Battle of Kanarpi Ghat
About this text
The poem "Ath Kanarpi Ghat Ladai" (or The Battle of Kanarphi Ghat) is a poem written by a Maithil Brahman in the Baiswari dialect. It was composed towards the end of the 18th century. It describes the victory of Narendra Singh (an ancestor of the Maharaj of Darbhanga) over Ram Narayan Bhup. The text used here is the one prepared by George Abraham Grierson and Babu Narayan Singh (of Jogiyara) and was published in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1885. Our selections here contain references to charity,celebration and feasts.
The governor's army proceeded, and the kettle-drums beat. All the artillery was brought out at daybreak. Over the black coloured elephants flapped the flags, and long muskets, elephant-cannons and chandrabans* shone. Sesha, the mountains, the earth, the mundane boar and the elephants of the quarters shook from the trampling, and the dust arose and filled the sky and covered the sun. Drums, trumpets and trombones sounded, and the whole earth quivered, and each continent [Page 29] shook. The sword-bearers as they stood before their markets were joyful, as their vigour for battle came to a lead. With great pleasure the gate opened, and there issued forth Shekhs and Saiyads who took horse-armour and rode. In front gleamed the wand-bearers, feeling happy under the shadow of their spears. 'Speed on, we have far to go, and vast treasure is loaded in the carts.' They marched with great valour from one halt to another, Indra himself could not match their magnificence. They had all waist-bands set with jewels, and on the way inquired the road to Bhawara.
The mighty warriors distributed alms to all, and after enjoying various pleasures proceeded to the (palace of the)king of Mithila. The warder at the gate approached and told him saying 'the belted soldiers are all ready and present.' One by one they paid their respects to him, which he accepted. Lal, the great poet, says that they sat round the [Page 30] Abode of Happiness. To his south sat the Babus and the Prime minister, to his north the wizards and the wise men, to his west the soldiers, and near him the Bakhshi and the chief house-servants in gorgeous apparel stood behind him. The chief of the exchequer who attended day and night, and who knew about all jewels, was making a list of excellent* bows and arrows. Maharaj Narendra sat in the midst of all. Who can describe the splendour of one who was like the moon in the midst of stars?
In one place a pandit was supporting his views in discussion, in another the skilled Baidiks were singing the essence of the Vedas. In another astronomers were correcting the time-piece, in another Tan-triks were reading charms and exorcisms, in another panegyrists recited epics, in another Sarb Jan Jha* was dictating as if he knew everything, in another people explained dictionaries and rhetoric, in another they discussed Persian verses with learned Maulwis, in another Munshis sat elated with Persian knowledge, in another dairy-maids brought tyre to the gate, and in another fair damsels with water-jars added to the pleasures.
Indra, the king of heaven ran away in terror, and took shelter on mount Meru. There he extolled mother Durga, and besought her to save him from his great fear. Who can count the kings of the earth ? They were but lords of the poor, and easily submitted to his (Naren-dra's) authority. By the pride of the dust of his troops the very sun was obscured, and the earth trembled. Who could withstand him. The great warrior of Bijapur, and the heroic king of Audh, took to penance and so oonquered their fears. The Rajas of Hugli and Calcutta gave up their power, and wandered about clothed in rags. The king of the south deserted his arms and presented slaves. The queen of Dhaka wandered about like a mad woman, and other kings too lost heart. Dilli shook, Banaras fled, Betiya fell down, for who could stand in his way. All feared much when the king of Mithila, the refuge of the distressed, issued forth.
Kabi Lal describes the camp-bazar of the Lord of Mithila. It ap-peared four times as extensive as the city of the gods.
The fountain waa laid and a beautiful market estabished. Thou-sands of merchants marched in rows. Numerous young damsels sang sweet songs and asked for alms. Here were being sold edible roots, sugar and bags of salt. He who tasted these, considered thereafter ambrosia sour. There were they preparing sponge-cakes and sweet-meats. Here were fruits in syrup, there were sugarcandy and jilebis, [Page 33] and many stood bargaining their prices. Here were they selling brown sugar and slabs of molasses, and there were laid cakes prepared in cla-rified butter. Here were sold embroidered scymitars and swords, and there the jewellers were selling sikka gold mohars. Here people were greatly crowded round the store home, and thousands of Kachchhi and Khanhari horses were being sold ; there were infuriated elephants, and many aunels. Here were painters standing as they painted pictures, there were laid hundreds of thousands of raisins and dried dates, and in another place fell into the reservoir showera from the fountain. Here were golden threads, and woollen double shawls, there were sold necklaces of jewels and pearls. Here were lengths of silken cloth, and coats of muslin whose price no one was able to fix.
On both sides the armies were ready, and in the midst was the great river. Thousands of arrows, bows, and cannon balls were dis-charged, which seemed as if all the stars were falling from heaven at once. The wand-bearers ran up and down quick as the chimes, (rung at the end of a watch). The sky was filled up as if with fireworks in the form of flowers. The hunters, approached and shot the enemy who loot heart and retired. The wounded were laid on beds (and so thick did they lie) that no one was able to pass by that way.
The Bais, Bagghel, Bachhbaut, and Hara marched down with jewelled swords in their hands. The Haras shone each a greater hero than the other and on all mdea the drums loudly sounded. Thousands, of arrows, bows, and cannon-balls were discharged, but on neither side would the great warriors retreat. Step by step the armies approached each other, and on the festival of the Mahashtami (the eighth day of the bright half of Asin, sacred to Durga) the (final) struggle took place. Countlees drums, trumpets, and conches aounded, and, 0 Ram, a dense, loud, noise arose. Salabati galloped his horse, and Umrao Singh stood up to oppose him. Both were heroes of matchless valour, and the duel between them was like that between Karna and Arjuna. They drew their swords from the scabbards, and struck out fiercely with them, so that they flashed like lightening amidst the dense clouds. In the end Salabati was wounded, and tottered helpless and Umrao seized him, thrust him down and killed him. Bhikhari saw this and ran up, but could not arrive in time, and only struck at the (elephant's) howdah. The cannon balls began to fall amongst them, and the brave heroes fell, so that dread filled the city of Indra itself(at the eight). Fairies, whose fame had filled the whole earth, then came down with garlands of flowers. Then the great heroes, with thousands and thousands of companions, alighted from their horses.
They fell, they raised each other, they ran here and there, they fought in single combat like huge elephants wreetling together. King Mitrajit Rao caught hold of Bakht Singh, who, struck with severe blows, fell down whirling. Words could not be heard for the hissing of the countless arrows, as the nobles fought in different ways. The captains kept causing wounds incessantly, and the arrows despatched from their bows filled the whole space betwixt heaven and earth. As each heard of the defeat of his side, he lost control over himself, when in the struggle the cannons thundered a thousand times. Loud horrible noises arose as shield crashed against shield, and as well around sword clashed against sword. In their rage the heroes shout 'It is well, it is well', and rushed forward to the fight, and in pitched combats ten mil-lion heeds were severed with long-swords. The headless trunks turned round and fell with a terrible whirl upon the earth. Ah ! one beats another down and butchers him. In the battle-field of the Lord of Mithila, a river flowed here and there, in which the lotuses were represented by handsome heads, the water blood, and the weeds (the [Page 35] corpses') hair. The battle was won, and at the end enjoying the feast on the enemy, ghouls ate and ate the (dead soldiers') heads till they were satisfied. Kali herself brought home numerous garlands of human heads, and with huge demons, invested their lord (Siva) with them. All the king's army) returned from the battle-field for the general (Bhikhari) had fled away. The king (of Mithila) gained the victory, and the drum of his fame resounded.
The king gained the victory, the general fled; and the fame of Tirhut quadrupled. The mother of the universe kept her promise to the Maharaj, and spared only one man-Bhikhari, on account of his high position.
All the Raos and Ranas who remained behind plundered the store-house, the double-drums and flags. Here they looted palanquins, litters and ten millions of diamonds, and there cartridge boxes filled by special heroes. They plundered tents, tent-walls, camels, and carts. Here and there, some pillaged behind others. They looted spears, elephant-can-nons, lances and javelins, and here and there one (quarrelled) with another, and pierced him to the heart. In other places the men of the Bais clan ran over and pillaged horses and elephants. In this way was the government of the Maharaj re-established.*
When they had finished pillaging they returned besmeared with blood, and Lal, the good poet, says that in this manner Bhikhari lost the battle.