Life Back Then

Coronation of an Indian Maharaja

President of the Indian Peoples Theatre Association and a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Ranbir Sinh has lived a multifaceted life as an actor, director, playwright, historian, author, and public intellectual. He resides in Jaipur and is still going strong with his research, writing, and theatre.

Each Princely dynasty in erstwhile Rajputana has its tradition for the coronation of a Prince. The common part is that it takes place twelve days after the death of the ruler, and his eldest son succeeds to the throne. Who should apply the tilak is decided based on political compulsions and historical events. In Bikaner, it is a Godara Jat who applies the tilak. In Jaipur, it is a Susawat Meena who does it, and in Jodhpur, it is the Thakur of Bagdi.

As a young man, I was fortunate to witness the coronation of Hanuwant Singh of Jodhpur in 1947. At that time, Jodhpur was still an independent kingdom, functioning under a treaty with the British. I am sharing my memory of the occasion, with all its twists and drama, below.

Coronation of Maharaja Hanuwant Singh of Jodhpur.  June 1947. Jodhpur.

21st June 1947, Mehrangarh

On the 9th June 1947, Maharaj Ummed Singhji of Jodhpur died, and on the 21st June 1947 his eldest son, Hanuwant Singh succeeded him. The coronation took place at Mehrangarh, a centuries-old fort.  There was a large and solemn gathering of the royal family of members, rulers and representatives of other states, and the nobles and people of Jodhpur. Most wore a white achakan and a white safa. All patiently waited for the appointed auspicious time. But soon we noticed that something had gone wrong.  Several senior nobles were huddled together in serious discussion. Each was enquiring as to what has happened? I walked up to my father, Harnath Singh of Dundlod, who had come as the representative of Maharaja of Jaipur, and asked him the same question, "What was happening?"

The Tilak

During the late 1940s, Madhvanand, a Tantrik sadhu, had managed to influence the royal family of Jodhpur. He had assumed great powers, almost like that of Rasputin in the court of the Russian Czar. My father mentioned that orders have come that Madhvanand will apply the tilak. Madhvanand's role was against tradition, as the Thakur of Bagdi was supposed to apply the tilak. Thakur Bagdi had, in turn, refused to do the tilak and even threatened to walk out. It was a serious matter. But good sense prevailed. The acceptable solution was that Thakur of Bagdi would apply tilak according to the tradition, and Madhvanand will do the tilak in private.

A sigh of relief came to all. But now it was announced that the State of Baroda would be the first one to do sirepav.

Sirepav

The custom of sirepav originated at the Mughal Court, and under its influence, its presentation was followed by almost all Indian Princes with the utmost diligence, respect, and status. Sirepav means from head (sir, in Hindi) to feet (pav, in Hindi). It consists of Pagree, cloth for Angarkha, fabric for kurta, fabric for pyjama, and scarf.

My father, Harnath Singh, refused to place the sirepav from Jaipur below that of Baroda. His decision led to more chaos as the status of each ruler was very strictly followed and very important. As no solution seemed in sight, Harnath Singh moved away, taking his seat and started smoking. This event marked the first time I saw my father smoking.

He was very grave and grim. Suddenly, he threw the cigarette away, got up, and asked his followers to bring the sirepav. In the room, there was a very large round table. He placed the sirepav at a place on the table, asked Maharaj Bhairon Singh of Bikaner to put his sirepav and announced to the others to follow. As everyone could claim to be number one, the round table played an essential and vital role in ending the egoistic situation.

So, on the 21st June 1947, the coronation of Hanuwant Singh took place smoothly, and he became the Maharaja of Jodhpur.

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© Ranbir Sinh. Published October 2019.

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Suffering the Partition in Bannu, Kohat and Parichnar

I was born in Bannu, NWFP to Mr. Hira Nand Batra and Mrs. Subhashvati (aka Mukandi Bai Banga). I studied at IIT Madras (B Tech Chem E 1964 1st Batch); IIT BHU (M Tech 1966), Taught at IIT BHU and IIT Delhi before going to University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada in 1968. Got my PhD in 1973 and moved to USA. I served at PEDCO-Engineering Firm and Procter & Gamble in various Business Units. Retired in 2000 as Associate Director R&D from Health Care, P&G.

I was only 5 years of age at the time of partition. What I remember are the stories and tales from the family elders. I got input from my elder brother, Dr. Subhash K Batra, Distinguished Professor, Non-Wovens Technology, North Carolina State University, NC.


Subhash K Batra (Extreme Left), Balraam Chacha Ji (Extreme Right) Circa 1941/1942

I was born in Bannu (NWFP) in a Batra family - my Mom came from a Banga family in Bannu.


Senior members of the Banga family. Mum Baba, Pam Baba (seated), Nutty Baba in Bannu
Pam Baba holding Picture of Khushal Chand Banga (Nana Ji
)

NWFP bordered tribal (Wazirs, Paras, Afrids) areas, which led into Afghanistan. NWFP was divided into six districts (Dera Ismail KhanBannu, Kohat, Peshawar, Hazara and Mardan). Our Batra family was located in Nahar Tehl Ram (NTR), a fortified village near (a few miles) Serai Naurang, a railway station on the now-defunct "Tank-Bannu" railway line. Bannu was about 15 miles from Serai Naurang. The Batra family were share-croppers. They managed the land (crops) outside the village for the Bagai family.

The Batra joint family consisted of the families of three brothers: Mr. Uttam Chand, Mr. Jaisa Ram, and Mr. Moti Ram (our grandfather).


Three brothers: Mr. Hira Nand Batra (author's father), Mr. Mool Chand Batra, and Dr. Jagan Nath Batra. Bannu

Pitaji (Mr. Hira Nand Batra) was the first in the joint family to go to college - an agricultural college. He started in Pusa (https://www.britannica.com/place/Pusa-India). Pusa and the college were destroyed in an earthquake in 1934. Sometime later, he went to the Agriculture College in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad, Pakistan) to finish his B.Sc.


Left: Unknown Elder, Right: Hira Nand Batra with Box Camera (Glass Plate Negatives) and Straw Hat
Probably near Bannu on the Farm

His college education was supported by his older brother, Mr. Mool Chand, who had a modest shop in Serai Naurang (a daily commute-I suspect by a bicycle). After college, Pitaji joined the British Agriculture Department in NWFP as what we would call as an extension specialist, stationed in Bannu. His salary was Rs. 30/month. His job was to go around the fruit growers to teach them pest control. During this period, he took over support for his younger brother Mr. Jagan Nath to go to medical school, and two cousins (Mr. Chaman Lal and Mr. Des Raj, sons of Mr. Jaisa Ram Batra). The latter two lived with us and to go to school in Bannu.

A few years later, Pitaji was posted to Tarnab Farm about 3 or 4 miles east of Peshawar (it is now Agriculture Research Institute, Tarnab) in the Entomology group. Pitaji's next posting was in Haripur (Hazara district,) not too far from Abbotabad. Pitaji was transferred to take charge of the facility in Parachinar and the whole of Kurrum Valley. This was about 1943/44.


Mrs. Subhashvati (Author's Mom) and Mr. H N Batra (Pita Ji) in Bannu

He attended the unfurling of Pakistan's flag on August 14th 1947 in Parachinar. Things were pretty bad in the hilly area. Sikhs were swirled around by the jooda (uncut long hair of the Sikh male head, often tied into a bun under the turban) and thrown into the valley by the goondas.

In August 1947, the tribal men were being recruited and sent to Kashmir to liberate it for Pakistan. Within weeks, dead bodies were coming back from the raids in Kashmir.

From where we lived, we could see the traffic on the road across the airfield, and our staff people (Pathans) would tell us about the bodies being transported. The tensions were rising. The British political agent (Kurrum Valley was centrally administered region as were the other tribal regions) invited the Hindu/Sikh senior government officials (Pitaji included) and local business leaders to discuss the situation and how best to safeguard against potential reprisals by the local population.

It was agreed to create a camp in the airfield grounds (there was not much air traffic anyway) to house in tents as many people as would want to come. So, sometime in late September/early October 1947, we all moved into tents-most accommodating more than one family. We had enough rations for a few weeks.

A few weeks later, we were advised that three hundred people could be airlifted to India from Kohat under military escort. They chose families of senior government officers and some from the business community (who could pay for the airlift). This was done in strict secrecy one very early morning. We were loaded into military lorries and taken to a fortified stop halfway to Kohat. Two days later, we were loaded into lorries for the next trip to Kohat city, again under military escort. In Kohat, I believe we must have been in a military compound.

On the second day in Kohat, we were told that the planes, coming from India, could take only a limited number of people at one time. So, the Sikh families were evacuated first for they were considered more vulnerable. The following day, November 26 1947, the rest of us were airlifted to Ambala. To accommodate people, seats in the planes were taken out. No one was allowed to carry any baggage - essentially we landed in Ambala with the one set of clothing that we were wearing. Remember, these were small propeller planes (probably Fokker Friendship).

In Ambala, the families respectively went to their relatives and friends. We stayed with Mr. Chaman Lal Banga (MES) for a few days. Then we went to Delhi. We ended up in Shadipur village (it no longer exists except for its name on the bus depot in South Patel Nagar) and stayed in a mud hut. Shadipur was the closest village to the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), where Pitaji was expecting to be hired-starting at the lower rung of the ladder.

My dad got reinstated on December 10th 1947 and joined IARI, Pusa, New Delhi.


Mr. Hira Nand Batra. Pita Ji ~1960. New Rajinder Nagar, New Delhi 5

My education started in Pusa; then in Salwan School, Rajinder Nagar; then in Ramjas Higher Secondary School No. 2, Anand Parvat, Delhi. I joined IIT Madras, the first batch in 1959, graduated in Chemical Engineering in 1964. I did my master's in Chemical Engineering from Techno, BHU in 1966 (mow IIT BHU).

After a year of lectureships at BHU and a year at IIT Delhi, I left for Canada in 1968.  After finishing Ph.D., my wife Sudarshan, daughter Anjana, and son Aneil moved to Cincinnati in 1975. I retired from Procter and Gamble in 2000, and have settled in Cincinnati.

In the stories, I did hear about the Santa da Gurdwara in Bannu but I can't pinpoint the location on the map. Our families believed in Guru Nanak and visited the Gurudwara.

This map was compiled by the Bannu Beradari (community) in Haridwar and Faridabad from the memory of several elders. It is not to scale, obviously.

Many refugees who settled in Faridabad used to visit Banga Medical Hall operated by Dr. Partool Chand Banga, my Mama Ji, and my cousin Pradeep Banga's grandfather.


Dr. Partool Chand Banga. Mamaji. Faridabad .

My elder Mama Ji, Dr. Shiva Ram Banga, brother of Dr. Partool Chand Banga, had his practice in Bannu. He lost his life when there was a fire in his clinic.


Dr. Shiva Ram Banga- Bannu


History of Bannu people. Written by Bannu Beradri in Faridabad and Hardwar

Introduction to Bannu. Written by Bannu Beradri in Faridabad and Hardwar-Page 1


Introduction to Bannu. Written by Bannu Beradri in Faridabad and Hardwar-Page 2

I believe that my life has been a blessing despite the ordeals of partition, being a refugee kid and yet making IT. In gratitude, I share these memories and hope the humanity learns from these bitter experiences.

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© Vijay Batra.    Published October 2019.

A Picture Postcard –Mussoorie 1930s

Dr. Anand - an unholy person born in 1932 in the holy town of Nankana Sahib, central Punjab. A lawyer father, a doctor mother. Peripatetic childhood - almost gypsy style. Many schools. Many friends, ranging from a cobbler's son (poorly shod as the proverb goes) to a judge's son. MB from Glancy (now Government) Medical College Amritsar, 1958. Comet 4 to Heathrow, 1960.
Widower. Two children and their families keep an eye on him. He lives alone in a small house with a small garden. Very fat pigeons, occasional sparrows, finches green and gold drop in to the garden, pick a seed or two and fly away.

Read more: A Picture Postcard –Mussoorie 1930s

Family photos - Ashok Khanna

Ashok Khanna has a B.Sc. (Econ) from London University, an MBA and PhD from Stanford. He has worked with Deloitte Touche (London, New York), taught at New York University's Stern Graduate School of Business, and worked for more than 25 years for the World Bank. He got his first chance to travel out of India when he was seventeen and has not stopped traveling since. In 1998, he began to sporadically write travelogues for friends. These essays increased over time as he traveled more after retiring, and also cover other interests.  Bloomsbury will publish his book on Emperor Ashoka in India in 2019.

Read more: Family photos - Ashok Khanna

Remembering Anglo-Indians in Delhi during the 1960s and 1970s

Jamil Urfi's book 'Biswin Sadi Memoirs, growing up in Delhi during the 1960's and 70's' which is a nostalgic, personal remembrance of the bygone 20th century or the Biswin Sadi was published last year. Urfi was a campus correspondent for the ‘Times of India' Publication Youth Times during his student days in the 1980's. He has an abiding interest in history, architecture, period publications and popular cinema of the 1960s and 1970s-themes which figure prominently in his latest book. He is a teacher at the University of Delhi.

Editor's note: This is an extract from the author's book 'Biswin Sadi Memoirs, growing up in Delhi during the 1960's and 70's. CinnamonTeal Publishing, Goa, 2018.

Author's note: My family settled in Delhi in 1967. We lived in Nizamuddin East, a residential colony of South Delhi. My neighbours included several Punjabi families, who had been displaced by the Partition, and one Anglo-Indian couple, Mr. & Mrs. Andrews.  I write about our interaction with the Andrews family in this extract from my book. They lived in the flat just above our house. Though we were reserved with them in our initial communications, with time, living together for nearly two decades, we became close to the Andrews Family.

Read more: Remembering Anglo-Indians in Delhi during the 1960s and 1970s