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Bring Life Back To Literature — Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar

Bring Life Back To Literature — Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar

Akshay Gujar

Babasaheb Ambedkar was a voracious reader, and his writings have always been empowering for the downtrodden and enlightening for the country. In my opinion, literature has immense power. It can be oppressive in nature and also be liberating. In a country like India, knowledge production rights were confined to Brahmins and not to other Varnas, Shudras, or Untouchables. Therefore, whatever literature has been produced has been in service of an oppressive class, not the ostracized groups. Babasaheb contextualized literature in the Indian context, requesting that literature be given new life for the newly liberated country which is in need of integration and brotherhood. According to him, “Literature should be illuminating and writing should be intellectually convincing.” In the following excerpt, he emphasized the importance of literature. Babasaheb also had several expectations from the literary artist. Literary artists are a key element of society with prodigious responsibilities.


Bring Life Back To Literature — Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar

Literature is not created today to help the progress of society and the nation. In our newly freed country, we are in absolute need of integration and brotherhood. This should be the kernel of our national vision. Without that, no collective strength can be created. So it is literature that has to formulate the tenets of the humanities. Therefore, a big wave of revolution should spurt out from all areas of literature.

Sarvepee sukhinna santu |

Sarvesantuniramaya ||

has been uttered appropriately but mostly without any life, conviction, or desire for realization. Today, the peaks of literature are coming more and more under a cloud. We have a harvest that looks rich but is infested with evil. Our hunger for wisdom remains unsatisfied, and we remain famished. It is our right to have food for our minds. Literature with vitality and the vigorous experience of life is what we are crying for. Keats had said:

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter”. We should feel that the sweetness we are tasting was never tasted before.

Aatavishwatmakedeve |

Yenevaagayadnyetoshawe |

Toshonimajdyave |

Pasayadaan he |

Dnyaneshwar Maharaj was quite right when he said, “The oblation of my speech should please the universal spirit, and He should grant me benediction.” He has defined benediction further by saying, “More, more, and more the benefit wealth of this book of mine should bring about the happiness of all beings in its completeness.” This benediction should manifest itself in our literature.

We have completely lost interest in the realities of our lives and in our social duties and cultural traditions. If for a moment we look within, we will realise how our values of life as well as the rooms of our culture are disfigured, and the charred picture is one of horror. We would realise how, in our literature, we are rolling down the slope to decline and decay. Consequently, we should immediately be alert and preserve our social and cultural values with love. Literature should be illuminating, and writing should be intellectually convincing. In the story that makes up your novels, Sita always crosses the prohibited circle drawn by Lakshman. Draupadi is disrobed perpetually in Duryodhan’s Court, and Dushyanta does not show any recognition of Shakuntala. She is forced into the woods.

Therefore, I earnestly request that literary artists create sublime values for life and culture. Do not be narrow and limited in your goals. Reach for wider horizons. Do not talk within closed walls. Let your voice come to the vastest fields of life. Do not imprison literature to your personal problems. Dispel the dense darkness of the countryside with the searchlight of your creativity. We have a very big world of outcastes and downtrodden human beings. A literary artist cannot ignore them. Their agony and their suffering should leap into your imagination, and then let your writing elevate them. That will be the beginning of the new literature of a true human age.

(Translated from Marathi)

Source: Siddharth College Magazine 1983-84, People’s Education Society, Bombay.


  • Akshay Gujar is a student of M.A Social Work in Dalit & Tribal Studies & Action, TISS)
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