Lakshmi the Rebel: Cultural Economy and Women's Agency
Bidyut Mohanty
  • ISBN : 9789388409292
  • year : 2019
  • language : English
  • binding : Hardbound
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The idea underlying this book is to suggest that in a caste-ridden, patriarchal society the status of woman or the girl child cannot improve unless cultural resources are mobilized to complement political, economic and legal initiatives. But culture has to be seen critically, to discern streams of resistance and challenge even though dominant patterns of values might persist. The Lakshmi Vrata Katha as recited in contemporary rituals of worship in Odisha is the reference point of this study along with the texts in the religious practices of Lakshmi worship in other states of India as well as rituals and folk tales from some Asian countries. All these cases demonstrate an element of women’s agency—the capacity to transform prevailing values in the male-dominated society and family. For example, in Odia Lakshmi Purana, Lakshmi rebels against her husband, Lord Jagannath since he and his brother rebuked her and threw her out of their temple for visiting the house of an untouchable woman to accept her offerings. This story, written in the sixteenth century by the Bhakti poet Balaram Das, narrated how the male gods miserably suffered because of this decision until they finally repented their action and accepted Lakshmi’s perspective and invited her back to the temple. In a Bengali Vrata Katha, a daughter challenges her father since he asserts that everybody’s good fortune depended on him. Not being deterred by that assertion, the daughter continued her independent pursuits to prove that one could achieve success in life by using one’s own intelligence. In the Lakshmi story from Uttar Pradesh the wife could bring back her husband to proper conduct from a serious situation as he had gone astray because of bad company. The present volume carries a collection of 18 Lakshmi Vrata Katha’s from different regions of India which happen to be rice growing regions. Some instances from Nepal, Vietnam, Bali, Indonesia, Japan and China.