Thursday June 20, 2019
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Religious discrimination against Women must end

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On Gudi Padwa, women enter Shani Shingnapur temple for the first time Image source: www.ibtimes.co.in

It’s a common trend that where social, political and religious systems fail, the judiciary steps in – as in the case of the entry of women to the Shani Shingnapur temple.

A centuries-old bastion of the patriarchal social construct was smashed to smithereens. The women activists from the Bhumata Brigade, led by Trupti Desai, were successful in entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Shani temple. Trupti hailed the decision of Shani Shingnapur temple trustees to open the gates of the sacred chabutra (platform) for men and women devotees, and said it was a prudent step on their part.

“Der aayad, durust aayad!” said a spirited Trupti and hoped the trustees at the Trimbakeshwar and Mahalaxmi temples in Nashik and Kolhapur too would follow suit to treat women devotees at par with men.

One would congratulate Trupti for her stoic resistance as it was after her activism that TV debates were generated and many storms raised in teacups besides the national print media highlighting the issue.

Priyanka Jagtap, another member of the Bhumata Brigade, celebrated the court’s observation at the temple premises by distributing sweets. “It’s a big victory for all the womenfolk of Maharashtra and the country. It is an occasion to celebrate,” she said.

The main question that needs to be asked is whether this outburst of activism against ritualistic practices in Hindu temples is a legitimate effort to break the almost 400-year-old tradition.

What’s unfortunate is that most religions talk about gender equality, but it is either totally defunct or reduced to lip-service as totem. The question is whether it is the followers of Hinduism or Islam or any other religion,who vie with one another to deprive their women of equal rights.

The aim of these lines is to convey a message to the custodians of women’s rights – the men – to remind them of the cultural traditions that are mired in gender discrimination. In this context, whether it is Shani Shingnapur, Haji Ali Baba or Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, all these famed religious places have banned the entry of women.

Politically, the BJP has been accused of vitiating the atmosphere in Sabarimala. However, it would be preposterous to suggest that all villagers in this temple town are BJP or right-wing activists. According to social commentator Sreemoy Talukdar, the patriarchal mores lie so deep that even women (and probably more so) were the first ones to take umbrage of the ‘breach’ which they fear will bring calamity on their families.

Talukdar feels that Kerala’s Sabarimala temple authorities have stuck to their stand – in the face of legal scrutiny from the Supreme Court of banning all women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering temple precincts citing ritualistic practices and traditions.

They claim Lord Ayyappa, who attracts more than 50 million devotees each year, is a sworn celibate. They do not want the apex court to interfere in religious practices.

In Mumbai’s Dargah Haji Ali Baba, it is really something totally inexplicable that women are not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum in spite of the fact that Islam has granted equal rights to woman. During the days of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), Muslim women used to go to the mosque to pray. However, after him, some myopic and orthodox Muslims asked women to stay at home.

Nevertheless, the larger question is about the general exploitation of women by men from all religions.

They are not given their rights and, at the slightest provocation, are maltreated, beaten, divorced and even murdered.

Trupti’s campaign – that of challenging the patriarchal hegemony over religion, its practices and ending stigmas against women – would only materialize truly if the activism continues. (IANS)

 

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Woman Who Coated Cow Dung on Car Uses Horse-Cart for Short Distances

Caring for the environment and employing various ways to conserve and protect it for the future generations is not really a modern approach

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Woman, Cow Dung, Horse- Cart
Her green initiatives are not to demonstrate to the world that she cares. Pixabay

Just as you enter the iron gates of ‘Abhang Dwar’ (invincible gate), a horse-cart welcomes you. Look around and there are vintage wooden ghunghroo bells, bamboo chairs, old-world charm wooden benches. And between all this, stands a proud Toyota Corolla Altis painted all over by cow dung, competing with a powerful air-conditioner inside.

World Environment Day went past on Wednesday and could come again for others to do something green, but for the khadi-clad Sejal Shah all days and nights are spent virtually in the lap of nature. Including her cow dung plastered car.

“Albeit it can’t be the same as an AC, but the layers of cow dung all over prove to be an effective coolant,” explains Shah, 45-something, about her unique car.

Again, for her, this idea is only a logical continuum of her entire home artistically plastered by cow dung as found in the villages. Her car was painted by two village women and it gives an out-of-the-world look. Sitting inside instantly gives that cooling effect in a scorching summer.

Woman, Cow Dung, Horse- Cart
 The layers of cow dung all over prove to be an effective coolant. Pixabay

But Shah needs the car only for long distances, otherwise she struts around everywhere around on her classic horse-cart.

“Caring for the environment and employing various ways to conserve and protect it for the future generations is not really a modern approach. It is the very way our ancestors have lived,” Shah tells IANS.

She moved to Ahmedabad seven years ago from Mumbai along with her diamond merchant husband after he retired to live in the peace of her eco-friendly home. Her green initiatives are not to demonstrate to the world that she cares. Shah does it since it comes naturally to her.

This is how she explains what she is up to: “The collective efforts put together by every single person who believes in sustainable development of our resources can only make the world a better place for the future, before the damage gets permanently irreversible.”

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She goes on: “Small contributions from every individual like avoiding plastics, or providing waste water to the ground instead of letting it go in the sewage and use of chemicals as minimum as possible, will contribute to the large cause of saving the Earth which has provided resources for everybody’s need which is being wasted for human greed.”

She practices what she preaches in every sense. Right from her eco-friendly clothes to bronze and copper vessels she uses. The earthen ‘chulha’ in the kitchen at the backyard is also in an open space like typical Indian rural kitchens.

“India needs a cultural shift and mindset which takes us back to a value system given to us by our forefathers to look upon nature as a source to nurture, not an object to consume or conquest,” Shah declares.

“Just like joint families where everyone chips in equally for everything, the Indian culture believed in sharing a symbiotic relationship with the nature,” Shah says.

Woman, Cow Dung, Horse- Cart
Shah needs the car only for long distances, otherwise she struts around everywhere around on her classic horse-cart. Pixabay

As Ahmedabad burns at 45-plus degrees Celsius of dry heat, Shah looks cool. Not only her khadi clothes, everything she does is green, like using natural alternatives of soap, shampoo and talcum powder. She suggests shankh-pushpi powder or multani mitti and neem for skin care as well as for brushing teeth.

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“If used on a daily basis, all these natural elements with Ayurvedic properties, instead of products with chemicals, surely give much, much better results. And also for longevity,” strongly believes Shah. (IANS)