Honor women: honor Devi, the (Hindu) Goddess

By Saumya Arya Haas Fall is here, and October seems to be the month for women. It is Domestic Violence … Continued

By Saumya Arya Haas

Fall is here, and October seems to be the month for women.

It is Domestic Violence Awareness month and National Breast Cancer Awareness month. While these issues do not exclusively affect women, they are mostly oriented towards women. This month there is no shortage of events promoting women’s issues. There are talks and walks. But there is another, less publicized, woman-centered event happening around the United States this October: the Hindu festival of Navratri: nine consecutive nights dedicated to Devi, the Goddess. To Shakti, the feminine principle of strength. And Hindu American Seva Charities is initiating ShaktiSeva for woman to bring to the forefront the energy, to express their Shakti, within oneself.

What is Shakti?

You already know.

Beyond any definition I can give you, is the true meaning of Shakti that each woman holds. When you look within for inspiration, solace, guidance, it is Shakti that gives answer and Shakti that acts through you. It is the wisdom of your great-great-great-grandmother, encoded in your bones, the wisdom of the all-Mother that rises through each of us. Shakti does not only exist in women, but it is through women that it flows. It is our essential foundation, and it is that which goads us to change.

Shakti is not chosen, and we cannot control it. It the flood, the rush of endorphins, the giddy laugh, the flash of insight, the swirl of energy through the cosmos. We ride it like a wave. Sometimes it washes over us and knocks us off our feet. It is the effervesce of life.

Shakti is a Sanskrit word, but Shakti is beyond religion, race or nation. While the Hindu calendar recognizes Navratri, we are Hindus living the wheel of America’s seasons. In Euro-American folk and Pagan traditions, these seasons are significant: Autumn is the time to enjoy the harvest, to prepare for the quiet wild of winter. As we enter autumn, the air grows crisp, the days grow brief, and we grow introspective. As the days darken, the leaves brighten. We see the colors of the Goddess: gold, orange, red. As Hindu Americans light flickering oil lamps to each aspect of the Goddess, the season blazes a tribute.

This month of October, this season of autumn and Navratri, Hindu American Seva Charities is encouraging women to take the time to find, explore and express Shakti. You don’t have to be Hindu to take part in ShaktiSeva service to the feminine principle, whatever that means to you. Talk the talk. Walk the walk. Reach out. Create. Heal. Celebrate in a way that is meaningful to you. Nine nights in a row, observe a ritual: it may be traditional, invented or a combination of the two. Call a friend. Light a candle. Help someone…or, ask for help.

Just as you already know what Shakti is, you know, deep inside, who you are.

This autumn, tend the light that glows within.

You can read the original version of this article here.

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  • clearthinking1

    Hinduism celebrates and equally empowers females and feminine energy. This is another thing about Hinduism not known in the West. The veil of ignorance is being lifted, and the dirt of propaganda is being cleared. This trend is good news.”Lead me from darkness to light.” – Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (Ancient Hindu text)

  • yasseryousufi

    “Hinduism celebrates and equally empowers females and feminine energy.”Yea tell that to the 50 million girls Hindu’s never allowed to come into this world. The biggest mass murder of women in modern era is being performed by Hindus in India through female infanticide, abortion, son preference. Oh and lest we forget…….Hindus used to burn widows not long ago~!

  • clearthinking1

    Yasseryousufi,Your attempts to label Hindus with this social problem make you sound disingenuous about caring about women’s rights. If you really care about women’s equality, there is plenty for you to do in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, & Iran. P.S. YasserYOUSUFI, if YOU are a SUFI in Pakistan, you’ve got other women’s issues to worry about – like Sufi, Ahmedi, Shiite women & children getting blown to pieces by Sunni islamic suicide bombers.

  • ZZim

    Good point, Clearthinking.Female infanticide and gender-selective abortions are not a religious issue, they are cultural issues.It’s also an economic issue, as countries in which girls are seen as a financial burden while boys are seen as financial assets.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Female feticide, arranged marriages, bride burning/dowry murder, Dalit.Very feminist and egalitarian. Secular is up and about dissing the Tanakh….And here, I’ve jes’ caught up with him. Oh well, better late than never. More to follow….

  • FarnazMansouri2

    INDIAN FEMALE INFANTICIDE: PART IISnippets to further break your heartthese broke mine further*Social workers who stood outside the house of a woman about to give birth so they can take away the child if shes unwanted was chased by a couple of men, bearing their trademark aruvaals (choppers.) The social workers got intimidated and moved away. By the time they returned, the girl child had been born, killed and buried.*In 1993, of the 800 female births registered in a hospital (Usilampatti), 600 had ‘disappeared’. No one even spoke of the unregistered births. There was no proper documentation. No real figures.*At Nalampalli village near Salem, a girl spoke of how her mother-in-law had just killed her sister-in-law’s third daughter. “My husband’s mother wrapped the newborn girl in a wet towel. She threw it on the ground and pushed it with her toe. ‘Who wants this?’ she said and went out of the room. All of us stood there, afraid to pick the baby up. My sister-in-law, who was weak after the delivery, just wept. A few hours later, the child died. They got a doctor’s certificate to say it had pneumonia.” The year was 1999. They had discovered new and ‘better’ methods of killing since then.*In some hamlets of … Tamil Nadu, murdering girls is still sometimes believed to be a wiser course than raising them. “A daughter is always liabilities. How can I bring up a second?” Lakshmi, 28, answered firmly when asked by a visitor how she could have taken her own child’s life eight years ago. “Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her.” (All quotes from Dahlburg, “Where killing baby girls ‘is no big sin’.”)

  • FarnazMansouri2

    INDIAN FEMALE INFANTICIDE CONTINUEDWhats being done is not enoughSince the Indian government seems to have gone all out in eradicating feticide and infanticide. Those practicing it are now more cautious, more secretive. If someone registers a case of suspected infanticide and the body is exhumed, the ‘old’ methods of killing can be detected and those who committed the crime can be persecuted.For infanticide, the methods of killing has evolved. From a quick and relatively painless procedure, it had turned into a prolonged and torturous one for the child.In some cases the newborn is deliberately weakened and dehydrated by her own parents. In one instance it was learned that they did this by wrapping the child in a wet towel or dipping it in cold water soon after delivery or as soon as the child arrives home from hospital. If the child is still alive after a few hours, its taken to a doctor who will promptly diagnose the child with pneumonia and prescribe medicines. The prescription is always carefully preserved, but the medicines are never bought. When the child finally dies, the parents bandy the medical certificate to prove pneumonia with the prescription to boot.Sometimes, the infant is fed a drop of alcohol to create symptoms similar to diarrhea. Another certifiable ‘disease’.Those practicing infanticide now prefer to cremate the little bodies but it does raise suspicions as burial is still the popular practice. Before the crackdown, these criminals would bury the dead infants in shallow graves in the fields, putting a stone over the spot to deter animals from digging the bodies. Now it is different.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    INDIAN FEMALE INFANTICIDE CONTINUEDWhy females?According to CBC News writer Jeremy Copeland, a proverb “Raising a girl is like watering the neighbour’s garden” generally sums up the way girls in India are seen – as an economic burden on their parents.Parents about to marry off their daughters in India usually have to pay for the wedding and give a large dowry to the groom’s family. Though formally outlawed, the practice of dowry is still pervasive in Indian society. This can run ridiculously beyond ones means as an average civil servant earns about 100,000 rupees a year (US$3,500) while the combination of dowry and wedding expenses usually add up to more than a million rupees (US$35,000) – Porras, “Female Infanticide and Foeticide”.Parents of daughters struggle to earn enough for a dowry, and to make payments once a marriage settlement is reached. Parents are often forced to take out huge loans to cover the costs. After the wedding the girl usually goes to live with her husband’s family.In cases where they are unable to or unwilling to make the payments they have promised, the dowry problem seems easily resolved as can be seen in the 25,000 young brides who are burned to death every year, and the hundreds of thousands who are emotionally and physically abused by their in-laws, because their parents have not kept up with dowry demands.One root cause for the trend toward female feticide is the Hindu belief that parents cannot obtain salvation unless they have a son to perform their last rites. The prayer found in a familiar hymn in Atherva Veda, a Hindu scripture, exemplifies the religious sanction for discrimination against women: The birth of a girl, grant elsewhere; here, grant a son.Women in such areas are second class citizens. Even when daughters are allowed to go to school, they are burdened with household chores, leading to high dropout rates. Across all the religions, the birth of a son is celebrated while the birth of a daughter is mourned.Girls generally dont survive their growing up years and even when they do they are not as healthy as the males. A recent research revealed that parents are prone to feed their male progeny more and healthier foods than females. It is usual for girls and women to eat less than men and boys and to have their meal after the men and boys had finished eating. Greater mobility outside the home provides boys with the opportunity to eat sweets and fruit from saved-up pocket money or from money given to buy articles for food consumption. In case of illness, it is usually boys who have preference in health care. … More is spent on clothing for boys than for girls[,] which also affects morbidity. – Karlekar, “The girl child in India.”

  • sakshi

    Women all over the world have struggled for equal status. And they are getting it, except in countries with repressive regimes. Yes, there are cases of abuse, but they are human failings which exist in all cultures.In India much is being done to bring awareness of the importance of a girl child. India is one of the only countries which has institutionalized affirmative action. Of course, much still remains to be done. But it is on the right trend.In America, yes there are few Hindu and Indian women who have been repressed and oppressed and the community has addressed it with help centers. But by and large the majority of women demonstrated the strength of Shakti that is prevalent in the culture.The voice of strength is not heard much. It needs to come out in the open and more voices showcasing the strength of the Hindu women and temples need to be heard. This season of navarati is the perfect time to bring it out.Temples and ashram and other places of worship across the country in the US are beginning to participate in this effort. See the post by Dr. Kumud Sane in the Hindu Temple of Minnesota.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Female infanticide (scroll down), bride burning/dowry death, etc., do not make Hinduism attractive to American women. So long as such atrocities continue, so long as a single “Dalit” exists, Americans will not find much in Hinduism that is consistent with its ideals. And then there is Kashmir.

  • Secular

    Very feminist and egalitarian. Secular is up and about dissing the Tanakh….And here, I’ve jes’ caught up with him. Oh well, better late than never.More to follow….Posted by: FarnazMansouri2 | October 8, 2010 4:08 PMWoW she just caught up with me, WoW. One day she say she will not respond to my posts. The next day she goads me to. I wish a the Rosetta stone to translate Ms. Faranaz’z rants & raves. Hindu scripture does not admonish nor dictate infanticide in general nor specifically of th efemale children. As Clearthinking has made it abundantly clear that it is social malady engendered by poverty ignorance and superstition. There are plenty of things in Hindu scripture that I would take strong exception to which for sure includes lot of grotesque immoralities. But this is one my reading of the Hindu scripture has not uncovered. Sorry Ms. Farnaz, I am not into gratuitous harangues. I am not craving for that kind of attention. Female child infanticide is not a religious admonishment. If it was Hindus would nor have been so fecund, over a billion people without the forced conversions and despite 1000 years of forced conversions out. So bark somewhere else.Now coming to Shakti worship this is as useful as facing towards Mecca and muttering some inane arabic ayets. The author tries to conflate this into the modern feminist movement and the female enfranchisement an empowerment. The whole thing is utterly superstitious nonsense. In the modern world to reinterpret it is to just keep it alive and prolong its life cycle.

  • AllRNoble

    The above article was written by Reverend Saumya Haas, who is a Voudouan Manbo and Hindu Minister. Yes,there are female ministers in the Hindu faith. In regards to female abuse in India. Thanks for telling us about SOMETHING WE DON’T ALREADY KNOW. It needs to stop. There are many leaders in India who are women, powerful leaders, and that needs to grow, everywhere, all over the world. By the way, while we’re at it, why don’t we get some figures on how women, children, the elderly, gays, and indigenous people are abused all over the world. Thank goodness there are poeple who consider all faiths valid paths, and honor that the one divine truth appears in many different forms, including female, who will honor all people and all ways of worship. People need to stop ranting on and watch their anger.

  • sakshi

    Many American women embrace shakti. In fact all over the world. Here is an interesting article from Australia. Shakti Dharma: Women and Changing Gender Roles in India, by Wally Russell, Picnic Point High School. For those who are interested in understanding the issues (not just throwing stones at a culture) there is the Danam Conference with the Theme: FEMALENESS, THE FEMININE, AND FEMINISM, IN DHARMA TRADITIONS.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    And I’m still not replying to “Secular’s” post, just making sure his hypocrisy is everywhere evident, and I say unto the cognoscenti, that I mean evident, plank-wise.

  • sakshi

    The question we should be answering is how can all women be helped. Lets admit there are social issues in all cultures. Lets get beyond it and work towards improving the lives of all women. As the post above says, Hindu American Seva Charities is asking everyone to join in to celebrate the strength, the shakti of women in a way that is meaningful to you. Nine nights in a row, observe a ritual: it may be traditional, invented or a combination of the two. Here are some suggestions: * Honor the Deities, Folk Heroes, Activists, Writers, Artists, Innovators, Politicians…..the women…who inspire you.Rediscover yourself. Invent yourself. Become yourself. Most of all: revel in yourself. See what ShaktiSeva is on YouTube:

  • Secular

    Quote: “Social workers who stood outside the house of a woman about to give birth so they can take away the child if shes unwanted was chased by a couple of men, bearing their trademark aruvaals (choppers.) The social workers got intimidated and moved away. By the time they returned, the girl child had been born, killed and buried”.I wonder who those social workers are, other than Hindus. I suppose they are the poster’s students and herself had come down to that village, as part of their field trip. Guys give three cheers to the poster, for such valor. The poster claims to be some kind of instructor one of the minor colleges in the eastern seaboard. Self proclaimed expert scholar of OT and also the custodian of the same. It is a habit of hers to post these harangues when the author of the article is of Indian origin. Until a week or so ago it was Dalits who were her cause célèbre. This week female infanticide in India. She conflates everything to a flaw in Hinduism. Exactly how it is a flaw in Hinduism is beyond her. She cannot find any scriptural basis for it, because there is none. And she is definitely so ignorant that she couldn’t find if it was there.

  • Urban612

    I think the power of Shakti transcends to people of all faiths, or even people of no faith. The author speaks of celebrating and honoring that force in your own way. Why not? It sounds beautiful. In the US, women struggled in the suffrage movement for rights. We burned women here, calling them witches to smash their empowerment. We struggle to get over it in America where disparities remain today. Many women have found their Shakti to push them onward and change these injustices.I think during this time of Navratri people should celebrate their Shakti. I’m happy that there are positive organizations promoting the good of Hinduism and embracing it in a very American way by promoting women here; ShaktiSeva empowerment here in America, very beautiful.

  • justme121

    Only One GodDon’t fall for false beliefs that state “all paths lead to the same God”. There are forms of worship such as “Summer Feast for the Soul” that proclaim all faiths (or gods) are the same. The Feast asks participants to light candles on an alter and “honor all other paths known and unknown to the world”, to invoke (summon) spirits and worship gods/goddesses. This group and others like them want you to believe that worshipping any god/goddess leads you to Heaven. What does the Bible say?Look at how Barnabas and Paul reacted in Acts 14. First they tore their clothes to show mourning or sadness. They didn’t say that Zeus and Hermes were acceptable to worship but instead warned against worshipping “these worthless things” and turn to the one true God.Acts 14:8-18 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.This passage shows that there is only one God.Deuteronomy 4:35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides Him there is no other. –No multiple paths—Just one God. Many false teachings try to focus people on the world and each other. The Lord wants us to focus on Him—to put our faith, hope and trust in Him only.1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.Isaiah 2:22 Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?