Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 2: Hitler retreats to the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker


. Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj.

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Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

The “Battle of Berlin” 

The Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, also known as the “Battle of Berlin” was the last major offensive against the Germans in the European Theatre of World War II.

On January 12, 1945, the Soviet Army advanced across Poland towards eastern Germany. The Soviet Red Army breached the German front in the Eastern arena of the European Theatre of World War II. This successful operation by the Red Army, known as the Vistula–Oder Offensive, took place between January 12 and February 2, 1945.

Map of the Battle of Berlin, phase of 16-25 April 1945 based on Praca zbiorowa Boje Polskie 1939-1945 Przewodnik Encyklopedyczny, Bellona, Warszawa 2009

The Russians advanced westward as much as 25 miles (40 km) a day through East Prussia, Lower Silesia, East Pomerania, and Upper Silesia, temporarily halting on a line 37 miles (60 km) east of Berlin along the Oder River.

When the offensive resumed, two Soviet fronts attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin.

At the same time, the Allied air forces devastated Berlin with bombing raids.

Hitler retreats to the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker 

Martin Bormann - Hitler's private secretary

Martin Bormann – Hitler’s private secretary

As the Third Reich was rapidly disintegrating, Hitler, after deciding to stay in Berlin for the last great siege of the war, retreated to the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker on January 16, 1945. He was joined by his senior staff, Martin Bormann, and later, Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun.

Rochus Misch, Hitler's courier, bodyguard and telephone operator.

Rochus Misch, Hitler’s courier, bodyguard and telephone operator.

Two to three dozen support, medical, and administrative staff were also in the bunker complex. These included Hitler’s secretaries – Gerda Christian, Gertraud “Traudl” Junge, a nurse named Erna Flegel, and Rochus Misch, Hitler’s courier, bodyguard and telephone operator.

Hitler With his Alsatian Dog, Blondi.

Hitler With his Alsatian Dog, Blondi.

When Hitler moved to the underground Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker brought his pet Blondi, the seven-year-old female German Shepherd, gifted to him in 1941 by Martin Bormann, along with him, and Eva Braun brought her two Scottish Terrier dogs Negus and Stasi along with her. In the underground bunker Blondi had a litter of five puppies. Hitler named one of them “Wolf”, his favorite nickname and the meaning of his own first name, Adolf (Noble wolf).

Eva Anna Paula Braun

Eva Braun

Eva Braun

Eva Braun, hailing from a middle-class Catholic family, met Adolf Hitler, 23 years her senior, in Munich when she was 17 years old. She was then employed as an assistant to Heinrich Hoffmann, the official photographer for the Nazi Party (NSDAP). She was the longtime companion of Adolf Hitler.

On August 10 or 11, 1932, Eva attempted suicide by shooting herself in the chest with her father’s pistol. However, historians feel the attempt was a bid for Hitler’s attention. After Braun’s recovery, Hitler became more committed to her, and by the end of 1932 they had become lovers. She often stayed overnight at Hitler’s Munich apartment.

Eva then became a shadowy figure tucked away at the Alpine retreat at Obersalzberg, the main area of Nazi occupation in Berchtesgaden, spent her time with Hitler out of public view. She spent her time skiing and swimming. Though she had no perceptible influence on Hitler’s political career, she provided a certain domesticity to his life.

A few weeks before Hitler’s last birthday on April 20, Eva came to Berlin. From then on, against his will, she stayed with him until their death.

Magda and Joseph Goebbels

Magda and Joseph Goebbels

Faced with the inevitability of defeat and determined to await defeat and death along with the Führer, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister, took residence in the upper Vorbunker.

Magda Goebbels, quite attached to Hitler psychologically, was more devoted to Hitler than to her own husband.

While other leading Nazis had sent their children into the mountains or out of the country to protect them from the impending catastrophe, Magda Goebbels decided that she and her children would join her husband to bring their lives to what she called “the only possible and honourable conclusion”. She moved into the Vorbunker on April 22 1945 along with her six children.

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Part 1: The Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker


. Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj.

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Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

In 1986, the East German government made plans to build a massive apartment complex on the corner of Vossstrasse and Wilhelmstrasse in what was then East Berlin. For constructing the complex it was necessary to demolish concrete from a darker past. Under the construction site, located 28 feet (8.5 metres) deep in the ground, was the most notorious and imposing bunker complex used by Adolf Hitler and his murderous band of Nazis at the close of World War II.

In 1987, Robert Conrad, a German photographer, disguised as a construction worker took the risk to secretly photograph Adolf Hitler’s decaying Reichskanzlei-Vorbunker-Führerbunker complex. Conrad said:

Of course there was nothing in the newspapers about the Nazi bunkers. That was very much a taboo subject, as was everything about the Nazi period… Officially, they were just constructing a new residential neighborhood.”

Wilhelmstrasse in 1934, Reich Chancellery and Foreign Office on the left

Wilhelmstrasse in 1934, Reich Chancellery and Foreign Office on the left

Wilhelmstrasse (German: Wilhelmstraße) is a major thoroughfare in the central Mitte and Kreuzberg districts of Berlin, Germany. The street whose former name was Husarenstraße was renamed Wilhelmstraße in honor King Frederick William I, who died in 1740.

Wilhelmstraße was recognized as the centre of the government, first of the Kingdom of Prussia, later of the unified German Reich, housing in particular the Reich Chancellery and the Foreign Office.

King Frederick William I (August 14, 1688 –  May 31, 1740) of Prussia built the Palais Schulenburg, at Wilhelmstraße 77, for his esteemed Lieutenant General Count Adolph Friedrich von der Schulenburg. The building was completed in 1739.

Palais Schulenburg - Main building and courtyard formerly located on Wilhelmstraße.

Palais Schulenburg – Main building and courtyard formerly located on Wilhelmstraße.

In 1875, after many ownerships, the feuding Radziwill heirs sold Palais Schulenburg to the German Reich. It became the Reichskanzlerpalais (Chancellor’s palace). It was the Chancellery of the German Reich from 1871 to 1945 from the time of Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor of Germany, and subsequent German Chancellors, the last being Adolf Hitler.

The Reichskanzlei-Vorbunker

Adolf Hitler (center) with his architects Professor Leonhard Gall (left) and Albert Speer (right) (Source: Deutsches Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H29050)

Adolf Hitler (center) with his architects Professor Leonhard Gall (left) and Albert Speer (right) (Source: Deutsches Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H29050)

In 1933, Adolf Hitler decided to expand the Reichskanzlei (Reich Chancellery), which he considered too small for his needs. On July 21, 1935, Professor Leonhard Gall, one of Adolf Hitler’s architects, submitted unique plans for a large reception hall to be built as an expansion of the old Chancellery, that could also be used as a ballroom.

The plan envisaged a bunker 5 feet (1.5 metres) beneath the cellar of the large reception hall behind the old Reich Chancellery at Wilhelmstraß. It had a 6.25 feet (1.6 metres) thick roof. The thick walls of the bunker were designed to support the weight of the large reception hall on top of it. The bunker had three doorways – to the north, west and south.

The construction was completed in 1936.

Schematic diagram of the Reichskanzlei-Vorbunker as it was in April 1945 (Source: Dennis Nilsson)

Schematic diagram of the Reichskanzlei-Vorbunker as it was in April 1945. (Source: Dennis Nilsson)

The bunker was meant to be a temporary air-raid shelter for Adolf Hitler, his guards, and servants. It was officially called the “Reich Chancellery Air-Raid Shelter” until 1943, with the construction to expand the complex with the addition of the Führerbunker, located one level below. From then on this bunker became known as the Vorbunker or forward bunker or upper bunker.

The New Reich Chancellery

Though Hitler lived in Reichskanzlerpalais he once commented that Bismarck’s Old Chancellery was “fit for a soap company” but not suitable as headquarters of a Greater German Reich. So, in January 1938, Hitler asked Albert Speer, his chief architect, to build a larger, grander, new Reich Chancellery on the same site as the existing structure. Hitler said he needed the new building built in a year, in time to host the foreign diplomats during his next New Year’s reception.

This huge undertaking was a tall order because the existing Chancellery was in full operation. After consultation with his assistants, Speer agreed to build it.

However, the site was cleared only in April, 1938. Speer employed thousands of workers in two shifts. He completed the task successfully in nine months.

New Reich Chancellery - The Eastern Administrative Building.

New Reich Chancellery – The Eastern Administrative Building.

Albert Speer presented the fully furnished New Reich Chancellery to Hitler two days earlier than the allotted last day.

Hitler, who had remained away from the project, was overwhelmed when he saw the large, impressive, structure that included a 480-feet (146 metres) long “Marble Gallery,” almost twice the length of the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. In appreciation Hitler awarded Speer the Nazi Golden Party Badge. But in Winston Churchill’s words, it was the hub of “a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.”

The Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker

3D model of Führerbunker (left) and Vorbunker (right) by Christopher Neubauer

3D model of Führerbunker (left) and Vorbunker (right) by Christopher Neubauer

The most famous and arguably the most notorious and elaborate bunker complex in Germany consisted of two separate shelters, constructed in two phases. The Vorbunker completed in 1936, and the Führerbunker, to the west-southwest, completed in 1944. Since the bunkers were kept secret, information and details about them are rather scarce.

Increased bombing of Berlin led to the expansion of the Vorbunker as an improvised permanent air-raid shelter. The Führerbunker located 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) lower than the Vorbunker was built about 28 feet (8.5 metres) beneath the garden of the old Reich Chancellery, 390 feet (120 metres) north of the new Reich Chancellery building at Voßstraße 6.

The Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker was the last of the Führer Headquarters used by Adolf Hitler.

Schematic diagram of the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker  as it was in April 1945. (Source: Dennis Nilsson)

Schematic diagram of the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker as it was in April 1945. (Source: Dennis Nilsson)

The above sketch of Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker is based on the photographs taken in 1988 by researcher Tom Posch of the remains of the bunkers and published in the book titled “The Berlin Führerbunker: The Thirteenth Hole, After the Battle, No.61“, Special Edition, Battle of Britain International Ltd, 1988.

The Vorbunker and the Führerbunker were connected by a stairway set at right angles and could be closed off from each other by a bulkhead and a steel door.

Besides being deeper underground, the Führerbunker had significantly more reinforcement than the Vorbunker. Its roof was made of concrete almost 10 feet (3 metres) thick. About 30 small rooms were protected by approximately 13 feet (4 metres) of concrete; exits led into the main buildings, as well as an emergency exit up to the garden.

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Death of Adolf Hitler – Prelude


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

Born in 1941, during World War II, I naturally have a fascination for the history of the Great War. Every time, I read about Adolf Hitler, the great dictator murdered more than 11 million people, including over one million children during the Holocaust, and his band of Nazis I look forward to coming across intriguing new viewpoints about the end of the Third Reich and the ultimate fate of its Führer.

According to popular consensus among historians, Hitler killed himself at the close of World War II. But, many unanswered questions, doubts, and uncertainties still linger about his death.

The perennial question: “Did Adolf Hitler commit suicide on April 30, 1945?” prompts those with even a modest knowledge of the history of World War II to pursue this issue even further. This question has also served as a catalyst for the prolific output of books and articles by conspiracy theorists.

Many historians claim that Adolf Hitler died of a self-inflicted gunshot while biting a cyanide capsule while Eva Braun committed suicide along with him by ingesting cyanide.

If we accept that Hitler committed suicide in April 1945, here again accounts differ about how he died:

  • Hitler died from a lethal injection administered by his personal physician Werner Haase.
  • Hitler died of a self-inflicted gunshot while biting a cyanide capsule while Eva Braun committed suicide along with him by ingesting cyanide.
  • Hitler after shooting his wife Eva Braun swallowed a cyanide capsule and shot himself.
Were reports of Hitler's death "greatly exaggerated"? Cover of Time Magazine, May 7, 1945

Were reports of Hitler’s death “greatly exaggerated”?
Cover of Time Magazine, May 7, 1945

An article written by Yorkshire war reporter Joe Illingworth in August 1945 casts doubt on events in the bunker, claiming that the Russians said there was no “convincing” proof of Hitler’s demise.

On September 26, 2009, the History Channel aired a documentary called Hitler’s Escape. For the making of the film, Connecticut archaeologist and bone specialist Nick Bellantoni flew to Moscow to inspect the Hitler trophies at the Russian State Archive which included the skull fragment with a bullet hole through it, which the Russians dug up outside the Führerbunker in 1946, as well as bloodstains from the bunker sofa on which Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were believed to have committed suicide. The Russian government has been publicly claiming since 2000 that these articles belonged to Hitler.

“I had the reference photos the Soviets took of the sofa in 1945 and I was seeing the exact same stains on the fragments of wood and fabric in front of me, so I knew I was working with the real thing,” Bellatoni said.

Examination of the skull by Bellantoni revealed it belonged to a young woman and not that of the 56-year-old dictator. “The bone seemed very thin. Male bone tends to be more robust,” he said. “And the sutures where the skull plates come together seemed to correspond to someone under 40.”

Bellantoni applied cotton swabs and took samples for DNA tests during the one hour he was allowed with the Hitler trove. The swabs were then flown back to Connecticut. At the university’s Centre for Applied Genetics, Linda Strausbaugh, worked for three days on the samples sent by Bellatoni. “We used the same routines and controls that would have been used in a crime lab,” she said.

The DNA analysis revealed that the skull undoubtedly belonged to a female, and the only positive physical proof that Hitler had shot himself had suddenly been rendered worthless. The result of the DNA analysis reopened the mystery surrounding Hitler’s death. Many compelling questions resurfaced such as:

  • Why did the Russians exhibit the corpse of Hitler’s double? Was it because they believed it to be the real Hitler?
  • If Hitler allegedly shot himself in the right temple, then why did the Russians exhibit what is claimed to be Hitler’s cranium, showing a bullet hole in the back of his head?
  • Why did the Russians refuse to allow their Western Allies to see Hitler’s presumed autopsy report?
  • Was Josef Stalin, the Russian leader telling the truth when he told US President Harry Truman and others that Adolf Hitler had escaped from Germany?
  • Why did Hitler’s plane land in Barcelona, Spain, on April 27, 1945, three days before the alleged suicide?
  • Why did three German submarines, land at the coast of southern Argentina more than two months after the end of World War II?’

Many conspiracy theorists have rejected the accounts of suicide by Hitler as either Soviet propaganda or an attempted compromise to reconcile the different conclusions. According to every one of the conspiracy theorists, the investigations conducted by the American and Soviet armies at the fall of Berlin lead to the only conclusion that Hitler escaped alive and left Germany during the fall of Berlin, most probably on April 22, 1945.

If Hitler escaped from  Germany, then where did he go, and how long did he survive? Some say there is evidence suggesting that Hitler may have fled to Indonesia, where he married and worked at a hospital in Sumbawa. However, the popular consensus among the conspiracy theorists is he fled to Argentina.

Present conspiracy theorists contend that evidence of Adolf Hitler’s suicide is flawed and that he did manage to escape from Germany. Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams, authors of the book ‘Grey Wolf: The Escape Of Adolf‘, claim that Adolf Hitler did manage to escape to South America. Their claim is more speculative and doubts have been raised about the validity of their conclusions. Guy Walters, the British author, novelist, historian, academic and journalist ridiculed the claims by the sensationalists as “2,000 per cent rubbish.”

I am not a professional historian. Still, from what I have read, I will describe to you in an abridged form, in my subsequent posts, of what happened in the Reichskanzlei-Führerbunker from January 16, 1945 to May 1, 1945.

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FIFA World Cup 2014: Schedule – Third Place and Finals


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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FIFA World Cup 2014 - Brasil

 


QUARTER-FINALS


FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2014

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #57

France vs Germany

FULL-TIME
0-1

France

Germany

Estadio do Maracanã
Rio De Janeiro


SATURDAY, JULY 5, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Friday)

15:00 EST (Friday)

17:00 BRT (Friday)

Match #58

Brazil vs Colombia

FULL-TIME
2-1

BrazilColombia

Estadio Castelão
Fortaleza

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #59

Argentina vs Belgium

FULL-TIME
1-0

Argentina Belgium

Estadio Nacional
Brasilia


SUNDAY, JULY 6, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #60

Netherlands vs Costa Rica

Netherlands won on Penalties (4-3)Netherlands Costa Rica

Arena Fonte Nova
Salvador


SEMI-FINALS


WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Tuesday)

15:00 EST (Tuesday)

17:00 BRT (Tuesday)

Match #61

Brazil vs Germany

FULL-TIME
1-7

Germany

Brazil

Estadio Mineirão
Belo Horizonte


THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Wednesday)

15:00 EST (Wednesday)

17:00 BRT (Wednesday)

Match #62

Netherlands vs Argentina

 Argentina won on Penalties (2-4)

Netherlands

Argentina

Arena de São Paulo
São Paulo 


THIRD PLACE


SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #63

Brazil vs Netherlands

Brazil

Netherlands

Estadio Nacional
Brasília


FINAL


MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014

0:30 IST

19:00 GMT (Sunday)

14:00 EST (Sunday)

16:00 BRT (Sunday)

Match #64

Winner Match 61 vs Winner Match 62

Estadio do Maracanã
Brasilia

BRT = Brazil Standard Time  EST = Eastern Standard Time
IST = India Standard Time  GMT = Greenwich Mean Time

 

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FIFA World Cup 2014: Schedule – Semi-Finals, Third Place and Finals


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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FIFA World Cup 2014 - Brasil

 


QUARTER-FINALS


FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2014

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #57

France vs Germany

FULL-TIME
0-1

France

Germany

Estadio do Maracanã
Rio De Janeiro


SATURDAY, JULY 5, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Friday)

15:00 EST (Friday)

17:00 BRT (Friday)

Match #58

Brazil vs Colombia

FULL-TIME
2-1

BrazilColombia

Estadio Castelão
Fortaleza

21:30 IST

16:00 GMT

11:00 EST

13:00 BRT

Match #59

Argentina vs Belgium

FULL-TIME
1-0

Argentina Belgium

Estadio Nacional
Brasilia


SUNDAY, JULY 6, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #60

Netherlands vs Costa Rica

Netherlands won on Penalties (4-3)Netherlands Costa Rica

Arena Fonte Nova
Salvador


SEMI-FINALS


WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Tuesday)

15:00 EST (Tuesday)

17:00 BRT (Tuesday)

Match #61

Brazil vs Germany

Germany

Brazil

Estadio Mineirão
Belo Horizonte


THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Wednesday)

15:00 EST (Wednesday)

17:00 BRT (Wednesday)

Match #62

Netherlands vs Argentina

Netherlands

Argentina

Arena de São Paulo
São Paulo 


THIRD PLACE


SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2014

01:30 IST

20:00 GMT (Saturday)

15:00 EST (Saturday)

17:00 BRT (Saturday)

Match #63

Loser Match 61 vs Loser Match 62

Estadio Nacional
Brasília


FINAL


MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014

0:30 IST

19:00 GMT (Sunday)

14:00 EST (Sunday)

16:00 BRT (Sunday)

Match #64

Winner Match 61 vs Winner Match 62

Estadio do Maracanã
Brasilia

BRT = Brazil Standard Time  EST = Eastern Standard Time
IST = India Standard Time  GMT = Greenwich Mean Time

 

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Hurry Curry to Brazil for Bangladeshi FIFA Fans


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Mustafa Azim, a director of Imperial Air Salvage, is a Bangladeshi. When Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster The Edge of Tomorrow was being shot at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, the Imperial Air Salvage provided planes to be blown up on the set.

Azim and a couple of his friends have tickets for the World Cup final. Many of his football crazy friends from Bangladesh are already in Brazil. Since curry, rice, and fish are the main items in their regular diet, they were disappointed when they realized that there are no Indian restaurants in Brazil and intimated him.

Waiter Habib Miah with restaurant owner and chef Mohammed Wahid (Source: worthingherald.co.uk)

Waiter Habib Miah with restaurant owner and chef Mohammed Wahid (Source: worthingherald.co.uk)

So, Azim approached Mohammed Wahid, the owner of Chilcha, an Award Winning Indian Restaurant in Montague Street, Worthing, West Sussex, to arrange a 12-person delivery to Brazil of some of their favorite dishes. “Chilcha” is the Bengali word for happiness.

Azim was already aware of Wahid’s delicious, appetizing cooking when the latter provided catering on the set of The Edge of Tomorrow at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden.

Mohammed Wahid owner and chef of Chilcha Restaurant in Montague Street, Worthing. (Source: m.theargus.co.uk)

Mohammed Wahid owner and chef of Chilcha Restaurant in Montague Street, Worthing. (Source: m.theargus.co.uk)

Wahid was surprised at first and agreed to cater to him.

Mustafa Azim, will fly into Shoreham Airport on a chartered plane to collect the dishes. He will then head to an airport near Heathrow, before boarding a commercial plane to take him and the food to Brazil.

The overall cost of the delivery is £4200: £1200 for the curry, £1800 for the flight to Brazil, £1000 for a chartered flight to Shoreham to collect the takeaway, £100 landing and parking charges, and £100 for the taxi to the hotel.

 

To Worship or Not to Worship Shirdi Sai Baba: That Is the Question…


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Dwarka Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

Dwarka Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati seems to be an outspoken person. A few days before the recent parliamentary elections the seer was in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh to attend a religious programme. A reporter from a news channel pressed him to know his views on Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate. The seer lost his cool and instead of answering slapped the reporter.

The incident was politically coloured with both Congress and BJP taking different stands. The seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics.

Mayank Aggarwal, the State Congress leader said: “Sadhus should not be asked political questions in the first place.” He also added that the seer wanted the discourse to be around religious issues and felt bad at being asked about Modi.

The BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai,  said: “We believe that the religious leaders are the flag-bearers of religion, ethics and truth. They should be the epitome of forgiveness. Questions from the media are of prime importance and should not be brushed aside.”

However, the unperturbed seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics. Elucidating on the matter he said: “I slapped the reporter and told him ‘you are talking about him (Modi) so that he can remain a topic of discussion’.

On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of the Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He asserted that Sai Baba was a Muslim fakir and should not be worshipped like a Hindu deity. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion will continue even if he is sent to jail, “They may burn my effigy or even send me to jail, but my campaign to protect the sanctity of the Hindu religion will continue,” Shankaracharya said.

On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He stressed that there is a need now to guard against forces that were “corrupting” the Hindu religion by arbitrarily creating new gods and propagating them. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion was being opposed by those who had made religion a means of livelihood and some people were making money in the name of Shridi Sai Baba. He said worshipping Sai Baba was a conspiracy to divide the Hindus.

Uma Bharti (Source: dnaindia.com)

Uma Bharti (Source: dnaindia.com)

At that meeting a letter sent by Uma Bharti, the Union Minister of water resources, to the Shankaracharya explaining the rationale behind her statement made the previous day was also read out at the confluence. In the letter she had said, looking upon someone as a god was people’s prerogative.

Shirdi Sai Baba - 2 Shirdi Sai Baba - 1 Shirdi Sai Baba - 3

However, Uma Bharti’s justification did not seem to satisfy the seer. Known to be a Congress backer, the Shankaracharya, belittled Uma Bharti saying he thought a devotee of Lord Ram had become a Union minister and a Ram temple in Ayodhya would soon be a reality, instead, she turned out to be the “worshiper of a Muslim.” He asked whether she had not seen the pictures of Sai Baba depicted like Hindu Gods including Shiva and Vishnu?

Now, while people are ranting and raving over this controversy of whether it is right to worship a human or not, some might wonder who the protagonist, Shridi Sai Baba, is.

The early life of Sai Baba continues to be an enigma. There are no reliable and consistent records of his birth and parentage. He is believed to have been born around 1838. He arrived at Shirdi as a nameless individual at a young age.

At Shirdi, he stayed on the outskirts of the village in Babul forest and meditated under a tropical evergreen Neem tree. Many villagers after perceiving him as an embodiment of discipline, penance and austerity, revered his saintly figure and gave him food.

After wandering in the woods for days, Sai Baba took shelter in a disused decrepit mosque. He referred to his new dwelling as “Dwarkarmai“, after the abode of Lord Krishna in Dwarka.

Very soon he had a large number of devotees among the Muslims, Hindus and Zoroastrians, who regarded him according to their individual beliefs, as a saint, a fakir, an avatar or an incarnation of god, or a Sadguru. They flocked to Dwarkarmai seeking spiritual guidance.

Unlike the present day spiritual leaders, Sai Baba had no love for corporeal materials. His sole concern was teaching self-realization.

Sai Baba is worshiped by people in India and around the world as a saint. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to the Almighty and the guru. He did not distinguish people based on religion or caste.

It still remains a mystery and almost everyone is uncertain of Sai Baba’s true religious leaning – Islam or Hinduism. His teachings combined elements of Islam and Hinduism. He practiced Islamic rituals, but taught using words and figures drawn from both traditions.

A minor section of the Islamic community in India considers Sai Baba as a Muslim Fakir and as a Sufi Pir or Peer, translated into English as “saint” and could be interpreted as “Elder”. In Sufism a Pir’s role is to guide and instruct his disciples on the Sufi path.

Zoroastrians like Nanabhoy Palkhivala and Homi Bhabha, worship Sai Baba who has been cited as the Zoroastrians’ most popular non-Zoroastrian religious figure.

Sai Baba died on October 15, 1918. He was buried in Shirdi. He is well known for the aphorisms such as “Allah Malik” (“God is King”) and “Sabka Malik Ek” (“One God governs all”), which is associated with both Islam and Sufism. He also said:

Trust in me and your prayer will be answered“.

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Have Will? Then, You Can Travel in the Indian Subcontinent!


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Up to now I thought overloading was the major trait of transportation peculiar to India alone. But, now, I am really confused …

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Video grab from "Indian train in all its (crowded!) glory!" uploaded on November 10, 2011 by WildFilmsIndia.

Video grab from “Indian train in all its (crowded!) glory!” uploaded on November 10, 2011 by WildFilmsIndia.

I grabbed the above image from a video titled Indian train in all its (crowded!) glory! uploaded on November 10, 2011 by WildFilmsIndia. I do not think anyone in the West would have seen a train crowded like this in their country. But in India, it is a common sight, particularly during the festival seasons.

The regular commuters are mainly laborers coming to New Delhi from neighboring states. They would work for a week and then return home over the weekend. Most of them travel without tickets, and the state-owned Indian railways, are compelled to permit this, else their entire railway system will be debacled by these laborers.

Indian Railways ... (Source: imcradiodotnet.files.wordpress.com)

Indian Railways (Source: imcradiodotnet.files.wordpress.com)

I came across the above image captioned “Indian Railway…” on IMC – India meets Classic presents… web page hosted on wordpress.com. I doubt whether this photo was taken in India. I think it was most probably, taken somewhere in Pakistan. Also, I wonder whether all these people are genuine passengers or merely clinging on to the train, posing for the photograph to prove a point.

Recently, I viewed several videos on YouTube about railways in Asia. When I saw the following video titled “End of Ramadan rush-hour in Bangladesh” uploaded by No Comment TV on August 8, 2013, I was dumbfounded.

Eid al-Fitr or the Feast of Breaking the Fast, is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting (sawm). On this day all Muslims around the world show a common goal of unity.

This video shows thousands of Bangladeshis getting crammed on ferries and climbing on trains while leaving Dhaka, Bangladesh on Wednesday, August 7, 2013, to return to their home villages and celebrate Eid al-Fitr. This video needs no further comments.

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Was the Indian Railways Born on April 16, 1853?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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It is generally believed that the railways were first introduced to India on April 16th, 1853. The Bori Bunder to Thane line is customarily seen as the birth of the world’s largest railway systems, but the plan for the first rail system was drawn in 1832. The laying of an experimental track began in 1836 near Chintadripet, in Madras (now Chennai). When the experiment proved successful, a 3.5 mile (5.6 km) rail track was laid between Red Hills and St. Thomas Mount in Chennai.

On December 22, 1851, the first steam locomotive in India was used during the construction of the Solani canal near Roorkee, a city in Haridwar district, Uttarakhand. Bengal Sappers of the Indian Army built the railway line to carry soil for the construction of the canal from Piran Kaliyar, 6.2 miles (10 km) from the city.

It is commonly believed that the two-wagon train was hauled by a Jenny Lind class locomotive built by E.B. Wilson and Company at their Railway Foundry in Hunslet, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England or something very similar in design, by the name of “Thomason“. However, surviving work records do not substantiate this fact.

The engine had a short life. A boiler explosion destroyed it a few months after it started operating. It might have been a secondhand engine. Nonetheless, it pioneered a new era in the transportation history of India.

The locomotive rail paths are still intact.

Replica of Jenny Lind in Roorkee (Courtesy of Kota Shivaranjan/Flickr gallery of travel photos)

Replica of Jenny Lind in Roorkee (Courtesy of Kota Shivaranjan/Flickr gallery of travel photos)

A replica of what the locomotive might have looked like is exhibited at Roorkee Railway Station in original LB&SCR (London, Brighton and South Coast Railway) livery as a monument to the historic moment.

The National Railway Museum in Delhi also has illustrations of a Jenny Lind with the name “Thomason” the shop.

 

On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India left Bori Bunder, in Bombay (now Mumbai), for its destination Thane, 34 kilometres away. (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)

On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India left Bori Bunder, in Bombay (now Mumbai), for its destination Thane, 34 kilometres away. (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)

Although the first rails were laid at Chintadripet in Madras, the first train flagged off was on April 16, 1853, between Bori Bunder (later Victoria Terminus, now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) in Bombay (now Mumbai) and Thane. It travelled 21 miles (34 Km) with the aid of three locomotives: Sahib, Sindh, and Sultan. 400 invited guests in 14 carriages enjoyed the historic ride. This journey set a milestone in passenger train service. The governor, Lord John Elphinstone flagged off the train at 3:30 pm.

Robert Maitland Brereton (2 January 1834 – 7 December 1911) was an English railway engineer in India. (source: en.wikipedia.org)

Robert Maitland Brereton (2 January 1834 – 7 December 1911) was an English railway engineer in India. (source: en.wikipedia.org)

A British engineer, Robert Maitland Brereton, was responsible for the expansion of the railways from 1857 onwards. The Allahabad-Jabalpur branch line of the East Indian Railway was opened in June 1867. Brereton linked this track with the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, resulting in a combined network of 4,000 miles (6,400 km). And, from March 7, 1870, onwards, it became possible to travel directly from Bombay to Calcutta. “Around the World in Eighty Days,” the classic adventure novel written by the French writer Jules Verne was partly inspired by this railway.

At the opening ceremony, the Viceroy Lord Mayo concluded:

“… it was thought desirable that, if possible, at the earliest possible moment, the whole country should be covered with a network of lines in a uniform system.

An  Indian train (Source - dhankedeshme.blogspot.in)

An Indian train (Source – dhankedeshme.blogspot.in)

In 1951, the various railway systems were nationalized and brought under the banner of the Indian Railways becoming the world’s largest railway network. It covers more than 71,000 miles (115,000 km) of multi-gauge track – broad, metre and narrow gauges – over a route of more than 40,000 miles (65,000 km) and 7,500 stations. Its operations cover all the states and seven union territories in India. It also provides limited international services to Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Indian Railways have roughly over 200,000 (freight) wagons, 50,000 passenger coaches and 8,000 locomotives. Indian Railways also own locomotive and coach production facilities at several places in India.

On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India leaves Bombay for Thane (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)

On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India leaves Bombay for Thane (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)

In 2011, Indian railways transported more than 24 million passengers daily, roughly half of which were suburban passengers, amounting to 8,900 million passengers annually (not counting the ticketless travellers), and over 2 million tonnes of goods daily.

In 2011–2012, the Indian Railways had revenues of: ₹1119849 million (US$19 billion) consisting of ₹696760 million (US$12 billion) from the freight and ₹286455 million (US$4.8 billion) from tickets issued to passengers.

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Dhanushkodi – Fifty Years After the Cyclone of 1964


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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A cyclonic storm now referred to as the 1964 Rameswaram cyclone or the Dhanushkodi cyclone started with the depression that formed in the South Andaman Sea on December 17, 1964. On December 19, it intensified into a severe cyclonic storm. From December 21, it moved westwards, 400 km to 550 km per day. On December 22, it crossed Vavunia in Sri Lanka with a wind speed of 280 km per hour.

On December 22-23 night, the cyclone moved into Palk Strait and made landfall in Dhanushkodi, at the southern tip of Rameswaram island, on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India. The devastating tidal waves that were 7 metres high submerged all houses and other structures in Dhanushkodi town  with heavy casualties.

On December 22, 1964, the tidal wave smashed into the Pamban-Dhanushkodi Passenger train and washed it into the sea while it was crossing the viaduct during the cyclonic storm.

 The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22, 1964

The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22 – 25, 1964.

More than 100 passengers drowned in the sea. The death toll was estimated to be anywhere between 115 and 200. The variation is due to the many ticketless travellers. The railway line running from Pamban Station to Dhanushkodi Pier was washed away.

The 1¼ mile-long Pamban Rail Bridge over the Pamban Channel, that links the Indian mainland with the island of Rameswaram was also badly damaged; 126 of its 145 girders collapsed. However, the lift span was barely damaged.

The Pamban bridge after restoration (Source: the hindu.com)

The Pamban bridge after restoration (Source: the hindu.com)

Most of the girders were salvaged from the sea and the Pamban viaduct was working once again in a span of just three months time.

The metre gauge branch line from Pamban Junction to Dhanushkodi was abandoned after the cyclone destroyed it.

Prior to the cyclone, Dhanushkodi was once a flourishing town. Then, the Railway line to Dhanushkodi, destroyed in the 1964 cyclone, went directly from Mandapam station to Dhanushkodi without touching Rameswaram. In those days Dhanushkodi had a railway station, a small railway hospital, primary schools, a post office, customs and port offices. There were hotels, dharmashalas (religious rest houses), and many textile shops that catered to the Hindu pilgrims and travellers to Sri Lanka.

A map showing the ferry route from Dhanushkod, Indiai to Talaimannar , Sri Lanka (Source:-Wikimedia Commons)

A map showing the ferry route from Dhanushkod, Indiai to Talaimannar , Sri Lanka (Source:-Wikimedia Commons)

Dhanushkodi is about 18 miles (29 km) West of Talaimannar, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). There was a steamer ferry service which operated daily from the pier on the south-east of the Dhanushkodi town to the pier at Talaimannar. The ferry transported travellers and goods, across the Palk Strait.

In the 1950s and 1960s, I used to travel to Ceylon by the Dhanushkodi-Talimannar steamer ferry.

The Indo-Ceylon Express, also known as the Boat Mail train, plied from 1915 to 1964 on a metre gauge track between Egmore Station in Chennai (then known as Madras) and Dhanushkodi. It took almost 19 hours to complete the journey of 420 miles (675 Km).

Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.

Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.

After the Boat Mail train reached Dhanushkodi Pier at 15:05 hours in the afternoon, the passengers after alighting from the train had to pass through the customs before boarding the ferry which used to leave the Indian shore soon after 16:00 hours. Depending on the weather, it took between 2 and 3½ hours to cross the very shallow Palk Bay and reach the Talaimannar Pier in Sri Lanka. The voyage used to be bumpy and nauseating when the sea was rough.

The name of the train changed from Indo-Ceylon Express to Rameswaram Express after the 1964 cyclone. Now, it is a 12-hour journey from Chennai to Rameswaram on a broad-gauge track.

On June 12, 2014, my wife and I along with relatives left Chennai on Rameswaram Express to attend a wedding at Pamban town. We reached Rameswaram the following day around 5:30 am and lodged in a hotel. We hired a van and left the hotel around 11:00 am to see Dhanushkodi.

After travelling for 20 minutes, we reached Dhanushkodi. Even 50 years after the cyclone of 1964, Dhanushkodi remains a dilapidated strip of land.

The driver stopped the van at a spot on the Indian Ocean side where many other vans carrying tourists were parked.

The driver said he cannot go farther as local regulations, meaning rules set by the local cartel of van drivers, forbids it. But the members of that association ply a number of their own vans to ferry the travellers to the end of Dhanushkodi and charge ₹100/- per person. At the end of the journey we paid ₹2,200/-.

After 35 minutes of a bumpy ride by van, on shallow waters and muddy tracts, we reached the tip of Dhanushkodi where Adam’s Bridge, a chain of sand shoals between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar begins. The distance from the tip of Dhanushkodi in India and Talimannar in Sri Lanka is about 18 miles (29 km). The Dhanushkodi fishermen say that some sand dunes are just 50 yards in length. Surprisingly, the smallest land border in the world, is a shoal in Palk Bay between India and Sri Lanka – just 45 metres in length.

An eerie stillness prevailed around us except for the chatter of the few tourists subdued by the sound of waves. There were a few marine birds pecking on the soggy earth searching for food and many sea eagles circling in the air ready to swoop on any prey they could spot in the shallow waters or on the muddy land.

We saw many Hindu pilgrims bathing in the Palk Bay. The Hindus believe that pilgrimage to the holy city of Kashi (Benares / Varanasi) in North India would not be complete without having the ritual bath at the tip of Dhanushkodi, considered a sacred confluence of the Palk Bay and the Indian Ocean, before completing their pilgrimage to Rameswaram.

St. Antony's Church at Dhanuskodi devastated by the cyclone of 1964 (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

St. Antony’s Church at Dhanushkodi devastated by the cyclone of 1964 (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

It was heartrending to see only thatched huts and no buildings with standing walls. The only walls we saw were the dilapidated walls of St. Anthony’s church and of a school devastated during the cyclone of 1964.

Trinkets and ornaments made from seashells (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Trinkets and ornaments made from seashells (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

The main trade other than fishing was the sale of conch shells, and trinkets and ornaments made of shells sold at exorbitant prices to tourists and pilgrims.

Eventually, we left Dhanushkodi around 2:30 pm with a heavy heart after having seen the ravages wrought by the 1964 cyclone.

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