Godavari as an ‘Agency of Empowerment’

Since the day we embarked the venture of ‘Goda Parikrama,’ several unknown, hidden, and isolated aspects of Godavari are reaching us.

Today, I got a call from Nilesh Sir at 5:45 p.m. he said, “Someone from Kopargaon wants to meet us regarding our work on the Godavari, and they want to gift us the book which they have written on the Godavari.” After the call, in a hurry, I reached near Ramkund, and there was a humble looking middle-aged couple – Mrs. Madhumalti Joshi and Mr. Nandkishor Joshi – waiting for me. Both of them have traveled along with the Godavari from its origin at Trimbakeshwar till Rajmahadry, where the Godavari meets the mighty Bay of Bengal. On the basis of this journey, Mrs. Joshi has written a book titled – ‘Mi…Gautami Godavari.’ The couple is a living repository of Godavari’s troublesome present and glorious past.

In our today’s conversation, multiple facets of the river-society relationship came forward. But in this post, I would like to highlight the theme of ‘River as an enabler’ or river as an agency of empowerment.

River as an ‘enabler’

To apprehend the theme of the river as ‘an agency of empowerment,’ here I am discussing the journey of Mrs. Joshi with the Godavari. Mrs. Joshi is a woman who is not much educated (till 9th standard) and married in a typical Indian household, but passionate about rivers. I asked her –

Me: What inspired you to engage with the Godavari?

Mrs. Joshi: I am mad about rivers, since my childhood. Whenever I see a river, I get this extraordinary feeling of excitement.

Mr. Joshi jokingly added, “We are married only because of her love for rivers.”

Me: How?

Mrs. Joshi: Someone from his family told me that river is visible from their house. At that time, my attraction was limited, that I want to live close to the river.

Nonetheless, her passion for the river was not limited to her aspiration of living in the vicinity of the river. Like, the fluidity and unpredictability of the river, her passion took the shape of belonging and stewardship towards the rivers. Thus along with her husband and support of her family, she began traversing with the twirling and turning course of the Godavari. And coincidentally, five years back on today’s date (12th December 2012) she was at Rajmahadry – the place where the Godavari meets the Bay of Bengal. Finally, she penned down her experiences and interactions with the Godavari in her book – ‘Mi…Gautami Godavari’ – in the form of a conversation between the Godavari and Lord Shiva.

[In the book, the Godavari is oscillating with her past and present. On the one hand, she is reminiscing over the purity, sacredness, and harmonious past, while on the other hand, she is saddened, troubled, and upset about the changing outlook of the humans towards herself. The book is full of beautiful anecdotes from various sites, referring to several religious, socio-cultural, economical, and political interactions of communities with the river.]

Mi…Gautami Godavari

The river Godavari, here, became an enabler – empowering a woman to explore, form opinions and views, and significantly, express herself. Like Mrs. Madhumalti Joshi, for many individuals and communities, the rivers (or riverscapes) are a platform for sustaining and empowering themselves, and carving out their own unique identities.

Mrs. Madhumalti Joshi & Mr. Nandkishor Joshi

Rivers are full of wonders and waiting to be unearthed.


News Reporter
I am an architect turned anthropologist. After finishing my Masters in Anthropology from University of Pune, I was working with Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune under a project funded by UNICEF and Integrated Child Development Scheme, Government of Maharashtra. During which I was stationed in Nandurbar District of Maharashtra (which is predominantly a tribal region) as a Field Research officer. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate in Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali, India. My current research explores the interaction of the cultural-religious, the political-economic and the ecological dimensions of the river in Nashik city in Maharashtra. Broadly, investigating how the multiple perspectives of a natural resource overlap, contradict, challenge and support each other, thus shaping the urban landscape and producing socio-spatial inequalities.

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