Namdeo Laxman Dhasal
Born(1949-02-15)15 February 1949
Poona, Bombay Presidency, India
Died15 January 2014(2014-01-15) (aged 64)
Mumbai, India
OccupationWriter, Poet
GenreMarathi literature
Literary movementDalit Panther
Notable worksAndhale Shatak
Moorkh Mhataryane
Tujhi Iyatta Kanchi?
Priya Darshini
Notable awardsPadma Shri
Soviet Land Nehru Award
Maharashtra State Award
Sahitya Akademi Golden Jubilee Award
SpouseMalika Amar Sheikh

Namdeo Laxman Dhasal (15 February 1949 – 15 January 2014) was a Marathi poet, writer and Dalit activist from Maharashtra, India. He was one of the founders of the Dalit Panthers in 1972, a social movement aimed at destroying caste hierarchy in Indian society. The movement was active in the 1970s and the 1980s during which time it popularised the usage of the term dalit in India. Dhasal was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999[1] and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sahitya Akademi in 2004.


Namdeo Dhasal was born in 1949, in the village of Pur in Khed taluka, Poona, India. He and his family moved to Mumbai when he was six. A member of the Mahar caste, he grew up in dire poverty.[2] He was a Buddhist.[3]

Following the example of the American Black Panther movement, he founded the Dalit Panther movement with friends in 1972. This social movement worked for the reconstruction of society on the basis of the Phule, Shahu, and Ambedkar movements.[2]

Dhasal wrote columns for the Marathi daily Saamana. Earlier, he worked as an editor for the weekly Satyata.[4] In 1972, he published his first volume of poetry, Golpitha. More poetry collections followed: Moorkh Mhataryane (By a Foolish Old Man), inspired by Maoist thoughts; Tujhi Iyatta Kanchi? (How Educated Are You?); Khel; and Priya Darshini, about former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

During this time, Dhasal also wrote two novels and published pamphlets such as Andhale Shatak (Century of Blindness) and Ambedkari Chalwal (Ambedkarite Movement), a reflection on the socialist and communist concepts of B. R. Ambedkar.

Later, he published two more collections of poetry: Mi Marale Suryachya Rathache Sat Ghode (I Killed the Seven Horses of the Sun), and Tujhe Boat Dharoon Mi Chalalo Ahe (I'm Walking, Holding Your Finger).

In 1977 Dhasal married noted Marathi writer Malika Amar Sheikh after a brief courtship. However, the marriage was troubled due to Dhasal's alleged domestic violence, alcoholism and problems with debt.[5] In 1981, Dhasal was diagnosed with myasthenia. Later, he suffered from colorectal cancer. He was admitted for treatment in a Mumbai hospital in September 2013. He died in 2014 at age 64.


In 1972 cracks began to appear in the Dalit Panther movement. Ideological disputes began to eclipse the common goal of liberation. Dhasal wanted to engender a mass movement and widen the term Dalit to include all oppressed people, but the majority of his comrades insisted on maintaining the exclusivity of their organization.

Dhasal's illness and alcoholism overshadowed the following years, during which he wrote very little. In the 1990s, he became politically active again.

In 2001, he made a presentation at the first Berlin International Literature Festival.[2]

Dhasal was one of the founding members and part of the 10-member national presidium of the Republican Party of India, which was formed under leadership of Babasaheb Ambedkar in 1952 by merger of all leading Dalit parties.[6]

Literary style

Arundhathi Subramaniam describes his poetry: "Dhasal is a quintessentially Mumbai poet. Raw, raging, associative, almost carnal in its tactility, his poetry emerges from the underbelly of the city — its menacing, unplumbed netherworld. This is the world of pimps and smugglers, of crooks and petty politicians, of opium dens, brothels and beleaguered urban tenements."[7]






Dilip Chitre translated a selection of Dhasal's poems into English under the title Namdeo Dhasal: Poet of the Underworld, Poems 1972–2006.[8][9]


Awards and honors

The following table shows list of awards won by Namdeo Dhasal.

Year Award For
1973 Maharashtra State Award for literature Literature
1974 Soviet Land Nehru Award Golpitha
1999 Padma Shri Literature
2004 Sahitya Akademi's Golden Life Time Achievement[10][11]

Personal life

Dhasal was married to Malika Amar Sheikh, the daughter of poet Amar Sheikh. They had one son, Ashutosh.


Dhasal died of colorectal cancer at Bombay Hospital on 15 January 2014.[12]


  1. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Voice of the oppressed". 7 February 2014. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  3. ^ De, Ranjit Kumar; Shastree, Uttara (4 October 1996). Religious Converts in India: Socio-political Study of Neo-Buddhists. Mittal Publications. ISBN 9788170996293 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "International Literature Festival website – Namdeo Dhasal".
  5. ^ "The Heart is a Lonely Woman - Malika Amar Sheikh". 26 November 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  6. ^ Kuber, Girish (December 2006). "Dalit Fury : Blame it on Leaders". The Economic Times. Retrieved 18 January 2022.
  7. ^ Subrahmaniam, Arundhati (1 December 2007). "Namdeo Dhasal (India, 1949)". Poetry International. Archived from the original on 10 October 2017. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Namdeo Dhasal".
  9. ^ Chitre, D. (tr.) (2006) Namdeo Dhasal: Poet of the Underworld, Poems 1972–2006, Navayana Publishing, New Delhi Archived 26 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 81-89059-10-6
  10. ^ 1 November 2004 Sahitya Akademi website.
  11. ^ Namdeo Dhasal, a special Sahitya Akademi Golden Jubilee award Archived 26 December 2004 at the Wayback Machine The Hub -Tehelka, 23 October 2004.
  12. ^ "Marathi poet Namdeo Dhasal dead". The Hindu. 16 January 2014. Retrieved 11 June 2014.