Jul 20, 2016

"Ghadar di Goonj" - Reverberations of The Mutiny (1857)

The uprising in 1857 saw an outpouring of literature, mostly song and poetry, in Punjabi and Hindustani. I am dumping my translation attempts of a select few here on this blog. The poet-fighters did not leave us their names.

One of the high points of humour in our history textbooks is the suggestion that the uprising of 1857 was sparked by the induction of cartridges greased with pork and tallow. Curiously, there is no mention of this in these passionate verses, which dwell on more uninteresting details like systematic exploitation and destitution, famine and hunger, genocide and the crushed spirit of a people, humiliation and honour - a society kept reeling off center as a matter of state policy.

The apathy had set in so deep, that the poems bemoan a lack of sufficient response, while still clinging on to hope, expecting this would at least sow the seeds and mark the new dispensation as an Outsider firmly in the consciousness of the people.

1. A poster: "Manifest Nation"
Now for this manifest nation
    in us grows infatuation, 
As mutinous propaganda
    finds leaven day by day, 
And the overlordship of strangers
    feels like an abomination!
2. A poem: "India's Ravaged Face"
Judgment Day shall find only this,
My tongue, my self-expression:
'A servant of Indian people, I,
This India is my nation.' 
An atom of broken ruins
Of India's ravaged face:
That is my full address,
My only name and trace. 
In blood and humiliation,
Properly Indian I remain,
This is my solar religion,
My only family name. 
Everyday Mother India's people
Sit and stand regretfully;
If only my lot were more like that,
But such is not my destiny! 
Oh India, in your martyrdom
Should I lose my life, my head,
Then I would think my everlasting life
Is to this world be dead. 
3. A poem commemorating May 10, 1857: "Burst Dams of Choked Tears"
We mark this blessed day in memory,
This hallowed day in Indian history;
When extraordinary waves of mutiny
Rolled across the land from mountains to sea. 
The directions pulsed with hot energy,
And martyrdom flashed quite regularly;
Every Indian became sworn devotee
Whose heart and soul throbbed for liberty. 
The siren screamed "Destroy!" nationally,
"You! Kill that fork-tongued, greedy feringhee!"
"Stake the nation's flag to flutter freely!"
"Take back your throne, your crown and glory!" 
A mysterious voice spoke sorrowfully,
To the evening breeze as it blew gently:
"This rebel message of such gravity,
Must vault to the heart of each Hindustani!" 
Every ear heard it more attentively,
Every child in India, and the elderly:
"Finished is darkness and atrocity -
Just dislodge their violent monopoly!" 
So stand up no matter who you may be,
Mature in years or the young and sprightly,
Wipe out the nation's disgrace completely,
Now grip ye the sword and the spear firmly! 
The brokenness of India's great polity,
Broken people of India weep in self-pity,
Exhausted by chaos, dying hungry,
In the vice grip of famine and feringhee. 
Everywhere homelessness spreads rampantly,
Possessed, they fall upon the enemy;
Seeing the state of affairs in the country
Burst dams of choked tears and longanimity.
4. A poem: "It Was For Us They Dithered Not"
For the sake of the life of sacrifice, passionate are we;
Set in our hearts was freedom from these shackles of slavery. 
Propaganda for mutiny was all the mulla's sermon,
Possessed guardian of this celebration was the brahmin. 
Giving up preoccupation with domestic responsibility,
All became a pain in the neck to British monopoly. 
Not an 'uff' of doubt in ascending the hangman's noose,
'Twas for us they dithered not in doubt for life to lose. 
Pandey made his sacrifice for our own sake,
Like Tantya, Nana and Ahmad Shah, and in their wake. 
They sowed the seeds of freedom with their own blood pure,
Alas, as keepers we fell behind in ignorant stupor! 
Cowards like us aren't to be found anywhere in this age;
Who is there with heart so stony that it won't outrage? 
Over there were lost the lives of lakhs of India's progeny,
Till their final breaths they clutched on to the nation's dignity. 
Lakshmi Bai fought on that battleground a manly game;
Soldiers, women, children - all became moths to the flame. 
In a fiery heart does 'REBEL' the leaping flames stoke,
Further bloodshed shall the colour of ripened martyrs provoke. 
Suddenly there was ignited a world of seditious ire;
Here were firangi 'investigators', there were homes set afire. 
That felicitous day in May, today its anniversary,
When the sherbet was martyrdom, and our elders drank it happily. 
Therefore, my love, take this oath upon your life's vitality,
Very soon shall we drive away our India's slavery! 
5. A poem: "By the Outsider"
Awakes the bless'd destiny of India from sleep,
Manifest in her people as a caring deep. 
The Mutiny revived us, faces wet with spray,
Indifference from our negligent hearts driven away!
Reaching India these rays of holistic progress,
Beating it from our homeland is heavy darkness.
Shrunken figures shall now leaven with puberty,
Their constitutions newly inclined to the country!
The veil of indifference from our hearts pure,
Has been lifted now by the Outsider.
I will update this page with more if and when I get to it.


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  2. These are very nice collection of poetry. Do you have Urdu Poetry or Hindi Poetry.