Article

Goddess

Perundevi Srinivasan

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online January 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0023
Goddess

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Goddess worship is one of the most important signposts of the cultural landscape of Hinduism. Goddesses are predominant both in pan-Indian classical discourses and in “local” vernacular discourses of Hinduism. The number of Hindu goddesses that one comes across in daily life or learns about in an academic context is astonishing; the mythologies, symbolism, ritual practices, and festivities associated with them are also heterogeneous and varied. The goddess is worshipped in India both in public and private spaces of the temple and the household. Worship practices of the goddess draw from agamic or scriptural traditions, popular devotion, and tantric esoteric traditions. In Hinduism, the divine feminine is perceived in terms of cosmogonic concepts, such as Śakti (power and embodiment of power), Māyā (deluder and delusion), and Prakṛti (the material universe, creation, and creatrix), as well as female divinities with specific identities, such as Kālī or Durgā or Lakṣmī. The cosmogonic concepts highlight different dimensions of the feminine divine in the Hindu thought. The female deities are considered as different forms and manifestations of one great goddess or Śakti in popular Hindu perceptions. Such perceptions, rather than subsuming specific manifestations of the goddess within the overarching great Śakti, reinforce these multiple manifestations as equally valid and significant. The practice and theology of goddess worship are commonly referred to as the “Śākta” tradition or “Śaktism,” which underlies a devoted orientation toward Śakti, considering her as the ultimate reality, creative force, and superior power. Kathleen Erndl (see Erndl 2004, cited under General Overviews) points out that Śaktism “should be considered a movement of its own,” although its influence is felt in streams of worship of male deities such as Vishnu and Shiva, as seen from the cults of Lakṣmī and Rādhā or the association of Śakti with Shiva. This article treats mainly goddesses in Hinduism and not women, such as legendary figures and women saints who are considered goddesses by some. It focuses on the translations of primary sources and interpretive scholarly materials that map the historical, mythological, literary, iconographic, and other cultural locations of the goddess-related or Śākta cosmogonic concepts and individual female deities in Hinduism.

Article.  10757 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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