Death of an “Adikavi” and his influence on Tamil Dalit literature

After Siddalingaiah published his famous autobiography, one of the Dalit writers of Tamil Nadu, the late Professor KA Gunasekaran released his autobiography, Vadu (Tamil for scar) in 2011

When the poems of the late poet Siddalingaiah were translated into Tamil, they breathed a new kind of energy into the Tamil Dalit literary space.

My poems speak like somniloquy

This is what Siddalingaiah, the famous Dalit Kannada poet who died of COVID-19 on June 11, said of his poetic style.

There was, however, a clear clarity of thought in his poems to be able to speak out for “his people” (Nanna janagalu): Dalits. He was the voice of those who were starving, of those who broke stones for a living, of those who depended on politicians or other centers of power such as farmers, construction workers, weavers, miners of gold and the “workers buried under buildings” and those whom the late poet called those who “have not seen rice and those who have no clothes”.

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Before talking about the impact of Siddalingaiah’s works in Tamil Nadu, one needs to know the journey of this poet who emerged as a fiery voice of Dalit Kannada in Karnataka during turbulent times in the history of the state.

Dalit contribution in Kannada literature

The Dalit contribution to Kannada literature began in the 12th century during the time of the Vachana writers, said Tamil writer and translator Pavannan, in his preface to the collection of translated poetry, Kavignar Siddalingaiah: 40 Kannada Kavithaigal, published in 2014 by Pudhupunal Publications, based in Chennai.

“In the regime of Devaraj Urs, Basavalingappa was a minister, who was considered a leader of the listed castes. At a public meeting, he said that Kannada literature only carries Hindu views and compared it to fodder for cattle. His speech created a great ruckus in the state. The opposition then turned against the Dalits, ”writes Pavannan.

Read also : Poet Siddalingaiah leaves behind a Dalit movement in disarray

It was also the time when the law “those who plow shall obtain land” had been implemented. Due to this law, many Dalits came gradually into their life. Angered by this, the upper caste people were waiting for a chance to suppress the Dalits again and the opportunity came in the form of Basavalingappa’s speech.

The upper castes formed a group called “Kannada Literature Protection”, which also prompted Dalits to come together. In the preface, Pavannan added: “This is how the ‘Dalit Sangarsh Samiti’ was born in 1973. Siddalingaiah was one of the architects of this movement.

Bengaluru-based Tamil writer Pavannan translated Siddalingaiah Ooru Keri’s autobiography into Tamil as Oorum Cheriyum in 1996

The Pavannan, based in Bengaluru, who translated Siddalingaiah’s autobiography Ooru Keri in Tamil like Oorum Cheriyum in 1996, said Federal that one of the strengths of the book is that instead of portraying his life as sad, Siddalingaiah wrote it in a self-deprecating manner.

“I think it is difficult to establish clearly that the works of Siddalingaiah had a direct impact on the Tamil Dalit literary space. But we can establish a link and a continuity since after his autobiography, one of the Dalit writers of Tamil Nadu, the late Prof KA Gunasekaran released his autobiography, Vadu (Tamil for scar, published in 2011), ”he added.

Siddalingaiah’s poems are usually sung with music. These songs were also recorded on audio cassettes and sold in large numbers. However, his poems lack conciseness, images and symbolism.

“In a way, Siddalingaiah’s poems can be called ‘slogan poems’. When the poem is sung out loud, it is like a slap in the face of a reader. It has been sung in many demonstrations and demonstrations, ”said writer and professor Stalin Rajangam. Siddalingaiah’s poems were hymns for Dalit movements. They were and are sung at the start of Dalit programs. Two poems Yarige bantu, ellige bantu nalavattelara swatantrya? and Nanna jana in fact had attained cult status.

Read also : COVID ends poet Siddalingaiah’s fight against castism

Influence of Marathi and Kannada Dalit literature

According to Professor Stalin Rajangam, Marathi and Kannada Dalit literature were the pioneers and Tamil Dalit literature followed in their footsteps. “However, more than Marathi, Kannada works have been translated more into Tamil. Writers like Thamizhavan and Pavannan have contributed a lot and done a lot to translate Kannada works and present various aspects of Kannada literature, ”he said.

Professor Rajangam asserted that the Marathi and Kannada Dalit writers were strongly influenced by the Ambedkarite movements, unlike the Tamil Dalit writers. So when Siddalingaiah’s poems were translated into Tamil, they breathed a new kind of energy into the Tamil Dalit literary space.

One of his famous poems found in the collection Nanna Janagalu Mattu Itara Kavitegalu, which translates into Tamil as In Sananga (My People), would remind a Tamil reader of the text of the late poet Inquilab Manusangada, Naanga Manusangada (Humans, we are humans).

K Malarvizhi, translator and former student of Siddalingaiah, said the humble poet knew his translated poems created a float on the Tamil literary scene. Malarvizhi is a co-translator of the book Kavignar Siddalingaiah: 40 Kannada Kavithaigal with her friend Madhumitha.

“The collection has been well received by Tamil poets like Sukirtha Rani and lyricists like Vairamuthu and the late Na Muthukumar. The former even wrote a review on the book. Popular commentator and Kannada teacher in Karnataka, DR Nagaraj calls Siddalingaiah Adikavi (the first poet) because he was the first Dalit poet of this century, ”she said.


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