Thursday, October 18, 2007

That Girl's Dope

I know how badly y'all wanted a Bell Biv Devoe refresher.

I'm not confident in the propriety of calling a Hindu goddess "dope" but today we're going to talk a bit about Goddess Durga. 

Meta-cognition is a subject which causes me to frequently furrow my brows in determination, desperately attempting to unpack the closet in search of something that I simply know that I know.  Stores of information are compressed in the closet and, despite all of my pedagogy knowledge (also compressed into the closet, I might add), I hold no clues on what allows me to access something this time but not the next.  Last week, someone in one of my online classes made a comment about Marc Antony that seemed completely false to me.  I penned a sweet (in academic circles, one might prefer "awesome") research paper a couple of years ago on Ancient Roman Literature, basically picking up from where Roman literature ceased consisting of Greek works translated into Latin and began with authors writing histories of Rome and some original poetry, drama, etc.  I "learned" more about Ancient Rome in writing that paper than my textbook ever could have "taught" me.  I knew what my classmate was saying about Marc Antony wasn't right, but I couldn't remember what was right.  It irritated me, as such things always do.

That very day,
Taylor Made Fossils left me a blog comment directing me to this article about how J.K. Rowling was suing organizers of Durga Puja for constructing a large-scale papier mache replica of Hogwarts for the festival.  Hogwarts is copyrighted, you know.  Quite interesting as one of her characters, Parvati Patil, is named for Durga.  In fact, almost all of her characters are named after mythological figures.  Good thing they're not copyrighted.

"I've always wanted to go Durga Puja," says I to...myself. 

*cut to Melissa's WTF face*

I can't explain how I know about Durga Puja.  I'm certain it happened at some point that I was reading something (The Satanic Verses? My "Other World" textbook?) and wanted to know which goddess Durga was.  I was completely dumbfounded at that moment, reading the J.K. Rowling article, that I could remember something from a tiny side project I did (though I don't know when or why I did it) but not from knowledge that I gained after putting countless hours into research that I cared deeply about.  

Nonetheless, you are going to get a brief schooling on Goddess Durga and Durga Puja. 

I'm fascinated by religion.  I've not studied it as thoroughly as I'd like, though I still have plenty of time.  I really only have a surface understanding of various religions.  The thing that draws me to Hinduism are the countless gods and goddesses (there's literally a god for everything) and I find myself mesmerized by artwork depicting them.  Here's Durga:


At this point, all of the great gods I've studied as mythology are just that, myths.  They're impressive stories full of wisdom.  But they're stories.  Hindus still put stock in their gods (there may be other religions that do as well, thusfar my knowledge of religion is quite basic).  Despite my inability to find an ounce of religious faith within myself, I really admire those who believe in something.

Durga.  Durga (mother of the universe) protects mankind from evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, and hatred.  Her 10 arms hold various significant objects, most of which are weapons meant to destroy the forces of evil against which she has infinite power to protect.  I read somewhere that the weapons vary to indicate that not all evil can be destroyed in any one way.  For example, jealously can only be destroyed by ridding oneself of desire, prejudice by knowledge.  Durga is a very "popular" Hindu goddess and is therefore known and worshipped widely enough to have an annual festival in her honor, Durga Puja.

Durga Puja is essentially a celebration of the god Rama invoking Durga in his battle to defeat King Ravana, who had kidnapped Rama's wife.  The festival is held in September or October every year (the time of the battle, I believe) and, while there are specific traditions and offerings which are observed, it's basically one giant carnival and party where people of all faiths are welcome to join in the celebration.  During the festival, it is holiday time.  Daily life is paused and the people do nothing but partake in festivities.  Impressive Pandals (like the one of Hogwarts), which are sort of temporary temples for the festival, are set up specifically for the festival and get rather elaborate.  Each pandal has a stage where Durga is displayed for worship:

While the purpose of the festival is to honor Durga, it has everything one might expect of a good time: food, drink, art, film releases, music, and general extravagance.  Based on my bit of research on the subject, it seems safe to call it the biggest such festival in the world.         

What have you learned today?  Melissa gets really excited when she remembers something other than her name, J.K. Rowling is not rich enough, and you learned a little something about a great Hindu goddess and the debauchery you now want to participate in to celebrate her.

What do you say?  MySpace party in India this time next year?  Ladies, we will look quite lovely in our saris.

Too bad we missed Hogwarts.

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