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Women Of My Family Were Kept Out Of A Wedding Because They Were Considered ‘Inauspicious’

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By Veda Nadendla:

Being Hindu is alien to me, being Brahmin is a lost cause.

This was my WhatsApp status since last night. When people kept asking me why, or what caused this, I couldn’t think of any one reason to tell them. Instead, I was bombarded with a barrage of painful memories and incidents from two days ago making me realize that there may really be no God in that idol, but there will lie a lifetime of crushed hopes and prayers just waiting to tell you, “Haha! Gotcha!

My grandmother lost her husband when my father was 17. I lost my father and my mother lost her husband to an unfortunate road accident four years ago. Four months later, my cousin lost her father and my aunt, her husband. Yesterday, this very cousin got married in a moving ceremony up in Udupi.

There was an undercurrent of tears and pride in everyone’s hearts; they missed the departed whole-heartedly and rejoiced in the new bride’s special day. During this joyous occasion, there were three ladies who were not allowed to participate in any of the ceremonies, for no fault of theirs. Not allowed by whom, you ask? Not allowed by the hundred- and thousand-year-old Hindu traditions that still rule our everyday lives as if they were proven like a theorem and written in stone.

Gaye_holud

My grandmother, my aunt and my mother are three women who suffer because of the disgraceful and backward remnants of our cultural heritage. If we inherited the seven steps around the fire and maang mein sindoor, we also inherited shunning widowed women because they are ‘inauspicious’. The question here is, who or what deems widows inauspicious and on what basis?

The woman is not allowed to participate in any of the wedding ceremonies, she is not allowed near the bride before the wedding ceremony, she is not adorned with the red and black bindis that all the muttaidulu are adorned with, she is not supposed to put jasmine flowers in her hair and worst of all, she is not allowed to give her daughter away on her wedding day; the very daughter whom she carried in her womb for nine months.

You must feel the eager bitterness seeping from my words into your thoughts, but my intention isn’t to poison. My intention is to question why we blindly do what the Hindu culture and religion blatantly demand of us. My mother is the breadwinner of my family; she single-handedly takes care of all our property and bank matters, shares and stocks, insurance and expenses. She earns enough to support my Masters program and my brother’s schooling. She is successful at her workplace, has raised my brother and me beautifully, and she is the ‘man of the house’. So why then, is she considered a pariah in the eyes of a ‘culture’ which functions on baseless dogma?

It will be correct to say I am a non-believer. This might even be a difficult read for a religious person. But I sincerely ask you: Where is it proven that a woman, whose husband has passed away in an accident, deserves to be excluded from her own daughter’s or relative’s wedding ceremonies because she may bear bad luck?

Who decided that she bears bad luck in the first place? Is it not enough that she suffers from the loss of her closest confidante and has to work doubly hard to maintain a similar standard of living? I do not complain about white sarees and shaved heads because those are perishing traditions, and I am happy to see that. Then why is it that this unfortunate discrimination still exists? Why is it that men who face widowhood are not compelled to follow similar dogma as women? Shall we call it patriarchy or karma? Or shall we just say that our Hindu religion is biased toward men?

My mother and I are still fortunate that she is a working woman and she has been successful in providing a comfortable living to my brother and me. What about those women who are housewives and are suddenly thrust into a world without their husbands, to fend for themselves and their children? Did anyone ever think how much these negative stereotypes might affect their emotional strength and mental health? We don’t even realize how much the word ‘widow’ must hurt them, and we go on referring to them as widows.

I don’t write this article to seek answers really. I write it to make change. One day, in the coming years, I too will get married, and when I do, my mother will be sitting next to my future husband and me on the peeth, and she will be the one to give me away. When I said this to my mom, she said no pandit will agree to such a ceremony. That would be a shame, because he would be lucky to witness such a wedding where you can just hear the melodious sound of baseless tradition breaking.

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  1. Suraj

    And yet, rather than accepting that traditional practices need to be changed or completely abandoned, there are people who keep defending them in the name of losing our “cultural heritage”.

    Be ready for some verbal bombardment from those Hindu fanatics who’ll accuse you of being anti-Hindu or at the very least – a Muslim.

    Keep it up, and good luck.

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Thank you! I’m looking forward to it. 🙂 More importantly, i’m happy that I was able to express this and let this reach more people that it normally would, Youth Ki Awaaz has been a boon.

  2. Damien Hanet

    Your mother has to be with you. And you are right to be intransigent about it. It is a big step in your life and you should be surrounded by the people you love and that love you, and trough your text we can see/feel a lot of love for your mother and your mother’s love for you and your brother.
    May I ask, is it the same for divorcees? Or is that tradition just for widows?

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Thank you Damien. The tradition of not involving in religious ceremonies stands only for women who have lost their husbands. Divorcees don’t have such a rule or any such restrictions. They are still pious in some un-understandable form. As far as widows go, apparently they are inauspicious and have bad luck so they should avoid participating in wedding ceremonies and other auspicious Hindu ceremonies like Varalakshmi Vrath so that they don’t pass along the bad luck. But really, then I should avoid participating in ceremonies too because I’ve been in a serious road accident and am inevitably the bearer of bad luck.

    2. Damien Hanet

      Please don’t attend your on wedding then :p
      I am also considered unlucky since I was born on a Friday the 13th and I am left handed. Thank god superstition is laughed at in my country but there are still some people who think that I am the son of the Devil (left handed add to that my name Damien which is Satan son {practical joke from my mum maybe}) and that I will bring them plain bad luck.

  3. som

    Not true altogether. Suppose Sonia Gandhi wants to attend some marriage, who will prohibit her? Same goes for the widows from upper class of the society. You can’t discriminate by looks who is widow nowadays. In my family there is no such custom, no one objected while my grandma attended my sister’s marriage.
    It’s all in our minds. May be in villages it may be a case. Not in educated society. I am form Kolkata by the way, the society is more liberated there for example inter caste marriages, less cases of dowry etc.

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Thank you Som. The question is not about attending the wedding, the question is about being at the wedding and not being able to, rather, NOT BEING ALLOWED to participate in any of the ceremonies. Its all talked about in the article. And then if you ask me, why they didn’t just do it anyway and that women should do what they want, unfortunately they get ostracized and talked about in an ill manner. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, right?
      It probably isn’t the case in your family, in fact I am so glad that it isn’t the case. Yet, my family is definitely upper middle class with a lot of them being Non Residential Indians. I don’t think this is in anyway related to class or appearance. Also, inter caste marriages are becoming a more accepted practice all across our country, so if we can accept that, why can’t we stop treating these women in such meaningless and unacceptable ways?

    2. srijan

      I attended a non typical inter cas’re marriage in chowranghee in kolkata, alas! The married women were not allowed to be the part of it.. To say tht patriarchy or misogyny is less in one part of this country and more in some other areas…I guess this guy is yet to see the real deal. Fact is the erstwhile state of a.p and wb show more crime against women than any other part of the country. (percentage of population wise)
      I think I just agree with this article and many others tht brings about the evil of inequality or sexes meted out just because of a prevailing ritual or some such…in fact while reading it piece the only thing I disagreed upon was u subconsciously agreed to this Idea of a daughter given away. Hey you are a human being and not a commodity to be given away, if for example in
      marriage, the priest asks the bride to be given to me by her parent as part of the ritual, I intend to ask my parent to give my hand away to the bride. Simply cos seemingly tht would be appropriate. Anyway.

  4. Monistaf

    Veda, I applaud you for writing such a powerful article on baseless injustices that we, as a society seem to be obliged to preserve without question. The problem with religion is that it cannot adapt to change and, just based on experience, we all know, but find it hard to acknowledge, the universal truth that change is the only constant in life. Given enough time, everything will change. So, to have a set of traditions / beliefs that cannot be subject to change, challenges the universal truth and becomes irrelevant over time. India is a secular country and I personally believe that the most important freedom the constitution gives us is not the freedom of religion but freedom FROM religion. We must all rise against blatant injustices propagated in the name of religious traditions including the abhorring practice of untouchability and any other forms of classification of people other than their own individual merits.

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Thank you 🙂

  5. saun

    Irrespective of anything whether widowed or not one can participate in a marriage.if widowed women are held responsible for their husbands death then if mothers die during delivery of child the child should be shunned away from everything .but this cant be done n one will not do this.similarly a wife cannot be just held like that responsible for a husband’s death.

  6. MANU SINGH

    I can’t believe this, i thought these things were of past and would have perished with the time. These things r biased against women, i don’t understand what women has to do with her Husband accidental death and y it’s considered to be a bad omen for her to sit next to bride. I remember a Hindi movie WATER, which has shown one these type of absurd ritual. It is good to see that u want ur mother sitting next to ur future-husband and u at ur marriage ceremony. Excellent write up.

    1. Veda Nadendla

      I remember Water. It was a brilliantly made movie, adapted from the Novel Water by Bapsi Sidhwa. Beautiful book. Moved me to tears everytime I read it. Thank you 🙂

  7. Prashant Kaushik

    Is democracy a Hindu achievement ? No, it is an achievement of Indians !
    Is secularism and pluralism, a gift of Hinduism ? No, it is an achievement of Indians !
    Were ancient scientific inventions a gift of Hinduism ? No, it were of entire Indians !

    Were superstitions a neglect of Indians ? No, they were a misconstruct of Hindus.
    Was patriarchy a feature of Indian society ? No, it was a Hindu thing.
    Was classes/castes a feature of Indian society ? No, it was a Hindu thing.

    This is what I hate and what I call a slave hypocrisy.

    And this it what the writer of this article and all it’s applauders suffer from.

    When something good happens in country, associate the word ‘Indian’ with it.
    When something evil happens, PRE-FIX Hindu before it.

    The problem raised by this writer is genuine but there is nothing Hindu about it.
    It is born out of illiteracy, ignorance, corruption, deviation, fear …
    NO SCRIPTURE PRESCRIBES abhorrence of Widows. Those who do have misread Hinduism.

    Now, to elucidate, let me make an example –

    Country is plagued by a number of terrorist incidents whose perpetrators as well as parent organisations such as Al-Qaida, ISIS, Let, JeM, call themselves Saviors of Islam. So will you, going by same false logic as of this article, say that TERRORISM is a Muslim tradition ?
    or will you say that CAPITALISM and IMPERIALISM is a CHRISTIAN Tradition ?

    Any sane person will make sure to disassociate Islam from terrorism, and Christianity from Imperialism. Than why on earth you go on screaming HINDU –
    HINDU every time you have to decry a stupid superstition ?

    As I said, this is why I hate this article. It is a near perfect example of double hypocrisy displaying escapist tendencies of a person.

    1. Rohit

      Prashant, all this is still considered part of hindu culture and tradition, excuses given for enforcing them are the same: “It is our hindu culture or tradition.” So what are you talking about? It was great forward thinking people like Raja Ram Mohan roy who stood up and eradicated several evils of hindu culture like Sati. Yes it was part of our culture then. Not anymore, coz people accepted that it had no place.
      this is not a conversation about Hindus/ muslims or chiristians, but about bettering our own society.

    2. Malvika

      but it IS hindu culture.

  8. Sharma

    This is a good article, however, I feel it attacks the wrong part of our society. I’m not raising any fingers at your family, but I think the problem is with the thoughts of certain individuals. While this was definitely something that was prominent in the years past, it’s something that people have moved on from. The scriptures and our religion says nothing to cause Widowed women to be shunned this way, it’s a state of mind. While your family might be from an upper-middle class, it has more to do with the conservative state of mind of your family. And I’m not attacking your family because this is something that my Paternal side of the family also struggles from.
    We need to fight against this backward thinking rather than attacking our religion without knowing the roots behind it. A lot of these things that we now call tradition came about because of the situations in the past. For example when we actually carry dead bodies from the house to where it will be lit, we first touch the front end to the ground and then the back end. The reason we do this is not because of some tradition but because it’s been going on since the past. In the older times they had to go long distances to carry the body, and would rest for a while in between. Slowly, everyone started doing it thinking it was tradition. It’s the same thing with this.
    It’s not a Hindu Tradition, but a conservative state of mind. Sorry for the rambling.

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Your rambling is completely accepted and understood. I do disagree on one front, these traditions have come down the ages from the Hindu culture. It is seen how women who lost their husbands were treated way back when. I agree that most of the heinous treatments has slowly been on decline.

      More importantly, these traditions that were passed along the centuries need not necessarily be followed by everyone, and yet we do, without knowing why we follow them and without considering the repercussions of such actions. I too do not blame my family. What I do feel back about is that there are still lots and lots of people out there who hold this sort of a notion in their minds and often convert it into action.

      This article is not targeted at anyone in specific. It is here because practices like the ones I mentioned still exist as an avid part of Hindu culture and Hindu tradition, in that they may not be said out loud or written down and read. But these are practices which are so imbibed in us that it is understood the day a woman loses her husband what she has coming her way for the rest of her life. I say Hindu culture not because I am anti religious or seek to attack those who are. I am simply a person who has suffered at the Hands of this very culture that I have known and held to my heart all my life. It is appalling, that’s all.

  9. Neelu

    Hi veda,

    Good to know your thoughts on this issue. but you would have made a big difference to include all those 3 ladies from your family in the marriage you attended. I know it might be very difficult and you may have to face lot of protest from your family members but you could have make your point clear to all of them, that there is no bad luck its all our false assumptions.

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Hi there Neelu,

      I tried. I did. My mum would get up to come participate and then some other lady would ask her to sit down or to be careful because she shouldn’t upset the elders. It’s actually easier said than done. Which is why, one day when I get married, I’ll do exactly what I want.

    2. mou

      hi veda
      I know how hard to see your mom to be a widow and bringing up your views socialy coz even if we want to raise our voice against our indian society n ritual despite of the fact we know our rituals are wrong we are made dumb by lot of pressure,in my in-laws place a widows are treated in much more worst way for eg – she cant eat what ever wants even she cant eat in the same table with other family members and here anyways a mother cant see her son’s or her daughter’s marriage what I have seen people take the platform of religion to torture women. finally I wanna say its great to find a girl like you who is not afraid that she will be outcast from her society.

  10. Mridula

    Hi Veda!
    It is always great to see when someone stands up against any sort of injustice – no matter what form it is in. Already, a lot has been said about your article and I just hope that during the next wedding ceremonies in your family, you are able to achieve all that you want.
    Here, I would just like to point out to a part of a line you’ve written – “..she is the man of the house..” you say.
    Why does she need to be the MAN of the house to do all that she’s doing. I’m sure it was written just to express the fact that your mother has done no less than any other parent. However, I’m using this example just to show how these little expressions that we so commonly use are in fact manifestations of the patriarchal society that we unfortunately live in.

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Thank you Mridula for pointing out the very statement that so many times bothered me when i was writing this article. Infact, many a times i considered scrapping it but i was just not able to because that statement really actually means something. Despite being a working woman for nearly 20 years my mum was not used to handling all household finances and other affairs that my father used to. Patriarchy aside, fact of the matter is that there are fewer women equally participating in the activities i have mentioned in my article along with their husbands. They are less aware of the financial expenditures, investments, bank works, property etc et al. Calling my mum the man of the house is purely a term that allowed me to describe her in the sense of her responsibilities.
      Although, i do agree with you about how this may seem heavy with patriarchy if used in a loose context.

    2. Malvika

      true true!

  11. AgniR

    Well, you have brought up some important points, but I fail to see how Hindu culture is at fault here?

    One, Hindu culture and traditions are not homogeneous, which means that even if your family follows this particular practice of ‘widow shunning’, other Hindus are not doing it.

    I have read your comment where you have justified your attack on Hindu culture as these practices and thoughts being imbibed in the psyche of the people, then pray tell me why is not the case in other families?

    It is unfortunate that your family discriminates against women and widows, but why should a progressive Hindu like be brought to shame because of the actions of ‘one particular family’?

    Second, your choice of being a non-believer is your own, but pray tell us exactly what you disbelieve in: the Hindu culture, Hindu(ism) Dharma, or the society?

    Considering, that the above can in no way attributed the culture of the Hindus as a whole, but a minority, should not you be disillusioned with people and not the Hindu culture per say?

    Besides, what is culture, but an accepted unspoken code that is accepted by the people in a society, and which is why it is forever changing, either regressing or progressing.

    As far as I see, that people (or Hindus) have progressed and given up superstitious and discriminatory practices more or less, or are in the process, then why should the members of your family still believe in such ill-founded ideas.

    Lately, we have been hearing about of lot of women who have started to question the temple restrictions, and have not just stopped at questioning but reforming and correcting others around them.

    So what stops you and your family? Surely not the Hindu culture. Please do not blame your own family’s unwillingness to change on Hindus and their culture. They are your own shortcomings and nobody else.

    Also, if you understand all that I am trying to tell you, then I would wish you to go a step further and provide with something interesting, if you haven’t read about it before.

    In the last part of the paragraph you say, “One day, in the coming years I too will get married, and when I do, my mother will be sitting next to my future-husband and me on the peeth and she will be the one to give me away.”

    Why do you say that you mother should ‘give’ you away, and I believe that neither of us thinks that you are anybody to be given away. For that matter in Ancient India there were four to five ways of getting married, but of all of those the modern one is the only one we are now left with.

    I personally feel that it is now time that we must write down the rituals again and make them gender neutral, and I also know that we have enough material in the scriptures and all we need is to dig in and come with the right ‘shlokas’.

    So instead of complaining, challenge ideas! Make people see around you that reformation is possible and it must be done. If you present yourself logically and are forceful enough, people are bound to listen to you.

    Giving up culture is easy, it is reforming it which is difficult.

    Best with your future. 🙂

    1. Malvika

      i think she is challenging ideas only. this article is her way of doing it.

  12. Smriti Kaur

    Okay!! Its indeed a good piece but I fail to understand that why perishing acts like shaving a woman head or compelling her to wear is okay with you or worse you are happy to see them. May be I failed to smell sarcasm or do you actually mean it?? Kindly elucidate..

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Hi Smriti,

      What I’ve written says that I am happy to see that these traditions are perishing, by these traditions I indicate the white saree and shaving of heads. There is no sarcasm. I am merely happy to see these traditions perishing. Not just me, noone would be happy about the existence of such traditions which are clearly an infringement on the rights of a person.

  13. Jasz

    Hi Ma’m. Response for your article is mixed as I can see. But I can sense the feeling of Hurt-ness and helplessness here. True your experience was bad. But good to know that your are using your own mind and knowledge to live your life further. In our country people are forced not to live their own life. There are always hell lot of expectations. Hence a sense of control is in “other’s” hands. Consequently there will be imposing of traditions , customs, rules, rituals etc which are really manipulated with time. The name remains the same under which these are imposed that is religion. Some are making profits from these acts. And some are blindly following their fears.
    Don’t want to point out your mistakes here. Just want to give you a sense of motivation that I understand these diseases in society and you have the courage to fight with these.

    Thanks!! All the luck 🙂

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Hi Jasz!

      I am glad you have expressed what you feel about the article. Thank you for the luck 🙂

  14. Aditya Malpani

    Its painful to be a part of such absurd and morally unjustified thing and its a shame that someone practices that. That may be tradition around you but it cannot be termed as Hindu tradition as a whole. The traditions and cultures vary along the length and breadth of this nation. What may happen with your family may not happen with some other Hindu family.

    And nowhere in certain Vedas and Bhagwad Gita have I found a text for such injustice. Neither have I seen such cases even in my village which is a quite backward place.

    I would personally suggest you that please abhor from making generalized statements and please continue to bring such injustices into light.

  15. mythbuster

    You doesn’t complain about white sarees and shaved heads because they are perishing traditions. Well, this too is a perishing tradition. Just last month, a family friend, who is a widow, was present at the wedding of her daughter, at Brahmavar, which happens to be in the same district as Udupi. So, just because your family is too orthodox, do not assume that this happens everywhere.

    1. Malvika

      just because your family is not orthodox.. don’t assume it happens nowhere.

    2. mythbuster

      Just because it doesn’t happen everywhere, it means it is ‘perishing’. Then why complain about this perishing act when she choses to ignore other perishing acts?

  16. Notimportant

    Well,

    You are thinking in right direction but with biased viewpoint. I am Hindu and come from very orthodox family. But still 10 years back when my aunt (father’s sister) got widow, our family tried best to keep her spirit high. She was allowed to do what she liked. She went to weddings where she wanted to. And within 3 years she was remarried as per her wish and her choice of guy (It was more of a love marriage and family agreed happily). So again we come from same religion but still different views due to cultural differences. So, I respect your view point, but I reject your premise, that it is something related to religion. There are sets of rules that can be followed or rejected as per society. And in such a heterogeneous country each part of country has different set of rules.

    Also, my great grandmother is 96 years old and widow for last 45 years. She is very religious and spends 2 hour daily in the morning chanting different prayers and mantras. So according to your premise being religious she must not attend weddings. But, despite all this, she is life of every wedding in our extended family. She is invited first and every decision is taken after her consent. This is happening since 70ies and 80ies and not a new trend.

    I am in mid 20ies and I am liberal, living in a metro city, entrepreneur and travelling around world, but i do not agree to some of articles presented here that trash religion for everything. It has become very common these days to simply criticize religion for everything. I would say it is the culture and society that should be trashed and they are different for different people.

  17. Mohonish

    I can very much relate with you. Thank you for writing this article.
    I’m going to make my entire family read it.

  18. Malvika

    hindu culture sucks in many ways:
    – periods means you cant go to temple
    – only men go to funerals
    – widows are treated as outcasts
    – all the patidev hierarchy shit is a reason for marital rape
    – going to husband’s home on marrying strips woman of identity
    – inheritance laws make women economically weak and never brought up or educated to handle business anyway.

    muslim burka .. and covering yourself up .. mega shit
    mass killing of goats on eid – cruel

    i guess salman khan has got it right at least in his branding.. you gotta concentrate on just ‘Being Human’. itna hi kar lo.. bahut hai.

    1. Nanu

      – periods means you cant go to temple…ask those women who made such thing. argue with ur mom. Earlier hygiene was reason due to non-existence of pads..today yours and mother’s mentality.
      – only men go to funerals..only women have lady’s sangeet in wedding
      – widows are treated as outcasts..married women not widow part of the society who made such tradition in your city
      – all the patidev hierarchy shit is a reason for marital rape..read 354 and 376..consensual sex is also considered as rape if women files complaint with police that she thought the man will marry her..and here you go!! the man spends months and may be years in jail for sex that was CONSENSUAL. 354 and 376 are first JAIL and no BAIL laws. 75% cases of rape in India are false. 98% of 498a is false out of which 85% of domestic violence cases are bogus (read 2 July SC judgement).
      – going to husband’s home on marrying strips woman of identity..hahaha..that was cool. A woman who is taken care by parents whole life before marriage will now be financed by husband during marriage and on divorce she claims half of his property. Look!! who’s talking
      – inheritance laws make women economically weak and never brought up or educated to handle business anyway. A woman has right to property in father’s property and also in husband’s and new IrBM will give her right to property of even of parent’s-in-law. Dont know where you live but in a yr 200,000 cases under 498a, 125(maintainance) are filed.

  19. Premanandamallya

    Just because you are born in Hindu community you have the right to comment on all that is being followed for thousands of years.First of all understand the marriage ceremony step by step and ask the Pandit(if knowledgeable) what exactly marriage means.If you go through correctly every body in the family has a role prescribed. If you are talking about kanya daan kanya is considered Lakshmi and bridegroom Narayan.First try to understand (study)rituals.Nobody forces you to do anything against your conscience. Have you studied marriages of other religions.Nowadays it is fashion to go against rituals and comment on Hinduism. You are
    right and all your ancestors are wrong and less knowledgeable than you isnt it?

    1. Harsh

      I still don’t understand how do you justify stopping widows from attending the wedding. You have still not answered one of the main points highlighted by the author.

    2. tej

      I see you are much more knowledgeable in this issue. Can you please elucidate your knowledge with us here ?

    3. Raji

      Hi Veda, I came across this article today.. Let me know if you got married , and if yes if it was hindu traditional one. Share your experience if you could make your mom as the centre of your family in the event.

  20. Ketan Dand

    Dear Veda,

    Well written. Yes there are a lot of these customs we need to remove from society. Also I have never come across any such incident of a widow not being allowed in any marriage. My cousin sisters cremated their mom when she passed away. All these discriminatory traditions are not mentioned in any scripture. But yes these are practiced and people need to read the scriptures and find out the truth that women and transgenders have the same rights as men in our culture. No one reads the scriptures and simply follows the priests blindly. I believe totally and completely in God and do as my heart says. And also by the way, the word Hindu was given by the Greek and Moslem invaders. I simply call myself Bharatiya because I feel that’s who we are. Just a note, that’s all.

  21. Nanu

    One thing is clear that you explain atrocities on women without blaming them at all. You collected whole sympathy for widows without pointing out that those people who stop widows to participate in such cerimonies are also women. All traditions are mostly taken care by women during wedding functions. So it is really heart breakening how come women made tradition against other women?
    Sorry for your loss. But this is international standard. Widow is considered as widow and not married or single. This is common in west for taxation purposes. Try to change the tradition in your city/state. Although I dont think that there are many states in India left where such tradition still exist.

  22. Chevin

    Veda, applaud to you!

  23. Teekay

    I am glad I found this article. I lost my father a couple years ago and fast forward to now, my boyfriend and I are thinking about getting married within the next two years. I am a Tamil Brahmin which means that at the time of my boyfriend tying the knot on my neck, I would have to sit on my father’s lap. My plan is to have my mother do everything my father should be doing because why not! They are both my parents and just because I lost one doesn’t mean I would have to think of a substitute for the rituals when I still have my other parent! I can imagine how that conversation could go with a lot of my family members but I don’t care, I will get married only if my mother is allowed to do the exact same things my father would be asked to do.

    Was trying to search the net to see if a ‘unique’ TamBrahm wedding of that sort has ever happened, no luck so far. Thanks for writing this though, makes me feel so much better to know that there are others with the same thought process as mine. Bless you and the other strong women in your family.

  24. Sneha Rao

    I liked your post on our orthodox customs relating to widows.We women should stand by other women .Though it is male dominated society with bias views towards women,often it is women themselves who let down other women.Sometimes a mother herself under pressure of family and so called customs doesn’t support her own daughter whom she nurtured in her womb and there after.We take equal pains in bringing up both a son and a daughter,but as a mother we sometimes behave indifferent towards a daughter.When a widower can remarry ,why not a widow,when a widower is allowed to participate in so called auspicious functions ,why not a widow.Lord Krishna ,our father,creator has never differentiated who are we, as mortal souls to differentiate.It pains to hear and read the words of a woman who has lost her better half.we women should be united in progressive thinking,change should come first on family front ,then society.You r right ,a woman needs her dear and near ones most during her darkest moments of life,but it is sad that her own family from whom she has lots of emotional expectations shun her.

  25. K.P.Harshith Acharya

    Yes veda ji. i am facing the same problem. Though i am a boy i am not able to make my mother perform rituals for my marriage because of these bloody idiotic people who think it as apashakuna.
    My marriage is also getting broken of these narrow minded idiots.
    What the bloody society we are living in.

  26. Lion Sahoo

    Yes , but not all the case is applicable. The Sankara Acharya of kanchi says one of his book says that ” We must help and donate the CHASTE window, Who has controlled her all material desire and senses ” ,it will bring fortunes to our house .because Chaste Windows are like Paraskti -internal energy of Goddess Durga .

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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