Guilty Males and Proud Females
Negotiating Genders in a Bengali Festival
Distributed for Seagull Books
Guilty Males and Proud Females is the first complete study on the Bengali gajan festival dedicated to Dharmaraj, a village god in the Rarh region of Bengal. The gajan is the dramatic representation of an hierogamy—the marriage of a god and goddess—and a recreation of the life-cycle of earth. As Fabrizio M. Ferrari explains one of the most fascinating aspects of the gajan is its approach to gender. The central deity of the gajan is a goddess identified with the earth. To please such a goddess, male devotees must acknowledge the pain they inflict towards the female world and become “ritual women.” Conversely, as part of the festival, women display their generative power and provoke the jealousy of men by ritually mocking conception and delivery. The outcome of the ritual is that their suffering is acknowledged and transformed into power.
Much more than an ethnography of Bengali popular religion, Guilty Males and Proud Females contributes to new studies on gender transformation in the Bengal region and will be of interest to scholars of South Asian religions, folklore, and gender studies.
A Note on Texts, Translations and Citations
Chapter One: Shunya Purana and the Making of a Tradition
Chapter Two: One, No One and One Hundred Thousand: The Goddess Behind the Gods
Chapter Three: The Divine Virgin: Rites of Gender Transformations
Chapter Four: The Divine Mother: Rites of Gender Confirmation
Chapter Five: The Beldam: Pacification and Surrender
Chapter Six: Bringing It All Back Home: Concluding Remarks and the (Open) End of the Gajan