Erasure of lesbian/female-centred sexuality/ancient representations of female erotic autonomyFebruary 3, 2008
India has a rich herstory of goddess-worship and varied representations of female power. Sadly, much of this herstory has been, and is being, erased and destroyed. The autonomy of sacred centres of female power are being replaced by male gods or dismembered by man/ipulations.
The manipulation of older shaktic histories has severe historical socio-cultural implications as in this ban by the new practising trust. These trusts far from conserving these traditions have done a surgical operation. Sometimes, sculptures are taken out, polished and plastered over or masculinised.
The situation is no different in the disciplines of indology and art history. There is a sheer gender silence and ignorance propounded in the name of ‘objective scholarship’. Implicit in this the issue of what may be represented and what may not be. Central to this is the issue of gender cognition. . This has several social and cultural implications.
Whereas the temples under the Archaeological Survey of India by and large are preserved, yet some of the temples (particularly yogini have been manipulated). One example is the cementing of a male bhairav in the open centre of the yogini temple in Ranipur Jharial. (Orissa)The yoginis are now seen as his servants.
The sculpture [shown below] was found in the open in a a small village in Gujurat. Now it has been converted into a male god. A new temple has been constructed over it. This is the only existing documentation. The sculpture also represents an unconsorted Parvati holding Ganesh in one of her hands. It belongs too to the spectrum of the independent matrikas (above) in which one of the matrikas is represented with an elephant head. Matangi (mata – angi. mother’s limb), one of the words for elephant is a marker of a matriafocal geneology.
Check out Mahamaya. A website dedicated to preserving the archeological herstory of these fascinating female sculptures. Each page is filled with gorgeous, powerful images of the goddess. It definitely puts me in mind of Audre Lorde’s The Erotic as Power.
In her paper Heteropatriarchy: Globalisation, the Institution of Heterosexuality and Lesbians, Susan Hawthorne asks:
Giti Thadani (2004) in her research of ancient lesbian sites in India records the violence against 5000-year-old sacred stone sculptures. Why have we not heard about how the breasts of these statues have been cut off? Why is there no international protest? Is it because the statues are symbolic of lesbian existence, not just now, but back into ancient history?
Well, the answers are too obvious.
=autonomous, female-centred sexuality
=women who don’t need/want men
=men freaking out
=breasts chopped off statues
=men don’t care about lesbian herstory
=no one cares about lesbian herstory.