South Asian maps of 1910

Anyone dabbling in the geography of the past should be aware of the legendary Perry-Castaneda collection at the University of Texas at Austin. Unlike other institutions of this type, they have made an effort to put up much of their material online for anyone to see without a fee.

The general introduction: https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

The Asian section: http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/asia.html

There is a lot of material of interest to those who are interested in seeing what South Asia was like in the past. For the moment, we take up the maps taken from the Baedeker guide to India and the neighborhood published in 1914:

http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/baedeker_indien_1914.html

Baedeker largely concentrated on Europe, but did bring out this guide in 1914 (just before the Great War). The Murray handbooks were more specialized works concentrating on India, Burma and Ceylon in greater detail.

Though this guidebook is dated 1914, it does show some things which had ceased to exist by 1910 and thus it may be a little out of date. But it can be taken as accurate for approximately 1905-1910. I am concentrating on the railway-related material showing how some lines and stations in undivided India have changed from c.1910 to today.

While clicking on the above link, you get a list of maps. Click on the one you are interested in. I have added comments wherever I could:

Aden: Included as it was governed from India from 1839 to 1937. Today it is part of Yemen. Also, most passenger and cargo ships going from Europe to South Asia stopped there. This continued well into the 1960s. There was even a small railway system there under the NWR which functioned from 1916 to 1929, so it does not appear here.

Many South Asians worked there even after it was detached from India. For instance, Dhirubhai Ambani spent most of the 1950s working at a petrol station there. Mukesh was born there, though Anil was not.

Agra: this had the most complicated layout for any South Asian city of its size, particularly as several railway companies were involved. “Jail station” seems to be the present Billochpura. And one wonders if it was then possible to see the Taj Mahal on the north-south route. You still get a good view while approaching Agra Fort from the east, which most trains from eastern India do.

Ahmedabad: Note Ellisbridge station which was in the timetable up to the 1940s. It is now known as Gandhigram, which briefly served as a metre gauge terminus in recent years.

Bangalore: Much simpler than the present.

Bei Dakka: The Peshawar-Kabul route as of then. The railway ended at Jamrud which was reached in 1901. The Nowshera-Dargai narrow gauge line is complete. The road to Landi Kotal and thence to Dakka (then an important Afghan fort) and Jalalabad can be seen, though the India-Afghanistan border does not seem to be marked. We will return to another map of the Peshawar area shortly.

Benares: the present Varanasi Jn was Benares Cantt Jn until the 1940s, if not longer. Locals still refer it to Cantt station. Varanasi City was an insignificant station on the metre gauge, and has not gained much today even after gauge conversion. Manduadih has now become the main secondary terminus.

Bombay: Note the terminus at Colaba. All long-distance and local trains of the BBCI used to start from there. It was even electrified for the local trains in the 1920s. By 1930 Bombay Central was opened for long-distance services, locals started from Churchgate and the Railways gained some valuable real estate. Housing for railway officers now stands on the area where Colaba station stood.

The harbour branch had not started from the VT end, and Mazagon station was replaced by Sandhurst Road station a little south of it a few years after the map was created. The high-level station and the harbour branch came up along with electrification in the 1920s.

Part of the Bombay Port lines can be seen.

Calcutta: Howrah and Shalimar are seen on the west bank of the Hooghly. We also see the Calcutta Port lines which are now part of the Circular line.

These lines run along the east bank to Chitpur and Sealdah as well, but were not used for regular passenger services until the end of the 20th century.

Environs of Delhi: No New Delhi station, as New Delhi did not exist then. Nizamuddin station is there, as well as Kilokri station between Nizamuddin and Okhla which vanished from the timetables long ago. It used to be the border betwen the GIPR and NWR. Much later Tuglakhabad became the border between NR and CR, while today Palwal is the border betwen NR and NCR.

The alignment between Ajmeri Gate (near New Delhi) and Tuglakhabad has changed considerably. In the old map the line ran west of Purana Qila and Humayun’s Tomb. Now it runs to the east of these landmarks. Probably the present Nizamuddin station corresponds to Kilokri while the old Nizamuddin lies somewhere in Nizamuddin West.

(Thanks to Jishnu Mukerji for filling in some of these details about Delhi).

Delhi (Modern): A misnomer as not much modernisation had occurred when the map was made, which must have been before the capital moved there in 1911. Note Garstin Bastion which gave its name to the infamous GB Road. That is now officially called Swami Shraddanand Marg.

Fathpur Sikri: No railway here, as the Agra-Bayana section was opened in 1913.

Gwalior: The narrow gauge lines to Shivpuri (Sipri), Sheopur Kalan and Bhind can be seen. They can be distinguished from the main BG line which has a thicker marking.

Hyderabad: The network in this section has hardly changed. The Husain Sagar triangle is in place.

Jaipur: Hardly any railway to be seen. The Delhi-Ahmedabad line is in place. Then, as now, you have to go south from Jaipur station and later turn north to reach Delhi and Agra.

Khaibar Pass: The terminus has been at Jamrud since 1901, so the future Khyber Railway actually started from there. Of more interest is the line going north from the long-forgotten Kachi Garhi Junction between Peshawar Cantt and Jamrud, which was the first attempt to reach the Afghan frontier. It ran up to Warsak on the Kabul river from approximately 1905 to 1907. This is probably the most obscure line which ever existed on the NWR.

While Kachi Garhi is difficult to find on the map now, it was known in recent years as a major camp for refugees from Afghanistan. Several members of Afghanistan’s cricket team have said that they learnt the game at this camp.

From contemporary sources, there was one train a day from Peshawar to Jamrud and another to Warsak. These were nicknamed the “Flying Afridi”. Some construction was in progress beyond Warsak in a western direction, when the project was abandoned and the existing lines pulled up in c.1907. More details about this aborted project can be seen here: http://www.andrewgrantham.co.uk/afghanistan/railways/kabul-river-and-khyber-pass/

You can also see various points betwen Jamrud and Landi Kotal, where the Khyber line was finally built in the mid-1920s

Lahore: Note Lahore Cantt (West) which is now Lahore Cantt, and Lahore Cantt (East) which is now Moghalpura. Also note the chord line connecting them, which must have been used for locos and rolling stock going to Moghalpura besides goods trains. Apparently this was not used by passenger services under normal circumstances.

The two stations mentioned above were recorded as Meean Meer East and Meean Meer West in older records.

Lucknow: The main station is indeed at Charbagh though the larger station buildings came up in the mid-1920s. The site of Dilkusha cabin is clearly seen.

Madras: Most of the main lines are in place, except the Korukkupet-Veysarpadi link. Note Moore Market which was the site of the suburban terminus much later. Also note the proximity of Park station to the jail. There was at least one instance in recent years where a group of prisoners scaled the wall and made their getaway by local trains. It was only after that that full-time police sentries were posted on the platforms.

Nuwara Eliya (Ceylon): The old narrow gauge line is seen here, though it closed in the 1940s.

Port Said (Egypt): It is here as most ships stopped here before entering the Suez Canal.

Red Sea: Again, it is here since most ships from Europe to South Asia stopped here. The stoppages included Port Said, Port Sudan and Aden. One can see that an enemy could easily disrupt shipping this area, particularly in the choke point of the Bab el-Mandeb.

South Asia: A good overview. If you know a bit of German, the legends in the top right and bottom left corners may be of interest. Not quite sure why they have added Ireland to this map.

The shipping routes to Bombay and Karachi are marked. Gwadar is just out of view here. It is often forgotten that it was an exclave of Oman and became part of Pakistan only in 1957.

Suez Canal: On the route. Look carefully for the railway running almost parallel to the west bank of the canal. Also note Ismailia, which is where airships were to stop on their way from Britain to Karachi. This did not materialize after the R-101 crashed in 1930. The giant airship hangar at Karachi remained in place until the 1960s. A small station called Airship Halt existed there at one time.

Tail piece: This is from my personal experience. In 1962 a typical route by a tramp cargo ship with multiple stops had this routing: London-Rotterdam-Marseilles-Genoa-Port Said-Port Sudan-Aden-Bombay. That took 35 days including 2-3 days at each port. Some cargo ships (like the one we traveled in) had limited passenger accommodation.

 

 

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More about Indian Prime Ministers

A tabulation of basic biographical and geographical details of persons who have been Prime Ministers of India, including the Acting ones. This may answer any doubts you may have had from the previous post.

Note that V.P. Singh was known as the Raja of Manda, though this was a zamindari estate and not a princely state.

Also to confirm that even some official websites have confusing information, even if they are produced by the Lok Sabha themselves. Gulzarilal Nanda was MP from Sabarkantha (Gujarat) when he was Acting PM and was later MP from Kaithal (Haryana). He also lived for a slightly longer time than Morarji Desai, but still missed crossing a century.

prime-ministers

Places associated with India’s Prime Ministers

Here are a few stations associated with various Indian Prime Ministers. Not all PMs have been included, including Dr Manmohan Singh whose birthplace Gah is over 80 km from the nearest currently functioning station (Rawalpindi). The only person recorded as Acting PM may also appear here.

The places mentioned below are either the birthplace or favorite constituency or a place associated with the person.

 

 

Should not be too difficult to guess, even though one place is now in Pakistan. There may be more than one picture for one person.

Summary of the extreme points of India

Hope that some have found these posts informative. I am listing them below:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/the-extreme-points-of-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/the-northernmost-points-in-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/the-easternmost-points-of-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/the-westernmost-points-of-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/the-southernmost-points-of-india/

More from the “border from hell”-Hili (updated in May 2017)

If you are reading this, you probably have read about the weird border between India and Bangladesh in the Cooch Behar/Rangpur region. If not, you might as well read it now:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/india-and-bangladesh-the-border-from-hell/

But there are plenty of other strange things on the borders of these countries. Many of them arise from the Radcliffe line of partition.

For the basics, read the first few paragraphs of this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radcliffe_Line

Or this: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/peacocks-at-sunset/?_r=0

The writer of the latter piece is quite knowledgeable though he fails to mention that Sylhet district of Assam was also partitioned.

Today I will deal with one specific oddity which is on the border between West Bengal and Bangladesh.

The actual reports produced by the Radcliffe Commission total only about 7 pages, dealing with the partition of Punjab, Bengal and Sylhet district of Assam. Strangely enough these documents do not seem to be easily available anywhere on the net, though they are readily available in various publications. The following extract is from p.21 of “Committees & Commissions in India, 1947-54″ compiled by Virendra Kumar (Concept Publishing, Delhi, 1976)

” The line shall run…….and will terminate at the point where the boundary between Phulbari and Balurghat meets the north-south line of the Bengal & Assam Railway in the eastern corner of the Thana of Balurghat. The line shall turn down the western edge of the railway lands and follow that edge until it meets the boundary between the Thanas of Balurghat and Panchbibi”

What this means is the boundary line (which was basically intended to segregate Hindu-majority and Muslim-majority areas) needed some special adjustments to avoid disruption to communication links. This was not the only place this happened. In this particular case the north-south railway line (which was then on the route of the prestigious Darjeeling Mail) remained a major connection between the north-western part of East Pakistan and the rest of the country, and so it should not be disturbed and the Pakistani trains should be able to run without hindrance.

The map of Hili railway station and surroundings:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@25.2788172,89.0098371,16z

You could expand it further if needed. What should be apparent is that the town of Hili lies on both sides of the border, and that the railway embankment itself is the border. The border itself seems to cut through the station premises.

Here are a few pictures from this area:

Border marker near the railway line:

Hili area 1

The black cow is closer to the Indian border than the white cow. Perhaps they come and go across the border. Probably the black cow has realized that her life expectancy will be more in India than in Bangladesh.

An Indian truck waiting to cross the border (which is the railway line itself):

Hili area 2

Note the BG/MG dual gauge track.

A couple of pictures from Hili station itself. The second one shows some semblance of security with the BGB (the equivalent of the BSF):

(As in many smaller stations in Bangladesh, the signboards may be only in Bengali).

To get a better idea of the ground situation, here is a segment of a documentary by CNN-IBN which apparently dates to 2007. It should be self-explanatory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ntOdCQuZoc

As you can see, at that time no one seemed to bother if you crossed the border in either direction. Probably things are a little tighter now, though the great wall of barbed wire probably has a break here.

Here is a video of Bangladeshi trains passing Hili station, taken from the Indian side: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-xek8UeS0E

Here you can see the “Welcome to Bangladesh” sign right next to the railway line.

A Bangladeshi video showing BGB officers visiting Hili station. You can see the border markers in the station premises:

Finally, a better view from the Bangladesh side. This is a video shot by a Bangladeshi visitor to the border areas (in Bengali with English subtitles).

Not sure if you would find the entire video interesting, but 1.20 to 2.45 pertains to Hili with coverage of the station and the border.

 

 

 

 

 

Oddities in Indian history-Chandernagore/Chandan Nagar

The history of the French territories in India gets little or no mention in school history nowadays. Most of us vaguely know about the Union Territory of Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahe whose constituents have tenuously clung on to their “privileged” status despite several determined attempts to incorporate them into the adjoining states.

We will return to the Union Territories and their oddities later. For a quick overview see this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_India

Chandernagore (now Chandan Nagar) was an integral part of French India along with the southern territories mentioned above.It was a tiny pocket of 19 sq km surrounded by British India, though it did abut the Hooghly. The main railway line from Howrah to Barddhaman (Burdwan) did have a station named Chandernagore though it seems to have been just outside French territory. It still survives as Chandan Nagar and is served by many EMU locals and a handful of long-distance trains.

You may hear that the railway line runs outside the former territory because the British railway engineers did not want their line to pass through foreign territory. My friend Souroshankha Maji, who has studied the history of this area in detail, feels that this “diversion” was more because of the desire to create a straighter and more convenient alignment rather than to avoid the territory.

However, there were some other cases where alignments avoided certain territories because of some problems associated with their governments. A good example is Rampur in what is now Uttar Pradesh, where the rulers initially did not permit the main Lucknow-Amritsar line to pass through their territory. So the trains ran through another route via Chandausi which was built in the early 1870s. By the 1890s the rulers of Rampur relented and the line now runs through the town. It is even a junction now.

Once the British left in 1947, the new Government of India started making polite noises to the governments of France and Portugal stating that it would be a good idea to give independence to their colonies in India. Portugal, in line with its semi-fascist government’s policy,¬† told India to get lost and continued to do so until they lost some of their colonies in 1954 and all of them by 1961.

The French were more willing to listen.They probably felt that the Bengalis of Chandernagore were more likely to create trouble than their compatriots in Southern India so Chandernagore was the first to be given independence in 1948. This followed a referendum in which 97% of the population voted for independence.

The handover was in May 1950. Here is a contemporary report (from The Hindu’s “50 years ago” feature in 2000):

http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/2000/05/03/stories/10031045.htm

In due course Chandan Nagar became a subdivision of Hooghly district and thus an integral part of West Bengal. It does have many traces of its French heritage and there is some attempt by West Bengal’s government¬† to market it as a tourist spot. It is, after all, within easy reach of Kolkata by road and rail.

The population can be said to be a bit unlucky, since the more obscure places like Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu continue to enjoy their UT status. Among other things, this allowed a complete backwater like Silvassa (DNH) to become an industrial hub of sorts. Daman and Diu (particularly the latter) are relatively unspoiled and probably derive much of their revenue from alcohol-starved Gujaratis on weekends. Some tourist guides specifically warn unwary visitors against this.

For more details see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandannagar

Subsequent blogposts on this topic will cover Oman’s outpost in India, and answer the question why DNH is an Union Territory in the first place, and will reveal the hidden enclave of Diu in Gujarat which most atlases and even Google Maps do not know about.