• Khooni Vaisakhi: A Poem from the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre 1919

    Translated from Punjabi by Navdeep Suri

    Nanak Singh

    April 13, 2019

    April 13, 2019, marks the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. A hundred years ago today, under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer, troops of the British Indian Army fired  on a crowd of Indians assembled for a peaceful protest against Rowlatt Act and to condemn the arrest and deportation of two national leaders, Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew. The firing continued for about ten minutes and while colonial-era records show 379 deaths, Indian figures put the number at closer to 1,000.

    Nanak Singh, a renowned Punjabi poet, songwriter, and novelist was present at the bagh that day. He collapsed in a stampede triggered by the firing and had been left for dead under a pile of corpses.

    Khooni Vaisakhi: A Poem from the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre 1919, was written by Nanak Singh soon after. The poem — a harrowing account of the events leading up to the massacre and its immediate aftermath — was banned soon after its publication in May 1920 and then, lost for decades until a copy of the book was discovered and published in November 1980. To mark the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh massaccre, Singh's grandson Navdeep Suri has translated the poem in English. The following are excerpts from the book:

    Image Courtesy: Harper Collins

    रोलट बिल दा रौला 

    रोलट बिल ने घतिया आन रौला,
    सारे हिन्द दे लोक उदास होए।
    वांग भठ दे तपिया देश सारा,
    मानो सब दे लम्बा 'ते सास होए।
    लगा मिलण अनाम अज हिन्दियां नूं,
    जेहड़े मुदतां तों सीगे दास होए।
    फ़ासी जमां दी गल पै गई यारो,
    जिस नूं देख के बहुत निराश होए।

    Rowlatt Act Controversy

    Rowlatt Act stirs up a hornet’s nest
    Gloom spreads like fire across the land.
    A smouldering cauldron, this Hindustan,
    With bated breath, trying to understand.
    A reward they thought they’d get for sure
    For service long, abiding each command.
    Instead, as they hear of these shackles new,
    Hopes are dashed, crushed into sand.

    […]

    जलसे अते मारशल ला

    आख़रकार हुण सब निराश हो के,
    लिखे आपने नूं बहि के रोण लग पए।
    सचमुच हो गिया यकीन सब नूं,
    भारत वरश दे भाग हुण सौण लग पए।
    सारे सुख आराम काफूर होए,
    केवल दुख ही दुख नज़र औण लग पए।
    कोई पुछदा आण के हाल नाहीं,
    सबो कूंज़ वांग करलाउण लग पए।
    कम कार चा सब ने बंद कीते,
    लोक वांग दीवानियां भौण लग पए।
    हर इक शहिर दे विच हड़ताल होइ,
    सब दे कालजे मूंह नूं औण लग पए।
    भारत माता दे पुत्तर इकत्तर हो के,
    घत जफ़ीआं नीर वहौण लग पए।
    दुख दिलां दे खोल सुणान खातर,
    थाउं थाई इजलास तद होण लग पए।
    दूजी तरफ़ दे यार प्रसन्न हो के,
    घरीं बैठ के खुशीं मनौण लग पए।
    मिशन आपने विच कामयाब हो के,
    वाजे खुशी दे ख़ूब वजौण लग पए। 
    झोली – चुक ते कौम – फ़रोश जेहड़े,
    उहनां पास जा चुग़लीयां लौण लग पए। 
    बाग़ी चोर बदमाश बेवफ़ा कहि के,
    दिल उहनां दे ख़ूब भड़कौण लग पए।
    बेगुनाह ताईं गुनहगार दस के,
    वेखो मुलक दा नास करौण लग पए।

    Protests and Martial Law

    Dispirited and despondent by the turn of events
    They lamented, aghast at miserable fate.
    With sinking hearts, they then witnessed
    A shadow spread across a nation great.
    All comforts and pleasures now sadly gone
    Leaving gloom and grief to stalk the state.
    So sad they sound, like the wailing crane
    To smile or greet they hesitate.
    Shops closed and workplaces empty
    Forlorn and lost, in streets they wait.
    Strikes called in every city and town
    Sobs muffled, they roam in a sorry state.
    Those valiant sons of Bharat Mata
    Shedding tears, dismayed and desolate.
    Each tragedy retold, notes get compared,
    Every nook and corner, a place to debate.
    But a scene so different on the other side
    Friends gather at homes to celebrate.
    A mission accomplished, the Act is done
    ’Tis time for wine and feast ornate.
    Their quislings, turncoats and traitors all
    Come laden with gossip and tales narrate.
    ‘Rebel’, ‘robber’, ‘scoundrel’ and more
    Names used against us, to aggravate.
    Frame our heroes with guilt and treason
    Damage they wreak on our nation great!

     

    हाकम लोक भी उहनां दे लग आखे,
    बदली अग 'ते तेल पलटौण लग पए।
    सर माईकल उडवाईर साहिब,
    मारशल ला दा हुकम चड़ौन लग पए।
    पकड़ पकड़ बदोशियां आजज़ां नूं,
    जेल खानियां विच पहुंचौण लग पए।
    हाए! लिखदियां डिगदी कलम हथों,
    रोम रोम सुण के खड़े होण लग पए।
    छोटी उमर दे आजज़ां  बचिआं नूं,
    फड़ के मछीयां वांग तडफौण लग पए।
    नाल टिकटिकी बंन नीमाणियां नूं,
    बैंत मार के खल लहौण लग पए।
    मास तूंबियां नाल उडौण लग पए।
    लहू नाल इशनान करौण लग पए।
    मावां बाप उहनां दे जे कोल आवण,
    धक्के मार के पिछांह हटौण लग पए।
    अठ वजे तों बाद जो बाहर निकले,
    गोली मारन दा हुक्म सुनौण लग पए। 
    मातम नज़र आवे चारों तरफ़ उदों,
    सबे दुखां दे सोहले गौण लग पए।
    नानक सिंह की खोल के हाल दसे,
    जेहड़े दुख पंजाब ते औण लग पए।

    And a smirk of delight it brings upon the rulers
    Who divide and rule, planting seeds of hate!
    Sir Michael O’Dwyer, armed with a pen
    Brings martial law and a Police State.
    Young men of ours, innocent, upright
    Sent packing to jail at an alarming rate.
    My pen shudders, drops from trembling hands
    Ah! Tales of torture – so deliberate.
    Young boys flogged and bleeding lie
    Like fish out of water, in dire straits.
    Tied to poles and whipped with canes
    Skin peels, their tender backs lacerate.
    Flesh and bone do take the brunt
    As streams of blood rush to the gate.
    In desperate search their parents reach
    Pushed rudely, ordered: Go home and wait!
    Stay in your homes, don’t dare come out!
    Or face a bullet, if it’s later than eight!
    A funereal spirit pervades the air,
    A stifled wail, a silent dirge and a pain innate.
    Says Nanak Singh, Ah! The pain of Punjab!
    Words choke as I speak, they suffocate.

    […]

    राम नोमी दी धूम- धाम
    अते हिंदू मुसलमानां दे पिआर दा सबूत

    सारे सिख हिंदू अते मुसलमानां,
    रल मिल एह पुरब मनाईया सी।
    मुसलमानां ने अज ईतफाक वाला,
    एह अदुती सबूत विखाईया सी।
    भावें पुर्न सी असल विच हिंदूआं दा,
    अपर मोमनां ख़ब सजाईया सी।
    उस दिन दी की में गल दसां,
    अजब समा करतार लिआईया सी।
    “डाकटर किचलू ते सत्या पाल साहिब,
    जिन्हां अज दा वक्‍त दिखाईया जी।
    गले दोहां दे फलां दे हार पा के,
    सारे शहिर नं दरशन कराईया जी।
    हर एक हिंदू मुसलमान ताईं,
    दिलों जाणदा माई दा जाईया जी।
    कदी ऐशां दा प्रेम ना किसे डिठा,
    जगत जदों दा रब बणाईया जी।
    एह ता नवां ही प्रेम दा बीज ऐथे,
    किसे अरश तों आण के लाईया जी।
    दूरी सब दे दिलां तों दूर होई,
    वीर वीर ताईं नजर आईया जी।
    पाणी इक गलास दे विच पीता,
    खाणा इक थां सब ने खाईया जी।

    Ram Navami Celebrations Amid Hindu–Muslim Unity

    Hindus and Muslims they gathered together
    To rejoice at a festival, O my friends.
    Brotherhood conveyed by Muslims that day
    Beyond incredible it was, my friends.
    A festival of Hindus though it was
    Muslims made it just their own, my friends.
    ‘Tis hard to describe this feeling new
    A miracle, it truly seemed, my friends.
    Doctors Saifudin, Satyapal together
    Tread on a path united, my friends.
    Feted with garlands, our stalwart duo
    Sent out a message clear, my friends.
    Their friendship displayed a bond so strong
    Hindu Muslim were the same, my friends.
    Such harmony never seen before
    Since God made this world, O my friends.
    The seed of friendship between these faiths
    Descended from heaven itself, my friends.
    Discord and difference seemed to vanish
    Each saw the other as brother, my friends.
    Shared the same glass to drink their water,
    Sat down for meals together, my friends.

    सारी उमर दे विछड़े वीरनां नूं,
    अज आप करतार मिलाईया जी।
    उस दिन हर जगा 'ते मुसलमानां,
    दुद्ध दीआं छबीलां चा खोलीयां जी।
    नाल हिंदूआं सब ने होए शामल,
    पाईयां फूलां दीयां भर झोलीयां जी।
    कीती हिंदूआं दी दिल खोल सेवा,
    थाउू थाईं बनाई के टोलीयां जी।
    मानो कृष्ण ने अज प्रसन्न हो के,
    ब्रिंदाबन विच खेडीयां होलीयां जी।
    होणी आखदी सुणो नादान लोको,
    हटां कास नूं अज चा खोलीयां जी।
    भलके फेर है तुसां हड़ताल करनी,
    नाले वसणगीयां तुसां पर गोलीयां जी।

    Like brothers separated since their birth
    Stood united now by a miracle, my friends.
    Each Muslim tried to outdo the other
    Served sweetened drinks to all, my friends.
    Each one stood with their Hindu mate
    Showering flowers on devotees all, my friends.
    Groups joyous lined up on the festive route
    Cheering the jubilant Hindu parade, my friends.
    Lord Krishna seemed charmed by the sight
    Like Holi played at Vrindavan, my friends.
    But Fate, it had some different plans
    Why open your shops today, my friends?
    The town will be on strike tomorrow
    You’ll catch a hail of bullets, my friends.

    […]

    जलियां वाले बाग विच इक्ट्ठ

    पंच वजे अप्रैल दी तेहरवीं न,
    लोकीं बाग वल होए रवान चले।
    दिलां विच इनसाफ दी आस रख के,
    सारे सिख हिन्दू मुसलमान चले।
    विरले आदमी शहिर विच रहे बाकी,
    सब बाल ते बिरध जवान चले।
    अज दिलां दे दुख सुणान चले,
    सगों आपने गले कटवाण चले।
    छड़ दिउ हुण आसरा जीवने दा,
    क्योंकि तुसीं हुण छड जहान चले।
    किस ने आवणा परत के घरां अंदर,
    दिल दा दिलां विच छोड़ अरमान चले।
    जलिआं वालड़े उजडे बाग ताईं,
    खून डोल के सबज़ बणान चले।
    अज होएके सब पतंग कटे,
    उपर शमा सरीर जलाण चले।
    हां हां जीवने तों डाढे तंग आ के,
    रुठी मोत नूं आप मनाण चले।
    अनल-हक मनसूर दे वांग यारो,
    सूली आपनी आप गड़ाण चले।
    वांग शमस तबरेज दे खुशी हो के,
    खलां पुठीआं अज लुहाण चले।

     

    The Gathering in Jallianwala Bagh

    As the clock struck five on thirteenth April
    They all gather in the Bagh, my friends.
    Seeking justice fair and honour, they stand
    Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims together, my friends.
    Folks young and old, and lads went too
    For only a handful had stayed back, my friends.
    They went to speak, to share their grief
    Place lives at stake without fear, my friends.
    Worrying no more about their precious lives
    They left this world behind, my friends.
    With slender hope of coming back home
    Desires and dreams abandoned too, my friends.
    With their own blood, they wanted to bloom
    The parched soil of the Bagh, my friends.
    Like swarms of moths, they gathered around
    To be singed by violent flames, my friends.
    Fed up with life, they courted death
    Forcing Yama to accept their will, my friends.
    Like Mansour, who said, ‘I am the Truth!’
    When he knew he’d meet the gallows, my friends.
    Like Shams Tabrizi, whose quest for God
    Ended up in a painful death, my friends.

    पंछी बना दे होएके सब कटे,
    भुखे बाज नूं अज रजाण चले।
    जालम डाईर दी तिर्खा मिटावणे नूं,
    अज खून दी नदी वहाण चले।
    अज शहर विच पेणगे वेण डूंघे
    वसदे घरां नूं थेह बणाण चले।
    सीस आपने रख के तली उत्ते,
    भारत माता दी भेंट चढ़ाण चले।
    कोई मोड़ लो रब दे बंदिआं नुं,
    यारो! मोत नूं आप बुलाण नुं,
    मावां लाडले बचिआं वालिओ नी!
    लाल तुसां दे जान गवाण चले।
    भेणो पिआरीओ! वीर ना जाण देणे,
    विछड़ तुसां तों अज नादान चले।
    पती रोक लो पिआरोओं नारीओ नी!
    अज तुसां नूं करन वैराण चले।
    पिआरे बचिओं! जफीआं घत मिल लो,
    पिता तुसां नूं अज रुलाण चले।
    जा के रोक लो, जाण ना मूल देणे,
    मतां उके ही तुसां तों जाण चले।
    नानक सिंह पर उन्हां नूं कौण रोके,
    जिहड़े मुलक पर होण कुरबान चले।

    Like birds from the woods, they flocked together
    So the hawk could have his fill, my friends.
    To quench Dyer’s deadly thirst
    With streams of blood their own, my friends.
    Ah! My city mourns with grief today
    Happy homes lie shattered because they go.
    Heads held high offered for sacrifice
    For Bharat Mata’s pride and honour, they go.
    Pray, stop these valiant souls of God!
    Straight to the abyss, they rise and go.
    O mothers, watch your precious sons
    To give up their youthful lives, they go.
    O sisters, hold back your brothers dear
    You won’t see them again once they go.
    O wives, hang on to your dear beloveds
    Or you’ll spend your lives widowed, if they go.
    O children, go run and hug your fathers
    ’Cause you’ll be orphans if they go.
    Stop them, hold them, do what you can
    They won’t come back, once they go.
    Says Nanak Singh, Can’t stop them now
    For nation’s sake to die they go.

     

    जनरल डाईर ने आउणा ते गोली चलणी

    ठीक वक्‍त साढ़े पंज वजे दा सी,
    लोक जमा होए कई हजार पिआरे,
    लीडर देश दा दुख फरोलणे नं,
    लैक्चर देंवदे सन वारो वार पिआरे।
    कहंदे जीवणा असां दा होएआं ओखा,
    किथे जाइके करीऐ पुकार पिआरे।
    कोई सुझदी नहीं तदबीर सानुं,
    डाढे होए हां असीं लाचार पिआरे।
    अजे लफज़ तदबीर मूह विच हेसी,
    उधर फौज ने धूड़ धुमा दिती।
    थोडी देर पिछे फौज गोरखे दी,
    जनरल डाइर ने अगांह वधा दिती।
    दे के हुक्म नहक निमाणिआं 'ते,
    काड़ काड़ बंधक चला दिती।
    मिंटां विच ही कई हजार गोली,
    उहना जालमां खतम करा दिती।
    गोली की एह गड़ा सी कहर वाला,
    वांग छोलिआं भुने जवान उथे।
    कई छातीआं छानणी वांग होईआं,
    असे जुलमां मारे निशन उथे।
    इक पलक दे विच कुरलाट मचिआ,
    धूआं धार हो गिया असमान उथे।
    कई सूरमे पाणी ना मंग सके,
    रही कईआं दी तड़पदी जान उथे।

     

    Brig. Gen. Dyer Arrives, Gunfire Begins

    Five-thirty sharp the clock had struck
    Thousands gathered in the Bagh, my friends.
    Leaders came to lament the nation’s woes
    Taking turns to speak out loud, my friends.
    Voiced grievance, hardship, anger, sorrow
    Saying, no one listens to us, my friends.
    What can we do, what options left?
    Can’t see any ray of light, my friends.
    Those words forlorn, they barely voiced
    Came soldiers thundering down, my friends.
    At Dyer’s command, those Gurkha troops
    Gathered in a formation tight, my friends.
    Under the tyrant’s orders, they opened fire
    Straight into innocent hearts, my friends.
    And fire and fire and fire they did
    Some thousands of bullets were shot, my friends.
    Like searing hail they felled our youth
    A tempest not seen before, my friends.
    Riddled chests and bodies slid to the ground
    Each one a target large, my friends.
    Haunting cries for help did rend the sky
    Smoke rose from smouldering guns, my friends.
    Just a sip of water was all they sought
    Valiant youth lay dying in the dust, my friends.

     

    भीडे राह हेसन इस बाग दे जी,
    एह रोकिया उहनां ने आण उथे।
    कोई राह ना जाण नू रिहा बाकी,
    किदां बच करके निकल जाण उथे।
    कोई बचिया होउ नसीब वाला,
    नहीं तां सारिआं ने दिते प्रान उथे।
    कई गोलीआं खाईके नठ भजे,
    रसते विच ही डिग मर जाण उथे।
    कईआं नसदिआं नूं गोली काड़ वजी,
    झट पट ही दिते प्रराण उथे।
    पल विच ही लोथा दे ढेर लग गए,
    कोई सके ना मूल पछाण उथे।
    गिणती सिखा दी बहुत ही नज़र आवे,
    भावें बहुत हिंदू मुसलमान उथे।
    सोहणे सूरमे छेल छबीलडे जी,
    हाए तड़फदे शेर जवान उथे।
    सोहणे केस खुले मिट्टी विच रुलण,
    सुते लंगीआं चादरां ताण उथे।
    नानक सिंह ना पुछदा बात कोई,
    राखा उहनां दा इक भगवान उथे।

     

    That narrow lane to enter the Bagh
    Sealed off on Dyer’s command, my friends.
    No exit, no escape, no way out was left
    Making the Bagh a deathly trap, my friends.
    A fortunate few somehow survived
    While most died then and there, my friends.
    Some ran with bullets ripping their chest
    Stumbling to their painful end, my friends.
    Others caught the bullet while running away
    Dropping lifeless in awkward heaps, my friends.
    In minutes, the Bagh so strewn with corpses
    None knew just who was who, my friends.
    Many of them did look like Sikhs
    Amid Hindus and Muslims plenty, my friends.
    In the prime of their youth, our bravehearts lay
    Gasping for one last breath, my friends.
    Long hair lay matted in blood and grime
    In slumber deep they sleep, my friends.
    Says Nanak Singh, Who knows their state
    But God the One and Only, my friends.


     

    Nanak Singh (1897-1971) is widely regarded as the father of the Punjabi novel. He wrote an astounding fifty-nine books and received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1962.
    Navdeep Suri joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1983 and is currently Ambassador to UAE. He has translated into English, his grandfather Nanak Singh’s classic Punjabi novels Pavitra Paapi and Adh Khidya Phul.

    These are excerpts from Khooni Vaisakhi: A Poem from the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre 1919, written by Nanak Singh, translated by Navdeep Suri and published by Harper Collins. Republished here with permission from the publisher.

    Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.