Donation in excess of what asked for (Rabindranath Tagore)

Here is a translation of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, whose birthday is tomorrow. Tagore is India’s poet laureate and the first and only Nobel Prize winner in literature from India at the time of writing this. Tagore wrote this moving poem where about the sacrifice of a Sikh leader in their rebellion agains India’s Pathan tyrant rulers (Nawabs). The bengali poem is given first and the translation (my loose translation) follows.

শিখের পক্ষে বেণীচ্ছেদন ধর্মপরিত্যাগের ন্যায় দূষণীয়

পাঠানেরা যবে বাঁধিয়া আনিল

বন্দী শিখের দল —

সুহিদ্‌গঞ্জ রক্তবরন

হইল ধরণীতল।

নবাব কহিল, “শুন তরুসিং,

তোমারে ক্ষমিতে চাই।’

তরুিং কহে, “মোরে কেন তব

এত অবহেলা ভাই?’

নবাব কহিল, “মহাবীর তুমি,

তোমারে না করি ক্রোধ —

বেণীটি কাটিয়া দিয়ে যাও মোরে

এই শুধু অনুরোধ।’

তরুসিং কহে, “করুণা তোমার

হৃদয়ে রহিল গাঁথা —

যা চেয়েছ তার কিছু বেশি দিব,

বেণীর সঙ্গে মাথা।’

[For a Sikh, cutting off the hair is as much of a sacrilege as renouncing religion]

When the Pathans brought up the
Group of Sikhs in chains,
The ground of Suhidganj was stained in blood

Said the Nawab, “Listen Taru Singh, I’d like to show mercy on you!”
Taru Singh replied, “Why are you sparing me, Brother?”

The Nawab said, “You are brave, Taru Singh,
I am not angry with you,
But just cut your shaft of hair,
this is my request and I will let you go!”

Taru Singh said, “I am touched by your kindness,
I shall give you more than you asked for,
I shal give you my hair and my head!”

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in:

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