Monday, 26 March 2007

Ugadi and Telugu Muslim poets

By Syed Akbar
Ugadi, the Telugu new year, is synonymous with "Kavi Sammelan" or poetic
gatherings. Telugu writers and poets, both famous and budding, gather
together and

recite their poetry with verses that touch upon the various phases of life
in a human being. The concept of holding Kavi Sammelan on the auspicious
day of Ugadi is as

old as the Telugu language and culture. The art got its perfection during
the regime of Emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya of the famous Vijayanagara
kingdom. And since

then there's no looking back for the Telugu poetry.
Though a majority of Muslims in Andhra Pradesh are Urdu-speaking, there
has been no major Ugadi Sammelan without the participation of Telugu
Muslim poets.

Telugu Muslim poets have always been the part of Ugadi Kavi Sammelans
right from the days of the Vijayanagara empire. With more and more Muslims

Telugu and penning verse in the language, the modern day Ugadi Kavi
Sammelans have undergone a seachange both in the outlook and the content.

Independence and for a couple of decades thereafter, Ugadi Sammelans were
dominated by poets from a particular caste. Of late, there have been poets
even from

the Dalit communities rubbing shoulders with upper caste poets. Muslim
poets have made a mark of their own in Ugadi Sammelans with their unique
flavour of

national integration and communal harmony interspersed with the demand for
the rights of the principal minority community. There are over 80 Telugu
Muslim poets

and scores of poetry books have been published.
"We all celebrate our birthdays. Time too has its birthday. And the
birthday of Time falls on Ugadi. Ugadi is not just a new year. It is the
beginning of an era, the era

that heralds a new phase in our life. It is a wrong notion that Ugadi is a
festival of Hindus. It is not the new year of Hindus. It is the new year
of Telugus, all those born

in the Telugu land - Andhra Pradesh. Ugadi is as much an occasion for
celebrations for Telugu Hindus as much for Telugu Muslims. Visit any
village and you will find

both Muslims and Hindus celebrating the new year," observes eminent poet
and author Khadar Mohiuddin.
Kavi Sammelans too have undergone a change with the change in time.
Earlier, Ugadi Sammelans were limited to reciting verses on Ugadi and
related subjects. Now

the Sammelans have attained a broader outlook with "feminism", "Dalitism"
and "Muslimism" dominating such gatherings. "Our ancestors started
organising Kavi

Sammelans on Ugadi as part of their programme to encourage various arts.
Like the Ugadi pacchadi (pickle made of jaggery, raw mangoes and neem
fruits and

flowers), life is full of happiness (sweetness), troubles (bitterness) and
comfort (sourness). Krishnadevaraya encouraged various forms of art like
dance, poetry,

paintings and singing and the artistes got the opportunity to express
their expertise on the Ugadi. Now this festival has given Muslims, Dalits
and women an

opportunity to express their views and problems and share them with the
rest of society," points our writer-journalist Syed Naseer Ahmed.
The Muslim pioneers of Ugadi Sammelans were Devi Priya (Khaja Hussain),
Afsar, Kaumudi, MK Sugam Babu (Mahboob Khan), Umar Ali Shah, Dilawar,

Yakoob, Khadar Mohiuddin, Ghulam Ghouse, SA Rawoob, SM Mallick, Qadeer
Babu and Khadar Khan. The torch is now being carried forward by the likes

Khwaja, Sky Baba (Shaik Yusuf Baba), Wahed, Soujanya (Muhammad
Naseeruddin) and Iqbal Chand. There are Telugu Muslim poetess too, of the
likes of

Mahjabeen and Shahjahana. The State government has honoured Mahjabeen with
the Ugadi Puraskar (award) for Telugu literature. These Muslim poets have

out a niche for themselves with their unique style and rendition of the
Telugu poetry.
"Ugadi enlivens our spirits," says Yakoob, a veteran of Kavi Sammelans.
"Now there has been Muslimisation of Ugadi to some extent. Ugadi stands as
the best

example of the joint cultural heritage of Hindus and Muslims. If there is
any festival, other than Ugadi, which brings Muslims and Hindus together,
it is Muharram.

During Muharram Hindu poets recite poetry in praise of the Islamic martyrs
Hazrat Imam Hassan and Hazrat Imam Hussain. Many do not know that our

bond people together and occasions like Ugadi and Muharram further
strengthen those bonds," adds Yakoob.
There are occasions when Telugu Muslim poets stood apart from the rest of
the poets at Kavi Sammelans. "It is the love of the language that makes
our hearts speak

out. And what occasion is more appropriate than Ugadi to share our views
to the heart content, remembering the hoary past of Andhra and paving the
way for a

Swarna (golden) Andhra Pradesh," says Yusuf Baba, more popular as Sky Baba.

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