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Facts about Gerimalla Satyanarayana - india's freedom fighter - poet

On the occasion of his 129th birth anniversary, this Throwback Thursday, we are commemorating Gerimalla Satyanarayana, the Telugu poet and writer.

Indian literature played a crucial role in the country's fight for independence by motivating and directing the people towards the cause. Many freedom fighters expressed their patriotism through poems, essays, and stories in regional languages. Works such as "Vande Mataram" by Bankim Chandra and "Jana Gana Mana" by Rabindranath Tagore brought together people from various cultures and languages in a sense of unity and patriotism. These works prepared people to fight for their motherland and make sacrifices for their freedom.

Garimella Satyanarayana was another such nationalist poet and freedom fighter whose songs inspired many to fight for their freedom. Born in Gonepadu village in Narasannapeta taluq of Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh on July 14th, 1893, Garimella had been writing songs in folk tunes since his school days. However, it was only after meeting with freedom fighters in Rajahmundry in 1920 that his music took a new direction, and his song "Maakodi Tella Doratnam" became popular.

This song, which translates to "We don't want this white man to rule," was an inspiration to the masses and was sung widely. Mahatma Gandhi himself praised the song, which grew to be 162 lines long as Garimella added stanzas to it whenever he encountered new social or political issues. "Maakodi Tella Doratnam" perfectly captured the social, economic, and political situation in India at the time and became a powerful tool in the national movement for independence.

“The white man’s rule

Outright we reject;

They prey on our lives

And Rob, our Honor”

Each stanza of the poems highlights a different issue that people experienced during the British colonial rule in India. The topics addressed include starvation, arduous labor, oppressive taxes, the serf system, untouchability, police harassment, leader arrests, and the divisive "divide and rule" policy. The primary objective of the poem was to motivate individuals to participate in the fight for independence.

“A dozen bumper harvest we reap;

Not a morsel of food we obtain

Salt-to-touch is a crime

And we touch the salt

Into our mouth mud does he throw;

Alas for food with dogs we fought”

Despite being imprisoned twice for his involvement in the Indian freedom struggle, Gerimalla remained unwavering in his commitment to helping his country achieve complete independence. On a personal level, he spoke about a deeper type of freedom that extended beyond material boundaries.

In addition to his famous song "Maakoddee Telladoratanamu," Gerimalla wrote another well-known English poem titled "The Heart of the Nation." His songs and poems were published in several books, including "Swaraajya Geetamulu" (1921), "Harijana Paatalu" (1923), "Khandakaavyalu," and "Baalageetaalu" (1923).

Sadly, after India gained independence, Gerimalla's contributions as one of the greatest political poets of India were largely forgotten, and he passed away in poverty five years later. Today, only a few remember his name. However, to preserve his legacy, a training college in Rajahmundry was named after him in 2020.