Dr. Hargobind Khorana

Har Gobind Khorana Biography in Hindi | डा.हरगोविंद खुराना की जीवनी

Ever since the existence of earth,and the creation of various animals, birds and humans in the universe, one of the most fundamental questions, that has been asked. How is it that we are so similar  to our parents?  Be it skin color, or facial features or physical build, how is it that we inherit these characteristics from our parents. A question that has prompted scientists of the world to also clone living beings based on certain characteristics.  Apart from humans, birds, animals, scientists have also been able to create new species of trees and crops. And this was based on what we call as genetics or the study of genes across different species. One such scientist was Dr. Hargobind Khorana who won the Nobel in 1968 along with Marshall Nirenberg and Robert Holley, for showing how order of nucleotides in nucleic acids, that carry the cell’s genetic code control the synthesis of proteins.

Born in a small village called Rapur, presently in Multan district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, in 1922, his father Ganpat Rai Khurana was a Patwari, basically a taxation clerk in that village. The youngest of five children, he initially studied in the village school. Though coming from a poor background, his father ensured his children did not miss out on education, taught them to read. He used to study under the village tree, would often have to go to other village homes to get embers for cooking coal.

He later joined DAV Multan, where his teacher Dina Nath Jee, became a father figure of sorts to him, after his own father passed away.  After school, he joined the Govt College  in Lahore, where he took up a scholarship for further studies. After graduating from Punjab University in Bsc Honors in 1943, and later Msc in 1945, he got a Fellowship at Liverpool for doing his Doctorate.

In fact, when Khorana applied for PhD in UK, the only placement he could find was in Liverpool Univ, and he did it from there. He got his PhD in 1948 for his work on Organic Chemistry, where he did research on Bacterial Pigmentation and Alkaloid structures under Roger Beer. He had an open mind when it came to research, apart from his field chemistry he also studied on biology and physics.He believed in adopting the best techniques, and he would spend time in other labs too observing the working there.

After Partition, he came to Delhi as a Refugee, around the same time he got a Fellowship from the Govt of India for further research, at Zurich. Between 1948-49, he spent a post doctoral year at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich  under Professor Vladimir Prelog, who would later win the Nobel  in 1975 for his work on stereochemistry. This was the period, that in fact influenced his thoughts on science. and his philosophical attitude too.

Returning back to India after doing research on Etherene Alkaloid, he however did not have the proper facilities nor environment to carry out further research here. He once again got a Fellowship at Cambridge, where carried out his research with Sir  A.R. Todd who won the Nobel in 1957 for his work on enzymes and Dr. G.W.Kenner. Again this period was when he began to explore proteins and the structure  nucleic acids, which would form the basis for his Award winning work later on. Around the same time, Fred Sanger was working on sequencing insulin, first protein to be done so at Cambridge. Max Perutz and John Kendrew, were working on first x-rays of myloglobin and haemoglobin during the same time. The work of Sanger, Perutz, motivated Dr.Khorana, to study on proteins and nucleic acids at Cambridge.During this time he fell in love with and married Swiss national Esther Elizabeth Silber too.

In 1952, a job offer from Dr. Gordon Shrum of British Columbia made him move all the way to Vancouver on Canada’s West Coast, where he joined the nascent British Columbia Research Center. Though the facilities were limited, the environment offered him enough freedom to explore and discover. It was during this time, that with encouragement from Dr.Shrum and good advice from Dr. Jack Campbell, he formed a seven member team to work on phosphate esters and nucleic acids. Notable biochemists like Arthur Konberg and Paul Berg, soon began to take note of Dr.Khorana’s work.

By 1960 he moved to the University of Wisconsin, Institute of Enzyme Research, which is where his biggest achievement would come.  This is where he elucidated the genetic code, function in protein synthesis. The experiment earlier by Nirenberg and Leder on the triplet nature of the genetic code, was the basis for Khorana’s study.  He confirmed Nirenberg’s findings of the chemical composition of a cell is determined by arrangement of 4 nucleotide. Basically it meant that arrangement of 4 nucleotide on the spiral DNA staircase, was what confirmed a cell’s chemical composition, function. He also showed that nucleotide code is transmitted in groups of 3 called codons, which play a role in production of proteins.

The concept of gene manipulation was again first outlined by Dr.Khorana, way before individual genes were characterized. For his pioneering work on elucidating the genetic code, and function in protein synthesis, he was given the Nobel in Medicine along with Marshall Nirenberg and Robert Holley in 1968. Apart from his work on genetic code, he is also credited for creation of synthetic DNA oligonucleotides.

His  work on synthetic DNA oligonucleotides, would later play a role in creation of artificial genes and primers.This in turn laid foundation for development of the polymerase chain reaction(PCR), which helped in amplification of DNA fragments. He later moved to MIT and in 1976, along with his colleagues achieved first synthesis of an artificial gene in a living cell.

Apart from science, Dr.Khorana also had an interest in Western classical music, which he got from his Swiss wife. He  loved nature, and he would often go for long walks or hiking or swimming.In fact more often than not he , would use the long walks to think through solving any scientific problems.Having spent the rest of his career in MIT, Dr.Khorana passed away in 2011, at age of 89, after a long and sterling career. In spite of his achievements, Dr.Khorana was known for his modest, down to earth attitude, not given to much publicity. The exchange program between University of Madison and Govt of India, Indo-US Science and Tech Forum, has been named in his honor.

Posted in Punjab, Science in India | Leave a comment

Veerapandya Kattaboman

Panchalankurichi is a small village located in Tamil Nadu’s  Thoothukudi district. It gets it’s name from the fact that 5 Pandya chieftains or Pancha Pandyas put up a brave resistance against the Madurai Nayaks in a valley( Kurichi) nearby.  The place was founded by Jaga Veera Pandya, when he saw a hare giving chase to the hounds, and considered it a land of great valor. Known for their bravery, and resistance to invaders, this place would witness the birth of one of it’s greatest sons on January 3, 1760, who became an icon of resistance to British rule, and inspired a generation of freedom fighters.

Image result for veerapandiya kattabomman

Veerapandya Kattaboman, one of the great freedom fighters and revolutionaries, who was a terror to the British, with his lightning raid tactics and stubborn resistance.


His  ancestors originally belonged to Andhra Pradesh, and migrated to a village in Tamil Nadu called Salikulam.  Belonging to what was called the Thogalvar community, they were skilled fighters, known for their stubborn never say die attitude on the battlefield. Kattabommu, was a Chief Guard to then Pandya ruler Jaga Veera Pandian of Veerapandiyapuram( currently Ottapidaram), which also accounts for their name. Loyal, devoted and known for his bravery, Kattabommu gained the confidence of the Pandyan ruler.

With no male heir to succeed him, Jagaveera Pandyan, crowned Kattabommu as his succesor, who named himself as Jagaveera Pandya Kattabommu, and later founded the town of Panchalamkruchi.  He built a fort here with a 12 feet high wall, and 500 feet length, 300 feet breadth, made of black clay, mixed with straw or paddy. Surrounded by thorny bale bushes, the fort was considered quite impregnable and could withstand any form of attack.

Veerapandiya Kattaboman, was the 47th in the line of Kattaboman dynasty rulers, the eldest son of Jagaveera Pandya and Arumugathammal. He had two younger brothers Omaithurai, Thuraisingam and two sisters Easuvaravadivy and Thuraikannu. Crowned as the ruler on February 2, 1790, when he was thirty years, he proved himself to be a wise and capable ruler. Maintaining good relationship with the neighbouring chieftains, he was ably served by his generals Vellaiathevan and Sundaralingam. A devotee of Murugan of Tiruchendur and Jakamma, he had constructed 45 bell towers between Panchalamkurichi and Tiruchendur, that would convey the pooja time, in a relay system. Also a great patron of arts and music, he generously donated to many scholars, musicians, dancers.

Resistance to British

During that time the East India Company had established itself at Fort St.George in Chennai, for doing trading.  In reality they were slowly establishing their rule over India, through a policy of divide and rule. More often they not struck deals with Indian rulers, ensured they were in debt to them, and had to act as per their bidding. One such ruler was the Nawab of Arcot, who ruled over a larger amount of territory in Tamil Nadu.  With the Nawab in full debt to the British, during 1781, the British demanded the right to collect taxes from his domain. Though the Nawab was opposed to the demand, he was helpless, as the British gave themselves the right to collect taxes. The British took advantage of the fact that the Nawab did not have money to pay his soldiers either, and they shrewdly merged his army with theirs.

With the Nawab helplessly acceding to the British request, they slowly began to bring all the rulers of South under their control, using their standard divide and rule tactics. East India Company announced that the Nawab had no authority now, and the Southern rulers were under the direct control of the British. Restrictions were imposed on construction of new forts, or formation of army, in effect the rulers were reduced to plain contractors for the British. Kattaboman was furious at the British skulldudgery, and took a pledge to oppose it till his end.

Soon he began to gather all his neighboring rulers- Nagalapuram, Kolarpatti, Kulathor, the Zamindars of Sivagiri , the Maruthu brothers of Sivaganga, a section of the Ramnad royal family, forming a union against the British. The British however successfully managed to wean away most of the rulers, who in turn advised Kattabomman to make peace with the British and abandon his revolt. The British took advantage of the petty differences between the rulers, turning one against each other.  They turned the Zamorin of Ettayapuram, Ettappa Naicker against Kattabomman, who in turn became one of their most trusted allies.

In spite of the repeated presssure, and the British weaning away his allies, Kattabomman stuck to his stand and refused to pay any tax to them. Matter of fact, he intensified his revolt against the British, and received support from the Maharaja of Ramnad.  When the Maharaja was arrested by the British in 1797, Kattabomman, along with his brother Oomathurai,  gathered forces to attack them at Sivagiri. The British took this as an opportunity to trap and capture Kattabomman.

Encounter with British

Around the same time in 1798 Jackson took over charge as Collector of Tirunelveli, and he managed to win over most of the local Zamindars and Chieftains to his side. Except Kattabomman that is, who expected a formal invitation. Not surprisingly Jackson was annoyed by Kattabomman’s attitude, and in two letters to him during February-April, warned him that his territory would be seized, if he did not pay taxes. Kattabomman however ignored those letters, and a furious Jackson ordered his arrest. He was however advised by higher British authorties to call Kattabomman for talks.

Jackson asked Kattabomman to meet him at Ramanthapuram, which he accepted and proceeded to along with his forces. Jackson however indicated he wanted to meet Kattabomman alone, more a trap to arrest him. Knowing fully well it was a trap, he neverthless walked in alone to meet Jackson, in the palace, leaving his guards outside. A war of words broke out between Kattabomman and Jackson, over paying taxes, which is when he uttered the famous words

“Why do we need to pay tax to you? Have you planted the crops, have you watered them? Did you sow them?”

A heated battle ensured between the British forces and Kattaboman’s army in which a officer Clarke was killed, and his minister Thanapathi Pillai was captured by the British.  Kattabomman wrote a letter to the higher authorities asking them to release Pillai, and after an inquiry into Jackson’s high handed behavior, they released him. Jackson was dismissed and sent back to England, and in January 1799, Lousington took charge as the new Collector.

Lousington once again invited Kattabomman for talks, and he gave him permission for his guards to accompany him. He arrived at Ramanthapuram with his full army, and he refused to meet Lousington, unless given a formal invitation. The Collector insisted that Kattabomman must pay tax, through his revenue officer at least. To which he flatly refused and returned back to Panchalamkurichi .  Left with no option, Lousington, wrote to the authorities and recommended war as the only option against Kattaboman.

The War Begins

5th Sept, 1799, the British under Major Bannerman invaded Panchalamkurichi , at a time when all it’s subjects were celebrating a festival at Tiruchendur. Kattabomman however had advance information of this attack, through his informers, and was ready. Bannerman had earlier asked Kattabomman to surrender to which he defiantly replied

We are the sons of this soil. We live with prestige, honour and dignity and we let our soul die for the prestige, honour and dignity of our land. We don’t bow down to the foreigners. We will fight until death.

One of the most pitched and intense battles was fought, with neither side giving an inch. Facing strong resistance from Kattaboman, the British were forced to retreat, and Bannerman, bided his time, awaiting cannons from Palaymkottai to break down the fort. Once the cannons arrived, the fort could not withstand the assault and broke down. Kattbomman lost his able general Vellaiyathevan, while he himself killed many officers in the British Army.  On the last day, an injured Kattabomman was escorted from the battlefield by his aides, and took shelter in the home of the Kolarpatti Zamindar. However the forces of  Etappa Naicker surrounded it, and once again Kattabomman had to escape. His minister Thanapathi Pillai though was captured, killed at Nagalapuram and his head was placed for display at Panchalamkurichi.

For some time Kattabomman and his men took refuge in the Thirukalampur forest, which came under the Rajah of Pudukottai. Knowing this the British, forced the Rajah to to trace him and hand over to them, or else his kingdom would be destroyed. Under duress, the Rajah ordered a search and on Sept 24, 1799 Katabomman was traced out and arrested. Handed to the British, he was sent to Kayathar prison for custody.

The trial began on October 16, 1799 where the British invited all the local Zamindars, in what was essentially a fabricated trial. Kattabomman, refused to surrender, give up on his self respect, and accused the British of illegal, immoral occupation. When the British offered him amnesty, if he asked for a pardon, Kattabomman shot back

“Do what you want to do, you cowards”.

Finally on October 16th, 1799, from a tamarind tree at Kayathar, Veerapandya Kattabomman was hanged to death. A great son of Bharat gave up his life, he would inspire a generation of freedom fighters and revolutionaries.

Posted in Polygar Wars, Tamil Nadu | Leave a comment

S.N.Bose-The God Particle


Dhaka  University, 1921

The University had just started functioning, the masters class in Physics was in progress. The reader taking up the class decided to enliven it a bit, by taking up a problem that was at the centerpoint of most scientific discussions then. Planck’s Radiation Law, which described the spectral density of elctromagnetic radiation, emitted by a black body in thermal equlibrium at a given temperature T.

A good twenty one years after Max Planck had proposed it, the law still did not seem to have a solid foundation. Einstein in the meantime had come up with the Photo Electric effect in 1905, where he introduced the concept of photon, making good use of Planck’s law, especially the high frequency part.The reader had an idea, why not reverse what Einstein did, and use the photon instead to explain Planck’s theory, especially the high frequency part. Photons were considered to be identical particles, and the entire Planck Spectrum emerged from it.

The reader – Satyendranath Bose or more popularly known as S.N.Bose.

What emerged from the discussion, would give rise to what is called the Bose-Einstein Statistics. It would lay the foundation for the Bose-Einstein condensate theory. And also a class of particles called Bosons named after him by Paul Dirac.

But then again to call him just a scientist, would be akin to calling Leonardo Da Vinci a mere painter. Much like his other namesake and contemporary, J.C.Bose,  he was a polymath, equally adept in music, literature,mineralogy.

The multi facted genius was born on January 1, 1894 in a middle class Kolkata family, his father Surendranath Bose, an accountant in the East India Railway Company.  The only son in a family that had six daughters after him. Bought up by his mother Amodini Devi, he later joined the New Indian School in the Goabagan neigbhorhood of Kolkata.  Seeing his skills at mathematics, his father encouraged him more by giving problems to solve. Joining the prestigious Hindu School in 1907 at the age of 13,  he soon got recognition as an oustanding student in maths and science.  His maths teacher, believed he could be the next Pierre Laplace.

Soon he joined Kolkata’s prestigious Presidency College, and majored in Applied Mathematics. Again proving to be an outstanding student, graduating in 1913 with distinction. He also learnt German and French, that helped him to read scientific works in those languages.

Into Academia

Bose entry into the world of Academia, was not an easy intiation for him. With World War I breaking out in 1914 all over Europe, scientific journals began to arrive less frequently. This just at a time, when quantum theory, relativity was arriving as a new field of study, and add to that, Kolkata University was still in a nascent stage adopting PhD programs. However the then Vice Chancellor, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, father of Dr.Shyam Prasad Mukherjee, began to spend funds in establishing professorships and new programs. He also gave scholarships for post graduates, and access to his own private library that had some of the best works on science and mathematics. Bose along with his friend Meghnad Saha, managed to get some of the best books through Paul Bruhl, an Austrian teaching physics at the Bengal Engineering College.

By 1916 end, he started giving applied mathematics lecturers and later in physics too. He was appointed to CV Raman Chair of Physics in 1917, and by 1919, along with Saha, published English translation of  Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. In 1921, he was appointed at the University of Dhaka as Physics Reader, where he made his most famous discovery.

Quantum Statistics

Bose’s greatest achievement was his derivation of Planck’s radiation law, a problem that had occupied the minds of some of the best physicists of that time. Max Planck’s law tried to provide a solution to failure of classical physics, to account for range of electromagnetic radiation frequencies emitted by a hot body. Basically Planck’s theory stated that if energy is quantized- coming in fixed multiples of what is called as Planck’s constant- the theory of radiation could be explained.  In a way that theory gave rise to what we know as Quantum Physics, and would drive the evolution of modern science.

Einstein in 1905 took Planck’s theory, and applied the classical Boltzmann statistics to it, which allowed him to describe the photon. Brilliant as his work was, many leading physicists of the time, rejected it, saying that light could only travel in waves and not particles.  Wave particle duality was still unheard of, the concept that circumstances determine whether light could travel as a wave or particle. It was around this time Bose was preparing to teach Planck’s theory and something did not seem right to him.

What Bose did was replace Boltzmann’s statistics with his own,  where the latter claimed that each particle was different from others. Bose statistical theory claimed that all particles are same, and not different. And he sent the paper called Planck’s Law and Hypothesis of  Light Quanta to Philosophical Magazine. However his thesis was rejected, which was ironical as it would actually prove to be one of the most ground breaking theories ever.

And in 1924, he sent his thesis to Einstein directly stating

I have ventured to send you the accompanying article for your perusal and opinion. I am anxious to know what you think of it. You will see that I have tried to deduce the coefficient 8πν2/c3 in Planck’s Law independent of the classical electrodynamics.

Einstein immediately knew that he was looking at one of the most significant breakthroughs in science. Planck’s quantum law used one of the classical physics factors, 8πν2/c3.  And this mixing up of classical and quantum laws was not easily acceptable to many scientists then. Bose had managed to produce the same factor, without using any classical physics theory, but instead it came from his own hypothesis that photons with equal energy were not distinguishable from each other.

Einstein translated Bose’s work into German, got it published in the journal,Zeitschrift für Physik.  He called it a very important step, actually it was a ground breaking theory, that laid one of the foundations for Quantum Physics.  The more Einstein dwelt over Bose theory, the more he was intrigued by it. He considered the possibility of applying Bose Quantum Statistics to a gas made of atoms to see the effects.

Bose-Einstein condensate

And this led to one of the major breakthroughs, the Bose-Einstein Condensate, where each particle in a collection of particles exists in the same identical quantum state. Roughly this is what happens during formation of a Bose Einstein Condensate

atom particles

At room temperature, the atoms in gas behave like particles.

atom waves

As temperature rises, the atoms gain wave nature, and move closer to each other.

atom waves condensing

As temperature rises more and more, inching to absolute zero, waves merge to form a single super wave.

atom waves condensate

Within a millionth of a degree of absolute zero, the Bose Einstein Condensate forms, all individual atoms have merged.

In December 1946, Paul Dirac coined the word bosons, in honor of Bose for  particles that obey Bose-Einstein statistics and fermion in honor of Fermi for particles obeying Fermi-Dirac statistics.

Bose was interested in making science popular too and also strongly supported Indian independence. He believed that a well educated, enlightened population was what could move India on the path to progress. He also promoted Bengali as a medium of instruction, translated many scientific papers into it. Apart from science, he also had a keen interest in English, Bengali literature, and even did research on it.

As Head of Department for Physics at University of Dhaka, in 1926, he made it a hub for scientific research, setting up an X-Ray crystallography lab himself.Along with Meghnad Saha, Bose also published an equation of state for real gases during his stint at Dhaka.

After Partition, S.N.Bose returned to Kolkata where he taught till 1956, and then later became VC of Shantiniketan too. He insisted, that every student should use local materials and technicians to design their own equipment. He later returned to Kolkata where he did research in nuclear physics, and also on organic chemistry. He also worked on applied research, he did great work in extracting helium from the hot springs at Bakreshwar. A true polymath he did research in fields as varied as literature, biotechnology, zoology,antrophology.

In 1959, S.N.Bose was appointed as National Professor, the highest honor for a scholar, and was in the position for 15 years.He  also worked as an advisor to the newly formed CSIR, and was General President of Indian Science Congress. And was good at playing the esraj too a form of musical instrument.


 It’s sad that inspite of his pioneering research on Bosons, Quantum Statistics, Bose never got a Nobel Prize.The irony was that scientists who did research on Bosons, Bose-Einstein statistics were given Nobel, but Bose himself did not get it. Jayant Narlikar rated S.N.Bose’s work on particle statistics as one of the Top 10 Achievements of Indian science in 20th century. When asked about the Nobel, S.N.Bose simply remarked – I got all the recognition that I deserve, he was not too hung up on it.The fact that his research would play an important role in scientifc discourse was more important than the Nobel.

 Source: https://www.famousscientists.org/s-n-bose/
Posted in Bengal, Bengal Renaissance, Science in India, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bal Gangadhar Tilak

(This post was already published by me at Offprint, I am reproducing the same here


The mathematics class was going on, and the teacher asked a rather difficult question to the class.  The other students were still working on it, but one voice gave out the answer in an instant.

“Who is it that answered the question without even working on the sum” asked the astonished teacher.

Couple of boys in the class pointed out to where the voice came from.

The teacher went to the boy,looked at his note book,  and was surprised, he had not even written down the problem.
“Where have you worked out the problem?”  he asked
“In my mind sir”  the boy replied with an impish smile,pointing to his head with his index finger.
“But you should work it out in your book”  insisted the teacher.
“Why sir,  when I can do it orally”.

The boy was Bal Gangadhar Tilak, for whom such math problems were pretty much a walk in the park.  Where his classmates often struggled with tough problems,  Bal just walked through them casually. This brilliant boy would one day shake the British with his struggle for freedom against them.

The boy was born to Gangadhar Ramachandra Tilak a Sanskrit scholar and teacher himself.  Apart from Maths,if there was another subject that Bal took to easily it was Sanskrit. Born in the coastal town of  Ratnagiri,  located in the Konkan, Tilak was a brilliant but equally mischievous student too. Independent in nature,  not awed by authority,  this was the reason why he was not  exactly the teacher’s favorite.  And he never accepted injustice meekly.

There was this anecdote about his class teacher once seeing groundnut shells scattered in the class. He demanded to know who did it, and when none answered, he decided to punish every one with two strokes of the cane.  However Bal refused to accept the punishment saying he did not litter the class,  and this made the teacher more angry to the extent of sending him out of the school.  Bal’s father had to come the next day and convince the teacher that his son indeed never ate anything outside.

Bal grew up listening to the stories on the 1857 revolution of people like Jhansi Lakshmi Bai, Nana Saheb and Tatya Tope from his grandfather who was in Kashi that time.  Their valor and courage impressed Bal.  He however soon had to go to Pune, when he was just 10,as his father was transferred there. It was a new phase in his life shifting from a small town to a large city.

Pune at that time was a major educational center, called the “Oxford of the East” for it’s colleges,schools and universities. Bal joined the Anglo Vernacular school, he was able to get good education.  Sadly his mother passed away soon and his father when he was just 16 years. Bal was still a Matriculation student then, and he took the full name Bal Gangadhar Tilak  after his father.  He joined the Deccan College soon.

Bal however felt that having a good physique was important,  and began to exercise regularly. Even his food intake was regulated, and he took active part in all games and sports. He became an expert swimmer, and equally good at wrestling. Soon he got his BA in 1877,  and later got his LLB too. Bal was good at academics as well as physical activity too.  With his academics, Tilak  could have easily got a job like many others and serve the British.

However Tilak decided to dedicate his life for the country,and he felt that first one must inculcate the concept of Swaraj. People should be made to feel the thirst for freedom and patriotism had to be nurtured. And that meant an education that would make people take pride in being an Indian.  Unlike the current Western oriented education system, that made “educated” Indians look down on their own country. He got support from his class mate Gopal Krishna Agarkar,  who decided to found such an educational institute.  They were joined in by the great Marathi writer Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar. Himself a teacher, Chiplunkar wished  that the younger generation should receive the kind of education Tilak dreamed of.



And soon the three great men, joined hands to create the educational institution of their dreams. The New English School was the result of their dream, and with it’s success, the Deccan Education Society  was founded in 1884 and a year later the Fergusson College was founded.  The seedlings planted by Tilak, Agarkar and Chiplunkar had now grown into a banyan tree, that was spreading out it’s branches. Both Tilak and Chiplunkar put in their efforts into the school,not even drawing salary for the first year.  With the school and college well established, Tilak  turned his attention to another task, awakening the people, especially the youth to the evils of British rule and inculcating the spirit of nationalism.

And that resulted in Tilak starting the Marathi weekly  Kesari and the English weekly, the Mahratta. Kesari  soon became popular, and Tilak used it to spread his ideas on nationalism,  as well as expose the evil British rule. Through Kesari,  Tilak exhorted every Indian to fight for their rights and stand up to the tyranny of the British rule.

You are not writing for the university students. Imagine you are talking to a villager….. Be sure of your facts. Let your words be clear as day light.

Basically Tilak managed to spread the message using very simple language that an ordinary person could understand. When Shivaji Rao became the Maharaja of Kolhapur, Tilak wrote a series of articles in Kesari,  exposing the shabby treatment given to him by the British. This aroused the indignation of ordinary people and unrest gripped Kolhapur, Pune.  The Government arrested Tilak and Agarkar on charges of inciting passions,  and were sentenced to 4 months rigorous imprisonment.

It was getting tougher for Tilak,  he had to quit Fergusson and Deccan Education Society,  over differences with management on salary raise.  An institution which he nurtured and raised,he had to leave, nothing more sad than that.  He was not getting much profit from the Kesari and Mahratta either.  Too proud to work under the British, he began to take up classes by himself to earn a living.

It was this period between 1890 when he resigned from Deccan Education Society to 1897 when he was arrested,  that would mould Tilak’s character and value system too. Tilak too the British head on now, he was now the leader of thousands.  He organized the Ganesh Puja on a large scale, as well as Shivai Maharaj  Jayanti. His intention was to foster a sense of community among ordinary Indians, above feelings of caste, class, religion. Soon he became a member of Pune’s  Muncipal Council, the Bombay Legislature and an elected “Fellow” of  Bombay University. He was actively into politics now, and in the midst of it all, published his maiden work “Orion”.

Tilak’s  idea of inculcating nationalism and community spirit through the Ganesh Puja and Shivaji Jayanti was working.  As people participated together overlooking differences of caste, community,class. When famine broke out in 1896, Tilak asked the Government to help the distressed farmers. He published in depth news of the famine in both Mahratta and Kesari. The British Government however was indifferent to the plight of those affected and revenue was collected forcibly.  Tilak began to expose the indifference of the British Govt in his magazines. He exhorted the people to question the Government on their failure,  and indifference to the whole famine crisis.

However instead of responding the British Government actually went ahead and decided to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign. Around the same time, Pune was in the grip of a severe plague.  The officer in charge Rand, adopted harsh measures, that included barging into the private quarters of people’s homes, pulling them out of their beds, separating infected people rudely from their families. Enraged by the actions,two brothers Damodar Hari and Balakrishna Hari known as the Chapekar brothers way laid Rand and assassinated him. Both were arrested and hanged for their act.

Tilak took on the Government more strongly than ever with a series of articles titled “Has the Government gone mad?”  in the Kesari. His fiery writings now made the Government officials concerned and they decided he was a threat. The Government put a case on Tilak,accusing him of abetment to murder in the Rand case, and arrested him in 1897. Charged with sedition  and slapped with charges of disturbing peace, Tilak was sentenced to one and a half years rigorous imprisonment. Put in a dark cramped cell, filled with mosquitoes and bugs, and given coarse food,Tilak  was subjected to the worst ever indignities. He had to make mat and ropes from coir, his fingers got blisters. His spirit was however not broken and he wrote his landmark  work “Arctic Home in the Vedas”  in prison. Finally on pressure from other leaders and scholars, the Government released Tilak from prison.

Released in 1898,  Tilak by now had become a hero, people rushed in the streets to have a glimpse of him. His portrait began to be worshiped in homes by people. He was a national, pan Indian leader now. Soon he began to spread the message on Swadeshi through newspapers and lectures.  Travelling all over Maharashtra, Tilak exhorted people to boycott foreign goods and buy only Indian ones. Foreign clothes were burnt in a bonfire, local jaggery was used. Cotton mills, paper mills,factories by Swadeshi entrepreneurs were started.

“Swadeshi, Swaraj, National Education”
  was Tilak’s  motto,  and soon the feeling spread like wildfire among the masses.  The Government was looking for an opportunity to curb Tilak, and found it soon enough.  The wife of a rich man Baba Maharaj  complained that Tilak was misusing their trust’s money.  Once again the Government conducted a sham trial, and he was arrested, handcuffed like a common criminal.  Coming out on bail,Tilak  fought a long battle for justice and was finally rewarded damages after 14 long years. When the Globe and Times of India, alleged that Tilak incited people to commit murders, he sued both of them and made them apologize.

When Bengal was partitioned in 1901, massive protests broke out against the arbitrary decision. A district magistrate was assassinated by a young revolutionary Khudiram Bose.  One of the main leaders Aurobindo was handcuffed and taken to the police station like a common criminal. Any one suspected of using explosives could be sentenced to 14 years, without any proof.

It is unfortunate that bombs are being made in the country. But the responsibility for creating a situation in which it has become necessary to throw bombs, rests solely on the government. This is due to the gover nment’s unjust rule.

Tilak criticized the repressive measures in Kesari, under an article “The Country’s Misfortune”.  The Government now decided that Tilak was too dangerous to be left free any longer and charged him with sedition. Arrested on June 24, 1908, Tilak was sentenced to six year’s rigorous imprisonment at Mandalay in Burma.   He was in his 50s by then, a diabetic,and the sentence angered many a supporter of his, as well as many Western thinkers. Once again in Mandalay, Tilak was placed in a cramped prison with just a cot, a table, a chair and a bookshelf.  Placed in solitary confinement,  his room had no protection from the heat or cold. He spent time, reading and once again wrote another book Gita Rahasya. He also learnt German and French in prison,and followed a simple routine. Every morning he would pray to God, chant the Gayatri Mantra and do his daily rituals. It was around this time, his wife too passed away.

Released and back  in India on June 16th, 1914, Tilak received a hero’s welcome in Pune. However by this time, a rift had come in Congress between the Extremists and Moderates.  Tilak  headed the Extremist faction,  that also had Lala Lajpati Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal.  However with attempts to unite the two groups failing, Tilak quit Congress and started the Home Rule League along with Annie Beasant,  G.S.Khaparde and  S.Subramania  Iyer.  Tilak  went from village to village  explaining the concept of Swaraj.  For Tilak home rule meant one thing “An Indian should have as much freedom in India as an Englishman has in England.”  He began to tour the North, first Lucknow and then Kanpur, and declared boldly “Swaraj is our birthright, we shall have it”.

We want equality. We cannot remain slaves under foreign rule. We will not carry for an instant longer, the yoke of slavery that we have carded all these years. Swaraj is our birth right. We must have it at any cost. When the Japanese, who are Asians like us, are free, why should we be slaves? Why should our Mother’s hands be hand- cuffed?

Tilak even toured  England and explained the miserable conditions of the masses under British rule. The Home Rule movement was further intensified, and he won the admiration of  Labor  Party members too. When the Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place, Tilak further intensified the struggle, touring all over India.  However  the constant stress took a toll on him, and by June 1920, his condition began to worsen. And on August 1, 1920, the great man was no more, passing away in sleep.A veritable ocean of people surged to have a glimpse of the great man,  Mahatma Gandhi,  Lala Lajpat Rai, were among those who carried the funeral bier of Tilak. A man of honesty,  integrity and simplicity was no more. But he would be an inspiration for many a revolutionary and freedom fighter.  One among them  was Chandrashekhar Azad born on the same date as him.  Tilak  stated  Swaraj is my birthright,  and Azad gave up his very life for that.  It was sheer destiny that both were born on the same date.Mahatma Gandhi’s  tribute to Tilak on passing away.

He used his steel-like will power for the country. His life is an open book. The Lokamanya is the Architect of New India. Future generations will remember Tilak with reverence, as the man who lived and died for their sake.

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Veer Savarkar

Veer Savarkar has been one of my heroes. One of the most fascinating, multi talented personalities ever. Freedom fighter, nationalist, activist, thinker, writer and sadly a very misunderstood personality too. Here was some one who braved the worst form of imprisonment at Cellular Jail for not one year, two years, but a whole decade. Imagine spending ten years in a hellhole, that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man. There is so much about Savarkar to be told, his fight for independence, his Hindutva philosophy, his stay in Cellular Jail. Over the past couple of months, I had been penning a series of posts dealing with Veer Savarkar’s life.

.This series of mine is to show case the truth behind Veer Savarkar, who is being portrayed by the Leftists as a traitor, when he was not. Also it is impossible to capture Savarkar’s story in  just one post. There was just so much to his life. On his birth anniversary, I am sharing this series of posts, in chronological order to refer to. This would later be the basis for my book on Savarkar,  that however is a long shot as of now.

  1. A Hero is Born
  2. The Woman in his Life
  3. In Pune
  4. In the Den of the British Lion
  5. Madan Lal Dhingra and Assassination of Wylie
  6. Trial of Madan Lal Dhingra
  7. Arrest and Escape
  8. The Trial
  9. Cellular Jail
  10. Who is a Hindu?

This is not a complete series per se, there still is a lot more to be written on him. The very controversial part of his petitions, his activities with the Hindu Mahasabha, his alleged involvement in the assasination of Mahatma Gandhi.  I would be covering these in my later posts, as also a look at his ideology in more detail.

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Veer Savarkar-Who is a Hindu?

We had seen how Savarkar’s tenure in Cellular Jail, which on the one hand drained him out physically, also saw some of his best output as a writer, poet. We now look at how his 12 year old tenure in Cellular Jail, shaped his ideology and the birth of Hindutva too.  Though technically, Hindutva was believed to be coined by Chandranath Basu, that is another topic altogether and beyond the scope of this post.

Savarkar was some one who believed in action, much more pragmatic about life and the world. While a revolutionary, and a nationalist, he did not believe in the concept of sacrifice just for the sake of it. He was some one who believed in living to fight another day.  In a sense, he was closer to the central philosophy of the Gita, always do your duty, no matter what the consequences. For him life was a flower with three petals,one rich with the hues of pleasure, another with the color of pain and the third having no colors. For him pain and pleasure were a part of life, and he refused to be overwhelmed by the latter, nor feel let down too much by the former.

For some one who came close to death, many a time, it held no fears for him.  He felt he had paid his debt to Bharat, by throwing himself into the fire of revolution and consumed to the bone by it. He had to sacrifice everything, his family was scattered, his Bhabhi died a destitute, his elder brother a prisoner, his property confiscated. The long years in Cellular Jail, had developed him in a sense of detachment from the material world.  And he was confident, that his good Karma, would accompany him into his next births.

His solitary confinement in Cellular Jail, had given him ample time to think, and develop his own philosophical, political theories. All the thoughts he gained from books and thinking, began to coalesce into a distinct ideology of it’s own. His main concern was the rapid demographic changes going on, the decline in Hindu population and the proselytizing by Muslims and Christians.  The conversions of Hindus into other faiths, made him restless. Most Indian prisons in the British Raj, had a majority of Hindu prisoners. And the jailors, havaldars, wardens were usually Muslims, especially Pathans. These Pathans, would often brutally beat up the Hindu prisoners, torture them, and often force conversion to Islam. The miserable conditions in prison and the brutal torture meant a good number of Hindus converted for smaller favors.

Savarkar decided to take on this forcible conversion and make Hindus feel more proud about themselves. He began to reach out to Hindu prisoners, asked them to take more pride in their faith, and not convert for momentary gain. When the Superintendent asked him, why he was complaining, why not let Hindus convert.  Savarkar replied back “Hinduism does not believe in conversions. For us Hinduism is not a way to material pleasures, we do not offer inducements to convert for the sake of food or shelter”.  Soon the Hindus began to pay heed to Savarkar, and the conversions came down. In spite of death threats from the superintendent Barrie, Savarkar stuck to his mission. When census was undertaken, Savarkar, persuaded all Hindus and Arya Samajis to record their faith as Hindu or Arya-Sikh Hindu.  As per Savarkar, this was how he defined a Hindu

Aasindhu sindhu paryantaa Yasya Bharata Bhoomika/ Pitrubhu Punyabhuchaiva Tavai Hinduriti Smritah.

Loosely translated it stands for

Those who regard this land of Bharat spread between the river Sindhu (in the north) and the ocean Sindhu (Sindhu Sagar — Indian Ocean in the south) as their Pitrubhumi (fatherland) and Punyabhumi (holy land) are called Hindus

Savarkar did not have any personal animosity towards Muslims, but he hated their aggressive conversion tactics, as well as those of Missionaries. In fact in Cellular Jail he fought for the rights of Hindu as well as Muslim prisoners.

While it may be debated about who coined Hindutva first, the fact remains it was Savarkar who gave it a definitive shape and bought it into the public.  The backdrop was the 1921 Moplah revolt,  in Malabar, where thousands of Hindus were massacred, their women raped and many were forcibly converted. Yet Mahatma Gandhi refused to condemn the brutalities of the Moplahs, and in fact praised them as God fearing noble human beings.

Savarkar came up with the ideology of Hindutva in his landmark work, that he published under a pseudo name Maharatta.It is this book that laid down the foundations of Hindutva and Hindu nationalist movement in the years to come. It was an outcome of Savarkar’s own reflections on the situation around him. As well as a reaction to what he felt was Gandhi’s appeasement of Muslim fanatics  in the name of secularism.  Swami Shraddhananda, noted Arya Samaj leader and one of the key figures of the Shudhi movement had this to say “It must have been one of those Vedic dawns indeed which inspired our seers with new truths that revealed to the author of Hinduvta this Mantra, this definition of Hinduvta”.

Sources- Essentials of Hindutva by Savarkar  http://www.savarkar.org/content/pdfs/en/essentials_of_hindutva.v001.pdf

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Veer Savarkar- The Trial

In my last post, I had taken a look at Savarkar’s arrest in England, his epic escape at Marseilles, and subsequent arrest.

July 22, 1910

Savarkar reached Mumbai, and was immediately sent to Nasik jail. The Secretary of State for India granted permission for a trial, even though many well meaning British people protested it would not be a fair one. They were given the promise that Savarkar would be restored to France if the situation demanded it so. By now Savarkar’s escape at Marseilles had made him a legend of sorts, and the fellow prisoners, applauded him loudly at the trial. Savarkar rejected the jurisdiction of the Government, saying he was entitled to asylum and protection of French law. Even the accused stated, they had confessed to the Magistrate under torture or extreme stress.

The court however was adamant in convicting Savarkar, and they choose Abhinav Bharat as the alibi.  Various secret activities of Abhinav Bharat, and it’s political activities were taken into consideration during the trial. Savarkar was accused of trying to wage war against the state, through Abhinav Bharat, on the lines of the Russian Revolution. The fact that Abhinav Bharat had bomb storehouses at Bassein, and factories in Mumbai, made it easier for the court to prove the charges of waging a war against the State.  And not content with this, the Court also convicted Savarkar with the assassination  of Jackson, the collector of Nashik. So effectively on the basis of very flimsy evidence, Savarkar was sentenced twice. On December 23, 1910, Savarkar was condemned guilty and sentenced to transportation for life, seizure of all property. In spite of the fact, that his case was still sub judice in the International Court at Hague.

It was a very hasty prosecution by a kangaroo court, on the basis of very flimsy evidence. For starters the British Government had a written agreement with France to refer Savarkar’s case to International Court at Hague. Many in France, supported Savarkar’s return to the country, and most nations were in uproar against the British action. Savarkar in the meanwhile managed to send out an account of his escape and re arrest at Marseilles, through his friends, embarrassing the British even more. Finally Hague had it’s say, and the trial began on February 2, 1911. However with the then French Prime Minister, M.Briand, siding with the British, the court annulled Savarkar’s right of asylum, and ruled in favor of the British. There was widespread condemnation from the world press, and M Briand became deeply unpopular with the French people for his act.

Though the British managed to convict Savarkar, a severe blow was dealt to the Empire’s prestige. As he was convicted twice, it meant Savarkar would have to spend the next 50 years of his life in imprisonment. And this is when he began to compose poems, to cope with the long period of jail, and also what he felt was a small debt to India.  He wrote poems on Guru Gobind Singh, and another on the crucifixion of Christ. When an officer taunted him that he would be free only in 1960, Savarkar shot back “But is the British Raj itself going to last for fifty years?”.

It was at Nashik, that Savarkar met his wife Mai once again, a remarkable woman.

She had to travel on horseback from Trimbakeswar to Nashik along with her brother to meet her husband in prison. Even worse, fearing the wrath of the British, none of her friends gave her shelter, and she had to spend all the night in heavy rain at a temple in Nashik. She finally met her husband, and they spent around 45 minutes together. When Veer Savarkar was sentenced to life at Cellular Jail, she accepted her fate stoically. However when she saw him in chains at the Dongri prison in Mumbai, she became emotional and almost broke down. It was then Veer Savarkar advised her.

If the Almighty shows compassion, we shall meet again.  Till then, if you are ever tempted by the thought of an ordinary family life, remember that if producing children and collecting a few twigs to build a home is to be called married life, then such a life is led by crows and sparrows as well.  But if a nobler meaning is to be given to married life, then we are blessed to have lead a life fit for human beings.  By breaking our hearth and utensils, golden smoke may ensue from thousands of homes in future.  And did not plague render our homes desolate when we were building them?  Face the odds bravely.

To which Mai replied-“We are trying to do just that.  As far as we are concerned, we have each other.  If you take care of yourself, we shall feel fulfilled.”. Savarkar reassured her that he would take care and walked around with the manacles raised.

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