In India it is said that there is a goddess in every village, a nymph in every lake. Demonesses stand guard on village frontiers, ogresses howl on crossroads, untamed forests resound with the laughter of celestial virgins. It is a land of mysterious Apsaras and seductive yakshinis, of terrifying dakinis and wise yoginis-each with a story to tell.
In this wide-reaching exploration of ancient Hindu lore and legends. Devdutt Pattanaik investigates the evolving cultural perceptions of earth, women, and goddess over the course of 4,000 years. Some of the tales recounted are revered classics; others are common and folkloric, often held in disdain by priests. Until now most have remained hidden, isolated in distant hamlets or languishing in forgotten libraries, overwhelmed by the din of masculine sagas.
As these tales come to light through word and stunning imagery, the author identifies the five faces given to the eternal feminine as man sought to unlock the mysteries of life. The female half of existence is at first identified with Nature, gradually deified and eventually objectified. She comes to be seen as the primal mother, fountainhead of life and nurturance. The all-giving mother then transforms into the dancing nymph, a seductress offering worldly pleasures that bind man to the cycle of life. As this nymph is domesticated , the dominant image of woman becomes that of the chaste wife with miraculous powers. Finally, the submissive consort redefines herself as the wild and terrifying goddess who does battle, drinks blood, and demands appeasement.
Exploring mysteries of gender and biology and shedding light on the roots of taboos and traditions still practiced in India today, Pattainaik shows how mortal woman can be both worshipped and feared as she embodies the image of the Mother Goddess.
A medical doctor by training, Devdutt Pattanaik moved away from clinical practice to nurture his passion-mythology. His unorthodox approach is evident in his books on Hindu mythology, which include introductions to Shiva and Vishnu. Dr. Pattanaik lives in Mumbai, India, where he works as a health communicator and writes and lectures on Hindu narratives, art, ritual, and philosophy.
India has given the world the Hindu worldview, a way of looking at life that is quite different from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic scheme of things. Hindu scriptures make no mention of original sin. There is no talk of fall or redemption. No Eve is held responsible for the loss of paradise. No god decrees that man shall rule over woman. Instead, powerful and awe-inspiring goddesses are enshrined in Hindu temples. Why, then, is Hindu society patriarchal? Why are women described by Hindu lawmakers as temptations to be veiled and shrews to be tamed?
This book seeks the answer in stories held sacred by the Hindus. Like all sacred lores, sacred Hindu lore is a much-revered gift handed down by ancestors that gives an identity to a people, a worldview to a culture, and a frame of reference to a civilization. It forms the foundation of rituals, customs, and traditions. It gives the why of things. Just as tales of Lilith, Eve, Jael, Judith, Jezebel, Ruth, Salome, and Mary express the Abrahamic attitude toward women, so do tales of women from sacred Hindu lore capture Hindu views on womanhood.
Beyond the din of masculine sagas, the sacred literature of the Hindus is filled with plots palpating with feminine dreams and themes grating with female fury. There are tales of goddesses who strike children with fever, nymphs who seduce sages, celestial virgins who run free in forests, and chaste wives who fling themselves on funeral pyres to become guardians of feminine virtue. There are ballads smeared with menstrual blood and songs fragrant with forbidden love. Somewhere in these narratives beats the heart of the ageless Hindu woman-dreams of the inner courtyard, unshed burdens of her womb.
This book retells tales of the chastity, fertility, seduction, and sacrifice that have made Hindu women divine. It also brings together legends of princesses, queens, amazons, heroines, and harlots-women not so divine-who lived, loved, and delivered life into Jambudvipa, the sacred rose-apple continent of India. From the recurring motifs and plots emerge five faces of the eternal feminine that give a better understanding of the traditional Hindu woman-seated to the left of her husband, dressed in red, worshipped as goddess, feared as temptress.
Each tale in the book has germinated in Indian soil. All have festered in the heat, shivered in the rain. Over the centuries they have been baked with bricks in the cities of the Indus; hidden in caves by dark-skinned forest tribes; scented by floral offerings of the Dravidians; crushed under the chariots of the Aryans; singed in the sacred altars of Brahmins; challenged by the wisdom of the Buddha and the Tirthankara; cut by the blades of Greeks, Scythians, Parthians, Huns, and Gujars; smothered by the veils of Arabia and Turkistan; and, finally, shamed by the prudery of Victoria. Most of the stories have been taken from the Vedas, Tantras, Itihasas (Ramayana and Mahabharata), and Puranas, as well as from vernacular epics and folk literature held sacred by Hindus. Some have been taken from Hindu scriptures of Bali and Thailand, others from sacred lore of Indian tribes. A few be- long to Buddhists and Jains, who share many beliefs with Hindus.
The five faces of the eternal feminine are explored in five chapters. The first chapter forms the foundation of the book as it explores the reaction of the male head to the female body. The next chapter narrates tales in which the woman, the earth, and the mother-goddess are seen as extensions of the same material reality, necessary for existence, hence worthy of reverence and awe. In the third chapter the mother transforms into a nymph, the seductress who offers worldly pleasures and binds man to the cycle of life. The fourth chapter retells the tales of the gradual domestication of women into chaste wives with miraculous powers. In the final chapter the submissive consort redefines herself as the wild and terrifying goddess who does battle, drinks blood, and demands appeasement.
Like all sacred lore, the tales of the Hindus can be seen at various levels. This book considers them primarily from sociological, anthropological, psychological, and philosophical viewpoints. In no way is this book an authoritative, or academic, enterprise. The stories put together are not translations or transliterations; they are summarized retellings. The focus is more on trends than on details.
Each narrative has been churned out of the many versions and variants that exist. The perspective is time-free; five thousand years of history telescope into each tale so that the past and present coalesce. It is almost impossible to organize the tales chronologically. Such is the Hindu way-what was coexists with what is, and what is reflects what will be. Nothing is rejected. Everything is absorbed, sustained, transformed, and celebrated. Shaped by informed interpretation, ornamented with the living imagery of the land, spiced by the flavors of the people, this book delves into the spiral unconscious of the Hindu tradition, rich in ancient memory. It hopes to lift the veil of the Hindu woman a little higher, to reveal expressions rarely seen before.
And while I do so, I gently remind myself that every scripture I have referred to was written by a man in a male-dominated society, every image I have seen was created by a man for male eyes, and I, the author of this book, am male, too. Can I then see the truth about women? Can anyone ever see the truth?
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Item Code: NAR057 Author: Devdurr Pattanaik Cover: PAPERBACK Edition: 2000 Publisher: Inner Traditions, Vermont ISBN: 9780892818075 Language: English Size: 10.00 X 8.00 inch Pages: 176 (Throughout B/W and Color Illustratiions) Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.5 Kg