ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Indira Goswami was an Indian writer, poet, scholar, professor, and editor. She was born in Guwahati, India in 1942. Her pen name was Mamoni Raisom Goswami.

Goswami was an accomplished author, and many of her works were translated from Assamese to English. Her body of work includes short stories, novels, and poetry.

A known champion of the oppressed, Goswami’s works reflected contemporary social issues. Her novels advocated social reforms. She even served as a mediator between insurgent groups and the Government of India.

Her notable literary works include The Moth-Eaten Howdah of the Tusker, Pages Stained with Blood, and The Man from Chinnamasta. Some of her plays and novels have even been adapted for plays and movies.

Goswami was the winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Jnanpith Award, and the Principal Prince Claus Laureate. She also worked as a professor at the University of Delhi.

SYNOPSIS

The Man from Chinnamasta is the story of a Tantric, Jatadhari, who opposes the practice of animal sacrifice to appease Goddess Kamakhya. The story is set in the pre-Independence era.

The book has four main characters, namely the mystical Tantric, an English woman named Dorothy Brown, a young painter by the name of Ratnadhar, and his love interest, Bidhibala.

Brown, an English woman in Assam, leaves her promiscuous husband to become a disciple of the Tantric. Soon, the two develop a relationship, much to the awe of the Tantric’s followers and the chagrin of the British.

An opposer of animal sacrifice, the Tantric encourages his disciples to offer flowers to Goddess Kamakhya instead. The temple priests and their supports vehemently object to this. Under the Tantric’s guidance, Ratnadhar begins a signature campaign to get the practice banned. Over the course of the story, the four protagonists each have to fight their own battles to defend what they believe is right.

WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT THE MAN FROM CHINNAMASTA

Back in the day, The Man from Chinnamasta raised a lot of eyebrows, for it challenged an age-old practice. The book’s opposition to the ritual of animal sacrifice at the Kamakhya temple has continued to polarize readers to date.

The Man from Chinnamasta excerpt

That said, the story is rather compelling. Goswami has not only questioned the morality of sacrificing an innocent animal for religious motives, but also discusses the economic consequences of such practices. With powerful storytelling, she achieves her primary goal of forcing the readers to think.

It is also interesting to read about the Ambubachi Mela, a fair that was held in the days before India’s Independence.

All in all, The Man from Chinnamasta is a bold story from a bold writer.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER ABOUT THE MAN FROM CHINNAMASTA

The Man from Chinnamasta was translated into English. While the translator has done a good job overall, certain nuances of the source language that had a telling impact on the story’s flow seem to have been lost in the translation.

QUOTES

Β All eyes turned towards her. A white woman. Her auburn hair cascaded below her shoulders. She wore her long skirt much like a mekhela, as any other Assamese woman would, with a woollen blouse. Her chest heaved like the fluttering wings of a dove being taken to the sacrificial altar.

Β 

One of his disciples said that he can stand on water. Is it true? Poisonous snakes are entwined in his matted locks.

CONCLUSION

Ameya Score:
3.5/5

Ameya would recommend The Man from Chinnamasta in a heartbeat. The book is a thoughtful work that makes the readers think about the rationality of an age-old practice. That being said, the book is not recommended to young readers due to its “heavy” theme.

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