Annabhau Sathe – A great writer with social orientation

A common thread running in the Indian society is that great writers, visionaries and mahatmas is that these were often ignored and overlooked by the society of their respective time. The great writer Annabhau Sathe was no different – he too was overlooked and ignored. The specialty of these great personalities is that the society realizes their greatness with the passage of time and the future generations learn that these writing and thoughts can serve as a guidance. Only those literary authors who are fearless can pen revolutionary thoughts against established practices. Annabhau Sathe was one such great literary who lit the spark against established social practices, traditions from a humanitarian angle.

A bright star named Tukaram alias Annabhau Sathe (1 August 1920 – 18 July 1969) was born at Vategaon in Sangli district. Annabhau was self-illuminating akin to a star and in the days to come he found a place amongst those great literary authors of the world who propagated the cause of practical social equality.

The various facets of his personality like being a soft, sensitive, ambitious, determined and talented individual started manifesting themselves right from his childhood. While roaming amongst nature, gathering knowledge that nature offered and a deep observation of the society, it was firmly entrenched in Annabhau’s thoughts that each individual should be granted respect as a human being. In 1930, at the age of ten, Annabhau coined a ballad of the battle of Panipat, he was closely associated with the socialist movement since 1936. His writing started since 1942 in the form of coining ballads, folk songs, farmers and labourer songs, folk plays. He formed a group called ‘Lalbavata’ (meaning red flag in English) along with like-minded friends and artistes. He used this forum to propagate patriotism, programs to aid the labour struggle, propagate social reforms and the movement for a united Maharashtra.

All the characters in his stories and novels, irrespective of whether they are rural or urban, male or female; were all either dalits , tribals or the oppressed and subjugated classes – these were the people who were frowned upon by the Indian caste system.

The rich literary legacy of Annabau, which took shape between 1942 and 1966, includes 32 novels, 22 collections of stories, 10 folk plays, 10 ballads, 2 plays, 1 travelogue, and 2 urban literatures. Apart from being translated in 14 Indian languages, his work was translated into Czech, Ploch, German, French, Slovak and Russian among other foreign languages. The author who never had formal education self-imparted the education. He motivated himself to learn to read and write. The knowledge obtained from the school of nature and the school of experience was distributed with a free hand though his writings driven by a sense of social commitment.  Therefore, it would be nothing wrong in proudly stating that Annabhau Sathe was a legendary writer who faced his life driven by a sense of social commitment. Till date, his writings serve as a set of instructive thoughts to the society as a whole.

With an idol of world-renowned writer Maxim Gorky at his home, Annabhau Sathe began writing with a view to propagate Gorky’s socialist thoughts. That Annabhau Sathe read Marx, Lenin and Gorky and was influenced by them was evident from the profound influence which that had on his writing and his life.  Annabhau Sathe liked to portray in his writings the way we live and what we think about life. The people he wrote about in his works were those he had seen in real life and he portrayed the way those people lived with great simplicity. He was a writer who gave importance to reality than to fiction. In his works, there is an attempt to give strength and respect to people who were looked down upon by society. All the characters in his stories and novels, irrespective of whether they are rural or urban, male or female; were all either Dalits , tribals or the oppressed and subjugated classes – these were the people who were frowned upon by the Indian caste system.

Annabhau, who defiantly wrote about the pains of the caste system, was the flag-bearer of social equality and the first Dalit writer.

Annabhau Sathe has created a revolution in Marathi literature by effectively portraying the sufferings that have come to the downtrodden by birth. Annabhau, who defiantly wrote about the pains of the caste system, was the flag-bearer of social equality and the first Dalit writer.  Through his works, he put forth the idea that social equality cannot take root in the country until the ghost of the caste system was buried. He put forth the theory of human freedom while being loyal to the Ambedkar school of thought. His writings reflected Marxism and also spoke about how the oppressed classes rebel and wage a struggle. He wrote about how the oppressed fight the battle for social identity with an aim to change our outdated traditional mindset. The struggle is not only against a foreign power but also against the feudal system and the upper caste atrocities. Annabhau states that the fight between the rich and the poor cannot be fought until the caste system is done away with. His writing force the readers to introspect even today. The questions raised by his works are relevant even today 1. Respect for woman and their social status 2. The pain faced due to caste discrimination 3. The exploitation of the Dalits. These problems are making society uneasy even today. Even today the state of some castes is worrying. It has become necessary for everyone to break the shackles of the caste system and create a new society that adheres to the expectations of a society as envisaged by Babasaheb Ambedkar and Annabhau Sathe.

Through his work, Annabhau Sathe granted a lot of respect to women. He did not discriminate between castes, religion, sects and colour while portraying women characters in his works. The woman portrayed in his literary work includes those from the Dalit, downtrodden, marginalized, farmers and those from the working communities.

In one of this many works, Annabhau has said “Struggle is acceptable to me but just cribbing about things is not”. Therefore, all the characters in Annabhau’s works are forthright, upright and are seen to be fighters waging a struggle for a better life. His woman characters are beautiful and cultured but the same time very forthright. They are ready to put their lives at risk to save their dignity. Annuabhau did not believe in woman living a life of injustice and oppression and hence he rejected the traditional way of portraying woman. He gave his woman characters the strength to stand up and wage a struggle rather than accept things as inevitable being in one’s life. His characters are not those who have a sense of hatted towards others but are rather those who look at people as being human and at the same time stressing that they also wanted to be treated as a human being. Annabhau portrays characters that wage a defiant struggle for freedom and self-respect despite being under several restrictions. In this he has given priority to reality and looks at woman from a human-rights approach. While describing her beauty he makes sure that it is not portrayed in a cheap or derogatory manner. His woman characters are not afraid to die or to kill for protecting their dignity.

Annabhau’s woman centric novels include ‘Chitra’,’Vaijayanta’,’Avadi’, ‘makdicha maal’, ‘Mangala’ , ‘Maturi’, ‘Tara’, ‘Rupa,’ Chandan’,’ Alguj’, ‘ Murti’, ‘ Ratna’, ‘Phulpakharu’,’Sangharsha,’Dole modit Radha chale’. Sixteen out of 33 novels are woman centric. These novels not only outline woman’s issues but also try to offer a solution. The woman portrayed in the novels are seen fighting against injustice, brave, defiant, not bowing to the situation, dynamic, magnanimous, simple attitude and doggedly fighting against all odds. Today, women are literate but not safe. There are those who come forward to protect them but these are few and far between. Therefore, it is necessary for today’s woman to inculcate the brave and forthright attitude of the heroines of Annubhau Sathe’s novels. Fr this, they should read Annabhau’s works, especially the woman oriented ones. They should deeply reflect upon these while reading and should try to emulate the Durga portrayed in ‘Makdicha maal’ , emulate the Chitra portrayed in the novel ‘Chitra’, Avadi from the novel ‘Avadi’ and try to rebel against the injustice and exploitation being meted out and bring to justice the perpetrators.

While exalting the personality of a woman Annabhau has said “A woman has the courage to protect her beauty and her character. She is not weak but able.” The time has come today to prove his analysis right. The heroines of Annabhau’s novel do not arouse a sense of depravity in the mind of the hero but rather manages to create a sense of respect. It motivates the hero to fight against oppression, injustice and exploitation. The character of Mangala from the novel ‘Mangala’ helps her patriot lover in his quest for the nation. The character of Avadi in the novel ‘Avadi’ successfully wages a struggle against injustice. Annabhau did not want a woman who is weighed down by injustice. His idea of a woman was one who is forthright rather he thought a woman was always that way. According to him she is one would break but not bend.

The male characters in Annabhau’s works also ensure that women are never treated with disrespect. They do not play with her dignity. Driven by drought, when Fakira comes to loot the grains in the government store, the manager locks the womenfolk in a room fearing that Fakira might molest them. Fakira asks the manager to open the door of the room and when he sees the womenfolk locked there in a frightened condition he tells them “Mother! I have come to take the grains and the money. I am not here to molest you. Starving people do not fill their empty stomachs by looting the dignity of women.” These words of Fakira are a slap on the face of today’s molesters. The youth of today ought to draw a lesson from this. Hence, Acharya Atre has said “Annabhau Sathe’s people wage a struggle to survive but they fight against injustice”.

The hero in his writings is a rebel but their thoughts are focused towards the service of the country and towards social reforms. For the youth who only splurge have a lesson to learn from the heroes in Annabhau’s works. The real meaning of the song’ Yeh Desh hai Veer Jawanon ka’ will be clear once one reads ‘Fakira’. Annabhau’s heroines offer an inspiration to the mind and also motivation in life while his heroes inspire us for patriotism, love for society and struggle. They are valiant in their struggle to achieve the goals.

Before going to Russia, Annabhau’s novel ‘ Chitra’ was published in the Russian language. His story titled ‘Sultan’ became famous in Russia while his song ‘Stalin’s ballad’ became a source of inspiration for the Russians. As a result, the Russians spontaneously welcomed Annabhau as soon as he set foot on Russian soil. The real test of one’s literary works is not in how much he wrote but how socially relevant and how popular it becomes. Annabhau Sathe’s creations stemmed from a responsibility towards the society. Characters from his Marathi work reached beyond the seven seas. They appealed immensely to Marathi readers.

Annabhau Sathe’s defiant actions and writings contributed towards social transformation. He took part in the labour movement, formed the ‘Lalbavata’ group, had active participation in the movement for a united Maharashtra, contributed through his socially relevant writings; writings which gave respect to women and thus empowered them.

Lokshahir (roughly translated as ‘the people’s poet’ in English)  Annabhau Sathe was a world renowned writer of international stature with social orientation.

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