India's Women Need Goddess Lakshmi To Fight for Women's Rights

Hindu goddess Lakshmi, painted by Raja Ravi Varma 1948-1906I was surprised just now to read that the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi — like Aphrodite — emerged from the ocean, standing on a lotus.  This key goddess in India is considered to be the goddess of prosperity, providing all the riches and resources humans need for a complete life.  Lakshmi isn’t only concerned with materials possessions. She is also known as the goddess of purity.

BBC Religion explains that Lakshmi left the world of the gods and entered into the Milky Ocean, angry with the arrogance of Indra, the warrior god who she protected.

Without her, the gods were no longer blessed with success or fortune.

The world became darker, people became greedy, and no offerings were made to the gods. The gods began to lose their power and the asuras (demons) took control.

Indra asked Vishnu what should be done. He told Indra that the gods would need to churn the Milky Ocean to regain Lakshmi and her blessings. He then told them the Ocean held other treasures which would also help them. This included the elixir of life, a potion bestowing immortality, which would enable them to defeat the demons.

This Churning of the Ocean took 1000 years to bring Lakshmi back to India.

To this day, it’s believed that Lakshmi supports those who work hard, but leaves when these qualities are no longer abundant in her people. She is particularly worshipped during the festival of Diwall, the Hindu festival of lights, which will be celebrated this year on Nov. 3.

Lakshmi is one of our GlamTribale goddesses. My decision to choose Lakshmi was made out of great respect for her mythology and a sincere desire to introduce her to a Western audience. My choice was also guided by a fierce comment and article that I wrote Hindu Shiv Sena Protests Swimsuits; How About Bride Burning?

In May 2011 Aussie swimsuit brand Lisa Blue was the subject of protests for using an image of Goddess Lakshmi on a bathing suit design. Indian activists from India’s must right-wing Hindu group Shiv Sena organized major protests, holding up images of the model in her Lakshmi-honoring suit.

This Lakshmi-goddess intersection of global politics, women’s rights and fashion is one of the best examples of my commitment that Anne of Carversville is dedicated to telling women’s stories “from fashion to flogging”.

For certain, these cultural collisions are complex and I completely support Lisa Blue’s decision to not produce the swimsuit. But her transgression is minor compared to the burning of staggering numbers of Indian women every year by these same men and their families. I find the hypocrisy of the Shiv Sena men almost too overbearing to comprehend.

This street shrine to the young woman viciously raped by six men before a pipe was shoved into her vaginal canal, destroying her intestines and ultimately resulting in her death reminds me of the fallen goddesses worldwide.

In story after story, once powerful mythological women no longer speak to the lives of ordinary women in India and almost every other culture. Writing India Reflects On Nation’s Brutal Treatment of Women, But Will Anything Change in Land of Bride Burning?, I quoted Ranjana Kumari, the director of the Center for Social Research, who said about the new protests in support of India’s women: “To change a society as conservative, traditional and patriarchal as ours, we will have a long haul. It will take some time, but certainly there is a beginning.”

The statements are true, of course. The battle to change women’s fundamental rights to self development is slow and often moves at a glacial pace. And it IS a battle as the women of Egypt are learning. All of their hard-won rights are gone from Egypt’s new constitution, just as many state and federal legislators in America are determined to take away the rights of American women.

This universal aversion fo female rights is a commonality that binds us as women. I seriously doubt that Goddess Lakshmi approves of what India has done to its women. ~ Anne

Girl children at Theertham village of Krishnagiri district. File Photo: K. Bhagya PrakashIndia’s Sex Ratio Problem Deepens As Technology Aids Patriarchy

A recent opinion piece in The Hindu confirms that India’s sex ratio problem is escalating. The ratio has declined from 976 females (for every 1000 males) in 1961 to 914 in 2011. Preliminary data from the 2011 census suggests that many districts have sex ratios less than 850.

‘A large, nationally representative investigation of married women living in 1.1 million households documented markedly reduced sex ratios of 759 and 719 for second and third births when the preceding children were girls,’ writes Professor K.S. Jacob is on the faculty of the Christian Medical College, Vellore. 

Bride Burning & Violence Against Women in Kerala, India

Dowry deaths when families can’t come up with sufficient dowry, resulting in bride burning. The Lancelet estimated that bride burning deaths ran 100,000 per year in 2001. It’s feared that dowry deaths are increasing.

Women in India Advance in Politics & Governing

More Women in India