The Feminine is undressing

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The feminine is undressing now. She is stripping off her too tight attire. Too long she has worn ill fitting and borrowed clothes, that did not allow her to move and dance freely, or accomodate her wildness. She’s emptying her wardrobe.

She’s reclaiming her inner stylist and designer. No matter how vulnerable she feels now she is choosing to stand naked till she styles her own new clothes. She is deciding on the fabric, the feel, the colour, and all the things that go into creating regalia that does her justice. She’s ensuring it feels juicy for her body & soul. She is dreaming up her original trousseau.

But first she is choosing to wear her skin more comfortably.

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4 thoughts on “The Feminine is undressing

  1. Pingback: Reblogged: The Feminine is undressing | Kristin Cecilia's sewing space

  2. The Goddess Collective and its Brother – By Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik ….. sharing it with all

    Published on 4th October, 2013, in The Speaking Tree

    On the banks of the rivers in Maharashtra, occasionally next to a pond, one often finds a set of very similar looking rocks, usually seven, with one very distinct rock next to it, smeared with turmeric and vermillion. No one bothers much about these eight until a woman in the neighbourhood suffers either hysterical fits or miscarriages or a child has fever. Then the village remembers Sati Asara, or the seven sisters, and Mhasoba who accompanies them. It is said that when a king tried to divert the river, the goddesses were so angry that they washed the king’s camp away. Offerings are made to these angry potent goddesses to save the woman and her child.

    Sati Asara is perhaps a corruption of sati and apsara, a strange phrase since sati means one who is chaste and faithful to a single husband, and apsara is identified as a divine damsel, courtesan of the gods, who is faithful to no one in particular.

    This strange name goes well in line with the story of these seven sisters. Wives of the seven sages, they were accused of infidelity when they unwittingly became pregnant. Reasons vary: it happened while they were enjoying the heat of fire (Mahabharata version) or the wetness of water where Shiva meditated (Shiva Purana version). Enraged, they transformed into fiery goddesses who take their revenge on women who fail to show them due respect.

    In some versions, they miscarry the child in their wombs but it survives and transforms into the warlord Aiyanar popular in folk traditions of the south. He promises to be the guardian of his mothers. This warlord is identified as Kartikeya also, after Kartika nakshatra or Pleiades constellation, who these sisters are identified with. Pleiades has only six stars; they say the seventh ran away or disappeared or remained chaste despite her tryst with fire and water. In Greek mythology, they were seven sisters ran to avoid the lustful embrace of Orion. In the Persian language, the Pleiades are referred to as Parveen.

    Shrines of the six or seven sisters are found across India from the Himalayas to the Gangetic plains to the forests of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In other parts, they are called friends (saat saheliyan) or sisters (saat behene), or virgins (saat kanyayen) or mothers (sapta matrika). In Tantra, there is a trend of visualizing the Goddess not as an individual but as a collective and so we have concepts such as 10 mahavidyas or 64 yoginis. These women are wild and unattached and powerful and demand acknowledgment and respect.

    In one story, this goddess collective is made up of the female forms of the gods who joined Durga in her march against demons. They drank the blood of the demons before it touched the ground thus preventing them from sprouting again. In still another story, they sprouted out from the nostrils of Sati when her father, Daskha, insulted her husband, Shiva. In still another story, when Shiva beheaded Vinayaka, Parvati sprouted these multiple goddesses in rage forcing Shiva to appease her by resurrecting her child.

    The male accompanying the sisters is variously identified as son (Aiyanar, Vinayaka), husband (Bhairava) or brother or servant. He is sometimes called the charioteer or the doorman or the security guard. In Maharashtra he is also identified with Mhasoba, or the buffalo-god, who incidentally is the reformed buffalo-demon, Mahishasura, killed by Durga in some versions and tamed in others. The story goes that when she slit his throat she found a Shiva-linga there and realized he had some good qualities too. This transformation of an enemy and abuser into devotee or brother or servant is part of Goddess lore. We find this in Vaishno-devi where Bhairo, who attacks the Goddess, then is forgiven, enlightened and eventually granted a shrine of his own at the foothills of the Goddess. In South Indian, he is identified as Pota-Raja (Tamil) or Pota Raju (Telugu) which means the buffalo-king, who is a form of both Bhairava as well as a reformed Mahisasura. Perhaps he embodies her compassion and is a representation of her power.

    The Sati Asara is sometimes associated with black magic, though the offering for this, which includes alcohol, drugs and meat is given to the demon-brother. But some say, the goddesses defy social conventions and so drink all that mainstream orthodox community shuns: blood, alcohol and meat, making them what we today call Tantrik goddesses. This side of the Goddess is increasingly denied or ignored as society gives a higher status to vegetarian practices.

    In North India, on the ninth day of the Navaratri festivities, nine little girls are invited to eat in the house, and they have to be accompanied by a little boy, all less than ten years of age. This is common during the spring Navaratri but occasionally practiced even in the autumn Navaratri. The boy is referred to as ‘Bhairo’ indicating some correlation with the set of sacred rocks on the riverbank.

  3. The Divine Marriage by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik

    Published on 17th March, 2014 in The Speaking Tree

    The tension is obvious. On one side are the celibate Naths who chant, “Alakh Niranjan!” referring to the formless divine that they sometimes choose to see as the very masculine Shiva. On the other side are the Yoginis, representing every phase of womanhood and different forms of nature.
    The Naths refer to divinity that has no form and remains uncontaminated by all things worldly: this divinity is often named Shiva. The Naths are siddhas, which means they have siddha, esoteric knowledge, springing from their ascetic practices, that harnesses their celibacy. These are the kanphata yogis so called because as part of initiation into their order their ears or karna are pierced right through the central cartilage, not the fleshy lobule below that is conventionally pierced for earrings. They smear ash, wear strings of rudraksha beads, wander through the country side, singing songs and telling stories that speak of maya (delusion), bhakti (devotion) and shakti (power). They trace their origins to Adi-nath, the first teacher, who acquired wisdom by observing the elements and the behaviour of rivers, mountains, plants, animals, birds, bees and humans, and to Matsyendra-nath, who was born a fish but transformed into a great sage after hearing the secret conversations of Shiva and his consort, and to Gorakh-nath, who was born not through a woman’s womb but when sacred ash was cast in a pit of dung.
    On the other side are the sixty-four Yoginis, representing every phase of womanhood and different aspects of nature, enshrined in temples that are circular in shape, with no preference for any particular direction. They are associated with raw power and untamed sexuality, causing illnesses and affecting fertility and fortune unless acknowledged and worshipped. They accompany the Goddess in her battles and drink the blood of her male opponents before it hits the earth and has a chance to regenerate. The nath-yogis speak with dread of Kadali, the land of women, in the middle of the banana grove. The queen of Kadali, Kamala, once laughed when she saw the genitals of a gandharva as he was flying across the sky. Embarrassed, the gandharva cursed Kamala that no man would ever be able to enter her land, thus leaving her eternally frustrated and yearning for romantic and sexual companionship. When Matsyendra-nath finally does enter, taking recourse of his magical powers, he finds himself entrapped by Kamala’s sensual charms, forgetting everything and submitting himself to a life of pleasure. To save him, Gorakh-nath disguises himself as a singer, penetrates the kingdom of women, uses songs to remind Matsyendra-nath of the bliss and power that comes from staying away from the householder’s life.
    This tension between ascetic men and sensual women continues in the story of Puranmal, a prince whose hands and feet were cut by his father, the king, when he was falsely implicated of having sexual relationship with his father’s youngest queen. He is discovered abandoned in a well by Gorakh-nath who sprinkles ashes on his mutilated body, restores his limbs and asks him to go to his father and reveal the truth. Puranmal refuses and instead becomes a follower of the nath-order taking the name Chaurangi-nath, the one whose four limbs was lost because of sexual desires and regained through ascetic practices.
    Then there is the story of Gopichand, a handsome prince, who must turn away from the world of sensual pleasures and becomes a student of Jalandar-nath if he wishes to avoid death in early youth. And the story of the eternal boy sage Balak-nath of the hills, who rides a peacock and shuns all female company. And the story of Bhartrihari-nath who discovers his beloved wife is actually in love with the groom of the royal horse stables, who in turn is in love with a sweeper girl. Disillusioned, he becomes an ascetic and champions against all things sensual. Mostly famously, we find the story of Ranjha who unable to marry his beloved, Heer, takes refuge in Tilla Jogian, the hill of ascetics, and becomes a kanphata yogi.
    Even the story of the great Vedanta teacher, Shankara, has these elements when he was challenged about his knowledge of the erotic arts by Ubhaya Bharati, wife of Mandana Mishra. Since he is a celibate ascetic, Shankara knows nothing so he resurrects a dead king, Amaru, by entering his body at the moment of his death and then going on to experience sensory pleasures in the inner quarters of the palace with queens and courtesans for several months. Unlike Mastyendra-nath, however, Shankara does not succumb to the pleasures of the flesh and eventually leaves the king’s body and returns to being an ascetic, thus establishing the superiority of his mind over his flesh.
    In these medieval legends, asceticism seems a refuge from delusion, ignorance, heartbreak, from sorrow, from worldly frustration and human helplessness. The way of the hermit holds the promise of power over all suffering. This notion is as old as the Buddha who abandoned his wife, his infant son and his kingdom to figure out the cause of old age, death, disease and worldly misery. Or perhaps older when in the Veda we find tales of Shiva beheading Brahma for chasing Ushas, the first woman he created.
    And yet, the Puranas and the Agamas seek reconciliation. God and Goddess must marry. Shiva must open his eyes, emerge from his cave, descent the icy slopes of Mount Kailasa take up the role of the householder Shankara in Kashi on the banks of the river Ganga. Kali, wild and sovereign, must tie her hair, clothe herself and transform into Gauri, the demure housewife. The irony is inescapable: he who has outgrown hunger must accept as the kitchen-goddess Annapurna as his spouse. Together they must produce children who will protect and provide for humanity, grant them validation.
    But this marriage is precarious and the divine household full of conflict. Shiva and Shakti quarrel constantly, one son feels ignored and leaves home, while another son evokes jealously and violent rage.
    One wonders if are they talking about men and women, or something else. And as in all things Indian, the answer is both.
    At an apparent level, they are talking about men and women, and there seems to be glory in a man being celibate, and a woman being faithful to a single man. Underlying this is male anxiety before the sexuality of women. Unlike in most animals, human sexuality is not restricted by reproductive cycles such as mating seasons and periods of heat. Sex for both men and women is not just about procreation; it is also about pleasure. Men may be physically bigger and stronger but their sexual peaks are intense, brief and very visible unlike the diffuse, prolonged and almost invisible sexual responses of women. A man can never be sure if he has satisfied a woman, a man can never be sure if it is his child that the woman carries; this contributes to his insecurity, making him more territorial, dominating and possessive. A wife embodies the anchoring of the wild man and a husband embodies the restraint of the free woman to household responsibilities. Tension then is inevitable.
    At a symbolic level, these tales speak of the relationship between self (symbolized by the male characters) and the other (symbolized by female characters). The self can be consumed by fear, as in case of Brahma and his sons, including the devas and the asuras, the rakshasas and the yakshas. The self can outgrow fear as in case of Shiva (who remains indifferent to the other, impatient of their shortcomings) and Vishnu (who empathizes with the other, indulgent of their shortcomings). The female figures embodies both things and thoughts that is outside the self. Tension stems from the self’s refusal to acknowledge the autonomy yet interdependence of thoughts and things. This refusal stems from fear and leads to ignorance, the desire to control things, which unleashes a spiral of tension that blocks the path to true happiness.

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