Koh-I-Noor: A diamond with troubled history

Koh-I-Noor
Size: 105.602 carats (21.1204 g)
Colour: Finest white
Cut: Cushion
Discovered: Date unknown in India
The name means” Mountain of light” in Persian language. Once known as the largest diamond in the world. It is believed to have originated in Andhra together with its double called”Darya-ye-Noor” meaning “Sea of light”.
It was originally owned by Kakatiya Dynasty which installed it in a temple as the EYE of the goddess. It has had a troubled history having been stolen, confiscated or taken over as war loot by various invaders.
Presently it is a part of the Crown of Queen Elizabeth having been confiscated from its owners in 1850 by imperial powers.

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The Fabled Jand (prosopis cineraria) Tree

There are many references to “Jand” tree in Punjabi literature. Foremost it is connected to a place called Danabad the village of Mirza in the legend of “Mirza-Sahiban”. After getting Sahiba from her home on the day of her marriage to someone else, and sneaking on his mare-called Bakki in local language, he decides to take rest under the cool shade of Jand tree. He was overconfident that even after taking rest for the summer noon, he will make it easily to his native place before the end of the day. Rest is well known. He was killed by Sahiban’s brothers who came chasing them.

Then there is a famous Gurudwara called “Jand Sahib” in Bathinda Punjab where Guru Gobind Singh is said to have rested under a Jand tree. And and there is one tree located behind Kiran Cinema in Chandigarh which I saw today. This is said to be very old and indeed it looked like that as only skeleton was there. Many people worship it.I always thought about how this tree must look.

I found a very beautiful video describing the beauty of this tree by Mirza. it is in Punjabi language but brief summary of the meaning is “Mirza describes the cool shade of Jand tree, the branches are touching the ground, you shouldn’t say no to sitting under the shade of it. And why to stress the mare in the hot sun because it is not rainy season. You don’t worry, we will reach Danabad (his native village) before the sunset.

Before Chandigarh came into existence, there were villages here. People lived mostly rural life based on agriculture. They worship female goddesses which is attested by many temples in the area. Like Hindu culture they worshipped trees and idols. The Jand tree is one such tree which was worshipped in the area.

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There are not many trees of this species in this area nowadays. I was curious to know how this tree looked like and other details. I found an article in the English daily “The Tribune” which gives the good information about the tree.

The tree known by scientific name of “prosopis cineraria” is endemic to dry areas and is found mostly in Rajasthan and adjoining areas of Punjab and Haryana. It is known by is known as “Jand” in Hindi and Punjabi, “jandi” in Haryanvi, “khejri” in Rajasthani, and “sami or samri” in Gujarati. The tree plays an important role in ecosystem of arid and semi-arid areas. All the parts of the tree are useful, it is called kalp taru or wish fulfilling tree.

During Vedic times, khejri wood was used to kindle the sacred fire for performing yajana. There are references of it in Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Lord Rama worshipped khejri tree known as Sami  Pooja, which represents the goddess of power, before he led his army to kill Ravana. The worshipping of this tree is referred to as samipuja. Pandavas also worshipped this tree and hid their weapons in it during their agyatavasa.

Khejri tree provides shelter and protection to animals and birds in desert areas. This tree is home to many large birds like kites, hawks and vultures.

Many Rajasthani families use the green and unripe pods (known as sangri) in preparation of curries and pickles. The importance of the medicinal value of samitree has been highlighted in our ancient literature. The bark of the tree provides immediate relief to a person bitten by snake or scorpion. Its leaves and fruits are used in preparing medicines for curing nervous disorders. The medicines prepared from its bark are also used for treating diarrhoea, dysentery, piles, worm infestations and other skin problems. The bark is also used to cure leprosy, bronchitis, asthma, tumour of muscles and to improve concentration. The gum of the tree is nutritive and good in taste and is used by pregnant woman at the time of delivery.

Ganesh Chaturthi in Chandigarh

The other day I was searching for the bicycle shops in Chandigarh area. The name of one shop was “Bhonsle Cycle”. For a moment, I thought I was in Mumbai because of the Maharashtrian title of the name. Similarly, there is A jewellery shop in Manimajra, a large town in Chandigarh territory. Today there was an article in the newspaper about the upcoming festival of Ganesh Chaturthi being scheduled for celebrations by large population of Marathis in Chandigarh.

Connection began to clear up. The third battle of Panipat came to my mind. Marathas then ruled many parts of Haryana and Punjab. Although they lost but Marathas being so brave and aggressive to reach Punjab is a fact. But the present population of these people is due to the proximity of head quarters of Northern Command of Army. Many army persons must have settled here. Also, due to the great improvements in the transportation systems mobility of people within the country has increased a great deal. People who work on central government offices also are posted in different parts of the country. I on my part have spent 22 years in Mumbai.

This year marathi people here have begun gearing up to celebrate 50 years of the Puja. It all started in 1962 when first Marathi play was staged. In 1964, first Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated in the Tagore theatre and idols were immersed in Sukhna Lake. In 1965, the festivities were cancelled due to breaking of India Pakistan war. Many of the people taking part in arrangements and plays were from defence and went to perform their duties. In 1966, Air Force provided a spacious vehicle called “queen Marry” for carrying the idols for immersion. In the year 1967, Mandal was established officially and besides this festival others like Kojagiri, Sankrant and Gudi Padva began to be celebrated. In 1968, Utsav was celebrated in Government technical college premises. In 1970 the Mandal was registered officially. In 1978 Maharastra Bhavan building was inaugurated in sector 19. Since then it is a regular affair. People of Chandigarh also participate with great zeal.

Since idol was not made here earlier, it was brought from Maharastra. It was the most difficult task since train connection is poor and also handling of the idol is a delicate matter. Once even, Air Force brought the idol by air lifting it from Mumbai.

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Rehearsals
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Beginnings

This year, there shall be a performance by renown artist Abhya Devare from Satara. Krishan  Leela will be performed by Pallavi and Kanhari Pinge. In the Anand Mela, there will be Si Khand, Puran Poli along with Kari. Marathi women have become good punjabi cooks here and cuisines shall be prepared by them.

Custodian of the Past

One is surprised and awestruck at the single minded passion of the person. His name is Narinderpal Singh Panesar. He is 43 years old businessman and belongs to Ludhiana district in Punjab. He has the mind boggling collection of antiques which include rare coins, antique cameras, international currency notes and other materials. These are mostly related to Sikh history but in addition to all sorts of antiques. He has collected these in 30 years. He wishes to set up Sikh museum which shall have no parallel.

His collection includes 55000 coins which belong to ancient, medieval, British India, Sikh misls of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Patiala, Nabha, Jind and Malerkotla.

He has rare stamps. Oldest stamp is of golden temple which was released in 1935 on the silver jubilee ceremony of George V. Also stamp issued by Pakistan in 2008 on martyrdom day of Sikh Guru Arjan Dev. Many stamps have gold, silver, silk, Khadi, tin, chocolate and Swarovski on them. Some are perfumed and embroidered.

Manuscrpits are from Gurumukhi, Sanskrit, Persian Arabic or Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam. There is Adhyatam Prakash Granth  dating back to 1668 AD. Also there are paintings belonging to Mughal, Sikh, Pahari, Kishangarh and East India Company.

There was the news that due to financial problems in setting up the Museum, he has decided to sell the antiques which are non-Sikh category with heavy heart. He is disappointed over the attitude of Government and SGPC.

Here are some of the sample photos taken from the article in Times of India.

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Unesco World Heritage tag for Rani-ki-Vav

Rani ki vav or the Queen’s Stepwell at Patan, Gujarat has been bestowed with this honor a few days back under criteria i and iv which say. First criterion is the structure represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and second criterion says the item under consideration is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stages in human history.Rani-ki-Vav (le puits à degrés de la Reine) à Patan, Gujarat

Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Step well) at Patan, Gujarat is located on the banks of the Saraswati River and was initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century AD. Rani or the queen Udayamati commissioned this vav or step well, in 1063 in the memory of her husband King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty. Rani-ki-Vav was built at the height of craftsman’s ability in step well construction and the Maru-Gurjara architectural style, reflecting mastery of this complex technique and great beauty of detail and proportions. Designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, it is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural panels of high artistic quality. The vav was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati River and silted over until the late eighties, when it was excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India, with the carvings found in pristine condition. Rani Ki Vav is among the finest step wells in India, and one of the most famous legacies of the ancient capital city.

Rani-ki-Vav (le puits à degrés de la Reine) à Patan, Gujarat

The vavs of Gujarat are not merely sites for collecting water and socializing, but also simultaneously hold great spiritual significance. They were originally constructed quite simply, but became more intricate over the years, perhaps to make explicit this ancient concept of the sanctity of water by carving it out in stone deities thus representing a subterranean temple.

The steps begin at ground level, leading you down through the cool air through several pillared pavilions to reach the deep well below. There are more than 800 elaborate sculptures among seven galleries. The central theme is the Dasavataras, or ten incarnations of Vishnu, including Buddha. The avatars are accompanied by sadhus, Brahmins, and apsaras (celestial dancers), painting their lips and adorning themselves. At water level you come to a carving of Sheshashayi-Vishnu, in which Vishnu reclines on the thousand-hooded serpent Shesha, where it is said he rests in the infinity between epochs.

The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank of 9.5 by 9.4 meters, at a depth of 23 meters. The well is located at the westernmost end of the property and consists of a shaft, 10 meters in diameter and 30 meters deep.

For more pictures visit the Unesco page.

Fabled Tiledar Juttis of Punjab

Famous Punjabi Juttis (shod) are traditional footwear of Punjab. Tiledar juttis are finely embroidered with Zari and Gold threads. Both men and women wear these. These juttis are made in Patiala where the Mochi (cobbler) Jinngar community of Rajasthan, who have now been settled in Punjab for several generations make this footwear. Earlier they used to make horse saddles and reigns (ghore ka jinn) which were sent to places like Lahore.  The juttis were made in a wide area, from Udaipur to Hindumal Kot in Rajasthan.  The artisans who make these footwear in Jalalabad region of Fazilka migrated from Kasur now in Pakistan after 1947. The craft of making juttis has been practiced in Patiala for the last 300 years by Raijer Mochis, who migrated from Sikal and Shikawat in Rajasthan. Jutti making has been a family tradition for many years.

I remember from growing from children to youth and going to university, we have never eaten the city food. For us it was a simple fare of rural food cooked in the home. Similarly, the juttis made from the rough hide were worn going to fields. For first few days, the new juttis cut the foot badly with blisters which became very painful. Tiledar juttis made from the soft hide were worn by rich people. These days these traditional things have become a fashion. For example, Makki rotis and Sarson da Saag which was the staple food in winters in the villages have become a most sought after food item in the city marriages.

The work is divided between men and womTillaen. While the men do the cutting and stitching jobs, women do the delicate work embroidery. The work of embroidery is called “tillabharai”.  The leather used is generally that of buffalo, cow or goat. It is sourced from Jalandhar, Lucknow and Meerut. Other important raw material required is bark of “Kikar (Acacia Arabica).

The makers of these fabled juttis or shod originally from Kasur now in Pakistan. They migrated to Jalalabad in Fazilka District of Punjab. The link is so strong that many shops are named after Pakistan towns: Deepalpur, Okara, Haveli Lakha and Pakpattan.

Tilla juttis are juttis with gold thread or zari work. There are three types of juttis – Lakhi, Milan and Khosa-differing in structural design.  The density of embroidery varies from region to region within Malwa, where most of the production clusters are located. The Tilla jutti from Abohar is multi coloured and is of light weight compared to other varieties of jutti produced in Malwa.  The Muslim embroiders of Malerkotla are renowned for their fine, dense embroidery of shakarpur (rhombus), sunahare (golden), laharia(waves) and jalli (trellis) motifs that cover the insole as well as the upper portions.

Le Corbusier Museum Chandigarh

We belong to a village which is a part of the union territory of Chandigarh. The city called the “City beautiful” is unique in the sense it serves as the capital of two states namely Punjab and Haryana and in itself is an independent union territory. I studied in the Chandigarh from government college and Panjab University. We cycled almost 12 kilometers daily from our home to the university. Our route was Madhya Marg which means the Middle road. On the both sides sectors run. As soon as you encounter a roundabout, it is the beginning of consecutive sectors into which the whole city has been divided.

Anyway we passed sector 19 on the way. It is here now the Le Corbusier Museum is located. Le Corbusier was the architect who designed the city. After partition of Punjab, Lahore, the old capital of joint Punjab fell in Pakistan Punjab. Indian Punjab has no capital. Nehru decided to give Punjab a city which shall be a modern city with straight geometrical pattern.

Site of the city is in the lap of Shivalik hills. The city is divided into sectors which are independent units with all the public amenities within. The main shopping center is in Sector 17 where the famous logo of the city the hand is erected.

We visited the museum which houses the documents like plans, correspondences and the furniture from the time of the planning of the city. There are some sketches made by Le Corbusier. Lots of pictures of Nehru and other politicians. There are also pieces of the red pottery belonging to Indus Valley Civilization period indicating that the Civilization was spread over this area also. The name of the city itself is derived from Indian Hindu Goddess called Chandi whose temple is located nearby.

There is a shop also which sells the souvenirs related to the city. The prices are a bit high.

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