Indian Women Writers

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Indian women writers A world of words, lost and found: a brief overview of women's literature in India from the 6th century BC onwards The Vedas cry aloud, the Puranas shout; "No good may come to a woman." I was born with a woman's body How am I to attain truth? "They are foolish, seductive, deceptive - Any connection with a woman is disastrous." Bahina says, "If a woman's body is so harmful, How in the world will I reach truth?" Much of the world's literature has been dominated by a canon that nearly dismissed women's writing more than two centuries ago. The counter-canons that have emerged as the result of this exclusion have helped to establish women's writing in mainstream culture, but still in some ways fail to acknowledge women's literature coming from non-white countries. This essay is an attempt to highlight some of the works produced by women in India over the ages. Although India has a history of ancient civilisations such as the Harappa and Mohenjodaro, and of matrilineal societies in the south, no written records of women's literary prowess exists predating the 6th century BC. The emergence of the first body of poetry by women in India could be attributed to the advent of Buddhism. Perhaps it was the freedom offered by the religion, the way of life it offered to women, and the principle of equality that it propagated which allowed women to pen their thoughts for the first time. Buddhism offered women the opportunity to break away from the restrictions of home life, a major factor in the rise of Indian women's literature in the early 6th century BC. The earliest known anthology of women's literature in India has been identified as those belonging to the Therigatha nuns, the poets being contemporaries of the Buddha. One of these, Mutta, writes, So free am I, so gloriously free, free from three petty things - from mortar, from pestle and from my twisted lord. [Tharu and Lalita p.68] Mutta's works, translated from Pali, offer an explanation through their interpretation. Religious escapism was the only way out for many women who were frustrated with a life inside the home. They chose to join the Buddhist sangha (religious communities) in their attempts to break away from the social world of tradition and marriage. Thus emerged poems and songs about what it meant to be free from household chores and sexual slavery. Although the early forms of writing addressed the issue of personal freedom, the poetry that followed later was a celebration of womanhood and sexuality.
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