Sri Patnaik has made a revolutionary change in Assam’s age-old tradition of disallowing entry of women into Vaishnavite monasteries. Teresa was felicitated recently at Bhubaneswar for having reported this.
She is known for highlighting gender sensitive events. We are glad to share her impression on JB with our esteemed readers.
Its rare that one comes across a candid head of the state who smiles at a journalist who breaks all protocols. As I land in his official bungalow with my four-month old daughter, I am apologetic. But I also reiterate that ‘once you stop children from coming you are actually stopping a woman’. To this His Excellency, the Governor of Assam J B Patnaik, smiles and says, “Oh, so your daughter wants to see the world.”
Such a response was not unusual as Patnaik is credited to breaking a long-established taboo — entry of women to a Vaishnavite monastery in Assam. He created a flutter by leading a group of women to the monastery and talks animatedly about the issue which is so close to his heart. He had succeeded in doing what leading women like former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and literary stalwarts such as Amrita Pritam, Nabaneeta Deb Sen, and Mamoni Raisom Goswami failed to do. He invited me to the Raj Bhawan as soon as he got to know that I was awarded the Laadli Award for Gender sensitivity 2011 for writing on his initiative.
The humble statesman who is also a Sanskrit scholar politely says, “I am a student of Sanskrit.” Citing the scriptures, he explains that nowhere is it written that women should not be allowed into religious places. We also discussed the taboos for women in other religious places including a mosque and the concept of purity and pollution which is applicable for both men and women. He says, “In fact, women are more conscious when they are having their monthly period and impose restrictions on themselves. Women cannot be considered impure at all times.”
With a progressive Governor at the helm of affairs, one can expect some revolutionary changes — at least of the deep-seated patriarchal mindset.