Hindus account for almost 2 per cent of the UK population, and the Hindu civilisation is the oldest living civilisation on earth with a unique and well-documented insight into human history. It is a culture that promotes synchronicity with nature and sees all things as one. According to Hindu philosophy, masculine and feminine energies are the basis of creation. In fact, they are in absolute collaboration. It is only in the human mind that they are in conflict.
The Hindu Women's Festival 2021, hosted by Beyond the Bindi this week, seeks to incubate indigenous Indian ideas, and present a Hindu worldview on femininity and womanhood. Beyond the Bindi is a platform nurturing thought leaders through publishing an anthology on Hindu femininity, due to publish with independent publisher Tattva Press in Autumn 2021.
There are many negative, misunderstood and stereotypical views about Hindus, perpetuated by the media and popular culture, and many of those that capture public attention are the ones involving women: arranged marriages, goddesses of fertility and death, subservience and docility, saris and bindis, Bollywood dancing queens and dowry. We seem forced to seek solace in the feminist views espoused by the West without understanding and appreciating the nuances of the Hindu cultural perspective.
We have also grown to accept notions of feminism without critical examination. Is it really the most sustainable approach to gender? This festival will ask if there are more collaborative ways to understand gender and how indigenous Indian practises can help us to organise society.
Over the course of five days, between April 7 and 11, researchers and thought leaders will come together on a virtual platform to present 30 inspiring sessions on a variety of themes. The subjects being explored are wide-ranging and deeply personal, encompassing relationships, sex and sexuality, leadership, political activism, access to education, motherhood, psychology, and rituals and practices around menstruation and pregnancy. There will also be interactive sessions on writing, cooking, yoga, and holistic wellbeing.
Bringing together 65 thought leaders from around the world, a great many Indian and Hindu organisations are contributing to the festival, including National Hindu Students’ Forum (NHSF UK), PwC Hindu Network, HSS UK, Chinmaya Mission, The Jai Jais, Jammu Kashmir Festival, Vichaar Manthan UK, Voice of Dogras, Utho, Kaho, Sanganam, Yog Foundation, Sewa Day, Another Mother Story, The VM Podcast and more.
Sinu Joseph, Bangalore-based Women's Reproductive Rights activist and Author, 'Ṛtu Viḍyā: Ancient Science behind Menstrual Practices' and 'Women and Sabarimala: The Science behind Restrictions'
Nithin Sridhar, Editor, IndiaFacts and Advaita Academy, and Author, 'Menstruation Across Cultures: The Sabarimala Confusion -- A Historical Perspective' and 'Musings on Hinduism'
Brahmacharini Shripriya Chaitanya, Acharya, Chinmaya Mission
Seema Anand, Kama Sutra Expert, Mythologist and Author, 'The Art of Seduction'
Sonal Sher, Director, Jammu Kashmir Festival
Dr. Rishi Handa, Head of Sanskrit, Religious Studies and Philosophy, St. James Senior Boys' School
Dr. Tina Mistry, Psychologist & Co-Founder, Another Mother Story
Manu Khajuria, Founder, Voice of Dogras
Janhavi Dadarkar, CEO, Maiora International
Drishti Mae, Senior M&A Integration Manager and Former President, NHSF UK
Bhaven Pathak MBE, Group Head of Mergers & Acquisitions, Canopius Group & Director, Yog Foundation
Mira Kaushik OBE, Co-Founder, Manch UK
Anusha Subramaniam, Founder, Beeja Dance Company
Vidhu Sharma is Commissioning Editor at Beyond the Bindi – the hosts of the Hindu Women’s Festival.