Tag Archives: pote

Post marriage attire for women in Nepal

I was talking to one of my good friends on Skype recently. She is happily married with a 4 years old daughter. We have been friends for a long time but as she lives in Nepal and I live here, talking to her is always a treat. Every time we have a conversation we share our personal life and feelings.

I knew she hasn’t been very happy about a few things after her marriage. But recently I found her really happy and alive. I commented to her how glad I was to see her so happy. She told me she is happy because now she is free to wear what she wants. She said she is feeling better about herself now that she has control over her life.

Right then it struck to me that for the first few years after her wedding, she was wearing only Sari and Kurta. So here I am writing about the marriage attire for women in Nepal after marriage.

I have never lived outside of Kathmandu in Nepal. Both my parents are originally from Kathmandu so whatever I am going to write will most probably be the view of city life in Nepal.

In Nepal, for a long time, girls have freedom to wear what they want. I am not talking about low cut short skimpy dress but still they are allowed to wear what they want to a certain extent. I have seen my mum’s photos from her school and college days where she was wearing bell-bottom pants or big floral print t-shirt or beautiful colourful dresses.. Normally people let their daughters wear what they want and these days fashion in Kathmandu is not far behind western cities. So every time I go back to Nepal, I am amazed to see girls wearing low cut dress, short shorts or boob tube dresses and tops. I remember when I was there even halter dresses were not popular. But these days there seems to be not much restriction on what you can wear.

But things turn 180 degrees once the same girl gets married. Let’s take an example of my friend. She was wearing whatever she wanted for the last 20+ years of her life but as soon as she was married, she was forced to wear only Kurta and Sari for 2 years after the wedding. She did want to wear pants and dresses but her MIL and her husband’s immediate family member were against it so she couldn’t do anything about it. It is like my daughter/sister can do anything but if the girl is my DIL or SIL then they have to be seen as a traditional Nepali woman. I know things have changed a lot in the last few years as most of the women work after the marriage as well so they have to wear a uniform or still wear pants as it is more comfortable. But at the same time I have seen many families that didn’t allow their daughter in-laws to wear what she wants but instead says “You are a daughter in law now so you must wear only traditional attire. What will the neighbours says if they see you in pants or dress!” What a double standard.

I know in Nepal not only the in-laws but your own family will expect you to change how you dress, like my mum expected from me once I was married, but I believe society should accept the newlywed woman even if she prefers to wear pants or any other dress than just laying down a rule that married women must wear a Kurta or Sari. If she chooses to wear Sari and Kurta , let her but don’t make it compulsory. I love wearing Sari and Kurta on occasions as I feel very feminine in them but I can’t wear them everyday. For me it is not practical.

I have a cousin who got married recently and changed her dressing style completely after the wedding. I believe it is all expected from you and if you want no conflicts with your new family, girls just follow the rules.

So the normal accepted attire for women after wedding in Nepal are Kurta and Sari with Sindoor(vermilion) on their head, glass chura(glass bangles) on their hands and pote (Glass beads) around their neck. My mum thought I would be wearing pote and chura after the wedding even here in Sydney. The first time I Skyped with her after our return to Sydney, post wedding, she suggested to me that I should either wear chura or pote now onwards. I told her I do wear them when I am wearing Sari or Kurta but I can’t wear them with my pants and dresses. I am sure she is not very happy about it but she does understand my point and hasn’t said anything after that. My MIL on the other hand has never mention anything close to this yet and  I am very glad because I can’t be blunt with her, like I can with my mum, about my reasons for not wearing them here. But the best thing is that she is very understanding.

After the wedding I stayed with my in-laws for 10 days before leaving for our honeymoon. On those 10 days I wore only sari. Mostly it was my choice as I was having fun being a new bride and loving my saris and also it was expected that a woman to look certain way once they are married.

I am not sure how things will be when I go to Nepal again. To start with, I have to live with my in-laws most of the time. I will be visiting my parents but will be expected to spend more time in my husband’s house. So there will be the problem like what I will be allowed to wear or what is accepted of me.

Here in Australia, I wear whatever I want. I haven’t changed my dressing style after my wedding so I am not sure what I am going to do when I go to Nepal. I am sure I can’t wear shorts and short dresses. Normally I used to wear pants with a not too tight t-shirt but I am not sure what will be expected of me. May be I will just wait for now and worry about it when I book my next flight to Kathmandu. But thinking about it sometimes gives me a headache.

I believe that woman should still have the freedom to choose what they want to wear after getting marriage just like before marriage. I am sure we won’t dress like teenagers when we are in our mid 20s. Otherwise if society forces women to dress in a certain way then it might make them unhappy, like my friend, which will affect the relationship with the in-laws. I hope this will change soon so a woman doesn’t feel obligated to do things she really doesn’t want to. I know society changes according to time so I hope Nepali society will change in this aspect soon and will not differentiate between married women and single women in terms of clothing.

Widows in Nepal

I want to start this post by saying; whatever I am going to write in this post is solely my opinion and understanding and hold no disrespect for any culture or tradition. 

In Nepal, if a Hindu woman loses her husband, she has to wear a white sari for a whole year. She also has to give up all signs of marriage like pote, glass chura and sindoor. 

After one year, she is allowed to wear clothes with colours other than red or shades of red or other bright colours and she still can’t wear pote, glass chura and sindoor. They are also forbidden from remarrying. It is believed if a widow marries another man; her deceased husband’s soul goes to hell. I know it sounds ridiculous but that is what the widows are led to believe. 

In ancient times, there used to be ‘Sati’ practice in which if a married man died, the widow is coerced to join her husband in his funeral pyre. My grandma used to tell me the stories about how she knew people who she lost due to this practice. This was outlawed only around 70 years ago. 

I don’t know why the husband is never made to undergo such cruel customs on the death of his wife. And men can remarry if they want. 

My paternal grandmother was widowed when she was quite young. Her youngest child was only 2 years old at that time. I know she suffered a lot as a widow in a conservative Nepali society. She was not invited for many religious ceremonies and considered an outcast for lots of Pujas. My grandma is a survivor and she managed to ignore all the brutal treatment from the society and brought up all 7 kids all by herself. She made sure that all the kids went to school and were well-educated despite the fact that she was uneducated and alone. All the kids grew up to be successful in their lives and all the credit goes to my grandma. 

I never saw my grandma wearing any bright colour saris even after 50 years of the death of my grandfather nor did she wear any glass chura. She used to have a few golden bangles and that was it. She told me lot of stories where she felt like an outcast from the society after her husband passed away. 

I know an aunt who lost a husband in a freak accident after just 3 years of marriage. At that time she had a year old baby boy and she was only 26 years old. I really thought it was cruel that she couldn’t enjoy her life just because her husband had passed away. Her MIL blamed her for her son’s death and made her life into hell. I am sure she missed her husband terribly and on top of that she had to deal with the cold behaviour from relatives and the society. I strongly believed that she should have been allowed to remarry and live the rest of her life happily but I was just a kid and my opinion would have brought an outburst among my relatives. 

Recently, I read news that the Nepali government are giving RS 50,000 (AUD 600) to the couple if a man married a widow. I find this wrong in so many levels. A widow is a woman and not some broken furniture which you pay the removalist to discard. No one should be given monetary incentive to marry; it should be purely out of love. I also read lots of news later that people were marrying only for the money and it was not helping the problem of widows in Nepal. 

I know there are so many human rights organisations that are fighting for this cause and I salute them but this problem is not going anywhere until we are able to educate people and make them understand that death is a natural process so no woman should suffer her whole life just because her husband died. 

I know things are changing slowly but still the majority of Nepalese people do not accept widows as a normal woman. I want them to think what they will do if the window is their own daughter or sister. I am sure they want them to be treated as equal to any normal woman and allowed to remarry if they wish to and live their life happily.