When you think of Indian history, how many queens or women warriors go through your mind? Most of us will start, and stop, with the Rani of Jhansi.
However, there are so many more women who have made their mark and yet remained unnamed in our textbooks. Tara Anand, a Mumbai-based artist, hopes to change that situation with her new series I Am No Man that is making waves on social media. Among the changemakers she has illustrated are the forgotten Rani Velu Nachiyar of Sivaganga, Chand Bibi of Ahmednagar, and Rani Chennamma of Kittur.
“I’ve always been extremely interested in Indian history and read up a lot on figures like Jhansi ki Rani and Razia Sultana. But, when I went abroad for a course and had a conversation about powerful queens, I was surprised at how many of the names I rattled off were western queens. As soon as I returned, I dug out my Amar Chitra Kathas and my laptop and got to researching Indian warrior queens out of the sheer embarrassment of not being able to name more than a couple,” says the 17-year-old. She adds, “Honestly, I was taken aback by the number of queen regents and warriors I could find and shocked at how their contributions had been totally left out of the mainstream narrative! That’s why I decided to turn it into a project and contribute as much as I could to get these women the recognition they deserve as inspirational figures.”
When asked if education in India should also focus on women warriors who’ve changed our historic landscape, she responds, “Ideally there shouldn’t be a focus on any one gender, that’s not what equality is about. However, in light of the present situation I think there should be a marked increase in the ‘herstory’ taught at schools in order to balance out the history narrative.” She also believes that art can be a powerful tool to add to that change. “People don’t realise how powerful art can be as a rhetorical tool because they don’t always know that it’s all around them, so don’t understand the influence that visuals can have on them. Why do you think advertisements aren’t just text slogans? Pictures reach so many more people and are so much more universal than words,” she comments.
She hopes to cultivate interest in the women of Indian history and their contributions but she doesn’t plan to add to the series. “I might look at expanding it at some point to do smaller subseries with sportswomen or contemporary ‘warrior women’, or even mythological figures! Besides that, I’m always doing smaller illustrations and projects and I’m working on a few short story comics that I hope will turn into something bigger once I have time to invest in them!”...