Sometimes it is Hard to be a (Jain) Woman

In his short paper, ‘Dhik Strītvam: Wailing of Women in the Jaina Pāṇḍava-Purāṇa’ (in Harānandalaharī: Volume in Honour of Professor Minoru Hara, eds. R. Tsuchida and A. Wezler et al., Reinbeck, 2000 pp. 135-141), the well-known scholar of Jain Traditions, Padmanabh Jaini, offers a translation of a portion of the Jain Pāṇḍava Purāṇa in which Jain women bemoan their lot. I quote from his translation:

A life in the household is only for the hope of attaining happiness on the account of the love of a husband. He truly is the power for us women who are powerless. Who would stay in the household without him? (Jaini p. 139, Pāṇḍava Purāṇa 13. 137)

He suggest that this sort of critical outpouring is little known in Jain literature. It is, however, a common enough feature of the Hindu Mahābhārata, upon which the Jain Pāṇḍava Purāṇa is based. It occurs to me that what we might be witnessing here is the transference of more than just a popular story from a Hindu to a Jain context. It is conceivable that something of the restless ambivalence of the Mahābhārata is being transferred as well. Perhaps sometimes it is not just the content but also the function of a given textual form that is transferred. This is something that Naomi and I will have to investigate further.


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