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For the alternative Urdu-language term of the same name used to describe feminine males, see Kothi (gender).
Prince or noble visiting the zenana or women's quarters

Zenana (Persian: زنانه‎, Urdu: زنانہ‎, Hindi: ज़नाना). The literal meaning of the word zenana is "of the women" or "pertaining to women".[1] It contextually refers to the part of a house belonging to a Hindu or Muslim family in South Asia which is reserved for the women of the household.[2][3] The Zenana are the inner apartments of a house in which the women of the family live. The outer apartments for guests and men are called the Mardana.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles[edit]

Zenana has also come to be used as term for drone aircraft, particularly in the Gaza Strip. The term is both onomatopoeic[4] and relates to a slang term for a nagging wife.[5]

Zenana missions[edit]

The Zenana missions were by women missionaries, who went to Indian women in their own homes with the aim of converting them to Christianity. The Baptist Missionary Society inaugurated Zenana missions to India in the early 19th century. The concept was later taken up by other churches such as the Church of England (the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, London) and extended to other countries such as China.

By the 1880s, the "Zenana missions" added medical work to their ministry to encourage conversions and became Zenana Bible and Medical Mission. This involved recruiting female doctors, both by persuading female doctors in Europe to come to India and by encouraging Indian women to study medicine in their pursuit of conversion. They also provided schooling for girls, including the principles of the Christian faith. As a result, the Zenana missions helped break down the male bias against colonial medicine in India to a small extent.[6]

Church of England[edit]

The Church of England Zenana Mission was a British Anglican missionary society that was involved in sending missionaries to mission stations in countries such as India (19th and 20th centuries) and China (late Qing dynasty, beginning in 1884).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sharmila Rege (2003). Sociology of Gender: the challenge of feminist sociological knowledge. Sage Publications. pp. 312 ff. ISBN 978-0-7619-9704-7. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  2. ^ Weitbrecht, Mary (1875). The Women of India and Christian Work in the Zenana. James Nisbet. p. 93. Retrieved 24 November 2012. And to turn from native testimony to a missionary's sketch, we add—"Hindu ladies spend their lives in the interior of the zenana or women's apartments. Very early marriage often commits a little girl of five years to the wholly unsympathetic companionship of a man of fifty, sixty, or eighty; married life to her means little more than sorrowful submission to the tyranny of a step-mother and the amusement of a husband, who, if he be kind, treats her as a toy; and when he dies, she enters on a widowhood in which the fires, which, if British law had not forbidden it, would have consumed her with the corpse of her husband, are transmuted into the lingering woe of a social penal servitude, only to terminate with death." 
  3. ^ Khan, Mazhar-ul-Haq (1972). Purdah and Polygamy: a study in the social pathology of the Muslim society. Nashiran-e-Ilm-o-Taraqiyet. p. 68. The zenana or female portion of a Muslim house 
  4. ^ YouTube video of Palestinians describing Zenana
  5. ^ In Gaza, lives shaped by drones - Washington Post, December 03, 2011
  6. ^ Richter, Julius. A history of missions in India. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Amritsar St Catherine's Hospital. Annual Report; 1890-1907
  • Latham, Susie F. (Susanna Frances) (1902) Memories of Zenana Mission Life. London: Religious Tract Society, [1902]
    • --do.--reprinted; with a biographical foreword written by her husband, the Rev. William Latham. London: Religious Tract Society, 1921
  • Liverpool & District Auxiliary of the Baptist Zenana Mission, Report 1903-1904
  • Roy, Benoy Bhusan & Ray, Pranati (1998) Zenana Mission : the role of Christian missionaries for the education of women in 19th century Bengal. Delhi: Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge ISBN 8172144776
  • Walker, Clare de Noé (1903) Nursing Lessons prepared for the Indian Probationers of the Zenana Mission Hospital, Bangalore. London: Christian Literature Society for India