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Eunuchs perform ‘shraddha karma’ at Varanasi for the departed souls after several hundred years

After 100 years eunuchs pay mass reverence to their ancestors at Kashi

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Ghats in Varanasi. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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VARANASI, Sept 24 2016: It’s a rare event that is said to be happening after more than several hundred years. Eunuchs from across the country have converged in this holy town to do the ‘shraddha karma’ for their departed brethren during ‘pitrapaksh’, the period during which Hindus pay respects to their ancestors.

The eunuchs, led by their religious head, Mahamandaleshwar Swami Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, visited the fabled Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Maa Annapurna temple to propitiate the gods. She, along with the other eunuchs, did ‘dugdhabhishek’ (offering of milk) and ‘shodashopchar’ puja at the temple.

Acharya Srikant Mishra of the Vishwanath temple told IANS that 11 litres of milk was offered to Baba Vishwanath after which the eunuchs were gifted ‘manga vastra’ and ‘prasad’. The eunuchs then prayed at the Maa Annapurna Darbaar, where they offered ‘kumkum’ (vermillion) to the deity and prayed for the prosperity of all.

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The eunuchs, after doing the puja at the banks of Ganga river, also prayed for safety of the jawans along the border. Hundreds of eunuchs then performed the ‘shraddha karma’ puja for their ancestors and prayed for peace to the departed souls.

The eunuchs offering the puja said they were doing so as they wanted their forefathers to be at peace like other departed souls.

“We were not able to do the puja for many years as at most places we are ostracised by the pundits, and it was only after we planned a group discussion that we came together here,” said one of the eunuchs.

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A septugenarian eunuch informed IANS that the shraddha was being done only for the second time. The first was done during the Mughal era.

“Through generations, we have been informed that the last shraddha karma was done doing the Mughaliya Sultanat,” she added.

“Hum to bas itni prarthna ke saath aye hain ki is janam mein jo bhi bura sahi hua ho hammare sath, agle janam mein na ho, hammer saathiyon ko mukti mile aur voh janta mein sadharan jeevan vyateet karin (We are here to simply pray for our gurus and friends who are no more so that they take a proper, normal birth in the next life),” said another ageing eunuch, who rued how being one was a torment.

Pitra Paksha is a 16-day lunar period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors (Pitrs), especially through food offerings. Pitru Paksha is considered by Hindus to be inauspicious, given the death rite performed during the ceremony, known as Shraddha or tarpan. Eunuchs pointed out that they have faced problems ever since they were born.

“We all have a troubled life and we just wish that the after life is better and we take rebirth under normal conditions, as normal human beings…This is all what we seek from Baba Vishwanath and Ganga Maiyya,” Shalini, a eunuch who was performing shraddha for her late partner, told IANS. She added that since Kashi was considered a city where everyone attained ‘moksha’ (salvation) she was confident that the voice of the hundreds of her community would be heard. (IANS)

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  • Anubhuti Gupta

    Finally some integration of eunuch’s into everyday life. The issue of the living lives like an outcast is one that should be taken up more

Next Story

Triple Talaq: Are the concerns and efforts real?

It cannot be deied that BJP is outlawing triple talaq to gain political mileage both from sections of Muslim women and from those Hindus who will see it as Modi's distress over the sufferings of Muslim women and as a message to Muslims that the days when they were given excessive leeway by less assertive governments are now gone.

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Triple Talaq continues to plague lives of Muslim women, VOA News
Triple Talaq continues to plague lives of Muslim women, VOA News
  • Triple Talaq has been seen as way of BJP gaining popularity among Muslims, and not as a real concern for the distressed women of the community.
  • BJP leaders are often accused of Anti-Muslim statements, which further proves the point.
  • However, if the law is passed, it will be a step towards empowerment of the Muslim women.

Only the naive will believe that deep concern for the welfare of Muslim “sisters” and for the maintenance of the “dignity of women” and “gender equality” persuaded the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to introduce the bill in parliament to ban the practice of triple talaq.

For a party whose founder in its previous incarnation, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, thought that only a civil war can solve the Hindu-Muslim problem, as Tripura’s Governor, Tathagata Roy of the BJP, reminded us recently, and a BJP candidate in the Gujarat elections sought a reduction in the numbers of “topi and dadhiwalas” (sartorial allusion to Muslims), it strains credulity to believe that it has been guided solely by laudable motives to put an end to an admittedly reprehensible custom.

The belief will persist, therefore, that it is a desire to “garner votes” which is behind the decision, notwithstanding Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad’s disavowal of such an intention.

Few will deny, of course, that the practice itself is highly condemnable, not least because it is illegal even in Islamic countries. For a secular country, therefore, to allow it to prevail will point to a flawed outlook whose roots lie deep in the political calculations.

It cannot be gainsaid that the BJP is outlawing triple talaq to gain political mileage both from sections of Muslim women and from those Hindus who will see the proposed law, first, as an example of “brother” Modi’s distress over the sufferings of Muslim women and, secondly, as a message to Muslims in general that the days are gone when they were given excessive leeway by less assertive governments.

The “secular” rulers of the past, on the other hand, also thought that they will gain votes by pandering to the predilections of the obscurantists among the minorities.

The worst example of this regressive attitude was the Shah Bano episode, when the Rajiv Gandhi government negated a Supreme Court verdict in favour of alimony for a divorced Muslim woman on the advice of Muslim fundamentalists.

Shayara Bano case was one of the biggest milestone cases in history of India which intensified the previously buried matter. Wikipedia Common
Shayara Bano case was one of the biggest milestone cases in history of India which intensified the previously buried matter. Wikipedia Common

The BJP’s rise from the sidelines of politics to the mainstream, can be traced through that event in the mid-1980s. The Congress will have to tread carefully in deciding on its stance on the bill which has followed the Supreme Court’s recent declaration of triple talaq as unconstitutional in a case involving the litigant, Shayara Bano.

The difficulty for the Congress is that it has given secularism a bad name by making the concept virtually synonymous with minority appeasement. While the BJP will not mind being closely associated with Hinduism, the Congress has been trying to shed the impression that it has become “mussalmanon ki party” or a party of Muslims, as the Congress leader, Ashok Gehlot, has said, ever since the 2014 defeat made him aware of this unwelcome image, as the A.K. Antony report pointed out.

The triple talaq bill gives it an opportunity to refurbish its reputation by articulating a rational position on drafting the law, aiming at protecting Muslim women from cruel and whimsical divorces and at the same time ensuring that the legislation does not lead to a police witch-hunt targeting men. Since the bill has to still pass through the Rajya Sabha, Parliament’s upper house, there is ample scope for fine-tuning it for smoothing out the rough edges, the most egregious of which is to introduce an element of criminality in a civil legal procedure.

If the Congress and other “secular” parties play a leading role in ensuring that the new law will unequivocally serve the ends of justice where no one — neither the women, nor the men, nor the children of divorced parents — will suffer, then these parties will be able to retrieve much of their lost reputation about cynical kowtowing to bigots in the Muslim community and reassure the country in general that politics can rise above partisan and opportunistic considerations.

From this standpoint, the bill provides a golden opportunity to the secular outfits even if the BJP runs away with much of the credit for introducing it.

Outside of politics, what is noteworthy is the failure of the Muslims to deal with the problem on their own. But ever since partition robbed the community of bold, educated leaders and self-confidence by inducing the minority complex of being forever under siege under the numerically superior Hindus — unlike other minorities like Sikhs and Parsis who have retained their poise and self-belief — the Muslims have come under the retrogressive influence of the mullahs with the result that they have remained stuck in the past.

Not all Muslim have the freedom to do whatever they want. They are still in the clutches of Triple Talaq.
Not all Muslim have the freedom to do whatever they want. They are still in the clutches of Triple Talaq.

Triple talaq is one manifestation of such backwardness along with polygamy and the veiling of women as they reinforce the age-old patriarchal norms. Only a small section of upper middle class women — film stars and sports personnel being prominent among them — has been able to extricate themselves from the grasp of medievalism and enter the modern world. But the majority of the poor and lower middle class women have been denied the opportunity of advancement by orthodox Muslim society. The new law offers them a ray of hope. IANS Live