Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 4/Chapter 4

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Thus Northern Bengal won her independence from the British and the Children began to rule. They continued to do so for sometime. But Warren Hastings was then the British Governor-General at Calcutta. He was not a man to yield easily. So he sent a Major Edwards with fresh soldiers to subdue the Children and to put an end to their rule.

Major Edwards discovered before long that his task was far unlike that in a European war. The Children had no standing army, no city, no capital, no fort — yet they ruled supreme over their part of India. The British ruled only over territory where they pitched their tents for the day. Immediately after their departure, that very place would resound with the rebel war-cry of Bande Mataram.

Major Edwards could not discover whence the Children came like rows of ants, to burn villages that happened to come under British rule, and to slaughter British soldiers. After a vigorous search, he at last discovered that the rebels had built a fort at Padachina to protect their arsenal, as well as their treasury. He decided to capture that fort, and sent spies to discover the strength of the rebel army guarding it. From the information he gathered, he knew it would not be wise to make a direct attack on the fort of the Children. And so he devised a bit of strategy.

The full-moon day of the wintry month of Magh was near at hand. A fair was to be held on the banks of the river not far from the camp of Major Edwards. This year the fair was to be an extraordinary one. Generally about one hundred thousand people came. But this year when the Children became the rulers of the territory, they decided to celebrate the occasion with extra pomp and splendour. There was every possibility that most of the Children would attend the fair in order to celebrate their great victory. Major Edwards also surmised that even the soldiers of Padachina were likely to come to this fair. It would be an opportune time to capture the fort with all its arms, munitions and wealth.

With this in view, he spread the news that he was going to attack the fair, and kill all the assembled Children in one place and in one day. He would never allow the Children to have their way. This news spread so from village to village that the Children armed themselves and rushed to the defence of the fair. Most of them reached the fair on the full-moon day. Major Edwards had been absolutely right in his speculations. It was a lucky thing for the British that Mahendra, too, stepped into the trap. He left only a handful of soldiers at Padachina and started for the fair with the rest.

Long before this new development, Jiban and Shanti had left Padachina. There was no talk of a new war then nor were they interested in warfare. They had decided to drown themselves at an auspicious hour of the holy full-moon day of the month of Magh to make atonement for Jiban's supreme sin — his broken oath. But on their way to the fair they learnt that a terrific battle was about to begin between the Children and the English soldiers assembled there.

'Then let us hurry to the fair,' Jiban said to Shanti, 'and die fighting for Mother India.'

'Yes, indeed, it is the highest form of death,' Shanti said, 'to die for a righteous cause.'

Shanti and Jiban hastened towards the fair. Their road led them to the top of a little hill. From there heroic Shanti discovered, at a little distance below, the encampment of the British army. She looked into the eyes of Jiban and said: 'Let death wait; now say Bande Mataram.'