This poem is written by a Christian native convert in Kannada over the rebellion of Naragund in 1858. It is another of those innumerable propaganda pieces the British, revelling in their victory, commissioned. Have a look at the highlighted stanzas; no ruler anywhere, with the intent to rule would resort to such atrocities. And going by what happened in Naragund, it comes as no wonder that what happened in Bibighar comes as a response to what the British did in the places they conquered on the way to Kanpur – the blame squarely lies on them and none else.
The brave English, the great kings, took Nurgoond on earth;
The wicked chieftains were taken prisoners from their hearth ;
The bad rebels were broken and fled in the midst of their mirth.
Have the English their equals ? To their power must stoop even Lady Earth !
Strife rose in the North ; searching swords, daggers, and diverse arms
Throughout the empire in towns, villages, and farms,
Besieging houses and creating alarms,
They came to Dharwar, with a great force collecting arms.
Many valiant lords with one mind there came,
To overflowing with anger was filled their frame ;
Gnashing their teeth they said, ‘ At which place must we aim?
‘We have misgivings about that Fort, Nurgoond is its name.’
The brave Chief of Police mounted his horse and joined his angry men.
They found out and brought arms from the rebel’s den.
People who concealed swords, and yet denied it were beaten then
And pulled by the arm ; to describe this I want a more powerful pen.
They came as victors, alighted at Nurgoond, gazed at the fortified hill,
And sat down thoughtfully to announce their will.
Baskaraja l was sent for and informed with skill
That his master must be disarmed. Hearing this, Baba fell down ill.
‘ Why hesitate ? ‘ Give up arms, guns, powder and balls ;
Do not conceal them in the ground nor in walls :
Give up all hope in this matter, and hear your master’s call
To disarm your country ! Do not sit idle in your hall ! ‘
At this command anger rose to the brain of the Chief ; his eyes did glare,
Pouring forth sparks. On his body was bristling his hair
With horror, but he curbed his passion and promised to disarm with care,
Saying to himself, ‘ If I am silent I shall better fare.’
He returned without stopping to his house with a wavering mind,
Called his clever Minister, Raghopanta, and bade him with calm mind
To consider well whether the promise given did bind
Him to collect and give up arms of every kind.
According to his advice an answer was returned by Baba the Lord.
‘The arms are ours ; we shall give neither gun nor sword.
Mark ! this is a clear answer to you. We have no other word.
Be off in peace ! We have sent letters to gather our horde ! ‘
Hearing this answer the Chief of Police twisted his moustachios and rose in a passion,
And said, ‘Well done, Baba, thou art a traitor of a rare fashion !
We shall soon come again to punish thy transgression;
Then I shall pour down thy throat molten lead without compassion.
‘Thou art like a straw; thou provokest the fire with open eyes.
Has the country been given to thee to devour it? In no wise!
Mark! thou hast eaten up thy measure of rice,
Hero ! thou must not weary thyself by vainly boasting if thou art wise.’
Instantly this message was sent to the great Collector, on the excellent wire.
In a moment it reached the Court of the Queen, with the velocity of fire.
Here Mr. Manson was ordered to bring in the liar.
Obedient he set out ; he travelled on with haste, alas ! no more to retire.
He posted in every village on his road one horse ; went to Ramdroog with great speed;
Greeted Rao Sahib kindly and advised him to heed
The present time, to disarm and mount his steed
To go to Dharwar, where he would receive for his loyalty a becoming meed.
Rao Sahib gave to this advice a ready assent,
Mr. Manson left him smilingly and pitched his tent
Near Suriband. To go to Nurgoond was his intent.
Baba was informed of this by the spies he had sent.
Mr. Manson in his palanquin went to sleep,
Guarded by eighteen warriors who had to keep
Watch on his right and left side. Of the secret wicked and deep
He had no foreboding. Thinking of it we cannot but weep.
Baba came with one hundred men, foot and horse, like a shower;
They fell on the guards as tigers eager to devour.
They were killing to the right and left ; there was no resistance to their power,
When Mr. Manson awoke rose, and stood like a strong tower.
He saw the storm, and without hesitating fired off his gun;
But it was too late, there was none to help him, not one.
Baba seeing him called angrily to his men, ‘ My word must be done !
Cut him up quickly ! ‘ Thus the foul play was won.
They returned to Nurgoond. And going in procession they showed
The head of their foe. Crowds of children and women cheering on followed.
Then it was fixed upon the gate. The warriors assembled and bellowed,
‘The foe has been caught ! ‘ So that with it the sides of the Hill echoed.
The next day Baba placed watchmen round the town,
Fortified the gate, prepared for war, and went down
To his warriors, gave them betel leaf, 1 and said, ‘ Frown
At my foes, saw them, make them sawdust, and uphold my crown.’
Hearing this the warriors fell to the ground,
Beat the soil, and with a loud sound
Said, ‘ Father, take courage ! Do not doubt ; we feel bound
To defend you ! Our enemies will be soon cut up and ground ! ‘
To which Baba, ‘ Tell me, where have they won a battle ?
The coward English ! Are we afraid of their empty rattle ?
They have taken countries with idle prattle,
But we shall weary them and offer their marrow to demons on the field of battle.’
Thus vainly boasting he was filled with gladness,
And prayed to his god to show kindness,
And deliver him mercifully from the sadness
Into which his enemies had plunged him with eagerness.
Then he went to his Fort, his stores of ammunition examined, and in secret places located.
His warriors received sugar and meal and were satisfied.
With the discharge of guns the air reverberated,
And the firm ground gave way and was agitated.
He encouraged and explained all this to his wife :
‘Be of good cheer and do not fear for your life !
Do not stab yourself with sorrow, that sharp knife !
God has brought this time, into his counsels you must not dive.’
The lady looking with sorrow on her husband’s fate,
Said, ‘ What will be our lot after losing our place
We had better die ! ‘Tis a dangerous quarrel you dared to raise
With the English, this earth-conquering race.
‘But let be ! We shall not fear; do not shrink in the fight;
And wage war by the mercy of God with all might !
Hear, my husband, what I say, and prove a valiant knight
In vanquishing our enemies to our hearts’ delight.’
That foul deed perpetrated in the dark night-time
Was like a stain that cannot be effaced by white-washing lime.
It was a deed that could be pardoned in no time.
It was impossible that fortune should follow such a crime.
When our Masters in Dharwar heard of this murder it was as if a dart
Had been flung at them and fire poured into their heart
They sent a message on the wire with art
And asked the Queen how the traitor ought to smart.
This news flew with the swiftness of lightning to the far far West.
The Queen sat in Council, on the right and left to Her Ministers giving behest.
They heard it, beat the ground, bit their fingers, and smote on their breast,
Their eyes sparkling with rage, and roaring like thunder, ‘ Burn us ! We can have no rest,
‘Mother Queen ! We must have revenge ! But God will extricate us ; do not speak words of grief.
Make haste ! Give order, and distribute to our warriors betel leaf,
That they go and lay waste the country of that Chief
Who is your subject, and holds that country only as a fief!’
At this advice of Her Ministers, the Queen cast a gracious glance
On the august assembly, and ordered Her army with swords and lance
To go to the war, at which the soldiers began to dance
For joy, and asked, ‘Where is Nurgoond ? We shall cast that people into an awful trance.’
The brave Colonel at their head was so full of ire
As to appear like a mountain ignited with fire,
From his eyes poured forth sparks of dire
Wrath, enough to consume such straw men as were in Baba’s hire.
The first day they halted some miles distant from Nurgoond and alighted
To encamp. At dawn the officers rose, prepared for an attack, and were delighted
At the proposal of having their honour soon righted,
Mounted their horses and went on, at which Baba was sorely affrighted.
He prayed to Venkatramana, his god, to deliver,
Exhorted his men to attack, and not to shiver.
They sallied out gnashing their teeth like a rushing river,
At the sound of their drums the ground began to quiver.
When the English saw them coming, they turned back their horse
Saying, ‘ Let them come forth ! ‘ And ordered their force
To retreat, and instructed them what course
They had to take, and put in readiness every resource.
Baba’s men thought the English were flying
From fear. ‘See how they run like horses shying !
They are broken ! Let us catch them ! ‘ the enemy was crying,
And followed to the brook, where the brave warriors in ambush were lying.
Out rushed the soldiers, like a thunderstorm in an angry mood,
Their business to slay was well understood.
They surrounded and cut up this infernal brood
As a man with an axe is cutting a wood.
As lions attack cattle and sheep, eager to eat,
The soldiers did not tire to cut, to stab, and to beat
These beggars who had no food, but were full of conceit ;
They became now to the demons and fowls delicious meat.
Some were hiding behind trees, trembling ;
Others fled in disguise, dissembling,
Stumbled, fell, and with blades of grass in their mouths were heard mumbling,
‘ O Englishmen, our Lords, do not kill us ! We are already like corpses tumbling.’
Some threw away their arms with which they had fought ;
Others with much grief of their helpless wives and children thought;
Some unable to bear the heavy blows of the enemy were caught ;
All their arrogance and pride had come to nought.
When Baba saw his force shattered and broken,
He was confounded, and is said to have thus spoken,
‘ O Bheemrao, O Chief of Dumbul ! You have broken
The words which with an oath you had spoken.
‘ Perhaps my dull warriors did not well direct their guns and balls.
Alas ! they have deceived me ! They showed courage only as long as they were within my walls,
These wily hypocrites ! They betrayed me ; that galls
My soul ! They themselves are lost ; to me” they were false.
‘ O Krishna ! Am I not to thee devoted ?
Was not thy worship always by me promoted?
What is my sin ? On thee I have doted,
That I should lose my life can the Gods have voted?’
Then he turned his horse and rode quickly to the Fort,
To which he thought his men would resort.
‘Open the gate ! ‘ he cried, ‘ O God, the time is short ! ‘
But none answered from within. He sighed and fled, that was no sport.
His wife hearing that her husband had been routed and put to flight,
Rolled on the ground, sighing and weeping from anguish and fright.
‘What shall we do?’ She asked her mother-in-law, ‘how might
We have made our troubles and burden light ? ‘
Her virtuous mother-in-law wept when she heard this word,
And said, ‘ Before going he ought to have cut our throats with his sword.
Thus to leave and deceive us does not with his fine words accord;
We must go likewise, after we have been deprived of our Lord.’
Both went and wandered about in the nearest wood,
Took each other by the hand, and went on without tasting food.
After seeing their efforts to find their Lord fruitless, they thought it best
To seek in the depths of the near river an eternal rest.
In the mean time the English, impatient to wait,
Rushed in through the unguarded gate,
And advanced to the Palace, moving on with fierce gait,
Crying, ‘ Seize, beat, stab, cut, let the foe feel our hate ! ‘
At not finding Baba they gnashed their teeth and researched the whole place,
But nowhere could they discover and recognise his face.
‘Where can he be ? ‘ they exclaimed and began to gaze
At the Fort. Hither was now directed the chase.
But they did not find him, and full of disappointment and rage
They said, ‘ Go where thou mayest thou wilt soon go off the stage !
That thou wilt escape destruction thou needest not believe !’
At their shouts of victory the hidden fugitives trembled like a withering leaf.
The following day the Chief of Police permitted the soldiers to plunder!
The inhabitants were frightened and fled no wonder !
The earth from the weight of the warrior’s wrath cleft asunder ;
They shouted and roared like rolling thunder.
Ten and ten went together, and thus through the town they were dispersed.
To deliver their swords, daggers, spears, and matchlocks, men were coerced,
Poor men were driven from their homes, and greatly distressed :
But this is the lot of a hostile town, to be by victors oppressed.
In the houses of the bankers they took jewels, silver and gold,
Brazen vessels, iron, ivory, all was taken and sold.
In the huts of the farmers they took milk, butter and curds,
All kinds of grain, like preying birds.
They took and tied up in bundles clothes that had in boxes been kept ;
The women when seeing their garments taken, bitterly wept.
Braids, quilted garments, blankets and mats, away all was swept.
There were many who in that night on the bare ground slept.
But listen ! There was not left even to infants their cradle.
Yea they were denuded of their very swaddle.
From the kitchen was taken the ladle;
Oxen, cows, buffaloes, asses, sheep, were seized, and horses without saddle.
The butchers had to deplore the loss of their knives.
‘Where are our cooking pots ? ‘ lamented their wives.
Many wished that the warriors had taken their lives,
And sent them to that world where no sinner thrives.
Then the shops where cloth was sold were sacked,
The shops of spices were emptied. None lacked
Food that day. The bags of sugar and dates were unpacked;
They put dates one into the mouth of another, tasted and smacked.
What they could not eat and could not carry was spilled,
After they had got their pockets completely filled,
Thereupon an old prophecy about the temple of Venkalestra was fulfilled,
That its idol would be broken and on its holy floor cattle killed.
Meanwhile the English searched all places where Baba might hide,
A fugitive he wandered near Torgall gone was his pride,
A fire of anguish burned within him. No guide
Had he in whom he could safely confide.
When the soldiers came, and with skill surrounded
The place where Baba was concealed, he was confounded.
He tried to run, but a shower of balls fell on him; the charge was sounded;
The officers advanced; he was taken, and with their acclamations the air resounded.
The great chiefs of the Army were filled with delight,
Saying, ‘ Our enemy has been caught ! ‘ Many a traitorous wight
Was found there and ordered to be bound tight.
To bring them to Belgaum the officers exerted all might.
The people hearing that Baba Sahib had been caught,
Began to lament, saying, ‘ Fortune is fickle, power is fraught
With danger, empire is uncertain, woe to him by whom it is sought !
A noble chief has after a short reign come to nought.”
Most virtuous kings, like Chola, by Lady Earth were deserted.
How often has she from powerful and mighty princes averted
Her face ! God only knows what she has secretly concerted !
Alas ! Baba desired such an unsteady spouse and was disconcerted !
He was virtuous, a man of renown, to little children a warden.
He was of a quiet temper. When seeing the poor he did not harden
His heart. He protected the brothers of science, the learned.
On festivals a rich harvest of presents by Brahmins was earned.
What times of trouble have come over such a great king !
How shall we forget such an awful thing !
With it our ears will always ring ;
We feel pain as if we were touched by a sting.’
Men and women looked pale, and desired to see
Their Chief. Strong men were shedding a sea
Of tears, and rushed out of the town
With women’s bowels and hearts as soft as down.
Our Lords in Belgaum received soon an answer from the Queen with glee,
That the traitor should be hanged on a tree,
When they saw Baba brought before them, with anger their hearts were filled,
‘He is unworthy to live ! ‘ they said. ‘ He must be killed ! ‘
While hanging him the rope broke ;
He fell to the ground and addressing his judges thus spoke :
‘ You are my refuge ; spare my life; put the cloak
Of mercy over me ; humbly I will bear your yoke.’
It was of no avail that he suppliantly prayed and knelt.
At his words the hearts of our Lords did not melt.
They smiled, great was the anguish he felt;
But he was a murderer with whom they justly dealt.
Then other prisoners were tried and found
Guilty of death. To the mouth of a cannon they were bound,
And in a moment you saw in the air the fiery flashes
Away to the eight points of the compass flew their ashes.
Some prisoners had by a natural death been released.
After thus all rebels had been punished and justice appeased,
The heat of passion in our rulers’ hearts cooled down and decreased
Till all angry emotions wholly ceased.
The Ryots had been with fear of death excited
To leave the town ; they were now invited
To return. ‘ Remain ! Fear not ; we have plighted
Our faith to rule you so mildly that you will be delighted.
‘ It is Baba whom you have to thank
For this happy change. Your town will now take the first rank
Among the places of the District ; we shall repair tank
And roads, and make you free and frank.’
Then our valiant masters united to give praise
To the LORD of the Universe for His goodness and grace,
That He had extricated them out of a maze
Of troubles, and guided them with the light of His face.
‘ We fall down at Thy feet and worship Thee, O LORD ;
Thou hast given victory to our sword.
We are Thy children, obedient to Thy Word.
Save us and protect us for ever, O LORD.’
The next day the grand army marched away
With smiling faces in battle array.
The drums were beaten, the pipers did play;
Arriving at the gate of the Queen’s city they made a stay.
There met them the Mistress of the Earth who directs all powers,
And headed the martial procession. The soldiers looked firm as towers,
The grand Army marched through a triumphal Arch as through bowers
Into the Capital that was decorated with garlands of flowers.
As long as Sun and Moon are shining in the sky
No enemy will stand these heroes’ battle-cry.
As wind and storm do chase the crazy butterfly,
So will an English host make all their enemies fly.
Thus the wicked rebels broke;
Riches vanished just like smoke.
Of this turbulent haughty race
Is not seen a single trace.
Could the earth bear such great pride
Without gaping open wide ?
Down they went with hearts right sore
Whence do men return no more.
Now has gone the powder smell ;
On the ground lie ball and shell,
Tired of flying through the air.
People dwell contented there.