Pranav Bhide of ad the agency Taproot has created a series of pictures depicting the Hindu Goddesses: Lakshmi (लक्ष्मी), Saraswati (सरस्वती), and Durga (दुर्गा) as victims of domestic violence to benefit Save Our Sisters, an recent anti-domestic violence initiative of Save The Children India which focuses on prevention and repatriation of sexually trafficked women and children in India.
Each of the three ads is accompanied by the same text:
Pray that we never see this day. Today more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray too.
Taproot’s campaign was created by blending traditional hand-painted Indian art with modern-day photography using real models and has won multiple awards at different ad festivals.
If you’re Pagan, these ads will be eye-catching and a bit disturbing. For Hindu’s their blatantly shocking. Lakshmi who Hindus once beseeched on bended knee for good fortune now sits sad-eyed on a lotus with a bloodied nose. Saraswati’s infinite wisdom and knowledge were no defense against a black-eye. Durga, who once danced upon the demon (Asura) Mahishasura’s corpse now stands bruised, battered and teary-eyed, begging for our protection.
The images of Lakshmi and Saraswati are directly analogous to depicting the Blessed Mother Mary as beaten and bloodied. The image of Durga is a bit different because Durga is a Goddess of War and the defender of Heaven (Svarga). Showing Her as beaten and cowed is an implication that Heaven itself has been beaten and conquered by the growing violence against women in India.
That’s, however, a somewhat problematically mixed message. It may shock and shame men, which was its intent, but it also undermines the Indian women’s religious images of feminine authority by reducing three of their major goddesses to victims and stripping them of their awesome and often perilous divine power.
This may also be an indicator of how far the sad and shameful “domestication” of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses has gone in Post-Colonial India.
In Indian schools the now they tell children that when Shiva killed his wife Parvarti’s son, Ganesha she cried. They blatantly ignore that she also made ready to destroy the entire universe in her grief and rage and relented only when Shiva agreed to resurrect her son and make him a God.
At least Taproot was wise enough no to attempt to depict the Samrajni Kali Ma (काळी) as a victim of any form of violence, especially domestic violence.
सर्वमङ्गलमाङ्गल्ये शिवे सर्वार्थसाधिके । शरण्ये त्र्यम्बके गौरि नारायणि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥
ॐ जयंती मंगळ काळी भद्रककाळी कपालिनी । दुर्गा क्षमा शिवा धात्री स्वाहा स्वधा नमोऽस्तुते ॥
It would be foolish to attempt to paint Kali as some form of abused Bhartiya Naari (“Traditional Indian Woman”). Nobody would believe or countenance that Kali, who sprung from Durga’s forehead and was made by Her rage and frustration at not being able to defeat the demon general Raktabija and his army could ever be a victim.
Of course, a follow-up campaign showing the possible repercussions of domestic violence against women in India featuring the Samrajni Kali Ma might be a powerful message…