Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 3/Chapter 9

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'Boom, Boom, Boom' roared the English cannon. From the depths of the forest the echoes came back, 'boom, boom, boom.' The terrific roar travelled along the river banks, and the distant horizon resounded. The sound entered the forest beyond the river, and again roared out, 'boom, boom, boom.' Mahatma Satya commanded: 'Find out whose guns those are!'

Several Children jumped on their horses, and raced to gather the information. No sooner had they emerged from the woods than British bullets rained on them in torrents; and they instantly dropped dead, their horses under them. Mahatma Satya, seeing all this from a distance, ordered: 'Climb the trees and see what is happening.'

Jiban had already climbed one of the tallest trees, and was watching the scene in the morning rays of the sun. He said: Those are English guns, Master.'

'Is it cavalry or infantry?'

'Both.'

'How strong?'

'I cannot guess yet, for they are still emerging from the woods.'

'Are they English soldiers or sepoys?'

'Mostly English soldiers.'

'Come down from the tree, Jiban.'

Jiban came down and Mahatma Satya spoke: 'Jiban, we have ten thousand Children present; see what you can do. You are the General today'

Jiban garbed himself like a soldier and mounted his horse. He looked into the eyes of Nabin and signalled without a word. Nabin too spoke with an eloquent glance. No one present could understand the message that passed between them. Perhaps only those two could guess in their hearts that this was their last meeting on earth. Then Nabin lifted her right arm, and said: 'Comrades, let us sing Bande Mataram.'

The Children sang Bande Mataram so loudly that the song seemed to drown even the cannons' roar. Just then they began to feel the volley of British bullets and cannon balls. Some died and others fell wounded. And yet they kept on singing Bande Mataram. The song over, everyone became silent. Save for the thunder of the English cannon, and the rattling of swords, the entire forest was quiet.

Then, piercing this silence, Mahatma Satya shouted: 'God will shower His blessings on you — how far are the cannon?'

'Only a little meadow adjoining these woods separates them from us,' said a voice from a tree.

'Who is it that speaks?'

'I am Nabin, Master.'

'You are ten thousand strong,' said the Mahatma to the Children around him, 'and you must win. Capture the guns from the British by the double force of body and soul.'

'Forward, comrades, forward, we must advance without fear!' shouted Jiban from his horse.

On foot and on horseback ten thousand Children followed Jiban. The Children on foot had rifles on their backs; swords hung from their waists, and they carried spears in their hands. But no sooner had they emerged from the shelter of the woods than they were torn to pieces by an incessant shower of English bullets and cannon balls. Many Children thus died without a chance to fight.

'Jiban, what is the use of this useless slaughter?' someone said from behind.

Jiban turned back to see Bhavan, and asked: 'What do you think we should do, Bhavan?'

'Let us protect the lives of the Children from behind trees. In an open field, and unarmed with cannon, we cannot withstand them even for a moment. But we can continue our fight for a long time from behind cover.'

'You are right, Bhavan, but the Master has ordered the capture of the English cannon.'

'It is impossible to capture them; but if we have to proceed, you had better stay behind — let me go forward.'

'No, Bhavan, that won't do. I must face death today!'

'No, Jiban, it is I who must die today. I must make atonement, you know. You are sinless, Jiban! There can be no atonement for you. My mind is sinful, and I must die. You stay behind, but let me rush to embrace death.'

'Bhavan, I do not know anything about your sin. But I do know that if you live, the Children are sure to win. So, let me go forward to court death as atonement.'

For a moment Bhavan said nothing. He then weighed these words between his lips: 'If I have to die, let me die today. It is right to die the day one has to die. There is no such thing as time with death.'

'If you insist so persistently, Bhavan, then take the lead Brother, take the lead.'

Bhavan at once rushed to the head of the army. The Children were being mowed down right and left, their bodies torn to pieces. They were falling headlong in heaps of human flesh and blood. Enraged at this sight, Bhavan shouted:

'We must plunge ourselves into these waves of blood — who dare, comrades, Children, who dare? Chant the hymn of the Mother — sing, sing Bande Mataram.'

And the Children sang Bande Mataram loudly as if to defy the English guns.