February 14, Valentine's Day.
A day when couples officially express their love to their partners, while singles watch Netflix at home. But then there are students from Delhi University's Hindu College who worship a tree on Valentine's Day.
Called the Virgin Tree, this tree is believed to be a ray of hope for all the singles on the campus.
On this day, boys worship their deity Damdami Mai, who can be any leading lady from the Bollywood industry. When the tradition began, only a female actor was selected as Damdami Mai, but why should boys have all the fun, so the girls started worshipping a male actor aka Love Guru.
Every year on Valentine's Day, the entire campus looks forward to this tradition. Students from other colleges eagerly await to see who is selected as Damdami Mai and Love Guru for that year.
But why is this tradition so important for these students? Here's everything you need to know.
P.S. You can recall this Virgin Tree from the movie Rockstar.
Virgin Tree is a symbol of first love in Hindu College. Being such an 'auspicious' tree, the students decorate the tree with balloons and posters. It is believed that worshipping Virgin Tree would help singles find their love.
Though no one can tell when did this tradition begin, it is now a much sought after event for the university students. Some claim that the tree has been playing the role of a matchmaker since the 70s.
Pinjra Tod is a campaign started by an autonomous women's collective of students and alumni of colleges from across Delhi. On February 13, the members of Pinjra Tod issued a statement against the Virgin Tree puja, which read,
"Hindu College, which is very proud of its 'Virgin Tree' celebrations, is at it again. Apparently, this 'ritual' holds a special place in the hearts of Hinduiites, who seem to be amused by the visibly sexual representation of Damdami Mai..."
"...In a university space where any conversation about the 'sexual' is regarded as taboo, this kind of celebration is often termed as liberatory, the fascination for a kind of a 'celebration' which doesn't shy away from acknowledging sexual desire, fantasy, use of condoms."
The statement also said, "Every year, several students gather around a tree amidst a lot of fanfare to paste a picture of a woman and proclaim her as the object of male desire. When questioned about how their 'tradition' might reek of misogyny, they defend their position by asserting that the condoms are used for AIDS awareness and not as an act of desperation and vulgarity..."
"Let's be clear, there is no problem with condoms being used for a public installation, but the ends that this event serves and the intention behind it have very little to do with spreading 'AIDS awareness'.
In fact, it is possible that those seeking to 'spread awareness' are participating in a highly masculinist event which might even be encouraging intolerance towards other forms of sexuality and gender identity. There is no real attempt to celebrate sexuality on an equal footing, amidst an audience charged with masculine aggression."
Last year, Disha Patani was worshipped as Damdami Mai and this year, the students voted for Jacqueline Fernandez. And Ranveer Singh has been chosen as Love Guru.
Damdami Mai is often the actress who has given blockbuster movies in the last one year. She can also be the one who has been in the limelight. The same applies to how girls decide the Love Guru.
Saurabh Singh, president of the western dance society, shared his experience, "What I witnessed was capable of freaking out anyone. Condoms hanging on a tree on campus is not something you've heard of before."
"I was amazed to see this custom which has been existing for such a long time," said Gaurav Yadav.
"My friends made me kiss the poster of Damdami Mai, and the crowd got shouting like hell. Although I felt a bit awkward later, now when I think of it, I laugh," said Rishabh Tanwar.
Hindu college alumni that includes television star Aishwarya Sakhuja, Rajesh Kumar of Sarabhai vs Sarabhai fame and Bollywood actor Saqib Saleem also shared their memories of Virgin Tree.
"It was one of those random days like Rose Day and one guy came to me, very sweet fellow, and instead of giving me a flower, he gave me a laddoo," shared female actor Aishwarya Sakhuja.
Saqib Saleem said, "Mr. Fresher would do the puja, he would be the 'pandit' for the whole ceremony and there would be pictures of actresses around. It was a gala event, and that was why it was such a big deal to be doing that on this day in college. I don't think that it is weird, but when I was in college, there were pictures of Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor on the Virgin Tree."
What is your take on it? Share your views in the comment section.
Source: The Times Of India
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