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Rajasthan Workshop 3 documentation

Collaborating NGO: Urmul.

Dates: 15,16,17 February 1999.

Venue: Urmul, Lundkaransar,Rajasthan

Overall Participants: 17 Dai's (From Dhirdaan, Dhirera, Dhoolmera, Sorawali, Makrasar, Khelasar)
6 Urmul Health workers
4 Matrika members

Day-1 –15.2.99: Matrika team sharing hospital births.
Day-2 – 16.2.99: Sharing Matrika’s Posters.
Day-3 –17.2.99: Dai's ’ expectations.

DAY 1 –15.2.99
Afternoon Session


Participants included 17 Dai's , 7 Urmul members, 3 Matrika team members and one filmmaker

Bhagwan Kaur
Film maker

The workshop began with the Dai's singing. The new Dai's who had not attended the previous two workshops were introduced. Those who came for the previous workshops called out their names.

Madhu: The goal of this third workshop is to share the findings that we gathered from you during the previous two workshops. We will share practices that are good for the jacha and bacha. We feel that these should be shared with the government and the policy makers. These traditional practices should reach people and should be continued.

However there are also certain practices that are not favourable and these should be stopped.

This time we will openly ask you Dai's about certain issues. Wherever you have doubts you can ask us and where we have doubts we will ask you.

We will begin by telling you what we did after our second workshop in November. We finished writing our report on the Bihar Workshop 3. We also discussed our objectives for the third workshops. Now we are here for Rajasthan’s third workshop.

Bhagwan Kaur: How are births conducted in your place, what do you do? Tell us about it.

Madhu: We too thought of sharing our experiences of childbirth since you had talked about your home birth experience. In cities most of the births happen in hospitals so our experience is mostly of hospital births.

Shanti: My first daughter was born at home. I live in a basti where most of the births used to happen at home but now births are also taking place in hospitals. During my second daughter’s birth, I had pains for three days so I was taken to a hospital. There were two lady doctors who gave me many injections, still I did not have my baby. They wanted to give a cut (episiotomy). I had a dai with me, she didn’t let them do that and with her help I had my baby. Then I was sent home. I didn’t like the atmosphere of the hospital but I had to go because of my problem. Yet there too birth happened with the dai’s support. This is a very old incident.

Renuka: I had my delivery in a hospital. In the eighth month my water bag broke, I had no pains. In the hospital they waited for a day and then on the second day they put me on a drip. At night I started getting severe pains. The doctor would come, see and leave. I told them that I could feel the baby coming. When I insisted, they took me to the labour room. At that time only the nurse was there to catch the baby, even the child specialist was not present. My sister assisted in handling the baby. The baby was taken to another hospital as she was very tiny, just about 1500 grams and had to be kept in a machine (incubator). This hospital did not have an incubator. I had a tear and found it difficult to walk.

Madhu: I had four miscarriages. I asked the doctor why I was having miscarriages. The doctor couldn’t give me any reason. She wanted to do various tests for it. I never went for those tests. When I conceived again, then every week I was given an injection to prevent miscarriage. After three months this stopped but then I was given tablets. In the fifth month my body swelled up (oedema), specially my legs. Medicines were not effective. My blood pressure was rising.

A few days before the seventh month I was admitted to a hospital because I had very high blood pressure and this could be dangerous for the baby. In the hospital my blood pressure became worse. Nobody from my home was allowed to come and stay with me or visit me. I was alone in the labour room, there were other women there, and they were going to have their babies in one or two days. The nurses would not let us talk to each other. We were supposed to just rest on our beds. I was getting headache, my feet were burning, I requested a nurse to massage my feet but she got angry and refused saying that this was not her work.

In that labour room my health got worse and I felt that it was because of loneliness. I told my doctor but she would not let me go, saying that it could be dangerous at home. I started getting convulsions. They operated immediately and took the baby out. The baby’s weight was just 1500 gms. and he was kept in a nursery.

I did not experience the pain of birth since I was unconscious. But after the operation, I had severe pains in my back and lower waist. I was restless. I kept calling for nurses, they scolded me and said that I was unnecessarily troubling them and that this happens to everyone.

My experience with the hospital was very bad. Everyone was rude, they used to scold and talk rudely. My child was kept away from me in a nursery. I used to go down to the nursery to feed him but nobody guided me on how to feed the baby. The milk wasn’t coming. The baby was too weak to suckle properly. But the nurses used to always scold saying do this and don’t do this. Only the lady doctor spoke properly but she used to come only for five, ten minutes. I feel if I had found a nice dai who had knowledge and skills to deal with swelling then I wouldn’t have gone to a hospital in the seventh month. Probably I would not have had my baby in the seventh month. After this experience I got so scared that I never found the courage to have a second baby.

Pema: For swelling we give iron tablets. However the desi dawai (indigenous medicine) is to eat dry singhara (water chestnut).

Khewani: This is very common, many women get swelling here, and we don’t get so worried about this. I had five children and had swelling every time. Yes, if it is possible then the woman should take some rest. This does make a difference. Less salt should be given to eat.

Mohini: If a woman is bleeding then we give 250 grams of loth in kacha or fresh milk (milk freshly drawn and unboiled). It is effective in kacha milk. We put half a kilogram of sugar and 250 grams of loth in a kilolitre of milk. I have tried this in many cases.

Shobha: Before birth of my baby I was playing with a ball. While playing I started getting pains. My bhawaj (elder brother’s wife) asked me what was happening. Then I called for my mother. I was taken to a hospital. Before reaching the bed I felt that I was going to have my baby but the doctor said that it wouldn’t happen immediately. He kept saying this. When the baby was about to come, he came, gave me a cut and delivered the baby. For one day they didn’t give me the baby. I was worried that maybe they will exchange my baby. The second japa I had at home. The hospital is not the place for me.

Pana: I had my baby at home. This was during a busy farming season. Everyone was busy. I had many questions, what will happen, how will it be. When the time came for birth, the dai was called. She came and heated some sand, spread it and gave me karha. The dai and other women gave me a lot of support. I felt relief after drinking the karha. During birth I suddenly stood up and started applying force. The dai supported me in this position. Women in my area don’t stand and give birth but I had all my children standing up and the Dai's gave me care and love. In villages we get help from Dai's , it is not there in hospitals.

Mohini: We make the women lie down during japa as this is easy. By this the shareer does not come out and the chances of tearing are less. This is probably the right way according to me. [She gives a demonstration.]

Rami: We check the jacha’s belly. When I do japa I don’t pull the clothes up. The woman lies down and I ask her to bend her knees. I check the position of the baby. If the baby is about to come then the belly becomes empty from above. After the bag of water breaks we keep on watching and once the head is about to come we catch it with our hands. After the baby is delivered we don’t loosen our hold of the belly immediately, the anwal comes out. If the jacha is alone then she holds her legs. After the anwal is out we cut the naal.

With the sharing of these experiences the session ends.


DAY 2: 16.2.99
Morning Session: 9.00-1.00

The session began with the Dai's singing.

Madhu: We have made a few posters on the basis of what you shared with us about your skill, knowledge, rituals, food and herbs that are used during birth and which are very useful for the well being of jacha bacha. We will share these with you.


  1. Self-sufficiency
  2. Food and jari-booti
  3. Riti-rewaz
  4. Elements of nature
  5. dai Mai
  6. Flow of blood

Madhu: We aren’t showing anything new in these posters, everything came from you.


Madhu: First of all we feel that the dai does japa with her own shakti and this is in her own hands. Village people call you for childbirth as you are available at any time and are also within their means. Most of the time to take a jacha to a hospital or to a doctor is not within the means of the family. In many villages there are no doctors or hospitals. One has to go to Lundkaransar or Bikaner and for this one needs transport and money. All this has to be arranged. But a dai is from your village and you can call her at any time. Moreover the things that are required in the Dai's ’ method are usually available at home, like oil, ghee, ajwain, gur or haldi (turmeric). You can immediately make use of these things. For doctors’ medicine you have to run to a medical shop. Sometimes you get the medicine and sometimes you don’t find it. You may not be able to read the name of the medicine and are not aware what the chemist is giving. The dai’s method is self-sufficient. We realised this after seeing the situation here. Let us congratulate you for doing very important work in villages.

Kheevni: We are prepared to go at any hour, day or night. It is only in difficult situations that we go to a doctor. Like if the bachadani is not opening after a long wait then we take the jacha to Bikaner. Then too we go along with the jacha. In case something happens on the way, somebody should be there to take care of the situation. In hospitals doctors don’t talk properly. Many times I have fought with them.

Rukma: I was with a woman for her japa. In her case a lot of water had come out and the baby had died three days before. So the japa took place with the help of a doctor. But the doctor was very rude and did not even listen to anything properly. Going to doctors and taking treatment from them is not for us.

Food and jari-booti

Madhu: Related to this is our second poster on Food and jari- booti. You have knowledge on what food is to be given for facilitating birth. You have special knowledge of the whole body. The things that doctors do with sui-goli you do with food and drink. The doctor gives sui to increase pain and you give karha, milk, ghee, laung and hot drinks. To take out the black blood after birth you give ajwain and gur ka karha. All these are your specialty and this we have seen in all the three states that we went to. The jacha also has faith in these remedies. She knows what happens after drinking or eating these things whereas she is not aware of sui or goli.
Similarly you have jari-booti and you use them according to the need of the time. These are available in your area and you can get them easily. Like after birth, rangjhar roots are boiled to do hot fomentation of shareer . This is to prevent swelling in the shareer and also to prevent infection. For this you also apply ghee and haldi on the shareer . For this the doctor gives antibiotics and sui and these are very costly and not easily available. Yet you are slowly giving up your methods and are getting influenced by doctors’ methods. We will have to save your system. You massage the head with ghee and in winter you put black pepper in the ghee. You see the weather and judge the jacha’s ability to tolerate a treatment and accordingly use the right thing. You also see the jacha’s family’s economic situation, if ghee is too expensive for them, then you use til oil (sesame oil), which is less costly. Which doctor will think like this? Therefore we give respect and importance to your work.

Kheevni: We give the woman Nar laung (large cloves) jayphal, javatri, ajwain, kesar kisturi, brahmi ki goli etc.

Madhu: We heard about nar laung and brahmi ki goli in Rajasthan but not in other areas.

Rami: We give these things we give to the jacha at different times and at different intervals. More quantities are used in winter. We don’t give much in summer. When the baby is about to happen, then we give these. In summer we give more milk and ghee. In summer if the anwal is retained then jayphal is given to increase the pain and with pain the anwal comes out.

Rukma: A woman had two babies and two anwal s. One whole anwal came out and the other broke.

The nurse gave tika and took it out. She took a lot of money. These days, people in villages get scared so they immediately run for doctors and nurses.

Madhu: The doctor always gives a cut for birth but you do oil maalish and ease birth.

Pema: We use ghee or any other oil that is available and lubricate the shareer by massage. We also do fomentation of the shareer to prevent any infection.

Revati: We don’t have faith in doctors. The first thing they ask for is fees. If you don’t have money how can you call them?

Kheevni: If there is no oil, spices or jari-booti at home, then we can get it from the neighbours.

Sometimes the dai gets it from her own house but usually it is available at everyone’s place.

Madhu: Matrika respects this attitude of a dai. She is prepared to help in all situations.


Madhu: The third poster is on riti-rewaz. I talked about the dai’s desire to help jacha bacha and the same purpose is behind riti-rewaz . The sad part is that these days people consider it superstitious and are slowly discarding these rituals. But Matrika in its analysis feels that it is just not superstition but a way of supporting women’s feelings and emotions. With Riti-rewaz the jacha feels that the whole family is involved in supporting her. Like in the seventh month the saas does puja of Bhairon ji and offers thikari, so the saas has a role.

Last time, when you made the ritual drawings, we saw that it deals with the whole cycle of opening of the body to closing of the body. The ritual cleansing of the body symbolized by the ritual bath is also a cycle. The first bath is on the chatti day and is considered the half cleansing of the jacha and that day you send off Baimata. All this is related to life, nature and body. The jacha has a bath but she is not supposed to go out as she may get affected by hawa and her shareer is kacha. All these kinds of avoidance and protection have been associated with riti-rewaz . The second bath, which is around the ninth day, marks the total cleansing. On this day for the first time she sees the sun and pays obeisance to the Sun God by folding her hands. She comes out of the dark japa ghar to open light. So this transition is celebrated. All this is related to one another. After nine days slowly the jacha’s shareeris closing, the dai also finishes all her important duties. So then the dai is sent off. There are certain rules that are followed: like on the sixth day, chatti, departure of Bemata; on the ninth day, Suraj puja and departure of the dai; on the day of Jalwa puja the departure of all women relatives who come to support and help during birth.

After the ninth day the jacha comes out of the japa ghar but she does not enter the kitchen and does not do any work. It is after Kuon puja, also referred to as Jalwa puja, that she starts working and it is also the time when the shareer is considered to have closed.

Rami: Earlier Kuan puja used to happen on the fortieth day but now it all depends on the circumstances, like whether there is somebody else to take care of the household and how long can the jacha manage without doing any work. On this day the woman keeps a new pitcher and then starts work.

Madhu: Kuan puja also has a special meaning. There is a similarity between the depth of the Kuan and that of the womb. You also do many other things during birth like opening hair and all other knots, opening the windows. All this is said to be magical but this helps the jacha in opening her body. You open all these things and say Bhagwan open her shareer also like this. This helps the jacha to have faith and it helps her body to reciprocate likewise. She feels relaxed and has less fear.

Jarau: During japa we separate a mound of grain in two parts. This means that Bhagwan separate the mother and the child, like this.

Madhu: There are similar rituals in other places. In Delhi we were told that they make the jacha cut a heap of atta in two portions.

Rukma: If thejacha�s tarts worrying during birth then there is fear that she may have convulsions. She can also go mad.

Madhu: All these rituals bring people together. These are ways to tell the jacha not to be scared. It is done everywhere; only they have different names for it.

Rami: In the seventh month something is done but different people have different customs. Thakurs, Brahmins and Jats give offerings to Bhairon ji but other caste groups give offerings to Bhayon (sisters). Offering is given to seven Bhayon . Seven women are fed.

Kheevni: What do you do in the city?

Madhu: In cities families have become small and have split so there are no special riti-rewaz . In Delhi people are from different regions so everyone follows their own region’s riti-rewaz .

Afternoon Session

The women began by singing and then continued the discussion around the posters.

Elements of Nature

Madhu: We have tried to understand the things that you have told us by going deeper into it. Like the way you try to see and understand the body has special meaning. Nature has five elements, fire, air, water, earth and ether. All these elements also exist in our body and our body is also made of these five elements. Like our body is made of earth and it is one of the elements of nature too. You use Mitti(sand, earth) during birth. You heat it and spread it. This Mittisoaks all the blood. Mitti is also used in other ways, like you bury the anwal naal in the Mitti. Mittiis an important element.

The other element is ether, life force. This is also within our body. You have knowledge of this and you have a language to understand this. In Delhi there is dai from Bharatpur, Rajasthan who does japas of well to do families. She says that if birth takes place in the eighth month then the baby is kept higher than the mother. The cord is milked in the upward direction towards the baby. The cord of the eighth month baby is thin so it is milked till it gets as thick as that of a full term baby. So something goes from the mother to the baby and this is ji (life).

You have knowledge of hawa. To stop hawa from entering the shareer after birth you ask the jacha to cross her legs. The jacha�s hould not get exposed to outside hawa (also buri hawa referring to evil spirits) so you don’t let the jacha go out, there are also rituals supporting this, you keep all the windows and doors of the japa ghar closed. You use water and believe that there is water inside our body. You recognize the importance of fire and know about the heat in the body.

Kheevni: We do make use of fire. We give warm fomentation in winter.

Madhu: In the hot months the environment itself is warm and so is the body, so you don’t see the need for giving heat from outside. You know how to keep a balance between hot and cold and when to give fomentation.

Pema: Fomentation gives relief to the jacha.

Flow of blood

Madhu: The fifth poster is on flow of blood. Matrika feels that Dai's have a special knowledge about the flow of blood. You know that the black blood or the dirty blood should come out of the body and fresh red blood should stop. You have this knowledge and can recognize black and red blood.

To take out the black blood after birth you make the jacha�s tand and put soft pressure on her belly with your head. You give ajwain ka karha to drink so that everything clears up and the black blood comes out. You also recognize the red blood and to stop its flow you raise jacha’s legs.

Kheevni: Yes if the flow is less then we do it and it stops but if the flow is heavy then we have to take her to a hospital.

Jarau: In Sordawali a jacha had a baby. The baby was unconscious, so the doctor started patting the baby’s back but nothing happened. I heated the anwal naal and the baby started crying.

Teeja: If the baby is not crying then mouth to mouth resuscitation helps.

Madhu: Is this from your traditional knowledge or from the training?

Kheevni: This we were told in the training. But what we learn from the training we use in one or two cases, then we go back to our desi (local) ways.

Pema: If the bacha isn’t crying then we immediately heat the anwal. The family has faith in it. Giving tika can control bleeding. But bleeding is a dangerous sign and we immediately take the jacha to a hospital.

Rami: Many women die because of bleeding of fresh blood. We are very careful about this. Many times there is bleeding because of some shock. If the jacha already has four or five daughters and again gives birth to a daughter then we don’t tell her immediately. This can shock her. We are very careful and slowly tell her.

Jarau: Many times she is weak and may bleed. In this case we take her to a hospital.

Madhu: Earlier the sui was given only to control post-partum bleeding but now, it is being used for increasing pain.

Dai Mai

The sixth poster is of dai Mai meaning that a dai is like a mother. The dai is essential for birth, she gives support and also waits. She supports the woman just as the dharti supports life. Along with the jacha�s he also puts her energy. All her attention is on the jacha, she feels for her from her heart and mind.

Rami: She is there till the baby is born. After birth also we wait for two-four hours till everything is complete and the jacha feels fine. After birth we lift the baby’s chin, cover the baby in a cloth and put it to sleep. If the anwal is not coming out then we wait for an hour for it to come out.

Madhu: What do you do if the anwal breaks?

Kheevni: If the dai pulls the anwal then it will break. anwal is weak so it may break. Then we take it out with our hands. At that time we are very worried.

Madhu: Some people say that these days the anwal is becoming smaller. Do you also feel this?
Rami: Yes we feel this. These days the diet is not the same as before and may be it is because of this. Weak women have small anwal .

Pema: Until the whole anwal is out we feel restless and worried.

Madhu: Therefore we say dai Mai.

DAY 3: 17.2.99
Morning Session

Madhu: This is the last session. In the last two years we have done two workshops with you. This is the last workshop. After this we hope to meet you in Delhi at the dai Mela .

Ramratni: Please tell us about the dai Mela .

Madhu: We will call Dai's from three areas, Bihar (Mahila Jagriti), Delhi (Action India) and Rajasthan (Urmul). These are the areas where we have been working. We want to organize a big programme. We want to call other NGOs who are interested and are working with Dai's . We will invite policy makers and government people and others who can have positive influence on the future of the dai’s work. We will present our demands to them. Dai's can themselves talk and put their feelings before them. Dai's will meet other Dai's and can share their experiences and their problems. The Dai's of Bihar have said that they would prefer to have the Mela scheduled in September, before pitripaksh (days for offering to the ancestors). What do you feel?

Dai's : This time suits us.

Madhu: In this session you can put forward your desires, problems and what kind of support or help you want from the government and also from Urmul. The kind of help that you want from government can be brought up during the Mela . What you want from Urmul you can talk about now, openly with Urmul people.

Kheevni: We should get a fixed amount of money like the Raj dai used to get.

Madhu: Please tell us more about the Raj dai system, we are not clear about how it started and when it finished.

Rami: The Raj dai used to get a bag containing all the japa materials and the government recognized her. She had a certificate. She used to get a fixed salary from the government. She used to conduct deliveries for the whole village. The villagers also used to give her some money.

Madhu: Was there only one Raj dai for the whole village?

Dai's : Yes.

Madhu: When was this?

Kheevni: I cannot tell you this exactly. My mausi (Mother’s sister) was a Raj dai. After we got associated with Urmul, the village people think that it is something like a Raj dai system.

Madhu: How did you join Urmul?

Kheevni: It was when Sanjoy ji was going around the villages. When he came to Ghulmera somebody told him about me and I joined Urmul.

Satyanarayanji: Before linking any dai to Urmul we hold a meeting in the village and it’s the village people who decide. It is not necessary that they choose just one dai, they may choose two or three Dai's .

Madhu: Are there other Dai's besides the ones working with Urmul?

Satyanarayanji: Yes, there are other Dai's in the village. In old villages the Dai's have a fixed clientele. But in new villages like number 465 there are none.

Madhu: What kind of relationship do Dai's share amongst themselves? Which dai is given more importance in a village, the one who is linked with Urmul or the others?

Teeja: These days we do dai work. Others don’t go.

Shanti (a new dai): We do the japa and cut the naal but because we are not Dai's by caste therefore we don’t wash the jacha’s clothes.

Madhu: We heard about this in our village visit last time but please tell us more and do clarify who does what.

Santosh: Among them a few Dai's do everything: do the japa, cut the naal and clean the jacha’s clothes for five, six or seven days. Some do the japa and cut the naal and some just do the japa.

Ramratni: We don’t want the Dai's who work with Urmul to wash clothes. We want the families to work and support their jacha. We want the dai to be respected.

Teeja: But many times we have to do it.

Madhu: Do you get extra money for cleaning the jacha’s clothes?

Teeja: Yes.

Renuka: Can we talk a little more on this?

Jarau: I am the only dai of my village and I do japa for the whole village. I cut the naal. If I am given grain then I wash clothes for a month.

Rukma: I only do the japa, I don’t cut the naal or wash clothes. The family doesn’t let me cut the naal.

Kheevni: I do the entire work. I take care of the woman for 40 days and give all kinds of support. I also wash clothes.

Nanu: I do the japa, cut the naal and also wash clothes. For forty days I give all kind of support.

Badu: I do the japa. I cut the naal, but don’t wash clothes. The family does it.

Revati: My nanad and my devrani both go together and do the japa. Before we used to consider cutting the naal as paap but after joining Urmul we are cutting the naal. We don’t wash clothes.

Paana: I do everything. We are three Dai's in our village. We have fixed houses but only I am linked with Urmul. I take money for my work.

Pema: I have Muslims in my village. I do the japa. The health workers are trying to get us 101rupees from the families. We are getting nothing now. The health workers should do more about it.

Rukma: I am the only dai in the village. I do all the work. I do the japa and cut the naal. I wash during the japa. I get 100 rupees and a pair of clothes.

Bhagwan Kaur: I do everything. Do japa, cut the naal and if they ask me to wash the clothes I do that too.

Aasi: I do the japa. If there is nobody in the house to wash clothes then I do that also. I don’t get anything from the family.

Teeja: I don’t take anything from Meghwaals (own caste group) but others give something or the other, depending on their condition. I was doing dai work before joining Urmul. We are given a form from Urmul. We are not supposed to take anything in kind, grain or clothes, only money. I wash clothes if there is nobody to do it.

Satyanarayanji: We introduced this system of a form so that the dai gets respect and families recognize her importance.

Dai's : We want a fixed salary from Urmul. They used to give it to us before. From the government also we want money.

Satyanarayanji: Now, in place of a salary we are giving incentives, which are more than salary. Whoever does more work gets more money. For one japa the dai gets around 90-100 rupees. Some Dai's get around 900-1000 rupees. In the salary system some Dai's used to do nothing but we had to pay them.

Paana: We should have a doctor and nurse in our village to handle serious cases. By the time we reach the city the woman dies.

Rami: In our villages we should have electricity and transport.

Teeja: We should not have private doctors. They will squeeze all the earnings of people. But we should definitely have government doctors.

Kheevni: We should get more information from Urmul and government.

Revati: We learn more. If the baby gets stuck in the pelvic bone then what should be done? If the baby dies in the womb then what happens?

Uma: If the pain becomes less then what is to be done?

Rami: How should we deliver aara bacha . If the baby dies in the womb then how can we deliver it quickly. We want all this information.

Dai's : If we get information on all these things from Matrika that will be very nice. Tell us about sui. Give us new information. Keep coming and keep supporting us.

Sameera: I am making a film on Dai's for Matrika. What should be shown in the film?

Dai's : Everything about dai’s work should come. Right from the first month, till birth. In addition to that what work the dai is doing and what people feel about her, how she takes care of the baby and the mother. All aspects of her life should be covered. She should be respected in her village, in society and also by the government.

Madhu: We shall finish our session here. Matrika will try to do more and more work for the Dai's.

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