The Domestication of a Goddess

Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal

in Encountering Kālī

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780520232396
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928176 | DOI:
The Domestication of a Goddess

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Kālīghāt, the landing stage sacred to Kālī on the old course of the river Ganga at Calcutta, is regarded as an important seat of the Goddess (mahāpītha or śāktipītha) and is visited by thousands of pilgrims everyday. One particular feature of Bengali religiosity is a deep-seated devotion to mother goddesses. The most important public religious festivals in Bengal are connected with two goddesses, Durgā and Kālī, the goddess of war and victory and the goddess of death and regeneration, respectively. Two religious streams fuse at Kālīghāt: the non-vegetarian Śākta tradition and the vegetarian Vaisnava tradition. This chapter narrates how the priests of Kālīghāt, Kālī's most famous temple in Bengal, have been systematically Vaisnavizing her, removing as many reminders of her Tantric background as possible in their ritual regimens.

Keywords: Kālīghāt; Kālī; Calcutta; mahāpītha; religiosity; Bengal; goddesses; pilgrims; Śākta; Vaisnava

Chapter.  8932 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Hinduism

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