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The Arani Palace, Satya Vijayanagaram

15 Apr

I thought it was due to the date… 13 March 2017… I was going round in circles, unable to find the palace of the Jagirdar in Arani.

This Jagirdar was a vassal of the Nawab of Arcot, and boasted a lineage going back to 1674 when the Maratha armies swept the Deccan, penetrating as far south as Thanjavur.

I knew that the palace was in a settlement called Satya Vijayanagaram. We asked people at the Magistrate’s Court at Arani and no one seemed to have heard of Satya Vijayanagaram.

“We are looking for the Arani Jagirdar’s palace”, I said…

“Oh hoho…Arani Arasanmanai… that’s in S.V.Nagar… I could have kicked myself… the place was no longer called Satya Vijayanagaram…it was S.V.Nagaram now…

Now it had become an easy task… skirt the Paiyur Lake, (12°40’23″N 79°17’31″E), cross the Poondi River and turn East towards S.V.Nagaram.

The Palace is in ruins, although the three storey facade still stands, complete with decorated pediments and Corinthian columns with Acanthus leaves and dentils.

It reminded me of the Lesser Lights of Freemasonry: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders representing Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.

I stepped into the ruined palace. The roof had caved in, the place stank of urine and there was little point in exploring any further.

The campus now houses a Regional Institute of Rural Development. There was considerable activity with groups of students moving in and out of the new building.

I walked in and stopped at the desk of an important looking man.

“Can I take a few photographs of the Palace and the campus please?” I asked.

“You have to get the permission of the Director.”

“And where can I find the Director?” I ask.

“You have to wait. He is taking a class.”

A female bureaucrat spoke to the man, “For taking photos, he may be allowed sir. Director’s permission not required.”

“It is always better to get permission”, the man in-charge asserts with some irritation.

“How long will it take before the Director comes, Sir?”

“Depends…on whether he is supervising an examination.”

I decided to make a move because I had miles to go… Vandavasi (Wandewash) was my next stop.

The Impregnable Gingee Fort

29 Mar

I visited the small town of Gingee on 14 March 2017 during my travels in the old Arcot Nawabdom. “Gingee” is the British spelling. In Tamil script it is “Senji” and pronounced “Chenji” just as one might hear “Sankarankovil” pronounced “Changarankoyil”.

Gingee Fort is 38 km due East of Tiruvannamalai. Gingee is a Taluk of Villupuram District.

The Gingee fort was originally buil by the rulers of the Chola dynasty during the 9th century AD. It changed hands to Kurumabr and then to the Vijayanagar Empire in the 13th century.

The fort was strengthened during Maratha occupation under the leadership of Shivaji in 1677 AD.

Shivaji recaptured Gingee from the Bijapur sultans who had earlier taken control of the fort from the Marathas.

During Aurangzeb’s campaign in the Deccan, Shivaji’s second son Chhatrapati Rajaram who ascended the throne, sought refuge in Ginjee. The Moghuls laid siege to the fort but could not capture it for seven years. In 1698, the fort capitulated, but by then Chhatrapati Rajaram had escaped.

The fort later came under the control of the Carnatic Nawabs who lost it to the French in 1750. The British assumed control in 1761 although it was lost to Hyder Ali for a brief period.

“The Gingee Fort complex is on three hillocks: Krishnagiri to the north, Rajagiri to the west and Chandrayandurg to the southeast. The three hills together constitute a fort complex, yet each hill contains a separate and self-contained citadel. Connecting them — forming an enormous triangle, a mile from north to south — are 25-metre thick walls, punctuated by bastions and gateways giving access to the protected zones at the heart of the complex.”

The first hill, where the main fort is, is called Rajagiri. Originally it was known as Kamalagiri as well as Anandagiri. The fort here is most impregnable. To gain entry into the citadel one had to cross a chasm with the help of a small wooden draw bridge which was drawn as soon as the host troops crossed it.

I bought a tourist’s ticket for Rs.15 and set out to climb the steep slope on Rajagiri hill. The climb was so steep that with the best will in the world, I could not get beyond a third of the way where there was a circular landing with a hole in the center… probably a rotating gun turret for mounting a cannon.

I have an injury on my left knee from an old motorcycle accident and I thought discretion was the better part of valour and made a dignified retreat. In many parts there was no railing and I had to take great care not to miss my step and fall into the boulder-filled abyss.

Shivaji ranked Gingee as the “most impregnable fortress in India” and it was called the “Troy of the East” by the British.

The Ruins of Wandewash Fort

29 Mar

The history of India was irretrievably altered by the Seven Years War in Europe between 1756 and 1763.

One of the warring sides in the Seven Years War was led by the Kingdom of Great Britain, supported by Prussia, Portugal, Hanover and other small German States); while the other was led by the Kingdom of France, supported by Austria led Holy Roman Empire, Russia, Spain and Sweden).

In India meanwhile, the Mughal Empire had begun its decline following Emperor Aurangazeb’s death in 1707.

In 1739, Delhi had been brought to its knees by Persian King Nadir Shah who emptied the treasury of the Mughals and carried it away to Persia. Thirty thousand innocent men, women and children of Delhi were slaughtered in a qatl-e-aam or public killing following the attack on some Persian soldiers by Indian troops and the streets of Delhi flowed with blood for days.

A completely different kind of threat to the Mughals was posed by the English East India Company which had begun to assert itself and resort to force to protect their trading interests. This was because they discovered that despite firmans (Royal Charters) from the Sultan of Bengal and from Emperor Aurangzeb himself, they were regularly harassed by local officials who expected to be paid off.

The Carnatic Wars in India were fought between French Supported and English Supported Indian Rulers between 1746 and 1763

1746-1748: First Carnatic War
1749-1754: Second Carnatic War
1756-1763: Third Carnatic War

From the time the Seven Years War broke out in Europe in 1756 to its conclusion in 1763, here are the main political events that took place in India:

1756 – Accession of Siraj-ud-Daulah as Nawab of Bengal
1757 – Sack of Delhi by Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan
– Battle of Plassey
– Mir Jafar becomes Nawab of Bengal with Robert Clive’s help
1758 – Comte de Lally in India
1759 – Murder of Alamgir II by Ghazi-ud-din
1760 – Battle of Wandiwash (Vandavasi): French forces decisively defeated by the East India Company Army
1761 – Fall of Pondicherry
– Shah Alam II becomes Emperor
– Madhava Rao becomes Peshwa
– Rise of Hyder Ali
1762 –
1763 – Expulsion of Mir Kasim

The Battle of Wandiwash (22 Jan 1760) marked the end of the Carnatic Wars.

It was a decisive battle in India during the Seven Years’ War in Europe.

The French Army, under Comte de Lally, handicapped by a lack of funds and naval support, attempted to regain the fort at Wandiwash (Vandavasi), which is 95 kms South East of Vellore via Arni.

Vandavasi is about 75 kms North East of District Headquarters, Tiruvannamalai.

Comte de Lally’s army was attacked by Sir Eyre Coote’s forces and decisively defeated. The French general Marquis de Bussy-Castelnau and the French were then restricted to Pondichéry, where they surrendered on 16 January 1761.

The battle of Vandavasi (1760) brought to an end the Third and last Carnatic War.

My mission in Vandavasi on 13 March 2017 was to visit the fort and photograph it. Although we found a road junction called, Kottai Junction or Fort Junction, it was just a busy suburban town road junction.

Just as my taxi driver had begun to give up hope of finding any structure which was part of the Vandavasi fort, we got a tip from an elderly shopkeeper.

We drove through narrow streets till we came to a congested habitation where we could park the car.

An elderly housewife was drying chillies in a bamboo murram (winnowing tray). She looked curiously at us and called a young man who appeared to be handicapped. He couldn’t speak but he nodded his head confidently when the elderly woman told him to take us to the Kottai (Fort).

He took us through a small but fairly neat and clean slum to a spot where there were masonry ruins. Yes, we had found the Vandavasi Fort… or what was left of it. This was a brick and mortar structure which appeared to have collapsed on its foundations.

I stood for a minute looking at what remained of the Vandavasi fort. This was an important fort in the territory of Nayak Damerla Venkatapathy of Vandavasi, a vassal of the Vijayanagar Empire.

The Vandavasi Nayak sold a village called Madraspatanam or Chennaipatanam to East India Company Factors Andrew Cogan and Francis Day on 22 August 1639.

The founding of Madras or Chennai is commemorated as “Madras Day” on 22nd August every year.

I took a few more photos of the ruins and thought, “How the mighty have fallen”… and wondered what Sir Eyre Coote, the victorious English Commander at the battle of Wandiwash would have thought if he had seen his prize which was being gormandised by a fast growing slum.

My disabled guide took me back to my car. I thanked him and we left for Tiruvannamalai.

My only regret was that I couldnt meet my classmate from IIMB, Poongavanam whose home I remembered was in Vandavasi. Neither I nor any of our classmates on WhatsApp Group had his address or phone numbers.

The 450 year old Vellore Fort

27 Mar

Hi all,

While in Vellore District, in February 2017, I made sure I visited Vellore Fort, which is considered to be one of the best preserved forts in the Country, mainly because of the huge blocks of granite used in the construction.

This fort was built by the Nayaks (Kings) of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1566 AD. Subsequently, it featured regularly in the history of the Subah of Deccan and the Nawabdom of Arcot.

The history of the Vijayanagar Empire appears to have faded into the background while the history of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire took centre-stage at school and university level. My only serious study of the Vijayanagar Empire was a reading of Robert Sewell’s “A Forgotten Empire: A Contribution to the History of India (1900)”. Robert Sewell (1845-1925) was a civil servant of the Madras Presidency and held the post of Keeper of the Madras Record Office. It is understandable that this important source book was not intended for an undergraduate level reader.

Vellore Fort, along with Gingee Fort passed into the possession of the Sultan of Bijapur from 1656 to 1678.

In 1676, the Marathas under Chatrapati Shivaji’s leadership occupied Thanjavur. To secure the Maratha position, Gingee Fort was captured in 1677 and Vellore Fort in 1678.

The Mughal empire began to unravel after the death of Aurangazeb in 1707, and with the Nizam as the almost independent ruler of the Deccan, Vellore Fort came under the control of the Nawabs of Arcot.

After the Battle of Vandavasi (Wandiwash) in 1760, the English East India Company became the dominant power in Arcot and Vellore Fort was occupied by the English army.

A nugget of history generally unknown to most Indians today is that in 1806, the English faced the first Sepoy Mutiny at Vellore.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army had ordered a change of uniforms including a hat with a leather cockade to replace turbans, removal of beards, caste marks and jewellery. The sepoys considered this step to be an unwarranted interference in their religious practices and mutinied, killing 15 officers and 100 English soldiers. The Colonel commanding the cavalry cantonment in Arcot, 25 km away reached Vellore fast and the mutiny was put down with brute force.

The Vellore Fort has a Mosque, a Temple and a Church, built for the Madras army.

It housed the family of Tipoo Sultan after the battle of Seringapatam in 1799 to make sure that no heir was available to rally round.

The last king of Kandy in Sri Lanka (from the dynasty of the Madurai Nayaks) Sri Vikarama Rajasinha (1798-1815) was brought to Vellore Fort in 1815 with his family and kept as prisoners for 17 years.

There is a museum in the Fort with interesting items from the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagara periods.

One room has very poor reproductions of the order of Sir John Craddock, Commander in Chief of the Madras Army making sweeping changes in the uniforms and appearance of the sepoys. There is also a copy of the order withdrawing the earlier order on uniforms.

On the whole, the Fort is well maintained, although the Museum is quite a pathetic effort.

The “French Bungalow” in Arni

11 Mar

Shortly before I left on my first trip to Vellore this year (on 17 February 2017), my neighbour and friend Dr. Chakko Jacob told me that one of the sites I should definitely visit was “The French Bungalow”.

I did some internet research and one of the sites I found was:

http://www.nativeplanet.com/vellore/attractions/french-bungalow/

The content here said:

“The French Bungalow, also referred to as the French Castle, is a renowned tourist attraction. There is a romantic side to this construction of the building. It was made by a prince of Mysore, Srinivasa Iyer, and is still owned by the Mysore Royal Family. The French Bungalow was built by him for residential purpose after he married a French woman, whom he met and fell in love with while he was abroad for studies. The bungalow was constructed with imported material, mostly from Glasgow.

“The walls of the French Bungalow are made of limestone blocks and stones which hold the main framework. The building has one tower at each corner of the four walls. The bungalow also has a dry well which served as a Roman Bath. The house had servants’ quarters and kitchens and there is also a repository for grains on the premises of the French Bungalow. However, due to low maintenance, the bungalow is now in ruins.”

There were some serious problems with this information. The royal family of Mysore are the Wodeyars, and they are definiely not Brahmins. “A Prince of Mysore” could not have had the name “Srinivasa Iyer”.

The credible reports are that the ruined stately home in Poosimalaikuppam, about 16 kms from Arni once belonged to the Jagirdars of Arni and might have been built by Thirumalai I Rao Sahib:

“There were two palaces situated 3 miles from Arni . There were also Palatial residences for the Jagirdar of Arni in Poosimalaikuppam (a forest resort very close to Arni town), in Chennai (Arnee House) and in Bangalore (formerly Jai Mahal Palace).”

http://wikibin.org/articles/arni-jagir.html

Thirumalai I Rao Sahib, the fifth Jagirdar was the jagir holder at the time of the Battle of Arni 1751. He died in 1765 and was probably the builder of the Poosimalaikuppam Bungalow. His successor was Sreenivasa I Rao Sahib and this name could have inspired the name, “Sreenivasa Iyer”.

One clue I found was that, “The famous Mysore Maharaja Maligai (Jagiri Maligai) at S.V. Nagaram is located 5 km from the Arani Town. “S.V.Nagaram expands as Sathyavijayanagaram, which was the former capital of the jagir of Arni. Visiting this settlement is on my Todo list for my next visit to Arni.

At any rate, the so-called French bungalow stands forlorn in the jungle in Poosimalaikuppam, which is marked as a Reserve Forest (RF) in Google Maps.

I haven’t been able to get a professional opinion if the architecture is French, although it may well have several French architectural features, especially since Arni is only 118 kms North West of Puducherry (Pondicherry, the erstwhile French colony.)

This might also explain the romantic story about the “French Woman” of Poosimalaikuppam.

The clinching evidence that the so-called “French Bungalow” was one of the palaces of the Arni Jagirdar is the Latin family motto at the entrance of the building:

Per Deum et Ferrum Obtinui

“I have obtained it by God and by my steel [sword]”

It appears that this is the motto of the Hill family in Worcestershire. The Hill family traces their ancestral roots back to Norman origin before the year 1100.

The son of Thirumala I Rao Sahib was named SRINIVASA RAO SAHIB, which gives us some idea why the name of the “Prince of Mysore” turned out to be “Srinivasa Iyer”.

The Jagirdars of Arni were descended from to Vedaji Bhaskar Rao Pant. Those who know Tamilnadu history will remember that Tanjore District was a Maratha kingdom till it was absorbed into independent India. These Marathas, like the Arni Jagirdars speak “an archaic Marathi” which was no doubt well integrated with Tamil.

The “serendipity” of my interest in Arni is that earlier this week, on 8 Mar 2017, I traced and was almost miraculously introduced to a representative of the present descendants of the Jagirdar of Arni, who lives in Bangalore.

The Battle of Arni (Arani)

1 Mar

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0535 hrs on 1 March 2017

The Battle of Arni was the endgame for the Second Carnatic War with Robert Clive and Raju Sahib (son of Chanda Sahib, supported by the French) as the principal antagonists..

Chanda Sahib had abandoned the siege of Arcot on 15 November 1751 and withdrew his army to Vellore.

From here, Raju Sahib decided to march south to join his father in the siege of Trichinopoly.

At Arni, on the banks of the Poondi river, some French troops joined Raju Sahib emboldening him.

The English side had been strengthened by a relief column from Madras under Captain Kilpatrick with a force of 1,000 Mahratta horsemen commanded by Morari Rao.

Leaving Captain Kilpatrick to hold Arcot Fort, Clive joined battle with Raju Sahib at Arni on 3 December 1751. Clive’s force comprised 200 European soldiers, 700 sepoys and 600 Mahratta horsemen under Bassin Rao making 1,500 in all, with 3 guns.

The battle came to an end by night. Robert Clive personally directed the battle and ensured the retreat of Raju Sahib’s troops, pursued by the Maratha horse fighting on the English side.

Raju Sahib’s army had to negotiate a causeway across paddy fields, ford the river Poondi and enter Arni town in considerable confusion.

At around midnight Raju Sahib’s army left Arni and headed towards Senji 53 km to the south of Arni. Senji was known as Gingee in Colonial records and had one of the most impregnable forts in India.

Although the Governor of Arni handed over an elephant, 15 horses and a quantity of baggage to Clive, he refused to surrender the fort knowing the English did not have siege artillery.

The Mahratta leader, Morari Rao, after observing the battle tactics, famously commented, ‘the English can fight.’

After the battle of Arni, the East India Company was no longer only in the business of trade. They were in the business of war and ready to use superior organisation and equipment in the gradual conquest of India.

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A Visit to Arni (Arani)

28 Feb

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1952 hrs on 28 Feb 2017

From Arcot I asked Suresh my taxi driver to take me to Arni (Arani), some 27 kms due South.

Arni is famous for silk weaving. I checked on Google Maps and found it is only about 75 km from Kanchipuram, the famous silk weaving centre.

Arni is a rice growing area and the dominant caste is the Gounders who also own rice mills.

The town is small and the roads congested with two wheelers and four wheelers. Policemen could be seen on Market Road, but motorists seemed to be oblivious and followed their own rules.

I took a few photos of the congested roads and was waiting for my taxi to come from where he had gone to park. A serious looking man with ferocious muttonchop whiskers came to where I was standing and said, “Noorulla Sahib wants to see you…”

“Who?”

“Noorulla Sahib. That’s his shop.”

I walked in to the shop with both my cameras dangling from my neck… Noorulla Sahib turned out to be a short, ageing man running a chewing tobacco business.

“Why are you taking photos in our town?” He asked.

I had to think on my feet and said, “I am writing a book.”

“A book? About what?”

I could have been rude and walked out, but thought I would use the opportunity to find out where the Arni Fort is… or was.

“A book about Robert Clive!”

“Ah… Clive Sahib! He was only a boy when he fought the battle of Arni!”

The tough looking man who served summons on me to Noorulla Sahib’s court smiled broadly!

“I am soldier sir! Madras Artillery!” He said and gave me a salute before he went on his way.

“Where will I find Arni Fort?” I asked. Where is the ‘Por Kalam’? I asked, hoping Noorulla Sahib would understand the Malayalam word for ‘battle field’…

Noorulla Sahib nodded and spoke to Suresh, my driver. “Go to the Sports Stadium. Its still called ‘Kuthira Layam’ (Cavalry Lines). It was also a military parade ground. All our Government Offices and Courts are there…”

“And now, have some sherbet before you go… its high noon and very hot!” Noorulla Sahib smiled almost affectionately.

“No thank you, Noorulla Sahib”, I said and got up and gave him a smart salaam.

We were at the Arni Battle Field in about five minutes. It is now a sports stadium, surrounded by Government offices.

In the middle of the field is a monument to Col. Robert Kelly who died in 1790. That was a very long time after the Battle of Arni in 1751. I later read that he was an Ensign at the time of the Battle and worked as a Surveyor.

 

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Arcot and the Carnatic Wars

26 Feb

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I visited Arcot town on 17 Feb 2017, which is 280 years after the above map was published.

In the 18th Century, “Arcot” was a feudal kingdom, part of the Mughal empire, the seat of the Nawab of the Carnatic, owing fealty to the Subahdar of the Deccan, Nizam-ul-Mulk.

Please see the attached map of the Nawabdom of Carnatic which borders the Kingdoms of Madurai and Thanjavur in the South, Mysore in the West and the settlements of Madras and Pulicat to the North.

Today, Arcot is a Taluk of Vellore District in Tamilnadu.

Robert Clive, who landed in Madras in June 1744, got an unexpected opportunity to dabble in Indian politics during the first two of the three Carnatic Wars.

The First Carnatic War between the English and French Companies in India coincided with the Wars of Austrian Succession (1740-48).

During the First Carnatic war, Robert Clive joined the Company Army where his leadership and initiative were noticed by his Commander, Major Stringer Lawrence.

The English and French realised the importance of naval support in the battles of the Carnatic War. England had an extra advantage in having a base in Bengal from where reinforcements and supplies could be delivered to the Cormandel Coast. The French Navy was anchored at a far greater distance in Mauritius in the Indian ocean.

During the Second Carnatic War, Chanda Sahib, the Nawab of Carnatic was besieging Trichinopoly with the support of Joseph Francois Dupleix, Governor of French India. Dost Ali, the English backed contender for Nawab of Carnatic was hiding out in Trichinopoly.

Robert Clive suggested to the new English Governor Thomas Saunders that an attack on Arcot would divert the attention and forces of Chanda Sahib away from Trichinopoly.

On 26 August 1751, with 200 Europeans and 300 sepoys, Clive marched from Madras to Arcot, a distance of 117 kilometres. He completed the forced march in 5 days, of which on the last day, the detachment marched in heavy rain. When Chanda Sahib’s troops heard of the determined English advance, they abandoned the Arcot Fort. Clive and his men easily occupied the fort, strengthened the fortifications and prepared the cannon left behind in readiness for the siege. He held out heroically for 53 days (Sept-Oct 1751) until the besieging force withdrew.

It is reported that he lived in the small room above Delhi Gate of Arcot Fort. Please see map of Arcot Fort.

As expected by Clive, Chanda Sahib sent his son, Raju Sahib with a large force to Arcot. He arrived at Arcot on 23rd September 1751 and besieged the fort.

While Governor Saunders was organising a relief of Arcot, on 14 Nov 1751, Raju Sahib’s troops concentrated on the breach in the walls of the fort. Elephants were used to batter the Delhi Gate. Heavy musket fire from the defenders of the fort caused the elephants to turn back and create confusion in the ranks.

Robert Clive distinguised himself in this siege, at one point even manning a cannon himself and firing several rounds into the besieging army.

The next day Raju Sahib marched away with his army leaving behind several of his guns and ammunition which were captured by the English army.

On 3 Dec 1751, Clive followed up the siege by engaging Raju Sahib’s army at Arani, 28 km to the south of Arcot and defeating it.

The Siege of Arcot and the Battle of Arni considerably increased the prestige of Robert Clive and the English Army.

Timeline of Carnatic Wars:

First Carnatic War: 1746-1748
Second Carnatic War: 1749-1754
Third Carnatic War: 1756-1763

 

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Shastanga Pranam to Prof. S.Krishnaswamy of MCC, Tambaram

23 Feb

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23-02-2017, 05:13 hrs

My visit to Arcot on 17 Feb 2017 was a pilgrimage made 50 years after I sat mesmerised in the class of Prof. S.Krishnaswamy of Madras Christian College, Tambaram.

Prof. Krishnaswamy was a gentle and scholarly man and I recall visiting him in the staff room to talk about the Siege of Arcot, 1751. I can still conjure up his soft voice telling me emphatically… “If Robert Clive had not come out to India in 1744, I assure you quite emphatically that India or at least parts of modern India would have evolved as a French colony ruled from Pondicherry.” If that had happened, the UK would have no doubt been absolved of any compulsion to pay reparations to India!

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the role of Prof. Krishnaswamy in stimulating my interest in Modern Indian History (from 1600 CE).

I have attached a scan of the Title Page of the prescribed text book for the BA History Course in 1967: AN ADVANCED HISTORY OF INDIA by R.C.Majumdar, H.C.Rayachaudhuri, Kalikinkar Datta, MacMillan 1967. This 50 year old book has begun to show its age, if not wear due to scholarly use.

I now own a fourth edition of this textbook (2001) with an Appendix on Bangladesh.

Prof. Krishnaswamy was commissioned circa 1969 through the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to write the manuscript for the Time Capsule containing the first 25 years of Independent India’s history (1947-72). The Time Capsule, made of copper, was buried in the Red Fort complex on August 15, 1973 and was called “Kalpaatra”.This Time Capsule ran into controversies and when the Janata Party came to power in 1977 they had the Kalpaatra exhumed in fulfilment of one of the Janata Party’s election promises.

As expected, the Kalpaatra was reported to have glorified the role of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi in the early days of Independent India.
It is not clear what happened to the Kalpaatra, but it is fairly well known that it cost Indira Gandhi only Rs. 8,000 to bury the Time Capsule, but it cost Morarji Desai’s Government Rs. 58,000 to unearth it.

(360 Words)

 

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In Search of Robert Clive’s Dog

21 Feb

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21-02-2017, 06:07 hrs

One evening in December 2016, I was telling a friend and neighbour, Dr. Chakko, about my interest in the career of Robert Clive who changed the history of the Indian sub-continent.

Dr. Chakko had worked for CMC Vellore for about 40 years before retiring.

He told me that near CMC Vellore there is a factory owned by Parry & Company with a Guest House at Ranipet.

“This Guest House, oddly enough, has a tomb dedicated to a dog which belonged to Robert Clive”.

I caught my breath… Clive’s career with the East India Company began in Fort St.George, Madras when he landed on the Coromandel coast in June 1744.

He was in the “Carnatic” (Kaveri distributary districts of modern Tamilnad including Vellore, Arcot and Tiruvannamalai) and Pondicherry (now Union Territory of Puducheri) from 1746 to 1754.

I started planning a visit to Vellore from where Dr.Chakko assured me I could hire a taxi and do Ranipet, Kaveripakkam, Arcot, Arani and Poosimalaikuppam (this last location is not associated with Clive) in a single day.

It finally happened over 17-18 Feb 2017.

I arrived in Katpadi Jn. on the Shatabdi Express, about half an hour later than the scheduled arrival time of 0858 hrs on 17 Feb 2017.

Thanks to Dr. Chakko, a taxi had been arranged to take me to Hotel GRT REGENCY SAMEERA. The driver was supposed to stand with a placard with my name… but he identified me from a distance and came bounding up the overbridge steps to relieve me of my baggage, most of which was photography gear, including a tripod.

Suresh was wearing an Indigo blue shirt and was probably in his mid thirties. I spoke to him in my rough tea estate Tamil. He insisted on replying in English.

We drove to the hotel, where I showed the smart lady at the Reception my reservation confirmation  and told her that I would be coming back to occupy my room only by about 1600 hrs.

Back to the taxi and we raced off to Ranipet. Google Maps shows a location near Ranipet called “PARRY COLONY”, 25km from the GRT REGENCY SAMEERA.

We spent an hour looking for the PARRY Guest House but just couldnt find it. When I phoned Dr. Chakko, he told me to go to the PARRY Factory and talk to the manager. I had to reluctantly abort the mission as we were on a tight schedule and I didnt want to spend too much time in Ranipet looking for the dog’s grave!

Someone that driver Suresh talked to told us to visit the Secretary of St. Mary’s Church, Ranipet before leaving. He would know all about “Kallarai” (Graves or Tombs)

We walked down a narrow lane and turned in at the house of the Secretary. He was in the middle of a shave, with foam on his face.

When we told him about our search for the tomb of Lord Clive’s dog, his face crinkled into a smile. He pointed to a photograph on the wall of his front room and said, that is my father, R.C.Paul. He worked for Parry and Company. “R.C.” is for Robert Clive! My own name is R.C.Apollo Paul. “R.C.” for Robert Clive and “Apollo” is the Greek God, no doubt correctly assessing that I wouldnt have had the benefit of a classical education.

He wasnt able to help us with Clive’s dog’s grave. He said that the old Parry Guest House had been demolished and multistoried flats had come up there. He thought we should visit the St. Mary’s Church Cemetry as it had graves of British settlers and officials of Ranipet and Kaveripakkam going back 300 years or more.

Thus ended the first leg of our tour of Lord Robert Clive’s stamping grounds in his days as a Writer of the East India Company and then as a Lieutenant and Captain in the EICo Army under the famous Major Stringer Lawrence.

 

(660 Words)

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