In India, the first ever Call to Freedom was given by a mother. Her story is told in the Mahabharata.
Prince Sanjaya was young and inexperienced. When his father died, he became the king of Sauvira. The king of the neighbouring kingdom of Sindhu felt this was the right moment to attack Sauvira.
Sanjaya was terrified when he heard that the Sindhu army was marching towards his capital. Sanjaya’s mother, Vidula, urged him to lead his men and stop the rival king before he reached the gates of the Sauvira capital.
Enthused by his mother’s words, Sanjaya led his men out of the fort. The Sindhu King was surprised to see the Sauvira army approaching. He thought he would take the fort without opposition. Here was the young king himself leading his men!
The Sindhu King ordered his men to mount a fierce attack on the Sauvira forces. Horses galloped, swords clashed, arrows flew. Shaken by the furious attack, Sanjaya turned his horse and rode back to the fort.
When she saw the young king returning from the battle-field, Queen Mother Vidula ordered the guards to close the gates of the fort. Wounded in the battle, the young king was looking for words of consolation and compassion from his mother. But she showed him no sympathy. She urged him to get back to the battle field immediately.
“Abandon your fear. Rise, O coward!” Vidula cried out, standing on the fort ramparts. She reminded him that a warrior should be like an angry elephant destroying all evil-doers.
“Go, son,” said Vidula, “Go back to the battle field. You have only two choice. To defeat the enemy and return home a victor. Or go on fighting till you fall dead.”
Hearing these inspiring words, Sanjaya turned back and fell on his enemies. Such was his bravery that Sanjaya’s men were inspired to fight for their young king. With the tide turning against him, the Sindhu king fled with his men. Sanjaya came home a victor!
This story was told by Kunti to Krishna, and asked him to narrate it to her sons, the Pandavas. The Pandava princes were the rightful heirs of Hastinapur. But they were exiled from their kingdom for 13 years. At the end of thirteen years, their cousin Duryodhana refused to restore their kingdom. Kunti sent a message through Krishna to her eldest son, Yudhisthira, to fight for what was rightfully theirs.
Thus, Vidula’s call for freedom was echoed by another mother. The Pandavas emerged victorious and regained their kingdom.
Vidula’s call reverberated during India’s freedom struggle. When Bengal was partitioned by the British rulers in 1905, the country rose in protest. Aurobindo Ghosh recalled Vidula’s Call of Freedom. In his poem, “The Mother to her Son,” he used Vidula’s words to rouse India’s patriotic spirit. He asked his countrymen not to be intimidated by the might of the British rulers and fight for their rights.
‘Be a hero and deliverer,
raise us from this living death,’
sang Aurobindo —
‘Dare to die, O hero!’