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Surya Sen: Freedom Fighter Whose Hindutva Is Rarely Recalled

Masterda Surya Sen spent his time in prison, waiting for 11 months to be hanged, in the company of Srimadbhagavadgita, Chandi, the Mahabharata and Rabindranath Thakur's Chayanika, musing about the philosophies in the books

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Mausumi Dasgupta
Mausumi Dasgupta
Literary affairs writer, consultant for overseas education, history and economics enthusiast

In the prison, Masterda Surya Sen had four books as companions: The Gita, Chandi, Mahabharata and Rabindranath Thakur’s Chayanika. He used to get up very early in the morning and sing Brahma Sangeet or recite hymns. He used to recite Gita in the morning and read the Mahabharata in the afternoon.

The Mahabharata had been the favourite epic of Masterda since his childhood, Karmayogi Krishna his absolute refuge. Krishna, to him, was not just one of the many characters in the Mahabharata. To Surya Sen, Krishna was the transcendental character; Krishna was the Mahabharata.

The literary, philosophical and humanistic values ​​of the Mahabharata merged into one of the deepest meanings — Krishna embodied verily the Mahabharata. Protecting man and the world from destruction was the ultimate human religion, Masterda would say. But if the selfish lust corrupts this religion, humiliates it, and does not prevent it from the path of destruction, then the great man descends in the form of Mahakala. Then there is no mercy, no forgiveness. All the people of the world must then atone for the sins of the people. This was how Surya Sen saw the epic.

This is the principle of human civilisation, Masterda said.

According to his letters, Surya Sen had asked for the books of Jaldhar Sen, Prabhatkumar Mukherjee and Anurupa Devi too. While the Hindu scriptures were what he meditated upon, scheduled as he was to be hanged to death after 11 months in prison, he would at times need other means to kill time.

The British did not allow his family to meet him while Surya Sen was in prison. In fact, no Indian saw his body even after the hanging. Surya Sen was hanged on 11 January 1934.

In the last days of his life, he sometimes thought of death. In a letter, Surya Sen wrote, “How beautifully philosophers and poets have portrayed the thing of death.”

In the Gita, Krishna says that just as man gives up old clothes and takes new ones, so the soul leaves old body and takes on a new one. He who sees with the eyes of knowledge that in the middle of the body chariot, holding the rein, He directs the body with conscience and intellect, giving advice, instruction and knowledge to the living soul Arjuna, is Krishna, the paramatma, Surya Sen said. This, to the freedom fighter, was the philosophy of the Gita.

In the mind of the devotee for the attainment of self-realisation, a question arises that it is from the mouth of the mind as the living soul of Arjuna or body, and that the solution that is required for the attainment of self-realisation is emanated from the mouth of Krishna, the paramatma. Krishna in the form of Paramatma, the giver of conscience or knowledge, is the guru of the world, Surya Sen held.

Masterda would also drown himself in the works of Thakur (Tagore). The poet says, “মরণ রে, তুহুঁ মম শ্যাম সমান (O death, you are my Krishna)”. “Do people think death is a scary thing because they can’t read it and understand it?” Surya Sen wondered in the prison cell.

In a letter written towards the end of his life, Surya Sen said, despising all physical pain, “One evening, four or five days ago, I stared at the sky with one eye. All the blue sky was filled with pure light. Numerous stars were blooming all over the sky like beautiful flowers.”

“The trees silently seemed to sink into this sheer beauty of nature. I remembered the words of the One who created this universe, who opened the treasures of the eternal beauty of nature for our enjoyment… Death is knocking at my door. My mind is running to the infinite,” Masterda mused.

“What have I left for you in this joyous, sacred and important moment? There is only one thing, my dream, the dream of an independent India,” the would-be martyr wrote.

Today is 22 March, Surya Sen’s birth anniversary. This piece is to remember Masterda with respect.

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