Thursday, March 18, 2010

More on Santoshi Mata

It has been a few years since I originally posted about Santoshi Mata, but comments always seem to come in.  I, as usual, am a bit behind on approving comments.  This one was waiting for me recently from Vistrit:
"it's unbelievable..but the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses actually does NOT have ANY goddess by the name of 'santoshi mata'!!!
her popularity is the result of a 1975 low budget hindi move called 'jai santoshi maa'. this movie ws a blockbuster and caught the fancy of innumerable indians...most of whom r crazy abt anything to do with god.
as bizarre as it may sound..this is the trust behind 'santoshi ma'. all the hype and hoopla resulting frm the movie's success ws encashed to come up with a whole believable myth arnd this character and give her the status of a 'goddess'!"

Why am I bumping this up from the comments?  Simply because of misinformation.  We are all subject too it.  It has been almost 10 years since I did my original research on the Hijra community.  In that time I never read anything about Santoshi Mata.  I did read a lot about Bahuchara Mata and her status as the goddess of the Hijra community was never a question.  The issue at hand is Santoshi Mata's status within the pantheon of gods and goddesses.
I do recall learning that the Hindu pantheon is not static.  Goddesses, especially, are added in regions like the Catholic community does for Saints.  In other words, a woman or man does something special in the community and they might be elevated to god or goddess status.  It happens mostly with women from what I recall as goddess do not require male counterparts.  This may be incorrect... it has been 10 years.
The issue then switches too: can a movie character be made into a proper goddess in the pantheon?  I personally hope not, but then I know very little about modern Indian culture and how that plays into religion.  Also, I am a product of the West.  We don't make our movie characters into gods, but we do go a little nuts about them (Twilight is a great example).  If American culture had a pantheon of gods and goddesses I suspect we would make a movie character into a god or goddess. 
Is Santoshi Mata a proper goddess?  Who am I to say?  Does everyone always agree on religion?  I think the answer is pretty clear.  Clearly there are some who do believe Santoshi Mata is a proper Hindu goddess and there are others who disagree.  How she became a goddess for the Hijra community is even more mystifying for me.

You can see the Wikipedia information about Jai Santoshi Maa (the movie origins of Santoshi Mata) and the Internet Movie Database webpage about the movie
Personally, until she is mentioned in the scholarly communication, I remain a skeptic.