contested meanings: tantra and the poetics of Mithila art



The art of the women of Mithila, known as Mithila or Madhubani art, has attracted a good deal of international interest as a folk art medium and a good deal of disagreement concerning interpretation. In this article I question those interpretations that view the art as tantric because they have been elicited from conversations among a few Brahman men with Western scholars predisposed to find tantric meanings. Using women's commentaries, contextual ritual analysis, and trope theory, I develop an analysis in which I see the art as reflexive—an iconic tradition of women's understanding of selfhood in patriarchal society. [art, India, Mithila art, women, tantra, ritual, trope theory]