Fiction as History and Historiography
Anup Singh Beniwal
YAMUNA’S JOURNEY (YAMUNAPARYATAN) by Baba Padmanji Speaking Tiger Books, New Delhi, 2022, 181 pp., ₹399.00
May 2023, volume 47, No 5

Yamunaparyatan, deemed to be the first Marathi novel, was published in 1857. It was written by Baba Padmanji Mulay, a formidable activist-intellectual and public persona of his times (1831-1906). It has now been translated into English as Yamuna’s Journey by Deepra Dandekar, a keen chronicler-critic of Padmanji’s times and texts.

Baba Padmanji Mulay, a native Christian convert, missionary reformist, and prolific Marathi writer, belonged to the erstwhile Bombay Presidency. He not only turned his conversion into an activist signature but also proactively intervened in the social concerns of the day, especially the institution of marriage, gender discrimination and cultural conservatism, hypocrisy and bigotry. His academic-activist corpus, which mainly revolved around gendered reforms, vernacular modernity, and religion, is testimony to his reformatory zeal. His works such as Yabhicharnishedhak Bodh (1854), Paharekaryachi Vani (1878), Jagatshetacha Putra Narnayak (1879), and Hindudharmache Swarup (1901)were shaped by vernacular Christian ethos, and pro-actively influenced the pre-colonial and colonial thought structures and cultural practices.

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