Madhu Bazaz Wangu | Nani’s Page
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Nani’s Page

Vines, Creepers and Trees

Female Creepers, Male Trees Portrayal of a virgin entwined around a blossoming tree is a characteristic motif of the early Indian art (c. 2nd century BCE to 3rd century CE). Such voluptuous females with abundant jewelry, elaborate headdresses and coiffures are reminiscent of Indus Valley terracotta figurines. These figures are believed to be charged with potent sexual energy. The trees are their male counterparts in vegetal form. Such leaning females are called Yakshinis and the trees they lean against, when in human form, Yakshas. Yakshini is a vessel of fertility, capable of bringing forth new life. Yaksha is a water deity. When both figures are in human form they are known as Mithuna. All these images, Yakshini, Yaksha and Mithuna are fundamental symbols of water, fertility and vegetative growth. Yakshinis and Mithunas,...

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Ancient Female Deities

Ancient Female Deities, Now Retired More than four thousand years ago inhabitants of the fertile region of Ganga-Jamuna delta sang hymns of praise. They sung in honor of the powers of nature, of sky, of atmosphere, of earth. They sung the hymns of awe and terror to the powers of dawn, sun, ether, night, earth-its fertility and fecundity, water, vegetation and fire. Slowly the powers were personified. They were given thousand eyes and ears, multiple heads and hands. Most of these were male but many female: mothers, and spouses of the male deities. Consorts, spouses and mother deities were efficacious but lacked profile and power. They were easily interchangeable with one another. Their names were simply the feminine suffices of the names of the male gods. For example Agneyi was...

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First Things First

My growing years in India were spent in the company of some wonderful women—my mother, sisters, sisters-in-law, nieces and aunts. But eternally present at the periphery were Hindu goddesses—Durga, Lakshmi, Parvati, Sita, Radha, Kali, Sarasvati and many others. Religious or not, we found ourselves dyed in the hues and tones of the goddesses, their colors unbleachable.  How did the full-fledged Hindu goddesses emerge? Why, about five thousand years ago, were thousands of female figurines modeled in clay? Why did Indian artisans start to sculpt voluptuous dryads and nymphs by 300 CE and distinct symbolic images of the goddesses by 500 CE? And finally why are these goddesses highly cherished deities of modern India?  # The earliest female figurines were unearthed on the banks of the Indus River during the early twentieth century. They...

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Viewing Goddess Images

The Hindu Great Goddess, Devi is depicted in paintings and sculptures in her many forms. Her art depictions as well as popular posters distinctively express her erotic, maternal and terrible powers. Each of her images holds emblems in the hands, wears a crown and jewels in coiffure, jewelry around the fingers, neck, wrists and ankles and is attired in luxurious garb (except goddess Kali who is depicted in the nude). In order for us to authentically understand the meanings of Devi’s visual manifestations we need to know their myths and symbols and become acquainted with the religion and culture in which they belong. Once we reach that threshold, viewing them will not only give us pleasure but also their meanings will empower us, the onlookers. We can view the...

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Feeling The Distance Goddesses Once Again

In the mid seventies when I arrived in the United States I heard people call Marilyn Monroe a goddess but Virgin Mary who had all the characteristics of being a goddess was denied that status. To me things seemed upside down. In India, I did not pay much attention to goddesses, but they were everywhere. Friends and family talked about the efficacious power (Sakti) of the Great Goddess (Devi). The many energies of Devi in the form of various goddesses is a common belief. During yearly festivals I viewed, with much interest, their graceful iconographic forms. The celebrations of Navaratra, Shivratri and Diwali brought to focus the images aflame with exquisite grace as well as sinister inelegance. The goddess myths and images awoke feelings of aesthetic delight and mystery. When I...

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Homage to Solitude

The year-end holidays: Shopping in groceries and malls with well-equipped merchandise and clamoring crowds. Baking and boiling. Sweeping, mopping and dusting. Roasting and toasting. Food and fun with family and friends. At home, love abounds. Each year my husband and I look forward to spending the holidays with our daughters, son-in-law, and the rest of our family and friends. Our children's presence enriches us emotionally and makes me feel whole. But there are moments when I feel physically and mentally exhausted. It is time to stop and be quiet. Writing in my study with the door closed for nine to ten months each year has trained me to be by myself. I have discovered that in the hush of that space I find my balance, get to know myself and feel connected to...

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All Humans are Spiritual Beings

From the outset we want to make clear that when we say "religion" we neither mean major organized faiths nor minor beliefs, but a universal consciousness at the macro level and individual mindful awareness at the micro level that, when awakened, can heal individuals and enhance their well-being. An educated understanding of the world's religions and fine arts can gratify a personal quest for spiritual growth. We strongly believe in carefully reading the underlying core of each religion that is common to all faiths and connects all human beings into a large global community. Let's not cage "God." Let's experience wisdom and compassion with sincerity and dignity. We call this sort of attitude "modern spirituality." Our individual private lives seem...

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