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For the alternative use of this word in the Urdu-language to describe effeminate 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. Conceptually in those that practise purdah it is the South Asian equivalent of the harem.

Christian missionaries were able to gain access to the zenanas through the zenana missions; female missionaries who had been trained as doctors and nurses were able to provide these women with health care and also evangelise them in their own homes.


  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 

External links[edit]

The dictionary definition of zenana at Wiktionary