“Bhai Vir Singh’s (1872-1957) art is of the highest, not for its power of story-telling; that conjures up past events in panorama, nor for the delicate grace of its purity and beauty; nor, even, for its great humanity. It is the deep realization behind it, so masterly in its imperial authority that the very stones, when called by his voice, move and offer a prayer of thankfulness to their Creator,” writes Prof. Puran Singh (1881-1931).
While trans-creating a chapter from Bhai Vir Singh’s book Kalgidhar Chamtakar, I was transported into another dimension. Prose and poetry blended effortlessly. And what I experienced was a glorious symphony, an unexpected beauty that touched the depths of my being.
This story seems to have been set around the period of the Battle of Bhangani (1688). The Hill Rajas had formed an alliance to fight Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. Suspicion and turmoil are in the air, which comes out loud and clear in this story.
However, this is not that story.
This story is about a woman – the rani of Raipur, who secretly loves the Guru in this turbulent time. Why secretly? Because her husband is not an admirer of the Guru.
Through the sensitive pen of Bhai Vir Singh, we too get to experience her anguish, her yearning, her deep love and her faith for the Guru.
This is truly a unique love-story.
The Rani of Raipur Pt. 1
“Astonishing! Isn’t it astonishing that within this body rests the heart? And deep within the heart rests a secreted Sidak (Faith) spark. Layered under numerous veils, I have kept it safe, hidden from envious eyes. But hostile and evil eyes have detected this priceless spark. It amazes me to see the tunnels they have dug and the cannons that are pointing towards me. I can see the volleys coming.
“O’ Terrible destiny! Will this Sidak light-spark in my heart extinguish? Will my mind that has become slightly enlightened with this light-spark get submerged in the darkness of loneliness?
“O! My Sweet Compassionate Giver of this light-spark, be benevolent and save me from these enemies. This plea is from the depth of my being. For, if I lose this Faith-spark, my Guru, I will die while living.
“O’ Giver! Grace me with Your protection. Strangely, I was confident that the light-spark that was within me was out of sight from my enemies. But under the guise of sweet and compassionate love, they shot arrows of maliciousness. Those arrows entered the core of my heart. Covered in sweet talk, bombs of slander penetrated me. Yes! I am in agony. This suppressed resentment is conquering my mind. The agony, the pain is unbearable. I don’t even know if the light-spark is still within me or has it flown to its Source. I look within, and I see nothing. Noise, turmoil and doubts reign within me. I am even confused about my Sidak.” These thoughts flow from the mind of a beautiful, elegant forty-year-old woman who is sitting amidst the flowers.
At times, she sighs.
At times, she frowns.
Sometimes she looks up, sometimes she looks down.
In deep thought, she converses with herself, “Yes! These so-called well-wishers are associates of my body but enemies of my spirit. They are not my friends. A body with all the comforts but without spirit is a wretched dead body. Similarly, life without the Faith-spark is like a dry and dead river bed. They are not my friends, for they are breaking me from my jind (life). They want to extinguish this light-spark of my life. Their words of love are poison to me. Their sympathies don’t ease my agony; they increase it. They are not soothers of pain; they are ruthless givers of pain. It is possible that I misunderstood their love. I don’t even know when I lost the hidden treasure that was within me. The treasure that I had protected under layers of a million curtains.
“O! My dear mind, tell me is this kingdom, this magnificence not temporary? How many kings have owned this kingdom? And where are they now? If the heads of all the previous kings were to be lined up on the earth, there still would be heads left over. Where is their power now? So, where do I stand? If my kingdom goes, what do I lose? If I become a beggar, so what? The heart without the Sidak-spark is a dead heart. Is it worth keeping a dead heart in the body, to own a kingdom? If one were to sit on a straw bed with a heart lit with the Sidak-spark, would it be no less than having a kingdom of heaven? If the heart is the king, one owns the kingdom. If the heart is a beggar, then the kingdom of the body is a disgrace.
“O’ Dearest Sidak-Moon! Turn me in any direction but enter my home-heart and light it up. Let the rays of your love shine within me. I am suffering. My Sidak is quivering. My being is trembling. Darkness surrounds me.
“O’ Sidak-Moon! Lift this darkness, shine your sweet light and put this wanderer back on the path. Grace me.
“O’ My Sidak! Only you can rid me of my inner suppressed resentment.
“O’ My Sidak! Stay strong. There is no one else but you who can rid me of these doubts.
“O’ Owner of Light! Yours is the only support that will lift these feet of mine out of this swamp.
“O’ Owner of Paradise! I can only be lifted by holding on to Your hem. So, attach me to Your hem and take me across. For, when I lift one foot, the other gets stuck deeper in the swamp. Maybe this is what is called doubt?
“O’ Sidak! When you were shining on me, I was in your euphoria. Without you I am in distress, as the chakora (partridge) is in distress without the moonlight. I am longing for your vision.
“O’ Sidak-Moon! If you have chosen to hide yourself, then don’t let the hope of me regaining you ever go away. The hope of regaining you will get me through this darkness of mine.
“Oh! What is this sound? What a lovely, loving tune.
“The sun is setting.
The moon and stars have yet to rise.
The night is cloudy and getting darker like the darkness in my mind.
“O’ Criticism! O’ Spitefulness! O’ Maliciousness!
You are all very powerful.
You have destroyed my inner living home.
“O’ Moon! Rise and glow. Radiate your light and light me too.
“O’ Mind! If you shun the love of the kingdom, then the Sidak-Moon would not need to hide behind the clouds. The threat of losing the kingdom is casting shadows on my faith.
“Hush! O’ Mind, hush!
Listen to the beautiful song, I am hearing! I feel it’s coolness. I feel peace. Yes, it is from the Scripture.
O’ Mind! Listen, listen carefully:
ਜੌ ਰਾਜੁ ਦੇਹਿ ਤ ਕਵਨ ਬਡਾਈ ॥
ਜੌ ਭੀਖ ਮੰਗਾਵਹਿ ਤ ਕਿਆ ਘਟਿ ਜਾਈ ॥੧॥
ਤੂੰ ਹਰਿ ਭਜੁ ਮਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਪਦੁ ਨਿਰਬਾਨੁ ॥
ਬਹੁਰਿ ਨ ਹੋਇ ਤੇਰਾ ਆਵਨ ਜਾਨੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਸਭ ਤੈ ਉਪਾਈ ਭਰਮ ਭੁਲਾਈ ॥
ਜਿਸ ਤੂੰ ਦੇਵਹਿ ਤਿਸਹਿ ਬੁਝਾਈ ॥੨॥
If You give a kingdom, what will be so great?
If You make me to beg, what will be reduced?
O’ My mind, you remember the All-Pervasive to be in state of liberation.
Then your comings and goings will end. Reflect.
You created all, [they’re] forgetful in doubts.
Whom You grant, figures it out.”
- Guru Granth Sahib, 525
The Rani gets up and follows the sound. It takes her to the other end of the garden. She recognizes the old woman who is immersed in singing. With tear-filled eyes the Rani falls at her feet like a mound of dirt.
“O’ Evergreen lover of Sidak! My garden has been destroyed. Numerous erroneous accounts filled my ears, creating clouds of doubts in my soft heart. The thunder is deafening. You have come at the right time, grace me. Keep me in your lap.”
The elderly woman opens her eyes, lifts the Rani’s head and embraces her. She rubs her hand on the Rani’s back.
Was it a hand or was it magic?
Immediately the Rani’s mind elevates.
Fears, doubts and mistaken beliefs vanish.
Sidak’s diamond-spark ignites.
Light enters her mind.
She experiences sweetness.
Every pore of her body rejuvenates.
Locked in the love-embrace, relishing the rapture of the saintly woman the Rani sits motionless.
Time progresses in this ecstasy.
A sheet of sweet radiance spreads.
It is cold—quite cold, but the sweetness of the moonlight comforts the heart that has experienced the burning. The body is at ease in the cool moonlight. The mind is comfortable in the rising love of the Sidak-Moon and is immersed in the cool radiance of the moonlight.
The Rani’s eyes are closed. The saintly woman sees the sheen and sacredness radiating from the Rani’s face. She knows that the Rani is Grace-immersed. But the temperature is dropping, so she urges the Rani to get up. Holding her hand gently, she walks the Rani through the garden to her room in the palace. The room is lit with candles. Two maids are waiting. They make the Rani sit on the cushioned settee. The Rani is still in a trance. Through one of the maids, the saintly woman sends a message to the Prince to come.
The Prince has been worried about his Mother. He had visited the garden many times, and seeing the silent tears flowing from his Mother’s eyes, he left, not wanting to disturb her. However, seeing his Mother in a trance with closed eyes perturbs him.
The saintly woman senses his discomfort and lovingly says, “Don’t worry, Mother is well.”
The gong keeps striking.
The night keeps receding.
.............Part 2 coming soon.