Monday February 26, 2018

Dreadlocks: Finding a connection between Rastas and Sadhus

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By Archana Rao

What comes to your mind when one says ‘Dreadlocks?’ Bob Marley, Sadhus, marijuana, or chillum are the things that strike the mind instantaneously.

But there is more to it than what meets the eye. It took three years for French anthropologist Dr. Lina Ainouche to bring in and explain the history of dreadlocks and how the Jamaican Rastas and the Indian Sadhus share the unconventional fondness for this hairdo.

She spoke exclusively to NewsGram on her journey to make the documentary on Jamaican Rastas and the importance of dreadlocks.

Archana Rao: Linda, why did you choose to make a documentary on the life of Jamaican Rastas?

Dr. Linda: I have a few Rasta friends, and also having stayed in Jamaica for few years, I felt the need to tell the story of Rastafaris to the world. This is something that has never been shown. The Rasta movement began as slavery progressed in the early 20th century. Their culture was suppressed by brutal and stultifying European domination. Rastafari was an attempt to ensure the survival of African culture and an upfront anti-slavery, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist struggle.

Archana Rao: So how did you come across this uncanny relation between India and Jamaica?

Dr. Linda: I stayed in India in 2001 and studied Jainism for a couple of years in the country. So I am familiar with the Indian culture. During the research process for my documentary, I discovered the roots of similarities between Rastas and Hindus. It goes as far as cuisines, way of life, spirituality, and even the dreadlocks. Indian Sadhus also wear their hair in dreadlocks.

If we look at the history of the two countries, the British colonists ruled in Jamaica until 1962 and in India until 1947. Indian workers were brought to the island from 1845 to 1917. Both Afro-Jamaicans and Indians were kidnapped and sent to work on sugar and banana plantations throughout Jamaica where they created positive relationships through their common oppressive hardships. This is when the two cultures came close to each other.

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Archana Rao: How did dreadlocks became a part of the Rastafari movement?

Dr. Linda: During 1960’s, the Jamaican Rastas started wearing their hair in tangled locks and they grouped in a self-sustaining community near Kingston, the capital city popularly known as Pinnacle. The hairdo evolved as a way to express a more natural lifestyle and to go against the British establishment.

Archana Rao: So what does the documentary focus on?

Dr. Linda: I wanted to narrate the story of Rastafaris, their history, and the importance of dreadlocks in their cultures. The culture originated to stand tall as an anti-slavery and anti-suppressant movement.

Rastas were persecuted because of dreadlocks. It holds a great significance in their culture. Dreadlocks are a way of life, it is like a body art. It took us 3-4 years to complete the documentary. We did shooting in Jamaica, India, Paris, and New York with four different languages (French, Hindi, Jamaican Patois, and English) and four local crews.

Archana Rao: What all problems did you come across while shooting in India?

Dr. Linda: It wasn’t really tough shooting in India. People were more than happy to assist us with the shooting. The only problem we faced was the tough battle against mosquitoes.

Archana Rao: But dreadlocks are still considered a taboo in India, a style mostly carried by the Sadhus. It has not been widely accepted amongst the common crowd. Do you think this will change in near future?

Dr. Linda: In Jamaica, dreadlocks have become a common factor. Earlier Rastas were prosecuted due to dreadlocks by their own society. Now the scenario has completely changed. People have accepted it as a way of life. But I can’t say the same for India. Youngsters do sport dreadlocks but mundane beliefs still revolve around the hairstyle. The outlook of the society towards it needs to change. Maybe it will happen in another eight or ten years.

Archana Rao: So when are you planning to release the documentary in India?

Dr. Linda: We are in the phase of post-production of the documentary right now. We are trying to translate it in other languages such as Spanish and French. Maybe in 6-8 months we will release it in India as well.

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In Pakistan, Hindus don’t get even a ‘Crematorium:’ Will you believe that?

There are a lot of Hindu family residing all over Pakistan and still, there are very few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed in that area

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Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long. Wikimedia Commons
Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long. Wikimedia Commons
  • Due to the lack of cremation grounds, some Hindus and Sikhs travel hundreds of kilometres just to perform the last rites as per their religious practices
  • As per reports, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence
  • Unfortunately, Hindu’s and Sikh’s have to face the same problem in the neighbouring state as well, that is Afghanistan

Death is said to be a great leveller. But the tragedy struck to some section of society in Muslim-dominated Pakistan is altogether different.

Due to the lack of cremation grounds, some Hindus and Sikhs travel hundreds of kilometres just to perform the last rites as per their religious practices. People who can’t even afford to travel, they have no option but to bury the mortal remains of their near and dear ones.

As per reports, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence. But with the passage of time, they vanished in the thin air of the terror-torn nation. Even in areas lying in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where about 35,000 Hindus and Sikhs live, the cremation grounds are also rare.

Also Read: Today’s Social Issues and their Answers to Children

The law of the land is non-existent for the minorities communities like Hindu’s and Sikh’s. Without taking no-objection certificate, people from these communities can’t move an inch even. The grief-stricken families have to wait for the clearances, as they are left with no other option.

People are forced to travel long distances to cremate their relatives from the areas like Swat Bannu, Kohat, Malakand etc. The cost to travel such long distances ranges from Rs 40,000 to Rs 70,000 and on the top of it, the fear of robbery during these travels cannot be ruled out. Not all the Hindu families can afford to perform the last rites in the manner they want.

Unfortunately, Hindu’s and Sikh’s have to face the same problem in the neighbouring state as well, that is Afghanistan. The minority communities are compelled to bury the dead because cremation grounds are vanishing fast in Pakistan.

Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Wikimedia Commons
Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Wikimedia Commons

Although, the administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has allowed the minorities communities to perform cremation near temples. But most of the temples are built on the agricultural lands and commercial areas, which have already been encroached upon by land mafia.

There are a lot of Hindu family residing in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and still, there are very few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed in that area.

Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long.


After much of the protests, finally, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has started building the facility from the chief minister’s fund, as per some government sources.

There are almost 50,000 Sikhs and Hindus in Peshawar. And unfortunately, due to lack of proper facilities, people over there are also facing the same situation what others are facing in areas like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Also Read: 7 new-age social issues in India that need a check

To expect some kind of generosity from the war-torn state like Pakistan is out of the way. Instead of spending extravagantly on the military expansion, Pakistan should come forward and full-fill the basic amenities for the citizen of its country. It’s the people who make the country and not the other way round.