Re-inventing the region, re-inventing the self: Jhaverchand Meghani’s (1897-1947) writing on Saurashtra, Western India

Kapadiaphoto

Aparna Kapadia will talk about two travelogues written by the prominent Gujarati literary figure, Jhaverchanchand Meghani (1897-1948). In the 1920s Meghani travelled all over his home region, Saurashtra, the peninsular portion of present-day Gujarat. He recorded hundreds of folktales and age-old cāraṇi or bardic narratives that the region was well known for and went on to publish a wide range of ethnographic accounts, folklore collections, as well as novels and essays, based on his travels and research. In an age when South Asian travellers, were writing of their journeys across the globe, why would Meghani choose to focus on this extremely localized geographical space for his perambulations? Why would his audiences, which mainly consisted of urban elites in Bombay and Ahmedabad, be interested in his travelogues? What significance did the Saurashtra region have in Gujarati literature and imagination at this particular historical moment? In her talk Aparna Kapadia argues that through his writings, Meghani was not only refashioning traditional narratives and re-inventing the region for the emerging educated elite of early twentieth century western India but also refashioning himself as the modern-day bard or cāraṇ representing the changing region.

Aparna Kapadia is Assistant Professor of History at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She received her Ph.D. in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. She is currently completing a monograph  on the making of Gujarat in the long fifteenth century.