Abstract

Ponds are ubiquitous in the Maithil region of Nepal, and they figure prominently in folk narratives and ceremonial paintings produced by women there. I argue that in Maithil women’s folktales, as in their paintings, the trope of ponds shifts the imaginative register toward women’s perspectives and the importance of women’s knowledge and influence in shaping Maithil society, even as this register shift occurs within plots featuring male protagonists. I argue further that in the absence of a habit of exegesis in their expressive arts, and given the cross-referential, dialogic nature of expressive practices, a methodology that draws into interpretive conversation the multitude of expressive forms exercised by Maithil women enhances analytical access to Maithil women’s collective perspectives on their social and cosmological worlds.

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