In 1856, the East India Company imposed the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act, allowing widows to remarry after their husband’s death. The Act was controversial at the time: Hindu traditionalists, particularly in higher castes, prevented widows from remarrying to protect the family’s honor, and even teenage and child widows were expected to live lives of austerity.
The following year, the Marathi author Baba Padmanji publishes Yamuna’s Journey: one of the first, if not the first, novel in an Indian language. The novel, recently translated by Deepra Dandekar and published by Speaking Tiger Books, follows the story of Yamuna, an educated Marathi woman (and secret Christian), and her husband Vinayak as they travel the region, encountering tragic tales of Hindu widows prevented from remarrying.
Deepra Dandekar is a researcher at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin. She is the author of Baba Padmanji: Vernacular Christianity in Colonial India, the first critical biography of Baba Padmanji in English.
We’re joined today by Mariyam Haider, researcher-writer and spoken word artist in Singapore. In this interview the three of us talk about Yamuna’s Journey, its Christian roots, and the debate about widow remarriage in 19th-century India.