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Gopal Bhardwaj

Time changes everything and no one really knows when that familiar place of our memories becomes a shadow of what it used to be. Thankfully, there are people like Mussoorie-based Gopal Bhardwaj, who are trying to keep the past alive. The 60 year-old historian and photographer has amassed a vast collection of archival photographs, maps and memorabilia on Mussoorie, many of which have been widely exhibited. Much of his collection is a legacy of his astrologer father R G R Bhardwaj who often interacted with freedom fighters and leaders of the pre-Independence era.

 

Bhardwaj’s collection includes photos of Mullingar, Mussoorie’s first building; photos of exiled Prince Duleep Singh, son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh; early photos of Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy which was shifted from Delhi's Metcalfe House to Charleville in 1959; images of Dalai Lama and Jawaharlal Nehru when the Lama first sought asylum; and lithographs of the East India Company. Apart from such rare insights into history, there are photographs of famous personalities, clubs, hotels, monuments, institutions and scenes from daily life in Mussoorie — all captioned with information sourced from old residents of Mussoorie, and books and documents from the National Archives, Delhi, National Library, Kolkata and India Office Library, London. The oldest photograph dates back 150 years. Over the years, he has added 5,000 photographs to the collection, all shot by him on his various sojourns through the Himalaya. 

Though his collection is impressive, it’s not easy to maintain; the photographs need to be aired regularly; Bhardwaj keeps each wrapped separately in plastic. “I hope the government will allocate a museum or space in the city hall where the cache can be preserved,” he says. While he waits for that to happen, he is busy these days lending the finishing touches to a large-format book on the 200-year history of Mussoorie.

 — Natasha Pathak

Featured in Harmony Magazine

April 2010

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Vijay Singh Negi was born and brought up in Mussoorie where his growing days turned into an attachment with the Garhwal Himalayas. Vijay did B.Sc. from MPG College Mussoorie and then did masters in Aero-mechanical Engineering but destiny had something else stored for him. Vijay’s passion for the mountains turned him from aamateur photographer to a professional one. His photography skills intensified during shooting for tourists atGunhill and eventually Vijay began focusing inside Garhwal on an international level preserving the beauty and culture of Garhwal through his visual insight. During that period Vijay began searching and researching on paleography books and material as he has a thorough understanding of Sanskrit. He believes in reaching to a conclusion only through deep research and knowledge about the given enigma as words can decipher many meanings. Vijay is deeply obsessed with the NaagDevtaworship cult, the Mahabharata linkage with the mountains and particularly with lord Shiva as he believes that Shiva is the greatest philosopher and scientist on many of the aspects of the mountains. Vijay has in-depth knowledge of many valley civilizations. During his course of research and understanding, Vijay got immensely inspired from Professor Bhaktadarshan, the first Education minister of Uttar Pradesh and from Harbans Singh, the author of many volumes. Besides many breathtaking black &white photographs of Mussoorie and Garhwal, the treasure of Vijay as a historian of Garhwal and a chronicle on Mussoorie includes some rare coins of the Amoghpati era. Vijay is seen as the ultimate solution on any given dilemma. Vijay expresses his commitment towards the preservation of the history and culture of Mussoorie and Garhwal.
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Jai Prakash Shah was honored with the title 'Uttarakhandi', during the 1981 Uttarakhand Rally in Delhi, for his active involvement in the agitation for a separate state of Uttarakhand when he was even jailed and tortured several times. Uttarakhandi was born on 5th September 1953 in Sanrap village of Jaunpur block of TehriGarhwal. He went to Convent of Jesus and Mary Waverly for primary education and later switched between Mussoorie and Dehradun for higher studies. Uttarakhandi got passionate about literature after writing the play 'ApradhiKaun' in the year 1972. He got into serious journalism with 'Dainik vanguard' in the year 1976. Later he wrote hundreds of articles for dailies like Amar Ujala, DainikJagran, Navbharat Times, Blitz, Jansatta, Ravivar and Badrivishal. Ever since 1983, Uttarakhandi went into deep research work and came up with his first book 'Mussoorie Dastavaz-1815-1995'. Later, he did a compilation of ten short stories based on words of mouth in and around Mussoorie which was published in Yugvani magazine. He received an award for his research story 'Fattudas' in the year 1984. Pertaining to the history of Mussoorie and Dehradun, 118 of his research work has been published so far. Uttarakhandi then did a thorough research on history of Mussoorie and Uttarakhandthrough 1985-1986.