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Updated: Jul 16, 2020


Arun Balkrishna Kolatkar (1 November 1932 -25 September 2004) was an Indian poet born in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. He lived in a traditional patriarchal Hindu extended family. A prolific writer in both Marathi and English, he was a recluse and while he wrote many poems, most of them saw the light of day only towards the end of his life. For the longest time, Jejuri was his only publicly available collection. Anjali Nerlekar describes Jejuri as an “amazing series of poems on the temple town in Maharashtra where the poet rips apart the hypocrisy and cant of the powerful Brahmins with their vice-like hold on the religion and underscores the anachronism of this religion in the modern world”. It earned him the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1976.

His poems found humor in everyday matters. His early Marathi poetry was radically experimental and displayed the influences of European avant-garde trends like surrealism, expressionism and Beat generation poetry. These poems are oblique, whimsical and at the same time dark, sinister, and exceedingly funny. Some of these characteristics can be seen in Jejuri and Kala Ghoda Poems in English, but his early Marathi poems are far more radical, dark and humorous than his English poems. He won the Kusumagraj Puraskar given by the Marathwada Sahitya Parishad in 1991 and Bahinabai Puraskar given by Bahinabai Prathistan in 1995. His Marathi verse collection Bhijki Vahi and Chirimiri won a Sahitya Akademi Award in 2005.

He was diagnosed with cancer in the late 1990s, following which he released four more books in the final two years of his life. He released Dron, also in Marathi, along with Sarpa Satra and Kala Ghoda Poems in English. After his death, a new edition of the hard to obtain Jejuri was published in the New York Review Books Classics series with an introduction by Amit Chaudhuri (2006). Near his death, he had requested Arvind Krishna Mehrotra to edit some of his uncollected poems. These poems were published as The Boatride and Other Poems by Pras Prakashan in 2008. His Collected Poems in English, edited by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra was published in Britain by Bloodaxe Books in 2010.


Along with his brother and a friend, Kolatkar visited Jejuri in 1963, and appears to have composed some poems shortly thereafter. Jejuri, his first collection of poetry published in 1976 (early year of newly independent India) won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize in 1977. The Bus’ is a fine poem from the epic Jejuri. In this poem the poet describes the journey by state Transport Bus in Maharastra. The protoganist, Manohar and other pilgrims are going to Jejuri to visit the temple of God Khandoba. He witnesses some biased things during this travel and explains with satirical tone.


Jejuri is a place of pilgrimage near Pune, Maharashtra. Jejuri is known for the temple of Lord Khandoba located on a hill. Kandhoba, the local God of the temple especially worshiped by a community called Dhangar community. The Dhangars are associated with cattle herding and fall under the economically backward classes. Khandoba is a manifestation of Lord Shiva who is worshipped in Maharastra , is a God of sword fighting. He is a warrior, riding a horse with a sword as his weapon. The selected poems describe a journey to the temple of Khandoba.


The Bus

The tarpaulin flaps are buttoned down on the windows of the state transport bus.

all the way up to jejuri.

a cold wind keeps whipping and slapping a corner of tarpaulin at your elbow.

you look down to the roaring road. you search for the signs of daybreak in

what little light spills out of bus.

your own divided face in the pair of glasses on an oldman`s nose is all the countryside you get to see.

you seem to move continually forward. toward a destination just beyond the castemark beyond his eyebrows.

outside, the sun has risen quitely it aims through an eyelet in the tarpaulin. and shoots at the oldman`s glasses.

a sawed off sunbeam comes to rest

gently against the driver`s right temple. the bus seems to change direction.

at the end of bumpy ride with your own face on the either side when you get off the bus.

you don’t step inside the old man`s head.


At night, in a bus a group of pilgrims travel together towards Jejuri, the temple of Khandoba that includes some tourists and passengers. Among them is the protagonist Manohar. Due to heavy rain, windows of the bus are covered with tarpaulin flaps. But still cold winds are forcing it, which hits the elbows of the passengers. They turn on headlights of the bus which helps to see the road that is stranded in rain water. He gazes to the road with little lights from the bus and feels the onward movement of the bus. An old man with castemark (usually on the forehead identifying caste membership) sitting opposite to him wears a glass which reflects his face in a divided manner. Outside the window, the sun has risen and its beams run through tarpaulin to reach the old man’s glasses. This sunbeam disappears when the driver changes the direction of the bus. At last this bumpy journey of him comes to an end and he gets down from the bus seeing his own face reflected in both sides. He reached the destination so “you don’t step inside the old man’s head” because religious place never shows favouritism.

‘We all are equal before God’

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