The day of 26th January, the contigents of soldiers with exemplary unified movment, firm posture, marching on the rhythm of Kadam kadam badhaye ja instills in every Indian with pride and honour. And the person who bears this credit is Ram Singh Thakuri, the unsung hero of the Indian freedom movement.
Ram Singh Thakuri was born on 15 August 1914, at Khaniyara near serene town of Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh to Gorkha Thakuri family. His father Havaldar Delip Singh groomed Ram Singh to join the army. Post completion of middle examination, he joined the IInd Gorkha Rifles in 1927 at Dharamsala cantonment in the music band. As a soldier, his bravery was unfathomable. While serving in the North-West Frontier Province he earned the King George VI Medal for bravery during the 1937- 39 Khyber-Phaktunwala war and was promoted as Company Havildar Major. The world was blazing with the Second World and his battalion was shipped overseas to Singapore. On 15 February 1942, Singapore fell. After the fall of Singapore, the Japanese army took a large number of Prisoners of War (PoWs). As a PoW, Captain Ram Singh joined the INA to free himself from the clutches of Japanese. During the period of his incarceration, he began to advanced his musical skills and his music genius was tapped by Subhas Chandra Bose, the commander of Indian National Army (INA) who placed a high priority on music to inspire his forces.
Captain Ram Singh recalled, "Subhasji told me that the tune of Qaumi Tarana (national anthem) should be so powerful and inspiring that when INA soldiers render the same, it should stir the soul of not only the soldiers but millions of Indians also, as such we kept on practising the Qaumi Tarana at Deedadri camp in Singapore. I vividly recall the words uttered by Subhas Chandra Bose about the Qaumi Tarana. He had said, ‘Ram Singh, the day Indian National Army takes shape in the Cathay Building of Singapore the song Subh Sukh Chain Ki Barkha Barse would be played. The song should have such an indelible impact and force that the Cathay Building should ‘break’ into two parts and the sky should become visible. The gods and goddesses will shower flowers straight on the Tricolor of India.’ On October 31, 1943, the INA came into power and my orchestra played the Qaumi Tarana. The Cathay Building reverberated thunderously. It was a humble step towards liberating India from the British rule." Captain Ram Singh performed all kinds of music with equal passion — Bhajans, Sufi music, Qawwalis, Gurbani, Christmas Carols and folk music, becoming a paragon of secular musician of secular India. In an interview with writer Rajendra Rajan, Captain Ram says, "I was inspired by my maternal grandfather Nathu Chand to learn music. Later on, I got training from renowned British musician Hadson and Danish in brass band, string band and dance band in Army. I also learnt the violin from Capt Rose."
During Indian National Army in 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel encouraged to layout an orchestra of musicians (Ganesh Bahadur, Gulab Singh Thapa, Avtar Singh, Ram Saran, Nar Bahadur Thapa (all from INA)) under the supervision of Col Rathuri, Col Sahgal and Col Ahmed. Therefore was named as “All India INA Orchestra”. He is contributed of composing all the songs of INA. He would go on to curate the anthems of the INA. Sung by 30 lakh Indians at that time infusing the spirit of liberty and echoes of nationalism.
Some of which are as endorsed by Late INA Lt Colonel Dr Lakshmi Sahgal, the first women officer of INA:
In the midst of contentioon and erroneous history, Ram Singh Thakuri’s contribution to the nation of India is unrecognized. He during his tenure in INA composed “Subh Sukh Chain Ki Barkha Barse”, which is a predecessor to the Jana Gana Mana. “Till Netaji came to SE Asia, Vande Mataram was sung at all military and civil gatherings and could never be sung in a inspiring way as no one knew it correctly… Netaji called for a meeting and said he felt Jana Gana Mana would be more appropriate as the national anthem. Only two things had to be changed –the highly sanskriticised words had to be translated into simpler Hindustani and the tune should be martial and inspiring. A committee was set up and the results to be produced within a week. Capt. Ram Singh Thakur and his group were given the task of setting the music. Within a week they did and Netaji approved. The musical score was sent to Germany and transcribed by experts to be played by a full military orchestra. This proved to be an unforgettable composition of Ram Singh Thakur”. –Late INA Lt.Col. (Retd.) Lakshmi Sahgal.
To acclaim his contribution, the Indian Gorkha community garnered soon after his death. They endeavored to spread insights of this great Gorkha. On 15 August 2006, the Capt. Ram Singh Thakur Memorial Football Tournament was inaugurated in Dharamshala, the day being his birthday and Independence Day. Efforts of all from the local Gorkha and Gaddi community laid the foundation of a highly anticipated annual event under Retd. Capt Bhagwan Singh Gurung, the President of the Memorial Association.
Dharamshala’s Kangra Museum of Art organized the first ever Exhibition on the History and Culture of Himachal Gorkhas, Language and Culture Department, Himachal Pradesh with panels displaying INA Capt. Ram Singh Thakur. The exhibition accomplished excellent media coverage. Members and officials of the Government and Indian Gorkhas from Darjeeling Hills and Dehradun visited the event.
The Gorkha people of Sukna, Darjeeling Hills engineered a statue of him with the road named after him.
In 2017, at Khaniara village Dharamshala from where Ram Singh hailed, the government named a senior school, road and Bhavan in his name.
The Padma Vibhushan 2018: With extensive research for twelve years, compilation for the nomination conducted by Gorkha History writer Jyoti Thapa Mani, the initiative was undertaken by Shri Ravinder Rana, President of the Himachal Punjab Gorkha Association, and Gorkha community including Capt. Bhagwan Singh Gurung, Shri Naveen Gurung, Shri Anil Gurung, Shivraj Thapa of Khaniara Village, Dharamshala.
Demise: Capt. Ram Singh died on 15 April 2002 and was cremated with State honours at Bhaisakund, UP. He is survived by sons, Ramesh and Uday Shankar Thakur.
As writer, Jyoti Thapa Mani inscribes- Capt. Ram Singh’s entire life has been actively devoted to creating peace and patriotism through music in highly eventful phases—as a Gorkha soldier of the 2/1 Gorkha Rifles, as the Bandmaster of the INA and as the most active musician of Independence’s formative years and lastly as the Bandmaster of PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary), Lucknow. Singer, Composer, Conductor and Musician, Capt. Ram Singh composed many rousing Patriotic songs, the mainstay for thousands of INA members and of Independent India. His music continues to be soul of our nation, India and of every Indian. His works are remixed and reorganised in contemporary Indian films like 'Raag Desh'. As a gorkha, he is our pride and a symbolic figure of Gorkha contribution in the freedom struggle, who needs to be given due credit and official recognition for he revolutionlized India through his music and played a significant part for the independence of India and tuned the course of history.
First two verses of Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja
क़दम क़दम बढ़ाये जा
ख़ुशी के गीत गाये जा
ये ज़िंदगी है क़ौम की
तू क़ौम पे लुटाये जा
तू शेर-ए-हिन्द आगे बढ़
मरने से तू कभी न डर
उड़ा के दुश्मनों का सर
जोश-ए-वतन बढ़ाये जा
Keep stepping, stepping forward,
keep singing songs of happiness!
Your life belongs to the people,
spend it in their servitude!
Move forward, you, the lion of India,
don't ever be afraid of death.
By blowing off the enemy's head,
raise the spirits of your nation!
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