Currently, M.I.A. is locked in a legal battle with the NFL over The Middle Finger Moment that occurred during Madonna’s Super Bowl XLVI halftime performance in 2012. Though she initially justified the gesture as a “display of female empowerment” in the face of “powerful corporation dick-shaking,” M.I.A. is now claiming her middle finger was actually a spiritual gesture to the Hindu Goddess Matangi.
The revelation came during a recent interview with NPR, where the singer said the gesture was a display of the “Matangi mudra.” She explained: “In America you have gang signs, and people throw up initials and stuff like that. Well, 5,000 years ago, there was thing called a mudra, which is your sitting position when you do yoga or you’re meditating or praying or whatever. And you have different ones based on what you’re meditating over. There’s not a lot of them that are named after gods and goddesses, but the middle finger is specifically named Matangi — the Matangi mudra.”
Serving as the namesake of M.I.A’s new album, it’s worth noting that Matangi is considered the “bad-ass rebel” of Hindu, embodying “pollution, inauspiciousness and the periphery of society.” And according to several practitioners of yoga, this specific mudra “strengthens the respiratory rhythm and the energy balance around the solar plexus.” It’s also really effective in annoying and irritating Madonna, it turns out.
Here, M.I.A further explains her sudden outburst of yogic expression:
So you were not giving America the middle finger? This was the Matangi symbol?
M.I.A.: Yes. Do you like that? (Laughing) It’s good, isn’t it?
Something tells me that there might have been another meaning in that.
M.I.A.: It’s cultural! In my country, it’s godly. OK?
Is the NFL believing that? I know they’re suing you.
M.I.A.: Of course the NFL is not believing that, because the NFL does not believe in any other culture outside of the NFL. But it’s true; you can Wikipedia it. You can just say “Matangi” and “mudra,” and you’ll see it’s the middle finger.
Matangi the album is out today via Interscope. (Stream it here.) And in case you need more proof that the Matangi mudra is a real thing, here’s a helpful demonstration: