Sarojini Naidu is not only an Indian poet, but also a freedom fighter. Thus, through this poem ‘The Gift of India‘, Sarojini Naidu shows her tribute to the Indian sons who have fought and sacrificed their lives in the word war I. The selfless sacrifices of Indian soldiers for the western agitation, and the advantages that foreign countries have reaped from India are mentioned in this poem.
Before getting into the poem every reader should know the history of India’s participation in 1st World War. Without prior historical knowledge you can’t even know what the poem says. We can learn it a little.
World War I and Indian Army
Indian soldiers of WW1 were forgotten by the people, There is a history of broken promise for India by the British rule. Many people don’t know about it. But this was the vital important to the war effort.
At the time The WW1 were broken the India was under the British rule. For the war British raised money, man power, large supply of food and ammunition from India. The money was raised collected both by British taxation of Indians and from the nominally autonomous princely states.
In return of these resources and the manpower, British had promised to deliver freedom to India as the war ends. Thus over 1 million military troops from India were sent to overseas to fight for the British in World War I. of which at least 74,187 Indian soldiers were died and many of others were deeply injured.
Finally when they won the war the promise they had made with India was broken. India has been cheated!
The Gift of India can be regarded as a reminder to foreign allied forces to point out the Indian contribution over their victory.
The Gift of India: Stanza-wise explanation
Is there ought you need that my hands withhold,
the sabers of doom.
The poem The Gift of India starts with a question from The Mother India herself, is there anything left in my hands? This interrogating line of the poem points out how deep the Western allied forces has exploited India’s priceless resources. India was so rich by Gold, Cotton, Spices and grains. These rich resources were flung to the East and West. “torn from my breast”. As a self resource country, The Mother India felt the allied forces torn priceless treasures from her breast.
And yielded the sons of my stricken womb
To the drum-beats of duty, the sabers of doom.
These lines point out the way Westerners did to The Mother India. British ruling made sons of Mother India to obey their rules and orders. Indian sons were sent to (the drum-beats of duty) fight in war. The term “Sabers of doom” is used to illustrate the whole war atmosphere there and the devastation in it’s wake.
Gathered like pearls in their alien graves
On the blood-brown meadows of Flanders and France.
In the 2nd stanza, Poetess writes about the fallen soldiers in foreign lands. More than 1 million Indian soldiers from Britain’s colonial empire had served the British Army in the World War I and around 75,000 of them were died. The mother India laments the loss of soldiers. They are now laying buried in foreign lands just like pearls in their shells. Some of them sleep by the the Persian Sea, and some of them are in Egyptian sands scattered like shells in banks.
They lie with pale brows and brave, broken hands – This shows the depth of devastation. The soldiers were brave, now they lie with broken hands, with pale brows.
Poetess compares the soldiers’ body with cut down flower petals by chance. Their bodies are scattered like cut down blossoms on blood-brown meadows of Flanders & France. The word ‘Blood-brown’ shows the land had witnessed such a bloodshed to turn the land color to ‘blood-brown’.
Can ye measure the grief of the tears I weep
Of the torn red banners of Victory?
The Mother India, rhetorically questions the westerners that if they can measure grief of tears she weeps and understand the sadness she feels when she watches the war atmosphere.
At the same time she asks the western forces if they can measure the pride of Indian Mother on her sons in spite of her despair. The warring nations can’t understand the small hopes that comfort these mothers from pain by praying for their sons’ safety.
Then the speaker again asks if they can see the glorious vision she sees. It’s the vision of a torn red banner of Victory. The banner turned red by bloodshed. Though we see the banner of victory, moreover it has a thousand bloodshed stories to share. And the India was cheated as the Britain break their promise of giving freedom to India. And it’s a sad Victory for the Mother India!
When the terror and tumult of hate shall cease
Remember the blood of my martyred sons!
The speaker tells, all the terror and tumult of the war shall come to an end. The whole situation will go back to peace. ” And life be refashioned on anvils of peace ” – Poetess uses this powerful literary weapon to tell a bunch of things in a couple of words that life will be refashioned to it’s normal stage as soon as the martyrs and as well as the whole sign of devastation were buried underneath the anvils. This anvils will hide all the terror and tumult underneath the earth, thus Sarojini Naidu calls it as the anvils of peace.
When the peace is recovered people shall offer their memorial thanks to the comrades who fought in the war with strong determination and fearless will. And people shall honor the deeds of those deathless ones.
The whole poem The Gift of India withholds an optimistic nature despite of the loss of Indian sons. The poem ends with a humble request from The Mother India to remember the blood martyred sons shedded.