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On Feminism and Kali Maa: Why You Should Consider Taking the Middle Ground

Discourse in the postmodern era can't exist without bringing Feminism into the equation. Since women and their rights are popular subjects, we must filter all meta-narratives through a lens of gender equality. One of those is Hinduism. While the above parallel is famous, it is far more convoluted than it sounds.


Feminism. What about it?

Despite being a perpetually hot topic, one cannot help but admit that they cannot give a concise definition of Feminism. After all, one can't box the movement into a phrase. It may have been divided into phases for chronological ease, but the dispute on the ‘waves’ still sustains. From voting rights to #MeToo, ladies have been coming a long way. The prevalent tide seems to be that of intersectional feminism, coined by an American professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw.

From voting rights to #MeToo, ladies have been coming a long way. The prevalent tide seems to be that of intersectional feminism, coined by an American professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw.
IMAGE BY LINDSEY LAMON FOR UNSPLASH

Meanwhile, in India, ‘Towards Equality’ Report (1974) by the Commission on the Status of Women told just how society had failed women. Dowry deaths, bride burning and domestic violence. The new generation of women in post-colonial India faced both subtle and overt discrimination. Progressive Organisation of Women, Mahila Dakshita Samiti, Dahej Virodhi Chetna Mandal took up the cause for women. It is, therefore, well-established that the movement for Women’s Rights transcends borders, and time.


Women in Sanatana Dharma

India would certainly be better off had the atrocities against women been fewer. However, ignoring the position of women in Hinduism is intellectual dishonesty. The female is a celebrated figure. Women are well-respected and put on a higher pedestal. Numerous women composed shlokas in the Vedas- Indrani, Yami, Lopamudra, Brahmjaya, and Urvashi, to name a few. While Gargi and Maitreyi were two renowned Brahmavadinis (women having knowledge of Brahma Vidya- the Science of God or Brahman), it doesn’t end here. The concept of Divine Feminine has been ingrained in the pantheon since the beginning. Hindus worship the Divine Feminine in various forms. Some of which are- Tridevi (the triad of Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Parvati), Navadurga (nine forms of Maa Durga), and Prakriti (mother nature).

The seventh day of Navratri is symbolic of Goddess Kaalarathri. Kali Maa with her tongue lolling, naked, slender, adorned with a garland of severed heads, a khadga (sabre) in her hand, is the form of death, fury, and destruction, is seen laying her foot on her husband, Shiva. Countless times, Kali Maa associates with a woman being ‘unapologetic’ and indifferent to how she is perceived by society. Feminist authors and journalists have called her an-‘uncomfortable, feral image of force, bursting sheer power.’ Through the feminist lens, Kali is an icon of a bold woman that the world fears.

Hindu Goddess Kali is a revolutionary symbol of feminism.
IMAGE BY SONIKA AGARWAL FOR UNSPLASH

While it’s good to have people appreciate your culture, this might be a slippery slope. The interpretation of Kali Maa through her iconography should be done with utmost care. For in Tantra-Agama traditions, “an incomplete depiction of a deity is no deity at all.”

Appropriation? Appropriation.

It is fairly obvious that the Feminist movement originated in the West, and that all narrative-builders for the movement belong to the West too. Western countries have roots in Abrahamic religions, all of which are essentially based on a dichotomy of Good v/s Evil. Contrarily, Eastern Religions are relatively unorganised and operate differently. The above is why Kali is one of the most misunderstood Goddesses of all time.


One must acknowledge that even the Puranic version of Kali differs from her representation in Shakta and Tantra. Kali is not someone one should analyse and interpret so carelessly, for it shall lead to a serious error in judgement. For a Hindu who subscribes to Shakta, Kali is the embodiment of the entire Brahmana(universe) itself. It is abundantly clear that Brahman transcends all mortal constructs, is beyond description, and cannot be conceived through the human sense.


Therefore, drawing conclusions merely from Maa’s pictorial representation is blatant reductionism. There’s so much more to her. Kali Maa’s naked form is such because one can't understand her through human morality, culture, and societal norms. One must meditate upon her. One must practice Shaktism under a guru, for it is a spiritual journey that is meant to be supervised, otherwise, it can be catastrophic, to say the very least. Even hymns are highly cryptic and are not open to a literal interpretation.

One must be extremely sensitive before they use any religious figures, icons, or references. Even if intended in a harmless and respectful way, it can surely garner negative reactions. This is likely since Yoga has met the same fate. One might be indulging in Culture Appropriation and not even be aware of it.


AUTHOR

Pratha Editorial Team

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