A non-Hindu friend of mine has sent me a most interesting question: " How can the Hindu religion produce 'instant goddesses,' apparently out of thin air?" To cite just three good examples:
(1) Bharat Mata - born of the Independence Movement, She is a modern Hindu mother goddess. An ambitious temple in Hardwar was consecrated to Her worship in 1983
(2)Tamil Tai - a Mother goddess who is conceived as the personification of the Tamil language of South India. She is widely known and worshipped in Tamil Nadu, and also associated with linguistic separatism movements there.
(3) Santoshi Ma - Believe it or not, this hugely popular Mother goddess had her origin in a 1975 Hindi movie, "Jai Santosi Ma!" The film took on a life of its own, and Hinduism had a new goddess.
My friend explains his confusion thus: "I still can't get over how they just came up with a new goddess, just like that. I mean, can you do that? ... I understand the meaning of personification of an abstract ideal. ... But do the Tamils and Hindus actually see these new figures as goddesses with objective existence on the ontological order of, say, Sarasvati? It's that question of objective existence that I just can't get over."
I think we need to define what we mean when we say GODDESS. We are praying to someone who has strength, who is powerful and at the same time can be regarded as a mother. Every nation is regarded as a mother. It was during the Freedom struggle that Bharat Mata as a Goddess was born. It was a mother - the motherland of countless Indians. Praying to the motherland gave the people strength to fight the oppressors.
I would just want to point, that India is a country where not only is Shakti being worshipped, but even film acctresses are. In South India, temples have been erected for poular film acctresses where regular Pooja is done.
Personally i think the emergence of instant goddess is a natural phenomenon. An evidence of an evolutionary process in our belief system. This come abt as the result of our need to adjust ourselves to the changes that is happening around us. As we undergo the environmental, emotional, psycholigical and physical changes, so does our spiritual need.
The beauty of hinduism is its flexibility to adapt to these changes. That is why it is able to survive for thousand of years. It has been suggested by academics that much of western pagan religion : myth and culture has risen out of hinduism. ( John campbell : Indian Paganism) Its the ability of the hindus to add and subtract their goddess and god that makes them unique. ( Refer to David KInsley : Hindu Goddesses)
In popular hindu belief that any person who have done extremely good deeds to the society, upon their death are elevated to the status of god and goddess. Evidence as in case of Ghandi and Mother Theresa. And we must remember that hinduism is just not a religion, its a way of life. The dharma. So its not a surprise if u see a statue of these good "soul" being erected in the temple.
A classical case is that of Goddess mariamman. Popular amongst the south indian. Perceived as the goddess of chickenpox, small pox and other natural disease. How she evolved to be a goddess is still debatable. But somehow she are being accepted into the strata of the hindu tradition
. The merits of this system of add and minus is to encourage people to be good and role model to others are as usual being abused by others for their own gains. Some how actor and actress are being idolised and worshipped of which to me is rather irrational. But its something to b expected dosent it. The good and bad comes hand in hand.
Ultimately it dosent matter as to who you worship. Be it Santosa Ma, Sivaji or Shakti, the most important is that this act of worshipping fulfill the need. The need to feel connected to the devine one that eventually gives us this sense of wholeness and complete.
Nora, It gets to a question I had. You wrote -
"Personally i think the emergence of instant goddess is a natural phenomenon. An evidence of an evolutionary process in our belief system. This come abt as the result of our need to adjust ourselves to the changes that is happening around us. As we undergo the environmental, emotional, psycholigical and physical changes, so does our spiritual needs. "
Well are the Naghmas and the Khusboos of the world Shaktis? Isn't this absolutely misleading?
"Ultimately it dosent matter as to who you worship. "
It does - doesn't it - I think it really matters who is put on the pedestal.
Then........who is a Shakti? Shakta?
Thanks Nora and Baburoy for some really relevant questions -- I hope many members will contribute their thoughts on this essential subject.
Nora stated that, "Ultimately it doesn't matter as to who you worship. ... the most important is that this act of worshipping fulfill the need ... to feel connected to the Divine One."
However, she found it "rather irrational" to deify popular movie stars as Baburoy notes is sometimes seen in popular Hinduism. Baburoy observes, "I think it really matters who is put on the pedestal."
This is an important point, because it's where Christians, Muslims and other "outsiders" find a certain lack of credibility in the Hindu approach to worship. As my correspondent asked "I still can't get over how they just come up with new goddesses, just like that. I mean, can you do that?" And dreamaker adds, "there are so many gods and goddesses ... and why do we need them all?"
In my understanding, the answer for Shakti Sadhikas/Sadhakas lies in the concept that Goddess is Everything. From there, it is at least theoretically possible to say that we can worship anything in this world and, through it, reach Goddess.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is the manifestation of Shiva-Shakti, or Ultimate Reality: "I am the Father of this Universe, and even the Source of the Father. I am the Mother of this Universe, and the Creator of All." (BG, 9.17)
Because S/HE is the only God/dess, all objects of worship are possible paths to HER/HIM: "In any way that men love me, in that same way they find my love: For many are the paths of men, but they all in the end come to me." (BG, 4.11)
Also: "Even those who, in faith, worship other deities, because of their love they worship me, although not in the right way." (BG, 9.23)
BUT ... that does not mean that all paths are equally effective. Worshipping a human being -- even a divinely beautiful actress or handsome actor -- is certainly not the same as worshipping a true avatar of Devi or Shiva or Vishnu.
"I accept all worship, and I am their Lord Supreme. But they know not my Pure Being, and because of this they fall." (BG, 9.24)
I take this to mean that, while any kind of devotion can purify the devotee, and prepare them for higher worship in future lives, it will not lead them to moksha. Does that seem like a legitimate interpretation? I'd be interested to hear other opinions.
"So, when worshipping the actress who played, say, Sri Durga in one of these films, they are not really worshipping the actress, but rather Durga. After all, the actress's face is as legitimate a representation of Durga's visage as that shown in any lithograph or calendar image or idol."
I agree with this. When the Ramayana serial had aired on TV in India, Arun Govil who played Rama and Deepika who played Sita became instant Goddesses. Nitish Bhardwaj who played Krishna in the serial Mahabharata became a God too. People came to see them and literally fell down on their feet - they were praying not to the actor, but the character played/portrayed by the actor; as Shri Ramakrishna had done with Binodini.
Now, temples have been built for actresses like Naghma and Khushboo who have done nothing but sleazy roles - far far removed from Godliness. A temple was erected for Amitabh Bachhan who has never played any holy character on screen.
So the question is - why is this happening? This is not the religion that we were taught.
It is happening for the same reasons as people here in the US faint when they see rock stars, or sneak around hotels to catch a glimpse of their favorite actor/actress. People want to show admiration for other people. The way they go about it may differ, but I think it all has the same basis.
I think a lot depends on the society and what is thought of as "worship". Here, "worship" is buying things with the celebrities' image, going to see their show, buying their movies, etc. If someone erected a temple to, say, Britney Spears (though I have seen many little girls' bedrooms that could be considered such!), it would be strange to people here in the US, only because you're crossing the two genres. Britney Spears is a pop star. Religion is something kept private and is not shared nor out in the open. This does not mean that people don't look to Ms. Spears the same they do to any God/dess.
Maybe in India the culture dictates that to worship someone or something there should be a temple erected in their honor. I think it's all a matter of culture and how deeply the religion permeates through it.
Sugarandbrine, I can relate to what you are saying... when I was in my teens I was a great elvis presley fan-Ii owned every single album of his, saw every movie in which he was the hero - and we even had our own little fan club- of course, the elvis mania was replaced by beatle mania and soon the four beatles became the object of my adoration and adulation...looking back, I don't know what it was but it was just some kind of an obsessive-compulsive disorder- but believe it or not, there is something fascinating about rock stars and movie stars- for one thing, some of them are highly successful (I whatever way you want to define success)and for some reason, in the eyes of the teenagers , they become "role models" or "heros and heroines."
I don't know know about erecting temples for these celebreties but some of the sports heros are represented in the hall of fame. the point is , in both cultures, it is quite natural for people to adore and appreciate and honor those who have made a name for themselves in all walks of life.
One thing I know about amitab bachan - he is known -for his charitable contributions to worthy causes...ANY TIME THERE IS A NATURAL DISASTER OR CALaMITY LIKE EARTHQUAKE ETC, these film stars organize charity shows and donate funds for relief and recovery efforts. right now, I understand michael jackson is organizing a concert to raise funds for the victims of wtc terrorist attacks....
The whole point is it is ok to admire someone ; love someone for the right reasons but as long as we do not lose perspective !
Remember, "WE CAN ONLY LEARN TO LOVE BY LOVING "- MAYBE, LOVE FOR "MADONNA" MAY TURN INTO REAL LOVE FOR "MADONNA" (MOTHER MARY..)
My learned friend Baburoy has raised an interesting question : "why is this happening?"
"Personally i think the emergence of instant goddess is a natural phenomenon" as ive indicated in my earlier post. And with regards to the movie stars and such, it's a natural outgrow from the modern revolution: the introduction of Movies, TVs, Radios and who knows what the computer revolution might bring us. Another form of Instant Goddess Microsoft version?
Why I said is irrational because I look at them in my own perspective. In order for us to understand this irrational behaviour as we would like to term them, we need to go down to their level of understanding and to the basic question of: What do these people see that I don't? and several other questions like : Why is this movie star so special? Why not the other movie star who is equally popular?
I would love to have a conversation with any one of them, so that they can give me an inside into their heart and mind. Until then we can only based our understanding through assumptions or refer to books which might and might not give us the answers. I used two books as my point of reference with regards to this discussion : "How to Know GOD: the soul's journey into the mystery of mysteries" by Deepak Chopra and "Why People believe in weird things : Pseudoscience, superstitious and other confusions of our time" by Dr Micheal Shermer.
Baburoy remarked further "This is not the religion that we were taught."
Ah! but as ive already indicated Hinduism is not just a religion. It's a way of life and some might say they are life itself. So how do we teach a life that have been alive in the society for thousand of years? And can we remove this life ?
The beauty of Hinduism is it tolerance towards others ( perhaps this is our weakness?) esp in the issue of Goddess and God. We must remember that these are simple rural people who do this type of worship. They might just have basic education or none at all. And because they dont have any other source of entertainment, these movie stars fit in fulfilling their need. These films travel to the villages and they are like a miracle to these simple people, they are like god and goddess. Men who are unbelieveably handsome, women who are unimagineably beautiful, doing amazing feats and lush and elegant settings ... it must seem to them like these are gods and goddesses frolicking in the heavens. Remember Ramayana and Mahabhrata. These Hinduism's stories and epics are not matters of study or education, they are the matrices of existence. Those aren't books to read ... they're living stories, told around the fire by old men and women of great respect. These epics are like the bollywood too if u think of it.
Everywhere, in every culture, people idolize actors and actresses and pop singers ... but they do not confuse them with gods and goddesses. Erica and Adi_shakti ( I like to thank them for their contributions to this discussion) have already gave us some good examples and from personal experience too. There is no difference between the fanaticism of Elvis and Khusboos , somehow the Indians in India have gone one step ahead.
I would like to go back to my remarks abt this hindu tradition of add and minus their god and goddess. "In popular hindu belief that any person who have done extremely good deeds to the society, upon their death are elevated to the status of god and goddess" And back to the question of "why this actress, and not that actress?". These movie star must have special qualities that attracted these simple rural folk. To them these movie stars have done some good to them. So what is good to them might not be to us.
Movies stars do the service of bringing joy and excitement into quiet, poor and unexceptional lives. And movies their only window to a larger world -- a beautiful fantasy they can escape into. What else do these common folk would ask for. It does make sense dosent it? It fulfill their need. Remember that is the basic human expectation.
It goes back to the devotee's perception of the one they idolize and the truth would lie with the individual devotee ... if a man thinks of say Madhuri Dixit as a goddess, and worships her as Durga, it is good, but if he simply pants over her as an unattainable ideal of feminine beauty, he is on the wrong track. So it comes back to the same answer: it is in the mind of the devotee. An urban intellectual will look and say "these stupid people are worshipping movie stars" ... but actually they are worshipping the higher feelings that these films and actors and actresses produce in their souls?
Through this their spirituality is a way of transcending mundane life as well ... but not into fantasy, we assume ... but rather escaping into a higher reality. These are simple, hard-working, undereducated people. They are not swamis or intellectuals.
So the question is: Is it a spiritual dead end to confuse Bollywood fantasy with spiritual ecstacy?. How can we say that their "transcendence" of reality is inferior if the ultimate effect is the same?
This brings us to another question posted by Devi_bhakta "while any kind of devotion can purify the devotee, and prepare them for higher worship in future lives, it will not lead them to moksha. Does that seem like a legitimate interpretation"
JAI MATA DI!
Very interesting subject this!
I am a devotee of Devi as Ma Kali and Ma Durga, as well as Hanuman and Phil Collins!
Most would think of him as a mere rock star but he is much more than this!
He is the best of drummers and as a drummer myself, I regard him as my guru, I learned everything from him! It is by his grace that I discovered my talent in music and specifically in drumming! He gave me true REAL life and my path in life...he deeply touched many other people too and a lot of them are my friends.
He is caring, kind and compassionate and does a lot of charitable work. He is always ready to help those less fortunate than him!
He has healing qualities too as he woke a child from a deep coma, just by softly talking to him...and all other things had failed! He also saved many from suicide!
Phil Collins is very humble despite his wealth and him being famous world wide. He is never a slave to his ego, which is very rare for celebrities!
He loves and respects all no matter what race or religion they belong to.
He is a true, pure hearted role model and mentor and he is my master and truly deserves his place in my Puja room next to the Gods!
As long as the one we worship is a true pure soul who inspires us to better ourselves and who does great things for society and as long as we do not channel sexual feelings into it then its perfectly acceptable to worship this person...thats the beauty of Sanatan Dharma! Aknowledgement and recognition of One truth,and many ways to reach it!
JAI MA KALI!
JAI MA DURGA!
Phil Hanuman Divyanjali Durga Duke
Goddess is all pervading, why would She not whisper to her children to call upon her in whatever form (be it new or old) is necessary to deal with whatever is before them
There's so much food for thought there.
I'm in Las Vegas U.S. for business and a little overwhelmed by the city. It made me ask, what does it take to pull great amounts of money into one place? I thought about some of the great ancient monuments and civilizations that took so much resources to build. Were the ancients driven by devotion, as I have assumed? Or were they driven by greed such as I see here?
Then I read about the instant Goddesses.
I think an important part of devotion can be longing. The question to ask myself is: What am I longing for, and how am I seeking to answer that longing?
I am grateful to read your thoughtful words while here in this rather strange city.
[ Back to The Forum Main Index ]