A new Google project is unearthing the untold stories of India’s female pioneers

 

A new Google project is unearthing the untold stories of India’s female pioneers. Digging into the archive. (Public domain/Wikimedia commons)
A new Google project is unearthing the untold stories of India’s female pioneers. Digging into the archive. (Public domain/Wikimedia commons)
WRITTEN BY Maria Thomas

Think back to your high school history class. How many women did you learn about?

Whether you studied the Indus Valley civilisation or Soviet Russia, the age of empires or Mao’s China, chances are there was a glaring lack of stories about women in your textbooks. And that’s by design.

“Men dominate history because they write it,” the British author Rosalind Miles explained in her 1988 book Who Cooked the Last Supper?: The Women’s History of the World. And that stands true for India, too, where the stories of pioneering women are often an afterthought in history classes.

But Google’s Art & Culture platform, in partnership with feminist publisher Zubaan Books, is doing its bit to challenge this, highlighting the “unheard stories” of Indian women via a new series of virtual exhibitions. With over 1,800 works of art, photographs, and videos sourced from 26 cultural institutions across the country, the project introduces the viewer to enterprising royals, grassroots activists, poets, scientists and more, bearing witness to the rich history of women in India.

“This project is an effort to recognise the impact of Indian women in history and their impact on culture…” Luisella Mazza, head of operations at the Google Cultural Institute, said in a statement. “It is our ongoing effort to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations.”

From the princess who wrote biographies of Sufi saints to India’s first ever practicing woman doctor, here are some of the pioneers to discover:

Jahan Ara

Born in 1614, the eldest daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, Jahan Ara Begum, was no ordinary princess. She was influential in her father’s court and wrote biographies of Sufi saints while also honing a passion for trade and architecture. The result of that latter hobby is evident to this day: Jahan Ara designed Delhi’s famous Chandni Chowk neighbourhood, among other iconic sites.

A new Google project is unearthing the untold stories of India’s female pioneers

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