Inclusive Imagery of Feminine goddess Durga with Drag

At the age of 15 years, my father bought me a geeta press book titled “Dasamaha vidya” to ensure I stay religiously bound. This book was a pictorial representation of a mythological representation of Devi the feminine energy. Thought I was not sure if I turned religious due to it but the imagery was something which attached me. The front page of the book had a picture of Kali, a nude women body standing on a man. The revelation of feminine representation was something which created a huge impact of toggling the feminist in me as I developed my art.


The Dasa Maha vidya series brings images of 10 different feminine form each representing a certain element of womanhood. I see these images as 10 stigmas which the society tag women for centuries to ensure the patriarchy is sustained. The 10 images of the shakti were not the commonly used goddesses, they are a cult and non-domesticated gods who are only used in the tantric tradition. But for me as a Millennia gender-fluid artist, these images created a way to bring both the idea of feminity and masculinity into one’s body. That is why I wanted to use my drag to give a current update for these imageries of inclusion.


The Dasa mahavidyas are not so aesthetically pleasing, non-sensual goddesses, in the contrast to goddesses like Laxmi, Saraswati and Durga, these imageries are far beyond the idea of sensuality, sexuality, colour, stigmatic as well as an erotic display of the feminine forms. That is why I wanted to see if I can bring in a deep interpretation with using my gender-fluid body and drag myself to represent these imageries. I with the help of two of my friend created this photo performance with each maha vidya associating with a certain stigma.


Kali for the Complexation

Kali as the name indicates is someone with a darker complexion. In India, women have been judged, shunned, being bullied for the complexion. Only fair skin was something which is considered elegant and since the girl child is born, the parents ensure her to tone her colour down. So is the cosmetic industry running a huge turnover to upscale the fairness of the skin colour and hardly embrace brown skin.  For this reason, Kali becomes one of the perfect feminine imagery which celebrates the idea of a darker skin complexion.

Tara for the Mentality

Tara is a goddess of wisdom, while it is a misinterpreted idea in India that a man is wiser than women. When in a board room a man is given a deliberate position over women and often considered that women are not mentally strong which is wrong. Tara here brings the imagery of women who can balance the quotient of mental awareness and emotions and presents a strong viewpoint that women are equally strong mentally as men.



Bhuvaneshwari for Visibility

Bhuvaneshwari talks about the one who is spread across the world, the stigma of women using social media.  While women are still underrepresented in media generally, social media encourages a more level playing field, allowing for the voices of women from a wider array of backgrounds and countries, with or without traditional power, to be heard. Indeed, social media has opened a new frontier for women’s rights organizing. For one, it encourages solidarity and emphasizes shared experiences. Relooking at how the #MeToo movement revealed a rift in modern-day feminism between an ethos of individualism and self-sufficiency—or “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”—and the collective liberation approach represented by the #MeToo movement. This imagery was to celebrate that feminine energy which is open, visible and out.


Tripura sundari  for Beauty

Tripura Sundari is the one who is beautiful across all the world.thought with the time women were subjected to multiple beauty standards applied by the society such as long hair, long nails and round face. Tripurasundari for me became a perfect image to bring in the aspect of Anti Beauty, a deformed image of beauty which questions the initial idea of what exactly beauty.


Bhairavi for Body Positivity

FAT: It is that one-word women are indoctrinated to detest. Just a mention of it has then freaked out and there is no bigger insult than being called that. A three-letter word that has forced women of all ages to go to war with their bodies. The fear of ever being labelled that has been the root cause of body dysmorphia and eating disorders. In a thin-obsessed society, being a fat woman is to fail on every single level; it is not just a physical flaw but a moral one as well. Now, thanks to Bhairavi which is the imagery of Fat acceptance movement and fat activism, the word ‘fat’ is losing its negative status. This imagery has a gigantic body with Face fat which make its an inclusive imagery for this generation.


Chinnamasta for sexual freedom 

Sexual freedom is a taboo in the country we live in and women had been never given to choose their sexual freedom. Chinnamasta, the image of a woman drinking blood from the cut body showcases her freedom to choose on how to harness her sexual energies. That is why Chinna Masta is an image which needed to be represented as a feminine figure who represents sexual freedom.

Dhumavati for Widowing

Women in Indian society who are either divorced or lost husbands are considered inauspicious. Majority of the time women are subjected to discrimination because of being a widow, a practice happening for ages now but still being there regularly. Dumavati celebrated the idea of being a widow. The only god you could see in the entire Hinduism who is a widow brings prayed. This imagery represents the idea of inclusivity of single mothers and women.

Vagalamukhi for Voices

In our society, voices of women are always been suppressed by the patriarchy, valagamukhi celebrated the idea of those women who raise their voices so strong and targets it to the change-makers as a crane catching its prey. Vagalamuki celebrates the idea of freedom of expressing views of a woman strong and sharp to society.

Matangi for education

While women around the world still fighting the right of education for the girl child, the Image of Matangi shows the idea of balancing the thought of being educated and skilled as equally as men. Matangi questions the idea of the status quo of women in education by stealing the dahamarukam from shiva and playing it herself.

Kamala for Style

While moral policing is still seen quite often against women. Where women are idealized to be seen as Lakshmi of the house. The choices of what they can wear are decided by the patriarchs, Kamala the tantric Lakshmi celebrates her freedom to choose what see where irrespective of the social context. This Kamala questions the idea of what is sacred and what is not and demystifies the stigma associated with the size of clothes women is asked to wear in society.


Pic Credit : Rakesh Ailetti and Ragavendra Chivukulla

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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