While most of India worship Goddess Lakshmi during Diwali, communities from the North East worship her divine contrast, Goddess Kali. If you consider Goddess Lakshmi as the opulent full moon, Goddess Kali is the regenerative new moon. We attended the vibrant Bengali … Continue reading
Navratri celebrates sacred feminine energy, shakti, over nine divine nights. As it was baby’s first Navratri, I wanted to make it special. On the first night, hundreds of idols of Goddess Durga are welcomed into pandals across the city. A pandal is a … Continue reading
We held the sweetest little celebration a couple of months back, the cutest Hindu festival I’ve ever been involved with. The whole day was beautiful. It’s so important to celebrate the girl child and this festival does just that! The Goddess walks among us in many forms, we can see her in a mother’s love, a woman’s strength and a daughter’s smile. It is said that the Goddess Durga has nine forms (NavDurga) so we invited nine little girls to our home to celebrate and worship them as little Goddesses.
First stop, my favourite bangle shop…
My mother-in-law and I went out and bought tiny bangles, earrings, necklaces, bindis and flowers for their hair. I just couldn’t help but feel mushy about the delicate little bangles!! We also bought some mehendi cones, I decided I would give it a go, I thought it couldn’t be that difficult! Right?
Together, my mother-in-law and I, made them a lavish lunch, including some sweet fresh mango juice. We then waited for the nine little Goddesses to arrive. We waited and waited, but no Goddesses came through the door. Luckily, our driver was on the case and appeared with nine little girls, then another little girl came and another and nine became eleven!This is where my lack of Marathi hurts, I love talking to kids but all I could do was ask them their names and tell them they are beautiful (sundar). I applied mehendi to their small soft hands (which I was quite frankly rubbish at, I resorted to butterflies and hearts) as they giggled together. Wow, and these little girls were just so gorgeous, it’s been a long time since I was around so many children.
The ritual started with washing the Goddesses feet and applying turmeric (haldi) and vermillion (red powder) to their foreheads. We then adorned the little girls with flowers and jewellery. We were two sets down so had to share what we had as equally as possible, we should have followed the Indian law of jewellery, more is more!
The Goddesses were then served their lunch and everyone in the house touched their feet to receive their blessings. I really loved this ritual and I sincerely hope and pray that they are treated and respected like Goddesses for the rest of their lives. It’s a great paradox, the divine feminine is recognised and worshiped in temples but sometimes ignored and oppressed in homes and on the street.
Sadly, many people still see a daughter as a burden due to the dowry system and the fact that in some extremely traditional families, once a daughter goes to live with her husband’s family she will be unable to look after her own parents when they are elderly. I’ve heard too many stories of how disappointed families were at the birth of a girl child, but I sense and hope that this attitude will soon be history. There is a long road ahead. Whilst living in India I have looked at the statistics and heard the horror stories, but I have also witnessed the overwhelming love and happiness in a mother’s eyes as she looks down at her new daughter.
Today is the first day of the Hindu lunar calendar, an excuse for a fresh start, something I’ve needed for a long time. Fresh starts are not solely born from the calendar though, we need to cultivate them ourselves. My physical health has been awful during the past three weeks, keeping me in bed and in pain.
Those who know me personally will know that I’ve had a really stressful couple of months, stressful but necessary. What have I done for the past three weeks? I’ve slept, complained about my physical pain, cried in pain, wrote about the past, cried about the past, thought about the pain of the past and tried to understand it all.
Shakti means power in Sanskrit, interestingly, Shakti also means divine feminine energy. Growing in a society where God is generally thought of as a masculine energy, the divinity of feminine energy is a liberating concept. I’m now living in a society where the divine feminine is recognised and worshiped in temples but sometimes ignored and oppressed in homes and on the street. I ignored and oppressed it within myself for many years, believing I was “worthless”, because a man told me I was.
No one is worthless.
I’ve realised the importance of my strength and personal power and how in the past I had the devastating ability to give my power away to abusive people so easily. Allowing people to stamp on my self-esteem and self-respect. My body has been so weak during the past three weeks, but it’s given me time to reflect, gain strength mentally and think about who I want to be. When I see images of the warrior and mother Goddess, Durga, I can feel her power and strength and want to embody it! I don’t want to feel like a victim of my past anymore, I want to learn from it and feel victorious.
I am extremely lucky to have a husband who loves me and nurtures me, but there is only so much other people can do to heal you. I have learnt that we have to recognize the strength, love and compassion for ourselves, within ourselves.
I wish I could articulate this better (working on it), but it seems to me that I have searched for the Goddess within for many years.