ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Re-imagining the Hindu Maternal Subject through Revisionist Popular Narratives.


J Mruthula - IIT Madras, Humanities and Social Sciences, Chennai, India


02 – Rewriting Hindu Women within Contemporary Popular Media


 The maternal subject has been quintessentially an apotheosised and desexualised figure in Indian mythology and it is important to assess how these ideal figures are mediated in contemporary popular fiction. Given the tangled web of contradictory associations with motherhood, which can be a position of empowerment and simultaneously a site of patriarchal oppression, I investigate in this paper how the mother figures from Hindu mythology, Mahabharata in particular, are represented in contemporary revisionist literature. Through the novels, The Kaunteyas by Madhavi. S Mahadevan and The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty by Kavita Kane, I propose to interrogate how the mother characters Kunti and Satyavati, are conceived in the current popular media, how contemporary femininity negotiates patriarchy and whether there is an unequivocal idealisation of the mother figure, or there is a decentring of glorified motherhood.  This paper looks at how these revisionist narratives pose a threat to hegemonic motherhood and how they try to renegotiate the trope of the good/bad mother and challenge the romanticisation of it. Through the theoretical framework of motherhood and postfeminism, I aim to showcase how these texts problematise the notion of ‘mater-normativity’ (Amrita Nandy) that describes the manifestations of the norm of motherhood through the discussion of characters from mythology; the various sites that produce its meaning; and the naturalisation and heteronormativity that sustain it.