Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Pandit Nain Singh Rawat, the Man who first created a map of Tibet


Asia ki Peeth Per ( Upon Asia’s Back ) is a delightful account of  that wonderful surveyer and map maker , Pandit Nain Singh Rawat’s life and the complete text of three diaries that he had maintained at great risk to himself . He traveled in 1865 from Kathmandu to the Forbidden Kingdom of Tibet , on a secret mission for the British . His job was  to map and survey the mysterious forbidden kingdom for the British . The original Hindi diaries have now been published by Pahad , a small publishing house in Nainital in Uttarakhand . They were edited by Ashutosh Upadhyay, Shekhar Pathak and Uma Pathak . The volume also includes the subsequent reports of the Pandit’s explorations in English . These were published in The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society in 1877 . Some extracts from his diary in English translation are also included.

Pandit Nain Singh was a young man from one of the remotest border villages along the Indo Tibetan border . As a student he struggled against tremendous odds and ultimately became the headmaster of a vernacular school in Milam , his native district in Uttarakhand where the Milam glacier is located . His intelligence attracted the British who were looking for young bi lingual recruits to penetrate the forbidden kingdom of Tibet . Nain Singh was hand picked and trained in 1863 by the British Superintendant of the Great Trignometrical Society himself to be a first rate  trans –frontier explorer. Since Tibetans were extremely hostile to outsiders, Nain Singh left disguised as a Buddhist pilgrim .

Pandit Nain Singh’s account of the hair raising journey and how as Buddist monk he hid his papers and instruments in his prayer wheel , was nearly caught several times but finally managed to accurately measure and record the entire terrain recording the number of steps he took each day around  rivers and lakes at varying altitudes . All he had was a hollow prayer wheel , a special rosary , and a bowl that hid his sextant ( for recording altitudes at night ) . All along he traversed on foot with his luggage carried on backs of various sheep ( some of whom were also lunch or dinner ), yaks and mules . Pretending all this while to be completely lost in prayer, especially  when questioned by guards or suspicious locals . The diaries make for a most riveting read .



At 14 June 2014 at 20:57 , Blogger pramod joshi said...

Interesting piece. I read a piece in another blog. You may find useful. This is the link


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