This year my Aita ( grandmother in Assamese) turned 100. She is not in the best of health and remained largely unaware of this historic moment. After the initial excitement and all the ‘ wow to live to be a 100’ tapered off , I was curious to know what India was like in 1914, what had happened that has left a mark today, events etc.
From Aita I had learned that life in the village as she was growing up followed a slow pace where traditions were passed down the generations and followed, the patriarchal head ruled over all the members of the joint family and men outranked women. Most of the population of Assam were Vaishnavite Hindus and members of a local devotional center called “nam ghar” or “the house of names” (of God) . People gathered here to chant the names of god though not a religious place of worship but more a place of learning .The caste system, although it exists, was not as prominent as in other parts of India. The most important social and cultural celebrations were the three Bihu festivals were a lot of merry-making and feasting happened and the whole village joined in.
She went to a Pathsala, an educational institute run by the local Panchayat (village administration) and stopped once she attained puberty. Instructions were given in Assamese and Sanskrit. The Christian missionaries were yet to set up schools in Assam. As kids growing up with her cousins, they were dimly aware of the British but the presence of the Raj rule was not felt in their daily dealings in the village till later. At home she was taught to weave using fine silks and cotton , creating intricate designs on a simple make shift loom. She self-taught herself to use a graph paper to draft her patterns. There were many chores to perform around the house, helping in the kitchen and obeying elders.
Under the Imperial rule and as part of the British colony, troops from India were sent to participate in World war 1 against the Germans. A quote from Wikipedia – ” The Indian army during World War I was the largest voluntary army in the world, contributed to the European, Mediterranean and the Middle East stages of war in World War I. Over one million Indian troops served overseas, of whom 62,000 died and another 67,000 were wounded. In total at least 74,187 Indian soldiers died during the war “.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, after participating in the civil rights movement in South Africa, returned to India in 1914 and the following year spearheaded the Indian Independence movement.
The British convoked a conference at Simla, India to discuss an agreement concerning the boundaries of India and Tibet. The conference was attended by representatives of the Britain, the newly founded Republic of China, and the Tibetan government at Lhasa. A boundary between Tibet,and British India was drawn on a map later known as the McMahon line and reference to in the treaty – THE SIMLA ACCORD , that was signed by India and Tibet. The representatives of China rejected the accord and withdrew. Both the governments of Tibet and India then made a note denying China any privilege under the accord. Even today China continues to reject the accord and claims that a part of what is now Arunachal Pradesh ( a state in India) belongs to them.