Archive for August, 2013

Magnificent 180-year old Panj Mandir screams for help/ Rashmi Talwar / The Tribune SPECTRUM


Magnificent 180-year-old Panj Mandir screams for help
Rashmi Talwar

Panj Mandir in Fatehgarh Churian, Gurdaspur, is a jewel of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign. It is the maternal hometown of Rani Chand Kaur, wife of Kharak Singh, son of the Maharaja

Straddling streets of New York, seeing the ancient melt so smoothly; antiquated churches virtually like “flowers” amidst sky-scrapers, I was gripped by shame. The scene reminded me of our callousness towards our rich heritage in India. Where graffiti defaces marvellous frescoes, a crude nail has gouged out an eye; a paan-spit splashed red blob is the depths of apathy towards our glorious past.

Glorious Panj Mandir

Glorious Panj Mandir

If the enthralling grandeur of Amritsar’s GoldenTemple is credited to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Panj Mandir is another marvellous jewel, ingloriously unrecognised of the Maharaja’s reign. It is some 30 km from the GoldenTemple, in Fatehgarh Churian Gurdaspur, the maternal hometown of Rani Chand Kaur, wife of Kharak Singh, son of the Maharaja.

Attributed to Rani Chand Kaur, the Panj Mandir’s structure below the dome is a unique zigzag, created by precision laying of specially made bricks, inspired by Solanki architecture and Baoli art of step-creation. Indo-Mughal, Sikh architectural confluences have amalgamated in this marvellous structure with four mandirs marking four directions and a sanctum sanctorum.

The inner and outer fort-like walls and the temple entrances are studded with jharokhas in bas relief, reminiscent of Rajasthani architecture. Remarkable, rare frescoes tell stories of yore in exquisitely carved niches, so resilient as to stand bright till today. “I am too scared to step on the brick flooring as I feel my shoes may erase some traces of rich heritage”, an American’s remark disgraced me once.

Our magnificent heritage could not only be made self-sustaining but its optimum utiliSation could accrue prosperity and income. “Tourism is created with ideas and here we sit on a virtual mountain of treasure and let it be robbed or crumble,” laments an expert.

Beautiful artwork

Heritage experts believe the temple may have been built around 1830 and is thus nearly 180 years old. Much of the lower portions of frescoes is white-washed, and the present caretaker Pt. Mohinder Kumar, who religiously cleans and secures it from encroachment, may beautify it with bathroom tiles and multicolours, out of sheer ignorance. The temple’s foundations are already being dug for new housing, emerging adjacent to it.

The wealth of resplendent frescoes comprises episodes of Krishan stealing bathing gopis clothes, Yashoda Maiyya churning butter with a madhani. Frescoes also show Guru Nanak with disciples Bhai Mardana and Bala, Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh, Saraswati-Lakshmi, Radha-Krishan, Shiv-Parvati-Ganesh, Kartikeya-on-Peacock, Ganga emerging from Shiva’s locks. Vishnu reclining, with Nag-chatri in ocean, Durga Mata aloft a lion, valiant horse-rider, episodes of Narsingh, Prahlad, Baba Balaknath, Hiranyakashyap. These splendid frescoes-artifacts are facing erosion, their ruination imminent, if timely protection evades them.

Tertiary temples are devoted to Surya, Durga, Shiva and Kartikeya. Inside the sanctum sanctorum, Lord Ram with Sita, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan share space with Krishna-Radha.

This combination of gods goddesses on one pedestal is rare. Dr Subhash Parihar, an expert on historical structures, comments, “People were secular, many ancient gurdwaras-temples have frescoes displaying episodes of Hindu gods-goddesses.”

The frescoes resemble Chamba’s famed Rang Mahal paintings in Pahari style, ones in Sheesh Mahal near Ramnagar, Jammu, also seen in Dera Sahib Gurdwara, Lahore and temples around Katasraj in Pakistan.

The Baradari entrance with symmetrical twin Jharokas on both sides of angular walls open to the road, are in ruins. The rampart walls are embellished with exquisite Jharokas, geometrical patterns, flowers waves, carved canopies in bas relief complete with exquisite corbels. But the outer wall is wearing, as entire area is speedily coming up with housing.

Dr Balvinder Singh HoD Guru Ram Das School of Planning in GNDUniversity, comments: “The mandir resembles Konarkin Orissa and South Indian temples. The use of Nanakshahi bricks makes it unique.”

Mandirs are conjoined by a fort-wall with steps and walk-ways throughout the terrace, are peeling. One is covered with green climber and a syntax-watertank supplying water to a tiled bathroom constructed inside the ancient complex. Locals wait for a collapse, to grab the land. There were seven mandirs, two of which were outside the main complex, of which one exists in a dilapidated condition, locked and other, erased.

Panch-mukhi lingam

A rare five-headed or Panch-mukhi lingam in the temple represents five elements, five senses, five organs, five powers and the five temples of Panj Mandir. The five heads also signify the five aspects of Shiva corresponding to five holy places in Hinduism.

Ancient sarovar

About 120 yards from Panj Mandir stands a massive sarovar alongside Talab Wala mandir, believed to be built by Rani Chand Kaur to mark the birth or dastargiri of her son Kunwar Naunihal Singh. Some say, Nanakshahi bricks used for the mandir and sarovar were brought from Lahore via a human-chain. Almost 15 feet in depth, with 10 running steps throughout, the sarovar, 225 feet by 230 feet, has arched exit-entry water-points, and lies neglected.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE TRIBUNE ON AUGUST 25TH 2013 

URL:http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20130825/spectrum/society.htm

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Milkha and me ..Bhagggg ! / By Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir


Milkha and me ..Bhagggg !

By Rashmi Talwar

 

Farhan Aktar as Milkha Singh- The Flying Sikh

Farhan Aktar as Milkha Singh- The Flying Sikh

Why didn’t Punjab villages produce more athletes like Milkha- the flying one? Villagers were well-built, toughened, possessed a soaring spirit, street-smart, breathing the purest village air, fresh food, clearest water, early risers, considered OK to be ‘nalayak’, could take slaps-kicks in their stride, insults, abuses were a part of their lingo and could hardly stifle or cramp their Ishtyle. Because, winning or losing is about mental conditioning.

I cried buckets and trucks, while watching the ordeal of Milkha Singh, and his partitioned past. I laughed and cried in turns, over his antics and emotive moments in this terrific movie ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’, just as most watchers did, in the country and abroad.

Flowing with my tears were memories – “I too was gifted just like Milkha!”. But I dare not compare myself with the Flying Sikh. Milkha had the grit and grind, he had the ‘pluck’ and I proved to be only a lame-duck. The Ready! Get-Set! Go!-Clap however has never left me. Milkha’s inspiring role played by Farhan Akhtar, once again spilled out my past and unfolded it most painfully.

Rising Kashmir: Milkha and me ..Bhaggg !

Rising Kashmir: Milkha and me ..Bhaggg !

I was uniquely gifted with strong, swift legs, clocking 10-seconds or less in 100mts, great timing in 200mts and a flying jump in the long-jump rivalries. Could climb Kashmir’s mountain races and come tops and nicknamed ‘Pahari Bakri’.  I even had a Milkha-esque PT master- Mr Gill-a retired armyman who laid great store for my talent. Many a ‘daaga’ or drumstick thrashed my legs, arms and back for that perfection Mr Gill demanded. Thus, on Republic and Independence Day parades at Gandhi ground, Amritsar, I was either the Lead Salute or flag-bearer of Sacred heart School, having earned the title of Best athlete for five consecutive years. There too our parade was adjudged the best for many years due to Mr Gill’s efforts.

My first brush with success came  when I was declared as Junior Best Athlete. I am remembered till this date, more for the ‘behooshiepisode’ in the newly introduced 400mts run then, when I fatigued-out just like the cramped Milkha in his early athletic years, but short-distances, I could sprint at high speed.

As athlete, I beat all seniors, but was a back-bencher in academics, always getting day-long punishments followed by home-made reprimands. Finally, school took grave notice of my ‘winnings’ and the British Rowllat Act look-alike –supposedly against revolutionary activities – mine, being too many winnings,  was imposed. In other words- my winnings were viewed as acts to demoralize others. Hence participation for only three events and relay race was permitted, thus successfully curbing and arresting any ‘excess’ wins.

Humility was considered the greatest virtue then and instilling this was a righteous deed. Lest they turned proud, girls in sports were singled out for target practice. Hence, I got the singular honor of being caned, slapped, punished and humiliated the most in all my classes. ‘Afterall, the mind and spirit should be humbled and nothing should become a hurdle in this lesson most noble’, was the refrain of our teachers and was strictly implemented.

Just as Milkha ran for eggs and milk, I ran for a treat of tandoori chicken, whenever I was declared best.  My father clocked my timings and even ordered for me an indigenous pair of spikes from a local cobbler, as they were rarely found in our parts or too expensive. The poorly created pair jumbled my steps and so I returned to my bare-footed sprints, just like the Milkha of the early days. I ran bare-foot even in college, where I won college colors for Athletics, Tennis, Arts-Dramatics and Academics as well.

In school, after clinching the Best Athlete title for the third consecutive year, Mr Gill approached the real-life Milkha Singh, whom he knew personally. He went all the way to Chandigarh to the Great Milkha Ji, for a personalized approval for me to run in the district athletic championships, as convent schools those days were unrecognized and therefore banned from sending participants in government organized events. Mr Gill told me -‘Milkha Singh gladly signed the letter’,  thus opening this grand opportunity for me.

Devoid of any training or preparation, bare-footed, a rag-towel grandly tossed on the shoulder and a silly pajama as a track-pant, with an odd Iodex or Relaxyl ointment tube to soothe cramps, as my companions, I ran. I clocked second and won a silver medal in districts, surpassing an athlete who had won many titles at state level.

Mr Gill had counseled me ‘bhagg bas bhagg Rashmi, torr dena sab ko’ ecstatic and holding up that signed letter by Milkha Singh. The whole ground was abuzz with ‘convent di ik kuri ne heroine nu ‘cut’ kar dita. Koi coaching vi nahi lai’ (A convent girl had ‘cut’ Heroine (a nick name for the good-looking athlete), without any coaching).  All coaches had surrounded Mr Gill and his smiles and eyes had lit up like never before. Perhaps I was his little star.

Although selected for state championship at Kapurthala, the barbs and sarcasm continued ‘khelon ne tujhe kahi nahi le jana, parahi kar, agar parahi mei fail toh no khel’ samajh gayi’.(Sports are not going to take you anywhere, study, if you fail there would be no play, have you understood) was the refrain from all sides. Today I realize, it wasn’t their fault, the environment was such and my father a winner in Inter-varsity swimming and a masters in economics in those times, had given me much liberty,  rarely allowed to girls in convents from respectable families, in those times, and tradition was that academics was supreme. I was torn between these pressures.

In contrast girls from villages were more liberated to go for tournaments. They were street smart, bullies, crass, uncouth and everything that was needed and absent in our ‘O so-lady-like’ environment and unrealistic expectations of academic excellence . They bullied, threw egg and groundnut shells on my carefully laid our bedding, copulated amongst themselves in rajais (quilts) at night, by self-declared bets looted any money I had and broke my spirit in everyway. I cried and missed Mr Gill like anything. And thought ‘He would have surely hit them with his ‘daaga’, and given them punishments to turn into kokers or cocks, for bad behavior!’

Being with them in Kapurthala was a nightmare. I was forced to leave my gift of sprint behind and compromised to become a Tennis player. Although, I won the national bronze medal in Tennis but I never had the mind or sharpness or reflexes needed in Tennis, I only had miracle legs that took me to fetch each ball and thus win.

Running against a hostile environment is an achiever’s ultimate hurdle, and for me too it was the vital one, the one I failed to cross. It is all in the mind, had I stood my ground in athletics then, I could have shone like Milkha Singh one day.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR

URL: http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/milkha-and-me-bhagggg-53157.aspx

Will the peace candles reach Kashmir one day?/ By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


Will the peace candles reach Kashmir one day?

Wednesday, 31 Jul 2013 at 08:44 PM

By Rashmi Talwar

Kashmir peace candles
Keen to harvest the huge expanse of benefits of friendship, the glow of peace candles from Attari- Wagha border in Amritsar-Lahore have carried their radiance to another international venue, this time to be lit on the Rajasthan –Sindh border.The flickers of these innocent candles of peace are ready to touch Pakistan’s Khokhrapar and India’s Munabao rail linked borders in Sindh and Rajasthan respectively for joint celebrations this time, on the midnight of Independence Day between both countries. These little glow lamps are expected to be harbingers of peace and would also beckon the establishment of trade, travel, people to people exchange besides other favorable ties between the two countries after decades.

Preparations are afoot and people from both sides have realized that the route to prosperity is through the path of peace and friendship. The dry or fresh dates from either side have to go through long circuitous routes of Attari and Wagha border in divided Punjabs and perish on the way. Why can’t ‘our’ borders be opened for direct trade or for travel they call out.

Opportunities in this sector also lie in security infrastructure to the proposed pipeline installations through neighboring countries. The proposal and agreements for a joint celebration have emerged from various quarters of People’s SAARC Regional Secretariats.  Netra Prasad Timsina, Coordinator, People’s SAARC Regional Secretariat, Kathmandu is keenly promoting and broadcasting the proposal that would in some ways affect the programmes and agendas of People’s SAARC, from becoming less Indo Pak centric, given the resolving of some outstanding issues. The joint Celebration between India Pakistan is expected to usher in bonhomie and would be a step forward to tone down hostilities and pave the way for new engagements.

India Pakistan issues dominate all SAARC conferences and meetings and thus efforts to solve the affront between the two would ease the way for more meaningful and targeted approach towards other countries that make up the SAARC region and having their own pressing matters to solve. Most of these matters get dissolved in the din created by matters relating to India and Pakistan.  Various organizations from both India and Pakistan are interacting on this new initiative which would also involve cultural programmes from the dusk of Independence Day of Pakistan on Aug 14th   to culminate on the dawn of Independence of India on Aug 15th.

Beena Sarwar a writer and journalist told Rising Kashmir that in her talk with Rana Hameer Singh, head of the Hindu Sodha Thakur Rajput clan in Pakistanhe had commented We in Pakistanwere stuck and unable to move forward. My country had taken the position that Kashmirhad to come first and that no dialogue was possible until that issue was resolved. Then the idea of people to people contacts initially came from the Indian side. Besides better sense has prevailed wherein outstanding issues have not been enslaved to emerge only on the condition of resolving a single issue, which has seen no breakthrough for the past many decades . Rana lives in Umerkot, former capital of Sindh also the birthplace of Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Shaque Soomro of the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research (Piler) contends, the initiative was aimed at encouraging people on both sides of the international border to help reduce tensions between the two nuclear rivals. Members of civil society in Rajasthan and their counterparts in Sindh would be fulfilling all the formalities of this initiative for peace and friendship.

It is Interesting to note that information technology played a major role in bringing rival states closer to each other and turning them into friends. This view was endorsed by many on either sides of this stringent borderline of Rajasthan and Sindh.

Indo Pak partition had torn apart many families on both sides, who have little chance of meeting again as tourist visas are non existent between the two countries. People have close relatives on either sides and are keen to strengthen these bonds. Opening of trade and travel in this sector would be a historical step towards bringing both major countries to make meaningful strides forward.

People’s SAARC Secretariat India’s Rakhi Sehgal expressed the view that serious efforts for peace overtures were missing since the rail link was made operational in February 2006, between Khokhrapar and Munabao after more than three decades. The rail link was snapped following the 1965 Indo Pak war.

Is it possible that one day these little glow lamps of peace may reach the Aman Setu or the ‘peace bridge’ between both sides of Kashmir?

The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

URL: http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/will-the-peace-candles-reach-kashmir-one-day-52473.aspx

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