Dupatta - A Symbol of Oppression?



[source: https://pixabay.com/en/painting-lady-wait-746487/]
What you see the lady in the picture wearing is called a dupatta — a 2 or 2.5 meter piece of light cloth that girls and women in India wear around their necks when in traditional Indian attire. Since there are no clear historic roots of dupatta, I am going to take some liberty in discussing what it signifies.

Going by historical evidence, dupatta did not exist in India until vedic times. And even during vedic times, it’s claimed, that both men and women wore dupatta to cover upper part of their bodies. It has gone through its own evolution both in purpose as well as style since.

Today, on one hand it’s a style and fashion accessory for girls and women, on the other it continues to be a symbol of modesty for most women especially in rural northern belt of India.

Married women are expected to always cover their heads out of respect for men in the family and community —  apart from while offering prayers in temples and places of worship. And they don’t just cover heads but also faces (veil), breasts, and stomachs (if pregnant).

Put simply, in many parts of India dupatta still hangs like a symbol of weakness around women’s necks. Hope the generations to come use it solely for style and personal choice and not as something enforced by old and oppressive traditions.

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