Pre-independence Marathi Story-Tradition
Katha or stories are an important and basic constituent of the Marathi Literature. Over the years, it has gone through much progress and expansion in its journey from the past. Marathi stories are deeply rooted in the soils of Maharashtra. They have nurtured the lives and traditions of its people.
Jataka Katha (Buddhist folk lore), Lok Katha (folk lore), stories from the epics like Ramayan, Mahabharat, short stories, Vruta Katha, books based on customs and practices (religious and otherwise), translation of 19th century stories from other languages to Marathi, non-fictional stories in the pre and post independence India, Folk Katha, Dalit Katha, Adivasi Katha make up its vast canvas.
During the height of the British rule in India, Marathi story writing constituted mostly of translation and transcription of stories from other languages. Modern Marathi story writing was started by King Sarfoji of Tanjavar. He wrote Balbodh-Muktawali in 1806, a translation of the Aesop Tales. Vaijnath Pandit wrote the Simhasan Battishi (1814), Panchtantra (1815), Hitopadesh (1815) and Raja Prataditya Charitra (1816). All these books are more or less translations from other languages. A mixture of Niti katha (moral stories), Bodh Katha (educative / reformative), Danta Katha (fables) and historic and romantic stories can be seen in these books. StreeCharitra (1854) written by Dr. Ramji Genoji is mainly of a romantic nature. This compilation has translation and transcription of various stories from Shukabahatar tales to Arabian tales. Books like Narayanbodh (1860), Interesting and Wonderful tales from Arabian language (1861-1865) written by Krishnashastri Chiplunkar; Vidgha Stree Charitra (1871), a compilation of romantic stories by Chintaman Dikshit; Elizabeth and Siberia deshatil haddha-par kutumbh (an exiled family from Siberia) (1874), Paul and Virginia (1875), Hari ani Trimbak (1875) by Govind Shankar Bapat and Rasikapriya kinva Dikamaron by Raoji Vasudev Sathe were written during this period.
During the English rule, story literature had a predominance of fantastic and romantic kind of stories. It was Haribhau Apte who made stories realistic. It was a period of social awakening. Widow-marriage, child-marriage, elderly woman’s marriage, diplomacy and several such other social problems faced by the society in those times were elucidated in his works. Haribhau’s literature was in union with the spirit of that society. Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Agarkar were the idols of the two arms of the spirit of the society then viz., nationalism or acquiring independence on one hand and social upliftment on the other. Through his literary world, Haribhau developed both these arms. His story writing began with the magazine Manoranjan belonging to Kanitkar and Co. Later his story writing developed further with his own weekly magazine Karmanuk. His sphoot katha (short stories) became famous through Karmanuk. These stories had a modern turn to them, which is why Haribhhau Apte is referred to as the father of modern Marathi stories. The period between 1885 to 1910 is important in the history of short stories and without a doubt it has Haribhau Apte’s seal on it. A number of renowned Marathi writers like S. M. Paranjpye, N. C. Kelkar, Shripad Krishna Kolhatkar and V. M. Joshi wrote during 1910 to 1925. Stories as a charm of literature grew because of the magazine Manoranjan. During its regime Manoranjan greatly encouraged women writers. Kashitai Kanitkar, Girjabai Kelkar, Anandibai Shirke began and blossomed as story writers through Manoranjan. It was through Manoranjan that writers like V. C. Gurja and Divakar Krishna became well known. Gurjar’s stories received immense popularity and recognition by the people.
Gurjar compiled Haribhau’s Sphoot katha and Divakar Krishna presented them in the form of a novel. Readers were greatly attracted to his very first story Angannatla Popat (Parot from the courtyard). In spite of writing few stories, Divakar Krishna gave a new turn to Marathi story writing. One can notice his characteristic style of representation, variety, experience in usage of language and tremulous expression of experience. Till 1945 N. C. Phadke and V. S. Khandekar had won a kind of supremacy on the minds of Marathi readers. Phadke’s work was hedonistic whereas Khandekar’s was idealistic. Their heroes, their self-sacrificing beautiful heroines and the language used had the readers of that time under their extraordinary charm.
Between 1920 to1940 there was a rapid change in the social and family lives of the people. With the introduction of Marxist thinking came the feeling that most of human suffering was self-made. With India’s independence movement, people universally gained new dimensions in their outlook. The economic world saw a rapid change from the slow moving agriculture-based society to the fast moving industrial occupations. Joint family system was slowly giving way to the divided or nuclear family system. There was an increasing number of educated and working women. Adult marriages became prevalent. Writers like Vibhawari Shirurkar, Krishnabai, Kamlabai Tilak etc, pledged that there was a fresh development of strain in women’s lives. It was Kusumatai Deshpande who, following N. C. Phadke’s composition technique, gave a formal base to story writing.
The works of Lakshman Sardesai, G. L. Thokal and R.V. Dighe have a strong influence of N. C. Phadke’s entertaining technique of writing. On the other hand the works of Y. G. Joshi, Mahadevshastri Joshi and C. V. Joshi show a tendency of breaking away from the Phadke-Khandekar influence. Y. G. Joshi’s Gyanba Tukaram and Technique is a jestful criticism of N. C. Phadke’s graceful composition technique. Mahadevshastri Joshi’s works were full of freshness, vigour, clarity and openness. C. V. Joshi revealed in a simple and humorous manner the various aspects in the lives of middle class men and women such as happy and sad times, victories and losses. VarSanshodhan (Researching for a Bridegroom), SpashtaVaktepanache Prayog (Experiments in frank speaking), Majhe Dattak Vadil (My adopted father) etc. written by C. V. Joshi show uncompromising sincerity, good values and simple humour.
B. Raghunath’s stories give us a picture of the lives of the people of Marathawada. Similarly, Shri M. Mote’s Upekshitanchya Antaraangat also takes a peep into their lives. These two writers discarded the established conventional forms of story writing of the past. Through his many stories Vaman Chorghade simply experimented with the language. His stories enriched the minds of its reader.
Post-independence Period of Marathi Story Writing
After the Second World War, the purpose of expressing through literature underwent a change at the grass root level. The established conventional form of story writing fell short in fulfilling the then current purpose of literature. And so it became imperative to find new ways of composing stories. Even if the components like the plot, characters, etc. remained the same, the resolve of the components became flexible. It was as if Marathi stories had shed its earlier skin. Through stories written by Gangadhar Gadgil, P. B. Bhave, Arvind Gokhale, Venkatesh Madgudkar, Shantaram, Sadanand Rege, D. B. Mokashi story writing started acquiring new forms. Indecent, abstract, frustration laden, worm-viewed, ugly, disgusting were some of the allegations against the new form of story writing- in particular against Gadgil’s stories and Mardhekar’s poems. This gave rise to many arguments and discussions on the science of story and poetry writing. After much intellectual debate came the understanding and the acceptance of the new form of writing which then flourished over time. Gadgil’s stories depicted the realities of modern urban life, Gokhale’s stories were optimistic potent of faith and hope, Bhave put forward unconventional ideas in subtle undertones, Madgulkar’s stories dappled with the form and fragrance of a familiar earthen pot establishing the identity of Navkatha (neo-stories). Marathi stories progressed further with Shantaram’s (K.J. Purohit) stories grappling with existential questions, D. B. Mokashi’s keen observation of the gentle and restrained lives of common people and Sadanand Rege’s oblique idiom conveying fantasy.
Around 1960, new perspectives created by these novels got established. But along with that a new typology was also being defined. Was it that while refuting old conventions writers were getting bound by new ones? A new generation of writers viz. G. A. Kulkarni, Kamal Desai, Vijay Rajadhyaksh, Vidyadhar Pundlik, Sharachandra Chirmule, S. D. Panwalkar, Shankar Patil, A. V. Joshi, Tara Vanarase, Sarita Padki, Dyaneshwar Nadkarni, V. S. Pargaonkar had started writing with great vigour in this period. Each writer is coherent to his own inspiration of art creation. In Nilasavla Raktachandan (1966), a collection of stories, G. A. Kulkarni expressed a vision of human tragedy. The deep manipulations of man’s unconscious mind confuse his experience of the real world. With his literary production, G. A. Kulkarni created a new benchmark for Marathi literature. The melancholy of man’s fundamental loneliness is well depicted in Pundalik’s stories. The spiritual quests experienced in his stories often invoke the occult (eg. Devana, Janma etc.).
The plot, character-sketch, atmosphere, representation and language in S. D. Panwalkar’s stories show his characteristic singularity. He discloses in his stories the colourful, uncouth and manly world of the police, customs and other officialdom. Anand Vinayak Jagatgaonkar (Mukhavte - Masks, 1974) put into words the immensely boring stereotypical life of the middle class man. Sharadchandra Chirmule’ stories (Shrishilak, 1967) created unusual situations and characters to depict life’s meaningful but intriguing shades. A.V. Joshi (Krishnashakatche Dev, 1961) did limited but energetic story writing. Dyaneshwar Nadkarni was one of the talented writers of that time (Chidghosh, 1966). Through his stories he showed the life of some unusual and peculiar personalities. He is specially remembered for his invaluable, genuine and wonderful description of the nature’s image. Well known as a playwright, Vijay Tendulkar (Kalpatra, 1957), Jaywant Dalvi (Gahivar, 1956) have keenly depicted life’s inconsistent and ugly side. Shashikant Punarvasu alias M. S. Bhadbhade, Ambadas Agnihotri writing under the cover of Manus, Scenic alias D. G. Deshpande, Vasant Narhar Fene – all have given the world of story writing their characteristic touch.
Writers like S. N. Naware, Achyut Barve and Mangesh Padki need special mention for diversely depicting the emotional and sympathetic side of the middle class. V. P. (VaPu) Kale, who was successful in establishing a dialogue with the Marathi common man, wrote in this period. His narrative skills helped him in doing so through kathakathan (storytelling). His stories attracted the readers with their clean composition and intelligent dialogue. H. M. Marathe’s works give a penetrating insight into the perception of the changing urban lifestyle. He is an important writer of the seventies. Looking for detailed insight into the loneliness of man was Anil Raghunath Kulkarni. Bringing fame to rural stories were Shankar Patil, D. M. Mirasdar, Uddhav Shalke, R. R. Barade, Anand Yadav, Sakha Kalal. Important writers who brought to light the Konkan landscape were Balkrishna Prabhudesai, Madhu Mangesh Karnik, P. L. Mayekar. The rural literature they produced was characteristic in that it depicted the collective and individual joys and pains of those sections of the Marathi society, whose existence had hitherto not been written about or at least not so perceptively. Charuta Sagar, D. T. Bhosale, Manohar Talhar have given a researched picture of the various errant and nomadic communities like the Dombaris (acrobats) , Garudis (folk singers), Nandi (bull) trainers, Jogtinis. Observations about the changing rural realities can be seen in the writings of Bhaskar Chandanshiv, Anand Patil, Pratima Ingole, Uttam Bavaskar, Sadanand Deshmukh, Nagnath Kotapalle, Rajan Gava, etc.
Like the rural stories, Dalit stories also offer an insight to the lives of society’s downtrodden groups. Having inherited Mahatma Phule’s teachings, Dalit teachers and leaders forged themselves mainly through B. R. Ambedkar’s movement and his world-view. This unrest for radical change became an inspiration for Dalit literature and that in turn became the medium for agitation in literature. This was a literature based on humanist values, aware of the social constitution and intending for a democratisation of culture. It is rooted in conflict and uses the language of a struggle. Historically speaking, Dalit literature has been influential in the period post 1930. The rise of the periodical Asmitadarsha was in this period. Requiring mention as the first Dalit writer is Bindumadhav Modak (Amhihi Mansa Ahot – We are Human too, 1981). Proclaiming revolution was the writer Annabhau Sathe. In Khulanwadi (1957), Shankarrao Kharat has depicted the rural societal structures and the guilds that stifled the Dalits and the response to such exploitation.
Baburao Bagul’s writings start a new era in the Dalit literature. Bagul wrote stories that gave a first person account of the Dalit identity. In Jewha Me Jat Sodali (When I left my caste) he not only exposed the harsh realities of the rural Dalits but also the people living in slums and the homeless in the cities. Dalit writers like Vaman Howale, Keshav Meshram, Yogiraj Waghmare, Arjun Dangle, Yogendra Meshram, Sukhram Hevrale, Avinash Dolas, Bhimrao Shivrale, Urmila Pawar and Bhaskar Chandanshiv wrote notable stories that bestowed a new dimension to the Marathi literary tradition.
Women’s Story Writing
In the post 1960s, women’s writing was a forceful stream of literature; expressing a new consciousness and self respect, searching for a new womanhood, perceptively depicting the modern liberated women, showing the world from a woman’s point to view.
During this period women wrote a variety of stories of which we can have a brief review. Before the 1960s the works of Vasundhara Patwardhan and Vijaya Rajadyaksha are of importance. Jyotsna Devadh’s s work tells us about the unhappiness, pain and compassion experienced by a woman in her lifetime. JyotsnaBai is particularly noted for having reached out to a large multitude through her kathakathan (story telling). Yogini Joglekar, Sumati Kshetramande, Snehalata Sadunkar, Kumudini Rangnekar, Kusum Abhyankar and Shakuntala Gogate were all popular writers.
Vijaya Rajadhyaksha’s work shows the changing self-consciousness and new awareness amongst women. One can trace a graph of the life of a middle class Maharashtrian woman through the stories written by VijayaBai. Tara Banarase’s stories take an intelligent and keen look at life. Her stories paint a subtle picture of self-awareness put across to her readers through use of restrained prose which became her characteristic style. Vasudha Patil (Jamuna Ke Teer, 1968), Sarita Padki (Bara Raman Che Deool, 1963), Sudha Narwane (Lamandiwa, 1970), Chhaya Datar (1973), Deepa Gowarikar (1977), Padmaja Phatak (1978), Padmini Biniwale (1978), Urmila Sirur (1980), Sania (1980), Ambika Sarkar (1980), Rohini Kulkarni (1981), Asha Bage (1984), Pratima Ingole (1984), Gauri Deshpande (1986), Priya Tendulkar (1987), Urmila Pawar (1988), Sukanya Agashe (1989), Meghna Pethe (1998), Monica Gajendragadkar (2005) are a generation of women writers with a new awareness.
Asha Bage’s stories are serious in nature, artful and very individualistic. Gauri Deshpande’s work deals with feminism in a very forceful and thought provoking manner. The true nature of Gauri Deshpande’s personality is revealed through her writing, providing an independent, original and fresh perspective on man and the reality that surrounds him. Sania projected intellectual, active and self-reliant women. Priya Tendulkar depicts an activist woman dealing more directly with contemporary issues. Medha Pethe’s writing is largely based on self experiences. She offers a feminist and cosmopolitan view but beyond that also probes the various forms for man’s loneliness.
Marathi literary tradition is further enriched by the depiction of modernity in the works of Dilip Chitre, Bhau Pdhaye, Vilas Sarang, Shyam Manohar, Anil Dange, S. D. Inamdar, Rangnath Pathare, Rajan Khashan, Milind Bokil. Their work explores the incoherence, incongruity and absurdity of life highlighting the brokenness, the loneliness and the unavoidable distances in human relationships. This literature, thoughtful by nature, made the reader restless and introspective.
Fantasy (occult), science fiction and humorous writing add further variety to the Marathi literary tradition. It offers an insight into the Marathi mind and its culture.
Changing times have made the literary creation multi-faceted as one can see in the Marathi literature. It constantly poses and accepts challenges and thus we can see it inspire many a new story teller.