Fear | Flash Post 398
Button, the current lockdown reminded me of the times my paternal grandmother, Surobala, tucked me and my younger sister in bed every night saying that the Bargis were on their way to get us if we didn’t fall asleep soon enough. These were the lines she recited:
Chhele ghumalo, paada judaloo, bargi elo deshe
Bulbulite dhaan kheyechhe, khaajna debo kishe?
Our children have gone to sleep and its quiet
Bargis are on their way, we say
Bulbuls have devoured the paddy
How can we pay our taxes?
Is this folklore or is there a real story behind it?
A real story.
You’re going to share it with us of course.
In 1741, the Maratha ruler of Nagpur, Raghoji Bhosle, started to pillage western Bengal with his soldiers to loot and cause havoc. Bengalis called these Marathas “Bargis” which means “light cavalry” soldiers. These swift hit-and-run guerilla tactics by the Bargis were used to great effect by Shivaji and, eventually, by the Marathas against the unfortunate residents of Bengal.
While the Bengali army tried its best and defeated the Marathas a few times when they fought head-on, the Maratha cavalry was far more experienced, teasing the slow-moving cavalry of Bengal’s ruler, Nawab Alivardi Khan. In the
10 years that they plundered Bengal, more than 4 lakh Bengalis were killed not to mention human hardship and economic deprivation crippling merchants with losses and extractions. So great was the terror of the Bargis that, in a Gabbar-esque twist, lullabies were composed in which mothers would use the fear of the Bargi to get their children to go to sleep. Some poems penned during that time, are popular amongst Bengalis till this day like the one above.
You haven’t told us a story like this one.
After a decade of pillage, the Marathas eventually stopped their raids after the harried Nawab accepted defeat and handed over Orissa to Raghoji Bhosle.
Any interesting fact to wind up this story?
Road names usually tell a story. And Calcutta with its history, even more so. One of those is curiously named Marhatta Ditch Lane in Baghbazar in North Calcutta. The lane refers to an actual ditch built in the 1740s along what was then the northern extremity of Calcutta. It’s purpose? To stop the marauding Marathas from pillaging Bengal. Eventually the ditch was filled up and made into what is now Upper Circular Road.
So where’s the connection between COVID 19 and the Bargis?