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Forerunner of social reform


Gurazada Appa Rao (1862 - 1915)

A forerunner to Mahatma Gandhi in leading a crusade against the social evil of "untouchability" through his writings, Gurazjda Appa Rao was a poet, writer, dramatist, social reformer and above all a great humanist.

"There are only two castes in this world: `good' and `bad'. If `Mala' (a Scheduled Caste group, which was looked down upon in those days) is good, I will adorn it as a `mala' (garland) around my neck," ("Lokamandhu `manchi', `Chedda' Ani Rende Kulamulu... )the Mahakavi wrote.

His poems on patriotism are thought-provoking. "Desamante Matti Kadoyi... " (a nation does not mean the earth, it comprises people). When the people are not healthy and happy, what progress can the nation make?" No wonder, patriotism was at its peak in the pre-Independence era.

His `Kanya Shulkam' is a unique experiment in Telugu drama. The language used in it makes the characters come alive on stage. It is, perhaps, the only drama that has made such a tremendous impact on the lives of the Telugu people. It was first published as a book in 1897. The drama has been staged several thousands of times during a little over a century.

As the current stand-off between India and Pakistan continues, Gurazada's story `Peda Masidu' (Big Mosque) can help in narrowing the widening gap between Hindus and Muslims and prevent communal flare-ups. `Peda Masidu' portrays God as one, and derides the fallacy of dividing the country on communal lines.

His `Medilta' is the story of a young woman, who was forced to sacrifice her youth at the altar of marriage with an old man. He professed widow remarriage and financial independence of women.

Born to G. Venkatarama Das and Kausalyamma at Rayavaram village of Visakhapatnam district in 1862. He shifted to Vizianagaram along with his father in 1872.

Gurazada had a vein for jest right from his childhood, which is reflected in "Kanya Shulkam".

He was a bright student at school. He started penning poems after passing his matriculation in 1880. His first poem , `The cuckoo', in English caught the attention of everyone, and from then onwards there was no looking back for him. He and Gidugu Venkata Rama Murthy were classmates and close friends. The statue of this "Harbinger of Social Reform" in a seated posture is at the RTC Complex junction.

B.M.G.

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