Because It Gives Me Peace of Mind: Ritual Fasts in the Religious Lives of Hindu Women

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SUNY Press, Jul 11, 1996 - Social Science - 315 pages
This is the first book-length study that explores the history and nature of vrats--votive fasting rites--the role these rites play in the religious lives of Hindu women in North India, and the meanings these women attribute to them. By placing vrats within the context of various Hindu religious categories such as concepts of time; types of religious activities; goals; notions of purity and pollution; auspiciousness and inauspiciousness, the book demonstrates how the concept of vrat provides a lens to the Hindu worldview. Accordingly, it offers insight into the nature of Hindu popular religion in general and women's religion in particular.

Drawing extensively on the personal narratives of individual women, this study subtly corrects the prevailing view that all women observe vrats solely for the benefit of others. The author shows that Hindu women's sense of duty and obligation to ensure the well-being of their families through the performance of vrats explains only part of the appeal of these rites. The data demonstrate that women also perform vrats for the social, physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits. Not only do vrats provide an avenue for the expression of profound spiritual yearnings, but some women use vrats as a way to gain a measure of control over their own lives, a source of empowerment in an environment in which women frequently lack control and self-determination.

 

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Contents

Six Women
13
The Concept of Vrata in the Hindu Textual Tradition
45
Vrats The Seasons and the Festival Calendar in Banaras
85
Precept and Practice The Contours of a Vrat
105
Precept and Practice The Constituents of a Vrat
133
Vrats and the Life Stages of Hindu Women
171
Because It Gives Me Peace of Mind Meanings and Functions of Vrats in Hindu Womens Religious Lives
193
History of Scholarship in Vrata
223
Fieldsite Research Population and Fieldwork Methods
229
Tables of Lunar Months Lunar Days and Calendrical Vrats
233
Tīj and Jiutiyā Stories
239
Notes
251
Glossary
289
Bibliography
295
Index
307
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

Anne Mackenzie Pearson is a part-time instructor at both McMaster University and Wilfrid Laurier University.

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