The preserver of the cultural heritage of India

CHANDAMAMA was a monthly magazine which got published non-stop for 66 years – from 1947 to 2013. Broadly known as a children’s magazine, it’s not a children’s magazine in the true sense. It’s a family magazine meant for those who love India and its cultural heritage. I used to read it regularly when I was a child and kept on reading it in my adulthood as well. I feel proud of Mr. Chakrapani (its founder) and Mr. B. Nagi Reddy (the famous filmmaker who nurtured it for decades). These people did a yeoman’s service to India through this magazine which kept the flag of Indianness high in the world of media for such a long period.Chanda Mama literally means ‘Moon – The Maternal Uncle’ because since ages, our grandmas and grannies have been telling the little ones through their tales (told at night when the sleeping time of the younger ones has arrived) that the moon is the brother of the earth and as we consider the earth as our mother, by default, the moon becomes our maternal uncle. That’s why since times immemorial, the little children have been learning to call the moon (with affection) as ‘Chanda Mama’.

CHANDAMAMA tells the stories from the Indian mythology and history as well as the tales of ordinary Indian males and females either in a rural setting or in the bygone era of the princes and the landlords. However the important thing is that these stories always furnish some moral for the readers. The stories are narrated in the same way our grandparents used to tell us when we were quite young. The common thread of moral values and educative things is ever present in them.

The Vikram-Vetal stories is a regular feature of this magazine in which Vetal or the vampire tells a story to King Vikram and asks a ticklish question based on that. King Vikram always furnishes some sensible and convincing answer to his question which is quite enlightening for the readers. Adventurous novels are also published in CHANDAMAMA in the form of a serial. Ditto for epics / long mythological tales.The pictures given with the stories always show the characters clad in the traditional Indian clothes (both males as well as females). They never show them wearing the garments which are used in the contemporary society, i.e., pant, shirt, coat, tie, jeans, tee-shirt etc. That’s because of the belief in the superiority of Indianness and Indian culture that had taken strong roots in the mind of the propagators of this magazine. And the pictures inside as well as the one on the cover are extremely beautiful, boasting of the artistic proficiency of the painter (s).

The mythological stories never try to distort whatever is actually there in the mythological books and scriptures. The facts given in them are reproduced in as it is form. This fact came to my notice when I read the complete Ramayan and Mahabharat through this magazine. This is the honesty of the people behind the magazine that they don’t even try to protect the image of the godly characters by presenting the mythological facts in a diplomatic way.

The stories featured in CHANDAMAMA mainly belong to Hinduism and have Hindu characters. However it is, by all means, a secular magazine because whenever some story presents a non-Hindu character, he is also shown as a flesh and blood human-being and not essentially someone alien who is to be presented in bad light. Certain classic Arabian stories have also got featured in it.

The stories of CHANDAMAMA present the women as traditional Indian women restricted to domestic life and peasantry (mainly because the milieu of the stories is traditional family and social set up continuing since ages in our country). However the laudable thing is that the no stuff in this magazine supports the patriarchal mindset and women are shown as wise and sensible. Believing in the traditional husband-wife relationship of Indians, the CHANDAMAMA stories portray the women as true life-partners of their men, not only standing by them through thick and thin but also showing the correct path to them whenever and wherever required. Putting it straight, despite believing in the traditional roles of man and woman in married life, CHANDAMAMA always considered both as equal and kept on underscoring this fact time and again. It hails and promotes the Indian family values but without terming any gender as superior to the other one.

CHANDAMAMA stories include certain humorous stories too which force you to smile at least (if you have good control over bursting out your laughs). The characters of the stories are not complicated ones, they are simple and straight (even when they are thieves or dacoits or thugs), having some principles to follow in their lives. The concept behind this fact is that every man (or woman) is inherently good and even in the baddies, the goodness remains hidden ever ready to come to the fore when the time arrives for that or when it is instigated by someone to exasperate.

For several years, CHANDAMAMA kept on furnishing significant facts enhancing general awareness and knowledge of the readers too. Though superstitions got presented through the stories of ghosts / spirits / supernatural powers, it always attempted to underscore virtues and high values of life through them which was the brighter side of this apparently negative trait of this magazine.

CHANDAMAMA used to be published in total 13 languages, i.e., in addition to English, it was published in 12 Indian languages. Though I have read Hindi and English versions only, it could be read by the members of different linguistic communities of India in their own mother tongue. In the ending pages, different assertions of everyday use are given in different languages (in the concerned script as well as in the Roman script) so as to help the reader in learning different languages.

CHANDAMAMA never supported (or even tried to portray) the western culture. It’s a unique magazine which survived the scare of extinction due to the advent of electronic media for a pretty long time. Neither its circulation came down nor its popularity got negatively affected due to the arrival of television and internet for years and years. It’s a magazine which every Indian should be proud of because it transferred the knowledge of Indian cultural and traditional heritage from generation to generation for decades and  hoisted the flag of the Indian culture, virtues and (family and social) values. If you are a religious person, this is one of the best magazines for you. However even if you are an atheist or a non-religious person, it contains several positives and useful things for you.

It’s very sad that its long journey finally came to an end in 2013. I (and millions like me) pray for its revival.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
This entry was posted in Magazine Review and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The preserver of the cultural heritage of India

  1. I have fond memories of reading Chandamama as a kid! Shocked to know through your post that it has ceased publication. This was such a good magazine to expose children to our rich culture and mythology!

  2. This is such a beautiful tribute to Chandamama – one of my childhood favourite magazines. Hope someday the magazine is revived to enlighten us with stories and wisdom from the vast store house of Indian traditions.

    I too have written my childhood experience about Chandamama on my blog

  3. Loved reading this post. It brought back childhood memories 🙂

  4. Beloo Mehra says:

    Like other commentators have said reading this post brings back fond memories of childhood reading Chandamama, Champak, Amar Chitra Katha etc. Glad you wrote about this iconic children’s magazine that served an important role in shaping many young minds and hearts.

    • Hearty thanks Beloo Ji. Yes, magazines like them shaped our minds and millions like us. It’s sad that many of them including Chandamama have ceased to be published.

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