More on the Sari

The modern style of wearing a sari was introduced by Jnanadanandini Devi, a member of the Tagore family. The Tagores and Sartorial Styles: A Photo Essay by Malavika Karlekar along with THE MANY WORLDS OF SARALA DEVI: A Diary (Translated from Jeevaner Jharapata ) by Sukhendu Ray, with an introduction by Bharati Ray comprise a new book from Social Sciences Press, New Delhi.

This charming book, as the titles suggest, contain two separate but related writings on the Tagores. The Tagores were a pre-eminent family which became synonymous with the cultural regeneration of India, specifically of Bengal, in the nineteenth century.

The first writing is a sensitive translation of Sarala Devi’s memoirs from the Bengali, Jeevaner Jharapata, by Sukhendu Ray. It is the first autobiography written by a nationalist woman leader of India. Sarala Devi was Rabindranath Tagore’s niece and had an unusual life. The translation unfolds, among other things, what it was like to grow up in a big affluent house Jorasanko, that had more than 116 inmates and a dozen cooks! The second writing by Malavika Karlekar is a photo essay, creatively conceived, visually reflecting the social and cultural trends of the times, through styles of dress, jewellery and accoutrements.

The introduction by Bharati Ray perceptively captures the larger context of family, marriage, women’s education and politics of the time which touched Sarala Devi’s life. She points out that if memoirs are a kind of social history then women’s diaries record social influences not found in official accounts and are therefore a rich source of documentation.

In our Culture section, in hardcover, 228 pages, Rs 550. ISBN 9788187358312

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