Musings On The Constitution-II Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Musings On The Constitution-II
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

The original Constitution of India, adopted on 26th January 1950, was not a printed document. It was entirely handcrafted by the artists of Shantiniketan under the guidance of Acharya Nandalal Bose, with the calligraphy texts done by Prem Behari Narain Raizada in Delhi. This document is now preserved in a special helium-filled case in the library of the Parliament of India. In many ways, the original handcrafted Constitution represents one of the triumphs of Shantiniketan and Kala Bhavan.

To digress, on September 17th, 1787, only 39 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document. The original US Constitution signed on September 17th and ratified June 21, 1788 is only five pages long. Three Latin phrases appear in the Constitution: pro tempore, ex post facto, and habeas corpus. James Madison is viewed as the “Father of the Constitution” despite his misgivings towards some of its content.
The 85 articles of The Federalists were instrumental in getting the Constitution ratified and were written by Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. The Constitutional Convention lasted from May 25th, 1787 through September 17th, 1787. George Washington served as president of the Constitutional Convention, but did not speak during any of the proceedings until the Convention’s final day. During the Convention, George Washington sat in a chair that had a representation of half a sun on the top, which Benjamin Franklin regularly gazed at during troublesome moments of the proceedings. Asked why, he said he was unable to decide if the sun was rising or setting. Only when the Constitution was signed did Franklin decide the sun was rising.
Franklin, at age 81, was the oldest delegate, and had to be helped to sign his name. Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” According to quote trackers Bartleby and the Yale Book of Quotations, it first appeared in 1906 in the American Historical Review. But that doesn’t mean it comes from the 20th century; the Review was publishing for the first time the notes of James McHenry, a Maryland delegate at the Constitutional Convention. This is what he wrote: “A lady- Mrs. Elizabeth Willing Powel, a prominent society figure and the wife of Philadelphia mayor Samuel Powel- asked Dr. Franklin, “Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy.” “A republic,” replied the Doctor, “if you can keep it”. It resonates with Dr. Ambedkar’s last speech in the Constituent Assembly!

John Shallus, a clerk for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, physically wrote the Constitution down on parchment paper. The Convention paid him $30 for his services, which is worth about $800 today. Rhode Island was the only state that refused to send delegates to the Constitutional Convention and was the last state to ratify the Constitution (May 29th, 1790). One of the Constitutional Convention’s debates was the title of the nation’s Chief Executive. One possible idea: “His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of their Liberties.” Eventually everyone settled on “The President of the United States.”
The U.S. Constitution is the shortest governing document of any nation today, and contains only 7 articles and 27 amendments. It is also the oldest; Norway’s comes in second and was codified in 1814. Giving comfort to grammar errants everywhere, the official copy of the Constitution contains an incorrect word — Article 1, Section 10 uses “it’s” when it should be “its,” even in 18th-century usage. However, the word “chuse” as used in the Constitution was acceptable at the time. So was the alternative spelling of Pennsylvania, Pensylvania; the Constitution actually uses both spellings.
To get back to ours, the original handcrafted Constitution of India was exquisitely designed and executed. The fine calligraphy in the book was done by Prem Behari Narain Raizada using a holder and nib (nib no. 303). He did not charge any fee for this work. In Shantiniketan, along with his students, Nandalal Bose completed the art work. The “Preamble” page was done by Beohar Rammanohar Sinha. Another Kala Bhavan artist associated with the artwork was Kripal Singh Shekhawat from Rajasthan, who after returning to his home state, subsequently went on to revive Jaipur blue pottery from near extinction.
Many pages of the Constitution are embellished with highly stylised decorative borders, headers and backdrops. The complex patterns in the borders and in the front and back covers, embossed in gold on leather, are reminiscent of the murals.
At the beginning of each part of the Constitution, Nandalal Bose has depicted a phase or scene from India’s national experience and history. The artwork and illustrations (22 in all), rendered largely in the miniature style, represent vignettes from the different periods of history of the Indian subcontinent, ranging from Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley, the Vedic period, the Gupta and Maurya empires and the Mughal era to the national freedom movement. By doing so, Nandalal Bose has taken us through a veritable pictorial journey across 4000 years of rich history, tradition and culture of the Indian subcontinent.
The Vedic period is represented by a scene of gurukula (forest hermitage school) and the epic period by images from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Then there are depictions of the lives of the Buddha and Mahavira, followed by scenes from the courts of Ashoka and Vikramaditya. There is a beautiful line drawing of the Nataraja from the Chola bronze tradition. Other important figures from India’s history include Akbar, Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh, Tipu Sultan, and Lakshmibai. The freedom movement is depicted by Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi march and his tour of Noakhali as the great peacemaker; Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose makes an appearance too. Scenes of the Himalayas, the desert and the ocean are also included.

The original copies of the Indian Constitution were written in Hindi and English. Each member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution, signed two copies of the constitution, one in Hindi and the other in English. There are a total of 117,369 words in the English version of the Constitution of India .With so much of writing, the Indian Constitution is the longest of any sovereign country in the world. In its current form, it has a Preamble, 22 parts with 448 articles, 12 schedules, 5 appendices and 126 amendments. Both the versions of the Constitution, Hindi and English, were handwritten. It is the longest handwritten constitution of any country on earth.

The original Constitution of India was handwritten by Prem Behari Narain Raizada in a flowing italic style with beautiful calligraphy. The Constitution was published in Dehradun and photolithographed by the Survey of India.

On 24 January 1950, 284 members of the Constituent Assembly signed the Indian Constitution at the Constitution Hall, now known as the Central Hall of Parliament, in New Delhi.

The Constituent Assembly met for the first time on 9th Dec, 1946 in the Constitution Hall, now known as Central Hall of Parliament. The inaugural session began at 11 a.m. with the introduction of Dr. Sachidananda Sinha, the temporary Chairman of the Assembly by…..


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