Women in the Mahabharata
Thesis DisciplineReligious Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis documents a comprehensive search of all material relating to women in the ancient Hindu text, the Mahabharata. It follows three themes: 1. Women's experiences and views. 2. Women's and men's critiques of patriarchal society. 3. Religious and social constraints imposed upon women within patriarchy, On the surface, the Mahabharata upholds patriarchal attitudes. However, it also contains criticism of these conventions and challenges to its religious framework. This critical role is frequently adopted by women who show the limitations of dharma (conventional religion) and illuminate the path of Sanatana dharma (eternal religion). The Mahabharata records the Hindu understanding that religious symbols and social patterns change, and leave a record of their changes rather than any dogmatic truths. Women's critiques of patriarchal religion show the way that Hinduism allows it's own symbols and ideas of dharma to be fallible, transient, and inappropriate in the quest for Sanatana dharma.