Travel and Masculinity in the Vernacular: Writings of a ‘Pracharak’ by Charu Gupta

Charu Gupta (Department of History, University of Delhi) presented her research entitled ‘Travel and Masculinity in the Vernacular: Writings of a ‘Pracharak’’ at the Sociological Research Colloquium.

When: Friday, 23rd March 2018 at 3:00 p.m.

Where: Seminar Room (First Floor), Department of Sociology, University of Delhi 


This paper focuses on the vernacular travel writings of Swami Satyadev ‘Parivrajak’ (1879-1961), one of the first persons to systematically write travelogues in Hindi in early twentieth century, much before Rahul Sankrityayan. He wrote several books on his visits to America and Europe, besides many other writings. Parivrajak wore many hats. He was a sadhu, swami and a monk, a nationalist, a philosopher, a fiction writer, a political sanyasi, an Arya Samajist, a virulent Hindu activist, a staunch supporter of Hindu sangathan, a Hindi pracharak, and above all a ghummakad, yayavar travel writer. To rephrase the famous feminist lexicon, the biological bodies of nations were culturally produced by Parivrajak through his travel writings. A dialogue between east and west, and slavery and freedom was a quintessential marker of Parivrajak’s travel writings. I argue that Parivrajak’s travel literature was part of a colonized nation’s attempt to reclaim a space of freedom, forged through the carving of ‘perfect masculinist bodies’, which embodied his ideals of pleasure and beauty. His travel writing was a performative, political act that inscribed gendered landscapes of freedom, which rested on the troupe of masculinity, and helped him in contextualizing the cross-cultural interface between east and west. For Parivrajak, the Indian Hindu male’s subaltern masculinity vis-à-vis the west had to be overcome through various means – by asserting the masculinist ethos of India’s past, by aping the physical and work culture of male students of the west, by admiring Germany and Hitler as museums of masculinity, by linking education to the growth of perfect bodies – which all metaphorically interacted to shape his travel writings.

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