Friday, June 26, 2015

CMG March 17, 1886: Sat Sabha meeting (scrap poss. by Rudyard Kipling

Quite a number of the "Week in Lahore" scraps in the Civil & Military Gazette in this time period could be authored by Kipling. This one in particular, on the meeting of the Sat Sabha group in Lahore, seems a likely candidate. Kipling's native informant may be Nikka Singh, an assistant at the CMG whose names crops up from time to time in its pages (Nikka Singh was also known as Bhai Nikka Singh -- a supporter of the Singh Sabha movement).

The CMG (Kipling?) writes:

"The chronicler gives no account of the prayers or the speeches but he is great on the poetry. One of the Sabha lecturers quoted it all of a sudden and before the Sabha could stop him. Lalla Behari Lal, Manager of the Sabha, died last year--hence the verses, which run as follows: 

Sat Sabha only founded by you
And worked with success for years
Is left behind, since months a few
To nought--sigh and to shed tears
You were of great men of time
Your Gurmukhi works all remind us,
And a pious saint of the clime.
We see you on a turn behind us.
"Properly expanded, there is material for two good verses in the last breathless rush of rhyme. 'A pious saint on a turn' is a new and striking simile, evidently borrowed from some account of the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, who, as every one knows was a pious saint done to a turn. The pity of it is that Lalla Behari Lall was the author of some really excellent vernacular hymns for the use of the Sat Sabha, and in some places evidently inspired if not suggested by the Psalms of David. 
The commentary on the poem makes me think this must have been authored by Kipling. (Kipling's boss, the editor Stephen Wheeler, had little interest in poetry. Also, since this poem would have been delivered in Punjabi, the rhyming couplets in the translation given above may have been assembled by Kipling.

* * *
The Sat Sabha movement was connected to the Brahmo Samaj movement, but had a distinctively Punjabi emphasis and focus:
Led by Behari Lal, the secretary of the Sabha, they debated and argued in favour of Punajbi. Behari Lal`s reputation as a poet and composer of popular bhajans strengthened his advocacy of the Punjabi language.Behari Lal wrote hymns with two goals in mind : first to create devotional songs in praise of a theistic God and secondly to provide alternatives to those traditional songs of Punjabi women which he and other reformers considered immoral. 
Under the leadership of Behari Lal, the Sat Sabha opened a small school in 1882. This school taught in Punjabi using the Gurmukhi script. The Sabha also presented a memorandum to the Hunter Educational Commission in which they argued their standpoint on language and education.The Sat Sabha`s advocacy of Punjabi made it one of the few groups outside of the Sikh community to espouse this language in the debates of the late nineteenth century. 
The second major leader of the Sat Sabha was Pandit Bhanu Datta Basant Ram, the Acharya of the society. Bhanu Datta took a prominent role in the religious debates among Punjabi Hindus. He clashed with the great orthodox leader Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri and later opposed the Arya Samaj when Swami Dayanand came to Lahore in 1877. Pandit Bhanu Datta provided leadership for the Sat Sabha after the death of Behari Lal in 1885.Even though the Sabha did not become a mass movement like the Arya Samaj and remained confined to Lahore, it provided a centre for discussion and debate during the latter years of the nineteenth century. Numerous prominent individuals spoke at the Sabha hall including Novin Chandra Rai, Pandit Ganesh Datt, Yogi Shiv Nath, and S.P. Bhattacharjee. 
The school was well maintained and the annual anniversary celebrations of the Sat Sabha remained an event of importance in the life of Lahore. Throughout its history it continued to be seen as a "Brahmic institution, whose object is to inculcate pure Theistic worship." The Sat Sabha remains in Punjab history as an early example of social and religious reform stemming directly from the cultural influence of the Brahmo Samaj, but in a particularly Punjabi form tied to the advancement of the Punjabi language. (Source)

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