Religions of South Asia, Vol 2, No 2 (2008)

The Theological Bearing of Purāṇic Stories: An Enquiry into the Presence of Feminine Theology in the Brahma-vaivarta-purāṇa

Joris Gielen
Issued Date: 19 Jan 2010


In Western indological literature the term ‘theology’ is often used to analyse descriptions of Hindu gods and their attributes. Western scholars have likewise retrieved a theology focusing on Rādhā in various texts, notably in the Brahma-vaivarta-purāṇa. In this purāṇa a feminine theology is said to have been developed. The aim of the present study was to assess whether a feminine theology is present in the Brahma-vaivarta-purāṇa and to evaluate whether our understanding of the purāṇa as a theological or non-theological text could enhance our understanding of Hinduism. Both predicates ‘feminine’ and ‘theological’ are problematic with regard to the purāṇa. The purāṇa can only with difficulty be called feminine because women are not always respectfully approached and Rādhā is not consistently portrayed as superior or equal to Kṛṣṇa. Since the purāṇa links Rādhā with the theologically important functions of creation and redemption, the text seems theological. Yet logical inconsistencies make the term theology also unsuitable for the purāṇa. If this purāṇa and other similar texts are not theology, they cannot be used to solve theological problems like the relationship between divine nature and ethics. Hence, there is no contradiction between Rādhā’s elevated position in some texts and a secondary treatment of women.

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.v2i2.177


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