11/20/07

autarchy and the divine feminine

I have never hidden my compulsive fascination with Hindu mythology, specifically with respect to the countless goddesses situated in the Hindu pantheon. This fixation of mine may very well seem like a side effect of my feminism, but it is not as simple as that. I do admit to feeling an out of place, illogical warmth in my gut at the existence of goddesses (and powerful ones at that) in my culture. However, I am not that distanced from reality to comprehend the fact that the status of the divine feminine is far removed from the status of the Indian woman, be it socially, religiously or otherwise. And that is one of the (many) reasons why I can’t help but insistently question and deconstruct the varying identities of the goddess figures in Hindu mythology.

Interestingly enough, while I will not deny the existence of dominant and often autonomous goddesses, there have been a few intercutting themes in their representation and the legends pertaining to their identities which I find quite unsettling.

Inevitably, I would have to start with Kali. If this elicits a collective gasp from certain folk, who refuse to stomach the possibility that the representation of Kali may not be as egalitarian or transcendental as one would expect, then allow me to extend a caveat lector. For now, I will only outline the core narratives, representing each of the influential, powerful and vastly popular goddesses I have in mind.

Kali:

Kali’s iconography as we all know is synonymous with pure, unadulterated wrath. Almost all her representations and core stories involve her indulging in indiscriminate destruction, without any thought to her surroundings or victims. The basic, core narrative involving Kali follows a familiar theme: Kali goes on a wrathful rampage, the gods beseech Siva to intervene and Shiva basically lays prostrate in her path. Kali being wholly absorbed in her anger does not notice him lying in her path and fortuitously steps on him. Doing so, she automatically realizes her folly (stepping on her husband) and experiencing acute ignominy at her actions, bites her tongue to control herself and calms down.

Akilandeshwari:

Akilandeshwari is the goddess situated at Tiruvannaikka (an urban-ish town/village at the outskirts of Tiruchy), and she is said to be even more formidable than her consort Jambukeshwarar from the same temple. Of all the numerous legends surrounding the conception of the temple, one of the most celebrated narratives revolves around Akilandeshwari and Adi Sankara. It is said that when Sankara set foot in Tiruvannaikka, people entreated him to save them from the inescapable rage of the goddess. Sankara unsurprisingly controls Akilandeshwari’s ferocity by presenting her with a pair of tatankam or large earrings.

Meenakshi:

As Meenakshi does not really require a droll, catatonic introduction, I’ll save you the trouble and jump right into her core story. In her proto-narrative, before her expected transmutation into a coy bride, she was a fierce warrior and a valorous heir to the throne of Madurai. According to legend, the ruler Malayadwaja Pandyan and his queen Kanchanamala were childless, and therefore heirless. As heirless couples in Hindu mythology are wont to do, they inevitably slid into the tried and true modus operandi of performing elaborate yajnas, begging for an heir to the throne. During one such ceremony, a baby girl miraculously materialized out of nowhere and the royal couple instantaneously took this as a sign and brought her up as their own child and named her Tataatakai (or Taatakai). Tataatakai was not like other children however, she was markedly unusual as she had three breasts.

Extra mammary gland notwithstanding, Tataatakai grew up to be a skilled fighter and a valiant princess, whose excellence in combat was unsurpassed. As her power and strength as a warrior grew, she embarked on a Digvijaya or a tour of conquest and triumph across the subcontinent. When she arrived at the Himalayas however, she set her eyes on Shiva and underwent a curious transformation. Her third breast vanished and she felt herself feeling bashful, a sensation she had never known before. As Shiva held her gaze, the proud, courageous warrior who was unaware as to how to feel self conscious or disconcerted, averted her gaze and looked at her feet demurely for the first time. And the conversion of the peerless, independent warrior Tataatakai into the blushing bride Meenakshi was complete.

If the intercutting themes in all these narratives or core stories or proto legends aren’t glaringly palpable by now, allow me to point them out.

a) They always feature a ferocious, independent and an autocratic goddess at their core.

b) A goddess’s intensity, her rage and her dangerously ambiguous self will never be an ideal paragon for women to emulate. While these traits may be feared and/or respected, they are not considered to be the goddess’s final calling.

c) Extrapolating from the previous point, a goddess’s self-determination or freewill may be valued as a desirable characterestic. But if you look really closely, in actuality, those identities are distinctly impermanent.

d) Each core narrative features a treacherously subtle but common insidious theme: Control.

This theme of control rears its noxious head repeatedly in these proto-legends, but it's brilliance lies in the simple fact that it does not explicitly denounce the goddess for being autocratic or unfathomable. What it does is much much worse. It leads you on, using the above mentioned characteristics like the proverbial carrot; cloyingly patronizing the goddess figure in the process and ultimately setting the stage for putting her in her place.

After suffocating through a miasma of exuberant descriptions of the goddess figure’s transcendence, her sovereignty and so on, you eventually stumble upon the true crux of the narrative, wherein the goddess is made to realize her spousal duties by experiencing lajja (in the case of Kali), or bowing down to the power of a mortal man * (in the case of Adi Sankara and Akilandeshwari) or seamlessly transforming into the subdued, blushing bride from a fearless warrior (in the case of Meenakshi).

It is interesting albeit in a disheartening way, to witness the process of Sanskritization rear its crafty head over and over again; swallowing fierce, local, independent goddesses without any connection to a male authority through wedlock or otherwise, into its gaping maw by immediately proclaiming them as an aspect of Parvati (also by marrying them off to one form of Shiva or the other). This process, in one fell swoop achieves two different things, 1) It places Parvati, a spousal goddess, firmly at the top of the Shaivaite goddess pantheon and 2) It ingeniously allows the local goddesses to have their original attributes but perfidiously adds subversive elements of control and subjugation to their core narratives like the examples I have given above.

It would be dishonest of me to deny the fact that I feel bizarrely letdown by the relentless overlaying of traditional gender roles onto these narratives. Would it kill the patriarchal forces that be, to not paint over every autonomous goddess core-story with a stertorous legend saturated in the panacea of patriarchal womanhood a la the wife and the mother?

Actually, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.

Post script: To be perfectly clear, this is not a dour, historical post discussing the semiotics of the narratives in the Devi Mahatmya or the Soundarya Lahiri or any of those texts. This is me, being my cantankerous, nitpicky self, basically thinking aloud about popular narratives associated with certain goddesses. This post does not point a blameful finger at wifehood or motherhood or any of those factions. That is all.

PPS: A big thank you to those of you who left comments or dropped me a line after reading my admittedly disquieting previous post. And to those of you who didn’t, may Ceiling Cat smite thee. Ah, the pleasures of being a termagant.

* Some people may argue that Adi Sankara was an avatar of Shiva. To those of you who do, please realize that in principle, he was mortal.

45 comments:

anonymouse said...

Funnily, there's also the story of Ganpati where Parvati/Durga goes about kicking butt.

Have a cup of Costa Rican while reading this:
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/11/the-end-of-miso.html

Mahogany said...

As far as goddesses go, by far my favourite is Athena. Wise, powerful, capable of unapologetic anger, and generally looked up to by all, including clearly masculine icons such as Odysseus. I don't think you can beat her.

La vida Loca said...

Hmmmm hadn't really thought about it this way. Little wonder then, in the movies the heroine could be independent, wilful and what have you, come the hero he HAS to subdue her. The woman becomes ?complete, a paragon of virtue and patience.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ A'mouse: Ah, I am aware of that story, but honestly Parvati kicking butt within her marriage is nothing new or uplifting. She is still a spousal goddess, not remotely transcendental, considering the fact that she was more interesting without her domestic confines. But, thats just my opinion. And gah, I read that link without coffee!

@ Mahogany: Tell you what. Google "mahavidyas". And read what comes up. :)

@ Lavida loca: Exactly! She can be a warrior and conquer the whole freaking subcontinent effortlessly, but one look at her future husband or whatever and shes realized her true calling. And somehow this is considered as being complete, just like you said.

Broom said...

Not to mention, that in Hindi movies, the heroine (pre-marriage) is in skimpy clothes, and post-marriage is in a saari, with her head covered and coy & shy.
Ugh.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Broom: Ah, yes. And usually the transformation happens when the hero comes along and waxes eloquent about how a woman really should behave. Because you know, he is the moral authority on everything. Barf.

DoZ said...

Acting shy post shaadi is at least subtle - think Mannan or Padayappa or Mapillai - in all these "superhit" Tam movies, there isn't any coyness about what's the right place for a woman. No matter how many companies you run, moksha for a woman is in packing the hub-hub's tiffin box and living for that strand of jasmine he might treat you to once a month. And it's not just desi movies, is it... Knocked up is not considered super insulting, but super funny :(

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Doz: Hello! And seriously, its painful. When you dont have the blatant chest thumping or morality whoring like in a Vijay movie for instance, you have the patronizing 'but doesn't she need to get married, however will she be happy?' in the rest of em. And Knocked Up was awful. Here we have a random guy who has absolutely nothing in common with Alison, not to mention the utter implausibility of their relationship, and somehow everything is tied up in the end with a pretty pink bow and they end up together. Urgh.

Neodawn said...

And the female goddesses who were never meant to be...

Brahma, The creator: This god in the Trinity should have been a woman for natural and logical reasons.... :(

anonymouse said...

But Parvati doesn't bother with completeness and stuff (not in any major way).

She goes her own way to marry the man of her choice. Kicks his ass when he doesn't behave. Kicks everyone else's ass when they piss her off.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Neodawn: It's been a while since you popped by here, has it not? And yes, I've always wondered about that. For all its blathering about goddesses who are at their pinnacle of power, why hasn't mainstream Hinduism placed a goddess as part of the trinity?

@ A'mouse: To be clear, this post is not about the power dynamics between Parvati and Shiva within their marriage or Parvati’s role as a spousal goddess. And for every instance of Parvati standing up to Shiva, I can provide you with an equal number of instances where Shiva curses Parvati and condemns her to various punishments (Really! Ask and ye shall receive the myths, :D). That is why I don't find her representation particularly stimulating. I found the proto-legends of her various forms and avatars way more intriguing, but hey like I said, that rocks my boat, so to speak. :)

anonymouse said...

Completely offtopic, but relevant to you:
http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2007/11/macaque_mothers_favor_their_so.php

Back on topic, I thought that the whole Shiva-Parvati relationship was one of equality, rather than one partner being dominant (and I do know those myths).

I wonder if there were any reverse legends about Shiva as well, which have been lost in th mists of time.

Vidya said...

Flawlessly and coherently argued case! One side-note:
1.None of our Goddesses are mothers in the sense that it is almost always the Gods in their lives who procreate (Vishnu-Brahma,Kama Shiva/Agni-Murugan,Brahma-The kumaras, Saraswati).It is almost as if the physical act of childbearing and gestation is the domain for lowly mortal women but the nobility of motherhood in the sense of being a lokamAthA is reserved for Goddesses!

meerkat said...

surely, your post suggests that the all conquering one is shiva. these goddesses do not care about other men. as shiva stands at the very pinnacle of the hierarchy of indian gods and goddesses, it is not so bad that all the others are deferential to him and that the female goddesses are respectful and control their wrath in his presence.

meera

Mahogany said...

Punk, thanks for the mahavidyas tip-off. I had never come accross this particular bit of mythology. I liked the version where Shiva gets pissed off, Parvati tries to cajole him, and when that does not work she pulls off the kid gloves and pretty much shows him his place; but in a way that establishes equality and complementarity, rather than superiority. Sort of the reverse of the stereotypical subjugation that got you writing your post in the first place.

Aishwarya said...

Re: Anonymouse's comments, I do think there's an unusual amount of room for flexibility in the Shiva - Parvati relationship, compared to the others within the mythology. Esp the whole Ardhanareshwara thing.

This only goes to prove the inherent superiority of Shaivism, if one must be religious.


aha! I have made an Inflammatory Comment!

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Aishwarya: Woot! You have!

The Bride said...

Tis the taming of the shrew... Though as you pointed out the difference is that in the Indian myths, the power of the goddesses are at least allowed to play out as a positive theme for a little while before of course being controlled by the higher (manly) good/god.

Q said...

So you do not even leave our gods alone. There are many problems with this post. Let me tell you lady about them one by one.
-our religion is oldest on the earth. There might be mistakes somewhere, but in Hinduism, the status of women is the strongest.
-all the goddesses are more powerful than the gods. This is a fact which even 1st standard child will know, but for you even that is not enough. Then what do you want? Tell me please. Why do you get upset if people call you unhappy? Definitely there is a problem when you start making up dramas about Parvati mata. Those people are right after all.
-you say you are unbiased. But this post clearly proves that you are having a bias towards Mahavishnu. You are pushing Parvati and Shiv worship on your readers and acting as if you are only criticising. Why cant you talk about Lakshmi? Padmavati? Radha? Krishna?Vishnu? Not a word comes from you about any of them. Your silence proves your clear bias.Even if this sounds silly, and you like only goddesses you should at least talk about Radha who did not even marry Krishna. Is that not a sign of independence?But not a word from you about that. Do you secretly promote Shiv worship? why the silence?
-Of course I know I will be personally attacked for this comment. But let me see if your readers can talk about my points only without attacking me. Take this as me giving u and your readers a chance.

kuffir said...

no village goddesses?

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ A'mouse: I do think that the Shiva-Parvati dynamic is heartening. I will give it that much. But as to how equal it actually is, I still remain cynical. Oh and also, I will explain about why I find Parvati's identity problematic in a later comment.

@ Vidya: Thank you! And you did forget the most famous Shiva-Vishnu pair, who gave birth to Aiyappa. :)

@ Meerkat: For these goddesses, their core-myths involve a good dosage of 'control yourself' type themes, with Shiva being a central figure. I don't really think thats uplifting. No.

@ Mahogany: Thats because the Mahavidyas are basically the core goddesses in the Tantric pantheon and Tantra has a good history of placing the goddess figure at the fount of everything.

@ Aishwarya: Now look what your inflammatory comment has done, you Lingam worshiping rabble rouser!

@ The Bride: The taming of the shrew is a brilliant analogy. I couldn't have put it better myself. I guess we should just be happy for the fact that they were allowed to be independent at all for a certain period of time before mainstream Hinduism consumed them for it's agenda.

@ Q: I am pushing Shaivism on my readers? What planet do you inhabit, Q? That is a pretty serious accusation, and I'd like it very much if you could back it up with real facts and quotes from my post which suggested even a hint of some kind of religious Shaivaite propaganda. Please.

@ Kuffir: Could you elaborate? Sorry for being a bit dense. :)

anonymouse said...

I shall await the comment with interest.

q, perhaps you need a dose of enlightenment. Perhaps you should dwell on punkster until you achieve enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

where does this Q character come from??
I read all your posts, either nod my head in agreement or smile in disagreement at some of the things...
But, you will always find this Q character commenting with bad things to say and usually doesn't make much sense or argues for the samke of arguing!
Seriously, this person needs to get a life.

- Mamtha

kaa said...

i like the way you think.

there also might be a cultural clash at play here. a clash between a patriarchal culture and either a matriarchal/gender equal culture. some points i have noticed which are parallel to your thinking.
most ancent/aboriginal/tribal people have at least one very powerful fertility god/goddess. The shiv linga as I see it should be that. which it is not right now, it being just a symbol of shiva. But the name 'shiv linga' itself is a misnomer, since it is the linga inside the yoni.

Anonymous said...

@Q: loll are you serious?

That was an interesting post Megha. Here's some information you might find useful. I know many women who are primarily goddess worshippers. As opposed to starting their day with archanas for the male deities, they recite shlokams or perform rituals that praise/invoke Parvati and her many forms. Case in point being 'Devi Khadgamala'. It is believed that one who reads this regularly is protected from all evil by the goddess herself who presents her devotee with a garland of swords 'Khadgamala'.
So, I don't think she is relegated to being Shiva's consort alone and neither is she an embodiment of 'feminine virtue' (note that it was Parvati who adamantly courted Shiva, and succeeded in marrying him).
Also, as someone pointed out, the idea of Parvati and Eshwara at its core does propagate equality/unification of the feminine and masculine forces. The result of which being Shiva's other name 'Parameshwara'.

Tara.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ A'mouse: And you shall have it then. :)

@ Mamtha: Ah, Mamtha trolls have always populated this blog, like some sort of infectious virus, only an infectious troglodyte virus, if you get my drift. Theres something about an outspoken woman I think, which really riles up these hand wringers.

@ Kaa: Excellent point. I completely overlooked the fact that the Shiva Linga isn't actually just the lingam, it sits on a yoni base as well. Thanks for bringing that up.

@ Tara: The thing is Tara, not that I disagree with you, but I find the general consensus on Parvati here overly simplistic and vague. Don't get me wrong, but I really find some sort of muddling happening here with Parvati's identity and the identity of her other forms, which, remember, were not part of her original mythology. They were traits of local goddesses added on to Parvati's mythos for the reasons I have listed in the post. Anyway I'll explain this in further detail in the following comment.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

This comment is divided into two parts, thanks to its sheer size. The second part is a direct extension of the first, so read them continuously, one after the other (duh).

@ Everyone: I did promise that I'll expand on my reasons for not finding Parvati's identity particularly uplifting, so here it is, part by part.

One big caveat. I have purposefully stripped away all of Parvati’s other ‘aspects’ for the sole purpose of promoting specificity. It does not make sense for anyone to muddle her identity with her other aspects as this brings about confusion and mistaken assumptions about the legend of Parvati and what she actually represents. Please do remember that all her ‘other forms’ were originally never her aspects at all. They were never a part of her conception, her proto legend or her mythos. They were attributes and identities of local village goddesses and other powerful autonomous goddesses which were added on to Parvati’s representation and dubbed as ‘other forms’ of Parvati. In other words, Sanskritization. So for the sake of clarity and accuracy, lets not confuse and mix-up Parvati’s mythology with say Durga, Kali etc.

All right, I’ll dive right into it.

First of all, Parvati for all her popularity scarcely has any independent history or identity of her own. Her history, her mythology and her actions, everything, is in relation to Shiva, as a reaction to his speech or deeds or otherwise. There is no autonomous core story of Parvati; her conception itself (proto legend) is defined in terms of her devotion, courtship and her ultimate marriage to Shiva. Also, it is important to note that the legend of Parvati is closely associated with the legend of Sati; they are both defined by how they woo and marry Shiva, and we all know that Parvati is considered an incarnation of Sati, as Sati’s last wish was to be born to a father who actually respected Shiva, Himavat in this case.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

previous comment contd:

What I’m not sure of, is the timelines. I’m not sure if Sati wishing for a better father was a fact which was added on, to accommodate Parvati’s mythology, or Parvati’s proto legend was a conception solely based on that dying statement from Sati. As far as I know, from the time Parvati was first mentioned in the ancient texts, her core story has always been closely associated with Sati’s. This leads me to believe that Sati’s loyalty and ultimate devotion to Shiva (in the case of her immolating herself because she could not tolerate anybody insulting him) is mirrored in Parvati, which inherently isn’t a bad thing, but it does play into the recurring theme of ‘everything in relation to Shiva’ with Parvati’s identity, which I cannot accept as anything close to being remotely transcendental. And this is why I insist on calling Parvati a spousal goddess; since she is so entwined with Shiva’s fate, indeed she was conceived for the sole purpose of becoming his fiercely devoted wife (and a parent as we go on, embodying the role of the good wife and mother). He has an identity independent of her, but she doesn’t. That to me does not scream autonomous, by any means.

As for her marriage with Shiva itself, I will most definitely admit that it is a good marriage and that Parvati is strong willed. I will not say and have never said that Parvati was weak by any means or that her marriage was flawed. But being a dutiful strong willed wife and a fierce mother does not equal ‘independent’. She stands up for herself in the marriage and does get her own way. But that is far from being a sovereign, independent deity. Standing her ground within her mythological confines? Yes. But by looking at her as a 'singular' deity and as a goddess (removing Shiva from the picture), has her representation from her conception onwards, been autonomous or transcendental? I think not.

Anyway, these are some of my reasons for not accepting Parvati’s representation as being independent. Give me the proto legends of local goddesses any day. :)

Phew, was this a long comment or what. Yikes!

??! said...

I must admit to being a little amused here.

Yes, goddesses in the Indian mythos are presented as being important when linked to the male deities.

But why do you find that surprising?

Knowing that men held all the important roles in Indian society for all these centuries, and were the ones who spread knowledge, had exposure to the letters, and made all the societal decisions - isn't it a no-brainer that the stories would be rewritten?

Besides - myths aren't they? Create a new one, or instead, resurrect and propagate one of the "local, independent" ones.

Don't just rant and fight against the old order - create a new one.

Puranjoy said...

A man who doesn't marry for whatever reason is a figure to look up to.
A woman who doesn't marry usually cuts a sorry figure.

Your stories about the goddesses seem to tie up quite nicely with that.

I have nothing against marriage, just pointing out yet another dichotomy in popular perception.

Vidya said...

Another cliched be-the change you want to make type arguments.. The problem here is that if a bunch of 'us start our own religion/ propagate new myths it would take centuries to gain acceptance. Further this acceptance needs to be within a system and from its authorities to gain wider currency. It is akin to saying that if I find unpalatable issues in my organization or country or state and try to voice them ,is the solution is to start my own organization/whatever instead of correcting them? Starting your own myths and religion serves only to marginalize further. A wiser solution is to examine these myths with our rules our vision of what we think are uinequities and broaden the existing religious framework to allow these voices have their say. Examining them also amounts to offering explanations as to how soicety and social order can influence mythology, popular perceptions and how repeatable patterns can be recognized. When a woman/ group of women quesions issues or examines the mythologies in the religion she was born in, she has every right to do so. Asking her/them to start her own
instead of addressing issues that need highlighting takes away the focus from these very issues.

That Armchair Philosopher said...

Halleaux!

An offshoot of the topic, but in the "Age of Kali", Dalrymple mentions something about kumkum being related to the sexuality of the goddess Meenakshi - the temple in Madurai was what he was talking about and described its various pujas in detail. However, I haven't found references to anything which even remotely points to this.

Inputs?

z said...

I would call it all one big intelectual masturbation.

getting a bit stale though.. nothing insightfull, just plain old stale anti-hindu speak, by one of the liberal pseudos from far away.

Has really no relevance. not even interesting. its a rehash of old angst. maybe megha feels cheated not to have been born as a man.

dont worry there is always next time :)

Z

TheQuark said...

some of the psychoanalytical readings of the text (Sudhir kakkar and a lot others) attribute the form of Kali __figuratively__ with uncontrollable feminine desire. The thirst for blood is synonymous to hwe need to have semen.

Renovatio said...

I have to admit, in all my obsessive reading about ancient cultures and their faiths, I've never read much about hindu gods, perhaps due to the fact that I had a highly religious grandmother who used to try and blow her faith down my neck as a kid. Still, I find male gods dominant across most cultures, with their female counterparts secondary, if not slightly unnecessary.

??! said...

Vidya:
Starting your own myths and religion serves only to marginalize further
Erm...my bad. I did also say resurrect the old stories. The post repeatedly mentions how original, local concepts were subsumed into the greater pan-Hindu mythos.
So - resurrect them.

it would take centuries to gain acceptance
A good idea needs but years.

she has every right to do so
I didn't disagree. I just said I was amused she found it surprising. It's not.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ ??!: Quite a vehement comment, yes?

But why do you find that surprising?

How did you come to this conclusion? Nowhere and I mean nowhere in this post have I mentioned being incredulous, or surprised, as you so put it, or anything close to it. I wonder if you misunderstood my mild distress at the process of sanskritization and the transformation of independent goddesses and construed it as being 'surprised'.

Either way, you stating that me being 'surprised' is an obvious assumption. And well, its wrong.

Besides - myths aren't they? Create a new one, or instead, resurrect and propagate one of the "local, independent" ones.

Don't just rant and fight against the old order - create a new one.


Aren't you being a tad superfluous here? First of all you have based your statements on the wrong assumption that I was 'surprised', and you do realize that your stance is a little unsettling? If we aren't happy with the order we have, we must shut up, run along and create a new one? Leaving aside the feasibility issues of such an undertaking, I cannot for the life of me understand why it is unacceptable to examine (critically or otherwise) the existing order and recognize and question possible flaws or prejudices or inequalities in the current system we belong to.

@ Puranjoy: Nice observation. But that can be applied to real life too, no?

@ Vidya: Thank you! For explaining so clearly and getting what this post was about.

@ TAP: Hullo hullo! Hm. Being tam, I grew up hearing snatches of Meenakshi's proto legend, but a good book source would be Devi: Goddesses of India, by John Hawley, for further reading on this.

@ Z: Whatever.

@ Quark: Oh yes! In some disciplines Kali's subjugation is taken as controlling her sexuality, and by association, female sexuality as a whole. I need to read up on this point of view but I can see how it can be plausible.

@ Ren: True. I have obsessively been reading up on ancient cultures and their belief systems as well, including our own. But thankfully I had a family who never really shoved religion down my throat. I guess their non-interference helped. :)

But seriously, you should extend your obsession to Hindu mythology. It's fascinating, to say the least. But I'm pretty sure you already knew that.

??! said...

Ok, I get it, you weren't surprised. Just unsettled.

why it is unacceptable to examine (critically or otherwise) the existing order
It isn't. Look, read the original comment. I'm not saying we shouldn't critique such things, I'm just arguing about what is more feasible and - in the long run - more productive.

And I didn't only mention 'new', I also mentioned 'resurrect'. Which means restoring into public consciousness just those very local myths that you outlined. So that they veer more towards the original story/incarnation, rather than focus on the current scenario as presented to them.

As for the feasibility of such an undertaking....isn't this entire blog, and the entire movement, against fighting against an entrenched, almost impossibly-powerful status quo? Shouldn't that be the last question to even occur to any supporter of the ideas presented on these pages?

...not that I am suggesting resurrecting religion in the first place.

And vehement? Hardly.

Renovatio said...

I'm already on it.

That Armchair Philosopher said...

@punkster - Aaah, your sudden book comment threw me off for a bit haha.

Heck, I know now why this stupid system didn't email me - I'd forgotten to enable "Comment follow-ups" below - sheesh, you'd think there would be a global option to turn it on!

Hmm, I'll look the book up - is it something which can be read non-academically, because I've often found that the most reliable resources on any subject (especially religion or history) tend to be these really dry works which you couldn't even cite without modifications..

@Z - as much as i appreciate the term "intellectual masturbation", I wasn't quite able to understand what you're referring to. Care to explain? you're just randomly shooting daggers eh?

@thequark - Hmmm. Having never read Sudhir Kakkar, I couldn't comment on the veracity of his conclusions or hypothesis or whatever it is that he put forth.. but I'll check it out!

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ ??!: Recognizing and understanding the feasibility issues of any undertaking for that matter, is an invaluable step in working towards creating a better order and/or improving an existing order, is it not? That's what I was trying to convey in my previous comment anyway, without going into details.

@ Ren: Yay! If you need a starting point, do let me know and I'll point you out to some good sources.

@ TAP: Dry works aren't dry to all of us, you know. I happen to love the very dry religious history type books you sneer at. Hmpf and double hmpf. :P

Aishwarya said...

I would like to state for the record that I enjoy intellectual masturbation.

That Armchair Philosopher said...

@punkster - *ohkay* then. perhaps as a christmas present, you would quite enjoy a copy of "Killing weeds to grow 75 excellent vegetables for your garden" ;P

@aishwarya - I've always thought it better when mutual, honestly.

Anonymous said...

Its simple. She gets a high pouring her angst out. At the end of the day, nothing what she has any proven scientific basis. It bears no relevance.

The only object of posting is to get a high out of posting and acting intellectual.

@Aish - try the real one. Its much better :).

Z

nits said...

hey punk, just got back from vacation and have been a bit out of the loop but wanted to say - hope you are better and whatever it was, boiled over. Glad to know I'm not the only tramp hooting at SRK :)
And congrats on the carnival! Have you been getting good submissions?