As I said earlier, for many people the first thing that comes to their mind when they hear of Sri Sri is his magnum opus - Mahaprasthanam. The day Sri Sri died, Raavi Sashtri said that, "modern Telugu literature is what it is today, mainly due to Sri Sri". He opined that not many telugu people would have read the book "Das Kapital" written by Karl Marks, but the effect of this book on many andhra people was clearly influenced by Mahaprasthanam written by Sri Sri.
Sri Sri had this to say about Mahaprasthanam - on what actually inspired him to write the poems:
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The very first edition of Mahaprasthanam came in 1950. The book was published by Nalini Kumar - Machilipatinam. There after from 1952- 1984 Visalandhra Publications, Vijayawada, had nearly monopolised this books publishing. If my memory serves right there are more than 40 editions of Mahaprasthanam to date by different publishers.
And then came the idea of publishing this book in his own handwriting - manuscript. The story behind this as said by Sri Sri :
"The notion of publishing Mahaprasthanam in my own writing, narrating the poems in my own voice and including this in a cassette along with the book, was suggested by my friend Dr.G.KrishnaMurthy. Apart from doing this, I also gave the "Preface" for this edition. Though I had wanted the preface to be written by Chalam (as he did for the very first edition), there were many requests from my readers asking me to give "my opinion and thoughts" about Mahaprasthanam - which I obliged.
Missing the preface of Chalam, one of my fans - Mr. Pichhi Reddy, a M.A student, asked my thoughts about his opinion "it is enough if one reads the preface of Chalam, it would give the whole details of Mahaprasthanam - what do you have to say Sir?" , for which I had this to answer - " ¥Ä§ÁÅ ³Â§ÁãÁþÂ¥ÁÊ¦ÁÅ¨ÏýÂþÁÅ" .
Sri Sri's word on Mahaprasthanam
(These are excerpts from the poet's preface to the facsimile edition of his 'Mahaprasthanam' published by 'Videsandhra Prachuranalu' London in 1980)
The poems in the collection of 'Mahaprasthanam' were all written in the 1930's (excepting 'Nijangane' and 'Garjinchu Russia' which were written in 1941, and 'Needalu' written in 1947). Historians have given the name 'Hungry Thirties' to the decade, 1930-40. That was when the economic depression that originated in the US spread world-wide (with the only exception of socialist Russia). That was the decade which saw the Spanish Civil War as a rehearsal to the second World War. It was in this period that Auden, Spender, Day-Lewis, Dylan Thomas, George Barker and others produced great literature. That was when the Indian Progressive Writer's Manifesto was issued from England. Among all these many streams, my 'Mahaprasthanam' poems also constituted one flow.
Though I responded to all these realities, I did not at that time know that literature of this kind is called 'social realism' and that its prop is a philosophy called 'Marxism'. Looking back now, it is clearly evident that the 'Marxist' awareness and social consciousness of the 'Mahaprasthanam' poems was not accidental.
One thing is certain. Beginning with poems like 'Nenu saitam prapanchagniki' in 1993 I bid final farewell to pedantic language and metrical norms. There in lay the foot steps of Gurajada. To Telugu poetry that had for a thousand years till then trod unopposed the classical path, Gurajada gave a new direction. From the path transvered by chariots, palanquins and horse-carriages, he turned Telugu poetry to the modern age of motors cars and railways. The turning pointed out by Gurajada I widened further with my 'Mahaprasthanam' poems.
This is about technique. Poems written in pedantic language are like chariots, like palanquins. Gurajada asked us to write in everyday language. He asked us to use is how its people are! was what I said. This diagnosis is true, but it should not stop there. We should search for an appropriate cure for the disease. This disease cannot quantitative metre. It was for this that I campaigned with enthusiasm and emotion. Speaking of content, I believed that good poetry evidences itself more in harsh truth than in pretty lies. Thus it was that the 'Mahaprasthanam' poems mirrored social reality.
The next step after this socialist realism. We have not yet reached it. Capitalist jackals are planning big conspiracies to prevent us. Classicism in literature has stood in support of that.
Herbert Read says about classicism. 'Classicism, let it be said without further preface, represents for us now, and has always represented, the forces of oppression. Classicism is the intellectual counterpart of political tyranny. It was so in the ancient world and in the medieval empires; it was renewed to express the dictator-ships of the Renaissance and has ever been the official creed of Capitalism'.
Along with classicism, national chauvinism is also a reactionary force. Internationalism is its only antidote. It was this internationalism that I invited in the lines: 'the chinese rickshawala and the Czech miner...'. 'My home and my country' is not an improper feeling in people living in backward countries. But if these ideas break bounds and turn into a mania, that is dangerous. Then 'my home and my country' entails looting one's neighbours and exploiting other countries. I proclaim that good poetry has no greater task than to recognise and beat back this exploitation with a sharp internationalist outlook.
All that I did in writing 'Mahaprasthanam' was to diagnose this society's disease. 'This is our world! This be cured by ointments. What is required is surgery. That is what I call 'revolution'.
'Mahaprasthanam' contains progressive poetry, and seeds of revolution. It does not contain revolutionary literature. What is 'revolutionary literature'? It is that whose movement impel the common people to revolutionary activity.
Before giving the list of poems of Mahaprasthanam, I understand Sri Sri had dedicated this to kompella janArdhanarAv, here is the picture of Janardhana Rao garu:
ÌÏ¡É¨ì üþÂ§ÁãþÁ§Â©÷ (15-4-1906 to 23-7-1937)
This is what Sri Sri wrote as dedication to Janardhana Rao garu (I am giving just a part of it, its a long dedication note, which is available in the book)
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