Shame, power and nudity


huh. Who knew?

Naked girls plow fields for rain

PATNA, India (Reuters) – Farmers in an eastern Indian state have asked their unmarried daughters to plow parched fields naked in a bid to embarrass the weather gods to bring some badly needed monsoon rain, officials said on Thursday.

Witnesses said the naked girls in Bihar state plowed the fields and chanted ancient hymns after sunset to invoke the gods. They said elderly village women helped the girls drag the plows.

“They (villagers) believe their acts would get the weather gods badly embarrassed, who in turn would ensure bumper crops by sending rains,” Upendra Kumar, a village council official, said from Bihar’s remote Banke Bazaar town.

“This is the most trusted social custom in the area and the villagers have vowed to continue this practice until it rains very heavily.”

India this year suffered its worst start to the vital monsoon rains in eight decades, causing drought in some states.

(link via Confluence)

This is like that scene I remember from the TV show in the 90’s based on quaint South Indian stories set in the last century (NOT Malgudi Days, though this starred Girish Karnad, of course) . There was a Malayalee woman who was going to be beaten up by a man (her father-in-law, I think), and as he was menancingly advancing toward her she dropped her sari. The father-in-law, being a ‘respectable society man’ with ‘concern for ladies’ dignity’ (though not TOO much concern, since he meant to beat her up after all) instantly cursed her, and with a very disgusted expression, turned around and stormed away (thinking, no doubt, “how dare she defend herself in this reprehensible way from my beatings. Shameless women!“).

Female nudity has always been a powerful means of communication, of manipulation, and it was especially powerful when it was so rare. It’s just that in the Indian context, female nudity has taken on so many non-sexual or asexual connotations – remember Akka Mahadevi ?- that it bestows oblique power on the woman. Even though that power is derived from the basic premise that nudity = shame, at least there’s some karmic recompense for women who pay the price of that shame.

As opposed to, of course, the female form today and in the West always, which has nothing but sexual connotations (whether or not the woman is nude), and removes every stitch of power or control from the woman and bestows it to the viewer.

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