Friday, December 31, 9999

Welcome to Legends of Johar!

The 'Land of Johar' has produced many great and extraordinary people who have shown their talents and feats in all walk of life! From the early history of Johar, the 'Shaukas' have made many contributions in the development of our region and the nation.

This small community with a population of about 15,000 has given 3 Padma Shri Award recipients to the nation. It shows the liveliness, endurance, sense of responsibility, and the feeling of nationalism of this community! This blog "Legends of Johar" is a small tribute to all those legendary people from the Johar Valley who has made us proud to be a Shauka!

Jai Bharat! Jai Johar!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rai Bahadur Kishan Singh Rawat (1850-1921)

Rai Bahadur Kishan Singh Rawat


'Kishan Singh Rawat' (Kishan Singh Milamwal) was also known by the code names – ‘Krishna’ or ‘A-K’. He was among the great explorers of 19th century, who explored the forbidden regions of Tibet and Central Asia in the disguise of a merchant or lama! Kishan Singh became famous after his last and greatest survey expedition in 1878-82 from Darjeeling to Mongolia via Lhasa.


Early Life :
Kishan Singh was born in the border village of Milam, at an altitude of 11,400 feet, of the Pithoragarh district in 1850. His father Deb Singh Rawat (Debu Buda) was a wealthy and successful trader of the Johar valley. Pundit Man Singh Rawat (Mani Compssai) was Kishan Singh’s eldest brother, and Pundit Nain Singh Rawat (C.I.E.) was his cousin.


Career :

(A) Education Department (1862-1867) :
In 1862, Kishan Singh joined a government school in Garbyang (Dharchula) as an assistant, and also continued his studies side by side. After some years, he passed the ‘Tehsil Mudarisi’ certificate from Normal School, Almora. He also worked as a teacher for 2 years in Girl’s School, Milam and later, for 1 year in Garbyang government school. Because of his teaching profession, he got the title of ‘Pundit’, which was a common address for teachers during those days!


(B) Great Trigonometrical Survey (1867-1885) :
In 1867, Kishan Singh was recruited as a trainee surveyor in the Survey of India office at Dehradun. In the Great Trigonometrical Survey, he was mainly trained by G. B. Hensy and his cousin, the famous surveyor and explorer, Pundit Nain Singh Rawat. During the 2 years long rigorous training at the Survey of India, he learned different skills of surveying and use of various scientific instruments.

On the recommendation of Nain Singh, Col. Walker recruited Kishan Singh on his expeditions of Tibet and Central Asia. Kishan Singh Rawat actively served at the Great Trigonometrical Survey for about 18 years from 1867 to 1885. In his later years, Kishan Singh also worked as a trainer with the Survey of India.


Important Survey Expeditions :

(1) Kailash Mansarovar Expedition (1869) :
In 1869, after successfully completing his training at the Great Trigonometrical Survey, Kishan Singh went on his first survey expedition in Tibet, and explored the 400 miles long route from Katai Ghat (where Karnali river enters India) to Mayapur (where Sarju/Sarayu river met in Sitapur district, India), starting from Kailash Mansarovar Lake in Tibet.


(2) Shigache – Lhasa Expedition (1871-1872) :
On July 1871, Kishan Singh reached Chunta via Shigatse (Xigazê), and further went to Petinchucha in Tibet. In this region, he found 50 feet high hot water fountains with temperature of 166° Fahrenheit. On 13th January 1872, Kishan Singh explored the landscapes around Tengri Nor (Namtso/ Nam Co) lake. On 14th February, he reached Nambdo and explored the area near Bulchho Lake, which was famous for the abundance of Bauxite in this lake.

On 18th February, the caravan of Kishan Singh was robbed by a group of 60 armed bandits, and there was hardly anything left with them. On 9th April, they managed to reach Lhasa in the hope of getting some good help from the local traders. But Kishan Singh just got 150 rupees in cash from a trader after mortgaging his survey instruments. Anyway, he managed to return to Dehradun successfully overcoming all the adverse and difficult circumstances on his way back to India!

During this hectic expedition, Kishan Singh surveyed the 320 miles long route from Tengri Nor lake to Lhasa. He also measured the latitudes of 10 places, and the atmospheric pressure at 24 places in Tibet.


(3) Douglas Forsyth’s Second Yarkand – Kashgar Expedition (1873-1874) :
In 1873, Kishan Singh joined Sir Douglas Forsyth on his Yarkand – Kashgar expedition, but he was asked to return on the way via Khotan (Hotan) to survey the travel routes of Ladakh. After the survey of the region in this route from Yarkand to Khotan and Noh, he planned to go further to Rudok (Rutog), but was stopped at the border post where he was frisked by the officials. Then, Kishan Singh continued his journey further into Tibet.

In this expedition, Kishan Singh surveyed about 1250 miles long travel route, starting from Tankse (Ladakh) to Yarkand – Kashgar – Khotan – Tibet, and then, towards south-east to Leh (Ladakh) via Noh and Pangong (Pangong Tso) lake.


(4) Darjeeling – Lhasa – Mongolia Expedition (1878-1882) :
Darjeeling – Lhasa – Mongolia Expedition’ was the most famous, adventurous and historical survey expedition of Kishan Singh Rawat. On 24th April 1878, Kishan Singh started his fourth and last expedition with his assistants Chhumbel and Ganga Ram from Darjeeling.

On 5th September 1878, Kishan Singh reached Lhasa after a long journey via Gyantse (Gyangtse). He stayed in Lhasa for one year in the disguise of a trader, and surveyed the geography of the region. He also studied and researched about the political, social, religious, and economic aspects of the life in Tibet. During this period, Kishan Singh also learned Mongolian language, and made friendship with many Mongolian traders in Lhasa.

On 17th September 1879, Kishan Singh joined the caravan of some of his befriend Mongolian traders for his journey to Mongolia. After a week, they reached the Changthang plateau in the Northern Tibet. In the north of Changthang plains, Kishan Singh found many tents of the nomadic and unfriendly tribes (Changpa) of this region. On this route, he also saw some cave dwellers who used to hide in their caves when they see strangers!

When Kishan Singh was preparing for his journey further to Sachu (Kansu), a border post in the Chinese Kingdom, one of his servants, Ganga Ram stole some of his money along with two horses and a binocular, and ran away.

On 8th January 1881, with the help of some lamas, disheartened Kishan Singh finally reached Sachu, which was mostly dominated by the Han Chinese population. Due to the suspicious nature of these locals, Kishan Singh found it impossible to travel further to north. So, he decided to stay in Sachu in the disguise of a fruit trader with his honest companion, Chhumbel. In this way, Kishan Singh secretly surveyed this Chinese town for about 7 months. In August, he travelled to Thoden Gompa (a Buddhist monastery) with a local lama, and stayed there for 2 months.

On his return journey to home, Kishan Singh used his intelligence and skills to befriend many local traders and pilgrims in order to reach India. On 12th November 1882, Kishan Singh finally reached Darjeeling (India) after more than 4 years and six months since the start of his expedition. During this long and troublesome survey expedition, Kishan Singh travelled about 2800 miles of distance on foot, and explored such vast and unknown regions of the Central Asia, which were never mapped by any geographer!

This survey included the region, which is the origin of the three important rivers of Asia – Mekong, Salween, and Irrawaddy. In this expedition, Kishan Singh travelled from Darjeeling (India) to Lhasa – Mongolia – Gobi Desert, and further towards west, to the frontiers of the Tuhnwang Kingdom of China, and on his way back explored the eastern Tibet border region. At one point, the caravan leader wanted the caravan to go by horse to cross a bandit-ridden area faster. Krishna, unable to count his steps during this period, measured the distance (230 miles) by counting his horse's steps instead. From the scientific point of view, his fourth survey expedition was the greatest and most famous of his entire career!


Retirement and Death :
After his famous fourth expedition, Kishan Singh served the Survey of India as a trainer, and finally got retired from the service in 1885. For his distinguished service and extraordinary achievements, the British Indian government granted him a Jagir in Sitapur district, Uttar Pradesh with annual revenue of 1850 Indian rupees. Kishan Singh Rawat, the last survivor of the famous Pundit triad, died in February 1921, and his death marks the close of a romantic chapter of the Survey of India and of the exploration of Asia!


Legacy :
Kishan Singh Rawat was a great explorer, geographer and cartographer of the 19th century, who made his significant contributions to the geography of Asia. During his journeys, he successfully overcame the adverse and inhospitable circumstances, like the tough terrain, uncertain weather, suspicious natives, notorious bandits, and unfriendly tribes. This shows the various aspects of the character of this legend – bravery, intelligence, cleverness, patience, compatibility, confidence, and hard work!

Kishan Singh also got great recognition and awards from many of the scientific societies of Europe like his famous cousin, Pundit Nain Singh Rawat. But, also like Nain Singh, his feats were never properly acknowledged and recognised by any of the post-independence governments of India!


Social Work :
Kishan Singh Rawat also worked for the social and economic development of his native place, Johar valley. In 1913, Kishan Singh Rawat was selected as the guardian of the “Johar Upkarini Mahasabha”, a local co-operative society for the growth and development of the Johar region, and he actively served this society for many years!


Awards and Recognition :
· Kishan Singh was awarded with an inscribed gold chronometer/watch and a cash prize of 500 Indian rupees by the Royal Geographic Society (RGS), London.

· Kishan Singh was awarded with a gold medal by the Paris Geographical Society.

· Kishan Singh was awarded with a gold medal by the Italian Geographic Society, Rome.

· Kishan Singh was also awarded with the title “Rai Bahadur” by the British government of India.

· Kishan Singh was honoured with a grant of village in Sitapur district, Uttar Pradesh and annual revenue of 1850 Indian rupees by the British government of India.


Literature about Kishan Singh Rawat :
There are several books in which information about Pundit Kishan Singh Rawat and his great expeditions have been published.

1. Account of the Pundit's Journey in Great Tibet - Capt. H. Trotter, The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society (1877).

2. A Memoir on The Indian Surveys, 2nd Ed. - Clements R. Markham, W H Allen & Co., London (1878), p.189.

3. A Memoir on The Indian Surveys (1875-90) - Charles E. D. Black, London (1891), p.168.

4. Kishen Singh and the Indian Explorers - Kenneth Mason (The Geographical Journal, Vol. LXII-July to December, 1923).

5. Indian Explorers of the 19th Century - Indra Singh Rawat (1973).

6. Johar Ka Itihaas (History of Johar) - Babu Ram Singh Pangtey (1980).

7. Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Race for Lhasa - Peter Hopkirk, Oxford University Press (1982).

8. Madhya Himalaya Ki Bhotia Janjaati (Bhotia Tribe of the Central Himalayas) – Dr. Sher Singh Pangtey (1992).

9. The Pundits: British Exploration of Tibet and Central Asia - Derek J. Waller, University Press of Kentucky (2004).


Monday, October 4, 2010

Pundit Nain Singh Rawat (1830-1895)


Pundit Nain Singh Rawat (1830-95)


Introduction :
On 10th April 1802, the Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS) was started by the Royal Geographical Society, London. The Royal Geographical Society stated that GTS was the most important milestone in the development of science in 19th century. This 1600 miles long geographical survey took around 50 years to get completed. This survey played a great role in the mapping of not only the Indian sub-continent, but also the parts of Central Asia beyond the Great Himalayas.

Many people worked for the successful completion of the Great Trigonometrical Survey, but the one who is mainly responsible for it, was Pundit Nain Singh Rawat. He was a famous Indian explorer, surveyor, and cartographer, who dedicated most part of his life to the field of exploration and cartography.


Early Life :
Nain Singh was born in Milam village of Munsyari tehsil in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand on 21st October, 1830. His father Amar Singh was known as Lata Buda, and grandfather Dham Singh Rawat was a big landlord, who was rewarded Jagir (land) in Golma and Kotal villages by the Kumauni King Deepchandra in 1735.

Most of his early education was held at home. After leaving school, Nain Singh helped his father in their traditional trans-border trade between India and Tibet. During the trade, he visited several trade centres in Tibet with his father, learnt the Tibetan language, customs and manners, and became familiar with the Tibetan people. This knowledge of Tibetan language, local customs, and protocols helped Nain Singh during his future survey missions.


Career :

1. Schlagintweit Brothers’ Expedition (1855-1857)
At the age of 25, Nain Singh was first recruited by the German geographers, Schlagintweit Brothers. Baron Humboldt had sent these German scientists to the office of Survey of India, which reluctantly allowed them to proceed for the survey. Adolf and Robert Schlagintweit met old Deb Singh Rawat in the Johar valley, who advised them to recruit three members of his family for their expedition – Man Singh Rawat (Mani Compasi), Dolpa Pangtey and Nain Singh Rawat. Nain Singh’s first exploration journey was with these Germans from 1855 to 1857. During this mission, he travelled to Mansarovar and Rakastal lakes in Tibet, then further to Gartok and Ladakh.

2. Education Department (1858-1863)
After the expedition with the Schlagintweit Brothers, Nain Singh joined the Education Department as a teacher at the Government Vernacular School in his village Milam in 1858. Later, he was appointed as the headmaster of this school, where he served till early 1863. During those days, people commonly used to address to the teachers with the name “Pundit” (Knowledgeable Person). That’s where the famous title or prefix of “Pundit” came!

 3. Great Trigonometrical Survey (1863-1875)
In 1862-63, Education Officer Edmund Smyth was in correspondence with Captain Montgomery to recruit some trustworthy natives as explorers for the Great Trigonometrical Survey. On the recommendation of Edmund Smyth, Nain Singh and Mani Singh Rawat were selected for this expedition at a starting salary of rupees twenty a month. Nain Singh worked in the active service of the Great Trigonometrical Survey from 1863-1875. Nain Singh was given code names "Chief Pundit" or "No. 1" for this clandestine expedition by the survey officials. He not only worked as a surveyor in the GTS, but also trained many surveyors and explorers for other expeditions.


(a) Training :
On 12th January 1863, Nain Singh along with his cousin, Mani Singh Rawat were sent to the Great Trigonometrical Survey office at Dehradun, where they underwent training for two years. This included the training on scientific instruments, and some ingenious ways of measurement and recording information, and the art of disguise (espionage). Nain Singh was exceptionally intelligent and determined, and quickly learned the correct use of scientific instruments, like sextant and compass. He could also recognize all major stars and different constellations easily for directions.

(b) Methodology :
A sergeant major drilled them using a pace-stick, to take steps of a fixed length which remained constant even while climbing up, down or walking on plain surface. They were trained to record the distances by an ingenious method using a rosary. This rosary unlike a Hindu or Buddhist one, which has 108 beads, had just 100 beads. At every 100 steps the Pundit would slip one bead, so a complete length of the rosary represented 10000 steps. It was easy to calculate the distance as each step was 31½ inches and a mile was calculated to be around 2000 steps. To avoid suspicion, these explorers went about their task disguised as monks or traders or whatever suited the particular situation. Many more ingenious methods were devised for this expedition. The notes of measurements were coded in the form of written prayers and these scrolls of paper were hidden in the cylinder of the prayer wheel. The Pundit kept this secret log book up to date. The compass for taking bearing was hidden in the lid of the prayer wheel. Mercury used for setting and artificial horizon, was kept in Cowri shells and for use poured into the begging bowl carried by the Pundit. The thermometer found place in the topmost part of the monk’s stave. There were workshops, where false bottoms were made in the chests to hold sextant. Pockets were also added to the clothes used during these secret missions.

Thus prepared and trained, the Pundit travelled for months at a stretch collecting intelligence in most difficult conditions, travelling closely with the natives in caravans. What was to follow, were some of the most glorious years in the exploration and mapping of Tibet and all its river systems and indeed some of the most fascinating explorations worth recounting. In 1865-66, Nain Singh travelled 1200 miles from Kathmandu to Lhasa and then to the Mansarovar lake and back to India. On his second expedition in 1867, Nain Singh explored Western Tibet and visited the legendary Thok Jalung gold mines. His last and greatest journey of 1874-75 was from Leh to Tawang (Assam) via Lhasa, which got a great appreciation thorough out Europe.

In the Great Trigonometrical Survey, Nain Singh surveyed 2000 km long trade route from Nepal to Tibet in around 21 months. He was first to determine the exact location and altitude of Lhasa town. Nain Singh measured 31 latitudes and 33 altitudes of different places during this survey. He travelled the length of 800 Km of Tsang Po river in Tibet, and was the first person to find that the Tsang Po and Brahmaputra rivers are one. He successfully completed his expeditions in the disguise of a Lama as the entry of foreigners in Tibet was forbidden by the Chinese Iron Curtains.

(c) Survey Missions / Expeditions :
Nain Singh Rawat as a surveyor in the Great Trigonometrical Survey made the following important expeditions from 1865 to 1875 :

  1. 1865-66 : Kathmandu – Lhasa – Mansarovar Lake.
  2. 1867 : Origin of Sutlej and Indus rivers, and Thok Jalung (Tibet).
  3. 1870 : Douglas Forsyth’s First Yarkand – Kashgar Mission.
  4. 1873 : Douglas Forsyth’s Second Yarkand – Kashgar Mission.
  5. 1874-75 : Leh – Lhasa – Tawang (Assam).


Retirement and Death :
Nain Singh’s last journey has taken its toll on his health, also impairing his vision. He continued for a few years to train other Indians in the art of surveying and spying, and did a highly commendable job of it too.
Nain Singh Rawat died of a heart attack in 1895, while visiting his Jagir, a village in the Indian Terai (plains) granted to him by the British in 1877.

Legacy :
Nain Singh Rawat explored most of the unknown territories of the Central Asia and Tibet beyond the Great Himalayas. His collected scientific information about the geography of these regions provided a major contribution in the mapping of the Central Asia.

For his extraordinary achievements and contributions, Nain Singh was honoured with many awards by the Royal Geographical Society, the Paris Geographical Society, and other European institutions. The survey journeys of Nain Singh got place in many books, magazines, and research papers of different languages around the globe. His literary contribution to the art of writing travelogues, reports, memoirs, and scientific literature was never acknowledged and researched (except by Dr. Ram Singh) in the Hindi World!

Colonel Yule, addressing the Royal Geographic Society at the time of its presentation of the Society's Gold Medal to Nain Singh, said, "It is not a topographical automaton, or merely one of a great multitude of native employees with an average qualification. His observations have added a larger amount of important knowledge to the map of Asia than those of any other living man!"

Nain Singh was a man of strong character – where others admitted defeat, he persisted. Due to the clandestine nature of his work and because he was a ‘Spy Explorer’, his great and important discoveries never gained the proper recognition. As he worked for the British, after independence his work and contribution was not given due recognition by the Indian government. This can be the only reason why his work faded in public memory!

Awards and Recognition

  • In 1868, Nain Singh was presented with an inscribed gold chronometer/watch by the Royal Geographic Society (RGS), London.
  • In 1876, Nain Singh’s achievements were announced in the “Geographical Magzine”.
  • In 1877, Nain Singh was awarded with the “Victoria / Patron’s Gold Medal” by the Royal Geographic Society (RGS), London.
  • In 1877, Nain Singh was presented with an inscribed gold chronometer/watch by the Society of Geographers of Paris.
  • In 1877, the British government awarded him with the title of “Companion of the Indian Empire” (C.I.E.)!
  • In 1877, the British government honoured him with a grant of a village in Rohilkhand (Bareilly) as Jagir, and 1000 rupees in revenue.
  • On 27th June 2004, an Indian postage stamp featuring Nain Singh was issued commemorating his role in the Great Trigonometrical Survey by the Indian government, after about 139 years since his achievement!


Literature By Nain Singh Rawat

1. Akshansh Darpan (Mirror of Latitudes) :
Nain Singh has put all his scientific and technical information about his experiments and the experiences of the explorations during the Great Trigonometrical Survey (1865-75) in writing in the form of this book. It worked as a good manual/guide for the later generations of explorers.

2. Itihaas Rawat Kaum (History of Rawats) : This book is about the history of the Rawats, a sub-group of the larger Shauka community of Johar valley in Pithoragarh (Uttarakhand).

3. Nain Singh’s Diaries / Reports : These are the unpublished works of Nain Singh in the form of Diaries and Reports. The original manuscript of these works is missing, but some historians have tried to publish them using the available sources.


Nain Singh Rawat in Popular Culture / Media :
There are several forms of media in which information about Pundit Nain Singh Rawat and his extraordinary achievements has been published / illustrated.

(A) Literature
  1. Report of a Route-Survey made by Pundit & Others - T. G. Montgomery, The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, Vol. 38 (1868).
  2. Report of the Trans-Himalayan Explorations during 1867 - T. G. Montgomery, The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, Vol. 39 (1869).
  3. Account of the Pundit's Journey in Great Tibet - Capt. H. Trotter, The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, Vol. 47 (1877).
  4. A Memoir on The Indian Surveys, 2nd Ed. - Clements R. Markham, W H Allen & Co., London (1878).
  5. A Memoir on The Indian Surveys (1875-90) - Charles E. D. Black, London (1891).
  6. The Heartland of Asia - Nathale Ettinger, Aldus Books, London (1971).
  7. Indian Explorers of the 19th Century - Indra Singh Rawat (1973).
  8. The Rand McNally World Atlas of Exploration - Rand McNally & Co., New York (1975).
  9. To the Farthest Ends of the Earth : The History of the Royal Geographical Society (1830-1980) - Ian Cameron, Macdonald, London (1980).
  10. Johar Ka Itihaas (History of Johar) - Babu Ram Singh Pangtey (1980).
  11. The Mapmakers - J. N. Wilford, Knopf, New York (1981).
  12. Trespassers on the Roof of the World : The Race for Lhasa - Peter Hopkirk, Oxford University Press (1982).
  13. The Pundits : British Exploration of Tibet and Central Asia - Derek J. Waller, University Press of Kentucky (1990).
  14. Accidental Explorers : Surprises and Side Trips in the History of Discovery - Rebecca Stefoff, Oxford University Press, New York/Oxford (1992).
  15. Pundit Nain Singh - Dr. Ram Singh.
  16. Madhya Himalaya Ki Bhotia Janjaati (Bhotia Tribe of The Central Himalayas) - Dr. Sher Singh Pangtey (1992).
  17. Asia Ki Peeth Par : Pundit Nain Singh Rawat - Uma Bhatt & Shekhar Pathak, PAHAR, Nainital (2006).

(B) Television / Documentary
  1. Himalaya Darshan - Doordarshan (Prasar Bharti), India (1990-94).
  2. Discovery Channel / National Geographic Channel / The History Channel (200?).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pundit Man Singh Rawat (Compasi)

Man Singh Rawat, commonly known as “Mani Compasi”, was one of the famous Pundit Brothers who played a significant role in the exploration of Central Asia during the ‘Great Game’ between the British and Russians in the second-half of the 19th century.

Man Singh was the eldest son of Deb Singh Rawat (Debu Buda), who was among the wealthiest and most influential traders of Johar region in Pithoragarh. During an expedition in Neeti valley of Garhwal Himalayas, Dr. William Moorcroft was helped and accompanied by Deb Singh Rawat in his journey to Mansarovar via Daba. Man Singh was the older cousin of Pundit Nain Singh Rawat, the famous explorer and cartographer who worked in the Great Trigonometrical Survey.

At an early age, Man Singh joined his father in the traditional trans-border trade between India and Tibet. He visited many places in the trade route of Tibet, and learnt the Tibetan language, and customs. Because of his good cognitive skills, he easily became familiar with the terrain and people of Tibet, which became an advantage in his future expeditions.


Career :

(A) Government Office - Patwari (1851)
Before joining the Schlagintweit Brother’ expedition, Man Singh Rawat served the ‘East India Company’ government as a “Patwari” (village accountant) of 67 villages in Kumaon region around 1851.

(B) Schlagintweit Brothers’ Expedition (1855-1857)
In 1853, Baron Alexander Von Humboldt (second discoverer of Cuba) convinced the King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm IV to send his protégées, the Schlagintweit Brothers to replace Lieutenant C. Elliot in the Magnetic Survey of India for the exploration of the Himalayas and the Kunlun mountains. Baron Humboldt sent these German scientists to the office of the Survey of India for assistance, which reluctantly allowed them to proceed for the survey. In December 1854, the Schlagintweit Brothers (Hermann, Adolph and Robert) reached India, and the explored the North-Western Provinces of India and the sources of the Indus river.

  • In 1855, during their expedition in the Himalayas, Adolf and Robert Schlagintweit met old Deb Singh Rawat in the Johar valley, who advised them to recruit three members of his family for their expedition - Man Singh Rawat (Mani Compasi), Dolpa Pangtey and Nain Singh Rawat. Thus, Man Singh’s first exploration journey was with these Germans from 1855 to 1857. They explored numerous mountain passes and glaciers of the Himalayas and reached Mansarovar and Rakastal lakes via Daba, and then travelled further to Gartok in the Western Tibet. This expedition team also surveyed Badrinath and Mana valley of the Garhwal Himalayas, and finally reached Mussoorie in October.
  • In 1856, the Schlagintweit Brothers again recruited Man Singh, Nain Singh and Dolpa Pangtey for their next expedition mission to Ladakh and Chinese Turkistan (Xinjiang Province of China). The German explorers were impressed by the courage and hard work of these Pundits. The expedition team of Hermann and Robert Schlagintweit, disguised as local merchants, travelled over the ancient caravan routes of Kashmir, Ladakh (Leh and Nubra valley) and the Baltistan region (POK), and then, over the Karakorum Pass, Chinese Turkestan, the Kunlun range and the Karakax valley (Northern Tibet).

From 1854 to 1857, all together the Schlagintweit Brothers travelled for over 29,000 km, filled 46 volumes with scientific data, 22 volumes with sketches, painted and draw 749 landscape views, collected over 14700 specimens of which over 9000 of geological nature. The plant collection amounted to 1800 specimens and 650 tree cross-sections. 750 zoological specimens, 400 human skulls and skeletons as also 1400 ethnological specimens completed their scientific bounty.

Robert and Hermann left India with their collections in spring of 1857, but Adolph stayed behind to further explore the regions beyond Afghanistan, and reach Russia through Central Asia. Unfortunately, Adolph reached Chinese Turkistan on the onset of the rebellion of Wali Khan, a Chieftain from the Chodhsa clan in Kasghar against the Chinese Government. He was captured on 26th August 1857 near Yarkand by Wali Khan, and killed in Kasghar.

(C) Government Vernacular School, Milam (1858-1863)
After the Schlagintweit Brothers’ expedition, Man Singh and his cousin, Nain Singh joined the Government Vernacular School as teachers in their native village Milam in 1858. Both of them continued to work in this school till their appointment in the Great Trigonometrical Survey in 1863.

(D) Great Trigonometrical Survey (1863-1865)
In 1862-63, Education Officer Edmund Smyth was in correspondence with Captain Montgomery to recruit some trustworthy natives as explorers for the Great Trigonometrical Survey. On the recommendation of Edmund Smyth, Nain Singh and Man Singh Rawat were selected for this expedition at a starting salary of rupees twenty a month. They were given code names for their clandestine survey mission - Nain Singh was ‘Chief Pundit’ or ‘No. 1’ and Man Singh was ‘Second Pundit’ or “G.M.” (inverted order of first & last letters of name).

a. Training :
On 12th January 1863, Nain Singh and Man Singh Rawat were sent to the Great Trigonometrical Survey office at Dehradun, where they underwent training for two years. This rigorous course included the training on scientific instruments, like sextant and compass, and some ingenious ways of measurement and recording information, and also the art of disguise (espionage). They were also trained to recognize all major stars and different constellations easily for directions.

During their training, they were drilled using a pace-stick, to take steps of a fixed length which remained constant even while climbing up, down or walking on plain surface. They were trained to record the distances by an ingenious method using a rosary. This rosary unlike a Hindu or Buddhist one, which has 108 beads, had just 100 beads. At every 100 steps the Pundits would slip one bead, so a complete length of the rosary represented 10000 steps. It was easy to calculate the distance as each step was 31½ Inches and a mile was calculated to be around 2000 steps. To avoid suspicion, these explorers went about their task disguised as monks or traders or whatever suited the particular situation. The notes of measurements were coded in the form of written prayers and these scrolls of paper were hidden in the cylinder of the prayer wheel. The Pundits kept this secret log book up to date. The compass for taking bearing was hidden in the lid of the prayer wheel. Mercury used for setting and artificial horizon, was kept in Cowri shells and for use poured into the begging bowl carried by the Pundits. The thermometer found place in the topmost part of the monk’s stave. The sextant was kept in the false bottoms of the box, and hidden pockets were also added to the clothes.

b. First Mission :
In March 1865, the two Pundits finally departed on their first mission - to cross the Tibetan border disguised as ‘Bashahris’, who were given limited rights to travel there. In spite of the two years they had spent being trained, this was a task of enormous difficulty and dangers. Once in Kathmandu (Nepal), the two brothers separated ways, and headed for the Tibetan border. When Man Singh entered Tibet, he recognised an old friend who was a Tibetan border official in Kirosar. In order to save his cover (disguise) and prevent any suspicion about his spy mission, Man Singh returned back to Kathmandu. Then, he planned to go through the Muktinath pass route along the Kali-Gandaki River in Mustang (Nepal) to enter Tibet. But his sudden illness not allowed him to go any further, and from there Man Singh returned to India. But Nain Singh continued his journey, and went on to Tashilhumpo Monastery, where he met the Panchen Lama, and finally, reached Lhasa.


(E) Retirement from the Survey of India (1865)
After his return from the expedition, Man Singh left the job of the Survey of India due to weak health. The British government appointed him as a “Peshkar” (revenue officer) in the Kumaon region.


Legacy :
Pundit Man Singh Rawat was part of the renowned triad of the Pundit Brothers, who gave their great contribution in the exploration of Central Asia and Tibet, when no European was able to complete this Herculean task! Though he was not as famous as his cousin, Nain Singh Rawat, but his role in the field of geographical survey cannot be underestimated.

For his contribution to the Great Trigonometrical Survey, the British Indian government appointed him at the post of “Peshkar” (revenue officer) in Kumaon. Along with the other Pundits, his explorations and surveys also got published in many books, magazines, and research papers throughout the world.

Under the German explorers, Man Singh learned the use of magnetic compass with such a perfection that his villagers used to call him “Mani Compasi”, and this name also got place in the folk songs of the Johar valley. The people of Johar region still remember Man Singh Rawat by the name of “Mani Compassi” or “Mani Peshkar”.

Man Singh Rawat also wrote an account on the history of Johar, but its original manuscript is missing and thus, this literary work was never published! It seems that the feats of this genius were never properly acknowledged and penned down by the historians!

 
Literature about Man Singh Rawat :
There are several books in which information about Pundit Man Singh Rawat and his expeditions has been published.

  1. Report of a Route-Survey made by Pundit & Others - T. G. Montgomery, The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society (1868).
  2. Report of the Trans-Himalayan Explorations during 1867 - T. G. Montgomery, The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society (1869).
  3. Account of the Pundit's Journey in Great Tibet - Capt. H. Trotter, The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society (1877).
  4. Indian Explorers of the 19th Century - Indra Singh Rawat (1973).
  5. Johar Ka Itihaas (History of Johar) - Babu Ram Singh Pangtey (1980).
  6. Trespassers on the Roof of the World : The Race for Lhasa - Peter Hopkirk, Oxford University Press (1982).
  7. The Pundits : British Exploration of Tibet and Central Asia - Derek J. Waller, University Press of Kentucky (1990).
  8. Madhya Himalaya Ki Bhotia Janjaati (Bhotia Tribe of The Central Himalayas) – Dr. Sher Singh Pangtey (1992).