City of Brass

City of Brass


The Gujarati origins of Valentine’s day: Velan-time Day

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

It’s Valentine’s Day today, and also as it happens my own birthday, so I thought I’d share a classic Internet myth for both amusement and a not-so-subtle warning, which given the state of gender relations in India recently might also serve as some inspiration :)

The Real History of Valentine’s Day

In spite of what you have been told by everyone, the truth is that Valentine’s Day originated hundreds of years ago, in India, and to top it all, in the state of Gujarat !!!

It is a well known fact that Gujarati men mistreat and disrespect their wives. One fine day, it happened to be the 14th day of February, one brave woman, having had enough “torture” by her husband, finally chose to rebel by beating him up with a Velan (rolling pin to make chapattis). Yes… the same Velan which she used daily, to make chapattis for him… only this time, instead of the dough, it was the husband who was flattened.

This was a momentous occasion for all Gujarati women and a revolt soon spread, like wild fire, with thousands of housewives beating up their husbands with the Velan. There was an outburst of moaning “chapatti-ed” husbands all over Anand and Amdavad.

The Gujarati men-folk quickly learnt their lesson and started to behave more respectfully with their wives.

Thereafter, on 14th February every year, the womenfolk of Gujarat would beat up their husbands, to commemorate that eventful day – the wives having the satisfaction of beating up their husbands with the Velan and the men having the supreme joy of submitting to the will of the women they loved.

Soon the Gujarati men realized that in order to avoid this ordeal they needed to present gifts to their wives… they brought flowers and sweets. This is how the tradition of “Velan time” began.

As Gujarat fell under the influence of Western culture, the ritual soon spread to Britain and many other Western countries, specifically, the catch words “Velan time” !!! In course of time, their foreign tongues, this became anglicized to “Velantime” and then to “Valentine”.

And thereafter, 14th of February, came to be known as Valentine’s Day and now you know the true story of Valentine’s day.

In related news, there’s a Valen-timely story in the New York Times about kissing making a comeback in India:

A pivotal screen kiss reflected the changing romantic landscape here. Kissing scenes were banned by Indian film censors until the 1990s, and Shah Rukh Khan, a Bollywood heartthrob who is one of the world’s biggest movie stars, has been teasing Indian audiences in dozens of films since then by bringing his lips achingly close to those of his beautiful co-stars. But his lips never touched any of theirs until he kissed the Bollywood bombshell Katrina Kaif in “Jab Tak Hai Jaan,” which was released in December 2012.

The subtext to both these stories, one silly and the other somewhat less so, is that gender relations in India still are, to put it mildly, a problem. But hopefully, one that will solve itself in time. If the next generation of Indian men aren’t moved by the recent rape tragedies to enforce and self-police a change in how Indian women are treated, there’s always the Velan solution.



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