Can you make clear the work that you simply do as a priestess?
Everything adjustments with time, is not it? Once slightly woman is married off. Her face is roofed to such an extent that no different male individual aside from her husband, can see her face for the remainder of her life. Once the vermillion is placed on her parting, instantly her face is roofed. She has to really feel shy as a result of this society is asking her to.
Why ought to we, within the 21st century really feel shy after the marriage? Like this, there have been quite a few cases which have led me to analysis Indian wedding ceremony rituals. Along with me, Ruma, Semanti Di and Poulomi needed to do one thing by means of our ardour and forming our like-minded group, ‘Shubhamastu’ made it attainable. Ruma and I are Sanskrit college students and so, we sat down with our historic texts to seek out out about respectful issues ladies might do and so, we picked solely such appropriate parts. Semanti Di and Poulami sat down with songs, primarily these of Tagore’s and different comparatively trendy Bengali songs, which converse of a harmonious existence the place there shall be no discrimination amongst anyone. This is what our focus is concerning the priesthood.
Picture credit score: Nandini Bhowmik)
You talked about Shubhamastu, so how did all 4 of you provide you with the identify?
We had been all looking for out one thing which is able to match our focus, work and like-mindedness and society, after all. We needed to indicate society that we’re new clergymen. In this time, the place individuals are preventing over disharmony, we’re at all times preventing over discrimination in regard to faith, gender, caste or financial place. So if we are saying Shubham-astu, ‘let there be wellbeing for all.’
You and the members of Shubhamastu don’t announce your surnames whereas introducing yourselves in ceremonies. Why is that so?
In our society, many individuals imagine that, if a priest will not be a Brahmin, then someplace there’s a trace of paap (sin), punya holo na aar (it can’t be pure). And we’re in opposition to all this. Times have modified, we can’t discriminate an individual by the caste that individual belongs to. To this present day, our title nonetheless defines our caste in society. And for that motive, we immediately determined that we gained’t use our titles after we are clergymen. We ought to be identified simply by our names and our work. That’s all.
What was that precise second of inspiration or ‘push’ you wanted to pursue your work as a priestess?
It was my trainer in school, Professor Gauri DharmaPal. She has formulated a really concise and easy model of the Indian, Bengali Vedic wedding ceremony. Me and Ruma, each of us had been college students in school, learning Sanskrit Honours and so, Gauri Di requested us each to study this process from her. It was so good that she had chosen us amongst her outdated college students!
I used to be additionally extraordinarily as a result of my daughter’s wedding ceremony was barely a couple of months away. And I needed to be a priestess at my little one’s wedding ceremony. That was the fast push that made me a priest. And that was how we start.
So, we named our organisation, Shubhamastu. And the journey started with a reasonably very trendy and modern method to the standard methodology of spiritual and social features. We primarily base our providers, like, first, we started with solely weddings, then we’ve scripted out, Paralokik Kaaj—the homage to the departed, AnnaPrashan—the primary rice-eating ceremony, and Griha Pravesh—home warming ceremony. We do all these 4. And actually folks like our service! That’s all I’ve to say.
Can you briefly describe the challenges and the stigma you confronted while you began with all of this?
The primary drawback that we confronted to start with, was that folks took us very evenly. There was not a lot status and honour after we visited locations to supply our service as clergymen. People weren’t acquainted with such issues; you can’t blame them. This is a really lengthy, age-old custom and immediately, should you provide you with such a brand new concept, you may’t anticipate folks to simply accept that. So, you need to be very affected person.
We simply carried out on only a few events, and male clergymen didn’t take into account us to be so necessary. Also, our shoppers; I needed to spend hours to persuade and clarify to them the aim and goal of the work. And to start with, I failed on many events and it was very disappointing.
Now, we’re very blissful that the world and society are altering. People at the moment are accepting our objective. We additionally want for many individuals to provide you with such concepts. If you are assured together with your studying, then why ought to solely a Brahmin be a priest. Anyone can do this. But the data needs to be very in-depth. That is the first focus.
Picture credit score: Nandini Bhowmik)
Speaking of change, it’s mentioned that with time, Hindu scriptures have been altered to an amazing extent that the present perception is ladies can’t carry out God duties. What do you need to say about that?
The primary objection that we’ve at all times confronted for a really very long time is that we, ladies should not pure for 4 to 5 days a month. While menstruating, ladies can’t worship, do Puja or are barred from any spiritual actions. This can’t match within the 21st century. Not in any respect. This is a pure course of in our system. This is nature.
Further, I ought to say, a lady ought to rejoice menstruation as a result of that’s the reason she turns into a mom. Those motherly qualities inside her make her a really revering individual. So how can a lady be impure? Purity can’t be outlined in that means. If you lie, trick, hate and even hit someone, then you’re impure.
How have the folks surrounding you, particularly your loved ones helped you on this unbelievable quest?
Actually, I’ve grown up in a really progressive household, particularly my grandmother; her concepts had been far forward of her time. That’s what impressed me and I knew that with altering time, we’ve to progressive.
And now, my household together with my husband, youngsters and their in-laws are all very supportive. In the start, they had been a bit sceptical since I used to be going in opposition to many issues and could possibly be probably inviting bother. They had been fearful about me simply because they’re my close to, pricey ones. But after such a protracted journey, they’re happy with me. Now, each my daughters have been married by my priesthood. And I’m very fortunate that each the in-laws have revered me as a priest.
Picture credit score: Nandini Bhowmik)
A Bengali movie launched final yr the place its primary protagonist’s character has drawn inspiration from you. How a lot of an achievement and happiness did you’re feeling?
It was a pleasant expertise. Really. It was like a child who was rising outdated after which grew to become an grownup. I used to be so blissful! But then the lockdown occurred due to COVID and the movie couldn’t run in theatres for a very long time. But nonetheless, the theatres had been packed final yr! Now, the movie has been launched into digital channels and oh my god! every single day, I get a name concerning how impressed everybody felt. So, , when a really nicely made movie communicates your goal in a commendable means, then your work turns into straightforward. A movie has an amazing attain into the city and rural viewers as nicely. It’s very encouraging, now that we’ve reached into nooks and corners of rural Bengal.
Recently, at actress Dia Mirza’s wedding ceremony, a lady priestess did the marriage rituals. Do you assume this may affect others to take this path as nicely?
Sure. In reality, not solely are the households prepared to get their youngsters married on this means, however many ladies are developing with the ambition of changing into a priestess. This is a really welcome change in society. Numerous ladies want to develop into clergymen now. Women can take up the standard ritualistic coaching within the priesthood; there isn’t any drawback, however just one i.e they’ve to take care of that harmonious stability in order that no girl is regarded down upon in any rituals of a social occasion.
Also, I believe I ought to point out one other crucial level.
Since we’ve been doing such pathbreaking work concerning the erasure of discrimination within the priesthood actions, we’ve launched one more new idea—a lot of the cash from the honorarium we obtain from our shoppers are donated donate to a social trigger. We wish to get this message to each household who’s prepared to contain in such priesthood actions. Weddings anyway at the moment are celebrated with a lot pomp and grandeur and so, some huge cash is being spent. Every individual should donate a really small quantity to the underprivileged. My shoppers are very blissful that, by means of us, their cash is being contributed to social service.