I started reading Tukaram Gatha on 1st of May; finished it on 31st of October. For exactly six months, I was with Tukaram. It was my choice.
I confess that I am bit disappointed with this association.
Nope. I am not arguing about Tukaram’s greatness or his unique contribution in shaping Marathi mind and culture. Whether I accept it or not, he is great.
What I am saying is just this: I did not enjoy reading Gatha as much as I had expected or as much as I would have liked. I am in a way (as always!) talking about ME (or is it I? I am always confused about this grammar) and not about Tukaram. So, please, don’t treat this as an attack on Tukaram. I generally do not attack anyone.
Why this happened? Process evaluation brought out these, you may please add:
1. Gatha consists of more than 4000 abhangas. This poetry style is sweet and effective when you have one or two. But on large scale, it becomes monotonous. It does not leave any space for you to explore and interpret – a good poetry always has this space.
2. Actually, it was an overdose of Bhakti for me. I appreciate Bhakti as a mood, as an emotion – but frankly speaking too much of it irritates and spoils me. Beyond certain limits, it shows weakness of human nature. Bhaktas always are asking something to God – either material or spiritual – but asking they are! My rational mind cannot value stories like Ajamila – by calling his son, he makes God feel that Ajamila remembered God. My God is not so foolish and is not craving for stupid calls from human beings. I believe God has better things to attend to.
3. There is nothing proud to be of being a woman or a man – it is a fact one has to live with. But the language Tukaram uses about women, did hurt me. Here is a guy, who with all his experience of Godhood is all the time using derogatory language about women. Tukaram’s portrayal, generalization of women is not at all acceptable. I know every person is product of her/his time and culture. But is not greatness all about ‘reaching beyond the boundaries’? Tukaram unfortunately has all the myths, misconceptions, stereotypes about women – which his society had. For example, if the son is not good enough the mother is called ‘rand’ i.e. prostitute – which is a derogatory term during his time. Why should the mother be guilty if her grown up son does not behave properly? Why the father is not similarly guilty of not bringing his son well?
4. Tukaram’s views on caste and hierarchy of the castes are also below par.
Hmm….. Better I stop writing this. I need to overcome this feeling of despondency. May be I should take a fresh guard, and without any bias read Tukaram again. I am sure he has a lot to teach me. Hope one day I will enjoy his poetry and get the feeling of oneness with the universe he calls Vitthala