Archive for ‘Literature’

June 2, 2011

homarIyam :-)

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

आदिपर्व :  अखिल्युस-कोप

अखिल्युस क्रोश कराल!  देवि, प्रवच अधुना सलय,
गाथा अमिट अकाल, रौद्र यवन दुर्धर्ष की!
रोषि असीम अथाह!  प्रेषित अगणित वीरगति,
श्वान-गृद्ध प्रति ग्रास, हन्ति अनेक रणिष्णु जिन!
नियति यथा विधाय, देव-प्रवर द्यौ-पितृ यत!

अविकल सकल सुमानसी, अथ तव अब आख्यान!
भिडे यदा योद्धा युगल, किम निमित्त केहि मान,
अखिल्युस अमोघ पल्युस तनय, अत्रेय आगमम्नान?

Adiparva: “akhilyusa-kopa”

akhilyusa krosha karAla! devi, pravacha adhunA salaya,
gAthA amiTa akAla, raudra yavana durdharSha kI!
roShi asIma athAha! preShita agaNita vIragati,
shvAna-gR^iddha prati grAsa, hanti aneka raNiShNu jina!
niyati yathA vidhAya, deva-pravara dyau-pitR^i yat!

avikala sakala sumAnasI, atha tava aba AkhyAna!
bhiDe yadA yoddhA yugala, kim nimitta kehi mAna,
akhilyusa amogha palyusa tanaya, Atreya AgamamnAna?

(feedback welcome)

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May 23, 2011

Confessions of bANabhaTTa 3

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Continues from

ambe bhAratI!  sarasvatI!!  Do thou nourish forever all that is worthy and noble and do thou squelch always the ignorance and poverty from the minds of those that knowest thee not as surely as from the minds of those that seekest thee!  May thy swift channels flow on forever, O Mother, with hundreds of ever-fresh spills and glacial streams guided by varuNa running to thy clasp, and may these banks continue to provide in abundance and till eternities, as they have since hoary past, the courage and inspiration for higher quests that set one free from the three bondages mundane!  All the four varNa-s are but thy santati entreating thee alone for blessings O Mother most magnanimous!  For, thy one bountiful glance might turn, if thou will, like petty pebbles into chintA-maNi, the ordinary minds into a kAlidAsa or a kAtyAyana, a pANini or a pata~njali, a dvaipAyana or a saumilla, a vAlmIki or a bR^ihaspati, a kauTilya or a kaNAd, a jaiminI or a janaka; then do thou bless ambe, bless all thy children!

In the first muhUrta of uShA we performed our sandhyA on the stepped banks of sarasvatI, which flows through the outskirts of sthANvIshvara, though she is here called ‘oghA’ by the local folks.  (It is later that we learnt, going through the great itihAsa, that this name was not uncommon even in the long bygone days.)

We had spent the night, not an uneventful one, at one of the Ashraya-s in the vicinity.  The place was overcrowded, bustling mostly with the pilgrims who had come hither from faraway janapada-s en route to the celebrated mahA-pITha of kArttikeya at rohitaka, or to the famed shrine of Aditya at mUlasthAna, and some to the siddha pITha of vaiShNavI.  Most pilgrims stop over to perform their devotions on the banks of sarasvatI at sthANvIshvara, a pilgim center in its own right.

Then there was also a party of the mukta-kachcHa-s transiting from, as we learnt, the frontier chaitya-s of kubhA-gandhAra to the vihAra-s of kushInagara.  Some of these muNDaka-s were also chIna-s who spoke in otherwise chaste saMskR^ita, albeit to our amusement, with a strange boisterous nasal accent.

We had retired to the corner bed under the covered wooden yard that the one-eyed elderly gurjara boniface of the inn had given us.  No sooner had the hustle of the sweet-sellers and milkmen settled down, neither our contemplations about the future course nor the atrocious mosquitoes could prevent us from quickly slipping into slumber, exhausted and spent as we were.

But hardly a prahara must have passed that we were roused from our sleep by uncertain hushed voices which sounded like sobs and gasps.  We sat up and straining our eyes in the dimly shade of the corner lamp, looked at the secluded beds to our right, and found that a man was sitting up with the head of another in his lap, the latter babbling in sunken voice.  Going towards them we asked whether there was any matter.

But the matter was evident to us as we went closer.  Even in the dim light, we could see the face of the young man lit up with a burning jvara, his pale eyes turned upwards.  We asked the older man whether we might take a look, and not waiting for the answer, reached out for the oil lamp bringing it closer to the man.

During our endless toils of wandering life, we had also spent over a year at kA~nchIpura in the draviDa country, serving under a rasa-vaidya and training with him.  While we could not pursue that line and had to leave kA~nchIpura due to certain embarrassing reasons that are better left out of these leafs, we had learnt enough of basics and always carried a small peTikA of OShadhi-s for own use.

The menacingly high santApa with trembling shivers, delirious speech and shrinking nADI-gati, blackening lips and turning pale eyes, and as we opened the leather vest of the patient, reddish koTha patches all over his chest and abdominal desha: this surely was no ordinary prAkR^ita jvara nor doShaja jvara, we suspected this seemed like a gambhIra caused by some toxin.  Unless he was quickly attended by an Agad-pravINa vaidya, the patient had little hopes, we candidly told the companion of the suffering man.  But whence could a vaidya be fetched at this midnight hour in an unknown country?

Not until the morning, grimly told the one-eyed gurjara innkeeper who was now at the bedside.  Though, after another prahara he could arrange to take the patient to chAruSheNa sharman, a renowned chikitsaka.  If the patient survived the night, that was, which to us seemed uncertain looking at his sinking breaths.

We hesitated, and then reluctantly told the older man that while we were no practicing expert, we were still trained in medicine and knew the OShadhi-s that might help the patient a bit, and if he so consented we could attempt at reviving the patient until the care of a proper chikitsaka was arranged.  kiM-kartavya-vimUDha, the man looked at us helplessly, then slowly nodded.

We asked the elderly gurjara to fetch some curd, dhR^ita, and saktU preferably of barley, and then for a brief moment remembering the AchArya who had taught us, set out to prepare a yavAgu with suitable OShadhi-s: pR^iShNiparNI, bilvamUla, trAyamANa-phalAdi that we had in our possession, while sorely missing the others that we knew were required but we had not.  For a moment we considered whether emesis through vamana should be first attempted, but then remembered the counter-indication in the saMhitA in case the toxins had gone beyond the stomach, and decided against it.  With an atharvan mantra on our lips we administered the first oral dose to the patient, and applied paippalAdi mixed with dhR^ita on his upper limbs, uttering a kaumAra mantra that we had received from our teacher.

After a few ghaDI-s of thus treating, by the grace of our learned AchArya, and certainly because the patient had more life destined to him, he showed improvement.  While the fever was still high, we observed perspiration of sveda, stabilising breathing and improving nADI-gati.  We then administered another dose and now had to wait until the gurjara could arrange the patient to be taken to the vaidya at the dawn.

The grateful older gentleman opened up to us, and as we sat observing the patient, he told us that they were sons of a merchant from kAshI, and had led a sArtha of a five-hundred shakaTa-s laden with various merchandise to bAlkha and pArasIka countries.  Having done their business there, they had gone further west towards the metropolis of bhagadAda to buy merchandise for import, as they had done several times in the past.  But not this time.  This time they returned plundered and desolate, thankful for their lives.  There was some devilry in the making, told the merchant.  “How could the pArasIka armies be defeated in their own backyard, not by the yavana-romakau but barbara desert-dwelling aravaka-s!”

“And why not?”, joined the gurjara, “have you forgotten the invasion of the hUNa-s only two decades back at our own frontiers?  Had it not been for mahArAjAdhirAja prabhAkara vardhana’s visionary policy, the barbara hUNa-s would have overrun even sthANvIshvara!”

The gurjara had in his youth, we learnt, served the different armies as a soldier, sometimes under the uttara-gupta-s, the other times under the vardhana or maukharI-s, and had seen action when the joint armies of different mahAsAmanta-s  had marched under the generalissimo of prabhAkara vardhana, the father of harShadeva, to flush out white hUNa-s some years back.  We did remember those events from what we used to hear in our childhood.

“And now”, continued the gurjara, “you would not even imagine the different desha-s under now independent mahA-sAmanta-s, ever joining forces to replulse an external invasion leaving that duty to be faced only by those on the front!”, then spitting the tAmbUla, “Why, see the treachery of gauDa-naresha narendra gupta, who now takes the title of shashA~Nka!  See the treachery of maukhAri mAlava-naresha, who has stabbed the vardhana-s in the back!  Can you even imagine these petty minded mahAsAmanta-s ever rising above their selfish ends!  May shiva only protect us from any barbara invasions at the moment!”, then lowering his voice, “Why, let me tell you, I am even suspicious of all these chIna-s now making rounds to our country here”, throwing a glance in the general direction of the chIna muNDaka-s, “who could say how many of these are spies!”

The gurjara was referring to a recent stratagem by which the va~Nga naresha shashA~Nka had deceptively gotten rAjyavardhana, the elder brother of harShadeva, assassinated only a few months back.  The prince whose nAmakaraNa was celebrated yesterday, was a posthumous son of rAjyavardhana.

Our mind was not in the talk, as our attention was focused on the patient, who was now showing definite improvement.  We were relieved as the sky began becoming gradually illuminated and the gurjara rose to arrange for a shakaTa to take the patient to the professional.  As we took leave from the merchant to bathe and perform our sandhyA, the grateful man thurst something in our palms.

From the river, we were now retreating back towards the rAjapatha with sluggish steps, not sure where we should now go.  We intuitively began following a group of brAhmaNa-s dressed in bright shuklavarNI-s, with bright chandana lepa on their foreheads, which so reminded us of our pitAshrI.

We had hardly proceeded a few paces in the vIthikA that led towards the rAjapatha when we heard a female voice tentatively calling out, ‘bhaTTa?, bhaTTa??’

At first we thought that the lady was perhaps calling someone from the group ahead of us.  But we turned.  Or shall we say that it was our fate that really turned sucking us into a whirlwind of events?

It was nipuNikA who stood before us!

The same mocking smile, the same rebellious pair of eyes, the same defiant posture with the left arm confidently resting at her slim waist.  Had she changed not a bit since we had seen her last in ujjayinI, maybe six or was it seven years back, on the stage in the play of mR^ichChakaTikA, finally playing the part of vasantasenA that night?

[Guess this is where we must stop the atrocity.  With apologies to AchArya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi]

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May 12, 2011

Confessions of bANabhaTTa 2

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Continues from

Not without a reason do we enumerate each chapter of these pages as an uchcHvAsa, a warm breath let out reluctantly when it became unbearable.  But then who has not his own parcel of misfortunes and baggage of sorrows to bear upon his shoulders as we have on ours?  We entertain no desire of letting the sympathetic reader carry any of our load for us and get encumbered with even a tiny portion of our tragedies; indeed only some pleasing, some wondrous, maybe some curious memories of ours we intend to invite him for partaking from the otherwise worthless story of our life; and in this if we occasionally slip, the reader of these leafs must be generous in pardoning his narrator.

The memory of that fortunate day is still quite vivid in our now otherwise hazy mind, when wandering all over bhAratavarSha without any planned itinerary or constant fellow travellers, from one wonderful country to the next, yesterday in that janapada and today in this, picking a trick or two here or learning a trade there, at one time serving trifles of a tyrant danseuse and at other time assisting a kind-hearted merchant, now painted in face like a wandering kAlamukha from karNATa country and now dressed for pretending to be a paurANika reteller from va~Nga, thus in summary flying like a fallen leaf whither the wind of fate might carry it, we had found ourselves on the outskirts of the famed metropolis of sthANvIshvara, also called thAnesara in prAkR^ita tongue.

And no mean welcome waited upon us!  As we climbed up the sprawling rAjapatha which seemed from a distance raised like the back of the massive turtles that we had seen on the sea shores of the utkala country, the city seemed to us to be bustling with some celebration, the pleasing hum of, as it seemed, hundreds of mR^ida~Nga-s and bherI-s coming to us from afar but steadily growing with our hypnotic eager pace.

A grand procession it was, and colourful.  As far as one’s glance could reach from behind the shoulders of the tall onlookers, (we must say that the men of this country are quite tall), one’s eyes only met as if a tide of beautifully clad pretty ladies slowly marching, dancingly and playfully.   So large was the entourage itself of these women that surrounded the tall royal shivikA-s carrying the royal family, that you could not get even a distant glance at the royals.  From far if the beats of mR^ida~Nga-s and bherI-s incited you, here they were subdued by the rhythmic and teasing symphony that their peers made: paTaha, kAhala, veNu, shaMkha, vINA and who knows how many other instruments which I would not even be able to name!

The colourfully dressed women marching, would raise their arms and in perfect synchrony make them subtly fall, and as they did that their bejewelled bangles and  heavy anklets with countless tiny bells would raise such a magical rattle that stood out even in that riot of sounds!  The movement of their palms coming down was so delicate as if they seemed to be plucking some AkAsha-kusuma-s from a galaxy!  Nay, to us they themselves seemed like some divine flowers fallen down from the suraloka, for they would laughingly also throw in air, now and then, sweet smelling colours, which mixed with their perspiration had so painted their faces and bodies!  The locks of their hair had all become pink and yellow and green!

Then there was in the front a large troupe of dancers, ever smiling through their beautiful faces and singing in their melodious voice.  When they turned and paused on beats in striking graceful poses, we still remember how their tall kesha-latA would curl up to embrace them and gently stroke past their breasts like an expert lover!  To the then young heart of ours these martyaloka-apsarA-s seemed like skillful and confident generals of an invading army marching under madanadeva himself who had set out on conquering some distant lands!

But we later learnt from a fellow onlooker, a curd seller, that the procession was to go towards the mArttaNDa temple.   mahArAjAdhirAja shrI harShavardhana deva had been blessed with a nephew, and on that day was to be held the nAmakaraNa saMskAra of the infant.

Ah! blessed be the prince, we prayed in our heart!  At least there was someone whose birth was so celebrated with delight.  We were reminded of our own childhood, spent without the love and care of a mother and as a burden to our karmavIra father, who had heavier duties to detain him from smiling at his boy, smelling his hair or kissing his forehead.  And still, we did not complain, nor do we today, for whatever little was noble or good in us, it is because of the kR^ititva and blessings of our aged pitAshrI, who left us alone and orphaned when we were thirteen or fourteen.

Even in this Ananda-kolAhala, our heart shed a tear silently.  We looked skywards, and thought our pitR^i-pitAmaha-gaNa were also crying with us: where our ‘yashoMshu-shuklI-kR^ita-saptaviShTara’ vaMsha, and where this tail-less, run-away, unfortunate baNDa, whose worth was less than that even of the leash with which he was tied!  O dhariNIdevI, our heart ached, would you not give us escape and let this unfortunate child of yours hide in your bosom?

(based on the immortal novel by AchArya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi)

Continues to

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May 10, 2011

Confessions of bANabhaTTa

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

It would be far more convenient, would it not, to just let us say that this was not the name which our revered pitAshrI gave us and let the story behind our more famous name remain out of these annals? On our part we confess to having conscientiously let the embarrassing thing remain obscure and unknown, but as it seems not possible anymore, we deem it less disagreeable to be coming from us than speculated by the reckless one and a hundred exaggerating mouths. But mighty embarrassment indeed, for on the bright moon-like forehead of the renowned vAtsyAyana household in which we were fortunate to be born, our name appears to us like an accursed blot!

When we recall our ancestral agrahAra and the household where we grew up, what flashes first to our mind is the resounding sonorous vaidika uchchAra-s with which our pitAshrI’s abode was always abuzz, and then the swarm of his devoted countless students that came to study with him from afar. This should seem like an exaggeration to you as it does to us, that even the parroquets of his household used to perfectly repeat the recitations. An exaggeration that might well be, but we can safely vouch to you this, that it used to terrify the younger of our pitAshrI’s pupils who used to be perpetually wary of these birds for the fear of their monitoring the recitations and then reporting any of misdoings and errors to their venerable achArya, our pitAshrI!

It is not a hollow embellishment of a poet when we say that mahAdevI sarasvatI herself used to wipe the labour-sweat from the face of our father as we think mothers must do to their tots when they return from the playground. (This experience, of how it feels when your mother wipes your face, our fate did not permit us, having lost our jananI so early that we don’t even remember her face). When we said that upamA, what had come to our mind was the droplets of sweat flowing from the handsome and fair face of our pitAshrI, shining like a string of pearls, as he used to come out after having performed homa for some muhUrta-s since uShAkAla. And then he used to go straight to his kushAsana to teach vedAbhyAsa and other subjects to the bramhachArI-s; that was his rest, that was his break! Aho, such was indeed our pitAshrI, shrI chitrabhAnu bhaTTa, one of the most learned and venerated vaidika scholars and performers of sacrifices of his time. Hard to imagine that to such a father we were born! A boastful, aimless fickle-minded vagabond!

But we were going to reveal the origin of our popular name. When we ran away from the house of our pitAshrI, we must have been very young. And then we did not run away alone, we had with us a gang of other equally worthless idle lads from our village, though most of them did not survive with us for long and returned back to the familiar toils of our village life. And that running away had made us notorious among our folks. In our mAgadhI locale, a vR^iShabha without a tail is called a ‘baNDa’, and in that tongue there is also a popular vulgar adage that roughly means something like, ‘a baNDa ran away, and took away the leash too’. Thence we were called baNDa, the tail-less run-away bull, by everyone at our village and the ugly name stuck. We refined it with devavANI and made it into ‘bANa’, which name has now made us famous, but our heart only knows how we long to again hear once more the deep and sagacious voice of our revered pitAshrI summoning us — ‘dakSha bhaTTa, come at once…!’ We can remember that ring, that voice; the memory of our pitAshrI calling us by our proper name always gives us an unbearable pang.

(based on the immortal novel by AchArya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi)

Continues to

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May 8, 2011

Baji Prabhu by Shri Aurobindo

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

 

A NOON of Deccan with its tyrant glare
Oppressed the earth; the hills stood deep in haze,
And sweltering athirst the fields glared up
Longing for water in the courses parched
Of streams long dead.

 

It hung upon the Mogul horsemen as they rode
With lances at the charge, the surf of steel
About them and behind, as they recoiled
Or circled, where the footmen ran and fired,
And fired again and ran; “For now at last,”
They deemed, “the war is over, now at last
The Panther of the hills is beaten back
Right to his lair, the rebel crew to death
Is hunted, and an end is made at last.”

 

At morning when the sun
Was yet below the verge, the Bhonsle sprang
At a high mountain fortress, hoping so
To clutch the whole wide land into his grasp;
But from the North and East the Moguls poured,
Swords numberless and hooves that shook the hills
And barking of a hundred guns. These bore
The Hero backward.  Silently with set
And quiet faces grim drew fighting back
The strong Mahrattas to their hills; only
Their rear sometimes with shouted slogan leaped
At the pursuer’s throat, or on some rise
Or covered vantage stayed the Mogul flood,
A moment.

 

At last they reached a tiger-throated gorge
Upon the way to Raigurh. Narrowing there
The hills draw close, and their forbidding cliffs
Threaten the prone incline.

 

The Bhonsle paused.
His fiery glance travelled in one swift gyre
Hill, gorge and valley and with speed returned
Mightily like an eagle on the wing
To a dark youth beside him, Malsure
The younger, with his bright and burning eyes,
Who wordless rode quivering, as on the leash.

 

His fierce heart hungered for the rear, where Death
Was singing mid the laughter of the swords.
“Ride, Suryaji,” the Chieftain cried, his look
Inward, intent, “and swiftly from the rear
Summon the Prabhou.”

 

Turning at the word
Suryaji’s hooves sped down the rock-strewn slope
Into the trenchant valley’s death. Swiftly,
Though burdened with a Nation’ s fate, the ridge
They reached, where in stern silence fought and fell,
Their iron hearts broken with desperate toil,
The Southron rear, and to the Prabhou gave
The summons of the Chief, “Ride, Baji, ride,
The Bhonsle names thee, Baji.” And Baji spoke
No word, but stormed with loose and streaming rein
To the high frowning gorge and silent paused
Before the leader.

 

“Baji, more than once
In battle thou hast stood, a living shield,
Between me and the foe. But more today,
O Baji, save than any single life –
Thy nation’s destiny.”

 

“Thou seest this gorge
Narrow and fell and gleaming like the throat
Of some huge tiger, with its rocky fangs
Agrin for food: and though the lower slope
Descends too gently, yet with roots and stones
It is hampered, and the higher prone descent
Impregnably forbids assault; too steep
The sides for any to ascend and shoot
From vantage. Here might lion-hearted men,
Though few, delay a host.”

 

“Baji, I speed To Raigurh and in two brief hours return.
Say with what force thy iron heart can hold
The passage till I come. Thou seest our strength,
How it has melted like the Afghan’s ice
Into a pool of blood.”

 

And while he paused
Who had been chosen, spoke an iron man
With iron brows who rode behind the Chief,
Tanaji Malsure, that living sword:
“Not for this little purpose was there need
To call the Prabhou from his toil. Enough,
Give me five hundred men; I hold the pass
Till thy return.” But Shivaji kept still
His great and tranquil look upon the face
Of Baji Prabhou.

 

Then, all black with wrath,
Wrinkling his fierce hard eyes, the Malsure:
“‘What ponders then the hero? Such a man
Of men, he needs not like us petty swords
A force behind him, but alone will hold
All Rajasthan and Agra and Cabool
From rise to set.”

 

And Baji answered him:
“Tanaji Malsure, not in this living net
Of flesh and nerve, nor in the flickering mind
Is a man’s manhood seated. God within
Rules us, who in the Brahmin and the dog
Can, if He will, show equal godhead. Not
By men is mightiness achieved; Baji
Or Malsure is but a name, a robe,
And covers One alone. We but employ
Bhavani’s strength, who in an arm of flesh
Is mighty as in the thunder and the storm.
I ask for fifty swords.”

 

And Malsure: “Well, Baji, I will build thee such a pyre
As man had never yet, when we return;
For all the Deccan brightening shall cry out,
Baji the Prabhou burns!” And with a smile
The Prabhou answered: “Me thou shalt not burn,
For this five feet or more of bone and flesh,
Whether pure flame or jackals of the hills
Be fattened with its rags, may well concern
Others, not Baji Prabhou.”

 

And the Chief
With a high calmness in his shining look,
“We part, O friend, but meet again we must,
When from our tasks released we both shall run
Like children to our Mother’s clasp.”

 

He took
From his wide brow the princely turban sown
With aigrette diamond-crowned and on the head
Of Baji set the gleaming sign, then clasped
His friend and, followed by the streaming host
That gathered from the rear, to farther hills
Rode clattering.

 

Small respite had the slender band who held
Fate constant with that brittle hoop of steel;
For like the crest of an arriving wave
The Moslem van appeared, though slow and tired,
Yet resolute to break such barrier faint.
Pathan and Mogul and the Rajput clans,
All clamorous with the brazen throats of war
And spitting smoke and fire.

 

Sheltered by tree and rock, the silent grim
Defenders waited, till on root and stone
The confident high-voiced triumphant surge
Began to break, to stumble, then to pause,
Confusion in its narrowed front. At once
The muskets clamoured out, the bullets sped,
Deadly though few; again and yet again

 

So the great onset failed.  And now withdrawn
The generals consulted, and at last
In slow and ordered ranks the foot came on,
An iron resolution in their tread,
Hushed and deliberate. Far in the van,
Tall and large-limbed, a formidable array,
The Pathan infantry; a chosen force,
Lower in crest, strong-framed, the Rajputs marched;
The chivalry of Agra led the rear.

 

Then Baji first broke silence, “Lo, the surge!
That was but spray of death we first repelled.
Chosen of Shivaji, Bhavani’s swords,
For you the Gods prepare. We die indeed,
But let us die with the high-voiced assent
Of Heaven to our country’s claim enforced
To freedom.”

 

As he spoke, the Mogul lines
Entered the menacing, wide-throated gorge,
Carefully walking, but not long that care
Endured, for where they entered, there they fell.
Others behind in silence stern advanced.
They came, they died; still on the previous dead
New dead fell thickening. dead
Rather than living held the conquered slope,The
living who, half-broken, paused.

 

Then the heads that planned pushed swiftly to the front
The centre yet unhurt, where Rajasthan,
Playmate of Death, had sent her hero sons.
They with a rapid royal reckless pace
Came striding over the perilous fire-swept ground,
Nor answered uselessly the bullets thick
Nor paused to judge, but o’er the increasing dead
Leaping and striding, shouting, sword in hand,
Rushed onward with immortal courage high
In mortal forms, and held the lower slope.

 

But now the higher incline, short but steep,
Baffled their speed, and as they clambered up,
Compact and fiery, like the rapid breath
Of Agra’s hot simoom, the sheeted flame
Belched bullets. Down they fell with huge collapse,
And, rolling, with their shock drove back the few
Who still attempted. Banned advance, retreat
Threatening disgrace and slaughter, for a while
Like a bound sacrifice the Rajputs stood
Diminishing each moment.

 

Then a lord High crested of the Rathore clan stood out
From the perplexed assailants, with his sword
Beckoning the thousands on against the few.
And a mighty shout
Rose from behind, and in a violent flood
The Rajputs flung themselves on the incline
Like clambering lions.

 

The Rathore stood on the disputed verge
And ever threw fresh strength into the scale
With that inspiring gesture, Baji came
Towards him singling out the lofty crest,
The princely form: and, as the waves divide
Before a driving keel, the battle so
Before him parted, till he neared, he slew.
Avoiding sword, avoiding lifted arm
The blade surprised the Rajput’s throat, and down
As falls an upright poplar, with his hands
Outspread, dying, he clutched Mahratta ground.

 

Loud rose the slogan as he fell. Amazed,
The eager hosts of Agra saw reel back
The Rajput battle, desperate victory
Turned suddenly into entire defeat,
Not headlong, but with strong discouragement,
Sullen, convinced, rejecting the emprise.

 

As they retired, the brilliant Pathan van
Assumed the attempt. “Exhaust,” the generals cried,
“Exhaust the stubborn mountaineers; for now
Fatigued with difficult effort and success
They hardly stand, weary, unstrung, inert.
Scatter this fringe, and we march on and seize
Raigurh and Shivaji.”

 

On came the Pathans running rapidly,
But as the nearmost left the rocky curve
Where lurked the ambush, loud from stone and tree
The silence spoke ; sideways, in front, behind
Death clamoured, and tall figures strewed the ground
Like trees in a cyclone. Appalled the rest
Broke this way and broke that, and some cried, “On!”
Some shouted, “Back!” for those who led, fell fast.
So the advance dissolved

 

With gloom their chiefs
Beheld the rout and drawing back their hosts
In dubious council met, whether to leave
That gorge of slaughter unredeemed or yet
Demand the price of so immense a loss.

 

But to the Prabhou came with anxious eyes
The Captain of the band . “Baji,” he cried,
“The bullets fail; all the great store we had
Of shot and powder by unsparing use
Is spent, is ended.

 

And Baji Prabhou turned.
One look he cast upon the fallen men
Discernible by their attire, and saw
His ranks not greatly thinned, one look below
Upon the hundreds strewing thick the gorge,
And grimly smiled; then where the sun in fire
Descending stooped, towards the vesper verge
He gazed and cried: “Make iron of your souls.
Yet if Bhavani wills, strength and the sword
Can stay our nation’s future from o’erthrow
Till victory with Shivaji return.”

 

And so they waited without word or sound,
And over them the silent afternoon
Waited; the hush terrestrial was profound.
Except the mountains and the fallen men
No sight, no voice, no movement was abroad,
Only a few black-winged slow-circling birds
That wandered in the sky, only the wind
That now arose and almost noiselessly
Questioned the silence of the wooded sides.
So the slow minutes passed.

 

Resolved at last the stream of Mogul war
Came once more pouring, not the broken rout
Of Pathans, not discouraged Rajput swords,
But Agra’s chivalry glancing with gold
And scimitars inlaid and coloured robes.

 

Swiftly they came expecting the assault
Fire-winged of bullets and the lethal rain,
But silence met them and to their intent
So ominous it seemed, a while they paused,
Fearing some ruse; Reassured,
Onward with a high shout they charged the slope.
No bullet sped, no musket spoke; unhurt
They crossed the open space, unhurt they climbed
The rise

 

But even as their hands surprised
The shrubs that fringed the vantage, swords unseen
Hacked at their fingers, through the bushes thrust
Lances from warriors unexposed bore through
Their bosoms. Small was the space for fight,
And meeting strength with skill and force with soul
The strong and agile keepers of the hills
Prevailed against the city-dwelling hosts,
With covert and the swiftly stabbing blades
O’erpowering all the feints of Agra’s schools.

 

Upon the Prabhou all the Goddess came.
Loud like a lion hungry on the hills
He shouted, and his stature seemed to increase
Striding upon the foe.

 

That godlike impulse faded from his heart,
And passing out of him a mighty form
Stood visible, Titanic, scarlet-clad,
Dark as a thunder-cloud, with streaming hair
Obscuring heaven, and in her sovran grasp
The sword, the flower, the boon, the bleeding head —
BHAVANI!!!

 

Then she vanished; the daylight
Was ordinary in a common world.
And Baji knew the Goddess formidable
Who watches over India till the end.

 

Even then a sword found out his shoulder, sharp
A Mogul lance ran grinding through his arm.
Fiercely around him gathered in a knot
The mountaineers; but Baji, with a groan,
“Moro Deshpande, to the other side
Hasten of the black gorge and bring me word.
Rides any from the West, or canst thou hear
The Raigurh trumpets blow? I know my hour
Is ended; let me know my work is done.”

 

Desperate, he laboured in his human strength
To push the Mogul from the gorge’s end
With slow compulsion. By his side fell fast
Mahratta and Mogul and on his limbs
The swords drank blood, a single redness grew
His body, yet he fought. Then at his side
Ghastly with wounds and in his fiery eyes
Death and rejoicing a dire figure stood,
Moro Deshpande. “Baji, I have seen
The Raigurh lances; Baji, I have heard
The trumpets.”

 

And Baji with a gruesome hand
Wiping the blood from his fierce staring eyes
Saw round him only fifteen men erect
Of all his fifty. But in front, behind,
On either side the Mogul held the gorge.

 

Groaning, once more the grim Mahratta turned
And like a bull with lowered horns that runs,
Charged the exultant foe behind.
And as a knife cuts instantly its way
Through water, so the yielding Mogul wall
Was cleft and closed behind. Eight men alone
Stood in the gorge’s narrow end, not one
Unwounded.

 

There where hardly three abreast
Have room to stand, they faced again the foe;
And from this latest hold Baji beheld
Mounting the farther incline, rank on rank,
A mass of horsemen; galloped far in front
Some forty horse, and on a turbaned head
Bright in the glory of the sinking sun
A jewelled aigrette blazed.

 

And Baji looked
Over the wide and yawning field of space
And seemed to see a fort upon a ridge,
Raigurh; then turned and sought again the war.
So for few minutes desperately they strove.
Man after man of the Mahrattas fell
Till only three were left. Then suddenly
Baji stood still and sank upon the ground.
Quenched was the fiery gaze, nerveless the arm:
Baji lay dead in the unconquered gorge.

 

But ere he fell, upon the rocks behind
The horse-hooves rang and, as the latest left
Of the half hundred died, the bullets thronged
Through the too narrow mouth and hurled those down
Who entered. Clamorous, exultant blared
‘The Southron trumpets, but with stricken hearts
The swords of Agra back recoiled; fatal
Upon their serried unprotected mass
In hundreds from the verge the bullets rained,
And in a quick disordered stream, appalled,
The Mogul rout began. Sure-footed, swift
The hostile strength pursued, Suryaji first
Shouting aloud and singing to the hills
A song of Ramdas as he smote and slew.

 

But Shivaji by Baji’s empty frame
Stood silent and his gaze was motionless
Upon the dead. Tanaji Malsure
Stood by him and observed the breathless corpse,
Then slowly said, “Thirty and three the gates
By which thou enterest heaven, thou fortunate soul,
Thou valiant heart! So when my hour arrives,
May I too clasp my death, saving the land
Or winning some great fortress for my lord.”

 

But Shivaji beside the dead beheld
A dim and mighty cloud that held a sword
And in its other hand, where once the head
Depended bleeding, raised the turban bright
From Baji’s brows, still glittering with its gems,
And placed it on the chief’s. But as it rose
Blood-stained with the heroic sacrifice,
Round the aigrette he saw a Golden Crown.

 

(Abridged from a poem written by Shri Aurobindo.)

 

 

January 20, 2011

Maharana’s puNya divasa

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

In 1597, on January 19, died mahArANA pratApa siMha, the foremost luminary in the galaxy of all Hindu leaders that raised the standard of tumult to answer the jehAd.  But before he died he fulfilled the mission of his life of regaining control over his mAtR^ibhUmi, and even at his deathbed he made his heir and his band of men swear by Lord Ekalinga to continue fighting the battle for Hindu independence.

Never did that dharmAbhimAnI compromise on Hindu liberty and never did he submit even to the lucrative offers of moghal tyrant.  His insignia read “जो दृढ राखै धरम कौ ताहि रखै कर्तार”: Those Who Stiffly Protect Dhrama find Protection of The Creator. It is by his grit and that of his followers that the sapling of Hindu revival was kept nourished, which would in next century become the mighty vaTa. Thus while negotiating treaty at Purandar with Jai Singh, cHatrapati recalled mahArANA and his hardships.

But for that vIra-pu~Ngava, all was lost beyond hope, as says surAyajI, a contemporary rAjasthAnI poet:

हिन्दू हिन्दूकार, राणा जे राखत नहीं
तो अकबर एकार, पहो सहो करत परतापसी
हिन्दूपति परताप, पत राखी हिन्दवाणरी
सहे विपति संताप, सत्य सपथ कर आपणी

[Had rANA not kept the Hindu flag independent,
Akbar had all but succeeded in crushing them to joining/becoming Moslems
But O Hindupati Pratap, You kept the Hindu pride undiminished
Even bearing hardships and pains, never did you waver from your grit]

Even a rAjpUt courtier of Akbar, ADhA dUrasA of sirohI, wrote in his “viruddha cHihattarI”:

एही भुजे अरीति । तसलीमत हिन्दू तुरक
माथै निकर मसीत परताप कै परसादसी
रोहै पाताल राण । जाँ तसलीम न आदरै
हिन्दू मुस्सलमाण एक नहीं ता दोय हैं

[When such is the usage of the day that Hindus have to bow low and perform Tasleem to Musalmans,
It is only in your country, O Pratap, that the temples are seen reconstructed where mosques were squatting
Only if, O Pratap, you hold the Hindu Banner high and don’t acknowledge (Akbar’s) suzerainty
Hindus will retain their independence and identity and not get merged with Musalmans]

रोकै अकबर राह । लै हिन्दू कूकुर लखां
बीअर तो बाराह पाडै घणा परताप सी
सुख हित स्याल समाज, हिन्दू अकबर बस हुए
रोसीलो मृगराज पजै न राण परताप सी

[Akbar obstacles the path of pratApa with help from a lakh Dog-Hindus (those who have gone to Akbars side)
But when did they stop the Boar-like march of pratApa! A single vArAha-Hindu is enough.
For sake of comfort some coward jackal-Hindus have taken Akbar as overlord
But when did Lion-Hindus like pratApa ever accept his suzerainty!]

लोपै हिन्दू लाज सगपण रोपै तुरकसूँ
आरज कुल री आज पूंजी राण प्रतापसी

[When Hindu honour has disappeared; they shamelessly give their daughters to musalmans;
O Pratap rANA, today You are the only refuge left for the Aryakula honour]

pratApa siMha, the standard forever of Hindu bravery, had no hesitation to denounce the cowardly deeds of his father and used to openly lament that had udaya not been born between his grandfather Sangram Singh the ‘Hindupat’, and himself, the Moslem rule in hindusthAn would have been wiped out in the time of bAbur himself.  (This is not a mere boast)

सांगो धरम सहाय बाबुर सूं भिडियो बिहस
अकबर कदमा आय पडै न राण प्रताप सी
मन अकबर मजबूत! फूट हिन्दवाँ बेफिकर
काफिर कौम कपूत! पकडूँ राण प्रताप सी

[If for the protection of dharma had rANA sAMgA gone to clash with bAbUr
It is for the same reason that pratApa does not give in to Akbar
Akbar’s mind is carefree and strong seeing the prevailing disunity among the Hindus
But even he knows that amongst Kafirs these are the black sheep; So he goes after Pratap]

Once a rumour was spread in Agra that mahArANA was willing to accept Akbar’s overlordship and had sent such communication to Patsah. Alarmed about this, a rAjpUt prince of bIkAner, Rai Prithviraj who was at Akbar’s court, wrote to pratApa seeking the truth of the matter. He wrote:

पातल जो पातसाह बोलै मुख हूता बयण
मिहर पच्छम दिस माह उगै कासप राववत
पटकूँ मुच्छाँ पाण कै पटकूँ निज तन करद
लीजै लिख दीवान इण दो महली बात इक

[I have been told that pratApa has started calling Akbar his Patsah,
which to me seems as impossible as the Sun rising from the west
But tell me O Regent (of EkaliMga) where I stand –
Shall I proudly put my fingers on my moustaches or sword on my neck?
Just write back which of the two is for me?]

To which pratApa siMha wrote back the below lines which are proudly memorised by every true Rajput:

तुरक कहासी मुख पतो इण तन सौं इकलिंग
ऊगै जाहीं ऊगसी प्राची बीच पतङ
खुसी हूँत पीतल कमध पटको मूच्छा पाण
पछटन है जेतै पटौ कलमा सिर केवाण
सांगा मूड सहै सको समजस जहर सवाद
झड पीतल जीतो झलाँ वैण तरकसूँ वाद

[By Lord Ekalinga, I shall call Akbar Turak alone (and not Patsah),
as surely as the Sun would rise tomorrow from the East.
You may, O Prithviraj, continue proudly stroking your moustaches
As pratApa’s sword continues to dangle on the Mughal heads, and,
Let the Sanga’s blood be on my hands if I ever rest before crushing them
You would, Prithvi, no doubt, have the better of this quarrel of rumours at the court.]

When the news of pratApa’s death reached Akbars court, it is said that Akbar mourned for his death (so say also the persian sources). At this, a rAjasthAnI poet at Akbar’s court expressed his homage to pratApa like this:

अस लैगो अनदाग पाघ लैगो अणनामी
गौ आडा अवडाय जिको बहतो धुर बामी
नवरोजे नह गयो न गो आतसाँ नवल्ली
न गओ झरोखा हेठ दुनियाण दहल्ली
गहलोता राणा जीती गयो दसन मून्द रसना डसी
निसास मूक भरिया नयन मृतु शाह प्रतापसी !

[Kept his horses unbranded (of mughal seal), Head unbowed and fame untarnished
Carried on his fight against vidharmI yoke merely by his singular fortitude
Never went to Navroz and Atish festivals of Patsah nor mounted guard at his jharokha darshan
O rANA the guhilota! The victory be yours. Even in death you make Patsah speechless and blind
Breathless, Patsah’s tongue is stuck in throat and blinded, as his eyes are moistened from sadness]

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