From Kunjargaon to Agra: The Great Kunzru Family of Agra
by G. K. Gurtu
[Reproduced from 'Kashmiri Pandits : A Cultural Heritage '-
Edited by Prof. S. Bhatt]
It is indeed an arduous task to encompass the
achievements and contributions of a great family to society in a few pages. How
much my humble venture in this field will give joy and inspiration and
satisfaction, I leave this to my readers to judge. The Kunzru family is one of
the few families that I came in close contact with, during my stay in Agra and
had the privilege of knowing a little about this distinguished family.
It was Pandit Kirparam who alongwith the members of his family had to migrate
from his native home Kunjargaon, in Baramula, Kashmir and after temporary stay
in various cities for sometime the family finally opted for Agra and engaged
itself in business. It was a period during which to escape political,
economical, social and religious persecution, hundreds of Kashmiri Pandit
families were forced to leave their beautiful homeland never to return, but only
to cherish the memories of their sweet home amidst snow-capped mountains, the
green meadows, the murmuring brooks and the rows of Chinar. The struggle for
survival, retention of Kashmiri culture and traditions and separate entity was
long and tortuous. It was only by dint of industry and intelligence, that the
forefathers could carve out a place for themselves in India and abroad. In the
milieu no wonder our mother tongue became a casualty. The sun heralding fhe
dawn of return to homeland and a welcome embrace from our Kashmiri-speaking
brethren is yet to come up. However the years rolled by. The period of
struggle for the family was over. His son Pandit Kedamath before he settled
down in Agra, had served the Jhajjar State (near Delhi) as Dewan. By the time
Pt. Ajudhianath, the son of Pandit Kedarnath, came on the scene, the family was
firmly established, fairly prosperous and had acquired social status. The firm
Kedarath Ajudhianath was a flourishing concern.
Pandit Ajudhianath (1840-1892) was born, brought up and educated in Agra. He
was proficient in Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit and spoke Urdu and English with
equal ease. He was a leading lawyer of the Agra Bar. He shifted to Allahabad
in 1869 after the establishment of High Court there. He became the first
President of Allahabad Bar Association. In between he attended to and expanded
and diversified his family business with acumen, earning fame and fortune. He
was known for his penetrating insight, subtlety of mind, clarity of thought and
straight forwardness of expression couched in most dignified language. He
earned the respect of his colleagues and admiration from the bench.
His interests were wide and varied. His time was divided between
professional, business, social and political activities. He founded the Indian
Herald to voice his views on social and political matters. He was also
associated with another paper Indian Union. He was bold and fearless in his
views. Even in those days in British Raj he advocated participation of Indians
in the affairs of the Government. In view of his position as a leading lawyer,
an established businessman and an enlightened person he was nominated to the
Legislative Council of the Lt. Governor of the NorthWest Provinces as a Member
from the non-official member side.
Pt. Ajudhianath was drawn towards Congress and became Chairman, Reception
Committee in Allahabad. He was a great organiser. He addressed meetings in
many cities and raised funds for Congress. He became Joint Secretary of
Congress in Bombay. Some of his close associates were W. C. Bonerjee, A.O.
Hume, Pherozshah Mehta, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Madan Mohan Malviya. He was a
forceful orator but neither dogmatic in approach nor communal in attitude. He
held liberal and progressive views and was persuasive in arguments. He worked
for the unity of Hindu and Muslim communities and discouraged the efforts of
those who were trying to alienate the two. He desired that both should come on
one platform and work unitedly for the welfare of the country. It was his
sincerity of purpose and honesty of approach which brought people from different
communities in large numbers into the fold of Congress. He was from an orthodox
family but he held secular views and kept himself aloof from narrow
controversies. He was respected both by his admirers and critics.
Pandit Ajudhianath took keen interest in education. He was one of the
founder members of the Victoria High School in Agra, a Trustee of Agra College
and Senate Member of the Universities of Calcutta and Allahabad.
He was a man of social vision. He associated himself with various
associations which had been formed to discuss topics of current interest. To
save people from debt, degradation and death he voiced his concern against
drinking. The plight of economically poor masses did not escape his attention.
He utilised the forum of Congress to criticism the taxation policy. He did not
approve of child marriage and purdah system. He desired that girls should also
be educated. He stood for the emancipation of women folk so that they may also
participate in nationbuilding.
He was kind hearted towards birds and animals. He was moved to see sick or
wounded animals still yoked to work or lying unattended. He was highly critical
of cock-fighting and quail-fighting as a means of entertainment and could hardly
bear the sight of people enjoying the dumb birds entwined in fierce combat, lie
bleeding or writhing in pain with limbs broken and once beautiful plumes torn
and scattered all around. His love and concern for mute creatures prompted him
to move a Bill for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Alas, he left the stage too soon with many a task unfinished. In his
untimely death the Congress lost an able organiser, India a dedicated leader and
society an honest and sincere social worker. His family and business too
received a great set back. He was well-built and of medium height. The flowing
beard, the penetrating eyes added charm to his graceful personality. To mourn
his sad demise meetings were organised, rich tributes were paid and resolutions
were passed to record his selfless service to society, the nation and the
Pt. Rajnath, the eldest son of Pandit Ajudhianath, by his second wife, was
then a minor. He was born on 14th August, 1884. He studied upto Intermediate
Class. He was well-versed in Urdu, Persian, English and Hindi and spoke all the
languages with equal command. He was an active student during his college
days. He acted in dramas organised by the College. His interest in acting
continued even after his college days. He took part in games and was fond of
physical exercises. He established an Akhara in his house and invited young
boys of his locality to joiru It is still functioning. He was married in 1900
at the age of sixteen. He was only twentysix years old when his wife died in
1910 due to pneumonia fever leaving behind three sons and two daughters. The
responsibility of bringing up his children along with his brothers and sisters
fell on his shoulders. He did not marry again in their interest. This early
responsibility developed in him a loving and friendly nature with a life.
Numerous Kashmiri and non-Kashmir boys availed of the benefit of his
benevolence. Quite a few of them even stayed in his house for years, to
complete their education.
Pandit Rajnath took up contract work for a living because his family business
had by now, due to various factors, wound up. From 1906 to 1912 he was engaged
in the job of construction of buildings. The present house was constructed
during this period. In 1914 he established a firm Kunzru and Dattatriya in
partnership with Pandit Sharka Prasad Kaul to manufacture carpets and durries.
This continued till 1918. From 1920 to 1932 he worked as Manager, Benaras Bank,
Agra Branch. In between he looked after and consolidated his agricultural land.
By the time Pandit Rajnath made his public appearance he was well established
and much respected. He too, like his father, was drawn towards Congress, though
later on he felt disenchanted and so withdrew. The idea of strikes and
Satyagrahs did not appeal to him. He subscribed to the view of 'first deserve
then desire' and as such advocated hard work and sincere approach. However in
1916 he alongwith his brothers and like-minded people organised Home Rule League
and addressed meetings and organised processions.
Pandit Rajnath is known to the people of Agra as an educationist. He took
keen interest in the field of education. He was in the management Committee of
Agra College, Raja Balwant Singh College, Shobia Mohmadia College and Mufid-a-Am
Inter College for years. He served as Manager, Thakur Biri Singh Intermediate
College, Tundla; Annie Beasant College, Krishna Ashram, Allahabad and Victoria
High School, Agra. He was instrumental in raising the last named school to the
present status of an Intermediate College in 1966. The present building of this
College which stands on a piece of land donated by the Raja Saheb of Awagarh
speaks of his dedicated efforts and the esteem he was held in, by the Raja Saheb.
It was his keen interest and sincere service to the cause of education which
elevated him to the membership of Educational Re-organisation Conunittee for
Intermediate Education in 1960. He was also nominated a member of the Executive
Committee of Agra University.
Pandit Rajnath served the cause of trade and industry. He had a clear vision
about the role and importance as well as future need of co-operatives as an
instrument of progress and prosperity. His becoming a member of Organisation
Committee for Industrial Co-operative Store and President, Quality Marked
Footwear Manufacturers Co-operative Association Ltd. Agra speaks of his
interest in this sector. He encouraged handloom cloth weavers to organise
themselves into co-operative societies so that their goods could be sold through
co-operative stores to their profit.
Pandit Rajnath having inherited from his father zeal for social service added
a new chapter in dedicated and selfless service. Inspite of various engagements
he found time and directed his energies in this direction. In 1918 he founded
The Sewa Samiti in Agra. During that period Agra was in the grip of plague and
dengu fever. People had begun to move out of the town leaving behind valuables,
the sick and the dead unattended. He worked tirelessly during those critical
days. He organised relief operations and supervised relief measures. He
remained present on the spot to do the difficult job of checking any mischief by
unsocial elements, moving the sick to hospitals, distributing free medicines and
removing the dead for cremation or burial besides keeping night-watch over
houses left vacant by fleeing people. He set up safety squads. His brothers,
Pts. Gopinath, Dinanath and Keshonath-too, joined him in this humanitarian
work. The risk of catching infection did not deter him from this work. He had
the unique distinction of continuing as the Secretary of The Sewa Samiti from
1918 to 1970. He was a member of Viceroy's National Defence Committee from 1940
to 1945 and in that capacity, visited Middle-East as an observer to assess the
problems of Indian troups stationed there. He joined Rotary Club as a Member
and rose to become the Governor of the District thirty-six and went to America
in 1958 on invitation. He was also an ardent member of The Theosophical Society
and actively participated in its deliberations. He was a member of Ram Lila
Committee from 1913 to 1926 and its President from 1927 to 1971 and gave his
full time to the Ram Lila Celebrations.
Pandit Rajnath was a religious man. But he was not an orthodox. He held
liberal views. He respected all religions and attended functions and
celebrations of other communities to share their joys. He helped all those who
sought his help. He kept himself aloof from controversies. He was loved and
respected by members of other communities. He was equally a ease with children
and grown-ups. He was jovial and playful in the company of children and grave
and philosophical among older people. Though be held strong views on some
matters he was always responsive to reason.
A self-made and fearless man, Pt. Rajnath was fair complexioned, well built
and of medium height. He was a proud possessor of graceful personality with a
deep voice which carried the force of conviction. he was a good orator. His
high forehead, long nose and trimmed white beard presented a picture of a noble
soul. He wore Sherwani and Chitridar and a matching cap adorned his head. He
was almost a father figure to the Kasbmiri Samaj, Agra. He lived up to the ripe
old age of about eighty-eight years quietly fulfilling the mission of selfless
service with all the sincerity and dedication under his command. He breathed
his last in Agra on 19th December, 1971, after a brief post-operation illness.
His death left a void in the field of dedicated social service. People of Agra
still remember him with love and respect. He was truely a torch bearer of his
Who has not heard of Dr. Hirdaynath Kunziu? Handsome with well-cut features,
curly hairs and a medium height, Dr. Hirdaynath, the second son of late Pt.
Ajudhianath and younger brother of Pt. Rajnath, presented a picture of academic
grace. He radiated intellectuality. Anyone who came in his contact was
immediately impressed by his encyclopaedic knowledge. Clarity of thought,
straight forwardness of expression and brevity were the hall mark of his
speeches. People listened to him with rapt attention.
Dr. Hirdaynath was bom in 1886. He was the favourite child of the family.
He was lean and thin in his childhood and very quiet by nature. He was educated
at Agra and Allahabad. Inspite of his weak constitution he was very studious
and devoted to his studies. He was a voracious reader and was blessed with
superb memory. Reading was his lifeing hobby and he was seen engrossed in
books. His only complaint in the evening of his life was his failing eyesight
due to which he was unable to read much. He went to England and took B.A. and
B.Sc. degrees, with specialisation in Political Science. An honorary Doctorate
was conferred upon him in recognition of his services. He also became a Member
of the Senate and the Courts of the Universities of Agra, Allahabad and Benaras.
Dr. Hirdaynath was married in 1908. Tragedy, however, struck him when he was
only twenty-five. His wife expired during child birth in 1911 and
unfortunately, the child also died after six months.
He was greatly upset, and like his elder brother, did not marry again.
Instead he decided to dedicate his life to social and political work. Shri
Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a close friend of the family, exercised great influence
upon him. It was Gokhale who asked for Dr. Hirdaynath from latter's mother for
the service of the nation. As such, from 1916 onwards he devoted himself to the
service of mankind.
Dr. Hirdaynath joined Servants of India Society, Poona, which was founded by
Gokhale. He worked as volunteer during Kumbh Mela at Hardwar, Allahabad, Nasik
and at other places. He rose to become the President of this Society. The
sphere of his dedicated service expanded. He joined All India Sewa Samitil
Allahabad and later on became its President. He continued to serve the poor,
the needy and the destitute. He felt happy to be of any service to others. He
was a very disciplined worker. He had great respect for elders. He was a man
of determination. He never tolerated indiscipline, insincerity and flattery or
Dr. Hirdaynath founded the Sewa Samiti Boy Scouts Association in Allahabad.
The idea behind this movement was to mould school-going children into the
service of the society. He wanted youthful energy to be employed and some
constructive work. He advocated participation, organised camps and addressed
rallies. His efforts paid dividends. The movement became popular and spread
far and wide. He ultimately rose to become Chief Scout after the death of Chief
Scout Pandit Madan-Mohan Malviya.
Dr. Hirdaynath too, was attracted towards Congress but later on withdrew from
it alongwith Shri T. B. Sapru, Srinivas Shastri, M. M. Malviya, C. Y. Chintamani
and J. N. Mulla. However, he rose to become a leading political figure by his
hard work. He was member of the U. P. Assembly as Independent candidate from
Muzaffar Nagar and was a member of Upper House of Parliament for many years. He
was a staunch nationalist. He advocated equality and justice for all even during
British Raj days. He was against colonisation and slavery. He was of liberal
views and preferred discussions to agitations. The conditions of the colonies,
Armed Forces and Finance were subjects of his special interest and attention.
He actively participated in the debates and always came fully prepared. It was
hard to contradict him on facts and figures. His speeches were marked by
clarity of thought and straight-forward approach. He could never be cowed down
by the high and mighty.
People heard him with rapt attention and in pindrop silence. They were awed
by his masterly and accurate presentation of the subject under discussion on the
floor of the House. Even those who held opposite view respected him and never
questioned his sincerity. His elevation to the presidentship of Council of
World Affairs speaks of his interest in the world affairs as well as the esteem
he was held in by the people.
Dr. Hridayanath was a deeply religious and God fearing man. Bhagwat Gita
exercised greatest influence upon him. He believed in simple living and was
always humble. He was a true Nishkam Karm Yogi. He too, like his elder
brother, lived upto the ripe old age of about ninety-two years fulfilling the
task of serving humanity assigned to him by Almighty till his end. Inspite of
his failing eyesight and weak body his mental faculties were clear and sharp.
He was constantly thinking of the country, its people and the work that remained
to be completed. The concern for the welfare of the people made his agitating
mind restless. The end came suddenly on 3 April, 1978. He died peacefully at
his home, in Agra and with it rested the body and soul of a tireless worker.
Affectionately called as 'Chand Bhai' by Kashmiris and 'Chand Babu' by non-Kashmiris,
Pt. Chandra Mohan Nath, the eldest child of Pandit Rajnath, was bom on 24
October, 1902 and was broughtup and educated in Agra. He had his early grooming
by a tutoress Mrs. Fantham. He was an average student but a good sportsman and
represented his college in numerous matches and tournaments. He took part in
college debates and dramas. His favourite games were football and hockey though
he was equally proficient in Basket Ball, Volley Ball, Table Tennis and
Cricket. He served the cause of sportsmen by becoming a referee in 1923 and
remaining so till 1954, which speaks of his popularity, impartiality and
expertise among sportsmen. In that capacity he visited places like Karachi,
jodhpur and Secundrabad. He was very strict and impartial on the playground and
his decisions were rarely challenged. He was married in Lucknow on 3 May, 1936
and is blessed with one son, (Dr. Krishna Mohan, a surgeon in England) and two
Pt. Chandra Mohan Nath began his career as a teacher in 1931. From 1938 to
1942 he was an insurance man. In December 1943 he joined the Royal Indian Air
Force from where he was released in February 1952 as Ft. Lieutanant.
Thereafter he established New York Blacking Co. in partnership to manufacture
shoe polish etc. In this business he remained from 1952 to 1971. However,
during this period he assisted his father and did whatever little social service
he could do. This was a tradition he had inherited from his family. Helping
others came to him instinctively. He joined The Sewa Samiti Agra and is its
Secretary since 1972. He is an active member of Ram Lila Conunittee. Since
1969 he is associated with Kashmiri Samaj, Agra. Presently he is Patron of the
Samaj. He is an eagerly sought after person on the occasion of social and
cultural gatherings and he discharges his duties with pleasure inspite of his
advancing age. For decades he has been doing this service. The tradition of
helping young boys who come to town for studies is still continuing. All those
who come find a welcome smile and a comfortable roof. The poor and the needy,
at times, are assisted with a little monetary help too. Since he is a health
enthusiast he invites boys to join Akhara. He is a believer in the maxim of
'healthy body breeds a healthy mind'.
Pt. Chandra Mohan Nath is a nonpolitical and religious man. He has simple
taste and lives a simple life. To him service to humanity is service to God.
He is an upholder of dignity of labour. He loves children. They eagerly await
his arrival and crowd him to hear interesting anecdotes told in an interesting
manner. Older people also consult hirn on matters of importance. Distributing
free homoeopathic medicines and gardening are his hobbies. Attending to
patients or watering or trinuning plants are conunon sight in the morning.
Although eighty-four, he is still active and visits people in the town enquiring
about their weffare, offering advice and helping solve their problems besides
looking after his family agricultural land. He is truly, a standard-bearer of
the great traditions of his noble family. We are sure the young generation will
emulate his example of dedicated and selfless social service.