Thursday, June 18, 2009

Marwari Horse brings glory to Rajasthan


Rajendra Bora

Jaipur. The world’s largest sculpture of a horse head, created by acclaimed sculptor Nic Fidian-Green in England, has made Rajasthan proud.

The 25 ft long bronze, created for a wealthy Gloucestershire couple, is an image of Marwari horse, an indigenous breed of the sandy desert of Western Rajasthan.

The equine enthusiasts who are trying to resurrect the breed from deterioration from more than a century of neglect during British rule are thrilled to receive the news of creation of the sculpulture depicting image of Marwari horse recognized by the animal’s inward turning ear tips.

The sculpture, commissioned by Sir Anthony Bamford and his wife Lady Bamford, was recently erected at Wintershall Estate near Bramley in Surrey. However, Surrey is the sculpture’s temporary home while the couple is seeking permission from town planners for its permanent installation in Gloucestershire.

The Marwari horse breed is believed to have been developed by crossing Arabian horses, possibly with some Mangolian influence, with locals like Kathiawari horses. . As early as in the beginning of 12th century the traditional rulers of Marwar took up Marwari horse breeding in a professional manner promoting strict quality control for breeding to maintain purity and hardiness of the breed.

The breed, which comes in all colours – the most popular being pinto colour – was used as cavalry horse in the past and is famous for its loyalty and bravery in battle field. It lost its identity and turned into an endangered breed due to small effective population size mostly after 1930s as the British with their penchant for purity of breed rejected it on the ground that it was a cross breed.

Although some rulers, particularly Rathores, continued breeding the horse during British rule but the horse went into oblivion after Independence and with the end of princely era.

However, there has been renewed interest and enthusiasm among some breeders to save the indigenous breed from extinction. Their efforts have succeeded and there have been demands for Marwari Horse from all parts of the globe and a stud may fetch for its breeder half a million rupees in international market.

The sculpture of Marwari horse head is likely to create bigger enthusiasm for the desert breed among equine lovers all over the world.

The National research Centre on Equine at Hissar and its sub centre in Bikaner, are currently making studies using using DNA testing to establish purity of the breed and find genetic bottlenecks. It has already been established that Marwari breed of horses can be differentiated from other exotic breeds and there had been no genetic deformities or diseases in the breed.

The Marwari horses are reared currently for breeding, sports, ceremony and tourism by stray enthusiasts but state patronage for comprehensive measures for conservation of the breed is lacking.

The news that the world’s largest horse head sculpture is the image of Marwari Horse, therefore, rekindles the hope for survival of the breed from extinction.

(The story appeared on June 18,2009 in Jaipur Live suppliment of The Hindustan Times)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

From Residency to Raj Bhawan

Rajendra Bora

British government made headquarters of its first resident of Rajputana at Rampura in 1818, in the then Tonk state, but the place just does not exist in any official record now.

Rampura is a forgotten place. Even census reports or revenue records do not mention any place bearing the name of Rampura, says the recently released book “Rajputana Residency to Raj Bhawan,” the first work about Rajasthan that brings residencies and Raj Bhawans to the centre state of history.

The authors of the book V.S.Singh, a senior IAS officer presently posted as secretary to the Rajasthan governor, and B.R.Dubey, an officer on special duty in the Raj Bhawan, however, succeeded in tracing the place chosen for establishing first residency in Rajputana to operate the newly established alliance between British paramountcy and Rajput states.

They dug out some documents from Arabic and Persian institute in Tonk to establish that the present Aligarh, a tehsil headquarters, was the old Rampura where the first residency had its headquarters before shifting to a more suitable place Ajmer.

The nawab of Tonk state changed the name of Rampura to Aligarh around 19th century, says this book commissioned by the Raj Bhawan.

A visit to Rampura, now Aligarh, revealed that neither the government records there nor the oral accounts or even the site observation gave any idea of existence of a residency, say the authors.

Since there existed no building, or any relic thereof which looked like a residency, the book ventured to guess that the first agent to Governor General (AGG) in Rajputana, Major General Sir David Ochterlony lived in Rampura in tents.

The main consideration of selecting Rampura as the headquarters of the resident was political and military advantage of its location on the route of Agra and Ajmer.

“I will be necessary, therefore, for you to fix your permanent residence at Rampura which... is to be station of the main body of the force destined for the protection of Rajputana, and for giving effect to the alliance with the western states. The book quoted a letter from secretary to the Governor General to the newly appointed AGG for Rajputana as saying.

However, establishment of the Rajputana residency at Rampura was a transitory phase as Major General Ochterlony, who was made resident in April 1818 was posted back in Delhi from where he looked after affairs of Rajputana states.

The then British Governor General William Bentick later decided in 1832 in favour of Ajmer as headquarters of AGG for the town’s climate, centrality and strategic importance. Earlier, Rampura was chosen as the residency because Ajmer at that time was in possession of Daulat Rao Sindhia and yet to be ceded to British Government.

The Rajputana residency, the residence of the AGG, was started in 1832 from Daulat Bagh, now known as Subhash Udhyan before shifting to Phoos-ka-Bungalow near the Principal’s old bungalow and Durgadas house in the present Mayo College campus in Ajmer.

However, after the visit to Mount Abu by Col Todd in 1822, the Britishers started gravitating towards the hill resort because of its salubrious climate and scenic beauty and by the year 1842 they started oscillating between Ajmer and Abu during winter and summer respectively.

In August, 1857, the headquarters of the Rajputana agency were transferred to Mount Abu from Ajmer. However, about seven years later the Governor General in council authorised the AGG to make Ajmer his headquarters for six months in a year and remain there as long as necessary in public interest.

Interestingly Mount Abu’s residency building still houses Raj Bhawan, the residence of Rajasthan Governor, where the constitutional head of the state shifts in summer.

When Mayo College for the education of wards of princely states came up, the residency was shifted to a rented building which came to the Rajasthan government after independence. The state government finally purchased the building for Rs 5 lakh in as late as 1972 in pursuance of the judgement of a case pending in Calcutta High Court since 1939.

After independence Jaipur became the capital of newly formed state by merger of 19 princely states and the institute of resident died with the departure of Britishers. A new institution of Rajpramukh emerged which was later converted in to Rajyapal, the Governor.

The present Raj Bhawan also did not come into existence immediately after the formation of the Rajasthan state because the first Rajpramukh, Sawai Man Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur opted to live in his own majestic Ram Bagh Palace.

The institution of Rajpramukh gave way to Governor ina 1956 and the first incumbent was Gurumukh Nihal Singh for whom the Raj Bhawan was created to serve his residence that grew to present glory gradually.

(The piece was published in Times of India on 5 June 2003)