My Body is not a Temple
Gayatri Lakshmi Narayanan, Jenny Zander and Dania Marin-Gavilan
Domineering social injunctions and norms have a way of seeping into our bodies. We are expected to comply with different norms of behaviour and bodily comportment. Hierarchy and power operates on and through our bodies, dictating their terms and conditions, etching into our mannerisms. Power, also however, cannot forever occlude the creative forces of resistance and dissent. Gayatri Lakshmi Narayanan understands and practices dance as an act of resistance.
“To me, dancing is the most truthful mode of working through internalized casteism and breathing love into my body. So often, I have come across the phrase, “Your body is a temple,” in connection to self care. As I carry the legacy of oppressor castes, how can I move into collective care, rather than investing in my individual purity to increase social status? When temples can be sites of discrimination and display power structures, how does believing that my body is a temple uphold my sovereignty, pleasure and power as a human being- and consequently, how I show up for the collective annihilation of caste? This is why I titled this piece ‘My Body is not a Temple.’ I would love, instead, for my body to be a flower in a field of transformative work to annihilate caste.
Balance with roots.
In frame: Gayatri. Photograph by Jenny Zander
“The blue lotus was born from my desire to reclaim my body as sovereign and liberated, and to redefine the story of my body as an agent of annihilation of caste. Part of my healing is to liberate my body from serving as a symbol and aesthetic for oppression. So, I gently reclaimed the lotus from a reigning party, coated her with blue-the healing, empowering color signifying anti-caste movement.”
The blue lotus emerges as a question and as a reflection
In frame: Gayatri. Photograph by Jenny Zander.
“By rejecting the idea that our bodies are a standard of purity and this constant race to maintain proximity to the Brahmin man, upper caste women can find existence beyond serving as an instrument of oppression. This piece was a practice of capturing self-worth beyond purity and innocence, challenging my body to show up as an agent of change in service of the anti-caste movement rather than in service of upper-caste men. It is also an invitation for accountability among upper-caste women to mirror sovereignty, courage and vulnerability. With a deep understanding of how we cling to power, we can commit to radically reimagining the capacity of our bodies to accomplish annihilation of caste.”
Opening into a new way of being with the world.
In frame: Gayatri and Dania. Photograph by Jenny Zander
“This collection was conceptualised to give gratitude to the anti-caste movement for showing me the pathways to revolution and radical love, and to be a mirror for the tight places where casteism lives in the bodies of fellow upper caste women. I want to advocate for showing up to the anti-caste movement from a cellular level, taking responsibility for how upper caste women internalize purity and use casteism to determine who has access to our bodies. Let our bodies transform and reject the internalized practices of discrimination. Let us hold sacred those who blessed us with education and the empowerment to not assimilate, but to revolt.”
Gayatri Lakshmi Narayanan (she/hers) grew up in Bangalore and currently live in Minneapolis, occupied Dakota homeland and Anishinaabe territory. Through her work with MN350, a climate justice organization, she worked on an Indigenous survivor-led team to address the ongoing epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives. As a dancer, she uses her body as an agent of change for the anti-caste movement. All this work is interconnected and grounded in values of transformative justice.
She can be reached at