Garimella Satyanarayana, a revolutionary who used the power of words
India has been home to numerous revolutionary poets who through their poetry shaped mass opinions and revolutions. Be it the love-sick Ghalib or blunt Manto, their poems became the face of several movements across the decades. But movements and protests weren’t just a thing of the past, instead, they are the building foundation of any society. Garimella Satyanarayana was yet another revolutionary poet that inspired millions against the growing tyranny of British Rule in India.
He was a Telugu poet and satyagrahi who wrote memorable songs and poems to inspire fellow Indians to free themselves from not just slavery but gaining control over one’s own motherland. But unlike other poets, the legacy of this regional poet had disappeared with time
Celebrating the legacy of Garimella Satyanarayana
The British were well aware of the power of words and thus banned books and arrested writers to stop provoking masses against the Colonial rule. But it wasn’t enough to suppress the voices of freedom and from every corner of the country came revolutionaries who found one or another way of igniting the seed Poorna Swaraj within the hearts of the Indians.
Things escalated with the new generation no longer finding reforms adequate enough and demanded complete independence. More protests and violence occurs and Britishers found themselves threatened by the power of the growing young revolutionaries. Mahatma Gandhi also recognized this mood and thus launched a new weapon of Satyagraha that works on two principles- truth and nonviolence. However, his reach was limited to only having a share of Indians in the parliament. It wasn’t until Bhagat Singh that the ideology of Poorna Swaraj echoed through Indian streets.
During these times of tensions, poet like Garimella Satyanarayana found themselves setting the trends of the hour. Garimella Satyanarayana was born in a poor family in Gonepadu village, near Priya agraharam, in Narasannapeta taluk of Srikakulam district in 1893. He started writing and singing songs during his school days. In 1920, he applied for a teacher training course at Rajahmundry, and here he was first introduced to politics. He gave up his studies by the call of Mahatma Gandhi to participate in the Non-Cooperation movement.
His poems surfaced during the non-cooperation movement of 1922. He himself publicized the songs and soon they became popular in the households of Andhra Pradesh. His other famous song Maakoddee Telladoratanamu was released during the same time for which Garimella Satyanarayana was jailed for one year. The song consisted of a total of 162 lines which was perhaps the longest song of the time. The local police labelled the song as seditious and objectionable.
His song Maakoddee Telladoratanamu was revolutionary on many levels, first, he depicts the poverty and helplessness of people against the Raj and also inspired people of all ages and classes to become ‘Satyagrahi’ under Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement. As the government would often arrest and imprison people without a reason, Satyanarayana urged people to go out and have voluntarily court arrest in order to demonstrate their disapproval of the British. He inspired people to be rather free in jail than slaves on the streets.
Garimella Satyanarayana was released a year later and continued singing and writing revolutionary songs and poems. For his continued contribution to the revolution, he was once again jailed for two and a half years by the British Administration. During his imprisonment, Satyanarayana’s entire family died.
Unfortunately, nobody recognized the sorrows our freedom fighters went through. India gained independence and moved forward leaving behind a legacy of people who helped create it. The way these revolutionaries gave their everything to the freedom struggle is often left unrecognized by the ignorant offspring.
This was the only reason that Garimella Satyanarayana died in a destitute state on 18 December 1952 after spending several years in poverty. Scholars referred to his death as “Unwept, unhonoured and unsung”. Today only a handful of people recognize him despite his tremendous and undemanded contribution to the freedom struggle of the country. A few of his songs have been discovered more recently and are appreciated for their quality. Later, a CD was released where his voice was rendered by Komanduri Seshadri in classical music style. He is remembered as a poet for his honesty, ideologies, and patriotism.