Friday, February 5, 2010
Kumbh Mela Haridwar 2010
Indian women: Art of changing clothes in public
DEHRADUN, 16 Jan: A common sight at the Har-Ki-Pauri during Maha Kumbh Mela these days is that of women changing clothes in public after taking a holy dip in the River Ganga. For Indian women, it is hard even to imagine changing clothes in public. However, they have to do so here. Although the Administration has made arrangements for them to change their clothes, with the massive number of devotees visiting the place these days, these obviously fall short. With no options left, the women devotees have to change in public.
And, therein lies the art of changing clothes in public, revealing next to nothing under the watchful eyes of hordes of men. The Indian women, maintaining their modesty, do not jump into the water in anything like swimsuits. They prefer to wear salwar-kurtas, gowns or wrap themselves in their petticoats right up to their chests. As such, bathing with men in the vicinity does not pose much of a problem for them. Later, changing the wet clothes is.
“What to do, with shelters overcrowded and with wet clothes on, we can’t wait in the cold for so long for our turn,” said one of the devotees. These women have devised several ways to change in public, that too with exposure at the bare minimum. They use the ‘strength in numbers’ philosophy. While one woman changes, the others screen her from all the four directions. Others, fewer in number, find some corner of a wall and change there. They even huddle in groups to preserve their modesty. They also adopt the technique of pulling their petticoats up to the chest and change under it, or hold a towel or cloth around themselves. Many opt for large sized clothing while bathing, to have greater space while changing later.
For these women, bathing alongside men and changing in public does not cause much embarrassment, as it is a religious place, and the consciousness is tuned to more sacred things. Everyone is transported, lost in their own thoughts. This is among the few places in conservative India where the strict rules on the female dress code are relaxed, at least briefly.
Several permanent and temporary structures have been constructed, tents erected, by the administration as preparations for the Kumbh Mela, but, apart from near Brahmakund, that too few in number, no enclosed place for changing clothes is available.
As such, the art of changing clothes in public comes in handy for these women folk.
(Article was written by LP Thapa a friend in Gharwhal post)