Friday, July 29, 2022

Ambassador Bal Anand (1943-2022)

It is with great sorrow the family shares the sad news of the passing of Ambassador Bal Anand, who left for his heavely abode on Friday 29 July 2022.

For more details please see Memorial Page

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

In the Noble Name of My Father

Following is a message from me on the 44th Anniversary of the passing of Pita-ji.

In Punjabi:

ਪੂਜਨੀਕ ਪਿਆਰੇ ਪਿਤਾਜੀ ਕੇ ਨੇਕ ਨਾਮ  

In English:

In the Noble Name of my Father

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Friday, January 07, 2022

Meri Jivan Yatra, Smriti di Saraswati

Available in Amazon at

I present here my latest book, my autobiography, in Punjabi language

ਮੇਰੀ ਜੀਵਨ ਯਾਤਰਾ: ਸਮ੍ਰਿਤੀ ਦੀ ਸਰਸਵਤੀ

Meri Jivan Yatra: Smriti di Saraswati

Pilgrimage of My Life: A River of Reminiscences

Described in Amazon as

'Meri Jivan Yatra: Smriti di Sraswati - Pilgrimage of My Life: A River of Reminiscences'; 436 Pages and 24 pages of 96 rare photos.

This extraordinary narration, in Punjabi, by Ambassador Bal Anand (Born 1943) chronicles his marathon journey from a small village school to nine different capitals across the continents to represent India in 14 countries.

This amazing tale of many an unexpected twists in author's life has been told in a gently flowing poetic prose - with ripples of humor here and there. The reader is diligently taken along to travel to various interesting places and meet many talented people and also the eminent global personalities. Author also shares with the reader his trips to famous institutions, monuments and wonderful beauties of nature in the far off locations. The author has dwelt at length on the historic background of his family of saints and classical scholars and has paid rich tributes to his inspirational teachers. He has also referred to the his pleasant personal encounters with many famous personalities in politics, literature, arts, sports, etc.

This autobiography - the first ever in Punjabi by an Indian Foreign Service Ambassador - is lit up on each page with anecdotes and notes of hope and cheer. The book is indeed a must read for all the Punjabi knowing persons for an enlightened overview of the cross currents of developments in India during the 75 years of Independence and even beyond.

Video Trailer of Author's Introduction to his Book

Youtube link:

Please note: The complete video is still in post-production, and will be posted here shortly.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Indian & Armenian Women as Preservers of the Family Values - Interview with Mrs. Aradhana Anand

Published in "Hayatsk Yerevanits" (View from Yerevan), Armenian language magazine, April 2000

 The wife of the Ambassador of India to Armenia, Mrs. Aradhana Anand, replies to the questions of our magazine.

Mrs. Anand, it has been only six months that you are in Armenia, and your first impressions about our country must be still fresh - Which feeling was the most dominant one? Were you psychologically prepared for coming here and what did you know about our country?

My husband and myself arrived in Yerevan in the early hours of Saturday, 9th of October, last year. On way to Armenia, we had commenced our journey from New Delhi on the 7th October in the late evening and after the one night stay in Bombay, now called Mumbai, we arrived in Dubai. The connecting Armenian Airways flight was delayed by several hours. The airport of Dubai is a shoppers' paradise and we could spend our time making a few purchases and 'window shopping' but still it became a tiresome long wait to catch the flight for Yerevan. To be honest we were disappointed with the quality of the passengers' service in the plane. Though the boarding passes indicated the seat numbers, there was a lot of confusion and commotion because of "free seating". Many passengers were carrying heavy pieces of baggage making things further uncomfortable. Frankly, we were not in any way discouraged about Armenia - our long experience of many countries has convinced us that a country should not be judged by the service of its airlines - sometimes the difficulties encountered in the skies of a country are compensated by the comforts on the land with the kindness of its people! We received an affectionate welcome from the Protocol of the Government of Armenia and everything seemed all right with us. The diplomats are 'duty-bound' not to be disappointed about any place or people.

India and Armenia have indeed an ancient goodwill for each other. My husband and myself have certainly arrived in Armenia full of expectations to further strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two countries. We had read and heard a lot about the historical relationship between India and Armenia and my husband had met the Armenian Ambassador in London, Mr. Armen Sarkyssian, former Prime Minister of the country.

How do you feel now when you mast have found answers to many questions, where have you already been, what has become a part of you?

We have not been able to travel to many places so far. We, however, drove to Lake Sevan and further to the areas of Dilijan. Despite the wind and cold, the grandeur and the beauty of the mountains was indeed overpowering. We have been to Garni and the monastery of Geghard. It was again a very interesting encounter with both History and Nature. We have visited Matenadaran, I really liked the books and the old manuscripts. We have been also to Sardarapat, Saryan House-museum. We have planned to travel a lot more in Armenia, to see places and meet people. Well, anyone living in Yerevan must make Ararat a part of one's spirit and thought process.

Whom are you making friends with, with the wives of other Ambassadors or the local Armenian women?

The wives of Ambassadors were the first but I have also Armenian friends. My husband and I have been able to make a lot of friends during our few months stay in Armenia. We planned to organize more cultural and social activities and the process would certainly help us in knowing more of Armenian artists, journalists, writers, academicians etc. The International Woman Association has been active in bringing together the ladies from Armenia and the international community. As for myself, I would like to know Armenian women more closely, to understand their customs, national values, etc.

What similarities do you find between Indian and Armenian women?

It is said that the women of different countries of the world understand each other much better than the men-folk. The subjects of the responsibilities of the family; the national traditions of food; costumes and other matters of daily life are very different. Armenia and India are ancient counties and they have traditional societies but their people are ready to welcome various positive aspects of modern life also. The most striking similarity between India and Armenia is the importance given to the family values. Both Indians and Armenians love their parents and children; they live in extended families with their grandfathers - grandmothers. You will appreciate that both in India which is such a vast country and in Armenia, tradition and modernity are coexistent. I would like to mention another important factor particular to both our countries, i.e. the rate of divorce, which is very low.

You may have had an opportunity to feel that Mrs. Indira Gandhi is very much loved also by Armenians. One can meet a lot of Armenian women who look very much like her, however as a personality she is inimitable. What about India? Are there any new names of women in the political lde of India?

Mrs. Indira Gandhi certainly became a powerful symbol of the political leadership as well as human qualities in the modern times. We are indeed touched by the loving memories, which Armenian people have of her visit here in June l976. I wish Armenian also elect women to high political positions. The women are in the forefront in all walks of life in India, thanks to the background of the freedom struggle in which women had actively participated. I am glad to mention that the girls are beating the boys in obtaining most of the top positions in higher education in India. We have women who have climbed the Everest; we have women fighter pilots, senior police officers and, of course legendary artists. The women have been provided special representations in the elected bodies at the village and the city level. The parliament is in the process of adopting a new bill which will make the one third seats of the parliament reserved for women. I may mention that the President of the International Parliamentary Union is an eminent Indian Mrs. Najma Heptullah, a lady born in a traditional Muslim family whom I had the occasion to meet during her visits to Saudi Arabia. We have also many women politicians including Sonia Gandhi.

The world has been recently exposed to the beautiful Indian girls. In 1994 and 1995, two Indian girls Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai won Miss Universe/Miss World crowns. The Indian women are on the march although the path still remains long and difficult.

Mrs. Anand, to which extent are the women's rights protected? Is it relevant to treat the problems of women separately form the general problems?

The Constitution of India, adopted exactly 50 years ago in 1950, on 26th of January, three years after the Independence, conferred all the rights on the women of India. In practice, there are many problems and disadvantages a girl-child has to cope with in India. Generally, the women have more problems, since they work both at home and outside. However in the field of education, many achievements have been made. The southern state of Kerala is a shining example of the progress of the woman. The women are almost at par with men in every field in this state, which has achieved 100 percent literacy. All the political parties in India are committed to implement special policies to improve the conditions of women.

April 7 is officially celebrated in Armenia as the Women's Day. This day they praise the women, congratulate them and wish them good luck. We would like to congratulate you, wish you all the best there is in the world, woman's real happiness, new perspectives and pleasant surprises.

Thank you. It is interesting to point out that according to the Indian philosophy, concept of Godhood should be viewed as Ardh-Nari Ishwara, i.e. half-woman- half-man God. The Indian approach does not visualize conflict between man and woman; the salvation and happiness of man and woman are mutually dependent. In the context of the new millennium, I would like to see more and more women in the position of higher decision-making. The women are still persecuted in many parts of the world in the name of tradition, religion and culture. The woman has been entrusted by Nature, the task of carrying forward the very existence of life. She should not be rated weak and inferior by the selfish and arrogant among the males. Men have waged so many wars and conflicts in the world: let women come forward to wage peace and understanding among all the peoples of this planet.

More links

* The original publication - PDF copy :

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Swami Agnivesh - An Amazing Indian Life

Interestingly and intriguingly, 2020 had begun for me with an affectionate meeting at the Sahmat Cultural function on 1st Jan. with my favourite Swami ji, Swami Agnivesh.

author with Swami Agnivesh
Author with Swami Agnivesh at Sahmat Cultural function
(1 January 2020)

Coming from a liberal family of saints / scholars, I feel instinctively quite at ease with open minded Sadhus ... Fakirs. I had first seen Swami ji in 2005, presiding over an Arya Samaj meeting in Delhi. I recall how he had proposed that Nepal should be greeted on becoming a secular state. There was a loud unanimous "No, No!" by all those present and Swami ji had quietly shelved his suggestion.

Swami was a crusader for the poor and oppressed and called a spade, a spade... about all religious rituals... like Amarnath Yatra. To end the old blood feud, he had even proposed that 'derogatory' about Guru Nanak in Satayarth Prakash could be deleted... again vehemently opposed by other Arya Samajis.

Further links and information

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Great Memories of Great-Grandfather

This article was contributed to the prominent diaspora website in the USA, "India of the Past" in 2019

IT WAS October 2018. I realised - as if in a flash - on the night of 18th October that the next day was the 71st anniversary of passing away of my most beloved and esteemed great-grandfather – a unique Guru, a tactful teacher, a versatile scholar and renowned Vaidya of his time, Shri Pramatmanand ji.

L to R: Pardadee Bhua Chetan Kaur Ji, Author, Nanee Jee
Bishan Kaur & Dadee Ji Dhann Kaur. c.1956

As a child of about 4 years at that time, I have rather very vague - बहुत धुंदली सी - but distinct memories of the day. I had lost my mother about a year earlier and, therefore, used to spend more time in the loving care of my Naanee (maternal grandmother) Bishan Kaur, though my two great-grandfathers - Giatanand ji and Pramatmanand ji, not to speak of the grandparents - Dwarkanand ji & Dadee-maan Dhan Kaur, and the two paternal / grand paternal aunts simply adored me.

Father, reflecting a serious demeanour and seen mostly busy doing this or that work, seemed somewhat of a distant and forbidding figure. Perhaps, in those times, young fathers in large joint families, were also treated by the elders at home more in terms of grown up children! And they, in turn, might also have felt a bit shy or were not yet accustomed to be openly affectionate towards their own children, more particularly when there were several seniors always lurking around to do so! I was, as I have been told, a very healthy, playful and well adorned child-ever ready to ‘play’ with anyone who was imaginative enough to attract my attention and interest.

Author visiting the Baithak of his elders,
first time since childhood. 17 December 2006

Baba ji Pramatmanand ji would often like to have me by his side in his Baithak - an all-purpose larger room serving as pustkalaya (library); lekhanalya (room for writing books); aushdhalya (room with open Almirahs with lines of bottles of medicines); shishyalya (teaching room), sangityalya (with musical instruments lying around) and above all, the play-corner of his most beloved great-grandson, i.e., me – the first born of the 7th generation of the known history of the family! I was reputed to be the apple of his eyes – the fulfilment of his prayer; reputed to have been named by him even before my birth, after the name of a legendary saint scholar of a historic seminary of Amritsar! What an ironically tragic twist of destiny that it had taken me more than sixty years to cross the threshold of and enter this most pious premises, once the hallowed seat of imparting knowledge and wisdom by Vaid Bhushan Param Sant Pramatmanand Ji, my revered great grandfather !!!

Falaund Kalan
Shrine of Author's Ancestor - Baba Gajjan Shah Ji

On the fateful day of his passing away, I had been, perhaps, specially fetched – carried mostly on shoulders during the journey on foot by my maternal uncle, Jawala Singh from village Jandali, of my recently deceased mother, Malkit Kaur. It was located near the historic town of Payal, on Sirhind Canal, 7 Koh i.e., about 17 km from my parental village, Falaund Kalan. I recall that the Bawan – decorated bier for funeral procession – bedecked with flowers and buntings had in front the group of Band-baja musicians – Muslims professionals called from the nearby city of Malerkotla. The silently grieving women were moving behind the men folk. I, the Jyeshath - first born-great-grandson, was carried on his broad shoulders by my well-built maternal uncle Jawala Singh. I was waving ritually the Chaur – fly whisk – over the bier. This funeral procession, in a solemn tradition but not in overly sorrowful atmosphere, was symbolic of the expression of completion of a life of fulfilment of the most respected and distinguished elder of the family.

Baba Gajjan Shah Ji

The bier had been brought into the exclusive family cremation ground near the more than hundred-year-old Samadhi - mausoleum - of family patriarch Baba Gajjan Shah. My father was being given instructions to light the pyre. Pramatmanand Ji’s had no child and my father, Haridialnand, was his adopted grandson and the brightest shishya (pupil). He had been rigorously groomed since childhood by his Guru-grandfather to be the true inheritor of his mantle of all the multifarious scholarship and spiritual learning.

Minutes before my father was all set to light the pyre as per the ritualistic ceremonies, an army official, Ram Singh, belonging to our extended family, happened to arrive unannounced on his long awaited vacation after World War II. He was last known to have served in Italy. He had been able to bring with him a camera – something quite rare in those days in any village. He had immediately rushed to our exclusive cremation place. He politely interrupted the Agni-dah - lighting the fire - ceremony for a while, and clicked a photo of the group standing by the side of the mortal remains of the departed noble soul. I could discover the copy this small size photo in one of the family books when browsing through them after the death of my father in April 1978. Though not very clear in details, the enlarged photo has been indeed a rare monumental image capturing the moment – just before the mortal remains of the great soul were consigned to flames of fire.

Among the ten persons in the photo, I have been able to recognise eight of them. Standing left to right- the second is Lakhmananand, a dear real nephew, then about twenty years old, who had been born posthumously; Narain Darya, another elderly distant nephew; village headman & a distant grandson, Basant Narain; Tara Singh, again a distant grandson; Shyamanand, an elderly real nephew; Haridialnand, adopted grandson and chosen heir; Mahinder Dass, a distant grandson and a learned disciple; Krishnanand, a distant grandson and a young disciple. I had known Shri Basant Narain and Krishnanand quite well and was recipient of their great affection and blessings.

I have some deeply distant recollections of the largely attended get together at the Antim Ardaas – the last Prayer function on 9th November 1947 – marking the completion of Shri Akhand Path, he uninterrupted 48 - hour recitation Shri Guru Granth Sahib. The people of the Punjab were still under spell of great gloom over the barbaric violence in the wake of Partition of India. Our village was part of the area of Muslim state of Malerkotla, and the rulers called ‘Nawabs’, had been held in high esteem by the people. The Sikhs recalled with admiration and gratitude the historic bold stand taken by Nawab Sher Mohammad Khan (1672-1712) when the two innocent young sons of Guru Gobind Singh were bricked alive by the governor of Sirhind in 1705. The territory of Malerkotla had remained comparatively quiet during the worst killings of Muslims in East Punjab. Sadly, the last Nawab Ahmed Ali Khan had passed away on 18th October 1947. I think that I had heard people talking to suggest that noble people like Nawab Sahib and Pramatmanand Ji were departing this world because such noble souls cannot withstand the barbarity, inhumanity and utter cruelty of the time!

Entry in 'Red book' of ceremonial records

In September 2019, I was able to retrieve the old family ‘red-book’ of ceremonial records and the various traditional financial dealings. My father had been tutored to cultivate a habit of recording most meticulously the minutest details of the various social and religious ceremonies. He did the same after the passing away of Pramatmanand Ji, including the mention of the exact amounts of various expenditures involved. He has, among many other details, recorded, “The Most Pious 108 Sant Baba Pramatmanand Ji breathed his last at 8p.m. on Saturday, 18th October and Biwan dwara agni sanskar was performed at 4p.m. Sunday, 19th October.” The Community Feast had been arranged on 4th November. The Function of the completion of Recitation of Granth Sahib had taken place on 9th November. The Musicians of the band for funeral part had been paid Rupees 15 - a significant sum in those days; cost of wood for the pyre was Rupees 23, and 64 coins of double Paisas - large sized copper coins - were thrown around during the journey of the funeral procession! The family Guru – a dignified Bedi Sikh, a presumed to a direct descendant of family of Guru Nanak Dev Ji - had been given a ‘Dakshina’ of Rupees 11!

Then in October 2019, I also came across revealing references in Haridwar in the records of the family Purohit - Pandits including the signatures of many elders who had gone there to immerse the ashes of the members of the family. In 2009, we had discovered a copy of a long letter, more than 2000 words, penned sometime in 1945 by Pramatmanand ji to his young nephew who had joined the Army. It was about the conflict of litigation over family lands by his maternal grandfather, and it amply revealed his anguish over the unnecessary family feud. I have been keen to highlight his legacy of multidimensional scholarship Pramatmanand Ji, particularly his original hand written works, in Gurmukhi script, of Ayurveda and commentaries on the sacred texts Hindu-Sikh spiritual tradition. One big book, called ‘Moattam Sahib’, contains thousands formulations of ingredients of very special Ayurveda medicines, considered strict secrets like - present day patents. I am glad that Gajjan Bilas, the biography the family patriarch authored by him in Brij-Bhasha, has been long last published.

I have been speaking to the elderly persons in the village - not many survive now - who had personally known Pramatmanand ji. A very senior cousin who was the first in the area to do Masters in English in 1950 - and had then joined the Indian Revenue Service - had told me several interesting anecdotes about the scholarly Baba Ji. When asked about his education, Baba Ji was fond of saying that he had studied in the University of Himalaya Parbat. Similarly, when as a high school student he had once angrily spoken to Baba ji, ‘There is no Rabb-God… all talk about Him rubbish.’ According to him, Baba Ji affectionately drew him closer to his bosom and spoke very softly and sweetly, ”Son, first of all, one should not be full of any anger when trying to understand any deeper and complicated problem!”

It was my destiny to go around the world as the representative of India and have the privilege to meet the most magnificent personalities in various fields. In an inexplicably mysterious way, I feel that my pilgrimage on the path of particular point of view of life had indeed begun very early - in the most ennobling lap of my great grandfather, an extraordinary saint scholar who had devoted every second of his earthly sojourn in the love of learning the art and science of healing- of the human mind, body and spirit!

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Mahabharat in Armenian

Cover of Mahabharat in Armenian
Մահաբհարատա. Հնդկական էպոս
Mahabharat in Armenian Language (2001)

This edition of Mahabharat, translated into Armenian was published in 2001, by NOR-DAR publishing house sponsored by the Embassy of India in Armenia. 

Title Մահաբհարատա. Հնդկական էպոս
Mahabharat. An Indian Epic
Code 00-00005416
Barcode 2000000192017
Publisher Нор-Дар
ISBN 99930-64-59-9
Language հայերեն
Publication date 2001

Download PDF Extract

Ambassador's Foreward:

An Epic of Wisdom, Beauty and Joy for Ever

The Mahabharat has been hailed as a unique phenomenon in the history of human civilisation. The epic, consisting of about 220,000 illness of sublime poetry, is the longest literary work of encyclopaedic proportions which touches upon the entire range of knowledge about the heritage of the Indian people: their religion, mythology, ethics, philosophy, cosmology, law, state-craft, art of war, history, ethnology, etc. It as been said that, whatever is embodied in Mahabharat may be found elsewhere; but what is not found in this epic, it would be impossible to find anywhere else. In the context of the ancient tradition of intense cultural interaction between India and Armenia, it is indeed an occasion of fulfilment for the Embassy of India in Armenia that the celebrated annotated edition of the epic, original written in Russian for young readers by eminent Indologist Ms. Natalia Guseva is made available in Armenian language to the impressionable and discerning readers.

The Armenian people are well-aware fo the tradition of epic through David of Sasun, a superb work of this literary genre. The essence of the heroic epic of Mahabharat deals with the story of the descendants of Bharata, son on King Dushyant and Shakuntala, namely the Pandavas and their cousins, the Kauravas. The greed, jealousy, anger and vanity of the Kauravas in depriving the noble Pandavas of their rights leads ultimately to a bitter and bloody war. The Kauravas are killed one by one. The Pandavas establish a rule based on Dharma, i.e. the Righteousness and Truth. The dead heroes, by the grace of Holy Vyasa, al emerge from the sacred Ganges and purged of their sins, meet in Heaven where there is no rancour or malice. The theme of ultimate peace and reconciliation represents the essence of Indian ethos.

The main story of Mahabharat accounts for hardly one fifth of the epic poem. It is the skilful narration and juxtaposition of the ultimate themes of Right and Wrong; Action and Contemplation; Life and Death; Friendship and Enmity; Love and Hatred, etc., which make Mahabharat the most comprehensive treatise of the eternal dilemmas of man. The metaphysical poetry of the epic takes on into the realm of soul-searching and soul-vision, expounding universal precepts and principles. Mahabharat could be called an epic of becoming, and the reader vividly witnesses the titanic heroes bringing ruin on themselves through flaws in their characters. The universal lesson is spelt by righteous Yudhishthir: “in all cases, war is evil… he who gains victory, also suffers losses”. This remains valid for all times and for all nations and individuals. The recent TV serial on the epic in India captured the imagination fo the people as an amazingly relevant interpretation and telling commentary on the contemporary themes of crucial significance.

For this edition of Mahabharat in Armenian language, the Embassy of India first and foremost, would like to express deep and gratefulness to Ms. Natalia Guseva for her spontaneous concurrence to the proposal for the translation in Armenian of her admirable work and also for her gracious gesture to contribute a forward to this edition. Ms. Guseva’s work has been ranked as a classic in its own right in telling the tale of the great epic in words of rare beauty, sublimity and simplicity.

The Embassy of India in Armenia expresses profuse thanks to Mr. Abgar Apnian, the First Secretary of the Writer’s Union of Armenia for conceptualising and implementing the project of the Armenian edition. The Embassy places on record deep appreciation of the dedicated and competent work of the translators, Mr. Nico Manukian, for his superb illustrations fo the book: his brush has surely succeeded in delineating the heroic characters of the epic in all their glory and downfall; compassion and vengeance; agony and ecstasy, etc. The Embassy is confident that the Armenian edition of Mahabharat would go a long way in further deepening and strengthening the historical and cultural bonds between India and Armenia.

Bal Anand
Ambassador of India to Armenia

illustrations from the book - Mahabharat in Armenian illustrations from the book - Mahabharat in Armenian
illustrations from the book - Mahabharat in Armenian Back cover from the book - Mahabharat in Armenian

Back Cover

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