The Dipavali

BN and WWW wishes its readers a happy and colorful Deepavali/Diwali!

On this occasion, I am sharing with you a semi-fictional story from a book published in 1903 [1, 2]. It is titled “The Dipavali” and is 10 pages long. The author of this book is a Ms. Beatrice M. Harband. The book is written from the eyes of a small girl called Sundari. In the preface, she says that this book

hope that the true story of some of the sufferings of India’s daughters may appeal to the sympathetic hearts of the more favoured daughters of lands where Jesus, the light of the world rules and reigns.

At the same time, she confesses that to keep a coherent story, some fiction has been introduced now and then.

The fancies are few and far between, but of necessity that have had to be introduced in making an harmonious whole from incidents culled from the missionary career of the late Rev. Edwin Lewis, Mrs. Lewis and myself

This makes me wonder if mixing fact with fiction (or fancies as she is calling them) was the style of writing 110 years ago, for books of this genre? I don’t know.

Digging further about this book, I found some reviews of the book from both sides of the sea. While one reviewer has called the book as a “one-sided story” there are those who have written in glorious terms.

The first review we see below was published in 1903 [3], which criticizes in strong words

It is impossible to speak with patience of the subject matter of the book. From the preface down to the very end, the book contains slander and lies and nothing else.

3 The Indian Review Vol 4 pg 491The other reviews are quite straight-forward but acknowledges that there are some flights of fancy in the text [4, 5, 6, 7].

4 5 The Outlook Vol74 pg 524
7 The book news monthly vol21 pg 910

6 The Missionary Review Vol 26 pg 231The final review is most interesting, since it comes out from a book club in America [8]. From the reading it is quite evident that Ms. Beatrice Harband’s writing struck a chord with the book clubbers.
8 Womans missionary friend vol 35 pg 393 8 Womans missionary friend vol 35 pg 394
Without further ado, here is the story “The Dipavali”. Click on the first image to start the gallery and browse to next page by using the right arrow.

According to Google, Ballapura is a village in Tumkur district of Karnataka [9]. Looking past the sentences that cannot be validated, to me this chapter tells the financial and societal status of the Devadasi. She is confident, graceful, knowledgeable, and most importantly very courteous to her guests. I wish the book had mentioned her name rather than referring to her as only “Devadasi”.


  3. The Indian Review 1903 Volume 4 Pg 491.
  4. The Outlook 1903 Volume 74 Pg 524
  5. The Outlook 1903
  6. The Missionary Review of the World 1903 Volume 26 pg 231
  7. The Book news Monthly 1903 Volume 21 Pg 910
  8. Woman’s Missionary Friend 1903 Volume 35 Pg 393

One response to “The Dipavali

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