Gender troubles: the unstable text in Hindu myths and epics and the hypocrisy in Hindu dharma.

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Lies and Big Feet/ Tapati Bharadwaj.
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Gender troubles: the unstable text in Hindu myths and epics and the hypocrisy in Hindu dharma.

Lies and Big Feet,( an independent publishing house in India, is looking for original papers for a collection of essays. Do Hindu myths and epics reiterate the dominant notions of Hindu dharma – where men are seen as agents operating in the public world and women as appendages to men, ensconced in the private domestic, and can engage with the public world only through men? Or does the logic of these narratives crumble to the point where the text becomes illogical as it desires to entrench an impossible ideal of gender roles? Do the texts, therefore, become incomplete and in the process, undo the very notions they try to hegemonize?

I cite an example from a dominant text that is considered to be iconic within Hinduism: The Ramayana. Rama's rule is described as being a prosperous one where there was wealth and peace for everyone. But, how did it fare for women? We learn that women were "never widowed and had not to mourn for that reason" and all the subjects were "devoted to Dharma and to the rules and regulations of Varna and Ashrama." Moreover, reading or hearing this text would allow for greater wisdom and happiness to all; and therefore, it should be "heard by women who want[ed] to have long lived sons and gain the respect of all," and a "barren woman would bear an excellent son if she heard it with devotion."

Therefore, a good Hindu male has to be misogynous and that becomes a prerequisite for doing one's dharma. There are strong notions of good citizenry in the Ramayana, but they exclude women. Women have to be supplements to men, and they can live through them. Women are meant to marry, have sons, and raise daughters who marry men, and so on. This is obviously problematic.

The Ramayana therefore, should not be read as a Hindu text; it can be read as a literary epic like the Iliad and the Odyssey. If we equate the Ramayana with religious dictum and Rama as an embodiment of God, Hindu religion institutionalises what are actually fluid gender roles, and codifies a labor system that is erroneously equated with gender, when actually there is an intrinsic correlation between one's learned abilities and skills and the capacity to be involved in a specific labor.

Length of essays: 8000-1200 words. Please use Chicago Manual of Style (with footnotes). Deadline for abstract submission: Nov. 30th 2015. Papers will have to be submitted by Feb. 30th. 2015.

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