Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Steven M. Vose

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Christine E. Gudorf

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Albert Wuaku

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Ethnographic study, Terapanthi Female Mumukshus

Date of Defense



This thesis explores the challenges that Shvetambar Terapanthi Jain female mumukshus (religious aspirants) face during their training at the Parmarthik Shikshan Sanstha, an institute unique to this sect dedicated to training young females to become nuns. The educational requirements, secluded social environment, disciplined rules, and monastic hierarchies train aspirants to understand the demands of nunhood. Based on interviews and observations, aspirants express their struggle to balance the personal desire to progress spiritually toward liberation (moksha) that motivated them to renounce with the requirement to raise their juniors as part of the ascetic community, a new kind of familial structure. The disparity in the training of female and male renouncers in the Terapanth reveals problems that remain in the gendered way female renouncers are treated in their training. Renunciation is shown not to be gender neutral, leading to a more nuanced understanding of Jain asceticism in contemporary India.





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