The second edition of this book tries to answer concerns about Mahabharata as a source for history and about continued relevance of patriarchal construct in writing a new women’s history. While there is no need to interpret structures as monolithic or beyond changes of time, the scale of that change cannot always be measured in terms of just technology and political formation of a given chronological span. Variations in women’s lives will have to be seen at the micro level such as the varieties of households and the domestic, reproductive and sexual arrangements therein.
In analysing the mechanism of patriarchal domination the structures of lineage, residence, forms of marriage, property relations and sexuality are subjected to a critical analysis. A systematic attempt has also been made to use the theories and findings of social anthropology for this purpose. Apart from material existence the symbolic valuations given to women in androcentric societies play a significant role in constructing their status as abala. The volume also juxtaposes these emasculated women with raksasi and svairini who inhabit a space that is spatially and ideologically freer of masculinist constructs.
This volume will be invaluable to scholars of Gender Studies, Culture, Religion in South Asia and Ancient Indian History.
Shalini Shah is a senior Associate Professor in the Department of History, University of Delhi. She has worked for over two decades on issues of gender relations in early India and has published many papers in prestigious journals. She is the author of Love, Eroticism and Female Sexuality in Classical Sanskrit Literature: Seventh- Thirteenth Centuries (2009).
From the days when I was first introduced to the ‘Stories’ of Mahabharata at the tender age of five, to this monograph, has been a long trek of my passion—The great epic Mahabharata. I wonder, if this is just the beginning.
In writing this monograph, I have received help and encouragement from numerous quarters. Professor R.S. Sharma, the doyen of Indian historians, has always been a source of inspiration. That invisible debt can never be repaid. He has doubly indebted me through his generosity of contributing a Foreword to this work. I would like to thank Professor D.N. Jha, under whose able guidance this maiden research work was completed. I am deeply indebted to Professor KM. Shrimali for his very valuable criticism and help although. I thank Dr Kumkum Roy for being generous with her critical comments in spite of constraints on her time. Thanks are also due to Mrs Kokila Gopal of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Library and Mr Sahay, Librarian, Indian Council of Historical Research for their help in making numerous inaccessible publications available to me. I also take this opportunity to thank Dr Sushma Narain, who made her study room available to me for peaceful work. Dr Vandita Arora helped me with Sanskrit texts and Dr Krishna Gopal has prepared Index, I shall ever remain grateful to them. Above all, I express my deep sense of gratitude to my parents without whose indulgence and encouragement this work would never have got completed. A special thanks to my little nephews Samarth and Prasoon who provided pleasant diversion during long period of work. I am specially grateful to Shri Ramesh Jam of Manohar Publishers &amp;amp; Distributors for his ungrudging acceptance of this work and publishing it in a remarkably short period.
It is a source of great professional satisfaction for me that my first research attempt reached out to so many scholars here and abroad. I am particularly gratified that young students over the years have found it useful and this gave me the reason and assurance to attempt a second edition of this work.
I would like to acknowledge the intellectual sustenance and personal support which I have received over the years from professors D.N. Jha, KM. Shrimali, Aparna Basu, Suvira Jaiswal, Monica juneja, Eugenia Vanina, P.S. Dwivedi, M. Amin, Shireen Moosvi, Seema Alavi, Madhu Bhalla, Gopa Bhardwaj, Smita Sahgal and Binda Paranjape.
I owe a lot to the Indraprastha College for Women for helping to keep the intellectual fire burning for two decades and I take .this opportunity to thank my students and all my colleagues especially Vandita Arora, Sneh Mahajan, Asha Chaubey, Vinita Dhar and Vagisha Sharma.
I am eternally grateful to my parents Manjula and Vijendra Shah and all my family and friends who have always done their bit to spur me on my academic journey. A big thanks is also due my little stress busters Pramiti, Sarthak and Susheem who insist that they are no longer little. I also thank my publisher Shri Ramesh Jam for his unstinting help in the preparation and publication of this edition.
Last but not the least I would also like to acknowledge a deep sense of gratitude to a galaxy of past scholars who’s works have been a source of enduring inspiration—D.D. Kosambi, VS. Sukthankar, Irawati Karve, N.N. Bhattacharyya and R.S. Sharma.
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