Multilingual Collection Project

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AUTOBIOGRAPHIES/BIOGRAPHIES

Autobiographies of women are rare. Even important women have found it unimportant to record their life experiences in the printed word. Notes, diaries and letters may exist but often they remain in the family shelves. Biographies of women are also rare documents not easily available in print. Autobiographies and biographies of women and some men form a very important part of SPARROW collections and autobiographies and biographies written in Indian languages occupy a large space in SPARROW book collection. Given below are excerpts from some translated autobiographies and biographies with SPARROW translated from Marathi.

Anandi Gopal By SJ Joshi
I Follow After By Lakshmibai Tilak
The Branded By Sri Laxman Gaikwad

Journals

Posters

SPARROW has an extensive collection of the images of goddesses as featured on popular calendars and posters. While these images are ubiquitous, the legends surrounding them are not. There are a plethora of goddesses in India and all of them have their own unique stories of origin and myths extolling their qualities. We have featured some images from our archives with stories and explanations excerpted from scholarly studies of the mythology surrounding gods and goddesses in India.

Kali

Kali is the female form of Kala or Time. She is the origin and the end. Her four arms mean absolute dominion over all that the world contains. Her necklace of skulls signifies that she supports the living and the dead. Her colouring is dark, signifying the ultimate energy into which all things disappear. Her terrifying image shows that she herself is without fear and thus can protect her worshippers from fear.

Like Shiva, she frequents lonely places like the outskirts of towns and even cremation grounds. In some myths, she is supposed to be the anger of Durga as she killed the demon Mahishasura.

But the most popular myth depicts her as the killer of the demon Raktabija. Some scholars say that Parvati took on the form of Kali to help her son Skanda in battle. In the war with Mahishasura, each drop of blood from the evil Raktabija produced new demons, Kali, dark as death, spread her tongue over the battlefield and licked the demon’s falling blood before it could touch the ground. So new demons could not be spawned, enabling Skanda to attack and kill Raktabija with ease. Intoxicated by the blood, Kali ran amuck across the three worlds destroying all in her path. To restrain her, Shiva took the form of a corpse and blocked her path. When Kali found herself standing over her husband, she was jolted out of her frenzy. She wondered of she had killed her own husband and placed her foot on his chest and brought him back to life. This story demonstrates that both are necessary to save the world from destruction — the male with his inertness and the female with her shakti.

Another account says that she sprang, in full armour, from the eye of Durga and joined her in destroying the powers of darkness.

SOURCES: Gods and Goddesses of India by Anjula Bedi, Devi, The Mother Goddess -An Introduction by Devdutt Pattanaik.

Kamadhenu

Kamadhenu, the cow of prosperity emerged with Lakshmi out the sea as did Chintamani, a wish-fulfilling gem and a tree called Kalpataru that bore every flower and fruit desirable. Kamadhenu had enough milk to feed the world for all eternity. In her hand, Lakshmi also held the basket of bounty – the Akshaya Patra overflowing with grain and gold.

Kamadhenu is associated with Lakshmi as she is the goddess of affluence and abundance, representing the beautiful and bountiful aspect of nature. She gave birth to seven daughters, the sacred river-goddesses Ganga, Yamuna, Sindhu, Narmada, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri who nourished the earth and supported life.

To realise her, one must respect the laws of life and appreciate the wonders of existence.

Source: Devi The Mother-Goddess: An Introduction By Devdutt Pattanaik.

Bahuchara (of Gujarat)

There are two stories connected with this village goddess who is worshipped by eunuchs.

  1. She and her sister go to a mela. They are attacked by a man who tries to molest them. Bahuchar takes a knife and cuts her breast and bleeds to death. While she is dying she curses the man and he begs for forgiveness. She tells him he must dress as a woman and worship her.
  2. A young woman sees her husband neglecting her and going off on a white horse every night. She decides to follow him. A jungle fowl tells her she can ride on it. She finds her husband engaged in what can be termed unmanly behaviour. She confronts him and asks him why he had married her if his preferences were otherwise. She castrates him in anger and becomes a devi and makes a proclamation that men like him must worship her.

Source: Devi The Mother-Goddess: An Introduction By Devdutt Pattanaik.

Vaishnavi (of Jammu)

Trikuta wanted to marry Prince Rama of Ayodhya. But Rama said, “I already have a wife and will not take another.”

So Trikuta went to the mountains to live as a hermit. But there Bhairava, a sorcerer, forced his lustful attentions on her. Disgusted by his behaviour, she left her hermitage and sought refuge in a cave. He followed her there and refused to leave her alone.

Finally, after being chased across many hills and valleys, Trikuta decided to run no more. She turned on her tormentor with a sword and after a great battle, succeeded in beheading him.

The beheaded Bhairava apologised to the goddess and accepted her as his mother. From a lustful man he was transformed into an innocent child, by the grace of Trikuta.

Thereafter, the hill-dwellers began revering her as a goddess. She came to be known as Vaishnavi, as it is said that she will be Vishnu’s bride when Kali Yuga, the dark age of spiritual blindness, comes to an end.

Source: Devi The Mother-Goddess: An Introduction By Devdutt Pattanaik.

Rangoli

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and many other parts of India. Started by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the great Maratha ruler, to promote culture and nationalism, the festival was revived by Lokmanya Tilak, the much-respected freedom fighter, to spread the message of freedom struggle and to defy the British who had banned public assemblies. The festival gave the Indians a feeling of unity and revived their patriotic spirit and faith. This public festival formed the background for political leaders who delivered speeches to inspire people against the western rule. The festival is so popular that the preparations begin months in advance. We have chosen some of the rangoli from our collection for this Ganesh Chaturthi.

By A Prema Kumudam Snehidhi, Dec 2003
By S Padmavati Mangayar Malar, No date.
By R Chinna Ponnu Aval Vikatan, Sept 2006
By Kasi K Nirmala Mangayar Malar, Aug 2006
From Mangayar Malar, Oct 1996
By Brindavanam Bachchan Kumudam Snehidhi, Dec 2006

Diaries

Sejal Shah, a journalist and a film-maker, has made a documentary entitled Joginis – Servants of God. The documentary is about Joginis who are dedicated to Goddess Yellamma, an act that forfeits their right to ever marry in reality. They are also known as Devdasis. After puberty a Jogini has to spend the first night with either the priest or her virginity is auctioned off. There are more than 30,000 Joginis in Andra Pradesh. And thousands more spread all over the country. Though it is illegal to dedicate women in any form to the local deity, this practice is still common in villages exploiting women and lower castes. Jogini system has resulted in a growing number of illegitimate children. These children are not only deprived of education but the daughters of Joginis are forced to carry on the tradition and become a Jogini. This documentary has some exclusive footage of an initiation of a baby girl into the custom and a young woman being dedicated to the temple goddess and becoming a Jogini. It also has interviews with Joginis who tell their stories and the lives they face after being forced into this custom.

The synopsis of the documentary brought back memories of a similar system existing in Nipani about which Reaching Out, a group in Mumbai, had brought out a diary in 1982. That the custom exists even to this day proves how much more work lies ahead of people who want to bring about a change in the lives of women. The 1982 diary is reproduced below. R.V.Ramani took the photographs in the diary.

Folk Songs of Maharashtra Natrangi Naar Udavi Lavanicha Baar

Folk Songs of Bengal -Part 1 Banglar Loksangeet Sangrahamala

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Silver Jubilee Celebration Programme

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