User Rating:  / 2
PoorBest 

 Download eBooks - Selections from Sri Sri

Dear Readers,

You would be reading the 4th part of this exclusive series on Sri Sri.

In this part, Dr. Syamala Kallury presents you with the translations of essays and critiques written by some of the literary personalities of contemporary Telugu literature.

In this part you would be reading the following essays.

  • Sri Sri’s Mahaprasthanam – A Realistic Assessment by Dr. Addepalli Ram Mohan Rao
  • Sri Sri’s Experiments in Mahaprasthanam by Navin

Some more essays and critiques would be published in the 5th and concluding part of this series.

Best regards

Editor

Avakaaya.com

 

Sri Sri’s Mahaprasthanam – A Realistic Assessment

By Dr. Addepalli Ram Mohan Rao

(Translated by Syamala Kallury

There is invariably an alternative to the Capitalist society. The construction of this alternative society seeks to establish equality amongst its people, a self sufficiency in political and economic spheres, in addition to giving the language an identity of its own. This aspect figures in Marxist ideology and in Lenin’s successful application of these revolutionary principles in a very comprehensive manner. 

This point was well understood by the intellectuals who followed Karl Marx, and the progressives and workers who understood the success of Russian Revolution during the struggle for independence in India too. After the success of the Russian Revolution writers, poets, and practitioners who understood the politics of the progressive movements were attracted towards Marxism. While the freedom movement was in full swing, many other radical movements  were simultaneously on the rise , the Marxists familiar with the nature of British imperialism could understand that whatever the outcome, the British political, constitutional, linguistic, and commercial interests would not cease to impact this subcontinent when they leave this country; on the other hand it may lead to further deterioration and so they started working towards a movement in this direction with a clear political thought from 1920. 

Around the same time, Sri Sri was deeply engrossed in the romantic trends that were sweeping Telugu poetry at that time. With the impact of his study of international literary movements, of the all pervasive economic depression in the world around him, of his observations of social disparities he started composing his magnum opus Mahaprasthanam. Despite the fact that he had no direct involvement with Marxist principles when he started, his natural attraction to the genesis of social revolution embedded in it provided the impetus for writing this anthology. Though the poems he wrote contained the early influences reminiscent of the traditional and western stylistic trends, he gradually evolved his craft by writing poems that actually promoted the Marxist thought actively in a unique style of his own. They have in due course attracted people who were close to communist political thought and acquired the status of instruments of propagation, providing the background rhythm and at times, captivating slogans for their articulations, paving the way for popularity amongst the masses. Hundreds of other poets began writing, imitating his style. 

Sri Sri paved the way for a new direction in Mahaprasthanam. This provided the basis for the construction of a new social order. His study of the new trends in literature at both national and international level gave him a new perspective to develop a technique and style of his own. This essay intends to study these trends in detail. 

One must have a style of one’s own to reflect his poetic thought. Sri Sri, who was deeply influenced by the romantic poetry movement, believed that poetic diction and style alone cannot bring about any marked change.  It must achieve a synergy with the new thought in a very holistic manner.  Sri Sri, who realized that even after Gurazada introduced the reformist reality, Telugu Poetry went back to the worship of the beautiful, sought to bring in a new reality to his poetry. He understood the difference between the sociological ideologies that governed of Gurazada’s times and those of his times and carved out a path which was totally his own bringing a new reality to his poetry. That is socialist reality and it does not mean reflection of communist ideology in every letter and word of the poem. How can there be communism without society? When there are diverse social realities we should appreciate the progressive trends in these diversities and reflect them in our writing. Thus evolves socialist reality in literary representations. Unless one understands this, one cannot appreciate Sri Sri’s poetry. 

It raises the question; during the days when Romanticism ruled literature was there no realism in literature, to which the answer is obviously in the negative. There were many romantic poets who visualised through poetry the contours of realistic poetry. Kavikondala, Adivi Bapiraju, amongst others, can be cited as forerunners for this kind of poetry. If one tries to determine the essential difference between the romantics and Sri Sri, one can say, it is easily his vision of the world. Poets before Sri Sri might have presented some truths occasionally, but their poetic vision in its entirety was characterised by a worship of the beautiful. 

 In the early days of Romanticism one of its pioneers composed a long poem called Ramyalokam laying out the perspective of beauty which characterised the romantic poetry. Sri Sri’s aesthetic vision was quite different from this. However, he never wrote exclusive poems, articles, or theoretical treatises explaining his distinct perspective. Mahaprasthanam manifests itself as his authentic voice, articulating his unparalleled theoretical position in rhymed poetry. That a new consciousness should emerge in poetry first arose in Sri Sri with the emergence of Mahaprasthanam which he articulated with great intensity. 

The reality of the poetic definition: It is not unusualfor poets who are conscious of the fact that they are giving a new direction to poetry, to articulate it through their poetry. This has always been a practice right from the times of Nannayya, the first poet in Telugu literature. Sri Sri too tried to define the contours of his poetry as soon as he decided on the directions he had decided to take. 

Prapanchamoka Padmavyuham

Kavitvamoka teerani daham

(The world is a maze

And poetry, an unquenchable thirst)

To call the world a maze itself is to recognize the complex nature of the world and its conflicts which reminds one of a war strategy, (The padmavyuha is a labyrinthine battle formation; it was strategically put to use by the kauravas in the Mahabharata war to kill Abhimanyu) the suggestion being that poetry should reflect the conflicts of life on a war footing. Only then can it become a thirst that cannot be quenched. It places the realities in front of the poets but does not provoke them into a war against these realities. But Sri Sri by using the terms like padmavyuh and maze, suggested the nature of his rebellion against an established social order. 

Sri Sri also ushered in a new style in the technique of poetry. He was quite aware of it. He never got carried away by the excitement of his new ideology and turned poetry into mere sloganeering. Such poets are called ‘conscious artists’. He says, 

Avunavunu silpamanargham

Undaaloyi klavitaasam

Kaanivoyi rasanirdesam

(Yes, technique is of great value

One should have poetic inspiration

Go on, set the direction for poetic delight.)

Excitement can influence creation of poetry but that alone cannot help create a great poem. It should have aesthetic appeal and impeccable technique to have the right appeal. Otherwise poetry would not have the power to bring in any change in society. This fact was repeatedly asserted by Marx and many other thinkers who followed him. 

When Sri Sri started writing Mahaprasthanam poems there were certificates of appreciation as well as brickbats. Sri Sri was undeterred by both. He knew his goal of setting new direction to poetry. 

Rāni, rani,

Vaste  rani,

Kashtāl, nashtal,

Kopāl, tapāl, sepal rani

Vaste rani

Titlu, rātlu, patlu rani

Rāni! Rāni!

Kāni! Kāni!

Gānam, dhyānam, 

Hāsam,lāsam

Kāni, kāni

Kaāravi! Pavi! Kavi!

(Let it come, let it come

Difficulties, losses

Anger, depression, curses

Let them all come!               

Abuses, trials and struggles

Carry on, carry on!

Let them come…

Song, meditation

Laughter, grace

Carry on…

The Sun of Arts! The diamond sword! O Poet!)

One has to move forward facing all the adversities if one wants to chart out a new path. Sri Sri is particularly fond of end line rhyme scheme which is reflected here. He may use them out of fondness elsewhere but in poetry written for social cause (not going into surrealism) he achieves the thematic richness just by this use of end-line rhyme.

 Kalaravi! Pavi! Kavi!

Not just end rhyme one can see rich semantic depth in the use of words in these lines. Ravi is another name for Sun. In romantic poetry the cool radiance of the moon is of the primary importance, but in progressive poetry the bright radiance of the Sun is what gives it the power. Pavi  is the weapon of Indra, the Lord of Heaven. It is a diamond sword, believed to have formed from a thunderbolt. This also symbolizes Sri Sri’s sharp vision along with the rays of the bright Sun.

The one poem which clearly spells out the direction that Sri Sri had set for himself in poetry and his new writing is Nava Kavita. In this, through various similes he suggests that for any new ideology - poetic inspiration is essential. In fact, he creates these similes in a long list. It is Sri Sri’s unique talent that he can take one idea and express it with a beautiful, natural and spontaneous ease in chain-words through multiple images, metaphors, and symbols. This evocative manner of expression, Sri Sri claimed, he had learned from T.S Eliot. He wrote a poem on a Telugu poet of the middle ages, Vemulavada Bheema Kavi, and used this technique to describe his poetic talent

Garalapu mudda

lokamu 

Avaghadda maha sani kotla

Sammetal

Karu nayāgni…

A mass of poison

This world

Crores of hammerings

By Sani, the negative planet (Saturn)

The whole of his Nava Kavita reverberates with this kind of chain images. While for Romantic poetry tranquility is considered the main forte, for progressive poetry inspired vision that comes from his  fervour forms the backbone.

Kadiledi kadilinchedi

Māredi, mārpinchedi

Pādedi, pādinchedi

Mumumduu kadilinchedi

Paripǖrnapu bratukichchedi

Kāvāloyi navakavanāniki!     

(that which moves, catalyses

that which changes, transforms

that which sings, triggers song

the nudge of momentum that moves forward

that which provides complete life

that is the need of the new rhyme

The poetry that appeared before him did not move or touch any one. It took one to the depths of one’s soul, but was not meant to change anything in society. It did not sing or cause music in any heart. In short it cannot go into the masses. But the last three stanzas focus on a changed perspective of a poetry  that cannot move, change, sing, awaken. Sri Sri believed that poetic inspiration alone can bring about this kind of metamorphosis. Thus he laid the foundation for a new concept through his aesthetics.    

Great Indian Middle Class Reality

The middle class of Sri Sri’s times is not like the one we have today.  The middle class of those times lived in poverty. There were instances where people used to end up in debt and were driven to suicide. Sri Sri knew the problems of the middle class by direct experience. This direct personal experience of living the middle class life had given him not just a clear vision of the reality, a sensitivity to the sufferings of the downtrodden, but to include the struggling middle class along with working class in his poetic vision. His works Sandhya Samasyalu (The Problems of The Twilight)is a testimony to it,  appula bādhalu, biddala ākali  ātmahatyāprerena (“The debt troubles, the hungry children- provocations to suicide”) are the common scenes in the middle class families of those days. The 50s film Sansāram  (Family) totally reflects this theme like a mirror.

His Navakavita (New Poem) highlights Sri Sri’s expertise in the use of diction. There were three characters in this verse narrative of a kind - one student, one employee, and the last, a family man. All three of them were middle class representatives. First day of the month is like a festival for them as it gives them a chance to receive their salaries and spend it on that one day. That the student and the employee choose to go a film, eat sweets and savories is a reflection which is a typical middle class mindset that celebrates the first day of the month. The question of choice and the excitement of it are all related to poverty, to an inability to buy things at will at other times. So the student goes to watch two movies, the employee eats both a sweet and a savory. The three people- the student, the employee and the family man - all have problems and the poet’s use of the verbs for the three of them are different.

Samasya tagilindi – oka vidyarthiki

Samasya kaligindi – oka udyogiki

Samasya ghanibhavinchindi – oka samsariki     

A problem encounters a student

A problem happens to an employee

Problem consolidates to a family man

In all the three instances it could easily be problem ‘happening’. But Sri Sri uses verb combinations to suggest the difference in the complexity of their situation. It reflects the poet’s choice of appropriate verbs and his skill in the usage of these verbs.

Working Man’s Reality:

The labour stands for people who work very hard and do not get adequately paid for their work. Factory workers and farmers especially come in this category.  For these people the exploitation by the masters is the main issue and so Marxism preaches rebellion of this working class. Sri Sri was the first poet who had a belief in the fundamental concept of the ideology relating to working class and the dialectic interpretation of history through this. His poetry emphasized to very effectively.  The first poem that comes to mind in this context is his Desa Charitralu -History of the Nations. One special feature of Sri Sri’s technique was that he always chose his style in a such way that he created a harmony between his poetic inspiration and style. It was a new technique in those days. His times marked the emergence of blank verse in Telugu poetry and Sri Sri could use this form to his advantage. That is how he displayed a talent in his stylistic structures. Desa Charitralu is a poem he had written at one go in one major inspiration. In this inspiration he created lines of 6-8 syllables each and wrote four line stanzas as ideas following each other. There is an undercurrent of labor exploitation at global level in this poem. 

Nailunadi nāgarikatalō

Samānyuni jēvanmettidi?

Taj Mahal nirmananiki

rāllettina cūlilevvaru? 

What is life like for a common man 

In the civilization surrounding the Nile river?

Who were the coolies that had carried the stones

While Taj Mahal was under construction?

The depth that this poem acquires is also because of the question answer mode he adopts in the form. It gives strength to the thought and provokes the reader into thinking,

In the warfare that aims at imperialist goals

What is the courage shown by an ordinary man?

Not the palanquin that the king rides

Who were the people that carried it?

Palanquin is a symbol of a feudal society which was constantly used by romantic poets as a thing of beauty. Here Sri Sri did not choose vehicles like the chariot but consciously chose a palanquin as it needs to be physically carried by the workers. This is one way of expressing his rebellion against the romantic trends that preceded his times in poetry and his desire to establish a just social order. He carved a path for himself and moved into the progressive age in literature with this strong intent to write on issues relevant to the working class of society.

Sri Sri created this effect by starting his poem uniformly with a ‘ja’ gaƞam, use of metrical foot with one short, one long and again a short syllable. This is a common practice in ancient Telugu poetry and Sri Sri was influenced enough by this technique to use it to his advantage.  Another poem in this trend of writing for a social cause is Pratijna

Polālananni (po-laa-la nannee)

Halāladunni (ha-laa-la dunnee)

Ilātalamlo (i-laa-ta lamlo)

Hemam pindaga…

Vilāpāgnulaku

Vishādaasrulaku

Khareedukattee

Sharābulēdoyi

Sramaika jēvana

Soundaryaaniki

Samānamainadi

Lēnelēdani

Preparing the fields

With ploughs

On the earth’s surface

Producing the golden grains

Cries of anguish

Tears of tragedy

No trader can

Evaluate!

There is no beauty

Equal to the one

Of hard labour…

The beauty of this poem lies in the initial ‘ja’ ganam of each stanza illustrated above. This poem moves with a tempo from the beginning to the end and the movement matches the theme. The end comes with words, ‘-Bhāvam, bhāgyam, prānam, prānavam – idea, wealth, life, and pranavam which stands for omkāra. With this omkāra the boundless and breathless energy of the poem comes to a rest.

Similarly, another poem which used the blank verse with dexterity is Vaadu  (He, the word ‘vaadu’ in Telugu carries a derogatory or accusatory tone with it). ‘He’ is the exploiter in the poem. Veedu the antonym stands for someone close to us whereas vaadu talks of an enemy, that fellow who is antagonistic. This poem reveals the realities of exploiter and the discontent of the workers. This is closer to the masses and Sri Sri appropriately uses the language of the masses in this poem.

Vaadu is divided into three sections, with six lines in each. The last two lines of each section capture the essence of the previous section and the poem proceeds in the question answer mode between the workers and the masters. In the third section, it reaches a climax making four lines into questions and answers. He used the internal rhyme scheme and end rhyme in the alternate lines. We may not recognize them as rhyming lines as we read the lines as they merge so effectively with the central theme of the poem. There is a movement which shows the progress in an evolutionary step after step. This is part of the structural beauty of the blank verse. The first part talks of the work ethics and the second part highlights the traditional ethos. The third part emphasises the exploitatory nature of this relationship and how the exploiter uses the first two to his advantage. Tradition is stronger than work and this invariably leads to the violence inflicted in society on a common worker. Thus, he brings out the reality behind the master-worker relationship in feudal society by using the diction and style that is suitable to the theme and achieves a synergy between the form and content.

Poverty and a Realistic Representation: 

The economic situation during the great depression had a deep impact on Sri Sri’s poetic psyche making this a predominant theme in his poetry.  Though the awareness of poverty was not new to poetry, ancient as well as modern, Sri Sri’s poetry displays these social dilemmas in a more pronounced manner. One comprehensive look at his poetry reveals that his focus is more on poverty than on class struggle.

There is a poem titled Bātasāri (Traveller), which tells the story of a son who leaves behind a poor, old mother who lives in the village and spends her last breath looking forward to his return. The boy leaves, turning a deaf ear to his mother’pleas, in search of livelihood. The mother wakes up from a nightmare, stirred by a twitch in her stomach. The suggestion at the end of the poem reveals it all.

Kallu vākita nilipi choosey

Palletüllo talli emani

Palavaristondo?

Talli piliche kalla drusyam

Kalla mumdu gantuleyyaga

 

What the mother in the village

Her eyes glued to the door 

Must have been dreaming…

The picture of a mother calling

Dances before his mind’s eye.

He starts the poem with the theme of a mother deserted by a loving son. He effortlessly weaves the story with his ideology he brings the story to the end. One is reminded of Gurazada’s Puttadibomma Purnamma as he also attempts a similar movement in it. The issue of migrant labour in city spaces is a common sight in today’s world and Sri Sri aesthetically weaves the story into his ideological fervor. A beggar woman, Losers, Auan, and Madman (Bhikshuvariyasi, Parājitudu (Loser), Auan, and Unmādi) are all other examples written highlighting the poet’s concern for poverty.

Reality of the Terrible:

The next aspect of reality that Sri Sri portrays in his poetry is the sense of the terrible that he uses to bring home the real world he sees around him. He says in one of his conversations that he likes the sense of the terrible, one of the nine emotions in the Sanskrit poetics. This terrible appears both in style and in the thematic representation. The poem Avatāram (Incarnation) is a series of terrible images portrayed in an order. Sri Sri must have acquired this with the influence of theories like Dadaism in the West where one can see poetry being created through the portrayal of imagery depicting the terrible. A poem titled Abhyudayam (Progressive Thought) is an example.

Evaro, evarevaro, evarevaro

Talavirabosuku

Nagnamgā nartistunnāru.

Bhayodvignamgā vartistunnāru!

Nede, eenāde, eenāde

Jagamamtā Balivitarthi

Narajaatiki parivartana

Navajēvana shubha samayam!

 

Progressive Movement!

Someone, someone, someone 

Open locks, hair let down

Is dancing naked!

Moving in fear, terrified are they! 

Today, only today

Is celebration day, balivitarthi!

The day the human race transforms

The auspicious time when new life starts

The morning of progressive movement!

The imageries described in a row are not the reality of the class struggle, but a representation of the sense of the terrible that precedes a new beginning and a new era. The new life emerges from the destruction of the old from the terrible scenes of chaos, thus foresees the poet the future of human race. His exquisite style combined with the imagery depicting the horror that precedes the onset of the new social order gives him the unique distinction of a poet who can juxtapose poetry and aesthetics; the harsh images combined with ideological vigor bring forth the reality that he visualised. In the poem Jagannadha Radhachakraalu (The Chariot Wheels of of Lord Jagannadha) he says -

Natadhoorjhati

Nitalāngi pagilindata!

Nitaalaagni ragilindata!

Nitaalaagni, nitaalaarchi

Nitalākshi patālumani

Prapamchānni bhayapettimdi

 

The fire of the dancing Siva

Bursts as Volcano

The fire smolders,

The fire,             

Bursts out creating for

 a scare, for the whole world

Jhatak, Phatak

The dance of destruction

Violence unchained

The poisonous gases released 

Destructive energy unleashed

Destructive energy unleashed

Violence unchained

Poisonous gas, machine gun

Torpedo, tornado

That is anarchy that is war!

It will be decided either way!

The images continue in the same vein,

  

Dagapadina tammulaara,

Mee bhadhalu nenerugudunu

My cheated Brethren cheated,

I know your suffering

Starting with oneness with the sufferings of the suffering brethren he moves into a series of images creating a powerful impact achieved with the same relentless speed.

Thus the novelty of Sri Sri’s poetry rests entirely on the depiction of various kinds of reality he sees around him. It shows class consciousness, class dynamism, and class struggles in a cosmic dimension and at the same time highlights many other realities in a society that a common man has to negotiate with. The dazzling style of his writing lends his ideas a new expressive dynamics. These emerge as the foundation stone for a new poetics that Sri Sri started and was later emulated by many of his contemporaries then and now. There is no dispute as to the truth that Sri Sri was the first poet to raise his voice in this manner.  This is a fact of testified history.  

 

Add comment

* Please use the forum for healthy discussions.
* Comments should be in-line with the subject matter
* Please refrain from comments of abusive, vulgar, derogatory, racist, sexist nature.


Security code
Refresh