Women Celebrate
Freedom Fest

Rural women in India’s Maharashtra state get to play and dance – normally considered a taboo - on Nag Panchami. Nag Panchami or the Snake festival has a totally different meaning for women in Walhe village of India’s Maharashtra state as the day allows them to dance and play on the occasion of the festival. Rohini, the correspondent of this video gives us an exclusive insight into this tradition which allows a rare chance to women in her community to enjoy freedom.

In rural India women often labour harder than men do, their areas of work stretching from home and kitchen to the paddy fields. Yet they are treated as inferior to men. So while men are free to do whatever they want, women’s movement is restricted and they must take special permission from their family members even to step out of their homes. Women are also victims of several social evils such as female infanticide/foeticide, early marriage, dowry, forced divorce, malnutrition, poor health and lack of education. These are endemic problems existing in all states, irrespective of religion and communities.

In rural Mahasrashtra where Rohini lives, women are especially forbidden from stepping into public sphere. They are also forbidden to sing, dance or play in public view. Those who do so, are looked down upon as women of loose morals.

However, once in a year – on the day of Nagpanchami this bar is lifted and women are expected to dance and play games. So this day local women gather at the snake goddess temple to worship. But what they really wait for is the moment when the worshipping is over and dance and games can begin. Once that moment comes, everyone joins in dancing and playing – acts that are otherwise considered a taboo.

Rohini says that throughout the year women of her community look forward to this day when nobody will shout at them for dancing or, nobody will accuse them of breaking a tradition by playing. However, after this day, they will have to return to the life of restriction again. Rohini feels that this must change. She wants the patriarchal society to change its thoughts and values, so that women like her will not have to enjoy for one long year to enjoy a day’s freedom.

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