THE GREAT MARATHA (A Poetry Collection) by Vishal Bodhale
Published by Sahitya Anand Prakashan, Latur (Maharashtra)
Year: 2013, Pages: 68, Price: Rs.200/-, ISBN: 978-81-927534-3-0

Reviewed by: Subodh A. Joshi,
Associate Professor in English, S.M.G. Kanya Mahavidyalaya, Sangli (Maharashtra)


The Great Maratha a poetic work by Vishal Bodhale, obviously, refers to Shivaji Maharaj who fought bravely against the mighty Mughals in the 17th century. Shivaji Maharaj was not only a warrior but also an ideal king who was conscientious about the welfare of his subjects. The poet, in the present age, feels an impact of the personality and achievements of Shivaji Maharaj whose image is deeply implanted in the minds of the people of Maharashtra. It is this overwhelming impact that compels the poet to write on a variety of ideas, impression, thoughts, feelings which encompass his mind, and it is noteworthy at unconscious state of mind the poet constantly thinks of Shivaji Maharaj and his times. The special feature of the book is that the poems are not about the life and achievements of Shivaji Maharaj but are about the contemporary social political and personal values which stand in sharp contrast to the values, cherished by Shivaji Maharaj in the 17th century. Dr. Zinia Mitra states in the foreword, ‘the entire book can also be read as a single poem written by a sensitive Indian mind perceptive of the injustices occurring around, proud of the Indian heritage, its rich past..’

Obviously, in the presence of the memory of Great Maratha, everything appears puny and trifling to the poet. He therefore, rejects the present state of corrupt affairs recalling Shivaji Maharaj. At night, he finds the figure of Shivaji Maharaj as a prophet ‘buried under the land of hypocrisy’ (Horse Steps). In the poem Hirkani, he expresses respect for Hirkani and Jijabai who were ideal mothers. He compares Hirkani who climbed down the hill to give milk to her babe with a modern girl who cannot come down from ‘Westernized cliff’. In Fort Panhala he points out those horse steps of brave men have replaced bikes and vagabonds. In Shivaji Returns, the poet writes about the change that might be noticed by Shivaji if he comes back to Maharashtra. The poet welcomes him to ‘planets of robots’ and tells him about concrete roads, electric cars, signals, test tube baby, the gun, cell phones, facebook, e-mail.

Satire and irony are the poet’s forte. He is very much ironical when he writes about the young people who in the name of trekking resort are going to drinking liquor, smoking cigars. He is also ironical when he writes about ego of having upper level of caste like ‘ninety-sixth clan’. The poet’s target of satire is the hypocrisy of people who have made Shivaji God and have conveniently thrown his principles to wind. In The Divinity, he writes:

We made you / God / recited / hymns in darkness / prayed you / endangered thy /

livingness / stressed your / past / closed our eyelids
While reading the poems we do have, ‘a feel’ of different moods of the poet. No doubt, most of the time, he is satirical, ironical. Sometimes, he is sad too. In Memory of Mr. Open is a pathetic account of a poor young man who is a descendant of landlord and who suffers in spite of having quality. Occasionally, the poet is angry and gives an outlet to his angry feelings. In Bhavani, he expresses his desire to have his sword of justice that ‘cut forth/ each and every/devil /buried under /your path of/decorum’ No doubt, the poet is sad, confused and nostalgic. He feels that he is like Arjuna and needs guidance of Krishna (The Expedition). In Shivaji Returns, the poet observes that a farewell hand of brave Maratha inspires us:

Let’s ride on / new beliefs / hail you for the sake of soul/ for sacred goal
Images of horse ride, fort recurs throughout the poem. Parliaments of Ducks, Two Boats are symbolic poems. In fact, Shivaji is a symbol of patriotism, devotion, bravery, chivalry and humanism. That way, in all the poems put together, there is an allegory. It is a series of symbols, highlighting a conflict between highest values, principles of life and baseless & selfish reality of contemporary living.

All the twenty two poems are in free verse. In addition to several historical references, one comes across a few Western allusions such as The Judgment Day, The Valentine Day, and Odyssey. Despite the indispensable influence of English the poems are truly original in form and content. Dr. Jaydeep Sarangi a bilingual poet comments, ‘Since his first collection, we find the poet in full control of his thoughts and expressions.’ So far, very few poems in English on the subject of Shivaji Maharaj have been written. Mr. Bodhale’s poems revolve around contemporary living against the backdrop of The Great Maratha, and that renders a special identity to his poems.
© Author
(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Summer 2015)