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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Traveller's delight - the International class "Rani Kamalapati Station"

Can you ever imagine this to be a Railway station and rest room in India ? 

A travel by train, especially, day travel is always exciting .. .. recently I travelled by Tamilnadu Express to Vijayawada .  .. .. .. the class of Rail coaches and Railway stations has certainly changed.  Till a couple of  decades  or so ago, one of the  most sought after books was ‘Railway Guide’ – we used to glean through its pages finding out the trains between stations, the departure timings, fares, railway rules and more .. now a days, all information is available on a flick in a smart mobile.   The magnitude of the Railways and its impact can be understood by the fact that there is a special and specific Railway Budget !!   Union Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman allocated Rs 1,10,055 crore for Railways in budget for 2021-22. Finance Minister said, “I am providing a record sum of Rs 1,10,055 crore for Railways of which Rs 1,07,100 crore is for capital expenditure only.”  

This train, Tamilnadu Express was introduced in Aug 1976, covers a distance of 218 kms passing through 329 intermediate stations in 33h 40M halting in 10 of them -   Vijayawada, Warangal, Balharshah, Nagpur, Itarsi, Bhopal, Jhansi, Gwalior, Agra, Hazrat Nizamuddin,  -   between MGR Chennai Central and New Delhi Railway station .. .. and if you were to travel by Grand Trunk Express in one sector, you would see and perhaps get down for a min at : - Amla, Betul, Ghoradonari,  Itarsi, Hoshangabad,  RKMP, Bhopal, Vidisha, Gani Basoda, Bina, Jhansi, Gwalior 

.. .. and after a long intro, this post is about that station RKMP – earlier known as Habibganj in Bhopal.  The name of Bhopal’s Habibganj railway station has been changed to Rani Kamlapati station. The BJP Government of Madhya Pradesh proposed this to the Centre last week, which gave the clearance without any delay. This   coincided  with the inauguration of the station, which has been redeveloped at a cost of around Rs 100 crore with private participation — a first such large-scale PPP model in station redevelopment in India, in the works for the past few years.  Heard of this Rani ?? 

James Tod, an officer of the East India Company and a scholar, has recounted the legend of the ‘Queen of Ganore’, Rani Kamlapati.  In his account, he compared the queen to Lucretia, the famous virgin from ancient Rome who saved her honour through suicide. According to Tod, when Dost Mohammad Khan offered to marry the widowed queen, she presented him with a wedding attire and summoned him on the terrace of the palace. 

“Know, Khan, that your last hour has come; our wedding and our death shall be sealed together. The vestments which cover you are poisoned; you left me with no other expedient to escape pollution,” Tod quotes the queen as having said, adding that she “sprung from the battlements into the river below”.  According to other popular legends, the queen took ‘jal samadhi’, having put all her jewellery and wealth into the pond. 

The Bhopal–Nagpur section is connects Bhopal and Nagpur. This 390 km (242 mi) track is part of the Delhi–Chennai line. The section is under the jurisdiction of West Central Railway and Central Railway.  Prime Minister Shri  Narendra Modiji on 15.11.2021 inaugurated the Habibganj railway station, which has been renamed after Rani Kamlapati, the first Gond queen of Bhopal. Speaking on the occasion, he said, “Such infrastructure and facilities have always been expected by common taxpayers and the middle class. It’s the real honour of the taxpayers. It’s the model of the transformation from VIP culture to EPI, which stands for Every Person is Important.” He accused the previous governments of being sluggish on implementing railway projects and said the work of ambitious eastern and western dedicated freight corridors expedited only in the last six-seven years. “The congestion, filth at railway stations and inside trains, wait for the train, inconvenience in sitting and eating at stations, safety concerns and fear of an accident, all these factors used to weigh heavy on the minds of people when they used to think of travelling by trains,” PM Modiji said. 

He added, “When we discuss tribal society’s contribution to nation-building, some people get surprised. They can’t believe that the tribal society had a big role in strengthening India’s culture. It’s because the nation was either never told about it or was kept in the dark and given very limited information on it…It happened as those who governed the nation for decades after independence prioritised their selfish politics. For decades, the culture and capability of people were ignored, even though they comprise around 10% of India’s population. Their issues, education and health meant nothing for them.” 

The station has been named after Rani Kamalapati of the Gond kingdom - it is the first world-class railway station on the State.  The revamped Station was inaugurated   the day the government opened the ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas,’ a week-long celebration of the Scheduled Tribes’ pride in India.    The station is also developed as a hub for integrated multi-modal transport. During the event, Prime Minister   dedicated  to the nation multiple initiatives of the Railways in Madhya Pradesh including Gauge Converted and Electrified Ujjain-Fatehabad Chandrawatiganj Broad Gauge section, Third line in Bhopal-Barkhera section, Gauge Converted and Electrified Mathela-Nimar Kheri Broad Gauge section and Electrified Guna-Gwalior section. Prime Minister will also flagged  off two new MEMU trains between Ujjain-Indore and Indore-Ujjain.  

According to the Ministry of Railways, the rebuilt station has  extensive seating on platforms, concourses, lounges, dormitories, and retiring rooms, as well as adequate parking and Divyang-friendly amenities such as lifts, escalators, and travelators.  .. .. and for those of us, who do not know the history of this Rani (not our mistake, for these were never part of educational curriculum earlier !!) – here is something excerpted from the very detailed blogpost of Sri Shivraj Singh Chouhan, CM of Madhya Pradesh. 

It is known by turning the pages of history that from 1600 to 1715, Ginnaurgarh fort was under the control of Gond kings and Bhopal was also ruled by them. The Gond king Nizam Shah had seven wives, of whom Kamalapati was the most beautiful. With his wish, a palace was built on the banks of the pond, which was completed in 1702, which is today known as Rani Kamalapati Mahal. Today its remains are seen in the small and large pond park. From 1989 AD, the Archaeological Department of India took this palace under its protection. It also has a small picture exhibition.  

The dynasty of the Gond community extended from Ginnaurgarh to Bari. His kingdom Garha Katanga (Mandla) was under the possession of 52 garhs. Raisen Fort was under the possession of Raja Raisingh for 57 years from AD 1362 to 1419. This fort was built by them. In 14th AD Jagdishpur (Islam city) was ruled by Gond kings. This palace was also built by the Gond kings. In 1715, the last Gond king was Narsingh Deora. They ruled for about 60 years from Bhopal Shahi AD 476 to 533. The first religious leader of the Gond community, Pari Kupar Lingo Baba, had fixed the place of Bairagarh for the five Dev Saga community. Since then, people of Gondwana community, despite residing at a distance of thousands of kilometers from Bairagarh, come to Bairagarh to worship Bada Dev. This is the biggest temple of the Gonds.  

Chain Singh was the last ruler of Bari district Raisen in 16th AD. In the 16th century AD, there was Raja Kirpal Singh Sarautia of Salkanpur district, Sehore princely state. During his reign, the people there were very happy and prosperous. A beautiful daughter was born to him. She was very beautiful like a lotus since childhood. Seeing her beauty, she was named Kamalapati. She was very intelligent and courageous from childhood and had mastery in education, horse riding, wrestling, arrow-shooting. After being proficient in many arts, she became a commander after getting skilled training. She fought the enemies in wars with her father's military force and with her female companions. Neighboring states were often attacked to plunder farms, barns, wealth and the entire responsibility of looking after the Salkanpur kingdom rested with Raja Kripal Singh Sarautia and his T princess Kamalapati, who defended her kingdom by taking iron from the invaders.

The state of Ginnaurgarh was formed by merging 750 distant villages, which comes near Dehlawadi. Its king was Suraj Singh Shah (Salaam). His son was Nizamshah, who was very brave, fearless and skilled in every field of work. Queen Kamalapati was married to him.  King Nizam Shah built a seven-storey palace in Bhopal in AD 1700, in the form of love of Queen Kamalapati, which was built with Lakhori bricks and mud. This seven storied palace was famous for its grandeur, beauty and beauty. The married life of Queen Kamalapati was living quite happily. She was happily spending her married life with King Nizamshah. They were blessed with a son, whose name was Nawal Shah. 

Chain Singh, the son of the Zamindar of Bari Fort, was the nephew of Raja Nizamshah. Out of his love for the queen, he tried many times to kill King Nizamshah, in which he failed. He invited King Nizamshah for a meal and murdered him by giving poison to the food. The news of the death of King Nizamshah caused panic in the entire Ginnaurgarh. Chain Singh attacked the fort of Ginnaurgarh with the intention of finding Queen Kamalapati alone. Queen Kamalapati along with some of her loyalists and 12-year-old son Nawalshah decided to hide in this palace built in Bhopal, which was very important from the point of view of security at that time.   

Dost Mohammad attacked the fort of Ginnaurgarh in which Chain Singh was killed and the fort was captured. Queen Kamalapati was worried about the upbringing of her younger son, so she did not object to this move of Dost Mohammad. Dost Mohammad now wanted to capture the entire princely state of Bhopal. He proposed to Queen Kamalapati to join his harem (religion) and get married. Seeing this nefarious intention of Dost Mohammad Khan, the 14-year-old son of Rani Kamalapati, Naval Shah, along with 100 of his fighters, went to fight in the Red Valley. In this fierce battle, Dost Mohammad Khan killed Nawal Shah. So much blood was shed at this place that the land here turned red and that is why it came to be called the Red Valley. In this battle, two sons of Queen Kamalapati were saved, who somehow saved their lives and reached the hill of Manuabhan. From there, he signaled to Queen Kamalapati with black smoke that 'we have lost the war and your life is in danger'. 

Seeing the odd situation, Queen Kamalapati opened the narrow path of the big pond dam to save her honor, due to which the water of the big pond started leaking out on the other side. Today it is known as Chhota Talab. In this, Queen Kamalapati herself took water-samadhi by putting all the wealth, jewellery, ornaments of the palace.  By the time Dost Mohammad Khan reached this fort from the Red Valley with his army, everything was over. Dost Mohammad Khan neither got Queen Kamalapati nor wealth. While alive, he did not allow the godman to sit on Bhopal. According to sources, Queen Kamalapati had finished her life in 1723. After his death, the era of Nawabs started with Dost Mohammad Khan and Nawabs reigned in Bhopal. 

To protect women's identity and her culture, Queen Kamalapati has made an indelible place in history by taking water-samadhi. This step of his was a follow-up to the same Jauhar tradition, in which our woman power has saved its identity, religion and culture with indomitable courage. Following the same tradition, Queen Kamalapati, while alive, saved her female dignity from the heretics and provided an inspiration to the generations that no one should hold back from making sacrifices to protect their religion 

Gond queen Kamalapati is relevant even after three hundred years and we are grateful to honor her sacrifice. Every part of Bhopal narrates his story. The echo of his sacrifice can be heard even today in the water of the ponds here. It is as if they themselves are the current here and there. The Gond Rani now becomes water and flows uninterruptedly in the ravine of Bhopal. 

Thus the Nation has honoured the Queen Kamalapati in renaming the Railway Station after her.   There are laid down procedures for changing the name of a Railway Station. While Indian Railways may own the station, it does not get involved in the business of naming it. This is left to the discretion of the State government concerned. Change of station names is entirely a state subject even though Railways belong to the Union government.  .. .. further the Indian Railway Works Manual, a 260 odd page document codifies everything related to civil engineering construction works and that includes the -  languages, spellings to be displayed on the signboard.     

Interesting ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
16th Nov. 2021.  

1.    All photos taken from twitter, copyright to respective owners (incidentally the pages of Honble PM, CM of MP and Indian Railways)

2.    Rani’s life history excerpted from : 

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