“Ghoonghat” is yet another custom that has been followed for ages in most of the rural areas of Northern India, mainly in Haryana and Rajasthan.

According to history, the practice of ghoonghat is said to have come during the 14th century. It was when Rana Ratansen of Chittorgarh lost the battle to Alauddin Khilji. Alauddin Khilji fell in love with the queen of Chittorgarh, “Rani Padmavati” (Padmini).

When Alauddin Khilji heard about the unparalleled beauty of Rani Padmini, he couldn’t wait to meet her. Desperate to meet Rani Padmavati, Khilji sent a word to Rana Ratansen to meet him. Rana Ratansen invited Khilji as his guest (unarmed). The sole reason that Khilji wanted to visit the fort was to see Rani Padmini. Further, Khilji requested Rana Ratansen to see a glimpse of Rani Padmini. And a Rajput never refuses their guests’ requests. So, he decided to show him Rani’s reflection in the mirror. As Khilji saw her reflection, he was taken aback with her breath-taking beauty. As such, he planned to attack Chittorgarh to win her.

When he entered the fort after winning the battle, he only finds the ashes of the queen as she decided to perform “Jauhar”, (a practice where women burn themselves alive) than to submit herself to his lust.

So, from that day, women of Rajasthan and surrounding states started to wear ghoonghat in the presence of anyone outside their family. Sometimes even in the presence of any male member.

India is a storehouse of various customs and rituals that have stayed long after these stories and never have been questioned.

Stressing on the importance of women empowerment for nation-building, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on 6th November, Tuesday said the custom of “ghoonghat” must be eradicated at the earliest.

Ashok Gehlot expressed his displeasure at the practice of women covering their faces with “ghoonghat” in some rural areas, he said the custom belong to a bygone area.

“Time has changed now but the practice of “ghoonghat” is still there in some of the rural areas of India. There is nothing right in confining women to “ghoonghat” system. Women cannot progress until and unless “ghoonghat” exists”, he said at a program on women empowerment in Jaipur organized by an NGO.

Women will be able to play a constructive role in nation-building and also uplift themselves only when they are not forced to do what they don’t want to do.

I asked a few women in a village near Ajmer, Rajasthan that why they cover their faces with a veil. Here are their answers:

“Kabhi socha nahi par sab log lagate hain, islye hum bhi lagate hain”

“Bade log ke saamne ghoonghat me hi jaana hota hai, yehi sikhaya hai bachpan se”

“Ghoonghat ka matlab hain hum unhe aadar de rahe hain”

“Koi aur purush hume dekhe nai, isliye ghoonghat lagate hain”

And I further asked, are you willing to wear this veil your whole life?

Their answers:

“Nahi, garmi me bahut dikkat hoti hai”

“Hume koi dikkat nai, jo pratha hai use nibhana hai”

“Baar baar ghoonghat hatakar dekhna padta hai, dikkat hoti hai, par kuch kar nai sakte”

Does society have the right to confine a woman to ghoonghat?

Well, the time has changed now and the women have to move forward courageously!

No doubt, Rajasthan CM, Ashok Gehlot has done a great job, but the question is- Will the traditional families in rural India allow removing this veil? Will they allow the women to move without any purdah? Will they easily accept this change?

Well, in my opinion, it’s the women who need to be strong enough to raise their voices. It’s high time when women should speak for themselves.

Say “No”, when you oppose something!

Voice out your opinion!

Say “goodbye” to those things that you just don’t want to do!

Wear what you like, not what others want you to wear!

And the most important thing: Try to be the strength of the other women. Do not try to demean the next generation just because you have gone through it. Women are the agents of change and change begins at home!