There is this general(and very popular) narrative that the ‘Strong Woman Rising’ is a slogan of the new age, promising a bright, yet-t0-be-seen display of courage and strength by women. It’s great aspirational material, but we often forget that our history is rife with role models to draw from!
When Tara Anand, a dynamic 20-year-old artist from New York began a project illustrating the forgotten warrior women of India, she found interesting material every step of the way. Tara decided to put it together as a simple Instagram project, and it caught the attention of Tulika publishers, a publishing house known for its multifaceted sensibilities.
The project took off and we have “Warrior Women“- a picture book profiling 12 spunky women who broke stereotypes and smashed the ‘glass ceilings,’ albeit of a different time and age.
Tara says she was motivated to do this project because she was embarrassed about not being able to name more than a couple of brave Indian warrior queens during a class discussion. Alpha kings? – Plenty. Western women that likely changed history?- names were rolling off the other participants’ tongues. What people hardly knew was about how many women in India took it upon themselves to be the hero of the moment. And so Tara dug in.
A picture book, did we say? Ah- yes, but let that not fool you! The book is packed with eye-catching illustrations that can please a child and adult equally well, but the author has also packed history, heroism and emotion in the two pages dedicated to each of the twelve women featured in the book. Along the way, Tara drew inspiration statues, old illustrations, and stamps and books.
The book tells us about the likes of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi- one of the better-known women warriors of India but also tells us about Mai Bhago, a warrior figure from Amritsar, Punjab. There’s Rani Chennamma of Kittur to tell us how to stand your ground and a Begum Samru at a mere 4.5 feet tall showing us that ‘standing tall’ has nothing to do with physical height. It is also evident that the team has taken special efforts to include women from all over India, and cover the common threads of their struggles and their sources of strength.
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Designed carefully for young minds, Warrior Women is a keepsake that can be read and relished many times over. It’s like taking a history class that does not have you dozing off, for once.