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This Lakshmi pujo, can we call any woman A-Lakshmi?

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India’s patriarchal society has for ages objectified women and it is no wonder she has been categorized into two distinct types: Lakshmi and A-Lakshmi. Traits traditionally cited as feminine and those who we call Lakshmi, include gentleness, empathy, and sensitivity. Canadian-American sociologist Erving Goffman says women are socialized to present themselves as ‘precious, ornamental and fragile, uninstructed in and ill-suited for anything requiring muscular exertion’ and to project ‘shyness, reserve and a display of frailty, fear and incompetence.’

When a girl is praised as ‘Lakkhi meye’she is supposed to be the very embodiment of ‘…sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of! And any woman who dares to defy the pre-ordained concept of femininity and deviates from the traditional role is A- Lakshmi and a potential threat to society. If she is educated, intelligent and logical, she is inclined towards Saraswati and hence should not even dream of receiving Lakshmi’s blessings. She, who is argumentative, dares to speak to men on equal terms, questions social norms, is an evil entity, dark and sinuous and should be ostracized. Like A-Lakshmi, she must remain in the shadows, invisible. In other words, wise women are the cursed ones who will live and die in penury. 

So, asKojagori Lakshmi Puja will be celebrated with pomp and joy and Maa Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, will be expected to bring in peace and fortune, close on her heels will arrive her Jyestha (elder sister) A-Lakshmi, Goddess of strife. She causes quarrels and is the negative energy or force that silently comes with rising wealth. In scriptures, origin of A-Lakshmi is also marred by dark forces of nature. A-Lakshmi is said to have emerged with Maa Lakshmi during the churning of the ocean of milk or samudra manthan. While Lakshmi emerged with the amrit or nectar, A-lakshmi emerged with the halahal or poison.

Perhaps that is the reason why in the olden times, education for women was never encouraged and the educated few were always looked down with suspicion.Just like in Western society, they were called witches, we called our women A-Lakshmi and she never featured in the marriage market, husband-hunting for her was difficult. Times have changed but has our outlook on the real-life A-lakshmi changed? Will she still be neglected and left out of the house to watch in isolation the adulation showered on her sister, Lakshmi? Only time will tell.