My Presentation topic at World Women’s Congress!!

Rising Daughter, Silent Mother and Fading Grandmothers:
Reclaiming Female-Centered Nayar Rituals

Brief Abstract:
In my journey to womanhood, my relationship with sexuality underwent
numerous struggles that made me question everything–gender
perceptions, cultural and social conditioning, the “do”s and “don’t”s
of a feminine identity, the age-old dogmas defining womanhood, the
shame, disgust and silence surrounding body and sexuality, and most importantly the direct and indirect influences of mother-centered and father-centered cultures on my body and sexuality. A series of events
led me to the doorstep of my matrilineal Nayar ancestry of Kerala
where, for the first time, I learned that for untold centuries, the Nayar people had celebrated the sexuality of their daughters through rituals meant to ensure the fruitful blossoming of a daughter into a sexually mature adult woman; yet in my own life, I never experienced these rituals. Using a transpersonal qualitative research methodology I interviewed my mother and three grandmothers from Kerala. It became apparent that in the last century, Kerala made the shift from a
sexually-open socially-safe mother-centered joint- family matrilineal
life to a sexually-uptight socially-unsafe father-centered patrilineal
nuclear family culture. One of the most significant influences of this
shift was the disappearance of the menarche ritual from the life of a
woman and the emergence of marriage as the most defining ritual in a woman’s life. Also women’s relationship with their body and nudity shifted from a natural embodied experience in my grandmothers time to an overly objectified unnatural experience in the present times. These women’s stories shifted my relationship with body
and sexuality in a positive way, and more than ever before I realize
that today daughters of India need to reclaim not just their own stories but also, those of their mothers and grandmothers.

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