Begum Rokeya's Abarodhbashini: A Rebellion against Purdah

Purdah system has been an integral part of Indian society devised to segregate the sphere of males and females. Connected with women"s modesty and virtue, women observing purdah or segregation are held as superior in class and order, but mainly it is a tool of patriarchy to keep women"s mobility in check. It became a matter of debate in the women"s reform that was undertaken in colonial period. Many reformers spoke against the ill effects of purdah on women and voiced for its removal. Sarojini
more » ... removal. Sarojini Naidu took up the aspect of life within purdah in her famous poem, "Purdahnasheen" pointing out that though life in purdah is claimed to keep women protected, but it could not " shield a woman"s eyes from tears", i.e., women continue to suffer under purdah. The present paper takes up a little known colonial text on purdah system, Abarodhbashini, which discusses the ordeals of women observing a strict form of purdah called "abarodh" (seclusion), mainly in the Bengali Muslim community. Rokeya, the author herself had experienced the life of an "abarodhbashini" so could offer a unique perspective of a person subjected to this system. The book is a collection of satirical anecdotes which point out the adverse effect of such extreme seclusion on women"s physical and mental health and thus must be abandoned. The subjective viewpoint of Rokeya is important, for it offers a rare glimpse of a life that a class of Indian women lived in colonial times and which has not been much recorded.