Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pandit Women, 19th century group photograph


They had names like:
Arandati, Soomawati, Kud'maal, Yembarzal, Umbrawati, Maat'kuj, Indrawati, Janki'maal, Ri'tch'maal, Kong'maal, Durgawai, Battin'ded, mather'ded, Raaj'ryen, Sang'maal, Tarawati - (Tara, Tarawati, Taeer) and Savidaan'ded (she was always alert, hence the name. Once she even caught a thief who had cat crawled up the walls and into the house through a window. When alert Savidaan'ded saw the thief, she offered him food, fed him, pointed the spots where to find the gold and other precious things. He thanked her, told her she was a great and pious lady who fed a poor man like him. She said it was nothing, all God's will. Then just as he thanked her once more, turned and started to climb down the window, she pushed him, sending him into a free fall, he fell down - Second floor, first floor and hit the ground, it broke his legs. Then she raised an alarm.)

Next generation, their daughter and daughter-in-laws had names like Lata'showri, Janki'showri and so on.

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Came across this rare vintage  group photo of Kashmiri Pandit woman at columbia.edu . Probably late 19th century. A line at the bottom of the photograph written in French read: Femmes Cachemiriermes. Caste des Pundites.
The line helped identify that the women in this photograph are Pandit but I had my doubts, for one, there are too many ear ring, and all important dejhoor does not seem to be one of the ear rings, no bindi on forehead (only one, standing second from right, appears to sport one ), dress is too designer. A cursory look and they seem Muslim.

I showed this photograph to my mother and 'Muslim' was her verdict. I pointed out the french caption. My mother looked at the picture more carefully and changed her verdict. They are definitely Pandit woman, the definitive proof, their Pheran has Laad, a fold down towards the bottom of their dress.

Then I asked my mother to give me some names.

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3 comments:

  1. Hi Vinayak, Group Photograph of 'Pundit ' woman 19th century.... Well these are Kashmiri Muslim Nauch Girls. You can see the embroidery on pharen of the lady standing in the back on left side, you are bang right about the big ear rings and the absence of dejihor. Pundit women used to get married off by 12 or 13 years of age in 19th century. Regarding Laadh on the pharen, it can be explained as hand me downs from generous pundit ladies or gifts from naughty pundits. This is the opinion of my father too, though Nauch Girl and naughty pundits comment is entirely mine. Dinesh

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  2. I have come to the conclusion that maybe relying on ladh isn't the best way to differentiate between Pandit Pheren and Muslim Pheran of Kashmiri women. Pandits do use it as a differentiating feature but maybe this differentiation only cropped up in previous half-century of so. So I think these are in fact Kashmiri Dancing girls (I even got a email comment suggesting these might be Muslim women from rich Mirza family).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well Jajeer close by and hanging chumta (Muslims were using different and clay Jajeer).... suggests Pandit ladies..But and again it is like ladh can't differentiate between pandit or Muslim....

    ReplyDelete

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