December 13, 2015

Gurajada Death Centenary Marked across Andhra Pradesh

Ajay Sharma

THE death centenary of great poet Gurajada Appa Rao was observed across Andhra Pradesh. Various programmes were organised by AIDWA and Prajanatya Mandali, with the help of the CPI(M) units, in different parts of the state. Various cultural organisations also participated in these events. The commemoration started on Gurjada’s birth anniversary on September 21 and continued till the death centenary on November 30. As part of the programme, nearly two lakh students, teachers and others sang his famous patriotic song Desamunu Preminchumanna (love the country) in nearly 500 schools and colleges in the state on November 30. In the Andhra Pradesh Bhawan in Delhi, this song was sung in which officials and Telugu people participated. Debates, essay writing and drawing competitions were also organised. A month-long activity was planned and a reception committee was also formed for the success of these programmes. On November 29, a day-long seminar attended by over 600 people was held in Visakhapatnam in which prominent writers, poets and progressive people deliberated on teachings of Gurajada, a great social reformer, poet, writer and philosopher. The uniqueness of his writings is that they awakened and inspired the weak and energised them and exposed the inequalities in Indian society. On November 22, a day-long cultural event was held in Srikakulam district in which around 100 writers presented their poems. Another seminar was held in Anantapur on the initiative of the AIDWA. In Visakhapatnam, 169 organisations participated in the commemoration. This is a rare phenomenon. College managements and principals responded positively to the activities. KBN College of Vijayawada entered into an agreement for regular organisation of such seminars. CPI member of one mandal also organised such programme in some 16 schools in his area. On this occasion, a new page on AIDWA Facebook account was created in the name ‘AIDWA inspired by Gurajada’. AIDWA also brought out a book, Darsinikudu Gurajada (Gurajada, a Visionary) and sold 2,000 copies on the first day. Prajasakti Book House has also published eight books. Sahiti Sravanti, Jana Vignana Vedika, Students’ Federation of India and Prajanatya Mandali have also taken up many activities. In many places, government officials also participated and cooperated for the success of these programmes. Gurajada wrote his famous Kanyasulkam play in 1869 for the cause of social reforms. At that time, girls below 10 years of age were married to men of 65 years of age or older and in return, the girls’ parents used to receive paltry sum. This unfortunate social evil of selling of young girls has been exposed in Kanyasulkam, which means money in lieu of a girl. This play was a pioneering piece in many ways. It was the first drama ever to be written in a spoken dialect that could be easily understood in collaboration with visual dramatics. The play was very bold in criticising the popular opinions and inhuman practices during that era. It took a dig at the male dominated society in India. This play has been translated into many Indian and other languages. He also wrote many stories on child marriages and prostitution among other women-centric issues. Through his writings, Gurajada advocated for freedom to women. He went on to write a touching patriotic song, Desamunu Preminchumanna, in 1910 which is remembered even today. The following lines appear in this song: Desamante matti kadoyi/ Desamante manushuloyi (A country is not made of land/A country is made of its people), which in turn means that development is not just about roads and buildings but of enhancement of the living standards of the people. By his writing, he advocated that people should walk together irrespective of caste, creed and religion. In his poem, he also said that it is not words that are important but it is the deeds. In the same song, he wrote all religions will vanish and only knowledge will prevail. He also wrote Indian goods should cater to the needs and all people should get work. Gurajada is not just a poet or writer but an outstanding social reformer and a true patriot. He participated in a community meal in Berhampur, now in Odisha, where people from various castes shared the same food and ate together, opposing untouchability and caste system which are prevalent even today in many parts of our country. He also advocated and encouraged inter-caste marriages and opposed any type of unchouchability. In his historic poem, he said if ‘good is scheduled caste, then I preferred to be as scheduled caste’. He actively involved himself in freedom movement and attended the 1908 Congress Session in Madras. He was critical of the Congress leadership for compromising with the British rulers, instead of leading the independence movement to get complete independence. He wrote many poems including Sarangadhara, Chadrahasa and Victoria Prasasti in English. In fact, he started his literacy work in English by publishing Sarangadhara. Impressed with success of this, Syam Chandra Mukherjee, editor of Calcutta-based Rees and Ryot, encouraged Gurajada to start writing in Telugu to reach out to the natives. This programme filled enthusiasm in our cadre and we were able to go to new sections. We were also able to spread our understanding into a wider section. AIDWA came into contact with literary forces working on these issues. These activities also shed light on the ills of intolerance, atrocities against women, honour killings, dragging of peasants from their lands in the name of development, allowing FDI in many sectors etc. Fighting against all these evils is a fitting tribute to this great social reformer. Unfortunately, the Andhra Pradesh government did not give enough importance and observed the occasion as a routine programme. The government should act now by introducing his writings in text books syllabus. AIDWA demanded that Gurajada’s famous Desamunu Preminchumanna be made official song of the state and a cultural centre be established in his name at his native place Vizianagaram.