Gangu Teli

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Gangu Teli is a historical or apocryphal figure from the era of the Parmara dynasty of central India, a commoner belonging to the Teli (oil-presser) caste. He is recalled in Hindi, Urdu and other Indian vernacular saying Kahaan Raja Bhoj, kahan Gangu Teli ("where is King Bhoj, where is Gangu the oil-presser"), an aphorism which contrasts something very important with something very inconsequential or pretentious.[1]


The story of Gangu teli is traditionally positioned to have occurred during the reigns of either Emperor Bhoja of Dhar, King of Malwa in Central India, belonging to the pratihara dynasty or Emperor Bhoja II of the Shilahara dynasty.

According to legend about the Shilahara king, Bhoja was building the fort of Panhala (Pranalaka) near Kolhapur in South Maharashtra, but the walls kept collapsing during construction.[when?] The king's astrologer recommended the sacrifice a woman and her newborn to appease the gods of the mountain. Gangu Teli was the only person nearby whose wife had just delivered, so Gangu, puffed up with self-importance, offered his wife Jakkubai and his newborn child as a sacrifice. A tomb exists inside the Panhala Fort for Jakkubai and her child.[2]

As Gangu Teli became prideful as he realised that only he could come to the aid of a king, this tale brought about the aphorism Kahaan Raja Bhoj, kahan Gangu Teli, dismissing him as being inconsequential compared to the rajah.

Modern allusions

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, and a member of the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP party, belongs to the Teli caste; a remark by Congress Party's Ghulam Nabi Azad, rephrasing Modi's Prime Ministerial ambitions in the light of the ancient quip "Kahan Raja Bhoj, kahan Gangu Teli' has drawn denunciations of casteism by the BJP.[3][4]

The 1974 Hindi film Sagina, features a song "Sala Main To Saab Ban Gaya", which has a line on Gangu Teli that goes "kaisa Raja Bhoj bana hain mera Gangu Teli" or "look at how my Gangu Teli is acting like Raja Bhoj." The ancient quip gained new currency when it was incorporated into a popular song in the Govinda starred 1998 Hindi Bollywood movie, Dulhe Raja.

In modern times, the Punjabi Maoist (or Naxalite) revolutionary Dalit poet Sant Ram Udasi, and now his daughter, have challenged the accepted Raja Bhoj - Gangu Teli discourse, portray Gangu Teli as an unwilling victim, coerced and brutalized, and portraying Raja Bhoj as a monster, e.g. the Ballad of Gangu Teli.[2]

See also


  1. ^ A Comparative Study of Culture in Telugu, Punjabi & Hindi Proverbs - T. Susheela - Google Books. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  2. ^ a b "The Ballad of Gangu Teli". OPEN Magazine. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  3. ^ "Azad made casteist remarks against Modi: BJP - The Times of India". 2013-08-17. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  4. ^ "Ghulam Nabi Azad's jibe at Modi casteist: BJP - The Times of India". 2013-08-18. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
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