Independence Day Celebration 18 August, Shivnibas
Independence Day Celebration, 18 August
Shivnibas (Shivniwas), Nadia, West Bengal, India
Independence Day Celebration 18 August!!!! Its not a typo but result of a cartographic error made by Sir Cyril Radcliffe 66 years ago.
It was 15 August 1947 and Independence of India, but the independence came with the horrors of partitions, forming the two new domains of India and Pakistan.
Sir Radcliff, the man responsible for drawing the line of divide in Bengal awarded most of the Nadia district, which had a Hindu majority, to East Pakistan. Massive protests followed and Viceroy Lord Mountbatten ordered an immediate correction to the map. On the evening of 17 August All India Radio (AIR) announced that the majority of the district of Nadia to be part of India.
Celebration followed the next day and the Pakistani flag, which was raised by Muslim league in the Krishnanagar (Dist. headquarters of Nadia) was brought down and replaced with the Indian tricolour on 18 August.
Sadly this event has long been forgotten and it was only in 1998 a young man named Anjan Sukul from the border town of Shibnibas decided to celebrate Independence Day of Nadia on 18 August.
It was not easy task for Sukul. Till 2002, the code governing the display of the tricolour had prohibited citizens from hoisting the national flag on days other than 15 August (Independence Day) and 26 January (Republic Day). So hosting the national flag on any other day was illegal in 1998. This was not to dampen the spirit of Sukul, who had heard about the incident from his grandfather.
Armed with a letter from the I&B Ministry’s Directorate of Field Publicity and a nod from the Nadia district administration Sukul went on to hoist the Indian flag on 18 August 1998. Sukul soon formed the August 18 Committee and have been celebrating the Independence Day ever since 1998.
Apart from flag hoisting and the singing of the National Anthem the August 18 Committee also organises various other cultural and social activities like tribal dance, drawing competition, senior citizen walk but the greatest crowd puller happens to be the boat race on Churni River.
18 August 2013 Machdia Station, I was looking for directions to Shibnibas and also enquired about the Independence Day celebration. Strangely people were not aware of such celebrations and the same thing followed in the bus to Shivnibas. But as I got down at Shivnibas people were aware of the celebrations. Crossing the Churni river on boat I made it to the temple town of Shivnibas.
The history of the town of Shivnibas dates far beyond 1947. According to legend, Shivnibas owes its origin to a dream. One in which Lord Shiva appeared before Maharaja Krishnachandra and told him that he was shifting base from Varanasi to his capital. To please the god, the Maharaja set up a new capital at Shivnibas and constructed 108 Shiva temples there.
Historians offer a more rational explanation. They maintain that in the middle of the 18th Century, Krishnachandra to save his capital Krishnanagar from the invading Marathas (Bargis) shifted it to Shivniwas, which is surrounded on three sides by the river Churni.
The Maharaja christened the new capital Shivnibas, probably after the god. Some historians though claim that it was named after Krishnachandra’s son Shivachandra.
Only two of the 108 temples exist now. One of them houses the largest shivling in eastern India. The two temples, along with a Ram-Sita temple, and the ruins of Krishnachandra’s palace are all that remain of Shivnibas’s glorious past.
I soon met Anjan Sukul, who soon became my beloved Anjan da. There was some bad news for me because of the inconsistent rain the tribal dance was called off but the procession of the senior lady citizen was on and so was the boat race for women.
The 18 August Independence Day program of 2013 in Shivnibas started with a procession of elderly women. Sporting tricolour hair bands with “I love my India” and “Mera Bharat Written” written respectively in English and Hindi. The women marched through the village road waving giant national flags.
Placards hung from their necks strangely they carried messages in Bengali on the Gorkhaland issue. “Gorkha Bangali Bhi Bhi” (Gorkhas and Bengalis are brothers) and “Bongo – Bhnaga are noy” (No more division of Bengal). The slogans were also related to the same issue.
The procession ended with the hoisting of the tricolour. In 2013 Anjan da decided to hoist the National Flag on a open berg at the middle of the river Churni. A portrait of Netaji Subhas Bose was placed at the base of the flag pole while a little girl dressed as Bharat Mata stood next to it. The Indian Flag was hoisted by a retired school teacher of Shibnibas with the National Anthem playing in the background.
The last event the women boat race (locally called Nukobaich) was definitely the centre of attraction. Three boats beautifully decorated with the tricolour plashed their way through the swelling Churni River. There were no winners the in the race but 18 August Committee was definitely the winner!!!!