By Gayatri Devi
At the first ASWM conference in 2010, my aunt Savithri and I led the ritual called Karadarshanam (“kara” in Sanskrit means “hand,” and “darsanam” means “looking, seeing, witnessing”) as part of the opening ceremonies for our conference. Hindus believe that our hand is an important organ of apperception and action.
“A Shrine for the Ancestral Midwives” by Lauren Raine
Practicing Hindus would tell you that when you first awake in the morning, you must not jump out of bed, or start thinking about work or your list of things to do or money or debts or anything of the kind.
When you break the fast called sleep, when you have allowed all of your sensory organs to fall into a state of rest, and you wake up, it is a state change. Hindus would tell you that you should initiate this state change each morning by bringing your hands together and feeling your hands mindfully, perhaps by folding them in supplication or prayer and silently meditate on the following mantra.
It is a beautiful mantra. The essence of the mantra is this: within your hand resides the three divine goddesses – Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth), Saraswati (the goddess of Learning), and Gauri (the mother goddess or Devi, also known as Sakti (energy), Siva’s consort. When you meditate on your hand, you invoke the blessings of all three goddesses to bless everything you do for the rest of the day.
In western metaphysics too, there is a similar link between hands and divinity. Remember Michaelangelo’s great painting of God and Adam? In the iconographic systems of many religions, supplicating hands differentiate the spiritual being from non-spiritual beings.
Here is the full mantra, first in Sanskrit, then a linear translation in English, followed by a sense paraphrase translation in English.
Karagre vasate Lakshmi
Kara madhye Saraswati
Kara moole stithe Gauri
Karagre – at the tip of your fingers vasate – resides Lakshmi – the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity
Kara madhye — in the center of your palm Saraswati – the Hindu goddess of learning
Kara moole – at the base of your palm (wrist really) stithe – dwells Gauri —the Hindu mother goddess or Devi, the root source of all divine energy and power (Sakti)
Prabhate — at the break of dawn Kara – palm/ hand darshanam – contemplate, look, study
Now the sense paraphrase-
On the tips of your fingers, Lakshmi
In the center of your palm, Saraswati
At your wrist, Gauri
Pray to your hand in the morning.
The divine energy of Gauri or Devi flows outwards from your wrist to your palm and to the tips of your fingers.
When you write, when you cook, when you eat, when you type, when you garden, when you clean, when you lift something, when you play something, when you build something, when you treat something, when you operate on someone, when you touch something, when you drive, when you sow, when you reap, your hand is your primary interface with the world.
By meditating on your hand, and by asking the mother goddess and her incarnations to bless your hand, you are asking for divine guidance throughout the day for your actions. You don’t have to go to a temple or a church or a synagogue or a mosque. You can pray to your own hand mindfully.
And–here is one more reason never to raise your hand in anger.
Gayatri Devi is a board member of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology. She is Associate Professor of English at Lock Haven University, Pennsylvania, where she teaches literature, linguistics and women’s studies courses. Her book Humor in Middle Eastern Cinema (Wayne State University Press 2014) examines modalities of humor in select films from the Middle East and the Middle Eastern diaspora. Her articles and book chapters on South Asian and Middle Eastern literatures and films have been published in select scholarly anthologies and in journals including World Literature Today, North Dakota Quarterly, The Guardian, Ms. Magazine, and South Asian Review.
Artwork: “A Shrine for the Ancestral Midwives,” ceramic sculpture by Lauren Raine “The hands in this ceramic piece were taken from a cast I made of a midwife, who was preparing to retire after a long career of bringing babies into the world. This is the gesture she took, which she told me was the actual gesture, or “mudra”, of midwives. Inspired by this I made this Shrine, dedicated to the countless nameless ancestral midwives who have brought us into this world since the beginnings of humanity. ”
See Lauren’s work at Rainewalker Studio