Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 1/Chapter 13

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Calcutta, the capital of British India, was seething with excitement. The burning topic of the day was the confiscation of the British revenue cart by the hermit nationalists. The British government at once issued urgent orders for open war against nationalists who disguised themselves as holy men. Soldiers and policemen were despatched to capture the sanyasis at sight.

In those days of famine there were but few real hermits in that part of the country. For the real sanyasis lived on alms; and the people were finding it difficult enough to save their own lives, not to speak of giving alms. The real sanyasis consequently migrated to the places of pilgrimage like Benares and Allahabad. As a camouflage, the Children assumed the yellow robes of the sanyasis, changing costumes whenever they felt it necessary. At the very suggestion of trouble they put off their yellow robes, and the hungry sepoys, soldiers and policemen then found no sanyasis anywhere. So the hunters commandeered food from the kitchens and pantries of the people, and thus half satisfied their hunger. Mahatma Satya was the only one who clung stubbornly to his yellow robe.

Kalyani was still lying under a tree on the bank of the dark and singing stream. Mahendra and Mahatma Satya were in deep embrace, as they continued to pray while their eyes overflowed with tears. Suddenly and unexpectedly, their prayers were disturbed. An Indian lieutenant of the British army appeared before them with five sepoys. The lieutenant at once grabbed Mahatma Satya's shoulder and said: 'Here, this rogue is a sanyasi.'

A sepoy at once arrested Mahendra too; for he reasoned, a companion of a sanyasi must also be a sanyasi. Another sepoy was about to touch the dead body of Kalyani lying on the grass, but he realised that the dead body of a woman was unlikely to be of a sanyasini. So he did not touch Kalyani and similarly he left the child alone. Then the sepoys, without wasting words, tied the hands of their prisoners and marched off with them. The dead bodies of Kalyani and Sukumari remained uncared for at the foot of the tree.

Afflicted with harrowing sorrow, and yet inspired with a deep fervour of devotion, Mahendra was almost unconscious. He hardly realised what had happened or what was happening to them. When his hands were bound he did not object. But as he was being dragged a little away from his wife's body, he realised that the Mahatma and he were being marched off as prisoners. He began to think of his wife and child lying under the tree uncremated. And in a moment the thought came that perhaps they were even then being devoured by wild beasts. With one tremendous jerk he tore the rope that bound his wrists. He kicked the lieutenant so hard that the man fell to the ground. As he was about to attack a sepoy, three others seized and overpowered him. Broken by sorrow, he then addressed Mahatma Satya: 'If you had but helped me a little, I could have killed every one of these five villains.'

'What strength,' said Mahatma Satya, 'have I in my old body? I was calling on the One who is the only source of all strength. Do not stand in the way of the inevitable. Rather, let us watch where they take us. God will arrange things properly on all sides.'

With no further attempt at escape Mahendra and the Mahatma followed the sepoys. As they were being taken along the street, Mahatma Satya said to the lieutenant, 'Gentleman, sir, I am very fond of singing devotional songs. Do you have any objection to my singing?'

'No, you may sing your hymns,' said the lieutenant who rather liked the Mahatma. 'I have no objection. You are a true sanyasi and I feel that you will be acquitted. But this rogue here will be hanged on the gallows.'

So, in Sanskrit, which his captors could not understand, Mahatma Satya sang:

'Fanned by gentle breezes
   There lies a woman on the bank of a river
That gentle lady is much afflicted,
   O, my hero, please do not neglect
To rush thither to her aid right away.
   And Sukumari runs wild there by that river.’

Upon their arrival in the city, both Mahendra and the Mahatma were taken straight to the Chief of Police. That official reported the case to the government, and locked up the prisoners in the city jail, a frightful place from which few prisoners ever came out alive.