Do Organized Religions Suppress Women’s Rights?
Six informants explicitly described the sakhi bond among women as one that imitates or replicates divine models. And we hope that we will be together in the same way for our whole lives. The essential elements of this ritual practice include an exchange of gifts and food, the swearing of an oath, and the presence of a deity, who acts as a witness. By giving these, this is tying sakhi. And at the time of death, I will be with you.
Other women stressed the exchange of food, especially sweets and pan,6 as crucial to the sealing of the bond. Sakhis not only feed one another, but they also selfconsciously exchange with one another food polluted by their saliva. One elderly informant described the process as follows: In the ritual of becoming sakhi, there are some puja things—sweets, yogurt, pan—and the sakhis feed each other these things. For example, if you and I were becoming sakhi, then I would feed you sweets, you would feed me sweets, and then you would bite off some pan and I would chew it; and I would bite off some pan, and you would chew it.
Equality is an essential component of the sakhi relationship. Jay stresses the nature of ritual friendships as a means to transcending social difference; he notes that the ritual friendships he observed in Chhattisgarh never occurred within the same caste in the same community, claiming that the very hallmark of ritual friendships is their ability to legitimize close personal relationships across caste.
Other informants described the sakhi bond as one of choice based solely on strong mutual affection.
Women’s Lives, Women’s Rituals in Hindu Tradition
Bride and groom also exchange sweets and yogurt— which some informants mentioned explicitly as items exchanged in the sakhi bonding ritual—at the time of marriage usually as yogurt mixed with brown sugar, gur , suggesting parallels between the sakhi relationship and the marriage relationship. Such parallels are also evident in naming conventions. Like marriage, too, the sakhi relationship is also a bond that informants generally described as lifelong and unbreakable.
In her research on this topic, Flueckiger notes that married women who enter into ritual friendships assume ritual obligations similar to those of kin , Here is how one informant, Hem Kumari, responded to my questions about her sakhi relationship: My sakhi and I have always been friends. We were brought up together. When I was a child, we used to play together, run around the village, and bathe together in the village tank. Then when we got older, we decided we should become sakhi. I became sakhi with her on the day of Makkar Samkranti—women often make sakhi on that day.
So that is how we became sakhi, and 60 engaging domesticity then we started giving each other gifts. When I got married, she gave me a gift; when she got married, I gave a gift to her. And since we are sakhi, if she is in trouble, I can help her, and if I am in trouble, she can come help me. She has two daughters and one son; so I occasionally call her here. Whenever there is a marriage in my family she will come over here to Benares because she still lives in my natal village.
And whenever I have a chance to go and visit her, I also go and visit her. Whatever we have to feed each other, we feed each other. This is what we do. One of my informants, Ramavati, noted: When two sakhis sit down with one another, they will obviously talk about their sorrows and pleasures [dukh-sukh].
And whatever one sakhi tells the other, she must keep it secret. You must always keep to yourself all the things you hear from your sakhi. There are lots of things a woman cannot say to her husband but can say to her sakhi. Narayan has also noted the importance among female friends of sharing secrets. A woman you know later might tell anyone. This is how pure [shuddh] the relationship with the sakhi is.
Women have their sakhis like this; if you have made a sakhi, it is your duty [dharma] that you should never leave your sakhi. Four women allowed for two sakhis, one in the natal home and one in the home into which one marries. The existence of ritually bonded sakhi friendships among the women I interviewed raises two important issues I wish to stress here. The sakhi bond offers another kind of alternative construction. Yet it is a tie in which the two parties are equal, and both affection and obligation are understood to be mutual. It is also a relationship over which women have control.
Generally, Hindu women living in this part of India do not freely choose their husbands; but they can, and do, choose their sakhis. Seymour maintains that feelings of relational love may be extended to nonfamily members as well, including friends. With respect to her own experience among Indian women, she remarks that even married women expect and value feelings of love among friends.
I had a similar experience when I was preparing to leave Benares in after spending many months over the course of four years conducting research among a group of women. I had grown very close to a few women, and it was hard for all of us to think about saying goodbye without knowing when I might be returning to the city. She wanted to tie sakhi with me. I felt so bad.
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The ideal of the jori is captured in the image of Ardhanarishvara, Shiva in his form as half-male, half-female, god and goddess fused together in the same body. Narayan contends that the shared use of this term might indicate that a husband is expected to psychologically replace a group of girlfriends Narayan , And the longing for a sense of dharma is precisely what is addressed in the sakhi relationship—through the deployment of religious and marital symbolism, ritualization, and the elaboration of rules and obligations entailed in forming and maintaining the bond.
Many thanks to Kirin Narayan for bringing to my attention the need to clarify this point. Three informants insisted that the ritual must take place in front of a Tulsi plant, but other women cited other divine witnesses, including Satyanarayan, Ganesh, the Ganges, and Shiva. See Flueckiger and Jay for their descriptions of friendship-bonding rituals in Chhattisgarh. I have changed the names of all informants to conceal their identities.
Pan is a mixture of betel nut, spices, and other additives rolled up in a betel leaf and chewed for enjoyment. Gender and Genre in the Folklore of Middle India. Jay, Edward.
Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition
Kakar, Sudhir. Intimate Relations: Exploring Indian Sexuality. New Delhi: Penguin. Narayan, Kirin. Gavin Flood, — Oxford: Blackwell. Guy Beck, 43— Seymour, Susan C. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sharma, Ursula. London: Tavistock.
Do Organized Religions Suppress Women’s Rights? | Shakti
Ved Prakash Vatuk, — Delhi: Manohar. It literally grounds identity. Valentine Daniels has shown the extent to which location, with its own soil and water, is key to these processes.
For women in different parts of India and from different social locations in the same part of India, there are varying degrees and modes of restriction that bind women to their natal or conjugal homes and discourage or prohibit their participation in public life beyond the domicile. Among Rajput women, about whom I have written over the years, spatial restrictions have been among the strictest in India. In the past few decades, however, the institution of parda has become increasingly elastic, at least for those women living in and near towns and cities.
In and around Udaipur, where I have conducted much of my research, many of the young women whom I came to know well in the s are now mothers-in-law who have decided to loosen or dispense with some or all of the strictures of parda for their daughters-in-law. It is now not uncommon to see Rajput women words that breach walls 67 shopping in town. Moreover, many women no longer veil at home in front of senior family members and visitors. However constrained women have been to designated parameters, they have regularly traveled between domiciles—as brides or as wedding guests—and so observed variant practices.
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