Shobana P. Mathews
Ritualisation of Body of Widows in Moth Eaten Howdah of Tusker
In any cultural space today, if we have a closer look at the how it functions, what holds people of the culture together, and what is the basis of their subjectivity and objectivity, there is only one answer that anyone could find-religion. Be it a small community in a village, or an entire country, religion is that factor that makes and breaks a nation. Religion has divided gender roles, castes, has monitored growth and learning of an individual, and has taken care of designing an ideal lifestyle that men and women should follow. These rules of the â€œideal ...view middle of the document...
When it comes to the people who belong to the high caste in the hierarchy of a social construct, they are looked up at, and are believed to be righteous, closer to the gods, and the lower caste people fear them. The â€œmenâ€ from the upper caste has complete freedom to frame and structure the loves of the people below them, and hold tights to punish them strictly if they happen to make small mistakes. These men hold the authority to design the gender roles and performativity considering caste, class, age, and marital status of the person. In Assam, the Vaishnavites live in â€œSatrasâ€, religious places at the bank of a river. Satras are the monasteries which were established by Srimanta Sankardeva durinf 1449-1568 CE. The chief of a Satra is called a Satradhikar. The Satradhikar has all of the freedom of the world to decide what is right and what is wrong in his Satra, but his hands are also bound with the duties and responsibilities, which, inspite of putting them in high pedestial, ground them with burden of doing the righteous act and limiting their freedom. Each gender has a code of conduct according to the gender and social status of each individual, and these social conducts stop a widow from leading a life where they live like human beings, and not be like living shadows.
This research is going to understand the how the body of a widow is ritualised in the novel through the religious rituals, and how the patriarchal society frames the world of a woman in the society, which deceives her from the right of living her life like normal human being. A widowâ€™s life becomes a journey of pain, sacrifices, and a life where she is supposed to worship her husbandâ€™s â€œkhadauâ€ after his death. This research would try to understand the rituals in Indira Goswamiâ€™s novel, Une Khowa Howdah, which translated from Assamese to English under the title, Moth Eaten Howdah of Tusker.
The novel, Moth-Eaten Howdah of the Tusker, is based on the nostalgic memories of the writer of her time in her own â€œSatraâ€. This Satra is situated in the Amaranga, South Kamrup, Assam. The plot of the novel is based on her observation of the practices and her experiences in her community during the years of the post-independence time. Goswami focuses on the lives of people who are addicted to opium, and how this causes a downfall of all the Brahmin in the Satra. Men and women of all age and caste would do anything to satisfy their opium fixation. Hypocrisy, greed, and corruption lies deep in the heart of people in the Satra, but when it comes to performing rituals and rites, a fear likes in their heart that they might upset the gods if there was a single mistake in the process of following them. A close reading of the novel shows the double standard of people in the village, and how they choose their greed, money, and sanctity of their religious practices over life and happiness of a person. Women in the Satra are trapped in this social maze, where...