Author Topic: Pundit Nain Singh Rawat - पंडित नैन सिंह रावत  (Read 7599 times)

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(This article is copied from http://legends-of-johar.blogspot.in/2010/09/introduction.html)


Pundit Nain Singh Rawat (1830-1895)
Introduction : On 10th April 1802, the Great Trigonometrical Survey (GST) was started by the Royal Geographical Society, London. The Royal Geographical Society stated that GST was the most important milestone in the development of science in 19th century. This 1600 miles long geographical survey took around 50 years to get completed. This survey played a great role in the mapping of not only the Indian sub-continent, but also the parts of Central Asia beyond the Great Himalayas.
 
 Many people worked for the successful completion of the Great Trigonometrical Survey, but the one who is mainly responsible for it, was Pundit Nain Singh Rawat. He was a famous Indian explorer, surveyor, and cartographer, who dedicated most part of his life to the field of exploration and cartography.
 
Early Life :
 Nain Singh was born in Milam village of Munsyari tehsil in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand on 21st October, 1830. His father Amar Singh was known as Lata Buda, and grandfather Dham Singh Rawat was a big landlord, who was rewarded Jagir (land) in Golma and Kotal villages by the Kumauni King Deepchandra in 1735.
 
 Most of his early education was held at home. After leaving school, Nain Singh helped his father in their traditional trans-border trade between India and Tibet. During the trade, he visited several trade centres in Tibet with his father, learnt the Tibetan language, customs and manners, and became familiar with the Tibetan people. This knowledge of Tibetan language, local customs, and protocols helped Nain Singh during his future survey missions.
 
 Career :
 1. Schlagintweit Brothers’ Expedition (1855-1857)At the age of 25, Nain Singh was first recruited by the German geographers, Schlagintweit Brothers. Baron Humboldt had sent these German scientists to the office of Survey of India, which reluctantly allowed them to proceed for the survey. Adolf and Robert Schlagintweit met old Deb Singh Rawat in the Johar valley, who advised them to recruit three members of his family for their expedition – Man Singh Rawat (Mani Compasi), Dolpa Pangtey and Nain Singh Rawat. Nain Singh’s first exploration journey was with these Germans from 1855 to 1857. During this mission, he travelled to Mansarovar and Rakastal lakes in Tibet, then further to Gartok and Ladakh.
 
 2. Education Department (1858-1863)
 After the expedition with the Schlagintweit Brothers, Nain Singh joined the Education Department as a teacher at the Government Vernacular School in his village Milam in 1858. Later, he was appointed as the headmaster of this school, where he served till early 1863. During those days, people commonly used to address to the teachers with the name “Pundit” (Knowledgeable Person). That’s where the famous title or prefix of “Pundit” came! 3. Great Trigonometrical Survey (1863-1875)
 In 1862-63, Education Officer Edmund Smyth was in correspondence with Captain Montgomery to recruit some trustworthy natives as explorers for the Great Trigonometrical Survey. On the recommendation of Edmund Smyth, Nain Singh and Mani Singh Rawat were selected for this expedition at a starting salary of rupees twenty a month. Nain Singh worked in the active service of the Great Trigonometrical Survey from 1863-1875. Nain Singh was given code names "Chief Pundit" or "No. 1" for this clandestine expedition by the survey officials. He not only worked as a surveyor in the GST, but also trained many surveyors and explorers for other expeditions.
 (a) Training :On 12th January 1863, Nain Singh along with his cousin, Mani Singh Rawat were sent to the Great Trigonometrical Survey office at Dehradun, where they underwent training for two years. This included the training on scientific instruments, and some ingenious ways of measurement and recording information, and the art of disguise (espionage). Nain Singh was exceptionally intelligent and determined, and quickly learned the correct use of scientific instruments, like *tant and compass. He could also recognize all major stars and different constellations easily for directions.
 
 (b) Methodology :
A sergeant major drilled them using a pace-stick, to take steps of a fixed length which remained constant even while climbing up, down or walking on plain surface. They were trained to record the distances by an ingenious method using a rosary. This rosary unlike a Hindu or Buddhist one, which has 108 beads, had just 100 beads. At every 100 steps the Pundit would slip one bead, so a complete length of the rosary represented 10000 steps. It was easy to calculate the distance as each step was 31½ inches and a mile was calculated to be around 2000 steps. To avoid suspicion, these explorers went about their task disguised as monks or traders or whatever suited the particular situation. Many more ingenious methods were devised for this expedition. The notes of measurements were coded in the form of written prayers and these scrolls of paper were hidden in the cylinder of the prayer wheel. The Pundit kept this secret log book up to date. The compass for taking bearing was hidden in the lid of the prayer wheel. Mercury used for setting and artificial horizon, was kept in Cowri shells and for use poured into the begging bowl carried by the Pundit. The thermometer found place in the topmost part of the monk’s stave. There were workshops, where false bottoms were made in the chests to hold *tant. Pockets were also added to the clothes used during these secret missions.
 Thus prepared and trained, the Pundit travelled for months at a stretch collecting intelligence in most difficult conditions, travelling closely with the natives in caravans. What was to follow, were some of the most glorious years in the exploration and mapping of Tibet and all its river systems and indeed some of the most fascinating explorations worth recounting. In 1865-66, Nain Singh travelled 1200 miles from Kathmandu to Lhasa and then to the Mansarovar lake and back to India. On his second expedition in 1867, Nain Singh explored Western Tibet and visited the legendary Thok Jalung gold mines. His last and greatest journey of 1874-75 was from Leh to Tawang (Assam) via Lhasa, which got a great appreciation thorough out Europe.
 In the Great Trigonometrical Survey, Nain Singh surveyed 2000 km long trade route from Nepal to Tibet in around 21 months. He was first to determine the exact location and altitude of Lhasa town. Nain Singh measured 31 latitudes and 33 altitudes of different places during this survey. He travelled the length of 800 Km of Tsang Po river in Tibet, and was the first person to find that the Tsang Po and Brahmaputra rivers are one. He successfully completed his expeditions in the disguise of a Lama as the entry of foreigners in Tibet was forbidden by the Chinese Iron Curtains.
 (c) Survey Missions / Expeditions :Nain Singh Rawat as a surveyor in the Great Trigonometrical Survey made the following important expeditions from 1865 to 1875 :
  • 1865-66 : Kathmandu – Lhasa – Mansarovar Lake.
  • 1867 : Origin of Sutlej and Indus rivers, and Thok Jalung (Tibet).
  • 1870 : Douglas Forsyth’s First Yarkand – Kashgar Mission.
  • 1873 : Douglas Forsyth’s Second Yarkand – Kashgar Mission.
  • 1874-75 : Leh – Lhasa – Tawang (Assam).
Retirement and Death :
 Nain Singh’s last journey has taken its toll on his health, also impairing his vision. He continued for a few years to train other Indians in the art of surveying and spying, and did a highly commendable job of it too.
 Nain Singh Rawat died of a heart attack in 1895, while visiting his Jagir, a village in the Indian Terai (plains) granted to him by the British in 1877.
Legacy :
 Nain Singh Rawat explored most of the unknown territories of the Central Asia and Tibet beyond the Great Himalayas. His collected scientific information about the geography of these regions provided a major contribution in the mapping of the Central Asia.
 For his extraordinary achievements and contributions, Nain Singh was honoured with many awards by the Royal Geographical Society, the Paris Geographical Society, and other European institutions. The survey journeys of Nain Singh got place in many books, magazines, and research papers of different languages around the globe. His literary contribution to the art of writing travelogues, reports, memoirs, and scientific literature was never acknowledged and researched (except by Dr. Ram Singh) in the Hindi World!
 

 Colonel Yule, addressing the Royal Geographic Society at the time of its presentation of the Society's Gold Medal to Nain Singh, said, "It is not a topographical automaton, or merely one of a great multitude of native employees with an average qualification. His observations have added a larger amount of important knowledge to the map of Asia than those of any other living man!"
 
 Nain Singh was a man of strong character – where others admitted defeat, he persisted. Due to the clandestine nature of his work and because he was a ‘Spy Explorer’, his great and important discoveries never gained the proper recognition. As he worked for the British, after independence his work and contribution was not given due recognition by the Indian government. This can be the only reason why his work faded in public memory!Awards and Recognition
  • In 1868, Nain Singh was presented with an inscribed gold chronometer/watch by the Royal Geographic Society (RGS), London.
  • In 1876, Nain Singh’s achievements were announced in the “Geographical Magzine”.
  • In 1877, Nain Singh was awarded with the “Victoria / Patron’s Gold Medal” by the Royal Geographic Society (RGS), London.
  • In 1877, Nain Singh was presented with an inscribed gold chronometer/watch by the Society of Geographers of Paris.
  • In 1877, the British government awarded him with the title of “Companion of the Indian Empire” (C.I.E.)!
  • In 1877, the British government honoured him with a grant of a village in Rohilkhand (Bareilly) as Jagir, and 1000 rupees in revenue.
  • On 27th June 2004, an Indian postage stamp featuring Nain Singh was issued commemorating his role in the Great Trigonometrical Survey by the Indian government, after about 139 years since his achievement!
Literature By Nain Singh Rawat
 
 1. Akshansh Darpan (Mirror of Latitudes) :
 Nain Singh has put all his scientific and technical information about his experiments and the experiences of the explorations during the Great Trigonometrical Survey (1865-75) in writing in the form of this book. It worked as a good manual/guide for the later generations of explorers.2. Itihaas Rawat Kaum (History of Rawats) : This book is about the history of the Rawats, a sub-group of the larger Shauka community of Johar valley in Pithoragarh (Uttarakhand).3. Nain Singh’s Diaries / Reports : These are the unpublished works of Nain Singh in the form of Diaries and Reports. The original manuscript of these works is missing, but some historians have tried to publish them using the available sources.
 
Nain Singh Rawat in Popular Culture / Media :
 There are several forms of media in which information about Pundit Nain Singh Rawat and his extraordinary achievements has been published / illustrated.
 
 (A) Literature
  • Report of a Route-Survey made by Pundit & Others - T. G. Montgomery, The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, Vol. 38 (1868).
  • Report of the Trans-Himalayan Explorations during 1867 - T. G. Montgomery, The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, Vol. 39 (1869).
  • Account of the Pundit's Journey in Great Tibet - Capt. H. Trotter, The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, Vol. 47 (1877).
  • A Memoir on The Indian Surveys, 2nd Ed. - Clements R. Markham, W H Allen & Co., London (1878).
  • A Memoir on The Indian Surveys (1875-90) - Charles E. D. Black, London (1891).
  • The Heartland of Asia - Nathale Ettinger, Aldus Books, London (1971).
  • Indian Explorers of the 19th Century - Indra Singh Rawat (1973).
  • The Rand McNally World Atlas of Exploration - Rand McNally & Co., New York (1975).
  • To the Farthest Ends of the Earth : The History of the Royal Geographical Society (1830-1980) - Ian Cameron, Macdonald, London (1980).
  • Johar Ka Itihaas (History of Johar) - Babu Ram Singh Pangtey (1980).
  • The Mapmakers - J. N. Wilford, Knopf, New York (1981).
  • Trespassers on the Roof of the World : The Race for Lhasa - Peter Hopkirk, Oxford University Press (1982).
  • The Pundits : British Exploration of Tibet and Central Asia - Derek J. Waller, University Press of Kentucky (1990).
  • Accidental Explorers : Surprises and Side Trips in the History of Discovery - Rebecca Stefoff, Oxford University Press, New York/Oxford (1992).
  • Pundit Nain Singh - Dr. Ram Singh.
  • Madhya Himalaya Ki Bhotia Janjaati (Bhotia Tribe of The Central Himalayas) - Dr. Sher Singh Pangtey (1992).
  • Asia Ki Peeth Par : Pundit Nain Singh Rawat - Uma Bhatt & Shekhar Pathak, PAHAR, Nainital (2006).
(B) Television / Documentary
 
  • Himalaya Darshan - Doordarshan (Prasar Bharti), India (1990-94).
  • Discovery Channel / National Geographic Channel / The History Channel (200?).

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Dr. shekhar pathak presenting a synopsis of Pundit Nain Singh Rawat in Mussorrie's Writer Festival


Dr. Shekhar Pathak speaking on Mussoorie Writers' Festival Part-1

Hisalu

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एम.एस. मेहता /M S Mehta 9910532720

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LegacyOn June 27, 2004, an Indian postage stamp featuring Nain Singh[7] was issued commemorating his role in the Great Trigonometrical Survey.Recently Dr. Shekhar Pathak and Dr. Uma Bhatt, have brought out a biography of Nain Singh together with three of his diaries and the RGS articles about his travels in 3 volumes titled Asia ki Peeth Par published by Pahir, Naini Tal - a belated but fitting tribute to the man.Even today, after centuries of modernization, as China’s iron curtains, forbid the world the view of Tibet, it is with the eyes of these explorers that we still see this mysterious land. Their explorations are still the window to the world of Tibet.Nain Singh was a man of strong character – where others admitted defeat, he persisted. Due to the clandestine nature of their work and because they were ‘Spy Explorers’ their work never gained the recognition due to such an important feat. As these ‘Spy Explorers’ worked for the British, after independence their work was not given due recognition. The clandestine nature of their work made such important discoveries look unpatriotic. This can be the only reason why it faded in public memory.Life of Nain Singh Rawat, paraphrases the entire struggle for power not only in the plains of India but through the crucial and strategic Tibet, the high Himalayas and the Hindu Kush. British were in a way paranoid about Russia’s interest in Tibet. It was a race against time for the Tsarist Russia and British India to claim this yet untamed territory. The odds here were greater- Tibetians were no fools, with a relay system that surpassed many a superior security systems.Messengers criss crossed the landscape with letters and messages. These men mounted on horses covered the 800 miles between Lhasa and Gangtok and were forbidden to stop other than to eat or change horses. They wore a long sleeved Chogas inside which were tucked letters, the breast fastening of their overcoats was sealed to ensure that they did not change clothes. The officer to whom the letter was addressed would break the seal. A message took just thirty days to travel from Lhasa to Gartok, a special message would reach even faster, in twenty two days. The news traveled very fast due to this system and any foreigner who attempted to enter Tibet was reported and forced back to the border. The explorers were thus required to tackle this local resistance, prior to attempting the hazardous travel in this most unfriendly terrain. However, this reluctance on the part of the Tibetian native did not always exist. Previously, the Nepalese Kumaon was the only resistance the explorers faced. Once inside Tibet, they always reported of very friendly, warm and deeply religious people. In Akbar’s time the first Jesuit mission left for the search of the origin of the river Ganges, their main concern though was the quest for the lost tribe of Prester John. The Jesuits had heard from wandering sadhus and yogis, of people in Tibet who had rituals and practices similar to those of Christians. To find out about this they were eager to reach Tibet.In 1624 Jesuit father Antonio de Andrade along with Portuguese lay brother Manuel Marques and two Christian servants reached Badrinath disguised as pilgrims. After initial resistance from the officials of Raja of Srinagar, the two entered Tibet from Mana pass at 17,900 feet and were welcome in this isolated land. Andrade impressed the king and queen with his devotion towards his religion but could not persuade the king to convert. He returned in the summer of 1625 with more missionaries and the king laid the foundation of the first Christian church in Tibet. However, after Andrade left there was a revolt among Tibetan Lamas and the church was pulled down.The tradition of employing natives for survey work started quiet accidentally. When the Maratha war ended the military engineers and draughtsmen became comparatively free to focus their attention on mapping newly acquired upper Indian lands. At twenty four, when James Rennell was appointed the Surveyor General of India, he assembled a band of surveyors and draughtsmen to map the subcontinent. Rennel was awestruck when he first viewed the Himalayas from the plains of Bengal. He was curious about the origins of the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra, which had their sources in Himalayas. He admitted his ignorance and even accepted the native belief that the Ganges had its source in the holy lake of Kailash Mansarovar. Though he left India in 1777 due to delicate health, he continued to play a major role in the development of Indian geography and so is correctly honored with the title of ”Father Of Indian Geography”.Robert Colebrooke and Henry Colebrooke were cousins deeply interested in the Ganges. Robert was appointed Surveyor General of India in 1794 and Henry was posted as Assistant Commissioner of Purnea. He was a Sanskrit scholar and the first President of Bengal's The Asiatic Society. Robert spent his time either sailing on the Ganges or on its banks. He knew the river thoroughly and was eager to explore the source of the sacred river. His findings were a major contribution to Henry’s Asiatic researches. In1807 Robert Colebrooke sailed upstream from Calcutta. He was joined by twenty-two year old Webb of Bengal Native Infantry and fifty sepoys. They employed Captain Hyder Jung Hearsey, an independent freebooter who knew the terrain and the ways of locals well.His mounted irregulars also provided them protection against robbers and marauders. While surveying these unhealthy jungles of Terai, Robert Colebrooke fell ill. This development prevented him from going any further, so Webb along with Hearsay and an old friend Felix Raper from the old regiment traveled towards Himalayas with the instructions to explore the Ganges. They were assisted from Haridwar to Gangotri. At Haridwar, they were lucky to meet the Gurkha Governor of Nepalese Srinagar who was visiting the Kumbh Mela. After initial reluctance he gave way and this party headed for Gangotri. The trail was difficult to say the least and just forty miles short of their destination, for reasons unknown, Webb decided to turn back. Here was the start of a novel method of surveying when "An intelligent native", most probably Hearsey’s Hindu munshi was briefed about the use of compass and sent to look for the famous ‘Cow’s Mouth’. The remaining party of Webb, Hearsey and Raper moved towards Badrinath to locate the source of Alaknanda. They reached the Bhotia village of Mana and from here proceeded towards the source of Alaknanda with a local guide. They found the source in a narrow valley at the foot of Badrinath massif. The purpose of the mission was achieved, as Hearsey’s munshi brought back the information that there was no cow’s mouth at the Ganges' source at Gangoutri.Thus the theory that the Ganges had its source in Mansarover was proved a fable. There was indeed a Cow’s mouth – a vast cul-de-sac discovered by Captain John Hodgson and his assistant Captain James Herbert in 1817. This as the traditional source of the Ganges called Bhagirathi here, with an enormous glacier shaped like a snout. of a cow. With the Ganges' origin finally traced back to the source, the focus of the British surveyors was on the inner Himalayas and on Tibet though it was a forbidden land as the Nepalese Kumaon did not take British presence lightly. These conditions led to the British policy of non-interference in these areas and when Hearsey and Dr Moorecroft, Veterinary Doctor entered Kumaon for ’Tour of hills’ as they called it, it clearly was not appreciated. Moorecroft was over forty, he was Vet Surgeon to the Government of Bengal, he had been irritating [troubling] the Agent to the Governor General with plans of a journey into the hills to find new blood from the hill strains and goats with long hair for wool.They were assisted by two native surveyors Harballabh and his nephew Hurruck Dev and the latter was given the unpleasant task of keeping a tally of the number of steps he took. He was directed to stride, the whole of the road at paces equal to four feet each because the Indian pace is recorded each time the left foot touches the ground, which is every two steps. Hearsay and Moorecroft were disguised as pilgrims Mayapori and Haragiri.They reached the Bhotia village of Neeti but were stopped from going any further. The Bhotias the traditional go between of the western Himalayas refused to offer any assistance to these suspicious looking men. While waiting here Moorecroft started treating anyone who came to him. He cured a young Bhotia boy for dropsy and this won him the gratitude of the boy’s father, a trader from the Johar valley, Deb Singh Rawat. Deb Singh Rawat and his brother, Bir Singh were among the wealthiest and most influential Bhotias in the region. Thus Moorecroft set the seal on the friendship between the British and the Bhotias.They reached Mansarovar via Daba, where they traded the goods brought from India, with the large flock of sheep and fifty Pashmina goats. They promised the authorities at Daba to stick to the pilgrim routes. Moving ahead they reached Rakas Tal or Ravan Hrudb and found that none of the tributaries of Sutlej had its source in the lakes (it was later in 1846 that Henery Strachey would meet Deb Singh at Milam on his way to the lakes and find out that Sutlej did take its source from Mansarovar).They measured Mansarovar and found it to be an oval shaped lake and by circumnavigating the lake found that the two lakes Ravan Hrudb and Mansarovar were not connected by any channel (This was corrected by Henry Strachey, when he discovered that there was a large stream three feet deep and hundred feet wide flowing from Rakas Tal to Masarovar. This seepage of water was missed entirely by Moorcroft and Hearsey as they had stuck to the shores and failed to see what was on the other side of the raised bank of Shingle). This brought to close the mysteries related to the holy lake Mansarvar and the belief that Sutlej took its source from the holy lake of Manserover was finally proved correct.

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Life
Rai Bahadur Nain Singh Rawat was born to Lata Burha in 1830 in Milam village in the valley of Johar. This beautiful valley in the Kumaon hills is located at the foot of the Milam glacier from which the river Goriganga originates. The Rawats ruled over the Johar valley, during the reign of Chand dynasty in Kumaon, this was followed by the Gorkha rule. In 1816 the British defeated Gorkhas but maintained a policy of non-interference and friendship towards the Johar Bhotias. The famous Bhotia explorers mostly belong to the village of Johar.There is a history to how the Bhotias came to this valley and became the trading link between the Tibet and the rest of the world. When Mohammed Ghori invaded India between 1191 and 1193, there was a mass exodus from the Hindu Rajputana. The Rajput ancestors of Nain Singh, settled in a place called Jawala Bagarh. Around 1680, a prominent family member Hiroo Dham Singh went to Kailas Mansarovar for pilgrimage. The pilgrims in those days travelled in caravans fully armed to protect themselves from robbers.The Tibetans were being troubled greatly by Chinese invaders at this time. Hiroo Dham Singh along with a large number of fellow pilgrims and retainers helped Tibetans drive away the Chinese bandits who were looting and stealing the cattle, horses and sheep. Hiroo Dham Singh’s guerilla warfare tactics helped Tibetans in driving away these Chinese marauders. The Tibetans returned the favour by giving him trade concessions and thus a Lion’s share in the cross border trade with Gartok in Western Tibet. Hiru Dham Singh was also honored with the title of ‘Pradhan’ from the Government of Lhasa. While returning from this very beneficial pilgrimage, Hiroo Dham Singh and his party passed through the Johar valley, east of Nanda Devi. He liked the place so much that he settled in Johar with a large number of his clan members.After leaving school, Nain Singh helped his father. He visited different centers in Tibet with his father, learnt the Tibetan language, customs and manners and became familiar with the Tibetan people. This knowledge of Tibetian language and local customs and protocol came handy in Nain Singh’s work as Spy Explorer. Due to the extreme cold conditions, Milam and other villages of the upper Johar valley are inhabited only for a few months from June to October. During this time the men used to visit Gyanima, Gartok and various other markets in Western Tibet.Each Indian trader of Johar, had a ‘mitra’ or colleague in Tibet. Initially, the splitting of a stone, each keeping one half, marked their partnership in trade. Henceforth, the Indian trader or his representative would carry the token to sell his goods in Tibet market only to his mitra’s representative who would fit his half of the stone to the Indian’s.In 1855, Nain Singh Rawat, now a well-disposed and intelligent man of twenty-five years, of traditional Bhotia mould – short, stocky and stubborn, was first recruited by German geographers – The Schalaginweit brothers. Baron Humboldt had sent these German scientists, to the office of Survey of India, which reluctantly allowed them to proceed for the survey.Adolf and Robert Schlagintweit had met old Deb Singh Rawat in the Johar valley, who even showed them a thanks chit signed by William Moorecroft and inscribed ‘Northern foot of the Himanchal Mountains near Daba in Chinese Tartary, August 25th 1812.’ On his advice they recruited three members of his family for their expedition; Mani Singh Rawat, Dolpa and Nain Singh Rawat. Nain Singh’s first exploration trip was with the Germans between 1855 to 1857. He traveled to the lakes Mansarovar and Rakas Tal and then further to Gartok and Ladakh.After the exploration with the Schalaginweit brothers, Pundit Nain Singh Rawat joined the Education Department, being appointed as the headmaster of a Government vernacular school in his village at Milam from 1858 to 1863.Before we embark on the Nain Singh’s journey with the British, let us have a closer look at the dynamics of the political climate of those times. British and Russians were engaged in a battle of one upmanship, in the vast desolate plains of Central Asia. It was Lieutenant Arthur Conolly of the 6th Bengal Native Cavalry who first coined this tussle into the now famous phrase ‘Great Game’ in a letter to a friend.The secret missions and hawkish eye of the opponents led to wild speculations among the two adversaries. Some materialized, while others were mere presumptions of these ultra sensitive players of an equally ambitious and vague ‘Great Game’. Though Russophobia was on the rise with the successive generations of company men, just as the trail was getting hot, it was also becoming increasingly difficult to send officers on clandestine missions of map making as the risk factors were too great. If captured it meant certain death for these daredevil men. Secondly, the detection of such missions also meant political embarrassment for the British. Sir John Lawrence, Viceroy of India banned the British from venturing into these lands, his political view being that if they lose their lives, we cannot avenge them and so lose credit. It was Captain Montgomery who proposed to his superiors, a novel method to train the natives in scientific western methods of survey. These natives he had argued were far less likely to be detected than a European, however good the latter’s disguise.Moreover, even if they were unfortunate enough to be discovered, it would be politically less embarrassing to the authorities, compared to if a British officer was caught red handed making maps in these highly sensitive and dangerous parts. This was approved and the foundations were laid for a new era of cartographers, relying on the intelligence brought back by the trained natives. In 1862-63, Edmund Smyth was in correspondence with Captain Montgomery, who wanted some trustworthy men to train as explorers. Smyth strongly recommended the Bhotias, as they knew Tibetan language and were allowed to enter Tibet. Smyth selected Nain Singh and his cousin Mani Singh. Here it needs a mention that Education Officer Edmund Smyth was the first to realize the unique traits of the Bhotias. His own views were:- The Bhotias have Hindu names and call themselves Hindus but they are not recognized as such by the Orthodox Hindus of the plains. While in Tibet, they seem glad enough to shake off their Hinduism and become Buddhists, or anything you like. They pass their lives in trade with Tibet and they are the only people allowed by the Tibeten authorities to enter the country for purposes of trade.From June to November they are constantly going over the passes, bringing the produce of Tibet (Borax, salt, wool, gold dust, also ponies) and taking back grains of all kinds, English goods, chiefly woolens and other things. The goods are carried on the backs of sheep, goats, Ponies, Yaks and Jhopoos (across between the Tibeten yak and the hill cow). Their villages are situated at an elevation of from 10,000 to 13,000 feet, at the foot of the passes leading into Tibet, though only occupied from June to November in each year. During the remainder of the year they move down to the foot of the hills and sell their produce to the Buniahs or traders.In 1863, Nain Singh Rawat along with his cousin, Mani Singh Rawat were sent to the Great Trignometrical survey office at Dehradun where they underwent training for two years. This included training on scientific instruments and some ingenious ways of measuring and recording and the art of disguise. Nain Singh Rawat was exceptionally intelligent and quickly learned the correct use of scientific instruments like *tant and compass. He could also recognize all major stars and different constellations easily. This had all been possible due to exhaustive practice and a drive and determination in the hand picked men that are difficult to explain. A sergeant major drilled them using a pace-stick, to take steps of a fixed length which remained constant even while climbing up, down or walking on plain surface. They were trained to record the distances by an ingenious method using a rosary.This rosary unlike a Hindu or Buddhist one, which has 108 beads, had just 100 beads. At every 100 steps the Pandit would slip one bead, so a complete length of the rosary represented 10,000 steps. It was easy to calculate the distance as each step was 31½ Inches and a mile was calculated to be around 2000 steps. To avoid suspicion, these explorers went about their task disguised as monks or traders or whatever suited the particular situation. Many more ingenious methods were devised. The notes of measurements were coded in the form of written prayers and these scrolls of paper were hidden in the cylinder of the prayer wheel.The Pundits kept this secret log book up to date. The compass for taking bearing, was hidden in the lid of the prayer wheel. Mercury used for setting and artificial horizon, was kept in Cowri shells and for use poured into the begging bowl carried by the Pundit. The thermometer found place in the topmost part of the monk’s stave. There were workshops, where false bottoms were made in the chests to hold *tant. Pockets were also added to the clothes used during these secret missions.Thus prepared and trained, the Pundits traveled for months at a stretch collecting intelligence in most difficult conditions, travelling closely with the natives in caravans. What was to follow, were some of the most glorious years in the exploration and mapping of Tibet and all its river systems and indeed some of the most fascinating explorations worth recounting. In 1865-66, Nain Singh traveled 1200 miles from Katmandu to Lhasa and thence to the Masarovar lake and back to India. His last and greatest journey was from Leh in Ladhak via Lhasa to assam in the years 1873-75. For his extraordinary achievements and contributions, Nain Singh was honored with many awards by the Royal Geographical society.Nain Singh Rawat died of a heart attack in 1895, while visiting his Jagir, a plains village granted to him by the British. (Source wikipedia)

 

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