ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Dharma, Bhakti and Satire: Literary Landscape of Bhalekar-Patils of Tarawadi


Thube Surajkumar - Oxford, History, Oxford, United Kingdom


29 – Travelling stories, bodies and genres and the making of communities


 Lower caste assertion in Modern India has been a topic of critical interest for several researchers in the recent past. The Satyashodhak movement spearheaded by Jotirao Phule in 1873 is one such important movement. However, the movement has largely been studied in a teleological manner, from social movement to a political party. The overwhelming focus on ‘reformism’, I seek to argue, limits our understanding in gauging the more fundamentally radical aspects of the movement. I argue that this radical rupture was the incoming of the print technology and the beginning of the first non-Brahmin newspaper, namely Krishnarao Bhalekar’s Dīnbandhu (1877) and his son Mukundrao Patil’s Dīnmitra (1910).

In my paper, I argue that Bhalekar and Patil were pioneers of a unique form of storytelling informed by allegories and metaphors reflecting upon the quotidian struggles of workers and farmers in late 19th – early 20th century Western India. I seek to argue that their unique Marathi register which produced a plethora of novels, poetry and folk songs was a pioneering contribution in the birth and sustenance of counter vocabularies and alternative linguistic assertions aimed towards the ensuing socio-cultural hegemony of the upper caste intelligentsia. Being the first generation of non-Brahmin editors and writers, this paper will also explore the impact of their literary output on the emerging identity conflicts between Brahmins and non-Brahmins in the Marathi public sphere.