Saturday, October 11, 2014

Karva Chauth in Delhi

Mehendi at Hanuman Mandir
In preparation for Karva Chauth today, Hindu women in Delhi have been getting mehendi on their hands; they have cooked delicacies and sweets for dinner, and done much bangle shopping in the bazaars. 

Today they are fasting from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands. In the evening, they will offer prayers after sighting the moon; and they will break the day long fast.

Karva Chauth and several similar festivals in other parts of India are a throwback to an era where Hindu women were defined by their marital status; and life was impossibly difficult for widows.

Bangle shop, Kinari Bazaar
Fortunately, a series of reforms by the leaders of independent India have helped change things for the better. In 1955-56, four Hindu code bills were passed: the Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act. These acts addressed many injustices that were routinely taking place and brought better representation for women's rights. 

The major changes as a result of this act were:
- Widows and daughters were awarded the same share of property as the son
- Women were allowed to divorce a cruel or negligent husband
- Husbands were prohibited from taking a second wife
- A man and woman of different castes could be married under Hindu law
- A Hindu couple could adopt a child of a different caste

The reforms were blocked by right-wing Hindu organisations and many kooky religious leaders, but were eventually pushed through due to the leadership of Nehru, Ambedkar, and many other visionaries. Unfortunately many of the original propositions had to be watered down to ensure the bills were passed.

These reforms have granted many rights to the majority of Indian women (since Hindus form 80% of India), but they continue to be controversial to the present day. Chief among the complaints is that these reforms exclude Muslims.

Anyway - since I am Hindu, and I am very much the beneficiary of the Hindu reform bills, on Karva Chauth, let me send my eternal thanks to Jawaharlal Nehru and Ambedkar. Without them, I'd be sitting here hoping and praying the male members of my family would be nice to me. 


Anonymous said...

Until 10 years ago, getting a divorce was a long tire some process.

Men would not take a second wife. They would keep a mistress .

Even after being divorced, a joint custody of the children was seldom handed to the women , the children were always with the men.

The ACT remained an act on paper ! Arent the many ACTS !! Even the name ACTS sounds sarcastic , because it is never acted on !

Th You

monish said...

nice and cultural blog