New age Indian classicist and keynote speaker’s message on woman empowerment
Bestselling Author, Anuja Chandramouli has written 12 books and is considered one of the finest writers in mythology, historical fiction and fantasy. Being an acclaimed Tedx Speaker and widely-read columnist for The New Indian Express, her mesmerising storytelling and oratorical skills motivate as well as inspire everyone to be the best personal and professional versions of themselves. Curious about the dichotomy between love and hatred evinced for the feminine, Anuja turns to mythology to light the way ahead.
As a child when the fear prevailed, I would wish that I would wake up one morning and find that I had transformed into a real boy. It seemed painfully obvious to me that it was a different world for those who stood up to pee as opposed to those who sat or squatted to do the same. The women were the ones who usually slaved in hot kitchens, took care of never-ending household chores or ran after the kids, looking frumpy, dumpy, exhausted and defeated. The rebels among them tended to be bad-tempered, sharp-tongued and possessed of all the attributes that led to them being reviled as shrews, witches and worse.
The men on the other hand were cool, collected, generous when it came to buying toys and gifts or writing cheques for charities, full of verve as they joked around when they were not discussing matters of grave import as they returned from their shiny offices and sat comfortably on plush sofas, being waited on hand and foot by the women, they treated as serfs. To my child’s mind, it was hardly a competition – being a man seemed far more aspirational.
Fortunately, I never gave up on my feminine side, thanks to the powerful women in my life. Despite their challenging circumstances, they were not sad sacks who went through life in resignation, reconciled to constant despair. In their own way, they were strong, courageous, enablers of positive change and empowerment. They made me fiercely proud to be a woman and I grew marginally more comfortable inside my own body, though I still think monthly bleeding and birthing challenges are pains in the posterior!
JOURNEYING INTO THE HEART OF THE FEMALE AND MALE ENERGY
Despite my newfound awareness, I never stopped feeling like there were two equal and opposing forces within me, threatening to tear me apart. An endless tug-of-war between my best and basest impulses making me feel like a trapeze artiste swinging from one end to the other, knowing that a fall without a safety net to cushion the impact was unavoidable. Trying to make sense of this, I turned to mythology and stories, which were the constant love of my life. It was in this world that I first started to see the parts of a bigger pattern that offered a glimmer of understanding.
Perhaps it will be simpler if I were to tell you a story from a fabled age so far back in the beginning that it has receded almost entirely from memory and even myth. It was a time when chaos ruled the roost and there was no order. Everything was at odds with everything else and upheavals were endless leading to nothing by way of tangible results. It would take something truly special to set it all straight and restore infinite calm.
That was when Shiva and Shakti—purusha and prakriti—who embody all the equal and opposing forces in nature which are believed to be irreconcilable, found their way into each other’s arms. The two mighty hearts merged into a single great soul – Ardhanarishwara. Their union made it possible for opposites to co-exist in peace and harmony. This was a state of perfection that had gratifying results – light took the edge off darkness without seeking to subsume it, barren lands became fertile yielding rich bounty, love, compassion and hope took flight while hate, cruelty and intolerance hibernated. It was the best of times.
This state of perfection which Shiva and Shakti achieved did not last. It could not last since their union, perfect though it may have seemed, was far from perfect. It is the grandest and most glorious of paradoxes, they are never stronger than when they are together and yet their togetherness neutralizes their respective powers. Which is why they had to be relegated to the opposite poles of existence, torn apart by a force greater than even love – practical necessity. But they can’t remain estranged forever either and will eventually find their way back to each other to claim the absolute bliss they have earned to make up for and to endure the next round of painful separation.
Viewed from a spiritual point of view, we are the children of purusha and prakriti. Even from a scientific perspective, we were born of the contradictory and contrasting elements of chaos, which is why it is hardly surprising that it feels like light and darkness, love and hate, compassion and cruelty are pulling us in different directions from within and without, threatening to split us asunder. It is why we feel afraid, lost and bitter on most days when the endless ennui of existence proves too much.
And yet, though everything seems hopeless, hope prevails. It is possible to make the journey, irrespective of whether it is inward or outward, which inevitably leads to the same destination – a happy place where all things Godlike and demonic have found a way to co-exist. This happens when we are able to treat the good and bad, profound and profane that define ourselves as well as the world outside with a degree of detachment that is hard but not impossible to achieve. Once this state of harmony and equilibrium is reached, we will stop fearing the raw energy, potent strength and unlimited potential of the Shakti within and rather than seeking to suppress this unstoppable force or imprison it within the walls of a selfish heart, we can set it free…
The rewards are many for those of us who manage to soar on the wings of Shakti to a better place where it is possible to experience a sweetness that transcends the superficial pleasures we have grown accustomed to, forge meaningful bonds that will be able to withstand the unrelenting pressure of harsh reality, consume art and enjoy its inner meaning without being consumed by it, and finally, find a way to prioritize peace and fulfilment over transient joy and fickle ambition. This way we can be the most impressive version of ourselves by making room for the things that feel wrong because these are imperative when it comes to impelling us to do the right thing by us and the others in our lives.
AN ENDLESS JOURNEY
I can’t claim to know all the answers, especially when it comes to the ultimate paradox that governs our existence. But with every step, be it forward or backward or even if I am just standing still, I feel like I am not only able to understand the mysterious pattern woven by the wheel of time a little better, but also find it possible to let go and surrender to whatever awaits me around the next corner. By reaching out to others on this journey to an uncertain destination and back again, through intense dialogues, lengthy conversations, and spirited debate, all I know is that I feel less lonely and lost. By sharing my discoveries, I make new ones. And by trying to answer the questions of others, I don’t always find rational explanations for existential conundrums, but I do find something better… more puzzles to unravel, quests to embark upon and a life to live and savour, for better or worse.
It was faith and acceptance that set Shiva and Shakti free. There is no reason why it can’t do the same for us.
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