Showing posts with label Peepal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peepal. Show all posts

2.06.2007

Aishwarya Marries Tree(s)--A Setback for Feminism?

Aishwarya Rai, who has been in the news lately because of her engagement to Abhishek Bachchan, has apparently been ritually married to not one but two trees before her real marriage (thanks, Antahkarana). The aim is to counter the astrological effects of being born a Manglik:

But Ash is reportedly blighted with what in astrological terms is described as “manglik dosh,” which means that the planet Mars (mangla) and possibly even the planet Saturn are in the seventh house. People with manglik dosh are prone to multiple marriages, according to San Francisco Bay Area Vedic astrologer Pandit Parashar. That means Ash’s marriage to Abhishek could either end in divorce or his death.

In Hindu tradition, in order to offset the evil influence of manglik dosh, a woman should marry a peepal or banana tree before she ties the knot with her fiancé. Or she could even marry a clay urn, which should be broken soon after the nuptial ceremonies, signifying that the bride has become a widow, and the manglik dosh problem has been solved.

It’s not known if Ash has married, or plans to marry, an urn, but she reportedly has married a peepal tree in the holy city of Varanasi, and a banana tree in the southern Indian city of Bangalore. (link)

The Indian media is reporting that a case has been filed against the Bachchan family by lawyer Shruti Singh to the effect that these types of practices promote untouchability. She has also suggested that it's offensive to women.

There has been some discussion of this event on the blog Feministing, and one commenter there points out that the practice of marrying a tree can also be recommended for men, though I haven't been able to confirm that. (If true, that would definitely weaken the case that this is a misogynistic ritual.) Other commenters have suggested that this is probably pretty harmless in the big scheme of things -- especially since honor killings, dowry killings, child marriages, and forced marriages are still problems in Indian society.

What do you think? Is this "backward" practice part of a slippery slope (only one step away from things that are much more problematic), or something basically harmless? What do you think of Shruti Singh's claim that this practice promotes untouchability? I must admit I don't know very much about Hindu astrology, and so can't say what role caste plays in these practices in general.