University of Oulu

Gender construction and performativity in religious folklore : insights from Hindu vrat kathas

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Author: Zaidka, Neha1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
Pages: 96
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : N. Zaidka, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-01-16
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Järvelä, Maria-Liisa
Reviewer: Järvelä, Maria-Liisa
Sääskilahti, Minna


Gender has proved to be an important category of analysis in religious studies. Religions have been criticized by feminists over the decades for the oppression of women. Hinduism, the world’s third largest religion, with a strong story tradition, has a wide cast of characters, both men and women, who display normative views on what it is to be a woman or a man in Hindu society. The Hindu story tradition dates back to Upanishads written during 500 BCE. Today’s vrat kathas are Hindu stories that are a part of the rich folklore tradition. During the last four decades, written pamphlets consisting of vrat kathas have become popular and reading them out loud in a group or alone is central to the widely practised vrat ritual. Hence, these texts are a major touchpoint for many practising Hindus. While a lot of gender-analysis textual research has been conducted on the classic Hindu epics, the textual research on vrat kathas is scarce. Using qualitative thematic content analysis, and lens of karma and dharma along with Butler’s theory of performativity, this study explores gender construction and gender performativity in vrat kathas. Data for the thesis is a set of weekly vrat kathas, which consist of ten different stories. This study concludes that binary categories of women and men are constructed in contrast to each other, where on one hand women are depicted as compassionate and obedient while their desires are limited to the family members and household. Men, on the other hand, are depicted as individualistic characters having ultimate authority while being detached from their families. The results indicate that vrat kathas mirror the Hindu dharmic value system. However, it is essential to note that even some independent and empowered women stand out in the studied texts.

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Copyright information: © Neha Zaidka, 2019. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.