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The form of the Goddess whose Tantric worship is the focus of the Śākta Śrī Vidyā cult, also known as Lalitā (‘lovely’), Kāmeśvarī (‘the Goddess of Erotic Love’), Mahātripurasundarī, Rājarājeśvarī (‘Queen of Kings’), and Śrīdevī (‘the Auspicious Goddess’), and identified with various other South Indian goddesses, such as Kāmākṣī and Ṣodaśī. Essentially benign and erotic, she is, at the same time, both transcendent and immanent, the absolute power (śakti) that ceaselessly manifests and reabsorbs the cosmos as eternal and primeval sound (śabda). She has come to be worshipped in three ways: i) iconically, as a beautiful, red, young woman, red-clothed and with a red garland, four-armed, holding a noose, an elephant-goad, Kāma's five arrows, and a bow (she is sometimes also depicted as sitting on Sadāśiva— Śiva as a corpse), to whom pure, vegetal offerings are made; ii) in a subtle form, through recitation of the śrīvidyā mantra, composed of fifteen (or sixteen) bīja or ‘seed syllables’; iii) in her supreme form, through meditation on the śrīyantra diagram. In this way, those initated into the tradition hope to realize their absolute identity with her as unmitigated and liberating power. Consonant with this specific ritual, haṭha yogic methods of visualization are also employed, in which the goddess is conceptualized as kuṇḍalinī, with the aim of uniting the male and female principles in the practitioner's body. See also Lalitāsahasranāma; Saundaryalaharī.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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