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
The Sex and Power Discussion Blog
Unknown to many, the festival of Holi is actually a celebration of India’s ancient Valentine’s Day!
It was called ‘The Festival of The Love God,’ and was celebrated to coincide with the arrival of Spring (symbolic of lust and life) just as the western Valentine’s Day is!
Below is an excerpt from my book Sex and Power on this festival:
Kama, the love god, was [evoked]…in the celebratory tribal songs of the Holi festival…[along] with his consort Rati (sexual pleasure). His return to life…would be celebrated (each year) during Holi, which coincides with the spring season, [a symbolism of]..rejuvenation and fertility.
The celebrations were called ‘Mojin Kama’ (Playing with Desire), [also referred to as ‘The Feast of Love’] and entailed songs with erotic lyrics and dances with unabashedly sexual gestures…as people jubilantly doused each other with perfumed water and coloured powders…The sacred text Shaiva Agama instructed that the Feast…
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Posted by Rita Banerji on February 11, 2013
The Sex and Power Discussion Blog
This week in Delhi an exhibition on nudity in art was forcibly shut down by Hindu fundamentalist groups who took offense! Paintings in another gallery in Bangalore were also forcibly removed because the same groups found the nude portrayals of goddesses objectionable!
It is exactly this sort of public response to nudity, sex and sexuality in India today that I question in my book Sex and Power.
Below is an excerpt from the introduction of my book.
Languorously sensual and of exquisite form, men and women in stone on ancient Indian temple walls engage in explicit and imaginative love-making, in an array of intriguing poses…A man caresses his delighted lover’s naked breasts with a lotus bud…[Another] kneels before his lover and performs cunnilingus…One couple prefers intercourse in the standing position…[while] another couple in coitus understandably requires assistance…the man below…balanced on his head, the woman…on top held in position by…
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Posted by Rita Banerji on February 10, 2013
The question that led to the writing of my book Sex and Power was, why is India with its erotic history, so neurotic about sex today? See “India Uptight over Erotica in Hinduism?”
Yet, there are two other factors I observed over the course of my research. Firstly, there continues to be an underlying sexuality to the practice of Hinduism, which Indians seems bizarrely blind to, and in denial of even as they practice it!
Secondly, modern India has the most extreme form of cultural tolerance for various types of sexually deviant social behavior – like sex-trafficking in the form of marriage! As I tried to understand why this was so, a theory from Freud explained it quite clearly, and also made a projection. As I searched further, I realized that Freud was right! The biggest shocker for me was making the connection that the female genocide in India today is a direct result of India’s confounded, perverted social attitude to sex and sexuality!
Below is an excerpt from the last section of my book.
The lingam-yoni which continues to be worshipped by millions in India is perhaps one of the most blatant sexual allusions in Hinduism. It is not just the terminology, the actual use of the words ‘penis’ (lingam) and ‘vagina’(yoni), but it is the representation as well, the idol (bearing) a likeness (to) the respective anatomies…an unambiguous portrayal of sexual intercourse. Yet, surprisingly, most Indians will vehemently deny (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on February 6, 2013