South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Gendered spatialisation of the ocean: Of kaivartas, vaniks, brahmanas and vidyādharīs in the Kathāsaritsāgara

Saturday, July 7
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Silveroak II, Ground Floor

The paper is an attempt to locate the depiction of the sea as a gendered space in the Kathāsaritsāgara, an Early Medieval text from Kashmir, a vast compilation of timeless narratives drawing upon the Early Historical work titled Brhatkathā. Both the periods were marked by vibrant trade and communications in the western as well as eastern direction from the ports situated on the long shoreline of the Indian sub-continent. We see the manner in which fantasy, fact and fiction merge in the stories to create an impression of the sea, seafarers and of peoples across the sea. The ocean is constructed as a passage or a doorway, in itself a temporary dangerous space, filled with monsters as well as super-human women and magical underground cities. Transference of wealth, women and ideas happens across the ocean. Monarchs and ministers, princes and princesses, brahmans and merchants, and fishermen are the principal characters and social groups depicted in the story as participants in seafaring. Merchants and their ships offer the chief means of transport, for themselves and others. While temples, monasteries and hermitages are shown as crucial institutional links with the subcontinent; the rituals of the sea and the sea dependent communities are significant themes. Juxtaposed to the dangerous ocean is the allegory of the sea as repository of riches and women for the persons of origin in the ‘mainland’ Indian subcontinent.


 




Tara Sheemar

University of Delhi, India

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1 - Gendered spatialisation of the ocean: Of kaivartas, vaniks, brahmanas and vidyādharīs in the Kathāsaritsāgara



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