Year 10 Poetry: A Different History

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Read the Poem below. Using the reply/comment feature comment on what you think of the message of the poem is. Reply to each others ideas too. What techniques has Sujata Bhatt used and how do they add to the message of the poem?

Once you have read the poem, go to this link. What other ideas does the discussion about another of Bhatt’s poems does this give you?

A Different History by Sujata Bhatt


Great Pan is not dead;

he simply emigrated

to India.

Here the gods roam freely,

disguised as snakes or monkeys;

every tree is sacred

and it is a sin

to be rude to a book.

It is a sin to shove a book aside

with your foot,

a sin to slam books down

hard on the table

a sin to toss one carelessly

across a room.

You must learn how to turn the pages gently

without disturbing Sarasvati,

without offending the tree

from whose wood the paper was made.

Which language

has not been the oppressor’s tongue?

Which language

truly meant to murder someone?

And how does it happen

that after the torture,

after the soul has been cropped

with a long scythe swooping out

of the conqueror’s face-

the unborn grandchildren

grow to love that strange language.

40 thoughts on “Year 10 Poetry: A Different History

  1. Sujata Bhatt talks mainly about religion and she suggests God is everything. She wrote this at the time when Britain colonized India and she emphasizes her culture. She talks about the idea of freedom.She mentions Great Pan, snakes, monkeys and trees and explains how they are sacred. She seas Great Pan as an image of nature and she believes that nature is god. She talks about her own culture and love to her country, she does not what it to be ruined by other religions.

  2. I think this poem is telling us that the Great pan is not dead, as he is a God. It is saying that gods are disguised as snakes or monkeys, which arent pleasant creatures, maybe suggesting that they can not always be something good, that they can be something bad.

  3. Sujata Bhatt, probably a socialy rejected person; shown by the title”A Different History”. Meaning that every one believes in some history that has been forcefed to them but she thinks that It was different. And that people show way to little respect to knowledge and studying. “It is a sin to shove a book aside with your foot,” – Tomas Slimak

  4. Sujatta is trying to tell us that language can be a target to victimise enemies. thou for the beliefe we can catogorize people in to different groups by their language into what culture they belong to. she expresses Great, pan and God, as a weapon of their culture. “the unborn grandchildren/grow to love that strange language” emphasizes the point that those victimised people, still make their new generations learn that language. the main message of the last stanza is that language can be used as a weapon.

  5. in the begining it talks about how “Pan” is in all these things, even trees. then it says that doing all these things to books is a “sin” . it’s a sin because Pan is in the trees that the books are made of.

  6. Sujata Bhat wrote the poem “a Different History” during the time period of England’s colonization. It appears that the poet was attempting to represent Indian’s culture and draw attention to the fact that through language, one can salvage one’s own culture. The poet introduces the God, Great Pan, as a symbol of his culture and exemplifies how language can be used as a weapon. The poet also uses a descriptive vocabulary to tell his reader how language can be used to target its victims in a figurative sense.
    The Great Pan known in Greek mythology as a god of pasture and shepherds. He has the ears, horns, and legs of a goat. Like in Greek mythology, Hindu mythology has a variety of gods. The Great Pan is a Greek god which “simply emigrated to India” (2) for pasture. The Great Pan is also known as the God of education and understanding….
    (read more)
    awesome website you should check it out

  7. Bhatt uses “the death of pan” as a metaphor to India. This is first used Plutarch’s ‘The obsolescence of Oracles’ and after that christian commentators used this phrase to say that his death coincided with either Jesus’ birth or death. Bhatt says Pan is still alive to say that the traditional aspects of India are still there and that something new is not necessarily showing up.
    During the middle of the poem she is basically just mentioning the way how indian culture respects knowledge and books. This is to show how great and nice her culture is and to make the reader feel empathy towards this culture.
    At the end Bhatt mentions how she is surprised how she speaks her language after her language has been so ‘Tortured’, this is once again to show how her culture is still alive and can be in all its glory.

  8. A Different Story is a poem written by Sujata Bhatt, in which she talks about religion and language and also suggests that God is in everything. Bhatt wrote this poem at a time where the British colonized India and she indicates the cultural confusion by emphasizing her culture, ‘without disturbing Sarasvati’. The need to find beauty amongst everything is only a quality because of the problems going on at the time, she implies an idea of freedom, but in reality this freedom is followed by extreme oppression as they lose control of their lives and decisions. very good website :)

  9. The poem is reflecting her past and she is telling us about the differences in the cultures and how people act strangely towards people from different cultures.This poem does not have a regular rhyme scheme. with the fact this poem is of 29 lines in total, therefore this is not a sonnet. The first stanza is 18 lines and the second stanza is 11 lines long. all the words have a different and a deep meaning to them.

  10. I simply think Sujata Bhatt is preserving her culture. The poet talks about Great Pan-The God of Nature migrating to India because he moves freely posing as an animal. The poet also links the Great Pan migrating from Europe to India because I think she thinks he’s always with her wherever she goes. The poet also talks a lot about trees and books because she’s a Pantheist.

  11. I think this poem is about the culture and traditions of lndia before and while the English were taking over. It shows the merging of to separate cultures and projects how your language is your indentity in which if it is taken away you would have nothing.

  12. I think this poem is trying to tell us about religion and sins in India. It’s very interesting to find out which things are sins, it gives an idea of how others around the world have different cultures and believes.

  13. I think is this poem was very interesting though a bit out of my style! I think this poem is trying to make us understand the different cultures and traditions. “Sujata Bhat wrote the poem “a Different History” during the time period of England’s colonization. It appears that the poet wastrying to represent Indian’s culture and draw attention to the fact that through language and a words, people can explain one’s entire culture.” Saraswati is the goddess of music, art, science and knowledge. So this shows how the people of the country respect such important things.This poem does not have a regular rhyme scheme.This poem is 29 lines in total, therefore this is not a sonnet. Over all i enjoyed the poem and I think it was very interesting and educative

  14. Sujata Bhatt has structured and divided the poem ‘A Different History’ into two sections. The first of which suggesting although life in india is claimed to be free, the poet describes a list of ‘sins’. Of which it portrays the action of shoving a book so negatively, leading to the fact that books are from trees and trees should not be treated with such disrespect.
    The world is moving at a rapid pace leaving cultures and traditions behind.

  15. So i think this poem is aimed at religion. I believe that the author is trying to represent the world as our gods, so to care the world as if it was our god.

  16. I think this poem is trying to tell us that trees are not just trees they are holy so do not fight them as they can turn you into a smaller tree and you shall live on as one of them. A god, of the world, making everything better such as ice cream, ice cream is pure and great and then its like poison when someone decides to add oranges and apples to it. It just turnes meh. So basically the gods are the exterminators of apples and oranges any if you hurt the world, you hurt them.

    • Haha lol. Ice cream has nothing to do with it ! This poem is showing the 3 different culture the poet has (india,germany and US). In the 1st stanza she taqlks about religion.
      But then she shows anger in the second stanza.
      She seems confused about her identity.

  17. This poem is written Sujata Bhatt and is about two gods Pan and Saraswati. She talks about two of the gods being around us but being seen in different form such as a snake or a monkey.The poem consists of 29 lines and is divided in to 2 stanzas with 18 lines and 11 lines. The first stanza talks about a god in India and the second stanza talks about language and knowledge. This poem does not have a regular rhyme scheme.

  18. This poem is about two gods Pan and Sarasvati. This poem is about the British Colonization in India and importance of religions and culture in India. She also talks about how it was different for her when she emigrated to the United States with her family in 1968.

  19. The poem is about cultural and language differences. It also describes how much culture and religion is important in India. In the second part of the poem the writer talks about the British colonialization and how the British Invasion took their identities with a scythe. She also mentions two gods in the poem Pan and Sarasvati.

  20. This is a great poem. Sujata Bhatt uses very artistic language to talk deeply about cultutres. She wants to point out differences in cultures of west and east while reflecting back to her past. Sujatta talks about Great Pan-The God of Nature who migrates to India because he moves freely posing as an animal. The poet also links the Great Pan migrating from Europe to India because she thinks he’s always with her wherever she goes. The poet also talks a lot about trees and books as the poet is a Pantheist.

  21. The poem mentions the culture around the world by mentioning the Greek God Pan. She explains people have different cultures as Pan has moved to India. The quote
    “roam disguised as snakes and monkeys”. indicates that nature is worshipped.
    The poet empahzsizes how Indias culture is important and you have to worship the environment as well as animals. Bhat also says the the behaviour in India should be repected. Bhat indicated how books are important to the Indian culture.
    Bhat explains that different cultures have different languages
    She hopes the Indian language will always stay and be respected. However even after the damage of invasion Inda remained.

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