ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Divinity Goes Pop

Seamlessly weaving glamour, sensuousness and spirituality, Radhe Maa has redefined the spirituality market.

Man made god in his image, and so with Radhe Maa. If her photos showing her in a garish miniskirt with hands akimbo in a hunterwali pose are to be believed, Radhe Maa seems to be very obliging to her followers’ tastes, since, after all, divinity lies in the eyes of the devotees. The visuals of Radhe Maa—the dense daub of red lipstick, scarlet tilak on her forehead, a miniature replica of trishul in her hands, her shiny hairdo and always decked up in various hues of deep red—not only convey a conscious attempt to invoke the long-haired Shiva figurine in a female form but also purvey standardised images that calendar art makes so popular. The message seems to be that consumerism trumps renunciation, as the spiritual does not get snuffed out even when surrounded by trivia; instead, it bestows its blessings on it.

In a land where pantheism and idol-worship have thrived for long, the anthropomorphic roots of divinity-creation, in all its finery, have always been manifest. Its personification in forms of living men and women, embellished with preferences of the day, has an equally hoary tradition. Sipping water, in which the dharmaguru has dipped his big toe, has been deemed the iconic moment of experiencing divinity incarnate. But unlike the monkish garb donned by the fleet of god-men that traverse this land (and even god-women have to subscribe to this dominant imagery to garner followers), Radhe Maa proffers an option that divinity need not always be cloaked in other-worldliness. By appearing in slick costumes, she aims to satisfy the desires of her happy-go-lucky follower. In a way, it helps bypass the embarrassment of being caught surreptitiously indulging in pleasures sexual that most god-men are wont to do.

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