This is an essay about the role of idol worship for Hindu women in India.

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All over the world women have been trying to gain their independence from the patriarchal society they live in. Women of India are no exception to this struggle. They have been fighting for years to break through the conventional norms of an oppressive and suppressive culture. The Hindu women in India find this cultural lag especially difficult because their religion is one of the most goddess rich faiths in the world today. Trying to live in a society that worships goddesses but abuses their women is unbearable. The Hindu women of India are starting to break through their culturally suppressed norms and are gaining power and respect through the embodiment of the very goddesses their religion worships.

By examining goddesses and Indian, female politicians, a connection can be made as to why women of power are frequently associated with the embodiment of goddesses. First, this paper will discuss why the Hindu women in India must call upon the goddesses as a source of feminine strength. Secondly, the Hindu deities Durga and Kali are analyzed for their significance and functions in Indian women's lives. Lastly, Durga and Kali are analyzed for their frequent personification of women in power, specifically, politician Indira Gandhi and political deviant, Phoolan Devi. Hindu goddesses are used as a source of empowerment for Indian women and are a means to represent female politicians in order to manifest the divine powers, making these women acceptable in society as well as maintaining their supremacy.

Women in India are one of the most suffering genders around the world. They face discrimination in both the public and the private realms. Men largely dominate aspects such as the financial dealings of a household, the work place and the religious sphere. Men dictate what sacred scriptures women can read and learned. However, it was not always like this. Women of the past "were on equal footing with men" (Jatava, Pg. 116). "Women, in fact were honoured and had right to study the Vedas, and the Upanayana Sanskar was also allowed to them" (Jatava, Pg. 116). The origin of male domination over women can be attributed to the days of Manu. He was the one who introduced the caste system into Indian society as well as introducing the Manu-Smriti, "which was responsible for the degradation of women in Hindu society" (Jatava, Pg. 116).

Women were not independent. From the time of their birth to their marriage they are viewed as property, either under the ownership of a father and then of a husband. "In fact, a woman [could not] remain independent or free to live as she desires" (Jatava, Pg. 116). The Laws of Manu made sure of this dependency and domination. The Manu Smriti contains laws and rules of the conduct of an individual and a community at large. These codes indicate how women should be treated. Some of the rules are the following: Section 15: "Through their passion for men, through their mutable temper, through their natural hartlessness, they become disloyal towards their husbands; however, carefully they may be guarded in this world." (Jatava, Pg. 118). Section 3: "Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence" (Jatava, Pg. 118). Section 2147: "By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house" (Jatava, Pg. 118). The document goes on about the weakness of women, indicating that women should not be allowed to study the Vedas, live alone or become educated. "The Hindus may appear modern in society, but in their families, they are the most conservative and orthodox in terms of status, freedom and equality of women" (Jatava, Pg. 117).

The Hindu society offers a paradox for women. Females are seen as weak and often are abused physically and emotionally because they are second-class citizens. Dr. David Kinsley wrote in the book, The goddesses mirror that,...
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