Ranbir Singh was the third son of Gulab Singh, founder of the Jammu- Kashmir State. Born in August 1930, he succeeded his father as Maharaja in 1856, when the old man abdicated due to poor health. Ranbir was maharaja until the day he died in 1885; he was only 55.
Maharaja Ranbir compiled civil and penal laws into the Ranbir Penal Code, thus establishing a modern judicial system in his domain. He employed pundits (experts whose opinions are valued) and maulvis (doctors of Islamic law) to translate into Urdu religious texts and books in medical sciences. . He established a Sanskrit pathshala (children’s school) in the complex of the Raghunath Temple where grammar, philosophy, poetry algebra, Euclidean geometry and the Vedas were taught. His passion for spreading education among the masses was probably due to the less than formal education he had received; he also became an expert in Sanskrit and Persian languages.
Maharaja Ranbir is revered and remembered more for his contributions to education than for his military exploits.
Waheeda Rahman is regarded as a goddess of Hindi cinema, one of the greatest actresses who was most active between 1955 to 1994, and continues to be adulated at age 86.
Waheeda Rahman became a child actress at age 10, after her father died. She portrayed a child dancer in “Rojulu Marayi” and instantly caught the eye of Guru Dutt, then the ineluctable Bollywood film-maker. He paired her with a popular young actor and gave them the lead role in one of his movies. The “love team” clicked and the movie became a blockbuster; she made five more all of which were box-office smash hits.
Waheeda Rahman did classic character roles as well in five of Guru Dutt’s films. In 1965 she played the “ Guide” which won her the Best Film Actress Award in the same year. In 1968, she portrayed a sleepwalker in “Neel Kamal” and was chosen best actress a second time.
Ms. Rahman is a deity in Bollywood’s pantheon of elite actresses, which is not surprising because only a few can act and dance like her.
Ravindra Shankar Chowdhury was born in 1920 in Benares ( Varanasi), India. He was a composer, a sitar virtuoso and founder of the National Orchestra of India. He introduced centuries-old classical Indian music to the Western world, stretching the boundaries of an ancient musical tradition.
In June 1966, Shankar and George Harrison met at the home of an english-Indian couple, Patricia Fell-Clark and Ayana Deva, founders of the esoteric Asian Music Circle. Harrison had been experimenting with the sitar but did not know how to hold nor play the instrument correctly. Ravi Shankar gave him a few lessons and continued to mentor him. That was how the Beatles acquired a new sound which gave their music a sensuous inflection that inspired the “psychedelic” sound of the 60’s. Through the Beatles, Ravi Shankar introduced Indian classical music to a younger generation of musicians, writers, painters and poets.
Ravi Shankar received numerous awards during his lifetime, among them the first Tagore Award; Bharat Ratnam (1999), the highest civilian award of India, the Ramon Magsaysay Award ( 1992) from the Philippines, Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire ( 2001) and a lifetime achievement award for Best Chamber Music Performance at the 55th Grammy Awards in 2012.
She was an Indian-Hungarian painter born in Budapest in 1913 where she spent most of her early years. Painting since the tender age of eight, she would use the family servants as models. In 1921, her parents had financial problems and decided to go back to India. They settled in Summer Hill, Shimla where the family mansion, “The Holme” is now a heritage destination.
Amrita Sher-Gil was inspired by post impressionist painters like Gauguin, who lived in Polynesia for ten years; the Italian Modigliani known for the surreal elongation of his figures and Cezanne, the forerunner of cubism. She is often called the Frida Kahlo of India. Lamentably, she died too soon when she was only 28.
Her most famous works are “Ladies’ enclosure” (1938) which fetched 378 million rupees at an auction and “Little Girl in Blue" which broke the record at a Sotheby’s sale in 1934.
Amrita Sher-Gil aesthetically blended Western and traditional Indian art forms; most of her works depicted life of the underprivileged sectors of Indian society. The Indian government declared her a National Treasure.
Lawyer, writer, newspaperman and diplomat, Leon Ma. Guerrero (LMG) was born in Ermita, Manila on 24 March 1915. He was an Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs when Pres. Ramon Magsaysay appointed him Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James ( United Kingdom, 1954-1962).
LMG was ambassador to the Kingdom of Spain (1962 - 1966), India (1966-1973), the United States of Mexico (1973-1977) and to the former Yugoslavia (1977- 1980).
In 1959, LMG translated Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere (1887 ) and El Filibusterismo (1891) into English for generations of Filipinos who no longer know Spanish.
In 1963, LMG wrote The First Filipino, a biography of Jose Rizal which was awarded the first prize by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. The Knights of Rizal conferred on him the Grand Cross of Rizal.
On his deathbed in 1982, LMG received the Gawad Mabini from then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, the highest award for a Filipino diplomat.
Indira Gandhi, unforgettable and formidable political leader of India, was the third prime minister and the only woman to hold that position, so far. She was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.
Mrs. Gandhi was elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1959, became prime minister from January 1966 to 1977, and again from January 1980 to October 1984. She was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.
Indira Gandhi believed in “growth with stability and progressive achievement of self-reliance.” To deal with India’s food security problems, she expanded the production of inputs for the agricultural sector and continued what her father had initiated. Her “Green Revolution” program transformed India from a nation heavily dependent on imported grain (and prone to famine) to one largely self-reliant and able to feed its people.