Rivers in Literature

Continuing the celebration of Godavari Dussehra, let us today explore one of the dominant themes of ‘Rivers in Literature‘ with specific focus on Godavari.

Rivers have been inspiration of many writers, since ages and throughout its course. In this article, I attempt to trace multiple representations of the Godavari in literature, which dates back to 230 BC. This article is part of a research which is still in progress, thus, the references mentioned here are not exhaustive[i]. However, they illustrate a broad array of literary expressions associated with Godavari.

Gatha Saptshati or Gaha Sattasai (or The Seven Hundred) is an anthology of verses in Parkrit, which was written during the Satvahana Dynasty (230 BC – 230 AD). It is considered to be one of the earliest folklore of Maharashtra. The verses in this text illustrates different shades of feelings and emotions in society. Quite a few verses in this text refer to Godavari and its surroundings.

अज्ज व्वेअ पउत्थो उज्जाअरओ जणस्स अज्जे अ
अज्जे अ हवलद्दावपज्जराइँ गकोलाणइतडाइं

[“The husband has set out today on a long journey, tonight the people will keep awake and the mistresses will weep so much that the banks of the Godavari will be coloured with haldi (turmeric) and kumkum.”]

Gautami Mahatmya is a religiously aligned text, which was written during 8th-10th Century AD as a part of Brahma Purana. It has allegories associated with the origin of Godavari and detailed descriptions of several sacred sites along the course.

Further, mentions of Sinhastha Mela, along the banks of Godavari in Nashik, can be found in Mughal Gazetteers like Khulasatu-t-Tawarikh (1695) and Chahar Gulshan (1759-89). Later, during the reign of Peshwas in Nashik, the Godavari was an integral part of social as well as political lives of people. I am still in the process of gathering more references of literature of this time. However, I would like to mention here the administrative standpoint towards Godavari through the following order, which was publicized on 26th April 1758:

‘कुशावर्तापासून हनुमानापर्यंत गंगेत कोणी केर, पत्रावळी, उकिरडा टाकू नये. गंगा स्वच्छ असावी. ज्या घराजवळ गंगेत केर निघेल त्याचे पारिपत्य करावे.’

The colonial and post-colonial periods have also witnessed many writers and poets, for whom the Godavari was the inspiration. One such poet was Dasganu Maharaj (Ganapat Dattatreya Sahasrabuddhe) wrote Goda-Mahatmya (Early 20th Century), who travelled the course of Godavari from Trimabakeshwar till Paithan and wrote Goda-Mahatmya describing sacredness of Godavari (for details please visit https://wp.me/p9rC5X-3u). Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966), who was an eminent personality during the colonial times wrote many verses on Godavari, one of them is:

गंगातीरिं बिंबित दीपशिखा नचि परंतु कज्ज्वळ तें ।
सज्जनहृदय असेंची त्याजुनी दोषा गुणाकडे वळते ।। (नाशिक १९००)

One another famous poet was Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar (Kusumagraj) (1912-1999), who has also written about the dynamic character of Godavari in Nashik (I am still in the process of tracing the works of this writer) [i].

I would like to end by few jatyawarchya ovya (grinding mill songs), which depict the embeddedness of Godavari in the domestic and social spheres of the folk tradition in Maharashtra –

काय पुण्य केलं तुम्ही नाशिकच्या बाया,
गंगेची आंघोळ, दर्शनाला रामराया|

राम कुंडावरी कुणी वाहिल घुंगर,
सांगते बाई तुला सीता रामाची सुंदर|

नाशिक त्र्यंबक गंगुबाईचे माहेर,
जरीच्या पातळाचा रामाने केला आहेर|

I hope you enjoyed these literary expressions of Godavari. Let us meet again tomorrow with a different outlook.

-Shilpa Dahake | Facebook

[i] I would like to request my readers to direct me towards more references or texts, I might have missed.

* The facts and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author.

News Reporter
I am an architect turned anthropologist. After finishing my Masters in Anthropology from University of Pune, I was working with Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune under a project funded by UNICEF and Integrated Child Development Scheme, Government of Maharashtra. During which I was stationed in Nandurbar District of Maharashtra (which is predominantly a tribal region) as a Field Research officer. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate in Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali, India. My current research explores the interaction of the cultural-religious, the political-economic and the ecological dimensions of the river in Nashik city in Maharashtra. Broadly, investigating how the multiple perspectives of a natural resource overlap, contradict, challenge and support each other, thus shaping the urban landscape and producing socio-spatial inequalities.

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