by Bhai Sahib Bhai Vir Singh Translation by Bimal Kaur
The Story by Courtesy of: www.Sikh.net
In a remote corner of Punjab, there was a small village, surrounded by rich green fields. At a short distance, there was a thick forest, which had a large pool in it. This was used as a watering hole by the wild animals. So it had become a favorite hunting ground, and a lot of people used to come there looking for prey.
On the out skirts of the village along the main road lived a rich farmer called Sharma. His married daughter was to go to her in-laws place and the whole house was full of people and the smell of delicacies being prepared. The shadows grew long as evening approached and a slight breeze began to blow.
The young girl, whose name was Saraswati went into the open yard behind her house when her friends were playing.
Like a flock of birds they chattered, sometimes bursting into song while they clapped and danced. Saraswati was the most beautiful of all of them, and when they saw her they made a circle around her, and began to sing. Nearby was a grinding stone with a wooden pole, in which some women had put rice to de-husk it. The 'Thump! Thump!' of the pole became like a drum – beat to the song and they were soon lost in the beauty and poignancy of the words relating the closeness between mothers and daughters.
When the song ended, the girls were horrified to see a young Mughal soldier on a horse. He had probably been attracted by the singing. Now he sat astride his horse and stared unblinkingly at Saraswati. The girls were completely unnerved and stood as if turned to stone.
The young Mughal moved forward suddenly, and grabbing Saraswati's tender wrist pulled her forward and lifting her on to the horse, rode off and soon vanished from sight.
Hearing Saraswati’s agonized screams and the shrieks of her friends, the family members and other villagers rushed to the spot. Everyone heard the shocking story. But no one came forward to go to the young girls rescue. No one had the courage.
After a lot of discussion, it was decided that the girl's father, brother and husband should go to the Mughal's camp and beg him to let the girl go. Maybe he would take pity and give in to their pleadings.
The Mughal's camp had been set up about a mile away from the village, and the young man, who was the Nawab of the area, had come there for hunting, He had some servants and a few Soldiers with him and they had accompanied him on the hunt. While chasing a deer he had left his companions far behind. The deer managed to escape and he, being thirsty turned towards the village for water and there he found a different prey in the form of a young and beautiful girl. When he reached his camp, he pushed the girl into a tent and went to tie up his horse and to drink some water.
By this time the girl's relatives also reached, The girl sat in a corner, sobbing quietly. The Nawab sat down on the cot and looked angrily at the villagers. They came to him and bowed low.
Shama joined his hands and said, "My Lord, She is my beloved daughter and she is married. Today she has to go to her husband's home. Please set her free. The rulers are like one's mother and father, always caring for their subjects."
Nawab - "Go away all of you. What I take I do not qive up."
Sharma - "My Lord, I can offer you her weight in silver, but please let her go."
The brother also spoke up - "Surely you have no shortage of beautiful women, If you like we can offer you gold instead, Please release my Sister!"
The Mughal however, continued to shake his head obstinately.
It was the turn of the husband now, to catch the Nawab's feet and beg for mercy, "Please spare us this shame . I am ready to offer you anything valuable - jewels - anything you wish, but please return my wife to me, and save my honor!"
The Nawab now turned his head and looking slyly at them said. "You seem very moneyed people - but I don't care for your silver, gold and jewels. Leave right now or I'll have you thrown in prison.
The husband realized that in their eagerness to get his wife free they had revealed how wealthy they were. He had no wish to lose everything for the sake of a mere girl. Quietly, he slipped away.
Seeing the Nawab's adamant attitude, the girl's father began to wail loudly and her brother fell down in a dead faint.
Saraswati looked at them, then drying her tears and pushing back her veil she came close to her brother and began to whisper softly in his ears, "Wake up dear brother, wake up and go home" I will not drink the water from a Mughal's home, brother. I would rather set fire and kill myself!"
At these words of quiet confidence, the brother and father got up. They knew they could gain nothing by staying except the Nawab's anger. With slow, dragging steps, they returned to their village.
The house, which a short while earlier had been a picture of joyous celebration was now turned into a place or mourning. The people collected around to console the girl 's family and to condemn the injustice and tyranny of the rulers. But they were helpless to do anything.
Just then, the people heard the sound of hooves, and turning saw a handsome figure ride up to them. He was fully armed, and was wearing a bright orange turban on his head. His face was radiant and his eyes shone with loving compassion. He got off his horse and stood quietly.
Suddenly, Saraswati 's mother ran forward, and took the young rider in a warm embrace. She had recognized her elder son, who had left home some time ago to become a Sikh, and had not been heard of since.
Seeing him like this, all of a sudden, their anger against him vanished, and the father and brother also rushed forward to embrace him, The joy of meeting him, however, was soon dimmed by the recent sad events, which were narrated to the young Sikh warrior.
Balwant Singh, as was his name now, was filled ,with rage as the sad story came to an end. Quickly he asked for directions to the Nawab’s camp, then without another word he leapt onto the horse and weeling him around, qallopped off. His parents kept calling out to him not to go there as he would surely lose his life. But by this time the brave young man had vanished.
Balwant Singh reached the camp and seeing no one began to circle it. Behind one tent he saw a pile of logs, with smoke pouring out of it. Then faintly, he heard a voice reciting "Japji Saheb". In an instant, Balwant Singh got off his horse, and reaching the pile saw his sister. Quickly he lifted her to the ground. She was overjoyed to see him. "My dearest brother. I was not afraid to die and had only one wish, to see you before the end. Guruji has been very kind and fulfilled that too, Shukar Hai. Now go quickly. I want to die before the Mughal comes."
The brother refused and wanted her to go with him. But Saraswati. was desperate and said, "To die in order to save ones ‘dharm’ is not wrong. I am not afraid. Guru Tegh Bahadur ji. Will protect me. If I go with you, the Nawab will destroy the whole village, and you too will not be spared. I can't bear the thought of causing so much suffering, Please, please go."
Hearing some sounds. Balwant Sinqh hurriedly picked up his sister and in spite of her protests, placed her on the horse and rode away like the wind.
When he reached his father's house, they turned on him with anger, "You fool! What have you done! Wasn’t it enough that you put all of us in such danger by becoming a Sikh! Now you have snatched the girl away from that Mughal! He will come roaring like a hungry lion and destroy all of us. Have mercy on us and go right back and return the girl to him."
Balwant Singh was horrified at this reaction and taking his sister with him he at once rode off. After an hour or so he reached an open place, which was littered with bodies and the blood had soaked into the ground turning the earth a dark red color. He was shocked at the sight and wondered how to find the whereabouts of the rest of his companions whom he had left only a short while ago.
Slowly Balwant Singh began to check the bodies lying on the ground and came upon one who was still breathing, and did not appear to be mortally wounded.
Balwant Singh recognized him as one Sher Singh. Tearing up a turban into strips, he bandaged his wounds with Saraswati's help and trickled some water into his mouth. Sher Sinqh took a deep breath opened his eyes and whispered, "Brother, I am so glad to see you."
Balwant Singh - "Sher Singh, what happened? When I left - all was peaceful. How could all this happen in such a short time?"
Sher Singh: "After you left, brother, we were busy setting up camp, when the Mughals attacked taking us by surprise. We fought as best we could, but they were too many. After I got wounded, I don't know what happened. I hope some of the Singhs managed to reach the deep woods."
Leaving Sher Singh under the shade of a tree, the brother and sister started searching for other survivors. But they could find only one who was unconscious, but not wounded. As soon as he recovered consciousness, he gave them some more details of the attack.
They had to join the rest of their companions at the earliest, so finding another horse tied behind a tree they quickly rode off with Balwant Singh holding Sher Singh in front of him.
Saraswati used to listen to her brother talking about the Sikh religion and had developed a great liking and respect for it. On the quiet, she would recite the prayers of Gurbani, and was now, so strong in her faith, that she could confidently console her father and brother, and then prepare to immolate herself, before her brave brother came and rescued her. Now when she saw so many dead and wounded Sikhs, she was overcome and decided that there could be no better way to live than to serve these brave people who were constantly risking their lives for the sake of their religion. She had seen the transformation in her brother who was not only courageous but compassionate as well. She too wanted to become like him and also to become a warrior.
With this thought in mind she had picked up a sword from the ground and slung it around her neck before leaving the battle ground on a horse.
She was deep in her thoughts when she heard her brother shout. Looking back, they saw a dust cloud in the distance. Soon it became clear that they were being chased by the Nawab and his soldiers.
Balwant Singh and Saraswati urged their horses to go faster and faster, but were soon overtaken.
A short and fierce battle was fought, but how long could the three hold out against three dozen! Sher Singh and his companion were killed, Balwant Singh and Saraswati were wounded and taken back to the camp to face whatever hardships the Nawab planned for them.
Deep in the woods of Punjab, the Sikhs had cleared a part of the land and made a camp, where they could take shelter when the oppression of the Mughal rulers became too much. There were a number of such camps. Only the Sikhs knew their location, and how to reach them.
In one such place, the evening prayers were being recited in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. After the completion of the recitation one of the Sikhs whose name was Sham Singh stood up. He was extremely tall and well - built and his face was alight with fervor. Addressing the group, he said, "Khalsa Ji, do any of you know the where-abouts of Balwant Singh.
Everyone shook his head. Then one of them said, "We have not seen him since the day he left for his village. Maybe he found it difficult to leave the comforts of his home and family."
But Sham Singh disagreed. "No, he is not the one to be so tempted. I am sure he is in trouble."
Rathorh Singh spoke up, "I think the best way to find out is to send someone to his village."
Hari Singh promptly offered to go. Sham Singh warned him, "Yes, go, but be careful and disguise yourself as a Mughal. Also try and find out what is the condition of the Sikhs in other places, and come back as quickly as possible."
Han Singh immediately bowed before Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Then putting on the dress of a Mughal, he took his horse and left the clearing.
Darkness was falling, but Hari Singh did not let that worry soon the open, he got on to his horse and a, village, there was a broken-down hovel in which a Muslim shopkeeper lived. When Hari Singh in the Mughal disguise came near, they greeted him respectfully, gave him a cot to sit on, and brought some hay and water for his horse.
They offered Hari Singh some food. But he refused, and tying his horse to the cot, he went to sleep.
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