Article

Women in Hinduism

Perundevi Srinivasan

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online January 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0104
Women in Hinduism

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This article attempts to map scholarly resources on the status, roles, and representations of women in Hinduism. The history of women’s sociocultural location in Hindu traditions from early Vedic times (1200–800 bce) until the early 21st century is marked by several shifts. While the early Vedic conceptual paradigm of the “divine couple” includes women on par with men in the public sacrificial sphere, late Vedic practices appear to have domesticated women to some extent, with the public and domestic ritual spheres becoming segregated. Similarly, although we encounter a few women thinkers in the Upanishads, the renunciatory ideal set for men increasingly undermined the importance of women. In the classical period (400 bce–400 ce), with the composition of the Dharmaśāstras, such as the Mānavadharmaśāstra (Codes of Manu), which discriminated against women, their position further deteriorated. However, the medieval bhakti traditions (600 ce–1700 ce) brought many female poet-singers to the fore. The increasing popularity of goddesses, as suggested by the Devī-Māhātmya (500–600 ce) and informed by tantric traditions, also provided alternate options and models for subjugated women. The modern period has been characterized by fervent critiques of the position of Hindu women from both colonizers and indigenous Indians. A consequence has been redemptive legal reforms and feminist movements that attempt to rework the status of women in the societal and familial realms. This article introduces a body of scholarship that explores and interrogates Hindu womanhood from ancient days to late-20th- and early 21st-century times. It excludes Hindu goddesses and their relationship with Hindu women, since these topics are dealt with separately in the article "Goddess."

Article.  8091 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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