Book Review: Saffron Swords by Manoshi Sinha
Manoshi Sinha Rawal’s “Saffron Swords – Centuries of Indic Resistance to invaders” is perhaps the only book loaded with so many real yet unknown Indian lion hearts, who are unfortunately faded in historic oblivion. Undeniably Manoshi has meticulously researched and penned down the events of many lost luminaries from regional historical records. If there is a classic “Micro History” depicted by any Indian author, this is perhaps the only book in New India.
Indian history has been deliberately portrayed with its fulcrum on the Mughals and later on very selectively on few handful freedom fighters. Manoshi picked the same historical time zone and pulled out many buried chapters; we now have an extraordinary historical compilation of extreme bravery, hardly remembered and told before.
Yes, we have some known historical names in this book too, yet for many decades these names were purposely portrayed and made to remember as second fiddles in our academic History books. Kudos to Manoshi who did justice to somewhat marginally known fearless names like Rana Sanga, Hemu, Benoy Badal Dinesh, Veer Savarkar, Chandrashekhar Azad and to some extent Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev and Lakshmi Bai. The remaining forty five names and their history of gallantries are almost unknown to us!
Manoshi’s Saffron Swords certainly has a color. The color is carefully crafted out and blended using all elements of our mother land. This time she takes a stance and establishes the indigenous and the concealed lion hearts through their extraordinary narratives.
Yes, all of them fought and laid down their lives only to protect their motherland from invaders. They inspired many during their historical time zone and now this book should inspire the country even more. This book is the first step towards India’s missing Micro History. Our Country has such a rich antiquity that authors and historians like Manoshi should come out with various volumes of India’s Micro History. Let the school libraries and archives be filled with such compilations!
Manoshi Sinha Rawal’s Saffron Swords swings and cuts across with great velour around the entire Nation. This book rejoices the act of bravery from North East to West, from North to South of India with a single cause – saving the motherland from intruders. All our fallen heroes tried to stop the invaders from looting this Country both economically, culturally & religiously. Oh!! What great sons & daughters!!
I don’t want to take names of my favorite heroes from this book, as each one, male and female, warrior or soldier fought a distinguished battle under unique circumstances, against all odds. Yet, I cannot stop mentioning two chapters from this book. The first one is about two young daring teenagers form my forefather’s hometown Comilla. My Grandfather used to speak about two very brave teenage freedom fighters called Shanti and Suniti. I never paid attention to those stories as I was already awestruck by greater text book heroes like Akbar, Nehru and even Mountbatten!! But now when Manoshi captured those teenage brave hearts’ extraordinary events in her book, I was completely taken aback!!
Here is an excerpt from the chapter from Saffron Swords on chronicle of Shanti and Suniti:
“Fight and perish — this was the spirit of patriotism that was conspicuous in every freedom fighter across India during British rule. Santi Ghosh was only 15 years old and Suniti Choudhury 14 when they jointly assassinated Charles Geoffrey Buckland Stevens, a British bureaucrat and the District Magistrate of Comilla. It was 14 December 1931. Both their families negatively suffered the brunt of their heroic deed.
Santi Ghosh was born on 22 November 1916 in Calcutta. She grew up in a patriotic environment. Her father Debendranath Ghosh was a freedom fighter and a professor of philosophy at Victoria College, Comilla. At the age of 15, Santi Ghosh co-founded the Chhatri Sangha (Girl Students Association) and served as its Secretary. She was not only inspired by her family to be a part of the freedom struggle but also by Prafullanandini Brahma, who was older to her by two years. Brahma was a member of the Jugantar Party, a group that believed in the use of arms to drive the British out of India. It was a secret group that masterminded the assassination of many British officers.
Many members of Jugantar Party caught by British were arrested, hanged, or deported for life to Kaalapani, the Cellular Jail in the Andaman Islands. Santi Ghosh joined the Jugantar Party. Just imagine the level of patriotism of these young girls — Brahma aged 17 and Ghosh 15 who were ready for armed rebellion against the British without fearing the consequences! After joining the Jugantar
Party, Santi Ghosh trained herself in self-defense and the use of arms, especially using swords, clubs, and firearms. She looked slightly older than her age, as she dressed herself to look older – her hair gathered in a knot at the nape and often draped in a white cotton sari.
Suniti Choudhury was born in Comilla on 22 May 1917. Comilla is currently a city in the Chittagong division of Bangladesh. From a very young age, Suniti hated the British. She belonged to a family of freedom fighters. Two of her elder brothers were already actively involved in the freedom movement. She mixed up with friends who nurtured similar ideologies — of being participants in India’s struggle for independence and drive the British out of India through armed rebellion. During her school days, she met Santi Ghosh and Prafullanandini Brahma and was inspired by their patriotic zeal. She was deeply influenced by the activities of Ullaskar Dutta, who manufactured bombs intended for use against British colonial officials.
Prafullanalini Brahma recruited Suniti Choudhury as member of the Jugantar Party. She also became a member of Tripura Zilla Chhatri Sangha and then as the Sangha’s captain of its Women’s Volunteer Corps wing. She became popular as Meera Devi. 14 year old Suniti became an expert in the use of the dagger, sword, and lathi. She was thus recruited as the in-charge of training female members of the Chhatri Sangha in the use of lathi, sword and dagger. She was also selected as the ‘custodian of firearms’.
Till this time, it was men who took the lead role in giving shape to bombings and assassinations pertaining to British officers. Women freedom fighters worked in the background. Considering their valor and courage at such a young age, Santi Ghosh and Suniti Choudhury were chosen for direct action — of assassinating Charles Geoffrey Buckland Stevens, the District Magistrate of Comilla…” Read the rest part of the excerpt of the chapter and about 51 more brave hearts in Saffron Swords.
We certainly didn’t get our Independence through one particular format; it was a mixed format of peace and aggression, while both were affective in their own way albeit under different circumstances. For Shanti and Suniti the choice of an aggressive format was by default as Comilla along with many parts of united Bengal faced extreme atrocities of the British East India Company invaders. Pushed to the wall due to an all-out torment by the British, these teenage girls plotted to assassinate the Comilla district magistrate Charles Geoffrey Buckland Stevens. They executed this man with such a long name in few seconds with a perfect plan. The idea was to pass a strong message, which the British high command got, loud and clear.
This particular chapter certainly questions my own understanding of our freedom struggle!!
The second one worth a mention is certainly Prithu the Assam king who annihilated Bakhtiyar Khiljis entire Turkish Army. It was this defeat which pushed Bakhtiyar to a severe depression and eventually he was killed by his own general in Bengal. Yes, I enjoyed Bakhtiyar’s defeat while I rejoiced Prithu’s victory, who was the only Indian King who taught a lesson to the insensitive Bakhtiyar Khilji. Prithu defeated this monster Bakhtiyar who destroyed millions of important and precious manuscripts of Nalanda University, which burnt for months. While one reads through the pages of the heroics of Prithu, we almost time travel to that era. Once again thanks to Manoshi for bringing us closer to the unknown saviors of our Country. Or else the likes of Bakhtiyars would have completely ruined our motherland.
At the end I can only say, while experiencing goose bumps during each chapters from this book, I uttered: ”Oh!! How great is my Country, how brave were my countrymen, and how strong are my genes….”
I strongly recommend this book and further volumes of Micro History from Manoshi Sinha Rawal should be an integral part of history syllabus in our schools across all boards. MHRD Government of India must approve this book to be included in the history classes from an early stage of standard five onwards. NB: It is impossible to speed read this book as each page is history itself!!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.