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Water and Womanhood

Religious Meanings of Rivers in Maharashtra

Anne Feldhaus

Publication Date - 11 May 1995

ISBN: 9780195092837

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


Rivers in India are commonly associated with certain worldly religious values: wealth, beauty, long life, good health, food, love, and the birth of children. However, these "domestic" values have been relatively neglected by Indologists, who have tended to view India and Hinduism through the prism of poverty, misery, asceticism, and themes of purity or pollution. Following recent scholarship by arguing that the earthly pursuits are equally vital to an understanding of popular Hinduism, Feldhaus examines the role of these ideals in the religious meanings of rivers in Maharashtra, a large region of western India. Drawing both on written religious texts and on a wide range of oral, iconographic, and ritual materials gathered in the course of field work in India, she shows that these values, which are usually associated with women or represented by goddesses, are an important motif in popular religious practices and oral traditions associated with the rivers of Maharashtra, and she presents the many different ways in which rivers are imagined, enshrined, worshipped, and feared.


"Does a fine job of exploring an important aspect of folk Hinduism, a long neglected field. Touches on both the feminine and water aspects. A nice addition to an upper level syllabus."--Robert Forman, Hunter College

"Excellent general book and classroom text for Religion and South Asia courses, as well as Anthropology."--H.L. Seneviratne, University of Virginia

"Excellent work!"--Don St. John, Moravia College

"This superb piece of scholarship is indicative of the maturation of Indian Studies in America--deep, thorough, empathetic description coupled with sophisticated analysis. A fine contribution to our understanding of Indian culture."--Richard Lariviere, University of Texas

"Feldhaus's scholarship is very impressive....I recommend publication. The work is very readable and nothing like it exists. It is rich, engrossing and meaningful."--Ann Grodzins Gold, Cornell University

Table of Contents

    Note on Translation and Transliteration
    Source Materials
    1. Mountains, Rivers, and Siva
    2. The Femininity of Rivers
    3. Abundance
    4. Untamed Natural Wealth
    5. Sons and Sorrow
    6. Modern River Goddess Festivals
    7. Combating Evil
    Appendix A. Water to the Gods
    Appendix B. Images of Modern River Goddesses
    Appendix C. Modern River Goddess Festivals

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