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What is the controversy behind ‘Patharvat’?

Jawahar Rathod’s poem ‘Patharvat’ is from his book ‘Dongarache Dhol’

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar’s recitation of a poem by Marathi poet Jawahar Rathod has led to a controversy across Maharashtra after the state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took objection to Pawar’s speech saying he had insulted Hindu gods and indulged in casteism. Pawar was speaking at a programme organised by writer Laxman Mane. 

BJP Maharashtra took to Twitter slamming Pawar thus:

“Atheist Sharad Pawar went after the fathers of Hindu gods and goddesses. Pawar always despises Hindu religion. If Pawar had not slandered Hindu religion, had not indulged in casteism, had not insulted gods and goddesses, he wouldn’t have reached where he has. Talk in a way that will suit you at this age, Pawar Saheb!”

A snippet of Pawar’s speech from the event has now gone viral on social media.

“We made the millstone with our chisels and hammers, which fills the stomachs of many today. Along with this we made many things. We made the idols of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh that you worship, also made by our chisel and hammer. You kept the idols in the temple and now you do not allow us to enter the temple? For years we have been the father of your God. Therefore, we will not tolerate this injustice done to us,” Pawar had said in his speech while delivering the crux of the poem written by Rathod.

Senior journalist Nikhil Wagle, who was present at the programme where Pawar delivered his speech, criticised the BJP in strong words. He wrote on Twitter,

“BJP members are not just wicked but they are also dishonest. At the programme in Satara where Sharad Pawar recited the poem ‘Patharvat,’ I was also present there. This poems by Jawahar Rathod presents the misery of a Patharvat. But how will the BJP understand this? Because it is the business of the BJP to distort everything for political gain.”  

As Wagle says in his tweet, Rathod’s poem speaks about the plight of the Patharvat community, a nomadic tribe of sculptors, which traditionally makes stone objects of daily use such as millstones. While the Patharvats are the protagonists of Rathod’s poem, the poem speaks about the exploitation of all workers, who, inspired by Karl Marx, are now ready for a proletarian revolution.

After the controversy, Pawar explained in a press conference the context in which he had made his comments and also read out the entire poem. Below is the English translation of the poem.

Patharvat

By Jawahar Rathod

We Patharvat
Makers of the millstone,
The stone that has given you flour and roti
We, however, for a morsel food
Struggle daily.
What else? Our misfortune…
We are ground
In the grindstone we ourselves make
Our chisels and hammers
Once created magic
Carved Ellora, Ajanta from rock
From the mirror of our shattered lives
You look at the beauty of sculptures and exclaim
Wah! Wah wah! So good!!
To your Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh
To your Laxmi and Saraswati
We gave the form.
Now you tell us truthfully —
Is God Brahma our creator, or
We are the progenitors of Lord Brahma?
Hah! For our chisel and hammer
A modern warrior like Karl Marx
Came to us in the guise of Indra,
We didn’t disappoint him.
Just like the munificent Karna
We put the armour and earrings in his begging bowl
And on that foundation we march towards revolution
‘Workers of the world unite!’
Now we are also getting organised
When we open our third eye
You’ll look, with your penitent eyes, at
The end of repugnant Bhasmasura inside you.
From our labour, our sweat
A spark lights
From this spark
All your gods, puranas
We’ll burn to ashes.
Now the wheel will reverse
Your rotten head and our club,
In our strong hands
In chisels and hammers
There is strength still, to shape the human being in you
Then, all the ruinous sculptures in
Ajanta Ellora will cry
We are equal
We want Justice
We want Justice

(Translated by Tejas Harad)

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