“’By the Sweetness of the Tongue’: Stories, Lives, and Hindu Holy Women in India” by Antoinette E. DeNapoli (University of Wyoming)
Date: 3:30pm PST March 2 Location: J.R. Howard Hall 102
Ted Brummond UW Photo Service
J.R. Howard Hall 102
This presentation calls attention to the uncommon religious lives and worlds of Hindu holy women (sadhus) in India. As sadhus, these women practice an unconventional religious way of life known as renunciation. Sadhus in India are overwhelmingly men, and the elite religious institution in which they participate has traditionally excluded women from its ranks and leadership roles. How do female sadhus create their religious authority and earn the respect, trust, and devotion of their communities and, more generally, the society? How do their practices spotlight a female tradition of renunciation that offers an alternative to the dominant male traditions of renunciation practiced in India? In this presentation, Dr. DeNapoli presents the oral life histories of the female sadhus with whom she has worked over the last fifteen years in the North Indian state of Rajasthan. Through an exploration of the sadhus’ personal narratives, DeNapoli brings to light the cultural-religious categories, idioms, and mythic models through which female sadhus make sense of their worlds and their renunciation. Drawing on the metaphor of “singing to God,” which the sadhus foreground in their stories, DeNapoli shows that what it means to be a female sadhu in India involves performing the kind of radical devotion exemplified by the extraordinary lives of legendary female devotees.