ACK- 117: Kumanan-The Generous Tamil King of the Sangam Age

An out of print ACK #280

This Amar Chitra Katha is about a generous king of the ‘Sangam Age’. I was unable to find any details about Kumanan, but as came to know about Sangam Age, felt proud to be an Indian. It was a discovery for me.

The ‘Sangam Age’ is the earliest known period of organized life and history of the Tamils. Though there are some disputes about the exact dates, but roughly it goes back to the period of pre-Aryan and non-Aryan. During this period the first, second and third Sangams flourished and Tamil poets of that era produced several literary works. The Tamil poets throw considerable light on the everyday life and also reveal their culture, polity and social set-up. In the Sangam age Tamil Nadu was ruled by three kingdoms namely the Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas. The Sangam Age is considered the Golden Age of Tamils.

The Sangam period

(~ from the book "In the Kingdom of Nataraja" by Chantal Boulanger)

From the fourth century B.C. we can establish with certainty the existence of the Pandya, Chola and Kerala (Chera) dynasties which formed a relatively stable political structure, based on an interplay of alliances. The Pandya kingdom and its dynasty chosen by the Goddess, who became a queen, is mentioned in Sanscrit texts of the fifth century B.C., by Megasthenes (third century B.C.), in the “silappadikaram”, a Tamil poetical novel from the second century A.D., and then by numerous authors, notably by Marco Polo in the thirteenth century. Remarkably, it is always described as having the same political structure and remains famous for the beauty of the pearls it exports.

The Mauryan Empire (third century B.C.) expanded to include all of North India and a great part of the Deccan, developing along the merchant routes already established between the North and the well organized kingdoms of the South. Emperor Ashoka might have gone down as far as Kanchipuram. He is mentioned in one inscription as being the first king of this city, which would explain why it became a great Buddhist center, and remained famous as one until the seventh century A.D. The son of Ashoka traveled to Sri Lanka but, as all the emperors of the Mauryan dynasty, he respected the Dravidian kingdoms (Chola, Pandya and Chera).

Archaeologists found inscriptions dating from that time in “Damili”, a mixture of Brahmi (the most ancient North Indian writing) and Tamil. It is interesting to notice that those inscriptions do not have vowels in the words. Some of them contain letters from the Tamil alphabet used to translate sounds impossible to render in Brahmi, which indicates that this alphabet already existed, although it was never engraved on stone.

After the fall of the Mauryan Empire, North Indian dynasties conquered most of the Deccan, although they never succeeded in invading the three Dravidian kingdoms. They brought with them Sanscrit and Brahmins and they exerted a tremendous cultural influence.Very quickly, even in the South, the inscriptions (on copper plates) were all in Sanscrit, most often registering gifts of land to Brahmins.

Written at the beginning of the Christian era, a large anthology of poems referred to as the “from the Sangam” evokes the life in the three kingdoms, especially that of the city of Madurai, where was held the assembly of poets, the “Sangam”. Although written in Tamil, we already begin to detect a Sanscrit influence which will only grow in the later centuries. The authors of those texts are almost all known and among them were women, including the very famous poetess Auvaiyar. Despite the Sanscrit influence, which is minimal in the early poems, it is where we find what remains of Dravidian culture in its purest state.

These texts describe three prosperous kingdoms in which the kings spend their time conquering each others’ towns. Poetry, dance and religion were held in high esteem. The most popular religion was the non-orthodox Dravidian beliefs on which we will dwell later in detail.
In addition, we find Brahmanism, Buddhism and Jainism, all of which came from North India and were in fashion at that time. The last poems from the Sangam anthology were written at the end of the third century of our era.

In these poems, women, although subordinate to men, were considered the pillars of society: the fate of the family and the kingdom depended on their good behavior. The sovereign never held audience without being accompanied by his queen. His personal guard was composed of women warriors. The marriage ceremony was simple, celebrated under a canopy by tying a string around the bride’s neck. The ideal for a man was to die on the field of battle and for the spouse to immolate herself on a pyre (Dravidian custom). Men and women who died in this manner achieved divinity. The ideal of this society was rather Spartan. It was said, “The Dravidians loved life and worshipped death”.

Love of life, dance, music, and all other pleasures were described with empathy in these poems. This was most probably due to the prosperity of the country, especially of the towns, which enjoyed a lucrative trade with the Romans through Egypt.

Here is a small quotation from the Tiru Kural, the most famous work of the Sangam, which shows some of the spirit of these times, and somehow renders the ornate style Tamils love to use:
“In sweet simplicity,
A woman's gracious form hath she;
But yet those eyes, that drink my life,
Are with the form at strife!
The light that on me gleams,
Is it death's dart? or eye's bright beams?
Or fawn's shy glance? All three appear
In form of maiden here.
If cruel eye-brow's bow,
Unbent, would veil those glances now;
The shafts that wound this trembling heart
Her eyes no more would dart.
As veil o'er angry eyes
Of raging elephant that lies,
The silken cincture's folds invest
This maiden's panting breast.
Ah! woe is me! my might,
That awed my foemen in the fight,
By lustre of that beaming brow
Borne down, lies broken now!"
(Robinson and Pope, 1977, p 223)

Some more details are available at Wikipedia.
Many many thanks to “Apoorva Chandar” for providing Amar Chitra Katha.

ACK-114,115 & 116: Great Sanskrit Plays:Ratnavali, Vasantasena & Udayana

Today in some states of India people are celebrating New Year as Ugadi & Gudi Padwa . It falls on the first day of the month of Chaitra (March-April).

Ugadi, as called in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra indicates the start of a new year for people in those states.

Ugadi is derived from ‘Yuga adi’ where ‘yugameans time, era or period and ‘adimeans beginning. Gudi in marathi is a Bamboo stick which is decorated and at the top of which a cup or a glass is placed and Padwa means the ‘adi’ described earlier.

Note: It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar. The Saka calendar begins with the month of Chaitra (March/April).

Plays of Ancient India

Indian drama is analyzed by Bharata in the Natya Shastra, probably from the third century CE or before. Bharata ascribed a divine origin to drama and considered it a fifth Veda; its origin seems to be from religious dancing. In the classical plays the Brahmins and noble characters speak Sanskrit, while others and most women use Prakrit vernaculars. According to Bharata poetry (kavya), dance (nritta), and mime (nritya) in life's play (lila) produce emotion (bhava), but only drama (natya) produces "flavor" (rasa). The drama uses the eight basic emotions of love, joy (humor), anger, sadness, pride, fear, aversion, and wonder, attempting to resolve them in the ninth holistic feeling of peace. These are modified by 33 less stable sentiments he listed as discouragement, weakness, apprehension, weariness, contentment, stupor, elation, depression, cruelty, anxiety, fright, envy, arrogance, indignation, recollection, death, intoxication, dreaming, sleeping, awakening, shame, demonic possession, distraction, assurance, indolence, agitation, deliberation, dissimulation, sickness, insanity, despair, impatience, and inconstancy. Causes, effects, and moods manifest the emotions. The spectators should be of good character, intelligent, and empathetic.

This bumper issue is based on three great Sanskrit plays:

1. Ratnavali by Emperor Harsha.

2. Mrichchakatikam ( The Little Clay Cart) by Shudraka.

3. Svapnavasavadatta by Bhasa.

Kalidasa refer to Bhasa with reverence. Therefore Bhasa belonged to a period, a hundred or two hundred years before Kalidasa(of the fourth century A.D.). Mrichchakatikam by Shudraka revolves round the love of Vasantasena for Charudatta, the impoverished merchant. Ratnavali is attributed to Emperor Harsha, who ruled from Kanauj in the seventh century A.D.


#205 (#643) Ratnavali


Ratnavali is a famous Sanskrit drama about a beautiful princess named Ratnavali and a great king named Udayana, composed in four acts by the Indian emperor Harsha. Harsha wrote three Sanskrit plays: Nagananda (available in this blog), Priyadarshika and Ratnavali.

This play is a comedy of court life, centring round the light-hearted love-intrigue of king Udayana with a lowly maiden of unknown descent, their secret meetings through the help of a jester and the damsel's friend, the jealousy of the queen and her anger and resentment, and finally her acceptance of the situation when the maiden is discovered to be her lost cousin.

Summary

The play is a sequel to the story of Princess Vasavdatta of Ujjaini and King Udayana of Kaushambi. Because of certain events that were happening, Vasavdatta had to fake her death. In order to keep the relation strong between Ujjaini and Kaushambi, they sent Vasavdatta's Sinhalese cousin, Ratnavali, to be married to Udayana. In the mean time, Vasavdatta's faked death was a success and she had returned, reuniting with Udayana and reclaiming her position as Queen of Kaushambi.

Ratnavali, however, was unaware of this. During her voyage her ship was wrecked and she was cast adrift until a merchant ship found her and took her to the palace, where she was disguised as a commoner by the name of Sagarika. Vasavdatta made her a Lady-in-waiting and assigned her to the care of Medhavini, the myna bird.

Fearing that Udayana would be swayed by her new attendant's beauty, Vasavdatta took steps to hide Ratnavali/Sagarika from from her husband. Soon after, the festival of Kamadeva}Madana took place at the palace. Sagarika was intended to stay home to care for her charge, but another companion of the Queen's named Susangata offered to watch Medhavini in her stead. When Sagarika reached the festival and saw Udayana, she fell in love with him, but was sent home due to Vasavdatta's jealousy. Through a series of unlikely events, Susangata and Sagarika plotted to unite the king and Sagarika. In the end, Sagarika marries Udayana as his third wife.

Read more at Wikipedia

#70 (#657) Vasantasena

Little is known of Sudraka, and he is known through only his attributed contributions to Sanskrit literature. Sudraka was an Indian King. Three Sanskrit plays are ascribed to him -Mricchakatika (The Little Clay Cart) [or Mrcchakatika or Mricchakatika or Mrichchhakatika is the play written in the 2nd century BC. It is set in Pataliputra (modern-day Patna)] , Vinavasavadatta, and a bhana (short one-act monologue), Padmaprabhritaka.

Plot

The Little Clay Cart refers to the toy cart with which the son of Charudatta, who has been reduced to poverty, plays.

Rife with romance, sex, court intrigue and comedy, the plot of the play has numerous twists and turns. The main story is about a young man named Charudatta , and his love for Vasantasena , a rich courtesan or nagarvadhu. The love affair is complicated by a royal courtier, who is also attracted to Vasantasena. The plot is further complicated by thieves and mistaken identities, and thus making it a hilarious and entertaining play.

Recommend to read an article: www.sandeepweb.com

#125 (#621) Udayana


ACK Udayana is adapted from Bhasa's Svapnavasavadatta (Vision of Vasavadatta)

One of the greatest pioneers of classical Sanskrit drama, Bhasa is said to have lived around 3rd Century A.D. He is one of the earliest known Sanskrit dramatists of ancient India. An Indian scholar, Mahamahopadhyaya Ganapati Sastrigal, rediscovered thirteen of his plays in the year 1912. Most of these surviving works are romances taken from the famous epics the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, although two of Bhasa's plays do boast original plots: Avimaraka and Charudatta which became the basis for a later play, The Little Clay Cart, possibly written by the legendary King Shudraka.

Not much is known about the life history of Bhasa. There are no written records of his life nor is there a biography of Bhasa. Bhasa deviated from the accepted dramaturgical practices of the day by depicting battle scenes and murder on stage. He had a profound influence on the dramatists that would follow him, including India's greatest poet, Kalidasa. His influence is seen in the works of the great dramatist Kalidasa, who consciously imitated and improved upon some of Bhāsa’s literary motifs.

Summary

Perhaps the most noted play of Bhasa is Svapnavasavadatta (Vision of Vasavadatta). The story revolves around King Udayana who is pressurized by his state minister to marry the daughter of a very powerful ruler in order to gain power to protect his kingdom from foreign invasions.

The King, however, is too devoted to his wife to consider such a marriage. But the Queen, ready to sacrifice herself to save the kingdom, stages her death in a palace fire, then secretly returns to wait upon the new queen and be near her husband. The play is so well constructed that a 9th century critic is said to have remarked that "when the whole of Bhasa's plays were thrown into the fire, the Svapnavasavadatta alone remained unconsumed by the flames!" The play is so well written that it won the hearts of the sternest critics.

Read more about Bhasa www.absoluteastronomy.com, Wikipedia,

(All above mentioned information are based on Wikipedia, www.absoluteastronomy.com, www.iloveindia.com, www.imagi-nation.com etc.)

Many many thanks to “Apoorva Chandar” & “Anupam Agrawal”for providing English & Hindi Amar Chitra Katha respectively.

ACK-113: Drona

The epic Mahabharta is the source of information about life of Drona. The Mahabharta which is the longest epic poem in the world, consists of nearly 1, 00,000 slokas or Sanskrit verses.

ACK #57 (565)

DRONA. 'A bucket'. A Brahman so named from his having been generated by his father, Bharadwaja, in a bucket.

He married Kripa, half-sister of Bhishma, and by her was father of Aswatthaman. He was acharya, or teacher of the military art, both to the Kaurava and Pandava princes, and so he was called Dronacharya.

He had been slighted by Drupada, king of Panchala, and became his enemy. Through the instrumentality of the Pandavas he made Drupada prisoner, and took from him half of his kingdom; but he spared his life and gave him back the other half of his country. But the old animosity rankled, and ended in the death of both.

In the Great War Drona sided with the Kauravas, and after the death of Bhishma he became their commander-in-chief. On the fourth day of his command he killed Drupada, and in his turn he was unfairly slain in combat by Dhrishtadyumna, who had sworn to avenge his father's death.

In the midst of this combat Drona was told that his son was dead, which so unnerved him that he laid down his arms and his opponent decapitated him. But Drona was a Brahman and an Acharya, and the crime of killing him was enormous, so it is glossed over by the statement that Drona "transported himself to heaven in a glittering state like the sun, and Dhrishtadyumna decapitated merely his lifeless body."

Drona was also called Kutaja. The common meaning of Kuta is 'mountain-top', but one of its many other meanings is 'water-jar'. His patronymic is Bharadwaja.

(~ From www.mythfolklore.net)

Recommend to read an article about Drona at rajaputhran.sulekha.com.

Some more details are available at Wikipedia, www.experiencefestival.com, www.geocities.com.

This Amar Chitra Katha is contributed by Shailendra Rao.

ACK-112: Dhruva and Ashtavakra

ACK #117 (#571)

It contains illustration of two stories: Dhruva & Ashtavakra

Dhruva: meaning both "pole star" and "fixed".

The story of Dhruva's life is often told to Hindu children as an example for perseverance, devotion, steadfastness and fearlessness. The original sources are Vishnu Purana and Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 4.

According to the Vishnu Purana, the sons of Manu Swayambhuva were Priyavrata and Uttanapada. The latter had two wives; the favourite, Suruchi, was proud and haughty; the second, Suniti or Sunrita, was humble and gentle. Suruchi had a son named Uttama, and Suniti gave birth to Dhruva. While quite a child Dhruva was contemptuously treated by Suruchi, and she told him that her own son Uttama would alone succeed to the throne. Dhruva and his mother submitted, and he declared that he wished for no other honours than such as his own actions should acquire. He was a Kshatriya, but he joined a society of Rishis, and becoming a Rishi himself, he went through a rigid course of austerities, notwithstanding the efforts of Indra to distract him. At the end he obtained the favour of Vishnu, who raised him to the skies as the pole star (DHRUVA, the Indian name of the polar star). He has the patronymic Auttanapadi, and he is called Grahadhara, `the stay or pivot of the planets.'

Also Read about Dhruva at Wikipedia , www.sacred-texts.com, www.bharatadesam.com, www.geocities.com,

Ashtavakra: A Brahman, the son of Kahoda, whose story is told in the Mahabharata.

Kahoda married a daughter of his preceptor, Uddalaka, but he was so devoted to study that he neglected his wife. When she was far advanced in her pregnancy, the unborn son was provoked at his father's neglect of her, and rebuked him for it. Kahoda was angry at the child's impertinence, and condemned him to be born crooked; so he came forth with his eight (ashta) limbs crooked (vakra) ; hence his name.

Kahoda went to a great sacrifice at the court of Janaka, king of Mithili. There was present there a great Buddhist sage, who challenged disputations, upon the understanding that whoever was overcome in argument should be thrown into the river. This was the fate of many, and among them of Kahoda, who was drowned.

In his twelfth year Ashtavakra learned the manner of his father's death, and set out to avenge him. The lad was possessed of great ability and wisdom. He got the better of the sage who had worsted his father, and insisted that the sage should be thrown into the water. The sage then declared himself to be a son of Varuna, god of the waters, who had sent him to obtain Brahmans for officiating at a sacrifice by overpowering them in argument and throwing them into the water.

When all was explained and set right, Kahoda directed his son to bathe in the Samanga river, on doing which the lad became perfectly straight.

A story is told in the Vishnu Purana that Ashtavakra was standing in water performing penances when he was seen by some celestial nymphs and worshipped by them. He was pleased, and told them to ask a boon. They asked for the best of men as a husband. He came out of the water and offered himself. When they saw him, ugly and crooked in eight places, they laughed in derision. He was angry, and as he could not recall his blessing, he said that, after obtaining it, they should fall into the hands of thieves.

Read more about Ashtavakra at Wikipedia, www.experiencefestival.com
also read about Ashtavakra Gita at Wikipedia

(~Information about Dhruva and Ashtavakra from www.mythfolklore.net)

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This Amar Chitra Katha is contributed by Shailendra Rao.

ACK-111: Rajbala

An out of print ACK # 328

This ACK is based on "two folktales from old Sind" (now in Pakistan):

1. Rajbala (and Ajit Singh)

2. Bir Singh and Sunderbai

Rajbala & Sunderbai both dress as a male warrior.

Many many thanks to “Apoorva Chandar” for providing Amar Chitra Katha.

ACK-110: Pulakeshi II

An out of print ACK # 394

Pulakeshi II

Pulakeshi II (610-42) is not the most glamorous of Kannada heroes. In comparison to other Kannada emperors such as Krishnadevaraya and Amoghavarsha or even Hoysala Vishnuvardhana and Ranadhira Kanthirava of Mysore, Pulakeshi hasn’t captured the attention of Kannadigas to the same extent. If Mayura was the founder of the first Kannada dynasty (Kadambas), then in the 7th century, Pulakeshi established the first pan-Indian Kannada kingdom; Pulakeshi II and Chalukyas were the first Kannada family to establish their control beyond their core area of northern Kannada speaking regions, effectively into all the south Indian regions, south of the Vindhyas. His success in stopping Harsha, the celebrated emperor of north India, on the banks of Narmada adds to his legend as a great Kannada hero. Yet, possibly because of the absence of popular legends and folk narratives, Pulakeshi doesn’t hold the same romantic appeal, as is the case with Mayura. His association with Kannada nationalism too seems to be contrived and forced.

Still, Pulakeshi is a Kannada hero. His father, Kirtivarma I (566-596 AD) passed away when Pulakeshi and his brother Vishnuvardhana were young. Their ambitious and capable uncle, Mangalesha (596-610 AD), ruled the Chalukya kingdom efficiently until the young prince Pulakeshi rebelled against his uncle and snatched the Chalukya throne in 610 AD. Immediately, he had to subjugate rebellious feudatories who had been emboldened by the internal power struggle among Chalukyas. The Aihole inscription written by Ravikirti, Pulakeshi’s court poet, provides details of Pulakeshi’s conquests, including the context of each campaign. Among his campaigns, a major dimension of his life long struggle against the Pallava king and well known author, Mahendravarma and his son, Narasimhavarma. He captured the Vengi region from the Pallavas, before sacking Kanchi, the Pallava capital. If this earned him the life long enmity of Narasimhavarma, the conquest of Vengi enabled him to establish Vishnuvardhana as a king in that region. However, towards the end of Pulakeshi’s reign, Narasimhavarma sacked and destroyed Badami, the Chalukya capital. Pulakeshi’s sons had to struggle for more than a decade to re-establish the Chalukya power and regain the lost glory.

Pulakeshi’s tragic end doesn’t take away the luster of his achievements yet surely it does seem to affect his legend and status as a Kannada hero. Still, descriptions of his kingdom, its people and the capital city of Badami in Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang are quite flattering. Pulakeshi also received a Persian ambassador from the court of Khusro, a scene depicted in the Ajanta caves. Ravikirti’s following concluding description attests to Pulakeshi’s qualities and achievements:

"While He, Satyashraya, endowed with the powers of energy, mastery and good counsel,–having conquered all the quarters, having dismissed the kings full of honours, having done homage to gods and Brahmans, having entered the city of Vatapi–is ruling, like one city, this earth which has the dark-blue waters of the surging sea for its moat;......."

(from www.landoflime.com)

Read more details at Wikipedia

One can learn Kannada letters at www.sampige.org

Many many thanks to “Apoorva Chandar” for providing Amar Chitra Katha.

ACK-109: Guru Ravidas

An out of print ACK #350


Indian religious leader and founder Satguru of the "Ravidasi" beliefs, revered by most Hindus as a "Sant"; by Nirankari sect, Balmiki sect as a "Guru", by Radhasoami organization as a "Sant" and as a "Bhagat" by Sikhs, which is a somewhat lesser station than that attributed to him in other faiths. He is referred to as Guru Ravidas by followers of his beliefs.

Guru Ravidas or Guru Ravidass was born in the fifteenth century at Varanasi (Benares or Banaras or or Kashi) in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. His birthday comes every year at Puran Mashi in the month of Magh. His mother's name was Mata Kalsi and his father's name was Baba Santokh Dass. In his poetry, he describes himself as a leather worker, someone whose contact with dead animals would have marked him as an untouchable in Indian society.

Since early childhood, Guru Ravidas was very much inclined toward spirituality. He used to go to attend holy discourses and showed great respect and devotion to holy men. This worried his's parents and they tried to divert his attention by engaging him in their family profession of shoe making and repairing. He learned the profession, yet his love and devotion for God continued undiminished. With a view to make him more interested in worldly affairs, his father got him married to Bagavati (Lona Devi) at an early age. But even then it didn't change his attitude or his behaviour.

According to Ravidass Puran Guru Ravidas had a son named Vijaydas.

From early childhood he was very much devoted to worshipping the real God. The high caste Brahmans created so many problems for him and tried their best to restrict him. Because of this he had to appear before the King Nagar Mal many times. In the end the King was persuaded and became a follower of Guru Ravidas. Guru Ravidas taught the lessons of Universal Brotherhood and tolerance.

Influenced by Guru Ravidas's teachings, the Maharaja and the Rani of Chittor became his disciples. It is generally thought to have been a younger contemporary of Kabir. According to some sources, Ravidas was initiated by Kabir's famous guru Ramananda. And some traditions assert that Ravidas was, in turn, the guru of the great female poet-saint Mirabai.

Guru Ravidas travelled quite widely, as his poems indicate a good knowledge of Hindi, Urdu, Persian and many regional languages of India. Guruji's followers are found in many states of India such as Uttar Pardesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The two oldest sources of his work are the Sikh scripture, the Adigranth, and in the collections of songs compiled by the Dadu Panth.

The 41 hymns of Ravidas included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji fall under:

Raga - Siri(1), Gauri (5), Asa(6), Gujari(1), Sorath(7), Dhanasari(3),
Jaitsari(1),Suhi(3), Bilaval(2),Gaund(2),Ramkali(1),Maru(2),Kedara(1), Bhairau(1),Basant(1), and Malhar(3). one with slight variations is given in both Rag Sorath and rag Maru.

He spear headed the fight against man made discriminations based on caste, colour and creed. He also taught the message of love neighbours which has got more importance in today's world. He preached the lofty ideas of Socialism, Secularism, Equality and Fraternity. Because of his untouchability, Ravidas has become an important figure for oppressed castes in India today, his followers calling themselves Ravidasis.

Read more details at Wikipedia, www.shrigururavidasji.com, www.bhagwanvalmiki.com

P.S.: Some sources quote that Guru Ravidas & Guru Nanak Dev (the first of the ten Sikh Gurus) met once or several times. As one friend attracts attention, I recommend to verify yourself.

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Many many thanks to “Apoorva Chandar” for this rare ACK .

ACK-108: The Nawab's Diwan and Other Tamil Tales

An out of print ACK # 368



If you like can post summary.

Many many thanks to “Apoorva Chandar” for this rare ACK.


ACK-107: Vidyut Chora

An out of print ACK # 330


Vaddaradhane by Shivakotiacharya is the earliest extant prose work in Kannada. It is a didactic work consisting of nineteen stories and is based on Harisena's bruhat hari katha kosha. It gives a detailed description of the life of Bhadrabahu of Shravanabelagola. The work is dated to the 9th century but some scholars advance a pre-sixth century date for the work. Based on internal evidence, it is suggested that Shivakotiacharya may have been a native of Kogali, in the Bellary district of modern Karnataka.

The list of 19 stories are

  1. Story of Sukumara swamy
  2. Story of SukaushaLa swamy
  3. Gajakumara
  4. Sanathkumara prince
  5. Annii kavrutha
  6. Bhadrabhau bhatarara
  7. Lalithaghate
  8. Dharmaghosha
  9. Siridhinnia bhatarara
  10. Vrushabha sena bhatarara
  11. Karthika rishi
  12. Abhayaghosha rishi
  13. Vidyuthchoraa rishi
  14. Gurudatta bhatarara
  15. Chilata putra
  16. Dandaka rishi
  17. Mahendradattacharyaand
  18. Chanakya rishi
  19. Vrushabhasena rishi
(~ From Wikipedia)

P.S.: 1. Jains heavily used Jain Prakrit (Magadhi Prakrit) terms in their works. As such Kannada works do show heavy influence in the literature. Though very few of them have become part of native parlance.

2. The Idli and Dosa of Southern India each have a long history, though not every detail can be clearly traced. The idli seems to be first mentioned in writing in Shivakotyacharya's 'Vaddaradhane'.

Many many thanks to “Apoorva Chandar” for this rare ACK.

ACK-105: Shivaji & ACK-106: Tales of Shivaji

ACK #23 (#564)

Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the founder of the Maratha Empire in western India. He is considered to be one of the greatest warriors of his time and even today, stories of his exploits are narrated as a part of the folklore. King Shivaji used the guerrilla tactics to capture a part of, the then, dominant Mughal empire. Read this biography to get more information on the warrior and his life history:

Early Life

Shivaji was born on 19th February 1630, to Sahaji and his wife, Jijabai, in the Shivneri Fort, situated almost 60 km to the north of Pune. He was named as Shiva, after the local Goddess Shivai, to whom his mother Jijabai had prayed for a son. After being defeated by the combined forces of the Mughals and Adil Shah, Sahaji was offered a jagir near the present-day Bangalore. However, he was allowed to keep his holdings in Pune. So, Sahaji left his son Shivaji to manage the Pune holdings, under the care of his mother Jijabai.

With a small council of ministers, Shivaji began managing his estate. His ministers included Shamrao Nilkanth as Peshwa, Balkrishna Pant as Muzumdar, Raghunath Ballal as Sabnis and Sonopant as Dabir. At the same time, Kanhoji Jedhe and Baji Pasalkar were appointed to look after Shivaji's training. In the year 1644, Shivaji undertook full administrative responsibilities of his estate. Thus was started his career as an independent young prince of a small kingdom. His mother, Jijabai, was instrumental in instilling in Shivaji's mind a love for independence and distaste for external political domination.

Career

The first aggression in the life of Shivaji came at the age of sixteen, when he seized the Torna fort of Bijapur kingdom. By 1647, he had gained control over Kondana and Rajgad forts, with complete power of the Pune region. With time, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj secured the forts in the Western Ghats as well as those along the Konkan coast. Shivaji also fought against the army of Adilshah at Purandhar. In November 1659, he fought the battle of Pratapgarh and defeated Afzal Khan. Immediately after this success, King Shivaji occupied the area stretching upto the Panhala fort.

The battle of Kolhapur took place in December 1659. In the battle, Shivaji crushed the army of Bijapuri general, Rustemjaman. In 1660, Siddi Johar's huge and daunting army attacked him at Panhala fort. Shivaji managed to escape from the fort. However, he soon launched an attack on Siddi Johar. The result was the surrender of Panhala and a truce between Shivaji and Adilshah. After the death of Adilshah, Aurangzeb attacked Golconda and Bijapur. Shivaji used guerilla-style tactics and captured more and more of the Bijapuri and Mughal territories. However, by 1663, he had lost most of his conquests to the Mughal army.

In the next few years, Shivaji again started seizing forts belonging to both Mughals as well as those of Bijapur. Aurangzeb sent Jai Singh, his Hindu general, to capture Shivaji. Shivaji surrendered to Jai Singh at Purander in 1665 and agreed becoming a Mughal vassal. In 1666, he managed to escape form his house arrest in Agra and lay low for the next few years. However, in January 1670, Shivaji launched an attack on Mughal garrisons in Maharashtra. Within a period of six months, he won back most of his lost empire. The period of 1670 to 1674 was spent by Shivaji Maharaj in expanding his empire at the cost of the Mughals.

In 1670, Shivaji launched an assault, under his General - Tanaji Malusare, to capture Kondana fort on the outskirts of Pune. The battle was won but he lost Tanaji. In the honor of Tanaji, the Kondana fort was renamed as Sinhagad. Shivaji was formally crowned as Chatrapati (meaning the Chief, Head or King of Kshatriyas) in June 1674 at the Raigad fort. He was given the title of Kshatriya Kulavantas Simhasanadheeshwar Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The end of 1676 saw Shivaji commencing attacks in the southern parts of India.

Death and Succession
Shivaji breathed his last on 3rd April 1680 in the Raigad fort, the capital for Maratha Empire. He was succeeded by his elder son, Sambhaji.

(~ From www.culturalindia.net)

Read more about Shivaji at hero-for-modern-india.blogspot.com, Wikipedia, www.chhatrapati-shivaji.com, members.tripod.com, Encyclopedia Britannica

ACK #268 (#597)

There are a number of tales about Shivaji and his contemporaries. Some, like Rani Mallamma of Belavadi are historical stories while others like the story of Hira the Milkmaid are legends. The Shivaji of all these stories is a man who is held in high esteem; a man who recognises nobility even in his adversaries; a man of virtue who treats even his prisoners-of-war with respect. Three such legends are given in this ACK.

Many many thanks to “Shailendra Rao” for providing both ACK.

ACK-104: Ramanuja

ACK #243 (#715)

Sri Ramanuja Acharya (1017 - 1137 AD)

"Let noble thoughts come to us from every side" - Rigveda (1,89,1)

Sri Ramanuja is known as the greatest exponent of Visistadvaita Vedanta. He appeared around 1017 A.D in a pious brahmana family. He became the formost Acarya in the Sri Sampradaya and was reputed to be the incarnation of Sri Laksmana, the younger brother of Lord Sri Rama.

He was a boy of extraordinary intelligence and placed himself under the charge of Yadavacarya, a renown Sankarite scholar. His guru was struck by his marvellous intellect and became very uncomfortable on account of his firm faith in Bhakti. One day while taking a massage, Yadavacarya was explaining to ramanuja a sutra "tasya yatha kapyasam pundarikamevamaksini"(Chandogya 1.6.7), saying that according to Sri Sankara, the two eyes of Pundariksa are like two lotuses which are red like the nates of a monkey. On hearing this interpretation with the unbecoming and low simile, Ramanuja's soft heart, tender by nature and softened by devotion, melted and as he was massaging, tears rolled down from the corners of his eyes like flames of fire and fell on the thigh of Yadava. Looking up at the touch of the hot tears, Yadava understood that something troubled his disciple. Ramanuja explained his dismay at hearing such an unbecoming explaination from his guru. He thought it sinful to compare with the posterior of a monkey the eyes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead - who is endowed with all gracious qualities and who is the repository of all the beauty of the universe. Yadava was angry at the boy's audacity and told him to explain the verse if he could. Ramanuja analysed the word kapyasam to mean `blossomed by the sun' and the verse to mean "The eyes of that Golden Purusa are as lovely as lotuses blossomed by the rays of the sun."

After a few more such incidents when Ramanuja corrected his guru, Yadavacarya thought him to be a threat to the Sankarite line and plotted to kill him. Later it came to pass that Yadavacarya was to become the disciple of Sri Ramanuja.

Yamunacarya the formost exponant of Vaisnava philosophy of the time, knowing of his extraordinary ability and purity, called for Sri Ramanuja with the intent of placing him in charge of the mission after his disappearance. Ramanuja was on his way to see Yamunacarya when he received the news of Yamunacarya's departure from the world. Arriving at Srirangam, Ramanuja went to have his last darshana of that great soul. There he noticed three of Yamunacarya's fingers were clenched.

Ramanuja then made three vows:
  • He would make the people surrender to God and initiate them by the pancasamskara.
  • He would write a commentary on the Vedantasutra which was later called Sri Bhashya.
  • He would also write what is like an encyclopedia on the Puranas and would name one greatly learned Vaisnava after Parasara Muni who wrote the gem among the Puranas, the Visnu Purana.

Later Sri Ramanuja took sannyasa and travelled throughout India vigorously defeating atheists and impersonalists by preaching the Vasistadvaita doctrine. He never failed to win over a rival in spiritual disputations.

Sri Ramanuja's Teachings:

His philosophy is Visistadvaita. Brahman is Narayana - (cit-acit-isvara), Narayana with Laksmi - (transcendental form), Four Vyuha forms, Vibhava forms. The qualities of Brahman are both nirguna and saguna. Brahman is Omnipresent and eternal. The soul is real, eternal, individual, not omnipresent, not independent of Isvara but part. Isvara is the efficient cause of creation. It is from His will out of delight. The cause of bondage is beginningless karma. The process of release is Bhakti based on Pancaratra and Visnu purana followed by detached karma that brings jnana - Prapatti. The goal is to attain the same nature of Isvara and companionship with Him.

The essence of his teachings are best summarized by his own prayer at the beginning of his Sri Bhasya:

"May knowledge transformed into intense love directed to Sri Narayana (VISHNU), the highest Brahman, become mine, the Being to whom the creation, preservation and dissolution of the Universe is mere play, whose main resolve is to offer protection to all those who approach Him in all humility and sincerity, and Who shines out like the beacon light out of the pages of the Scripture (Vedas)".

(~ From home.att.net)

Read more at Wikipedia, www.chidananda.org, www.bharatadesam.com, www.chidananda.org, www.iep.utm.edu, www.gosai.com, www.goloka.com, Encyclopedia Britannica, www.ramanuja.org, www.123exp-biographies.com

Many many thanks to “Shailendra Rao” for providing ACK.

ACK-103: Adi Shankara

ACK #060(#656)

Shri Adi Shankaracharya (788-820)

Shri Adi Shankaracharya or the first Shankara with his remarkable reinterpretations of Hindu scriptures, especially on Upanishads or Vedanta, had a profound influence on the growth of Hinduism at a time when chaos, superstition and bigotry was rampant. Shankara advocated the greatness of the Vedas and was the most famous Advaita philosopher who restored the Vedic Dharma and Advaita Vedanta to its pristine purity and glory.
Shri Adi Shankaracharya, known as Bhagavatpada Acharya (the guru at the feet of Lord), apart from refurbishing the scriptures, cleansed the Vedic religious practices of ritualistic excesses and ushered in the core teaching of Vedanta, which is Advaita or non-dualism for the mankind. Shankara restructured various forms of desultory religious practices into acceptable norms and stressed on the ways of worship as laid down in the Vedas.

Shankara’s Childhood

Shankara was born in a Brahmin family circa 788 AD in a village named Kaladi on the banks of the river Purna (now Periyar) in the Southern Indian coastal state Kerala. His parents, Sivaguru and Aryamba, had been childless for a long time and the birth of Shankara was a joyous and blessed occasion for the couple. Legend has it that Aryamba had a vision of Lord Shiva and promised her that he would incarnate in the form of her first-born child.

Shankara was a prodigious child and was hailed as ‘Eka-Sruti-Dara’, one who can retain anything that has been read just once. Shankara mastered all the Vedas and the six Vedangas from the local gurukul and recited extensively from the epics and Puranas. Shankara also studied the philosophies of diverse sects and was a storehouse of philosophical knowledge.

Philosophy of Adi Shankara

Shankara spread the tenets of Advaita Vedanta, the supreme philosophy of monism to the four corners of India with his ‘digvijaya’ (the conquest of the quarters). The quintessence of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) is to reiterate the truth of reality of one’s essential divine identity and to reject one’s thought of being a finite human being with a name and form subject to earthly changes.

According to the Advaita maxim, the True Self is Brahman (Divine Creator). Brahman is the ‘I’ of ‘Who Am I?’ The Advaita doctrine propagated by Shankara views that the bodies are manifold but the separate bodies have the one Divine in them.
The phenomenal world of beings and non-beings is not apart from the Brahman but ultimately become one with Brahman. The crux of Advaita is that Brahman alone is real, and the phenomenal world is unreal or an illusion. Through intense practice of the concept of Advaita, ego and ideas of duality can be removed from the mind of man.

The comprehensive philosophy of Shankara is inimitable for the fact that the doctrine of Advaita includes both worldly and transcendental experience.

Shankara while stressing the sole reality of Brahman, did not undermine the phenomenal world or the multiplicity of Gods in the scriptures.

Shankara’s philosophy is based on three levels of reality, viz., paramarthika satta (Brahman), vyavaharika satta (empirical world of beings and non-beings) and pratibhashika satta (reality).

Shankara’s theology maintains that seeing the self where there is no self causes spiritual ignorance or avidya. One should learn to distinguish knowledge (jnana) from avidya to realize the True Self or Brahman. He taught the rules of bhakti, yoga and karma to enlighten the intellect and purify the heart as Advaita is the awareness of the ‘Divine’.
Shankara developed his philosophy through commentaries on the various scriptures. It is believed that the revered saint completed these works before the age of sixteen. His major works fall into three distinct categories – commentaries on the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

The most important of the works is the commentaries on the Brahmasutras – Brahmasutrabhashya – considered the core of Shankara’s philosophy of Advaita.

Shankaracharya’s Monastic Centers

Shri Shankaracharya established four ‘mutts’ or monastic centers in four corners of India and put his four main disciples to head them and serve the spiritual needs of the ascetic community within the Vedantic tradition. He classified the wandering mendicants into 10 main groups to consolidate their spiritual strength.

Each mutt was assigned one Veda. The mutts are Jyothir Mutt at Badrinath in northern India with Atharva Veda; Sarada Mutt at Sringeri in southern India with Yajur Veda; Govardhan Mutt at Jaganath Puri in eastern India with Rig Veda and Kalika Mutt at Dwarka in western India with Sama Veda.

It is believed that Shankara attained heavenly abode in Kedarnath and was only 32 years old when he died.

(by Manoj Sadasivan for About.com)

Read more articles here: www.chidananda.org, www.kamakoti.org, www.advaita-vedanta.org, www.adishankar.com, Wikipedia, www.indianetzone.com, www.zeenews.com

Many many thanks to “Shailendra Rao” for providing ACK.

ACK-102: Madhvacharya

ACK #153 (#579)

Madhvacharya was born around 1238 A.D. eight miles south-east of the modern town of Udupi, in the Karnataka State. He is reputed to be the incarnation of Bhima, taking birth in Kali-yuga to destroy the daityas. Others refer to him as Vayu himself and it w as his life's mission to defeat the followers of Sankaracharya.

He was born in the family of very elevated brahmanas and from his early childhood performed many amazing pastimes, such as the killing of a huge serpentine demon named Maniman, simply with the big toe of his left foot.

Madhva was only eight years old when he received spiritual initiation and at the age of twelve he accepted the sannyasa order and began to travel the length and breadth of India.

He enjoyed a long life of robust health. He engaged in various forms of sport and physical exercise in his youth, such as wrestling, swimming and even mountaineering, which he kept up to the very end. He had very handsome features with a strong muscular frame, tall and strong-limbed with graceful carriage and dignified bearing. Endowed with a magnetic personality and traditional thirty-two lakshanas, he had a deep sonorous voice and good musical talent, which he used to advantage in Vedic recitation and i n singing the soulful strains of his own devotional compositions and in giving open air discources on the Bhagavata Purana, with its rolling melody of verses.

His life, as described in the Madhvavijaya, is the narrative of a born leader of men. Madhva recognized the soul of man to be potenially divine; but man, in the ignorance of his true status, has lost his soul to his body and its cravings, and needs to be awakened by God himself or His devotees.

He became a student under Acyutapreksa, who came in the order of Ekanti-Vaisnavas of the Ekadandi order. Madhva entered the sannyasa order and was given the name Purnaprajna.

During his study of the sastras he became convinced about the inherent weakness in the Advaita philosophy and developed a keen desire to revive the theistic science of Vedas with his own thorough reinterpretation of the texts.

After only a short time in his studies, frequent disagreements of views arose between himself and his teacher. Acyutaprajna could see that Purnaprajna was destined to make history for himself and made him head of the Math. On that memorable occasion Purnaprajna was given another name "Anandatirtha" and later adopted the name Madhva.

Madhvacharya spent some time teaching and engaging outstanding scholars belonging to Buddhist, Jain and Advaita Sampradayas, in logical and philosophical discussions and vanquishing them in debates. He set out to propagate his teachings and travelled exte nsively throughout South India. He visited Kanyakumari, Ramesvaram and Srirangam holding discources on the Brahmasutras and openly criticizing Sankaracharya's Bhasyas on the Sutras. Giving his own interpretations he soundly defeated all he encountered and naturally roused a good deal of opposition from the leaders of the old schools of thought. At Kanyakumari he met with stiff opposition from an Advaitic monk of great learning who challenged him to write a fresh commentary on the Brahmasutras before he ven tured to criticize the time honored one of Sankaracharya. Madhva assured him that he would be doing so, in good time. At Srirangam he came in contact with the followers of the Ramanuja school and after exchanging veiws with them, noted his own points of ag reement and difference with them. This South Indian tour gave him great resolve to set out on his first tour of the north.

Madhvacharya was anxious to go to Badarikasrama and receive personal inspiration from a visit to the asrama of Vyasadeva. After staying forty-eight days at Badarinath, fasting, praying, meditating and dedicating his Gita-Bhasya to the Lord, Madhvacharya wa s inspired to go to the hermitage of Vyasa. He went there all alone and after gaining the personal darshan of Vyasadeva himself and learning from him, returned after some months, glowing with divine inspiration and wrote his Bhasya on the Brahma-Sutras.

Journeying through Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, Andhrapradesa, Maharashtra and Karnataka, he returned to Udupi. On his way back from Badarikasrama, Madhvacharya challenged many eminent scholars of the day. Prominent among these were two outstanding scholars, Swa mi Sastrin and Sobhana Bhatta, known as masters of the six systems of philosophy. Madhvacharya soundly defeated these two who subsequently became his disciples known as Narahari Tirtha and Padmanabha Tirtha respectively.

Madhvacharya's fame and prestige had grown considerably and his commentaries on the Gita and Brahmasutras had made their mark and were widely recognized and respected. In his Math in Udipi he introduced strict codes of conduct for his followers, introduce d the system of Pistapasuyagas (offerings made from flowers), in place of actual animal sacrifices in yajnas and imposed the rigorous observance of fasts on Ekadasi. To foster a sense of fellowship among his disciples he installed a beautiful deity of Lord Krishna.

"Once, as Madhva was travelling in the association of his disciples he arrived in Sri Navadwipa and decided to spend some days within the forests of Modradumadvipa.

One night, as Madhva lay sleeping, Lord Gauranga appeared to him in a dream. The Lord told Madhava, "It is well known to everyone that you are My eternal servitor. When I appear here in Navadwipa, I will accept your sampradaya. Travel everywhere and carefully uproot all the false scriptures of the mayavadis and reveal the glories of worshipping the personal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Later, when I appear, I will personally broadcast your pure teachings." The Lord then disappeared.

When Madhva awoke, he was astonished and as he remembered the Lord he began to cry in separation, saying, "Will I ever see that beautiful golden form again?" A celestial voice from the sky replied, "Worship Me secretly and you will come to Me."

Carrying these instructions within his heart, Madhva continued his travels more determined than ever to defeat the mayavadi philosophers."

(Source: Sri Navadwipa-dham Mahatmya)

During a meeting between King Jayasimha, the Ruler of Kumbla and Madhvacharya, a historic disputation developed with the Ruler's Court Pandit, Trivikrama Pandit, who was the foremost authority on Advaita-vedanta. Trivikrama engaged Madhvacharya in a vigoro us debate for fifteen days, at the temple of Kudil and was defeated by the Acharya. He sought to become a disciple of Madhvacharya and was readily admitted. He was then commissioned to write a commentary on the Brahma-Sutra Bhasya, and named it Tattva-pradipa.

An interesting incident took place during his second trip to North India. With the country under tight control of the Persian invaders, travelling became very hazardous. With Madhvacharya's knowledge of Persian, his courage and tact in handling difficult situations and his ability to rise to equal occasions with dignity and complete self-possession, he was able to escape from potentially dangerous encounters. One such episode took place with his meeting with Sultan Jalal-uddin-Khilji. Political hostilities were on at the time. Madhvacharya and his party were forced to swim across the Ganges to the other side. They were halted on reaching the shore and were taken to the Ruler who called upon Madhva to explain his conduct in disobeying orders and crossing th e river when hostilities were on. Madhvacharya spoke to the Ruler in his own language, convincing him on the importance of his mission in the cause of Theism.

After completing many commentaries and original erudite works, establishing prominant Maths and sending out well-chosen veterans to preach and propagate his siddhanta all over the country, while seated during a shower of flowers, Madhvacharya disappeared from vision and transferred himself to Badarikasrama. There he still remains.

His philosophy is dvaita. Brahman is Hari or Vishnu definable to an extent by the Vedas. He has a transcendental form, Vyuhas, Incarnations are His parts and Lakshmi is distinct. The qualities of Brahman are it is fully independent, the cause of all causes , supreme bliss, devoid of false attributes but possesses all qualities. The soul is atomic, it pervades the body by intelligence, infinite in number, Karta and Bhokta. Creation is the actuation of what is in the womb of matter and soul by the action of Brahman. The cause of bondage is the divine will of the Supreme and ignorace of the soul (svarupa). The process of release is through whole hearted devotion, study of the Vedas and detached karma. The goal is to gain release from samsara and restoration of one's own individual form.

(From http://www.indiadivine.org/)

Read more at www.indianetzone.com, living.oneindia.in, Wikipedia, www.kamat.com

Many many thanks to “Shailendra Rao" for providing ACK.

ACK-101: Senapati Bapat

An out of print ACK #303

India's freedom fighters seem to have come from all walks of life and from many varied backgrounds. Of those freedom fighters one stands out as a man who had only one goal and only one vision. His fight centered not on the issue of whether to use violence or not in the struggle, nor was he too concerned about how the new India was to be governed. His goal in life was to see a free India by any means possible.

If bombs and guns brought him closer to that goal then they were good. If Gandhiji's methods of non-violence brought India closer to freedom than the methods that Senapati Bapat espoused. He was born in Ahmednagar, a district of Maharashtra, on November 12, 1880. He was fearless as a child. Having once almost drowned in a nearby stream, he didn't think twice of venturing into the stream again. He brought this same dedication and fearlessness to the aide of his motherland.
Bapat was educated in Edinburgh, Scotland, because he lost a scholarship he had received from the British Government, for expressing anti-British views at a meeting of the Independent Labor Party. Despite the loss of the scholarship he continued his studies abroad, and came home with preliminary knowledge of how to build bombs. Armed with this knowledge he planned to join other revolutionaries to use it against the British Government, not in an attempt to kill innocent victims, but to draw attention to the cause of freedom. There were others whose opinions differed, and soon a fatal bomb attack, in which he was accused of indirect involvement, resulted in his going underground. He took this opportunity to travel around the country he was working so hard to free.

During these travels the realization came to him that the vast majority of Indians had yet to realize that they were under foreign rule. Thereafter his focus shifted from overthrowing the government, to educating the masses regarding the foreign government. For four years he eluded the British officials and worked towards this new goal. The British government caught up with him because of a tip-off from one of his friends regarding his location.

This was to be the first of three trips to jail for Bapat. The second came shortly after his release when he went to fight for the rights of those whose homes were threatened by a Dam project. Bapat repeatedly stopped work on the dams by uprooting rail lines that were being planted to move lumber and equipment to use during construction. For this act he turned himself in and was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. His final trip to jail was a result of defying orders not to speak at a public gathering held by Netaji Subash Chandra Bose.

On August 15, 1947 when India was declared free, Jawaharlal Nehru raised the Indian flag in Delhi for the first time. Senapati Bapat was given the same honor in Pune. After independence Senapati Bapat took an active part in political life. He passed away on November 28, 1967 at the age of 87.

(From www.liveindia.com)

Read some more details at Wikipedia.

Many many thanks to “Apoorva Chandar” for providing ACK.

ACK-100: Jallianwala Bagh - The Beginning of the end of the British Raj

Here is 100th ACK online by HMIndia TEAM- PBC.
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ACK #358

Amritsar Massacre or Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, the shooting of unarmed Indian demonstrators by the British army on April 13, 1919, an incident that contributed to the downfall of the British Indian empire.

Prehistory

The events of the Amritsar Massacre arose from the British government’s struggle to maintain control over its Indian colony in the face of a growing movement for Indian independence after World War I (1914-1918). During the war, India contributed extensively to Britain's war effort, and Indian political leaders expected democratic concessions and greater opportunities for self-government after the war ended. However, the British government in India was worried about subversive activities that could destabilize its rule, because it had faced German-supported terrorist disturbances during the course of the war.

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"The impossible men of India shall rise and liberate their Motherland"
Mahatma Gandhi, after the Amritsar Massacre.

"The incident in Jallian Wala Bagh was 'an extraordinary event, a monstrous event, an event which stands in singular and sinister isolation"...Winston Churchill

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Jallianwalla Bagh massacre

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, involved the killing of hundreds of unarmed, defenceless Indians by a senior British military officer, which took place on 13 April 1919 in the heart of Amritsar, the holiest city of the Sikhs, on a day sacred to them as the birth anniversary of the Khalsa (Vaisakhi day). Jallianvala Bagh, a garden belonging to the Jalla, derives its name from that of the owners of this piece of land in Sikh times. It was then the property the family of Sardar Himmat Singh Jallevalia (d.1829), a noble in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), who originally came from the village of Jalla, now in Fatehgarh Sahib district of the Punjab. The family were collectively known as Jallhevale or simply Jallhe or Jalle, although their principal seat later became Alavarpur in Jallandhar district. The site, once a garden or garden house, was in 1919 an uneven and unoccupied space, an irregular quadrangle, indifferently walled, approximately 225 x 180 metres which was used more as a dumping ground.

In the Punjab, during World War I (1914-18), there was considerable unrest particularly amoung the Sikhs, first on account of the demolition of a boundary wall of Gurdwara Rakab Ganj at New Delhi and later because of the activities and trials of the Ghadrites almost all of whom were Sikhs. In India as a whole, too, there had been a spurt in political activity mainly owing to the emergence of two leaders Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi (1869-1948) who after a period of struggle against the British in South Africa, had returned to India in January 1915 and Mrs Annie Besant (1847-1933), head of the Theosophical Society of India, who established, on 11 April 1916, Home Rule League with autonomy for India as its goal. In December 1916, the Indian National Congress, at its annual session held at Lucknow, passed a resolution asking the British government to issue a proclamation announcing that it is the aim and intention of British policy to confer self government on India at an early date."

At the same time India having contributed significantly to the British war effort had been expecting advancement of her political interests after the conclusion of hostilities. On the British side, the Secretary of State for India E.S Montagu, announced, on 20 August 1917; the policy of His Majesty's Government, with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India ..." However, the Viceroy of India Lord Chelmsford, appointed, on 10 December 1917, a Sedition Committee, popularly known as Rowlatt Committee after the name of its chairman (Sir Sydney Rowlatt), to investigate and report on the nature and extent of the criminal conspiracies connected with the revolutionary movement in India, and to advise as to the legislation necessary to deal with them. Based on the recommendations of this committee, two bills, popularly called Rowlatt Bills, were published in the Government of India Gazette on 18 January 1919.These acts were strongly opposed by the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League, and other Indian nationalist groups. Mahatma Gandhi decided to organize a satyagrah, non-violent civil disobedience campaign) against the bills. One of the bills became an Act, nevertheless, on 21 March 1919. Call for a countrywide hartal or general strike on 30 March, later postponed to 6 April 1919, was given by Mahatma Gandhi.

The strike in Lahore and Amritsar passed off peacefully on 6 April. On 9 April, the governor of the Punjab, Sir Michael Francis O'Dwyer (1864-1940), suddenly decided to deport from Amritsar, Dr Satyapal and Dr Saif ud-Din Kitchlew, two popular leaders of men. On the same day Mahatma Gandhi's entry into Punjab was banned under the Defence of India Rules. On 10 April, Satyapal and Kitchlew were called to the deputy commissioner's residence, arrested and sent off by car to Dharamsetla, a hill town, now in Himachal Pradesh. This led to a general strike in Amritsar. Excited groups of citizens soon merged together into a crowd of about 50,000 marching on to protest to the deputy commissioner against the deportation of the two leaders. The crowd, however, was stopped and fired upon near the railway foot-bridge.

According to the official version, the number of those killed was 12 and of those wounded between 20 and 30. But evidence before the Congress Enquiry Committee put the number of the dead between 20 and 30. As those killed were being carried back through the streets, an angry mob of people went on the rampage. Governmcnt offices and banks were attacked and damaged, and five Europeans were beaten to death. One Miss Marcella Sherwood, manager of the City Mission School, who had been living in Amritsar district for 15 years working for the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, was attacked by a mob in a narrow street, the Kucha Kurrichhan. Beaten she was rescued by local Indians who hid her from the mob and moved her to the fort.

The civil authorities, unnerved by the unexpected fury of the mob, called in the army the same afternoon. The ire of the people had by and large spent itself, but a sullen hatred against the British persisted. There was an uneasy calm in the city on 11 April. In the evening that day, Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer born ironically at Murree in the Punjab hills, commander of the 45th Infantry Brigade at Jalandhar, arrived in Amritsar incensed at the attack on an English lady, instructed the troops of the garrison regarding reprisals against Indians.

He immediately established file facto army rule, though the official proclamation to this effect was not made until 15 April. The troops at his disposal included 475 British and 710 Indian soldiers. On 12 April he issued an order prohibiting all meetings and gatherings. On 13 April which marked the Baisakhi festival, a large number of people, mostly Sikhs, had poured into the city from the surrounding villages. Local leaders called upon the people to assemble for a meeting in the Jallianvala Bagh at 4.30 in the evening. Brigadier-General Dyer set out for the venue of the meeting at 4.30 with 50 riflemen and two armoured cars with machine guns mounted on them. Meanwhile, the meeting had gone on peacefully, and two resolutions, one calling for the repeal of the Rowlatt Act and the other condemning the firing on 10 April, had been passed. A third resolution protesting against the general repressive policy of the government was being proposed when Dyer arrived at about 5.15 p.m. He deployed his riflemen on an elevation near the entrance and without warning or ordering the crowd to disperse, opened fire. The firing continued for about 20 minutes whereafter Dyer and his men marched back the way they had come. 1650 rounds of .303-inch ammunition had been fired. Dyer's own estimate of the killed based on his rough calculations of one dead per six bullets fired was between 200 and 300. The official figures were 379 killed and 1200 wounded.

According to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, who personally collected information with a view to raising the issue in the Central Legislative Council, over 1,000 were killed. The total crowd was estimated at between 15,000 and 20,000, Sikhs comprising a large proportion of them.

The protest that broke out in the country is exemplified by the renunciation by Rabindranath Tagore of the British Knighthood. In a letter to the Governor General he wrote: "... The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in their incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part wish to stand shorn of all special distinctions by the side of those of my countrymen who, for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradations not fit for human beings...." Mass riots erupted in the Punjab and the government had to place five of the districts under martial law. Eventually an enquiry committee was set up. The Disorder Inquiry Committee known as Hunter Committee after its chairman, Lord Hunter, held Brigadier-General R.E.H. Dyer guilty of a mistaken notion of duty, and he was relieved of his command and prematurely retired from the army. The Indian National Congress held its annual session in December 1919 at Amritsar and called upon the British Government to "take early steps to establish a fully responsible government in India in accordance with the principle of self determination."

The Sikhs formed the All India Sikh League as a representative body of the Panth for political action. The League held its first session in December 1919 at Amritsar simultaneously with the Congress annual convention. The honouring of Brigadier-General Dyer by the priests of Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, led to the intensification of the demand for reforming management of Sikh shrines already being voiced by societies such as the Khalsa Diwan Majha and Central Majha Khalsa Diwan. This resulted in the launching of what came to be known as the Gurdwara Reform movement, 1920-25. Some Sikh servicemen, resenting the policy of non-violence adopted by the leaders of the Akali movement, resigned from the army and constituted thc nucleus of an anti-British terrorist group known as Babar Akalis.

The site, Jallianvala Bagh became a national place of pilgrimage. Soon after the tragic happenings of the Baisakhi day, 1919, a committee was formed with Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya as president to raise a befitting memorial to perpetuate the memory of the martyrs. The Bagh was acquired by the nation on 1 August 1920 at a cost of 5,60,472 rupees but the actual construction of the memorial had to wait until after Independence. The monument, befittingly named the Flame of Liberty, build at a cost of 9,25,000 rupees, was inaugurated by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of the Republic of India, on 13 April 1961. The central 30-ft high pylon, a four-sided tapering stature of red stone standing in the midst of a shallow tank, is built with 300 slabs with Ashoka Chakra, the national emblem, carsed on them. A stone lantern stands at each corner of the tank. On all four sides of the pylon the words, "In memory of martyrs, 13 April 1919", has been inscribed in Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and English. A semi-circular verandah skirting a children's swimming pool near the main entrance to the Bagh marks the spot where General Dyer's soldiers took position to fire at the gathering.

  • Footnote: On 13th April 1919, a Sikh teenager who was being raised at Khalsa Orphanage named Udham Singh saw the happening with his own eyes and avenged the killings of 1300+ of his countrymen by killing Michael O'Dwyer in London.
(~From www.sikhiwiki.org )

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Dyer later testified that he intended to teach a 'moral' lesson to the populace through this action.

The tragedy polarized opinion throughout India and Britain. Some hailed Dyer as 'Savior of the Punjab,' while others believed he exemplified the worst kind of imperialist arrogance. Gandhi, horrified by the slaughter, suspended the movement of civil disobedience, but the Indian National Congress held its annual conference in Amritsar later that year to commemorate the martyrs of the freedom struggle. A British parliamentary committee that investigated the shooting was extremely critical of Dyer's action and of the entire Punjab administration. Dyer was forced to resign his military commission in March 1920, a decision later supported after debate in the British House of Commons. In July 1920, however, the House of Lords deplored the decision, and a funding campaign to support the general raised a total of 26,000 pounds from a wide range of citizens in Britain. In India, the shootings and subsequent government responses convinced Gandhi and millions of others that British rule was corrupt and that India must become independent.

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There are several outstanding articles available at net, recommend to take a look at followings:

Wikipedia, library.thinkquest.org, www.amritsar.com, www.experiencefestival.com, www.kambojsociety.com, www.whereincity.com (some photos), everything2.com, www.ioi.in, www.allaboutsikhs.com

Many many thanks to “Apoorva Chandar” for ACK.

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