Tharoor must visit UK museums

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor is habitual of running into controversies. But he would have been on a stronger wicket to hit back at the BJP and his own party politicians—members of erstwhile royal families —who are attacking him on his strong remarks about “maharajas” in the context of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati, if he had known about a recent lecture on “Indian exhibits” in the British Royal Collection.

In this lecture on “Sikh Arms and Armour” in Leicester, UK-based historian-author Gurinder Singh Mann explained how many beautiful and expensive gifts made their way into the Royal Collection through the then Indian royal families. The lecture was part of the year-long exhibition, “Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875-76”, currently being held in Britain. Mann heads the Sikh Museum Initiative. 

Queen Victoria, who never set foot on the Indian subcontinent, sent her eldest son, Prince Edward (later King Edward VII), to embark on a four-month tour of India in October 1875. Mann says, “The maharajas had much at stake to ensure they maintained their hegemony and status quo. So, the gifting of treasures to Queen Victoria via Prince Edward became a lavish affair. During Prince Edward’s visit to Punjab in early 1876, he was showered with exquisite gifts by the rulers of princely states.”At a Mumbai literary event, Tharoor condemned the actions of erstwhile Rajput “maharajas” who are loudly protesting against the film on the grounds that it is an insult to their honour. “Historically,” Tharoor said, “certain Rajput maharajas had turned tail when faced with the might of the British Empire, even striking a bargain for their self-preservation.”Mann says that the Punjab royalty, which showered gifts on Prince Edward, included Maharaja Mahendra Singh (Patiala), Maharaja Raghubir Singh (Jind), Maharaja Bikram Singh (Faridkot), Maharaja Hira Singh (Nabha) and Kharrak Singh (Kapurthala).

Mahendra Singh presented a rhinoceros-hide dhaal (shield) with “four large and two smaller enamelled and diamond-inlaid bosses in the form of curled-up cheetahs”. He died shortly afterwards at the age of 23. The Maharaja of Jind gifted a talwar (sword) with a European steel blade and a gold hilt, knuckle guard and circular pommel inlaid with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, and a red velvet-covered wooden scabbard embellished with gold openwork mounts inset with rubies, emeralds and diamonds. Prince Edward “rewarded” him by investing him with the Order of the Star of India.

Mann says that the other types of Sikh weaponry in the Royal Collection include chakkar (quoits), chariana (breastplates) and helmets. Many of these items from erstwhile royal Punjab families and the other princely kingdoms from other parts of the country are now at the Queen’s estate at Sandringham House in Norfolk and at the Windsor Castle and the Tower of London. 

‘Revive Chamar Regiment’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received a demand to revive the Chamar Regiment in the Army.

The letter has been written by the Punjab State Scheduled Castes Commission chairman, Rajesh Bagha. He has also requested him to set up a chair in any university to highlight the achievements of the Chamar Regiment.During the British rule, a committee was constituted to find martial and non-martial races in India and also to identify martial castes among the Scheduled Castes. The research had zeroed in on two SC castes—Chamar and Mahar—as these had military history. The Indian British Government then had constituted the Chamar Regiment in March 1943 with its headquarters in Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh).

The Chamar Regiment served the British Army up to 1946. “It was banned due to unforeseen circumstances,” says Bagha adding that it took part in World War II and fought a battle against the Japanese Imperial Army in Kohima. The Kohima Roll of Honour at the War Memorial in Rangoon (now known as Yangon) lists the achievements of the Chamar Regiment in the battlefield. “It is strange that the Sikh Regiment, Jat Regiment, Gorkha Regiment and Dogra Regiment formed on the basis of caste or religions continue to exist, while the Chamar Regiment was disbanded,” says Bagha. “As there is no reservation in the Army, the SC youths are not getting commissioned into it. The other castes and religions are getting indirect reservation on basis of their status of being martial and non-martial races.”

Farmers enjoy a bull run

Heera, a five-year-10-months old Murrah bull, stands at 5.5 feet. Every farmer in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh knows about this robust animal. The annual sale of its semen is worth about Rs. 1.5 crore. The National Dairy Development Board, Gujarat, has adopted Haryana’s Heera to use its sperm to improve the quality of Murrah buffalos under a World-Bank-funded project. The bull generates nearly 3,000 doses of semen in a month. The NDDB gives 1,500 straws to its owner each month and the price is Rs 300 per dose. The Sunday Guardian spoke to the owner of Heera—Kapoor Singh, of Singhwa Khas in Hisar district. He confirmed earning annually over Rs 1 crore by selling his bull’s semen. “My Heera is always a star attraction at the cattle fairs,” said Kapoor Singh. “We also sell progeny of quality breed buffaloes and bulls.” Heera daily eats 8 kg of cattle feed and drinks seven litres of milk and 250 gram of ghee. The bull is given a special massage to keep it healthy. Animal husbandry is turning out a money-spinner for many farmers, especially those associated with selling livestock of quality breed and bulls’ semen. They are getting good returns, from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 90 lakh per year. 

Pawan from Kungru village (Bhiwani) began selling the semen of his national prize winning Murrah bulls, Arjun and Bhim, in 2013 for improving the cattle breed and now earns Rs 20 lakh per year. He gets the semen of bulls prepared from a private agency in UP after conducting all required medical tests on the bulls. Narendra Singh of Didwadi village (Panipat), says that he didn’t know about the semen business before buying a Murrah bull for Rs 1.5 lakh in 2004. “When my bull won prizes at livestock fairs, some veterinary doctors advised me to get into the business of selling bulls’ semen.”

Needed, Editor-in-Chief for Rajya Sabha TV

A search is on for the editor-in-chief of the Rajya Sabha Television (RSTV). The last date to apply is 30 November. Who’s who of the television media world have applied for the post. Many of them have mentioned how they are close to the saffron family. A senior TV journalist has got a recommendation letter written to the Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu from an RSS functionary. 

The RSTV is controlled by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Naidu as the Chairman of the House of Elders is the top boss of the TV channel, which was launched in 2011. After becoming VP, Naidu had started trimming the RSTV and the first axe had fallen on the Chief Executive Officer’s post. The RSTV’s Editor-in-Chief position will be on a contract basis for a maximum of three years. Aspirants can send their applications to Chetan Sanjan Dutta, Additional Director (RSTV).

India’s fastest caricature maker

At the ongoing annual trade fair at Pragati Maidan, there was quite a queue outside the Income Tax Department’s stall. Curiosity took us inside. There was a heavyweight official making the visitors’ fast caricatures with a black pen in one minute. It was fascinating to watch Sajjive Balakrishnan (54), Deputy Commissioner I-T, who came especially from Kochi for this.  In 2012, his name was included in the Limca Book of Records for drawing the maximum number (651) of live full body caricatures in 12 hours in 2010. Since 2014, Balakrishnan has been coming to I-T Department’s stall to make the caricatures of over 2,500 visitors.  Five feet six inches tall, Balakrishnan weighs 121.5 kg. But he sits comfortably, while making caricatures. “I am the heaviest caricature maker in India, may be also in the world,” he said, laughing. He is vice-chairman of Kerala’s Cartoonist Academy. So far, he has drawn over 1.25 lakh caricatures.  Balakrishnan’s passion began when he was a Class eight student. He did a six-month-long postal training from Kerala’s famous Santhanus Chitra Vidhyalaya under noted guru Vijaya Sarathi. He pursued the art while doing BS . (Physics) at the Calicut University and twice won the “University XI” awards and actor John Abraham award for young cartoonists. He made political cartoons for many magazines and newspapers. In 1988, he joined the I-T department. His wife Lekha (47) is a well-known Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu playback singer. Their only child Siddharth (17) plays keyboard musical instruments.

Man Mohan can be contacted at


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