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Real-Life Draupadis of India- A Story Of Polyandrous Women

  • IWB Post
  •  June 30, 2016

The Mahabharata shows us one of the earliest cases of polyandry (When a woman has more than one husband). It describes the union of Draupadi with the Pandavas. Even though it was not meant for Draupadi to have a polyandrous union, Kunti’s remark made her end up with five husbands instead of one.

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You thought polyandry no longer existed, right? That’s what I had thought, too. But fraternal polyandry is still prevalent in the some of the remote Indian and Himalayan communities. To us, the practice may sound weird, but to them, it is a way of life.

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One example is Rajo Verma, who lives in a small Dehradun village with her baby son and her five husbands. Rajo stands by this tradition. All her husbands are brothers and she is asked to sleep with a different brother every night. This has led to the confusion about the real biological father of her 18-month-old son.

Rajo said that she was always asked to accept all of her husbands as the practice has been continuing in her community for generations. She also mentioned that her mother had been married to three brothers.

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Rajo mentioned the names of her husbands, Sant Ram (28), Bajju (32), Gopal (26), Guddu (21), and Dinesh (19). She is intimate with all five of them and does not differentiate among them. Guddu Verma, her first and official husband, agreed with her and said that jealousy has never been an issue and that they live like one big happy family.

Sunita Devi, a resident of Sangla Valley in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh is a part of yet another unusual family. She is wife to two brothers, Ranjit Singh, and Chander Prakash.

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Even though their marriage isn’t considered legal, it is a happy union of the three. Sunita says that she is ‘lucky to have the affection of two husbands.’ She reveals that husbands in a polyandry handle domestic duties like cooking and helping with childcare, while the women are in charge of the monetary resources.

Sounds like an alternate universe to me.

Anyway, Sunita also mentioned that there are about 15 or so other families in her community that proudly hold this tradition to this day.

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The Himachal village of Malang is home to Buddhi Devi, who married two brothers. She is now a 76-year-old widow but is still married to one of her surviving husbands. Buddhi Devi is all praises towards her life with polyandry.

Buddhi Devi beautifully explained the reason behind this tradition. The people at farms on the mountainsides divide the property among their sons who further divide it among their sons. Dividing the property among several heirs would give each son very little to feed their respective families.

“We used to work and eat. There was no time for anything else. When brothers share one lady, they all come back to one house. They share everything.”

– Buddhi Devi told NY Times

This system of polyandry exists on the basis of practicality, and not ‘love’ necessarily. The main reasons why polyandry still exists in the Himalayan region are economic benefits and population control, to a certain extent.

Also, since it is crucial for many Himalayan people to live by tradition, polyandry has always been a central part of their culture. The tradition has been embraced for a very long time by many brides and grooms.

Buddhi Devi also says that since the practice of polyandry has existed in their community for centuries, in a single generation, the tradition is slowly moving towards its extinction. It is attributed to the advanced modernity and the fact that the younger generation is swaying from this custom.

As these societies enter the modern world, the younger generations have started to find monogamous alliances more appealing.

Our culture never stops surprising us. Even though many of the customs our ancestors followed may no longer exist, we manage to gain a whole lot of understanding on our country.

I think that’s enough unusualness for today. Annyeong!

You can read the original article here.

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