Shaktism focusses on the goddess generically called "Devi." She is worshipped
most often as the consort of Shiva, but has also been raised to the status
of the Supreme. Although some books equate Shaktism with all major female
deities (the "shaktis" of their respective consorts), the Shakta
tradition specifically worships Shiva's consort, in her various forms such
as Parvati, Durga, Kali, etc. The worship of Sita (with Rama) or of Radha
(with Krishna) is not strictly part of Shaktism, but does point to the ubiquitous
role that the female deity plays within Hinduism.
deity of Devi worshipped during the Navrati festival. The two other principal
goddesses, Lakshmi and Saraswati, are sometimes considered to be her
Within Shaktism, there is little emphasis on doctrinal sampradayas, and much
ideology comes from Shaivism. Since Shiva embodies the male principle and
Shakti embodies the female, the two principles of Shaivism and Shaktism are
complementary. Shakti doctrine tends to emphasise the non-difference between
matter and spirit, and looks to the creative impetus of matter rather than
its ability to delude and entangle. For this reason, Shaktas worship for material
benefit as well as final liberation. A notable aspect of Shaktism is animal
sacrifice and even documented accounts of human sacrifice.
Archaeological finding suggest that Shaktism goes back to prehistoric times.
The Goddess does feature in the Vedas themselves, but scholars suggest that
mainstream worship comes from other sources. She appears in the Epics and
Puranas, especially the Markandeya Purana. It is in the Tantras that she appears
to take the role of the Supreme.
There appear to be no strong sampradayic links, and Shaktism may have been
passed down in a broader fashion, largely through local and village customs,
and through connections with other schools such as Shaivism. Shaktism has
greatly influenced modern thinkers such as Ramakrishna and Aurobindo. Not
surprisingly Devi in her fiercer forms has become the patron deity of women's
liberation movements. Wherever Hindus have settled throughout the world, there
are now a number of prominent Devi temples.
- Devi Purana
- Kalika Purana
- Devi Bhagavata Purana
- Mahabhagavata Purana
- The Tantras
- Calcutta (Kali Temple)
- Vaishno Devi
Meaning and Purpose
Where does the distinction between male and female come from? Is it an ontological reality or social construct?
Related Values and Issues
- Is God male, female, neither, or both?
- (Possible) innate differences between male and female.
- What is our reaction to the large number of goddesses within Hinduism?
How does this relate to ideas of a purely masculine God?
- How does the feminine appear in our faiths/non-faith traditions?
- Durga Kills the Buffalo Demon
- Devi Kills other Demons