The Times of India reports that recent renovations have detected the presence of a sealed chamber.
A mysterious room has been discovered in the 250-year-old building a room that no one knew about and no one can enter because it seems to have no opening of kind, not even trapdoors.
The chamber has lain untouched for over two centuries. Wonder what secrets it holds. The archaeologists who discovered it have no clue either, their theories range from a torture chamber, or a sealed tomb for an unfortunate soul or the most favoured of all a treasure room. Some say they wouldn’t be surprised if both skeletons and jewels tumble out of the secret room.
Belvedere House as the National Library building was known during the Raj was among the many buildings Mir Jafar built in Alipore in the 1760s after he was forced to abdicate his throne in Murshidabad. He gifted it to the first Governor General of India, Lord Warren Hastings. What happened to the house between 1780, when Hastings is said to have sold it, and 1854, when it became the official residence of the Lt Governor of Bengal, is uncertain. But from 1854 to 1911, Belvedere housed a number of Lt Governors till the British capital shifted to Delhi.
After Independence, the National Library (which was then in Esplanade) was shifted to Belvedere House. Since the Belvedere House is of great architectural and heritage value, the treasure of books has been shifted to a new building on the 30-acre campus while the old building is getting restored.
The ministry of culture that owns the National Library decided to get the magnificent building restored by the Archaeological Survey of India since it is heavily damaged. Work has already started. It was while taking stock of the interior and exterior of the building that ASI conservation engineers stumbled upon a blind enclosure’ on the ground floor, about 1000 square feet in size.
A lot of effort has been made to locate an opening so that experts can find out exactly what it was built for or what it contains. But there is not a single crack to show.
“We’ve searched every inch of the first floor area that forms the ceiling of this enclosure for a possible trap door. But found nothing. Restoration of the building will remain incomplete if we are not able to assess what lies inside this enclosure,” said deputy superintending archaeologist of ASI, Tapan Bhattacharya. “We’ve come across an arch on one side of the enclosure that had been walled up. Naturally speculations are rife,” said another archaeologist.
Was it used as a punishment room by Hastings or one of the Lt Governors who succeeded him? It was common practice among the British to “wall up” offenders in “death chambers”. Some sources say this enclosure has exactly the same look and feel. The British were also known to hide riches in blind chambers as this.
“It could be just about anything. Skeletons and treasure chests are the two things that top our speculations because it is not natural for a building to have such a huge enclosure that has no opening. We cannot break down a wall, considering the importance of the building. So we have decided to bore a hole through the wall to peer inside with a searchlight,” said D V Sharma, regional director, ASI.
National Library authorities have written to the ministry of culture seeking permission for this. “The ASI cannot drill into a building of such great historical significance as this without permission.
There was pushback from the Pentagon press office, and in a piece by Jonathan Weisman in a Wall Street Journal blog, pooh pooh’ing yesterday’s report from two major Indian media outlets, the Press Trust of India (PTI) and New Dehli Television (NDTV), that an entire US carrier group of 35 ships had been dispatched to hover off Mumbai to inderdict sea lanes and potentially provide air cover for the presidential visit.
The Pentagon press officer characterized the reports in the Indian media as absurd.
I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 percent of the Navy — some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier — in support of the president’s trip to Asia,” said Morrell at today’s Pentagon briefing. “That’s just comical. Nothing close to that is being done.”
Thus, 20% of the American carrier force was already in the neighborhood.
It would not be completely surprising if one of the two groups was tasked in addition to its normal duties with operating special patrols looking for terrorist ship traffic approaching Mumbai and assigned air patrol duties in connection with the Obama visit.
Wikipedia says: “On October 17, 2010, the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) arrived off the coast of Pakistan to support the coalition troop surge in landlocked Afghanistan”
If you have a carrier group “off the coast of Pakistan,” it is indeed in a suitable position to interdict the sea lanes off Mumbai and to provide air support in the region of that city.
How reasonable presidential security measures are, and how justifiable their cost, is inevitably a matter of opinion. A recent video taken in Seattle during a campaign visit just before the recent election by President Obama gives some indication of the scale of ordinary domestic security measures. Watch the video and tell me you don’t think they’d put a carrier group on alert.
Theo Spark labels this video “Obama Goes for Pizza,” but the French source merely says that Obama Has Quite an Escort.
The video’s British title, referring to going for pizza, like the Indian press reports, may feature an element of exaggeration in phraseology. Obama may simply have been traveling anywhere in Seattle or leaving for the airport. The carrier and its 34 escort ships were clearly already somewhere not terribly far away.
But all you have to do is look at the video and read about the tunnel and the removal of coconuts and you know that, give or take a shade of self-indulgent reportorial emphasis, the substance of the story was not wrong.
Obama didn’t “take” a carrier group with him. It was already in the general area, but New Dehli and Mumbai are not Republican strongholds. The Indian media has no dog in domestic American political fights, and if they felt moved to poke fun at the scale and expense of security measures going on in their own backyard for the presidential visit, their reaction was not partisan or contrived. They really were amused.
An American president visiting a foreign country needs to bring along some staff, equipment, and a protection detail. Brarack Obama seems to need a little more staff and protection than most presidents. He needs 800 rooms worth of staff and requires a fleet headed by a carrier for protection.
The White House will, of course, stay in Washington but the heart of the famous building will move to India when President Barack Obama lands in Mumbai on Saturday.
Communications set-up, nuclear button, a fleet of limousines and majority of the White House staff will be in India accompanying the President on this three-day visit that will cover Mumbai and Delhi.
He will also be protected by a fleet of 34 warships, including an aircraft carrier, which will patrol the sea lanes off the Mumbai coast during his two-day stay there beginning Saturday.
He even needs a tunnel to get to a museum.
Barack Obama’s planned visit to Mani Bhavan —the Gandhi museum — on November 6, soon after he reaches Mumbai. On Monday, US secret agents visited the museum to plan Obama’s security detail.
They were accompanied by officers of Mumbai Police and civic officials of the D ward (where Mani Bhavan is located). While inspecting the route and the buildings lining up the route to the museum, the Americans detected a skyscraper near Peddar road and also found the area to be highly populated.
Since it is difficult to monitor such a congested area, they came up with a quick solution which left the Indians accompanying them amazed: A bomb-proof over-ground tunnel — to be installed by US military engineers in just an hour.
The tunnel would be a kilometre long and measure 12ft by 12ft — enough to let Obama’s cavalcade pass through. The tunnel would be centrally air-conditioned, fitted with close-circuit television cameras, and will be heavily guarded at every point, including, of course, its entry and exit.
Even with his own personal tunnel, there remained a coconut threat to be neutralized.
While President Obama may have taken one on the jaw in Tuesday’s elections, officials in India are seeing to it he doesn’t take one on the head during his upcoming visit.
City officials in Mumbai have ordered the removal of all the coconuts from the trees around a museum dedicated to Gandhi for fear one could come loose and fall on the President’s head.
“We told the authorities to remove the dry coconuts from trees near the building,” Meghshyam Ajgaonkar, executive secretary of the museum, told the BBC. “Why take a chance?”
Isn’t all this getting a little out of hand?
Meghrajji III was the 45th and last ruling descendant of the Jhala clan of Rajputs, of the Suryavanshi lineage, claiming descent from Surya, the Hindu Sun god. They were a warrior clan who originated in Baluchistan and arrived in India during the eighth century. The clan name derives from a miraculous feat by its founder Harapaldev’s wife, Shaktidevi, who caught up her children through an open window when they were charged by an elephant in must. Jhalvan is Gujarati for ‘catching’ and her children and descendants thus began to be called Jhala.
[I]n 1952, he opted out of what he described as “that rare and gubernatorial prison” for the freedom of a commoner at Christ Church, Oxford. There was some grumbling about his lack of academic qualifications, but he enjoyed the friendship of the House’s senior censor Hugh Trevor-Roper. When it was objected that Raj (as he signed himself in private correspondence) had not done any military service, Trevor-Roper pointed out that he had been commander-in-chief of the Dhrangadhra armed forces for six years.
The prince drove a sky-blue Jaguar at great speed around Oxford, and in 1953 received an invitation to the Coronation in Westminster Abbey. Over a period of six years he read Philosophy, took a diploma in Anthropology, and earned a BLitt with a thesis on the Brahma Samskâras (sacraments) as well as finding time to study drawing at the Ruskin School of Art and design ties as part of his heraldic studies. He also played the flute.
At his parties the champagne flowed freely. Allotted a set of four rooms, he had a retinue that included an ADC, a secretary and two servants dressed in dove-coloured coats and black caps. In deference to his age and position, he was made a member of the senior common room.
Dhrangadhra and his fellow princes had governed 565 states that covered almost half of the subcontinent, and at first they kept themselves aloof in the new republic. But on returning home from Christ Church he found that his fellow former rulers were gradually taking to democratic politics, proving an increasing irritant to the Congress government.
In 1967 he was elected to the legislature in Gujarat, the western Indian state into whose Saurastra peninsular Dhrangadhra-Halvad had been amalgamated. He subsequently became a member of India’s Lok Sabha (the country’s lower house of parliament), where he introduced measures to safeguard the constitutional rights of former rulers, particularly against the proposed abolition of the princes’ titles and their privy purses. Together with the Maharaja of Baroda and the Begum of Bhopal, he led the “concord of princes” which conducted a bitter battle over three years.
Interviewed by Harold Sieve of The Daily Telegraph, Dhrangadhra was agreeable to letting slip princely trappings, but his fellow princes were proud of their titles and didn’t see why they should no longer be permitted to fly their flags on cars while every lorry and taxi driver could do so. There was a brief reprieve when the Constitution Amendment Bill, stripping them of their titles, was declared illegal. As a result parliament was dissolved. But on the day of the subsequent election Dhrangadhra was ill in University College Hospital, London, and narrowly lost his seat.
Under the new government the chief justice was replaced and the Constitution Amendment Bill was reintroduced. After it became law Dhrangadhra was most exasperated by his fellow princes’ failure to back the compromise he had proposed.
Born Mayurdwajsinhji on March 3 1923, his birth was celebrated with the beating of war drums and the release of all Dhrangadhra-Halvad’s prisoners. Although small in comparison with its neighbours, the state comprised 1,157 square miles with a population of about 250,000, and rated a 13-gun-salute.
Tika, as the eldest son was traditionally known, was allotted apartments with his two brothers and eight sisters, and they had limited contact with their parents apart from a meal on Sundays. They were educated at the palace’s royal school, where he learned to recite Kipling’s poem If, and started his day either riding or doing drill at 6.30am. Scouting, carpentry, ploughing with bullocks and tinkering with cars as well as academic work followed. The feudal atmosphere was tempered by the headmaster, Jack Meyer, a tough member of MCC. Meyer was pleased when he asked Tika whether, when he was rich, he would buy cars or dig wells, and the boy replied: “Dig wells.”
In 1933 the royal school moved to England, where it became the public school Millfield in Somerset. But although Tika was one of the first seven boys in the school, he soon left to end his English school days at Haileybury before returning to India in 1939. He next went to St Joseph’s Academy at Dehra Dun and started at the Shivaji military school in Poona before becoming the maharaja.
After the princes’ parliamentary defeat, Dhrangadhra abandoned politics for scholarship, concentrating on the history of the Jhala family, a warrior clan whose proudest boast was that eight succeeding generations had died in battle against the Mughals. While declining to send his historical work to academic journals, he set up a small palace press to disseminate his work to friends, and obtained software to re-create tartans worn by Dhrangadhra soldiers in the 1940s.
The Maharaja of Dhrangadhra was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire in 1948, and was the last surviving KCIE. He was president of Rajkumar College in Rajkot; and a life member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association; of the World Wildlife Fund; the International Phonetic Association; and the Heraldry Society. He was also a member of the Cricket Club of India, the Fencing Association of Great Britain and the Bombay Masonic Lodge.
Cobalt-60 is a radioactive isotope of Cobalt with a half life of 5.27 years. Cobalt-60 is not found in nature, and is artificially produced by bombarding Californium-59 with slow neutrons or by placing Cobalt rods in a nuclear reactor.
Cobalt-60 in very small quantities is used to sterilize medical equipment, to irradiate food, and for medical and industrial radiography.
It can also be used to create a dirty bomb.
One week ago (April 8), in the West Dehli industrial area of Mayapuri, two local scrap dealers, Deepak Jain, Bablu, and five others fell ill as the result of exposure to “very powerful” radiation.
Gimme that old time religion department: the Times of India reports that Tekam Das, a Hindu priest in the province of Sind, on Tuesday sacrificed three daughters (all aged under six) and then himself to the goddess Kali.
Technological tour de force: Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque 6:20 video of virtual choir performance, 185 performers from 12 countries recorded on 243 tracks.
Strategy Page reports that a formidable new ally, a powerful fighter particularly skilled in mountain warfare, recently joined the Western Anti-Jihadist Coalition.
In Indian Kashmir, an Islamic terrorist leader, and one of his followers was killed by a black bear. Two other terrorists were wounded, but were able to flee to a nearby village. Although the terrorists were armed with assault rifles, the bear attacked quickly, and at night, and the men were unable to use their weapons in the restricted confines of the cave. Apparently the bear was going to use the cave to hibernate in, and was upset to find that the terrorists had moved in. The four terrorists thought the cave was abandoned, and a good place to hide out in.
The Asiatic Black Bear is related to the American black bear, but is larger (up to 400 pounds for an older male), and is much more aggressive towards humans. The Asiatic bear has a more powerful jaw, and bigger claws.
Americans responded to the election of a democrat-dominated federal government by buying enough guns in 3 months to outfit the entire Chinese and Indian Armies. We also bought 1,529,635,000 rounds of ammunition in the month of December 2008 alone.
You have to give him credit. Obama certainly has turned one sector of the economy around.
– Click on image for link to larger picture at web-site of Pakistan firm attempting to produce a reproduction.
One of the principal contributors at fellow boutique blog Maggie’s Farm has done several postings on the Oriental Rug, and I thought he’d enjoy a look at this particular example. I like rugs, too, but ours are all rolled up and stored away in our house right now, since we adopted a Basset Bleu de Gascoigne named Cadet. Dogs will reliably regurgitate the latest nasty thing they found out in the yard by preference right in the middle of your favorite and most expensive antique oriental rug.
[T]he Aynard carpet, considered one of the greatest pashmina knotted Mughal carpets, contains a bouquet of blossoms that resemble octopi floating languorously on a crimson sky filled with dragon-head chi clouds. Here, we enter the surreal world of the artist’s brilliant imagination, whose floral bouquet of voluptuous efflorescence sweeps us away into a metaphysical reverie.
Richard Munday, in the London Times, observes that citizens of modern democracies are typically less safe in the event of terrorist attack today than they were a century ago in gas-lit London when policemen carried only a truncheon and ordinary citizens were allowed to own and carry weapons.
For anybody who still believed in it, the Mumbai shootings exposed the myth of “gun control”. India had some of the strictest firearms laws in the world, going back to the Indian Arms Act of 1878, by which Britain had sought to prevent a recurrence of the Indian Mutiny.
The guns used in last week’s Bombay massacre were all “prohibited weapons” under Indian law, just as they are in Britain. In this country we have seen the irrelevance of such bans (handgun crime, for instance, doubled here within five years of the prohibition of legal pistol ownership), but the largely drug-related nature of most extreme violence here has left most of us with a sheltered awareness of the threat. We have not yet faced a determined and broad-based attack.
The Mumbai massacre also exposed the myth that arming the police force guarantees security. Sebastian D’Souza, a picture editor on the Mumbai Mirror who took some of the dramatic pictures of the assault on the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, was angered to find India’s armed police taking cover and apparently failing to engage the gunmen.
In Britain we might recall the prolonged failure of armed police to contain the Hungerford killer, whose rampage lasted more than four hours, and who in the end shot himself. In Dunblane, too, it was the killer who ended his own life: even at best, police response is almost always belated when gunmen are on the loose. ...
The Mumbai massacre could happen in London tomorrow; but probably it could not have happened to Londoners 100 years ago.
In January 1909 two such anarchists, lately come from an attempt to blow up the president of France, tried to commit a robbery in north London, armed with automatic pistols. Edwardian Londoners, however, shot back – and the anarchists were pursued through the streets by a spontaneous hue-and-cry. The police, who could not find the key to their own gun cupboard, borrowed at least four pistols from passers-by, while other citizens armed with revolvers and shotguns preferred to use their weapons themselves to bring the assailants down.
Today we are probably more shocked at the idea of so many ordinary Londoners carrying guns in the street than we are at the idea of an armed robbery. But the world of Conan Doyle’s Dr Watson, pocketing his revolver before he walked the London streets, was real. The arming of the populace guaranteed rather than disturbed the peace.
That armed England existed within living memory; but it is now so alien to our expectations that it has become a foreign country.
John Lott notes that the state’s monopoly of force works well at disarming law-abiding citizens, only to leave them defenseless in emergencies. Today’s mass shooting incidents could never have occurred in the pre-Gun Control era in America, when ordinary citizens were routinely armed.
In India, victims watched as armed police cowered and didn’t fire back at the terrorists. A photographer at the scene described his frustration: “There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything. At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, ‘Shoot them, they’re sitting ducks!’ but they just didn’t shoot back.”
Meanwhile, according to the hotel company’s chairman, P.R.S. Oberoi, security at “the hotel had metal detectors, but none of its security personnel carried weapons because of the difficulties in obtaining gun permits from the Indian government.”
India has extremely strict gun control laws, but who did it succeed in disarming?
The terrorist attack showed how difficult it is to disarm serious terrorists. Strict licensing rules meant that it was the victims who obeyed the regulations, not the terrorists.
John Hinderaker of Power-Line loses patience with the mealy-mouthed political correctness of the mainstream media.
The very same media which gleefully lynches opponents to the right, like George W. Bush or Sarah Palin, on the basis of its own trumped up charges has no enemies to the left, so any terrorist (even one captured in a photograph holding an automatic weapon in the midst of a murderous mass attack) is always only a potential suspect, someone whose status requires a full-scale courtroom procedure, and a complete professional defense, before it can possibly be pejoratively characterized.
Reuters’ caption for the photo begins: “A suspected gunman walks outside the premises of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or Victoria Terminus railway station in Mumbai November 26, 2008.”
Notice the object the terrorist is holding in his hands. It’s a gun. He isn’t a “suspected gunman,” he’s a “gunman.”