Jagmal Raja Chauhan (1887–1974), better known as Rai Bahadur Jagmal Raja, was a noted railway contractor, industrialist, miner, private banker, aviation pioneer and philanthropist of India.
|Rai Bahadur Jagmal Raja|
Jagmal Raja Chauhan|
|Occupation||Industrialist, Railway Contractor, Architect, Airline owner, philanthropist|
|Known for||railway bridge constructions, glass factory, industrialist|
He was born in 1887 in a small village named Nagher, in Kutch and belonged the Mestri community. He studied in school only till class IV and joined his father's business of railway contractor at an early age of twelve only. He carried on his father's legacy to become a reputed and noted Railway Contractor of British India.
His father Raja Narayan Chauhan was also a noted railway contractor. Raja Narayan of Nagor with Mulji Meghji Chauhan also of Nagor in 1903 together built bridge over Yamuna river at Agra. Jagmal Raja Chauhan carried on father's legacy, who joined him at an early age of twelve to get practical knowledge of building bridges and laying rail lines.
Some of his railway contract works are in 1904 – railway track from Bulandshahr to Hapur, 1904– Shahdara to Saharanpur, 1906 – Aligarh Station, in 1906 – Balamau to Sitapur, 1908 – Allahbad, the Ganges Railway Bridge construction, 1911 – Allahbad, the Yamuna Bridge doubling, 1912 – Kanpur to Banda including the bridge near Hamirpur over Yamuna river, 1913 – Hooghly- Katwa section, 1913 – Jabalpur Gun Carriage siding, 1914 – the Mughalsarai railway yard extension, 1915 – Gaya – Katras doubling, 1916 – Gaya yard extension, 1922 – the Dhanbad railway yard extension, 1924 – Calcutta, the Kidderpore Docks extension, 1925 – Dehri-on-sone bridge, 1927– Bridge over Son River near Arrah, 1927 – Allahbad, the Yamuna bridge re-girding (in 1911 he had done doubling of same bridge), 1926–32 – Bally Bridge, 1932 Dankuni to Dum Dum for Calcutta Chord Railway
In 1926, Rai Bahadur Jagmal Raja started construction of the Bally Bridge in Calcutta, which he completed in 1932. In all the railway contracts done by him, his partners and sub-contractors were railway contractors from his own community – Mistris of Kutch. The Bally Bridge was named Willingdon Bridge after Viceroy of India, The Marquess of Willingdon, who inaugurated it. The British acknowledged the feat of Jagmal Raja, by naming the first train that ran across Willingdon Bridge as Jagmal Raja Howrah Express. The name plates mentioning Erection & Construction done by Rai Bahadur Jagmal Raja, Allahbad, can still be seen riveted on each girder of Bally Bridge.
Further, in 1924 the extension of Calcutta Port Trust at Khiddirpore in Calcutta was made by building a new dock named the "King George Dockyard", which was done by Rai Bahadur Jagmal Raja Chauhan with Bhimjee Pancha Chauhan & Mavji Punja Chauhan, all from Nagor. This work was completed in 1927 and the dock has now been renamed as "Netaji Subhas Docks".
H.H. Maharao Shri Khengarji III of Cutch used to stay in hotels when he visited Bombay. Jagmal Raja, who was close friend of the King, did not like this and insisted upon the King that a ruler like him should have a personal mansion in the city. The Rao entrusted the job to build the mansion to Jagmal Raja, who personally built Cutch Castle in the 1920s in Bombay.
Again Jagmal Raja Chauhan was one of the persons involved in supervision and construction of Vijay Vilas Palace built during the years 1920–1929 in which many artisans of Mistri community of Cutch worked along with other artisans and craftsman from Rajasthan, Bengal and Saurashtra.
In 1932 upon completion of Bally Bridge, Jagmal Raja was recommended by Viceroy of India to King of Nepal, who needed a contractor of repute to do renovation and rehabilitation of his royal palaces & temples. He was given the contract for the same and Parbat Harji Chauhan, Karaman Devji Chauhan both of Kukma and Manji Shivjee of Madhapar were delegated by Jagmal Raja as main supervisor and completed the work. A team of 200 artisans was sent from Kutch to do this massive job.
He was also involved in construction and erection Darya Mahal, the second monumental residence of Maharao Khengarji III of Cutch, which was commissioned in 1940. Maharao advised Jagmal Raja to oversee the construction but as he was too busy in his other business ventures, he declined to take complete responsibility, however, he sent a team of expert Mistri artisans from Kutch, who worked with other architects appointed by the king.
Further, he also built his personal residential palace at M.G Road in Allahbad in the decades of 1920, which was spread in acres and built like a royal palace, as a replica of Prag Mahal of Bhuj. Remnants of his palace can still be seen in the city.
He was a pioneer in the glass and ceramic industry of India, who founded Allahbad Glass Factory and Naini Glass Works both located at Naini in 1912. In 1919, his glass factory at Naini was visited by Sir Harcort Butler, the Lieutenant Governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. Later he established another glass factory named, Bombay Glass Works at Bombay in 1930 and one more named Raja Glass Works at Sodepur near Calcutta in 1932. In 1941 he was conferred Fellowship by Society of Glass Technology, London for his contributions to glass and ceramic industry of world. Others conferred fellowship with him were John Northwood of England Pandit Vishnu Datta of India.
Jagmal Raja owned a Shipping company in partnership with Haridas Madhavdas, Vijaysinh Govindji and Vithaldas Kanji named Shri Ambica Steam Navigation Company, which was founded in 1945, It operated in western coast of India having its head office at Bombay.
They also started in 1947, one airline company named Ambica Airlines, which was subsidiary of Ambic Steam Navigation Company which operated on Bombay – Bhuj – Rajkot – Jamnagar – Morvi and Bombay – Baroda – Ahmedabad air routes. The Ambica Airlines closed in 1949 due to insufficient traffic and litigation.
Like many members the Mistri community of Kutch to which he belonged, he owned coal mine named Rajapur Colliery near Jharia, which he held in partnership with Manji Jeram Rathod of Madhapar. He entered into coal mining business purchasing the mines in 1913 from one Gujarati miner, Bhawan Kara of Balambha. His partner in coal mines, Manji Jeram died in 1954, however, he carried on his mining business till 1970, when he sold his mine just one year before nationalisation of coal mines in India.
In 1945, Cutch State started its own passenger bus service. Jagmal Raja was quick to capitalise on this opportunity and took on contract the Bhuj- Anjar – Mundra bus route, which he operated till 1948, when Cutch merged into Union of India.
Among his other industrial venture were a paper board factory at Dahanu named Dahanu Straw Boards, an aromatics unit named Hindustan Aromatics, ice factory, cold storage & export business. He also ventured into packaged food and pickle export business.
He shared personal friendship with Maharao of Cutch, Khengarji III and was personal aide-de-camp (ADC) to him in Coronation ceremony of King George VI in 1937. He was the only person from any community of Kutch, who had the privilege of being ADC to Maharao Khengarji III. Sir Maharao Khengarji, as a mark of their friendship, honoured Jagmal Raja, by his presence, when Degree of Engineering was conferred upon him in London. He was among few persons, who was given permission by Khengarji III to hold a car in Cutch State.
He built numerous railway lines and railway bridges and was pioneer in glass & ceramic industry of India, for which he was given title of Rao Bahadur in 1923 at a function held in Shimla, summer Capital of British India by Viceroy of India, The Earl of Reading. His construction of Bally Bridge was noted. Although, he had studied up to fifth standard in his native village (Nagor), he had the distinction of being conferred with Degree of AEIE (UK) on recommendation of Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin.
He was also very close with Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Nehru and marriage procession of both the daughters of Motilal Nehru – Vijaya Nehru & Krishna Nehru had started from his mansion at M.G. Road in Allahbad. He once participated in elections from Allahbad. His residential palace at M.G Road in Allahbad, was spread in acres and built like a royal palace, as a replica of Prag Mahal of Bhuj. Besides Nehru family he also held personal relationship with Malviyaji, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri, C. Y. Chintamani, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari, V. V. Giri and always helped liberally for Indian Independence Movement. The Yuvraj of Cutch, Vijayaraji, used to come to his Allahbad mansion, to spend vacation along with his French Tennis coach and play Lawn Tennis in his private court.
During his stay in Calcutta for construction of Bally bridge, through his friends and established in Calcutta; Lira Raja Rathor and Devram Jetha Jethwa, he came in contact with Jeewanlal Motichand Shah, father of Viren J. Shah, who owned an Aluminum utensils factory named Jeevanlal & Company later named as Jeewanlal (1929) Limited at Calcutta. Jeewanlal Shah had decided to close his factory of Aluminum utensils, under the influence of Gandhiji, who said these utensils are not good for health. Jagmal Raja Chauhan, who was among top industrialists in Bombay and had relations with Tatas, Birlas, Wadias, Bajaj, Walchand. He came to know that Lala Mukandlal of Lahore was willing to sale Mukand Iron & Steel. Jagmal Raja informed this to Mahatma Gandhi and also persuaded Shah Jeewanlal Motichand Shah to take over Mukand Iron & Steel Company, so that he can switch over from aluminium into steel business. Jeevanlal he finally purchased in partnership with Jamnalal Bajaj after Mahatma Gandhi's blessings. Thus he was instrumental in helping Jiwanlal Motilal Shah to take-over present day Mukand Ltd.
His life sketch is also mentioned in Encyclopædia Britannica and Book of World Knowledge.
He died in 1974 at Allahbad survived by four sons, Jairam Jagmal, Varjang Jagmal, Gopalji Jagmal and Shamji Jagmal, who had been managing affairs jointly since decade of 1930-40. His one son Varjang Jagmal Raja headed his Bombay Glass Works factory., whereas the Allahbad Glass Works factory and Gujarat Pottery Works were headed by elder son Jairam Jagmal. Varjang Jagmal was also a trained pilot and a member of Bombay Flying Club.
He built an ashram at Jhusi having more than hundred rooms and other facilities near Allahbad on banks of river Ganges. He also built and donated Boys Hostel and Boarding School known as Mistri Boarding House at Bhuj, Cutch his native state in 1932. also built a boarding house for students at Poona in 1940, which was also known as Mistri Boarding House. He also donated funds to start ambulance and to build hospitals. He has also built and donated a Hindu temple at Rajkot. Further, he instituted several funds for charitable works, education scholarships, starting sports shield and medical benefits. At his native village Nagor in Kutch he had built and donated a huge public garden, a Hindu temple, a housing colony for Harijans, several wells, a chabutro, welcome-gate and also a 10 km long pucca road from Nagor to Bhuj. His ancestral home still stands there. Further, he also offered many scholarship for research. and higher studies.