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ETAWAH: The Land of Talents

Etawah, my native place, is a city in the state Uttar Pradesh near Yamuna River. It is a part of a Kanpur Division. Also Etawah is a place of sangam between Yamuna River and Chambal River.  If we go in the history of the city, it was an important center for the Revolt of 1857.


Etawah – Constituency map Uttar Pradesh

Chambal ki Gattis are close to Etawah city, hence it is a notorious city even today. But today I, Anusha Pathak, want all of you to know that my native in not that bad as everyone thinks. Etawah is a land of talents too and here I am presenting few amazing talents of Etawah people.

Ustad Imdad Khan

1.      Ustad Imdad Khan (1848–1920), Instrumental Classical Musician: Even though his father Ustad Sahabdab Khan was the founder of Etawah Gharana, which comes from the most ancient school of music, the Gwalior Gharana, Ustad Imdad Khan was the one who developed the instruments, and created an innovative instrumental style that became characteristic of the Etawah gharana. The gharana is also called as Imdadkhani Gharana.

 Ustad Imdad Khan was born in Agra, but later shifted to Etawah. He was taught by his father Ustad Sahabdab Khan and the legendary beenkar Bande Ali Khan. He had served to kings of Mysore and Indore. He also played for Queen Victoria in Delhi.

In the 19th century, Senia style was dominating in the instrumental classical music of Northern India. But, Ustad Imdad Khan introduced the element of Khayal gayaki into the alap of the first time. All gayaki ornamentations were implemented and systematically developed into the techniques for this newly developed style for playing sitar.

Ustad Imdad Khan was the first Sitar player to come out with a recording.

Devesh Chauhan

2.      Devesh Singh Chauhan (1980), Hockey Player of India: Devesh Chauhan has born on November 12, 1980 in Etawah. He is a Hockey goalkeeper from India. In early 2000, Devesh Chauhan made his international debut for the Men’s National Team. He represented India twice at the Olympics in 2000 (Sydney Australia) and in 2004 (Athens, Greece) where India finished in seventh place on both the occasions.

 In the year 2001, Champions Challenge for Men was the inaugural tournament of Champions Challenge which held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Devesh Chauhan was the goal keeper of Indian Hockey team at that time. India defeated South Africa by 2-1 in the final to win the competition.


Gopaldas Saxena ‘Neeraj’

3.      Gopaldas Saxena ‘Neeraj’ (1924), Poet and Song Writer: E bhai zara dekh ke chalo song from Mera Naam Joker, would always remind you of Raj Kapoor and Manna Day. But Gopaldas Saxena ‘Neeraj’ (or popularly known as Neeraj as it is his pen name) was the one who wrote the song. Not only this but many songs like O meri Sharmili from Sharmili, Phulon ke rang se, dil ki kalam se from Prem Pujari, both sung by Shri Kishore Kumar. Rangeela re from Prem Pujari sung by Lata Mangeshkarji, Mera man tera pyasaa from Gambler sung by Mohammed Rafi and many more.

 ‘Neeraj’ji is among the best known poets and authors in Hindi literature. He is also famous poet of Hindi Kavi Sammelan. He has many collections i.e., “Neeraj ki Paati”, “Baadlon se Salaaam Leta Hoon”, “Geet jo Gaye Nahi” etc.

He was born on January 4, 1924 in the small village Ekdil of Etawah. His style is easy to understand but is compared with high quality Hindi literature. Besides writing he was the Professor of Hindi Literature in Aligarh.

In the year 2007, he was awarded Padma Bhushan. Recently in the March of this year 2012, he recited some of his works at Annual Inter-College Cultural festival, Spoculit of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow. Nowadays he works as the Chancellor of Mangalayatan University, Aligarh.

Mulayam Singh Yadav

4.      Mulayam Singh Yadav (1939), Ex-Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh: Mulayan Singh Yadav is an Indian politician, head of Samajwadi Party (SP) from Uttar Pradesh. He was born on November 22, 1939 in the village Saifai of Etawah. He did his education from different colleges of Uttar Pradesh like K. K College, Etawah, A. K. College, Shikohabad and B. R. College, Agra University.

 He was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh thrice from 1989-1991, 1993-1995 and 2003-2007. He also served as Minister of Defence (1996-1998) in the United Front government.  His supporters call him Netajee and Dhartiputra. Mulayam Singh is a dedicated follower of Indian socialist leaders like Raj Narain and Ram Manohar Lohia.

Now his son Akhilesh Yadav (1973), who was also born in Saifai village, is Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He took his primary education from Saint Mary School, Etawah.


K. Asif

5.      K. Asif (1922-1971), Film Director: Asif Karim was born on June 14, 1922 in Etawah. He was a film director, film producer and screenwriter. He is most famous for his work for the epic Hindi movie Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

Asif Karim went to Bombay to his brother-in-law Nazir Ahmed Khan and later took the name K. Asif. His directorial debut was Phool (1945), with a star cast of Prithviraj Kapoor, Durga Khote and Suraiya, which did well on box-office. Later he came up with the Mughal-e-Azam in 1960 with Dilip Kumar and Madhubala, which bagged him the status of legend despite his very few work.

The other film he made was Hulchul in 1951. While shooting on another film Love and God, K. Asif died on March 9, 1971 at the age of 48.

Along with all these eminent personalities and specialties of Etawah, former Indian President, late Dr. Zakir Hussain (February 8, 1897) pursued his school education in H.M.S Islamia Inter College, Etawah which is an epitome of unity and good relations between Hindus and Muslims.

So from all this we can see that Etawah, my native place, a small city of Uttar Pradesh, India, has so much of talent within itself. Etawah has given many prominent personalities to India in different fields like Music, Sports, Literature, Politics, and Films etc.

Hence, I can say even if it is notorious place, thanks to Chambal ke Daakus, it has given me many more reasons to say that I am proud of my native place. I am proud of Etawah.

Anusha Pathak,

TYBMM Journalism,

Sophia College.


Naxalism not only a concern for government but for all

I used to hear about Naxalite attacks from people. Newspapers used to be loaded with news about the attacks and the loss of life because of the same. Every week there used to be announcements of MCC Bandh but I never saw an actual Bandh. It never affected my life until and unless I faced one. It was like any other day, my dad was out because of some official work, and mom was at home. It was around 12:30 pm when I along with three cousins was watching a serial on TV. Suddenly there was a sound like bang, when we looked out of the window; there was grey smoke all over the sky. Meanwhile my mom came running from the room crying aloud that, “papa was taking to me on phone and said, ‘I am just at the turning point, entering the campus’, and then the network went off because of the blast”.  At this point of time we were standing at our entrance gate and then we got the biggest shock of our life when people were running, crying loudly that there is white car that exploded, there are Naxalites all over the place. My mom to this added that, “it might be our car as papa was on his way home”. Before she could say anything I along with my two cousins started running in three different directions to see what had happen. When we reached the main road, we saw right in front of us, almost 20 ft away that it was not our car. As soon as I discovered this, tears started dropping out of my eyes. I just could not notice what other people were telling me. After few seconds, I heard someone calling my name, shouting, get inside the house, Naxals have attacked. All I could see was, people running, smoke coming out of the burning car. I could easily hear the sound of firing. One of my tuition teachers saw me standing on the main road without any idea of where I was literally standing. He came and asked me to go home. Mom and my maternal aunty were waiting for all the kids to be back. My mom then told me. “papa called up and said, ‘he is fine and he is at MLA uncle’s house’,”. When all my cousins were back, we locked the main gate but within five minutes, we could hear some people knocking our door badly and they were asking for help. One of them was badly injured as the blast had created a chaos in the market. We allowed them to come inside, they were actually at the spot where Naxalite were blackmailing the police and were asking for their guns.  One of the point which struck my mind while they were describing the incident to us, was the girls of my age were doing all of this, two police men were killed by the girls of the naxalite troop. Moreover, these girls were of my age, that is what people present there said. The situation was normal after an hour but what I saw at this point of time was unexpected and life changing. Through one of our kitchen’s window, we could see the dead bodies coming in the government hospital, which is next to our house. After 2-3 hours, the local police were visible. The constables killed in the attack were not from the local police station, they had come from the place called Bhandaridah to put money in the local bank. The IPS officer along with his force came in to inspect the situation as a live bomb at the local market was left behind and one of the constables was killed because he did not let the Naxalite blast it. If the Naxalite had succeeded in doing that then the whole market would have blown up. I come from a place called Phusro near Bokaro district in Jharkhand. Out of twenty-two districts of Jharkhand, twenty of them are now announced as Naxal prone areas.

After this attack, there used to be complete silent on roads on every MCC Bandh. Schools were shut, no transporting of coals, which affected the business of the place largely. Who are these people? What do they want? What is the solution to this problem? All these questions have been discussed a number of times. The third question has been answered but how much it is in practice is questionable. It is no longer a matter of concern for the government alone, we, as citizen of India needs to look into the issue and help both the government and the Naxalites. They are no one but humans, Indians like us. We do have certain responsibility towards our society, nation and most importantly humanity.  We are not able to find any solution to any of our problems because we as citizen are least interested in what is happening in our nation. Blame Game needs to be over. Where do we stand when it comes to our sense of responsibility? We need to take out time from our busy schedule and give it a thought because if we won’t then the future is going to worse than ever expected.

Unnati Maharudra




As the gentle fragrance of Incense wafts along with the humid, slightly salty coastal breeze from the Bay of Bengal, the sound of prayers and shlokas (Verses) drift from myriad temples, filling the air with a very palpable religiosity.  Amidst the hustle bustle of “Bada Danda,” the biggest market complex in the beautiful city of Puri, stands the “Shree Mandir,” popularly known as the Lord Jagannath temple. Besides the “Ratha Yatra,” the great chariot festival of the trinity, namely Lord Jagannath, his brother Bala Bhadra and their sister Subhadra, that attracts millions of pilgrims and tourists from various parts of the world, this huge architecture housing innumerable sacred Hindu Gods continues to occupy its pride of place, both geographically and in the hearts of countless devotees.

Almost everyone, who has either been to the city or read about it in books, knows about the history of the great temple, its rituals, and the various stories associated with the Lords. But there are countless other riveting legends associated with the great city that only the inhabitants can relate with great enthusiasm.  Being a native of Puri, the land of unexplored myths and legends, I was always fascinated by the stories that my grandmother would tell me and my siblings during power cuts in the nights. We would all hear with rapt attention.

Among the very many lesser known legends, there is one that tells us about how Lord Jagannath, acquired his existence. The Skandha Purana, one of the most ancient books containing many Hindu Mythological episodes, reveals the origin of the Lord of the universe in a rather interesting story.

Hundreds and thousands of years ago, when Man and God walked the earth together, King Indradimna, the ruler of Puri, had a dream one night. He dreamed about a huge log of wood that had floated to the shore.   As he woke up the next day, he gathered his soldiers and walked to the shore. A huge wooden log was indeed lying at the same place. The King instinctively knew that the dream was given to him by God. The log of wood meant that the Gods wanted the king to build an idol of the Lord of the universe out of it.  But Alas! The king was after all a human being. To build the Lord’s idol was not in the capacity of an ordinary human but somebody with divine powers.

The king folded his hands and requested Lord Brahma to send somebody who could carve the idol out of the wood.  Thus came Vishwakarma, the Lord revered as the “Principle Universal Architect”, in the guise of an eighty-year-old man. He imposed a condition that he would need a chamber to himself where he would work relentlessly for 21 days without food or water. He instructed that nobody should enter the chamber before the completion of 21 days. The King did as he was told. A chamber was given to Vishwakarma, while guards waited outside the closed doors.

It was only within 14 days when the guards informed the king that the sound of hammer was no longer heard from the chamber. The King rebuked the soldiers asking them to respect the conditions put forth by Vishwakarma. No one should open the chamber before 21 days. But the queen began to worry. She pleaded with the king to open the chamber doors, as she feared Vishwakarma dead. The king finally agreed, and as they burst it open, a disappointed Vishwakarma told the King and the Queen that he would no longer continue with his work as they could not fulfil his conditions. With these words, he disappeared. Thus the idols remained half finished.

As we know, the idols of the trinity do not have limbs. The hands are not complete. The story above is the legend behind it. As we siblings were awed by the story that our Grandmother related, she went on to explain the significance of it too. “Why do you think Lord Jagannath, Lord Bala Bhadra and Goddess Subhadra are still worshipped in that form? It is because there is still a sense of completeness in those incomplete figures. The Hands are half made, because it extends to infinity, warmly embracing anyone who comes their way. Their eyes are round because nobody knows the extent of their circumference. After all they watch the universe.”

There is another very striking feature about the Shree Mandir and its kitchen. Thousands of people flock to the temple to eat the “Maha Prasad”, the food touched by the Lord. Radhu Mishra, a resident of Raurkela, who frequents the Shree Mandir, says, “The way rice is cooked inside the Shree Kitchen is amazing. I have had a chance to visit the kitchen once myself. About 8 to 10 pots of uncooked rice with water are put one on top of the other. The stove is lit under the bottom most pot with all other pots tapering to the top. The stove is extinguished after a period of time. The rice contained in the top most pot is boiled to the same extent as the rice in the bottom most pot. I’m sure this is unprecedented, but quite true. ”

The architecture of the Lord’s temple is exquisite. One can see a huge metallic wheel, referred to as the Neela Chakra, the blue wheel. Its height is over 11 feet with a circumference of about 36 feet. The wheel is said to be Lord Vishnu’s most powerful weapon, Sudarshan Chakra. Attached to the wheel is a deep red and yellow flag about ten yards long that proudly flutters in the air. Another famous sight in Puri is the huge ‘Digabarini’ Pole on the sea shore.  This humongous pole has a light mechanism at its top that guides lost boats and ships the shore. There is a legend connecting the two that almost every inhabitant of Puri knows about.

The 1999 super cyclone in Odisha had shaken the entire world. It was one of the deadliest Indian storms since 1971. The city of Puri was on the verge of submerging in the waters of the Bay of Bengal. There indeed was no hope. As Dr. Kalyani Mishra, one of the local residents, recalls that deadly night, “The city was enveloped in darkness for over three days. It was the fourth day of the storm when the raging sea waters completely drowned the sea shore and the waves advanced into the city, flooding the roads. I recall that night with absolute terror. We had started saying our prayers, as we knew there was no hope of survival. Suddenly, in the morning as we woke up, we received the news about the waves having retreated by a hundred meters. The rains had stopped. There was a crowd that had thronged on the streets. They talked about the huge yellow flag that had slipped from the Neela Chakra, flew all the way to the shore along with the air current and wrapped itself around the ‘Digabarini’ Pole. The flag was later taken down and tied to the Neela Chakra. We believe Lord Jagannath saved our lives.”

The Lords are revered with deep devotion but treated as humans at the same time. They are loved, pampered, fed and lulled to sleep with songs from the “Geet Govinda”, written and compiled by Jayadev, a profound Odia poet of the 14th century.

After every 12 years, the idols are buried and new idols built. It is a phase of “Naba Kalebara”, meaning a new body. Just as humans give up their earthly bodies after their term on the earth is over and go on to acquire a new body, so do the Lords. Until the new idols are built, the period is marked by grief. The people believe that the Lords have their life inside their “Naabh” meaning belly button. The new wood required to build the new idols is hard to find and follows many rules and regulations. For instance, the wood must be taken from a tree that has a huge ant hill at the base of it sheltering a black serpent. The tree must have no bird nests on its branches and so on. When the time comes for transferring the life from the Naabh of the old idols into the Nabbh of the new ones, the head priest of the temple, who conducts the ceremony, is blindfolded. The people there believe that the Lord’s Naabh emanates a blinding sacred blue light that must not be seen. The temple premises are shut and the electricity supply to the entire city is cut off for an hour, usually during the wee hours. The residents instantly know the reason and pray to the Gods.

The day following the “Naba Kalebara” sees myriad articles across almost all local newspapers, reporting on how the idol of Goddess Vimla, who is housed in a temple close to the Lords’ temple, has tears spewing out from her eyes. The source of the water is still a mystery and almost every resident of Puri has witnessed this event.

I would like to end this essay with one of the most beautiful yet unfortunately less observed features of the Lords’ idols. Sure, many devotees and pilgrims come to worship the Lords. Sure, the Brahmins in the temple strictly forbid the entry of people belonging to other religions. Yet, how many of us have noticed that the trinity defines brotherhood cutting across race and religion? Lord Jagannath, has a dark complexion, Lord Bala Bhadra, white and Godess Subhadra, a yellowish brown colour. The fact that they come together to be worshipped as brothers and sisters, irrespective of their skin colour, gives us a message of brotherhood that is often drowned out in the fanfare. A message that needs to be learned by all of us.

Long live Lord Jagannath.




referred to this link for the photos and for information:

picture credit: Sun correspondent

Detour: From Mumbai to Indore

On her recent visit to Indore, Niharika Pandit met Nirmala Pathak who was once popularly known as मुंबईची साईकलवाली बाई and outlines her struggle in life.

At 90, when most of the people enjoy playing with their grandchildren and great grandchildren, Nirmala throws herself into a bedlam of honking vehicles to manage the chaotic city traffic at MTH compound roundabout in Indore. No, she is not a traffic cop but an ‘honorary member’ of the city traffic police voluntarily striving to streamline the traffic for last several years.

Nirmala at the age of 90

“Indore has given me a lot, and it is time for me to repay the debt,” says nonagenarian Nirmala Pathak, who wears a broad smile on her wrinkled face. Nirmala’s involvement with traffic situation in the country isn’t new. She has spent half her life working as traffic police warden. “After struggling in Mumbai for years, I finally landed up as a traffic police warden. I was then stationed to several roundabouts of Mumbai,” Nirmala reminisces about her past.

It takes enormous determination for a woman to step into male bastion. But for Nirmala, it wasn’t only about the traffic police department. This multi-faceted person has excelled in several fields like theater, dance, nursing, news reporting and sports. “It was only yesterday that I guided some of the young dancers for a television show, who were in Indore,” Nirmala says.

It dates back to August 12, 1926, when Nirmala was born into a Maharashtrian family of Sikh Mohalla. With an ill father and indebted mother, she could not study any further than matriculation. At a tender age of 12, she got married into a renowned family of Indore but soon the marriage ended because of status differences.

Determined Nirmala then moved to Mumbai, looking for a job in order to support her mother and educate her brothers. Since then, there was no looking back! Struggle defined her initial years in Mumbai when she had no option but to do menial jobs. “I also sold candies and chips on city streets,” she recalls. Interested in riding bicycle, she then took up delivery jobs. Mumbaikars often spotted this young woman, roaming on city streets on her bicycle and Nirmala was referred to as the “Bicycle woman of Mumbai.”

Nirmala in her prime

“Call it fate, but Anwar Hussain and his family helped me learn acting. They got me admitted to Acharya Atre Theatre School where I learned acting,” she says. Nirmala has worked as a supporting actor and as a dancer in more than 200 Marathi, Hindi and Gujarati films. Khufiya, Mahal, Jadui Chirag, Samson Delilah, Palki (featuring Waheeda Rehman and Rajendra Kumar) and Bhoot Bangla are some of the films she had worked in. The then directors would often sign her to play the duplicate of renowned actress Vaijantimala.

“When I started working in films, I was paid Rs 15 per day. It was good enough at that time. Moreover, I could easily help my brothers with their education.” says an enthusiastic Nirmala. Her career took a U-turn when she became a traffic police warden in the city as serving the nation was her ultimate motive. This ardent follower of Indira Gandhi also became involved in political activities of the country.

Recalling her journalistic experience she says “It was in the year 1981 when I became interested in journalistic writing. I worked as a freelance writer for many other dailies.”

In 1993, she returned to her hometown, Indore, for her mother and her immense love for the city.

“Poor traffic situation has led to an increase in the number of road accidents in Indore. If people volunteer, we can be the agents of change by bringing down the number of road accident cases,” says Nirmala who plans to continue serving the city traffic police.

The article was also published the Times of India, Indore.

Photographs credit: Darshana Jain