Vasant Abaji Dahake
(India, 1942)   
Vasant Abaji Dahake

Born in 1942, Vasant Abaji Dahake is a well-known Marathi poet, critic, essayist, novelist and short fiction writer. His first collection of poems, Yogabhrashta (1972), instantly established him as a successor to the early modernists in Marathi literature such as Mardhekar, P.S. Rege and Vinda Karandikar.

Taut, complex, richly metaphorical, and yet by no means apolitical, Dahake’s work – informed as it is both by decidedly regional and unapologetically international influences – has been marginalised by the more nativist forces of the Marathi literary mainstream.

Writes noted poet and critic Ranjit Hoskote of his work: “Vasant Abaji Dahake’s poems reverberate with the clash of opposites: they speak of the displacement of a solitary consciousness from the countryside to the metropolis, from the expansiveness of landscape to the constrictions of architecture, and the anxieties and the exhilarations that such a traumatic experience can produce.” Hoskote locates Dahake as a poet who entered adulthood in the 1960s – the era of Che Guevara and the Beatles, also characterised more specifically by a young nation’s growing disenchantment with the realities of the post-Independence landscape.

In 1992, Ranjit Hoskote and Mangesh Kulkarni translated Dahake’s first book, Yogabhrashta, in a volume called A Terrorist of the Spirit. This made accessible to a wider readership a poetic voice of many resonances. This was a poetry that could speak of the impulse to “read the astrology column furtively/ when no one’s looking”, as well as register a note of political and moral dissent when evoking “legislators’ lying arguments/ that scratch in the same old groove,/ playing out the same old tunes/ from the capitalist jukebox”.

It was a poetry that could speak of the private terror of being “caged in our separate solitudes” under a “terrifyingly empty sky” but could also savagely denounce an entire system: “A generation: its shoulders stunted under the weight/ of a ditchwater system; on whose dwarf heads,/ wartlike, aimless universities sprout;/ squalid slums of the mind . . .”

Ranjit Hoskote revisited Yogabhrashta recently. In this first Indian edition of PIW, he shares some of his new translations of that compelling book. Also included here is his essay on Dahake’s literary and cultural context and contribution.

© Arundhathi Subramaniam

Also on this site:
Vasant Abaji Dahake: A Treasurer and a Prodigal of Words
Essay by Ranjit Hoskote


Yogabhrashta, 1972. Translated into English as A Terrorist of the Spirit, by Ranjit Hoskote and Mangesh Kulkarni (New Delhi: Harper Collins/Indus, 1992).
Shubha-vartaman, 1987.
Shunah-shepa, 1996.

Adholoka, 1975.
Pratibaddha ani Martya, 1981.

Essays & Literary Criticism
Yatra Antaryatra, 1999.
Kavita Mhanje Kai, 1991.
Samakaleen Sahitya, 1992.
Kavitevishayi, 1999.

As Editor
Nivadak Sadanand Rege, 1996 (a selection of the late Sadanand Rege’s poetry).
Shaleya Marathi Shabdakosh, 1997 (a Marathi lexicon for primary and secondary school students).
Sankshipta Marathi Vangmayakosh, 1998 (an encyclopaedia of Marathi literature; co-editor).
Kavita Visavya Shatakachi, 2000 (an encyclopaedia of 20th-century literature; co-editor).

Links to external sites featuring Dahake:
The Little Magazine
Poem in The Little Magazine, Vol IV, Issue 3 – ‘Growing Up’



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