Groups of black dressed women are a familiar scenario in Rajasthan. They were hired if someone died or if there is a possibility of death. Their main task is to make people cry on someone`s death and mourning for the deceased person. They were paid for it by deceased’s family. This is an old custom of Rajastan and still found in rural part of this region and the weeping women are commonly known as `Rudaali`.
Rudaalis are known as `professional mourners`. They trade their tears and earn livelihood through lamentation. Since the upper-class women are not allowed to show their grief for their slain beloved one due to their status in the society, these Rudaalis are hired to cry on their behalf. Along with the loud crying, Rudaalis were also supposed to create a scene by beating their chests and slapping the floors for the next 12 days.
This profession may seem insignificant to us, but this is a usual term and a ruthless truth to some backward communities in Rajasthan. Rudaalis` existence IS mixed with their traditions. Most of the time, Rudaalis were brought from lower class of the society. Generally, while a young woman from low cast becomes widow, her misfortune is blamed for her husband`s death and she is forced to wear black and earn her livelihood by this job. The upper-class families hire Rudaalis to showcase their power and influence.
Gender, caste, class, and economic status are considered before the Rudaalis got hired. Sometimes, the Zamindars and Thakurs forced many poor and low caste women to work as Rudaalis. Though this custom sometimes forced the women to mourn in the demise of almost unknown person abandoning their emotion, it failed to bring status and dignity for those Rudaalis. In the Darogi community, the Rudaalis also worked as Daoris (mistresses) to the Thakurs of the Haveli. The kids born to these Rudaalis had no father and they used to work at lower posts for these Thakurs. And if any girl was born to these Thakurs then she is killed off immediately to avoid dowry at the time of her marriage.
This profession is in the verge of extinction now-a-days. With the serge of modernism people now prefer to remaining quiet and simple funeral which limited the work of Rudaalis. However, the Rudaalis are also moving out of this and exploring new opportunities and using their talent in other interesting works.