The first solid traces of a well organized civilization, the Indus valley civilization have been dated back to 3750 B.C. (approx) in India, ever since, this country has seen rise and fall of civilizations and dynasties. So it’s quite obvious that along with this enviable heritage India has to have some ugly skeletons in its cupboard too.
This month, in quite contradiction to my usual Thursday writings I will write a bit methodically, using information in books and internet about a son of India I love and the changes he has brought in India (in ethereal heights) and about the things he has changed (in earth in black and white).
These won’t be the famous ones like Gandhi or Gautam Budhdha, everyone knows about them. These are (sorry) all Bengalis, the province I live in because of only one natural reason, I grew up reading and admiring them and I prefer talking about those I know well about.
First one is Raja Rammohan Roy, every Bengali woman should be grateful to two men- Raja Rammohan Roy and Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar.
Raja Rammohan Roy made arrangements to make the abolition of satipratha (burning alive wives along with the dead body of the husband). He tried to abolish child marriage and purdah pratha – Hindu women too covered their faces. In every noble, well to do families women did not show their faces to men that were not directly related to them, the houses were visibly separated in bahirmahal and andarmahal- the bahirmahal was open to all and the andarmahal was guarded and meant for only women, children and their direct relatives. It was quite reality that a man if he was not a direct relation like brother, father,son or husband was never allowed a single glance on the faces of these women, they used to cover their face when communicating with their son in laws too and addressed them indirectly- that is, they had to grab a child and pretend that she is talking via that child- the child is playing the role of messenger- phew!
A widely circulated story about these women was if they wanted to taka bathe in Ganga they used to enter a palanquin and shut the door. the carriers used to take the palanquin to ganges, dip it and take it back- its not a joke.
The satipratha was a really ugly affair- in this system the wives were burnt alive with their dead husbands, mostly by force because this practice quite obviously was followed by crème de la crème of the Hindu society most, the wealthy aristocrats who possessed immense amount of land and other properties. Sometimes the women were provoked by the tall tales of glorious death and of course heaven afterwards but mostly they were forced, drugged and burnt alive! What a horrible society! Thank God that Raja Rammohan Roy worked tooth and nail to get the society rid of this monstrous act.
Child marriage is still quite rampant in India but fortunately sometimes police or locals intervene and stop them.