Jyotirmoyee Devi Sen (1894-1988), a pioneering Bengali feminist writer in the first part of the 20th century, is well-known for her novel Epar Ganga, Opar Ganga (The River Churning: A Partition Novel) and her short story collection Sona Rupa Noy (Not Gold and Silver) for which she received the prestigious Rabindra Puraskar, the highest honorary literary award in West Bengal, in 1973. Born in Jaipur, the present-day capital of Rajasthan in India, she spent her childhood in the princely state where her grandfather worked as dewan or prime minister to the maharaja of Jaipur.
Needle at the Bottom of the Sea, five Bengali romances from the 17th to 19th centuries in English translation, reflect on the folkloric world of the Sunderbans “where tigers talk, rocks float and waters part, and faeries carry a sleeping Sufi holy man into the bedroom of a Hindu princess with whom the god of fate, Bidhata, has ordained his marriage.” Named after the local “Sundari” tree, the Sunderbans, locally known as atharobhati or the land of the eighteen tides, is the planet’s largest delta, formed by the merging of large rivers: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna in the Bay of Bengal region of India and Bangladesh.
Yamuna’s Journey is the English translation of Baba Padmanji’s 1857 Marathi novel Yamunaparyatan. “Yamuna” is both the name of the female protagonist of this novel as well as a reference to the river Yamuna in India; “paryatan” means journey or travel. “Yamunaparyatan” (“Journey to the Yamuna”) can be interpreted as travel to Vrindaban, a holy city on the banks of the river Yamuna, where Hindu widows were sent to live a life of spirituality and—widowhood being considered a curse—penance in homes set aside for them. Most of them were however in fact abandoned by their relatives and forced to live in abject poverty and isolation. The title, thereby, is suggestive of the trials and tribulations of widowhood in 19th century Hindu society.
The history of Indian queens—or ranis—has so far been left largely unexplored because mainstream history deals primarily with the annals of the kings. Queeny Pradhan’s Ranis & the Raj presents a perceptible shift in focus as it views the British Raj in 19th-century India from the perspective of six Indian queens—Rani Chennamma of Kittur, Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, Maharani Jindan of Punjab, Begum Zeenat Mahal, Guleri Rani of Sirmur and Queen Menchi of Sikkim—from geographically and culturally varied regions which offer a pan-Indian dimension to the history of the ranis.