About The Book :
The Bhakti Movement is perhaps the most glorious creative upsurge of the Indian mind in this millennium. Tukaram (1960-1650) epitomized the liberal Hindu tradition of Bhakti in Maharashtra. He is something of a legend. Born as Shudra, persecuted by the orthodox on account of the growing popularity of his mysterious end, became the most revered figure of his times. For over three centuries now he has exerted profound influence over the cultural life of the Marathi people. In almost every generation his lyrics have been most widely sung, read and quoted as proverbs. The secret of his tremendous appeal lies in the intensely personal religion reflected in his lyrics. His morality is more relevant to our time than ever. No serious student of world literature can avoid Tukaram.
With the penetrating study of Tukaram's social background and his life and experience revealed in his work, profusely quoted in translation for the non-Marathi audience, this monograph by Bhalchandra Nemade would be valuable for students of literature and literary culture.
About The Author :
Bhalchandra Nemade is well known Marathi writer who teaches Comparative Literature of the University of Bombay.
MARATHI literature attained maturity in prose and verse in the thirteenth century, about five centuries after Marathi had attained the form of a modern Indian language. The major impulse of early Marathi writers was religious and social reformation. Chakradhar, Mahimbhatta, Namadev, Dnyanadev, Janabai, Muktabai - all created the idiom of literary Marathi so as to make it a rival medium to Sanskrit. Then after a lull of two and a half centuries, the Bhakti tradition was revived by Ekanath; and soon after him, Tukaram turned it into a most dominant force in the life of the Marathi-speaking people.
While familiarizing ourselves with Tukaram, it is good to remember that ours is the age of science and politics, newspapers and entertainments, individualism and slogans; the pleasures of human life are always overrated and literature is not linked with creative social work. To the modern reader who is unfamiliar with the religious and spiritual dimensions of life, the ideas propagated in the Indian heritage might be unacceptable. The emphasis now is on modern science, the objective world of the senses rather than on the inner nature of self, a reality beyond this present empirical world. But the religious point of view, still believed in by the majority in India, considers that mysteries are part of life: Perhaps it is this contrast with Tukaram's age that would bring us close to his life and literature.
India is a country where no indigenous culture has been allowed to grow in its original shape; it is like a stunted tree. Some of its own discoveries such as Bhakti and Yoga have not prospered owing to incessant foreign interference. As V. S. Naipaul realized rather late, this is a 'wounded civilization.'
Tukaram is well known among the millions of peasants of Maharashtra. Almost all of them know a few sayings or lines from his abhangas and many know much more. There are some who commit nearly all his works to memory. He is best loved among the saint- poets of the people of Maharashtra. Literary observers, both foreign and Indian, have noted the tremendous influence of Tukaram on the Marathi-speaking people. We witness even now the long processions of villagers singing Tukaram's songs in the months of Ashadh and Kartik. These processions start from all over Maharashtra and meet at Pandharpur, the holy seat of God Vitthal. This reveals that the religious tradition strengthened by Tukaram and other Varkari saints, a tradition of literature and humility and other- worldliness is still a dominant force in rural India. Villagers use the songs of Tukaram not only as a part of religious bhajans but on occasions in support of their practical wisdom. The invariable ending of Tukaram's verses, 'Tuka mhane' (Tuka says) has become a synonym of indisputable truth. No other poet is so often quoted in the daily life of the people.
The medieval society presents a kind of homogeneity. It may perhaps be assumed that medieval Marathi literature is a part of still larger whole, or indeed of several bigger wholes of Indian culture. It is certainly a part of Maharashtrian assertion of independence against Muslim invaders, a part of Indian spiritualism and a part of Indian reformation which began with the loss of political freedom. A revolutionary poet like Tukaram has roots in all these areas.
The character of Tukaram's lyrics itself suggests, clearly enough, that they are words intended to be sung. It is worth noting that the entire works of Tukaram were collected from oral tradition, from his distant disciples who committed his lyrics to memory. Illiterate villagers who recite all the five thousand verses of Tukaram by heart are found even today. The passage of three and a half centuries has kept Tukaram as fresh as he was in his own day: colloquial, plain, straightforward, penetrating and classical. It is interesting to probe into the secret of Tukaram's unbroken popularity and veneration.
Normally saints are revered in an idealistic culture, because they have struck a compromise between the abstract metaphysical aspirations of humanity and everyday reality. When such a compromise is reflected in their literature, it lives with humanity. People see in such a literature the process of self-realization. Saints like Tukaram satisfy the permanent need of society as a spiritual gadfly. The tormenting conflicts experienced by such saints, when expressed with a magic touch of language, become a source of inspiration to others.
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