Mythological Revisionism as Historic Revisionism
#13
Certainly, I thinker should not be excluded from one's reading least no matter who he is. I also no quarrel with the Dalit-Bahujan label if it is useful to the said population.

But to read that label into history and pretend that there is a Dalit-Bahujan way of thought dating back to the Buddha which is nonviolent, and to contrast this with the Brahminical way of thought is nothing but mischief.

More importatnly, you are too charitable about Ilaiah's historicization of myth. Why don't we take the quote you yourself provided:

Do not these intellectuals, so called seers and NRIs understand that Deepavali as it is being celebrated today is an anti-Dalit-Bahujan festival as Narakasura, who was killed was a Shudra himself?

The problem is, in the Puranas, Narakasura is not a Shudra. He is an asura, which is not a caste-- in fact, the asuras have castes among themselves as well, although they are only ever made explicit with regard to their guru Sukracharaya. So no, he's not reading the Puranas at all.
When you ask:

Isn't it likelier that he is merely quoting in exasperation a literalist belief prevalent among communities of believers?

The answer is a resounding, no, not really. I unfortunately do not have the reference with me at this time, but in one of his works, Ilaiah makes his assumptions about Hindu myth explicit: He writes that because Buddhist works mention gods like Indra, Brahma, etc., then these gods must have been real because Buddhism is accurate-- they must have been various tribes in India. Same with the asuras.

The truth is, when you read more works by Ilaiah and other Dalit writers like Chandrabhan Prasad, it becomes clearer and clearer that the new leadership of the Dalit movement not only takes Hindu myth literally, but takes some utterly random distortion of it to be real and historical Like, as I previously posted, how Ilaiah magically deduced that Tataka had a republic and that her lands were taken from her!

I do not share your indulgence of Ilaiah merely because he is an OBC, Arvind. I don't believe that Ilaiah doesn't have the "luxury" to deal with facts and not myth Moreover, I don't believe these myths are helping either.
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#14
You've also apparently misunderstood why I protested the Jambavanta story. I don't believe Ilaiah considers this to be history at least. You write:

Dr. Ilaiah too cited it as a story that said something about the worldview of the people who told it, and not as history.

Yes, that's the problem. He's trying to show Sanskritic India as inherently violent and "Dalit-Bahujan" India to be argumentative and reasonable. My first post should have made it clear why this is nonsense. How "Dalit-Bahujan" is not such a uniform category as to have a single worldview, how the village gods are quite violent themselves, and how argumentation can be found in Sanskritic work also if you know where to cherry-pick.

Sorry, but Madiga religion doesn't get a free pass.
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#15
Here is a passage from Jawaharlal Nehru's Discovery of India presenting some speculation on what some of the real-life contexts of the epics may have been.

Quote:The Ramayana story is one of Aryan expansion to the south. The great civil war, which occurred later, described in the Mahabharata, is vaguely supposed to have taken place about the fourteenth century BC.

Here is a passage from Ramachandra Guha's India After Gandhi, where the author speaks of what maybe called Dr. Ambedkar's somewhat idealized view of the Buddhist era:

Quote:In a concession to nostalgia, Ambedkar then allowed that some form of democracy was not known in ancient India.'There was a time when India was studded with republics.' Characteristically he invoked the Buddhists, who has furthered the democratic ideal in their Bhiksu Sanghas, which applied rules akin to those of Parliamentary Procedure - votes, motions, resolutions, censures and whips." - Ramachandra Guha, India after Gandhi

Now, if an author were to take the 'Aryan expansion to the south' bit from Nehru and the 'India was studded with republics' bit from Ambedkar, and were to consider Rama as the apotheosis of an Aryan warrior and Tataka's forest or Khara's forest as a community outside of monarchical control, it doesn't take too much imagination to lead to the following speculation: The tales of Rama's exploits in the forest were inspired by imperialist conquest of tribal republics or federations that were later 'demonized' by the conquerors in their lore. Khara's outpost is incidentally named 'Janasthaana' (translatable to People's Domain) leading even more orthodox readers to the speculation that its destruction by Rama is indicative of the epic authors' endorsement of centralized empire over loose republics. Dr. Ilaiah is not alone in reiterating such speculation nor is this exactly a view held exclusively by critics of Sanskritization. Kanhaiyalal Munshi, founder of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, in his Krishnavatara series alludes to how the sequence of establishment of hermitages in indigenous territory, followed by arrival of armed forces to guard the hermitages followed eventually by annexation (a pattern central to the Ramayana) may have been how the 'Aryanization' of the subcontinent played out. As a historical aside, this closely parallels the mission,presidio,pueblo (monastery,garrison,township) model in the wresting of California from the natives. While Dr. Ilaiah's takeaways here maybe liable to be received with misplaced concreteness, the underlying speculation itself is hardly idiosyncratic to him.

Coming now to the question of who or what the characters of 'Asuras' and 'Rakshasas' in the epics were inspired by, there seem to by and large be two broad speculations. One is that the epics are agrarian allegories with demons representing natural calamities and their defeat symbolizing renewal. Here is an essay elaborating this view, and more on point, here is an essay by mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik suggesting that the tale of Narakasura maybe an agrarian allegory. Another speculation is the one already mentioned above, that these maybe fictionalized versions of conquered indigenous peoples. How prevalent the view of certain communities as demon-descended was, can be gauged from the fact that C Rajagopalachari felt compelled to include the following in his retelling of the Ramayana, written both in Tamil and English:
Quote:It is a pity that some people in their ignorance identify the Asuras and Raakshasas with ancient Indian tribes and races a view not supported by any literary work or tradition or recorded history.

The conjecture of foreigners that the Raakshasas were the Dravidian race, is not borne out by any authority in Tamil or other literature. The Tamil people are not descendants of the Asuras or Raakshasas.
While Rajagopalachari places that pernicious conjecture at the feet of 'foreigners', it is not altogether unheard of in regional variants and retellings. While it is true that no grounds for such speculation maybe found in the letter of the Puranas or epics, demons maybe far from casteless in live retellings through which the masses acquaint themselves with the stories. Is a critic like Dr. Ilaiah obliged to desist from attacking those malicious aspects of epic retellings that have no basis in the written rescensions? It maybe germane here to reiterate that Dr. Ilaiah's object of critique seems to be Hinduism as it is manifest to him rather than Hinduism as it was chronicled, and keeping this in mind it seems unreasonable to demand that he limit himself to strictly textual criticism. For a casual netizen, the commonsense approach maybe to declare all the myths as made-up and proceed to reform society, but might it be possible that those who were at the receiving end of mythical denigration may view that suggestion as all-too-conveniently vacuum-cleaning the problem?

Admittedly, none of the quotes above is part of a peer-reviewed publication and the quotes all occur not in textbooks but in popular books. As a matter of fact, all of Dr. Ilaiah's quotes so far in this thread are also sourced from popular media rather than academic journals. Does he often seem to overstate the case for rhetorical flourish in op-ed columns and television studios? Of course! Would I react with much more incredulity at some of the same things said in an academic setting? Yes again. A good deal of the quoted material maybe from the activist's rather than the academic's pen. Perhaps the risk of 'being laughed out of academia' doesn't strike Dr. Ilaiah as too much of a concern because he possibly, and largely justifiably, doesn't yet feel truly welcomed in academia and sees his real field of activity as elsewhere. Even during his television appearances, the chilly climate with which he is received is palpable even on screen, be it in the anchors' stock questions reserved for grudgingly invited mavericks or the scarcely concealed disdain from some other interlocutors. This clip isn't the only time he's been called 'anti-national'. Being used to seeing him forced into such combative positions, it was a bit of a surprise watching him in a very congenial disposition here (watching even on mute for two minutes suffices to make the point) showing that the image of him as a curmudgeon is one more mainstream media artifact.

This post has digressed much from the inflammatory OP, but that maybe for the better since it has now lent itself to some informative asides. It maybe the first post revolving so thoroughly around a single personality and so I'll use that as an excuse to conclude this on a somewhat personal note. As a high-school student, I chanced upon a copy of Why I am not a Hindu at a Crossword bookstore. I didn't have occasion to read it in full thereafter but the very first page I read stayed with me. In it, Dr. Ilaiah describes in a very hands-on way the day in the life of a goat-herd. A question that triggered was : "Do I know about anything as well and truly as he knows about goats?" More disturbing variants of that question in later years is "Does any degree that is acquired confer comparable competence as his with goats?" and "What does it really mean to be academically credentialed?"

tl;dr:
(i) Conflict between expansionist Aryan monarchies and indigenous settlements may have provided a backdrop as well as characters for the epics.
(ii) Informal and speculative treatments of certain ideas can have utility in activist settings that may not necessarily transfer to academic settings.

PS: Bringing up Jambavanta in this post isn't intended as an endorsement of the 'Madiga religion' any more than bringing up Sudama in this post is an endorsement of the 'Puranic religion'. That said, I agree that my point could have been made without the mythical snippet, whose distracting side effects have been duly called out here.
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#16
Thanks for the reply, Arvind. If this thread doesn't wrap up soon, perhaps the moderators could split this from the original thread?

TLDR: Kancha Ilaiah and his cohorts are making wacky truth-claims about the past that need to be denounced by any rational freethinker.
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You bring up an interesting point. I am well aware of the explicit identification of rakshasas with certain castes or races that was made the past. I am also aware of the philological interpretation of myth that was well in the vogue well into the 20th century. That being said, we operate on a completely different paradigm now. Indology and South Asian Studies are very different disciplines.

Especially when we now realize that the arya and the dasa were linguistic designation and not racial groups, not even remotely based on skin color-- such characterizations begin to make little sense . And yet you still have people like Ilaiah and Udit Raj who think that skin color was central to caste and that the lower castes are a priori Dravidians. Ilaiah's journal's very name is Nalupu, which means black in Telugu. Here's what Romila Thapar has to say about both using myth to write history and racial Aryans:

"What is the difference then again between the aryas and the dasas? If the distinction is not racial, it is linguistic, social and cultural."

She goes on to explain that:


... this was one theory [racial Aryans] that had a very widespread popular appeal. All kinds of groups, all over the country picked up this theory and built their political ideologies on the basis of this. Let me give you two extreme examples of the way in which the theory was used... So this becomes an ammunition in the hands of an ideology which is arguing for caste confrontation and saying that the Dalits and the tribals are the indigenous peoples, not the upper caste people. [Phule] uses a lot of mythology very interestingly. In fact it is quite fascinating. He uses for example the myth of Parasurama, who destroyed the kshatriyas twenty one times. And he says, there you see this is the clear example of Brahminical destruction of the indigenous Indians. This is now being woven into what is sometimes called the dalit version of the theory. Those of who you might have read Kancha Ilaiah's book Why I am not a Hindu will find it plays an important part in that. Of course the weakness of the theory is that it avoids the discussion of how and why the lower caste became subservient. It is very easy to say X came in and conquered Y and therefore Y became subservient. It is much more difficult to try and explain the process by which Y became subservient. Now at the other extreme, giving a totally different interpretation to the theory, is the Hindutva version.

This is a problem that a historian of Romila Thapar's caliber is well aware of. At a launching of an anthology of Dalit literature, which contains this sort of material, she had this to say:

Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Romila pointed out that historians should strive to understand the social message of the mythologies. She also said that while mythologies indulged in fantasies, history is conditioned by being available to rational and logical analysis.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-...813217.ece

So let's get to the points you made. That India had "republics" is well-known. That the Ramayana was a chronicle, even in a vague sense, of Aryan expansion into South India is questionable. As you go further and further into the South, John Brockington notes that geography becomes more and more inaccurate while the number of monsters and demons increase. But even if these two stand, there is no evidence that Dravidians had republics. All republics were Aryan. So even if Tataka was a Dravidian, why would she have a republic?

The first book of the Ramayana, which contains the Tataka episode, was a very late addition to the epic-- perhaps well into the Common Era. I would assume by then, especially after the Mauryan Empire, that explicit "Aryan" and "Dravidian" identities would have ceased to exist.

Today, attempts to locate historical bases for the Ramayana or Mahabharata are often treated as pseudoscience. The archaeologist B.B. Lal has recently fallen into disrepute since, in the words of Michael Witzel, he has taken to following a "Schliemann-like" quest of finding a historical basis for the Ramayana. India is behind the curve in this regard. I read an ASI travel book which said that the Painted Grey Ware culture corresponds to the Mahabharata, something which is not taken seriously when you cross the Himalayas.

As far as these being Hinduism as manifest to Ilaiah versus what Hinduism is is out of the question. Watch this rather frustrating debate in which Ilaiah debates a Hindu Nationalist (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gDE10ha3nY). It is in Telugu, unfortunately, but when Ilaiah mentions that Tataka is a Dalit, the Hindu is taken aback and is confused as to why Ilaiah is anachronistically mentioning SCs and STs in the Treta Yuga!

No, Arvind, Ilaiah is making truth-claims that are subject to scrutiny. He is claiming that Indra, Brahma, Saraswati ,and the other deities were real beings that existed. He is claiming that Rama, Krishna, and Ravana existed. By extension, he believes that the history of India is the history of rakshasas (that is, Dalits) being exterminated by Indra and other Aryans. This is a common thread in all Dalit literature. In Hyderabad, I remember seeing an ad for a play called Bali-Vamana. It claims that the origin of the caste system was when the Vishnu avatar Vamana defeated the rakshasa Bali! I guess this makes a little sense since in the minds of the organizers, rakshasa = Dalit and Vamana was a Brahmin boy. Paula Richman, in her paper "Contesting Interpretations of the Ramayana," gives an interesting tidbit. She notes that Rajagopalachari, the staunch Hindu, even momentarily renounced his faith in order to counter his opponent Periyar's nonsense by saying that "fictions" should not dictate policy in the present!

If we indulge Kancha Ilaiah, we lose sight of what made us freethinkers in the first place-- the desire to fight for what is true, not what is convenient to believe. In my eyes, Ilaiah is no different from.
If a Dalit party believing this comes to power in the center-- or at least as a major player in a coalition-- do you really believe that we won't have another NCERT crisis on our hands in which all of our childhood fairy tales are suddenly transformed into a national history? There are those who want to ban the Ramayana because they claim that it calls Dalits monkeys (you would have to make the leap that the vanaras were real people). If you still think Ilaiah has something to bring to the table apart from this nonsense, fine-- but his fantasies ought to be brought into question as well.

P.S. Devdutt Pattnaik is not a mythologist. He takes Hindu stories and interprets them in quaint ways to give management advice-- the articles he posts in the Economic Times are mostly inane. He doesn't count.
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#17
Thanks Sachin1 for the copious references which call into the question the possibly naive assumption which prematurely rules out that Dr. Ilaiah's media statements on epic characters could be a precursor to a project of historic revisionism. Here are several followup questions on the larger topic of historic revisionism and misconceptions in 'amateur Indology' (some of which maybe FAQs), on which it will be useful to have more clarity and references. And yes, +1 for thread-splitting, into a new one that can perhaps be called "Mythical Revisionism as Historic Revisionism?"

(07-Jul-2013, 02:58 AM)Sachin1 Wrote: Especially when we now realize that the arya and the dasa were linguistic designation and not racial groups, not even remotely based on skin color-- such characterizations begin to make little sense

That the word varNa means color besides caste seems to be on the reasons the skin color hypothesis of caste origins seems to have had such staying power. What is the current consensus on when the term's literal meaning as color became vestigial or whether at all that word referred to skin color in the first place?

(07-Jul-2013, 02:58 AM)Sachin1 Wrote: Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Romila pointed out that historians should strive to understand the social message of the mythologies. She also said that while mythologies indulged in fantasies, history is conditioned by being available to rational and logical analysis.

(07-Jul-2013, 02:58 AM)Sachin1 Wrote: No, Arvind, Ilaiah is making truth-claims that are subject to scrutiny. He is claiming that Indra, Brahma, Saraswati ,and the other deities were real beings that existed. He is claiming that Rama, Krishna, and Ravana existed. By extension, he believes that the history of India is the history of rakshasas (that is, Dalits) being exterminated by Indra and other Aryans. This is a common thread in all Dalit literature.

(07-Jul-2013, 02:58 AM)Sachin1 Wrote: If a Dalit party believing this comes to power in the center-- or at least as a major player in a coalition-- do you really believe that we won't have another NCERT crisis on our hands in which all of our childhood fairy tales are suddenly transformed into a national history?

This is an important red flag, warning that we don't always have the luxury of assuming that mythical revisionism (which is in a sense encouraged as evolving retellings speak of a living popular culture -for otherwise we would have to cry foul of Ashok Banker!) will always be distinct from historic revisionism (which is never desirable since it has been traditionally been employed for erasure of accountability and establishing dominance.) in the agenda of experimenting public intellectuals. I agree that my assumption that Dr. Ilaiah's popular media references to the epics are only an exercise in mythical revisionism, maybe naive and oversimplified. Direct quotes of explicit truth-claims about the historicity of mythical characters can help settle lingering confusion about extending the benefit of the doubt. However I am still wary of the characterization of Dalit-Bahujan literature as some sort of monolith, and would really like to read about dissenting voices within that larger camp who decry historic revisionism.

The only side-note I'll make on Devdutt Pattanaik's work, granting that he's essentially a 'motivational speaker', is that his anthologizing of folk variants of some of the more 'canonical' myths has some utility.

(07-Jul-2013, 02:58 AM)Sachin1 Wrote: But even if these two stand, there is no evidence that Dravidians had republics. All republics were Aryan. So even if Tataka was a Dravidian, why would she have a republic?

There seem to be at least two different issues that can be explored here:

(i) It maybe less misleading to start with a label of 'non-Aryan' while speaking of Aryan expansion to avoid the risk of labeling all the other 'indigenous' peoples Dravidians. It does seem as though the epics begin to teem with more and more classes of beings as the people who wrote them begin to encounter newer indigenous peoples. Consider for instance the Nagas that find copious mention in the Mahabharata. What sort of government did the people on whom those beings are modeled, most likely practice? How prevalent were tribal clan-based systems of organization that were neither monarchies nor republics?

(ii) Much is made of the fact that Tataka is portrayed as a woman, by mythical revisionists and interpreters of different stripes. Some traditionalist, or esoteric, interpreters say that Tataka and Poothana, the first demons slain by Rama and Krishna respectively are portrayed as women to symbolize the destruction of avidyA(ignorance) which happens to be a feminine noun. How such symbolism is problematic due to its underlying, even if unwitting, misogyny is a whole different discussion. A more political narrative, seemingly subscribed to by Dr. Ilaiah, is that patriarchy was a forcible Aryan import whereas indigenous societies were more egalitarian with their share of women-rulers. Much is also made of the fact that Aryan goddesses are more often consorts of deities, whereas indigenous goddesses are supposedly more autonomous. To what extent is it true that pre-Aryan societies were predominantly fertility cults and that their theology and society were not predominantly male-identified?

(07-Jul-2013, 02:58 AM)Sachin1 Wrote: She notes that Rajagopalachari, the staunch Hindu, even momentarily renounced his faith in order to counter his opponent Periyar's nonsense by saying that "fictions" should not dictate policy in the present!

Rajagopalachari famously pointed out the little technicality of Ravana being called a Brahmin in Vaalmeeki's epic, when presented with a parody where Ravana is victorious over the 'Aryan Rama'. There are parodies and there are parodies, as different as the recent Sita Sings the Blues which is a feminist critique, and the Dravidar Kazhagam's parody play Keemayanam whose gratuitous aspersion-casting on Sita maybe viewed as anti-feminist. If we cut back to the present to the Sethusamudram controversy, the self-proclaimed heirs of Periyar now thankfully seem to have abandoned the project of historic revisionism and wish to treat the epic as fiction, even if only for political expediency.
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#18
Thanks for the post, Arvind. I would enjoy it if other Nirmukta users could give us their two cents as well on the questions that you raised. First of all, I really liked the distinction you made between mythological revisionism and historical revisionism . It's a good dichotomy that I should add to my vocabulary Biggrin.

I'd also like to admit my possible error in assuming Dalit-Bahujan literature as a monolith. Many writers in the movement do engage in mythological revisionism. What I've read from Periyar, Ilaiah, and some others, however, have caused me to grow uncomfortable with mythological revisionism as is sometimes seen in Meena Kandasamy's poetry, for example. This may be unwarranted though-- I have no way to tell whether it is an attempt at historical revisionism or not. That this is made explicit in some works and not others certainly muddies the water a bit. Another problem is that much of Dalit-Bahujan literature is in languages like Marathi and Tamil, both of which are inaccessible to me. At the risk of overkill, I wanted to elaborate a little bit more on why I tend to be on my guard.

There are other examples of historical revisionism outside of Periyar, et. al. The popular film Teesri Azadi, which is all over the Internet, comes to mind. Particularly the way in which Buddhism was said to have been annihilated from the subcontinent came across as very ahistorical-- it is much like Order 66 in the last Star Wars film, and Brahmins infiltrate and eliminate every Buddhist in India. I was also once directed to a rather alarming blog known as DalitNation, which asserts that students of Chanakya (c. 300 B.C.E.) destroyed the Indus Valley Civilization (2500 - 1700 B.C.E.)! It also expresses the view that Narendra Modi, an OBC, is actually being controlled by Hindutva leadership and is a pawn. The rest of the blog is rather chilling:

Quote: "We have the living proof of harappa and mohenjadaro in pakistan. My heart bleeds when I see those ruins. How cruel the brahmins are. This finished our civilization and drove all the people to tamil nadu. It is the great leader Periyar who has liberated our thoughts from this slavery. Periyar said Brahmins are like snakes. Kill them wherever you find them. We should follow periyar and reclaim our lost heritage of Indus valley civilization. We should identify the students of Chanakya who read the arthashastra and used it to destroy Indus Valley civilization and teach these brahmins a lesson. "

Quote: > Einstien and Opphenhiemer were influenced by bhagvad gita. They are extremely dangerous books and they used it to kill millions of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. The Japanese should ask compensation from the Brahmins and Jews because it is they who created the destruction of the two cities.


You get the idea. When I further read in Ilaiah's book his plan to turn temples into rehumanization centers to rehumanize Brahmins, I came to worry if such a thing would ever come to pass. And in this interview , he says that Brahmins are not Indians and gives some more ahistorical views. It is open to interpretation how he would screen Brahmins for those without casteist views, or if he wants to include all Brahmins for good measure anyway.

However, I also read of an instance in which Dalit intellectuals condemned a Dalit-Bahujan book which incited violence against Brahmins. So there is certainly no monolith in this regard. I am sure that Marathi and Tamil speakers could inform us about the history issue.

On to your FAQs-- I may be able to contribute one or two things.

1) As far as varna goes, here is Thapar's explanation from the same lecture :

Quote: Varna means colour, it also means cover. But the point is that if you look at all the references to varna, the majority of them are not in connection with skin colour. In fact I can't think of a single varna reference that actually refers to skin colour, except one. in for example the ninth book which deals with the ritual of the soma karman where they talk about the hide turning black, the hide on which the ritual is carried out. Most of the references are used in a symbolic sense. You have the varna of the dawn, of the day, of the night, and of the clouds, and there is frequent reference to the dasas as the dark ones. They could be evil. They don't have to be necessarily always black skinned.

Of course, we have a modern preference for light skin in India which is a problem. I have heard it said that colonialism may have something to do with this, but I was skeptical of this given the "Blame it On the British Mentality" many have, especially Hindutvadis. When I opened a 19th century British ethnographic book, however, I read about one tribe of Indians referred to as "wheatish," which is a term found in many matrimonial ads. Maybe there's something to it?

2) Two Sanskritists Michael Witzel and Stephanie Jameson have a pdf online titled "Vedic Religion." In the rather lengthy work, they caution that the Vedas are a text of a narrow population, and that there is no way to recover what the popular religion was in a meaningful way. I think we can say the same about pre-Aryan India. Witzel even asserts that there is no such thing as an Indus Script, and if this is true, we can never get meaningful information about what the Indus people believed.
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#19
Sachin, I fixed some broken links in your post. The forum uses BB code and not html tags.
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Thanks for the heads up, Lije. I must admit, BB code is much simpler.
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#21
(07-Jul-2013, 11:06 AM)Sachin1 Wrote: Another problem is that much of Dalit-Bahujan literature is in languages like Marathi and Tamil, both of which are inaccessible to me...
I am sure that Marathi and Tamil speakers could inform us about the history issue.

While any commentary centered on such an iconic literary figure is subject to the risk of overshadowing and obscuring the contribution of less famous writers, it is arguable that any survey of Dalit literature in Marathi is incomplete without the poetry of Namdeo Dhasal. Many of the references below are drawn from an earlier exchange, which had the benefit of inputs from a native speaker of Marathi who additionally was also in a position to offer a first-hand Dalit perspective and also bring to bear some social-sciences training to the issue.

Dhasal's work became accessible to the Anglophone world with a critically acclaimed and well-received translation of his works by the late Dilip Chitre, a well-known Marathi writer in his own right and a long-time friend of Dhasal. Chitre's translation of these works has been spared being cast as a Brahmin author's appropriation of Dalit literature and as a tokenistic and patronizing inter-caste collaboration, thanks to the wide recognition of the fact that this was more a collaboration of mutual respect between two practitioners of an art form than a politically motivated alliance of public intellectuals. Their collaboration which could 'put art over politics' while not doing injustice to either, offers a compelling, and receding, glimpse of a time when literature drawing on identity was not always pitted in a position of 'total war' (or at any rate, 'total class war') that would preclude co-operation with an 'established writer'.

Dhasal's poetry is rich in unborrowed metaphor and searing imagery that is not for the faint-hearted, strikingly 'uncivil' in places and intense even in translation. Here is an example: Ode to Dr. Ambedkar
Mythical characters are conspicuous by their absence and the writing invents its own symbolism, not relying on as its raison d'etre the 'evil in scripture'. In other words, the revolution called for in this poetry does not feature as a priority the project of de-Sanskritization or indeed Reverse Sanskritization (like Reverse Orientalism) that is prominent in the work of say, Meena Kandasamy, whose Twitter bio reads:
Quote:My Kali kills. My Draupadi strips. My Sita climbs on a stranger’s lap. All my women militate. They brave bombs, belittle kings, take on the sun, take after me.
This seems a case in point of what we have here called 'mythological revisionism', for which freedom must prevail in artistic spaces (as has been argued for in quite a different context here) and caution is called for in policy spaces. On the topic of sexual mores and exploitation, here is an excerpt from Namdeo Dhasal whose imagery is not borrowed from Sanskrit epics but from a Mumbai slum, in another instance of how his poetry is organic and original and not defined by its opposition to something external:
Quote:O Kamatipura,
Tucking all seasons under your armpit
You squat in the mud here
I go beyond all the pleasures and pains of whoring and wait
For your lotus to bloom.
— A lotus in the mud.
(Source)

The comparison above may not be an altogether fair one for at least two reasons: Meena Kandasamy's generation is likely to be on average more urbanized and relatively more assimilated than Dhasal's, and consequently also more deracinated and with less ready access to local and earthy imagery and thus more prone to opting for an outer frame of reference such as Reverse Sanskritization. Also, a pioneer and rank outsider like Dhasal would have had a degree of artistic freedom that is unavailable to someone that is part of a 'youth movement' in the blogosphere, which even if not prescribing an unwritten 'party line', does pose more peer pressure to adopt a more collectively recognized style.

Lest the more visible spokespersons like Meena Kandasamy are viewed as representative of the bulk of Dalit literature in Tamil Nadu, here is an article on Nirmukta by Prof. Dayanandan reviewing the book 'Tamil Dalit Writing' an anthology striking in its diversity and its rootedness, and of course eluding facile characterization as subservient to any one project, let alone Reverse Sanskritization.

Speaking of 'revolutionary poetry' one question that arises is 'Which revolution?'. In this context, does Dalit-Bahujan poetry in Andhra Pradesh get presented often in the same stage as that of Gadar or Varavara Rao, poets of the other more commonly recognized revolution?
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#22
Arvind and Sachin,

Thanks for those information rich posts and interesting analysis on mythical revisionism and historical revisionism. Funny how a trolling opening post got converted into an interesting thread.

(07-Jul-2013, 11:06 AM)Sachin1 Wrote: What I've read from Periyar, Ilaiah, and some others, however, have caused me to grow uncomfortable with mythological revisionism as is sometimes seen in Meena Kandasamy's poetry, for example. This may be unwarranted though-- I have no way to tell whether it is an attempt at historical revisionism or not.

I have not read any work by Illaiah or Meena Kandasamy, but have read a few by people from the Dravida movement. A good example is this piece of mythical revisionist literature (Ravanakaviyam http://books.google.com/books/about/Rava...edir_esc=y ) in Tamil. It was written by Pulavar Kulandahi from the Dravida movement during 1940s. I had this as part of required reading in high school. I did enjoy reading it back then. Having said that I too find that such mythical revisionism goes hand in hand with historical revisionism. At least that is the case with the Dravida movement. IMO, Dravida movement has mightly screwed up Tamils. To this day they still spew nonsense like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1mWJ7HGJkY ).
[+] 2 users Like Captain Mandrake's post
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#23
Hi Lije and Captain,

Well, I respect your way of looking at my comments, and that is very much a part of free thinking. Even the way you said it, is okay with me. My point is very straight forward and clear........I also belong to the Brahmin community and have come out of my "sacred thread" and Caste Name................and I have every reason to believe that adding such symbols to names are extremely damaging to a secular, free India. We [ in our family ] have sacrificed enough, towards this cause.

I have seen days when people used to ask the caste of fellow-travellers in a Bus [for example] and after an interim period of change, all these deplorable divisions are bouncing back in our Society in alarming proportions. We need to address every aspect of social change. Do you know that this week I came across a victim of such a caste division......a so called high caste POOR girl who is deprived of admission to a professional medical degree, whereas a RICH so called backward friend of hers getting into college........I am a strong advocate of eradicating this evil.

BTW, I have no reason to attack anyone in this community. I was just trying to express my opinion as such symbols have caused, enormous harm to India at large..."LEADING BY EXAMPLES" is what matters.

Let's embrace the spirit of free thinking.....
Best Regards
Anil
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#24
(08-Jul-2013, 12:45 PM)Anil Wrote: Hi Lije and Captain,

Well, I respect your way of looking at my comments, and that is very much a part of free thinking. Even the way you said it, is okay with me. My point is very straight forward and clear........I also belong to the Brahmin community and have come out of my "sacred thread" and Caste Name................and I have every reason to believe that adding such symbols to names are extremely damaging to a secular, free India. We [ in our family ] have sacrificed enough, towards this cause.

I have seen days when people used to ask the caste of fellow-travellers in a Bus [for example] and after an interim period of change, all these deplorable divisions are bouncing back in our Society in alarming proportions. We need to address every aspect of social change. Do you know that this week I came across a victim of such a caste division......a so called high caste POOR girl who is deprived of admission to a professional medical degree, whereas a RICH so called backward friend of hers getting into college........I am a strong advocate of eradicating this evil.

BTW, I have no reason to attack anyone in this community. I was just trying to express my opinion as such symbols have caused, enormous harm to India at large..."LEADING BY EXAMPLES" is what matters.

Let's embrace the spirit of free thinking.....
Best Regards
Anil

Here are a couple of threads that might be more appropriate for your questions on caste names and on affirmative action.

http://nirmukta.net/Thread-Building-a-FA...ffirmative

http://nirmukta.net/Thread-Do-caste-name...ight=caste
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