INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Ray Harris is a frequent contributor to this website. He has written articles on 9/11, boomeritis, the Iraq war and Third Way politics. Harris lives in Australia and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ray has written about Christianity (see his essay "Christianity: The Great Lie") and Islam (see: "The Many Faces of Islam", among many others in the Reading Room), this time he addresses Hinduism.
ARYAN PATRIARCHY AND
I've recently discovered the work of Giti Thadani, an Indian lesbian academic. In her books 'Sakiyani: Lesbian Desire in Ancient and Modern India' and 'Moebius Trip' she describes an India quite different to the India of the modern conservative politician concerned about morality and preserving Hindu traditions.
Which Hindu traditions?
In previous articles I've examined Islam and Christianity. Now I feel ready to tackle Hinduism. But first let me make an admission. I'm very sympathetic to what I call Advaita Tantra, nondual Tantrism, particularly as expressed in Kashmir Shaivism (KS) and some schools of Vajrayana Buddhism. This does not mean I'm not critically aware of what can only be described as the mumbo-jumbo of Tantric esotericism. Any scholar of Tantra will tell you that many of the texts are obscurantist and difficult. Yet, such esotericism gave rise to some remarkable philosophy, both Hindu and Buddhist.
Another admission: I spent five years living in an ashram where I had a number of profound experiences. It doesn't matter if these were 'real' or not. I'm actually still undecided about there being a metaphysical reality distinct from physical reality. Modern techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) have shown conclusively that meditation changes the brain. When Buddhist monks say meditation makes them happier they are not 'imagining' it. The work of Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison has shown more activity in the left prefrontal cortex of meditators than non-meditators the left prefrontal cortex is where feelings of wellbeing are located (activated). Other studies have shown how meditation affects the areas of the brain that deal with notions of self and other. As these studies continue FMRI will no doubt reveal that we have considerable control over our own thoughts and mental and emotional 'states'. In other words meditation works.
(What I would like to see is FMRI studies of fundamentalist Christians in prayer and a comparison with serious meditators, now that would be interesting!).
If meditation can make people happier then it has value in its own right, independent of whether or not it proves one or other metaphysical theory. In fact we may be seeing the beginning of a science based, rational philosophy of meditation. If we seek pleasure for pleasure's sake then why not meditate because it is good for us? Forget all the religious accretions.
Okay, so before I digress too much let me also confess that whilst I lived in the ashram I had time to study Indian philosophy to some depth, particularly KS - a philosophy that is very compatible with modern scientific theories of cosmogenesis. For example KS posits a 'singularity' (so called because it is nondual), which self-expands and limits itself by creating spacetime (called niyati and kaala in Sanskrit). The paradoxes of modern cosmology are compatible with the paradoxes of nondual philosophy. There was no time 'before' the expansion because there was no 'time'. There was no 'inside' and 'outside' the singularity because there was no 'space' as we understand it. Of course, KS often described these things in mythic language, but I can assure the reader that the process of understanding the philosophy of KS involved stages of understanding compatible with the findings of developmental psychology. These things can be read in rational and integral ways. Now, I'm not suggesting in any way that KS proves modern cosmology or vice-versa they are quite different fields of inquiry. No, what I am saying is that KS is more compatible with modern science than the Abrahamic religions that posit a God (often anthropomorphic) that sits outside spacetime and magically creates and destroys the Cosmos. KS is technically atheistic - nondual logic demands it.
Excavations in modern day Pakistan revealed a network of cities contemporaneous with ancient Sumeria. In fact work on the skeletons found in these cities suggest trade and inter-breeding with Sumerians, however, most of the skeletons indicate these people belonged to what has been called the Dravidian people, who are genetically close to Australian Aborigines. These cities have collectively been called the Harappan civilization. Seals, amulets, statues and pottery show themes found in later Indian culture, suggesting that Indian civilization has been continuous since the Neolithic age. Two of the most outstanding finds are a seal that shows a man sitting in cross-legged pose with an erection and a statue of a naked dancing girl. The first figure has been called a proto-type of the later god Shiva and the statue indicates the long tradition of the 'dance' in Indian culture themes we will return to.
The Aryan invasion theory
At some point in its history the Dravidian Harappan civilization encountered the Aryan people. No one is clear about what happened exactly. At first it was thought these Aryan people invaded and conquered the Harappans, but there seems to be little evidence of invasion. What is now suggested (carefully) is that the Aryans gradually integrated with the Dravidian population over time a kind of trickle down effect. What we can say is that the Aryan genotype and culture was more dominant in the north with parts of the south and tribal India relatively untouched for hundreds, even thousands of years. Here I might make another salient point India has the second largest number of tribal groups after Africa. Many of these adivasi, or 'tribals', retain their own customs and some, like the Santal, their own language.
Who were the Aryans? Again the answer is not clear. Many suggest they were an 'Eastern European' group whose original home was somewhere near modern day Turkey and who migrated east and west. They have been called Indo-European because their language and mythic narratives are similar wherever they are found. The Greeks, Romans and ancient Iranians were Indo-European. In fact the name 'Iran' is derived from the word Aryan. Again there is considerable debate around the issue of a specifically Aryan people (as distinct from several 'tribes' of people), whatever the case the Indian languages based on Sanskrit are Indo-European (there are still Dravidian languages spoken in the south of India).
For the rest of this article I will use the Sanskrit term 'Arya' to refer to the religio-cultural complex otherwise known as Brahmanism or orthodox Hinduism for reasons that will become clear. Arya means 'noble' or 'master'.
Synthesis and schizophrenia
Most scholars accept that the caste system was introduced by the Aryans and that the Vedas tell the Aryan mythos. The caste system divided Aryan society into four castes: the Brahmins who were the priests and scholars, the Kshatriya who were the warriors and rulers, the Vaishya who are the traders and merchants and the Shudra, the servants and workers. Anyone outside this system became a Dalit, an untouchable. This system has sometimes been called Brahmanism after the Brahmin caste who were responsible for developing and maintaining the Aryan religious traditions. These traditions are primarily ritual. In Aryanism karmic merit is attained by following 'dharma', the pattern of life laid down by generations of Aryan scholar/priests, much in the same way that Judaism and Islam emphasise obedience to the law (the idea of the independent meditator is not strong in the Aryan tradition).
In fact there really is no such thing as Hinduism. The name is derived from the word Indus (a river) and simply means the people of the Indus region. It is where we get the word India (Hindus call India Bharata). Hinduism is a collection of religious and cultural traditions. Today the main religious groups are Arya, Vaishnavites, Shaivites, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Tantrikas and Shaktas, in no particular order.
The dominant cultural force are the Arya, but their influence is neither monolithic nor homogenous. There are many groups who reject the Aryan caste system, particularly the Shaivites, Tantrics, Shaktas and Buddhists, as well as some tribals.
Many people have commented on the syncretic nature of India. As the Arya worked their way into India they changed the traditional religion and the traditional religion changed the Arya. No, let me be more accurate the Arya adapted some religious iconography to suit their needs; the gods of the Vedas were slowly replaced by other gods, Indra faded in popularity to be replaced by Krishna or Ram. Let's suggest instead that the Arya could be flexible and creative when they needed to be. The one thing they were not so accommodating about was their caste privilege and power. The Brahmin caste were the priests and scholars, the 'keepers' of the Aryan ideology. The Brahmin man had a very privileged position, one he wanted to keep. A Brahmin could for example, have sex with any woman he wanted. Furthermore, sex with a Brahmin was auspicious and helped the woman attain a better life in her next reincarnation. I'll be very blunt and controversial here the Brahmin caste has manipulated Indian religion and history in order to increase and maintain their caste privileges. They have been aided and abetted by the Kshatriya and Vaishya.
So whilst there was a great deal of creative synthesis, India is in fact a religiously schizophrenic society. There is a distinct split between the original Dravidian religions, which reject the Aryan system, and the Aryans, who to this day, continue to seek to dominate India.
The Dravidian goddess
In her book 'Moebius Trip' Giti Thadani tells of her travels all over India to seek out 'yogini' temples. The yogini is a term used to describe a great many forms of the goddess. It is very similar to the Buddhist dakini. India was once covered in yogini temples. They are quite different to the standard Aryan temple. They were usually circular and open to the sky. Alcoves in the walls held various forms of the goddess and some held gods. Thadani described finding one site that held four gods with erections, thus echoing the seal depicting the proto-Shiva I mentioned earlier. These temples also often contained a yoni stone, a stone carved to represent a woman's vulva. The goddesses of these temples were usually autonomous, independent of male gods. Some scholars have argued that some of the current Indian goddesses were once also independent, especially Saraswati and Kali-Durga, but were later assigned consorts by Aryan priests.
I'm taking a few short cuts (otherwise this introductory article will be too long) but essentially there is a considerable body of evidence to show that prior to Aryan influence Dravidian Indian worshipped the goddess. Thadani's books contain wonderful photos of yogini statues; the one that stands out for me is a cobra-headed yogini of the 9th century from Orissa.
Another region that managed to stay relatively free from Aryan influence was the mountainous north, particularly the areas now known as Kashmir and Jammu. The Himalayas contained many valleys that preserved traditional tribal shamanism. Some tribal groups near Bhutan still practice shamanism and sex magic. Many scholars accept that Tantra arose out of traditional shamanic practices. Much of the detail of the development of Tantrism is unknown, but we do know is that it arose in the Himalayas and had a profound effect on Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. In reality Tantra is a distinct set of beliefs that have been incorporated into these other schools of thought. The founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava was born in Kashmir, and Kashmir is the home of Trika the three schools of Tantra: Krama, Kaula and Pratyabhijna, often called Kashmir Shaivism. The leading figure of KS is Abhinavagupta, whose work is now being appreciated by a wider audience. Tantra entered the rest of India from the North.
Tantra is unique in its frank use of sexual imagery. Spiritual realisation is depicted as the union of male and female, with the goddess afforded a primary position as the creative force (eros) of the cosmos. In KS she is called mahashakti, the 'energy' of creation. I won't go into a description of Tantra here. I believe most of my readers will already be familiar with it, and if not, a google search will have to do.
What I want to do here is mention two things:
First, Tantra has given great respect to women adepts. Tibetan Buddhism tells of one of Padmasambhava's consorts, the Lady Tsogyal. Hindu Tantra acknowledges several great female siddhas and yoginis and the goddess is afforded supreme status.
Second, Tantra deliberately sought to transgress the religious rules of the Arya. Left-hand Tantra intentionally advocates using the five banned substances of the Arya in their rituals.
The question is why?
The status of women under the Arya
The condition of women under the Arya is brutal and dehumanising. I would have no hesitation in saying that of all the religions the Arya treat women the worst.
To begin with Aryan ideology holds that a woman is worth half a man. It also holds that a woman cannot become realised and that her husband is in all ways her master and guru. I have already mentioned that the Brahmin caste, the priests and scholars in charge of the ideology, have afforded themselves special privileges. Over time these same Brahmins authored a number of religious rulings and opinions called Smrti the most famous being the Manusmrti the laws of Manu. Many of the laws and rulings found in the Smrti are frankly appalling. They prescribe that widows cannot remarry and should instead, shave their heads, wear white and live in a special ashram. The film 'Water' by Deepa Mehta portrays their existence as cruel. Other Smrti describe the best age for a wife - the best age being just five years. When I said a Brahmin could have sex with any female, I also meant girls, as the film 'Water' tragically portrays.
The Smrti would have to be the most cruelly self-serving set of religious injunctions ever written by men. They contain many provisions that discriminate against lower castes and untouchables and many provisions that place Brahmin men in a superior position. It is particularly harsh on women. Under the old law of Sati, a wife was expected to immolate herself alive on her husband's funeral pyre. Thankfully that practice has been outlawed, but it has simply been transformed into the practice of wife burning, where wives who do not fetch a large enough dowry have petrol poured on them and set alight.
In rural India where the caste system is still influential it is common for Dalit girls to be raped by high caste men, often Brahmin youths. They usually get away with it because the police protect the higher castes. In most regions the Arya have corrupted the devidasi system (more on this later) and turned them into prostitutes. In other areas the local Brahmin big man calls on the ancient rite to deflower the bride on her wedding night, even if she is still a child.
But even if this were not bad enough the Arya have been involved in the systematic and sinister attempt to rewrite Indian history. Traditionally the Brahmin caste have kept a firm grip on certain professions, namely politics, law and academia. Whilst it is true that people like Ghandi tried to change the caste system and other castes have been allowed into these professions, the Arya still have a firm grip on the Indian imagination.
Through government censorship the Indian media is firmly controlled. This is usually done in the name of public morality but it is really in the name of Aryan patriarchal control. The Indian media is not allowed to depict the other India, Dravidian India, as it really was.
The strange case of Indian clothes
If we are to believe Bollywood, the Indian woman has always been modest. Nudity is prohibited in Indian cinema. This is ridiculous. The truth is that for most of its history Indian society did not have a problem with nudity. In fact prior to the Muslim invasions the overwhelming majority of women went topless, especially the lower-caste and tribal women. There were even laws prohibiting lower caste women from covering their breasts, a privilege only afforded the higher caste, not out of modesty but simply to enforce caste distinctions. This tradition even extended well into the Muslim era, particularly in the south. And in the more remote Hindu populations of Sri Lanka and Bali women did not start covering up until the 20th century.
When Marco Polo landed on the coast of Kerala he wrote:
'Men and women, they are all black, and go naked, all save a fine cloth worn about the middle.'
In an Internet forum I belong to a woman studying the history of Indian clothing tells of reading an account in Malayalam of a Dutch traveller who had an audience with the queen of Kallada. He tells how she received him with her breasts exposed.
Up until Muslim influence Indians did not use cloth that was sown. The traditional Sari is a large piece of cloth wrapped in a unique way. The choli, which now covers the breast, is a sewn garment, a later innovation. And in India today tailoring is most often a Muslim trade.
Any close examination of pre-Muslim Indian art will uncover an abundance of naked and semi-naked figures. In the Buddhist ruins of the Kanheri caves just outside Mumbai there are carvings of scantily clad male and female figures, probably nobles of the Mauryan Empire. In some of the yogini temples the goddess is often naked.
Of course it extends beyond just clothing. India had a tradition of erotic art. There are temples that display images that many in the West would regard as pornographic. After all, this is the land that produced the Kama Sutra.
So how did India get to be so puritanical?
Aryan patriarchal morality
The process began with the Muslims - but the British pushed it with force. The Arya complied happily because it gave them more power. The reality is that the process of Aryanization of India went slowly. Whilst they were the strongest in the North West, they were weak in the South and East. Whilst they were strong in the large cities and towns, they were weak in the more remote villages. Before Islam and the British, India was a collection of waxing and waning kingdoms. Some of these kings turned to other sects. The Mauryans were Jains, Asoka was Buddhist, other kings were Shaivite, and so on.
The British adopted the laws of Manu as a guide for all Hindus, thus legitimising Brahmin authority. They turned to the Aryan caste system because it resembled the British class system and the Aryans certainly understood 'class'. In many ways the Aryan ideology blended quite well with the British system and many Aryans became Anglophiles, even when they supported independence. This is the curious thing about India there is a retro-romantic view of the British Empire with Brahmin and particularly Kshatriya, often being more British than the British. It's an imagined Britain and it shows up in the most peculiar places, sometimes as a very formal 'posh' Anglo-Indian accent, with old English colloquialisms tossed in at odd moments.
But perhaps the most surprising adaptation, especially considering the 'other' India, is a Victorian moral code. The Aryan conservative is extremely prudish. One of the recent scandals to hit India is the outrageously frank kiss in the film 'Raja Hindustani'. Can you believe it? Their lips touched for too long a time. But it is not only in films, a number of mayors have imposed strict codes on public affection reminiscent of fundamentalist Islam.
Topless women in India today? Never.
Suppressing the goddess
In her studies and travels Thadani shows that the Arya has suppressed the goddess. This has been done in both petty and more profound ways. An example of the petty was the number of times Thadani came across naked statues of the goddess covered by a piece of cloth by the local Aryans, embarrassed at her nudity.
The more profound suppression involves the systematic distortion and rewriting of Indian history. Thadani has given numerous accounts of where the feminine of the original Sanskrit has been translated as masculine. She also encountered temples where the goddess had been mutilated and either replaced by or turned into a masculine god. One of the more amusing attempts to rewrite goddess mythology concerns the goddess Kali. There are many examples of artwork showing the fierce Kali standing on the corpse of Shiva with her tongue hanging out of her mouth. In the Shaivite and Shakta traditions the exposed tongue simple represents her fierce, defiant aspect and the iconography is about her dominance of Shiva. But in the Aryan retelling the tongue is said to represent shame Kali is showing remorse for accidently stepping on her 'husband' Shiva.
I said earlier that in the Aryan ideology a woman must see her husband as her guru. If he tells her something is so, it is so. On another list devoted to Indian issues I was surprised to read one Indian recount how the women in his family were shocked to find out that the Shivalingam statues they had been touching in temples were in fact phallic symbols. I was shocked because in my Shaivite ashram it was very clearly explained that the Shivalingam represented the male and female principles and was a representation of a penis in a vagina. But it seems that in conservative Aryan households such 'delicate' information is kept from women.
But it goes much further than that; it extends to the almost complete neglect and avoidance of the goddess in museums and universities. Thadani tells of important goddess statues hidden in vaults in poor conditions and of academics who refuse to accept the evidence. She tells of one encounter where a leading archaeologist is standing with her in front of what she says is clearly a goddess statue with him insisting it is male. 'But it has breasts,' she exclaims.
Thadani also goes on to explain that the religious departments of many universities focus on Aryan literature and that there is vast amount of Tantric and Shakta literature that remains to be translated and studied. If they are anything like the Yoni Tantra then it might not be hard to understand why a conservative Aryan male might be shocked. The Yoni Tantra is a classic of Shakta literature and it states quite clearly that the way to enlightenment is the worship of a woman's vagina. All vaginas should be worshipped from age 12 to 60, of all castes and types. It says:
In Kaula every woman is thought of as a manifestation of the Goddess. No man may raise his hand, strike or threaten a woman. When she is naked, men must kneel and worship her as the Goddess. She has equal rights with men on all levels."
In other Shakta Tantras the aspirant is urged to worship semen and menstrual blood:
Shri Shankara said: The first menses appearing in a woman who has lost her virginity is Svayambhu blood. In a maiden born of a married woman and begotten by another man, that which arises is Kunda menses, the substance causing the granting of any desire. Deveshi, a maiden begotten by a widow gives rise to Gola menses, which subdues gods. The menses arising in the first period after a virgin becomes a married woman is the all bewildering Svapushpa."
These passages subvert everything the Aryan male believes. In the Aryan ideology a menstruating woman is impure and she is forbidden to touch a man, but in the Tantric and Shakta tradition menstrual blood is considered a sacred substance.
Hatha Yoga and Bharatanatyam the hidden lineage
Most people in the West use the word yoga to describe a series of physical postures. Yoga simply means discipline and there are many 'disciplines'. The discipline of physical postures is called 'Hatha'. It was originally developed by the sage Goraknath, a disciple of a famous guru called Matseyendranath, the founder of both the Nath and Kaula lineages. But it is unlikely that your yoga teacher will tell you about either the Nath or Kaula schools because they are Tantric. The Kaula in particular is known for its use of sexual intercourse as a form of worship, particularly the Kaula Chakra, where multiple couples sit in a circle (the circular yogini temples were often used for this purpose) and perform ritual coitus.
Hatha yoga, like so many traditions, has been sanitized by Aryans who appropriated these traditions.
Another tradition that has been appropriated and sanitized is the national dance of India, the Bharatanatyam. It was originally performed by temple dancers who had dedicated themselves to the goddess. The generic term (there are regional variations) for these women is Devadasi (or Devidasi), which translates as 'servant of God (or goddess). These were women who, like Christian nuns, were married to the local temple. They were then free from the normal obligations that applied to married women. In ancient times they were trained in the classical arts of dance, music, poetry and sex. Under the goddess religions sex has often been elevated to a status of both high artistic and spiritual importance. The Devadasi were trained as sexual consorts as well as dancers, musicians and poets. In 'Moebius Trip' Thadani has a photo of a 2nd Century relief which shows a band of female musicians playing whilst a woman dances (all scantily clad as was normal).
Sadly the Devadasi tradition has been greatly abused and corrupted as it was taken over by Aryan men. Today the vast majority of Devadasi are forced into prostitution. In pre-Islamic times the Devadasi was a respected member of the community. It was considered auspicious to touch a Devadasi and she was paid well to offer her services as a dancer, musician, poet or consort. She had the absolute freedom to choose which men she would take as a lover. Famous Devadasis were often employed by the local Rani (queen) to entertain the court and her status was such that she could sit beside the Rani. Today Dalit and low caste girls are dumped at temples across the country where they get rudimentary training. When they have their first period they are initiated by either the head Aryan priest or sold to the highest bidder, usually a high caste landowner or a wealthy local businessman. From that time on she essentially works as a prostitute for the temple. When she is too old (in her late teens) she is sold into the prostitution business. This is not a minor problem. A recent survey suggested there were 20,000 registered Devadasi in Karnataka state alone.
Under corrupt Brahmin priests the Devadasi tradition has been debased. The women have been robbed of their power and autonomy and their traditional skills lost. If it were not for the foresight of some, the traditional dance skill of Bharatanatyam might well have been lost. As it is, it is a shadow of its former self with all of the overt eroticism removed. Many ancient stone reliefs and statues show that dancers sometimes performed naked. There is a classic pose called Urdhva Tandav, in which the dancer lifts a leg to the side of her head. In its original form this was a dance of the goddess in which she opens her cosmic yoni to create the universe. Today, under the puritanical Arya, its original meaning has largely been lost.
The future of the goddess
India is changing rapidly, as the modern world presses on Maha Bharata the traditions act to defend themselves from change. The Arya have organized themselves into political movements. When we talk of right wing or fundamentalist Hindus we really should be saying fundamentalist Arya. The Arya are using Hindu nationalism to reconstruct India in their image. Giti Thadani writes of her frustration as an Indian lesbian. The Arya do not recognize lesbianism as being Hindu. They claim ironically that lesbianism is a Western cultural import, along with gay rights and feminism. She has shown that they are wrong, that lesbianism and female equality has a proud tradition in India. If anyone is importing anything, it is the Aryan fundamentalists importing Western puritanism and nationalism.
The goddess has a long and important history in India. She needs to be recognized and restored to her rightful place in a future 'integral' India.
It is time for the high caste Aryan patriarchs to be challenged, to be told that Aryan fundamentalism isn't synonymous with Hinduism.
I don't know if there is a serious goddess revival movement in India. Many Indians are still trying to free themselves of Muslim and British colonialism, many still feel inferior and feel they need to prove they are civilized. But I suspect the time is ripe for the goddess to reappear.
Of course she has always been there as a subversive force. One well-known story is that of Renuka-Yellamma. Renuka was the obedient wife of the Brahmin sage Jamadagni. There are several variations of the story but this is the one I know the best. One day she is performing her normal chore of fetching water from the river when she spies the god Chitraratha swimming naked and engaged in erotic games with aspara, the celestial nymphs. She becomes aroused and joins them. Unfortunately for her Jamadagni has the power to read minds and he sees her swimming in the river naked, thus breaking his exclusive control over her body and her eros. He flies into a rage and calls immediately on his five sons to go and kill her. Four of the sons refuse, but the youngest Parashurama, obeys without question. He immediately kills his brothers for cowardice and for disobeying an Aryan patriarch, then he runs to the river where he sees his mother naked in the river. He is about to drag her out and behead her when the goddess Kali (in the form of Yellamma) tricks him by assuming Renuka's form. He beheads Kali instead and Renuka is saved. There are other variations but in this version when Parashurama finds out about Kali-Yellamma's ruse he begs her forgiveness and asks that his brothers be restored to life. She accepts his request but the brothers are only restored as eunuchs because of their cowardice.
Aryan versions of this story are told to remind wives to be obedient to their Aryan lord and guru, but it is clear that it is a story about the clash between the goddess and Aryan patriarchal rule. Renuka is punished because she dares to be sexually independent of her Brahmin husband.
Today Renuka-Yellamma is the patron goddess of women and men who transgress the norms of Aryan culture, namely Devadasi, prostitutes and hijra, the famed 'third-sex'. In parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka there has long been a Yellamma cult. The members of the cult would re-enact the drama bi-annually on the full moon. The women would strip naked and perform the Nagna Puja (naked puja), and once a year young girls would walk naked to the local Yellamma temple where they would be initiated as Devidasi. The Nagna Puja was banned in the mid eighties, ostensibly to stop the growing problem of men turning up to leer and jeer at the women. The real reason may be that the open worship of Renuka-Yellamma was an affront to Aryan males.
The worship of the goddess still survives in parts of India, but mostly underground. Some zealous Aryans have been quite vocal about wishing to stamp out all traces of this perverse and shameful religion. In some parts of rural India Brahmin priests have managed to convince the local population that the local yogini temple is inhabited by witches and demons. Sound familiar? This was the way Christians destroyed the remnants of the goddess in the Middle East and Europe.
It must not be allowed to happen in India, the last refuge of the Great Goddess.
A note on modern Kashmir
As many readers will be aware Kashmir is in conflict. After Partition Pakistan claimed that Kashmir/Jammu should become part of Pakistan. This dispute has provoked war between India and Pakistan and inspired radical Islamists to declare jihad. The result has been devastating for the Tantric traditions that flourished there. Hundreds of temples and significant sites have desecrated and vandalised and many pandits, the keepers of Hindu Kashmiri tradition, have been murdered and their houses burnt, destroying their collections of rare manuscripts. Hindu devotes are unable to travel to their sacred sites and Kashmiri Hindus claim they face genocide as Muslim extremists attempt to destroy any sign of Hinduism in Kashmir. In many ways Kashmir is Tantra's Tibet. Islam came to Kashmir as a violent, destructive, imperialist force, just as China invaded Tibet. Many historians have described the Muslim invasions of northern India as some of the most violent in history. Today Islam is trying to maintain control by force. The current destruction of Tantric Kashmir is almost complete and the Aryan dominated government of India seems unable or unwilling to stop it. To give a picture of what is happening in Kashmir here is a slice from a more extensive post I received recently (many of the events described happened in the 90's, but continue today)
'Throughout the day, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists use public address systems at mosques to exhort people to defy curfew and take to the streets. Masked men, firing from their Kalashnikovs, march up and down, terrorising cowering Pandits who, by then, have locked themselves in their homes. As evening falls, the exhortations become louder and shriller. Three taped slogans are repeatedly played the whole night from mosques: 'Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-O-Akbar kehna hai' (If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-O-Akbar); 'Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa (What do we want here? Rule of Shariah); 'Asi gachchi Pakistan, Batao roas te Batanev san' (We want Pakistan along with Hindu women but without their men). In the preceding months, 300 Hindu men and women, nearly all of them Kashmiri Pandits, had been slaughtered ever since the brutal murder of Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, noted lawyer and BJP national executive member, by the JKLF in Srinagar on September 14, 1989. Soon after that, Justice N K Ganju of the Srinagar high court was shot dead. Pandit Sarwanand Premi, 80-year-old poet, and his son were kidnapped, tortured, their eyes gouged out, and hanged to death. A Kashmiri Pandit nurse working at the Soura Medical College Hospital in Srinagar was gang-raped and then beaten to death. Another woman was abducted, raped and sliced into bits and pieces at a sawmill.'
And in conclusion:
'Therefore, the government makes bold to record that the Kashmiri Pandits have "migrated on their own" and their 'displacement (is) self-imposed;' the National Human Rights Commission, after a perfunctory inquiry, refuses to concede that what has happened is 'genocide' or 'ethnic cleansing,' though facts add up to no less than that, never mind that 300,000 lives have been destroyed. And, our jhola-wallah brigades of secular activists rudely turn up their noses to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits: Hindu sorrow, inflicted by Islamic terror, stinks. Today, on January 19, the 15th anniversary of the forced flight of Kashmiri Pandits, look back at India's wretched history of secular politics and consider the terrible price the nation has paid at the altar of appeasement because the Indian State has, and continues to, toe the line of least resistance.'
Let's be clear about this. Islam came to India by violent conquest. Hindus have always resented their existence just as they resented the British. Whenever they could Hindus rebelled against their Muslim overlords. Perhaps the most famous rebel is Shivaji, who freed much of Maharashtra from Muslim rule and who is celebrated in Mumbai as a hero. Partition was inevitable. As soon as Muslim power was weakened it was guaranteed that Hindus would act to restore full Hindu control. At the most only 20% of the population were Muslim. Hindus resolutely refused to convert and those that did, did so to advance their careers. There were vast areas of India that the invading Muslims never conquered, especially in the south.
What I find interesting is how 'some' progressive Westerners accept without argument that the Hindus had a right to kick the British out as an invading imperialist power, but who then seem to prevaricate over the Hindus wish to see the Muslim imperialist kicked out once and for all - yet another curious double standard?
Btw, I should add that puritanical Muslims played their part in destroying hundreds of temples dedicated to the goddess. Hindu historians suggest that during Muslim rule thousands of Hindu temples were either destroyed or desecrated, many of them may very well have been dedicated to the goddess.
Ray Harris, February 2007