Rulers, Royalty, Rajasthan-the three words which are almost synonymous with the Rajput clan; a clan of warriors from the western front in India known for their valour, pride and dignity from times immemorial. This society has thrived for years fighting wars, sacrificing themselves for their subjects, their soil and honour. Just as people admire the impressiveness of these set of people, one question click the mind, “Are they also a part of the ‘male chauvinist India’? What about their women”. Good question, one may say, since the Indian society, in general, has been marred by this divide between the men and the women, so grave that it has led to umpteen number of evil by the former on the latter. Child foeticide, Sati practice, polygamy, dowry to name a few.
So how is it to be a Rajput lady?
First of all, child foeticide was never a practice much adored by the Rajputs. It happened in their immediate not-so-well-to-do society frequently which thought that a girl would be a burden on their already weakened shoulders during her marriage. For Rajputs, money was the least of the problems. However, there indeed is a divide created from the very beginning.
Clear cut responsibilities are laid out for the born child and made to follow in letter and spirit as she grows. She is expected to learn all the household work, help her mother, take care of all the things inside the home premises, learn self-defense, know all the rituals, customs, traditions of the family, the occasions, the mannerisms – all at a tender age. With the modern era coming in, studies, hobbies do come into picture but never at the cost of the ones mentioned before, the foundations of a Rajput girl. It is always over and above. She is taught about her heritage, her ancestry, the lineage she has to honor, the values she has to uphold. She is told about the legends of Laxmi Bai, Rani Padmini and all that goes in making a brave Rajput lady. The mother reserves the right of teaching her all these things. Any sort of assistance or help outside the home premises is the duty of the males of the house. It is undebatable, an unsaid rule, her right. The repercussions of making her unhappy in any form are very severe for them. There is never a ‘no’ from the men and her wishes are their commands.
From childhood, she is encouraged to play and interact with girls so by the time she touches her teenage, she knows the amount of distance to be maintained even with her brothers. Earlier the education was permitted in the strictly girls school, preferably a Rajput Only one. Hence, many a schools, mostly by the Royal families, were formed to cater for both these conditions. Primary education was promoted but Secondary was more than a luxury. But the scenario has changed for good and modern day Rajput girls are provided with all the education they wish.
By the time her teenage finishes, she is expected to know a few more things – how to wear and carry the colourful, heavy, traditional costumes; how to be efficient in organising big events – marriages, ceremonies; how to treat different kinds of people in different ways. There is a marked difference in the etiquette which one has to follow during conversation with another Rajput. She is to be trained for the different dance forms of the community, especially Ghoomar. It is astonishing that even in this era of modern musical instruments, Dhol remains the choicest music player of the Rajput ladies.
Then comes the biggest thing in her life. Her marriage. Earlier and in many cases, even today, it is entirely her parents’ call on whom she would be married to. No photographs, no chats. It is considered a cardinal sin even to enquire about her probable husband. Yet, there is no question of rejecting her parents’ wish. After all, that is what she is taught. Accept and if you don’t agree, sacrifice. Once finalised, she may have the best of everything – the poshaks, the jewellery – everything to suit the bride and make it big. Irony strikes when she takes the marriage vows with her entire face covered. After all, she is not supposed to see her husband till they are married. She gets a final briefing from her mother before leaving together with the tears that flow – briefing about her duties, her values and her utmost devotion towards her in-laws. Reminded again of the Haadi Rani who had cut her head herself when her husband asked for a token of remembrance before going for war – just to ensure he does not falter from his duty in the battlefield.
The Second Home:
New home and new beginnings await her. The expectations grow phenomenally after her wedding. Not only is she expected to behold the honour of her new family, but also prove the teachings of her parents’. She is tested by each and every one in everything. Though, the family may have helps, but she will be the one preparing the food always. It is very difficult for a lady to be as devout to her husband as these ladies are. The legendary Meera Bai devoted her entire life for Lord Krishna, whom she had taken to be her husband and Rani Padmini who performed Johar for her husband and her honour are just to quote a few. Even with modernisation, these traits havn’t changed and the divorce rates in Rajputs are close to nil. A divorce is considered not only the failure of the couple but the failure of an entire generation.
As the life moves on, she becomes the pillar of her husband and the teacher of her kids; teaching them whatever she had learnt from her parents’ and experiences. Modern day Rajput ladies work independently as well, but it’s rare to find them living away from their husbands. They have made their mark in armed forces, politics, science, music, culinary but have retained their traditions. Covering the head and purdah is still a norm but not a compulsion. The beauty lies in the fact that everything is done voluntarily without any mandatory obligations.
As the times change, the Rajput lady is becoming more self-determined, more self-assured. Men have supported their cause and evils are minimised. They are coming out of their homes, joining clubs, working at MNCs, volunteering for social causes without sacrificing their traditions, their heritage – the foundations of a Rajput girl. Remember, it is always over and above.