Posted: March 4, 2012 in Book and Article Reviews, World Religions
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This film is about a young girl, Chuyia, during the late 1930’s.  Chuyia, at the age of eight, became a widow.  According to the Hindu scriptures, a female widow must remain unmarried for the rest of her life.  As such, they are considered “untouchables” that are impure and outcasts.  Chuyia is sent to live in a place for widows.  Chuyia does not understand why she is forced to do this rather than being able to return to her parents.  Essentially, she is told that when her husband, half of her died with him and thus cannot go on living a normal life.  To break that vow of chastity is to invite punishment and fail in one’s duty.

In order to survive and maintain rent, one of the girls is prostituted out.  The “gentry” of India, including a Brahmin in this story, use these women to satisfy them sexually.  It is deemed as “good favor and blessing” for the women.  Unfortunately, those that are prostituted are further ostracized, even within the community of widows.  In fact, the other women won’t even eat with her.  Chuyia, however, breaks this boundary and becomes friends with her.

During this time, Ghandi is becoming well known.  His ideas of liberation and freedom are extended to even the “untouchables” of society.  These ideas threaten the very core of society’s structure and its power sources, which lead to severe oppression of the weak.  In this story, Chuyia eventually becomes a victim of prostitution.  One of the older ladies at the “convent” finds her afterwards and takes Chuyia to the train station to help her escape from further subjection to such cruel treatment.  Despite what the Hindu religion dictated, this woman finally comes to the conclusion that one must follow their conscience over religion that leads to such oppressive misery.

The end of the film states that as of 2001 there are an estimated 34 million widows in India.  The same types of oppressive systems are still largely observed today and thus many of these women find themselves in less than ideal situations with little ability to provide for themselves.  They become the victim of power and politics in the guise of religion.  This film depicted in a very real manner the problem that plagues many religions.  Sometimes they are used to empower the influential and affluent with little to no regard for the “untouchables” of society.  In essence, I think this is the very thing that Ghandi opposed, not only in Hinduism but in Christianity.


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