A PAGE OF HISTORY OUT OF NINETEENTH CENTURY BHARAT
ANCESTRAL HANSRAJ HOUSE HOSTED HAVAN OF ARYAS
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
All available Aryas of the DAV fraternity travelled to Bajwara, a non-descript place in the Punjab made famous by an illustrious son of the soil named Hansraj. Right from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low had assembled in the ancestral house to perform a Vedic Havan to signal commencement of birthday celebrations of the great educationist with a vision who had headed the first ever DAV School opened in Lahore on the 1st of June 1886. The foundation laid by the 22-year old Hansraj, a fresh graduate of the Punjab University with a zero experience of educational administration, was so sturdy that the DAV edifice built on it was unshakable despite the Tsunami of partition of India and the Punjab. Young Lala Hansraj served the DAV school and later the DAV College Lahore as the academic and administrative head for a quarter of a century sans salary.
It was the spirit of his selfless service and an ardent desire to forge an amalgamation of the Arya Samaj, founded by Maharishi Swami Dayanand Saraswati in Mumbai in 1875 and the Dayanand Anglo Vedic School founded on 1st June 1886 to commemorate the Reformation movement of the great ascetic after his sad demise on the Diwali evening in 1883. Lala Hansraj had set his aim high and backed it with hard work crowned by his Leadership of the highest order. He helped his students imbibe the spirit of selfless service to society, be it a famine or an earthquake or a man made calamity. The education that the DAV School imparted under the guidance of Lala Hansraj led students to develop a well rounded personality.
Hansraj Ji cared little for his personal comfort and ate whatever was available in the community kitchen, toiling day and night to keep the torch of knowledge lighted by Maharishi Swami Dayanand Saraswati burning bright generation after generation. Nevertheless it affected his health adversely and he breathed his last on 15th November 1938 at the age of 74 years. Hansraj Ji had become a legend in his lifetime. The grateful compatriots loved to address him as a Mahatma that he was. Who could be a better person than Mahatma Hansraj Ji to become the beau ideal of the DAV fraternity that he loved so much, lived for the DAV and died for the DAV
Mahatma Hansraj Ji was not only the founder Headmaster and later Principal of the great institution but also a father figure to the entire DAV fraternity in Bharat and Pakistan but also all over the world where the DAV diaspora exists. It was the happy birthday of that august personality that we all celebrate and rejoice. It is called the Hansraj Divas.
The moving spirit behind the well planned events that were executed equally well is none other than Shri Punam Suri, President of the DAV College Management Committee. He and his wife, Mrs Suri, were the Yajman couple at the Vedic Havan where the Brahma was Shri Dev Vrat Ji, Vice-Chancellor of the Kurukshetra University, Hariyana. The mantras were well pronounced and the Havan was performed with clockwork precision. The ancestral room of ate Mahatma Hansraj was rather a small one and could not accommodate the ever growing assembly of Arya visitors who came from far and wide. Notwithstanding the pleasant weather and the azure sky spotted with white clouds, educationists of the DAV family and their kith and kin, not forgetting friends were the proverbial one too many. Perspiration was a natural corollary but none said : never again. After all we were paying a tribute to our father figure.
The lovely Yajna Shesh in the form of Halwa and mouth watering motichur laddoos more than compensated for the momentary discomfort caused by the overcrowding. Everyone was keen on becoming a part of the Havan performing family where the Head of the DAV fraternity, Shri Punam Suri and his equally devout Arya wife were the Yajman dampati.
Bajwara boasts of an Arya Samaj too. They say that it is functional. However, we found it locked. Perhaps the Purohit was too overwhelmed with Aryas in large numbers descending on the ancestral village of Mahatma Hansraj Ji. I ran into an old friend and a committed Arya Samajist, a renowned leader of all those who were batting for more social and religious reforms, Prabodh Mahajan, just in front of the Arya Samaj building. After a warm embrace and some back slapping to test the orthopaedic health of each other, we got down to the serious business of Ved prachar. He readily accepted my suggestion that we make Dharamshala our base camp moving around Kangra among the backward classes with a missionary zeal to cure them of superstitious beliefs. Taking the cue from Mahatma Hansraj Ji right at his birth pace, we promised to ourseves that we would not sit on our laurels.
Prabodh Ji and I met Punam Suri Ji with equal warmth. His ever smiling face brings cheer to the most depressed fellow East of the Suez. I thanked him for selecting me to receive an award from him for doing Ved prachar and letting me visit Bajwara for additional inspiration. He gave a broad grin that infected others too.
Now our friend, Prabodh Mahajan who happens to be a Maha-Mantri of the Pradeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, New Delhi, had a brain wave. Why not perform a good Havan on the Arya Samaj premises right at the same time as Punam Suri Ji would be doing in the ancestral house. That would decongest the main venue. Principal Kiran Bharadwaj , in-charge of <
The buzz was there. But no one in an official capacity was ready to confirm or deny that an impressive Haveli of historical importance was being gifted to Mahatma Hansraj memorial. Shrimati Kakaria, the energetic Director and organiser of the Hansraj Day had the necessary spade work done, legal documents prepared and the turn-key transfer of the invaluable property was just ready for Shri Punam Suri to come and accept the Haveli and its appurtenances amidst chanting of the Ved mantras. The Haveli and appurtenances belonged to the descendants and legal heirs of Shri Dhani Ram Bhalla, a rich cousin of Lala Hansraj Ji. The stone cutter and writer of Hindi alphabets were engraving the approved text on the black marble slab signifying that the attractive Haveli would be the centre and focal point of Ved prachar in the region.
The impressive Haveli was juxtaposed to the existing buildings of the Trust. Pigeons living there arrive just about the Dusk and left for new pastures before sunrise. An old caretaker of these buildings made a promise to get rid of the birds without killing them. The Arya Samaj caretaker promised him a handsome reward too.
The black marble slab with an appropriate text in Hindi and English bearing the names of Punam Suri and other office bearers was ceremonially unveiled. Photographers were given suitable instructions. Punam Ji was keen on having Hindi in Devnagari script all over the place in keeping with the language policy of the Arya Samaj. Should there be an aberration, it would be examined and appropriate corrective steps be taken. Thus it was the Hindi language in the Devnagari script all the way and it gladdened the hearts of Arya visitors who came over from every nook and corner of the motherland where an educational institution bearing the name Dayanand Anglo Vedic is in existence.
Now it was time we all moved the the Sadhu Ashram, a few kilometres away for the Samman Samaroh or award presentation and a live cultural performance by staff and students of the Police DAV Public School, Hoshiarpur and the Hansraj Model Public School, Punjabi Bagh, Delhi who together put as many as 400 students on the stage to perform a dance-drama highlighting the life of Mahatma Hansraj Ji. The show beggars description in words. More on that, a little later.
SADHU ASHRAM SHOW
The well decorated large stage was a glow with the ochre robes of the Arya Sanyasis who sat up erect as a ramrod in a row despite their advanced age and gray hair. The idea of having many Arya Sanyasis, who were free from blemish, on the stage as our Flag Ship found favour with the DAVCollege Committee President, Shri Punam Suri and he carried it to the hilt.
Swami Sumedhanand Saraswati, working President of the Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha and the be-all and end-all of the Dayanand Math, Chamba,Himachal Pradesh presided over the function and did well. His presidential address was short, sweet and to the point. It won an enthusiastic applause. Swami Ji was also a recipient of the award for his singular service to the prachar and prasar of the Vedic Dharm.
Three more Sanyasis were on the stage to receive their awards for their selfless service to society. Among them were Swami Pranavanand, dounder-Acharya of Gurukul Gautam Nagar, New Delhi[ Swami Sampoornanand Ji of Rajasthan, Chaitanya Muni Ji of Himachal Pradesh and a prolific writer on the Vedic topics and Swami Divyanand Ji, a yoga Guru of Jwalapur, Haridwar. The Grihastha Vedic Scholars awarded by the DAV Management Committee were Shri Dev Vrat Ji, Vice-Chancellor of Kurukshetra University, Hariyana, Shri Bhawani Lal Bhartiya, a Vedic scholar of eminence and former Head of the Dayanand Chair, Punjab University, Chandigarh, Shri V.K. Alankar, Head of the Sanskrit Dept and hair person of the DayanandChair, Punjab University, Chandigarh; and, of course, yours truly Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM for contributing substantially to the Ved prachar and for conducting Vedic Vivah Sanskar by rendering Ved mantras into English for the benefit of foreigners attending the Vedic wedding.
Dr Kaul, Principal of the DAV College Amritsar and three of his fellow Principals of different DAV institutions were awarded for their meritorious services and in furtherance of the cause of education and developing raw material into good citizens of the country.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Among those who spoke from the rostrum and benefitted the assembly of about five thousand men, women, adolescents and students of the DAV institutions were Shri Punam Suri, President of the DAVCMC, Shri Sobti, Vice-Chancellor of the Punjab University, Swami Sumedhanand Saraswati, Chairman of the august session and Shri Sharma, Vice-President DAVCMC who proposed a vote of thanks. It goes to the credit of all speakers except the last one that they spoke in Hindi in keeping with the age-old tradition of the Arya Samaj. It is beyond our comprehension why the thanks giving was in English.
Every word spoken by Shri Punam Suri bore the stamp of his erudition and research done on the life and times of Mahatma Hansraj Ji. Punam Ji quoted from the writings and discourses of his own grandfather, Mahatma Anand Swami to describe graphically poignant scenes of life of Hansraj Ji. Indeed the word picture made by Punam Ji helped the vast gathering have a clear mental picture of Mahatma Hansraj Ji as he actually was. The speaker took pains to paint a life-like portrait of our revered Mahatma Ji and how he aimed at and achieved a process of synthesis where the Arya Samaj, the Vedic philosophy of life as enunciated by Maharishi Swami Dayanand Saraswati and the DAV institutions complemented each other. The two were convergent and not divergent No wonder Hansraj Ji not only taught topics of syllabus in the class but also led his hosteller-students on the spiritual path by participating with them in the Samuhik Sandhya. It is time we go back to that kind of life as was lived by Hansraj Ji, said Punam Suri Ji. One could feel the pulsating veins carrying the message to every part of the body and also to every section of the society.
The Vice-Chancellor of the Punjab University echoed words of wisdom spoken by the President of the DAVCMC. He also gave local colour and flavour to the occasion by quoting from the Sikh scriptures and history. How one wishes Shri Sobti looked at his watch off and on or at the changing postures of the large audience to comprehend their feelings and silent reaction. Indeed he was heard by the intelligentsia with rapt attention and no demeanour of the audience could be construed as a show of disrespect to the honoured chief guest. In any case the Vice-Chancellor had many words of wisdom to share with his listeners, both young and old.
I shall be failing in my duty if I do not present bouquets to the script writer, the dance director and the creative director of the dance-drama portraying the life and times of Mahatma Hansraj Ji. Indeed his equanimity of mind came alive when his son, Balraj was found guilty of Treason and was sentenced to death. Indeed it was converted into life imprisonment. Hansraj Ji never thought of filing a mercy petition or asking for pardon from the British govt in India.
Many a time Hansraj Ji went to bed on an empty stomach since he had no money to buy food. But he never begged for anything. Mahatma Ji preferred to break rather than bend. It is that quality of his personality that students of the DAV institutions should emulate. It is from that quality of determination that flows strength of character It is the strength of character that motivates a man to wage a war against the armed might of an empire to keep the motherland free from shackles of slavery.
The audience lapped up the show right from the word GO. There always was a pin-drop silence when a poignant scene from his life was on the stage.The planners did a wise thing by presenting the dance-drama portraying salient scenes from the life and times of the Father-Founder-Headmaster of the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic School of Lahore founded on 1st June 1886.
The aim of celebrating the Hansraj Day is achieved. The large amount of money, time and effort that go in making the magna-event of the Founder’s Day a success are worth it if even a small section of the student community learns a lesson and makes up his or her mind to emulate the qualities of head and heart of Mahatma Hansraj Ji. Indeed the year 2012 is not the same when Mahatma Ji was born in 1864 or breathed his last in 1938 but the Vedic values of life remain unchanged. Let the clarion call be given, BACK TO THE VEDAS, time and again even today to let us rise above the mundane and make an endeavour to touch the sky with glory.
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