Baba Padmanji’s 1857 Marathi novel Yamunaparyatan highlights the suffering of Hindu widows, forced into a life of loneliness and torture by their cruel Brahminical families. The heroine of the novel, Yamuna, starts off as a happily married woman, sharing a bond of mutual trust and respect with her husband. She travels with him across various regions of the Bombay Presidency and western India and her interactions with widows on the way reveal the extent of their suffering within Hindu patriarchal and Brahminical society. Yamuna sympathizes with them and calls for urgent reform, while advocating for widow remarriage.
When tragedy strikes and Yamuna is widowed, she too is tortured and stigmatized. But the feisty young woman manages to start a new chapter in life by converting to Christianity and remarrying a Christian man.
Yamuna’s Journey is the first English translation of Padmanji’s pathbreaking novel. In this engrossing and layered translation, Deepra Dandekar paints a poignant portrait of Indian women’s lives in the nineteenth century. It offers contemporary readers a timely, necessary glimpse of history.