Tag Archives: Mahatma Gandhi

Netaji Trail: The Bose particle


On the 120th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY undertake a transcontinental journey in the footsteps of one of India’s most daring freedom fighters


He travelled from Calcutta to Peshawar as an insurance agent called Mohammed Ziauddin. As Khan Mohammed Ziauddin Khan, a mute tribal Pathan, he travelled on foot and by mule to Kabul. In the guise of a radio telegraphist and an Italian count Orlando Mazzotta, he reached Germany, met Hitler and eventually took a submarine halfway around the world to Japan to raise an army in the hope of liberating India from the yoke of British rule. There are many heroes who fought for India’s independence, but few as enigmatic as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. We retrace his incredible journey from Kolkata to Kabul, Berlin to Burma and across the Far East – Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan and North East India to the Andaman & Nicobar Islands…

As a young radical returning from Cambridge to Calcutta, Bose quit the Indian Civil Service in 1921 and rose to the post of president of the Indian National Congress by 1938. In 1939, he showed up on a stretcher and despite being unwell, defeated Mahatma Gandhi’s candidate Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Differences with Gandhiji on his revolutionary ideals led to Bose being ousted from the Congress. After a hunger strike led to his release from prison, he was put under house arrest by the British.


With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Bose saw it as an opportune moment to wrest freedom from the British. Indian support to the colonial cause during World War I in the hope of getting independence had yielded nothing, except Jallianwala Bagh and the Rowlatt Act. The time had come for more direct action and Bose could go to any length to see India free – even shake hands with the devil if he had to. He believed in the maxim, ‘An enemy of an enemy is a friend of mine’ and sought help of the Axis powers Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to oust the British.

Accompanied by his nephew Sisir, Bose escaped British surveillance on 19 January 1941 in a car that is now on display at his home in Kolkata’s Lala Lajpat Rai Sarani. Run as a memorial and research center, Netaji Bhavan also houses relics of Bose’s footprints. He crossed the Indian subcontinent from east to west, reaching Peshawar and Kabul. British presence in the area made him travel under disguise as he finally reached Germany on April 1941, where the leadership seemed sympathetic to the cause of India’s independence. In November 1941, with German funds, a Free India Centre was set up in Berlin, and soon Bose was broadcasting every night on Free India Radio.


A 3,000-strong Free India Legion, comprising Indians captured by Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps, was formed to aid in a possible future German land offensive of India. Few know that the title ‘Netaji’ was given to Bose in Germany by Indian soldiers of the Indische Legion in 1942. The title was used by the German and Indian officials in the Special Bureau for India in Berlin, before it gained popularity in India. Meanwhile, the Japanese occupied Singapore and by January 1942, Rangoon was the next to fall. On 23 March 1942, Japanese troops landed in Port Blair and captured it without firing a single shot. By spring, changing German priorities and Japanese victories in the Far East made Bose think of moving to southeast Asia. Bose met Hitler only once in late May 1942 and the Fuhrer arranged for Bose to be transported by submarine.

On 8 February 1943, Netaji boarded the German submarine U-180 from Kiel and travelled around the Cape of Good Hope to the southeast of Madagascar, where he was transferred to the Japanese submarine I-29. This was the only civilian transfer between two submarines of two different navies during World War II. Bose finally disembarked at Sabang in Japanese-held Sumatra in May 1943. If the term ‘Netaji’ was coined in Germany, equally surprising is the fact that the Indian National Army (INA) was the brainchild of Japan! Japanese major and chief of intelligence Iwaichi Fujiwara met Pritam Singh Dhillon, president of the Bangkok chapter of the Indian Independence League, and recruited Mohan Singh, a captured British Indian army captain to raise an army that would fight alongside the Japanese.


It had the blessings of Rash Behari Bose, head of the Indian Independence League. The first army was formed in December 1941 and the name INA was mutually chosen in January 1942. In February, from a total of 40,000 Indian personnel in Singapore, about 30,000 joined the INA, of which nearly 7,000 later fought Allied forces in the Burma Campaign and at Kohima and Imphal.

However, disagreements led to the first INA being disbanded by December 1942. Mohan Singh believed that the Japanese High Command was using the INA as a pawn and propaganda tool. He was taken into custody and the troops returned to the prisoner-of-war camp. However, with the arrival of Subhas Chandra Bose in 1943, the idea of an independence army was revived. In May, Bose travelled via Penang and Saigon to Tokyo, where he attended the Diet, met reporters and gave speeches addressing overseas Indians that were broadcast on Tokyo Radio. By July, Bose was in Singapore and it was with equal excitement that we arrived there on the INA trail.


As we drove past Dhobie Ghaut, the guide pointed out Cathay Cinema (earlier, the Greater East Asia Theatre), where the India Independence League’s Assembly of Representatives met on a drizzly morning of 4th July. To a resounding applause, Rash Behari Bose handed over the reins of the organization to Subhas Chandra Bose. Over the next few days, soldiers of the INA lined up in the padang (ground) opposite the Singapore Municipal Office for inspection and new recruits eagerly joined the ranks.

With Japanese support, Bose revamped the Indian National Army (INA), composed of Indian soldiers of the British Indian army captured in the Battle of Singapore. Bose received massive support among the expatriate Indian population in south-east Asia as many Indian civilians from Malaya and Singapore enlisted. Those who could not, made financial contributions. The INA also had a separate women’s unit – the first of its kind in Asia. The Rani of Jhansi Regiment was headed by Capt. Lakshmi Swaminathan, a doctor from Chennai.


The India Heritage Centre in Little India has a small section dedicated to the Indian freedom movement. A bust of Subhash Chandra Bose stands in front of a wallpaper made of INA postage stamps. The INA troops were under the aegis of the Provisional Government of Free India (Azad Hind) formed in October 1943, which had its own currency, postage stamps, court and civil code, and was recognized by nine Axis states. An INA uniform was on display while letters, cheque donations and photographs lined the wall. A magazine cover showed Captain Lakshmi in military attire.

The Provisional Government, presided by Supreme commander Bose, was formed in the Japanese-occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands. On 30th December 1943 Netaji hoisted the Indian tricolor in British-free Indian territory for the first time at Ross Island. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands were renamed Shaheed Dweep (Martyr Island) and Swaraj Dweep (Self-Rule Island). As head of the government, Bose stayed in the British High commissioner’s house and a memorial commemorating his visit was erected near present day Netaji stadium in Port Blair.

Cellular Jail Andamans_Anurag Mallick DSC06564

We followed the Bose trail past World War II bunkers dotting the island to Cellular Jail. When Netaji visited the infamous prison, he was welcomed by Admiral Ishikawa, who deliberately kept him away from incarcerated Indians and stories of Japanese torture. Like Singapore, the three year Japanese occupation of the Andamans was a dark chapter in history with innocent islanders tortured mercilessly on charges of espionage, often executed or imprisoned. Like the Changi prison, the Cellular Jail too bears testimony to the bravery of those fighting for freedom.

In early 1944, the INA marched through Kohima Pass and the national flag was hoisted in the Indian mainland for the first time at Moirang in Manipur on April 6, 1944. Kohima was strategically located on the lone road connecting the British supply depot at Dimapur (40 miles northwest) to Imphal (80 miles south). As part of Japan’s Operation U-Go, three columns aimed to cut off the Kohima–Imphal Road and surround Kohima. Between April and June 1944, Kohima witnessed the bloodiest and grittiest fighting seen in World War II.


The Battle for Kohima was fought in two phases: the 13-day siege from 4 April and clearing Japanese forces from mid-April to 22 June to reopen the Kohima–Imphal road. Both sides suffered high casualties. Grenades were lobbed at point blank range across the tennis court in ‘unending snowball fights’ as soldiers dug holes to burrow or tunnel forward using plates, mugs, bayonets or anything they could lay their hands on. The carefully tended tombstones in the grassy clearing with pretty flower beds seemed a far cry from the bloodbath of WWII. The original Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) Bungalow was destroyed in the fighting and the historic tennis court could be distinguished only by the white concrete lines denoting the boundaries.

The 161st Indian Infantry Brigade’s stand at Kohima blunted the Japanese attack. With the opening of the Dimapur-Kohima road, the 2nd Division and troops from XXXIII Corps supported the counterattack in early May. General Sato, Commander of the 31st Division, ordered Japanese withdrawal, signaling the biggest Japanese defeat in history. British and Indian troops from Kohima and Imphal met at Milestone 110 on 22 June, formally ending the siege.


The fierce hand-to-hand combat in the Battle of Kohima was a defining moment in the Burma Campaign and halted Japan’s foray into India. Near the entrance of Kohima War Memorial, the Kohima Epitaph bears the immortal words: “When you go home, tell them of us and say; For your tomorrow, we gave our today”.

Despite the reverses on the battlefield, Bose travelled across Penang, Rangoon and Saigon, mobilizing support among Indian expatriates to fight the British Raj. He had great drive and charisma and he coined popular Indian slogans such as ‘Jai Hind’, ‘Chalo Dilli’ and ‘Give me blood and I shall give you freedom’, which he said in a motivational speech at a rally in Burma on 4 July 1944.


By 1945, almost half the Japanese forces and the INA contingent were killed. A vast number of INA troops were captured, defected or fell into British hands during the Burma campaign by March end. By the time Rangoon fell in May 1945, the INA was driven down the Malay Peninsula and disintegrated although some activities continued until Singapore was recaptured by the British. On 8 July, in Singapore’s Esplanade Park, Bose laid the foundation stone for a hastily-built memorial dedicated to the unknown fallen soldiers of the Indian National Army. On it were inscribed the proud motto of the INA – Etihaad (Unity), Etmad (Faith), Kurbani (Sacrifice).

Instead of surrendering with his forces or with the Japanese, Bose chose to escape to Manchuria in the Soviet Union, which he felt was turning anti-British. Taking off from Taihoku airport at Formosa in Taiwan, his overloaded plane crashed and he died from third degree burns in a military hospital nearby on 18 August, 1945. However, Bose was known for his miraculous escapes and dramatic appearances in the past. From eluding house arrest in Calcutta and his escape to Afghanistan and Europe under various aliases to his submarine journey from Germany to Singapore; his past exploits fuelled the myth of his future return.


To the Japanese, he was no less than an Indian samurai. Some believed he had become a sanyasi (holy man) called Gumnami Baba. According to various stories, he was seen as a recluse in the Naga hills or on an abandoned island, was a member of a Mongolian trade delegation in Peking, was hibernating in Russia or in a gulag (prison) and was spotted in the Chinese Army. Most believed he was preparing for his final march on Delhi and would reveal himself when the time was right. There were several Bose sightings, one even claiming he met Bose “in a third-class compartment of the Bombay Express on a Thursday.”

Though INA’s military achievements were limited and the British Raj was never seriously threatened by it, the psychological impact was immense. Indian troops fought on both sides at the Battle for Kohima –Jats, Rajputs, Sikhs, Marathas and Gurkhas under the Allied forces versus soldiers of Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj. Had the eastern offensive through Burma and North East by Japan been coordinated with the German advance through Egypt, Iran and Iraq, a war on two frontiers would have stretched the British forces. A Japanese-INA victory and unfurling of the Indian flag could have prompted the Indian sepoy to switch loyalties. Even in defeat, the INA managed to ignite a revolt within the British Indian army.


Several former personnel of the British Indian Army, captured fighting in INA ranks or working in support of the INA’s subversive activities, were court-martialed. The British charged 300 INA officers with treason and the first joint trial of Shah Nawaz Khan, Prem Sahgal and Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon took place at Red Fort in Delhi. All three were sentenced to deportation for life. The INA trials led to huge public outcry and became a rallying point. It was the last major campaign where the Congress and the Muslim League aligned together. Immense public pressure, widespread opposition and demonstrations eventually led to the release of all three defendants. Besides the protests of non-cooperation and non-violence, there was a spate of mutinies as support within the British Indian Army wavered. During the trials, mutiny broke out across the Royal Indian Navy from Karachi to Bombay and Vizag to Calcutta. In Madras and Pune, British garrisons faced revolts within the ranks of the British Indian Army as NCOs started ignoring orders from British superiors. Another mutiny took place at Jabalpur during the last week of February 1946.

There were several factors that guided British prime minister Clement Attlee to relinquish the Raj in India, but the most important reason was the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the Indian Army – the very foundation of the British Empire in India. The RIN Mutiny made the British realize that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the Raj. When Singapore was recaptured in 1945, Lord Mountbatten, Head of Southeast Asia Command, ordered the INA War Memorial to be blown to bits. It was partly an act of vengeance for the pain the allies suffered in Imphal and Burma as well as an attempt to stamp out proof of INA’s existence. After the war, fearing mass revolts and uprisings across its empire, the British Government forbade the BBC from broadcasting the epic tale of the INA. In 1995, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, the National Heritage Board of Singapore marked the spot of the original INA memorial as one of the eleven World War II historic site markers.


As we walked down Esplanade Park in Singapore, we struggled to find vestiges of the INA Memorial. The Cenotaph of the British Indian Army stood tall in honour of ‘Our Glorious Dead’ of the two World Wars. Further down, a Chinese memorial commemorated Singapore war hero and resistance fighter Lim Bo Seng. Yet, there was no sign of INA – just a few stone slabs with peepholes. Often relegated as a footnote in history and denied the importance in the story of India’s freedom movement, was a memorial too much to ask? A local passing by noticed our perplexed look and kindly explained, “There was a signboard, but they’ve recently removed it for renovation.” We breathed a sigh of relief. Mountbatten may have demolished the original memorial, but the spirit of Bose and the INA live on…

Back home in India, the stories surrounding Netaji had always been shadowed by mystery and controversy for decades. Imagine, it was only on 14th October 2015 that the Government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that it would declassify the famous ‘Netaji Papers’. Two months later, the whole country watched the broadcast of the event when the first lot of 33 declassified files were handed over by the PMO’s office to the National Archives of India. It was an emotional moment for several members of Netaji’s family and his admirers as the gesture promised to fill the many gaps and loopholes in tracing the legacy of Subhas Chandra Bose. Subsequently, 150 declassified files of the 250 files are now in public domain. Time and again, Netaji has reminded us how he would remain a statesman the world cannot ignore or bury in the dusty pages of history.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the special issue on Bose in the international biannual journal Re:Markings. 



Madurai: Oracular Spectacular


ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY visit Madurai to see the temple town’s round-the-clock machinery of piety and commerce


At 4am, a metal gate creaks open and a woman washes the entrance to her home, swiftly drawing an intricate kollam (floral design). A vendor unloads baskets of fresh malli poo (jasmine), soon to be threaded into elaborate garlands for temple rituals, weddings or hair ornaments. In another street, the telltale aroma of sambar and freshly brewed coffee signals breakfast as trays of steaming idlis are deftly removed. Elsewhere, the unstoppable clatter of looms working through the night has produced reams of Sungundi saris. Madurai may be no New York but it certainly is Thoonga Nagaram, the city that never sleeps.

In mythology, Madurai was once Kadambavanam, the forest where Lord Indra atoned for the sin of slaying the pious demon Virudran (Vritra). Unable to complete his ritual with the right number of flowers, Indra prayed fervently beside a lake where a golden lotus magically bloomed. The famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple symbolizes this legend. The lingam is supposedly the one that Indra prayed to and the Potramarai (Golden Lotus) tank is the sacred lake. The golden spire over the sanctum sanctorum is called Indra Vimanam and Ashta Airavat (eight forms of Indra’s famous mount) guard Shiva’s shrine. On Chaitra Purnima, Indra allegedly visits the temple to perform puja.


It is said that when the city was being founded, Lord Shiva appeared and danced with joy, drizzling nectar (madhuram) from his matted locks as blessing. Hence the town was named Madurai. Under the Pandyas and Madurai Nayakas, Madurai flourished as a cultural capital, hosting the last Tamil Sangam, a literary conclave that produced the Tamil epic Silappathikaaram. When Greek envoy Megasthenes visited India in 3rd Century BC, he hailed Madurai as Athens of the East.

Temple of the Fish-eyed Goddess

While walking the busy streets of Tamil Nadu’s third largest city, it’s hard to discern that Madurai radiates around the iconic temple in concentric rectangles that symbolize the cosmos. Streets bear names of Tamil months – Adi, Chitare, Avani Mula, Masi and Veli. And wherever you may be, the rainbow-hued temple towers soaring 150ft skywards draw you in. As we entered the 16-acre complex, it was like breaching a portal to some Spiritual Wonderland – musical pillars, gilded domes, divine sculptures, devotees heaping ash over the Ganesha idol of Vibhuthi Pullaiyar, scenes portraying Shiva’s Thiruvilayadal (64 miracles) and murals depicting his marriage to Meenakshi.


Customarily, we worshipped the bejeweled emerald deity of Goddess Meenakshi first before Lord Sundareshwarar. ‘That’s why in Madurai, women are superior to males, unlike Tanjore’, joked our guide. ‘In the days of Sangam literature, poets and pundits would consecrate their works to the temple by throwing their manuscripts into the Pottramarai tank. If they sank, they weren’t considered good enough, if they floated, they had passed muster.’ The 2-hr tour ended at the Temple Art Museum inside the 1000-pillared Ayiramkal Mandapam, which incidentally has only 984!

Thirumalai Nayaka’s legacy

From the third longest temple corridor in Tamil Nadu, we found ourselves at one of South India’s largest man-made temple tanks. The 1100ft by 950ft Mariamman Theppakulam was excavated by King Thirumalai Nayaka to make bricks for the construction of his palace and later converted into a stepped tank fed by the Vaigai River through underground channels. As part of his birthday celebrations, the king initiated the Float Festival in 17th century where Madurai’s presiding deities were given a ride on a decorated theppa (raft) around the kulam (tank).


Built in 1636, the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace was sadly only a fourth of its original size, demolished by the king’s grandson Chokkanatha Nayaka who transplanted some portions to his new capital Trichy. The Swargavilasa or Celestial Pavilion was the only surviving relic. A massive open courtyard seemed to frame the sky as 13m high pillars lined the Indo-Saracenic building. The ceiling was rendered with floral designs like flying carpets hovering above. A golden throne marked the Durbar Hall while the adjoining hall Nataka Sala was where the king was entertained.

Opposite the palace, shops sold Madurai’s famous signature drink Jigar Thanda (Soul Coolant), a curious blend of chilled reduced milk, badam milk, nannari sherbet (sarsaparilla extract), kalpasi (China grass), sago, Boost (malt-based chocolate drink) and ice cream. A regular patron explained it was perfect for Madurai’s hot climate.

After a brief stop at St. Mary’s Cathedral, one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in the region, we crossed the dry Vaigai River to reach the Gandhi Memorial Museum, one of the seven museums in the country dedicated to the Mahatma. It was during his second visit to Madurai in 1921, that Gandhiji adopted his trademark loincloth to express his compassion towards the ill-clad peasants in the countryside. His 1934 visit spurred the ‘Temple Entry Movement’ for harijans (considered untouchables). Only after Vaidyanath Iyer opened the doors of the Madurai temple to all in 1939, did Gandhiji step inside the shrine in 1946!


Set in the beautiful Tamukkum Summer Palace of Nayaka queen Rani Mangammal, the museum showcased Gandhiji’s life through rare images, quotes, murals and letters. The Hall of Relics and Replicas contained 14 original artefacts used by Mahatma Gandhi including a shawl, spectacles, yarn and the bloodstained cloth worn by him when he was assassinated.

Beyond Madurai

Madurai was also home to two of the six Aru Padai Veedu or Sacred Abodes of Lord Murugan. We climbed the hilly cave shrine of Subramanya Swamy at Tirupparankundram to the chants of “Vetrivel Muruganukku Arohara” (Hail to the Lance-wielding Lord). Women hurled butterballs to cool down the fierce image of Kali while others fed fish in the 11 teerthams (ponds). An hour’s drive away was Pazhamudhir Cholai, where Lord Subramanya had tested the wits of saint Avayya as a young boy. At the foothills stood the Azhagar Kovil temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu as Sundarajar or Azhagar, the brother of Meenakshi who solemnized her marriage to Lord Shiva.


What made all the hectic sightseeing worthwhile was returning to a 17-acre oasis called Heritage Madurai. Once a club for British managers of Madura Coats and today a heritage hotel, a small Chettinad village has been recreated in its old drive-in theatre where garland making, pottery and weaving were taught to guests. But we were off for the real deal. Chettinad was just 80km away and within a few hours we were rolling through a dusty stark landscape into a fantasy world of 100-room mansions and Chettinad cuisine.

From Aayiram Jaanal veedu or House of 1000 Windows in Karaikudi to MAM Ramaswamy’s Chettinad Palace in the heritage village of Kanadukathan, each building was a masterpiece. From the Art Deco style of Visalam, the Bangala’s colonial touch, the French minimalism of Saratha Vilas to the opulence of Chidambara Vilas near Tirumayam Fort; staying in these heritage hotels was the best way to experience true Chettiar hospitality.

Blending Burmese Teak, Italian Marble, Belgian chandeliers, English crockery and Japanese ceramic tiles with an Indian ethos, the enterprising Natukottai Chettiars had transformed a landlocked region into something unparalleled. Here, caretakers proudly showed off meter long keys and served cuisine livened up by rabbit chukka, sura puttu (shark mince) and kaada (quail) fry while Hindu deities, Victorian ladies and British soldiers stared down from the walls.


Back at Madurai, the lofty spires of the city’s temples broke the monotony of the flat landscape from our perch at Taj Gateway atop Pasumalai Hill. Madurai’s strategic position in the Tamil heartland made it an excellent gateway for more journeys. The road continued from Chettinad to Trichy via the cave shrines of Narthamalai and Sittanavasal with exquisite frescos. The locksmith town of Dindigul, Haider Ali’s stronghold famous for its historic fort and delicious biryani, the picturesque Kamarajar Valley and the misty cool climes of Kodaikanal, a colonial escape from the heat and dust of Madurai lured visitors north. Meanwhile in the golden light of dusk, temple bells rang out, muezzins called and the city continued its round-the-clock shift as we surrendered ourselves to its old-world charm.


At a Glance
Easily the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu, Madurai is a temple town of palaces and museums. Located on the banks of the Vaigai and dotted with shops, eateries and shrines, it is centered around the Meenakshi Sundareshwarar Temple. Bearing imprints of the Cholas, Pandyas, Telugu Nayakas, Nawabs of Arcot and the British, it is at its colourful best during festivals when temple prakaarams (outer precincts) and wide streets come alive with processions. Summers can be sweltering, so time your visit accordingly.


Things to Do

Sound & Light Show – The quadrangle of the Thirumala Nayaka Palace in Madurai serves as a seating area for the daily Sound and Light show narrating the glorious saga of the palace. Timings: 6:45pm-7:35pm Entry: Rs.50 Adults, Rs.25 Child (5-12yr)

Athangudi tile manufacture – Visit a local tile factory in the small village of Athangudi to watch artisans hand cast tiles using local sand, gravel, cement and some paint. The typical poo kallu or floral stones come in dark earthy hues with geometric, floral designs.

When to Go
Madurai is good to visit between September and March, when temperatures are cooler. During the Chithirai festival in Apr-May, witness Thiru Kalyanam or the grand reenactment of Meenakshi’s marriage to Lord Sundareswar when Lord Vishnu, her brother, is taken in a procession from Azhagar Kovil on a golden horse chariot to attend the rituals.


Getting there
By Air: Madurai Airport, 12km south of the city, is connected by daily flights to Chennai and Bangalore though the nearest international airport is Trichy (134km northeast), a 2.5hr drive on NH-45B.
By Road: NH-7 connects Madurai to Tirunelveli (154km south, 2hr 40m) and Kanyakumari (245km, 4hrs), NH-45B connects it to Thoothukudi (142km southeast, 2.5hrs) and NH-49 to Munnar (156km west, 3 hrs). Karaikudi is 80km east on NH-210.

Getting Around
The Vaigai River diagonally cuts across Madurai and runs parallel to NH-85. Being a large congested city, Madurai has several bus stands. Arapalayam (4km north of railway station) on Puttuthoppu Road has north and westbound buses to Theni, Salem, Dindigul and Kodaikanal. The new Madurai Integrated Bus Terminus (MIBT) at Mattu Thavani (t0452 4219938) on Kurivikaran Road connects destinations to the north and east. Periyar Bus Stand (200m from railway station) has buses for the airport and Alagarkoil whereas Palanganatham has southbound buses for Tirunelveli, Nagercoil and Kanyakumari. It’s best to engage an auto rickshaw or a cab to cover local sights. Thirumalai Nayaka Palace and St Mary’s Cathedral are 1.5km south-east of the temple and Teppakulam 4km away on NH-49. Gandhi Memorial and the Government Museum are north of the Vaigai on Alagar Kovil Road en-route to Pazhamudircholai. Thirupparankundram is 8km south-west on Thirumangalam road.


For classic South Indian vegetarian fare, eat at Meenakshi Bhavan (t0452 4391588) on Collector Office Road near Anna Bus Stand, New Arya Bhavan (t0452 3299104) or Murugan Idli Shop (t0452 2341379) on West Masi Street. The iconic shop opened in 1966 and their trademark soft idlis are served with 4 chutneys besides dosas, uthappams and other tiffin items. To whet your carnivorous pangs, head straight to Anjappar Chettinad at Hotel Annamalai International on 120 Feet Road.

For biryani lovers, there’s no better place than Kalyana Biriyani (t9894145555) on Nethaji Road or Sri Velu Dindigul Biryani (t0452 4510010) on Tamil Sangam Road. In Karaikudi, Saffron at Hotel Subhalakshmi Palace dishes out good veg fare while Friend’s Garden Restaurant and ARC are local eateries serving Chettinad staples like kada fry, rabbit chukka and non veg meals. For fine dining, head to Taj Gateway or Heritage Madurai.




Heritage Madurai
11, Melakkal Main Road, Kochadai, Madurai 625016 t0452 2385455, 3244185
www.heritagemadurai.com Tariff Rs.6,400-10,000 35 luxury villas, 37 deluxe rooms
Voted the Best Heritage Hotel-South India in 2011, Heritage Madurai was renovated by architect Geoffrey Bawa on the condition that all materials used must come from a 30km radius around Madurai. The granite floor is from an old mill, brass temple lamps have been reincarnated as light fixtures while the restaurant is landscaped around a 200-year-old banyan tree lit by a British warship searchlight. Spacious villas come with plunge pools whereas the swimming pool is inspired by the Teppakulam Tank. Enjoy Ayurvedic and Thai massages at Svasti Spa and relish South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine.

The Gateway Hotel
40 TPK Road, Pasumalai Hills, Madurai 625004 t0452 2371601
www.thegatewayhotels.com Tariff Rs.5,500-8,000 63 rooms
Contoured around the Pasumalai Hills near Thirupparankunram, the palatial bungalow was built by William Harvey in the 1890s and served as the official residence of the MDs of Harvey Mills (later Madura Mills). Today, the heritage hotel retains its colonial flavour with period rooms, wooden floors and deluxe cottages amidst landscaped gardens. The restaurant, aptly called View, overlooks Madurai while Harvey’s Lounge bar is a great place to escape the city’s bustle.

GRT Regency
38 Madakkulam Main Road (TPK Road), NH7, Palanganatham Signal Junction, Madurai 625003 t0452 237 1155 www.grtregency.com Tariff Rs.4,750-5,750 57 rooms
The swanky city hotel by GRT, near Palanganatham Bus Stand in the southern part of town, comes with a multi-gym, swimming pool, boutique, bar and Ayush Ayurvedic therapy center offering authentic Kerala oil massages. Aaharam serves elaborate multi-cuisine buffets for breakfast and lunch and a la carte dinner. Free wi-fi is a bonus.

Hotel Sangam
Alagarkoil Road, Madurai 625002 t0452 4244555, 2537531 www.sangamhotels.com Tariff Rs.4,000-5,500 60 rooms
A decent hotel with a bar, pool, shopping arcade and a restaurant that whips up excellent Indian, Continental and Chinese with classical performances, veena recitals and folk dances.



Chidambara Vilas
TSK House, Ramachandrapuram, Kadiapatti, Off Tirumayam Fort Ph 0433 3267070, 9843348531 E chidambaravilas@hotelsangam.com www.chidambaravilas.com 24 heritage rooms
If you’re in the mood for extravagance try Chettinad’s most luxurious heritage hotel. Chidambara Vilas is the century-old home of TS Krishnappa Chettiar. An exquisite doorway leads to inner courtyards lined by teak, rosewood and granite pillars. Enjoy rooftop views, a swimming pool, spa and cultural performances while relishing Chettinad meals on banana leaf in a renovated Bomma kottai (Hall of Dolls).

The Bangala
Devakottai Road, Senjai, Karaikudi 630001 Ph 04565-220221, 250221 E thebangala@gmail.com www.thebangala.com Tariff Rs.5,650-6,350 (breakfast Rs.300, meals Rs.600) 25 rooms
A colonial family home run by Mrs. Meyyappan, the Bangala hosted lavish tea parties and tennis tournaments in the 1900s. Sir Athur Hope, the Governor of Madras, visited in the 1940s and all the furniture, cutlery and crockery used by him are still in circulation. Rooms overlook a central garden with a swimming pool and spa. Excellent Chettinad meals, cooking demos, kitchen tours and local sightseeing enrich your stay.

CGH Visalam
LF Road, Kanadukathan 630103 Ph 04565 273301, 273354 E visalam@cghearth.com www.cghearth.com 15 rooms
An Art Deco home renovated and infused with CGH Earth’s philosophy, Visalam is a step back in time with large brass urns, sepia tinted photos and period furniture. Three dining areas for different meals lend a bit of variety. Relax by the pool, browse the library or learn about spices at the interactive kitchen, with bullock cart rides and nadaswaram recitals organized on request.

Chettinadu Mansion
S.A.R.M. House, Behind Raja’s Palace, T.K.R. Street, Kanadukathan Ph 04565 273080, 94434 95598 E info@deshadan.com www.chettinadumansion.com Tariff Rs.5,000 (meals Rs.600) 12 rooms
Run by the affable Mr. Chandramouli, the 40,000 sq ft mansion was built over a century ago by S.A.Rm.Ramaswamy Chettiar. Its succession of courtyards with bright pillars, balconies and 100 rooms are a delight, as is dining in the lavishly decorated hall.

Saratha Vilas
832, Main Road, Kothamangalam 630105 Ph 98842 03175, 98849 36158 E sarathavilas@hotmail.com www.sarathavilas.com Tariff Rs.5,200-5,600 8 rooms Restored by French architects Michel Adment & Bernard Dragon who fell in love with Chettinad, Saratha Vilas is a Tamil home stripped of its showy past and replaced by a muted French sensibility. Old sakarapattis (sugar granaries) adorn the rooms and idli grindstones serve as sinks. Enjoy Franco-Tamil cuisine, Ayurvedic massages or relax in the garden.



Cardamom House
Athoor Village, Via Sembatti, Dindigul District 624701 t0451 2556765, 9360691793 www.cardamomhouse.com Tariff Rs.3,300-5,500 6 rooms
A charming eco farm run by a retired British physician, its rooms are named after Indian herbs and spices. A fixed menu (Rs.1,200/person) caters primarily to a European palate, with meals served at Four Winds, a nature-cooled area and sundowners on the terrace.

Lakeside Resort
Kamarajar Lake, Athoor Village, Dindigul District 624701 t0451 3202817, 9894563935 www.lakeside.co.in Tariff Rs.2,500-3,950 9 rooms
Run by English couple Peter and Dorinda Balchin, the resort offers five stone cottages, four en-suite twin bedrooms in the main house and a swimming pool. Meals (Rs.940/person) are served at the lake-view verandah or the large rooftop.

Double Dutch Resort
Holland House, Athoor, Dindigul District 624701 t0454 3294499, 0451 2556763, 9443828742 www.doubledutchresort.com Tariff Rs.1,750-2,400 6 rooms
Located on the spurs of Palani Hills bordered by Kamarajar Lake this Dutch run resort is spread over 8-acres. Food is a mix of Indian, European, Indonesian and Mexican cuisine (Rs.900/person), enriched with farm fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, cheese and curd, besides homemade jams, bread and Dutch coffee.

Wild Rock
Kannivadi Hills, Sadayandi Kovil Road, Athoor Village, Dindigul District 624701
t0451 2471572, 2470454 www.wildrock.asia Tariff Rs.4,000-6,000 5 rooms
Built in local granite, stone and marble, the country house comes with a swimming pool overlooking the lake. A restaurant, barbeque counter and fruit and salad kiosk serve delicious Indian fare (Rs.950/person). Adventure sports, trekking and farm visits are organized.

Tamara Resort
Perumal Kovil Pathy, Karunya PO, Coimbatore 641101 t0422 2615779/442, 6560111 www.tamararesorts.com Tariff 3,800-6,000 8 tents
An Aitken Spence Hotel, Tamara is a boutique resort 30km from Coimbatore and 25km from Siruvani. Eight luxurious tents stand against a stunning backdrop of the Western Ghats. There’s pool table–cum–recreation facilities, kids play area, multi cuisine restaurant and Internet access within the comfort of your tent.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the Sep-Nov 2012 issue of Time Out Explorer magazine.

MG Ode: Monuments to the Mahatma


On Gandhi Jayanti, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY go beyond his birthplace in Porbandar and Birla House in New Delhi where he breathed his last, to discover a lesser-known trail of historic buildings linked to the Mahatma


Kaba Gandhi No Delo, Rajkot
While Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad and Sewagram Ashram in Wardha are well known, not many know about the house where he spent a few years of his early life from 1881 to 1887. Located on Ghee Kanta Road in Rajkot, the erstwhile capital of the princely state of Saurashtra, the house of MK Gandhi’s father, Karamchand Uttanchand Gandhi or Kaba Gandhi, who served as Diwan (Prime Minister) is a historic landmark. Built in 1880-81, the dela is a typical Saurashtra house with a central approach through an arched gateway. Today it has been converted into a museum called Gandhi Smriti, showcasing an interesting photo essay of his life and personal belongings of Mahatma Gandhi.


Mani Bhavan, Mumbai
It is hard to imagine that a humble two-storeyed house on Laburnum Road in Gamdevi acted as the nerve centre for Gandhi’s political activities in Mumbai from 1917-1934. Gandhi’s association with the charkha (spinning wheel) began in 1917 while staying at Mani Bhavan and it was from here that he launched the exceptional Non-Cooperation, Satyagraha, Swadeshi, Khadi, Khilafat and Home Rule movements. The mansion belonged to the Mani family and later Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri, Gandhi’s friend and host in Mumbai. In 1955, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi took over the building and converted it into a memorial to Gandhi. In true Gandhian spirit, Mani Bhavan is a living symbol of his philosophy – open to all, completely free, no bags or cameras to be deposited, nor any security guards stopping or instructing you.


A bust of the Mahatma with a simple garland of khadi yarn greets visitors with a showcase of postage stamps released in his honour in India and abroad (64 countries at last count)! A staircase lined with pictures of his life leads to the first floor where press clips and photos from his childhood to assassination adorn the large gallery. Also on display are famous encounters and letters of correspondence with Hitler, Tolstoy, Tagore and Charlie Chaplin. In a stark room on the second floor beyond a glass partition, two charkhas (spinning wheels), a book, a writing desk and a floor bed stand testimony to the Mahatma’s stay. On the opposite side is a hall with paintings and exquisite clay models in wooden display boxes capturing key moments from his life. Created painstakingly by Susheela Gokhale Patel (wife of State Congress Treasurer Rajni Patel and grandmother of actress Amisha Patel), three sets of these models were made in 1969. The tour ends on the terrace where Gandhi was arrested on Jan 4, 1932. Nearly a decade ago, Steven Kapur aka Apache Indian visited the mansion with a retinue of bodyguards and was so moved by the place that he returned the next day with his son, went to the terrace and sang a tribute to the Mahatma. Mani Bhavan is that kind of place. In November 2010, US President Barack Obama became the first high-profile international guest to visit Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya in 50 years, after Martin Luther King’s visit in the 1950s. Obama presented a Rock of Hope to the Gandhi Sangrahalaya.


Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai
The fact that Gandhiji paid five visits to Madurai city alone outlines the significance of the place in his life. It was here, on his second visit in 1921, that the plight of poor farmers led him to adopt his trademark loincloth. In 1934 he refused to enter the Madurai Meenakshi Temple when his escort was forbidden from entering on the grounds that he was a harijan. This gesture ignited the ‘Temple Entry Movement’ for untouchables. Gandhiji entered the shrine only in 1946 after Vaidyanath Iyer opened the doors of the temple to people of all castes and creed. During the temple’s renovation, a mural artist was so inspired by this event, that he painted an image of Mahatma Gandhi on the temple walls! Set in the beautiful Tamukkum Summer Palace of Nayaka queen Rani Mangammal, the Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai is one of the seven museums in the country dedicated to the Mahatma (others being Barrackpore, Patna, Delhi, Wardha, Ahmedabad and Mumbai). It showcases Gandhiji’s life through rare photos, quotes, murals and letters. The Hall of Relics and Replicas contains 14 original artefacts used by Mahatma Gandhi including a shawl, spectacles, yarn spun by him and the bloodstained cloth worn by him when he was assassinated.


Aga Khan Palace, Pune
Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III commissioned the construction of a palace in 1892 as an act of charity to help the poor in the neighboring areas of Pune hit by famine. After launching the Quit India Movement Mahatma Gandhi was placed in captivity at Aga Khan Palace from 9 August 1942 to 6 May 1944, along with his wife Smt. Kasturba Gandhi, his secretary Mahadev Desai, Miraben and Sarojini Naidu. Ironically, Desai died soon on 15 August and Baa on 22 Feb 1944. Their samadhis are located in the same complex, besides a fine memorial bearing Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes. In 1969, Prince Karim Al Hussenim (Aga Khan IV) donated the palace to the Indian people in honour of Gandhi and his philosophy. In 2003, Archeological Survey of India (ASI) declared it as a monument of national importance. The palace archives a number of photos and portraits offering glimpses from Gandhi’s life and other figures of the Indian freedom struggle. Also on display are personal items like utensils, clothes, beads, slippers and a letter written by Gandhiji on the death of his secretary. The palace serves as the headquarters of the Gandhi National Memorial Society and has a small shop selling khadi and handloom textiles.


Kumara Krupa Guest House, Bangalore
Gandhiji visited Karnataka 18 times, including 14 visits to Bangalore, to intensify the struggle against the British. In 1934, he visited Bangalore for the first time to collect money for the Harijan Fund and held a series of meetings in Malleswaram. He also visited Malleswaram Ladies Club where ladies generously donated their jewellery for the national cause. The club bears a pictorial record of this visit. Most places in the city associated with Gandhiji’s visits have been converted into commercial establishments. And ironically, his iconic statue stands in a quiet park, dwarfed by the high-rise shopping complexes located on the very road named after him! The place at Nandi Hills where Gandhiji stayed for three months is also a club. Apart from Gandhi Sahitya Sangha, the present day Gandhi Bhavan is the only place in Bangalore that has been preserved. The place where Gandhiji used to hold prayer meetings, Kumara Park, is today the site of a five-star hotel’s swimming pool. A board tersely cites ‘this was the place where Gandhiji used to hold prayers’. The Mahatma also stayed for a month at Kumara Krupa Guest House, a beautiful heritage structure in a 14-acre patch on Kumara Krupa Road. Originally the residence of Sir K. Seshadri Iyer, the longest-serving Dewan of Mysore and architect of modern Bangalore, the bungalow was named after Kumaraswamy, his family deity. Constructed by Erode Subba Rao, controller of the royal properties, it was purchased in 1915 by the Mysore government during the reign of Krishnaraja Wadiyar. Plans are afoot to build a swankier more spacious 9-storey building to house state guests and VIPs.


Gandhi Mandapam, Kanyakumari
Overlooking the crashing waters of the Indian Ocean not far from the famous Kanyakumari temple stands Gandhi Mandapam. A bright pink lotus-like structure with tapering domes, it looks more like a temple than a memorial and enshrines the urn that held Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes before being immersed in the sea. Thousands flocked here to pay their last respects to the Father of the Nation on 12th Feb 1948 and continue to do so to this day. Emblazoned on its facade is Gandhiji’s charkha or spinning wheel, the symbol of India’s struggle for Independence and bell-shaped niches in its domes. The central dome is 79ft high and marks Gandhiji’s age when he was assassinated. A unique architectural innovation allows the rays of the sun to fall directly on the urn every year at noon on Gandhi Jayanthi (2 Oct), his birth anniversary. The memorial also has a beautiful quote from Gandhiji written at Kanyakumari ‘I am writing this at the Cape, in front of the sea, where three waters meet and furnish a sight unequalled in the world. For this is no port of call for vessels. Like the Goddess, the waters around are virgin.’


Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 29th September 2013 in the Sunday supplement of Deccan Herald newspaper. (Kaba Gandhi No Delo pic courtesy Rajkot City Guide, Kumara Krupa Guest House courtesy Karan Ananth)

Tryst with Destiny: Indian Freedom Trail


As part of an Independence Day Special, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY retrace the journey of India’s freedom struggle, profiling some key and lesser known historic sites they’ve visited across the country


Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Allegedly used as a pitstop by Lord Hanuman on his aerial flight to Lanka (hence the name), the Andamans played an important part in the Indian struggle for independence. The 1857 Sepoy Mutiny prompted the British to choose the remote Andamans as a penal settlement. Thousands of Indian revolutionaries were sentenced to ‘Saza-e-Kala Pani’ and made to toil night and day under extreme conditions for 10 years to build a seven-pronged prison. Nearly 30 million bricks, made from crushed corals sourced from Dundus Point were used. Each wing had three storeys for solitary confinement in 693 individual cells, thereby giving its name – Cellular Jail. When the siren blared from the central watchtower it indicated that three martyrs had been hanged. The photo displays, sculpted models, relics and Sound & Light show offer a vivid portrayal of the suffering and sacrifice of the patriots. Ross, at 0.8 sq km, the smallest island in the Andamans served as the British headquarters. When Lord Mayo, the Viceroy of India, visited Ross Island in 1872, he went to Mount Harriet, the highest point in South Andamans to enjoy the sunset. When he reached Hope town jetty for the ferry back to Ross, he was ambushed and assassinated by Sher Ali Khan, who was later hanged at Viper Island.


During World War II, after occupying Singapore and Rangoon, Japanese troops landed at Port Blair on 23 March 1942 and captured it without firing a shot. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Supreme commander of the Provisional Govt of Azad Hind, had allied with the Japanese to oust the British. On 30th December 1943, Netaji hoisted the Indian tricolor in British-free India for the very first time. Andaman and Nicobar were renamed as Shaheed Dweep (Martyr Island) and Swaraj Dweep (Self-Rule Island). Netaji stayed in the British High commissioner’s house and a memorial near Netaji Stadium at Port Blair commemorates his visit. However, the Japanese atrocities at Cellular Jail and the island were kept hidden from him. Over 700 innocent people were taken in 3 big boats and thrown overboard near Havelock Island in the dead of the night. In a similar incident, 300 islanders were killed at Tarmugli Islands off Wandoor. Just off the road to Wandoor, lies a dark gloomy park on a small hillock at Humphreyganj. On 30th January 1944, 44 innocent people detained at Cellular Jail on false spy charges, were brought here and brutally murdered. Today, the trench where they were buried is marked by a memorial… Ironically, while India’s freedom fighters perished in prison, some of the islands were named after British heroes of the mutiny like Havelock, Neil, William Peel, Outram and John & Henry Lawrence.


Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Madurai was an important landmark in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Surprisingly, he made five visits to the city. On his second visit to Madurai in 1921, disturbed by the plight of poor farmers, Gandhiji shed his long coat and donned his trademark loincloth. In 1934 he refused to step inside the Madurai Meenakshi Temple when his escort was not allowed inside because he was a harijan. This triggered the ‘Temple Entry Movement’ for untouchables. Only after Vaidyanath Iyer opened the doors of the temple to everybody in 1939, did Gandhiji enter the shrine in 1946! During the renovation of the temple, a mural artist was so inspired by this event, that he painted an image of Mahatma Gandhi on the temple walls. The Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai, set in the beautiful Tamukkum Summer Palace of Nayaka queen Rani Mangammal is one of the seven museums in the country dedicated to the Mahatma. It showcases Gandhiji’s life through rare photos, quotes, murals and letters. The Hall of Relics and Replicas contains 14 original artefacts used by Mahatma Gandhi including a shawl, spectacles, yarn and the bloodstained cloth worn by him when he was assassinated.


Vellore Fort, Tamil Nadu
Few people are aware that the first mass rebellion against British rule took place at Vellore Fort, 50 years before the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny or the First War of Independence! Though it lasted just for a day the 1806 Vellore Mutiny wreaked immense havoc and damage on the British. The cause of this revolt was a change in the Sepoy dress code in November 1805. Incited by the decision of the British to disallow Hindus from wearing tilaks on their foreheads and the demand for Muslims to shave their beard and trim their moustache, Indian soldiers stormed the bastion and killed nearly 200 British troopers in a day-long attack that rewrote history. Tragically, they were subdued by reinforcements from Arcot and nearly 700 Indian soldiers were gunned down. However, this wasn’t the first challenge the British faced in Tamil Nadu. Veerapandiya Kattabomman, an 18th century Poleygar chieftain fought against the British alongside the brave Marudu brothers. Treason led to his execution on 16 October 1799 at Kayatharu on NH7, near Tirunelveli. Today, a memorial has been erected at the site. The historic Vellore Fort is a 16th Century citadel that served as the erstwhile headquarters of the Late Vijayanagara Empire. The fort was built in 1566 by Chinna Bommi Nayak and Thimma Reddy Nayak, subordinates to Sadasiva Raya of Vijayanagara. As a result of the struggle for power among the squabbling Raya families, the fort suffered gradual decline and witnessed the brutal royal genocide of Vijayanagar king Sriranga Raya’s kith and kin. Soon the Deccan Sultans swept in to take control followed by the Marathas, the Nawabs of Arcot and the British.


Pazhassi Raja’s Tomb, Wayanad
This is the story of how the tiny district of Wayanad in Kerala influenced one of the world’s most famous wars, The Battle of Waterloo. Under the treaty of Srirangapatnam, when Tipu Sultan ceded Malabar to the British, Pazhassi Raja of Kottayam (a small village 70 km from Mananthavady) was among the first to revolt against the British. Persecuted, he took refuge in the dense jungles of Wayanad and organized local tribals into an irregular army, launching a long period of guerrilla warfare against the British. In a famous incident, an entire division of 360 soldiers of the British army camping at Panamaram was slaughtered. News of his courageous exploits spread like wild fire, earning him the title Keralasimham or the Lion of Kerala and he soon garnered support from far and wide.

For nine years, he managed to elude the British by constantly moving and hiding in the caves at Pulpally. In a bid to capture him, the British launched a two pronged attack. Young Lord Wellesley camped with his contingent at Mysore while TS Baber, the Collector of the Madras Presidency called in the British army from Thalassery and studied his guerilla tactics. When they caught Pazhassi Raja’s two generals, the Britishers amputated their limbs and hanged them as a warning to locals. Eventually, someone betrayed Pazhassi Raja who chose to end his life by swallowing his diamond ring rather than being caught alive by the British; bringing the rebellion to an abrupt end. Impressed by his bravery, TS Baber carried the king’s body in his own palanquin as a mark of respect. Pazhassi Raja’s tomb is located in Mananthavady.  It is said that Lord Wellesley learnt the rules of guerilla warfare while pursuing Pazhassi Raja in the hills and jungles, which the Duke of Wellington later employed in the historic Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon.


Phillaur Fort, Punjab 
Located on the banks of the Sutlej, Phillaur is the site of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s historic fort when Lahore used to be the capital of undivided Punjab. On account of its strategic location, it was first developed as a serai for trading and military purposes by Sher Shah Suri around 1540. Mughal Emperor Shahjahan later revived it, using it as a Dak ghar (Postal Center) and Military camp. After the Amritsar treaty of 1809 with the British East India Company, Phillaur became a border post of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Lahore Empire. With help from an Italian architect, the serai was converted into a fort. Presently called Maharaja Ranjit Singh Fort, it houses a Police Training Academy (PTA). The Fingerprint Bureau set up in 1892 is one of the oldest of its kind. The Museum retraces India’s freedom struggle in Punjab and the history of Punjab Police with panels on the Anglo-Sikh Wars, 1928 Lahore Conspiracy case and major battles. Vintage guns, artillery, swords, tools of burglary and theft are also displayed! The highlights include the sword of Lord Lytton, the pen used in Lahore Court to sign the death warrant of Bhagat Singh and the finger imprints of Udham Singh, who shot and killed Michael O’Dwyer in 1940 at Caxton Hall in London. O’Dwyer was the British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Interestingly, the popular hymn ‘Om Jai Jagdish Hare’ was composed in Phillaur in the 1870s by local litterateur Shardha Ram Phillauri. 


Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar
On the evening of April 13, 1919, the people of Amritsar gathered for a peaceful protest against the Rowlatt Act in Jallianwala Bagh, a public garden near Harmandir Sahib. It was Baisakhi festival and a Sunday, so nearly 15,000 to 20,000 people had assembled (including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, women, senior citizens and children). When news of the protest reached Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, he arrived with 65 Gurkha and 25 Baluchi soldiers, an hour after the meeting began. The British were already paranoid after the Lahore conspiracy trials, the possible influence of the Russian revolution on India and the Third Anglo-Afghan War, so Dyer was convinced that a major insurrection was on. Dyer ordered fifty riflemen to open fire on the gathering. For the next ten minutes they kept firing till the ammunition ran dry. Nearly 1,650 rounds were fired and 1,302 men, women and children were killed. The narrow lane had a single entry and exit that was blocked by huge armoured vehicles, forcing many to jump into a well in the compound and perish. The site was acquired by the nation through public subscription on 1st August, 1920 at the cost of Rs.5.65 lakh and a Flame of Liberty Memorial erected. The Martyr’s Well from where 120 bodies were recovered and the wall riddled with 36 bullet marks serve as a chilling reminder of this heinous incident.


Khonoma, Nagaland
The British first came into contact with the fierce Nagas in 1832, when Capt. Jenkins and Pemberton ventured into Angami territory for a strategic road survey between Assam and Manipur. In the years to follow the British met with stiff resistance from the Nagas everywhere. After the British adopted a policy of non-intervention in 1851, the Nagas launched 22 raids against the British, who finally attacked the Angami stronghold of Khonoma. Captain John Butler described Semoma Fort, a stone bastion, as ‘the strongest in the North East’. Each time the fort was destroyed; it rose phoenix-like, defiantly rebuilt to endure the next attack. In 1879, the killing of British political agent GH Damant resulted in the Battle of Khonoma, the last organized Naga resistance against the British. After booby-trapping the area the Nagas escaped to the mountains. The British eventually settled for a peace treaty, ending half a century of fighting and acknowledged their autonomy. The Nagas earned profound respect from the British and their evolution from a ‘savage race of head-hunters’ to the ‘cradle of civilization’ was swift.


Moplah Rebellion, Malabar
Malabar, the northern tract of Kerala, was the site of a bloody rebellion by the Muslim Mapila community against the British and oppressive Hindu landlords. Perinthalmanna, 3 km from Angadipuram in Malappuram, was the nerve center of the Moplah revolts of 1896 and 1921. The 1921 rebellion began as a reaction against a heavy-handed crackdown on the Khilafat Movement by the British authorities in the Eranad and Valluvanad taluks of Malabar. Even the sacred shrine of Angadipuram was not left untouched and was used as a protective abode by rioters. Open fights broke out in the courtyard during which the temple suffered extensive damages, which were duly repaired. Adjoining the Valiya (Big) Juma Masjid in Ponnani is a mausoleum of the Malappuram martyrs whose deeds have been immortalized in Moplah ballads.


Sidho Kanhu Smarak, Jharkhand
The Sidho Kanhu Santhali Sanskritik Kendra at Massanjore perform an old Santhal ballad about their folk heroes. As the Mayurakshi flows silently behind, girls sway in their green saris, the mandhar (tribal drum) taps a primal beat and Santhal boys dance with ghungroos tied to their feet. The song recounts the tale of  the brave Sidho Kanhu, who had been imprisoned by the British for rebelling against the unjust tax imposed on tribal forest land. As their brothers Chand and Bhairon wistfully watched from afar, astride their horses, Sidho and Kanhu were hanged from a banyan tree at Bhognadih near Baghdaha More. The song goes on to say that there was so much sadness, even the horse had cried… Another enigmatic folk figure was the brave Birsa Munda, who fought for tribal rights against the British. He was captured through treachery on 3 February 1900 and died mysteriously in Ranchi Jail on 9 June 1900. He was only 25 years old. Ranchi airport is named after him while his birth anniversary, 15 November, is celebrated every year at Samadhi Sthal, Kokar in Ranchi.


The Ridge, Delhi
The last outcrop of the Aravalli Hills rising 60 ft. above the city of Delhi, the Ridge was where the British pitched camp just 1200 yards from the city walls during the siege of Delhi from June to September 1857. Flagstaff Tower was the first rallying point for the Europeans when the mutiny reached Delhi. The Mutiny Memorial, an ornate 110 feet Gothic edifice, was erected in 1863 after the mutiny at the site of Hodgson’s battery. The red sandstone octagonal structure was built in memory of the soldiers of the Delhi Field Force, who were killed in action or died of wounds between 30th May and 20th September, 1857. The names of the British soldiers can be found etched on marble slabs around its base, which also bear a passing mention of the native soldiers who fought on behalf of the British.

Delhi is littered with sites linked to the 1857 Mutiny. At the Red Fort, mutineers had crowned Bahadur Shah Zafar as the Emperor of India. Humayun’s tomb was where Captain Hodgson arrested Bahadur Shah who was hiding with his three sons and a grandson, and they were subsequently beheaded. Badli-ki-Serai on G.T. Road was the site of a battle fought on 8th June 1857 between the sepoys and the Gordon Highlanders, to whom a memorial exists in Azadpur Sabzi Mandi. Kashmiri Gate was where the British made a final assault on Delhi on 14th September 1857. Brigadier General John Nicholson’s grave lies in the Kashmiri Gate cemetery. St James Church nearby was built by the legendary James Skinner in 1836 who once lay wounded on the battlefield and vowed that he’d build a church for the British, if he survived. The church was badly damaged during the 1857 Mutiny, its dome was pitted with holes as it served as targets for firing practice by sepoys. The structure was later repaired by the British and restored to its former glory.

Barrackpore, West Bengal
Located on the eastern bank of the Ganges about 15 miles from Calcutta, Barrackpore was the site of a military barrack set up in 1772, making it the first cantonment of the British East India Company. However, not one, but two rebellions took place against the British at Barrackpore. The 1824 rebellion was led by Sepoy Binda Tiwary of the 47th Bengal Native Infantry. Being upper caste Hindus, they refused to board boats for Burma in the First Anglo-Burmese War as crossing the seas would pollute their religious beliefs. The British decimated the rebels with an artillery barrage. Later, rumours that the British had greased the Enfield cartridges with lard (which had to be bitten off) ignited the first spark during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. Muslims suspected the grease to be pork fat while Hindus assumed it originated from beef. Mangal Pandey attacked his British commander and was subsequently court-martialled and executed, while punitive measures were taken against other rebel sepoys.