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For Tagore, Banda Was A Hero, 'lion In Shackles'


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
For Tagore, Banda was a hero, 'lion in shackles'

For Tagore, Banda was a hero, 'lion in shackles' - Chandigarh - City - The Times of India

CHANDIGARH: The Sikh community may have taken years to offer its collective homage to the ascetic-turned-warrior, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, but his universal appeal was recognized by poets and intellectuals even before India became independent. Banda was immortalized in literature by one of the greatest poets of the times, Rabindranath Tagore.

It was in 1899 that the Nobel Laureate – whose 150th birth anniversary was celebrated on May 9, ahead of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur's tercentenary of Sirhind Fateh on May 14 —wrote his famous poem 'Bandi Bir' (Captive Hero) based on the Sikh warrior and his brave Sikh fighters who took on the tyrannical Mughal army despite being outnumbered and ill-equipped in terms of weapons. He sang paens to the great warrior, using terms like "singher moto shrinkhalgato" (lion in shackles) to describe his arrest by the Mughals.

The poem, which is part of the academic syllabus in every English and vernacular medium school of West Bengal, is also one of those powerful creations of Tagore which mothers love to teach their children, in every Bengali household. It was also universally recognised as a source of inspiration to several other Bengali writers as well as the militant youths of those times who were fighting for India's Independence.

"This poem can be found in the book of poems by Tagore – 'Katha-O-Kahini' and is an extremely popular, inspirational poem," says Rajat Kanta Ray, vice-chancellor of the Visva Bharati University. Katha-O-Kahini is a collection of Tagore's poems where the poet featured great inspirational figures, not just from Sikh community but also Rajput and Maratha war heroes, who set high standards of bravery and valour.

Tagore did not base his poem on Banda Bahadur's tales of ferocious battles with the Mughal empire. He, instead, chose the fag end of the warrior's life when Banda was fettered and locked up in a cage by the Mughals after his arrest, and was about to be executed. Banda's fortitude and his brave demeanour even in the face of such adversity became the inspiration for Tagore, who wanted to exhort youths to lead a life of bravery and self-respect, says the scholars.

The most famous lines from the poem talks of how Sikhs, despite shackled, held prisoners and facing torture of their tormentors, remained unmoved, without even uttering a cry and it was only the Guru's name which moved them at that time.

Dekhite dekhite guru-r montre
Jagiya utheechhe Sikh
Nirmom, nirvik
(The chants of the Guru have led to the Sikhs rising in protest
They are fearless ...)

(With inputs from Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey in Kolkata)

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