I love my religion and my race. Nothing on earth could possess me to want to change being an Indian or a Hindu. I feel blessed for the language I speak is so complex yet so beautiful, for my dark skin, for my beautiful temples and artforms.
But when someone tells me that rites are rites and they are meant to be followed because they have some symbolism, I get very irked. Not that I feel that rites are not meant to be followed, but the issue of contention here was one example of a rite that has outlived its true value in today’s society. I felt very disturbed as much as I love my rich heritage, humanity is of paramount concern to me and if you asked me to protect one of the two; its the rights of a human and the happiness of that person I would choose to protect. So let me put this to you my beloved readers to decide. Do you think that the following issue is one we as Indians and Hindus should continue to protect and allow to be part of our culture. Many of you might debate that this is no longer an issue because of the era we are in, firstly this is NOT about whether the issue is still relevant but more so about whether it should be allowed to happen. Secondly, I will beg to differ as I know of many women who have had to endure the pains mentioned below.
Vidva refers to the phase in a woman’s life when she very unfortunately becomes a widow. Indeed, we have passed the times of Sati (which is the burning of a widow along with her husband to denote that her life ends when his does). But the rites are still as painful for a Hindu woman undergoing this ordeal. In my opinion, its bad enough having lost your significant other, but to have to be forcefully reminded of these things is simply inhumane.
What are these painful rites I am talking about? The widow is dressed in her bridal wear that she wore on the day of her wedding. Other women would then rub the red kungkumam powder off her forehead, break her bangles and remove the jasmine flowers off her hair. If I am not wrong, she is also made to remove her thaali and throw it into milk (really cannot remember if this is true because I learnt about it a very long time ago).
Indeed, these rites do have a much more humane aim; which is to remind a woman that she is now a widow and to allow her to face reality much faster. Unfortunately I don’t think I am being critical when I say that these rites fail terribly. If at all, the woman is traumatised by this entire ordeal and never manages to fully recover from this. People don’t come to terms with death just through a terribly graphic rite like this, it takes time and healing of wounds before they can embrace the past.
And on a sidenote, I cannot understand why anyone would insist for a widow to go through these rites. But here’s the deal. It is often the other WOMEN who insist a woman undergoes these rites. How sad is that since you would expect one woman to understand another woman the best but why would they insist she inflicts such pain upon herself?
Similarly a widow is no longer allowed to dress in colors or allowed to participate in auspicious events. This makes absolutely no sense to me because last I remembered, this was a matter of heart and if you truly wish well for the people involved in these functions; you could never be inauspicious. And when on earth was your happiness solely dependent on your marital status? If anyone was to be inauspicious at such events, it would be all those gossipy aunties who are there just to see how much gold you have on or whether its a shotgun wedding.
So tell me now people, why do we still have such undesirable aspects in our society. How fair is this to the women or in fact to any married woman? My friend told me that this is only unfair because there aren’t similar rites for men. I disagree because this isn’t a matter of equal rights – no, this is about humanity. I would have reacted the same way if there were such rites for men too but there aren’t. Lets not look at issues of conflict, patriarchy and inequality though we all know they are deeply embedded within such practices. For a start, lets just have a scratch off the surface – humanity and compassion for a person who just lost a loved one.God didn’t preach or demand such practices to be in existence. These are SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS – determined by society and people at the top to dominate people at the bottom.
And to end on a lighthearted note – here’s an ad that pokes fun of the entire thing.