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Nain Singh Rawat: who added the geography of Tibet to the world map

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The geographical information that Pandit Nain Singh collected has added more information on the map of Asia than any other explorer. ‘

Renowned scholar and author Sir Henry Yule said this when Rawat was awarded his special medal by the London-based Royal Geographical Society (RGS) in 1868 to the great explorer, surveyor and cartographer Nain Singh. He did not say these words in praise of an ordinary survey worker of colonial India. What Nain Singh did was an extraordinary example of human courage and always will be.

In the early 19th century, the British started the Great Trigonometric Survey (GTS) in the Indian sub-continent. Under this, maps of all Indian land were to be made by modern methods.

Then the territory of Tibet ahead of the Himalaya was forbidden to foreigners. It could have been killed as a punishment. That is, it was impossible to have a survey in this area. The British felt that the place of Tibet would have to be left blank on the map.

The survey also had strategic and business reasons. The big empires of that time wanted to take advantage of the trade routes of Tibet such as the Silk Route. This was also the period when the intervention of the Russian Empire extended to Central Asia. He could intervene in India at any time through Tibet.

British officers were in the loop. It was not possible to go to Tibet openly and there was a danger of life in hiding and thus no one was ready to go. In such a situation, the then Surveyor General Captain Mountgumery tried to break this problem.

He felt that if such educated, trustworthy and intelligent people are discovered in the border areas adjoining Tibet, then they can change their disguise and go to Tibet and collect important geographical information there.

In 1863, 33-year-old headmaster Nain Singh and his cousin Mani Singh Rawat were selected and sent to GST’s Dehradun office for training. He was from Munsiyari area of ​​Pithoragarh, a frontier district. Both were informed about thermometers and compasses. Training was done to calculate the distance by steps. Surveyors were taught that no matter what the rough terrain is, how each step should be about 31.5 inches.

It is said that a garland was also given to these two surveyors. After completing a hundred steps, these surveyors used to move one grain of the garland forward. This means that as soon as the garland of hundred grains was completed, these surveyors walked ten thousand steps and walked exactly five miles. The height of a place must be derived from the boiling water temperature.

Nain Singh and Mani Singh entered Tibet in 1865 via Kathmandu. It is said that Mani Singh returned from Western Tibet after a few days, but Nain Singh reached Lhasa in disguise of Lama with the caravan of traders. He first measured the height of Lhasa above sea level in the world. With this, he also calculated the latitude and longitude of this city. This is very close to the calculations made today by modern machines.

After doing the calculations, Nain Singh would either memorize them as poems or hide them in the cycle of worship. Many times, he narrowly avoided being caught. Measuring the way to Tibet, Nain Singh returned in 1866 after finishing his first expedition by walking a total of 1200 miles through Man Sarovar.

In his second expedition beginning in 1867, Nain Singh conducted a geographical survey of western Tibet. On his last journey (1874–75), Nain Singh reached Tawang (Assam) via Leh via Lhasa. He was the first person to walk 800 km along the Sangpo River. He told the world that Sangpo and Brahmaputra are the same.

He also discovered the origin of Sutlej and Indus. Nain Singh started a tradition of surveyors. After that his cousins ​​Kishan Singh, Kalyan Singh etc. entered Tibet from different areas and gathered important geographical information. Based on these, Captain Mountgumery made an accurate map of Tibet.

Nain Singh was also a good writer. He also wrote two books named ‘Akshatan Darpan’ and ‘History Rawat Kaum’. His travel diaries are sacred texts for explorers around the world. Nearly 140 years after his discoveries, the Government of India also remembered him. In the year 2004, a postage stamp was issued in his name. Today Google is also remembering this great surveyor.