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Archive for the ‘Marathi’ Category


Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Jyoti Lanjewar

Their inhuman atrocities have carved caves
In the rock of my heart
I must tread this forest with wary steps
Eyes fixed on the changing times
The tables have turned now
Protests spark
Now here
Now there.
I have been silent all these days
Listening to the voice of right and wrong
But now I will fan the flames
For human rights.
How did we ever get to this place
This land which was never mother to us?
Which never gave us even
The life of cats and dogs?
I hold their unpardonable sins as witness
And turn, here and now,
A rebel.


Translated from Marathi by Shanta Gokhale


Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Baban Londhe

On a plain so vast our eyes could not reach

they would make speeches to their hearts' content

and shout out novel slogans,

blow a breath of hope on our overtired limbs.

At times, to our shanty towns they would come,

careful not to rumple their ironed clothes

crossing our lanes and alleys,

jumping across streaming gutters

when they stopped beside our doors

we felt inexplicably moved.

Viewing our pitiable state they would say

'Truly, this needs a social economic cultural change,

the whole picture needs to be changed.'

Then we would sing

their songs

in sonorous full-throated tones.

Acting innocuous, they would eat

the marrow of our bones.

Days passed by.

Darkness pressed from all sides,

We battled against sunshine and rain

And like fools awaiting salvation

we have stood our ground

and are sunk to the neck in mire.

But now they say plans are worked out

for our salvation

–covering our wasted tombs

in a new shroud

What munificence!


Baban Londhe's Marathi poem 'Shroud' translated by Charudatta Bhagwat. Source: No Entry For The New Sun: Translations from Modern Marathi Poetry. Edited by Arjun Dangle

It is not binding on us to undertake this journey

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

It is not binding on us to undertake this journey

The ravished landscape, the settlements

of emaciated bodies

couldn't be the path of life, could it?

And are we to rest under this leafless tree?

Or quench a lifetime's thirst

in these dry riverbeds?

No, this ravishment would never be

our way of life.

The sun vomitting fire,

valleys gagged with the silence of ages,

the parched desert

and only our feet unshod

A road must be levelled out

smooth and metalled,

which is why I say

It is not binding on us to undertake this journey.

It's a flock of sheep which walks

along the metalled road and when time comes

returns mutely to the fold

And we understand.


Manohar Wakode's Marathi poem translated by Charudatta Bhagwat.

Source: No entry for the new sun. Translations from Modern Marathi Dalit poetry. Edited by Arjun Dangle

Rise to learn and Act

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

~Savitribai Phule


Weak and oppressed! Rise my brother

Come out of living in slavery.  

Manu-follower Peshwas are dead and gone

Manu’s the one who barred us from education.

Givers of knowledge– the English have come

Learn, you’ve had no chance in a millennium.

We’ll teach our children and ourselves to learn

Receive knowledge, become wise to discern.

An upsurge of jealousy in my soul

Crying out for knowledge to be whole.

This festering wound, mark of caste

I’ll blot out from my life at last.

In Baliraja’s kingdom, let’s beware

Our glorious mast, unfurl and flare.

Let all say, “Misery go and kingdom come!”

Awake, arise and educate

Smash traditions-liberate!

We’ll come together and learn


Slumber not but blow the trumpet

O Brahman, dare not you upset.

Give a war cry, rise fast

Rise, to learn and act.


Sunil Sardar and Victor Paul have translated this poem along with four other poems for a chapter in a lovely book titled: A forgotten liberator: The life and struggles of Savitribai Phule. These poems were translated from M.G. Mali’s original Marathi collection Savitribai Phule Samagra Wangmaya.

Bodhi Tree (pimpalvrksa)

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Here is a settlement.

Houses with red-tiled roofs,

planned roads,

gardens and lawns.


It is a laboratory to mold people…

Minds are being forged

        in what sort of furnace?

Smiles on faces and poison in hearts,

no harmony between thought and action.

The same old customary drill is on.


Those calculating faces,

somewhat sophisticated,

are going to change their masks and come out

singing the arati of my welcome.


I am satisfied that

I have sown the seeds

But here they have already started the preparations

     for the resistance…

I am doubtful:

Will at least one seed sprout?

Bodhi tree…………..


Mina Gajbhiye's Marathi poem 'pimpalvrksa' translated by Shubhangi Apte and Slyvie Martinez with some changes by Eleanor Zelliot

About this poem, Eleanor Zelliot writes "seems to indicate the touching faith that the seed of Buddhism might possibly overcome the traditionalism and hypocrisy of Hinduism." 

Source: Images of women in Maharastrian Literature and Religion. Edited by Anne Feldhaus.

O Great Man (mahapurusa)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

O Great Man

Those who strewed thorns in your path

today offer you flowers

and sing your praises

— now this is really too much —


During the dark procession of time

you lit the flowers of light

but these imposters, these villians

crushed, extinguished those flowers.

Today those flowers have turned into a wildfire

and those villains are fanning that wildfire

— oh now this is too much–


Like an elephant ramming a gate

you pounded on the temple door

the stones of the temple shook.

Under the holy name of religion

they long ago enslaved the gods

Your honest painful claim

of the right to see the gods

was crushed, thrown out of the village.

Now they decorate the great tree

that sprouted on that spot

–now this is really too much–


It is clear that nature belongs to all

but these people bought that too.

Every drop of water in Chawdar Tank

was stamped with their name,

the alert watchman of this culture

guarded the imprisoned water.

They feared that your touch

would poison the water and

they anointed you with your blood

when you were dying of thirst.

And now they pour water

into the mouth of your stone effigy

–oh now this is really too much–


Hira Bansode's Marathi poem Mahapurusa was first published in Sakal in 1980. Source: Images of Maharastrian women in literature and religion. Edited by Anne Feldhaus.

To arrange words

Monday, October 24th, 2011

To arrange words
In some order
Is not the same thing
As the inner poise
That's poetry.

The truth of poetry
Is the truth
Of being.
It's an experience
Of truth.

No ornaments
A crucible.
Fire reveals
Only molten

Says Tuka
We are here
To reveal.
We do not waste


Sant Tukaram's poem translated by Dilip Chitre

Akkarmashi, an excerpt

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

…….. from author's note.

My mother is an untouchable, while my father is a high caste from one of the privileged classes of India. Mother lives in a hut, father lives in a mansion. Father is a landlord; mother, landless. I am akkarmashi  (half-caste). I am condemned, branded illegitimate. 

I regarded the immorality of my father and mother as a metaphor for rape. My father had privileges by virtue of his birth granted to him by the caste system. His relationship with my mother was respected by society, whereas my mother is untouchable and poor. Had she been born into the high caste or were she rich, would she have submitted to his appropriation of her? It is through the Dalit movement and Dalit literature that I understood that my mother was not an adulteress but a victim of a social system. I grow restless whenever I read about a rape in the newspaper. A violation anywhere in the country, I feel, is a violation of my mother.

I have put in words the life I have lived as an untouchable, as a half caste, and as an impoverished man. There is a Patil in every village who is also a landowner. He invariably has a whore. I have written this so that readers will learn the woes of the son of a whore. High-caste people look upon my community as untouchable, while my own community humiliated me, calling me 'akkarmashi'. This humiliation was like being stabbed over and over again. [….] 

……… The Outcaste

[….] Dada was the first son of the first wife of Dastagir Jamadar. Dada was married to a woman from Barhanpur, but they were childless, so his wife deserted him. Since then Dada has been living with Santamai. He has groomed me with great affection, as if I were his own child. Neither his religion nor my caste was a hinderance to us. Is it man who is a hinderance to religion or is it the other way around? Is the premise of religion greater than man's? Is religion made for man or man made for religion? Does man cause religion to degenerate, or is it religion that degenerates man? Can't man exist without religion and caste?


[…] Once, we had a guest and no money to pay even for his tea. Kashinath, the tea-stall owner was away. So we couldn't ask for credit. Old man Ghenappa who looked after the tea-stall in Kashinath's absence would not give us credit. We were in a fix and felt helpless. I sat in a corner like a barren hen trying to hatch an egg. Dada was waiting for a bus. Santamai's face looked like a cave discovered during excavation, while the guest sat like a refugee.


Source: The Outcaste Akkarmashi Sharankumar Limbale. Translated from Marathi by Santosh Bhoomkar 


Note: Sharankumar Limbale is the Regional Director (Pune Division) of the Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, Nashik. A well-known Dalit activist, writer, editor, and critic, he is the author of 24 books. 

Santosh Bhoomkar (Translator) Reader and Head, Department of English,and In-charge, Postgraduate Faculty of Arts, Shri Saraswati Bhuwan Arts and Commerce College, Aurangabad.

Mother (ai)

Sunday, May 8th, 2011


I have never seen you

Wearing one of those gold-bordered saris

With a gold necklace

With gold bangles

With fancy sandals

Mother! I have seen you

Burning the soles of your feet in the harsh summer sun

Hanging your little ones in a cradle on an acacia tree

Carrying barrels of tar

Working on a road construction crew…………


I have seen you

With a basket of earth on your head

Rags bound on your feet

Giving a sweaty kiss to the naked child

Who came tottering over to you

Working for your daily wage, working, working………


I have seen you

Turning back the tide of tears

Trying to ignore your stomach's growl

Suffering parched throat and lips

Building a dam on a lake………


I have seen you

For a dream of four mud walls

Stepping carefully, pregnant

On the scaffolding of a sky scraper

Carrying a hod of wet cement on your head………..


I have seen you

In evening, untying the end of your sari

For the coins to buy salt and oil,

Putting a five paise coin

On a little hand

Saying 'go eat candy'

Taking the little bundle from the cradle to your breast

Saying "Study, become an Ambedkar"

And let the baskets fall from my hands…………


I have seen you

Sitting in front of the stove

Burning your very bones

To make coarse bread and a little something

To feed everybody, but half-fed yourself

So there'd would a bit in the morning………..


I have seen you

Washing clothes and cleaning pots

In different households

Rejecting the scraps of food offered to you

With pride

Covering yourself with a sari

That had been mended so many times

Saying "Don't you have a mother or a sister?"

To anyone who looked at you with lust in his eyes……….


I have seen you

On a crowded street with a market basket on your head

Trying always to keep your head covered with the end of your sari

Chasing anyone who nudged you deliberately

With your sandal in your hand…………


I have seen you working until sunset

Piercing the darkness to turn toward home,

Then forcing from the door

That man who staggered in from the hooch hut……..


I have seen you

At the front of the Long March

The end of your sari tucked tightly at the waist

Shouting "Change the name"

Taking the blow of the police stick on your upraised hands

Going to jail with head held high………


I have seen you

Saying when your only son

Fell martyr to police bullets

"You died for Bhim, your death means something"

saying boldly to the police

"If I had two or three sons, I would be fortunate.

They would fight on."


I have seen you on your deathbed

Giving that money you earned

Rag-picking to the diksha bhumi

Saying with your dying breadth

"Live in unity……. fight for Baba………. don't forget him……….

And with your very last breadth

"Jai Bhim."

I have seen you……..


I have never seen you

Even wanting a new broad-bordered sari


Mother, I have seen you………..


Jyoti Lanjewar's Marathi poem ai translated by Sylvie Martinez, Rujita Pathre, S. K. Thorat, Vimal Thorat, and Eleanor Zelliot. Asmitadars, Divali Issue, 1981.


Source: Images of women in Maharashtrian Literature and Religion.

Sounds (be avaj)

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

What sounds are these?

Do fish in water weep

or waves sob?

We lost the way

but kept on, hoping

the way would end

but it's we who will end…

Look at the trees on the shore

lip to lip, whispering 

about us, but the birds

have closed their eyes

with the sun.

The sky garbed

in dark,

searching stars

heart swayed

by swaying waves

now aflame.

Let's plunge in 

and drown then.


Jyoti Lanjewar's poem 'be avaj' translated by Gauri Deshpande. Source: Stri Dalit Sahitya: The new voice of women poets. Images of women in Maharashtrian literature and religion. 

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