Chokhamela

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The chief gate of Vithoba temple, Pandharpur. The small blue temple in front of the gate is saint Chokhamela's memorial (samadhi).

Chokhamela was a saint in Maharashtra, India in the 14th century. He belonged to the Mahar caste considered "untouchable" in India in that era. He was born at Mehuna raja, a village in Deulgaon Raja Taluka of Buldhana district. He lived at Mangalvedha in Maharashtra. He wrote many Abhangas. He was one of the first Dalit poets in India. Chokhamela lived with his wife Soyarabai and son Karmamela in Mangalvedha. Chokhamela's hereditary task was to remove dead animals from people's homes and farms and to dispose of them beyond the town limits (this is task that has traditionally been performed by Mahars in Maharashtra). As a lower-caste person, Chokha was forced to live outside the town in a separate settlement for members of the untouchable caste.

His Family also followed varkari cult.[1]

He was initiated into bhakti spirituality by the poet-saint Namdev (1270?-1350?). Once when he visited Pandharpur, he listened to Sant Namdev's kirtan. Already a devotee of Vitthal alias Vithoba, Chokha was moved by Namdev's teachings.

Later, he moved to Pandharpur. The traditional story is that the upper castes here did not allow him to enter the temple,[3] nor did they allow him to stand in the door of the temple. So he built a hut on the other side of the river Chandrabhaga.

While working on construction of a wall in mangalvedha near pandharpur, the wall fell down, crushing some workers. Chokha was one of them. His tomb is in front of the Vitthal temple, Pandharpur, where it can be seen to this day. According to a legend the bones of the dead Chokhamela were still chanting Vitthal, Vitthal, apparently yearning to visit the Vitthal temple. The bones were buried at the footsteps of the Vitthal temple. In early 20th century, the Dalit leader Dr. Ambedkar, while attempting to visit the temple, was stopped at the burial site of Chokhamela and denied entry beyond that point for being a Mahar.[4]

Books[edit]

  • On the Threshold Songs of Chokhamela/translated from the Marathi by Rohini Mokashi-Punekar.
  • Dr. B. R. Ambedkar has inscribed his book The Untouchables: who are they and why they became untouchables to the memory of Chokhamela, Nandanar and Ravidas.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Zelliot, Eleanor (2008). "Chokhamela, His Family and the Marathi Tradition". In Aktor, Mikael; Deliège, Robert. From Stigma to Assertion: Untouchability, Identity and Politics in Early and Modern India. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press. pp. 76–85. ISBN 8763507757. 
  2. ^ a b c Harrisson, Tom (1976). "A Historical Introduction to the Warakari Movement". Living Through the Blitz. Cambridge University Press. p. 40. ISBN 9780002160094. 
  3. ^ Prasad, Amar Nath (2007). Dalit Literature. pp. 10–12. ISBN 978-81-7625-817-3. 
  4. ^ Zelliot, Eleanor (1981). "Chokhamela and Eknath: Two Bhakti Modes of Legitimacy for Modern Change". In Lele, Jayant. Tradition and Modernity in Bhakti movements. Leiden: Brill. pp. 136–142. ISBN 9004063706. 

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