India is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society.The great diversity is often reflected in the number of festivals and ceremonies.Several communities here have one festival celebrated almost every month. While some are rooted in myth or religion, some are a celebration of relationships.
The ritual of ‘Month of Stone’ started as a celebration of the relationship between a man and his bride’s family. There are similar rituals observed elsewhere in India, especially in West Bengal. Known as Jamai Shashti, the ritual is observed by a married man’s parents in-law who invite their son-in law over lunch and offer him, beside a sumptuous meal, gifts.
However, over time these rituals are fast turning into a form of collecting dowry as the bride’s family had to buy expensive gifts, even if their economic status didn’t permit it. Several families have meager earnings and are therefore too poor to buy gold rings and other expensive gifts. So they are forced to take loan from a money lender, at high interest rate, for this. The ritual, therefore, amounts to dowry in disguise for these families
Maharashtra in recent years has witnessed suicide of thousands of farmers after failing to pay back their loans. Living in Walhe –a village in Pune district of Maharashtra, Rohini Powar, our correspondent has been observing this struggle and fight for survival among her community members for years. Though failure of crop is the main reason for this non-payment of loans, rituals like ‘month of stone’ increase their burden of loans, feels Rohini.