Passive Patriarchy on the Pyre, more Indian Women Partaking in their loved one’s Funeral Rites

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“I did my last rites of my father, about a month back. In fact all his four daughters together gave him fire. It is basically the nearest and dearest memories of me now. Yes, it was hard and the saddest moment of my life but I feel good that nobody except his daughters touched his body.”

This answer on Quora, replied to the question: “Are women not allowed to attend the cremation ceremony in some areas of Hindu culture?” demonstrates how times are changing for the good with passive patriarchy being done with. Slowly, women are capturing the customs and traditions that were reserved only for men, improving their standing in bygone cultural dictums

Men are considered the stronger sex due to their brute strength and physical capabilities. Yet, in most of the cultures, this has allowed them to overpower women in cases where physical vigor is not even a parameter. Save matrilineal cultures, women around the globe are discovering social and traditional discrimination and fighting against it.

The protests and dissent against this discrimination started with the Women’s suffrage in the late 19th Century. The United States of America legalized women’s right to vote in 1920, a process that only men were allowed to participate in. The adoption of the Indian constitution in 1950 enabled women to vote right away. Likewise, Hindu Succession Act, which gives equal rights to daughters on their ancestral property, was passed in 2005. Revolutionary mandates such as these do reflect the changes in the societal obligations and conformations.

However, the change in culture and laws mustn’t be limited to rights alone, but also should encompass the traditions and unnecessary restrictions in society. The funeral restriction on Quora is one of many such references that augment the subjective prejudice faced by women. The woman along with her three sisters challenged that narrative by lighting their father’s pyre, which according to Hindu rituals, is restricted to brothers and sons.   

This situation however, is slowly evolving for the better as even spiritual gurus and religious leaders are adopting progressive measures. Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim, for instance, promoted daughters to carry their father’s body at Dera Sacha Sauda. In another case, a female priest in Kolkata completely scrapped the ritual of kanyadan, which according to her, weighs down the bride as a commodity that has to be given away.

These initiatives and efforts have resulted in a better stance on part of the followers and improved the cultural standing of women in a significant way.

Thus, it seems that addressing passive patriarchy and systematically removing ancient customs is better than just belittling women through innate cultural inclinations. Take Trupti Desai, for example. Her initiatives helped lift the ban on women’s entry in the famous Shani Shingnapur Temple.

Pseudo-science will often be used to counter the cleansing of unnecessary taboos. Remember to use their weapons against them. If they talk about women being emotional anchors to departed souls during funerals, tell them how it’s only women who work in the kitchens despite the fact that they’re in mourning.