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Heritage Tagore Echoes In Punjab

Discussion in 'Sikh History' started by Aman Singh, Sep 23, 2013.

  1. Aman Singh

    Aman Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    Tagore echoes in Punjab


    Gurudev wielded great influence on letters and arts in Punjab. Many modelled themselves after this great figure of Bengal's renaissance, writes Nirupama Dutt

    It was Tagore who inspired Balraj Sahni and Balwant Gargi to write in their mother tongue

    It was Tagore who inspired Balraj Sahni and Balwant Gargi to write in their mother tongue Photo: Niranjan Singh Nakodari

    Once actor Balraj Sahni asked Tagore: "You have written the National Anthem for India. Can you write an international anthem for the whole world?" "It has already been written, not only international but for the entire universe, in the 16th century, by Nanak," replied Tagore.

    Bengal and Punjab, so far away, are yet so near in many a significant moment in history. One could play on a limerick and say that the sons of Punjab are very good fighters, whilst the sons of Bengal are mostly writers! Major socio-political movements that started in Bengal, found their echoes in Punjab, be it the national struggle for Independence from the British regime, or the revolutionary ripples of the Naxalite movement of the late 1960s.

    Mangalesh Dabral, the well-known Hindi poet, in a mood of spirited reflection, says: "The entire romance is either in Bengal or in Punjab. The rest of the country is dry and arid." His reference is, of course, to romance of the revolutionary variety.

    The towering literary figure that ran parallel to the national struggle for freedom was undoubtedly that of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. He was revered and knighted by the British imperialists. But the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13, 1919, proved to be a turning point in his life. On May 30, 1919, he returned his knighthood in the poignantly penned letter to Viceroy Lord Chelmsford. The sentiments expressed in the letter went straight to the hearts of all self-respecting Indians, and the Punjabis at once accepted him as their very own. Tagore wrote in the historical letter: "The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation, and I, for my part, wish to stand, shorn, of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen who, for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings."

    Punjab's history and the philosophy of the Sikh religion inspired Tagore to write three poems on Guru Gobind Singh and a poetic tribute to Banda Bahadar. He also wrote an essay on Guru Nanak's Sacha Sauda as a young adult in a Bengali magazine for children called Balak. Tagore also said that Gurbani had inspired some of the songs and compositions of Rabindra Sangeet. In fact, he also translated into Hindi Guru Nanak's Gagan Mein Thal.

    Several learned men of Punjab were so influenced by Tagore that they chose to dress like him. Among them were painter Sobha Singh (left) and Punjabi writer Devendra

    Several learned men of Punjab were so influenced by Tagore that they chose to dress like him. Among them were painter Sobha Singh (left) and Punjabi writer Devendra Satyarthi Photo: Gurdyal Singh

    Several writers and painters in Punjab were influenced by the multi-dimensional talent of Gurudev Rabindranath, who was a poet, playwright, novelist, painter and musician. Many chose to dress like him, and among them were Punjabi writer Devendra Satyarthi and painter Sobha Singh.

    Ramesh Sharma, a Doordarshan executive, who had a close association with the latter, says: "Sobha Singh used to say that he was inspired to take to painting by seeing the works of Tagore. He dressed up like his ideal and used to say that as far as art goes, I am the Tagore of Punjab."

    Also adorning the Tagore garb was the late Satyarthi, who first met Gurudev through acclaimed painter Nandlal Bose. He had a long relationship with him, visiting Santiniketan many times. In fact, he was inspired by both Gandhi and Tagore in executing the mammoth task of collecting the folk songs of Punjab as well as from some other parts of India by moving from village to village. Satyarthi began this task in 1927, and he used to quote Tagore, who said: "The vitality of the Indian villager is India's real vitality. Villages are like women — in their keeping is the cradle of the race."

    Satyarthi was deeply impressed by two poems of Gurudev, Katha Kaho and Urvashi. In fact, he asked Tagore if he could combine the two names for the title of one of his books. The permission was fondly given and Satyarthi's book was called Katha Kaho Urvashi. This title became very popular and was later borrowed by Dalip Kaur Tiwana for one of her novels. Tagore also gave names to the two older daughters of Satyarthi — Kavita and Alka.

    Celebrated doyen of Punjabi letters, Gurbax Singh Preetlari, in 1938 set up the hamlet of Preet Nagar in the rural terrain of Punjab, equidistant from Lahore and Amritsar, inspired by the model of Visvabharati at Santiniketan. The Punjabi writers and others who got associated with it included Bhisham Sahni, Balraj Sahni, Nanak Singh, Sobha Singh, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi, Amrita Pritam, Upendra Nath Ashq, Kartar Singh Duggal, Mohan Singh and Balwant Gargi.

    A close associate, Guru Dayal Malik of Santiniketan, was specially deputed by Tagore to visit Preet Nagar on June 30, 1941. He wrote in the Visitors' Book: "I am on pilgrimage to Preet Nagar, believing as I do that it is a miniature map of India in the making. It is the ideal of community building on the basis of mutual service and sacrifice `85To me, Preet Nagar is the sister of Santiniketan."

    Punjabi poet Amarajit Chandan recalls that it was Tagore who inspired both Balraj Sahni and Gargi to write in their mother tongue.

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  3. aristotle

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    Bandi Bir - The Fearless Captive
    (Rabindranath Tagore's tribute to the martyrdom of Banda Singh Bahadur)

    On the banks of the five rivers,
    Up rise the Sikhs spontaneous;
    With hair coiled above their head
    Inspired by the Mantra their Guru spread
    Fearless and unyielding.....
    "Glory to Guruji" - thousands of them
    Resound the horizon;
    At the rising sun of the dawn
    The Sikhs stare with deep emotion
    With new awakening.

    "Alakha Niranjan!" (means 'Holy Spotless'= God)
    The war cry of the rebellion;
    Let loose their chilvalry;
    On their ribs clank swords luminary;
    In wild joy was Punjab's insurrection
    "Alakha Niranjan!"

    There came a day,
    Thousands of hearts were on their way
    Without any binding or fear,
    Life and death at their feet slaves mere;
    There on the banks of those rivers
    The tale of that day still shivers.

    At the tower of the Delhi palace,
    Where the Sikhs are apace -
    The Badshajada' s drowsy spell

    Time and again they quell;
    Whose voices there, the dark sky tear?
    Whose torches set the horizon afire?

    On the banks of the rivers five,
    For supreme sacrifice was their dive,
    Unleashed there was the flood
    Of the devotee's blood.
    From thousands of hearts torn apart
    For destination divine in their lark -
    The heroes putting their sacred blood mark
    On the forehead of their motherland
    There around the five rivers so dear and grand.

    In the Mughol and Sikh battle
    Their embrace to each other throttle
    Like the fight between the eagle and snake,
    Deep bruise one to the other did make.

    In the fierce fight of that day -
    In blood craze "Din Din" the Mughols bay,
    "Glory to Guruji" - was the Sikh's commotion
    In their divine devotion.

    At Gurudaspur castle
    When Banda was captured amidst all bustle
    In the hands of the Turani troop,
    As if a lion fettered with his group;
    To capital Delhi they were taken,
    Alas, at Gurudaspur Banda was beaten!

    The Mughol soldiers march ahead,
    Kicking up the road dust in sneer,
    Hoisting the Sikh's chopped head
    At the blade of their spear.
    Follow them Sikhs seven hundred,
    Tinkles their chain,
    Throng people on the road widespread,
    Windows open - a glimpse they fain,
    "Glory to Guruji", the Sikhs roar,
    For fear of life none is sore,
    Sikhs with the Mughols to-day,
    Stormed the Delhi road all in gay.

    Started the scurry,
    For lead in the carnage was their hurry;
    They line up at the dawn
    Defiant till their execution.
    "Glory to Guruji" was their slogan
    Until they were done.

    Thus over a week,
    The arena turned bleak;
    With seven hundred lives gone -
    Upon the martyrs' immortalization.
    On the last round of cruelty
    Banda was ordered by the Kazi
    To kill his own son,
    At ease to be done.

    In mere teen was the boy,
    With hands tied thrown as a toy
    Into the lap of Banda and without a word
    He drew him close to his heart.
    For a while he put his hand on his head,
    Just once kissed his turban red.
    He then draws his dagger,
    Whispers in the child's ear -
    "Glory be to Guruji - fear not my son"
    A virile in the boy's face did burn -
    In his juvenile voice the court did ring
    "Glory to Guruji" as he did sing.
    With his left hand Banda held the boy,
    With right struck the dagger in his ploy,
    "Glory be to Guruji", was all he did implore
    As he took to the floor.

    Silence fell in the court,
    Guruji's inspiration still not abort.
    Then with tong red hot
    Banda's body was pieced apart;
    A word of moan he uttered not
    And all in calm did he depart.
    As stopped his heart throb
    Witnesses closed eyes - silence choked pin drop.
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  4. aristotle

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    Guru Govind
    by Rabindranath Tagore

    "Friends, go back home –
    Still you have to wait much" –
    On the Yamuna shore at dawn,
    Hillocks and woods around the vast lawn,
    To his six followers
    Quoth Guru Govind such –

    "Go Ramdas, Lehari, Sahu,
    Go back all of you;
    Tempt me not to take dive
    Into the busy stream of life;
    Let still remain far
    All human fervour.

    "I've turned face, plugged my ear
    In the wilderness to take shelter;
    The distant human sea vast wanton
    There the billows roar of their passion,
    Here in solitude all my attention
    Will be on my secret mission.

    Calls me human heart
    From the distant habitat;
    Amidst my slumber at night
    For my response does incite;

    My body and soul pine
    To fall in the turbulent line;
    At your sight
    My heart longs a flight;
    The blood fire in many a flame
    Snakes up, the restless sword encased, clanks to

    Ah! What a delight I'd find
    To leave this solitude behind;
    Taking up the trumpet in hand,
    Rush amidst the mass to stand;
    The king and empire
    To smash and re-build there,
    The monstrous torture
    To knife sharp and overpower.

    Blind is the fate,
    Aiming that to negate
    The rein to hold in my hand
    All hazards that on my way stand,
    To overcome those, the destiny to force
    To come to my course;
    Those who confront
    Will daunt,
    Else have defeat
    The beguiled fenders to split;
    Footprints furrow behind,
    The sky in disastrous smoke blind.

    Hundred of times across death
    To the shore of life I cometh;
    The star blinkless at a height
    Guides in the dark of night;
    On both sides soar
    The foaming human streams in uproar.

    At times the night is pitch dark,
    Or the scorching sun blazing stark;
    Else all over the sky
    The thunderous clouds vie;
    On the head breaks
    The storm merciless.

    "Come on all"
    Is everybody's call –
    Their rush none to douse
    Doors break open at every house
    For the enormous human outpour
    All bondages they tore;
    No more they pine
    For happiness, fortune or fondness fine.
    The five rivers in the ocean fall
    So the hearts of my devotees all
    To meet mine; all through Punjab
    Their wild frenzy to bustle up.

    "O coward! Where will you hide?"
    Thus will them my voice chide;
    In the morning at my call
    Workmen to forget their task all;
    At night their drowsy spell
    The cruelty to quell.

    Ahead as I go
    More crowds follow;
    Their pride and prejudices
    Fall to pieces;
    Laying down their lives at ease,
    Brahmins' dignity does cease
    That marked them superiors
    To the Jats and others.

    But let alone this dream,
    Time does not yet for it seem;
    Long sleepless night
    Is still my plight;
    To count hours blink less
    Rise of the crimson sun to witness.
    Fancy still these are,
    My capital in the wood here,
    Only silent intent,
    Passive dedication patient;
    Day and night to sit on
    For my supreme perception.

    So, along Yamuna shore
    Alone I go for the lore;
    Amidst the rugged terrain
    My manhood to train;
    Tunes of my lyric
    To resonate Nature's music;
    My mind to flower on its own
    For competence in my mission.
    Thus passed twelve years
    More to go it appears –
    The death to conquer
    Drop by drop I've to gather
    Immortality from all around
    Till within me my wholeness found;
    When I can say
    Without dismay,
    I've known the ultimate,
    No more do hesitate
    To follow me you all
    It is your Guru's call –
    My life is for your sake
    At my call let the country awake.

    No more suspense or fear.
    Retreat or ahead no more to veer,
    There is the Truth, the final path lay,
    The whole earth to give way,
    Life and death to lose relevance
    As our noblest mission will commence.
    In my heart sounds the oracular diction
    'Stand up in self-illumination.'

    Look ahead from far
    Millions rush to you for surrender.
    Listen there, their streaming heart
    You keep steady and alert
    Like the lamp not to laze;
    At this night if you daze
    Go back they will,
    Their grief never to heal.

    Look at the horizon does surge
    A ruthless calamity looming large;
    Soon to lash us a hurricane
    To spell the deadly bane.

    So in the temple of my heart
    I'll light up a lamp ever girt;
    Any storm to baffle
    To torch mankind its flame eternal.

    So Sahu, Ramdas and all,
    Go back friends to await my call;
    Now as we break up
    May our faith we harp;
    Let's all say, "To Guruji
    All his glory be!"
    Let be cry of our rebellion
    "Alakha Niranjan!" (=The Holy Spotless)
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  5. aristotle

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    Prarthanatit Dan - Gift Beyond that Begged
    (Rabindranath Tagore's account of Bhai Taru Singh ji's martyrdom)

    When the Pathans brought Prarthanatit Dan' (Gift Beyond that Begged) chained
    All in calm they remained
    The captive Sikhs – though at Sahidgunj town
    With their comrades' blood the soil was brown.
    Says the Nawab, "Look Taru Singh –
    I want to forgive you without misgiving."
    Says Taru, "Why for me so much slight?"
    Nawab says, "A great warrior you are
    That you proved in your fight;
    So, to you I bear no anger;
    Only I beg of you the gift of your Beni (*)
    And you will be spared harm any."
    Taru replied, "I owe you as your mercy's nominee;
    So offer a bit more, my head with my Beni (*)

    (*) Note by Tagore: "To shave off Beni is as good as
    religion for a Sikh".
    "Beni" in Bengali means the coiled hair the Sikhs keep

    (The translations of Tagore's poems can be viewed at : www.indoindians.com/index.php/eclipsed-sun/1048-poems)
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  6. aristotle

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    Earlier, an English translation of Bandi Bir, the poem by Tagore on Baba Banda Singh Ji Bahadur has been posted. Now, I take immense pleasure in posting the Punjabi translation of the same attempted by Manohar Singh Marco, a well known Sikh scholar,

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