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SPARROW Holdings
  • 14160 photographs

  • 6771 media slides

  • 609 documentaries in 7 languages

  • 585 popular films in 11 languages

  • 4888 books in 11 languages

  • 4448 journal articles in 7 languages

  • 21025 newspaper clippings in 8 languages

  • 274 Private Papers

  • 1983 brochures in 9 languages

  • 3042 News Paper Cartoons

  • 3578 print visuals

  • 1714 posters

  • 120 calendars

  • 8000 cartoons by Maya Kamath

  • 649 music audio-cassettes / C.Ds

  • 550 Oral History recordings

Silver Jubilee Celebration Programme

Our Projects



Oral History Recordings

  1. Freedom Movements
  2. Gowramma

    Gowramma was a freedom fighter from Karnataka. Her husband Venkataramayya was a active member of Sevadal and was in the frontline of freedom movement in Karnataka. Following him Gowramma also joined Sevadal. She came into contact with Kamaladevi Chattopadyaya, Sarojini Naidu, Lilavati Munshi, Umabai and others in the freedom movement. Inspired by them Gowramma also participated in the Salt Satyagraha and Non Co-operation Movement. She was beaten up by police and put in the Siddhapur jail during this struggle. She went on a hunger strike while she was in jail. Gowramma recounts with pride feeling Gandhi's blessings, visiting Kamala Nehru while she was ailing and talking to Nehru

    Here we produce an extract from her interview.

    Interviewer - Rameshwari / B.N. Usha

    Kala Shahani

    Kala Shahani was a freedom fighter. She was born in 1919. She grew up in Karachi. From the age of ten, when she had first heard Mahatma Gandhi, Kala has worn only khadi. Widowed at the age of thirty-seven, she took up a job in the Sindhi newspaper Hindustan. Her life is guided by the simple but irrevocable logic that the nation is a part of oneself; working for it should not be for personal benefits. Kala has chosen not to take the pension and other benefits offered to freedom fighters, for she says, "When you work for your mother-you call the country motherland, don't you?-how can you get paid for it?"

    Here we produce an extract from her interview.

    Interviewer - Dr. Govind Shahani, her son

  3. Left and other Progressive Movements
  4. Mrinal Gore

    Mrinal Gore belongs to the Socialist Party and is the President of Keshav Gore Trust, Swadhar Kendra, Nagarik Niwara Parishad. She became a well-known figure in the politics of Maharashtra because of the active role she played in the Anti-Price Rise Agitation (Mahagai Virodhi Andolan) and she later on came to be known as 'Panivali Bai' after she organised the 'Pani Parishad'. As the representative of common people, she has always fought for the issues that affect the everyday life of the ordinary citizens.

    Here we produce an excerpt from her interview.

    Interviewer - Dr. Rohini Gawanka

    Leela Awate

    Leela Awate, a teacher by profession and a Marxist, is deeply committed to society and humanity at large. Her involvement in political work began with the Quit India Movement and she was a part of all prominent movements after that. She has been actively involved with the Bhartiya Mahila Federation, Mumbai Committee in all its work, taking up women's causes, giving legal aid, creating awareness about women's rights and motivating them to fight against injustice. She is also a writer.

    Here we produce an extract from her interview.

    Interviewer - Dr. Rohini Gawankar

    K. Ajitha

    K. Ajitha was a part of the Naxalite movement from a very young age. At present she is actively involved with all the activities of 'Anveshi', an organisation working for the cause of women involving counselling, a Legal Aid cell, community work, library and documentation work, organising workshops and seminars to increase awareness about women's issues. She is also involved in a networking forum, 'Kerala Streevedi' consisting of more than 40 organisations working jointly on many issues.

    Here we produce an extract from her interview.

    Interviewer - Dr. C.S.Lakshmi

  5. Feminist Movement
  6. Ambedkar Movement & Experiences of Dalit Women
  7. Kausalya Baisantri

    Kausalya Baisantri is an activist of the Ambedkar Movement and the founder member of 'Bhartiya Mahila Jagruti Parishad'. The main aim of the Parishad is to spread information about the work of Dr. Ambedkar and create awareness among Dalit women. Kausalya has also been the Joint Secretary of the student union of 'All India Scheduled Caste Federation'.

    Here we produce an extract from her interview.

    Interviewer - Urmila Pawar

    Bhagirathibai Kasare

    Bhagirathibai Kasare is an activist of the Ambedkar Movement. She worked with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. She was instrumental in raising the consciousness of the Dalit community by singing songs which gave information about various issues in gatherings during festivals. She has also participated in the activities of Baudhajan Panchayat in Mumbai.

    Here we produce an extract from her interview.

    Interviewer - Urmila Pawar

  8. Environment Movement
  9. Pioneering Science Studies
  10. Tribal Life and Struggles
  11. Communalism, Violence and Human Rights
  12. Practitioners of Traditional Systems of Medicine and Traditional Healers
  13. Parvathiamma

    Parvathiamma is a traditional healer, who gives herbal medicines, specially to women and children. She treats women for infertility, menstrual disorder, anemia etc. She has treated more than fifty women for infertility and all of them have conceived.

    Parvathiamma learnt Naati Vaidya (traditional medicine system) from her father-in-law Vaidya Shankarnarayan Bhat. She was married at the tender age of 12 and became part of a family of healers. Her mother-in-law and husband Ishwar Bhat were also into herbal healing. Parvathiamma has grown a moolikavana, a farm that has the rarest of herbs. She is now 81 years old but continues to be a healer. Parvathiamma lives in Vittla, in South Canara district, Karnataka.


    Pammu Hengsu

    Pammu Hengsu is a traditional midwife, who has helped many women in labour to have a normal delivery. After more than 80 years of experience as a midwife, she has now retired from her profession. Pammu Hengsu is 105 years old. Her eyesight and speech are sharp and clear. The only concession she gives to her age is a walking stick.

    Pammu Hengsu has handled many tricky deliveries. Doctors attached to remote villages like Bayaru always preferred Pammu to attend the delivery cases. She would walk miles in odd hours to serve the women in labour and stay with them until she was sure that the mother and the newborn are safe. Three generations of the villages around have benefited from her service.

    The unusual thing about Pammu Hengsu is that she also helps animals deliver their small ones.

  14. Artists, Writers, Educationists
  15. Pramila

    Pramila (Esther Victoria Abraham), was a Jewish girl from Calcutta. She worked as an actress in Hindi films and also was a producer and distributor. She was the first Miss India in 1947. We produce here an excerpt from her interview where she talks about how she dealt with a director who was trying to trick her into wearing a skirt that grew shorter and shorter everyday.

    Maya Krishna Rao

    Maya Krishna Rao is a Kathakali dancer and a theatre artiste who has an innate ability to transform everyday life objects into objects of art and create with them an intense theatrical experience. We produce here an excerpt from her interview where she talks about this experience, this amazement in theatre that she calls vismaya.


    Bani Basu

    Bani Basu’s writing career began with the publication of her first novel Janmabhoomi Mathribhoomi, in 1987. Her first collection of short stories was published in 1992, titled Mohana. Until her recent retirement, Bani Basu taught English in Howrah Girls College. Her novels and short stories have been widely acclaimed and her texts have been translated into many regional languages as well as English. Apart from her sixteen novels and story collections Bani Basu has also translated stories of W. Somerset Maugham and D.H. Lawrence into Bangla. Responding to the observation about the ‘commodification’ of literature, Bani basu wrote in a preface to her collection of short stories Baba Swader Golpo (Many-Flavoured Stories), that literature had always been a cultural production, a consumable commodity. She pointed out, however, that the profits generated from the sale of books rarely reached the writer in an organized manner.

    Here we produce an extract from her interview.

    Interviewer - Dr. C S Lakshmi

    Mona Zote

    Mona Zote, is a poet and writer whose writings have appeared in various literary journals and magazines, including the Anthology of Contemporary Northeast Poetry published in 2003 by NEHU. She is in government service and is at present working on her first novel.

    Here we produce an extract from her interview.

    Interviewer - Lalhmerliani Fanai

  16. Policy-makers
  17. Avabai Wadia

    Avabai Wadia has been a pioneer of the Women's Movement and Family Planning in India and has held important positions at the national and international levels for several decades. From the interesting and moving conversation that we had with this remarkable 90-year-old lady, during a SPARROW interview, we thought we would share this excerpt with you.

    Interviewer - Dr. Roshan Shahani, Dr.Divya Pandye.


Digital Video Recording Projects

  1. Video Films Based on Workshops
  2. Three Theatre Artistes
  3. Global Feminisms
  4. Other Films

Photographic Project

  1. From family / private albums
  2. Portraits
  3. Film stills
  4. Vanmala (Susheeladevi Pawar) was the immensely popular heroine of Hindi and Marathi films such as Sikander (with Prithviraj Kapoor the hero), Vasantsena, Sharbati Aakhen, Shyamchi Aai (for which she won the President's Gold Medal) and many others.

    She was also deeply involved in the freedom movement along with stalwarts like Aruna Asaf Ali and Achyut Patwardhan.

    Even at the age of 90 she is running a school to train children in traditional Indian arts and culture - The Haridas Kala Sansthan. She is deeply involved in several social causes and is a member of the Chhatrapati Shivaji National Memorial Committee, New Delhi.

    Hers is an extraordinary life, lived with courage and determination.

    We give below some photographs chosen from her albums where she is seen as the glamorous, modern woman of her times.

  5. Activists at work

  6. Narmada Bachao Andalan, 11th Sept 2001

    Protest against Beauty Contest, Mumbai, 1987

    Protest against female foeticide, Mumbai,
    14th Nov 1986

    Protest against female foeticide, Mumbai,
    14th Nov 1986

  7. Selected works of women photographers
  8. Selected works of women photographers Sadhna Marwaha

    'Stand'   1998, Singapore 'Bushed 2'   November, 1998   Washington DC

    'Through the blind'   1998, Washington DC

  9. Event coverage

  10. Sangli Event Details

    The Women's Wing of the Socialist Party had organised a conference on 2nd, 3rd, 4th of January 2003 at Sangli. Panna Roy Choudhury and Pallavi Narkar from SPARROW covered the event.

    We give below a few photographs of the event and portraits done by Priya D'Souza, of some of the senior members of the Socialist Party.

    On the dais, sitting L to R: Mrinal Gore,
    Anu Limaye, Vimal Garud, Sudha Vardhe,---,
    Pushpa Mayedeo at the conference at
    Deenanath Hall, Sangli

    Morcha of Socialist Party Women going towards
    Savitribai Phule Chowk, Sangli

    Anu Limaye

    Kusum Kulkarni

    Leela Chitale

    Mai Kedari

    Mrinal Gore

    Pushpa Mayedeo

    Sindhu Deshpande

    Sindhu Kate

    Sudha Vardhe

    Vijaya Chowk

    Vimal Garud

  11. From the albums of artistes/artists
  12. When mythological and social dramas made their appearance in the early decades of the twentieth century, the female roles were mostly played by men. In folk theatre too, men played important female characters. Given below are the photographs of some male actors dressed as women. Women have also played the male roles, specially in folk theatre and some of those photographs are also given below.

    K.S. Ananthanarayanan was a professional theatre artiste in the Tamil theatre in the twenties and thirties. He had a drama troupe of his own called the Arya Gana Sabha in Madurai. The photographs above were taken in Karnatic Studio, Madras, 1931/ 32.

    K. S. Anantanarayanan,
    a professional artiste.

    Portrait of K. S. Anantanarayanan.
    K. Mahadev and Narayan Naidu and Ramachandra Rao were actors in the theatre company of the legendary theatre personality in Kannada theatre, Gubbi Veeranna. These photographs were collected from the albums of Gubbi Veeranna's daughter, Malathamma.

    On the left, Ramachandra Rao as Kamala. On the right, Narayan Naidu as Mrinalini.
    Still from play 'Raja Bhakti', 1929.

    K. Mahadev dressed as a woman in a play.

    Narayan Naidu dressed as a woman.

    Date: 22/03/2002   Place: Erode   
    Photographer: L. Thangaraj

    In folk theatre, men still play female roles. In the Kongu region of Tamilnadu, there are certain folk plays which are performed, of the legendary heroes of the region. Ponnar-Sankar is one such play. In the photograph above, two men are playing the roles of women in the play. On the left is Gopal and on the right is Raju in a crucial scene. This photograph was taken a few months ago in a demonstration performance.

    There are many women who do both male and female roles in folk theatre. Given below are a few photographs of K. R. Ambika who has been doing male roles from the age of eleven and who continues to enact male roles even now at the age of 65. These photographs were taken during a recent demonstration performance given by her in a village in Karur district. The last photograph is of her father who was famous for playing female roles.

    K. R. Ambika on right as Harishchandra in 'Harishchandra' play. Place: Melalakshmanampatti  Date: 28/09/2002

    K. R. Ambika on right as Madurai Veeran in 'Madurai Veeran' play. Place: Melalakshmanampatti
     Date: 28/09/2002

    K. R. Ambika on right as Vedan (hunter) in
    'Valli Thirumanam' play. On her right is her
    daughter K. R. Indira.
    Place: Melalakshmanampatti
     Date: 28/09/2002

    K. R. Ambika on right as Vedan (hunter) in
    'Valli Thirumanam' play.
    Place: Melalakshmanampatti  Date: 28/09/2002

    Thadikombu A Ponniah, Vijaya Studio, Dindigul.

Media Watch Project

  1. Advertisements, Cartoons and Jokes
  2. Under SPARROW's Media Watch project we collect many print-ads which have double meaning texts, which turn the woman into the product being marketed, which stereotype women and men into desirable and sturdy categories. Chosen for this section are some general ads.

    In the first one a woman is willing to do anything -- even that -- all for a gold pendant.

    In the second one what is being advertised is a dot com concern. The ad asks you if you are looking for best products, and the best products they can think of are a woman's breasts. And they come cheap.

    In the third and fourth what is being sold is only a bathroom fitting. Difficult to guess that considering the woman is all contorted probably trying to become a faucet or a towel-hanger.

    The last two ads speak for themselves.

    Times of India, 10th February, 1999

    Inside Outside, Feb 2002

    Indian Express, 9th March, 2001

    Inside Outside, Feb 2000

    Times of India, 11th March, 1999


    Times of India, 1st November, 1996

  3. Documentaries by women, on women
  4. Title: Unlimited Girls
    Director/ Script writer: Paromita Vohra
    Producer: Devi Pictures
    Cameraperson: Mrinal Desai
    Sound Recordist: Subir Kumar Das
    Editor: Jabeen Merchant
    Language: English
    Duration: 94 minutes


    The film explores the various definitions and meanings of feminism through a group of women in a chat room on the Internet discussing what it means to be a feminist. The women offer varying interpretations of feminism and argue about the myths that surround it, including the infamous 'bra-burning' myth. Included are interviews with several women involved in the women's movement and women from different generations, who talk about the way feminism has affected their lives.

  5. Feature Films by women, on women
  6. Preeti, Prema, Pranaya…  [2003]  

    Title : Preeti, Prema, Pranaya…
    Producer : Mano Murthy, Ram Prasad, Somashekar, Dr. Renuka Ramappa
    Director : Kavita Lankesh
    Camera Person : C Mahendra
    Year : 2003
    Duration : 120 mins
    Language : Kannada

    An old widow and an old widower meet accidentally and develop a liking for each other. He is a retired doctor and she is a classical singer. His grandson and her granddaughter fall in love with each other. Taking this as an issue, parents of these teenagers fight among themselves. But the grandparents support their grand children and at the same time they also fall in love with each other. Now both the families divert their attention from their children to the respective parents. Both the families ask the respective parents to move out because they feel ashamed of their love affair. With the help of the grandchildren the two old people start their new life.
    The film is written and directed by Kavita Lankesh.

Multilingual Collections

  1. The Word: Books, journals, pamphlets, brochures, journal articles, newspaper clippings in many Indian languages covering all areas of history and culture which matter to women and in which women are participants.

    Autobiographies of women are rare. Even important women have found it unimportant to record their life experiences in the printed word. Notes, diaries and letters may exist but often they remain in the family shelves. Biographies of women are also rare documents not easily available in print. Autobiographies and biographies of women and some men form a very important part of SPARROW collections and autobiographies and biographies written in Indian languages occupy a large space in SPARROW book collection. Given below are excerpts from some translated autobiographies and biographies with SPARROW translated from Marathi.



    1. October
    1. November
    1. February

  3. The Image: Print visuals covering events, issues, subjects, individuals, posters, diaries, calendars and rangolis.
  4. Posters

    SPARROW has an extensive collection of the images of goddesses as featured on popular calendars and posters. While these images are ubiquitous, the legends surrounding them are not. There are a plethora of goddesses in India and all of them have their own unique stories of origin and myths extolling their qualities. We have featured some images from our archives with stories and explanations excerpted from scholarly studies of the mythology surrounding gods and goddesses in India.


    Kali is the female form of Kala or Time. She is the origin and the end. Her four arms mean absolute dominion over all that the world contains. Her necklace of skulls signifies that she supports the living and the dead. Her colouring is dark, signifying the ultimate energy into which all things disappear. Her terrifying image shows that she herself is without fear and thus can protect her worshippers from fear.

    Like Shiva, she frequents lonely places like the outskirts of towns and even cremation grounds. In some myths, she is supposed to be the anger of Durga as she killed the demon Mahishasura.

    But the most popular myth depicts her as the killer of the demon Raktabija. Some scholars say that Parvati took on the form of Kali to help her son Skanda in battle. In the war with Mahishasura, each drop of blood from the evil Raktabija produced new demons, Kali, dark as death, spread her tongue over the battlefield and licked the demon's falling blood before it could touch the ground. So new demons could not be spawned, enabling Skanda to attack and kill Raktabija with ease. Intoxicated by the blood, Kali ran amuck across the three worlds destroying all in her path. To restrain her, Shiva took the form of a corpse and blocked her path. When Kali found herself standing over her husband, she was jolted out of her frenzy. She wondered of she had killed her own husband and placed her foot on his chest and brought him back to life. This story demonstrates that both are necessary to save the world from destruction -- the male with his inertness and the female with her shakti.

    Another account says that she sprang, in full armour, from the eye of Durga and joined her in destroying the powers of darkness.

    SOURCES: Gods and Goddesses of India by Anjula Bedi, Devi, The Mother Goddess -An Introduction by Devdutt Pattanaik.


    Kamadhenu, the cow of prosperity emerged with Lakshmi out the sea as did Chintamani, a wish-fulfilling gem and a tree called Kalpataru that bore every flower and fruit desirable. Kamadhenu had enough milk to feed the world for all eternity. In her hand, Lakshmi also held the basket of bounty - the Akshaya Patra overflowing with grain and gold.

    Kamadhenu is associated with Lakshmi as she is the goddess of affluence and abundance, representing the beautiful and bountiful aspect of nature. She gave birth to seven daughters, the sacred river-goddesses Ganga, Yamuna, Sindhu, Narmada, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri who nourished the earth and supported life.

    To realise her, one must respect the laws of life and appreciate the wonders of existence.

    Source: Devi The Mother-Goddess: An Introduction By Devdutt Pattanaik.

    Bahuchara (of Gujarat)

      Vaishnavi (of Jammu)

    There are two stories connected with this village goddess who is worshipped by eunuchs.

    1. She and her sister go to a mela. They are attacked by a man who tries to molest them. Bahuchar takes a knife and cuts her breast and bleeds to death. While she is dying she curses the man and he begs for forgiveness. She tells him he must dress as a woman and worship her.
    2. A young woman sees her husband neglecting her and going off on a white horse every night. She decides to follow him. A jungle fowl tells her she can ride on it. She finds her husband engaged in what can be termed unmanly behaviour. She confronts him and asks him why he had married her if his preferences were otherwise. She castrates him in anger and becomes a devi and makes a proclamation that men like him must worship her.

    Source: Devi The Mother-Goddess: An Introduction By Devdutt Pattanaik.


    Trikuta wanted to marry Prince Rama of Ayodhya. But Rama said, "I already have a wife and will not take another."

    So Trikuta went to the mountains to live as a hermit. But there Bhairava, a sorcerer, forced his lustful attentions on her. Disgusted by his behaviour, she left her hermitage and sought refuge in a cave. He followed her there and refused to leave her alone.

    Finally, after being chased across many hills and valleys, Trikuta decided to run no more. She turned on her tormentor with a sword and after a great battle, succeeded in beheading him.

    The beheaded Bhairava apologised to the goddess and accepted her as his mother. From a lustful man he was transformed into an innocent child, by the grace of Trikuta.

    Thereafter, the hill-dwellers began revering her as a goddess. She came to be known as Vaishnavi, as it is said that she will be Vishnu's bride when Kali Yuga, the dark age of spiritual blindness, comes to an end.

    Source: Devi The Mother-Goddess: An Introduction By Devdutt Pattanaik.



    The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and many other parts of India. Started by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the great Maratha ruler, to promote culture and nationalism, the festival was revived by Lokmanya Tilak, the much-respected freedom fighter, to spread the message of freedom struggle and to defy the British who had banned public assemblies. The festival gave the Indians a feeling of unity and revived their patriotic spirit and faith. This public festival formed the background for political leaders who delivered speeches to inspire people against the western rule. The festival is so popular that the preparations begin months in advance. We have chosen some of the rangoli from our collection for this Ganesh Chaturthi.

    By A Prema
    Kumudam Snehidhi, Dec 2003

    By S Padmavati
    Mangayar Malar, No date.

    By R Chinna Ponnu
    Aval Vikatan, Sept 2006

    By Kasi K Nirmala
    Mangayar Malar, Aug 2006

    From Mangayar Malar, Oct 1996

    By Brindavanam Bachchan
    Kumudam Snehidhi, Dec 2006


    Sejal Shah, a journalist and a film-maker, has made a documentary entitled Joginis - Servants of God. The documentary is about Joginis who are dedicated to Goddess Yellamma, an act that forfeits their right to ever marry in reality. They are also known as Devdasis. After puberty a Jogini has to spend the first night with either the priest or her virginity is auctioned off. There are more than 30,000 Joginis in Andra Pradesh. And thousands more spread all over the country. Though it is illegal to dedicate women in any form to the local deity, this practice is still common in villages exploiting women and lower castes. Jogini system has resulted in a growing number of illegitimate children. These children are not only deprived of education but the daughters of Joginis are forced to carry on the tradition and become a Jogini. This documentary has some exclusive footage of an initiation of a baby girl into the custom and a young woman being dedicated to the temple goddess and becoming a Jogini. It also has interviews with Joginis who tell their stories and the lives they face after being forced into this custom.

    The synopsis of the documentary brought back memories of a similar system existing in Nipani about which Reaching Out, a group in Mumbai, had brought out a diary in 1982. That the custom exists even to this day proves how much more work lies ahead of people who want to bring about a change in the lives of women. The 1982 diary is reproduced below. R.V.Ramani took the photographs in the diary.

  5. The Sound: Audio cassettes/CDs Songs of Women's Movement and Struggles, Folk music, Film music, Classical/Semi Classical, Radio programmes

  6. Folk Songs of Maharashtra
    Natrangi Naar Udavi Lavanicha Baar

    Folk Songs of Bengal -Part 1
    Banglar Loksangeet Sangrahamala

    Hear samples:
    Aashuk Mashuk
    Natale Tumachyasaathi
    Hear samples: