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Indian ‘Spy’ Explorer: 12 Facts About Nain Singh Rawat

An Indian 'spy' explorer who worked for the British changed the exploration game

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Nain Singh Rawat was a spy explorer for the Britishers. Pixabay
Nain Singh Rawat was a spy explorer for the Britishers. Pixabay

Nain Singh Rawat, one of the first of 19th-century Indian explorers, explored the Himalayas for the British. He determined the location and altitude of Lhasa, mapped the trade route through Nepal to Tibet, also a large section of the Brahmaputra. On 27th June 2004, commemorating his role in the Great Trigonometric Survey, an Indian postage stamp was issued featuring Nain Singh.

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Here are 12 facts about him you may not have known before:

1. He was born in a Shauka village, which is located in the valley of Johar in Kumaon Hills. The valley is famous for its ‘Bhotia explorers’ from the British Era.

2. Nain Singh used to help his father, visiting different centres in Tibet. He learned the Tibetan language, comprehended the customs practised by the local people. All of it proved to be beneficial in the years that followed.

3. In 1855, he was recruited by the Schlagintweit brothers (German geographers), they had approached the office of Survey of India, which allowed them to proceed with their survey.

4. Afterwards, Nain Singh along with three family members went on his first exploration trip, travelling to Manasarovar and Rakas Tal, and even further to Gartok and Ladakh.

He changed the exploration game, which was mostly dominated by Europeans, by his work in Tibet. Pixabay
He changed the exploration game, which was mostly dominated by Europeans, by his work in Tibet. Pixabay

5. After working with the German brothers, Nain Singh Rawat was appointed as the headmaster of a government vernacular school in his village.

6. In 1963, Nain Singh Rawat and Mani Singh Rawat (his cousin), after being selected, went to the Great Trigonometrical Survey office in Dehradun. They underwent training for two years. They learned to use scientific instruments and ingenious ways of measuring and recording, and also, the art of disguise.

7. He was exceptionally intelligent. He quickly learned the correct use of scientific instruments like the sextant and compass, he could easily recognize all the major stars and different constellations.

8. He had donned the guise of a Tibetan Monk, as a part of the secret ‘spy’ exploration mission, to walk from his home region of Kumaon to places as far as Kathmandu, Lhasa, and Tawang.

9. He collected intelligence under the most testing conditions. Travelling closely with the local population in caravans, Nain Singh mapped the vast expanses of Tibet and its river systems.

Nain Singh met the Dalai Lama in 1865. Pixabay
Nain Singh met the Dalai Lama in 1865. Pixabay

10. He left the Trigonometrical Survey in 1865 to head out for Nepal with his cousin. Though his cousin returned, he went on to explore Tashihunpo, where he met the Panchen Lama, and later in Lhasa, he met the Dalai Lama.

11. While on his second voyage in 1867, he was exploring western Tibet. Nain Singh stumbled across the gold mines of Thok Jalung. He was awestruck by the humility of workers who only dug near the surface for gold. They believed that digging deeper was a crime against the Earth and would deprive it of its fertility.

12. In his last and greatest journey, he travelled from Leh in Kashmir to Lhasa. This journey was complete between 1873 and 1875.

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Nain Singh Rawat was honoured with a land-grant of two villages, in recognition of his fabulous achievements.  According to Colonel Henry Yule, “his explorations had added a larger amount of important knowledge to the map of Asia than any other living man”.

Next Story

Tibetan Communities, Like All Faith Communities, Should Be Able to Select, Educate and Venerate Their Religious Leaders Without Government Interference

Earlier this month at the 3rd Special General meeting in Dharamshala, Tibetans from far and wide underscored the right of the Dalai Lama

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Tibetan Communities
Tibetan Communities, Buddhists and all other faith communities should be able to select, educate and venerate their religious leader without government interference. Pixabay

By Vijyender Sharma

Dharamshala—- Hitting back at China for its “meritless” claim that the Dalai Lama’s succession must comply with Chinese laws and regulations, the United States  reiterated that Tibetan communities, like all faith communities, should be able to select, educate, & venerate their religious leaders without government interference.

Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asia, said in a tweeted “The Chinese Communist Party claim that Dalai Lama’s succession “must comply with Chinese laws and regulations” is meritless. Tibetan communities, like all faith communities, should be able to select, educate, & venerate their religious leaders without government interference. AGW”.

She also said Ambassador Sam Brownbacks’ meeting with  Dalai Lama in Dharamsala emphasised the enduring US support for the Tibetan people, and also appr

Tibetan
Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asia, said in a tweeted “The Chinese Communist Party claim that Dalai Lama’s succession “must comply with Chinese laws and regulations” is meritless. Tibetan communities, like all faith communities, should be able to select, educate, & venerate their religious leaders without government interference. AGW”.

Ambassador’s meeting with Dalai Lama in Dharamsala emphasizes enduring U.S. support for the Tibetan people. India has greatly supported Tibetan religious freedom, and the U.S. stands in deep admiration of India’s extraordinary generosity,” she tweeted.

The US Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, His Excellency Samuel D. Brownback was in Dharamshala last week at the special invitation of Central Tibetan Administration  President Dr Lobsang Sangay. The Ambassador’s presence here at the seat of Central Tibetan Administration gestured the strongest political support for the Tibetan people, particularly for Tibetan religious freedom. 

After more than hour-long meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and CTA President Dr Lobsang Sangay, he said the US stance on the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is in accord with the resolutions passed at the third Special General meeting of Tibetan people.

Tibetan
Ambassador Sam Brownbacks’ meeting with  Dalai Lama in Dharamsala emphasised the enduring US support for the Tibetan Communities.

“Earlier this month at the 3rd Special General meeting in Dharamshala, Tibetans from far and wide underscored the right of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders to identify and recognise a successor to His Holiness and rejected Chinese authorities to interfere in this process. Let me be clear! The United States shares that view,” said Ambassador Brownback while officiating the inauguration of the First International Conference on Tibetan Performing Arts at Dharamshala.

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“Tibetan Buddhists and all other faith communities should be able to select, educate and venerate their religious leader without government interference. the selection effects not just Tibetans but for the global Buddhist community. Decision regarding the selection of Tibetan Buddhist leaders rests with the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist leaders and people of Tibet. Period!”