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Cool Bihari: Tribute to Dashrath Manjhi

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Tribute to Dashrath Manjhi

Dashrath Manjhi the man who moved mountains and made this metaphor a reality died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi on Friday evening. He was suffering from cancer of gall bladder.

His body is being brought to Gaya by Purashottam Express on Saturday. Condoling the death of Manjhi, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced State funeral for the ‘mountain man’. The last rites will be performed either at Gaya or village.

Dashrath Manjhi's claim to fame has been the herculean task of single handedly carving a 360-ft long, 25-ft high and 30-ft wide road by cutting a mountain for 22 years.

The courage and will of legendary Dashrath Manjhi is one of those rare real life incidents which will continue to inspire mankind for ages to come. Our man from Gaya had the fortitude and conviction to move mountains and he made it happen by his sheer perseverance and faith is his efforts to move the mountain. He is an inspiration for all us and just when you feel chips are down and the road ahead seems insurmountable, put yourself in his shoes and imagines the courage it would take to move a mountain.

He may have died but his deeds will always be remembered and will inspire others to think and dare to achieve the impossible. His name and deeds exemplifies that human conviction and determination knows no boundaries and if we dare to dream nothing’s impossible. Tribute to the legend and the great soul from Bihar.

The Gauravshali Bihar book was dedicated to Dashrath Manjhi and T V Sinha has done a great translation of the chapter on Dasrath Manjhi which was written by Uday Narain Choudhary.

Dasrath Manjhi – A symbol of Bihari resilience

His eyes were moist with enchantment as he stood there watching the road through the pass without batting his eyelid. Today his resolve had borne fruit. His resolve could only be compared with that of the legendary Bhagirath who chiselled the mighty Himalayas to bring the holy Ganges to earth. Then he looked at his palms and started to ruminate. For the last twenty two years, he had been chiselling away at the mountain single-handedly and today his effort had borne fruit. Then in a flash his tears of happiness became those of sorrow and started to fall on the rocks in a stream. His mood turned sombre as he remembered his departed wife. It was her suffering that had made him take this seemingly impossible task of creating a path through the mountain all by himself. It was she who was his inspiration for achieving the impossible task. Alas she had passed away before the task could be completed. Perhaps this is what HE had willed.

Then the stream of tears came to an abrupt halt. The weight of sorrow on his heart lifted slowly and he started to smile to himself. So what if his wife was not there to savour this moment. His village folks would now traverse 80 km less to reach the town through his path. It was true that he had taken up this Herculean task by seeing the shadow of helplessness on his dear wife's face, but then wasn't he already feeling impatient at the sufferings of his people? The path had to be made and he had made it.

He jolted himself to return to the real world from his dream world and started to walk to the point where he had started his chiselling. His joy knew no bounds as he traversed through the rocky path that he had created alone. This great soul was Dasrath Manjhi, a resident of the 25 house hamlet of Gehlaur in the Gaya district of Bihar. His is a name in the tradition of the great saint Kabir who was also illiterate like Dasrath Manjhi and had a great desire to break the shackles of sufferings for the masses.

One day a thirsty Manjhi was impatiently waiting for his wife to fetch him water from the other side of the mountain. The unforgiving summer of Gaya had parched his throat dry as the sun beat down mercilessly and he anxiously waited for her to fetch the life giving water. She had taken longer than usual. Then he saw the silhouette of his wife in the distance, coming back empty handed. He asked in a tone of hopelessness mixed with surprise "Why are you coming back empty handed? What happened to the earthen vessel?"

Wife could barely control herself as she replied with sorrow written all over her face that she could not fetch water for him as she slipped and fell down. In the process, the earthen pot broke and she had to return empty handed. She could neither fetch water for him to quench his thirst, nor could she save the pot itself. He saw the grief and helplessness on his wife's face. Guilt ridden helplessness was streaming out in the form of tears from her eyes. This image got etched on his mental screen.

Dashrath Manjhi started to contemplate: My god this hill is standing like a mountain in the path of my people for generations. This is coming in the way between our thirst and water. It has to be removed. He kept thinking for days on end. His manliness got aroused and one day he decided to cut it out of the way. He took a vow that he would not sit idle till he had cut a path through the mountain. He took the chisel and the hammer in his hand and started his expedition. And thus started the resolve to capture the mountain – the mountain of Gilhaur in Gaya district.

Some people would ridicule him. Some would look with utter amazement at his gargantuan effort to chisel the mountain away. But he was not concerned by either praise or ridicule. He just kept at his work chiselling the mountain alone. He even shifted his hut near the mountain so that he need not waste his time in moving back and forth.

After twenty two long years of unbroken effort, he had managed to dig a pathway – fifteen to twenty feet broad and an amazing three hundred and sixty feet long. And this path would reduce the distance with the nearest town by 80 kilometres. The villagers would not have to go around the mountain to reach Wazirgunj again.

This is not the only instance of the steely resolve of Dasrath Manjhi. He once decided to go to Delhi. He did not have enough money to undertake the journey. So he decided to walk all the way, a distance of over one thousand kilometres! During this unique journey, he took the signature of the station masters of the railway stations along the way in his diary.

This man of single minded determination wished to have a hospital opened at his village on a five acre plot. When he met the Chief Minister of the state Mr Nitish Kumar, Nitish felt so overwhelmed that he got up from his chair and asked Dasrath Manjhi to sit there.

As the old saying goes, a man is known by his deed. Indeed the illiterate Dalit from Gilhaur has shown his sublime character by his steely resolve and his determination to bring development to his impoverished people. The district administration honoured him with a special award.

Post script: The last few days of Dasrath Manjhi was spent fighting cancer. He passed away on August 18 at the age of 80 years. He was given a state burial by the Government of Bihar.
Translation by: Thakur Vikas Sinha

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May he rest in peace ...

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