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By Harshmeet Singh
For most Indians, the phrase ‘maro dhikra’ is all they known about the Parsi community. Our knowledge and perceptions about the Parsis, like many other things in India, is majorly based on the Bollywood movies which show an elderly Parsi as an ideal next door neighbour. Guess what – there’s much more to the lively Parsi community than what our filmmakers choose to show us on screen.
The history & culture of Parsis
Parsis are the followers of Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest religions. Believed to be the original natives of Iran (formerly known as Persia), Parsis began moving towards South Asia, including India, fearing a Muslim invasion in Iran in the 7th century. After the Arab invasion in Iran, their language started to be called Farsi instead of Parsi, since the letter ‘P’ is not present in the Arabic language.
For the Parsis, fire, water, earth and air are the purest elements and need to be preserved. Due to this reason, they do not follow the practice of cremation. The dead bodies are left on high towers, called the ‘tower of silence’ to be eaten by vultures, crows and hawks.
Parsis and India
In yesteryears in Mumbai, a number of old cars meant for sale used to carry the tag ‘owned by a Parsi’. The community has long been synonymous with good education, humbleness and gentle behaviour. A witty sense of humour makes the Parsis an irresistible company. The westernized background of the community meant that they were the first ones to take advantage of the opportunities that came up with the introduction of western education. Thus the first crop of surgeons, pilot and MPs from India in the British Parliament were mostly Parsis. This explains the rise of influential Parsi families such as the Tatas and the Wadias.
When was the last time (if ever) you heard a Parsi guy involved in vandalism or coming out on the streets to protest? If you thought their population is too small to make any impact in the country anyway, you would be surprised! For a community which accounts for only 69,601 people (2001 census) out of the entire population of over 120 crore, the contribution of Parsis to the Indian history is stupendous to say the least.
Some of the famous Parsis in India include the country’s best known and most respected industrialist, Ratan Tata; the extremely famous Army Chief who led India in the Bangladesh War, Late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw; the grand old man of India, Dadabhai Naoroji; the pioneer of India’s atomic energy program, Dr Homi Bhabha; Ace musician, Zubin Mehta and the current Chairman of Tata Sons, Cyrus Mistry. The Parsis have given back to India much more than what the country has offered them. A number of trusts established by the ‘Tatas’ for different purposes are a testimony of Parsis’ love towards India. Astonishingly, Ratan Tata’s share in Tata Sons is less than 1 per cent! Majority of the Tata Sons’ stocks are held by different trusts including the Sir Ratan Tata trust that spends its profit worth billions of dollars each year to charity. While the Ambanis were busy building India’s greatest residence, the Tatas were busy building the nation.
The dwindling population
India accounts for more than half of the entire Parsi population in the world. Most Parsi families are settled in Mumbai, Pune and Gujarat. Unfortunately, their population in India has been on a constant decline for quite a while now. Some of the reasons behind such a drastic fall (115,000 in 1941 & 69,601 in 2001) in their numbers have been lack of interest in marriage, marrying at older age and inter caste marriages. The generally successful youth of the community prefer their careers over marriage in most cases which is resulting in the falling numbers. High number of divorce cases, owing to easier divorce laws as compared to the Hindu laws, has further deteriorated the situation. If the current trend continues, the number of Parsis might come down to less than 23,000 in 2020. In that case, they would be called a ‘tribe’ and not a ‘community’.
The Central Government came up with a ‘Jiyo Parsi’ initiative in 2013. Its recent ad runs with the tagline ‘Be responsible. Don’t use a condom tonight!’ Although meant at encouraging the declining Parsi population, the campaign met with some strong criticism from inside and outside the Parsi community. A number of people questioned the Government’s move to encourage such campaigns at a time when the country is already stressed under 1.2 billion people. The ad has also come under fire for putting undue pressure on the Parsi women to reproduce. Other ads under the campaign are seen encouraging the girls to marry at a younger age, without waiting for their boyfriends to become as successful as Ratan Tata!
Let us hope that some of these ads work their magic and the Parsi community sees a new light very soon because India can be a much better place with a whole lot of Parsis around!
"In India, to be born as a man is a crime, to question a woman is an atrocious crime, and this all because of those women who keep suppressing men in the name of feminism."
Feminism, a worldwide movement that started to establish, define and defend equal rights for women in all sections- economically, politically, and socially. India, being a patriarchal society gives a gender advantage to the men in the society thus, Indian feminists sought to fight against the culture-specific issue for women in India. Feminism itself is nothing but a simple movement that pursues equal rights for women (including transwomen) and against misogyny both external and internal. It states nowhere that women should get more wages than men, that women deserve more respect than men, that's pseudo-feminism.
Pseudo feminists state that women deserve more respect and rights, any other gender deserves no respect. They feel that women should be the ones ruling the world and at higher positions. When feminism takes a turn for extremities it becomes pseudo-feminism and people who label themselves as feminists will bash anyone who speaks against even the wrongdoings of a woman. They'll bash women who're wife and sisters for not speaking up and support any women criticizing political leaders even if it's completely irrational. This is where hypocrisy and pseudo-feminism merge with each other.
They take advantage of the rights given to women to protect themselves to threaten other genders. The rights given to women are supposed to make them feel reassured that they can reach out to the judiciary if their rights are being hampered not to threaten to make the victim sound like the culprit.
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Indian Feminist Movement has made significant progress however, even in the modern world women are still unsafe and are discriminated against when it comes to getting a job, land ownership, and access to education. While filling the official papers it is still asked "Wife of /Daughter of:….."
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family. Such injustices make feminism such an important movement, gender equality is worth fighting for to create a safe environment for women. Feminists over the years have been criticized for focusing on the rights of privileged women and not giving equal representation to poorer and lower caste women, which has led to separate caste-specific feminist organizations and movements.
Some notable milestones in the Feminist Movement
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy campaigned against Sati Pratha (practice in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre) and child marriage
- Savitribai Phule started the first school for girls at Bhidewada in Pune city in 1848.
- In 1972, SEWA, the biggest trade union for women was set up by Ela Bhatt for women working in the informal sector.
- The Chipko Movement was launched and led by women in 1973.
- #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse was started in 2006 and revived in the year 2015.
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family.Unsplash
Feminism is often misunderstood as pseudo-feminism and hence, becomes the target for public hatred and is accused of wronging other genders under the façade of feminism. It is misunderstood by Indians as female domination instead of gender equality. Indian society and Indian feminists believe that only men are perpetrators of a heinous crime like rape and they refuse to even recognize the men who say they were raped and it's the toxic masculinity in the society that believes how can a woman rape a man? Reality is different from what we believe, women can be the perpetrator too, women threaten to file a case of domestic violence, or sexual assault against innocent people just to fulfill their ego.
Thankfully feminism and pseudo feminism are two separate concepts and feminism is just about equality and not judgment. Indian society and feminists actually need to understand the difference between the two and stop tarnishing the Feminist Movement as a whole.
Keywords: Feminism, World, India, Pseudo-Feminism, Gender
Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.
The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.
Yakshi idol in Veroor, Sri Dharamashastha temple Image source: wikimedia commons
The Yakshi is believed to live in a palm tree which can appear like a palace. Victims are taken here before they are killed. Travellers on highways are often advised not to stop near heavily forested areas, or speak to anyone who closely resembles a Yakshi. Some believe she can change form, while other hold to the belief that she doesn't. after securing her victim, the only trace left behind is body parts like hair, nails, and teeth.
They say, like other ghosts, a Yakshi's feet will not touch the ground. This is something to look out for. Mysterious deaths have been reported across the rural areas in Kerala, and all these have been attributed to the legend.
Keywords: Legends, Yakshi, Urban legend, Ghost, Kerala, Myth, Vampire
The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
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Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.