Historically, organized and institutionalized religions while catering to the spiritual needs of communities have also served as ideological mechanisms to help construct and legitimize inegalitarian social orders in the interests of the dominant classes. Rituals and myths as crucial constituents of an organized religion communicate and reinforce social norms and practices that are considered ‘appropriate’ or ‘desirable’ by the dominant classes. Thus, the rich repertoire of rituals in the Vedic texts constitutes an important area of investigation into the dynamics of social relations in general and gender relations in particular. This essay assesses the relative participatory status and roles of the principal actors in Vedic sacrifices, the sacrificer, his wife and the priests in the śrauta (solemn) rituals as detailed in the principal Later Vedic texts, viz., the Saṃhitās and the Brāhmaṇas. The essay argues that the ritual roles of key participants and their relations with each other within the ritual context were governed by the principle of centrality of the male and marginality of the female to the ritual. Indeed, the ritual process itself was controlled and regulated by the priests and the sacrificer so as to construct and reinforce their superior roles vis-à-vis the wife’s and thereby structure gender relations on hierarchical terms.
Cite this article:
Dipankar Das. Exploring Gender Roles in Ritual: Sacrificer, Sacrificer’s Wife and Priests in Vedic Sacrifices. Int. J. Rev. and Res. Social Sci. 2017; 5(2): 111-120 . doi: 0.5958/2454-2687.2017.00012.0