When the Pathans brought them chained
All in calm they remained
The captive Sikhs – though at Sahidgunj town
With their comrades' blood the soil was brown.
Says the Nawab, "Look Taru Singh –
I want to forgive you without misgiving."
Says Taru, "Why for me so much slight?"
Nawab says, "A great warrior you are
That you proved in your fight;
So, to you I bear no anger;
Only I beg of you the gift of your Beni (*)
And you will be spared harm any."
Taru replied, "I owe you as your mercy's nominee;
So offer a bit more, my head with my Beni (*)
(*) Note by Tagore: "To shave off Beni is as good as forsaking religion for a Sikh". "Beni" in Bengali means the coiled hair the Sikhs keep.
First Published in The Sikh Review – August 2001 issue
Original Poem Prarthanatit Dan in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore of the book Katha (Legends) written in 1899.
So far I have read Sikh history, Taru Singh was taken a prisoner by the Mughols on the charge of treason for helping the fugitive Sikhs in the jungles in various ways and eventually had to face death sentence in the cruelest way, with his head forcefully shaven, for refusing to take to Islam. So, if this poem will raise eyebrows of the hardcore historians and pundits as to the authenticity of the Poet's presentation of Taru as a prisoner of war, a scholarly debate may indeed follow. But we, humbler people, will be least interested in that and remain happy with the poem so touchingly flashing the uprightness and holding on to one's faith and convictions, the highest of human virtues for which the Sikhs stood during the severest crisis in their history.