7/11/06

She is all that is born and what is to be.

Try typing out a post with blurry-one-eyed vision. Grah, bah, nyah and all the other ah adjectives take precedence in your mind, doesn’t it? Well, with a swollen eyelid bordering on a vivid shade of plum and a warm compress on the said eye, my determination to post something on my blog stands unimpeded.

* insert banal opening riff from the final countdown*

Um, right.

Moving on, I’ve been noticing with growing anxiety that in the past few weeks, feminism has been on the receiving end of the blogosphere’s malapropos attention. But don’t groan, I’m actually not going to be a part of it (yes, yes, you heard me). I was merely being a philistine on the sidewalk, so to speak. War with respect to women, equality and religion etc; were some of the pre-eminent issues slung back and forth in the altercations.

One school of thought shunned organized religion altogether, claiming that organized religion was a patriarchal institution in itself and it did not make sense for women to play into the hands of the patriarchy while fighting for equal rights within the trenches of pietism. And I have to say (albeit grudgingly) that there is an iota of truth in this particular argument, irrespective of the fact that I don’t agree with it completely.

Personally I’m no atheist (I’m not insanely hindutva either, a trifle confused maybe), but Hinduism as we know it today has left me in a state of bitter disdain. Overt sexism, bigotry and hate enshrouded in pseudo religious doctrines don’t do much for my personal politics. Religion as I see it is amaranthine, its purity based on fealty alone, and nothing else. A part of my feminism is intertwined with religion; and frankly I have secretly nurtured a longing for the simplicity and the edification of faith in pre-vedic times.

There was a time, before the Aryan invasions extended their web of patriarchy over the land, a time when a single Goddess was considered as the Mother of all, the Goddess of the skies and the heavens, the Mother who gave birth to the universe and She was called Aditi.

In the first age of the gods, existence was born from non-existence.
The quarters of the sky were born from Her who crouched with legs spread.
The earth was born from Her who crouched with legs spread.
And from the earth the quarters of the sky were born.
Rig Veda, 10.72.3-4


Aditi is this abstruse oft-ill represented figure in religion as we know today. The Aryans toned down her all encompassing importance and made her subservient to a man i.e. she became the dutiful wife of Sage Kaashyapa who had twelve other wives. She was however delegated the role of mother of the Devas and the Ashuras characterizing the Aryan stereotype of a woman being important with respect to her relation with a man; a mother (of sons) or a wife (of a great man, in this case it was Kaashyapa).

This adjuvant representation of Aditi stands for everything she is not. Aditi literally means 'free from constraints' or 'the limitless one', which in itself is a nod to the fact that she is above and beyond the bonds that fetter her, permeating the cosmos and the cognizance of all that is living.

Unfortunately her physical representation was obscure at best even during the Vedic times, although ancient Harappan tablets do show a goddess with a lotus for a head and spread legs, indicating fertility and/or sexual responsiveness and this image could be a strong possibility of bearing Aditi’s likeness. For one, the representation of spread legs can be construed as giving birth to the universe and all living beings, but there are a lot of tangential stories floating around as to why she has a lotus for a head. The most accurate stories however are the oral folktales (surprising, I know) passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth.

One tale takes precedence in my mind, and somehow its connotations left a resonant impression. The tale goes thus:

Aditi was also known as Renuka in some circles. She is beheaded by an upper-caste man because she openly flaunts his authority. Instead of wasting into nothingness, she grows a lotus for a head and becomes a Goddess.


This story edifies all that I hold dear: freedom, the breaking of social barriers created by man-made prejudices and the utter irrepressibility of the feminine spirit shattering the archaic ‘women are weak’ myth.

With the advent of the Aryans however, the idea of the all-powerful feminine was uprooted and many a goddess succumbed to the ritual patriarchal conversion and were turned into male deities and they were pushed to the background or they had minor roles as wives of the gods. Which upsets me, but it also leads me to wonder as to why this conversion was necessary. Was it because the Aryans were known for their pomposity, calling themselves the superior ones or the aggresives ones and the idea of an all-encompassing goddess was too diaphanous for their warrior-like sensibilites? Or was it because a powerful vanquisher god (Indra, as He was the chief deity of the Rig Veda) was more appealing to their culture of nomadic conquests, and a mother goddess seemed too grounded for their way of life initially?

It leaves me a tad nonplussed, but as I gave the Rig Veda translation a once-over I noticed that Aditi was represented with great importance albeit not too often, but represented none the less.

Oh and lest I forget, here's some food for thought: The oldest known statue (circa. 24,000-22,000 B.C.E) dubbed the Venus of Willendorf is of a woman with exaggerated sexual organs and a flower for a head. Red ochre was used to color the vulva of this statue, clearly indicating the importance of menstrual blood (unlike the sad downslide of religion as we know it today, specifically Hinduism which considers menstrual blood unclean). I cant help but wonder if this has any connection to Aditi, and her representation. It seems like a pretty strong co-incidence, doesn't it?

Venus of Willendorf:


Subsequent posts will probably be on the goddesses Usha and Surya. And yes, Surya was initially a goddess (gasp), blame the Aryans for the age-old patriarchal conversion, yet again.

I would love to have more information on Surya and I will be eternally grateful if you could leave ideas or suggestions in the comments.


Disclaimer :
The Aryan invasion theory is disputed and is yet to be disproved/proved (although scholars on both sides will claim otherwise, it's still being debated). That doesn't take away the crux of this post: the existence of an all powerful mother goddess, Her representation in the Rig Veda and the conversion of goddesses into gods by the Aryans or indigenous warring tribes. This information is not disputed.
Since I did mention that the theory is yet to be disproved/proved, I'll let this post stay as is.

*****


Post script:
I want to give a shout out to Neha for bringing this wonderful post to my attention. It's up at at global voices: Where is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child?

Be sure to swing by.

P.P.S: This is worse than painful. Please go here for frequent updates. Also go here for help.

We live in a scary world.

69 comments:

Kaushik Gopalan said...

"I would love to have more information on Surya and I will be eternally grateful if you could leave ideas or suggestions in the comments."

Does this help?


A thousand apologies :)

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ kaushik: ROFL! I did mention that Surya was a goddess, he errr doesnt look too goddess-like to me:D

More on the lines of hairy-chest-tamil-studish(in a cute way)!
hee hee.

Kaushik Gopalan said...

No comment on Surya's hairy chested-ness and tamil stud-ness.

I am sure you know better.

Madame Mahima said...

kaushik that was hilarious!
the similarity between aditi and venus of willendorf does seem remarkable! coincidence? i think not!

oh btw..im back! :D
dont know if i told you but i love the new layout..i do miss the dead bunny tho :(

just curious..have the trolls stopped visiting?

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ mahi: WELCOME BACK SISTAHHH!

It does seem more that just a passing co-incidence innit'?

There are way too many similarities between Venus of Willendorf and Aditi....hmmmmm....

Rohini said...

organized religion was a patriarchal institution in itself and it did not make sense for women to play into the hands of the patriarchy while fighting for equal rights within the trenches of pietism.

I think most organised religion does seek to keep women down in one way or the other. I recently attended baptism classes for my son (my husband is Catholic) and it was amazing the amount of stress they put on birth control being a bad thing. Think about, if you've taken control over her own body out of a woman's hand and left her caring for an endless stream of children, what does she have left in her life other than producing and caring for children. In the same classes, a middle-aged woman came and spoke to us about "good parenting" and summed it all up by saying that for the children to grow up well and "in the faith", the mothers needed to sacrifice their careers and make a career out of caring for the children. Ugh!

manuscrypts said...

incidentally surya is supposed to have golden hair.. but no mention of its location though, chest or otherwise :)

Vasu the terrible said...

You are right in a way but in a way you are wrong.

About patriarchy converting indegeneous godesses and worship of fertility, you are bag on target. Infact that has been the constant endeavour of vedic traditions. Link non-vedic traditions into vedic to gain acceptability of the non-vedic but make them subservient to the vedic.

Vedic is perhaps the most patriarchial of all hindu traditions. A sad side effect of that is the Ayyapa tradition. Ayyapa is a pure tantric temple born out of a gay relationship between shiva and vishnu. Infact Vishnu transformed himself into the feminine form to copulate with shiva. The bakhthi movement converted most of the tantric traditions into vedic ones thereby merging many contradictory practices. But in all of them the man holds supreme.

You are wrong with the shivite traditions all over India. The vedic among hindus are just a small fraction (maybe 20% ??). the shakthi cult is worship of the feminine and is more widespread than ever before. Even Lord Ganesha un argably the most popular of all gods and the resident deity of all temples is a product of tantric rituals done by both shiva and shakhthi. Part of the tantric ritual is to replace his head by that of an elephant killed by shakthi herself.

The kali godess is the ultimate in terms of feminine beauty, erotica and tantric ecstacy. One of shakhthi's most famous temple is khamakhya which is a cave denoting the vagina and a stream of red vermillion water.

so hinduism is not all vedic. The shakhthi cult is about worship of the feminine.

vasu

Indian Stallion said...

That Venus of Willendorf statue totally rocks!!!

Pitch Black said...

@ TamilPunkster

Forgive me for my lack of modesty, but your conclusions w.r.t. women, hindutava & role of Gods from rigveda lack sound foundation of complete knowledge of Vedas... Vedas is just 'Knowledge' equivalent to science facts at that time... Vedas inspired Upanishads which are 108 in number and again are 108 ways to reach God... Yet there was class in hinduism for which again an easier version of Vedas know as Purans (stories) was written...

Harsh it may seem but oral folktales is worst way of passing on the knowledge that has actually distorted Epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana... In Ramayana there is rare mention that Sita spent years with Agni Deva, and her shadow was what Ravana took to Lanka... Rarely books mentioned that Ravana died because of old curse of Parvati on Lanka... Women roles as you say were not submissively described and old books have this...

I fail to understand how you actually overlooked role of Parvati with her 9 powerful avatars, or Lakshmi with her powers of blessed arrivals, her famous contest with Shani, who lost and was a male... Saraswati with her role of writing future, giving knowledge to all, Shiv & Shiva, role of brave kakeyi in saving dashrath in war, Maa kali (Goddess Kali) and her field of tantra...???

Please don't degrade goddesses if one particular stupid translation of great veda described them so... Being a wife is not a sign of weakness but completion of male and female with eachother... which is Vedas... Christanity substitited women as objects, muslim I need not discussed (I'm not saying Islam which is very different from what muslims preach), Jains don't allow naked matas, I see hinduism in particular gave equivalent respect to women...

Vedas are neutral and it describes power of love rather than competition of male vs. female... May be you should consider going through whole set of Vedas before you draw conclusions, otherwise your biased views of men vs. women will be as blind as male-is-superior symdrome, hindutava movement, or islamic conclusions and you'll keep searching for another translation which will say Surya, Rama, Indra etc. were actually Godesses...

my life.... said...

hindusism in a way is a complex religion...though they do exhibit that women be respected but they are not enforcing it...i don t know why either...anyway, christianity doesn t substitute women as objects....pls! Women are regarded and given respect to in Roman Catholicism ( belief in motehrhood first before christ)..we do sing hymns in name of mother and give top priority in terms of womanhood... actually in every religion, there is some degree shown that women must be submissive to men...its not only in Hindusim ...but if long ago, ppl started believing that men are superior, why hasn t the mentality changed despite so much advancement in world today? i am quite puzzled either

Pitch Black said...

@ my life

I see you have taken my christian comment as personal insult where it was not meant to be... When I said christians, I pointed at a particular segment... When one say India is progressing, one does't mean every indian is progressing... Roman Catholics are not older than christanity/king james version of bible... and Romans are not only available Christians...

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's." (Exodus 20:17 RSV)

This commandment was in context of neighbours's objects... I hope you can compare dissimilarities of object and wife... All three sources of commandments have same object oriented text... Yes it is not the one followed by Romans Catholic School, I thus hope I made my point clearer about other christian segments...

M (tread softly upon) said...

"We live in a scary world." And it seems to be getting worse.

Anna said...

you asked abt surya aka mitra:

1. from the rig veda:

[24] Origin and Growth of Religion, p. 221.

“O Mitra(sun) and Varuna(moon), you mount your chariot which, at the dawning of the dawn is golden-colored and has iron poles at the setting of the sun; from thence you see Aditi and Diti–that is, what is yonder and what is here, what is infinite and what is finite, what is mortal and what is immortal."[25]

link: http://www.authorama.com/god-idea-of-the-ancients-5.html

2. from index of goddesses:

"Aditi: ('Limitless') Hindu Mother Goddess, self-formed, the Cosmic Matrix. Mother of the Sun God Mitra and the Moon God Varuna."

link: http://www.angelfire.com/realm2/amethystbt/goddesses.html

3. Ancient Iranian Literature
"...perhaps worshipped many gods like Anahita, the goddess of rain and plantations; Va the goddess of wind; and Mehr or Mitra, the goddess of light, war and pact..."

link: http://www.iranchamber.com/literature/articles/demons_ancient_iranian_literature.php

love,
anna

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anna said...

about the links i posted above.. i realised, belatedly, that two of the links talk abt 'mitra' as a god and not a goddess.
and so do most of the links that came up in my search. all except the iranian/zorastrian/parsi related links...

MITRA...North Mesopotamia. 1400 BC....the sky goddess who became the male Indo-Iranian Sun God Mithra, who took as his consort the Anatolian Mother Goddess Ma. (June Campbell..1996...pg 38)...
link:http://72.14.235.104/search?q=cache:ReHnXnzFFLgJ:www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/1605/FEM.html+mitra+goddess+sun+female+male&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=6

as well...

...Mitra seems to share a co-existing duality of a male/female divinity; a most unusual characteristic for a patriarchal religion.

Moreover, there is much evidence to show that Mithras was actually an ancient sun/sky goddess. A cognate of the demi-god/hero Mithras was the Assyrian Great Mother, Mylitta. Also a female Mithra, the androgynous Mithra-Anahita, or Sabazius-Anaitis, was the central goddess figure in several ancient Anatolian mystery cults....


link:http://www.ladyoftheflame.co.uk/Articles/Mithra.htm

well.. thats it for now..

Aishwarya said...

Wow, I think this is the first time we've ever disagreed.

Swapna said...

Most important characters in Hindu Mythology/Religion/Whatever you want to call it - is based on male supramacy. Women are acknowledged to be important but are subservient to men at all times.

For example, one thing that comes to mind - When Parashuram's father got angry with his Parashuram's mother, he ordered Parashuram to kill her. Without second thought, he killed her cause to him, father was all important. Then of course, he asks his father to bring her back. But the father comes first. He didn't ask whether it was right or wrong.

On the other hand, in support of the fact that women are important - There's this saying - "Mata Pitha Guru Deivam" - Mother, Father, Teacher and God in order of importance.

When and where which became important is up for discussion.

Wundergal said...

Quite unrelated to this post
... I have tagged u...
-S

Vijayeta said...

Fascinating and insightful! And the comments section is having a ball again :D
Since I dont consider myself an authority on Mythology and religion, I will not put my two cents here and get laughed at.
But I await your next posts now for more information!
:)

Vasu the terrible said...

Unlike christianity or islam hinduism is not monoethistic. Which means there is no just one way to reach the supreme being. The supreme being itself is androgynus as represented by Ardanarishwara (Shiva's creation image) and thandava (Shiva's destruction image).

Often the word hindu is misunderstood as all people believing in all things "hindu". I know hindus, who worship bhairavi and thandavi as if all other common forms like ganesha are misguided. Rudra's form was yet another destructive force.

I agree with pitch black about the role of puranas in mythology. Puranas now subsume almost all that we know about hinduism, the epics, the poems etc. But it is wrong to assume that the puranas were guide to spirituality and that spiritual paths have been usurped by the "male form".

Puranas were written by men (sages and munis) to take the much more complex upanishads and vedas to the common man.

My point is beyond all these. The vedas, upanishads and puranas are vedic and dont entirely represent hinduism. There is a vast much more bigger oral tradition that hinduism consists of where the female form, fertility is prevalent.

@my life - Christianity triumvirate the father, the sun and the holy spirit doesent have any space to women. There is no christianity beyond this triumvirate. In a way it is similar to the hindu triumvirate of Brahma, vishnu and shiva. That aspect of it is similar to christianity and vedic hinduism. But there is a much more bigger tradition where kali-ma is said to be more important than the rest. I think the ratio is more like 1vedic vs. 5 non-vedic.

In essense there is a big element of truth behind the statemtn that worship of the feminine survives and thrives only within the hindu and animist tradition.

Even the ultimate creation mythology of the sea, the earth are all feminine forms.

Its not all that bad, if we have the courage to step out of the vedas and vedic rituals.

vasu

Anonymous said...

Doesent the sperm seek the egg to join with and produce life ?

Doesent the soul seek the supreme to join with and attain bliss ?

when would men learn that god is feminine ?

Smitha parthasarathy

indianpeppone said...

I do believe that u r looking at the Rigveda with coloured glasses..... Another glaring factor seems to be the 'Aryan' influences...... its been widely accepted, at least in scholastic circles, that there never was an 'Aryan', let alone an invasion. So the basic premise of this post that 'Aryan' influence changed the course of feminine way of life is eminently contestable.

Why Am I said...

i do agree with some of the views here on hinduism and the female. In fact, in really ancient times as u suggested, the female was considered sacred and was given prime importance. In this aspect, Hindusim does give a lot of importance to the female..shakthi, as the name suggests in all powerful!. It is time and people tht have corrupted wht was original, making it more suited to themselves. Very interesting topic, wonder if there will be a hindu"ised" version of the Da vinci ocde now!

Sriram said...

Its folks like Smitha Parthasarathy here that kinda throw mud on feminism!

Anonymous said...

@anonymous: God is not feminine. God is a mixture of feminity and masculinity.

ashwini said...

lovely topic megha!

as far as i know, aditi and diti were kashyap's wives and diti represented everything finite and aditi was for infinite, everyting infinite etc. so even if she was kashyaps wife, what she stands for has not changed that much.

Falstaff said...

Interesting. I can't help feeling, though that a lot of people here are missing the point.

a) What some ancient text says is largely irrelevant. Organised religion is a social structure consisting of rigidly defined roles, rules and observances. It's the way the religion is practised today - its rites and rituals, its guidelines of prayer and access, its dos and don'ts - that need to be debated. And those often have little to do with what the Vedas or Upanishads say, because few people ever read them and their interpretation is mostly in the hands of self-interested priests. Even if you believe that the ancient texts are the 'true' religion - it's important to remember that it's not a religion anyone actually practises.

b) It's not a question of whether women are given respect or not - it's a question of what they're given respect for. Sure, every religion will pay lip service to motherhood - it's entirely in patriarchal interests to extoll the virtues of the compliant, long-suffering, 'chaste' woman. That isn't the same thing as giving respect to dominant, independent female deities. (such as you ur-Goddesses)

Incidentally, I'm surprised you missed out on Lilith.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilith

c) Finally, as a member of the school of thought that shuns organised religion altogether, notice that there's a distinction between organised religion and faith. The 'simplicity and edification of faith in pre-vedic times' has nothing to do with submitting to the discriminatory power dynamic of organised religion. Organised religion is about exclusion - it gets its power from establishing itself as a vital intermediary between the individual and his / her God / Goddess. That's how the priesthood make money. Faith, by contrast, is about personal belief, not about society.

Kaushik Gopalan said...

@Falstaff: I completely agree the point a) that you make. I have used it often in a slightly different context.

I am not sure about point c) though. I do not know if organized Hinduism today is about exclusion, but I see no reason to believe that any organized religion has to be discriminatory to survive. Even if Hinduism today involves some discriminatory practices, is there any reason it cannot evolve to become a more inclusive religion?

I mean, who do the Buddhists discriminate against?

Anonymous said...

HI

My ancestors are supposed to have come from the banks of river Saraswathi, settled in south India.Believe in Vedas , daily poojas are conducted. Durga Pooja is ritually conducted ( a special one on friday) I agree with vasu, maybe half knowledge or distortion of facts may lead to forming wrong opinions.

F.s

Falstaff said...

Kaushik: I guess when I talk about organised religion, I mean an institution that consists of a heirarchy of priests of some sort - a sort of religious bureaucracy. My point is that that bureacracy gets its power from the right to serve as intermediaries between a person and his / her faith. The minute you say I can only reach out to God through someone else, you're immediately excluded from something that the intermediary has access to. A truly inclusive religion, in my view, is one where every person has direct access to God, without the need for anyone to mediate that relationship for him / her (which is not to say that individuals couldn't still pray in groups - only that they wouldn't need someone to interpret their religion for them / authorise their beliefs or prayers). And that will always be unacceptable to the priesthood because it would make them irrelevant.

You may be right about Buddhism - I don't know enough about how Buddhism is practised (as opposed to what it teaches) to comment on whether it is exclusionary or not. Personally, I've always thought of Buddhism more as a philosophy than a religion, and the few buddhists I know practice it much more as a faith than as an organised religion. But perhaps what I'm saying isn't true for ALL religions. I'd still argue that it's true for enough of them.

Kaushik Gopalan said...

Falstaff,

I think I understand what you are saying.

I would still prefer to live with Hinduism than without it, if the only kind of discrimination was against non-priests by giving them lesser access to god.

If becoming a priest only depended on your knowledge of the shaastras, and not on what you were born as, I could live with the higher status in religion that priests have.

Vasu the terrible said...

@smitha - The sperm seeks the egg and so does the soul seek the almighty.

The soul does not have gender and neither does the almighty. They are truly androgynus. Gender is a product of maya. Whenever a soul (even the almighty who is a soul himself), engages with maya the world, They have to chose. That is why the almighty is perceived as male, female, half man-half animal, a book.. Thats just imagery. This post is purely in the relm of philosophy and there are no male/female imagery here.

Having said that the shakthi movement is one which not only gives importance to the female form but also has the female form as its central theme. The original shakthi worshippers like thandavi, bhairavi, bhavani were all independant grassroots worship of feminine. Its the worship of the feminine within and outside. Sex and sexuality had a different moral tinge too. They were tools of spiritual elevation and were never considerd dirty. The shival linga itself is a beautiful example of maithuna where the shiva's penis, the yoni and the dharva (the sperm) are the central figures.

To say hinduism is a moralistic tradition frowning upon feminine as unclean and mensturation is unclean is a onesided view. The vedic view.

Animist traditions are very much alive within the hindu faith and to properly understand hinduism, one should have to think out of the box and not compare it with islam or christianity. Though some of the philosophical streams might claim exclusivity (like the dwaitha, adwaitha) they are merely competing streams propogated by their proponents of power and nothing more.

That is an argument of social power and has no grounding on philosophical exclusivity. This is certainly not the case in any other relegion. Not even in budhism. Some of the other relegions have been violent in the past (christianity and islam) and some have been peaceful (budhism, jainism) but the fundemental cornerstone is exclusivity. This way and no other way.

Hinduism isnt. thats why you would feel many things contradictory. Ganesha being representated as a bachelor in one place and Ganesha being represented with 2 wifes (siddhi and budhi) elsewhere. They are mere representations.

Like one's physical and mental makeup, spiritual makeup of man is not one-size-fits-all. Hence the multitude of relegious imagery, iconography, rituals, practices and adherants. At the end of the day the philisophical purpose is the same.

While analysing hinduism, step out of rituals and see the universe. In essense the faith aspect is more important in hinduism than rituals and iconography.

Before I end this, think about why kali or durga statues are made with hunge breasts, slender waists, humungous hips ? It is an expression of feminine, sexuality as a pathway to God. The Aghora and tantra traditions used to perform sexual union in the feet of the god as a sacred offering. The ultimate sexual union is with the godess herself. The mother. Maithuna is one of the few times when bliss can be experienced. Maithuna with the godess herself is the highest form.

reference: Aghora - The left hand of god, Robert Svadoba, Rupa publications Rs. 150.. check it out.

IMHO only about 1% follow vedic traditions in its purest form. Most of them believe and worship the feminine form.

I dont know about others, but da-vinci- code dint surprise me atall. I was left wondering... "ok.. whats new and surprising". I also thought the author had great difficulty and a gret sense of defiance/discovery in talking about mary magdalene. Compare this with Indian women worshipping shiva's dick for conceiving. It was a big sense of anti-climax for me.

vasu

Vijayeta said...

Whoa! How opinionated and rigid the world is! Saaaaaad :(

Tarun said...

So many gods....uff it's too much. Anyway nice informative article to know about Aditi.

Vidya said...

@Megha
A fine set of observations but conclusions seem a bit shaky.Also this calls for Anthropology101 and History101.

>>There was a time, before the Aryan invasions.. a time when a single Goddess carrying Agni in her womb
etc + statements on Aryans

1.A self-contradictory statement.Aditi,Agni were all Aryan concepts and by no means pre-Aryan.Again a goddess figurine in the Harappan seals merely represent an ancient awe of fertility and fecundity and need not equal to 'simplicity and ancient pre-vedic glory' and may have no relevance to the state of women.Even today we have temples like Kamakhya which are fertility symbols but the way menstruation is treated socially is different.

2.Religion as every human idea evolves.(The vedic apaurusheyists may please excuse).Our initial ancestor would have been in awe of bodily functions,the moon, the sun and everything around them.As they see and confront other races alien to them they draw up protective laws to protect the vulnerable section (whether we like it or not women and children are the most physically vulnerable) so a community evolves.

3.Vedic hymns all do not belong to the same time frame and even within the Rg Veda.The older Rg Vedic hymns are merely nature poetry where primitive man wonders at what he or she sees around him, albeit with added metaphors,male-female pairs etc.The hymn to Surya and one which describes Surya's wedding is one such,same with the hymn of Vak.If you look at the hymn of Lopamudra one can percieve that in an ancient society the voice of sexuality is not as supressed in an evolved society since taboos have not yet evolved.

4.These same Aryans had the voice of Vak,Lopamudra and sages such as Apala and others and several other hymns which have a very strong female presence.

So my point is:
Just because we had fertility and fecundity symbols pre-vedic society was not a woman's heaven.

Even among Vedic culture there exists a time frame.The initial set of hymns show no hierarchy both in terms of caste and gender. By the time of Yajurveda and Purushasukta this patriarchy crept in.So It is not the Aryans or PreAryans but this is how a religion evolves.

Women scholars of the Hadith, priests of Egypt,the saints and orders of initial christianity all slowly subsided into this need for control creation as a mechanism for protection against outsiders amd for self-sustenance.Every religion takes this course and Hinduism is no exception.But we did have an interesting turn of events in the development of Tantra.Even there Shakti is never to be worshipped as an individual but in her final union with Shiva.She has all her power at the same time she is a pativrata(!) with devotees only being allowed to worship her as a divine mother..

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ vidya: it would be nice if you specifically mention who you were reffering to wrt the Anthropology101 and History101 bit. :)

And about Aditi having Agni in her womb, point noted! I didnt do a once over to my first edit...gosh.

thanks!

@ everyone else: will answer your comments shortly!

ta ta for now! :)

Vidya said...

The anthro101 and History101 was directed at Pitchblack's comments specifically at the mention of 108 upanishads..Some of these 108 are much later in origin and several of the contents are repeated and rehashed to suit later developments.

Pitch Black said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pitch Black said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pitch Black said...

@ TamilPunkster

I'm sorry to remove those comments of mine, but I felt I was taking too much space on your blog.... so here is highly concise version...



@ Vidya

Thanks for your lessons... I'll hit my point in bullet forms...

-Aryan Invasion - at around 1500 BC
-Vedas - around 3000 BC...

-RigVeda is oldest
-Has names Indra, Agni... Aryan names theory of yours - Flawed
-but Arthaveda - mentions most primitive culture (even earlier than that of Rigveda)

-108 ways to reach God - combining 4 Vedas
-108 Upanishads - based on Vedas only
- What were difference in rehashed and original versions of Upanishads as you said...???

- At time of Translation of Vedas - Not enough Qualified Sanskrit scholar i.e. one line of hymn drew different meanings (Including Ramayana, Mahabharata)

-difference Shiva, Kali
- meditate for 7 chakras - worship Shiva
- meditate for 10 chakras (3 tantra) - worship Kali


Many people here have thinking that goal/representation of Old scriptures is only to portray greatness of men over women... I wish only if people could think on what is written & why...

- Shiva/ Mahesh/ Vishnu - Nature's rules
- Their wives- Power of Nature
- Nature & Power to withhold rules exist together
- There is no male/female in higher world...
- Quiz 1: Have you ever heard a male planet, or a female galaxy...???
- Quiz 2: Will Negros complain about how they are discriminated and not even mentioned in Vedas...???

- Point made/ Moral: Stories and names were used to tell us the higher truth... Not role of male & female...

What Next
- Try to read for the purpose Old Scriptures stands for...
- Try not be so absolute about statements like male-dominance in Vedas, Patriarchy, who was given what status... We are not qualified enough for that...

But just enlighten me, How you reached a conclusion that it was not a heaven for women at that time...???

indianpeppone said...

I actually didnt notice the disclaimer when i made my comment..... my apologies. But doesnt the disclaimer take away the point that you are trying to make???
I beliee that 'pitch black' has given the perfect summation on the issue.
Also, Vidya's point on evolution of the society is also valid.
But the crux remains the same.... even if v worship only godesses, deos it mean more power to the women?

aradhana said...

wow..i never knew that much about hinduism..you mean its that awesomeeeee???? we dont learn that much about the female goddesses over here. we only learn as much as we see on tv and read about.

the female goddess most chinese people worship over here is kuan yin..which is the chinese equivalent of lakshmi i think..and i know more about chinese gods! which is totally irrelevant to whatever discussion thats going on.

im awed!! please please do an update on the post! :) i feel so much smarter now. *grin*

jax said...

Fascinating topic, Megha. I tried to read the comments by people who are more well versed on the topic, but couldn't help being thrown off into several tangents. I'll take the easy way out and wait for a sequel to this post :)

Falstaff said...

Agree with indianpeppone - the fact that some sects within Hinduism worship goddesses does not in any way imply that they are less patriarchal. Are rituals in these religions any less gender discriminatory? Are there women priests? Do women get preferential treatment in her temples? Do women get an equal or even a superior role in poojas and other ceremonies? Do we see any evidence of men in these sects being more tolerant of the sexual, social or economic independence of women? I think not.

Notice also that the Kali / Durga cult actually plays into traditional patriarchal constructions of female independence / sexuality. Sure, Kali gets to kill demons, but does she also get to have a happy home life? Shiva gets to be the destroyer and still gets a doting wife (actually, if memory serves, he gets two). Does Kali have a consort? Does she have children? Shiva's phallus gets worshipped - does anyone see any celebration of Kali's sexuality? Notice how cleverly the roles of wife and mother are separated from the independence and power that Kali represents. What a brilliant way of ensuring that none of this awe and worship of Kali need transfer in any way to the women in one's own family. The stereotype of a powerful, independent woman being a deviant, incapable of affection and there unmarriageable is strongly reinforced, just as it is in Lilith's case. A woman who asserts her strength and independence, the message says, ends up alone.

Yogi said...

i think every religion one form or the other at its earliest believed in a supreme woman deity, or atleast portrayed one with a base equal to man..ours probably confused itself between shakti and aditi, but then again, it was a female omnipotent form in either case..so they were definitely clear on that. i guess somewhere down the line, there was an erosion of the purity of every religion, it started becoming adaptive and cognitive to our own personal needs and pleasures..so i guess every one of them today is impure of its early derivatives!

Sarat said...

Great post and really informative discussion in the comments section. However, Im surprised nobody has mentioned Manu and his laws.
Ive read the english transalation of the Manusmriti and I think youd have to be Shane warne to spin it positively. Its full of hate against women. is the manusmriti considered part of mainstream Hinduism?

indianpeppone said...

@Falstaff: Its a very common mistake most people make in considering the Shivalinga as 'Shiva's Phallus'. But in actual interpretation, 'Lingam' means symbol and it is derived from the legend where shiva transforms himself/herself/itself :), to a great pillar of fire to settle a dispute between brahma and vishnu. The shivlinga is thus a confirmation that god is formless and infinite..... at least to my understanding

Falstaff said...

Fair enough. Though that has to be the worst representation of a 'pillar of fire' in the history of sculpture. And having a standard shape of stone to suggest that god is formless and infinite is a pretty stupid idea. Sounds suspiciously like a kosher version of the real symbolism cooked up for polite conversation to me, but perhaps.

The general point still holds - there's no contradiction between Shiva being the Destroyer and being a family man; but an independent, powerful woman can't possibly have a meek, devoted husband who she can have children with.

indianpeppone said...

Unfortunately, thats what all organized religions are...... misinterpretations further twisted by vested interests..... but that doesnt mean that the basic tenants are flawed... its up to the jnanayogi(:D) to seperate the chaff from the grain

Urban Bourbon Ninja said...

I'm a ninja now, so i can beat up trolls that bother you. Grr.

Grafxgurl said...

HIYAAA!!!! im baaack and tired out completely so if i ramble about stupid things its not my fault!!...seeing that sculpture reminded me of my days in university..studying art history....

oh and the world is getting scarier..lol.

*hugs*..will make more sense next time.,

Raindrop said...

This discussion reminds me of the Celtic goddess figure, Sheila na gig.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheila-na-gig

It's very likely that early humans did not grasp, or at the very least, underestimated the male role in reproduction. Since reproduction has always been desirable in an evolutionary sense, early cultures started off their religious careers worshipping female deities. Subsequent shifts to the worship of male deites merely mirrored a better understanding of the male role in reproduction.

I could easily argue that patriarchy and religion are both obvious consequences of the evolution of human society, even though I subscribe to neither.

indianpeppone said...

"Conversion of goddess into gods not disputed"

"Aditi (The Primal Being) is Heaven, Aditi is the Atmosphere, Aditi is Mother(Mata), Father and the Son (putra) .Aditi is the Universal Deities, Aditi is the Five Races, Aditi is all that has been and will take birth".
-Rig Veda.I.89.10

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ indianpeppone: Did I ever say that Aditi was converted into a god?
And yes, her representation in the Rig Veda is commendable but subsequent representations was that of dutiful wife(one of)of Kaashyaapa, and her importance was brought down considerably.

I really dont understand the point you were making with that last comment(@ 10:43 AM). I thought I made myself perfectly clear.

AYTIDA said...

blogs can be accessed in india through http://pkblogs.com/

please pass on the message

**new tintin template on my blog (no tintin in it though)** plz comment

indianpeppone said...

@Megha: Mayb I misinterpreted the disclaimer, "... the existence of an all powerful mother goddess, Her representation in the Rig Veda and the conversion of goddesses into gods..." ... My point is also that, Aditi was never an all powerful FEMALE goddess... Aditi literally means the infinite... and is represented as the mother of gods to show that everything is a part of the supreme infinite. At least thats my understanding...

Vasu the terrible said...

@flatstaff..

Do visit a shiva temple nearby and watch carefully. The lingam is an excited penis and surrounding the lingam is a yoni. At the tip of the lingam is the sperm indicating the whole image to be that of bliss when there is orgasm. That is the representation of maithuna.

The lesson here is to look at the devine as a union of male and female, not just in physical terms but also spiritual.

your view of looking at the lingam is thus a little flawed.

vasu

tilotamma said...

** Aditi was also known as Renuka in some circles. She is beheaded by an upper-caste man because she openly *flaunts* his authority. **

The word to be used here is flouts not flaunts...

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ tilo: I know.

But I was actually quoting from a book. So I didnt want to change the words, bad grammar or otherwise.

Vincent said...

I know very little about the subject but I remember watching a show on Discovery channel about Stone Age man and refrences being made to the Venus of Willendorf.. okay, before I attempt to fill up this box with tripe, I have to say your blog/comments section is a compulsive read, troll or no troll.

kitkrash said...

I find it interesting that there is a comment of Surya being female. Actually there is a female form of Surya and that is GAYATRI of which the famous Gayatri mantra aludes to.

This is considered the most powerful mantra -- the one to the female sun godess!

kitkrash said...

@falstaff
Ancient india did have female rishis and temple administrators. In Tantra there are female forest Rishis that both men and women go to for initiation and to be taken in as disciples.

Because of the frank sexuality of Tantric practice, the British considered them to be nothing more than prostitutes and the status of these Holy women were diminished as men took control.

Today in South India the remnants of this culture exists in a devolved and colonialized form as the Devadasis.

And the dance that was developed by these women has now survived in a non-sexual form called Bharatanatyam.

tilotamma said...

Then you throw in a sic!

the wannabe indian punkster said...

damn tilo, I should have done that, it totally slipped my mind...:P

SJ said...

First things first ... I just noticed the "tofu ingester" bit. Arggh!!! andha kanraviya eppadi sapidra? I hate all things soya.

Now for the rest:: Great post I am definitely going to link this. The Da Vinci Code of hinduism?

As far as "unclean" blood goes I have seen male preists digging their nose inside the "sannidhi" so much for clean.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

hahaha, thank you.

Da vinci code of Hinduism? Hmmm, Im not too sure about that. :)

kitkrash said...

The origins of religion are mysterious, but there is no doubt that it had started with the respect and worship of natural forces.

So people worshipped trees, the sun, the tides, etc.

And than this lead to fertility cults, where it became apparent that the mystery inside the mystery of nature is that something -- a plant, a wolf cub, a human being -- can come out of nothing more than the interactions of male and female.

In Kaballah this is the Tzim + Tzum, in the actual ancient "Hindu" practice that can be found with Kashmiri Pundits and Tamil Siddhas, this is Shiva + Shakti.

In Europe this became the basis of Alchemy which also leads to the ideas given in "The DaVinci Code."

Maju said...

If it's of any interest, in Basque mythology the Sun used to be female. Legend says that Sun (Eguzki or Eki) and Moon (Ilargi or Ile) are daughters of Earth and go to their mother when they set by the west.

In Japanese mythology (Shinto) the Sun (Amateratsu) is also female, but the Moon is male.