Dalhousie is a beautiful hill station, near town of Chamba in Chamba district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
It is named after Lord Dalhousie.
Who is he? Lets dive into History to know more about him (not the one our text books taught us).
Lord Dalhousie landed on the shores of Hindustan in 1846. When he became the viceroy he gave up the practice of sugar coating the poison pills to victims of India, and began a system of open and direct oppression. No wonder he is described as one of the founders of the British Empires.
Following are the territories he annexed to the Empire in the cruelest of ways –
Punjab- Dalhousie knew that his ambition of levelling Hindustan cannot be fulfilled as long as Raja Ranjit Singh and his brave Sikh army protected Punjab. Ferocious Anglo-Sikh war took place at Chillianwala. Due to betrayal from the Gujarat side of the territory, he was killed. Punjab was annexed. A territory of 50K sq miles and population of 4Mn enslaved. A rich land of 5 sacred rivers where rishis recited mantras from the Vedas, where King Porus fought Alexander, was ruthlessly annexed into the Empire.
Burma– Soon a “peace” mission was sent to Burma and Burma was annexed as well.
Maratha Empire, Satara– In April 1948 Appa Sahib, Maharaja of Satara died. Dalhousie decided to annex Satara because the king did not have any direct heirs. 1825-Kota, 1837-Oorcha, 1836-Junkoji Scindia, 1834-Raja of Dhar, 1841-Kishangarh, 1836- Daulatrao Scindia all these adoptions were acknowledged as per Hindu Law. But Dalhousie, suddenly decided that because of lack of heir, Satara should be annexed to the British Empire.
The Gadi of Satara where the Great Shivaji Maharaj was crowned by the hands of Gaga Bhatt, the same Gadi to which Bajirao I dedicated all his triumph, Gadi to which homage was paid by many great Marathas was shattered by Lord Dalhousie!
Nagpur– Raghoji Bhonsle died without any heir. Same logic was used to annex Raj of Nagpur. Territory of 76K sq miles with population of 4.65 Mn enslaved. The British ransacked the palace, sold off the jewelry, horses, elephants for meagre amounts. The Maharanee, on her death bed could here pickaxe being used to break the flooring in the neighboring room. Understand that Raghoji Bhonsle was supposed to be a good friend of the British, and this was the treatment meted out by Dalhousie to a friend.
Ayodhya– Before Dalhousie the seeds were sown by his predecessors for over a 100 years. The Nawab was charged a hefty amount in return of “protection” and so his coffers were emptied over a period. Then the native army was replaced by English regiment on the suggestion (read command) of the British. The already strained treasury was now paying for additional troops. To afford all this, the Nawab had to charge higher taxes on his subjects. In 1801 a treaty was signed between the Nawab and British in which Nawab surrendered territory of Rahilkhind and Doab where major revenue came from. With empty treasury and restrictions over implementation of internal reforms, Nawab could not administer his territory effectively without a free hand. But the ‘philanthropic’ company kept urging upon him, to alter his administration to make his subjects happy. Finally, the British admitted that they made a mistake and got into a fresh agreement in 1837. In 1847, Wajid Ali Shah, tried his best to bring in reforms and control but the company squashed it.
Lord Dalhousie entered the picture around the same time and realized that 1837 treaty was a great blunder and the article in 1801 treaty demanding Nawab to keep his subjects happy was a perfect opportunity to annex Oudh. Lord Dalhousie blatantly refused the existence of 1837 treaty and annexed Oudh.
The ruling prince was a Muslim but the Zamindaars were Hindus. The British claimed that they were doing this for the betterment on the people as they were being “oppressed”.
The difference between foreign rule and Swarajya was stark and started becoming very clear to everyone, which finally led to the 1847 War of Independence.
All these incidents are invoked by Emperor of Delhi when he motivated the people to rise and fight for Swarajya.
Source: Indian War of Independence 1857 by Veer Savarkar.
What our History teaches us is how the “Great” and “Far-sighted” Lord Dalhousie brought Railways and Post offices to India! Shashi Tharoor has cleared this confusion by providing facts and figures of the intention and resultant loot.
So, what shall we rename the hill station ‘Dalhousie’ in Himachal Pradesh to?
When the enemy is stronger, surrender terms can be worked out to buy time and later, seek or create an opportune moment to tackle the enemy.
Applications from Bharat’s History:
Porus was appointed as Alexander’s satrap (Governor) of the vast Indian Province not because of the appreciation of his bold answer on Alexander’s question- how should he treat the defeated Porus- “Like one King treats another”. It was because Alexander needed to fight his way all the way to the Capital of Bharat, Patiliputra. It was in his interest to take this political step of returning Porus his Kingdom. Porus did his Kashtriya duty of fighting till the end with the enemy of his country. He submitted only until the time he got the opportunity to turn tables against Alexander himself. The moment Alexander proceeded on his next excursions Porus revolted and refused his overlordship and took back all the lost territories. (Unfortunately, we are taught a very wrong interpretation of Alexander’s actions and nothing on how Porus bought time until he had the opportune time to turn against Alexander.)
Shivaji Maharaj was working relentlessly towards establishing Swarajya. As a result, all the tax that was being paid to Adil Shah stopped. Administration was also taken over by Maharaj. This angered Adil Shah and he captured Shahaji Maharaj (Shivaji Maharaj’s father). In parallel, Adil Shah sent Fateh Khan along with huge troops to capture Shivaji Maharaj as well. It was a complicated and delicate situation. It was imperative that Maharaj handle the situation with a cleaver strategy rather than might. Maharaj wrote to the Mughal Badshah of Delhi. He cunningly wrote that “Adil Shah has captured my father on learning that along with him, my brother and myself were planning on joining hands with Delhi Sultanate.”
Badhsah was happy to learn that the south will also come under his control with a strong Sardar like Shahaji joining him. When the Badhsah wrote in strong words to Adil Shah he had no choice but to release Shahaji Maharaj. However, he put a condition that Shivaji Maharaj surrender the fort of Kondhana. Maharaj agreed. Later, he took back Kondhana as well with the help Tanajhi Malusare. There are many such strategies that should be studied academically. The story of Mirza Raje is another classic example of Kautilya’s Arthashastra on how a strong enemy should be tackled even after a grave defeat.
V. D. Savarkar:
His famous ‘apology letters’ upon which he is being criticized today, is the application of this very strategy from Kautilya’s Arthashastra. He knew that he was of no use to the country if he was in Andaman Jail. It was not the atrocities that he was facing there, that made him write those letters. It was his love for the country that made him swallow his pride and do what was needed. Get whatever limited freedom that he can get from the enemy of the nation and use it to advance his work for Bharat.
He was out and kept under house arrest in Ratnagiri. He took on the work of Social reform and also produced the most excellent literary work during this time, which still inspire many people! Many such patriots wrote similar letters with this intent. These patriots need to be studied to understand under what scenarios which actions are most appropriate to ensure we don’t lose sight of our goals!
Time and again, history has taught us that Kautilya’s Arthashastra is always relevant!
The Inland Customs Line was a system of customs barriers that was established in India by the British colonial government in the 19th century. The purpose of the line was to collect customs duties and taxes on goods that were transported between different parts of India. The line was established to generate revenue for the British government. The Inland Customs Line was an important source of revenue for the British government in India.
Salt Tax was a major Revenue for the British Government
History of Salt Tax in Bharat-
• The Arthashastra says that a special officer called lavananadhyaksa was appointed to collect the salt tax during Mauryan Time. Taxes were also imposed on imported salt. However, they accounted for 25 percent of the total value of the salt.
• Taxation during British India was greatly increased.
Let’s look at the British Taxation further.
In 1759, two years after it’s victory at Battle of Plassey, the British East India Company came into possession of land near Calcutta where there were salt works. Utilizing this opportunity to make money, they doubled the land rent and imposed transit charges on the transportation of salt.
Since the introduction of the first taxes on salt by the British East India Company, the laws were subjected to fervent criticism. The Chamber of Commerce in Bristol was one of the first to submit a petition opposing the salt tax:
The price to the consumer here [in England] is but about 30s per ton instead of 20 pounds per ton as in India; and if it was necessary to abolish the Salt tax at home some years since it appears to your petitioners that the millions of her Majesty’s subjects of India have a much stronger claim for remission in their case, wretchedly poor as they are, and essentially necessary as salt is to their daily sustenance, and to the prevention of disease in such a climate.
In 1764, Following the victory at the Battle of Buxar, the British began to control all the revenues of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Robert Clive, who returned as governor in 1765, made the sale of tobacco, betel nut, and salt (apart from other accessories and essential spices and condiments), the monopoly of the senior officers of the British East India Company. Contracts were given to deliver salt to depots, and merchants were required to buy from these depots. Robert Clive, who returned as governor in 1765, made the sale of tobacco, betel nut, and salt (apart from other accessories and essential spices and condiments), the monopoly of the senior officers of the British East India Company. Contracts were given to deliver salt to depots, and merchants were required to buy from these depots. Due to outrage over this monopoly in England, Clive offered 1.2 Mn in Profits.
However, monopoly was stopped and the profits came down due to evasion of taxes.Revenue from salt trade fell to 80,000 rupees by 1780. This, along with the exploitation of the malangas or salt workers by their landlords, forced Hastings to introduce a new system for controlling the salt trade in India. New system yielded salt revenue of 2,960,130 rupees. The company received salt revenue of 6,257,750 rupees in 1784–85. The company received salt revenue of 6,257,750 rupees in 1784–85.
From 1788 onwards, the company began selling salt wholesalers by auction. As a result, the British East India Company increased the tax to 3.25 rupees a maund, and the wholesale price of salt increased from 1.25 to about 4 rupees a maund. This was an exorbitant rate that few could afford. In 1804, the British monopolized salt in the newly conquered state of Orissa. In return, they advanced money to the malangas against future salt production, resulting in the malangas becoming debtors to the British, virtually becoming economic slaves. The Orissa zamindars, who had earlier controlled the local salt trade, were alarmed at the sudden loss of income and tried to persuade the malanga not to work for the British, but to no avail.
In the early 19th century, to make the salt tax more profitable and reduce smuggling, the East India Company established customs checkpoints throughout Bengal. G. H. Smith established a “customs line”, which was the boundary across which salt transportation involved payment of high customs duties. In the 1840s a thorn fence was erected along the western frontiers of Bengal province to prevent salt smuggling. Eventually, after 1857, the thorn fence grew to be 2,500 miles long.
Sources indicate that by 1858, British India derived 10% of its revenues from its monopoly of salt. In 1878, a uniform salt tax policy was adopted for the whole of India, both British India as well as the princely states. Both productions, as well as possession of salt, were made unlawful by this policy. The salt tax, which was one rupee and thirteen annas per maund in Bombay, Madras, the Central Provinces, and the princely states of South India, was increased to two rupees and eight annas and decreased from three rupees and four annas in Bengal and Assam to two rupees and fourteen annas, and from three rupees to two rupees and eight annas in North India.
A customs line was established, which stretched across the whole of India, which in 1869 extended from the Indus to the Mahanadi in Madras, a distance of 2,300 miles; and it was guarded by nearly 12,000 men and petty officers… it consisted principally of an immense impenetrable hedge of thorny trees and bushes, supplemented by stone wall and ditches, across which no human being or beast of burden or vehicle could pass without being subject to detention or search.
— (Strachey and Strachey 1882, 219-20)
In the first session of the Indian National Congress held in 1885 in Bombay, a prominent Congress member, S. A. Saminatha Iyer pleaded against the tax.
At the Allahabad session of the Indian National Congress in 1888, Narayan Vishnu, a delegate from Poona vehemently opposed the Indian Salt Act. A resolution was passed wherein the delegates present declared ‘That this Congress do put on record its disapproval of the recent enhancement of the salt tax as involving a perceptible increase to the burden of the poorer classes, as also the ‘partial adoption, in a time of peace and plenty, of the only financial reserve of the Empire.’
Mohandas Gandhi had written his first article on the salt tax in 1891 in the periodical The Vegetarian. While in South Africa, he wrote in The Indian Opinion:
The tax levied on salt in India has always been a subject of criticism. This time it has been criticized by the well-known Dr. Hutchinson who says that ‘it is a great shame for the British Government in India to continue it, while a similar tax previously in force in Japan has been abolished. Salt is an essential article in our dietary. It could be said that the increasing incidence of leprosy in India was due to the salt tax. Dr. Hutchinson considers the salt tax a barbarous practice, which ill becomes the British Government.
The 1892 session at Allahabad concluded thus: ‘… We do not know when the tax will be reduced. So that there is every necessity for our repeating this prayer in the interests of the masses, and we earnestly hope that it will be granted before long’. A similar sort of protest was also issued at the Congress session at Ahmedabad.
The salt tax was also protested by eminent people like Dadabhai Naoroji. On 14 August 1894, he thundered in the House of Commons:
Then the Salt Tax, the cruelest Revenue imposed in any civilized country provided Rs. 8,600,000/- and that with the opium ‘formed the bulk of the revenue of India, which was drawn from the wretchedness of the people… It mattered not what the State received was called – tax, rent, revenue, or by any other name they liked – the simple fact of the matter was, that out of a certain annual national production the State took a certain portion. Now it would not also matter much about the portion taken by the State if that portion, as in this country, returned to people themselves, from whom it was raised. But the misfortune and the evil were that much of this portion did not return to the people and that the whole system of Revenue and the economic condition of the people became unnatural and oppressive, with dangers to the rulers. So long as the system went on, so long must the people go on, living wretched lives. There was a constant draining away of India’s resources, and she could never, therefore, be a prosperous country. Not only that, but in time India must perish, and with it perish the British Empire.
In 1895, George Hamilton stated at a session of the House of Commons that: Time has, however, now come when the Government finds itself in possession of larger surpluses and it is, therefore, its duty as guardian of public exchequer, to reduce taxation on salt.
In 1900 and 1905, India was one of the largest producers of salt in the world, with a yield of 1,021,426 metric tons and 1,212,600 metric tonnes respectively.
In 1909, Mahatma Gandhi wrote in his Hind Swaraj from South Africa, urging the British administration to abolish the salt tax.
In 1923, under the viceroyalty of Lord Reading, a bill was passed doubling the salt tax. However, another proposal made in 1927 was subsequently vetoed. It was one of Finance Member Basil Blackett’s first deeds when producing his first budget in February 1923. When the salt tax was doubled in the year 1923, it was sharply criticized in a report by the Taxation Enquiry Committee which was published two years later. This raise also evoked sharp reactions from Indian nationalists.
Successful Bardoli Satyagraha under the leadership of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel undertaken. Gandhiji merely gave his blessings when Sardar Vallabhai Patel raised the concerns of the villagers to him. The movement was planned and strategically executed as a result of which it was successful. It’s success gave rise to Patel becoming one of the main leaders of the independence movement.
In 1929, Pandit Nilakantha Das in Odisha demanded the repeal of the salt tax in the Imperial Legislature but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
At the historic Lahore session of the Indian National Congress on 31 December 1929 in which Purna Swaraj was declared, a passing reference was made to the infamous and oppressive salt law and resolved that a way should be found to oppose it.
In 1930, Orissa was close to open rebellion. On 12 March 1930, Gandhi embarked on a satyagraha with 78 followers from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi on the Arabian Sea coast. This march, known as the Dandi March, was sensationalized by the international press; film clippings and pictures of Mahatma Gandhi were relayed to distant corners of the world. Gandhi reached Dandi on 5 April 1930.
At one point Salt Tax was 10% of the total British Revenue.
A rough snapshot of loot by the British under the garb of tax:
Salt became so costly due to the tax, that the consumption dropped. Health deteriorated, which even resulted in deaths. Even Gandhi mentioned the implication on health in his article in The Indian Opinion in 1891. These deaths are not accounted for while counting the casualties of the British atrocities.
Gandhi knew about it since 1891. But he waited until March 1930 (3 months after the Lahore Congress session where “Poorna Swaraj” Resolution was passed), a year after the successful Bardoli Satyagraha (Refer to the Case Study to understand the brilliance of Patel while executing a truly non-violent Satyagraha, no violence even towards Indians) which gained immense popularity to a true patriot like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in National Politics.
If Bardoli was a success without violence, why was Salt Satyagraha a major failure even with so many deaths and violence against Indians and so much unnaturally vast media coverage worldwide, that too overnight?
If Salt Satyagraha had created “pressure” on British Government,
o Why was Gandhi unsuccessful in seeking pardon for Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev?
o Why was the salt tax not abolished?
o Why did British not care about killing Indians(lathi-charge) if there was so much media coverage?
o Why was ONLY Gandhi a part of the Second Round Table Conference?
Very much like the Cholas in Tamil Nadu, the Hoysalas left their own unmistakable imprint on Karnataka, be it the culture, the architecture, the literature or religion of the state.
Like most of the ancient empires, the origin of the Hoysala’s had it’s own legend, deriving from a tale of a lion being struck down by a young man Sala, to save his Jain guru Sudatta. The name of the dynasty comes from the Kannada word for strike( Hoy) and Sala, and this incident was also the emblem of the empire. As per historical accounts though, Arekalla was the first chieftain in 950 A.D.
During the early phase the Hoysalas were mostly concentrated in the Malenadu region, as vassals of the Chalukyan ruler Vikramaditya VI.
Vishnuvardhana in many ways was the one who built the Hoysala empire after ascending the throne. Beginning his career as Governor of Gangavadi, he took over the throne after his brother Veera Bhallala I. This began a series of conquests starting with the Chola territories of Gangavadi, the entire Nilgiris, the Kadambas of Banavasi, Alupas of Tulunadu. In effect under him, the Hoysala Empire covered most of Kerala, northern parts of Tamil Nadu, old Mysore, Tulunadu and parts of Malnad too.
It was not just the South, he also led the campaign against the Chalukyan ruler Vikramaditya VI. With a series of successes he soon came to occupy most of Northern Karnataka, right up to the Krishna River. Though defeated by Sinda chief Achugi, he recaptured Banakpura, Ucchangi, after the demise of Vikramaditya VI, and soon occupied large tracts of territory in the Krishna-Tunghabhadra Doab region.
Vishnuvardhana was a great builder too, built the Keerti Narayana temple at Tallakad, and the spectacular Chennakesava Temple at Belur. As well as the magnificent temples of Halebid.
He was also a patron of literature, and Kannada literature flourished during his time. Lilavati a treatise on Mathematics was written by Rajaditya during his time. As also the earliest version of Ramayana, by Nagachandra.
Veera Bhallala II, is considered the greatest among the monarchs of Hoysala dynasty. He was absolutely ruthless, overthrew his own father with the help of Malnadu chieftains, and later suppressed them. With the Chalukyas declining, there was a struggle among the Yadavas, Kalachuris and Hoysalas for supremacy. Though the Yadavas had managed to occupy the Chalukyan capital of Basavakalyana, the more intense struggle with them was for the Krishna-Tungabhadra Doab region. Taking advantage of the resentment against the Yadava ruler Bhillamma by minor kingdoms, he managed to defeat him in crucial battles and took the Hoysala empire right up to the Krishna river. Though he later lost control of the Northern parts of Karnataka to the Yadava ruler Singhana II.
He also aided the deposed Chola ruler Kullothunga III, against the Pandyans, and repulsed their army, helping in reestablishing the Cholas once again. Under him, the Hoysala empire covered most of Karnataka, and even parts of Northern Tamil Nadu.
Like Vishnu Vardhana, he was also a patron of art and literature. One of the great Kannada poets Janna adorned his court, as well as the Jain poet Nemichandra. He was also a great builder, though the temples here followed the Chalukyan style of architecture more. Kedareswara Temple at Halebid, Veera Narayana Temple at Belavadi were some of his outstanding contributions.
Vira Narasimha III, continued the good work, fighting on behalf of the Cholas for their deposed ruler Rajaraja III, and defeating the Pandyan ruler Sundara Pandya. In fact till the death of their last ruler Veera Ballala III, the Hoysalas managed to occupy the entire Deccan, and major part of Tamil Nadu too. In fact, the Hoysalas were the one who gave the stiffest resistance to the invading armies of the Delhi Sultanate, when both the Yadava and Kakatiya empires were over run by them.
The Hoysala empire collapsed in the late 14th century, after the assault first by Allauddin Khilji and later Mohd Bin Tuqhlaq. The cities of Halebid, Belur and Somanathpura were pillaged by the Sultanate armies, leaving them abandoned and in ruins. It was the same time, when other major kingdoms of the Deccan too collapsed like the Kakatiyas, Yadavas, Chalukyas, creating a sort of vaccum.
One of the theories regarding the origin of Harihara and Bukka Raya, the founders of the Vijayanagara Empire, state that their father Sangama was under the Veera Ballala III, and the brothers were feudatories under the Hoysala ruler. This is a theory propounded by scholars like B.L.Rice, P.B.Desai, which states that Harihara I was a commander in Veera Ballala’s army and he played a major role in expanding the territories. Vijayanagara was already founded around 1336, under the name of Hosapattana, on the Tunghabhadra river, and there was a gradual transfer of power later on, when the Hoysalas began to decline.
The soldiers, generals, chieftains in these kingdoms, began to look for a new leadership and center of power that would stem the Islamic invasion. And Vijayanagara rose to fill that vaccum. Proximity of Hampi to Halebid, Belur, and the tragic death of Veera Ballala III, ensured most of the inhabitants of the Hoysala empire, would migrate to Vijayanagara.
In the history of Karnataka, there have been many brave women warriors, who took on the invaders single handedly. Rani Abbaka Chowta of Ullal, who made the Portuguese navy retreat from Mangalore, Keladi Chennamma who beat back Aurangzeb and his Mughal army and the valiant Kittur Rani Chenamma who fought the British. To such an illustrious pantheon, belongs Onake Obavva who single handedly defended the fort of Chitradurga from the soldiers of Hyder Ali.
Chitradurga a small town in Karnataka, surrounded by hills and valleys, gets it’s name from Chitrakaldurga, meaning a picturesque fort, due to the location on an umbrella shaped hill found here.
The fortress here is also called as Kallina Kotte, meaning stone fortress, it’s believed Hidimbi, the sister of Hidimbasura, lived here along with her brother. Hidimbasura was killed by Bhima here, when the Pandavas were in hiding after the burning ot the lac house by Duryodhan. It’s believed that Bhima used the boulders here to kill Hidimbasura, and geologically it’s one of the oldest rock formations in India. Bhima later married Hidimbi, and their son was Ghatotkacha.
Timanna Nayaka, was appointed as Governor of Chitradurga, by the Vijayanagara Emperor, as a reward for his services during the military campaigns, that saw the establishment of the Chitradurga Nayakas. Madakari Nayaka was the last great ruler of the Nayakas from 1754-99, who was given the title of Eppatelu Palegarara Ganda/Minda (Superior ruler over 77 palegaras) by Peshwa Madhava Rao 1 after he helped him capture the Nidagallu fort.
Onakke Obavva was the wife of Kalanayaka, a security guard at one of the watch towers of the fort. During that time Hyder Ali laid siege to the fort, after Madakari Nayaka went against him. Capturing the fort was not easy though, as the rocky landscape, hills around and the strong walls made it hard for the invading soldiers. It was then Hyder Ali had a chance sighting of a woman entering the fort through a narrow opening in the rocks, called as Kindi.
However only one person at a time could crawl through that opening, and through his informers, Hyder Ali came to know that Kalanayaka who was in charge there would be going home for lunch at a particular time. Actually it was assumed that no one would try coming through that narrow opening, and it was not guarded as much. Sensing an opportunity, Hyder Ali decided to send his soldiers one by one through that opening and then they could capture the fort when they had sufficient numbers.
However at the same time, Obavva had come out to fetch water for her husband, from a well called Tanniru Doni nearby to the opening. As she was filling in the water, she heard a noise near the opening, and realized that the enemy soldiers were trying to sneak in through the opening. However not panicking, she stood guard near the opening with only an Onake( a long pestle used for thrashing paddy) in her hand.
As the first soldier emerged out of the opening, she hit him on head with one single blow, killing him on the spot, as she dragged away his body, hiding it out of sight. And so she began to kill every soldier who emerged out of the opening, as they were approaching in a stealth mode, one by one, the other soldiers were unaware of what was happening.And she single handedly killed over a 100 soldiers who tried to sneak in.
When Kalanayaka finished his lunch and returned back to duty, he was shocked to see Obavva standing over the dead soldiers, with a blood soaked pestle(Onake) in her hand. He blew the bugle alerting other guards, and killed the other enemy soldiers saving the fort. Chitradurga was saved due to one brave woman, who had the presence of mind to act under circumstances, Onake Obavva.
However Obavva died the same day, probably due to the stress she had been through, or was killed by an enemy soldier, this is not known yet. And in 1799, Hyder Ali managed to capture Chitradurga, as Madakari Nayka was imprisoned and died in captivity at Srirangapatna.
The opening over which she stood guard is now called Onake Obavva Kindi, while the stadium in Chitradurga is named after her. A song sequence in the movie Nagarahavu directed by Puttana Kanagal has actress Jayanti playing Onake Obavva, while there is a 2019 Kannada movie about her with actress Tara in the lead.
Writers Building in Kolkata, designed by Thomas Lyon in 1777, was so called after the junior clerks of the East India Company, called writers who worked here. It was the HQ of the East India Company and later the British Raj over Bengal Presidency. During the freedom struggle, the building was witness to one of the more high profile assasinations of a senior British official, by three young men, all of whom belonged to the Bengal Volunteers Group.
The Bengal Volunteers was one of the underground revolutionary groups founded during the freedom struggle by Netaji Subash Chandra Bose himself, during the 1928 Kolkata session, and later worked under the guidance of Major Satya Gupta. In the early 1930s the group launched Operation Freedom to protest against police repression.
Benoy Krishna Basu born on September 11, 1908 in a small village in Munshiganj district, now part of Bangladesh, his father Rethimohan Basu was an engineer. After passing his matriculation he enrolled in the Sir Salimullah Medical College at Dhaka, and joined the Mukhti Sangha, under the influence of Hemachandra Ghosh.
Badal Gupta was born in a small village now located in Bikrampur region of Bangladesh, and influenced by the revolutionary activities of his paternal uncles Dharani Nath Gupta and Nagendra Nath Gupta, who were involved in the Alipore bomb case, joined the Bengal Volunteers in 1928.
Dinesh Gupta was born on December 6, 1911 in Josholong, now in Murshiganj district of Bangladesh. He joined the Bengal Volunteers while studying in Dhaka, and for some time he was in Midnapore, training other revolutionaries in usage of bombs and ammunition.
Their target was the Inspector General of Police, Col N.S.Simpson, notorious for his brutal treatment of political prisoners, earlier in August 1930, the trio had shot dead Lowman, the police Inspector general at Dhaka. The choice of Writers Building was symbolic, it was the very heart of British power, from where they controlled Bengal, all the top officials were present there.
December 8, 1930
The 3 young men, entered Writers Building dressed in Western clothing carrying loaded revolvers, and on reaching Simpson, they fired point blank, at him as he fell to the ground dead. A shootout soon filled between the 3 young men and other British officers, in which 3 officers Twynam, Prentice and Nelson suffered injuries.
Though the trio were overpowered, they refused to surrender Badal took cyanide and died instantly, while Benoy and Dinesh both shot themselves. Benoy died 5 days later in hospital, while Dinesh survived and was hanged on July 7, 1931, after a long trial.
The Dalhousie Square near Writers Building has been named as BBD Bagh in honor of these three bravehearts who gave up their lives for our freedom.
The Cholas one of the largest empires, and longest ruling dynasties in history, dating right from 3rd century BCE, till the 13th century AD and one of the 3 Crowned Rulers of Tamilakam along with Cheras and Pandyas, also referred to as Moovendhar. However what we know as the Chola Empire, was primarily the medieval Chola period during the 9th century.
Though their heartland was the Kaveri river delta, they ruled over most of the Southern part of India, and at their peak between 907 and 1215 AD, it was an economic, military powerhouse. A series of great rulers Rajaraja I, Rajendra Chola, Kulothunga Chola, expanded the empire, making expeditions all the way up to the Gangetic plains, naval missions to South East Asia, Sri Lanka and a vibrant trade with China, Persia, Baghdad. The empire stretched from Maldives to the banks of the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh, and their influence was felt in Kalinga, Vanga, the Srivijaya Kingdom of Sumatra, as well as Cebu, Sanmalan in the Phillipines.
They had smaller dynasties related to them like the Telugu Chodas and the Nidugal Cholas of Karnataka, while the Eastern Gangas of Kalinga, had a matrimonial alliance with them. When one takes a look at the history of Cholas, it can be roughly divided into 4 periods, the Early Cholas of the Sangam period(205-161 BCE), the interim period between decline of Early Cholas and begining of Medieval Cholas from 848 to 1070 AD. The Medieval or Imperial Cholas is when it expanded as a mighty empire, and finally the later Cholas between 1070-1120.
Architecture and Art
It would be an understatement to call the architecture of the Chola period as grand, it was more like grandiose and towering. The sheer size of their temples, the towering vimanas, the sculpted walls, just every aspect of their monuments displayed grandeur. And of course nothing to beat the Brihadeswara Temple at Thanjavur, that is a benchmark by itself in architectural excellence.
Even if the Cholas, had not built anything else, just the Brihadeeswara Temple would have been enough. I mean just consider the facts, built fully of granite, finished within 5 years, that was quite fast for that period. And then you have the vimana that towers to around 216 ft, and this is just awe inspiring, on top of the tower, you have a kalasam, made out of a single block of stone, that weighs around 20 tonnes, and was lifted to the top using an inclined plane that covered 6.44 km from the ground to the top. The Cholas built big, their structures were meant to tower, to inspire awe, to take away the breath. It was not just the grand buildings, it was also the sculpture and art that adorned them, which was equally breath taking.
The other magnificient structures built by the Cholas, were the temple at Gangaikondacholapuram, which is next only to the Brihadeesvara temple at Tanjore, in size, grandeur and architectural excellence.
And also the Airavateswara temple at Darasuram, dedicated to Shiva, and so called, because it is believed that the Shiva Linga here was worshipped by Indra’s elephant Airavat.
The Chola period also witnessed a glorious phase in bronze casting, and making of idols. The bronze idols of the Chola period, were more expressive in nature, and devoid of too many intricate ornaments or designs. The bronze idol of Nataraja, the dancing form of Shiva, represents the artistic excellence during that era.
It was not just the fact that they built magnificent temples or made exquisite idols, the Cholas also came up with an excellent system of governance and administration. While it was a monarchy, like most other kingdoms of that era, there was a serious attempt to decentralize, and provide self government right at the local level. The empire was divided into provinces called Mandalams, and each of those Mandalams, further into Kottams, which again had districts, called Nadus, that had Tehsils usually a group of villages. While Tanjore and Gangaikonda Cholapuram were the main capitals, there also existed regional capitals at Kanchi and Madurai, where courts were occasionally held.
Their major achievement though was the local self government during their times, where villages had their own self governance. Depending on the area they covered, villages again could be Nadu, Kottram or Kurram, and a number of Kurrams made up a Valanadu. The village units had the power to administer justice at the local level, and for most crimes, fines were imposed, which went to the state treasury. Death penalty was given only for crimes that amounted to treason.
Chola period had a robust and thriving economy, that was built on 3 tiers. At the local level, it was agricultural settlements, that formed the foundation, on top of this you had the Nagarams or the commercial towns, that primarily acted as centers of distribution for items produced externally and by local artisans for international trade. The top most layer was made of “samayams” or merchant guilds, who organized and looked after the thriving international maritime trade. With agriculture being the occupation of a large number of people, land revenue was a major source of income to the treasury. The Cholas also built a large number of tanks, wells, and a large number of channels to distribute water. They had also built stone masonry dams over the Kaveri, and there was a thriving internal trade going on too.
Naval and Maritime Trade.
The Chola period would be noted for it’s emphasis on maritime trade and conquest, they excelled in ship building. While they had a strong internal maritime system, the Imperial Chola Navy came into existence during the reign of Raja Raja Chola I, who strengthened it. Raja Raja Chola’s use of the Navy to subdue the Sinhalese king Mahinda, would be one of the greatest naval victories ever. Another major achievement was the conquest of the Sri Vijaya kingdom under Sailendra, now in Indonesia, by Raja Raja Chola’s successor Rajendra Chola. Having possesion of the East and West coasts of India, the Cholas had a thriving international trade with the Tang dynasty in China, the Srivijaya empire in Malayan archipelago and the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. The Cholas also combated sea piracy succesfully in the Malayan archipelago, and had a close trade with the Song dynasty in China, that led to advances in ship building.
While the King was the supreme commander of the Navy, it had a highly organized structure, that was divided into Ganams a Fleet squadron, usually commanded by a Ganapathy. And there was a hierarchical ranking structure, below the King, that consisted of Jalathipathi(Admiral), Nayagan( Fleet Commander), Ganathipathy(rear admiral), Mandalathipathy(vice admiral) and Kalapathy( the ship captain). You also had separate departments for customs excise(Thirvai), inspection and audits( Aaivu) and an intelligence corps( Ootru). The Cholas also had their own coast guard equivalent in Karaipiravu. And this would be one of their finest achievements, building a world class naval structure.
Often called as the Golden Age of Tamil culture, it was one of the greatest literary eras in history equivalent to the Elizabethean reign in England or the Guptas in Northern India. Nambi Andar collected the various works on Saivism and arranged them into eleven books called Tirumurais, and another great work of literature was the adaptation of the Ramayana into Tamil by Kamban, called as the Ramavatharam. The period also saw excellent works on Tamil grammar like Yapperungalam by Jain ascetic and Virasoliyam that attempts to find a balance between Tamil and Sanskrit grammar by Buddhamitra.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yaganti temple with it’s massive Nandi that keeps growing every year, is more representative of Vijayanagar style, with the gopurams,large walls.
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.
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.