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Fashion or Faux Pas?

This was Heidi Klum’s choice costume for Halloween – to dress up as Goddess Kali. She apparently thought it was very entertaining and original, and so did many people.

God, or rather the hypothetical god, knows I am not religious in any sense. But her choice completely offends me, when I know for sure that it was done with no understanding of what Goddess Kali stands for in Indian mythology, and the level of respect accorded for her.

You see, Heidi Klum was just going for the visual – her ditzy explanation is sufficient to understand that.

The 35-year-old Project Runway host explained her costume to reporters, saying, “It was actually my assistant’s idea. My husband [Seal] and I were in India last year, so she said, ‘Why don’t you do an Indian goddess? Like a scary Indian goddess?’ And I said ‘OK!’ So then she Googled around and she found Kali and showed me a picture, and I loved it. I loved it because she’s so mean and killed all these different people and [had] fingers hanging off [her] and little shrunken heads everywhere.”

But Heidi does not know what Kali really stands for – and why she is revered. Kali is the destructive manifestation of Parvathi, who is the female companion of Shiva, the God of destruction, and according to some versions, the ultimate deity. Shiva and Parvathi are often depicted as halves of the same person – signifying the original equality and union of sexes.

Yes, you heard me – this is the original feminist ideal, borne out of a religion 5000 years old. Kali is thus a manifestation of the female power, strength and energy, which, when unleashed, is extremely destructive. The “many people she killed”, as per Heidi, are demons and evil forces. Both Shiva and Kali stand for so much more as well:

Shiva and Devi are simply recognizable symbols for everyday, abstract (yet tangible) concepts such as perception, knowledge, space-time, causation and the process of liberating oneself from the confines of such things. Shiva, symbolizing pure, absolute consciousness, and Devi, symbolizing the entire content of that consciousness, are ultimately one and the same — totality incarnate, a micro-macro-cosmic amalgamation of all subjects, all objects and all phenomenal relations between the “two.” Like man and woman who both share many common, human traits yet at the same time they are still different and, therefore, may also be seen as complementary.

Tantra (The Path of Ecstasy), Georg Feuerstein, Shambhala, 1998, Shakti and Shâkta, Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe), Oxford Press/Ganesha & Co., 1918.

Now, did Heidi understand any of that when she chose to imitate the most revered and feared Goddess in Hindu mythology, for a Halloween party? She just insulted  and cheapened the tradition as far as I know, in her effort to have a sensational costume, so casually, with absolutely no respect.

And if Heidi’s reaction isn’t bad enough, the article that reported her treated the subject so casually – as if it was completely acceptable…. the ignorance was stunning. How would people feel if i decided to dress up as Jesus?

This is of course, my personal view – keeping in mind my biases towards protecting and understanding culture and values. What do you people think? Was it acceptable for Heidi to do this?


November 7, 2008 - Posted by | Celebrities, Feminism, Religion | , , , ,

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