Such was the case of my maternal grandmother and her Sakhi (friend) – a lovely, charming woman who always stood by her. Also, making of their friendship had its roots in the noble Sakhi Tradition – an ancient ritual of female bonding, practiced primarily by North Indian ladies.
Now, a little about this interesting tradition which unfortunately no longer exists – According to ‘Women’s Lives Women’s Rituals in the Hindu Tradition’, “The sakhi relationship represents a female-female union that imitates the marital bond, but may surpass blood or marital kinship bonds in terms of its professed meaningfulness in women’s lives.”
The ritual would be initiated by tying a sacred thread or sending over some food or goodies to a lady with request to be friends. When the other party accepted, the ladies in question would take an oath to be a part of each other lives, stand by each other and actively participate in each other’s functions etc.
They would promise each other – “Everyone including parents, spouse or kids may leave you but I will never leave you.” When such ritual friendships were formed, the bonding took on spiritual fervour. It was considered a great sin to bad mouth, cheat or betray a Sakhi.
Something akin to this happened between my grandmother and Sakhi Nani (as we fondly called her). I don’t know who took the first step but they formed this sacred friendship. At that time they were young, beautiful brides in a village that observed strict purdah. They had to be meek and respectful… sort of stifled always. I guess, this relationship allowed them to be themselves – to talk and laugh freely.
My grandma would cook special dishes for her Sakhi and send over to her house. Her sakhi responded with equal enthusiasm. My grandfather died when my mother was very young, Sakhi Nani and her family did their best to support my grandma during the worst phase of her life.
My grandmother later moved with us but she always missed her Sakhi. I never heard her mentioning one negative word about her throughout my life. She would keep aside little things to gift her special Sakhi. And it was fun whenever we went over to the village – Sakhi Nani and her huge family always welcomed us with open arms.
Sadly, both the Sakhis are no more but till date, even the little kids in our homes know the story of their great friendship.
This was a rare tradition of women-only participants in a male dominated society. We ladies have a private little world, filled with feelings, nostalgia and things that only a woman can understand. Wouldn’t it be great to share this with a lifelong Sakhi, who would not be judgemental!
These days when sacredness has left almost every relationship, I wish the beautiful tradition of Sakhi had lived on…
Images courtesy Google