Photo Documentation of Om Swaha from the Sheba Chhachhi Archive is a collection of photographs of the experimental performance work Om Swaha. The photographs in this collection were taken by artist and activist Sheba Chhachhi during Om Swaha’s earliest iterations in New Delhi between 1979 and 1981.

Om Swaha, first staged in 1979, emerged out of the Autonomous Women’s Movement that gained enormous momentum in the 1980s. This performance took place in numerous public spaces and universities in New Delhi to protest the rising number of dowry killings in India. Named after a Sanskrit ritual chant used during fire offerings, Om Swaha was conceived and performed by a group of women who gathered real-life, often autobiographical, stories of domestic violence and harassment over dowry. These stories were written into the script of the performance.

In its earliest stagings, the performance was conceptualised and performed by Maya Krishna Rao and Anuradha Kapur, with the involvement of innumerable actors, artists, writers, activists, and women from urban and rural India. Om Swaha subsequently went on to be performed in diverse ways and forms across several cities and villages in India. Many of the women involved in its conception have made significant contribution to the cultural scene in India, and a number of contemporary artists in the country continue to draw inspiration from the movement.

Sheba Chhachhi was among the few members of the movement who had photographed this performance in its various locations in the early 1980s, as well as the movement at large. This collection is a small part of a much larger archive of Chhacchi’s photographs on the Women’s Movement.

This digitisation project was realised with the generous support of the Serendipity Arts Foundation.


5 Folders, 86 Records