Ahead of the death anniversary of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANIS) organized a photo exhibition highlighting the efforts of ANIS member Nandini Jadhav. The exhibition at Balgandharva Rang Mandir showcased Jadhav's work in liberating women from the practice of growing dreadlocks or 'jata'. The display included news coverage and actual photos from various instances. The exhibition concluded on Thursday.
For activist Nandini Jadhav, cutting the "sacred" matted hair of women and girls is relatively easier than the challenging task that precedes it—convincing them and their families to let go of the superstitious practice. The practice of growing dreadlocks, known as 'jata' in the local language, is often associated with superstition among some followers of Hinduism. They believe that cutting the 'jata' could invoke the wrath of deities.
Nandini Jadhav has successfully freed individuals from this practice at least 276 times. In doing so, she not only helps them shed the burden of their matted hair but also addresses health hazards and the stigma attached to it. A professional beautician, Jadhav is an active ANIS member who decided to leverage her skills to combat superstitions related to matted hair.
Jadhav said that in some communities, a girl or young woman with 'jata' is compelled to become a 'jogti' or 'devadasi' (one who serves a deity or a temple for the rest of her life) by self-proclaimed gurus.
"Usually, matted hair is a result of poor physical hygiene, and absence of proper hair care, including regular washing and combing. When some 'dreadlock' is found in the hair, it is linked to the superstitious belief that such matted hair is blessing and cutting them could invite the wrath of a goddesses," she said.