Publication Date

2005

Journal

Asian Folklore Studies

Volume

64

Issue

1

First Page

1

Last Page

38

Abstract

As a female-only festival in a significantly gender-segregated society, sāmā cakevā provides a window into Maithil women’s understandings of their society and the sacred, cultural subjectivities, moral frameworks, and projects of self-construction. The festival reminds us that to read male-female relations under patriarchal social formations as a dichotomy between the empowered and the disempowered ignores the porous boundaries between the two in which negotiations and tradeoffs create a symbiotic reliance. Specifically, the festival names two oppositional camps—the male world of law and the female world of relationships—and then creates a male character, the brother, who moves between the two, loyal to each, betraying, in a sense, each, but demonstrating, by his movements, the currents and avenues of power. This article makes available to other scholars of South Asian culture and society an extended description and analysis of this distinctive festival, while also contributing to the scholarly discussion of women’s expressive traditions.