Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hotel Ramgarh Fort near Chandigarh has tallest Door in country

It is official. The door of the Fort at Ramgarh is the tallest door in the country higher than even the gate of Fatehpur Sikri near Agra. The latest edition of the Limca Book of Records which is the Indian equivalent to the Guinness Book of Records, lists the entry of the “tallest door” at page number 204.

The wooden door guarding the 350-year-old Ramgarh Fort near Chandigarh measures 37ft in height and 14½ ft in width.

The “Buland Darwaza” at Fatehpur Sikri stands 120 ft tall, including the steps and the constructed area but the actual door is only 23 ft. The door at the Bathinda fort in Punjab is 26 feet high.

Interestingly, the doors of forts and palaces were kept exceptionally tall in previous centuries so that the rajas sitting on elephants could enter without dismounting. Hence they were often called hathi deorhi.

The door of the fort is a replica of the original door, which was built 300 years back by the Chandel Rajput dynasty but broken during the 1857 mutiny. The replica was reconstructed in late 1980, by Kanwar Mohan Singh, a scion of the former ruling family of Ramgarh, is now a part of the premises converted into a heritage hotel. Each of its two panels weighs 21 quintals despite which, it can be easily closed and opened. About 2000 man-days were spent in putting the new door together with 343 custom-made copper plates and 343 spikes on it.

Spikes were used on the doors in olden days so that these could not be broken by an attacking army with the help of elephants banging their heads on it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Negotiations to Purchase Historic Gurdwara Baoli Sahib at Jagannath Puri in Orissa

Gurdwara Baoli Sahib at Jagannath Puri in the state of Orissa, where Guru Nanak unearthed a natural spring and where he sang the shabad ‘Gagan mae thaal rav chand deepak banay, Taaraka mandal janak moti...’ that challenged the concept of aarti, is a rather miserable looking place.

Like many other Sikh historic places, Gurdwara Baoli Sahib is desperately in need of conservation.

A painting of Guru Nanak languishing in the gurdwara shows the Guru sitting under a tree with his two sons sitting to his right, and his companion, Mardana, playing the rabaab, also to his right. When I saw it in February, it was in very sad condition.

The decrepit baoli, a stepped well that goes down to the water surface, marks the spot in the sand where Guru Nanak dug his staff to release a spring of sweet water, the only source of drinkable water in the area.

The gurdwara is very small. There are two rooms, one for Guru Granth Sahib and the other for Lord Jagannath. The caretaker priest does both Sikh and Hindu prayers.

About a mile from Gurdwara Baoli Sahib stands a newer gurdwara, Nanakmata Sahib, which was built less than 10 years ago. It has 24-hour open langar and a building next door for travelers to stay.

There is also a lot across the road, just in front of the gurdwara, large enough to build three homes. It was donated to the gurdwara by the city of Puri. Gurdwara officials said they were planning to build a children’s park and a library named after one of the Panj Piaray, Mohkam Singh, who was from Puri.

Puri does not have any Sikh resident, but the sangat regularly goes to Gurdwara Nanakmata Sahib from the neighboring state capital of Bhubaneshwar and from the city of Cuttack.

Gurdwara Nanakmata Sahib is working with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to take possession of the old historical Gurdwara Baoli Sahib. Its secretary said the government and the Brahmin family at Baoli Sahib had agreed, in principle, to hand it over, at an agreed price.

When that will happen is not known, but hope the Baoli Sahib family is given millions of rupees for their seva and for passing the responsibility of the gurdwara on to the Sikhs.

Jagannath Puri, on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, is one of the four most sacred places of pilgrimage for Hindus. A special ritual, called aarti, is performed in praise of Lord Jagannath, Lord of the universe. Aarti worship involves circulating a metal platter on which little lamps with butter-soaked wicks are lit.

Guru Nanak watched pilgrims doing aarti at Jagannath Puri during his odyssey in the mid 1500s. He did not participate. Instead, he sang a shabad about the true realm of Waheguru, in which aarti is meaningless.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Punjabi Jutti no more a popular wear

Punjabi Jutti was known for its immaculate embroidery and varied hues which made it a popular wear for the people of the region for all types of occasions.But today it appears to be on its way out in absence of any government support and in face of fashion trends which are too fast-paced for the practitioners of this trade to keep abreast of, almost bringing down curtain on this century-old tradition.

A survey revealed that this handicraft business are fast shrinking. The Punjabi Jutti market near the Quila Mubarak in Patiala, which once enjoyed an enviable reputation for this trade, is finding the old hands there no more keen on this craft. Thousands of families involved in making these Jutti since 19th century are unable to earn enough to keep their body and soul together and are feeling compelled to bid adieu to their trade.

“The Jutti was in a great demand in early 60s and 70s, but 90 onwards, there was a decline in its popularity. Due to new trends in fashion, it was no more a daily wear. Although we tried our level best to keep pace with these trends, but due to lack of enough funds at our disposal and frequent changes in fashion, we failed to cater to the need,” revealed some of the families involved in the trade said.

Apart from this, the new taxes on the raw material like leather has further tightened the noose around this business. Earlier, there was no tax on leather, but now it has been brought under the ambit of Vat, thus leaving the makers of these Jutti with no option but to bow out. Earlier, this business was allowed some subsidies too. But now with subsidy gone and on the top of it extra levies slapped, the margins have come down drastically.Revealed the owner of Punjabi Jutti House, Jagdish Kumar, “Earlier, one shopkeeper used to have a nearly Rs 3-5 lakh turnover every year, but now it has come down by 70 pc and our commerce with various distributors from Delhi, Gurgaon and Bombay has also declined.”

‘Each one, Teach one’ - It’s learn & teach in Punjab college

One minute, they are students trying to absorb as much of the lesson as possible. The bell goes and they slip into a different role — that of teachers. In Gurdaspur’s Baba Aya Singh Riarki College for Women, ‘each one, teach one’ isn’t just a saying; it’s the college code. So, seniors teach juniors, set question papers for them, distribute answersheets and ensure that the exam goes off smoothly. Sans invigilators, mind you. For copying is unheard of in this institution established in 1967, with the aim of educating girls.

"The first time in front of a class is daunting but now I lecture confidently," says 18-year-old Harpreet Kaur, a econdyear BA student who teaches first-year students. All disputes are also resolved by the students themselves to boost their problemsolving skills.

Not just teaching, everything here is inhouse. Students cook, wash clothes and clean the campus, eliminating the need for any staff. Enter the building, and it is difficult to distinguish teacher from the taught, cook from sweeper. Clad in white salwar-kameez with heads covered in white dupattas, students rotate duties as teacher, cook and sweeper. The principal’s wife, Jagdish Kaur, oversees all kitchen activities.

"In our institution, the annual expenditure for a day scholar is Rs 800 and Rs 6,000 for a boarder," says octogenarian Swaran Singh Virk, who besides being principal is administrator, guide and mentor for students. Presently, the hostel accommodates about 2,000 students.

The college also has its own flour mill, saw mill and cane-sugar grinder, dairy farm and even a biogas plant that supplies gas to the kitchen, thereby saving at least Rs 1,000 a day. Use of solar power also helps cut their energy bill by a further Rs 10,000 per year.

The extra income goes towards educating kids who can’t afford to pay even the Rs 800 annual fee, says Virk. Though it has no affiliation, Guru Nanak Dev University has established an exam centre here and evaluates answersheets.

And though self-sufficiency is the guiding principle behind this college, the results are proof that academics aren’t neglected. The pass percentage every year is 99-100%, with almost 80% getting first division.

Sikh Tourism introduces Punjab Village Tour

Sikh Tourism has introduced a new travel package "Punjab Village Tour" which will take you to Sikh Cultural, Religious, Rural & Heritage life of Punjab Cities of Patiala, Amritsar, Anandpur and Chandigarh along with darshan of Golden Temple, Anandpur Sahib and Gurudwaras of Delhi.

People have visited the cities of Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Amritsar but may not have seen the actual life of a lively Punjab. For a traveler, Punjab is a wonderful tourist destination and especially if your visit a countryside place or Pind (village)is what you wish to explore on your Punjab Village Tour, spend some in a traditional Punjab village.

During this tour, a traveller will be shown the actual daily life of a villager, given homemade food, could participate in the local works like carpentary, ploughing, cow milking, clay pottery, etc. They could also see the work being done on handicrafts like Phulkari, utensil making, wood work, etc.

For more details, see at