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Dupatta: The anomaly of being Indian

The universe is infinite and growing both ways, if we combine the stupidity of people together on the entire timeline, past, present and the future… we will find it very shameful to even exist. The existence of entire populace lies on a simple assumption that someday they will meet the maker and hope that the thing they believed their entire life is actually true. Thin chance there.
The society is changing, day in and out we find our-self confronted with the inevitable. The cases of rapes, honor killing, dowry deaths is on the rise. People nowadays blame the social media and television for increase of these issue, however one tends to ignore the fact social media actually bubbles up the small incidents. The bile on the private part of a person to a gruesome horrible family incident, both see the light of the day on Social channels.

When such news  hit the media, the world divides itself in two groups, the rationalist and the feminist. 
The rationalist believe that if woman wear appropriate clothes (that they approve of) such incidents won’t happen, while the feminist believe that the people should change their views or attitude of looking towards woman to present these incidents. I won’t say the rationalist are right, however I also don’t say they are wrong. They, simply do not know any way better. The feminist, on the other hand are also not right, but also not wrong. Both groups are trying to prevent the inevitable in their own sense of way.

The appropriate clothes that the rationalist so justify, is formed by a native garment also known as dupatta. This small piece of cloth has come a long way in history. Let us glance at his journey through the eastern history with all limited document we have. The basic assumption of this article rest on the fact that the values of the society were reflected in the stories that were composed in the era (like Shakuntala, Ramayana and Mahabharata etc.)

If we look back in history, dating back to Indus valley civilization, the society was binding on people. Men were bounded to the society by their varna, while the female were bounded to the society by their husband. There was no freedom to either of them. If a Kshatriya child wished to became a brahman he couldn’t do it, neither would his wife be allowed to do certain activities.The kings were bound to the subjects and the subjects were bound to the king, this entire setup was build so that there are no surprises. The woman were a liberal breed back then, were they could choose the husband for themselves (swayamvara) and also refuse to marry them, if they did not like it (Shakunta, the original writings in Pali, point to the fact that she refused the marry the king unlike the modern retelling of the tale) This system was known to create by 7 reformers also known as Saptarhrishi (the 7 sages) in the retelling.

As mentioned in Ramayana, if everyone starts becoming ambitious, the kingdom will fall, for a society to succeed(in Hinduism Ram Rajya or as mentioned by Greeks, utopia) there should be strict discipline and moral code of conduct. Everything was subjective, like we have in corporate world, you do the task assigned to you and let others do what others have to do. Every other woman was treated as your bhabhi, hence the term originated as bhabhi ma. This era, the woman were scantly clad as can be seen by the traditional 9 vari saaree or the dressing sense of Shakuntala, Jaimani or Parvati (there is historic proof for these dresses, the society was liberal back then) also the biggest proof of the era was the temple of Khajurao, which dates back in that timezone itself.

Then the Persians traders stepped into the land. The Persians men treated their wives as a trophy and were freely indulging into other activities.The woman wore a full body covering clothing called the ‘Burqa’ and were completely dependent on their male. This seeded the roots of revolution in the indus valley civilization. The first wind of a semi-free society reached the land and shook the roots of Indus valley. (This I am talking about is before the mugul era, where the Greeks and the Persian merchants came the land)

This era also saw the emergence of Greeks, where woman were treated as damsel in distress and the heros and knights went on the quest to protect the honor of the woman (this should also suggest the emergence of Mahabharta which has a Greek influence on it, demi gods, heros etc rather than the traditional family values in it)

Many historians argue as to when the actual bubble of the Indus valley broke, but they all agree (and so do the scriptures) one fine day, River Saraswati dried down. The valley, the disciplined society broke its barriers. You cannot be disciplined if you and your family are hungry. A man is happy being a shudra as long as his family gets respect, food and shelter. The drying of river and the famine, showed the true colors of the society jolting it back to reality. There were fights for the supplies, some community took over the land creating a social imbalance.

While this was going on, the men though of the woman as a liability. Obviously, back in those days woman were also struggling to cope up with changing time, but the pressure of motherhood (biologically a mother cannot see her offspring suffer, a father can) was on them and managing the entire family in the times, was hard. Hence, the woman were shunned into the corner… or kitchen. To protect from the privy eyes, they were told to wear a wield over them also called padar in Marathi or dupatta in Hindi. This idea was borrowed from the Persians.

Ten years, the famine continued and many things happened during the time, Buddhism was created (there is a dispute regarding this) smaller kingdoms were formed (before the famine only Adhinayak was the king as mentioned in Rabindranath Tagore, Jana Gana Mana, so far only 5 Adhinayak are in existence, the 6th being Kalki) people with political manifesto and rebels became king and the entire society collapsed.The situation was sought out by the colonial Europe who had traveled to the new world in search of cibola (the legendary city of Gold.) they saw a society with all the natural resources but no social or economic advantage. The European society believed in linear world, were the king or queen (or even bishop) were ordered supreme. They tried to establish society from the debris of the collapsed world. Many reformers who saw this as a opportunity of shunning the evil practices came forward to build a stronger world. The practices of child marriages, Sati were deemed evil and shunned and a new modern Indus valley civilization was born. A hybrid version of subjectivity and objectivity.

But the bedrock of the civilization lay in its culture, the complete culture (good or evil values) and this new society which was semi formed of some remaining part of the older civilization, stuck to few of its older values and tradition and ignored the many others, thus creating an imbalance in the society as we see today.

The woman are struggling to find their existence in the new society, so are many caste. This society is now struggling between the subjective truths of the Indus valley civilization and its polytheism while at the same time, trying to cope up with the objective realities of the modern world and its monotheism and atheism. This creates a big gaping hole in the society and the entire value system collapses, woman are not honored, freedom is not respected and we face the inevitable. This phenomenon is actually called Kalyug in scriptures.

Is there a solution? Yes and No. Yes, we need to implement the biggest change management in the region for a 100,million people where old values are respectfully thrown away completely and embrace a new set of rules, deemed fit for the new world. and No, there is no point in openly rebelling against each other, feminist organizing slutwalk etc and the rationalist forming Khap Panchayat. Once we let go of the prejudice between us and look at the bigger picture, then we might come to the terms of the new world.

This new world will again be the ram rajya (or utopia), where everyone lives with honor, respect and satisfied but it won’t be the same as the old world. We need to accept the fact that there is no turning back, every attempt to turn back is going to create more tussle and more conflicts that can result in mutual self destruction.

Change is coming and if you are not part of the bulldozer of change, you are part of the road. Will you go down without a fight?


  1. Very interesting, though I don't know if all that can be verified in just that exact way.
    There is actually no point in rebelling against each other, working together towards a goal is always infinitely better. But when you are helpless, rebellion (like slutwalk) becomes the means to drive home a point.
    And yes, I totally agree with you on throwing away (with respectful regrets) the old values and start afresh with new set of rules. BUT (and that's an all important BUT) can you imagine the rebellion that will be unleashed. especially in India, for just voicing such an opinion??!! :)
    And oh yes, I have heard many women say that they'd shoot the person who invented the dupatta if they came across them. Guess what. I am a volunteer too in their society! ;)

  2. @Shail,
    I can assure you most of the history written can be verified, many people are doing it as we speak. Whether it will be accepter is a different matter altogether.

    Rebels like slutwalk against whom? People who call you slut or people who actually do things? People are not going to listen anyways, rationalist and feminist keep on fighting with each other not knowing that they both are on the same side. Both want the girls protected, each doing on its own way.

    //About throwing away the old values
    There is no other option than that. You can't leave some option and keep some and say hey its my culture. If you keep it, keep all culture, we just wont be able to compete with the outside world but will be self reliant. Or abandon the culture and prepare to face the world. Anything in between, there is going to be trouble and as history dictates, the woman are going to feel it.

  3. Good to know that its verifiable.

    Hmm.... rebellion is not against those who actually call for they may be fixed in their ideas. But its against those who give them the opportunity and the conveniences to do so and get away with it. BTW, I don't agree that those others can be called rationalists. Whoa! Rationalists have reason as the best guide for their action. But reason is the last thing you hear from them. By that definition, even feminists are rationalists because they too have their reasons for their action. Traditionalists perhaps, but no the others can't be called rationalists.

    I agree with your point that this mixing up of the old and the new is causing a lot of problems. But since we always move forward (we cannot turn back time) and also because the world is now different from what it had been in the past in terms of technology, living conditions, mobility et al, I for one am for doing away with the old and accepting the new. :)

  4. Change is coming ... and I would definitely like to be a part of the bulldozer, not the road. All religion started as common sense, ethics and norms of living a comfortable life. Then times changed and new norms had to be established. Society has always been in a state of flux. One has to move with the times, and this is definitely happening right now.


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