Making Virtuous Daughters and Wives

An Introduction to Women's Brata Rituals in Bengali Folk Religion

By June McDaniel

Subjects: Anthropology Of Religion
Paperback : 9780791455661, 143 pages, November 2002
Hardcover : 9780791455654, 143 pages, November 2002

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Table of contents


Notes on Spelling, Transliteration, and Pronunciation


1. Folk Hinduism in West Bengal

2. The Folk Goddess Tushu, Her Festival, Songs, and Brata

3. What Is a Brata?

4. Some Bengali Bratas to Goddesses

5. Other Bratas: Women, Nature, Gods, and Magic

6. Brahmanical Bratas: The Rituals for Men

7. Conclusion




An exploration of Hindu women’s folk religion focusing on goddess worship and women’s rituals.


Exploring the folk religion of India and the role of girls and women within it, author June McDaniel focuses on the brata (vrata) ritual in which moral lessons are taught and goddesses are revealed. Bratas are performed to gain such goals as a healthy family, a good husband, and a happy life. They are also performed so that the performers (bratinis) develop such virtues as devotion, humility, and compassion.This book presents data from fieldwork, along with brata stories, songs, poems, and ritual activities. It discusses Bengali folk religion, offers an example of ritual worship in folk Hinduism, and surveys a variety of bratas. The author analyzes the similarities and differences among these rituals in low-caste village life and in high-caste Hindu tradition, and notes that the development of these rituals involves a form of continuing divine revelation with women as the primary transmitters. Bratas act to maintain traditional Hindu values, but also emphasize the power of women, whose virtues can save their husbands from hell worlds and their families from disasters.

June McDaniel is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies and Director of the Religious Studies Program at the College of Charleston. She is the author of The Madness of the Saints: Ecstatic Religion in Bengal.


"McDaniel's work provides new insight into the process by which the oral tradition reveals connections between the sacred stories of the gods and goddesses and the intimate daily lives of the Bengali women. This is an exciting and valuable contribution." — Robert M. Garvin, University at Albany, State University of New York

"The most significant aspect of this book is its presentation of primary sources for the study of Indic religions. The compilation of these brata stories is a great contribution not only for Indic studies in general, but for folklore studies, gender studies, subaltern studies, and ritual studies." — Constantina Rhodes Bailly, author of Meditations on Shiva: The Shivastotravali of Utpaladeva