DAMINI, Priyasha Janhavi


Lightning stricken Damini. I 

Paint my lotus feet vermillion 

With demons’ blood. A crazed tandav.

Devi, the divine riverine!

Your daughters’ corpses float upstream.

Your sons pollute your high esteem.

The bhuvans tremble as demons 

Run unbridled, raise foreign hells.

They masquerade as gentle men. 

They scale my sparks and fleeting shocks

Electric ladder, heaven’s bowl

fissured above, chaos below.

I must return to my earthen

womb, or remain, exiled and burned. 

My chastity chortled away. 

I, the root of all desire

Will dance upon blazing pyres, 

til my flesh bubbles cosmic black. 

Let my body find comfort in 

the sky’s bed of swollen rain clouds. 

A stormy shelter, heaven’s brew.

Devour me in your darkness, 

Mahakali, silence my rain!

Mother, render me obsolete. 


Do hidden relics lie beneath my skin?

Crystal marrow, or diamond bones? 

Engulfed in puckered tissue

Sheets of lipids and sinew.

My soul is trapped in a lost tantrika   

Her face is puffy, marred and pitted.

Her hair reticulates, a knot of spitting snakes.

Limbs of cured leather, skin of boiled milk. 

What grotesque ogress

Have I grown into?

Who cursed my flesh 

To sag and dimple?


I turned my back on

the Enlightened One

for rouge, and crushed micah.

I drugged those serpents with golden oils,

Slick, entwined with jasmine pearls. 

A budding Buddha, defiled with material desire  

Send me off in milky waters

Let my ashes chase the floating lamps downstream 

A last resort for a sinner like me 

Barred by yantras of my own design 

Shameless, I still covet the divine 


My words sear as they leave my lips 

I swallowed their daggers and swords 

Blades hide behind a silver smile

The rivers of my patience thin,

Men quench their thirst at my dried banks

The crocodiles lay, jaws await.

My sitar strings no longer sing

My fingertips long for the cool, 

Of a trident, weapon and shrine.  

Wake me when the world is ready, 

My stars now droop, watching your wars

My waters have turned to venom. 

My thoughts retreat back to their source;

A mountainous tributary 

will now bear my eternal flame. 

Give me the strength to cut them down 

those who lust after my shadow,

sharp, like the moon’s vibrant laughter.

Just a spark from your flaming mouth, 

Mata Rani, would be enough 

to topple them to their knees 

Dark warrior, I send tremors 

with every step, shower the Earth

in sanguine offerings. Pralaya

A noose of my sooten tresses 

to strangle those lecherous heads,

A skullcap my new drinking bowl.

I will bathe my sisters’ graveyards

in their blood, til rivers flow red

once again, as they bled, infinite.     


Damini – lit. Lighting, though often used to describe a woman.

Tandav – A vigorous dance performed by the Hindu god Shiva. 

Devi – Goddess.

Bhuvans – Realms in Hindu cosmology.

Mahakali – lit. Great Kali, the Divine Mother and Goddess of Time.

Cintamani – A wish-granting jewel in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. It is said that a Cintamani can be found in the ashes of a Buddha. 

Tantrika – Someone who practices Tantrism, a taboo practice that preceded Hinduism and Buddhism. 

Yantra – A geometric design originating from Tantric practice that holds great significance in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions. There are many yantras associated with various deities for particular uses. 

Jwalamukhi – lit. Flame-faced Goddess, The Goddess of the Eternal Flame, associated with Goddess Durga and Shaktism. 

Mata Rani – lit. Mother Queen, an epithet for the Goddess Durga and her many forms, particularly Goddess Vaishnodevi or Sherawali. 

Pralaya – lit. Destruction. A period of apocalyptic dissolution in Hindu cosmology. 

Priyasha Janhavi is a Sydney-based poet and writer. An avid traveller, she traverses the world for artefacts of identity to preserve in her verse. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing at Macquarie University, and was long-listed for the 2022 Future Leaders Writing Prize.