Short Reviews: Punjab and the Raj & Martyr as Bridegroom

Writing sometime in 1935, four years after Bhagat Singh and his fellow comrades, Sukhdev and Rajguru, had been hanged to death, the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Sir Horace Williamson had this to say about the martyr:  “His photograph was on sale in every city and township and for a time rivalled in popularity even that of Mr Gandhi himself”.

However, if one was to read Ian Talbot’s Punjab and the Raj (1849-1947), it’d seem as though a person like Bhagat Singh never existed. There is virtually no mention of the revolutionary organizations in the Punjab or the celebrated conspiracy cases which spread political consciousness among the people of India. Where the book does score is in detailing the trajectory of the Unionist Party. For long, I was under the impression that the Unionist were nothing but the stooges of the British. No doubt they were, but they were also educationists, reformers, and good administrators and perhaps (and it is a big perhaps), had they remained in power, the partition of Punjab might not have taken place. Could history have been different? Could the map of India be different? So many years after 1947, these are merely academic questions but at one time these were lived realities.

But if Bhagat Singh is a non-existent figure in Talbot’s book, he is the subject of research in Iswar Dayal Gaur’s Martyr as Bridegroom: A Folk Representation of Bhagat Singh. The writer, an academician, places Bhagat Singh in the concept of the heroic tradition in Punjab and examines his continuing popularity as envisioned in the oral songs still sung in the Punjab. The book brings into focus the marginalised oral vernacular literature of Punjab as also the syncretic cultural way of the Punjab.


First Line: It is well known that the support of local elites was of crucial importance to colonial control in Asia and Africa.

Title: Punjab and the Raj (1849-1947)

Author: Ian Talbot

Publication Details: ND: Manohar, 1988

First Published: 1988

Pages: 258

Source: OTS since 2010

Other books read of the same author: None


First Line: Notwithstanding the fact that the agenda of class revolution has been relegated to the background, the discourse on communism has drifted on to the question of communalism and communitarianism and the fervour of nationalism ignited by the anticolonial struggle has frozen to annual rituals and celebrations, Bhagat Singh still survives in theatre, celluloid and print media, particularly in Punjabi poetry and plays.

Title: Martyr as Bridegroom: A Folk Representation of Bhagat Singh

Author: Ishwar Dayal Gaur

Publication Details: ND: Anthem Press, 2008

First Published: 2008

Pages: 198

Source: CRL [V2: 51y7NO7 P8]

Other books read of the same author: None

4 thoughts on “Short Reviews: Punjab and the Raj & Martyr as Bridegroom

  1. Neeru – How interesting to get two perspectives on the same part of history! In my opinion, that's the best way to really understand a person or event from history – read about it from different points of view.


  2. Trust you to go through even this post which I am sure is not of much interest to those who have no idea about India's history. Thank you so much and very true. The different perspectives make the past an extremely contested space.


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