Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887)-II
Pursuing his passion for the arts, Wajid Shah built the specatcular Kaisarbagh Baradari palace complex which came alive with music, dance-dramas, Rahas, Jogiya Jashan and Kathak performances, making Lucknow an attractive cultural centre, as made famous by the earlier Nawab rulers of the state. It was during his era that several reputed musicians, poets, composers, and dancers enhanced their repertoire, along with the enriching the light classical form of thumri, the grand revival of the Kathak dance form, and the rise in popularity of Hindustani Theatre. After his deposition to Calcutta, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah longed to keep the pomp and splendor of his beloved Lucknow alive. In his exile in Matiaburj, on the banks of the River Hooghly, Wajid Ali Shah once again used his wealth to relive his former glamorous lifestyle. The adorned walls of the Darbar Hall of Matiyaburj bear witness to the numerous musical assemblies held there, being visited by music-lovers, including great personalities from Calcutta's music circuit such as Aghorenath Chakravarty, Sajjad Mohammad, Dhirendranath Bose, Shyamlal Goswami and Rai Chand Boral.
Wajid Ali Shah's self works included numerous poems, prose, ragas, playwrights and ghazals under his pen name of 'Qaisar'. While his compositions include his famous Bhairavi thumri named 'Babul mora Chhooto jaay' sung by many singers, his ragas (titled Jogi, Juhi, Shah-Pasand etc.), dramatised poems (such as Darya-i-Tashsq, Afsane-i-Isbaq, and Bhahar-i-Ulfat) and ghazals (in the 'Diwani-Akhtar', 'Husn-i-Akhtar'), his great works have inspired many artistes and playwrights alike. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah's personal front was also as ambitious as his passion for the arts, as he took advantage of the Shia Law of Muta to marry an astonishing 359 times. Besides the Nawab's immense contributions to India, one of his wives, Begum Hazrat Mahal was known to be a great Indian freedom-fighter who played a major role during India's First War of Independence (1857-58) against the British.
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887)
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887) belonged to the princely kingdom of Awadh (Oudh) in Uttar Pradesh, India, succeeding his father Nawab Amjad Ali Shah, to become the province's tenth and last nawab. Muhammad Wajid Ali Shah Bahadur was born on 13th February, 1847 in Lucknow, India. He began his illustrious reign as ruler of Awadh after ascending the throne in 1847, which he went on to rule for nine years. After his kingdom was annexed by the British in 1856, the Nawab was exiled to Calcutta where he spent the rest of his life off handsome allowances. However, his immense contribution to the field of Fine Arts is what makes him renowned today. The Nawab was married to Malka Hazrat Mahal.
The robust Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was regarded as being a kind, generous and compassionate ruler, as well as a good administrator, who took keen interest in the affairs of the state. However, his image was tarnished by the British as being a debauched and detached ruler, contrary to the fact that Awadh as a prosperous and wealthy state under his rule. Besides introducing reforms and looking into the administration of justice and military affairs, Wajid Ali Shah was also a poet, playwright, composer and dancer himself, under whose lavish patronage the fine arts flourished.
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah passed away on 1st September, 1887 at Kolkata, India, while his mausoleum lies at the Imambara Sibtenabad, in Matiyaburj.
I visited his Mausoleum yesterday ( 25th May07) afternoon and took some photographs after taking permission. The Nawab belonged to Shia sect of Muslim and photography is not allowed inside Imambara. In those days also they had a Jenana ( For Ladies) Imambara where women used to offer prayers. It still exists but in delapilated condition and most of the land and the building has been encroached by the local people. Calcutta Municipal Corporation has recently renamed the road to Wajid Ali Shah Road. The great grandson Anjum Quader ( B. 1921) now lives in London and is the last living descendant of the Nawab.
Komagata Maru- the Sikh Martyrs!!
As The Komagata Maru approached Calcutta on September 26, 1914, a European gunboat signaled the ship to stop. The ship was put under guard and the passengers were held as prisoners. The Komagata Maru was taken to a place called Budge Budge, about seventeen miles away from its original destination of Calcutta. These new developments took the passengers of the ship by surprise. After two months of litigation in Canada they were not interested in any new developments of this kind. Baba Gurdit Singh inquired upon as to the change of their course, an official informed him that the passengers were being sent to Punjab via a special train. Many of the passengers did not want to go to Punjab. They had business to attend to in Calcutta, some wished to look for work there, and most importantly, the passengers wanted to place the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which they had taken with them on their journey, in a Calcutta Gurdwara.
Their main purpose on reaching Calcutta was to hand over the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and to see the governor. The journey was long and after numerous threats by the police, they were left with no choice but to head back to Budge Budge. At Budge Budge, they were ordered to board the ship once again. The passengers, led by Baba Gurdit Singh, refused. A policeman attacked Baba Gurdit Singh with his baton but was stopped by a fellow passenger. It was at this point that firing started. Baba Gurdit Singh was carried to safety. But not all passengers were to be so fortunate. Twenty-nine fell victim to the bullets of British officials and 20 died. Here was another senseless massacre of innocent Indians at the hands of the British. The was the tragic end of the passengers of the Komagata Maru.
The heroic deeds of the Komagata Maru men and their trials aroused the admiration and sympathy of the entire Indian nation.
Rath Yatra Festival of Sabarna RoyChoudhury4
The Ratha Yatra festival is an age old tradition of India. While the main festival is associated withRatha Jatra, the Festival of Chariots of Lord Jagannatha is celebrated every year at Puri, the temple town in Orissa, on the east coast of India. The presiding deities of the main temple, Sri Mandira, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, with the celestial wheel Sudarshana are taken out from the temple precincts in an elaborate ritual procession to Puri, but it is their respective chariots. The huge, colourfully decorated chariots, are drawn by hundreds and thousands of devotees on the bada danda, the grand avenue to the Gundicha temple, some two miles away to the North. After a stay for seven days, the deities return to their abode in Srimandira.
As said earlier the Founder members of the Sabarnas, were of Saintly Character, they associated themselves in several philanthropic and social activities serving the people they Ruled. Ratha Yatra, Durga Puja, where thousands visited and participated were part of these activity. The Jamindari( Revenue Collection) is gone but the same age old tradition is maintained by the members of the Sabarnas despite all hurdles.
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Rath Yatra Festival of Sabarna RoyChoudhury4 %
% For those who know about the Sabarna RoyChoudhury family of Kolkata( They are the original founders of KOLKATA). They also celebrate Rath Yatra( The Chariot Festival) of Lord Jagannath( Master of the Universe) in their house. This was their 288th year of celebrating Ratha Yatra. It is held every year during June/July as per Hindu Calender. Since, it is now proved that they are the Legitimate Founders of Kolkata, they are also getting National importance and recognition. On 27th June this years' Ratha Yatra festival held in their place. It was attended and inaugurated by no other than Union Minister of Defence, Mr.Pranab Mukhopadhyay, who came to serve the Lord as common man walking on the street and shedding his Black Cat Commandos. It was a great gesture from him being such an important and powerful person ( Defence Minister for 1billion), he spent more than an hour with common people to pay his respect to the Lord and recognition to the Sabarnas of Kolkata.4
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Rath Yatra Festival of Sabarna RoyChoudhury
In the year 1719 Raja Rai Krishna Dev Majumdar Choudhary, introduced Ratha Yatra Festival (Chariot Festival) at Barisha, Kolkata, against the Divide & Rule policy of the British and for enjoyment of his subjects.
Till the year 1910 Salagram Shila (Stone form of Lord Vishnu) used to be carried on the Chariot. In the very next year9 1911), Lalkumar Roychoudhary built a Jagannath Temple at Barisha, Sakher Bazar and also built the idols of Lord jagannath, Balaram & sister Subhadra. From that very year these idols were carried to the Chariot and used for the Ratha Yatra. In the early days a 9 day long fair used to be organized with lots of entertainment such as Dance, Drama, various shows but today the celebration is limited to only for two days due to shortage of space. Even today the fair is organized on the day of Ratha Yatra & on the day of Ulta Rath (the day of Return of lord), when the Lord is supposed to come back from his aunt’s house.
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39 hours among 49 thousand storks
The overnight bus from Calcutta travels a little more than 400 kilometers to drop us at Raiganj, in North Dinajpur. A fifteen minutes ride on cycle-rickshaws lead us to the Kulik Bird Sanctuary. On our way we meet our first Asian Openbilled Stork, a lone glider above the Kulik River.
Later, from the guesthouse we look at trees laden with thousands of nesting storks. Last years census records declare 49,000+. These large white birds with black wingtips and tails derive their name from their bills which always remain open in the middle, probably a tool for breaking open mussels and snails.
Inside the sanctuary a meandering river is lined up with small trees bending down with birds and nests. Besides Openbilled Storks, we find glistening black Little Cormorants, Median Egrets in breeding plumes, and slate blue Night Herons. The forest floor is strewn with feathers, droppings and broken eggs which attract ants and other insects. A monitor lizard, scurries over dead leaves.
Before sundown we cruise the river on a dinghy (manual boat). White-throated Kingfishers bob on transmission lines. Pied kingfishers hover and dive-bomb. At a bend of the river we find flocks of Openbilled Storks catching mussels and deftly prying them open for a tasty morsel.
The next morning we venture into the woods, on the opposite side of the sanctuary. Red capped Babblers flit around. Spotted Doves coo softly into the misty morning air. A Jungle Crow calls out in deep bass. Pond Herons scuttle around water lilies in the marsh. A Blue-throated Barbet keeps repeating, ‘Kuturruk, Kuturruk!’
Back at the guesthouse, we climb up to the terrace to watch the storks; courting and nest-building. Looking up at the sky, we find thousands of them riding in circles on ascending thermals (hot air currents).
At nightfall a full moon pops up behind the trees, silhouetting the roosting storks. Trucks rumble on the highway. Crickets sing in choir. The enigma of night descends slowly on Kulik. We pack up to be in time for the night bus.
- Road Trip
South Park Street Cemetary
Opened iin 1767, the cemetary replaced the yard of St . John's Church in the ruins of the old fort. The last tombs were erected around 1830. The area was than a bamboo forest outside of the city of Calcutta. Now it is a 10 minutes walk from Sudder Street. The cemetary is a quite green park now. I like it at a refuge from all the noice and hassle of Calcutta's modern streets.
It is very interesting to read the scripts of the tomb. Most people burried here belonged to the British Army. From the dates of birth and death you can see, that at that time many people died early, the officers of malaria and other tropical diseases and the women died giving birth to a child in this hot and infested area.
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We drunk a glass of tea at one of the tea-stalls opposite the church. The tea costs only 2 eurocents, very cheap.
Afterwards we took a rickshaw to the mosque of Bandel. The mosque is one KM more south, also at the riverside.
Chandernagore, former french colony
South of Bandel, 40 KM from Calcutta is Chandernagore. This is a former French colony with churches and convents from the French time.
We visited the dusty historical museum with pictures, objects and furniture of the French governor.
- Museum Visits
Serampore, former Danish trading settlement.
Serampore, the former Danish trading settlement is 30 Km north from Cacutta.
Serampore was orginally called Fredic-nagore. Serampore College is founded in 1818 and has rare Sanskrit and Tibetan manuscripts. You can see some in the museum of Carey.
- Museum Visits
Bandel, former portuguese colony, church
North from Calcutta at the westbank of the Ganges are several former colonies and trade-settlements.
Bandel is 48 KM north from Calcutta and was portuguese.
The church from 1599 is renewed with marble.
Visit Darjeeling in the north of West Bengal
The easiest way to go to Darjeeling is to take a plane to Bagdogra and go from there with the bus or car.
If you like trains you can go by train. In 1882 is an extension of the Northern Bengal State Railway completed, so you can make the climb of 2.000 M over 90 KM in 9 hours.
Darjeeling is spectacalor situated at a ridge of 2.000 M with fantastic views at the peaks of the Himalaya. Darjeeling is an easygoing city, you can have nice walks in and around town or make longer trekkings.
For more information, tips and pictures I invite you to visit my State of West Bengal page.
- Hiking and Walking
Watch the sunset over Ganges on a Boat!
A must-see in Calcutta is to take a local boat around 4,30pm and see the sunset over the Ganges. These boats called "Noukas" can be rented from the many Ghats lining the river .... expect to pay as much as you can negotiate. An hour usually runs for around Rs. 150.
St. Pauls Cathedral
Not exactly the kind of architecture that you will expect to find in the middle of Calcutta-- you sure can feel kind of out of place standing here!
Built in the `Indo-Gothic' style in 1839, it was damaged and subsequently restored more than once due to earthquakes.
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