Saturday, November 28, 1998
Its elegant domes tell tales of gone by grandeur
By Jatinder Sharma
THE name of Rohtak is said to be a corruption of Rohtasgarh, a name still applied to the ruined sites (also called Khokrakot) of two older cities, one lying immediately north of the present town, and the other about three miles to the east.
It is believed that it wasnamed after Raja Rohtas, in whose days the city is said to have been built. It is also claimed that the town derives its name from the Roherra tree called Rohtika in Sanskrit. It is said that before the town came into existence, it was a forest of Rohitak trees, and hence its name Rohtak.
Another version connects Rohtak with Rohitaka, mentioned in the Mahabharata. It was quite possibly the capital of Bahudhanyaka, the kingdom of Yaudheyas. In the Vinaya of the Mulasarvasti-vadins, Jivaka is shown as undertaking a journey from Taxila in the north-west to Bhadramkara, Udumbra, Rohitaka and Mathura in the Ganga Doab. The ancient highway carried the trade of the Ganga valley to Taxila, passing through Rohitaka to Sakala.
The ruins of the ancient town are found at Khokrakot or Rohtasgarh. Birbal Sahni, the author of Techniques of Casting Coins in Ancient India, holds that the town is probably as old as the Indus Valley Civilisation. Minor finds at Khokrakot are typical of the Indus Valley sites.
Clay moulds of coins discovered here have thrown an important light of the process of casting coins in ancient India. The existence of the town during the rule of the Kushanas is testified by the recent recovery of a Kushana pillar, decorated with carvings of winged lions and riders.
The pillar represents the sculptors excellence in his professional skill. An example of a lion of the 1st/2nd century AD, it resembles the lion in the British museum at London, famous for its inscriptions. The riders on it are similar to the riders on elephants at Karle Cave and figures at the Sanchi gateway. It is a significant example of the sculptural art of Haryana towards the beginning of the Christian era.
The coin moulds of the later Yaudheyas of the 3rd/4th century AD have been discovered by the Archaeological Survey of India in large numbers here. Of the same and subsequent dates are several clay sealings. A Gupta terracotta plaque and a head of a later date have also been discovered. The town continued to flourish till the 10th century AD, as coins of Samanta Deva, the Hindu king of Kabul, have been found here.
The town is said to have been rebuilt in the time of Prithviraj Chauhan. In 1828, General Mundy wrote about the "ancient and consequently ruinous town of Rohtak. The wide circuit of its dilapidated fortifications and the still elegant domes of many time-worn tanks tell melancholy tales of gone-by grandeurs."
At one time, the town had a wall all around with gates at regular intervals. Only three gates can now be seen but these are in a dilapidated condition. The town has a number of old mosques, some of which remind us of elegant Muslim structures. Dini Mosque or Adina Mosque is the oldest among these. At the north end of this mosque was a tehkhana (underground cell). Over its arch is an inscription of Ala-ud-Din Khilji, dating back to 1308.
Premier educational centre
THOUGH purely an agricultural district, Rohtak town can in no way be considered educationally backward. The town has today become the premier educational centre in the state.
Besides a university, Maharshi Dayanand University set up in 1976, the town boasts of 27 degree and professional colleges. Almost every major community has set up its own educational institution, which are open to students of other communities as well.
The town has nearly 70 primary, middle, high and higher secondary schools to cater to the needs of its population and that of the neighbouring villages. Over a dozen of such schools are exclusively for girls. While less than a dozen of these schools are affiliated with the Haryana Board of School Education, the remaining are affiliated with CBSE.
The first Government College in this town was established in May, 1927. This college was transferred to Maharshi Dayanand University in the 80s so as to enable it to get recognition from the UGC. The Government College for Women, now called Indira Chakravarty Government College for Women, was founded in 1959.
The All-India Jat Heroes Memorial College was established in 1944 and Vaish College in 1946. The foundation stone of Vaish College was laid by Mahatma Gandhi during his visit to Rohtak in 1945.
The Gaur Brahman Degree College was set up in 1970, though the Gaur Brahman Vidya Parcharni Sabha was constituted in 1919 and it had started a Central High School in 1920.
The post-Independence years have witnessed a pressing demand for extension of educational facilities, and to meet the demand of a new social order. With rapid strides in the field of science and technology, it was natural that education also became more and more science-based.
The economic liberalisation policy introduced in the country in the nineties has also had its impact on the educational requirements. A number of technical and professional institutions have come up here to meet new circumstances and needs.
The first professional institute, Medical College, was set up here in June, 1960. It functioned at Patiala as a guest institute of the Government Medical College, Patiala, till January 25, 1963, when its staff and students were shifted to Rohtak. Prior to it, Shri Mastnath Ayurvedic Degree College was established at Asthal Bohar (3 km from here) in November, 1958, in a palatial building.
Besides 16 degree colleges, the town today has two engineering colleges, two ayurvedic colleges, a dental college, a pharmacy college, three B.Ed. colleges and a Sanskrit college. The Gaur Brahman Vidya Parcharni Sabha proposes to set up another dental college, and the foundation stone of this institute was laid by Chief Minister Bansi Lal on November 8 last.
Newspapers & periodicals
A LARGE number of newspapers and periodicals were published in Rohtak district during the pre-Partition period. Two of these papers-- Jat Gazette and Haryana Tilak-- played a major role in the freedom movement, and in the growth of journalism in this district.
Jat Gazette, an Urdu weekly, was started in 1916 at Rohtak. It was an organ of the Zamindara League and enjoyed the patronage of the Unionist Party. Its circulation in Rohtak district was the highest when the Unionist Party was in power in Punjab. For some time this paper was sent to villagers free of cost. The paper espoused the cause of rural population, particularly the farmers. The paper, however, ceased publication over a decade ago.
Haryana Tilak was started by veteran freedom fighter Shri Ram Sharma as an Urdu weekly on March 18, 1923, from Rohtak with the sole objective of supporting the cause of the Congress and to create national consciousness. Its publications were stopped during the political upheaval under the orders of the government in 1930, 1932 and 1942. For some time in 1939, when the Unionist government disallowed its publication, it was published from Uttar Pradesh.
The paper continued as a weekly till 1954, when it began to appear twice a week. In 1958, it was published daily but in 1960 it first became a tri-weekly and then in mid- 1962 it again became a weekly. Hindi Haryana Tilak was started as a weekly paper in September, 1961, and is still in existence.
Of the 47 newspapers and periodicals published from Rohtak district, 15 are published in Urdu, 14 in Hindi, two in English and the remaining were either bilingual or multi-lingual. All the weeklies, except Bharat Tek, which was bi-lingual, were published either in Hindi or in Urdu.
Many a periodical voicing a local party or group objectives had a short-lived existence. Some financed by the rich landlords of the area, which gave a boost to a particular individual, community or party for political purposes, died their natural death.
Though almost all the old newspapers and periodicals have ceased publication. Now, six newspapers are published daily from the town. All these newspapers are published in Hindi, and feed their readers with news, political reviews and comments, in addition to short stories and poems.
Vast scope of milk, agro-based units
ALTHOUGH Rohtak is situated virtually next door to Delhi, and is connected with it both by road and rail, it has failed to develop industrially.
The town has nearly six large and medium-scale industries and approximately 6000 small and cottage industries. The sugar mills, established in 1956 in the co-operative sector, are perhaps the oldest industrial units of the town. These provide employment to over 1000 persons, mostly from the adjoining villages and Bihar.
Though Rohtak has been primarily an agricultural district, it does not have agro-based industries, which could provide gainful employment to the farmers whose holdings were shrinking following the urbanisation of the area. The area also has been an important centre for the breeding of milch cattle. There is a vast scope for setting up milk-based industries as well. But for a small milk plant, there is no other such industry in the town.
The spinning mills that were set up in 1963 and provided employment to more than 2000 persons, have been closed because of financial constraints. The BIFR has announced that these units cannot be revived or rehabilitated.
Lakshmi Precision Screws is the only unit which has weathered all crises since it was established in 1952 as a small unit. The annual turnover of this company is over Rs 80 crore, and it provides employment to nearly 1500 persons. The products of this unit are also exported to the USA, Europe, Japan and other South-East Asian countries.
In the pre-Partition period, industries in this district were confined to villages and the cottage sector. These included pottery, stone dressing, leather tanning, handloom weaving, phulkari, utensil making, glass bangles etc. Most of these, however, decayed due to one reason or another.
Pottery units became practically extinct after the exodus of Muslim artisans following the Partition, which had in fact shattered the entire economic structure and resulted in an unequal and unfavourable division of resources and manpower.
The government tried to accelerate the tempo of industrialisation and set up two industrial estates at Sonepat and Bahadurgarh. But today, both these estates form part of Sonepat and Jhajjar districts and Rohtak has been left without any industrial estate. The state government has, of late, planned to set up an industrial estate and the land for the same is in the process being acquired. It has also been declared industrially backward area now.
Of the over 6000 small and cottage industries, most have already closed due to financial reasons. The ancillary units of Lakshmi Precision Screws are the only survivors. Unless the government and the financial institutions frame a definite policy for the small-scale units, it would be difficult to retrieve the situation.
No civic body worth its name
THE Rohtak Municipal Committee is among the oldest civic bodies constituted in 1885 under the Punjab Municipal Act, 1884.
The total income of the municipal committee during the current financial year was Rs 7.43 crore as against Rs 20.15 lakh when Haryana came into existence in 1966-67. The major source of income is octroi (Rs 5.03 crore) followed by house tax (Rs 1.20 crore).
Though the canal-based piped water supply scheme was introduced in the city in 1932, the municipal committee has not been able to provide this facility to all its residents even after a lapse of 66 years. The town has nearly 82,000 dwellings with a population of approximately 2.25 lakh. This figures does not include the population living in HUDA Sector-I and the new Housing Board colony.
There are nearly a dozen localities in the town which are yet to be provided water connections. Prominent among them are the Indira and Nehru colonies, Kartarpura, Saini Anandpura, Sham Colony, Rainakpura, Khokhra Kot, Balmiki Basti and Naya Kuan Basti. Nearly 16 colonies do not have water connections.
There is hardly any cleanliness in the city. Poor administration of the affairs of the municipal committee is the root cause. The civic body is without a health officer for the past several years though the post was sanctioned many decades ago.
Although many new colonies have sprung up within the municipal limits over the years, the strength of the sweepers has not been increased in proportion to it. As a result, heaps of garbage can be seen in almost every locality.
The civic body has 446 sweepers on its roll, besides the 145 engaged on a daily basis. Nearly 100 of these sweepers perform duty at the residences of VIPs, thereby adversely affecting the cleanliness drive in the town.
The parks in the town are poorly maintained. These parks eight in number are bereft of trees. In the areas surrounding the town, trees have come up, providing a healthy environment to the town. However, the credit does not go to any government agency. The peoples traditional ways have resulted in the development of the green area.
The park named after Bhagat Singh has neither his statue nor any plant. The park is used by vegetable sellers. There is no park for children. The Mansarover Park, set up in 1953, had a provision for a cultural centre-cum-open air theatre and a swimming pool. The swimming pool is yet to be added to it. In certain areas, the unkept parks are reportedly used as open defecating spaces.
SIR CHHOTU RAM was a towering personality of Rohtak, who influenced the political, social and economic life of the people of the town and its adjoining areas during his lifetime.
Sir Chhotu Ram was born on November 24, 1881, in a Jat family of Garhi-Sampla, 20 km from here. He shifted to Rohtak towards the end of 1912 to practise as a lawyer. As a member of the Arya Samaj, he soon became a popular leader in social and legal circles. He was also the founder-president of the District Congress Committee in 1921 but resigned from the party following differences with the then Congress leaders and Mahatma Gandhi.
Sir Chhotu Ram, who rose to become a powerful minister in the pre-Partition days, laid emphasis on social, economic and educational advancement which created a consciousness among the peasantry of their political rights. The Jat Sabha, which he founded, aroused the feelings of the peasantry against indebtedness, litigation and bribery. He died on January 1, 1945.
Pandit Sri Ram Sharma was born on October 1, 1899, at Jhajjar but shifted to Rohtak. A staunch Congressite, he took active part in demonstrations held at Rohtak against the policies and programmes being introduced by the Britishers in the name of "political reforms" in 1919.
He founded a branch of the Swarajya Party at Rohtak, and his local paper, Haryana Tilak came to be regarded as the organ of the Congress in the region. The Swarajya Party fielded its candidates in the urban constituencies in the 1920 elections and won. However, the Swarajya Party came disintregrated in the district after the death of Deshbandhu C.R. Das in 1925.
Pandit Sri Ram Sharma underwent imprisonment many times during the freedom movement. He was elected to the Punjab Assembly for the first time in 1937 and again in 1946. He had also served as a minister after Independence. He died on October 7, 1989.
Puran Chand Azad is a veteran freedom fighter who settled in Rohtak after the partition of the country in 1947. He was detained under the Defence of India Rules in 1942 for his participation in the individual civil disobedience and the Quit India movements.
Azad was secretary, Punjab Provincial Congress Socialist Party, from 1942 to 1945, and was elected Councillor to the Lahore Municipal Corporation in 1946.
During the first ever elections held after Independence in 1952, Azad was elected to the Punjab Legislative Council on a Congress ticket from the Gurgaon-Rohtak-Hisar-Simla local bodies constituency.
Anju Rohilla is perhaps the first woman of Haryana who has been selected to the Indian Foreign Service. Born on November 2, 1974, at Rohtak, she is the seventh and the youngest child of her parents. She topped in the MBBS exam and won a gold medal of the Medical Council of India. She was selected to the civil service in the first attempt in 1996 and joined the Indian Foreign Service in September 1997.
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