Indian Feminists Despair As Film Star Marries a Tree
New America Media, News Report, Viji Sundaram Posted: Feb 02, 2007
Editor’s Note: As Indian women struggle for equality, feminists find they can’t count on their celebrities for much support. Viji Sundaram is a NAM editor
SAN FRANCISCO -- Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai is once again making headlines, this time for romancing a tree. Well, not exactly romancing the flora, just marrying it, as per astrologers’ suggestions.
Ash, as she is known, had what it took to become Miss World in 1996 and enough acting skills to make it big in Bollywood after that. It appears, however, that she hasn’t got the right planetary arrangement to live happily ever after with Abhishek her fiancé and the son of Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan.
Abhishek, also a film star, proposed to her last month in New York, following the release of their film, “Guru,” there. The wedding is expected to take place later this year.
But Ash is reportedly blighted with what in astrological terms is described as “manglik dosh,” which means that the planet Mars (mangla) and possibly even the planet Saturn are in the seventh house. People with manglik dosh are prone to multiple marriages, according to San Francisco Bay Area Vedic astrologer Pandit Parashar. That means Ash’s marriage to Abhishek could either end in divorce or his death.
In Hindu tradition, in order to offset the evil influence of manglik dosh, a woman should marry a peepal or banana tree before she ties the knot with her fiancé. Or she could even marry a clay urn, which should be broken soon after the nuptial ceremonies, signifying that the bride has become a widow, and the manglik dosh problem has been solved.
It’s not known if Ash has married, or plans to marry, an urn, but she reportedly has married a peepal tree in the holy city of Varanasi, and a banana tree in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.
Would the peepal and banana trees need to be chopped down in order to free her from the curse?
“I’m not sure, but probably, she can annul those marriages, or divorce the trees,” says Los Angeles-based Vedic astrologer Yatrika Shah-Rais.
Since the announcement of the young couple’s engagement, their parents have been spotted in a number of temples together. But Parashar believes the two families have no reason to worry since manglik dosh dissipates as one grows older and it loses about 60 percent of its strength once the woman reaches 28. Ash is 33; Abhishek, 31.
Parashar says had the couple consulted him he would have told them to get married in traditional ceremonies, then wait for six months or so, and get married again in Reno. “Getting married to a tree would have been okay in (ancient times),” he says. “But these days, there are other options.”
Meanwhile, Ash’s actions have invoked the wrath of feminists and women’s rights activists in India. Shruti Singh, a Patna lawyer, filed suit against the two families, saying such ceremonies are in violation of the Indian Constitution and offensive to women.
“I agree with her,” says India-born Berkeley resident Shobha Hiatt, a women’s rights advocate. “It is shocking that people as forward thinking as the Bachchans should engage in such archaic practices. It is like moving back in time.”
This is the second time in as many months that Ash has been slapped with a lawsuit. Last November, someone filed an obscenity suit against her by because she kissed her leading man Hrithik Roshan on screen.
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