Dalit Literature is the literature of the Dalits, by the Dalits and for the Dalits. Dalit Literature is the literary form, in which Dalits wrote about their lives for spreading detailed descriptions and information about them. It emerged first in the 1960s in Marathi language and then started reflecting in other Indian languages like Hindu, Telegu, Tamil, Bangla, Kannada and Punjabi. These appeared in various literary forms like poems, short stories, autobiographies and others. They stood out, leaving an extraordinary impact as they managed to showcase the Dalits’ reality and their stand and situations in the nation.
The term “Dalit” was used in the 1930s as a Hindi and Marathi translation of ‘depressed classes’, a term that the Britishers used for what are, now, called the scheduled castes. In 1970s, the ‘Dalit Panthers’ revived the term and expanded its reference to include scheduled tribes, poor peasants, women and all those being exploded politically, economically, and also, in the name of religion. So Dalit is not a caste; it is a symbol of change and revolution.
Traditionally, Dalits were beyond the pale of the caste system or varna system, were initially considered Panchama (the fifth group) beyond the fourfold division of the Indian people. Dalits were earlier not privileged enough to let even their shadow fall on any non-Dalit caste, were considered untouchables, and had to do the job of sweeping the grounds. Dalits were also prohibited from entering the temple or drawing from the same wells as used by other castes and lived in the segregated neighbourhood outside the majority of the societies.
Dalit literature is a body of texts produced by writers whose caste background used to be referred to as “Untouchable” or “Scheduled Caste”, and whose writers engages with caste, caste discrimination, and Indian life from a Dalit point of view. The term “Dalit” means “crushed” or “ground down” in Marathi, and constitutes the nom de guerre that Dalit writers have adopted for themselves.
Dalit literature is an essential group of literary sources that Indian Dalits created to share their conditions and sufferings with the world. The first and foremost Dalit Literature was Madara Chennaiah, written in the 18th century by a cobbler who lived in Western Chalukyas’ reign. The cobbler is often referred to as the “Father of Vachana Poetry”. He is among the poets mentioned in the Dohara Kakkaiah. He was a Dalit by birth and six of his confessional poetries, one can still find available.
A few experts often trace the origin of Dalit literature to Buddhist literature, or mainly, the Marathi Dalit Bhakti poets like the Karmamela, Chokha Mela, and Gora, and to the Tamil Siddhas or Chittars. Furthermore, the modern Dalit literature and writings emerged as a separate genre and was based on the ideological sights and works of B.R. Ambedkar, the Indian Constitution’s chief architect. The literature ties reparably to the Dalit liberation movements in various parts of the country. Dalit literature marked its significant presence in the 1960s initially in Marathi language and then in Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam. Further, it also emerged in the English language in poems, novels, autobiographies, and short stories from Dalit expression’s significant genres. The Dalit writings eventually emerged as a collective voice questioning through social reality’s articulation of various writing kinds that either made the groups of Indian society visible or distorted their identity.
The main subject of Dalit literature’s content has been the untouchables and the authentic experience and sufferings of Dalits in the Indian society. The expertise in these literary sources is about a single identity, but it means the universality of the collective experience of the entire group. Neither the rasa in the Indian literature nor the preoccupation with the Western literary theory’s identity is considered adequate to explain the Dalits’ unalterable experience. Their experience is unalterable as unlike the poor, slaves, and the colonised clans, they cannot reverse their situations if provided with necessary assistance. As Dalits were considered the outcasts, they cannot do anything to change or undo it; they were born in that, and only their death can liberate them from it.
The Dalit movement of Ambedkar was the culmination of an only anti-caste campaign that started far ago in various parts of the Indian society. However, only the emergence of Buddhism and Jainism emerged as the individual religions end the caste system and consider everyone unanimous. Buddhism emerged during a protest against Hinduism, and mainly its caste system, rituals, and the violence of Vedic sacrifices that it followed.
However, India enacted and implemented several laws and social activities, aiming to protect and improve the social and economic conditions of the Dalit population. India also elected K. R. Narayana, a Dalit leader as the nation’s president in a democratic manner. However, presently there is no such party and act like the UN touch ability, and even its observance is now considered a criminal offence. Still, even after all the advancement and the end of UN touch ability; there are fewer educational opportunities for Dalits in Kerala.
This essay about Dalit literature is essential to spread awareness about what Dalit literature is, including it, and who it involves. The Dalits of the Indian society earlier faced lots of suppression and were also excluded from various Hindu community activities, were prohibited from staying with the other castes, entering the temples, or touching them. Thus, emerged the Dalit literature created by Dalits of the Indian society to express the situation and sufferings of Dalits in the Indian society. This essay serves as an essential educational and awareness resources for the people of our modern Indian society.