There are both gods and goddesses in Hindu mythology and interestingly, God, is venerated as both male and female. And Navratri is this unbroken observance of goddess worship – the divine feminine – who has the strongest presence as the devi, where the goddess is viewed as central in existence. Such feminism and divinity together seems a paradox: does femininity need be associated with divinity at all or is it a token symbolism, absolving itself from patriarchy and discrimination. Both the question and the answer lies in the assumption that the trope of divinity is being employed as a way of arbitrating with patriarchy. It does not: gender equality is more ambiguous and equivocal in our mythology.

Who is Ram without Sita? If Radha is incomplete without her Krishna, so is Krishna without his Radha. Or in mortal terms, what would the Pandavas be without Draupadi?

The very concept of men and women being equal is placed in the belief of the Shiva-Shakti: the masculine and feminine energies within us all. These two energies are equal and opposite forces, yet one cannot exist without the other. What is Shiva without Parvati? Who is Ram without Sita? If Radha is incomplete without her Krishna, so is Krishna without his Radha. Or in mortal terms, what would the Pandavas be without Draupadi? That is the egalitarian concept of feminism discovered and celebrated through Navratri, the nine days for the nine moods, the nine emotions, the nine shades of the women, ranging from the mild to the wild, from compassion to retribution, from love to war, from defence to defiance – but all raw and expressive. The mild mannered Lakshmi, the quick witted Saraswati, the bloodthirsty, avenging Kali are all the recognition of the various roop of a woman. Here, the goddesses are not a symbolic resource but the very personality – and more importantly, the potentiality – in every woman.

Does femininity need be associated with divinity at all or is it a token symbolism, absolving itself from patriarchy and discrimination. Both the question and the answer lies in the assumption that the trope of divinity is being employed as a way of arbitrating with patriarchy

Feminist Durga Ma India Navratri Goddesses
Feminist Durga Ma India Navratri Goddesses

We often see and limit feminism to rebellion, largely based on its Western definition. But it is the subtler shades of unity and sisterhood that is seen in the mythology through it’s underlying and distinct subtextual premise of divinity which points to the difference between the spirit and the body, the soul and the flesh. The body and flesh have a gender, never the soul which is said to be divine.

We often see and limit feminism to rebellion, largely based on its Western definition. But it is the subtler shades of unity and sisterhood that is seen in the mythology

The interpretation of mythology largely remains influenced by the interpreter’s bias and beliefs. A gentle ( an attribute seen as characteristically non-feminist) Lakshmi is seen as Sita as well as Radha – two contrasting, even competing embodiments of womanhood. One is the wife, the queen, the other the paramour, the very metaphor the divine and human relationship. Durga is the Adi Shakti, taking form from the combined energies of the male gods, stridently aggressive, striding on the lion of misogyny patriarchy, defiant and invincible in a bloody albeit allegorical battle going beyond subversive gender roles and subaltern narratives like caste, class and the anti-hero. She is the warrior goddess, combating evil – the shape-shifting Asura – King Mahishasura – who symbolically represents the dark forces of ignorance and chaos cloaked by outer appearances. She displays the fierceness of the protective Mother Goddess willing to unleash her violence and wrath against wrong (personified in the form of Kali) to empower life and creation through destruction .The fight is of the good over evil, justice over the injustice of tyranny, bias and exploitation: all forms of inequities faced by women in society.

Goddess of All Things

Power and all the other emotions and experiences of the woman are acknowledged and recognised. It is not the reverence and worship but their recognition and their celebration

Within the great symbolic value and veneration of the female and the feminine, there lies the element of power, choice and freedom every woman is entitled to have: Be it Parvati when she creates a child from her own, without the man; Saraswati who prefers to remain childless in her higher goal for knowledge and learning. Or Rati, with her enormous female sexual power, or Ganga with her power of plenty to nurture; in Radha , the symbol of freedom and power to love or Sati wielding her power of choice to choose her man to love and marry and to die for pride and dignity. Power and all the other emotions and experiences of the woman are acknowledged and recognised. It is not the reverence and worship but their recognition and their celebration. Each representative role is that every woman in society and within the veneration lies the power to invoke the same in us. How we assimilate this feminist invocation is also upon us. The Shakti is seen to be incorporated in each of the goddesses. As is in every woman of this world.

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