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Puppets on the Periphery: Women and Social Reform in 19th Century Gujarati Society

Usha Thakkar
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 32, No. 1/2 (Jan. 4-11, 1997), pp. 46-52
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4404966
Page Count: 7
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Puppets on the Periphery: Women and Social Reform in 19th Century Gujarati Society
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Abstract

A libel case was filed by Jadunathji Maharaj, a leader of the Vallabhacharya sect, in 1861 against the social reformer Karsandas Mulji for alleging that the Maharaj practised immoral behaviour towards women of the sect. The arguments mobilised by the contending parties, and the judgment passed, reveal, despite their differences in interpretation of sacred Hindu texts, a common concern with the moral prescriptions of Hindu religious tradition for man-woman sexual relationship. Nowhere are women, an equally important segment to be affected by the practice, seen articulating their position. Instead the reformist discourse recasts the amorous image of the woman in the Vallabhacharya tradition into virtuous, duty-abiding wife whose sexuality continues to be controlled by patriarchal familial norms.

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