1st Edition

The Goddess Re-discovered Gender and Sexuality in Religious Texts of Medieval Bengal

By Saumitra Chakravarty Copyright 2023
    200 Pages
    by Routledge India

    200 Pages
    by Routledge India

    The book critically analyses questions of gender and sexuality in the medieval religious texts of Bengal. It analyses the emergence of religious cults in patriarchal contexts, the humanization of the goddess figure as a wife and mother who is subject to social and ethical codes, and demythologization of folk epics.

    This book discusses the folk genre of the Mangal Kavyas such as the Chandi Mangal and the Manasa Mangal, against the perspectives of Sanskrit texts like the Devi Mahatmya and the Devi Bhagavata Purana, and compares and contrasts the Kalika Purana against the texts and practices of the Tantric cult, to shed light on the paradoxes and parallels in the images of Kali found in the texts and practices dominant in the eastern region of India. The author also highlights the centrality of Chaitanya in the Gaudiya Vaishnava movement, the social and religious revolution he brought with the philosophy of raganuga bhakti along with the androgynous aspects in his relationships; explores the concept of mystical eroticism in the love of Radha and Krishna as seen in the song sequences of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas; and discusses women’s Rama-kathas found in a variety of languages across India.

    Rich in archival material, this book will be an essential read for scholars and researchers of gender studies, women’s studies, literature, medieval history, social history, cultural anthropology, religious studies, cultural studies, South Asia studies, and those interested in the history of medieval Bengal.


    1 The Medieval Period in Bengal: A Brief Introduction

    PART I

    Shakta Literature in Bengal

    2 Hindu Goddesses and Patriarchal Politics: Unveiling Goddess Imagery in the Chandi Mangal, the Devi Mahatmya and the Srimad Devi Bhagavata Purana

    3 Suppression and Resistance: Celebrating Manasa in Text, Performance and Ritual

    4 Kali, Goddess Power and Sexuality: The influence of Tantra on the Kalika Purana


    Vaishnava Literature in Bengal

    5 Radha as a Social Rebel: Female Sexuality in the Vaishnava Padavalis of Bengal

    6 The Concept of Androgyny in the Chaitanya Hagiographies of Bengal


    Interpreting the Epics: Anuvada Sahitya or Itihasa Sahitya

    7 Empowering the Silenced Voices: The Paradox of Female Chastity in Krittivasa’s Ramayana

    8 Women’s Ramayanas: Chandraboti’s Folk Ballad



    Saumitra Chakravarty teaches English Literature in the Postgraduate programme, National College, Bangalore, India. She is engaged in active research on various aspects of the ‘feminine’ in literary and religious texts, and has a PhD in English Literature from Calcutta University, India. Dr Chakravarty has presented papers at various international conferences. Her research articles have been published in international journals like Intersections of the Australian National University, Canberra, in Le Simplegadi and Il Bianco e il Nero of the University of Udine, Italy, in Bells of the University of Barcelona, in the History Research Journal, U.S.A., in the Journal of Religion and Spirituality, U.S.A., in the Asian Literature and Translation, University of Cardiff, in the Athens Journal of Philology, Greece.

    Her poems have been included in an anthology of 50 Indian women poets entitled Roots and Wings. Her books include Three Sides of Life, a volume of poetry The Silent Cry, and a book of essays entitled The Endangered Self as co-author. Her articles have been included in five books.