by Rajya Karipineni, active Sadhana member
Navratri begins October 9th, and comes at an opportune time for reflection and healing this year. This festival of nine nights that honors the triumph of goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura is at its heart a celebration of the power of the divine feminine, or Shakti/Devi. We celebrate the devi in all forms, from blissful brahmachari to ferocious warrior. Garba dancers may joyously circle around the image of a goddess. Families adorn steps full of Golu dolls representing the goddess. We can also take this time to take our worship from the symbolic to the worship of Shakti within ourselves and in our communities.
We must make space for this reflection as the tumult of recent days has reminded us of persistent violence towards marginalized genders. The US Supreme Court nomination hearings were a glaring, painful example of the blame placed on survivors of sexual assault and of the constant undermining of survivors stories and dignity. The hearings uncovered the deeply entrenched power of men, particularly wealthy, white men. At the same time, the Supreme Court of India has ruled that women aged 10-50, who were previously banned due to the potential of “unclean” menstruations, now have the right to enter Sabarimala temple. Protests abounded in the face of the verdict, citing a threat to tradition.
Consistent in these stories is the message that the bodies of women are shameful and belong to men. We’re told that our bodies invite rape and assault and that we should be humiliated at the violation of our bodies. The means of creating life is considered dirty. Through all this, we’re told to be silent, subordinate, and less than.
This Navratri is a welcome moment to continue healing from the gender oppression magnified the last weeks. Navratri is a reminder that, though this is the current reality, things haven’t always been this way and gender hierarchy isn’t an objective truth. While we narrowly define tradition now, tradition also includes the exaltation of women goddesses. Each day of Navratri reveres another aspect of the female divine, embracing women for their whole selves. While we mourn the scars that have been re-opened and deepened, let us also celebrate the bravery of Christine Blasey Ford and the many survivors who have come forward - either publicly or to loved ones or even to themselves - to change the narrative. Let’s also celebrate the work and persistence of the people that fought for access to the Sabarimala temple.
Find the time to honor your inner devi as well. To those who identify as women and/or embrace their feminine selves, I offer this meditation. I honor the goddess within you. I honor the multitudes that you hold within you, the beauty of your grace and your rage. I honor the labor you offer through creation, creativity, and expression. I honor your courage when speaking truth, and your wisdom when choosing to be silent. I honor the space you make for struggle and rest, for visibility and inward reflection. The devi is expansive as are you.