Land of the Gods, The Story of Haryana Author: Arjun Singh Kadian; Publication: Rupa, 2021; Pp 318
Why should Haryana be the land of the Gods? Isn't Devbhumi Uttarakhand? The answer, in Arjun Singh Kadian's words, is the following. "The modern name Haryana could mean Hariyala-Ban (green forest). I am, however, fond of the definition, Hari-Yana (Krishna's chariot) or Hari-Ayana (the abode of Hari/God). It was here in Kurukshetra and its neighbouring regions that the Mahabharata was fought. Lord Krishna also delivered his sermon of Bhagavad Gita to Arjun at Jyotisa, and in Kurukshetra, fell Sati's ankle. The place became a Shakti Peeth or Devi Sthana. The town is known as Sthanesvara in the old records. Sthanesvar means the place of God."
Kurukshetra is now on the tourist map, largely thanks to the Kurukshetra Development Board and International Gita Mahotsav. There are visitors to Brahma Sarovar, Sannihit Sarovar, Jyotisar and the Kurukshetra Panorama Centre. Visitors can witness the daily evening "aarti" that occurs in Brahma Sarovar or the 3D light and sound show in Jyotisar. In contrast, there aren't that many visitors to the Sthaneshwar (Sthanu is Shiva's name), Mahadev Temple or Savitri Shakti Peetha. There are some visitors to Sheikh Chilli's tomb, but few know that behind the tomb are the Capital’s ruins from which the mighty Harsha Vardhana once ruled. The geographical core of the Mahabharata was in the Kuru-Panchala region, in the current States of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh (the Western parts). But that history of Indraprastha, Kurukshetra, Hastinapura, Ahichhatra and Kampilya has been forgotten, and it is worse for parts of UP (Hastinapura, Ahichhatra and Kampilya). These excavations are decades old.
It is important that this history be rewritten and rediscovered. This is Arjun Singh Kadian's debut book. The felicity with which Arjun writes doesn't give this the impression of being a debut book. "Haryana lies on one of the oldest trading routes of India, the Uttarapath, the Kuru, Panchal and Surasena dominated this region during the Mahajanapadas phase of history, and the region was also a part of the Mauryan Empire." One shouldn't give the wrong impression. The eight chapters in this book aren't about that period of Haryana's history. That history finds passing mention in the Introduction. "In the coming chapters, I try to present to you the story of how Haryana transformed itself from the seventeenth century to the second decade of the twenty-first century. The book begins at the close of Aurangzeb's days in India."
The meticulously researched eight chapters are divided into two clear parts; the first four take the reader down to 1947. One of the more interesting chapters in this part is titled "The First War", referring to 1857. The subsequent four chapters in the second part concern the post-1947 era. "The road to modern Haryana begins with the end of the Second World War and the aftermath of the first Brexit." This second part is especially laced with interesting anecdotes written in a racy style. But since this second part is about incidents and individuals most people are familiar with, I am inclined to think the real value addition is in the first part.
Haryana is prone to stereotype, and often, people are unaware of its history and the transition the State has undergone in the last twenty-odd years. The National Capital Region created in 1985, along with a planning board for the region that included the capital Delhi and surrounding regions, helped increase the land's market value
In conclusion, "As we transitioned through the book, you, as a reader, must have noticed the proud history of the state of Haryana." Why this book? From the Introduction, "A misunderstood region! Having heard numerous remarks about Haryana over the years, that is what I feel. Some say that it lacks strong historical roots; a few insist that its origins are recent, yet others snigger that the state's mere claim to fame is that it borders Delhi on three sides."
Yes, Haryana is prone to stereotype, and often, people are unaware of its history and the transition Haryana has undergone in the last twenty-odd years. "You may have noticed how the previous decade began with turmoil, but in the twenty-first century, things began to change and at a very fast pace! The economy was booming, industries were opening shops in the state, and money was circulating; Haryana stood at Delhi's doors to derive maximum benefits. The National Capital Region created in 1985, along with a planning board for the region that included the capital Delhi and surrounding regions, helped increase the land's market value; where did the builders go? (After the Urban Land Ceiling Act of 1976). They crossed borders to Gurgaon. Before anyone knew the real estate game, private builders came, made their own rules, chose their sides, placed their bets and took the largest share of the pie."
Reading between the lines, conversion of agricultural land couldn't have occurred without the complicity and connivance of State governments.
As these quotes illustrate, Arjuna is proud of being from Haryana, justifiably so. This book does an excellent job of documenting the past, and present pride, with the bias, carried on the sleeve.