One Billion Rising: Sanjhi Festival, a Symbolic Gender Equalizer

In a state where women are treated as second class citizens for most of their lives, the Sanjhi festival is an interesting contrast– a cultural course on gender sensitivity. A mother of 3, Sunita Kasera is a Hindu woman who goes to temple regularly and celebrates many festivals. In almost every festival, women like her perform many rituals such as cleansing and fasting which are observed for the well being of their husbands, children and other relatives.These rituals often take the form of duties that women are expected to perform; not fulfilling them brands them as someone who is unloving and uncaring.

The Sanjhi festival celebrated in Karauli, Rajasthan, reverses some of these gender roles. Married men perform the rituals to ensure healthy lives for their wives. They visit the Krishna temple and paint rangolis with water and powdered colors. Prior to painting, men must observe a fast.

Sunita found it very interesting that in a state where women are always expected to sacrifice and renounce, men give up food for their wives, even if it is just for a day. But when she asked around, she found that not every man from her community practiced this and that they weren’t aware of this festival. She then decided to make a video on this because for her the ritual is a symbolic equalizer.

Sunita says, “A festival is a fun event. But, we the women are always expected to do something. We are expected to constantly show others that we love them, respect them and wish them well. Once in a while it is great to know that we too are loved and cared for. So, it feels great when my husband performs Sanjhi.”

Though Sanjhi is practiced in several states in India, Sunita says that it is only in her community that men perform it instead of women and so she feels that this is a great practice that can help men understand how a woman feels when she fasts and observes rituals for her loved ones.

One Billion Rising:

One Billion Rising is an international campaign, which calls on women and men all over the world to rise and demand an end to violence against women. We at Video Volunteers are joining the campaign. Over the next few days we bring you stories from across India. Stories of women who have stood up and demanded their rights, of women who have helped others get what is rightfully theirs, of women who refuse to be silent in the face of an attack.

Come join us in signing the pledge: http://onebillionrising.org/page/s/one-billion-rising-pledge

Please also share Chanchal Paswan’s appeal and sign the petition on change.org demanding strong legal action against the perpetrators of the acid attack on her here: http://www.change.org/chanchal

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