Volga's 'Yashodhara' out on May 25
In her latest novel, 'Yashodhara', Volga reimagines the life of Buddha's wife, Yashodhara. HarperCollins's publication of Yashodhara, translated by PSV Prasad, on Buddha Purnima, will reopen conversations about the role of women in spiritual spheres and shed light on how much has changed in the gendered politics of spirituality since the ancient times.
Volga, who reimagined the lives of the marginal women characters from the Ramayana in her Sahitya Akademi Award-winning book The Liberation of Sita, (published by Harper Perennial in 2015), said: "I don't want to see women as victims. Yashodhara is a crucial figure in the religious histories, but her life story seems to be overlooked. I believe that Yashodhara played a key role in bringing women into the intellectual and spiritual domains by questioning the prevalent rituals and by addressing the inequalities of the times. Many questions about the relationship between Yashodhara and Siddhartha have bothered me for a long time… so finally, I wrote this novel."
The story of Siddhartha, the future Gautama Buddha, leaving the palace to start his spiritual journey and attain enlightenment has been told innumerable times over the centuries. And yet, have we never wondered why his young wife, Yashodhara, still recovering from the birth of their son nine days ago, sleeps soundly as her husband, the over-protected prince departs, leaving behind his family and wealth and kingdom?
In 'Yashodhara', the gaps of history are imagined with fullness and fierceness: Who was the young girl and what shaped her worldview? When she married Siddhartha at the age of sixteen, did she know her conjugal life would soon change drastically? The Yashodhara we meet in Volga's feminist novel is quick-witted, compassionate and wants to pave a way for women to partake in spiritual learning as equals of men.
The book will be released on May 25.