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Re-inscribing a frontier region: Jhaverchand Meghani’s writings on Saurashtra, Gujarat

Wed, June 24, 9:00 to 10:55am, South Building, Floor: 9th Floor, S904


During the colonial era, pre-colonial regions of South Asia underwent significant transformations, both in terms of their administrative configurations and literary imaginations. These transformations were often characterised by tensions and negotiations as the modern regions did not necessarily fit well with the older cultural imaginations. This was particularly true of regions that lay on the political and ecological frontiers of the colonial empire as their fluid characters were at odds with the colonial project of taming and settling the regions under their control.

In this paper I explore these tensions through an examination of the ethnographic and literary writings of Jhavechand Meghani (1896-1948). From 1921 to the end of his life, Meghani, made it his mission to travel all over his home region of Saurashtra, the peninsular portion of present-day Gujarat, western India. As a region that lies at the intersection of the semi-arid Thar desert and the western frontier of the Indian Ocean, Saurashtra (also known as Kathiawar) was characterised by a variety of itinerant communities, all of which were also an integral part of the regions oral narrative traditions. Meghani published a wide range of ethnographic accounts, folklore collections as well as novels, essays and travelogues based on his encounters with these different mobile groups. In my analysis of his works, I demonstrate that in using traditional narratives of the region, Meghani was engaged in creating a new regional imaginary that would appeal both to the colonial and nationalistic elite alike.