We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

Sacrificed Wife/Sacrificer's Wife

Women, Ritual, and Hospitality in Ancient India

Stephanie W. Jamison

Publication Date - 04 January 1996

ISBN: 9780195096637

360 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


This book concerns the conceptual position of women in early India, specifically in the Vedic and early epic periods (c.1500-200 BCE), and it seeks to make contributions both to Indology and to gender studies. By focusing on a single female role--the activities of the "Sacrificer's Wife" in solemn ritual--and by extracting the rich materials on her role from the voluminous technical ritual manuals, the author isolates a set of conceptual functions the wife fills in ritual practice. These functions can then be observed in other cultural institutions in which women participate--particularly the system of hospitality and gift exchange that regulated the relations between mutually obligated strangers in ancient India and the system of marital exchange.
Besides filling a large gap in our understanding of ancient India, this work makes a general contribution to the study of women and gender, not merely by supplying information about a place and time poorly represented in these studies, but also by suggesting some methodologies involving sensitivity to language and linguistic analysis to employ in approaching women and gender in other ancient cultures.


"The scholarship is extremely fine. Jamison has investigated thoroughly all major literature on the subject....Her writing is very clear and lively. She shows the ways in which these rituals address very human problems and situations. Jamison's discussions represent a significant advance in the methods of ritual analysis, and will enable the Vedic material to be brought into larger discussions of women in India."--Joel P. Brereton, University of Missouri

Table of Contents

    Part I: Introduction
    Part II: Sacrificed Wife/Sacrificer's Wife: The Mth of Manu's Cups
    Part III: The Wife in Ritual
    A. The Wife and Other Ritual Actors
    B. Situating the Wife in Ritual
    C. Sexuality and Fertility--Symbolic Representations
    D. Sexuality and Fertility--The Asvnamedha
    E. Sexuality and Fertility--"Negative" Representations
    F. Hospitality and Exchange Relations: The Soma Sacrifice
    Part IV: The Anxieties of Hospitality
    A. Introduction--Oghavati and Ahalya
    B. Hospitality and Hostly Perils
    C. Manu's Cups Revisited I: The Cow, the Wife and the Power of the Guest
    D. Manu's Cups Revisited II: The Vocabulary of Hospitality
    E. Exploited Guests and Reluctant Receivers
    Part V: Women and Marriage
    A. Marriage and Exchange
    B. Marriage by Capture
    C. Maidenly Self-Determination
    Part IV: Finale

Related Titles