Gurram Jashuva: A universal poet

October 04,2013, 11.52 AM  IST

The 118th birth anniversary of Maha Kavi Gurram Jashuva was celebrated in a grand manner by Telugu Akademy Jashuva Research Centre at Jubilee Hall, Hyderabad, on September 27 and 28. A poets’ gathering (Kavi Sammelan) was organised on 27th in which more than 100 poets recited their poems. 

A symposium was organised on the writings of Jashuva on the 28th; that actually happened to be his birth anniversary.  Dalit poet Yendluri Sudhakar delivered the keynote address. Professor Suprasannacharya, Prof Banna Ailaiah and others spoke on various facets of Jashuva’s poetry. 

Seven Telugu literary luminaries were honored with Jashuva awards. Telugu Akademy Jashuva Literary Research Centre had been conferring these awards on eminent Telugu writers for the last three years.  These awards were limited to three during the first two years.

From this year onwards, the centre decided to add four more awards.  Seven eminent Telugu writers were honored with Jashuva awards by Deputy Chief Minister Damodar Raja Narasimha. Prof Yadagiri, Director, Telugu Akademy, presided over the function.  Dokka Manikya Vara Prasad, Minister for Rural Development, Kaki Madhava Rao, former Chief Secretary, Medasani Mohan (Sahasra Vedam) were among the dignitaries. 

The seven awardees were: Dasarathi Rangacharya(Jashuva’s Life Achievement Award), Kaluva Mallaiah(Jashuva’s Vishishta Puraskaram), Kolakaluri Swaroopa Rani (Jashuva’s Women’s Vishishta Puraskaram), Jashuva’s best Research Award to Bhaskara Chowdari, Best Poetry award to Ashavadi Prakash Rao, Best Prose Writer award to Ampasayya Naveen and Best Translator award to Ravva Srihari.  The first three awards carry a cash prize of Rs. 2 lakhs each and the next four awards carry Rs. 1 lakh each.  Jashuva was born on September 28, 1895, in an extremely poor Dalit family at Vinukonda of Guntur district.  His parents were Lingamma and Veeraiah.

During those days, Dalits were treated as untouchables and put to inhuman hardships.  Jashuva suffered from extreme poverty and caste discrimination.  But he proved that no force could suppress his poetic talent.  Jashuva wrote a series of books in different literary genres like lyric poetry, long poems, plays, etc., in all 30 books.
Jashuva used to tell the people that two things were his teachers: Poverty and caste.

He learnt humility from poverty; resistance from caste.  He waged a war against caste discrimination. The upper castes who boycotted him in the beginning soon acknowledged his extraordinary talent as a poet.  They called him Maha Kavi, the great poet.  His contemporaries like Tirupathi Venkata kavulu, Vishwanadha Satyanarayana and many others who belonged to the upper caste paid rich tributes to him and felicitated him.

He was honored with ‘Kala Prapurna’ (Honorary Doctorate) by Andhra University and Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.  He was given many epithets like Vishwa Kavi (Universal Poet), Kavi Kokila, Kavitha Visharada, Kavidiggaja, Madhura Srinadha and Nava Yuga Kavi Chakravarthy.

Jashuva wrote his poetry between 1930 and 1970.  His early works include Himada Markadhara Parinayam, Kanyaka Parameshwari, Madalasa Rukmini Kalyanam, Kushalavopakhyanam, Chidananda Prabhatham; his later works include Firdousi, Swapnakatha, Anadha, Terachatu, Kandisheekudu,  Mumtaz Mahal, Gabbilam(two parts), Netaji, Rakthaganam, Chinna Nayakudu, Babuji, Musafarulu, Swayamavaram, Rastrapuja, Kothalokam, Krishtucharitra, Nagarjuna Sagar and Na Katha( the last his autobiography in three parts). 

‘Gabbilam’ (Bat) and ‘Firdousi’ are the favourite books of many Telugu readers of poetry.  The bird ‘Gabbilam’ (Bat) is considered as the most inferior among birds.  Jashuva symbolized this bird with Dalits in Hindu society, made it their messenger.

The main theme of this poem is that Gabbilam listens to the pathetic story of the son of Arundhati who is a Dalit; after listening to this story, it takes this story to Lord Shiva who lives in his heavenly abode, Kailasam.  This bird narrates the story of the Dalit; how he is being put to untold humiliations, exploitations and punishment by upper castes.

Two parts of Gabbilam contain nearly 259 verses.  The format of this poem is compared to Kalidasa’s Megha Sandesam.  Every verse in ‘Gabbilam’ is written with great intensity and reflects the poet’s own sufferings. 
‘Firdousi’ tells the pathetic story of the famous Persian poet of 16th century poet. 

The emperor ‘Ghazni Mohmmad’ (the same emperor who invaded India 18 times) asks the poet to write a poem describing his reign and title of the poem would be “Shanama”.  Ghazni promises to pay a gold coin to each verse. Firdousi completes ‘Shanama’ after 30 years of strenuous effort.  ‘Shanama’ contained 20,000 verses.  Then, Firdousi goes to the court of Ghazni, recites all the poems and dedicates them to the emperor.

After completing his assignment, Firdousi returns home.  The emperor sends silver coins instead of gold coins through his messengers.  Firdousi feels humiliated and rejects the silver coins. The enraged Emperor orders the execution of the poet.  Firdousi escapes to his native place ‘Toosu’ with his wife and children and lives there.  After some time, Ghazni realizes his mistakes and sends 60,000 gold coins to Firdousi.  But it is too late.

By the time, the bags reach ‘Toosu’, Firdousi is dead.  While the gold coins enter the town from the east, the body is taken for last rites from the west.  After reading ‘Firdousi’, readers can’t help shedding tears.  The intensity and depth of feelings are given expression in the form of language by Jashuva; it has enriched Telugu language. Jashuva died on July 24, 1971.  

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