Geeta Pandey, "An 'English goddess' for India's down-trodden", BBC News 2/15/2011:
The Dalit (formerly untouchable) community is building a temple in Banka village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to worship the Goddess of the English language, which they believe will help them climb up the social and economic ladder.
About two feet tall, the bronze statue of the goddess is modelled after the Statue of Liberty.
"She is the symbol of Dalit renaissance," says Chandra Bhan Prasad, a Dalit writer who came up with the idea of the Goddess of English.
"She holds a pen in her right hand which shows she is literate. She is dressed well and sports a huge hat – it's a symbol of defiance that she is rejecting the old traditional dress code.
"In her left hand, she holds a book which is the constitution of India which gave Dalits equal rights. She stands on top of a computer which means we will use English to rise up the ladder and become free for ever."
Chinki Sinha, "The English Goddess Who Went Away", Open 9/14/2013:
There could have been a black temple here. The entrance might have said ‘Paradise Lost’ after John Milton’s poem about man’s disobedience and ouster from the Garden of Eden. Milton intended the poem to justify the ways of God to men. There was no justification intended here. The temple was meant to celebrate the outcastes, the fallen—Paradise Lost would be a refuge. Within its walls, Dalits would chant ‘ABCD’ and solve mathematical equations. They would denounce other gods and goddesses who perpetuate caste barriers.
The goddess wore a hat, a gown, and had gold hair. She looked like a Statue of Liberty knock-off. Chandra Bhan Prasad, the man who created her, says there were modifications made to give the new goddess her own mythology. The Goddess of English held a keyboard and a pen. She was atop a computer on the screen of which was the chakra of the Buddhist faith. She also held the Constitution of India to cement her bond with the Dalit community because Dr BR Ambedkar, the Dalit scholar and leader, was its founding father.
Why was the temple to be black? Because people would have found it strange. It would provoke reaction and this goddess was all about reactions. Black is seen as evil. The goddess would redefine black, give it sanction, says Bhan. This was Paradise Lost. They would regain it. But nothing happened. The English goddess went as suddenly as she came.
The goddess came but only just. After the first day, she was stacked away in the office of the headmaster and for a few days, remained there in hiding. The district administration shut the temple down because, it was rumoured, Mayawati, then Chief Minister, had said there could only be one Dalit goddess in the state. Bhan wrote to the administration asking for a reason and was told there was a Supreme Court directive that no temple should be built on public land without permission from the administration.
“We said this was private land, and they still said you can’t build it,” says Bhan. “They kept sending police officials. When we started building the roof, they came and stopped us.”
The goddess was transported to the house of the school owner in a nearby town. There she remains, hidden away till she can be installed once again. The expensive black granite that was bought for construction of the temple lies around unused. Rain pours down, washing away the dirt, and the stones glisten again. A dog seeks shelter in the old office from the rain. This is where the goddess had been moved after the police came to Banka and ordered that construction be stopped.