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Indian God[desse]s

To: alt.magick.tantra,alt.religion.universal-life,alt.mythology,talk.religion.misc,alt.magick.tyagi,talk.religion.newage,
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: Indian God[desse]s (was Siva ...)
Date: Fri, 05 Mar 1999 11:42:07 -0800

nagasiva  (in a rather testy mood) wrote:
> Lani Stucker wrote in message < 

> #># 1. The Thunka paintings of Tibet show Kali as being black.
> is She called 'Kali' in those tankhas?

Good question...(and i think we know the answer)...but note also that
she is not always black in Indian depictions. I have images of Kali in
which her skin is variously red, bright blue, navy blue, dark brown,
black, and "transparent-cosmic" (that is, like the night sky filled with
stars). These are all authentic Indian images, not Western

> Darma Dave shared (or at least spewed some PR Sarkar at us):
> #> Shiva was Indo-Tibetan. He had three wives -- Parvati, Ganga
> #> and Kali. Gauri Parvati was Aryan and had a reddish white
> #> complexion (Gaur varna), Ganga was Mongolian and had a pale
> #> complexion, and Kali was Negroid.

What idiocy! As anyone who has spent time with Africans or
African-Americans could tell you, Kali is not "Negroid." She has the
same facial features and hair texture as any Indian woman of Dravidian
stock. Geemineez -- get a grip!
> (Rev. Carroll D. Kraston):
> # Parvati and Kali are both names for the same goddess, aka Shakti.
> piffle. they have different descriptions, are provided differing
> origins (Kali arises out of the brow of Durga in at least one
> story, Parvati has a mortal birth if memory serves), are
> associated with different powers and personalities, and have
> different names and worshippers.

Modern syncretic attempts to make Durga, Kali, Parvati, Sati, Uma,
Ambika, and the rest into "one goddess" arise from the same impuse that
has led people to characterize Indian pantheism as "Hinduism," the
belief in a tri-partite (all-male) pantheon -- and thence to endow one
of the Three Guys with Supreme Godhood and thus bend the knee to
world-conquering monotheism. It's a little shuffle-dance that works for
many people, but is actually not descriptive of what is going on in
India today. There, the concept of "loca; goddesses" is still quite
functional, and while Durga may be revered as the Supreme Goddhead of
one region, Uma is in another. As tyagi says, they have different
origins, different powers, are worshipped in different areas, and, above
all, retain their distinct names. Within the entire spedctrum of goddess
worship, also, there is continual juggling for supremacy; thus to some,
Kali is a "mere emanation" from the brow of Durga, the Supreme Goddess,
while to others, Durga is but a "mere aspect" of Ambika, the Supreme
Goddess. To some, Parvati is the devoted consort to Siva, the Supreme
God, while to others, his consort is Sati...or Uma...or Kali. And to yet
others, Siva is a just the best-loved boy-toy of the Supreme Goddess,
who may be Kali...or Uma. And still further millions believe that Siva
is a "mere aspect" of Visnu, the Supreme God. While, of course, strill
more millions believe that Visnu is "a mere aspect" of Krisna, the
Supreme God. Which, of course, is countered by those who think that
Krisna is a "mere incarnation" of Visnu...whose consort is Sarsvati...or
Sita...or the Gopis. Unless, of course, THEY are the Supreme Goddesses. 

> the preference for lumping all the goddesses into one singular and
> calling Her "Shakti" is comparably disrespectful and simplistic
> to the preferences to call all gods "God" or "the Lord" and pretend
> that they are all one in the same. it is just monotheistic apology
> and will never persuade the sincerely devoted to think otherwise.
> if it serves Shaktiists to subsume all goddesses to a singular
> 'power', then have at it, but don't expect the rest of us to agree
> with this exceedingly skewed perspective.

What he said. 

> # Ganga is the Ganges river, and I've never seen her pictured as 
> # his "wife" but rather a small female head in Shiva's bun (on his 
> # head, not talking buttocks here) constantly spouting water.
> she is a separate entity of Her own, and is sometimes shown as an
> goddess independent of Siva.

For instance, she is seen as a separate entity in a devotionary postcard
we sell (through the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.) in which a rather
smug-looking Siva levitates Ganga on a crocodile above the head of his
admiring wife Parvati, her mortal father, and their kids, the young
Ganesh and Kartikkeya. 

> # To break all these relationships to the simple term "wife" is to
> # undervalue what Kali/Shakti is to Shiva. She's Shiva's own female
> # side. 

Only to a Saivite :-) 

> # She's not black because she's african, she's black because 
> # she has some very dark aspects.
> then Siva is white (ash-smeared). the connection between darkness
> and horrific or wrathful character is not transcultural, and thus
> to explain that Kali is black BECAUSE She has certain qualities
> is oversimplistically portraying Her as having been "constructed"
> like a scientific project, rather than emerging from the hearts
> and minds of centuries-old religious cults.

Well said; and, as noted, Kali's colour is variable, anyway.
Furthermore, in some Indian religious stories, her "blackness" is
specifically explained as a reference to her Dravidian (rather than
Aryan) skin colour; that is, she is identified as a local goddess of the
Dravidians or "dark" people. (Not "Negroid," mind you, but Dravidian.)

> # Truthfully, I's say Ganga is actually
> # clear, but the diety that represents her is shown as mongloid-ish
> # because the Ganga river begins in the Himmalayas, and the people 
> # of the Himmalayas(I just know I'm spelling that wrong) are 
> # Nepalese and Tibetan.
> very interesting. 

And very self-contradictory! If Rev. Carroll holds that Kali is black
because she has "dark aspects" then why assert that Ganga is "Mongolian"
in appearance because the Ganges River arises in an area where people
have such features? If Kali is dark because her original worshippers
were dark, then it makes sense that Gamga is East-Asian-featured. But if
Kali is dark because she is "horrific," then, pray tell, what is the
emotional, psychological, or metaphysical counterpart for Ganga: what
archetypal qualities are "Mongolian" features meant to convey? See how
illogical this train of thought is? Better to stick to the more
reality-based notion that these goddesses have certain physical features
because they arose among certain local people. 

catherine yronwode

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