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Unmarried Women of the Dhaula Dhar: Celibacy and Social Control in Northwest India

Peter Phillimore
Journal of Anthropological Research
Vol. 47, No. 3 (Autumn, 1991), pp. 331-350
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3630617
Page Count: 20
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Unmarried Women of the Dhaula Dhar: Celibacy and Social Control in Northwest India
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Abstract

For women, marriage is axiomatic in rural India. On the fringes of the Himalaya in Kangra, however, the status of sādhin offers a small number of women an unconventional, but respectable, alternative to the accepted female roles of wife and mother. The name carries ascetic connotations, and the status derives its legitimacy from association with the Hindu ascetic tradition. Yet it is marriage and sexuality which a sādhin renounces, not worldly life generally: she remains in her natal village, may acquire property, and most visibly dresses and acts in many contexts like a man. This account links the highly localized and comparatively recent historical emergence of this unusual practice with the settlement in Kangra of Gaddis and neighboring Hindu groups, migrating from the mountainous interior over the last century, and with the consequent collision of differing codes and conventions about women's conduct. At issue is the regulation of female sexuality and the impossibility of simple spinsterhood in Kangra's culturally fastidious environment.

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