Religion and Women in India

Gender, Faith, and Politics, 1780s–1980s

By Tanika Sarkar

Subjects: India And South Asian Studies, Women In Religion, Hindu Studies, Women's Studies, History Of Religion
Hardcover : 9798855800289, 380 pages, October 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-10-01

Examines the intersections of gender, religion, and politics among various Indian religious communities, from early British rule to the late twentieth century.


In Religion and Women in India, Tanika Sarkar provides an account of gender prescriptions and proscriptions and their operation among various Indian religious communities, beginning with early British rule and concluding in the late twentieth century. Tracking various shifts and displacements in doctrinal thought and practice, she argues that Indian modernity was initiated largely through debates on gender, scripture, custom, and caste, which shaped ideal forms of masculine and feminine conduct. She demonstrates the organization of a modern public sphere around the controversies, cultural imaginaries, and political agitations over such issues as the age of consent, child marriage, widow remarriage, rape laws, and intercaste and interfaith relations. Gender norms are shown leaching into social attitudes, labor processes, and legal rights—leading eventually to modern Indian feminism. Closely analyzing the interpenetration and co-constitution of religion, politics, and gender in India, while also comparing parallel developments in Pakistan and Bangladesh, this pioneering work offers a brilliant and synthesizing account of the battles between orthodoxy and its opponents over two hundred years. No historian, no feminist, no student of politics can afford to miss it.

Tanika Sarkar's internationally recognized histories have focused on the interface of religion, politics, and women. Her many books include Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion and Cultural Nationalism; Rebels, Wives, Saints: Designing Selves and Nations in Colonial Times; and Hindu Nationalism in India. She has been Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Visiting Professor at Yale University, the University of Chicago, and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She taught for many years at St. Stephen's College, Delhi, and now teaches at Ashoka University.