Motherland’s Upcoming Issue Reimagines The Yamuna River In Delhi Through A New Lens

Motherland’s Upcoming Issue Reimagines The Yamuna River In Delhi Through A New Lens

The Colours of India...

Motherland, a publication first introduced in 2009, is, as the title suggests, about India and all its various colours. A theme-based journal of thoughts, ideas, and unexpected narratives on India, Motherland magazine explores the trends, subcultures and issues shaping the country and provides a fresh perspective on contemporary Indian culture.

The upcoming issue of the magazine offers us a new perspective on the Yamuna River.

The Yamuna...

For centuries, the Yamuna River has sustained the many cities preceding modern-day Delhi by becoming their ecological and agricultural lifeline. The sandstone walls of the Mughal era monuments flanking the floodplain reveal watermarks of the Yamuna even today. But with a dramatic reduction in the ecological flow of the waters, the river has become a receptacle for all that the city discards⁠—its effluent and its wastes⁠— leaving little room for the ecologically sacred. The Yamuna has slowly been erased––both from the urban landscape and from public consciousness. The Motherland Yamuna issue has been published in collaboration with the scholars and students of the University of Virginia and Tulane University. Through the partnership, they have explored their visions of transforming the river into an environmental nucleus for modern Indian society, and the potential of once again anchoring our cities within their original ecology. Each story in the Yamuna issue seeks to evoke the lost bond between a river and her people: to see the Yamuna for all it could be and all it once was, instead of simply what it has become today.


“ ‘A map of the world that does not include utopia,’ wrote Oscar Wilde, ‘is not worth
even glancing at.’ Today, of course, we are realists and, Utopia has a bad name. But maps which show only what is can still seem sadly incomplete. Landscapes are replete, also, with what was and — which is our preoccupation here — what could be. If ever our hopes and dreams are to work their metamorphosis on reality, they first need to be well drawn.”

– excerpt from Rana Dasgupta’s article on ‘How Delhi Turned its Back on the Yamuna’ written for Motherland magazine.

The author has further gone on to argue for the rekindling of the relationship between the Yamuna and the city of Delhi which sits on its lap.

The quality of space around the river has been routinely neglected and stockpiled with industrial wastes since forever, in effect tarnishing the relationship that the river had shared with the people of the city. Earlier, when the water in the Yamuna used to be clear, it attracted tourists and worshippers on a daily basis. Boats would often be spotted ferrying tourists across the Yamuna between the 1950s and the 1990s, as per a study conducted by the Centre for Community Knowledge (CCK) at Ambedkar University, which documented about 50 oral history interviews of people who have been living on the banks of the Yamuna stretch between Wazirabad barrage and Okhla barrage. The river therefore, had also been a source of livelihood for people residing along its banks. Besides, it has also been considered as a source of spiritual purification and has been revered by several faiths.

An article by Michael S. Allen in the upcoming issue of Motherland tells us how its syncretic legacy can be found in the numerous shrines that dot the landscape of Delhi.

Overall, the volume captures the dynamic relationship of the River Yamuna with the city of Delhi down the ages, glorifying its past when it was a symbol of aesthetics for the Mughals, as well as anticipating a potential utopia when it would resuscitate its past glory again. It attempts to give life and shape to a lost essence that the River Yamuna once symbolised, thereby changing the way the river has been looked at in the last few decades. It seeks to see the Yamuna for all it could be and all it once was instead of simply for what it has become today. They feel, changing the way we think about the river is the first step to restoring it.

Get your Yamuna e-issue here.

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