Women of Reni
Nidhi Adlakha, Avikal Somvanshi and Padmasai Lakshmbi B
On March 26, 1974, 27 women, living in Reni, a tiny Garhwali village nestling in the hills of Uttarakhand, barred a group of men, armed with axes, from entering the forests near their home. The men were timber contractors, working for a sports goods factory, who had been permitted by the state government to cut trees in that land. The Reni brigade stood firm, singing aloud, guarding the forests which provided them livelihood. They became the face of the now historic Chipko movement. Ever wondered what happened to these extraordinary ladies since then? Gobar Times team visited the village and found out. No, not about their militant past, but about the way they lived their lives, the clothes they wore, and the hobbies they shared. Here is a glimpse...
An accomplished orator and today a spokesperson of Chipko for the occasional, curious visitor, Bali Devi keeps the spirit of the movement alive in Reni. “The government is nothing but a contractor. Trees are growing only on paper”, she said.
Nature embellishes their everyday lives. Here the woman on the extreme left sports a silver brooch which display teeth of endangered musk deer. Their jewellery includes necklaces, earrings (murkula worn on the upper ear lobe and murku on the lower lobe), nose rings and finger rings.
The women of Reni are dressed traditionally, mostly in black. Their attire comprises a head scarf (subla), a black top (angda), a full skirt (pakhi) and a petticoat (ghagra). Some women also tie a cloth around their waist which is known as pagda.
As a young woman at the time of Chipko, Gauma Devi (left) stood up for a way of life threatened by deforestation. Today, she is the only woman in Reni who continues to weave using a traditional loom. Goat wool that is washed and spun into coarse thread is then – with the help of phelchu (leather belt) and thal (wooden log) – skilfully woven into a coarse yet very warm cloth.