The concept of nivrtti as translated in the lives of women in Hinduism: A survey (as part of ‘Towards equality: writing/reading gender in texts of Hinduism’ workshop)

Speaker: Professor T.S. Rukmani
Date: May 19, 2006
Time: 13:00

Nivrtti denotes disengagement with worldly conventions. Of course it is used more in the context of samnysins/samnyasinis in connection with the pursuit of moksa (liberation). But this paper intends to release the word nivrtti from this narrow application and look at it in a wider context. The paper will examine the instances in the texts which have representations of women who go against the conventional, mother/warrior image. For instance is the brahmavadini/scholar woman like Gargi for instance, discarding by choice the role of a married woman and opting for a life of scholarly/spiritual search? Again is Savitri exerting her independence and opting to marry Satyavan in spite of her father’s advice? Sulabha again could be someone who did not want to marry anyone because she was far superior to all those who wooed her. She makes the deliberate choice to become a bhiksuni. There are any number of these examples in Sanskrit texts which will form the basis of the talk.