Roles of Women in Vedic Culture

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Roles of Women in Vedic Culture

Vedic culture seems to have conflicting views regarding its attitude towards women, specifically its attitude towards a woman’s sexuality. This conflict can be seen by contrasting the ways in which women are treated in sacrificing rituals with how they are treated in a more intimate atmosphere, such as lovemaking, which is still often treated as a ritual in and of itself; ritual regarding fertility, love, and childbirth. To represent the roles of women in ritual, Stephanie W. Jamison has written “Sacrificed Wife, Sacrificer’s wife, which is a description and evaluation of women’s roles in ritual and hospitality in ancient India.

“The general subject of [Jamison’s] book is the conceptual position of women in early Indic culture, but it is not designed as an inclusive overview of women in ancient India and all the institutions and attitudes affecting them. Rather it focuses on a single, apparently marginal female role-the activities of the wife in solemn ritual… and isolates a set of conceptual functions the wife fills in ritual practice” (Jamison 4).

To get a more expansive view of women’s roles in ritual, it is important to also consider other texts, perhaps including what is known as a “sex manual” for the roles of women in other aspects of their culture. The “Kama Sutra” will help to provide a contrast between the roles of women in solemn ritual, and the roles of women in sex ritual, since sex is often viewed as just as ritualistic as the Srauta ritual, described in Jamison’s text. The two texts, combined, will illuminate a contrast between the differing views of women, as Jamison’s book illuminates negative attitudes towards a woman’s sexuality and inequalities in the participatio...

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...arding a woman’s sexuality, whereas in the “Kama Sutra” the woman’s sexuality is appreciated as a beautiful thing, and as a thing that is capable of being used in a positive way for both the woman and her partner. Certainly there are even moments of inequality apparent in the “Kama Sutra”, but, there are also passages that describe the importance of equality, and yet others that describe the duties of a man to please his wife. Whereas women are treated as deviants for their sexuality in ritual, they are praised for it in the bedroom, revealing a conflict in male minds as to how they feel about a woman’s sexuality, confused about whether they want a virgin or a whore.

Works Cited

Dane, Lance. The Complete Illustrated Kama Sutra. Inner Traditions. Singapore. 2003.

Jamison, Stephanie W. Sacrificed Wife, Sacrificer’s Wife. Oxford University Press. New
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