So, now that I have been in India for about two months, I haven’t really explained to you guys what I’m doing here or where I really live. I go to Amrita University and I am currently doing a project on water sanitation and alongside that I take some really cool science classes. In a strangely fortunate way, the crazy things that happen to me in India have led to some pretty cool opportunities, so I wanted to tell you about one that recently happened.
For those who know or don’t know, India is super big on spirituality and many of lives here revolve around the teaching of Hinduism (just to note I live in an ashram, where there is a living Hindu guru, so the view is subjective). As of 2011, there were around 966 million Indians who identified as Hindu. There are thousands of years’ worth of Indian history on Hinduism, so I am just going to focus on one aspect of it that I am certainly in awe of.
I randomly ended up going to a seminar for nationally renowned professors who have dedicated their whole lives in studying scriptures on Hinduism and luckily enough I talked to the right person to sneak me in a spot last minute. It was a three-day workshop that lasted from 8 in the morning to 9 at night, so you can imagine the amount of confusion I was in for 12 hours every day when half of the workshop dealt in Indian scriptures in Sanskrit. I’m totally just kidding, I was confused for only like 6 hours each day so there were another 6 that I actually understood and took note of.
Śakti worship is this beautiful, breathtaking phenomenon where femininity is celebrated as a highly evolved, philosophical and social awareness that is used to usher individuals into self-realization. Śakti has its foundations within female deities (goddesses), whom signify divine feminine energy. They serve as symbols of primordial cosmic energy and are instigators for humans to realize supreme reality in order to be released from the bondages of human reality.
Okay. Super intense, right? I thought so too, and was kind of overwhelmed by the explanations, but by the third day it clicked. Śakti worship poses the question: how can one experience the divinity we all hold? It really is that simple. With over 33 million goddesses and over a billion followers worldwide, it simply comes down to ourselves and the way we can experience spirituality individually. There is no correct way, but as humans, our minds are constantly evolving, fragmented, confused and with a world that is always changing, it is hard to find continuity.
Anyways, I’ll go a little more in depth with some of my favorite parts of the seminar. Being the confused foreigner, listening to the stories of the goddesses like a child and learning they held this supreme power was spectacular. Śakti worship is not exclusive, but inclusive. Every goddess is branched off of another, each having a malevolent and benevolent side to them. There is no lesser importance to male deities, as every male god has a female counterpart to them and vice versa. One goddess and particularly favored was Kali, with her name deriving from “Kala” in Sanskrit meaning darkness, time, destiny, and death. In a way those all represent times in our lives and the beliefs that are universally recognized in religion. She is a fierce goddess and holds uncontrollable energy, yet embodies supreme love. She is the ultimate reality, and since the soul has no time, beginning or end, oblivion is recognizing that and going on the limitations of time.
During this little existential crisis, I was being mindblowned by the “wokeness” of prehistoric spirituality and its presence even in modern day philosophy, I was fortunate to have seen a cultural dance that embodied this all. This ritual art form is called Kalamezhuthu, a cultural form of art unique to Kerala that praised the Mother Goddess, Bhadrakali (Maha Kali). The preparation started at 8 in the morning, drawing the Kalam, and the performance was done at 8 at night so the ritual itself takes a little more than 12 hours. The art touches on 3 different stages of life: creation, maintenance, and dissolution. A beautiful Kalam is created using natural powders to create a physical from of the deity, and one priest does a dance to praise the bhadrakali, then it is destroyed with one sweep. The fragility of the kalam depicts the fleeting beauty that comes in worldly possessions. It conveys the cyclicality of life and that nothing is ever linear.
Although being a primarily male dominated society, people still hold this strong connection and reverence on their female deities. So, I asked why are women in many rural communities still marginalized when practiced religion reveres the divine feminine? I guess that’s the question for not only India, but for many places around the world. Then we talked about cultural amnesia during the seminar, and the loss of roots when it becomes to spirituality and traditional values. Is our generation losing spiritual and cultural awareness or are we growing from it differently? I have no answer to these questions, but it was nice for someone to ask me so I can experience and understand that question myself. For me, there is no correct translation to finding the divinity in women, but I have been able to live and surround myself with the strongest women I know. From my mom, sister, to all of my friends, they all hold a goddess within them. Embodying fierceness, fearlessness, love, and spirituality, the women in my life are the living divine feminine energy. Empowering every individual is an unwritten principle, and to spread that love is spiritual. I admire the women everywhere here in India, from mothers to students, women are strong, intelligent, and brave. With the world progressing to universal equality, empowering women everywhere allows her to blossom, flourish, and uncover her inner beauty. The dynamic forces that are women are moved throughout the entire universe, and I am honored to have experience that energy everywhere I travel.
“This is not a religion, it is a reality. Woman is not born to suffer, and woman needs her own power”
-Mantra by Yogi Bhajan