Thursday, August 28, 2014

Your Husband Is Your God

Having had very little exposure to Hindu culture prior to my husband I was a bit naive the first time I heard my husband (then my friend) say this. Having grown now I understand this phrase much better, it's meaning and the implications behind this.

To a die-hard feminist, this line about a husband being a God would probably be enough to piss you off. It's angered me a few times and still does occasionally. But you have to look past the initially shocking wording.

A husband is not meant to be literally you God. Meaning you don't bow down and worship him as if he could be the one to cure all that ails you. You're not going to the church of your husband every Sunday (or Tuesday or Thursday depending on what religion you are or which deity you follow).

Still I've heard tales of Indian wives who kiss their husband's feet every day. There are still holidays where women go without food or water for the benefit of their husbands. Some wives still get very little food because the husband eats all he wants first and they get what's left. The stories are quite shocking to those who don't understand (or agree with) the concepts behind them, myself included.

So even though this phrase shouldn't be taken literally, it sometimes is. By men and women both. From the exposure I've had to Hindu culture, I've observed this phrase to mean that a woman should respect her husband as the head of the household, the one who brings home the money and keeps the bills paid so she can keep a place to live and food to eat. He's the provider of her needs in every way. As such, she needs to be both respectful and reverant toward him. (Traditionally speaking.)

It does not mean a wife is a servant. It does not mean she takes the place of his mother as his caretaker. She is not his maid, his slave, his punching bag, or the outlet for his bad behavior. A wife is shares an equal role in ruling and managing the home. Without her, who would take care of the home? The grocery shopping? The cooking? She is a vital member of the equation.

I could even go one step further and say that if the woman is working, the man cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. is an equal and vital member of the home. These roles are not gender specific, even though traditionally they've been defined that way.

Be wary of the Indian man who wants to be your God, but doesn't whole-heartedly believe you are his Goddess. Odds are he's more a male chauvinist pig than marriage material. Marriage is a partnership, not a monarchy. Women are not 'lesser' beings. They're not the weaker sex. They're not worth less than a man.

Think about it. Without women, there would be no men. Women must give birth to and raise men. So any man who thinks that women are less than men, is saying this about his mother, his sister, his daughter, etc. His mindset won't change just for you.

What got me fired up? The advice given to this woman:
What To Expect After Marrying An Indian Man

More good reads from that same author:
Lessons from 3 Years of Dating an Indian Man
A White Girl's Guide to Indian Men
Western Girl Indian Man Relationships That I Know

9 comments:

  1. Kit his is interesting, because the Hindu wedding ceremony we had spoke of mutual respect. The husband has to bring the money home and support the family and the wife is the one managing the home freely with that money. It was some of the marriage conditions the priest talked about after we took the Pheras and that DH translated for me as the priest spoke them. Nowhere was it said that the wife should bow to her husband and serve him blindly.
    I wonder where some people perverted this oath to become what it has today. Hinduism is by no mean a patriarchal religion, it is one that place equal importance on both men and women and urge respect of both gender.

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  2. Beware also of the Indian in laws who feel that as a DIL you & your belongings are their 'property', you are consequently their slave & servant & they may treat you anyhow they desire..
    It doesn't matter if they are Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain, Christian - I've seen this 'Desi DIL' behavior in all the ethnicities, religions, creeds, educational levels & castes of India now.
    Even if your Indian husband says he wants a 'modern' relationship - some of his family members may still think & behave towards you like this. Indian MIL's are famous for this but other Indian in laws can display this sense of entitlement also.
    Your Indian husband/fiancee may even be shocked at this behavior in his own family.
    Mine was.

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  3. Well, as with anything that is meant to be beautiful, somewhere along the lines someone got power hungry. I think this phrase most likely got corrupted the same way the ideal came about that son's are more valuable. It's very sad.

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  4. Oh absolutely! This isn't something Hindu specific at all. There's many a tyrant out there waiting for their turn to torture the new DIL or extract some kind of fear from them and that spans every culture in the world.

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  5. Alexandra MadhavanAugust 29, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    I am familiar with this belief and I hate it. Husband should be god, you should touch his feet, you should keep thaali on until you are a widow, he should eat first, pray for his health....blah blah blah. Basically only giving respect because he has been born a male. It's all crap. I have seen women do 100x the work of men, while men are being pampered and hardly lifting a finger. It is a reflection of the patriarchal system because women do so much.

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  6. I found this article about the status of women during vedic age. What it reveals that whatever we know about hinduism regarding women is absolutely against the vedic principles.

    http://hinduism.about.com/od/history/a/vedic_women.htm

    The problem with hinduism is that there are many books, many authors, many interpretations. Perhaps, as society changed people added their own experiences to the texts. There are more than hundred versions of Ramayana popular all over south asia from Malaysia to Thailand to Indonesia. One version of Ramayana portrays Rama and Sita as siblings. There are many versions of Ramayana floating around in India itself from north to south.

    The stories keep on changing, to such and extent that nobody knows what came first. Hinduism also does not have a definite time line which makes things even more difficult unlike other religions. It was called "Sanatan Dharma" (the eternal balance), it was believed to be always there.


    The whole caste and women's status thing came with "Manu Smriti". Manu was the first human being who was entrusted with the task of setting the rules for the society. His descendants were called Manav (humans). He and his wife Satrupa were the Adam and Eve of Hinduism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manusm%E1%B9%9Bti

    Manu smriti is still being debated. Some consider it the source of caste system and low status of women in the society. The British scholars translated many religious texts and a lot of these were lost in translation, some say deliberately to portray Hinduism inferior to Christianity. Well, these are all speculations. What we need is translation of all Indian religious texts of all religions in English and regional languages and the let the people decide for themselves..

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  7. Thank you. I'm sure Vedic culture is no different than most world cultures. The scriptures started out holy and divine and got corrupted by humans who wanted to sway the power in their direction. Unfortunately that happens in a lot of religions. Someone takes things wrong, changes them and then teaches other people the wrong way. I think each person needs to study on their own to find the right path. We can't listen to the world around us.

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  8. I agree. The way this belief has been perverted is not good. That's why I wanted to write about it. We're not here to worship men. It's a concept that has become perverted by some and used as a way to demean women or exert power over them. It's very sad.

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  9. better call yourself feminist and oppose any opinion on husband being head of wife rather calling husband is god but again wife is his goddess...be honest.don't draw false interpretations.you can simply tell..you don't believe in all these things and hindu marriage system goes against equality in marriage and it oppress women and so dangerous.truth is the highest virtue.learn mahabharata...read what Bhishma said about women.read anusana parva.yes it was said women should be worshipped but not by her husband and wife-husband roles are not ever hinted to be interchanged

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