Abstract of the paper by A. Metti, India

The cult of the mother goddess has an unbroken history in the Hindu religious ethos. If Brahman is fire, Sakti is its burning power. This energy or Sakti is ever pictured as female deity, as the consort of male deity. Four Hindu goddesses, consorts of male gods, are considered in the study: Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvati, and Kali. Not only are there inconsistencies between what the goddesses symbolize and the situation of women in India, images of the first three goddesses reinforce the concept of beauty, modesty, and how men want their wives to be. It is Kali, who appears menacing and cruel but stands for rebirth after death and for fresh life from pain and suffering, who reflects the status of the lower class women, independent in her position, not dependent on any marital status.

Indian Christians hesitate to approach Hindu goddesses for four main reasons, 1. Christianity’s Exclusivist Attitude; 2., the Androcentric Attitude; 3. Christian Negation of Body; and 4. Centralised Ritual and Sacramental Power. The bodily representation of goddess with all its frills has had an adverse impact on Christian community, however. Even though Christianity favours theoretically and scripturally the equality of men and women, gender-based discrimination is prevalent as Indian Christians are taking up the ideal feminine characters perpetuated by the goddesses and women are considered even today as ‘helpmates’ who will be partners to their husbands.

The author concludes by proposing the deconstruction of oppressive goddess myths that perpetuate the ideal feminine and underscore the liberative elements in these goddesses Christianity on its part needs to re-examine her language of God and start addressing God in inclusive images, both male and female. Images should include symbols that energize instead of make women more submissive and passive. The celebration of the body, consciousness of the inner power as is realized in goddess-worship, and decentralization of ritual power are recommended

A. Metti, scc, India is a full-time research scholar in the Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras, Chennai. She is also involved in theologising at Theologates in Trichy and Chennai. She obtained her masteral degree in theology at Vidya Jothi.

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