The Ancient Game Of Ganjifa Cards

By Mansee Jain

Games have always been an important part of life, irrespective of the era and geography. People play games not only to amuse themselves but also as a means for socializing. Card games meet both these criteria and are not physically strenuous either, so they have been very popular among all people through the ages.

One such card game is the Ganjifa that originated in Persia. The game got its name from the Persian word ‘Ganjifeh,’ which means playing cards.

The journey of the game

This game was brought to India by the Mughals in the sixteenth century. After being introduced in India, various forms of the game emerged and its cards began to take a distinctive shape. Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kashmir and Mysore all had their own versions of Ganjifa. Sawantwadi Ganjifa was played in Maharashtra and Navadurga Ganjifa was developed in Orissa among many others. The most popular decks were the Mughal Ganjifa and later the Dashavatara Ganjifa.

The deck

A Ganjifa deck consists of various suits, the number for which depends on the type of Ganjifa being played. Mughal Ganjifa has ninety-six cards with twelve cards in each of the eight suits. Dashavatar Ganjifa has ten suits, each with ten to twelve cards. As per the name, each suit depicts one avatar or incarnation of Vishnu. You even have a Rashi Ganjifa deck with the cards based on the signs of the zodiac.

The playing cards for Ganjifa are typically circular. However, depending on the imagination of the artist, you can come across some rectangular decks too. Typically, each suit consists of one King, one Wazir, and ten cards numbered from one to ten. The suits are of two kinds – strong and weak. In both, the King is the strongest, and the Wazir is the second-strongest card. However, while in one, the order goes from ten as the strongest to one as the weakest, in the other, it is reversed.

Illustration: Mansee Jain
Let’s Play Ganjifa

With such diversity in the number of cards, the playing styles and rules also vary across regions. In one style of the game, after the cards are distributed, the active player puts down a card, and the rest of the players have to put down cards of the same suit (or if that is unavailable, of a different suit). The player with the highest value card from the suit wins the trick and becomes the active player. The person to win the most tricks becomes the winner of the game.

The art in the game

The cards were traditionally made in two ways. A version for the rich, which was made on stone-inlaid ivory etched in enamelled silver, gold or tortoise shell with sandalwood pieces was called Darbar kalam. The other, known as the Bazar kalam, was made for the general public. It used materials such as wood, palm leaf, stiffened cloth, or pasteboard and was much cheaper. The cards were painted by hand using natural colours. This game delighted both the rich and poor.

In contemporary times

With the advent of the Western card games, and the easily available printed deck of cards, these painstakingly made cards and the intricate games associated with them have slowly faded into oblivion. Ganjifa is barely surviving and that too as an art form. It has all but lost its value as a game.

To prevent the art from dying and to spread knowledge about Ganjifa, the Chitrakatha Parishath in Karnataka released a book in November 2019 titled ‘Splendours of Ganjifa Art.’

It is sad to see this game lose its popularity. Art and culture are something that we all must strive to preserve and cherish. Hopefully, people will understand and support the revival and growth of not only Ganjifa, but other similar arts as well.

Lesser-Known Facts About Kalpana Chawla

By Srinidhi Murthy

On December 5, 1997, Kalpana Chawla returned from space and the world celebrated the successful flight of the first Indian woman in space. Here are some interesting facts about this woman who died living her dreams.

Illustration: Shyam Desai | Script: Margie Sastry
Kalpana chose her own name

Kalpana was the fourth child of Bansari Lal and Sanyogita, born on July 1, 1961. Fondly called Monto, the little girl spent her childhood in a joint family of sixteen members living under the same roof. When it was her time to start her education, Monto was given the option to choose her own name by the school principal. Monto chose the name Kalpana, the name which later became the pride of India.

She was interested in learning almost everything.

Kalpana loved writing poetry and participated in school dances. She played outdoor games like volleyball and adapted herself to the latest fashion. She learned Karate long enough to earn a black belt and loved reading books. In her later years, Kalpana spent her leisure time trying to learn the Indian classical dance, Bharatanatyam. She also loved to go biking on full moon nights.

The first girl in her college to take up aeronautical engineering
Illustration: Shyam Desai | Script: Margie Sastry

Kalpana took her family members by surprise when she announced that she was determined to earn her degree in Aeronautical Engineering at Punjab Engineering College. Apart from the college being away from Karnal, her hometown, there were no other girls enrolled in the Aeronautical Engineering course that year. Seeing her determination, Kalpana’s mother accompanied her to Chandigarh for her admission to show her support. Even at the time of admission, Kalpana refused to consider any course other than Aeronautical Engineering to the great surprise of the college principal.

She had a passion for flying

When she lived in Karnal, Kalpana and her brother often passed through the Flying Club of Karnal, and even had a one-time opportunity to be on a glider ride arranged by her father. This experience increased her love for flying. But due to her short height, she was able to fly only smaller planes. Eventually, she got a commercial pilot’s license for single-engine, double engine planes, and also an Instructor’s license.

Illustration: Shyam Desai | Script: Margie Sastry
She was among the twenty-three astronauts selected for NASA

Kalpana was not selected as an astronaut when she applied to NASA the first time. Her second attempt was fruitful and she was among the twenty-three people selected for training as an astronaut. It was a dream come true for Kalpana as she got the job for which there were around two thousand nine hundred applicants.

The first space journey 

On November 17, 1997, Kalpana started the journey of her first space mission as a mission specialist, who coordinated various activities of the shuttle. She was a part of a six-astronaut-crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight named STS-87.  The shuttle returned successfully on December 5. After the return, Kalpana commented that she felt like Alice in Wonderland.

Preparation for the second mission

Kalpana was selected again as a mission specialist and flight operator for STS-107. The mission was delayed for several months. It was an important mission as it was the twenty-eighth trip into space of the Space Shuttle Columbia. The astronauts had to complete eighty experiments as a part of the procedure. At the beginning of her journey, Kalpana had selected her favourite music for the flight and also took her school and college mementoes.

Read the complete life story of Kalpana in our title Kalpana Chawla. Now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Flipkart, Amazon, and other major e-tailers. 

Rana Sanga (1482-1528)

Rana Sanga was the king of Mewar who is accredited for reuniting several Rajput clans and creating a stalwart Rajput association. Despite being the son of a king, things didn’t come easy to him. He had to work through many challenges including a strained relationship with his brothers and betrayal of his trusted lead.

The greed for the throne 
Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Rana Raimal ruled Mewar in the early half of the sixteenth century. He was a kind and valiant king who upheld the glorious history and tradition of his kingdom. However, his three sons Sanga, Prithviraj and Jaimal often quarrelled with each other with regards to the succession of the throne. These quarrels troubled the king who wanted his sons united for the sake of his kingdom. The king also blamed his brother-in-law Surajmal for setting the princes against one another.

The tragedy at the temple
Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

The three brothers Sanga, Jaimal and Prithviraj went to Charani Devi temple to listen to the oracle speak about the next successor of Mewar’s throne. The priest informed the princes that the goddess will answer their question through her attendant. The attendant pointed to the tiger skin on which Sanga was sitting and Surajmal was resting a knee. Prithviraj was furious with the outcome that Sanga was destined to rule Mewar. In his fury, he drew his sword and charged at Sanga. In his defence, Surajmal leapt forward and received the blow instead. Sanga, shocked by the turn of events and not wanting to get involved in a fight in the temple, ran out and mounted his horse. Seeing this, Prithviraj aimed an arrow and hit Sanga in one eye, blinding it for life.

The crowned king of Mewar

Sanga, defeated and injured, joined a group of Rajput rebels under disguise. Sanga withdrew from fighting his brothers over the throne as he felt it would only benefit the enemies of Mewar. After a while, Sanga married the daughter of the chief of the rebels, revealing his true identity to them. In the meantime, Sanga received the news of the deaths of his brothers and decided to return to his kingdom. Rana Raimal was delighted to have his son back when he had lost all hopes for him. After the death of Rana Raimal, Sanga was crowned as King Rana Sanga of Mewar.

Victory over the Sultan
Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Under the rule of Rana Sanga, Mewar reached the summit of its prosperity. Sanga wanted to capture Delhi when he saw the decline of Ibrahim Lodi’s reign. At the same time, Mahmood Khilji, the Sultan of Malwa, invaded Mewar. Rana Sanga fought with great valour and defeated the forces of Khilji. Rana Sanga even treated the defeated Khilji with the respect deserved by a king. Khilji had to cede four provinces before Sanga released him.

Betrayal and defeat

In April 1526, Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi to capture Delhi. Rana Sanga immediately started the preparations for war in Chittor. In March 1527, the forces of Babur and Rana Sanga met on the battlefield of Khanwa. The Babur’s men met with strong resistance and the reinforcements sent by Babur too made a hurried retreat. On the second day of the battle, Babur met Shiladitya, the emissary sent by Rana Sanga. Babur offered him Chittor in return for his help to win the war. Overcome by greed, Shiladitya agreed to side with Babur.

Unaware of this betrayal by Shiladitya, Rana Sanga appointed him to lead the frontal attack. Soon at the battlefield, Rana Sanga realized the treachery when his forces joined Babur to attack Chittoor. Since a major part of his army was under Shiladitya’s command, Rana Sanga had to abandon his fort and retreat into the hills. Due to the loss of his land and defeat, Rana Sanga’s health worsened and he died at Vasva, a small village in the hills, with the regret of not being able to defend his land.

Read the full story of Rana Sanga on the ACK Comics App. Also available on Kindle, Amazon, Flipkart, and other major e-tailers. 

5 Women Environmentalists of India

By Srinidhi Murthy 

Our country’s natural flora and fauna are some of our biggest treasures. Sadly, protection of the environment is not one of our biggest concerns as a nation, even if it is an urgent need. But some activists and campaigners make it their life’s mission to speak for the voiceless plants and animals and raise awareness about their cause. Here are five such women who gave their all to this cause.

Tulsi Gowda
Illustration: Amal C. Vijay

Tulsi Gowda, an Indian Environmentalist from Honnali Village in Karnataka, has nurtured more than forty thousand trees and is actively involved in the afforestation program of the Forest Department. At the age of 72, she is still determined to plant saplings and nurture them till they grow into trees. Despite having no formal education, she has made huge contributions towards preserving the environment. She was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India, on January 26, 2020.

Almitra Patel
Illustration: Amal C. Vijay

The 84-year-old Almitra Patel is an anti-pollution activist and Environmental Policy Advocate. During her school days, Almitra was among the first girls to study science in Barnes High School, Deolali. Her legacy continued in 1959 when Almitra became the first Indian woman engineer to graduate from MIT. She worked in the fields of abrasives and cement tile Industries for the next three decades. During the 1970s, Patel was involved in issues concerning the environment that included saving the Gir Lions, protecting Ulsoor Lake, solid waste management, and building low-cost homes. She joined two Clean India campaigns by road in 1994 and 1995 and filed a countrywide PIL to implement hygienic waste management. In 1996, she was appointed to a Supreme Court Committee for Solid Waste Management. Almitra Patel was instrumental in the drafting of the country’s first Municipal Solid Waste Management Rule that requires minimizing waste to landfill by recycling dry waste.

Rahibai Popere
Illustration: Amal C. Vijay

Known as Seed Mother, Rahibai Popere is from Kombhalne village in Maharashtra. Though she had no formal education, she has worked on farms and gained a detailed understanding of crops. When her grandchild fell ill, Rahibai was sure that it was caused due to the hybrid seeds in the foodgrains. She warned her sons against the usage of hybrid seeds. To counter this, she began to conserve native seeds. She conserved over forty-three acres of farmland where she had grown seventeen crops. She also opened a seed bank in her house for the conservation of crop diversity. Soon, the local farmers started buying seeds from her bank as Rahibai also shared her knowledge and trained them using her methods to manage fertile soil and pests. Popere was awarded Nari Shakti Puraskar in 2018 and the Padma Shri in 2020.

Saalumarada Thimmakka
Illustration: Amal C. Vijay

Saalumarada Thimmakka may have received no formal education but a US environmental organization has honoured her by naming themselves after her in Los Angeles, California and Oakland. Thimmakka is an Indian Environmentalist from Karnataka known for her work in planting three hundred and eighty-five banyan trees along a 4 km stretch of highway. Saalumarada, who earlier worked as a casual labourer, started planting saplings with her husband as there were plenty of banyan trees near her village. She started planting ten in the first year, fifteen in the second, and gradually increased to twenty in the third year. In 2019, three hundred and eighty-five banyan trees were planted by her that came under threat of being cut for the project of widening of the Bagepalli-Halaguru road. Following the request of Thimmakka, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy reconsidered the project. Thereafter, the government decided to look for alternatives to save the seventy years old trees. In 2016, Saalumarada Thimmakka was listed by BBC as one of the most influential and inspirational women in the world. She was also honoured with the Padma Shri and National Citizen’s award in 2019 by the Indian government.

Licypriya Kangujam
Illustration: Amal C. Vijay

Hailing from Manipur, Licypriya Kangujam is a child environmental activist and one of the youngest environmental activists in the world. At the age of seven, Kangujam began raising her voice against the problem of climate change. Licypriya has been campaigning to pass new laws to control India’s pollution levels and to make it mandatory to create awareness about climate change in schools. In June 2019, she protested in front of the parliament of India for the passing of the climate change law in India. With the support of activists like Greta Thunberg, Luisa Neubauer, Loukina Tille and Isabelle Axelsson, Licypriya published a letter addressing the participants at the World Economic Forum calling on governments, banks, and companies across the world to stop subsidizing fossil fuels immediately. She was awarded the Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Children Award, World Children’s Peace Prize, and Rising Star of Earth Day Network in 2019 . In February 2020, she addressed the TEDxSBSC held at the University of Delhi.


Cheraw: The Traditional Bamboo Dance of Mizoram

By Mansee Jain

Cheraw Dance
Illustration: Manseee Jain

Cheraw or the ‘Bamboo Dance’ is part of the great traditions of Mizoram, characterised by the use of bamboo staves to set the rhythm for the dancers. The dance is believed to have existed since the 1st century C.E. Earlier, it was performed as part of rituals to provide peace to the departed soul of a mother who had left her new-born child. Now, however, the dance is performed on various festive occasions such as the Chapchar Kut, a spring-time festival. The festival is held in March every year, during the period when bamboo trees are cut and left to dry so that they can be burnt to clear the fields for agricultural purposes. The process is also known as ‘jhum’.

The Cheraw performers usually dance in groups of six to eight, though the numbers can vary. Two bamboo staves are placed horizontally on the ground. The male performers, who are in pairs, hold two bamboo staves and clap them against each other and on the floor rhythmically. Meanwhile, the female performers dance and weave in between the bamboos to the rhythm. 

The dance steps are said to be inspired by the movements seen in nature, such as the swaying of trees and the flight of birds. While the fast and skillful movements of the performers are awe-inspiring, the colourful costumes worn by them add to the beauty of the dance. The women wear a Thihna (necklace), a Vakiria (head-dress made of bamboo and decorated with bright objects such as feathers), a Kawrchei (blouse), and a Puanchei (sarong), both in white, red, green, and black colours. The men wear a bandana and a Mizo shawl.

Cheraw is slowly gaining fame on the international stage. In 2010, the dance form figured in the Guinness Book of World Records. Ten thousand seven hundred and sixty-three people danced together for eight minutes, making it the largest dance ensemble ever on the globe. While only around two thousand dancers could be accommodated in the Assam Rifles field, over eight thousand dancers performed along a three-kilometre stretch of road in Aizawl, the capital city of Mizoram. 

Cheraw was also featured during the International Dance Day programme organized by the Church of Scientology in London on 27 April, 2019. The programme promoted art, culture, and empowerment of tribal communities in India. The Garo dance from Meghalaya, Siddi dance from Karnataka, and Pavara dance from Maharashtra were also performed during the event. 

It’s heart-warming to find that Cheraw is slowly gaining the recognition it deserves. It is a beautiful art form requiring great skill, dedication, and hard work to master. The bamboo’s rhythmic sounds, occasionally accompanied by gongs and drums, along with the dancers’ grace and synchronization, is a feast for the senses.

Hari Govind Govil (1899-1956)

Hari Govind Govil
Illustration: Arghadeep Biswas

Hari Govind Govil might not be a familiar name to most, but unbeknownst to us, his work has been witnessed by almost every Indian. Govil is the developer of the typeface for the Devanagari script, also dubbed as the “Hindu Font”, which can be used to type many vernacular languages such as Sanskrit, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Bihari, Rajasthani, Nepali as well as Hindi. The Constitution, in 1950, stated that the Hindi language in Devanagari script is the official language of the Union of India. Govil’s invention continues to be of extreme importance in various fields such as education, literature, journalism and bureaucracy, but the story behind this invention is one of chance!

Born as one of seven children in an impoverished family in Bikaner, Hari Govind Govil’s childhood was difficult. His mother had to pawn her jewellery to secure the children’s elementary education. Even as a young boy, Govil was ambitious and driven. When he secured a scholarship to Banaras Hindu University, he found himself disillusioned with the way he was being taught. Govil believed that the Indian education system was rigid and unimaginative, and hence, unfit for him. As the final examination for his bachelor’s degree approached, Govil was sure that he would not pass.

This strong dislike for the Indian way of education did not dissuade Govil’s pursuit of knowledge. He decided that he should move to America, as their system was more flexible and suited his needs. He did not have enough resources to fund his travel, so he approached many merchants, posing to be a “Carrier of India’s culture” to the western world. Somehow, his pitch worked, and the merchants gave Govil a thousand rupees to journey to America.

Govil’s journey from India to America was a miraculous one. The first leg of his journey was to Marseilles, which left him with only 4 rupees! A kind merchant who was in the vessel took an interest in him and bought him a ticket to London. In this big city, Govil was closer to his destination but left with no money. By chance, he learnt about the Indian mill-owner and businessman Ambalal Sarabhai and approached him with his proposition. Sarabhai was impressed by Govil’s sincerity and bought him a second-class ticket to America.

On September 5, 1920, and after almost 2 years of travel, Hari Govind Govil had finally reached the land of his dreams. In 1923, he started publishing a fortnightly magazine called The Orient, to promote Indian art, music and culture. He met and married his wife Annette Goldberg, in 1924. In the same year, he founded the India Society of America with the purpose of broadening the understanding between the people of the two countries through the study of Indian culture, languages and art forms and also by getting a realistic knowledge of the Indian way of life.

Govil’s experimentations with printing technology began around 1930. The Devanagari script is written in such a way that the vowels appear around the consonants, so there is no variation in spellings or pronunciation. Moreover, compared to the English alphabet which consisted of a mere 26 characters, many languages that used the Devanagari script required about 700 to 2,000 different characters! As this was not possible for the machine to satisfy these conditions, Govil worked hard to reduce the number of characters for the typesetting format. He did so by breaking down many elements of the script so that they could be interchanged and matched to form complete characters.

To execute this groundbreaking innovation, Govil worked with the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in New York. Developing a cheaper, more efficient printing technology for a whole new set of characters was not easy, so he required the support and cooperation of many people. Together, they created a standard 90-key Linotype machine, which was patented and then demonstrated widely in India.

As a native of India, Govil was the natural choice for introducing this technology to the Indian markets, but his bosses were not completely convinced. However, their investigations about his qualifications and background led them to entrust him with this responsibility.

Although a staunch nationalist, Hari Govind Govil was able to diplomatically tackle the social and political hurdles to successfully demonstrate the technology and bring customers in. The lack of trained operators, staff and the difficulties in advertising were also major concerns. Moreover, Govil’s demonstrations of the new system inspired fierce competition from the Monotype and Intertype companies, which was a huge challenge for the Linotype company.

To address this, Mergenthaler invested a considerable amount of money for studying and developing the Devanagari script for the Linotype. The company was determined to remain the only one in the market for as long as possible. To cement this, when Hari Govind Govil received the patent for his typographical font, he assigned it to the Mergenthaler Mergenthaler Linotype Company of New York.

Between 1939 and 1947, the British arrested and detained Govil in India. During this time, his wife succumbed to a fatal bout of malaria. Upon his release in 1947, he decided to return to New York City. Afterwards, he collaborated with the Intertype Corporation of Brooklyn and with International Business Machines to develop a Devanagari Fotosetter Machine, to adapt Devanagari for the typewriter. Other inventions of Govil include a perpetual calendar and a clasp and tag, that he patented in 1931 and 1933 respectively.

Artists of Change – Dulari Devi and Ramchandra Manjhi

Dulari Devi and Ramchandra Manjhi, two folk artists from the state of Bihar, have battled all odds to pursue their passion. Their stories show us that anything can be achieved with hard work and perseverance. 

Dulari Devi
Dulari Devi
Illustration: Anvita Tekriwal

For Dulari Devi, an eminent Madhubani painter, life has not always been colourful. Madhubani painting is an art style from the Mithila region of Bihar, hence, it is also called Mithila painting. Her parents were not economically sound and her childhood was tough. After getting married, she again went through a lot of hardships. From losing her new-born to getting abandoned by her husband, she faced many misfortunes. She was sent back to her paternal house and had to take up odd jobs to make a living. 

Things took a turn when Dulari started working as a maid at the house of a well-known Madhubani artist, Mahasundari Devi. She got interested in Madhubani paintings. Mahasundari noticed this and helped her pursue a government-offered Mithila painting course. At her employer’s place, she met another popular Madhubani artist, Karpuri Devi who, fortunately for her, became her mentor and a motherly-figure. 

Little did Dulari know, this skill would prove to be a boon for her and the art form itself. Her brush proved to be her voice. With every stroke, she brought to life various scenes from everyday life. As her passion for painting grew, she expanded her subjects and started painting mythological figures too. To date, she has created over seven thousand paintings and has taught numerous children across the country through government programmes. For her dedication towards her work and for conserving this indigenous art, she will be receiving the prestigious Padma Shri award this year. 

Ramchandra Manjhi 
Ramchandra Manjhi
Illustration: Anvita Tekriwal

The great exponent of the forgotten dance form ‘Launda Naach’, Ramchandra Manjhi is another artist of change. Launda means a boy and Naach means dance, the name literally describes the folk art, where boys or men dress as women and entertain through music, dance, and theatre. The origin of this folk dance can be traced back to the 11th century when women were not allowed in public places. 

Bhikari Thakur is believed to have popularised the traditional folk dance in the 19th century. Years later, he also started narrating several struggles of downtrodden communities through his performances. Ramchandra belonged to a family, which was then considered low in an unfair societal hierarchy. At the tender age of 10, he joined Bhikari’s team and continued to work with him until his teacher’s last breath. He inherited a great legacy and a vast repertoire from his teacher. For him, his work is a labour of love. He does his own makeup and takes pride in impersonating women with perfection on stage. 

Over the centuries, with no proper recognition and protection, Launda Naach has lost its value. Many have ridiculed the art form and also objectified the artists. Thanks to theatre wizards like Ramchandra, who even at the ripe age of 96, continue to preserve the dignity of Launda Naach. The government recognizes and appreciates his efforts and will be honouring him with the title of Padma Shri this year.

 4 Legendary Indian Women In Science

Although technology has evolved and advanced to a great extent, we often forget to give credit to the minds that contributed to it behind the scenes. Here are four such Indian women who have made notable contributions in various fields of science, but remain largely unknown to the world.

Janaki Ammal 
Janaki Ammal
Illustration: Harsho Mohan Chattoraj

 Janaki Ammal was a well-known botanist and plant cytologist who came from a middle-class family in Tellichery, Kerala. She received her honours degree in Botany from Presidency College in 1921 and further studied at the University of Michigan in the USA for her master’s degree in 1925. After returning with a master’s degree, she continued to teach at the Women’s Christian College. However, she soon returned to Michigan for her doctorate and came back to India in 1931. 

She then worked at the Sugarcane Breeding Institute in Coimbatore, as a geneticist. From 1940-1951 she was in London working as a cytologist at the John Innes Horticultural Institution and then at the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisely. On returning to India in 1951, she reorganized the Botanical Survey of India, then went on to head the ‘Central Botanical Laboratory at Allahabad’ and was a special officer on duty in Jammu. Later, she worked in the Centre’s Field Laboratory at Maduravoyal until her demise. She made numerous contributions in the field of genetics, evolution, phytogeography, and ethnobotany.

In 1935 and 1957, Janaki Ammal was elected as Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences and of the India National Science Academy respectively. She was also conferred an honorary LL.D in her name in 1956. In 1957, she received the Padma Shri, and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of India established the National Award of Taxonomy in her name. 

Janaki Ammal’s passion for botany was ignited by living in the greenery in Kerala. She lived a simple unmarried life and completely dedicated herself to botany.

Anna Mani 
Anna Mani
Illustration: Dilip Kadam

Anna Mani was born into an upper-middle-class family in Travancore, where the men were groomed for high-level careers whereas the women were groomed for marriage. However, Anna Mani refused to settle for that fate and enrolled for an honours program in physics at the Presidency College in Chennai. A year after finishing college, in 1940,  she got accepted into C.V. Raman’s laboratory and received a scholarship to do research in physics at the Indian Institute Of Science. At Raman’s laboratory, she worked on analyzing the fluorescence, absorption, temperature dependence, and polarization effects of over thirty different diamonds. She single-handedly wrote over five papers on diamonds in the span of three years. 

However, Anna Mani never got a PhD degree, for the Madras University that granted her scholarship for research at the Indian Institute of Science claimed that she did not have an M.Sc. degree; therefore, she couldn’t get a PhD. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop her. Soon after finishing her research in India, she left for England where she specialized in meteorological instrumentation.  In 1948, she returned to India and joined the Indian Meteorological Department in Pune. She was in charge of the construction of radiation instrumentation and she published several papers on topics ranging from atmospheric ozone to national standardization of meteorological instrumentation. Finally, she retired as the Deputy Director-General of the Indian Meteorological Department. 

She believed that the development of wind and solar energy was quite essential for the nation’s development, and so she worked on several projects for harnessing wind energy in India. Later, she set up her own company that manufactured instruments for measuring wind and solar energy. Anna Mani never let the discrimination she faced as a woman scientist affects her work and created not only a laboratory but a factory of her own.

A. Lalitha
A Lalitha
Illustration: Ketan Pal

Lalitha was the first woman engineer of India. In 1937, her husband died, leaving her behind as an eighteen-year-old widow with a four-month-old daughter. According to the norms of the time, this should have been the last we ever heard of them. But A. Lalitha was stronger than her circumstances.

A child bride at 15, a single mother and widow at 18, she promised herself that her daughter would never feel the lack of a father. Picking up the broken pieces of her life, she realised that the first thing she needed was to be self-sufficient. Her father was a professor at the College of Engineering, Guindy. With his help, she managed to get admission there. Many eyebrows were raised, and her father was forced to get approval from the British government.

But life as the sole woman in a completely male-dominated campus was lonely and challenging. So her father went one step further; he advertised in ‘The Hindu’ inviting other women to join the college! In 1943, Lalitha made history as the first-ever woman engineer in the country. but this was only the start of her journey.

Lalitha first joined the Central Standards Organisation of India in Shimla where one of her brothers lived. In 1948, she went to Calcutta and joined the Associate Electrical Industries.

It was in Calcutta that Lalitha got a chance to design transmission lines and work on the Bhakra Nangal Dam. In 1964, she was invited to the First International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists (ICWES) in New York. She was the only Indian at this conference. she took it upon herself to actively encourage other Indian women engineers. When the Second International Conference was held in 1967, she managed to send five of them!

Lalitha passed away when she was just 60 years old. She inspired Indian women to study further, to carve out careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and make themselves self-sufficient.

Kamala Sohonie
Illustration: Ketan Pal

Kamala Sohonie grew up unlike other girls of her time. She was born into a family of distinguished scientists and was encouraged to study. In 1933, she topped Bombay University when she completed her B.Sc in chemistry and physics, after which she applied to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) for a research fellowship. That was where the harsh reality of gender came like a slap in the face. Nobel Laureate Prof. C. V. Raman, the Director of IISc, refused her application simply because she was a woman!

But if Prof. Raman was firm about not giving her admission, Kamala was equally firm about getting it. For days, she sat outside his office until he agreed to admit her. But he had conditions. “You will be on probation for one year, you will work only at night so as to not disrupt the atmosphere of the campus, and finally, you must conduct yourself ‘honourably'”, he said. Humiliated but with no choice, Kamala had to agree. She passed her M.Sc with distinction. Very soon, the gates of IISc and other science institutes were opened to women. A quiet revolution had taken place.

Kamala went on to study at Cambridge University where her discovery of cytochrome C, which helps plants in respiration, helped her get a doctorate. She was the first Indian woman to be awarded a PhD.

Kamala then came back to take part in the Indian freedom struggle. After she got married in 1947, she joined the Royal Institute of Science in Bombay. All along, she had been working on finding a way to improve the diet of the poor. On a request from the then President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, she started studying the nutritional benefits of ‘neera’ (sap from the palm tree) and discovered that it had significant amounts of iron and vitamins A and C. She found a way to include this in the diet of malnourished people. For this discovery, Kamala won the President’s Award.

She made history when she became the Director of the Institute of Science in Bombay – the first lady to head such a premier scientific institution.

In 1998, at a ceremony organised to felicitate her, Kamala collapsed. She passed away a few days later. Thus came to an end a life that quietly challenged society’s norms and steadily worked to enrich the life of India’s masses.

Read more about these and other revolutionary Indian women in our title ‘Women Path-breakers‘. Now available on the ACK Comics app, Kindle, Flipkart, Amazon, and other major e-tailers. 

The Story Of Uttarakhand

Crowned with snow-capped peaks, dotted with beautiful valleys, the birthplace of many rivers and with numerous places of pilgrimage, Uttarakhand is justifiably called the abode of the gods or Devabhumi. This Indian state is located in the north-western part of the country. It has a long and ancient history. 

Early history

The archaeological remains like ancient rock paintings, rock shelters and stone tools show that the region has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It also finds a mention in many Vedic texts. The tribes that inhabited the Garhwal and Kumaon region, which make the present Uttarakhand, are mentioned in many other early scriptures. It is believed that the sage Veda Vyasa wrote the epic Mahabharata in this mountainous state. Among the early tribes, the Paharis were the only people in Garhwal and Kumaon regions until the arrival of the Rajputs around the 13th century. 

Image: Wikipedia | Design: ACK Design Team
Pre-British Period

The Kunindas and the Katyuris were among the major dynasties ruling this area followed by the Chands. In 1803, with the invasion of the Gorkhas, the Nepalese invaders, the course of succession in these mountains changed. The Gorkha forces first captured Kumaon and then attacked Garhwal. In the battle of Khurbara in 1804, King Pradyumna Shah was defeated and killed. The Gorkhas now became the rulers of most of the regions of both Kumaon and Garhwal. In 1815, the Gorkha rule ended when the British crushed them in battle, and threw them out of Uttarakhand. 

British Rule 

Garhwal and Kumaon regions were joined during the British rule and made a part of the Avadh province in 1856. The British used a different mode of governance for the hilly regions of this province. They set up a small administrative unit known as Patwari Halka for efficient governing. The Patwari was equipped with the power of a tax collector and also of the police. English was also introduced in this region. Tehri was formed in 1815 and became the capital of Garhwal in British India. 

The people of Kumaon and Garhwal, along with its soldiers played a vital role in the Indian freedom struggle. The Indian Army has two regiments from this state, namely the Garhwal Regiment and the Kumaon Regiment. These regiments have numerous battle honours and citations to their credit and have contributed bravely in wars in both pre and post-independence times. 

Illustration: ACK Design Team
Separation from Uttar Pradesh

After independence, this region was added to the state of Uttar Pradesh. Due to the differences in the overall culture and lifestyle of the people of the hills and those from the rest of the state, the demand for separate statehood started gaining momentum. 

Finally, in November 2000 with a reorganisation of states, Uttaranchal (meaning northern mountain) was created as the 27th state of India. In 2007 Uttaranchal was renamed Uttarakhand.

Indian Navy Facts 

India possesses a glorious maritime heritage that spans over five millennia. The seas, on the three sides of India, have served as natural protection while providing us with a gateway to go out and discover the world and explore. When we did explore, the long coastline and many islands shaped our art, culture, philosophy, economy, ideas, and more, while influencing the world. Take a look at some of the most astonishing facts about the Indian Navy. 

The mythology connect 
Illustration: ACK Design Team

One can find numerous mentions of oceans in Indian mythology. Some of the most popular ones include the churning of the ocean milk, Hanuman’s leap to Lanka, and Saraswati’s Vadavagni deposit, among others. So what’s the connection with the Indian Navy? After Independence, the Indian Navy adopted the motto, Śaṃ no Varuṇaḥ. This is an ancient invocation to Lord Varuna from the Upanishads, meaning ‘May the Ocean God be auspicious unto us’. This chant is the motto of the Indian Navy to date. 

Did you know?

India is the only nation in the world to have an ocean named after her, the Indian Ocean. 

The world’s first tidal dock
Illustration: ACK Design Team

Many places that are now inland were coastal centuries ago. Higher sea levels due to warm weather and long coastline gave rise to numerous trading centres. Lothal, in present-day Gujarat, was one such trading centre. It was an engineering marvel and boasted one of the world’s first tidal docks. It had clever mechanisms to maintain the water-levels despite the changing tides. Precious gemstones, ivory, and shells were exported by the Lothal merchants to places as far as Mesopotamia, present-day the area between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.

Cultural influence 
Illustration: ACK Design Team

Sea routes not only helped widen the economic horizons but also led to a spread and amalgamation of cultures and traditions. From the temple complex of Angkor Vat in Cambodia to the many versions of Ramayana to the festival of Boita Bandana celebrated in Odisha, this influence is clearly evident. 

In fact, around the 2nd century BCE, when the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka was horrified and disturbed after he witnessed the bloodshed of the Kalinga war, he gave up violence. Embarking on a new journey of life embracing Buddhism, he began sending missionaries across the ocean to spread the teaching of Buddha. Many Indian Buddhists settled in various countries for trade also helped this mission. Even today, Buddhism thrives in countries as far as Myanmar, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.      

Read the fascinating naval history of India in our latest release ‘The Naval Journey of India Book I: Millennia of Sea Travel’, now available on the ACK Comics app.