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Kerala Christian SainthoodCollisions of Culture and Worldview in South India$
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Corinne G. Dempsey

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195130287

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195130286.001.0001

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The Life and Cult of Sr. Alphonsa

The Life and Cult of Sr. Alphonsa

A Celebration of Complexity and Paradox

(p.115) 4 The Life and Cult of Sr. Alphonsa
Kerala Christian Sainthood

Corinne G. Dempsey (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Explores prominent themes in Alphonsa's hagiography as a means to compare Christian and Hindu perspectives and practices of female asceticism. While Christian and Hindu traditions have much in common in this regard, most strikingly different is the fact that Catholic Christianity commonly considers the female renouncer to be the pinnacle of holiness for women, while for some Hindu traditions, particularly Brahmanical Hinduism, female renunciation is a decided aberration. Referring back to postcolonial theory fleshed out in earlier chapters, this final chapter portrays Alphonsa as following normative religious prescriptions for female sanctity, yet ironically, through their fulfillment, she molds and transcends the same. The paradox of Alphonsa's devotional cult gets reflected furthermore through the story of a woman who was beaten down by life, enduring physical and emotional hardship throughout, yet whose posthumous powers are understood as a means for relieving the pain and suffering of her devotees.

Keywords:   asceticism, Catholic, female renunciation, female sanctity, hagiography, Hindu, postcolonial theory, Sr. Alphonsa, suffering

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