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Nanda Devi peaks rising above the National Park.

World Heritage Sites in India
Text & Photographs: P.K. DE

NANDA DEVI NATIONAL PARK (Designated in 1988) Spread around the base of Nanda Devi and several other peaks in the Garhwal Himalayas, the Nanda Devi National Park is distinguished in the world for some of the rarest and unique high altitude flora and fauna that it harbours. Nanda Devi (7817 mtr) is the second highest Himalayan peak in India located in the Chamoli region of Uttaranchal. The Park may be approached through the village, Lata, near

Joshimath 257 km from Rishikesh. Together with the famous “Valley of Flowers”, the Nanda Devi National Park is a Biosphere Reserve covering an area of 630 sq km. The entire region remains snow bound for six months in a year. Through the ages Nanda Devi has been revered as the mainifestation of Goddess Parvati, the Consort of Lord Shiva, and the hill people in the region observe festivals and fairs in her adoration. The scenic valley is a spectacular wilderness

in the world with the picturesque Rishi Ganga flowing all the way in a serpentine course draining the basin. The National Park is renowned for several species of the hoofed mammals like the Bharal, the Himalayan Tahr, Goral, Musk Deer as well as the carnivores, such as the Leopard, the Himalayan Black Bear and Snow Leopards. Notable avifauna in the Park are the Monal Pheasant, Tragopan, the Himalayan Golden Eagle and others. The floral wealth includes the Blue Poppy, Brahma Kamal (Saussurea Obvallata) and several other species of rare alpine flowers. SANCHI (1988) About 45 kilometer to the north of Bhopal, capital of

Madhya Pradesh, the World Heritage site of Sanchi is a forestclad hillock crowned with stupas and structures that represent the perfection in the Buddhist art and architectural achievements. It was the Kushana rulers who initially had consecrated Sanchi to Buddhism; thereafter emperor Ashoka, in the 2nd century B.C., replaced the original wooden structures with pleasing yellow sandstone rendering them into works of art with enduring permanence. Ashoka built eight stupas at Sanchi, all architecturally perfect and embellished with forms and symbols expressive of Buddhist teachings. The greatest of them, the big stupa 16.5 mtr high and 37 mtr in radius, is a marvel reflecting the synthesis of

The Sanchi Stupa and its column of pillars.

art and architecture in Buddhist tradition. It was from here that Ashoka’s son, prince Mahendra went to Sri Lanka for propagating Buddhism. Also, a nunnery was built at Sanchi for Ashoka’s queen who had been ordained here with the holy order of nuns. The glory of Sanchi as the seat of Buddhist learning and pilgrimage can be realized from its extensive complex of chaityas, stupas, temples, column of pillars, monasteries and the four magnificent gateways adorning the big stupa. Master sculptors, silversmiths by trade, had utilized their jewellers’ art in designing and delicate carving of the massive stone portals. They drew



inspiration from the Jataka tales and depicted Buddha’s various incarnations and the great moments in their lives. Devastated by Aurangzeb in the 17th century, Sanchi had been deserted and lay forgotten as an earthen mound in the forest. It was re-discovered in 1818 by John Marshall, the Director General of Archaeology, to be salvaged and conserved in the later years. HUMAYUN’S TOMB (1993) Mughal emperor Humayun, the founder of the city Dinpanah in Purana Quila, lies buried in a grand massive mausoleum on the Mathura Road in Delhi. Built in red sandstone and ornamented with black and white marble, with high arches and double dome, it is the first representative example of the Mughal architecture in India in the characteristic style of a garden-tomb, a precursor to the
The Humayun Tomb in New Delhi – precursor to the Taj Mahal (left) and a latticed window in red sandstone (below).





great Taj Mahal at Agra. Its construction was started in 1565, nine years after the emperor’s death by Haji (Bega) Begum, Humayun’s senior widow; the designing architect was Misak Mirza Ghiyas of Persia. In the later period several other leading Mughals had been buried within this majestic garden- tomb; of them the notables are Haji Begum and Prince Dara Shikoh, eldest son of emperor Shah Jahan. It was here that the last of the Mughals, emperor Bahadur Shah-II and his three sons had taken refuge to flee the British troops at the end of the Mutiny. While the three princes were shot dead on the spot by Lt. Hodson, Bahadur Shah had been captured and exiled to Burma. QUTAB MINAR COMPLEX (1993) Dominating the countryside, the towering Qutab Minar in south Delhi is a noble reminder of the Afghan rule in India. Ibn Batuta, a famous traveller of the medieval ages, spoke of the minar as “one of the Wonders of the world”. Qutub’d-din Aibak, founder of the Slave Dynasty of the Afghan Sultanate in India laid the foundation of Qutab Minar in 1193, possibly as a tower of victory. The attached Quwwat-ulIslam mosque was built for the use of the muezzin to call the people for prayer. The tapering elegant 73 mtr high Minar, having a base diameter of 15 mtr, and ending at 2.5 mtr at the top, could only be completed by his son-inlaw and successor Iltutmish after several years. The five -storeyed Minar has a circular balcony at each floor. While the first three
Qutab Minar – as seen from the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque within its complex.

The Darjeeling Toy Train.

storeys are made of red sandstone, the last two have white marble decorations too. A cupola had been added on top by Sultan Feroz Shah in 1368 which, however, fell down in an earthquake in 1803. Highly ornamental with calligraphic carvings, the Minar has developed a little tilt through the ages, though it has remarkably withstood the rigours of Nature for more than eight hundred years. According to some legend, the Minar was originally built by Prithviraj Chauhan, the last Hindu king of Delhi for her daughter to have a look at the holy river Yamuna in the far distance. The ornate tomb of Iltutmish standing nearby is profusely decorated with fine calligraphy too. The Alai Darwaza, another ornate gateway was raised in the vicinity

by Alauddin Khilji in 1311. Also notable within the complex is the famous non-rust seven mtr high iron pillar, raised in memory of the great Gupta Emperor Chandragupta Vikramaditya who ruled in the 4th Century A.D. THE TOY TRAIN, DARJEELING (1999) Other than for producing world’s finest quality tea, Darjeeling – the Queen of hill stations in north Bengal is best known for its Toy Train running between Siliguri in the plains and Darjeeling in the forest -clad Himalayas. Established in 1881, it is the world’s first passenger train to be hauled up by a tiny steam engine in a slow zigzag climb uphill to an elevation of 2134 mtr. The 87.5 km long narrow gauge (0.60 mtr) section of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

(DHR) has no tunnel en route. “Ghoom” railway station in the DHR is the world’s second highest, being also the first highest in the world ever to be reached by a steam locomotive. While negotiating the engineering marvel of the famed Batasia Loop through highly enchanting sceneries before entering Darjeeling, the train offers the joy -riders a grand panorama of the Himalayan snow peaks including the majestic Mt Kanchenjunga (8598 mtr), world’s third highest. To curtail the ten-hour long hill journey, the train has now been provided with a more powerful diesel locomotive in recent times. This unique Toy Train was bestowed with the World Heritage status in 1999.
x The author is a noted photo journalist.



Text & Photographs: DILEEP PRAKASH



he constant drone of the broad gauge diesel engine overtakes the cotton-dotted landscape as the train swerves into Gondal, Gujarat. This erstwhile state was one of the first to have a private railway. The Gondal State Railway has some of the most exquisite stations with a mix of British and Kathiawari architecture. The quiet station has the photo of Maharajah Bhagvatsinhji who had the vision to create a modern state some 100 years back. As the rickshaw pulls through town I am amazed at its wide tree-lined roads, plenty of gracious architecture and European wrought iron lamp posts. Tired after the long journey from Delhi cutting through Ahmedabad and Rajkot, I check into the Orchard Palace. Located in a huge complex of fruit orchards, lawns and gardens, the Orchard Palace is a wing of the Huzoor Palace (the present royal residence) where the ruling family of Gondal entertained personal guests including relatives from other princely states of Gujarat. The “Room of Miniatures” is a
Swaminarayan Temple Above: Orchard Palace. Right: Maharajah Bhagvatsinhji.

splendid sitting room with a collection of miniature paintings, brass and antique furniture. More recently a host of Bollywood celebs settled in while shooting for a movie. The royal saloons preserved outside arouse the rail buff in me and after a hot cuppa I’m trotting behind a thick spectacled housekeeper, who recalls that “Maharaja Saab loved style and grandeur. These coaches here are unlike the ordinary rail compartments”. Bearing testimony to the royal lifestyle, it is equipped with a dining suite, bedroom, bathroom and even a kitchen. The coach has been restored with furniture belonging to the times when they were used

as royal carriages. The fans, switches and mirrors in the saloons are also similar to those in use during that era. Viceroy Lord Wellington had travelled in this saloon to Gondal on the golden jubilee birthday celebration of Maharaja Bhagwatsinh in 1935. I now headed out of the pristine aroma of the Palace down to the Gondali – a little river that curves along the town. Near its banks is the Riverside Palace. The oldest palace in Gondal is the 17th-century Naulakha Palace. Skipping a detailed view of both these royal retreats I’m more interested in the collection of vintage cars. The royal garages have an extensive collection of vintage cars ranging from a 1920s Daimler, a 1935 Mercedes, 1935 Packard two-door convertible,



Bahadur Shah Zafar


hen India’s first War of Independence ended in 1857, the victors were confronted with a major question: What should be done with its leader, Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor (1772-1862)? The British came up with a typical solution, inspired by the mindset of ‘divide and rule’: Send the emperor in permanent exile to a far corner of the Raj, a deserted, desolate part of Rangoon, the sleepy city they had conquered recently. (They had meted out the same treatment to Thibaw, the last King of Burma, sent on exile to Ratnagiri in Maharashtra). At first, Captain Nelson Davies, the British officer -in charge did not know what to do with his new charge, the last resident of Delhi’s magnificent Red Fort. Setting aside protocol, he decided to accommodate the prisoner in the small garage of his modest bungalow. That is where Bahadur Shah, accompanied by his wife, Begum Zeenat Mahal, and grand- daughter, Princess Raunaq Zamani, along with two sons and other members of the entourage, spent the
The Bahadur Shah Zafar Memorial in Yangon.

Above: Another view of the Swaminarayan Temple. Left: Sangram Sinhji High School: Gothic architecture.

European laboratory equipment, an antique clock tower and intricate wooden ceilings. Morning tea is served amidst the calls of peacocks and scent of flowering mango trees. I prolong the moments since the drone of the diesel waits in just a few hours. On my way to the station I steal a visit to the Swaminarayan Temple. Its large gateway and scores of colourful devotees lend it an awesome aura of devotion. The toot of the diesel greets me at the station and I set foot on the board with a royal air!
x The author is a noted travel writer.

1941 and 1947 Cadillac, 1955 Cadillac limousine, Jaguar XK 150 and a Chevrolet. Most of these cars are restored and some bear the original Gondal State number plates.

In the centre of the town is the most fabulous college building: The Sangram Sinhji High School. It is a model of Eton in Gondal. It has fabulous Gothic architecture, Italian marble floors, old




sunset years of his life from 1858-62. (He occupied the throne of Delhi from 1836 to 1857). Bahadur Shah was a sad and broken man, especially after the failure of the War of Independence. The failure cost him dearly: a lost throne, brutal murder of his sons and exile to a foreign land. The patriot that he was, he sought the cooperation of Indian Princes and Rajas against the British. In a historic letter, he wrote to them that it was his “ardent wish that the whole of Hindustan should be free”.
Courtyard of the Mazar (below) and the grave of the Emperor on the lower floor (facing page).

death. He was immediately buried in the British officer’s residential compound. The burial site was concealed carefully and in no time, it was covered with tropical foliage. Davies wrote, as cited by former Punjab High Court Chief Justice G.D. Khosla in his book The Last Mughal: “A bamboo fence surrounded the grave for some considerable distance. By the time the fence is worn out, the grass will have again covered the spot and no vestige will remain to distinguish where the last of great Mughals rests”. Clearly, the British knew the symbolic value and the emotional hold of Bahadur Shah Zafar on

the people of Hindustan. However, history proved Davies – and the Raj – completely wrong. Neither the king nor his Mazar has been forgotten. The mausoleum stands as a memorial to the last Mughal ruler who adorned Delhi’s throne that was once occupied by Akbar and Shahjahan, among others. The Mazar in Yangon (Rangoon) is the final resting place of the king, his wife and grand daughter. It is, however, noteworthy that of the three graves on the ground floor, only two are believed to be real, whereas the third, i.e. the king’s grave, is a decoy. His real grave, located below the ground floor, was discovered in 1991

when digging took place for a major renovation of the Mazar. It was identified by the special kind of bricks used in the 19th century, and by the description of the place of burial by Captain Davies. For local Muslims, it is a place of worship where namaz is offered everyday and large congregations gather on special holy days. The king has been revered as a wali (saint), blessed with special powers. His death anniversary is celebrated by holding a huge Urs (fair) lasting three days when free meals are served to visitors and musical events are held. Bahadur Shah Zafar was said to be a devout disciple of the

Chistiya Sufi order (Tariqa); later he himself became a spiritual guide. He became famous for his mystical poems that could “move the listener’s heart to repentance and kindle the soul with divine brilliance”. It is also believed that his poems contain predictions concerning future events. To Indians in general, the Mazar is a national monument, a vivid reminder of pre-colonial, undivided India – and of the king who led, however unsuccessfully, the battle against imperial intruders. It was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, a titan among India’s nationalist leaders, who turned the Mazar into a memorable spot

The king died on November 7, 1862, at a ripe age of 89. The British feared him, even in his





of national pilgrimage. With the headquarters of his Indian National Army (INA) set up in Yangon during the Second World War, Netaji regularly visited the Mazar. He issued his famous appeal to ‘March on to Delhi’ – ‘Dilli Chalo’ – from Yangon, perhaps while visiting the Mazar. In 1949, the Bahadur Shah Zafar Memorial Society in Delhi proposed that the Emperor’s mortal remains should be transferred to Delhi. This was not agreed to. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru decided to let the memorial remain in Yangon as an indicator of India’s confidence in Myanmar’s respect for Indian national sentiments.

During the time of Prime Minister Nehru and Myanmar’s Prime Minister U Nu, there was also a suggestion to send the remains of King Thibaw from Ratnagiri to Myanmar and to bring those of the Mughal emperor to Delhi. However, the two prime ministers took the view that these shrines were part of the two countries’ shared historical and cultural legacy and should be properly maintained – wherever they were located. To mark Netaji’s clarion call of patriotism issued from Yangon,
Portrait of the Emperor in the Mazar’s courtyard (left) and the graves on the upper floor.

and to pay homage to the last Mughal Emperor – besides celebrating an important historical link between India and Myanmar, the Indian Embassy in Yangon follows an interesting tradition, started many years ago. Both on India’s Republic Day (January 26) and Independence Day (August 15), the Ambassador and other officers formally visit the Mazar, offer floral tributes to the Emperor, and hold discussions with the Managing Committee of the Mazar. As one journalist puts it: “By these visits it is clear that India has “reclaimed” its last king – at least in spirit. Some 125 years after his death, Zafar is being given the respect for being the last King of India...” Over the years, the Government of India has assisted in the renovation and maintenance of the Mazar, with full concurrence and encouragement of the Myanmar authorities. Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) too has made a unique contribution; it has sponsored several well-known Quawali troupes who have preformed at the Mazar to the delight of thousands of music lovers. What can be a more fitting recognition and remembrance of a man who himself was a sensitive poet? His deep anguish and lament over not getting even two yards of land for burial in his own land has rarely failed to touch the hearts of people: “Kitna hai badnasib Zafar kafn kay liye, Do gaj jameen bhi na mili dafn kay liye.”
A plaque at the Mazar.

“I pay my homage to the memory of the symbol and rallying point of India’s First War of Independence. That war has been won. Never again shall India fall prey to foreign subjugation. We shall preserve our unity with our diversity; we shall be faithful to our values of tolerance, secularism and respect for all religions which have ensured the unbroken continuity for 5000 years.”
x The author is India’s Ambassador to Myanmar.

(How unfortunate is Zafar, that he did not get even two yards of land for his burial in his own country). In response, a resident poet in Yangon said memorably: “Do gaz zameen gar na mili to kya malal, khushboo ye kua yaar hai is yaadgar mein” (Do not grieve if you did not get two yards of space, the scent of your homeland is here in your memorial). It has been an established tradition to include the Mazar in the itinerary of important Indian dignitaries visiting Myanmar. When the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited the Mazar in December, 1987, he wrote the most apt and heartfelt tribute to the last Emperor of India:




India’s Freedom Struggle

comrades. Popularly known as the ‘Mother of Revolution’, she asked her countrymen to pledge to overthrow the foreign yoke. Durgavati and Susheela Devi were two sisters who played a vital role in the revolutionary movement of the Bhagat Singh era. With Durgavati – popularly known as Durga Bhabhi – Bhagat Singh had travelled in the Calcutta Mail on December 18, 1928, in one of his escapades. Durga Bhabhi appeared like a meteor on the firmament of freedom struggle in India. Wife of Professor Bhagwati Charan Vohra she was a terror to the British police. An active member of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, her most glorious moment came on December 17, 1928, when after killing Saunders, Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev went to her house for advice and further action. It was her plan that they should leave for Calcutta. Dressed as an English ‘Sahib’ he travelled with Durga Bhabhi and her child by Calcutta Mail. Satyawati is another name to reckon with in India’s freedom movement. She was the illustrious daughter of Swami Sharadhnanda whose only passion was India’s freedom. Of the 37 years she lived, 12 were spent in prison, once with a new born babe in arms as her companion. She served 11 jail terms and died two years before India gained independence. She firmly stood for swadeshi (home grown), and took active part in Gandhiji’s civil disobedience movement Lado Rani Zutshi, wife of a Lahore advocate, and her two daughters – Janak Kumari Zutshi and Swadesh


critical study of the history of India will reveal that, down the ages, women have excelled both in war and peace, both through pen and sword, upholding India’s cultural values and its ethical system. During the freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi was quick to realise the importance of the Nari Shakti (women’s power) and empowered them to be equal partners in the unique freedom struggle whose parallel is not found anywhere else in the world. Gandhiji did not expect all Indian women to become Jones of Arc or Ranis of Jhansi. He wanted them to be as proud and brave as Sita. “Rani of Jhansi”, he said, “could be subdued, but not Sita (wife of Lord Rama)”. He, therefore, gave a clarion call to them to join the national movement and save the national honour. The first woman to respond to his call was Kasturba, his wife. A symbol of self-sacrifice she displayed qualities of leadership particularly when Gandhi was in jail. A pillar of strength to Gandhi’s efforts for nonviolence she was always in the fore-front in all his non- violent agitations in South Africa as well as at home. She had a distinct outlook on life. “Kasturba’s outlook on life”, he said, “means the outlook represented by Kasturba Gandhi and not Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi”. She died in the Detention Camp in Agha Khan Palace in February, 1944, near Pune. Although she was herself an illiterate she stood for the education

of women and through education, their empowerment. Others who plunged into the national movement included Madame Cama, Sister Nivedita, Annie Besant, Pandita Ramabai, Sarojini Naidu, Kamla Nehru, Maniben Patel, Vijaylakshmi Pandit, Sucheta Kripalani, Prabha Vati Devi and thousands of others who sacrificed their homes to see the country free. Even those who did not fully subscribe to non-violence joined the movement for a new India through revolutionary methods. These included Durga Bhabhi, an associate of Bhagat Singh: Satyavati Devi, Khurshed Behn, Lado Rani Zutshi, Aruna Asaf Ali, et el, as also Durgabhai Deshmukh and Ammu Swaminathan who served the country through active social service. ‘If courage of the highest type is to be developed’, said Mahatma Gandhi, ‘the women of India are the natural leaders in this regard’. The story of Madame Cama reads like a thriller. Even before Gandhi had started his movement in India, she along with Sardar Singh Rana had unfurled the tri-colour of India in 1907. In an inspiring speech she said, “This flag is of India’s independence. Behold, it is born. It is already sanctified by the blood of martyred Indian youth. I call upon you, ladies and gentlemen, to rise and salute the flag of Indian independence”. The occasion was the International Socialist Conference at Stuttgart, Germany. 16

Kasturba Gandhi

All the delegates rose and saluted the flag of freedom. When Madan Lal Dhingra, the 22year old patriot and an engineering student in London was hanged in 1909, she said: “More Madan Lals are the need of the hour”. In collaboration with Virendranath Chattopadhyaay, she started a magazine called “Madan Talwar” (Madan’s sword) printed from Berlin. This magazine soon became the mouthpiece of all Indian revolutionaries abroad. Replying to the British criticism about the use of violence in the freedom struggle, she said: “Sometime back it was repugnant to me even to talk of violence as a subject of discussion, but owing to the heartlessness, the hypocrisy and the rascality of the liberals, the feeling is gone. Why should we deplore the use of violence when our enemies drive us to do it. If we use force it is because we are forced to use force.” Madame Cama exercised tremendous influence on the mind of Bhagat Singh and his



Vijaylakshmi Pandit

Sarojini Naidu

Durgabhai Deshmukh

Kamla Nehru

Aruna Asaf Ali

Kumari Zutshi – also played a prominent role in the civil disobedience movement in Punjab, particularly Lahore. They started a new movement of women satyagrahis, wore a distinctive uniform of red trousers, green shirts and white caps. They stood for swadeshi and complete prohibition. Intensely patriotic and totally fearless, Lado Rani was the embodiment of self-sacrifice and renunciation. “When a government starts arresting women, its days are numbered”, she often said. A perfect Gandhian, she stood for peaceful and non-violent resistance. Usha Mehta of Bombay was, however, a different kind of revolutionary – one who kept the torch of freedom alive with her Freedom Radio. A scholar of exceptional brilliance, she was, in the words of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, “A woman of rare courage and rare attainments.” She came into prominence during the Quit India movement started by

Gandhiji. She started a secret radio and called it Voice of Freedom. Khurshed Behn, another young woman from Maharashtra, worked in the North-West Frontier Province and became a legend among the Pushto- speaking freedom fighters. Aruna Asaf Ali, the heroine of the 1942 movement, was made of sterner stuff. Originally a Gandhian, she changed her views on nonviolent methods. She remained underground for a number of years, hoisted the national flag in Bombay, became Mayor of Delhi and won the admiration of all politicians. A brilliant orator, she wrote with great felicity. With Dr. Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayanan she founded the Socialist Wing of the Indian National Congress. These women of India proved that fighting for freedom was not the exclusive preserve of men. The intellectual gaps were filled by women like Sarojini Naidu, Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Sucheta

Kriplani, not to mention artists such as M.S. Subbalakshmi. Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, who fought shoulder to shoulder with men in the Indian freedom struggle, as Head of the Rani Jhansi regiment of Indian National Army (INA), was one of the most trusted and loyal aides of Netaji. Sarojini Naidu was the Nightingale of India’s freedom movement. In a letter to Nehru, she said: “As I watched your face while you were being given a rousing reception on your election, I felt I was envisaging both the coronation and the crucifixion. Indeed, the two are inseparable and almost synonymous today, especially for you, because you are so sensitive and so fastidious in your spiritual response and reaction and you will suffer a hundred-fold more poignantly than men and women of less fine fibre and less vivid perception and apprehension, in dealing with the ugliness, falsehood, backsliding, betrayal... all the inevitable attributes of

weakness that seeks to hide its poverty by aggressive and bombastic sound”. In yet another letter to Gandhiji, she said : “The specialists think that my heart disease is in the advanced and the dangerous stage but I cannot stir till I stir the heart of the world to repentance over the tragedy of martyred India”. Thus Sarojini Naidu was the poetchronicler of the freedom struggle. A princess of the erstwhile native Kapurthala state, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was Gandhiji’s secretary for 16 years and free India’s first Health Minister. Imprisoned a number of times and lathicharged on several occasions, Amrit Kaur was drawn towards Gandhiji during the days of martial law in Punjab. She decided to forsake the princely pomp and join Gandhiji’s ashram. Another name to emerge in the freedom struggle was that of Durgabai Deshmukh during the salt satyagraha. Popularly known as the Iron Lady, she defied British

authority in the 1930s and edited a magazine called Andhra Mahila. These women social activists broadened the base of the freedom movement by their active social work. Last but not the least, a word about Ammu Swaminathan – endearingly called Cheri Amma (Auntie). A founder-member of the All India Women Conference situated in Madras, she joined the Indian National Congress in 1934 and played a leading role in the ‘Quit India’ movement in 1942. A firm believer in non-violence and Gandhian economics, she became a Member of the Constituent Assembly and stood for a new India based on social justice and gender equality.
x The author is a freelance writer.




Swami Ranganathnanda


wami Ranganathnanda was a scholar with a difference: he never went to any school, college or university – and yet was an acknowledged authority on Vedanta! He indeed was the tallest among them all – no other saint-scholar quite measured up to him. Known as the Sage of Belur Math, Kolkata, he stood distinct and yet universal. The Swami, who passed away in April this year at the ripe age of 96, left the world “poorer” – as Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh so aptly put it. Having complete control over his five senses, the Swami was the flashback of the ancient heritage of India, standing at par with Adi Shankara and Ramanuja. As a practical Vedantist he often said, “In our effort to get a seat in the other world, we lose our seat on the earthly paradise”. Born in Trikkur in the erstwhile state of Travancore, now in Kerala, on December 15, 1908, he joined the Ramakrishna Math in Mysore at the age of 18. Formally initiated into Sanyas in 1933 by Swami Sivananda, the famous sage of Rishikesh, he worked as Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission at Rangoon in Burma from 1939 to 1942, and also in Karachi from 1942 to 1948. He visited more than fifty countries to spread the message of Vedanta and wrote more than seventy books on the subjects ranging from Upanishads to Vedanta. His speeches and addresses at various universities have been compiled by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, New Delhi, and published in four volumes in 1986. Titled Eternal Values for a Changing Society the book emphasised that the society can change in infinite ways in response to historical necessities, but that is no reason why the eternal values underlying all human endeavour should be discarded or even changed. Swamiji believed that spirituality is a dynamic force that continuously propels us towards the only human goal the realisation of God through various means. Chastity, austerity and poverty are the three pillars of spiritual strength. All his life nothing possessed him and he possessed nothing except the name of God, the service of mankind and

compassion for the animal life. In his Ashram, there was food for everybody, including birds, beasts and insects. One of the greatest attributes of the Swami was his easy accessibility to one and all. Anybody could meet him any time with any problem; the man of money and the man of culture; men without money and those without culture. For Swamiji, everyone was equal and nobody more equal. As an educationist Swami Ranganathnanda was even greater. According to him, education is the training of mind rather than the stuffing of brain. Education flourishes only in democracy. He often quoted Swami Vivekananda who said that “I consider every educated man as criminal, who having received education at the expense of the poor does nothing for them”. Democracy, said Swamiji, came to India before it went to Greece in the city state of Athens or Rome. The pre-Mauryan republics of Lichchavi and Mallas were democracies in ancient India where equal rights were given to all including women and labouring classes, whereas such rights were denied to the working classes and women in western republics. Democracy means a value system based on equality, liberty, fraternity and,

nation will be measured by the contribution it makes to reduce the suffering and tensions and enhance happiness and peace among mankind. This is the road on which India and Japan, both young and dynamic can march together, along with other nations, creating a mighty bulwark of peace and fellowship in the world”. In such a short speech Swamiji had almost summed up India’s foreign policy. A man and a monk like Swami Ranganathnanda is born but once in many centuries. Death makes no conquest of this conqueror of soul, for, now he lives in the hearts of millions of people in whom he kindled the lamp of Vedanta, unifying the external and the internal knowledge, tradition with modernity, welfare with suffering, precept with practice and indeed living with life. Describing him as a ‘Second Vivekananda’, Dr Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minister, in his homage to Swami Rangnathnanda said: “He was an unusually gifted individual, a teacher, a scholar, a sage, a companion of the needy and, above all, a deeply religious person in the best traditions of Indian culture and civilisation”.
x The author is a noted writer on philosophy.

The Swami at the California Ashram of the Ramakrishna Mission.

above all integrity. This value system can be brought back by proper education which is different from gathering information. “If education is identical with information”, he said, then the libraries would be the greatest sages in the world, and encyclopedias the greatest rishis”. A great upholder of character education, Swamiji often quoted the age-old saying that if “wealth is lost nothing is lost; if health is lost, something is lost but if character is lost everything is lost. Build character and build the nation”. “The glowing picture of what India can be tomorrow is marred by what India is today”, he told the young civil servants at Mussourie, and asked them to go into the rural India to dispel illiteracy, remove superstition and blind faith. According to him, Vedanta pre-supposes the verification of truth before it is accepted.

Swamiji laid bare before the world India’s spiritual wealth and the excellence and glories of India’s great culture. “I do not believe in the idolatry of geography but I know that India has a special role to play in awakening the world, morally and spiritually. India, he said, is blessed with divine grace for that particular role. During his visit to Japan in 1958, Swamiji told his audiences that “India has invaded no foreign country, never drenched her hands in foreign blood, nor enriched herself by exploiting other nations. Her international contacts have moved through the silent channels of culture and commerce and never through the turbulent storms of violence and war. It is this heritage – ancient, dynamic and pervasive that gives authenticity to India’s voice on peace and tolerance among nations today”. He concluded by saying “Today the greatness of a people or a



India’s Space Prowess


n a significant development, the Bangalore-based Antrix Corp Ltd, the commercial arm of the Indian space programme, and the Malaysian outfit MEASAT Global Bhd have entered into an agreement to float a 50:50 joint venture company aimed at pooling their satellite resources in the economically resurgent Asia Pacific region. This landmark agreement was signed in New Delhi in December last year when the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahamad Badwai visited India. An official statement issued on the occasion observed that the move will eventually culminate in the development of a “satellite neighourhood” for millions of broadcasting and telecommunications customers spread across the Asia Pacific region. Indeed, the creation of this “satellite neighbourhood” through the joint venture would help position India’s multipurpose domestic spacecraft system INSAT as a leading satellite system in the Asia Pacific market where the demand for high quality satellite- based services is on the upswing. The fully Indian designed and developed INSAT system continues to support telecommunications, broadcasting, meteorological and educational sectors in India in a big way. No wonder the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) hopes that INSAT system capability will find ready users in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Australia.

services it provides to the worldwide customers. MEASAT is also to procure from Antrix India a new satellite for its launch in 2007. This satellite, to be named MEASAT-4, will augment the MEASAT fleet with the additional Ku-band capability. Antrix is keen to build and launch medium capacity satellites for ASEAN countries. Another Malaysian outfit, Astronautic Technology, has already signed an agreement with Antrix for making use of the services of the Indian space vehicles – the four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) featuring alternate liquid and solid fuel- driven stages, and the three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) equipped with an upper cryogenic engine stage. The synergy of Antrix- MEASAT tie-up is also expected to lead to the extensive use of MEASAT’s new teleport and broadcast center, in addition to exploring the possibility of developing a world class teleport in India. As envisaged now, the joint venture company is expected to have headquarters in Bangalore. The ISRO sources in Bangalore point out that the ultimate objective of the venture is to jointly market at the international level satellites using ISRO’s technological prowess and MEASAT’s marketing skills. Anrix Corp has also made gains in marketing the services of PSLV which has so far launched four satellites on commercial basis for Germany, Belgium and South

Korea. Antrix has also entered into an agreement with the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU) for launching its X-sat satellite as a piggy back payload onboard a PSLV flight. Similarly Antrix has bagged a US $10-million contract from the European Union to launch an Italian built satellite by means of PSLV. In order to accommodate the increased frequency of satellite launches, ISRO has built a second launch pad at India’s national spaceport in Sriharikota island, about 80 km to the north of Chennai. Similarly, Antrix’s tie-up with the Space Imaging of USA has resulted in a fast growing market for the high quality resources data generated by the fully Indian designed and developed IRS series of earth observation spacecraft. Thanks to this partnership today IRS data accounts for one-fifth of the satellite resources data sold globally. Growing demand for such data reflects the giant strides made by India in the global space market. Today India boasts of having one of the largest constellations of remotesensing satellites in the world. According to Prof U.R. Rao, a former chairman of ISRO, India’s strength in the area of satellite based remote sensing is globally recognized. More than twenty ground stations spread around the world receive data directly from the IRS series of spacecraft. Meanwhile India’s efforts to enter the global market for launching satellites has crossed yet another milestone with the successful development of a cryogenic engine that would replace the Russian supplied upper stage cryogenic engine in GSLV. It is described as the most sophisticated and highly

the US aerospace giant Boeing Satellite System for floating a joint venture for developing and worldwide marketing of satellites. As envisaged, ISRO will integrate the service payloads supplied by Boeing into the Indian satellite buses at the Banglore based Satellite Centre. The ultimate objective is to market satellite systems somewhat similar to INSAT in capability and configuration.
x The author, based in Bangalore, is a noted writer on science and space.

PSLV on the launch-pad.


Haji Mohammed Hanif Omar, Director of the Measat Satellite Systems Sdn Bhd of Malaysia, said “we have been using the Indian space technology and expertise on Measat -1 and Measat - 3 programmes”. The INSAT system, commissioned in 1983, is considered to be the largest communications satellite constellation in the Asia Pacific region. At present under an agreement with Intelsat (International Telecommunications Satellite Organization), India has leased eleven 36 MHz equivalent of units of C- band capacity onboard the INSAT-2E satellite launched in April 1999. It is for the first time that Intelsat has looked beyond its own constellation of satellites to support the range of

advanced space launcher developed by ISRO. GSLV would be used to orbit the Indian made INSAT class satellites which earlier used to be launched abroad. Simultaneously, ISRO is developing a heavy lift -off version of GSLV called GSLV MK-III that would be capable of launching 4-tonne class communications satellites. GSLV MK-III is expected to be ready before the end of this decade. It would give a big thrust to India’s plan to enter the global market for launching commercial communications satellites. Antrix which has supplied satellite components, hardware and systems to satellite fabricators in North America and West Europe, is now preparing to enter the global market for medium class communications satellites. For, discussions are currently on with





he recent centenary celebrations of K.L. Saigal, the immortal singer and superstar of the 20th century, also evoked the memories of Khurshid who passed away four years ago in April, 2001. A leading singing star in the early 1940s, Khurshid attained countrywide fame and popularity after teaming up with K.L. Saigal in Ranjit’s great hit Bhakat Surdas (1942). A charming personality with an extraordinary acting talent, Khurshid was also an accomplished singer. Sharing with Saigal their common Punjabi background and outlook, Khurshid with her lively, unrestrained performance showed up as a natural heroine of Saigal. On his part, Saigal too gave the impression of being perfectly at ease with Khurshid and his performance was both candid and spontaneous. No wonder, Saigal-Khurshid duo instantly shot into limelight and both were acclaimed as superstars. Born around 1912-14 in Choonian tehsil of Lahore, Khurshid embarked on her professional career with Madan Theatres of Calcutta after the advent of Talkies in 1931. Madan was then the leading film producing company in India with a chain of cinema houses all over the country. The heroines in the silent era were mostly drawn from the Anglo - Indian community who joined films


as A.R. Kardar, R.L. Shorey and J.K. Nanda made talkies. Khurshid appeared in Shorey’s Kamla Movietone production “Radhey Shyaam” and then as a heroine in Swarg Ki Seedhi directed by J.K. Nanda (1935). Unfortunately, all those films produced at Lahore flopped miserably at the box office and the artistes and technicians were forced to quit Lahore and seek their fortune in the successful film companies of Calcutta and Bombay (now Kolkata and Mumbai). Khurshid moved over to Bombay in 1935 and joined Saroj Movietone. After struggling for a few years she finally made her mark in Sitara (1939) produced by Everest Pictures and directed by Ezra Mir with music by Rafiq Ghaznavi. It was a romantic drama set in a fantasy version of a gypsy life. Khurshid was acclaimed for her remarkable performance and hailed as a budding actress of great promise with her charming, seductive looks and lovely husky voice. She was earlier noticed in Saroj film Murad (1937) with the well-known hero Jairaj who recorded that Khurshid was the third heroine whom he had kissed on the screen, the other two being of the silent era, Madhuri (Meena Kumari’s eldest sister) in ‘My Hero’ (1930) and the popular heroine of ‘She’ or Aurat, Zebunissa.

In a way Tansen immortalized all those connected with its production – director Jayant Desai and the music director Khemchand Prakash who played no small role in grooming Khurshid into a consummate artiste who could sing any song with equal ease. Later, though Khurshid appeared in Shahenshah Babar, Mumtaz Mahal (1944) Moorti, Prabhu Ka Ghar (1945) Maharana Pratap (1946), but none of these could make any mark in the film world. Khurshid left for Pakistan in 1947 with her husband Lala Yakub, an actor with Kardar productions whom she had married earlier in 1946. According to M. Rafiq, a famous film historian in England, Khurshid was not so active in Pakistan and appeared as heroine only in two films – both in 1956: Fankar and Mandi. Unfortunately, these films despite Khurshid’s songs and Rafiq Ghaznavi’s music failed at the box office. After leaving Yakub in 1956, she married a businessman Irshad Bhaimiyan and came to be known as Mrs. Irshad Begum. Hereafter, she retired from the films and engaged herself in philanthropic work. She chose to keep herself aloof and declined to give any interviews or talk about her film career. Many singing filmstars tried to copy her style but without much success. Khurshid died on 18th of April, 2001, in Karachi after a prolonged illness. She had a God-gifted voice and a natural talent of turning songs into enchanting melodies for the listeners.
x The author is a noted writer.

With K.L. Saigal in Tansen (1942).

under glamorous native names. Ruby Myers, a telephone operator, became Sulochana -the leading star of the early 1930s. Then there was Irene Gasper who appeared in some films as Sabita Devi. But as they were not proficient in Hindi-Urdu, they were replaced by the professional, well-trained theatre artistes. Khurshid with her screen name Miss Shelha made her debut with a role in Madan Theatres Laila Majnu. She followed it up with some supporting roles in Shakuntala. Chitra Bakavali, Hathili Dulhan and Muflis Ashiq (1933). In the meantime, there was hectic activity in Lahore and a number of producers such

Fortune smiled on Khurshid and in 1940, she rose to stardom with the Ranjit’s box office hit ‘Holi’ ‘when she co-starred with the then famous hero Motilal. Directed by A.R. Kardar with D.N. Madhok’s tuneful lyrics set to music by Khemchand Prakash (who was to create a sensation few years later with ‘Ayega annewala’ in Mahal in 1949), the film earned her fame and popularity. Her other notable hits were Musafir, Shadi and Pardesi. Playing the heroine’s role with Motilal, the upcoming superstar of Bombay, Khurshid reached the pinnacle of her fame in Pardesi released in 1941. Her famous number “Pehle Jo Mohabbat se Inqar Kiya Hota” (If only you had earlier said ‘no’ to my love...) established her as the leading singing actress of her time. This paved the way for her selection by Chandulal Shah, the chief

of Ranjit, to play the heroine opposite the legendary K.L. Saigal in “Bhagat Surdas”. The story of Surdas has always provided a popular social plot to stage and screen writers. Khurshid’s superb performance in the role of Chintamani, the courtesan who transforms Bilwamangal, her lover, into a saintly figure was applauded in superlative terms. She embellished it further with her solos and popular duets with Saigal. The following year (1943), she scaled still greater heights in her second appearance with K.L. Saigal in Tansen, one of the all-time great classics of Indian cinema. The film was a runaway success and Khurshid was voted as the top superstar by the audiences. It was Tansen which brought fame to the Bombay film industry in the world of music which was until then dominated by the New Theatres of Calcutta.



Self-Healing Alloy
Text & Photographs: JAANAVI PRASADA

and reach beyond into the unknown, the unfathomable”. By a simple touch and feel of a particular metal in their hands they could conjure what was missing in the metal and what needed to be added to create that prefect objet de’art which would almost be a divine craft! Blacksmiths used to wait for the right time of the day when the planetary configuration was perfect, rays of the moon and the sun would strike the lump of metal at a particular angle at an appropriate time so that the metal would imbibe all the divine properties. It is only after this that the blacksmiths would break open the metal and begin crafting their perfect piece of metal art. If the spirit of man would not work in tandem with nature, the creation would be imperfect. Today even after innumerable experiments by the top archaeologists, corrosion technologists and metallurgists to find out the uniqueness of the Iron pillar that lends it self healing properties since time imemorial, no one has been able to make any headway or replicate the iron contents of the Pillar. It remains a living example of the genius of the Indian mind. own, just like a human body would heal itself in due course in case of any abrasion. The Iron Pillar stands tall, over seven metres high and weighing more than six tonnes. It is a living testimony to the erudite skills achieved by ancient Indian metallurgists in the extraction and processing of iron during the reign of the Gupta dynasty that ruled northern India in AD 320-540. It is made up of 98 per cent wrought iron of impure quality. It is the only reminder of a Hindu temple which stood there before being destroyed by Qutub-ud-din-Aibak to build the Qutub Minar. Indian metallurgits of the past were always guided by their inner consciousness. They were seen as “shaman, a visionary, who could transcend given reality


etals are an important element of our being; they possess an energy of the divine consciousness that is inherent in each one of us. The famous Iron Pillar in the Qutub Minar complex in India’s capital, New Delhi, is one such example of creating metal art though the sixth sense! At first glance, the Iron Pillar looks like any other till one is told of its rare qualities. It has survived hail, storm, dust and rains for the past 1600 years without a trace of any decay or rusting. Metallurgists are foxed by the fact that if and when any traces of rust do appear on the pillar, its self-healing properties rid the Pillar of the rust on its

x The author is a freelance writer/ photographer and filmmaker.




Q &A
An Indian writer in English making waves on the international scene is not a new phenomenon. This time it is a diplomat. Vikas Swarup’s debut novel ‘Q and A’ has reportedly bagged a million pounds as advance royalty. It has not only been translated into twelve European languages and being adapted for a musical in London, but is also steadily making it to the bestseller list in England and America within days of its launch in April this year. Suresh Kohli spoke to the debutant novelist in a free wheeling interview, excerpts of which are being reproduced here:

There is the story of the quiz show contestant Ram Mohammed Thomas, and there are the goings on in the quiz show itself. And to my mind the novel has pace because of this dualism, this contradiction, this tension between these two strands of the novel. The distance of the quiz show contestant from the top prize is what, I think, powers the narrative. Q:Weren’t you apprehensive about the acceptance of the narrative form? A: I certainly was a bit apprehensive. In fact, after I had written the novel I thought to myself that in this perfectly good story of Ram Mohammed Thomas, should I just stick to only his life story and not get into the Who Will Win a Billion format? I was worried that some people might consider it too gimmicky, whereas the life story of Ram Mohammed Thomas as I had fleshed it out was itself quite engrossing and engaging. But then I thought to myself who will want to read the story of a poor waiter. The story of a poor waiter is interesting precisely because he has won a billion. He is nobody unless he has won the biggest jackpot on earth. And then I realized that the quiz show is central to the plot. In fact the opening line itself: “I have been arrested” is integral to the story of Ram Mohammed Thomas, leading to Smita, the lawyer, making her appearance. So if I did not have the incident of the arrest then the whole story would collapse like a house of cards. And then I decided to go through with this narrative structure. The bigger difficulty was sustaining this structure,

because not only did I have to flesh out the life story of this poor orphan boy, but had to do so while following the conventions of a quiz show. Another problem was that I could not narrate my protagonist’s life story from birth to till he is an eighteen-year old boy in a strictly chronological order because if, for instance, the questions on the quiz show had followed the progression of his life that would have been too coincidental. You cannot have the first question coming when he is two years old or the second when he is five years old. He had to go back and forth in time. So the challenge for me was to ensure that while the reader maintains the thread of his life story, at the same time the questions should appear convincing and follow the format of a quiz show where the questions are normally interspersed. Two questions on sports cannot follow one after the other, there has to be a question on popular science, or a question on cinema and things like that. The idea was to follow the normal conventions of a quiz show, and at the same time ensure that the story does not get lost in the transition to TV. Q: It is obvious that despite being your first novel, it is not autobiographical. But where did you pick up all those gory crime stories, life in the Mumbai slums and elsewhere in the country? A: It was basically my research. Because I have never lived in Mumbai for any sustained period of time and I have never visited Dharavi – the biggest slum cluster. Modern technology, the

internet in particular, has placed so many tools at our disposal, besides having access to so many other resources now that one can really get all the details of a particular situation. Q:What necessitated the undercurrent of crime throughout the narrative? A: Considering that I was writing about the underbelly of urban India, an undercurrent of crime was perhaps unavoidable. But it did worry me that too many people die in the novel. However, once I got under the skin of my central character, the story took a life of its own. Once Ram Mohammed Thomas became a real character for me, it was then he who was dictating to me what to write about him. Q: Okay, but why do you call your protagonist Ram Mohammed Thomas? A: Well, the name is pregnant with meaning. I really wanted him to represent the ‘richness and diversity of India’, as one character does say in the novel. I also wanted him to be an iconic figure, sort of combining in himself the microcosm of India, and you see he uses these three names very effectively. To a Muslim he becomes Mohammed, to a Christian he becomes Thomas, to a Hindu he becomes Ram. And how he adapts to changing circumstances, and how he unlocks the keys to the quiz show itself, is what the novel is all about. It is his adaptability and resourcefulness that is the leitmotif of the novel.
x The interviewer is a noted writer/filmmaker.

Q: It is said that each individual has a novel in him or her and some of us try to give it a shape. Tell us how did you give your novel the shape that it finally acquired? A: First of all, I wanted to write something different, as the cliché goes. I did not want to write a typical family saga, a generational love story or something like that. I wanted to write something off beat. Having been a keen quizzer myself, I have always been intrigued by the psychology underlying a quiz show. For instance, when a quiz show contestant is asked a question what goes through his mind, his answer is the end product of what? Is it the end product of what he has read or could it be the end product of what he has experienced, what he has been told etc? And then it struck me, why not tap into the global phenomenon of a syndicated televised quiz show. Kaun Banega Crorepati was big news at that time. Who Wants to be a Millionaire was a top show in Britain. It was being telecast live

in fifty or sixty countries. Around the same time, the scandal broke about an army major who won a million pounds but who confessed eventually to having an accomplice who was signaling to him the correct answers. The second strand of my novel germinated from a very interesting news report I had come across some time ago and which had perhaps got lodged in my mind: slum children using a

mobile internet facility. And that is what set me thinking. Normally you associate the internet with people of a certain standing, people who are in tune with technology, who are well educated, but here were slum children who had never been to school, who had never read a newspaper in their life, and they were logging on to the worldwide web. So perhaps it is not just a question of upbringing and environment. There is something inherent in all of us, maybe a latent possibility which given the right opportunity can come to the fore and can be exploited. So it was these two strands which formed the backbone of my novel. I decided to have as my protagonist a person belonging to the lower strata of society, appearing in what is called a brain quiz, and winning. And how he won, how various incidents in his life gave him the clues to the answers, that would be the central thesis. You would thus have the revelation of a private life through the medium of a public spectacle. That is why the novel moves on two planes.






ombining masonic grandeur with humility, the majestic Victoria Terminus – rechristened Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus – now finds a place on the World Heritage List, though 40 other stations across the country too could claim this status, says a new book. Of the nearly 7,000 railway stations in the country, there are at least 40 which would qualify for heritage buildings because of their exquisite beauty and rare grandeur, according to K.K. Khullar in his book “Indian Railways Architectural Heritage”. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is only the second Indian railway site after the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to have been accorded the heritage status. The author says stations like Howrah, Sealdah, Chennai, Lucknow and even small stations such as Egmore, Churchgate, Byculla, Solan, Shimla, Bilaspur and Darjeeling could qualify for the world heritage status. Of the about 7000 railway stations, the beauty is that no two stations are alike. “Architecturally they are known for their exquisite beauty, outstanding excellence and rare grandeur, reflecting not only the soul of Indian Railways but also the soul of modern India”. Some early railway stations in India were so small that “they

is a landmark in the station architecture in the world and heralds the golden era of railway architecture in India. Combining the best of architecture of the East and the West, it was designed by F W Stevens. Opened on June 20, 1887, to mark the Jubilee Day of Queen Victoria who was also then the Empress of India, its uniqueness lies in its Gothic cathedral architecture, its structural harmony and its lay-out plan. It represents a happy blend of Gothic, Venetian, Sarcenic and Indo-Islamic traditions. Stevens was quick to realise that in India there was always an excitement for a journey. “Passengers come before the train leaves the station; they look at the railway building with awe. Architecture of the railways, therefore, should be aweinspiring”. The greatest attraction of VT is that it attracts even the non-travellers. “People go there just to witness the incoming and outgoing trains, to buy a newspaper, eat a meal and just to see the drama of life”.
x The reviewer is a journalist.

looked like a sparrow’s nest, a cow’s shed and some were so big as 5-star hotels with innumerable windows, more rooms than men working in them.” The Indian Railways, only 28 years younger than the World’s oldest railway of the United Kingdom, acquired its Indian character when Mahatma Gandhi saw in it a great integrating role. It is true that Indians in the colonial days had viewed the Railways as “a devil’s workshop” suspecting it as an instrument of the British military might. “The buildings that came out of that workshop are now pulsating with life, an unceasing range of activities beckoning one and all, extending their welcome in a hundred ways and in a million gestures.” Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is one such heritage building which


Prem Kapoor




into equal parts, it is only a fraction in its passage through Assam that we will discuss here. The Brahmaputra, the lifeline of Assam (India), flows from southwest Tibet, where it is known as the Tsangpo, through Assam into Bangladesh where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. Near Sadiya (Assam), it changes its course to south-west and becomes the Brahmaputra. After about 450 miles from Sadiya south-west down the Assam valley, the Brahmaputra sweeps round the spur of the Garo Hills (Meghalaya) due south towards the sea. Here it takes the name of Jamuna and for approximately 180 miles rushes across the level plains of Bangladesh till it joins the Padma, the easternmost strain of the Ganga, and becomes

the Meghna, one of the most important estuaries of the Ganges. According to legend, Brahmaputra is the son of Lord Brahma – the creator of this world according to Hindu mythology. It is mentioned in a 10th-12th century text, the Kalika Purna, that there lived a sage named Santanu with his charming wife Amogha. In the Puranic Encyclopedia written by Vettam Mani, it is mentioned that once when Lord Brahma visited the ashram of Santanu Maharshi (great saint) Amogha received the guest with reverence as her husband was not at home. Brahma was ‘fascinated’ by her irresistible charm and could not resist ravishing her. However, unable to bear the divine pregnancy, she deposited the
People bathing on its banks.

‘celestial gift’ in the water lying in the valley of the Yugandhar Mountain. From then on it became a pilgrimage site. The Brahmaputra has witnessed many upheavals of civilizations in Assam. The valley is an alluvial land and the rapidly flowing snow-fed rivers of the Himalayas find little resistance in its friable soil. Thus they are constantly carving out new channels and cutting away their banks. Hence buildings erected in various parts of Assam may expect to be submerged beneath the floods of this flowing river. Except in places like Guwahati, where the rock pierces into the alluvium soil, the riverbed is at a higher elevation than the level of the towns. So if there is a breach in the embankment then the whole

reat rivers have forever spawned grand civilizations. History is witness to the fact that worshippers of certain gods and goddesses have always occupied many sites on the banks of the great rivers, particularly in a country so deeply rooted in her ancient heritage as India. Perhaps it is the tangible life supporting nature of water as opposed to most other life sustaining elements that tantalizes the world-weary soul to seek spiritual answers in the mystic allure of the rivers.


In the northeast corner of India lies one of the most spectacular rivers in the world: the Brahmaputra in Assam. It is approximately 1680-mile long. With its fount near Lake Mansarovar on the eastern side of the Kailash Mountains (the Elysium of Shiva) in the Himalayas, at an elevation of about 16,000 ft. it is indeed a great river with many a mythological and authentic tale to tell. Although this vast river flows almost 900 miles of its course in Tibet and is an important river dividing the whole of Bangladesh

The “Umananda” Island.





splashing around the age-old dark rocks, is the famous Kamakhya temple – the great shrine of tantric shaktism (worship of female energy, the yoni). There are three main bridges constructed over the Brahmaputra. Apart from the famous Saraighat Bridge in Guwahati, the Koliabhomura Bridge connects Tezpur with Silghat (Nagaon) and a rail-cumroad bridge connects Goalpara and Bogaigaon (Jogijopha). A trip by crossing the Saraighat Bridge or by a ferry from Kachari Ghat to North Guwahati transports us to the old world charm of a bygone era, to the secluded serenity of the relatively new Dol Govinda temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. There is a sense of tranquillity in being one with nature in North Guwahati, where time stands still – untouched as it is with the hectic pace of modern life. With over 35 tributaries like the Subansiri, Bharalu, Dhansiri etc. flowing across the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Meghalaya in the northeastern region of India, the Brahmaputra flows through some of the most picturesque places in this world.
x The author is a noted freelance writer.

Motorboats plying on the river.

town is in danger of being washed away. The great earthquake of 1950 resulted in a flood that swept away half of Dibrugarh and completely washed away the beautiful township of Sadiya. A noted Punjabi architect, Mewada, drew a map of the new settlement and Chapakawa was born. Streamers can navigate the Brahmaputra from the Bay of Bengal up as far as Dibrugarh, which is 800 miles from the sea. This deceptively calm river annually ravages the Assam valley with floods. Heavy silting has caused the riverbed to rise and become an impediment to navigation. It meanders, forming numerous islands, sandbars,

ox-bow lakes and marshes displaying the operation of alluvium and diluvium on a devastating scale. However, the ensuing fertility of the soil due to this natural process of alluvium has resulted in the people enjoying a contented existence. When the flow of the river is as strong as in the case of Brahmaputra, island formation is but a natural process. The Majuli Char was created in its channel out of the silt from the Himalayas and is said to be the largest fresh water, inhabited River Island in the world. It has been the cultural capital of Assam for the past five centuries. Ras Purnima (October -November) is celebrated in obeisance to lord

Sukleshwar Ghat (top) – once gateway to Assam and the eroding effect of the Brahmaputra (above).

Krishna. Although Majuli is a long way away from Vrindavan, it is believed that Lord Krishna played with his consorts in Majuli. The colourful Ali-Ai-Lang festival of the Misimi tribe is also celebrated here during February-March. The Peacock Island, an emerald blob of dark green in the sapphire waters between north and south Guwahati, is said to be the smallest River Island of the

world. It houses the three temples of Umananda, Chandreshkar and Hargavri. Gadadhar Singha (1681- 1696), a great king of Assam, had built the temple of Shiva which even to this day attracts ferry loads of pilgrims during the holy festival of Shivratri celebrated on the eve of the new moon in the month of Chaitra (February-March). Atop the Nilachal hill, overlooking the blue waters of the Brahmaputra



Crystal Gods

ascination with crystal is as old as the Indian civilization.The Sanskrit word sphatika refers to clear quartz crystal, the root word sphota meaning ‘manifest’, that is, something bursting forth. The elusive luminescence of crystal seems to capture the essence of the human spirit, self-illumined and at peace. Surya (Sun) may have been the earliest godly representation to be seen in the quartz crystal but subsequently, reflections of other key gods of the Hindu pantheon – such as, Shiva, Vishnu and Devi appeared in crystal. The fact that sphatika does not have any particular colour of its own might explain its appeal with the Rishis (saints), the old seers of truth who found in it a powerful metaphor for the gunatita or attributeless quality of the Supreme Self, the Atman or Brahman of the Vedas. In the ancient Indian Puranic world of legend, crystal acquired magical powers so that it was popularly seen as a valuable aid to healing and purification; the crystal mala (necklace) of today carries that spirit. Legend has it that the great ninth century saint-scholar, Shankaracharya, received five shiva lingams (phallus) carved out of clear rock crystal after undergoing great penance at Mount Kailasa, the famous abode
Daum Balaji in crystal.


In Britain and the United States, the expatriate Indians are in cultural exile, thirsting for symbols of their ageless customs, traditions, beliefs and folklore. These are seen to offer relevance in a very disconnected world of material pursuits where the familiar is often abandoned long before the alien can be openly embraced. For the enterprising few, however, the answer may be found in art as a viable connection between the cultural rhythm that flows through one’s veins and the beat of one’s adopted surroundings. Thus it happened that a whole array of Hindu gods entered the world of man-made or manufactured crystal. Art aficionados based in Britain initiated the process by coaxing the most famous houses of crystal in the West to venture into the untested waters of Hindu imagery. Lalique, Daum and Baccarat are names that convey both artistic lineage and regal elegance through objects of exquisite beauty in quality leadcrystal, creations that hint at boundless opulence and clipped sophistication. Long used to serving the ‘niche’ markets of upscale glamour, these institutions quickly saw value in Hindu iconography, albeit in calculated steps of strictly limited editions. Lalique, of Art Deco fame, was the first house of crystal to step

into the mysterious world of Hindu icons. The first commission in 1996 produced Ganesh, an exquisite creation of frosted and clear crystal in the modern abstract style; the free flowing dreamy curves of the figure promise to enchant even the most untutored eye. Great pain was taken to ensure authenticity of form but the style was entirely Lalique. For expatriate Indians, this offered an excellent opportunity to rediscover their own heritage through the novel medium of man-made crystal, a form of artistic expression much prized in the West. Ganesh, the ubiquitous god of the Hindus, proved to be true to his fame as the remover of obstacles. The Lalique venture turned out to be immensely successful sending ripples of excitement through the art world and drawing the attention of other crystal houses. In 1999, Baccarat, the eighteenth century institution which once catered exclusively to royalty, was inspired to come up with its own version of Ganesh. Keeping with the house style, the brilliance of crystal was highlighted with the age-old opulence of gold – thereby giving the new creation a rare majesty and splendour. Soon to follow was the house of Daum, a vintage nineteenth century establishment, with its novel pate de verre method of crystal making. This highly prized technique involves pressing glass fragments into a plaster mould, thereby ensuring controlled fusion of colour and a distinctive lustre. It is a variation on the lostwax method of bronze casting

collectible or not, is a delightful treat for the senses, bringing one in touch with the innermost sensibilities as one is drawn into an unstinted worship of beauty. While all these crystal pieces are definite collectibles, their steady appreciation in value attests not only to the unquenchable thirst of the commercial spirit, but the undeniable importance of fine art in introducing both meaning and definition to the somewhat frazzled lives on the fast lane. And in the annals of world art, the crystal gods will remain a proud testimonial to the effusive creativity of the human spirit.
x The author teaches at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. Lalique Ganesh in crystal. Pictures Courtesy: Peter Louis

of the Supreme Lord Shiva. Some of those spectacular crystals are known to have descended through the lineages of select devotees of the great Acharya and to this day receive worship in private altars, away from the public gaze. A special characteristic of Hindu iconography is that its imagery is not partial to a select medium, nor averse to spanning the full gamut – from religious piety to cavalier expressions of secularism. Today, colourful or occasionally garish images of Krishna, Ganesh or Lakshmi merrily adorn T-shirts and handbags as sacraments of commerce in a mass market.

that was in vogue at the time of the Cholas and later, the Pala dynasty of India. Pate de verre produces a gem-like quality in crystal, letting surprising combinations of colour come through the sculpted pieces. In keeping with the by now almost standard ritual, Daum came up first with a Ganesh of its own in coloured crystal. Not long after appeared Balaji, a gem-like expression in crystal, that is both exquisite in appearance and carefully sculpted in every detail. The most notable characteristic of the crystal creations is that they are all finished by hand and that accounts for their crispness and clarity. Ideally, subdued lighting coming through a sculpted piece creates the best advantage; diffused light at the base of a sculpture allows sufficient refraction through the piece to present it in its full glory. There can be no denying that fine art,



The Garden by night.

A “Children’s class” in the open (above) and the Entrance Gate (right).

Garden of Five Senses


he Garden of Five Senses is a unique experiment. True to its name, it is structured around our five senses – that of sight, touch, sound, smell and taste. It has been designed as a prayer and an ode to the Almighty, for the gift of five senses that He has bestowed upon us. Different aspects of the Garden evoke each of these senses, taking one beyond the realm of reality to a dream-like world of sheer bliss. With Qutab Minar in the backdrop, the ambience it creates is just perfect for leisure and rejuvenation. Spread over 20 acres, the architecture of the Garden blends superbly with the ruins of Mehrauli in the south of Delhi. Its stone columns, pillars, seating arrangements and its amphitheatre seek to recreate

Delhi’s historical past. The use of stainless steel in limited manner tries to provide a contemporary touch to the settings – thus blending traditional with the modern. A project of the Delhi Tourism Development Corporation, it was so designed that not a single wire shows, no crisscross cables; everything is planned underground. In consonance with the theme of five senses, number Five is constant throughout the Garden, starting with five elephants at the entrance. A scene showing elephants enjoying a bath is reminiscent of such episodes along river banks throughout



India. The abundance of water is found throughout the garden, a visual treat for jaded eyes of city dwellers. On the entrance wall is a huge painting showing medicinal plants and ayurvedic medicines, as the focus is on the nature and its healing properties. The architecture of the Garden draws heavily from the architecture of Delhi; we thus have exposed stone structures that are quite predominant here. Column pillars betray the Lutyen’s influence. Columns in the restaurant area are colourful, more like what one would see in temple complexes. The stone paved pathways meander through the entire garden. The garden is so big that to enjoy and get an accurate idea of its dimensions, one definitely needs more than two visits. The garden pays a special homage to the Sun. There is a Sun Dial, opposite which on a high grass mound are dragons made by Kristine Michael. The harnessing of the Sun’s energy is laid out in the Solar Energy Park. On display are two solar -powered buses and cars, weighing machines, solar -powered bicycles, solar drum, slide and a prototype of a solar -powered home. The food courts at the entrance and towards the end near the amphitheatre offer enough space to relax. The sunken court of the amphitheatre with seats all around is ideal to watch performances and fashion shows. The garden is divided into exclusive spaces. The Khas Bagh
Wind chime – musical bells.

captures the essence of the Mughal Gardens, with its immaculately laid-out gardens, water channels, cascading of water and plethora of trees and flowering bushes. John Bowman has sculpted a fountain in metal in the form of an upside down tree. Appealing to the sense of sound are a series of wind chimes. The little bells chime away in the wind producing a soothing rhythmic music. The earlier ceramic bells made by Kristine Michael have now have been replaced by metal bells. Next to it is the lily pond. The flora in the Garden is a delight for a true nature lover and a botanist. The sheer variety is mind-boggling. The bamboo garden houses a variety of rarely seen bamboos like black, green, Buddha and dwarf. A bamboo bridge is to be commissioned by the National Bamboo Mission soon. The entire garden is dotted with bamboo furniture, as bamboo is excellent for outdoor furniture. The sunset view is a high point of the Garden. And as the night descends, the entire area takes upon itself the look of an ocean. The reflection of mercury lights in water creates a beautiful visual impact. The place can truly be described as holistic for the body, mind and soul.
x The author is a freelance writer.

Purple lilies in “Neelbagh” – Blue Garden (left top) and people at a shrine in the Garden (left).



Usha-Savita, terracotta, 1952.


mentally I am very alive and I cannot think of anything else but sculpture.” It was an irony of fate that due to student unrest, he could not seek admission to the Government School of Arts, which specialized in teaching European art at that time. Instead, he joined the Indian Society of Oriental Art in 1930 to learn sculpture. This institution of Abanindranath Tagore was solely devoted to reviving oriental art tradition among the centres of art education during the Raj days. However, during his apprenticeship in France from 1938 to 1939 and his career in England from 1946-1956, Kar came close to masters like Robert


hintamoni Kar, one of India’s most renowned sculptors, at the ripe age of 91 exhibited his latest bronze sculptures recently in an art gallery in Kolkata. Well-known for multiplicity of styles in his sculptures and paintings, synthesizing traditional Indian art, the Bengal school and the European art traditions, this legendary artist has travelled a long and checkered way from his adolescence days when he decided to take up art as a vocation – despite disapproval from his family who wanted him to study medicine. “What drives you to carry on working so hard at your age?”, I asked him the obvious question when I met him surrounded by exhibits of his new sculptures. Kar’s face radiates and he says, “Making sculptures requires considerable physical effort and at this old age my physical condition does not always allow me to generate adequate energy. But

Wlerick, Constantin Brancusi, Ossip Zadkine, Sir Jacob Epstein and Henry Moore, among others. In London, he was elected to the Royal Society of British Sculptors and in 1948, he was awarded Silver Medal and Diploma for Great Britain at the International Competition of Sports in Art at the 14th Olympiad in London. Even during this period the influence of his French schooling on his works was quite evident. Two years later, he transformed his awarded work Skating the Stag from its occidental style to an oriental decorative idiom in bronze and named it Cloud Messenger. However, Kar was now drawing inspiration from far and near,

A view of Kar’s works.

evoking an excellent fusion of technique and concept, the varied branches of his style were absorbing more and more nourishment from his Indian roots. Once a French critic asked him how could he do a thoroughly realistic piece of sculpture one day and an abstract piece the next? His reply was: “That may be difficult for you but not for us; flexibility of mind typifies the Indian character. The same thing is true about my sculpture.” In London, Kar was also invited to teach at the Polytechnic. In the class, his approach to art was rather practical. He told his



students the very first day that he was a craftsman and as craftsmen are practical, his students should know how to execute practically. For demonstration, he took some clay and made it into a round ball. Then with a knife he scooped out some clay and made a hole into it and then again, he made another hole next to it. After that he placed a triangular clod between the holes and made a slit below the clod. “So I told them,” he said, “that by making the first hole I activated the form of the round ball and with the second one, the ball was more activated. Then, with the triangular shape on it and the slit, I not only activated the form further but also dematerialized the material to make it into a human face. This is the first lesson in sculpture.” Although Kar likes to identify himself as a craftsman rather than an artist, most would agree that a customary craftsman cannot delve so uniquely deep into the aesthetic world of form and symmetry, life and motion like he does. Any discerning viewer of his sculptures in and around Bhaskar Bhavan, a museum on the outskirts of Kolkata which exclusively houses his drawings, paintings and his work would agree that these have exquisite grace, timeless calm and lyrical poise. His featureless creations like Apsara (bronze) and Mother and Child (wood) are a contrast in motion and poise respectively. His sculptures reflect his perfect understanding of human form. However, his paintings on the other hand bear so little testimony of his sculptural idiom,
Caryatid in wood, 1959 (above) and “Symbol of Justice” (facing page).

female principle is the inverted position of this triangle and the two triangles become a lotus. Likewise, the sun is represented by a swastika. For the ritual offering to the natural powers, the altars were in the shape of these symbols,” he explains. Although some may find a marked western influence in his sculptural style, Kar himself does not agree with this observation. He says, “Due to my long residence in Europe, my familiarity with western art, and my close associations with great European sculptors, it is only natural that I should have absorbed some western impact. But while absorbing my western experience, I am not conceptually influenced by western art. To give one example, when I came back to India in the 1950s, I was commissioned to make a sculpture on the symbol of justice for the Supreme Court. Without toeing the usual line of depicting it as a blind figure holding a balance, I made a mother figure (as Mother India) with a child (as the young republic), the former holding the book of law.” Chintamoni Kar’s life is indeed a success story. He became the Principal of the Government College of Art and Craft in 1956 (and served for seventeen years), was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 1974, D.Litt (honoris causa) from Rabindra Bharati University in 1986, and the Order of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French Government in 2001. Above all, he still continues to make sculptures!
x The author, an art critic and journalist, is based in Kolkata.

as they evoke the distinctive style of the traditional Bengal School. Kar is of the opinion that as one grows in life, one realizes that architecture and sculpture are essentially based on the same principle. In both, the mass and the void are combined and a harmony is created. He also maintains that in the traditional Indian sculpture, however, there is no dichotomy between realism and abstract form. In the Indian vision of sculpture, there is a fusion of the outer vision, which is realism, and the inner vision which is conceptual. “Our iconic symbols could be so abstract like, for example, purusha or male principle is a triangle standing on its base, and prakriti or the


ISSN 0970 5074

India Perspectives

MAY 2005

India Perspectives
MAY 2005 VOL 18 NO. 5 Editor

Bharat Bhushan
Assistant Editor

Neelu Rohra

From the Editor…
In this issue we pay homage to one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century – Swami Ranganathnanda, head of the Ramakrishna Mission in Kolkata. The Swami, who left for his heavenly abode in April this year at the ripe age of 96, was a scholar with a difference: he never got any formal education and yet was an acknowledged authority on Vedanta! He laid bare before the world India’s spiritual wealth and its excellence, as also the glory of India’s great culture. “I do not believe in the idolatry of geography, but I know that India has a special role to play in awakening the world – morally and spiritually”, he reminded his audiences. Education to him was the “training of mind, rather than the stuffing of brain.” He visited more than fifty countries to spread the message of Vedanta. During his innumerable discourses, he always emphasized that the “society can change in infinite ways in response to historical necessities, but that is no reason why the eternal values underlying all human endeavour should be discarded”. In a befitting tribute to the great Swami, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh described him as the “second Vivekananda” who was an “unusually gifted teacher and scholar”. We also carry a write-up on India’s space prowess – something that we have been emphasizing from time to time keeping in view the giant strides the country is taking in this field. Today India “boasts of having one of the largest constellations of remote-sensing satellites in the world”. More than twenty ground stations spread all over the globe directly receive data from the IRS series of Indian spacecraft. A detailed feature on Bahadur Shah Zafar – the last of the great Mughals, recalls the contribution he made in waging India’s First War of Independence in 1857 against the colonial powers. His ‘Mazar’ in Myanmar has now almost become a pilgrimage center, the author underlines.


P.K. De Dileep Prakash Rajiv Bhatia Sushma Pranav Khullar

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India Perspectives is published every month in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Bahasa Indonesia and German. Views expressed in the articles are those of the contributors and not necessarily of India Perspectives. All original articles, other than reprints published in India Perspectives, may be freely reproduced with acknowledgement. For obtaining a copy of India Perspectives, please contact the Indian Embassy in your country. Editorial contributions and letters should be addressed to the Editor, India Perspectives, 149 ‘A’ Wing, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi-110001. Telephones: 23389471, 23388873, Fax: 23782391 email: Website:

Chitra Balasubramaniam

Romain Maitra
This edition is published for the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, by Navtej Sarna, Joint Secretary, External Publicity Division, and printed at Ajanta Offset and Packagings Ltd., Delhi-110052. This edition is designed by Image & Imprint for the Ministry of External Affairs. Front cover: Lord Ganesh in crystal by Baccarat. Back cover: Serene ambience of the Swaminarayan Temple in Gondal. Photograph: Dileep Prakash.