Hindi students celebrate at La Trobe

To mark the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Gandhi on 2 October, La Trobe Hindi students spent the week reading Gandhi's works, presenting on his life and times, and learning pre independence era folk-songs.

Students shared what they had learned over some masala chai.  They had created their own images, which were shared on the class website, featuring Mahatma Gandhi's quotations and are shown here.

They read a famous section of Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography (in Hindi) that details the discrimination he faced when working as a lawyer in South Africa. Gandhi vividly describes how these experiences led him to take up causes of basic equality and then India's Independence.

They learned a song from the field collection of Hindi lecturer, Dr Ian Woolford. The song's refrain is jai bolo mahātmā gāndhī kā, (Shout victory to Mahatma Gandhi). A group of women sang this at a wedding Ian attended in a village in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

"My beloved Dhanshyam is in jail," they sang. "My friend, please tell me the way to the jail." This is a common theme in Indian poetic traditions, the theme of love in separation. Often in love-themed songs, the husband or beloved has left, perhaps for work in a far-off place. His wife is left alone, and she sings of her sorrow. With its reference to Gandhi and the jailed hero, this particular song likely has origins in the 1920s, when many men in eastern UP were jailed by colonial authorities.

After listening to their performance, the students sang the song themselves:

एक छोटी चवन्नी चांदी का
जय बोलो महात्मा गांधी का
हमतो जिवनाँ बनाये धनश्याम के लिए
उतो जेवन वाला जेहल में
जड़ा जेहल का रास्ता बता दो सखी
मेरा बीर बहादुर जेहल में
एक छोटी चवन्नी च का
जय बोलो महात्मा गांधी का

One small silver four anna coin
Shout Victory to Mahatma Gandhi
I prepared food for my sweetheat, Dhanshyam
But that eating one is in jail
Friend please tell me the way to the jail
My brave one is in jail
One small silver four anna coin
Shout Victory to Mahatma Gandhi ….

The song has many verses. She pours water for her beloved, but her drinking one is in jail. She prepares betal leaf for him, but her chewing one is in jail. Finally she prepares a bed for him, but her sleeping one is in jail.

An excerpt of Ian's original recording of the song is available here

Images created by La Trobe University Hindi students:

  • Hannah Watson - "Where there is love, there is life"
  • Kathryn Roddis - "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"
  • Margaret Swan - adaptation of a photo of the board taken during class

Find an expert

Search our experts database.