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Remixing the Asthanayika’s With Independent and Sex Positive imagery

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I was reworking on one of the asthapadi’s of Poet Jayadeva, who is known for his erotic and equally spiritual writing of Geeta Govinda. The imagery used by the poet about the different moods of Radha across all his work, also known as Asthapadi’s made me relook into how women are written from a male gaze.

The current movement of POV, or point of view which started taking trends in Instagram and across all social media, rearing the challenge of how women are seen from a man’s vision. The idea of an ideal women to be coy, shyful, wanting to meet the lover were something seen in both the earlier literature work and Bollywood movies. As I don’t base my work with reference to Bollywood movies, I rather started retrospection it with the literature. All of these women or moods of women were strongly driven inspiration from the Alankara Shastra, a scripture of dressing up, and there we could see the early mention of Astha Nayikas, the eight characterizations of a woman in context. Now, I was not surprised to know that these characterizations didn’t include Independent, Sex positive, Self-Aware, Emotionally strong, Opinionated women. Rather it included characterizations which were wanted to be dependent on man for their emotional, romantical support.


Also, I see a common debate across the entire idea of sexuality vs Love. the idea of patriarchy believes that love is the true essence of a human being and sexuality is rather something an unavoidable sin which people need not talk about. This very perspective of sexuality vs Love is also something seen in these characterizations, here the Asthanayikas are heroines veining for Love and not to empower their sexuality. But as and when I see the parity my artistic instinct throws questions like “who changes these notions?”, “how to change this perceptive”, “can we reimaging it differently?” and as an answer I thought to use my art of drag. I planned to reshape this shift of move sexuality positive, in depended and not veining Ashtanaikays with my imagination of drag. I with the help of a friend Santosh Gangala recreated the Asthanaikays and reimagined it to see these concepts in a gender less, more agile, trans/nonbinary inclusive female forms and here they are. 


Abhisarika (one who moves) is that femininity, which sets aside their so-called social modesty and makes the move of their home to secretly meet their lover. They do not have any problem in being the action taker; they are at the door of their house and on their way to the tryst, defying all kinds of difficulties like the traffic, sunlight and pollution of the city. They are prepared to leave the house and go on for a self date. Their cab is ready and they don’t seem to care about who makes the first move. They are empowered to walk agile and they are a free bird, looking to explore their ultimate potential.


Kalahantarita (one separated by quarrel) is a femininity separated from their lover due to a fight or jealousy or their own arrogance. Their lover is usually depicted leaving their apartment disheartened, while they too become heartsick and repentant without him. They go on venting out their frustration about their situation. They are empowered enough to support their self and don’t care about the patriarchal abnodation insisted on them. They are enraged and streams up their voice loud and proud


Khandita (one enraged with their lover) is an enraged femininity, whose lover had promised there to spend the night with them, but instead comes to their house the next morning after spending the night with another woman. They are depicted offended, rebuking their lover for his infidelity. They are glamorous as They is untouched but feels pity on the lover who choose other one instead of them. They are sassy and read to read his lover to filth. Their rage filled eyes tells all the pain They was put through surviving the earlier night. They are uppity and doesn’t spare a word of his lover and fans him out.


Vipralabdha (one deceived by their lover), is a deceived femininity, who waited for their lover the whole night. They are throwing away their self on the floor to pain and void as their lover did not keep his promise. Their body coils up as they are left to feel the coldness of their sexuality. They are deceived and wets in pain of their own self.


Virahotkanthita (one distressed by separation) is the distressed femininity pining for their lover, who, due to his preoccupation, fails to return home. They are dazzled and bored to wait for their lover, by blowing up their makeup and prepares to water down as sweat. Their fire gets cold as they pins themselves into the ground to tone it down with the coldness of the surface. Their cheeks leave imprints of the sorrow and loathing They fringed to have with their partner. Vasakasajja Vasakasajja (one dressed up for union) or Vasakasajjika is waiting for their lover returning from a long journey. They are dressing their self for the union with their lover and “eager with expectation of love’s pleasure.” They are ready to surprise their lover with kink and beauty. They dress up their hair, tightens their stockings and keeps themselves ready to impress and charm the lover.


Swadhin Bhartruka or Swadhin Patika is Nayika who is loved by their beloved and they try controlling him. Their admirer is subjected and enthralled by their goodness and character. They prevail upon his richness and the wealth, command dominance both in and out of bed. They are the dominatrix, the dominant and one who kicks the strata of an alpha-ness.


Proshitabhartruka (one with a sojourning husband) is the person whose partner has gone away from them and does not return at all. They are depicted, seated mourning the loneliness the partner has left her under, tearing apart her true self to the mirror of reflection. The artificiality is gone, and they felt to be real, surrounded by them thoughts and memories of dream they weaved with a wrong person, but refusing to be consoled. They are unhiding herself, depleting the covers one by one and feeling their own skin. These imageries definitively helped me relook into the larger aspect of seeing femininity as an access to all gender and sexuality and reinstate the thought that its not always women or feminin0ity which needs to be seen something as submissive or seeking. It was a high time to rethink and reflect the art with progressive thinking and this project enabled me to tap into the same. Photographs

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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