Can women be priests? If the word priest means ritually authoritative, the answer from the early Indian world is resolutely "yes." I want to begin by stating straightforwardly that in various periods of Indian history women have acted in ritually authoritative ways. And in my own experience of contemporary Maharashtra, while male priesthood might remain a cultural norm, one can find exceptions everywhere. While Vasudha Narayanan has written about most of these practices elsewhere on this issue, I would add that today in Maharashtra, women are training in large numbers to be ritual specialists, even purohits, because of the shortage of men. Moreover, it is reported that they are trusted more than the men to charge reasonable fees and to show up when needed.

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