Friday, June 29, 2012

The Student Unions' Savitar Collection

Because many of our displays utilize the Missouri Student Unions’ collection of Savitar yearbooks, I thought I might say a few quick words about its history. As always, our Savitar collection is on display in the Lower Lair Lounge of the New Student Center. Enjoy!

About Our Savitar Collection:

It is with much fear and trembling that we submit our maiden effort to the mercies of a critical world, but the love of our Alma Mater and the thought of after years spurs us on. –A hopeful greeting from the editors of the inaugural 1895 Savitar.

The Student Center proudly owns a nearly complete (and growing) set of Savitar annuals, the student run University of Missouri yearbook published from 1894 through 2005. This collection provides a glimpse into the academic and social lives of Mizzou students, faculty, and staff members throughout the decades by offering texts and photographs of individuals, organizations, athletic teams, students participating in extracurricular events, and more. The Savitars in our collection also boast notable contributions from famous alumni, such as a poem by Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams, cartoons drawn by Mort Walker, and several photographs of Sheryl Crow.

The title “Savitar” was inspired by Hindu texts, in which the name “Savitar” is used as an alternate moniker for the Hindu sun god Surya. References to Savitar can be found in the Rig Veda, an ancient collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. In the Rig Veda, Savitar is described a life-giving force and an omnipresent witness to all the good and evil deeds of men. The god is often represented in literary texts and illustrations as driving a golden chariot led by seven horses to symbolize the seven chakras that, in yogic traditions, are the energy foci of the body.

A god that enlivens, observes, and evaluates the actions of his people would certainly have seemed an apropos symbol for a periodical with similar, albeit secularized, goals. According to MU’s University Archives, the student editors “probably got their idea for the title from Professor James Shannon Blackwell, professor of Semitic and modern languages at the University from 1886 to 1897, who was known as a student of Sanskrit.” Notably, the research conducted by the University Archives suggests that the staff members were also drawn to the name for its aesthetics, as the “editors enjoyed the size and sound of the word ‘Savitar.’”

Authored by Niki Eaton, PhD student, Art History and Archaeology