Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Raja Shamsher Prakash- The Reformer King of Nahan

1. Rajah Shamsher Prakash
Among the galaxy of the rulers of Sirmour, Raja Shamsher Prakash occupies the most prestigious place in the annals of the history among the erstwhile princely state of Himachal Pradesh. The calan of Rajputs of Sirmur were known to be the fierce warriors. Before becoming a protectorate of the British India they maintained their independence.

The erstwhile princely state of Sirmur was an independent kingdom founded in 1616. Presently it is located in the Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh. It is also called Nahan due to the capital town of same name. The state was ruled by the Rajput chiefs who used the title of Rajah. 

He was a pioneer of the most extensive administrative and social reforms. The historic town of Nahan is a living tribute to the memory of the great ruler. The state rapidly and remarkably progressed under Raja Sir Shamsher Parksh, G.C.S.I.
He built the roads, dispensaries, post and telegraph offices and carried out revenue and forest settlements. He abolishes the forced labor or Begar from the state.

Born in Nahan in May 1842, Raja Shamaher Prakash was the son of Raja Raghuvir Prakash. While only three months old, he showed and uncommon ability to keep himself amused with his thoughts. At the age of six his favorite toy was a sword. His education was anything more than reading and writing Urdu and Hindi with some grammar and arithmetic. His English tutor and spiritual guide were Pundit Krishan Lal Bahadur and Pundit Devi Chand respectively. 

Once Rajah Raghuvir Prakash was on a way to Dehradoon on a hunting trip, but the officials wanted him at Nahan. The King ordered for his favorite palanquin. The officials directed the Kahars or the carriers if they failed to reach Nahan by the evening they will be beheaded. This episode was taken to heart by the young prince. He read the history of the world and the lives of the great men influenced him. He replaced the illiterate officials with English educated men. 

Shamsher Prakesh ascended the throne in 1856. At that time he was only 40 years old. His policy was to Angalicise the administrarion. He extensively toured the country to acquaint himself with the finer parts of administration. He realized that the law was above the ruler and the best law to enforce was the British law. He ordered six law books in Urdu for use in his court. He proclaimed that the justice would be carried out strictly in accordance with the laws of the government and not as the King or the officials pleased. 

The process of organization of the State Department was pursued and codified- rules were framed and enforced and the records were maintained in English. Urdu knowing clerks were replaced by those knowing English. The Ijlas Khas was rechristened as Head Office and every branch was places under a secretary. 

The Rajah remained loyal to the British rulers during the mutiny of 1857 for which the title of Maharaja was bestowed to him. He sent the contingent of army reinforcement to the north-west frontier during the Second Indo- Afghan War.Under the command of his second son in 1897, Major Bir Bikram Singh, C.I.E., the troupe of Sirmour Sappers and Miners took part in Tirah expedition. 

With a view to improve the lot of his subjects and raise the state revenue, Shamsher Prakash conceived many projects and gave practical shape to them. The opening of Nahan Foundry was a landmark achievement. In 1860, while on a visit to Roorkee, Shamsher Prakesh had seen a foundary which inspired him to establish one in his own state. 

Raja Shamsher Prakesh was the first one to think of an iron workshop or to show interest in mechanics. He sent a blacksmith for training in Roorkee and after his return; a small iron foundry was established at Nahan in 1864. The foundry besides its numerous products is reputed for cane crushers. It has now been converted into a workshop of Public Works Department. 

In 1890, Raja Shamsher Prakesh purchased a tea garden at Cheerapani in Kumaon district, the first at Dehradoon and named as Enfield. 
The colonization at the Kiardadun, a dense forest tract was one of the biggest achievements. 
He also settled the land revenue of the state and the propriety rights were conferred on the Zamindars. 

The dense forests formed a major share in the revenue of the state. The idea of protecting and conserving the forest wealth struck the mind of the king when once several villages got washed away in the floods. It all happened when the railway department wrote to the king about the incident of floods and held him responsible for the loss of life and property. The company maintained that the unplanned and careless felling of trees on the banks of river Markanda led to the calamity. In response the King declared most of the forests as reserved land. 

This is the reason why Sirmour can boast of some of the most well managed forests of pine, deodar, oak and saal. The measures initiated by him included the management of forests as the state property by a special state officer who carefully surveyed reservation, imposition of ban on nomadic cultivation, forbidding the grazing of cattle and limiting timber cutting by several regulations.

With an area of 1198 square miles and annual revenue of more than 300,000 rupees in 1891, it was ranked as predominant state among the Punjab hill States.

2. Nahan Fort
Another significant development was the prison reforms. The government jail manuals were introduced. Mr. Balkrishan Das, who had acquired considerable experience at Delhi Central Jail was called to supervise, introduce and handle the jail reforms. He introduced govt. registers, farms and profitable labor in jails. The real reforma were introduced by Dr. Nicholson. He apprediated the efforts of Bal Krishan Das to reform the jails and allowed him to carry every change for the better. 
The telegraph service was introduced by Raja Shamsher in Sirmour in 1885 by giving annual contracts to the British Government. 

A district Board wad formed at Nahan in 1884. The Board abolished the system of Begar which was a great burden on poor cultivators. It also extended its control over the education department, hospitals, a part of the public works department and decided to open an agricultural farm. It passed a resolution for opening an arts school. The Rajah agreed to the recommendations of the Board and ordered the opening of the school under the supervision of F.R. Jones. 

Among the multifarious reforms, the education received special attention. He declared the opening of 500 primary schools in the state. But the people in the rural areas resisted the reforms. They were of the opinion that if the children took up education, the agriculture would suffer. However the King succeeded in opening of about 70 hill schools. 
He gave a secular character to his state. He was tolerant of all religions and allowed them to grow without any interference. Naming one of the Mosque at Nahan after Rajah Shamsher Prakesh bears the testimony to the great respect he enjoyed among the people of all faiths. 

One of the oldest Municipal Committees in India was constituted at Nahan during his rule in 1868. This marked the beginning of local self- government in the state.

By way of social reforms the Rajah prohibited the custom of Siyapa or the professional crying at the time of the death. The custom was prevalent even in well to do families and was a crude practice. 
The agricultural exhibitions and Dussehra celebrations were introduced in the state during his times.

Rahah Shamsher Prakesh was married to the daughter of the Rajah of Keonthal. The Queen was used to conduct judicious and administrative business in the state during his absence. On her death the Rahah abandoned the palace and shifted to Shamsher Villa- the ruins of which can still be seen. The Rajah built a famous garden called Ranital in the memory of the Queen.

After a long reign of 42 years, Rajah Shamsher Prakesh died on October 2, 1898.

1. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by NakulGautam
Image URL-http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/NahanStamp1800s.jpg

2. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Various artists.
Image URL- http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Nahan_fort.jpg/800px-Nahan_fort.jpg

Monday, 8 December 2014

Dr. Y.S. Parmar- The Founder of Himachal Pradesh

Affectionately called the creator of Himachal Pradesh, for his efforts to get proper shape and status for this hilly state, Dr. Yashwant Singh Parmar was a strange combination of rebellion and conformity of the tradition and modernity.  He nursed the state in its pernicious childhood and later helped it in its shaky adolescence to grow into maturity. Born in aristocracy he looked after Himachal like a truly democratic patriarch.

Dr. Parmar had been the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh from 1952 to 1956 and then again from 1963 to 1977.

He was not only an astute politician who avoided controversies, but also a scholar in his own right. The Himachal Pradesh University conferred the honorary degree of Doctorate of Law on him. He was already a Ph.D. in sociology. He had a habit of getting along with others which were the secret of his own success. He used to say that sociology enables a person to understand sympathetically and fully the present day social and economic conditions of the people in the context of their centuries-old history.
Dr. Y.S.Parmar standing behind the Indian Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi whois shaking hands with The Prime Minister of  Pakistan Sh. Zulfuiakhat Ali Bhutto, during the Shimla Accord or the Indo- Pake Accord in 1971.

Dr. Parnar was born on August 4, 1906, in Chhanhalag village in gram panchayat Lanabanka, the erstwhile princely state of Sirmour. His father Bhandari Shivanand Singh Parmar was an officer in the Sirmour state and was very close to the Maharaja. His great love for folklore and traditional food was inherited from his mother Luxmi Devi, who was an extremely lovable woman and an incarnation of affection, simplicity, and hospitality.

After his schooling at Shamsher High School Nahan, Dr. Parmar went to Lahore and joined the famous Foreman Christian College. After receiving his degree from Punjab University Lahore, he joined the Canning College Lucknow. He did M.A. in sociology and LLB from Lucknow University. In 1942, the same University conferred the Doctorate on him for his thesis on, the Social and Economic Background of Himalayan Polyandry.

After finishing his studies, Dr. Parmar joined the Sirmour State Services as a Magistrate 1st Class and later as a District and Session Judge from 1937 to 1940. This period also witnessed the development of sportsman, the social worker and the sociologist in Dr. Prarmar and he became the member of the Theosophical Society Dehra Dun in 1929, Secretary of Nahan Cricket Club in 1937-38 and the Executive Member of the Southern Punjab Cricket Association from 1938-40.
Three Chief Ministers dancing together, in the middle is Dr. Y.S. Parmar,
 while Thakur Ram Lal is on the left  and Raja Virbhadra Singh is on  the right

In 1941, Dr. Parmat resigned from the state services for political reasons and was exiled from the Sirmour State. On the one hand, the nation fighting its battle of freedom beckoned him, while on the other he had to devote his time for higher studies and research, besides earning the bread for his family.

He became an active member of Praja Mandal. Outside Sirmour he was in the forefront, while within the state he had to remain underground due to his exile, though equally active to enroll participants in the struggle for liberation. He was the Secretary of the Sirmour Association at Delhi from 1943 to 1946. He became the President of Himalayan State Regional Conference and the Member of Grouping and Amalgamation Committee of the Conference.

After the independence of India, Dr. Parmar concentrated towards the cause of freedom for the people living in the princely states. He successfully organized the Suket Satyagraha in 1948, which culminated in the formation of Himachal Pradesh on April 15, 1948, by the merger of 31 princely states, formerly known as the Punjab Hill States and the Shimla Hill States.

In 1948, Dr. Parmar was nominated the member of All India Congress Committee. He was also the member of the Advisory Council of the Chief Commissioners of Himachal Pradesh.

He was elected the member of the Constituent Assembly of India and some of the observations made by him during the debates on various articles of draft Constitution are quoted even today. He was also the member of Lok Sabha or the Upper House and led the Indian Parliamentary Delegation to Inter-Parliamentary Conference at Islamabad in 1951.

He was also the Secretary of the Gandhi National Memorial Fund of Himachal unit. During the first general elections, Dr. Parmar was returned to Himachal Legislative Assembly. In 1952, he became the first Chief Minister of the state. Again he won the Lok Sabha elections in 1957 and in 1963 he again became the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh.

He led a delegation to West Germany in connection with Indo-German Intensive Agricultural Programme and visited various hydroelectric generation plants particularly in Germany and Switzerland. He was again invited to Germany in 1965 for discussion in connection with the Intensive Agricultural Programme. In 1971, he visited USA, Canada, Japan, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia, Lebanon, and Greece.

Being Gandhian to the core, Dr. Parmat wore only the hand spun and hand woven Khadi.  He was a keen sportsman and enthusiastic horticulturist, a spirited orator and a noted writer.

 His publications are,
1. Himalayan Polyandry- Its social and economic background,
2. Himachal- Its Proper Shape and Status,
3. Himachal Pradesh- A case for Statehood, Himachal Pradesh- Area, Language and
4. Strategy for the Development of Hill Areas.

Among the politicians, Dr. Parmar has been very fortunate in as much as he had seen the fulfillment of what he dreamt. It was under his stewardship that Himachal achieved its proper status with the integration of Punjab Hill Areas in 1966. It was again under his Chief Minister-ship that Himachal became a full-fledged state on 25th January 1971.

Dr. Parmar was not only a personality but a complete history in which the mirror image of the future of Himachal Pradesh found its reflection. He was so honest that after vacating the office of Chief Minister his bank account had just 563 rupees or less than $10. He was very close to Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel etc. With the help of a walking stick, he used to carry his luggage on his back during the tours to distant and remote areas which contained important documents, gram, and gur or Jaggery. He never bothered about lunch or dinner. He dreamt to turn Himachal Pradesh as Switzerland of India.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Ranas of Pangi Valley

Chnadrabhagha river flowing through Pangi valley in Himachal Pradesh, India

The Pangi valley is located in the mid-Himalayas in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. The valley is not connected by road and is approachable through high altitude passes which open only for a short period of the year.

The general view about the inhabitants is that they are a clan of political offenders and condemned criminals sent by the Rajahs of the erstwhile states from time to time or the people moved there during the Muslim ascendancy.

There are two types of people in Pangi valley, the one with Aryan features and the other of Mangolian origin. The former comprise of Rajputs, Brahmins, Lohars, Chanal aand Hali etc. The Ranas and Thakurs dominate among the Rajput community. The surnames of the people are very confusing. In the same family some use the surname Sharma while others use Verma. The Mangolian race is a class of Bhots who at present are found to be living in the higher reaches of the valley and these places are known as Bhatories.

 Most of the Aryans owe their origin to the Bhadra and Padar, now in Jummu & Kashmir as the cultural affinity of both prove it. Even the village names are common e.g., Mahliyat and Killar villages exist in Pangi as well as in Bhadrawar in Jummu & Kashmir.  Some of the families use Negi as their surname and trace their origin to Zanskar and Ladakh.

The epigraphical records of fountain inscriptions provide sufficient evidence of historical presence of Pangi. The fountain slabs are dated both in Shastra or Saptrishi era and according to the reign of the ruling chief.

The fountain stone of Luj, dated in the first year of Raja Jasata supplies the first extract date of 1105 AD in the history of Chamba princely state and shows that it was a part of the state. The inscription on the fountan at Sahle is dated in 27th year of Lalit Verman, which corresponds to 1170 AD. This slab was erected by Raja Ludrapal whose descendants still live here. This slab mentions the name of Pangi as Pangali.

The fountain inscriptions are found near Paniharas or the public hydrants and show that Pangi was being ruled by the local Ranas and the Thakurs under the suzerainty of the Rajah of Chamba. These local petty chiefs enjoyed much autonomy. There are the instances of strife and disunity between the local rulers which was always exploited by the Rajah for extending their full authority on these small states.

At Sahli in Sechu Nullah, a Rana family ruled during the regime of Raja Lalit Verman (1141- 1170 AD) of Chamba. The last ruling Rana was Bhag Rana. He was a formidable Rans and the other Ranas were jealous of him. They made a plit with Raja of Chamba to kill him. Bhag Rana was an intimate friend of Sih, a Brahmin of Sach. Other Ranas bribed Sih to murder him. Bhag Rana was invited to dinner at Sih’s house. While he was taking dinner, the wife of Sih wounded the Rana with a daggar. Bhag Rana fled towards his house with the daggar still in his wound. He reached Hillov, where his wife met him. She gave him water and pulled the dagger out of the wound, but the Rana died and his state was annexed by the Raja of Chamba.

In Huden Nullah of Saga, there lived a brave Rana whose overbearing nature earned him several enemies. He used to remain fully armored but for a day in the year when he went to worship near Nagani Springs. Taking the advantage the Rana of Killar hid himself near the place and stabbed him. The family of Rana Saga is extinct but the family of Rana of Killar still lives in Mahliyat village.

Similarly the Rana of Istiyari exterminated the Rana family of Luj. Only one boy was left. But while hoarding the cattle along Luj River, the boy shot and arrow and killed the Rana of Istiyari.

Probably during the 10th and 11th century AD, the main Chandra- Bhaga valley as far as Tandi near the confluence of two rivers was included in the territory of Chamba state. Many tradtions of Chamba are still followed in the valley. The people of village Gus on the left bank say that they owned a copper plate deed called Sanad, granted by the Raja of Chamba, but it was taken away by the Rajah of Kullu. But rest of Lahaul seems to have been under the sway of the Rajah of Kullu from the early times. 

The annals of Kullu state that Lahaul was taken by the Raja Rudra Pal Verma of Chamba, but the region was recovered by Kullu in the following year. Though these records are legendary, yet they confirm that in earliet times Lahaul was under the rule of Kullu and Chamba.

Photo Credit- Nvvchar

Image URL- http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e7/Chandrabhaga_river_through_Pangi_valley.jpg/800px-Chandrabhaga_river_through_Pangi_valley.jpg