Indian culture as revealed in Sanskrit texts was strongly oriented towards
masculine goals. The social system was overwhelmingly patriarchal and Sanskrit
works largely devoted themselves to giving an account of male hierophanies, a
phenomenon that occurred over most of the world.
from the fourth century AD the religion of Goddess become as much a part of the
Hindus as the religion of God and about the same time female hierophanies
develop. In these we have a reasoned exposition of the nature of Goddess, of her
process of creation, of her relation to God and of her relation to her
phenomenon of feminine theology in the Brahminical religious tradition is unique
because all over the world the female gods were replaced by male gods. Diana and
Berecynthia, Isis and Cybele were exiled with the coming of Christianity
although female hierophanies reappeared in the figures of Mary and the female
saints. However, the figure of the virgin and its supporting theology are
subordinate to her son.
is therefore quite interesting to analyse the Hindu religious tradition, which
discusses the feminine theology in detail. It is important to note that it is
not a description of female icons. On the other hand it strives to express
possibilities of the Goddess rather than her iconic limitations. It seeks to
construct a theology that does not restrict feminine values in the world of the
sacred by the strictures of subordination to which women were and are still
subject in the secular world.
all the religious practices and beliefs concerned with feminine divinities it is
Shaktism which gives the Goddess a place of supreme importance. In this
tradition female is raised above the male as Durga is described as Shakti, the
energy of cosmos. Without her, we are told in one of the texts that the world is
lifeless and even Shiva, the great god (maha deva), is merely a corpse (shava).
It is further remarked that the world without her ``though living is dead as it
were''. An analysis of these legends, doctrines and abstract philosophies
indicates that first, the Goddess is portrayed as power, and the female Shakti
element is identified as the essence of reality, the male element playing a
subservient role. Secondly, she is identified with Prakriti, the primeval
matter. As such she is identified with existence itself or that which underlines
all existent things. The emphasis is not on the restricting aspect of the matter
but on the feminine principle, the Goddess as the ground of all existence.
Thirdly, she is described as giving food to nourish all life and yet she is said
to take life and to cause decay. Life and death, therefore, is the process
through which the female energy is continuously recycled according to the myths
associated with the Goddess. Fourthly, the Goddess, according to the various
religious texts, incarnates in herself all the brilliance and power that the
gods collectively possess and her pervasive magic gives them sufficient
definition to be able to do battle with the power of evil.
is an exuberant celebration of the various forms of Devi, the Goddess, and their
role in her victory over demons who are supposed to be tormenting the people of
this earth. Besides, she is described as the embodiment of supreme eternal
knowledge (vidya) which becomes the cause of release (mukti) from bondage.
Moreover, the Goddess is described as the primary ontological reality. The gods
derive their bodily forms from her and all material existence proceeds from her.
Goddess Kali is said to be an embodiment of maya, prakriti and shakti. Thus she
may be understood to express the nature of these qualities or the truths
inherent in these ideas. Maya is often understood in terms of the magical
quality of creation, which lends to reality a mysterious and unpredictable
quality leading at times to destruction. The darker aspect of reality as maya is
represented in Kali's wild appearance and behaviour. Moreover, prakriti is the
basis of the material word and is lush and teeming; so is Kali who symbolises
eternal time and thus represents growth, decay, death and rebirth. Besides she
is shakti, power or might and represents the tendency of the divine to action
and to displace. In the midst of eternal night she stands upon `non-existence',
the static but potentially dynamic state that precedes manifestation. In that
capacity she is able to allay the terrors of those who invoke her and also
bestow gifts of true perception leading to liberation.
we see that the Indian tradition preserves and constantly reaffirms the idea of
pervasive and dominant female divinity, an idea which was a widespread and early
religious experience of humanity.