Namdeo Dhasal

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Namdeo Laxman Dhasal
Born (1949-02-15)15 February 1949
Pune, India
Died 15 January 2014(2014-01-15) (aged 64)
Mumbai, India
Occupation Writer, Poet
Language Marathi
Nationality India
Genres Marathi literature
Literary movement Dalit Panther
Notable work(s) Andhale Shatak
Moorkh Mhataryane
Tujhi Iyatta Kanchi?
Priya Darshini
Notable award(s) Padma Shri award
Soviet Land Nehru Award
Maharashtra State Award
Golden Life Time Achievement
Spouse(s) Malika Amar Sheikh
Children Ashutosh[1]

Namdeo Laxman Dhasal (Marathi: नामदेव लक्ष्मण ढसाळ; 15 February 1949 – 15 January 2014) was a Marathi poet, writer and Human Rights activist from Maharashtra, India. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999. In 2004, the Sahitya Akademi honoured him with a Lifetime Achievement Award which was the only one it gave during its golden jubilee celebrations. The American Library of Congress has eight of his titles. In 2001, he made a presentation at the first International Literature Festival in Berlin .[1]


Namdeo Dhasal was born in 1949, in a village near Pune, India. When he was six his family came to Mumbai from native Pur-Kanersar village in Khed taluk. A member of the former Mahar class, he grew up in dire poverty. The family lived in Dhor chawl (a reference to the cattle that are quartered and slaughtered nearby) in Golpitha, an area in the city’s redlight district.He saw life through the people in Golpitha and they shaped his writing later on .[1]

Following the example of the American Black Panther movement, he founded the Dalit Panther with friends in 1972. This militant organization supported its radical political activism with provocative pamphlets. Dhasal was one of the famous and outspoken members of this group.


I have seen him
I have rejected him often
My corpse that wanders
From town to town
Wait in this evening's glow and stand still
A drunk is dialing God's number
Don't show me such pity
That degrades
May be our relationship is all spent
Shrug your shoulders and get rid of it
So that you could
Axe this water a couple of times
- Namdeo Dhasal,(1983)[2]

In 1972, he published his first volume of poetry, Golpitha. More poetry collections followed: Moorkh Mhataryane (By a Foolish Old Man) --inspired by Maoist thoughts--; Tujhi Iyatta Kanchi? (How Educated Are You?); erotic Khel; and Priya Darshini (about the former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi).

Dhasal wrote two novels, and also published pamphlets such as Andhale Shatak (Century of Blindness) and Ambedkari Chalwal (Ambedkarite Movement), which was a reflection on the socialist and communist concepts of modernist movement founder Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Later, he published two more collections of his poetry: Mi Marale Suryachya Rathache Sat Ghode (I Killed the Seven Horses of the Sun), and Tujhe Boat Dharoon Mi Chalalo Ahe (I'm Walking, Holding Your Finger).

Dhasal wrote columns for the Marathi daily Saamana. Earlier, he worked as an editor for the weekly Satyata.[3]

Dhasal was diagnosed with colon cancer and admitted for treatment in a Mumbai hospital in September 2013.


In 1982, cracks began to appear in the Panther movement. Ideological disputes gained the upper hand and eclipsed the common goal. Dhasal wanted to engender a mass movement and widen the term Dalit to include all oppressed people, but the majority of his comrades insisted on maintaining the exclusivity of their organization.

Serious illness and alcohol addiction of Dhasal overshadowed the following years, during which he wrote very little. In the 1990s, he once again became politically more active.

Dhasal held a national office in the Indian Republican Party, which was formed by the merger of all Dalit parties.

Literary style[edit]

The Dalit literature tradition is old, though the term "Dalit literature" was introduced only in 1958. Dhasal was greatly inspired by the work of Baburao Bagul, who employed photographic realism to draw attention to the circumstances which those deprived of their rights from birth have to endure. Dhasal’s poems broke away from stylistic conventions. He included in his poetry many words and expressions which only the Dalits normally used. Thus, in Golpitha he adapted his language to that of the red light milieu, which shocked middle class readers.

The establishment’s assessment of Dhasal’s political, as opposed to his artistic achievements may differ drastically, but for the writer they are inextricably linked. In an interview in 1982 he said that if the aim of social struggles was the removal of unhappiness, then poetry was necessary because it expressed that happiness vividly and powerfully. Later he stated, "Poetry is politics." Dhasal adheres to this principle in his private life. He told the photographer Henning Stegmüller, "I enjoy discovering myself. I am happy when I am writing a poem, and I am happy when I am leading a protest of prostitutes fighting for their rights."

Arundhati Subrahmaniam describes his poetry thus: "Dhasal is a quintessentially Mumbai poet. Raw, raging, associative, almost carnal in its tactility, his poetry emerges from the underbelly of the city — its menacing, unplumbed netherworld. This is the world of pimps and smugglers, of crooks and petty politicians, of opium dens, brothels and beleaguered urban tenements."



  • Golpitha (1973)
  • Tuhi Iyatta Kanchi(1981)
  • Khel(1983)
  • Moorkh Mhataryane dongar halvle
  • Amchya itihasatil ek aprihary patra : Priya Darshini(1976)
  • Ya Sattet Jiv Ramat Nahi(1995)
  • Gandu Bagichha(1986)
  • Mi Marale Suryachya Rathache Sat Ghode
  • Tuze Boat Dharoon Mi Chalalo Ahe

Dilip Chitre translated a selection of Dhasal's poems into English under the title Namdeo Dhasal: Poet of the Underworld, Poems 1972-2006.[2][4]]


  • Ambedkari Chalwal (1981)
  • Andhale Shatak (1997)
  • Hadki Hadavala
  • Ujedachi Kali Dunia
  • Sarva Kahi Samashtisathi
  • Buddha Dharma: Kahi Shesh Prashna

Awards and honors[edit]

Following table shows list of awards won by Namdeo Dhasal.

Year Award For
1973 Maharashtra State Award for literature Literature
1974 Soviet Land Nehru Award Golpitha
1999 Padma Shri Literature
2004 Sahitya Akademi's Golden Life Time Achievement[5][6]

Personal life[edit]

Dhasal was married to Malika Amar Sheikh, the daughter of poet Amar Sheikh. Ashutosh is dhasal's son.


Dhasal succumbed to a long-drawn battle against illness including colorectal cancer. He died at Bombay Hospital. He was 64.[7]


External links[edit]