Exhibition on Nari Shakti: Woman, an Indomitable Spirit

Dates: October 10 – 26, 2023

Venue: The Creative School, Bengaluru

A poster exhibition researched and designed by Dr. Beloo Mehra, Editor, Renaissance, is currently on display at the Freedom Land campus of The Creative School in Bengaluru.

The exhibition content on the theme – Nari Shakti: Woman, an Indomitable Spirit – is inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s description of the Four Aspects of the Mother. It was put up on display on October 10, 2023 as part of the Invoking Shakti: Celebration of the Divine Feminine in Indian Culture (read the workshop report HERE). 

Sri Aurobindo once defined shakti as “the female principle in Nature which is at the root of all action”. This Shakti is a force that moves all and acts in all, the universal Energy, the Conscious-Power. This primordial cosmic energy which represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe is in essence divine feminine creative power, often referred to as ‘The Great Divine Mother’ in Hindu religio-spiritual traditions.

The woman, in Indian culture, was traditionally seen as the shakti, the force and energy. This is not to say that shakti is something to be found only in women. It is the creative power, the energy present in all of us, but the nature of this energy is feminine because it is only the female who has the potential to create new beings within herself. The exhibition highlights that all creation – material, intellectual, aesthetic, spiritual – is possible only because of the shakti, the cosmic energy.

The exhibition also acknowledges what is now well accepted among the scholars of India that women in ancient Indian society enjoyed much higher place of respect and reverence than what is generally seen today. Various historical, cultural, social factors led to a degeneration over time. Research-based posters were designed to highlight this point. This also led to some interesting follow-up discussions with the students and teachers after they went through these posters.

It was made clear that Indian culture assigns highest place to womanhood. If womanhood was and continues to be revered as Shakti, as Supreme Power, as Goddess, why at the same time we see so much degradation in the status of woman in the society, so much violence and crime against her, so much inequality? Through honest and polite discussions students were encouraged to seek honest answers to such questions.

The exhibition content further explores the different ways in which the Shakti aspect in the woman expresses itself. The research that went into the exhibition content is directly guided by Sri Aurobindo’s description of the Four Great Powers of the Mother – Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati. He describes the specific attributes and actions of these four great powers in the cosmic or universal plane. But how do they translate on to the material plane of existence, how are they expressed through the various actions on this plane of our day-to-day existence?

The exhibition illustrates this through a careful selection of examples and stories of women who embody the shakti. These are women who express one or more powers of the great Mahashakti through their chosen field of work and the various roles they play in life, who reflect one or more of these powers through their very presence. These stories were gathered through intensive research and short content was created and curated for the posters for the exhibition.

During the 3 days from October 10 to 12, 2023, when the Renaissance team was at the exhibition venue, special sessions were arranged for students to spend time browsing through the posters. Dr. Beloo Mehra was available at the exhibition site for answering any questions students had while going through the posters. Students were divided into small groups of 25-30 each; and also organised as per their classes – classes 6-8, 9-10, and 11-12. Dr. Mehra met with several small groups like these during the 3 days.

Students were asked to bring one or two key insights or questions that came up for them through the exhibition content to discuss during special sessions with Dr. Mehra. These interactive sessions led to some enriching discussions for all. 

More than 120 students and 25 teachers went through the exhibition content. The 50-poster exhibition will be on display at the venue till mid-November.

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