An untouchable in fourteenth-century western India, Chokhamela was cast out of temples because of his status. But his poetry captures this waiting, on the threshold of Hindu temples, without anger, without self-pity, Chokhamela belonged to the varkari tradition of Maharashtra, a sect that worshipped the god Vitthal but questioned the medieval orthodox Hindusim. the varkari tradition emphasizing simplicity is still alive in India today. Chakhamela's verses are remembered not only because he was one of the very first writers in India of the untouchable class. His questioning of his marginality-along with his realization of the god's need and love for him-are themes that continue to resonate today.
Rohini Mokashi-Punekar teaches at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences.
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