Category Archives: Books (incl.Biographies – w.e.f.01 jan 2018 )

Alam Beg, martyr of Sepoy Mutiny, wants to return home


The resting place: The skull was found in a store room of The Lord Clyde pub in London. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
The resting place: The skull was found in a store room of The Lord Clyde pub in London. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Skull of soldier, executed by the East India Company for rebellion in 1857, found its way to London pub; it’s now with historian Kim Wagner

Headhunting is usually associated with primitive tribes and contemporary terrorists, but the colonial rulers of India also collected heads of Indian soldiers as war trophies.

A 160-year-old skull of sepoy Alam Beg, now in the possession of a historian in London, is proof that colonial rulers who brought many modern practices to India were also at times inhuman.

In 1857, Alam Beg, also known as Alum Bheg, was a soldier with the 46th Bengal Native Infantry, an arm of the East India Company.

The Mutiny that year, after having covered the north Indian heartland, spread to Sialkot (now in Pakistan), where Alam Beg and his companions tried to follow their fellow soldiers and attacked the Europeans posted there. On July 9, 1857, they killed seven Europeans, including an entire Scottish family.

Alam Beg, along with his comrades, left Sialkot and trekked all the way to the Tibetan frontier only to be turned away by the guards on the Tibetan side. He was reportedly arrested from Madhopur, a scenic town on the northern part of the Indian Punjab and taken back to Sialkot. A year later, he was tried for the brutal killing of the Scottish family and blown up from the mouth of a cannon. The Mutiny ended soon after. Alam Beg’s tragic story surfaced more than a century later thanks to an Irish captain Arthur Robert George Costello, who was present at his execution.

The skull of Alam Beg. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
The skull of Alam Beg. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Present at execution

The Irishman was a captain in the 7th Dragoon Guards, dispatched to India after the Mutiny had shaken the bonds between the East India Company and the native soldiers. Costello had not seen any episodes of the Mutiny but was present at the execution, said historian Kim Wagner, who possesses the skull now.

Costello picked up the skull and returned to London with it. In 1963, the skull was discovered in a store room of The Lord Clyde pub of London, after it had changed hands. The new owners were less than happy to find this war ‘trophy’ from 1857, but treated it as a solemn object from a disturbing past of British history in the subcontinent. The owners of the pub learnt from a note left in an eye socket that it belonged to Alam Beg, who played a leading role in the mutiny of sepoys in Sialkot. They desired to repatriate the skull to the soldier’s family. For years, they tried but failed. It is not known how the skull of Alam Beg ended up in the Victorian-era pub. But it is possible that the Irish captain who witnessed the execution of the leader of the mutinous soldiers visited the pub or someone deposited it there, given the fact that it had links with the history of the Indian Mutiny. In fact the pub was named after Collin Thomson, also known as Lord Clyde, who was a military commander and played a role in crushing the mutiny in north and northwest India. So it is possible that soldiers after their Indian stint would visit the pub.

In 2014, the owners of the pub contacted Kim Wagner who has been writing about South Asian history for years. They urged him to take the skull and return it to the descendants of Alam Beg. Mr. Wagner brought it home and the skull finally added to his research on South Asia which was published late last year as “The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857.” The historian believed that only by making people aware of the skull that Alam Beg can be returned to his motherland.

His research showed that most of the soldiers of the 46th Bengal Native Infantry were from modern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and Havildar Alam Beg most probably hailed from Uttar Pradesh. Though he wanted to return him to a dignified family grave yard of Beg’s family, it was not possible as the East India Company left no records of the soldiers of the 46th Bengal Native Infantry.

“There are no longer any records for sepoys of the Bengal Army – the best I could do was locate the area where the 46th regiment recruited from,” Mr. Wagner said.

The Mutiny of 1857 was crushed mercilessly and many gruesome incidents of that era find mention in official records. In 2014, around the time when Mr. Wagner began writing his book on Alam Beg, Ajnala in Punjab’s Amritsar hit the headlines when authorities discovered skeletons of 282 soldiers who were executed after the Mutiny. They apparently had surrendered hoping for a fair trial, but the Deputy Commissioner of the district Frederick Henry Cooper ordered execution of the rebels. They were buried with medals and even money of the East India Company that many of them had in their pockets. The grisly discovery is yet to receive a closure as the family members of those soldiers remain untraced.

Similar is the condition of Alam Beg as his journey back home remains incomplete but Mr. Wagner believed that his only physical remain should find a proper peaceful burial. Mr. Wagner is aware that the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been vocal about honouring the fallen soldiers of India in various colonial era battles. He says that something similar can be done in case of Alam Beg as well.

“After all these years, it is high time for Alum Bheg to return home…he was probably born in what is today India, he was executed in what is now Pakistan,” Mr. Wagner wrote in his book proposing that a burial for Alam Beg near the India-Pakistan border would be the most suitable tribute to his sacrifice.

The historian said that in the absence of the descendants of such soldiers, it is the Indian government that should bring back Alam Beg to his motherland.

Headhunting by colonial rulers from Europe was a rampant practice in the 19th century and activists worldwide have been vocal in demanding human remains from Western museums and collectors should be returned to their countries of origin. Such a movement is yet to begin in India whose soldiers from the colonial past in many instances continue to remain anonymous and abroad.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> National / by Kallol Bhattacharjee / New Delhi – February 04th, 2018

Umaru Pulavar memorial inaugurated

Ettiyapuram (Tuticorin District),  TAMIL NADU :

His 1,000 literary works will be added to library

Tuticorin :

Speaker R. Avudiappan inaugurated the memorial constructed for Umaru Pulavar, great Islamic poet, at Ettayapuram near here on Monday.

Official sources said that it was built by the Public Works Department on an outlay of Rs.22.5 lakh.

The monument would be maintained by the Department of Information and Public Relations.

The memorial, a two-storied edifice, has a tomb and prayer hall in the ground floor with a library on the top floor.

A collection of 1,000 literary works of Umaru Pulavar would be added into the library in a phased manner. The works would include poems like ‘Seerapuranam’, ‘Muthu Mozhil Malai’ and ‘Sethakathi wedding poems’, among others.

The access to the library would be free.

Sources said that the memorial was a tribute to the poet, whose ancestors had chosen Ettayapuram in Tuticorin district as their ‘home away from home’ since they descended from Arabia.

The forefathers of the poet came here to sell perfumes and settled in Nagalapuram, before moving to Ettayapuram where the poet was born in 1642.

Umaru Pulavar’s literary talents flourished under Kadikai Muthu Pulavar, court poet of the Ettayapuram Zamin. At the age of 16, Umaru Pulavar stole the national limelight by winning a literary debate with Vallai Varundhi, a renowned poet from North India. Umaru Pulavar was then made the court poet of the Ettayapuram Zamin.

“Seerapuranam,’ considered to be one of the best works by him, depicts the history related to Prophet Mohammed Nabi, and it contains 5,027 poems in three ‘Kandams’ (parts), which are Vilathathu Kandam, Noobuvathu Kandam and Hijurathu Kandam.

“Each of the ‘Kandams’ narrates various stages of the life of Nabi,” sources said.

Ministers Geetha Jeevan, Parithi Ellamvazhuthi and T.P.M. Moideen Khan, Collector R. Palaniyandi, District Public Relations Officer S.R. Sarathy and senior revenue officials were present.

source: / The Hindu / Home> National> Tamil Nadu / by Staff Reporter / October 30th, 2007

Of Muslim scholars and a glorious literary tradition



Umarupulavar, Kunangudi Masthan Sahib, Seiku Thampi Pavalar are popular names in the field of classical Tamil literature

Uraiyur Pitchai Ibrahim Rauther was an intriguing combination of a dry fish merchant and Tamil scholar.

His expertise is illustrated by the fact that towards the end of the 19th century, the management of Bishop Heber College in Tiruchi appointed him an honorary professor and among his students was the legendary Navalar Mu. Venkatasamy Naatar.

Writer and cultural historian Po. Velsamy, who posted some details about Ibrahim Rauther on Facebook, said he was an authority on the Tholkappiyam and great scholars such as Venkatasamy Naatar and Ra. Ragava Iyengar learned from him because till 1930, there was no one with expertise on the Porulathikaram of Tholkappiyam.

“Since the smell of dry fish on Rauther was overpowering, his students had to hold their noses even as they received lessons on the Tholkappiyam. But we have not been able get more details about Rauther, who died in 1908,” said Mr. Velsamy, who added that Rauther was a student Uraiyur Muthuveera Ubathiyayar and author of the Muthuveeriyam, a work based on the Tholkappiyam.

The Muslim community has had a glorious association with the Tamil language since the 12th century. Umarupulavar, the author of Seerapuranam, and Kunangudi Masthan Sahib are among the names to reckon with in the field of classical Tamil literature.

Sadhavathani Seiku Thampi Pavalar of Edalakudi in Kanniyakumari district is another well-known name in the Tamil literary world in modern times.

It was K. Peerkaderoli Rauther who published the Thiruvachagam in 1868. “The Sivapuranam in the Thiruvachagam is normally described as an agaval, but Rauther cited the Tholkappiyam to prove that it was a kalivenba,” said Mr. Velsamy.

Muslim scholars also worked extensively on Hindu epics and Athirampattinam Syed Mohamed Annaviyar rendered into Tamil the 14th chapter of the Mahabharata as Santhathi Asuvamagam.

Republished by the Thanjavur Tamil University, the book, comprising 4,104 verses, narrates the story of the Aswametha yagna performed by Dharma as per the advice of Vyasa after the war. “Santham means peace and asuvam refers to a horse. Magam means yagna,” explained Mr. Velsamy.

18 puranas

Annaviyar also rendered as ammanai (a type of verse) all the 18 puranas of the Hindus.

“Annaviyar and his descendants were scholars and even ran a publishing house. They wrote and published the Mahabharatha ammanai, Subramaniar Prasanna Pathigam, Aswametha Yagam, Ali Nama and Nooru Nama. Islamic scholars were experts in the sindhus, a genre in Tamil, and as many as 63 sindhus were published in the early 20th century,” said cultural historian Kombai S. Anwar.

When M.V. Ramanujachariyar, a colleague of U. Ve. Saminatha Iyer at the Kumbakonam Government Arts College, translated Vyasa’s Mahabharatha into Tamil, financial assistance came from many quarters, including two Muslims in Aduthurai, one of whom was a goat skin merchant. These contributions have been mentioned by Ramanujachariyar in the preface.

An interesting sindhu penned by M.K.M. Abdukathiru Rauther was performed when a kumbabhisekam was conducted at the Thiruvanmiyur Pamban Subramaniaswamy Temple. The title of the work is Pamban Balasubramaniaswamy Kovil Kumbabhiseka Vazhinadi Sindhu.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Tamil Nadu / by B. Kolappan / Chennai – January 01st, 2018

Hayat-i-Qudsi, life of the Nawab Gauhar Begum alias the Nawab Begum Qudsia of Bhopal


Hayat-i-Qudsi, life of the Nawab Gauhar Begum alias the Nawab Begum Qudsia of Bhopal
Hayat-i-Qudsi, life of the Nawab Gauhar Begum alias the Nawab Begum Qudsia of Bhopal
COVER of the book by Sultan Jahan Begam, Nawab of Bhopal, 1858-1930
Publication date : 1918
Publisher : London Paul, Trench, Trubne
Digitizing sponsor : Univesity of Toronto 
Contributor : Robarts – University of Toronto
Language : English 

The abiding fame of Faizabad



“Shaharnama Faizabad” offers detailed information about the social and cultural life of the historic town

Although Faizabad had acquired prominence during the reign of the early Nawabs of Awadh, it lost some of its lustre when, soon after taking over the reins of the kingdom in 1775, Nawab Asif-ud-Daula shifted the capital from Faizabad to Lucknow.

Yet, it continued to enjoy a lot of influence until the last Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was deposed and banished to Matia Burz near Calcutta (now Kolkata). It was so because of its famed Begums who wielded considerable political and financial clout. However, in the last century, a Begum of a different kind brought the town national recognition when, at the end of every gramophone recording, she would proudly announce: “Mera naam Akhtari Bai Faizabad”. For most of her performing career, Begum Akhtar was known as Akhtari Bai Faizabadi and she truly represented the refined composite culture of Faizabad that abuts the Hindu holy town of Ayodhya.

Last year, Vani Prakashan had brought out an excellent book on Lucknow that offered scholarly research along with useful touristic information. Titled ‘The Other Lucknow: An Ethnographic Portrait of a City of Undying Memories and Nostalgia’, it was edited by Nadeem Hasnain and was based on a research project sponsored and funded by the Ayodhya Shodh Sansthan (Ayodhya Research Institute), an autonomous organisation of the Uttar Pradesh government’s Department of Culture.


It’s a matter of rejoicing that this year, Vani Prakashan has published a companion volume on Faizabad with the help of the same Ayodhya Shodh Sansthan. The fact that this volume is in Hindi and it offers very detailed information about the historic town, its social and cultural life, and places of religious and cultural significance would warm the cockles of everybody’s heart. Hindi writer Yatindra Mishra, who recently won the President’s Golden Lotus award for his biography of Lata Mangeshkar, has edited this 640-page tome titled “Shaharnama Faizabad” (A Chronicle of Faizabad). A scion of the erstwhile ruling family of Ayodhya, Mishra’s love for Faizabad is evident in the care and fastidiousness with which he has performed this daunting task with the help of many experts including historians Salim Kidwai, Madhu Trivedi and Yogesh Pravin, Islamic culture scholar Mirza Shahab Shah and Kosala Museum’s Deshraj Upadhyaya, to name only a few. Mishra has not only edited the book but has also contributed a large number of detailed comments on the Faizabad region’s history and culture, making use of painstakingly done research into archival material and other sources.

The book is divided into five sections and opens with the history of Faizabad and the way its architecture and culture took shape under the Nawabs. After Nawab Saadat Khan ‘Burhan-ul-Mulk’ was awarded the Suba of Awadh by the Mughal Emperor, he built a temporary fort called Qila Mubarak near Lakshman Ghat in Ayodhya. After some time, he built a cantonment at a distance of five kms from Qila Mubarak and it was known as Bangla. During the reign of Nawab Mansur Ali Khan ‘Safdarjung’, Bangla acquired the name of Faizabad. This section also tells us a very interesting fact about the royal emblem of the Nawabs as it depicted fish (considered to be auspicious) along with the bow and arrow of Ram, the presiding deity of the adjoining Ayodhya. Detailed information about the arts, architecture, music, jewellery and ornaments, and prominent Nawabs and Begums and their Hindu and Muslim courtiers has been provided in this opening section.

The second section is one of the most interesting and valuable parts of this book as it deals with the events and heroes of the great revolt of 1857, often described as the First War of Indian independence.

Ripple effect

As is well known, the deposition of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah had also played an important role in spreading anger and anguish among the sepoys who hailed from the Awadh region in considerably large numbers. Mangal Pandey belonged to village Dugvan-Rahimpur of Tehsil Sadar in Faizabad district. We also come to know about Maulavi Ahmad Ullah Shah alias Danka Shah who, as early as in February 1857, had started condemning foreign rule in his public speeches. He was imprisoned and sentenced to death. Faizabad remained independent till January 6, 1858 and was defeated by the Nepalese army that attacked its forces and subdued them.

While the third section gives detailed descriptions of important religious places belonging to all the religions present in the region, the fourth section offers invaluable historical information about the writers, poets, courtesans, high-brow as well as folk musicians, folk art, village fairs as well as local festivals, bazaars and traditional haats, instruments and their makers, journalists, newspapers, magazines and printing presses of the region. It’s a fairly long list and offers a glimpse into the cultural richness of Faizabad.

The fifth and final section deals with prominent social workers, sportspersons, educational institutions and public libraries, thus completing a full circle. It’s not possible to discuss such a voluminous book in any detail here. Suffice it to say that those who are interested in knowing the history and culture of Awadh cannot afford to ignore this work.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Books / by Kuldeep Kumar / June 16th, 2017

Maulavi Ahmad Ullah Shah and great revolt of 1857

Arcot, MADRAS (now TAMIL NADU ) /  Faizabad, UTTAR PRADESH :



source: / National Book Trust, India / Home> Books> National Biography

Laurels for the bravehearted prince


The book “Surat” by Moin Mir begins with a truth that will send a chill down anyone’s spine.

Moin Mir
Moin Mir

Breaking all the shackles and bending, actually, even defying all the ‘rules’, the prince of Surat, Meer Jafar Ali Khan fought a battle all by himself. And win he did!

The book “Surat” by Moin Mir begins with a truth that will send a chill down anyone’s spine. “It is about how the East India Company took control of the great port city, Surat. They violated a treaty with the Nawab of Surat which stated that his family would be secure from generation to generation by stopping the family’s income, usurping the palaces, estates, jewellery and all that was part of the private estates of the Nawab, leaving the infant granddaughters of the last Nawab on the brink of destitution. In a counter attack Meer Jafar Ali Khan, father of the two infant girls stood to defy an empire and expose the corrupt practices of the Company in Victorian England. Spearheading a legal offensive that would shatter the Company’s reputation, Khan’s campaign for justice generated great heat and debate in British Parliament. Fighting against all odds this prince won it all back for his daughters and found true love” says Mir.

SURAT FALL OF A PORT, RISE OF A PRINCE by Moin Mir, Roli Books, pp. 250, Rs 495
SURAT FALL OF A PORT, RISE OF A PRINCE by Moin Mir, Roli Books, pp. 250, Rs 495

“Two things that inspired me to write this, one that the lead character was a fathr on a quest to fight for justice in 1844 by planting himself there and defying an empire on its own soil.

The second reason to write this book was the city of Surat which was an important port. I wanted people to know that how this thriving maritime port was brought down by the English East India Company,” he adds.

Wanting to release the book on Meer Jafar Ali Khan’s 200th birth anniversary, Mir thought that 2017, was the right time to release it. The message he wants to give is that it is a story of a man who believed in his cause.  “It’s a story of a city, an individual, a father and an Indian man in London in 1844. That is rare. And not just being an Indian in London but fighting the empire on their home turf. What are the chances of you winning? Zero! As the empire was at the peak of its power,” he signs off.

source: / The Asian Age / Home> Books / by Kavi Bhandari / January 03rd, 2018

Learn photography online in nine Indian languages

Lovedale, Nilgiris (Ooty) , TAMIL NADU :


Language is no barrier to learning the nuances of photography at the Light and Life Academy

It is 6 am, and I watch Iqbal Mohamed quietly set up his camera in front of the big glass windows in his living room and wait for the sun to rise. We are at the Light and Life Academy (LLA) in Lovedale in the Nilgiris, and I learn that he does this every morning. “No two sunrise is the same,” he offers by way of explanation. Mohamed doesn’t say very much. He prefers to let his photographs do the talking, laughs his more vocal wife Anuradha.

The photographer founded LLA in 2001 as a full-facility photography institute. The inspiration was his alma mater, the Brooks Institute California. He worked in Hollywood with some of the biggest names in photography, and in India, winning considerable acclaim, before setting up his school. LLA, which maintains high standards of professionalism and excellence, has added immensely to the pool of talented photographers in the country. And the alumni have now helped him realise another dream — to set up an online course called ‘Get Creative with Photography’.

Seamless lessons


They want to reach out to more people who take pictures as a serious hobby, says Anuradha. “But we did not want it to become just another random photography course. Mohamed’s book, Portrait & Function Photography, in eight Indian languages, was enthusiastically received, and that made us think of an online programme that was serious, structured and professional,” she adds. LLA online was born after three long years of hard work. The programme is available in English and nine Indian languages (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Oriya and Bengali). “Prahlad Kakar advised us on how to create the video tutorials, all shot in campus, and make them not just informative, but also entertaining,” she says.

I click on the online programme to see how it looks, and the screen fills up with a haunting photograph of trees. Even to my unprofessional eye it is a stunning image. It is one of Mohamed’s photographs.

Nattily dressed LLA alumni present the lessons. Each one is an acclaimed photographer, says Anuradha, with considerable pride. “Without them, this course would not have been possible.” These include Shaheen Thaha (celebrity, fashion and architecture), Mihir Hardikar (food and beverages), Ajit SN (automobile and underwater), Punya Arora (editorial and underwater fashion), Satish Kumar (automobile) and Ankit Gupta (architecture and travel).

Getting into the details


The online tutorial begins with clear, concise and simply-worded instructions. Then comes the fun part. I ask Anuradha if can see/hear the lesson in Bengali. I follow it up with a class in Tamil, Hindi and Kannada! The dubbing is perfect and as someone who has only taken pictures on her mobile phone, even I can understand everything. ‘Getting Ready & Exposure’ is the first lesson, followed by ‘Shutter’, and two sessions each on ‘Lenses and Apertures’, four sessions on ‘Light’, a lesson on ‘Colour’, and finally one on ‘Composition’.

Each of the modules explains the concepts and is supported by images. At the end of each class, an assignment is given that the students have to complete and upload in a week. Their homework is critiqued by mentors and peers, and only then can they proceed to the next class. If required, they are allowed to re-shoot. “This way they share ideas and learn from each others’ mistakes,” explains Anuradha, who emphasises that a strict protocol and system is followed and those signing up for the course have to be committed. There is no skipping lessons.

Offline vs online


Online students have access to more than 500 stunning photographs by over 90 LLA alumni to give them an idea of what they can do with their cameras. Mohamed oversees their work and comments when necessary. The first set of students have already completed two assignments and the results have been promising, says Anuradha. Once they get feedback, they will launch other programmes, she adds.

Prahalad Muralidharan, CEO of LLA Online, explains that it was challenging to replicate the successful methods of their full-time courses on to the online platform. “After brainstorming and countless revisions, we finally found a way to do it. With peer-group interaction, an online forum and professional feedback, LLA Online is as close as it gets to LLA in terms of learning on an online platform!” he says.

The course includes 10 sessions over 10 weeks. The fee is ₹10,000. The full time courses at LLA can go up to ₹6,65,000. Details: or call: 97511-51999

source: / The Hindu / Home> Life & Style / by Pankiaja Srinivasan / January 05th, 2018