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Pandit Bisheshwar Nath Kathju

A champion of human values

By Dr. B.N. Sharga

All our holy scriptures lay due emphasis on building up character bB.N. Kathjuy observing certain moral values in life as per old saying that when money is lost nothing is lost, when heath is lost something is lost and when character is lost everything is lost. So naturally to develop this character we have to follow certain rules and regulations to control our desires and behaviour in public life to become a role model for others. For this obviously we have to develop that sense which can easily understand what lie beneath by seeing and not by looking. The basic difference between the two is that when we look we look at the surface only but when we see we see in depth. We generally look with a curious eye at other people's affairs without any concern for them, but when we see at them it is to go deep beyond the surface of things, which reflects our due concern for them. This attitude towards life is only possible when we realize human values in the society and try to inculcate them to make this world a better place for living. Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju was one such person who devoted his entire life for the good of others by following the divine dictate to spread the message of love and compassion among fellow beings by giving due importance to human values and human dignity.

Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju's ancestors were originally Soporey Pandits and used to live in the Sopore town of the Kashmir Valley. They were highly religious and superstitious people. His ancestor Pt. Radha Ram was a highly devoted person and was a shawl merchant. Being a business man he used to organize the langars (community feasts) in the temples, so the people nicknamed him as Langar which subsequently became his surname according to Mohammad Fauq who has done a considerable research work on the nicknames and surnames of the Kashmiri Pandits.

Pt. Radha Ram Langer had a son Bhasker Langer and a grandson Fateh Chand Langer; who is turn had three sons Gulab Ram Langer, Gopal Ram Langer and Hari Ram Langer. Both Gopal Ram Langer and Gulab Ram Langer after attaining their education discontinued their family trade and left their ancestral home to seek government employment. They then came to Srinagar city from Sopore and started living in Kathleshwar Mohalla there. Both these brothers then dropped Langer as their surname and in its place adopted Kathju as their new surname perhaps to signify their new place of residence and occupation to make a new beginning in their life.

Pt. Gulab Ram Kathju had a son Pt. Shiv Ram Kathju and a grandson Pt. Atma Ram Kathju, who after having, his traditional education in Urdu and Persian at Kashmir then came to the imperial capital Delhi for better economic prospects during the rule of Mughal emperor Akbar Shah (1806-1837) around 1820 and started living in Bazaar Sita Ram with his family members. He had two sons Jwala Nath Kathju and Moti Lal Kathju.

Pt. Jwala Nath Kathju was born around 1822 at Delhi. He had his education at the Delhi College and then became an adalti during the Sikh rule in Punjab. When the Punjab kingdom was annexed by the British in 1849 they made Pt. Jwala Nath Kathju an extra assistant commissioner and posted him at Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan). Pt. Jwala Nath Kathju died at Rawalpindi around 1874. He had two sons Brij Nath and Bisheshwar Nath.

Pt. Brij Nath Kathju was born around 1844 at Lahore. He had his education in Government College, Lahore after which he joined the judicial service of the Punjab province and became a deputy collector at Rawalpindi. There were no motor cars in Rawalpindi then Pt. Brij Nath Kathju was the first to buy a Ford car fitted with kerosene lamps on either side as head lights in the city. He had a son Rameshwar Nath and a daughter Lado Rani who was married with Pt. Roop Krishna Aga of Allahabad.

Pt. Rameshwar Nath Kathju was born in 1881. He became an engineer and got employment in TISCO. He was posted at Jamshedpur in Bengal. Pt. Rameshwar Nath Kathju was married with Malti (b-1884) who was the daughter of Pt. Janki Nath Sharga of Kashmiri Mohalla, Lucknow. He had two sons Raj Nath (b-1927) and Kailas Nath (b-1923) besides five daughters Brij Dulari (b-1907) married to Pt. Pyare Mohan Dattatreya of Lahore, Shyam Dulari Muttoo (b-1919), Uma Shuri (b-1913) married to Pt. Jagjivan Prasad Shunglu the son of Pt. Janki Nath Shunglu of Lahore, Kusum Kumari (b-1920) and Kiran (b-1925).

Pt. Jwala Nath Kathju's younger son Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju was born in 1864 at Rawalpindi where his father was posted at that time. He had his education in the Government College, Lahore from where he did his F.Sc. around 1881. His grandmother in the meanwhile became critically ill so to treat her properly he decided to become a medical doctor and took admission in King Edward Medical College, Lahore as he was very much attached to her. But unfortunately his grandmother expired in 1883 before he could become a well qualified doctor. He then left his medical studies half way through and went to Roorkee where his elder brother Brij Nath Kathju was posted as the deputy collector at that time. Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju then took admission in the Thompson Civil Engineering College, Roorkee in 1884 to become an engineer. But after the transfer of his elder brother from Roorkee he left his studies and came back to Rawalpindi in 1886. He then decided to start his own business and established a small sheet metal fabrication factory in 1888 at Rawalpindi in Punjab. This company mainly used to manufacture steel furniture and boxes of very good quality like Godrej. He named his business concern as Indo-European Trading Co., which was an accredited supplier of the office furniture to the government of Punjab during the British period.

Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju then around 1894 became the Tehsildar of the Rawalpindi city on the recommendation of his uncle Pt. Moti Lal Kathju who had very good terms with the British officers. Due to his hard work and integrity he came into the good books of Mr. Radin. When Mr. Radin became a minister in the Bikaner state he brought Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju from Rawalpindi and made him the "Nazim" of Sujangarh in 1917 during the rule of Maharaja Ganga Singh and was entrusted with the job to demarcate the boundaries of the Bikaner state with Bhawalpur and Ganga-nagar.

The city of Bikaner was founded by a Rathore Rajput Bika in 1488 on a slight elevation surrounded by a fine wall crowned with battlements and possessing many lofty houses, temples and a massive fort. The wall 4 miles in circuit is built wholly of stone and has five gates and six sally ports. Bika Rathore was the sixth son of Rao Jodha the chief of Marwar. he is said to have been born in 1439 and twenty six years later, accompanied by his uncle Kandhal, his brother Bida and some other lieutenants of less importance conquered this territory now known as Bikaner from various Rajput clans like Bhatis, Chauhans, Mohils and Johiyas and partly from Jats and Mohammedan converts. Bika built the fort in 1485 which still bears his name. Bika died in 1504 and his successors gradually extended and consolidated their hold on this territory until 1541 when it was invaded by Maldev the chief of Marwar who took into custody Jet Singh the ruler of Bikaner and killed him. Three years later in 1544 Kalyan Singh who was the son of Jet Singh defeated Maldev and recaptured the Bikaner fort.

Kalyan Singh then in 1570 through his emissary approached the Mughal emperor Akbar to seek his help to strengthen his position at Bikaner. Kalyan Singh then to concratize his plan married his daughter to Akbar for getting the latter's full support. Kalyan Singh died in 1571 and was succeeded by his son Rai Singh who became the first Raja of the Bikaner state recognized by the Mughal court. He ruled for forty years upto 1610. He became one of the most trusted generals of Akbar serving in the country around Attock, in Gujrat, Deccan, Sind and some other parts and was rewarded with a grant of 52 villages including Hansi and Hissar. He was the second on the list of top Hindu mansabdars only next to Maharaja of Amer Man Singh. In 1586 he gave his daughter in marriage to prince Salim who subsequently became emperor Jahangir. He built the main fort of Bikaner.

The next important ruler of the Bikaner state was Karan Singh (1631-1669). The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb made him incharge of Deccan, where he founded three villages, Karanpura,, Padampura and Kesari Singhpura, which were handed over to the British in 1904 in exchange of Hansi and Hissar. Karan Singh died in 1669 and was succeeded by his eldest son Anup Singh who captured the Golconda fort from the Marathas and was given the title of Maharaja.

Throughout the eighteenth century there were regular battles between the troops of Bikaner and Jodhpur to expand their respective territories. In 1788 Maharaja Surat Singh somehow succeeded to gain the control of the Bikaner fort from the troops of the Jodhpur state. He then approached the British for the military assistance. But in the same year the second Anglo- Afghan war broke out so the British expressed their inability to provide their troops for Bikaner, although Maharaja Surat Singh personally met Elphinstone and sought his help who was passing through Bikaner on his mission to Kabul.

Between 1809 and 1813 Maharaja Surat Singh became so much vindictive and ruthless towards his subjects that a rebellion broke out in 1815. Under this chaos and confusion Amir Khan appeared on the scene in 1816 and the insurrection became so serious that Maharaja Surat Singh again approached the British for help. A treaty was then signed on March 9, 1818 under which the British troops entered into the Bikaner state to restore law and order. Maharaja Surat Singh died in 1828 and was succeeded by his son Ratan Singh.

Maharaja Ratan Singh helped the British in their military campaigns against the Afghans and Sikhs both in 1845 and 1849. He died in 1851 and was succeeded by his son Sardar Singh. Maharaja Sardar Singh helped the British in the Mutiny of 1857 by giving shelter to the European officers and was duly rewarded by the British in 1861 by the grant of 41 villages in the Sirsa district. Maharaja Sardar Singh died on May 16, 1872. He had no son but had a Sanad for adoption. His principal queen then adopted Dungar Singh as his successor. After the rebellion of the Thakurs in 1833 a permanent Political Agent was located at Bikaner. Maharaja Dungar Singh died in 1887 without any issue, but before his death he adopted his younger brother Ganga Singh as his son. Maharaja Ganga Singh who was born in 1880, became the full fleged ruler of the Bikaner state in 1898.

So under the rule of Maharaja Ganga Singh who was a great visionary Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju came to Bikaner and with his experience, which he gained at the Thompson Civil Engineering College at Roorkee he very successfully completed the work of demarcating the boundaries of the state within a short period of two years. Mr. Radin became very much impressed with the performance of Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju. At that point of time there were only two judges in the Bikaner state to decide the cases. Mr. Radin then created one more post and appointed Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju on it for the quick disposal of the pending cases. Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju then came from Sujangarh to Bikaner city in 1920 and started living with his family members near the railway station in a rented house.

Maharaja Ganga Singh was a very able administrator. He was educated at the Mayo College, Ajmer. He brought the railway line to Bikaner from Punjab, built Ganga Niwas Palace and took part in the British military campaign to China. His state was divided into four nizamats of Bikaner, Rani, Sujangarh and Suratgarh for administration. He brought Manu Bhai Mehta from the Baroda state and made him the first prime minister of the Bikaner state. Manu Bhai Mehta was then entrusted with the task of framing rules and regulations for the Bikaner state service as prior to that there was no such provision and everything was decided on the whims and fancies of the ruler of the state. At that time the retirement age in the British service was 55 years. So Manu Bhai Mehta fixed the retirement age at 58 years for the employees of the Bikaner state. Consequently Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju retired in 1922 after attaining the age of superannuation.

Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju was married around 1892 with Sharika who was the daughter of Pt. Raj Nath Ganju of Lahore. He had six sons Kameshwar Nath, Praneshwar Nath, Narendra Nath, Jitendra Nath, Maheshwar Nath and Brijendra Nath besides a daughter Khima who was married in 1930 with Pt. Tapeshwar Nath Tikku the son of Pt. Prem Nath Tikku who was the inspector general of police of the Kota state.

Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju's eldest son Pt. Kameshwar Nath Kathju was born on 25th December, 1900 at Rawalpindi Pt. K. N. Kathju had his early schooling at Agra College, Agra. After doing his F.Sc. he went to London in 1920 for higher studies. From London he went to America and did his B.Sc. from the Purdue University and M.Sc. in Botany from the lowa State University in 1923. He then married an American lady Renetta E. Hornung. He then joined the Ford Motor Company and permanently settled down in America. He helped the U.S. administration in World War II. He died in U.S.A. in 1946. His daughter Rennic Taylor is still living in California, U.S.A.

Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju's second son Pt. Praneshwar Nath Kathju was born on 26th August, 1901 at Rawalpindi. He did his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Chemistry from Agra College, Agra. He then became a Chemistry teacher in his alma mater. Pt. Praneshwar Nath Kathju was married in January 1937 at Amritsar with Swaroop Rani, who was the younger sister of Mrs. Kamla Nehru and daughter of Pt. Jawahar Mal (Atal) Kaul of Atal House, Bazaar Sita Ram, Delhi. He then on the suggestion of his brother in law Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru joined the Congress Party and started taking part in the freedom movement.

After the independence of the country Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru sent him to Sagar in Madhya Pradesh to establish a university there. On his suggestion the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research established the Central Salt Research Institute at Bhavnagar, which was duly inaugurated on April 10, 1954 by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru the then Prime Minister of India.

In 1955 Pt. Praneshwar Nath Kathju became the Chairman of the Industries Department of the Rajasthan Government. He then built a house on plot no. 44-A on Malviya Marg in Jaipur for the living of his family members. He then became a member of Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan on April 13, 1962 and continued as such till February 21, 1968. He had a fall in 1991 and got his leg fractured. He could not recover from this ailment and died at Jaipur on February 21, 1991. Rajive Gandhi attended his funeral at Jaipur. His wife Mrs. Swaroop Rani (Bhappi) Kathju died two years later in 1993 at Jaipur.

Pt. Praneshwar Nath Kathju had two sons Naresh and Kishan besides a daughter Sheila who is married with Pratap Shunglu, Naresh Kathju is married with Nalini Kaul of Agra and Kishan Kathju is married with Kiran the daughter of Pt. Kameshwar Nath Kaul of Kashmiri Mohalla, Lucknow.

Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju's third son Pt. Narendra Nath Kathju was born around 1908 at Rawalpindi. He had his education at Rawalpindi and then did his B.Com. from Agra College, Agra. He joined the State Bank of Bikaner. He was married in 1937 at Mathura with Balo the daughter of Pt. Harihar Nath Takru of Naryal Wali Gali, Lucknow. He had two daughters Nirmala married to Shrinagar and Rita. Pt. Narendra Nath Kathju died at Bikaner in 1965. His wife Mrs. Balo Kathju died later on in 1980 at Bikaner.

Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju's fourth son Pt. Jitendra Nath Kathju was born on 14th November 1910 at Rawalpindi. He had his education at Rawalpindi, Bikaner and Agra. After completing his studies he joined the Railway Work Shop at Bikaner and became an Instructor. He also worked for sometime in the Railway workshop at Jodhpur. He motivated the KPs of Jodhpur to form an association in 1961. He retired from the railways in 1968. He built a house for his family at 49-E, P.W.D. Colony, Jodhpur. He was a very good sportsman and a dedicated scout during his college days. He was married with Susheela the daughter of Pt. Uttam Narain Wali of Hardoi. He died at Jodhpur at the age of 89 years on 10th January 1999. His wife Mrs. Susheela Wali died earlier at Jodhpur in March 1994 at the age of 79 years.

Pt. Jitendra Nath Kathju had three sons Prem Kathju, Shyam Kathju and Vinod Kathju. Prem Kathju was born in 1945 at Bikaner. He is a mechanical engineer and is working with Bharat Pumps and Compressors at Naini, Allahabad. He is married with Veena the daughter of Pt. Kashi Nath Kaul of Jammu Dr. Shyam Kathju was born in 1947 at Bikaner. He did his doctorate in plant physiology and is now working as head of the division of soil- water plant relationships at Central Arid Zone Research Institute Jodhpur. He is married with Sarita the daughter of Pt. Mahendra Kumar Bhan of Jodhpur. He has two daughters. Archana married to Rohit the son of Pt. Upinder Nath Zutshi of Bhilai and Shashi married to Amitabh the son of Pt. Suraj Narain Shivpuri of Bhopal Dr. Vinod Kathju was born in 1949. He did his M.S. in Orthopaedics from P.G.I. Chandigarh. He is professor of Orthopaedics in the Sampurnanand Medical College, Jodhpur. He is married with Jyoti the daughter of Pt. Ratan Nath Kaul of Jaipur. He had a son Vaibhav and a daughter Jaya.

Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju's fifth son. Dr. Maheshwar Nath Kathju was born in 1914 at Rawalpindi. He did his M.B.B.S. from King George's Medical College, Lucknow in 1941 and then did his M.S. in General Surgery in 1950 from the same institution. He then joined the Bikaner Hospital for gaining practical experience. In 1958 he visited Canada and worked in the hospital for sick children at Toranto to learn the modern expertise in Surgery. He then joined the Ajmer Medical College as the professor of Surgery. After his retirement in 1971 he established Santokbar Dunlabji Memorial Hospital at Jaipur and served in it as doctor cum administrator for another 33 years. He was married with Dhanraj the daughter of Pt. Rajeshwar Nath Kaul of Lahore. He has a son Kapil married to Mukta Taimni of Udaipur and three daughters Pratima married with Onkar Kunzru, Kirti married with Bharat Dhar and Murti married with Ashok Jagdale.

Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju's sixth and youngest son Pt. Brijendra Nath Kathju was born around 1918 at Rawalpindi. He had some health problem due to wrong medication. He was employed in the railways at Bikaner. He was married with Sudha Razdan. He had two sons Deepak and Rajendra and two daughters Geeta married to Brahma Gurtu the son of Pt. Moti Lal Gurtu of Jodhpur and Chitra married to Narendra Karvayon of Ajmer University. Pt. Brijendra Nath Kathju died in 1990 at Bikaner.

Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju was a very simple and down to earth person. He was honest to the core of his heart. When Maharaja Ganga Singh offered him a plot of land to build a house for his family, he very politely declined the offer and preferred to live in a rented house so that the people may not suspect his decisions and their impartiality. He always gave due importance to human dignity.

He was a highly skilled person and never had any hesitation in doing any kind of manual work. Whenever any K.P. of Punjab used to pass by train through Bikaner, he was always there at the railway station with a tiffin box to make their onward journey comfortable and pleasurable. Due to all these benevolent acts he became extremely popular in Bikaner and the people fondly used to address him as judge saheb.

He was the first Kashmiri finger print expert in North India. The other expert was an Englishman. Mr. Hudderd at Allahabad. He was the recognized finger print expert of the Punjab government. He had devised his own photograph enlarger to read the finger prints.

He went to Shekhupura in 1935 with his family to attend the marriage of Raj Nath Kathju. There his wife Mrs. Sharika Kathju developed Cholera and died Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Kathju then went to Lahore to meet his son Dr. Maheshwar Nath Kathju. There he had a fall and fractured his leg. He was then brought back to Bikaner for treatment where he died on 16th April, 1941 at the age of 77 years. Thus a long era of old values and benevolence has come to an end. In the words of Thirukkural, Benevolence seeks not a return, what does the world give back to the clouds.

Kashmiri Writers B.N. Sharga
 

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