Savitri Khanolkar:Lady who designed paramvir chakra.

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by ajtr, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    ALL the biography is from wiki as no other detailed info is available about her.Any error can be corrected at wiki.

    Savitri Khanolkar

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    Mrs. Savitri Khanolkar , born Eve Yvonne Maday de Maros, on July 20, 1913 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, to a Hungarian father André de Maday, professor of sociology at Geneva University and President of the Société de Sociologie de Genève, and Russian mother Marthe Hentzelt, who taught at the Institut Jean-Jacques Rousseau. She later was known as Savitri Bai, the name she was given after she married an Indian, became a Hindu and took Indian nationality. She is the designer of India's highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra.

    Soon after Indian independence, she was asked by the Adjutant General Major General Hira Lal Atal to design India’s highest award for bravery in combat, the Param Vir Chakra.

    Major General Hira Lal Atal was given the responsibility for creating and naming independent India’s new military decorations. His reasons for choosing Mrs.Khanolkar were her deep and intimate knowledge of Indian mythology, Sanskrit and Vedas, which he hoped would give the design a truly Indian ethos. She was a painter and an artist, and wife of Captain (later Major General) Vikram Ramji Khanolkar, a serving officer with the Sikh Regiment, at the time of the request.

    Ms Khanolkar took her inspiration from the mythical Rishi Dadich who donated his thigh-bone to the Gods to make a "Vajra" (thunderbolt) to kill Britasur (also called as Vrutrasur) . On either side of the "Vajra", she put Shivaji's sword "Bhawani".

    Coincidentally, the first PVC was awarded to her son-in-law Major Som Nath Sharma from 4 Kumaon Regiment who was posthumously awarded for his valour of November 3, 1947 during the 1947-48 Indo-Pak war in Kashmir.

    Family history

    She spent her early childhood in Geneva, where she grew to be a compassionate girl with a love of nature and the outdoors. In 1929, when she was still a teenager, she met Vikram Khanolkar, a young Indian Army officer studying at Sandhurst Academy in Great Britain, who was holidaying in Riviera. Although he was many years older than her, Eve fell in love with him. Her father however, did not agree to let her go away to a faraway country like India but Eve was a determined young woman, and her love was strong. She followed Vikram to India a few years later, and in 1932, she married him at Bombay. She began her new life adapting to Indian culture as Mrs. Savitribai Khanolkar.

    Indian connection

    Despite coming (or maybe because of coming) from a European background, Savitri Bai identified closely with Indo-European traditions and ideals, that her integration into Indian society was smooth and effortless. She was a vegetarian, learnt to speak fluent Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit, and learnt Indian music, dance and painting. She always considered herself an Indian by birth, and was so fascinated with Hindu mythology that she read extensively from Hindu scriptures. She had a deep knowledge of India's ancient history and legends. It was this knowledge that led Major General Hira Lal Atal, the creator of the Param Vir Chakra, to ask for Savitri Bai's help in designing a medal that would truly symbolize the highest bravery.

    The design of Param Vir Chakra

    Savitribai thought of the sage Dadhichi - a vedic rishi who made the ultimate sacrifice to the Gods. He gave up his body so that the Gods could fashion a deadly weapon - a Vajra, or thunderbolt, from his thigh bone. Savitribai gave Major General Hira Lal Atal, the design of the double Vajra, common in Tibet, and also suggested that it be flanked by Bhawani - the sword of the valiant and fearless warrior king Shivaji. Thus was born the design of the Param Vir Chakra.

    The medal itself is a small one. It is cast in bronze, and has a radius of 13/8 inch. In the centre, on a raised circle, is the state emblem, surrounded by four replicas of Indra's Vajra, flanked by the sword of Shivaji. The decoration is suspended from a straight swiveling suspension bar, and is held by a 32 mm purple ribbon.

    An interesting account of her life

    The following account of her life has been given by her friend, Lt. General Harbaksh Singh, but Savitri's family would like to make some corrections: Her mother was not Hungarian, but Russian. She was not put in a school on the Riviera, but went to school in Geneva.Her father was a professor of sociology at Geneva University, not a librarian. She married when she was 19 years old, one year after arriving in India.

    The best account cite web | title = Article on Savitri Bai| url = http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/nov01/os3.asp | accessdate = May 30 | acessyear = 2006] of her family past can be found in the words of Lt. Gen Harbaksh Singh, very closely associated with the Sikh Regiment and a hero of the 1965 Indo-Pak War.

    He thus reminiscences the lady -

    "“Born of Hungarian parents, Mrs. Khanolkar lost her mother at birth. Her father was then a librarian of the League of Nations in Geneva. She was brought up by him and put in a school at Riviera, near the sea-coast. She missed her mother from the very beginning, and would often question her father as to where was her mother, and why did he come alone to school to see her? While on leave from school, she had ample opportunity to study books; and somehow she took a liking to India. At school, missing her mother, she adopted the sea nearby as her mother; and the sea-surfs as her mother’s bosom. She loved bathing in the sea and lolling about, which she considered her mother’s bosom!"

    "“One day she was holidaying, with other families and her father, on the beaches of Riviera. Her father led her to a batch of Indians, also holdaying from Sandhurst, in London. And Khanolkar was the first Indian she encountered. She insisted on taking his address, and communicating with him by post. She was then only 14 years old. She communicated with Khanolkar at Sandhurst. Khanolkar finished his course at Sandhurst, and was posted to 5/11th Sikh Regiment in Aurangabad. There he received a letter from her to say that she was arriving in Bombay, and he should meet her. He met her in Bombay (a city which he himself belonged to, being a Maharashtran) and they got married there. She was then only 15 years’ old and Khanolkar about 27. He brought her to Aurangabad as his bride; but this was not liked by the British Officers in the Battalion - firstly because she was a foreigner, and secondly because he had married against the unwritten law that as a British officer, you could not marry until you were 30."

    "“Mrs Khanolkar was truly an Indian wife. She had been to Patna University and learnt Hindi and Sanskrit. She dressed simply, in cotton saris, and wore no rouge, and had chappals to wear! For a time, Captain Khanolkar was my Company Commander in the Battalion and I had very close contact with his family. I liked Mrs. Khanolkar and her ways immensely. She had become the follower of Ramakrishna, and started following Vedantas. And, by her ways, she inducted me into Vedanta. I spent a month with the Khanolkars in Nowshera, our regimental centre then, when he was posted there after Aurangabad, and learnt ‘meditation’ under her guidance."

    "“When her husband died, she became a nun of the Ramakrishna Mission. Mrs. Khanolkar is herself dead now (died in 1990), but what a person!”"

    Epilogue

    Savitri Bai did a lot a social work too in her later years, working with soldiers and their families and refugees who had been displaced during the Partition. After her husband's death in 1952, she found refuge in spirituality, and retired to the Ramakrishna Math. She wrote a book on the Saints of Maharashtra that is popular even today.

    Mrs. Savitri Bai Khanolankar died in 1990, but her memory lives on in the great award that she designed. It is fitting that a remarkable lady who truly loved India and was intensely proud of being an Indian designed an award that is given to soldiers who love their country so much that they are ready to die for it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2010
    lemontree and panduranghari like this.
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  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Param Vir Chakra
     
  4. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    Thanks for this bit of history.
     

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