By Tejas AP
26 September 2021
Centuries ago in the state of Maharashtra, India, the voices against oppression echoed with songs, strings, cymbals, and an eternal whirr of grinding stones. Peasant women from across caste lines asserted themselves collectively around a stone grind mill in their homes – at once sharing experiences and making flour to feed their families. The most gendered of domestic activities had doubled up as a soapbox to express joy, anxiety, loneliness, rage against discrimination and seek spirituality. Amongst them were women saints from oppressed castes, too, who called for a life immersed in devotion and free of earthly divides (read: caste oppression).
What these saints vocalized, visionary anti-caste revolutionaries enacted through protests, social reform, and social infrastructure. They weaponized against their oppressors the highly accessible dialects and poetic flows of performance arts to mobilize oppressed castes. Their ideas have lived on through mixed-gender performance troupes who sing provocative ballads from village to village, especially those about the double oppression faced by women from oppressed castes.
Both oral traditions come together in the present through the songs about anti-caste struggles sung by women around the stone grind mill in Maharashtra’s villages. These songs speak of prosperity, justice, and dignity. They run through the sinews of Maharashtra, eternally encouraging a higher spiritual and political consciousness.
- Yojana Shivanand and Sant Janabai, Sundar Majhe Jate Ge (9:38 onwards)
- Sonubai Mote, Pahili Majhi Ovi, Ganaraya Ganapati
- Kishori Amonkar and Sant Soyarabai, Avgha Ranga Ek Jhala
- Kavi Sumansut and Sant Soyarabai, Dehasi Vitaal Mhanati Sakal
- Shahir Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali, Sampavila Deha Jari
- Shahir Rupali Jadhav and Sagar Gorkhe, Mat Sehna Meri Behna
- Kusumtai Sonawane, Aali Aali Agingadi
- Kadubai Kharat, Tumi Khata Tya Bhakriwar
- Lilabai Shinde, Bhim Bhim Mhanu, Bhim Majha Gurubhau
- Kadubai Kharat, May Bhimana Maay, Sonyana Bharli Oti
Find the lyrics for all these songs here.
Tejas AP is an information designer and an artist. He splits his time between Bangalore, India, and curated Instagram feeds. You can following him on Instagram at @tejasap.