One Hundred Poems of Tukaram

Poetry - General
135 Pages
Reviewed on 05/10/2015
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Author Biography

Chandrakant Kaluram Mhatre is a bilingual poet and writer of short fiction from Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra State of India, writing in English as well as his mother-tongue, Marathi. He is a translator of Marathi literature into English and is also a keen researcher of folk culture, language and literature. He teaches English Language & Literature in a college affiliated to University of Mumbai.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Nandita Keshavan for Readers' Favorite

One Hundred Poems of Tukaram, translated by Chandrakant Mhatre, is a wonderful collection of poetry by a famous Indian saint, Tukaram. The book features an introduction which describes the style, context, and language of Tukaram's poetry. The context covers the deity he worshipped, main events in his life, and the events leading to him becoming a saint. In many poems, Tukaram praises and longs for his beloved deity, Vittal, a form of Krishna.
However, his poetry is unique since he wrote in the colloquial language of his region, rather than in Sanskritized Marathi. In doing this, he removes the impression of being learned, and his verses achieve a more down to earth style. His depth of love for God is widespread in his poetry, and this contrasts with his distaste for those who accumulate wealth, avoid spirituality and harbour a restless mind (“greatly wrongful excess is”/ “mind's restlessness makes even sandalwood scald body”).

Tukaram's verses are short but effective. Even in English, they carry an aphoristic power which would capture audiences if spoken aloud. There are universal truths in his verses which are laid bare for all to appreciate, since Tukaram was heavily opposed to class divisions and sincerely believed in a two-pronged approach to spirituality (“Protection of Dharma/ refutation of diabolism”). Aside from the world, Tukaram's devotion is about the individual soul merging with the Supreme soul, and this is beautiful to see expressed in verse (Fire and camphor coupling, does there remain any soot?). The poem “So much better O Lord” captures effectively the response of a devotee to losses and poverty. It's difficult to do justice to the depth and breadth of Tukaram's poetry in a short review. I highly recommend it to people interested in aphoristic spiritual poetry with true devotion.

Shriram Iyengar

The destitute and the downtrodden
Who considers as his own

He alone is to be recognised as Saint
God is to be experienced only there with

Chandrakant Kaluram Mhatre has done a commendable job by creating an easy to understand yet poetically beautiful translation of the works of Tukaram.

I am deeply grateful to the author who has introduced me to the world of Varkari Sants, Marathi segments of Bhakti movement and to the life and poems of Sant Tukaram. I applaud the author in taking up so huge a responsibility of translating and making these beautiful poems from Tukaram available for those who cannot read Marathi.

The detailed introduction section by the author made it possible for me to learn about the Varkari religious movement, the social environment that prevailed Maharashtra during this time period and the ways in which Sant Tukaram questioned the evils of then society like caste hierarchy and untouchability with his beautiful little gems of poems.

The poems that are chosen by the author in this compilation for translation focuses on various aspects of our life and are varying on their theme and this gives the reader a chance to enjoy the range and depth of Tukaram's poetry. The only suggestion i have to the author is that a simple commentary on each poem from the author added as a footnote would have given us more insights into the inner meanings that Tukaram has packed into each of his poems.

Reading Tukaram will make the reader enjoy his life more by making him love everything that surrounds him. Tukaram's poems were created with the intent of defying the passage of time and this translation will be adding to that mission.

Footnote: The book had me so hooked to the topic that it induced me to know more about the time period and made me research more about the 17th Century Maratha, the life of the farmers during that period, the terrible famine of the 1620s and the political upraising under Shivaji.

Blaine Desouza

Had a blissful journey of Indian Literature and Indian Spirituality while reading this book. Loved the way the word TUKA RAM has been depicted putting forth deeper meaning as the reader begins to read. The morning sunrise on the coverpage is also the ray of hope that one would receive after reading this book. For truly 'Words are Jewels' here!

Pramod Nair

In an age where religion seems to be the greatest divider, the words of Tukaram still ring true. The simplicity of his words, the gravity of its meaning and the beauty of the translation make the book such a pleasure to read through. The book offers a wonderful insight into the spiritual and forward thinking of Tukaram’s devotion and his life. A wonderful work of literature that makes you think, question and understand the true meaning and purpose of spirituality in the world.

Monika Gupta

Tukaram one of the greatest Sants in India truly influenced lives of many people in India even though he chants the name of Lord Vitthal in his poems they all are beyond the verticals of caste and religion, the abhangs spreads the message of humanity and spirituality. One Hundred Poems of Tukaram by Chandrakant Mhatre is a beautiful translation of Sant Tukaram poems in English since the actual abhangs are written in Marathi the essence of the abhangs is highly maintained in the translation. The poems expressed about spirituality and the connection of our soul with the supreme power.
The poems by Tukaram was written 400 years ago, but the messages that the poem gives is applicable in today's world as well.

"Day and Night
We are engulfed in war
Externally, internally
With the world and mind.

My Soul undergoes
Aflurry of lethal attacks
Which it keeps repelling

Tuka says by Your
Name's might
All my enemies
Have been defeated.

How beautifully the words are arranged since everyone is busy fighting with self and others Tukaram gives a non violence and spiritual solution to such issues just by taking the name of the supreme God all the miseries of life comes to an end. This book also express about the devotion that Tukaram had towards Lord Vitthal. He was
so devoted to Vitthal that he compared himself and Vitthal to salt and water respectively. According to Tukaram his life is like a camphor which joins with fire to give One flame.

The poems of Tukaram are short but like an Ice burg its difficult to judge the depth of it. Its filled with myriad meanings and message of humanity and spirituality and one step closer to Moksha. I would highly recommend this book to people interested in knowing about Sant Tukaram, about the philosophy of Varkari Sants in India and most important the one who is looking for eternal peace and devotion.

Reshma Etame

THE BEST BOOK!Though Tukaram has written four hundred years ago, the content of his work relates to present times and it will remain same for longest period of time which is a sign of great writing.Sometimes reading Tukaram's Abhangs in Marathi itself is difficult.Hats off to the efforts made for translation.In such writings,one has to work on both languages in order to develop content which is very challenging.There is less information written about Tukaram in English today.Thanks to the author for conveying Tukaram's greatness of thought through the book.