There is a danger that attempts to interpret an 'Indian' experience from these sources will over-simplify and universalize the experience of women. Women did not have a singular, universal experience of life. The experience of prostitutes (with their greater financial independence) was not the same as that of house wives (who exchanged independence for social respectability) or of nuns. It varied with their wealth, their education, between rural and urban environments. And so their experience of art, and the ways in which they were affected by artistic stereotypes of women must have varied. For example, Sanchi and Bharhut may have helped shape the minds of the richer urban patroness for whom it was a regular part of their life, but may rural, Hindu women of low income probably went their entire lives without visiting a site like that. Their experience through smaller, locally produced terracottas will have been very different. Whatever the experience, it will have mattered very much because for all these women art shaped the ideas of beauty, ideas which constituted an important part of what it was to be female in ancient India.


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