Aditi is the Primal Creatrix. The name Aditi means ‘boundlessness’ and ‘freedom’ and conveys the concept of liberty from suffering and bondage. In the Rig Veda, the name is mentioned Eighty times, denoting the importance given to this goddess in the early Vedic times. She is the divine mother of all the Vedic gods and thus the source of the entire evident reality: past, present and future, ‘all that has been and will be born’. She is born from what she gives birth to and is self procreative. Aditi’s womb is unambiguously identified with the centre of the earth and hence mother earth is another aspect of her cosmic presence.
She is considered to be a very ancient deity whose importance faded in the late Vedic period due to the rise in popularity of male gods. As celestial mother of every existing form and being, she is associated with space (Vyom) and with mystic speech (Vāc). She is perhaps not related to a particular natural phenomenon like other Vedic gods and hence unbound, unlimited and unfettered! Aditi challenges the modern idea that the early Vedic people were patriarchal. Aditi was regarded as both the sky goddess, and earth goddess, which is very rare for a prehistoric civilization. Most ancient civilizations regarded the sky as a male and the earth as female, which is not the case here.
This primal deity has been represented mostly in the form of the more popular ‘Lajja Gauri’ (also known as Aditi Uttanpad) in Indian goddess iconography. The image of a headless naked woman with her legs bent and opened wide to expose the female genitalia, is older than the Indus Valley Civilization. But in India the first example of such an image comes from an Indus Valley Seal. She is popularly associated with fertility rituals but such association must be a narrow interpretation of the original scope of this deity. The association might be directly related to the figurative representation of the deity. This enigmatic form of a woman with a blooming lotus for her head is usually portrayed with legs opened and raised in a manner ambiguously suggesting either childbirth or sexual receptivity. Hence, hinting at the creative and regenerative powers of a fertile womb.
Lajja Gauri’s elemental power of sexuality, fertility and creation is solely expressed through her body, the locus of her power. This body is devoid of any ornamentation except armlets and anklets formed of serpents which again are a symbol of regeneration, the eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. The lotus flower (in her hands and in place of her head) has been used through centuries, as symbolism of life, spiritual awakening, sexuality, mystic knowledge and enlightenment. Such a bold iconography of shakti (pure energy) which was not bound to any tradition or subservient to a male power was very threatening to the Hindu patriarchs of later ages because the popularity of this deity had not shrunk into oblivion and hence was ‘harnessed’ and appropriated to suit the changing moral codes of those ages.
Several myths exist concerning Lajja Gauri, but scholars consider them to be inauthentic, late attempts to replace the Goddess's original lore which was eclipsed by the rise of the power of male gods. Many of these tales involve a dominant Lord Shiva testing his wife's modesty by publicly disrobing her, whereupon her head either falls off or sinks into her body from shame, thereby proving her ‘purity’ and providing a Shiva-centric explanation of how such a boldly self-displaying Goddess got a name like "Lajja Gauri" (Gauri of modesty) which seems very farfetched and forced. A typical tale concocted from the perspective of male domination, to bind this unruly goddess into the garb of a tamed wife acceptable by patriarchy.
If we want to search for her actual essence and get an inkling of her forgotten lore it might be useful to listen to folktales from the oral tradition of India that still circulate about her in rural India. Lajja Gauri /Aditi is often referred to as Maatangi in certain parts of Central and south India, who is the "Outcaste Goddess" form of shakti, known for ignoring and flaunting society's rules, hierarchies and conventions. She is also called Renuka, a lowcaste woman beheaded by a high-caste man. Rather than dying, she grew a lotus in place of her head and became a Goddess, Gram Devi (village goddess). These stories involving the deification of an outcaste woman seem to suggest the uncontainable Feminine Principle, its disregard of and ultimate superiority over any manmade social system that would attempt to contain or control its pure force. Lajja Gauri Keeps challenging the moral codes set for women by the Hindu patriarchs, even to this day!
I have used watercolor wash with detailed pen drawing to bring you this interpretation of the primal goddess, the power of the feminine!
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Watercolor wash and pen drawing with waterproof ink on handmade paper