Subordination, Repression and Coping Strategies in the Jātaka Tales

Neekee Chaturvedi


The Jātakas are a valuable resource for reconstructing social history. Even though the stories are largely intended to be moral parables, they are replete with historical details. With a broadly Buddhist orientation, they draw freely from the existing folklore. The many tales incidentally reveal various aspects of everyday lives of ordinary people. They also touch upon aspects of their relations with the elite, the repression that they had to suffer and the strategies they devised to cope with a society marked by deep differences based on caste, class and gender. These forms of repression manifested themselves through the social hierarchy of caste, the class differences between masters and slaves, and the patriarchal overtone in gender roles. The various forms of subordination, aggravated by oppressive factors of political power, patriarchal mindset and vulnerability of groups like the aged, form the focus of this study.

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