If there was ever a post that deserved “WTF” as a title, this is it.
Before I begin, can I just say that I was going to jot down my notes from Shilpa Gupta’s Somewhere Else, which is on at Chemould Prescott Road (Mumbai)? But then I was told about this, and I confess, I was distracted.
This, being the Virginity Tree in, of all places, Hindu College, Delhi University. On February 13 and/or 14, said tree is adorned with heart-shaped balloons and inflated condoms. The photograph of a female celebrity, usually a Bollywood actress, is pasted on the bark of the Virginity Tree (the bark is also home to a number of heart-shaped chits of paper that have phone numbers scribbled on it). This woman, ladies and gents, is Damdami Mai, supposedly the goddess of the loss of one’s virginity. Worship her and you will lose your virginity in six months. The rituals of worshipping Damdami Mai includes live percussion (a student beating a dholak, which is basically a big drum) and “Mr. Fresher” becomes the priest who prays to the goddess.
My extremely cursory research has revealed the following. The celebrity who will become Hindu College’s Damdami Mai is announced by a gent who is known as the “cabinet chief” of Hindu College. Damdami Mai and the virginity tree are a “long tradition” in Delhi University. Traditional practices included decorating the tree with condoms, which was abandoned for a few years and restarted in 2010, and offering bhang laddoos or or cannabis-laced sweetmeats to the goddess during the puja. After the puja, these laddoos would be given to the surrounding devotees (prasad). While the condoms have returned, the bhang hasn’t (officially).
The chant for Damdami Mai goes like this:
Jai Damdami mata, Mai Jai Damdami mata
Tumko dinbhar dekhun, raat bhar so na pata
Maiya Jai damdami mata 36-24-36 yeh teri kaya (mai yeh teri kaya)
Gaano pe thumke lagata, Mai Jai Damdami mata
Jab tu TV pe aati, toh hostel nachta, (mai toh hostel nachta)
Aisa karke yaad dilata ki tu damdami mata
Mai Jai Damdami mata
Bol Damdami mata ki Jai!
The lyrics roughly translate to repeated hurrahs for the goddess whose vital stats are 36-24-36, whose pictures are ogled at all day and who keeps the devotee awake at night.
If one prays with proper devotion and respect, Damdami Mai ensures that you will lose your virginity within six months.
Previous Damdami Mais include Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha, Deepika Padukone and Aishwarya Rai. This year’s Damdami Mai is Sunny Leone, an Indian actress who has managed to cross from adult films to mainstream Bollywood thanks to her popularity on a reality tv show.
I haven’t been able to unearth how old this tradition is. I’d like to say authoritatively that there was no Damdami Mai when I was in college of Delhi University and therefore this must be a new, 21st century tradition. However, not only did I not study in Hindu College, I was barely clued in on what was happening in my own college, let alone others. I’d like to believe that I would remember a Virginity Tree, but who knows? Maybe all this was happening in Delhi University all around me while I sat eating samosas and smoking Gudang Garams. But if there were celebrations for Damdami Mai happening while I was in Delhi’s north campus, for once I’m very thankful I have a doorknob for a brain.
For more pictures of the “festival”, please click on the photo or here.