Book Reviews

Black Lotus: Telugu Dalit Women’s Poetry

Mahatma Phule and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar were the chief stalwarts of Dalit literary movement. They brought forth the issues of dalits through their writings and slogans  in Maharashtra.The dalit writers have initiated this movement in their works, with a view to replacing the existing social order by a new casteless society. The dalits  started narrating  the dalit agony, assertion, resistance, anger, protest and socio-political mobilization.  

Among the Dalit writings autobiographies are nothing but the unrecorded record of the so called  untouchables of this soil. They have horrible and heroic saga to tell their still struggling brothers and the rest of humanity. Majority of all the Dalit autobiographies present the fact that they were nowhere in Indian society, they were even away from periphery. They first enter to the periphery then march towards the centre. Sharankumar Lambale in a  conversation with Jaydeep Sarangi strongly says Dalit writing is aimed to remove injustice and attempts to bringing freedom for beautiful new India (Sarangi Jaydeep).

Telugu Dalit Women’s poetry is a path breaking book; a reading wonder. T Sai Chandra Mouli unearths rare documents before us and he engages us with a perfect title, Black Lotus. Some dalit women took part in different anti caste movements and emerged as leaders. Jaajula Gowri and Gogu Shyamala are among them. Jaajula threatens to take law at her hands , if the machinery of subjugation and oppression continues:

“Among annals of history
Stacked truth I am
…I will bash up!” (08)

The powerful lines remind me Sharankumar Limbale’s The Outcaste:

“What else did I have except a human body…I had neither a father’s name, nor any religion, nor a caste.I had no inherited identity at all.”  (The Outcaste: 59)

The apparently slim book unfolds humane values in a poignant manner. One of the aims of writing  dalit literature has been to reveal to the readers, the injustice, oppression, helplessness and struggles of many of the disadvantaged populations under the social machine of stratification in India:

“Multilingual Bharat
Abode for Brahmins!
Multi-religious nation ours
Hinduism!” (24)

A poet sometimes directly attacks on some social, political and cultural problems, but sometimes she fights with something within herself.Strong and bold language of these writers remind us  Dr B.R.Ambedkar’s slogan, “Educate, agitate, organize”. Contemporary  dalit voices all over India; Rajasthan to West Bengal and Orissa to Gujarat register a corpus of resistance to mark a journey from nothing to at least something!
One of the striking features of these poems  is the bold subaltern identity  and  the assertion and the celebration of the self.  These writers loudly declare, at times with pride, at others with disgust, his location in the lower rungs of multiple stratification systems:

“Full Moon night of Laksmi pujo
Mud walls, drawings with rice dust
Peddy -Lakshmi brings prosperity in the  house.
But Laksmi leaves disappointed.
Narayan is worshipped through an image
Where the priest acts with

In another village, somewhere!”  ( Kalyani Thakur, Translation mine)

Kalyani Thakur, a leading Bengali dalit activist/poet narrates a pathetic account of the age-old Brahminical traditions. Chandra Mouli’s book shows us how social stratification systems stratify social space and allot different spaces for different social strata. A single stomach is like a whole earth. Their feet slip in hunger! False tags of the society engulf them all round! But the beauty lies in humanism among rebels. Dalit women frequently became the victims of cruelty. Exploitation and violationof women by different means – fair and foul – became part of Indian society. Limbale in his autobiography writes, “A woman becomes a whore and a man a thief. The stomach makes you clean shit, it even makes you eat shit.” (The Outcaste 8)

Telugu women poets dexterously portray the ‘sufferings’, social alienation and rejection; yearning and aspiration; protest, rage and revolt’ of dalits. They raise a basic question in the manner of Manohar Mouli Biswas:

“A Shudra would be interested in a Brahmin girl,
  Would you people be able to accept all this?”  (The Wheel Will Turn, pg. 41)
After Word of  Black Lotus: Telugu Dalit Women’s Poetry  by T Sai Chandra Mouli is some notes on marginality which is a big bonus for the readers. This timely initiative will definitely inspire further research in this arena of study.

Black Lotus: Telugu Dalit Women’s Poetry, T Sai Chandra Mouli, Adhyayan Publishers, New Delhi, Rs 195/,2014.


More by :  Prof. Jaydeep Sarangi

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Views: 3449      Comments: 4

Comment thank you, Jaydeep for getting us acquainted with such a work which extends our knowledge of alternative Indian literature. Translations of such works are really a necessity to build a fuller picture of Indian poetry.

rudra kinshuk
04-Jun-2014 13:11 PM

Comment thanks u, jaydeep for get us acquainted with such a work which extends our knowledge of alternative indian literature.

rudra kinshuk
04-Jun-2014 00:45 AM

Comment Thank you Jaydeep Sarangi for bringing to our notice such a powerful collection... Congratulations to T.S. Chandra Mouli for completing such a valuable project!

Angana Dutta
28-May-2014 12:02 PM

Comment Thanks for a nice review and your kind words of encouragement, Jaydeep ji.
I am honoured.regards.

T.S.Chandra Mouli
28-May-2014 05:18 AM

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