Shameless goddess!

Isn’t that a strange name for a goddess? And why is she Shameless?

However, Devi Mahatmya a text dedicated to worship of Devi, does not record any such name. Probably this may not be the original name of the goddess whose idols today are referred as Lajja gauri or Shameless goddess.

Excavations around Alampur, Nagarjunkonda, in Andhra Pradesh, Siddankotte in Karnataka and Ter, Mahurzuri , Bhokardan in Maharashtra during early 19th century revealed these strange female idols in explicit erotic postures. These female idols were presented in supine positions, with legs spread wide open, her genitalia and heavy breasts exposed to the viewer’s gaze. However the heads of these idols were missing, instead a lotus flower was carved in place of the head.

While scholars have tried to enumerate who the goddess could be and why she is represented in such explicit posture, here is an etiological myth that links the origins of this goddess to Parvati.

Once god Shiva decided to test Parvati. He gave his bed linen (godhadi) to Parvati and said, “ My dear, this is my favourite blanket. Can you take good care of it”.

“ Sure” Parvati replied not realising that her husband was on to playing some mischief.

After this exchange Shiva left the room. But he returned assuming the form of a rat and gnawed at the blanket, which was in Parvati’s custody.

When Parvati noticed that a rat has made holes in Shiva’s blanket, she panicked. “How could this happen? “She muttered to herself, “Now Shiva will get furious? What will I tell him.” she kept admonishing herself.

Just then, a tailor came to the door. Parvati sighed with relief and asked him “ Sir can you mend this blanket? This is my husband’s favourite blanket and a rat has gnawed through it. If my husband finds out he is going to get very upset and throw a fit. Please mend this for me right now”- Parvati pleaded.

Watching Parvati’s desperation the tailor said, “ I can mend this blanket, but on one condition. You will have to lay down with me as the reward”. Parvati was taken aback by this indecent proposal and became furious. But then she thought for a while and decided may be it is better to agree to the tailor’s demand than face Shiva’s wrath. So she agreed to sleep with the tailor.

As they were making love, the tailor who was Shiva in disguise assumed his true form. When Parvati saw Shiva, she became frozen with shame. Out of acute embarrassment her head fell off, while her body remained in the erotic posture.

Thus the headless goddess came to be known as Lajja gauri- or shameless Goddess.

This myth was recorded by shri Lele in his essay Tirthyatraprabandha- a travelogue of pilgrimage.



Story collected by : Vidya Kamat

Text Source: Lajjagauri, R. C. Dhere

Location: Maharashtra

Image Details:  Sculpture from Naganatha Temple Bijapur District, Karnataka, India, c.650 B.C

Image source: wikipedia