Lessons I learnt from Durga


This is the auspicious time of Navaratri so happy Maha Navaratri to you all!

This nine day festival was the first I celebrated when I lived in Mumbai, joining my neighbours for nine nights of dancing and celebration in honour of the goddess Durga. On the eighth day Ashtami my daughter had the honour of being invited to my neighbour’s house to represent one of the nine forms of the mother goddess – kanjak devis and take part in a puja which involved being treated as the goddess herself. Much to her bemusement and delight they washed her feet, fed her the most delicious puri, halwa and chana and given a red chunni scarf and some pocket money (which was duly spent on sweets!)

Recently I have been having a tough time of it and more than ever am feeling the need to welcome the mother goddess into my life and realise her within myself. I’ve not chosen to fast, but have given up alcohol and am generally participating in the idea of purification and reflection of oneself.

The festival has different rituals associated with it in different areas of India but all have the same sentiment – the triumph of good over evil, the appreciation of fertility and creative, feminine energy as a force to accomplish that and the importance of learning (in some states this is when children write their first alphabet or begin tutoring). The way in which I have chosen to interpret this festival is to meditate and learn about myself and better ways of thinking positively and to how appreciate myself and gain much needed confidence in order to have the strength to nurture and care for the loved ones in my life.

Here, in order, are the nine forms of the goddess and my reflections on each:


She is the wife of Shiva and mother nature. She is the daughter of the mountain and the rock foundation or root of spirituality. Worshiped on the first day she represents to me the beginning of my spiritual journey and the importance of being grounded and to understand that each and every one of us are a part of nature. In every reincarnation she marries Shiva. From a romantic angle she makes me think how the feminine energy unites with the masculine and how this is part of becoming spiritually whole. This also has the meaning of hope that every person can obtain enlightenment.


This form of the goddess is to do with penance. By submitting herself to suffer every torment and overcoming them she was rewarded by acceptance as wife to Shiva. While this may annoy feminists it can be interpreted in a different way and this is it’s meaning to me (see my previous article on Vat Savitri here). On a very personal level it means that I cannot progress in any relationship or be a good wife to my future husband until I have found the strength within myself to overcome all my demons, both physical and mental. Only I can do this and it is not a gift any man can give to me.


She is the goddess form of grave and bravery. She defeats demons and persuades lord Shiva to change his form to something much nicer to save her mother. For me she represents the fearless warrior that is inside each one of us that can be unleashed to save the ones we care for. As a mother her spirit is strong and she represents the protective feelings I have for my family. She teaches that to be this triumphant warrior one must remain serene and calm and not lose our grace in anger.


She is known as the cosmic egg from which the universe was created. I love the fact that the Hindu creation story has a female creator. Though creation is a loose term as everything, both masculine and feminine are part of her. Her story reminds me that I am a part of something great – the universe and that it is all one thing and many things at the same time. To be whole you need to accept all of it – positive and negative, masculine and feminine as part of the same cosmic egg. Plus I love the phrase cosmic egg.


This goddess took an adopted son and he defeated an evil demon and saved the world. She is about selfless love. As an adopted person this story is a dear one to my heart. She teaches me to love selflessly and not for personal gain and in return good karma will be attained. One day I hope to adopt a child and return the gift that was given to me.


I’m not sure how much I understand this form of the goddess – I know she is known as the third eye goddess and her legend includes details where she slays a king who thinks he can win her love through fighting. I have also hear that if you fast in her honour you will get the husband you wish to obtain unless that happens to be Krishna, in which case he will steal your clothes while you are bathing.


She is the most violent form of the goddess – the destroyer. However what she destroys are negative things like demons and fear. She teaches me to behave the same with my negative emotions and remove all negative energy from my life.


Another goddess form I do not entirely understand. She is to do with Parvati having fair and dark complexions and fairness being the desired one. Explains a bit about the obsession in India with having fair skin (goes way back before the British ever colonised India). All a bit dubious to me. I think the reading I take out of her story is that Lord Shiva washed away all of the dirt and suffering from Parvati in the river Ganga. If I can strive towards enlightenment then I can look forward to the same and become spiritually ‘fair’.


She is the giver of supernatural power and indeed gave to Lord Shiva. When I think of this I think back to Shailaputri – the root and mother nature. Supernatural power and divine knowledge can be attained by all of us as it is a part of all of us as we all come from mother nature. For some reason this revelation makes me very happy and makes my everyday problems disappear into insignificance.


Vat Savitri Vrat London Style


Last Sunday I fasted on the Hindu festival of Vat Savitri Vrat (or Vat Purnima as it is know in some states). This is the day when many Hindu women in India fast and pray to the divine for their husband’s prosperity and long healthy life.

The same festival appears to me to be celebrated on a completely separate date as Kawa Chauth in October. Being a novice to the whole religion I went with what my google Hindu calendar told me – I’m sure I will give it another go in October also as I really enjoyed the whole festival, be it by myself on my boat in London!

So I can already hear the feminists among you crying out “why would you fast for a man?! why should you make this sacrifice?! You are not even a Hindu!” I would like to share with you my reading of the Savitri story and my own personal reasons for doing this pooja. I will begin with my interpretation of the legend of the Devi Savitri herself:

Savitri, beautiful daughter of King Aswapati was married to Satyawaan and she loved him to the moon and back. One day Lord Yama, the god of death came along to take her husband’s soul. Savitri was having absolutely none of this so she followed him around demanding it back being a right pain in his backside. To relieve this headache and make her go away he says he will grant her three wishes, but none of these can be for the soul of her husband back.

Savitri was clever (being a woman obviously) and first wished for the good health and long life of her inlaws. “Done” said Lord Yama, “Next?” For her second wish she asked for the long life and good health of her own parents. “No problem” said Lord Yama, thinking “well this is easy.” However, for her last wish she said “I wish for a son.”

“Ok no worries one son coming right up” said Lord Yama being rather dismissive about the whole thing. 

“But Lord Yama, you know I am a virtuous and loyal wife to my husband – how can I get a son if my husband is dead – for you know I could never remarry or love another?”

“Oh drat! You’ve got me there woman!” Said Lord Yama “Well OK then – here is your husband back – I can’t break my promise of three wishes.”

And thus clever Savitri had outsmarted death and went on to have 100 sons and live happily ever after…

A lovely story I’m sure you will all agree, but why fast? The way I see it is that Savirti had some guts and determination and serious willpower. Hindus worship her as Devi (goddess) on this day as she embodies the feminine Shakti (energy AKA Girl Power!) which is so strong and smart and powerful that it can outwit even death itself – such is the power of love and call me a hippy, but the power of love is a good thing to celebrate.

Through fasting, meditation and prayer and exercising  your willpower on your own body to ignore its desires, you can feel very empowered – of course spiritually there is a lot more to this – maybe I will write a further blog on the subject one day. You also get to wear your nicest clothes (a particularly glittery salwar kameeze suit in my case) and you are not allowed to do any housework all day long (oh well!).

At the end of my fast, with all that feminine shakti and looking beautiful and feeling accomplished and great I prayed for all the men out there because let’s face it they need it!

Women are not giving anything up on Vat Savitri – they are being reminded of their strength as women and the feminine goddess-like power contained in all women and mother earth. Very generously a bit of that is given out to the men in the form of prayer – after all, we do love them! Happy Vat Savitri London!

Here are some links to more information about the festival:








The First Red Tent in India


This December I’ve had the delight of my job taking me to Goa for two very different festivals.

The first of which was a yoga and mind body spirit kind of affair. As the only female sound engineer in my company (and possibly in the whole of India! -I would love to meet another!) I had the unexpected pleasure of being assigned to the women only red tent. The men who had sent me there were somewhat fearful and at the same time intrigued by this womblike red cavern and the fierce band of women ruling the space. One guy joked that if would love to record the sound so he could find out what on earth they were doing in here! I was wondering the same thing myself as the women carefully created am altar in the center of the tent, fussing over candles and flowers and the authenticity of their firewood- I pitied the production manager responsible for ensuring their every need was satisfied- while immediately liked each of the red tent team they definitely struck me as women I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of!

As it turned out there were no sound requirements for the morning session other than music playback at the end so I joined in the first activity, rather harmlessly titled ‘Breath Work.’ little did I realise I was to be brought back to the moment of my birth via a trance like state induced by a breathing technique that many people (mistakenly) think is hyperventilating. We were all assured that no one has died of breathing and it was perfectly safe so I laid back and gave it my best. My first thought was that it brought me back to the experience of giving birth rather than my own birth. The feeling produced by the breathing was very similar to the gas given to you when you are in labour. My head started spinning and all my limbs and extremities were tingling. This developed into painful cramps and I passed out a couple of times, my consciousness spiraling off down a dark tunnel with a eerie green light at the end.

Previous to the session we were briefed on the fact that all these things might happen and were perfectly normal as it was our bodies physical manifestation of our resistance to let go of our ‘personal lie’- our deepest innermost fear or insecurity. We also talked about our own births i.e. were they natural or did we have a chord around the neck, forceps etc. This worried me a little as I was a cesarean and as far as I knew adopted from birth, so I wasn’t entirely sure it was an experience I wanted to relive. With all this in mind, after the seed of thought had been planted I naturally began to consider what my personal lie might be whilst flat on my back in my trance. I found myself wanting to cry and overwhelmed with emotion but there was a voice in my head telling me not to let go as technically I was at work- imagine if one of the boys came to ask me for a microphone or cable or something and found me half passed out in floods of tears on the floor proclaiming that I am terrified of being rejected! Not a good look!

Imagebra on mixing desk (not mine!)

Anyway the session got over and the day went on with a goddess galaxy ceremony run by fashion designer Malini Ramani and a talk on what it means to be feminine by a sex psychotherapist Shanta Gyanchand topped off in the evening by a film on the history of the red tent movement. Red tents have been around for a long, long time. Originally they were places where women went to at their time of the month to bleed together and I expect have a bloody good moan as we all like to when we are brimful of hormones and menstrual cramps. Over time some hippies and a few feminists decided this was a good idea and it would be great to have a space where women could meet and share stories and love and generally be empowered as well as have a good moan about their periods. I fully agree with them after watching the film and seeing first hand the effect the red tent had on the women that visited over the weekend. My personal highlight had to be the wisdom imparted by Shanta in her talk on interpreting women’s sexual fantasies using dream analysis theory- fascinating stuff! Apparently the reason why lots of women have submissive fantasies, sometimes to the extremes of rape or sexual slavery, is because women often find themselves having a lot of heavy responsibility in their lives and in these submissive situations all responsibility is relinquished- makes a whole load of sense!

I also loved Deepti Datt’s reinterpretation of Sleeping beauty as related to the coming of age of a young girl (getting your period) and the rest of the details I won’t reveal here as they are a treat best heard first-hand.

This was the first time there has been a red tent here in India- a fact which really surprised me considering India’s large hippy populace who are especially concentrated here in Goa. The tent was run by two women of Indian origin, which also surprised me and I felt uncomfortable about the fact that it did. This was until I thought about it somewhat and realised that the reason it surprised me was exactly the reason why India needs the red tent movement- women have been oppressed here and many still are. Often this happens in their own homes and there is a definite need for a space they can go where they can talk openly without being judged in terms of religious rules or the expectations of Indian society. Of course there is a feminist movement here but red tents are not simply about feminism or hippies- they are about support, healing and education which is something every woman has a need for regardless of social background. I was very privileged to witness and be a part of one and really excited to see several women announcing at the end their intent to take the idea away and start up red tent women’s circles in their own Indian cities and wish them the best of luck!

For more information please check out https://www.facebook.com/redtentinindiaImage