Does the worship of goddesses in India have a feminist under-pinning? This is one of the questions I was looking at while researching for my book Sex and Power.
The answer to my question I found, was both ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ I discovered that there were two main streams of religious thought that had completely different origins and were diametrically opposite in how they viewed women, feminine sexuality and power. One of them, based in the tradition of the Vedas, was extremely patriarchal in its leanings, and even though it had goddesses, like Sarawati for instance, it regarded them as passive, inert manifestations whose sole aim was to nurture and sustain the men.
The other stream of religious thought was that of the Shaktas. These were worshippers of ‘Shakti’ which is the female personification of power as a concept. Below is an excerpt from Sex and Power on the feminist underpinning of the Shakta philosophy.
At the very core of the Shakta philosophy lay the seeds of a feminist rebellion. The Shakta goddesses revolutionized the concept of the feminine in India, turning the [earlier] Vedic male version of it upside down. These goddesses… (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on March 6, 2013
What makes people voluntarily deaf, dumb and blind to the workings of their culture and tradition?
Take the festival of Diwali in India — also sometimes called “the festival of lamps” because once a year, everyone lights their houses with lamps.
The symbolism here is that of lighting a lamp in the dark — good over evil, etc. — which is what makes it so appealing to people visiting India at this time. That in addition to the fact, that everything looks so pretty with hundreds of lamps lit everywhere.
The story behind Diwali, that millions of us in India have grown up with, is that of the victory of the Indian king Ram. Ram’s wife, Sita, is said to have been kidnapped by the Sri Lankan king Ravana. After a massive, bloody battle, Ram rescues Sita and brings her home. And to welcome him home and celebrate his victory over evil, the people of India lit lamps. Thus today essentially marks Ram’s victory in battle over Ravana — who in India is considered a force of evil.
Across the strait, in neighboring Sri Lanka, however, there is another version of this story (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on October 26, 2011