Articles and Reviews

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Bedas of Halagali


 Sad days  came upon them  – on those who wielded swords;
The angry fighters of Halagali – they were indeed doomed.   
 It was decreed from the foreign Company government:
‘The arms and weapons of all  have to be seized by force;
Swords and scimitars, knives and sickles of all sorts,
Axes and lances, bows and arrows, muskets and shotguns,
Blades, bullets, powder – everything has to be seized;
Those who hide anything should be jailed for three years,
And those who resist should  be put to sword.

               Many will come forward of their own accord,
               And surrender all the weapons they have;
               If you offer them some job, in addition,
               Gladly, they will give away all in their possession.’      

                It was proclaimed through drumbeats
                That such and such were the orders ;
                The brave fighters, coming to know of this,
                Began to cry aloud, their eyes dim with tears.
          They collapsed on the ground, worried and sad.

Obeying the orders, some gave up a few arms,
But expensive ones – they hid them inside.
‘We have bought them, getting loans and selling cattle;
How can we give them up?’ – so, they buried them.
     Then, ‘Joith Saheb,’ a brave British officer arrived there,
     And he searched every house, every nook and corner;.
     He was cunning, and he set one against the other;
     And one let out the secret of another, almost gleefully.
               Everything was cleaned out,
               Nothing remained in the whole region;
               The pistols used by their forefathers for ages,
               Swords and shields – all were seized.
               All those that had sheaths of silk, silver,
               And glowing gems --all were carted away.
       Bereft of arms, they took ill and lay, waiting for death.


We are reduced to the state of snakes, their teeth pulled out;
What honour if we move about like whores, hiding our faces ?                                                                   
We are such cowards who barter their wives lying beside them;                                                                                               
We are like dead bodies, beautified for exhibition.
The wealthy do not care even if we lose our lives;
There is none concerned even if we are robbed during daylight;
Neither the feudal chief nor his ministers have offered resistance;
Alas! Even  kings with huge armies are quiet, shaking with fear.

                 All these troubles decreed by God
                 Vexed them to no end;
                 They lost their power and position.
                 Those were  evil times, true to tell!
                 Even the proud were reduced to begging.
        They rued their state, like birds with feathers plucked.


The village called Halagali was in the province of Mudhol;
 Hanama the priest,  Bala,  Jadaga and Rama made a secret pact:
‘We four should never surrender our arms, at any cost;
Once we lose our arms, we are as good as dead.’
They conveyed this message to the chieftain and all the villagers:
‘Get ready to fight, and we will be with you to assist you .’
 All the Bedas got together and agreed to this secret pact;
 They slapped the clerk hard, and the soldier fell to the ground.

                  The clerk and the soldier ran to the officer,
                  And narrated to him their woeful tale.
                  Hearing them, the officer flew into a rage;
                  He returned to the village immediately,
                  Sent for the village-head, Krishna Nayaka,
                  And asked him to give saner counsel to the villagers.
‘Don’t be stubborn; surrender your arms to the officer’s custody.’


‘To surrender arms, we aren’t women with bangles on our hands;
We will give up our lives but not our arms; now, go back quietly.’
The village-head conveyed this news to the officer,
And he, biting his forehand in anger, passed an instant order;
Soldiers on horse-back surrounded Halagali on all sides .
The people inside fought with them like fierce pre-monsoon rains.
The soldiers outside retreated to the hillocks nearby;
And  letters were dispatched for the army to come speedily.

                        Look! the army got ready, at once;
                        Marching quick, it reached Halagali, soon.     .
                        Late at midnight, they went there,
                        And attacked the entire village.
                        Bullets rained, causing great loss;
                        Frightened people ran helter skelter,
                        They were chased by soldiers without mercy,   
                        And the earth was cluttered with bodies, dead.
            But, though they were besieged and cut by swords, they
                                                             didn’t lose their heart.


The soldiers chased the people and butchered them;
They surrounded them and shot them,  mercilessly.
They encircled the hapless people and mowed them down ;
They carried guns and pistols, knives stuck to their waist.
Firing thunderous guns, they slashed with their swords;
The fray was fierce, red dust of Byadagi covering the sky.
‘We are doomed, caught in the middle; who will save us now?’
They cried;  and the British  soldiers mocked at them, unmoved.

                    The officer,  Hebalak Sahib himself,
                    Arrived at the main gate of the village;
                     Standing there he shouted this advice:
                     ‘Listen! I will assure you of safe passage;
                     Why do you lose your lives in vain?’
         Not having full faith in his words, Hanuma came forward.


Jadaga told him: ‘Hit them hard; these are wicked people;
They are not to be trusted; they will surely deceive us;
They cheat us and take away our lands, these white people.’
One shot was enough,  Hebalak Saheb lay dead.
Carr Saheb, burning with anger, said: ‘Plunder the village’;
Then followed a rain of bullets from spirited soldiers.
Hanuma said, ‘ Come, let us shoot down as many as we can,’
And then, look! he faced a group, three-hundred strong.
                        Bhima stood, facing
                        Five hundred, and fell on them;
                        See, what Bala did!
                        He cut down horses, ten in all;
                        Rama’s fighting was really terrifying;
                        Potsful of hot blood splashed around.
                        Engaging himself with one thousand men,
                        He shouted, ‘ kill them, mow them down.’
      Thus, all the four of them killed so many and  got killed.

Nobody heard the six gun-shots;  Hanuma lay on the ground;
Scared people gathered round him, shrieking and crying.
One brave man shouted to them to take up weapons,
And cut the legs of a horse speeding at them; the rider fell down.
Rami joined the fray spiritedly and smashed three heads;
She also killed six horses that had surrounded Bala.

                          None – none returned home alive;
                          And the whole village was ravaged.
                          Soldiers searched every house,
                          And put to sword all cattle;
                          Even infants were not spared,
                          And the entire village was set on fire.
                           I tell you today,
                           The losses were so enormous,
               My words fail to describe what was lost or destroyed.

Swords and horses, pearls and gems – nothing was left;
Necklaces and chains, diamond-studded rings of gold,
Ear-rings, nose-rings, bracelets, waistbands,
Headgears, blouses and sarees, sickles and axes,
Guns and shovels, curds and butter, milk,
Salt, oil, rice, sugar, jaggery, spices, crushing stones,
Vessels and plates, even the holy marriage-chain –
Everything was snatched, looted and plundered.
                       How can I list and describe
                       What was lost and looted?
                       They grabbed anything they could see.

                     Setting fire to the village, they left;
                     Halagali was reduced to ashes.
                     Such a rampage took place
                      No trace of Halagali was left.
               I have described only what I could visualize.

May Kurtakoti Kamalesha bless both singers and hearers.
   Dr. C.N.Ramachandran

1 comment:

Chetan Hosakote said...

Dear sir,

nice essay on Halagali bedaru.
sir I would like to know more about Halagali Bedaru, could you please help me?