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A Fire That Blazed in The Ocean- Gandhi and The Poems of Satyagraha in South Africa, 1909-1911

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Item Code: HAP232
Author: Translated And Introduced By Surendra Bhana, Surendra Bhana
Language: English & Gujarati
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9789380188133
Pages: 213
Other Details 9.00x6.00 inch
Weight 420 gm
Book Description
About The Authors

Surendra Bhana

Emeritus Professor Burendra Bhana taught at the University of Kansas from 1088 to 2000 and at the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa from 1972 to 1087. He has published widely as author, co-author, editor, and co-editor, among them are the following books. The Making of a Political Reformer Gandhi in South Africa, 1893-1914 (2005). Dialogue of Two Friends, 1911 by An Indian (2004). Gandhi's Legacy (1997); Setting Down Roots (1991), Indentured Indian Emigrants 1860-1902 A Study on Ships' Lists (1991), Essays on Indentured Indians in Natal (1991), Documentary History (1984), and United States and Puerto Rican Status Question (1975).

Neelima Shukla-Bhatt

Neelima Shukla-Bhatt is an assistant professor in South Asia Studies at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA. Her teaching focuses on South Asian religions as well as the languages Hindi, Urdu, and Gujarati. She has published articles on devotional poetry of medieval India, Hindu women, and religion and media in the diaspora. She is currently working on a monograph on Gujarati saint-poet Narasinha Mehta. She writes poetry in Gujarati.


The poems we present in this volume make up texts T that mirror an important historical context and were cultural participants in shaping that context. Since most of them were recited or sung at public gatherings, they also had a performative dimension. They were, therefore, creative products of a phase in South Africa's history. While they appeared in the Indian Opinion from 1909 to 1911 at the behest of a political genius seeking to reach Indians, they reflected the cultural-literary imagination of poets drawing en their Indian heritage. We are able to see the way they configured Satyagraha both as a concept and a historical phenomenon. While Mohandas K. Gandhi introduced the concept, it is the poets who gave it shape and life; and it is this aspect that makes the poems historically significant. The lyrics in this collection also form a distinctive genre within the larger process of cultural production in early Indian diaspora communities including South Africa's.

In our task to present the poems as a window into a part of South Africa's history and briefly of the early Indian diaspora experience, we sought to strike a happy balance between suitable contexts, one historical and the other cultural and literary. We point to the poems' place in history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


Poetry, it is said, flows from deep pain, P as did Valmiki's Ramayana when he was moved by the cry of a wounded kraunch bird. With his genius, Valmiki wrote a timeless poem of exile and return that treats the themes of separation and longing in an exquisite manner. While the genius of Valimiki is rare, the impulse to express pain, longing, and hope in poetry is not. Ordinary diaspora Indians participating in the satyagraha campaign (1906-1914) under the leadership of Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) in early twentieth century South Africa chose the medium of poetry to express their pain of humiliation in the colonial context as well as their hope from the movement. Poems of Satyagraha refer to the poetic treatment of publication to bolster it. The poems published in the Indian Opinion, which provided cultural support for popularizing the movement, have remained virtually unknown. This collection is an effort to retrieve from this major source the poetic voices that aided the prophetic voice of Gandhi in making Satyagraha the energetic movement that has served as a model for non-violent resistance against injustice across the world. While both the prophetic and the poetic voices use evocative language, the former is marked by visionary authority, whereas the latter appeals to the heart. Even as Satyagraha was being explained by Gandhi's expository prose in the Indian Opinion, its emotive appeal was heightened by poems that appeared alongside it during a critical phase of the movement.

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