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HAMPI: The Ancient Capital of the Greatest Hindu Empire Vijayanagara

The great monuments and the rich heritage tell us allot about the grandeur and fabulous wealth of the bygone era and the infinite talent and creativity of its people

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The Hampi Chariot Image Source: Wikipedia Commons
  • The World Heritage site of Hampi is filled with lavish Dravidian temples and was the capital of the kingdom of Vijayanagara
  • The great monuments and the rich heritage tells us so much about the grandeur and fabulous wealth of the bygone era
  • A superb blend of styles from various schools of architecture created  awe-inspiring structures

The ravishing beauty of Hampi, the capital of the most famed Hindu kingdom of the past does not only lie in the majestic architectural structures but also in the landscapes, the trees and the scenic Tungabhadra river on its side. This World Heritage site filled with lavish Dravidian temples was the capital of the kingdom of Vijayanagara, the largest empire in post-Mughal India, covering the present-day Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra, and Maharashtra. Under the rule of king Krishnadevaraya, the empire succeeded in reviving the Indian culture with a flourish for music, art, sculpture, and literature.

Though in ruins, tourists still flock in large numbers to Hampi which is located near Hospet, in Bellary district in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The great monuments and the rich heritage tells us so much about the grandeur and fabulous wealth of the bygone era and the infinite talent and creativity of its people. Amidst the giant boulders and plantations, and protected by the turbulent river Tungabhadra in the north, these ruins stand tall, reminding us of a beautiful era of the past. The Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority was constituted in 2002 for the overall development and conservation of Hampi after the government made it an international destination.

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The dilapidated main mantapa at the Vitthala templein Hampi Image Source: Wikipedia Commons
The dilapidated main mandapa at the Vitthala temple in Hampi Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Established in 1336 A.D. by two brothers, Hakka and Bukka , the Vijayanagara empire held its ground for centuries restoring Hinduism and keeping the Turks at bay. Vijayanagara is also known as Vidyanagara because Hakka and Bukka built the empire under the guidance of their patron saint Madhava Vidyaranya. However, it is believed that the kingdom dates back to the period of the epic, Ramayana when it was the site of Kishkinda, a monkey kingdom.

After successfully driving away the Khilji Dynasty of Delhi which had invaded South India and destroyed the Kakathiya Empire, Hoysalas and the Pandian Kingdom, the kings of Hampi restored peace to the land and revived their great culture. Hindu religion, art and architecture saw a tremendous growth and many institutions were set up to strengthen their common culture. The famous Tenali Ramakrishna, known as Tenali Raman to the people of today was one of the several poets and ministers in the court of by Krishnadeva Raya, the greatest ruler of the dynasty. The economy of Southern India grew to new heights under his leadership. Trade with the Portuguese and Dutch were established.

Travelling chroniclers from Arabia, Italy, Portugal and Russia came to this blessed land to visit the monuments of the city. Most of the monuments were built between 1336 and 1570 A.D. from the times of Harihara-I to Sadasivaraya.

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Over the years, a unique style of architecture came into form. A superb blend of styles from various schools of architecture created awe-inspiring structures like the majestic Hindu temples, the royal hall, the magnificent throne platform used to witness festivals and other events, and the king’s balance or scale. The ornamentation, delicate carvings, stately pillars, magnificent pavilions and a great wealth of iconographic and traditional depictions from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, make the temples of Hampi a marvelous spectacle, says the About Religion article. Worship is still carried out at the largest extant temple at Pampapati after it was renovated.

A large number of palatial complexes, stone images, household utensils, beautiful terracotta objects, inscribed Buddhist sculptures of the 2nd-3rd century, and stucco figures that once embellished the palaces have been discovered in the recent excavations.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna of NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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  • Akanksha Sharma

    The architectural structures at Humpi are beautiful.

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Castro Gang Murders: How Cuba Eliminated An Opposition

To most people familiar with the Cuban Revolution, there are two men who symbolize its leadership; Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

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Cuba revolution
A Havana memorial, for those who fought to defeat the forces of dictator Fulgencio Batista.

By Tania Bhattacharya

Revolutions Devour Their Own Children – Jacques Mallet du Pan

To most people familiar with the Cuban Revolution, there are two men who symbolize its leadership; Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. They believe that the revolution was orchestrated by them, and, its salient features were devised by their – referring to Castro and Guevara’s – genius. Had the militant lawyer, and intrepid Argentine revolutionary not been at the helm of navigating the anti-Batista rebels of the Sierra Maestra, all would have been lost. Such individuals would be rather intrigued, had they heard none other than Castro himself, state in the opening decade of the twenty first century, how Cuba’s revolutionary war, was masterminded not by him and Che, but by two unlikely figures, who have remained less known to the wider public outside of Cuba. The two in question are; Celia Sanchez and Frank Pais. The Cuban dictator’s forthright admission had only come when his rule over his people was all but over, and a change of guard was in order.

It had been very different during the anti-Fulgencio Batista movement, when Fidel Castro was planning to attack the Moncada army barracks. Contrary to popular notions, the revolution was not the handiwork of two men, but many participants, with the other notable figures being: Frank Pais, Celia Sanchez, Huber Matos, Camilo Cienfuegos, and Haydee Santamaria

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When the movement was in full swing, one of the aforementioned, was brutally executed. After its success, two of the others, were quietly annihilated. The cover-ups have left generations of Cubans and those interested in the history of the country, confounded and pained. How and why, were such important figures of the Twenty Six July movement, removed? We shall examine below. 

FRANK PAIS

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A dedication to Pais’ memory, at his home.

In the words of historian Pedro Alvarez Tabio, Fidel Castro had become a non-entity among those desiring an overthrow of Fulgencio Batista in the intervening years between 1953 and 1956. Instead, Celia Sanchez and Frank Pais, had sustained the anti-Batista movement through recruiting, funding, and training. Too embarrassed to admit that their musclemen had been defeated by a very young schoolteacher – Pais – and a woman – Sanchez – historians of post-revolution Cuba (for the most part funded by Batista supporters exiled to Miami, alongside the powerful Havana mafia, and the CIA); attempted to  fabricate a record, that showed the enemy to be a pair of macho men in the form of Che and Fidel. 

Frank Pais was a quiet and serious twenty-two year old instructor, who was essential in spearheading the Twenty Sixth of July Movement. So feared were Pais and his mentor Celia Sanchez, that Batista had unleashed the sinister murder syndicate MASFERRER TIGERS, at their heels, in the hopes of having them assassinated. Frank Pais underwent many sacrifices in his single-minded goal of having the dictator removed from power. His brother, then seventeen years of age, by the name of Josue Pais, was hunted down, tortured, and publicly executed by the regime’s secret police. Josue’s body was left on a Santiago de Cuba street in full public view, with the intention of serving as a warning to Frank, and others in the rebel fraternity. The name of the movement has been derived from the date, on which the older Castro brother – Fidel – and about one hundred and thirty trained rebels, had carried out their attack on the army barracks of Moncada. As a diversionary tactic, it had been left to Frank Pais, to simultaneously arrange for an assault on the adjoining city of Bayamo. The theatre of guerrilla activity now intensified through a two-pronged approach, had intimidated Batista’s men, bringing them heavy losses. Fidel Castro may have been captured after the ill-fated Moncada incident, but had it not been for Frank Pais, the military forces that met up with the band of a few dozen revolutionaries, would have been far greater, resulting in certain death for Fidel.

Author Jose Alvarez in his biography of Pais (available in English) named FRANK PAIS: ARCHITECT OF CUBA’S BETRAYED REVOLUTION takes the reader through neglected chapters of the Cuban Revolution’s history. What is relevant to the scope of this synopsis, are the ones on the last days of Pais’ life. He may have been a co-founder of the anti-Batista movement and played a leading role in its functioning along with the heroines Haydee Santamaria and Celia Sanchez, but Pais’ outlook on the future of Cuba had been vastly different from that of Fidel. This had resulted in bitter arguments between the two. Frank was a deeply religious man who took his Christianity very seriously. Had he survived, he may have wanted the Cubans to have a definite spiritual direction. This was quite unpalatable to his fellow revolutionary Fidel, who was a true Marxist. 

The events surrounding Frank Pais’ death, are the focus of this section. As mentioned previously, his efforts had been instrumental in galvanizing anti-Batista forces throughout the country on a massive scale, both in the cities and the interiors. The dictator was well-aware of the young man’s potential, and had placed a large bounty on the former’s head. 

Raul Pujol and Eugenia San Miguel were friends of Pais, whose homes were treated as safe abodes by Pais and his confidantes. He was hiding there on the 28th of July 1957, when law enforcement came looking for him. According to the official account, Frank was betrayed by a squealer whom he had known since his days at grade school. He was then shoved into a government vehicle idling nearby, for interrogation. Like his dead brother Josue, Frank was tortured, but the attempts were futile. The young school teacher bore his adversity with defiance, and plenty of resolve. This was later attested to by his interrogators. His angered captors then executed him publicly, on a by-lane of Santiago de Cuba. 

The only account we have of the events surrounding the death of Frank Pais, fellow revolutionary and arch rival of Fidel Castro within the July Twenty Sixth Movement, originates from a woman named Vilma Espin. She was a revered figure among the rebels, being an educated woman who came from a background of prestige and wealth. Her forefathers had been landlords in Batista’s Cuba, but she had fought against their wishes, joining the anti-Batista forces in order to end the island’s American-backed dictatorship. In the years following Pais’ assassination, her account changed several times, with new characters, locations and scenarios making their appearance, and sometimes an entire scrapping of a previous one, for an unheard-of setting. 

But what interest would a fellow revolutionary who was a member of the rebel forces, and therefore in agreement with Frank Pais over the removal of Fulgencio Batista, have in providing conflicting eyewitness accounts of Pais’ death? 

It so turns out, that Espin, despite being a comrade within the movement, was vying for the top spot in the organizational hierarchy of the revolutionary brigade, along with Pais. The two had shared an acrimonious rivalry. But Vilma Espin was not going to play second fiddle to Frank. She had the backing of Fidel Castro himself! Espin was the wife of Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, and her position of influence within the Castro family, helped her case. Once the Cuban Revolution was successfully over, her brother-in-law would assign her to high posts within the country. It would have suited Vilma and Fidel well, to have joined hands and ‘taken care’ of Frank Pais, who was increasingly posing as an ideological rival to the two. 

A number of unanswered questions remain pertaining to Pais’ assassination. Who was the squealer that ratted him out? Who had paid him to betray Frank? Is it possible that Frank Pais had been released post his interrogation, and been slayed by other shadowy interests? No subsequent findings have proven satisfactory enough. 

CAMILO CIENFUEGOS

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A talented Fine Arts student, Cienfuegos (centre) became the most popular rebel before he disappeared.

Among the Cuban rebels, the one who wore his beard the longest, was Camilo. He was the son of immigrant parents from Spain to Cuba. In the words of his friends, Camilo epitomized the typical Cuban spirit of joie de vivreHe was a good-looking, outgoing fellow; a man who enjoyed his drinks, the company of women, was a jokester, and could dance the merengue like it was nobody’s business. Born to parents in the tailoring profession, who ran a small shop from their home to provide for the family, Cienfuegos – meaning a hundred fires – was enrolled in Art school of his own choice at fourteen. Soon he had to drop out from a lack of funds. Subsequently, he worked many odd jobs, and once, travelled to the United States on a month-long work visa, seeking to make a future for himself in the new country, through struggle. Long after his visa had expired, Camilo and the friend who had come along with him, continued to stay back in the US, with Cienfuegos once employed as a dishwasher at the Waldorf Astoria. This is mentioned in the book ‘A Hundred Fires In Cuba’ by John Thorndike. He made a further attempt at American citizenship, by marrying a Salvadorian nurse Isabel Blandon, who had become a legalized resident of that country. Months later, the marriage was over and so was Cienfuegos’ dream of a prolonged stay in the US, when the authorities deported him to Mexico. While there he had a chance encounter with members of the July twenty six movement. With only ten dollars in his pocket and freshly exiled from Los Angeles, directionless, when the rebels offered him the promise of food and shelter in pursuance of his efforts, Camilo readily agreed. Among the eighty people who were able to safely land when their boat, the GRANMA was attacked and sunk off the Cuban coast by Fulgencio Batista’s maritime guards, was Cienfuegos. 

Unlike his Marxist comrades, Camilo was not ideologically groomed. He had lacked a formal education due to a blue-collar background, and was thus not inclined to textbook Communism as the other rebels may have liked. Despite the senior Cienfuegos’ being borderline Marxists, Camilo was more of a Libertarian Anarchist, who had wished to make a fortune for himself in the United States. He stood out among the revolutionaries precisely because of his lack of pedagogy. At first Fidel had refused him entry into the army, even though he had been informally recruited by some others. But after witnessing how adept Camilo could be with machine guns, he relented and allowed him to formally join the anti-Batista forces. 

Author and childhood friend Jose Duarte and Cienfuegos biographer Carlos Franqui, have drawn attention to certain ominous events in the life of Camilo. Following the ouster of Batista, there had been a battle for succession within the rebel army’s top brass. Fidel picked Cienfuegos to assume the post of Commander of the Cuban army, by overlooking Che and his own brother Raul Castro. Soon though, Castro senior was regretting his decision. Consecutive reports of the army Commander not falling into line with Communist beliefs, was pouring in. The Christ of the Rhumba/Ghetto as Cienfuegos was referred to, was already hugely popular, trumping the others among the top brass with his natural charisma. Coupled with his non-conformism towards Communist doctrine, it made for a vexing combination; one, which Castro would have wanted out of his hair as soon as he could afford. Franqui recounts many instances of Camilo getting into heated arguments with Che and Raul. He was always concerned about the human angle of a problem, while his Marxist compatriots could care less, if it suited their purpose. Once, unaware that their argument was audible to Franqui standing outside the room, Raul and Che had expressed, that the best way to deal with the problem of the Constitutional forces abandoned by Batista, was to leave them to their own devices. That way they were likely to conspire amongst themselves, giving the new Cuban order the excuse to murder them. Camilo was vehemently against the idea suggesting instead, that such people be given jobs in the public projects of Cuba. After exiting the room and having sighted Franqui standing outside, Camilo had proceeded to state how his relationship with the Castro brothers and Che, was becoming complex. It was a frustrating experience for him to have two juniors, Raul and Guevara, disobey him resulting in issues of insubordination. 

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It is notable that as revolutionaries in the Sierra Maestra, Cienf