Original Research - Special Collection: African Women and Pandemics and Religion

The shadow pandemic and the divine feminine in the diaspora: An analysis of Deepa Mehta’s Heaven on Earth

Samiksha Laltha
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 3 | a8633 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i3.8633 | © 2023 Samiksha Laltha | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 March 2023 | Published: 22 June 2023

About the author(s)

Samiksha Laltha, Department of English Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Abstract

This article engaged in a literary analysis of Deepa Mehta’s Heaven on Earth, with a specific focus on the shadow pandemic being domestic violence in the Indian diaspora, and on the film’s representation of the divine feminine in Indian culture. By using the lens of Hindu mythology, the feminine divine was given prominence. The film centres on the Indian diaspora in Canada. The Canadian diaspora was similar to the South African diaspora through its depiction of Indian and African people living together and experiencing a shared knowledge with specific reference to traditional medicine. Through Heaven on Earth, Mehta offered an alternative to hegemonic patriarchal religious depictions and a varied perspective on gender by highlighting the essential role of the divine feminine. The term ‘shadow pandemic’ denoted domestic violence as a ‘pandemic’ that has scourged across the world, exacerbated by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through an analysis of culture and female divinity, the main female protagonist of the text was able to exit an abusive relationship and enter into her own female power. This feminine agency was an important resource for countless women trapped in abusive relationships.

Contribution: The discussion in this article centres on a literary analysis of Deepa Mehta’s Heaven on Earth (2008) with emphasis on domestic violence and the shadow pandemic with specific emphasis on women of colour in the diaspora. The analysis also makes use of a cultural lens to discuss both the snake and androgyny in diasporic Indian culture providing a counter-stance to patriarchy. This research can be utilised by hermeneutists of suspicion and specialists in the field of public theology.


Keywords

African traditional medicine; androgynous; domestic violence; Indian diaspora; goddess; shadow pandemic.

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