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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh’s samadhi in Vrindavan: Memory revived, a memorial forgotten

On the bank of Yamuna’s Keshi Ghat in Vrindavan, under a towering banyan tree, the memorial is not hard to find, but not easy to recognise as that of a legend in whose name a state university is being established for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone on Tuesday.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | Vrindavan |
Updated: September 15, 2021 8:28:03 am
The samadhi on Keshi Ghat in Vrindavan. (Photo: Avishek G Dastidar)

A RICKETY structure of exposed bricks surrounding a pale white marble samadhi is where Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh was cremated 42 years ago. The structure has no roof, nothing to protect the samadhi from the elements.

On the bank of Yamuna’s Keshi Ghat in Vrindavan, under a towering banyan tree, the memorial is not hard to find, but not easy to recognise as that of a legend in whose name a state university is being established for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone on Tuesday.

A lack of roof keeps the samadhi unprotected from the elements. (Express Photo by Wali Ahmad)

Built on Singh’s own land donated for this purpose, the samadhi was originally in the middle of a little park.

Now, however, the grass is gone, and no one calls it a park. One side of it, as it appeared on Tuesday, garbage is dumped — used disposable plates and soft drink bottles among others.

A man sleeps on the floor of the memorial in one corner, while a monkey sits nearby watching passers by. “This is how it is used. What else to do?” says Happy, who is in his 20s, a local resident.

The samadhi was originally in the middle of a small park. (Express Photo by Wali Ahmad)

Mahendra Pratap Singh is known as “Raja saab” here.

“All this land belongs to Raja saab. The samadhi is just there. No one visits. There is nothing to see really,” says Happy.

Opposite the samadhi, across the lane, stands what used to be a grand mansion. The over 100-year-old building houses Prem Maha Vidyalaya Inter College, established by Singh in 1909, now a state government-aided school teaching classes from 6 to 12.

Established by Singh in 1909, Prem Maha Vidyalaya Inter College is now a state government-aided school. (Express Photo by Wali Ahmad)

The large wooden door is locked from outside. Tuesday being a state holiday, beggars sit in front of the door. A portion of the front side has been taken over by outsiders many years ago, while another portion is covered by a busy tea stall. Tourists throng Keshi Ghat for boating, so the stall does brisk business all day.

“There is no management. Trustees management dissolved more than 20 years ago. It is being aided by the government. But only for teachers’ salaries and such things. Not for maintenance of the property. Roofs of many rooms have collapsed. The electricity connection got disconnected many years ago. There are huge dues since 1994,” says Dev Prakash, the school principal.

Isn’t there electricity in the school then? “I have taken a 2 kW connection in my name just for office work. I pay the monthly bill. For classes, there’s no electricity.”

The large wooden door is usually locked from outside. Mostly on Tuesday beggars sit in front of the door, as the day marks the state holiday. (Express Photo by Wali Ahmad)

Across town, the PMV Polytechnic is a bustling campus, just like any popular college. It was established by Singh the same year as the school, in 1909 — one of the first such institute in India.

The school has written to the state government to develop the memorial on Keshi Ghat like Rajghat. It has requested the school building be turned into a museum.

Inside the school compound stands the founder’s bust. “December 1 is Raja saab’s birthday. It’s celebrated in the school. It’s not a VIP affair. No one really comes,” says caretaker Sunil Babu.

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