Saturday, October 24, 2020
Home Opinions The Abrahamic gaze and innocent Tamil children

The Abrahamic gaze and innocent Tamil children

(This article has been co-authored by Yogini and Mahalaxmi)

Most Tamils will know of a movie called ‘Rosapoo Ravikkaikkari’ (The Woman in a Rose Blouse) that came out in 1979.

It is a commercial movie that brings out some subliminal messages on the politics of how women’s bodies are seen by themselves and changing attitudes to the male gaze.

To put in short, a pretty young woman is married to a simpleton in a remote mountain village where none of the women wear blouses. She insists on her besotted husband buying her a blouse, a want that is resented and objected to by the elder women of the village, especially the mother-in-law. They believe a woman who insists on a blouse for herself is being uppity and superior. Things come to a head when the older woman tears the blouse off.

The pretty woman later is infatuated with a young man from a nearby town. The movie ends with the husband finding her in a compromising position with her lover, where she has taken her blouse off! It is the same piece of clothing that he defied his mother to buy her.

The movie drives the message of a woman under the ‘modern’ influence sexualizing her own upper body, since she seeks to cover it for all but a lover’s gaze.

In the more remote villages of Tamil Nadu, it was common for older women to cover their upper bodies with only the drape of their sarees. Pre-pubescent girls frequently went in the streets and by-lanes of their villages with no upper body covering. In fact, the notion of covering up women’s bodies to protect them from men’s unwanted gaze seems to have been quite unknown in peninsular India before the 17th Century. Thinking of women’s bodies as commodities to be wrapped up from men’s vision is an idea imported with assorted Abrahamic invasions.

Most Indians do not find the choice of a saree bothersome from a male gaze perspective. However, Prof Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, advisor to the Indian Christian Secular Party is said to have declared the saree a symbol of oppression as it left women ‘half-naked’ and exhorted them to wear jeans as a symbol of emancipation.  Of course if the women wear short tops or sphagetti strap tops on jeans will leave her as much exposed if not more seems to have lost on Ilaiah or may be he wants to have a diktat that women should wear only fully covered tops on jeans.

It is in this background and context that we have to view the media reporting around a practice in a village called Vellalur in Melur Taluk, Madurai District.

Parents pray to the Goddess Ezhai Kaatha Amman (the Mother who saved the seven children). To commemorate local  legends of 7 girl children miraculously turning to stone and then being revived. 7 girl children are dressed, garlanded, decked in jewels and housed in the temple for 15 days. During this time, these children are seen as embodiments of the Goddess herself and people pray to these children. The parents accompany these children and ensure their safety. Each year, 7 children are selected from the 60 villages that constitute the community celebrating this annual temple festival.

From reports, it appears that these are pre-pubescent children between the ages of 7 and 10. It is apparently considered inauspicious for a girl undergoing this ritual to have her periods, hence only children that have no chance of attaining puberty are selected for this ritual. After the ritual that lasts 7 days, by all evidence, these children go back to their usual lives. During this period of 15 days, the children stay in the temple and are treated as living embodiments of the Goddess herself. They travel to all the villages and bless people.

Whatever one may think of the ritual, it is a community activity, in which parents and children participate willingly and nobody seems to be harmed by it. It’s a festival in which the entire community participates. One can even see older women without blouses, as was common during earlier times.

This has been reported earlier in Tamil media as mere news and no-one thought much of it. This report in Tamil The Hindu reports it as such. These 15 days are seen as a period of fasting when villagers avoid meat, oily food, avoid cutting down trees and digging holes in the ground (presumably to avoid harming worms and insects).

However, based on an inflammatory article in the little-known website Covai Post, district authorities were petitioned by a foreign funded NGO, SOCO Trust, and have found no evidence of any wrong-doing. This has been picked up by national news outlets like NDTV for prurient reporting.

In the meantime, Covai Post has started playing the victimhood game, by alleging threatening calls and harvesting those 15 minutes of fame.

There are many videos, from Tamil media like Makkal TV and SUN TV and from general public, which show that these children are garlanded and are in the public eye. Therefore, there is not much scope of the children undergoing mental or physical stress.

Here is a tweet series from a certain Balaji, who is a native of the region and has actually been there, unlike most English Language media that wouldn’t know Melur from Meerut.

In our opinion, the root cause of such irresponsible reporting comes from the elitist mind-set of the media, where age-old practices of a villagers  are seen as naturally ‘superstitious’, ‘primitive’ and the tendency is to exoticize them. Historically most Indian women didn’t wear a blouse. Either the saree was wrapped in a fashion so as to partially cover the breast or big breasted women used cholis to get some support. The Victorian  concept of saree blouse came into vogue during the British era and was essentially fostered on the Indian woman since the British didn’t like our customs.

From the ‘modern’ perspective, the female body is seen as being susceptible to the male gaze always, and must either be covered up to protect or displayed to attract. There is nothing in between. The same people in the media would have no problems with pre-pubescent girls being topless on a beach in the West, or with the sexualized images of teenagers and tweens that TV and reality shows constantly beam, since these are approved from a Western Point of View.

Media’s Misinterpretation

The Hindu’s English edition had earlier reported the practice of dedicating girls to the Goddess Mathamma, as a practice similar to devadasi-hood, in 2003.

These two reports have been conflated, and based on an inflammatory article in the web-site Covai Post, a full-fledged media controversy has been generated.

Lurid reports have appeared in the Times of India, The New Indian Express, where the locations have been confused – between Tiruvallur District in TN to Andhra Pradesh, the ages of the girls involved have been revised upward to 14, additional activities invented such as clothes getting torn off by boys, and finally, reports of the children being forced into prostitution have been invented.

Incidentally, SOCO Trust, the NGO that picked up and publicized this issue had earlier moved court against any curbs on sale and slaughter of cattle. SOCO Trust receives funding from such organizations as Action Aid, UK and Centre for World Solidarity. The influence of a Abrahamic mind-set, which sees women’s bodies and animal bodies merely as commodities of consumerism, is quite clear. The woman’s body is for sexual consumption while the animal’s body is to be eaten as meat.

Is this mind-set not the same as that of the cleric who called exposed female bodies ‘meat’? The organisations which fund SOCO in their parent country have nudist colonies where the whole population is allowed live as per their wishes. Do these organisations encourage PILs to shut down these nudist camps?

Why  do these FCRA NGOs have issues ONLY  with Hindu rituals and customs ? Amongst Muslims women are married off at age 15, have to wear a Burkha when as young as 5 years of age and have to undergo genital mutilation without consent when they can barely understand. But we rarely see any PIL demanding any changes in Muslim codes of law and culture.

The perverse mentality of destroying indigenous cultural practices to suit Abrahamic sensibilities has to stop.

We live in times when the ‘feminist’ movement has gained momentum. Women, are talking about reclaiming their dignity and not being reduced to sexualised objects. The dichotomy reveals itself when women do it in the name “modern values” not realising that the tradition of sexualising the female form started with Abrahamic and later, British onslaught.

Traditional Hindu values treat women as a form of Shakti. It is indeed these so called ‘modern values’ that seek to reduce women to sexual objects. Perhaps then, it becomes important to understand how the wheels of time have come a full circle. Where we fight to regain lost glory, but ignorantly, attribute it to ‘fighting against tradition’. While people like Prof Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd pretend to espouse the ‘progressive thought’, what they in actuality perpetuate, is the Abrahamic value of sexualisation, not the indic tradition of liberation, freedom, emancipation and strength.

(The authors thank Singhbaboo and @zeneraalstuff for discussions and insights on rural practices of Tamil Nadu)

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Yoginihttp://www.subodhini.in/
Entrepreneur, Infrastructure Systems, Sustainability, Educator, Music, Cultural Anthropology, Dog Lover

Related Articles

Trending now

Faisal Khan says he wants to come out of brother Aamir Khan’s shadow who had earlier called him ‘mentally ill’

Faisal Khan said he will have to break out of his superstar brother's shadow and make his own decisions so that people recognise him as an individual

Exclusive: Conversation that shows how Mumbai Police is trying to coerce witness into naming Republic TV in TRP scam

While Hansa Research report and the FIR filed named India Today in TRP scam, in less than 24 hours, Mumbai Police had seemingly made up its mind that Republic TV was the culprit

Param Bir Singh now wants details of every purchase and expense made by Republic TV, even microphones, toilet papers, makeup and stationery

"This an overt attempt to harass a news organisation, infringe on its operations and bring back the Emergency-era way of functioning," Republic TV stated.

Bihar’s ‘lantern’ era has ended, those who made the state ‘Bimaru’ can not come back to power: PM Modi in Sasaram

PM Narendra Modi addressed his first election rally at Biada Maidan in Sasaram days before Bihar polls.

Legendary cricketer Kapil Dev suffers heart attack, admitted to Delhi hospital

Kapil Dev undergoes angioplasty surgery in Delhi after suffering a heart attack

Did French teacher Samuel Patty, who was beheaded by a migrant Islamist terrorist, attend a rally welcoming refugees to France? Read details

Images from a pro-refugee rally in UK used to claim that French teacher Samuel Patty had welcomed refugees in France

Recently Popular

Exclusive: Conversation that shows how Mumbai Police is trying to coerce witness into naming Republic TV in TRP scam

While Hansa Research report and the FIR filed named India Today in TRP scam, in less than 24 hours, Mumbai Police had seemingly made up its mind that Republic TV was the culprit

‘He supplies drugs and girls’: Estranged wife of Mahesh Bhatt’s nephew Luviena Lodh alleges harassment by nephew-uncle duo

Luviena Lodh said that Mahesh Bhatt is the don of the industry, and he controls everything that goes on in the film industry

France: Charlie Hebdo cartoons projected on government building to express solidarity with deceased teacher who was beheaded by Islamic terrorist

Days after the barbaric beheading of teacher Samuel Paty on the streets of Paris by a terrorist for showing the cartoons of Prophet Mohammad to his students, support continues to pour in for the deceased teacher.

‘Jism ki garmi’: How Hindi film industry disregarded consent and normalised rape and molestation over the years

The Hindi film industry has, knowingly or unknowingly, convinced a generation of people that rape is normal when done in light of 'greater good'.

Lucknow: Jama Mazar caretaker ‘Kale Baba’ caught running sex racket, video goes viral

The caretaker has allegedly confessed to police that he was sexually exploiting women and engaging them in illicit activities in the name of curing infertility and other ailments.

Complaints filed against Eros Now and Arré for vulgar social media posts related to Navratri

Both Eros Now and Arre had published social media posts linking Navratri festival with sex and vulgarity
- Advertisement -

ED summons Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh in FEMA violation case

Amarinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh summoned by ED in relation to a trust named Jacaranda Trust & subsidiaries in British Virgin Islands

Delhi: Already married twice, e-rickshaw driver Dilbar Qureshi poses as Rahul to trap 13-year-old Hindu girl, calls the second wife his sister to deceive...

Dildar Qureshi elopes with minor Hindu girl in Delhi after introducing himself as Rahul, police launches a manhunt

OpIndia exclusive report vindicated: Bombay HC directs India Today to deposit Rs 5 lakh fine imposed by BARC for viewership data malpractice

OpIndia was the first to expose the matter regarding the show-cause notice being sent to India Today by BARC in April this year

‘He supplies drugs and girls’: Estranged wife of Mahesh Bhatt’s nephew Luviena Lodh alleges harassment by nephew-uncle duo

Luviena Lodh said that Mahesh Bhatt is the don of the industry, and he controls everything that goes on in the film industry

Mumbai Police registers FIR against the entire editorial team of Republic TV alleging incitement of disaffection among Mumbai police and defamation

FIR filed against the entire editorial team of the Republic TV for allegedly citing Hansa Research's report on the TRP scam case

Dalit woman gang-raped in Jalore in Rajasthan, victim files case after the accused circulate a video of the act

The victim had reportedly taken her goats for grazing when she was gang-raped by three persons in Jalore in Rajasthan 4 months ago

Tamil Nadu: Chidambaram MP Thol Thirumavalavan says Sanatana Dharma treats women as ‘sex workers’

"Women are basically created as prostitutes by God. All women are prostitutes as per Hindu Dharma, Manu Dharma. All women are prostitutes. This is what the Sanatana Dharma says", said the MP.

139 villages in Gujarat set an example in preventing Coronavirus before the world with not a single positive case recorded so far

The people in these villages have been strictly following the Coronavirus guidelines by wearing masks and following social distancing.

Kashmir: Two terrorists, Abid and Mehraj, surrender before the Indian army after the intervention of parents

When the presence of terrorists was confirmed, security forces called their parents to convince them to surrender

Court extends judicial custody of Delhi riots accused Sharjeel Imam and Umar Khalid till November 20

Sharjeel Imam and Umar Khalid, arrested in n relation to the North-east Delhi riots case, will now remain in Tihar Jail until November 20.

Connect with us

245,563FansLike
467,384FollowersFollow
19,100SubscribersSubscribe