Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 3/Chapter 11
By this time the English guns had reached the battlefield to the right. The Children were utterly demoralised and hopelessly scattered, without the least hope of escape. Jiban and Dhiren failed in their efforts to rally them into a fighting force.
'Go to the bridge, go to the bridge,' someone shouted loudly. 'And then cross the bridge. Otherwise you all will drown in the river. Face the English soldiers and then slowly walk backward to the bridge.'
Jiban found Bhavan in front of him.
'Jiban,' Bhavan said, 'take them all to the bridge. We are doomed, for sure.'
The soldiers of the Mother slowly withdrew to the bridge. But as crowds got on the bridge, they became merely a splendid target for the British guns. Hundreds more thus met their death. Bhavan, Jiban and Dhiren consulted together and discovered that one particular piece of English artillery was most effective in killing the Children.
'Jiban and Dhiren draw your swords; let us capture that cannon,' said Bhavan.
With the utmost bravery, the three heroes soon succeeded in killing the artillerymen behind the cannon. Then other Children came to their help. Bhavan captured the cannon. He jumped on it, clapped his hands arid shouted: 'Bande Mataram! Jiban, let us turn this gun around, and reduce the English troops to dust.'
The Children quickly manned the cannon and turned it around. And the gun poured forth volley after volley with deadly precision. Many English soldiers were killed. Bhavan then placed the cannon at the mouth of the bridge and said: 'Jiban and Dhiren, you two lead our soldiers across the bridge. I alone shall guard and protect it. Leave only a few artillerymen with me.'
Twenty gunners stayed with Bhavan. Under the leadership of Jiban and Dhiren thousands of Children marching in rows, crossed over to the other bank of the river. And Bhavan, with the help of his twenty artillerymen, continued mowing down the English army. But the English troops seemed countless, and in waves they pressed forward. Bhavan was hard pressed and harassed; but he stood his ground untiring, unconquered and fearless.
Baffled, the English soldiers attacked him with renewed vigour, as if with the force of waves lashed by a fierce cyclone. But Bhavan and his twenty comrades stood fast, blocking the entrance to the bridge. They seemed to have defied defeat and conquered death itself — crushing the hope of the English to pursue the retreating Children. In the meantime, a majority of the Children had crossed the bridge. A few more minutes of heroic defence and all the remaining patriots would be out of danger on the opposite bank of the river.
Suddenly, as if out of the sky, new guns thundered. Both sides stopped fighting for a moment to find out where these new cannons could be. Then they saw them emerging from the forests, led by Indian soldiers. Once out of the woods, seventeen new cannons began to open merciless fire on the English soldiers under Lieutenant Hay. The terrific noise shook the forest and the mountains to their very foundations. The English troops, weary after a days fighting, wavered at this sudden call of death and immediately started running for their lives. Only a few English soldiers died facing these new weapons. Bhavan was greatly excited.
'Look, there run the soldiers of the English army!' said Bhavan, 'Comrades, let us pursue them.'
The Children from the other side of the river began to rush back to join in a new attack on the English forces. They attacked with such uncanny skill that the English had not even a chance to fight back but were simply carried on the crest of the Children's heroic fury. The enemy soon discovered that behind them was the infantry of Bhavan, and in front were the guns of Mahendra Singh of Padachina. Lieutenant Hay faced total destruction. Neither his strength nor energy, neither his courage nor skill, neither his training nor pride were of any avail. Almost all his soldiers lay dead on the ground, drenched in their own blood. At last the English artillerymen too began to run away. Jiban and Dhiren pursued them with shouts of 'Kill them, kill them.' And the Children quickly captured their cannons. Countless English soldiers and Indian sepoys perished. To save their own lives, Lieutenants Hay and Watson sent this message to Bhavan: 'We are all willing to be taken captive now. Please do not slaughter us further.'
Jiban looked at Bhavan. Bhavan thought within himself: 'That won't do, brother, that will never do — I have to die today. I must and I will die today — yes, die to make atonement for—.'
He waved his sword, shouted Bande Mataram, and ordered: 'Kill the enemy, kill the English soldiers. Long live the English people! But kill the English soldiers in India! They are traitors alike to England, India and humanity!'
Hardly a man of the English army was to be found alive. But at last Bhavan discovered twenty or thirty English soldiers gathered in a corner. They had determined to die fighting; so, with their backs against the wall, they began to defend themselves.
'Bhavan,' Jiban said, 'we have won the battle. Please cease fighting. None but these few of the British are alive on the battlefield! Let us grant these men their lives and return.'
'I shall not return, ever,' Bhavan retorted, 'as long as one of these Englishmen remains alive. Jiban, I beg you, retire from here and watch from a distance how I alone shall slaughter these English enemies of our beloved Mother India; for I must die today — and I will die today — yes, die to —.'
Captain Thomas was still tied on the horse. Bhavan ordered: 'Place that Thomas before me. He must die before I do.'
Captain Thomas understood Bengali, so he said to the English soldiers: 'Englishmen, I shall presently die. Please uphold the glory of old England. For Christ's sake kill me first, and then kill the rebels.'
An English soldier lost no time in shooting the English captain through the head and the proud officer died instantly.
'Well,' Bhavan said, 'I am thus cheated of my prey. But who can protect me now? Look, the English soldiers are falling upon me like so many wounded tigers. I have come here to die today. Come, who else of the Children will die with me!'
Dhiren stepped forward first, followed by Jiban. And they were attended by about fifty others. Bhavan looked at Dhiren and said: 'Are you coming to die with us too?'
'Why, is death the monopoly of anyone in particular?' And Dhiren at once proceeded to wound an Englishman.
'No, I don't mean that. But if you die, how can you spend the rest of your days in the company of your wife and children?'
'Are you talking of last night's incident? I am really surprised that you have not understood it yet!' And Dhiren killed the Englishman.
'No,' said Bhavan, whose right arm was cut off just then by an English sabre.
'Do you think I myself would have dared to speak of those things to a pure-hearted patriot like you? Mahatma Satya, our Master, sent me as his agent to try you out.'
'Why so? What! Is it possible that my Master lost faith in me?' Bhavan asked, fighting with but one arm.
'Yesterday our Master heard with his own ears your entire conversation with Kalyani,' said Dhiren as he fought to protect Bhavan.
'How is that possible?'
'He himself was present there. He was teaching the Gita to Kalyani when you arrived. Look out, Bhavan, fight carefully.' And Bhavan's other arm was cut off.
'Please tell Master Satya of my death and assure him that I am no traitor.'
'He knows that, he knows that,' Dhiren said with tears in his eyes, as he continued fighting the English soldiers. 'Remember the voice and the words of his blessing last night. And he told me today: "Please stay near Bhavan. He is to die today. Please tell him at his death that I bless him; and that he is sure to attain heaven after death!"'
'Victory to the Children, victory to thee all. Brother Dhiren, please sing Bande Mataram at my death. I want to die with it ringing in my ears.'
At the command of Dhiren, the infuriated Children sang Bande Mataram with all the force and all the feeling at their command. The song vitalised their arms and hearts with renewed strength. The last of the English soldiers were killed by the patriots of India — the heroic Children of Mother India. The battlefield became quiet as a graveyard.
At that moment with his mind fixed on the Infinite and with Bande Mataram on his lips and in his ears, Bhavan fell dead.