How Pandit Nehru's garland of flowers became a curse for his 'tribal wife' Budhani Manjhian
Budhani Manjhian Pandit Nehru Tribal Wife: The fateful garlanding incident in 1959 led to further troubles, resulting in the end of contracts for Budhani and others in 1962.
Budhani Manjhian Pandit Nehru Tribal Wife: Budhani Manjhian, often referred to as the ‘tribal wife’ of India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, bid farewell to the world at the age of 80.
Her life, entangled in the complexities of societal norms, is now sparking discussions about erecting a memorial in her honour.
The Garland that Defined Destiny
In 1959, during the inauguration of the Panchet Dam, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru adorned Budhani with a garland, a gesture that unwittingly became a turning point in her life. The Santhal tribal customs considered such an act as a symbol of marriage, leading to Budhani being ostracised for marrying outside her community at the tender age of 16.
From Garland to Ostracisation: The Plight of Budhani
What was intended as a mark of respect turned into a curse. The flower necklace that Nehru placed around her neck marked her as an outcast in her community. Exiled from her village, Budhani, along with her daughter Ratna, found solace in a humble dwelling outside the village boundaries.
A Demand for Recognition: Memorial for Budhani Manjhian
Following her recent demise, there is a growing chorus demanding a memorial for Budhani Manjhian. Advocates argue that her contribution to history, particularly her association with Pandit Nehru, should be commemorated with a statue adjacent to his. As Budhani’s daughter turns 60, there are additional calls for her to receive a pension.
Life Beside the Dam: A Tragedy and a Triumph
The construction of the dam in 1952 led to the submergence of Budhani’s family land, starting a series of challenges. Undeterred, her family became labourers for the dam, with Budhani being the first contracted worker. The fateful garlanding incident in 1959 led to further troubles, resulting in the end of contracts for Budhani and others in 1962.
Undeterred by adversity, Budhani relocated to Purulia in Bengal, marrying Sudhir Dutta, a fellow-labourer. In 1985, when Rajiv Gandhi visited Asansol as the Prime Minister, Budhani shared her struggles, eventually securing a job in DVC. She retired from her job in 2005, marking the end of a journey fraught with trials.
Legacy Beyond a Garland: Remembering Budhani Manjhian
As discussions around a memorial gain momentum, Budhani Manjhian’s life becomes a poignant chapter in history. From societal ostracisation to finding resilience in the face of challenges, her story echoes through time, urging recognition and remembrance.