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Pinjra Tod’s Instagram page recently had a couple of posts about Delhi University’s Hindu College, highlighting the toxic masculine ‘tradition’ of Virgin Tree Puja on campus.
On February 14, Hindu College witnesses an annual custom. No one can put a finger on when this tradition started, but it has been going on since anyone associated with the college remembers.
The date might make someone think this was about Valentine’s Day. But no. This is a highly discriminatory, patriarchal tradition that is even Brahmanical in nature.
This year again a group of men performed the annual custom of the ‘Virgin Tree Puja’, or the V Tree as it is infamously called.
To the uninitiated, this puja involves
~ a group of men worshipping the ‘Damdami Mai’ who is traditionally a Bollywood actress (chosen each year by the boys hostel as an epitome of sexiness), praying to find a girlfriend within 6 months.
~ the singing of an aarti objectifying the body of the chosen ‘Damdami Mai’ and a ritual being conducted by a janue dhari (wearing the ‘holy thread’) Brahmin male student who is the Mr Fresher of the year
~ condoms filled with water are put up as balloons, which are burst later, and it is considered as holy water and the ones who get the water are considered lucky hoping they will lose their virginity soon enough.
Women students of the college have always been aggressively anti this ritual. Since 2017, women students have held discussions with the boys’ hostel committee, have repeatedly spoken about how this objectifies female bodies and propagates rape culture. This year, they have actively engaged in discussions, debates, and conversations with the students and the administrative body of the college. They have been working towards the discontinuation of this ‘age old practice’ in their campus, but to no avail – the boys are adamant on ‘reforming’ the tradition, but won’t abolish it.
But as usual, they have been silenced.
Remarks such as “ladkiyan hai, galati ho jati hai” (Oh, these girl, they can make such mistakes as protesting), “V tree nahi hoga toh, danga hoga” (there will be a riot if the V Tree Puja doesn’t happen) are thrown around casually, silencing all their efforts to abolish this malpractice. There have even been suggestions for women to start their own V Tree Puja by having a male picture on a tree and hailing him as the ‘Love Guru’. They have been told to learn how to take a joke.
What is more astonishing is that the members of the boys’ hostel know how discriminatory this Puja is in its real nature and essence.
To “bring about a change and to maintain an equilibrium”, instead of having an actress they worshipped a heterosexual couple instead. How progressive!
To “beat the Brahmanical nature of this practice”, this year the ‘Brahmin boy’ wore a vest while performing the puja to “hide the sacred thread”.
The administrative staff and the Principal looked on while the male students performed the puja unhampered. With the sound of dhols and drums in the air, the boys marched on.
According to a Facebook post by Pinjra Tod, “Dr Anju Srivastava, the Principal of the college, attempted to enter the college premises around 3 a.m; she later congratulated the residents of the boys’ hostel for ‘keeping the tradition alive’ while threatening the residents of the women’s hostel for breaking the curfew. Police present at the time of the incident tried controlling the situation.”
Noted alumni of the college, too, have memories of the V Tree. The principal has criticized the ritual but no strong steps have been taken till now. “They are not serious about the issue. They haven’t put out any notice banning the event and ultimately some of the students with help from the ABVP did organise the event,” said a student on the condition of anonymity.
Such patriarchal traditions paves way to rape culture effortlessly. In the name of so called customs and traditions, women’s bodies have been objectified time and again. It is highly regressive. People who do not conform to the binaries of gender construct are often left at crossroads. People who are not heterosexual lost because there is no discussion or scope for other sexualities. And the sadder part is how this is all considered ‘normal’ in the society. Efforts of women have been ignored time and again, for the sake of men students under the garb of tradition.
To protest against this hooliganism and to end discriminatory culture on campuses, a protest was organised, but it is to be seen how effective it is.
Image source: Facebook
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A Journalism student. When not busy with college and assignments, I read a lot. Big
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