Image source: boldsky
A spring-time festival that marks the traditional new year for Marathi Hindus, Gudi Padwa is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month according to the lunisolar Hindu calendar.
Wielding swords, riding bikes, beating drums; women who took to the streets this Gudi Padva were there to make a difference. Adorned in their traditional nauvari sarees and elaborate turbans, they matched the men in this spring celebration, step by step.
After the influx of westernized clothes, pants became the sign of the working, uninhibited woman in post-colonial India.
Years later, this generation of women is reclaiming the tradition of the saree. In all the pictures of this celebration, what will take your breath away is how fearless the women look. Gudi Padva is not just a festival to celebrate the spring harvest but also the tenets of the Hindu traditions. At the same time, the saree has stood for Indian femininity for centuries. Therefore, in this context, wearing the vibrant sarees, accurately pleated and folded Marathi style is an important cultural signifier. To wear a saree and drive a heavy motorbike through the streets subverts the idea that sarees, and consequently femininity is not a limitation, but a celebration.
Gudi Padva is also seen as a festival to celebrate the physical prowess of Marathi warriors. However, the Marathas boast of a few of the most fearsome female warriors and monarchs. One example would be Rani Tarabai, Shivaji’s daughter in law who was responsible for fighting Aurangzeb and consolidating the Marathan Empire.
In history, the women of the Maratha Empire have fought and trained for wars. They were renowned horse riders and swordfighters, and the nauvari was discovered for warrior women. A drape of saree worn like a dhoti, this style allowed women to ride pillion on horses, fighting for their beliefs side by side of men.
This year, nearly 120 women wearing nine yards of traditional silk and saffron turbans rode heavy-weight motorcycles in the streets of Mumbai to pay a tribute to those brave horsewomen.
In 2003 Girgaum resident Sampada Mukadam led a group of male motorcyclists to this rally that garnered around 12000 people. The women all belong to the Adishakti Pathak Group and since then the women have been carrying on this tradition for sixteen years.
Riding pillion on a bike while in traditional sarees, decked in gold ornaments, the women stand for two things - one, that our tradition has never been misogynistic. Women have been fighting and living on equal terms with men for centuries. This really does not only remind us of our history, our struggles and beliefs as women but also lays down the foundation for what it means to be a modern Indian woman. That we can embrace our traditions and still be empowered is what is revealed in the nine yards of cloth draped on those women.
*Nauvari (also known as Nav Vari, Nauvaree, Kasta Sari, Kacha, Sakachcha, Lugade) is a nine yards saree worn by the Marathi women or women of Maharashtra. The name ‘Nauvari’ originated from the saree’s length of nine yards. Nauvari sarees usually come in cotton and is worn without a Petticoat, majorly by the Maharashtrian Brahmin women community.