Abstract

A vrat kathā is a ritual fast often performed by women in North India for the well-being of their husbands and families. In a community of low-caste potters near Banaras, a women wove her private concerns about her marriage into her public performance of required storytelling at the ritual. The mythical relationship of Shiva and Parvati served as a backdrop for real relationship issues: the discourse of power between men and women, adultery, parenting, and support. Using the rare public space that women create only on such ritual occasions, this storyteller made statements about her life that she would not be able to make in any other setting.

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