Sant Tukaram


My main research project at the moment examines Sant Tukaram as he is remembered today in literature, drama, and film. Tuka was a 17th-century sant, often glossed in English as “saint,” in the region today called Maharashtra, India.

Because I think knowledge should be more freely accessible, I am using Twitter to “publish” the first complete English translation of D. B. Mokashi’s Marathi novel, Ananda Owari, which is a story about Tukaram in the voice of his younger brother, Kanha. As I post portions to Twitter, I also Storify individual chapters. After I complete several chapters, I will post a continuous prose translation to this site. Once I add an introduction and further notes, I will publish the entire piece as a short book.

You can follow the story–in Marathi and English–on my Twitter feed, @Tukaram_Tweets. I welcome your feedback, whether it is in the form of a question or as a suggestion for a smoother-sounding translation. You do not need to know Marathi to offer suggestions!

The story begins with the stark observation, “Tuka vanished on a Monday.” From that opening phrase, Mokashi leads the reader through Kanha’s search for, and memories of, his beloved brother. Along the way, “Kanha” shows a very “natural” process leading to Tuka’s becoming the famous “saint” (Marathi, sant) who is very much alive in Maharashtrian life today.

It was an honor to visit Dehu, Sant Tukaram’s village, with Dr. Sadanand More (pronounced, “MorAY”), a direct descendent of Tukaram! Dr. More has written the definitive Marathi study of Tukaram, “Tukaram Darshan” (available only in Marathi, unfortunately).

I am particularly interested in the issue of whether modern interpretations of Tuka’s legacy might be considered a new form of hagiography. Of course, there is no simple answer, and this is one reason to ask the question in the first place.

For further information about Tuka, start with this site, which includes a stage adaptation of Ananda Owari. The play is based on Ananda Owari, but, as with any new artistic creation, it differs in significant ways from Mokashi’s work.

That site has an abridged, seriously modified, version of Ananda Owari. Hint: the book does not end that way, and the “Ananda Owari” (lit., “blissful veranda”) surrounds Tuka’s family home, not their temple (as the play would have it). My English translation will also be a “new creation” of sorts, as any rendering into a different language by definition alters the original work in some fashion.

Sant Tukaram
Sant Tukaram image in Dehu ancestral home (Photo: Jeff Brackett)



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