Sunday, 27 October 2013

Hemu.................India's unsung Heroes (2).

*        Hem Chandra (Hemu) was born in a Baniya (trader) family in a village in Alwar, Rajasthan in India in 1501. Apart from learning Sanskrit and Hindi, Hemu was educated in Persian and Arabic languages. He was fond of wrestling and horse-riding.

*        In the sixteenth century, India was socially and politically unstable because the Mughals and the Afghans were fighting for power. Babur's barbaric invasion of North India in 1526 had resulted in large scale destruction, looting and demolition of Hindu temples in the North.

*       Hemu started his career as a supplier of cereals to Sher Shah Suri's army, moving on to more critical supplies like saltpetre (for gunpowder) later. He also developed a cannon foundry and obtained technical assistance for casting cannons, and producing saltpetre from the Portuguese in Goa.

*       After Sher Shah Suri's death in 1545, his son Islam Shah became ruler. Islam Shah recognised Hemu's calibre and administrative skills, and made him his personal adviser. He consulted Hemu in matters relating not only to trade and commerce, but also pertaining to statesmanship, diplomacy and general politics. Islam Shah initially appointed Hemu  as 'market superintendent' to manage commerce throughout the empire.

*      After sometime Hemu rose to become Chief of Intelligence. In 1552 Islam Shah's health deteriorated and he shifted his base from Delhi to Gwalior, a safer place. Hemu was deputed as Governor of Punjab to safeguard the region against the Mughal invasions.

*      Islam Shah was succeeded by his 12 year old son Firoz Khan who was killed within three days by Adil Shah Suri. The new king Adil was an indolent pleasure-seeker and a drunkard. Adil Shah appointed Hemu as his prime minister and army chief . After some time, Adil Shah became insane and Hemu became the de facto king.

*     At that time the Afghans considered themselves natives of India, while the Mughals, were considered foreigners. Hemu was a native ruler leading a native Afghan army to victory, in the battle after battle. His army consisted of infantry, cavalry, artillery and large elephants. He had created a formidable force which included generals and soldiers from various castes of Hindus and Muslims.

*     Hemu launched most of the attacks between 1553-56 from the Gwalior Fort,  and won 22 battle victories.

*      After the victory of Humayun over Adil Shah's brother Sikander Suri in 1555, the Mughals regained the Punjab, Delhi and Agra after a gap of 15 years. Hemu was in Bengal when Humayun died in 1556. Humayun's death gave Hemu an ideal opportunity to defeat the Mughals. He started a rapid march from Bengal through Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh. The Mughal fauzdars abandoned their positions and fled in panic . In Agra, a Mughal stronghold, the commander of Mughal forces Iskander Khan Uzbeg fled after hearing about Hemu's invasion, without a fight. 

*      After winning Agra, Hemu moved for the final assault on Delhi. Tardi Beg Khan, the governor of Delhi, wrote to Akbar that Hemu had captured Agra and intended to attack Delhi, which could not be defended without reinforcements. Bairam Khan, realising the gravity of the situation, summoned all the Mughal commanders in the vicinity for the defence of Delhi. 

*     The Mughal army was thus drawn up. Abdullah Uzbeg commanded the Vanguard, Haider Muhammad the right wing, Iskander Beg the left and Tardi Beg himself the centre. In this assault, the Mughals captured 400 elephants and slew 3000 men of the Afghan army. Thinking of victory already gained, several Mughal soldiers dispersed to plunder the enemy and thus the Mughals were left in the field thinly guarded. All this time Hemu had been holding 300 elephants and a force of select horsemen as a reserve in the centre. He promptly seized the opportunity and made a sudden charge upon Tardi Beg with this reserve.

*     In the ensuing confusion, the Mughals were defeated. Hemu thus won Delhi after a day's battle on 6 October 1556. Some 3000 soldiers died in this battle. Hemu entered Delhi, victorious under a royal canopy. At Purana Quila, Delhi Hemu was crowned after defeating Akbar's army. Hemu assumed the royal robes and declared himself the Emperor of India under the title of Vikramaditya.

*      Thus Hemu became the first Hindu emperor of North India in 350 years

*      On hearing of Hemu's victories and fall of Agra and Delhi, the Mughal army at Kalanaur lost heart and many commanders refused to fight Hemu. Most of his commanders advised Akbar to retreat to Kabul, which would serve better as a strong-hold. However, Bairam Khan, Akbar's guardian and chief strategist, insisted on fighting Hemu in an effort to regain control of Delhi.

*     On 5 November 1556, the Mughal army met Hemu's army at the historic battlefield of Panipat. Akbar and Bairam Khan stayed in the rear, eight miles from the battleground, with the instructions to leave India in case of defeat. The Mughal army was led by Ali Kuli Khan, Sikandar Khan and Abdulla Khan Uzbeg. 

*     Hemu led his army himself into battle, atop an elephant. His left was led by his sister's son General Ramiya and the right by Shadi Khan Kakkar. He was on the verge of victory, when he was wounded in the eye by an arrow and collapsed unconscious. This led to confusion amongst the soldiers, with no supreme commander to coordinate decisions. He fell unconscious was captured and taken to the Mughal camp for execution. 

*     Bairam Khan asked Akbar to behead Hemu so that he could earn the title of Ghazi. Akbar replied, "He is already dead, if he had any movement or breathing I would have killed him". However, at the insistence of Bairam Khan, Hemu was first struck by Akbar to earn the title of 'Ghazi', then he was beheaded by Bairam Khan. Hemu's head was sent to Kabul in Afghanistan, where it was hanged outside to prove to the Afghans that the great Hindu warrior was dead, while his body was placed in a gibbet outside Purana Quila in Delhi to terrorise the Hindus.

*    After Hemu's death, a massacre of Hemu's community and followers was ordered by Bairam Khan. Thousands were beheaded and towers of skulls built with their heads to instill terror among the Hindus. 

*     Hemu's triumphant march to Delhi can be equated to the campaign of Napoleon. He never saw defeat in the battle throughout his life. And he died in the only battle he lost. His attempts to drive the Mughals out of India and establish the Hindu Raj was a continuation of various Hindu efforts to regain control from the Muslim invaders. 

*   Imagine !! If Hemu had taken lessons from Porus's defeat and prepared better for the Battle of Panipat, history of India could have been different. 

*   Nonetheless,  Hemu remains one of the greatest Indian warriors to have resisted the Mughals but sadly in his homeland, for which he laid down his life, he remains an unsung Hero...........

Saturday, 19 October 2013



Everyone’s mood at the dining table was sombre, unlike the other days when they joked and laughed around. The reason for stiffness in the air was due to sudden decision by the eldest Prasad. A few hours ago he had expressed his desire to undertake an arduous journey to an unpronounceable village in Nagaland. What had prompted this, nobody had any clue. Vaibhav, the old man’s son, knew only this much that his father when young had served for some years in that trouble-torn state and perhaps some extraordinary event of that time was calling him. What could that be? He made a few guesses. The outrageous ones he immediately discounted, the plausible ones made his task easier. Perhaps it was the call of the wild drawing him to that place.
              The septuagenarian Ramesh, lately, had become a recluse. His wife of forty years had died a year ago and possibly that could have been the reason for this. At least that was what Vaibhav and Kusum, his daughter-in-law thought about. He had been a diabetic for almost a decade now and developed high blood pressure last year, both of which had restricted his routine activities. Half-dozen pills supplemented his strict diet, which was painstakingly monitored by Kusum. Both Vaibhav and Kusum were doctors; the man a paediatrician and the lady a gynaecologist. Their nursing home was the most sought after in the town. Between them they earned four to five lakhs rupees per month. Sanjiv, their son worked in a multi-national company as a sales executive.

(for complete story, please go on to the Short Stories section)

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Was Homer inspired by the Mahabharta ?

*       Read these facts carefully:-

         ^     The Mahabharta was written two centuries before Homer wrote
         the Iliad.

         ^     Both the epics describe was; while the Mahabharta was fought
         for 14 days the Trojan for 10 years.

         ^     In the both, fighting during the nights ceased and people from
         one side did talk to another after fighting stopped after last night.

         ^     Two mercurial characters; Achilles and Karn were born out of
         union between human mother and god father.

         ^     Helen and Draupadi, were the two women over which the wars
         had been fought.

         ^     Gods played important roles in both the wars and took sides.

*       There are many more similarities between the two epics. This leads to one important question. Was Homer inspired by the Mahabharta ?

*       The presence of a large body of Indian troops in the Persian army in Greece in 480 B.C. and the discovery of modelled heads of Indians at Memphis, of about the fifth century B.C. show that Indians were living in Greece for trade.

*      It is significant to note that although the Indians and Greeks (Yavanas) had come from the same Indo-European stock, they met as strangers in the sixth century B.C. Persian Empire. Soon, the cousins became associates in a common cultural enterprise. Similarities in language and in religious beliefs indicate that these two people must have been either in close contact at some early period or have had a common origin, even though neither had any recollection of those times.

*    For example, the gods of heaven (Varuna - Ouranos; Dyaus - Zeus ) and the dawn (Ushas - Aurora) were common to the Greeks and Indians. The most prominent characteristics of the gods of both races was their power of regulating the order of nature and banishing evil. The Olympian religion of the Greeks and Vedic beliefs had a common background. The Greek concept of logos was very close to the vedic Vac, which corresponds to the Latin Vox.

*     The brisk intercourse between India and Greece is attested by the fact that a special rule was inserted in the great grammar of Panini to distinguish three feminine forms of yavana: a Greek woman was yavani, the curtain was yavanika, and the Greek script was yavanani. There is also a striking similarity between the social life described in the Homeric poems- the Illiad and Odyssey- and that found in the Vedas. Homeric gods, like the heroes who believed in them, often rode in the horse driven chariots. Horse-chariotry was a feature of the life of the Indo-European people.

*      The Homeric idea of a language of the gods is also found in Sanskrit and Greek literatures. Some scholars have even asserted that elements of the Trojan war story are to be found in the war between the bright deities and the night demons as described in the Rig Veda. It is clear from Homer that even they used articles of Indian merchandise which were known by names of Indian origin, such as Kassiteros (Sanskrit, Kastira), elephas (Sanskrit, ibha), and ivory.

*     Alain Danielou (1907-1994), son of French aristocracy, author of numerous books on philosophy, religion, history and arts of India, remarks that: "the Greeks were always speaking of India as the sacred territory of Dionysus and historians working under Alexander the Greek clearly mentions chronicles of the Puranas as sources of the myth of Dionysus." He quotes Clement of Alexandria who admitted that "we the Greeks have stolen from the Barbarians their philosophy."

*     There is irrefutable evidence to prove that there was a free exchange between  the Greeks and Indians in trade, philosophy etc.

*     Therefore, it's quite possible that the story of the Mahabharta, written earlier than the Iliad, would have reached the Greeks through Indian travellers to Greece.
And it's quite possible that Homer would have got inspired by the Mahabharta while penning down his own Illiad.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Palak Tipa........ the enchanting lake.


In the series of enchanting lakes, I present folktale of another interesting Lake, the Palak Tipa (Dil), surrounded by hills and dense forests, located in south Mizoram, India. When I walked passed it, I found an eerie silence in the air. There's something about this lake that draws you towards it.

*    Where the Palak Lake exists now, there was a huge village of about 300 houses. The village was known as the ‘Palak Tipa’. It was a thriving and prosperous village. No other village could be found within miles close by. The life was peaceful and happy. The villagers prided themselves for the brotherhood and bonhomie prevalent amongst themselves. 

*      The villagers were sentimental about their beliefs and superstitions. The social life was governed by the norms laid down by the elders, passed down from one generation to the next. Observance of these norms was strict and no deviations were accepted. 

*       In the middle of the village was a huge stone under which lay a cave, where a large snake lived. Every night the snake came out of the cave, seized one child from the village and ate it. Unable to suffer the atrocities committed by the snake, the villagers one day decided to kill it. They made a strong hook and tied it on to a rope and impaled a dog on the hook. Then they threw the dog into the cave.

*       The snake swallowed the dog and the hook. The villagers tried to pull out the snake, but without any success. Then they went around the stone to get the leverage and they went around it five times. Tired, when they could not pull the snake further, they cut the part of the snake that they had pulled out. The snake’s tail and rest of the part fell back into the deep cave with a loud and fearful noise. 

*       The villagers satisfied with their efforts planned to celebrate killing of the snake. Immediately one boy was rushed to the village to announce their catch and requested the elders to prepare for a big feast. All the villagers sprang into action. The preparation got under way without wasting time. Everyone got busy in doing something or the other.

*       The part of the snake killed was wrapped and taken to the village. By now some more men had fetched up to the lake to help in carrying the huge snake. Almost the entire village had gathered at the entrance to see it. They could not believe what they saw. 

*      Never in their lives had they seen such a huge snake. It was something unthinkable. Something mythical. The children and the elderly women got scared and left the place hurriedly. The young ones chided them. The boys who had caught it were being facilitated like heroes. They smiled and narrated how they had caught it painstakingly to whoever cared to listen to them. Many villagers were hearing their tale of heroism with rapt attention and they did not disappoint the boys.

*       Some men were seen piling a huge sack of firewood in the centre. The village wore a festive look. The fire was lit. The entire area was lighted up with bamboos soaked in oil. Rice beer was being served lavishly. They had reason to celebrate the occasion. The young boys and girls broke into instant dance. Soon children and some elderly people joined them.

*       It was frenzy. Never ever witnessed in the village. They were celebrating as if there would be no tomorrow. The frenzy continued till wee hours of the next day. Then they all had food, relished the delicacy and went off to sleep. The entire village barring one old woman was in deep slumber. 

*       It was well past midnight. Suddenly the water started gushing out of the hole in which snake lived. The water kept pouring out of the hole all night long with fury. It gushed through the village and swept the entire huts in the rage. Within no time the entire village got submerged into the water. The unsuspecting and sleeping villagers-men, women, boys, girls, children, young and old -- alike were consumed by the fury and rage of the rising water.

*       Within moments the village was gone. As if it never existed. In its place a huge lake was formed, which came to be called as the Palak Tipa. The  Lakhers, the local tribe, believe that the Palak Tipa is the abode of spirits and they don't bathe in it lest they get caught by them.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Cheraw Dance, Mizoram, India.

*     Cheraw dance originated in the 1st century AD. In the ancient times, It was performed to provide solace to the soul of a deceased mother who had left her newborn child on earth. However, today the horizon of Cheraw dance has expanded considerably. In fact, this dance is performed on every big and small occasion and has become an integral part of almost every festival of Mizoram.

*     The various movements made by the Cheraw dancers are inspired by Nature. While some expressions of Cheraw dance resemble swaying of the trees, the others indicate flying of the birds. Cheraw dance is surely the most enchanting form of Mizoram culture.

*     Long bamboo starves are used for this dance, therefore some people also call it 'Bamboo Dance'. 

*    This dance includes four male dancers, who hold two pairs of bamboos across one another on the ground. The bamboos are clapped together on a particular beat by them. The bamboos, when clapped, produce a sound which forms the rhythm of the dance. It indicates the timing of the dance for the female dancers who step in and out to the beats of the bamboos with ease and grace. The females, with perfect sense of timing, dance gracefully by stepping alternatively in and out from between and across a pair of horizontal bamboos, held against the ground by males sitting face to face on either side. They tap the bamboos in rhythmic beats.

*     The costumes worn by female performers during the Cheraw include Thihna, Vakiria, Kawrchei and Puanchei. All these traditional costumes of Cheraw Dance come in vibrant colors that further brighten up the surrounding environment.

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