On Hinduism by Doniger Wendy

On Hinduism by Doniger Wendy

Author:Doniger, Wendy
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Published: 2014-04-08T16:00:00+00:00

The first part of this passage imagines Parvati creating women who then become Shiva’s sexual partners, the whole point of which requires that he remain absolutely male. But then the text says that he, too, became a female. What are we to make of this—or, for that matter, of the paradoxical statement in the Ramayana that Shiva himself becomes a woman while making love with Parvati? Are we to assume that he carries on in that form? Or that he stops? If he continues, this raises the same ambiguity that we considered in the myth of Mohini: if Shiva is merely superficially transformed into a female, but remains essentially male, we might expect him to continue despite the transformation. This interpretation is supported by one Hindu view of gender, the view that when the body changes, the mind and the memory remain the same and that gender is not fluid or superficial but embedded in memory. But if it is a complete transformation, a change of inner essence, and Shiva does not stop, it would involve him in a rare but not unprecedented situationiii in the Sanskrit literature of Hinduism15 and a parallel to those variants of the myth of Mohini in which Shiva continues to desire Mohini when she changes back into Vishnu in inner essence as well as superficial form. This would support the other Hindu view of gender, also expressed in many of these Sanskrit texts, as fluid and superficial, changing completely when the body changes.iv

Sometimes Shiva himself becomes female for a different reason:

The gods begged the goddess Kali to rid the earth of demonic kings, and she agreed to become incarnate as Krishna. Shiva prayed to Kali and was given permission to become incarnate as Radha, the mistress of Krishna, in order to make love in reverse. At Shiva’s wish, Radha’s husband became impotent immediately after marriage.16


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