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A Bizarre Celebration Of ‘Real Men’ At A ‘Sacred Thread Ceremony’ In My Family

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By Anurag Chaudhary:

There is this giant courtyard in my village where many families have lived for more than 200 years, together, in their separate rooms. My paternal lineage also started in one of those tiny, congested rooms.

thread ceremony
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The courtyard was beaming with beauty that afternoon. The ground was mopped with fresh cow muck and marigold garlands were nicely wrapped over the bamboo pillars of the mandap (pavilion) which was standing right in the centre of the courtyard. Inside the mandap, five of my distant young cousins (whom I had perhaps never seen before) were being indoctrinated by their father and a group of pundits. It was their ‘Upanayan Sanskar’- the thread ceremony. It is a very sacred ritual here, which many Hindu boys must go through. The father or the guardian confers the sacraments of his family and the society onto his boy child. (I could never understand why a girl never went through a thread ceremony.)

A thread ceremony is considered to be the ‘second birth’ for a Brahmin child and he is called a ‘Dwija’ (born twice) after this day; he is not only born in flesh and bone but also in intellect from now on. Anyways, so inside the courtyard, this beautiful, sacred, age old ritual was taking place. Other than the father of the children who were being threaded and the pundits, only ladies were allowed there. My grandmother told me to go out as well, with the ‘men’.

So there I was, sitting beneath the giant tarpaulin on the outer verandah. Around 100 plastic chairs were set up and all the men, from the age of 5 to 85 had gathered there.

Generally, orchestras are organized for the entertainment of the guests as these ceremonies are kind of monotonous and long. Women are never bored though (sarcasm alert). As half an hour passed, the singers of the holy hymns disappeared and a girl clad in a skimpy outfit came on the stage. She gyrated for a while on a cheap Bhojpuri song and looking around, I could see grandpas with no teeth relishing the show as much as toddlers whose milk teeth were yet to come out. Everyone else was there too. After one entertainer, came another, in even skimpier attire and whistles were heard. The orchestra master screamed her name on the microphone and ran into the crowd to collect tips for her.

I felt disgusted and bored after a while and went inside the courtyard where the women were busy with the thread ceremony. It was a different sight altogether.

I went in and showed my disgust to my relatives. One of my aunts looked at me in shock. She then giggled and told me to go out and enjoy as that is what “real men” do. Then she told an anecdote about how her father-in-law would keep one dancer on his thigh and made the other one dance for him. While I was coming back, I heard her asking my mom, “What is wrong with your son?

Soon, the thread ceremony was over, the five boys, now bald and semi nude in their dhotis, were sent out “to feast” (to eat food, I guess).

Last I remember of them was when I saw them sitting around their fathers on one of those plastic red chairs in the veranda as the orchestra master announced, “Here comes another gem, talented, sexy, the heartthrob! Vaisaaaaaaaaaaaali!” Everyone around me roared to her name.

Later I saw the Punditjee (priest) who had orchestrated the entire ceremony, coming to occupy one of those red chairs, beside the baruas (ceremonial kids).

The “sacred sacraments” were passed fruitfully by their father onto them. These kids would go on to become “the future of this country”, the “men”, men who would “respect” women and protect the legacy of their great country.

And we wonder what is wrong with our country? *sigh*

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  1. Babar

    This is the same country where we celebrate the independence of ‘real women’ who fight for their right to wear miniskirts, skimpy tops, tight jeans, cleavage revealing dresses, short shorts, tight pants, backless dresses, spandex pants, leggings, sarees with skimpy blouses, transparent clothing, etc.

    1. Manish

      Really Babar…??
      Dude whatz your grudge with “feminism”..??
      You give stupid repulsive arguments trying to behave like the only one around here who understands the “real” world. You are always stating the obvious about how women/girls are nasty, weak, need protection etc etc and how that has always been the hallmark of our society.

      The article here is touching a very real issue. The rotten-ness of what is acceptable in our so called traditional-value society. Even during our venerated ceremonies. The author is simply pointing out his disgust at the clear hypocrisy that ultimately breeds wrong values and result in abhorrent attitudes towards women particular and people in general.

    2. Babar

      …and a girl clad in a skimpy outfit came on the stage.

      After one entertainer, came another, in even skimpier attire…

      Do you fail to see your hypocrisy? Do not worry about their attire when girls are revealing more skin in public, feminists going topless in their so called protests, models going nude for fashion shows, nude protests for PETA, nudity in magazines, art, movies, music videos, etc.

    3. Manish

      Glad you replied unlike earlier times…
      The lines you highlighted clearly show that the article is not supporting this so called entertainment..
      Your vehement, almost obsessive opposition to women baring their bodies, for whatever reasons, is understandable.
      What’s not, is your putting the blame solely on women as well as making this an excuse for denying them freedom.

      If we judge by your standards then we have to resort to locking women or draping them all in burqas. While certain beliefs may propagate this to be the only way to “save women from themselves” and prevent them from leading “otherwise-pious” men astray, it can never be acceptable in all societies.

      I dint understand what you were getting onto about my hypocrisy that I fail to see..
      If possible, do elaborate..

      Also, nobody’s “fighting” for the right to wear the articles of clothing you mentioned. Its about the need for a change in mindsets towards women and accepting them to be capable enough to make the right choices, not simply thrusting choices upon them.
      Its about holding societal norms, parental values for sons and law&order responsible for crimes against women; not the girl/women herself.

    4. Mahevish

      Just because a woman is covered in burqa does not mean that men will not look at her. I have seen men in saudi arabia oogling women wearing really loose burqas. And mind you, saudi abayas(burqa) are very different than those worn in india. The mistake here lies only on men. They did not lower their gaze when a woman is passing by. Don’t you see what the problem is? Both men and women need to behave modestly. If you fill a room with chocolates and lock him in saying that he is not allowed to have them will he stop himself? But if you lock him in a room, where there are chocolates, but they are hidden, then he will restrain himself. Both men and women need to follow modest course of actions. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how long the world fights crimes against women or men, the will never end

    5. Babar

      Feminists do not recognize crimes by women against men, be it rape, domestic violence, misandry, sexism, false cases of rape and dowry, etc. Feminists do not talk about crimes by women at all, even if they are crimes by women against women, specially in households. Feminists will never speak about love between husband and wife, because feminism is about pitting men and women against each other.

      The media runs headlines of crimes against women because it is good for business, while society only sympathizes with women’s issues, and will rush for their help, whereas a man is not even seen as a human being, only a money earning machine. It does not even matter that men commit suicide twice the rate of women.

      Women in society have legal, social, economic, and political privileges and advantages, and yet feminism runs on the ‘all women are victims and all men are perpetrators’ tagline.

  2. Shashank

    This is not about hypocracy, it is about the dilution of our culture with other elements that are not ought to be a part of it. If we go to the roots of these sacred ceremonies, we’ll discover that they were entirely different from how they are played around today. This Upnayan sanskar is also one of such sacred ceremonies, that has lost its soul in dilution with so called “entertainment” There still exists places nd families where they still maintain the piousness of this ritual, where the “real men” practise ritual chants and hawan. The real problen is the caconic clading of these pious rituals with the so called “obsesive modernity”.

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