For being the ‘jewel’ of the women–Gaṇikās in the ancient Indian society
Authors: Ms. Debadrita Mukherjee
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For a long time it is believed that though brahmanical society’s attitude towards public women was not praiseworthy but surprisingly, Gaṇikās, who were the finest among the public women, acquired a respected place in ancient Indian society. Numerous textual references of Gaṇikās, their glories, state’s concern for their well-being help to create this illusion.
But if we read between the lines we can notice that though Gaṇikās got political security from the king, she lost the right over her own body to him. They were considered as Strī- Ratna but were prescribed to denounce all human emotions. Contemporary texts, which show concern for them, do not hesitate to testify that she is a commodity so whoever can afford her, can have her. She could not build a relationship which was more than economical and physical. True love had no place in her life. According to Kāmasūtra, Kuṭṭanīmata after making her lover impoverished, she should abandon him. State allowed her to lead a life in luxury (only for their life time) but prescribed her to live outside the boundary of the town or to the extreme south of the town as it represented the presence of Yam, the God of death. Brahmanical social norms did not allow ‘decent’ people to accept food from a Gaṇikā. Thus in return of the pride for being praised by learned men, Gaṇikās had to trade their soul and were reduced to some beautiful, rare, costly but inanimate ‘jewels’ from human beings.
Key Words: Ancient, Indian, Gaṇikā, Women, Prostitution, Patriarchy, Literature, Discrimination.