Joshua Gurram (1895-1971)

Joshua Gurram was born on October 28, 1895, in Vinukonda, in Guntur district, into a poor Christian family. His father, Veerayya, was a Kuruma Christian and his mother Lingamma belonged to Aadi-andhra Christian tribe.  Those were the days when Mahatma Gandhi was thrown out of a train in South Africa and the courts and the government in the United States enforced segregation. The situation was no different in the then Madras Province of British India.  The British christened segregation in India as “untouchability” to distinguish between the racial and tribal segregation practiced by the Western world, apartheid practiced in South Africa and the discrimination in the Indian continent.

Despite the discrimination, Joshua graduated from high school and obtained training in teaching.  He worked for sometime (1915-16) as a story teller for the silent movies in Rajamundry and for sometime as a dramatist in ‘chintamani nataka mandali.’  Later he worked for ten years as a teacher in a teacher-training institute run by Lutheran Church in Guntur.  From 1928 through 1942 he was a Telugu pundit in a High School, Guntur. During the Second World War (1942-45), he was a campaigner in the National War Campaign conducted by the Indian Government under the supervision of British government.  For a couple of years (1957-1959), he worked as a producer in Madras Radio Station.  In 1964, he became a member of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council. This was the same Joshua who was not allowed to read his poetry by sharing the same dais shared by the poets and writers of Vinukonda! This was not only a proud moment for Joshua, but also a vindication for the Andhra Society in overcoming the practice of segregation.  Also, Joshua’s third daughter Hemalata, a Christian, was married to Goparaju Ramachandrarao’s son Lavanam, an Atheist. Hemalata and Lavanam had never met before, but they agreed to an inter-caste marriage arranged by their parents.  They were married in Mahatma Gandhi's ashram in 1960 at Sevagram. ( Despite the great strides by Andhra society in overcoming the segregation, the tribalism still continues in Andhra politics and matrimony.

Poetry was Joshua’s love.  The subject of his poetry was humanity and rationalism. He likened himself to Karna of Mahabharat mythology.   Karna was not allowed to participate in a competition along with the ruling class because he was a commoner, just like Joshua was not allowed to read his poetry in Vinukonda.  Joshua condemns this discrimination and his poetry involves revolt against the exploitation of the poor by the rich and prescribes redistribution of wealth. Shortly after Independence, he impatiently questioned, “It’s been three years after independence and why is the life of the common man still the same?” His poetry was full of Humanist values underlining the importance of social equality and universal outlook.  Joshua said that he had two teachers, one was poverty that taught him patience and the other was segregation that taught him rebellion.  He waged a war against both poverty and segregation with his poetry and succeeded. His famous works are piradausi, gabbilamu, kandiseekudu, mumtajmahal, swapnakatha, netaji, kreestu, charitra, kottalokamu, and naakatha.  For more on Joshua, please read an article by Palana:

suprasiddula jeevita viseshalu, Janamaddi Hanumcchastri
Satajayanti sahitimurtulu, D.N. Sastri

Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, December 8, 2001

Back to Mana Sanskriti
Back to Vepachedu Home page