Wednesday, 28 August 2013

India's unknown heritage

History a.k.a Itihas- A word that dazzles us out each time we hear about it,  
a word which makes us instantly hit the hay and a word which to some imparts a feeling of ad-nauseam.
Did we ever think about, what happened in our nation in yesteryears? Or what are we gaining from studying a subject called History? Why are we made to learn and cram it till our X standard?  

Mahatama Gandhi, Bhagat singh, Mohammad Bin tughlak – these few names are familiar to us, arent they?
What about Agrasen, Mu'izzu'd-Din Muhammad, Ulugh khan?

Ah, who cares until unless reading about it, without applying mind fetches me some marks? One of the major sect of History is the Monuments which acts as source of information for us to dwell in the past.

What do we get to know from it?

Yes, we all would have visited at least one or the another Monument of the city we belong to, but was it out of choice or compulsion or was it in fact  a part of showing your city to your guest or some school/college trip? Curiosity is tough to find these days regarding visiting a monument and excavating information about it as some historians may find it.

My take on one of India’s forgotten historical monument-

As I was instructed to cover up Monuments for my next piece, I was not sure, whether I will be able to do justice to it because for the longest time history and I have in fact been at loggerheads with each other.

After having a long talk with moderator of blog I agreed albeit reluctantly when she concluded the conversation with -“One should try new things everyday, So All the best.”

It also triggered somewhat a confidence in me. So I contacted  two of my batch mates- one of whom is lover of architecture (Priya chauhan) and the other a lover of History (Kshitiz Garg). This very “monumental monument”  as the name conveys is quite intriguing. It initiated certain level of inquisitiveness within me to know what does “Baoli” mean and what was the history behind it? 

Thanks to my History freak, he described me what does a baoli means and the purpose of constructing a Baoli within a state.

Going to visit one of the monuments of Delhi, we thought it will not be hard to locate this baoli in CP-the famous point of the capital, which is crowded day and night. But ironically, very few People did know about this monument, even half of the rickshaw wala bhaiya’s were not aware of it. Thanks to our luck,we got hold of one old gentlemen who knew this place, the first words he uttered was “ Woh khandar? wahaan koi ni jata” [those ruins? No one goes there!] and that was moment when my friends gave me that “You are so dead” look. The common problem of all Delhiites with respect to Autos- Denial to go by Meter was faced by us too. The driver straight away charged us 50 bucks. After 10 minutes of drive from Rajiv chowk metro station, he dropped us at one unknown road saying take left and you will find your destination. We stood there and here it was, far from the jubilations of life-it stood there in its pride- a beautiful masterpiece of the Aggarwal dynasty’s Architecture.

 We walked into the place and to do Shri Ganesh -there was huge pile of garbage at starting of the road which leads to baoli, welcoming its visitors by giving it sense of “Athiti Devo Bhava”. After marching forward, you forget what you just saw, once those beautiful, eye catching, creative grafittis on the left and side wall of the road hypnotise you with its illustrations. Enjoying the view of those wall designings we reached our much awaited location. Inside the gate you can see two bilingual Information boards put up by ASI( Archaelogcial survey of India) giving a brief insight into it’s past.

Behind which there stood a huge Bodhi tree( peepal tree). Stepping on the stairs and making our way to this deserted place made me forget all the problems we faced reaching here. I was frozen, I could not believe my eyes. You might think I am over-reacting, but for someone who until then was under the deep impression that History was no more than dates suddenly this was a moment of rediscovering my interests. Majestic carved out rocks were calling us down to explore this forgotten paradise. It is a relatively simple structure, consisting of single flight of 103 steps that culminate in a now dry water tank. The stone walls of the well are stark yet beautiful, forming a 60 x 15 meter rectangle. Walkways interrupt the walls at three levels, allowing the visitor to explore various niches. The small rooms, arches present there gives a sense that these dark, dingy chambers might have been used as “Prayer room or strategic room”. My friend pointed out that this place has been used many –a-times by filmmakers and Photographers. For school kids and collegiates it’s a meeting point after a long day.

It is said “It was built by traders society’s legendary king Agrasen during the Mahabharat era and was re-constructed in the 14th century by the Agrawal community which traces its origin to Maharaja Agrasen.”

This was used by people then as water conservation tool, mainly to cope with seasonal fluctuations in water availability.Also, it was they who prayed and offered gifts to the goddess of the well for her blessings. The water in this very baoli according to people, was present till 2002 and kids used to relish swimming here, and throwing coins in order to make their wishes heard. The water has since  eventually dried off and at present there is nothing more than birds, bats, dry leaves, dust and garbage .

At another end of baoli, you can a see watchmen putting up his chair and stopping the way to an arched dome. When enquired he disapproved stating that  –“there is a mosque-attached to this wall”.

After little research and study on stepwell, we stumbled upon news calling this Baoli – HAUNTED. It is believed that earlier people would jump into the well in order to attain MOKSH. And sometimes at night, they hear weird noises and sounds coming from another end of this well. And don’t forget the Bodhi tree at the entrance which gives horrific look to this whole haunted story. We were a little perturbed and we started thinking on the sounds-and soon we realised it is none other than those birds which have taken shelter in this deserted monument.  Unlike other monuments thankfully this little place is free from paan-marks, Love sign scribbled over walls.

After spending nice one hour in this lost heritage structure, we decided to bid adieu to this majestic, historical yet scary Agrasen ki baoli.

Details :
Place: Hailey road, Connaught place, New Delhi

Time: 9am - 5pm

Cost Of Visit-NIL
Metro station-Rajiv chowk

1. TICKET SYSTEM: ASI should start charging atleast rupees.5-10 per person per visit.

2. CLEAN-ATHON: Weekly cleaning of this ancient monument is need of the hour. The MCD officials should take notice of it’s pathetic condition. Schools/colleges can take up cleaning drives, in order to keep this very ancient, antique monument alive.
3. SIGN BOARD: Delhi govt. to place atleast one sign board mentioning the name of this monument at Hailey road, so that its not tough to locate it.
4. CURRICULUM ADDITION: Aggarwal dynasty and their architecture or even a brief article on the stepwells of India is required to keep youth of this nation stick to history.

This small-trip for me was one of the way to “Explore my Dilli”. It made me sensitive towards the lesser known periods of my country’s History and and the information carved along with them.

Truly it was experience of reminiscing history. 

Aakash Chandran
@ChandranAakash on Twitter

The writer is a law student at Jaamia Milia University. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Privacy vs. National Security

The concept of democracy and the characteristics of a republic are traditionally expected to give immense power to the people who are fortunate enough to subscribe to them in their respective countries. To be able to exercise that power should not be taken for granted and definitely not be exploited. Today, almost every nation- state in the world is threatened by many coexisting elements; terrorism, sectarianism, separatism, regionalism etc., all of which are not obstructed by borders but instead, are contagious transnationally. This has ushered in an era of global terrorism. Duly elected governments invest a lot in their defense capacities to protect its people from these threatening agents. And in this regard man has come a long way from ballistic missile to WMDs to drones and most recently, PRISM!

The debates on non-proliferation and disarmament have been on the loop for decades but the rhetoric has hardly conceptualized into concrete steps. Of course these are positive steps that must pro-actively be worked upon by engaging in regular talks among the consortium of nations. The idea behind disarmament is simple, it is to limit the possibility of wars and violence. But, human nature as we know does not allow these positive steps to become a reality so conveniently. So every developing or developed nation is engrossed in accumulating and procuring more and more weapons according to their respective reasons. If the states are legitimately procuring so are the agents of terror and mass destruction albeit, illegitimately. For any nation, the threat from these surreptitious transnational agents of terror is much more blatant than one coming from an internationally recognized state. Since the channels of diplomacy and reconciliation are not easily comprehended by these terrorist organizations, their actions have to be and must be intercepted by the state.

Today almost all powerful countries have mechanisms to restrict these anti-social elements likely to affect their territory. The idea is land, air, or water, wherever you see the peril, intercept and counter it.  It only becomes logical in the wake of today’s technology that if a government can, then it must get into the laptops, tablets or phones of the suspects and be a step ahead of them in order to crush them down. The mechanism that the NSA uses to collect its information on the suspected incendiaries should be a welcome step, albeit, the authority that uses these mechanism comes out clean in front of its people and is further guided by a code of conduct in association with other countries of the globe (since this mechanism it uses is infringing with the territorial boundary of other countries) that share the same objective of fighting terrorism.

Privacy is a part of social security and social security can only possibly be provided if the state itself is secured from clandestine attacks. Terrorism has affected each and every part of the globe and remains the top most concern for every administration. Transparency is a very contentious issue when it comes to national security. But in so far as the snooping by NSA is concerned, U.S. must come out proactively to bind its intelligence agency under a legalized code of conduct with adequate transparency to pacify its citizens and furthermore share its information and cooperate with the other countries who do not have the advantage of accessing servers of the popular internet companies. If used ethically and collaboratively this measure can be a huge advantage for the countries afflicted by terrorism. US proclaims to be fighting global terrorism and it must be pressed by the international community to open up the avenues for collective action against common global terrorists.

-  Nitish Bhardwaj