Navaratri is here – a time to celebrate ‘womanhood’. A time of celebration that fortifies and glorifies women power. But, do we fail to see the Shakti among some women?
Devi Durga, the epitome of strength is worshipped on each day in a different embodiment. Each of these avatars on different days embeds in her a shade of women power, the tincture of which is found in each female.
Every woman who awakens Courage within herself is Durga…
Every woman who awakens Devotion within herself is Parvati…
Every woman who awakens Nurturing within herself is Annapurna…
Every woman who awakens Shiva within herself is Shakti…
Celebrating the Goddess within…
I received the message above on one of the social platforms. It was in synchrony with my belief and of many others who belong to the bastion of ‘women empowerment’. This includes both men and women who act in concert for a better world, free from biases based on gender discrimination. On a deeper introspection, I could envision many males who have awakened courage, transformation, devotion, nurturing and Shiva within them. It is time to celebrate the divine within us.
Having said that, I will confine myself to the ‘women empowerment’ theme which seems indispensable for a harmonious and better world. Let Navaratri be the celebration of women empowerment.
What makes you feel empowered?? Courage, Strength, Money, Knowledge,….to name a few. If we look into Hindu mythology, all these are bestowed upon by a female deity. Goddess Saraswati for knowledge, Laxmi and Annapurna for wealth and prosperity, Durga and Shakti for courage and strength, Ma Santoshi for contentment and so on.
Apart from all these, the most important ingredient of empowerment and feeling empowered is ‘respect for the soul’ or ‘self-respect’. Self-respect follows the footstep of self-love and vice-versa. Once you attain self-respect, you explore your freedom- of choice, expressions and so on..
‘Women Empowerment’ conjures up the picture of a well-dressed woman with multiple hands like Ma Durga. She holds her different weapons in her hands to fight the battles in the varied arena of her life – at work, in home and in outside world. She has a laptop, phone, car keys, kitchen pan and a pram to push – a perfect picture for an empowered lady striving for a balance in her life. We relish this picture as many of us belong to this world and can relate to it. Many of us (the educated ones) who are reading this right now fit into that picture. A picture of courage, strength, nurturing, devotion …and all put together a picture of ‘Adishakti’.
A query strikes my mind, “Is this the only picture to celebrate womanhood?” The picture envelopes a major part of womanhood, but not in its entirety. It leaves out a large section of women in our society. A large section which is still alien to the term ‘Empowerment’ and are not accoutred enough to acknowledge their womanhood and feel proud of it. But surely they cannot be left behind in the perfect picture of fully empowered society.
They form a large chunk of society. Maids, cooks, janitors, vegetable vendors, sex workers…the list goes on. Their courage, transformation, devotion, and nurturing is unparalleled. The ‘Shakti’ in them is as vivid as in us. Their struggle is more profound and leaves them with no room for intellectual discussion or acknowledgement of their inner wealth. We fail to acknowledge it too. Knowingly or unknowingly, we fail to take them with us on the path of empowerment.
In our tradition, Durga is welcomed each year as a daughter who stays with us for 10 days. She is showered with love and respect. There are millions of daughters born in our society who are not welcomed in the family and do not get their share of love, pampering and respect. They survive despite that. Some become achievers fighting against the tide and become sung heroes. The million others are still left out. Their courageous fight against patriarchy each day is a saga in itself. Let’s celebrate the ‘Shakti’ in them.
Finally, I would not like to forget the unsung ‘Adishakti’ among people referred to as ‘eunuchs’ or ‘hijras’. We worship the incarnation of Ardhnarieshwar but fail to see them as a soul of dignity. They survive with the courage of Shakti fighting for their dignity in this society.
We are all Durga, fighting with the devils outside and the ones within us – our inhibitions and stereotypes.
We will bid ‘bidai’ to Ma Durga and wait for her to visit us again next festive season. Let the goodness and divinity stay with us forever.
Top image credits Subharnab Majumdar used under a CC License 2.0