"Guilty Males and Proud Females" is the first complete study on the Bengali gajan festival dedicated to Dharmaraj, a village god in the Rarh region of Bengal. The gajan is the dramatic representation of an hierogamy - the marriage of a god and goddess - and a recreation of the life-cycle of earth. As Fabrizio Ferrari explains, one of the most fascinating aspects of the gajan is its approach to gender. The central deity of the gajan is a goddess identified with the earth. To please such a goddess, male devotees must acknowledge the pain they inflict towards the female world and become 'ritual women'. Conversely, as part of the festival, women display their generative power and provoke the jealousy of men by ritually mocking conception and delivery. The outcome of the ritual is that their suffering is acknowledged and transformed into power. Much more than an ethnography of Bengali popular religion, "Guilty Males and Proud Females" contributes to new studies on gender transformation in the Bengal region and will be of interest to scholars of South Asian religions, folklore, and gender studies.
Fabrizio Ferrari is a lecturer in the Department of Religion at the University of Chester. He is the author of Ernesto de Martino on Religion: The Crisis and the Presence and the editor of Health and Religious Rituals in South Asia: Disease, Possession and Healing, among other books.