She’s Auspicious 2021 – Purity

What began as an exploration of the dichotomy between worship of the Goddess set against society where the woman is objectified and marginalized, has now deepened into a questioning of my own notions of femininity – shaped by the art form that I practice, the culture of my heritage as well as my environment, and my lived and observed experiences as a woman.

Overtime, the spine of SA has continued to shift. Often I feel like it has a life of its own, and I am a witness and vessel for it. At one point in time, “patriarchy” felt front and center to the piece. At this moment in time the idea of “purity” feels like it has become the subject of study- as it relates to the role of the woman, the dancer, the mythical Goddess, expectations of femininity, perceptions of all of the above, and how they play out through the present day constructs of my dance form Bharatanatyam.

Sati (widow burning) may be a tradition of older times, but is the idea behind it so far behind us? Some of the older practices are no longer as widely practiced, but have the ideals of “purity” really changed?

Why is it that most of our female characters/goddesses are born of fire or the earth?

Never their mother’s womb.

Even our Mother Goddess Parvathi is Ayonija – not born of a womb.

In fact, she has never given birth! Not to either of her two sons. And she sure as hell doesn’t have daughters.

We say Parvathi is another form of Durga.

But is she? She’s the wife and mother – and apparently domestication takes away your ability to fight and be a warrior. Which is why – the Gods didn’t call upon Parvathi to be their weapon against Mahisha. They created their own “intelligence,” born of their own power and desire, endowed with their own weapons, infused with their energy.

Interesting isn’t it that the warrior princess Kanyakumari was prevented by the Gods from marrying the object of her desire shiva, lest she fall in love, get domesticated, *gasp* – have a baby(!), and therefore lose her power and ability to fight off demons. (Kanyakumari myth learned from Devdutt Patnaik’s 7 secrets of the Goddess)

Do we truly glorify the womb? Or do we tip toe around the fact that we see it as a weakness, a vulnerability, a liability.

The woman’s womb and ability to procreate is literally the future of our species – that’s the ultimate power. And yet we worship virgins.

How is that for Strategy? Invisible-izing this power; Turning it into a liability and a weakness.

The Woman should be an object of sexual desire, but not the expressor.

At least not openly. (“A lady in the street, but a freak in the bed!” say Ludacris and Usher)

Sexuality expressed through the female mind and body is vulgar, but  when expressed by her male counterparts, it is a metaphor for the spiritual.

Is it only older or rural practices where the drumming announcement of death is the same as the announcement of the birth of a baby girl? Or does the residual stigma exist and subtly permeate our myth and our consciousness across time and class?

In perceptions of femininity, why the obsession with the “pristine”? The “filters,” the surgical, the refined, the altered, the corrected?

Can we see beauty in the real, the raw, the honest, the contradictions, the ugly….