Woman, not Goddess

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A friend recently posted an article on Facebook (see link below) about a new public awareness campaign which portrays Hindu goddesses as victims of domestic violence, with the caption “Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to.”

First, Hindu goddesses are not women: they are the female incarnations of the supreme divinity. And goddess worship is part of the problem in a culture that dehumanizes woman either as goddess or the Sati/Savitra or as whores and slaves, as one of the commentators in the article makes clear. Either way, Indian women are not fully human (the tragic implications of the divinization of Indian woman was poignantly portrayed by Satyajit Ray in ‘Devi’).

Second, the goddess is also part of that larger network of mythology, caste ritual and gender discrimination we call Brahmanism. A society and culture which teaches there is no God on earth for a woman but her husband and that the killing of a woman is not a sin (Manusmriti IX. 17 and V. 47, 147), needs to undermine those foundations not refer to them. The goddess is ultimately part of a religious culture rooted in patriarchy. And if gods beat their wives or other goddesses, who are mere mortals to resist?

Third, why have the advertisers recast an Indian (as well as human) problem in terms of Hindu religious imagery, in “secular” India? Isn’t domestic violence a problem for Indian women of all communities, beliefs and backgrounds? And are India’s “most enduring images of feminine authority” (as the author Lakshmi Chaudhry puts it) solely mythological entities or does not India have its women from all walks of life and in all fields of endeavour who are survivors, fighters and inspirations?

Written by Randeep Singh

To read Lakshmi Chaudhry’s article “Durga Ma as battered wife: a giant step backward for womankind,” go to: http://www.firstpost.com/living/durga-ma-as-battered-wife-a-giant-step-backward-for-womankind-1094781.html

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