You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
Uttar Pradesh, the birthplace of lord Rama and Krishna and where Buddha gave his first sermon. Home of nawabs, one of the oldest cities in the world and called as the cultural cradle of India. Let’s meet the people of this rich historical heritage realm!
Great dynasties like Mughal, Mauryan, Magadha, Nanda, Gupta, Sunga, Kushan and Pala once ruled this territory. This is where you will find monuments like Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort and symbol of love Taj Mahal. One of the largest gathering of believers – Kumbh Mela, the holy river Ganga and Yamuna, divine sites like Prayag, Haridwar, Nashik Ayodhya, Allahabad, Kashi, Mathura, Sarnath, Khushinagar and Varanasi, the famous Chikankari and Zari handicraft, finger-licking good kebabs and biryani. And if you are a bit filmi, you won’t miss the Banarasi paan!
Putting this place in his words by renowned author Ruskin Bond, “I had been to other countries but none of them had provided even half as much variety, or so much to see and experience and remember, as this one State in northern India. You can travel from one end of Australia to the other, but everywhere on that vast continent you will find that people dress in the same way, eat the same kind of food, and listen to the same music. This colorless uniformity is apparent in many other countries of the world, both East and West. But Uttar Pradesh is a world in itself.” It is the fifth largest state in India which was founded on 1st April 1937 covering around 93, 000 square miles, surrounded by the Himalayas. On 9th November 2000, the new state of Uttarakhand was carved out of it. However, the contribution of the people from this place which is called the heart of India, in the making of the country goes far beyond these dates.
Uttar Pradesh means the northern-province as geographically it is situated in the northern part of the country. However in the ancient times it was called Madhya-desh since for many invaders it was a fertile land in between Delhi and Patna. Looking back, it all began when human being started inhabiting the area around 80,000 years ago, according to the archeological finds. Here traces of Indus valley civilization, Harappa culture, and Iron Age were found, which is in around 4000 BC. Aryans started settling down in the banks of Ganges and Ghagra in early 2000 BC. Many ruled this place but most notable ones were Kosala by King Dasaratha, in which the Hindu legend Rama lived in Ayodhya. After that there was Magadha Dynasty which was ruled by Nanda who was defeated by Mauryan, where Chandra Gupta Maurya ruled almost all over Uttar Pradesh. Kannauj also came into reign in the Post Christ era, though it reaches its glory during the rule of Harshavardhana. There was wind of change with the arrival of the Muslim sultanate and downfall of Rajputs. Uttar Pradesh once again saw the light of glory when King Akbar named Agra and Fatehpur Sikri as his capital cities. Finally, British came into scene in the battle of Buxar where they defeated the combined army of Nawab Suja-ud-Daula, Mir Kasim and Mogul Emperor Shah Alam.
It was from here that Mangal Pandey started the Sepoy Mutiny which brought the first war of independence against the British rule – The Revolt of 1857. There are many names like Nana Saheb, Tantya Tope, Queen of Jhansi, Maharaja of Benaras and Begum Hazrat Mahal whose sacrifice will not be forgotten. Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan showed their bravery in Kakori conspiracy. Ram Manohar Lohia, socialist and freedom fighter by whose name we have many university and hospital around the country. Maulana Shaukat Ali the first elected president of Khilafat movement. The first recipient of India’s highest military gallantry award Param Vir Chakra Major Somnath Sharma was a native of this place.
Their culture –
Colorful is this place and its culture, there are celebrations throughout the year. That’s why it is called the cradle of Indian customs and traditions. Diwali, Barsana/Lathmar Holi, Chhath Puja, Makar Sankranti, Maha Shivratri, Ram Navami, Janamashtami, Eid-ul-fitr, Muharrum, Barah Wafat, Buddha Purnima are some of the major celebrations. And they have fairs like Deva Mela, Kailash Fair, Ganga Mahotsav. And how can one forget MahaKumbh Mela which is believed to be the largest religious gathering in the world on the bank of Sangam which happens every 12 years. After all, a tip in the river and all your sins are washed away, a straight way ticket to heaven!
Here the official language is Hindi and Urdu along with it they also speak Awadhi, Braj, Bhojpuri, and Bhuldeli. This heartland of Hindi has contributed a lot to Indian literature with many great poets and writers like Tulsidas, Surdas, Valmiki, Mahadevi Verma, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Munshi Premchand and Jaishankar Prasad to name some. It is believed that Rig Veda was composed here in the Gangetic valley but no doubt Ramayana and Mahabharata is their biggest contribution to the literature.
When it comes to cuisine of Uttar Pradesh it can be divided into three parts – Awadhi, western and eastern. Some of their famous dishes are like Shami-kababs, Biryani, Kakori, Kulcha-Nihari, Rampuri Rohu, Zamindoz and Paneer pasanda. From eastern region which is around Mathura came the world- famous Agra-ka-Petha. Tahri, Reshmi kababs, Murg Musallam and sweets like Khurchan are every body’s demand. “Awadhi style cooking relies on using hints of spices and flavors rather than a dominating taste of one single flavor. It’s a very sensitive style of cooking where most of the dishes are cooked in Dum style or very slow fire/heat. The succulence, tenderness, and subtle use of exotic spices make Awadhi cuisine different from Mughlai food that relies on richness and dry fruits. Traditionally, Awadhi food gives attention to detail on presentation, texture and garnishing,” says Umaid Khan, owner of Rampur Kitchen in Delhi.
Uttar Pradesh is known around the world for its handicrafts, like the delicate and traditional hand embroidery called Chikankari. It is said that this Persian craft was brought to Emperor Jahangir by his wife Mahrunnissa and he was so impressed with white floral embroidery that it was soon given recognition and royal patronage. Also well known is Zardosi, embroidery done on fabrics with golden, silver and multicolored metal threads, a Persian art form dating back before the Mughal Empire. Most of the carpets in the country are produced here from places like Mirzapur, Khamaria and Bhadohi.
The People –
Undoubtedly, being the most populous state, so is the personalities from Uttar Pradesh who has contributed to the making of the country. There are so many of them, starting from the freedom fighters to actors, politicians, artist, authors, sportsmen, defense, journalism, and all. “I am blessed to be born here, a land of rich traditions and legacy, land of gods and where you have places like Kashi, Allahabad, and Banaras. I belong to the eastern side of UP from where many Prime Ministers and politicians came. The best thing about UP-waale is that they are not greedy, content with whatever they have. But that is also the worst thing about us, we don’t have that fire, that zeal to work hard. That is why we are not doing well like other communities. Most of the manual-work around the country is done by us,” says Amar Singh, former leader of Samajwadi Party.
Indeed, this is the powerhouse of Indian politics! To start with, the count of Prime Minister from Uttar Pradesh goes up to eight – Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Choudhary Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, and Chandra Shekhar. Atal Bihari Vajpayee who served as the tenth Prime Minister of India and a parliamentarian who has the distinction of getting elected from four different states which includes Uttar Pradesh when he contested from Balrampur. UPA chairman Sonia Gandhi also contested for Lok Sabha seat from Amethi and Rae Bareli in which she defeated veteran BJP leader Sushma Swaraj. Carrying forward the great political lineage of Gandhi family, now she is ready to pass it on to her son Rahul Gandhi, Member of Parliament from Amethi. Vice – President Gopal Swarup Pathak in the past and now Hamid Ansari are also proud UP-ites.
There are around seven political parties (state and national) in Uttar Pradesh and more than 20 Union Ministers in the Cabinet. From recent political activities we saw how influential can father-son duo Mulayam Singh and youngest Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav be in decision making of the Center government. There are also some other big political players like president of opposition party Rajanath Singh who, believe it or not was a Physics lecturer. Kalraj Mishra former President of BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Azam Khan then man who proposed Akhilesh Yadav for Chief Ministership. Kalyan Singh three time Chief Minister and whose name rose many times for Babri Masjid demolition case. There is Nitin Gadkari former president of BJP and the old man Murli Manohar Joshi who is still very much vocal and active in politics. Rajeev Shukla, secretary of All India Congress Committee and more importantly chairman of money minting machine Indian Premier League from 2009 to 2013 from which he resigned recently after the match-fixing scandal. Amar Singh from Azamgarh a member of Rajya Sabha, more in news for controversies or for his friendship with Amitabh Bachchan which went sour in recent times and Jaya Prada. Interestingly, he has done a small cameo in the movie also, Charge-Sheet which was directed by legendary Dev Anand.
Chaudhary Ajit Singh the founder of Rashtriya Lok Dal from Meerut who thought it wise enough to join UPA with his five Lok Sabha members. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi one the most prominent Muslim faces in the BJP and also the vice-president of the party. Bollywood actor Raj Babbar and also member of the Parliament who recently made some headlines with his Rs.12 a meal remark. Sachin Pilot, he is one of the young brigade of the Congress party and not to forget, son-in-law of Farooq Abdullah. Salman Khursid current Minister of Law and Justice who has so much confidence in his constituency that when he was challenged by Arvind Kejriwal, “Let him come to Farrukhabad, and let us see how he returns”. Sheila and Sandeep Dikshit the mother-son duo, who are representing Delhi but their root is in Lucknow. Finally it won’t be complete if we don’t mention the name of some leading ladies of UP politics. Mayawati the leader from Bahujan Samaj Party was the first Dalit woman Chief Minister of the country when she came to power in 1993, who is also known as Behen-ji. Who can forget when she went on spending spree by building gardens and statues of herself and her mentor Kanshi Ram around the state? And another lady who took politics by storm was the bandit queen Phoolan Devi, with bang she came and bang she was gone.
When it comes to entertainment in this country nothing is bigger than Big B, Amitabh Bachchan. The ‘angry young man’ of Indian cinema is not young anymore after four decades in Bollywood but he can still make actors half his age run for their money. He is the first actor from Asia to get a wax model installed at Madame Tussaud’s in London. He tried out his hand in politics but that didn’t work out. And when he entered television, hosting Kaun Banega Crorepati it was a gold-mine. He might be the brand ambassador of Gujarat but he is a very much UP-waala from Allahabad. Today’s one of the top actresses Priyanka Chopra who is ex-Miss World is from Bareilly. These days she is making waves in international music with her new song with Pitbull. That does not make Anushka Sharma any less, beautiful and very talented who started her career with King Khan in Rab Ne Bana di Jodi. Lady from Meerut Chitrangada Singh who spell bound the audience with her role in Hazaaron Khwaisen Aisi and also known as the better half of ace golfer Jyoti Singh Randhawa. In the past Mandakini who became a sensation with her bathing scene in Ram Teri Ganga Maili and later because of her connection with Dawood Ibrahim.
And there is another versatile out of the box actor of parallel cinema Naseeruddin Shah. Indeed he is like the title of the Hollywood movie he worked, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The bubbly and dancing grand-ma Zohra Sehgal, who started her career from Uday Shankar’s dance troupe. Some other heroines who also made it big are Udita Goswami, Pooja Batra and Lara Dutta. Who can forget the limping character in Aamir Khan’s Taalash, Nawazudin Siddiqui who proved that you need to have talent to be a good actor, not looks. Another handy actor is Rajpal Yadav who has excelled with his comic timing. It won’t be a surprise if he has done more numbers of film than some of the leading actors, you can see him in every next film. There are talented directors like brothers Anurag and Abhinav Kashyap, Muzaffar Ali, Prassoon Joshi and Vishal Bhardwaj.
Talking about entertainment and Uttar Pradesh in one breath, one cannot miss out Bhojpuri cinemas. It all started when Nazir Hussain was asked by the first Indian President Rajendra Prasad to make a Bhojpuri movie. Now it is big, it’s not just confined to north India but abroad as well where Indians have migrated like Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, South Africa and West Indies. Doing really good here are Ravi Kishan Shukla, Raju Srivastava and participants of Big Boss Season 4 Manoj Tiwari and winner Shweta Tiwari. Interestingly big names like Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan and Aruna Irani have also worked in Bhojpuri cinemas.
Music & Dance
The rich heritage, hermits and saints singing of hymns and mantras has blossomed into great music tradition. Ghazals in Awadh and Ajmer resounds the Qawwalis, and above that there are songs which have to be sung according to time or season. Birha, mood based in which newlyweds sings for separated husband. Chaiti is sung in the month of Chaiti in the Hindu calendar and Kajari for monsoon. But the most popular ones are Ghazal and Thumri- a semi classical, themed around girls who are in admiration of the lord Krishna. There is Marsiya which is a sad poetic recitation in remembrance of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. Rashiya is sung during festivals whose lyrics mainly revolve around lord Krishna and Radha along with other milkmaids. Lastly there is Khayal which means imagination, a song in which a lover thinks of his beloved.
Many music maestros has come from this land like Pt. Ravi Shankar (Sitar), Ustad Bismillah Khan (Shehnai), Hari Prasad Chaurasiya (Bansuri), Kishan Maharaj (Tabla), composer Naushad Ali, Anand Milind, and lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri, Anjaan and Sameer to name some. Today we have Shubaha Mugdal, Talat Mahmood, Anup Jalota, Kailash Kher and Abhijeet Bhattacharya. Sunidhi Chauhan who started her singing career at a tender age with TV reality show and today she is among the top playback singers. Who has not hummed Baba Sehgal’s Aja mere gari meh baith jaa… while growing up? Not many know that Punjaban Hard Kaur called to be the nation’s first woman rapper is from Kanpur. And the most surprising in the list is Sir Richard Cliff an Anglo-Indian who was born in Lucknow which was a part of the British India.
Kathak is one of the major dance forms which had originated from India. It is mainly a recital of epic stories and mythology along with the dance. Pandit Birju Maharaj a disciple of Shri Achyan Maharaj is one talented Kathak dancer from Lucknow Gharana. Sitara Devi who has combined the traditional Lucknow and Banaras in her Kathak style. Another worth mentioning kathak dancer is Lacchu Maharaj. Rashila and Charkula are other popular dance forms here, originated from Braj area in which women dance with lamps on their head wearing colorful skirts.
It won’t be wrong to start with Robert Vadra who is from Mordabad. He became the famous son-in-law of the country when he married Priyanka Gandhi in 1997, who owns Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd, Hilton garden Inn in south Delhi, Artex – jewellery and handicraft export company and have stakes in IndiGo Airlines. Partnership with DLF in real estates which was in the news recently, thanks to Arvind Kejriwal. Next is Subroto Roy founder of Sahara India Parivar who is termed as the second largest employer in India just next to Indian Railways. He is the proud sponsor of Indian cricket team, owner of an IPL team – Pune Warriors, Aamby Valley City, Grosvenor House in London, Plaza Hotel New York and partner with Vijay Malaya in Formula-1 team. Not just that he owns a TV news channel, magazines, newspapers and also into producing movies. One wonders what will be his next move. Kushal Pal Singh is the man who has build most of the tall buildings in and around Delhi and who owns Delhi Land and Finance (DLF). “Whatever the odds, the incredible story behind DLF traces the life of a simple village boy from a small town in Uttar Pradesh to England, where he went to study aeronautical engineering and became a part of the high society,” says Mr. Singh on his success story.
A well known company in the fabric industry Juggilal Kamlapat Cotton spinning & Weaving Mills is owned by Singhania family. Today it is led by the fifth generation Abhishek Singhania who is the Managing Director of JK Organization. The company employs more than 50,000 people which is into manufacturing, insurance, chemicals, healthcare, education, retail, software and IT services. Another rack to riches story is Gurdeep Singh Chadha who was known as Ponty Chadha. His family migrated to Moradabad during the partition and started selling snacks in front of a liquor shop. Latter, he himself became a liquor baron and controlled almost all north India liquor business. Now the company with the name Wave has expanded into food processing, paper manufacturing, sugar mills, distilleries, power manufacturing, bottling plants, real estate, as well as film distribution. Owner of 60,000 crore business had a tragic end last year in a shoot-out over a property dispute. Other names doing good in business world are S.P. Mustafa – Vice President-Treasury, M&A &Investor Relations Hindustan Lever Ltd. Jaiprakash Kaur- founder and chairman of Jaiprakash Associates and Jaypee Group companies. This is the company behind bringing the world class race track Budhh International Circuit in India.
In the recent time he has made really big in journalism, Aniruddha Bahal. Editor in chief of Cobrapost, he changed the way of news reporting with a hidden camera. Making some real Tehelka with Tarun Tejpal when they caught some Indian cricketers taking bribes on camera and cases like giving away of Indian defense contracts, accepting bribe by MPs to ask question in parliament or money laundering by banks. Debonair India’s answer to Playboy magazine was used to be edited by a UP-waala Vinod Mehta. India’s largest selling Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran is edited and owned by Sanjay Gupta which was started by his father Narendra Mohan. Aseem Trivedi the man who came into lime-light with his cartoons against corruption which our politician thought to be worth debating in the Parliament. Some more names like Saeed Naqvi, Seema Mustafa, Ramchandra Guha, Anita Mazumdar Desai, Zafarul Islam Khan, and Talveen Singh.
From here came our national sport hockey’s biggest star and one of the greatest sportsman India has produced Dhyan Chand. He was called The Wizard because for his striking ability to control and who helped the country to win three Olympics gold medal (1928, 32 and 36). In honor of his contribution to the sports a national stadium in the capital was renamed after him in 2002. And other hockey players who also made country proud are Zafar Iqbal, Jagbir Singh and K.D. Singh. Sports in India would not complete without the mention of cricket. In the current squad we have the life-wire Suresh Raina who plays for this state. Parveen Kumar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar is making to big-league with the ball. Md. Kaif the captain of 2000 Under-19 World Cup champion. Other remarkable players are Piyush Chawla, RP Singh, Aakash Chopra and from the past Manoj Prabhakar, Arun Lal, Narender Hirwani, Surender Amarnath.
Ace shooter Jaspal Rana made the country proud by winning more than 600 medals (national and international) in his kitty and now he is into making more champions like him. Moraad Ali Khan another shooter who has won a gold medal in Commonwealth Games has changed the gear of his life by shifting it to film making, Khwaab in which he is launching his son who acts as an athlete. Sayed Modi and Abhinn Shyam Gupta has also done nation proud in the court of badminton in the yesteryears.
Lastly, after proper check up and all the test, the heart of the country is doing well!
(Published in Society Sept ’13, Page No. 160)