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Archive for the ‘Marathi’ Category

Letter to the Conference of Marathi Authors

Monday, April 11th, 2011

11 June 1885



Dear Sir,

I acknowledge the receipt of your letter regarding the proposed conference of the (Marathi) authors and I was delighted to receive your request that I should participate in this conference. But then esteemed sir, the conferences and the books of those who refuse to think of human rights generally, who do not concede them to others and going by their behavior are unlikely to concede them in future, cannot make sense to us, they cannot concur with what we are trying to say in our books. The reason is that their ancestors, with the view to taking revenge on us, included in their pseudo-religious texts an account of how they turned us into slaves and thus gave our enslavement religious authority. Their dated and decadent texts are witness to this phenomenon. These upper-caste authors who are forever miles away from reality and who can only make ceremonial and meaningless speeches in big meetings can never understand what we the shudras and atishudras have to suffer and what calamities we have to undergo. All this is not entirely unknown to the high-caste founders of various conferences and organizations. They pretend to be modernists as long as they are in the service of the British government. The moment they retire and claim their pensions, they get into their brahmanical touch-me-not attire, become caste chauvinists, incorrigible idol worshippers and, what is worse, treat the shudras and atishudras as lowly and contemptible. If they happen to be in their touch-me-not ritual dress they would not even touch paper notes as if that were a blasphemy! How can these Arya brahmans improve the lot of this unfortunate land? Be that as it may. We shudras do not any longer wish to trust these people and their specious and dishonest stories, for they cheat us and eat off our labor. In a word, we shudras have nothing to gain by mixing with such people. We must think about our situation and how we should relate to these upper-caste people. If these leaders of men are genuinely interested in unifying all people they must address themselves to the discovery of the root of eternal love of all human beings. Let them discover it and may be formulate and publish it as a text. Otherwise to turn a blind eye to the divisions among the human beings at this hour is simply futile. Of course, they are free to do what they like. I would nevertheless be thankful if my short letter is placed before your conference for consideration. In any case accept the salute of this old man.


Your friend

Jotirao. G. Phule.  


Note: The Conference of Marathi Authors was founded in 1878. Its second plenary session was organized by Justice M.G. Ranade on 24th May 1885. Ranade wrote to Phule requesting him to participate in the plenary session. Phule did not. But he sent a reply to Ranade, which was published in the 11th June issue of the journal Dnyanodaya. This is another example of how Phule always related to all problems keeping in mind what in his view was the main contradiction in contemporary society.

An interesting thing about this letter is the last sentence, which is written in a dialect which the Muslims of the western Maharashtra use in their speech:  “Sadhe hoke buddheka yeh pahla salaam lev’. It sounds like Urdu or Hindustani but does not follow the syntax of Urdu and Hindustani. It is Marathi for all practical purposes. His use of this kind of language would certainly have shocked the contemporary brahmans. But Phule clearly seems to emphasize that this ‘Mussalmani’ or ‘Bagwani’ speech is as much Marathi as brahmanical speech!


Translated by G P Deshpande.

Source: Selected writings of Jotirao Phule. Edited, with annotations and introduction, by G P Despande. 


The Shared Mirror celebrates Jyotiba Phule's 184th Birthday. 

The nameless ones (anamikas)

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Begging won't get anything here

            not sympathy, not love

A suit in court wins injustice,

Tears are of no value,

Getting water is a struggle,

Wrapping yourself in smoke from a dead fire won't work

You have to plant the cinder of revolt in your own body.

At times there is a firefly of revolt flickering -maybe

    counterfeit –

But at those times give it outside air to see if it glows.

"The revolution will come through poetry"

Once I accepted that.

But poetry does not live by making revolution.

The same faithless faces of yesterday

        extend the hand of friendship

        while wounding with a sword…….. and

        in their struggle with the enemy were

       made impotent.

They burned houses down with words

But after the house burned, the words died.

For the sake of the poetry of humanity

      one must be so very human,

But they change with the wind…….

And these green parrots of the dry desert turn out to be 

       a mirage.

They turn their eyes where they wish, according to their 

      own convenience.

When there is no strength

      in their own wings

They find the convenient words

      to cut the wings of others.

They make palaces of words!

But I have seen them crumble.

"Kala Ram" and "Chawdar Tank" –

         the history of pain

         is carved on each of our hearts

But even if they could carve words on water

The Indrayani will not save them.


Eleanor Zelliot's translation of Jyoti Lanjewar's poem 'anamikas'.  Jyoti Lanjewar is a professor of Marathi in Nagpur university. "The nameless ones" is a criticism of those within the Ambedkar movement itself. Kala Ram and Chawdar Tank are places that witnessed Satyagraha between 1930-1935. The last line of the poem refers to the poet saint Tukaram who threw his poems into the Indrayani river at the behest of critical brahmins. 

Source: Images of women in Maharashtrian literature and religion


Slave (‘ghulam’)

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Where the doors are decorated with mango leaves

Where the houses are ornamented with little flaming oil lamps

In that country a woman is still a slave


Where Sita entered the fire to prove her fidelity

Where Ahilya was turned to stone for Indra's lust

Where Draupadi was fractured to serve five husbands

In that country a woman is still a slave


Where a woman's identity fades like nature's blossoms

Where delicate jewels of emotion are trampled under a heel

Where free birds of dreams are scorned

In that country a woman is still a slave


Where the sky-flowers of desire must be left to float down the river

Where the threatening force of a woman's mind must be buried in the earth

Where the silvery moonlight of happiness must be poured into a jar of darkness

In that country a woman is still a slave


Where a woman in her youth is dried up by tradition

     she is confined all her life like a stunted tree

     she remains in the shadow of someone else's light

In that country a woman is still a slave


In that country where women are still slaves

The conflagration starts in the house of flowers

The festival of lordship is celebrated with joy but 

The stories of all that are recited with pain


To be a born a woman is unjust

To be a born a woman is unjust. 


Hira Bansode is a major dalit poet whose famous poems include "Yashodhara". The above poem was translated by S.K. Thorat and Eleanor Zelliot. Source: Images of women in Maharastrian Literature and Religion.

Both are useless (‘dhoni nyarthac’)

Sunday, December 26th, 2010


by Mina Gajbhiye 

What will you do for those

whose hunger is an ache?

Shed two tears?

Give a fourth of a slice of bread?

What will you do for those 

who don't quite live

and don't quite die?

Write a beautiful poem of life?

Or a beautiful poem on death?

Whatever you do-

it will be useless. 



Translated by Jayant Karve and Eleanor Zelliot. Source: Images of Women in Maharashtrian Literature and Religion. Mina Gajbhiye  is a Dalit poet writing in the Marathi language. 


Sunday, December 5th, 2010

by Waman Nimbalkar 


Daylight would die. Darkness would reign.
We at our hut’s door. No single light inside.
Lights burning in houses around.
Kitchen-fires too. Bhakris beaten out.
Vegetables, gruels cooked.
In our nostrils, the smell of food. In our stomachs, darkness.
From our eyes, welling up, streams of tears.
Slicing darkness, a shadow heavily draws near.
On her head, a burden. Her legs a-totter.
Thin, dark of body… mother.
All day she combs the forest for firewood.
We wait her return.
When she brings no firewood to sell we go to bed hungry.
One day something happens. How we don’t know.
Mother comes home leg bandaged, bleeding.
A large black snake bit her, say two women.
He raised his hood. He struck her. He slithered away.
Mother fell to the ground.
We try charms. We try spells. The medicine man comes.
The day ends. So does her life.
We burst into grief. Our grief melts into air.
Mother is gone. We, her brood, thrown to the winds.
Even now my eyes search for mother. My sadness grows.
When I see a thin woman with firewood on her head,
I go and buy all her firewood.

Translated by Priya Adarkar. Source: Poisoned Bread: translations from modern Marathi Dalit literature., Ed: Arjuna Dangale.  

Bhakri: flat bread made of millets, eaten in Western and Central India.

Waman Nimbalkar passed away on December 3rd, 2010, The Shared Mirror wishes him eternal peace.  

Soyarabai’s abhanga

Friday, October 8th, 2010

A body is unclean, they say, only the soul is untainted.

But the impurity of the body is born with the body.

By which rule has a body become pure?

Not a creature in this world has been born 

            except in a gory womb.

This is the glory of God: defilement exists within.

The body is polluted from within.

Be sure of it, says the Mahari of Choka. 


Soyarabai, was the wife of the Mahar saint Chokhamela. She was a poet and belonged to the Varkari movement of Maharashtra during 13th-14th century. This movement was open to all castes and women, married or unmarried.. This abhanga is numbered 6 in the text and it is one of the 62 abhangas written by Soyrabai that has survived; in it  "she clearly protests the very basis of untouchability, pollution, in explicit and moving terms." 


Source: Untouchable Saints An Indian Phenomenon, ed. Eleanor Zelliot & Rohini Mokashi-Punekar

In these days

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Your shirt lying with me now

Which we both used to wear…

While we were unemployed

We ever used to be of use to each other

And a lantern of old days

In the light of which few words used

To come to meet

And affectionate feelings consoled

                                          the sorrowful life

Also, some letters and a copy of poems

In your own hand-writting

Which you were to dedicate to me

……………………. one and more such things.

Once, I got a letter from abroad

You wrote "however, we managed

To reach Europe. Now, we are going to Madrid

What we see is Hindustan every where."

However, we were parted……………. for ever.

Now, in these days neither you nor your letters

I've only few poems and a lantern

In the light of which we're reading life.


On August 16th 2010, Marathi poet Narayan Surve passed away at the age of 83. He was the first of the Maharastrian 'Dalit' poets who cleared the path for other luminaries like Namdeo Dhasal. He was awarded the Padmashri in 1998 for excellence in literature. He is known as the protelatarian poet, who rejuvenated the Marathi language with his verses on the urban poor and working class people of Mumbai. Shanta Gokhale and Arun Khopkar have made a biopic on Narayan Surve available on youtube. The Shared Mirror wishes this 'poet of the streets' eternal peace.

He was was an orphan and had no idea of his caste origins, but due to his underprivileged childhood and his growing up in a chawl, he was labelled a Dalit. 



Source: Dalit Poetry Today.

Ode to Dr. Ambedkar

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

My ropes are pulled towards you, you who conceived of giving a burial
To the cages of religion, caste, gender, and race preserved under armed protection;
My ropes are pulled towards your achievement
Through a low-toned falling rain’s softly played flute
Tunnelling out of my soul, surrounding electric trees
Kicking that ancient woman hard and deep in the butt.
Mirrors are losing their reflective polish;
The sea of hell is being parted;
The powdered bones of those afflicted with sin are being scattered from high above in the sky
And they vanish; the sun is setting over the lands ruled by demons—
The devils who plucked the leaves of mythology from a blossoming spring;
The devils who made my throat sing songs that condemned all regions of evil.

The skin of the untouchable parched by cycles of untouched life is moistened by your Heavenly stream;
You’ve smashed the head of the god-given wind
That created room for a wobbly nation and its restless people;
You’ve pierced through the voluptuous thighs of those ghostly nymphs that cast
Their spell upon us. My history starts from you, the age of everyman you launched.
Let those who want to have the history of man bundled and sacked in abstract and concrete
Stigmata the blind masses wear on their forehead; the caste-mark of false history.
People are tempted to dynamite themselves to blow up their latent greatness.
I won’t look for you among the bulls and the bears of the market, or in the clock of the present Time.
I won’t seek you in the distance between the crow and the factory, the public urinal and the prison custody.
The shining liver of a seven-year-old gathers rust.
O teak tree shaking in all these circumstances,
I pursue the waves of change on the crest of my period;
I’m thinking of the wild birds and the city birds shitting on your bronze statue.
That’s no thought really; it’s only a parasite that’s growing
On a circumambulation of your statue,
That’s the origin of the individual, and a shortening of the long journey towards one’s identity
That contains neither a flame nor a knife,
That has the hardness of the back of a female crocodile and the insensitiveness
Of the skin of a rhino;
That contains only the burbling sound of the original spring of life and the tenacity of an iguana;
And bodies built like fortresses and bastions.
Thought and death are both deception;
Smoking a hashish pipe and getting laid are both deception—
As though a sheet bought from the goddess of rags can cover absolute nudity.
The parrot of existence perennially pecks at the unending agony of thought;
The parrot of existence perennially pecks at the permanent pain of death.
Death is that stone inscription of which the thinker is always afraid.
The hashish pipe:
Sexual intercourse:
It’s a sovereign precious stone that even time cannot cut with its teeth.
I can’t see my own face, you know;
It’s a nauseating face; and that I, with such a face, should be an animal wagging its tail
Following them; you’ve pushed me towards such a crucial doorstep.
An earthen owl of compassion and a black rose of blood grow out of my arse;
Their fermented foul breath commands me to vomit,
And makes me walk through a crowd;
And trees walk with me like humans;
And my hands compose books of the apocalypse;
The procession that covers me up has no root in death;
It’s a procession for which a fire-pit blazes in my mind
And white rabbits swing in the air;
It’s the formation of a single luminous clan that the seasons have planned;
That procession and I were never split apart.
Time does not categorise the same sex: for the eyes of time are never
As myopic as the vision of the censors;
If time were myopic, how would your face
At the bottom of this procession, and at the bottom of my being, be hurt
By those divine whales imagined differently in parliaments of the people?

As my head becomes visible, rising above hurts and tortures,
Shrieking military aircraft circle above me searching for their prey
And the design of a martial law regime starts erasing
Lines drawn on maps; and the whole web of lines;
And through this crisis, I am going on my tenacious journey
Like a would-be conqueror, driven by a desire shaped like the Ashwamedha charger;
In this pomegranate forest I am going through, my society is just a bystander; if I don’t uproot this society of mere onlookers,
A hard rock will separate you and me:  and I will not be able to see
Your radiant disc surrounded by lotuses growing among crystals, rejecting all material things,
And merged with myself, tasting wholesome and scrumptious like freshly baked millet bread;
A textile mill, a hut;
An asthmatic, a soldier;
One goes through the length of the settlement to the courtyard of childhood
To play with shaggy red-haired puppies,
And to inhale mango-blossoms that burst before raw mangoes appear on the tree;
And to catch and slay the frightening anti-shadows,
Their hordes prancing like deer, and shimmering like bony plates on the skin.
I am afraid I’ll go berserk,
Fifteen years after you were gone.
Death has just fed dust to one of your comrades,
And buried him in a grave measuring his seventy-one years;
And once again the same gloom has fallen that spread when you passed away;
Newspapers repeated the same headlines they had used for you:
Champion of the Dalits Gone
Creating a Void in the Dalit Community

Do leaders in a movement wear the same shirt?
And have the same ink and letters used about them, and their feet and their shoes?
They—who never make the error of going
One step forward or backward from the pioneer—
Don’t posses the fuel and the velocity with which are born
The ones who have the spunk to lift their foot as high as their leader did
Or to move it differently.
He who digs his own grave in the presence of his mentor,
And eagerly embraces decreed concessions,
And rides high horses for the sake of a chair that has no successor,
He who does not change the flavour of the day or the night,
Or the saliva on the tongue, or the water in the saliva;
He who loses touch with life in the soil, and creates the black and white
Monsters of factionalism,
For such a one I cannot shed one heart-felt tear.
I don’t squeeze for him the oil in my body, nor light candles for him;
And I don’t wear my best mourning black to attend an obituary meeting.
On the Throne that people gave you, since occupied by only grief and spontaneous lament,
I smell only your fragrance;
And the extinguished pupils of my eyes itch as the skin of cripples does.
I follow your teachings: struggle relentlessly, challenge the foundation of faith, of pledges;
And I carve myself up to the last particle of poverty and agony in me.
And I plunge a sharpened shovel into my own heart too;
And soak the pages of your life with warm blood;
And arouse the only honest thing in me;
And I move into the battle amidst gunfire and explosions and tanks;
And through lush green blades of wheat;
For, at the very point of the needle, one is introduced to love and to the green blade of wheat;
And with the robust surging energy of uncontrollable bulls,
The wife dreams the husband’s dreams, and the dreams of the wife are dreamt by the child;
And thus happiness forms its chain of life to forge a future.
Everyone is, as a matter of fact, as complete as the Sun
That protects and preserves all; including the cactus;
And uses the dew that forms on petals
To heal all pain;
That Sun recognises the difference between man and beast;
That Sun grows weary of the sameness of day and night;
That Sun crosses over all things;
That Sun finds the colour of life and death as useless as that of a sweet lime
Its beak turns into brass, and pecks at the diseased skin of age;
That Sun flows perennially through shouts of victory,
And is found moving in the smile of a flower.
It refuses to serve the village community, rejects the millet-bread offered as its mahar gatekeeper;
It cannot sprout in the muck of rum and coke;
It does not sit on doormats as untouchables do.
That Sun flies like the New Year’s butterfly and spreads light;
That Sun grows parallel to railway tracks;
That Sun loosens the stone walls of universities;
It moves only from one freedom to the next.
You are that Sun, our only charioteer,
Who descends into us from a vision of sovereign victory,
And accompanies us in fields, in crowds, in processions, and in struggles;
And saves us from being exploited.
You are that Sun
You are that one—who belongs to us.

From Namdeo Dhasal's Marathi Collection of poetry, Golpitha. Translated by Dilip Chitre for the book, 'Namdeo Dhasal, Poet of the Underworld: Poems 1972-2006'.

O My Birsa!

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Bhujang Meshram

Birsa Munda 1

Birsa, you have to arrive from anywhere

Either on a sickle that cuts grass

Or an axe that cuts wood

From here or from there

From East-West or from North-South

Turning into the breeze of the farm

Come from anywhere

O My Birsa! People wait for you


Bhujang Mesharam, a Gondi and Marathi poet.

Source: 'Tribal contemporary issues: appraisal and intervention', by Ramnika Gupta, Anup Beniwal.

Man, You Should Explode

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Man, you should explode
Yourself to bits to start with
Jive to a savage drum beat
Smoke hash, smoke ganja
Chew opium, bite lalpari
Guzzle country booze—if too broke,
Down a pint of the cheapest dalda
Stay tipsy day and night, stay tight round the clock
Cuss at one and all; swear by his mom’s twat, his sister’s cunt
Abuse him, slap him in the cheek, and pummel him…
Man, you should keep handy a Rampuri knife
A dagger, an axe, a sword, an iron rod, a hockey stick, a bamboo
You should carry acid bulbs and such things on you
You should be ready to carve out anybody’s innards without batting an eyelid
Commit murders and kill the sleeping ones
Turn humans into slaves; whip their arses with a lash
Cook your beans on their bleeding backsides
Rob your next-door neighbours, bust banks
Fuck the mothers of moneylenders and the stinking rich
Cut the throat of your own kith and kin by conning them; poison them, jinx them
You should hump anyone’s mother or sister anywhere you can
Engage your dick with every missy you can find, call nobody too old to be screwed
Call nobody too young, nobody too green to shag, lay them one and all
Perform gang rapes on stage in the public
Make whorehouses grow: live on a pimp’s cut: cut the women’s noses, tits
Make them ride naked on a donkey through the streets to shame them
Man, one should dig up roads, yank off bridges
One should topple down streetlights
Smash up police stations and railway stations
One should hurl grenades; one should drop hydrogen bombs to raze
Literary societies, schools, colleges, hospitals, airports
One should open the manholes of sewers and throw into them
Plato, Einstein, Archimedes, Socrates,
Marx, Ashoka, Hitler, Camus, Sartre, Kafka,
Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Ezra Pound, Hopkins, Goethe,
Dostoevsky, Mayakovsky, Maxim Gorky,
Edison, Madison, Kalidasa, Tukaram, Vyasa, Shakespeare, Jnaneshvar,
And keep them rotting there with all their words
One should hang to death the descendents of Jesus, the Paighamber, the Buddha, and Vishnu
One should crumble up temples, churches, mosques, sculptures, museums
One should blow with cannonballs all priests
And inscribe epigraphs with cloth soaked in their blood
Man, one should tear off all the pages of all the sacred books in the world
And give them to people for wiping shit off their arses when done
Remove sticks from anybody’s fence and go in there to shit and piss, and muck it up
Menstruate there, cough out phlegm, sneeze out goo
Choose what offends one’s sense of odour to wind up the show
Raise hell all over the place from up to down and in between
Man, you should drink human blood, eat spit roast human flesh, melt human fat and drink it
Smash the bones of your critics’ shanks on hard stone blocks to get their marrow
Wage class wars, caste wars, communal wars, party wars, crusades, world wars
One should become totally savage, ferocious, and primitive
One should become devil-may-care and create anarchy
Launch a campaign for not growing food, kill people all and sundry by starving them to death
Kill oneself too, let disease thrive, make all trees leafless
Take care that no bird ever sings, man, one should plan to die groaning and screaming in pain
Let all this grow into a tumour to fill the universe, balloon up
And burst at a nameless time to shrink
After this all those who survive should stop robbing anyone or making others their slaves
After this they should stop calling one another names white or black, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, or Shudra;
Stop creating political parties, stop building property, stop committing
The crime of not recognising one’s kin, not recognising one’s mother or sister
One should regard the sky as one’s grandpa, the earth as one’s grandma
And coddled by them everybody should bask in mutual love
Man, one should act so bright as to make the Sun and the Moon seem pale
One should share each morsel of food with everyone else, one should compose a hymn
To humanity itself, man, man should sing only the song of man.

Found that Marathi poem by Namdeo Dhasal (from Golpitha, 1972), translated by Dilip Chitre, at the Almost Island site.

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