A Visit to Rose Garden Chandigarh

A lot has been written about this garden. The garden is situated in the sector 16 of city beautiful Chandigarh. We used to live in small village adjacent to Chandigarh and crossed the garden while going to attend our college and Panjab university on bicycle. We have visited the garden a number of time.

Then I went away from my city for job and lived for 35 years out in the places like Dehradun, Sivasagar and Silchar in Assam and Mumbai in Maharashtra. Each city has its own personality which is comprised of monuments, its people and gardens and parks and civic amenities. Chandigarh is a new city built after partition of the country and Punjab lost its old capital of Lahore.

The rose garden is a aesthetic quality place in the city. Nicely maintained and ever adding the beautiful varieties of roses. The best time to visit is during February and March when flowers are in full bloom. There is a fare during the month of February to celebrate the beauty of the most written about and admired flower: the rose.

You can visit it any time. It is always there to offer you something. Even a leisurely walk through the zigzag paths inside, sitting on the lawns and enjoying the fountains.

I visited the garden again to renew my contact with it and recall the old memories. It is very cold weather. There was a hazy fog. Roses were not in full bloom due to frost. But there were plenty of them. The number of visitors has increased due to awareness and visitors are coming from all over India and abroad. Thousands of pictures are taken everyday on mobiles and uploaded to internet.

I also took several pictures. Some of them are shown below.

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A visit to Wagah Border

Thanks to television and internet reaching out to nooks and corners of India most Indians know about the foot stamping ceremony also called “beating the retreat” conducted by members of Indian and Pakistan armed forces at border post in the Wagah village. Everyone want to visit the place because a picture is formed in their minds about the soldiers in the most aggressive moods.
The village was divided between India and Pakistan during the bloody partition of India with Eastern part of it going to India and western part to the Pakistan. The place is about 22 kilometres from Lahore and about 32 kilometres from Amritsar. The border post is on the Grand Trunk Road constructed at the time of Sher Shah Suri’s regime and many subsequent rulers. It runs from Peshawar to Kolkata covering almost whole of Northern India.
So every visitor to Golden temple makes it a point to visit the border and witness the ceremony. Even as you come out of the temple, cab drivers almost mob you for going there.
I also visited the place sometimes back along with my wife and our friend and his wife. After visiting the golden temple, we made the programme to visit the place. Ceremony takes place in the evening for about an hour. Even on the days when it is not holiday, there is a big crowd.
We hired a taxi which was arranged by the hotel where we were lodged. Amritsar is a city which is very ancient with narrow lanes which are brimming with crowds and vehicles of all kinds. It is miracle of drivers how they navigate through lanes. Much time is wasted in the city.
Drivers are generally very clever type. Although money was paid for air conditioning, he would not switch it on unless you press him. As the vehicle neared Wagah, it was almost traffic jammed. There were trucks which were taking goods from India to Pakistan which were waiting endlessly for clearance blocking one side of the road entirely.
We reached about one and half hour before the gate will open forgoing inside. Already there were crowds in the queues. There were separate lines for men and women. It is an open area with no shelter from sun and rain. There are boys selling water bottles and pouches pestering the crowds no ends. Small kids are a harassed lot from heat and thirst. Wait seems endless. Meanwhile we saw many people coming up to the closed main gate presenting recommendation letters or passes and entering the gate without any time limit.
At last, the gate opened for ladies first and almost 20 minutes later for men after all women had crossed. You have to walk another kilometres to reach the action theatre. People who are shouting patriotic slogans race pushing one another to reach the place so that they get a seat to sit. The seats are like stadium rows with men and women in separated areas. People seems hysterical and hoarse. It is overcrowded. The songs blare from both indian and Pakistan side outdoing each other. School children do the dancing and run with the flag. When the ceremony begins, soldiers from two countries charge at one another, throwing one leg in the air so high that their legs form almost 180 degrees angle. They stare at each other. The gates are slammed mercilessly while opening and closing. As this happens, people sitting away stand up and cheer their soldiers making it impossible for the elderly people to watch by sitting. If all sit again it is possible you will lose your sitting place to someone.
This was so much that I was waiting for it to be over. When it was over, you will find yourself floating with crowds as now everyone is in great hurry to go out and return to the city. People are spilled on every inch of space. There are two three shops including the one run by the army selling tea and water bottles and snacks.
On a summer evening you are exhausted to walk another kilometre to the main gate. The driver was waiting although I suspected that he might have deserted us. But it was not over. Because there was a big traffic snarl and a good half an hour spent to cross the area and come on the main road. There was evening crowds as we neared the hotel. At last, we reached the hotel fully exhausted.

Dr.Salam and Heer: Jhang Connection

Doctor Abdus Salam was awarded Nobel prize in physics in 1979 jointly with Glashow and Steven Weinberg. After Einstein, theoretical physicists all over the world are trying to unify all the physical forces like electricity, magnetism and forces residing inside a nucleus and gravity. They have succeeded in unifying all except gravity which is defying all the efforts. Just as in Hinduism we believe that God is one but it’s manifestation are many. They also got the Nobel in this area of research.

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He was born on 29 January 1926 in Santok Das in the Sahiwal District but grew up in Jhang at his grand parents place. Did the mention of the name ring bells in your heart. Yes it is the same place where Heer of Heer Ranjha immortal love belonged to.

The whole family was in the education. His father was an education officer in Punjab. The family had converted to Islam. They belonged to Ahmediyya sect which was declared by Zia-ul Haq as non Muslim.

When he was taken to be admitted into school, teachers found him fit for fourth class. At age 14, Salam scored the highest marks ever recorded for the matriculation examination at the Punjab University. He won a full scholarship to the Government College University of Lahore, Punjab State.
His father wanted him to join indian Civil Services. He could not because of his poor eyesight which was a mandatory requirement.
He won scholarship from Cambridge university and completed his BA degree with honours in Mathematics and Physics in 1949. Although he received offer to do research there but he returned to Jhang.
He taught is Pakistan both mathematics and physics.
He started teaching at the Imperial College, London which he accepted. The 30-year-old, youngest ever assistant professor of Imperial College, London, was a Pakistani now.
He was brought back by zayin Khan and made the scientific advisor. He drafted the scientific policy of Pakistan. Founded Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission of Pakistan. Although he was once a non entity in Pakistan due to his being from Ahmediyya sect, his heart was always in Pakistan and he arranged for scholarships, which helped hundreds of Pakistani scientists’ to educate themselves abroad. His contributions are innumerable.
Although, he was highly respected scientist abroad he was an outsider for Pakistan. All efforts were made by the future administrators who buckled under religion to ease out his memory from Pakistan.He was offered the nationality of all those countries whose asylum seekers, today, lead the criticism on his faith.
After he had received the Nobel Prize, he chose to visit Lahore, In a public gathering, someone commented that Jhang was initially famous for Heer and now will be famed for Abdus Salam’s Nobel Prize. He remarked that there are hundreds of Nobel Laureates but only one Heer.

Kallianwala Khooh: Another Example of British Brutality

It is said that sun never set on the British empire once upon a time. They colonised most of the world and plundered all kind of wealth by making the innocent inhabitants their slaves. India was subjected to this treatment for two centuries. In the process to subjugate those who tried to oppose, they perpetrated heinous crimes.
One such famous incidence in firing on the unarmed and peaceful thousands of people in the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar Punjab. Another instance of their brutality came to light in the same district at Ajnala. There was a well called Kallianwala Khoo (well) once upon a time. This well was excavation by volunteers. The digging began on 28th of February 2014 and within 3 days, skulls, bones, some coins of East India company and jaws were excavated.
It’s believed that it was here, in this khoo or well, that the bodies of 282 Indian soldiers who rebelled against the British during the 1857.
Covered in the freshly dug earth were skeletal remains — skulls, bones — coins and pieces of jewellery.
Amritsar based historian Mr.Surinder Kochhar who led the excavation did a lot of research before undertaking this task.
By March 2, the excavators — mostly volunteers — had dug about 23 feet and claimed to have exhumed 90 skulls, 170 “intact jaws”, more than 5,000 teeth, 70 one-rupee gold coins belonging to The East India Company, gold beads, three gold amulets, six finger rings, four karas and two medals dated 1835, before they declared the digging complete.

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Standing a few feet away from the well, Amritsar-based historian Surinder Kochhar, who led the group of amateur excavators, says the decision to excavate the well was based on historical research. He had based his claims on then Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Frederick Cooper’s book, “The Crisis in the Punjab” , published in 1858, which vividly narrates the incident and on the Amritsar District Gazetteers from 1883 to 1947, all four editions of which mentioned the Kallianwala Khoo killings.
According to popular history, the 282 soldiers buried in the Ajnala well were part of a platoon of 500 soldiers of the 26th Native Infantry who had revolted at the Mian Mir Cantonment in Lahore during the 1857 uprising and had swum across Ravi to reach Ajnala town in Amritsar. Around 218 of their comrades were killed by the British at Dadian Sofian village near Ajnala. Of the remaining 282, many were captured and put in a cage-like room where several died of asphyxiation, while the rest were shot dead. Their bodies were then thrown into the well.
If DNA testing is conducted, it could be another evidence,” he says.
Dr Sukhdev Singh Sohal, professor of history at the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, says there is no unanimous view on how the well got its name. The popular view, he says, is that Kallianwala khoo means the ‘well of the blacks’, referring to “dark-skinned Indians”.
The villagers want a memorial and a museum in Ajnala in memory of the soldiers. There have also been proposals for DNA- and carbon-dating tests on the exhumed remains. The government has decided to set up a committee of historians to examine these demands.
“We are getting suggestions from various quarters, including from INTACH, saying that the skeletons should be studied to ascertain how the soldiers could have been assassinated. Were they beheaded, shot dead or killed using some other means?” says Randhawa. Back at the site, Kochhar says, “A lot of research has gone into this. I didn’t dream of the well.” That the reference was to a seer’s dream that triggered a failed gold rush at Unnao in UP, wasn’t lost on anyone.
FROM COOPER’S BOOK
“Ten by ten the sepoys were called forth. Their names having been taken down in succession, they were pinioned, linked together, and marched to execution; a firing party being in readiness. About 150 having been thus executed, one of the executioners swooned away (he was the oldest of the firing party), and a little respite was allowed. Then proceeding, the number had arrived at two hundred and thirty seven; when the district officer was informed that the remainder refused to come out of the bastion, where they had been imprisoned temporarily a few hours before. Expecting a rush and resistance, preparations were made against escape; but little expectation was entertained of the real and awful fate which had fallen on the remainder of the mutineers… The doors were opened, and, behold! They were nearly all dead! Unconsciously, the tragedy of Holwell’s Black Hole had been re-enacted. No cries had been heard during the night, in consequence of the hubbub, tumult and shouting of the crowds of the horsemen, police, tehsil guards and excited villagers.
Forty five bodies, dead from fright, exhaustion, fatigue, heat and partial suffocation, were dragged into light, and consigned, in common with all other bodies, into one common pit, by the hands of village sweepers…The execution at Ujnalla (read Ajnala) commenced at day break, and the stern spectacle was over in a few hours. Thus, within forty-eight hours from the date of the crime, there fell by law nearly 500 men.”
— Extracted from The Crisis in the Punjab (1858)

As you might have seen in many documentaries on the Discovery Channel, the extraction of the remains of the bodies requires great patience, delicacy and is time consuming. This is because with time the bodies become very fragile and prone to disintegration. Here, the work was done by volunteers who had no knowledge of such delicate processes. They in their enthusiasm did the work in 3 days and it might have caused deterioration to the quality of the remains.
Now the mortal remains are in the possession of the Punjab Director of Cultural Affairs. A team of two professors from the department of Anthropology from Panjab University for working out the biological profiles and DNA profiles to identify the soldiers. Since there are no records of the names of the soldiers, British government has bee requested to provide the details of the soldiers who were killed in the massacre.

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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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Dulla Bhatti: More than a Robinhood

Dulla Bhatti is a famous folklore hero of Punjab. Punjab means here the erstwhile Punjab of undivided India. His ballad called Dulle Di Vaar (Ballad of Dulla) is very popular in the rural area of Punjab. It extols the deeds of his extraordinary bravery in the form of songs. I still remember in our younger days, the ballad sung by folk singer Kuldeep Manak was a craze in whole of Punjab.

He is seen like Robinhood, who was savior of the poor and helpless, rescuer of the young girls abducted by Mogul soldiers during their raids. Dulla was a contemporary of Great Akbar. His real name was Rai Abdullah Khan Bhatti, was a famous legendary muslim Rajput who refused to be subdued by the Governors of Akbar in Punjab.

The bravery of the Rajputs is well known world over. His father was hanged by Akbar to instill a fear in the hearts of the Punjabi Rajputs who refused to submit to his rule. At that time Dulla was not born and somehow the truth of his father’s death was not told to him by his mother till he became a handsome and dashing youth. He vowed to take revenge from Akbar and for a time Akbar’s son Salim who had revolted against his father on the disapproval of his infatuation with Anarkali, sided with Dulla and even incited him. Dulla began by looting the horses from a trader who worked for Akbar. Then he looted the valuables sent by Akbar to Middle East and distributed them to the poor and needy people.  Such was the level of resistance put up by Rai Abdullah Khan that Akbar had to shift his capital from Delhi to Lahore for nearly 20 years, making the Lahore Fort his headquarters, and renovating its basic structure.

Akbar wanted to capture Dulla dead or alive and brought to his capital. He dispatched two of his able generals; Meerza Ala-ud-din and Meerza Zia-ud-din with the command of over 12000 troops. The army reached Dullah’s village but could not find him. Due to his Robin Hood personality, Dullah was popular among masses. Akbar had ordered the generals to bring Dullah, dead or alive and failing that, bring the women of his house to the court. In obedience of the orders, the army secured the women and started marching towards Lahore.

When word reached Dullah, he charged back. The two sides fought with courage but the Moghul army was soon on the run. The generals begged Ladhi, mother of Dulla, for their life, who then ordered Dullah to forgive them. After the shameful defeat, the Moghuls invited him for talks and deceitfully arrested him. Upholding tradition, he was kept for a while at the Shahi Qila and was hanged in front of Kotwali, a police station now marks the place. His funeral was administered by the Sufi poet, Shah Hussain.