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BenSt
November 6th, 2005, 04:39 PM
Hey all,

well I just got back from seeing Deepa mehta's "Water". For those unfamiliar with Deepa Mehta, she is a canadian based Indian film maker who seems to have a knack for causing controvercy. Water is in a word a story about rigid socioreligious institutons surrounding the place of widows in 1939 Indian society. Not to put any spoilers in, I was quite amazed at how deep the movie was. it is the last movie in the "Elemental Trilogy" that look at different controvercial parts of Indian society. There is Fire (1996), which is a semi tragic love story of two sisters in law who fall in love and carry on a lesbian love affair. Earth (1999?) which focuses on the land distribution and conflict in 1947 India when the soverign states of india and Pakistan was formed, and Punjab was split down the middle. And now Water (2005), which opened up the Toronto film festial here.

Ok so, again not to give out spoilers, but the movie is based around an 8 year old girl named Chuyia who is married in a formal Hindu ceremony to an older guy for whatever reason, and her husband dies suddenly a litle while after. So she is sent off to a cloister at an Ashram in Varanasi, as she can no longer live with her family. The beginning of the movie starts with lines directly quoted from the "Laws of Manu" which prescribes the choices a widow has after her husband dies. basicly, in old age India Sati (which is the ruitualistic suicide by throwing yourself onto the funeral pyre of your husband and slowly burn to death). Another is to be sent to an ashram where you atone for the sins of whatever caused your Husband's death. I really reccomend you go and see this movie if you havn't allready as it touches a socuial nerve which actually caused a lot of fundamnetalist Hindus to burn down the set five years ago.

So the film raises qustions for me, which i hope we can discuss. What should the role of religion be in secular life? What social structures are in place when women lose their husbands, not only in india but worldwide...even in the states and Canada here what is the difference between socieites wishes and what is actually there? Also, how does one reconcile this with spiritual/religious beliefs? But this can be applied to much more than just this movie...the big question is where does it lie for you combining your life, society and religion in a fair way?

Namaste

Tobias

Ed.E
October 8th, 2006, 03:28 AM
Mmmm....Earth and Water are two of my favourite movies. They really touch me. Earth is especially interesting to me because my partner grew up in Lahore. The movie even showed bits of the kite festivals he remembers from being a kid.

Anyways...back to your questions. I know that in the Indian culture, it is hard to remarry as a widowed female because virginity and purity is so important. Like the movie Water shows, the woman shaving her head and not remarrying out of devotion to her husband is the point of the ritual...Which in itself is quite beautiful...but...it wasn't very realistic, it wasn't a choice and many of the people were children. I'm not exactly sure what happened in Canada and the US in terms of widows. I imagine it would depend upon the area and time period the woman were living at. During the times before woman had many rights (before they could vote) I image things were very much the same, that it wasn't common to remarry. Chances are the woman had children and it just wouldn't be proper.

If we go back to understanding the spiritual reasons, I think we need to look at the spiritual reasons of marriage itself. That is not only a union with the partner, but with the gods. So when the broke their marriage vows to be remarried, they would in a sense break their vow with gods. I don't think these customs or beliefs were meant to act as such an oppression towards woman. I think over time they evolved into that....because of how humans inturrpreted the customs to suit themselves. It would have been harder to be a widow in the past, as things now have gotten more liberal (I'm talking about all over the world, not specifically about one religion). Although, a friend of mine is marry and she says if her husband died she would not remarry. Her thoughts are she will have children with this person and he's the one she loves, there is no need.