HOMER – ONE OF THE GREATEST OF THE WORLD’ S LITERARY ARTISTS.
The two great epic poems of ancient Greece, the Iliad and the Odyssey are attributed to Homer. Homer is an oral poet and Homeric tradition is an oral one- that this is a kind of poetry made and passed down by word of mouth and without the intervention of writing. Through out world, people have orally transmitted many texts, let it be history, literature or scriptures, for long periods of time, before the texts were committed to writing. The people of India share this great tradition and we practice this tradition during our festivals and while performing specific rituals. For example, ‘GAYATRI MAHA MANTRA’ is orally transmitted during the ritual called ‘ UPANAYANAM ‘. During festival season, we gather and listen to ‘ PURANAS ‘, which are ancient stories. A myth is essentially told. India is the land where the myths are transmitted form one generation to the next in the form of Epic Poetry.
MY STORY ABOUT ‘ HOMER’ WHO LIVED IN RAJAHMUNDRY
I narrated my stories about my early childhood life in Rajahmundry. Kindly refer back to my blog entries about ‘The Tradition of Ahimsa’, ‘The Tradition of Idol Worship’ and ‘The Tradition of River Worship’. I learned about the Culture of my Land from very ordinary folks and they are the faces of the Indian Identity that I would love to speak about.
As a little kid, I sometimes performed chores while we lived in my grand parents’ home in Innispeta, Rajahmundry. I still have a vivid recollection of this event which helps me to speak about our oral tradition. I was walking along the ‘MAIN ROAD’ of Rajahmundry and was passing in front of PEDDA MASJID (The Big Mosque). An elderly person stopped me and spoke to me. I was a little diminutive kid walking bare foot on the street. The man was very modestly dressed and appeared to be one of the working poor of the town who make their living by performing simple menial tasks at the market place. Some of you, who may have lived in Rajahmundry know that we have a vegetable market in that area and it is the heart of the town. I could see the sense of sadness on his face. He was simply trying to unburden himself and share the emotional pain with which he might have lived for many years. I remember this incident as the expression of sorrow and dismay is entirely true. He did not ask for any favor or help. He was not canvassing for any support for political ideology. He was not speaking about his poverty or the hardships of his daily life. He plainly shared the truth about the “Pedda Masjid.” The mosque was not real. It was a temple. The temple was demolished and the mosque was erected in its place. He did not learn about it by visiting a library or reading the notes written by some historian or archaeologist. He had lived his life in the town and he gained this information from people who had lived before him. He had felt their pain and thought that it was important to share this collective memory with the next generation. I really do not know as to how long we should live with this injustice. But for now, my time has come. I need to narrate this story to the next generation. We shall continue to do so as long as this pain lives. This simple man, whose name is not known to me, who had written no epic poetry, is my ‘ HOMER’.Like the Great Poet, this man orally transmitted the ‘ORIGINAL’ pain and the emotional experience of people who had lived in Rajahmundry centuries before my arrival and it survived in my memory and it would hopefully survive in the memories of our future generations. A bit of historical truth is as great as a long poem. A temple had been destroyed and the pain experienced by the community would live as long as our oral tradition would live.