Tagore on Bhai Taru Singh Ji by Inderjeet Singh
An inspirational poem on Bhai Taru Singh Ji’s last moments before his martyrdom.
It was originally written in Bengali in 1899 by Rabindranath Tagore. The poem ‘Prarthanatit Dan’ (Gift Beyond that Begged) in the book Katha (Legends).
The present translation is taken from the book ‘The Eclipsed Sun’ by Rajat Das Gupta. Tagore has erroneously mentioned Bhai Sahib as prisoner of war. Bhai Sahib was a Khalsa (warrior saint) who was a simple farmer although not a rich man, whatever he saved went to his Sikh brethren forced into exile by government persecution. The poem is moving and portrays Bhai Sahib’s uprightness and his firm belief in Wahe Guru.
Tagore was the author of Gitanjali, became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. He was later knighted by the British. Tagore repudiated his knighthood, in protest against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. Tagore described the tragedy as “without parallel in the history of civilized governments.”
Tagore also immortalized the legend of Banda Singh Bahadar for steadfastness in the face of stark tragedy, ‘Bandi Bir’ (The Captive/Chained Hero). The poem is as follows:
When the Pathans brought them 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 forsaking religion for a Sikh”. “Beni” in Bengali means the coiled hair the Sikhs keep.
This article was first Published on Sikhnet Tagore on Bhai Taru Singh