Hey gobind, Hey gopaal at Gallipoli in the trenches

Indian soldiers fought along with Otago battalions from New Zealand during World War I. During Vaisakhi and on other days when blood, bullets, death and injury were raining, Indian soldiers would bravely celebrate their festivals using a tin can as a drum. According to two historians Harchand Singh Bedi and Harprabhjeet Singh Bedi of SBS (Australia’s state broadcasting services), Indian soldiers will have their ‘Tamashas’ as well as sing Bhajans to keep their spirits high.

During these wars, many Indian soldiers limbs had to amputated as their feet were in knee deep freezing water at the base of the trench in the rains. The only choice they had was to stay down or to get their head blown off by an enemy sniper if they try to stand in the trench.

Indian forces participated in the world war with soldiers drawn from Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Quetta, Sialkot, Dera Imail khan, Meerut, Poona, Lucknow, Secundrabad, Naseerabad, Jabalpur, Erinpura, Marwar etc.

When death was staring at them, they would sing the Shabad composed by Guru Arjun Dev Ji to relieve their pain with an affirmative prayer to the Creative (Gobind) force and the Nurturing (Gopaal) force of the universe for support and help.  

hey gobind, hey gopaal , hey dayaal laal. 

paraan naath anaath sakhay deen darad nivaar. 

he samrath agam pooran mohi mayaa dhaar. 

 andh koop mahaa bhayaan Naanak paar utaar’.  

Translated: Preserver of the World, O Sustainer of the World, O Dear Merciful Beloved.

You are the Master of the breath of life, the Companion of the lost and forsaken, remove me from this Misery

O All-powerful, unimaginable, please shower me with Your Compassion.

Please, carry me across this terrible, deep dark pit of despair to the other side. 

Thanks to these two journalists, the story of these impromptu kirtan and other forms of music have come alive for us to hear and to feel their feelings almost a century later. Indian contribution to two great European wars which spread to the entire world had been largely forgotten but as after 70 years of Independence, India is regaining its soul and its pride, sacrifice of Indian soldiers is being rediscovered.

What a wonderful article. It brings home the conditions and the spirit of the soldiers and the help of their faith in keeping themselves together. Their article published by SBS can be read here.

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