Buildings lit up; cinema shows for students, soldiers: How Patna celebrated WWI armistice in 1918

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Patna, Nov 11 (PTI) Food and clothing were distributed to the poor, public buildings were illuminated and free cinema shows were held for students and soldiers at Bankipore Lawn in Patna to celebrate the armistice signed on November 11 in 1918 that signified the end of the World War I, according to rare archives.

The armistice signed between the Allied forces and Germany in France for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front was signed early morning local time and took effect at 'eleven o'clock -- the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month' of 1918.

Grand celebrations were held on the occasion in Patna from November 25-27 under the patronage of the then Lt Governor of Bihar and Orissa Sir Edward A Gait 102 years ago.

These historic events held over a century ago have come to light thanks to the rare personal archives associated with the legendary Quila House of Patna city.

According to a letter dated November 21, 1918 issued by the then Patna Commissioner CEAW Oldham, a public meeting of the residents of Patna was held, chaired by the Lt Governor, and it was decided to 'appoint an Executive Committee, under the Chairmanship of the Hon'ble Sir Saiyid Ali Imam, K.C.S.I. to make arrangements for befitting celebrations at Patna' to mark the armistice.

Sir Ali Imam and his equally famous brother Hasan Imam were legendary barristers from Patna and well-known personalities. Various sub-committees were constituted and a three-day programme was eventually planned with Bankipore Lawn (now Gandhi Maidan) as the main venue.

According to archival documents, on November 25, 1918, sports events were held for school and college students at the Lawn, followed by a 'free cinematograph show for students'.

The next day, food and clothing were distributed to the poor at Mangle's Tank in Patna City, sports and tea was arranged for the troops stationed at Dinapore Cantonment (now Danapur Cantonment) at the Lawn, followed by a 'free cinematograph show for soldiers'.

On November 27, food and clothes were distributed to the poor at Bankipore Lawn and in the evening public buildings were illuminated and fireworks held, as per a programme leaflet in possession of Aditya Jalan, 43, the current scion of the Jalan family of the Quila House.

'Interestingly, among the contributors to the peace celebrations fund was St. Joseph's Convent too, that offered cloths, blankets and shoes, etc, worth Rs 500, as per the documents,' he said.

According to Aditya, his great grandfather Radha Krishna Jalan, a businessman and a well-known personality of his period who was a great collector too, 'meticulously put in his repository' every small invitation card and pamphlet of the events he used to attend, besides great works of art and craftsmanship.

November 11 is now held globally as the Armistice Day or Remembrance Day to mark the anniversary of the signing of the armistice.

As per the archives in possession of Aditya, Radha Krishna Jalan had been invited to attend Armistice Day celebrations in the later years too.

The invitation for the year 1927 reads: 'Armistice Day, 1927. A special out-door service will be held on the Parade Ground, Dinapur, on Armistice Day, November 11th. 1927, at 10:30 A.M.'.

The 1937 invite says the out-door service was held in the Cantonment Garden behind Dinapore Church at 10:30 AM. As per a 1938 programme leaflet, hymns were sung and prayers were also offered. The famous hymn 'Abide With Me' can be seen printed on one of the leaflets from that year. PTI KND RDM RDM