Tag Archives: History

The Golden Temple Saga – Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 2

Don’t be surprised for publishing the post a little earlier than usual. Also, this post is predominantly just about one place and it’s totally worth it.

A short recap from the last blog post to bring you up to the speed. Inspired by the below song, I convinced 4 of my friends to travel along with me all the way to Amritsar. On our 2nd day of the journey, we visited the most famous Attari – Wagha Border between India and Pakistan. And, it was one remarkable experience.

By now, you all might have guessed the place. It’s none other than the Sri Harmandir Sahib, famously known as the Amritsar Golden Temple. From the local sources, we got to know that the Gurdwara is less crowded during the early hours of the dawn. Kavinnila  (a.k.a Kavin) and I were super excited and planned to start as early as 4 am. On the other hand, Shashi, Remya and Shalini was super tired after a crazy day, so they decided to opt out for some more rest and join us later.

As planned, we started a little later than 4 am. As our hostel was just in walking distance from the Gurdwara, we didn’t have any trouble reaching there. It’s a hard rule that men and women who enter the temple must cover their head by wearing a scarf or a turban. On our way to the temple, there was a respectable old man who offered me a headscarf and even tied it on my head. Later, he DEMANDED DONATION for the same. It’s quite unfortunate that there are people capitalizing situation like these. If you are visiting the temple, kindly don’t entertain such people. There are tons of head scarfs placed in bins just outside the Gurudwara for free.

One could get easily awestruck by the glittering structure against the background of the dark sky. And, I am no exception. Just before the main entrance, there is a place where you can safely deposit your footwear for free. A continuous stream of water flowing through the entrance cleanses your foot before entering the temple premise. OMG, I have never been to such a peaceful and calm religious place. I felt the tranquility of the place subdue my usual excitement. And, quite short of words in precisely expressing that feeling. The main temple sits in the middle of Amrit Sarowar (Pool of Nectar), a holy tank where devotees take bathe. We went around the Parikrama (Pathway surrounding the tank) clicking some pictures before joining the queue leading to the sanctum. I am not even exaggerating, the devotees here are the most self-disciplined ones I have ever seen. Firstly, there are no separate queues except the one dedicated for elderly and physically challenged people. Irrespective of their caste, creed, gender, social and economic status, the rest of the folks share the same queue. In spite of thousands of devotees waiting in the line for hours, we didn’t find even a single person trying to push others or trying to get ahead or even speak loudly. Probably, we are the only uncouth ones in the crowd who are incapable of zipping their mouth. You would be amazed to see that there isn’t anyone except just an elderly guard near the entrance of the sanctum to control the crowd. All the time spent in the queue I enjoyed the devotional songs with marvelous deep voices played there. To my surprise, while entering the sanctum, I spotted a group of musicians performing live. That’s some incredible stamina and serious devotion performing continuously without any drop in their energies. A few moments passed entirely lost in the charm and resonating music of the place. Again, the blissful experience is hard to explain with words. It’s two storied structure with its walls & ceiling filled with pleasing decorative artworks. The devotees quietly find a spot for themselves to sit, read their holy text and meditate. Again, there is no one to control or manage them. Further, we reached the terrace just to get lost in the breathtaking view from there. We were offered Karah Prasad, a sweet made of whole wheat flour, Ghee (clarified butter) and sugar on our way out of the sanctum.

The following are a few awesome pics clicked by Kavin.

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Sri Harmandir Sahib, Golden Temple – This Beauty

The Karah Prasad didn’t completely solve our hunger problems, so we headed straight searching for the Langar Hall.

Langar is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. – Wikipedia

So, no one returns from a Gurdwara hungry. Might be the effect watching umpteen number of documentaries on the Golden Temple Langar, it became a dream to have a meal there, cos it’s no ordinary Langar. Following are the amazing facts that make it more special[Source].

  • It’s the world’s largest community kitchen.
  • On an average, 1,00,000 meals are served every day, absolutely free of cost.
  • More than 90% of the workforce involved in preparing and serving the Langar are volunteers.
  • On an average, The kitchen consumes around 1800 kgs of pulses, 5000 kgs of wheat flour, 1400 kgs of rice and 700 liters of milk daily.

Just at the entrance of the hall, the volunteers handed us a plate, a spoon, and a bowl. After waiting amongst 1000s of devotees, we were allowed into a large dining hall with carpets laid in parallel rows to sit down and eat. With not much difficulty, we found ourselves a spot amidst a large crowd. Then, they served us, Roti (flat bread), Daal (lentils), Sabzi (vegetables) and Kheer (dessert). OMG, the food was not only yummy but felt soulful and wholesome. Once done eating, we handed our plates and cutleries to another set of volunteers stationed at the exit of the hall. It’s quite amazing that the Langar is run entirely out of donation from the Sikh community across the globe. Their philanthropical mindset and natural willingness to serve people is highly commendable. I came out of the Gurudwara with both my soul and stomach filled. I am never a religious person, but the vibes this place gave me is beyond any typical place of devotion. It was a long dream come true for me and definitely, a moment to remember for the rest of the lifetime. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

A few meters walk from the Golden Temple took us to yet another significant landmark, not only in Amritsar but also in India’s struggle for independence. It’s Jallianwala Bagh where the sorrowful Amritsar massacre took place. On 13th April 1919, Reginald Dyer a British army Colonel ordered open fire at unarmed innocent civilians who gathered to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi which resulted in the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Around 1000 died and 1500 injured in this Mishap. One could still see the bullet marks on the wall and the Martyrs’ Well where many jumped to save themselves from the shooting. The place also houses a small museum to provide more detailed info on the incident. This place reminded me of the sacrifice made by many that lead us to the path of freedom that we enjoy today.

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The Memorial

It was already past 1 pm when we got united with the rest of the gang after visiting the Jallianwala Bagh. We all were hungry by that time and unanimously decided to have lunch at a nearby Dhaba. There is no way we would miss the famous Amritsari Kulcha while being in Amritsar. The Dhaba served a yummy Kulcha with some Chickpea Curry and a sour chutney which I loved. From there we reached our hostel, freshened up, packed our bags and headed straight to the railway station to catch Amritsar – New Delhi Shatabdi Express that’s destined for Delhi.

Wait, the day didn’t end here. A couple of interesting things did happen. The first one was a sheer coincidence. We again shared the compartment with the same family that traveled with us from Delhi to Amritsar. The next one was a pleasant surprise. A Postcrossing friend Mr.Piyush came all the way to Ludhiana railway station to handover me some awesome postcards when our train halted there. The best part was, my phone was in silent mode and didn’t hear the ring when he called. The train just started moving when I returned his call. As the train was already in motion, he came running and handed me the envelope. That’s an extraordinary gesture to show towards a person whom he oddly knows. Thanks, Piyush. It means a lot to me.

Phew, That’s how yet another incredible day came to an end.

The next day had some serious twist and turns for us. But you got to wait until the next blog post in the series.

To Be Continued …

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4 The People

Yaay, it’s the last day of the month, my conventional blog publishing day. There is always something special about the month ends. Those are the days I deliver something concrete in spite of my thoughts drained as much as my pockets. Time to time, I use my blog to pour out my frustrations. Maybe, it’s cos I feel doing so in social media is kinda cliche.

“4 The People” was a Malayalam movie that was released when I was in my 10th grade. The same was released in Tamil as “4 Students” too. The song from the movies used to be my favs especially Lajavathiye and Unthan Vizhimunai. Most days pass by tuning into the morning radio show waiting to listen to these songs along with my other Rahman favs. That’s quite nostalgic. But, this only hit me after I started writing this blog post. So, this post is definitely not about this movie. If you are as nostalgic as me, you can listen to the songs below.

If you are from a middle-class family like mine, there is a high probability that you would die without meeting that “Naalu Peru” (4 /*the*/ People) who influenced your life more than anyone else in the universe. They are dedicated and care for you so much that their long nose is poked into your life forever. Fortunately, my parents didn’t impose much the choices of that “Naalu Peru” on me, until lately.

For most of my life, I was brought up as a freethinker. Even though I had a lot of thought differences with my parents, we always discussed and debated openly on those. Predominantly I was left to my own choices. As soon as my marriage got fixed, things gradually began to shift. I could see my preferences been overridden with what considered to be the preference of that “Nallu Peru” without any logical reasons that I could comprehend. All of a sudden, from the color of my clothes and my beard to the way I talk required the social approval of those “Naalu Peru”. Eventually, there were instances where I saw my self-respect vanishing into thin air. What really pisses me off is, when I shake my head for whatever crap you say for the same of courtesy, I am one good obedient guy. But, when you push me beyond my threshold with your stupid pieces of advice and make me counter it with questions that make sense, you bloody question my upbringing. “Pullaiya romba arpurdhama valathurukka ma nee” (Sarcastically commenting, you have awesomely raised your kid )  moment only.

Probably, These are the questions that I would definitely ask when I face those “Naalu Peru”.

  • What’s your problem?
  • Where were you when we had problems?
  • How are you this good at finding faults?
  • We have a dedicated job in our company called Quality Analyst, who’s only job is to find faults, would you be interested in joining full time? Why do it for free when you are good at something?

If you are one of that 4 people, kindly pay attention. I don’t want to live 4 the people, but to live 4 my people. To live 4 me and my loved ones. So, get lost. Peace.

P.S: Really sorry for the frustration overflow, I really needed to vent it out of my garbage collection.

Connemara Public Library – More Than Just a Library

I wanted to write a post on any significant place in Chennai for this Madras Week, so after narrowing down some options I decided to write about a place which has been quenching down the knowledge thirst of many for more than a century. Its Connemara Public Library which is one of my most favorite places in Chennai. This library is one of the earliest libraries established in India by the British and got so much historical significance in it. Some of the prominent persons like Anna, Rajagopalachari, R Venkatraman, C SubramaniamSandilyan, SujathaK. A. Nilakanta Sastri etc., have been active members of this library and spent more time here. S. R. Ranganathan who is known as father of Library Science worked in this library for 2 decades as a librarian.

For many who doesn’t know where the library is, Its is located in Egmore Pantheon Road, in the Govt Museum campus.

History is very important (Varalaru miga mukkiyam amaicharey), so some history about the library.

Once upon a time (in 1860) There was a college named Haileybury College in Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire, Britain where the civil servants of the Indian Civil Servants where trained and they had hundreds of surplus books in their library, without knowing what to do with it they sent them all to the Madras Government, which in turn handed them over to the Madras Museum. Captain Jean Mitchell who was superintendent of the Madras Museum at that time decided to set up a small library as part of the Museum with the books they have received, as there used to be a famous library named British Museum Library as part of London Museum. Nothing changed until 1890 when Governor of Madras Presidency Lord Connemara realized the need for a public library. He laid the foundation stone on 22nd March 1890 for a new public library inside the same museum campus. After the construction was over the library was officially inaugurated and opened to public in 1896 and it was named “Connemara Public Library” after the man behind the vision Lord Connemara. It was designed by H.Irvin who was consulting Architect to the Government of Madras, and reflects the architectural unity demonstrating the various stages of Indo-Saracenic development, from Gothic-neo-Byzantine to Rajput Mughal and Southern Hindu Deccani.

Old Library Building With Museum Theatre , Image Source : Internet

Old Library Building With Museum Theatre , Image Source : Internet

In 1950 the Connemara Library became the State Central Library with the enactment of Madras Public Libraries Act 1948, which was the first concerted effort in India to institutionalize, structure, otherwise, coordinate and organize public library services. With enactment of Delivery of Books and Newspaper Act 1956 a copy of any book or newspaper or magazine published in India should be sent to this library. In 1981 Govt Of India ordered the library to be one of the four National Depository Libraries. In 1973 new library building was built in 55,000 Sq-ft area was built to accommodate new books and increasing readers to the library. In 1998 a  new 12,000 Sq-ft 3 storied centenary building was added to the library, and in the same year Govt Of India released a commemorative stamp of the library. That’s all the history I could get.

Commemorative Stamp

Commemorative Stamp

Initially there were around 40,000 books when the library was started, but today the library houses more than 7,22,000 books and more than 2.00,000 old periodicals collection in its 3 buildings and it also receives 3500 periodicals and 160 newspapers. It contains more than 10000 Tamizh books which is the largest collection of Tamizh books in a place. Some books here are very old and rare ones, the oldest book in the library is “Omnes Quae Extant” by D. Hieronymi Strido which was published in the year 1553. The oldest tamilzh book is “ஞானமுறமைகளின் விளக்கம்” (Nyanamuramaigalin Vilakkam) which was published in 1781. An atlas 2 ft wide and 2.5 ft long which contains maps of India and Srilanka and was specially printed for Queen Victoria is the largest book in the library.

The Library has Text Book section, Reference section, Language section, Periodicals section, Microfilm section, Book Preservation section etc.. The digitization section of the library does a great job by  scanning and electronically storing old, rare books and documents which are preserved for posterity.  It also has a Civil Service Study circle which is a great boon to those who prepare for civil service exams. It got a huge collection of competitive exam books and digitized versions of old newspapers and periodicals which are very useful for the civil service aspirants. The library is completely computerized one, It has an Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) which helps the readers to search for books, its availability and its location inside the library. It also enables the members to renew and reserve books online.

New 3 Stories Centenary Building

New 3 Stories Centenary Building

Anyone who is 17 or above can visit the library and refer to books but to lend books from the library one has become a member. Any resident of Chennai who is 17 or above can become a member of the library. All you have to do is fill in the Membership Application Form and submit it in the library with a photocopy of your address proof. Annual membership of the library is Rs 50, but initially one have to pay a refundable security deposit depending upon the number of books he would like to lend simultaneously, its Rs 100 for 2 books or Rs 200 for 4 books or Rs 300 for 6 books.

The library serves the public daily from 9.00A.M. To 7.30P.M. On weekdays and from 9.30A.M. To 6.00P.M. On Sundays without any break. The library is closed on three National holidays and selected festival holidays a year. I.e. Pongal, Tamil New Year, Pooja Holidays, Deepavali and Christmas.

I first started going to the library in early 2006 and became a member in 2007. I mostly go there to get books for me and my mom, but I also like to sit in the library and read for hours in silence among other readers. Whenever I go to the library its very very rare for me to return without having Bread Omelette in the sandwich shops just outside the Alsa Mall which is near the library, It had almost become something like a tradition to me.

I would like to end with a small note to fellow readers. Please never misplace books, keep back the books in the same place where you took them from, When books are misplaced its difficult for other readers to find them. If you are issued a book which is a bit torn or damaged or got pages coming out of it, don’t just return it in the same or worse condition, do stick the pages with some glue or tape before start reading so that you could avoid some damage to the books.

Sources of Info :