Date of Graduation

Fall 2010


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

John Llewellyn


Autonomy, power and prestige, bhakti movement, Karaikkal Ammaiyar, manipulation and subversion of patriarchal systems, femininity and religiosity

Subject Categories



The goal of this thesis is to show, through the figure of the female bhakti saint and poetess, Karaikkal Ammaiyar, how the feminine was able to gain autonomy, power, and prestige in the medieval bhakti movement in India. Karaikkal Ammaiyar's life and work is explored through her poetry and imagery, through her connections with the god Shiva and the dark goddesses, and through related historical and legendary figures of the feminine in Indian history. Karaikkal Ammaiyar, arguably the first female saint and poetess of the bhakti movement, implemented various techniques and advocated certain practices that manipulated and ultimately subverted the patriarchal systems of her day. In so doing, she was able to attain a heightened status of autonomy, power, and prestige as a female leader within the bhakti movement.


© Meghan A. Faries

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