The True River Ganges: Tara’s Begging Practices

  • Kristin Hanssen
Part of the Religion/Culture/Critique book series (RCCR)


“It’s beautiful. It’s red,” Tara said in a letter to me describing the cow she bought with the money I had sent. Her mention of the red cow recalled to me the times when she had spoken of the traits of this specific color. Red was the color her guru had given her when she became initiated as a Vaishnava Baul. It reflected the power of menstrual blood containing female procreative seed, esteemed by Tara and her kin for its beneficent properties. Other bodily secretions such as urine, tears, and mother’s milk were also held to be benevolent, yet menstrual blood was particularly valuable. Tara described the female substance as the true river Ganges, bearing the same sacred powers in concentrated form. During her ceremony of initiation, when she received a sannyas mantra, her sari, blouse, and underskirt had all been red. The color varied from pink and crimson to bright brown and saffron and, like other Bauls, Tara wore these shades in combination.


Menstrual Blood Lower Caste Bodily Secretion Caste Identity Vedic Text 
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© Meena Khandelwal, Sondra L. Hausner, and Ann Grodzins Gold 2006

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  • Kristin Hanssen

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