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SATVANT KAUR

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SATVANT KAUR, whose full title is Snmatf Satvant Kaur di Jivan Vithia, is a historical romance by Bhai Vir Singh. Its first part was published in 1900 and the second in 1927. In later editions, both parts were combined in a single volume. The plot has been set against the backdrop of the Afghan invasions of the Punjab in the eighteenth century. With Ahmad Shah Durrani`s fourth raid in 1756 is linked the story of the heroic Sikh girl, Satvant Kaur, who, having been abducted to Kabul, undergoes untold tribulation but remains stread fast in her devotion to her religious faith.

Her days in the Afghan capital are full of hair raising adventure. She is purchased from her abductor by another Afghan noble. In this family, she wins the affection of the wife (Fatima) and her little son and is thus able to evade the Afghan. She lays Fatima under her debt by dramatically saving her life one day from the schemes of her drunken husband. He himself is committed to jail for a crime and is sentenced to death by royal fiat. Satvant Kaur further obliges her mistress by saving her husband`s life by a clever ruse. Disguised as Fatima, she goes in a palanquin to see the Afghan in the prison. She sends him out in the palanquin and herself stays behind in his place.

The ruse is discovered the following day when the prisoner is led out for execution. Satvant Kaur is granted a reprieve. When the story reaches the ears of the Amir (presumably, Ahmad Shah Durrani), he is deeply impressed by her daring. On her request, he pardons the nobleman, but, instead of sending her back to her native village of Khanna, in India, he insists on admitting her into the harem as one of his begums. A fire in the building where she is detained gives her the chance to make good her escape. She is afforded willing and secret refuge in Fatima`s house. Through an old tunnel from that house she establishes communication with a Hindu family in the city.

She finally sets out for the Punjab disguised as a boy with a party led by an elder of the family, called Ladha Singh. The caravan is stopped by an Afghan squad on search for a royal diamond missing from the treasury. The leader of the squad Agha Khan is, in reality, the son of a Sikh sardar abducted as a child, with his mother and a maid, during Nadir Shah`s invasion of India.

The mother was beheaded on refusing to marry the trooper. The child grew up as his adopted son, but discovered the secret through the old maidservant of the family. He now separates himself from the Afghan troops and travels on to India with Satvant Kaur Jasvant Singh, in boy`s dress and the maidservant. They all reach Amritsar safely. Agha Khan returns to the faith of his forbears and becomes Alamba Singh. He vows himself to fighting for the honour of the Khalsa. This also is Satvant Kaur`s ambition. The maid is initiated as Tej Kaur and takes the same pledge. Agha Khan, now Alamba Singh, traces his sister. Satvant Kaur visits her parents at Khanna.

Fatima journeys to the Punjab in search other husband who has been wounded in another of Ahmad Shah`s campaigns against the Sikhs and arrested. She meets Satvant Kaur, receives the rites of the Khalsa and becomes her comrade in faith and in arms. Unlike Sundan and Bijay Singh, the plot of Satvant Kaur is full of digressions into history. The chapters describing the history of Peshawar, Bodhi Vihars and withdrawal of Marathas have no relevance to the history of the period. The story is strewn with miraculous and extraordinary elements. The style throughout is rhetorical. The plot and the characters have been devised to bring out the chivalry of the Sikh tradition and the ethical excellence of the Sikh faith.

References :

1. Harbans Singh, Bhai Vir Singh. Delhi, 1972
2. Talib, Gurbachan Singh, and Attar Singh, eds., Bhai Vir Singh : Life, Time and Works. Chandigarh, 1973
3. Kohli, Surindar Singh, and Harnam Singh Shan, eds., Bhai Vir Singh, Jivan, Saman te Rachna. Chandigarh, 1973

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