The tradition of the ‘Virgin Tree pooja’ at Hindu College, wherein students pray in front of a tree on Valentine’s Day with the hope of losing their virginity, is viewed with diverse and opposing perspectives.
“I’m just young, rich, and tasteless,” says rapper Pusha T in the song ‘Runaway’. It might be an apt slogan for the tradition of the Virgin Tree (V-Tree) pooja at Hindu College. “Young” because maybe we’re the youth desperate to get laid; but also “tasteless” because maybe we recognise the problems with the tradition and go on regardless. “Rich” is slightly irrelevant here.
The tradition, which takes place at Valentine’s every year sees students worshipping the V-Tree. A female celebrity is chosen as the ‘Damdami Mai’ and the Mr. Fresher of the boys’ hostel, dressed as the pandit, does the pooja. Recently, the same has begun for the girls’ hostel also, wherein a ‘Love Guru’ is worshipped by the Ms. Fresher. Water filled condoms are hung on the tree, an aarti is sung, the water is showered on the crowd and a Holi-like celebration follows. Apparently, thou shall loseth thy V-card should thou showereth in the condometh watereth. Hindu 6:9, perhaps? Students view the pooja in a variety of ways. Defenders say that the motive is spreading awareness about safe sex. Others say that it’s patriarchal, misogynist, and excludes many. Yet others fall somewhere in between. “(The pooja) serves the purpose of spreading sexual awareness. It tries to do away with the taboo associated with sex,” says a second-year History Honours student. This was reiterated by Shubham Yadav, the Girls Students’ Welfare Minister. She said that while posters about AIDS awareness are also put up, the aarti is very demeaning.
This reasoning isn’t convincing to many.
Kareema Barry, a second-year English Honours student says that the inclusion of the male celebrity was only “tokenistic.” “What about transgenders? Aren’t we neglecting them? The solution is not to put their picture but to remove all of them,” says Sakshi Priya, Vice President of the college’s Women’s Development Cell while proposing a discussion on safe sex instead. Parakram Chauhan, a Philosophy Honours fresher comments on the “toxicity” behind the the pooja in terms of “seeing getting laid as some sort of prize or blessing.”
What are the freshers expecting?
One such expectation is to see a proper way of disposing of condoms, according to Mrinalinee Sharma of the History department. Khushi Gupta of the same department says “I want to see how they hang condoms after filling them with water, I’m very excited.” Parakram says he’s expecting “nothing at all.” However, a large chunk of them seems to be unaware of what the pooja is. Various students have protested against the tradition and some tell us that the crowds had declined last year. While Pinjra Tod’s article on the subject, which condemns the pooja as a contributor to “rape culture — which slut shames women who assert their sexuality,” is a bit overblown, not even the defenders deny that it could be made more inclusive and less demeaning.
Whether it’s a silly tradition or a serious issue, and whether it needs amendment or abolition, is for us to decide. We must ask if we’re just being tasteless, or something much more serious than that.
Image Credits: DU Beat