The Goddess and Sacred Geography
1. Sacred Land, Sacred Geography
a. Being Hindu tied to being born within a particular people and associated with a particular place within the sacred land of Bharat.
i. Bharat = a land ritually purified by the Brahmin, surrounded by kala pani, “the black waters”
the Hindu texts against departing from the shores of Bharat. Cf. Gandhi
b. Hindu point of view: land itself is sacred.
i. Himalaya (“abode of snow”) = home to many gods. Devbhumi [land of the gods]
1. Northern temples resemble mountains
2. Pilgrimage centers assoc w/important mythological events:
a. Pandava’s ascent to heaven
Ayodhya and the Ramayana
2. Localities associated with certain gods:
a. Vrindavana (S of Delhi) associated with Lord Krishna
b. Siva in Himalayas; Panch Kedars
objects indicate the presence of the divine: certain stones, earthen mounds,
trees and plants.
3. The goddess as the physical universe
a. Goddess as prakriti, materiality
i. Samkhya philosophy: prakriti as web of matter into which essence (purusha) is enmeshed
ii. Mahadevi is the world, all of creation
iii. Soil itself imbued with the creative power (shakti) associated with the goddess
iv. The Goddess as earth: Prithvi, Bhu Devi
b. Bharat Mata (mother India) as goddess
i. Bharat Mata temple in Hardwar: map of India adorned with
c. Rivers as manifestation of the Goddess (Mahadevi)
i. Major goddesses associated with the purifying effect of waters, and with water’s powers of fertility and destruction
ii. Ganga is a goddess:
a. Earthly source of the Ganga, a goddess.
b. Descent of the Ganga
c. Other rivers often understood and worshipped as forms of the goddess, including an ancient (now dried up) river Sarasvati.