Dr Vineeta Diwan1 Mr Arun Jaiswal2

Assistant Professor, English, Department of Arts and Humanities, Kalinga University, New Raipur e mail-,9340666247

Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Mandsaur University, Mandsaur e mail-, 9026053870


Veernarayan Singh, the benevolent landlord of Sonakhan, spearheaded the revolt of 1857 in Chhattisgarh. He was leading the rebellion of Sonakhan against selfish feudal lords and their illegal hoarding of grains during the severe famine. The rebellion was finally crushed by Deputy Commissioner Eliot. Veernarayan Singh, the brave heart and a man of fiery character, kissed the noose on 10 December 1 1857 and gave away his life by confronting the British army in order to save the life of his fellow rebels. The long narrative versification of “Sonakhan ke Aagi” by Laxman Masturiya, an eminent literary figure, lyricist, singer , poet and writer of Chhattisgarh chronicles the valour and heroism of Shaheed Veernarayan Singh in the form of an epic heroic poem in Chhattisgarhi language. The poetic narrative sings the glory of the land of Chhattisgarh and martyr Veernarayan Singh who emerged as a fire of revolt from the land of Sonakhan. The composition of poetry in the language of the soil enhances the beauty of the narrative and propels the essence of nativity and ethnicity of the region. The inspiring poem and the signature art of Laxman Masturiya highlights the iconic persona of Veernarayan Singh as an unforgettable saga, an inspiration for the future generations as an exemplar for ages to come.

keywordslanguage development, Apabhramsha, Indo Aryan , Bhakti, medieval, modern phase

Chhattisgarhi language, just like other languages has evolved from old Aryan language. The language of the Aryans gradually changed with advancing times and underwent great transformations leading to the formation of many modern languages and dialect. Chhattisgarhi language is also one of the language developing from the Aryan as parent language. Chhattisgarhi emerged as a dialect with advancing time. According to the eminent linguists the linguistic development of Indian languages is divided into three categories-

[1] Classic Indo- Aryan language era- 1580-500 BC

[2] The Medieval Indo- Aryan language era- 500BC- 1000 BC

[3] The Modern Indo- Aryan language era- 1000 BC- till date

The Classic era language is evident in the vedic literature, scriptures and first stone tablet of Sanskrit known as Girnar stone tablet of 150 BC credited to Rudradaman. With the advent and emergence of Buddhism in Chhattisgarh the usage of local language also came into play along with Pali as the common medium of exchange. The later dialects denominated as Apabhramsa meaning corrupt or non grammatical language was the one that deviated from the norms of the Sanskrit grammar. Apbhramsa is a prominent source to study the linguistic history from the period spanning from 12 to 16 th century. Chhattisgarhi language is believed to develop from Ardhamagadhi Apabhramsa that also led to the development of East Hindi, Awadhi and Bagheli. Chhattisgarhi is a dialect evolving from East Hindi having no literary works created in olden times, but in recent decades the language acquired richness with literary works glorifying the Chhattisgarhi indigenous and evolutionary cultures.

The Saga era literature in Chhattisgarh was infused with gestures of courage and love which did not follow any scripting rules and succeeded orally as folklores from one generation to another. Later in the modern era these oral forms came under scripting which included Kevla Rani, Ahiman Rani, Rewa Rani and Raja Veer Singh’s sagas which were some of the leading and exceptional works. The mythical narrations included Phulbasan and Pandwani. The sagas were written were written as treatise poetry which described occult practices, life of people , fundamental desires and helplessness of womankind. The medieval saga showcased Fulkunwar devi, Dholamaru, Lorik Chanda as prominent works. The compositions of this time reflected Bhakti literature and the advent of Kabirpanthis in Chhattisgarh. Some of medieval literary figures included Babu Revaram, Prahlad Dubey, Gopal Mishra and Makhan Mishra. The modern age of Chhattisgarhi literature started from 1900 onwards which included novels, short stories plays and much more.

Laxman Masturiya was an eminent poet, lyricist, singer and literary genius of the modern literary age of Chhattisgarh. He was also the editor cum publisher of the monthly magazine “Loksur” and was awarded ” Aanchlik Rachnakar Samman” by the former Governor of Madhya Pradesh. Apart from literature, Laxman Masturiya was also interested in politics and fought elections on the behalf of Aam Aadmi Party from Mahasamund in the year 2014.

The literary art and poetic style of Laxman Masturiya is a pen picture and realistic portrayal of the simplicity of rural life of Chhattisgarh, its people and their culture. His poetries voiced the true essence of Chhattisgarhi life, its social and religious traditions, the myths and beliefs of the region that placed him in the category of ” Jan Kavi” or ” The People’s Poet” . Though he composed some of his literary works in Hindi also but it was his outstanding contribution in Chhattisgarhi language and literature that brought an overwhelming response from the audience and popularized his works. On one hand his works convey the helplessness of the poor, downtrodden and dejected and on the other hand Masturiya strongly voiced the fury and blazing flames of India’s freedom fighters by depicting the heroic character of Shaheed Veernarayan Singh, the first freedom fighter and revolutionist from Chhattisgarh who threw a tough challenge against the British rule.

“Sonakhan ke Aagi” or ” The Fire of Sonakhan” is an adoration and a glowing tribute to the martyr Veernarayan Singh through an Epic Heroic versification in the form of a block poetry depicting his life journey, right from his birth to the last breath of his life which was infused with patriotic feelings and revolutionary ideas against injustice towards mankind. The poem showcases visual imageries, metaphors and similes to the zenith of ornamental language chosen to highlight the infuriating character sketch and biography of Veernarayan Singh. The poem greatly appreciates the land of Chhattisgarh blessed with the bounties of nature generating a favourable atmosphere for its growth and cultural diversity. The poem Sonakhan k Aagi begins with the glorification of Chhattisgarh state and its rich cultural diversity, its position in India and its proud factor:

( translated in English for this research work by the contributor)

Dharam Dham Bharat Bhuiya k

In the holy land of India

Manjh ma he Chhattisgarh Raj

The central region is of Chhattisgarh raj

Jihan k maati Sonha dhanha

This land’s soil is as rich as gold

Loha Koyla ugle khaan

And the mines disgorge coal and iron

Jahan Sihawa k maatha le

There from the facade of Sihava

Nikle Mahanadi k dhaar

springs out the Mahanadi

Paavan Pairi Shivnath teer

And near the holy Pairi and Shivnath

Sahar pahar k mangalhaar

Cities garland like Mangalhaar

Jonk nadi Indravati tak le

From river Jonk to Indravati

Gadh Chhattisgarh Chhati kas

looks like broad chest of Garh Chhattisgarh

Utti bar Sarguja katakat

The North lined by furious Sarguja

Dakkhin Bastar baagi kas

And Bastar is the rebel rising in South

Purab le Sarangadh garje

Sarangarh roars from the East

Pachhim le Rajnandgaon

And Rajnandgaon from the west

Ek na ek din rar machahi

to announce that one day he will revolt

Beta Mor Son pankhin k

My son riding on the wings of gold

In the above four stanzas the poet begins with the glorification of Chhattisgarh as state situated in the centre of India. He regards India as the holy land of which Chhattisgarh is a crucial part. He denominates Chhattisgarh as the ” Chhattisgarh Raj” to highlight its rich legacy of Princely states on which the denomination of the state has been done when it boasted of thirty six forts and their rule. He glorifies the rich mineral deposits of Iron and coal as they are abundant in the Bastar, Korba and Chirimiri region. The soil of the state is rich soil due to which Chhattisgarh is also known as the “Paddy Bowl” of the country. Masturiya maintains the theme of glorification of land and its people throughout the poem and personifies Chhattisgarh as a brave mother of a brave son, about who she predicts that one day he will bring a revolutionary change in the state, a turbulence by riding on the “golden wings” which is a metaphorical expression of Sonakhan, the birth place of martyr Veernarayan Singh.

Sonakhan is a small town in district Raipur, tehsil Baloda bazaar is also a Panchayat abounding in large scale tribal population basically consisting of Gond, Binjhwar, and Kanwars. The land of Sonakhan still buries in its heart the fire of rebel when Naxalism broke out during 1967 at Naxalbari district of North Bengal. The spirit of revolution is depicted to be deeply embedded not only in the land of Sonakhan but also in regions of Rajnandgaon and Bastar which was the pivot of the multiple freedom movements against Britishers in Chhattisgarh including names like Thakur Pyarelal, and Tribal rebellions including the Halba, Maria, Muriya, Rani rebellion and the famous Bhumkal revolution lead by Gundadhur, the brave fighter of Bastar. The names of the places allude the stories associated with the acts of bravery performed by great revolutionaries and freedom fighters from Chhattisgarh during the war of Independence. The proud Mother Chhattisgarh (Chhatisgarh dai) is confident that one day her son from Sonakhan will surely bring about a turning point in the historical chapters of Chhattisgarh. Laxman Masturiya’s style establishes a strong connection between Veernanaryan Singh and his native state.

The lines further indicate some of the most renowned cities of Chhattisgarh and the reasons behind their credit and fame. Not only the descriptions talks about places but also the culture of Chhattisgarh and places of spiritual significance. The stanza reflects the prominence and spread of Shaivism among the common people who worship Lord Shiva not only for his wrath but also as a a benevolent God who drank poison for the sake of humanity. There have been allusions of Sage Valmiki and Raja Harishchandra and Dharamraj Yudhishthir who have close connections with Chhattisgarh.

Jahan Bhilai Korba Thade

Where Ghilai and Korba exist

Patthar sirmit bhare khadan

And have rich stone mines and cement plants

Tamba, peetal, tin, kaanch ke

Where brass, bronze, tin and glass

Ihi maati ma thathi khan

This is the soil where they are found in abundance…

Shiv base jihan mankhe man ma

Where Shiva rules the mind of his people and is worshipped

Amrit baat karen bispaan

Who after distributing the elixir of life to all gulped poison

Maya me maate mud katawe

Who out of his wrath had cut the head ( Lord Ganesha)

Daya ma jeev tak de dai daan

And who out of love can even do charity of life

The mythology tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata are strongly connected with the region of Chhattisgarh or Dakshin Kosala. The state has a significant role in the life of Lord Rama, whose maternal home is situated here and is the birthplace of his mother Mata Kaushalya. It is believed that Lord Rama along with his wife and brother Laxman had started their exile in the Dandakaranya region of Bastar where they spent more than ten years out of their fourteen years of exile. Presently the work is in process for the Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit which aims at developing such places which were linked with Lord Ram including nine locations – Sitamarhi Harchauka, Ramgarh, Shivrinarayan, Turturiya, Chandkhuri, Prayagraj, Sihava, Chitrakoot, and Sukma with a budget provision of Rs 137 crores 45 lakhs.

Shaivism is regarded as one of the oldest religious beliefs in Chhattisgarh which is a large number of Shiva temples in the region. It is believed that a particular religious sect was at times promoted by the rulers of the state and in this context the Kalchuris who ruled Chhattisgarh for loner times promoted Shaivism who is believed to be their ideal God. During their rule they constructed large number of Shiva temples and also Shaivism is evident in the coins, scriptures and images at temples. Through the legendary and mythological references of Lord Shiva and Lord Ram, Masturiya highlights the rich and strong ethical grounds of the people in Chhattisgarh deeply influenced with the preaching of Ramayana and deriving inspirations from the life of Lord Ram and Lord Shiva, who for the sake of the world drank the poison and distributed the elixir of life to all. If Shiva’s wrath can destroy, his love has the ultimate credit of creation.

Masturiya further highlights the significance of Valmiki’s ashram located at Chandkhuri and where Sita is believed to spend her life with her sons Luv and Kush who gained education at Valmiki’s Gurukul. He also regards the legendary tale of Raja Harishchandra who was the son of Chhattisgarh and who for the sake of truth and charity was even ready to give away his life. He regards the soil of Chhattisgarh as gold and no less magical than touchstone which transformed every normal or inferior thing into gold when he praises

Saran pare bhikhmanga aaen

Beggars came here for refuge

Chhin bhar ma hogin dhanwan

And in no less time they became rich

Tapsi aaen ihi maati ma

Hermits came to this land

Mya karin ban gin bhagwan

And became demi Gods when they loved this land

Praising the soil of Chhattisgarh Masturiya further adds that changing times in the history of the state also changed the circumstances and situations and everything became topsy turvy. A time came when the honest suffered hand to mouth condition whereas the dishonest and cheats led a luxurious life. He expresses sorrow over the people who came here to seek rfuge in their worst time and after they became self sufficient they exploited the people of the state who once pitied them and gave them shelter. In other words Masturiya strongly criticizes the outsiders coming to the state and later exploiting the natural resources, bounties of nature and the local people whom they eyed as the inferiors and low class.

Land acquisition is the core of political and social disputes in the tribal areas of Chhattisgarh. On one hand the Naxal extremists enforce their justice by supporting land alienation and on the other hand the government’ s definition of development is industrialization which follows the policy of moving tribal people out of their land and expose the rich subterranean territories. Masturiya also exposes the exploitation of th local people by landlords, zamindars and extortion of money from the poor as taxes.

Masturiya shifts the subject steadily from exploitation of the locals to the exploitation of the nation when he contextualizes the Revolt of 1857 and its heroic figures from all over India. e presents the big picture of the revolt all over India and depicts how it was led by Veernarayan Singh at Chhattisgarh who took the command of the state :

Foonkin sankh san santawan ma

In the year 1857 they blew the conch

Kaapin bairi ge ghabray

The enemies were frightened

Sah Bahadur Laxmibai auw

It was Shah, Bahadur, Laxmibai and

Nana Tope Surinder Sahay

Nana Sahib, Tatya Tope, Surinder and Sahay

Mandsaur le Khan Firoza

From Mandsaur it was Khan Firoza

Gwalior k Baija Rani

From Gwalior it was Baija Rani

Saheed Kunwarsingh Aarawaale

Shaheed Kunwarsingh from Aara

Maanpur k mardan baaghi

And Mardan Baagi from Maanpur

Uhi samay ma Chhattisgarh k

At that time only from Chhattisgarh

Garajis Veernarayan Singh

Veernarayan Singh roared

Ramrai k baghwa beta

The lion cub of Ramrai

Sonakhan dharti k dheer

Was the brave heart of Sonakhan

Masturiya portrays Veernarayan Singh and his string contribution in the revolt of 1857 when the central state also led the movement. He discusses the drought of year 1857 when the villages starved and numerous people died. He reflects the intensity of the draught and famine by using the phrase “even root cultivations were not there to eat”. The severe famine even made the birds and animals also migrate. At this time the business class people had their coffers full of money and Godowns full of grains. In order to help the poor Veernarayan Singh nearly begged before the landlords to give him grains on credit so as to help the poor and needy. The rich and selfish landlords refused to help Veernarayan, in turn of which, he robbed off the entire grain and distributed evenly among all villagers. The business class and the feudal lords complained the British officials who immediately got Veernarayan arrested and later brought to Raipur for keeping imprisoned. However Veernarayan did not give up before the British and absconded from the jail with the help of one friend. After coming out Veernarayan was again reminded of his liability towards his people who called him his “Mukhiya”.

Mor jinagi mor parja khatir

My life is meant for my people

je mola mukhiya maane he

Who have regarded me as their chief

Jameendar main Sonakhan k

I am the landlord of Sonakhan

Sona upje mor maati ma

Gold is the harvest of my land

Jihan k bhuindhar bhookh marat he

But now the landowners here are starving

Aag barai mor chhati ma

Due to this my heart is on fire

The above lines reflect Veernarayan Singh’s belongingness towards his place and people and a strong sense of determination to resolve their problems during the famine. The idea of crops bringing prosperity in the region has been strongly connected with the term ‘golden harvest’ in which the excellent soil quality is responsible for profitable harvest. When Veernarayan saw his people starving he neither begged nor asked for the charity but asked to get grains on credit from the feudal lords who blatantly rejected his idea. An oldest adivasi resident of Sonakhan, Charan Singh speaks on Veernarayan’s self respect and self esteem staying intact even in the moments of crisis-

“He did not seek charity,” says Charan Singh, the oldest Adivasi resident in this largely tribal village.He asked the merchants and lords to open the godowns and let the poor eat.” Like in so many famines, the granaries were full. “And he said that when the first crop came, people would replace the grain they were given. When they refused, he led the poor to seize and distribute the grain.” The struggle that followed spread across the region as the tribals took on their oppressors.” (‘Sonakhan: When Veernarayan died twice, PARI, People’s Archive of Rural India, August 14, 2015)

While Veernarayan was captured in Sonakhan, it was due to the betrayal of his own brother in law who joined hands with General Smith who was instructed not to leave even a single stone unturned in capturing Veernarayan. General Smith called more forces from Bilaspur, Bilaigarh and Bhatgaon, still he could not show down the soaring high spirits of Veernarayan, who despite his starving people did not surrender. He said that dying merely by starvation is a coward’s death, but fighting empty stomach and embracing death is an act of bravery , and through these words he inspired his people to fight against General Smith.

Ghoda Kareliya ma chadhe Narayan

Mounting on his horse

Gali gali kinjre alakh jagaye

Narayan explored every corner of the village to kindle the rebel fire

Bhookh ma to jeev tadpat jaahi

Our soul is restless due to hunger

Ran joojh maro swarag mil jaye

Its better to fight and die with a purpose, so that you go to heaven

Anyayi k anyay sahne

To suffer the exploitation of an exploiter

sab le bade hove anyay

Is also biggest exploitation

kaat k paapi la khud kat jave

its better to kill the sinner and sacrifice one’s life

Dharam karam Geeta gun gaye

As of this kind of death is even praised in the Bhagwadgita

Bina Suraji ka jingani

A life without Swaraj

Murda he tan mare pran

The body is dead with a dead soul

Bina maan sabhimaan k mankhe

Without self respect and self esteem

Gaay garu aud kukur samman

A human is no less than cattle and stray dogs

The rhyme scheme ab, ab is followed throughout the poem in the quatrains, with imageries and similes abounding in the poem. The comparison of a human without Suraaj (Swaraj) self esteem and self respect is just like a body without soul that has no mission, no objective of the life incapable of doing anything for his people. Similarly a human being’s identity is reduced to cattle who with her mentality are always good followers but worst leaders as they lack the decisive power and will power to take initiatives in life. The preaching of Verrnarayn and his ethics have been beautifully interwoven in the Chhattisgarhi language that is highly motivating and inspiring patriotism. The powerful diction of Masturiya’s poetic style arouses strong patriotic feelings in one’s heart and makes an individual realize the true worth and meaning of his birth as a human on this planet. This thought is quite evident in the coming lines when he rebukes his people on humanity and being a superior animal :

Dharam Dham ma Raj karat he

This land of Dharma is ruled by

Kayar kukur dhan lobhi

Coward dogs and greedy rogues

Murda kas jinagi jeetho

You all are like dead bodies

Dhikkar tunhar maanus yoni

Its a shame upon your life as a human

The lines express revolutionary and rebelling spirit of Masturiya against the injustice on the locals inflicted by the selfish moneylenders and feudal lords through the protesting tongue of Veernarayan Singh. Masturiya brings out the true essence of humanity and purpose of human life that is not meant just for taking birth and dying but idea is that even birth and death should have a noble purpose which can be none other than humanitarian outlook and noble actions. The aspects of self esteem, self reliance and self respect have been considered as the qualities distinguishing man from animals. A voice has been raised against herd mentality and following the footsteps with blind faith as it is capable of destroying a whole nation and generation. There is a muscular voice for awakening of the labours and peasants who must understand their worth and fight for their rights:

Jaag Kisanha, Jaag kamaiyya

Be Awake farmers, be awake workers and labourers

Haq bar lado maro jung ma

Fight for your rights and sacrifice your life in the rebellion

Laaj bachale apan kul ke

Save the honour of your clan

Rang matha man rang man ma

Colour your forehead and your thoughts with the colour of war

The pathetic and heart rendering scene of Veernarayan Singh after arrest and blown on the canon mouth brings tears into the eyes of every patriot who lives his nativity, his soil and his people. A mixture of strong pathos, passions and aggression is evident in the lines that convey the tragic demise of Veernarayan Singh. The soil of the land stands personified as a silent witness of Veernarayn’s martyrdom. The lines are quite moving infused with patriotic feelings and sacrificing one’s life for the sake of motherland with an undaunted spirit. The philosophy of karma has also been highlighted as even God can forgive but the motherland will never forgive the ones who betrayed Veernarayan and shook hands with the British. The deadly silence after the order of blowing Veernarayan on the canon mouth is heart breaking and makes the soul restless :

Taan k chhati khade Veersingh

Veersingh stood with his chest erected

Bedhadak dekh rahe muskaye

He had a smile on his face and remained unaffected

Order hot bhaye sannata

As the order was given for killing there was a deadly silence

Chhootis top garaj garjaye

The canon blew with a deep roar…

Mankhe sang gaddari karke

Those who cheat others

Maafi pa jahi beimaan

May be forgiven

Maati sang gaddari karhi

But those who cheat and betray the motherland

Ola nai bakse bhagwan

Will never be spared even by God

These valuable words of Masturiya on karma are significant for all times as betrayal towards the motherland is an unforgiving sin. The martyrdom of Veernarayan Singh was exceptional as he embraced death with a smiling face at the same time with a guilt in his heart that his own people betrayed him for whom he lived his whole life and sacrificed everything.

Hunger is still an issue in Sonakhan which is not a goldmine as the name suggests. One of the tribal Shyamsunder Kanwar says that every year the population is decreasing on account of migration leading to a drop in the literacy drive for the region. Still the land is under the control of those forces which were strongly opposed by Veernarayan Singh, and which includes the merchant class, moneylenders and feudal elements. The politics of the protest which was strongly favoured by Veernarayan has lost with receding times and unfortunately the politics of patronage has won. He was an authentic folk hero who was demolished by the embrace of the elite, but the issues he raised are still alive.

Beer narayan k sapna ha

The dream of Veernarayan

Turat havae adhoora he

Is still broken and unfulfilled

Dhadhke chhati Chhattisgarh k

The chest of Chhattisgarh has still fire buried in its heart

Dukh k badhti poora he

Due to the increasing sorrow

Are naag tai kaat nahi to

Hey Naga, you don’t sting

Jee bhar k fufkaar to re

But at least make hissing sound

Arre baagh tai marr nahi ta

Hey Tiger! do not kill

Garaj garaj dhutakkar to re

But at least you roar loudly

Ek na ek din e mati k

One day again the pain of this land

peera rar machahi re

will again give rise to rebellion

Nari katahi bairi man k

The nerves of the exploiters will be cut

Nawa Suruj phir aahi re

And a new sun will rise again

In the concluding lines of the poetry Masturiya comments upon the helplessness of the people as an intentional passivity whose fire needs to be kindled with changing times and in this context he says indirectly that ‘ Hey Naga, do not sting but at least hiss, hey tiger, do not kill but at least roar’ which reflects the idea that the fire of rebellion which is still buried in the heart of Sonakhan should not extinguish, but stay alive with time, even if it does not show itself it must be retained that “Sonakhan was the place where Shaheed Veernarayan Singh was born”. Though the dreams of Veernarayan Singh are unaccomplished till date , but the fire of Sonakhan will up rise one day and will rebel with all might against the injustice done to the innocent locals who are still the victims of the feudal and merchant class, who still are migrating with a starved face and empty stomach. Standing on the threshold of the past and present the poet is still hopeful for better days to come and the rising of a ‘Nawa Suruj’ or a new sun bringing a better future.


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