The Goddess Traditions
The Great Goddess (Devi = "Goddess," Maha
= Great) and Hindu Goddesses
traditions -- discrete goddesses
Devi-Mahatmya (ca. 6th century C.E.)
The Creative/Destructive Potential of the Feminine as Shakti (“power”)
Goddess as “power” or “energy” (shakti)
Active dimension of the godhead, underlies godhead’s ability to
create the world and manifest itself; complementary pole of divine
tendency toward stillness, quiescence
creative/destructive polarity of the Goddess
Creative Potential of Shakti
Auspicious and benign forms: fertility, protection and
establishment of dharmic order, cultural creativity,
wifely duty, material abundance, wisdom and learning, beauty (the exciter of
desire), food and nourishment.
Benevolent, tame, “wifely” goddesses:
(river goddess [Vedas], ability to cleanse and fertilize
of speech (Vac), learning and wisdom, art and culture
of students, scholars, artists, musicians
with Brahma as either daughter or wife
to pervade reality with insight, knowledge and learning
book, vina, rosary, water pot
- Festival of Sarasvati puja
(early spring), worshipped by school cil as
patron of learning
- Lakshmi (also
called Shri or Shri
good fortune, well-being, royal power, illustriousness
by all, but especially honored by business people
of Visnu, model wife
lotus and the elephant
fertility of life, rooted in the primordial waters; life-giving powers
of waters in to embodied life.; purity and
spiritual power, rising above the muddy into spiritual perfection
fertilizing rain (showering with water); royal authority (stables of
elephants, heavily artillery)
- Worshipped at festival of Dipavali/Divali ("festival of lights") (late autumn)
the furrow - story of Janaka
wife of the Ramayana
- Parvati (Sati)
Siva into marriage and sexuality, involvement in the world, brings
ascetic power into service of world
Shaktism: Parvati has superior power to Siva,
blocks him from leaving fathers house after argument
Destructive potential of Shakti
and terrible forms: war, destruction, death, hunger.
Positive ends, tends to lose control, threaten the cosmos.
function to combat demons who threaten stability
of cosmos. Great battle queen with many arms, each yields a weapon.
Rides a fierce lion. Most famous for killing demon Mahisha (Mahisha-mardini --
“slayer of Mahisha”).
one point associated with Siva as his wife -- assumes domestic
characteristics and is identified with Parvati.
on role of mother later in history -- During Durga
Puja (most important festival), Durga is
represented with four deities as her children: Kartikkeya,
of the slaying of Mahisha.
- Durga manifested in the female form of MahaSaraswati, MahaLakshmi
and MahaKali, who then united with her male
manifestations as Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, respectively. Each coupling
gave rise to three more goddess forms and these nine together are called
the Navadurga, or Nine Durgas.
One Navdurga is worshiped on each of the nine
nights of Navratri, in October - November.
worshiped in Bengal
- Festival of Durga puja/Navratri ("nine nights") culminating in Dashahara ("tenth day") (autumn)
frightening appearance. Black (“Kali” = “the black one”).
Dark, naked, long disheveled hair, girdle of severed arms, necklace
of freshly cut heads, earrings of children’s corpses, serpents
as bracelets. Long sharp fangs, often has claw-like hands with long
nail. Blood smeared on lips, long, bloody tongue.
shown ion battlefield -- a furious combatant, gets drunk on blood of
victims; also shown in cremation ground, sits on corpse, surrounded by
jackals and goblins.
to maternal goddesses, Kali as antithesis. Takes blood, destroys
uncontrollably. Dried, shriveled breasts. Associated with
death and time (kala).
treated as independent goddesses, but when associated with a god, almost
always with Siva.
worshiped in Bengal
Mahavidyas (great manifestations)
- Chinnamasta: cycle of creative generation,
feeding and death