“You Yourself Are a Mosque with Ten Doors”: A Bakhtinian Reading of the Dialogic Tradition in Indian Poetry

  • E. V. RamakrishnanEmail author


Indian poetry is essentially pluralistic in its affiliation to multiple traditions, divergent modes of articulations and ideological orientations. The canonical tradition that goes back to Sanskrit epics and Vedic ritualistic compositions has been challenged by an equally robust popular tradition centred on bhakti which is devotional, emotional and rooted in personal experience. Bakhtin’s early works that focus on ‘answerability’, ‘once occurent eventness’, subject’s engagement with the other and the addressivity of the discourse enable us to critically understand this alternative tradition that begins with Therigatha, the poetry of Buddhist nuns and continues over the centuries through the poetry of Alvars and Nayanars in Tamil Nadu, Vachana poets of Kannada, in the south of India, which later mutate into a major socio-cultural movement in the Western and Northern India from fifteenth century onwards, in the works of Kabir, Tukaram, Bulleh Shah and many others. It is argued that the defining features of bhakti poetry such as accent on personal testimony, the emphasis on interiorization as a way of knowing and critique of caste system and Brahminic hegemony transform it into a dialogic site of dissent where the poetic discourse takes on an ethical mode of engagement with the other. In its creative engagement with the hegemonic and oppressive in the culture of the elite, this alternative tradition provides a space for dissent and dialogue. The emancipatory potential of this tradition informs the recent breakthroughs in Dalit poetry as evidenced by the work of Namdeo Dhasal in Marathi.


Pluralism Bhakti Sufi Answerability Dialogue Dissent Brahminic hegemony Caste Resistance Dalit literature 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Language, Literature and Culture StudiesCentral University of GujaratGandhinagarIndia

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