Karnal is named after Raja Karn, the eldest half-brother of the Pandavas in Mahabharata, who is said to have established this town. There is a lake here named after him called Karn Tal. Located on National Highway No.1, also known as G. T. Road, and is located midway between Delhi and Chandigarh.
Karnal was the place where the invader Nadir Shah fought the Battle of Karnal with the then Mughal ruler, Muhammad Shah. Despite being numerically superior, the Mughal Army was routed in three hours and what followed was the brutal killing and loot of Delhi that happened on orders of Nadir Shah.
Subsequently, the Raja of Jind, Gopal Singh seized Karnal in 1763 only to lose it to the Marathas by 1785. The Marathas subsequently handed over the city to the British who established a cantonment here. But after a devastating epidemic of Malaria, the British shifted the cantonment to Ambala.
Major hub for research
Today, Karnal is a district headquarter and an important centre for several internationally renowned research institutions. It is home to the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) which is Asia's largest Dairy research institute, Central Soil and Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI), Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR), the Regional Station of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI-Karnal Bunt), National Bureau of Animal Genetics Research (NBAGR), Sugarcane Breeding Research Institute (SBRI), the Regional Research Station of Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, and the Horticulture Training Institute (HTI).
Features of Karnal
Given its rich and fertile soil, Karnal is home to some of the best Basmati rice grown in India and exported globally. There are over 90 rice mills in Karnal. The city is also home to the footwear industry, with several factories producing a variety of footwear.
Karnal is also home to the Police Training Academy, which trains young recruits for Haryana Police, as also, recruits from other states and countries.
The first Indian woman Astronaut to fly into space was Kalpana Chawla. She was born here and did her initial studies in Karnal before migrating to the US for higher studies. On joining NASA, she was part of the crew that was on board the ill-fated Space Shuttle Columbia that blew up shortly after take off in Feb, 2003. The city of Karnalis proud of their daughter and has named the forthcoming medical college and hospital after her. The Kalpana Chawla Government Medical College, is presently under construction.
The city also has a functioning airport called the Karnal Flying Club.
Major tourist Places of interest
Kalander Shah's tomb: There are several places of interest that a visitor can look forward to, when on a visit to Karnal. Located on the outskirts is the Kalander Shah's Tomb. Bo-Ali-Qualander Shah was a sage who was revered by all communities. This tomb was built in his honour by the then Emperor of Delhi, Ghias-ud-din.
Devi Temple: This temple dedicated to a goddess is located on the banks of a pond. There is a Shiva temple nearby, as well that was built by Mubarak Khan.
Cantonment Church Tower: This tall 100ft tower with an ornamental cross, is all that remains of the St James Church that used to be located there. However, with the shifting of the cantonment to Ambala, the church too was shifted in 1841.
Gurdwara Manji Sahib: This Gurdwara was set up to celebrate Guru Nanakji's meeting with Bo-Ali-Qualander Shah. Guru Teg Bahadur stopped here on his way to Delhi, where he was subsequently beheaded.
Karn Tal: This lake is where Raja Karn used to hold his meetings with the poor and was known to donate generously during these meetings. There is a Tourist Guest house next to the scenic lake and is frequented by visitors.
There are several more places of interest in Karnal that would be interesting to explore.
Great potential; poor infrastructure
Given the fact that Karnal is a major city and hub for such prestigious institutions, why does the city still face so many problems? Why is it that the state government has not been able to ensure 24-hour power supply to the city? Why do the residents still have to face problems of sewage through the year and rain water logging during the monsoons?
The unending work on the highway is putting a lot of pressure on the traffic flow to and from the city that is already reeling with shortage of space. Why is the administration so unresponsive to a city that deserves better infrastructure?
The city has several factories but has not been able to realise its true potential. Given the fact that it's a major agricultural producer, there is a need for more food processing units. The dairy processing industry alone should have had more units in the area but that has not been the case.
Karnal is strategically located in the middle between Delhi and Chandigarh and very well connected by road and rail, therefore, it is an excellent location to build a logistics hub, to cater to both Delhi and Punjab. However, the present state government has shown very little initiative to develop Karnal to its full potential. But then again, with the poor power supply situation, how can one expect new industries to invest here?
With so many prestigious institutes located here, Karnal should have emerged as a major hub for higher education in several streams. That again has not happened. After all these years, only now the Kalpana Chawla Medical College has been sanctioned.
Karnal has enough to offer to an interested tourist but there hasn't been enough investment to develop Karnal as part of a major tourist circuit for the region. It is pity that there has been little effort on part of the ruling party to make the necessary investment in Karnal, that could well have opened up job opportunities for the unemployed youth in the area.
Unfortunately, the city has suffered due to lack of initiatives on part of state government, while most of the prestigious institutes that have been established, have largely been central government sponsored. The state government could have done so much more for this city. Karnal is a story of missed opportunity.
So can Karnal emerge as one of the modern smart cities of India?
The answer is yes but it will require the vision, planning, investment and the drive of a Naya Haryana. We need to have more smart cities with modern infrastructure in Haryana and it is time Karnal upgraded to its true potential. Its citizens deserve this.