125 Years of K. M. Munshi


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MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           FEBUARY 14 , 2013           11.25 P.M.

When in the beginning of January 2013 , President of India Pranab Mukherjee went to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan headquarters in Mumbai and paid tribute to K. M. Munshi , I suddenly realized that my favourite icon , a freedom fighter and an extraordinary litterateur of India has completed 125 years of his existence .

K. M. Munshi

K. M. Munshi

I have read Hindi translations of almost all his novels . I particularly love his historical and mythological novels like ; Jai Somnath and Bhagwan Parashuram . During my adolescent years I was enamoured by his personality . His role and contribution in the re-construction of Somnath Temple is unparalleled . It speaks volumes about his character and determination that he could achieve this feat , though Jawaharlal Nehru was dead against the idea .

Book 2

Book

K. M. Munshi was born on 30 December 1887 in the town of Bharuch in Gujarat, and educated in Vadodara , where he excelled in academics. One of his teachers at Baroda College was Sri Aurobindo Ghosh who had a profound impression on him. Munshi was also greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Bhulabhai Desai, and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. After acquiring his degree in Law from the University of Bombay, he enrolled himself as an advocate in 1913 . About this time his first novel was being serialised in a Gujarati weekly.

Under Sri Aurobindo‘s influence, Munshi was attracted to armed rebellion against the British. He even learnt to make bombs, but when he moved to Bombay in 1915, he drifted towards the Home Rule Movement, and was later elected member of the Subjects Committee of the Indian National Congress in 1917. He started the movement for a Parliamentary wing of the Congress, and later became Secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Board in 1938. The same year he founded the well-known Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Institute of Agriculture at Anand, Gujarat.

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan - Mumbai

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan – Mumbai

Munshi was an active participant in the Indian Independence Movement ever since the advent of Mahatma Gandhi. He joined the Swaraj Party but returned to the Indian National Congress on Gandhiji‘s behest with the launch of the Salt Satyagraha in 1930. He was arrested several times, including during the Quit India Movement of 1942. A great admirer of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Munshi served in the Central Legislative Assembly in the 1930s.

After the independence of India, Munshi was appointed diplomatic envoy and trade agent (Agent-General) to the princely state of Hyderabad, where he served until its accession to India in 1948. Munshi was on the ad hoc Flag Committee that selected the Flag of India in August 1947, and on the committee which drafted the Constitution of India under the chairmanship of B. R. Ambedkar. He and Purushottam Das Tandon were among those who strongly opposed propagation and conversion in the constituent assembly. He was also the main driving force behind the renovation of the historically important Somnath Temple by the Government of India just after independence.

Munshi served as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh from 1952 to 1957. In 1959, Munshi separated from the Nehru-dominated Congress Party and started the Akhand Hindustan Movement. He , along with Chakravarti Rajagopalachari , founded the Swatantra Party, which was right-wing in its politics, pro-business, pro-free market economy and private property rights. The party enjoyed limited success and eventually died out. Later, Munshi joined the Jan Sangh.

Being a prolific writer and a conscientious journalist, Munshi started a Gujarati monthly called Bhargava. He was joint-editor of Young India and in 1954, started the Bhavan’s Journal which is published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to this day. Munshi was President of the Sanskrit Viswa Parishad, the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad, and the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan.

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apart from founding Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Munshi was instrumental in the establishment of Bhavan’s College, Hansraj Morarji Public School, Rajhans Vidyalaya, Rajhans Balvatika and Panchgani Hindu School (1924). He was elected Fellow of the University of Bombay, where he was responsible for giving adequate representation to regional languages.

Besides being a politician and educator, Munshi was also an environmentalist. He initiated the Vanmahotsav in 1950, when he was Union Minister of Food and Agriculture, to increase area under forest cover. Since then Van Mahotsav a week-long festival of tree plantation is organised every year in the month of July all across the country and lakhs of trees are planted.

Works

Munshi was also a litterateur with a wide range of interests. He is well-known for his historical novels in Gujarati, especially his trilogy Patan-ni-Prabhuta (The Greatness of Patan), Gujarat-no-Nath (The Ruler of Gujarat) and Rajadhiraj (The Emperor). His other works include Jay Somnath (on Somnath temple), Krishnavatara (on Lord Krishna), Bhagavan Parasurama (on Parshurama), and Tapasvini (The Lure of Power) a novel with a fictional parallel drawn from the Freedom Movement of India under Mahatma Gandhi. Munshi also wrote several notable works in English.

Munshi has written mostly based on fictional historical themes namely

  1. Earlier Aryan settlements in India (What he calls Gaurang’s – white skinned)
  2. Krishna’s endeavors in Mahabharata kaal
  3. More recently in 10th century India around Gujarat, Malwa and Southern India.

K.M. Munshi’s novel Prithvi Vallabh was made into a movie of the same name twice. The adaptation directed by Manilal Joshi in 1924 was very controversial in its day: Mahatma Gandhi railed against it for excessive sex and violence. The second version was by Sohrab Modi in 1943.

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List of works

Novels

In Gujarati & Hindi languages :-

  • Mari Kamala (1912)
  • Verni Vasulat (1913) (under the pen name Ghanashyam)
  • Patanni Prabhuta (1916)
  • Gujaratno Nath (1917)
  • Rajadhiraj (1918)
  • Prithvivallabh (1920)
  • Svapnadishta (1924)
  • Lopamudra (1930)
  • Jay Somanth (1940)
  • Bhagavan Parashurama (1946)
  • Tapasvini (1957)
  • Krishnavatara (in seven volumes) (1970)
  • Kono vank
  • Lomaharshini
  • Bhagvan Kautilya
  • Pratirodha (1900)
  • Atta ke svapana (1900)
  • Gaurava kā pratīka (1900)
  • Gujarat ke Gaurava (1900)
  • Sishu aura Sakhi (1961)

Dramas

  • Brahmacharyashram (1931)
  • Dr. Madhurika (1936)
  • Pauranik Natako

Non-fiction

  • Ketlak Lekho (1926)
  • Adadhe Raste (1943)

Notable works in English

Vidur’s Travel Diary – 5 : Puducherry


CHENNAI – TAMILNADU – INDIA         NOVEMBER 30 , 2011            01.00 A.M.

After finishing Darshanam and Abhishekam yesterday , me and my wife proceeded for Chennai from Vaitheeswaramkoil in the morning . We reached Puduchery at noon and decided to visit few important places . If one is passing through Puducherry , is it possible to just escape the city and proceed further ?

In 1969 when I went to Allahabad for higher studies , one day me and my friend went to Universal Book Store to buy ” Savitri ” and ” Life Divine ” , books written by Maharshi Aurobindo . I couldn’t buy the books because of paucity of funds but my friend bought those books . He used to narrate few important things from those books and my admiration and respect for Maharshi Aurobindo grew . Unfortunately I was unable to visit Puducherry , which was known as Pondicherry at that time . So when I passed through Puduchery on November 25th , I decided to visit it thoroughly while returning from Vaitheeswarankoil .

Main road of Puducherry is adorned by beautiful gates . In my knowledge the only other city in India adorned with gates is Jaipur . But these gates are very different . They carry distinct French style .

Gate of Puducherry City

After this gate , the most important thing in Puducherry is Sri Aurubindo Ashram . Ashram is closed from 2.00 t0 4.00 . I am sorry that I reached there at 1.45 and spent only 15 minutes there . I could visit the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and Sri Maa and I am happy that I could pay my obeisance there . Photography is not allowed inside , so I could not click photos of Samadhi .

With My Wife at Aurubindo Ashram Gate

My Wife at Sri Aurubindo Ashram

The promenade of Puducherry is something to be seen to be believed . It is different from Marina Beach Chennai and Juhu Beach , Mumbai . It’s old name was Rue Du Rampart and now it is called Beach Road .

Beach Road - Puducherry

Beach Road - Puducherry , Another View

My Wife at Beach Road - Boat House Chunambur in the Background

Very close to Sri Aurobindo Ashram is Vinayak Temple , most famous temple of Puducherry .

With My Wife at Vinayak Temple Gate

After Vinayak Temple we again returned to Beach Road . At one end there is a magnificient Gandhi statue .

Mahatma Gandhi Statue at Beach Road

Pondicherry , apart from Sri Aurubindo , also belongs to Subramanya Bharthi , a great modern Tamil poet . His house was declared a national memorial. I went to visit it but it is sad that it has been closed two years ago . Millions are spent on the memorials of Gandhi – Nehru family but it is appalling that a national poet of the stature of Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathiyar a.k.a. Subramanya Bharathi is so neglected . Totally disappointed and crest – fallen , I returned from his so – called memorial

House of Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathiyar

There is another worthwhile monument near Puducherry . It is called Auruville . It is 12 km. from the main town .Auroville is a global village conceptualised by Sri Maa . It was raining heavily and we were wet , so the picture is not very clear .

With my Wife at Matru Mandir - Auroville

With visit to Auroville , my Puducherry visit ended . I returned to Chennai . While sitting in the room of Hotel Golden Tower , while I am writing this blog , I am thinking about Puducherry . It is very different from other Indian cities . Have you seen such kind of lanes and by – lanes anywhere in India ?

A Lane of Puducherry

Or do you think such kind of structure for a Church is prevalent anywhere in India ?

A Church of Puducherry

Puducherry was a French Colony and was known as Pondicherry then  . After India’s independence , French government decided to hand over this colony to Indian government and on November 01 , 1954 Pondicherry came under India’s rule and was made a Union Territory on November 01 , 1956 . At the time of transfer of power French government insisted that the distinct French character if this town should be maintained . It is heartening that this pledge is maintained by our government and Puducherry remains unique and distinct .

As usual when I am about to finish the blog , I am contemplating about my next visit and as usual words of Hindi poet Agyeya come to my with a teasing reminder :

पार्श्व गिरि का नम्र चीड़ों में , डगर चढ़ती उमंगों सी ;

बिछी पैरों में नदी ज्यों दर्द की रेखा , विहग शिशु मौन नीड़ों में ; 

मैंने आँख भर देखा , दिया मन को दिलासा ; 
पुनः आऊँगा , भले ही बरस दिन , अनगिन युगों के बाद ;

क्षितिज ने पलक सी खोली , दमक कर दामिनी बोली ;
” अरे यायावर ! रहेगा याद ? “
………………………………………………..अज्ञेय
[ Tenderness of mighty mountains reflected in pine trees ,
Upward moving pathways symbolizing my enthusiasm ,
River , flowing deep down like a line of pain ,
Tiny tots of birds sitting silently in their nest ,
I saw everything with contentment ,
Consoled myself , I would come again ,
After a year or may be after ages ……….
Horizon opened its eyes , lightning dazzled in the sky ,
As if saying ………………
O Wanderer ! Would you ever even remember ? ]
But in case of Pondicherry , I know that I would be visiting the town soon . After Deoria , my place of birth and after Mumbai , my place of work , if I have to settle in any other city ever , it would be Puducherry .

VIDUR

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA

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