And Then There Was Sita by Vibha Shetiya

VibaWe have been hearing a lot about Kali and Durga lately, manifestations of the great goddess (“Kali Ma,” by Jassy Watson, July 3; “What Would Durga Do?” by Barbara Ardinger, August 2). Nancy Vedder-Shults’ three-part series on Kali (August-October, 2014) too helped shed light on an often misunderstood deity. Both Kali and Durga personify the power or shakti within women, a force that can be empowering and terrifying at once. Kali represents uncontrolled female energy, whereas Durga is portrayed as one in control of her abundant power. These images, especially the one of Kali are double-edged; they can prove problematic for women insofar as – from the male perspective – they confirm the fact that women possess an alarming energy, especially a sexual one, which in turn justifies the need for men to subdue them.

Sita's abduction by Ravana. Artist: Raja Ravi Verma
Sita’s abduction by Ravana. Artist: Raja Ravi Verma

Within this context, I would like to talk about Sita, who, one could argue, is the antithesis of the two. Sita is the gentle wife of Lord Rama, hero of the Ramayana, a two-thousand year old Sanskrit epic. In the Ramayana, Rama, the crown-prince of Ayodhya, is exiled to the forest for fourteen years. His loyal and faithful wife, the princess and goddess Sita, insists on accompanying him to the wilderness. There, the demon king, Ravana kidnaps her leading to a battle between Rama and Ravana. Almost a year and thousands of casualties later, Rama succeeds in slaying Ravana and reclaiming Sita.

But alas, Rama rejects his wife in the presence of the hundreds of onlookers, eagerly awaiting the reunion of the couple, on the grounds that her chastity was suspect; after all, says Rama, surely Ravana couldn’t have resisted her ravishing beauty? If she is to be worthy of Rama, Sita has to undergo a trial by fire to prove that she had indeed remained chaste throughout her captivity. Although she passes with flying colors, Rama eventually gives in to gossip and banishes her to the wilderness a few years later – while she is pregnant with his twins – where she is left to die (she, however, does not). Continue reading “And Then There Was Sita by Vibha Shetiya”

Through Body and Space: A Glimpse into Women Worshippers of Aadhi Parashakthi by Amy Levin

Once what happened was after people started believing someone around also started believing in this temple and one person kept a statue on their steps. Her Aunty she believed and she is very much interested in small things. So she started decorating it up. And what happened was the statue starting getting bleeding, like monthly monthly. And the dress which the statue wore during those periods was stained with red bleeding. So they asked Guruji about what is this and he said that the shakti has come into the statue. So if you keep this in the home it will turn into a temple so go and leave it outside. This was followed by entry of snakes, king cobras, so what they did was they went and left it in the sea, after which her grandmother had a dream that you have left me in the water but still I am with you. I am the temple opposite here,  put a lamp everyday at that place. So they started putting it out there, and now there is an earthen Kali which as come up in that place by nature.  –Interview with Premila, March 18, 2008 Continue reading “Through Body and Space: A Glimpse into Women Worshippers of Aadhi Parashakthi by Amy Levin”


Aaadee shaktee, namo, namo: I bow to the primal power (which is female and divine).

My Kundalini yoga teacher training required that each student complete a 30 minute daily meditation for forty days straight at some point during our course.  Great!  No problem.  After all, I signed up for teacher training partially because I believed in the physical-spiritual-mental healing powers of meditation.  I chose the Adi Shakti meditation specifically, so I might better understand and embrace myself as a woman and creative being.  My own self-definition of womanhood had been very wounded in my past, so I aimed to embrace this fantastic opportunity.

Aadee shaktee, namo namo—I will bow to the primal female power that I have within me!  I was excited!  I was even eager to do this meditation; but somewhere along the way I discovered that I had underestimated how painful this process would be.  I underestimated my scars and I ultimately found this meditative experience somewhat excruciating.

Aadee Shaktee, namo, namo: I am humbled by her power.

Sarab shaktee, namo, namo: I bow to the all Encompassing Power and Energy.

My initial meditations were fun, exciting and led me to contemplate my sister’s pregnancy.  I enjoyed the mantra and the physical movements the meditation involved.  Very quickly, however, the movement itself became increasingly uncomfortable.  I was sore.  I joked in my journal, “no wonder the mantra engages female creative power; it really targets the abdomen and hips.”  I expected this, as many meditative postures are not exactly “comfortable.”  My response was normal. Continue reading “ADI SHAKTI! : A MEDITATION ON A MANTRA BY Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D.”

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