Mosque inside the compounds of the Historical Sultanpur Lodhi Fort
I have just returned from a wonderful visit to India, and as usual I spent most of my time in Punjab visiting family and friends, with a day or two in Delhi. The main reason for my visit this time was to attend my nephew’s wedding in Gurdaspur, and then there was a very interesting Parvassi Samelan in Punjab during this month.
Since my time is very limited, I don’t usually venture outside what is familiar. Aside from visiting various historical Gurduaras in Punjab and of course Jallianwallah Bagh in Amritsar, I wasn’t even aware of historical places in Punjab, and even less of a movement to preserve it. I was delighted to have been invited to visit the Sultanpur Lodhi Fort, apparently built in 1 A.D. I am not a scholar or academic with any in-depth knowledge about the history, but it is a place that I am glad some people are taking the initiative to preserve before it is bulldozed to the ground and a mall comes in its place in the name of “progress.”
Bhai Baldeep Singh invited me to visit this historic place for a deeply moving experience. He is the chairman and Founder at the Anad Foundation, which aims to preserve the history and also the artistic culture of that history, especially Punjab’s musical traditions, like the dying art of the Rabab, and artistic traditions like calligraphy. He is also a very talented musician. To find more details of the history of the fort, check out this link and definitely check out the Anad Foundation.
At first, I thought my ignorance that this historic fort even exists was because I live thousands of miles from Punjab, but many of my relatives or friends in Punjab, who lived in the vicinity of it,didn’t know of its existence or significance either. So there is certainly something else going on and the major reason is that Sultanpur Lodhi is not being treated with respect as it deserves as a place of historical significance for Indians, Punjabis, and especially an important part of Sikh history. A similar effort one hears is underway to preserve historic sites in other places in India, so I fully encourage this to take place in the Punjab.
The audience in attendance of the seminar Bhai Baldeep Singh invited me to were calligraphers, painters of Gurbani Ragas, poets, and those with an interest in preserving this important part of our history as Punjabis and Indians, but especially for those who are Sikh. I felt greatly honored to be amongst them and found the entire event utterly engaging and thought provoking.
My son-in-law’s family live in Kapurthala next door to Sultanpur Lodhi, and they insisted I should come visit them first, and then they will take me to Sultanpur Lodhi. I quickly accepted the twin invitation. I never say no to kind hospitality, good food, and great conversation! The road from Chandigarh was in a thick fog and I almost felt like I was back in the Central Valley of California! The fog blanketed the roads and wouldn’t lift for the entire day, which really raised expectations of what this historic site would be like. Even back in California, I try not to drive anywhere when weather conditions aren’t good, but this was completely worth the hazardous road conditions, although I would strongly recommend waiting for the fog to lift before driving!
Just a few miles from Sultanpur Lodhi, I attended Khalsa College in Amritsar. My wife grew up just a few miles in the other direction in Tarn Taran, yet neither of us had ever stopped to see a treasure in the form of a historical place at Sultanpur Lodhi for all Indians, Punjabis, and especially Sikhs. Growing up in Bhakna a few miles away in the west, I heard stories from the Janam Sakhis of Guru Nanak Dev Ji returning from his meditative trance and declaring what would become the foundation of the Sikh religion and resonated with the ideology of the Ghadrites who really tried to put in practice: “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim,” a call to the end of discrimination and a fight for human rights, a fight that continues today.
One often worries and complains about the destroyed history due to ignorance as the marble has replaced our humble yet proud heritage up and down the country over the years. But what about the landmarks still standing by the mere stroke of luck or their sheer resilience and are in the state of complete neglect and encroachment only waiting to be replaced or come down on their own? One such monument of the greatest importance for the Sikhs is the Nawab’s fort at Sultanpur Lodhi! Many people believe that the mosque still standing within the compounds of this fort (Quila) is the same mosque where the Nawab Daulat Khan had invited Guru Nanak to participate in that much talked about namaz or Muslim prayer. Next to the mosque, there remains that ancient narrow brick lined well which is now covered by an iron grill.
All of the photographs you see in this blog post were taken by an incredibly gifted young Punjabi photographer, Anhad Khinda, my son-in-law’s nephew, and I am very happy he takes such care with this art form. Follow him on instagram @anhad_khinda. Below are some more images he took of Sultanpur Lodhi Fort and the last one is just outside it:
Part picture of Sultanpur Lodhi Fort taken from within compound walls
Sultanpur Lodhi Fort Main Entrance
Outside the Sultanpur Lodhi Fort is a ruin called HADERA which is believed to be once the place of rest for the queens on their way to royal gardens.
Have you visited Sultanpur Lodhi? Leave a comment and tell me about your experience.
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A few years ago when I published my first collection of poetry, Diva Bale Samundron Paar, I also had the opportunity to work with some wonderful musicians and a recording studio in Chandigarh. On my upcoming trip to India, I am going to take some of my poems and collaborate with more traditional musicians, like tabla and dilruba players. I will post that on here when it is ready in February! In the meantime, check out both versions of my previous album – with musical accompaniment and without. Let me know what you think!
Awaaz te Parvaaz (a cappella – my voice only, without musical accompaniment)
Awaaz te Parvaaz (with musical accompaniment)
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As many of you know, I usually sing my poems a-cappella (without musical accompaniment). My son, Navdeep, helped to setup a recording studio in my home so that I can do more a-cappella recordings, which is more familiar and comfortable to me, but I am interested in experimenting!
Have a listen to my latest album and let me know what you think:
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Welcome address by Col. Hardev Singh Gill – Gen. Sec. SCCC
The Sikh council of Central California celebrated Sikh Awareness month November ACR 25 (Wieckowski) dedicated to Guru Nanak Prakash Utsav at Kerman Unified School District, Kerman, California on November 16, 2013. The conversational type seminar was attended by Superintendents of Kerman and Selma Unified School District, Superintendent Fresno County Office of Education, State Superintend Office of Public Instruction, President Fresno City Council, Chairperson Fresno Council of Governments, Sikh Research Institute, Sikh Coalition and Jakara amongst others. The multi functional school hall was almost filled with School going children, parents and teachers and principals from various schools. The introductory speech given by me as the Sikh Council of Central California(SCCC) Coordinator Education and Awareness Program explaining the relevance of education and awareness month of November to Guru Nanak Prakash Utsav follows:
Me giving introduction re: relevance of Education & Awareness to GNPU
Good morning ladies and gentlemen!
We are celebrating some historic milestone achievements today. The Governor has signed the Curriculum Revision bill last year requiring public schools to teach about Sikhism in California. California law now shares with the Sikh American community the belief and necessity to ensure that California represents the diverse cultures of the world in our textbooks accurately. We at the SCCC strongly believe that is the only way to ensure California’s children may develop an appreciation and understanding of contributions made by groups integral to the rich fabric of California’ culture.
Also November has been signed into law as Sikh Awareness and Appreciation month since 2010. We couldn’t be more pleased and happier to dedicate this month of Assembly Concurrent Resolution, in short ACR 25 on education and awareness to GNPU, as we have been doing it for the past 3 years since 2010. On behalf of the Sikh Council of Central California, whose members have been working very hard along with other like minded organizations and activists to achieve all this, a warm welcome to all in attendance! We greatly value your presence and appreciate your priceless time to join us on this occasion.
The youngest attendee beneficiary trying to make sense of my written speech
November is an auspicious month for Indians of many faiths, including Hindus, Jains and particularly for Sikhs. The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak, was born in November 1469. Being a great teacher and a keen learner himself, he compared knowledge with light and life and likened ignorance with darkness and death. He travelled extensively, with many stories of his travels compiled in the Janamsakhis. One of my favorite stories is a story illustrating that there is always room for wisdom. One of the places Guru Nanak travelled to was Multan, a city in west Punjab now in Pakistan. It was known for having a disproportionate number of ascetics and holy men, which is why the famous saying about Multan is so popular even today:
ਚਾਰ ਚੀਜ਼ੇਂ ਤੋਹਫ਼ਾ ਏ ਮੁਲਤਾਨ ਅਸਤ,
ਗਰਦ-ਓ-ਗਰਮਾ, ਗਦਾ, ਗੋਰਿਸਤਾਨ, ਅਸਤ| meaning There are four things Multan is known for: Dust, Heat, Ascetics and Graveyards.
When Guru Nanak visited Multan, the holy men felt threatened that he was encroaching upon their territory. They felt there were already enough Holy men in Multan and that they didn’t need any more, so they sent him a non-threatening message by offering him a bowl of milk filled up to its brim, without any room for more milk. Guru Nanak immediately understood the message and instead of feeling threatened, he sensed their concern. He didn’t drink from the bowl; instead he took a jasmine flower from his pocket and placed it on top of the milk. It floated onto the surface. He returned the milk to the Holy Men, who understood the message and respected the method of delivery. The message is still as apt today as it was back then: there is always room for more wisdom and having more information can only serve to make things more diverse and interesting. And that is how the curriculum revision, and education and awareness month November is relevant to Guru Nanak Prakash Utsav .
Another reason November is so important to Sikhs is also rooted in history. We celebrate Bandi Shodh Divas in November when in 1619, the sixth Guru Har Gobind Sahab was released from jail along with 52 other political prisoners who had been imprisoned by the Moughal Emperor Jehangir. We celebrate Guru HarGobind’s actions to the Sikh commitment towards human rights.
Interestingly and in the same vein the City Council and the Mayor of Astoria-Oregon, issued a अproclamation last month commemorating the centennial celebration of the Founding of the Ghadar party, when the Punjabi Sikh pioneers in the early 20th century, along with other fellow Indians working in the Columbia River Basin, met at the Finnish Socialist Hall in Astoria in 1913 and formed the Ghadar party. Thousands of its supporters living in America and Canada at that time returned to India and inspired the countrymen to fight for the independence from Britain which was achieved in 1947. The Astoria proclamation recognizes the Ghadrites, who fought and died not only for the freedom of their home country India, but also for the innate rights of the immigrant worker to lead a dignified and discrimination free life here in America. So this year 2013 was also the 100 year anniversary of this historic meeting which recognizes the universal right of sovereign nations to independence and self rule. The Astoria City Council and Mayor Willis Van Dusen organized a seminar for two days on 4-5 October last month that included panel discussion, film screening and walking tours and concluded with the dedication of a plaque installed in the name of the Ghadrites at the Columbia Riverside walk in a park situated right in front of the historic Finnish Socialist Hall site in Astoria, where the Ghadar party was born in 1913.
The spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s speech as reaffirmed in his famous Gettysburg Address of 1863 that inspired the modern world and the Ghadrites at that time said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These American ideals then inspired the Ghadrites who were predominantly Punjabi Sikhs, as these are not far removed from the Sikh ideals which incidentally, are the fundamentals of human rights anywhere in the world.
Brief history for the benefit of those who may not be familiar with these Assembly Concurrent Resolutions in short called (ACR’s): How did they come about?
In the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, those perceived to look like the enemy, included South Asians, Arabs, Muslims of all nationalities, with the brunt of the attacks placed on the Sikhs with turbans and beards. It has become a normal part of a Sikh boy’s school experience to be called “Osama,” or “terrorist,” along with other religious based bullying. Several Sikh men have been murdered or attacked in hate crimes, starting just a few days after September 11th, and continuing even today. California has signed the curriculum revision into law and proclaimed November Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month in a valiant effort to educate people about who the Sikhs are, and to introduce some of our core beliefs.
This year ACR 25 (Wieckowski) was authored and presented on the Assembly floor by Assembly member Bob Wieckowski from the Bay Area with Assembly member Dan Logue as its principal Coauthor. Our local Assembly members from the Central Valley Henry Perea, Jim Patterson, Frank Biglow and several other Assembly members supported the Resolution with powerful speeches on the Assembly floor and became its Coauthors when asked by the Speaker of the House. With a powerful support from the Senate Majority leader Ellen Corbett, it sailed through the senate the next day. So the ACR 25 was passed with a unanimous vote across the party lines as members from both parties became its Coauthors and strongly spoke in its support. It is worth mentioning here that the pre-runner of ACR 25 was also the Resolution passed by your own Sikh Council of Central California last year in its annual celebration of the Sikh Awareness Month November 2012 which was celebrated at the Lincoln High School in Selma.
Question now is how to take this law on to a next level:
While we greatly appreciate this initiative that the State of California has begun, an area of improvement is to create more of an impact through education in public schools and city administrations for the general public. The big question is:
1. Who should take the responsibility for implementation?
2. Most importantly, what more is expected from the community?
On the other hand, one of the strengths of these ACRs is that it is linked to the politics of post-9/11 America: notably the targeting of those who vaguely look like the enemy, and ironically none of the hijackers look like bearded or turbaned Sikhs, who are victims of hate crimes as a matter of routine.
Finally, awareness efforts through events such as this one in Kerman or last year in Selma and in Caruthers the year before, cannot in and of themselves change the continuing mindset and offset harm of designating its minorities as outside the American nation or as suspect or foreign, and thus dangerous. But it starts with a platform to be heard and for the conversation
to deepen and be ongoing, to educate not just others about who we are, but to educate ourselves, our children, and others. Whenever tragedy strikes, we often scramble to find ways of telling the world who we are not, rather than who we are. And that is a good place to start. And this is the best venue to meet.
On this note, I ask the first speaker to please take the floor and make the presentation.
The conversational type seminar including power point presentations lasted with a pin drop silence for almost three hours. Paraphrasing Fresno County Curriculum Advisor Dr. Catania, representing the Fresno County Office of Education, ” I am going back with a lot of valuable information from the enlightening presentations and I commend the SCCC for organizing such events.” Dr. Catania had attended a similar event organized by the SCCC last year at the Lincoln Elementary Middle School in Selma. If you are still reading this and are interested to read more, a full report of the event will be posted in due course with more pictures.
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Finnish Socialist Hall Astoria
Yugantar Ashram San Francisco
2013 is the year of the Centennial Celebration of the Ghadar Movement. This is the Finnish Socialist Hall in Astoria, Oregon State in America where it all started in 1913. In a distant land 100 years ago Sohan Singh Bhakna along with his coworkers working as mill workers, laborers in the River Columbia basin and around Portland, Oregon organized a meeting on April 30,1913 in the Finish Socialist Hall seen at the left hand corner here. Lala Hardyal from Stanford University was the keynote speaker invited. Hindi Association was formed with Sohan Singh Bhakna as President, Lala Hardyal General Secretary and Kanshi Ram Maroli Treasurer. It moved its Headquarters to Yugantar Ashram in San Francisco, California shown here right hand side the same year and began publishing a weekly newspaper called’ Ghadar’. Shown below is the Press that was hand operated by Shahid Kartar Singh. The first issue of “Ghadar” Akhbar was ready to roll on November 1913 . The members, who came from all parts of undivided India, came together to fight injustice not only in their homeland India, but also in their adopted home: the United States of America. In the true spirit of the American Revolution, the Ghadrites sacrificed their lives for India’s struggle for freedom, as well as for the innate rights of the immigrant worker to lead a dignified and discrimination free life here in America. Indian-Americans from across the country are celebrating the Ghadar Movement’s 100th Birth anniversary in every town and city they happen to live in America.
Printing Press That printed “Ghadar”
As Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India put it succinctly in Kochi, South India in a recent public address that the Ghadar Movement of 1913, created a “luminous spark” that awoke India, which had been a sleeping giant. The heat thus generated ignited the fire needed for the struggle for Indian Independence that was achieved later in 1947. But the irony is that the light produced by the same spark machine has yet to reach all four corners of the Indian nation!
As Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, the Founder President of the Ghadar Party pointed out to the first Prime Minister of India Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru in one of the Ghadrites’ meetings with him when he said something like this; Pundit Ji you are thinking about the independence of India, we are talking about the Independence of Indians! That is the difference which still remains only it has become even wider since as the powerful became more powerful and the poor more disenfranchised!
Best Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna Courtesy Sita Ram Madhopuri
In order to fulfill the Ghadrites dream, the process of reawakening the giant may again have started in Astoria, Oregon by the seemingly small act of Dr.Johanna Ogden and Prof. Bruce La Brack. Dr.Ogden wrote, “ Ghadar, Historical Silences, and Notions of Belonging: Early 1900s Punjabis of the Columbia River.” In the article, she writes about the historical significance of the Ghadar Movement and its place in Oregon’s history for the Oregon Historical Quarterly in the summer of 2012. And after reading it, Dr. La Brack, and Dr. Ogden teamed up and collaborated with the Astoria’s City Council and the Mayor of Astoria to bring about a Proclamation and celebrate a 2-day event on October 4-5, 2013. This has already had a ripple effect with Indian-Americans around the country collaborating with their local governments to commemorate this footnote in India’s freedom movement and American history. In the central valley California, for example, a similar Proclamation recognizing the Centenary of the Founding of the Ghadar Party has been passed by the City Council and the Mayor of Fresno. Other cities may follow suit.
It takes a century but it may very well be the beginning for the Light generated by that spark to shine not just on India but on all Indians big and small as contemplated by the Ghadrites a century ago! Astoria may have done it again. Time will tell as it did in the case of the Ghadar Movement!
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The Ghadar Party
One hundred years ago, in 1913, a handful of Indians were inspired by the American Revolution and started a revolutionary movement of their own in Stockton, California, to reclaim their country (undivided India) from the British. This largely unknown aspect of American history and Indian history is being recognized in the United States for the Ghadrite Centenary 2013! The members of the Ghadar movement first met in Astoria, Oregon in 1913 and established their headquarters in San Francisco, California. They published and circulated a newspaper with revolutionary poetry from 5 Wood Street, San Francisco, where the first flag for total Independence of India was flown in 1913 for the first time. This October, through various organizations, Indian-Americans will be celebrating the 100 year Ghadar movement all over North America and Canada.
A few months ago, I attended a seminar organized by Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) to commemorate the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Ghadar Movement, in Newark Fremont Hilton. It was a wonderful gathering and nice to see that it was being acknowledged by not just a Sikh organization. While the Ghadar movement was started and was largely represented by the Sikhs, it was a very diverse membership with Indians of all backgrounds, regions, and who spoke various languages involved with the goal of getting the British to quit India the same way the American Revolution caused the British to quit America. It was during a conversation I had with GOPIO Chairman, Inder Singh, who brought up a suggestion of dedicating a day on a yearly basis for all Indian-American organizations to unite and preserve the memory of the brave Ghadrites. Unfortunately, this wonderful suggestion became drowned out with unconstructive, hypothetical petty logistical issues that halted the conversation.
Logistical issues should of course be discussed, but first we should agree on the easy things before we bring up things we disagree with. I will borrow an acronym my son, Navdeep Singh Dhillon, uses to remind me not to start dwelling on the details from the start: KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. People in the military are known for being blunt and it is not implying anyone is stupid, but it means we should start with the simple things and then delve into the more complex. So the first question, which I hope the answer would be yes is; in America should we for the future preserve the memory of the Ghadarites one day a year?
Assuming we are all in agreement (one aspect done!), let us move on to the next item, which is a little more complicated. When?
To backtrack a little: after I returned from GOPIO event, I discussed the idea with the Sikh Council of Central California (SCCC) Education Committee, of which I am the coordinator (the SCCC is a nonprofit organization representing 13 main Sikh Temples in the Fresno and Madera Counties with a combined congregation of approximately 15-20,000 members). After a full discussion where the members fully expressed their views and weighed all the pros and cons in the long run, a resolution in support was passed with a unanimous vote dated July 1, 2013.
(A copy of the resolution is included here if anyone is interested in reading the details) at:
SCCC Ghadrites Memo Resolution July 01, 2013
Having been raised in Bhakna at the household of the founder of the movement, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, it gives me great hope that many of the organizations, both Sikh and other Indian-American ones, are celebrating. Even Nirupama Rao, Indian Ambassador to the U.S. is fully supportive of preserving their memory in the freedom struggle. As reported in the Tribune India July 30, 2013, the Greater Washington Area organized an event to honor the contribution of the Ghadar movement in India’s freedom struggle that other Indian-Americans from across the US attended and called for remembering their sacrifices annually on Memorial Day. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20130730/main6.htm.
Returning to my second question of “When?” I second the idea to dedicate Memorial Day – the last Monday of May, for all organizations in North America to come under one banner and preserve the memory of the Ghadrites forever!
What do you think?
Share your thoughts by posting a comment here, or replying on my Facebook Fan Page, or on twitter (@pashaura) with the hashtag #ghadarmemorial
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Happy Celebration at the Centenary of Founding of the Ghadar Party !
The Ghadar Party was founded in a distant land from India in San Francisco a century ago in 1913. The centenary celebration was held at the ‘Yugantar Ashram’ the original headquarters of the Ghadar Party at 5 Wood Street in San Francisco on July 13, 2013!
I was invited to attend, along with two other community members from the Central Valley of California – Charanjit Singh Batth, affectionately known as the ‘Raisin King’ being the most successful grape grower in America, and Bharpoor Singh Dhaliwal, the former Mayor of the City of San Joaquin.
It was a momentus occasion for all of us and especially for me as I stood in the place where history was being made for a second time. A close relation, I spent my formative years under the guidance of Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, one of the founding members of the Ghadar Movement in the village of Bhakna in India. He introduced me to Ghadar Poets and other revolutionary poetry, published in the progressive literary magazine, Preet Lahri.
When we arrived at the tiny hall at the Yugantar Ashram, it was jam packed with approximately 200 men, women and some university students who travelled far and wide to be a part of history. There were many prominent people in attendance, such as guest of honor, Sita Ram Yechury, a member of the Rajya Sabha, as well as main speakers Dr. Johanna Ogden, a historian from Astoria , Oregon, Dr. Mark Juergens Meyer, Dr. Harish Puri from GND University Amritsar, Dr. Jaspal Singh, Vice Chancellor and Drs. Jaswinder Singh, Dhanwant Kaur of Punjabi University, Patiala, Hardam Singh Azad from Houstan – Texas, Harsev Singh Bains IWA, Great Britain and Dr. Mohinder Singh Member Bhai Veer Singh Sahit Sadan from Delhi , India. The Indian Consul General’s office was in attendance and a handful of young students from the Universities of Stanford and Berkley also paid their tributes.
The program was well organized and concentrated to highlight and revisit the Ghadrites unique contribution they made towards the Indian freedom struggle. The line I liked best and that said it all, was by Dr. Mark Juergens Meyer. Dr. Meyers looked genuinely excited when he said that he was very proud to be a Californian knowing that the first flag of Indian Independence was flown from this very place, the Yugantar Ashram at 5 Wood Street, San Francisco in California in 1913. I said to myself what a shame! How come the successive Indian governments and people who came in power and ruled India since they got freedom from the British subjugation of 200 years, did not realize this proud fact before Dr. Meyer did? Or were they not genuinely proud as Dr. Meyers was? I found no answer. But that reminded me the age old Punjabi phrase,” ਸ਼ੇਰਾਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਮਾਰਾਂ ਗਿਦੜ ਖਾਂਦੇ ਆਏ |” – Sheran dian maraan Giddarh khande aiey’ meaning the kills made by brave lions are always eaten to the bone by the cowardly jackals.
The aspect I found totally missing however, was the mention of the Ghadrite poetry at the centenary celebration. The commemoration was only for the Ghadrites as warriors and nothing much about their poetry which equally if not more significantly inspired their countrymen. The charge of the handful of Ghadrites against the British Empire where the Sun never set was no less an act of patriotism than the well recorded ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ during the battle of Balaclava, when the 700 rode to the valley of death. But very few people know Ghadrites were poets at heart also. After all it was the poetic lines which Shahid Kartar Singh Sarabha kept singing while hand operating that rackety printing press at the Yugantar Ashram to print the Ghadar newspaper:
“ਸੇਵਾ ਦੇਸ ਦੀ ਜਿੰਦੜੀਏ ਬੜੀ ਔਖੀ, ਗੱਲਾਂ ਕਰਨੀਆਂ ਢੇਰ ਸੁੱਖਲੀਆਂ ਨੇ।
ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇਸ ਸੇਵਾ ਵਿਚ ਪੈਰ ਪਾਇਆ ਓਹਨਾਂ ਲੱਖ ਮੁਸੀਬਤਾਂ ਝੱਲੀਆਂ ਨੇ।“
Seva Des di Jindrie badi aukhi, gallan krnian dher Sokhlian ne,
Jinhan Des –Seva vich pair paya, Ohna lakh Musibtan Jhallian ne.
(Meaning it is easy to talk big about it but serving the country is very difficult. That those who served had to bear countless hardships.)
These lines associated with Shaheed Kartar Singh were also said to be the favorites of Shaheed Bhagat Singh that were found in his pocket before he was hanged. The Ghadrites wrote poetry in other languages too but what attracted me most was the poetry in Punjabi in the most prevalent and popular folksy tunes such as: Heer Waris named after the most popular and tragic love story. I paid a tribute by presenting a Punjabi poem in the same metering mode called behr of baint in which most of these poems were usually written for the Ghadar newspaper. The Ghadrites also sang these poems in the battlefield, in the trial courts, on the gallows and during hunger strikes in jails. I also sang in the same tune as these are usually sung, which I will upload as a free audio download if you would like (just ask!).
I have transliterated my poem into romanized Punjabi for the benefit of those who can’t read Gurmukhi, and there is a rough English translation below as well at the gracious request of the historian, Dr. Johanna Ogden of Astoria, who listened to me sing my poem in San Francisco and wanted to know what it was about! Here is my Punjabi poem:
Ghadri Babeo prt ke vekheo je, Waris Tusan de Jehre Mukam pahunche
Ohi Juh te Shehar , Gran Ohi, Pairhan Napde kadm - nishan Pahunche
Goonj Ghadr di Goonjdi Rhi Jitthon, ohna rahan nu krn salam Pahunche
Va nje Tusan de Os Vipar vichon, Vekhn apna Nafa – Nuksan Pahunche
Akhnn tusan Azadi de ghol ander, Kame Bharti ’Kattean kre keekun
Sohn Singh te Lala Hardyal verge, Heere Chalk-daman ander jareh keekun
Aeya Parrhn Sarabha te Berkley si, Sabk Ghadr Vale Ohne Parrhe Keekun
Barkatullah di Kabr te baitth Roe, Etthe Sutean Beet Gai Vareh Keekun
Charrhe Des – Azadi lai jnj lai ke, Sehre siran te Kistran dhre ‘ Katthe
Zat-Pat te Dharm nu rkkh pase, Ghdri Babeo Larhe te Mre ‘Katthe
Dhatthe pian di Kistran pai Himmat, Rsse Fansian te Charh ke Fareh ‘Katthe
Chashm-deed Itihas Gwah Sanhven,Kabrin pai ‘Katthe, Sivean Sareh ‘Katthe
Asin ho ke vi nhin Azad Hoe, Lokin Puchhde Firn Swal ohi
Ucha hor ucha nivan hor nivan, Sochi tusan kujh hor di hor hoi
Bdle Ghorh-Swar e Ghorhean de, Chabak Rhi Lugam te Dore Ohi
Daie dosh hunn Dharhvi kehrean nu, jdon Doli Kaharan ne aap Khohi
Babe Akhde Humbla maar Uttho, Supna Suttean Nahin Sakar Hove
Turde Desvasi jdon ho ‘Katthe, Tan eh Karvan na Khalihar Hove
Hook dilan di Ghadr tad Goonj bndi, aam Admi jdon Dushwar Hove
Os Goonj Sanhven Bhora Tthehrdi nhin Nili, Pili jan Lal Sarkar Hove!
Rough English Translation:
Ghadrites come and watch how far they have come. It is the same place, farms and factories you once worked; the paths you treaded. It is the same hilltop whence your call for freedom resonated around the world. As your heir apparent they have come to figure out what to make of the investment you had made!
They ask how you organized ordinary Indian laborers in to the struggle for total Independence. How did you set the jewels like Sohan Singh and Lala Hardyal into your torn down garment? Sarabha came here only to seek higher education; how he received lessons to become a mutineer? They stopped and wept at the grave of Barkatullah; how come you have slept here for so long?
Riding for the wedding of bride freedom from a distant land; how you tied the ceremonial garlands on all heads together? How you kept the cast, creed and religion out and aside and fought against the oppressor as one people? Lying low as underdogs for so long; how you mustered the courage to stand up to the oppressor and fought to the finish? History bears witness; how you all shared the grave and the cremation ground hand in hand?
Having got freedom we are still not free; how come people are asking the same question again? The rich got richer and the poor poorer; you thought of something but something else happened. Only the horse riders changed; the whip, the bridle and the hunting rope stayed the same. How can they blame the outside marauders, when the palanquin is robbed by the palanquin bearers themselves?
Ghadrites say! Rise again for a second Ghadar; the dreams never come alive sleeping. When all countrymen unite as one people to move forward; the caravan fighting injustice and inequality becomes unstoppable. The heart ache stemming from hopelessness brings out a rebellion that turns to an echo resonating louder and louder as common man’s life becomes more difficult. Confronted with such a resonating echo; no oppression of any kind or color stands its ground.
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