Gorakhpur

I was born on Friday, 28 Shaban, 1355 Hijri in Gorakhpur where my father, Zahirul Hasnain Lari (1907-1972) had started practice as a lawyer after graduating from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). He was sent down from AMU for opposing the invitation to the English Deputy Commissioner to inaugurate the student union, of which he had been elected secretary. But he was hailed by Jawahar Lal Nehru, who invited and took him to the All India Political Parties Conference.

My father was elected to the U.P. Legislative Assembly on a Muslim League ticket in the first All India provincial elections, held in the winter of 1936-37. The election was fought on the basis of the Act of 1935, which was opposed by both Congress and League, but both participated in the elections, and later accepted it as the provisional constitution of the two new independent countries with some amendments.

The Act provided for Dyarchy at the Centre. Viceroy of India, would continue to control India’s finances, defence, foreign affairs, the British Indian Army, Reserve Bank of India and Railway Board. Dyarchy, which had been established in the provinces by the Act of 1919, came to an end in the provinces. Burma and Aden were completely separated from India. Sindh was separated from Bombay. Bihar and Orissa was split into separate provinces of Bihar and Orissa. However, the parts of the Act intended to establish the Federation of India never came into operation.

The issue in the 1937 election was complete autonomy within the British Commonwealth, self-government for provinces, and adequate safeguards for minorities.

The Indian National Congress emerged as the largest party with 707 provincial assembly seats. It won an absolute majority in six provinces and attracted enough members in two others to form government in eight provinces, also becoming coalition partner in three Muslim majority provinces.

The All-India Muslim League emerged as the second-largest party in India, with 106 provincial assembly seats. However, it did poorly in the provinces that now constitute Pakistan, winning two seats in Punjab but none in Sind and NWFP, while Baluchistan was not yet constituted a province. The result was that the All-India Muslim League failed to form a government in any province. The Quaid-i-Azam presided over a meeting of the U.P. Muslim League Parliamentary Board on 7th May 1937 in Lucknow, in which it was decided that the Muslim League party in the Assembly would not merge with the Congress, but would cooperate on the basis of an agreed programme.

The Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), who was considered an ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity, requested the Congress to form a government with two representatives of the Muslim League in the Muslim minority provinces of Bombay and U.P., where the Muslim League had done well. Congress agreed only if the old Congressite Jinnah in Bombay, and the Khilafat and Unity party veteran Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman (1889-1973) in U.P., merged the Muslim League parliamentary parties into Congress. Detailed discussion took place between Cowasjee Jehangir, who represented the Quaid and Patel in Bombay, and Chaudhri Khaliquzzaman and Maulana Azad in U.P. – but was of no avail. An angry Quaid stated, ‘When the Congress Ministries were formed, the Muslim League was an anathema to them. The Muslim League was ordered to liquidate itself. The members of the Muslim League were told to abjure their allegiance to this body (Muslim League) before the Congress could even touch them’. The Governor of Bombay, Lord Brabourne, reported thus to the viceroy on his conversation with Jinnah. ‘Jinnah went on to tell me some of his plans for consolidating the Muslim League throughout India and how he is doing his utmost to awaken the Muhammedans … His policy is to preach communalism morning, noon and night’.

However the Congress ministries did not last long, as the Congress objected to the viceroy declaring India at war with Germany on 3rd September 1939, and the viceroy called on Congress ministries on 22nd October 1939 to resign.  The Quaid asked Muslims to help the British Raj and observe a day of deliverance from the Congress ministries on 22nd December 1939.

I have fond memories of Gorakhpur, because it then included Lar Town and village Manjharia with our courtyard house, and our village with Mango and Lychee orchards. We used to reach it on a bullock cart, as there were no roads and bridges, and therefore bullocks alone could wade through the agricultural fields and various waterborne hazards without being drowned or washed away by strong currents or heavy rainfalls.

We spent the long summer months climbing trees, running, riding and head bashing with goats and lambs, wrestling, playing kabadi and gulli danda with village boys, without any communication with the outside world. Here one of my ancestors had arrived with his nose cut for participating in the 1857 War of Independence against the British. He encountered a Hindu landlord, who offered him the village as a fee for pleading his case against the sarkar for confiscating their riyasat. Therefore our village was also known as nak kate sahib ka gaon and our peasants were Hindus.

Gorakhpur and the Gorkhas of Nepal derive their name from Saint Gorakhnath (11th century) whose samadhi shrine (tomb) and gaddi (prayer seat) are in Gorakhpur. He is the founder of an order of ascetics

called Nath Yogis and Kanphata (ear-split) yogis because of the large rings that they wear in their ears.

Abdul Quddus Hanafi Ghaznavi Chishti Gangohi (1456-1537), a Sufi poet and leading Chisti shaikh wrote “Rushd Nama”, a work that sought to reconcile the teachings of Gorakhnath with Chisti Sufism. Gorakhnath is considered immortal and invisible, an eternal sage who had been around for thousands of years watching the welfare of humanity, and the inspiration behind Kabir (poet and saint), Guru Nanak (founder of Sikhism), and Raja Bharatrihari (Sanskrit grammarian and poet). Gorakhnath is mentioned in the songs of all of them.

In Gorakhpur is the town of Kasia, known, variously, in history as Kushawati, Kushinagar, Kusinagar, Kusinara and Kushinara. It was built as capital of the Malla confederacy by Kusha, son of Lord Rama. After Lord Rama’s renunciation of the world, Kuhsa left Kushwati for Ayodhya. And his cousin, Chandra Ketu, son of Lakshman, took over this region.

  1. H. Wilson made the suggestion in 1854 that ancient Kushinagar and Kasia were the same. After excavations the main stupa was exposed in 1876 AD, and a 6.10 meter long golden statue of the reclining Buddha was discovered. It was here that Buddha (the Awakened or the Enlightened) attained Parinirvana, or the final deathless state, and abandoned his earthly body, c. 483 BCE. Now, Kushinagar is one of the four major Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. The other three are: Lumbini (birthplace of Buddha) in Nepal; Bodh Gaya (place of enlightenment) in Bihar; and Sarnath (first teaching) in U.P.

To the Buddhist there is the noble eight-fold path to the cessation of dukkha, that includes the virtues of Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

About 15 kilometers, from Kushinagar is Pavapuri, the second capital of the Malla Dynasty, where Lord Buddha’s contemporary Lord Mahavira was born, and took his mahaparinirvana, at his maternal uncle’s palace. Lord Mahavira, ‘Great Hero’ (599 – 527 BC), was the 24th and the last Tirthankara of Jainism, who established the central tenets of Jainism, the oldest religion of India.

Jain theology states that Jainism has existed since eternity and it has no beginning and no end. The first Tirthankar, Rushabhdev/Adhinath, appeared prior to the Harappan Civilization. The swastika symbol and naked statues resembling Jain monks, that archaeologists have found among the remains of the Harappan Civilization, tend to support this claim. There are five basic ethical principles (vows) prescribed by Jainism:

  • Non-violence (Ahimsa) – to cause no harm to living beings.
  • Truth (Satya) – to speak the truth always in a harmless manner.
  • Non-stealing (Asteya) – not to take anything that is not willingly given.
  • Celibacy (Brahmacarya)- not to indulge in sensual pleasures.
  • Non-attachment (Aparigraha) – to detach from people, places, and material things.

Gorakhpur is the site of Sant Kabir Nagar, where the famous poet-saint Kabir (c.1440-1518) of the Bhakti movement spent his last years after he was banished from Varnasi (Banaras) in 1495. After his banishment he wrote his famous dohas and he has both dargah tomb and samādhi mandir in Gorakhpur to satisfy both of his Muslim and his Hindu followers, both groups believing that he belonged to their faith. Kabir himself wrote;

‘Jogi call upon Gorakh,

Hindus chant the name of Ram

Musalman say one Khuda

Lord of Kabir pervades everything.’

Gorakhpur also contains the house where the great Urdu fiction writer Munshi Premchand (1880-1936) lived and worked from 1916 to 1921, and composed his first literary work. A park is named after him.

Gorakhpur has the house where the noted Urdu poet, Firaq Gorakhpuri (1896-1982) was born. He was selected for Indian Civil Service but resigned to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-cooperation movement, and went to jail. He later joined Allahabad University as a lecturer in English Literature. He wrote;

Ye Maanaa Zindagii Hai Chaar Din Kii

Bahut Hote Hain Yaaro Chaar Din Bhii

Khudaa Ko Paa Gayaa Vaaiz Magar

Hai Zarurat Aadamii Ko Aadamii Kii

 

‘Sakut-e-sham mitao bahut andhera hay

sukhan ke shama jalao bahut andhera hay

dayar-e-gham mein dil-e-beqarar chut gaya

sambhal ke dhudhane jao bahut andhera hay

ye raat wo ke sujhe jahan na hath ko hath

khayalo dur na jao bahut andhera hay

laton ko chehare pe dale wo so raha hay

kaheen zaya-e-rukh ko churao bahut andhera hay’

Also in Gorakhpur is Chauri-Chaura, where on 4 February 1922 volunteers participating in the peaceful non-cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi turned violent and burnt down the police station, forcing the Mahatma to call off his movement on 12th February 1922, and go on a five-day fast as penance for lives lost.

Gorakhpur is the headquarters of North-Eastern Railway, where the choti and bari (small and broad gauge) railway lines meet.

Further more it is the home of the sweet Bhojpuri language which acts as a bridge between the Awadhi and the Bihari tongues.

 

Photos attached;

  1. Aligarh Muslim University Student Union
  2. 6.10 meter long golden statue of the reclining Buddha
  3. Lar Ladies
  4. Maternal Grandfather
  5. Maternal Grandmother

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