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From Kunjargaon to Agra: The Great Kunzru Family of Agra

by G. K. Gurtu

[Reproduced from 'Kashmiri Pandits : A Cultural Heritage '- Edited by Prof.  S. Bhatt]

It is indeed an arduous task to encompass the achievements and contributions of a great family to society in a few pages.  How much my humble venture in this field will give joy and inspiration and satisfaction, I leave this to my readers to judge.  The Kunzru family is one of the few families that I came in close contact with, during my stay in Agra and had the privilege of knowing a little about this distinguished family.

It was Pandit Kirparam who alongwith the members of his family had to migrate from his native home Kunjargaon, in Baramula, Kashmir and after temporary stay in various cities for sometime the family finally opted for Agra and engaged itself in business.  It was a period during which to escape political, economical, social and religious persecution, hundreds of Kashmiri Pandit families were forced to leave their beautiful homeland never to return, but only to cherish the memories of their sweet home amidst snow-capped mountains, the green meadows, the murmuring brooks and the rows of Chinar.  The struggle for survival, retention of Kashmiri culture and traditions and separate entity was long and tortuous.  It was only by dint of industry and intelligence, that the forefathers could carve out a place for themselves in India and abroad.  In the milieu no wonder our mother tongue became a casualty.  The sun heralding fhe dawn of return to homeland and a welcome embrace from our Kashmiri-speaking brethren is yet to come up.  However the years rolled by.  The period of struggle for the family was over.  His son Pandit Kedamath before he settled down in Agra, had served the Jhajjar State (near Delhi) as Dewan.  By the time Pt.  Ajudhianath, the son of Pandit Kedarnath, came on the scene, the family was firmly established, fairly prosperous and had acquired social status.  The firm Kedarath Ajudhianath was a flourishing concern.

Pandit Ajudhianath (1840-1892) was born, brought up and educated in Agra.  He was proficient in Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit and spoke Urdu and English with equal ease.  He was a leading lawyer of the Agra Bar.  He shifted to Allahabad in 1869 after the establishment of High Court there.  He became the first President of Allahabad Bar Association.  In between he attended to and expanded and diversified his family business with acumen, earning fame and fortune.  He was known for his penetrating insight, subtlety of mind, clarity of thought and straight forwardness of expression couched in most dignified language.  He earned the respect of his colleagues and admiration from the bench.

His interests were wide and varied.  His time was divided between professional, business, social and political activities.  He founded the Indian Herald to voice his views on social and political matters.  He was also associated with another paper Indian Union.  He was bold and fearless in his views.  Even in those days in British Raj he advocated participation of Indians in the affairs of the Government.  In view of his position as a leading lawyer, an established businessman and an enlightened person he was nominated to the Legislative Council of the Lt.  Governor of the NorthWest Provinces as a Member from the non-official member side.

Pt. Ajudhianath was drawn towards Congress and became Chairman, Reception Committee in Allahabad.  He was a great organiser.  He addressed meetings in many cities and raised funds for Congress.  He became Joint Secretary of Congress in Bombay.  Some of his close associates were W. C. Bonerjee, A.O. Hume, Pherozshah Mehta, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Madan Mohan Malviya.  He was a forceful orator but neither dogmatic in approach nor communal in attitude.  He held liberal and progressive views and was persuasive in arguments.  He worked for the unity of Hindu and Muslim communities and discouraged the efforts of those who were trying to alienate the two.  He desired that both should come on one platform and work unitedly for the welfare of the country.  It was his sincerity of purpose and honesty of approach which brought people from different communities in large numbers into the fold of Congress.  He was from an orthodox family but he held secular views and kept himself aloof from narrow controversies.  He was respected both by his admirers and critics.

Pandit Ajudhianath took keen interest in education.  He was one of the founder members of the Victoria High School in Agra, a Trustee of Agra College and Senate Member of the Universities of Calcutta and Allahabad.

He was a man of social vision.  He associated himself with various associations which had been formed to discuss topics of current interest.  To save people from debt, degradation and death he voiced his concern against drinking.  The plight of economically poor masses did not escape his attention.  He utilised the forum of Congress to criticism the taxation policy.  He did not approve of child marriage and purdah system.  He desired that girls should also be educated.  He stood for the emancipation of women folk so that they may also participate in nationbuilding.

He was kind hearted towards birds and animals.  He was moved to see sick or wounded animals still yoked to work or lying unattended.  He was highly critical of cock-fighting and quail-fighting as a means of entertainment and could hardly bear the sight of people enjoying the dumb birds entwined in fierce combat, lie bleeding or writhing in pain with limbs broken and once beautiful plumes torn and scattered all around.  His love and concern for mute creatures prompted him to move a Bill for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Alas, he left the stage too soon with many a task unfinished.  In his untimely death the Congress lost an able organiser, India a dedicated leader and society an honest and sincere social worker.  His family and business too received a great set back.  He was well-built and of medium height.  The flowing beard, the penetrating eyes added charm to his graceful personality.  To mourn his sad demise meetings were organised, rich tributes were paid and resolutions were passed to record his selfless service to society, the nation and the Congress.

Pt. Rajnath, the eldest son of Pandit Ajudhianath, by his second wife, was then a minor.  He was born on 14th August, 1884.  He studied upto Intermediate Class.  He was well-versed in Urdu, Persian, English and Hindi and spoke all the languages with equal command.  He was an active student during his college days.  He acted in dramas organised by the College.  His interest in acting continued even after his college days.  He took part in games and was fond of physical exercises.  He established an Akhara in his house and invited young boys of his locality to joiru It is still functioning.  He was married in 1900 at the age of sixteen.  He was only twentysix years old when his wife died in 1910 due to pneumonia fever leaving behind three sons and two daughters.  The responsibility of bringing up his children along with his brothers and sisters fell on his shoulders.  He did not marry again in their interest.  This early responsibility developed in him a loving and friendly nature with a life.  Numerous Kashmiri and non-Kashmir boys availed of the benefit of his benevolence.  Quite a few of them even stayed in his house for years, to complete their education.

Pandit Rajnath took up contract work for a living because his family business had by now, due to various factors, wound up.  From 1906 to 1912 he was engaged in the job of construction of buildings.  The present house was constructed during this period.  In 1914 he established a firm Kunzru and Dattatriya in partnership with Pandit Sharka Prasad Kaul to manufacture carpets and durries.  This continued till 1918.  From 1920 to 1932 he worked as Manager, Benaras Bank, Agra Branch.  In between he looked after and consolidated his agricultural land.

By the time Pandit Rajnath made his public appearance he was well established and much respected.  He too, like his father, was drawn towards Congress, though later on he felt disenchanted and so withdrew.  The idea of strikes and Satyagrahs did not appeal to him.  He subscribed to the view of 'first deserve then desire' and as such advocated hard work and sincere approach.  However in 1916 he alongwith his brothers and like-minded people organised Home Rule League and addressed meetings and organised processions.

Pandit Rajnath is known to the people of Agra as an educationist.  He took keen interest in the field of education.  He was in the management Committee of Agra College, Raja Balwant Singh College, Shobia Mohmadia College and Mufid-a-Am Inter College for years.  He served as Manager, Thakur Biri Singh Intermediate College, Tundla; Annie Beasant College, Krishna Ashram, Allahabad and Victoria High School, Agra.  He was instrumental in raising the last named school to the present status of an Intermediate College in 1966.  The present building of this College which stands on a piece of land donated by the Raja Saheb of Awagarh speaks of his dedicated efforts and the esteem he was held in, by the Raja Saheb.  It was his keen interest and sincere service to the cause of education which elevated him to the membership of Educational Re-organisation Conunittee for Intermediate Education in 1960.  He was also nominated a member of the Executive Committee of Agra University.

Pandit Rajnath served the cause of trade and industry.  He had a clear vision about the role and importance as well as future need of co-operatives as an instrument of progress and prosperity.  His becoming a member of Organisation Committee for Industrial Co-operative Store and President, Quality Marked Footwear Manufacturers Co-operative Association Ltd.  Agra speaks of his interest in this sector.  He encouraged handloom cloth weavers to organise themselves into co-operative societies so that their goods could be sold through co-operative stores to their profit.

Pandit Rajnath having inherited from his father zeal for social service added a new chapter in dedicated and selfless service.  Inspite of various engagements he found time and directed his energies in this direction.  In 1918 he founded The Sewa Samiti in Agra.  During that period Agra was in the grip of plague and dengu fever.  People had begun to move out of the town leaving behind valuables, the sick and the dead unattended.  He worked tirelessly during those critical days.  He organised relief operations and supervised relief measures.  He remained present on the spot to do the difficult job of checking any mischief by unsocial elements, moving the sick to hospitals, distributing free medicines and removing the dead for cremation or burial besides keeping night-watch over houses left vacant by fleeing people.  He set up safety squads.  His brothers, Pts.  Gopinath, Dinanath and Keshonath-too, joined him in this humanitarian work.  The risk of catching infection did not deter him from this work.  He had the unique distinction of continuing as the Secretary of The Sewa Samiti from 1918 to 1970.  He was a member of Viceroy's National Defence Committee from 1940 to 1945 and in that capacity, visited Middle-East as an observer to assess the problems of Indian troups stationed there.  He joined Rotary Club as a Member and rose to become the Governor of the District thirty-six and went to America in 1958 on invitation.  He was also an ardent member of The Theosophical Society and actively participated in its deliberations.  He was a member of Ram Lila Committee from 1913 to 1926 and its President from 1927 to 1971 and gave his full time to the Ram Lila Celebrations.

Pandit Rajnath was a religious man.  But he was not an orthodox.  He held liberal views.  He respected all religions and attended functions and celebrations of other communities to share their joys.  He helped all those who sought his help.  He kept himself aloof from controversies.  He was loved and respected by members of other communities.  He was equally a ease with children and grown-ups.  He was jovial and playful in the company of children and grave and philosophical among older people.  Though be held strong views on some matters he was always responsive to reason.

A self-made and fearless man, Pt.  Rajnath was fair complexioned, well built and of medium height.  He was a proud possessor of graceful personality with a deep voice which carried the force of conviction. he was a good orator.  His high forehead, long nose and trimmed white beard presented a picture of a noble soul.  He wore Sherwani and Chitridar and a matching cap adorned his head.  He was almost a father figure to the Kasbmiri Samaj, Agra.  He lived up to the ripe old age of about eighty-eight years quietly fulfilling the mission of selfless service with all the sincerity and dedication under his command.  He breathed his last in Agra on 19th December, 1971, after a brief post-operation illness.  His death left a void in the field of dedicated social service.  People of Agra still remember him with love and respect.  He was truely a torch bearer of his late father.

Who has not heard of Dr. Hirdaynath Kunziu?  Handsome with well-cut features, curly hairs and a medium height, Dr. Hirdaynath, the second son of late Pt.  Ajudhianath and younger brother of Pt. Rajnath, presented a picture of academic grace.  He radiated intellectuality.  Anyone who came in his contact was immediately impressed by his encyclopaedic knowledge.  Clarity of thought, straight forwardness of expression and brevity were the hall mark of his speeches.  People listened to him with rapt attention.

Dr. Hirdaynath was bom in 1886.  He was the favourite child of the family.  He was lean and thin in his childhood and very quiet by nature.  He was educated at Agra and Allahabad.  Inspite of his weak constitution he was very studious and devoted to his studies.  He was a voracious reader and was blessed with superb memory.  Reading was his lifeing hobby and he was seen engrossed in books.  His only complaint in the evening of his life was his failing eyesight due to which he was unable to read much.  He went to England and took B.A. and B.Sc. degrees, with specialisation in Political Science.  An honorary Doctorate was conferred upon him in recognition of his services.  He also became a Member of the Senate and the Courts of the Universities of Agra, Allahabad and Benaras.

Dr. Hirdaynath was married in 1908.  Tragedy, however, struck him when he was only twenty-five.  His wife expired during child birth in 1911 and unfortunately, the child also died after six months.

He was greatly upset, and like his elder brother, did not marry again.  Instead he decided to dedicate his life to social and political work.  Shri Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a close friend of the family, exercised great influence upon him.  It was Gokhale who asked for Dr. Hirdaynath from latter's mother for the service of the nation.  As such, from 1916 onwards he devoted himself to the service of mankind.

Dr. Hirdaynath joined Servants of India Society, Poona, which was founded by Gokhale.  He worked as volunteer during Kumbh Mela at Hardwar, Allahabad, Nasik and at other places.  He rose to become the President of this Society.  The sphere of his dedicated service expanded.  He joined All India Sewa Samitil Allahabad and later on became its President.  He continued to serve the poor, the needy and the destitute.  He felt happy to be of any service to others.  He was a very disciplined worker.  He had great respect for elders.  He was a man of determination.  He never tolerated indiscipline, insincerity and flattery or sycophancy.

Dr. Hirdaynath founded the Sewa Samiti Boy Scouts Association in Allahabad.  The idea behind this movement was to mould school-going children into the service of the society.  He wanted youthful energy to be employed and some constructive work.  He advocated participation, organised camps and addressed rallies.  His efforts paid dividends.  The movement became popular and spread far and wide.  He ultimately rose to become Chief Scout after the death of Chief Scout Pandit Madan-Mohan Malviya.

Dr. Hirdaynath too, was attracted towards Congress but later on withdrew from it alongwith Shri T. B. Sapru, Srinivas Shastri, M. M. Malviya, C. Y. Chintamani and J. N. Mulla.  However, he rose to become a leading political figure by his hard work.  He was member of the U. P. Assembly as Independent candidate from Muzaffar Nagar and was a member of Upper House of Parliament for many years.  He was a staunch nationalist. He advocated equality and justice for all even during British Raj days.  He was against colonisation and slavery.  He was of liberal views and preferred discussions to agitations.  The conditions of the colonies, Armed Forces and Finance were subjects of his special interest and attention.  He actively participated in the debates and always came fully prepared.  It was hard to contradict him on facts and figures.  His speeches were marked by clarity of thought and straight-forward approach.  He could never be cowed down by the high and mighty.

People heard him with rapt attention and in pindrop silence.  They were awed by his masterly and accurate presentation of the subject under discussion on the floor of the House.  Even those who held opposite view respected him and never questioned his sincerity.  His elevation to the presidentship of Council of World Affairs speaks of his interest in the world affairs as well as the esteem he was held in by the people.

Dr. Hridayanath was a deeply religious and God fearing man.  Bhagwat Gita exercised greatest influence upon him.  He believed in simple living and was always humble.  He was a true Nishkam Karm Yogi.  He too, like his elder brother, lived upto the ripe old age of about ninety-two years fulfilling the task of serving humanity assigned to him by Almighty till his end.  Inspite of his failing eyesight and weak body his mental faculties were clear and sharp.  He was constantly thinking of the country, its people and the work that remained to be completed.  The concern for the welfare of the people made his agitating mind restless.  The end came suddenly on 3 April, 1978.  He died peacefully at his home, in Agra and with it rested the body and soul of a tireless worker.

Affectionately called as 'Chand Bhai' by Kashmiris and 'Chand Babu' by non-Kashmiris, Pt.  Chandra Mohan Nath, the eldest child of Pandit Rajnath, was bom on 24 October, 1902 and was broughtup and educated in Agra.  He had his early grooming by a tutoress Mrs. Fantham.  He was an average student but a good sportsman and represented his college in numerous matches and tournaments.  He took part in college debates and dramas.  His favourite games were football and hockey though he was equally proficient in Basket Ball, Volley Ball, Table Tennis and Cricket.  He served the cause of sportsmen by becoming a referee in 1923 and remaining so till 1954, which speaks of his popularity, impartiality and expertise among sportsmen.  In that capacity he visited places like Karachi, jodhpur and Secundrabad.  He was very strict and impartial on the playground and his decisions were rarely challenged.  He was married in Lucknow on 3 May, 1936 and is blessed with one son, (Dr.  Krishna Mohan, a surgeon in England) and two daughters.

Pt. Chandra Mohan Nath began his career as a teacher in 1931.  From 1938 to 1942 he was an insurance man.  In December 1943 he joined the Royal Indian Air Force from where he was released in February 1952 as Ft.  Lieutanant.  Thereafter he established New York Blacking Co. in partnership to manufacture shoe polish etc.  In this business he remained from 1952 to 1971.  However, during this period he assisted his father and did whatever little social service he could do.  This was a tradition he had inherited from his family.  Helping others came to him instinctively.  He joined The Sewa Samiti Agra and is its Secretary since 1972.  He is an active member of Ram Lila Conunittee.  Since 1969 he is associated with Kashmiri Samaj, Agra.  Presently he is Patron of the Samaj.  He is an eagerly sought after person on the occasion of social and cultural gatherings and he discharges his duties with pleasure inspite of his advancing age.  For decades he has been doing this service.  The tradition of helping young boys who come to town for studies is still continuing.  All those who come find a welcome smile and a comfortable roof.  The poor and the needy, at times, are assisted with a little monetary help too.  Since he is a health enthusiast he invites boys to join Akhara.  He is a believer in the maxim of 'healthy body breeds a healthy mind'.

Pt. Chandra Mohan Nath is a nonpolitical and religious man.  He has simple taste and lives a simple life.  To him service to humanity is service to God.  He is an upholder of dignity of labour.  He loves children.  They eagerly await his arrival and crowd him to hear interesting anecdotes told in an interesting manner.  Older people also consult hirn on matters of importance.  Distributing free homoeopathic medicines and gardening are his hobbies.  Attending to patients or watering or trinuning plants are conunon sight in the morning.  Although eighty-four, he is still active and visits people in the town enquiring about their weffare, offering advice and helping solve their problems besides looking after his family agricultural land.  He is truly, a standard-bearer of the great traditions of his noble family.  We are sure the young generation will emulate his example of dedicated and selfless social service.

Source: Vitasta

 
 

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