Vassilkov Ya. V. The Ideal Heroine of the Indian Love Ballad and the Status of Woman in the Socio-Normative Culture of the “Great Tradition”

Yaroslav V. Vassilkov
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Saint Petersburg, Russia


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ABSTRACT. Heroines of lyrical ballads sung in some regions of North India are extremely independent. They choose lovers, bridegrooms and husbands at will, ignoring differences in varna (social class, estate) and religious confessions. The heroine can run away from the unloved husband with a lover, and the singers of ballads do not blame her for such behavior. To win happiness in love, the heroine is prepared to overcome all obstacles. The ideal of a resolute heroine runs counter to the status of woman as it was formulated in the Brahminic law books that laid the foundation for Hindu norms of conduct. How did it happen that two opposite views on the status of woman could coexist in a particular regional tradition? Folklorists of Bengal, the South Asian region, where the genre of love ballad was especially popular, explained the independence and determination of ballad heroines by the influence of local tribal cultures on Bengali folklore. But love ballads of the same type are well known in certain other regions of North India. All these regions are located on the extreme periphery in relation to the historical “Middle Land” (Madhyadesha) from which Brahminic (Sanskritic) culture spread across North India. This enables us to suggest that specific female characters of North Indian love ballads point to the survival in these regions of cultural traditions that had been characteristic of North India’s Aryan speaking population before its “Sanskritization”.


KEYWORDS: Indian folklore, lyrical ballads, ideal heroine, dharmashastras , the status of women


DOI 10.31250/2618-8619-2018-1-240-247


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