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Taming the Afghans, plugging the invasion route: A forgotten contribution to Indian security

These heroes are not only battlefield martyrs but also the commanders whose reputation rests on attaining strategic goals

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A painting of General Hari Singh Nalwa seated in full armor adopting a militant stance. Wikimedia commons

October 23, 2016: It is a rare country that remembers all its heroes, let alone recognises their contribution — even war heroes, otherwise lionised for political benefit and as a conveniently vicarious symbol of service and sacrifice.

These heroes are not only battlefield martyrs but also the commanders whose reputation rests on attaining strategic goals. Like this general in early 19th century north India who performed a feat that three of the world’s strongest powers would not be able to replicate in the next century-and-a-half but still is scarcely a known name.

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The Afghans made life difficult for the British for nearly a century since their first ill-advised meddling in Afghan affairs in the end-1830s, for the Soviets in the 1980s and then the Americans since 2001, but have never been totally invincible. Nor has their territory been off-limits to conquerors like Alexander, the Mauryas, Genghis Khan, Timur, Babur and even American adventurer Josiah Harlan, who briefly became King of Ghor. But this list is limited and the last successful name on it is that of Hari Singh Nalwa, the commander-in-chief of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Nalwa (1791-1837) helped expand the Sikh empire with his role in conquering Kasur, Sialkot, Multan and Kashmir but more significantly, taking Attock and crossing the Indus to take Peshawar and areas up to the Khyber Pass which would henceforth be its western boundary (and also of the British Raj and subsequently Pakistan) but also governed some of the most unstable regions before his mysterious and untimely death.

Though he figures in memoirs and traditions of his period as well as histories (there is still a Haripur district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa), but given his historical impact, specific works on him are surprisingly limited.

Apart from an Amar Chitra Katha comic in the late 1970s (with its simplifications and biases), three biographies date from British India with even the most recent being almost eight decades old (Amar Singh’s “Chamakda Hira Ya Jiwan Britant Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa”, Anglo-Sanskrit Press, Lahore, 1903; Autar Singh Sandhu’s “General Hari Singh Nalwa”, Cunningham Historical Society, Lahore, 1935, and Prem Singh Hoti’s “Jivan-itihas Sardar Hari Singh-ji Nalua”, Lahore Book Shop, Amritsar (1937, revised reprint, 1950).

An Amar Chitra Katha illustration for the Krishna Comic series. Youtube
An Amar Chitra Katha illustration for the Krishna Comic series. Youtube

There is also Ganda Singh’s “Panjab Dian Waran (Ballads of the Panjab)”, Amritsar, 1946, which includes Ram Dayal’s “Jangnama Sardar Hari Singh”.

Post-Independence works include Ganda Singh’s “Si-harfian Hari Singh Nalwa by Missar Hari Chand ‘Kadiryar'”, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1965, on another ballad, Gulcharan Singh’s article in The Sikh Review’s October 1976 issue, P.S. Kapur’s “Perspectives on Hari Singh Nalwa”, ABS Publications, Jalandhar, 1993, and G.S. Nayyar’s “The Campaigns of General Hari Singh Nalwa”, also by the Punjabi University, 1993.

It was left to a descendant to do him justice and Vanit Nalwa delivers in her “Hari Singh Nalwa — Champion of the Khalsaji”, Manohar, 2009. Nalwa, a Delhi-based psychologist, notes that during an interview about her work in September 2001, she was asked about her surname and as she began to recount the story of her illustrious ancestor, “realised how little I knew about my ancestry”. Two days later came 9/11, soon Afghanistan was in focus, and thus “commenced my search for information on my ancestor who spent a lifetime subduing the Afghans in the first half of the nineteenth century”.

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She found much on him in Gurmukhi, Persian, Urdu, English and even Marathi, as well as in folk ballads, but the information was “fragmentary and scattered”. Organising these into a composite whole, her invaluable book also places his life and exploits in context of his times by beginning with an overview of the Sikh religion, their transmutation into a nation (or rather a nation in arms) and subsequently a kingdom under Ranjit Singh.

But even with celebrated generals, the expansion of his kingdom from his base in Gujranwala was not easy. As we learn, it took four attempts to capture Kasur, seven attempts were made in 16 years to win Multan, a similar period ensued between the first attempt and final taking of Peshawar, while Kashmir was only conquered from its Afghan rulers on the third attempt.

In most of these, Hari Singh Nalwa played a major role but we begin right from his birth to a Khattri family in Gujranwala, how he got his singular surname, entered imperial service and began his tryst with history. Sadly, there is also intrigue and treason but also associated legends like how his name inspired terror among the Pashtuns (women scared rebellious children by warning them he was coming – “Hari raghle”) and how he might have been behind the “Pathan suit”. One shortcoming, however, is the “Aryans came, Muslims invaded and British conquered India” view of history, and thus some lack of full objectivity.

Hari Singh Nalwa (1791-1837), Commander-in-chief of the Khalsa, the army of the Sikh Empire. Wikimedia commons
Hari Singh Nalwa (1791-1837), Commander-in-chief of the Khalsa, the army of the Sikh Empire. Wikimedia commons

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What, however, is needed is to probe (though counter-factual) what could have ensued if Nalwa had been around to guide the Sikh empire, which barely lasted an unstable decade after Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839. Would the British have been successful had the Khalsa remained staunch enemies rather than the loyal mainstay of the Raj’s armies, and what route would have India gone subsequently? We can only wonder. (IANS)

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Mohammad Iqbal: The Man Behind Partition and a Pariah in India is Still Sung by Secularists

Iqbal is a pariah in India as many regard him a hypocrite, communal Islamist

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Allama muhammad iqbal at Lahore Museum. Wikimedia

Aug 22, 2017: Indian history has been crafted by the leftists who have done nothing more than distorting the facts to put unfit personalities as honourable. One such person which some great minds in India honour are Mohammad Iqbal, the man behind “Pakistan” who held the idea more of a secular symbol. Even in the past, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee praised him to drum up Muslim votes. However, Iqbal is also a pariah in India as many regard him a hypocrite, communal Islamist.

What many secularists till date fight for is the lack of respect for Iqbal. According to them, the song should have been the national anthem of India.  However, it wasn’t made the song of the nation owing to its Muslim author.

Tarek Fatah, a well-known journalist expressed his views on social media:

He went on by exposing the dark reality behind the nationwide popular song- ‘Sare Jahan se acha’

Now, if we look into our history books we will be able to spot Iqbal for the patriotic song he wrote- ‘Sare Jahan se acha, Hindustan Humara’.

The song became the anthem of the opposition to British India. ‘Tarana-e-Hind’  (song of Hindustan) became the catchy phrase at that time. The under mentioned line became the new sensation as it carried the sentiments graciously.

“Mazhab nahin sikhata apas mein bair rakhna, Hindi hain hum, watan hain Hindustan hamara”

(Religion does not teach us to hate each other, we belong to Hind, our nativeland is Hindustan)

In no time, Iqbal underwent into an outright transformation after his return from England. The man who discerned Hindustan as an amalgamation of Hindu-Muslim, returned as an Islamic philosopher only to become Pakistan’s progenitor. Sooner he became intolerant of Hindus and wrote Taran-e-mili (song of community), which was the negation of the taran-e-hind he wrote formerly.

From Hindustan humara to Chin o Arab hamaara, this is how Iqbal demonstrated multi-faceted character:

“Chin o Arab hamaara, Hindustan hamaara, Muslim hain hum, watan hain sara jahaan hamaara”

(China and Arabia are ours, Hindustan is ours, we are Muslims, the whole world is our nativeland).

Our history books have entirely omitted the fact where Iqbal proposed the two-nation theory, which ultimately led to the partition of Indian subcontinent and plethora of lives suffered. He is even called the father of the nation (Pakistan).

Iqbal addressed Allahabad session of the Muslim League in December 1930 as president of the session:

“I would like to see Punjab, the North Western Frontier Provinces (NWFP), Sind and Balochistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British empire, through the formation of a consolidated North Western Indian Muslim state, appears to be the final destiny of Muslims, at least of North West India”.

He dreamt of Muslims emerging as a Global Power, rising above the political and geographical constraints. The dream of Iqbal is still lived in Pakistan.

This surfaces the question that how can a person with such dogmatic outlook be ever called great? and How can the person because of which the nation witnessed massive bloodshed be ever called great? 

 


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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393