Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition by Tracy Pintchman

This study argues that the Great Goddess, like other gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, develops over time as a result of the blending of Brahmanical and non-Brahmanical religious tendencies and divinities. Yet the essential identity of the Great Goddess as "Great" appears to be constructed at least initially largely in and by the Brahmanical tradition, which provides the context for her definition. The conflation of mythological and philosophical categories that we find in the Puranas provides the framework for the equation of goddesses with principles. Many of the goddesses and stories are not originally Vedic-Brahmanical, but the framework and the principles are both taken straight from the Vedas and the orthodox Brahmanical philosophical systems. The various aspects of the Goddess's identity are then placed in a logical cosmogonic sequence and are viewed as different levels of manifestation of a single, inherently female cosmogonic power. The result is the postulation of a unique, allencompassing principle that is expressed on different levels of creation in diverse ways but that can be understood theistically as a Great Goddess no matter what the sectarian allegiance of the given text. One might even argue that the identity of the Great Goddess as a cosmogonic principle manifest in stages as sakti, maya, and prakrti is in fact not only her defining characteristic, but also the sine qua non of her very existence. It is only through the synthesis of philosophical and mythological cosmogonic categories and structures that diverse notions of female divinity become combined and the notion of a single Great Goddess emerges.



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