& occasionally about other things, too...

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sacred Feminine


Guest Post by Lata Pada

"I stand here a woman who has traversed life in many avatars daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, dancer, teacher and mentor. I ask myself what is the common thread that weaves each of these roles in my life – it has been the abiding feminine spirit, restless and ever seeking," says Lata Pada, the renowned danseuse, and the artistic director of Sampradaya Dance Creations, in her introduction to Meena Chopra’s book She – The Restless Streak


Your worship Mayor Bonnie Crombie, distinguished guests, artists and friends. I am very honoured to be invited to speak today and illustrate how the poems of Meena pay homage to a woman, in all her myriad moods and facets.

Lata Pada performing an abhinaya to Meena Chopra's poetry
at the launch of She - the Restless Streak
at Mississauga Central Library
Photo: Sheila Tucker
As I read She- The Restless Streak, I found Meena’s poems replete with imagery, nuance, allegory and subtext. Each poem has touched upon a central motif - that of a woman. The release of her new book of poetry – She– The Restless Streak– is a deeper journey in that feminine mystique, mysterious and unpredictable, into the abstract and the tangible, complementary and contradictory.

I find the poems are an exploration of the feminine energy, that those of us from India know as Shakti, she who has the power to annihilate evil while also protective of her devotees, her restless creative energy juxtaposed against her meditative and still presence. Shakti is the divine mother that creates, nurtures and nourishes, protective and fierce about her creations, unhesitating about destroying evil.

Meena’s poems have resonated for me at a deeper level. Each of her poems epitomizes what I would like to call the ‘sacred feminine’ – a principle that reaffirms our connection to the divine, the Goddess, the earth and each other. The poems take us on several inner journeys, that are deeply personal and yet universal.

Today, I stand here a woman who has traversed life in many avatars daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, dancer, teacher and mentor. I ask myself what is the common thread that weaves each of these roles in my life – it has been the abiding feminine spirit, restless and ever seeking. That spirit has been my constant companion and has been part of artistic voice which has found expression in many of my dance productions.

In the arts of India, the female divine has been an intrinsic part of every artistic expression, represented over centuries in temple carvings, paintings and murals, poems and devotional outpourings of the saint-poets and in dance of every genre.

As prakriti – nature, she imprints every creation with her divine energy, moving unceasingly, restless to complete the natural cycles of the sun, the wind and waters to restore order, so the new day can begin. Meena has captured it so beautifully in her poem Kaleidoscope where she describes the ever restless, changing nature through the dawn of day, surging, shifting towards establishing cosmic order.

The female Divine has always been an intrinsic part of life in India, the Indian tradition, where Shakti and Shiva, the female and the male, are seen as essential to the balance of the universe. Artistic traditions such as painting, literature, dance and music honoured this principle of ardhanarishwara, the union of the male and female, as a necessary part of every aspect of nature.

As a dancer, I have found inspiration in the many facets of the feminine in Indian writing, but always searching and restless as how to reconcile the tensions between western and eastern sensibilities, and to explore universal meaning for themes of the goddess, divinity and woman.

Revealed By Fire was the result of this quest. 16 years after the devastation of the Air India bombing in June 1985 in which my husband and two daughters were victims, I felt compelled to create an autobiographical work that was my personal journey through tragedy and survival. 

While my world as wife and mother had been cruelly wrenched from me, I came to understand that my identity as a woman had survived, an identity that no outside force could destroy. No force, even fire like the archetypal Sita of the Ramayana. 

Instinctively, I turned to Sita, where her agni-pariksha- a test of fire, resonated for me; a motif of my re-birth and renewal. Sita emerged unscathed - strong and luminous.
Fire became a metaphor, both for its destructive and regenerative energy. I surrendered to my strong instinct; I did not question the need for this work, I only needed to imagine how to create it. In Revealed By Fire, I returned to wholeness, a new peace and equanimity.

No comments:

Post a comment