The experience of discrimination based on caste, especially the stigma of untouchability, never formed a part of the socio-cultural and intellectual history of modern India. This article focuses on the life of Gurram Jashua (1895-1971) and re-reads the poignant and lived experience of untouchability on the basis of his seminal autobiography and other literary texts written in Telugu. This article argues that in ideas against caste prejudices, it is the themes of self-suffering and lived experience that provide a crucial impetus to the germination of protest. Through an analysis of Jashua's writings, especially Gabbilam, often called the Dalit Bible, this article attempts to capture and record the psychosomatic agony of living under the gaze of caste. With an untouchable whose rebellious spirit questioned the legitimacy of Hindu Brahmanical ideology cast as its hero, Gabbilam's revolutionary intervention subverted the content and form of the classical Telugu literary sphere. It was a socially and politically relevant text because in it, Jashua also engaged with anti-colonial nationalism and other issues of his time. Jashua remains peerless in his ability to express the dark realities of caste harnessed into a literary rhythm, as he continues to be read and admired even by non-Dalits.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Dalit discourse, Dalit experience, Indian nationalism, Telugu literature, untouchability
Persistent URL
Journal Indian Economic and Social History Review
Jangam, C. (2014). Desecrating the sacred taste: The making of Gurram Jashua-the father of dalit literature in Telugu. Indian Economic and Social History Review, 51(2), 177–198. doi:10.1177/0019464614525718