Friday January 18, 2019
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Nixing hooch for weaving, these Assamese women turn a new leaf

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GuwahatiFrom brewing and selling country liquor to weaving exquisite fabrics and also finding a market in neighbouring Bhutan, the women of Chatra, a remote village in Assam’s Nalbari district, have not just elevated themselves to a respectable profession but have changed the image of their village for the better.

Chatra, located about 20 km from Nalbari town in Lower Assam, was till 2009 identified as a liquor den and mostly visited by those looking for moonshine when the women, mostly belonging to the Bodo community decided to switch over to weaving, a skill at which most Assamese women and girls are best at.

They joined hands with Gramya Vikash Mancha (GVM), an NGO that arranged for their advanced training in weaving and tailoring.

The Nalbari district used to be a hotbed of insurgency till the late 1990s and its people suffered a lot due to the frequent military operations. The insurgency had severely affected development in the district till a few years ago.

Padma Boro, one of the women in the village, took the lead and soon encouraged 30 others, “mostly unmarried women and widows”, to abandon country liquor for weaving. The state-owned Northeastern Development Finance Limited (NEDFi) then stepped in to provide to them training on looms at Nalbari’s Industrial Training Institute and took them to Kokrajhar, where they interacted with handloom weavers of the same community and understood the specific market demands.

Back home, they managed two looms of their own while NEDFi provided another eight looms, warping drums and other accessories. The NGO built a temporary shed in the village and their journey began. They produce mekhela chadar (used for making traditional women’s dresses), gamocha (traditional towel), dokhona (used for making traditional dresses of Bodo women) and fabric for traditional robes of neighbouring Bhutan – and made a profit of Rs 80,000 last year, which is expected to rise manifold this year.

The NEDFi has been set up to hasten economic development in the northeastern region by identifying and financing commercially viable industries, providing advisory and consultancy services, promoting entrepreneurship through effective mentoring, skill development and capacity building of micro, small and medium enterprises and generating sustainable livelihoods through micro finance and CSR activities.

“It was very tough to convince the village women to leave hooch making as it was already a good source of earning for most of the rural Bodo women. But it not only painted a bad image about the village as a liquor den and the women did not get time to properly attend to their children. Very few children attended school and the customers who came to the village for drinking often created a ruckus. But as soon as we started weaving and our products started getting good markets, it made them confident about switching over to weaving from selling liquor,” Padma Boro told IANS.

The Bodos are the largest plains’ tribe in Assam and the laopani (rice beer) is a traditional brew made by the community. The laopani is consumed in each household in limited quantity and even used in religious rituals of the community. However, due to poor financial status and lack of opportunities to supplement the family income, women of some of the communities had taken to making country liquor and selling this for hefty profits in some places in the state.

“While the girls and women of our village learn the weaving skills from very tender age, the intervention by the GVM and NEDFi helped us by giving new and attractive designs and the technology to do it better in lesser time. Most women learn the basics of weaving at their homes since childhood and so it took less time for them to pick up the new designs and technology,” Boro said.

“I was making country liquor and used to sell it. I have been making it for years and there was no other option for us to earn a livelihood. Lots of people used to come to my house for a drink and I was earning good enough to live a solitary life. However, Padma baideu (Assamese for elder sister) came to me one day and said that by weaving, I can earn almost equally and live a good life. I decided to go with her as it is honourable work to weave. I was selling the liquor only due to compulsion and why should I sell it when there is a dignified way of earning my livelihood,” asked Rebati Swargiary, a widow who joined Boro’s movement in 2010.

The indomitable spirit of the group encouraged NEDFi to scale up its activities by providing a Common Facility Centre under a joint CSR project with IDBI Bank. To take the project forward, the Bagurumba Weavers’ Development Trust was formed with Padma Bodo as its managing trustee. It purchased a 7,600 sq ft plot, constructed a 2,000 sq ft building and bought new looms and accessories.

“The new building consists of a display room, store, office and a hall accommodating 18 looms. It really feels good to see the rural woman joining hands and improving their lives. Children of the village now go to school and things in the village are changing very fast for the better,” said NEDFi deputy general manager Ashim Kumar Das.

The movement started by Padma Boro has not only given the women financial independence but also a dignified life.

(IANS)

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Menstruation Not a Taboo in Hindu Culture

Irony is that today, those very people who first advocated the stopping of ‘shameful and orthodox’ rituals of celebrating menstruation

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sindoor a cultural identity of every Hindu women (wikimedia commons)

By: Sunila Goray Raj

Menstruation is Far From Taboo in Hinduism.
There is so much to be said about it all – but here I only want to focus on the leftist’s latest favorite topic : Menstruation.
A survey conducted in USA in 1981 showed that a substantial majority of U.S. adults and adolescents believed that it is socially unacceptable to discuss menstruation, especially in mixed company. Many believed that it is unacceptable to discuss menstruation even within the family. Studies in the early 1980s showed that nearly all girls in the United States believed that girls should not talk about menstruation with boys, while more than one-third of girls did not believe it appropriate to discuss menstruation with their father.
In Hindu culture, a girl who achieved menarche, or her first period, was feted, and pampered at a ceremony where family and close friends gathered and lavished gifts on her. The girl would be bathed in fragrant water after applying oil, turmeric etc. she would be bedecked in fine clothes, flowers and ornaments – and her feet would be washed. This is because Hinduism celebrates, and does not abhor menstruation. The Shakti philosophy upholds it as a gift which is responsible for creation of life.
temple
Devotees singing in front of Kamakhya temple (Hindu Council Of Australia)
The Kamakhya Temple in Assam celebrates the annual menstruation of the Goddess – and there is no idol there, just a structure that resembles the yoni, or the female symbol of creation.The Chengannur Temple in Kerala has a tradition of bathing the idol in a grand ceremony after her ‘period’ is over. According to the Kalika Purana, Kamakhya Temple denotes the spot where Sati used to retire in secret to satisfy her amour with Shiva, and it was also the place where her yoni (genital) fell after Shiva danced with the corpse of Sati. It mentions Kamakhya as one of four primary shakti peethas: the others being the Vimala Temple within the Jagannath Temple complex in Puri, Odisha; Tara Tarini) Sthana Khanda (Breasts), near Brahmapur, Odisha, and Dakhina Kalika in Kalighat, Kolkata, in the state of West Bengal, originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Mata Sati.
The temple remains closed for three days during the Ambubachi mela for it is believed that mother earth becomes unclean for three days like the traditional women’s menstrual seclusion. During these three days some restrictions are observed by the devotees like not cooking, not performing puja or reading holy books, no farming etc. After three days devi Kamakhya is bathed and other rituals are performed to ensure that the devi retrieves her purity. Then the doors of the temple are reopened and prasad is distributed.On the fourth day the devotees are allowed to enter the temple and worship devi Kamakhya.
Many religions have menstruation-related traditions, for example: Islam prohibits sexual contact with women during menstruation in the 2nd chapter of the Quran. In Judaism, a woman during menstruation is called Niddah and may be banned from certain actions. Western civilization, which has been predominantly Christian, has a history of menstrual taboos.
Menstruation
Forced by a tradition to live alone in a hut during menstruation, an 18-year-old Nepali woman died of snake bite. Flickr
Some Christian denominations, including many authorities of the Eastern Orthodox Church and some parts of the Oriental Orthodox Church advise women not to receive communion during their menstrual period. In certain branches of Japanese Buddhism, menstruating women are banned from attending temples.
In Japan, the religion of Shinto, the Kami, the spirits they worship, would not grant wishes if you had traces of blood, dirt, or death on you. In some portions of South Asia, there is a menstrual taboo, with it frequently being considered impure. Restrictions on movement, behaviourand eating are frequently placed.[57] The Yurok in North America practiced menstrual seclusion. Yurok women used a small hut near the main house.
BONUS FACT: Hinduism is the only mainstream religion which worships God in the female form – for wealth (Lakshmi), education (saraswati), and courage too (Durga) – we worship Goddesses. What greater women empowerment can there be? To accuse Hinduism of gender disparity is beyond ridiculous!
An orchestrated effort is being made, or should I say, has been made for several years now, to denigrate Hindu customs and culture. In the whole uproar over Sabarimala, the issue being tom-tommed by pseudo liberals is Women’s rights – gender equality, and especially the whole taboo surrounding menstruation – and all of it is nothing but a distortion, and concoction, where the narrative is being twisted to suit the agenda of certain vested interests.
Menstruation, Hinduism
Ambubachi mela 2016 is the most important festival of Kamakhya temple of Guwahati and is held every year during monsoon .It is a ritual of austerities celebrated with ‘Tantric rites’. It is a common belief that the reigning diety, ‘Kamakhya’ , ‘The Mother Shakti’ goes through her annual cycle of menstruation during this period. Flickr
In the West, media houses like the BBC and CNN are upholding Kanakadurga and Bindu, who pretended to be transgenders, and were whisked into Sabarimala in ambulances with the support of plains clothes cops, as ‘defenders of women’s rights’.
I do not know if I should shake my head, or tear my hair out in frustration.
With the advent of western education, especially missionary education, Hindus were made to feel that this whole ceremony is horrendous – how can you announce that your daughter has now started menstruating, what an embarrassment, how orthodox, what a shameful ritual, how backward – these were the things we were told. And instead of trying to resist, and make others understand what this ceremony meant, and its deep significance – we (me included) hung our heads in shame, relented, and agreed with them.
Today hardly anybody performs this ceremony for their daughters, because we were taught by those who came from outside that it is taboo, and shameful. We also joined the bandwagon which proclaimed menstruation to be ‘filthy’.
Irony is that today, those very people who first advocated the stopping of ‘shameful and orthodox’ rituals of celebrating menstruation, are mocking Hindus about women entering Sabarimala and turning it into a ‘menstruation taboo’ issue, whereas clearly, it is not that at all.
Today, those very same people are trying to prove themselves as modern and as the harbinger of women’s rights and equality by conducting a festival dedicated to menstruation – styled ‘Aarpo Aarthavam’. It is laughable! The hypocrisy is just unbelievable.
So please stop trying to fool gullible people, because there are still many of us who know the truth. (Hindu Council Of Australia)