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The disappearance and reappearance of Yogmaya: recovering a Nepali revolutionary icon

Hutt, Michael (2013) 'The disappearance and reappearance of Yogmaya: recovering a Nepali revolutionary icon.' Contemporary South Asia, 21 (4). pp. 382-397.

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Abstract

In Nepal, it is widely believed that in 1941 Yogmaya, a female religious ascetic, and 60 of her disciples drowned themselves in the Arun River. In many of her ‘utterances’ (bani), preserved in a book that was effectively banned in Nepal for 40 years, Yogmaya called upon the Rana government to establish a dharmarajya, a religious state. The mass suicide is now interpreted as an act of protest at the Ranas’ failure to meet this demand. However, the event is not mentioned in any published history of Nepal. Yogmaya’s revolt was ‘rediscovered’ by an American anthropologist in the 1980s and revealed to a group of activists in Kathmandu, who attempted to reinstate her in their country’s political history. Twenty years later, Nepal’s leading feminist journal launched a campaign to gain recognition for Yogmaya as Nepal’s first woman rebel. A small-scale iconisation process has been underway ever since, with Yogmaya being constructed as, variously, a feminist leader, a progressive poet, an opponent of caste discrimination, and a political rebel. This article recounts the standard story of her life, evaluates recent constructions of her rebellion and attempts to explain the appeal of Yogmaya to progressive forces in modern Nepali society.

Item Type: Articles
Keywords: Nepali history; Nepali politics; gendered revolution; iconisation
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of South Asia
ISSN: 09584935
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): 10.1080/09584935.2013.856380
Depositing User: Michael Hutt
Date Deposited: 02 Jan 2014 15:12
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/17859

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