The Social Construction of Motherhood in Bengali Folklore

  • Sraboni Chatterjee University of Pennsylvania
  • Pranab Chatterjee Case Western Reserve University


Four contexts are identified in Bengali folklore where the word mā (meaning ‘mother’) is used. The first involves a situation of basic and biologically prompted kinship. The second and the third describe situations within the extended family and the community, where the use of the same word contributes to ambiguity reduction and creation of sexual boundaries. The fourth uses the word for honoring goddesses who offer protection from evil outsiders, famines, poverty, ignorance, and from snakes and diseases. The fourth context includes referring to the landmass of Bengal (before 1947) as a mā. It is then suggested that the use of the word mā is multifunctional in Bengali culture. Further, the attribution of motherhood empowers human women somewhat in a highly patriarchal society, and the storylines developed give appearances of logic in popular form.  
How to Cite
CHATTERJEE, Sraboni; CHATTERJEE, Pranab. The Social Construction of Motherhood in Bengali Folklore. Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics, [S.l.], v. 9, n. 1, p. 143-153, june 2015. ISSN 2228-0987. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 27 mar. 2023.
Notes and Reviews


Bengali folk heroines; Bengali goddesses; motherhood in Bengal