Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 1/Chapter 10

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In the beautiful moonlit night Bhavan and Mahendra were walking quietly across a meadow. Mahendra was silent and sad. He was also curious.

Bhavan, on the other hand, suddenly changed himself into a different personality. He was no longer the quiet and grave holy man nor the heroic warrior-slayer of the English captain. He was no longer the proud chastiser of Mahendra Singh. He seemed to have been uplifted into supreme joyousness by the unique grandeur of the enchanting panorama. He smiled as the ocean smiles at the rising of the moon. He grew jubilant, talkative and most cordial. He seemed very anxious to talk. In various ways he tried to engage Mahendra in a conversation. When he failed, he sang softly to himself:

'Mother, hail!
  Thou with sweet springs flowing,
Thou fair fruits bestowing,
  Cool with zephyrs blowing,
Green with corn-crops growing,
  Mother, hail!'

Mahendra was astonished to hear such a song from a robber. He was also at a loss to know for whom these sweet attributes were meant and who this mother was! So he inquired: 'Who is this mother?'

Without replying to this question Bhavan continued singing:

Thou of the shivering joyous moon-blanched night,
Thou with fair groups of flowering tree-clumps bright,
Sweetly smiling
Speech beguiling
Pouring bliss and blessing, Mother, hail!

'This refers to a country, and not to a mortal mother, I see,' Mahendra remarked.

'We recognise no other mother,' Bhavan said with feeling. The Motherland is our only mother. Our Motherland is higher than heaven. Mother India is our mother. We have no other mother. We have no father, no brother, no sister, no wife, no children, no home, no hearth — all we have is the Mother:

With sweet springs flowing,
Fair fruits bestowing,
Cool with zephyrs blowing,
Green with corn-crops growing —.'

Mahendra now understood the real meaning of the song, and he said: 'Then, please, sing the song again.'

And Bhavan sang the song that was destined to transform the life of Mahendra Singh.

Mother, hail!
Thou with sweet springs flowing,
Thou fair fruits bestowing,
Cool with zephyrs blowing,
Green with corn-crops growing,
Mother, hail!

Thou of the shivering joyous moon-blanched night,
Thou with fair groups of flowering tree-clumps bright,
Sweetly smiling
Speech beguiling
Pouring bliss and blessing,
Mother, hail!

Though now three hundred million voices through thy
mouth sonorous shout,
Though twice three hundred million hands hold thy
trenchant sword blades out,

Yet with all this power now,
Mother, wherefore powerless thou?
Holder thou of myriad might,
I salute thee, saviour bright,
Thou who dost all foes afright,
Mother, hail!

Thou sole creed and wisdom art,
Thou our very mind and heart,
And the life-breath in our bodies.
Thou as strength in arms of men,
Thou as faith in hearts dost reign.
Himalaya-crested one, rivalless,
Radiant in thy spotlessness,
Thou whose fruits and waters bless,
Mother, hail!

Hail, thou verdant, unbeguiling,
Hail, O decked one, sweetly smiling,
Ever bearing,
Ever rearing,
Mother, hail![1]

Mahendra noticed that his companion was in tears as he sang. 'Who are you all, pray?' Mahendra asked, quite bewildered.

'We are the Children!' Bhavan replied.

'Children! Who are the Children? Whose children are you?'

'We are the Children of Mother India.'

'But, the children of Mother India surely do not worship the Mother by theft and robbery. What kind of mother-worship is this?'

'We neither steal nor rob.'

'You just robbed a revenue cart.'

'That was neither stealing nor robbery. Whose money did we capture?'

'Why, the King's!'

'King's, you say! What right has an English King to the wealth of our land?'

'The share of the King is due to the King.'

'The King is no King at all who does not live in this country, and who rules this land with injustice.'

'I am afraid one of these days you will be blown from the mouth of an English cannon.'

'We have dealt with plenty of the sepoy slaves of the British. We encountered quite a few today, you know.'

'You have not faced them yet. Some day you will really know them.'

'We are not afraid. A man never dies more than once in one life.'

'What is the use of courting death?'

'Mahendra Singh, I have always looked upon you as a heroic man. Now I see you are just like any other habitual gourmand. Look here, Mahendra Singh, the serpent crawls on its breast in order to move about. It is the lowest of animals in creation. And yet, if you tread on a snake it raises its head to bite you. But nothing can disturb your criminal composure! Can you find another country on earth outside India where human beings are forced by starvation to live on grass? Here in India famine-stricken people today are eating creepers, ant-hills, jackals, dogs and even human flesh! And the British are shipping our wealth to their treasuries in Calcutta; and from there that wealth is to be shipped again to England. There is no hope for India until we drive the British out. Only then will the Motherland live again.'

'How do you expect to drive them out?'

'By sheer force of arms.'

'Perhaps you expect to drive them out all alone — with a sleight of hand, I daresay.'

Bhavan sang:

'Though now three hundred million voices through thy mouth sonorous shout,
Though twice three hundred million hands hold thy trenchant sword-blades out,
Yet with all this power now,
Mother, wherefore powerless thou?
Holder thou of myriad might,
I salute thee, saviour bright,
Thou who dost all foes afright,
Mother, hail!'

'But you are alone, I see.'

'You just saw two hundred more of us.'

'Are they all Children too?'

'They are all Children. Yes, most decidedly.'

'How many more are you?'

'Thousands upon thousands, and we expect to increase our number steadily.'

'Even if you have ten or twenty thousand, you cannot expect to drive the British out of India,' Mahendra said.

'How many British soldiers were there under Clive at the battle of Plassey?'

'When it comes to warfare, there is a world of difference between the British and the people of India.'

‘You do not fight these days with mere physical strength. The bullet does not travel faster nor further because a stronger man fires a rifle.'

'Then what makes this difference between the British and the Indian soldier?'

'Because the British soldier would never run away even to save his life. The Indian soldier runs away when he begins to perspire; he seeks cold drinks. The Englishman surpasses the Indian in tenacity. He never abandons his duty before he finishes it. Then consider the question of courage: A cannon ball falls only on one spot. But a whole company of Indian soldiers would run away if one single cannon ball fell among them. On the other hand, British soldiers would not run away even if dozens of cannon balls should fall in their midst.'

'Do you think you Children have acquired these virtues?'

'No; because virtues like these cannot be plucked from trees like ripe fruit. We have to acquire them by patient practice and unyielding perseverance.'

'What do you practise?'

'We are all ascetics, you see. But our renunciation is only for this practice. When we have mastered all techniques, and attained our goal, we shall return to our homes for our duties as householders. We, too, have wives and children at home.'

'You have renounced your families. But have you been able to free yourselves from the ties of love and affection?'

'A Child may not tell a lie — nor may we brag. Who can free himself from all the ties of love and affection? The man who claims to do that, never knew what those ties were. We do not pretend to be above all attachment. We simply observe the sanctity of our vows. Would you like to join the order of the Children?'

'I cannot commit myself to anything until I find my wife and child.'

'Then come with me, and you will meet your wife and child.'

So they both continued to walk. Bhavan sang the Bande Mataram again. Since Mahendra was versed in music and was also a good singer, he joined Bhavan in the song. His eyes became wet with tears as he sang. He said gently: 'If I do not have to give up my wife and daughter, you may initiate me as a Child.'

'He who joins our order,' Bhavan said gravely, 'must give up everything. If you really wish to join the order, you cannot ever be with your wife and child. Everything will be properly arranged for their sustenance and protection. But it is forbidden for you even to look at their faces until you have attained the goal of your mission.'

'Then I do not care to join the order of the Children.'

  1. Translated anonymously, when it was illegal even to utter the word Bande Mataram.