There is this one familiar narrative. Goddess Sati goes home. Her father insults her beloved Shiva. And Sati burns herself to ashes. For centuries this has found its equivalence with the now abolished and infamous sati pratha. In its practice of burning widows, sometimes drugged, sometimes unconscious, the wife was known to have been dragged to her husband’s funeral pyre and burnt alive with him.
This story and the equivalence between a goddess and her human counterpart has weighed in as the most commonly upheld and popular symbol of chastity for eons.
It is difficult to say how long this one narrative has held sway. It is also difficult to quantify and qualify the colonial gaze of the proselytiser that has monopolised and exaggerated this narrative. Only New Age historians will be able to decipher the proselytiser’s pernicious effect on our narratives. How much colonising invading cultures have distorted our ancient worship and texts of the divine feminine through their regressive patriarchal lenses is still work in progress.
But it is not too early to make a lateral shift to the other myriad narratives that have always been available but hardly ever accessed.
There are three important gestalt shifts that disconnects and debunks Sati from sati pratha, widow burning, or even conventional notions of chastity.
1. Sati was not a widow when she died. Shiva was not only very much around he had no clue what she was up to. He also had very little say in her decision to end her life. Neither did she take his permission. She usually never did.
2. Her decision to end her life was a protest against her father, the primary and final symbol of patriarchy. It was an act of defiance against the belittling of her personal choices. Shiva had nothing to do with it.
3. Sati was not burnt to death. Nobody lit a match to her. She self-immolated. Like a Yogini in perfect control over life and death. Her power of self combustion came from her power of self actualisation. Her anger against her father was a sacred yogic feminine fire. We know it as Shakti.
Shakti, the divine feminine is bound by nothing, and serves no one. She creates at will. She destroys at will.
The other one-narrative brings us to Kali.
To arrest Kali‘s uncontrollable rampaging bloodlust for the unjust, Shiva prostrated before her. The moment she realised that she had stepped on her husband, she immediately calmed down and stuck her tongue out in shame.
This narrative is unsurprising in its conventional convenience, seemingly built around the desire for domestic happiness necessary for peaceful households.
But a true worshipper of Shakti, the Shakta, the one who worships Kali in the darkest night of the year, the New Moon of the Diwali amavasya, knows Her and understands Her not as a woman to be tamed, but as the creator of the universe. She is the great cosmic mother of all that is known, and all that is unknown, and all that remains to be known.
1. Kali’s stance of stepping on Shiva is the supremacy of the sacred feminine principle. Shiva is nothing without Shakti. Shiva without Shakti is Shava, a lifeless corpse.
2. Her protruding tongue is not a symbol of shame. It is her insatiable thirst for Rakta beej, the blood seed of the unjust misogynist she relishes to devour. She wears a Munda mala garland of his severed heads, his limbs as garment and his bones as ornament.
3. The tongue is also the symbol of Khechari Mudra. When the tongue is yogically rolled back to find that secret spot on the palate, the world of Khechar opens. A world of bliss, wisdom and beauty. A level of consciousness accessible to only the most accomplished meditator.
The man who has the courage to worship this ultimately cosmic Kali principle is called a Bhairav. The woman who meditates as the human embodiment of this cosmic principle is called Bhairavi.
There are at least sixty four principles of the divine feminine with its own special characteristics. The coy and demure Gauri, suitable for domestic bliss in a harmonious household is only one of them. Lakshmi the goddess of abundance is another, and she will be hugely worshipped this Diwali, as a bountiful giver of material success.
But as a symbol of deep consciousness in the heart of the cosmos, Kali the darkest of the dark, will be worshipped, on the darkest night of this year’s New Moon, by only a chosen few.
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