Celebrating Milestones

Did I mention previously that rituals and sacrements form an integral part of the Tambrahm lifestyle? From birth to death, every milestone is crossed with determination under the eagle eyed guidance of the priest. The rules are strict and immutable. They are also male centric, institutionalising discrimination and exlusion of women.

In the Tambrahm way of life, when a man reaches the age of sixty, he celebrates his 'Sashtiapthapurthi'. When a man reaches seventy, he celebrates 'Bhimaratha Shanthi'. When he reaches eighty, he celebrates 'Sadabhishekam' and when he approaches one hundred years of age, he celebrates 'Kanakabhishekam'. These can be celebrated only if his first born is a son and his first born's first born is also a son. Yes. Its complicated. And where does the woman figure in all this? She just needs to be beside her long living husband when the celebrations take place. If she has not been so disobliging as to have kicked the bucket before the festivities - which are basically a re-enactment of the marriage ceremony by each subsequent generation of male children.

Discrimination, exclusion and isolation are experienced by women everyday in different ways. You could be an illiterate woman surviving on daily wages, or a highly educated woman belonging to a privileged class of society. Regardless of the strata of society they belong to, these are realities women learn to confront, negotiate, accept or propogate, depending on socialisation, experiences and personal mission in life. If you choose to stand up for egalitarianism, then the support and partnership of men can make the difference. And that is the origin of this long winded narration!

My parents are celebrating the golden jubilee of their marriage this year. All his life, my father has looked askance at poojas and rituals that mark the Tambrahm lifestyle. On several occassions he was simply pressurised into going along with them. But in this matter, he refused to budge. My father scorned the 'Shashtis' and 'Bhimas'. 'My wife and I have together built this family. I see no reason to celebrate only MY birthday.' But this year he was rather excited. 'Our marriage will be 50 years old. Lets celebrate!.

So we will Appa. And this post is a daughter's celebration of the wonderful liberal thinking man that you are.

With love.

This entry was posted in ,. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Celebrating Milestones

  1. magiceye says:

    may these noble right thinking souls celebrate many more!!!

  2. Great! May his tribe increase...

    Yours truly... being a bengali... was/is unaware of all 'Shashtis' and 'Bhimas'. The only 'Bheemas' I have heard of is the jeweller. The spelling may differ but they sound the same...

    Infact, I had no clue re: the existence of sooooo many rituals... and was 'enlightened' once I arrived @ namma Bengaluru for persuing my studies. I'm amazed to see the differences in customs among people belonging to the Hindu faith... and that makes me unhappy.

    Here folks openly ask each other re: their caste. Sad!

    P.S. When people followed the 'Bhramyacharya', 'Grihasthya'... etc phases of life... 'Sashtiapthapurthi','BhimarathaShanthi', 'Sadabhishekam', 'Kanakabhishekam'... et al did not exist. What?

  3. Deepa says:

    Roshmi: I think the rituals broadly mark entry / exit into the four ashramas. The curiosity about caste exists everywhere. When I lived in Gujarat, I had to reveal my caste to assure potential landlords that I am a vegetarian! Perhaps the caste factor is muted in Bengal due to the Left influence? :)

  4. nkr4068 says:

    Nice article & a beautiful blogging space! :)

  5. hey ....

    I know !!
    But though I found them irritating as a kid, I kind of feel they are relevant now .... it is the only way we get to meet a lot of people!

    moreover, it is nice to felicitate those elders who have mnade such a huge diff in our lives.

    but of course, not to the extent that it becomes a gaudy show !

    Wishing your parents a very happy time !

  6. Deepa says:

    @nkr4068: Welcome to my blog and thanks. I'm partial to the layout myself! :)

    @Deepa: I'm sure we can find many creative ways for socialising! Indians hardly need an excuse to enjoy themselves. :) Sure we should celebrate and honour our elders. But can we find an INCLUSIVE way of doing so? Something that celebrates women's lives equally?

  7. actually, i feel in olden days ,women were given top prio tho they were mostly at home ... of course, they were restricted, but respected too ... but now ......

  8. Sudeshna says:

    Deepa...Roshmi....Casteism has presented itself in the most pernicious manner in the form of the system of Kulinism (polygamy)prevalent only in Bengal and no other place in India. It is believed that Ballal Sen 1160-1178, the second ruler of the sen dynasty with a view to reorganising the social system introduced the system of Kulinism.

    In Rabindranath tagore's work "Chandalika" there is clear indication of Untouchability and the effort of a young Buddhist (Ananda) to remove these constructs.

  9. Sandhya says:

    Nice to know your father, Deepa. What he said is correct. My son said when we celebrated my husband's 60th, that he will celebrate mine in equal style! 2 years more to reach 60!

    Last month we celebrated my sis-in-law's husband's 59th to 60th at Thirukkadaiyur. Again his 60th will be celebrated next March! We are giving them nice gifts at that time too!

    Our best wishes to your parents, Deepa.

  10. Deepa says:

    Thanks for the good wishes Sandhya. We're trying to make it a really special occasion for them.

  11. An exceptional post. I am not from a Tambrahm family, but our own family also has a share of acquired Brahmanical rituals. Nobody knows how these came about, but our kulapurohits create a fuss whenever there is a function. Being an atheist, I am always the one getting into a heated argument!

  12. Deepa says:

    milkmiracle.net: Thanks! The world of heated arguments has many inhabitants I see. I blow my top / fulminate in impotent rage when I see how religion and culture exploit women's labour and never give them center stage for anything. Read my post on 'Patriarchy and the twice born' for a glimpse.

  13. Best wishes to your dad, we need such dads to bring much needed reforms :) I liked Sandhya's idea of both the partners celebrating their birthdays.

  14. No Deepa... I did not mean that people are just curious about others caste, etc... to understand their culinary preferences. They ask about it as soon as they have a visitor... or if they have tenants/paying guests... their visitors.

    It is downright rude and insulting too.

    The 'lingayats' and the'vokkaligas' indulge in this kind of behaviour... more than the others.

    "Perhaps the caste factor is muted in Bengal due to the Left influence?"

    This is due to the legions of social reformers... Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Raja Rammohan Roy, Keshab Chandra Sen, Rani Rashmoni, P.C. Sen, Sri Ramkrishna, Ma Sarada, Swami Vivekananda, the Tagore family... and even the freedom fighters, intellectuals, etc.


    P.S. This is also a gentle reminder... one week is up.

  15. Deepa says:

    Roshmi: Lady...! You're fast becoming the voice of my conscience. :) Regarding caste, though this post is not about caste per se, I find ugly maninfestations of caste in most communities - in greater or lesser degree. I have no idea about what its like in Bangalore / Karnataka since I have not lived there. But within my own community it is alive and kicking. Separate tea cups for domestic help, not eating food or drinking water in places where caste is not known - are just a few!

  16. Renu says:

    Really happy to see that men like your father ...

  17. Choco says:

    "It was my fault" - sad indeed that we have taught someone as young to start of life by blaming herself for society's ways...

    Best wishes to your parents. Your dad is commendable. I hope he gets to see your posts and see the comments. :)

  18. Deepa says:

    Roshmi: Lady...! You're fast becoming the voice of my conscience. :) Regarding caste, though this post is not about caste per se, I find ugly maninfestations of caste in most communities - in greater or lesser degree. I have no idea about what its like in Bangalore / Karnataka since I have not lived there. But within my own community it is alive and kicking. Separate tea cups for domestic help, not eating food or drinking water in places where caste is not known - are just a few!

  19. An exceptional post. I am not from a Tambrahm family, but our own family also has a share of acquired Brahmanical rituals. Nobody knows how these came about, but our kulapurohits create a fuss whenever there is a function. Being an atheist, I am always the one getting into a heated argument!

  20. magiceye says:

    may these noble right thinking souls celebrate many more!!!