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Baba Kanshi Ram (11 July, 188215 October, 1943) was an Indian poet and independence activist from the Indianmarker state of Himachal Pradeshmarker.

Early life and family

Kanshi Ram got married at a very early age of seven to Sarasvati Devi who, at that time, was barely five. He went to the village school but could not study any further.

He lost his parents within a span of one year when he was barely 13 years old. He had to move to Lahoremarker in search of livelihood. It was here that he came in contact with many revolutionaries such as Lala Lajpat Rai, Lala Hardayal, Sardar Ajit Singh and Maulavi Barkatullah for the first time.

Independence campaign

Kangra Valley was hit by a Kangra earthquakemarker in 1905. Kanshi Ram took active part in a team led by Lala Lajpat Rai. He also attended the Delhi Durbar in 1911.

The turning point for him however came in 1919, when the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre happened. He was in Amritsar at that time. After this incident, he returned home to Kangra and started spreading Mahatma Gandhi's message through his poetry and songs in the pahari language. He was arrested for the first time on 5 May, 1920 for two years and lodged in the Dharamshalamarker jail along with Lala Lajpat Rai. He was released on 11 November, 1922.

He was again arrested while reciting self-composed poems at a gathering in Palampur. He spent nine years in various jails, after being arrested 11 times. He continued writing sensitive poetry in jail against the British administration.

The title Pahari Gandhi was given him by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at a rally in Hoshiarpurmarker in 1937. The title stuck with him thereafter.

The death sentences handed out to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in 1931 had great impact on him. He vowed to wear black clothes till India achieved its independence. He adhered to his vow until he died on 15 October, 1943 and came to be known affectionately the Siahposh General (General in Black).


Baba Kanshi Ram had great love for poetry in his native pahari language. He used his poetry to raise his voice against the British Raj. His verses landed him in jail more than once.

An anthology by him of 500 poems, eight short stories and a novelette, covering a number of subjects like metaphysics, mysticism, romance and hardships of farmers of Himachal.

Some of his famous poems are:

  • Angrez Sarkar Da Tigha Par Dhiare - The British Government is on her last legs
  • Smaj nee roya - Society, do not shed tears
  • Nikke, nikke mahnua jo dukh bara bhari - Great sorrows of small people
  • Ujari kangre des jana - Kangra will be destroyed
  • Mera suneha bhukhyan nangiyan yo - My call to hungry and poor
  • Na kar gallan munuan kanne jaane diyan - O lad, do not talk about going together
  • Kanshi ra suneha - Call from Kanshi

He was conferred the title of Bulbul-e-pahar (Nightingale of the hills) by Sarojini Naidu, herself called the Nightingale of India.


Further reading

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