Female Renouncers in India: A Neglected Chapter in the History of Indian Religions
This paper is a panoramic survey of a millennia-long tradition of asceticism and monasticism in the Indian subcontinent. The main ascetic traditions of India are overviewed, with a particular focus given to female renouncers. Their doctrinal premises and religious practices are discussed within a historical framework, and major emerging themes are identified. Since this paper forms part of a research project investigating the lives of Catholic female missionaries in India in the twentieth century, it concludes with the identification of significant overlaps between female renunciation in the Indic and Christian traditions, and engages in some reflections on the encounter between the two discourses.
KEY WORDS: Indian asceticism, female renouncers in India, nuns in Indian religions