Wednesday, November 24, 2021



                                  ( Portrait of Devika  Rani drawn by her husband Svetoslav Roerich )
                                       ( Spring in Kulu by Nicholas Roerich )
                                           ( Bhagwan Ramakrishna by Nicholas Roerich )
                                            ( Himalayas by Nicholas Roerich )
                                                ( Self sketch by Nicholas Roerich )
                                                     ( A painting by Nicholas Roerich )
                                                 ( Nicholas Roerich with his sons )
                                                     ( The Roerich family )
                                                 ( A painting by Nicholas Roerich )

    (  Pandit Jawahar Lal  Nehru and Indira Gandhi with Roerich family . On extreme right is Mohammad Yunus )

" Among the monotony of everyday life, only a few can feel the reality of the Cosmos. Only a few know how to defeat the gray dragon of routine. The consciousness of humanity is so rich with the dust of routine things that one has to break through this wall."
( Nicholas Roerich )
Nocholas Roerich was a Russian artist , writer , poet , philosopher, archaeologist, theosophist, and scholar . He was a lover of Himalayas and brought the Himalayan beauty  to his paintings . Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on October 9, 1874, the first-born son of lawyer and notary, Konstantin Roerich and his wife Maria, Nicholas was raised in an upper middle-class  family that had close contacts with the writers, artists, and scientists who often visited the  Roerichs.
His wife , Helena Roerich was an unusually gifted woman, a  pianist, and the  author of many books, including ‘The Foundations of Buddhism’ and a Russian translation of Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine. Their marriage was a lifetime collaboration in many fields  of many  common interests. Her philosophy, comprising a living ethic, was shared by Nicholas and motivated him in his work and his life. At some time in their late years an anniversary approached and he wrote this  in his diary:-
 “Forty years—no less than forty. On such a long voyage, meeting many storms and dangers from without, together we overcame all obstacles. And obstacles turned into possibilities. I dedicated my books to Helena, my wife, friend, traveling companion, inspirer! Each of these concepts was tested in the fire of life. And in Petersburg, Scandinavia, England, America, and in all Asia we worked, we studied, we broadened our consciousness. Together we created, and not without reason is it said that the work should bear two names—a feminine and a masculine.” 
Nicholas and Helena Roerich, brought up in the Russian Orthodox Christian tradition, expanded their horizons by studying both the contemporary Hindu teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda as well as Buddhism and Theosophy. This knowledge provided the foundation for Helena Roerich's  work on Agni Yoga, which emphasized the feminine principle in modern spirituality.
Apart from Himalayas , Eastern religious figures and concepts appear in the paintings, important among these being the images of the Lord Maitreya—the Buddhist Messiah, the Kalki-Avatar of the Puranas, Rigden Jyepo of Mongolia, or the White Burkhan of Altai—all of whom are described in legends that link them with the Ruler of ‘Shambhala’, destined to appear on earth for the final destruction of the wicked, the renovation of creation and the restoration of purity.”(quoted from The Theosophical Glossary, by H. P. Blavatsky).
The Roerichs landed in Bombay in December, 1923, and began a tour of cultural centers and historic sites, meeting Indian scientists, scholars, artists, and writers along the way. Thereafter their four-year expedition (1925-29) began in Sikkim, and the family travelled from there to Kashmir via eastern India and Punjab. British intelligence officers in India felt the mystical family could be spies and suspected their motives. This led to bureaucratic obstacles when it came to obtaining travel permits, as well as the use of covert British intelligence tactics to hinder their travel. 
Nicholas, his wife Helena and their elder son Yuri also known as George, travelled across the Himalayas into Turkestan, and China and onwards to Mongolia and Russia’s Altai region and Siberia before going back to Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, China, Tibet and India.
The Roerichs arrived in Kashmir in the spring of 1925. They were were enamoured by the beauty of the Kashmir valley . Nicholas Roerich wrote this :-
“Everything went through Kashmir. Here are the ancient routes of Asia. And each caravan flashes like a link of combinations of the great body of the East. There are blue peaks of Sonamarg; and the white slopes of Zoji-la. And in the flight of eagles the same tireless spirit; and in the fast horses the same inexorable movement. And the world of Kashmiri roses and shawls is not like the forgotten and hidden world of Kashmiri blades.”

                                            ( Kashmir ..A painting by Nicholas Roerich )
Srinagar was the last major stop for the family . The family toured Kashmir valley extensively . Nicholas Roerich visited Martand and Avantipora and he wrote in detail about the monuments that he saw in ruins . .The family also visited Gulmarg. However , the British Resident engineered an attack on the family at Tangmarg .In this attack, seven members of the Roerich team were injured. The British resident’s Chauffer was seen amongst the attackers. The British Resident in Kashmir suspected that the family was on some spying mission in Central Asia where Russia had been expanding its empire.. Their Exit Permit from Kashmir towards Central Asia was accordingly delayed. About Kashmir’s monuments ,Nocholas Roerich wrote this :-
“Here are both Martand and Avantipur associated with the flourishing of Avantiswami’s activities. There are many ruins of temples of the sixth, seventh, eighth centuries, in which parts of the architecture are striking in their resemblance to the details of Romanesque. Of the Buddhist monuments, almost nothing has survived in Kashmir, although such pillars of old Buddhism as Nagarjuna, Asvagosha, Rakhshita and many others lived here … Here is the throne of Solomon, and on the same summit the temple, the foundation of which was laid by the son of King Ashoka.”
In Srinagar, the family did all their preparations and brought provisions for a difficult and long journey along the mountain paths of the Himalayas and through the deserts of the heart of Asia. From Srinagar , the family moved to Ladakh to a grand reception .
A visionary and idealist, Nicholas Roerich promoted peace and the protection of the world's cultural heritage, the unity of religions, and the notion that the creative people of the world bear the responsibility to save the world. During the nineteen-twenties, he composed a treaty for protection of the historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions in time of peace as well as in war. Nowadays the Roerich Pact movement is especially popular in Latin America.
Admired by Gandhi Ji, Einstein, Jawahar Lal Nehru , Franklin D Roosevelt and many leaders of the world , Nicholas Roerich was nominated for the Nobel prize many times .At the end of their major expedition, in 1928, the family settled in the Kullu valley in the Himalayan foothills. The family built a house at a spot that gave them a magnificent view of the valley and the surrounding mountains. 
Nicholas Roerich died in Kullu on December 13, 1947. His body was cremated and its ashes buried on a slope facing the mountains he loved and portrayed in many of his nearly seven thousand paintings.
After Nicholas Roerich died, the family moved to Kalimpong. However, after the death of Helena Roerich, her younger son moved back to Russia while Svetoslav Roerich, the elder son married Devika Rani, the well-known actress of Hindi cinema and owner of Bombay Talkies. 
Called the ‘Indian Greta Garbo’, Devika Rani was the leading lady in many films like Achhut Kanya (1936), Janmabhoomi (1936) and Savitri (1937). The couple remained a presence at the Bangaluru’s cultural scene until they passed away in the early ’90s.
( Avtar Mota )

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Kal Taaran Guru Nanak Aaya
Suni pukaar dataar prabhu
Guru Nanak jag maahe pathaaya.
Charan dhoye rehraas kar,
charnamrit sikhan pilaaya.
Par-brahm puran brahm,
kaljug andhar ik dikhaaya....
Chaare paer dharam de,
chaar varann ik varann karaaya....
Rana rank baraabari,
peri povna jag vartaaya...
.........Kal taaran Guru Nanak aaya,
(The benefactor Lord listened
to the cries of the humanity
And sent Guru Nanak to this world.
Washing his feet,
he eugolised the Lord,
And made his disciples
drink the sacred ambrosia..
In this Kaliyuga,
he made it visible to all
that Brahm and Par-Brahm is identical.
He established Dharma
on its four feet
And he made one caste
out of the four castes.
He made the the prince
and the beggar equal to them
he taught the humble practice
 of touching each-other's feet.
........Guru Nanak came to redeem the Kaliyuga..
Heartiest greetings on the auspicious occasion of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s birth anniversary. May this Gurpurab bring lots of joy and happiness to our lives.May peace prevail on this planet.May this Kartik Purnima dispel every trace of darkness from our lives...
(Avtar Mota)
This Shabd has been sung by great Samund Singh Ji 



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Sunday, November 21, 2021




( Sunset View of Bahu Fort , Jammu)

The Gazetteer of Kashmir and Ladakh says this about Jammu of 1755

" The town of Jammu was at the zenith of its around the year  prosperity in the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Dev, the eight first in the long line of  Rajput princes who trace their descent from Dalip of Bagju heroes who migrated to Jammu from hereditary estates of the family near Audh.The town is on the right bank of the ravine at an elevation of 150 feet above the bed of the river,and the whole building of the palaces and numerous temples with their glided domes are seen glistening in the sun from a great distance in the plains .At the gate are stationed a guard, writers whose business is to report arrivals,and custom House messengers.After passing the entrance ,in doing which we come on to a plateau ,we advance  on more level  ground along a street or Bazaar." 

Belonging to the Jamwal clan of Rajput's, Raja Ranjit Dev    succeeded in the establishment of his sovereignty in large parts of Jammu hills. He established political stability in the hills of Jammu.Raja Ranjit Dev ruled Jammu from 1728 to 1780 and had 22 Dogra chieftains under him. He extended his rule upto Gurdaspur in Punjab and Chamba in present day Himachal Pradesh. During his rule, Jammu was considered a  flourishing trading centre of North India. 

 Raja Ranjit Dev introduced social reforms such as a ban on Sati  and female infanticide. 

Raja Dhruv Dev (1707-1733)  moved his residence from the old palace in the Purani Mandi area of Jammu, to a new, more spectacular location overlooking the Tawi river, which is today called Mubarak Mandi.Over the years, the palace grew as additions were made. New palaces were constructed during the reign of his son and successor Raja Ranjit Dev (1733-1780 CE).
 Some  temples like  Ranbireshwar Temple , Raghunath Ji Temple ,Gadadhar ( Vishnu) Temple  built  by subsequent Dogra rulers like Maharaja Ghulab Singh and Maharaja Ranbir Singh added further glory to the city of temples.

(Avtar Mota)

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021






Durga Nag  Temple once formed a part of the grand Gopadri or Gopa Agrahara in Kashmir . Gopadri was the ancient name of the present day Shankaracharya hill. Gopaditya was a king of Kashmir and the hill was named after him. Kalhana mentions that Gopatidtya built a temple on the top of the hill as the shrine of Shiva Jyeshtrudra in 371 BC. Some historians believe that a superstructure was built on an existing temple base by king Gopaditya during his rule.  In fact two grand Agraharas existed just below the Gopadri hill. The  Gopadri  or Gopa Agrahara that extended from present day Polo View Road right up to Zeethyar shrine . It also included areas falling under present day Sonawar and Drugjan ( Known as Durga Galika during ancient period ) localities. Another Agrahara known as Bhukisirvatika Agrahara existed at present day Buchhwara locality on the other side of the Gopadri hill.  Buchhwara is the corrupted name of Bhukisirvatika.This Agrahara had areas falling on present day Boulevard Road. In both the Agraharas , expert   Brahmins ,  who had been brought from outside Kashmir were settled . These Brahmins had their  dwelling units at the foothill.

Agrahara was a grant of land and royal income from it, typically by a king or a noble family in India, for religious purposes, particularly to Brahmins to maintain temples in that land or a pilgrimage site and to sustain their families.

Durganag temple finds a mention  in the Agama literature of Kashmir as also in Kalahana’s Rajatarangini. The Durganag Temple was  Sharada Math ( Durga temple )  . It is believed that  Great  Shankaracharya stayed at the shrine and penned Soundarya-Lahiri when he visited Kashmir in 8th century A.D. Sri Shankaracharya also visited the temple of Shiva Jyeshtrudra atop the Gopadri hill. The temple came to be known as Shankracharya Temple after this  visit. Sri Shankaracharya   popularized the Bhakti cult and Shakti worship in Kashmir. 

The Sharada  Math existed right up to 14th century . It was during the rule of Shahmiri Sultans that the Math ,like other grand temples of Kashmir ,was raised to the ground .The nearby Drugjan locality , known as Durga Galika was also a part of the Math. So was the nearby area known as Atri Galika ( dedicated to Rishi Atri ) presently known as Ata Gaej. According to Rajatarangini ,King Sandhiman of Kashmir used to have long yogic penance at this  place.

It was only in 1861 after the Dogra rulers arrived on the scene , Swami Bhaktananda with his disciples arrived in Kashmir and made serious efforts for retrieving some part of the encroached land and rebuilt the ancient Math and the temple structure inside it. During this process of rebuilding, a broken idol of goddess Durga was traced and a new temple to house the same was constructed. The ancient Sharada Math thus, got renamed as Durga Nag. Thereafter  Mahant Swami Shivaratnand Saraswati did great job for reconstruction and revival of the past glory of this ancient Shrine. An organization,  "Shri 1108 Adi Shankracharya Sidha Peetha, Shri Durga Nag Trust (J&K) was founded by Swami Shivratnanand Saraswati" in the year 1939.

This ancient shrine is the first halt of annual Amarnath pilgrims who carry the  Holy Mace  or the Charri Mubarak to the sacred cave of Lord Shiva.

At present , the major part of the land belonging to the shrine has been sold out or leased to commercial  establishments and the  shrine has shrunk to a few Kanals of land .The temple premises  houses   (1)The  Devi Temple (2) Holy Spring (3) Shiva Temple (4) Mathra Devi Ashram (6) Havan Shala, (6) Langer (7) Samadhi of Swami Shivaratnananda Saraswati, (8) Two Chinar Trees with base and (9) One Memorial in the form of stmbh. Adjacent to the temple complex are two Yatri Bhavans with dormitories .


 ( Avtar Mota )

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Wednesday, November 3, 2021




By Kamla Patel
 Translated from Gujrati by Uma Randeria
Price 350/=( Hardbound and 236 pages )
ISBN 81-88965-27-8
Published by… ‘Women Unlimited’ , Hauz Khas , New Delhi.
( Available on Amazon and Flipkart)


Kamla Patel (1912-1992) was a freedom fighter who spent her early years at Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram ,Ahemdabad. She headed the Kasturbha Gandhi National Memorial Trust . Alongwith Mridula Sarabhai, Kamla Patel did exemplary work for the recovery of abducted women after the partition of the country. For this work, she kept visiting Pakistan regularly and met every person in the political , police and military hierarchy. Later, she was also associated with Khadi And Village Industries Commission.

The problem of women abducted during the  riots was one of the saddest chapters in the history of the partition. A period when man became a jungle wolf, partition riots had many dimensions. Women were subjected to every type of torment ,pain and sorrow by people who had lost sanity in the communal frenzy and lawlessness. This book gives first-hand account of 'Operation Recovery' carried out by Government of India and Pakistan immediately after the partition of the country . One gets a painful knowledge of efforts put in by Kamlaben Patel and her team to recover thousands of abducted girls, children and women who were restored to their homes and families.

 The book takes us to the pathetic refugee camps in Lahore, Jalandhar , Amritsar and many cities where Kamlaben spent about three years . The individual stories are truthful memoirs of the horrible period of the history of the subcontinent. A period when merchants of death and destruction traded children, girls and women like vegetables or fruits. The stories are candid, painful and true to every word. The book has a rare archival value apart from conveying the efforts of some great women who applied balm to the bleeding wounds created by the partition. Roughly about 25000 women and children were abducted in the partition riots. Out of this, as per data available in the book, 20728 were recovered .

One is simply amazed to read the stories of exemplary humanitarian work done by some great women from India under the guidance of Mridula Sarabhai. These daring women ran two huge camps in India and Pakistan. Hindu women and children recovered in Pakistan were sent to the camp in Lahore and Muslim women and children recovered from East Punjab were sent to the camp in Jalandhar city.From Pakistan side,  Miss Qari was actively associated with this work. Children and women were recovered from Dera Ismail Khan , Gujranwala, Jung,Jhelum, Miyanwali, Lahore,Montgomery,Multan,Rawalpindi,Sargodha,Sheiikhpora ,Sialkot ,Kohat ,Lyallpur, Bahawalpur,Sindh ,Ambala, Karnal, Hissar ,Ludhiana,Amritsar, Jind, Delhi , Nabha, Firozepur,Karnal,Rohtak,Faridkot, Kapurthala, Alwar ,Bharatpur and Patiala .

This 236 pages book is set into 36 small chapters . Prior to chapter 1 , a reader comes across the translator's  note, preface and a lucid  11 page introduction to the subject of the book . In chapter 33 and 34, the author gives details of her visits and work in J&K state . Other chapters deal with the author's visits and work in various offices and camps in India and Pakistan .In chaper 2 ,we read with keen interest as to how terrified and suspicious was the ambiance inside Mrs Amanulla's house where Kamlaben Patel stayed on her arrival in Lahore after the creation of Pakistan .The hate, suspicion and fear had not died down .Many Urdu newspapers in Pakistan named these daring women as spies from India.

 It was at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's initiative that a department dealing with the issue of abducted women was formed under the Ministry of External Affairs . It was headed by Gopalswami Ayyangar . Rameshwari Nehru was appointed as director of this department. Pandit Ji and Sardar Swarn Singh also took keen interest in the affairs of this new department.

 In the book ,the author takes us to the refugee camp in DAV College, Lahore to know pathetic tales of human misery. We are taken to refugee camps in Amritsar to know similar painful stories. Women, sad, dumb,terrified and poor bore the savagery and madness of partition riots .One reads with painful interest the story of Sudershan ,a Hindu girl from Lahore who refuses to go to India .Another story that evokes sympathy is about Latif who was actually born to Hindu parents. The story of Daya Lata also keeps the reader engrossed. The sad tale of Prema, also keeps echoing for many days after one reads it.

Through the book, I came to know that Dr Saif ud Din Kitchloo had given his Amritsar house to the' Society for Recovery of Abducted Women ' to be used as office. I also came to know how Kashyap Bandhu Ji had been closely associated with Mridula Sarabhai and Kamlaben Patel for similar work in Kashmir after the Pakistan sponsored 'Tribal Raid' . Both Kashyap Bandhu and Comrade Dhanvantri find lavish praise in this book. Comrade Dhanvantri also did commendable task in this area in Jammu .
About Bandhu Ji , Kamla Patel writes this :-

 " Bandhu Ji’s aim was to eradicate poverty and illiteracy among the Kashmiri people . He made his homeland his field of work and literally buried himself in the task of uplifting his people . Sheikh Abdullah , the leader of Kashmir , had tried to persuade Bandhu Ji to join his cabinet, but having pledged himself to the service of the people , he refused the offer. He was a selfless Gandhian who was always clad in Khadi . Mridulaben had informed me about the special place that Bandhu Ji occupied in the hearts of the Kashmiris .The poor section of the society had a great deal of respect for him .On one occasion , in my presence , a shepherd presented a Pashmina shawl to him. A man sitting near Bandhu Ji praised the quality of the shawl, and without a moment’s hesitation , Bandhu Ji put the shawl on that man’s shoulder.
I asked him later , why he had given that shawl to someone else . He smiled and replied , ’That fellow was keen on owning the shawl. Let him be happy. Why should a crude and unpolished person like me , who has suffered hardships for many years , and even courted imprisonment , spoil his last years by using a fine shawl ? ’ Apart from Sheikh Abdullah , he knew Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad from his childhood, but totally disapproved of his modus operandi. When Sheikh Abdullah was imprisoned after being removed from his post , Bandhu Ji was also put behind bars . After being released from the jail, Bandhu Ji immersed himself in another kind of assignment . He took up the herculean task of a plan which had been shelved for years , of saving innumerable villages located on one side of the  Wular lake that were inundated year after year , and resulted in much damage . I was indeed very happy when I read in the newspapers that as a result of his ceaseless efforts , this task was finally completed .”

About Dhanvantari , Kamla Patel writes this :- 

“   I must mention the late Dhanvantari Ji , the veteran worker whom I came into contact with . Dhanvantari Ji lived in Jammu. The former Chief Minister of Kashmir , Mr Sadiq regarded him as his Guru. Years of imprisonment had played havoc with his health, but he still had the fervour of a revolutionary .He was a bachelor . When he was released from Andaman Jail, he was well past the marriage age. His sister in law took good care of him , and Dhanvantari Ji looked upon her as his mother. There was a history behind his low back pain from which he constantly suffered .Those who were imprisoned in the  Andaman jail, could not get a glimpse of the world outside .In such circumstances ,some of his fellow prisoners devised an ingenious method of looking at the outside world . Dhanvantari Ji was made to act as a’ horse ‘ , and seven to eight prisoners would climb on the top of one another to reach the high wall and look over it. One of the men who was riding the horse had a fit of cough , as a result of which the whole pyramid collapsed . Dhanvantari Ji suffered a serious jolt in this process , and the pain in his  lower back became his lifelong companion. ”

The book ends with a wonderful tribute to Mridula Sarabhai. The tribute brings forth the true  humanitarian and the compassionate woman that  Mridula Sarabhai  remained all along her life  .
 I recommend the book to one and all.

"Jab jab kabhi socha hai
Dil thaam liya maine,
"Insaan ke haathon se
Insaan pe kya guzri"  ".........( Firaq Gorakhpuri )

( My heart begins to sink , whenever I think:
" What man has made of man ! " )

( Avtar Mota)

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