Veil as a fashion accessory
Who can forget those stunning beauties in veils in the movie “Titanic”? Despite all attempt to cover beautiful eyes and rosy lips, women adorned in a veil have always been known to spread their charisma all across. A veil actually makes you the eye-catcher in the midst of everyone else. In Europe, head veil has been in trend for women since the Elizabethan age and has survived till the present date giving a tough competition to all other styles. Even the A list actresses go for the classic look of elegance and magnificence by wearing a veil while attending an award ceremony. Head veils not raise your style quotient but have its cultural importance as well. There are many sects or religion wherein the concept of wearing a head scarf came in as a means of securing the women. If we talk about India (with a population predominantly of the Hindus followed by Muslims), wearing head veil was not any sort of a custom. It was used as a means of restriction to the view of any man.
Significance of head veil
Catholic Christians were strict enough when it came to women wearing veils. Even in the present times it is a common practice amongst the Catholics to wear a head scarf within a church. Muslims from the very beginning had laid emphasis on the veil or “purdah” system so that women could not directly communicate with a stranger. They believed that the purdah system was meant to protect the dignity of women. In India, the Hindu mythology never mentioned anything about head veils. The practice of wearing veils came into the society during the time of Muslim invasions. The 16th century literature gives us the information about the then society and therein we find the first evidence of wearing veils or “ghoonghat” (the traditional term used for veil) amongst Indian (Hindu) women. Thus it is not before the consistent Muslim invasions causing rampage that the concept of veil was adopted by Hindus. It was to protect the beautiful women from the Muslim intruders. Thus, in an attempt for safety of women, the ghoonghat was made a compulsion.
History about the origin of ghoonghat
The concept of ghoonghat (wherein the aanchal of the saree or dupatta was pulled over the head to cover the face) originated from Rajasthan. This anecdote is during the fourteenth century. Once, Alauddin Khilji, a former Muslim invader and one of the rulers of Khilji Dynasty visited the Rajput ruler of Chittor, Rana Ratansen. The queen’s palace was beside a lake. It so happened that he accidentally saw the reflection of the queen’s beautiful face in the lake and got attracted to her. Then overwhelmed with the thought of possessing her, Alauddin Khilji attacked Chittor Garh. In the mean time, the queen came to know about his desires and burned herself. After Khilji reached, he found her ashes. It was since then that covering the head and face fully by pulling down the ghoonghat became a compulsion in the society for women so that they did not fall prey to the lust of the invaders. From then onwards the custom of ghoonghat got incorporated as a part of culture for the women. She was made to cover herself from every male she encountered apart from her husband. It was believed to be a sign of showing respect to elders and other males and also portrayal of her feminine grace and dignity. It had gone to such level, that it has its impact in this era also. Even now, people from rural areas are firm about women wearing veils.
Importance of ghoonghat (head veil) in the present generation
With the influence of western culture and definitely through education, the custom of ghoonghat (or head veil) has declined steadily. Apart from the rustic folks, India has undergone tremendous change in respect of fashion. Nowadays, mostly Indian brides cover their face in a ghoonghat which signifies both beauty and purity.
The usage of veils or head scarves has become more of a fashion statement than necessity. Women from Southern part of India never wore a veil. This clearly shows veils were never a part of the religion. The significance of ghoonghat came into existence since the medieval period. Then it was a necessity but now it has become an imposition on women. The tradition of ghoonghat has been blindly adopted by a major section of society forcing women to wear a veil contrary to their wishes.
Illiteracy contributes to fear for the unknown and induces blind faith in traditions without even realizing the insights of it. It is a common human psychology to get aroused and intrigued by something which is unseen there by making women more vulnerable to untoward situations.
Change in modern day outlook
Even in the most reputed and progressive countries of Europe, wearing head veils are a must for nuns. Muslim women have never been known to raise their voice against the purdah system publicly. Due to modernization and education, many of them have been able to come out of the mould and defy the imposed customs. Despite making a significant impact, not many women are willing to strip off their ghoonghat or veil as deep down the religious sentiments tend to work in an inexplicable way. They consider it as a disrespectful blow to the prestige of the community and religion.
For a country like India, where there is no religious evidence of ghoonghat or veils, mass awareness will do the trick. Women’s will to cover themselves with ghoonghat is not an unwelcomed issue but forcing her to do so against her wishes, is something condemnable. It should be realized that unwanted imposition gives a cheap and orthodox image of the society rather than glorifying it. All women should have the freedom to choose and define her dressing sense in the way she wants it. They should be bold enough to take a step to bring out a difference in the society. We are not against the tradition of covering oneself with a ghoonghat, we are not being disrespectful of any religion, we are against depriving the right of women by restricting her to a conventional set of protocols and we do believe that the culture of wearing a veil is a beautiful thing to uplift your prestige and enhance the mystic charm.