Centre for Development Practice and Research, Patna

TISS Patna Centre - Fourth Hetukar Jha Memorial Lecture


Date and time: March 5, 2022 3:00PM - 4:30PM

Venue: Online

This is a lecture series instituted in memory of renowned sociologist, Prof. Hetukar Jha

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Fourth Hetukar Jha Memorial Lecture

Mythical Love and Conjugality in Everyday Life: Gender and Politics in India

Parul Bhandari

 Everyday lexicons of love and marriage often take support from figures of Radha and Sita, as the unfailing lover and the devoted wife. Radha is revered, especially by those opting for ‘love’ marriage but also feared for she challenges set expectations of household, family, and marriage, while Sita appears as a powerful figure, especially appealing to political narratives of contemporary times, as she epitomises sacrifice and duty, for the sake of the family. Indian mythology is beset with not simply these two figures but many figures as Uloopi, Chitrangada, and other tales of love, desire, marriage, adultery, sacrifice, and revenge. Yet, these are often overlooked in an attempt to present a simplified, standardised, heteronormative understanding of love, desire and marriage in India as well as to further a nationalistic project where ‘sanitised’ versions of conjugality and intimacies prevail. In this paper, I present an account of why some mythological figures have been powerfully translated to fit contemporary times, that is, what is their essence that makes them appealing to contemporary political and social times. I also discuss resistances to these accounts through personal narratives of the urban youth, the LGBTQ movement in India, and media (including documentaries as ‘Sita Sings her Blues’). In so doing, I bring attention to the dialectics between mythical tales and their real-time appropriations. I conclude by tracing the social and political inspirations that guide a ‘real-time’ use of these narratives, thus explaining that Indian mythologies are far from homogeneous. 

About the Speaker

Parul Bhandari is a sociologist, specialising in the study of marriage, family, intimacies, modernity, and gender and class inequalities in contemporary India. She is the Book Reviews Editor at Contributions to Indian Sociology and an Honorary Fellow of the Centre for Multilevel Federalism, Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi. Most recently, she was a Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute of Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin. Prior to this, she was an Associate Professor of Sociology at O.P. Jindal Global University. 

She did her MPhil and PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK. She has held Post-doctoral Fellowship at the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities (CSH), New Delhi and was a Visiting Scholar at St. Edmund’s College and the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, UK. She has held Guest/Adjunct Faculty positions at the IIT, Delhi, and the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics (DSE), University of Delhi.

She has authored 3 books: Matchmaking in Middle Class India: Beyond Arranged and Love Marriage (Springer, 2020); Money, Culture, Class: Elite Women as Modern Subjects, (Routledge, London 2019); and Exploring Indian Modernities: Ideas and Practices (co-edited) (Springer, 2018). Besides, she has widely published in journals and edited volumes. She occasionally writes for popular outlets including Scroll.in, ThePrint, The Indian Express, and The Tribune. Her publications can be accessed at: https://parulbhandari.academia.edu/.

A Tribute to Prof. Hetukar Jha

Hetukar Jha (1944-2017) was an indefatigable academic and educationist. His achievements as a sociologist and his efforts in developing the field of historical sociology are well known in academia and much appreciated. Jha who retired as Professor from Patna University was a prolific writer. Some of his notable works are Social Structures and Alignments: A Study of Rural Bihar (1985), Social Structures of Indian villages: A Study of Rural Bihar (1991), Historical Sociology in India (2015), etc. along with several journal articles. As a passionate and rigorous collector of historical documents and a builder of archives, Jha acquires even more significance and his contributions invaluable and unparalleled. His knowledge of documents on Bihar and its villages was surpassed by none. At the time of his demise, he had collected a large number of documents, which included village notes relating to 6000 villages in Bihar. He was engaged in writing a social history of villages in colonial Bihar and collected documents covering the entire period from 1894 to 1916. It is a task that needs to be taken up from where he left.

Hetukar Jha’s association with the Centre for Development Practice and Research, Patna began since its inception in 2016. He was part of the senior group of academics who provided valuable inputs to scholars at the Centre on their respective research projects. Despite his failing health, Jha agreed to deliver the inaugural lecture at the First Orientation Programme on migration organised by the Centre in 2016-17.

As a mark of respect for Jha, the Centre has instituted a memorial lecture in his name. The past memorial lectures were delivered by Prof. Ratneshwar Mishra, Prof. Savyasaachi and Prof. Roma Chatterji. Full text of previous lectures may be downloaded from the Centre’s webpage. The Centre is also bringing out a commemorative volume expected to be published by the end of this year. 

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