In 1873, Jotirao Phule (1827-1890) wrote Slavery (Gulamgiri )•a scathing and witty attack on brahmanism and the slavery of sudras and atisudras that it engendered. Unlike Indian nationalists, Phule saw the British as people who could tame the local elite•the brahmans who wielded power simply on the basis of birth. Inspired by Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man and the ideals of Enlightenment philosophers, Phule mounted a critique of the vedas as idle fantasies of the brahman mind. With the objective of liberating the sudras and atisudras, he founded the Satyashodak Samaj (Society of Truthseekers) in 1873.
Phule dedicated Slavery “to the good people of the United States as a token of admiration for their sublime, disinterested and self-sacrificing devotion in the cause of Negro Slavery”. Written in the form of a dialogue between Dhondiba and Jotiba, Slavery traces the history of brahman domination in India, and examines the motives for and objectives of the cruel and inhuman laws framed by the brahmans.
This revolutionary text remains relevant today, and given Phule’s rather graphic imagination•for instance, his wondering whether Brahma, from whose body the four castes supposedly originated, ever menstruated•lends itself almost naturally to graphic art. This is perhaps the first time that a historical work of nonfiction has been interpreted as a graphic book.
All the illustrations in this book were hand-drawn using black paint and dry pastels.
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