Gondol is a tiny city in Gujarat that made up our next stop. We visited a tiny temple that made up in popularity what it lacked in size. Visiting was no simple occasion; a back courtyard held a stage decorated in images of politicians who visited the temple for campaigns and prayers.
Shri Bhuvaneshwari Ma was the deity who reigned supreme here, and the upper portion of the temple was dedicated solely to her. Parts of the lower portion of the temple were dedicated to many iconic figures in Hinduism and South Asian culture. On one wall, Rabindranath Tagore’s face smiled down along with Siddhartha Buddha’s as Jesus prayed along side them. This hallway led to my favourite area of the temple, which was dedicated to Bhuvaneshwari Ma, Shiva ji, and other incarnations of the Goddess.
Everything is related in Hinduism; we are all part of the same soul that is contained in different bodies. This is part of why Hinduism has so many Gods and Goddesses. They are all incarnations of the absolute Brahman, or Paramatman. Humans too are a part of the Paramatman, and house smaller portions of Atman within transient bodies. The Paramatman manifests itself in forms like Gods and Goddesses, and us, human kind. The wall of Goddesses was in vivid colour, and vivid detail. In the centre of the room was a shivling with Maa Bhuvaneshwari sitting against the linga. The Goddess represents the energy of the Gods, and without her, he is but a mere corpse.
Indian culture has many issues that stem from patriarchal belief systems, which is strange considering its love for the Goddess, usually figuring as “Ma” (mother). While many adore the Goddess and pray to her fervently, they do not treat the real female form with as much respect. To critique this juxtaposition, a campaign was run by Save our Sisters that portrayed the Goddess as an abuse victim. This highlighted the idea that we would never abuse the Goddess, and yet abuse women, the incarnation of her form. Indian religion and culture offer disturbing realities about our hypocritical natures.
The Goddess and the female form share similar duties and rolls when considering Hindu mythology:
- The Goddess creates the universe, and women create life within themselves.
- The Goddess maintains the universe, and women are predominantly taxed with the roll of nurturing.
- The Gods are nothing without the Shakti (power) imparted by the Goddess, and men can only be born of women.
These empowering aspects of Hinduism can be a defining force in feminism, both in India and around the world. Paying obeisance to Bhuvaneshwari Ma and the Goddesses of Gondol can help us learn that the female form deserves the same respect!