Category Archives: Sakta Deities (Hindu Goddesses)

Radha

India is a patriarchal society in which men are considered more important than women; wives are often ranked based on their husband’s social status. However, goddesses are an exception and challenge this notion, as they hold power (Sakti) over all humans and often hold presidency over male gods in the Hindu religion (Vaudeville 1). Radha is an inspirational goddess in the Hindu religion, due to her everlasting love and unbreakable devotion (Bhakti) for the god Krsna, who is one of the eight incarnations of Visnu (Mukhhopadhyay 4). Unfortunately there is no record of Radha’s individual identity before she met Krsna; therefore, they are often considered one entity with the name Radha-Krsna (Miller 13). Radha’s story is unique because it reinforces love between human and the divine (Dimock and Levertov 9).  Together, their story constitutes the attainment of the highest level of connection, passion, and love that two beings can share, which is known as Rasa.

The Gitagovinda describes the love relationship of Radha and Krsna through poetry and song, and was written in the 12th Century by Jayadeva (Miller 14). Jayadeva reveals that Radha and Krsna first encountered one another in the country Braj. This was Radha’s birth town where she was well known and often called Lali, which means darling (Vaudeville 11). Krsna was married to sixteen thousand wives, and had sixteen thousand Gopis, which are cow-herding women. Krsna’s flute had the power to make women drop whatever they were doing and join him in listening to beautiful melodies, thus attracting Radha (Dimock and Levertov 8).

Krsna and Radha knew and longed for each other before they had any first encounters, leading to the notion that they are not, and never were, separate entities at all. Rather, Radha is Krsna’s characteristic of power and strength (Sakti), and everything that he wants out of a partner; she is said to be his reason for coming into the world (Wulff 111). Radha evolved from Krsna to bring nature (Prakrti), Maya (mysterious power), and Sakti (energy) into existence (Brown 62).  This alludes to the idea that Krsna needs Radha because she is the energy and power that he transmits to all of the other Gopis when he loves them. When Radha and Krsna are apart he longs to feel the stability he encounters in her presence.

One crucial concept of importance when surveying Radha and Krsnas love is the importance of memory. It is highly recognized that both Radha and Krsna remembered each others’ encounters and the way they made each other feel, most of their relationship was spent lovingly devoting themselves to each other through their connection of memories, and the hope that they would one day reunite after huge bouts of separation. Krsna is absent for long periods of time as he goes away to the Mahabharata war, in hopes of finding his lost identity (Miller and Goswami 14, 89). Radha becomes so obsessed with the idea of Krsna that she sees him everywhere she goes, even in the trees, almost as a hallucination (Wulff 31). Radha remembers miniscule details about Krsna, and fantasizes about making love to him. Through this, Krsna can sense her love and they share a connection through wanting each other; this desire is known as Kama (Miller 20). The foundation of their relationship is that they love each other so deeply that they will do anything to stay devoted, even after great amounts of time pass without contact. Their love is eternal and they both never feel the strength of that bond with any of their other significant partners.

Radha is often perceived as Krsna’s mistress because Krsna never married her but always admired her. Radha and Krsna never marry because they desire a love without constraints and one of spontaneity (Wulff 41). Radha’s biggest insecurity is that she is forced to overcome the jealousy she experiences when she imagines Krsna participating in sexual acts with other Gopis (Dimock and Levertov 7). Radha feels intensely conflicted in her own mind, as she is aware that Krsna is attracted and involved with other women, but this does not stop her from giving Krsna all she has (even though she is also married). She is aware that she appears mad to everyone else around her, but she does not care because her feelings of love are so deep that no object, or human could change the way she feels (Wulff 38).

Radha’s love is Krsna’s Sakti; without it he would be incomplete and lost. She energizes Krsna providing him with the means to carry on as a friend, master, child, or lover (Brown 69). Because Radha is Krsna’s favourite, she becomes one with him; alone she is just a normal cow herding Gopi, but in combination with him she is considered to be a powerful mother figure who Krsna needs and desires. Sometimes she is even regarded as more important than he in the Hindu religion. The image in which Radha forces Krsna to let her put her feet on top of his head, demonstrates the power that she had over him (Miller and Brown 23,71). The two complement and complete each other; something is taken away from one being without the presence of the other.

Radha submits her complete self to Krsna in a variety of ways. First, she listens and sings with Krsna, which proves that they are emotionally surrendered to each other. Radha and Krsna can mediate and be on the same level with one another, through this they achieve Samarana, which means spontaneity, in which all expectations are lost and they are able to love each other freely without restraints of other people (Goswami 80). Radha and Krsna are trying to achieve Rasa, which is the highest level of love, in which they will no longer feel like separate entities; rather, their love will be so powerful that it joins two individuals into one being (Goswami 80).

Today Radha and Krsna are still very important deities in Hindu worship; the Hindu calendar allows them both to be praised on separate days. Radha Ashtami is celebrated in August or September, and it is to commemorate the day of her birth. On this day people fast from food and worship her (Bellenir 1). All goddesses are seen in the Hindu calendar to have both a dark (Kali) and a bright (Durga) side, to represent the waxing and waning of the moon. The light side is said to take on human form, which carries weapons, and the dark represents a cosmic mother figure (Vaudeville 3). One also finds renounced paintings of Radha and Krsna; these represent their deep love and bond. Most original paintings show Krsna alone playing his flute, although later on Radha is also shown playing. This represents that Radha is most definitely Krsna’s favourite, and therefore receives special privileges over the other Gopis (Goswami 87).

Radha and Krsna’s relationship illustrates that not only humans can attain extreme love connections for one another, but the love between a human and God is also possible. The Radha-Krsna relationship proves that the highest Bhakti, Rasa, is possible for these two as they remember every characteristic and devote their entire being to another; even when jealousy and anger take over, their devotion for one another prevails (Dimock and Levertov 13). Krsna proves his love by making Radha his favourite out of all of the women he has encountered, and Radha devotes every action to loving Krsna and being his power to continue loving her and all of his wives and Gopis (Brown 63).

 

Bibliography

Bellenir, K (2004) Religious Holidays & Calendars. Detroit: Omnigraphics, Inc.

Brown, Mackenzie. (1982) “The Theology of Radha in the Puranas.” In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort Radha And The Goddesses Of india, p.57-72. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Dimock, Edward and Levertov, Denise (1967) In praise of Krishna: songs from the Bengali. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goswami, Shrivatsa. (1982) “The Play and Perfection of Rasa”  In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort Radha And The Goddesses Of india, p.72-89. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Miller, Barbara. (1982) “The Divine Duality of Radha and Krishna” In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort Radha And The Goddesses Of india, p.13-27. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mukhoradhyay, Durgadas (1990) In Praise of Krishna. Delhi: Br Publishing Corporation.

Vaudeville, Charlotte. (1982) “Krishna Gopala, Radha, and The Great Goddess.” In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort Radha And The Goddesses Of India, p.1-13. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wulff, Donna. (1996) “Radha: Consort and Conquerer of Krishna” In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. Devi: Goddesses of India, P. 109-112. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wulff, Donna. (1982) “A Sanskrit Portrait: Radha in the plays of Rupa Gosvami” In John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds. The Divine Consort Radha And The Goddesses Of india, p.27-42. Berkeley: University of California Press.

 

Related Research Topics

  • Braj
  • Durga
  • Devi
  • Gitagovinda
  • Gopi
  • Jayadeva
  • Kali
  • Lali
  • Maya
  • Prakrti
  • Rasa
  • Sakti
  • Samarana

 

Related Websites

http://www.drikpanchang.com/festivals/radha-ashtami/radha-ashtami-date-time.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radha_Krishna

http://hinduism.about.com/od/scripturesepics/a/lovelegends_4.htm

https://sites.google.com/site/fortheloveofkamadeva/radha-krishna-not-so-typical-love-story

 

Article written by: Cassandra Poch (April 2016), who is solely responsible for its content.

Mohini and the Churning of the Ocean of Milk

Mohini is a manifestation of Visnu in the myth of the churning of the ocean of milk. The myth starts out with a war between the devas (representation of good) and the asuras (representation of bad), but the devas were losing due to an unfair advantage on the asuras’ side (Glucklich 158). The asuras got help from Siva who had given them the ability to resurrect from the dead after the devas had killed them (Glucklich 158).  Because of this, the devas sought after Brahma to help them. He suggested that instead of fighting with the asuras they should partner up with them to summon Visnu to help them churn the ocean of milk in order to gain “the nectar of immortality” (Glucklich 158). Visnu plays a vital role in this myth because he manifests in many forms to help the devas and the asuras to churn the ocean. Visnu takes on forms to be: the foundation for the churning stick (a tortoise), the churning rope (a serpent), and of course Mohini (Kinsley 67).

Mohini (a female representation of Visnu); Delhi National Museum, 2017

While the ocean was churning, various other things emerge before the nectar of immortality. Once it appeared out of the ocean the devas drank, which is when Mohini appears as a seductive woman who distributes the nectar and beheads Rahu, an asura disguised as a deva, before he can swallow the nectar (Glucklich 159-160). With the nectar and Visnu’s weapons, the devas defeat the asuras as they retreated (Glucklich 160). Some believe that the nectar of immortality was a euphemism for Soma (Glucklich 160) while others interpret it as a “representation of the abundance of earth” (Kinsley 68). This shift between sexes often has bad or negative connotations in religious myths. Normally, when a god, or anyone for that matter, is turned into a different sex (usually men turning into women) it is form of punishment or a curse, with the exception of Mohini (Parasher-Sen 45). Earlier versions of the myth were short and did not use Mohini’s name but rather spoke of an anonymous woman (Visnu in disguise) who took back the immortality nectar that the asuras had stolen (Parasher-Sen 48). A different rendering of this myth believe that Mohini’s role was to cheat the asuras out of their share while distributing the immortality nectar (see Parasher-Sen 48). In the Vayu Purana version of the myth, Brahma says a mantra that brings Mohini out of the ocean, and when he sees her he is so pleased by her looks (Parasher-Sen 48).

Part of the churning the ocean myth is the chase of Mohini by Siva. There are several versions of this part of the myth. In the Bhagavata Purana, after seeing Mohini, Siva loses his senses and runs after Mohini. He becomes so overwhelmed with passion that only after he ejaculates, he realizes that Mohini is really just a manifestation of Visnu and that he had been fooled (Parasher-Sen 48).  In the Agni Purana once Mohini turns back into Visnu, Siva asks him to turn back into his female form. When he does, Siva becomes naked and grabs Mohini by the hair until she frees herself and runs away. He follows her and it is unclear if he catches her again but whereever his semen drops is where sacred places of lingas and gold appear (Parasher-Sen 48). These ‘connections’ between Mohini (Visnu) and Siva was said to have created a child (Aiyanar) which turns Mohini into a mother figure instead of a temptress (Parasher-Sen 49).

The final part of the myth is the binding of Visnu and Siva which creates Harihara. Harihara is an androgynous figure which is created by Visnu who is often, but not always, composed as feminine and Siva who is always depicted as masculine (Parasher-Sen 45). Even though Visnu reverts back to his masculine form before the binding with Siva, he is still considered to be the feminine side (Parasher-Sen 45). Although the Harihara is described as being androgynous, with Visnu possessing the female body parts, it is rare to find a depiction of this (Parasher-Sen 51). It is hard to find sculptures of Harihara with Mohini on the side of Visnu, although there are instances of this representation (Parasher-Sen 51). The feminine side (Visnu/Mohini) is often depicted holding either a wheel, a conch, or a mace in one hand and a crab in the other, while wearing a crown and crocodile earrings (Parasher-Sen 51). While the masculine side (Siva) is often holding a trident, sword, drum, rosary, battle-axe, or a skull while wearing serpent earrings and a ‘top-knot of hair’ with a crescent moon (Parasher-Sen 51).

Mohini can be considered many things: the seducer of Siva (Parasher-Sen 46), the nectar distributor (Parasher-Sen 48; Glucklich 159-160; and Kinsley 67), the mother of Aiyanar (Parasher-Sen 49), and the deceiver of asuras (Parasher-Sen 46). Some scholars think that Mohini is important to the Hindu culture because she helps show women in a more positive light, and that the transformation from a male to female is not always a curse but rather a gift (Parasher-Sen 56), and in the case of Mohini, a necessity to stop the bad from becoming more powerful than the good.

REFERENCES AND RELATED READINGS

Glucklich, Ariel (2008) The Strides of Visnu. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kinsley, David R. (1986) Hindu Goddesses. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Parasher-Sen, Aloka (1999) “Images of Feminine Identity in Hindu Mythology and Art: The Case of Visnu-Mohini.” Indian Journal of Gender Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1: 43-60.

 

RELATED TOPICS

Visnu

Siva

Asuras

Devas

Vayu Purana                                                                                                                            

Immortality

Bhagavata Purana

Agni Purana

Androgynous

War

Seduction

Sculpture/Art Work

Aiyanar

 

RELATED WEBSITES

http://www.qualiafolk.com/2011/12/08/mohini/

http://hinduwebsite.com/churning.asp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kshir_Sagar

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohini

 

Article written by: Michaela Klein (February 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Devi Mahatmya

Many ancient cultures have traditions believing in the power of a mother goddess. Hinduism is one such religion that still has a strong culture of goddess worship that has continued to develop over the years. There are many indications of the importance of fertility and the importance of worshiping feminine power in the remains of the Indus Valley Civilization, which was discovered in the 1920’s. Female figurines as well as seals were found depicting the female figure (Coburn 15).

The Devi Mahatmya is one of the first texts in the Hindu tradition to equate female divinity with the principle of Brahman, which is ultimate reality (Abbot and Foulston 12). It is part of a larger text called the Markandeya-Purana. However, out of all of the texts in the Markandeya-Purana, the Devi Mahatmya has the most commentaries and is mostly viewed on its own as opposed to with the full text. The term Devi Mahatmya translates to “Greatness of the Goddess”. The text is all about the myths of Hindu goddesses and was originally in Sanskrit (Coburn 1). It was likely written in the sixth century and is still used today to worship the goddess (Kinsley 489). The text mostly narrates tales of battles between the goddess (Devi) and various demons, but takes place within a larger story. Throughout the Devi Mahatmya the goddess is referred to by over 200 different names. Several of these names describe characteristics of the goddess, while others convey honour. Many of them refer to goddesses that have been mentioned in other Hindu literature. (Kinsley 490).

The Devi Mahatmya is usually presented in three sections. Each section is about a specific goddess and has its own seer and deity. These three sections contain different chapters and are unequal in length. The first section is chapter 1, the second consists of chapters 2-4, and the third spans chapters 5-14. These three sections that make up the Devi Mahatmya are often surrounded by appendages or angas. These are subsidiary texts that the Devi Mahatmya relies on and they come before and after the main text.  These angas discuss ritual use of the Devi Mahatmya (Coburn 100).

The Devi Mahatmya tells of three battles between the goddess, Devi, and different demons. These three battles make up the three sections of the text. The frame story, which connects these episodes, is that there is a sage that is teaching his two pupils about the identity of the goddess. The sage tells his pupils about the three battles. The first section and battle of the Devi Mahatmya tells how the demons Madhu and Kaitabha were defeated. The second section is about the goddess’ defeat of the demon Mahisa. The third section is the myth of Sumbha and Nisumbha (Coburn 22-24).

In the first section, the goddess is associated with the deity Visnu. The goddess takes on the characteristics of the great male god. When associated with Visnu the goddess is characterized by negative qualities such as sleep and delusion (Kinsley 491). These characteristics are referred to as maya and the goddess is referred to as Mahamaya ten times in this episode. Although maya has negative overtones it also has positive ones such as the ability to create (Kinsley 498-499).  The two demons in this section, Madhu and Kaitabha, are said to have come out of Visnu’s ear to harass Brahma, the creator god. In this story, the goddess is able to awaken Visnu so that he can defeat the two demons. He fought them for five thousand years and then he was finally able to defeat them. He granted their last wish and killed them on land by cutting off their heads (Coburn 39).

The second section of the Devi Mahatmya has the goddess born from the strength and power of many different gods (Kinsley 492). This section is unique because it describes the birth of a completely new god. In this episode, the demon Mahisa conquers the gods and expels them from heaven to wander the earth. Hearing about this, Visnu and Siva became angry and out of a fiery splendor, known as tejas, the goddess was created. The goddess was created from different aspects of each god and given different weapons from all of them (Coburn 40). Together, this new goddess and the other gods had been expelled fought in a battle against Mahisa’s army. They fought until Mahisa’s army begged them to stop and Mahisa was slain. At the end of the battle flowers were released from heaven (Coburn 44). The goddess in this episode is praised by the gods and continued to protect the worlds.

The third section is the longest section of the Devi Mahatmya and consists of the most chapters. This episode begins with the gods going to the Himalayas (Kinsley 491). The demons Sumbha and Nisumbha hear of this great goddess and send two of their generals, Canda and Munda, to abduct her and bring her to him in order to get married. The generals believe that they will be able to take the goddess with ease and little effort. They approach her confidently and with pride forgetting that she is all-powerful. As they approach, the goddess first lets out a mantra that has the power to create and destroy, and then goes on to destroy the two generals. The king demon, named Sumbha, who had given the orders for the goddess to be abducted is angered when he hears that his two best generals have been destroyed by a woman (Amazzone 63). When he attacks, the goddess goes on to destroy both Sumbha and his brother Nisumbha; The Devi Mahatmya makes it very clear that the goddess is universal and all-powerful (Abbot and Foulston 66).

The Devi Mahatmya is still used in the Hindu tradition today. It is one of the most influential texts in the tradition and is used to worship the goddess at different Hindu rituals and gatherings. One of the gathering in which the Devi Mahatmya is used is the Durga Puja. The Durga Puja is the most popular festival, it is celebrated once a year in Kolkata and devotees get to “gaze upon the Goddess’s face.” (Abbot and Foulston 157). It is one of the largest pilgrimage experiences within Southeast Asia, millions or people take part in this pilgrimage in order to worship the goddess. The festival takes place over nine nights and part of the festival is the recitation of the Devi Mahatmya and her victories over the demons (Amazzone 48).

Although the Devi Mahatmya is an ancient text in the Hindu tradition it still stands out among all of the other texts. It is one of the most influential texts and is unique because it tells tales of the great goddess. It has been used all throughout the Hindu tradition and is still used today at festivals and to worship the goddess.

 

References and Further Recommended Reading

Abbot, Stuart and Foulston, Lynn (2012) Hindu Goddesses: Beliefs and Practices. Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press.

Amazzone, Laura (2010) Goddess Durga and the Sacred Female Power. Maryland: Hamilton Books.

Coburn, Thomas B. (1991) Encountering the Goddess: A Translation of the Devī-Māhātmya and A Study of its Interpretation. New York: State University of New York Press.

Coburn, Thomas B. (1988) Devi Mahatmya: The Crystallization of the Goddess Tradition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Hawley, John Stratton and Donna Marie Wulff, (1996) Devi: Goddesses of India. Berkeley:University of California Press.

Kinsley, David (1978) “The Portrait of the Goddess in the Devī-Māhātmya.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion Vol. 46 No. 4: 489-506. Accessed January 30, 2016. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1463045

Kinsley, David (1975) “Freedom from Death in the Worship of Kali.” Numen 22(3): 183-207. Accessed February 3, 2016. Doi: 10.2307/3269544

 

Related Topics

Devi

Durga

Markandeya Purana

Mahabharata

Durga Saptashati

Kali

Mahisa

Visnu

Siva

Maya

Sanskrit

Puja

Brahma

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://stotraratna.sathyasaibababrotherhood.org/pm1.htm

http://www.vedicastrologer.org/mantras/chandi/chandi_inner_meaning.pdf

http://sdbbs.tripod.com/devi.html

http://www.swami-krishnananda.org/devi-audio.html

http://weareferment.net/devimahat.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devi_Mahatmya

https://archive.org/stream/DeviMahatmyamEnglishTransiteration/Devi%20Mahatmyam%20English%20Transliteration_djvu.txt

https://mahaperiyavaa.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/devi-mahatmyam-reading-procedure/

http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/DEVI_MAHATMYAM.htm

 

Article written by: Ana Ferzacca (March 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bharat Mata

The figure of a maternal goddess connected to the land is not a new idea in Hinduism, however, it was not until the conception of Bharat Mata (Mother India), that the worship of the country of India itself as a goddess began to emerge (Foulston 204).  What distinguished Bharat Mata from the much older goddess of the Earth, Prithvi, is Bharat Mata’s association with the specific geography of India (Ramaswamy 564). The subcontinent of India itself becomes a goddess and a mother who is sustained by the sacrifice of her children (Kinsley 181). Bharat Mata embodies all that is India: the land, the people, the religion, the culture, and even the politics. This image of a single Mother representing an entire nation was a way to arouse “the national sentiments of the population as a whole,” (Thapar 88) since it was the duty of the collective to protect the Mother from outside dangers (Thapar 88).

One of the earliest depictions of Bharat Mata is in Bhuedeb Mukhopadhyay’s Unabima Purana (‘The Nineteenth Purusa’), where she is portrayed as a widow and the epitome of what it means to be Aryan (Foulston 204-205). Not long afterwards, in 1873, she appeared in Kiran Chandra Bandyopadhyay’s play, Bharat Mata, as a trodden down motherland (Foulston 205). It, however, was not until her appearance in the nationalist novel Anandamath (Abbey of Bliss or The Sacred Brotherhood) written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, that the character of Bharat Mata began to gain popularity (Foulston 205). The novel was written during the late nineteenth century, a time when the Indian independence movement was at its height, and as a result the figure of a mother who required the protection of her children against outside aggression took on a more central role in India’s fight for political freedom (Kinsley 181).

Chatterjee’s novel itself is set during the late eighteenth century in a Bengali community during the famine of 1770. Anandamath follows a group called the ‘Order of the Children,’ who worship a Mother goddess, as they work to free themselves as well as their Mother from the tyranny of their oppressors (Foulston 205). One of the more significant scenes in the novel occurs when the character of Mahendra is taken into the ‘Order’s’ temple by the chief monk. Once in the temple, Mahendra is shown three different forms of the Mother goddess. The first form depicts the Mother as she was in the past. This form portrays her as Annapurna, the goddess of plenty. The next form of the Mother goddess depicts her in her current state. In contrast to the first form, this form is portrayed as Kali, naked and disheveled. Kali’s nakedness is seen as visually representing all that has been taken away from India since it had been under British rule (Foulston 206). Additionally, Kali is adorned with skulls (Foulston 206) and severed arms (Kinsley 181). The skulls signify the death of the land caused by the famine (Foulston 206), while the severed arms represent the sacrifices that will need to be made in order to free the Mother from British oppression (Kinsley 181).

The final form of the Mother is what she would be if she were liberated: a mighty, ten armed goddess, yielding a weapon in each hand, with the enemy crushed at her feet. This depiction of a supreme warrior draws on the image of the great goddess Durga (Foulston 206 and Ramaswamy 562). Excited by the prospect of this radiant Mother, Mahendra asks when she will once again attain this form to which the chief monk’s reply is, only when all of her children recognize her as true Mother (McKean 254). The chief monk’s reply emphasizes that the only way that liberation, both political and spiritual, can be obtained for the ‘Order’ and the Mother is through complete devotion to and sacrifice for the Mother (McKean 254). It is only when all of the Mother’s children are willing to serve the Mother and sacrifice themselves for her, like the members of the ‘Order’ are willing to do, that the Mother goddess will once again become great (Kinsley 182). This statement can also be seen as paralleling modern Hindu nationalistic rhetoric by suggesting that “anyone who wants a place in India should view India as their sacred land and their Mother” (Foulston 207-208), thus establishing a separation between the devoted children of Bharat Mata and those that would seek to oppress the Mother and her children.

Chatterjee’s Anandamath, in addition to providing one of the first clear figures of the Mother-goddess, also depicts Bharat Mata in the form of a song of praise, which has since become a national song, entitled Vande Mataram (Hail to the Mother or I bow to Thee Mother) (Foulston 207).  Incidentally, this song of praise to the Mother goddess in the novel was actually written before the novel itself and has resulted in numerous translations being produced (Foulston 208).  Among the translations that have been produced is one by Sri Aurobindo, who was an early proponent of Indian nationalism (Foulston 207). The slogan “Vande Mataram” quickly became popular apart from the novel, as the idea of “the Motherland and the stirring nature of her anthem have been attractive to many seeking their own identity” (Foulston 208). The slogan “Vande Mataram” was used politically for the first time in 1905 at demonstrations for the partition of Bengal. At this point in time, both Hindus and Muslims joined together to shout the slogan. However, by 1921, Hindus used the same slogan against Muslims during the Calcutta riots; thus Vande Mataram is regarded by many Muslims to be anti-Islamic (Foulston 208).

This hymn of praise to the Motherland became “the rallying cry for an emergent patriotic cult of Bharat Mata” (Ramaswamy 558) seeking Indian independence from the British (Foulston 208 and Ramaswamy 558). Even though India is now an independent country, the idea of a Mother-goddess is still very prevalent in India. The Indian national anthem for example, which was first sung in 1911, similarly expresses the same sentiment as Chatterjee’s Vande Mataram (Kinsley 183).

In the Anandamath, Bharat Mata is associated with the fight against British colonialism, however, over the years there has been a transition so that the figure of Bharat Mata has become more closely associated with Hindu nationalism as opposed to Indian nationalism. (Foulston 209). Whereas, during the Indian independence movement, Hindus and Muslims fought alongside each other to free the Mother, the image of Bharat Mata and national identity is now deeply embedded in Hindu piety and activism which is symbolized by the temples erected for Bharat Mata (Gupta 104 and McKean 264). The first temple dedicated to Bharat Mata was erected in 1936 in Banaras (or Varanasi) in which Bharat Mata is represented by a relief map of a still undivided India (Foulston 209). The purpose for building the temple was an “attempt at creating a composite religious and national identity and was seen as a place . . .  where all could worship.” (Gupta 102). The desire to create a place where there was no distinction between Hindu and Muslim, people of high caste and people of low caste, however, was undercut by the Hindu symbols that adorned the temple. On the gates of the temple, for example, the slogan Vande Mataram was inscribed. Since its use against Muslims in 1921, this slogan has been considered by many Muslims as anti-Islamic. The use of Vande Mataram on the gates of the temple only served as a way to further alienate the Muslim population and embed the image of Bharat Mata in Hindu nationalism (Foulston 209-210 and Gupta 103-104).

A second temple for Bharat Mata was constructed in 1983 at Haridwar, which is an important pilgrimage city for Hindus, by Swami Satyamiterand Giri, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP)(Foulston 210). In comparison to the temple in Banaras, this eight-storey building depicts the figure of Bharat Mata standing on the map of India holding stalks of grain and an urn of milk in her hands (Foulston 210). The Mother goddess herself takes up the first floor, while the other floors are occupied by “a variety of deities, national heroes and virtuous women satis, some of whom have burned themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre” (Foulston 210). The incorporation of both Hindu symbols and deities with national martyrs in the Bharat Mata temple in Haridwar associates the national Indian identity with the Hindu identity, and is thus able to convey to its visitors a particular configuration of what a unified India looks like (McKean 277).

Before the consecration of the Bharat Mata temple in Haridwar, the Vishva Hindu Parishad promoted the worship of Bharat Mata via a six-week tour of India. The Vishva Hindu Parishad organized the Ekatmata Rath Yatra (One Mother Chariot Procession) integration ritual, where 400 litres of Ganga water as well as “images of Ganga Ma, Siva, and a temporary shrine to Bharat Mata” (Foulston 210) were taken all over India. During the worship of Bharat Mata, religious leaders as well as Hindu nationalists warned the participants that Hinduism was under threat due to the government’s positive treatment of minorities, particularly Muslims” (Foulston 210-211). Thus the Bharat Mata temple at Haridwar portrays the figure of Mother India in terms of Hindu ideals and values, ultimately presenting Bharat Mata as Hindu.

Since her earliest appearances as the Mother goddess worshiped by a community of renouncers in Chatterjee’s Anandamat, the figure of Bharat Mata has “continued to transform, adapting to differing political agendas (Sen 173). In her earliest form, Bharat Mata was a figure that created unity amongst all Indians. The image of Mother India quickly became associated with the fight for Indian independence, as it was up to the children to free the Mother from the oppression of British rule. At the time when India was suffering under British rule, the idea of a maternal figure that required devotion and self-sacrifice from her children was a beneficial way to unite the entire populace of India against a common cause. The fusion of the land, the people, and the Mother as one served to instill the idea that the only way the people could be free is if the Mother is freed and vice versa. The Indian nationalism associated with Bharat Mata has since shifted towards Hindu nationalism. While the nation of India is still “figured as a loving Mother surrounded by her devoted children,” (McKean 252) the figure of the tyrannical oppressor has now shifted from the British to the secular state as well as Muslims (McKean 252).  In this figure of Bharat Mata, “nationhood, culture and religion have become part of a package deal” (Sen 173).  There is no longer a separation between the spiritual and the political. The figure of Bharat Mata has become a representative of what it means to be an ideal Hindu.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Duara, Prasenjit (1991) “The New Politics of Hinduism.” The Wilson Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 3: 42-50.

Foulston, Lynn (2009) Hindu Goddesses: Beliefs and Practices. Portland, Oregon: Sussex Academic Press.

Gupta, Charu (2006) “The Icon of Mother in Late Colonial North India: Bharat Mata, Matri Bhasha and Gau Mata.” In Beyond Representation: Colonial and Postcolonial Constructions of Indian Identity, edited by Crispin Bates, 100-122. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kinsley, David R (1986) Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press.

McKean, Lisa (1996) “Bharat Mata: Mother India and Her Militant Matriots.” In Devi: Goddesses of India, edited by Hawley, John S. and Donna M. Wulff, 250- 280. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ramaswamy, Sumathi (2005) “The Goddess and the Nation: Subterfuges of Antiquity, the Cunning of Modernity.” In The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism, edited by Gavin Flood, 549 – 566. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism: The Ebook an Online Introduction. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Sen, Geeti (2002) “Iconising the Nation: Political Agendas.” India International Centre Quarterly Vol. 29, No.3/4: 155-175.

Thapar, Suruchi (1993) “Women as Activists; Women as Symbols: A Study of the Indian Nationalist Movement.” Feminist Review, Palgrave Macmillan Journals, Vol. 44: 81–96.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Anandamath

Vishva Hindu Parishad

Ekatmata Rath Yatra

Vande Mataram

Unabima Purana

Indian Independence

Kali

Durga

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

Bharat Mata temple in Varanasi

Bharat Mata temple in Haridwar

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bharat_Mata

http://www.indif.com/India/bharatmata.asp

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Bankim-Chandra-Chatterjee#ref87487

https://www.tripadvisor.ca/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g297685-d3152135-i47046723-Bharat_Mata_Temple-Varanasi_Uttar_Pradesh.html

http://www.bharatmatamandir.co.in/

 

Article written by: Barbra Entz (March 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

The Sakta Pithas

The Sakta Pithas are places of worship, created to worship Hindu goddesses and or places of sacred capacity regarded as seats of the Devi (the Great Goddess). Sakti is known as the female principle of Hinduism and means ‘power’. Sakti is worshipped under many different names such as Durga, Ma, Devi and so on. These places of worship are spread throughout India, often with 51 places of worship in total, most of which are in Bengal or Assam (Payne 1). The 51 Pithas or places of worship are first described in the Mahapithanirupana or Pithanirnaya manuscript. (Sircar 3). Although it is not exactly evident when these manuscripts were composed, it is probable that they were prepared in the Medieval period (Sircar 4). However, it was not until later that works were prepared for Saktism to be greater studied and understood (Payne 15).

Related to these places of worship is an ancient myth depicting how these Pithas, or places of pilgrimage, came to be created. This myth involves the goddess Sati who is regarded as the wife of the great god Siva. There are many different legends and stories that go along with the naming and placing of these Pithas, as every author writing on the Sakta Pithas present different lists as to where the body parts fell. This myth is one that can be described as grim and violent, and thus has not received much attention as far as research goes. However, Saktism is a very important religious movement within Hinduism, and there are millions of Saktas or worshippers of Sakti throughout India (Payne 14).  With any religion, the origins of certain myths can vary making it complex to comprehend. In this article, we will examine the well-known myth of the Sakta Pithas, which tells how they came to be created. We shall also examine some of the legends of the Pithas in regards to their placement and names

One of the most ancient myths, which although not directly connected to the Pithas, provides a parallel symbolic motif. It tells a story of incest between a father, the creator god Prajapati and his daughter, the goddess Usas. The gods became disgusted with this act of incest and, requested Rudra to destroy Prajapati. Rudra thus pierced Prajapti with an arrow and Prajapati proceeded to fall to the ground, which is thereafter used in sacrificial rituals. Since Prajapati represents sacrifice his body could not simply be destroyed.  This version of the myth can be found in the Puranas or Tantras (Sircar 5).

Although the above is an ancient tale, with no direct connection to the Pithas, it grows from there into the well-known Daksa-Yajna Story approximately in the fourth century CE (Sircar 5). This tells of the mother goddess, in the form of Sati, who was a daughter of the “great king Daksa”. She took on this form of Sati in order to marry Siva (Courtright 39). After the couple was married, they went to live in Siva’s home at Mt. Kailasa. Following their marriage Sati’s father, Daksa Prajapati, hosted a sacrifice inviting all the gods but excluded his daughter Sati and his son in law, Siva. Dadhici, (Daksa’s priest), warned against the exclusion of Sati and Siva. He stated that without the ‘great God’, Siva, the ritual would be ineffective (Courtright, 39). However, Daksa believed that Siva was a terrible son in law and that he did not deserve to attend the ritual. Sati, enraged that she and her husband were not invited to her father’s sacrifice, decided to attend nonetheless. Upon attending the sacrifice, Sati was greatly mistreated by her father. Due to this mistreatment, Sati is said to have thrown herself into a fire feeling broken hearted and hurt. News of Sati’s death reached Siva, who furiously headed to the sacrifice and completely destroyed the scene. Some versions of the myth say that he beheaded Daksa. Others say that it was Virabhadra who destroyed the sacrificial ritual and beheaded Daksa (Courtright 41).

The further progression of this myth was added in the later part of the Medieval period, to justify the creation of the Pithas. It tells how Siva roamed around mad with despair carrying Sati’s body. Sati’s body was eventually cut piece by piece out of Siva’s hands; each piece was a different body part, which fell to the earth, thereby creating the holy sites of the Sakta Pithas. Some versions of the myth state that it was Brahman, Visnu and Sani that freed Siva from carrying Sati’s body, while others state that it was Visnu alone. As Sati’s body fell to the earth it spread Sakti or power across India. This spreading of Sati’s body, which not only created the Sakta Pithas, but which offers a mythic rationale for why the entire landscape of India is sacred, is the final portion of the myth.

Courtright suggests that there is a link regarding the creation of the Sakta Pithas and the ancient sacrificial ritual of sati practiced by widows upon the death of their husbands. However, different circumstances resulted in the immolation of Sati versus the sacrificial practice of sati performed by Hindu wives. Sati’s immolation was due to the harshness of a father towards a daughter and her husband while sati is a sacrifice performed by widows to accompany their husband after death (Courtright 37).

The locations where Sati’s body parts fell, or the Pithas, are often connected with linga, which represents Siva. Hindus believe that both worship of the linga and yoni should be held in the same high regard (Sircar 7). The locations, names and traditions of the Pithas differ throughout history. Many writers used a great deal of imagination when creating the lists of Pithas, so there is a great deal of variation amongst them (Sircar 32). However, many texts speak of the four Pithas also known as the Adi Pithas. The Adi Pithas are considered the major sites of Sakti worship, associated with the northern, southern, eastern and western regions of India (Sircar, 17). One early tradition, written about in the Catususpithatantra, indicates the four Adi Pithas as “Atmapitha, Parapitha, Yogapitha and Guhyapitha” (Sircar 11). Due to the fact that Saktism and the worship of Sakti and the Sakta Pithas are not strictly linked to Hinduism, and are also worshipped in Buddhism and Jainism, there are various names and traditions of the Sakti Pithas amongst these groups. The Hevajra Tantra, a Buddhist religious text, lists the Adi Pithas as “Jalandhara, Odiyana, Purnagiti and Kamarupa” (Sircar 12).

Popular writings about the Sakta Pithas speak of the Adi Pithas or the four Pithas and also state that there are a total of 51 Pithas. However, A section of the Kalika Purana contributes an account of seven Pithas as opposed to four: Devikuta, where the two feet of Sati fell, Uddiyana, where the two thighs fell, Kamagiri, where the pudendum muliebre fell, the eastern borders of Kamarupa, where the navel fell, Jalandhara, where the two breasts fell, Purnagiri, where the neck and shoulders fell and once again the borders of Kamarupa, where the head fell. The Rudrayamala, a Tantric text, mentions ten holy sites, rather than four. This tradition discusses sites in Kamarupa, Jalandhara, Purnagiri and Uddiyana, similarly to the Kalika Purana.  The Matysa Skanda and Padma Puranas list the large number of 108 Pithas in total. Such variations seem to derive from the writer’s fabrication and the imagination (Sircar 32). Although the list of names for the Sakta Pithas vary and are plentiful, the Kamarupa Pitha is commonly mentioned in many of the lists. Another commonality is a list of countries connected to a high level of Sakti worhip, namely: Gandahara, Uddiyana, Jalandhara and Kashmir (Sircar, 16). Two of the best-known temples that are widely acknowledged as Sakta Pithas by most worshippers today, are Kamakhya and Kalighat.

One of the oldest and most popular sites of goddess worship is Kamakhya temple, located at Guwahati, Assam. The legend of this site, as forwarded by the current temple management, tells of the king of Nepal approaching a sage known as Vatsayana. He was seeking advice on how to convert the popular ritual of human sacrifice to a more socially accepted rite of worship.  Vatsayana suggested the worship of a Tantric goddess named Tara in place of sacrificial rituals. The worship of Tara spread reaching to the Garo Hills where local tribes worshipped a fertility goddess named Kameke. As time went on the Tantric goddess Tara, and the fertility goddess Kameke were linked with the legend of the Sakta Pithas and began to be worshipped as Devi. This site is said to be where Sati would escape to spend time with Siva. It is also said to be the location where her yoni fell (kamakhyadham.com).

The Kalighat is an ancient site located in city of Calcutta (Kolkata), on the bank of the Hooghly river, and said to be where Sati’s toes and right foot fell. A well-known, newer temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali, is now situated there. Legend has it that a devotee’s eye was caught by a ray of light while passing the Bhagirathi river. Upon moving toward the light the devotee found a human toe carved in stone. After discovering this stone foot the devotee immediately began praying to the mother goddess.  The temple was originally a small hut, constructed in the early 16th century. It was founded by Chowringee Natha, son to the king of Bengal. Kalighat was lavishly reconstructed in 1809 by the Chowdhrys family, transforming it from a small hut to a beautiful site. The government of Bengal has taken a great interest in this temple, as it has become a main tourist attraction (kalighattemple.com).

The Sakta Pithas have not been well studied; perhaps this is because scholars in the past have regarded the myth and the tradition of the Pithas negatively instead of attempting to understand their complex origins. However, these sites attract many pilgrims from far and wide, and will continue to serve as an important place of worship for centuries to come.

 

References and Further Recommended Reading

Courtright, Paul (2011) “Searching for Sati.” Studying Hinduism in Practice. edited by Hillary Rodrigues. P.37-45. London: Routledge.

Foulston, Lynn (2009) Hindu Goddesses: Beliefs and Practices. London: Oxford University Press.

kalighat Kali Temple.” http://kalighattemple.com/legend.htm

Payne, Ernest (1997) The Saktas: The Introductive and Comparative Studies. New York: Dover Publications.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2007) Hinduism the Ebook: An Online Introduction. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books

Sircar,D.C. ( 2004) The Sakti Pithas. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass

The History of Kamakhya Temple Assam.” http://www.kamakhyadham.com/kamakhya-temple-history/

 

Related Topics For Further Investigation

Siva

Sakti

Saktism

Devi

Tantric

Rudra

yoga

Daksa-yajna-nasa

Puranas

Bhariva

Saivism

Kali

Durga

Pravati

Uma

Kumari

Gauri

Jainism

Buddhism

Kalika

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.rxiv.org/pdf/1503.0023v1.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakti_Peetha

http://www.shaktipeethas.org/travel-guide/topic11.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaktism

 

Article written by Sydney Cleland (February 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

The Goddess Camunda

The Goddess Camunda is depicted as ferocious and fear striking in Hindu storytelling. Often described as having flames shooting from her eyes, surrounded by goblins, and wearing a garland of skulls it is no wonder she is feared (Jones and Ryan 102). Yet with the fear that surrounds Camunda she is worshipped by many to help cure people of ailments and for protection. Camunda is closely associated with the Goddess Kali. Kali is the fiercest aspect of Durga and can sometimes be described as her helper (Minturn 169). Camunda is known by many names and can be worshipped in different forms. In the Tantric Saptamatrka cult Camunda is depicted as an independent sakti in the cosmic cycle. This cycle begins with Brahma, the creator, and ends with Camunda. Since Camunda is understood as the fierce goddess of destruction she is depicted at the end of this cosmic cycle which signifies the power of destruction which then leads to renewal (Foulston and Abbott 111). It should be noted that as Kali and Camunda are similar; Camunda is depicted as very ugly and Kali, while disheveled, is beautiful. Also, Camunda has an association with death while Kali is more associated with violence (Mohanty 34).

Camunda’s origin as a Hindu Goddess is recounted best in a few stories in the Devi Mahatmya. In the first story Camunda came to life when Siva, Visnu and Brahma called the Mother Goddess, Durga to stop king demon Mahisa from taking over the universe. Mahisa sent his demons Canda and Munda to find the goddess and bring her to him as he wanted to take Durga to be his wife. In the form of Parvati, Kali sprang from her brow due to Durga’s fury toward the demons. Kali decapitated Canda and Munda and presented their heads to Durga. Durga was so pleased by this that she announced to Kali that she will be worshipped and remembered as Camunda, a blend of both the demons names for which she has destroyed (Amazzone 6-7).

In the second story, which continues later in the previous battle, Mahisa is so enraged by the death of his demons that he sends Raktabija to defeat Durga. This battle is difficult and in her anger she transforms into the Goddess Candika for the battle. To her dismay, she learns that every drop of blood Raktabija loses turns into another powerful Raktabija. Feeling herself losing the battle, the Goddess calls Camunda and commands her to lick up the blood so Candika can eventually defeat Raktabija. Camunda’s complexion changed to red as she drank the blood of the enemy (Coburn 67). These stories are significant as they depict Camunda’s power and ability to defeat demons through her power and strength. These stories reiterate that goddesses are not to be thought of as weak or defenseless; they were to be feared and worshipped for their power. Camunda represents that people should be fierce, possess strength, and hold the confidence and ability to go at many things in life alone.

Camunda has been described as looking emaciated and near death to remind people of the fragility of life. She is known to cause fear from her eyes through this form. Her companion to ride is an owl, which can see in the night sky and has 360 degree perception (Amazonne 118). Also, in an image of Camunda on Bubhanesvar temple shows her so emaciated that all of her bones are showing and her eye sockets are sunken in with her eyes popping out. She has drooping breasts and a sunken in stomach (Kinsley 1988: 148). The expression on her face is consistently fierce showing teeth in most representations of her. There is also a sculpture of her in Jajpur in Orissa where she carries all of the discussed features including four arms which hold things such as a wine cup and severed heads. She also wears a necklace made of skulls and has a bald head with fire projecting from it (Kinsley 1988: 148). In history it has been told that King Pratap Singha made a garland out of severed heads from the Muslims slain in the sacrifice battle as a tribute to the goddess in her ferocious form who also wears a garland of severed heads (Urban 96).  From these defining features one can see how she is projected as a fierce Goddess.

The goddess Camunda (Kali) with characteristic garland of skulls (Taleju Devi temple, Bhaktapur, Nepal)
The goddess Camunda (Kali) with characteristic garland of skulls (Taleju Devi temple, Bhaktapur, Nepal)

Camunda is worshipped as an independent deity of the Tantric Saptamatrka. Camunda and the other seven Saptamatrika deities are worshipped for personal and spiritual renewal which leads to rebirth. With this devotion it is understood that all energy is directed towards the Great Goddess, Mahadevi, to reach the highest levels of liberation (Kinsley 1988: 150). Due to this significance Camunda is often worshipped in ancient sculpture and described in detail as a way of worshipping the Great Goddess in her more aggressive facet. Camunda’s association with death brings on more life and represents the recycling of energy (Kinsley 1988: 149).

As with all gods and goddesses in the Hindu tradition there are specific rituals and forms of worship that please such deities. These rituals can come in forms of speaking mantras, rituals, and sacrifice. Camunda is known as a deity who is worshipped through sacrifice. Historically, meat offerings and animal sacrifice, such as sheep, were made to her which seems to play into her ferocious nature (Kinsley 1988:146). In Jainism, these blood sacrifices had to end to keep with Jain practices. In the story of Saciya Nata, sweets were offered to the goddess in place of animal sacrifice. It is said that Camunda became infuriated by the change in sacrifice and caused pain to the monk. However, when seeing how well the man took the pain, she became scared and asked the man for forgiveness. From this point, Camunda no longer demanded meat as a sacrifice (Babb 142). Sacrifice may be a way in which the goddess is worshipped but she is often called upon in times of need. Camunda is also often associated with rituals to remove evil spirits and cure illness. Camunda can be called on during exorcisms to help scare away demons from the ailing (McDaniel 125).

In Bhavabhuti’s Malatimadhava, a hymn is sung that praises Camunda. She is described as having a gaping mouth, laughing in a terrifying tone, and dancing so wildly that it threatened to destroy the world. Due to this depiction of the goddess it has been known to build temples and sites of worship for Camunda far away from villages and towns yet near cremation grounds due to her proximity with death (Kinsley 1988: 147). There is a Camunda-devi temple found 15 kilometers from Dharamsala where the ten Mahavidyas are painted on the walls inside.  Since Camunda was a form of Kali this is why this temple dedicated to her depicts many goddesses. This temple is an example where the Mahadiyas appear as a group, but the temple is only dedicated to one of them, this one being Camunda (Kinsley 1986: 16).

Camunda is often worshipped during the Navaratri festival. This festival is dedicated to Durga and lasts nine nights and ten days four times a year. During the last three days of the festival, the many manifestations of Durga are celebrated, which includes Camunda (McDaniel 79). In this festival Durga is worshipped in her many forms by people reciting stories of her, addressing tantric mantra, setting up shrines, and singing her praises.

Camunda is a fascinating goddess in the Hindu tradition.  Her role as a Mahavidya and in association with Kali in historical stories solidifies her role as an important figure in Hindu religious culture. Even though her image may be portrayed as fearsome and horrifying, she is still worshipped for her power and strength. Many people gather at her temple to participate in rituals and worship her to gain relief of ailment or to further themselves towards the path of liberation.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Amazzone, Laura (2010) Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power. Maryland: Hamilton Books.

Babb, Lawrence A. (1996) Absent Lord: Ascetics and Kings in a Jain Ritual Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Coburn, Thomas B. (1991) Encountering the Goddess: A translation of the Devi-Mahatmya and a study of its interpretation. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Foulston, Lynn, and Stuart Abbott (2009) Hindu Goddesses: Beliefs and Practices. Portland: Sussex Academic Press.

Kinsley, David R. (1986) Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: the Ten Mahavidyas. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kinsley, David R. (1988) Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press.

McDaniel, June (2004) Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press.

Minturn, Leigh (1993) Sita’s Daughters: Coming Out of Purdah: The Rajput Women of Khalapur Revisited. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.

Mohanty, Seema (2004) The Book of Kali. London: Penguin Books.

Jones, Constance, James D. Ryan. (2007) Encyclopedia of Hinduism. New York: Infobase Publishing

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://matachamunda.tripod.com/history.htm

http://blog.artoflegendindia.com/2010/10/goddess-chamunda-is-terrifying-and.html

http://sharanya.org/mandala/chamunda-devi-eastern-teacher-to-the-west/4/

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Devi Mahatmya

Durga

Jainism

Kali

Mahadevi

Mahavidyas

Malatimadhava

Parvati

Raktabija

Article written by: Melanie Wasylenko (2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

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Ganga: the River and the Goddess

The River Ganga (Ganges) in India is perhaps the most sacred river in the world. The goddess of the river is acknowledged as Ganga Mata (Eck 1996: 137). The river and the goddess are both worshiped as one. Ganga originates from hundreds of miles south of Kailasa in the Gangotri glacier (Darian 3). Hardwar, a place in the Himalayan Mountains also known as the Gagnadvara (“Door of the Ganges”), marks the location of the river where the Ganga River breaks out of the Himalayas and into the plains of northern India (Eck 1996: 137). The Ganges flows from the northern part of India through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Bengal (Rodrigues 30). In Prayag, the Ganga joins the Yamuna River and also the mystical underground Sarasvati River, then continues from the holy city of Banaras (Kasi; city of Siva) where the river makes a “long sweep up to the north”, and then finally into Ganga Sagara where the river meets the Bay of Bengal. Ganga is sacred along its entire length (Eck 1996: 137). The river plays a very crucial role in the lives of Hindus in India. The daily rituals, myths, practises of worship, and belief in the power of the goddess Ganga and her waters are all central part of Hinduism to this day.

The purity of water has been part of Indian tradition ever since the beginning in the Indus Valley and has remained in the tradition ever since. Water is the most sacred symbol of the Indian tradition. It is said to be the purifier and the origin of the mystery of life. Ganga water is said to be the most purified water in the lives of Hindus. Hindus use the water of the Ganges in the rituals of birth and death, as well as in the rituals of the weddings. In the sacred thread ceremony (upanayana), a young man only eats bread and drinks Ganga water (Darian 14). Ganga is the place of crossing between the world of the living and dead. Ganga is said to be flowing in three worlds: heaven, earth, and netherworlds, this also refers to as triloka-patha-gamini (Eck 1996:145). There are three places in India that are known to be holy where the rites of sraddha for the dead and visarjana of the ashes are performed the most. The three places are Prayag, Kasi (Banaras), and Gaya; they are simply known as the tristhali (“three places”) (Eck 2012: 163). After dying, Hindus want their ashes to be put in the Ganga River. It is the Hindu belief that by doing this they achieve moksa through the contact with the purified water of the Ganges. If someone is dying, she or he will try to spend their last days at the banks of the Ganges. Their belief is that if they die near the sacred river, they will be delivered from all of the sins encountered during their life. Banaras, the holiest city of India and also the city of Siva, encounters millions of people from across India who bring the ashes of their deceased and spread them on the banks of Ganga if they cannot die in Banaras. In addition to spreading the ashes of the dead on the banks of Ganga, “the ordinary rite of bathing in the Ganges will usually include simple water liberations with which this nectar of immortality is offered to the departed ancestors” (Eck 1982: 215). By doing this the ancestors attain the happiness of being in heaven by virtue of the sraddha rites and also live in heaven for thousands of years to come for every single sesame seed in the traditional pinda offering (Eck 1982: 215-216).

Bas-relief depicting the goddess Ganga atop her crocodile (makara) mount at Kelaniya Temple, Sri Lanka
Bas-relief depicting the goddess Ganga atop her crocodile (makara) mount at Kelaniya Temple, Sri Lanka

Every day hundreds of people bathe, pray, and wash clothes in Ganga waters. People also drink and cook with the waters of Ganga. They believe that, it is one of the ways to give everyone the blessings of Ganga. Ritual purification has been important to Hindus from ancient times of pre-Aryan Indus civilization; this is shown by the remains of the large ceremonial cleansing tanks at Mohenjo Daro (Eck 1982: 217). The water of the Ganges is believed to be purifying and absorbs pollution; this is believed to be the spiritual aspect of the River Ganga. When the water of the Ganges is flowing, the pollution is believed to be carried away along with the current (Eck 1996: 144). At Ganga’s tirthas, sacred crossings, Hindus make offerings of flower to the river while shouting the phrase “Ganga Mata ki jai” (“Victory to Mother Ganges!”). Hindus also bathe in the Ganga and making offerings of the water to the pitrs and devas (Eck 1996:137-138). Ganga’s waters also play another major role for Hindus. The river provides water to the land to make it fertile and even grow many healthy crops in the season of monsoon (Darian 15-17). Ganga’s waters are said to be “liquid embodiment of sakti” and “sustaining the immortal fluid (amrta) of mother’s milk” (Eck 1996: 137). If Hindus cannot make the yatra to Ganga, making yatra to the other sacred streams is in comparison of going to Ganga. There are seven streams of Ganga that are believed to possess great purity as Ganga itself: Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu, and Kaveri. Ganga is also believed to be present in every other river and vice versa (Eck 1996: 137-138).

Every year Hindus participate in a festival dedicated to the worship of Ganga; that is called Ganga Dasahara. This takes place when the hot and dry season reaches its peak in May and June, and in expectation of the monsoon season. The festival runs for ten days and it concludes on the tenth day of the month Jyeshtha. On this day, Ganga’s descent (avatarana) from heaven to earth is celebrated. The banks of Ganga are crowded with bathers. A quick dip in the waters of Ganga on the day is thought to get rid of ten sins (dasahara) or ten lifetimes of sins. Hindus that want to celebrate Ganga Dasahara but cannot make it to actual Ganga River can also bathe in one of the other seven streams of Ganga (Eck 2012: 136-137). Hindus are actually praying to the life that is within the water but not to water directly (Darian 17). Another very important festival for Hindus to praise Ganga is called Kumbha Mela (pot festival). The festival occurs every twelve years and gathers millions of people; this is perhaps the world’s largest festival. The complete Kumbha Mela is held at Prayag (Allahabad), last held in 2001, also called Maha Kumbha Mela, and it was estimated that more than sixty million people were congregated. In Prayag, three of the seven sacred rivers meet; they are Ganga, Sarasvati, and Yamuna (“triveni” – “triple braid”) (Jones: 505-506). Millions of people travel to Prayag and take a dip in the Triveni while chanting “Victory to the Ganga. The mela is not just about bathing in the rivers but is about education, commerce, and spectacle. Prayag is the most famous place where the Kumbha Mela is held, but the mela is also held at Hardwar, Nasik, and Ujjain (Eck 2012: 154-155).

According to the sculptures of the goddess Ganga, she is depicted to be on top of her vahana (vehicle) crocodile (makara). Makara is viewed as a soma animal, which is an emblem of the waters, the plants, and the entire vegetal substratum of life. It is also a symbol of the unknown sea and an animal that is an object of fear. Ganga also holds a kumbha in her hands (vase of plenty) (Darian 114-115). Ganga as a goddess is known to be the “goodness” of the gods, that is her energy is praised as good. Her vicious force is purified and calmed by the hair of Siva. Ganga is also depicted as a mother where she is nourishing, embracing, and forgiving without any sight of anger. Praises (mahatmyas) of the Ganga are found in the epics of Puranas which can be read in Sanskrit. There are also many hymns devoted to Ganga, one of the most famous hymns is known as Ganga Lahari (“The Ganga’s Waves”) written by Jagannatha (Eck 1996: 138, 148-149). In Ganga Lahari, Jagannatha pictures the river as a Mother, who will love and claim the child that is rejected by everyone else. (Eck 2012: 162). Ganga accepts both the lotus and the kumbha (water pot) as symbols of auspicious blessings. Ganga’s waters are meant to be like milk and said to be the drink of life itself for humans (Eck 2012: 162).    

Many myths describe Ganga having the origins of heavens. Ganga is known to be the consort of Brahma, Visnu, and Siva (Eck 2012: 160). One of the Vedic myths about Ganga’s divine descent from heaven involves Indra, who combats the serpent Vritra who is curled around the doors of the heavens and closed up the celestial waters. These waters in the heavens are believed to be called soma (nectar of the gods). When Vritra was defeated, Indra released these waters for the sustenance of the earth (Eck 2012: 137). In the mythology of the Devi Bhagavata and Brahmavaivarta Puranas, Ganga and Sarasvati both argue with each other and both curse each other to become rivers on earth and bear the sins of humans. Visnu interferes and make Sarasvati the wife of Brahma and Ganga the wife of Siva (Eck 1996: 146). Ganga is also said to be originally flowing from the foot of Visnu in the highest heaven (Eck 1982: 219). Siva’s role in the descent of Ganga is believed to the most important role. The story of the myth has been told in Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Puranas. When Ganga descents to earth, Siva promises to catch her on his head so the fall wouldn’t shatter the earth. When Ganga falls on Siva’s head, Siva’s hair broke her fall and broke Ganga into seven streams, each flowing to a different part of India. Ganga fell to earth to purify and free the souls of the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara. The sons of King Sagara were burned to ashes by the sage Kapila because he was accused of stealing the horse that was used in the rites of ashvamedha (“horse sacrifice”). Bhagiratha, a descendent of Sagara, took upon himself to free the souls of the sons of King Sagara by doing ascetic practices in the Himalayas. Bhagiratha led the waters Ganga to restore the ashes of the sons of King Sagara and also to replenish the ocean (Nelson: 231-233), [Eck 2012: 138]. Siva and Ganga are both dependent on each other. Ganga’s living water is the only thing that can cool down Siva’s linga; without Ganga, Siva will remain the burning linga of fire. Without Siva, the fall of Ganga would have shattered the earth (Eck 2012: 140). Siva, also known as Gangadhara or “Bearer of the Ganges”, is said to be the companion of Ganga. They both are portrayed as husband and wife and sometimes in sculptures as a married couple (Eck 1996: 147). The descent of Ganga is continuous and not a single time event; each wave of Ganga touches Siva’s head before touching the earth. Ganga is the liquid form of Siva’s sakti, as well as Siva himself is sakti, the energy that forms and sustains the apparent universe. Being a liquid sakti, Ganga is God’s incarnation, God’s divine descent, freely flowing for all and embodies the energy of all the gods. After the descent of Ganga, Ganga became the “vehicle for Siva’s merciful work of salvation” (Eck 2012: 160-161).

Ganga goddess is more than a single river. Ganga is India’s prime example of all the sacred rivers in India today (Eck 1996: 137-138). The river keeps on flowing, bringing life and conveying the living tradition. Ganga is also only the best known consort of all three important male gods: Siva, Visnu, and Brahma, but she is the only goddess that had acquired the position of being consort which no other goddess can achieve. Ganga is said to be heavenly, whatever is holy, whatever is merciful, and whatever is completely auspicious is already there (Eck 1996: 150-151).

Bibliography

Darian, S. G. (1978) The Ganges in Myth and History. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Eck, D. L. (1982) Banaras: City of Light. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Eck, D. L. (1996) Ganga: The Goddess Ganges in Hindu Sacred Geography. In J. S. Wulff, Devi: Goddess of India (pp. 137-153). Berkley: University of California Press.

Eck, D. L. (2012) India: A Sacred Geography . New York : Harmony Book.

Melton, J. Gordon, James A. Beverly, Christopher Buck, and Constance A. Jones (2011) Religious Celebration: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations Volume One. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Nelson, L. E. (1998) Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India. Albany: Sate University of New York Press.

Rodrigues, H. (2007) Hinduism – the ebook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books Ltd. Retrieved from http://www.jbeonlinebooks.org/ebooks/hinduism

List of Related Topics for Furthur Readings

Siva

Visnu

Brahma

Kumbha Mela

Ganga Dasahara

Banaras

Mahabharata

Ramayana

Rg Veda

Ganga Lahari

Krsna

Mohenjo-Daro

Puja

Sakti

Gangotri Glacier

 

List of Noteworthy Website 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganges_in_Hinduism

http://kumbhmelaallahabad.gov.in/english/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangotri_Glacier

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/

http://www.krsnabook.com/

 

Article written by: Arth Patel (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

The Matrkas (Mothers)

In the Hindu tradition, the Matrkas are groups of goddesses with various origins that are associated with violence and diseases that afflict children (Bose 36). In literature, these goddesses are often presented with more recognizable goddesses such as Kali’s precursor Camunda (Donaldson 301) and the Great Goddess Devi in battle (Donaldson 305).  The size of the group of goddesses varies throughout literature and mythology, and early references to the group of “mothers” mention their innumerable size (Kinsley 1986:151). Eventually, the representation of the Matrkas evolved from unspecific groups of goddesses to an organized unit because of development in the Brahmanic tradition (Harper 97). The group is unique in that each individual goddess holds little significance and is therefore difficult to describe individually but they garner significance when mentioned as a group (Kinsley 1986:158).  The Matrkas are featured most prominently in the third episode of the Devi-mahatmya (Kinsley 1986:156) but are also featured in the Mahabharata (Kinsley 1986:152) and Puranic literature (Harper 52) both as the Matrkas and the Saptamatrkas, a specified Tantric group of seven goddesses. These goddesses are not often worshipped like other significant goddesses, however worship is done for specific circumstances both in literature and tradition. Although these goddesses do not have one specific role within religious tradition, they have a very interesting origin and place within Hinduism and Indian culture.

The origins of the Matrkas is cautiously believed to be a synthesis of both Vedic and tribal goddesses that were worshipped regionally (Foulston 107). These goddesses were all seen as mother goddesses that could cause harm to children and were often featured in battles (Donaldson 301). Due to the belief that the Matrkas are drawn from tribal village-goddesses, epics and Brahmanic traditions are weary of the goddesses, possibly contributing to their negative depiction (Kinsley 1986:155). Iconographically, the Matrkas are mostly represented in calm and maternal form, often holding a child and in some instances emblems of their supposed male counterpart (Donaldson 320). These visual depictions of the goddesses heavily contrast with their physical descriptions that emphasize their fearsome natures and frightening features (Kinsley 1986:155).

Bas-relief of the group of goddesses known as the Matrkas (Mothers) (Ellora, India)
Bas-relief of the group of goddesses known as the Matrkas (Mothers) (Ellora, India)

Early references rarely specified their number, and it is unclear whether the same goddesses were involved every time they were mentioned (Kinsley 1986:151).  During the medieval period though, and possibly after being merged into Brahmanic tradition, the number of goddesses in the group were standardized and named. Most often there are seven goddesses, the Saptamatrkas, but groups of eight and sixteen were also used in literature (Kinsley 1986:152) with up to 24 Matrkas being mentioned by name (Donaldson 318). How the Matrkas are created differ throughout the literature, however it is agreed upon that rather than divine consorts or saktis of male gods as mentioned in the Devi-mahatmya and the Devi-bhagavata-purana, they are extensions or forms of the Great Mother or Goddess, Devi as mentioned in Puranic literature (Bose 36). The popularity of these goddesses increased after 400 CE due to many casual references in literary works (Kinsley 1986:55).

The Matrkas are featured in many literary works. Most prominent is the third episode of the Devi-mahatmya, however it draws on a tradition that was established in the Mahabharata (Kinsley 1978:494). In the Vana Parva, the narrative of Karttikeya is told. In this, a group of goddesses were sent by Indra to kill Karritkeya but when they arrived they developed maternal instincts towards him and were unable to kill the child.  Instead, they ask him to adopt them as his mothers. They also requested that they be elevated and worshipped in the same position as Brahma’s and Siva’s consorts as the “mothers of the world” and for permission to live off the offspring of man (Kinsley 1978:495). Karritkeya denies the last request, asking that they protect children. However, he adds a caveat that they may torment children with disease and ailments up to the age of 16. The Matrkas’ desire to be mothers and to punish men through harming children stemmed from their own lost opportunity to bear children due to their divorces (Kinsley 1986:152). Further mention in the Mahabharata includes when Karttikeya is given command of the army in which the Matrkas assist him in battle (Kinsley 186:153).

The Matrkas in the Devi-mahatmya are similar to those in the Mahabharata including their ability in battle and dangerous nature (Kinsley 1975:496). The third episode of the Devi-mahatmya includes the formation of the Saptamatrkas from the saktis of seven gods (Donaldson 304) to assist Camunda, precursor to Kali, defeat Raktabija during Devi’s battle with demon brothers Sumbha and Nisumbha (Donaldson 303). The goddesses created closely resemble the saktis they were created from (Kinsley 1986:156) but it is believed by scholars that the story in the Devi-mahatmya references a group of seven goddesses that are further representing a larger group of village goddesses (Kinsley 1978:496). This story is echoed in the Devi-bhagavata-purana (Kinsley 1986:156).

In Puranic literature, the Matrkas are always featured in battle in a supportive role (Kinsley 1986:160). In the Vamana Purana, the story stays similar to the battle in the Devi-mahatmya, however the goddesses are formed from various parts of Devi’s body (Donaldson 305), adding evidence to the belief that the goddesses are an extension of Devi herself. In the Matsya Purana, Siva created the Matrkas to help combat the demon Andhaka, who possessed the ability to duplicate from the blood spilled from his wounds. The Matrkas were instructed to drink the blood of the demon in order to kill him; because of their bloodthirsty nature they gladly complied with Siva’s request (Kinsley 1986:158). However, the blood intoxicated the Matrkas, and Siva was unable to control them or convince them to return to protecting creation, thus beginning their destructive bloodthirsty path (Donaldson 310).  The Varaha Purana is based on three battles mentioned in the Devi-mahatmya, however the demons change and Camunda is dominant rather than Devi (Donaldson 308). In this version, the Matrkas were created from Camunda’s mouth and when they emerged, they were deformed and bloodthirsty. In order to control them, Siva set out guidelines for how they should quench their thirst (Donaldson 309). Puranic writers are credited with making the Matrkas mainstream through the simplification of the origins and personalities of the group. The goddesses are restricted in number, are related to male gods in name and depiction and to draw away from their dangerous nature, the Puranic writers focus the Matrkas role to assisting Devi in maintaining cosmic order (Kinsley 1986:158).  This intention could stem from a need to incorporate the goddesses into the Brahmanic tradition, however it is still understood by scholars that this group is dangerous and violent, especially towards children (Kinsley 1986:160).

Although the Matrkas are mentioned in varying numbers, seven goddesses are most often referred to as the Saptamatrkas. The significance of the number seven stems from the Indus Valley Civilization, in which seals have been discovered featuring seven female figures that are believed to be “officiants or ministrants of the goddess” (Harper 6). In addition to the seals, the heptad recurs so frequently that it implies the heavy significance of the number seven in Indus culture (Harper 6). In early folk tradition, there were many groups of seven female deities that brought disease and bad luck (Harper 34) and communities would often be subject to these various deities’ wrath for disregarding their worship and as a result be plagued with various diseases and ailments (Harper 41). In Vedic literature, the heptad is also very prominent. The Rg Veda contains the division of the universe into seven regions and in the Artharva-Veda and Kathaka Samhita there are references to seven suns (Harper 13). Even though it seems that the origin of worship to female heptads did not emerge from Vedic literature but rather aboriginal or tribal traditions, the number seven in both cultures seems to represent regeneration of people and the universe (Harper 45).

The Seven Goddesses, Saptamatrkas, of Vedic literature are adaptations of village goddesses and because the village goddesses and Vedic goddesses share many characteristics, they were mutually acculturated in order to be incorporated in Hindu tradition  (Harper 52). They are a systematically refined form of the earlier Matrkas that represent the Great Goddess Devi and the cosmic powers of creation, preservation and destruction (Foulston 109). The goddesses named are Brahmani, Vaisnavi, Mahesvari, Kaumari, Varahi, Indrani and Camunda (Foulston 111). The names of these goddesses are similar to the male deity whose sakti they were formed from, however, it is understood that they are not in any way consorts of male deities instead are from the sakti and body of Devi (Foulston 111). Identified as tantric goddesses, they were very popular between the fourth and sixth centuries (Foulston 109). The similarities between the significance of seven and of the Seven Mothers allowed for the mutual acculturation of the Saptamatrkas between Brahmanic and aboriginal traditions (Harper 52). When the Saptamatrkas were accepted into orthodoxy, through being featured in Vedic literature, they contributed to the recognition of some aboriginal deities in Brahmanic worship.

As the Matrkas are associated with harm to children, most worship that is directed at them is essentially to keep the spirits of the goddesses away from their families. This includes shielding children’s beauty from the world, both in speech and in reality (Kinsley 1986:154). Most worship of these goddesses is done in fear of what may come; however they are worshipped for positive reasons as well. The Saptamatrkas are often worshipped for personal spiritual renewal, which touches on the shared belief that the Seven Mothers represented renewal and rejuvenation (Foulston 112).  In the Kadambari, Queen Vilasavati worships the Matrkas because of her desire to have a son (Kinsley 1986:156), possibly implying that the Matrkas can influence fertility. The Nayta-sastra speaks to worshipping the Matrkas before setting up a stage for theatre and dance and presenting offerings to the Matrkas at times of indecision and at cross roads in one’s life is encouraged by both Caruddatta of Bhasa and Mrcchakatika of Sudraka (Kinsley 1986:155).

Bas-relief of two of the Matrkas (Mothers) accompanied by Ganesa, the elephant-headed god (Ellora, India)
Bas-relief of two of the Matrkas (Mothers) accompanied by Ganesa, the elephant-headed god to the right (Ellora, India)

The Matrkas have a vast and diverse history in both Vedic and folk tradition. Their origins and nature differ through the course of Hindu literature. It is generally understood that they are extensions of Devi and are often featured as bloodthirsty and very dangerous. They are dangerous to children and very formidable in battle. However, their portrayal in Hindu iconography portrays them as soft maternal figures. This juxtaposition brings out the two sides of the goddesses that are mentioned in the story of Karritkeya, maternity and danger. It is evident that the Matrkas have evolved over time to fit in the Brahmanic worldview, although their fearsome, dangerous nature remains embedded in both orthodox and folk tradition.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

 Bose, Mandakranta (2010) Women in the Hindu tradition: rules, roles, and expections. New York: Routledge

Donaldson, Thomas (2002) Tantra and Sakta Art of Orissa Vol. 1. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd.

Foulston, Lynn and Stuart Abbott (2009) Hindu goddesses : belief & practices. Thornhill: Sussex Academic Press (Canada)

Harper, Katherine Anne (1989) Seven Hindu goddesses of spiritual transformation : the iconography of the Saptamatrikas. Lewiston: E. Mellen Press.

Hawley, J. S., and D. M. Wulff (eds.) (1996) Devi: Goddesses of India. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kinsley, David (1978) “The Portrait of the Goddess in the Devi-mahatmya.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 46, No.4 (Dec.,1978): p 489-506. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Kinsley, David (1986) Hindu goddesses. Berkeley: University of California Press.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Camunda/Kali

Devi

Devi-mahatmya

Tantric goddesses

Karttikeya

Puranic literature

Shaktism

Yoginis

 

 

Noteworthy Websites

http://orissa.gov.in/e-magazine/Orissareview/2009/September/engpdf/59-61.pdf

http://www.anistor.gr/english/enback/Saptmatrika.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrikas

http://www.shripuram.org/index.php/shripuram-articles/46-shris-subrahmanyam/97-sapta-matrikas

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamunda

 

Article written by: Mikayla Kwan (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

River Goddesses

Evidence of the importance of femininity in the Hindu religion dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization in 2500 BCE (Rodrigues 31), the source of thousands of terracotta female figurines (Hawley and Wulff 1). Further evidence lies in Vedic scripture that dates back to 1500 to 1000 BCE (Rodrigues 496). Vedic literature is still revealed today and has with numerous references to goddesses and women (Hawley and Wulff 2). Evidently, Hindu goddesses were and still are embedded in all aspects of life and land (Foulston and Abbott 1). This close association between India’s geography and the divine is an ongoing theme throughout the Hindu religion. This is evident when one listens to the traditional stories told and heard throughout India (Eck 11). Pilgrimages, rituals, and festivals related to India’s landscape still continue today and help illustrate how symbolic the geography of India really is.

Hindu goddesses are known to represent seemingly complex notions such as power and energy. These same goddesses can be found manifesting in simple forms such as water and rivers throughout India (Foulston and Abbott 2). The symbol of water signifies potentiality, fluidity, and a vehicle for creation (Baartmans 210). Water, according to the Vedas is all encompassing; it is foundational to the universe (Baartmans 214-215). Rivers, as sacred entities, are said to be known as “the great descenders” (Eck 18-19). In fact, the latter portions of the Rg Veda claims that anyone bathing where the Ganga and Yamuna meet will rise to heaven (Eck 145). Further evidence for this lies in the Padma Purana, as it states that bathing and drinking in the junction between the Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati allows one to achieve freedom (Eck 147). The belief that these river goddesses can grant access to heaven or freedom, which are common goals in Hinduism, demonstrate the extent to which Hindus believe in the power of these goddesses.

India’s rivers and their goddesses are intricately entwined. They form trivenis, or “triple-braids,” as they meet in different forms throughout the land (Eck 7). These trivenis are often interpreted symbolically as “sacred crossings” or tirthas and represent “spiritual ladders to heaven” (Eck 10, 140). The rivers are pilgrimage sites for both humans and the goddesses (Eck 167). Humans visit these holy sites to gain freedom and a deeper devotion to their faith. The river goddesses visit other rivers seeking support when exhausted by their own pilgrims (Eck 167).

River goddesses are referenced by the Vedas as “mothers” (Eck 166). The seven “mother-rivers” are the oldest collection of rivers in India (Eck 167). In modern India, the focus of worship lies around the seven rivers known as the saptanadi: the Ganga, Yamuna, Sindu, Narmada, Godavari, Krsna, and the Kaveri (Eck 168). The water belonging to these river goddesses is said to be analogous with milk belonging to the mothers themselves, as well as soma (Eck 138), a sacred plant and intoxicating beverage (Rodrigues 67). It is the mantras, or sacred verses, (Rodrigues 168) of these rivers and goddesses that are recited while performing modern Hindu water rituals.

Ganga, the holiest of all Hindu rivers (Oestigaard 130), is also known as the goddess “Mother Ganga” (Eck 131). According to myth, the water of Ganga divides into many streams as it descends from the heavens (Kinsley 188). Therefore, Ganga and the rest of the Hindu sacred river goddesses are said to have a divine descent from heaven (Eck 138 – 140). Together, the Ganga and Sarasvati Rivers purify, nourish and fertilize the land of India (Kinsley 57). Today, Hindus worship Ganga by bathing along her river and offering flowers, oil lamps, and even ashes of loved ones while performing sraddha rites, or death rites (Eck 163), in her waters (Eck 131-132). Ganga Dusehra is a ten-day celebration of Mother Ganga on the tenth day of the third month, Jayeshta (Dwivedi 27). During this festival, Hindus bathe in Ganga’s waters, take her clay home with them, chant her name, and meditate along her banks (Dwivedi 28). Bathing in Ganga’s waters is also regarded as a purifying practice during other festivals, such as Makara Sankranti, a harvest festival (Dwivedi 32-33).

Bas-relief of the Hindu river goddess Ganga at the Ellora Caves (Ellora, India)
Bas-relief of the Hindu river goddess Ganga at the Ellora Caves (Ellora, India)

Now extinct, the river Sarasvati used to be associated with her cleansing properties (Eck 145). Today, the goddess Sarasvati is largely recognized as being associated with the theme of arts and learning (McDermott 3608), creativity and knowledge (Ludvik 1), oral artistry and culture in general (Kinsley 55). Sarasvati is also either the daughter or wife of Brahma, the source of creation (Kinsley 55). As a river, Sarasvati is commonly known as representing both purity and abundance. According to Vedic literature she is also known as a “healing medicine” (Kinsley 56). Currently, Sarasvati is celebrated on the fifth day of the twelfth month, Phalguna, during the spring festival called Vasant Panchami (Dwivedi 30). During the celebration, Hindus will often wear bright colors, especially yellow, to welcome the arrival of the spring season and honor Sarasvati (Dwivedi 30). Hindus tend to partake in ancestor worship, Pitri-Tarpan, and rooftop kite flying on Vasant Panchami (Dwivedi 31).

Myth claims that Krsna, a highly worshipped deity, was forced to grow up in and came to love the lands surrounding the Yamuna River (Eck 170). Many believe that Ganga’s love for Krsna stems from the mergence of Ganga and Yamuna at the site of Prayag (Eck 170). This union is also regarded as sacred to the Hindu religion as death in this location was once thought to be fruitful (Dwivedi 138). Also taking place in Prayag is Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious gathering (Gupta 1329). Every twelve years Prayag, Haridwar, Nasik, and Ujjain take turns hosting Kumbh Mela celebrations in which millions participate in the purifying practice of bathing at the union of the Yamuna and Ganga Rivers (Gupta 1329). It is regarded as highly sacred to do so when the planets align correctly and a full moon is present (Gupta 1329). Yamuna is recognized as the “daughter of the sun” and the “waters of love” (Eck 169-170). Many Hindus sing hymns and visit Divya Shila, the Divine Stone, and the Ma Yamuna temple at Yamunotri to worship the image of Yamuna (Eck 169-170).

Narmada runs through central India and is known to have the most sacred sites along its riverside (Eck 467). Although there are many myths on the subject of Narmada’s creation, it is widely accepted that both the river and goddess were formed by the very sweat of divine Siva’s face (Eck 172). Another common belief is that Narmada’s main role on earth is to relieve mortals of their sins (Eck 173). Parikrama or Pradakshina, meaning circumambulation, is the highly recommended pilgrimage of the Narmada (Eck 170). It is common for Hindus to divide this nearly nine hundred mile hike into sections. By doing so, what would be a three year journey, is instead, completed over one’s lifetime (Eck 171). Shri Narmada, within the Narmada Mandir temple, is a sacred shrine dedicated to Narmada. Offerings such as white candy Prasad, incense, and split coconuts are brought here to worship Narmada (Eck 173-174).

According to legend, the river and goddess, Godavari, descended to earth on a hill called Brahmagiri as a form of Ganga. Godavari is also known by the name, Gautami, due to a myth involving the sage, Gautama (Eck 175). In this myth, Gautama killed a cow, committing the worst sin possible according to the Hindu religion. Godavari is now commonly referred to as Gautami because of her heavenly descent that relieved Gautama’s sin (Eck 176). Pilgrims today commonly visit a well on top of Brahmagiri, a shrine dedicated to Siva, the ritual bathing site, the Chakra Tirtha, and the Gangadvara, a symbolic representation of the “Door of Ganga”, through which they worship Godavari (Eck 176). Another common pilgrimage to worship the deity Godavari, is to Nasik, famous for the settlement of Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana in the Ramayana (Eck 177), a prominent Hindu epic (Eck 470). This site hosts millions of Hindu pilgrims for mela, or bathing festivals (Eck 467) During mela, the waters are infused with numerous floating lights (Eck 178).

The river Kaveri is said to be the goddess, Vishnumaya, a deity worshipped by lower castes (Hoeppe 126), in liquid form. According to the Puranas, Kaveri was sent by Visnu to water the land as she descends from the heavens and becomes a symbol for blessing (Eck 179). The Kaveri River is the site of many famous Hindu pilgrimage temples such as, Shrirangapattanam, Shivasamudram, and the most well known temple of Visnu on the island of Shrirangam (Eck 180).

Pushkaram is a popular Hindu festival in which the twelve main rivers and their goddesses are celebrated at different astrologically determined times once every twelve years (Dalal no page). The seven “mother-rivers” (Eck 167), previously mentioned, are included in these twelve as well as the Bhima, Tapati, Tungabhadra, Indus, and Pranahita Rivers (Dalal no page). Other minor rivers may be worshipped such as the Tamraparni and the Sangutirtham, but these are less popular (Dalal no page). Ancestor worship, bathing, and making offerings is said to grant spiritual benefits because it is believed that the divine bathe in these rivers during this festival (Dalal no page).

Performance of sraddha or visarjana, the “committal of ashes to the river” is commonly done on the rivers of India (Eck 163). Prayaga, Kashi, and Gaya, the tristhali or “three places”, are popular sites for these death rituals (Eck 163). Many myths surround these acts, but one of the most widespread beliefs is that the rivers can grant liberation or moksa (Eck 147). In the past, one of the death rituals was to commit suicide at Prayaga in hopes to obtain moksa (Eck 165). A common tradition is to honor the loved one’s ashes, release and sink them in the river, and offer rice balls, pindas, to connect the deceased with their deceased ancestors in heaven (Eck 164). It is said that for ten days following a death, one rice-ball a day is to be sacrificed on an altar bordering a river (Oestigaard 158).

The importance of water is displayed in verses dedicated to various deities and also in its life-giving contribution to creation of the universe (Oestigaard 239). With ritual purity and pollution playing such a large role in Hinduism, water and rivers, as life-giving elements, are especially prone to pollution. Pilgrimages, daily bathing, relieving of sins, and countless offerings to the rivers and their goddesses are all efforts to achieve and maintain purity. The consequences of these acts can have negative, polluting effects on the rivers and goddesses themselves (Eck 183-184). In Hinduism, death is regarded as the greatest source of impurity (Oestigaard 241). With that said, India’s rivers and river goddesses face a dilemma both physically and spiritually, as clothes and charcoal from death rituals (Oestigaard 199) are constantly polluting the sacred rivers, with the Yamuna River being the most polluted of them all (Eck 184). Although impure objects should not be cast into the water, it is still a daily occurrence (Narayanan 184). Despite the ongoing restoration efforts, “the rivers that are said to have descended to earth as sources of salvation are now, in their earthly form, in need of salvation themselves” (Eck 188).

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Hawley, John Stratton (1998) “The Goddess in India.” In Devi: Goddesses of India. John Hawley and Donna Wulff (ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited. pp. 1-28.

Baartmans, Frans (2000) The Holy Waters: A Primordial Symbol in Hindu Myths. Delhi: B.R. Publishing Corporation.

Dalal, Roshen (2010) Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. New Delhi: The Penguin Group.

Dwivedi, Anil Kumar (2007) Encyclopaedia of Indian Customs and Rituals. New Delhi: Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd.

Eck, Diana L. (2012) India: A Sacred Geography. New York: Random House, Inc.

Foulston, Lynn and Stuart Abbott (2009) Hindu Goddesses: Beliefs and Practices. Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press.

Gupta, Om (2006) Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (In 9 Volumes). Delhi: Isha Books.

Hoeppe, Gotz (2007) Conversations on the Beach: Fishermen’s Knowledge, Metaphor and Environmental Change in South India. New York: Berghahn Books.

Kinsley, David (1987) Hindu Goddesses. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Ludvik, Catherine (2007) Sarasvati, Riverine Goddess of Knowledge: From the Manuscript-carrying Vina-player to the Weapon-wielding Defender of the Dharma. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.

McDermott, Rachel Fell (2005) “Goddess Worship: The Hindu Goddess.” In Lindsay Jones, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion. p. 3607-3611. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning.

Narayanan, Vasudha (2001) “Water, Wood, and Wisdom: Ecological Perspectives from the Hindu Traditions.” Daedalus, Vol. 130, No. 4: 179-206

Oestigaard, Terje (2005) Death and Life-Giving Waters: Cremation, caste, and cosmogony in karmic traditions. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism: The Ebook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Water rituals

Hindu goddesses

India’s geography

Pilgrimages in India

Water in India

Rivers in India

Trivenis

Mother rivers

Seven sindhus

Saptanadi

Ganga

Yamuna

Sindhu

Narmada

Godavari

Krsna

Kaveri

Mantra

Sraddha rites

Ganga Dusehra

Makara Sankranti

Vasant Panchoumi

Prayaga

Pradakshina

Ritual pollution

Ritual purity

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamuna_in_Hinduism

http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/ganga/

http://www.esamskriti.com/essay-chapters/Seven-Sacred-Rivers-1.aspx

http://hinduism.iskcon.org/practice/504.htm

http://history-of-hinduism.blogspot.ca/2010/06/water-and-hinduism.html

http://www.stephen-knapp.com/sarasvati_goddess_of_learning.htm

http://www.mapsofindia.com/events/india/ganga-dussehra.html

Article written by: Jaelee Kryzanowski (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

Bhu Devi – The Earth Goddess

The goddess Bhu Devi has been in Hindu culture, existing with various names throughout the myths and stories of Vedic texts, and built into the geography of India itself. Within the earliest Vedic texts, the goddess of the earth was known as Prthivi, and is depicted as the female principle of Dyaus, the male deity of the sky (Kinsley 8). It is said in the Rg Veda that Dyaus fertilizes the earth with rain, as Prthivi supports and encompasses the growing earth (Kinsley 8). The hymn of praise found in the Artharva Veda is solely dedicated to Prthivi and the feminine principle. It also discusses the image of Visnu—as well as other associated male deities—striding over Prthivi, either protecting her, providing for her, or seen as consorts (Kinsley 9). Prthivi is found later in Hinduism, and often called Bhu Devi, appearing in myths that show her fertile, maternal nature (Kinsley 17). In the Garuda Purana’s form of cosmogony, Visnu is said to deposit is virya (energy or semen) in Laksmi (Pintchman 154), and reinforces the connection between these two principles that is needed for creation. Visnu is told to be a lover of the Earth in early texts. He is depicted conquering a demon in dharmic form, and rising up with the earth from the bottom of the ocean. This earth (bhumi) brought up from the depths is envisioned as the beautiful goddess Bhu Devi (Nelson 154). Bhu Devi’s plea for help is said to bring about many of the incarnations of Visnu, personifying her vulnerability to the fragile soil of the earth (Nelson 272) and her need for the preserver, Visnu. Sri, commonly known as Laksmi or Sri-Laksmi, refers to riches, prosperity, and abundance (Kinsley 19). Sri embodies compassion in her being, and in her manifestation as Bhu Devi, she is often portrayed as the goddess of reproduction and nurture (Nelson 96). The relationship between Laksmi and prakrti can be seen in the myth explaining how Laksmi appeared in her three forms when the lord created the three gunas of prakrti: Sri the sattva guna, Bhu the rajas guna, and Durga the tamas guna (Pintchman 154). This shows the supreme lord Visnu as Purusa, corresponding to Brahma and the rajas principle (Pintchman 155). With Brahma the creator and Bhu the prosperous/nurturing, a better understanding of the rajas guna is given through the personification of these deities. [A detailed account on the arrangements and categories of prakarti is told in Pintchman (1994)].

Visnu in his boar incarnation rescues Bhu Devi, the Earth Goddess (Khajuraho, India)
Visnu in his boar incarnation rescues Bhu Devi, the Earth Goddess (Khajuraho, India)

Extended knowledge and philosophies came through the Tantric Srivaisnavism, as verses are told of Bhu Devi’s greatness and her part as a spouse to Visnu, along with consorts Sri or Laksmi (Nelson 56). In Srivaisnavism, Visnu (the supreme deity of the school) is maintained as the central cosmological figure while Sri is seen as a “devotee’s advocate” (Kinsley 32) in her conversations with Visnu. Sri, as a mother goddess is told to be the mediator between the devotees and Visnu (Hawley and Wulff 93), much like a mother is the mediator between children and their father. Sri-Laksmi is later revealed as the nectar of creation, filled with power, beauty, and riches within the Pancaratra school of thought stemming from Srivaisnavism (Kinsley 21). Due to the connection Laksmi has as the sap of existence, she is also often worshipped with Soma, the essence of plant and organic life (Kinsley 27). Laksmi plays a central role in the universe’s creation and evolution as the sakti of Visnu within the Pancaratra school of thought (Kinsley 30). This school is what begins to gain the goddess independent ground in the pantheon of deities. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, gurus wrote multiple hymns in praise of the greatness of Sri. These hymns towards Sri led the emergence of the mutual love and an inseparable relationship between Sri and Visnu (Hawley and Wulff 90). She is a goddess of nurture, prosperity, and a giver of wealth as seen from tales in the Sri Vaisnava group of worshippers (Hawley and Wulff 87). In the Samhitas, the earth goddess—Prthivi or Bhumi—is shown to have three aspects of nature: the physical earth sustaining living creatures, the universal mother of physical creation, and matter itself that is formed in the cosmogonic creation (Pintchman 30). The process of creation is said to continue when Visnu and Laksmi enter mahat (material existence) and give rise to consciousness and egoity (Pintchman 155).

The personification of nature into Bhu Devi, as well as other mother goddesses, is seen around India in the natural sites that hold the transcendent feminine qualities of nurture and growth [For specific geographic information depicting the mother goddess see Kinsley (1986)]. These sacred sites mimic the feminine principle (sakti) that women themselves are expected to uphold towards their husbands within the culture (Nelson 95-96). Where it is a man’s dharma to ritually worship the gods, it is the woman’s responsibility to further worship her husband and gain sakti in the household. The goddess Kali is seen as large, dominating, and as a force that may bring death, while auspicious goddesses such as Laksmi and Bhu are small and controlled by their male counterpart (Hawley and Wulff 14). Kali often used as a reminder of how women are less fearful when auspicious and dharmic, keeping men as the authority figure in both the household and in the rest of Hindu culture. A common iconographic depiction of Laksmi is of her kneeling before Visnu to either massage his feet or show her submissiveness (Kinsley 28). In turn, the image of Visnu as a lover of earth also motivates Vaisnava movements to take increased care of the earth as a dharmic action (Nelson 155). “Bhudevi’s primary role is that of an injured supplicant who is oppressed by wicked rulers” (Kinsley 179) in need of Visnu’s help, whereas the Vedic goddess Prthivi was seen as a broad, ongoing source of fertility in the early hymns.

Sri Vaisnava temples contain separate shines for Visnu and Sri. While the primary image of Visnu is shown and worshipped with Sri or Bhu on his chest, Sri is often worshipped alone (Hawley and Wulff 98). Some schools such as Tirumala-Tirupati address Visnu as Sri-nivasa (he on whom Sri abides), Sri being a vital part of their worship (Hawley and Wulff 104). The story of Padmavati told in the Tirumala-Tirupati temple is also shown in local legends of Sri becoming a local human girl after a fight with Visnu (Hawley and Wulff 100). Padmavati (Sri incarnate) is followed by Visnu and eventually united in Nacciyar Koil, after being raised by the holy man Medhavi, having found her under an asoka tree (Hawley and Wulff 100-101). This story has many parallels to the Ramayana, in the finding of Sita on land being ploughed, further associating the princess Padmavati to Sri, though her identification as Sri is still questioned today (Hawley and Wulff 100). The name Padmavati itself is linked to the Sanskrit padma, meaning lotus (Hawley and Wulff 100), suggesting Padmavati to be connected to the goddess Laksmi, an extention of Sri.

Within the past century (around 1970), a prominent theologian of the Sri Vaisnava school of thought wrote a prayer to the “Eight Laksmis”, called the Asta Laksmi Stotram, and viewed as the eight manifestations of Sri (Hawley and Wulff 104). In temples dedicated to Asta Laksmi, traditional silver, and decorative jars with the eight engraved manifestations on the sides are traditionally used in worship (Hawley and Wulff 105). Use of a symbolic jar as one of the manifest forms of the goddess is also seen with the Ghatasthapana (jar installation) during worship of the Great Goddess, Devi (Rodrigues 86). The jar is made out of clay with grain planted inside of it, thus symbolizing the Goddess as earth and soil, making a connection to Bhu Devi as well as the Vedic goddess Aditi (the suggested mother or wife of Visnu) who is a supporter of the earth (Rodrigues 86). This jar, much like the one for Asta Laksmi, is made out of metal or unbaked clay and symbolizes the body of Devi (Rodrigues 273). The jar is said to be the abundant earth itself, an all-encompassing container holding each of the life-nourishing elements (Rodrigues 86). When water is poured into the jar, it is representative of these liquid elements of creation, and is consequently associated to Sri-Laksmi in her material prosperity or prakrti (Rodrigues 87-88). There is an ongoing parallel to many of the rituals pertaining to the earth goddess Bhu Devi, in the idea that life-forms temporarily endure but eventually return to their ultimate source, the earth goddess herself (Rodrigues 273).

The ritual art tradition of the kolam is no exception, as it is an essential part of creating auspiciousness in the Tamil Nadu homes. These drawings, both elaborate and simple, are a sign of women’s energies within the four goddesses the ritual involves: Bhu Devi, Laksmi, Mu Devi, and Tulasi Devi. Mu Devi is a goddess of laziness and poverty, the opposite to the consorts of Visnu: Laksmi, Tulasi Devi, and Bhi Devi (Nelson 270-271). The kolam artwork made in the early morning is slowly removed throughout the day by movement of people in and out of the house. Returning the markings back into the soil shows Bhu Devi’s fragile nature, bringing remembrance back to the natural world, as well as making Bhu Devi one of the first thoughts women have each day (Nelson 273). The modern women who have continued the tradition of kolam hold the ideology that the earth as a divine being is capable of cleaning itself, causing elephant dung or pollution to be absorbed by the goddesses of the rivers and the earth (Nelson 277). To better understand this concept, the kolam is seen as a way to ask forgiveness from Bhu Devi for the previous days neglect of her well-being (Nelson 279). Sri-Laksmi, another consort of Visnu is worshipped in the form of cow dung due to her association with agricultural fertility (Kinsley 20). Often depicted on a lotus flower, Laksmi can be seen in the symbol of the lotus growing from the navel of Visnu (Kinsley 21) and as such marks the beginning of manifest creation of the earth and cosmos.

The link between Bhu Devi and the earth goes back to the very beginnings of Vedic religion, personifying and making connections to the geographic landscape. As seen in the ideologies of schools from then into modern day, the earth goddess is worshipped in many forms, and seen in names such as Prthivi, Sri and in Sri’s avatara, Laksmi. The fertility of Bhu Devi, seen in many of the rituals reinforces the great importance of the land, growth, and the cyclical way of life.

 

Bibliography and Related Readings

Coburn, Thomas (1996) “Devi: The Great Goddess.” In Devi: Goddesses of India. John Hawley and Donna Wulff (eds.). Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. pp. 31-48.

Hawley, John (1996) “Prologue: The Goddess in India.” In Devi: Goddesses of India. John Hawley and Donna Wulff (eds.). Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. pp. 1-28.

Kinsley, David (1987) Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ.

Mumme, Patricia (1998) “Models and Images for a Vaisnava Environmental Theology: The Potential Contribution of Srivaisnavism.” In Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India. Nelson (ed.). Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 133-161.

Nagarajan, Vijaya (1998) “The Earth Goddess Bhu Devi: Toward a Theory of ‘Embedded Ecologies’ in Folk Hinduism.” In Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India. Nelson (ed.). Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 269-295.

Narayanan, Vasudha (1996) “Sri: Giver of Fortune, Bestower of Grace.” In Devi: Goddesses of India. John Hawley and Donna Wulff (eds.). Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. pp. 87-108.

Pintchman, Tracy (1994) The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2003) Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess: The Liturgy of the Durga Puja with Interpretations. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Sharma, Arvind (1998) “Attitudes to Nature in the Early Upanisads.” In Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India. Nelson (ed.). Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 51-60.

 

Related Research Terms

Aditi

Artharva Veda

Asta Laksmi

Durga

Dyaus

Garuda Purana

Ghatasthapana

Gunas of Prakrti

Kolam

Laksmi

Padmavati

Pancharatra

Prthivi

Ramayana

Rg Veda

Sakti

Samhitas

Sri

Sri Vaisnavism

Visnu

 

Related Websites

http://hindumandirmn.org/AboutTemple/SRIBHUDEVI(ANDAL).aspx

https://mistressofthehearth.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/prayer-to-mother-earth/

https://journeyingtothegoddess.wordpress.com/tag/bhudevi/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhūmi

http://www.omplace.com/articles/Bhu_EarthGoddess.html

Bhu Devi – Bow to Goddess of Earth, The Fertility form of Lakshmi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakshmi_Tantra

 

Article written by Sharayah Dawood (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content