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The Oxford History of HinduismThe Goddess$
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Mandakranta Bose

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198767022

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198767022.001.0001

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Enduring Example for Women

(p.147) 7 Sītā
The Oxford History of Hinduism

Heidi R. Pauwels

Oxford University Press

The impulse in Hinduism to attribute divinity to women is well demonstrated in the legend of Sītā. Her unconditional devotion to her husband Rāma qualifies her as worthy of devotion, particularly because as consort to Rāma who is Viṣṇu in human form, Sītā can be regarded as Lakṣmī, to be worshiped jointly with him. Her total surrender to Rāma’s will elevates her in Vaiṣṇava thought as the model for the soul’s passive dependence upon God and as mediator between Viṣṇu and worshipers. But offering a contrary view, Śākta narratives shift redemptive power from Rāma to Sītā. Yet another construction of Sītā, especially in folk culture, highlights her protest against her subjugation. In recent times this has turned her into a locus for the resistance of women to patriarchal oppression, which may free her from the matrix of devotion and refashion her as an icon of resistance worthy of veneration.

Keywords:   Devotion, patriarchy, Rāma, Sītā, Vālmīki, women’s voice

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