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WorshipoftheGoddessinHinduism
bySarahCaldwell
BySarahCaldwell,HarvardDivinitySchool
Sponsoredby25thAnniversaryConferenceoftheSriVenkateswaraTempleinPittsburgh,2000
Yaadevisarvabhuteshubuddhirupenasamsthitaa
Namastasyainamastasyainamastasyainamonamaha
Tothatgoddesswhodwellswithinallbeingsintheform
ofintellect,Ibowagainandagainandagain
ChandiPath(DeviMahatmya),Ch.5,v.20
OnarecentvisittotheMuseumofFineArtsinBoston,IwanderedthroughtheIndianartgallery.Ensconcedagainstthesouthernwallofthegallerystandsa
gloriouslifesizegraniteimageofthegoddessDurga,voluptuous,litheandgraceful,herfootpoiseddelicatelyontheseveredheadofthebuffalodemon
Mahishasura.Visitorsmeanderpastcastingbemusedglancesathersoftyetpowerfulbodyandherknowingsmile.OfalltheimagesofHindudeities,itis
perhapsthisconflationofsupremepowerandtenderlovelinessthatmostarreststhevisitor'seyeandchallengesourconceptsaboutthedivine.Itwasasimilar
imageofDurgathatfirstcaughttheeyeofProfessorTomCoburn,adistinguishedscholarofSanskritwhohastranslatedthegreatscripturalaccountofDevi's
triumphs,theDeviMahatmya,inhisbookEncounteringtheGoddess.InanarticlewrittenfortheIndianjournalManushi,ProfessorCoburnhasdescribedhis
initialenchantmentwithDurga,aloveaffairthatledtoalifetimeofdistinguishedscholarshipandstudy.
SouthAsianreligionshavegivenbirthtosomeoftheloveliestandmostsublimeimagesoffemininedivinitytheworldhaseverseen,aswellassomeofthe
mostmysteriousandpowerful.TheserangefromgracefulminiaturepaintingsofSitapiningforherbelovedhusbandRama,orRadhaawaitingatrystwith
KrishnainaforestgrovetoimposingimagesofDurgaandKaligracingsouthIndia'sstonetemples.Invillagesthroughoutthesubcontinent,Devitakestheform
ofasimplerock,amoundofmud,awoodencarving,abronzestatue,apainting,aposter,asword,atree,asshereceivesthelovingattentionsofworshippers,
blesseshomesandagriculturalfields,andwatchesoverthefateofherchildren.Oftheworld'slivingreligioustraditions,itisonlyinHinduismthatsuch
extensiveworshipofdivinityinthefemaleformmaybefound.
TheHindugoddessinallhermyriadofformshasalsobeencelebratedinpoeticversesofpraiseformanycenturies.TheancientTamilclassic,Cilappadikaram,
eulogizesitsbenightedheroine,Kannaki,whoinherrageataking'sinjustice,toreoffherleftbreastandburnedthecityofMaduraitothegroundbeforerising
totheskyasagoddess.TheexquisiteGitaGovindaofJayadevadetailsinversesheavywithlongingandlovetheecstaticunionofKrishnawiththebeautiful
Radha.Inpleading,begging,railing,desperatelines,theBengaliRamprasadSenexploresthedepthofloveanddespairthatistheloveofthedarkMotherKali.
TheSaundaryaLahari(oftenattributedtoAdiShankara)detailsthemagnificent,radiantformoftheDeviasqueenoftheuniverse,andrevealstheesoteric
meaningofherformastheSriYantra,thegeometricpatternofenergiesthatdescribestheinnerworkingsoftheuniverse.
YettheHinduapperceptionofthefemininedivinegoesfarbeyondeventhisalmostinfinitewealthofimagesandpoetry.Hinduphilosophyalsoincludes
sublimeandintellectuallysophisticatedtheologiesoftheGoddess.Shaktatheologyinparticular,unlikeanyotherlivingreligioustradition,attributessupreme
divinity,powerovercreation,allspeech,nature,mind,andliberation,theuniverseitself,toDevi,theGoddess,whoexceedseventhegreatgodsShiva,Vishnu,
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Indra,andBrahma,uponwhosebentbacksshesitsinglory.Inastoundingphilosophicalterms,Shaktatheologypropoundsadoctrinethatunitesdevotiontothe
goddess'ssupremelyattractivefeminineformwithsubtleapperceptionoftheinnerworkingsoftheuniverse.Furthermore,tantricreligioustraditionsprovide
specificmeansforritualworshipofandyogicmeditationuponthegoddess,directingtheworshippertoastateofcompleteidentificationandunionwithher.
TheseprecioustraditionsofHinduism,keptsecretandrevealedonlytoafewinitiatesformillennia,arebeginningtobeknownbettertodayandtobeshared
withawidercircleofdevotees.Withinthisgreattraditionliethepotentialseedsofarevolutioninthewayhumanbeingsconceiveofourworld,ourselves,and
oneanother.ItiswellworthstudyingandunderstandingthegreattraditionofgoddessworshipinHinduism,forthebenefitofoneselfandhumanityatlarge.
ThefundamentalmeaningbehindalloftheseimagesistherecognitioninHinduismofdivineenergyasafeminineforce,Shakti,whichliterallymeans"power."
Thispowertakesawidevarietyofforms,includingnature,creation,lifeforce,movement,mind,andstrength,aswellasthepowertodominateordestroy.
EarlySamkhyaphilosophyviewedrealityasfundamentallydual,consistingofPurusha,theconsciousSelf(seenasMale),ininteractionwithPrakriti,nature
andthephenomenalworld,includingthemind(understoodasaFemaleprinciple).TheprocessesofyogareferredtointheUpanishadsandformallycodifiedin
theYogaSutrasofPatanjaliinthe2ndCBCEaredesignedtoextricatethepure,eternal,unblemishedSelffromitsintricateidentificationwiththephenomenal
world,bothexternalandinternal,intheformofthoughtsandperceptions.Techniquesofselfcontrolandmeditationweredevelopedtoallowfortherecognition
oftheSelf'sseparatenessfromPrakriti,andtocultivatedirectselfawarenessfreeofthemindandsenses.
ThephilosophyofVedantarejectedthedualisticclaimsoftheSamhkyasystem,reinterpretingthefeminineprincipleofPrakritiasMaya,theillusorypowerof
thedivineBrahman(transcendentalSelf).ThefeminineMayahadnointrinsicreality,butwasmerelyaprojectionofBrahman,appearingasagreatseductress
ensnaringthemindandsensesanddrawingthemawayfromawarenessoftheirfundamentalnatureasSelforPurusha.Asceticdisciplinesoffasting,celibacy,
andmeditationdetachedthemindfromitsnaturaloutwardmovingtendencyandturneditforciblyinwardintellectualdisciplinessuchasviveka
(discrimination)andvairagya(detachment)soughttopenentrateanddissolvetheunrealityofMaya.BuddhistandJainphilosophy,whichdevelopedinthesame
periodasthelateUpanishads(aroundthe6thC.BCE),alsorelieduponthistheoryandhenceemphasizedasceticism,detachment,andtherejectionofthe
pleasuresoftheensnaringphenomenalworld.Women,whowererelegatedsociallytotheroleofwivesandmothers,werenaturallyseenasantitheticaltothe
aimofmokshaorliberationfromthesnaresofsamsara,cyclical,desiremotivatedexistence.ThusduringthisinfluentialearlyageofIndianreligiousthought,
thefeminineprincipleofdivinityaswellashumanwomenwereidentifiedasobstaclestotherealaimofhumanlife,moksha,orpermanentspiritualliberation
fromthecyclesofrebirth.
Ofcourse,whileforestdwellingasceticsandyogisattemptedtobreaktheirattachmentstotheworld,adifferent,lifeaffirmingstrainofHindupracticeand
beliefflourishedunbrokenfromtheVedicperiodtothepresent.ThefundamentalsymbolismoftheancientVedicfireritualswasthecreativepowerofthe
sacrifice,resultingfromthecomingtogetherofthefemaleandmalelifeforces(symbolizedbythesparkcreatedfromthefrictionofthefiresticksrubbing
together).Humanreproductionandwellbeing,notmoksha,werethefruitssoughtbysupplicatingthedivinepowersintheVedicfireritual.Althoughgoddesses
playedarelativelyminorroleintheVedicritualcorpus,bytheClassicalperiod(1st11thC.CE)ofHinduism,theirpresencewascentral.Astemplesand
devotionalHinduismunderwentadramaticperiodofgrowthinresponsetothechallengeofBuddhismandJainism,goddessesroseinimportance.Powerfuland
appealingfemaledivinitiesembodyingeverypossibleaspectofexistencebegantobeenvisionedintemplesculptureandeulogizedinhymnsofpraise.
Intemples,ritualsofpuja(worship)wereperformeddailytogoddesses,sometimesaswivesorconsortsofpowerfulmaledeities,butsometimesalone,asinthe
caseofDurga,Saraswati,Mahalakshmi,andmanyothers.Theiconographyofthesefemaledivinitiesdrewheavilyfromtheveryancientsculpturaltraditionof
yakshis,femalefertilityspirits,whosesmiling,ample,voluptuousframesadornedthegatewaysofearlyBuddhistandJaintemplesfromthe5thc.BC.Theideal
offemininedivinitywasfromthebeginningidentifiedwithlifeforce,eroticbeauty,sexualfertility,motherliness,andpower.Eventhegoddessofwar,Durga,
wasenvisionedasasupremelyattractiveanddesirableyoungwomanattheheightofherpotentialreproductivepowers(thoughremainingavirgin,andhence
channelingthosepotentialpowerstowardotheraimsforthebenefitoftheworld).Onlythegoddessesofdiseaseanddestruction,suchasSitala,Manasa,
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Mariyamman,andKali,weresometimesshownashaggard,emaciated,anduglyyeteventhesegoddesseswerereveredandpropitiated,aspartoftheinevitable
cycleoflifeanddeath.TheHindugoddessinallherformswasalwayslinkedtothiscompleteacceptanceoftheeverchanging,transformativecycleoflife.
Ritualsofworshiptothegoddesstodaytakeplaceinalmostinfinitevariety,buttheiraimisalwaystopropitiateandincreaseShakti,divineenergy,manifestas
lifeforce.Thislifeforcemaytaketheformofhealthandhealingfromdisease,theauspiciousgrowthofplantsandabundanceoffood,maritalhappinessand
sexualenjoyment,reproductivehealthandthebirthofchildren,wealthandsuccessinworkactivities,intellectualandartisticskillandacumen,orvictoryover
one'senemies.TheforcethatperpetuateslifeistheholiestthinginthepracticeofHinduism,supremelyauspicious,anditisthisauspiciousnessthatDevi
represents.Inherlifeperpetuatingform,thegoddessisbeautiful,benevolent,fertile,motherly,attractive,fullofknowledge,compassion,anddesire.She
embracesandenlivensallaspectsofreality.Picturedasanidealizedqueenandwife,endowedwithsupernaturalbeautyandvirtue,adornedwithmagnificent
ornamentsandalwaysbestowinggraceandbounty,theDeviinthisformisSaumya,benevolent.Sheistheobjectofdesire,andisusuallyshownasthewifeor
consortofanappropriatemaledivinity,whosepowerorShaktisheis(e.g.,LakshmiVishnu,ParvatiSiva,RadhaKrishna,SitaRama,etc.).
ThroughouttheHinduworld,elaborate,extensivetempleritualsandfestivalscelebratethegoddess'sweddingtoherdivinespouse(examplesinclude
MeenakshiKalyanam,RamaSitaKalyanam,ParvatiSivaSwayamvaram,etc.).Theextraordinarydedicationoftime,resources,andpriestlyknowledgetothe
periodicreenactmentofthesedivineweddingsunderscorestheprofoundspiritualsignificanceofthemaritalbond.Infactmarriageisconsideredthemost
importantsamskara,orriteofpassage,inthehumanlifespan.InthemarriageritualthebrideisidentifiedwiththegoddessLakshmi,adornedandworshippedas
thebringerofsupremeauspiciousnessintohernewfamily.Assheundertakeshernewresponsibilitiesaswifeandmother,awomanjoinsthedailyroundof
domesticworshipconductedbywomenofthefamily,centeringaroundthekitchenshrine.Uponrisinginthemorningshewillbatheanddrawakolamor
rangolionthedoorstep,towelcomethegoddessLakshmiintothehome.Inallheractivitiesthewifeandmotherembodiesthedivinefeminineforceoflife,
auspiciousness,andjoy.Itisshewhoisbelievedtokeepthehusbandandchildrenaliveandhappythroughhercarefulattentiontotheirwelfareandsatisfaction,
throughcooking,fasting,prayer,teaching,andselfcareandbeautification.TheauspiciousnessofgoddessLakshmi,sonecessarytolifeintheworld,isalso
celebratedlavishlyatDiwali,thefestivalsoflightandlifeindarktimes.
SometimesitisthemotheraspectofthegoddessthatisemphasizedinHinduworshipheresheisrepresentediconographicallyonherown,notaspartofa
spousalpair.Theformsoftheindependentmothergoddessarealmostinfinite,andareespeciallyimportantonthelocal,villagelevelinIndia.Mostvillages
havealocalmothergoddesswhoisbelievedtohaveariseninthatparticulargeographiclocationandwhoisintimatelytiedtothewelfareofthevillage.She
functionsastheprotector,provider,andpunisherofthevillage,andmustbeconstantlypropitiated,worshipped,andconsultedinordertoassureorderandavert
diseaseanddisaster.Kali,Sitala,Mariyamman,andDurgaembodythewrathofthefierceaspectofthegoddessinformsknownthroughoutIndia.Althoughthis
formofgoddessworshipisprominentinvillageshrines,itisalsoveryimportantatthetemplelevel,particularlyinBengalandKerala,wheretemplestoKalior
Bhagavatipredominate.Oftenthetemplefestivalsintheseregionsaretiedtotheagriculturalcycle,andthegoddessisbelievedtoundergoaperiodic
reproductivecycleakintothatofhumanwomen.Ritualworshiptakesplaceduringthehottestseason,whenthegoddessisunderstoodtobeundergoingher
menstrualcycle,andinneedofsacrificialofferingsandexcitementbeforeaperiodofrestandrenewal.
HindusshowdeepreverencetotheearthastheMotherGoddess.Fromthemostancienttimes,rivers,mountains,hills,thesky,andinfactalloftheearth,have
beenrespectedasthebodyofthegoddessitself.TheriverGanga,themostimportantoftheHindurivergoddesses,isanembodiedliquiddivinity,whosegrace
flowingoverthebather'sbodycanbefelttoempower,cleanse,purify,heal,andenlighten.TheShaktiPithas,locationswherepartsofthegoddess'sbody
mythicallyfelltoearthandinstalledthemselves,areseatsofpowerwherepilgrimscandirectlyexperiencethegoddess.Hills,mountains,stones,andanthillsall
manifestmiraculouspowersthroughouttheIndiansubcontinent,andareancientplacesofpilgrimageandrenewal.Beforebuildingahouse,undertaking
cultivationofplants,startingaritual,orbeginningadance,HinduspraytoBhumiDevi,theearthgoddess,forherblessingsandforgiveness.
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PerhapsthemostimportantfestivaltothegoddessisNavaratri,theninenightsofworshipdedicatedtothegoddessDurga.Thisfestivaltakesplaceinsome
formthroughouttheIndiansubcontinentinthebrightmoonfortnightoftheHindumonthsofChaitra(MarchApril)andAshwin(SeptemberOctober).The
sacredtextrecountingthedestructionofaseriesofdemonsbythegoddessDurgaorCandi,theChandipath,isrecitedeacheveningforninenights.Onthe
eighthdayahomaorfiresacrificeisofferedtoDurgaDeviincelebrationofhertriumphoverevil.Theninenightsofworshiparedividedintogroupsofthree,
recognizingthetripleformofthegoddessasDurga/Lakshmi/Saraswati.DurgaorCamundaisthegoddessofpower,destructionofnegativities,andfierce
strengthinthefaceofadversityandevil.Thestoryofherdestructionofdemonssymbolizestheneedfiercelytoconfrontone'sownlimitationsandnegative
qualitiesandeliminatethem.Lakshmi,goddessofprosperityandabundance,representstheabilitytoenjoy,share,andlove,madepossiblebyselfpurification
andtherecognitionofthedivinemanifestinall.Aftercultivatingmoralpurificationandanattitudeofoptimismandgenerosity,Saraswati,goddessofhigher
knowledge,finallyispropitiatedastheonewhomakesitpossibletorealizedivinewisdomandlight.ThefestivalofNavaratri,likemanyformsofHindu
worship,incorporatesmanylevelsofmeaning.Itcanbeaharvestfestival,atimeforfamilyandfriendstogatherandshare,atimeofrestandrenewal,atimeof
fastingandpenance.Spiritually,Navaratricanbearecognitionofthenecessitytodestroyoldhabitstomakewayfornewexperiencesandknowledge,a
celebrationofgrowthandrebirth,andaprofoundexperienceofthegoddessasone'sinnerpowerofconsciousness.
AuniqueaspectofHinduismnotfoundinotherworldreligionsistherecognitionofanintimatelinkbetweenthegoddessandtheforceofintellect,mind,and
speech.ThisisreflectedincontemporaryHinduisminthepersonofthegoddessSaraswati.Portrayedinspotlesswhitegarmentsandseateduponaswan,
Saraswatiholdsinherhandsapalmleafmanuscriptandaveena(theIndianlute),symbolizingherpoweroverspeech,literature,learning,andthearts.School
childrenvenerateSaraswatitoexcelintheirstudies,andoftenplacetheirschoolbooksandpensuponheraltertowardthisend.Theidentificationofthegoddess
withspeechandintellecthasancientrootsinHinduism.VedichymnsrecognizeVacasthepowerofspeech,thepowerthatinspiredtheproductionofmantras.
TheidentificationofthegoddesswithlanguageislaterelaboratedinShaivaphilosophy,wherethefiftylettersoftheSanskritalphabetarecollectivelyreferred
toasMatrikaShakti,thepowerofthe"littlemothers"(thelettersthemselves).Bycallingtheletters"mothers,"thesagesdrewourattentiontothecreative,
generativepowersoflanguage.Inthisconceptthegoddessmanifeststocreatetheuniversethroughpulsation(Spanda),whichanimatesthemindassubtle
thoughts,andemergesonthephysicalplaneasspeech.Allofmaterialcreationisalsoembodiedinthesubtlevibrationsofthisdivinespeech,andmantras,
whichencapsulatetheseenergies,whenproperlypronounced,canactuallyrecreatematerialreality.
ShaivaphilosophyenvisionstheGodheadasconsistingoftheinseparablepairShivaandShakti,BeingandConsciousness.Neitherexistswithouttheother.
Thesetwoareimaginedasadivinehusbandandwifeengagedinendlesseroticplay.ThisimagesignifiesthedeepermeaningoftheSelf(prakasha
illumination)enjoyingthemanifoldphenomenacontinuallyunfoldedbyShakti(vimarshareflectiveconsciousness).Infactthemindwithitsconstantinner
movementisnothingbutadancerentertainingthewitnessingconsciousself,everstillandunaffectedyetdeeplyenjoyingtheplayofconsciousness.Inthis
metaphortheprocessofconsciousexistenceisitselfagreatloveaffair,aunionofShivaandShakti,Being(Sat)andConsciousness(Chit),leadingtoinnerbliss
(Ananda).Ashiftinawarenessallowsustorecognizeallofrealityasnothingbutthisblissfulplay,thedanceofShivaandShakti.
Shaivaphilosophyexplainsthatthepotentialforthisawarenesslieswithineveryperson,inadormantformknownasKundaliniShakti.Thisdivinepoweris
envisionedasasleepingsnakecoiledthreetimesinthebaseofthespine,atanenergycenterknownasthemuladharachakra.Inordertorealizetheplayof
divineBeingandConsciousnesstakingplacewithinus,itisnecessarytoawakenthissleepinggoddessthatresideswithinthebody,andtopurifyoneself
throughspiritualdisciplines,devotion,andstudy.ThepracticesofKundaliniYogaawakenandcultivatethissubtleformofthegoddess,whichisinfactdivine
consciousness,leadingittowardtheenergycenterlocatedinthecrownofthehead,thesahasrarachakra,saidtobetheabodeofLordShiva.Whenthegoddess
asKundaliniShaktiuniteswithLordShiva,divineblissandpermanentliberationfromsufferingandignoranceensue.ThepracticesofKundaliniYogaarethus
anotherformofworshipofthegoddesswithinone'sownbody,asone'sownconsciousnessandtrueinnerself.
AformofHinduworshipthatunitesallaspectsofthegoddessandaimstoattainnotonlywellbeingintheworld,butalsosupremespiritualknowledgeand
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ultimateliberation,isthetantricpracticeofSriVidya,theSupremeWisdom.InSriVidyapractice,DeviisworshippedasTripurasundari,theBeautyofthe
ThreeWorlds.TripurasundariisenvisionedasRajarajeshwari,QueenoftheUniverse,Goddesswhoholdsthekeytoallknowledgeandpowers.Sheisthe
supremecreatorallworldsandpowersdwellwithinherbodyintheformofminorDevis,whoareeachenumeratedandpropitiatedthroughtheworship.The
essenceofSriVidyapracticeisencodedinthetextsLalitaSahasranamaandSaundaryaLahari,whicharereciteddailyinmanypartsofIndia,butcanbe
properlyunderstoodonlythroughinitiationbyaguruofthetradition.Throughtheuseofmantras(sacredsyllablesembodyingtheenergiesofthegoddess),
mudras(ritualhandgesturesthatawakensubtleenergiesandsealtherelationshipoftheseekertothechosendeity),guidedmeditation,andexternalpuja
(offeringsofvariouskinds)totheSriYantra,acomplexgeometricrepresentationofthegoddessastheentireuniverse,aninitiateinstallsthegoddessintohisor
herownbodyandthenproceedstomovebackwardsthroughtheprocessofcreationtodissolvehisorherconsciousnessbackintoitssource.
OnefeatureoftheworshipofHindugoddessesthatisseenthroughoutIndiaisthetendencytovenerategroupsofgoddesses,whoareyetunderstoodtobe
emanationsofasingleDevi.Thistendencyreflectstherealizationthatnaturehasthetendencytomultiplyandproliferate.Fromasinglefertilecell,two,four,
eight,sixteen,thirtytwo,sixtyfourcellsarisethroughdivisionofthetheoriginalone,leadingtoanalmostinfinitearrayofcellswhichthenarrangethemselves
intodifferentfunctionsandformahumanbody.Throughoutthenaturalworldthistendencytoproliferateandmultiplysignifieslife.Afteraperiodofgrowth,
decaysetsinandthecellsbegintodecayanddegenerate,eventuallyleadingtodeathandreabsorptionintotheirsource,thematerialelementsfromwhichlife
arose.Thisbasicpatternofproliferationanddecayextendstoallofcreation,includingthemineralworldandtheuniverseofstars,planets,andgalaxies.Itis
thisprofoundunderstandingofthepatternsunderlyingthephenomenaluniversethatisreflectedinthetendencytoportraygoddessesinenumeratedgroups.The
oldestoftheseistheSevenMothers(Saptamatrika),whoscholarshavesuggestedrepresentthePleiades,animportantconstellationofthetropicalnightsky
otherssuggestthattheyalsomayrepresentthesevenchakrasorenergycentersidentifiedinthesubtlephysiologyofKundaliniYoga.Hinduiconographyalso
celebratesEightLakshmis(Ashtalakshmi),NineDurgas(Navadurga),TenGreatWisdomGoddesses(DasaMahaVidya),SixteenPhasesoftheLunarCycleor
digitsofthemoon(theNityaKalaDevis),and64Yoginis(esotericfemaleteachers).Eachofthesegroupingshasprofoundmeaningintantricpractice.Inthe
tenthcenturycirculartemplestothe64yoginiswereconstructedinEastCentralIndia,inthecenterofwhichworshipperswouldconductsecretritestoidentify
themselveswiththecreatorpairShiva/Shakti.Inthatgoldenageoftantricknowledge,humanfemalesplayedtheroleofteachersandadeptsaswellaswives,
servants,andpartnerstomaleyogis.TemplessuchastheKailasnathtempleinKanchipuram,Tamilnadu,whichpreserveimagesofthesehumanyoginisin
posturesofinstructionandveneration,letusknowthatduringthisperiod,thegoddess,inheraspectasteacher,sexualpartner,andcreatoroflife,wasovertly
worshippedinthepersonofhumanwomen.
ThevastlandscapeofgoddessworshipinHinduismisimpossibletograspinasinglelifetime,muchlessinabriefessay.Howevertherichnessofthistradition,
anditspotentialtocontributetothereligiousunderstandingsofpeopletheworldover,isimmense.Manypeoplethroughouttheworldareseekingtoimprove
therelationsofhumanstotheirphysicalworld,andtooneanother.IntheprofoundsacredgeographyofHinduism,whichreverestheearthasagoddess,are
plentifulresourcesforregeneratingtheecologicalawarenessofhumanbeings.Whetherthroughparticipationinpilgrimagestosacredriversandmountains
throughthecelebrationofthebeauty,wisdom,andpowerofthemanifoldgoddessesintheexquisiteritualsofpujathroughinitiationintotheprofound
mysteriesofKundaliniYogaandShaktatantraorsimplythroughtherecognitionofdivinityinthehumanbodyofeverymanandwoman,Hindutradition
offerstheworldanalmostinfinitearrayofwaystosacralizeeveryaspectofmundaneexistence.Fromcookingtobusinesstopleasuretoknowledge,Deviisthe
sourcefromwhichallsuccessandjoyarise.Forthoseseekingultimateknowledge,theSriVidyapracticeisarguablythemostelaborateandesotericformof
worshipofthegoddess,andalsooneofthemosttheologicallycomplex.Itwouldtakemanylifetimestofullygraspthedepthofthesymbolismandbeautyof
theritualpracticeencodedinitstradition.Thisformofunderstandingofgoddesshasgreatpotentialtoexpandourconceptofthedivineinmanyreligions.
Women,especiallythoseraisedwithinHinduism,shouldbeencouragedtoreadandstudydeeplythemeaningsofthesegreattraditions,andtorealizethe
presenceofthegoddesswithintheirownmindsandbodies.Mencanlearntorespectandreverethefeminineaswellasmasculinequalities,andtoseeDeviin
allwomen.Suchanattitude,thatembracesallofcreationandallbeingsaspulsationsofdivinelove,willhealandupliftourworld.
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Brooks,DouglasRenfrew.Thesecretofthethreecities:anintroductiontoHinduSaktatantrism.Chicago:UniversityofChicagoPress,1990.
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Brown,CheeverMackenzie.Thetriumphofthegoddess:thecanonicalmodelsandtheologicalvisionsoftheDeviBhagavata.Albany:StateUniversityof
NewYorkPress,1990.
____________.TheDeviGita:thesongoftheGoddessatranslation,annotation,andcommentary.Albany:StateUniversityofNewYorkPress,1998.
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YorkPress,1991.
Dehejia,Vidya.Yogini,cultandtemples:atantrictradition.NewDelhi:NationalMuseum,1986.
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Hawley,JohnS.,andDonnaM.Wulff,eds.Devi:goddessesofIndia.Berkeley:UniversityofCaliforniaPress,1996.
Kinsley,DavidR.Hindugoddesses:visionsofthedivinefeminineintheHindureligioustradition.Berkeley:UniversityofCaliforniaPress,1986.
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