Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Born: October 1, 1847
Died: September 20, 1933
Achievements: President of Theosophical Society of India; founded Home Rule League in 1916 and demand self rule in India; became first woman president of Indian National Congress.

Annie Besant was a prominent Theosophist, social reformer, political leader, women's rights activist, writer and orator. She was of Irish origin and made India her second home. She fought for the rights of Indian and was the first woman president of Indian National Congress.

Annie Besant was born as Annie Wood on October 1, 1847 in a middle-class family in London. She was of Irish origin. Her father died when she was only five. Annie’s mother supported the family by running a boarding house for boys at Harrow. As a young woman she traveled widely in Europe and this widened her outlook.

Annie Besant was married in 1867 to a clergyman called Frank Besant. But the marriage did not last long. They legally separated in 1873. Annie Besant had two children from the marriage. After her separation Annie began to question not only her long-held religious beliefs but the whole of conventional thinking. She began to write attacks on the Churches and the way they controlled people’s lives. In particular she attacked the status of the Church of England as a state-sponsored faith.

Annie Besant fought for the causes she thought were right, such as, women's rights, secularism, birth control, Fabian socialism and workers' rights. She became interested in Theosophy as a way of knowing God. Theosophical Society was against discrimination of race, color, gender and preached Universal brotherhood. To serve humanity at large was its supreme goal. It was as a member of Theosophical Society of India that she arrived in India in 1893.

She toured the entire country of India. It gave her first hand information about India and middle-class Indians who were affected more by British rule and its system of education. Her long-time interest in education resulted in the founding of the Central Hindu College at Benares (1898).

She also became involved in Indian freedom movement. In 1916, she founded Home Rule League which advocated self rule by Indians. She became the President of Indian National Congress in 1917. She was the first woman to hold that post. She started a newspaper, "New India", criticized British rule and was jailed for sedition. After the arrival of Gandhiji on Indian national scene, differences arose between Mahatma Gandhi and Annie Besant. Gradually, she withdrew from active politics.

Annie Besant died on September 20, 1933 at Adyar (Madras). As per her wish her ashes were immersed in Ganga in Benares


"The Sword of Tippu Sultan" is also the title of a book by Bhagwan Gidwani, and a controversial  TV serial in India.  -- Ed.

First created: May 04, 1999
Last  Updated: January 11, 2013
Tippu Sultan - A Portrait
Tippu Sultan (1753-1799)

Childhood and Parentage

Tippu was born in Devanahalli (in Karnataka) on Friday, November 20th, 1753. At the age of fifteen he used to accompany his father Hyder Ali, Ruler of Mysore State, to different military campaigns. He was a devout Muslim. He had a very inquisitive mind and fascination for learning. His personal library was consisted of more than two thousand books in different languages. Tippu was a man of simple habits, eating common food and leading pious life. He had a very dignified personality and impressed the people who came in contact with him. He was an extremely active man and worked from dawn to midnight for the welfare of his subjects. He himself drafted all his correspondence. He took over the kingdom after his father's death in 1782 A.D.

Fighting the British

He could foresee the (British) East India Company's design to get entrenched on Indian soil, and took a vow to foil it. For this purpose he negotiated with the French and sheltered the Frenchmen who preached the French revolutionary doctrines to the public. A "Jacobean Club" was established in Tippu's capital Srirangapattana, and the French tricolor was hoisted. He also sought assistance from the Amir of Afghanistan and the Sultan of Turkey. He had already defeated the British at Wandiwash in 1783. The British were very scared of Tippu's growing strength, and they formed an alliance with the Nizam of Hyderabad State and Marathas of Maharashtra State. The French deserted Tippu after signing of the "Versailles Treaty" in Europe in 1783 when the American War of Independence ended.
As long as the British fought alone, Tippu always defeated them. But he was no match for their diplomacy, conspiracy and intrigue. Thus he was defeated in his Capital of Srirangapattana, and forced to sign a humiliating treaty on March 22nd, 1792. As a result he had to concede half of his kingdom and pay an indemnity of thirty three million Rupees to the English and their allies. Frequent wars had drained his treasury, and hence he had no hard cash to pay this huge amount. He was compelled to pledge two of his sons to the conquerors. Governor General Conrnwallis took away these two youngsters to his headquarters in Calcutta in Bengal. However, they could not suppress Tippu's spirits for long, and he rebuilt his war machine in shortest possible time. He built a fine army and modernized his administration on the European model. He was an able and fearless military strategist.

Tippu's Government

He built a chain of excellent roads, and constructed tanks and dams to promote agriculture. He introduced the new industries, promoted trades and commerce, established factories in Cutch, Masquat, and Jedda, and sent commercial missions to Oman, Persia and Turkey. He invited foreign know-how to build factories to produce glass, mirrors and ship-building. He aimed at making his kingdom the most prosperous state of India. Hence he was also interested in latest scientific research all over the world. He introduced sericulture on a large scale, and mulberry cultivation was started at twenty one centers. He encouraged the textile industry by banning the export of cotton. The weavers from Tamilnadu were invited and settled in his kingdom. Growing of sugarcane and  producing of sugar and candy were encouraged in Channapatna, Devanhalli and Chikkaballapur. High quality tempered wire required for the string instruments was produced in Channapatna. The livestock development got special attention. Tippu prohibited the production and distribution of liquor and other intoxicants in his state of Mysore.
Tippu Sultan adopted the tiger as his emblem. His throne was shaped like a tiger, carrying the head of a life-size tiger in solid gold (see also the boxed toy above). He was an enlightened ruler who treated his non-Muslim subjects generously. He appointed them to different positions of authority, and gave them complete freedom of worship. He conferred liberal grants to Sringeri, Srirangapattana, and Mangalore temples. He gave funds for the consecration of idols and presented them with gold and silver articles. He also encouraged arts like music and dance and learning in general.
The Sword of Tippu Sultan and Engravings on it
The Sword of Tippu Sultan
and  Engravings on it
History of the Sword
On the verge of defeat, Tippu lay critically injured in the battlefield. But he still had his favorite sword with him. It is said a British soldier tried to snatch away the royal sword, but Tippu killed him with the same sword that he intended to possess!
After the war, the sword was sent to London with other loots. After India's independence, it was brought back to India, only to be smuggled out as a collectible. The federal authorities seized it in 1988 and retained in India.
Tippu's accomplishments and popularity among his subjects and in the neighborhood states were eyesore, for imperialistic designs of the English. Hence they decided to finish him once for ever. Fourth Srirangapatanna war came very handy to them to physically liquidate Tippu on May 4th, 1799. A small monument has been erected where his dead body was found. Tippu had a good collection of weapons, but a particular sword was his favorite. He fought his last war with the same sword. When he was critically injured, a British intended to snatch sway the weapon, but Tippu killed him with the same sword which he intended to possess! The victorious General Harris sent Tippu's war-horse, the palanquin, and a howdah to the king of Coorg who sided with the British. After confiscating most of the Tippu's territory, the famous sword was sent to London. This was brought back after India's Independence (1947), but was about to be smuggled out of the country when it was intercepted, and was retained in the country.
Musiacal Tiger - From Collection of East India ComapnyTippu's Toy The mechanical 'Tipoo's Tiger' was captured at Srirangapattana in 1799 and was exhibited at the East India Company's headquarters in Leadenhall Street. The tiger roars and the British officer screams.
Picture Courtesy :
The East India Company

Tippu, the Builder

The most famous and beautiful artifact from Tippu Sultan's period is his summer place, the Daria Daulat. It beautifully depicts some of the heroic wars Tippu fought and also many social themes of the period.
Daria-Daulal Bagh Painting
Painting from Daria Daulat Bagh
Tippu built the "Gumbaz" at Srinagapattana in 1784 which is a square shaped mausoleum with ivory-inlaid doors and black marble pillars. Tippu is buried here by the side of his father Hyder Ali and mother Fatima Begum. Outside the tomb are the graves of his relatives and commanders. Nearby the "Mashit-e-Aqsa" mosque, with a pair of small minarets is located. A solar clock could be found outside this building.
Tippu built and fortified numerous forts, but unfortunately most of them are either destroyed or are in ruins because of poor maintenance. The Bangalore fort, located in the heart of the city has a temple of Ganesh where devotees offer prayers regularly. Tippu also built many palaces which were demolished by the British after his death. However his Bangalore Summer Palace is a great tourists' attraction. It is completely made of wooden structures with five well decorated and painted arches.

Tippu's Legacy

"Sword of Tippu Sultan" is the name of a novel  by Bhagwan Gidwani based on his life. Based on it, a serial was telecast by Doordarshan (the state run television in India) which became both popular and controversial. On the 4th of May, 1999 Tippu's death bicentenary will be celebrated in India on a large scale. Though the historians of India are of different views about his role to dislodge the British from Indian soil, the common people have great admiration for his heroic deeds. It is very interesting to note that seventh generation descendants of Tippu Sultan have arrived at Srirangapattana, all the way from Calcutta to claim their ancestral properties!
The Daria Daulat Bagh is a national monument and can be visited by tourists (1999).


Chakravarti Rajagopalachari
by Jyotsna Kamat
First Online: August 02, 2004
Page Last Updated: February 15, 2013

Known as C.R. or 'Rajaji' to millions, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari was close to Gandhiji. In fact Gandhiji referred to him as, "the keeper of my conscience". A stalwart who imbibed Gandhiji's ideology and practised it privately, and publicly, he worked for the Congress Party for more than half a century. Same Rajaji, fell out of Congress, formed his own 'Swatantra' Party, because he was more than convinced that the ruling Congress had totally deserted Gandhi's principles and was turning 'despotic'. He symbolizes the disillusionment, the close associates of Gandhi witnessed two decades after gaining independence.

Rajaji was born in Thorapalli village of Salem District, Tamilnadu on 10th of December 1878. His father Chakravarti Venkataraya Iyengar hailed from Tamilnadu. His mother Singaramma came from Kuppam in Chittoor, in Andhra Pradesh. Rajaji himself had his schooling in Hosur and higher education in Central College of Bangalore of Karnataka. Even by birth and bringing up, he represented South India and fitted in with the title of Gandhi of South India!
As a student he developed great love for literature and later bloomed into a distinguished writer in Tamil and English. As was the custom, Rajaji had to marry early. His wife passed away after giving birth to three sons and two daughters. He started the legal practice at Salem after obtaining Law degree from Madras. His entry into politics, coincided with zeal for social reforms. He became Chairman of Municipal Council of Salem and started a crusade against caste system, and drinking of alcohol. He faced opposition from both ends, conservatives and the oppressed. But he was successful in introducing civic reforms.
His entry into national politics followed. In 1906 he attended Indian national Congress held at Surat. He actively supported Lokamanya Tilak. By 1918, the rift between moderates (Gokhale group) and extremists (Tilak group) was conspicuous. Rajaji had leaning for the latter. He worked for Tilak and Dr. Annie Besant.
With Tilak's death in 1920, leadership of freedom movement, passed on to Gandhiji. Rajaji by then had moved to Madras to practice at High Court and had built up a lucrative practice in no time. In the city, he could organize a whole team of radicals for social and political reforms.
Rajaji had met Gandhiji on earlier occasions, and soon became a member of his inner circle. He gave up legal practice and plunged into freedom movement. He organized provincial congress on sound footing. He was one of the first to court arrest as 'Satyagrahi'. Next quarter of a century he suffered jail-term, five times. He wrote several books during his internment, and edited 'Young India' during Gandhiji's imprisonment. He toured the entire country for the propagation of Gandhiji's constructive programs. Very soon his name reckoned among forefront leaders.
According to Gandhi's wish, he established an ashram in the famine-stricken village of Pudupalayam in Salem district and started swadeshi i.e., production of khadi cloth, campaign of eradication of untouchability and drinking. The Dandi March had a replica in the south led by Rajaji. The March from Tiruchi to Vedaranyam was an eye-opener to British Government. The freedom movement had caught the masses. The government order not to supply food and water to marchers went unheeded. Village after village welcomed the satyagrahis. Such was the organizing skill of Rajaji. He was acknowledged provincial leader of Madras after his jail-term.
Gandhi-Irwin pact and Government of India Act 1935, followed. Partial provincial autonomy and self rule was declared. Rajaji became premier of Madras Presidency.
Now, he had powers to implement the social reforms, he was striving for. The famous Meenakshi Temple of Madurai was opened to Harijans. Prohibition followed. He rescued farmers from the clutches of the land-lords by bringing in Agriculturists' Debt Relief Act. Sales tax, an innovation in revenue collection in India was introduced by Rajaji.
Quit India movement was declared and Rajaji resigned only to be arrested. He was released only after the Second World War was over.
India became free. He became the first Indian Governor General after Lord Mount Batten in 1948. Nehru wanted Rajaji to become the first President of free India as well. But Rajaji wanted 'retirement' from active politics and returned to Madras.
But, there could be no retirement to a leader of his stature, transparent personality and unquestionable caliber. Under pressure from admirers and followers he again had to seek election and served as Chief Minister for two years (1952-54).
Rajaji was a visionary. He knew what were India's prime ailments. He was against the formation of linguistic states. He thought, that would weaken India. He recommended manageable administrative zones. He was for retaining of English language as Official medium of Indian Union. He thought  that for a country of multilingual existence, English was the remedy. He was also against the 'permit-license-quota-raj' which was taking roots.
We all know very well how the three factors Rajaji spoke against, worked havoc. The third one had the ugliest picture during Indira Gandhi's emergency period (1975-77).
As a great humanist, Rajaji could not bear the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In his later years he became a vehement opponent of Nuclear Weapon Tests. He wrote a book, 'Mankind Protests' which became quite popular. Mr. Khruschev as Head of Soviet Russia got it translated into Russian for wide circulation in his country. At the age of eighty-four, Rajaji undertook his only trip abroad, to plead with world statesmen to give up nuclear testing. He also met President Kennedy in this connection.
Rajaji was a prolific writer. He has written stories for children, He wrote about religion, philosophy, history, world events etc. He has translated Ramayana and Mahabharata. His analysis of Hinduism, Bhagavad-Gita and Indian Culture make an absorbing reading.
Rajaji knew Kannada well. One of his closest friends was Navaratna Rama Rao, also a well known writer and civil servant. Ram Rao has written some intimate memories of Rajaji in his memoirs, 'Kelavu Nenapugalu' a modern Kannada classic.
Rajaji breathed his last on 25th December 1972 at the age of 94.