There’s something very unsettling about seeing Priyanka Chopra talk about choice and agency while wearing sindoor and choodas.

Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ extravagant Jodhpur wedding has been the talk of the town all week. The global diva is already out there talking about tech investments and women empowerment in TV interviews, without wasting any time. But there’s just something very unsettling about watching Priyanka Chopra talk about choice, agency and rights for Indian women, while wearing thick red sindoor (vermillion) and choodas (sacred Hindu bangles).

These accessories have heavy religious connotations, and through time have become important check-marks for Indian uncles and aunties in their sanskari bahu requirement list. But the modern Indian woman isn’t about that life. And who else but Piggy Chops, the cosmopolitan, Hollywood-transitioned, go-getter icon, to better understand the Indian woman’s hard fight against archaic norms.


Also read: Nick Jonas lucked out with Priyanka Chopra — not the other way around


Before I am labelled an extremely prickly Left-liberal, we should have a quick check of our own history. Some scholars point out that according to the ancient (and much problematic) Hindu text Manu Smriti, the husband applies the vermillion mark onto the woman’s head to signify the wedlock, not only as a cheesy gesture of love but a marking of territory. The woman is a property, which needs to be protected by the man.

Cut to 2018, where sindoor-wearing Priyanka Chopra is talking about her investment in Bumble – a social networking/dating app that gives women the benefit of making the first move. She says in an interview, “As a woman from India, I think it [Bumble] would be a really amazing thing for Indian women to have in their arsenal, which gives them a sense of empowerment that is on their terms.” She further adds, “It’s such a great idea for urban India right now that is waking up to women wanting to make their own choices and having a say in our lives, which was something we never had.”

I hate to break it, but we still don’t have it, Priyanka. ‘Choice’ is a tricky tool to make someone believe that they have full agency in making the best decisions for themselves. However, the choices we make are hardly our own and is based on a diet of whatever society feeds us. The society makes us biased in our own judgments by shoving ‘sanskar’ down our throats. It takes a lifetime to unlearn our biases and the irrational customs we are told to follow.


Also read: Jallikattu, Priyanka’s wedding horses: Is PETA offending Indian culture or humanising it?


Yes, we are waking up and questioning these norms. We grill men for demanding their wives to be virgins, we scoff at aunties when they tell us that our skirts are too short (in Priyanka’s case, when meeting the prime minister) and we even walk into sacred spaces when we’re menstruating as an act of rebellion. In fact, Priyanka got back to work right after her wedding, which according to traditional Punjabi culture would be a no-no (because women shouldn’t be doing any hectic work while wearing choodas).

But at the same time, we fall back and become complicit in perpetuating patriarchy. We compromise on the ‘awakening’ by conforming to the same ideologies that suffocate us, and label it as ‘choice’. That’s worse than being naïve, that’s denial. The same privilege of ‘choice’ that Priyanka has for adorning the sindoor or the chooda is actually a compulsion for many brides in India who don’t get to say no. They don’t get the ‘choice’ to say no to sindoor, sex, pregnancy and domestic violence.

‘Choice’ is entangled heavily with the degree of privilege that the choice-maker holds. So Bumble’s algorithm might make a handful of its female users in India believe that they have choice, but let’s not kid ourselves. The day every woman can choose whether to wear sindoor, completely divorced of its patriarchal burden, is the day I’ll believe that true ‘choice’ has arrived.

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  1. And what makes u think she was forced . this is not hijab or pardah that it’s forced .girls wait for the day she would a bridal dress and sindoor .by you ur logic she should have worn pant and shirt in her marriage cause by the same logic brides are forced with bridal dresses and next u would come up nick could have taken up ghagra ..horrible logic.

    • Defending one’s choice to flaunt sindoor or choodha does not mandatorily require you to take away another’s right to choose to wear the Hijab. Believe it or not but many Muslim families sadly request their girls to not wear the Hijab lest their family be judged otherwise by people like you. These girls live a double life wearing the Hijab when their families are not present. Yes, such families and situations exist. I agree some women are forced to take on the Hijab but sweeping generalizations are bad in either direction, concerning any religion or culture.

      • //I agree some women// Some women? Really? I mean I am in no way denying that Indian families force their women to abide by these patriarchal norms but to say that only ‘some’ women are forced to take on the Hijab is willfully ignorant and extremely insensitive to the women in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia where it is mandatory. India is a secular republic and it is very hypocritical that some women choosing to wear the Hijab is considered a shining example of feminism despite it being a symbol of patriarchy while Indian women who choose to flaunt Sindoor get targeted articles written about them.

  2. I thought feminism also means freedom to choose what you wear or what customs you follow. Can’t Priyanka Chopra talk about feminism just because she chooses to wear sintoor? It’s her choice to wear whatever she wants..

  3. Genuinely didn’t understand this POV. So if she was to say all this wearing a mini skirt or a short dress would it be okay? She found someone she loves she married him, get over it. As far as agency and choice goes, yes we don’t have it. Guess what – no one does. Not even Iceland where gender equality is a fundamental right. But how you connected wearing chooras and sindoor to domestic violence by the end of it is the very definition of ‘reaching’. This article is exactly what you tried to say it wasn’t – a ‘left-liberal feminist’ cliche piece. Sigh.

  4. Its a pretty biased and ignorant piece. Wearing or not wearing a piece of accessory is Priyanka’s choice. How does it translate into her being less of a feminist? The author of this article presupposes that there exists a particular dress code that can either be classified as liberal or conservative and then goes on to defend her assumptions based on this very subjective notion. In fact she contradicts the opening of her story with the closing line. Maybe a facade of objectivity could have been maintained in this piece.

  5. Ummm.. Sorry?
    So, you mean to say that she doesn’t have a choice to wear a Sindhoor and you decide what she should wear as a women?
    That’s the feminism you’re talking?
    Surprised that you were former Young India Fellow.

  6. Agreed that she has the previlage to make a choice about whether to wear a chooda or not. And she is exercising it. Many other don’t have that choice…agree with that too…. What you your point though ? She shouldn’t exercise that choice coz others can’t ? She is doing enough and more to be a role model for women. She is smart, independent and strong and shows a way towards the possibilities that women could have. Don’t waste your energy in pulling her down.

  7. Still branding you Prickly Left Liberal. Wearing sindoor and choora seems wrong to you, why don’t you suggest her not to wear Christian wedding gown and go against the norms. You should actually go get some education to learn how to respect someone, her choice and others who opt to. I believe in you sick mentality you tend to ignore basic facts like- her family and husband are not Those ‘religious’ Hindus who have imposed on her these accessories. People like you are hated for sick thinking. I looked up the article only to see how much venom you can spit.

  8. I can understand sindoor and choodi (or chooda) were territory markers acc. to Manusmriti. But still, can they not be sported just for the sake of tradition and also because they look good. Why can’t we continue with something beautiful after shunning its negative aspects? Think of Taj Mahal and the torturing of those labours who made it. Should we demolish it today?

  9. She is not being forced to wear sindoor and choodas. Her husband and in-laws are not even Indians or Hindus to force her into wearing these things. She is wearing them because she chooses to. Being modern and demeaning your culture is not feminism. Having the freedom to do whatever one wants, without being judged for it is what we need right now.
    And there are scientific reasons for these things, it is not only for marking territory – https://www.bollywoodshaadis.com/articles/amazing-scientific-reasons-behind-6-popular-indian-wedding-traditions-3497
    Wearing sindoor is not ok, however people have no issues if a diamond is worn in the ring finger to signify commitment. Double standards.

  10. I feel sad for the Person who wrote this. This is her choice what to wear after marriage.. she is not being forced to wore choodas and Sindoor. Feel pity for you people.

  11. Two CCPs

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    #BigBindiBrigade, #MeToo4Publicity
    #MeToo #MeTooIndia #MeTooLiars and their #WhiteKnights!

    #मेरी_भी_ली_थी

    #ProfessionalVictims
    #RecreationalVictimhood!

    #BelieveWomen
    #BelieveALLwomen

    #FeminismIsCancer!

  12. She might have worn Choodas and Sindoor also as a fashion statement. I am sure it was her choice. Why should the Jonas family force her to wear all this?
    I am sorry to say, but this is a biased article. It has been written just for the sake of feminism.
    PS – I am a married woman, I don’t wear mangalsutra and bindi and toe rings and sindoor. No one forces me. But if I feel like adorning myself a bit, I will do so. I’ts my choice. That won’t make me archaic.

  13. Are you for real? Her choice.. she wants to wear sindoor, or stay in ghoongat or wear her chooras with shorts.. I can’t believe how we live making an issue of literally anything and everything.. women, feminists included, have nothing against tradition my dear.. the problem is with supression and lack of opportunity.. Priyanka’s husband obviously doesn’t begrudge her that but is standing with her through.. so shut your mouth and plz don’t try to connect these things (you are batshit crazy if it is unsettling for you to see a women in traditional wear but working.. in that sense dint it unsettle you seeing her in a lehenga!)

  14. Bas yaar ..plz we don’t want such women empowerment where everthing is judged and traditions ko follow krna is subjective to person..see all we want is equality not fake feminism ..

  15. This is an ignorant and ridiculous article. Kindly clear your own ideas regarding “choice” before writing such a mindless piece.

  16. hahahaha studied from Jesus & Mary college 🙂 it’s enough for understand the mentality of this idiot writer. by the way madam if skirt is priyanka’s choice then sindoor and chooda also his choice. why you are feeling pain ??? are jesus agents paid you for this ???

  17. Quiet a baseless point. Being a feminist has nothing to do with sindoor. She made her choice and wore it. It’s again her choice, nothing unsettling.

  18. Well sorry to say you are just sick!! As a modern Indian girl who got married recently, let me tell you I used to think the same. But after getting married I wear these beautiful accessories myself. They make me feel beautiful and like a newly wed girl. I am not punjabi still I love wearing my bridal chooda because I can only wear it till the first year of my marriage 🙂 I love my mangalsutra as much as my engagement ring. Sometimes I wear neither of these and sometimes I wear all of them. So it is my choice and so is any newly wed women’s choice and it must be respected.

  19. Yes, millions of Hindu women do not have the choice to refuse sex, sindoor, pregnancy, rape and domestic violence.

    Absolutely true. Yet Priyanka eschewing sindoor will not magically liberate these women.

    Each woman must stand up to oppression and discrimination. It’s not Priyanka’s fight. It’s all of ours.

    We women are complicit in our own oppression. If we don’t fight for ourselves, why should others?

  20. Why do you call her piggy chops? Who have you the right to call women by such names? Articles such as these are trending on the social media and I haven’t seen a single comment which is against Priyanka rather everyone is against this stupid author who is enforcing his ideology on people. Wearing sindoor and chuda has its own charm and we women love to flaunt them as fashion accessories. The writer here is himself dogmatic and I think he is really very jealous of her and has a crush on Nick. Come on please grow up!

  21. You can’t be serious? This is complete trash. You seriously think she’s going to wear those for the rest of her life, put a palloo on her head and wash Nick’s feet? And maybe Nick’s mom told her to wear those? Dear mad content writer, please look up the word ‘choice’ in a good dictionary. People like you let patriarchs make jokes about feminism. Delete this article if you have a single drop of feminist blood in you. Priyanka is an actor, she’s all about marketing, she does what sells. If you have a problem, address that one. And stop forcing your choice on people. Wearing Sindoor or chooda is as much a choice, as not wearing. And I can keep laughing at your face if you come to argue that she was forced to do it against her will. For once, stop trying too hard to be sensational, you are only generating more crap.

  22. The author should understand power of words. The words feminism,choice, agency, society have deeper meanings and should not be tossed in the air like this. Feminism is not about losing the choice of wearing sindoor or chooda. Many women wear the hijab, sindoor etc as their choice. The choice of wearing sindoor or for that matter anything else is empowering. Who decides who has agency on how I want to dress up ? Sure not the author. Please respect writing. Its not always a place to make public judgements without understanding terms and the context it’s being used in. It’s an art. Request the author to use words carefully and not feed personal judments to the readers.

  23. Are you (author) against traditions or PeeCee? Because you have totally missed your point .. being feminist simply means doing what you want and encouraging women for the same..
    This doesn’t even mention that feminist should not follow a tradition.
    You might not be liking applying sindoor n all, but doesn’t mean every girl or “feminist” should feel the same way.
    If your aunties are talking about you not wearing choodas, then shut them na, don’t ask any other girl to not to wear it.. It’s the same way we feminists say to men, don’t tell me how to dress, tell them not to rape..

  24. Ridiculous article .I’m pretty sure you have some issue with hindu culture.the hyprocritic trend for people like you to degrade our own culture by putting a mask of feminism on it is not cool .People like you are those who are responsible for feminism being scoffed at .you are either delusioned or you are writing this mindless piece to get attention .

  25. One request.
    When you write a scathing and attacking article like that, you must also offer solutions.
    Otherwise this was a complete waste of your time.
    Name calling is easy, coming up with solutions is the hard part. We all know Indians hate making real effort. All they do is crib.

    So, what exactly do you propose Indian women, namely Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, should have done differently, in your opinion?
    How should Indian women who have been conditioned to love something for so many centuries, suddenly learn to hate it and, if they do, what is their alternative win, so to speak?

    Do tell.

  26. What a piece of tosh.
    So tradition becomes equivalent to choice???
    If you follow traditions for your wedding you can’t be a feminist??
    What load of rubbish,that too coming from a woman.
    Shouldn’t be allowed to print.
    Some people think that writing anything can make them journalists or authors!

  27. If the author of this article can achieve even an ounce of the fame Priyanka receives globally, I’d still read this piece but please don’t be one of those douches who pen down because there are pages to fill, targets to achieve and deadlines to meet. People all over the world are mesmerized by Indian traditions more so, thanks to this superwoman. What she is doing is not just special to her but also a form of the subtle art of cultural diplomacy.
    You (the author) are better than this. Don’t stoop down to such depths of defamation.

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