The sun is the hottest when the clock strikes one in the small town of Seringapatam, not far from the city of Mysore, in present day Karnataka, a state in India. Colonel Arthur Wellesley, who was leading two army units of the British East India Company, knew that the defenders of the fortress of Seringapatam would be taking a break for refreshment at this hour. That’s when he planned to strike.
The date was May 4, 1799—the final day of the final confrontation between the British East India Company and the Kingdom of Mysore led by the strong and assertive Tipu Sultan. At the scheduled hour, seventy-six men dashed across the four-feet-deep river Cauvery and in only sixteen minutes had scaled the ramparts and stormed into the fort. The defenders, taken by surprise, were quickly subdued and in two hours the fort had fallen completely. Later, in a choked tunnel-like passage in the interior of the fort, the
bullet riddled body of Tipu Sultan, “the Tiger of Mysore” was found.
Photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum
The victorious troops then proceeded to raid the royal treasury and over the next few weeks systematically emptied it, sharing the loot among the British army. Some time later, a curious object was discovered in the music room of the palace. It was a large wooden musical automata depicting a tiger mauling a man in European clothing. The man, which is nearly life-size, lies on his back while the tiger sinks its teeth into his neck. There is a crank protruding from the side of the tiger. When it’s turned, a hidden mechanism causes the man’s arm to go up and down, while a set of bellows inside causes the animal to growl and the man to emit distressing cries of agony. A flap on the tiger’s body can be opened to reveal a small organ and a keyboard capable of playing 18 notes.
Tipu Sultan’s mechanical tiger—known as Tipu’s Tiger— was a clear representation of his hostility towards the British—a feeling that he shared with his father, Hyder Ali, since his childhood. Hyder Ali regarded the British as their sworn enemy as they prevented Hyder from expanding his kingdom, and Tipu grew up with violently anti-British feelings. In 1792, when Tipu Sultan was forced to concede half of Mysore’s territories along with a large financial tribute to the British after the defeat at the Third Anglo-Mysore War, he had this machine built.
Tipu Sultan’s personal emblem was the tiger. The tiger motif was visible throughout his palace—on his throne, on his weapons and armor; the tiger stripe motif was painted on walls and used in uniforms; he even kept live tigers in his palace. Even his nickname that he adopted for himself was “the Tiger of Mysore”. Tipu’s Tiger, hence, was a symbolic representation of his desire to triumph over the British. It’s believed that the Sultan had frequently amused himself by playing with the instrument’s crank and hearing the distressing cries of the victim.
Understandably, the British were not amused. When they discovered the “contrived machine”, the Governor General of the East India Company wrote a memorandum calling it a “memorial of the arrogance and barbarous cruelty of Tipu Sultan” and “another proof of the deep hate, and extreme loathing” the Sultan had towards the English.
For a while, Tipu’s Tiger was displayed in the reading-room of the East India Company Museum and Library in London where it became very popular, especially since anybody could walk up to the machine and hand-crank it to hear the wailing and the grunting. The handle couldn’t take the abuse for long and it broke a few years later, to the great relief of the students using the reading-room in which the tiger was displayed.
In 1880, the tiger was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Since then, it has been one of the most popular exhibits in the museum and a “must-see”, although it’s too fragile now and cannot be operated. During the Second World War, the roof above the museum came crashing down and broke the tiger into several hundred pieces. After the war, the tiger was carefully pieced together, but it no longer works.
In recent times, Tipu’s Tiger has formed an essential part of museum exhibitions exploring the subject of Indian resistance to British rule, as well as British prejudice and imperial aggression. Tipu’s Tiger appears in various forms of memorabilia in the museum shops as postcards, model kits and stuffed toys.
Source ….Kaushik in http://www.amusingplanet.com
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
Entrenched in history, having been passed down by some of the greatest rulers of massive empires in the Indian subcontinent, the Kohinoor diamond is the most desirable, priceless stone.
It’s a clear stone the size of a ping pong ball and it fits in the palm of the hand. But the Kohinoor Diamond is priceless, with a deep history engraved in its essence. The stone has seen bloodshed, violence, greed, wonder, deception and wars. It has seen men go mad with power, it has seen men fall from grace. It has seen the thirst, the hunger and the dreams that make humans essentially human. The stone has been brought down through the ages, changing hands and making history on its way.
The assertion of ownership over the stone is still an elusive decision. India, Pakistan and Afghanistan all want the stone back, claiming ownership, while Britain vehemently refuses to part with their most prized possession. As theIndian government claims to bring back to stone ‘amicably’, here’s a look at why this legendary, brilliant cut 106-carat stone is so remarkable and desirable.
From India to Present-day Uzbekistan to England
The Kohinoor Diamond on the royal crown
Source: Wikimedia Commons
According to legends, in the 13th century, the diamond was found in Guntur, in Andhra Pradesh. The first known record of the possession of the diamond was with the Kakatiya Dynasty in South India, and then with the Rajas of Malwa. When the Delhi Sultanate took over the South of India in 1300s, Alauddin Khilji held the stone in his palace.
In 1339, it was taken to Samarkand (present day Uzbekistan), which was its home for the next 500 years. Sultan Ibrahim Lodi gifted it to Babur. After three generations, it was passed on to Shah Jahan. Then his son Aurangzeb took over and imprisoned him, and guarded the stone with his life. It was passed on to Bahadur Shah I and later to his great grandson, Muhammad Shah. Being a weak ruler, the stone was taken from Muhammad by Nader Shah. In 1747, he was assassinated, and his general, Ahmad Shah Durrani, passed on the stone to his grandson, Shah Shuja Durrani.
Durrani took the stone to India, and gifted it to the founder of the Sikh Empire, Ranjit Singh in 1813, in return for help to take down the Afghani throne. Emporer Ranjit Singh had instructed the stone to be part of Jagannath Temple in Puri after his death in his will. But when the East India Company and the British Empire took over the Sikh Empire in 1849, the stone was confiscated, and stored at a treasury in Lahore. Finally, it was taken to the Queen in 1850. Today, it is part of the Crown Jewels, placed in the Tower of London in the UK
The Curse of the Mountain of Light
In Persian, Koh-i-Noor means the mountain of light. However, the name didn’t come about till the stone reached Nader Shah in the mid-1700s. Legend has it that in 1306, someone wrote that the stone was cursed. According to the curse, any man who owns the stone is likely to own all the riches and power of the world, but also suffer great misfortunes. Only a god or a woman can carry or wear the stone with no ill consequences.
A New, Lighter Cut
When the stone was discovered, it was allegedly 793 carats, uncut. By the time it reached the British Empire in 1849, the stone weighed 186 carats. The Queen ordered the stone to be cut in 1852, as it wasn’t as brilliant and beautifully shaped when compared to other cut diamonds in their possession at the Crystal Palace. The stone was cut into an oval shape, and weighed 42% lighter at 105.602 carats.
The Priceless Gem
In the 1500s, Babur had declared that the Kohinoor was worth half the world’s total production costs in a day. However, there’s no certain way of determining the price of the stone. It has changed hands through history mainly because it was bartered, gifted or stolen. Compared to other stones in the world that weigh somewhere close, like the 100-carat flawless diamond sold by Sotheby’s at an auction in 2015, it should cost around $22-30 million (Rs 146 crores). But considering that the stone has been possessed by many of the greatest legends in Indian and world history, the premium for it could be priceless.
The Tug of War
Source: Wikimedia Commons, Kohinoordiamond.org
When India got its independence in 1947, it asked for the stone back, believing it was supposed to be in India. Even after consequent requests in 1953 and 2000, the British government refused, citing that it was nearly impossible to decide who the stone belonged to, given its various owners throughout history. In 1976, Pakistan laid claim to the stone, but was refused by then-Prime Minister of the UK, James Callaghan, claiming that in a treaty with the Maharaja of Lahore in 1849, the stone was ordered to be transferred to the British Crown. Afghanistan too claimed that the stone should be returned to them.
In 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron said, in a quote that’s now popular, “If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty. I am afraid to say, it is going to have to stay put.”
It might be a while before a concrete decision has been made about the ownership of the diamond. Until then, it’ll take you a ticket to London to appreciate this beauty, steeped in historical legends!
Source…..Neeti VijiayKumar in http://www.the better india .com