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Title: Numinous Encounters along the Holy Narmada: A River Sutra by Gita Mehta
Authors: Sankaran, Chitra 
Keywords: Ecology
Issue Date: Oct-2016
Citation: Sankaran, Chitra (2016-10). Numinous Encounters along the Holy Narmada: A River Sutra by Gita Mehta. Paper for Ecopoetics Conference (22-25 June, 2016). ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Gita Mehta’s A River Sutra has been variously regarded as a philosophical treatise on the nature of love or as a description of the various sub-cultures within India. Few reviews or studies have ventured to examine the narrative as reflecting the interconnectivity between humans and the natural world. Set on the banks of the “holy” Narmada river, A River Sutra, published in 1993, explores an esoteric India and the mystical link between land and humans. The narrative is made up of disparate tales of passion, enchantment, love, and loss held together by a frame narrative in the tradition of Boccacio’s Decameron or Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. The choice of form is in itself significant in that the earliest known frame narrative can be traced to India, namely, the Panchatantra that dates back to earlier than third-century BCE. A River Sutra centres on an unnamed senior bureaucrat, the manager of a guest house along the Narmada. It is in the vicinity of this guest house that the bureaucrat meets the various characters who inhabit the narrative, marking the river itself as a flowing theme, with every narrative rising from, and ebbing into, the Narmada. The term “sutra,” which in Sanskrit means “a thread or line that holds things together” is derived from the verbal root “siv,” meaning “to sew.” The text thus sews together tales along the river Narmada making it A River Sutra. My paper will examine how Narmada gets embedded into the disparate histories of the characters reinforcing the idea that “place and human history” have deep connections that reveal a reciprocity that is more than incidental. It will attempt to read the text as striving to show the underlying connectedness between land, its people and their ancient myths. The paper will argue that such links, which are often dismissed as “superstition” in our times, have a significance and a role in building an organic relationship between the “enduring” natural world and its temporary inhabitants.
Source Title: Paper for Ecopoetics Conference (22-25 June, 2016)
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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