Ravi-Bedlan) Canal or Ichogil Canal, would see one of the most intense battles of the War. The Indian army would capture the heavily fortified town by September 11, and hold it in the face of some fierce counter attack by the Pakistani forces.

Khem Kharan is one of those typical small towns that dot the Indian landscape, located just 5 km from the India-Pakistan border, in Punjab’s Taran Taran district. It has a masoleum of a Sufi saint Pir Baba Sheikh Brahm.  The town’s claim to fame is however for what happened during the 1965 War, the Battle of Asal Uttar. One of the largest tank battles fought post World War II, after the Battle of Kursk, it was a turning point in the 1965 War, gave a huge blow to Pakistani ambitions.

The battle would be known for the heroics of tank buster Havaldar Abdul Hamid, recipient of the Param Veer Chakra, who knocked out around 8 Pakistani tanks before falling on the battlefield. The other PVC recipient in the war, Ardeshir Tarapore, was another tank buster,who knocked out around 20 tanks, and showed exemplary heroism in the battles of Phillora and Chawinda, before falling to enemy fire.

One of the hardest fought battles of the war was Dograi, where the Indian Army came withing striking distance of Lahore, in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in the war, with guns, grenades and descending to bayonets, hand to hand street fights.

And above all the war would be remembered for the exemplary leadership of Lal Bahadur Shastri, as Prime Minister, who gave Indian Army the full power, and they managed to beat back the Pakistani forces and force them to sign a peace agreement.

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Battle of Haji Pir- 1965 War

Haji Pir Pass, a mountain pass located on the Western Pir Panjal range at an altitude of 8652 feet. It was the site of two major battles between India and Pakistan during the 1948, 65 Wars. Though India won both the battles, the pass and the entire bulge was handed over again to Pakistan.

The backdrop to the battle was Operation Gibraltar, Pakistan’s clandestine attempt to infiltrate guerillas into Kashmir and destablize the region. However the Operation ended in a fiasco, as the local population did not assist the Pakistani forces, and the Indian army countered it in time.

India cannot go on pushing the Pakistanis off its territory. If infiltration continues, we will have to carry the fight to the other side.- Lal Bahadur Shastri.

The Haji Pir bulge was a very strategic route, used by Pakistan for infiltration to India among the other mountain passes leading into India. The Indian army came up with a pincer attack strategy, that would avoid a frontal assault, which would have resulted in a large number of casualties. Operation Bakshi was the code name from the Western side, by the 19th Infantry led by Brigadier Zorawar Chand Bakshi, who had earlier fought on the Burma front during WWII.

He had earlier won the Vir Chakra for his service in the 1948 War. The operation from the east was code named Operation Faulad, with the 25th Infantry leading the charge. 19 Punjab, 4 Rajput and 1 Para were the main strike units, while 6 JAK Light Infantry, 4 Sikh Light Infantry made up the reserve.

August 26, 1965

The operation began as 1 Para crossed the LOC towards Sank that was heavily defended with mines and barbed wires. Bakshi himself led the assault, in heavy rain, across very steep terrain, and in the wee hours of the morning on August 27, 1965, they managed to secure Sank. The Pakistani defenders fled leaving behind their heavy weapons, as the batallion also captured Sar, Ledi Wali Gali on the same day.

The other hero was Major Ranjit Singh Dyal, born into a Sikh family in a small village of Kurukshetra dt, Haryana. He took part in the 1948 War as part of the Punjab Regiment, Parachute Brigade. Getting permission to proceed on to Haji Pir, Dyal had to face a counter attack from the Pakistani forces. Leaving one platoon of his to face the Pakistanis, he led the rest across the steep western shoulder of the pass. Carrying heavy loads, in the downpour, across the steep cliffs, was sheer raw heroism. The attack from both the flanks, made the Pakistani defenders flee abandoning their weapons. Haji Pir was captured by August 28 at 10:30 AM, a counter attack by Pakistanis was repulsed on August 29.

In the meanwhile 19 Punjab captured Pathra on August 26, however 4 Rajput was unable to capture Bedori, due to the treacherous terrain and was forced to retreat with heavy casualties. The commander of 19 Punjab attacked Bedori from another direction, and captured it by August 29. Bisali fell to 4 Rajput on September 5, and by September 10, the entire Haji Pir Bugle came under Indian control.

The capture of Haji Pir pass and the entire bulge was a major victory for the Indian army, as it plugged the Pakistani infiltrations and bought the entire Uri-Poonch road under Indian control. It was a victory pulled off under the toughest circumstances in extremely difficult terrain, adverse weather conditions and well entrenched Pakistani defences. Both Brigadier Bakshi and Major Dyal were awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, while 1 Para was awarded the Battle Honor of Hajipur and Theater Honor of Jammu and Kashmir.

Sadly the gains were lost, when the Indian Govt handed back the Haji Pir Pass, that the Army had won with great difficulty, to Pakistan under the Tashkent Agreement. One of the major strategic blunders to date, as most of the inflitration by terrorists from Pakistan into India still continues through this pass.

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