Updated: Apr 21
My Encounters With Three Lals Of Haryana
Author : Ram Varma
Publisher : Rupa Publications
Language : English
Pages : 320 pages
ISBN : 978-81-291-3489-9
A celebrated hymn in the Rigveda called Nadi-stuti, invokes 19 rivers of lithe Sapta-Sindhu region—the Gana, Yamuna, Saraswati, the Sindhu (Indus) and its tributaries. It showers high praise on the mighty Sindhu, `bellowing like a bull, whose tumultuous roar 'rises up to heaven from the earth' and who is 'impetuous like a dappled mare, fair and beautiful. The hymn enumerates the tributaries of the Indus—Shutudri (Sutlej), Parushni (Ravi), Asikni (Chenab), Vitasta (Jhelum), together with those in modern Afghanistan—Shveta (Swat), Kubha (Kabul), Gomati (Gomal), Krumu (Kurram) and so on—which came 'rushing to him Indus like cows, their udders full of milk.
Some other hymns of the Rigveda are dedicated exclusively to the Saraswati River. They shower superlative praise on the Saraswati, which flowed through the region that comprise present-day Haryana, northern Rajasthan and southern parts of Pakistan and drained into the Arabian Sea. This river, revered by the Rigvedic people, dried up in about 1950 BC, and disappeared from terra firma. These hymns vividly enshrine the river's memory. They portray her as a mighty river rising from the Himalayan glaciers and flowing into the ocean. One oft-quoted hymn that testifies to its expanse from the mountains to the sea says: `Ekachetat Saraswati nadinam shuchiryati giribhya as samudrat'2 (Purest among all the rivers and vibrant, the Saraswati moves on from the mountains to the ocean).3 Another hymn captures its power and grandeur: 'This [Saraswati] has shattered the mountain peaks with her fast and powerful waves just [as easily] as one uproots the lotus-stems; let us invoke her, who strikes what is far and near, with holy hymns and prayers... Whose boundless, impetuous and swift-moving flood gushes forth with a tempestuous roar.
The Saraswati River had in fact been accorded the status of a deity in the Rigveda. In a hymn that invokes various deities such as Vayu, Inds Soma, etc., a fervent eulogy is heaped upon her:
Ambitame, naditame, devitame Saraswati, Aprashasta eva smasi prashashtimamba naskridhi. [O Saraswati, the best of mothers, the best of rivers, the best of goddesses, We are of no repute, O dear mother, thou give us renown!]
It is quite clear from these hymns that the Rigvedic people were familiar with and had dwelt in what they called the Sapta-Sindhu' region—a vast region that included parts of modern Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the region lying along the Saraswati appears to have been the favourite haunt of the Rigvedic rishis. In later Vedic times, the area in Saraswati's upper reaches, lying between the Drishadwati (the present-day Chautang) and the Shutudri (Sutlej), was called the Bramhavarta. Bramhavarta had come to be regarded as the epicentre of the Vedic civilization. This is the region that roughly corresponds to the modern state of Haryana.
The history of Haryana therefore goes back to the dawn of civilization in the Indian subcontinent. Innumerable sites of the so-called Pre-Harappan Civilization (which should in fact be called the `Saraswati Civilization' as the sites on this river are of much older vintage than Harappa and Mohenjo-daro) lie buried along the dried-up bed of the fabled Saraswati. Over two millennia later, the descendants of the Kuru dynasty fought the epic battle of Mahabharata at Kurukshetra where shn Krishna gave his famous (now greatly amplified) exhortation to Arjuna on the battlefield.
In modern times, the last great Hindu king of India, Harshav dhn ruled from Sthaneshwara near Kurukshetra in the' a seventh century. Prithviraj Chauhan III fought the invader Muhammad of Ghor on the plains of Taraori near Karnal in 1191 where the invader was wounded and his forces were routed. But Muhammad returned to fight the next year in 1192 when Prithviraj was defeated and taken prisoner. Later in 1526, Babur (the Tiger) defeated the Delhi Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi in the First Battle of Panipat and laid the foundations of the great Mughal Empire. The child Akbar's armies under Bairam Khan defeated the Hindu king Hemu in the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556, and the resurgent Maratha power was dealt a decisive blow in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, which cleared the way for the establishment of the British dominion.
The Haryana territories were tagged with Punjab in 1858 by the British as a punishment to the Nawabs and Rajas of Haryana for waging war against them during the Revolt in 1857. Raja Nahar Singh of Ballabhgarh, Nawab Abdur Rehman of Jhajjar, Rao Tula Ram of Rewari, Nawab Ahmed Ali of Farrukhnagar and the Nawab of Dadrihad surrounded Delhi. However, the British got support from the Sikh chieftains in Punjab. With the help of the Sikh armies of Patiala, Jind and Nabha the British succeeded in recapturing Delhi and dousing the fire of rebellion. Thereupon, the British retaliated with utter savagery. They hanged Raja Nahar Singh and the Nawabs of Jajjhar, Dadri and Farrukhnagar and many others and exiled Rao Tula Ram to Kabul. They gifted the Haryana territories of these chieftains to Patiala, Jind and Nabha as a reward for their loyalty.
Independence had come to India at the heavy price of Partition. Halft of Bengal and the most fertile north-western tracts. of the Punjab that had been furrowed since the days of the Indus Civilization and wctaetrieon network of canal irrigation had been created by the British in appreciation etc.— of their loyalty—Jhelum, Sialkot, Lyallpur, Montgomery, etc.—were ceded to Pakistan, as they were Muslimh-majority The truncated pruned at its Punjab that came to India's share was fu reorganization as the Akalis were averseRfurther coexistence with its Hindi-speaking areas adjoining the dusty asthan and the hilly Himachal Pradesh. They launched a prolonged and fierce agitation for a 'Punjabi Suba'. As a result, the remaining better irrigated and prosperous areas such as Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Firozpur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, etc. went to the newly created state of Punjab. Haryana was carved out of the s remaining sparsely irrigated areas such as Hisara,Analbda lBah, ai nKwd famines which Karnal and d Rohtak, besides the vast sandy tracts of Mahendragarh droughtsr gh n adjoined Rajasthan, where rainfall was scanty frequent visitors.
Undaunted by the natural handicap of semi-desert and arid conditions prevailing in most of the region, Haryana surprisingly came out of the throes of chronic backwardness and impoverishment within a remarkably short time. This miracle was mainly due to a visionary leadership and the toil of its hardworking people whose latent energies were unleashed after gaining a new identity.
No songs of nativity were sung at the birth of Haryana on 1 November 1966; there were no festivities and celebrations as in Punjab to greet the event. Unlike in Punjab, there had been no public demand for the creation of Haryana. Indeed at its birth there hung a huge question mark on the new state's viability due to its poor resource base. Rightly therefore there was a sense of euphoria and jubilation when Haryana celebrated its golden jubilee with great fanfare in Gurugram, close to the national capital. Haryana's rate of growth has been phenomenal and it is now reckoned amongst the most advanced states of the country.
The resurgence of Haryana from ground zero has been phoenix-like—rising from the ashes, as it were! At its birth Haryana's revenues were about one-third of Punjab's. Punjab had emerged as the country's most advanced state after shedding the arid, backward tracts that mostly comprised Haryana. I had joined the Punjab cadre of the IAS in 1964. The cadre too was split up at the state's reorganization in 1966 and I was among those allocated to Haryana. Our batchmates who remained in Punjab had commiserated with us, the luckless `Haryanavis', and had taunted us, saying: 'Where are you going to get your next month's salary from? There is no money in your state's treasury!' A severe resource crunch with heavy dependence on central government doles was anticipated. However, Haryana proved the Cassandras wrong; it not only caught up with Punjab in revenue receipts before the turn
of the century but has overtaken it! Although, it achieved notoriety in political defections, bungling in public appointments, low girl-child ratio and honour killings, yet on the development index Haryana has achieved spectacular success.
I had the privilege of watching this fledgling stateg row from strength r to strength and was a witness, sitting in a ringside seat as it womere, to the unfolding of the fascinating drama of its transformation from resource-less and famine-stricken state to a progressive, front-raanpkioonr)g state during my tenure. At Haryana's birth, my career in the IAS had just begun, and in the course of the eventful three and a half decades of my service till 2000, in several capacities from subdivisional officer to chief secretary, I came to know the principal protagonists on the stage, the three Lals of Haryana—Bansi Lal, Devi Lal and Bhajan Lal—fairly well and had the good fortune of enjoying their trust and confidence. Indeed, many a time, I felt I was not only a sidekick but one of the minor players in the arena. Incidentally, all three Lals hailed from the old Hisar district in which I happened to be posted after leaving the IAS Academy in Mussoorie.
Most IAS officers do two or three stints in the Government of India in their career, apart from serving in the state of their allocation. I too had gone to Delhi in May 1986, having been appointed Managing Director, Central Warehousing Corporation. But I returned to Haryana within three weeks in June 1986, when Bansi Lal left the Ministry of Transport and became the chief minister of Haryana for the second time, and asked me to become his principal secretary. The Government of India relieved me at the intervention of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi but put a black mark against my name as a deserter. I was not cleared later for additional and secretary-level posts in the Government of India. Circumstances therefore conspired to keep me in Haryana effectively for my entire careeorn,tan as a result I as well as my wife and kids were quite happy to continue living in the beautiful new city of Chandigarh.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my work in the service of Haryana and my close encounters with the three Lals of Haryana—Bansi Lal, Devi Lail and Bhajan Lal. It's a book about Haryana, a book about the three La s and a book about Ram Varma.
I like to think of this book as the song of the kingfisher. Have you ever watched a kingfisher singing? It perches itself on the highest twig of a tree and pours out a liquid melody, apparently for its own pleasure. A song is the outpouring of one's heart and soul. Sant Tulsi Das had remarked once that he wrote his Ramacharit Manas for his own pleasure—csvaniah sukkaye. In similar fashion, I have sung my song and have enjoyed singing it!
Ram Varma Panchkula, 1 January 2017
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