Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 4/Chapter 7
It was the night of the full moon. The battlefield was quiet again. The terrific noise of horses' hooves, the rattling of gun carriages, the rifle shots and the roar of the cannon were heard no more. The dense veil of smoke that had covered the panorama had disappeared into the blue of the sky. No one shouted and no one sang Bande Mataram.
There was noise — but the noise was only that of dogs and jackals. Add to this the moans and groans of the wounded. Men lay with broken arms, broken legs, broken ribs and broken heads. Some cried for their mothers, and others for their fathers. Some begged for water, but most of them for death. Hindus and Mohammedans, Buddhists and Sikhs were all huddled together, weltering in blood. The wounded, the dying and the dead, human beings and horses lay on each other in heaps. The night was cold; but the moon was bright, the pulsating moonbeams adding to the ghastliness of the scene. No one dared to visit the battlefield.
And yet, a lonely woman could be seen walking to and fro in this desolate and dreadful place. She had a torch in her hand, for she was searching for someone. With the help of the torch she looked at the face of one corpse and then at the face of another. Wherever she found a dead soldier lying under a horse, she would plant the torch in the ground, pull away the horse with her own hands, and thus reclaim the human corpse. But when she would discover that she had again failed to find the person she sought, she would take up her torch and gently walk on to the next. For several hours she carried on this quest. She looked into every face; but she did not find the face she was so anxiously seeking.
At last she cast the torch aside and threw herself on the bloodstained battleground, corpses all around her, and sobbed as if her heart would break. This was Shanti looking for the body of Jiban.
As she was sobbing and crying, she heard a sweet and kindly voice say to her: 'Mother, arise. Please do not cry.'
Shanti opened her eyes to see a holy sage of majestic stature standing in the moonlight before her. She stood up reverently. The sage spoke: 'Mother, please do not cry. I shall find the body of Jiban for you. Please come with me.'
The sage led her to the centre of the battlefield. Countless corpses lay there in heaps. The holy man cleared a mound of corpses to unearth a human body. Shanti instantly knew who it was. It was Jiban. Numberless wounds covered his body, which was soaked in blood. Shanti began to cry aloud like any other woman.
'Mother, do not cry,' said the sage again.
'Is Jiban dead?'
'Calm yourself, and examine his body. Feel his pulse first.'
'The pulse is not moving at all.' Shanti said as she felt it.
'Then feel his heart.'
'The heart has ceased to beat. The body is cold.'
'Place your fingers before his nostrils, and see if there is any breath left.'
'No, none at all.'
'Please try again. Now put your fingers into his mouth and see if there is any warmth left.'
'I cannot understand,' Shanti said hopefully.
The sage touched Jiban's body with his left hand, and said to Shanti: 'You are almost paralysed with anxiety. So you fail to feel the true condition of your husband, but I believe that there is still a little warmth left in his body. Examine him again.'
Shanti again pressed Jiban's pulse. It felt as if it were moving faindy. Surprised she placed her hand on his heart and the heart seemed to beat very, very gently. Then she placed her fingers before his nostrils and she could feel a breath of life. And she also felt warmth in his mouth.
'Was there life left in him; or has life come back to him?'
'How can life come back to a dead body, my mother? Do you think you can carry him to yonder pond? I am a healer. I want to heal him.' Without the least difficulty, Shanti lifted Jiban from the ground. 'Take him to the pond,' said the sage, 'and wash all the blood from his body. I am going to fetch some medicine for him.'
Shanti carried Jiban to the pond and washed him clean. The sage returned soon with ointments of wild herbs and applied them to all the wounds of Jiban's body. Then he repeatedly passed his hands over Jiban. Suddenly Jiban sighed, and sat up. He looked at Shanti's face and asked: 'Who won the battle, Shanti?'
'You won the battle,' Shanti said. 'But bow to this holy man who —.'
But they found no one there. The majestic figure of the healer had mysteriously vanished. There was no one there to bow to; but they could distinctly hear the noise of the revelries of the victorious army of the Children. In the glorious moonlit night, Shanti and Jiban sat on the bright steps of the pond. Such was the healing power of the medicine administered by the holy healer that Jiban felt absolutely well.
'Shanti,' Jiban said very gently, 'how extraordinary is the effect of the medicine of the sage! I feel no more pain in my body. I am well. How strange that I am fully cured so soon! Where do you want to go now, Shanti? There, there, I hear the noise of our victorious army!'
'We shall go there no more,' Shanti said firmly. 'We have won the victory for Mother India. This part of the country now belongs to us. We want no reward for doing our duty. So why should we go there?'
'What we have won by force must be protected with the strength of our arms.'
'Mahatma Satya and Mahendra are there to protect our kingdom. You sacrificed your life for the Children in order to make atonement for a sin. The Children have no more claim upon you. We are now dead to them. If they see us now, they are sure to say: "For fear of atonement with death Jiban hid himself somewhere during the battle. Now he is out to claim a share in our kingdom."'
'What do you mean, Shanti? Do you think that for fear of public opinion we should refuse to do our duty? My duty is to serve the Mother unselfishly. Let people gossip anyway they like. I must continue to serve the cause of our Mother India.'
'You have forfeited all your right to do that. For you did sacrifice in your life in the Mothers service. If you can serve her again, then where is the atonement? The outstanding part of the atonement is to be fully deprived of all opportunities to serve the Mother. Otherwise, just to sacrifice an insignificant life is not a great thing in itself.'
'Shanti, it remains for you to understand the real kernel of the great problems of life. My greatest happiness lies in performing my duty as a Child in the service of the Mother. I must deprive myself of that happiness. But where shall we go? We certainly could not be happy at home, thus abandoning our Mother's service.'
'That is certainly farthest from my mind. We are no longer householders. We shall ever remain ascetics. And we shall ever observe strictest continence. Come, let us travel all over India, visiting the holy places of pilgrimage.'
'What shall we do after that?'
'After that? Yes, after that we shall build ourselves a little cottage on the Himalayas. There we shall pass our days in prayer and meditation in the service of God. We shall ask direct from Him the boons that are best for Mother India and for all her children; and also for Mother Earth and for all her children the world over.'
Shanti and Jiban arose from the steps. Hand in hand they walked away. Singing Bande Mataram they soon disappeared out of sight.