The Indian Railways is India’s lifeline. Every day millions of passengers avail its facilities.
It has become such an integral part of our lives that we cannot imagine a life without it. The Indian railways were nationalized way back in the year 1951. But today, we are not going to talk about the Indian railways but we are going to talk about of its long forgotten relative ‘The Shakuntala Railways’. I am sure that for most of you this sounds a bit alien. Hearing the name you might think of it as a name of some train or maybe a little-known rail zone.
Shakuntala Railways is one of only a few operational railway lines in India that remains with private owners and perhaps the only one that belongs to a British firm.
But Shakuntala is neither one of them. In fact, it is an independent railway which does not come under the Indian Railways. So, technically the Indian Railways does not enjoy a monopoly. When Nationalization happened in 1951, Strangely this line was left alone. Interestingly till date, nobody knows the exact reason why this line was never de-privatised.
The birth of Central Province Railway Company (CPRC) or The Shakuntala railways took place way back in 1910. It was founded by a British Firm called Killick-Nixon.
It was formed during the British Raj. During those times, most of the rail lines were operated by individual firms. The location of the track was quite strategical as this route was used to transport cotton from Vidharba. This cotton then made its way to Manchester.
During those times, there was a deal between the CPRC and the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIPR). This deal stayed in place even after GIPR became Central Railways.
Soon, not only cotton but the line was used even to ferry passengers. The GIPR used CPRC’s lines to run its trains and paid a compensation or rent to the company. The deal continued even after GIPR was replaced by the Central Railways. To this day, the Central Railways pays the British firm a compensation for using its lines. Interestingly, in recent times, the Indian Railways has not paid the decided rent instead has been adjusting it from the cost of repairs and maintenance.
Unlike most train lines in India, this train line still uses a narrow gauge.
The rail line itself is quite unique as the unlike most of the rail lines that are broad gauge lines, Shankuntala railways still use narrow gauge lines. The British company still gets more than 1 crore rupees from the Indian Railways for running a train on its tracks called the Shakuntala Express.
The Shakuntala Express is a passenger train that runs from the towns of Yavatmal to Murtijapur
The train runs through the beautiful cotton growing areas of Achalpur, which falls under Amravati division. If you are ever lucky enough to board this train then this train journey is sure to take you back to the 19th century. Everything about it is old school. It seems that when modernisation happened everywhere it forgot about poor Shakuntala.
Every day it covers just one return journey and even today it is a lifeline for hundreds of poor people, who cannot afford to take the road, as it almost 5-6 times the train’s fare
It covers a journey of almost 190Km in about 4 hours. For these people, it is the cheapest means of transport and they can’t imagine their lives without it. The train runs through a narrow gauge which itself gives it a very toy- train kind of feeling.
It still runs on a steam engine and the rail signals have been there right from the British Raj
Most of the official works are also done manually. In times when our trains run on electric engines , Shakuntala Express still uses an old steam engine. Another interesting thing that you would find when you board this train is that all the existing rail signals are still from the British era with the words ‘made in Liverpool’inscribed on it.
This journey literally takes you on a trip down the memory lane.
Source….Abir Gupta in http://www.storypick.com
The holy city of Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh, plays host to hundreds of South Koreans every year – who come to pay their tributes to the legendary queen Hur Hwang-ok. According to legend, queen Hur Hwang-ok, also known as Princess Suriratna, was the princess of Ayodhya before she went to South Korea and married King Kim Suro of Karak Clan in 48 AD. It is believed that she reached Korea on a boat, and was the first queen of King Suro of Geumgwan Gaya. She was 16-year-old when she got married and is considered the first queen of Gaya Kingdom.
It is because of the presence of her monument in Ayodhya that around 60 lakh people of the Karak clan consider the city as their maternal home. The memorial was first inaugurated in 2001 in Ayodhya and more than a hundred historians and government representatives, including the North Korean ambassador to India, were present during the ceremony. Seven million Koreans, representing the Kimhae Kim clan, Hur clan and Incheon Yi clan, trace their ancestry to the royal union.
In South Korea, her tomb is located in Kimhae and there is a stone pagoda in front of it. It is said that the pagoda is made of stones that she brought from Ayodhya.
Describing how she landed in Gaya when she first met the king, she said that the heavenly lord (Sange Je) appeared in her parents’ dreams and told them to send her to the Korea as the king had not found a queen yet. Legend states that the queen died at the age of 157.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to South Korea in May last year, the two countries agreed that a bigger monument of the princess will be built in Ayodhya. Recently, during a meeting with the Korean delegation, Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav said that the memorial would be constructed according to the Korean architecture. He asked Kim Ki-jae, President of Central Karak Clan Society, to provide the design of the monument so that the government can proceed.
Featured image for representation only. Source: Flickr
Source…….Tanaya Singh in http://www.the betterindia.com