Panihari: The Water Women of India
Producer: Streetedge Entertainments
Year Released: 2004
Length: 30 minutes
Black and White
In the Indian state of Rajasthan, water is precious. Panihari is a Rajasthani term that refers to women who fetch water. The Panihari plays a crucial role in desert communities, but is often abused and downtrodden. As a part of the lower caste, they are seen as untouchable. In addition to maintaining family life, women account for the majority of productive labor in the desert household; however, the community places them in a subordinate social group to men. As a result, women-overworked, infirm, and often pregnant-have been deprived of the most basic of human amenities. In drought seasons, the Panihari walks great distances every morning to fetch water. Although this morning trip-sometimes reaching 10-15 miles-provides a social outlet in the form of gossip with other women, the gravity of the situation is undeniable. Without water the cattle will perish, and eventually so will the family. This documentary film follows the story of Paru-a shoemaker's wife from the village of Diyatra-as she finds herself faced with these stark realities. At home her husband beats her, and fulfilling the duties of a Panihari, she is unable to take even a moment's rest. Drought kills the family's cattle and Paru is forced to fetch water from a far away well. She sees an opportunity to help her family but her husband forbids her. This film documents Paru's search for self-reliance and security for her family in the face of unimaginable hardship. Paru's story conveys the richness and complexity of desert life as well as the problems facing women of desert communities. Vibrant imagery, music, and folklore combine to paint a vivid picture of life as a Panihari-The Water Woman.