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A Temple for the Goddess of Anima
By K M Gupta

Some way off the old Calicut-Madras Trunk Road there is a village called Thacha-nattu-kara. And in this village, there is a temple dedicated to Jyeshta, the goddess of misfortune. It is the only one of its kind in the whole of India.  

Jyeshta in feminine gender means ‘elder sister’. She is the elder sister of Mahalakshmi, the goddess of good fortune. While Lakshmi is the goddess of riches, her elder sister is the deity of poverty, indigence, odium, reproach and ignominy. Her very name is a term of reproach. Lakshmi is the idol of the auspicious and the propitious, of all that is desirable in life, whereas her sister, Jyeshta, is the symbol of all that is detestable, damnable and loathsome. 

The two sisters are born rivals. Where one is in, the other is out. So the Indian household is engaged in a constant fight to keep Lakshmi in and Jyeshta out. Waste, dirt, squalor, slovenliness, indolence, idleness, disorder, anger and all such undesirable things show the presence of Jyeshta in the house. Until she is turned out, Lakshmi wouldn’t enter and stay. In some houses, it is a custom for the lady of the house to open the back door first, send Jyeshta out and then open the front door and let Lakshmi in.  

Once Lakshmi and Jyeshta stood at the doorstep quarrelling over which one of them was more beautiful. When the householder appeared, the two sisters asked him to be the judge. The clever householder, wary of displeasing either of them, hedged: ‘‘You, Lakshmi, are more beautiful when you enter, and you, Jyeshta, are more beautiful when you exit.’’ Both were pleased. Lakshmi entered the house and Jyeshta exited proudly.

Lakshmi is Sridevi, the goddess of the blessed and Jyeshta is Moodevi, the goddess of the accursed and the damned. Then how is it that this persona non grata among the Hindu pantheon was able to find a house of worship for her in Thachanattukara?

Lakshmi is known to be chanchala — unsteady and fleeting. She is also dukhamoola — the cause of misery and misfortune. Lakshmi is the source of happiness only in appearance. In truth, underneath, she is the source of misery. The fight for Lakshmi moolah, dukhamoola) debases and often inhumanises man. The world loves and worships Lakshmi because it is cursed to love and worship appearance. Lakshmi is the goddess of appearance. 

Jyeshta is poor and indigent, but she has strength of character. She is not chanchala. She is not seductive. She discounts appearance. She is steady and unflinching. She has grit. It is the strength of the soul that gives man real strength and happiness, not moolah. Beneath the level of appearance, Jyeshta is the giver of real strength and happiness. Actually, the roles of Lakshmi and Jyeshta are interchanged. In the deep spiritual sense, Lakshmi is Jyeshta and Jyeshta is Lakshmi. The wise worship Jyeshta, not Lakshmi.

Lakshmi is the goddess of persona and Jyeshta is the deity of anima. Jyeshta has no worshippers in the world because the world worships only persona or appearance and glamour — and not anima or inner soul.

The Jyeshta temple in Thachanattukara is a unique symbol of the Indian psyche, which is inexclusive by nature. Hence it is the ‘Hindu Sphinx’ to the West. India’s Sanatana Dharma is in fact a miniature representation of nature where it is ‘All In, Naught Out’. In nature everything has its role and place. So is it in Sanatana Dharma. It accommodates all. It expands to take up all. It extends from advaita to the most grotesque forms of worship. It extends from dhyana to animal sacrifice. It ranges from passionate bhakti to arch atheism. It extends from the worship of Lakshmi to the worship of Jyeshta. The Jyeshta shrine is a fine symbolism of India’s anima.









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