The Female Bridegroom: A Comparative Study of Life-Crisis Rituals in South India and Sri Lanka,

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Abstract

Ceremonies marking birth, female puberty, marriage, and death are among the most important public events in the lives of many South Asian people. The author begins by describing such ceremonies in Tirunelveli, South India. Here female puberty rites mimic weddings, and involve the "female bridegrooms" of his title. Every high-caste family aims to protect its caste status by controlling ritually the sexual activity of its female members, and the author argues that the rituals he describes reflect localised modes of inheritance, residence and descent. His main aim is to understand all such rituals in their regional context. He goes on to compare them with practices elsewhere in South India and Sri Lanka, as described by other ethnographers such as Srinivas, Gough, Yalman and Dumont. In his final section the author describes divine weddings in Hindu temples. He demonstrates how ideas about female sexuality are represented in worship and mythology and brings out the significance of the diverse ritual practices discussed in earlier parts of the book by placing them in the context of a single cultural framework.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherClarendon Press
Number of pages295
ISBN (Print)0198278535, 978-0198278535
Publication statusPublished - 1991

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