Baba Kanshi Ram (11 July 1882 – 15 October 1943) was an Indian poet and activist for independence born in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
At the age of seven, he married Sarasvati Devi who, at that time, was just five years old. He continued his studies in the local village. Soon, he lost both of his parents, and at the age of thirteen, relocated to Lahore in search of work.
It was here that he first met many revolutionary activists, including Lala Lajpat Rai, Lala Hardayal, Sardar Ajit Singh and Maulavi Barkatullah.
Kangra Valley was hit by a Kangra earthquake in 1905. Kanshi Ram took an active part in a team led by Lala Lajpat Rai. Later, in 1911, attended the Delhi Durbar.
The turning point for him came in 1919, when the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre occurred, while he was in Amritsar. After this incident, he returned home to Kangra and started spreading Mahatma Gandhi’s message through his poetry and songs in the Pahari languages. He was first arrested on 5 May 1920 and spent the following two years in Dharamshala 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 was arrested 11 times and spent nine years in various jails. He continued writing poetry against the British administration in jail.
Bharat Maan jo azad karane tayeen
Maavaan de putra chade Fansiya
Hanse-Hansde azadi ne nare laee …
The title Pahari Gandhi was given to him by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at a rally in Hoshiarpur in 1937.
The death sentences handed out to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in 1931 had a great impact on him. He vowed to wear black clothes until India achieved its independence. He adhered to his vow until he died on 15 October 1943 and came to be known affectionately as the Siahposh General (General in Black).
Baba Kanshi Ram used his poetry to protest against the British Raj. His verses landed him in jail numerous times.
An anthology of 500 of his poems, eight short stories and a novelette, covering a number of subjects, including metaphysics, mysticism, romance and hardships of farmers in Himachal Pradesh.
Some of his 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 the Hungry and Poor”)
Na kar gallan munuan kanne jaane diyan (“Oh 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, who was herself called the Nightingale of India.