Guest Post by R Chandrakala
In this highly opinionated age, courtesy social media and otherwise, issues tend to get blown out of proportion. With too many mouths to speak and minimal ears to listen to, things get further misconstrued without reaching any consensus.
In the context of feminism, there has been this pressing need to justify women rights and their identity repeatedly in the current times. In the name of culture, tradition and eventually religion, which is half-baked and not completely understood, women are restricted from exercising their choice and discovering their true potential.
This makes me wonder, as to whether during ancient times was there this gap at all? Was Feminism even a concept back in Ancient India? What was the relevance of the Feminine in the concept of Hinduism, more than 4000 years old?
It is said that, ages ago, when there was darkness and ignorance, there was inception of the feminine energy. Sparkling bright in the darkness, she assumed a beautiful form in a white attire and called herself, knowledge (Saraswati), and had appeared to end the darkness caused by ignorance. Proceeding onward, she manifested herself in a dazzling form, as the purpose of knowledge, i.e (Lakshmi) prosperity or wealth. When knowledge directed towards prosperity brought in imbalance, she went on to manifest herself in a powerful form (Durga) to maintain balance, ending factors that cause the same to falter. The male counterparts of these Shaktis are shown to be inoperative and purposeless without them.
Similarly, it was also said then, that mankind could not have a purpose in life without these three Shaktis or energies. This feminine energy, one in all and sometimes all in one, is lying dormant within every living being. Every being alive, can awaken these energies from within to realize their full potential in course of fulfilling material and spiritual pursuits.
After assuming these three most worshipped forms, the feminine energy never once stopped herself from evolving, creating and diversifying. She assumed countless of forms as and when a need arose for her intervention to create a sustainable ecosystem, a few of which would be discussed further.
Kamakhya Devi, one of the vibrant forms of the divine feminine energy, was a menstruating goddess. She entered the bodies of 16,000 women held in captive of a deadly demon, in the form of a menstrual cycle to shield their honour. From then onward, it is believed that every menstruating women has this form of energy residing within, in awe of the gift to procreate and nurture life within her womb. This powerful expression of menstruation contradicts an otherwise inferior outlook in general towards women having their periods.
Kali, a hideous and scary form of the feminine energy was by nature not a societal stereotype. She walked with her head held high minimally clothed, sporting unkempt hair and was dark-skinned. She never based her actions and decisions on time or her male counterpart but went onward independently making her own destiny. A divine form of the feminine energy celebrating and residing within every independent woman, today sadly viewed in a judgemental and oppressive manner by the society.
Matangi, a lesser known form of the divine feminine came into existence as a goddess who was an outcaste and ate leftover food breaking caste stereotypes. In this form, she made herself accessible to the least respected section of the society, the Chandalas, in charge of disposing the dead.
In a reference to the Adhbhuta Ramayana, after Ravan’s death, a horrifying demon emerged out of his body and called itself Sahastra Ravan. Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana fell unconscious consumed by the demon’s poisonous fumes. Sita, awakened the feminine energy of Kali from within, roaring ferociously and destroyed the demon in a swift.
The feminine energy and her various forms was respected and adored by their respective male counterparts, so much so, that one among the divine trinity, Lord Shiva gave her half his body to incorporate her creativity and diversity in his personality. This combination created a sustainable ecosystem of gender equality and mutual respect between the two contrasting aspects of male and female, wherein worship of one without the other was considered an offence.
This is the essence of any relationship in real. The male and female aspects, being as much diverse, in unity create a world of stability and equality with mutual respect for the roles and parts they play. The moment this diversity of the female aspect is acknowledged and respected, a world can be imagined with feminism and faith co-existing and not quite at daggers with each other.
R Chandrakala, a writer by passion, does not go by hearsay that Hindu Mythology is a mere bundle of stories. She has grown up, hearing these stories from her childhood, and believes that by leveraging these stories in day-to-day life, the world would reach a state of peace and harmony.
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