Don’t Call Me “Mrs. Devi”
From a letter to Martin Kerr
Edited by R.G. Fowler
It is a common mistake to refer to Savitri Devi as “Devi” for short, as if this were her surname, just as we refer to Friedrich Nietzsche as “Nietzsche” for short. Savitri explains why this is a mistake in the following excerpt from a letter. Since “Devi” is not a surname, but a title, and since her husband’s name Mukherji was no part of her pen name, it is not appropriate to use either one alone to refer to her. Her chosen pen name is Savitri Devi, and although it would be comical and pretentious to call Nietzsche “Friedrich” for short, it is appropriate to call Savitri Devi “Savitri,” much as we call Saint Paul “Paul,” since there is no other candidate for a “short” name.
—R. G. Fowler
13 May 1979]
[. . .]
By the way: don’t call me “Mrs. Devi.” It means nothing. Devi (feminine of Deva, i.e., Goddess) is just a title that any Hindu woman of an alleged Aryan caste—a Brahmin or a Kshatriya—is, according to tradition, allowed to put after her individual name. Nowadays, with the propaganda of Democracy (a gift of the Christian missionaries and of the British education system) there are many Indian women and girls who call themselves So-and-so “Devi” without having any right to do so—already when I first came to India, but not so much so.
Regularly, a woman of any non-Aryan caste—i.e., the overwhelming majority of Indian women—should call herself So-and-so Dasi—the word “Dasi,” feminine of “das” (slave or servant). The old, honest, clean and efficient maid we had when Mr. Mukherji and I lived under the same roof in Calcutta, was of the Maheshya caste (a peasant caste from West Bengal). She was Sindhubala Dasi—never would have dreamed of calling herself “Devi”!
The name Savitri (Solar Energy—the feminine of Savita, one of the names of Surya, the Sun) was given to me by the girls at the Shantiniketan University where I spent six months in 1935 brushing up my Bengali (that I had learnt alone) and reading Hindi. I then wrote a book in French, L’Etang aux Lotus (The Lotus Pond, impressions about India) and took “Savitri Devi” as an appropriate pen name. Then (1937 and 1939) I wrote two other books in English, A Warning to the Hindus and The Non-Hindu Indians and Indian Unity, and signed them “Savitri Devi.”
Mr. Mukherji I then did not know (till 9 January 1938). He gave me his name—we were co-fighters—at the outbreak of the war (September 1939) so that I should not be interned by the British as an undesirable foreigner (I had Greek nationality) well-known to be against the British war effort, i.e., on the German side, just as Mukherji himself was, but he was cleverer than I.1 They kept him two days, and he slipped out of their clutches . . . while continuing his activities on the sly.
So I am not “Mrs. Devi” but Mrs. Mukherji—or if you like, Savitri Devi Mukherji—or Savitri Devi—but not “Devi” alone. I did not add Mukherji to my pen name when I married (September 1939) as three books were already circulating under the name of Savitri Devi. . . .
With a hearty Heil Hitler!
Savitri Devi Mukherji
1 Savitri’s comparison here is unclear, but she is probably comparing an otherwise unknown arrest of A.K. Mukherji by the British authorities in India to her later arrest in Cologne, Germany, on 20 February 1949, for distributing National Socialist propaganda.