A PORTFOLIO OF PORTRAITS
Millions and millions of people have treaded upon this country and each one has shaped this country according to his actions and beliefs. It is hard to recollect all the contributors to the making of the new India that is now prevailing, instead let us see a few examples from myriad fields.
MAHAVIR (600 B.C)He was born around 600 B.C. in Bihar. His father King Siddhartha was the ruler of Kundalpur. Since childhood, he was very brave and intelligent.
He strongly opposed animal sacrifice when he grew up. He left for the woods at the age of thirty for meditation. He was the 24th Tirthankar of the Jain religion. He attained "Nirvana" or Salvation in 527 B.C.
BUDDHA ( 544 B.C)A number of legends are connected with the birth of Gautama Buddha who was born in the year 544 B.C. His childhood and youth days were spend in pleasure as he was born a Prince. He married and got a beautiful son.
Once, when he set out of his palace for a walk he found the suffering and the poverty of the common man, that he left the palace for a forest for meditation and to understand the truth behind lives. One day when he was resting under a Bodhi tree he got enlightment and then he went out preaching men about "Nirvana".
CHANDRAGUPTA(320 B.C)He was a Kshatriya noble, who belonged to the Nanda family of Magadha. With the help of his adviser, Kautilya, he organized an army and seized the power of Magadha, with Pataliputra as the capital. Kautilya took care of his administration. He had a great army of about 600,000 men. It is said that his Government, the Gupta Empire was the most efficient one that India has ever had.
ASOKA (273 B.C)Asoka, the Great mounted the throne in 273 B.C. He ruled the entire India except the extreme South. He had the governing spirit of his grandfather, Chandragupta. But the great Kalinga War, which claimed the lives of thousands of his enemies, changed him. He joined the Buddhist Order and gave up hunting and stopped eating meat. His edicts carved upon rocks and pillars are found all over India and the famous Asoka's Pillar has been taken as the National Emblem of India.
GURU NANAK (1469)Guru Nanak was born in 1469, at Talwandi. He was born in a Hindu family. Around 1500, he was changed by a spiritual experience and he settled in Punjab, gathering with him the first of the Sikhs and taught them his principles. Most of his preaching is in the form of Hymns and they are of great poetic beauty. Ascetic practices were put aside according to him and emphasis was put on "Nam Dan Insan".
BABUR (1483-1530)BABUR He was the one who opened the Mughal chapter in India. He was a rebel Prince from Samarchand related to Timur and Chengiskhan. Today we remember him all for the big mosque that bears his name in Ayodhya.
AKBAR (1556)During Humayun's exile, his wife gave birth to his son and named him Akbar, meaning "The Great". As he grew up he was good at all arts and at the age of 18, he took up the administration. He managed the administration very well and forbade sati, child-marriage. He dreamt of a whole united India. He brought up the best parts of all the Indian religions in his newfound religion, Dee-e-ilahi, but it could not survive after his period. He was the greatest of the Mughal Emperors.
TULSI DASTulsi das is the supreme poet of Hindi. When he was born his parents abandoned him as he was born in an unlucky star. A hermit adapted him and taught him the Ramayana. He married and the death of his son saw him to the forests. It was in the forests that he wrote the "Ramacharita Manas", where he retold the story of Rama. Gandhiji has said that the Ramayana of Tulsidas is the greatest devotional book that he ever has read.
KABIRKabir was one of the greatest poets of India. He was a weaver of Benares and he wanted to unite Hinduism and Islam. He became a devotee of Rama and wrote couplets that gave way to his ideas of no temples, no idols, no caste but only one God. When he died there was a dispute between the Hindus and Muslims as to how he should be laid to rest. When the cloth covering him was removed they found only flowers, and the Hindus burned half of them and the Muslims buried the other half.
SHIVAJI BHONSLE (1627-80)India was always a big magnet for invaders. But the biggest resistance that any invader could not face was by the Marathas funded by the great Shivaji. He set up the first Nation state in India. He was a liberator and an epic hero.
Shivaji was the son of Shahji, a chief in the state of Bijapur. He was born at Junnar in 1627. He was brave and revolted against the state of Bijapur. He attacked the Mughals and organized the Marathas into a strong force. Aurangazeb invited him into his court for negotiations but imprisoned him. But Shivaji, found his way out treacherously. He died in 1680 and his successors were not strong like him. His Maratha power was responsible for the fall of the Mughal Empire
He condemned image-worship and advocated monotheism and greatly protested against the evil of Sati system. He founded the Brahma Samaj in 1828 responsible for religious and social reforms. He specifically denounced the caste system. He promoted English learning and fought conservative Hindu and Christian Missionaries simultaneously.
ISHWAR CHAND VIDYASAGAR (1820- 1898)This man was born in a poor family in Bengal, in Midnapore district on September 26, 1820. He acquired the title of "Vidyasagar" later in his life meaning, "Ocean of knowledge". He contributed to the upliftment of the society in general. He hardly ever wore good dresses as he gave them when he saw poor men without proper dress. He was a great Sanskrit scholar and a great reformer. He did a lot for the upliftment of women including widow remarriage and their education and child education. He also preached for the remarriage of widows, which was a taboo in those days. In a sense he is the originator of the modern Bengali language.
SWAMI DAYANAND (1825-1883)He was the first religious reformer of modern India who out of his own curiosity had delved deep into the scriptures to find the true interpretations. He was born in 1825 in a well-to-do Audichya Brahmin family at Tankara in Morvi state in Kathiawar. He learnt a lot from the blind Swami Vriganand of Mathura who changed his name to Dayananda Sarawathi after Diksha.
His ideas and preachings were far from the narrow confinement of religion alone. He was a great social reformer. He championed for the emancipation of women, widow remarriage, abolition of caste systems, child marriage, polytheism, doctrine of incarnation, untouchability, idol-worship and was against to salvations by observing fasts, etc.
LAKSHMI BAI (RANI OF JHANSI)(1835-1858)Pride of India's women, also known as the "Joan of Arc" of India, Lakshmi Bai was born on 16th November, 1835 at Kashi near Banaras. She blossomed into a beautiful and intelligent girl of dominating personality and generous disposition. Her only son died in infancy and later her husband too. Lord Dalhousie annexed Jhansi under the Doctrine of Lapse and Lakshmi Bai was forced to leave her royal Palace. She fought bravely against the British for two weeks and then escaped to Kalpi on horseback with her small-adopted son. There with the help of Tantia tope and Rao Sahib she decided to continue her fight. Lakshmi Bai fought in the thick of battle with swords in both the hands and the horse's rein in her mouth. On June16th 1858, she fell in the battlefield.
JAMSHEDJI TATA (1839-1904)When the British were undermining the foundations of India's native economy, one Indian quietly went about laying new foundations for a new industrial and economic future. He built up the great industrial empire of India, and set charities and foundations and visionary institutions for science education and fundamental research. He was a great entrepreneur with a pioneering spirit.
He was born of Parsi parentage in 1839 at Navrasi and was educated at Elphinstone Institution in Bombay. Dissatisfied with the traditional businesses in India, he started his own textile mills in Nagpur.
Jamshedji's concern for India's economic progress resulted in the establishment of the Iron and Steel works at Sakchi now in Jamshedpur. A rich man, he used his wealth as a trust, organizing his charities in a systematic way.
RAJA RAVI VARMA(1848-1906)For thousands of years the Indians worshipped gods and goddesses without any specific form. The task of giving recognizable visages to Shiva, Vishnu, Rama and Krishna and to much number of Apsarases was left to the royal artist Ravi Varma. He was the first Indian to acquire expertise in oil portrait technology.
NARAYANA GURU (1855-1928)He was a simple man who fought against caste oppressions. His simple mantra was: One caste, one religion and one God for man. His ideas helped transform social conditions in Kerala and shake the foundations of discrimination everywhere. Oppressed people across the land bestowed the status of divinity on him.
BAL GANGADHAR TILAK (1856-1920)Known widely as "The father of Indian unrest", Bal Gangadhar Tilak was born on 23 July, 1856 in an orthodox chitpavan family in Ratnagiri in Maharastra. He was a brilliant student with a bachelor degree in Mathematics and Sanskrit and ultimately a Law degree in 1879. After education, Tilak refused many lucrative jobs and plunged into the cause for a national awakening. Tilak's political and social outlooks were contradictory. He believed in the age-old traditions of untouchability and child marriage.
Tilak came on the national scene as a symbol of radical youth. His extreme political views alarmed the members of the Congress. He played an important role in turning the national movement of India into a truly mass movement. He was an educationist and editor based in Pune. He linked the national aspirations with the culture of India. His powerful journalism eventually led to his exile to the dreaded jail in the Andamans on charges of sedition. He died on 1st August, 1920 before the country got its independence.
JAGDISH CHANDRA BOSE (1858- 1937)He was one of the greatest Indian scientists. He was born on November 30th, 1858 in Mymensingh in Bengal He had his education at Cambridge University of London. . He was a pioneer in Physics, Electro-Physics and plant Physiological researches in India. He worked on Biochemistry and founded the famous Bose Institute in 1917 for the purpose of plant physiological researches. He was involved in the study of responses in the living and non-living things and demonstrated the effect of different types of stimuli, such as heat, drugs, electrical excitation on animal and vegetable tissues and also on certain inorganic systems.
His important achievement was the discovery that plants are living beings. Through successful experiments he proved that plants eat and breathe as we do. He also developed instruments like the Cresco graph, which could magnify the small movements of plants, conductivity balance, photosynthetic recorder and radiometer. He died in 1937.
He was one of the great minds of India who gave expressions to the soul in the Subcontinent, which was under turmoil. He composed the National anthem of our country. He was a novelist, playwright, poet, painter, traveler and educationist. He wrote over a thousand poems, over two thousand songs, in addition to a large number of short stories, novels and dramas and essays on the most diverse of topics.. He was a musician of the highest order too. He took to painting only when he was 70 years old and yet he had produced about three thousand paintings of good artistic quality. He established the "topovana School" where it would be possible to link learning and living with nature. "Shantiniketan " is the culmination of this idea. He passed away on 7th August 1941, in Calcutta after a surgical operation. There was no one like him before, and no one since.
SIR M. VISWESVARAYA (1861-1962)Sir Viswesvaraya was born in an orthodox middle-class Brahmin family in a village near Nandi hills in Mysore state. He passed Engineering in 1883 from Poona College, topping the list of graduates. Viswesvaraya started his career as an Assistant Engineer in the Public Works Department of the Bombay Government. At the desire of the Maharaja of Mysore he joined the state's service as chief Engineer and initiated the scheme of the 124 feet high Krishnaraja sagar Reservoir across the Cauvery. In November 1912 he became the Dewan of Mysore state. He was responsible for the establishment of the Mysore Bank, The Mysore University and several Engineering schools in the State of Karnataka. He received the Bharat Ratna in 1955 and he died on April 14th, 1962.
VIVEKANANDA (1863-1902)Vivekananda was a staunch follower of Rama Krishna. His real name was Narendra Dutt. He was born in a Kayastha family on 12th January, 1863 and he was the sixth child to his parents. He studied in the Presidency College. In 1882, he found Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar and accepted him as his "Guru". Sitting on the rocks in Kanya Kumari, the southern tip of Peninsula India, he visualized a solution for the suffering of the masses.
He did not like the myths and superstitions with which the religion is generally associated. Under the able guidance of his guru he began to believe in God as the totality of all souls. He advised people to practice religion through complete devotion to men and not through ascetism and meditation. He strengthened the spiritual legacy of India in the 19th century. He never hesitated to condemn evils like casteism, but his pride in the philosophy of Hinduism combined with his catholicity of views turned the Parliament of Religions in 1893 into a historical event. He exhorted the nation to "Arise, Awake and stop not till the goal is reached". On 1st May, he established the Ramakrishna Mission and the following year the Belur Math.
GOPAL KRISHNA GOKHALE (1866-1915)He was born on May 9th, 1866 in a poor Chitpavan Brahmin family in the Ratnagiri district of Maharastra. After education he devoted himself completely to public life and the national freedom struggle. In 1889, he became a member of the Indian National Congress. Being a liberal man, he saw the advantages of western education and advocated it strongly. He was a political moderate and did not agree with Tilak's extremist views. He started the "Servants of India Society" a group aimed at dedication of themselves to the service of the country. He died in 1915.
AUROBINDO (1872-1950)Aurobindo Ghosh was born in Calcutta on 15th August,1872. He went to England for his schooling. He passed the Indian civil service Examination. In 1905, the Partition of Bengal brought him into the open as a leader. He started the Bengali daily, "Yugantar" and also joined the English daily "Bande Mataram". His provocative articles made the British to arrest him but he flew to Pondicherry , a French settlement where the British could do him no harm. There a change came over him and he gave up all his political activities and devoted himself to literature and philosophy. A French couple Paul Richard and his wife who later became the famous "Mother" cooperated with him. An Ashram grew up in Pondicherry attracting disciples from all over the world. Auroville, an experiment in harmonious international living was begun in 1965. Sri Aurobindo passed in 1950 and the Ashram still remains a center of spiritual regeneration under his disciples.
Colonial rule stifled patriotism so repressively that many turned revolutionary while some turned spiritual. This man traversed both courses to provide unrivalled inspiration to those who came in contact with him. He treated himself and became a yogic recluse, but his power to influence minds swelled all.
VALLABHAI PATEL (1875-1950)Sardar vallabhai Patel was born on October 31, 1875 in a middle class peasant family of Nadiad, Gujarat. He studied law and was drawn into politics by the leadership of Gandhi. He was made the Deputy Prime Minister when India became independent. He made the greatest contribution to the country- namely the integration of the princely states. In less than a year's time he managed to reduce the number of princely states from 562 to 26 administrative units. He was called the Iron Man of India. He foresaw the necessity of a strong Indian military force and was responsible for the reorganization of the armed forces.
As an organizer he was unparalleled and as a government head he was clear-headed. For the firmness and farsightedness with which the map of India was consolidated through the integration of the princely states and the rupture of the princely egos, the nation is debted to Vallabhai Patel. He died on December15, 1950.
SAROJINI NAIDU (1876-1949)Aptly called the "Nightingale of India" Sarojini Naidu was born in a Bengali Brahman family in Hyderabad on 13th February 1879. Daughter of a remarkable scientist cum philosopher father and a poetess mother, Sarojini displayed great talent at poetry and wrote melodious Indian poems. After 1917, Sarojini joined active politics. She was elected Congress president in 1925. After Independence, India honored her the first woman Governor of Uttar Pradesh. On 2nd March 1949, she died as a woman who was loved and respected by all classes of people.
CHAKAHRAVARTI RAJAGOPALACHARI (1879-1972)Rajagopalachari was born in a middle class Brahman family in December 1879, in Salem district of Tamilnadu. He graduated from the Presidency College, Madras, at the age of 18 and then studied Law and started practicing as lawyer. He married in 1900 but his wife died early in 1917. Gandhi became his political leader although at times he differed from Gandhi openly. The Rowlett Act and the Jallian wala Bagh massacre prompted him to join the freedom Movement. He led the famous Salt Satyagraha march in Tamilnadu. He was the General Secretary of the Indian National Congress from 1921-1922. He was also the first Chief Minister of Madras in 1937-1939 and later in 1952-1954. Gradually he moved away from the Congress and formed the Swatantra Party. A man of great intellect, he believed in practicing what he preached. He was never afraid of criticizing others.
SUBRAMANIA BHARATHI(1882-1921)He was born on 11th December 1882 at Ettayapuram in Tirunelveli District, Tamilnadu. He became a Tamil scholar and he was awarded the title "Bharathi" when he won a prize in a literary contest sponsored by the Raja of Ettayapuram.He joined a Tamil daily in Madras and while here he developed a taste for politics and social reforms and he wrote his expressions into patriotic poems.
Bharathi was associated with the extremist movement in the Congress. His patriotic poems include the powerful "Janma bhoomi" and his devotional songs pay homage to the Goddess Kali. Subramani Bharathi was one of the pioneer advocates of national integration as he stressed in most of his poems.
SRINIVASA RAMANUJAM (1887-1920)One of the greatest mathematicians the world ever produced, Srinivasa Ramanujam was born in a South Indian Iyengar Brahman family at Erode on 22 December, 1887. His father was an accountant. Even at his early stages he possessed an uncanny familiarity with numbers and could give the values of various mathematical entities to any number of decimal places. He passed the Matriculation exams in Kumbakonam, a small town in Tamilnadu and he was also fighting poverty. In 1909 he got married.
G. H. Hardy, the great mathematician had some questions and the solutions were found in Ramanujam's work and so Ramanujam was introduced to the world as a great genius.
Ramanujam got a Research scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge and while working there he contracted tuberculosis in 1917. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society and also a Fellow of the Trinity College in 1918 and during this time he made the greatest contributions to mathematics. Early in 1919 he returned to India and again his health broke down and he died on 26th April, 1920, at the youthful age of 33 years.
C.V.RAMAN(1888-1970)Under colonial rule, the Indian scientists did not even have a well-equipped laboratory. Yet, Raman was able to refract light and discovered the great Raman Effect. He also worked on Surface Tension. The Raman effect he discovered became significant in the studies of the constitution and properties of various substances. He established academies, journals and institutes and evolved new ideas on the measurement of photons spins and the magnetic properties of crystals. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics and the Bharat Ratna in 1954.
Chandrasekhara Venkataraman was born on 7th November 1888 at Thiruchirapalli. After independence, Raman was made the first "National Professor" in 1948. Raman was also well versed in literary and religious classics. He was also a great speaker. He passed away in 1970 at the age of 82.
JAWAHARLAL NEHRU (1889-1964)The first Prime Minister of Independent India, Nehru was born on 14th November, 1889, at Allahabad.Son of Motilal Nehru, a leading Barrister of the country and a staunch nationalist, Nehru was introduced to politics from his early days. He received his education at Harrow and Cambridge and returned to India. Then he married Kamala Kaul, a frail girl of seventeen, chosen by his parents. Their only child was Indira Priyadarshini who was to later become the Prime Minister. Kamala died a premature death in 1936.
He was an aristocrat who embraced the life of suffering and joined those who plunged into the freedom movement. He more or less became the successor for the principles of Gandhi. Nehru also has the unique distinction of being elected the President of the Congress for five times. He became the first Prime Minister of India and remained so until his death .As the first Prime Minister of India, he attracted critics as well as admirers. Some of his policies came in for strong criticism. His was a rule of international prestige and the pioneering concept of Non-alignment was his proud legacy. All over the world he was hailed as "The Messenger of Peace". He was one of the architects of the Non-aligned Movement. He was a great Statesman and a Visionary. He wrote great works that include his Autobiography, Discovery of India, Glimpses of World History, etc. He passed away on 27th May, 1964.
BHIM RAO AMBEDKAR (1891-1956)Ambedkar was a leader of the depressed classes and fought relentlessly for their emancipation. He was born in Mhow, on the 14th of April, 1891 for untouchable parents and had his early education in Satara. He went to study in USA on a scholarship from where he went to England to prepare for the bar. Once back in India, he began to fight for the cause of the untouchables.
He led various satyagrahas to establish the civil rights of the untouchables. From 1930 he entered the national politics. He came into conflict with Gandhi on the issue of separate electorates for the untouchables. He was nominated to the Constituent Assembly. He was Law Minister in the Nehru Cabinet and Chairman of the Drafting Committee to frame the Indian constitution. He prepared the Hindu Code Bill. He has also authored many books.
Despite the evils of casteism and untouchability, which were in vogue in our country then, some people rose to the top on their own inherent worth. Ambedkar rose high enough to become an architect of the country's constitutional foundations. So spirited was his life-long campaign for equality and justice that the powerful Dalit movement finds a perennial source of sustenance even now.
SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE(1897-1945)Subhas Chandra Bose was the ninth of fourteen children to his parents and he was born on January 23rd, 1897, in Cuttack, Odisha to Janaki Nath Bose and Prabhabati Devi. He studied at the Presidency College, Calcutta and passed the ICS examinations in England. During the Jallianwalabagh incident, his nationalism got better and he resigned from the ICS and joined Gandhi in the freedom struggle. After the World War II he fell out with Gandhi. He formed the forward Bloc. He struck up alliance with Germany and Japan, which were the Brtishers enemies, on the principle that "my enemy's enemy is my friend".
In 1943, he arrived in Singapore and organized the Indian National Army out of the Indian prisoners of war and proclaimed the Government of Azad Hind that same year. Hailed as Netaji by the Army as well as the Indians in East Asia, he liberated the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The INA headquarters were shifted to Rangoon in January 1944 and with the cry "Delhi Chalo" on their lips the soldiers crossed the Indian border on March 18th, 1944. The brave army came up to Kohima and Imphal taking one after the other, the British outposts. But the fall of Japan made them retreat. He was reportedly killed in an air crash over Taiwan on August 18th, 1945.
HOMI BHABHA (`1909-1966)In the beginning of this century science was considered as a monopoly of the West. The new fledging India could not even dream of science as its bedrock. If it is now in the forefront of the world with good nuclear and space capabilities, the credit goes to Bhabha. He was a visionary of extraordinary luminescence who understood that India has the capability.
Homi Jahangir Baba was born on October 30, 1909 at Bombay. He belonged to a Parsi family. He had his higher studies in England and later entered into the research field in India. His field was "Nuclear energy". At Bangalore he founded the Institute of Science. The production of nuclear energy in India was all because of him. He was appointed Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan. He died in an air crash on January 24th.
She has the distinction of being awarded honorary doctoral degrees from a number of Indian and Foreign Universities. Her numerous achievements in the field of arts and science brought her many laurels. She received the Bharat Ratna in 1972 and the U Thant Peace Prize for East- West Understanding in 1982. Finally her Sikh bodyguards assassinated her in her home due to her decision to send the Army into the Golden Temple at Amritsar to flush out the Sikh terrorists who were hiding there.