Publication date: January 21, 2020

Ahmedabad: An entire generation of Gujarati medium students know him for his poem ‘Unt kahe aa sabha ma…’ included in textbooks and those studying sociology by his Gyati Nibandh (an essay on caste) on evils of casteism written 17 years before Mahatma Gandhi’s birth. But Kavi Dalpatram (1820-1898) was not just a poet or social reformer.

His works as a pioneer of Gujarat Vernacular Society — later Gujarat Vidya Sabha — influenced the city with establishment of Ahmedabad’s first public library, first newspaper, first periodical, first school for girls and first literary society to name a few. Today his old residence is a prominent part of city’s heritage walk with a chowk dedicated to him with a statue at Lambeshwar ni Pol.

As the poet’s 200th birthday will be celebrated on Tuesday in a major event in the city, his descendants are planning a revival of his works. Kunal Kavi, great great grandson of the poet, said that they are marking the occasion by bringing the poet to the digital era. 

“We are launching a website dedicated to his works along with accounts on prominent social networking sites. All his works will now be available online. The primary motive behind the move is to communicate that apart from a poet, his oeuvre was much larger,” he said. 

Professor Ramji Savaliya, former director of BJ Institute of Learning & Research, said that unfortunately Dalpatram was seen with a specific lens by later era critics due to his views on British rule and religious leanings.

“One should remember that he talked about girl child education, remarriage of widows, condition of cottage industry in the face of machine era and social evils in the 19th century society and also worked tirelessly to promote Gujarati — his incident at the Gaekwad court is a legend now,” he said.

Creator of wordplay

Experts point at Dalpatram’s penchant for creating designs with words which could be read in non-linear fashion. In some of the examples found in ‘Dalpat Kavya’ collection, he has written the poem imagined as spokes of a wheel, serpent, bow and arrow and even as move of the knight in game of chess. Experts said that only a few such examples are seen in his contemporary Gujarati — the activity considered by him to be a ‘mental exercise.’

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