In the heart of Rattihalli village, located in the Bijapur district of Karnataka, a legend was born on 9th September 1914. This legend was none other than Kaloji Rangarao, a man whose life and works left an indelible mark on Indian literature and the struggle for freedom. In this article, we will delve into the life and achievements of Kaloji Rangarao, celebrating his rich legacy as a poet, polyglot, and freedom fighter.
Early Life and Influences
Kaloji Rangarao’s roots were spread across borders. His mother, Ramabayamma, hailed from Karnataka, while his father, Kaloji Rangarao Sr., came from Maharashtra. Growing up in this culturally diverse environment, Kaloji was destined to become a multilingual poet. His elder brother, Kaloji Rameshwar Rao, an accomplished Urdu poet, played a pivotal role in shaping his personality and nurturing his poetic talents.
Kaloji’s educational journey began with primary schooling in Madikonda, but his thirst for knowledge led him to pursue higher education in Warangal and Hyderabad. During these formative years, he not only excelled in Telugu, his mother tongue but also explored the realms of Marathi, Kannada, Hindi, and Urdu, where he would later weave his poetic tapestry.
In the year 1940, Kaloji embarked on a new chapter of his life by marrying Rukmini Bai, a union that provided him with unwavering support and inspiration throughout his life.
Championing the Cause of Freedom
Kaloji Rangarao’s life was not limited to the world of words; he was deeply influenced by and actively participated in the popular movements of his time. One such movement that left an indelible mark on him was the Arya Samaj Movement, particularly in the domain of civil rights. His involvement in the Andhra Maha Sabha activities, since its formation in 1934, showcased his commitment to the cause of freedom.
Kaloji was not a mere spectator but a fervent participant in significant movements, including Satyagraha, Osmania University Vandemataram, State Congress, Andhra Mahasabha (Telangana), and Library movements. His dedication and commitment earned him the recognition of being a freedom fighter, as he actively contributed to the freedom movement of Hyderabad State and even faced imprisonment under the Nizam.
Advocate for Human Rights
Kaloji Rangarao’s passion for human rights extended beyond his involvement in various movements. He was an active member of the Tarkunde Committee, where he advocated for the protection and promotion of human rights. Despite his aversion to holding positions of power, Kaloji recognized the importance of democratic processes and contested elections three times. He secured a seat as a member of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council, with one of his most significant political battles being against Jalagam Vengal Rao, then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, in 1977.
Kaloji Rangarao’s literary prowess was not confined to a single language. His writings encompassed a wide range of themes and languages, reflecting his deep-rooted love for literature. Some of his notable literary works include:
- Anakathalu (1941): A collection of stories that captivate the reader’s imagination.
- Naa Bharatadesha Yatra (1941): A translation of Brail Ford’s “Rebel India,” showcasing his linguistic versatility.
- Kaloji Kathalu (1943): A collection of Kaloji’s own stories that touch upon various facets of life.
- Parthiva Vijayam (1946): A literary exploration that delves into the human experience.
- Naa Godava (1953, 1st edition): An introspective work that delves into Kaloji’s personal journey.
- Tudi Vijayam Manadi Nijam (1962): A poetic expression of triumph over adversity.
- Naa Godava Parashiva Hemantham (1966): A poetic work that celebrates the changing seasons of life.
- Naa Godava Parabhava Shishiram (1967): Exploring the essence of transformation and rebirth.
- Naa Godava Parabhava (1967, 1st edition, third print): Further iterations of his introspective masterpiece.
- Jeevana Geetha (1968): A translation of Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet,” showcasing his command over different languages.
- Telangana Udyama Kavithalu (1969-70): Poems that capture the spirit of the Telangana movement.
- Naa Godava (Yuva Bharathi) (1974): An exploration of youth and their role in shaping the future.
- Naa Godava (1975-77): Continuing his introspective journey.
- Idi Naa Godava (1995): An autobiographical account of his life, offering insights into his personal experiences.
- Bapu! Bapu!! Bapu!!! (1995): A tribute to the revered Mahatma Gandhi.
- Kaloji Kathalu (2000): Further contributions to the world of storytelling.
Kaloji Rangarao’s literary legacy transcends boundaries, languages, and generations. His words continue to inspire and resonate with readers from all walks of life, making him a timeless icon in the world of literature and a symbol of unwavering commitment to the cause of freedom and human rights.
During his formative years as a student and later, Kaloji Rangarao found himself deeply immersed in the prevailing social and political movements of his time. Notably, he was profoundly influenced by the Arya Samaj Movement, with a specific focus on its civil rights aspect. The Library Movement and the Andhra Maha Sabha Movement were also significant influences on him. His elder brother, Kaloji Rameshwar Rao, a renowned Urdu poet, played an instrumental role in shaping Kaloji’s character and beliefs.
Kaloji’s commitment to these movements was unwavering. He actively participated in the activities of the Andhra Maha Sabha from its inception in 1934, further solidifying his dedication to the causes he believed in. His association with the Arya Samaj was another testament to his involvement in shaping the social fabric of his time.
However, Kaloji’s activism extended beyond participation; he was a key figure in the freedom movement of the erstwhile Hyderabad State and even endured imprisonment under the Nizam’s regime. His engagement wasn’t limited to political movements; he also contributed to various social, political, and literary initiatives in Andhra Pradesh. His tireless dedication to addressing the issues faced by the masses earned him both their love and the ire of those in power. Kaloji was among the select few freedom fighters who faced imprisonment, first under feudal lords and alien rulers before Indian Independence and later under native leaders.
Legacy in Literature
Kaloji Rangarao earned the endearing title of “Praja Kavi,” meaning “people’s poet,” and it held a special place in his heart as it connected him intimately with the common people. His journey into the world of literature began during his early school days when he penned his first poem in 1931 as a teenager, emotionally moved by the execution of Bhagat Singh. This marked the start of his prolific writing career, where he became a prominent writer and an avid reader.
His literary works are both diverse and extensive, encompassing poetry, short stories, and translations. One of his most notable literary achievements is “Na Godava,” a collection of his poems spanning eight volumes, short stories, and translations. Kaloji’s “Na Godava” is distinctive for its style and content; the renowned Telugu poet Sri Dasaradhi described it as “a running commentary on contemporary history.” It primarily constitutes poetry of dissent, serving as a powerful testament to his commitment to reform and his courage to challenge the status quo.
Among his other significant literary contributions are “Kaloji Kathalu,” “Thudi Vijayam Manadi Jayam,” “Parthiva Vyavam,” and “Telangana Udyama Kavithalu.” He also ventured into translations, with notable works such as “Na Bharata Desha Yatra” and “Jeevana Geetha.” Kaloji’s literary talents extended beyond Telugu, as he wrote extensively in Marathi, English, Urdu, and Hindi, and translated numerous literary works from other languages into Telugu.
Kaloji Rangarao’s involvement in politics was marked by his membership in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council from 1958 to 1960. Additionally, he played a pivotal role as a founder member of the Andhra Saraswatha Parishathu and was a member of the Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Academy. His contributions extended to serving as the president of the Telangana Rachayitala Sangham and as a member of the Glossary Committee from 1957 to 1961.
Awards and Honors
Kaloji Rangarao’s remarkable contributions in the fields of literature and society were acknowledged through prestigious awards and honors. He was conferred with the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award by the Government of India, recognizing his outstanding service. In 1972, he received the Tamrapatra, further highlighting his significant achievements. Kaloji was honored with the best translation award by the Andhra Pradesh Government for his work “Jeevana Geetha” in 1968, and he was the recipient of the Burgula Ramakrishna Rao memorial first award. The Andhra Pradesh Government felicitated him in 1981, and various literary associations in Andhra Pradesh recognized his contributions by honoring him.
Moreover, Kaloji’s dedication to literature and society earned him an Honorary Doctorate from Kakatiya University, Warangal, in 1992, a testament to his lasting impact in the field of literature.
End of an Inspiring Journey
Even in death, Kaloji Rangarao continued to inspire others through his selfless act of donating his body to the Kakatiya Medical College. This act of selflessness motivated thousands to engage in altruistic service, a reflection of his enduring influence on society.
Today, Kaloji’s legacy lives on through institutions like the Kaloji Narayana Rao University of Health Sciences, the Kaloji Narayana Awards, and Telangana Language Day, all of which pay tribute to his remarkable contributions. His words and deeds continue to inspire generations, reminding us of the enduring power of literature, activism, and selfless service.