Asia’s oldest continuously published newspaper, the Mumbai Samachar turned 200 on 1 July 2021. First published as Bombay Samachar, a Gujarati weekly in 1822 it comprised of three small quarto sheets, 10 inches by 8 inches, and a half sheet supplement in all containing 14 pages of printed matter.
It was published as a weekly till 1832, a bi-weekly till 1855 and a daily since then, it continued to grow and became one of Western India’s Premier Newspapers, read by a large segment of Gujarati speaking people both in India and abroad.
It was founded by Fardoonji Murazban, a Parsi Scholar and Priest. He also founded the first native press in 1812 and in 1814 brought out a Gujarati Calendar, 6 years before the first Bengali Calendar was printed and published in Calcutta.
By the end of 18th century Parsi and Gujarati community dominated the commercial world of Mumbai in particular and the entire Western India in general. Mumbai emerged as a commercial hub. At that time Calcutta Chronicle and The Indian Gazette were the leading newspapers. These papers had very little news about Mumbai. Fardoonji Murazban, a visionary could appreciate the need for local news and news in vernacular language and planned publication of a Gujarati newspaper.
Bombay Samachar was published to disseminate need-based information, mostly to the trader community- Gujaratis and Parsis. Therefore news related to trade and business dominated.
From its inception the editorial policy was to objectively report events in a fair and honest manner and not to sensationalize news. Sobriety and independence of views became a hall mark of Bombay Samachar. It was for this that the newspaper was respected by both the British and Indian readers. The British administration also respected this paper for its balanced and objective stand. It created an identity for itself for its fair, frank, objective and critical analysis of events, which it retains till date. Its tag line, ‘Avval Dainik, Nishpaksh Dainik’ (Leading Daily, Non-partisan Daily) sums up its policy.
Bombay Samachar played an important role during India’s struggle for Independence. Its reports and editorials were being often quoted by freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and others. It also contained articles and letters by freedom fighters like Gandhi and Patel.
The paper was owned and managed by the Parsi priests for about 80 years from the beginning. Then it passed through various hands before coming into the ownership of the Cama family, its present publishers, in 1933. To the good fortune of the paper, Cama family nourished the paper with an eclectic mix of old and new. Though it has adopted new technology and content mix to go with the times, much of its hoary past is preserved, especially by Hormusji N Cama, the present Director, whose offices overlooks the Horniman Circle Gardens — once regarded as the favourite social venue of the Parsis. The paper, interestingly still comes out from the same place where it was started.
By the new millennium Bomay (Mumbai) Samachar had become an iconic institution. So much so that the Apollo Street in the Fort area was renamed after the paper as the ‘Mumbai Samachar Marg’ in 2006.
At 200, the paper is going strong with over a circulation of 1.8 million copies and innovative ideas to attract young readers under the able guidance of the present editor Nilesh Dave.
Deities on Sickbed
Do you know that Lord Jagannath of the famous Puri temple falls sick ahead of the annual rath yatra and is isolated for fourteen days? Yes, it is an interesting ritual. It has a prelude.
The Devasnana festival, (which fell on 25 June this year) is observed on the full moon day in Jyestha month of the Hindu calendar. The deities are bathed in 108 pitchers of water drawn from a particular well inside the temple premises following which the trinity- Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath- fall sick due to heavy bathing and remain in Anasara (sick) Ghara (room) before the ratha yatra.
After the deities are taken to the Anasara Ghara, a nutritious but dry meal is served which is devoid of the ingredients used for the regular Chhappan Bhog. They are also given an ayurvedic treatment with oil called Phuluri by the Daitapatis (priests), and the period of quarantine is called Anbasara.
Once the deities recover from their illness, they are served solid food or Khichuri. And the first darshan after Anasar is called Nava Youvan (new youth).
Then the deities go to their maternal aunty’s (mausi- in Odia) house on chariot. This festival is called Rath Yatra.
One can see the way deities are treated here is almost like they are human beings, who can and do fall sick and require medication and rest.
The same approach to the deities could be found in Bengal in the way Bengalis treat Mother Durga- like the daughter of the house, who arrives with her children on an annual visit.
In both the cases there is more love than reverence.
I got the cute picture in a social media forward. It captures the right spirit of the Gods in sickbed.
Tailpiece: 12 types of Indians
Now in the time of Corona a dozen types of Indians are found in India.
1. Proud Indians. Those who have taken both the doses of vaccine, and put their photographs on social media platforms.
2. Worried Indians. Those who have taken one dose vaccine and looking for the second.
3. Helpless Indians. Who have received no vaccine.
4. Confused Indians. Who are still thinking which vaccine to take?
5. Perplexed Indians. Who had Covid infections even after two doses of vaccine.
6. Disappointed Indians. Who are unable to register on Cowin.
7. Stupid Indians. Those who are moving around without masks.
8. Arrogant Indians. Who still believe that there is nothing like Corona. It is a big conspiracy by big Pharma companies.
9. Addicted Indians. Addicted to shopping and shop-hopping.
10. Panicked Indians. Who Keep wearing mask 24×7 even inside the home.
11. Suicidal Indians. Who keep insisting on not wearing mask and not keeping social distance.
12. Hyper-active Indians. Who keep creating video of quick-fix care of Corona and post them on social media.
(Courtesy: Social Media)
About the Author:
The columnist a journalist turned media academician lives at Dhenkanal, a central Odisha town. He also writes fiction and translates poetry. An anthology of Hindi and Urdu poems that he translated into Odia has just been published.