Saturday, October 31, 1998
By K.G. Dutt
THE historic town of Karnal dates back to the Puranic age. Its name is derived from Karna. Earlier it was known as Ang Kshetra in the Puranas and the Vedas.
Karna, a hero of the Mahabharata war, was known for his philanthropic activities which included daily donations of gold to the needy. Relics of the Karna era are still visible in Karnal. After the formation of Haryana, the district administration preserved these relics and developed two parks there. The Karna Tal park is believed to be the place where Karna used to pray to the Sun God and donate gold after that. A temple of Goddess Kali, belonging to the same era, is also situated near the Karan Tal. It is believed that the warriors of Karnas army used to pray to Goddess Kali there. In the memory of Karna, the improvement trust has built a statue of Karna and Lord Krishna. Karna is shown donating some articles to Lord Krishna.
Even after the Mahabharata war, the town did not lose its pristine glory. In the Middle Ages, a battle between Muhammad Ghauri and the Rajput king Prithvi Raj Chauhan was fought in 1191 in Trien village (now known as Tarori), about 15 km from the present town. During this war, Muhammad Ghauris army was defeated and he fled back to his country. In 1192, Muhammad Ghauri again attacked these areas to avenge his defeat. During this battle, Prithvi Raj Chauhan and all Rajput chieftains under him were defeated at the hands of Muhammad Ghauri. This defeat marked the beginning of the decline of Rajput rule.
Karnal town, especially the Tarori area, has a special significance for the Sikhs also. After Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru, was beheaded by Aurangzeb in Delhi, his head was kept here for a night by Bhai Jaita before it was carried to Anandpur Sahib.
The town also has the sacred Mazaar of Bu-Ali-Shah Qualandar, who was the second-in-line after Prophet Mohammad. The mausoleum was built by Qualandars followers. Another dargah of Qualandar Shah is situated in Budha Khera village, 3 km from the town. It is believed that Bu-Ali-Shah Qualandar prayed in the Yamuna river for 12 years. The river was known as the river of Doom by the locals. The followers of Qualandar Shah fought over his body after he died. His body was finally buried at Panipat. The dargah of Sufi Saint Hazrat Maulana Haji Mohammad Hussain Kasuri is also situated outside the Qualandari Gate. Maulana Kasuri was the descendant of Bulle-Shah of Multan, a Sufi poet. An Urs is annually celebrated at the Maulanas dargah in April. His followers come from Kashmir, Multan, Delhi, Agra and Moradabad and offer chaddar on the holy mazaar. Just outside Karnal, there are graves of five Muslim pirs Kayar Mal Bori, Hazrat Ilahi Baksh, Bahadur Khan Durrani, Mohammad Ali and Sabar Singh Bori. Another mazaar of a Sufi saint is situated in the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal.
During the British regime, Karnal was inhabited by Muslim nawabs. Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, was born here. His ancestors lived in Karnal and till today two magnificent buildings owned by his family are present in the town. One of them is known as the Jarnaily Kothi, while the other houses Dyal Singh College. Realising the importance of the town, the British had set up an Army cantonment in it. The relics of the Raj are still visible here. The town has cemetery where British soldiers, who had died because of the outbreak of malaria, were buried. The army barracks of those days still exist here. The British later shifted the cantonment to Ambala because of the fear of the frequent breakout of malarial fever.
During the struggle for freedom, the town and its adjoining areas played a historic role. During the First War of Independence in 1857 which broke out at Meerut, the residents of 15 villages refused to pay revenue to the British. They even killed an English Army Officer. As a result, the villagers were arrested and kept in Thanesar Jail, which formed part of Karnal. Later, the residents of Jalmana village formed an army of Rajput soldiers and attacked the police post at Asandh village to liberate the freedom fighters detained there. In 1920 and 1921, the people participated in the Non-cooperation Movement under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai.
Even after Independence, the town did not lose its glory. It was one of the biggest districts in joint Punjab. Three other districts Panipat, Kurukshetra and Kaithal were carved out of it.
The Union Government has set up nine institutes of national importance in the town. These relate to agriculture, soils, cattle breeding, fruits and vegetables etc. Karnal has Asias biggest dairy research institute known as the National Dairy Research Institute as well as Asias only institute in soil sciences known as the Central Soil and Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI).
The town has a large number of historic places around it which include Amin, Kunjpura, Bastli (where Sage Vyasa prayed) and Taraori.
The town has a unique place in the field of industry too. The agricultural implements produced in the town meet 90 per cent of the need of the country. The annual turnover of about 300 industrial units is Rs 150 crore.
The town is also known for its rice shelling units. There about 260 rice shelling units, producing coarse rice, Basmati and par boiled rice. The scented Basmati produced in Ramana-Ramani villages is internationally famous. The district exports rice worth Rs 350 crore annually.
The town has a significant leather industry too. The Liberty group, engaged in the production of quality leather shoes exports shoes to Hungary, U.K., Dubai, Singapore, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Greece. According to official sources, the annual export turnover of the Liberty group alone is about Rs 200 crore.
THE historic city of Karnal, once termed City Beautiful of Haryana is today a picture of filth and squalor. It lacks civic amenities, thus citizens are naturally upset with the administration.
It was during the years 1975-77 that Karnal had been declared "the cleanest city" of Haryana. The then Deputy Commissioner Karnal, late Sukhdev Parsad had worked to ensure that it was a "city without" khokhas. Not only had he planned small pucca shops for all the khokhawalas in the city, but saw to it that all the roads and bazaars of the city were sufficiently widened to remove traffic congestion. The city, during 1977, looked like a mini Jaipur when all the shops were painted rose-red. Two parks Karna Park and Karan Tal (both named after the legendary philanthropist Karna) were planned. Even on the outskirts of the city, an artificial lake, Karna Lake (later christened as Chakravarty lake by Bansi Lal) was created. The infrastructure was created to enable the city to be used as one of the best satellite cities to the Capital.
With the passage of time, the painted markets became colourless. The wide metalled roads were unscrupulously encroached upon by rehriwallas and shopkeepers. Unplanned growth and lack of parking space make the town hazardous for pedestrians, who have to walk very carefully to save themselves from being hurt. Haphazardly parked tractor-trollies further added to the traffic confusion. Half-hearted efforts to clear the congestion have not been successful. The two beautifully laid out parks present a pathetic look and are a reminder of neglect on the part of the civic body.
In fact if there is anything prominent in the town, that is the apathy of the civic administration towards difficulties being faced by the citizens. Almost half the town remains without electricity during the night. Broken bulbs and tubes on roads are not repaired for months on end.
The less said the better about roads. Over Rs 1.25 crore had been spent on metalling of roads and sprucing up the town but, unfortunately, during the last three years, no maintenance of roads was done. The administration claims that over Rs 1.10 crore was earmarked for repairs of roads. Another claim is that Rs 50 lakh have already been spent on repairs. The ground reality is totally different. A portion of railway road near the Khalsa College was left incomplete. It is still lying as such. The Kaithal road near Shiv Colony has a history of its own. It is the main road which bears the traffic load of Kaithal, Jind, Pundri, Hisar and other areas. This road has been dug and reconstructed time and again, but it still remains a death-trap for the vehicle owners. Ditches that are one to two feet deep can be seen on a number of roads. Pigs roam freely in the streets in the old city and even in posh colonies such as Nayayapuri. The administration has not taken any steps to check the menace of pigs in the city. The outer colonies in the city are a picture of filth. Heaps of dirt can be seen lying near the Subzi Mandi. Contamination due to flies, mosquitoes and fungus because of heaps of dirt is but natural.
The sewerage system of the town is a chronic problem. During the rainy days, each road in the HUDA Colony has small flowing rivulets. Water even enters the houses of the residents. This story can be repeated in a number of other areas in the city. The problem of drinking water in the old city causes much concern. Underground water pipes here are mixed with sewerage pipes, so dirty drinking water is supplied to a number of mohallas. There are no proper parking lots in the city.
Shopkeepers charge money from rehriwallas and allow them to encroach upon the road in front of their shops. This naturally leads to traffic congestion.
Only awakened public opinion and alertness of the administration regarding the needs and problems of the people can succeed in ridding the city of the problems.
Karnal has the potential of being developed as one of the most modern cities, provided the government is ready to pump in funds for development.
King Karna: The legendary philanthropist who ruled over Karnal, then known as Ang Kshetra.
Bu-Ali-Shah Qualandar: The second- in- line after Prophet Muhammad. He lived and died in Karnal.
Hazrat Maulana Haji Mohammad Hussain Kasuri: A descendant of Bulle-Shah, a Sufi poet The maulana was a Sufi saint.
Liaquat Ali Khan: The first Prime Minister of Pakistan was born and brought up here.
Kalpana Chawla: The first Indian woman astronaut who went into space. She was born and brought up in Karnal.
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