The Raighat: the Mahatma Gandi Memorial on the banks of the river Jamuna in Delhi. The 78-year-old freedom fighter was assassinated in 1948 by a member of a fanatical Hindu “rightist” movement. After cremation on this very spot, Gandhi’s charred bones and ashes were gathered in an urn, washed in milk, and portions of the remains sprinkled over the confluence of
the rivers Ganges and Jamuna. The remainder of the ashes was flown to Indian colonies in many parts of the world for enshrinement. Gandhi returned to India after political work in South Africa following World I, and began orchestrating then nationalist movement for independence, which had grown slowly after 1858. After more than three decades, much of it spent in jails and on hunger strikes, his efforts paid off with
Indian independence in June 1947.
India is a country and a continent, stretching from icy Himalayan summits to the palm-lush southern shores. From north to south measure about 1, 900 miles, east to west, about 1, 800. This computes to nearly one million square miles, with one billion inhabitants, which ranks it second only to China in population. Growth is expected to reach 1. 5 billion by the year 2050. Eighty-three percent of the people are Hindu, twelve percent Muslims. More than 1, 000 different languages are spoken. India is cows wandering the streets and highways, the sighting of an occasional elephant, cobras winding in and out of straw baskets.
Though India traces its roots back to about 2, 500 B.C., the hundreds of years of massive empires and regional kingdoms that
dominated its history began about 1,700 B.C.
These listed until the Europeans, mainly Dutch and French, started uying for roles in trade with India. In the 18th and 19th centuries A.D., the English vanquished both of them, establishing the East India Trading Company. Gradually, it extended its control over India. At the same time, the British military was expanding its presence. By 1857, the Indians revolted Parliament in 1858 abolished the East India Trading Company, transferring all the company’s responsibilities to the British crown, creating direct rule of India. Indians were made British subjects.
For the next 89 years, the English would rule India, with a viceroy in charge. The last was Lord Louis Mountbatten, World War II hero. The final three decades of that period were dominated by the Indian lawyer, Mahatma Gandhi. Though frail in appearance, his resolve was forged into steel. He employed the centuries-old concept of non-violence. He offered his body, but his spirit would never be broken. The 1947 Indian independence was his and the country’s reward.
At the time of independence from Britain, the provinces of British India that were predominantly Hindu formed the Dominion of India. Those provinces with large Muslim majorities created a new nation, Pakistan, a word meaning “Land of Pure”, which was not in use until 1940.
Bitter warfare followed this division, resulting in one million lives lost and some twelve million people uprooted from their ancestral homes. Again in1964, warfare erupted, and submerged hostility continues today.
The Taj’s architect is not known, and stories and legends tell of many who claimed the story. It is probable that no single master is responsible, rather the combined efforts of artisan and craftsmen from all over Asia. In one detail, however the legends all concur: the emperor Shah Jahan was so pleased with the result that he beheaded his chief
architect, cut off the hands of the architect’s assistants, and blinded the craftsmen so that never again would any of them work on a building to rival it.