Indira Bai: The Triumph of Truth and Virtue
Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | Translated into English
Indira Bai: The Triumph of Truth and Virtue ()
Indira Bai, born in an orthodox Saraswat Brahmin family in the small town of Kamalapura, is married and widowed as a child. The bright, curious girl resists forces of social conservatism—the mindless chores and cruel rituals of widowhood. To reform her, the head of the religious mutt is brought in. When he tries to seduce her, a distraught Indira runs away to eminent lawyer Amrita Raya’s house. Encouraged in her pursuit of knowledge and freedom, Indira acquires a matriculation degree and later chooses to marry Assistant Collector Bhaskara Rao. This novel, laced with feminist intent, traces Indira’s self-fashioning into a modern, educated, and assertive woman.
Published in 1899, Indira Bai documents the transformation of the Saraswat Brahmin community based in the erstwhile South Canara region of Karnataka due to the encounter between the Kannada social world and colonial modernity. Simultaneously, this text of social history represents the pan-Indian churning provoked by the reform movement in the nineteenth century, with its central focus on the condition of women.
Gulvadi Venkata Rao (1844–1913) is acknowledged as the first Kannada novelist who wrote on social issues. While he also authored three other novels, including Bhagirathi (1900) and Seemantini (1907), it was Indira Bai that brought him into the limelight. Born in Kundapura, South Canada, Karnataka, India, he completed his education from Mangalore and Madras, India, and he later served as an officer in the police department. The author hailed from the progressive Saraswat community, which provided the immediate context for social critique in his novels. About the Translators Vanamala Viswanatha has taught English language and literature for over four decades in premiere institutions in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, including the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore University, and Azim Premji University. She was also honorary secretary at the Centre for Translation, Sahitya Akademi, Bengaluru. Vanamala has translated and introduced eminent Kannada writers such as U.R. Ananthamurthy, P. Lankesh, Vaidehi, and Sara Aboobacker. Her translation of the medieval Kannada text, The Life of Harishchandra (2017), in the Murty Classical Library of India Series, is an important landmark in the translation of Kannada classics into English. Shivarama Padikkal teaches at the Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies (CALTS), University of Hyderabad, Telangana, India. His research interests include modern Kannada literature, translation studies, and cultural studies. His Kannada book on nation, modernity, and the rise of the Kannada novel, Naadu-Nudiya Roopaka (2001), is highly acclaimed. He has co-edited Suniti Kumar Chatterji: A Centenary Tribute (1977) and co-translated Sara Aboobacker’s Kannada novel into Marathi (Chandragiriche Triavar, 1991).