Friday, April 07, 2006

An Irony?

Women sex workers perform puja to Goddess Durga during Navratri in Varanasi. Please read the details here . They dance for the Gods and Goddesses and Priests, throughout the night, with the hope that they will be born into higher castes in their next lives so that they can enter temples.

To me it seems a big irony. They are praying to be reborn into higher castes to enter temple! But what are they going to achieve? Women, whether low or high castes, are not allowed to enter the inner sanctum in many many temples across India or even touch the Gods or Goddesses. And even where they can enter they will never be allowed to become priests.

Bengal, the region of India where I come from, has a tradition of worshipping a God called Narayan. In fact, any pujas of any Gods/Goddesses you do in Bengal, you first have to worship Him (Narayan). Now these pujas are carried out in homes by the women of the home only - that is they set up the place or mundap, set up the statues of Gods/Goddesses, decorate the area, cuts all the fruits, make other foods (to be offered to the Gods/Goddesses), make garlands out of flowers, and do all sorts of things so that the puja ceremony can be hold. The main puja, where the mantras are chanted and other rituals are done is always performed by a man. And, this man or the priest (called purohit) will bring this Narayan with him and no woman can touch Narayan or the priest as long as the Narayan is with him. Why? Well no one could give me a satisfying answer; according to some because we women are vulgar and dirty and if we touch man we can corrupt him. I do not know whether or not this is true, but I know that women are not allowed to worship, perform any kind of puja, enter any temples in India while they are menstruating because they becom dirty and literally untouchables during that time!!!!!!! Amen!

So, instead of dancing to reborn in higher status, these women and every other woman in India should stand up and claim their rights to become priests. Hey, if the Gods can be females (in fact, all the important and powerful Gods are actually Goddesses in Hinduism), then why can't the priests be???

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