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Marathi Poetess Bahinabai
Guest Column by Prakash BurdeIt was sometime in July-August of 1950. A young man, a poet from Jalgaon, Maharashtra hesitantly approached a stalwart, Pralhad Keshav Atre with a manuscript. The manuscript was a collection of poems by his mother, and he had written them down himself, as she was illiterate. Atre was a humorist, journalist, a politician and orator par excellence and had just won the President's gold medal for his Marathi film, "Shyamchi Aai" (meaning Shyam's mother). Atre writes in his foreword to Bahinabai Chaudhari's poems, "I literally jumped to extract all the pages of the script. They were so enchanting and left me breathless.”
The man who had approached Atre was Sopan Dev Chaudhari, the son of Bahinabai. A well-respected Marathi poet in his own right, he had several publications to his credit. Sopan Dev was very keen to bring to light the poetic works of his “illiterate” mother Bahinabai. Pu. La. Deshpande, the great humorist/actor/musician/writer, mentions "Like a mother, she has enriched our lives."
Bahinabai’s poems were first published in 1952 and it took almost 13 years to revise and add further poems to her collection, which was again published with a foreword by Atre.
Born around the end of 19th century, Bahinabai, like many others of those times was married off at an early age to a wealthy farmer in Jalgaon. Due to the vagaries of nature, the family later had to spend their lives in utter penury. According to her Sopan Dev, she would often converse in rhythmic poetry. When a neighbour asked her how she could compose such poems, Bahinabai said:
"My mother Saraswati (Goddess of Learning) taught me to speak She hid many "secrets" in my mind For me Pandurang, Bhagwat and Geeta are like springs in rain, make me speak."

When her mother-in-law chided her for having scalded her hands while making Bhakris, Bahinabai says in her poetic way:
Are Sansar Sansar, Jasa Tava Chulhya var
Adhi Hatala Chatake, Tehva milate Bhakar

For further reading, I recommend "Bahinaichya Gaani" in Marathi, published by Suchitra Prakashan.
A movie was also made on the life and times of Bahinabai, in which Bhakti Barve Inamdar enacted the role of Bahinabai.

See Also:
• Maharashtra -The State of Maharashtra
Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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