By Dr. Pretti Kumar
GARIMELLA’S “ Heat of India”
The struggle for India's freedom was unique in many ways. It was
essentially an anti-colonial movement, the first of its kind, on
such a mass scale in the annals of the world. It involved hundreds
of millions of people in a seemingly non-violent path. The origins
of the movement could be traced back to the middle of the 1 9~
century and, in particular, to the Great Revolt of 1857. Nationalism
its embryonic form was perceived in this Revolt. The revolt was more
anti British than anti colonial in its character. The ire of the
rebels was directed against the over powering might of the British
in a more political than economic sense. However, it lacked a clear
and progressive socio-economic and political picture of India's
The exploitative colonial rule of the British was an objective
reality. Its realization by Indians constituted the subjective
Thus arose Indians nationalism as an awareness of the Indian people
about the clash of their interests with England in India rcsulting
in the struggle against colonialism.
By 1919, younger men were replacing the moderates, and for them, the
recently announced British reforms were not adequate, they made no
thrust regarding the transfer of power. Agitations and riots
prevailed. The British rulers were virulent; arrests and imprisoning
without trials were the order of the day. In response, Gandhiji
advocated Civil disobedience. Passing through several vicissitudes,
the national movement reached a crescendo by 1920's involving the
masses in laree numbers. The changes brought about in the agrarian
economy with the consequent shins in the relation of agrarian
classes introduced a significant change in the movement. The post-
war situation coupled with the assertion and strengthening of the
Indian capitalist class, the struggle took new dimension under the
leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi became the new Messiah of
Indian freedom. The era of `responsible cooperation', came to an end
and the stalwarts of the earlier struggles like Lokmanya Tilak made
an exit. The Jallianwallabagh massacres and the policy of repression
let loose by the British, made people determined to fight to the
finish. Gandhi, grasping the new awakened mood of the Indian masses,
decided to launch a popular struggle. It took the form of the
non-cooperation movement. Introducing the new weapon of Satyagraha
on the plank of twin principles of truth and non-violence, pleading
for class harmony and social peace, Gandhi promised freedom through
non-cooperation movement within a year. It was the first genuine
direct mass action programme, which involved almost all social
classes including the peasantry.
The ordinary man was completely shattered. It is in this historical
backdrop that frail Garimella, the foremost national poet of Andhra
Pradesh, surfaced to voice defiance of his people against the mighty
British Government. He realized that the British could only set free
men and there was no need for that –Free men set themselves free.
His rise into prominence as a poet in Andhra coincident with the
non-cooperation movement of 1921-22 with the composing of the song”
We do not want the white man’s rule (Makoddee Tella Dorantanamu)
This is the historical song of 162 lines perhaps was the longest
song sung in the days of our freedom struggle. “Heart of India” was
Garimella’s first work in English. His spirit revolted against the
total subservience of his countrymen. His poetry is a blend of
socio-political concerns, and is marked by a unique vigour and
exuberance of expression. His anger has not only been salutary in a
climate of political expediency and literary compromise, but has
also kept his voice truly unique and dangerously distinct to be
banned. He felt the boycotters of Simon Commission and the welcomers
both were anxious to enter into an era of peace and friendship with
government. The fact that some Indian leaders were slavishly aping
the western ways of living and thinking was repugnant to his soul.
Several of his verses express this feeling.
"You partake in official dinners sweet,
The governors ten times per day meet
For shameless benefits touch their feet,
Yet, pretend to have an enemy's heat"
According to Garimella, this book was not written for this party or
that, but to defend the cause of all good souls, who thought it
their duty to render all the help necessary to the Commission, ever
in the face of the opposition offered by the Liberals and organized
by the Congress.
He was against both- the Liberals and the Moderates:
"Rejoice now, our mother, O Ind!
For even now your Liberals find
A plea, for a forward view to mind,
For action though they lag behind".
"The prince of the Moderates Malaviaji
Proposes to build by the end of this thirty
A Swaraj by negotiation and tea
With the masters of our mighty sea".
He believed that there was no use either of them trying to pretend
to be more heroic, frightful and valorous than the other-s For, the
country had got its Own sense of judging things not only by the
temporary outside glare and glitter, but also by the modesty,
earnestness, carefulness and farsightedness which virtues are their
In February 1921, Garimella Satyanarayana was arrested at
Rajahmundry. The Kakinada Magistrate had sentenced him to
imprisonment for one year, for writing the first part of Swarayya
Songs (Swarajya Geetaalu) in Telugu. When he had written the second
part and was found singing them, he was arrested again and arraigned
before the Presidency Magistrate, Egmore, who sentenced him to two
years rigorous imprisonment
In the Court of the Presidency Magistrate Egmore. Madras on July 24,
1922, the Presidency Magistrate did not permit Satyanarayana to read
out the statement The statement was handed over to the Magistrate
He felt it was a misfortune to reconcile or yield at every stage
instead of adhering to a principle. The policy of giving up
resistance on certain issues though reluctantly out of a feeling
that it would impair friendships or cause alienation or give
offence, would be productive of undesirable situations.
It was not new in India to resist the British. This resistance had
been going on ever since the British established themselves in India
But the qualities like accepting dutifully what others suggest
believing that all would be well when the time comes and a moderate
attitude should be preferred to the extreme one, had become 50
natural with the Indians that even in conclaves of statesmen these
qualities had become guidelines These qualities had been inhibiting
progress and had become impious inhumanistic influences leading to
Garimella matured in an atmosphere of cultural and national upheaval
when India was shaking off its age-old cultural and political
stagnation and slavery. He had by now understood,
Speech is civilization itself.., the word, even the most
contradictory word, preserves contact- it is silence which isolates.
HE decided to speak.
"Though after a rule of three hundred years;
We find naught here but bones and tears,
We dare not ask you leave this strand
And make your home in your island land".
Garimella's `Heart of India `is primarily concerned with the Simon
Commission and its experience.
We all have an inner need to line more deeply and fully and with
greater awareness, to know the experiences of others and to know
better our experience. The poet from his own store of felt,
observed, or imagined experiences, selects, combines and
reorganizes. He creates new experience for the reader, significant
because focused and formed, in which the reader can participate and
which he may use to give him a greater awareness and understanding
of it. It can be done so in two ways by broadening our experience or
by deepening it. Garimella'S poetry is of entirely exceptional
vitality, grace, authenticity and finesse. What strikes a reader is
the compelling originality~ freshness and also his command over the
verse technique and English language, which was an alien medium with
respect to our poets writing in this language, and above all
Garimella, detested it.
"Custom ridden and privilege swollen"
Your English shall not treat us equals,
I am content to be a subject stolen,
Give me my food, I will cease my quarrels".
In spite of Garimella's political differences with English he did
not deny the importance of English literature. He maintained the
rhythm and the richness of the language without tampering its poetic
"Of thy breast I took no sip
My tongue thy accents did not tip:
My playful pen I could not keep
It ventures into thy treasures to peep".
"Charge rue not, oh gentle mistress!
That oft I miss thy tone or stress;
If thou judge my passion sweet
It is more than a proper grasp of feet".
He restricts to four lines with a set rhythmical pattern as best
Suits his purpose (ab ab or at times aa bb). `Heart of India' is
almost written in the lines of Gurajada's “Congress- Madras”
"The bureaucracy has laid its web,
You do not sink in its direst ebb
But wade through it and see the Light
That dawns in the East with a pleasing sight".
"It is not through hatred, pride or spite
That dared we spurn your world-wide might;
With faith in God, in truth, in you,
As subject friends we trumpets blew
"Nor do we fret for your cruel torture,
But consider it as a reward due
For our noble service to your empire
Which rules the world like a famous shrew".
`The greatness of his work lies not so much in his soul-stirring
strains of poesy as in his relentless efforts to stress the
essential dignity of man and restore him to the former position of
pride am glory both by precept and example.
"Your cruel revenge is filled, I think,
`When the way-farers are forced to sink
On their nose and bellies, till they drink
The blood that the rough road brings to the brink".
He was born at a time when India was eclipsed by the clouds of
foreign tradition and Philosophy. The soul of India was lost since
the time of Sri Harsha and it was not found until the time of Tagore.
During the time of British rule in India, the Western city wall
civilization made its encroachment on Indian soil and cast a deep
spell on the minds of Macaulay-made gentlemen of India.
"The fate of my young men, clustering round
Your college walls for a living sound,
Is tilling my eyes with tearss amid throbs;
For the college is the source that robs".
"Though several men agitate to start us more schools.
I beseech ye my lords not to make us more tools
if ye please, pray, give us but only the choice
With equal equipment to revive our true voice". .
Garimella, again like Tagore, is well known for his song of
patriotism. Yet he condemns it wholesale, if it comes to clash with
the higher ideas of internationalism and hopes for a comity of
states living in a state of perpetual amity and understanding.
Love occupies a prominent position in his works. Love and
non-violence are twins. He felt we were able to be near the
threshold of freedom and later to achieve it too because we adopted
the novel, courageous, heroic but loving and patriotic method of
Literary revolution (led by Bankim Chatterjee and religious reforms
(preached by Raja Rammohan Roy).
Garimella's mind being as incisive as a surgeon's scalpel and
sensitive as a seismograph, registered the best features of those
movements and quested for suitable media in song and literature. He
believed that truth consists not in facts but in harmony of facts
and that this love of outward simplicity and inward truth is India's
message to the world. He sought fulfillment not in escape but in
activity. He lived and worked in freeing the mind of man.. .while he
fought against the exploitation of India by the foreigner, he fought
equally against the inward slavery of the Indian mind. Social
problems exercised his mind and drew forth from his pen fierce
satire on the society.
Subramania Bharati (1882-1921) was Garimella's contemporary,
committed to the similar cause. He was not only the greatest of 2oth
century Tamil poets, but also one of the major creative forces of
the Tamil renaissance. Sarojini Naidu once said about Bharati "He
has created Beauty not only through the medium of glowing and lovely
words, but has kindled the souls of men and women by the million to
a more passionate love of freedom, and a richer dedication to the
service of the country."
He too dreamt of
A fecund land
The Lord's grace
A new Heaven
A new Earth".
He stated in Glory of Womanhood:
"Let us rejoice in praise of womanhood,
Let us dance to the cry of "Victory to Woman!"
For womanhood is the sanctified union
Of mother's fame and the spouse's name".
Garimella's thoughts were not baseless. The government had been very
ably enforcing a policy of suppression and had detained numerous
citizens. The government had imposed all sorts of taxes and duties
which reminds one of the insects like scorpion and snakes. The
government had appointed additional police forces to terrorize the
people, to threaten them with whipping and to make bonfires of the
Swaraj flags. All savage arrangements were made to deter people
going from)) one place to the other to spread the message of
freedom. Some were forced to remain helpful to tile government. Tile
police whisked away some people detained them, while humiliated and
tortured other men and children:
"Are prostitutes your trothed friends
That you should call them down to show
The nakedness of our brothers in bands?
Is this the virtue even of a foe?"
"What sedition could the children talk,
That they should in hot sun walk
Or rather run sans food sans drink
And senseless in the mid-way sink?
India `s Despair
Wit and humor though sparsely seen are not completely absent in
Heart of India.
For example for Sambam
"More busier than the Madras bus
Never staying and ever horning,
He sounds aloud and stormy warning
That the ideal is the test of pain and fuss
The Madras Procession
"If the ancient mountain would not walk
To hear the Prophet Mohammed talk,
The prophet, in his wisdom, must kindly wend
His feet towards this mountain friend".
Unity At All Costs
His poetry and philosophy refused to be cribbed and confined within
any particular geographical boundary; they embraced within their
purview the whole humanity, past, present and future. He devoted
himself to elucidating the real meaning of tile great cultural
and spiritual struggle of man which has been going on throughout
history, in spite of many and recurring setbacks. His love for his
country and his appreciation of the role it should play in the world
was also visualized against this wider background. This development
really illustrates a deepening and enriching patriotism and not its
weakening or rejectiot1. For him any doctrine which basis itself on
exploitation and hatred and fails to appreciate the true and
essential humanity embedded in the heart of man is unacceptable.
This view has been aptly expressed in the following verses:
"Why don't ye all the slaves of the world, `I
One day, in common union curled,
Fail into the deep from tile mountain hurled
And stand with freedom's flag unfurled?
We then could see with what food fed
The modern Imperial freedom can tread
Over black, brown and colored blood
And wax upon these living dead".
"Tile universal culture is never free-given
Even such as is given, is not to enliven
Our pride or glory, but only to inspire
How noble our slavery, how grand their empire
Garimella's Heart of lndia seeks for Liberation and thus is very
purposefully written, not merely to entertain the reader but to
bring him, along with pleasure, fresh insights, or renewed insights,
important insights, into the nature of human experience. It gives a
deeper and broader understanding of life, freedom, human sufferings,
struggle with a qualification, of course, that the kind of insight
which literature gives is not necessarily the kind that can be
summed up in simple `lesson or moral'. It is knowledge- felt
knowledge, new knowledge- of the complexities of human nature
tragedies, sufferings and excitements that characterize the human
Greatness in literature, in fact, cannot be entirely dissociated
from size. In literature, as in basketball and football, a good big
man is better than a good little man The greatness of a poem is in
proportion to the range and depth and intensity of experience that
it brings to us- its amount of life.
"Of freedom, brotherhood and equality
Without a trace of loss or frailty!
May the stronger help the weak to strength!
And tile richer folk the poor to wealth"!
"And thus may tile Almighty fulfill
His noble good and eternal will!
And all the dangerous ambitions kill
O tile cruel, to raise the weak to the hill".
He is less an artist than a human being, with the same sorrows that
we have, with the same instinct to cry as we do. Indeed, he has come
very close to writing the poetry of concrete universals.