Embracing…
… my experiences in India

Navarathri

Being newly exposed to South India and Hinduism, my understanding of the icons, festivals and rituals is slowly developing. Visiting the Mylapore Trio last week during the Golu-doll-Goddess-worshipping festival of Navarathri helped my understanding deepen a little.

mylapore-trio.jpg

Navarathri is a 9 day festival that worships three Goddesses (Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi) for three days each. Similar to Christmas decorations in UK, Navarathri decorations are pulled down from the loft on an annual basis, but instead of Christmas trees, people in Tamil Nadu create spectacular stairway presentations depicting various elaborate scenes of Goddesses and womens contributions to society.

golu.jpg

At first glance, I thought that this was Hindu’s ancient answer to feminism, however, all was not what it seemed…

… Amarnath kindly showed me round the Maylapore Trio’s exorbitantly decorated home, during which he pointed out that these Golu dolls were displaying what it means to be a woman. He used adjectives such as docile, humble, domesticated and shy.

I felt my resistance going straight up at this point and this is why.

I struggle a lot with societal expectations about how a woman should behave and because these expectations are so pervasive, I end up adhering to them which causes me great pain and conflict.

For example, by using these adjectives, it is implied that it is not acceptable for a woman to be angry, pissed off or assertive. Whenever I have denied my anger, I have ended up suffering, internalising it and feeling depressed. Maybe that’s why women become ‘docile’ or deadened.

For me, anger is an energy for change which needs to be expressed appropriately to the right person/people at the right time. If I do not do this, my anger becomes a harmful toxin within me.

So I do not agree with the Mylapore Trio’s depiction of what it means to be a woman, but I do salute the recognition and celebration of women.

The hot topic is, how can these traditions and rituals be passed onto the next generation when competing with the lure of materialism and consumerism?

If I consider trends in England, there has been a tremendous deterioration in numbers of church goers (see UK is Losing its Religion). And although I admire the Mylapore Trio’s efforts in keeping their culture alive, I think they’ve got an uphill struggle on their hands.

Spirituality comes from within. I say allow these young people to experience the world of computer games, mobile phones and fast food. Given time, I think they will return to what is true to them, whether that be Hinduism, Buddhism or naturism 🙂 give them the freedom to decide for themselves.

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10 Responses to “Navarathri”

  1. Navratri is a big deal in Mumbai as well. Since most of the things are now commercialized in Mumbai, you might find the article about unemployed Mumbai Bargirls playing a big role in Navratri celebrations interesting.

  2. Stottpot,
    It is not easy to summaries thousands of years of culture in a capsule. So when someone says something, it is better to see it as one small piece in a big jigsaw. Collect as many pieces from any source and use them to collect your own pieces/make your own deductions. When you have enough pieces, you will see the unity in diversity of apparently different cultures.

    Navaratri is a great occasion to make new (girl/women)friends. The window is open all year especially during festivals. But Navaratri being 9 days long and with visits mandatory, is an easier option for friending.

    The youngsters are getting better at distinguishing the difference between culture, religion, spirituality and their inevitable mix up and the power play. For a keen observer, Navaratri is reinvention of traditional culture getting in tune with the times.

  3. Hi Stottpot,
    I feel annoyed that you seem to be just mindlessly repeating an American created whinging mantra – where silly twisted women have used men’s gallantry and masculinity to shame and denigrate men in order to avoid facing their own inadequacies and neurosis.
    I would feel you would have a more balanced approach if you recognised and truly embraced that men are bound by circumstances and rules and expectations – not least from women.
    This I feel puts a more wholoesome context onto what is otherwise a mindless, divisive, abusive and, ultimately in my view, evil scourge (feminism) and which is abusing our children and destroying relationships and which is blocking you from having a true experience of and an ability to embrace another culture and even masculinity.
    The purpose of men and women(in my opinion) is the creation of the next generation and it is to our children we must direct our energies – not to some facile sense of hysterical wrong being done to women by men. We all have to struggle and life is suffering, we are told.
    Men have to deal with anger – and to look deep within for painful insight – not just women.
    Women want to be “special” – they are not (in my opinion)- they are the same as the rest of us – and they just have to get on with living in a respectful way – as do the rest of us – in love and compassion.

    In truly honouring the femine (not some distorted American mantra) we can complement the masculine and feminine and provide our children with a grounded sense of “self” and ability to embrace their depth and connection with the earth and spirituality as well as enjoying seductive distractions by keeping them in context and enjoying them for what they are.

    The more we divide masculine and feminine and seek to promote the narrow twisted interests of one group who consider themselves “special” (women) above the interests of our children, the more we risk all our childrens’ futures – which, for me, is by far the most important issue we need to face.

  4. Tony,

    What is the ‘American created whinging mantra’ you are referring to?
    My intention was not to shame or denigrate men in this blog post and I don’t think I did. Please outline how you think I did this.

    My intention was to give my experience of Navarathri and evidence how I understood it in the context of my mental health. I do not deny that men are bound by circumstances, rules and expectations. However, as a female talking about a feminine festival, I was focussing on women.

    You think that I am being blocked in embracing another culture, but that was the point of my post. We all constantly bring our own lenses to everything we see/hear/feel, and I was using my cultural lens to see the festival. I was bringing me to the experience.

    I am curious to know how you feel about the depiction of women being docile, humble, domestic, shy?

    You have made an assumption that I want to be special, you are wrong. I want to be free to become who I am in full awareness of societal forces that try to shape me (and everyone else – mena dn women) in certain ways. Some of these forces fit me, some don’t. I encourage us all to look at these forces, both men and women, and make choices about their impact, usefulness and worth.

  5. Feminism is, like Marxism, frequently associated with particular groups with particular agendas. What one thinks of these groups can often colour one’s opinion of the original “-ism”.

    However feminism – like Marxism – is first of all a critique of power in society. This critique allows one to understand different social phenomena, good and bad, and to formulate a response to these phenomena. Of course, one can disagree with the critique, but more often people’s gripe is with the response formulation.

    SO. It seems to me that feminism is, without question, accurate in its contention that power (political, economic, personal, physical,… ) has been divided down gender lines. (Also down lines of sexuality to extend the analysis). The name which we give to this power arrangement is patriarchy. The notion of patriarchy is extremely complex but certainly, over the ages, most overt political and economic power has been held by men. Women have had some dominion in domestic and related matters but that, typically, has been the limit. Individual women may have held power of different kinds (compare, for instance, the lines of power delineated by Marxism) but that has not been the general trend.

    So that is the critique. As I say I think it is is indisputable but, Tony, feel free to dispute, if you wish! So what phenomena does this induce? Stottpot has outlined such a phenomenon, in her description of Navarastri’s portrayal of the ideal woman. Docile and demure, a woman should respect the lines of power laid down in patriarchy. Let the men use their power, the woman should merely look pretty on the sidelines.

    There is of course an argument that this is the “natural role” for a woman to play – this is her feminine side. Opponents of feminism might argue that this is the starting point for an analysis of gender roles. In which case the patriarchal divide of power is a natural consequence. Although this position is logically consistent I, like Stottpot I suspect, would reject that notion. For starters, it does not appear to coincide with women’s reality. Women are consistently rejecting this role and saying it is not for them. Such rejections make me think that this “ideal woman” really is just an idea brought about by the power relations of patriarchy.

    Observe that women’s rejection of this ideal certainly leads one to conclude that this ideal is a negative one. It is a negative consequence of patriarchy. It is NOT, however, a reason to conclude that men are bad. It is not a disguised attempt to label women as special, as Tony has suggested. It is merely a description of women’s experience under patriarchy. One can also take time to describe men’s experience under patriarchy. One will find a lot of negative experience there too.

    So, then, how to respond. There are many and multifarious ways. Stottpot has responded in her own way, by naming the phenomenon and her reaction. In this case, perhaps that is enough. Other people will come up with other ideas with which we may or may not agree. But disagreeing with these ideas doesn’t invalidate the feminist critique….

    That’s all on feminism. One final thing…. The use of “American” as a perjorative seems to me to be a bit daft. There is a great deal about American mainstream culture with which I disagree, but none of this constitutes being American – this is an attribute of particular human beings. I have no desire to denigrate Americans as a group – I don’t wish to denigrate any group as such. Instead I want to engage with the substance of ideas and actions, I find this much more constructive.

    ciao, nick

  6. Hi Nick,

    Welcome!

    Well – I reject the purjoritive context of patriarchy – its done you well and good, has it not? Its done the world well and good – has it not? And don’t give me that “wars” and all that bulls**t.

    Men and patriarchy have changed the world, have challenged themselves and the known world in a way that women haven’t and this has moved us forward – and you benefit.

    It is men’s abition, drive and creativity that has done this. NOT women. I, for one, am proud of my masculine heritage. Come on brothers – lets stand tall and face these haridens with our masculine strength and resolve.

    AND – if this is not the case then what does it say about the failings of women in previous generations – who were so inadequate that they couldn’t make a way for themselves. NO! There were those that did and this proves the lie to gender oppression – if one can then all can. OR are they failings? OR is their behaviour in response to something that is actually more grounded than this fashionable (mindless?) mantra?

    Feminist Critique? What is that? Is that your expression to describe womens’ whinging? Are you seeking to give credence and status to something that is basically whinging? The Fenminine complains – the masculine gets on with it.

    Patriarchy? What is wrong with acknowledging our natural state? What objections -except perhaps to deny yourself – can you have to deny the masculine assertiveness and the feminine submission –
    What are you afaid of in the masculine? We have lived too long under the oppression of women and the idolatory of the “feminine”. Feminine has a part – and only a part. The “whole” is masculine and feminine.

    “American” as a purjoritive? Well ……. in this case “yes”. I have observed various causes and fashions that emanate from America and they come and go. I also observe a “black and white” culture where one is either “for” or “against”, huge imperial power and the ability to indoctrinate and pervert natural justice and a sense of “truth” that spreads its feminist evil through fear and shame – coercing men into aquiesence through shame. It seems Stottpots concerns come from a dissonance with the mantra put out by American women that a woman must conform to their views of femininity and perhaps something that is within – as a woman. Another aspect of this American approach (augemented by a feminine trait) is that it cannot tolerate dissent or criticism – or even, it seems to me – discussion. it cannot tolerate anything except obedience and all dissent must be obliterated. In this case purjoritive – yes – and I’m proud to stand by my convictions and not follow mindless mantras.

    You say “Women are consistently rejecting this role and saying it is not for them…” How about women are being given a relentless diet of angst and dissatisfaction and alienation from their true beings? How would that sit with you? AND – what’s wrong with not being aspirational – being “feminine” as described by Stottpot? The Indian culture has thrived for many many more generations that this current (American) interpretation of the world – and is likely to thrive long after this aberation is collapsed. What do you say to that?

    It seems to me that there are gender differences and claiming oppression is non to subtle way of “rallying people to the cause” and a necessary ingredient is obviously an “oppressor” – and how seductive (the synch with the feminine aside) to have someone to blame for all the (hysterical) sense of injustice – and “shamed” men are such an easy target – and was it not ever thus? Women blame men for just about everything – why not their own inadequacies in not being men?

    Comments welcome!

  7. There is going to be a very very noisy festival On Nov 8 Deepavali. It is more or less equivalent to Christmas of the west in terms of consumer spending etc. That is on the new moon day. Diwali is celebrated as festival of lights in North India.

    There will be one more festival that will follow, Karthikai Deepam – festival of lights as celebrated in South India. It will be on the Full Moon day. People decorate their home with oil lamps and candles( mostly oil lamps, and many of them brass heirlooms passed from generation to generation).

    Couple of months that follow will transition from festivity to austerity. There will be a lot of activities and festivities tuned to the spiritual and purification. Many will undertake pilgrimages and spiritual group tours.

    Peak of the austerity season will be marked by the Chennai Classical Music season. That is when, south Indian classical music practitioners from everywhere come to chennai.

    The austerity season ends on with Bogi celebration where old things are purged and burnt and discarded. Both physically and symbolically. Followed by the harvest festival of Pongal at Mid January.

    That is the gist of festivals and festivities ahead.

  8. “docile, humble, domesticated and shy “. When did you last visit this place, Cause i don’t find girls around like that at least in major cities. If u talking about girls not being saucy and perky then i accept it may infuriate u ..” woman to be angry, pissed off or assertive ” Women are assertive elsewhere around the globe with responsibility. You need to undergo anger management therapy or meditate.. I don’t want to get pissed off in my life.. but shit sometimes happens its unavoidable..

  9. я так считаю: шикарно…

  10. hi can you please help me with this image of golu. a high res.
    my contact no is 02266664468
    and let me know the rates or the same.


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