Aurangabad18 hours ago
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Indian society is still stuck in religion, customs and traditions. The intellectual backwardness of the religious contractors who barred women from entering many places only on the basis of gender discrimination is always visible in the country. As a worker of Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti, I constantly thought about how to break the limitations of custom and tradition and establish freedom and equality in the true sense of society. Instead of just thinking, I decided to actually do the work. Thus began Ashtamba Rishi’s journey. A trip to Satpura, the place of worship of thousands of tribals. On the occasion of this journey ‘Anis’ decides to teach against Dakin practice in our society. While all this was going on, another thought came to mind, what if we ourselves did Ashtamba Rishi Yatra? But thinking is different and actually happening. Because till date no woman of my community has set foot on Astamba Hill. Women were not allowed to enter this journey. Of course, there are many legends about it.
Ashtamba i.e. Mount Ashwatthama Rishi is a 4000 feet high place in the Satpura valley of Akrani taluk of Nandurbar district and a place of worship for thousands of devotees from Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The Ashwatthama Yatra around Diwali has been taking place in the Satpura region of Ahirani for centuries. Lakhs of tribals from the hill ranges of Satpura across the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh gather during Diwali to meet Ashwathama, who begs for the happiness of human life with a curse of immortality and a scarred pain. This journey is between Dhantrayodashi and Vaubiz. As there is no easy way to Astambha, one has to move forward with life in hand. Sometimes it’s a steep climb, sometimes a deep valley, it’s a tough road. However, even in this situation lakhs of devotees come to see Ashwatthama. But among the thousands of devotees there is not a single woman. So if any woman dared to climb this peak in the crowd of men, she was beaten from there. I decided to climb this eighth peak at any cost. I was going to take this dare, fully aware of what lay ahead.
I started this journey early in the morning saying ‘Ashtamba Rishi Maharaj Ki Jai’. Pilgrims carry long burning objects like drums, tires for fire, lamps, temba, torches to drive away wild animals. Seeing a single woman in a crowd of thousands of men, people turned and looked at me. They were whispering to each other. After starting to climb the mountain, some people stopped me halfway and threatened me ‘don’t go up’. Even though they were saying that the trail is hard, you will slip, I knew exactly what they meant. I was telling everyone, ‘I am going to do my duty’. I was about to reach the top. Some devotees block my way. I requested one way. “Therefore, women are not allowed on this journey. If you come now, other women will follow. A woman had done this feat before, but was thrown into the valley. I climbed up and finished the campaign, accepting many suggestions that ‘it will be your sin’! All eyes were on me. Without wasting any time I and the Anis workers who were with me distributed leaflets against Dakin practice. The success of the campaign boosted my confidence a lot. There was spiritual satisfaction on the face.
The question is not only women’s participation in Ashtamba Rishi’s pilgrimage, but injustice to a person just because she is a woman. I decided to take this step towards equality. Meanwhile, I faced strong opposition. However, this bold move taught me that society’s perception of equality is as extreme as society’s opposition to withdrawing action taken against a tradition in its own society.
Sumitra Vasave Contact: 7588123753