Call to rename Mt Everest after Radhanath Sikdar, who measured its height
On Saturday, when the world celebrated Everest Day and people in Darjeeling paid homage to Indian-Nepali Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who on his 39th birthday, scaled the world’s highest peak with New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953, veterans recalled the Bengali mathematician who measured the mountain’s actual height a century before the historic climb.
Mount Everest should be named after mathematician Radhanath Sikdar, said mountaineers and the authorities at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in Darjeeling and the Radhanath Sikdar Himalayan Museum at Chandannagar in Bengal’s Hooghly district, where the almost forgotten genius lived his last years and died in 1870. He was born in Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1813.
Records say that Sikdar, a student and a master in spherical trigonometry from Kolkata’s Hindu College (now Presidency University) was handpicked for the survey department of the British government in the 1830s. He never actually saw the mountain which was recorded in official nomenclature as Peak XV.
As part of the team set up for the Great Trigonometric Survey started by George Everest, then surveyor general of India, Sikdar travelled across India to conduct geodetic surveys. Geodetic surveys are done to accurately measure and understand changes in Earth’s geometric shape, orientation and gravity field.
In 1852, Sikdar calculated the exact height of Everest. George Everest retired in 1843 but his successor, Colonel Andrew Scott Waugh, named the peak after the man who initiated the survey. The height, 8,848 metres, was officially announced in 1856.
If people in Nepal can call the mountain Sagarmatha and the Chinese have named it Qomolangma, why can’t Everest be called Sikdar Parvat (mountain) or Sikdar Sikhar (peak) in India, people asked on Saturday.
Hillary, who climbed the peak first, was knighted by the British government immediately after his achievement. He was part of a British team. Recognition came late for Norgay. In 2003, India’s highest award for adventure sports, the National Adventure Awards, was renamed Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award by the Centre.
To pay homage to Sikdar, the HMI on Saturday unveiled a library named after him, along with his statue.
Group captain Jai Kishan, the HMI principal, said, “Why should not the Indian mountaineering fraternity call the peak Mount Sikdar seven decades after British rule came to an end? We should observe May 29 as Mount Sikdar Day. Let there be a change.”
Kalyan Chakraborty, secretary of the Radhanath Sikdar Himalayan Museum, wrote a letter to the HMI principal. It said, “At the order of Colonel Andrew Scott Waugh, then surveyor general of India, Sikdar started measuring the height of mountains. We recall the dichotomy of colonial science. Sikdar had to fit himself into the early colonial scheme of the rulers to self-cultivate his curiosity driven scientific expertise from within that structure. Whenever the latter clashed with the former, Sikdar’s aspirations were thwarted.”