Redemption in Indignity : From the Clay to the Goddess

protima 4

Isn’t it amazing that despite the society looking down upon and ostracizing the prostitutes, the deity of our Goddess is incomplete without the clay taken from the surroundings of her own dwellings.

Before it was stigmatized as mere fleshtrade many of the ‘bayijis’ were musicians and dancers or rather courtesans of repute. Though they were given their due respect, their lives were not respectable. Hence it was much later that music and dance stepped out of the ‘baiji’ area, and spread its wings into the more dignified and honorable neighborhoods, ensconcing themselves graciously into our daily lives.

Unfortunately today these ‘baiyijis’ have been stripped of the music part, and are left with only antipathy and odium that goes with harlotry. Yet the age-old custom didn’t cease to exist. No matter how much you disrespect and look down upon her, this one time in the entire year, and perhaps the most important time in the entire year, we have to beg at her doorsteps for a little bit of clay, elevating her status for that one tiny little moment.

So how did it start? The story goes that one day Parvati was observing the daily chores and routines of the earthlings. She was aghast to find that men were visiting other women out of wedlock and was besides herself to see the pain, trauma and stigma, these women faced in the society, yet the respectable and honorable men visiting her didn’t seem to be affected at all.

She ran back to Lord Shiva at Kailash and asked him why he chose to shut his eyes towards these poor women and that he must in some way redeem them.

Calming Parvati down, Lord Shiva blessed these women with the virtues that others brought to their doorsteps. Every time a man visited them, he would have to leave behind all the virtues he had accumulated over his lifetime and when returning back he would take back all the ominous deeds of the woman he was visiting.

Over time the other woman and her dwelling would be overflowing with virtues whereas the man’s quarters that he shared with his family, would eventually become unpropitious and inauspicious.

Therefore every time Parvati comes down to earth, her clay deity is incomplete without the virtuous clay from the prostitute quarters. It not only blesses the fallen woman but also infuses the ‘debi’ spirit into the clay Goddess.

photo courtsey, Debnath Basu

Photo Courtesy, Debnath Basu

Photo Courtsey, Debnath Basu

Photo Courtesy, Debnath Basu

Debi Durga

Debi Durga

12 thoughts on “Redemption in Indignity : From the Clay to the Goddess

  1. Thanks for sharing this story Ahana. I have always wondered the reason for this, today you have answered me.
    But, don’t you think Shiva’s words are somewhat biased? To me it looks like the wives are being punished for the misdeeds of the men of the house.

      • I think it is a punishment that creates itself. Not fair, but you will observe how the whole family is disturbed by these actions. They are never fair to anyone. Maybe reading this legend will give a jolt to the man, hold a mirror to him. Invariably he is absolved of guilt and the “fallen” one is considered sinful. This puts it in perspective. Like all legends, it is layered and we take away wisdom at several levels.

      • Our society is laden with layers of hypocrisy and we are not willing to talk about them. We shove them under the rug in the name of culture, religion and what have you. This was meant to be a mirror to what we do without batting an eyelid.

  2. Hi Ahana, thanks for sharing this story. Quite interesting and thought-provoking. You are giving me ideas for my next story 😀

  3. Isn’t it a fact that under the guise of this ‘clay collection ceremony’ society has justified philandering by men? I feel that such stories were not only generated by men, but over the centuries, they were enforced strictly by those very men who visited the prostitutes’ quarters. Well written though.

    • You are quite right Neelesh. Also I wanted to highlight the inherent dichotomy in our society where we look down upon the prostitutes and will not allow them to have their own pujo yet beg for a handful of clay from her and make her feel blessed life long… isnt it hypocrisy!!

  4. I too heard about the MYTH , behind this practice. I call it MYTH as I cannot believe it to be true. This gender bias is sickening. Why is the woman called as fallen?? Why does she only need redemption and not the men?? It is our forefathers (Not foremothers. You see?) who passed on this gender legacy .It’s time for a change in the society. We women use the words such as “slut, harlot, prostitute etc )Not right. Let’s initiate a change.

    • Yes.. we should initiate change. To a certain extent women are also responsible in absolving men of their crimes of passion.. Change has to be brought about at homes, in educational institutes, in our regular tv soaps, movies, everywhere. Maybe then we can see the light of day in a few years from now.

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