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Graduate Research Seminar Series: Tainted Love: Menstrual Taboo and Iconography at Kamakhya Temple (India)

Imma Ramos (University of Cambridge)
When Mar 06, 2013
from 05:00 PM to 07:00 PM
Where History of Art Graduate Centre, 4a Trumpington Street
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According to a myth of cosmic dismemberment, the Hindu goddess Sati’s yoni or vulva is said to have fallen from the heavens and been enshrined in Kamarupa in Assam, where it is worshipped as Kamakhya. The significance of the aniconic yoni (a fissure in a large rock) is articulated through an unstudied series of sculptures charged with Tantric fertility and ‘apotropaic’ imagery. In particular this paper will examine a sculpture depicting a squatting female figure displaying her vulva. Today her pudendum is anointed by devotees with red vermillion suggesting menstrual blood, a substance which is considered to be powerfully potent but also highly polluting. In order to understand the underlying significance of the figure, this paper will explore the place of menstruation in Hindu culture and religious practice, with special reference to the Ambuvaci Mela festival dedicated to Kamakhya’s annual menstruation (June-July).

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