The Goswaminis and Their Contribution to Female Education in Bengal

in Published Volumes


Monideepa Bhattacharjee
Assistant Professor
Department of History
Serampore College
Serampore,West Bengal,India


Abstract::An interesting feature about women within the fold of Gaudiya Vaishnavism was that they were quite well educated in an age when education was denied to most women. The objective of this paper is to bring to light how the Goswaminis of Bengal made a contribution to the spread of female education on the basis of various medieval works which refer to educated women and their contribution to society in the medieval and colonial periods. Their education centred around scriptural learning. Their education enabled them to enjoy a better position in society. They dwelt in a strongly patriarchal world but being educated helped them to have discussions and debates with men and have male disciples as well. In such ways they could subvert the dominant gender stereotypes. Leading female Vaishnava spiritual leaders from Bengal like Jahnava Devi and Hemlata Thakurani were well versed in the scriptures. which the Goswaminis of Khardah (Jahnava Devi lived at Khardah) were renowned for their knowledge. During the colonial period, Vaishnava women acted as teachers. Thus the Vaishnava society of Bengal made a striking contribution to the education of women in an age when female education was generally neglected.

Key Words::Education, Female Teachers, Goswaminis, Scriptural learning, Vaishnavism etc.