In rural Rajasthan, 2 women wear ‘pagdi’, defy patriarchal norm

Ten days ago when Trishla Singh was anointed the head of the family after her father's death in Bundi district, Singh set a trend for other women in Rajasthan. In what is being counted as the second reported case of a woman donning the ceremonial 'pagdi', Jyoti Mathur, a native of Churu, was declared the head of the family in a 'pagdi rasam' on Tuesday.

In a state that has dominant traditions of segregation of men and women in different living chambers and rampant female foeticide, the two instances of women being anointed the head of family in official ceremonies has drawn as much appreciation as criticism. The one thing common to both women is that they are well-educated.

In the last four months, as Jyoti's father, Mukesh Behari Mathur (55) fought a losing battle against cancer, Jyoti tended to him tirelessly. "I don't have siblings. I have been the daughter as well as the son of the family. My father brought me up more like a son and now here I am performing the duties of a son," Jyoti said as relatives queued up to offer their blessings to the new head of the family.

Jyoti completed her post-graduation in Sanskrit before getting married and soon after found herself tied up with domestic responsibilities and two children. With two families to look after, she shuttled between Kota, her in-laws' place, and Churu, her father's house, for years. This year her father was detected with lung cancer. "In all these years my father would often tell the family that after he passed away, I should take his position. In the last few months we could not come to terms with his illness. But after he passed away, we knew this was the right thing to do. I lit his pyre, performed his last rites, and mother is solely my responsibility," said Jyoti.

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