What the outrage against 'godwoman' Radhe Maa's clothes tells us about 'sanskari' India

Radhe Maa could have easily been your average godly neighbourhood 'maa'. One who claims to have God on speed dial and hence, cures for cheating spouses and children who flunk in math. And in the great tradition of such public enterprise mothers and fathers in India, she would have led a prosperous life thanks to a teeming multitude for whom 'god' ranks pretty high in the hierarchy of most-wanted-people after a punctual bai and an agreeable auto-wallah. But then she wore that mini skirt. And launched a thousand hashtags.

No one ran to the rescue of Radhe Maa on Twitter or Facebook. Even Asaram Bapu usually gets a battery of his personal Twitter bhakts to call his critics 'Pakis' and "presstitutes" to defend him. Just to put things in perspective, Bapu has been accused of raping a minor and several witnesses in the case have been murdered. But Radhe Maa drew a blank of sorts from the bubbling religious pool of social media. Somehow, the devout people on social media found more courage to defend suspected Balatkari Bapu than our Maa-donna.

 What the outrage against godwoman Radhe Maas clothes tells us about sanskari India

Radhe Maa.

If you trawl through Facebook pages of the likes of Radhe Maa, you will notice a steady stream of hatred directed against her by both men and women. Most of it has less to do with her dubious claims of interacting with God than with her wardrobe and her 'loose' morals.

"She is Sunny Leone's sister," cribbed someone on the comments section of her Facebook page. "She is Sunny Leone's mother," replied another, hoping to have bettered an 'insult'. In a country where the police rounds you up for having sex in private and porn was banned temporarily, being related to a porn star obviously is more insulting than being called a moron or fraudster.

That Sunny Leone tag of course comes from her chosen wardrobe. Her official website claims that when Radhe Maa decided to become a 'sanyasin' her devotees didn't let her wear the staid clothes usually associated with saints and suchlike in India. So Radhe Maa's style was mostly crowdsourced, according to her website.

"However, devotees who had in those months attached themselves to her refused to let her wear the robes of a sanyasin. They adorned her as an act of devotion and Mamtamai Shri Radhe Guru Maa did not turn down their offerings," says her website. In a culture where female saints are meant to look as drab and well-covered as possible, unlike a limber Baba Ramdev or a Dhirendra Brahmachari, #YoRadeMaaSoRed stuck out like a sore thumb. Even worse she was unashamed about her wardrobe. It wasn't a guilty secret.

The reason why Radhe Maa shot to infamy, however, had to do with a grave issue. A Mumbai-based lawyer accused her of instigating her in-laws to demand dowry from her. During an interview with Zee News, Radhe Maa wrote off all the allegations against her saying the people accusing her of demanding money are poor and don't have enough to eat. And that it's absurd to demand any money from them. "My daughter-in-laws are from royal families. I didn't ask anything from them, why will I ask money from poor people," she laughed, as her supporters giggled and chanted hymns in turns around her.

Unless God was smoking some great weed, chances are he/she wasn't talking to this woman. Yet, thousands of people 'follow' her, like they do other godpersons. And when she was pilloried, it was mostly aimed at the red lipstick she wore, or the shiny red clothes she turned up in before her devotees or how she was spotted in a red mini skirt somewhere. There were several contentious issues involved in the case: that of superstition, blind faith, duplicity, dowry harassment. Yet, it was Radhe Maa's predilection for red that caught's people's fancy.

Radhe Maa's greatest sin for most of Maa and Baba-loving India, as she openly flouted their idea of 'sanskar'. She wore a mini skirt. And then she didn't apologise for it. The horror that is for sanskaari overdosed India!

But if you manage to look beyond her Rajshri Pictures-edition Red Riding Hood avatar, Radhe Maa is every 'godman' or 'godwoman' in India. Yet,only very few people are crying themselves hoarse over the trap of superstition that sucks in our more gullible friends and family. That because, a section of India, irrespective of religion, education and economic status, doesn't mind having an interlocutor with God. Something Radhe Maa claims she is.

While Radhe Maa is dubious for sure, the root of the outrage against her is probably even more ridiculous. Radhe Maa was out there, claiming to have chatted up God for decades now. But when she chose to wear and pose in a mini skirt that's when the country howled 'how ridiculous'. The hashtag attacking her was #YoRadheMaaSoRed, not #YoRadheMaaSoFake.

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Updated Date: Aug 14, 2015 10:39:12 IST