In all religions followers are the subordinates serving the all mighty God(s). They carry forward God’s divine will be it to eliminate the defectors or propagate the followers. There is an unspoken hierarchy between the Gods and the followers. Just as some animals are more equal the followers have their own preferred club for selected few be it caste, class, gender or degree of loyalty based. Most patriarchal religions ordain a subordinate position to women just because they are women. Even the mother Goddesses in the patriarchal religions prefer male devotees over the female or they forbid them during their moon cycle. In patriarchy religion corroborates with other institutions to legitimize oppression of women; seek a change in any law some one will run to fetch a scripture to see if Gods permit it or not (as if Gods’ granted them permission to land on moon and drive cars).
In the colonial times the clergy banded together to prevent women from attaining formal education, they argued the great culture of this mighty land will be erased from the face of earth and most of all the education will divert the much-needed blood supply in the uterus to women’s brains rendering them infertile. When the later argument could not be substantiated it came and rested on the fear “if the educated women will cook and scrounge dishes;” so we have convent educated homely girl clause in the matrimonials. [Similar arguments emerged in the west and many other parts of the world so this was nothing unique to Des, to argue, read the references below this post and we’ll have a good discussion.] It is interesting to observe religions oppress women publicly, intimately and spiritually but still women are its most ardent followers. They not only religiously follow the rituals even those that oppress them but also make sure other women follow the suit; a MIL will insist the DIL carry on the family tradition and perform fasts and rituals that will ensure longevity of the male kin (both women are praying for the longevity of the same man as their social/financial survival depends upon him).
One may wonder why women do not question this oppression or give upon the religion or oppressive rituals. Religion not only scares its followers of divine wrath for individual failures but also makes sure followers monitor each other. In this process of co-monitoring it creates a space for agency and social status for the most oppressed. A woman who is prevented from stepping outside the homes by her in-laws can easily navigate the wider world if she is to perform a religious ritual or pilgrimage that will ensure longevity of their son or grandchildren or welfare of the kinsmen. Those women who cannot utter a word in the presence of family elders or have to keep their heads covered find an opportunity to sing and dance in public amongst the strangers during mata ki chowki; it is one occasion when the great family honor is enhanced not maligned. If one is a true devotee they can get possessed and the Goddess can play through them to beget what ever they want or get even with someone you don’t like or have a grudge against; beat them black and blue no questions asked rather one is worshipped and offered gifts. Then some can do a scary dance and show off their powers to create a fear and reverence in the hearts of their detractors. The important thing to note is that the woman possessed is always the one who is either lowest in the female familial hierarchy or otherwise oppressed young mother. If it were to be a childless woman then she would be dakin, a possesser of evil powers (property was always in the root).
The idea to evoke women to find their own God has been tossing and turning in DG’s head for quite sometime because she read the fear in a co blogger’s post and in many other women’s writing but it was finally nailed in by this post. DG is sure the Gods’ (especially the bachelor God) were okay with Jayamala’s visit twenty-four years ago because no curse befell on her, she had a thriving career. Not Gods but the male followers felt violated because she escaped their scrutiny. Now when they have found out her folly the sheepish few have to subject her to penance (fines/imprisonment) and commit them and Gods to purification forgetting a lots of water has been under the bridges… Both Gods and these men had numerous baths in last 24 years. How imposing fines will purify the impure is beyond comprehension it just brings to mind this couplet in Urdu.
Is shehar e tijarat main har cheez moyassar hai
(In this business world every thing has a price)
kitney ka nabi lo gay , kitney ka khuda logay
(how much will you pay for a demi God and how much for a God)
If someone was to question the existence of God, will it offend the God? Could one describe God? If one could then it won’t be God, it will be just another thing within human comprehension.
The over emphasis on HE God (yes, some believe he has little bit of she in him) tilts the whole balance. Women constitute half the population they can demand an unattached (single) SHE God (Goddesses won’t do as they are wives and mothers tied to male Gods for status; each Goddess is subordinate to a corresponding a male deity).
SHE God who’ll not be upset with women’s moon cycles she’ll not feel polluted by the touch of a menstruating woman. If they were to become impure that will imply a woman in her periods has more power than Gods. Will have to wonder what kind of God is it that fears a menstruating woman.
At times it seems working with Gods is like walking on egg shells. Do X or Gods’ wrath will befall on you. Don’t do X or Gods’ will be offended. They appear to be pretty angry and vengeful easily offended by minor ritual failures. Is HE a God or a neighbor’s kid who believes in tit for tat; you slapped me so I’ll kick you.
On another level it seems it’s not God(s) but a Car that one has to use according to the manufacturer’s user manual (rituals) or the insurance claim (prayers) will be denied (prayers not answered) hence loss (may be curse).
There has to be a mutual relationship with scope of negotiations and play like Moshsin naqvi says:
Har zara chamakta hai anwar e ilahi se
(every particle shines due to God’s grace)
Har saans yeh kehti hai hum hein to khuda bhi hai
(every breath says, if I am then God is)
How about a kind and benevolent God, who’ll not discriminate against anyone; not even non believers. Who’ll work with us in bringing out the best in us humanity, kindness and compassion? Who’ll accept us for who we are irrespective of our doubts and weaknesses and help us in being human.
DG has one such kind and benevolent God that was, is and will be always be there for her. Who does not scare her with fear of hell or entice her with promises of heavens. She is willing to share it with you or you can find your own God.
For Good Reading:
Padma Anagol, The emergence of Feminism in India, 1850-1920.
Gena Corea, The Mother Machine: Reproductive Technologies from Artificial Insemination to Artificial Wombs.
The references are purposefully incomplete to keep GGTS a non academic space.