Nagpur, situated at the heart of India, is truly a cosmopolitan city. It has attracted talent and manpower from all across the country; who have stayed to make it ‘home’. Just consider Nagpur’s origin – founded by a Gond king, Raja Buland Shah who hailed from Chattisgarh and later ruled with great success by Raja Bhonsles who hailed from Satara.
Since then,many other ‘outsiders’ have come to Nagpur and made valuable contributions. In their own way, they have brought Nagpur to national and international notice and prominence. We cannot even begin to aknowledge them all and chronicle their achievements, but we have chosen three that enriched Nagpur the most in three different spheres – education, politics and commerce.
Rao Bahadur Laxminarayan
The Laxminarayan Institute of Technology which was founded in 1942 owes its existence to the munificent donation of the Late Rao Bahadur D. Laxminarayan of Kamptee who by sheer hard work and in spite of many difficulties, not only amassed a considerable fortune, but became a prominent figure in the public affairs of the Central Province. During his life time he had decided that a large portion of his wealth would go to making Nagpur a great place for learning – specially technology. The Nizam of Hyderabad tried to woo him back to his ‘native place’ but Laxminarayan stood firm. Today LIT and the Nagpur University campus – both stand on land bought through his largesse.
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
The International Airport at Nagpur is named after him. Ambedkar was not only a great Dalit leader, he was a very erudite, learned leader with great foresight. The first Law Minister of independent India, and Chairman of the Committee that wrote the Constitution – he was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, our highest civilian award. Not many know that he was not a Nagpurian – he was brought up and educated in Mumbai and then spent a considerable time at Columbia University in USA and LSE, London. But when it came to selecting an Indian city for the most significant step of his life, renouncing Hinduism and embracing Budhism along with his lakhs of followers, he chose Nagpur! Why Nagpur? Because he revered this place as the land of the Nagas – Indian warriors who first spread Budhism in India. It is said that when his wife, Ramabai was on her deathbed she wanted to go to Pandharpur. “No” said Ambedkar ” I will create another Pandharpur where people will come from all over the world to pay homage”. That they do – lakhs of people come to Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur on 14th October every year. Not just Indians but Budhists from Thailand, Japan also.
He has made “made in Nagpur” products synonymous with celebrations all across the world. Yes, Haldiram, the biggest Corporate of Central India, one of the most trusted Indian brands, is sold all over the globe now. Shivkisan came to Nagpur in 1970 from Bikaner and began a samosa and namkeen shop in Itwari. But his goal was always to go into production of his popular ‘bhujia’ and ‘sev’ which he has done in a big way in factories spread across acres on the outskirts of Nagpur. Not only that, his 8 restaurants, called Food Planets, and serving pure Veg. Indian, Chinese and Italian fare do roaring business. They have come up with innovative food packaging too – next time a travelling relative wants ‘tiffin’ at the Railway station, try their packed ‘thali’. Superb!
We salute these men who in their own way have made Nagpur what it is. Tribute.