Black as Evil

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 1 15:04:00 UTC 2000

>I can testify only for my (north Indian) community -- "Mathur Vaishya" --
>by customs widows wear white. -Arun Gupta

Thanks. Similar info is told in many ethnological accts. of North India.

In old India and despite effects in modern India of fashion
and Christianity/Islam, brides by customs wear red and, widows
wear pure white. White is the color of mourning and prescribed
for widows, and seeing white sareed widows is a bad omen of

OTOH, devadasis were the only womenfolk wearing colored saree
throughout their lives traditionally. They are nityasumangalis
and repositories of all arts and learning. They do kumbhaarathis
for temple deities, and this is supposed to remove the "evil eye"
cast upon even the gods themselves! Devadasis never wear white sarees,
and in old inscriptions they are called "mANikkatti" ('jewels
of the society') and this all have surely to do with some
customs of the ancient Mesopotamia. Traditionally, ladies have much
more freedoms in the South. In Kerala, this was exploited
by Namburies in mid-late 1st millennium by devising sambandha
vivaham alliances.

One of the ill effects of Islamic invasions in the North is women
losing their liberty and going into seclusion in the mediaeval times.
"With the coming of the Muslims in the tenth century, Hindus in
northern India adopted the system of parda, whereby women from
puberty to old age were screened from the sight of all men save
their husbands and close relatives. Influences from the Tamils
in the south during the eigth to the twelfth centuries, however,
gave women new importance in some Hindu religious circles (see
the discussion of ZAktism later in the chapter), leading to the
loosening of many restrictions placed on females by male-dominated
Hindu society. The observance of parda began to be abandoned.
Today it is almost completely ignored by Hindu women."
(p.105, A.L.Basham, The origins and development of Classsical

N. Ganesan

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