বন্দী বীর/Bandi Bir/ The Captive Brave

বন্দী বীর

পঞ্চনদীর তীরে
বেণী পাকাইয়া শিরে
দেখিতে দেখিতে গুরুর মন্ত্রে
জাগিয়া উঠেছে শিখড্ড
নির্মম নির্ভীক।
হাজার কণ্ঠে গুরুজির জয়
ধ্বনিয়া তুলেছে দিক্।
নূতন জাগিয়া শিখ
নূতন উষার সূর্যের পানে
চাহিল নির্নিমিখ।

“অলখ নিরঞ্জন’
মহারব উঠে বন্ধন টুটে
করে ভয়ভঞ্জন।
বক্ষের পাশে ঘন উল্লাসে
অসি বাজে ঝন্ঝন্।
পঞ্জাব আজি গরজি উঠিল,
“অলখ নিরঞ্জন!’

এসেছে সে এক দিন
লক্ষ পরানে শঙ্কা না জানে
না রাখে কাহারো ঋণ।
জীবন মৃত্যু পায়ের ভৃত্য,
চিত্ত ভাবনাহীন।
পঞ্চনদীর ঘিরি দশ তীর
এসেছে সে এক দিন।

হোথা বারবার বাদশাজাদার
তন্দ্রা যেতেছে ছুটে।
কাদের কণ্ঠে গগন মন্থ,
নিবিড় নিশীথ টুটে–
কাদের মশালে আকাশের ভালে
আগুন উঠেছে ফুটে!

পঞ্চনদীর তীরে
ভক্তদেহের রক্তলহরী
মুক্ত হইল কি রে!
লক্ষ বক্ষ চিরে
ঝাঁকে ঝাঁকে প্রাণ পক্ষীসমান
ছুটে যেন নিজনীড়ে।
বীরগণ জননীরে
রক্ততিলক ললাটে পরালো
পঞ্চনদীর তীরে।


Bandi Veer/The Captive Brave

By the banks of the five great streams
Binding their long hair upon their heads
By and by harking to the words of their saints
The Sikhs arise from their dreams
Merciless and brave beyond compare.
A thousand voices raised in prayer
Shaking the earth to its very ends.
The newly awakened Sikhs
Gaze on the dawn of a brand new day
Unblinking and steadfast in every way.

“Alakh Niranjan”
A great noise breaks every shackle
And banishes all fear from the soul.
By each breast in savage unison
The sword rings out in song.
For today is the day that the Punjab roars
“Alakh Niranjan!”
A day such as this has never been seen
A million hearts know not what fear means
Nor feel that they owe another.
Life and death are but servants at one’s call,
The soul worries about nothing at all.
By the ten banks of the five great streams
Such a day has only been seen in dreams.
Atop the palace in Delhi
Over there lives the prince of the realm
His sleep is racked by thoughts unseemly.
Whose voices are these that roil the skies,
driving the darkness of night way –
Whose torches are those that bring a burning light
To the darkened brow of deepest night!
By the banks of the five great streams
That river of blood that flows in brave hearts
Are they being set free!
Cutting open a million hearts
Souls fly true like birds in quest
Seeking home in their own nest.
The brave sons bow to their mothers
Smearing blood across foreheads proud
By the banks of the five great streams.

An excerpt from Bandi Veer, Rabindranath Tagore
(Translation, mine)


The original poem by Tagore was called Bandi Veer or the Captive Brave and described the exploits of Sardar Banda Singh Bahadur, who was blinded and maimed before being put to death by the Mughals in 1716. While he had his sight, his four year old son was put to death while on his lap and the Mughals tried to force him to eat the child’s flesh. Death came from red hot pincers and the executioner’s axe. Seven hundred other Sikhs were put to death as well.

C.R.Wilson, a Bengal civilian, has given in his Early Annals of the English in Bengal the following description of the entry of the Sikh captives into Delhi:

Malice did its utmost to cover the vanquished with ridicule and shame. First came the heads of the executed Sikhs, stuffed with straw, and stuck on bamboos, their long hair streaming in the wind like a veil, and along with them to show that every living thing in Gurdaspur had perished, a dead cat on a pole. Banda himself, dressed out of mockery in a turban of a red cloth, embroidered with gold, and a heavy robe of brocade flowered with pomegranates, sat in an iron cage, placed on the back of an elephant.

These are not stories made up by some rabid follower of the faith. The representatives of the East India Company in Delhi, John Surman and Edward Stephenson were invited to witness some of these events and saw enough to observe in a letter to the governor of Fort William:

“It is not a little remarkable with what patience Sikhs undergo their fate, and to the last it has not been found that one apostatized from his new formed religion. ”

Alakh Niranjan was a cry that came from Guru Gorakshnath. It meant the god without recognizable form or Nirguna Brahma, a concept embedded in the Upanishads.