Defeating Patriarchy on Its Own Terms: The Paradox of Female Chastity in Krittivasa’s Ramayana

Saumitra Chakravarty


This essay attempts to analyze the role of women in the Bengali Ramayana of Krittivasa, a regional version of the original Sanskrit epic composed by Valmiki. It does so from the perspective of the strict code of female chastity enshrined in a patriarchal society and enforced upon its women by their male guardians within and beyond the home. While on the one hand, it is an instrument of female subjugation, this essay make an attempt to analyze how the strict observance of this code by the women in the epic, makes it a weapon of female empowerment across the different strata of society through which the text operates. The powerful spiritual energy generated in the process by these women can threaten even the most powerful of patriarchs including the epic hero Rama himself.

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