Length: 82 pages
Genre: Folktales, Indian Literature, Short Stories
Date of Publication: 1st December, 2007
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review
The month of August is dedicated to ‘Discovering India Readathon’ on Bookstagram. One of the prompts was to read folktales from any part of India which I thought was really interesting. Coincidentally, Zubaan contacted me to ask if I would like to review any of their books and when I saw that they had a collection of folktales, I knew I had to read it this month.
“It was a time when girls were as desired as sons. A time when girls beat boys in games and races. A time when there was no gender divide. And so also in these stories it is the women who are stronger, wiser, faster, sharper, and certainly far more beautiful than their men. It is they who think out of the box, who are imaginative and creative and full of wise ideas.
From tales of ghostly possessions to magic mantras, from kings and queens full of passion to village youth bursting with sexual ardour there timeless folktales are full of the joy of being alive, of sensual enjoyment and pleasure. While Kudrat (God is imagined as being feminine) and Deva conspire and wreak havoc on their people, the dance of live continues with naked young maidens swimming in the streams or being courted by dark handsome youths amidst much laughter and teasing. The forests are full of birds and beasts and fish, and life for the tribals is for the most part simple and innocent, truth and right always prevail and defeat the forces of darkness- be it a scheming stepmother, a murderous wife or lover or a cruel and lustful kind.“
The book is a collection of 14 tales of the Dungri Garasiya tribe. It begins with the author coming to India and studying Gujarati and later the dialect of the Tribal people. It talks of how she learnt the ways of rural India and how she worked at empowering these women. It was heartwarming to see her refer to the women as ‘my’ women. It is the selfless dedication of such people that helped the downtrodden women find a sense of independence and financial security.
During Marija Sres’ time, the women of the Dungri Garasiya tribe were not the strong women that their ancestors were. The tribe began from a single woman that Kudrat created to complement the beauty of the Earth. It was only from her need that she created man. The women then had autonomy in the selection of their mates and were considered equal to the men in all walks of life. Like the author describes, ‘they walked neither behind not in front of the men but alongside them as equals.’
Some of the stories are tales that the author heard from the tribal people and some of them are songs that have been passed on from one generation to the next, written down in the form of prose. The author’s picks are all centered around women and the tribe’s close connection with nature and animals. The people lived in harmony with nature, helping animals and birds, and the creatures helping the people in return. It was a time of abundance and love that was later destroyed due to commercialization and deforestation. After the insurgency of the British, the tribal people were taught to integrate themselves into mainstream life, taught to abhor their traditions and their language until they began to refer to their dialect as ‘kali boli‘. This was the perfect read for Indian Independence month.
Marija Sres (bn 1943) is a religious sister from Bratonci, Slovenia. For thirty years she has worked with the Dungri Garasiya Bhils of Gujarat. Marija’s previous books on Gujarati tribal women have been translated in English, Slovene, Spanish, Gujarati, and Marathi.
TL;DR: A well compiled collection of folktales from people that we hardly hear anything about
Do you have a favorite folktale based in the place that are from?
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