The Oxford History of Hinduism: The Goddess 0198767021, 9780198767022

The Oxford History of Hinduism: The Goddess provides a critical exposition of the Hindu idea of the divine feminine, or

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The Oxford History of Hinduism: The Goddess
 0198767021, 9780198767022

Table of contents :
Cover
The Oxford History of Hinduism: The Goddess
Copyright
Dedication
Preface
Contents
List of Abbreviations
List of Contributors
The Oxford History of Hinduism: Introduction to the Series
Introduction
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
Part I: The Idea of Devī
1: Cosmological, Devotional, and Social Perspectives on the Hindu Goddess
COSMOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES: THE GODDESS AS ŚAKTI (POWER), PRAKR: TI (MATTER), AND MĀYĀ
DEVOTIONAL PERSPECTIVES: THE GODDESS AND HER MANY FORMS
SOCIAL PERSPECTIVES: WOMEN AS EMBODIMENTS OF THE GODDESS
REFERENCES
2: From Magic to Deity, Matter to Persona: The Exaltation of Māyā
MAGIC, LOVE, AND SLEEP: MAHĀMĀYĀ IN THE LEGENDS OF DURGĀ
ILLUSION, MAGIC, AND CAUSATION: MAHĀMĀYĀ IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY
MĀYĀ IN THE BHOGAKĀRIKĀ
MAHĀMĀYĀ IN THE NĀDAKĀRIKĀ
Māyā as Prak:rti/Pradhānam
Māyā as Magic
CONCLUSION
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
Part II: The Development of the Goddess Tradition
3: Lalitā, the Graceful and Enchanting Goddess of Kāñcipuram
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
4: Śrī//Laksṃ ī: Goddess of Plenitude and Ideal of Womanhood
PREAMBLE
ORIGIN AND EARLY HISTORY
DEVĪ: EMBODIMENT OF PRIMORDIAL ENERGY
LAKṢMĪ IN PAÑCARĀTRA AND ŚRĪVAIṢN: AVA THOUGHT
WORSHIP
CONCLUSION
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
5: The Elusive Sarasvatī: A Goddess, a River, and the Search for the Universal in the Particular
THE ELUSIVENESS OF SARASVATĪ
THE PARTICULARITY OF SARASVATĪ
CONCLUSIONS
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
6: Rādhā: Lover and Beloved of K:rṣ: na
ADULTERY AND PREMA
KĀMA AND PREMA IN THE GĪTAGOVINDA
DOMINATION, DEPENDENCE, DESERTION
DUAL DIVINITY
EXCLUSIVE EROTIC LOVE
AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE
THE SECRET
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
7: Sītā: Enduring Example for Women
OVERVIEW
HER WORSHIP AND PHILOSOPHICAL IMPORTANCE
THE HISTORY OF HER STORY
Oldest Roots
Versions from Other Religions
Classical Sanskrit Versions
Vernacular, Popular, and Folk Reworkings
ICONIC MOMENTS
Sītā’s Parentage and Birth
Sītā’s Wedding
Sītā’s Decision to Join Rāma in Exile
Sītā’s Abduction
Patiently Waiting for Rāma
The Fire Ordeal
Sītā’s Exile
Sītā’s Return
POLITICAL APPROPRIATIONS OF SĪTĀ
FEMINIST CRITIQUES AND REAPPROPRIATIONS OF SĪTĀ
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
8: Here Are the Daughters: Reclaiming the Girl Child (Kanyā, Bālā, Kumārī) in the Empowering Tales and Rituals of Śākta Tantra
ASPIRATION FOR DAUGHTERS: THE HISTORICALCONTEXT
THE IDENTITY OF THE KUMĀRĪ
EMPOWERING TALES
The Cycle of Myths of Yogamāyā, the Victor
Vindhyavāsinī, the Goddess Who Dwells in the Vindhya Mountains
Vaisṇ: o Devī, the Goddess of Bhairon Ghātị̄
Śaiva Cycle of Myths: Kanyākumārī
Bālā Tripurasundarī
The Kumārī Pūjā in Śākta Tantra
CONCLUSION
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
Part III: The Regional Heritage
9: Becoming a Living Goddess
LIVING EXAMPLES
First Living Example: Amma, A Mature Woman
Birth and youth
First signs of divinity
An underlay of violence
Curative powers, special markers, and plain hard work
Protective abilities, mothering qualities
Appearance, symbols, and behavioral style
Core purpose and role
Second Living Example: A Pubescent Young Girl, the Kathmandu Kumārī
Birth and youth
First signs of divinity
An underlay of violence
Curative ability, special markers, and plain hard work
Protective abilities, mothering qualities
Core purpose or role
HOW WOMEN BECOME GODDESSES IN A MYTH: THE LEGEND OF PONNIVALA
First Example: A Mature Woman and Mother, Tamarai
Birth and youth
First signs of divinity
An underlay of violence
Curative powers, special markers, and plain hard work
Protective abilities, mothering qualities
Appearance, symbols, and behavioral style
Core purpose and role
Second Example: A Pubescent Girl, Tangal
Birth and youth
First signs of divinity
An underlay of violence
Curative powers, special markers, and plain hard work
Protective abilities, mothering qualities
Core purpose or role
RECOGNIZING A LIVING GODDESS
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
10: Bathukamma: The Folk-Song Tradition of the Flower Goddess of Telangana in South India
THE BATHUKAMMA SONG TRADITION
WHO IS BATHUKAMMA?
BATHUKAMMA AS GAURAMMA (PĀRVATĪ)
BATHUKAMMA AS GODDESS LAKṢMĪ
CONCLUSION
REFERENCES
11: A Goddess from Bengal: Devī Manasā, Goddess of Serpents
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
12: Domestication of the Disorderly Devī: The Ca: nḍī Ma: ngalakāvya of Bengal
INTRODUCTION
PURPOSE AND DESIGN
SHIFTS AND COMMUNITIES
THE DECLINE OF CAṆḌ Ī
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
Part IV: Devī in the Modern World
13: A “Muslim” Poet in the Lap of a “Hindu” Mother: Kazi Nazrul Islam and the Goddess Kālī
DISCOVERING NAZRUL, FINDING KĀLĪ ANEW
“I BRING REVOLUTION” : THE CYCLONIC POET OF THE 1920s AND 1930s, AND HIS RADICAL LIFE
“BLISSFUL DARLING, BREAK THIS PLAYROOM OF ILLUSION”
WHY KĀLĪ? INTERPRETING NAZRUL
THE LIVES OF NAZRUL’S KĀLĪ
CONCLUSION
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
14: The Divine Mother Comes to Michigan
MĀRIYAMMAN AND KARUMĀRIYAMMAN
THE PARASHAKHTHI TEMPLE IN PONTIAC, MICHIGAN
REFERENCES
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
Afterword
REFERENCES
Index

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T H E O X F O R D HI S T O R Y O F H I N D U I S M General Editor: Gavin Flood

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The Oxford History of Hinduism The Goddess Edited by

M A N D A K R A N T A BO S E

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Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, United Kingdom Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries © Oxford University Press 2018 The moral rights of the authors have been asserted First Edition published in 2018 Impression: 1 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Control Number: 2017963301 ISBN 978–0–19–876702–2 Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website referenced in this work.

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To Lily, my granddaughter, with love

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Preface It has been a journey of pleasure to put this book together as I came to know closely my colleagues and their work, which has enriched my own understanding of the goddess tradition. My initial inspiration to explore the concept of goddesses in Hindu religious culture came from my students when I was teaching courses in religious studies at my university. Later, when I was invited to give a set of lectures as a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies on women in the Hindu tradition, I contemplated the possibility of writing about Hindu goddesses but found it more urgent to publish a study of women’s place in the Hindu tradition. Later still, when Professor Gavin Flood invited me to edit a volume on the goddess tradition, I happily agreed. Without his invitation and encouragement I probably would not have ventured to take this task, for which I owe him sincere thanks. I must also acknowledge other friends at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies: Shaunaka Rishi Das for his continued support for over ten years; Rembert Lutjeharms and Jessica Frazier, both of whom have been of great help. On my many research visits to Oxford, the unlimited use of the Centre’s library has been of immense help. I am grateful to the entire family at the Centre. To Professor Diwakar Acharya, Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics and Fellow of All Souls at Oxford, I owe special thanks for his valuable suggestions over the past two years on my visits to Oxford. I have been fortunate in finding a friend so ready to share his learning with me. My thanks also go to Tom Perridge and Karen Raith of Oxford University Press for their support and for patiently answering my many queries, and to Kalpana Sagayanathan for managing production. A particular debt to be mentioned is to Nirmala Rowena Anketell for her precise editing. To my colleague Yves Tiberghien, former director of the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, I owe a very deep debt of gratitude for his unstinted support with research grants. My husband Tirthankar Bose’s meticulous editorial help lightened my load through the years of this book’s progress; without his support this volume could not have been completed. Mandakranta Bose Vancouver, Canada September 2017

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Contents xi xiii xvii

List of Abbreviations List of Contributors Series Introduction

Introduction Mandakranta Bose

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PART I: THE IDEA OF DEVĪ 1. Cosmological, Devotional, and Social Perspectives on the Hindu Goddess Tracy Pintchman 2. From Magic to Deity, Matter to Persona: The Exaltation of Māyā Bihani Sarkar

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PART II: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GODDESS TRADITION 3. Lalitā, the Graceful and Enchanting Goddess of Kāñcipuram Sanjukta Gupta

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4. Śrī/Lakṣmī: Goddess of Plenitude and Ideal of Womanhood Mandakranta Bose

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5. The Elusive Sarasvatī: A Goddess, a River, and the Search for the Universal in the Particular Elizabeth Mary Rohlman

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6. Rādhā: Lover and Beloved of Kr: ṣna : Tracy Coleman

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7. Sītā: Enduring Example for Women Heidi R. Pauwels

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8. Here Are the Daughters: Reclaiming the Girl Child (Kanyā, Bālā, Kumārī) in the Empowering Tales and Rituals of Śākta Tantra Madhu Khanna

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PART III: THE REGIONAL HERITAGE 9. Becoming a Living Goddess Brenda Beck

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Contents

10. Bathukamma: The Folk-Song Tradition of the Flower Goddess of Telangana in South India Prabhavati C. Reddy 11. A Goddess from Bengal: Devī Manasā, Goddess of Serpents Krishna Datta : 12. Domestication of the Disorderly Devī: The Canḍ : ī Mangalakāvya of Bengal Saswati Sengupta

228 242

259

PART IV: DEVĪ IN THE MODERN WORLD 13. A “Muslim” Poet in the Lap of a “Hindu” Mother: Kazi Nazrul Islam and the Goddess Kālī Rachel Fell McDermott 14. The Divine Mother Comes to Michigan Tracy Pintchman Afterword Mandakranta Bose Index

281 304 322

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List of Abbreviations AP

Agnipurāna :

AS

Ahirbudhnya Samhitā

AV

Atharvaveda

BhaP

Bhaviṣyapurāna :

BhP

Bhāgavatapurāna :

BrP

Brahmānḍ : a Purāna :

BVP

Brahmavaivartapurāna :

DBP

Devī Bhāgavatapurāna :

DM

Devīmāhātmya

GG

Gītagovinda

LU KKCM

Lalitopākhyāna (Lalitā Upākhyāna) : : Kabikankana’s : Canḍ : īmangala

Mbh

Mahābhārata

NṢA

Nityaṣoḍaśikārnava Tantra :

RCM

Rāmcaritmānas

RV : SL

RgVeda : Saundaryalaharī

StrDhrP

Strīdharmapaddhati

TR

Tripurā Rahasya

URC VS

Uttararāmacarita : Vājasaneyī Samhitā

VR

Vālmīki Rāmāyana :

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List of Contributors Brenda Beck is a social anthropologist trained in Oxford who has spent a lifetime studying South Asia and Tamilnadu. She has published five books and contributed to and/or edited many more. She has also authored over fifty journal articles. Dr. Beck has a passion for Hindu mythology and has written a number of articles related to Indian goddesses, detailing their stories and describing their related festivals. One unique folk epic, The Legend of Ponnivala, has held her interest for over fifty years. She is Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto and President of the Sophia Hilton Foundation of Canada, a charitable foundation that promotes the use of storytelling in education at all levels. Her earliest ethnographic work, Peasant Society in Kongu, is currently being translated into Tamil for a Madurai-based publishing house. In the past three years Dr. Beck has received eleven awards from Tamil community groups based in the US, Canada, Tamilnadu, and Malaysia, for her work in helping to deepen a worldwide appreciation of Tamil folk literature, especially by those living in the Diaspora. Mandakranta Bose studied in Calcutta and Oxford and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She is a Professor Emerita at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, where she taught in the Religious Studies Department, and till recently was Director of the Centre for India and South Asia Research. Her research comprises the textual tradition of performing arts of India, Sanskrit literature, the Rāmāyana, Hinduism, and gender studies, with many publications in all these areas. They include a critical edition of two Sanskrit musicological texts, Nartananirnaya (Calcutta: General Printers, 1970) : and Sangītanārāya na : : (Delhi: IGNCA, 2009); Women in the Hindu Tradition (London and New York: Routledge, 2010); A Woman’s Rāmāyana: : Candrāvatī’s Bengali Epic, with Sarika P. Bose (London and New York: Routledge, 2013); and many articles on Hindu cultural and religious traditions and several on Tagore. Her most recent articles are “Hinduism,” in The Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender, ed. Adrian Thatcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) and “The Rāmāyana : in the Hindu Tradition,” for Oxford Bibliographies in Hinduism. Her most recent book is The Rāmāyana : in Bengali Folk Paintings (New Delhi: Niyogi Books, 2017). Tracy Coleman is the David Packard Professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where she teaches in the Department of Religion, offering courses in South Asian traditions and gender studies. She holds a PhD from Brown University, and masters’ degrees from Harvard and Middlebury. Her

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scholarship focuses on Kr: ṣna-bhakti in the Sanskrit epics and Vaiṣnava : : Purānas, : exploring devotional traditions in relation to gender and sexuality, with attention to constructions of masculinity in sacred biographies of the Buddha and Kr: ṣna. : She is currently Editor in Chief of Oxford Bibliographies in Hinduism. Krishna Datta studied Sanskrit and Law in Calcutta and taught Sanskrit at Vidyasagar College for women in Calcutta until her retirement. Her research interest lies in the study of dharmaśāstra specializing in smrti. : Her essay “A Controversy over a Verse on the Remarriage of Hindu Women” appears in Faces of the Feminine in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Literature, ed. Mandakranta Bose (New York: OUP, 2000). Her essay on “Ethics in Basic dharmaśāstras” appears in volume 12, part 2, in A Historical Development of Classical Indian Philosophy of Morals in History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, gen. ed. D. P. Chattopadhyay (New Delhi: Concept Publishing, 2009). One of her books, Dharmaśastre Nītividyā, in Bengali, was published by the Philosophy Department of the University of Calcutta in 2010. She has had several articles published on ethics and dharma. Sanjukta Gupta taught Sanskrit at Visva-Bharati, Calcutta, and Jadavpur Universities from 1958 to 1966, subsequently joining Utrecht University in the Netherlands in 1967, where she held the post of Senior Lecturer in Sanskrit until 1986. She is a member of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University. Apart from Sanskrit literature, Dr. Gupta also specializes in Indian philosophy (Vedānta) and ancient Indian religions, with particular emphasis on Tantra, Vaiṣnavism, and bhakti and gender studies. Her books include : Laksmī Tantra (Leiden: Brill, 1972); Advaita Vedānta and Vaiṣnavism: The : Philosophy of Madhusūdana Sarasvatī (Abingdon: Routledge, 2006); and The Cosmic Play of Power: Goddess, Tantra and Women (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2012). Madhu Khanna, Professor of Indic Religion, is at present a Tagore National Fellow at the National Museum, New Delhi. Until recently, she was the Director of the Centre for the Study of Comparative Religions and Civilizations at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, where she introduced a pioneer course on Religion & Gender in South Asia. She conceived and directed Narivada—The Gender and Culture Network of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi. She was Bina and Haridas Choudhury distinguished Fellow (2013–14) in Asian and Comparative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco and has authored and edited seven books that include The Śrīcakra: History, Ritual and Symbol of Goddess Tripurasundarī (forthcoming). Rachel Fell McDermott is Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College, Columbia University and specializes in South Asia, especially India and Bangladesh. She received her BA from the University of

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Pennsylvania in 1981, her MDiv. from Harvard Divinity School in 1984, and her PhD from Harvard University in 1993. Her research interests are in Bengal, eastern India, and Bangladesh. She has published extensively on the Hindu-goddess-centered religious traditions from that part of the subcontinent and is now involved in a research project on Kazi Nazrul Islam, who is at once the “Rebel Poet” of India and the National Poet of Bangladesh. She is the author of Mother of My Heart, Daughter of My Dreams: Kālī and Umā in the Devotional Poetry of Bengal (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) and Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kālī and Umā from Bengal (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). She is also committed to the study of comparative religion, and teaches comparative courses in which important religious themes are traced across cultures. Heidi R. Pauwels is Professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she teaches Sanskrit and Modern and Old Hindi language and literature, and courses on Hinduism. She is the author of many scholarly articles and books, including Krishna’s Round Dance Reconsidered (London: Curzon Press 1996); In Praise of Holy Men (Groningen: Egbert Forsten 2002); The Goddess as Role Model: Sītā and Rādhā in Scripture and on Screen (New York: Oxford University Press 2008). She has also edited several volumes of critical studies, such as Indian Literature and Popular Cinema (New York: Routledge, 2007); Patronage and Popularisation, Pilgrimage and Procession (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009); and Satire in the Age of Early Modernity, with Monika Horstmann (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2012). Her most recent book is Cultural Exchange in Eighteenth-Century India: Poetry and Paintings from Kishangarh (Berlin: E. B. Verlag in Berlin). Professor Pauwels is currently working on a Guggenheim project on the mobilization of myth and hagiography in the works of Savant Singh of Kishangar. Tracy Pintchman is Professor of Religious Studies at Loyola University, Chicago, where she also directs the Global and International Studies Program. Her research focuses on Hindu goddess traditions and Hindu women’s ritual practices. She is the author of more than two dozen articles and book chapters as well as the author, editor, or co-editor of seven books, including The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994); Guests at God’s Wedding (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2005); Hindu Ritual at the Margins: Innovations, Transformations, Reconsiderations, with Linda Penkower (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2014); and Sacred Matters: Materiality in Indian Religions (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2015). Prabhavati C. Reddy, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University, currently teaches courses in Hinduism and Asian religions. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with a research focus on the historical

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development of Hindu traditions, religious art and human experience, and issues related to women and religion. She is the author of Hindu Pilgrimage: Shifting Patterns of Worldview of Srisailam in South India (London and New York: Routledge, 2014). She is currently working on a monograph entitled “The Tantra, Siddha and Yoga Traditions at Srisailam: Exoteric and Esoteric Practices in Medieval South India.” She holds a PhD from Harvard University in Sanskrit and Indian Studies and an MA in Asian Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Elizabeth Mary Rohlman is Associate Professor in the Department of Classics and Religion, University of Calgary, Canada. She is a historian of religion whose research examines the role of narrative literature in articulating and constructing religious identity in premodern South Asia. Her research examines the regional Purānas : of Gujarat, including the Sarasvatī Purāna, : as well as the Purānic genre more generally, especially with respect to the : Mārkanḍ : eya Purāna. : Bihani Sarkar has been a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Oriental Institute, Oxford University since 2014. Her book, Heroic Shāktism: The Cult of Durgā in Ancient Indian Kingship was published as a British Academy Monograph by Oxford University Press in 2017. She has written articles on aspects of the cult of Durgā, covering the Navarātra and its history, the rite of Durgā in medieval Bengal, and dualisms in Durgā’s conception in classical Sanskrit literature. She has also written about classical Sanskrit literature, including the ethics of poetic practice in thirteenth-century Gujarat and the interplay between poetic licence and minding narrative conventions in the classical period. She is currently working on her second book on the depiction and history of the tragic in classical Sanskrit literature, which is to be published by I.B. Tauris. Saswati Sengupta is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Miranda House, University of Delhi. She has published on varied subjects ranging from Kālidāsa’s Abhijñāna-śākuntalam to a critique of Said’s Orientalism. Her work of fiction, The Song Seekers (2011), also translated into Italian (La dea combattente, 2013), was longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literatures. She has published, jointly with Zakia Pathak and Sharmila Purkayastha, an important article, “The Prisonhouse of Orientalism,” in the journal Textual Practice (1991), and has edited, jointly with Deepika Tandon, a collection of essays titled Revisiting Abhijnānaśakuntalam: Love, Lineage and Language in Kālidāsa’s Nāt ạ ka (Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2011).

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The Oxford History of Hinduism Introduction to the Series The series offers authoritative, comprehensive coverage of the History of Hinduism. Although the word Hinduism is problematic as the term’s origin is only from the nineteenth century and Hindu is only attested as a people’s self-description from the sixteenth century, it nevertheless denotes a range of traditions within India whose roots reach deep into the past. The volumes in the series provide a history of the religious traditions encompassed by the term Hinduism from the first millennium BCE to the present day. One of the problems about studying the history of Hinduism, especially in the earlier period, concerns dating. It has been notoriously difficult to establish the dates of early traditions, figures, and texts before the medieval period. We can fairly accurately date Sanskrit texts of Buddhism when translated into Chinese, but “Hindu” texts are more problematic, although there is general agreement about the sequence of major developments within this history. Another issue is the category “religion.” Some scholars have argued against using it in the Indian context on the grounds of its local origin in the history of the West, but arguably the term demarcates a set of ideas, practices, and hopes and the English word is no more problematic than “culture” or even “society.” But we do need to acknowledge these difficulties and that our claims as scholars are always provisional, subject to correction, and our categories must sometimes be used without consensual definition. Each volume considers the relationship between Hinduism and the wider society, for religion is always embedded within culture and sociopolitical structures. Hinduism needs to be understood as dynamically engaging with wider Indian society and with other religions, particularly Buddhism and Jainism, throughout its long history. This dynamism and interactive nature of the religion is reflected in each of the volumes, some of which are more focused on Sanskrit traditions, while other volumes will have more weight on vernacular literatures such as Tamil. After the Vedic age, the volumes are organized thematically and chronologically. Thus, we have volumes devoted to the three major traditions focused on Shiva, the Goddess, and Vishnu, volumes on philosophy and practice, Hinduism in the modern world, and vernacular traditions. Each volume addresses not only theological concerns but also material culture, such as temples and architecture, along with the history of practices such as making offerings to a deity (pūjā), observances or vows (vrata), and pilgrimage (yatra) which cut across specific traditions. Professor Gavin Flood FBA General Editor of The Oxford History of Hinduism series

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Introduction Mandakranta Bose

sa tasminnevākāśe striyam ājagāma bahuśobhamānām umām haimavatīm tām hobāca kim etad yakṣam iti. God (Indra), [seeing] in the same sky an extremely beautiful woman, Umā, daughter of Himavat, approaching asked her who this transcendent being [yakṣa] was. Kenopaniṣad 3.12 sā brahmeti hobāca . . . She said he is Brahman . . . Kenopaniṣad 4.1

These excerpts narrate the conclusion of the encounter of three major deities— Agni, Vāyu, and Indra—with Brahman, all failing to comprehend who was filling them with wonder even when they came close to him. It was the celestial spirit Umā who appeared and revealed to them that he was Brahman. The narrative is intriguing on at least two counts: while it provides an answer to the question asked by the gods, the story does not even raise the question who Umā might be, and secondly, why it is she who has the answer. How does it fall to this female being to hold the key to a secret that the principal gods cannot penetrate? Does femininity have anything to do with the power of revelation? Historically, the role of Umā in this narrative is particularly challenging because she appears in Hindu thought well after the tradition had been set in the Vedas of constructing goddesses as representations of the creative and regulatory powers of nature and human faculties as well as upholders of cosmic laws. Venerated for their powers as they are, the Vedic goddesses are not endowed with a vision deeper even than what the principal gods possess, as Umā does. The role that Kenopanis ạ d ascribes to Umā is particularly important in that context because it reinvigorates a profound assertion of the divine feminine that occurs only once but does so memorably in the RgVeda, the earliest source :

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of Hindu theological speculation. In its tenth manḍ : ala of hymns we find the following declaration of supremacy: ahameva vāta iva pra vāmyārbhamānā viśvā | : bhuvanāni : paro diva para enā pr: thivyaitāvatī mahinā sambabhūva || (Devī Sukta, in RgVeda 10.125.8) : I breathe a strong breath like the wind and tempest, the while I hold together all existence. Beyond this wide earth and beyond the heavens I have become so mighty in my grandeur. (The Hymns of the Rgveda, trans. Griffith, 1889) :

Part of a long hymn known as the Devī Sūkta composed in praise of the supreme feminine power called Devī, the verse declares her as the power that holds together “all existence,” whose reign stretches beyond earth and heaven. Setting Devī on a higher plane than all other deities, this declaration signals the rise of the divine feminine from the earliest time in Hindu thought and indicates a philosophical continuity from the Vedas to the Upaniṣads. Placed against the hymn, the Kenopaniṣad reference to Umā persuasively suggests belief in an intimate link between divinity and femininity. As we move from the Devī Sūkta to the Kenopaniṣad we may thus see the conception of the divine feminine progressing from that of separate, individual female deities, each representing and governing particular conditions of existence, to that of an indivisible ultimate metaphysical reality. Although Umā in the Kenopaniṣad passage is not on the same level as the Supreme Being of the Devī Sukta, she is decisively distinct from the Vedic goddesses. While they are approximations of the conditions of existence whereby they are directly related to the lives of human beings, Umā is far removed from such conditions and imagined as the ultimate seer, one who must be close to Brahman. In positioning Umā as she who bestows understanding upon the principal gods, Kenopaniṣad thus associates the conception of the goddess with the primordial creative force even though that is not the focus of the narrative. But incipient in that implied redefinition is the tradition of conceiving the divine feminine as the creative force at the center of the cosmic mystery, as the Great Goddess and the Creatrix, and as a unity manifesting herself in many forms. J. N. Tiwari reminds us that “Feminine divinities were indeed worshipped in some form practically all over the ancient world.”¹ Rooted no doubt in the conception of the Mother Goddess of prehistoric cultures, the Great Goddess of Hindu thought developed into an idea of increasing complexity in its metaphysical identity. At the same time, naming Umā as the daughter of Himavat places her within the bounds of the ¹ Tiwari 1985: xi.

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family structure obtaining in social reality. Into this profile of the goddess the Kenopaniṣad fable imports the idea of a divinity with both finite and infinite attributes, at once material and mystical, bound within the conditions of social reality and creator of reality itself. The ground is prepared here for conceptualizing the goddess as the creative power behind existence, though it is not : until the advent of the Sāmkhya school that Hindu philosophy systematically postulates the identity of that power variously as prakr: ti, śakti, and māyā. Prehistoric female figurines discovered at many places in India that are taken to be images of a Mother Goddess (as are similar figures found elsewhere in the world) confirm the antiquity of goddess worship in the Indian subcontinent.² Precisely what the earliest forms of worship were are not known but their purpose was presumably that of propitiating the deities, suing for boons in this world, and seeking their protection in this world and the next, as one may surmise from parallels in prehistoric societies elsewhere in the world. In the beginning and for a long time, goddesses in Hindu thought were directly related to the worldly desires and fears of humankind. They were imagined to govern and control fecundity, crop abundance, and natural phenomena such as the light of dawn, or as idealizations of human attributes such as sound and speech, and upholders of the principles that hold existence together. As such they were directly implicated in human experience. They were nurturers, protectors, healers, and purifiers of existence, life-givers above all, although many of them could be roused to displeasure and some to malevolence. In being so conceived, the goddesses were not in principle distinct from the male gods such as Vāyu, the god of winds, or Varuna, : the god of water, and like them the goddesses were drawn in the lineaments of humanity. But the conception of goddesses perhaps placed them closer than male gods to earthly life, for as anthropomorphic figures, early Hindu goddesses were idealizations of mortal women in social relationships that reflected life on earth, as in many other early religious cultures.³ As we will see in some of the chapters in this volume, this aspect of the goddess identity continues to determine the attributes and functions both of goddesses and human females. But long before that hardening of the gendered human–divine analogy, the Vedas, collections of orally transmitted hymns that are the earliest surviving sacred texts of India, celebrated the divine feminine in several forms. The goddess most often invoked is Uṣas, who is the animating light of dawn. Other figures of veneration are Pr: thivī, the earth as progenitor of earthly life; Aditi, the mother of all divine and earthly beings; Sarasvatī, a purifying spirit imagined as a stream and holder of knowledge; and Vāc, who commands speech. ² For a wide-ranging and illustrated account of Mother Goddess images, see Nagar 1989. ³ For parallels in Greek mythology, see Sissa and Detienne 2000. For the role of female divinities in early European societies, see Gimbutas 1982.

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The Kenopaniṣad fable, however, tilts the conception of the goddess towards metaphysical speculation, even if not as overtly as the Devī Sūkta. Because Umā alone is able to recognize Brahman, she must herself be close to the mystery of existence if not part of it; she is also one who lifts the veil on Brahman not only for Agni, Vāyu, and Indra but also for the human narrator, making way for human explorations of divinity. The idea of Devī, the goddess persona found in the Vedas, is thus expanded by reaching beyond nature so that she not only connotes phenomena but is also recognized as the creative principle that animates existence and creation itself. Devī is one but can manifest herself as the numerous goddesses worshipped by Hindus, which is in line with the Hindu view that the One is also Many. The perception of this duality took deep roots in Hindu theology and came to inform expository and interpretive thoughts not only about the divine feminine but also about divinity itself. Reflections upon divinity in any religious system are endless. The Hindu discursive tradition is particularly preoccupied with questions about the Great Goddess as part of a wider and never-ending questioning of the origin, composition, and process of creation initiated by the ancient musings of the RgVeda: “Whence this creation has arisen—perhaps it formed itself, or per: haps it did not—the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows—or perhaps he does not know” (RV : 10.129.7). While such uncertainty is absent in later texts, the intensity of the need to know never abates. Of particular relevance to the present context, finding an answer by placing Devī at the fountainhead of creation never loses its appeal and explains what Vidya Dehejia has called the “phenomenal rise of female divinity.”⁴ The centrality of Devī becomes foundational in much of Hindu theological dis: course, in Tantric belief and Sāmkhya philosophy in particular, expanding its ramifications in theology and worship practices in the Purānic : era (third– sixteenth century CE), and gives rise to the goddess tradition as a whole. Of great philosophical complexity, the supremacy of the Great Goddess impinges significantly also upon belief systems built around other dominant deities such as Śiva and Viṣnu. : The approaches to understand the concept of goddesses are immense and often at odds with one another. Sectarian religious arguments and practices have treated goddesses differently in terms of both their relationships with male gods and their individual roles, some conceiving them as consorts to gods, though possessing great power, and some as manifestations of a single supreme creative and sustaining power. Necessarily, this volume begins with two chapters that probe what that singularity means as they consider the nature of Devī as an idea, launching the first of the four parts (“The Idea of Devī”) into which the fourteen chapters of ⁴ Dehejia 1999.

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this volume are arranged. They are followed by studies in the formation of some of the major Hindu goddesses, their historical development, the brahminic as well as Tantric rituals relating to them, and their roles in the contemporary Hindu tradition. Part II (“The Development of the Goddess Tradition”) deals with the appearance of goddesses of regional origin and following in medieval times, who continue to influence the religious life of Hindus just as powerfully as the major pan-Indian goddesses discussed in the preceding chapters. Part III (“The Regional Heritage”) contains studies of the presumed flow of the divine spirit between goddesses and women on earth as we consider the extent of such linkages from the unveiling of the divine spirit in some women to their actual apotheosis. Turning to present times, Part IV (“Devī in the Modern World”) offers in the final two chapters two examples of contemporary worship practices, one in South Asia and the other in the United States. The unifying theme of these explorations is the general Hindu belief in the oneness of Devī, the Great Goddess who manifests herself in multiple forms. The groundwork for understanding this fundamental tenet of goddess worship is laid by Tracy Pintchman in Chapter 1, where she considers what the Great Goddess means as an idea and as a presence in worldly life. Noting that while Hindus believe at once in many goddesses and a single Great Goddess, Pintchman explains that Devī is a single transcendental being, the source of the cosmos and the sum of three cosmic principles termed śakti, prakr: ti, and māyā, or energy, materiality, and delusion (that is, her constant play of shifting form, substance, and purpose). Addressing the principles śakti, prakr: ti, and māyā, Pintchman raises such essential questions as what transcendence signifies and whether or in what sense divinity may be immanent in creation. Pondering the relationship between divinity, embodiment, and the natural world, Pintchman considers the link between the divine and human realms and its implications for women. Her study thus aims at mapping the cosmological, devotional, and sociological understanding of the goddess tradition. Noting that although Hindus recognize and revere a variety of different, discrete goddesses, they also tend to speak of “The Goddess” as a singular and unifying deity, Pintchman looks at the Goddess (1) as a cosmogonic/ cosmological creative force that creates, sustains, and permeates the universe, (2) as a being worthy of devotion who is also manifest as individual goddesses, and (3) as a potential role model for human women who in many contexts are viewed as special manifestations of the Goddess. The idea of the divine feminine thus has strong social implications for conceptualizing the nature and roles of women, for whom the goddess persona is made into a model, though only by abstracting her gentler attributes for emulation. As much as the Goddess acts in the material world, it is as an abstraction and ultimately an impenetrable mystery that she preoccupies Hindu contemplation. In Chapter 2 of this volume Bihani Sarkar tracks the analytical

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processes by which some thinkers attempt to unveil the mystery of māyā, which is one of the most intriguing aspects of Devī, especially when exalted as Mahāmāyā in the influential Śakta text Devīmāhātmya. As an idea Mahāmāyā is hard to pin down in that she is at once insentient yet consciously active, binding beings in the coils of existence and freeing them to reach for an ultimate, non-material reality. Who is she, where does she come from, what does she do, and above all, how may we have knowledge of her? The task of finding answers is complicated by the notion that she is the source of delusion, occluding human perception, especially as objective knowledge is limited in the face of the action of māyā. Sarkar seeks an answer in early Hindu : discourses on cosmogony, particularly Sāmkhya and Siddhānta views on the context of the formation and structure of reality. Her own search demonstrates how determinedly one has to weave one’s way through the maze of speculation expressed as much in allegories and myths as in exercises in exegeses and argument. Not an anthropomorphized deity, Mahāmāyā is an ambivalent concept of being and non-being, an idea rather than an icon that propels the movement of beings within and between the delusional forms generated by karma and salvation by merging with the ultimate reality. The infinite variety of forms that the active energy known as the Great Goddess may assume is indicated by Sanjukta Gupta in Chapter 3 on the cult of goddess Lalitā/Tripurasundarī, whose dual name hints at her intriguing identity. Gupta traces the development and transmission of the cult from Kashmir to South India through a close study mainly of two texts, Lalitopākhyāna, which is part of the Brahmānḍ : apurāna, : and Saundaryalaharī, attributed to Śankarāchārya. Traced through an ascending hierarchy of the forms of : Devī, goddess Tripurasundarī is venerated as the divine power of action (kriyāśakti) and the primordial source of the universe as the consort of the Supreme Reality. In the Kashmir version of the cults of Trika and Kaula she is the highest aspect of Devī. The name Lalitā, later appended to the goddess, indicates she is beautiful, charming, and desirable. Her cult arose in South India very early, absorbing that of a powerful local goddess called Kāmākṣī located at Kāñcipuram, which was the capital of the Pallava kings. Gupta argues that the name Lalitā was added to the goddess Tripurā at a later date, when the doctrine of the cult attempted to attach to the word Lalitā the connotation of kāma (desire) understood as a means to achieve liberation. The meaning of the word kāma was thus taken beyond erotic sentiments to mean krpā, emphasizing the goddess’s compassion for her devotees and her : readiness to grant them her grace. At the same time Lalitā’s other name Rājarājeśvarī connected her to the aspiration of kings who worshipped her to supplicate for sovereignty and unlimited power. The Lalitopākhyāna makes it clear that by the time this myth came to be recorded she had become for her devotees the all-powerful Śakti who was superior to all other deities, at once a

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vanquisher of evildoers, especially false pretenders to power such as the legendary figure of Bhanḍ : a, and a loving protector of her supplicants. It is also an illustration of the expansion of the ideology and worship practices of the Great Goddess, and how she expresses herself as the Trika and Kaula goddess Tripurā who is also Lalitā. Implicit in this one form, then, is the manifold potentiality of Devī. How the idea of the goddess takes a more concrete form in worldly life is traced in my essay (Chapter 4) on goddess Śrī/Lakṣmī. One of the earliest Hindu divinities, Śrī/Lakṣmī has commanded veneration from Vedic times till now as the source of all wellbeing, worldly bounty, sovereignty, and good fortune, although in later times she came increasingly to be worshipped for her gift of wealth. But even as Hindu thought focused on wealth and fortune as her particular province, it emphasized her identity as one form of the Great Goddess and as such proximate with the fundamental energy that creates, drives, and permeates all existence. Related to this view is that of Śrī/Lakṣmī as the consort of Viṣnu, : one of the three principal Hindu deities, and thus intimate with the inmost power of the cosmos. In medieval times her nearness to Viṣnu : elevated her divine action not just to intercession with Viṣnu : on behalf of humanity, as viewed in the Śrīvaiṣnava school of Vaiṣnava thought. : : More emphatically, the Pāñcarātra school accorded her the status of the actual initiator and controller of the creation, preservation, and dissolution, for even though Viṣnu : is the superior deity he remains inactive in cosmic action. For less philosophical worshippers, though, it is Śrī/Lakṣmī’s worldly gifts and benevolent persona that primarily matter. As a feminine divinity she has been readily turned into a model for women, upon whom rests the achievement of orderly and prosperous domesticity. It is also a duty that calls for inexhaustible patience and self-denial. The figure of Śrī/Lakṣmī is thus the locus at once of human–divine interaction and of an ethic of women’s self-abnegation. In the construction of Śrī/Lakṣmī as a model for women we may thus see the irony of female deification actually effecting the confinement of women within socially prescribed roles that deny them self-determination. As we find in Pintchman’s discussion of the humanization of Devī in Chapter 1, this is a theme that has to be constantly kept in view as we consider the place of Hindu goddesses in philosophy and society. The many ways of viewing Śrī/Lakṣmī indicate the complexity that dominates the conception of Hindu goddesses. This is what we observe in Chapter 5 by Elizabeth Rohlman on Sarasvatī, who has been venerated both as a goddess of learning and as a sacred river. Rohlman argues that Sarasvatī is the most ancient individualized goddess of Hinduism, and perhaps the first river to be worshipped as a goddess by Hindus. Generations of Indologists have carefully traced the evolution of Sarasvatī, from the river mentioned in the Vedas through her association with the Vedic goddess of speech, Vāc, to her emergence as a deity who is both a river goddess and the goddess of knowledge. Yet

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cataloguing Sarasvaī’s textual appearances does not tell the full story of her place in the Hindu pantheon. She is a figure who is both omnipresent— countless Indic texts from a variety of traditions begin with an invocation to Sarasvatī—and liminal: premodern images of Sarasvatī are exceedingly rare, posing the question of her place in extra-canonical aspects of Hindu life. Treating the river that bears her name as a metaphor, Rohlman examines the elusive and sometimes paradoxical position of Sarasvatī in the history of Hinduism. Even when taken literally (i.e. geographically) as a river, Sarasvatī cloaks herself in mystery: already described as “lost” in the Vedas, she is a river that is believed to appear and disappear from the surface of the earth at will. The very mysteriousness of this phenomenon is suggestive of a potency more profound than earthly powers in its hint of the elusiveness of purification. As a river, Sarasvatī defines the religious geographical tradition of the land, as we find in numerous regional Sarasvatī traditions across India, and indeed to sanctify the vast land of Bhārata, as asserted in the Mahābhārata. Rohlman maintains that Sarasvatī the goddess is no less elusive or powerful than the river, and that it is because of her compound role as river, speech, and goddess that Sarasvatī is such a perplexing figure. In Chapter 6 on Rādhā, Tracy Coleman addresses a distinctive mark of Hindu religious culture; that is, the presumption of human–divine exchange. Not only are deities imagined in human form and attributed human motives, they are placed in close relationships with men, women, and children. Rādhā is a particularly challenging figure in Hindu devotional thought, undercutting as her legend does the idea of wifely faithfulness and exalting her faithlessness in her surrender to Kr: ṣna. : For that matter, how may one countenance the seduction of a married woman by a god? One way out of this ethical quandary is to argue that the intimacy between Kr: ṣna, : that most intriguing of Viṣnu’s : human forms, and Rādhā his mortal lover is so close, virtually so organic, that the dividing line between god and mortal disappears, and with it the rules of worldly conduct. Coleman considers how this happens and what it means for understanding the divine–human relationship by examining the literary representation of the passionate love of Rādhā and Kr: ṣna : mediated by bhakti, the absolute surrender of the devotee to her deity. The issue is not only Rādhā’s absorption in her love for Kr: ṣna, : it is also his own immersion in his desire for her. That desire, Coleman demonstrates by an extensive analysis of Jayadeva’s Gīta Govinda (twelfth century CE), is one for physical, not metaphorical, union and of such intensity that it merges the human into the divine. The bond between Rādhā and Kr: ṣna : is so profound that theologians sometimes describe them as one being with two bodies, a concept represented in art by their gracefully intertwined limbs and their playfully erotic role reversals. Since narratives about Rādhā depict her as a simple gopī, a woman from the pastoral community of Vraja where Kr: ṣna : spends his childhood and youth, she stands as a model of devotion theoretically capable of emulation by all human beings,

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irrespective of caste, class, and gender. Moreover, because Rādhā is a woman, theologians and scholars alike have often claimed that women enjoy a privileged position in Vaiṣnava bhakti traditions, a uniquely feminine position that : legitimizes erotic love as a way to salvation. But the question remains whether Rādhā is actually thought of in Vaiṣnava texts as a mortal woman, and thus : somehow a model for other women, or as a goddess come to earth who transcends gender and sexuality as constructed by society and embodied by human women. Coleman explores the socio-religious tensions represented by the figure of Rādhā and revealed in theological debates about the nature of her love in light of her marital status. That love relationship, Coleman argues, has to be viewed on more levels than the theological, for debates about kāma vs. prema and questions about Rādhā’s status as Kr: ṣna’s : wife (svakīyā) or adulterous lover (parakīyā) betray anxieties about female sexuality and women’s : capacity to experience divine grace and attain liberation from samsāra. The impulse in Hinduism to attribute divinity to women—of socially valorized virtue, needless to say—developed early and has remained steady, as Heidi Pauwels demonstrates in her study of Sītā in Chapter 7. Reviewing the long history of the legend of Sītā from its earliest record in Vālmīki’s Rāmāyana : to the modern era, which continues to attract its reiteration in many forms and in many types of media, Pauwels notes how consistently Sītā is revered as a wife unconditionally devoted to her husband to the point of enduring endless suffering and humiliation. Her absolute and unflinching devotion to Rāma, who is regarded as Viṣnu : in human form, has qualified her as an object of devotion herself for her numerous devotees who worship her jointly with Rāma. The Vaiṣnava tradition exalts Sītā as the model for the : soul’s passive dependence upon God for its salvation; necessarily, then, the Rāmāyana : is seen to affirm the soul’s need for mediation via the Goddess, manifest as Sītā, who is the embodiment of grace. Yet Sītā’s representation is not entirely uniform, nor is her reception. While the majority of Rāma tales show her accepting her suffering without complaint—or at least stoically— such passivity is set aside in Śākta renditions of the Rāmāyana, : such as the Adbhuta Rāmāyana, in which she is the real force behind Rāma in saving : creation from the demons. As for the reception of Sītā as the epitome of suffering, the general response of sympathy has at times viewed her as a persecuted woman who does protest against the injustice she suffers and thus stands as the representative of women oppressed by the rules of a patriarchal ethos. Present especially in rural and working women’s songs and stories, this alternative construction of Sītā has stimulated many modern Rāmāyana : scholars, especially feminist critics, to reconsider the purpose and process of confining Sītā within the matrix of devotion. While the general view of Sītā among Hindus perhaps remains constant in viewing her as a model wife and therefore deserving of worship, she is also revered precisely as an

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icon of resistance, futile as it was yet potentially empowering and thus worthy of veneration. Chapter 8 by Madhu Khanna considers the trajectory between divine and human femininity in the context of the myths of the Great Goddess imagined as a kumārī, a sacred virgin, which she argues can be a great resource for countering the subordination of the girl child in India. The election of a young, prepubescent girl as the vehicle of the Great Goddess underscores the ambivalence in Hindu attitudes to the feminine in that it causes veneration on the one hand and subjugation on the other. Brenda Beck’s study of the royal kumārī of Kathmandu in Chapter 9 examines the process of electing a young girl into a goddess wielding miraculous powers; Khanna views that election with the potency of myths that reveal unbreakable bonds between a kumārī and Devī, which may indeed elevate the status of girls and women if only by association. The traditional neglect of the girl child in sacred books as in real life is a historical fact of Hindu society and part of the systemic reduction of women. Khanna notes that modern feminist scholarship has responded to this degradation by reductionist readings of myths, rituals, and beliefs, which essentialize gender relations into an exclusive male–female binary, and dismiss cultural traditions as regressive. While the systemic neglect of and oppressive indifference to girl children has to be acknowledged and resisted, Khanna argues that there are resources within Hindu religious belief and practice to support the empowerment of girl children. Drawing attention to rituals of Śākta Tantra, Khanna proposes a fresh approach to reconnect the archaic, under-researched past with modern programs to empower the girl child. Recounting several myths of all-conquering goddesses, Khanna argues that it is possible and necessary to explore the ways in which cultural resources such as the myths and legends of child goddesses can be reclaimed to create space for a dialogue with contemporary development programs to promote the autonomy of girl children and solidarity with their community. The goddess–woman link receives a very different treatment from Beck when she studies women who “become” goddesses. Taking four instances, a mother–daughter duo from a Tamil bardic narrative and two from contemporary India, Beck details the processes by which these women and young girls achieve goddess status. While that status is founded on each woman’s personal potentiality, its achievement varies from legend to real life. The mythic construction of the two women of The Legend of Ponnivala emphasizes the limitless penance and self-mortification that they go through to earn their life-giving, evil-conquering powers, which they achieve by their own effort, although there is a pre-existing potential for that achievement. By contrast, the two “living goddesses” are born with divinity organic to them. One of them, a woman revered as Amma or Mother, began to express her goddess-like traits, such as divination and power to protect and punish, from an early age and did so with increasing self-assurance as she assumed the insignia (of dress, chants,

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rites) and forms of conduct traditionally associated with a devī. The other, a girl child called the royal kumārī of Nepal, was discovered by Nepal’s priestly establishment and venerated as a vehicle containing the spirit of goddess Taleju, a form of the Great Goddess, until at puberty the goddess left her to invest another child with the same powers. Unlike the kumārī and Amma, the women in the legend Beck studies have to strive to acquire their powers, often through strenuous esoteric rites, but her account of every case underscores the action of the divine in the human as one of creation supported by conservation—by violent means if necessary—which affirms the conception of the feminine divine in Hindu thought and the place of women in the scheme of existence. A goddess closely associated with women and the generation of life in nature is the subject of Prabhavati Reddy’s description of the celebration of Bathukamma in Telangana in Chapter 10. Celebrated in that region of India, she has a festival dedicated to her, which has been going on for several centuries, reflecting, as Reddy tells us, a rich oral tradition of Telugu folk songs narrating the life of Bathukamma and her importance in the life of women, especially in agrarian society. Bathukamma means “mother of life” or “mother live on” and she is figured as a mound of flowers constituting a flower shrine, which represents life, death, and rebirth. Not one of the mainstream goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, she is thought by her devotees to be a form of Lakṣmī, Gaurī, and Durgā, and like those goddesses she is supplicated for the kind of gifts that enrich agrarian life, such as abundance of rainfall, good crops, and the conservation of nature. The annual festival in autumn takes place around these flower shrines which are made for that purpose and thought by devotees to be invested with the spirit of Lakṣmī or Gaurī. Needing no complex ritual, women worship her by singing and dancing around these shrines, and finally immerse them in local waters. Bathukamma is a goddess of transitory presence, for she has neither a temple of her own nor an iconic image, nor is she worshipped daily or through pilgrimage. She is nevertheless a sacred presence in the hearts of women, for whom she represents the fullness of life that autumn brings, signaling hope for the rejuvenation of nature and humanity. The study of regional goddesses continues from Reddy’s chapter to the next, on one of the most colorful of Hindu goddesses, albeit one with a regional rather than pan-Indian following. This is the serpent goddess Manasā, the subject of Chapter 11 by Krishna Datta. An important feature of Datta’s work is that she not only covers the extent of the Manasā cult and her worship rites but also considers its impact on popular Bengali literature of the Middle Ages. Drawing upon legends in early Sanskrit texts as much as folklore, Datta traces the growth of the cult of Manasā, her legendary origin, her debated identity, and patterns of action. While serpent cults have existed in many parts of India, Manasā’s most devoted adherents have been from Bengal (as the province of India was called before the Partition of India, now divided into West

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Bengal and Bangladesh), especially the snake-infested part of eastern India. Datta describes the rites of Manasā worship in its varied forms, which include the recitation of her legend, forming a very substantial part of a body of : verse narratives known as mangalakāvyas that dominated popular religious literature in Bengali through the Middle Ages. The hold of this genre on popular culture is examined by Saswati Sengupta in Chapter 12. At once celebratory and cautionary in praising a deity, promising every imaginable reward to devotees and threatening disbelievers with dire punishment, : mangalakāvyas have left their mark on pāñcālī literature in Bengali, verse tales recited at the rituals of gods and goddesses commonly worshipped at : home. Mangalakāvyas relating to Manasā, like those devoted to other deities, mirror their times both socially and politically as they correlate worldly events with the set ideas about gods and goddesses into which speculative religious thought had become fixed in the popular mind. Taken together, the legend of Manasā and the elements of her rites throw light on how a goddess identity may come to be formed and what ethical issues it involves—or ignores. The regional location of some of the most widely worshipped Hindu goddesses gives rise to modes of belief and worship regimes distinct from those sanctioned by ancient brahminical authority, as Sengupta notes in her chapter on the forms of goddess Canḍ ī in Bengal. Commanding wide: : spread devotion and lauded in mangalakāvyas dedicated to her deeds, the : Canḍ : īmangalas composed by numerous poets asserted the greatness of the goddess by telling or retelling a long, usually two-part, story of her munificence to her devotees and her wrath towards their adversaries. In this she acts as the protector Mother Goddess of ancient Hindu tradition even though here she is not as independent as, say, Durgā, but subject to a greater male god. There is also a hint running through the narratives, says Sengupta, that the goddess has a closer kinship with the chthonic goddesses of the lower social castes and as such is confined to a lower level of metaphysical authority. Sengupta argues that while the narratives do celebrate the goddess, they also fit her into the pattern of female dependency, just as the abilities, virtues, and consequent worthiness of the human actors are explained and validated by tracing them to higher social locations than they actually occupy. These narratives not only provide glimpses of social conditions and social relations of medieval eastern India, they also stratify religious belief on a scale of power and dependency. In Chapter 13 Rachel McDermott points at an intriguing twist in the devotional culture of Kālī in modern India in its spread across religious boundaries, of which a particularly notable example is the poetry of Kazi Nazrul Islam, a twentieth-century poet who has left a dual legacy in West Bengal and Bangladesh. The absorbing attachment to Kālī of this Muslim poet who had a Tantric guru manifested itself in some of the finest lyrics that : comprise the Śyāmā Sangīta genre. While they underscore the power that Kālī

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can exert on both the spiritual drive and the poetic imagination of individuals, they also raise questions about religious identities inasmuch as they assail Muslim sensibilities, especially in Bangladesh, where this Hindu voice adopted by its National Poet troubles the Bangladeshi sense of what Bangladeshi Islam is or should be. This chapter thus addresses the complex issue of why and how a Hindu goddess could have exercised so strong a pull on a Muslim, especially a poet possessing so powerful an imagination and so clear a voice. In Chapter 14, Tracy Pintchman describes a new vision of Devī and a new way to claim her as the focal point of Hindu religious identity. Indicating new directions in religious belief and regimens and extending into social organization, this vision informs Hindu religious life in the Indian diaspora with particular intensity in North America. Pintchman traces in her article the establishment of the Parashakthi Temple in Pontiac, Michigan, which is dedicated to the “Eternal Mother” who is the “Divine Pure Eternal Consciousness” as she is termed on the temple’s website, although at her original location in South India she is recognized as a regional deity named Karumāriamma_ n (Black Māriyamma_ n). Reviewing the history and ideological basis of the temple’s establishment at Pontiac, Pintchman notes the powerful appeal of its universalist claim which co-opts Native American spirituality in tapping into the shamanic energy of a sacred space as the temple site is declared to be. While the temple hosts icons of many other Hindu deities and holds orthodox Hindu rites of worship, all this coalesces around the Eternal Mother who is believed to have chosen her seat at this location as the locus of her protective energy for the protection of all. The development we see here is thus from a regional deity into a universal one who by implication may reach outside the Hindu community to participate, as Pintchman puts it, in a “transcultural, transnational, and transhistorical economy of divine power.” A new vision of Hindu religiosity is at work here, one that disrupts mundane boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and geography while still grounding the Goddess in a specific place, or, in this case, places (South India and Michigan). The Goddess becomes both local and universal, Tamil and American, Hindu and panreligious. This overview of the chapters in this volume should make it clear that they do not presume to offer the reader all that there is to know about Hindu goddesses. Nor do the contributors suggest that they have the final word on their particular subjects. If anything, they confirm rather the necessity for many different ways of thinking about goddesses in the Hindu climate of thought and of observing how they are worshipped, bearing in mind, above all, the emphatic—and exciting—acceptance of the simultaneous indivisibility and plurality of the Goddess. This book is not a general survey and does not cover all there is to know about the goddess phenomenon in Hinduism; rather it represents scholarly scrutiny of particular approaches to thinking about the Feminine Divine and modes of worship. The opportunities for exploration are

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limitless; why else would so much new writing on the goddesses keep appearing? What the excursions in this volume show is that, like all abstractions, Hindu goddesses resist simple explanations and demand constant scrutiny. To the mystical, metaphysical, and ritual complexities one must add their place in the social reality of Hindu life to understand how they are conceived and the varieties of their conception, given that the presence of the goddess as the One and the Many is always felt in the everyday life of Hindus, informing their speculative philosophy as much as their social relations, personal and public conduct, and political positions. The chapters that comprise this volume are constantly aware of the earthly presence and action attributed to goddesses even as they navigate their way through complex—sometimes hairsplitting— arguments and interpretations. A common interest of these studies is in aligning themselves with the modern, lived experience of Hindu society, which should allow them to reach out to readers engaged in Social Studies, especially Gender Studies. This interest will be particularly useful in discussions on goddesses in modern Hindu life but should in addition encourage the reader, as the book draws to its conclusion, to look back through time to widen the view of goddesses in Hinduism beyond theology and ritual practice to situate them in the human world of their times.

R E F E RE NC E S Primary Sources Hymns of the RgVeda, The, trans. Ralph T. H. Griffith, 1889, ed. J. L. Shastri. Delhi: : Motilal Banarsidass, 1973. Kenopaniṣad. Gorakhpur: Gita Press, 1951. Secondary Sources Dehejia, Vidya (Ed.) 1999. Devi the Great Goddess: Female Divinity in South Asian Art. Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Gimbutas, Marija. 1982. The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Nagar, Shanti Lal. 1989. The Universal Mother. Delhi and Lucknow: Atma Ram. Sissa, Giulia, and Marcel Detienne. 2000. The Daily Life of the Greek Gods, trans. Janet Lloyd. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Tiwari, J. N. 1985. Goddess Cults in Ancient India. Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan.

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Part I The Idea of Devī

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1 Cosmological, Devotional, and Social Perspectives on the Hindu Goddess Tracy Pintchman

Goddesses and goddess devotion form a vital component of Hindu religious life and enjoy more prominence in Hinduism than they do in many other religious traditions. Although Hindus acknowledge and honor a diversity of individual goddesses, they also tend to speak of “The Goddess” (Devī) or “The Great Goddess” (Mahādevī) as a single transcendent being. She is on the highest level the source of the universe and the Divine Mother who generates all that exists. John S. Hawley notes that many Hindus hold the Goddess to be both singular and multiple without any sense of contradiction; since the Goddess is beyond all limitation, she can assume an infinite number of forms.¹ She also embodies certain principles or forces that permeate the cosmos: these are śakti, prakrti, : and māyā. In this chapter I focus on three broad dimensions of Devī in Hindu traditions: (1) the Goddess as the embodiment of universal principles that create, sustain, permeate, and are ultimately identical to the created world; (2) the Goddess as a divine being worthy of devotion who is also manifest as numerous individual goddesses; and finally (3) the Goddess as a potential role model for human women. I draw here on Hindu textual traditions and teachings as well as lived contemporary conceptions and practices pertaining to Hindu goddesses. I will also highlight a number of larger themes that emerge in relation to Hindu goddess traditions, including the nature of divine transcendence and immanence; the relationship between divinity, embodiment, and the natural world; and the relationship between the divine and human realms, such as the question of whether women may be empowered by goddesses.

¹ Hawley 1996: 8.

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COSMOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES: THE GODDESS AS Ś AKTI (POW ER), PRAK RT : I (MATTER), AND M ĀYĀ A number of Hindu texts identify the Hindu Goddess on the highest level with the cosmic principles śakti, prakr: ti, and māyā. As these three vital principles, the Goddess functions as a transcendent agent who produces, pervades, and sustains the world. She is also the created world itself. Śakti, which means “power” or “energy,” is a universal, divine potency that both causes the created world to come into being and sustains that world through time. The term prakrti, : “matter” or “materiality,” refers to the manifest, embodied, material universe. The term māyā generally designates creative yet potentially delusive divine power or the material form that results from the activity of such power. In some contexts, most notably the philosophical school of Advaita Vedānta, māyā denotes a power of spiritual illusion inherent in Brahman, the eternal, unchanging godhead. According to Advaita Vedānta, Brahman alone is fully real; the manifest world of multiplicity conceals the true unity of Brahman and hence functions as a kind of illusion that Brahman generates through the power of māyā. Advaita Vedānta texts tend to portray māyā as a cause of spiritual ignorance (avidyā), the inability to perceive Brahman’s oneness and transcendence, which in turn keeps one bound to the cycle of birth and rebirth. Other Hindu texts, however, especially those that equate the Goddess with māyā, afford the term much more positive connotations, and māyā assumes the creative qualities of śakti and prakrti. : The identification of the Goddess with śakti, māyā, and prakrti : was formed over many centuries and has roots in even the earliest Vedic texts.² Yet it is firmly established scripturally for the first time in the Devīmāhātmya, a text about which Thomas Coburn has written extensively.³ The Devīmāhātmya is the first extant brahminical Hindu Śākta text, meaning that it consistently portrays the Goddess as the ultimate, highest reality and the Supreme Creator who wills creation and sends forth the cosmos. It stands on its own merits as an autonomous devotional work, but it originates as a portion of the Mārkanḍ : eya Purāna : (fifth/sixth centuries CE), one of the early Sanskrit Purānas. The Purā nas : : are compendia compiled over long stretches of time from approximately the third to the sixteenth centuries CE. They include a great deal of mythological material as well as ethical prescriptions and descriptions of ritual, pilgrimage, and other religious practices. The brahminical Hindu tradition delineates eighteen major (mahā-) and eighteen minor (upa-)

² Pintchman 1994.

³ e.g. Coburn 1982, 1984, 1991, and 1996.

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Purānas : although there is some disagreement as to exactly which Purānas : belong in which category.⁴ The Devīmāhātmya portrays the Goddess as a magnificent, powerful slayer of demons and divine protectress.⁵ The text also proclaims her to be the material foundation of the universe, Mūlaprakr: ti (primordial or “root” prakrti), : the basic material from which the cosmos is fashioned. The world is her form, and the entire universe with all its parts is ultimately identical to her (e.g. DM 1.47). When the Goddess becomes manifest, the Devīmāhātmya claims that she only appears to take birth; she is, however, ultimately eternal (DM 1.48). Devī is also called Śakti, the power that makes possible not only the creation of the universe, but also its maintenance and destruction (DM 11.10). Transcending the universe and controlling its rhythms, she is simultaneously also immanent; she abides in all beings in the form of śakti and is the śakti of all that exists (DM 5.18, 1.63). Coburn observes that in the Devīmāhātmya, śakti is a singular and universal phenomenon, something that Devī is as well as something that each individual deity has.⁶ As this universally abiding śakti, she is universally present in all things. The Goddess is also praised as Mahāmāyā (“great māyā”) and as such is extolled as creative, like śakti, as well as deluding (1.42–3). In this text the principle of māyā is sometimes equated with prakr: ti.⁷ Several of the major Purānas : or Purānic : sections that are later than the Devīmāhātmya recognize the existence of a Great Goddess even though they are not Śākta texts but Vaiṣnava or Śaiva, meaning they generally uphold : Viṣnu or Śiva respectively as the supreme deity. The identification of the : Goddess with śakti, māyā, and prakrti : : also persists in these later Purānic descriptions of the Goddess and is often incorporated explicitly into accounts of cosmogenesis. In the Devīmāhātmya, although the Goddess is described in ways that suggest she plays important cosmogonic roles, there are no passages that describe the mechanisms of cosmogony per se. Later Purānas, : however, often portray śakti and prakr: ti—with māyā somewhere in between—as different aspects or dimensions of a single, inherently female creative principle that unfolds from the Divine during the early stages of creation and engenders the physical universe. In such contexts, the Goddess’s role in cosmogony is made more explicit, and her identity as śakti, māyā, and prakrti : has a lot to do with her nature as the immediate source of the cosmos. Similar patterns emerge in a number of Vaiṣnava and Śaiva Purānic : : accounts of creation. Brahman, the supreme, absolute divinity—named as Śiva, Viṣnu, exists at the dawn : or a form of Viṣnu, : depending on the Purāna—alone : ⁴ Even the Purānas : themselves disagree as to exactly which texts should be included in which list. The main disagreement concerns whether the Śiva Purāna : should be included as a MahāPurāna—replacing the Vāyu—or whether it should be classified as an Upa-Purāna. : : ⁵ Coburn 1991: 24–6. ⁶ Coburn 1982: 160; 1996: 38. ⁷ Coburn 1982: 155–6; 1996: 33–4.

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of creation in a formless (nirguna), : transcendent state. Femaleness resides within Brahman and is frequently understood to be Brahman’s creative power, śakti or māyā. This feminine energy is usually personified, too, as the consort of Brahman’s male dimension, and the male–female halves of the Divine are often said to be ultimately inseparable. Although beyond gender identity in this formless state, Brahman is portrayed as male in relationship to Brahman’s female power. Cosmogenesis begins when Brahman separates the male and feminine dimensions from each other. When the feminine principle comes to stand apart from Brahman, it is identified in many contexts not only as śakti or māyā, but also as prakr: ti; śakti becomes embodied as prakr: ti when male and female dimensions of the godhead separate. Similarly, Brahman becomes embodied as the male principle puruṣa, the male counterpart of prakrti. : : The use of the categories puruṣa and prakr: ti reflects Sāmkhya philosophy’s : perspective on creation. In Sāmkhya, puruṣa is a principle of pure, transcendent consciousness, beyond all materiality, whereas prakrti, : also called pradhāna, is the material principle from which the cosmos evolves. The Purānas : tend to depict puruṣa and prakr: ti as gendered, animate principles, respectively male and female, and several Purānas : ascribe to them a role in cosmogenesis, portraying the universe as arising from the interaction between puruṣa and prakr: ti. In such contexts, prakr: ti is not just a material principle, as it is in : Sāmkhya, but is also a form of the Goddess. Prakrti : is said to consist of three constituent parts, or gunas: purity (sattva), activity (rajas), and lethargy : (tamas).The basic constituents of the manifest world (the tattvas) flow from the three gunas : of prakrti, : and the universe takes shape from the tattvas.⁸ There are twenty-three of these tattvas that flow forth from prakr: ti: intellect : (buddhi or mahat), egoity (ahamkāra), mind (manas), five sense capacities (buddhīndriyas: hearing, touching, seeing, tasting, and smelling), five action capacities (karmendriyas: speaking, grasping, walking, excreting, and procreating), five subtle elements (tanmātras: sound, contact, form, taste, and smell), and five gross elements (mahābhūtas: ether, air, fire, water, and earth). In these Purānic : creation narratives, śakti and prakr: ti generally represent different dimensions or manifestations, active at different stages of cosmogony, of the same creative female principle, which serves as the immediate source of the universe even in Purānas : that do not portray the Goddess herself as Brahman. The shared nature of śakti and prakrti : is reflected in the fact that both are often called māyā as well. Taken all together, these three principles constitute the Goddess in her role as fount of the universe and embody her tremendous generative power. While several Purānas : subscribe to part or all of this type of gendered account of cosmogony, there is variation from text to text. Some Purānas : minimize the Goddess’s identification with śakti, prakr: ti, ⁸ Pintchman 1994 and 2001.

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and māyā; others proclaim it more forcefully. While some creation narratives stress the role of śakti in cosmogenesis, others stress prakr: ti or māyā. In many of these contexts, the terms “Devī” or “Mahādevī” never appear, but the portrayal of the female dimension of Brahman as supreme goddess or source of other goddesses implies her ultimate stature. Throughout the Purānas, divine feminine energy embodied in these three principles and : personified as the Goddess plays a vital role in generating the universe. The Goddess not only acts as the immediate source of the world, she also pervades the created universe and sustains it. In the Devīmāhātmya, the Goddess is represented in ways that portray her as Brahman, although such identification is not made explicitly in the text. This is clearly not the case in Vaiṣnava and Śaiva contexts. Hence, although : the Devīmāhātmya’s vision of the Goddess as śakti, māyā, and prakr: ti is generally maintained in Vaiṣnava and Śaiva contexts, her status as highest, : ultimate reality is not. In the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna : (c. twelfth–sixteenth centuries), however, which is śākta in orientation, Purānic : cosmogonic narrative patterns and the Devīmāhātmya’s vision of the Goddess as supreme, ultimate reality merge.⁹ This Purāna : celebrates the Goddess as Brahman, an identity that Vaiṣnava and Śaiva Purānas : : would reject. Yet the same understanding of the Goddess as the source of the universe, a role embodied in her nature as śakti, māyā, and prakrti, : persists in the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna, : and the Goddess’s role as generator of the cosmos is subsumed under her larger identity. In the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna, : as in the Devīmāhātmya, the Goddess is the eternal, omnipresent, pervasive source of creation and support of all that exists (e.g. DBP 1.2.4–5, 1.2.8, 1.2.19). She is both nirguna, : beyond form, and saguna, : with form. Her nirguna : dimension surpasses the three gunas; : she is supreme reality itself and transcends all qualities. When the text stresses her nirguna : Śakti, Mahāmāyā, or even : aspect it sometimes refers to her as Nirgunā Nirgunā : Prakr: ti (e.g. DBP 1.5.48). In an account of cosmogony in the Devī-Gītā section of the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna, : which comprises the last ten chapters of the seventh part (skandha) of the text (DBP 7.31–40), it is said that before the universe is created only the Goddess exists as Supreme (para-) Brahman. Brahman possesses a single inherent power (śakti) called māyā, which the texts describe paradoxically as neither real nor unreal, nor both real and unreal (DBP 2.1–4).¹⁰ As Mackenzie Brown has noted, in this text the Goddess not only wields māyā as worldgenerating power but is also the very māyā that she wields.¹¹ There are two dimensions of the Goddess’s power of māyā, which the text describes as different kinds of causes that play different roles in cosmogenesis: the ⁹ As Brown notes, the ninth book of the DBP corresponds closely to one portion of the BVP, except that Devī replaces Viṣnu : as supreme deity (1990: x, 10, 145–7, and passim). ¹⁰ Cf. Brown 1998 and 2002. ¹¹ Brown 2001.

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Goddess’s māyā acts as the instrumental cause (nimitta) of creation, i.e. the agent that causes creation to occur, and the material cause of creation (DBP 2.8), the prakrti-like substance from which the cosmos is fashioned. : Since the Goddess is ultimately indistinguishable from her māyā, these two causes represent two dimensions of the Goddess herself as cosmogonic agent and correspond to the roles that puruṣa and prakrti : : play in other Purānic creation narratives.¹² The text also claims that when the Goddess unites with her creative power, she becomes the “cosmic seed” (bīja) that serves as the source of creation (DBP 2.7). This cosmic seed assumes the function that prakr: ti assumes in other cosmogonies as material foundation of the visible world. Here, however, this cosmic seed is also Brahman, since the Goddess is Brahman.¹³ Both māyā and the Goddess are, in fact, also prakrti : (e.g. DBP 1.44, 2.9). While conceding the ultimate identity of all forms of the Goddess, the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna : nevertheless distinguishes among her different aspects. As Nirguna : Brahman, she transcends the gunas : and all matter; she is beyond attributes. As creator, she possesses and wields creative power, māyā śakti, which instigates cosmogenesis. But both this power and the prakrti-like : form that she takes as the cosmic seed are simply alternative forms of the Goddess herself. Hence the Devī-Bhāgavata maintains the same vision of the Goddess as immediate wellspring of the created universe that the Śaiva and Vaiṣnava Purānic : : accounts of cosmogenesis detailed earlier also share. Purānic cosmogonies, therefore, tend to negotiate differences in sectarian : allegiance while maintaining a shared vision of the Goddess as the foundational source of creation, a role that finds expression in her nature as the principles śakti, māyā, and prakr: ti. One can draw a number of conclusions from the vision of the Goddess that emerges in these creation narratives. First, the Goddess’s nature as an essential cosmic principle is absolutely central to brahminical Hindu notions about the genesis and maintenance of the universe, at least as these are articulated in many of the Purānas. : These texts, which are largely male-authored and seem to be dominated by male interests, clearly affirm the importance of the feminine principle in cosmogony and cosmology. Even many of the Purānas : that ascribe ultimacy to male deities portray the Goddess as the immediate source of creation who gives rise to the universe. In this regard, Hindu creation narratives that share this vision of the Goddess as śakti, māyā, and prakrti : stand in contrast to those like the biblical accounts of creation in the book of Genesis, where the explicit participation of a female agent in cosmogony seems so remarkably absent. Hinduism acknowledges and celebrates in very

¹² Pintchman 1994 and 2001.

¹³ Brown 1998: 96.

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overt terms the role of the feminine alongside the role of the masculine in its cosmological symbolism. Second, as the source of all that exists, the Goddess is functionally the Mother of all. Such a vision of the female’s generative role in creation reflects on an abstract plane the biological realities of procreation; just as children emerge from the bodies of their mothers, the universe and all material forms that reside within it emerge ultimately from the Divine Mother. Purānic : portrayals of the Goddess’s role in creation are also consonant with Devī’s devotional role as the Divine Mother who commands love from her “children,” namely her devotees. Finally, we might note in these Purānic : creation accounts an emphasis on gender complementarity. It is the dynamic interaction between male and female elements that is creative and life-giving: both male and female are active and engaged with one another on various levels of the universe. While unapologetically heteronormative and accepting of a gender binary, these accounts nevertheless insist on the need for the generative contribution of both genders; neither one can create alone. Hence these cosmogonies convey the importance of the female contribution to the creative process along with the male contribution. An emphasis on gender complementarity in some Hindu contexts penetrates down even to the level of the human body, which some texts theorize to be composed on the most fundamental level of male and female elements. Such imagery comes to the fore especially in Tantric environments, perhaps most famously in the now widely known practice of kunḍ : alinī yoga. Gavin Flood observes that in Tantra generally, the body, functioning as a “root metaphor,” comes to serve as a vehicle for conceptualizing “tradition and cosmos” such that the structure of the cosmos replicates itself in the structure of the body.¹⁴ The body becomes, says Flood, a “cosmography” or a “writing of the cosmos.”¹⁵ In Kashmir Śaivism in particular, the Goddess is portrayed as dwelling in the body as a specific kind of śakti, the kunḍ : alinī, envisioned as a coiled serpent residing at the base of the spine. The kunḍ : alinī is both the Goddess and a psychospiritual energy that can move up and down various energy centers in the body, the cakras, uniting with the divine male energy that resides at the level of pure consciousness, puruṣa, often identified with Śiva.¹⁶ Kunḍ : alinī yoga is, in essence, a reversal of the process of creation¹⁷ that functions as a basic paradigm for the process of spiritual liberation; it is a return to a primordial unity that transcends all duality and all creation, embodied in the duality of male and female, god and goddess, pure consciousness—as the male puruṣa—and manifestations of the Goddess as śakti/māyā/prakrti. : Maleness and femaleness as complementary forces pervade the universe on all ¹⁴ Flood 2006: 4–5. ¹⁵ Flood 2006: 28. ¹⁶ Cf. Flood 2006; Silburn 1988; White 2003.

¹⁷ Brown 1993: 158, 162.

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levels, from the highest manifestation of the Supreme Godhead to the most subtle levels of the human person.

DEVOTIONAL PERSPECTIVES: THE GODDESS AND HER MANY FORMS Kathleen Erndl observes that Śākta theology portrays the Goddess as “accessible, immanent, and worldly” as well as the “matter-energy that underlies all reality,”¹⁸ often invoked as “Mātā” or “Mā” (“Mother”). As an object of devotion, Devī is both transcendent and immanent, beyond creation but simultaneously attentive and available to her devotees. Kinsley describes the Goddess in her capacity as śakti, prakrti, : and māyā as “an overwhelming presence that overflows itself, spilling forth into the creation, suffusing the world with vitality, energy, and power”; she can take forms that can be benign and loving or fierce and destructive as well as everything in between.¹⁹ The Goddess in fact has numerous manifestations that Hindus honor and revere in a diversity of religious environments. Coburn notes in this regard that divinity is a relational quality or status that particular communities or texts assign to a particular deity.²⁰ Among Hindus, a diversity of goddesses may assume the status of Supreme Goddess depending on the particular text, community, or other context. Across a variety of settings, the Goddess’s qualities as śakti and prakrti, : with māyā often subsumed under one or the other of these categories, persist and manifest themselves in her many forms. Many scholars have observed that just as energy or power, śakti, can be both constructive and destructive, so can Hindu goddesses. Lawrence Babb seems to have been among the first to assert that in Hindu religious symbolism, marriage seems often to domesticate the potentially destructive power that goddesses embody.²¹ Unmarried goddesses can act on their own, but when they do, they can be quick to anger and potentially dangerous. Many scholars, building on Babb’s initial observation, have affirmed or elaborated on this pattern. Susan Wadley, for example, notes that Hindu goddesses who are married and have thus transferred control of their sexuality to their husbands are generally benevolent, whereas independent goddesses in charge of their own sexual agency tend to be dangerous and even potentially malevolent.²² David Shulman also observes that the dangerous and sinister aspects of the Goddess are transmuted into positive, beneficent qualities in the context of marriage and domestication.²³ Following suit, A. K. Ramanujan and Wendy ¹⁸ Erndl 1993: 158, 162. ²¹ Babb 1975: 219–26.

¹⁹ Kinsley 1986: 136, 144. ²² Wadley 1980: 116–19.

²⁰ Coburn 2001. ²³ Shulman 1980: 212, 223–6.

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Doniger O’Flaherty divide goddesses into two categories, one beneficent and the other malevolent, which are deemed “goddesses of the breast” and “goddesses of the tooth.” Beneficent goddesses are generally married and subservient to their husbands whereas goddesses who are potentially malevolent may dominate their consorts and are sexually more free.²⁴ This distinction expresses itself also in terms of rank, for goddesses in the first group tend to be highranking while those in the second group are low-ranking.²⁵ Other scholars have challenged this schema of breast/tooth goddesses, however, as it strikes them as an overly simple model of married/benevolent versus unmarried/malevolent. C. Mackenzie Brown, for example, suggests that this “marriage control model,” as he calls it, simply does not fit the portrayal of the Goddess in the Devīmāhātmya and the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna, : where the Goddess is unmarried and powerful yet not in any way malevolent.²⁶ Stanley Kurtz argues that it is in fact primarily the nurturing, motherly qualities of a goddess, either married or unmarried, over any other that cause a goddess to be seen as benevolent and the lack of such qualities that cause other goddesses to be seen as malevolent.²⁷ Kathleen Erndl observes that the model does not : work regarding the Goddess as Śeranvālī, the “Lion Rider,” in Northwest India, who, Erndl notes, “straddles the fence on almost every characteristic mentioned” in the dichotomy that Ramanujan makes between breast and tooth goddesses.²⁸ I have also noted that an order–disorder dynamic might be more fundamental than a marriage control scheme: goddesses who promote cosmic and social order, dharma, even when they must be destructive to do so, tend to be portrayed in a positive light.²⁹ Babb was among the first Western scholars writing about goddesses also to connect explicitly the benevolent and dangerous or destructive aspects of goddesses to the idea of ritual temperature in Hinduism. Blood, anger, fever, illnesses, and violence are all associated with heat. While goddesses generally are relatively hot in comparison to male deities, some are hotter than others.³⁰ Village and local goddesses seem particularly prone toward manifesting “hot” attributes, although such qualities can vary from context to context, and misreadings occur. Writing about Śītalā, for example, the goddess who has come to be widely associated with smallpox, Babb claimed that the goddess is “manifestly hot, and she must be cooled if the unpleasant consequences of her anger are to be avoided.”³¹ Other scholars, however, have noted that in fact Śītalā’s name indicates that she is “the cool one.”³² Fabrizio M. Ferrari has in recent work argued that the association between Śītalā and pox illnesses seems to have been largely a modern fabrication, that only Bengali sources describe ²⁴ ²⁶ ²⁹ ³¹

Ramanujan 1986; O’Flaherty 1980. ²⁵ O’Flaherty 1980: 90–1. Brown 1990: 122–5. ²⁷ Kurtz 1992: 20–6. ²⁸ Erndl 1993: 156. Pintchman 1994: 204–5. ³⁰ e.g. McGilvray 1998: 22. Babb 1975: 131. ³² Wadley 1980: 55.

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Śītalā in terms we might deem to indicate a “hot” nature, and that in fact Śītalā is more broadly understood among Hindus to be a protector of children, especially from fever and boil diseases.³³ The qualities of temperature, from cool to hot, can be applied to categories like foods and as well as goddesses.³⁴ Hence, for example, among Tamils in South India, mango and papaya are generally viewed as heating fruits, while coconut and lime are generally seen to be cooling.³⁵ With respect to the śakti that goddesses embody, hot energy is allied with anger, sexuality, danger, and being out of control, while cool energy has an opposite set of connotations. C. J. Fuller claims that single goddesses are normally very hot with power that is “symbolically equated with both heightened sexual energy and a capacity for angry violence,”³⁶ while wifely goddesses, who are able to release their sexual energy, are normally cool. Unreleased sexual energy and violence are, claims Fuller, closely linked.³⁷ Here again, however, one must note that the hot–cool model, like the marriage control model, has its limits and simply cannot be applied to every context. Both Sarasvatī and Śrī-Lakṣmī are goddesses who tend to be portrayed in brahminical Hindu texts mainly as cool, benevolent goddesses. Sarasvatī, for example, appears in Vedic scripture as a fertile, powerful, purifying rivergoddess associated with medicine and healing and descended from the heavens to earth.³⁸ She is a maternal figure who nourishes her progeny.³⁹ The Brāhmanas : equate Sarasvatī with Vāc, the goddess of speech, and connect her to cosmogony, where she plays the role of a catalyst who activates the genesis of the cosmos.⁴⁰ In the Purānas, : although Sarasvatī continues to be identified with life-giving waters and sap, that identification becomes more marginal as her associations with poetry, music, and speech—as well as intellect, meditation, and spiritual transcendence—come to the fore.⁴¹ Kinsley observes that the predominant themes in Sarasvatī’s appearance are purity (sattva) and transcendence, and she is usually portrayed as calm and peaceful.⁴² I would argue, however, for another quality that seems fundamental to her nature: Sarasvatī is that which flows. Just as water flows, so does artistic and musical inspiration, which are her gifts; she also inspires the flow of knowledge that occurs in learning and the flow of consciousness that occurs in meditation. While she is technically married to the deity Brahmā, she is most often not depicted with him in temple or other devotional images, and there is generally little to no emphasis placed on her domestic or wifely nature. She is in full possession of her own beneficent powers, which she may or may not bestow on devotees according to her desire.

³³ ³⁷ ³⁹ ⁴¹

Ferrari 2015. ³⁴ e.g. Beck 1969. ³⁵ Fuller 2004: 45. Fuller 2004: 46. ³⁸ Macdonnell 1974: 86; Kinsley 1986: 56–7. Pintchman 1994: 40. ⁴⁰ Pintchman 1994: 47. Kinsley 1986: 57–60. ⁴² Kinsley 1986: 62.

³⁶ Fuller 2004: 45.

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Like Sarasvatī, Śrī-Lakṣmī, too, is portrayed in brahminical Hindu texts as a largely cool, benevolent goddess. Also like Sarasvatī, Śrī-Lakṣmī has Vedic roots. Vedic hymns celebrate and extoll all that is auspicious, or śrī, and the qualities that characterize auspiciousness are linked together. By the late Vedic period, Lakṣmī emerges as an embodiment of all traits that are śrī, and “the Vedas now sing of śrī (Śrī) and lakṣmī (Lakṣmī), sometimes as two independent goddesses, and at other times as one and the same goddess.”⁴³ In the Purānas, : śri comes to be personified consistently as the goddess Lakṣmī, who is now affiliated with Viṣnu : and frequently portrayed as married to him. As Viṣnu’s : wife, Lakṣmī maintains an association with fecundity and auspiciousness, but her nature as a loyal wife who is submissive to her husband comes more to the fore.⁴⁴ Frédérique Apffel Marglin notes that auspiciousness itself is a religious ideal in Hindu traditions: categories that exemplify worldly auspiciousness include weddings, sexuality, and progeny; wetness and rains, abundance of food, and the wellbeing of crops; health, medicines, and bodily wellbeing.⁴⁵ Kingship and lordly power also embody auspiciousness, for the strength of a king manifests itself in the production of rain and good crops. The divine prototype of earthly kings is Viṣnu, wife, : and as Viṣnu’s : Lakṣmī embodies the life-giving powers that sustain the sovereignty of kings.⁴⁶ The Purānas : also portray other female forms, including human women, as embodiments of Lakṣmī and identify her with the four “wealths” or goals (caturartha) of human life: kāma (sensual pleasure), artha (material prosperity), dharma (balanced, righteous living), and mokṣa (spiritual liberation).⁴⁷ Śrī-Lakṣmī, like Sarasvatī, may bestow her benevolent gifts upon devotees and hence is generally viewed as in possession of her own power. Unlike Sarasvatī, however, Śrī-Lakṣmī is frequently represented together with her divine husband and is often worshipped along with him. Kālī, by contrast, has often been portrayed as a largely “hot” goddess with destructive tendencies. While there is little written about her in Hindu scripture prior to the Devīmāhātmya, Thomas Coburn observes that in the Vedic texts, the adjective kālī, or “black,” has inauspicious associations, and he notes that the Mahābhārata connects a black goddess with destruction.⁴⁸ In the Devīmāhātmya, where Kālī plays a central role, the goddess emerges from Devī’s forehead on the battlefield in the context of war; Devī becomes very angry as she faces her demonic opponents, and Kālī springs from her forehead. Hence Kālī is the Goddess’s concentrated anger. She violently rips apart the bodies of her opponents, consuming their flesh and blood. Kinsley describes her as almost always having a “terrible, frightening appearance” with long, disheveled hair, sharp fangs, and clawlike hands; she adorns herself with body

⁴³ Rhodes 2010: 19. ⁴⁶ Marglin 1985: 181–4.

⁴⁴ Kinsley 1986: 28. ⁴⁵ Marglin 1985: 175–81. ⁴⁷ Rhodes 2010: 30–42. ⁴⁸ Coburn 1991: 21.

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parts of her victims and threatens world stability.⁴⁹ He notes further that she is sometimes depicted as the consort of Śiva, and in those contexts, she incites him also to wildness and disorder.⁵⁰ Kālī and Śiva are also prominent in Tantric traditions, which sometimes depict them in sexual union. Kālī’s destructive capacity means that she can also be dangerous and can spin out of control. In this regard, Roxanne Kamayani Gupta argues that we might view Kālī as an embodiment of all that to which we must simply surrender, including time, fate, and especially death.⁵¹ Gupta juxtaposes her reading of Kālī with modern, Western feminist readings of Kālī, which tend to interpret Kālī as a feminist role model and portray her fierce power as symbolic of female defiance and independence. Ultimately, however, how goddesses appear on the hot–cool, dangerous– benevolent spectrum depends very much on the particularities of context. Stanley Kurtz observes, for example, that the 1975 film Jai Santoshi Maa (Victory to Santoṣī Mā!), which propelled a new goddess, the “Mother of Satisfaction,” to fame and sparked an upsurge in devotion to her, also portrayed Lakṣmī and Pārvatī not as benevolent or subservient spouse goddesses, but instead as jealous and malevolent deities in comparison to the nurturing and kind Santoṣī Mā.⁵² Recent scholarship on Kālī, similarly, maintains that there are in fact many Kālīs and many ways to conceive of her.⁵³ Indeed, Hindu depictions of Kālī have tended to domesticate and sweeten her, especially since the eighteenth century, portraying or interpreting her not as wild or dangerous, but instead as largely demure, motherly, and benevolent.⁵⁴ Patricia Dold claims that scholars seem to have imposed their preference for a wild Kālī on their study of her even prior to the colonial period and calls for a more nuanced reading of her complex nature.⁵⁵ How the creative– destructive, cool–hot range of Śakti’s potential expresses itself is rooted in the particularities of that expression. Ultimately, however, the complexity of the Goddess’s nature as śakti in devotional Hinduism, manifest in the many dynamic forms she assumes, suggests that Hindu goddess traditions place an emphasis on the sacralization of ordinary life: learning, artistic creation, wealth, fertility, anger, sexuality, and even death are not mundane or profane processes but are instead associated with divine female energy. Furthermore, Hindu goddess traditions tend to embrace and give expression to the full spectrum of human experience, encompassing life and death, creation and destruction, growth and decay. The Goddess’s nature as matter, prakr: ti, is manifest in devotional Hinduism especially in what some scholars have referred to as Hindu sacred geography,

⁴⁹ Kinsley 1986: 116–19. ⁵⁰ Kinsley 1986: 119. ⁵¹ R Gupta 2003: 141. ⁵² Kurtz 1992. ⁵³ Kripal and McDermott 2003: 14. ⁵⁴ e.g. Menon and Shweder 2003; S. Gupta 2003. ⁵⁵ Dold 2003: 41.

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with individual goddesses exemplifying imagery of nature as sacred.⁵⁶ Texts as : early as the Vedic Samhitās celebrate the earth, Bhūmī or Pr: thivī, as a goddess who gives rise to all creation. Several Vedic hymns address Pr: thivī as “mother” and praise her as the source of the manifest world. One of the most elaborate descriptions of Pr: thivī as maternal wellspring of all that exists appears in Atharva Veda 12.1, a hymn that celebrates Pr: thivī’s bountiful nature as the source of plants and herbs and implores her to pour forth milk and nectar to feed her children. In later Hinduism, the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna : celebrates the manifest world as the body of the Goddess and describes the universe as a form of the Goddess herself. The Devī-Gītā section of that text equates diverse parts of the cosmos with different parts of the Goddess’s cosmic body. The universe is said to be the Goddess’s heart, while the sky is her head, the earth her loins, and the mid-regions her navel; the sun and moon are her eyes, the wind her breath, and the four directions are her ears. Parts of the earth are also homologized with her body parts, with the text proclaiming that the ocean is her belly, the mountains her bones, the rivers her veins, and the trees her hair (DBP 3.22–35).⁵⁷ The idea of the earth as embodying the Goddess persists also in the story of the dismemberment of Satī, Śiva’s second wife. This story is recounted in several Sanskrit sources, including a number of the Purānas, : and has become well known in contemporary lived Hinduism. Upon learning of Satī’s death after she leaves her body, Śiva becomes distraught, and he wanders about in grief carrying Satī’s corpse. To lift Śiva out of his misery, Viṣnu : or another divine agent intervenes to cause portions of Satī’s body to fall to various spots on the earth. Each of these spots then becomes a place of pilgrimage called a pīt ḥ a, a “seat” of the goddess. Today there are numerous spots that claim pīt ḥ a status, and a large number of pīt ḥ as endure as important pilgrimage places that honor a variety of goddesses. Diane Eck notes that in some versions of the story, especially those found in the Śiva and Kālīkā Purānas, : it is clear that Satī is a sacrificial victim who comes to be dismembered and then reconstituted as the land of India, united for Hindus not by political borders but as portions of the goddess’s body, creating a sense of unity that binds together a vast number of place-specific goddesses.⁵⁸ Hindu texts and traditions also tend to regard a number of natural phenomena as goddesses. Rivers in India, for example, are overwhelmingly viewed as female and frequently also as divine. While the waters of Indian rivers are generally held to be purifying, they are also seen as fertile and able to grant abundance to those who honor or bathe in them. Among the most well: known river goddesses are Gangā and Yamunā, whose sources in the Himalayas, : Gangotrī and Yamunotrī, are included in the well-traveled Himalayan pilgrimage ⁵⁶ Eck 2012; Kinsley 1987. ⁵⁷ Cf. Brown 1990, 1998, and 2002. ⁵⁸ Eck 2012: 287–97; Sircar 1973: 5–7.

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route to the four divine dhāms, or “abodes.” These four dhāms also include Badrīnāth, a Vaiṣnava site, and Kedārnāth, a Śaiva site. I noted earlier that : Sarasvatī first appears in Vedic literature as a river goddess although no such river can be found in contemporary India. Anne Feldhaus observes that in Maharashtra, too, where she has conducted her field research, Hindus tend to view rivers as mothers and to emphasize their nature as sources of food, wealth, good health, children—in short, all that is associated with auspiciousness.⁵⁹ Food in general, and grain in particular, is also seen as a form of the goddess and embodied in the goddess Annapūrnā, : “the one filled with food.” Annapūrnā : is honored particularly during the Annakūta festival that takes place in autumn, when Hindus feast on grain-based foods and construct mountains of food in many temples. Many trees and plants, especially those with healing or medicinal properties, are similarly held to be goddesses. Tulsī, the basil plant, is one such goddess embodied as vegetation. Tulsī is lauded as a healing and life-enhancing medicinal herb, and traditional Hindu (Ᾱyurvedic) medicine prescribes Tulsī for a number of illnesses and conditions, including fever, diabetes, malaria, encephalitis, and respiratory problems. Tulsī exemplifies many of the auspicious qualities held by Lakṣmī and is similarly aligned with Viṣnu’s : sovereign authority. During the Hindu month of Kārtik (October–November), Tulsī comes to be elevated to the status of divine bride. This is the day known as Prabodhinī Ekādaśī, “waking eleventh.” It is on this day that Viṣnu : is said to waken from his slumber during the inauspicious caturmāsa, the four months of the rainy season. It is also the day on which many Hindus celebrate and reenact the marriage of Tulsi to Viṣnu Village god: or his incarnation (avatāra) Kr: ṣna.⁶⁰ : desses, too, who are tied to specific localities, are often embodied in trees, stones, anthills, and other natural formations. Patterns that underlie the Goddess’s relationship with the material realm demonstrate the many ways Hindu goddess traditions problematize any notion of a clean divide between the spiritual and material domains and call into question the relevance of distinctions that are sometimes made in the study of religion between, for example, sacred and profane or religious and mundane. They also raise questions regarding the alliance between the worship of goddesses and reverence for the natural world with modern environmental goals. Contemporary Western appropriations of goddess imagery, such as those we see in ecofeminism, tend to ally reverence for goddesses and nature with modern ecological efforts.⁶¹ Underlying such views is the assumption that the veneration of nature, or viewing nature and natural forms as sacred, may be inherently conducive to modern ecological aspirations. In some ecofeminist

⁵⁹ Feldhaus 1995: 60.

⁶⁰ Pintchman 2005.

⁶¹ Sjoo and Mor 1987.

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writing, a turn to goddess religion and viewing the earth as a goddess, are seen as confirming the ultimate dependence of all creatures upon the earth for existence and hence affirming our need to care for the divine mother who sustains us all. However, Vijaya Nagarajan and Kelly Alley have noted instead that religious reverence for nature is sometimes completely at odds : with modern ecological goals.⁶² Perceptions of the Gangā as a goddess, for example, feed a lack of care ethic, for the goddess has descended to earth in liquid form to serve the human community, not the other way around; : Gangā is eternally pure, and no amount of toxic sludge dumped in her waters can change that religious assessment. David Haberman observes that as a goddess in the form of a river, Yamunā has, similarly, become so polluted that in Delhi it is a river of death more than a giver or sustainer of life, although he remains hopeful that Hindu religious devotion can be harnessed to turn the situation around.⁶³ A similar paradox pertains to Vaiṣno : Devī, a goddess who has become well known in modern times as an object of devotion and pilgrimage. She is enshrined in a mountain cave in the state of Jammu-Kashmir, in the Himalayas, where she appears in the form of three pinḍ : is, or rounded stones. These stones embody Sarasvatī, Lakṣmī, and Kālī as well as the three gunas : of prakr: ti (sattva, rajas, and tamas).⁶⁴ This site is surrounded by beautiful mountains, sacralizes nature, and emphasizes the Goddess’s embodiment in nature. Yet, far from inspiring ecologically minded behavior, the increasing popularity of this pilgrimage site has resulted in infrastructure development and tremendous environmental degradation in the area surrounding the Vaiṣno : Devī complex.⁶⁵ These traditions also call into question the idea that devotion to nature and nature goddesses is inherently conducive to a gentle, woman-centered, even feminist spirituality—another underlying assumption of some forms of ecofeminism and feminist spirituality.⁶⁶ The rise of Bhārat Mātā, “Mother India,” belies this association. Bhārat Mātā is a relatively new way of thinking about the Goddess as the land, and now the nation state, of India. While Bhārat Mātā is not the same as Bhūmī or Pr: thivī, “Earth,” she partakes of analogous symbolism: Mother India is her rivers, mountains, trees, and so forth. Lise McKean notes that worship of the land of India as a divine mother leaps into history in 1882 with the publication of Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s novel Ānandamat ḥ (Monastery of Bliss), where heroic Hindu men dedicate themselves to setting free a subjugated and enslaved Mother India from the rapacious clutches of the British.⁶⁷ This imagery comes to be reconfigured in post-Independence India to include an understanding of the modern nation of India as a loving mother threatened by a tyrannical father, embodied in both ⁶² Nagarajan 1998; Alley 1998. ⁶³ Haberman 2006. ⁶⁴ Rohe 2001; Erndl 1993: 39–44. ⁶⁵ Sharma and Raina 2014. ⁶⁶ Eller 1995: 130–49. ⁶⁷ McKean 1996a: 144–5; 1996b: 252–4.

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the secular state and Muslims, who then become targets of Hindu nationalistinspired violence. Embedded in this discourse is also a view of women as vulnerable and in need of protection by muscular sons, husbands, and fathers. Hence McKean highlights the nationalist and patriarchal objectives of what she calls Mother India’s “militant matriots.”⁶⁸ At least in the case of Mother India, the conception of the natural realm as a goddess, here embodied as the very land of India itself—its rivers, mountains, soil, and sacred geography of Hindu places of pilgrimage—does not inherently support a woman-centered or feminist ethic in mainstream Hindu environments. In fact, evidence that Hindu goddess traditions are broadly conducive to women’s equality or social empowerment seems lacking in Hindu history.

SOCIAL PERSPECTIVES: WOMEN AS E MBODIMENTS OF THE GODDESS As we see with respect to Bhārat Mātā, it is not at all clear from Hindu examples that the worship of goddesses has had a significant impact on real gender relationships among Hindus or that a strong tradition of goddess worship results in acceptance of more powerful or dominant social, political, religious, or economic roles for women. Coburn notes, in this regard, that the depiction of the Goddess as supreme deity in texts like the Devīmāhātmya is just one part of a broader context, where “thinking about gender is shaped by many factors other than the fact that the Devīmāhātmya happens to be a text praising the Goddess.”⁶⁹ Devotion to Hindu goddesses or the Supreme Goddess is not the special domain of women in Hindu traditions, and talk of the Goddess is not really a strong part of Hindu Indian feminist discourse, which tends to be more concerned with the tangible social, political, and material conditions of women’s lives than with religion. As a symbol, however, the Goddess and her many forms can be and have been deployed in diverse ways to justify a variety of arrangements when it comes to human gender relationships.⁷⁰ Symbols are multivalent; they are tied into a rich and complex web of meanings and associations, some of which might even contradict one another (water, for example, has symbolic associations with both life and death). Therefore, symbols can be interpreted in many different ways. As Paul Ricoeur observes, symbols contain a surplus of meaning, so they give rise to endless exegesis. No given categorization, says Ricoeur, “can embrace all the semantic possibilities of a symbol.”⁷¹ What a ⁶⁸ McKean 1996a: 144–7. ⁶⁹ Coburn 1991: 172. ⁷⁰ Cf. Hiltebeitel and Erndl 2000. ⁷¹ Ricoeur 1976: 55–7.

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symbol means is not predetermined but finds expression in particular embodied contexts. Any religious symbol can engender a variety of different interpretations that can shape a symbol’s social and ethical implications. Hindu accounts of cosmogenesis described earlier, for example, emphasize complementarity between male and female elements in the context of a normative gender binary. The complementarity often masks inequality, with the male seen as in control of, directing, or guiding the female. Assertions of equality between the ultimate male God and his consort are quite common throughout the Purānas, : but in fact it is usually the male who is really supreme in Vaiṣnava and Śaiva environments. The androgynous form of the Divine as : Brahman is what Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty has called a male androgyne, not a true androgyne, for she argues that not all androgynes are equal.⁷² Several Purānas : proclaim, for example, that ultimately there is no distinction between Śakti and the possessor of Śakti (śaktimat), who is Brahman, but it is always the male who possesses the Goddess. Śakti is never described as the possessor of her consort. The tendency is to portray femaleness, embodied in the principles śakti, prakr: ti, or māyā, as lacking autonomous status. While there are exceptions to this pattern—e.g. the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna, : where the Goddess is definitely superior to the male gods—the predominant pattern is a complementarity that is not really gender-equal. In speaking of the Tantric body, Flood notes it is a “pre-modern, ‘conservative’ body that conforms to the structure of tradition and confirms the matrix of social power.”⁷³ The same is generally true of the divine body in Purānic : cosmogonies, which by and large preserve male hegemony even while emphasizing gender complementarity. Usha Menon, however, who looks at Goddess materials in contemporary Odisha, offers a positive reading of such complementarity on the divine realm as a model of male–female complementarity in the social realm. In her analysis of ways the Goddess is portrayed in the town of Bhubaneshwar, which is largely Śaiva in orientation, Menon argues that the complementary relationship that exists between Devī and Śiva reflects “the complementary relationship between mortal men and women that exists in the human realm as well.” She maintains that in Odisha, while men and women are different and unequal, that inequality is “‘context-sensitive’, moving in favor of women and then against them depending on particular circumstances.”⁷⁴ There exist also examples of women who have drawn on seemingly traditional, subservient images of goddesses and heroines to sanction non-traditional, nonsubservient roles and activities for Hindu women. Sarojini Naidu is one such example. Naidu was an activist in the Indian nationalist movement at the turn of the century when India was still under British rule. To affirm her work in the movement, she invoked the models of Sītā and Sāvitrī, both of whom are often ⁷² O’Flaherty 1980. ⁷³ Flood 2006: 29–30. ⁷⁴ Menon 2001: 52, citing Ramanujan 1990.

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interpreted as embodying the ideal of the perfect, devoted wife and tend to be portrayed as anything but modern feminist role models. Naidu, however, reinterpreted what these goddesses represent, arguing that, like traditional “good” Hindu women who serve as devoted wives and mothers, Westerneducated and politically active women were also acting out the traditional ideals of service and sacrifice embodied by Sītā and Sāvitrī.⁷⁵ Arvind Sharma, noting that Satī and Sāvitrī are often portrayed on a continuum as models of traditional wifely behavior, instead opposes them with one another and ruminates that Sāvitrī might represent a higher ideal. Sāvitrī is famous especially for channeling her śakti to bring back to life her dead husband, Satyavān. Sharma notes that unlike Satī, who destroys herself in the fires of tapas to preserve her husband’s honor, Sāvitrī uses her tapas in the service of life, not death. He observes further that both Satī and Sāvitrī choose their own husbands and hence could support such an ideal among Hindu women who want to choose their own marriage partners rather than have their parents choose for them.⁷⁶ Rachel McDermott notes that the fierce goddess Kālī has been trumpeted as a powerful role model in some New Age and feminist circles.⁷⁷ Ironically Kālī and other goddesses with well-known fierce forms serve most often as anti-role models for Hindu women in India. To tell a girl or woman she is acting like Kālī, for example, is usually meant as an insult or disciplinary measure. There are exceptions, however, and some women deliberately and self-consciously appropriate fierce goddesses or fierce goddess behaviors to justify conduct that goes against the grain of conservative gender standards. Along these lines, in the 1980s Ritu Menon and Urvashi Butalia founded an explicitly feminist press called “Kālī for Women.” Sarah Caldwell observes, too, that Durgā functioned as a social role model for Phūlan Dēvī (1963–2001) in her striving for vengeance against those who had wronged her. Famously known as the “Bandit Queen” who stole from the rich to give to the poor and powerless, Phūlan Dēvī began life very poor and low-caste. She endured a childhood of abuse before being married off at a young age to an older man who allegedly beat and raped her repeatedly. She eventually ended the marriage but continued to suffer physical and sexual abuse at the hands of others in her village. She joined forces with a local gang of bandits and married one of its members, Vikram Singh, who helped her take revenge on her former husband by castrating and humiliating him. After Vikram Singh was killed and Phūlan Dēvī again suffered rape and torture—this time at the hands of a rival gang—she escaped, reclaimed her power, and vowed revenge on all the men who had abused her and others without access to power. She is suspected of having ordered the mass murder of twenty-two high-caste men and perhaps

⁷⁵ Ratté 1985: 367–9.

⁷⁶ Sharma 2011.

⁷⁷ McDermott 1996 and 2003.

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of having participated in the slaughter. After spending time in jail, Phūlan Dēvī was elected twice to parliament before being assassinated in Delhi at the age of 37. In wreaking vengeance on those who had wronged her, Phūlan Dēvī saw herself as an incarnation of Durgā, the restorer of dharma and slayer of demons, and identified with Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and female police chief Kiran Bedi, both of whom public discourse had also equated with Durgā.⁷⁸ In his insightful discussion of feminist uses of goddess symbolism, Larry D. Shinn notes that literalistic interpretations of religious symbols, especially when such symbols are understood “primarily (or only) as explicit models of sacred realities to be emulated…usually reflect social or political realities and interests” and have been used to justify repressive social or political agendas, including those pertaining to gender. But he also charges that scholars who acknowledge only sexist interpretations of god symbolism and champion the Goddess as a uniquely feminist symbol are equally guilty of using a literalistic interpretation of religious symbols to justify a sociopolitical agenda. “Ironically,” he remarks, “it would seem that those who would save women from such politically or socially motivated literal interpretations of religious symbols, commit the very same mistake in offering the Goddess as the explicit embodiment of feminine roles and/or attributes.”⁷⁹ Hence, while there is no inherent, invariable relationship between powerful goddesses and the advocacy of women’s empowerment, there are potentially empowering interpretations of goddesses that may or may not be articulated or effectively appropriated just as there are potentially disempowering interpretations of the same goddesses. Hindu goddesses may therefore provide an opportunity for women’s empowerment when actively invoked in support of women’s power.

REFERENCES : Alley, Kelly D. 1998. “Idioms of Degeneracy: Assessing Gangā’s Purity and Pollution.” In Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India, ed. Lance E. Nelson, 297–330. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Babb, Lawrence. 1975. The Divine Hierarchy: Popular Hinduism in Central India. New York: Columbia University Press. Beck, Brenda E. F. 1969. “Colour and Heat in South Indian Ritual.” Man 4:553–72. Brown, C. Mackenzie. 1990. The Triumph of the Goddess: The Canonical Models and Theological Visions of the Devī-Bhāgavata Purāna. : Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

⁷⁸ Caldwell 2004.

⁷⁹ Shinn 1984: 192.

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Brown, C. Mackenzie. 1998. The Devī Gītā: The Song of the Goddess, translation, annotation, and commentary. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Brown, C. Mackenzie. 2001. “The Tantric and Vedāntic Identity of the Great Goddess in the Devī Gītā of the Devī-Bhāgavata Purāna.” : In Seeking Mahādevī: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess, ed. Tracy Pintchman, 19–36. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Brown, C. Mackenzie. 2002. The Song of the Goddess: The Devī Gītā: Spiritual Counsel of the Great Goddess. Translation with introduction. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Caldwell, Sarah. 2004. “Subverting the Fierce Goddess: Phoolan Devi and the Politics of Vengeance.” In Playing for Real: Hindu Role Models, Religion, and Gender, eds. Jacqueline Suthren Hirst and Lynn Thomas, 161–78. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Coburn, Thomas. 1982. “Consort of None, Śakti of All: The Vision of the DevīMāhātmya.” In The Divine Consort: Rādhā and the Goddesses of India, eds. John S. Hawley and Donna M. Wulff, 153–65. Boston: Beacon Press. Coburn, Thomas. 1984. Devī-Māhātmya: The Crystallization of the Goddess Tradition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Coburn, Thomas. 1991. Encountering the Goddess: A Translation of the Devī-Māhātmya and a Study of Its Interpretation. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Coburn, Thomas. 1996. “Devī the Great Goddess.” In Devī: Goddesses of India, eds. John S. Hawley and Donna M. Wulff, 31–48. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Coburn, Thomas. 2001. “What is a ‘Goddess’ and What Does It Mean to ‘Construct’ One?” In Seeking Mahādevī: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess, ed. Tracy Pintchman, 213–25. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Dold, Patricia. 2003. “Kālī the Terrific and Her Tests: The Śākta Devotionalism of the Mahābhāgavata Purāna.” : In Encountering Kālī: in the Margins, at the Center, in the West, eds. Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal, 39–59. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Eck, Diana. 2012. India: A Sacred Geography. New York: Harmony Books. Eller, Cynthia. 1995. Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America. Boston: Beacon Press. Erndl, Kathleen. 1993. Victory to the Mother. New York: Oxford University Press. Feldhaus, Anne. 1995. Water and Womanhood: Religious Meanings of Rivers in Maharashtra. New York: Oxford University Press. Ferrari, Fabrizio M. 2015. Religion, Devotion and Medicine in North India: The Healing Power of Śītalā. London: Bloomsbury. Flood, Gavin. 2006. The Tantric Body: The Secret Tradition of Hindu Religion. London: I. B. Taurus. Fuller, C. J. 2004. The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Gupta, Roxanne Kamayani. 2003. “Kālī Māyī Myth and Reality in a Banaras Ghetto.” In Encountering Kālī: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West, eds. Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal, 124–42. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

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Gupta, Sanjukta. 2003. “The Domestication of a Goddess: Carana-tīrtha Kālīghāt ,̣ the : Mahāpit ḥ a of Kālī. In Encountering Kālī: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West, eds. Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal, 60–79. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Haberman, David. 2006. River of Love in an Age of Pollution: The Yamuna River of Northern India. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006. Hawley, John S. 1996. “Prologue: The Goddess in India.” In Devī: Goddesses of India, eds. John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, 1–28. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996. Hiltebeitel, Alf, and Erndl, Kathleen M. (Eds.) 2000. Is the Goddess A Feminist? The Politics of South Asian Goddesses. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press; New York: New York University Press. Kinsley, David. 1986. Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Kurtz, Stanley. 1992. All the Mothers Are One: Hindu India and the Cultural Reshaping of Psychoanalysis. New York: Columbia University Press. McDermott, Rachel Fell. 1996. “The Western Kālī.” In Devī: Goddesses of India, eds. John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, 281–313. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. McDermott, Rachel Fell. 2003. “Kālī’s New Frontiers: A Hindu Goddess on the Internet.” In Encountering Kālī: In the Margins, At the Center, In the West, eds. Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal, 273–95. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Macdonnell, A. A. 1974. Vedic Mythology. [Reprint of 1898 edn.] Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1974. McGilvray, Dennis B. 1998. Symbolic Heat: Gender, Health and Worship among the Tamils of South India and Sri Lanka. Middletown, NJ: Grantha Corporation, 1998. McKean, Lise. 1996a. Divine Enterprise: Gurus and the Hindu Nationalist Movement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. McKean, Lise. 1996b. “Bhārat Mātā: Mother India and Her Militant Matriots.” In Devī: Goddesses of India, eds. John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, 250–80. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Marglin, Frédérique Apffel. 1985. Wives of the God-King: The Rituals of the Devadasis of Puri. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Menon, Usha. 2001. “Mahādevī as Mother: The Oriya Hindu Vision of Reality.” In Seeking Mahādevī: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess, ed. Tracy Pintchman, 37–54. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2001. Menon, Usha, and Richard A. Shweder. 2003. “Dominating Kālī: Hindu Family Values and Tantric Power. In Encountering Kālī: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West, eds. Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal, 80–99. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003. Nagarajan, Vijaya Rettakudi. 1998. “The Earth as Goddess Bhū Devī: Toward a Theory of ‘Embedded Ecologies’ in Folk Hinduism.” In Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India, ed. Lance E. Nelson, 269–95. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

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O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. 1980. Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pintchman, Tracy. 1994. The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Pintchman, Tracy. 2001. “The Goddess as Fount of the Universe: Shared Visions and Negotiated Allegiances in Purānic : Accounts of Cosmogenesis.” In Seeking Mahādevī: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess, ed. Tracy Pintchman, 77–92. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Pintchman, Tracy. 2005. Guests at God’s Wedding: Celebrating Kartik among the Women of Benares. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Ramanujan, A. K. 1986. “Two Realms of Kannada Folklore.” In Another Harmony: New Essays on the Folklore of India, eds. Stuart H. Blackburn and A. K. Ramanujan, 41–74. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Ramanujan, A. K. 1990. “Is There an Indian Way of Thinking?” In India through Hindu Categories, ed. McKim Marriott, 41–58. New Delhi: Sage. Ratté, Lou. 1985. “Goddesses, Mothers, and Heroines: Hindu Women and the Feminine in the Early Nationalist Movement.” In Women, Religion, and Social Change, eds. Yvonne Y. Haddad and Ellison Banks Findly, 351–76. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Rhodes, Constantina. 2010. Invoking Lakshmi: The Goddess of Wealth in Song and Ceremony. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Ricoeur, Paul. 1976. Interpretation Theory. Fort Worth, TX: Texas Christian University Press. Rohe, Mark Edwin. 2001. “Ambiguous and Definitive: The Greatness of Goddess Vaiṣno : Devī.” In Seeking Mahādevī: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess, ed. Tracy Pintchman, 55–76. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Sharma, Anita, and Anil K. Raina. 2014. “Environmental Impacts of Tourism in Katra Town (J & K).” International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering, and Technology 3/6 (June): 13740–6. Sharma, Arvind. 2011. “Satī, Suttee, and Sāvitrī.” In Woman and Goddess in Hinduism: Reinterpretations and Re-envisionings, eds. Tracy Pintchman and Rita D. Sherma, 19–31. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Shinn, Larry D. 1984. “The Goddess: Theological Sign or Religious Symbol?” Numen 31/2: 175–98. Shulman, David. 1980. Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Śaiva Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Silburn, Lilian. 1988. Kunḍ : alinī: The Energy of the Depths. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Sircar, D. C. 1973. The Śākta Pīt ḥ as. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Sjoo, Monica, and Barbara Mor. 1987. The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth. New York: HarperOne. Wadley, Susan. 1980. “Śītalā: The Cool One.” Asian Folklore Studies 39/1: 33–62. White, David. 2003. Kiss of the Yoginī: “Tantric Sex” in Its South Asian Contexts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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2 From Magic to Deity, Matter to Persona The Exaltation of Māyā Bihani Sarkar

In the first chapter of the Devīmāhātmya, the goddess Durgā, whose mythologies the latter work narrates in the form of a liturgy, is introduced as a deity called Mahāmāyā, a name let us translate very generally for the time being as Supreme Magic. Supreme Magic stands apart from Durgā, whose powers are shown in the stories of the Devīmāhātmya to manifest on the battlefield of heaven and whose rituals are instructed in this and other religious guides to be performed in the season commencing battle. More abstraction than figuration, Mahāmāyā is an ambivalent illogical power that ensnares beings in the labyrinth of transmigratory existence : (samsāra), causing them to experience the plethora of emotions making up the world. At the same time she can release them from this “hole of delusion”, said to be our world of endless rebirth, into an ultimate reality level free of : samsāra’s binding effects. Within the theology of the Devīmāhātmya, it is the story about Mahāmāyā that implicitly articulates a soteriology by envisioning her as the cause underlying the movement of beings within bound and ultimate freed reality. Nowhere else in the Devīmāhātmya, nor indeed in any other myth about Durgā, do we find expressed a similar interest in a view of the basis of reality as we do in descriptions of Durgā as Mahāmāyā. It is clear that, while she acquires a personality only through the words and visualizations belonging to Durgā, Supreme Magic comes from elsewhere. The key issue is this: Mahāmāyā, separated from Durgā, is more a concept of the metaphysics of Being than a goddess of war and fortified communal spaces. So if not from a warrior environment, where is Mahāmāyā from? In this chapter, I will search for an answer in earlier intellectual traditions on cosmogony, in which we find the notion of Mahāmāyā elaborated by classical Indian philosophers in the context of the formation and structure of reality, and with which the deified Mahāmāyā in Durgā’s tradition was clearly conversant.

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MAGIC, LO VE, AND SLEEP: MAHĀMĀ YĀ IN THE LEGEND S O F DURGĀ Turner’s Comparative Dictionary of Indo-Aryan Languages, which provides morphological collocations not only in Sanskrit but also in Middle Indic and New Indic languages, shows a number of meanings for the word māyā.¹ In its oldest and most widespread sense, it can mean supernatural power, skill, illusion, deceit, and trickery, meanings that appear in Vedic literature as well as in many later vernaculars. In Pālī and Prakrit it can also mean compassion. In later Sanskrit it can mean sexual love. In certain vernaculars, such as Kashmiri and Nepali (and also in Bengali), māyā means love or mercy rather than magic. Ambiguity, then, is represented in the usage of this word, as it is in the conception of Mahāmāyā herself, for each of these meanings plays an important part in her presentation in religious literature. The locus classicus of Durgā’s legends, the Devīmāhātmyā, casts Mahāmāyā as the principle of delusion (moha), an enchantress (mohinī) creating paradoxes for beings to experience. Muh, the root whence the word moha, can also mean “to captivate” or “to seduce.” In the characterization of the Devīmāhātmya, Mahāmāyā’s play of moha, nothing but the full range of existence itself, is also a play of seduction into a heady web of pleasurable objectivity and enigmatic paradox. At the same time she is ultimate knowledge, Vidyā, that surpasses limited objective knowledge and in that form can liberate from the trap of phenomenal experience she herself had forged while ruling over other gods as their highest deity. : jñāninām api cetāmsi devī bhagavatī hi sā || balād āk:rṣya mohāya mahāmāyā prayacchati | tayā vis:rjyate viśvam : trailokyam : sacarācaram || saiṣā prasannā varadā n:rnā m bhavatī muktaye | : : sā vidyā paramā mukter hetubhūtā sanātanī | : samsārabandhahetuś ca saiva sarveśvareśvarī || Indeed, that goddess Mahāmāyā powerfully attracts the hearts of even wise ones and grants [them] delusion (mohāya). She emits the universe with its three worlds and with what is mobile and immobile. She, the Boon-Giver, when pleased, causes liberation for men. She is ultimate Knowledge (vidyā paramā), the permanent cause of Liberation. The Cause, too (ca), of the bondage of transmigration, she alone is the goddess over all the gods. (DM 1.42–1.44)²

¹ From the online version of Turner 1962–6: http://dsalsrv02.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/ search3advanced?dbname=soas&query=maya&matchtype=exact&display=utf8. ² All translations are by the author unless otherwise stated.

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At the heart of the Devīmāhātmya’s presentation of Mahāmāyā’s great cosmic trick of life is the view that existential moha represents the nature of love. The narrative preamble to Mahāmāyā’s introduction is a story of a king, a merchant, and a seer. King Suratha, having lost his kingdom after being duped by his close ministers, had escaped into a forest and there met Samādhi, a merchant who had similarly been deceived by his family and dispossessed of his fortune. Both, though, were perplexed by their absence of hatred toward those near and dear who had so cruelly deceived them. On meeting a seer, Sumedhas, they asked him why they felt this paradoxical emotion. The seer explained that beings in the world must grapple with chaos at all times since they are ensnared in illogical states of being. That illogicality, caused by the goddess and indeed identified with her, is love. Anti-logic, anti-determinism, ravishing torture—Love, in fact, says the sage—is life, the essential conundrum experienced by bound souls such as the king and the merchant that the goddess perpetuates. In this way, the depiction of Mahāmāyā’s “fraud” of transmigratory existence is charged with an uncertainty—does she grant bondage or does she gift love? jñānam asti samastasya jantor viṣayagocare | viṣayaś ca mahābhāga yāti caiva p:rthak p:rthak || divāndhāḥ prāninaḥ kecid rātrāv andhās tathāpare | : kecid divā tathā rātrau prāninas tulyad:rṣt ạ yaḥ || : jñānino manujāḥ satyam kintu te na hi kevalam | : yato hi jñāninaḥ sarve paśupakṣim:rgādayaḥ || . . . . . . . . jñāne ‘pi sati paśyaitān patagāñ chāvacañcuṣu | ād:rtān mohāt pīḍyamānān api kṣudhā || kanamokṣ : mānuṣā manujavyāghra sābhilāṣāḥ sutān prati | lobhāt pratyupakārāyā nanv ete kim : na paśyasi || tathā mamatāvarte mohagarte nipātitāḥ | : mahāmāyāprabhāvena samsārasthitikārinā : || All [bound] creatures have knowledge in the field of sense-faculties. A faculty of sense, O you of mighty fortune, attains [objects of sense] in different ways. Some beings are blind by day. Likewise others are blind by night. Some beings can see equally during the day and the night. True, men are knowledgeable, but they are not indeed the only ones, since everything such as cattle, birds, and wild animals possesses [this kind of ] knowledge. . . . Even though they have [objective] knowledge, behold these birds that are diligent in dropping morsels in the beaks of birdlings out of love [moha] despite being tortured by hunger. O Tiger amongst men, people are filled with love for their children out of greed for favors in return—Indeed why cannot you see this! Therefore, they are cast into a spiral of love, a grotto of delusion, by the power of Mahāmāyā, which enables the preservation of transmigration. (DM 1.34–1.40)

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If moha=mamatā=māyā, as the passage suggests, then a link is established between delusion/illusion, love, and magic (as also reflected by the etymological range of māyā). Mahāmāyā can mean more than one, essentially perplexing, state: Supreme Magic, Supreme Illusion, or even Supreme Love as in the vernaculars. The Devīmāhātmya presents a fascinatingly elusive conception in which various shades melt into each other. In its vision, Mahāmāyā’s supremacy derives from her being the ineluctable center of a vast cosmic network, in which all beings are helplessly submerged, which is nothing but moha in its panoply of illusion, seduction, and compassionate love. Through her, Durgā is connected to the fundamental paradox of exist: ence, larger cosmic causation, and a resolution to the problem of samsāra in the form of a transcendent reality. The iconic substrate to which Mahāmāyā is attached is Durgā’s earliest form, Nidrā or Yoganidrā, a goddess considered to be Viṣnu’s meditative : sleep, who causes beings on earth to sleep and also to die. Through Nidrā, Mahāmāyā acquires the properties of sleeping, dreaming, and trance. She becomes thereby a composite deity whose ability to delude the universe with a simulacrum of reality is seen to be a larger cosmic manifestation of Nidrā’s ability to put beings in a swoon. The sage goes on to say: tan nātra vismayaḥ kāryo yoganidrā jagatpateḥ | : mahāmāyā hares caitat tayā sammohyate jagat || Therefore do not be astonished at this. The “Yogic Sleep” of the Lord of the Universe is Hari’s “Supreme Magic.” And this universe is “led astray/cast into illusion/captivated” by her. (DM 1.41)

There follows a story to illustrate Mahāmāyā as Viṣnu’s meditative sleep : (DM 1.47–1.78). At the emergence of two asuras, Madhu and Kait ạ bha, who went on the rampage while Viṣnu : took his repose in the middle of the universal ocean, panic-stricken Brahmā sang a hymn to the goddess to awaken her consort so that he could slay the demons. Roused by his laud, the goddess oozed forth from the apertures of Viṣnu’s body and awoke Viṣnu, : : who then proceeded to annihilate the two demons. Brahmā’s prayer tells us much about the visual appearance of this mysterious intercessory effusion NidrāMahāmāyā. She carries a sword, a spear, a mace, a discus, a conch shell, a bow and arrow, a bhuṣunḍ : ī, and a bar (DM 1.61), of which three are recognizable implements of Viṣnu : and are represented in icons of Nidrā in South India and Southeast Asia. But more than what it reveals about her form, his hymn tells us of her relation to cosmogonic causation, just like the sage’s explanation of the goddess had described her largely as the principle of existence. First she is extolled as the subtle constituents of pure reality, the sound inherent in mantras, and even those sounds that are ineffable:

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: : : tvam svāhā tvam svadhā tvam hi vaṣat ḳ ārāsvarātmikā | sudhā tvam akṣare nitye tridhāmātrātmikāsthitā | ardhamātrāsthitā nityā yānuccāryā viśeṣataḥ | : : tvam eva sā tvam sāvitrī tvam devi jananī parā | You are [the mantra] Svāhā. You are [the mantra] Svadhā. You indeed are the nature of the [invocatory] sound Vaṣat .̣ O eternal Syllable, you are the nectar present as the three-syllables [A-U-M]. You are that especially unutterable sound, ever present in half a short syllable. O goddess, you are the supreme mother, the Gāyatrī mantra. (DM 1.54–1.55 ab.)

Even as she is Pure Sound, she is also described as its grosser conceptual antonym, the substance of nature. The hymn calls her Prak:rti (Primordial Nature) whence the material evolutes (guna) : of the: universe arise, the cause of emission, preservation, and final destruction (samh:rti), but specially connected to the terrible night when the last in mythic imagination was held to manifest: : tvayaitat dhāryate viśvam tvayaitat s:rjyate jagat | tvayaitat pālyate devi tvam atsy ante ca sarvadā | : vis:rṣt ạ u s:rṣt ị rūpā tvam sthitirūpā ca pālane | : tathā samh:rtirūpānte jagato’sya jaganmaye | mahāvidyā mahāmāyā mahāmedhā mahāsm:rtā | mahāmohā ca bhavatī mahādevī mahāsurī | : prak:rtis tvam hi sarvasya gunatrayavibhāvinī | : | kālarātrir mahārātrir moharātriś ca dārunā : You bear this universe. You emit this world. You preserve this. At all times, you O Goddess, devour [the world] at its end. You are Creation at the time of emission, you are Preservation in the time of protection and likewise you are Destruction at the end of this universe, O you who consist of the universe. You are Supreme Knowledge, Supreme Magic, Supreme Intelligence, recalled as Supreme, Supreme Illusion, Supreme Goddess, Supreme Deity. You are Prak:rti, the cause of the three gunas : in everything, the Black Night of Destruction, the Great Night, and the dreadful Night of moha. (DM 1.56–1.59)

Finally, she is called the potentiality (śaktiḥ ) in all matter (vastu), the unmanifested state of raw power prior to manifestation. : yat ca kimcit kvacit vastu sad asad vākhilātmike | : : tasya sarvasya yā śaktiḥ sā tvam kim stūyase tadā || Whatever matter, true or false, wherever, O you whose nature is complete—you are the potentiality of all that. In that case, should I praise you? (DM 1.63)

While the later myths of the Devīmāhātmya show the goddess to be engaged in the world of the gods (svarga) as a fighting warrior, this first myth, locating itself in the center of the cosmos, shows her as its conjuror and substance. Her

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magical causation of the antithesis to bondage, absolute knowledge Vidyā granting liberation, which is present in the sonic components of mantras, is re-emphasized towards the end of the Devīmāhātmya: vidyā tathaiva kriyate bhagavadviṣnumāyayā | : tayā tvam eṣa vaiśyaś ca tathaiva anye vivekinaḥ || mohyante mohitāś caiva moham eṣyanti cāpare || Lord Viṣnu’s Māyā likewise creates [liberating mantric] Knowledge. You, this : vaiśya, and other similarly discriminating beings are entranced/deluded by her and other deluded/entranced beings will attain illusion/love. (DM 13.2–13.3ab)

ILLUSION, MAGIC, AND CAUSATION: MAH ĀMĀYĀ IN INDIAN PHIL OSOPHY The understanding of Mahāmāyā as the source, even the artist, of senseperceived reality in all its variety in the Devīmāhātmya can be found throughout Indian philosophy. While present in Vedānta, it is conceptually prominent in the Sāmkhya and the Śaiva Siddhānta, systems that unlike Vedānta are : dualistic, that is, which differentiate sentience from active causation, identifying Māyā or a similar entity as the latter. Among these, Māyā forms an essential component of the Śaiva Siddhānta. The fundamental elements of reality are threefold in the Siddhānta: Śiva, the Soul (Puruṣa), and Māyā, and while sentience is seen to be located in the first two, active causation is seen to reside in the last. Sadyojyotiḥ (fl. c.675–725 CE³), the earliest known among its : writers, says of Māyā in the Tattvasamgraha: vik:rteḥ parato māyā nityā vibhvī hy acetanā caikā | sargasthitivilayānām ādhāraḥ kārana : m : ca sā jagataḥ || Indeed, beyond transformation is Māyā, permanent, all-pervasive, insentient, and single. The receptacle of emission, preservation, and destruction, she is the cause of the universe. (Tattvasamgraha 26) :

While Śiva and the soul are conscious, plural, immutable, and endowed with consciousness, the cause of the universe is unconscious, single, and potent with transformation (viḳrti) (Tattvatrayani:rnaya 3–4).⁴ While they are inactive, she is full of constant and varied activity. ³ Dates given in A First Edition and Translation of Bhat ṭ ạ Rāmakant : ḥ a’s Tattvatrayanirnayaviv : :rti, ed. and trans. Goodall et al. (2008), 311 and n. 1. ⁴ Bhat ṭ ạ Rāmakant : ḥ a’s Tattvatrayanirnayaviv : :rti, ed. and trans. Goodall et al., 320–1.

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In the Siddhānta structure of realities, Māyā, impelled (literally shaken) by Śiva, creates the five substrates that bind the entire impure universe (aśuddhādhvan) below ultimate reality. These five are kalā (part/atom), niyati (destiny/the determinism of karman), kāla (time), rāga (passion), and vidyā (sense-derived knowledge).⁵ These products, the building blocks of Māyā forming the worlds that we inhabit, constitute layers occluding the individual soul—hence they are known as kañcukas—inhibiting its inherent powers of omniscience and ubiquity that would otherwise make it equal to Śiva. Māyā’s products, along with a universal “black matter” the Siddhāntins call mala, weigh souls down within the aśuddhādhvan, which consists of the five products of Māyā and below them the older cosmological ladder of twenty-five : realities inherited from the Sāmkhya system. Above the world of Māyā’s artistry lies an ethereal realm of pure mantras, the śuddhādhvan, which are free of her products and composed of subtle Sound, comprising in descending order the levels of Śiva, Śakti/Śivā, Sadāśiva, Īśvara, and Vidyā (pure knowledge innate in incantations).⁶ Māyā forms a bridge to these pure transcendent levels,⁷ and once souls pass from māyā into those higher realms they are liberated by acquiring equanimity with Śiva. Needless to say, there is an ambiguity in the way Māyā is perceived in this system, as there also is in the Devīmāhātmya. The cause no doubt of our world, an artist who uses tools to build our experience, a cosmic “doer,” even a deity of propitiation who will reveal the future to the worshipper,⁸ she is also described in some Siddhānta sources as a horrific goddess, an enemy, a deluder fooling souls into confusing samsāra with liberation,⁹ or a femme : fatale leading men to their doom.¹⁰ We find these ambiguities in the Devīmāhātmya too, for there Mahāmāyā casts hapless beings in thrall within lower levels of the universe and like a tyrant-magician disposes them at her will. But paradoxically these aspersions reveal an implicit deification, for though Māyā is insentient matter that moulds the entire range of worldly products—like dead clay (m:rd vat) as the exegete Aghoraśiva says—the Siddhāntins have granted it/her a persona, so that we end up with a rather strange entity in this system: an insentient goddess, or even, one might say, temptress-matter. However, it is not everywhere in Siddhānta literature that this temptressmatter’s effects in the realm of the aśuddhādhvan are viewed simply as terrible, sense-clouding, ensnaring encumbrances wrought at will. Sadyojyotiḥ in fact argues that Māyā’s generation of the worlds bound by the five occlusions and mala in which unliberated souls move has a vital purpose: bhoga (experience/ ⁵ Goodall 2016: 82–92. Goodall’s extensive research on all aspects of the Siddhānta beginning with his DPhil has yielded the most comprehensive and learned studies on the subject. ⁶ Goodall 2016: 7. This provides the most up-to-date and thorough history, including diagrams, of the tattvas in the Śaiva Siddhānta system. ⁷ Goodall 2016: 99. ⁸ Goodall 2016: 97. ⁹ Goodall 2016: 97–8. ¹⁰ Goodall 2016: 98.

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pleasure). While samsāra is an illusory trap, it is also vital for the soul to : experience in order to become prepared for an alteration into an ultimate : state. It is here that the Devīmāhātmya’s outlook of samsāra as inevitable illogicality chimes with the Śaiva Siddhānta perception of Māyā’s function in granting bhoga to the individual soul so that it matures. The examples of illogical conditions it provides, such as loving one’s malefactor, or feeding one’s children despite being ravenous oneself, are in fact self-expansive paradoxes. Altruism may lack logical explanation but how can an individual achieve self-purification without it? This is what the Devīmāhātmya implicitly teaches and Mahāmāyā, identified as love, is the driving force behind mysteries that enrich bound reality. The illusion of bound reality is in fact not something misleading—it’s not that we are all wasting our time in this world—but a vital experience granting maturity to souls for an afterlife.

M ĀYĀ I N T H E BHOGAKĀR I KĀ According to Sadyojyotiḥ , Māyā provides the soul with all the conditions that are required for ascending the cosmogonic ladder and entering liberation. The bound soul, he argues, is fundamentally a bhogin, entitled to experience or take pleasure in those conditions. These conditions of binding reality constitute bhoga, a word that comes from the root bhuj, which can mean to eat, consume, or relish. The notion of feasting, pleasure, and enjoyment through experience is thus contained in the semantic range of bhoga, which, as an ontological category, we can accordingly understand as the consumable, tasted object that a bound soul as bhogin finds delectation in. Presented here in some detail is what Sadyojyotiḥ has to say on this topic in the Bhogakārikā (Verses on Experience), followed at each step by the interpretive commentary of Aghoraśiva, a later commentator who further illuminates the ideas. : jagadbījam mahāmāyā janyaśaktir acetanā || : : tasyāḥ kalādisambhūtir bhoginām bhogabhūtaye | The seed of the universe, whose potentiality is to be born, who is unconscious, is Mahāmāyā. Through her the origin of Kalā etc., which bestows a wealth of : Experience to those entitled to experience [the impure world] (bhoginām bhogabhūtaye). (Sadyojyotiḥ , Bhogakārikā 117–18ab)

Aghoraśiva frames this verse with the following introductory comment: : ittham bhuvanātmikām api tattvas:rṣt ị m uktvā proktasya kalādirūpasya jagataḥ : : paramopādānām māyām sādhayati

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Thus describing the creation of the reality levels, which also encompasses the worlds, [Sadyojyotiḥ ] establishes Māyā to be the supreme efficient cause (upādānam) of the universe, which, as stated before, has as its form [her products that constitute impure levels] such as Kalā.

In this view (with which Aghoraśiva concurs) the bound soul and Māyā are in close association, for, in the form of her products, she grants enjoyment/ experience to it, which is envisaged as an awakening of the soul’s intelligence and a function of its sentience. Imperceptible herself, Māyā manifests her nature as a plurality of transformations sensed by the soul that are latent in her in the form of potentialities always about to be born. In this respect, Sadyojyotiḥ says: anekābhir vicitrābhiḥ śaktibhiḥ śaktimaty asau || vicitrānantakāryānā | : m : darśanāt sampratīyate : She is known as Powerful through many various potentialities because we see her various infinite effects. (Sadyojyotiḥ , Bhogakārikā 118cd–19ab)

Aghoraśiva has much to say about the implication in this verse that Māyā’s nature, rather than being secondary, is ontologically critical as the cause of an unlimited tapestry of experienced effects. Expanding this assumption, Aghoraśiva introduces Sadyojyotiḥ ’s verses 118cd and 119ab, reinforcing her as an all-encompassing principle of active creation by interpreting her name to be derived from the root mā (to measure out/to pervade/to contain). mahatī cāsāv anekasrotorūpasvakāryavyāpter māyā ca māty asyām : pralaye : sarvam aśuddham : jagad iti māyā | sā ca jagadbījam jagataḥ kalādirūpasya pratipuruṣam : bhedenānekatvād bhuvanādhāratvāc ca kāryarūpasya sarvasya sākṣāt paramparayā copādānam | ata eva janyaśaktiḥ sūkṣmarūpasvakāryaśa: ktisamāhārātmikā satkāryavādābhyupagamena sarvakāryānā : m śaktirūpena : tatrāvasthānāt | upādānatvād eva m:rdādivad acetanā | tatas tasyāḥ kalādibho: gasādhanasambhūtir ity uktam || śaktisamāhārātmakatām evāsyāḥ prakat ạ yati This one is mighty and she is Māyā because she pervades her products (-svakāryavyāpter māyā) whose forms are in countless streams. Since (iti) the entire impure universe is contained (māti) in her (asyām) : at the time of destruction, she is known as Māyā. And she is the seed of the universe, the material cause, directly and [indirectly] through a sequence, of everything whose form is an effect because of the fact that the universe whose nature is Kalā etc. is manifold for different bound souls (pratipuruṣam : bhedena) and because of the fact that Māyā is the locus of the worlds. Thus she is one whose potentiality is about to be born, whose nature is a collection of potentialities that are her own effects, whose forms are : subtle, because, given that we accept the [Sāmkhya] doctrine of Satkārya [that the effects are latent in the cause], all effects are present in herself in the form of potentialities. Moreover she is unconscious because of the fact that she is the material cause, just like earth [is the unconscious material cause of a pot].

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Sadyojyotiḥ illuminates her very nature as a collection of potentialities [verses 118cd–119ab by Sadyojyotiḥ are now quoted]

In thus explaining why Māyā is śaktimatī (powerful) as stated in the commented text, Aghoraśiva thereby emphasizes Māyā’s power, not of magic—a sense of the word we will assess in greater detail later—but of total containment, much like a mother’s womb contains an embryo. Concluding the point about Māyā’s infinite effects in 119ab, he clarifies: vicitrānantakāryotpattidarśanād vicitrānantakāryaśaktisamāhārātmikāsau jñāyate || She is understood to have as her nature a collection of potentialities that are her various and infinite effects because we can see the arising of her various and infinite effects.

Next, Sadyojyotiḥ states that Māyā is eternal, even though due to her material nature, she lacks sentience: : acidvatām anekatvād vināśitvam suniścitam || nānekā sā tv ato nityā māyā yady apy acetanā | Destruction is certain for those that are unconscious because of the fact that they are numerous. But she is not numerous. Therefore Māyā is eternal even though she is unconscious. (119cd–120 ab)

In his introductory comment to the verse, Aghoraśiva clarifies that Sadyojyotiḥ ’s intention is to emphasize Māyā as the one and only cause of everything, whose products are simply self-born effects and not other creative potencies like her. na tv asyā evānekakāryajanikānekāḥ śaktayaḥ kalpyāḥ tasyāḥ svayam : śaktirūpatvāc chakteś ca śaktyantarakalpanānupapatteḥ paramakāranatvād evāsyā ni: : tyatvam anyathānavasthāprasangād ity abhiprāyenāha : But it is not possible (kalpyāḥ ) [to hold] that through her there arises manifold potentialities that give birth to other manifold effects, because of the fact that she herself is in the form of potentiality, and because it is not possible to imagine the arising of another potentiality from a potentiality. She is permanent only because of the fact that she is the ultimate cause [for all effects]. Were it otherwise, : there would be the unwanted consequence (prasangād) of an infinite chain [of potentialities]. Sadyojyotiḥ has said intending thus [verses 119cd–120ab are then quoted]

As he continues to expound the purpose of Māyā’s function within the domain of causality, we find Sadyojyotiḥ even tending towards monism in the next verses, elevating Māyā in exultant language to the light of creative pervasion, which, though active with change in parts, is unchanging in its entirety: vyāpinī puruṣānantyād bhogāya kurute yataḥ || sarvakāryāni : sarvatra srotobhir viśvadhāmabhiḥ |

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She is all-pervasive because of the infinite number of bound souls, since she produces all kinds of effects in every place for the sake of their enjoyment with her streams whose light [fills] the universe. (120cd–121ab)

Aghoraśiva explains: tad uktam : b:rhaspatipādaiḥ api sarvasiddhavācaḥ kṣīyeran dīrghakālam udgīrnāḥ : | māyāyām anantyān no: cyate srotasām : samkhyā || iti | eṣā ca kṣīradadhinyāyena na sarvātmanā parināmam eti kintu gh:rtakīt ạ nyāyenaikadeśeneti mantavyam| : Thus B:rhaspati has said “Can all perfect sayings spoken for a long time diminish? The number of streams in Māyā cannot be stated because they are infinite!” She does not transform fully according to the principle of milk into yoghurt, but partially, as a part of clarified butter into which an insect has fallen changes—this is what we must understand.

The tone of verses 120cd–121ab exalting Māyā as a provider of bhoga continues in the next verse, for there, Sadyojyotiḥ implies, after stating the immanence of causation and demise in her, that she encompasses all realities of the cosmos. Here we are unsure whether he means that Māyā is the material cause of even the pure levels, but this seems, on the surface at least, to be the intention. : sargasthitilayas tasyāḥ svātmasamsthāḥ prakīrtitāḥ || : : svātmasamstham vikārasya tattvādibhuvānavadheḥ | Creation, Stability and Destruction are said to be present in her nature. Transformations from reality levels (tattvas) to the worlds (bhuvanas) are present in her self. (121cd–122ab)

Whatever his meaning, Aghoraśiva understands differently, and his perception of Māyā is as the material cause of the impure level while he concurs with a view that the source of the pure level is the sonic element bindu. However, he too insists, like Sadyojyotiḥ , that the true form of all transformations, including all worlds and reality-levels, is located in Māyā—once again an ambiguous tenet, for it implies that total, unconditional causality resides in her: evam eva jagataḥ sargādayaḥ bhuvanādeś ca vikār: paramopādānatvān māyāsthā : : asya tattvādisvarūpam svātmasamstham iti tattvabhāvabhūtabhuvanātmakam ca : : : samastam jagad vikārastham eva jñeyam | nanu śuddharūpam api tattvādikam tad : : upādānam ca bindusamjñamāgameṣu śrūyate | : satyam tatprāpter vidyeśvarādipadaprāptirūpatvenāparamuktitvān nātrāsya bhogasādhanatayopādānam ity avirodhaḥ || In this way the Creation [preservation and demise] of the universe are located in Māyā alone because of the fact that she is their ultimate material cause and [because] the true nature—as being reality levels etc.—of transformations such as worlds is : present in herself (bhuvanādeś ca vikārasya tattvādisvarūpam : svātmasamstham).

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Therefore we must understand the entire universe whose nature consists of worlds (bhuvana), the [five] elements (bhūta), the [eight] mental states (bhāva), and the [subtler] reality levels (tattva) as existent only in the domain of [Māyā’s] transformations (vikārastham eva). Surely [one might object] there also exist reality levels etc., which are pure, and one hears of an efficient cause to those levels in scriptures called a bindu! [To that I say] True, but because of the fact that through reaching that [pure set of reality levels] the [soul achieves] secondary liberation in the form of acquiring the state of a Vidyeśvara etc. [the form of Śiva resident in the pure level], it is not in this case an efficient cause by virtue of being a means of achieving experience [of impure products] [Sadyojyotiḥ ’s argument in the Bhogakārikā]. Therefore there is no contradiction [with that viewpoint].

Then Sadyojyotiḥ moves onto the three processes of Māyā: creation, preservation, and universal destruction: sargasthitī samākhyāte layaḥ sargaviparyayāt | Creation and Stability have been explained before, [and one should] understand Destruction as the reversal of Creation. (122cd)

Aghoraśiva adds: pratitattvam utpattikathanena vyāpārapradarśanena ca sargasthitī prokte layas tu sargaprātilomyena svasvakāraneṣ ity arthaḥ || : ūpasamhāra : Creation and Stability have been explained by way of describing the course/ sequence of the rising of every reality level and by showing their [respective] function. But Destruction is the absorption of [each of them] in each one’s cause by the reversal of [the process of] Creation.

Creation, preservation, and death are infinite, Sadyojyotiḥ says, implying that the soul’s delectation of these processes likewise too is eternal: bhavasyānādimattvāc ca sargādigananācyutam | : The enumeration of creation etc. is endless because of the fact that this [transmigratory] existence is infinite. (123ab)

Aghoraśiva comments on the importance of universal destruction as bhoga, which is ambiguous in the original text. Even universal destruction, Aghoraśiva argues in his commentary to this verse, is linked to Māyā’s fundamental purpose in granting enjoyment to the soul, for it grants rest to ceaselessly active Māyā and similarly tired beings caught in the labyrinth of rebirth and time for the fruits of previous action to mature. : anādir iyam : samsāra ity arthaḥ || : nanu bhogasādhanatvād ātmanām yukte sargasthitī layas tu kim artham īśvarena : kriyate | atra vadāmaḥ | anavaratam anantapuruṣabhogajananapacitaśakter¹¹

¹¹ -apacita] emendation, Prof. D. Acharya (private communication); -opacita] Sadyojyotiḥ , Bhogakārikā, ed. Dwivedi, 1988.

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: māyāyāḥ sukumāravanitāyā iva svāpena sāmārthyopodbalanārtham viśra: : : : mārtham ca karmapākārtham ca samhāra ity adoṣaḥ | tad uktam śrīm:rgendre : : tac ca sātmakam ākramya viśramāyāvatiṣt ḥ ate | bhavinām bhavakhinnānām sarvabhūtahito yataḥ || svāpe’ py āste bodhayan bodhayogyān rodhyān rundhan : pācayan karmikam | māyāśaktīr vyaktiyogyāḥ prakurvan paśyan sarvam yad yathā vastujātam | (4.13–15) iti | ittham ātmanaḥ pratipāditam : : sasādhanam : : : bhogam upasamhartum : tasyaiva malātmakam pāśam upakṣeptum cāha The meaning is that this transmigratory existence is without a beginning. Surely, one might object, Creation and Preservation are suitable for souls because of the fact that they are the means to achieving enjoyment, but why has the lord created Destruction? Regarding this I say: The End is in order for the maturation of actions of past births, for the resting of souls, and for the augmentation of the capabilities of Māyā, who, like a delicate lady, is one whose potentialities are wasted from the constant production of enjoyment for infinite souls, through slumber. Thus there is no fault [with my argument that Death too lies in Māyā]. Thus it is said in the M:rgendratantra “That [cause called Māyā] having passed the state of equilibrium with Śiva pauses so that those who must be reborn, and are tired from rebirth, can rest. Since [Śiva] is beneficial to all beings . . . He abides awakening those fit for awakening, checking those that must be checked, maturing previous actions [so that they can take effect], making the potentialities of Māyā fit for manifestation, beholding all entities as appropriate, even in sleep” (4.13–15). Thus in order to conclude [the topic of] Enjoyment along with its mode of achievement which has been created for the soul alone, he says in order to reject the bondage, whose nature is Mala, of that very [soul]: [Sadyojyotiḥ’s verse is then quoted]

Following his previous statement, Sadyojyotiḥ sees the impure mala and kañcuka: determined realm of samsāra not as infinite entrapment but as an infinite object of Enjoyment gifted by—or perhaps being itself, since effect is latent in cause—Māyā: : : : pumsām māyāmayawm bhogyam māyotthair eva sādhanaiḥ || yato bhoktā viśuddhātmā cetanas tan na cetanam | For bound souls, that [effect] consisting in Māyā must be enjoyed through means of enjoyment that arise only through Māyā. Since the Enjoyer whose nature is pure is conscious, while that [thing to be enjoyed] is not conscious. (123cd–124ab)

Aghoraśiva explains that forms of enjoyment such as happiness are not internal properties of the soul but signs of intelligence, of overall maturity, only acquired in response to Māyā. For, this maturation can occur only while the soul is conditioned by Māyā’s envelopments: : : : uktavat sukhādirūpam buddhibodhātmakam bhogyam māyākāryam eva | na tv ātmani : gunatvena samavaiti cetanatvāt tat samavāye puruṣasya parināmādidoṣaprasa ngāc ca | : : tasya ca cetanaḥ puruṣa eva bhoktety uktam | sa ca vakṣyamānavadaviśuddhatvād : āv:rtajñānakriyātvān māyotthaiḥ kalādibhis tattvair upab:rmhita eva tad bhoktum : : : śaknoti kāryakarana : m¹² vinā kiñcijjñatvāder apy adarśanāt ||

¹² kāryakaranam] emendation, Prof. D. Acharya (private commuication); kāryakāranam] : : Sadyojyotiḥ , Bhogakārikā, ed. Dwivedi, 1988.

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The stated thing that must be enjoyed which is in the form of [properties such as] happiness etc., whose nature is [in fact] an awakening of intelligence, is nothing but an effect of Māyā. However, [the thing to be enjoyed] does not inhere in the individual soul as its constituent property [as it does in Nyāya, in which the self has inherent characteristics such as happiness (sukha), knowledge (jñāna), grief (duḥ kha), effort (yatna), and volition (icchā)] because of the fact that the soul is conscious, since, should it be inherent, there would be the unwanted consequence of the soul having faults such as being in flux [while the Śaivas hold that the soul is permanent and unchanging]. Thus it is said that a conscious soul is an enjoyer of that [thing to be enjoyed]. He, only while he is endowed with reality levels such as Kalā arising from Māyā, is capable of enjoying that [thing to be enjoyed] because of the fact that he is impure, his action and knowledge being enveloped [in layers of Māyā], because we cannot even find such properties as limited knowledge without there being instruments of effect.

MA HĀMĀYĀ I N T H E NĀDAKĀR I KĀ If the Śaiva Siddhāntins envisage the insentient goddess to be the seed of the : impure universe, then, at least according to the Rauravasūtrasangraha, they also envisaged her exalted counterpart Mahāmāyā as the creator of the content of the pure cosmos. That work says, having enumerated the impure reality levels : beginning with “ego” (ahamkāra), that “Mahāmāyā [lies] beyond . . . [those]. The permanent receptacle whose powers consist of the creation and the demise of the universe, Mahāmāyā is above Māyā, the cause underlying all causes.”¹³ In the form of Mahāmāyā, the Siddhānta entity of active causation begins to represent total creation, pure and impure, although even in this move towards absolute theism she is said to be, confusingly, insentient matter, inert and unthinking. The notion of Mahāmāyā as the source of the initial stratum of the śuddhādhvan is indicated by the fact that she is identified in the Nādakārikā (Verses on Subtle Sound) 16–17 (as we shall see later) as the source of the subtlest constituent of reality, the sonic component of mantras, and thereby ¹³ The verses in that work (4.26–4.28), quoted also by Aghoraśiva to show a transcendent entity Mahāmāyā, follow (kindly identified and provided to me by Prof. Diwakar Acharya). Parts of the verses that are possibly corrupt are indicated within †. : ahamkāras tridhā jñeyo buddhir aṣt ạ vidhā sm:rtā | : : gunatraya m ca vijñeyam pradhānapuruṣeśvarāḥ | | || : parataś ca mahāmāyā †vidyeśānā vyavasthitāḥ † | †sarvavidyāpariv:rtaḥ † sarvaiśvaryasya vāridhiḥ || jagataḥ pralayotpattivibhutir nidhir avyayaḥ | māyopari mahāmāyā sarvakāranakāra nam || : : : On the Rauravasūtrasangraha, see Goodall 2016: 89–91.

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seen to be identical with Vidyā, the pure reality level immediately above the impure level of Māyā. The process though whereby Mahāmāyā generates the pure world as mantric knowledge Vidyā is different from the evolution of the impure universe through kalā and the other obscurations, and a distinction is envisaged between the functions and roles of māyā and those of mahāmāyā/śuddhavidyā, even though they are clearly twinned. In one respect the deification of Mahāmāyā can be viewed as the Siddhānta’s need to detach the idea of a material cause of the pure universe from the material cause of the impure universe. In the Nādakārikā the tenth-century Siddhānta theologian Bhaṭṭa Rāmakant : ̣ha¹⁴ establishes the causality of nāda, the sound constituent of the pure level, as a single supreme sonic constituent called Paranāda, which he first correlates with Mahāmāyā—that being her most subtle indivisible manifestation—and then towards the end of his work, subordinates to Mahāmāyā as her effect (kāryam). Having established that sounds on the pure level are effects, Bhat ̣t ̣a Rāmakant : ̣ha argues that they must therefore have a source. That source is a single entity Paranāda, which he correlates with the ultimate entities of other religious systems, namely Śākta-oriented Śaiva systems and Vedānta. Among these correlations, Paranāda is identified with the Siddhānta Mahāmāyā and Vidyā. : : tataś caiṣām kāryatvenopādānakārana : m vācyam | : tatsiddho nādaḥ pāraḥ sumangalā mālinī mahāmāyā || samanānāhatabindur aghoṣā vāg brahma kunḍ : alinītattvam | : : vidyākhyam tattvam ity uktam tais tais tadāgameṣv ittham || And, therefore, because they are effects, the efficient cause of these [sounds] must be stated. Thus, an ultimate [subtle] Sound is established as that [efficient cause]. That [ultimate Sound] has been proclaimed accordingly by various [authorities] : in scriptures to be Sumangalā [the highest deity of the Krama], Mālinī [of the Trika], Mahāmāyā [of the Siddhānta], the Mindful, the unstruck bindu, soundless Speech, Brahman, the reality of Kunḍ : alinī [experienced in the body], and the reality level called [pure] Vidyā. (Tattvatrayanirnayaviv : :rti 16–17)

He then goes on to argue against views expressed by grammarians—a strategy corroborated by Aghoraśiva’s introductory statement that “repeating the opinions of others, he goes on to refute [them]” (parābhiprāyam anūdya dūṣayati)—that Speech is an inherent property of the soul, caused by the soul’s latent power of action (kriyāśakti). Supreme Speech, in his argument, is an entity entirely different from the soul and not an outcome of its powers.

¹⁴ Date given in Bhat ṭ ạ Rāmakant : ḥ a’s Tattvatrayanirnayaviv : :rti, ed. and trans. Goodall et al., 311.

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Bihani Sarkar seyam avasthā kaiś cit padavidbhir varnyate kriyāśakteḥ | : iha punar anyaivoktā puruṣāsamavāyinī vāg yasmāt ||

That [subtle Sound, which is the ultimate cause,] is described by certain grammarians to be a state of [Śiva’s] power of action [which is innate to the soul]. In our system, however, it is said to be something completely different, since Speech is not inherent to the individual soul [as it is to the grammarians]. (Tattvatrayanirnayaviv : :rti 18)

This is explained by Aghoraśiva in the following way, and he sees the next verse as an amplification of the previous point: : yasmāt pratipuruṣasya vāksamāvāyābhāvān nādādikramena : śabdotpākatvam na : : yuktam parināmitvaprasa ngāt tasmān naiveyam atroktā | : etad eva prapañcayati Since it is not right that each individual Soul should be able to produce sound beginning with Nāda, given that there is a lack of the inherence of speech in him, because [should the soul possess speech as an inherent property] there would be the unwanted consequence that the soul goes through transformation [since any cause—including Nāda—is inherently mutable]. Therefore, this [state of action, kriyāśaktyavasthā, that is said by grammarians to be the absolute cause of speech] is not proclaimed in our system. He elaborates on this very [topic]:

The next verse referred to by Aghoraśiva in the introductory sentence just quoted says avikāry atrātmoktas tacchaktiś cāpy ato na yogyau tau | bahudhā sthātum : yad vā caitanyavināk:rtau vikāritvāt || The individual soul is said to be unchanging, and so also its innate power. Thus these two cannot abide in different forms. Or else [should they do so] then they would be without consciousness since they would be changing. (Tattvatrayanirnayaviv : :rti 19)¹⁵

Next Rāmakant : ḥ a begins to argue—contrary, it would appear, to his opening position—that even an absolute sonic component is an effect of something and establishes Mahāmāyā as its cause, but in doing so he still holds the view that as a material cause she is insentient. This could partly be in order to harmonize Mahāmāyā’s causal agency with that of Māyā in generating the five impure kañcukas, and it seems at least on the surface that Nāda could be the pure counterpart to the kañcukas. Indeed Rāmakant : ḥ a argues at length on the liberating properties of pure knowledge/nāda, implicitly contrasting it with the binding effect of the kañcukas. The pure sound born from Mahāmāyā that imbues mantras is capable of producing pure entities like Śivas, which people

¹⁵ For the doctrine of a mutable effect being unconscious, see the Sāmkhyakārikā 11. :

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the pure levels, whereas the sounds of Māyā cannot. However, subtle mantric sound also permeates the impure world of Māyā for it is the source of all gross utterances in the universe, and produces diversity in the intelligence of mankind. This is in fact how he ends the Nādakārikā. Since from now on Aghoraśiva’s prose commentary is tightly intertwined within Rāmakant : ḥ a’s verses, in the following discussion they will not be detached from the overall sense of the verses, but signposted by [A], while Rāmakant : ḥ a’s verses are signposted by [R]. [R] tat pumśaktir bhinnā¹⁶ nādopādānakāranatvena | (20 ab) : : : [A] tasmāt pratipuruṣāt tacchakteś ca bhinnā kunḍ a linī nādakārana : : m siddheti || : yady evam māyaiva parināminī nādopādānakāranam iṣyatām ata āha : : [R] acid api śuddhatvān māyāto ‘py anyā tadūrdhvagā kathitā | (20 cd) : : [A] yad uktam māyopari māhāmāyā (Rauravasūtrasangraha 4.28) iti || āgamapramānasiddhā ceyam mahāmāyety āha : : śuddhādhvopādānabhūtā : : : : [R] śuddham vidyātattvam vidyeśānām ca bhogadam bhuvanam | : adhvany uktam cānyaiḥ sadāgamaiḥ śreyase ca taddhetuḥ || (21) vāgbrahmani niṣnātaś cidbrahmāpnoti yena kathayanti | (22 ab) : [A] yad āhuḥ śabdabrahmani ̣: param : nis nātaḥ : brahmādhigacchati ạ d 6/22) iti | (Maitrāyanīyopanis : kiñca [R] siddhir muktiś ca parā nādajñānakriyā ca saphaleti || (22cd) : [A] kathayantīti pūrvakriyānuṣangaḥ || [R] Therefore, different from the individual soul and its innate power, in the form of the efficient cause of Nāda [nādakāratvena] (20ab) [A] Therefore, Kunḍ : alinī [Mahāmāyā in the body] that is different from the innate power of the individual soul is established to be the cause of Nāda. [Here one may say that] if this is the way, you should accept Māyā itself, which is characterized by transformation, as the efficient cause of Nāda. Therefore [Rāmakant : ḥ a] says: [R] —because of her being pure in spite of being unconscious—she [Mahāmāyā] is proclaimed as different from Māyā and higher than that [Māyā]. (20cd) : [A] As it has been stated [in the Rauravasūtrasangraha 4.28]: “Mahāmāyā transcends/lies above Māyā.” [Rāmakant : ḥ a] says that, established further by the authority of the scriptures, Mahāmāyā is the efficient cause of the pure reality levels: [R] The reality level of Pure Vidyā [that houses] the world that grants pleasure to the Vidyeśas [lying] on the path [to perfection], is described by other good scriptures to exist for the purpose of ultimate welfare and [thus] the cause of that [ultimate welfare]. (21) [R] For (yena), they say that one who is immersed in [the contemplation of] the Ultimate Reality of Speech [eventually] acquires the Ultimate Reality of Consciousness. (22ab)

: ¹⁶ pumśakter bhinnā] emendation Prof. D. Acharya on the basis of the accompanying : commentary and verse 20cd, pumśakter bhinno, Ed.

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[A] As it has been said: One learned in the Ultimate Reality of Speech understands the Supreme Reality (Maitrāyanīyopaniṣad 6/22). Moreover, [R] [They say that] Supreme achievement and supreme liberation are there when the action and knowledge of Nāda bear success. (22cd) [A] The phrase “they say,” the verb found in the previous verse, is to be construed with this statement.

If then the meditation of Mahāmāyā as Pure Sound/Knowledge leads to ascension and liberation, the implication is that the ritual of initiation, critical in the Siddhānta system as the first tool in burning the effects of bondage on the soul and propelling it into its higher cosmic strata, is irrelevant. If Pure Knowledge is all that is required, then ritualism, on which the system fundamentally stands, is significantly challenged. Picking out this potential challenge, Aghoraśiva makes an attempt to fit Rāmakant : ḥ a’s emphasis on the soteriological efficaciousness of Mahāmāyā/Vidyā/Paranāda alone, within the ritual apparatus of the Siddhānta: : [A] yady evam : nādajñānād eva paramuktisiddheḥ: katham dīkṣaiva mocinīti śrīmatsvāyambhuvādāv uktam | jñānasyāpi dīkṣāngatvenaiva mokṣasādhanatvān na kevalasyeti vakṣyāmaḥ | api ca sthūlasya pāśarūpasya māyīyasya śabdasya śivādiśuddhavastupratipādakatvāsambhavāt śuddhasya mantratantrātmanaḥ : śabdasya kāranatvenāpy eṣ ā siddhety āha : (23a) [R] mantrādikāranatvād : : [A] tataś cāngārasthānīyeṣu śabdeṣv abhivyaktā agnisthānīyāḥ sūkṣmā mantra: : śabdāḥ kāryakarā bhavantīty uktam śrīmanmatangādau | [A] If there is the achievement of supreme liberation just through knowledge of [the Supreme] Nāda in this way, why then is it said in the scriptures like Svāyambhuvatantra that the ritual of liberation alone can liberate? I would : reply that knowledge [of Supreme Nāda] can be the means of liberation only as an ancillary of initiation not just by itself. Moreover, since a gross word which is a product of [the realm of] Māyā and whose form is a bondage lacks the ability to generate pure entities like Śiva, and also because of the fact that a pure word characterized as a mantra and found in scripture is a reason [for the existence of pure entities] this [Mahāmāyā/Paranāda] is established [as the cause of mantras]. Thus [Rāmakant : ḥ a] says: [R] Since it is the cause of [pure sounds] like mantras . . . (23a) [A] Therefore, the subtle words of Mantras produce effects when manifested, like fire, in these [gross, mundane] words that are as coal, as it has been said in : scriptures like the Matangapārameśvara.

The next conclusion established is the cause of Paranāda, the source of mantras, the sonic elements of the pure realms of the cosmos, to be nothing other than Mahāmāyā, the causal entity generating the musical spheres of the śuddhādhvan. The sonic effects of Mahāmāyā are broadly viewed as antithetical to the effects of Māyā in the aśuddhādhvan, such as rāga, jñāna, and kalā (further argued by Aghoraśiva not to be other causes), just as Mahāmāyā is broadly seen to be the antithesis to Māyā:

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: [A] tataś cāyam tatkāryabhūtaḥ prāgukto nādaḥ [R] vidyārāgādikañcukād bhinnam | (23b) : : tatkāryam abhiṣvangād d:rkkriyayor mīlanāc ca bhinnam yat || (23 cd) : [A] rāgavidyākalānām svakāryair eva siddheḥ kāryāntarahetutve pramānābhāvād : : anekatattvaparikalpanābhāvaprasangāc ca || [A] For this very reason, this Nāda previously mentioned is the effect of that [Supreme Nāda in the form of Mahāmāyā], [R] The effect [in the form of mantras] of that [Supreme Nāda] is different from the obscurities of Knowledge, Passion etc. [that envelop the bound soul] because of [its] connection [with its cause, Nāda] and the revelation [mīlana] of [omniscient] perception and action [to the liberated soul]. (23b–cd) [A] [It is so,] because of the fact that Passion, Knowledge, and the Kalās are established exactly on the basis of their own effects, that there is no proof concerning [any of their] being a cause of any other effect [since Māyā is the single cause], and also that there would be the unwanted consequence of the impossibility of believing in many reality levels.

However, the borderline between a pure sound and an impure, gross sound uttered in Māyā’s underworld—the sounds beings of the everyday world articulate—is not so rigidly impermeable. For Rāmakant : ḥ a, amplified by Aghoraśiva, says that ultimately Paranāda, whose source he states to be Mahāmāyā in verse 24, generates both mantras as well as śabdas, the verbal signifiers of the māyīyajagat (Māyā’s universe). Mahāmāyā and the products of the liberated world are present even within bound souls in the form of language, as vākśakti, which enriches by enabling intelligence. Hence even words from Māyā’s underworld can express purer entities like mantras, and, in this respect, the functions of Mahāmāyā and Māyā are not as mutually distinct as they would first appear in this outwardly neat system of creation, and both causal entities may overlap: [R] sa mahāmāyājanyo nādaḥ paramārthavācako yuktaḥ | : : : yena sthūlam : śabdam mantram tantrātmakam pravartate vāpi || (24) [A] sthūlasya tu tadabhivyañjakatvād vācakatvam ity uktam || etad evopasamharann āha : [R] sā pratipuruṣam bhinnā vākśaktir vācikā sthiteti tataḥ | : vācakajātam : nirmāyāntaratas tad vyanakti bāhye ‘pi || (25) sthūlaiḥ śabdair vyaktāḥ sūkṣmā nādātmakās tato dhvanayaḥ | : : vācyavibhinnām buddhim kurvanto vardhayanti janayātrām || (26) [A] anenaiva ca kramena : mantrāḥ śabdā api śivāder arthasyābhidhāyikā bhavantīty uktam || [R] iti nādasiddhim enām akarot śrībhat ṭ ạ rāmakant : ḥ o ‘tra | nārāyanaka nt h ̣ asutaḥ kāśmīre v r ttapañcavi mśatyā || (27) : : : : [R] That [Supreme] Nāda which must be born from Mahāmāyā is suitable in expressing supreme reality, by means of which gross sounds and also mantras, which are of the nature of the scriptures, evolve. (24) [A] It is said that a gross sound has the ability to express [absolute reality] because it manifests that [supreme subtle Nāda].

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Concluding this topic [Rāmakant : ḥ a] says: [R] When differentiated in individual souls she is present as the expressive power of speech. Having fashioned the range of verbal signifiers she expresses that externally too. Thus, subtle sounds whose nature is Nāda when manifested through gross words augment the lives of men while causing intelligence diversified according to the things that have to be expressed. (25–6) [A] Thus it is said that in this very order, mantras as well as [gross] sounds express [pure] entities like Śiva. [R] Bhat ṭ ạ Rāmakant : ḥ a, son of Nārāyanaka : nt : ḥ a composed this “Establishment of Subtle Sound” here in Kāśmira, in 25 verses.

In the Nādakārikā we can find a thesis of all-encompassing causality and activity in the idea of a doubled principle of creation, Māyā and her supercounterpart Mahāmāyā. Rāmakant : ḥ ā postulates Mahāmāyā’s efficaciousness to be her granting the soul the constituent of pure knowledge and liberation, mantric sound, and ascension thereby into higher cosmic levels, even as her impure counterpart Māyā grants it the products of bondage, experience and heaviness. In his exaltation of the Siddhānta’s causal entity as Knowledge/ Sound, he proposes a path to liberation based on contemplation alone instead of ritualism. It is unclear though what the relation between Mahāmāyā and Māyā is. Are they different entities, or is the former simply an exaltation of the latter? If a single entity, then one can see a duality within her conception for she both binds and liberates, she is both gross and subtle, impure and pure, a duality that is also present in the Devīmāhātmya’s conception of Mahāmāyā as one who can both entrap and liberate the soul from rebirth. It seems that the idea of a hierarchically arranged universe with two material causes, one linked to ultimate reality and the other linked to lower reality, underlies the puzzling duality of the goddess Supreme Magic in Durgā’s mythology, who can straddle both levels and can cause beings to move between them, who is both implicitly denounced for her earthy seductiveness and praised for her glorious transcendence.

Māyā as Prak:rti/Pradhānam As a material cause, Māyā has an illustrious history. The roots of that : conception go back in many respects to the earlier system of Sāmkhya. As pointed out by Goodall,¹⁷ Māyā is equated to Prak:rti in a line in the Śvetāsvataropaniṣad. While Prak:rti herself is subsumed as a reality level far below Māyā in the thirty-six-rung Siddhānta ladder of cosmic hierarchies, there are recognizable overlaps between the Siddhānta conception of Māyā and Mahā: māyā and the Sāmkhya Prak:rti. The Sāmkhyas hold Prak:rti (Primal Nature) to : be the single source of the entire universe, insentient as she is the material ¹⁷ Goodall 2016: 99.

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basis for reality and potent with transformation. Primal Nature is subtle, : perceptible not in itself but only as its mutations (Sāmkhyakārikā 8), which are manifold, constituting all levels of reality below her.¹⁸ As the generative source of the universe (pradhāna), she is, like the thing that she manifests (vyakta), composed of three material components (trigunam). Being insen: tient (acetanam) she cannot discriminate (aviveki). She is a palpable object (viṣayaḥ ) since all insentient matter is objective. She is common to everything (sāmānyam). Her function is generation (prasavadharmi). The opposite of this (tadviparītas) is Prak:rti’s seer, Puruṣa the Soul who is both sentient and : lacking in generative power though manifold in nature (Sāmkhyakārikā 11). : According to the famous statement of the Sāmkhyakārikā (59, 65), the Soul is the audience of Primal Nature’s magical dance of creation. While Spirit watches, Nature acts. While he is never bound or liberated and never transmigrates, Nature in her diverse loci transmigrates, is bound, and is freed : (Sāmkhyakārikā 62). The potency of creation is ever latent in its causal seed Prak:rti. The Siddhānta idea of an unconscious yet dynamic material hub whence all creation flows and ends is strikingly similar to the concept of : causation in the Sāmkhya system, and indeed the terminology, too, is almost identical with regard to Māyā and Prak:rti. Where, though, the Siddhānta departs in its idea of Māyā is by bringing to bear on her the notion of purity and its impact on cosmic stratification. This in fact allows for an articulation of a supreme material cause in the form of Mahāmāyā. : Nowhere, though, in the Sāmkhya, nor indeed in the Siddhānta, do we find an idea that the Cause creates illusions for beings to perceive in a trance-like state. Indeed one might see a problem with this identification in that if Māyā/ Prak:rti is held to be the cause and if her effect in the form of worlds is held to be something for souls to experience, then to say that the world does not exist would be to jeopardize the notion of the stratified cosmos and the experiencing soul placed in it. The notion of Māyā/Prak:rti as illusion or false knowledge that we sometimes find implied in the Devīmāhātmya is embedded rather in the Vedānta. However, the Vedāntins, who unify activity and consciousness in one ultimate entity Brahman, deny that Māyā has anything to do : with causation. In fact, arguing against the Sāmkhya position that the cause of : the universe is insentient Primal Matter (pradhānam), Śankara in his commentary to 1.1.5 of the Brahmasūtra says that “in the Vedānta a cause of the universe : that is unconscious primal nature as envisaged by the Sāmkhyas cannot be held” : (na sāmkhyaparikalpitam acetanam nam śakyam : : pradhānam : jagataḥ kāra : ve: : : dānteṣv āśrayitum (Brahmasūtraśānkarabhāṣyam 25)). Śankara goes on to ¹⁸ The transformations of Prak:rti comprise seven evolutes beginning with intellect and sixteen : below that (Sāmkhyakārikā 3). These form a twenty-five-rung ladder of reality, surmounted by Prak:rti and Puruṣa. These evolutes are subsumed within the Siddhānta, appearing below the five kañcukas (see Goodall 2016: 81).

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argue this proposition by referring to statements in the Upaniṣads that Brahman saw and then emitted the Universe. On this basis he says that the Cause is in fact endowed with consciousness, vision, and hearing, and that Cause is Brahman. For, “an Unconscious Material Source has no ability to be a witness” : (na cācetanasya pradhānasya sākṣitvam asti), and for Śankara the cause must possess consciousness, and must be a perceiver, a sākṣī. On those grounds, Māyā’s role in the cosmic process is rejected. For the Advaitins, Māyā is simply the mirage of erroneous knowledge that gives the impression that the differentiated universe is the ultimate truth, when in fact it is undifferentiated Brahman. In this sense Māyā is indeed impure, bound reality, in the way that it is in the Siddhānta, but it is an entirely illusory one, whereas for the : Siddhāntas and the Sāmkhyas the world of Māyā/Prak:rti is very much existent and something that the soul, as it senses her dynamism, relishes rather than feels entrapped by. : To return to the Sāmkhyas, we find an ambiguity in their doctrine of Prak:rti: though she is insentient and without intellect—the “primal universal stuff,” as it were, that simply acts because such is her nature—there is nevertheless the sense : : glimmering beneath the surface of the Sāmkhyakārikā that the Sāmkhyas perceived Matter as Persona, that unthinking Causation is indeed a thinking artist, that even here there is a tendency, however subtle, of exalted personification, which becomes fully manifested in the Siddhānta exposition of the magical dynamic causal agent of bondage and of liberation.

Māyā as Magic But we are still left with an uncertainty: is Māyā magic or is she causation? In the Devīmāhātmya, they are both tightly intertwined. However, the scale is weighted more on the side of magic than causation in the early story of Nidrā, who is interfused with Mahāmāyā in Vaiṣnava literature, for other Vaiṣnava : : texts such as the Bhāgavatapurāna 5.1.71 and the Viṣnupurā na : : : 6.10.6 also call Nidrā, Mahāmāyā. The earliest known myth is contained in the Harivamśa, : in which she is called Viṣnu’s “secret magic” (gahvarī māyā), an “entrancer of : beings” (bhūtamohinī), visible inside his face (nārāyanamukhe d:rṣtạ̄ ) (Hari: vamśa 40.26–34). The Devīmāhātmya had likewise envisaged magic to be : contained in Viṣnu’s body, exiting from his eyes, mouth, nose, arms, heart, : and chest, before she “stood in Brahmā’s sight” (darśane tasthau brahmano, : DM 1.69). Within Indian mythology, Mahāmāyā is the personification of a male god’s innate magical powers, carrying out the work of the deity while he remains inactive. In the Harivamśa, Nidrā is Viṣnu’s “secret agent,” surreptitiously : : rescuing the infant K:rṣna from the destructive intentions of his uncle on behalf :: of the god. The old Sāmkhya and Siddhānta dualistic model of intelligence and activity, or consciousness and artistry, in perfect collaboration underlies too the separation of deity and magic in legends.

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Causation and magic need not in any case be different, for what is magic but the appearance or transformation of things without logical rationale, the essence of how unconscious, or unreasoned, causation too is understood in : the Sāmkhya and Siddhānta systems of thought? Māyā’s activity—one might say her spectacle—of creation, sustenance, and death is depicted as a spontaneous mesmeric performance of magical marvels, of states in infinite flux, witnessed by her sentient spectators—souls and Śivas. There is an implication that artistry, activity/causation, and magic are all synonymous powers whose locus is the figure of Māyā and her transcendant alter ego Mahāmāyā. Indeed in its oldest usage in the RgVeda, the term māyā can mean both occult powers : and special skill.¹⁹

CO NCLUSION The depiction in the Devīmāhātmya and in early Śākta mythology of Vaiṣnava : orientation of Durgā as Viṣnu’s magical power as well as his sleep—the cause : of bondage as well as of liberating knowledge Vidyā, who is both substance as well as celestial sound—is closely related to conceptions of Māyā in Indian systems of analytical thought, especially the dualistic. While the range of Supreme Magic’s powers, from illusion to causality to magic, is harmonious : with conceptions of Magic in Vedānta, the Śaiva Siddhānta, and the Sāmkhya, the notion of a deity with two roles—one as the lower maker of the constituents of sensory experience, the other as a higher maker of pure sonic knowledge—is particularly close to the Śaiva Siddhānta. Nevertheless, in all three systems this entity of magical activity is treated with profound ambivalence. As a power conjuring up the impure world and associated with experience in this-worldly life, Māyā is an object both of exaltation, as she is for Sadyojyotiḥ in the Bhogakārikā, and of suspicion, for she can suggest false knowledge, the irresistible temptation of limited experience, the impurity causing bondage in transmigration and lower levels of reality. In each of these systems we find a paradox: magical power is insentient and yet implicitly personified. Can one forget Īśvarak:rṣna’s exuberant dancer or Aghoraśiva’s : delicate lady fatigued by incessant birthing? But it is only by becoming a goddess in the folklore of Durgā, whose first appearance is in acquiring a visible form before Brahmā, having exited from the body of Viṣnu, : that the insentient artist-magician of philosophy acquires a living and independent consciousness.²⁰ ¹⁹ Turner 1962–6. ²⁰ This chapter was made possible through the guidance and generosity of Prof. Diwakar Acharya, with whom I read passages on māyā in the Bhogakārikā, the Nādakārikā, the Tattvasamgraha and the :

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Primary Sources Bhāgavatapurāna, : electronic text from the Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages (GRETIL), source unstated, input by Ulrich Stiehl. Bhat ṭ ạ Rāmakant : ḥ a, Nādakārikā with the commentary of Aghoraśiva in Aṣt ạ prakaranam, ed. Pt. Vrajavallabha Dwivedi, 243–4. Varanasi: Sampurnananda Sanskrit : University, 1988. A First Edition and Translation of Bhat ṭ ạ Rāmakant : ḥ a’s Tattvatrayanirnayaviv : :rti: A Treatise on Śiva, Souls and Māyā with Detailed Treatment of Mala, ed. and trans. D. Goodall, K. Kataoka, D. Acharya, and Y. Yokochi, 311–84. South Asian Classical Studies, no. 3. Department of Indology. Fukuoka: Kyushu University, 2008. Devīmāhātmya, draft electronic edition by Prof. Yuko Yukochi, containing transcripts of NAK Nr. 1–1077=NGMPP Nr. A 1157/11; NAK Nr. 1–1534=NGMPP Nr. A 1157/12; palm-leaf manuscript in the possession of Sam Fogg, London. Harivamśa, ed. Parashuram Lakshman Vaidya, et al., vols. 1 and 2. Poona: Bhandarkar : Oriental Institute, 1969–71. ed. and trans. S. S. Suryanarayana Sastri. Publications of Īśvarak:rṣna, : Sāmkhyakārikā, : the Department of Indian Philosophy, no. 3. Madras: University of Madras, 1935. Sadyojyotiḥ , Bhogakārikā with the commentary of Aghoraśiva in Aṣt ạ prakaranam, ed. : Pt. Vrajavallabha Dwivedi, 233–4. Varanasi: Sampurnananda Sanskrit University, 1988. : Sadyojyotiḥ , Tattvasamgraha with the commentary of Aghoraśiva in Aṣt ạ prakaranam, ed. Pt. Vrajavallabha Dwivedi, 137–46. Varanasi: Sampurnananda Sanskrit : University, 1988. : : Śankara, Śrībrahmasūtram Śānkarabhāṣyopetam (Brahmasūtra with the commentary : of Śankara). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2007. Viṣnupurā na, : : electronic text from the Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages (GRETIL) based on the Critical Edition of the Viṣnupurā nam, ed. : : M. M. Pathak. Vadodara: Oriental Institute 1997–9. Secondary Sources Goodall, D. 2016. ‘How the Tattvas of Tantric Śaivism Came to be 36: The Evidence of the Niśvāsatattvasamhitā’. Tantric Studies: Fruits of a Franco-German Collaboration : on Early Tantra, ed. D. Goodall and H. Isaacson, 77–113. Pondicherry: Institut français de Pondichéry; Paris: École française d’Extrême-Orient. Turner, Sir Ralph Lilley. 1962–6. Comparative Dictionary of Indo-Aryan Languages. London: Oxford University Press.

Tattvatrayanirnaya. In addition, his expositions of the tattva system in the Siddhānta as well as the : Sāmkhya were of invaluable help for a novice in philosophy. I wish to thank Prof. Yuko Yukochi for : kindly putting at my disposal her draft electronic edition of Devīmāhātmya.

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Part II The Development of the Goddess Tradition

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3 Lalitā, the Graceful and Enchanting Goddess of Kāñcipuram Sanjukta Gupta

In this chapter I shall give a brief outline of the cult of Lalitā/Tripurasundarī. The cult of Tripurasundarī, the beautiful lady of three cities, is an old Tantric form of religion falling within the broad sect of the Yoginī Kaulas. Evidently in the earlier period (400–800 CE) the cult developed in the northern region of India, and then entered Kashmir.¹ The original followers worshipped the goddess for such worldly rewards as winning the favor of one’s desired woman, as is evident in the earliest extant scripture of the sect, the Nityaṣoḍaśikārnava Tantra. But in the hands of the later Kaulas and possibly under : the influence of the pratyabhijñā doctrine of the Kashmiri Śaivas, the sect reached much deeper spirituality (cf. Yoginīhr: daya Tantra). I shall not deal with theological doctrines of the Tripurā cult, nor with all the texts accepted by the sect as scriptures, but only with the story of goddess Lalitā as told in the Lalitopākhyāna (the conjoined form of the words Lalitā Upākhyāna), an apocryphal section of the Brahmānḍ and the : a Purāna,² : Saundaryalaharī ascribed to Śankarāchārya. Both these are accepted by the : followers of Lalitā as scriptures of the Tripurā cult. Both are mainly of South Indian provenance. I shall also briefly refer to Muttusvāmī Dīkṣitār and his Navāvarana : kīrtanas on Kamalāmbikā. Lalitā, Sundarī, Kamalā/Śrī, Ṣoḍasī, and Bālā are some of the names belonging to the goddess Tripurasundarī, also known as Kāmeśvarī, the

¹ See Sanderson 1990: 156–8. ² Rocher (1986) describes the printed BrP as having three sections (beginning, middle, and : : end) and four parts (Prakriyā, Anuṣanga, Upodghāta, and Upasamhāra). The Lalitā episode consists of the last part, chs. 5–42. Kane places the Purāna at 895–6 CE ; S. N. Roy at c.1000 CE; see : Rocher 1986: 157. See note 12.

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goddess of love.³ Lalitā literally means an attractive and graceful person. She is also a playful person.⁴ The Lalitopākhyāna and Saundaryalaharī frequently : connect the goddess with the enjoyable sentiment of amorous love, śrngāra rasa, of Sanskrit literary aesthetics. Both texts describe Lalitā as enchantingly : beautiful and amorous. But in the Sanskrit kāvya śāstra the word śr: ngāra means much more than just amorous love. In fact Abhinavagupta purges the : : word śr: ngāra from its meaning of just erotic love.⁵ Dhvanyāloka says, “Śr: ngāri cet kaviḥ kāvye jātam rasamayam jagat” (if the poet be replete with erotic sentiment in his kāvya, the universe is suffused with aesthetic enjoyment, i.e. : rasa).⁶ Abhinavagupta glosses the word śr: ngāra as follows: śr: ngāra means the : experience of aesthetic appreciation that arises from an artistic work properly presented by the artist and does not mean a womanizer; it indicates aesthetic enjoyment in general. It can be surmised that the same purging of the meaning : : of śr: ngāra (erotic enjoyment) occurred when Lalitā was identified with śr: ngāra rasa, which thus connected the goddess with literature and the performing arts. For that reason sādhakas (practitioners) who aspired to be artists followed her cult to obtain poetic genius, literary or musical skill.⁷ The object of worship in this cult is indeed the sacred formula known as Śrī Vidyā.⁸ As explained in the Lalitopākhyāna, Vidyā here means the secret knowledge encapsulated in the syllables of the relevant mantra. Śrī Vidyā is the sonic form of goddess Śrī/Tripurā (LU 39.37–40) which, when truly realized, empowers a sādhaka with various powers and even brings about release from recurring : transient existence (samsāra). In esoteric Tantric practice Śrī Vidyā, Śrī Cakra, and the goddess Tripurasundarī are held to be the same unique entity: the Śakti of the supreme reality.⁹ Śrī Vidyā consists of fifteen syllables arranged in three sections. The arrangement of these syllables may vary in different traditions. There are three important traditions of the form of this Vidyā, namely the Hādimata, the Kādimata, and the Kālimata.¹⁰ Different traditions use the basic Vidyā in different sequences of the syllables. In the Lalitopākhyāna, Kādimata is followed. As Sanderson remarks, in Tantric ritual tradition mantras are more real as the identity of the deity lies in the mantra and so any difference in the mantra gives rise to difference in ritual exegesis.¹¹ Śrī Yantra consists of a ³ See Kaviraj 1965: 6–8. TR describes the goddess as follows: Tripurā is the identity of all Śaktis; she is self-illuminating inner consciousness which witnesses all (sākṣī), she is the plenitude of all knowledge and she is beyond limitation (TR 11–45). ⁴ Lalitā here is associated with divine līlā. Gopinath Kaviraj mentions in his introduction to : TR that according to the Śaktisangama Tantra it is the primordial Lalitā who manifests herself in the form of Kr: ṣna (Kaviraj 1965: 7). LU 4.11 says Lalitā creates the universe just playfully and : Śiva, the plenitude of consciousness, is her playmate. ⁵ See Brooks 1992: xxix–xli. ⁶ Dhvanyāloka, 3.42 and Locana thereon. ⁷ TR 20–36. ⁸ See Gupta 2013: 198–268. ⁹ See Lakṣmīdhara’s commentary on SL 41–3 and 98–9. ¹⁰ There are various opinions on these names within the Tripurā tradition. ¹¹ Cf. Sanderson 1990: 136.

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diagram made of nine intertwining triangles which produce nine concentric enclosures or circles with a point in the middle that is enclosed by a triangle. Another point to be noted is that the Lalitopākhyāna tradition seems to be quite close to that of the Saundaryalaharī. The followers of the sect called the Samaya mata accept these two texts to be canonical. Both occupy a place of great esteem and importance in the South Indian Tripurā/Lalitā tradition. Finally, both seem to follow each other in literary style and imagery. The character of the Samaya mata is different from the Kaula and the Trika traditions of the goddess cult. I shall come back to this presently. It is quite clear from the text of the Lalitopākhyāna that it was written in or around Kāñcīpuram. Kāñci was the capital of the Pallava dynasty (c. fourth–eighth century CE). After that the Pallavas lost their territory to the Cholas. Kāñcī continued to be one of the centers of Cola royal power till the thirteenth century.¹² The temple of the goddess Kāmākṣī has a long history. This is well documented by copperplate inscriptions and other epigraphic evidence. As early as the twelfth century CE, the Telugu Chola king Sri Vijaya Ganda Gopala granted the temple a village called Ambāpuram or Ambi and the copperplate has survived till now. Other copperplate grants given by the Vijaynagara royal family (1507 CE), by a Nayaka king of Madurai (1708 CE), and by a Muslim king of the Kutabshahi dynasty, Tana Shah (1677 CE), endowing the temple with landed property, prove its importance and popularity. It appears that : shifting the seat of the highest pontiff of the South Indian Śankarācārya monastic order from Kāñcī to Śr: ngery is a comparatively recent affair. : The temple has several interesting features. One is the fact that the Vaiṣnava : image of Ādi-Varāha is in the central shrine of the goddess Kāmākṣī. This seems to be taken as one of the important Vaiṣnava holy places. Further, : although there are two images of Kāmākṣī, one being her Rājarājeśvarī form and another the Tapaskāmākṣī form with the famous Śrī Yantra in front of her, her transcendental (Parā) form is represented as an empty space within a tunnel (bilakasa), which supposedly runs underneath the goddess’s temple floor.¹³ In the middle of its narration, the Lalitopākhyāna introduces an interesting Kāñcī māhātmya and records that Kāñcī was also a famous Vaiṣnava kṣetra (39.13–111). : Douglas Renfrew Brooks has dealt with the Śrī/Tripurasundarī cult exhaustively in his excellent book Auspicious Wisdom: The Texts and Traditions of Śrīvidyā Śākta Tantrism in South India.¹⁴ Therefore, I give here only a very brief account of the history of the cult. It flourished in Kashmir, but by the thirteenth century CE, as evidenced in the writings of Śivānanda, it was already

¹² See Hardy 1993, where he explains why new Purānas : were created. This may also explain why additions and some transformations are done to a current Purāna. : Also see Vielle 2002. ¹³ See Ramesan 2010; Swamigal 2010. ¹⁴ See Brooks 1992.

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popular in South India. The pupillary tradition of Śivananda clearly shows the cult’s close relationship with the Trika system of Kashmir, which is greatly elaborated by Abhinavagupta and his circle. The tradition here is predominantly Kaula esoteric practices. The ritual system elaborated in the works of Śivānanda clearly establishes this fact.¹⁵ Śivānanda followed the Hādimata tradition; he and his followers were great authors and a large body of literature grew within that tradition. However, Śivānanda’s tradition was only one of the many other esoteric traditions that grew around the Tripurā cult. The two most prestigious scriptures of the cult, the Nityaṣoḍaśikārnava Tantra and Yoginīhr: daya Tantra, do : not always support identical concepts of the nature of the goddess Tripurā. The latter firmly depicts an ideology that is rooted in the pratyabhijñā system of non-dualism. Śivānanda himself was an adherent of this system and followed the sectarian tradition called the Hādimata. The Nityaṣoḍaśikārnava, : on the other hand, followed the Trika tradition, which conceived the goddess in three hierarchically arranged levels of existence: Aparā, Parāparā, and Parā (the dual, the dual and non-dual, and the non-dual). But running through all these three levels, the goddess exists as their essence, which is known as anuttarā or the primordial one. The ritual tradition of Nityaṣoḍaśikārnava : too is esoteric and probably older than that of Yoginīhr: daya. Amr: tānanda and others seem to have followed this tradition of the Nityaṣoḍaśikārnava, though : Amr: tānanda subscribed to both Trika and Kaula traditions.¹⁶ The esoteric Lalitā cult came to South India at the beginning of the second millennium CE. It then reached Maharashtra and the great Tantric exponent Bhāskararāya of the seventeenth century enlivened the tradition with his prolific writings. His commentaries and monographs on the Lalitā theology, esoteric rituals, and yoga of the cult became very popular in South and South West India.¹⁷ In the Lalitopākhyāna the ancient Kāśmīra Trika ideology finds ample support. Goddess Tripurā is manifest not only from the fire of consciousness but also as Ādikārana, : the primordial source of the universe. The text establishes the tripartite identity of the three goddesses as Parā, Aparā, and Parāparā (LU 3.4.39.5–8), and this is pervaded by the supreme anuttarā state of the goddess, which also transcends them. The Lalitopākhyāna seems to have made a supreme effort to unify all cults of Śakti in the anuttarā identity of the goddess (LU 3.4.43.15), which is manifest as the thousand-syllabled Vidyā of Śrī. Similarly, the Saundaryalaharī (SL 97) refers to this supreme goddess above her tripartite division, which the text equates with Sarasvatī,

¹⁵ Sanderson 1990. Śivānanda’s tradition allegedly belonged to the tradition of a seminaria (mat ḥ ikā) connected with a certain Tryambaka, whose daughter established a separate mat ḥ ika as an annex to her father’s where Kaula mysticism used to be practiced (Tantrāloka 36.16). See also Dvivedi 1965 and Brooks 1992. ¹⁶ Sanderson 1990: 157. ¹⁷ Sanderson 1990: 136ff.

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Lakṣmī, and Pārvatī. They are wives of Brahmā, Viṣnu, : and Śiva respectively, the three original cosmic gods, and Lalitā/Anuttarā, the mother of the universe (Ambā), is the wife of the supreme reality (parabrahman). It is impossible to fix the exact date of these texts. The Sanskrit is highly : literary with very fancy alamkāras (literary embellishments) used skillfully. The goddess is eulogized in her own right as a supreme sovereign deity without losing sight of her being the spouse of the supreme god Śiva. The Lalitopākhyāna is quite unique in character. It narrates a legend about goddess Lalitā/Kāmākṣī, the unique Mother, i.e. creatrix, and the concentrated divine power and sovereignty. Her origin is slightly different from that of Durgā in that she appeared from the fire and smoke of the Vedic sacrifices performed incessantly by Indra and other gods in order to get back their kingdom of heaven, which had been conquered by the demon Bhanḍ : a. Thus the goddess represents not only divine power but also the power of the Vedic sacrifices. It is interesting to note that in the hymn of Lalitā’s thousand names, Lalitā is addressed as she who emerged from the fire of consciousness, cidāgnisambhūtā. Describing the heaven where Lalitā resides, the Lalitopākhyāna says, “There, in an enormous firepit, the fire of consciousness burns, fed by hundreds of flows of nectar. It burns in great flames without any fuel satiated by nectar alone. There the only sacrificers are the great goddess Kāmeśvarī and the lord of desire Kāmeśvara. These two incessantly perform the sacrifice in order to protect the creation” (LU 3.4.36.1–4).¹⁸ The identity of the demon Bhanḍ : a is also quite a novel one. When the god of erotic love (Kāma) was burned by Śiva, one member of Śiva’s host (gana) : called Citrakarma (a painter?) made a portrait (of Kāma) in the form of a male. When Śiva glanced at this form in front of him it became alive and looked like a second Kāma. Citrakarma was delighted and advised the youth to propitiate Śiva by reciting the Śatarudrīya hymn because Śiva’s grace bestows fulfillment of all wishes.¹⁹ This Vedic hymn, recited by the youth for a very long time with many prostrations, pleased Śiva who granted him the fulfillment of one wish. The boy asked for complete immunity from all his enemies’ weapons. Śiva granted him that wish but added that the boy would reign for 60,000 years and no more. When the Creator, Brahmā, witnessed this event, he was alarmed and uttered “bhanḍ : , bhanḍ : ” (i.e. a joker, a pretender), hence ¹⁸ The cosmic couple is in fact the supreme transcendental consciousness cid. Their identity is often depicted in the form of ardhanārīśvara, the divine half-male and half-female manifestation of the changeless transcendent reality and its creative urge. The appearance is the first duality and at that primordial moment creation begins to emerge. This is expressed in the imagery of Lalitā and Śiva in coitus. Cid is illuminating, prakāśa, like fire, and the sexual fluids are compared to nectar sustaining the universe. They are both the same ineffable transcendental consciousness, but it becomes self-conscious and desire appears as the partner. Further clarification is supplied later in this chapter. ¹⁹ See Sivaramamurti 1976.

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people knew him by the name Bhanḍ : a. This sort of false etymology of a name was probably modeled on the Br: hadāranyaka Upaniṣad 1.2.4, which describes : the creation of manifest speech. Speech appeared in the physical world when the first created being was born and, as it found itself being devoured by death or hunger, cried out “bhan.” : Obviously the author of the Br: hadāranyaka : Upaniṣad had in mind the word bhaniti : (speech). The author of the Lalitopākhyāna, too, must have thought of the root bhanḍ : , meaning mime or jest, since this boy was an exact likeness of Kāma or Eros who is the source of : samsāra. Śiva, on the other hand, is the personification of the sentiment of : erotic love (śr: ngāra rūpa). He married Lalitā in a suitably handsome and charmingly youthful form and Brahmā called him Kāmeśvara (the lord of cosmic desire). I should point out that, according to this story, the entire Lalitā episode occurred after the burning of Kāma and Śiva’s rejection of Pārvatī but before the final union of Śiva and Pārvatī and resurrection of Kāma.²⁰ This is a mythological discrepancy: Indra is displaced from heaven twice— first by the demon king Tāraka and then by the demon king Bhanḍ : a whose claim to demon-hood seems to lie only in his being fashioned from the ashes of the burnt Kāma. Meanwhile, Indra seems to have been restored to his heaven even while Tāraka was reigning the world as its supreme monarch. According to the myth we are considering, Lalitā seems to have little connection with the mythology of Pārvatī, the wife of Śiva and the mother of Skanda, the killer of Tāraka. Kāmeśvara is, on the other hand, a manifestation of Śiva who wedded Lalitā, now Kāmeśvarī. They represent the transcendental and ineffable consciousness, which split itself into two at the primordial moment of creation. Together they are the cosmic desire to create/procreate. Lalitā is thus admittedly the goddess of erotic love kāma called Kāmākṣī and her cult was obviously different from that of Śiva and Pārvatī, which has always been pan-Indian in its nature.²¹ The iconography of Kāmeśvarī and Kāmesvara clearly depicts the sequence of the primordial act of creation. The goddess is seated on a couch made of supine Sadāśiva, while the four legs of the couch are Brahmā, Viṣnu, : Śiva, and Īśvara. The goddess is seated on the lap of Kāmeśvara, forever enjoying the bliss of amorous love. As I have written elsewhere: Desire is the first pulsating (spanda) of the creative potency. This pulsating Energy (Śakti) energizes the whole of active creation and is to be experienced in living beings as their vital breath (prāna). But God the supreme consciousness, : the locus of both prakāśa (Consciousness) and vimarśa (thought), abides for ever

²⁰ I am not going into the details of the myth narrated in LU. Here the text tells us how Śiva went to practice tapas at the Ekāmreśvara site to propitiate Pārvatī and plead with her not to leave him for long. Thus Śiva was quite near Kāñcī. ²¹ For a description of Lalitā, see Dikshitar 1999: 3–7, and LU 3.4.12.70–4.

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with the supreme Śakti and with every single manifestation of Śakti. This everabiding presence is called Sadāśiva—the ever-abiding Spirit.²²

In the Lalitopākhyāna, goddess Lalitā, after resurrecting Kāma, orders him to go back to Śiva in order to finish the job of breaking his meditative stance by infusing him with irresistible erotic desire for Pārvatī. Reassured by Lalitā of his own safety through her power, Kāma smote Śiva with his arrow and the effect on Śiva was now devastating. The author of the Lalitopākhyāna then gives a short picture of Śiva’s suffering at separation from his beloved. The same condition of Pārvatī is depicted but even more succinctly. Then in a few words, the Lalitopākhyāna narrates the final union of Śiva and Pārvatī. There seems to be a special desire of the author not only to depict the supreme authority (sāmrājyeśvarī) of Lalitā but also to underscore her identity as the : enjoyment of erotic love (śr: ngārarasātmikā). Thus three special features of the cult of Lalitā become apparent from the Lalitopākhyāna story; first, overtones of Vedic connections; second, Vedāntic : monism, in agreement with Śankara’s tradition (cf. LU 3.4.15.6–7); and third, the connection of erotic love with the goddess, which is the leitmotif. One can further say that the third is a more dominant feature of the goddess than her identity as transcendental consciousness (cid). Sometimes her followers reinterpreted her name Kāmākṣī in the spirit of bhakti, identifying her glance with her grace. Thus Kāmākṣī is she whose glance fulfills all wishes of her devotees (LU 3.4.15.35); here we observe a tendency to distance Lalitā from the original erotic nature of her cult. Further, the text consciously amalgamates all deities under the Lalitā cult. A close connection is maintained between the Vaiṣnava : deities and Lalitā: all ten Viṣnu : Avatāras are said to emerge from the goddess’s ten fingernails, and all Purānic : goddesses, including Durgā of Saptaśatī fame, are assembled under Lalitā’s royal leadership. She was anointed as the sovereign ruler of the universe and, since a monarch must have a spouse, Śiva assumed the handsome form of Kāma and at the request of the high gods Lalitā indirectly chose him by throwing a garland up in the air so that it accurately fell around Śiva’s neck. In this novel way the independence (svātantrya) of both Śiva and Lalitā was preserved (LU 3.4.15.1–12).²³ It is evident that the Lalitā cult presented in the Lalitopākhyāna shows not only how the author endeavored to change the esoteric cult in such a way as to enable it to merge with the exoteric Purānic : tradition but also how he followed the practice of that tradition, and by means of innovations and minor changes established Lalitā’s supremacy over other Purānic : goddesses. The Lalitā cult of the Lalitopākhyāna is different in many ways from the older cult of

²² Gupta 2013: 215 and 16–25. ²³ One of the important aspects of the goddess is that though married to Śiva, she is totally free from any restriction and her Will is supreme. See also Gupta 2013: 16–25.

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: Tripurasundarī. Its preeminence at the Kāñcī and Śr: ngeri monasteries and its : involvement with the name of Śankarācārya is difficult to explain. The Lalitopākhyāna and Saundaryalaharī emphasize a sort of qualified monism of : the Kāśmīra Trika type. Śankara himself, according to legend, traveled to the north and so did many of the monks of the orders established by him. On the other hand, the Lalitopākhyāna quotes the mantra of self-surrender (prapatti/śaranāgati) of the late Pāñcarātra Vaiṣnava tradition, found also in : : the Ahirbudhnya Sam ˙ hitā (LU 3.4.41.74–5; AS 37.27–9). One must here point out that as far as the ritual practices are concerned, the Śrī Vidyā and Śrī Yantra tradition of Tripurasundarī is faithfully followed. In the Lalitopākhyāna the pantheon of Tripurā is presented in a regal manner. The old Trika concept of the three forms of the goddess—namely Parā, Parāparā, and Aparā—comes back in the form of three goddesses: Lalitā, who is of red complexion; Mantrinī, who has a dark complexion; and Danḍ : inī, who has a boar’s head. These three goddesses act together during the cosmic war against Bhanḍ : a. Mantrinī and Danḍ : inī are represented as the chief counsellor (Mantranātha) and the army general (Danḍ : anātha) respectively of the sovereign power Lalitā. The story is narrated in a manner that seems to attempt a synthesis of Tantric elements with traditional Vedic elements. Lalitā emerges from Indra’s Vedic sacrifice and leads the battle. All possible goddesses, Purānic, : Tantric, and Vedic, are collected under the banner of supreme Lalitā. The war chariots of the goddesses are described so that they represent a cakra each. Lalitā’s chariot is of course the Śrī Cakra.²⁴ At the conclusion of the narrative, the text describes the ritual worship of the goddess. The method of worship, as mentioned before, remains faithful to the older tradition.²⁵ It is possible that here we have a merging of a local cult of Kāñcī with the Tripurā cult, since we do not come across this particular goddess mythology in any of the earlier Tripurā Tantras. This supports the idea mentioned earlier that the Lalitopākhyāna is a fairly late text. Although the early history of the cult is not very clear, being identified with the famous Tripurā tradition and the Śrī Vidyā cult of the Vāmakeśvaramata Tantra, Lalitā/Tripurasundarī gained enormous popularity. Śivānanda’s tradition, i.e. that of the Hādimata, is recorded in many texts. Śivānanda dates from the thirteenth century; Maheśvarānanda came after him and seems to have followed more than one Śrī Vidyā tradition; Lakṣmīdhara flourished after Śivānanda. It is obvious that the Tripurā cult flourished vigorously over a vast area. There are many ritual exegeses of this cult, and they represent both the Trika and the Kaula traditions with a strong Vedic supercurrent. This enabled ²⁴ Dikshitar 1999: 7–22. ²⁵ See Gupta 1979. It must be noted that as a Purāna, : SL omits the esoteric (rahasya) part of the Tantric worship.

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the Lalitā tradition to claim that it belonged to the Samaya tradition as elaborated by Lakṣmīdhara, who introduced some changes to the older system recorded in the Vāmakeśvara Tantra. Lakṣmīdhara, the commentator of the Saundaryalaharī, introduced this new system and Bhāskararāya popularized it in South India. It takes the two texts Lalitopākhyāna and Saundaryalaharī as its main āgamas, propagating a type of monistic Vedanta. Above all, the tradition firmly believes that it is directly linked with the Vedic tradition of sacrifice. Lolla Lakṣmīdhara belonged to the court of the Gajapati kings of Orissa. In his commentary called Lakṣmīdharā, he firmly confirmed that Śankarācārya, the composer of the Saundaryalaharī, belonged to the Samaya : school, which is why he composed the hymn to praise Samayā, otherwise called Candrakalā. The southern tradition, as mentioned earlier, flourished steadily following the thirteenth century, with Śr: ngeri and Kañcipuram as its : two main centers.²⁶ The name Lalitā literally means the playful one or the enchanting one and the Lalitopākhyāna naturally connects it with the concept of liīā as the motif of the divine creative activity “krīḍā te lokaracanā sakhā te cinmayaḥ Śivaḥ” (LU 4.13.11). It is envisaged by its devotees as the cosmic moment when the indeterminate, transcendent knowledge, pure cit, reveals its first flash of determinate or conceptual awareness of itself. This awareness is conceived theologically as Śakti, who is the supreme cit itself, yet somehow different because of its determinate state. This heralds the creation of the dualistic universe. There seems to be no cause of this action, so it is compared to childlike playfulness or līlā. After narrating the story of Lalitā’s birth and showing her taking possession of her palace,²⁷ the Lalitopākhyāna lets two other important goddesses approach her to serve her—an obvious method of establishing Lalitā as superior to all other important divine manifestations of Śakti. These two are Bhagavatī Durgā, the deity presiding over all mantras, and Śyāmā, the deity presiding over all Vidyās. The Lalitopākhyāna consistently identifies Lalitā with Kāmeśvarī, while Śiva who was to be her consort is also named as Kāmeśvara, who is identitified with Madana, the god of erotic love (LU 3.4.14.13–25). When Lalitā marches out with her huge and somewhat unusual army, headed by three chariots, we get another description of the goddess of Vidyā. She is dark as a cloud, and is called Śyāmalā, the chief counsellor of Lalitā. Fifteen other names : of Śyāmalā are mentioned here, among them Sangītayoginī, Śyāmā, Mantranāyikā, Mantrinī, Śukapriyā, Vīnāvatī, Vainikī, Mudrinī, : : and Priyakapriyā. Her image shows that she has two arms; in one she holds a vīnā, in the other a parrot. Symbolically, the latter refers to the erotic connection of the goddess. ²⁶ For a discussion on the subject, see Goudriaan 1986 and also Sanderson 1990. ²⁷ Lalitā’s palace is also very interesting. Silvia Schwarz Linder discusses the significance of the abode of Lalitā in an excellent article (Linder 1996: 105–22).

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I quote here a dhyāna given by a modern devotee, C. V. Svami Sastrigal: “Lalita Devi is the Empress of all the worlds. Her minister is known as Rajamatangi, Mantrini etc.” Then Sastrigal gives the dhyānas of Lalitā: I meditate on Lalita Devi who is sitting on the lap of Kamesvara who is ever sixteen, in an abode constructed out of the precious stones of Chintamani, on a cot whose legs are Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Protector), Rudra (Destroyer) and Isvara (who is responsible for the great illusion of worldly life); Lalita bearing the noose, the goad, arrows of flower and a bow of sugarcane in her four hands— Lalitā who is of a bright red complexion, who wears the moon’s digit on Her forehead and who is ever sixteen years of age.²⁸

All these deities or manifestations of Śakti are described in the Lalitopākhyāna in connection with the story of Lalitā and her fight with the Bhanḍ : āsura. The chariot of Śyāmalā is there called the geyacakraratha or gīticakraratha. It is both a cakra diagram of seven concentric circles and a chariot. Amongst Śyāmalā’s : encircling Śaktis are Sarasvatī, Śrī, Bhū, Siddhilakṣmī, and Mātangī. Śyāmalā is : : further identified with sangītavidyā (sā hi sangītavidyā, LU 3.4.19.90). The third principal Śakti accompanying Lalitā is Kiricakreśvarī, her boarfaced army general. The characteristics of the Danḍ : anātha are quite different from the Mātr: ka form of the boar-headed deity Vārāhī. These warrior goddesses, headed by Lalitā, are mounted on their chariot and the royal umbrella of Lalitā surmounts each of the three chariots. One should note that the parts or joints of each of the chariots are arranged in cakra or circular form. The leading chariots of Lalitā represents Śrī Cakra. Similarly, the other two chariots’ joints can be equated to two cakras, each of seven circles.²⁹ The battle began between Bhanḍ : a’s demonic army and the divine followers of Śiva and Lalitā. Her young daughter Bālā killed Bhanda’s sons and Ganeśa : : killed most of the followers of Bhanḍ a , including his two brothers. The war : went on furiously and on the fourth day of the battle Lalitā went out herself to kill Bhanḍ : a and kill him she did. The fantastic abode of the demon was set on fire and all its inhabitants expired (LU 3.4.21–30). I skip the elaborate description of the battle as it more or less reminds one of the descriptions in the third episode of the Devīmāhātmya. In the Lalitāsahasranāmam we come across the names of various manifestations of Śakti as identified with Lalitā, depicting her various personalities— sometimes as an embodiment of Vedic mantras; sometimes the primordial transcendent reality Speech (Vāc); sometimes wrathful and sometimes connected with art and aesthetic enjoyment. I give here a few of their names: Vedavidyā, Vedajananī, Vāc as Parā, Paśyantī, Madhyamā and Vaikharī, Gāyatrīvidyā, Kāvyālāpavinodinī, Bhāsvarūpā, Sarasvatī, Nat ẹ śvarī, Kalānidhi, Kāvyakalā, Rasajñā, and Canḍ : ikā. What is interesting to note is how closely Lalitā is ²⁸ Sastrigal 2010.

²⁹ Dikshitar 1999: 7–11.

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connected with music and other performing arts. I shall come back to this topic later. Besides the Lalitopākhyāna and Saundaryalaharī there are several texts like Paraśurāmakalpasūtra and other somewhat late texts that describe her rituals and also the system of kunḍ : alinī-yoga followed by the Lalitā cult. It is important to realize how popular and widespread her cult grew.³⁰ Whoever its author may have been, the Saundaryalaharī shows a great command of Sanskrit kāvyaśāstra. Mammat ạ , a very important author on kāvyaśāstra, starts his Kāvyaprakāśa with a verse in praise of Bhāratī, the goddess of speech and literature. Hemacandra, though a Jaina, also starts his Kavyānuśāsanam by offering his respect to the Jina-bhāratī. Hemacandra further states that the source of Kāvya is pratibhā, poetic genius. Pratibhā is of two types: (1) innate (sahaja) which as soon as the general ignorance of the poet is removed appears in full glory, and (2) conditional, which can appear in a poet only through the power of mantra. Rājaśekhara too mentions in his Kāvyamīmāmsā : the same two types of pratibhā. This is a well-known text and has a long hymn to Sundarī (i.e. Tripurasundarī), who is identified with Pratibhā (i.e. the supreme knowledge manifest as speech; cf. verse 3). The poet describes her as the goddess Vāc in verse 15 and in the very next verse she is described as the bright essence of all the great poets. Her connection with eroticism is brought about in verse 18. Verse 69 identifies the goddess’s beautiful throat : (voice) with gati, gamaka, and gīta, the three important aspects of the sangītaśāstra. Verse 92 declares that she is the embodiment of the śr: ngāra rasa (śarirī : : śr: ngārarasa). Finally, the poet beseeches the goddess to allow him to drink the water that has washed her feet, for thus he will get śāstric knowledge through her grace, which makes even the dumb a great poet. He concludes the hymn by saying that this is a worship of goddess Speech with words that indeed belong to her already. Here we come back to the RgVedic hymn on Speech (Vāc): : “I am the gold-giving queen of the earth, I am the knower, the first of those you appease” (RV : 10.125). In the eighteenth century, the classical (Karnataka) mode of music flourished in South India. One of the three major proponents of Karnataka music is Muttusvāmī Dīkṣitār. Goddess Lalitā is very closely connected with music: ritually worshipping the goddess is considered most efficacious for getting her favor, but singing her praises (stuti, stava, and kīrtana) may well also bring her grace to a devotee. Muttusvāmī Dīkṣitār had exactly that in mind when he sang the eulogy of the goddess of the Śrī Cakra with nine enclosures. The name of the goddess is Śrī or Kamalā. This is goddess Lakṣmī, but she is identified here with Lalitā/Tripurasundarī, the supreme creatrix Mahālakṣmī. This cycle of songs is important not only for its theological speculations, but also for

³⁰ See Goudriaan and Gupta 1981: 37–58.

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Lalitā’s connection with music and literary aesthetics. The poet mainly used Sanskrit of very high quality and followed the theories of music prevalent in South India.³¹ In conclusion, let me remark that Lalitā’s characterization in the Lalitopākhyāna is interesting in the sense that, even though she was created in order to kill Bhanḍ : a, as Durgā was created to kill the buffalo-demon, she had to marry Śiva to fulfill her suzerain status (LU 3.4.15.). The second important aspect of her character is how the meaning of the word kāma (desire) changed to kr: pā (compassion): her name Kāmākṣī is explained as her compassionate glance that grants her devotees’ wishes. Thus, the South Indian prapatti bhakti takes over from the earlier concept of bhakti.³²

REFERENCES Primary Sources Ahirbudhnya Sam ˙ hitā of the Pancarātrāgma, 2 vols. 2nd edn. Madras: Adyar Library and Research Centre, 1966. Ānandavardhana. The Dhvanyāloka of Anandavardhana with the Locana of Abhinavagupta, ed. and trans. Daniel H. H. Ingalls, Sr. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990. : Brahmānḍ : a Purāna. : Bombay: Venkat ẹ śvara Press, 1969. The Hymns of the RgVeda, trans. Ralph T. H. Griffith, 1889. Ed. J. L. Shastri, Delhi: : Motilal Banarsidass, 1973. : Lalitopākhyāna, in Brahmānḍ : a Purāna, : chs. 5–44. Bombay: Venkat ẹ śvara Press, 1969. Lakṣmīdhara. See Śańkarācārya. : Śaktisangama Tantra, ed. Binaytosh Bhattacharya. Gaekwad Oriental series, no. 61. Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1978. : : Śankarācārya. Saundaryalaharī of Śri Śankara Bhagavatpādācārya. With commentaries (in Sanskrit) Lakṣmīdharā, Saubhāgyavardhanī, Arunāmōdinī, Ānandagirīyā, : Tātparyadīpinī, Padārthacandrikā, Ḍinḍ i ma bhāṣ y a, Gopālasundarī, and Ānanda: laharī t ị̄ kā. English translation and notes, Tamil translation, Hindi and Tamil rendering of verses, prayoga (in Tamil and English), yantras, and illustrations, ed. Appiah Kuppuswami, Sastri Ramakrishna, and Śāstrī Rādhākr: ṣna. : Tiruchirapalli and Madras: A. Kuppuswami, 1976. : Saundaryalaharī [attrib. Śankarācārya], ed. V. K. Subramanian. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1977. Secondary Sources Brooks, Douglas Renfrew. 1992. Auspicious Wisdom. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Dikshitar, V. R. Ramachandra. 1999. The Lalitā Cult. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ³¹ Gupta 2013: introd.

³² Hardy 1993: 171.

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Dvivedi, Vrajaballabha. 1965. Tripurā Darśanasyāparicitā Ācāryāḥ Kr: tayaśca (the obscure teachers of Tripurā theology and their works). Sārasvatī Suṣamā, vol. 20, no. 2. Varanasi: Varanasi Research Institute. Goudriaan, Teun. 1986. “Kubjika’s Samayamantra and Its Manipulation in the Kubjikamata.” In Mantras et diagrammes rituels dans l’hinduisme, ed. André Padoux, 141–68. Paris: CNRS. Goudriaan, Teun, and Sanjukta Gupta. 1981. Hindu Tantric and Śākta Literature, vol. 2, fasc. 2 of A History of Indian Literature. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. Gupta, Sanjukta. 1979. “Tantric Sādhanā: Pūjā.” In Sanjukta Gupta, Dirk Jan Hoens, and Teun Goudriaan. Hindu Tantrism, 121–62. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Gupta, Sanjukta. 2013. The Cosmic Play of Power: Goddess, Tantra and Women. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Hardy, Friedhelm. 1993. “Information and Transformation—Two Faces of the Purānas.” In Purāna : : Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts, ed. Wendy Doniger, 159–82. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. am. Kaviraj, Gopinath. 1965. Editor’s introduction to Tripurārahasyam: Jñānakhanḍ :: Śrīnivāsabudhaviracitayā Tātparyadīpikayā sahitam. Varanasi: Varanasi Samskr: ta Viśvavidyālaya. Linder, Silvia Schwarz. 1996. “The Lady of the Island of Jewels and the Polarity of her Peaceful and Warring Aspects.” In Wild Goddesses in India and Nepal, eds. Axel Michaels, Annette Wilke, and Cornelia Vogelsanger, 105–22. Studia Religiosa Helvetica, vol. 2. Bern and New York: Peter Lang. Ramesan, N. 2010. “Sri Kamakoti Pitha of Sri Sankaracharya.” In Sankara and Shanmata, 326–34 Souvenir of a Conference on Sankara and Shanmata, Madras, June 1–9, 1969. (Repr. of 1969 edn.) Chennai: Samskrita Academy, Madras. Rocher, Ludo. 1986. The Puranas. : Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. Sanderson, Alexis. 1990. “Śaivism and the Tantric Traditions.” In The World’s Religions: The Religions of Asia, ed. Friedhelm Hardy, 128–72. London: Routledge. Sastrigal, C. V. Svami. 2010. “Different Manifestations of the Divine Mother.” In Sankara and Shanmata, 180–4 Souvenir of a Conference on Sankara and Shanmata, Madras, June 1–9, 1969. (Repr. of 1969 edn.) Chennai: Samskrita Academy, Madras. Sivaramamurti, C. 1976. Śatarudrīya: Vibhūti of Śiva’s Iconography. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications. Swamigal, Sri Anantanandendra Saraswati. 2010. “Kamakotipuri and the Pitḥ a.” In Sankara and Shanmata, 342–3. Souvenir of a Conference on Sankara and Shanmata, Madras, June 1–9, 1969. (Repr. of 1969 edn.) Chennai: Samskrita Academy, Madras. Vielle, Christophe. 2005. “From Vāyuprokta to the Vāyu and Brahmānḍ : a Purānas: : Preliminary Remarks towards a Critical Edition of the Vāyuprokta Brahmānḍ : apurāna.” In Epics, Khilas, and Purānas: : Continuities and Ruptures, ed. P. Koskikallio, 535–60. Proceedings of the Third Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Purānas, : September 2002. Zagreb: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

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4 Śrī/Lakṣmī Goddess of Plenitude and Ideal of Womanhood Mandakranta Bose

PREAMBLE Seated on a lotus with a smiling face and emanating peace and calm through her appearance, Śrī/Lakṣmī holds a unique position in the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses as the reigning deity of prosperity and stability who has come to be regarded as the model for Hindu womanhood. tvam śrīs tvam īśvarī tvam hrīmstvam buddhir bodhalakṣanā/ : lajjā puṣt ị s tathā tuṣt ị s tvam śāntiḥ kṣāntir eva ca// You are good fortune, you are the ultimate goddess, you are modesty [and] you are intelligence marked by knowledge, [you are] bashfulness, nourishment, contentment, tranquility and forbearance (patience, endurance). (DM 1.79)

Śrī/Lakṣmī has never been imagined as a militant protector goddess, such as Durgā or Kālī, even though she has been sometimes imagined as an expression of the abstract but feminized creative force called śakti.¹ But unlike Durgā and Kālī she has not been represented as a mother—no legend shows her in that role—although the terms jananī and mātā (i.e. mother) appear in prayers as an acknowledgment of her compassionate and nurturing nature. But she is not known to have children of her own. Mā Lakṣmī is commonly used, especially in Bengal, as a term of endearment while addressing one’s daughter or daughter-in-law. The social implication of the use of such a term is that it indoctrinates a woman from childhood into accepting as her highest destiny

¹ There is a vast body of discussion on the subject; for a lucid and concise treatment, see Kinsley 1986: 29–32.

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the duty of meeting the social expectations of obedience and nurturing, which seem to be the most important virtues in the life of a woman as dictated by a patriarchal society. It is therefore necessary to think of Śrī/Lakṣmī in three related ways: as an abstract idea, as a goddess in its otherworldly personification, and as a sociological construct who is at once a cosmic gift-giver and an icon of domestic wellbeing. That Śrī/Lakṣmī should come to personify stable prosperity is not surprising. The gift of orderly wellbeing is what she is worshipped for, not protection from evil by the force of arms. As with other major Hindu goddesses, the origin of Śrī/Lakṣmī can be traced back to the ancient sacred literature of the Hindus. In the earliest accounts Śrī/Lakṣmī appears not as a person but as a cluster of attributes such as power, beauty, and glory, and later of royal authority and majesty along with prosperity and abundance. These aspects of what may be termed wellbeing in the broadest sense eventually became personified as a royal goddess of a type common in Indo-European cultures, as David Kinsley has noted.² Although Śrī/Lakṣmī has never been specifically described as a royal personage, her blessings and boons are essential to a successful monarch; her departure from a kingdom signals its downfall. Closely associated with her is the elephant as an exemplar of might; elephants are indispensable to the train of monarchs in India and signal their power. A more spiritual association is with the lotus, a symbol both of fertility and purity as it grows out of mud but floats above water. Because of this association she is known by the alternative names Padmā and Kamalā, both being derived from synonyms of the lotus. In both Hindu and Buddhist iconography the lotus is the seat of authority and may therefore be thought of as pertaining to Śrī/Lakṣmī’s enabling power, adding spiritual legitimacy to a monarch’s rule. The claim of a king’s divine right to rule is a standard feature of most monarchical ideologies, of which a particularly forceful assertion appears in the lawgiver Manu’s work in this form: bālo api nāvomantavyo manuṣya iti bhūmipaḥ / mahati devatā hyeṣā nararūpena : tiṣt ḥ ati // (Manusmr: ti, 7.8) Even a boy king should not be treated with disrespect, with the thought, ‘He is just a human being’; for this is a great deity standing there in the form of a man. (The Laws of Manu, trans. Doniger and Smith, 128)

The emblematic implications of these associations emerge clearly when we observe that the lotus and the elephant are common signifiers of power in Hindu political culture.

² Kinsley 1986: 223 n. 3.

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Though the concept of Śrī/Lakṣmī has undergone changes through time, the idea of the goddess as a gift-giver has remained constant. The word Śrī stands for an aggregate of abstract qualities and states such as luster, beauty, abundance, wellbeing, royal authority, and majesty. As the personification of these qualities, Śrī, the goddess bearing that name, was initially venerated for the same qualities but gradually became primarily the goddess of prosperity and wealth. Known as both Ṣrī and Lakṣmī, though the latter name is more common today, she may well be the most popular goddess, one worshipped by virtually every practicing Hindu. Although devotion to her rests to a great extent upon expectations of her favors, it is underpinned by belief in her divinity as part of the essential energy at the core of ultimate reality, whereby she may be conceived as a form of Devī, prakrtis : tvam sarvasya gunatrayavibhāvinī/ (‘You are the primordial cause of all, bringing together : three gunas [qualities]’, DM 1.78), the Great Creatrix who is the fount of : all creation. She is the Great Goddess, Mahādevī. The present discussion will range over both these elements in the historical construction of the goddess, balancing the theological against the material and sociological implications of that construction. The sense of mystery at the heart of her persona is offset by expectations of the array of worldly boons she may bestow on her devotees. That, however, is tied to a moral requirement: the worthiness of those she favors. This has lent an intriguing edge to her early history.

ORIGIN AND E ARLY HISTORY Important though power and success may be as benefits emanating from Ṣrī/Lakṣmī, the dominant feature of the goddess in early Hindu thought is her importance as a provider. Sukumari Bhattacharji observes that the name Śrī and the Latin name Ceres are derived from the same root;³ we may also note that Ceres was the goddess of crops, fertility, and maternal love. Bhattacharji also speculates that the goddess Ommo on a Kushana coin may be an early representation of Śrī rather than Umā, since Ommo is depicted holding a lotus and a cornucopia, symbols of beauty and prosperity, and thus the prototype of the later Purānic : Lakṣmī, another manifestation of the mother goddess.⁴ As the bringer of wealth to an agrarian people, Śrī/Lakṣmī may well be thought of as an agrarian goddess. In early literature “Śrī“and “Lakṣmī” are used interchangeably but the emphasis falls on prosperity in general when Śrī is invoked and on wealth in particular when it is

³ Bhattacharji 1970: 162.

⁴ Bhattacharji 1970: 159–63.

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Lakṣmī. “Lakṣmī” is the standard modern usage, rendered into Tamil as Ilakkumi or Tiru, the latter being an equivalent of Śrī.⁵ Her presence conveys a sense of assurance and stability and she is revered as the epitome of womanhood, a figure of serene beauty and nurturing love, whose very presence brings joy, peace, and prosperity to those around her. This understanding of the goddess’s persona is enshrined in her visual representation from early on, as evidenced by sculptural and numismatic material from about the second to the twelfth century.⁶ Śrī appears in relief in Bharut and Sanchi and the inscription introduces her as Sirimā (in Prākr: t).⁷ She continues to be commemorated in present-day religious artifacts, for instance by Indian jewelers who produce silver and gold coins with Śrī/Lakṣmī carved on one side and either Ganeṣ : a or Om on the other. These coins are given as gifts on special occasions as blessings. The idea and image of Śrī/Lakṣmī are clearly centered on her as the source of worldly wellbeing. Best understood in terms of family life, this idealization has crystallized in the Hindu imagination through centuries at once into an otherworldly icon of wellbeing, prosperity, and good fortune, and a model wife and mother who lives only to serve her family. The need to situate Lakṣmī in a family setting has impelled devotees in Bengal and some parts of eastern India to place her within the divine family of Mother Durgā, with the goddess Sarasvatī as her sister and the gods Ganeśa and Kārtikeya as her brothers. : Driven by the imperatives of a patriarchal society, she is also a model of subservience to male interests, though not to the point of unquestioning submission, for she is capable of withholding her boons when granting them would be harmful, such as spendthrift behavior. In this domestic reading of Lakṣmī, her contribution to the orderliness of the universe is ensured by the power she has as an ideal wife devoted to Viṣnu, : her husband and lord, for whom she is ready to sacrifice all. Derived from this image is that of the ideal girl, obedient and docile, who deserves to be called “Lakṣmī” because she uncomplainingly carries out the wishes of her elders, especially the male members of the family. This ideal female is described, though without specific identification with Lakṣmī, by Manu the Lawgiver: pitā rakṣati kaumāre bhartā rakṣati yauvane/ rakṣati shtavire putrā no strī svātantryam arhati// The father protects a girl in her childhood, her husband protects her in her youth/ She is protected by her son in her old age, a woman never gains independence// (Manusmr: ti, 9.2–3) ⁵ Klostermaier 1989: 282. ⁶ See Srinivasan 2010: 77–95; Tripathi 1970: 158–62. ⁷ Parallels to Śrī (Dewi Siri) is also found in Indo-China and Indonesia; see Bhattacharji 1970: 161–2.

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The Mahābhārata says that the truly virtuous wife is the embodiment of Śrī in the home. In the same text we hear that “Śrī herself explains that she resides in those women who are devoted to truth, attend to their housework, always obey their husbands and behave with appropriate decorum” (Mbh 3.277.24–5; 13.11.10ff.)⁸ Lakṣmī’s domestication gathers pace through the centuries to the point at which Tryambakayajvan, the seventeenth-century author of Strīdharmapaddhati, asserts that a good wife is to worship no god except her husband (StrDhrP 32r.5–6).⁹ The seed of this denial of self-determination to a goddess who holds the reins of wealth, prosperity, and the authority to rule over subjects lies in even earlier legends. Early texts tell us that as the source of power and prosperity Śrī/Lakṣmī was a prize to be earned by any god or even any demon worthy of her allegiance as his companion for his good deeds.¹⁰ Note that Śrī/Lakṣmī was never imagined as being on her own and that her attachment was always to a male, though not as a spouse till she became Viṣnu’s : consort. It is essential also to note that her allegiance was never personal but related more to the office of the ruler than to the ruler personally, and that her favors depended upon the recipient’s worthiness. Those who received Laks m ̣ ī’s favor had to be worthy of them. This requirement explains why in Lakṣmī’s early history she shifts her attachment to a succession of gods, namely, Soma, Dharma, and Indra (in some legends also to Kubera, the god of treasures), and even to the two dhārmic demons Bali and Prahlāda, and why she leaves each when his worthiness declines.¹¹ It also explains why she eventually comes to be permanently attached to Vis nu ̣ : as her sixth and final consort from about 400 CE, because as a supreme being he is free from the mutability of personal attributes. The permanence of this relationship erased Lakṣmī’s reputation for fickleness. Thereby it brought her within the standards of human social ideology, for she became a wife exclusively devoted to her husband to the point of self-abnegation, a pativratā, that is, a wife whose devotion to her husband is her sole aim in life. It was thus that she became the model for Hindu women and girls, subject to increasing confinement within domesticity. In early times, however, Śrī/Lakṣmī was conceived far more broadly in the sacred texts of the Hindus. The name Śrī appears all through Vedic literature, which comprises the four Vedas, the Brāhmanas, the Āranyakas, and the : : Upaniṣads, while the name Lakṣmī is more common in the Purānic literature, : but the two denote the same deity except in one or two instances as noted in what follows. These texts think of Śrī/Lakṣmī not only as the source of food ⁸ ⁹ ¹⁰ ¹¹

Tryambakayajvan, trans. and introd. I. J. Leslie, 62–3. Tryambakayajvan, trans. and introd. I. J. Leslie, 63. Dhal 1978: 63–8; 88–96; Kinsley 1986: 23–6. For an extended discussion of Lakṣmī’s various allegiances, see Kinsley 1986: 23–6.

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and fertility but also as the upholder of regal power and noble rank, bringer of jyoti or sacred illumination, prosperity, good fortune, beauty, and health (RV mentions Śrī 130 times across its ten manḍ : 10.125). The RgVeda : : alas or sections and in all of them she is connected with prosperity and wellbeing.¹² In : the samhitās of the YajurVeda, namely, Taittirīya, Kat ḥ aka, Maitrāyanī, : and Vājasaneyī, Śrī appears thirteen times, the last of which (c. fourth century CE) refers to Śrī and Lakṣmī as two separate identities imagined as two wives of Viṣnu: : “Śrīḥ ca te Lakṣmī ca patnyau” (Śrī and Lakṣmī are two wives of [his], VS 31.22), but without indicating the difference between the two. Through time the goddess came to be known by many names, each bearing some special significance. Most commonly she is known as Lakṣmī (auspicious sign) or Śrī (prosperity) but also as Īśvarī (the ultimate or supreme goddess), Kamalā (lotus), Padmā (lotus), Cañcalā (fickle), Viṣnupriyā (beloved of : Viṣnu), and more than 100 other names, each one underscoring a particular : attribute or association. One of the earliest references to Śrī/Lakṣmī in Vedic literature appears in the Śrīsūkta, a hymn dedicated to Śrī, which is part of the khila or appendix of the fifth manḍ not of the main body of the text. Out of the : : ala of the RgVeda, fifteen verses that make up the hymn, the first two are dedicated to Lakṣmī, verses 3–12 are in praise of Śrī, and the final three are again addressed to Lakṣmī.¹³ This hymn describes the goddess as radiant as gold and richly ornamented with gold and silver, seated on a chariot, a being who possesses horses, loves elephants, and is always associated with the lotus. She gives food and other material wealth to her worshippers and is invoked to bestow fame and prosperity upon them. In this hymn she is also invoked to ward off her elder sister Alakṣmī, the opposite of Lakṣmī, bringer of poverty, misfortune, and hunger.¹⁴ The hymn begins thus with a plea to Jātaveda or sacred fire to invoke Lakṣmī: : : hiranyavar : : nā : m hari: nī : m suvarnarajatasrajām/ : candrām hirnmayī m lakṣmīm jātavedo ma āvaha// : O Jātaveda! Invoke for me Lakṣmī, Who is gold-complexioned, yellow, adorned with a gold and silver necklace, has a golden aura and [beautiful] as the moon (RV : Khilasūkta, 5.87.1) ¹² For a comprehensive list of quotations from Vedic and other ancient literature, see Dhal 1978: 2–23. ¹³ There is a controversy about the number of verses in the Śrīsūkta among scholars but fifteen are believed to be authentic and original by most RgVedic scholars; this is the view : followed here. See Rgvidhana, trans. Gonda, 2.18.1, and Dhal 1978: 47–53, for a detailed discussion. ¹⁴ In some parts of Bengal, worshippers of Lakṣmī continue an earlier practice of holding a ceremony called Alakṣmī vidāy (lit. farewell) to cast out this goddess of misfortune before beginning the rite of Lakṣmī during Kojāgarī Lakṣmī Pūrnimā (full moon) or, in some families, : before the Dīpavalī festival during the new moon.

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The third verse, dedicated to Śrī begins thus: : : aśvapūrnā m rathamadhyām hastinādapramodinīm/ : : : : śriyam devīm upahvaye Śrīr mām devī juṣatām// Śrī is the lord of all creatures and has the best horses, she is seated on the middle of the chariot and pleased with the roaring of the elephant. (RV : 5.87.3)

Evidently, by the time this hymn was composed, the use of the name Lakṣmī was gaining prominence and although the name Śrī continues to appear in the early literature, gradually the name Lakṣmī comes to be more commonly used. Its root, the word lakṣma or sign, can refer to either auspiciousness or inauspiciousness as in punyalakṣ mī or pāpīlakṣmī, punya : : meaning auspicious and pāpī indicating inauspicious (AV 7.115.1–4). Lakṣmī represents good fortune while Alakṣmī stands for the exact opposite, misfortune. Lakṣmī and Śrī continue to represent the same goddess, one who bestows all that is good, auspicious, prosperous, and beautiful. In the Atharvaveda Śri appears five times and represents victory, growth, and prosperity as well as dharma (śrīśca dharmaśca, AV 12.5.7). Śrī continues to appear often in the Brāhmanas : and always signifies prosperity. Through the range of these texts the name Śrī is synonymous not only with prosperity and material wealth but also with all qualities that are good and beneficial, such as auspiciousness, beauty, luster, glory, power, and capability as an overarching attribute. As dispenser of these boons she is often associated with royal authority and vigor. While these laudatory references to Srī/Lakṣmī focus on her gifts in considerable detail, her origin receives only brief treatment in early texts. The earliest account to confer personhood to the cluster of qualities conceived as Srī/Lakṣmī appears in Śatapatha Brāhmana, : which tells of the goddess being born out of Brahmā Prajāpati’s meditative energy (11.4/3.1ff.). She is endowed with auspicious attributes of authority that are coveted by the gods, who attempt to appropriate them to enhance their own powers. But her allegiance being strictly determined by the worthiness of the recipient, she attaches herself to a succession of gods and even virtuous demons who deserve her gifts, leaving each when some flaw appears in him. Because she transfers her fidelity from gods such as Soma, Dharma, and Indra, and deserving demons such as Bali and Prahlāda, she gains a reputation for inconstancy until she finally becomes the devoted and permanent consort of Viṣnu. : But before that could happen, a radical turn in Lakṣmī’s history occurred while she was companion to Indra, ruler of heaven. One day, when the sage Durvāsā met Indra who was riding his elephant Airāvat, the sage took off a garland of the heavenly flower pārijāt and gave it to Indra. Indra put the garland on Airāvat’s head but the elephant plucked it off and threw it down. Enraged by what the fiery-tempered Durvāsā took as a slight, he cursed Indra that Lakṣmī, the upholder of his power and majesty, would leave him, tainted as

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he was by his misdemeanor. Despite Indra’s repentant pleas, Durvāsā refused to revoke his curse. There being none else who might qualify for Lakṣmī’s benefactions, she took refuge at the bottom of the ocean, plunging creation into a state of utter loss of all good things, all prosperity, majesty, and authority. To restore creation’s wellbeing, the gods set out to retrieve Lakṣmī from the deeps by churning the ocean, as told in the myth of samudramanthana, which appears in various Purānas : and the two great epics of India, the Rāmāyana : (1. sarga 44) and the Mahābhārata (1.15.12). While the story of samudramanthana to obtain amrta : appears in critical editions of both epics, the episode of recovering Lakṣmī is included in neither; however, it does appear in some other recensions of the epics. The Purānas : are collections of myths and legends from ancient times, of which there are many, eighteen being termed mahāpurānas, that is, major collections, and eighteen minor : narratives called upapurānas. : These collections began to appear in the early Common Era and continued till medieval times as the principal sources of legendary chronicles, ritual practices, and moral lessons for common folk who had no access to the Vedas, Brāhmanas, : and Upaniṣads and their philosophical discussions. All Purānas : and the epics tell much the same story of samudramanthana with minor variations in details of the event and the motives that drive the gods. For instance, Brahmānḍ : a Purāna : : (anuṣangavādaḥ 2.25.1–117) and Vāyu Purāna (part I. 54.1–116), focus on : Śiva’s drinking the kālakūt ạ poison that came out of the ocean at the beginning when the churning of the ocean started. Matsyapurāna, : one of the oldest of the mahāpurānas, elaborately describes the story of Śrī who rose : from the churning of the ocean and also the story of the appearance of the precious gem Kaustava. Viṣnu : takes possession of both Śrī and the jewel (chs. 248–50). The myth of Durvāsā is introduced at this stage to give the Śrī/Lakṣmī story a greater importance. The chief reasons for the undertaking of the churning of the ocean seem to be three: first, extracting from the ocean amrta : or the nectar of eternal life; second, showing the supreme power of Śiva who drinks kālakūt ạ , the deadly poison that comes out of the ocean, and thus saves the world; and third, recovering Lakṣmī. The story of Lakṣmī becomes increasingly important in the later Purānas. : The texts and the passages that highlight the crucial events are as follows: Viṣnupurā na 5.4) elaborate : : (1.9.1–149) and Padmapurāna : (ṣrṣ : t ị khanda : upon the disappearance of Lakṣmī in the ocean after Durvāsā’s curse; her reappearance and a stuti from Indra appears in the Viṣnupurā na : : (1.9.117–33). Bhāgavatapurāna (8.5.15–18; 8.8.1–29) tells us that after being recovered and : praised and after having received gifts from all the gods she chooses Viṣnu : as her partner. She also states that henceforth she will forever be at Viṣnu’s side in all : his avatāra forms, divine or human. It also relates a similar story of Durvāsā’s curse and gives a poetic description of Lakṣmī after being recovered from the

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ocean and of her choice of Viṣnu Purāna : as her partner. Viṣnudharmottara : : (1.40–2) also describes the same story in three chapters. Brahmavaivartapurāna : (prakrtikha nḍ a , 2.35–9) and Devī Bhāgavatapurā na (9.39–41) share the story of : : : gods praying to Brahmā: : mathitvā sāgaram Lakṣmī devebhyo dehi padmajā/ O the Lotus born! Please give Lakṣmī to gods after churning the ocean. (BVP 2.34, 30b; DBP 9.41–52)

Without elaborating the story of the churning of the ocean, Agnipurāna : states that : : kṣīrābdhimathanārtham ca amr: tārtham śriye surāḥ/ Gods churned the ocean to obtain [lit: for] amr: ta and also Śrī. (AP 3a)

These are the two goals—recovering Śrī and acquiring amrta—that gradually : came to assume primary importance in the samudramanthana narrative and at the same time to centralize Śrī and her link to amr: ta.

DEVĪ : E M B O D I M E N T OF P RI M ORD I AL ENE RG Y The legend of samudramanthana shows that Lakṣmī’s return is essential to the community of gods for it is her presence that ensures the continuity of all things auspicious. Fascinating as the story is, it leaves a basic question unanswered: it narrates Lakṣmī’s reappearance but not where she had come from in the first place. For that we have to look back to the story cited earlier in this essay about Lakṣmī’s emergence from the radiant energy of Brahmā’s meditation (Śatapatha Brāhmana, : 11.4/3.1 ff.). But within the mythic tradition this may seem anachronistic, for Śrī/Lakṣmī is already present as are other goddesses in the RgVeda (1500–1200 BCE), a text older than Śatapatha : Brāhmana : (700–600 BCE), which is evidently explaining an inherited account.¹⁵ It would seem that by the later text’s time a need had arisen to account for the goddess’s origin and the legend it records answered that need by locating the origin of Śrī/Lakṣmī within an undefinable primordial force imagined as Brahmā’s meditative power. The implication of that transcendental origin is that Lakṣmī is a derivative of the energy at the root of creation, which is conceptualized as an abstraction known as the feminine principle variously expressing

¹⁵ The dates given are approximate. For a clear tracing of the chronology of the tradition, see Klostermaier 1994: 477–89.

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itself as prakrti, : śakti, or māyā and consolidated into personhood as Devī or the Great Goddess:¹⁶ : prakr: tstvam ca sarvasya gunatrayavibhāvinī/ : You are the primordial cause of everything, bringing in the three gunas : [sattva, rajas, and tamas] (DM 1.78a)

Though Śrī/Lakṣmī is given a distinct identity and function, she is ultimately a form of Devī, as indeed are all goddesses. Accounts of her origin and powers developed along this narrative line greatly through the early Common Era in the Purānas, which became highly influential sources. The thrust of the : eighteen mahāpurānas : or major works and eighteen upapurānas : or minor ones known to us was to gather in vast amounts of existing knowledge culled from ancient works and reflections on them, making them greatly influential sources of knowledge and instruction for people who perhaps did not have access to the Vedas, Brāhmanas, : and Upaniṣads or their philosophical commentaries. It is one such Purāna : that offers a definitive and influential account of Lakṣmī, namely, the Devīmāhātmya part (also known as Durgāsaptaśatī) of the Mārkanḍ : eya Purāna : (400–600 CE). This section of the Mārkanḍ : eya Purāna : has assumed the authority of an independent text and is recited during the autumn celebration of Durgā, especially as it is celebrated in Bengal. In this text the legend of Lakṣmī appearing from the meditations of Brahmā develops into a metaphysical vision of the totality of the energy of all the gods, which is distilled into the essence of divine femininity known as Devī or the Great Goddess, who is One but expresses herself in many forms. This account gathers doctrinal force in time, as we see in its reiteration in the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna : (900–1400 CE). On the deepest level of the Hindu spiritual imagination exists the fundamental concept of goddesshood as an abstraction, that is, of an entity that is both divine and female. Without going into the question of how gender can be imputed to an abstraction, we may note that Hindu philosophy conceives divine femininity as a singularity—as indeed that philosophy conceives divinity per se—that may be expressed in a multiplicity of distinct forms. Though each such form is ascribed particularities of form, function and purpose, their oneness is axiomatic: Devī can take any form or shape in answer to a particular situation but the essence remains the same. A good example of this appears in the Durgā coins from the Gupta period which exhibit an iconographic interchange of forms between Devī and Lakṣmī.¹⁷

¹⁶ For an explanation of a full philosophical exposition of the concepts of prakrti, : śakti, and māyā in relation to Lakṣmī and the true nature of Lakṣmī, see Gupta 1972: 73–8; for the general concept of prakrti, : śakti, and māyā, see Pintchman 1994; Klostermaier 1989: 279–93. ¹⁷ Coburn 1997/1984: 120.

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This idea of the oneness of all goddesses at root led to the elevation of Śrī/ Lakṣmī to a transcendent identity as one form of the Great Goddess. Indeed, we will see later that the medieval Vaiṣnava religious system known as the : Pāñcarātra school accorded her the status of the active controller of all that exists and even to that of the ultimate creator deity. The groundwork for that elevation no doubt exists in Śatapatha Brāhmana : and more explicitly in the Purānas. That these later texts recognize her as the primordial creative energy : is signaled by the name Mahālakṣmī, just as for worshippers of other forms of Devī, goddess Kālī is Mahākālī and Sarasvatī is Mahāsarasvatī. The creation of Devī as Lakṣmī is related in chapters 2 and 4 of Devīmāhātmya, which invokes : Mahālakṣmī as “mahālakṣmīm sarojasthitām” (Mahālakṣmī seated on a lotus). Chapter 2 begins with a dhyāna or meditation upon Mahālakṣmī and verse 2.13 relates how a female form arose out of the energy gathered from the gods, coming into existence to defeat the buffalo demon Mahiṣāsura who had vanquished the devas and ousted them from heaven. This manifestation has no name as yet and is simply termed nārī or woman: : atulam tatra tat teja sarvadevaśarīrajam/ : : ekastham tad abhūn nārī vyāptalokatrayam tviṣā// Gathering together that unparalleled tejas [i.e. energy] from the bodies of all the gods, a woman was created who permeated the three worlds [i.e. the universe] with her light. (DM 2.13)

She is left unnamed in this passage but in chapter 4 she is invoked as Śrī, the goddess of fortune, wellbeing, intelligence, goodness, respect, faith, and modesty: : : yā śrīḥ svayam sukr: tinām bhavaneṣvalakṣmīḥ : : pāpātmanām kr: tadhiyām hr: dayeṣu buddhiḥ/ : śraddhā satām kulajanaprabhavasya lajjā : : tām tvām natā sma paripālaya devi viśvam// [The goddess] Śrī who is the goddess of fortune in the homes of the virtuous and of misfortune for evilly disposed people, who is intellect in the hearts of the learned, faith and respect in good people, and who is modesty in the well-born! We bow down before her! May you, Devī, protect the universe! (DM 4.5)

That Devīmāhātmya’s vision of the rise of Devī from the core of divine energy comes to be the standard view is evident from Devī Bhāgavatapurāna, : a later text. Its account is very similar: paśyatām tatra devānām tejaḥpuñjasamudbhavā/ babhuvātivarā nārī sundarī vismayapradā// While the gods were looking steadfastly upon that Fire, an exquisitely beautiful woman was born out of it, causing excitement and wonder in all. (DBP 5.8.43)

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It goes on to put a name to this female being and enumerates her attributes: trigunā : sā mahālakṣmī sarvadevaśarīrajā/ aṣt ạ̄ daśabhujā ramyā trivarnā : viśvamohinī// This woman was Mahālakṣmī, composed of the three qualities, generated from the bodies of all the gods, with eighteen arms and of the three colors, beautiful and fascinating to the universe. (DBP 5.8.44)

LAKṢ MĪ IN PAÑCAR ĀTRA AND Ś RĪ V A I S ̣ NA : VA THOUGHT This esoteric view of Lakṣmī reaches its hermeneutic height with the advent of two types of Vaiṣnava spirituality and philosophical systems that flourished in : the main in South India between the third and sixth centuries CE. One of them is known as the Pāñcarātra (literally, five nights), a term that may be derived from the five-night-long sacrificial rite performed by Viṣnu : in Śatapatha Brāhmana (12.6). The other school of thought is termed Śrīvaiṣ nava. The : : Pāñcarātra system of thought and devotional practice holds Lakṣmī as prakr: ti, the ultimate creative energy who acts on her own independently of her consort Viṣnu, : who remains inactive even though he is the superior deity. Jan Gonda explains the idea of this supreme Lakṣmī thus: According to the Pāñcarātra, God (or Lakṣmī) has not only the three powers of creation, preservation and absorption or dissolution, but also the śaktis, ‘restraint’ (nigraha) or ‘removal’ (tirodhāna)—also called māyā—and grace (anugraha) by which this ‘obscuration’ and its opposite, the cancelling of the above restrictions, are assumed to take place. Being liberated from the three limitations of space, knowledge and power, the soul is liberated.¹⁸

Viṣnu : is the inactive principle in this system of thought and even though he is the lord that Lakṣmī serves, it is she who has the primary role in creation, preservation, and dissolution. Lakṣmī Tantra, a Pañcarātra text, says that she is so great that the entire universe she creates is but a minuscule fraction of herself (14.3; ed. Gupta, 73).¹⁹ She activates prakr: ti in all of its three functions, namely, creation, preservation, and dissolution. She is immanent in everything (Lakṣmī Tantra, 50.64, 50.66–7; ed. Gupta, 340–1), the sap of existence, the sole object of devotion, and the One who can deliver salvation. The intensity of devotion we find in the Pañcarātra school is encountered also in Śrīvaiṣnavism which, however, ascribes less cosmic authority to her. : ¹⁸ Gonda 1977: 64–5.

¹⁹ Kinsley 1986: 30.

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Instead of holding Lakṣmī to be the author and controller of creation, Srīvaiṣnava theologians think of her as Viṣnu’s sole helpmeet who gives : : shape to his will and intercedes on behalf of devotees for his mercy and benevolence. The followers of the Śrīvaiṣnava faith worship Lakṣmī as Viṣnu’s : : consort who is always by his side and by her intercession for devotees assumes for them the focal point of devotion. Devotion to her is thus a necessary step in the approach to Viṣnu. : While she does not play as central a role as she does in Pañcarātra philosophy, she is the epitome of divine compassion who conserves creation and ensures its orderliness and stability. Thus, even though she has a secondary position with relation to Viṣnu, : she has the power to bestow prosperity, good fortune, and all that is good, but far more importantly she may confer upon devotees Viṣnu’s grace. Not surprisingly, the theologian : Vedānta Deśika (c.1268–1368 CE) asserts that Lakṣmī is indispensable in approaching Viṣnu.²⁰ :

WORSHIP Given the construction of Lakṣmī as a gentle and loving form of the all-powerful Devī with wealth, prosperity, and general wellbeing at her command, it is no surprise that she should be one of the most worshipped of Hindu goddesses within India and abroad. Widespread as devotion to her is, there is no uniform pattern of worship practices and ritual observances, which vary from region to region, determined by the time of the year, days of the week, details of the ceremony, portraiture of the goddess, hymns and supporting myths according to lokācāra or local modes that have developed over time: “vyvahāro hi valavān dharmas tena avhiyīyate” (custom is more powerful and dharma [=śāstra] is overruled, Nāradasmr: ti, 1.46;).²¹ Keeping these variations in mind, we may still sketch out some common elements by looking at brief descriptions of the rituals. It is essential to bear in mind that notwithstanding differences in worship practices, the fundamental tenets of devotion have remained consistent from early times, as we may see on scanning the religious and social history of the Hindus, beginning with ancient religious and philosophical literature. In brief, she is viewed at once as a philosophical abstraction, an intermediary between Viṣnu : and humanity, a cosmological entity who is the source of prosperity and wellbeing, and increasingly a model for women as the epitome of a devoted wife, to which a good daughter must aspire. Not surprisingly, there has been a constant emphasis on Lakṣmī’s power in general to bring about all that is good in material and moral life,

²⁰ Lakṣmī Tantra, ed. Gupta, xx; Kinsley 1986: 29–32.

²¹ Bose 2010: 109.

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understood in particular as abundance of wealth and prosperity. The close and everyday presence of such a deity is essential and must be sought through constant worship. Believing as Hindus do in Lakṣmī’s power not only to intercede with Viṣnu : for her devotees but also to secure for them all material benefits and prosperity in general, they are particularly attentive to the rituals and observances that may ensure her blessings. With the prospect of gain in worldly affairs in view, including domestic orderliness and comfort, a devotee’s quest for Lakṣmī’s grace becomes urgent and constant. Worship is as much public as private, marked by elaborate and occasional public ceremony as well as by private rites, often simple, performed at home every week or even every day. A long mythic tradition reassures people that Lakṣmī is easily pleased, requiring only sincere devotion that may dispense with formal rites. By no means a vengeful deity, Lakṣmī is nevertheless prone to forsake a person or family if she senses neglect, which brings ruin upon the defaulter. This belief seems based upon the early myth of Lakṣmī’s transfers of attachment to a succession of divine partners, which is dictated by their fall from worthiness. In the case of her human devotees, however, their repentance and return to sincere worship rekindle her favor. Rites to please Lakṣmī are performed in private homes and temples, and sometimes at festival grounds, all through the year as well as on special days of the year dedicated to her. The largest public festival in North and West India takes place in late autumn on the dark night of the new moon known as amāvasyā. This is Dīpāvalī, a festival of light, when homes and public places are illuminated with thousands of small oil lamps, candles and—increasingly— electric light bulbs. In contrast, the annual Lakṣmī Pūjā takes place two weeks earlier in Bengal, Assam, and Orissa on the night of the full moon called Kojāgarī pūrnimā.²² Dīpāvalī, on the other hand, is celebrated in these parts : of India two weeks later with the worship of goddess Kālī on the day of the new moon. In Nepal, during the month of Kārtika the text Kārtikamāhātmya is read to celebrate both Lakṣmī and Kārtikeya through the month. Hindus also perform their ancestral worship (pitrpūjā) during this month of Kāritka (mid: October to mid-November) as they do in Bengal. Men are also encouraged to play games of dice during this period in Nepal²³ as in other parts of North India. Apart from these public occasions, Lakṣmī is worshipped at individual homes on a regular daily or weekly basis, a custom known as observing Lakṣmī’s vrata, which means keeping a vow to Lakṣmī. Homes are cleaned and decorated to different degrees, often with floral or ornamental designs painted on floors, with patterns symbolic of wealth and the goddess’s presence, ²² “Kojāgarī” or “Who is awake” is a call to alert devotees that it is time to offer pūjā to Lakṣmī. ²³ Personal communication with Professor Diwakar Acharya, All Souls College, Oxford.

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such as a lotus, stylized coins, stalks of rice, and footprints purporting to be hers. Offerings are made to statues, painted round clay pat ạ s, or paintings (sometimes photographs) of the goddess with four (sometimes two) arms, usually seated on a lotus, holding lotus blooms in two hands and sometimes flanked by an elephant on each side. In Bengali iconography she appears with an owl (representing wisdom) as her vehicle beside her. Sometimes she is also shown holding a pot from which a stream of gold coins tumbles out. : A consecrated pot is placed before her, filled with Gangā water whenever possible and marked with a sacred sign, as common to all Hindu worship rites. The pot also has on top a spray of mango leaves if available, with a fruit at the apex, and is usually placed on a decorative design painted on the floor in front of her image. Essential to the rite is an oil lamp, incense, flowers, leaves of the bael tree (wood apple), tulasī, fruits, and sweets. Bells are not rung nor conch shells blown as in most other Hindu ceremonies, for Lakṣmī is believed to dislike loud noises, nor is havana or yajña (fire sacrifice common to Hindu rituals) performed. Celebrants give añjali or flower offerings at the end of the ritual and prostrate themselves in supplication. Home worship is usually officiated by housewives, who make the offerings and chant one or more Sanskrit mantras, most of which are “floating” verses, that is, verses in common use without clear textual provenance that come from collections of stotras or verses used in everyday worship. The following verse is commonly used for puṣpāñjali (the offering of flowers to Lakṣmī at the conclusion of Kojāgarī Lakṣmī Pūjā in Bengal): om namaste sarvadevānām varadāsi haripriye/ yā gatis tvam prapannānām sā me bhūyāt tvad arcanāt// Om! I bow to thee, Haripriyā, favored by all gods, bestower of boons!/ Let that path which is for your adherents be mine by worshipping you.// (Purohitadarpana, : p. 187)

This is usually followed by the pranāmamantra (a verse to pay homage): : om viśvarūpasya bhāryāsi padme padmālaye śubhe/ sarvataḥ pāhi mām devī mahālakṣmī namo’stu te// Om! Padmā, Padmālayā, auspicious One, Thou, wife of Viśvarūpa,/ Protect me from all [suffering]! I bow to Devī Mahālakṣmī! // (Purohitadarpana, : p. 187)

Also chanted are long or short Lakṣmīstotras, verses in adoration of the goddess designed to seek her benediction. The mantras and the stotras are mostly drawn from the Purānas. : A popular stotra—again a “floating” one—is: trailokyapūjite devī kamale viṣnuvallabhe| : yathā tvam susthirā kr: ṣne : tathā bhava mayi sthirā// īśvarī kamalā lakṣmīś calā bhūtir haripriyā/

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padmā padmālayā sampat sr: ṣt ị śrī padmadhārinī// : dvādaśaitāni nāmāni lakṣmīm sampujya ya pathet/ sthirā lakṣmīr bhavet tasya putradārādibhiḥ saha// : iti Tantrasāre Lakṣmīstrotram samāptam. O Devī, Kamalā, beloved of Viṣnu,! : Worshipped in the three worlds! As you remain constant with Kr: ṣna, : please stay constant with me. Īśvarī, Kamalā, Lakṣmī, Calā, Bhūti, Haripriyā/ Padmā, Padmālayā, Creator of wealth, Śrī, Holder of lotus// One who recites these twelve names to worship Lakṣmī/ Lakṣmī stays constant with him along with his sons and his wife// (Thus ends the Lakṣmīstotra in Tantrasāra) (Purohitadarpana, : p. 188)

In Bengali and many Oriya homes (occasionally also in Assam) the rite is usually followed by the celebrant reciting a verse narrative called “Lakṣmī’s pāñcālī,” or vratakathā (the fable that reinforces a vow) which is part of the Bengali folk tradition originating in medieval times. The story begins in Vaikunt : ḥ a, the heavenly abode of Viṣnu : and Lakṣmī, where she expresses her intention to redeem the human world sunk in iniquity by demonstrating the benefits of worshipping her. Attributing family misfortunes to men’s pride in their wealth and to their scorn of Lakṣmī, which cause women to neglect their domestic duties and womanly decorum, the narrative turns to corrective measures. These comprise penitence on the offender’s part, prayers for forgiveness and worship of Lakṣmī by women and sometimes by the offending males with the help of their family women. The focus is largely on women, whose performance of the ritual and observance of domestic duties restore the wellbeing of their families and, by extension, of society in general when all women similarly follow their example of playing their ordained role. Some celebrants seek further to ensure the unabated flow of Lakṣmī’s blessings by chanting stotras to drive away Alakṣmī, the bringer of misfortune, Lakṣmī’s elder sister and her exact opposite (RV, : Khila 5. 87.8), sometimes going to the length of desecrating her image made for that purpose. Public worship takes a similar form except that the ritual is elaborate, performed by male brahmin priests, lavish in decoration, quantity and quality of food offerings, and the length of the mantras recited. Many women recite this pāñcālī every Thursday evening as part of their worship of Lakṣmī. Men do not read the pāñcālī but often recite a Sanskrit prayer. The pāñcālī recitation is absent in the formal pūjā done by brahmin priests.

CO NCLUSION In Hindu society, religious culture and social practices tend to run on parallel lines and even meet at many points. Hindu deities are certainly understood to

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be above human beings and the material world and yet they are regarded as intimately connected with worldly life both as enforcers of moral principles and as benefactors. This second role is particularly important in ensuring devotion to Lakṣmī because she is above all a gift-giver with limitless wealth and stability in her power to bestow on the devotee, offset by her displeasure at the devotee’s transgressions and the resultant forfeiture of her boons. In that capacity, Lakṣmī considers as persons deserving of her favor only those who use wealth conscientiously and unselfishly. As an example of popular belief in the justness of her gifts I may cite a short verse play in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore. Titled Lakṣmīra Parīkṣā (Lakṣmī’s Test),²⁴ the play relates how the munificence of Queen Kalyānī : is grudged by her envious servant Kṣīro, whom Lakṣmī then raises to queenly opulence only to find her mean-spirited and close-fisted, incapable of generosity and turning away not only Queen Kalyānī : who needs her help but even Lakṣmī herself. On failing the goddess’s test, Kṣīro is reduced to servitude to the queen as an object lesson in Lakṣmī’s standards of worthiness. The moral drawn is that the world’s stability depends on the goddess’s insistence that the rich must take care of the poor. This pragmatic view of Lakṣmī, taken together with the philosophical construction of the goddess as a form of śakti and the Great Goddess, has lent her a decisive role of direct intervention in human affairs where Hindus are concerned. But this involvement in the human world has also subjected Lakṣmī to the constraints of social relationships in terms of gender roles, given that she has been imagined as a woman from the beginning of her mythic history and thereby fitted into the ideal of domestic femininity. At the beginning of her history she is less a person than a package of muchcraved social conditions (e.g. prosperity) and personal virtues (authority, nobility). As such she is the standard of a community’s high status and wellbeing rather than an individual’s aide or property. That is why she is shown to be repeatedly relocating from one ruling figure to another, which suggests that in the beginning of her story she is thought of as the representation of all that is most desirable for a community. Her permanent attachment to Viṣnu : signals the transition of Hindu society to a state of greater centralized authority in which the stable and orderly continuation of authority is of the first importance. Tying Śrī/Lakṣmī down to one unchanging relationship achieves that stability. That such a relationship situates her in a position of secondary authority and requires self-abnegation is a consequence of humanizing her within a patriarchal matrix of authority. Yet her authority over worldly goods is absolute and is bolstered by the Śrīvaiṣnava school’s : assertion of her sole power of intercession with Viṣnu, let alone the Pāñcarātra : ascription of supreme cosmic authority. Thus is created in the figure of Lakṣmī

²⁴ Composed as part of Kāhinī in 1897.

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the paradox of a deity who is at once cast into a subservient role in the human world and remains the arbiter of its wellbeing.

REFERENCES Primary Sources Agni Purāna, : ed. M. C. Apte. Anandashram Sanskrit Series, no. 4. Poona: Anandashram Press, 1957. Agni Purāna, : ed. Sri Ram Sharma Acharya. Bareilli: Sanskrit Sansthan, 1973. Atharvaveda (Śaunaka), parts 2 and 3, kānḍ : as 6–10 and 11–18 with the padapāt ḥ a of Sāyanācārya’s commentary, ed. Visva Bandhu. Hoshiarpur: Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute, 1961. Bhāgavata, The [Śrimad Bhāgavata Mahāpurānam], vol. 3, skandhas 7–9, critically : edited by H. G. Shastri, B. K. Shelat, and K. K. Shastree. Ahmedabad: B. J. Institute of Learning and Research, 1998. Brahmānḍ ed. Acharya Jagadish Shastri. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1973. : a Purānam, : Brahmavaivarta Purāna, : ed. Sri Ram Sharma Acharya. Bareilli: Sanskrit Sansthan, 1970. Devībhāgavatapurānam, Śrimad, ed. and introd. Puspendra Kumar; Eng. trans. Rai : Bahadur Śriścandra. 2 vols. Delhi: Eastern Book Publishers, 2006. Devīmāhātmyam, English and Sanskrit by Swami Jagadīswarananda. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1953. Durgāśaptaśatī, ed. Dipak Kumar Sharma. Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation, 2000. Kālikā Purāna, : ed. B. Shastri. 3 vols. Delhi: Nag Publishers, 1991 (vols. 1 and 2), 1992 (vol. 3). Kūrma Purānam, ed. Anand S Gupta. Parts 1 and 2, trans. A. Bhattacharya, Satkari : Mukherji, V. K. Varma, and G. S. Rai. Fort Ramnagar, Varanasi: All India Kashiraj Trust, 1972. Lakṣmītantra: A Pañcarātra Āgama, ed. Pandit V. Krishnamacharya. Madras: The Adyar Libray and Research Centre, 1959. Lakṣmī Tantra: A Pāñcarātra Text, ed. Sanjukta Gupta. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972. The Laws of Manu, trans. Wendy Doniger and Brian K. Smith. London: Penguin Books, 1991. Mahābhārata, The, critically edited by V. S. Sukthankar. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1933–40. Manusmr: ti with the ‘Manubhāṣya’ of Medhātithi, ed. Mahāmahopādhyāya : Gangānātha Jhā. Vols 1 and 2. Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Calcutta, 1939. Mārkanḍ : ed. K. L. Joshi. 2nd edn. Delhi: Parimal Publications, 2008. : eya Purāna, Matsyamahāpurānam, foreword and arrangement by H. H. Wilson. Arranged by Nag : Sharan Singh. 2 vols. Delhi: Nag Publishers, 1983. Matsya Purāna, : trans. Sri Ram Sharma Acharya. 2 vols. Bareilli: Sanskrit Sansthan, 1970. Nāradasmr: ti, ed. Heramba Chatterjee Shastri. 2 vols. Texts and Studies, no. 84. Calcutta: Sanskrit College, 1988–9.

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Purohitadarpana, : compiled by Pandit Surendramohan Bhattacharya. 28th edn. Calcutta: Satyanarayan Library, 1976. Rāmāyana : of Vālmīki, The, critically edited by G. H. Bhatt and U. P. Shah. 7 vols. Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1960–75. RgVeda Samhitā, ed. Shivnath Ahitagni. 2nd edn., Delhi: Naga Prakasaka, 1991. : : RgVeda Samhitā, Manḍ : : alas 1–10, ed. K. L. Joshi. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Orientalia, 2000. The Rgvidhana, trans. with introd. and notes by J. Gonda. Utrecht: Oosthoek, 1951. Śatapatha Brāhmana, : ed. and trans. William Calland. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983. Śrīdevīpurānam, ed. S. N. Khandelwal. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Surabharati Prakashan, : 2013. Śrīmad Bhāgavata Mahāpurāna : (with Sanskrit Text and English Translation), trans. C. L. Goswami. Part 1 [Books 1–8] Gorakhpur: Gita Press: 1971–82. Śrimadvālmīkirāmāyanam. Gorakhpur: Gita Press, 1999 (Samvat 2056). : Śrī Padmamahāpurānam, ed. Govinda Shastri. 3 vols. Bombay: Venkatesvara Press, 1927. : Tagore, Rabindranath. Lakṣmīra Parīkṣā. 1897; Calcutta: Vishwa-Bharati Publications, 1973. Tryambakayajvan: The Perfect Wife (Strīdharmapaddhati), trans. and introd. I. Julia Leslie. London: Penguin Books, 1995. : Vājasaneyi Mādhyandina Śukla Yajurveda Samhitā, ed. Pandit Shripada Damodar Savlekar. Pardi (Gujrat): Svadhyayamandalam, n.d. Vāyu Purāna, : ed. and trans. G. V. Tagare. Part 1. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987. Viṣnudharmottara Purāna, : : ed. Priyabala Shah. Vadodara, India: Oriental Institute, 1994–8. Viṣnudharmottara Purāna. : : Delhi: Parimal Publications, 2009. Viṣnu with Sanskrit commentary of Sridharacharya, ed. Pt. Thanesh : Purānam : Chandra Upreti. 2 vols. Delhi: Parimal Publications, 1986–7. Secondary Sources Bhattacharji, Sukumari. 1970. The Indian Theogony: A Comparative Study of Indian Mythology from the Vedas to the Purānas. : Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bose, Mandakranta. 2010. Women in the Hindu Tradition: Rules, Roles and Exceptions. London & New York: Routledge. Brockington, John L. 1996. The Sacred Thread. Edinburgh: University Press. Brown, C. Mackenzie. 1990. The Triumph of the Goddess. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Coburn, Thomas B. 1977/1984. Devī Māhātmya: The Crystallization of the Goddess Tradition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Dhal, Upendra Nath. 1978. Goddess Lakṣmī: Origin and Development. New Delhi: Oriental Publishers & Distributors. and Śaivism: A Comparison. London: University of London: Gonda, J. 1970. Viṣnuism : Athlone Press. Gonda, J. 1977. Medieval Religious Literature in Sanskrit. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. Kinsley, David. 1986. Hindu Goddesses. Berkeley: University of California Press. Klostermaier, K. K. 1989. “Devī.” In A Survey of Hinduism, 277–93. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

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Pintchman, Tracy. 1994. The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Srinivasan, Doris. 2010. “Śrī-Lakṣmī in Early Art: Incorporating the North-Western Evidence.” South Asian Studies, 26/1 (Mar.): 77–95. Tripathi, L. K. 1970. “Śrī-Lakṣmī in Early Indian Literature and Art.” In Foreigners in Ancient India and Lakṣmī and Sarasvatī in Art and Literature, ed. D. C. Sircar, 158–62. Calcutta: University of Calcutta.

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5 The Elusive Sarasvatī A Goddess, a River, and the Search for the Universal in the Particular Elizabeth Mary Rohlman

On January 26, 2001 an earthquake devastated the western Indian state of Gujarat. The epicenter of the quake was in the Rann of Kutch, a desert region in the far west of the state, bordering Pakistan. In the aftermath of the quake, as the shock of the tragedy of the event subsided and the long process of rebuilding began, public attention shifted to the topological changes that had been left by the disaster. Discussion about geology gave way to speculation on a subject close to the hearts of many Gujaratis: the “lost” river Sarasvatī. In some instances, the very landscape of Kutch had been altered by the seismic event. Most famously, water was found to have come to the desert surface in newly formed springs, which many Kutchis interpreted as the return of the sacred Sarasvatī, a river which is “invisible” and flows beneath the earth, to the landscape of Kutch.¹ This post-earthquake trend speaks to the seminal role the Sarasvatī plays in the Gujarati region. In contemporary Gujarat, this is evident in social, religious, and political discourse occurring on a daily basis.² In this sense, Gujarat and the aftermath of the Kutch earthquake is but one contemporary and regional articulation of a tradition that has spanned the many regions of India for centuries, if not millennia. The elusive Sarasvatī river, flowing invisibly beneath the ground, sanctifies the landscapes of India’s ¹ On the role of Sarasvatī in constructing Kutchi identity, see Ibrahim 2005 and 2006. On social and political ideologies of Sarasvatī and the Kutch earthquake, see Simpson 2004 and 2005, and Simpson and Corbridge 2006. ² The import of the Sarasvatī in the political discourse of Gujarat is nowhere more evident than in the actions of the state’s then chief minister, Narendra Modi. In September 2005, he : sparked controversy by performing a religious rite of the mahasangam : (confluence) of the Sarasvatī and Narmadā rivers by releasing water from a Narmadā dam into a dry channel he claimed had once been the Sarasvatī river; see Dasgupta 2005.

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greatest rivers and least known regional tributaries alike. The mythology of the river thus mirrors—indeed, defines—the mythic traditions of the goddess that shares her name. River and goddess alike are lauded in the earliest Hindu scriptures, are ever present at the edges and boundaries of Sanskrit literature across many genres and many centuries, and yet remain remarkably elusive in comparison to their better known, more popular peers among the great rivers and goddesses of the Hindu tradition. Beyond Gujarat, there is a long history of reverence for the Sarasvatī river throughout the subcontinent, surely due, in part, to the sacredness ascribed to her by early Indic literature. But a great deal of the Sarasvatī’s power to inspire veneration and imagination is undoubtedly the result of the fact that the river has been “lost” since time immemorial. It is generally believed that the Sarasvatī river, if it existed at all, had dried up in the desert of western India by the time of the composition of the Brāhmanas, : if not sooner. The Mahābhārata, in which the Sarasvatī plays a central role in the tīrtha-yātra of Balārama, certainly addresses the river’s proclivity for disappearances, as some of the most important tīrthas on Balārama’s pilgrimage are the locations where the river disappears and reappears. The river’s name is traced to the pools and lakes (saras) which are said to spring to the surface from the invisible, subterranean course of the Sarasvatī.³ In addition to her elusive nature as a river, Sarasvatī has long been associated with the goddess Vāc and Vedic knowledge, and later with the goddess Sarasvatī, patron of learning and of the arts and sciences.⁴ While a typical discussion of Sarasvatī might focus on the historical evolution of universal mythical tropes most associated with her, I will engage primarily with the much more limited and particular data set of Sarasvatī’s presence in Gujarat, of which the weaving of Sarasvatī’s presence into the Kutch earthquake tragedy is but one markedly recent example.⁵ A premodern precursor to this example, sharing the same geographical provenance of Gujarat, is a text known alternatively as the Sarasvatī Purāna : or Sarasvatī Māhātmya. The text was first written in Sanskrit in the western Indian region of Gujarat between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, and, based on manuscript evidence, never circulated outside of its region of provenance. Within its home region, the text evolved to reflect the changing religious and political realities of Gujarat over the centuries. Thus, my own research has focused on the narrative evolution of one particular tradition of Sarasvatī, and the ways the evolution of a particular textual tradition was employed to define, and redefine, the geographical, political, and, most importantly, religious identity of a particular region. The text emphasizes the river aspect of Sarasvatī more ³ Monier-Williams 1899: 1182. ⁴ For a historical account of representations of Sarasvatī as river and goddess in Indian art and literature, see Khan 1978 and Ghosh 1984. ⁵ Kane 1953: 555–9; Hiltebeitel 2001: 142.

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than the goddess aspect of Sarasvatī, a somewhat awkward distinction that runs through the scholarship on Sarasvatī, which I will address in this chapter. It is this work that most clearly influences my understanding of both the river and the goddess dimensions of Sarasvatī. However, I do not mean to suggest that the influence of this one regional text limits our understanding of Sarasvatī in some way. Indeed, similar texts bearing the names Sarasvatī Purāna, : Sarasvatī Māhātmya, or Sarasvatī Vratakathā can be found across India, usually recorded in the regional vernacular languages. By starting with the one regional textual tradition of Sarasvatī with which I am most familiar, I take up some quite specific questions. What does one, regional, particular articulation of Sarasvatī and her identity tell us about pan-Indic traditions of the goddess? What does the fact that this is one of myriad regional Sarasvatī traditions tell us about the nature of feminine divine identity in Hindu traditions? And, is it possible that these regional traditions might help us better understand the Sarasvatī(s) that appear in the Great Books of the Sanskrit canon—particularly the Vedas and the Mahābhārata— on which the vast majority of Sarasvatī scholarship is based? My contention is that by examining the particularity of one regional Sarasvatī tradition, and considering this particularity against the backdrop of myriad specific, regional traditions of Sarasvatī across India, we reach a richer, more complete—I would go so far as to say more universal—understanding of the concept of Sarasvatī in the Hindu geographical and devotional imagination than can be found by limiting ourselves to the aforementioned Great Books. I further contend that it is Sarasvatī’s mythic characterization as an elusive, fleeting, and often lost presence that enables her to function in this manner, which is perhaps unique among Hindu goddesses.

THE E LUSIVENESS OF SA RA SVATĪ Note that Sarasvatī is described as “lost” even in the earliest sections of the Rg : Veda. Throughout the Brāḥmanas, : the Mahābhārata, and the Purānas, : she is described as a river that appears and disappears from the surface of the earth at will.⁶ While much recent discussion of Sarasvatī in both scholarly and political circles has focused on this aspect of the tradition, this really only addresses one aspect of her composite identity as a river goddess. A list of the components of Sarasvatī’s composite identities must include, but is certainly not limited to, the mighty Vedic river, she who is the bestower of great bounty and the great purifier; the slayer of Vr: tra, demon of chaos; the alternative ⁶ Ludvik 2007.

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identity of Vāc, goddess of speech in the Brāḥmanas; : the site of the Pānḍ : ava brothers’ great pilgrimage in exile in the Mahābhārata; Brahmā’s daughter and consort of the Purānas; symbolic of the ideals of knowledge, wisdom, : culture, and the arts, worshipped by those engaged in education, from scholars to schoolchildren, throughout India; and the sacred member of : the great confluence with the Gangā and the Yamunā celebrated at the Kumbha Mela of Allahabad.⁷ Scholarly interpretations of the goddess’s identity vary nearly as widely: Sarasvatī is alternatively an object of bhakti devotion; the personal and divine embodiment of knowledge and the arts;⁸ a textual thread of the reverence for speech, knowledge, the arts and sciences that is woven throughout history from the earliest portions of the RgVeda to : Mahāyāna Buddhist texts preserved only in Chinese;⁹ a feminist symbol of divine resistance to marriage and motherhood;¹⁰ or a tool of national integration, whether through her role in constructing a literary landscape for imagining the ancient past of the Mahābhārata¹¹ or as a literal tool of national integration in the building of the nascent Indian nation.¹² While most, and perhaps all, of the goddesses of the Hindu pantheon share such long lists of composite identities, primarily concerned with their great deeds and powers, Sarasvatī’s first identity as the lost river lends a sense of unpredictability and elusiveness to her long and evolving list of textual identities. Sarasvatī’s perplexing and elusive nature is perhaps best exemplified by the great multitude of her representations in textual sources and the paucity of her representations in visual sources. As seen in the list of her many identities, Sarasvatī is commonly encountered in religious texts ranging from the Rg : Veda through the Purānas. She is commonly alluded to in śāstra—and in kāvya : literature as well—as the goddess of knowledge and, through her association with Vāc, of speech. Yet her seeming textual popularity is not echoed in records of art history. Most scholars of Hinduism are familiar with her most popular calendar art representation, based on a nineteenth-century lithograph in the Victorian style of portraiture by the celebrated painter Raja Ravi Varma. But as we move back in the historical record, she is harder and harder to come by. It is notable that Vidya Dehejia’s excellent catalogue of the 1999 Devī exhibit at the Smithsonian includes only one image of Sarasvatī that appeared in the exhibit— a nineteenth-century folk painting from Mysore.¹³ Premodern depictions of Sarasvatī date to at least the third century and are possibly as old as the railings at Bharhut and Sarnath.¹⁴ But the ancientness of their existence does

⁷ Kinsley 1986: 10–11. ⁸ Kinsley 1986: 7–64. ⁹ Ludvik 2007. ¹⁰ Kruszewska 2008. ¹¹ Pollock 1998; Hegarty 2012. ¹² Airi 1990; Bajpai 1990. ¹³ Dehejia 1999: 289. ¹⁴ On the iconographic history of Sarsvatī, see Bhattacharyya 1983; on Sarasvatī at Bharhut, see Tkatschow 1993.

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not seem to correspond with an ancient popularity of the image. Both Ludvik and Bhattacharya include a selection of plates in their works on the goddess. However, the fact that the two works employ virtually the same plates points to the limited remains of Sarasvatī images in the premodern art historical record. While scholarly interpretations of the vexing issue of Sarasvatī’s composite identity vary greatly, contemporary scholarship has generally taken three approaches. The first is classical Sanskrit Studies, pioneered in the modern period by the work of Airi, Ghosh, and most notably, Khan, all writing in the late 1970s and early 1980s.¹⁵ This approach is best, and most recently, illustrated by the work of Catherine Ludvik.¹⁶ Ludvik meticulously traces all references to Sarasvatī through a wide array of literary sources and genres, ranging from the great river of the RgVeda through the goddess of Mahāyāna : Buddhist texts preserved only in Chinese. The strength of this approach is its carefully detailed, encyclopedic accounting of the extant textual data. It is an indispensable reference work for anyone undertaking research on Sarasvatī. The weakness of this approach is in a lack of higher-level analysis of the relationships of the many composite aspects of Sarasvatī’s literary identities. Ludvik’s work never addresses questions arising from the markedly different historical, cultural, religious, and linguistic contexts in which we find Sarasvatī. Indeed, this is a characteristic of nearly all contemporary scholarship on Sarasvatī, reflecting the sheer volume and immense complexity of her myriad regional traditions. The second approach might be considered classical religious studies, with a particular emphasis on bhakti traditions. The best exemplar of this approach, and indeed, the best concise treatment of Sarasvatī the goddess to date is David Kinsley’s indispensable Hindu Goddesses (1986).¹⁷ In his work, Kinsley treats the Vedic and Purānic : Sarasvatīs as separate, if related, goddesses. Vedic Sarasvatī is a mighty, though lost, river which bestows bounty and fertility and also purifies. Kinsley notes that she is the first river to be worshipped as a goddess in Hinduism, and is perhaps the earliest goddess overall of the Sanskritic Hindu tradition. Kinsley notes that, in the Vedic sources, it is “at times not clear whether a goddess or a river is being praised.”¹⁸ Purānic : Sarasvatī differs from her Vedic counterpart in that she is fashioned on the personal deity trope of later bhakti traditions. She is daughter and consort of the god Brahmā. She is also the goddess of knowledge, arts, wisdom, and language, and thus the patron deity of students and scholars in contemporary India.¹⁹ Kinsley notes that, later, Sarasvatī as the personal, bhakti-inspired goddess of the Purānas : completely eclipses the river Sarasvatī in the textual

¹⁵ Airi 1990; Ghosh 1984; and Khan 1978. ¹⁶ Ludvik 2007. ¹⁸ Kinsley 1986: 10–11, 56. ¹⁹ Kinsley 1986: 55–7.

¹⁷ Kinsley 1986.

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evidence.²⁰ Sarasvatī at this point has a fully-fleshed-out mythology separate from the river lore of the Vedas. While Sarasvatī never garners a full-blown devotional sect of her own, she is a personal goddess, complete with characteristics and a biography, in the bhakti devotional style. What distinguishes Kinsley’s scholarship from Ludvik’s textual approach is his emphasis on religious culture and history and, more importantly, his ability to draw an evolutionary pattern from Vedic Sarasvatī to later textual and devotional traditions. Following Kinsley’s approach are works deciphering what, precisely, is the personality of this personal deity—ranging from Brown’s examination of her as an aspect of Devī in the Brahmavaivartapurāna²¹ to Kruszewska’s treatment of her as a : feminist resistor of masculine divine power.²² The third, and final, scholarly approach lies in the robust production of epic scholarship in recent years, and particularly in scholarship on the Mahabhārata. The river Sarasvatī, of course, plays a seminal role in the great Sanskrit epic, particularly as the geographical setting for the Pānḍ : avas’ pilgrimage while in exile. This approach is best exemplified in Hiltebeitel’s Rethinking the Mahabharata (2001) and Hegarty’s Religion, Narrative, and Public Imagination in South Asia (2012). The focus of these works, to varying degrees, is on the narrative importance of creating a cultural understanding of the river Sarasvatī as an imagined ideal. This narrative geography exemplifies what Pollock has characterized as the Mahābhārata’s use of “unmapped mapping,” essentially, the creation of a narrative geography of the world within the text that need not correspond to any physical cartography.²³ These volumes have appeared against a backdrop of increased debate—historical, archeological, geological, and mostly political—about Sarasvatī the river. My intention in this essay is certainly not to settle any elements of this debate. Rather, my modest intention is to refresh our understanding of Sarasvatī as she appears in certain mythic genres of Sanskrit literature, especially the itihāsapurāna, : and in so doing to bring the two aspects of Sarasvatī—the goddess and the river—into closer conversation. From this legacy of scholarship, I draw most clearly from Kinsley’s study of Sarasvatī. In particular, my argument in this essay follows from two of Kinsley’s contentions. First, that even in the RgVeda, it is often impossible to : distinguish between praises to the river Sarasvatī and praises to the goddess

²⁰ Kinsley 1986: 10. In the decades since Kinsley’s publication, of course, the river and the goddess have been increasingly identified as a singular goddess in popular Hindu practices and beliefs. ²¹ Brown 1974. ²² Kruszewska 2008. ²³ Pollock 1998: 16.

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Sarasvatī.²⁴ And secondly, that by the time of the Purānas, : Sarasvatī’s identity as a river appears to have receded from the literary and religious imagination, and that she had become exclusively a goddess of knowledge, speech, culture, and wisdom.²⁵ There is obviously a tension between these observations, which I believe speaks to my characterization of Sarasvatī’s identity as elusive and composite. Finally, from the scholarship on Sarasvatī’s epic iteration, I draw from the perspective that the river Sarasvatī—and, I contend, the goddess Sarasvatī as well—is best approached as a concept of narrative and cultural imagination.

THE P ARTICULARITY OF SARASVAT Ī A great deal of Sarasvatī’s power to inspire the type of veneration and religious imagination displayed in the popular responses to the Kutch earthquake is undoubtedly the result of textual traditions, from the Brāḥmanas : to the Mahābhārata, that have represented the river as “lost” since time immemorial. When springs bubbling up to the desert surface of the Rann of Kutch are identified as the Sarasvatī, this long history of religious associations with the river is evoked. Evoking such associations brings pan-Indic narratives about Sarasvatī into conversation with the local landscape of a region and defines that landscape in terms of something that is region-transcending. I turn now to one exemplar of this conversation: regionalization and regional evolution of Sarasvatī as both a goddess and a river in the Sarasvatī Purāna. : The Sarasvatī Purāna : from the western : is a regional, or sthala, Purāna Indian region that is now the state of Gujarat. As a text that firmly places itself within a specific regional context, the Sarasvatī Purāna : employs both narrative design and geographical imagination in expressing its own theological vision(s). The text relates the Sarasvatī river’s descent to earth and follows her course through various holy places of western India from the Himalayas to Somnath, ending with her arrival at and convergence with the ocean. The shifting and elusive course of the river serves as the unifying motif of the text’s frame narrative. While the text relates the appearances and disappearances of the elusive Sarasvatī river, it maps the sacred geography of medieval Gujarat, drawing the boundaries of a region defined by religion, culture, and history and projecting its own vision of cultural identity for the region drawn out in the text. In this respect, the Sarasvatī Purāna : is quite similar to a variety of texts, known as river, or nadī, Māhātmyas, that circulate throughout western India, especially Gujarat and Maharashtra. The Sarasvatī Purāna : differs from ²⁴ Kinsley 1986: 11.

²⁵ Kinsley 1986: 58.

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the greater tradition of river Māhātmyas in western India, however, in that its primary subject is essentially mythological, rather than geographical, in nature.²⁶ While the text associates the mythic river Sarasvatī with a “real” river in northern Gujarat, this association is established by a series of lost, invisible, or hidden geographical relationships. The Sarasvatī Purāna : thus stands apart by defining a sacred geography that is sacred primarily due to what is absent, or at least present only to the mythic imagination, rather than by those geographical features that are in fact present in the landscape. In this sense, Sarasvatī’s elusive nature is an asset in the narrative strategy of regionalizing her tradition to the sacred landscape of Gujarat. As with the majority of regional Purānic : literature, the text dates to the medieval period. Gujarati scholars generally date the text to the late twelfth century due to its apparent association with King Jayasingha Siddharāja, who ruled at the northern Gujarat capital of Patan from approximately 1096 to 1143 CE. This connection is established through detailed descriptions of the temples and tanks Siddharāja is known to have constructed at the holy lake in his capital city and in neighboring Siddhapur. The earliest dated manuscript of the Sarasvatī Purāna : places the copying of the text to 1523 of the Samvat era, or roughly 1466 CE. Thus, at least one version of the text was composed between the early twelfth century and the first half of the fifteenth century. The text itself has never been edited or translated, and little in the way of scholarship on the Sarasvatī Purāna : has been produced. Fourteen copies of the text are extant, all of which were collected in Gujarat and currently reside in the western Indian archives of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Even within the limited geographical region of its circulation, the Sarasvatī Purāna : is relatively unknown. Any religious practice that may have revolved around the text has long been extinct. In the absence of resources external to the Sarasvatī Purāna : in the form of written commentaries or lived religious practices, the sole source of information on the text are the manuscripts themselves. Fortunately, the extant manuscripts of the Sarasvatī Purāna : are rich in information. The manuscripts preserve two distinct, and indeed conflicting, versions of the Sarasvatī Purāna. : The first version explicitly links the text to the sacred lake in Patan, the reign of King Jayasingh Siddharāja, and the king’s devotion to the god Śiva. The second version presents a description of the sacred geography of western India that is less bound to the historical figure of ²⁶ The river Sarasvatī is currently a prominent and contentious issue in the politics of India, yet neither archaeology nor remote-sensing has succeeded in locating the lost Sarasvatī to the satisfaction of those enquirers motivated by any but the most political concerns. Further, the course of the river Sarasvatī described in the Sarasvatī Purāna : does not coincide with either of the two most popular models for the location of the lost river—those produced through archaeological study and remote sensing and those produced through literary description of the river in other Indic texts. Determining the historical reality or location of the “lost” Sarasvatī is not a concern of this study.

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Siddharāja, the Patan district of northern Gujarat, or the Śaiva theological perspective. Instead, this version contains a clear theological teaching promoting devotion to the god Viṣnu. : Despite their stark theological differences, the two recensions share a frame narrative and the majority of their subnarratives in common. While the Sarasvatī Purāna : is explicitly regional, it is more than regional. Through a variety of literary devices, including intertextual reflexivity and the medium of the Sanskrit language, the Sarasvatī Purāna : projects a place for itself within the pan-Indic tradition. In so doing, the text participates in a multivalent network of literary arenas, placing itself in conversation with the regional traditions from which it arose, trans-local traditions of western India, and the great, pan-Indic corpus of mythology preserved in Sanskrit. This explicitly regional text thus illustrates the myriad facets of a self-perceived regional identity. Through narrative, the text asserts its own authority in the face of pan-Indic tradition and participates in trans-regional mythological traditions. Conceived of in its broadest sense, the frame narrative of the Sarasvatī Purāna : literally maps the boundaries of what is now the state of Gujarat with the course of the Sarasvatī river, depicting a distinct regional religious culture within these boundaries through its narrative content. Through the sub-narratives related in each of its chapters, the text calls on a corpus of myths well known in the pan-Indic literary canon, entering into a dialogue of intertextual reflexivity with texts that transcend the regional status of the Sarasvatī Purāna. : In addition to this clear dialogue between the regional and trans-regional, however, the text also enters into discourse with trans-local traditions that are specific to western India, namely Gujarat and Maharashtra, through its conception of the narrative and geographical lives of mahā-nadīs, or great rivers. The narrative design of the text thus simultaneously asserts a distinctly regional identity and enters into discourse with trans-regional mythological and literary traditions, in essence defining the nature and status of its own assertions of regional identity through this discourse. The frame story of the Sarasvatī Purāna : relates the story of Sarasvatī’s descent to earth that is found in the Prabhāsa Khanḍ : a of the Skanda Purāna, : one of two khandas of that text (the other being the Nagar Khanḍ : a) that deals explicitly with the religious geography and communities of Gujarat. Following a victorious battle, the gods decide to deposit their magical weapons with the sage Dadhīci for safekeeping. After 100 years, Dadhīci desires to travel away from his āśrama and perform tapas in the Himalayas. Fearful that the massive power of the gods’ weapons will fall into the wrong hands, he consumes them and absorbs their power into his own body. When the gods ultimately return in search of their weapons, Dadhīci cannot produce them. And so, knowing that their power is stored within his own body, he instructs the gods to kill him and fashion from his bones new weapons of power equal to the old.

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Meanwhile, the virgin Subhadrā, having unwittingly been impregnated with Dadhīci’s child by innocently donning his soiled garment, has given birth to the fully adult and religiously powerful Pippalāda. Eventually, Pippalāda implores his mother to confess his father’s identity and fate, and learns from Subhadrā of Dadhīci’s death at the hands of the gods. Filled with rage and vengeance, Pippalāda retreats to the wilderness and performs such powerful austerities that he produces from his thigh the consuming Vāḍava fire. Pippalāda sends the fire to the heavens, where it threatens to consume the abode of the gods and, indeed, the triple world. The gods convince Vāḍavanala that he must consume the oceans first before all other gods, as it is the oldest of all suras and asuras, in the hope that he will be extinguished by the ocean before wreaking havoc on the heavens. Vāḍavanala agrees on the singular condition that he be carried to the sea only by a virgin. Brahmā thus orders his daughter Sarasvatī to descend to the earth and convey the Vāḍava fire on his long journey to the sea.²⁷ Sarasvatī’s separation from her father and descent to earth is portrayed with the sorrow classically associated with a bride’s departure from her natal home in Indic literature. To ease her pain, her friends Gangā and Yamunā accompany her in the beginning of her journey. Eventually, they, too, must leave her, and she continues her quest alone. When she has nearly reached the sea, she encounters the Kr: tasmāra mountain, who blocks her path and demands that she become his wife. Sarasvatī agrees to be his wife, but insists on performing her ritual bath before marrying. She thus convinces Kr: tasmāra to hold the Vāḍava fire for her while she performs her bath. Upon receiving the fire, Kr: tasmāra is immediately consumed by flame and reduced to a pile of ashes, clearing Sarasvatī’s route to the sea. She then accomplishes her task, depositing Vāḍavanala in the western ocean and extinguishing his threat to the worlds of gods and men. The story of Sarasvatī’s descent to earth in the Prabhāsa Khanḍ : a of the Skanda Purāna is quite short, not quite filling 300 verses. The Sarasvatī : Purāna, however, relates the same frame story in two recensions filling 2,000 : and 3,000 verses respectively. These verses and chapters are employed to describe in detail the river Sarasvatī’s course to the sea, with an emphasis on the sacred sites she visits that are specific and unique to the landscape of Gujarat. Each of these locations, in turn, gives rise to a sub-narrative, retold from pan-Indic Purānic : literature, relating the mythic origins of the location’s spiritual significance. The sub-narrative that most clearly signals Sarasvatī’s role in defining both the geography and culture of medieval Gujarat occurs in the very first sarga of the text, which relates the popular Purānic : narrative of Soma’s abduction of Tārā, wife of the gods’ preceptor Br: haspati, and the ensuing war between the ²⁷ The Skanda Purāna: : Book VII, ed. and trans. Tagare, pp. 189–209.

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gods and asuras. Tārā’s abduction by Soma is related in at least twelve mahāpurānas Anne Feldhause : and upapurānas : as well as the Harivamśa.²⁸ : has noted that the story also appears in at least four river mahātmya from western India.²⁹ In the Sarasvatī Purāna, : it is from this war that the gods are returning when they deposit their weapons at Dadhīci’s hermitage. In the ninth verse of the text’s opening chapter, Sumati asks the sage Markānḍ : eya, “Who brought the river Sarasvatī down to earth?” Markānḍ e ya does not begin : his answer with Brahmā’s command to his daughter to descend to the earth, nor with the bones of Dadhīci. The first character named in Markānḍ : eya’s response to this question is Tārā. This answer marks Soma’s abduction of Tārā as the necessary catalyst in a chain of events that result in the sacred river Sarasvatī descending to grace the landscape of Gujarat. Soma’s role as catalyst resembles the prominent way in which this tale is used in other river Purānas : from western India. Most conclude with the assertion that Soma was forced to bathe in the mahātmya’s featured river in order to cleanse himself of his sins. In the Sarasvatī Purāna, : however, Soma’s absolution is virtually ignored. Instead, the impact of his actions is elevated to the extent that it becomes the catalyst that ultimately leads to Sarasvatī’s descent from heaven, which instead purifies the landscape of medieval Gujarat. Sarasvatī’s descent is the sanctifying force through which seminal institutions of medieval Gujarat— from kings to sectarian theologies—are given authority. First and foremost, however, it is the event by which the landscape itself—the region and kingdom increasingly defined in the medieval era as the “Gujjāra-manḍ : ala,” the region : ruled by the Solānkis and defined by an emerging Gujarati language and literature—is both unified and made sacred. As Sarasvatī sanctifies the Gujarati landscape, she sets the stage for the exploits of both gods and deified kings, granting authority to dynastic and theological institutions of medieval Gujarat. This is most distinctly demonstrated in the opposing theological climaxes of the two recensions. The climax of the Śaiva recension, and indeed the theological heart of the narrative, relates the story of King Jayasingha Siddharāja, who ruled from 1093 : to 1143 at Patan, the capital city of the Solānki dynasty in northern Gujarat. Here, the text’s vision of geography, history, kingship, and theology and their interrelations and connections with one another are laid out in the text’s most compelling polemic. The text relates that the dynasty that preceded and was : overthrown by the Solānkis polluted the Abu forest north of Patan with their depraved behavior, consumption of liquor, and generally wrathful temperaments. The river Sarasvatī, which had once flowed there, deserted her course through Patan, choosing to disappear from the earth rather than be polluted ²⁸ For a list and discussion of Purānas containing the story of Soma and Tārā, see : Chatterjee 1977. ²⁹ Feldhaus 1995: 175.

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by such depraved human behavior. Here, the narrative introduces the conception that only the piety of the great king and devotee of Śiva, Siddharāja, can induce her to return. Siddharāja awakens one day to remember the dry lake, created first by the great king Bharadvāja, in his own city. Desiring to rectify this situation, he enters into meditation on Lord Śiva. In his meditation, King Bharadvāja himself appears to Siddharāja to instruct him in how to restore the lake. Though Sarasvatī has left it dry, the place has not been deserted by Śiva himself. So, Siddharāja is to first worship Śiva and, when he is fully engrossed in his meditation, he is to remember the goddess Sarasvatī. Siddharāja follows these instructions, and on his third day of meditation, Sarasvatī appears to him and offers him a boon. He asks her to fill the lake and never again abandon this place. Siddharāja’s devotion, therefore, has restored piety to the landscape through bringing the purifying waters of the Sarasvatī to dwell there. Siddharāja’s great works induce various other gods and goddesses to dwell in the vicinity of Patan, and the text describes and praises the landscape of Siddharāja’s kingdom and its divine inhabitants at great length. Restoring the grace of Sarasvatī to his kingdom is the devotional act that enables all of Siddharāja’s kingly acts—building great temples, ruling : over the Solānki kingdom at its greatest extent, defending his kingdom from outside incursions—to succeed. Sarasvatī herself marks him as a great king, and she is a testimony to the triumph of proper Śaiva kingship over courtly influences of Jain advisors. In lieu of the story of Siddharāja, the Vaiṣnava recension of the text relays : the birth of Kapila as an avatāra of Viṣnu. In this case, the Vaiṣnava recension : : does not simply retell the story of Kapila, but quotes it directly from the one of the most beloved great, pan-Indic Purānas, : the Bhāgavatapurāna. : The episode begins with the sage Kardama worshipping Viṣnu : in the interest of procuring a wife and children. Viṣnu : appears, already aware of Kardama’s desires, and offers him a well-made marriage to Devahūti, the daughter of Manu. Viṣnu : promises that, due to Kardama’s practices of great tapas, the strength of his seed will be increased ninefold, thus foreshadowing the simultaneous birth of Kardama and Devahūti’s nine daughters. Kardama is also promised that when he is ready to forsake the householder’s life, Viṣnu : himself will take birth through Devahūti. Then the story unfolds of Kardama and Devahūti’s marriage, their hundred years of travel in Kardama’s celestial palace, and the birth of their nine daughters. After the birth of their daughters, Kardama wishes to leave the householder’s life and retreat to the forest. Devahūti reminds him that they have nine daughters to marry off, and that she herself will need companionship and protection. She tearfully pleads with him to stay. At this point, Kardama recalls Viṣnu’s : promise, informing Devahūti that she will soon give birth to Lord Viṣnu himself, and that she will live out the rest of her life : under his protection and tutelage. Kapila’s birth is immediate and spectacular, as he is said to be born of Kardama and Devahūti “as fire is born in wood.” All

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of the expected auspicious and miraculous occurrences surround his birth, and these signs draw Brahmā accompanied by Marīci and eight other sages to Kardama’s āśrama. After worshipping the newly born Kapila properly, the nine daughters are given in marriage to the nine chief sages, wrapping up Kardama’s obligations to Devahūti nicely. The Sarasvatī Purāna, : like the Bhāgavatapurāna, : uses this point in the narrative to introduce the theological teachings that Kapila relays to his mother Deavhūti. These teachings occur on the banks of the Bindusaras : Lake, a site just north of Siddharāja’s Sahasralinga Lake in Siddhapur-Patan. This, too, is a lake said to be created by Sarasvatī rising up from her underground course. Once again, it is the grace of Sarasvatī that sets the stage for the success of a male figure of authority and a theological movement devoted to a Hindu god. The geographical center of the text—Sarasvatī’s lakes at Sahasralinga and Bindusaras in Siddhapur-Patan—is also its narrative center and polemical climax. The imagined geography of the text provides the stage on which its narrative of the text unfolds. Tales of both regional and pan-Indic origins are reinterpreted in the Sarasvatī Purāna : in part through their association with the geography of the Sarasvatī river. It is this process of retelling and recontextualizing stories within a regional, geographical context that characterizes the narrative design of the Sarasvatī Purāna. : The frame narrative of the Sarasvatī Purāna draws a geographical center for the region of Gujarat with : the course of the Sarasvatī river, depicting a distinct cultural identity for the region within this space through its narrative content. The text describes the goddess Sarasvatī as “choosing” to travel through the litany of auspicious locations featured in the text. The myth of Sarasvatī’s descent emphasizes Sarasvatī as a goddess before she was a river, in particular in the trope of a beloved out-married daughter that is so common to regional goddess narratives found throughout India. Thus, the goddess herself creates a regional cultural identity by constructing a regional sacred geography. Through this regionalized course of the river goddess, the Sarasvatī text clearly expresses a new vision of a region unified by a central king and his kingdom as well as a shared religious vision—albeit in two recensions with competing religious visions. It does so when an emerging sense of “Gurjaradeśa” as the country defined and united by the vernacular Gujarati language and literature was flourishing but when the transregionality of all literature, regardless of language, was still claimed through the use of Sanskrit literary conventions. The text reflects this context, advancing claims of regional unity while reflecting the Gujarati literary culture of its time. The two extant recensions of the Sarasvatī Purāna : document a transformative historical moment in the religious history of premodern Gujarat. The earliest recension of the text, composed between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, promotes a Śaiva theology and celebrates a romanticized history of

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CONCLUSIONS The goddess Sarasvatī of Gujarat, as portrayed in the Sarasvatī Purāna, : is not an object of sectarian devotion or bhakti veneration. The characterization of Sarasvatī in the frame narrative of the Sarasvatī Purāna : depicts her, rather, as the narrative catalyst leading to the success of a variety of masculine figures, both human and divine. Unlike many other Hindu goddesses, Sarasvatī never yields to a cult of her own, in Gujarat or any other regions. Rather, she speaks to another function of regional goddesses: to grant authority, whether through purifying waters of a sacred river or through her own Śakti, to masculine figures of power, from kings to gods. The pious rule of the great : king Jayasingha Siddharāja, the triumph of the Śaiva practices of the Solānki dynasty, over the sway of Jain philosopher poets, and the eventual triumph of Vaiṣnava bhakti populism over the courtly practices of Śaivism in medieval : Gujarat all play out on a stage of sacred geography defined by Sarasvatī. The unified geography of Gujarat mapped by Sarasvatī’s course gives sway to emerging conceptions of the region as united by shared linguistic, cultural, and theological identities. While Sarasvatī herself may have retreated from shared cultural memory in Gujarat, her model as a goddess defining land, ³⁰ Sheikh 2010.

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culture, and people would be echoed throughout traditions of jātipurānas : and clan-based worship of kula-devīs that persist from medieval Gujarat to the present day. Ultimately, shared cultural notions of Gujarati culture and identity are so intimately connected to Sarasvatī that her presence is evoked in the wake of a twenty-first-century earthquake, centuries after the Purāna : that bears her name had been lost to shared cultural memory. This Gujarati tradition of Sarasvatī is, of course, only one of many such traditions across India. Kane notes a tradition that there are actually seven Sarasvatīs across India, distinct from the lists of sacred rivers that date back to the Vedas.³¹ Thus, the Gujarati Sarasvatī is by no means the only regional tradition of the river. I have come across Sarasvatī Mahātmya manuscripts in a variety of regional languages, including Oriya, Telugu, and Tamil. And she figures prominently in other nadī-mahātmyas that do not bear her name; Feldhaus mentions the significance of Sarasvatī in the river mahātmyas of : Maharashtra, especially with respect to the Pañcagangā temple.³² And, while Kinsley writes that it is difficult to distinguish the river from the goddess in the RgVeda, I would argue that we should carry this observation : forward to later traditions of Sarasvatī. While it may be true that Purānic : texts and other later literature focus explicitly on the goddess’s character, I believe it is possible, using the notions of cultural literacy that Narayana Rao³³ favors as a general approach to the Purānas, : to imagine that the river Sarasvatī is always lurking, elusively, in the background of these myths of the goddess Sarasvatī. Read in this light, the regional traditions of Sarasvatī point to something greater and more universal than the common tropes we employ to discuss her. It is my contention that it is her elusiveness that enables her multifaceted identity, which is expressed through myriad regional traditions. It is only through beginning with the particular, the regional, the plural, that we begin to get a glimpse of the elusive greatness of Sarasvatī, and to truly grasp the full scope of her presence in the Sanskritic and Hindu imagination. It is here that we see that the elusive goddess and the elusive rivers are in fact signifiers for one another. And just as the Sarasvatī river’s elusive and mysterious course is an ideal vehicle for defining and sanctifying regional landscapes, the goddess Sarasvatī’s dominion over speech, knowledge, and the arts and sciences makes her an ideal symbolic representation of the theologies and cultures that were valued within those landscapes. In my past work, I have emphasized the Sarasvatī Purāna’s depiction of : Sarasvatī as a river, defining a narrative geography of the sacred landscape of Gujarat. What I have dwelt relatively little on is the role of the goddess Sarasvatī as a character. While this focus lends itself to the geographically rich narrative design of the Sarasvatī Purāna, : it also furthers the rather awkward divide in Sarasvatī scholarship between river and goddess. Removing this divide illuminates the fact that the geographical power of the river ³¹ Kane 1953: 558, 791.

³² Feldhaus 1995: 21.

³³ Rao 1993.

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Sarasvatī is possible only through the character of the goddess Sarasvatī. The Sarasvatī Purāna : reveals three essential aspects of Sarasvatī’s character, corresponding to her emotional, agentive, and intellectual qualities. Emotionally, Sarasvatī is grief-stricken by her banishment from heaven to earth, reflecting common literary tropes of the emotional state of out-married daughters. Her : grief is assuaged only by the company of her friends—Gangā and Yamunā— who accompany her for part of her earthly journey woven in their course as the strands of a woman’s braid, signifying through emotional content Sarasvatī’s most prominent geographical tradition of her great confluence : with Gangā and Yamunā at Allahabad. Agentively, Sarasvatī is said repeatedly throughout the text to actively choose her course through Gujarat and the locations at which she will appear or disappear from the landscape. While these choices evoke the longstanding etymological tradition of defining the Sarasvatī as the great river composed of many appearing and disappearing saras, or lakes, they also speak to the particular and unique nature of : Sarasvatī’s divine power. In contrast to the Gangā, whose power is signified in myth by her inability to control her own overwhelming descent to earth, thus necessitating Śiva’s intervention to catch and slow her current, Sarasvatī’s power is signified through her complete and total control over her own course. Intellectually, Sarasvatī’s final success in arriving at the sea by triumphing over the Kr: tasmāra mountain in a match of wits signifies the many, longstanding associations of the goddess Sarasvatī with intellectual prowess through speech, knowledge, and command of the arts and sciences. These narrative depictions of Sarasvatī’s emotional relationships, agentive self-determination, and intellectual power all speak to the fundamental level at which river and goddess are linked throughout her myriad mythic traditions. To follow the thread of the elusive river through the literature is to follow that of the goddess, and vice versa.

REFERENCES Primary Sources The Skanda Purāna: : Book VII. Ed. and trans. D. V. Tagare. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2003. Secondary Sources Airi, Raghunath. 1990. “Purānic Sarasvatī’s Role in National Integration.” In The Puranas and National Integration, ed. Pushpendra Kumar, 118–27. Delhi: Nag Publishers on behalf of Sanskrit Parishad. Bajpai, K. D. 1990. “Role of Indian Rivers and Tirthas in National Integration.” In Pilgrimage Studies: Text and Context: Sri Phalahari Baba Commemoration Volume, ed. Lallanji Gopal and D. P. Dubey, 22–5. Allahabad: Society of Pilgrimage Studies.

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Bhattacharyya, Kanailal. 1983. Sarasvatī: A Study of Her Concept and Iconography. Calcutta: Saraswat Library. Brown, Cheever Mackenzie. 1974. God as Mother: A Feminine Theology in India: An Historical and Theological Study of the Brahmavaivarta Purāna. : Hartford, VT: Claude Stark & Co. Chatterjee, Bandana. 1977. “The Story of Soma and Tārā as Occurring in the Vedic and the Post-Vedic Literature.” Journal of the Ganganatha Jha Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha 33/4: 1–12. Dasgupta, Manas. 2005. “Modi Sparks ‘Confluence’ Controversy.” The Hindu, September 9. Dehejia, Vidya. 1999. Devi: The Great Goddess, Female Divinity in South Asian Art. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. Feldhaus, Anne. 1995. Water and Womanhood: Religious Meaning of Rivers in Maharashtra. New York: Oxford University Press. Ghosh, Niranjan. 1984. Śrī Sarasvatī in Indian Art and Literature. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications. Hegarty, James. 2012. Religion, Narrative and Public Imagination in South Asia: Past and Place in the Sanskrit Mahābhārata. New York: Routledge. Hiltebeitel, Alf. 2001. Rethinking the Mahābhārata: A Reader’s Guide to the Education of the Dharma King. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ibrahim, Farhana. 2005. “Myth, History, Territory: Earthquakes, Rivers, and Narratives of Identity in Western India.” Paper presented at the Thirty-Fourth Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, Wisconsin, October 8–10. Ibrahim, Farhana. 2006. “Mobility, Territory and Memory in Kutch: The Making of a Region in Western India.” PhD Dissertation, Cornell University. Kane, P. V. 1953. History of Dharmaśastra, vol. 4. Pune: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Khan, Mohammad Israil. 1978. Sarasvatī in Sanskrit Literature. Delhi: Malik Composing Agency. Kinsley, David. 1986. Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Kruszewska, Malgorzata (Margaret). 2008. “Sarasvati: Goddess of No Husband, No Child.” In The Constant and Changing Faces of the Goddess: Goddess Traditions of Asia, eds. Deepak Shimkhada and Phyllis K. Hermann, 228–44. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Ludvik, Catherine. 2007. Sarasvati, Riverine Goddess of Knowledge: From the Manuscript-Carrying Vina-Player to the Weapon-Wielding Defender of the Dharma. Leiden: Brill. Monier-Williams, Monier. 1899. A Sanskrit–English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Repr. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999). Pollock, Sheldon. 1998. “The Cosmopolitan Vernacular.” Journal of Asian Studies 57/1: 6–37. Rao, Velcheru Narayana. 1993. “Purāna : as Brahminic Ideology.” In Purāna : Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts, ed. Wendy Doniger, 85–100. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

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Sheikh, Samira. 2010. Forging a Region: Sultans, Traders, and Pilgrims in Gujarat, 1200–1500. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Simpson, Edward. 2004. “‘Hindutva’ as a Rural Planning Paradigm in PostEarthquake Gujarat.” In Cultural Mobilization and the Fragmentation of the Nation in Modern India, eds. J. Zavos, A. Wyatt, and V. Hewitt, 136–65. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Simpson, Edward. 2005. “The ‘Gujarat’ Earthquake and the Political Economy of Nostalgia.” Contributions to Indian Sociology 39/2: 219–25. Simpson, Edward, and Stuart Corbridge. 2006. “The Geography of Things that May Become Memories: The 2001 Earthquake in Kachchh-Gujarat and the Politics of Rehabilitation in the Pre-Memorial Era.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 96/3: 566–85. Tkatschow, Dwight A. 1993. “Sarasvati: Observations on the Iconography of an Ancient Indian Goddess.” In Mother Goddess and Other Goddesses, ed. Venkateswarier Subramaniam, 75–97. Delhi: Ajanta Publications.

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6 Rādhā Lover and Beloved of Kr: ṣna : Tracy Coleman

If Sītā epitomizes the ideal woman who is chaste and selflessly devoted to her husband, then who is Rādhā, the passionate adulterous lover of Kr: ṣna? : Indeed, if Rāma abandons a blameless Sītā, the perfect pativratā, due to mere rumors about her infidelity, then why is Rādhā the adulteress celebrated in Hinduism? Although the pativratā and the parakīyā—the faithful and the unfaithful wife respectively—seem to represent the ideal woman and her antithesis, this essay initially argues that both paradigmatic figures reflect the same underlying androcentric ideology that values women who selflessly sacrifice their lives for men. Both female figures are thus idealized for their enduring devotion and for their conformity to patriarchal traditions that make women and female sexuality men’s property. In epic narrative and devotional poetry alike, female sexuality is essential to male honor and power, and the independent sexual woman represents a dangerous threat to the socio-religious order. Part of Sītā’s and Rādhā’s perfection therefore involves their dependence on men, which simultaneously renders them extremely vulnerable, especially in situations of viraha, separation, when their selfless love for their respective beloveds never abates, despite intense pain. In the first part of this essay, then, I argue that Sītā and Rādhā both present idealized models of feminine devotion, submission, and suffering. But there is no single, “real” Rādhā, and this essay provides a glimpse of her character in different times, texts, and traditions, for only by reflecting on various transformations in Rādhā’s character does her likeness to Sītā become clear, as poets, theologians, and social reformers have similarly tried to make Rādhā more like Sītā, the perfect pativratā, in order to tame the threat that Rādhā and her sexuality represent to hegemonic masculinity.¹ Throughout ¹ For a substantive study comparing Rādhā and Sītā as models for women, and showing the conservative trajectory in Rādhā’s history, see Pauwels 2008.

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this essay, however, I also privilege Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda, the earliest extensive treatment of Rādhā in Indian literature. Although the Gītagovinda has become foundational for later theological claims about prema, selfless love, which Rādhā the gopī now epitomizes in Krishna-bhakti, I argue that Jayadeva does not present Rādhā as a model of bhakti for others to emulate, precisely because the Gītagovinda celebrates an exclusive, erotic relationship that is no longer possible in the kali yuga. What Jayadeva subversively offers, rather, is an aesthetic experience of what he considers the supreme secret: the passionate love affair of Rādhā–Mādhava, an erotic image of divinity both masculine and feminine, an image of dual divinity that sanctifies sexuality and values women as independent and powerful in sharp contrast to traditional structures of power.

ADULTERY AND PREM A Widely celebrated since Jayadeva’s twelfth-century Gītagovinda as Kr: ṣna’s : lover, Rādhā’s origins remain obscure, and her marital status is uncertain in early sources. Although she enjoys a special, sometimes “secret” relationship with Kr: ṣna : in works preceding Jayadeva, she is not explicitly described as adulterous.² In the Gītagovinda, however, Rādhā’s relationship with Kr: ṣna : is clearly secret, erotic, and adulterous. In Gītagovinda 2.18 Jayadeva describes Rādhā as the bride of a cowherd (gopa-vadhū), and other verses refer to adulteresses more generally—women exposed by the moon on dark forest paths, thrilled to meet their lovers in the woods.³ When the poem begins, Rādhā and Kr: ṣna : indulge their secret passions (rahaḥ-kelayaḥ) on the riverbank at night, and similar verses refer to their secret trysts, hidden by darkness.⁴ In 2.1 Rādhā tells her friend the secret (rahas), recalling her first passionate tryst with Kr: ṣna, : and longing for him in separation. This is a secret precisely because Rādhā is married, as are other gopīs who enjoy Kr: ṣna’s : company in Rādhā’s absence.⁵ The fact that Rādhā’s friends accompany her when she goes to meet Kr: ṣna : at the end of chapter 11 indicates that other gopīs know about their affair—so her love for Govinda is secret not because no one knows, but because Rādhā is a young, married woman meeting her divine lover in the dark of night.

² See Miller 1975. ³ See e.g. GG 7.1, 11.11, and 11.12. In referring to the Gītagovinda I follow Miller’s 1977 critical edn. Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda; when not citing her translation explicitly, all translations are mine. ⁴ See e.g. GG 2.11, 5.11, and 5.19. ⁵ See e.g. GG 1.39 and 1.40, where the women playing with Kr: ṣna : are gopa-vadhū and mugdha-vadhū respectively.

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In later vernacular poetry predating the sixteenth-century saint Caitanya, poets such as Vidyāpati and Canḍ : īdāsa likewise celebrate the secret moonlit trysts of Rādhā and Mādhava, but songs describing Rādhā as explicitly married are few. The poems commonly refer to transgressions of dharma, therefore, but for different reasons. In the collection translated by Edward Dimock and Denise Levertov, Rādhā laments that Kr: ṣna’s flute compelled her to : forsake her dharma, her elders, and her own modesty, just as his “relentless flute, | . . . pulls virtuous women from their homes,” and Kr: ṣna : has left her bereft of “parents, brothers, sisters” (In Praise of Krishna, trans. Dimock and Levertov, 28, 29, 30). Whether Rādhā is an unfaithful wife or an unmarried adolescent girl living with her parents is not clear from such verses, but other poems describe a young Rādhā, inexperienced and afraid, and unable to resist Kr: ṣna.⁶ : In one, however, she refers to her husband, her mother-in-law, and other “dutiful women” who reproach her and treat her cruelly due to her illicit love for Kr: ṣna.⁷ : Similarly in a collection of Vidyāpati’s poems translated by Deben Bhattacharya, we find frequent references to secrecy but few to adultery: only once does Rādhā refer to herself as the “wife of another” (Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 56). A. K. Majumdar writes that “in the whole range of Indian mythology a mistress, even divine, was never thought worthy of worship.”⁸ Nevertheless, poets and theologians subsequent to the Gītagovinda developed and defended Rādhā’s status as an adulteress, transforming her illicit passion into religious devotion and making her the ultimate devotee. Dimock traces the debate between those who considered Rādhā paroḍhā parakīyā, the wife of another man and thus Kr: ṣna’s : adulterous lover, and those who saw her as Kr: ṣna’s : wife, svakīyā.⁹ The debate was officially settled in 1717 when proponents on both sides argued their respective positions in court for six months, after which parakīyā became the official doctrine in Bengal Vaiṣnavism.¹⁰ Rādhā was : henceforth officially Kr: ṣna’s : lover, and this otherwise socially improper status was said to be theologically superior to svakīyā because an adulteress suffers separation from her beloved, whereas a wife has no reason to fear separation, being legally married and secure in her relationship. When there is no fear of separation, people involved in a svakīyā relationship easily take the relationship for granted and act out of self-interest for their own pleasure. In a parakīyā relationship, by contrast, viraha, separation from the beloved, not only increases and intensifies love, but also causes the lover to forget about herself and to think only of the beloved.¹¹ These distinct situations are then associated with two kinds of love: kāma and prema. Kāma, say Vaiṣnava : theologians, is “carnal desire,” which is “desire for the satisfaction of the ⁶ See the poems on pp. 7 and 11 of In Praise of Krishna, trans. Dimock and Levertov. ⁷ See In Praise of Krishna, trans. Dimock and Levertov, 33. ⁸ Majumdar 1955: 253. ⁹ Dimock 1989: 200–21. ¹⁰ Dimock 1989: 208. ¹¹ See Dimock 1989: 211–13.

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self.” But prema is “true love,”¹² a love in which “all thought of self disappears” as the lover becomes totally absorbed in the beloved.¹³ Prema therefore has religious value, they say, whereas kāma is useful only for marriage, reproduction, and other worldly pursuits in which one temporarily satisfies selfish passions.¹⁴ In such worldly love, one inevitably experiences dissatisfaction, and then sorrow and pain, but by means of viraha, separation and even fear of separation, kāma can be transformed into prema, as viraha “draws the mind away from the satisfaction of the self . . . [and] increases the desire for the beloved one.”¹⁵ While prema is thus theoretically defined by adultery, Rādhā’s selfless love for Kr: ṣna : is not unlike Sītā’s selfless love for Rāma, despite Sītā’s being a faithful wife, precisely because viraha, separation, is central to both love stories. Whether wife or adulterous lover, therefore, Sītā and Rādhā are both idealized for their selfless, self-sacrificing love and devotion to their gods, a love that by definition requires them to renounce their own selfish desires and act only for the sake of their beloveds, even when their beloveds forsake them.

KĀMA AND PREMA I N T H E GĪ TAGOVINDA Such claims about kāma and prema have become central to the standard Rādhā–Kr: ṣna : narrative, popularized by devotees and scholars alike,¹⁶ despite a remarkable absence of evidence in the two key primary texts invoked by medieval Vaiṣnava theologians. Neither the Bhāgavatapurāna : : nor the Gītagovinda distinguishes kāma and prema in the ways described, and neither text states that the gopīs and Rādhā love Kr: ṣna : selflessly, seeking nothing for themselves and desiring only Kr: ṣna’s pleasure. In the Bhāgavatapurāna, : : in fact, the gopīs love Kr: ṣna passionately, desperately longing for reciprocation, and : their path to salvation is explicitly identified as kāma.¹⁷ In the Gītagovinda, moreover, Rādhā longs for Kr: ṣna’s : body, and she demands that he reciprocate, fulfilling her desires, emotionally and sexually, and their passion, pain, and pleasure are mutual. Given the extensive claims about the term by later Vaiṣnava theologians, : it is surprising that prema appears only infrequently in the Gītagovinda, and in context offers little evidence for later theories about Rādhā’s “selfless love.” Verse 11.12 describes women eager to meet their lovers in the dark ¹² Dimock 1989: 16. ¹³ Dimock 1989: 212. ¹⁴ See Dimock 1989: 212–13. ¹⁵ See Dimock 1989: 11–14. ¹⁶ By contrast, Banerjee’s comments on prema in extramarital relationships are intriguing (1993: 16), but clearly a careful and comprehensive semantic history of prema is needed. ¹⁷ See e.g. BhP 10.29.12–13 and 10.29.15. See also Coleman 2010.

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of night, and their prema is compared to gold that is tested in the darkness. Though not included in Barbara Stoler Miller’s critical edition, verse 1.49 in Lee Siegel’s translation describes Rādhā, “blinded by prema” (premāndhayā rādhayā), caressing Kr: ṣna’s : chest. Most significant, however, is verse 4.1: yamunā-tīra-vānīra-nikuñje mandam āsthitam | : : prāha prema-bharodbhrāntam mādhavam rādhikā-sakhī || Rādhā’s friend spoke to Mādhava, languishing in a cane grove on the bank of the Yamunā, reeling from the burden of prema.

That Kr: ṣna : feels prema and suffers in separation from Rādhā undermines later claims about Rādhā’s exemplary prema and reveals their mutual love. Terms related to kāma appear more frequently in the Gītagovinda, attributed to both Kr: ṣna : and Rādhā, who are similarly desired and desirous. In 2.10 Rādhā laments that she still feels kāma for Kr: ṣna : even when he indulges his lust (tr: ṣnā) for other young women, and in 7.40 likewise she resents the : kāma she feels for him despite his cruelty. In 7.11 Rādhā wonders why her lover (kānta, desired one) has not come, fearing he might have been distracted by another desirous woman (kāminī). Kr: ṣna : addresses Rādhā in 12.2 as kāmini in the vocative, as he longs for her to step onto his bed of flowers, : and chapter 5 likewise portrays Kr: ṣna : longing (sākānkṣa). In 5.14 the messengerfriend encourages Rādhā to fulfill Kr: ṣna’s : desire (madhu-ripu-kāma), which in the larger context means giving him her body. In 5.16 her friend addresses her in the vocative as kānte, desired one, telling her that her beloved (priya) suffers in her absence. In 12.10–11 their loveplay is compared to a violent battle in which Rādhā triumphs over her lover (kānta-jayāya), after which she tells her lover (kānta) to beautify her body in various ways, which he happily does. According to Jayadeva, then, Rādhā embodies kāma and not prema, both literally and symbolically: she desires Kr: ṣna : passionately, reveling in her own pleasure and demanding that Kr: ṣna satisfy her, not simply acting selflessly to : satisfy him. Indeed, when Kr: ṣna displeases her by dallying with other : women, she becomes angry and leaves him (3.3), and she continues to reject him despite pleas by her messenger-friend to give in. That Kr: ṣna : suffers in separation further illustrates not only Rādhā’s independence—having a mind and desires of her own, she can leave him and make him suffer, and he is powerless to stop her—but also their deeply mutual love and passion. : This festival of love (anangotsavam) in which Kr: ṣna : plays “like erotic mood : incarnate” (śr: ngāraḥ sakhi mūrtimān iva, 1.46) is a festival of mutual love between Rādhā and Mādhava, and their reciprocal passion intensifies in both separation and union.

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D O M I N A T I O N , D E P E N D E NC E , D ES E RTI ON Despite Jayadeva’s celebration of Kr: ṣna : and Rādhā’s mutual desire and pleasure, their love story changes considerably over time—in poetry, theology, and popular media. When vernacular songs begin to appear in the fourteenth century in North India, their love remains secret, illicit, and sometimes explicitly adulterous, but the remarkable mutuality central to the Gītagovinda largely disappears. In the Maithili songs of the fifteenth-century scholar and court poet Vidyāpati, for example, we find a sexually inexperienced, even virginal Rādhā paired with a sexually aggressive, sometimes violent Kr: ṣna. : In some poems the unnamed girl expresses fear and resistance: O friend, friend, take me with you. I am only a young girl, No one can stop him So violent a lover is he. My heart shudders to go near him . . . (Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 45)

But in others, Kr: ṣna : is encouraged to overcome her resistance and effectively assault her: Do not abandon Her delicate limbs For fear of crushing. Who has ever seen A blossom smothered By the weight of a bee? Mādhava, mark my words: Do not hold back If she cries ‘No, no’, Or futile comes the dawn. With your ardent kissing Give her lips The hue of dusk And slowly bring her To the height of joy (Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 113)

The implication, of course, is that she will eventually enjoy sex, so Kr: ṣna : should force himself on her until she does, even bruising her lips in such “play.” The line between consent and opposition is even more blurred when the poet writes, “Now she consents, now she is afraid,” and then she fearfully covers her breasts with her clothing, leaving her “treasure” exposed for his

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taking (Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 41). Despite her fear and resistance, the poet suggests that she really wants Kr: ṣna, : Vidyāpati says: My dear lady, You are enchanted by that greedy god. (Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 46)

Such poems seem to accept aggression as a normal aspect of male sexuality, in sharp contrast to the Gītagovinda where a suffering Kr: ṣna : longs and waits for Rādhā, allowing her to come willingly to him and to play the active sexual role. Not once, in fact, does Jayadeva imply that Kr: ṣna : violates Rādhā, forcing her to engage physically with him against her will. She explicitly resents his power over her, but the real power is her own love and desire for him despite his initial infidelity, and in the Gītagovinda Kr: ṣna : succumbs to the same powerful desire for Rādhā. In Vidyāpati, by contrast, poems that imply or explicitly state she really wants him, despite resistance, seem to justify his use of force and domination by dismissing her resistance as mere feminine artifice, perhaps obligatory duplicity for virgin girls and inexperienced young women. That Rādhā feels joy and comfort with Kr: ṣna, : as stated in other poems, further justifies Kr: ṣna’s actions and serves to sacralize male : domination and sexual violence: Kr: ṣna is God, after all, he knows what Rādhā : secretly wants. Thus she speaks, Joy permeates all things. My life: joy, my youth: fulfillment . . . .

.

The god of destiny smiled on me . . . .

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for now my body has meaning in the presence of my beloved. (In Praise of Krishna, trans. Dimock and Levertov, 66)¹⁸

Rādhā is destined to love Kr: ṣna, : in other words, and his sexual aggression only helps to make her aware of her own destiny. Only when her body is his, moreover, does she feel her life becomes meaningful and fulfilled. Within this context in which Rādhā is conceptualized according to a highly eroticized pativratā ideology, as if she belongs to Kr: ṣna : by nature, the theme of blame appears seamlessly in the poetry, sometimes associated with her ¹⁸ See also Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 53.

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helplessness and assault, just as Sītā is blamed and held responsible for her abduction in the Rāmāyana. : I was alone. My friends had gone ahead. The night was dark and lightening flashed. As I came from the grove, he stopped. Only Krishna would have dared to plunder me. The world would have blamed me if he had taken away my clothes. “Leave my dress alone, Krishna,” I cried; “it is new and you will tear it.” (Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 128)

Though Sītā remains chaste while in Rāvana’s : captivity, Kr: ṣna : rapes Rādhā, but as long as her clothes remain intact when she gets home, she thinks no one will know and thus no one will blame her for being sexually assaulted. She feels bad, moreover, even when he assaults her, because she cannot please him, being too afraid and inexperienced herself. New to love, I shrank from loving. Yet the night grew And all was done. I did not relish Sweets of dalliance. My shyness warred against my will . . . . . . He seized my garland, Held my hair And pressed his heart Against my smothered breasts But, in my clumsy innocence, Alone, with none to aid, I could not please. He wanted everything In one great rapture And to my pitiful shame I gave so little. The spell of passion went. I said Nothing. (Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 105)

Rādhā is an inexperienced, perhaps virginal girl who is violated, yet she blames herself for not pleasing Kr: ṣna, : for giving him little, and saying nothing to heighten his pleasure—as if his pleasure were all that matters. Quite unlike the experienced lover in Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda—where she is also perhaps

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older than Kr: ṣna, : and where she unabashedly seeks to fulfill her own desire, enjoying sexual pleasure and even power over Kr: ṣna—Vidyāpati’s Rādhā, : disempowered and victimized, exists for Kr: ṣna’s pleasure. In Vidyāpati’s : poetry, Kr: ṣna : is a physically strong and powerful young man, implicitly God, who dominates Rādhā, and Rādhā is sometimes a powerless virgin, sometimes an ambivalent adolescent girl whose resistance means nothing in response to an aggressive male sexuality glorified in a religious context that privileges masculine power and pleasure. Vidyāpati pens poems describing Kr: ṣna’s : desire for Rādhā, his longing for her in separation, and even her taking the masculine role on top during intercourse.¹⁹ But such poems are few in number by comparison to those I have just discussed, and the lack of mutuality in their relationship is striking by comparison to the Gītagovinda. Where Jayadeva emphasizes union, moreover, Vidyāpati underscores separation, viraha, so that Kr: ṣna’s : eventually leaving for Mathurā frames their affair, and sometimes Kr: ṣna cruelly disappears from their : bower without saying a word, leaving a sleeping Rādhā with overwhelming sadness when she awakens.²⁰ In some poems he promises to come back, but in reality he never returns.²¹ Having violated and seduced her, therefore, having forced her to want him and love him as she was destined to do, he deserts her. Although radically different from the Gītagovinda, this later depiction of the amorous couple is not unusual, I contend, and the absence of mutuality in North Indian vernacular poetry such as Vidyāpati’s reflects the same androcentric ideology underlying Sītā’s character in the epic Rāmāyana, : an ideology that also informs portraits of Rādhā in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Vaiṣnava theology. Dimock writes: : Worship is pleasing to Kr: ṣna : only if the worshipper, like the Gopī, has no thought of self. In such a case, the worshipper gets his reward from Kr: ṣna’s : pleasure; the bhakta’s joy increases as Kr: ṣna’s : pleasure grows. This selfless attitude of love is prema. [sic]²²

Dimock then notes the sharp contrast between kāma and prema in Vaiṣnava : theology, and states that the gopīs and Rādhā are the classic example of prema.²³ As I have already shown, however, the Bhāgavatapurāna : and the Gītagovinda provide no evidence for such claims about the women’s selflessness, and instead explicitly emphasize their kāma for Kr: ṣna : and their desire for reciprocation. But the normative and now popular Vaiṣnava contention : that Rādhā and the gopīs feel prema also entails another key claim, namely that pleasure and pain are the same to the gopīs because the “‘happiness of Kr: ṣna : ¹⁹ See Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 81 and In Praise of Krishna, trans. Dimock and Levertov, 56. ²⁰ See Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 139, 95. ²¹ See Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Bhattacharya, 49. ²² Dimock 1989: 161. ²³ Dimock 1989: 162.

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was the sole root of all their desires.’”²⁴ Such a statement helps to explain the glorification of suffering we find in theological treatises and scholarly studies, wherein Rādhā’s suffering makes her the “model devotee,”²⁵ and it also explains why the adulteress would be praised as Kr: ṣna’s exemplary bhakta. : Although Vidyāpati fetishizes Kr: ṣna’s domination of an inexperienced girl, : later Gauḍīya theologians insist that the adulteress embodies the “ultimate in prema.”²⁶ As Dimock explains, the paroḍhā, married woman, illustrates prema better than the kanyā, unmarried girl, because not only could the unmarried girl marry her lover, but more importantly, “[p]aroḍhā women have more to lose, and their lovers thus more to gain” in the adulterous affair.²⁷ Why the male lover would have more to gain in an affair with a married woman is not entirely clear, but the idea of “men gaining from women losing” is not a novel claim in medieval Vaiṣnavism. On the contrary, it : underlies the patriarchal ideology of the Rāmāyana, wherein Rāma gains : much from Sītā’s selfless love and renunciation of her own desires for the sake of his desires and dharma. To be sure, when Sītā loses her life at the end of the Vālmīki Rāmāyana, : Rāma gains stability in his kingdom and regains his masculine honor that was threatened by his wife’s sexuality, despite her absolute chastity. In the adulterous relationship somewhat similarly, the male lover gains because the woman’s love grows ever stronger in separation and even with the threat of separation. The feeling of viraha, the pain and longing stemming from the separation of lover and beloved, is a measure of the depth of prema. . . . In a parakīyā relationship nothing is certain, and viraha is more intense because each separation might be the final one.²⁸

Quoting the Durlabhasāra of Locana-dāsa, Dimock then notes that “‘fear of separation’” increases grief and passion, and without these, “‘there is no prema.’”²⁹ As an adulteress, Rādhā risks everything and lives in a state of fear and uncertainty because each parting from Kr: ṣna : may be the last. Yet she continues to love him, even in separation, even when he departs finally for Mathurā, and this passionate, undying love whereby Rādhā risks and loses everything when Kr: ṣna : leaves is prema. I submit that Sītā’s situation is similar, despite her married status, and that Rādhā and Sītā both therefore expose the same deep ideology that glorifies women’s selfless love and their willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of their beloveds. But whereas the proof of Rādhā’s prema lies in her fearless desire to forsake her worldly security in order to love Kr: ṣna : in the dark of night despite the dangers in the forest and the dangers in their illicit trysts, Sītā proves her love when in Rāvana’s captivity she remains chaste and devoted to Rāma throughout : ²⁴ Dimock 1989: 110. ²⁵ Pauwels 2009: 675. ²⁶ Dimock 1989: 217. ²⁷ See Dimock 1989: 17, 217. ²⁸ Dimock 1989: 211. ²⁹ Dimock 1989: 211.

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their separation, and then later when Rāma tests her, repeatedly, sometimes threatening her with viraha, sometimes enforcing viraha by deserting her in the forest, where her love for her pati never abates. Despite her svakīyā status, then, Sītā both fears and experiences viraha, but remains an exemplary pativratā, thereby embodying the perfect prema that entails her selfless willingness to lose everything for Rāma, just as Rādhā willingly risks everything for Kr: ṣna. : Why celebrate an adulteress-goddess in a religious culture that deifies the pativratā? What does it mean that married gopīs are irresistibly attracted to Kr: ṣna : and abandon their husbands and children and homes, as described in the Bhāgavatapurāna? : I suggest that erotic love and adulterous desire are glorified in the stories of Rādhā and the gopīs because women’s desire is intrinsic to patriarchal society. Female sexual desire and feminine love and devotion are instrumental to the masculinist social order, and are therefore theorized and narrativized in the religious texts accordingly, in order to produce and normalize such love and devotion. Recalling statements in Manu and other normative texts that women should never be independent, I suggest that parakīyā theology reinforces such ideology while seeming to do the opposite.³⁰ An adulteress, the parakīyā woman belongs socially and legally to one man, her husband, and emotionally and psychologically to another man, her lover; and she belongs physically and sexually to both, depending on time and circumstance. In relation to both husband and lover, then, the adulteress belongs to men, and in this situation she never really belongs to herself in any sense. She epitomizes prema, moreover, selfless love for her lover—a selflessness that makes her willing to sacrifice everything for him: her home, her family, her honor, her life. In this state of selflessness, therefore, she is effectively dispossessed—cast out, homeless, deprived of property or rights— and most significantly, dispossessed of her self. Sītā embodies such selfless love in relation to dharma: she is married to Rāma, and as his wife, she becomes one with him, sacrificing her desires and life in order to “merge” with him and support his masculine world as the ideal pativratā.³¹ Rādhā, by contrast, has no dharmic obligations to Kr: ṣna, : but she adores him and willingly sacrifices everything for him. She therefore embodies selfless love in relation to desire: she wants to give her life to Kr: ṣna, : and she does so freely. She wants to be dispossessed. In an androcentric tradition where women are conceptualized as ³⁰ See e.g. Vasiṣt ḥ a Dharmasūtra 5.1 and 5.3: “Never independent, a woman is under male authority. Her father protects her in her childhood, her husband guards her in her youth, and her son takes care of her in her old age. A woman never gains independence.” Cited in Bose 2010: 86; see Bose 2010: 85–7 for similar passages from various texts. ³¹ In an analysis of Sītā’s character in the Rāmāyana, : Arjunsinh Parmar argues that marital happiness comes from the wife’s ability to “merge her personality in her husband’s.” He says that only women, not men, have this “great quality and capacity to merge” (2001: 187).

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dangerous but instrumental to men’s desires and dharma, it is expedient to make women want to be selfless and to serve their men. The adulteress thus becomes the epitome of selflessness, for she has no claim on herself, being bound to men by both dharma and desire. Whether pativratā or parakīyā, then, perfect women—goddesses—are defined by their selflessness, their selfless love for their gods, to whom they give their bodies, emotions, and lives. But as these treasured love stories about Sītā and Rādhā attest, God can desert the perfect woman, evict her at any moment, however unjustly—and he does. David Kinsley writes that for Bengal Vaiṣnavas, Rādhā’s adulterous love is : “appropriate as a devotional metaphor” because “illicit love is given freely, makes no legal claims, and as such is selfless.”³² The adulteress voluntarily surrenders herself, in other words, and she “makes no legal claims” on her man. Her male lover therefore has no duty to her in their illicit affair, and if the male lover does not reciprocate the passionate love that the adulteress feels for him—as Kr: ṣna : does not reciprocate the gopīs’ love in the Bhāgavatapurāna, : or Rādhā’s love in various texts and traditions subsequent to the Gītagovinda— then she has no claims on him, legally or emotionally. But a husband has dharmic obligations to his wife. He should provide for her financially and materially, and he should protect her and provide security more generally. Unlike the husband, the male lover has no such obligations to provide for the parakīyā. Indeed, he has no obligations whatsoever: as Vaiṣnava theologians : proclaim, the pleasure is all Kr: ṣna’s. Kinsley also notes that the obstacles to the : couple’s illicit love only intensify the passion, and the risk heightens the thrill.³³ As a married woman meeting her lover for moonlit trysts, Rādhā risks everything while Kr: ṣna : risks nothing—and as God, of course, he has nothing to lose anyway. Sītā theoretically and legally should be protected by Rāma, her lawful husband, so that when she surrenders herself and her everything to her divine pati, she should be secure, risking little. But Rāma fails to protect her, and eventually abandons her cruelly, despite her perfection. I would therefore argue that parakīyā theology becomes orthodox because this position liberates the male beloved from all obligations to women. Kr: ṣna, : according to Gauḍīya theologians, owes Rādhā nothing even as he demands her selfless love. The male lover therefore occupies a safer position in relation to women than the husband, although as the Rāmāyana : demonstrates, Sītā’s threat to Rāma looms dramatically large, but is easily eradicated, as he banishes her to the forest and forbids all criticism of his royal decision,³⁴ and then replaces his devoted wife with a ceremonial statue after she ends her own life. Kinsley continues: The devotee, however, in responding to the Lord’s presence, can never count on binding the Lord through love. Kr: ṣna : is always free to come and go, and the ³² Kinsley 1986: 89.

³³ Kinsley 1986: 89.

³⁴ See R. Goldman 2004: 37.

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devotee often spends long periods in painful separation from Kr: ṣna. : These feelings and experiences, seen as rare in married love, are epitomized in Rādhā’s adulterous love.³⁵

That Kr: ṣna : is free from obligation and free to do as he pleases contrasts sharply with Rādhā’s strīdharma and her passionate bhakti, which bind her to husband and lover in different ways. The tradition thus privileges masculine freedom in contrast to feminine duty and devotion, celebrating a woman who sacrifices everything for her man, but who may get nothing in return, and then glorifying her pain in viraha as the highest expression of devotional love. Parakīyā theology therefore justifies what seems unjustifiable in the Rāmāyana: : a devoted woman giving her everything to a man who gives nothing back and who abandons her after she has fulfilled her purpose for him. Given that Rāma and Kr: ṣna : are God, then, one could say that God makes women utterly dependent, extremely vulnerable, and finally destitute when he abandons them with nothing, not even themselves, for the women have given themselves totally and unconditionally to their men, rendering an independent life meaningless. But the parakīyā, like the pativratā, remains ever devoted to her man. Kinsley notes, moreover, that “[i]n her relationship with Kr: ṣna : [Rādhā] gains nothing (from the worldly point of view), losing her reputation, pride of family, and so on.”³⁶ But if Rādhā gains nothing in the world and loses everything, even Kr: ṣna : eventually, how could Rādhā ever be a social model for women? Given that the devotional model would be so radically unappealing as a socio-economic reality, I contend that parakīyā theology effectively serves to keep women in the home as devoted wives and mothers where according to strīdharma they belong, in part by threatening them with unbearable pain and rejection for committing adultery. Rādhā is an adulteress, after all—a woman who in the real social and economic world where relationships are legislated would be extremely vulnerable, possibly rejected and deserted, perhaps abused and left utterly destitute. Though God may require that everything be sacrificed— an ancient theme in India, to be sure—this seems extreme for women. But the fate of Sītā, who is clearly blameless, and the fate of other relatively blameless epic heroines such as Ahalyā and Renukā, make the harsh punishment for adultery : abundantly clear.³⁷ Given that Rādhā suffers in the poetry, feeling anxious, ashamed of her affair, and being aware of scandal as her “constant companion” as she is branded a “whore”³⁸—such poetry teaches women a lesson about the real-life consequences of adultery even as it celebrates Rādhā as the exemplary devotee. Punished already in poetry, Rādhā therefore provides an example of

³⁵ Kinsley 1986: 89–90. ³⁶ Kinsley 1986: 92. ³⁷ For the stories of Ahalyā and Renukā (in the Rāmāyana : : and Mahābhārata respectively), see S. Goldman 2004: 70–2 and 76. ³⁸ See the discussion of Vidyāpati and Canḍ : īdāsa in Banerjee 1993: 23–8.

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what a woman should not be in reality—defiant of strīdharma, sexually desirous, adulterous. Valerie Ritter and Heidi Pauwels³⁹ have shown how Rādhā becomes more like Sītā, the good pativratā, in modern literature and contemporary film, but I would argue that their common experiences of viraha, and their sexuality, have long defined them similarly as women. Both female figures suffer viraha, separation from their beloveds, precisely because their men have duties beyond their relationships with women that necessitate separation, whether or not they are legally married. But because women are essentially defined by their relationships with men and by their dependence on men, strīdharma renders them extremely vulnerable, especially in situations of viraha. As Kr: ṣna’s adulterous lover, Rādhā is inevitably abandoned by Kr: ṣna, : : who must leave Vraja for Mathurā in order to fulfill his larger purpose on earth, and Rādhā clearly understands the risks involved in their illicit affair. Yet she willingly sacrifices everything for Kr: ṣna, : including her honor and security in marriage. Bhakti poetry and the larger post-Gītagovinda tradition therefore glorify Rādhā for her socially subversive courage as a Kr: ṣna-bhakta, even as : they celebrate her social isolation and vulnerability, and her suffering in viraha. As an adulteress, a defiant woman who betrays her husband and enjoys love and sexual passion in secret sylvan trysts with Kr: ṣna, : moreover, Rādhā deserves to be scorned, ostracized and eventually deserted: her sexual and emotional transgressions of dharma provoke appropriate punishments even as her subversive sexuality is glorified in a religious context. Sītā’s sexuality is the cause of her social ostracism and harsh punishment as well, despite her innocence. Though chaste, devoted to Rāma, and utterly undeserving of society’s censure, she is tested, punished, abandoned, and dies because her sexuality threatens Rāma’s honor and his kingdom.⁴⁰ As king, Rāma’s primary duty is to his people and his polity, so he has no choice but to abandon his devoted wife, however cruel and unjust this may seem. Sītā is ever praised for accepting her fate with grace and humility, thereby supporting Rāma and his dharma and serving her purpose in life. Because her life is defined by her husband, in other words, she is vulnerable, suffers, and willingly dies though she committed no crime. Even perfect women, goddesses, can therefore be legitimately destroyed by an androcentric system that makes women utterly dependent on men who owe them nothing. As women, therefore, Sītā and Rādhā are extremely vulnerable, and legitimately disposable. In these cherished stories of exemplary feminine dharma and devotion, God himself embodied in human form demands selfless love from women, and then he abandons them. Sītā and Rādhā both epitomize selfless surrender as a model for women to emulate, but both are ultimately ³⁹ Ritter 2005; Pauwels 2008. ⁴⁰ See R. Goldman 2004; S. Goldman 2001 and 2004; Sutherland 1989.

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forsaken precisely because they are women. While female sexuality may be useful for men, and even deeply desired and passionately enjoyed, women remain threatening even when men control them strictly by legal, moral, and emotional means. Sītā and Rādhā are thus glorified for their selflessness that renders them perfectly instrumental to their gods in their masculine worlds, and perfectly acquiescent when abandoned by their beloved gods while remaining eternally devoted.

DUAL DIVINITY One could argue that the power dynamic in the Gītagovinda is similar, despite the fact that Jayadeva ends his poem with union, not separation. After all, if the larger narrative context involving viraha was already well known by the twelfth century,⁴¹ then Jayadeva’s audience would have understood Rādhā’s emotional and sexual power over Kr: ṣna : as exciting, yet fleeting. The masculine–feminine role reversals in the poem would thus reflect Jayadeva’s aesthetic choices but not necessarily his deeper criticism of an androcentric ideology that makes women vulnerable instruments of men’s pleasure and power. In portraying Kr: ṣna’s : emotional and sexual vulnerability, his submission to Rādhā, and his delight in her domination, Jayadeva would only be revealing Kr: ṣna’s : secret love life in a fleeting tryst, but not his primary role or purpose on earth. The structural inequality would therefore remain unchanged, as Rādhā risks everything and Kr: ṣna, : the Supreme God, risks nothing, leaving her defenseless and ultimately powerless, except in their bower where Kr: ṣna : briefly revels in the thrill of her power before he inevitably leaves her for his greater masculine mission. One could further argue that when Jayadeva makes erotic passion central to the love story, he identifies sex specifically as something a woman must give a man—not just for dharma and reproduction, as Sītā dutifully produces virile sons for Rāma and his patriline. Rather, Jayadeva creates Rādhā purely for the youthful Kr: ṣna’s : sexual pleasure, thereby elaborating the male-domination ideology and making explicit what we do not see clearly in the epics: sex for pleasure among the many things women must selflessly give men without expecting anything lasting in return. But if we forget about the larger narrative fact that Kr: ṣna : must eventually leave Rādhā, and focus only on the episodes depicted in the Gītagovinda, then the extraordinary mutuality and reciprocity the lovers experience in both separation and union elicit profound questions about the identity of Rādhā and the possibility of a dual divinity. Who is Rādhā? Is she human or divine, a ⁴¹ See Miller 1975: esp. 661 and 666, for earlier verses referring to separation.

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gopī or a goddess? Is Rādhā the goddess Śrī, and thus Kr: ṣna’s : eternal consort? Are she and Kr: ṣna : two separate beings embodied as Rādhā and Mādhava? Or are they a singular being, a dual divinity, simultaneously masculine and feminine? In the first verse of the Gītagovinda, Jayadeva identifies the couple, Rādhā–Mādhava, with a dual compound, and later suggests their unity in duality when Kr: ṣna : tells Rādhā in 10.4, tvam asi mama jīvanam: “you are my life.” In other verses the role reversals are remarkable, with Kr: ṣna : submitting to Rādhā, as in 10.8, when he asks her to place her foot on his head, and in their reunion in 12.10, when Rādhā triumphs over her lover sexually. Given that Jayadeva identifies Kr: ṣna : as the Supreme God and offers his song in devotion, such intimacy would be astonishing if Rādhā were a human woman, but if she is actually the goddess Śrī, then her potential as a model for bhakti would be diminished considerably. As noted earlier, Rādhā’s history prior to the Gītagovinda is obscure and debated among scholars. Sumanta Banerjee speculates that her character originated in folk traditions among the Abhira tribe before she was later deified in Sanskrit texts and Vaiṣnava theology, thus suggesting the apotheosis : of a folk heroine. A. K. Majumdar contends that even Jayadeva “treats Rādhā as an ordinary girl” with “entirely human” passions and no trace of divinity, for she has neither the “dignity nor the grace . . . of a goddess.” Given such profane treatment, Majumdar concludes, no Rādhā cult existed, nor was Rādhā worshipped in the twelfth century.⁴² Although Majumdar’s argument seems to rest on his own resistance to Kr: ṣna’s : erotic desire, which he calls “ordinary human love,”⁴³ Jayadeva is emphatic about Kr: ṣna’s : identity as the Supreme God even amidst his passionate trysts with Rādhā. Jayadeva’s treatment of Rādhā, however, is much more ambiguous. Reflecting her elusive identity in literature predating the Gītagovinda, Jayadeva never states unambiguously that Rādhā is divine or that she is Śrī. As Miller has shown, while Rādhā is obviously special among the gopīs in fragmentary references prior to Jayadeva, she is not consistently or clearly identified as either human or divine, although in some verses Rādhā and Śrī or Lakṣmī are distinct, and Kr: ṣna : seems to prefer Rādhā over the goddess.⁴⁴ In the Gītagovinda likewise, Jayadeva’s references to Śrī could signify Rādhā, but most are ambiguous and open to interpretation.⁴⁵ In 11.21 Jayadeva seems to identify Rādhā with the goddess Lakṣmī, here called Padmāvatī, but in 1.2 he sings about śrī-vāsudeva-rati-keli, which could mean the loveplay of Śrī and Vāsudeva, or the loveplay of Śrī Vāsudeva. Despite the mystery of Rādhā’s identity even in the Gītagovinda, later texts and traditions define Rādhā very carefully, conceptualizing her divinity in relation to Kr: ṣna : in different ways. In the sixteenth-century works of Jīva Gosvāmin and Rūpa Gosvāmin, for example, Rādhā is conceptualized both as ⁴² Majumdar 1955: 238–41. ⁴⁴ See e.g. Miller 1975: 662.

⁴³ Majumdar 1955: 250. ⁴⁵ See e.g. GG 1.17 and 1.23.

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an aspect of Kr: ṣna, : his hlādinī-śakti, or power of bliss, and as an exemplar of the highest possible devotion, mahābhāva, literally the “great-feeling” that is prema, selfless love. As hlādinī-śakti, Rādhā is associated with Kr: ṣna’s : power to give and receive pleasure, and she “is thus inseparable from the svarūpa of Kr: ṣna.” : Now divine herself, a part of Kr: ṣna’s : essential nature, Rādhā is worthy of worship because she is Kr: ṣna, an idea that distances her from human : devotees even as theologians attempt to establish a metaphysical link between Rādhā and humanity.⁴⁶ In the words of a contemporary proponent of Gauḍīya Vaiṣnavism, Rādhā exists in the human soul as “atomic bliss-consciousness,” : enabling devotees to practice bhakti with the aim of experiencing mahābhāva, “supreme ecstasy.”⁴⁷ In the Vraja-līlā, moreover, Rādhā manifests as all the other gopīs, “complicat[ing] herself thus in order to satisfy her beloved in all possible ways,” for the gopīs’ “satisfaction comes only through the satisfaction of Krishna.”⁴⁸ All of Kr: ṣna’s : gopī lovers, then, including Rādhā, are essentially aspects of Kr: ṣna himself, though paradoxically they exist in order to please : Kr: ṣna. : In this sense, Gauḍīya theology draws on ancient epic ideology in making women both instruments of men’s pleasure (and divine power), and literally one with their men. Though Sītā merges her life and identity with Rāma in order to support and empower him, and thereby loses her individuality socially and legally as she perfectly enacts strīdharma, the theological Rādhā has no identity separate from Kr: ṣna, : for she is now simply a metaphysical aspect of him, but when embodied in human form and thus appearing distinct, she still exists in order to love and satisfy him. Shrivatsa Goswami writes: “Love is by nature a mutual satisfaction that is possible only when one negates oneself totally for the sake of the other.”⁴⁹ But I would argue that such a claim belies the same absence of mutuality found in the Rāmāyana, : where Sītā negates herself as she lives and dies for Rāma. Informed by this same normative ideal, medieval Vaiṣnava theologians negate Rādhā even more : radically when they make her an aspect of Kr: ṣna : and effectively masculinize the cosmos, thereby theoretically eradicating any potential threat of female sexuality while still presenting the same model of feminine selflessness as found in the epics. Rādhā literally becomes a man in the figure of Caitanya (1486–1533). Caitanya was an ecstatic Bengali devotee whose lasting influence derives largely from the written work of the scholarly Gosvāmins he sent to Vr: ndāvana in order to establish a Kr: ṣna-centered theology consistent with brahminical thought— : among them, Jīva and Rūpa, whose ideas I have already mentioned. But biographical accounts of Caitanya become an important genre in the Vaiṣnava : oeuvre, with some understanding Caitanya to have been an incarnation of Kr: ṣna, : and others claiming that he was an incarnation of Kr: ṣna : and Rādhā ⁴⁶ Dimock 1989: 133–4; see also Kinsley 1986: 91. ⁴⁸ Goswami 1986: 81, 83. ⁴⁹ Goswami 1986: 83.

⁴⁷ Goswami 1986: 78, 81.

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in one body. Unlike his Kr: ṣna : avatāra in the previous yuga—when Kr: ṣna : amorously frolicked with Rādhā in Vraja until his departure for Mathurā— Caitanya as the kali-yuga avatāra eliminates the problem of viraha, separation, at least for Rādhā and Kr: ṣna, : because Kr: ṣna : becomes Rādhā in the body of Caitanya. More precisely, Kr: ṣna is born with the male body of Caitanya and the : (female) emotions of Rādhā, allowing him to feel how deeply she loved him.⁵⁰ Although Shrivatsa Goswami says that the “history of love matures completely” in this singular incarnation,⁵¹ Banerjee argues that Rādhā loses her identity entirely in this conceptualization, which reflects the “patriarchal Brahminical hegemony” in post-Caitanya Gauḍīya Vaiṣnavism.⁵² That Caitanya was an ascetic : who “absolutely and roundly condemned any association with women”⁵³ speaks volumes about the male anxieties underlying this masculinist theology that simultaneously glorifies Rādhā and negates her existence. Whether in the male body of Caitanya, therefore, whether universalized as an abstract theological concept such as mahābhāva or prema, or absorbed into Kr: ṣna’s : cosmic body as his hlādinī śakti, Rādhā the woman—lover and beloved of Kr: ṣna, : unique and independent— effectively disappears throughout the medieval period in North India. I contend that Rādhā the woman disappears—or, more precisely, is erased— in various versions of her story subsequent to Jayadeva because when the woman is erased, female sexuality disappears as well. For all the glorification of the eroticism in Rādhā and Kr: ṣna’s : love affair, their erotic passion has been cause for concern throughout the centuries up to the present day. I contend that such discomfort stems from the visibility—indeed, the celebration—of female sexuality in the Gītagovinda, where Kr: ṣna : enjoys pleasing Rādhā, and their passionate sex has no aim but mutual pleasure. As has been shown throughout this essay, female sexuality is a subtext underlying stories about men and male power. In a patriarchal culture where men’s honor and power derive in part from women’s chastity and their reproduction of virile sons, women’s lives must be controlled so that their sexuality is protected and deployed for the proper purposes, as shown in the Rāmāyana. : In an androcentric worldview, moreover, female sexuality will always be a problem because woman constitutes the quintessential Other and thus the most dangerous threat to masculinity. If androcentricity and masculinity are normative, moreover, women and female sexuality will be conceptualized accordingly— either as deviant, dangerous, and demonic when uncontrolled by men, or as natural, benign, and divine when controlled by and therefore supportive of men and their missions. Women must therefore be made useful to men, socially, economically, politically, and religiously. While erotic passion may be enjoyable, it is not essential to reproduction, and as the Sanskrit epics demonstrate repeatedly, erotic passion often brings more pain than pleasure, ⁵⁰ See Dimock 1989: 146–7. ⁵¹ Goswami 1986: 87. ⁵² Banerjee 1993: 45. ⁵³ Dimock 1989: 153.

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and can lead to miscegenation. Passion is powerful, difficult to control, and not subject to duty. It is also exclusive, serves no clear social purpose, and indeed is often subversive of social structures and religious norms. It is, I submit, what Jayadeva celebrates in the Gītagovinda—the secret, exclusive, subversive erotic passion of Rādhā and Mādhava, a woman and God. That Rādhā is a woman who enjoys the exclusive attention of Kr: ṣna : poses obvious problems for the tradition, for Rādhā provides no model of dharma insofar she fearlessly rejects strīdharma, and she provides no model of bhakti insofar as her relationship with Kr: ṣna : is sexual and exclusive. Later thinkers thus transform Rādhā and her relationship with Kr: ṣna, : strategically spiritualizing her, universalizing her, and/or socializing her properly in order to make her useful to men and exemplary for women. Vaiṣnava theologians thus : spiritualize Rādhā in various ways, erasing precisely her female sexuality so that she may be universalized as a model of bhakti even for men. Social reformers and proponents of dharma relate her to Sītā, the exemplary pativratā, subduing precisely her independent female sexuality, subordinating her to male power, and then divinizing her for her selfless feminine conformity.⁵⁴ By means of such pervasive discursive practices, then, the woman Rādhā— unique, fearless, desirous, proud, independent, sexual—the individual woman Rādhā disappears, and her divine beloved is restored to the realm of dominant masculinity as well.

E X CL U S I V E EROTI C L OV E But Rādhā the woman, and her female sexuality, never disappear in the Gītagovinda. Though Kr: ṣna : plays seductively with many beautiful gopīs in the first chapter, Jayadeva emphasizes Rādhā’s uniqueness in the remainder of the poem. In 2.4–5, while Kr: ṣna’s : arms encircle a thousand youthful gopīs and he lustfully kisses their mouths, Rādhā retreats in 2.1, being driven away by envy (īrṣyā-vaśena) because she no longer feels special. Jayadeva’s description of this particular scene and Rādhā’s feelings is remarkable, in fact, for while Kr: ṣna : plays in the forest, loving all the other gopīs equally (viharati vane rādhā sādhārana-pra naye harau), Rādhā leaves in jealously, literally because her : : own eminence or superiority had melted away (vigalita-nijotkarṣād). Rādhā is jealous and sad precisely because she wants to be special, not simply one of the thousand nameless gopīs whom Kr: ṣna : enjoys. Her wishes soon come true, for in 3.1 ⁵⁴ Texts such as the Brahmavaivartapurāna : that construct Rādhā as the Divine Mother only complete this process of socialization-divinization. See Brown 1974 and 1986.

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: : : kamsārir api samsāra-vāsanābandha-śr: nkhalām | rādhām ādhāya hr: daye tatyāja vraja-sundarīḥ || : Krishna, demon Kamsa’s foe, Feeling Rādhā bind his heart with chains Of memories buried in other worldly lives, Abandoned the beautiful cowherd girls. (trans. Miller)

Feeling a powerful attachment to Rādhā that derives from experience in previous lives, in 3.2 Kr: ṣna : then searches for her in vain, feeling repentant and despairing. Whether Jayadeva intends to suggest that Rādhā is Kr: ṣna’s : eternal consort or simply that they have been together in other forms in previous lives is unclear, but Kr: ṣna : clearly suffers in her absence, and in 3.3–9 he regrets his careless behavior that made her leave in anger. In 8.1 he approaches her submissively (pranatam), speaking conciliatory words, but : Rādhā angrily rejects his pleas, and tells him in 8.2–9: “Damn you, Mādhava! Go! Keśava, leave me! | Don’t plead your lies with me!” (trans. Miller). Though she encourages him to find comfort in his other women, Rādhā seems somewhat delusional through these chapters, imagining Kr: ṣna : enjoying other women when he is actually alone and suffering without her. Kr: ṣna : tells her so directly in 10.2–9, a remarkable series of verses that demonstrate his love for her exclusively and her significance in his life. “O beloved, virtuous beauty” (priye cāru-śīle), he says in the refrain, “the fire of love consumes my heart” (madanānalo dahati mama mānasam), and in 10.4: : : tvam asi mama bhūṣana : m tvam asi mama jīvanam tvam asi mama bhava-jaladhi-ratnam | bhavatu bhavatīha mayi satatam anurodhinī tatra mama hr: dayam atiyatnam || You are my ornament, you are my life, You are my jewel in the sea of worldly life. My heart is always yours, Be forever mine.

Then in 10.10 he tells her not to worry that he has other lovers, for there is no room in his heart for anyone but her and the god of love. When she finally goes to meet him in his thicket bed, her friend tells her in 11.2–9 that Kr: ṣna : is “committed” now (anugatam), so Rādhā should pursue him. And in 12.2–9 Mādhava says the same himself, removing all possible doubt: “Nārāyana : is yours now, | Be mine, Rādhikā!” (kṣanam adhunā nārāyanam anugatam : : anusara rādhike). That Rādhā is uniquely and passionately loved by Kr: ṣna : has some history in earlier literature,⁵⁵ but this exclusive relationship is quite different from ⁵⁵ See Miller 1975; Poems on Life and Love in Ancient India: Hāla’s Sattasaī, trans. Khoroche and Tieken, poem 594, p. 177.

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Kr: ṣna’s liaisons with the gopīs in the Bhāgavatapurāna,⁵⁶ and the two texts : : treat viraha in decisively different ways. Whereas the Bhāgavata presents viraha-bhakti as the soteriological solution to the gopīs’ suffering in Kr: ṣna’s : absence and thereby promotes a universally applicable devotional practice, Jayadeva celebrates union, valorizing Kr: ṣna’s : and Rādhā’s unique bodies, and emphasizing the mutuality and sexuality in their relationship. In numerous verses in the Gītagovinda Rādhā suffers in separation, fantasizing about Kr: ṣna.⁵⁷ In 4.17 she lovingly repeats his name—harir iti harir iti japati : sakāmam—as if engaged in a common devotional practice. In chapter 6 she behaves much like the gopīs in the Bhāgavatapurāna: : : sometimes seeing Kr: ṣna everywhere, as in 6.2, sometimes proclaiming that she is Kr: ṣna : (madhu-ripur aham iti) as in 6.5, and sometimes imagining his arrival as she embraces nothing but darkness, as in 6.7. But whereas the Bhāgavata praises the gopīs for their fantasies and their constant meditation on Kr: ṣna : in viraha, Jayadeva does not, finally, endorse such viraha-bhakti. On the contrary, although Jayadeva states in 4.21 that meditation on Kr: ṣna : briefly enlivens Rādhā, who is feverish and languishing in separation, the poet also states in 4.20 : : that only the elixir from the touch of Kr: ṣna’s : body (tvad-anga-sangāmrta) : will heal her. Jayadeva even suggests that Rādhā may die in viraha,⁵⁸ and what is truly astonishing in the Gītagovinda is that Kr: ṣna : likewise has become lifeless, his “body scorched by the fire of separation” from Rādhā (virahānala-dagdha-vapuṣam avilāsam, 12.6). In 3.9 he longs for her darśana, and in : : 5.7 he sleeplessly meditates on Rādhā (dhyāyams tvām aniśam), desiring the nectar from embracing her breasts. In 3.14 as well Kr: ṣna : mediates on Rādhā, but significantly, his pain in viraha (virahavyādiḥ) only increases as a result. What the Bhāgavata prescribes as viraha-bhakti, therefore, is explicitly not Jayadeva’s solution to the lovers’ mutual suffering and potentially perishing in separation, though both lovers meditate on each other from afar in order to survive. In the Gītagovinda, moreover, the lovers’ painful separation is framed by sexual union, and the poem ends with passionate sex, not with bhakti. Numerous terms indicating sexual desire and pleasure infuse the poem with an unmistakable erotic sensuality, and from the first chapter, the sylvan springtime setting evokes kāma, both as the god of love and as erotic desire. In 2.11–18, where Rādhā remembers and describes her tryst with Kr: ṣna : to her friend, the mood is richly sexual. According to Rādhā, Kr: ṣna : waits for her, longing for love (rati), and when she reaches his bower, he actively seduces her; they embrace and kiss; he drinks from her lips and lies on her breasts; he is intoxicated with passion (vara-madana-mada); her anklets chime when he climaxes, and he revels in her love. In the refrain to this series of verses, she implores her friend to bring Kr: ṣna : there to make love with her (ramaya mayā ⁵⁶ For a brief but accurate discussion of such differences, see Miller 1977: 28. ⁵⁷ See e.g. chs. 4 and 6. ⁵⁸ See e.g. 4.19–22.

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saha); and later, after talking to Kr: ṣna, : the friend urges Rādhā in 5.13 to go to him, remove her clothes, and offer him her body. In the refrain of 10.2–9, Kr: ṣna “fire of desire consumes [his] : tells Rādhā via the messenger that the : heart” (madanānalo dahati mama mānasam), and he longs for “the nectar from her lotus mouth” (dehi mukha-kamala-madhu-pānam). In 11.22, urging her to pursue Kr: ṣna : and consummate their love, the messenger-friend tells Rādhā that Kr: ṣna is exhausted and burning with desire (tāpitaḥ kandarpena) : : after fantasizing about her for so long. When she arrives in his bower, in 12.4–5 Kr: ṣna : removes the silken clothing separating his chest from her breasts, for her breasts will extinguish the fire of desire (manasija-tāpam), he says; and in 12.6 he asks her to offer the elixir from her lips to revive him, her dying slave, his mind riveted by her, his lifeless body scorched by the fire of viraha. Rādhā then triumphs in their loveplay, and the poem ends—an unambiguous celebration of the power of passion, and the pain and pleasure of erotic love. Though offering his song in devotion to Lord Kr: ṣna, : never does Jayadeva use the term bhakti to describe or interpret the lovers’ relationship. If Rādhā has power over Kr: ṣna, : moreover, that power is sexual, as Kr: ṣna : longs for her body, and responds to her glance and her touch. Jayadeva thus boldly advances a positive view of female sexuality, divinized by the love and longing of God. Within this context it is important to emphasize that Jayadeva portrays Kr: ṣna : not only as desirous and delighting with Rādhā, but also as suffering and vulnerable like Rādhā, in sharp contrast to the Bhāgavatapurāna’s : portrait of him as a desireless yogi.⁵⁹ Although Kr: ṣna’s interactions with the gopīs in : Bhāgavata 10.29–33 are also sensual and erotic, and the gopīs like Rādhā are wildly desirous of Kr: ṣna, : the Bhāgavata’s Bhagavān is desireless, invulnerable, and impervious to suffering. Jayadeva’s Kr: ṣna, : by contrast, despairs in separation from Rādhā, and in 3.2 he searches for her in vain, “his mind weary and : wounded by the arrows of Kāma” (ananga-bāna-vra na-khinna-mānasaḥ ). He : : knows she left in anger when she saw him with other gopīs, but in 3.3 he says he was too afraid (atibhaya) and ashamed (aparādhata) to stop her. In 3.6 he fantasizes about Rādhā, making love with her incessantly in his mind, but then feels confused when he seeks her futilely in the forest. Since she is in his heart, he wonders, why does he seek her bodily? Kr: ṣna : is thus bewildered in love with his beloved Rādhā, not omniscient and completely self-possessed as in the Bhāgavata. In 3.11–13 he talks to Kāma, asking him not to shoot his arrows of love, mistaking Kr: ṣna : for Śiva, and he laments that he has already been wounded by Rādhā’s glances, which inflict “pain in his mortal-core” (marma: vyathām). Quite unlike the unassailable yogi in the Bhāgavatapurāna, : in : Kr: ṣna the Gītagovinda is vulnerable to kāma, and in their mutual vulnerability both

⁵⁹ See Coleman 2014.

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Rādhā and Mādhava have soft hearts, pierced by love and passionate desire. Both therefore languish in separation: in 6.1 Rādhā is aśaktā, “powerless” from passion, just as Kr: ṣna : is manasija-manda, “faint from desire.” Theirs is a radical mutuality in love, desire, pain, and power. Kāma has clearly conquered Kr: ṣna, : and Kr: ṣna : seems willingly to submit to the power of kāma embodied by Rādhā. Thus in sharp contrast to the Bhāgavata’s desireless yogi, and in razor-sharp contrast to all later claims about prema that make Rādhā the selfless loverservant of Kr: ṣna, : she seeking only his pleasure despite her own pain, Jayadeva’s suffering Kr: ṣna : loses himself in love with Rādhā, desiring her wildly, desiring to delight her.

AESTHETIC E XPERIENCE But if the Gītagovinda celebrates exclusive love and explicitly sexual passion, then how can Rādhā be a model of devotion for other human beings? That Jayadeva excludes the word bhakti from his poem only begs the question,⁶⁰ which later theologians have answered in a manner that spiritualizes and universalizes Rādhā, thus making her a model for other devotees, both women and men. But I contend that Jayadeva’s poem does not present Rādhā as a model of bhakti. Rather, the Gītagovinda reveals the secret love life of Kr: ṣna, : and that love life is hot, passionate, painful, sexual. Jayadeva gives his audience access to this sacred secret, and affording such access is the primary purpose of his poetic art. He is not suggesting that aspiring devotees could ever emulate Rādhā in loving, embracing, or possessing Kr: ṣna. : Jayadeva occasionally reminds his audience that he composed the Gītagovinda in the kali yuga, offering his song in devotion as a means for others to access Kr: ṣna : in this dark time. According to traditional accounts, Kr: ṣna : was embodied on earth in the previous yuga, during which time he delighted with Rādhā, but the kali yuga began when Kr: ṣna : disappeared from the world. In the current age, therefore, viraha is a problem for everyone who is necessarily separated from Kr: ṣna : because his individual body is gone. Jayadeva thus offers his song as the solution to the universal problem of viraha: “Make your heart cherish Jayadeva’s brilliant song, the beautiful ornament cooling the fevers of this dark kali yuga with the nectar of remembering Hari’s feet” (12.19).⁶¹ Because Kr: ṣna : is no longer here, embodied in human form, no one can experience what Rādhā shared with Kr: ṣna, : for such intimate bodily contact is now impossible in human life. In ⁶⁰ Though not in Miller’s critical edition (which ends at 12.22), verse 12.29 in Siegel’s and other editions includes the word bhakti, but not as a descriptor of Rādhā’s love. ⁶¹ See also 7.20 and 7.29 where Jayadeva refers to the benefic effects of his song in the kali yuga.

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dramatizing the unique viraha of Rādhā and Kr: ṣna, : Jayadeva thus exposes the human condition and offers his song as a means of increasing devotion despite inescapable separation, as in 5.6: bhanati : kavi-jayadeve viraha-vilasitena | manasi rabhasa-vibhave harir udayatu sukr: tena || When poet Jayadeva sings, may Hari arise in your heart blessed with passion, by means of this perfect song of love-in-separation.

More precisely, then, Jayadeva offers his audience an aesthetic experience of the lovers’ passion in order to immerse sensitive devotees in the secret bliss of Rādhā–Mādhava. Though Jayadeva certainly glorifies himself as a master-poet of exceptional talent, he repeatedly identifies himself explicitly as a devotee whose purpose is to enable people to cultivate love for Kr: ṣna : by means of experiencing rasa, aesthetic emotion and passion tantamount to bliss, by means of his exquisite poetry.⁶² In the kali yuga, this dark age of separation from Kr: ṣna, : to enjoy aesthetic rapture that inspires deep love for Kr: ṣna : is the greatest fortune one could experience, according to Jayadeva. The Bhāgavatapurāna : bodily absence : addresses the same problem of Kr: ṣna’s from the planet, and offers viraha-bhakti as the solution for the deserted gopīs, and for everyone else who can meditate on Kr: ṣna : in his absence, recalling his līlā and singing his name, even while engaged in dharma. The Bhāgavata’s gopīs are thus a model, literally, of what devotees should do in the kali yuga. But Jayadeva’s Rādhā is not such a model, not only because she enjoys Kr: ṣna : bodily, as do the Bhāgavata’s gopīs, but also because her relationship with Kr: ṣna : in the Gītagovinda involves reciprocity: their affair entails mutual desire, longing, suffering, delight, sexual pleasure, and love. Not insignificantly, moreover, their painful separation ends in union, not separation, which is no longer possible in the kali yuga. I suggest that when Jayadeva ends his poem happily in union, he intends to communicate something about the dual divinity, the cosmic couple, both masculine and feminine. Such a concept of the cosmic couple would be familiar to Jayadeva’s courtly twelfth-century audience, for stories about Viṣnu : and Lakṣmī, Śiva and Pārvatī, and Rāma and Sītā were already widespread in Sanskrit literature. Conceptualizing divinity as both masculine and feminine was therefore nothing new, but in chapter 1 Jayadeva does claim to reveal the secret passion of Rādhā–Mādhava, and part of that secret clearly entails erotic desire and mutual vulnerability. Unlike Rāma, for example, who prioritizes dharma, controls his emotions, and often behaves coldly towards Sītā, Kr: ṣna : falls in love with Rādhā and surrenders himself to irrepressible desire. One secret ⁶² See GG 1.24, 2.9, 4.18, 5.15, 7.10, 7.38.

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Jayadeva celebrates, therefore, is that Kr: ṣna : is supreme yet vulnerable, overpowered by desire, feminine in submission to Rādhā, and delighting in this masculine–feminine role reversal. In contrast to the Rāmāyana, : Jayadeva certainly does not glorify absolute masculine control over the feminine, but rather celebrates balance and mutuality—a union of masculine and feminine with each complementing the other but neither being absolutely dominant. In portraying erotic passion as debilitating and empowering Kr: ṣna : and Rādhā equally, Jayadeva challenges stereotypical images of feminine passion, or strīsvabhāva, and masculine control and self-possession. Although the erotic : mood (śr: ngāra-rasa) was elaborated in aesthetic theory dating to the early centuries of the Common Era, and so was already familiar to connoisseurs of drama and poetry, I suggest that Jayadeva lyricizes erotic love for specifically religious purposes as well. Erotic desire is powerful, mutually intoxicating, and potentially devastating, but liberating insofar as it dissolves boundaries between self and other. In the love affair of Rādhā–Mādhava, Jayadeva lyricizes an erotic love that dissolves the boundaries between lover and beloved, masculine and feminine, human and divine. Without such conventional boundaries, a new image of dual divinity arises. But erotic love can never dissolve boundaries entirely, and though Jayadeva concludes his poem in union, the intimacy between Rādhā and Kr: ṣna : will always involve separation. Part of the thrill of their love affair, in fact, comes from their longing and uncertainty in separation, and from their lack of control over each other and over their own emotions. In Jayadeva’s conception of the dual divinity, then, each member of the couple is independent, somewhat uncontrollable, and never fully knowable. Erotically and theologically, therefore, the mystery and power of the relationship arise from viraha: just as lover and beloved can never fully merge, and one’s lover and even love can suddenly vanish, so can one never hope to fully grasp the mystery of divinity. Though Rādhā and Kr: ṣna’s relationship involves profound emotional and : physical intimacy, Jayadeva never lets his audience forget that Kr: ṣna : is also the Supreme God, and the audience already knows that Kr: ṣna will leave Rādhā : eventually when he departs for Mathurā. Implicit in the poem, then, is the idea that Rādhā can never fully possess Kr: ṣna : as either her lover or her God, and this is not surprising, given Kr: ṣna’s : identity and the larger narrative context. What is surprising, however, and radically different from the ideology of pativratā as found in the Rāmāyana : and other dharmaśāstric sources, is that Jayadeva’s Kr: ṣna : can never fully know or possess Rādhā either. That she is married to another man will necessarily require their parting eventually, but even Kr: ṣna’s : longing and suffering in Rādhā’s absence reflects her fundamental individuality and independence, and his fundamental inability to control her actions and emotions. In sharp contrast to the idealized pativratā who sacrifices her personal desires and independent life for her husband, and whose husband repeatedly tests her in order to assure himself of her absolute fidelity, Rādhā as

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parakīyā and as an independent woman is always potentially beyond Kr: ṣna’s : grasp, and he suffers painfully in her literal and symbolic absence. In the Gītagovinda, viraha thus reflects Rādhā’s power and independence as a woman, even as it dramatizes the human condition in the kali yuga.

THE S ECRET But the eroticism of the Gītagovinda communicates messages about the dual divinity that are even more threatening and subversive than a woman’s independence and her fearless pursuit of adulterous pleasure. In 11.7 Jayadeva writes: : adhigatam akhila-sakhībhir idam tava vapur api rati-rana-sajjam | : canḍ i rasita-raśanā-rava-ḍ i nḍ i mam abhisara sarasam alajjam || : : Your friends know your armed body is ready For passionate battle, fierce Rādhā, By the war-drum beat of your clanging girdle. Meet his rich mood without shame! (trans. Miller)

In describing her as a warrior prepared for the battle of love, Jayadeva masculinizes Rādhā, and the friend speaking here encourages Rādhā to pursue Kr: ṣna : without shame/modesty (alajjam). In 11.33 when her friends have left and she approaches Kr: ṣna, : even her “shame leaves in shame” (salajjā lajjāpi vyagamad) when she sees her beloved’s face longing for love. And after Kr: ṣna : expresses his desire for her and professes his commitment in 12.2–8, Rādhā vanquishes her lover (kānta-jayāya) in 12.10 when she plays the masculine role (pauruṣa-rasaḥ) in lovemaking. In their introduction to the Kāmasūtra, Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar discuss how an impassioned woman forgets her feminine modesty and plays the masculine role in intercourse, but following climax remembers her identity as a woman and immediately feels shame for acting so boldly.⁶³ Jayadeva’s Rādhā feels no such feminine shame, however, and she continues to play the masculine role when in 12.12–18 she commands Kr: ṣna : to beautify her in various ways and he happily obeys. Jayadeva’s Rādhā has no reason to feel shame because Kr: ṣna : reciprocates her passionate love and desire, allowing them to cross gender boundaries and to enjoy each other’s bodies freely, without conventional inhibitions premised on traditional structures of power. Such sexual freedom is depicted more playfully in popular artistic images of Rādhā and Kr: ṣna : wearing each other’s clothes in the forest ⁶³ Doniger and Kakar 2002: xxxvii–xxxviii.

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Figure 6.1. Rādhā and Kr: ṣna : exchanging clothes Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

(see Figure 6.1). Rochelle Kessler writes about one such image: “With bodies, minds, and souls fused and focused in a single expression of love, they are as joined halves transformed to an undifferentiated divine.”⁶⁴ I disagree with this spiritualized interpretation of the image in question, and find instead a playful reversal of roles that signifies not an undifferentiated union into which their distinct identities disappear, but rather a relationship that allows for crossing boundaries in mutual fun, delight, vulnerability, and fearless love. For Jayadeva, erotic passion involves tension—separation and union, and various intense emotions—but never a total dissolution of two into one. Rādhā and Kr: ṣna : are both independent figures in the Gītagovinda, bound together by passionate desire and mutual love, but never invulnerable to viraha. Images in which they wear each other’s clothing only make this reality more visible: the dual divinity is both masculine and feminine, and though their mutual pain and pleasure sanction role reversals and shatter gender hierarchies, their secret is love, not ontological oneness. Though Jayadeva’s Kr: ṣna : as Jagadīśa is the “cosmic ⁶⁴ Kessler 2004: 190.

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power” of the kali yuga,⁶⁵ he is nevertheless vulnerable to Rādhā in love, and he is feminized in the Gītagovinda not only when he passively enjoys sexual pleasure with a dominant Rādhā, but also when he feels pain, longing, sorrow, and shame for letting Rādhā go when he played with the other gopīs, and then when he suffers mortally in viraha. To be sure, when Kr: ṣna : tells Rādhā, tvam asi mama jīvanam, “you are my life,” he not only vows his commitment to her, but also expresses his total surrender to her, just as the ideal pativratā surrenders her life to her husband-god. In sharp contrast to the Rāmāyana, : where Sītā is expected to sacrifice her life for Rāma and make him her life, Kr: ṣna : declares that Rādhā is his life without any fear and shame in his feminine submission, and without any fear of Rādhā’s sexuality that clearly overpowers him. While many find Rādhā worthy of worship due to her extraordinary power over Kr: ṣna, : simply to divinize Rādhā and then revere her is to miss the truly subversive and threatening message Jayadeva communicates in the Gītagovinda. Legend says that even Jayadeva was uncomfortable with the radical message. When the time came for him to compose the couplet in 10.8, where Kr: ṣna : asks Rādhā to put her foot on his head—clearly indicating her victory and his surrender—Jayadeva, writes Miller, “hesitated to complete the couplet, in deference to Krishna. He then went to bathe and in his absence Krishna appeared in his guise to write the couplet. . . . When Jayadeva returned, he realized that he had received divine grace in exalting Krishna’s loving relation to Rādhā.”⁶⁶ Though this legend has little historical value, its theological and potential social value is immense. Himself a product of patriarchal culture and a masculinist order that privileges men and their power over women, Jayadeva could not subordinate Kr: ṣna : to Rādhā and make him submit to her power, for this would be too subversive, if not truly revolutionary. Kr: ṣna : therefore intercedes and writes the radical verses himself. What this means is that Kr: ṣna : himself presents a new image of divinity, and a potentially new vision of social order that legend says was too threatening even for Jayadeva. In this new vision of divinity and masculinity, Kr: ṣna : bows in submission to Rādhā, vows his commitment to her, declares her his life, and suffers terribly in her absence. He also delights in her presence, respects her wishes and values her sexuality, not only enjoying her masculine domination emotionally and sexually, but also enjoying his own submission, taking the feminine role in lovemaking and obeying Rādhā afterwards. He even enjoys wearing her clothes. Sudhir Kakar thus argues that the secret the Gītagovinda reveals is that men “want to be that which they cannot have—Woman,” and in the darkness of night when Kr: ṣna : knows Rādhā in the flesh and their bodies become one, the subliminal desires of men are brought to light.⁶⁷

⁶⁵ See Miller 1977: 23.

⁶⁶ See Miller 1977: 3–4.

⁶⁷ See Kakar 1986: 92–4.

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There are many secrets in Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda, as I have shown here, but the real secret is plain and obvious: Kr: ṣna : loves Rādhā. God loves women. God loves women not in order to dominate and exploit them for his own pleasure, power, and dharma in a hegemonic patriarchal order. And God loves not only submissive women who sacrifice their independent lives and desires, and who selflessly submit to their husbands even when their husbands treat them like possessions and relinquish them. On the contrary, that Kr: ṣna : loves Rādhā in the Gītagovinda means that God loves women who are strong and independent, who embrace their sexuality, and who love passionately and fearlessly. Precisely in loving such a woman who is proud and powerful, Kr: ṣna : demonstrates his own fearlessness as well, for not only does he embrace Rādhā’s body and enjoy her sexuality, but he passionately adores her in addition, submitting himself in love, offering her his body, his life, and his divine power. Far from diminishing Kr: ṣna’s : supremacy, Jayadeva truly exalts Kr: ṣna : as God when he makes Mādhava submit to Rādhā and become powerless in her embrace, for only Jagadīśa could occupy all possible positions from invincible masculine warrior to submissive vulnerable lover. Only Jagadīśa could love Rādhā fearlessly, fully surrendering to her and suffering in a relationship of mutual love and shared power. The plain and obvious secret that Kr: s na ̣ : loves Rādhā in Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda thus threatens to demolish the entire masculinist economy in which men’s power is premised on women’s sacrificing their autonomy and sexuality, and vowing their absolute fidelity to their husband-gods who may never reciprocate such devotion. When Kr: s na ̣ : pledges and embodies such commitment and submission to Rādhā, enjoying his feminine position and passion, he simultaneously liberates Rādhā from her otherwise obligatory dependence as a pativratā and empowers her as an independent woman. Even if Jayadeva the poet hesitated, therefore, Lord Kr: s na ̣ : subverts the patriarchal order when he adores Rādhā in the Gītagovinda, reciprocating her love, respecting her independence, adoring her beautiful body, and submitting fearlessly to her sexual power. Is it any wonder, then, that poets, theologians, and social reformers up to the present day have tried in various ways to desexualize and disempower Rādhā, subordinating her to patriarchal power and making her into the ideal pativratā?⁶⁸

⁶⁸ Thanks to students at Colorado College in my 2015–16 seminar on Rādhā and Kr: ṣna: : Madison Howard, Gabrielle Mohn, Chloe Sharples, Taylor Steine, Mercedes Whitman, and finally Hannah Wilson, who also served as my research assistant in preparation for the seminar. Their questions, insights, and wisdom surely made this a better essay.

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REFERENCES Primary Sources Bhāgavata Purāna : of Kr: ṣna : Dvaipāyana Vyāsa, with the Sanskrit Commentary Bhāvārthabodhinī of Śrīdharasvāmin, ed. J. L. Shastri. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983. Gītagovinda: Love Songs of Rādhā and Kr: ṣna, : by Jayadeva, trans. Lee Siegel. Clay Sanskrit Library. New York: New York University Press and the JJC Foundation, 2009. In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali, trans. Edward C. Dimock Jr., and Denise Levertov. 1967; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981. Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda, ed. and trans. Barbara Stoler Miller. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977. Love Songs of Vidyāpati, trans. Deben Bhattacharya and ed. W. G. Archer. 1963; Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987. Poems on Life and Love in Ancient India: Hāla’s Sattasaī, trans. and introd. Peter Khoroche and Herman Tieken. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2009.

Secondary Sources Banerjee, Sumanta. 1993. Appropriation of a Folk-Heroine: Radha in Medieval Bengali Vaishnavite Culture. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Bose, Mandakranta. 2010. Women in the Hindu Tradition: Rules, Roles and Exceptions. London and New York: Routledge. Brown, C. Mackenzie. 1986. “The Theology of Rādhā in the Purānas.” In The Divine : Consort: Rādhā and the Goddesses of India, eds. John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, 57–71. Boston: Beacon Press. Brown, Cheever Mackenzie. 1974. God as Mother: A Feminine Theology in India, An Historical and Theological Study of the Brahmavaivarta Purāna. : Hartford, VT: Claude Stark & Co. Coleman, Tracy. 2010. “Viraha-Bhakti and Strīdharma: Re-Reading the Story of Kr: ṣna : : and the Gopīs in the Harivamśa and the Bhāgavata Purāna.” Journal of the : American Oriental Society 130/3: 385–412. Coleman, Tracy. 2014. “Dharma, Yoga, and Viraha-Bhakti in Buddhacarita and Kr: ṣnacarita.” In The Archaeology of Bhakti I: Mathurā and Maturai, Back and : Forth, eds. Emmanuel Francis and Charlotte Schmid, 31–61. Collection indologie 125. Pondicherry: Institut français de Pondichéry; Paris: École française d’ExtrêmeOrient. Dimock, Edward C., Jr. 1989. The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaiṣnava-sahajiyā Cult of Bengal. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press : [Originally published 1966.] Doniger, Wendy, and Sudhir Kakar. 2002. Editors’ Introduction to Kamasutra, ed. and trans. Doniger and Kakar, pp. xi–xlviii. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Goldman, Robert P. 2004. “Resisting Rāma: Dharmic Debates on Gender and Hierarchy and the Work of the Vālmīki Rāmāyana.” In The Rāmāyana : Revisited, : ed. Mandakranta Bose, 19–46. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

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Goldman, Sally J. Sutherland. 2001. “The Voice of Sītā in Vālmīki’s Sundarakānḍ : a.” In Questioning Ramayanas: A South Asian Tradition, ed. Paula Richman, 223–38. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Goldman, Sally J. Sutherland. 2004. “Gendered Narratives: Gender, Space, and Narrative Structures in Vālmīki’s Bālakānḍ : Revisited, ed. : a.” In The Rāmāyana Mandakranta Bose, 47–85. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Goswami, Shrivatsa. 1986. “Rādhā: The Play and Perfection of Rasa.” In The Divine Consort: Rādhā and the Goddesses of India, eds. John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, 72–88. Boston: Beacon Press. Kakar, Sudhir. 1986. “Erotic Fantasy: The Secret Passion of Radha and Krishna.” In The Word and the World: Fantasy, Symbol and Record, ed. Veena Das, 75–94. New Delhi and London: Sage Publications. Kessler, Rochelle. 2004. “Adorning the Beloved: Krishna Lila Images of Transformation and Union.” In A Celebration of Love: The Romantic Heroine in the Indian Arts, ed. Harsha V. Dejejia, 186–92. New Delhi: Roli Books. Kinsley, David R. 1986. Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Majumdar, Asoke Kumar. 1955. “A Note on the Development of Rādhā Cult.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 36: 231–57. Miller, Barbara Stoler. 1975. “Rādhā: Consort of Kr: ṣna’s : Vernal Passion.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 95/4: 655–71. Miller, Barbara Stoler. 1977. Introduction to Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda, ed. and trans. Miller, 3–66. New York: Columbia University Press. Parmar, Arjunsinh K. 2001. “Sītā: The Great Divine Character.” In Critical Perspectives on the Rāmāyana, : ed. Jaydipsinh K. Dodiya, 182–91. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. Pauwels, Heidi. 2008. The Goddess as Role Model: Sītā and Rādhā in Scripture and on Screen. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Pauwels, Heidi. 2009. “Rādhā.” Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism, vol. 1, eds. Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, and Vasudha Narayanan, 675–80. Leiden and Boston: Brill. Ritter, Valerie. 2005. “Epiphany in Rādhā’s Arbor: Nature and the Reform of Bhakti in Hariaudh’s Priyapravās.” In Alternative Krishnas: Regional and Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity, ed. Guy L. Beck, 177–208. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Sutherland, Sally J. 1989. “Sītā and Draupadī: Aggressive Behavior and Female RoleModels in the Sanskrit Epics.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 109/1: 63–79.

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7 Sītā Enduring Example for Women Heidi R. Pauwels

OV ERV IEW Sītā (Mātā or Āmman to her devotees, also Siyā Māī) is perhaps one of the most popular Hindu goddesses, consort of the the major Hindu god Rāma and identified as an incarnation of Viṣnu’s consort Śrī. She is particularly : important for Gender Studies, as she is held up as a role model for South Asian women of all religious denominations. In South Asia’s major epic, the Rāmāyana, : Sītā is the brave, long-suffering heroine. Born of the earth, she is found and raised by King Janaka of Videha and becomes princess of Mithila (hence her patronyms Jānakī, Vaidehī, and Maithilī). She marries Rāma, crown prince of nearby Ayodhya, after he gains her hand by accomplishing the feat of lifting Śiva’s bow. When palace intrigues cause her husband’s exile, she courageously chooses to accompany him in the forest. Her abduction by : the ten-headed demon-king of Lankā, Rāvana, : sets the stage for Rāma’s heroic efforts to rescue her and the eventual battle in which he vanquishes the mighty demon (the goal of his human descent or avatāra). However, she receives a “raw deal,”¹ as her loyalty is tested in the so-called agniparīkṣā or “trial by fire.” While proven innocent, aspersions on her chastity persist even after the return to Ayodhya and coronation, to the point that Rāma sees himself compelled to abandon her (Sītā-tyāga). For her loyalty throughout these ordeals she is revered as the ideal Hindu wife, the pativratā, “totally devoted to her husband.” Feminists as well as devotees have raised questions about the plight Sītā has endured and what this means in terms of gender relations.

¹ See Hess 1999: 1–4.

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HER WORSHIP AND P HILOSOPHICAL IMPORTANCE The model devotee, Sītā becomes an object of devotion herself and is venerated as a goddess in conjunction with Rāma. In some sects Sītā gains precedence, as is apparent in the popular greeting Jay Siyā-Rām, where her name comes first. While only sporadically deified in the oldest Sanskrit version of the story (Vālmīki Rāmāyana), : later stories unambiguously celebrate the couple as avatāras of Lakṣmī (Śrī) and Viṣnu. : In visual art, Sītā has been represented perhaps as early as the third century on the Nagarjunakonda (Andhra Pradesh) panels, but surely by the fifth century on the bas-reliefs of the earliest surviving Gupta stone temples, in particular the one in Deogarh (Uttar Pradesh).² Already these earliest depictions feature her accompanying Rāma (and Lakṣmana) : on their way to the forest, foregrounding her fidelity to her spouse in hardship. In temples, Sītā’s image is installed at Rāma’s left side. The divine pair is worshipped on a daily schedule modeled after royalty, according to the eight periods of the day (aṣt ạ yāma), from being awakened in the morning, through bathing, breakfast, boating excursion, midday meal, awakening after nap, dinner with evening entertainment, to being put to sleep at night. Yearly festivals especially devoted to Sītā are her birthday festival, Janakī-navamī, in the month of Vaiśākha (April–May), and her wedding anniversary Vivāha-pañcamī in Mārgha (January–February).³ These are celebrated, among others, by theatrical enactments of the events commemorated, all over the Mithila area (on both sides of the India–Nepal border), which is considered to be her land of birth, and in her husband’s town of residence, Ayodhya (especially the Kanaka Bhavan temple). Among sites that are sacred particularly to Sītā are her paternal hometown of Janakpur (in Nepal), which was developed into a Sītā pilgrimage center by Rāmānandī ascetics around the turn of the eighteenth century,⁴ and the site of the idyllic stay in the forest, Pañcavatī, across the river from the Maharasthrian town of Nasik, with a pond where Sītā bathed in the Godavari river nearby,⁵ as well as Sītā’s cave and kitchen.⁶ Currently there are several projects underway to develop more Rāmāyana-related temples: in central Sri Lanka, a Tamil-dominated :

² See Ray 2015: 205. For another overview description of the Rāmāyana : story in visual art, see Vatsyayana 2004: 337. A second-century BCE plaque of an abduction from Kauśāmbī does not necessarily depict Sītā; see Kala 1980: 57 (no. 297). ³ Sītā Kalyānam is celebrated as an auspicious event in the South, e.g. in Chennai; see Singer : 1966: 100. ⁴ See Burghart 1978 and 1983. ⁵ See Feldhaus 1995: 99; also 114 n. 47 for a site where Sītā was bitten by fish while bathing, and 101 for the origin story of two rivers to slake her thirst. ⁶ See Feldhaus 1995: 113 n. 35; see also Herman 2000 for shrines of Sītā’s kitchen at other sites.

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plantation community has built a temple on the site where Sītā is said to have pined after her abduction.⁷ In Chitrakut (Uttar Pradesh), where Sītā and Rāma first sojourned in the forest, a new tourist/pilgrimage complex, Ram Darshan, has been developed by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) outfit, featuring dramatic dioramas and moving images,⁸ and the Madhya Pradesh government is pursuing a plan to build a temple honoring Sītā’s agniparīkṣā.⁹ Philosophically, Sītā figures prominently in sects from South as well as North India. Śrīvaiṣnavas in the South early on identified Rāma and Sītā : with icons in temples and influenced the mid-fifteenth–sixteenth-century Vijayanagara kings to build the earliest monumental Rāma temples. The Śrīvaiṣnava philosopher Rāmānuja ( fl. twelfth century) formulated a response :: to Śankara’s Advaitavāda or “monism,” namely Viśiṣt ạ̄ dvaitavāda or “qualified monism.” In this context, the Goddess (Śrī) is not equated with nature (prakrti), : but exists within God, inseparable from him.¹⁰ One of his disciples, Parāśar Bhat ṭ ạ r, went so far as to state that “the Supreme gets his Supreme nature by virtue of His association with Śrī.” He identified Śrī with Sītā, and saw the Rāmāyana : as actually “the mighty story of Sītā.”¹¹ Called “Mother,” full of compassion, Sītā mediates between God and man, as exemplified by her protection of Rāvana’s brother Vibhīṣana : : when the latter pledged allegiance to Rāma.¹² Two generations later, within the Vat ạ kalai (northern, i.e. Tirupati-centered) tradition of the Śrīvaiṣnavas, the relationship between : Rāma and Sītā is subtly reconstructed as that between God and the individual soul.¹³ The Tenkalai (southern, i.e. Srirangam-based) tradition exalts Sītā as the model for the soul’s passive dependence upon God for its salvation. The Rāmāyana : is seen to affirm the soul’s need for mediation via the Goddess, manifest as Sītā, who is the embodiment of grace.¹⁴ In North India, the Rāmānandī (sometimes called Jānakī) tradition looks to the controversial Rāmānanda (perhaps fourteenth century) as its founder. The branch that is particularly devoted to Sītā, the Rāmānandī Rām-rasik tradition, is less philosophically oriented than the Śrīvaiṣnavas, but aspires to savor : the bliss (rasa) of the love of Sītā and Rāma. Its devotees cultivate a spiritual persona as one of the female companions (sakhī) and maidservants (mañjarī) of Sītā.¹⁵

⁷ See Katakam 2000. ⁸ See Herman 2003. ⁹ See Srivathsan 2013. ¹⁰ Kumar 1997: 71. ¹¹ In his Viṣnusahasranāma-bhāṣ ā, as quoted by Kumar 1997: 82. See also the quotes from his : Gunaratnakośa, Kumar 1997: 82–93 passim. : ¹² Kumar 1997: 85. ¹³ esp. in the Hamsasandeśa by Vedānta Deśikā, see Rao 2015. : ¹⁴ See Rao 2015; Mumme 1991. ¹⁵ See Lutgendorf 1991b; Paramasivan 2010: 72–3.

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THE HISTORY OF HER S TORY

Oldest Roots The Rāmāyana’s : heroine is named after or associated with a Vedic goddess of the earth. The oldest reference to an agricultural goddess of the name Sītā (meaning “furrow”) goes back three millennia and is found in a hymn to Kṣetrapati, the Lord of the Field, in the RgVeda 4.57 (vv. 6–7). This goddess is : associated with fertility rituals, and a Sītā-yajña or sacrifice for her is described in one of the Gr: hyasūtras (Pāraskara Gr: hyasūtra 2.17).¹⁶ The oldest version of the story of Rāma’s Sītā is usually taken to be the Vālmīki Rāmāyana : in Sanskrit.¹⁷ This complex text of c.25,000 double-verses (ślokas) is estimated by scholars to have developed over a period stretching from the third century BCE to the third century CE. Its origins can possibly be found in a bardic story that was elaborated to accommodate orthodox brahminical concerns and meditations on kingship, and finally cast in a Vaiṣnava : mould.¹⁸ The Indian tradition holds that the author is Vālmīki, who was an eyewitness to the events that took place during the dvāpara age. Since Vālmīki is the very sage who sheltered Sītā after she was abandoned by Rāma and who educated her twins, the story may be seen as really Sītā’s rather than Rāma’s.¹⁹ Some have argued that the treatment meted out to Sītā represents a stricter ethical code for women, a patriarchal prototype associated with an agricultural society and landed ideology in contrast to an earlier tribal one.²⁰ A shorter version of the story (just over 704 double-verses), the so-called Rāmopakhyāna, is one of the sub-stories included in the other great Indian epic, the Mahābhārata.²¹ There, the story is told to comfort the hero Yudhiṣt ḥ ira after his wife’s abduction (in the Vana-parvan, chs. 257–75). Some hold that it represents an earlier version of the Rāmāyana, : since it lacks references to Rāma and Sītā’s divinity (Sītā is Janaka’s natural daughter), omits the fire ordeal per se (though Agni testifies on Sītā’s behalf), and leaves out the exile of the pregnant Sītā.²²

¹⁶ See Jones 2011. For a table listing the major Rāmāyana : versions/depictions chronologically, see Bose 2004: app. 1. I provide here only the ones most salient for Sītā. ¹⁷ A complete translation of the text of the critical edition is now available in 7 vols., trans. R. Goldman et al.; see http://www.claysanskritlibrary.org/about_ramayana.php. ¹⁸ On the complexity of the text, see Brockington 1985. ¹⁹ For several excellent discussions of Vālmīki’s Sītā, see the work of Sally Goldman (2001, 2003, 2004). ²⁰ Chakravarti 1983: 71–2. See also Rao 2004, who suggests Sītā represents the heroine of a land narrative as opposed to pastoral or trade heroines (esp. pp. 236–8). ²¹ There are other allusions to and summaries of the Rāma story in the received Mahābhārata, see Sen 1977: 1–6. ²² See Scharf 2003.

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Versions from Other Religions The story appears also in the Buddhist literature, where a much-abbreviated version is told as a birth story of the Buddha in the Pāli Daśaratha Jātaka, the prose portions of which may go back to the fifth century BCE. Here, too, the main purpose for telling the story was to comfort someone with a similar plight as Rāma, in this case a landowner whose father had died. In this version Rāma, Sītā, and Lakṣmana are siblings, children of Daśaratha’s elder queen. Their father sends them to the forest to protect them from court intrigues, but after Daśaratha’s death their half-brother Bharata invites them back home. This version lacks the plot of the abduction by, and defeat of, the demon, which is told in another Buddhist text, the Anāmaka-rāja Jātaka, which survives only in Chinese translation from 251 CE.²³ The story is also retold by Jainas, generally explicitly in a realistic manner, in order to rid the legend of its miraculous elements. Rāma (here called Padma), Lakṣmana, : and Rāvana : are also fitted within the Jaina historical paradigm of recurring confrontations between the world hero, his brother, and his nemesis. To conform with Jaina ideals Rāma remains non-violent, and leaves the killing of the monster to his brother. By the end of the story, Rāma and Sītā take vows to become a Jaina monk and nun. The earliest retelling is Vimala Sūri’s Prakrit Paumacariya, which likely dates from the third century CE. In some Jaina versions, Sītā is the daughter of Rāvana : who was abandoned at birth.²⁴

Classical Sanskrit Versions The Rāma story has long been a favorite with classical Sanskrit authors, indeed the Rāmāyana : is regarded as the first work of literature or Ādikāvya. The great fourth–fifth-century dramaturge Kālidāsa told the story of Rāma, his ancestors, and descendants in his Raghuvamśa, the fourteenth canto of which : includes a moving description of Sītā’s abandonment.²⁵ In the first half of the eighth century, Bhavabhūti’s Uttara-rāma-carita (“The End of Rāma’s Story”), is completely dedicated to the unsettling events of Rāma’s banning Sītā. This “work of remarkable lyrical precision” insightfully questions “the inner experience of loving.”²⁶ Bhavabhūti transforms the story into one of healing and reunion through its climactic resolution via a play-within-a-play.

²³ See Reynolds 1991; Sen 1977: 16–17. Sen has also speculated that the Vālmīki version is a combination of those two themes. ²⁴ See Kulkarni 1980; also De Clercq 2011. ²⁵ A translation by Goodall and Isaacson is forthcoming. ²⁶ See Shulman 2001: 50.

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Such Sanskrit dramas are still part of a living theatrical tradition, Kūt ị yāt ṭ ạ m, in Kerala.²⁷ There are many retellings in the various Sanskrit Purānas, most notably : perhaps the Kūrma Purāna and Padmapurā na, as well as in independent : : devotional works. The Adhyātma Rāmāyana (probably fifteenth century) : provides a spiritual interpretation of the story, framed as a dialogue of Śiva and Pārvatī. In order to make it conform to the philosophical monism of Advaita Vedānta, Rāma is equated with puruṣa and Brahman, Sītā with prakr: ti and māyā. The whole story is permeated with devotion to Rāma—even Rāvana’s acts are inspired by bhakti: he respects Sītā and the abduction is : carried out to assure his liberation by dying at Rāma’s hands. This text has remained popular among Rāmānandīs, although the ascription to Rāmānanda himself has been discredited.²⁸ An entirely different Sītā appears in the Adbhūta Rāmāyana, : a śākta text. She is transformed into a Kālī-like goddess, who herself slays a thousandheaded demon while Rāma faints.²⁹ This martial type of Sītā is also encountered in Tamil sources,³⁰ but is particularly popular in the East. In some versions, Sītā produces a multiform, Canḍ : ā Sītā, to deliver the demon, and the story is very similar to the one told about Durgā in the Devīmāhātmya. In some cases, the terrible form of Sītā sends even Rāma running.³¹

Vernacular, Popular, and Folk Reworkings The popularity of Sītā’s story is attested by its many versions in virtually all Indian vernaculars, often being the first literary work in the language. Of the Dravidian languages, the best known is the Tamil Irāmāvatāram by Kampan (c. eleventh century), a devotional version.³² In the East, the earliest is Mādhava Kandalī’s Assamese retelling (fourteenth century) and the most influential is the ever-expanding one attributed to the late fifteenth-century Bengali Krittibās.³³ One of the rare women authors, the sixteenth-century Candrāvatī, created a Sītā-focused Bengali oral retelling.³⁴ In the West, the Sanskrit Ānanda Rāmāyana : (seventeenth–eighteenth century) is influential in Maharashtra.³⁵ Among the New Indo-Aryan languages, the most famous one is Tulsīdās’s Old Hindi (Avadhi) Rām-carit-mānas (1574–7).³⁶ The latter text, sometimes referred to as the “Bible of North India,” is extremely popular all ²⁷ See e.g. Sullivan 2004. ²⁸ See Allen 2011: 82–3. Lamb 2012: 28–33. ²⁹ See Coburn 1995. ³⁰ See Shulman 1979; Zvelebil 1987: 173–220. ³¹ See Smith 1988: 136–45. ³² See Shulman 1991; The Forest Book of the Ramayana of Kamban, ed. and trans. George L. Hart and Hank Heifetz (1988). ³³ Smith 2004: 87–106. ³⁴ See Bose 2013. ³⁵ See Aklujkar 2001. ³⁶ A wonderful translation by Lutgendorf, The Epic of Ram (2016), is now available.

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over India, performed and featured in sermons in private homes, temples, and on the international stage.³⁷ All retellings provide their own take on Sītā’s story, witnessing a profound unease with the events of her exile in particular. Many vernacular versions are alive as theatrical performances. Thus, Kampan’s Tamil version forms the script for puppet theatre in Kerala,³⁸ and Tulsīdās’s Hindi one is the basis of the popular dance dramas devoted to Rāma, the Rām-līlā. These are performed annually during the season leading up to the autumnal festival of Vijayā-daśamī when Rāma’s victory over Rāvana : is celebrated. These miracle plays depict episodes of Rāma’s life, in which Sītā frequently figures prominently. The divine pair is enacted by young preadolescent boys. The plays feature music and dance, and the action is often : interpunctuated with a tableau (jhānkī) of the divine pair, for the audience to worship.³⁹ By extension, when the popular Parsi theatre began to feature mythologicals, similarly, the audience treated the actors reverentially.⁴⁰ Right from its beginnings, the popular Indian movie has been fascinated with the Rāmāyana : story. There are many feature-length movies of the Rāmāyana, : so-called mythologicals. Several foreground Sītā’s auspicious wedding, contrasting it with the poignant scenes of Sītā’s agni-parīkṣā and abandonment.⁴¹ Sometimes these movies carry an explicit political message where Sītā is held up as the mother of the Indian nation: for example, S. N. Tripathi’s 1967 Lav-Kush, which focuses on the events of the Uttara-kānḍ : a; Babubhai Mistry’s 1961 Sampoorn Ramayan, which is notable for its feminist message; and the Telugu Sita Kalyanam directed by Sattiraju Lakshminarayana, alias Bapu, which has been dubbed in several Indian languages.⁴² Such movies have informed the influential televised version directed by Ramanand Sagar that first aired on Doordarshan during 1986–7 with its self-conscious message to young women to emulate Sītā’s example.⁴³ The series spawned a sequel (LavKush) that focused on Sītā’s boys and Vālmīki. It has inspired many successful mythologicals on television since. Like the actors in Rām-līlā, the movie stars playing Rāma and Sītā, Arun Govil and Dipika Chikhlia, were venerated like deities, though that did not guarantee them electoral success when they later became candidates for the Congress Party and Bharatiya Janata Party respectively.⁴⁴ Sītā’s story also figures importantly in many non-mythological feature films. A movie dealing with Partition that references Rāmāyana : mythology is Manmohan Desai’s 1960 Chhalia.⁴⁵ B. R. Chopra’s 1963 Gumrah daringly relates the story of an adulteress, prefaced by an enactment of Lakṣmana : ³⁷ ⁴⁰ ⁴² ⁴³ ⁴⁵

See Lutgendorf 1991a. ³⁸ See Blackburn 1996. ³⁹ See Kapur 1990. See Kapur 1993. ⁴¹ For some examples, see Aklujkar 2007. In Hindi as Seeta Swayamvar, see http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0052677/. See Pauwels 2008: 27–9. ⁴⁴ See Lutgendorf 1990 and 1995. See Lutgendorf 2010.

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drawing the magic line around Sītā to protect her. The return to the family movie in the 1990s brought a revival of Rāmāyana : scenarios, most prominently Sooraj R. Barjatya’s blockbusters Hum aap ke hain koun . . . ! (1994), and Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999).⁴⁶ Not all such movies are conservative in their values: Rajkumar Santoshi’s multilayered Lajja (2001) is a powerful critique of the Sītā story. The main character in this picaresque movie is Vaidehi (Manisha Koirala), who is pregnant, fleeing an abusive husband. In the course of her journey, she becomes involved in the lives of three women, all also named after Sītā: the bride Maithili (Mahima Chaudhry), who faces exorbitant dowry demands; the pregnant actress Jānakī (Madhuri Dixit), whose fiancé dumps her as he suspects her of infidelity (with a climax as they enact the Rām-līlā’s agni-parīkṣā scene); and the village midwife Ramdulari (Rekha), who is persecuted by a Rāvana-like feudal landlord. Defying traditional values, : all these women courageously stand up against their oppressors, with varying degrees of success.⁴⁷ Mani Ratnam’s 2010 Raavanan reworks Rāvana’s : abduction of Sītā as the kidnapping of a police inspector’s wife, Ragini (Aishwarya Rai), by a Dalit outlaw, Veera (loosely based on the notorious smuggler Veerappan). As she becomes aware of the oppression suffered by the Dalits, Ragini gradually becomes sympathetic to “Rāvana’s” people’s plight. The : movie was released simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil, but, while the Tamil audience might be more inclined to accept a rehabilitation of the South Indian king Rāvana,⁴⁸ for the Hindi audience the plot could only work by casting : Aishwarya’s real-life husband, Abhishek Bachchan, in the role of Rāvana. : Thus the reel-life Sītā could ultimately remain the loyal real-life wife. The story of Sītā is also the subject of many folk songs, where women identify with her joys and sorrows. This is particularly the case in wedding songs and songs of pregnancy and birth, but also of her hardship when abandoned.⁴⁹ Some areas also tell stories of Sītā as a warrior goddess, akin to the Sītā of the Adbhūta Rāmāyana.⁵⁰ :

ICONIC M OMENTS

Sītā’s Parentage and Birth Most versions tell the story of baby Sītā, a foundling, discovered in a furrow (sītā) by King Janaka, who becomes her foster-father. This establishes Sītā’s connections with the earth, and explains her appeal to the Earth Goddess as ⁴⁶ See Aklujkar 2007. ⁴⁷ See Pauwels 2008: 315–19. ⁴⁸ See e.g. several modern retellings in South India that intimate such, as related in Rao 2004: 231–6. ⁴⁹ See e.g. Nilsson 2001; Srivastava 1991. ⁵⁰ See Shulman 1979.

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her mother in the apotheosis of her story. However, there is also a darker side to it, as it hints at the practice of infanticide and abandonment of female babies. The plight of the unwanted girl-child still hits a nerve in contemporary India, and surfaces for instance in the Ramdulari subplot of the aforementioned 2001 movie Lajja. There are many variants which explain how Sītā was abandoned as a baby. In several versions of the story (Jaina, Tibetan, Sogdian, as well as later Sanskrit, Śākta, and Southeast Asian ones), Sītā’s parentage is traced to Rāvana. : The most common motif is that the demon king heard a prophecy at her birth that she would ruin him, so he ordered the baby to be abandoned.⁵¹ This complication introduces an Oedipal element into the story of Rāvana’s : abduction. In Vālmīki’s “sequel” or Uttara-kānḍ : a, it is also revealed that Sītā is an incarnation of the chaste Vedāvatī, who, when threatened by Rāvana, : chose to commit suicide by jumping in a sacrificial fire and subsequently was reborn as Sītā to take revenge.⁵²

Sītā’s Wedding Janaka promises to marry Sītā to the suitor who is able to lift the heirloom bow of Śiva that is in his possession. In most versions of the story (although not in Vālmīki’s), a svayamvara (lit. “self-choice”) is held, which is actually a tour: nament in the form of an archer’s test. The impossible condition placed by Janaka on his daughter’s wedding and the utter inability of many suitors to even move the bow builds dramatic tension into the narrative, but it also highlights the plight of a girl’s father, and the fraught search to find a suitable groom. That the tender-aged Rāma manages to lift the heavy bow then comes as a relief to all involved, especially in those versions where the arrogant Rāvana : is also one of Sītā’s suitors. Rāma is not just the winner of the contest, but also very much the winner of Sītā’s heart. Thus the occasion becomes a svayamvara in the true meaning of the term, which is iconographically : represented in calendar art as Sītā garlanding Rāma with the victory garland. Many versions include a romantic scene where the protagonists fall in love at first sight. Some add a stereotypical balcony scene, such as Kampan’s Tamil version.⁵³ Kampan describes the effect of this love at first sight: “One breath of life In two different bodies” (Kampan, Irāmāvatāram 1.10.38).⁵⁴ Other retellings include a flower garden scene, popular in Sanskrit drama, for ⁵¹ See Singaravelu 1982; Smith 1988: 21–2. ⁵² Similar stories of Sītā being the incarnation of a previous victim are also found in Southeast Asian versions; see Singaravelu 1982; Smith 1988: 71–3. ⁵³ See Shulman 1991: 98–9. ⁵⁴ Trans. in Shulman 1991: 98.

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example the thirteenth-century Prasannarāghava by Jayadeva II. Tulsīdās’s Hindi version follows these Kāvya conventions in his phūlvāt ị kā scene:⁵⁵ Hearing the sound of bracelet-, belt-, and anklet-bells, Rāma said to his brother, pondering in his heart, “It is as if the god of love is beating his victory drums to announce his intention to conquer the world!” (Rām-carit-mānas 1.230.1–2)⁵⁶

Tulsīdās’s Sītā cannot get enough of gazing at Rāma: Pretending to look at a deer, a bird, a tree, she turned back again and again. Gazing at the Raghu’s hero’s beauty, her love grew greatly. (Rām-carit-mānas 1:234 dohā)

These lines hold special meaning for the devotee, as they exemplarily represent respectively listening for (śravana) : and gazing upon (darśana) the beloved who is God. While inspired by conventions of love poetry, Sītā and Rāma’s love remains always within the boundaries of propriety. In Tulsīdās’s text, they both muse that the strong feelings of attraction they experience must necessarily be for the one they are destined to marry. Their love is of the marrying type (svakīya), unlike for instance the passionate erotic love of Rādhā and Kr: ṣna : that often appears to be adulterous (parakīya). Sītā and Rāma’s wedding, or Sītā Kalyānam, is universally considered a : most auspicious occasion and celebrated in visual and dramatic arts. Painters and poets alike have portrayed it according to the conventions of the times and milieu they were working in⁵⁷ and, vice versa, such depictions have influenced real-life wedding celebrations. Thus, the television version of Ramanand Sagar set a rage for copycat “Sītā–Rāma weddings” in Delhi.⁵⁸ While Sītā and Rāma’s romantic life is characterized more by longing in separation,⁵⁹ there are along the way some moving descriptions of their closeness and tenderness for one another. Famously, Rāma takes the vow of remaining monogamous (ekapatnīvrata).⁶⁰ Later texts, inspired by Kr: ṣna : devotional literature, include long descriptions of Rāma and Sītā’s daily activities in Ayodhya, including their erotic love play. These are explained theologically as God playing with his hlādinī śakti or bliss-bestowing energy.⁶¹

⁵⁵ See Pauwels 2003: 58–70. ⁵⁶ Unless otherwise indicated, translations are my own. ⁵⁷ This is what Ramanujan refers to as an “indexical” translation; see Ramanujan 1991: 45. ⁵⁸ See Pauwels 2008: 163–239. ⁵⁹ Perhaps this is in line with the framing of the Rāmāyana : by the famous story of the hunter killing the mating birds, or krauñcavadha, as told in the Bāla-kānḍ : a in Vālmīki’s version, felt to be problematic by some of the commentators; see S. Goldman 2004: 49–51. ⁶⁰ Smith 1988: 59–61. ⁶¹ Smith 1988: 61–2. See also Aklujkar 2001: 85–6; Paramasivan 2010.

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Sītā’s Decision to Join Rāma in Exile When her mother-in-law’s palace intrigues lead to her husband’s demotion from crown prince to exile, Sītā proves her mettle by choosing to follow Rāma into the hardships of the forest. This is not to be misunderstood as a move of meek obedience. Rather, she stands up for herself, going against Rāma’s initial suggestion that she should stay behind comfortably in the palace in Ayodhya. Sītā gains the “dhārmic high ground,” arguing successfully that he should take her along;⁶² she even chides her husband for being immoral when he initially cautiously insists she should remain home: Your virginal bride, I have lived with you for a long time and have remained true to you. Do you really wish to hand me over to others, as if you were a dance-troupe leader? (Vālmīki Rāmāya : na 2.30.8)

Tulsīdās’s Sītā learns of Rāma’s impending departure in the presence of his mother, so decorum forbids her to express her despair at his intent to leave her, but Tulsī’s description of her feet gives her a voice even in her silence: With the nails of her pretty feet she draws circles on the floor, the sweet sound of her anklets speaks to the poet: As if, in the power of love, they are begging: “Let Sītā’s feet not leave us behind!” (Rām-carit-mānas 2.58.3)

Her touching loyalty is exemplary in demonstrating how love for the husband trumps attachment to material possessions: Sītā gives away her jewelry and clothes so as to accompany Rāma in hermit’s clothes to share in the hardships on the road.⁶³ Sītā’s selfless choice to follow Rāma in exile is so paradigmatic that in some Rāmāyanas, she even argues, “Countless Ramayanas have been composed : before this. Do you know of one where Sita doesn’t go with Rama to the forest?”⁶⁴ Her loyalty becomes normative, to the extent that recently it was quoted as a precedent by division bench judges in the Bombay High Court in a divorce case, filed by a man on grounds that his wife refused to relocate to his new workplace: “A wife should be like goddess Sita who left everything and followed her husband Lord Ram.”⁶⁵

⁶² See R. Goldman 2004: 29–33; Pauwels 2008: 243–311. ⁶³ On the issue of Sītā’s jewelry, see S. Goldman 2003: 135–6. ⁶⁴ See Ramanujan 1991: 33, quoting Adhyātma Rāmāyana. : ⁶⁵ As widely reported in the Indian Press; see e.g. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ mumbai/Sita-followed-Ram-why-cant-you/articleshow/13059089.cms?referral=PM and http://post.

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As predicted by her husband, Sītā has to suffer many hardships on the road, including abduction by a demon Virādha, from whose claws, however, she is saved promptly, and harassment by a libidinous crow that lacerates Sītā’s lips and breasts until Rāma fires an unerring arrow to punish it.⁶⁶ On the other hand, Sītā and Rāma’s exile is also portrayed as a forest idyll, as they settle first in beautiful Chitrakūta and later in Pañcavāt ị kā. On their sojourn through the woods, they meet with several sages and their wives; most memorable is perhaps Sītā’s visit with Anasūyā, wife of Atri and a formidable ascetic in her own right, who bestows upon Sītā the gift of never-fading clothes, adornments, and beauty creams.⁶⁷ All along the way, Sītā’s behavior is patient, enduring, and unassuming; her compassionate approach inspires her to advocate against carrying arms when entering the forest: she is the one advising Rāma on non-violence.

Sītā’s Abduction The chain of events that sets in motion Sītā’s abduction starts with another woman, the demoness Śūrpanakhā, who attempts to seduce, unsuccessfully, : first Rāma and then Lakṣmana. : When the brothers toy with her, an enraged Śūrpanakhā turns on Sītā, but is prevented in the nick of time and disfig: ured by Lakṣmana.⁶⁸ Śūrpanakhā incites her demon-brothers to take re: : venge for their sister’s humiliation, eventually leading the eldest, Rāvana, : to abduct Sītā in retaliation. Yet, by the logic of karma, Sītā’s plight must be due to her own shortcomings. Her first weakness is her desire for the mirage of the golden deer, the bait sent by Rāvana, : in pursuit of which she sends Rāma out alone in the forest. Second is her overwhelming worry for Rāma, when the fatally wounded deer cries out in his voice for help. Anxious to the point of becoming irrational, Sītā insists that Lakṣmana go out to help Rāma, thus leaving herself vulnerable without her male protector. Laksm ̣ ana is reluctant to go, but Sītā compels him by implying he has designs on her. To protect her in his absence, Lakṣmana draws a magic protective circle around her, the Lakṣmana rekhā, which she is supposed to stay within.⁶⁹ Her third and last jagran.com/wife-should-be-like-goddess-sita-who-followed-her-husband-lord-ram-hc-1336501725 (last accessed February 2016). ⁶⁶ This curious incident is already in Vālmīki; see Smith 1988: 160–1. ⁶⁷ For a comparison of the episode in the Sanskrit, Old Hindi, and TV versions, see Pauwels 2002. ⁶⁸ For a comparison of different versions of the episode, see Erndl 1993. ⁶⁹ This motif is not in Vālmīki’s version, it seems to appear first in the Khotanese version that dates likely from the ninth century. It was popularized via the Rām-līlā version based not on Tulsīdās’s Rām-carit-mānas but on his Gītāvalī; see Chakravarti 1983: 73–4.

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fatal flaw lies in crossing this protective line in her desire to oblige a brahmin ascetic begging for food, who is really Rāvana : in disguise. The lesson to women is loud and clear that once they dare venture outside of the boundaries set by patriarchy, there is no return.⁷⁰ Many commentators have felt revolted that Rāvana : would have touched Sītā in the course of the abduction. Vālmīki describes him as grabbing her hair and lifting her by her thighs, but others avoid physical contact. For instance, Kāmpan says the demon did not touch her, but dug up the earth around her.⁷¹ The piece of earth happened to contain a water source, which had the added advantage that Sītā could lessen her thirst while in exile : without having to compromise herself with Lankā’s water.⁷² A more drastic device to keep Sītā untouched is the motif of the body double, or chāyā/māyā Sītā, which can be traced to the Kūrma Purāna:⁷³ foreseeing future events, : Rāma takes the precaution of sending the real Sītā into the sacrificial fire for safekeeping, while it is a shadow version that undergoes the ignominy of the abduction. Even when the abduction is set up as the result of Sītā’s weaknesses, she still proves herself to be strong in her unwavering resistance to Rāvana. : In all versions, she demonstrates courageous resistance in the face of superior power of the oppressor: “Would I permit my noble purity To be destroyed out of fear of losing My sweet life, which anyway passes Quickly as the dew on a blade of grass? Run and hide yourself,” she said, “If you want to save your life before the cruel arrows come, angry as thunder, like blazing lightning!” (Kampan, Irāmāvatāram 4.70.3484; trans. Hart and Heifetz in Forest Book, 230) Listen, with your ten heads! You’re just a firefly! Has the lotus ever opened up to its light? (Rām-carit-mānas 5.9.4)

No wonder that Gandhi admired Sītā as a prime example of non-violent resistance for the weak.⁷⁴ ⁷⁰ Pauwels 2010. ⁷¹ See Rajarajan 2001, which includes also a discussion of the depiction of the scene in art. ⁷² Smith 1988: 92, 93–5. ⁷³ Smith 1988: 92–3. For the manner in which the shadow Sītā is imbued with philosophical meaning, see Allen 2011. ⁷⁴ See Kishwar 1985.

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Patiently Waiting for Rāma : In Lankā, Sītā refuses to enter Rāvana’s harem. Iconically, she is depicted : sorrowing in a grove of trees: aśokavāt ị kā (an ironic pun, meaning garden of aśoka or “no-sorrow” trees). The image of Sītā waiting faithfully for Rāma under the aśoka tree is a favorite, portrayed as early as Gupta times in bas-relief,⁷⁵ and often alluded to in contemporary popular film. In Ashutosh Gowariker’s 2004 Swades, for instance, during the village’s Rām-līlā play within the movie the heroine, Gita (Gayatri Joshi), plays the sorrowing Sītā in this iconic position (to the song pal pal hai bhārī, “Every moment weighs heavy”). In all versions, Sītā is inviolable, which is credited to her fiery power (sat) gained through her steadfast devotion to her husband, while at the same time, Rāvana : is unable to rape her, due to a curse he had incurred through implication in a previous rape case.⁷⁶ Rāvana : works hard to win Sītā over: he tries to tempt her, offering to make her the head queen and to bring over her father Janaka. When that fails he threatens her, his final ultimatum being that he will eat her raw for breakfast if she does not give in. He also tries to demoralize Sītā by falsely announcing her husband’s death.⁷⁷ Sītā is guarded by female demons who frighten and threaten her and nearly drive her to suicide. Her quandary, whether she could take her own life without her husband’s permission, is solved when Hanumān appears just on time to deliver Rāma’s message of hope.⁷⁸ When the monkey later seeks to wreak revenge on her rākṣasī guards, though, Sītā shows great compassion for her tormentors and forbids Hanumān to do so.⁷⁹ Among her guards, there also are some good rākṣasīs who comfort her, notably Saramā and Trijat ạ̄ . Sītā also shows empathy for Rāvana’s : wives and they for her, particularly the head queen Mandodarī, who pleads with her husband to return Sītā to Rāma. These are fascinating instances of female solidarity across “ethnic” lines.⁸⁰ The scene where Hanumān delivers Rāma’s message to Sītā is one of the most beloved in the epic. Through the medium of the monkey, an incongruent go-between, the two spouses profess their enduring devotion to each other and provide their devotees with a glimpse of their private feelings that are not otherwise revealed in the epic.⁸¹ While Sītā cannot take Hanumān up on his offer to rescue her there and then,⁸² his intervention is crucial for her psychological wellbeing. ⁷⁵ See Vatsyayana 2004: 338. ⁷⁶ This is explained in Vālmīki’s “sequel” or Uttara-kānḍ : a; see Smith 1988: 71–3. ⁷⁷ Conversely, Rāma and Lakṣmana : are shown a māyā-Sītā, beheaded by Indrajit, Rāvana’s : son (Yuddha-kānḍ : a 6.68). ⁷⁸ This scene from the Sundara-kānḍ : a is insightfully described by S. Goldman 2001. ⁷⁹ S. Goldman 2004: 54–5. The verse that encapsulates this speech to the monkey is one of the Śrīvaiṣnava secret mantras as it exemplifies Sītā’s grace; see Rao 2015. : ⁸⁰ See S. Goldman 2003: 149–57. ⁸¹ Lutgendorf 2000. ⁸² See Rao 2004: 220–3.

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The Fire Ordeal After the war and her rescue, though, Rāma initially rejects Sītā on the grounds that she has been compromised by the long sojourn in the demon’s kingdom. However, Sītā dramatically proves her purity by choosing to undergo a fire ordeal (agni-parīkṣā) to establish her innocence. This is the defining iconic moment in Sītā’s life, the apotheosis of her resistance to temptation and loyalty to her husband, for which she is held to be exemplary for ordinary women. Notwithstanding the name of the “ordeal,” and the common assumption that it was Rāma who put her through a test of her purity, in the Vālmīki story Sītā actually chooses to enter the fire herself. In her despair at Rāma’s harsh words that he will not take her back on grounds of infidelity and impurity, Sītā mounts a powerful defense, moving in its simple sincerity: If my limbs were touched, it was by force, my lord; I did not desire it, but fate brought about this offence. My heart, which is under my control, is ever attached to you; not being mistress of the situation, what could I do about my limbs which were in the control of someone else. (Vālmīki Rāmāya : na 6.104.8–9; trans. O’Flaherty in Hindu Myths, 200)

She ends with a dramatic gesture that looks perhaps more like a suicide than a trial: Build a pyre for me; that is the medicine for this calamity. Destroyed by false accusations, I cannot live; abandoned in an assembly of people by my husband, who is no longer pleased by my virtues, the only possible thing for me to do is to enter the Oblation-bearer. (Vālmīki Rāmāya : na 6.104.18–19; trans. O’Flaherty, in Hindu Myths, 201)

Everyone present reacts with horror as Lakṣmana : builds the fire on her instructions while Rāma merely stands by. The gods in heaven intercede, reminding Rāma of his and her divinity, as Agni returns her unharmed, attesting to her purity. There is an esoteric interpretation of the fire ordeal that solves the issue of how Rāma could have allowed his wife to be touched by his enemy, and have forgotten who he really was. This makes use of the device of the aforementioned māyā/chāyā Sītā. In the final fire ordeal it is this body double of Sītā who burns in the fire, while the real Sītā reappears. This view fits the Advaita philosophical context of Adhyātmā Rāmāyana, : where the whole world is shown to be an illusion and the human soul ( jīva) ultimately one with God. Sītā then stands for the soul, as well as for primordial nature (prakr: ti) and illusion (māyā), both in the negative (concealing) and in the positive (revealing) aspect.⁸³ ⁸³ See Allen 2011: 88–93.

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The image of “Sītā in flames” is ubiquitous in Indian culture. Nowadays, feminists frequently tie it up with contemporary issues like the so-called brideburning, where unwanted daughters-in-law are killed in “kitchen accidents” and the widow-burning or satī (anglicized to suttee). What links the latter with Sītā is the demonstration of marital fidelity to the point of death, the major difference being that Sītā’s husband did not die, but was victorious on the battlefield, and the fire she enters is not a funeral pyre. Further, her chastity is already compromised in the eyes of the beholders, so it is not to prevent molestation but rather to cleanse herself that she enters the purifying fire. The unease with this episode is not limited to contemporary feminists, but can be demonstrated throughout the centuries to have been voiced within the tradition itself.⁸⁴ A contemporary manifestation is a recent court case filed in Bihar against Rāma on grounds of cruelty to Sītā. Still, that accusation has drawn a lot of ire in conservative circles,⁸⁵ so the discomfort is not ubiquitous.⁸⁶

Sītā’s Exile An even more unsettling episode of Sītā’s story occurs after the triumphant return to Ayodhya. Notwithstanding her agni-parīkṣā, not everyone is convinced of her innocence. Tongues are wagging about her presumed purity, about Rāma’s willingness to take her back, and when she becomes pregnant, questions surface about the parentage of the child she carries. Rāma finds himself compelled to respond to public opinion abandoning her. The question whether Rāma would have actually doubted Sītā’s loyalty is a controversial one that elicits strong emotions. Thus in 1957 a violent mob stormed the headquarters of a Hindi magazine that had published a poem on the topic, Rām kā Antardvandva (“Rāma’s Inner Conflict”) by Arvind Kumar⁸⁷—this notwithstanding the fact that, as Kumar argued in his defense, many vernacular Rāmāyanas : have Rāma doubt his Sītā. Among the justifications behind this turn of the plot are curses by women who have lost their partners due to Rāma and condemn him to the same fate.⁸⁸ Whatever the ulterior reasons for the suspicions, debilitating rumors do the rounds in Ayodhya. Commonly, the blame of the gossip about Sītā is invested in a washerman (dhobī), who refused to take his wife back after she had spent a night away from home. His case is perceived to put Rāma’s impartial justice to ⁸⁴ See Hess 1999, who cites versions that change the scene or proffer elaborate justifications as proof for such discomfort within the tradition. ⁸⁵ As reported by the BBC; see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35489971 (last accessed February 2016). ⁸⁶ Thus, while Tulsīdās omits it, Rāma’s speech is still fully enacted in the Rām-līlā and was carefully redacted in the TV series of the late 1980s, as pointed out by Hess 1999: 10–14. ⁸⁷ Smith 1988: 91. ⁸⁸ Smith 1988: 94–5, 97–8.

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shame, which puts his kingship into question.⁸⁹ Other versions describe how Sītā is tricked into drawing a picture of Rāvana, : which then becomes the cause of the scandal. This is first told in eleventh- and twelfth-century Jaina versions, and is picked up later in the Ānanda Rāmāyana : as well as in Bengali and Kashmiri retellings.⁹⁰ Once Rāma has made up his mind that it is his duty to abandon his pregnant wife, he uses as pretext her desire to visit the forest sages to relive the past. Lakṣmana is tasked with carrying out the abandonment, notwithstanding the vociferous protest he mounts in several versions. Initially unsuspecting, once Sītā realizes the truth, she is devastated. In some versions, in her humiliation and despair, she attempts suicide by drowning herself in the river. In many versions she accepts her fate as the result of her own karma; only rarely do we hear bitter reproaches.⁹¹ The pregnant Sītā abandoned in the woods can be taken to stand for the poignant condition of women whose partners leave them once the responsibility of a child is on the horizon. In popular movies, for instance in the aforementioned 2001 movie Lajja, this is stated succinctly: “child in the womb and exiled in the forest” (kokh men baccā aur banvās). In Sītā’s case, she is saved just in time by none else than the sage Vālmīki, the author of the Rāmāyana. : It is in his ashram that she finds shelter and gives birth to her twins. With his tutelage, she courageously raises her sons in the absence of a father. This is something contemporary women have found inspiration in, especially divorcées and single mothers.⁹² Touchingly, Rāma never remarries. When the presence of a wife is needed so he can perform the Vedic sacrifices, he has a golden image of Sītā made to take the wife’s place in the ritual (kanaka Sītā). Whether or not there are philosophical reasons that compel the narrative this way,⁹³ it is often taken as a testimony to Rāma’s strong devotion to his wife, proof that the feelings of love and loyalty were mutual. Nowhere is Rāma’s plight more deeply experienced than in Bhavabhūti’s play, Uttara-rāma-carita, which is exclusively devoted to coming to terms with the tragedy of Sītā’s exile. Rāma and Sītā’s love is movingly described at the beginning of the play by Rāma himself as the pregnant Sītā lies slumbering on his knee: That state when two become one in joy as in sorrow, where you find rest together and feelings never age but deepen and ripen as you move ⁸⁹ Smith 1988: 96–7. ⁹⁰ See Kulkarni 1980: 246; also Smith 1988: 95–6. ⁹¹ Smith 1988: 98–9. ⁹² See Murphy and Sippy 2000: 18–19. ⁹³ See Herman 2011: 12–13.

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The idyll is rudely disturbed when Rāma is informed of the local gossip, which forces him to banish his loving, still-sleeping wife, even as it breaks his heart. The play resumes twelve years later, when a still-heartbroken Rāma revisits Pañcavatī, his reminisces overheard by an invisible Sītā. Healing is underway soon and the climax comes when he attends a play of his own story at Vālmīki’s hermitage, where through reliving the whole tragedy, fully experiencing his own guilt, Bhavabhūti’s Rāma eventually finds forgiveness.

Sītā’s Return In many Rāmāyanas, : Rāma is criticized for his decision to exile Sītā.⁹⁴ In some versions, Vālmīki himself voices disagreement with this harsh measure.⁹⁵ Vālmīki’s enterprise of composing the Rāmāyana : and teaching it to the twins can be seen as a way of straightening the record, at least in some versions. Thus, Babubhai Mistry’s 1961 movie Sampoorn Ramayan shows Sītā’s sons at the sacrifice confronting the king with his injustice in this haunting song: O Rām, your Rāmāyana : will not be completed Until the sorrows of India’s Sītās have been relieved.⁹⁶

In this song, Sītā is called “Mother of India’s future” and referred to as Jagadambā, or “Mother of the World.” In some versions, Sītā’s twins end up fighting their father, for example, in the earliest Jaina version by Vimala Sūri, in the story cycle Kathāsaritsāgara, in Bhavabhūti’s drama, and in eastern versions.⁹⁷ Unaware that Rāma is their father, the boys challenge the sacrificial horse he has sent out to roam the earth to establish his world supremacy. When their mother confronts them with the truth of their parentage, the twins are not immediately convinced to cease the battle, rather they seek revenge for their mother’s plight. Still, all versions end with the sons’ reconciliation with their father. In the end, Sītā returns to the patrilineal family the sons she raised in exile.

⁹⁴ See e.g. Rao 2004: 229–31. ⁹⁵ As in the Kundamālā by Dingnāga; see Rao 2004: 228–9. ⁹⁶ He rām tumhārī rāmāyan tab tak hogī sampūrna : nahīn; Bhārat kī sītāon ke dukhaḍe jab tak honge cūrna : nahīn; see Aklujkar 2007. ⁹⁷ See Smith 1988: 65–6.

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However, it is not an altogether happy ending of the Raghu family drama. Sītā herself does not return to Rāma. She is invited to do so on condition of once again attesting to her purity. It has been argued that this is to prove the legitimacy of Rāma’s offspring in front of a human audience.⁹⁸ While complying, she formulates her oath such that if she is pure she will return to Mother Earth. This has been read by some as suicide, the ultimate aggression against the self, by others as an empowering ending on a triumphant note for Sītā’s independence. In the Jaina version of Padmapurāna, : Sītā undergoes a second fire ordeal, but the fire is extinguished in a deluge so great that it threatens to flood Ayodhya. Supplicated to spare the city by the same people who slandered her, Sītā obliges, but rather than rejoining Rāma, she chooses to become a Jaina bhikṣunī instead.⁹⁹ In any case, the story explains why, in the visual arts, family portraits of Sītā and Rāma with the children are rare.

POLITICAL APPROPRIATIONS OF S Ī TĀ The Rāmāyana : story has been an important trope in political imagination throughout the centuries.¹⁰⁰ It has been mobilized for progressive as well as conservative ends.¹⁰¹ Similarly, Sītā’s example has been employed for different purposes. During the nationalist movement the story of Sītā’s violation and resistance became both “a signifier for the colonization of the nation and a trope for its decolonization.”¹⁰² M. K. Gandhi’s call for women to join the nationalist struggle famously foregrounded Sītā’s non-violent resistance to Rāvana’s oppression.¹⁰³ On the other hand, the Tamil nationalist activist : E. V. Ramaswami¹⁰⁴ and the Dalit (avant la lettre) leader B. R. Ambedkar stressed her victimhood at Rāma’s hands to signify the untrustworthiness of the upper-caste “Aryan” dominance.¹⁰⁵ After independence, movements for land reform banked on her appeal, for instance, Sharad Joshi’s campaign in Maharashtra to transfer land in women’s names, during the Lakshmi Mukti campaign by appealing to Sītā’s plight.¹⁰⁶ In Hindutva circles, Rāma and Rāvana’s : struggle over Sītā became “synecdochal with the communal tensions ⁹⁸ See S. Goldman 2004: 51–5; on the woman as carrying “the seed of the family in its purity,” see Rao 2004: 223–9. ⁹⁹ See Chakravarti 1983: 74. ¹⁰⁰ The classical argument for the story’s historical significance as simultaneously justifying divine kingship and demonizing enemies, is made by Pollock 1993. ¹⁰¹ For an overview of the influential Rām-carit-mānas, see Lutgendorf 1991a. ¹⁰² See Zacharias 2001: 32. ¹⁰³ See Kishwar 1985. ¹⁰⁴ See Richman 1991: 184–5. ¹⁰⁵ As expressed in Ambedkar’s controversial Riddles in Hinduism, pt. 3, app. 1, pp. 428–32; see http://www.satnami.com/riddles.pdf. ¹⁰⁶ See Kishwar 2001: 300–3.

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over control of both Hindu women’s bodies and the body of India itself, the Bharat Mata.”¹⁰⁷ From the 1980s onwards, the growing assertion of Hindu cultural nationalism appropriated the Rāmāyana : narrative for its own ends, foregrounding victimization of the Hindu majority. Sītā’s abduction was used as a powerful trope to stir up communalist animosity. Sītā has come to embody “the purity, power of sacrifice and spiritual authority of the upper-caste Hindu woman who can form the wellspring of sustenance for the Kṣatriya-Brahminical male’s battle against Ravana-like invaders, British or Muslim.”¹⁰⁸

FEMINIST CRITIQUES AND REAPPRO PRIATIONS OF S ĪTĀ There is a long history of the feminist movement’s engagement with Sītā. Early feminists, such as Pandita Ramabai Ranade, Annie Besant, and Sarojini Naidu, offered reinterpretations of Sītā’s story as exemplary for the emancipation of the modern Indian woman.¹⁰⁹ From the 1970s onwards, though, feminists frequently dismissed the self-effacing Sītā as an oppressive cultural stereotype. Thus, the report Towards Equality by the Committee on the Status of Women in India in 1974 deplores the references to submissive heroines like Sītā in school textbooks.¹¹⁰ Feminists tended to blame the Sītā model as an ideology of slavery that led women to internalize patriarchal values.¹¹¹ Some even use the term “doormat Sītā.”¹¹² Typically, what such feminists criticize is the story as they remember it being told to them to keep them in their place, without distinguishing between the particulars of different versions. Frequently singled out in these feminist critiques is Sītā’s agni-parīkṣā, which is linked with widow-burning and the so-called bride-burning in connection with dowry-murders. As two prominent feminists have observed: “With Sita as our ideal, can sati [widow burning] be far behind? It is this overarching ideology of male superiority and female dispensability that . . . accepts the silent violence against women that rages in practically every home across the country.”¹¹³ This sentiment is also well summed up in a Hindi letter by a Benares woman that was published in English translation in Manushi: A Journal about Women and Society in 1983 that bore the bold title “No more Sitas”: “Now we must refuse to be Sitas. By becoming a Sita and submitting to the fire ordeal, woman loses her identity. This fire ordeal is imposed on women today in every city, every home.”¹¹⁴ ¹⁰⁷ ¹¹⁰ ¹¹² ¹¹⁴

Herman 2010: 129. ¹⁰⁸ Zacharias 2001: 33. ¹⁰⁹ See Pauwels 2008: 397–8. See Guha 1975: 282. ¹¹¹ e.g. Mukherjee 1979. As reported by Derné 2000: 140. ¹¹³ Bhasin and Menon 1988: 13. Kishwar and Vanita 1984: 298–9.

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Recently a consensus has arisen around a more nuanced assessment. Madhu Kishwar, the editor of Manushi (who is self-professedly not a feminist), has long called for not rejecting Sītā as a cultural ideal outright, but instead for using the tradition’s own potential to combat harmful anti-women rhetoric within which such cultural ideas are deployed. Over the years, Manushi has published many articles on what could be called “alternative Sītās” that highlight Sītā’s strength and positive inspirational potential for women. Kishwar herself says that in listening to women (and men), she has come to appreciate this preoccupation with Sītā. She summarizes the results of her research succinctly in the title of one of her articles: “Yes to Sītā, No to Rām.” As she puts it: “Many people perceive Sita’s steadfastness as a sign of emotional strength and not slavery, because she refuses to forsake her dharma, even though Ram forsook his dharma as a husband.”¹¹⁵ Another such nuanced view puts the blame at the feet not of Sītā but the discourses she is made to serve: The problem that women today have had with Sita as traditional role model has always been that she is cast as a goddess, a heroine-victim, or a pativratā. In these symbolic forms she has served male rather than female history. It is not she but her representation in Indian literary, oral, and now audio-visual and political tradition that has been counterproductive to the women’s movement and the achievements of contemporary Indian women.¹¹⁶

When interviewing victims of domestic violence and other abuse, feminists did not find outright rejection of the Sītā model either. At Saheli, a women’s resource center in Delhi, women interviewed frequently related their plight to that of Sītā. They saw her as a strong woman, speaking out against violence, valiantly resisting sexual harassment and “a hurt but dignified survivor.”¹¹⁷ Such is also the case for the women of Sahara, a shelter for destitute women in South Delhi, as shown in Madhureeta Anand’s reflective documentary Laying Janaki to Rest (2009). On the other hand, in the same documentary, young female college students resolutely reject the “Sītā as role model.” We should conclude then that, while some still find Sītā a negative role model, for others (perhaps less privileged) women Sītā continues to be a source of strength. As one observer has put it perceptively: “Sita has lent dignity, even glamour to suffering. When there is no escape from suffering, one prefers to accept it with grace. Sita helps one do just that. She is a victim who suffers in grandeur, without being vengeful.”¹¹⁸ One may question the consequences of such glamorization of endurance for the persistence of violence and injustice. Still, it cannot be disputed that Sītā’s courage has the potential to inspire many women in times of trouble. ¹¹⁵ See Kishwar 2001: 306. ¹¹⁶ Barua 1996: 232–3. ¹¹⁷ Oldenburg 2007. ¹¹⁸ See Sen 1998: 27.

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Shulman, David. 1979. “Sītā and Śatakant : ḥ arāvana in a Tamil Folk Literature.” Journal of Indian Folkloristics 2/3–4: 1–27. Shulman, David. 1991. “Fire and Flood: The Testing of Sita in Kampan’s Iramavataram.” In Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia, ed. Paula Richman, 89–111. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Shulman, David. 2001. “Bhavabhūti on Cruelty and Compassion.” In Questioning Rāmāyana: : A South Asian Narrative Tradition, ed. Paula Richman, 49–82. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Singaravelu, S. 1982. “Sītā’s Birth and Parentage in the Rāma Story.” Asian Folklore Studies 41/2: 235–43. Singer, Milton. 1966. “The Rādhā-Krishna Bhajanas of Madras City.” In Krishna: Myths, Rites, and Attitudes, ed. Milton Singer, 90–138. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Smith, William L. 1988. Rāmāyana : Traditions in Eastern India: Assam, Bengal, Orissa. Stockholm: Dept. of Indology, University of Stockholm. Smith, William L. 2004. “Rāmāyana : Textual Traditions in Eastern India.” In The Rāmāyana Revisited, ed. Mandakranta Bose, 87–106. New York and Oxford: Oxford : University Press. Srivastava, I. 1991. “Women as Portrayed in Women’s Folk Songs of North India.” Asian Folklore Studies 50/2: 269–310. Srivathsan, A. 2013. “Design Set for Sita Temple in Sri Lanka.” The Hindu, July 9, 2013. Online at http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/designset-for-sita-temple-in-sri-lanka/article4898772.ece?css=print, accessed February 2016. Sullivan, Bruce. 2004. “Representing the Ramayana on the Kuttiyatam Stage.” In Rāmāyana : Revisited, ed Mandakranta Bose, 243–57. New York: Oxford University Press. Vatsyayana, Kapila. 2004. “The Rāmāyana : Theme in the Visual Arts of South and Southeast Asia.” In The Rāmāyana : Revisited, ed. Mandakranta Bose, 335–45. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zacharias, Usha. 2001. “Trial by Fire: Gender, Power, and Citizenship in Narratives of the Nation.” Social Text 19/4: 29–51. Zvelebil, Kamil. 1987. Two Tamil Folktales: The Story of King Matanakama, the Story of Peacock Ravana. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

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8 Here Are the Daughters Reclaiming the Girl Child (Kanyā, Bālā, Kumārī) in the Empowering Tales and Rituals of Śākta Tantra Madhu Khanna

A talented and well-behaved daughter may be better than a son. Samyutta Nikāya, ed. Rhys Davids, 3.2.6

It is widely understood that the sacred texts of India “skim the subject of female childhood”¹ and her maidenhood. The girl child enjoys no special privileges and suffers gross inequity, both economic and social, in relation to her male counterpart. In an overwhelmingly patriarchal culture like that of India, almost all privileges from womb to tomb are in favor of males. In the orthodox brahminical male-defined culture, the birth of a son embodied a source of hope, while the birth of a daughter was a source of anxiety, tension, and despair. The birth of a son was celebrated over that of a daughter because sons were invested with the duty of ancestor-worship that would ensure spiritual liberation for the parents. Supporting this practice is a vast literature divinizing the male child gods such as Kr: ṣna : Balārama, Kārtikeya, and Ganeśa, : who assume multiple manifestations in their respective myths. The sacred law codes also perpetuated sex-role stereotypes, allowing the male child greater options and flexibility while imposing restrictions on girls, assigning them only to domestic roles as wives or mothers. The secondary status accorded to the girl child has resulted in the heinous crime of female foeticide.²

¹ Altekar 1995: 1–6. ² According to a recent report by UNICEF, foetal sex determination and sex-selective abortion by unethical medical practitioners have grown into a Rs.1,000 Crore industry. Decades of sex determination tests have resulted in female foeticide which has acquired genocide proportions. In 1991 the figure was 947 girls to 1,000 boys; after a decade, it has fallen to 927 girls to 1,000 boys (www.unicef.in; accessed August 6, 2017). See Sekher and Hatti 2005; also 2010.

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The textual sources in Sanskrit are replete with rituals to ensure the birth of a male child. These include special charms and vrata rituals and specific mantras (putrakāma)³ to impregnate the womb of the married woman with a son. By contrast, specific rituals to promote the birth of a female child are conspicuous by their absence. Prayers were offered for male offspring—sons and grandsons, male descendants—and only occasionally for brides or wives. : The Vedic pumsavana, performed over pregnant women, is specifically “a rite quickening a male child.”⁴ The cultural devaluation of the girl child has trickled down to village-based cultures where girls do not feel themselves to be needed or valued. Several reports show⁵ that girls are a vulnerable group and are often viewed as liabilities who need to be shunned. The birth of a son is accompanied with jubilation and celebration but “gloom and resignation” follow the birth of a girl child. According to a report by the Delhi Government dispensary, the traditional individuals (dais) get no bakshish (tip) when a girl is born. They bang a brass plate with a spoon for a boy and break an earthen pot if it is a girl. The reasoning behind this is that “the boy is precious as metal is, a girl only dust”; “boys are gems and girls are like stones.” A boy is addressed as “Rājābetā, but a girl is greeted with a curse.” Sex-role socialization informs a girl that she is “unwanted and inferior” compared with a boy in the home. A girl is a temporary member in her husband’s house; in extreme cases she may be looked upon or considered as an “outsider.” On account of these negative attitudes, women who beget daughters are neglected, underfed, and even insulted. Marriage rituals also highlight the necessity of the birth of a male child. If a boy is born after the birth of a girl, a lump of jaggery is rubbed on his back—a mark of auspiciousness. Navaneeta Dev Sen, who has examined a number of folk songs and proverbs, concludes that “the girl child comes through as an essential orphan.”⁶ Modern feminist scholarship has been on a quest to excavate many hermeneutical strategies to navigate the rereading of texts and create methodological reinventions to clear discrepancies and inconsistencies in understanding the status and role of women’s culture in premodern South Asia. The dominant discourse in the study of gender and culture in the area has shown a preference for a Marxist, socialist, or secular perspective that rejects the vast potential of cultural resources and is inclined towards the reductive reading of myths, rituals, and beliefs with a strong political agenda. This perspective is rooted in the ideology that all aspects of tradition are regressive and outmoded. The theoretical models that are applied to explore women’s culture are drawn from ³ Kane 1958: 5/1: 343–5. : ⁴ Atharva Veda 3.23.33; Śaunaka quoted in Vīramitrodaya samskāra-prakāśa, cited in Pandey 1992: 60–1. ⁵ As in NCERT 1998: 5. ⁶ Dev Sen 2009: 131.

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Western theoretical theories of feminism, dividing the discourse into binary categories where male members are the dominant and powerful group and women of all ages are powerless victims. This form of extreme essentialism does not take into account the inherent diversity and plurality of cultural groups and the religious and social processes whereby power may be contested, resisted, and refigured in gender relations. This one-sided approach has consigned many cultural resources—scriptures and sacred texts in regional languages, powerful female symbolic icons, female-centered knowledge systems—to the dustheap of history.⁷ The few instances that are found in religious scriptures and oral cultures of India on the narratives of the girl child retain a measure of equality and celebrate the maidenhood of child goddesses (considered as being under the age of 16). This essay is an attempt to uncover the absent legacy of the deified child goddesses—the virginal maidens as mothers, daughters, and sisters designated as kanyās, bālās, and kumārīs—and their empowered myths that may serve as a rich cultural resource to formulate an indigenous paradigm to raise the lost and forgotten dignity of the girl child. One aim of this chapter is to excavate and to give a selective reading on pro-gender views on the girl child from brahminical as well as vibrant Śākta Tantric sources where the feminine principle and the mortal woman of all age groups and social classes are conceived of as a physical incarnation of śakti. A broader concern is based on the newly emerging subject where the main emphasis has been on building bridges between the academic study of religions and some of our contemporary concerns (such as ecology and gender) that may offer a more cosmopolitan solution to the single-sex, patriarchal monotheism that dominates modern society. Till now the girl child has been portrayed as a sad victim of history. Thus, this chapter is a modest attempt to provide a new theoretical orientation for a neglected area of study in order to reconnect the archaic, under-researched past with modern programs to empower the girl child. One salient aim is to explore the ways in which positive cultural resources on the myths and legends on child goddesses can be reclaimed to create space for a dialogue with contemporary development programs to promote the autonomy of, and community solidarity with, the girl child in India. India launched a mass communication campaign with the “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” (Save a Girl Child, Educate a Girl Child)⁸ initiative in 2014 which aimed at ending gender-biased sex selection and discrimination against girls. The scheme addressed two major issues: (1) the declining child sex ratio, in order to prevent gender-biased sex-selection elimination and (2) education of the girl child. A 100 Crore Multi-Sectoral Action Plan covering 161 gender critical districts of India was initiated with the active participation of NGOs and government institutions. Despite India’s cultural roots in the values of

⁷ Khanna 2014: 57–61.

⁸ See Beti Bachao Beti Padhao 2015.

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civilization, there is no historical reference in the plan to the positive value of girl child. However, far from being toothless and spineless, the myths and the narratives of empowerment have great potential and can be used for gendersensitization and mindset change to educate people to value the girl child. This chapter, then, is based on the premise that we can no longer look upon ancient narratives as fossilized relics which have no social relevance. It attempts to show that the gender-sensitive program for empowerment of young girls can be embedded in the “archetypal” semiotics of Indian culture.

ASPIRATION FOR DAUGHTERS: THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT Although the birth of the girl child was unwelcome in post-Vedic literature, there are faint traces in the early Vedic period that the girl child was given equal importance. A ritual to ensure the birth of a scholarly daughter who would grow up to be a brahmavādinī may be found in the Br: hadārnyaka : Upaniṣad: In case one wishes, that a learned daughter (punḍitā) be born to me; that she attain the full length of life;—they two should have rice boiled with sesame and should eat it prepared with ghee. They two are likely to beget [her]. (4.4.17; trans. Hume, p. 171)

The injunction laid out in the Br: hadārnyaka Upaniṣad was glossed over by : : Śankara in his commentary. In reinterpreting or rereading scriptural sources, one has to remember that most sources were penned by high-caste male authors who rewrote and appropriated the commentaries in accordance with their : own patriarchal agenda. Thus, Śankara gave an overwhelmingly patriarchal interpretation of the verse ya icched me duhitā panḍ : itā jāyet . . . (Br: hadārnyaka : Upaniṣada, trans. Swamī Mādhavānanda, 6.4.174) by rereading the word pānḍ (the subject of domestic : ityam (scholarly enterprise) as grhatantraviṣayam : householdership thereby), giving a misogynist reading which denies women a free : choice. Śankara is merely voicing the strident values of his times which confined women to the domestic sphere. By the time he wrote his commentary, his predecessors had already turned literary manipulation⁹ into a genre of expression to undermine the position of women.

⁹ In a fascinating essay Mandakranta Bose discusses how Sītā, who is portrayed as an independent and decisive figure by Vālmiki, is transformed into an “exemplar of an uncomplaining wife” in many—not all—later Rāmāyanas : by a devious “process of literary manipulation” (Bose 2009: 143).

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There are, however, a few references sprinkled through the epics, for instance the Mahābhārata, where the cause of the daughter was championed by the parents. The justification advanced in such cases was that “patricides have been a monopoly of the male child; no father is even known to have been killed by a daughter either in history or legend.”¹⁰ On the contrary, illustrious daughters like Kuntī and Lopāmudrā saved their parents from several adversaries. As against the marriage of a son, the marriage of a daughter enabled the parents to accrue the merit of the gift of the earth (pr: thvi-dāna). Some secular texts went so far as to state that one should neither rejoice at the birth of a son nor be depressed at the birth of a daughter. The aspiration for a daughter was due to the fact that women enjoyed a considerable degree of freedom in India before the fourth century CE. The RgVeda enumerates an unbroken lineage of : female seers who were called r: ṣikās or brahmavādinīs, and the Br: haddevatā of Śaunaka enumerates a long list of them: Ghosā, Godhā, Viśvārā, Apālā, Upaniṣad, Niṣat, Brahmajāyā (who is) named Juhu, the sister of Agastya, Aditi, and Indrānī, and the mother of Indra, Saramā, Romaśā, Urvaśī, and Lopāmudrā, and Nadyas (rivers),Yāmī, Śāśvati, Śrī, Lākṣā, Sarparājñi, Vāc, Śraddhā, Medhā, Dakṣinā, : Rātri, Suryā and Sāvitrī, (all these) are pronounced to be female seers (brahmvādinyaḥ). (trans. Macdonell, 2.82–4)

These female seers possibly provided the model for common women who were known as Brahmavādinīs. In the Vedic age, studies were open to all, irrespective of gender. The Upaniṣads classify women into two types: (1) Brahmavādinīs who were entitled to study the Vedas and undergo the investiture ceremony (upanayana) which enabled them to wear a sacred thread, and (2) Sadyovadhus, women who got married and were engaged in domestic life. Brahmavādinīs specialized in Vedic theology and philosophy and the sources tell us of two such women: Maitreyī and Gārgī (Br: hadārnyaka Upaniṣad, 2.6; Śatapatha : Brāhmana, : 14.6.4.1). The classification of women into two types is confirmed in a later text, the Smr: iticandrikā of Devana Bhatta (1200–25 CE): Hārita said that women are of two kinds: Brahmavādinīs and Sadyovadhus. Brahmavādinīs are entitled to wear a sacred thread, perform fire sacrifice, study the Vedas and beg alms. Sadyovadhus stay at home; some may receive the sacred thread and then marry. (1.24)¹¹

On account of this openness and free access to education, rituals in favor of a girl child may be found in the Upaniṣads. During the period of Dharmaśāstras (fourth–eighth centuries CE), the position of women declined. In the epic ¹⁰ Altekar 1995: 6. ¹¹ See also Nirnayasindhu by Kamalakara Bhatta (1610–40 : p. 563; Bose 2010: 88–90.

CE),

1.3, ed. and trans. Gaur,

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literature of ancient India, although daughters are not overtly favored over sons, some myths are centered on the birth of a girl child who is welcomed wholeheartedly. While Sītā makes her first appearance in the Vedas, she is ayonija, not born from a human womb but discovered in a fresh furrow, while her childless foster-father is plowing the field. She explains her dramatic birth from the womb of the earth as follows: Truly, when [King Janaka] was plowing round the field [for the sacrifice], I appeared splitting the earth, as the daughter of the king. While the lord of men was distributing handfuls of soil, he saw my body all covered with dirt and was amazed. Having no children himself, he put me affectionately on his lap and said, overwhelmed with love for me, “This is my child.” (Vālmikī Rāmāyana, ed. Bhatt et al., Ayodhyā Kānḍ : a, sarga 118: 27–30)

Sītā’s origin myth has undergone many retellings. In different versions of the Rāmayana King Janaka has an ambiguous attitude towards the birth of a daughter. The Viṣnu : Purāna : version (4.5.12, trans. Wilson, p. 554) unequivocally states that Janaka was plowing the field for the purpose of performing a yajña for the birth of a son (putrakāmeṣt ị -yajña). The legend of Sāvitrī related in the Mahābhārata (Āranyaka-parvan : 3.277–83)¹² shows similar acceptance of a girl child. Aśvapati, the holy king of Madra, had no offspring. Desiring a son, he performed many sincere austerities chanting the sāvitrī-mantra. After eighteen years of hard penance, goddess Sāvitrī appeared before him and offered him a boon. Aśvapati asked for glorious sons who would bring prosperity to his family. Sāvitrī explained that she knew of his desire but that he would have a daughter and that he should accept her without any criticism or protest. In due course, the eldest wife of the king gave birth to a lovely girl. Since she was born as a gift of goddess Sāvitrī, invoked by the sāvitrī-mantra, the child was named Sāvitrī and grew up to be a beautiful and virtuous daughter. Stories where the girl is preferred over a boy normally originate from nonbrahminical sources. In a vernacular version of the legend of Sāvitrī enacted in Bhagvata Mela Utsava Melattur, based on the Bhāgavata Mela dramas written by the celebrated playwright Venkataratna Śāstri (1743–1809 CE), the parents of Sāvitrī are shown asking and craving for a daughter.¹³ The oral village-based tradition with its unorthodox beliefs and practices created its own distinct stories and a pantheon of deities quite distinct from the classical mainstream. It is to this tradition that I now turn for its views on the aspiration for a daughter. Legends of devotion to goddesses are recounted on any number of sacred and secular occasions. These goddesses are adored throughout India in vrata rituals dedicated to them for the attainment of the ideals they portray. In

¹² See also Anand 1988: 1–49.

¹³ Khanna 2004: 197–208.

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performing these vratas, women relieve the “myth” symbolically so that they themselves emulate the lofty personas of these epiphanies. The qualities of these goddesses are extolled in plays, songs, and folk performances. The ideals of womanhood are percolated through everyday metaphors and similes. In a mythologically constructed society, the large corpus of images and patterns of womanhood inspires the individual to carve out her life in accordance with the metaphoric models of Indian womanhood. A popular legend linked to the goddess Śākambharī (the numinous vegetal archetype of goddess Durgā) recounts a story where the aspiration for a daughter is spelled out loud and clear by the protagonist. Jayanta Rai, a merchant devotee of the goddess, from Govindapur, desired a son, but his wife Śrīya desperately wished for a daughter. The story is part of a cycle of five myths linked to the goddess Śākambharī whose shrine is located in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh,¹⁴ where she is revered along with her sisters, Bhimā, Bhramarī, and Śatākṣī, with her attendants Bhairava, Hanumān, and Bhuradeva. In the story, related by Medha Rishi, the merchant and his wife have sons but no daughter. One day Jayanta’s wife, Śrīya, tells her husband, “I have heard that one who does not have a daughter is not considered to be a charitable person because the birth and marriage of a daughter ensures liberation in heaven.” Jayanta discourages his wife, saying, “sons bring money, they carry out the lineage of the family, and above all, they bring money by means of a dowry.” His wife retorts, “you weigh everything in terms of trade and commerce, what comes in the form of a wedding gift of a son never bears fruit, unless it is given back as charity [dāna].” She continues, “the money claimed through marriage, if unshared with others goes out in three ways—by theft, losses in business, or by having a bad son. Therefore, the Vedas declare that it is necessary to perform a kanyāyajña. Without a kanyāyajña, there is no liberation. Please let us have a daughter so that we can both aspire to spiritual liberation.” The couple set out to meet their guru who tells them to observe a vrata of goddess Śākambharī. They follow his instructions and are blessed with a lovely daughter. There are some important Śākta elements in the story. First, it elevates the position of a girl child over a son; second, in the conversation it is the woman’s voice that dominates over the male. This legend not only offers an unbiased gender-neutral justification for the birth of a daughter over that of a son, it also tends to subvert the orthodox views in the Sanskritic tradition with respect to neglect of the girl child while claiming the legitimacy of the Vedas.¹⁵

¹⁴ This story is known from oral sources but is found in popular publications; see Śākambharī Devī Kā Sampūrna : Ithihāsa, ed. Caturvedi, ch. 4, pp. 29–35. ¹⁵ In oral cultures the ethos of reversal and inversion continues to exist in different contexts; see Flueckiger 1996: 50–76.

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T H E I D E N T I T Y O F TH E KUMĀR Ī Sexist views on the status of the girl child reflect the inbuilt masculine bias in Hindu culture. However, the subordinate position of the girl child on the social plane does not reflect her position in the theology or mythology of the goddess. Stereotyping the girl child to play a subhuman and subversive role is in direct contradistinction to her divine status, thus demonstrating an incongruity between the social and the divine level. In mythology and theology, the embodiment of the goddess as a young girl or kumārī (a prepubescent virgin) may be admired, elevated, and extolled beyond measure. The word kumārī literally means “a chaste young girl . . . one from one to ten years old, a maiden, daughter; or (in the Tantras), any virgin up to the age of sixteen or before menstruation has commenced.” Kumārī is often described as a female form of kumāra: “a child, boy, youth, son, a prince heir apparent associated in the Kingdom with the reigning monarch.”¹⁶ From time immemorial, the Indian mother goddess has been portrayed in multiple personifications, ranging from an independent and sovereign deity to a consort and partner of a male deity. Between these two extremes lies her personification as a “virgin” or a “chaste young girl,” kumārī, which combines to a greater or lesser degree the prowess of the other two, as an independent person and a fierce nurturing mother, and is traceable to the Taittirīya Āranyaka of the Black Yajurveda (ed. Mitra, 10.1.7), a text of the third or : fourth century BCE. Rudra’s wife Ambikā is addressed as Kanyākumārī. Ambā means mother and refers to the motherhood of the goddess. With an -ika suffix, it means diminutive or little mother or a younger maiden whose powers of motherhood lie latent within her. The hymn to Ambikā in the early scriptures established that this verse refers to an independent tradition of a goddess “who holds a śakti weapon and exists in the form of kumārī” (Hymns to the Goddess, trans. Avalon and Avalon, v. 13, p. 104). There are several other scriptural descriptions of the incarnation of the goddess as kumārī in the Durgāstotra from the Mahābhārata and later Śākta sources: I praise thee, noble one, identical with Brahman Dweller in the Mandāra forest, virgin (kumārī), Kālī, wife of Kapāla of tawny hue. Reverence to Thee Bhadrakālī. (Mbh, ed. Sukthankar et al., Bhiṣma -parvan, 6.23, pp. 1–2)

In the Viśvasāra Tantra, a Śākta source, the goddess Durgā is addressed in her maiden form as kumārī (virgin), kanyā (maiden), kiśorī (a girl up to 15 years of age), bālā, and ṣoḍaśī (a 16-year-old girl).¹⁷ ¹⁶ Monier-Williams 1974: 292. Some references in the section are taken from my earlier work but are suitably revised. ¹⁷ Durgāśatanāma Stotra from the Viśvasāra Tantra, cited in the Brhattantrasāra of Śrikr: ṣna : : Āgamavāgīśa, ed. Nārāyana, : vol. 2, vv. 12–13, p. 898; cf. Hymns to the Goddess, trans. Avalon and Avalon, 81–2.

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These early references are further corroborated by the historical records of travelers to India. As early as 60 CE, a Greek sea captain in his journal noted the existence of the ancient site of the present-day Kanyākumārī Temple: “there is another place called Comari, at which are the Cape of Comari and a harbour; hither come those men who wish to consecrate themselves for the rest of their lives, and bathe and dwell in celibacy; and women also do the same; for it is said that the goddess once dwelt here and bathed.”¹⁸ Nearly seventy years later the Greek geographer Ptolemy referred to the site as “Comaria Akron.”¹⁹ The most prominent feature of the goddess is her virginity: she is the divine young girl who is capable of miraculous feats. Although the cult is embedded in Śiva mythology, which depicts her as a wife of Śiva, it is because of the goddess’s primal virgin status that the male gods are dependent on her active power (śakti) to perform their divine acts. The answer to the question of why the virginity of the goddess is glorified over her marital status is to be found in the Devī Purāna : which states that only an unmarried maiden in a virginal state can contain the unlimited power needed to destroy demons and anti-divine forces of life. As long as she remains immaculate and pure or “unpierced,” she is the best vehicle to destroy and protect the gods from the evil power of demons. The Devī Purāna : eulogizes the power latent in her: The trident-bearing goddess Vindhyavāsinī is a divine maiden, as long as her yoni remains unstuck, so long she can destroy the enemy of the gods. (Devīpuranam, ed. Sharma, ch. 30.17) :

In India, the cult of the kumārī is closely associated with the primal substratum of Indian history. It is inextricably linked to goddesses of nature, especially those who presided over mountains and extensive mountain ranges from the west, cutting right through the eastern Himalayas. Both Vindhyavāsinī, the presiding goddess of the Vindhya mountains named after the range in Uttar Pradesh, and Nandā Devī, named after the mountain she inhabits, are worshipped in their maiden manifestations. There are a number of references to the existence of temples at Kanyādevī in the Lajpat area, in Kangra Valley in north-east Punjab, the legendary Vaiṣno : Devī in Jammu, and Kumārī Śākambharī in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Another thriving center is the temple of Karanī : Mata of Bikaner in Rajasthan, which was established in honor of the girl child who had performed miracles in her own lifetime. Two sites of great significance are Gujurat (the temple of Bahucarā Devī) and Nepal, where the Newars believe that their country belongs to the kumārī, who is worshipped as the living form of goddess Tāleju Bhavānī. A young girl

¹⁸ Schoff 1912: 46; cited in Allen 1975: 2.

¹⁹ Caldwell 1881: 19.

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is searched for and groomed as the kumārī. The king then has to take from her a fresh mandate to rule over the land. The kumārī, then, represents “undefiled spiritual creativity which is potentially self-contained and whole” and at one with the powers of creation. She is likened to a pure unruptured vessel, which contains the full potential of motherhood and is mysterious, primal, awesome, and may even be destructive beyond repair.

EMPOWERING TALES

The Cycle of Myths of Yogamāyā, the Victor The youngest of all child goddesses is Yogamāyā whose mythology is intricately woven with a cycle of stories linked to Kr: ṣna’s : birth and to the kumārī goddesses Vaiṣno : Devī and Vindhyavāsinī. There was a time when values degenerated and untruth triumphed over truth, when hosts of āsuric forces in the form of demons and arrogant kings roamed over the earth. Earth assumed the manifestation of a sacred cow and went to the assembly of gods. Her face moist with tears, she related her piteous plight to them, bringing to their : attention that the demon king Kālanemi had been reborn as Kamsa, the ruler of Mathura. Countless proud, powerful, and evil spirits roamed the earth. She had come to the gods for their succor, lest she “sink into the nethermost abyss” with the evil burdens upon her. Thereupon Brahmā, the Earth, and the gods in heaven went to the northern sphere of the Milky Way and begged Viṣnu : for his assistance. Brahmā invoked Viṣnu : to relieve Earth of her burdens, as he above is the “invincible defender” of all. Viṣnu : reassured them and agreed to reincarnate and come down to the earth. Viṣnu : plucked two strands of his hair, one white and the other black, and said that these hairs would be reborn as two humans to relieve the burden of humankind. The black hair would be “impersonated in the eighth conception of the wife of Vasudeva, Devakī, who is like a goddess; and shall slay Kālanemi” (Viṣnu : Purāna, : 5.1.59, trans. Wilson, p. 682). The white hair would be born as Balarāma, the elder of the two brothers who would vanquish evil. Saying this, Lord Viṣnu : disappeared. : Muni Nārada, for his part, informed Kamsa that Lord Viṣnu : would be reborn as the eighth child of Devakī, his sister, and would kill him. Having heard this : prophecy, overtaken by wrath, Kamsa placed them in confinement. This was prefaced by another prophecy. When Devakī, his sister, was : married to Vasudeva, Kamsa drove their chariot (ratha) as their charioteer. : Suddenly, a voice came from the sky, loud as thunder, and addressed Kamsa thus: “Fool, the eighth child of the maiden whom you are driving shall take away your life” (Viṣnu : Purāna, : 5.1.8, trans. Wilson, p. 675). On hearing this, : Kamsa drew his sword to slay Devakī. Vasudeva intervened and entreated

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Reclaiming the Girl Child 183 : Kamsa to spare his young bride, promising him that he would deliver to : : Kamsa every child born to them. Believing Vasudeva, Kamsa desisted from killing her and imprisoned them both in his palace guarded by stern watch: men. Devakī gave birth to six sons, each of whom was killed by Kamsa. The seventh child conceived was said to be part of Ananta, Viṣnu’s : serpent. Viṣnu : then commanded Yoganidrā, the active principle of cosmic illusion, personified as Mahāmāya, known as Vaiṣnavī or the energy of Viṣnu, : : to transfer the embryo to Rohinī, Devakī’s co-wife. The embryo was transferred and the people of Mathura were told that Devakī had miscarried through the anxiety of her imprisonment. Then Viṣnu : revealed that he would enter the womb of Devakī and Mahāmāyā should enter the embryo of Yaśodā, and be born a day after his birth. Vasudeva would exchange the babies and carry Viṣnu : Kr: ṣna : to the bed of Yaśodā and then to Devakī, apprising her of the divine plan. When the destined hour arrived, Devakī gave birth to the divine form of Viṣnu : and Vasudeva had a vision of Viṣnu : who commanded him to take him to Gokula and bring as his substitute the daughter of Yaśodā. The mission was accomplished and the whole of nature bowed down in obeisance to the newly born incarnation of Viṣnu were awakened by the : on earth. When the guards : cry of the newborn child, they sent word to Kamsa who immediately set out for Vasudeva’s place and seized the baby. Devakī entreated him to leave the : baby alone but Kamsa picked it up and ruthlessly dashed it against the stone slab. The baby, lit up by a halo, rose up into the sky and expanded into an eight-armed goddess wielding a weapon in each of her eight hands. The instantly transformed child-goddess thundered a roar of laughter and said: : What ails thee, Kamsa, to have hurled me on the ground? He is born who shall kill thee, the mighty ones among the Gods (Viṣnu : Purāna : 5.3.27–9, trans. Wilson, p. 692)

Having spoken thus, the child goddess flew out of his grasp and rose upwards. She was recognized as the younger sister of Viṣnu, : adorned with beautiful garlands, ornaments, and jewels, clad in fine garments, smeared with unguents, and wielding a weapon. Praised by the siddhas, caranas, : gandharvas, apsarās, : and kinnaras, she said to Kamsa, “O Wicked one, thy adversary has been born as the death.” Having spoken thus, praised by the spirit of the air, she vanished and the potent goddess Yogamāyā established herself on earth in shrines of various kinds and was differently styled. My contention is that any form of reclaiming and re-imaging of myths in a feminist context must be based on the cultural insight it expresses drawn from the archetypal mainspring of universal symbols that allow for a diversity of interpretations. Alternative perspectives aim for a dialogical openness along with a commitment to the intricate layering of metaphorical and symbolic meaning, which is part of the construction of theological language. Symbols, as several authorities have reminded us, point to realities beyond the ordinary

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and reflect structures of human consciousness because it is possible, while decoding a myth, to shift from the ordinary and literal to the transcosmic and profoundly symbolic realm. It is in this latter sense that I propose to mark out the opposing positions that one can take to understand the myth in order to reclaim it in favor of the girl child. I propose two diametrically opposite positions that one can take to unravel the symbolic content of myth. In the first interpretation, the myth may be decoded in literal terms in which Yogamāyā appears as a passive victim of patriarchal dominance. In the second, its deep structural symbolism is unraveled in the context of Śākta philosophy in order to reclaim it in favor of the girl child. Modern urban women in India have tended to interpret the portrayal of Yogamāyā, the child goddess, as that of a passive victim of her peculiar circumstances and have often recalled this narrative as a justification for the subordinate position of the girl child. I shall explain this through the work of a contemporary artist. Gogi Saroj Pal was one of the first women artists in India to take up the issues of femininity, feminine, and women in several painting projects that broke away from the stereotyped imagery of women where their socialization process urges them to passively accept the role of mothers, wives, and daughters and become complicit in their domination by the male. Challenging this, Gogi Saroj Pal in her works through the late 1990s created a “womanist space” of expression to reflect upon feminine figures from Hindu mythology that portray blatant themes of gender discrimination. The artist’s innumerable “feminist works” such as Nāyikā, Kālī, and Hat ḥ aYoginī have emphasized women’s agency, potential capability, and independence. In one of her most compelling works, Aag Ka Dariya, she subverts the parable inherent in the narrative of Yogamāyā by drawing our attention to female foeticide in a society that rewards the divine feminine.²⁰ Her question is why, if it was prophesized that Kr: ṣna : would live to rule and enchant the world, was the child goddess Yogamāyā sacrificed? Was her death necessary for Kr: ṣna : to survive? The painting inspired from the myth of the birth of Kr: ṣna is subverted : in a contemporary language of form. In the painting Aag Ka Dariya, instead of baby Kr: ṣna : being carried away through the flooded Yamunā by Vasudeva, a kinnarī (Yogamāyā) is shown carrying a baby girl across the Yamunā. The popular reading regards Yogamāyā as a passive victim and the child god Kr: ṣna : as a victor or an easy winner. The one who wins survives and is superior to the one who dies and loses. If all the children born to Devakī had survived their cruel fate, and Yogamāyā was brutally killed to save Kr: ṣna, : then it would stand to reason that Yogamāyā was a victim. But an alternative view is equally valid. By design or destiny, all children born in his kingdom are slain

²⁰ Bawa 2011: 52–7 and pl. 57.

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Reclaiming the Girl Child 185 : by Kamsa; the only one who resists his grasp and survives is Yogamāyā. Hence, it is appropriate to view Yogamāyā as a victorious heroine whose mortal death is for salvific purposes. The mythological episode morphs into the effulgent spirit of Yogamāyā which ascends from her mutilated dead body, rises high above the heavens, and instantly reveals her real form as an eightarmed goddess, while the spirits of the air bow down to her. A group of gods appear in the sky and praise her. In this ambivalent role as a child goddess, Yogamāyā is the empowered deity (the youngest in Hindu mythology) who pronounces the voice of truth—a voice of prophetic wisdom, of the mysterious knowledge that is hidden. She comes forth as a priestess of truth. She is both a frail vulnerable baby and a fully mature potent goddess. She does not die with the death of her body but is reincarnated, as the Bhāgavata Purāna : announces, “on earth in shrines of various names and . . . differently styled” (10.47-14, trans. and annotated by G. V. Tagare, pp. 1278–9). She represents the maiden aspect of the feminine principle of the cosmos, who assumes various names and forms all over India, similar to what Kr: ṣna : represents in his mythology. Her characterization cannot be read as that of a victim but, rather, as that of a victor. This victorious role is celebrated in the freezes and tableauxs that are put up to commemorate Kr: ṣna’s : birthday on the occasion of Janmāṣtạ mī: Yogamāyā’s baby images are shown alongside her goddess manifestation. In collective memory, she is not a forgotten goddess, but a goddess whose miraculous feat saved Kr: ṣna. : She is the conscious energy principle and it is this expanded consciousness of the feminine that englobes the baby and the woman goddess into one symbol. It is worth noting that the reality of the myth exists between shifting interpretations: the victim archetype—which embodies the literal—and the victor—who represents the deep symbolic meaning of the myth.

Vindhyavāsinī, the Goddess Who Dwells in the Vindhya Mountains Another goddess closely associated with, and considered to be an incarnation of, Yogamāyā is the goddess Vindhyavāsini who presides over the sacred Vindhya-kṣetra, located between Allahabad and Banaras close to Mirzapur, where the Vindhya mountain range runs alongside the southern shores of the : river Gangā. Her myth continues the next episode of the story. Having pro: claimed to Kamsa that his adversary had been born, Yogamāyā flew to the Vindhya mountains and settled there. She assumed the form of the mountain goddess and became famous as Vindhyācala-nivāsinī or Vindhyavāsinī, “she who lives in the Vindhya mountains.” The extant Śākta sources, such as the Devī Purāna, : which devotes long passages and chapters to goddess Vindhyavāsinī, state that she is perhaps one of the earliest known goddesses in the form of a

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kumārī. In the Sanskrit epic literature of India, both the Mahābhārata and the : Harivamsa refer to her as a mountain goddess who is worshipped by mountaindwelling tribal groups and primal unorthodox communities. For our purpose, however, she stands supreme as an independent deity whose identity is not defined by her male partner. The goddess Vindhyavāsinī is confined to be a kumārī, a divine virgin who is a supreme Ādiśakti, primal energy of the cosmos, and who provides (according to a modern scholar) “the nuclear origin for the cult of kumārīs.”²¹ The Vindhya mountain range has a distinctive status in myth, geography, and ancient history. Approximately 600 miles long, it consists of a chain of small rugged mountain ridges, highlands, and plateaus, with thick forests and green cover, flowing springs and rivers. The Mahābhārata describes the Vindhya as the homeland of Niṣādas and Mleccha tribes. The mountains tend to restrict the path of winds and are seen as forming a traditional boundary separating North from South India. The whole of Vindhyakṣetra is the dominion of the goddess Vindhyavāsinī, who presides over the natural geoscape of the area. It is thus a devīkṣetra, an auspicious region presided over by the goddess. The kṣetra, in this respect, represents a conjoined symbolic reality, a qualitatively different place from other locations. The idea of kṣetra threads together the physical, metaphysical, and mystical, micro- and macro-, into one cultural complex. The significance of this is that Vindhyavāsinī assumes the form of kṣetra, matter/material nature (prakr: ti), in the from of geographical locations and by implication, her body reflects all the sacred spots of the vast landscape. The Vindhyācala-māhātmaya gives lengthy descriptions of the sacred geography of the landscape, the mountain ranges, waterbodies, sacred sites, and the various epithets associated with those sites. The whole region thus becomes a divine body of the goddess, who was assimilated as a Vaiṣnava deity, but reconfigured through invocations of : Tantric rites as a Tantric embodiment of Mahāśakti. It is for this reason that Devī’s symbol of yoni, represented by the primal triangle in her yantra, gets homologized as the three hills with three shrines to form the Trikona-ma nḍ : : ala in the sacred landscape referred to as brhadtriko na-yantra, the giant triangular : : natural yantra supporting the shrines of the three goddesses Vindyavāsinī, Kālīkoh, and Aṣt ạ bhujā. The yonic yantra also maps the circumambulation path of the pañcakrosī yātrā and is internalized in her contemplative rituals.²² The text also describes the great battle with the demons Śumbha and Niśumbha whom the goddess vanquishes with great gusto. The reconstruction of the goddess glorifies the latent powers of the child goddess and provides a counter-mythology to the hundreds of legends centered around the child god Kr: ṣna. : ²¹ Humes 1996: 51. ²² Vindhyācala Māhātmyam, Vindhya Khanḍ : : a, ed. Miśra, trans. Dube, Trikona-yantra, ch. 27, p. 221; ch. 30, p. 246; Vindhyaksẹtramāhātmya, ch. 37, pp. 309–12.

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Vaiṣno : Devī, the Goddess of Bhairon Ghāt ị̄ One of the most prominent pilgrimage sites in North India associated with Yogamāyā is the shrine goddess Vaiṣno : Devī located 39 miles north of Jammu in the bosom of the mountains whose conical peaks rise as a trinity. On account of her intimate association with the three mountain peaks, she is called Trikūt ạ Devī (the goddess who presides over the three peaks of the mountains). Her shrine is a natural cave 100 feet in length. Inside it there is a huge rock altar where three small images (originally in the shape of round stones or pinḍi) of the three goddesses Mahāsarasavatī, Mahālakṣmī, and : Mahākālī are placed. Whereas most goddess shrines in India eulogize one aspect of the deity, this one celebrates the wholeness of the goddesses’ three cosmic functions: creation, preservation, and dissolution, and embraces them all in one place. This has given the shrine a distinction of its own. Inside the cave a stream of crystal clear water flows through it. The stream is known as : : Carana : Gangā, or the Gangā that anoints the lotus feet of the mother. Entering the cave, pilgrims to the shrine wade through the waters to reach the inner sanctum. The shrine is known as a siddhapīt ḥ a, where the most bountiful manifestation of the goddess grants the wishes of devotees. Legends²³ hold that, after the goddess manifested in the form of energy of : the gods, she came to the Śatasr: ngī-mountain to reside there. The place was frequented by many demons. For a long time she took her abode in Adhakumārī, a huge rock with a small opening through which the pilgrims have to walk. This is the garbha-yoni, the womb passage of the mother, through which the pilgrims pass. There are many popular legends associated with the origin of the womb. According to one legend, when the world was burdened with evil and antidivine powers, the three goddesses, along with all their śaktis, created a divine girl (divyakanyā). This child goddess was created to protect the world and would be born as a daughter to Ratnasagar, a certain merchant from a fraction : (amśa) or part of Viṣnu. : She was named Trīkūt ạ . Later the same divine girl became famous as Vaiṣnavī, and propagated the religion proclaimed as : Vaiṣnava-dharma. After some time this divine girl goes to the shores of the sea : : to perform austerities. One day Lord Rāma, who was on his way to Lankā, saw this divine girl. She said that she was praying to win him over as a husband. Rāma then gave her a boon, saying “You will be my wife when I assume the Kalki incarnation.” Till then, she should stay on the three mountains where she would be worshipped as goddess Vaiṣnavī. : A popular legend describes her origin. One day at a Bhānḍ : āra—that is, distribution of sacred food—Bhairava asked her for meat and wine. She said

²³ See Mātā Vaiṣno : Devī, ed. Caturvedi.

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that as she followed the pure Vaiṣnava faith, no wine or meat would be served. : Bhairava was insulted. In rage, he caught her hand. Bhairava was not an ordinary person. In a blink of his samādhi, he saw that the divine girl had assumed the form of air and vanished into the Trīkūt ạ mountain. Curious to discover her powers, he chased her through the mountainous valley, wondering “who is she?” The airy Kanyā (Pavana Kumārī) drove him crazy. For nine months he chased her without any result until he was informed by a sage that the person he was chasing was no ordinary girl but mahāśakti-ādikumārī, “the supreme goddess in the form of the primal virgin goddess.” The goddess hid in the cave for nine months like a child in the womb of a mother. She pierced her trident through the rock cave, came out the other side, and finally, after a fierce battle with Bhairva, she slew him. From then on, the valley was called Bhairon Ghāt ị̄ . This popular tale has a strong Śākta orientation as it credits the Vaiṣnavī, the divine feminine power, with being the propagator of Vaiṣnava: : dharma rather than Lord Viṣnu. :

Śaiva Cycle of Myths: Kanyākumārī Both Vaiṣnava and Śaiva myths go together in preserving the narratives of the : maiden goddess. One of the oldest known shrines dedicated to the virgin goddess Kanyākumārī is located at the confluence of three seas—the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal—at the southernmost tip of India. The strategic location of this extraordinary shrine is described in a Śaiva myth from the Skanda Purāna, : where it is referred to as Cakratīrtha. The Mahābhārata makes reference to Kanyātīrtha. Marco Polo of Venice, traveling to India in c.1293 CE has written of worshipping at the temple, where the goddess, sporting a nose ring, appears as “a glittering figure as a pole star.” Another early traveler to mention the site was Ibn Battuta (1303–69 CE) in his book Raskumari. According to a popular myth, once upon a time the two demons Bāna : and Muka were a menace to the gods. The gods in vain went to Kaśī Viśvanātha, lord of the universe, for succor. On hearing about their pathetic condition, Śiva, in union with his consort, created two goddesses. One assumed the form of Kālī and was placed in Kālīghat in Kolkata. The other, a kumārī, was directed to the tip of India. It is said that since then Kanyākumārī has been hailed as one of the most auspicious pilgrimage sites for Hindus. It is believed that all those who take a holy dip in Varanasi must bathe in the waters of Kanyākumārī and worship the goddess to complete their pilgrimage to “cross : over” the ocean of samsāra. Another local legend on the origin of Kanyākumārī is linked with the sacred geography of the area. It is known from old records that the mainland of India in ancient times extended far beyond the southernmost shores. It was known

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as the continent of Lemuroid and probably extended to Madagascar and Africa. Legend holds that there was a young maiden named Puṣpakāsī who by fierce penance had attained a special place in heaven. She lived in close proximity to Lord Śiva in the celestial kingdom. Around the same time, a certain demon called Bānāsura had won a boon that none could vanquish him : but a pure virgin. When approached by the denizens of heaven, Lord Śiva directed Puṣpakāsī back to earth. She slew the demon and performed a penance, praying that she might return to Śiva. Meanwhile Paraśurāma, the son of Sage Jamadgani, impressed by the powerful potency of the virgin goddess, intervened and established her image with Vināyaka-Ganeśa, resolv: ing that she alone could save the land that was washed away and drowned in the sea. It is believed that the sea receded and the rich and luxuriant coasts were restored. Since then, she stands there, protecting the sacred land from the inclemencies of the weather. The third narrative of her origin relates to the unstained potential energy of her virgin nature, a renunciate. The Lord of the Suchindaram Temple, located 6 miles from Kanyākumārī, wished to marry the beautiful virgin goddess. The gods in heaven were opposed to the marriage, as they knew that the goddess must remain in a virgin state to vanquish the demons. But none had the courage to oppose him. Lord Suchindram proceeded to marry Kanyākumārī with great pomp and splendor at an auspicious time. Nārada assumed the form of a cock and crowed, announcing the approach of dawn. On hearing this, the god fell under a spell of delusion and turned away, thinking that the auspicious hour had passed. The goddess Kanyākumārī waited in her bridal finery till dawn. In rage she cursed the treasures and the articles that were brought and they turned into sand and seashells. Kanyākumārī’s status and formidable power stems from her virginity and unmarried status. In this sense she is celibate, and it is through her celibacy that she sublimates her sexual energy and gains miraculous powers, like male ascetics who retain their semen through the power of tapas (ascetic ardor), which has the potency to magically bestow spiritual powers.²⁴

Bālā Tripurasundarī There are a number of goddesses who are worshipped simultaneously as kumārīs and as consorts of male deities. An exception to this rule is goddess Tripurasundarī who is worshipped in her twofold manifestations—her adult person and her maiden personification as Bālā-Tripurasundarī, sometimes referred to as Sodaśi or “she who is 16 years old.” The cult of goddess Tripurasundarī is one of the most sophisticated Śākta traditions in India. ²⁴ Das 2001: 1–4.

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She occupies an unparalleled position in Tantric and Vedantized Śākta traditions. Her cult also gained universal popularity in South India. The philosophical foundations and ritual formulae of this tradition are traceable to the Pratyabhijña-based Trika system of the Śaiva-advaita-āgamas of Kashmir. An early reference to her cult is found in the Tamil work Tirumantiram by Tirumular (seventh century CE) in the form of her mantra. Between the ninth and eleventh centuries, her cult became a major Śākta movement. One of the greatest upholders of this school in South India was : the great philosopher Śankarācarya (788–820), who revived her worship in the four seminaries (mat ḥ as) that he established during his life. There is a vast literature that codifies the narratives and liturgical practices associated with Bāla Tripurasundarī. One of the texts celebrating the glories of this divine child goddess is the Tirpurārahasya which gives a lengthy description of her innumerable kumārīkathās, legends of her virginal power to destroy demons and dispel the arrogance of gods, tales about the firm resolve to choose a husband of her choice, and stories and miracles of healing and bestowal of grace. It is customary that devotees are first given the Bālā-mantra and then the mantra of Lalitā Tripurasundarī. Bālā Tripurasundarī’s dhyāna mantra describes her as a young maiden, shining like the rising sun. In two of her hands she holds a rosary and a book. The other two make the gesture of bestowing grace and dispelling fear. Like Lalitā Tripurasundarī, Bālā Tripurasundarī has her own specific yantra composed of three triangles encircled by a ring of eight-petaled lotuses, set in a square enclosure with four gates. In a well-known narrative, goddess Lalitā Tripurasundrī manifests to vanquish Bhanḍ : a, the demon chief who had become a menace to the gods and humans. The Lalitopākhyāna²⁵ describes the gory war, full of harrowing details. In this narrative it is Bālā Tripurasundarī, the daughter of Lalitā Tripurasundarī, who fights with the sons of the demon chief, and in doing so a poetic symmetry is achieved by introducing the young daughter to fight the sons of the demon while her mother Lalitā battles with their father. The most spectacular moment of the war is when the battle gets fierce and the thirty sons of Bhanḍ : a march together to offer a fight to Lalitā’s army. At that dramatic moment Kumārīkā, also known as Bālāmba—none other than the young daughter of Lalitā—intervenes and undertakes a campaign against the sons (kumāras) of the demon chief. She is portrayed as a 9-year-old, adept in martial feats, and in her beauty is her mother’s mirror image, her vital breath. She tells her mother that, although as a girl she loves toys and playful pastimes, her arms are “throbbing with the itching sensation of war” in this playful sport. Her mother dissuades her and tells her that she is only 9 years old, that her training in warfare is still very fresh, and that she is her only ²⁵ Lalitopākhyāna, 72–116, in Brahmanḍ : a Purāna, : 4.26.72–117, pp. 1174–8; cf. Tripurarahasyam, Māhātmya Khanḍ : am, 65.17–19, p. 411.

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daughter. Overcome by youthful curiosity, with her mother’s permission, Bālā assumes the manifestation of Kumārikā, the virgin goddess and moves on, steadfast in her resolve. The battle begins. The 9-year-old girl seated in the palanquin, releasing volleys of arrows, surprises the Kumāras. The battle is fought. She reduces the entire army to ashes, then releases thirty arrows, simultaneously severing the thirty heads of the sons of Bhanḍ : a. Kumārikā blooming with vigor, is eulogized and felicitated by the gods. Bālā Tripurasundarī is a symbol of beauty and blossoming adolescence and is worshipped by adorning a young girl by the right- and left-hand Tantrikas. She is the embodiment of prosperity, good fortune, earthly abundance, and spiritual liberation. She is identified with auspicious, pure, and gracious nature; royal power; and the protector of order, both social and cosmic. Terror-inducing, wild, and frightening attributes are not her preserve. This tradition has great potential to contribute to an exclusive spirituality for young girls because the Bālā aspect of Tripurasundarī has evolved into an independent offshoot of Śrīvidyā worship.²⁶

The Kumārī Pūjā in Śākta Tantra The worship of a virgin girl forms an integral part of Śākta rituals. In Śākta worship the kumārī is revered as a deity incarnate and as supreme “mistress of the cosmos” (“kumārīdevatā proktā sarvato jagadīśvarī”) (Rudrayāmala Tantra, ed. and trans. Malaviya, Pat ạ la 7.13a). She is described as being omniscient (sarvajñā), is identical with the Supreme Goddess, and abides in secret form (guptabhāvanivāsinīm). The kumārī is the supreme living yoginī and reincarnates the earthly image of the Supreme Goddess (“kumārī yoginī sākṣāt kumārī parādevatā”) (Rudrayāmala Tantra, ed. and trans. Malaviya, Patạ la 7.33a). The worship is egalitarian in nature. Śākta worshippers ranged from royal households to celebrated personalities and also included the lowest of the low in the social stratum—śūdras, mlecchas, yavanas, vrātyas; women, married, single, widowed, or ascetic were all part of their sect. It is a common feature of the Śākta Tantras that its practices are not governed by Vedic injunctions, whether based on caste (varna/jāti), lineage ( gotra), family (kula), or gender. : Contrary to the normative scriptures, such as the Dharmaśāstra of the brahminic orthodoxy, the Śākta Tantras regard all humans to be equal to one another (sarvatulyaś ca).²⁷ The Tantras echo this democratic and egalitarian

²⁶ Bālā Tripurasundarī evolved into a full-fledged cult and has produced a distinctive literature on its cult practices, e.g. Tripurabhairavī Tantra in Śāktapramodaḥ of Deva Nandan Singh, ed. Khanna, 252–82, and introd., 43–4; cf. Śrī Śrī Bālā Kalpataru Canḍ : ī, 1–39. ²⁷ Cf. “jātibhedo na kartavya kumārīpūjane śive,” Yoginī Tantra, 19b, cited in Śāktapramodaḥ, ed. Khanna, p. 394.

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social order when they abolish all caste distinctions and prescribe that all kumārīs have the authority to be the object of worship whether they are born of high caste (devakulā) or low caste (rākṣasī) family; whether high-born (narotpannā), whether of low birth, the daughter of a dancer (natị̄ kanyā), low caste (hīnakanyā), the daughter of a Kāpālika or the daughter of a washerman (rajakakanyā), or else the daughter of a barber (nāpitakanyā), the daughter of a cowherd (gopālakanyā), born of a brahmin, a Śūdra, a Vaiśya, a merchant, a cānḍ : āla or one who lives in an āśrama, or one coming from the caste of a friend. All the maidens invited for worship are considered as being identical with the goddess. Each day of the nine antumnal nights of the Durgā festival, the devotee is instructed to worship kumārīs, in some cases ranging from 2 to 16 years of age. On each tithi of the nine-day festival, one kumārī is worshipped. The nine kumārīs have been assigned specific powers and different results are to be obtained from their worship. Thus, the worship of the first kumārī, aged 2, the goddess Kumārī herself, dispels misery and poverty, expels enemies and bestows riches, longevity, and power; the second, named Trimūrtī, yields longevity, and the three aims of life, riches, and sons; the third, Kalyānī, fructifies all desires and bestows knowledge, victory, and kingdoms. Rohinī, the fourth kumārī, is worshipped for healing and the cure of diseases; Kālīkā, the fifth, for destruction of enemies; Canḍ : ikā, the sixth, for prosperity and riches; the seventh, Śāmbhavī, for enchanting and vanquishing enemies, victory in battles, and removal of poverty; the eighth, Durgā, for destruction of adversaries and bringing happiness; and finally Subhadrā, on the ninth day, for removing ill luck and for fulfillment of all one’s desires.²⁸ The Kumārī Tantra, which has much in common with descriptions of Kumārī Pūjā expounded in the Rudrayāmala Tantra, devotes itself to the description whereby the young maiden is re-imaged as a kumārī by a series of ritual acts. The ritual commences by offering the young kumārī a seat (āsana). Thereafter, a devotee should contemplate her in the likeness of the goddess who is young, beautiful, adorned with ornaments, with a smiling face. Having contemplated upon her in this form, the devotee should shower flowers on her head and worship her with mental offerings. Once again he should contemplate the young kumārīs, beginning from the youngest and ending with the oldest, and shower offerings of flowers on them. Then he should make an offering of the sixteen ritual ingredients (ṣoḍaśa-upacāra), ending with other : items such as conch-shell bangles (sankha), a garland, vermilion, and collyrium. The worship ends with the recitation of the protective kavaca, a reverential bow, and offering of dakṣinā (fee offered to a priest after completing a ritual ceremony).

²⁸ Śrīmaddevībhāgavatam, trans. Vijnanananda, vol. 26, pt. 3, ch. 27, vv. 39–58.

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The Kumārī Pūjā figures very prominently in authoritative ritual texts devoted to the goddess, particularly those that come from Bengal and eastern India. It is prescribed that the worship of young girls must take place during and especially on the ninth day of Durgā Pūjā, the nine-day autumnal festival. Celebrated with great fanfare, pomp and show in all parts of Bengal, in private and temple worship, Kumārī Pūjā was brought into the public sphere in the nineteenth century in Bengal, and introduced as a public ritual by the Ramakrishna Mission. It is recorded that in 1898 Swami Vivekananda performed Kumārī Pūjā for the first time to a young Muslim girl, daughter of his boatman, whose permission he sought for the pūjā. Later, in 1902, Kumārī Pūjā was performed in Belur Math in the presence of Sharada Mā. Thereon the seed was sown and has flourished till today. Hundreds of kanyās are called upon to take part in a ritual performed at Balur Math, Kolkata. From a modern perspective the idea of divinity in young girls must be matched by their elevation in the social sphere lest the rite appears like a psychodrama for mere entertainment. The responses to the recent form of Kanyā Pūjā performed in Bengal have been ambivalent. For some, the ritual as it is performed does not help the girl child, while other girls who were part of the ritual recall that it instilled in them confidence and strength to meet challenges in life. As a young teenage girl stated, “each time I remember Mā Durgā, I feel a surge of energy.”

CO NCLUSION We may sum up some insights and critical features pertinent to our discussion. Firstly, all the goddesses are characterized as being fiercely independent from any form of male control or male superiority. In one way they reveal an inversion of traditional models for women in their relationships with men. An underlying feature of the goddesses is their perpetual virginity which in the Hindu imagination constitutes a form of condensed power which is auspicious and can be channeled for any form of benefic or violent and aggressive purposes. It reinforces that in the Hindu world celibacy or the ascetic form of sexual self-control is understood and admired as one of the many forms of sexuality rather than looked upon as a form of pathology. The second important observation is that some of the legends—as in the case of Śākambharī, Vaiṣno : Devī, Bālā-Tripurasundarī—tend to reverse the well-established orthodox structures of brahminical order. In the conversation between Śryīā and her husband Jayanta Rai, she offers a justification for having a girl child by inverting the argument in favor of girls. In the myth of Vaiṣno: devī, it is Vaiṣnavī who is extolled for spreading Vaiṣnava-dharma. Bālā : : Tripurasundarī defies her image as a shy, obedient daughter and confronts the

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sons (kumāras), throwing her girlhood to the winds to combat them with her Śakti-senā, army of women. After a silence of nearly two thousand years, it is an authoritative Śākta Tantra that restores the dignity of the female child when it states that those desiring daughters will be blessed with daughters as a reward for worshipping goddess Śoḍaśī.²⁹ The Śākta imprint on the exploits of these goddesses is very prominent. The central themes of their myths are worthy of note. The stories are framed in terms of the universal deva–asura conflict which can be resolved by the formidable power of the goddess. More arresting is the theme of ecological conservation and protection of the environment. Female deities have been identified with the biotic web of nature; earth, landscapes, rivers, mountains, healing herbs, and the flora and fauna of life. The Śākta texts have gone so far as to homologize the earth as the body of the goddesses. Both Vindhyavāsinī and Kanyākumārī, as well as Vaiṣno-devī, in their regional contexts are seen as : protectresses and guardians of the landscape they occupy. They are the queens of their green kingdoms. The Kanyākumārī myth shows how she saved the oceans; and Vindhyavāsinī is the super-queen of the mountains and the landscape surrounding it. This is also the case with Vaiṣno-devī. For centuries : such myths have sanctified the land and guarded the geoscape from being exploited. The local legend is a Śākta appropriation of the story where the goddess manifests as a young girl whose divine powers are unlimited. Her origin myth becomes a space of contestation between the Śaiva and Vaiṣnava, or : the high Sanskritic and oral tradition, in which, ultimately, the village-based oral tradition supporting the myths of the divine girl child triumphs over others. It is quite obvious that there are two mythological strands woven around the myth of such goddesses: one has its origin in the patriarchal mythology and the other is directly linked to a mother-centered mythology corpus which has its roots in the oral tradition and belongs to the earliest strata of goddess history. The symbol of the girl child as a divine maiden (kumārī) may bring about the process of reclaiming and re-imaging the status of the girl child. This symbolic reclamation is of profound significance in the face of the denigration that has taken place in the past. I consider that an exploration of the deified child goddesses—the virginal maidens as mothers, daughters, and sisters designated as kanyās, bālās, and kumārīs—and their empowered myths and rituals provides a rich cultural resource that can be mobilized for redressing the imbalance that has continued to exist unchallenged. The indifference and cultural amnesia to historical references is based on age-old biases; for instance, it is understood that sons were/are preferred over daughters because the latter had no martial or fighting ²⁹ See Ṣoḍaśī Tantra, in Śāktapramodaḥ, p. 187.

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abilities, yet time and again the list of bravery awards³⁰ conferred on children every year by the Indian Council for Child Welfare has shown otherwise, demonstrating that young girls have an uncanny intuitive strength to meet adverse situations. The corpus of mythical narratives also shows that the power of child goddesses as kumārīs and bālās who drew their strength from the power of their perpetual virginity was in one sense greater than that of their mothers and the equal of their male counterparts. A wide range of myths may offer a role model to young girls who are facing insecurity in urban India. Evoking the memory of these myths in the programs for the girl child may act as a symbol of transformation of consciousness and being. In the retelling and reinterpretations of the child-goddess myths, the bonds between mothers and daughters and between women in general are strengthened. These myths could eventually motivate the girls to play radical roles. It would seem that, apart from domestic roles, it could be their destiny to play heroic roles, similar : to the virānganā ideal displayed in their remarkable feats. Girls are an especially vulnerable group who often miss formal education and have to follow the prevailing role models of subordination as the school education system fails to address gender-based marginalization. Girls require a basic encounter with self-image and social image. For the vast majority of young girls there is a great limbo between childhood and womanhood. There is limited space for them to experience adolescence and to taste freedom. Development programs are being geared to an appropriate intervention for adolescent girls guided by their needs. The criteria for selecting projects for study indicate that girls’ education must aim to build confidence and selfesteem, enhance their social image, help them with negotiating skills, and encourage them to acquire critical self-appraisal. The heroines of our childgoddess myths are prophets and warrior queens, healers, and cosmic personas and nurturers of humanity who embody models of courage rather than passive oppressed protagonists. These myths can be reclaimed for better grooming of self-confidence and an empowered self-image. An education program for girls that does not take such cultural resources seriously is only marginally empowering. We have also observed that the large-scale incorporation of Kumārī Pūjā in Śākta circles during the festival of Durgā Pūjā is a legacy of the past. The relatively short period of worship of young girls as kumārīs with no special enduring effects does little good to the girl child. I consider that these religious occasions could be used by devising socio-economic programs and consciousnessraising projects for girls so that they can be placed in a gender-neutral category. ³⁰ National Bravery Awards for children are given to children for meritorious acts of bravery against all odds by the Indian Council for Child Welfare, Govt. of India. For some instances of acts of valor by young girls who won the award see www.thebetterindia.com, accessed Aug. 10, 2017.

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This will require an imaginative conceptual shift. Reclaiming and re-imaging the needs of the girl child would mean looking at our indigenous resources, especially the empowering images and portrayals of the divine kumārīs, kanyās, and bālās who do not play gender-specific roles. In modern India several initiatives have been undertaken to espouse the cause of the girl child. The social policy framework safeguards the rights of the girl child to education, nutrition, health, medical care, schooling, and freedom of expression. Special efforts have been made to create programs that profess the value of non-discrimination on the basis of sex, caste, religion, and physical disability. It is understood that only 8 percent of women are involved in the national policy of the country as Members of Parliament. There are even fewer in the state legislatures. The recent phenomenon of 1 million Indian women joining the panchayats, the grassroots democratic institutions, is a tremendous achievement which should encourage educators to prepare young girls for the leadership of tomorrow. This chapter has given a select reading of the myths in which the maiden goddesses have played a wide variety of roles: as slayer of demons to re-establish cosmic and social order; as healer, friend, saint, mother, savior and nurturer; as heroine and diviner. The large corpus of their forgotten and neglected narratives can bring about a most rewarding conceptual shift in our perception of the hidden potential of the girl child.

REFERENCES Primary Sources : Atharva-Veda Samhitā, trans. William Dwight Whitney. 2 vols. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2001. Bhāgavatapurāna. : Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology Series. Trans, and annotated by G. V. Tagare. 5 vols. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1976–8. Brāhmanḍ : a Purāna. : Part IV. Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology Series. Trans. and annotated by Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare and J. L. Shastri. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1984. Br: hadāranyaka Upaniṣad. In The Thirteen Principal Upaniṣads, trans. Robert Ernest : Hume. 1921; 2nd rev. edn. London: Oxford University Press, 1931. Br: hadāranyaka Upaniṣada, trans. Swāmī Mādhavānanda. 3rd edn. Mayavati, Almora: : Advaita Ashrama, 1950. Br: ahaddevatā, attrib. Śaunaka, trans. Arthur Anthony Macdonell. Harvard Oriental Series, 5/1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1904. Br: hattantrasāra of Śrikr: ṣna : Āgamavāgiśa, vol. 2, ed. Kapildeva Nārāyana. : Chaukhambā Surabhāratī Granthamālā, no. 431. Varanasi: Chaukhambā Surabharati Prakashan, 2007. Devī Purānam, ed. Puspendra Kumar Sharma. New Delhi: Lal Bahadur Shastri : Vidyapeeth, 1976.

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Hymns to the Goddess, trans. Arthur and Ellen Avalon. 1913; Madras: Ganesh and Company, 1952. Kumārītantra, in Śāktapramodaḥ, ed. Madhu Khanna, 393–415. New Delhi: Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Tantra Foundation, and D. K. Printworld, 2013. Mahābhārata. Critical edn. by V. S. Sukthankar et al. 19 vols. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1933–59. Mātā Vaiṣno : Devī (in Hindi), ed. Jvala Prasad Caturvedi. Jammu: Pustak Samsara, n.d. Nirnayasindhu of Kamalakara Bhatta. Vol. 1, pt. 3, ed. and trans. Daulat Ram Gaur. : Varanasi. Vikram Samvat 1970 (Vikram Samvat calendar: 2027). Rudrayāmala Tantra, ed. and trans. Sudhakar Malaviya. Vrajajīvan-pracyabhāratī Granthamālā, no. 86. Delhi: Chaukhambā Sanskrit Pratisthan, 1999. Śākambharī Devī Kā Sampūrna (in Hindi), ed. Jvala Prasad Caturvedi. : Itihāsa : Haridwar: Haridwāra Pustaka Samskaran, : n.d. Śāktapramodaḥ of Raja Deva Nandan Singh, ed. and introd. Madhu Khanna. New Delhi: Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Tantra Foundation, and D. K. Printworld, 2013. Samyutta Nikāya: The Book of the Kindred Saying or Grouped Suttas, ed. Caroline A. F. Rhys Davids. Pali Text Society Translation Series No. 7. London: Published for the Pali Society by Luzac, 1950. Smr: iticandrikā of Devana Bhatta, ed. L. Srinivasacharya. Mysore: Government Oriental Library, 1914–16. Ṣoḍaṡītantra, in Śāktapramodaḥ, ed. Madhu Khanna. New Delhi: Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Tantra Foundation, and D. K. Printworld, 2013. Śrī Śrī Bālā Kalpataru. Allahabad: Chanḍ : ī Kāryālaya, 1999. Śrimaddevībhāgavatam, trans. Swami Vijnanananda. Allahabad: Panini Press, 1921–3. Taittirīya Āranyaka of the Black Yajurveda, with the commentary of Sāyanācārya, ed. : : Rajendralala Mitra. Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1872. Tripurabhairavī Tantra in Śāktapramodaḥ of Deva Nandan Singh, ed. Madhu Khanna. Delhi: Tantra Foundation, Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan and D. K. Printworld, 2013. Tripurarahasyam, Māhatmya Khanḍ : am, “Vimala” Hindi Vyākhyā. Acarya Jagadish Chandra Mishra. Chaukhambha Surabhārātī Granthamālā, no. 246. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Surabhāratī Prakashan, 2001. Vālmīki-Rāmāyana. Critical edn. by G. H. Bhatt et al. 7 vols. Baroda: Baroda Oriental Institute, 1960–75. Vindhyācala Māhātmyam, Vindhya Khanḍ : a, ed. Om Prakasa Miśra, trans. Raghunātha Dube. Śiva Sanskrit Granthamālā, no. 10. Varanasi: Śiva Sanskrit Sānsthan, 2013. Viṣnu : Purāna: : A System of Hindu Mythology and Tradition, trans. H. H. Wilson. Vol. 2. bks. 4 and 5. Delhi: Nag Publishers, 1980. Yoginītantra in Śāktapramodaḥ, ed. Madhu Khanna.New Delhi: Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Tantra Foundation and D. K. Printworld, 2013. Secondary Sources Allen, Michael R. 1975. The Cult of Kumārī. Kathmandu: Institute of Nepal and Asian Studies, Tribhuvana University. Altekar A. S. 1995. The Position of Women in Hindu Civilization, from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day. repr. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass.

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Anand, Subhash. 1988. “Savitri and Satyavan: A Contemporary Reading.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 69/1–4: 1–49. Bawa, Seema. 2011. “Enwombed, Enshrined, Unbounded.” In The Feminine Unbound: A Retrospective of Gogi Saroj Pal, 52–7. Delhi: Delhi Art Gallery. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. 2015. New Delhi: Ministry of Women and Child Development Program. http://www.wcd.nic.in/schemes/beti-bachao-beti-padhao-scheme. Accessed August 6, 2017. Bose, Mandakranta. 2009. “The Portrayal of Sita in Two Bengali Ramayanas.” In In : Search of Sītā: Revisiting Mythology, eds. Malashri Lal and Namita Gokhale, 141–6. New Delhi: Penguin Books India and Yatra Books. Bose, Mandakranta. 2010. Women in the Hindu Tradition: Rules, Roles and Exceptions. London and New York: Routledge. Caldwell, Robert. 1881. A Political and General History of the District of Tinnevelly in the Presidency of Madras. Madras: Printed by E. Keys, at the Government Press, 1881. Das, R. K. 2001. Temples of Tamil Nad. 3rd edn., Mumbai: Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan. Dev Sen, Navaneeta. 2009. “The Essential Orphan: The Girl Child.” In In Search of Sītā: Revisiting Mythology, eds. Malashri Lal and Namita Gokhale, 131–40. New Delhi: Penguin Books India and Yatra Books. Flueckiger, Joyce Burkhalter. 1996. “Brave Daughters, Bound Kings: A Female Tradition of Reversal.” In Flueckiger, Gender and Genre in the Folklore of Middle India, 50–76. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Humes, Cynthia Ann. 1996. “Vindhyavāsinī/ Local Goddess yet Great Goddess.” In Devi: Goddesses of India, eds. John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, 49–76. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Kane, P. V. 1958. History of Dharmaśāstra: Ancient and Medieval Religious and Civil Law. Vol. 5, part 1. Poona, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Khanna, Madhu. 2004. “The Bhagavata Mela at Melattur, Traditional Theatre and Public Arenas.” In Folklore, Public Sphere and Civil Society, eds. M. D. Muthukumarswamy and Molly Kaushal, 197–208. New Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, and National Folklore Support Centre. Khanna, Madhu. 2014. “Reclaiming Women’s Indigenous Heritage.” Seminar 659 (New Delhi), issue on Inheritances, 58–61. Monier-Williams, M. 1974. Sanskrit–English Dictionary. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. NCERT [National Council of Educational Research and Training]. 1998. Twenty Five Years of Girls Education at the NCERT (1974–1999). New Delhi: Department of Women’s Studies, NCERT. : Pandey, R. B. 1992. Hindu Samskāras: Socio-Religious Study of Hindu Sacraments. 2nd edn., Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Schoff, Wilfred H. 1912. The Periplus of the Erythraen Sea. New York: Longmans, Green. Sekher T.V., and Neelambar Hatti. (Eds.) 2010. Unwanted Daughters: Gender Discrimination in Modern India. Jaipur: Rawat Publications. Sekher T. V., and Neelambar Hatti. 2005. “Discrimination of Female Children in Modern India: from Conception through Childhood.” http://www.demoscope.ru/ weekly/knigi/tours_2005/papers/iussp2005s51638.pdf. Accessed August, 6, 2017.

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Part III The Regional Heritage

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9 Becoming a Living Goddess Brenda Beck

Saint or goddess? Revered ancestor or true divinity? Where is the dividing line between human and divine? How and when, if ever, does a person cross it? And what might be the signs of divinity in a human being? Becoming a goddess is a topic that can invoke heated debate, for none of the questions it raises can be answered beyond doubt. No answer can be objectively verified, and yet belief in divine mortals is as widespread as it is varied and persistent within the Hindu faith community. Some Hindus assert that no human can ever become a divine entity,¹ while others hold a contrary opinion equally firmly. Nonetheless, I do think it possible to set out a few broad themes shared in common by many Hindu cultural traditions. While divinity is ascribed to both men and women, I shall confine this discussion to women and begin by noting that every explanation of the phenomenon has its counter-explanation, each supported by conflicting observation. Perhaps the most important issue is that a woman’s status as a goddess depends upon being recognized as one by her devotees and legend-makers. That some women display suprahuman powers is commonly accepted but the source of those powers is never clearly known, nor is the process of its acquisition. Some human goddesses are thought to be born as such, some become so as they go through life, some remain so till death, while some hold their powers intermittently or even lose their powers altogether at some point. Given that some women are said to be born with divine powers while others acquire powers by their actions, I will examine representatives of both types. To see how these powers become evident and transform a woman into a goddess, I shall study exemplars from our own times as well as from legends, so that we may understand the actions and processes that spell out a goddess identity and, in particular, trace how a woman crosses over from being a human to becoming a goddess. Let me begin with descriptions of two very different contemporary women: first, an internationally known mature woman named Mata Amritanandamayi ¹ Nimal 2014: 36.

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but more famously known as the “hugging” goddess or simply “Amma.” My second example is a prepubescent Nepalese girl known as the royal kumārī of Kathmandu who was worshipped as a goddess until she reached maturity. I will then look closely at a medieval folk epic from Tamilnadu that I call The Legend of Ponnivala.² The life pathways of the two heroines of that story, both existing as goddesses for a time, will help us to examine this phenomenon further and to understand the Hindu idea that there are indeed some very special women who develop into living goddesses or have the potential to do so. None of the four cases discussed are/were females who were thought to be a goddess from birth. Instead, it took reverential affirmation on the part of observers over time to actualize and energize their potential divinity. Their special powers usually became manifest by being revealed in palpable ways to one or more observers, sometimes suddenly and in surprising forms. Of course most Hindus believe that a measure of divinity lies dormant within every living being, including vegetal entities like trees and inanimate objects such as stones. Stories about a godlike character and her/his divine origin are commonplace, although not every living goddess has a supernatural birth story. Neither of our two living examples has such a backstory, a tale that might explain her otherworldly status. On the other hand, the reverse is equally true for my examples from the Ponnivala legend. This folk epic traces the birth of almost every character to some form of divine involvement, even though only a few exhibit miraculous powers later in life. The differences between such legends and the life stories of my contemporary examples are evident, the most notable being that the goddesses in the Ponnivala legend are known only at a great historical distance while the “hugging” Amma and the virgin Nepalese kumārī became living goddesses and are worshipped as such while still interacting with others as human beings.

LIVING EXAMPLES

First Living Example: Amma, A Mature Woman This account is based on Amanda Lucia’s Reflections of Amma (2014).

Birth and youth Amma is a dark-skinned woman born to a low-caste family in a fishing village in Kerala, India. No divine birth story is attached to her but her hagiographers

² Beck 1992, 2013, 2016.

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claim that she began manifesting divine qualities as a child (we do not know at what age) and that starting very early in life she began to hug others to comfort and console them in their suffering. Her first admirers report that they felt blessed when they were hugged, and some felt that she had also visited them in dreams. Thought to have been possessed by various gods and goddesses successively, Amma is considered to be an individual human being chosen as a vessel for the earthly expression of divine power.

First signs of divinity At age 21 Amma experienced a sudden and unexpected trance-like possession by Lord Kr: ṣna. : This possession repeated itself at frequent intervals and rapidly became a regular event. Amma’s admirers gathered around her during these trace-like states, enjoying communion with the great Lord during his nowfrequent visits. Perhaps these devotees perceived some similarity between themselves and Kr: ṣna’s gopīs. A rapid expansion of Amma’s influence and : fame reinforced her already popular habit of expressing her empathy towards those in need. Amma’s following grew quickly and by her mid-twenties an ashram had been established in her natal village, serving to affirm her growing guru-like status. The ashram gradually grew in size and now occupies a very large compound.

An underlay of violence Soon after her Kr: ṣna : bhava appearances became regular, another sudden change occurred in Amma’s behavior. During one of her trance-like sessions Amma’s eyes suddenly started to smolder. They grew red with anger, as if they were “hot iron balls.” After this second transformation Amma became a threatening entity rather than a compassionate and calming one. She now began to strike fear in the hearts of all who challenged her. People say that around this time she also started slashing her own arms, drawing blood, and even making cuts on her scalp. These wounds were made using a traditional curved knife, a fearsome implement that she held in one hand during her evermore frequent trances. In addition to these threats of violence aimed at herself, three examples of Amma’s power to curse and destroy external adversaries are recounted: (1) A fisherman found that his fishing boat had sunk, causing him a huge financial loss just after he had taunted one of Amma’s devotees. (2) A sceptical cousin tried to stab Amma with a knife during one of her possession sessions. Shortly afterwards he found himself in a hospital vomiting blood and died soon thereafter.

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(3) A relative, said to be Amma’s own brother, taunted one of her Muslim followers. Amma cursed him, saying he would die in seven days. Exactly seven days later this sibling was found dead, having committed suicide. By age 34 Amma had thousands of devotees. There were now regular sessions at which visitors could seek her darshan or benedictory audience and receive her power-charged blessing. As Amma’s character changed so did her temple precinct. A Kālī temple was built to mark the center of her special ashram space. The belief grew that Amma’s goddess-like spirit was now transporting itself, independently of her physical body, to bless her devotees by appearing in their dreams even at some distance from Amma herself. In Amma’s third phase (starting around age 34) she began to build ashrams in the US and now heads many such centers in North America. While Amma’s core message is one of tender love, the chant that forms the ambient sound tapestry behind her climactic darshan rituals continues to reference Amma’s (potentially) violent underside The words of these chants emphasize her power to destroy evildoers. The twenty-plus Sanskrit verses chanted during these special events, in particular the slaying of the buffalo demon Mahisha, clearly reference the Great Goddess Durgā. In principle, these chants ascribe to Amma a similar warrior persona. The following invocation from verse 4 of the chant forcefully invites the listener to see Durgā in Amma: Oh one who split the heads of demons into hundreds of pieces . . . . . . . . . . . . Oh destroyer of the demon Mahisa (Oh one with) beautiful braided hair, daughter of the mountain Himalaya, Be victorious, be victorious!³

This chant, designed to imbue an object of worship with power, is essential to the worship ritual of Durgā. It urges the devotee to view Amma as the Great Goddess, a female who possesses violent energy, albeit held in check. The belief that a deity resides within Amma is implied by the details of a formal worship ritual used to honor her, for instance, the use of four ceremonial pots filled with consecrated water, the mystic importance of which will be recalled later in discussing other examples of human goddesses.

Curative powers, special markers, and plain hard work It must be noted, however, that Amma’s increasingly frequent appearances in North America present a much calmer persona. Nowadays she appears primarily as a visually pleasing, love-filled, sympathetic, and gentle goddess. She also explains that she has now come to manifest Lalitā, a much gentler form of

³ Translation by Amanda Lucia, in Lucia 2014: 97.

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Becoming a Living Goddess 205 : S´akti than the goddess Kālī. : Lalitā is thought to be the Goddess of Bliss and the name is an epithet for S´iva’s wife Pārvatī. Far less intimidating now, Amma directs her energies towards her ashram activities and at ministering to her devotees. Still unmarried at 63, Amma practices an ascetic lifestyle, working long hours without concern for her personal welfare. Amma is particularly famous for hugging all who approach her for a blessing. She even has a permanent dark spot and heavy callous on her check, caused by her constant and repetitive hugging. She visits North America twice every year, establishing more and more platforms to spread her mission. Her stated goal is to bring peace and joy into the lives of a growing number of devotees, persons who avow the positive impact of her ministrations.

Protective abilities, mothering qualities As one can guess from her name alone, Amma is understood by her devotees to be a “mother” par excellence. Her entire feminine being is devoted to nurturing others, just as a mother acts towards her children. Particularly important for my argument is Amma’s insistence that the biological fact of her womanhood is what defines her as a mother. Amma has no children of her own, yet she believes that a woman’s physiological capacity of childbearing is the key to her personal empowerment and she projects herself as a mother, not as a sexually attractive woman. She has even been known to suck out the pus of lepers as a way of modeling her unconditional love as a mother. She insists that she can overcome any possible aversion to such acts by striving for equanimity, an essential qualification of motherhood. It is this quality of unconditional love that she believes represents the true realization of womanhood. It is because she has achieved a state of great calm that Amma is viewed by her devotees as a “realized” woman. By this same reasoning Amma is considered to be less fallible than normal human beings. Devotees say that she possesses a special aura that radiates unconditional love and compassion towards all.

Appearance, symbols, and behavioral style Most striking for our purposes is that Amma alternates dramatically between two types of dress. During her brief appearances at her darshans as a goddess Amma sits on a throne-like chair beneath a golden-hued umbrella and wears a formal, brightly coloured silk sari with gold brocade trim. At these times she also wears gold earrings, a jeweled nose ring, bracelets, a girdle, and a silver crown. All of these impart to Amma a queenlike status when she is being worshipped. But at all other times Amma is dressed in her everyday attire, appearing as an “ascetic” figure in a simple white cotton sari. She normally wears very modest earrings, a nose stud, a small necklace, and simple devotional bracelets. These markers signal that she is a world-renouncer and an unmarried woman without male family relations.

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Amma’s ascetic purity can be called a part of her de facto power. During her brief periods of sitting on a throne she grants darshan as an act of personal power-transfer-cum-blessing to all who worship her. Her special gift is symbolized by four pots of consecrated water over which she whispers sacred verses. That water, imbued with the power of her love, is then distributed as prasad (sacred leftovers) to worshippers. Her power is also manifested when she consecrates new temple mūrtis (idols) before they are installed in her ashrams. Amma has sole authority for chanting the requisite Vedic hymns and also to perform homa or the fire ritual needed for consecration. These are radical acts for a woman, and disallowed in the brahminical tradition. They suggest that she can personally cross over major caste-dividing lines. Her public performance of such rites demonstrates to her devotees her mastery over mystic mantras and also her control of the elemental force that is fire.

Core purpose and role While Amma declares herself as one fully committed to the selfless service of others, she is also a crusader against social inequality of every kind—of gender, caste, and class—proving her determination to right injustice (expressed in her earlier career by her punishment of all who threatened her or her devotees). Amma’s hugs, furthermore, demonstrate her commitment to offering love and care equally to all who come to her for solace. A hug is an especially powerful symbol in India where maintaining the bodily separation of individuals of differing status and purity levels is seen as vitally important.

Second Living Example: A Pubescent Young Girl, the Kathmandu Kumārī This account is based on Rashmila Shakya’s From Goddess To Mortal (2005). Prepubescent kumārīs (virgins) in Nepal who exhibit certain esoteric signs are worshipped as earthly manifestations of the great cosmic goddess from the moment when they are chosen and then designated as such. Such a girl’s divinity lasts until she reaches puberty, when she is replaced by another very young girl believed to possess similar qualities. Each kumārī is associated with a large population center and the past or present seat of a reigning king. Some such locations honor more than one kumārī. The Kathmandu kumārī is the best known among this group of special girl-children. Summarized in this example are the salient facts as found in one biography. This is based on the direct testimony of an actual kumārī, a woman who served as such between 1984 and 1991.⁴

⁴ Shakya (2005).

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Birth and youth Born Rashmila Shakya, this kumārī was recognized as a goddess and then installed at the main kumārī shine in Kathmandu at age 4. As required by tradition, she was replaced with a much younger girl when she reached age 12. After her successor was initiated, Rashmila was returned to her family. After that she once again began to lead a normal life. Rashmila’s memories of her early years as a goddess are thin, which is hardly surprising as this transformation happened to her when she was so young. She began to better understand her divine status from about age 9. Nevertheless, from the moment of her installation Rashmila was addressed as Daya Meiju (virgin goddess) and treated as an incarnation: of a goddess named Taleju (a form of Durgā), an earthly manifestation of S´akti or cosmic female energy. Worshipped as Daya Meiju by visitors and supplicants daily during her eight-year reign, this kumārī was required to appear in public on thirteen separate festival occasions every year. Other than during these events she remained strictly inside her temple walls. The most important of these ritual appearances was Kathmandu’s great yearly festival dedicated to the Vedic god Indra. This particular kumārī has no personalized birth story whatever, although she is implicated in the basic myth that describes how the people of Nepal came to worship kumārīs in the first place.

First signs of divinity Rashmila was selected from among many young girls during an arduous search procedure which, being only 4 at the time, she does not remember. As required by custom, she was selected from a high-ranking Newari family. Never having lost a tooth or suffered from a severe illness, Rashmila was deemed to be exceptionally pure. She was a notably serene, selfless, and caring child. In the only known photograph taken before her initiation Rashmila is the third of four sisters seated on a modest cot. She alone, of all her sisters, has her left arm around her youngest sibling at whom she is smiling lovingly, her eyes cast upwards, lending her face a distinctive far-off expression. Rashmila also recalls that as a very young girl she used to give away her lunch to others who seemed hungry. From the day of her inauguration Rashmila was treated as a princess and was always addressed as Daya Meiju, even by members of her own family. As the sacred kumārī she was required to live in her own temple space. She had all her food cooked for her in a separate kitchen where all food prepared was destined only for her. Furthermore, a special and secretive pūjā that used esoteric mantras and mudrās was performed every morning at her feet by a high-ranking priest. However, she was not allowed to see these procedures, which always took place behind a cloth screen. These activities

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were presumably designed to enhance her innate “redness,” a color code indicating her special goddess-powers.⁵

An underlay of violence In addition to the kumārī’s power to improve the lives of others, she claims in her biography that at that time she could also punish a person if she so wished. All she had to do was reject the pūjā that person offered her, although matters never reached such a crisis. As an example she mentions a man who paid her insufficient respect as a news reporter. She claims that she decided not to reject his apologetic gift, even though she knew he had wronged her. Rashmila explains why: she never harbored any hostile feelings towards anyone while she was a Daya Meiju. However, she recalls that her predecessor did indeed cause a man’s death by staring at him very hard before condescending to drink what he had placed in front of her. The man died on the way home. A second important piece of evidence suggesting a kumārī’s potential for violence comes from a ritual performed at the Indra Jatra each year. A kumārī’s first exposure to this occurs on the very day of her inauguration. During each of these annual proceedings there is a moment when the young goddess-girl has to walk past about a dozen severed black buffalo heads placed in a dark passageway illuminated only by one small flame. This ritual, which the kumārī in question refers to repeatedly, likely symbolizes her mythical link to the goddess Durgā and that divinity’s killing of the buffalo demon. The Daya Meiju is further seen to be the protectress of the local ruler’s entire kingdom, and she is considered capable of destroying its enemies. A third hint of the kumārī’s potential destructive (and also protective) power may lie in her highly symbolic links to the color red.

Curative ability, special markers, and plain hard work The Kathmandu kumārī is described in poetic language as having a neck like a conch shell, a body like a banyan tree, eyelashes like a cow, thighs like a deer, a chest like a lion, and a voice as soft and clear as a water bird’s. She must be cared for by special temple employees; they attend to her every need, are responsible for bathing her, and for preparing all her food. These ritual servants are also required to comb and tie up her hair and to apply her special make-up each day. The kumārī eats on a special platform, by herself, in a special area set aside for this purpose. She must never be ordered to do anything by her caretakers and her every wish must be granted. On ritual occasions the kumārī is brought extra special gifts and food offerings. In her

⁵ Nimal 2014.

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autobiographical testimony, Rashmila frequently refers to how seriously she took her work and how consistently and sincerely she tried to execute her heavy responsibilities. This young kumārī had very little social life and few other children to pass the time with. Everyone she interacted with bowed to her, called her Daya Meiju, and accepted her words as commands. Each kumārī is also believed to be an exceptionally pure being. During her initiation, Rashmila underwent many purifying rituals to be made ready for her status as a “living goddess.” A kumārī’s feet are of particular interest. They are venerated by devotees, which is normal practice for South Asian deities, but since a kumārī’s feet are living appendages, they receive special care. They are never encased in shoes, nor are they allowed to tread the ground outside her temple walls. Whenever the kumārī exits her temple-cum-palace (always on a ritual occasion) she must walk on a white cloth or else be carried in the arms of one of her caretakers or in a palanquin. Such care presumably ensures that the kumārī’s power does not seep out to the ground through her feet like an electrical charge,⁶ and at the same time keeps her feet free from street-level pollution. These practices assume importance when set against a story reported on the Internet about another kumārī, from Bhaktapur, who visited Maryland recently to be honored at a film festival. She was removed from her position as a goddess upon her return as it was believed that her purity had been sullied by that journey. However, a few weeks later she was reinstated as a living goddess on submitting to a special cleansing ceremony.

Protective abilities, mothering qualities Like all kumārīs, the Kathmandu kumārī Rashmila was credited with powers to cure illnesses and misfortune. After installation, her every action, expression, and movement was interpreted as a divine sign. Rashmila later testified to her own belief that these special abilities were linked to her reign and to her conviction that it was her duty to help supplicants, especially children. An example she offers is that of a boy who could not speak even at the age of 6 or 7 but gained his voice soon after having visited her and benefited from her special powers. The background myth of the Kathmandu kumārī’s origin describes a time when the goddess Taleju played a secret nightly dice game with the last Nepalese king of the Malla Dynasty. The queen’s jealousy when she discovered this angered the young goddess who then told the king that if he ever wanted to see her again, and thereby seek her continued protection of his kingdom, he would have to search for her. Taleju then took the vow that she would

⁶ Nimal 2014: 22.

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continually incarnate herself as a young local girl and that the king would have to make amends by finding her, becoming her devotee, and then take steps to install her in his palace as a goddess. Another version of the story is that the king made advances towards Taleju one night and that this was what caused her anger and her subsequent disappearance.⁷ Whichever version one accepts, the king obviously feared the goddess’s anger and felt he had to plead for her return.

Core purpose or role It is evident that a kumārī’s role is to protect the king and his kingdom through her transfer of her virginal powers to him. The penultimate symbol of this responsibility is the kumārī’s ritual act of placing a fresh tikka (a sacred dot) on the king’s brow once a year during the city’s annual Indra Jatra festival. According to Rashmila, during one particularly sad year of her reign, the king got into political trouble. At that same moment the young goddess developed a sudden and very unusual fever and suffered severe crying spells (which kumārīs are not supposed to have). She had never experienced this before. Soon afterwards the king had to step down, and he was replaced by a political rival. The goddess’s crying stopped at that point and, as was her duty, she then placed that year’s tikka on the new incumbent’s forehead. It is interesting to note that the kumārī places tikkas on the foreheads of many worshippers on a daily basis as a sign of having blessed the recipients. She always does this with her right hand. But in one sole case, that of the king, she uses her left hand, which is said to be the purer hand, as it has never touched anyone else’s head. As a child, Rashmila recounts, her caretakers were especially careful to see that she did not cut herself in any serious way, for it was believed that any major loss of blood due to an accident could cause her goddess-power to leave her body. This symbolism of blood as being what lay at the root of her divine power is driven home by the many strong associations a reigning kumārī has with the color red: she is always dressed in red, her sheets, her towels, and her toothbrush must be red, and she is given scraps of red cloth to play with. This symbolism is particularly poignant when a Daya Meiju loses her divinity at menstruation, that is, when she loses her “red” blood. Thus, a kumārī can be a living goddess only for a few years before menstruation starts, that is, before the loss of blood that begins at puberty. In sum, both the living goddesses just described are ascetic women. By early signs, both are exceptionally compassionate and giving. Both are endowed with a sense of duty to help others while disregarding their own welfare and creature comforts. Both cross social boundaries and behave in ways unusual ⁷ Nimal 2013: 47–9.

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for their age and their caste status. Although both females are/were at pains to demonstrate their purity, at the same time both regularly defied the normal rules of behavior and the social hierarchies that go with these (e.g. a child never rules over an adult, a low-caste woman never recites sacred chants or hugs all comers). Both women are considered to be goddesses by devotees. Both human females manifest the presence of a cosmic force within—if only temporarily. Both of their backstories, furthermore, reference the Durga myth about the slaying of a buffalo demon, which is tied to the streak of violence, both actual and potential, implicit in both their personas.

HOW W OMEN BECOME G ODDESSES IN A M YTH: THE LEGEND OF PONNIVALA From these contemporary examples we now turn to a medieval Tamil epic I have been studying for many years, so that we can examine the parallels with these two living goddesses that it presents. The Legend of Ponnivala originated in the plains watered by the Kaveri river in Tamilnadu, South India, where it has been sung about by bards for centuries.⁸ This ancient epic speaks of two quite different women, one a mother, the other her daughter, each of whom becomes a goddess in her own right.

First Example: A Mature Woman and Mother, Tamarai Birth and youth Tamarai first appears on earth as a tiny child lying on a lotus flower that grows in a pond. There she is discovered and adopted by a devout woman who prayed : regularly near the body of water where that lotus flowered. A gift to her from S´iva and Pārvatī, this baby was created from a drop of semen that fell to earth during their love play in the sky when they took the form of two amorous heavenly deer. This birth story lays the foundation for Tamarai’s eventual eligibility to become a vessel that could contain divine power later in life. At her birth there was no sign that this little babe would one day become a living goddess.

First signs of divinity While Tamarai’s early life is unremarkable and marked by no premonition of her divinity on the part of people around her, a hint of the apotheosis to come ⁸ Beck 1992, 2013.

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is provided in the bard’s first song. Describing her gentle swaying on a swing, he notices that she has a demeanor much like that of the goddess Pārvatī: The great swing is swaying for the chaste girl For Pārvatī, who is like a gold sculpture, Who sways as she walks (Beck 1992: 1:95)

Similar verses are used as a song refrain several more times. Just minutes later the young Tamarai is again associated with a goddess, but this time it is Lakṣmī. Furthermore, her presence becomes linked to good rains and bountiful crops. I must stress, though, that these poetic phrases cannot be taken to mean that Tamarai was born as a goddess. These images are a common part of the rhetoric of standard cradle songs and they essentially acknowledge that all babies possess some potential divinity. However, these poems do help to make my point: a girl or woman who is eventually recognized as a goddess, whether a living or a literary figure, doesn’t present as a fully divine being at her birth. Each such woman has to become recognized as such by others. She must have a special character, and she must demonstrate this through her actions at various times and in different settings. Signs of Tamarai’s special powers begin to appear soon after her marriage, particularly at moments when she repeatedly rescues her husband from the malice of his own kinsmen. Even when her husband ignores her warnings, Tamarai remains undeterred and somehow manages to turn the situation around. It is she who discovers precious jewels concealed in plants grown by him that he perceives to be mere weeds. A devout woman, Tamarai praises Lord Viṣnu : for this miracle but the bard makes it clear that it is actually due to her own visionary powers that this unique harvest is detected.

An underlay of violence Sad at her barrenness, Tamarai wishes to visit her two brothers against her husband’s wishes. Meanwhile, her husband reminds her of the enmity between his family and hers. When she makes the trip anyway, her brothers set a guard at their door to lock her out. They still live in their ancestral home, now with their wives and numerous children. When the guard beats Tamarai and refuses her entry, she calls down a ball of fire from heaven. It is a ball sent by Viṣnu : with Śiva’s help. Tamarai throws this fire at the guard. Later, hearing his screams, she pulls it back to save him. This specific scene demonstrates how Tamarai’s powers allow her to both wield violence and extend mercy. Just after this Tamarai curses her brothers to suffer seven generations of barrenness. She also seemingly kills all their children with a magic spell. Realizing that their ill treatment of Tamarai has caused their misfortune, her brothers soon beg her forgiveness on bended knees. Tellingly, this happens on the steps

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of the family temple dedicated to Durgā. Appeased, Tamarai brings all these “dead” children back to life, but extracts her price for this favor. She now turns two of her brothers’ daughters into stone statues to await marriage with Tamarai’s own sons, even though these men have not so much as been conceived as yet. These acts of Tamarai’s at once demonstrate her capacity for wrath and for forgiveness and that she can use these special powers to shape human lives. Tamarai’s demonstration of these traits suggestively links these several sides of her personal identity with similar key traits widely attributed to the Great Goddess Durgā (see Figure 9.1). Some time later Tamarai, still lamenting : her childlessness, sets off with her husband on a great pilgrimage to Lord S´iva’s great council chamber. Compelled to leave her husband by the wayside, she continues alone with only Lord Viṣnu : as guide, seeking Śiva’s boon by undertaking a harsh penance near this lord’s abode. But Tamarai’s amazing efforts only call down this god’s murderous rage. For twenty-one years Tamarai sits in meditation on a tall pillar, wrapped in a saffron sari with her body covered in ash. She does not even eat. During this period she endures both heat and cold, and subjects herself to the violence of extreme asceticism, acts that purify her : but also shrivel her body. But this extreme asceticism only serves to enrage S´iva, who orders her body to be cut up, smashed, chewed, crushed, or trampled on seven different occasions. This protracted encounter can well be understood as an epic struggle between two competing ascetics, one male and one female. The issue is who wields more power? In the struggle just discussed, Viṣnu her after each : assists Tamarai, reviving : ´ of her seven “deaths.” Viṣnu : also shoots: a beam of fire at Siva as he sits deep in meditation. Disturbed by that heat, S´iva sends his agents to destroy the perpetrator, who is apparently Viṣnu : but is actually Tamarai herself. It is out of the heat of her ascetic practice that Viṣnu : formed his flames. The importance of heat (and by implication, redness) in this episode underscores the potential for violence that appears to rest within Tamarai, relating her once more to the Great Goddess. This is especially true of her ascetic heat, which is directed not so much against Śiva as against herself, burning and purifying her from within and leaving her body covered in ash. That ash-covered body is a symbolic expression of her purification, paralleling the act of satī. Significantly, it is after this display of power, one that is at once aggressive and purifying, that such violence disappears entirely from Tamarai’s life story.

Curative powers, special markers, and plain hard work Further marking Tamarai’s passage from violence to creativity, she finally receives a boon from the now appeased Lord Śiva. He grants her three children whom he immaculately places in her womb. More importantly, he gives her a : pot of sacred Gangā water to distribute among all barren females, both human

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Figure 9.1. Tamarai’s ascetic powers. 1) Tamarai, after having ‘killed’ all of her brothers’ children, she now revivifies them, before taking selecting two to serve as future daughters-in-law. 2) Tamarai meditates for twenty-one years atop a high pillar before attaining her requested boon. 3) Tamarai offers magical “pregnancy water” to all the barren women around her. © Brenda Beck

and animal. Tamarai gives one drop to each supplicant, and it is that benison which serves as the key marker of her divine status. By this repeated gift of pregnancy Tamarai becomes a mother to all who live in the land of Ponnivala and venerated as a goddess. She is also known for her unremitting hard work, first in protecting her family’s prosperity, then for her ascetic struggle to achieve her goal of giving birth, and finally through her power to bestow pregnancy upon others.

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Protective abilities, mothering qualities After the birth of her children Tamarai’s primary identity becomes that of a loving mother. Her three children now turn out to be remarkable figures on their own. But even before her successful struggle to become a mother, Tamarai had been known for serving her community. She had shelters put up for weary travelers, roadside wells dug, and storage sheds built—the last meant to hold hay for hungry animals. Tamarai spends her family wealth on hosting local ceremonies and gave generously to beggars and religious mendicants. Before going on her pilgrimage she has a huge oil lamp placed upon a high pillar, prefiguring her own about-to-be-lit body lamp, a fire-to-comefrom-within-herself as she undertakes her own ascetic purification. Like her body filled with the heat of her meditation, the lamp she orders lit on earth gathers the adoration of all of Ponnivala’s residents. That light-on-a-pillar becomes a beam of worship streaming up towards the gods. In this Tamarai acts as the community’s mother, a woman who struggles to win blessings for all from the gods. Indeed, Tamarai’s primary folk identity today is that of a mother. She is now worshipped as the genetrix of two heroic sons, much as Kuntī is worshipped as the mother of the Mahābhārata’s five Pānḍ : ava heroes.

Appearance, symbols, and behavioral style To begin with, Tamarai’s garb was that of a queen, but that changed into the robes of an ascetic when she began her pilgrimage. Tamarai puts on fine clothes once more when she returns to earth. These dress changes are similar to those of Māriyāmman, the key local goddess of the rural area where Tamarai’s story originates. This may partially account for correspondences between their two legends. In her temples, Māriyāmman undergoes a dress change once every year, during a twenty-four-hour period when she is widowed and dressed in white.⁹ Tamarai similarly undergoes a period of separation from her husband, which is also the period of her religious austerities. The difference is that : Tamarai’s austerities last for twenty-one years. After that period Lord S´iva erases her pilgrimage time from his clock, so that Tamarai returns home hardly one year older than when she left. Turning from mythic time to the present age, we may also note that Amma is never given a similar relief from aging. Another notable contrast between the legendary goddess and the living one concerns their clothing. Unlike Tamarai who only dresses as an ascetic while on her pillar, Amma is clothed in white most of the time. In her outward appearance Tamarai resembles a lotus, which is what her name means. Indeed, the lotus is her personal emblem and a marker of her

⁹ Beck 1981.

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quest. For instance, in climbing a pillar as part of her penance, she emulates a lotus trying to find sunlight on reaching up out of the mud from which it originates. The goddess Māriyāmman similarly sits on top of a tree trunk during her own annual ritual, an important part of which is her battle with her lover-husband. There is a resemblance here to the story of Tamarai’s battle with Lord Śiva. After all, the poets who sing her story have called her Pārvatī.

Core purpose and role Tamarai’s purpose in life clearly has something to do with family continuity and the bearing of children. Tamarai fell to earth as a drop of semen that transformed into a female child to answer a barren woman’s prayers. Later as a married woman Tamarai discovers that she too is barren. Her prayers to Lord Śiva elicit a repeat gift, another generation of children. But this time the children are destined to become the heroes and heroine of the larger epic story. Thus Tamarai can be viewed as a kind of fertility goddess, a woman whose hard work ensures the continuance of her family’s wellbeing into the indefinite future. This emphasis on motherhood as a physiological metaphor echoes Amma’s insistence on the importance of a woman’s ability to be a creatrix. In the latter case, Amma’s devotees may be viewed as her sociological children. If we explore this sociological symbolism a little further we can see that Tamarai becomes institutionalized as a life-giver and nurturer upon her return to earth. With Viṣnu’s help she revivifies her husband who has been : turned to stone, and with her ascetic heat cooled, Tamarai now focuses on mothering her magically obtained children. Her special powers are maternal, centered on feeding her family; one example of many here is her ability to husk rice, which local women do not think her delicate hands can perform. Nonetheless, she does this successfully, thereby becoming the sole provider for her family during their time in exile. Still more miraculously, milk springs from Tamarai’s breasts (again with Viṣnu’s help) and falls into the mouths : of her two sons who are brought to her after having been kept secretly in exile (as well) for five years. That breast milk proves not only that these boys are indeed her children, but also—more importantly, for my argument—that Tamarai is their mother. Tamarai clearly exhibits magical and supernatural powers, both benign and destructive, as many Hindu goddesses do. But it is not clear whether this is an inherent state or rather a set of powers won by ascetic effort. It is also not clear whether this is a permanent apotheosis or one limited to the period of her pilgrimage. In popular belief Tamarai does live on, with her statutes installed in many local temples, but reverence is paid to her mainly as the mother of her two heroic sons. They are the main objects of veneration today at these folk

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temples that are scattered throughout the region where the story of Ponnivala is still told (see Figure 9.2).

Second Example: A Pubescent Girl, Tangal Tangal is Tamarai’s only daughter. The similarities between this young girlheroine in The Legend of Ponnivala and the kumārī of Kathnamdu are both striking and surprising. They call for close observation.

Birth and youth Although this young heroine’s name is Tangal, meaning the younger sister, she is recognized as a little goddess soon after birth and addressed as Pārvatī (the name of Lord Śiva’s wife) in many songs. These are essentially the same songs that are sung about her mother and they are cast in similar diction and rhythm. But now these songs associate her with the goddess more insistently, as in the following example: The swing of the chaste girl is rocking Swinging for Pārvatī who sways like a golden garland as she walks See the silver chariot swaying for the chaste girl It moves rhythmically for the girl who is shaped like the sculpture of a goddess The swing is swinging for the chaste girl The golden sculpted Pārvatī who walks as if she floated (on air) Oh chaste girl in the swing! Pārvatī is sleeping deeply (Beck 1992: 2:449)

Tangal’s early life is idealized and described in beautiful words, including her own, as when she describes a special parrot she wants her brothers to bring her: There are two feathers of diamonds, of diamonds There are two feathers of cat’s eyes, cat’s eyes There are two feathers of pearls, two pearls There are three feathers of rubies, three rubies Two feet, two feet are the color of coral There are two circles, two circles the color of gold The eyes are as beautiful as red seeds, red seeds The mouth is as red as a kōvai fruit, a kōvai fruit (Beck 1992: 2:523)

Remarkably, these songs continue to construct Tangal as a little goddess until she is a full 16 years of age. Essentially, she is never allowed to grow up. Like a

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Figure 9.2. The daughter who became a goddess, flanked by her brothers © Brenda Beck

child, Tangal is constantly said to be swinging or rocking in a cradle. She sleeps and dreams a great deal. Even after she leaves her swing, leaves childhood behind, and converses with her brothers as an adult, Tangal is still dressed and fed by caregivers. All these traits remind one of the way the Great Goddess Meenakshi of Madurai (whose huge and famous temple is located near this story area) is similarly worshipped in well-known poems.¹⁰ The Ponnivala legend also depicts Tangal’s heavenly origin. She is repeatedly described as one of the seven virgin girls (known as the Kannimar) who attend at Śiva’s palace and council chambers in Kailāsa. When Tamarai asks Śiva for a daughter he orders his assistants to find the youngest of those seven Kannimar. That female is brought to Śiva as a living, pubescent girl and told that she is going to be sent to earth for some time. We are also told that she has a ball of fire in her breasts and that she will know all things that will happen during her earthly life. She is then placed immaculately in Tamarai’s womb. Śiva tells Tangal, at the moment of her transformation into a human foetus, that she will one day be returned to his council chambers, as indeed she is at the end of the story. After Tangal has established a temple to honor her brothers and performed a first pūjā for them, she is lifted back to heaven on a golden chariot.

First signs of divinity The signifiers of Tangal’s gentle nature comprise her beauty, a figure like that of the sculpture of a goddess, and her habit of spending most of her time gently swaying on a swing in her inner courtyard, dreaming and receiving visions. Though she is generally calm, she sometimes has frightening dreams. She also alerts

¹⁰ Richman 1997.

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her brothers to possible threats, thereby protecting them from harm. Soon after their parents die, her visions become darker and her demands on her two brothers grow. When they begin to venture on violent expeditions, ignoring her and her safety, her dreams grow increasingly violent and frightening.

An underlay of violence Violence pervades Tangal’s visions with increasing regularity as the story progresses. Towards the end she sees ominous signs of a great disaster, broken pots, ill-kept courtyards, and fruits on a tray that have all wilted and rotted. There is also a burnt-out lamp. Tangal soon finds that her forebodings have come true: her two brothers have died on one of their many dangerous expeditions. From this moment on, Tangal’s whole personality changes. She gets off her swing, never again to return to this dreamy, swaying seat. Now she is full of fiery rage, destroying all that lies around her although she allows the palace servants to escape first, even letting them take all the fine furnishings they want before setting her own royal mansion alight. Evidently, she still has a merciful and compassionate side. Tangal’s unexpected generosity is an act of leveling that crosses many of the social boundaries and hierarchies that surround her. Giving the servants the palace furnishings erases the economic imbalance between her and her powerful family and their humble retainers. This single act of charity, however, cannot offset the violence Tangal now displays. When her sisters-in-law refuse to complete the requisite funeral rites for her brothers (with whom they never had relations), Tangal magically burns down their palace too, knowing that these two women are still inside! Ironically, however, by doing so Tangal turns them into satīs. A related view of their deaths by such a fearful fire is that they become a sacrificial offering meant to honor and enhance the stature of their dead husbands. Tangal’s violent acts against almost everyone and everything that once symbolized her protected palace life is her impetuous response to her grief. But this emotional anger is eventually balanced by her innate compassion. After Tangal’s apocalyptic fury has passed she is able to call on thunder and rain to quench the flames she threw, thus making a powerful cooling gesture.¹¹ This juxtaposition of her two contradictory acts expresses another kind of emancipation from social boundaries. This is signaled by her next act, that of performing her own brothers’ funeral rites by herself. These rituals are not conventionally performed by women. At the age of 16 Tangal has come into her own and her newfound freedom from family bonds turns her into a lonely ascetic wanderer. She now searches the forest for her brothers’ bodies. Tangal braves any number of dangers, her sole companion being the king of the Nāgas (serpents), a powerful supernatural being who recognizes ¹¹ Beck 1992: 2: 739.

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her as a goddess. Tangal’s control of the elements, her crossing of ritual boundaries, and the overt recognition of her divine status by an outsider, all point to her transformation from a prepubescent, kumārī-like girl into a newly matured and full-fledged goddess. This change is precipitated by her experience of a traumatic personal loss. A mix of violence and mercy continue to mark Tangal’s actions going forward. Requiring clay pots, she asks a potter to gift them to her. However, since she has no money to pay him, he refuses. Angry, she calls down thunder and rain, declaring, “If it is true that I was born in the god’s Council Chamber . . . let a huge rain fall.”¹² It is only when a deluge destroys the potter’s entire outdoor display of earthenware that he agrees to bow down to her, calls her a goddess, offers an apology, and pleads for help. Thereupon Tangal calls upon the sun, and using a magic wand she has asked the gods to send down to her, she restores all the pots. Here again we see how Tangal’s power to exercise the heat of anger and violence is matched by her ability to cool down and regenerate, after a violent outburst.

Curative powers, special markers, and plain hard work Tangal’s most important trait is her visionary power. She often “sees” a coming disaster in a dream and is then able to forewarn her brothers. This is matched by her skill at divination. At this time she uses a magical test to predict the outcome of a future event. Furthermore, Tangal has special powers that she can call on to protect her brothers from harm. For instance, she blesses their swords when they leave on a hunt for the special parrot she desires. Her parents expressly describe this power just before they die by telling their sons: “Tangal will see beforehand in her dreams what good and what evil will befall you in the future. She was born with this special quality as her boon.”¹³ They do not, however, explicitly identify her as a living goddess. Nevertheless, Tangal’s goddess identity is strongly suggested at several points in the story. One striking sign is her ethereality: she walks as if floating on air,¹⁴ hardly touching the ground, sways like a golden garland when she walks, and is remembered by her brothers as a child who “had the weight of a single bird feather.”¹⁵ Most of her life is spent in cradles and swings. She never steps out of her palace alone, at least as a child. Even at age 16 she is still cared for in every way by servants. She never plays in the fields with her brothers, never rides any of the family horses, never learns any martial arts, and never goes on warlike adventures with her two male siblings. Just before her parents die they command her brothers to always look after her, telling them: “Do whatever she asks immediately, and don’t get angry with her.”¹⁶ Does Tangal do ¹² Beck 1992: 2:753. ¹⁵ Beck 1992: 2:763.

¹³ Beck 1992: 2:447. ¹⁶ Beck 1992: 2:447.

¹⁴ Beck 1992: 1:95.

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any work before her brothers die? She does indeed, and it is hard work, but it is work that she carries out in her dreams. Her magical abilities are represented by her efforts to foretell the future. This mental form of work ends when family disaster strikes, her brothers die, and Tangal then undertakes a pilgrimage with the hope of resuscitating them.

Protective abilities, mothering qualities Gentle and passive though Tangal is, her brothers think of her as a goddess born to save them from calamities. They believe she can predict future events for them. Her younger brother says to the elder just before committing his sacrificial suicide: Oh brother! Kottravai [an ancient Tamil goddess] is our Pārvatī. Like us, she is not a human by birth. She was born to be our younger sister on earth. She was born with us in order to tell us in advance what calamities would befall us in the future. After we die she will perform the necessary funeral rites and then she will join us in the god’s council chamber (in Kailāsa). (Beck 1992: 2:725)

Note that this realization (and also this reference to her mythic backstory) comes only when her brothers face death. Her elder brother has already come to this understanding while suffering from a Chola overlord’s persecution and is sitting in that monarch’s jail. Such epiphanies seem triggered by crises, but may also be foreshadowed by an omen or through various kinds of suggestive behavior. But the definitive recognition of her divinity comes only at the end of the story. Now the bard suddenly declares that she is “like the sun,” even that she is “Bhagavān.” It is only at the very end of the story, therefore, that her divine status is definitively declared. In sum, the recognition that a particular living woman is just a shell (or vessel) acting for a divine being that dwells inside . . . comes gradually. There is a parallel to be explored here between Tangal and the Kathmandu kumārī. The latter was not recognized as a goddess, even by her parents, until the moment she was installed as one. These two young girls are similar in other ways too, especially in their protective roles. The Daya Meiju protects a king by placing a mark on his forehead that must be annually renewed, precisely as Tangal protects her brothers and the family kingdom by periodically blessing their swords.

Core purpose or role Tangal’s story is the most complex of all the accounts we are considering in this study. Her life on earth is apparently dedicated to protecting her brothers, who in turn are there to take care of her. But over the course of

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the story the loving bond between the brothers and their sister frays. This strong linkage is gradually replaced by the brothers’ indifference to her needs and by her anger that bursts out in violent retribution. Indeed, Tangal’s anger at her two male siblings becomes so great that it strikes at all who offend her, such as her sisters-in-law and then the potter who refuses to give her his pots. At the same time, it is Tangal who undertakes a dangerous odyssey to bring her brothers back to life. Although Tangal’s role is that of a protective deity, she is clearly a vacillating one, a goddess who metes out both benefit and harm.

RECOGNIZIN G A LIV ING GODDESS Although the accounts we have before us are quite varied, they do share features common to the human goddess persona. The one indispensable characteristic common to all of these examples is these women’s power to protect adherents and supplicants, especially those belonging to their own families and communities. But equally they also have the power to punish opponents, often with deadly force. But within this general pattern some differences need to be recognized. The most obvious is that two of the accounts are mythic while the two others have the authority of contemporary testimony. Also to be noted is the fact that age makes a difference, whether in actual or mythic life. The two prepubescent girls are noted for their beauty and passivity, idealized as children innocent of worldly knowledge and concerns. They are kept indoors. Their feet rarely touch the ground. The older women are marked by their maternal instincts, their experience of worldly life, and their readiness to act, either out of compassion or out of righteous anger. Nevertheless, the core characteristics of these four goddesses-to-be are the same. Each of them, whether young or mature, real-life or mythical, is pure in spirit and body. They are loving, self-sacrificing, can heal sufferers, and are ready to help others although they are also ready to punish anyone who crosses them. Chastity is an absolute requirement, understood as sexual abstinence even for Tamarai, a married woman. So too is these female’s ability to remain unharmed by their own destructive powers: Tangal can hold fire in her hands without being burnt; Amma can cut herself and draw blood without serious injury. Rewarding the virtuous and punishing wrongdoers are of course essential characteristics of the typical celestial goddess (or god). Each of the human goddesses we are considering here is stated to be the earthly manifestation of some heavenly being or at least to derive her power from one. Amma is said to have been an incarnation of Krṣna : and now of Lalitā, the Kathmandu kumārī, an incarnation of the goddess Gaurī or Pārvatī, and Tangal plus Tamarai are both likened to Pārvatī as well as Lakṣmī.

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These traits and powers are distinctive markers of human goddesses in varying degrees, but they are perhaps more pronounced and more often described in a wildly exaggerated magical way in folk legends. But by what processes and means a woman, contemporary or mythical, finds in herself such powers and moral purpose remains a mystery. Is it by inborn faculties or by personal effort that a woman becomes a goddess? If by personal effort, can any woman make such an effort? Or must she possess an inborn potential to become a goddess, to realize latent powers, to be a vessel to receive suprahuman powers as a boon from some high source? Perhaps a living goddess is at once born and made? This phenomenon of “becoming” characterizes all four of the living goddesses we have examined here. All four exhibit at least a few special character traits as their journey towards divine status begins. For instance, the Kathmandu kumārī is noted from infancy for her tenderness, Tangal for her otherworldly dreaminess, Amma for her talent for comforting others, and Tamarai for her repeated attempts to rescue her husband from trouble. But the genuine goddess persona in each becomes evident only with the passage of time. As exemplars from our own times, Amma and the kumārī, grow into their roles as their contemporaries begin to appreciate their powers, while those described in The Legend of Ponnivala gradually reveal themselves to be goddesses as their chroniclers begin to credit them with superhuman achievements. How can we further unpack this “becoming”? Spiritual energy and power are metaphysical concepts, hardly amenable to materialist explanation and captured (if at all) by numinous perception rather than by material testing. Given that we are dealing here with the perception of intangibles, we have to look for their expression in the poetic mode rather than in objective discourse, a mode that uses metaphors as an organizing principle. Accounts of human goddesses may begin with physical events, such as Amma’s hugs, but as they gather force they invoke figurative speech, similes, allusions, allegories, such as picturing Amma’s eyes in anger as “hot iron balls” and Tamarai as a lotus rising out of mud to reach for the sun. This metaphorical realism increases in extent and complexity with time, so that by the time a goddess has departed the world and passed on to mythic memory, her story appears as a vast structure of magical events organized around an arc of images that lend meaning to aspects of human experience that we cannot otherwise make sense of. This mythic key to understanding the transformation of the human into the divine is exactly what the Ponnivala legend bards make use of. The Ponnivala legend is held together by three general categories of metaphor: flowing liquids—primarily water (with blood and milk as subsets), fire, and vessels. Life-giving power flows from the heavens into human vessels and energizes earthly life, an idea traditionally allegorized in the myth of Bhagīr: atha bringing the River Gangā down from heaven to bring his ancestors back to life. The idea of water as a substance that can revive life is commonplace and

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is crucial in Tamarai’s personal history. Śiva’s wrath reduces her to a scattering of bones that get reconstructed and given life only when Viṣnu : immerses them : in the River Gangā. Later when she wins Śiva’s approval, she receives from him a pot of water, from which she gives barren women and even animals a drop each in order to implant life in their wombs too. Tamarai’s daughter Tangal, for her part, receives from a celestial maiden magical gifts poured into seven pots, including water, which she sprinkles on her dead brothers to bring them back to life. Water in pots also plays an essential role in the ritual blessing ascribed to Amma as indeed this is a pan-Hindu religious regimen. The motif of water or some other fluid acting as a subset, such as milk (or amr: ta, nectar) being sanctified by some heavenly power, is common in Hindu mythology more generally. This is particularly evident in world myths about creating life and about resuscitating the dead. In the Ponnivala legend we find milk flowing from Tamarai’s breasts into the mouths of her two long-lost sons to indicate her motherhood. In the instances we have of women becoming goddesses, this motif metaphorically underscores the directional flow of sacred power. It is also worth noting that Tantric practices are designed to “connect” to a power that flows through the world, including the practitioner’s own body, a power usually visualized as “female.”¹⁷ A subset of the water/fluid motif is blood. Universally associated with the vital force that resides inside an organism, blood is life-sustaining only when it flows. In all four of the narratives presented about living human goddesses, the flow of blood is important in one way or the other. Amma at one point sheds her own blood; Tamarai loses blood; Tangal sees blood on her brothers’ bodies, mixes her tears with it, and spreads this mixture on them to revive them. The most symbolic use of blood occurs in the kumārī’s case, where we are told that when a kumārī loses blood through menstruation, she loses her divine energy. The marker of this energy is the color of blood, a flowing substance that maintains life as does water. However, water has the profounder metaphysical function of transferring heavenly energy to earthly bodies. In the : mythic background we see the descent of the sacred River Gangā from heaven specifically so that it can flow over the ashes of Bhagīratha’s ancestors in order to bring them back to life. As a metaphorical motif, fire is not as ubiquitous as water in the histories of living goddesses. Nevertheless, it has an intense though ambivalent presence. Fire is as much a metaphor of purification as of destruction in virtually all cultures and is often essential to invocatory and transformative rituals. Controlling fire is in itself a proof of superhuman power; it is just such a proof of power that comes from Amma’s performance of homa or fire rituals. In the Ponnivala legend, fire similarly marks Tamarai’s power. She throws flames at a

¹⁷ Brown and Harper 2002:3.

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guard set against her by her brothers. Later, when the heat of her ascetic regime dries out her body, it enables the great god Viṣnu : himself to gather her flames into a bolt of fire that he then shoots at Śiva. Tamarai’s daughter Tangal for her part can hold fire in her bare hands, carries a ball of fire in her breasts, and burns down the world that spurns her. Though Tamarai brings down rain to save the earth she can also emit flames from her hand to light a benign cooking fire. More inwardly, in the Hindu belief system, also especially in Tantric expositions of generative energy¹⁸ fire is imagined to be an essential part of the human body, and within the female body it works directly as a lifecreating force. That is where the idea of fire correlates with that of the pot. The association between human goddesses and the generation/preservation of life is forcefully expressed by the metaphor of the pot, a metaphor that underscores the importance of the female body in generating and sustaining life. The energy involved is “fire in the belly,” a phrase common in expositions of Tantric practice.¹⁹ In our epic legend pots contain life: it is from a pot of consecrated water that Tamarai bestows pregnancy upon barren females, and it is from pots that her daughter Tamarai sprinkles water upon her dead brothers to bring them back to life. But more fundamentally, the female body is a pot, a magical container that controls and nurtures the special inner heat of each new life, a vessel to be celebrated as the locus of motherhood. And certain women are such good pots, so to speak, that they are vessels of suprahuman abilities; the process of “becoming” is simply a revelation of that readiness through their personal acts and characteristics to “become a fire pot” that will set them apart from ordinary folk. The weaving of the imagery of flowing liquids, pots, and fire through the Ponnivala legend constantly plays upon themes about the generation of life and its protection, a focus centered on the figure of the mother, potential or actual. This oral epic associates these themes firmly with the legend’s heroines. In their legends, as in those of our two contemporary living goddesses, motherhood is the most precious capability ascribed to a woman; it is not an accident that one of our living goddesses is explicitly identified as “Amma,” or mother, and that both she and the Kathmandu kumārī are taken to be incarnations of the Mother Goddess Durgā. Their mothering abilities are all the more hallowed because they protect and nurture people who are not their biological children but beneficiaries nevertheless of their motherly protection. Becoming a goddess presupposes a certain fitness, moral, physical, and imaginative. Since not every woman becomes a goddess, we have to accept that women who do possess special attributes, the right kind of ingredients within their personal pot so to speak, gradually stand to be revealed as

¹⁸ White 2000.

¹⁹ Frawley 2009: 208.

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goddesses. They are discovered through their actions and immortalized through the words of those who celebrate or otherwise chronicle their lives. Their devotees gradually create the legends and ritual proceedings that describe this unique revelation of a divine force that dwells within. If there is one ability that marks each and every one of the living goddesses we have looked at, this must be described as their mothering instinct. This mothering can be defined as much by their love (oftentimes metaphorical) for all their “children” as well as for others they welcome into their own larger and more universal “family.” We have also looked at the fury these women seem to exhibit towards those who would oppose them; in other words, we can say that they all fall within what we can easily label the “Hindu Mother Goddess” category. That paradigm is pegged to key personal attributes, especially compassion, a force often expressed through momentary violence (which can be viewed as battling death), plus a wider ability to heal others’ illnesses and suffering. Such women “become” goddesses not just by their love for their children, but also in every case as the outcome of a vast internal struggle. These women have all undergone personal suffering, the outcome of which becomes the forging of an unremitting commitment to support and nurture others who seek them out. Even the very young kumārī must struggle through a sudden and traumatic separation from her family. After some time the difficulties each of these women face becomes visible through the recognition of her dedicated service by others near by. By wishing to capture and celebrate a given female’s special qualities, women grow to become living goddesses. A women becomes a goddess when others honor her with ritualized gestures of devotion, or when she becomes the focus of a storyteller engaged in the refined art of mythmaking.

REFERENCES Primary Sources Beck, Brenda. 1992. Elder Brothers Story. (Tamil text with English translation). 2 vols. Madras: Institute of Asian Studies. Beck, Brenda. 2013. The Legend of Ponnivala: A Graphic Novel. Tamil text in 2 vols. English trans. in 2 vols. Self-published. Gores Landing, Ontario: Ponnivala Publishing. Available at http://www.ponnivala.com. Beck, Brenda. 2016. 26 Animated Episodes That Retell the Ponnivala Story. Selfpublished. Gores Landing, Ontario: Ponnivala Publishing. 2016. English version only available through http://www.ponnivala.com. Shakya, Rashmila. 2005. From Goddess To Mortal: The True-Life Story of a Former Royal Kumari. As told to Scott Berry. Kathmandu: Vajra Books.

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Secondary Sources Beck, Brenda. 1981. “The Goddess and the Demon: A South Indian Festival in its Wider Context.” In Autour de la déesse hindoue (Purushartha: Sciences sociales en Asie du Sud, vol. 5), ed. Madeleine Biardeau, 82–136. Paris: École des hautes études. Brown, Robert L., and Katherine Anne Harper. (Eds.) 2002. The Roots of Tantra. Albany: SUNY Press. Frawley, David. 2009. Inner Tantric Yoga. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press. Lucia, Amanda J. 2014. Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Namboodiripad, Narayanan Chittoor. 2015. The Secret Principles of Puja. Smashwords edition, iPad version. Delhi: Snab Publishers. Nimal, C. N. 2013. The Murder of A God. Delhi: Snab Publishers. Nimal, C. N. 2014. Why A Hindu Can’t Be An Atheist. Smashwords edition, iPad version. Delhi: Snab Publishers. Richman, Paula. 1997. Extraordinary Child: Poems from a South Indian Devotional Genre. University of Hawaii Press. White, David Gordon. (Ed.) 2013. Tantra in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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10 Bathukamma The Folk-Song Tradition of the Flower Goddess of Telangana in South India Prabhavati C. Reddy

The Hindu women of Telangana have been celebrating the Bathukamma festival for several centuries through a rich oral tradition of Telugu folk songs narrating the life of Bathukamma and village women in agrarian Indian society.¹ Bathukamma means “mother of life” or “mother live on” with bathuku meaning life and amma meaning mother. She is characterized as a flower goddess (or flower shrine), representing the ideas of life, wellbeing, and optimism.² Bathukamma is different from other goddesses because she embodies the idea of life itself and symbolizes the seasonal cycle of renewal and hope. Worshipped only by women, on a yearly basis, Bathukamma has neither a temple of her own nor is represented by an image form. She stands out as an idiosyncratic goddess with a dynamic narrative song tradition and a life that is celebrated in the form of flower shrines during a nine-day annual festival in the month of aśvayuja (October).³ Bathukamma is an ephemeral goddess within regional folk culture. She is conceived as the source of life in farming communities and is worshipped to receive blessings for harvests, rains, family welfare, and health. Given her role in the lives of Telangana’s Hindu women, it is important to explore why Bathukamma is honored as a

¹ The Telugu-speaking region of South India is divided into two states: Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Telangana, comprising the ten original northern districts of Andhra Pradesh, achieved statehood on June 14, 2014. The coastal and southern districts of the once unified Andhra Pradesh retained the Andhra Pradesh name. ² Bathukamma is used here to denote the flower goddess and bathukamma to denote a flower shrine or tower made of flowers during the festival. ³ Bathukamma is unique in many ways, though she bears some similarities to other village goddesses ( grāmadevatās) of Telangana such as Pochamma, Maisamma, and Ellamma.

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life-giving mother and to examine the way her relationship with water, land, and prosperity in particular is emphasized. The narrative songs of Bathukamma establish that the flower goddess has been identified and worshipped as the Hindu goddesses Gaurī (Pārvatī), Lakṣmī, and Durgā. In fact, the nine-day celebration of Bathukamma coincides with the nine-day festival of the goddess Durgā. Hindu women worship Bathukamma as Devī by making beautiful flower shrines in her name. They joyfully sing and dance around these shrines, recounting the stories of goddesses in the name of Bathukamma in a distinctive Telugu dialect and folk idiom. Finally, they conclude the festivities by immersing the flower shrines in lakes. It is important to note that the stories of these goddesses have become an integral part of the Bathukamma oral tradition. Moreover, Bathukamma is portrayed as the source of Śakti or energy, life-giver, and mother. During the festival she is worshipped as goddesses Gaurī and Lakṣmī in the form of tiny triangular-shaped turmeric mounds called gauramma, which are placed over the top of flower shrines of bathukamma. The Purānic : stories of these goddesses and their worship with the bathukamma flower shrines indicate that another layer of the Bathukamma tradition has been assimilated into the folk culture of Telangana. This chapter explores two dimensions, focusing on who Bathukamma is— particularly her relationship to other Hindu goddesses—as well as the flower goddess’s narrative songs.⁴ Critical questions to be examined include how Hindu women perceive Bathukamma as a seasonal goddess of flowers, and how she is portrayed as goddesses Pārvatī and Lakṣmī through their songs. Secondary issues to be examined include how Bathukamma is imagined and reimagined within the Hindu goddess ethos, and how Hindu goddesses have been articulated within the context of Bathukamma’s cultural worldview.

THE BATHUKAMMA SONG TRADITION The Bathukamma songs form an oral tradition of Telugu folk literature and represent a variety of topics reflecting issues in women’s lives with regard to gender roles, family relationships, aspirations, and social conventions in rural, agrarian Hindu society. Therefore, Bathukamma represents all the women of ⁴ I perceive Bathukamma as a “cultural text”; therefore my research methods for this project are rooted primarily in ethnographic fieldwork, literary translation, and critical analysis as well as the empirical study of festival performances. All poems in this chapter are translated by me. There is scant literature published on Bathukamma with the exception of two works in Telugu literature: Tatikonda 1994 and Bandaru 2001. A few monographs have been published on Bathukamma songs as well as a few articles on the Bathukamma festival in Telugu literary journals.

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the Telangana region and has spurred a distinctive genre of folk-song tradition which has developed well beyond the life of the flower goddess. Women have constructed a variety of song compositions to voice women’s issues that are primarily rooted in the familial expectations, cultural mores, and social inequalities that tend to dominate traditional societies. Over time, the Bathukamma song tradition has also given birth to different genres, incorporating themes and stories pertaining to village and Hindu goddesses, the epics Rāmāyana : and Mahābhārata, deified perantalu women,⁵ stories of national leaders, as well as themes of protest movements and social injustice. Thus, the Bathukamma song tradition has extended the female worldview beyond the confines of village life and family conventions by integrating diverse subjects of Indian culture. The Bathukamma songs can be divided broadly into two types: narrative and non-narrative. Subjects of narrative songs include Bathukamma, village goddesses, gods and goddesses of Purānas, perantalu women, prativratā : women, sthala-purānas : stories of sacred sites, social relationships and conventions, women and family, cultural themes, ethical teachings, local history and leaders. Non-narrative songs may contain some of the same themes but do not take on a narrative form. Therefore these songs have no particular focus with respect to a deity or a goddess or a place. Some songs may reflect local heroes, social protests, historical events, caste communities, moral values, devotion, and spirituality. Complementing different Bathukamma song compositions, women have invented unique musical styles and varied dance forms expressing the folk culture and the creative energy of performing artists. There is also a generational component to these vibrant song-and-dance traditions that have been passed down orally through time. The turmoil in Telugu politics of the past decade has introduced many changes in Bathukamma’s life. She has been politicized as a promotional tool of the Telangana separation movement, consequently leading to a rise in her status as a culturally iconic symbol for unity, hope, and progress in the region. The TRS⁶ government not only adopted the Bathukamma symbol on the Telangana state seal but also bestowed upon the Bathukamma celebrations “state festival” status in 2014. Given the entrenched status of religion in politics in India, this is a significant action. Some cultural organizations such as Telangana Jagruti have popularized Bathukamma through statewide ⁵ In the local culture of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states, the word perantalu is used to honor or worship married women who have performed self-immolation for different reasons. If a married woman immolates either before or after the death of her husband and if a woman is killed during her married life, she is worshipped as a perantalu or auspicious one. For perantalu stories, see Padma 2013: chs. 5 and 6. ⁶ The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is an Indian regional party based in Telangana state. The party was founded by K. Chandrashekar Rao in 2001 with a single-point agenda of creating a separate Telangana state with Hyderabad as its capital.

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celebrations of her festival in the form of programs such as Bangāru Bathukamma (Golden Bathukamma) and Kōt ị Bathukammalu (One Crore Bathukammas). The popularity of Bathukamma has become widespread through films in which she has been portrayed as a vehicle for social protest movements against the feudal landlord system that still exists in parts of Telangana. Bathukamma song performances have also been televised and recorded. Today, Bathukamma has become something of a global phenomenon as the festival is now celebrated in many countries outside India.⁷

WHO IS BATHU KAMMA? Bathukamma’s origins remain ambiguous because she is simultaneously identified as life itself (bathuku) and the mother (amma) of life or “maternal life force.” The dual nature of these definitions is best explored within the context of Telangana culture and understanding how sources of life are viewed therein. Largely agrarian in nature, Telangana farming communities are dependent on good crops, regular rain, and the welfare of family and health. A poem entitled “Life-Giving Bathukamma” speaks of Bathukamma as the giver of life and many life-sustaining gifts such as lands, crops, dairy and turmeric.⁸ The poem runs thus: To life-giving Bathukamma, one crore⁹ of prayers [kot ị dandālu] to you To dairy farms and crops [pāḍi-pant ạ lu] giving Bathukamma, one crore of prayers to you To turmeric-vermilion [pasupu-kunkuma] giving Bathukamma, one crore . . . to you To great land-giving Bathukamma, one crore . . . to you Protect (us) mother Bathukamma, one crore . . . to you (We) bring you in flowers : (We) celebrate your festivities [sambarālu] with drumbeats From natal homes (we) present you with a silk sārī From in-laws’ homes (we) bring you gifts Offer you milk and lentil sweets [as naivedya] Present you with a variety of food offerings [saddulu] and give you lamp offerings [āratulu]

⁷ In October 2016, the Bathukamma festival was celebrated by natives of Telangana in more than fifteen states in the USA. ⁸ Durgam 2013: 9. Bathukamma songs have been transmitted orally for some centuries. In recent decades the songs have been produced in the form of monographs, booklets, and audio tapes. ⁹ A crore is 10 million in the Indian numbering system and is written as 1,00,00,000.

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Women offer a crore of prayers to the mother by asking her to protect them and their families. She is viewed as the mother goddess who blesses farming communities with land, crops, dairy, and other material things. The practice of worshipping Bathukamma in the form of flowers, accompanied by festivities with drumbeats, is clearly stated. In gratitude, women also imagine Bathukamma as their daughter and gift her with a silk sārī and food offerings during the festival. As in former times, Bathukamma’s relationship to water remains critical to these traditions. Viewed as the mother of life, her relationship with the lakes (ceruvulu) helps us to understand how she has become the mother goddess, and village women worship her by thanking her every year.¹⁰ Much of the Telangana region contains arid land and unpredictable weather patterns, causing farming to suffer from a lack of water resources. Historically, the Kakatiya rulers were credited with the construction of lakes and artificial ponds to improve dry land agriculture in the region. It was a successful strategy that helped to store and conserve water that was wasted during the monsoon season. These water resources have contributed to the irrigation of infertile land, which has greatly changed the village environment and quality of community life. These lakes have not only provided drinking water to people and farm animals, they have also contributed to the ecological balance by enabling the survival of plant and animal species. These ideas are expressed in one song:¹¹ Bathukamma has come down dancing through dark clouds, brought heavy downpour that has made streams and rivers swell; along the sandy river banks the nightingale ran across singing and the peacock danced joyfully; canals overflowed with floods; lakes and reservoirs are full; Bathukamma has come and given life (to all).

In this song, the region is flourishing with good crops. The village women joyfully express their appreciation through the celebration of flowers placed in the lakes every year. Eventually the tradition of carrying Bathukamma near water sources and the immersion of flower shrines in these sources may have been integrated within the festival. Therefore, the Bathukamma event is not only a festival of flowers but also a festival of lakes. The simple credo is that the lakes give life to people, and for all villagers the life-giving mother is Bathukamma. This is a festival to worship the mother who gives life. The eminent photojournalist Bharat Bhushan states that Bathukamma is more of an environment festival centered on women than a religious festival: “It is a feminine festival and shows the link between women and nature. Nature produces and ¹⁰ I am thankful to Ravinder Durgam for some of these ideas that have helped me in expanding my thinking on Bathukamma’s relationship with lakes. Durgam 2013: introduction. ¹¹ Durgam 2013: 20.

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women also produce. We have to take care of nature and in the same way we have to take care of women too.” Pointing out the link between water, women, and nature, Bharat Bhushan notes how women use the bounty of postmonsoon flowers to decorate their bathukamma: “These flowers have medicinal properties so when the Bathukamma is immersed in a pond or water source, they also clean up the lake.”¹² The most characteristic feature of Bathukamma is her association with the seasonal flowers of the region and her worship in the form of flower shrines every year in the month of October. The exact time at which Bathukamma became identified as the flower goddess (Pūla Bathukamma) is unknown but it is apparent that the impact and celebration of Bathukamma’s life have morphed into an annual nine-day festival. Thousands of women worship her in the form of flower shrines through song and dance. Women make bathukammas (i.e. the flower shrines) with a variety of locally grown flowers such as cassia, cockscomb, ribbed gourd, pumpkin, lotus, marigold, chamomile, and chrysanthemums. These flowers are arranged on a large plate in layers to form a pyramidal tower (see Figure 10.1). Gauramma, a small cone-shaped icon made out of turmeric paste, is placed atop the tower, which ties Bathukamma to Gauramma, another name for the Hindu goddess Pārvatī (Gaurī). The poem “What Does Bathukamma Want?” is an expression of “Bathukamma’s desire of seasonal flowers and prosperous village culture. Bathukamma likes yellow tangeḍu flowers, white gunakalu, marigolds and red flowers. She also likes the married women singing songs for her, bowing to her feet on the banks of fields and delights at the sight of prosperous crops and cattle.”¹³ For eight days, bathukammas are made and worshipped first in home shrines. In the evening women sing and dance around the flower towers in their respective neighborhoods (see Figure 10.2). The dance itself is a skillful performance. Women circle around assembled bathukammas and move back and forth in a counterclockwise direction, while coordinating their foot movement and the clapping of their hands.¹⁴ They all sing in chorus after a lead singer starts off. It may be observed that more often than not, one woman can lead more than 100 women in these Bathukamma song-and-dance performances, which would last more than an hour. The combined dance routines and rhythms of the folk songs echo throughout the neighborhood, representing the unique sound of a burgeoning Telangana cultural identity.

¹² ‘Buoyant Bathukamma Festivities’, The Hindu, September 25, 2014. http://www.thehindu. com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/buoyant-bathukamma-festivities/article6443205.ece. ¹³ Durgam 2013: 41. ¹⁴ In my opinion, the dance form has its roots in village agriculture and the movement of Bathukamma performers is similar to the movement of women workers in the act of planting rice in paddy fields. Workers form a line, moving back and forth in a counterclockwise direction while planting rice saplings in the field.

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Figure 10.1. Woman with a bathukamma © Prabhavati C. Reddy

Figure 10.2. Women dancers around assembled bathukammas © Prabhavati C. Reddy

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On the ninth day, larger bathukammas are made and dance performances take place at the center of the village, drawing larger crowds. After dancing a few hours into the night, the worshippers take bathukammas to a nearby lake for a farewell ceremony—in the same vein as celebrations of goddess Durgā.¹⁵ Small glowing clay lamps are placed on the flower towers prior to releasing them into the lake. The bathukammas floating on the water with glowing lamps create a beautiful sight set against the backdrop of gloomy night skies. Before this immersion of bathukamma flower shrines, women sing a farewell song.¹⁶ Cassia-flowered Bathukamma When will you come back again? Gunugu-flowered Bathukamma is going away. All right, you are leaving but when will you come back? Once a year I will come back by playing (dancing). Birāyi-flowered Bathukamma is going away. Okay that you are leaving but when will you come back?

Bathukamma’s return every year emphasizes the ongoing cycle of the harvest season in farming communities. Therefore, as a life-giving mother, her return is prayed for fervently and her gifts acknowledged with heartfelt gratitude.

B A T H U K A M M A A S G A U R A M M A ( PĀR V A T Ī) Gauramma (Gaurī or Pārvatī), the consort of Śiva, is the most adored goddess of women and a large number of Bathukamma songs reflect her vital prominence and affiliation with the flower goddess. Bathukamma is addressed as Gauramma in many songs and, as previously mentioned, her flower shrines are topped with the cone-shaped turmeric icons of Gauramma. In the poem “Flower-Mother Gauramma,” Bathukamma is addressed as “Gaurī and mother of tangeḍi flowers; she is described as an auspiciously married woman wearing bangles, foot rings, eye liner (kātụ ka), sārīs and jewels.”¹⁷ Bathukamma’s identification with the tangeḍi shrub and flowers indicates her primary association with the land of Telangana where the shrub grows predominantly and is used more than any other flower in the making of bathukamma shrines. ¹⁵ The bathukammas are made out of flowers and leaves so they are eco-friendly and do not cause environmental pollution. In fact, some flower types serve as water purifiers due to their herbal and medicinal qualities. ¹⁶ Tatikonda 1994: 39. ¹⁷ Durgam 2013: 27.

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At one point Bathukamma was identified as Gauramma and a popular story reflects on the relationship between the two. Pārvatī killed the demon Mahiṣa, who spread terror and brought distress to the world, on the day of aśvayuja śudda pāḍyami.¹⁸ Exhausted from the battle, the goddess went into deep slumber and remained in an unconscious state. To awaken her, women sang songs of deep devotion to her for five days, after which she regained consciousness. On that day, women praised her, addressing her as Bathukamma (meaning, “Oh mother live on!”). This story relates to the famous pan-Indian myth of the Great Goddess Durgā,¹⁹ who destroyed Mahiṣa in a long-fought battle and rescued the human and divine worlds from a demonic force. In Telangana’s folk culture as in many others in India, Hindu women attribute the killing of Mahiṣa to Pārvatī and worship her as Bathukamma with reverence. This is a translation of one of the popular songs sung during the Bathukamma festival: Śrī Gaurī your worship uyyālo²⁰ Think of you in mind uyyālo Protected rule uyyālo Queen of Kailās uyyālo Śankarī Pārvatī uyyālo Queen of Śambhu Śiva uyyālo Mother always uyyālo We worship you uyyālo . . . . . . . . Glorious Gauramma uyyālo To your beautiful neck uyyālo I apply sandalwood paste uyyālo Yellow auspicious rice [akhsintalu] throw uyyālo At your feet Ambā uyyālo With turmeric and vermilion powder uyyālo I worship you uyyālo Offer flowers, leaves uyyālo I worship Gauramma uyyālo . . . . . . . . Victory, victory Gauramma uyyālo ¹⁸ Tatikonda 1994: 33, 37–8. The song was also published in other booklets such as SaratJyotsna 2001: 35. ¹⁹ Western scholarship on Hindu goddesses and women’s studies has burgeoned in recent decades, particularly within the fields of religious studies and anthropology. A few of the most notable studies in the past twenty years have focused on female divinity, the goddess as a phenomenon, the Great Goddess Durgā, and regional goddess traditions; see Coburn 1984; Erndl 1993; Pintchman 1994; Hiltebeitel 1988–91. ²⁰ The word uyyālo means to swing or swinging and is used at the end of each line in Bathukamma songs. The repetition of the word helps singers and dancers retain rhythm and sequence. A typical Bathukamma dance pattern shows women swinging back and forth while clapping their hands.

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Victory and auspicious Gauramma uyyālo Victory victory Sarvānī : uyyālo Victory Pankajarāni : uyyālo.

Pārvatī is also the patron goddess of Hindu womanhood and many femaleoriented rituals and vow-fulfilling vrata ceremonies dedicated to her have developed in both brahminical Hindu²¹ and folk/village²² traditions. The song to Gauramma exemplifies women’s adoration of their goddess. Women praise her by appellations such as Ambikā, Śankari, Śāmbhavī, Queen, and Mother, and beseech her to come down to earth to receive their worship. They seat her : on a lion throne, wash her feet with water from the Gangā in a golden vessel, and offer the same water (to drink). Interestingly, they also ask her to swim in perfumed rose water (panniru) instead of the conventional ritual bathing (abhiṣeka) of other Hindu goddesses. They honor her with a sārī, ornaments, sandalwood paste, turmeric, and vermillion powder just as mar: ried women (sumangalī) are gifted during festivals. Most notably, the worship of Gauramma with the variety of flowers is interesting because the same kinds are used for the bathukamma flower shrines. Finally, Gauramma is prayed to with a lamp offering ārati, a gift of coconuts, lentils, and other food items. The worship ends with their circumambulation around the goddess, which mirrors the circling of women around bathukamma flower shrines during the festival. The song ends with the victory couplets praising Gauramma as the goddess of speech (Sāvitrī), the goddess of all things (Sarvānī), : and the lotus queen born out of mud (Pankajarānī). Gaurī is the most pampered archetypal daughter in the mythic lore of Telangana’s womenfolk. A large number of songs dedicated to her address her as the mother (Ambā or Jagadambā), the consort of Śiva, and their daughter. There are also farewell songs addressed to Gaurī, which women sing to her as if they were bidding farewell to their own daughter after her marriage. These songs do contain some elements of Hindu Purānic : stories, for example, that of Gaurī as the daughter of Himavantha who is married to Śiva. But many of the songs’ themes are entrenched in folk culture, social conventions, family relationships, and womanhood. Women teach Gaurī how to be a well-mannered married woman and how to lead a life of respectability in her new home.²³ Women also imagine Gaurī as Bathukamma and give her a fond

²¹ Hawley and Wulff 1996; Kinsley 1986; Pintchman 2001; Wadley 1980 and 2005; Sax 1991; Leslie 1992; Harlan and Courtright 1995. ²² Elmore 1915; Reynolds 1980; Mukhopadhyay 1994; Stewart 1995; Schuler 2009; McDaniel 2002. Two works on Telugu village goddesses published recently are Padma 2013 and Flueckiger 2013. ²³ Tatikonda 1994: 40–1. The teachings in this song focus on how to be a good wife and remind us of the teachings passed on from one generation of women to the next in traditional Hindu society.

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farewell on the immersion day of the bathukamma flower shrines during the closing of the festival.

BATHUKAMMA AS GODDESS LAKṢ MĪ Bathukamma’s association with goddess Lakṣmī is established via oral traditions from the Warangal district. Ramaraju, a Telugu literary scholar, noted these traditions from a retelling of a story by Battu Narasimha Kavi.²⁴ The story was composed into a popular song that is now sung by women during festivals. The song narrates the story of Bathukamma as the amśa, particle of : goddess Lakṣmī and daughter of the Chola king Dharmānga and his queen Satyavatī.²⁵ Sri Lakṣmī devī, chandāmāmā²⁶ Became mother of life in creation, chandāmāmā And poet Battu Narasimha, chandāmāmā Sang how she was born, chandāmāmā On this earth, in Chola country, chandāmāmā : There was King Dharmānga, chandāmāmā And the king’s wife, chandāmāmā Satyavatī, chandāmāmā Having fulfilled 100 religious vows, chandāmāmā Had 100 sons, chandāmāmā Though they were heroic sons, chandāmāmā They were killed by enemies, chandāmāmā Parents at that time, chandāmāmā . . . . . . . . The king with his daughter, chandāmāmā Went back to rule his kingdom, chandāmāmā The great god Viśnu, : chandāmāmā Disguised as Cakrānka, a prince, chandāmāmā Came to the king’s palace, chandāmāmā And stayed on as his son, chandāmāmā Married the girl Bathukamma, chandāmāmā. . . . . . . . .

: The royal couple Dharmānga and Satyavatī had 100 heroic sons but tragically all were killed in battle. Upon loosing their sons, the king and his wife abandoned their kingdom and went into the forest to perform penance to please goddess ²⁴ Birudu 1978: 460–2. ²⁵ Tatikonda 1994: 31–2. ²⁶ The refrain at the end of each verse line, chandāmāmā, means the moon (literally, “Uncle Moon”).

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Lakṣmī. The goddess appeared to them in person and asked them for their wishes. The couple asked for Lakṣmī to be born as their daughter. The goddess granted their wish for a daughter to be born from her amśa, particle. When the : baby was born to Queen Satyavatī, sages Kapila, Kāśyapa, Angirasa, Atri, and Vasiṣtha came to bless her. They named the baby girl Bathukamma since she was actually a mother figure, born though she was as the queen’s daughter, and they declared that her parents and subjects should call her by that name. Blessed with their goddess-daughter, the royal couple returned to their kingdom and reclaimed their throne. When Bathukamma entered into womanhood, Viśnu : came down in disguise of a prince named Cakrānka living at the Chola king’s palace. Viṣnu : (Cakrānka) married Bathukamma and together they lived with their 6,000 beautiful daughters. The king and his wife were extremely happy for the blessed life of Bathukamma, who had now manifested in the world permanently. The song exemplifies the framework of traditional Hindu culture fused with historical and mythical elements. The story revolves around a royal family in the country of Cholas, which most likely refers to a branch of the Telugu Cholas known as the Kanduru Cholas, who ruled in the Nizam’s dominions of Telangana from 1080 to 1260 CE.²⁷ Apart from this reference we do not have any evidence that relates the content of the story to war and the loss of sons. The departure of a royal couple from worldly life to a forest dwelling is a form of vānaprastha, the third of the Hindu life stages. But the story goes against the norm of that custom when, after the royal couple’s penance and prayers to goddess Lakṣmī for a daughter, they return to their kingdom. We may see then that the folk tradition of Bathukamma is influenced by several motifs of Hinduism, especially the reincarnation of Lakṣmī as a daughter, the arrival of sages to the birthplace to announce the daughter’s name, Viṣnu : appearing as a prince to marry his divine consort Lakṣmī, and the immortalized status of Bathukamma as the incarnation of goddess Lakṣmī in the world.²⁸

CO NCLUSION Bathukamma has been an integral part of Telangana culture. The relationship between Telangana and Bathukamma is profoundly significant since she is identified as the life-giving mother of the region and the source of the progress ²⁷ The Kanduru Cholas ruled some parts of Telangana with capitals at Kanduru, Panagal, and Vardhamanapuram. ²⁸ The folklore of Bathukamma also contains another story tradition not discussed here, which is related to Perantalu Bathukamma. The story speaks of a married woman who is killed by her sister-in-law and reborn again as a tangedi plant near the banks of a lake. She is eventually deified as a perantalu or auspicious married woman.

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and optimism of its people. Bathukamma has become part of the official state seal of Mother Telangana (Telangana talli), adopted by the newly formed Telangana state in 2014. The seal is depicted with Mother Telangana holding a corn stalk in her right hand, flanked by a bathukamma flower shrine on her left, which undoubtedly signifies Bathukamma as the characteristic symbol of the region’s cultural heritage and as an icon of natural treasure. Moreover, the Bathukamma festival is exclusively an occasion for women in which they perceive Bathukamma as both their mother and their daughter. A number of songs mirror this affectionate mother–daughter relationship. When Bathukamma is represented as the mother by women, she is not only identified as Durgā, Pārvatī, and Lakṣmī but also honored through devotional praise of the heroic deeds of the goddesses. When Bathukamma is perceived as a daughter by women, most song themes revolve around the ideas of married daughters returning to their natal homes for the festival and mothers sending off their daughters to their in-laws’ homes. The bond between mothers and daughters is further reflected in the making of two bathukamma flower shrines during the festival, one for the mother (talli bathukamma) and another for the daughter (pilla bathukamma). The ongoing cycle of Bathukamma’s returning and parting every year is also reflected in the lives of married women, who return to their natal homes for the festival, and set out to their nuptial homes after the final day of immersing bathukammas in local waters. Human and divine life cycles thus run in parallel and reflect in turn the wisdom of folk spirituality in its perception of the ebb and flow of the energy that is devī, the feminine divine who sustains creation.²⁹

REFERENCES Bandaru, Sujatha. 2001. “Telangana Bathukamma Patalu.” PhD dissertation, Osmania University, Hyderabad. Birudu, Ramaraju. 1978. Telugu Janapada Geya Sahityamu. Hyderabad: Janapada Vijnana Publications. [First published 1958.] Coburn, Thomas B. 1984. Devī Māhātmya: The Crystallization of the Goddess Tradition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Durgam, Ravinder. (Ed.) 2013. Batkamma Patalu. Hyderabad: Sakala Publications. Elmore, Wilbur Theodore. 1915. Dravidian Gods in Modern Hinduism: A Study of the Local and Village Deities of Southern India. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. Erndl, Kathleen. 1993. Victory to the Mother. New York: Oxford University Press.

²⁹ I would like to thank the American Academy of Religion (AAR) for a research grant which enabled me to conduct fieldwork in India for this project. A version of this paper was presented at the 2013 AAR annual meeting.

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Flueckiger, Joyce Burkhalter. 2013. When the World Becomes Female: Guises of a South Indian Goddess. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Harlan, Lindsay, and Paul Courtright. (Eds.) 1995. From the Margins of Hindu Marriage: Essays on Gender, Religion and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Hawley, John S., and Donna M. Wulff. (Eds.) 1996. Devi, Goddesses of India. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Hiltebeitel, Alf. 1988. The Cult of Draupadī: Mythologies: From Gingee to Kuruksetra, vol. 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hiltebeitel, Alf. 1991. The Cult of Draupadi, On Hindu Ritual and the Goddess, vol. 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Karlekar, Malavika. 1991. Voices from Within: Early Personal Narratives of Bengali Women. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1991. Kinsley, David R. 1986. Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University California Press. Leslie, Julia. (Ed.) 1992. Roles and Rituals for Hindu Women. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. McDaniel, June. 2002. Making Virtuous Daughters and Wives: An Introduction to Women’s Brata Rituals in Bengali Folk Religion. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Mukhopadhyay, S. K. 1994. Cult of Goddess Sitala in Bengal: An Enquiry into Folk Culture. Calcutta: Firma KLM. Padma, Sree. 2013. Vicissitudes of the Goddess: Reconstrutions of the Gramadevata in India’s Religious Traditions. New York: Oxford University Press. Pintchman, Tracy. 1994. The Rise of Goddess in Hindu Tradition. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Pintchman, Tracy (Ed.) 2001. Seeking Mahadevi: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Reynolds, Holly Baker. 1980. “The Auspicious Married Woman.” The Powers of Tamil Woman, ed. Susan Wadley, 35–60. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Sarat-Jyostna, Rani. 2001. Batukamma Songs. Hyderabad: V. V. Ramana. Sax, William. 1991. Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage. New York: Oxford University Press. Schuler, Barbara. 2009. Of Death and Birth: Icakkiyamman, a Tamil Goddess, in Ritual and Story. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. Stewart, T. K. 1995. “Encountering the Smallpox Goddess: The Auspicious Song of Sitala.” Religions of India in Practice, ed. David S. Lopez, Jr., 389–97. Princeton, Princeton University Press. Tatikonda, Visnumurthy. 1994. Batukamma Panduga Patalu. Hyderabad: n.p. Wadley, Susan S. 1980. “Sitala: The Cool One.” Asian Folklore Studies 39: 33–62. Wadley, Susan S. 2005. Essays on North Indian Folk Traditions. New Delhi: Chronicle Books.

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11 A Goddess from Bengal Devī Manasā, Goddess of Serpents Krishna Datta

There is a Sanskrit verse of salutation to the goddess Manasā in which she is described as the mother of the sage Āstika, sister of Vāsuki, and wife of the sage Jaratkāru: āstikasya munermātā bhaginī vs¯ukestathā / jaratkārumuneḥ patnī manasā devī namo’stu te // (Proverb of unknown authorship)

This familiar description is found also in the Mahābhārata where, however, the name Manasā does not occur. There she is known as Jaratkāru, the same name as that of her husband. The germ of the story lies in the Mahābhārata, which relates a quarrel between Kadru and Vinatā, both of whom were daughters of Dakṣa Prajāpati and wives of the sage Kaśyapa. We are told: Once gods and demons churned the ocean to get amr: ta (ambrosia). In the process of churning, an all-white horse called Uccaiśravā emerged from the ocean along with many other precious objects. There was an argument between Kadru and Vinatā as to the color of the tail of Uccaiśravā and to settle the dispute it was agreed that whoever proved to be wrong would have to serve as the other’s slave. Vinatā said that the color of the tail was white while Kadru said that it was black. Knowing fully well that it was white, Kadru played a trick and asked her serpent sons to cling to the tail of Uccaiśravā so that it looked black. Not all of her serpent sons obliged her. She cursed those sons who did not obey her that they would be burnt to death in a sacrificial fire to be lit by Janmejaya, a descendant of the Pānḍ : avas. The next day the tail of horse looked black as most of the serpent sons of Kadru had clung to the tail and Vinatā became the slave of Kadru as their wager required. To save the serpent brothers from destruction, Vāsuki, a sage-like son of Kadru, prayed to lord Brahmā and was told that his sister’s son would save his cursed brothers. Vāsuki was heartened as he had a sister named Jaratkāru. (Mbh, Ādiparva, adhyāyas 18–20)

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This leads us to the story of the other Jaratkāru. The Mahābhārata tells us that he was a renunciate whose body became emaciated due to his extreme asceticism. His marriage to the female Jaratkāru, Vāsuki’s sister, came about thus: Once, while wondering through the world, Jaratkāru came upon a group of sages hanging upside down over a cliff, clinging to grass and weeping. On enquiry Jaratkāru came to know that they were yāyāvaras, wandering mendicants who were destined to suffer perdition as their descendant, the sage Jaratkāru, had not married and had not procreated a son who might save his forebears, these sages, from their downfall. Knowing that he himself was the cause of their distress, the sage promised to marry if only he was offered a bride. He then resumed his travels, hoping that someone would offer him a bride whose name also had to be Jaratkāru. Vāsuki offered his sister to him in the hope that his sister’s son would save his brothers who had been cursed by their mother Kadru to be burnt to death in the sacrificial fire of Janmejaya. Sometime after their marriage, when the sage was sleeping with his head on his wife’s lap, she woke him up to remind him that the time of his sandhyā (evening) prayer was passing away. At this, the sage became very annoyed and decided to leave his wife. She told him that it was not proper to forsake one’s wife without procreating a child upon her. The sage touched her navel and uttered the word “asti” meaning “he exists.” Accordingly, the son who was born was named Āstika. (Mbh, Ādiparva, adhyāyas 41–3)

The Bhaviṣyapurāna : also speaks of the quarrel between Kadru and Vinatā and the curse Kadru lays upon her own sons for disobeying her command to cling to the tail of the horse Uccaiśravā. Despondent at the calamity threatening his brothers, Vāsuki pleaded with Brahmā to save them. Brahmā consoled him and instructed him to offer his sister Jaratkāru to the sage Jaratkāru who was a descendant of the wandering mendicants (yāyāvaras) (BhaP 1.32.18–20). Although named Jaratkāru in this legend, this sister of Vāsuki’s is identifiable as Manasā because she is consistently named in Purānic : literature as a goddess who is the mother of the sage Āstika, sister of Vāsuki, and wife of the sage Jaratkāru. This family identity of hers is set out just as it appears in the Mahābhārata story. A story about Manasā appears also in the Brahmavaivartapurāna, : though with considerable difference and at greater length. This Purāna tells us that once upon : a time people on earth were greatly afflicted by venomous serpents. They approached Kaśyapa with their complaints, as he was the father of the serpent sons of Kadru. Kaśyapa went to Brahmā and on his instruction he created mantras and created Manasā from his mind (manas), as her name indicates. Kaśyapa gave his daughter Manasā in marriage to Jaratkāru. The story is followed by the episode of Jaratkāru’s rejection of his wife as found in the Mahābhārata. Upon being rejected by her husband, Manasā called upon the gods and they instantly appeared before her. Brahmā told the sage Jaratkāru that it was not proper to forsake a wife without procreating a child on her. Jaratkāru touched his

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wife’s groin and prayed. Due to his power of meditation, his wife Jaratkāru—or Manasā as she was newly named—became pregnant. A son was born to her, who later became a famous hermit, Āstika. After the birth of Āstika, Manasā went to Kailāsa and was received by Pārvatī and Parameśvara. Manasā worshipped Mahādeva, and then meditated on Kr: ṣna : who gave her his blessing in the form of a declaration that she was to be worshipped in the three regions of svarga, martya, and pātāla (heaven, earth, and the underworld). The first to offer her worship was Kr: ṣna : himself. Following suit, Mahādeva and Kaśyapa also worshipped her. It was thus that Manasā achieved the position of a goddess (BVP 2.45–6). A similar story appears in Devī Bhāgavatapurāna : (DBP 9.47.39–45). Both the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna : and Brahmavaivartapurāna : speak of the various names under which Manasā Devī is known. As she is born from the mind (manas) of Kaśyapa, she is called Manasā. She meditates on Parameśvara, so she is called Manasā. She worshipped Kr: ṣna : for three yugas and is therefore known as Siddhayoginī. She is emaciated like Jaratkāru, so she is called Jaratkāru. She is the most beautiful in the three worlds and is of fair complexion, so she is called Jagadgaurī. She is a disciple of Śiva, so she is called Śaivī. She is a devotee of Viṣnu, She saved the lives of serpents, so : so she is called Vaiṣnavī. : she is called Nāgeśvarī. She is called Nāgabhaginī as she is the sister of the serpent Vāsuki. She takes away poison, so she is called Viṣaharā. She brings the dead back to life by her knowledge, so she is called Mahājñānayuktā. She is the mother of Āstika so she is called Āstikamātā. And lastly, as she is the wife of sage Jaratkāru, she is called Jaratkārupriyā (DBP 9.47.51–3; BVP 2.45). The Devī Bhāgavatapurāna : states that whoever utters a verse containing these twelve names at the time of worshipping Manasā will have nothing to fear from serpents. Not even his descendants will have anything to fear from serpents. By uttering this verse of praise one becomes free from fear whether in the home or in the temple or in a fortress or even when standing before an idol encircled by serpents. The text adds that by silent and repeated recitation of this verse of praise a million times, one may achieve success (DBP 9.47.54–6). Both the Devī Bhāgavatapurāna : and the Brahmavaivartapurāna : describe the form in which one should worship Manasā. The worshipper should begin with this address: śvetacampakavarnābhām ratnabhūṣanabhūṣ itām / : : bahnīśuddhām : śukādhānām : nāgayajñapovītinīm : // mahājñānayutām : tāñca pravarajñānīnām : varām / suddhādhiṣt ḥ ātrīdevīñca iṣaddhām : siddhipradām : bhaje // I worship the goddess who has the complexion of white campaka flower, who is adorned with ornaments studded with gems, who is pure like fire, who has serpents as sacred threads, who has great wisdom, who is the greatest of the most wise, who is the presiding deity of the Siddhas [a class of demigods], who has attained divine grace, and who is the bestower of success. (BVP 2.46; DBP 9.48.2–3)

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Having meditated thus, one should present the goddess with roots and offerings of a variety of eatables, incense, flowers, and aromatic unguents. The Tithitattva of Raghunandana contains a verse to meditate on Manasā, which is said to be quoted from the Padmapurāna. : The worshipper says, : : devīm ambāmahīnām m cārukāntīm vadānyām / : śaśadharavadanā : : hamsārūḍhāmarunitvasnā : : : m sarvadām sarvadaiva // : smerāsyām manditāngīm kanakama niga nāgaratnairanekair / : :: nair : : : vande’ham sāṣtangāmurukucayugalam bhaginīm kāmarūpām //

I adore the goddess, the mother of serpents, whose face is like the moon, whose appearance is graceful, who is bountiful, who rides on a swan, the noble one, who wears a red garment, who has a smiling face, who is adorned with gold, gems, and various jewels obtained from serpents, who is accompanied by eight snakes, who has prominent breasts, who is a yoginī and who can take any form at will. p. 13) (Tithitattva, included in Aṣt ạ̄ vimśatitattvam, :

The Brahmavaivartapurāna mentions a Vedic incantation as part of the : : : : : worship rites: “Om hrīm śrīm krīm aim manasādevyai svāhā.” The text says that whoever masters the proper manner of performing the incantation will be equal to Dhanvantarī (physician to the gods) and to him poison will be amrta : (ambrosia). Whoever invokes the goddess Manasā before a snuhī tree (a plant : with acid milky juice) on the day of samkrānti (the day of the passage of the sun from one zodiac sign to another) of the month of āṣāḍha (mid-June to mid-July) and worships with offerings and oblations will be blessed with children, wealth, and fame (BVP 2.46.1–9). In the Samayapradīpa of Śrīdatta Upādhyāya it has been stated that the fifth day of the new moon in the month of śrāvana : is known as Nāgapañcamī On that day those who wish to save themselves from snakes should worship the goddess Manasā (Samayapradīpa, p. 44). Samayapradīpa quotes a verse from a smrti : text which adds that one should worship the goddess Manasā on the fifth day of the new moon, after Janārdana falls asleep, in front of a snuhī tree in the courtyard. : : supte janārdane kr: ṣnapañcamyā m bhavanāngane / :: pujayet manasādevīm snuhībit ạ pasamsthitām // : (Samayapradīpa, p. 158)

In several texts, namely the Tithitattva and Kr: tyatattva of Raghunandana (included in the treatise Aṣtạ̄ vimśatitattvam), the Krtyaratnākara of Canḍ : eśvara, : : and the Kālaviveka of Jīmūtavāhana, similar statements have been made. In the Kr: tyaratnākara it has also been stated that one should worship goddess Manasā with flowers such as oleander, lotus, and jasmine daubed with sandalwood paste; bathe her image in cow’s milk and cold water; offer milk cakes and incense, such as dhūpa and guggula. The Tithitattva and Kālaviveka add that if one worships and offers salutation to the goddess, one has nothing to fear from serpents (Tithitattva, p. 13; Kr: tyatattva, p. 502; Kr: tyaratnākara, p. 233; Kālaviveka,

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: p. 413). Krtyatattva of Raghunandana speaks of a samkalpa or vow to worship : : Manasā Devī. The samkalpa runs as follows: : adya śrāvane e pañcamyām tithau amukagotraḥ śrī amukadeva: māsi kr: ṣnapakṣ : : : śarmā sarpabhayābhāvakāmo manasādevīm pūjām aham kariṣye iti samkalpya : snuhīvr: kṣam : pujayet / tadabhāve ghat ẹ jale vā nyāsādika:m kr: tvā devīm ambeti dhyātvā manasādevi ihāgacchety āhvāya etad pādyam om manasādevyai nama ityanena yathāśakti gandhapuṣpadhūpadīpanaivedyāni dadyāt/ tato’nantādin nāgān pūjayet / Today, on the fifth day of the new moon, in the month śrāvana, : I, of such-andsuch name and of such-and-such gotra, shall worship the goddess Manasā to avert the menace of serpents. Having uttered this vow one should worship the snuhī tree. In the absence of such a tree, one should place offerings on an earthen pitcher or in the water. Having meditated on the goddess as Mother and inviting her to come, one should offer pādya or water for washing her feet, with words, “Salutation to goddess Manasā!” Thereafter one should offer scented flowers, incense, and lamps and other offerings. After that one should pay homage to eight nāgas or serpents, such as Ananta and others. (Kr: tyatattva, p. 502)

Apart from these Sanskrit texts, there is a wealth of legends in the Bengali language which eulogize Manasā as a powerful goddess. These stories come : from the Mangalakāvya genre of celebratory religious literature in Bengal. This literature has been associated with such major deities as Śiva, Viṣnu, : Sūrya, Dharma, Annadā, and Śakti and also with such minor deities as Manasā (goddess of serpents), Śītalā (goddess of smallpox), and Ṣaṣt ḥ ī (the protective deity of children). Ashutosh Bhattacharya says that many of these deities have come from Dravidian or aboriginal sources but have been gradually absorbed into Aryan religious culture by being identified as brahminic deities. When the Aryans took over these deities from the people whom they considered their social inferiors, and as adherence to these deities became widespread, the Aryans had to justify the new cults by suggesting that the new deities were actually derived from ancient sacred literature. The justification was reinforced and popularized by literary renditions whereby didactic legends were constructed in both Sanskrit and Bengali. Thus Manasā’s story came to be part : : of both the Purānas : and of the Mangalakāvyas. Referring to the Mangalakāvya stories, Ashutosh Bhattacharya says: While they depend for their religious exposition on Sanskrit texts, a large number of people were being introduced to a new kind of religious literature which drew its materials from non-Aryan sources and popular tales. This literature, which originated in the 12th or 13th century and reached its climax in the 18th, is : known as the Mangala literature in Bengal.¹

¹ A. Bhattacharya 1975: 526.

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Bhattacharya further states, From these tales, it appears that the method adopted by these deities was to compel people to acknowledge them by threatening them with dire calamity if they were not accepted, and promising earthly prosperity if accepted. Reference may be made in this connection to Manasā, who was apparently absorbed from Dravidian and other sources, but was not accepted as a deity till she had visited some calamity upon some leaders of the trading community who had refused to recognize her. The interest in the story lies in setting up certain standards of virtue like the chastity and devotion of Behulā who brought her dead husband to life with help of appeased Manasā whom her father-in-law had not accepted and thus offended.²

: Mangalakāvyas are devotional paeans to regional deities written in the Bengali language, which flourished in the Bengali-speaking region of India from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries, constituting an important part of Bengali literature as a direct influence on mass religious beliefs and practices. Pradyot Kumar Maity states that no less than fifty-eight poets are known to have written verse sagas of Manasā, of which he describes the work of twenty-two—both major and minor poets. From the high point of their : popularity in the fifteenth century Mangalakāvyas continued to be composed till the twentieth century.³ That these poems were written in Bengali is understandable in view of the fact that Manasā is worshipped mostly in Bengal. P. V. Kane in his History of Dharmaśāstra states that in Bengal and South India (but not in Maharastra) worshippers perform the rites of Manasā Devī in their courtyards facing a branch of the snuhī tree on the fifth month of the year, śrāvana, a, the dark phase of the moon.⁴ : in the krṣ : napakṣ : Of the many sagas of Manasā, mention may be made of the Manasā: mangala of Nārāyanadeva, : : Manasāvijaya of Vipradāsa,: Padmapurāna : of Vijayagupta, Manasāmangala of Jagajjīvana, Manasāmangala of Viṣnupāla, : : and Manasāmangala of Ketakadāsa Kṣemānanda. All these works are written : in Bengali. In my study of the genre I have used the Manasāmangala of Ketakadāsa Kṣemānanda, composed in the seventeenth century, which became one of the most popular poems of its kind, if not the best known. It may be stated here that these long poems narrate not only the legend of Manasā as their principal storyline but also a number of other tales. I have omitted minor excursions from the present discussion to maintain the focus on Manasā. According to the main story of Ketakadāsa Kṣemānanda’s text, Manasā was the daughter of Śiva. She was born when Śiva’s semen dropped on a lotus leaf that reached the pātāla or nether region and then landed on the lap of Vāsukī. Vāsuki took it to the Creator who gave it the form of a beautiful

² A. Bhattacharya 1975: 526. ³ Maity 1966: appendix A. ⁴ Kane 1958: vol. 5, part 1, p. 125.

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maiden and left her in Vāsuki’s charge who was deemed to be her brother. As time went by, she became more and more beautiful. Vāsuki adorned her with serpents as her ornaments. She was named Jaratkāru but also became known : as Padmāvatī (Ketakadāsa, Manasāmangala, p. 16)⁵ because she is often depicted as seated on a padma or lotus, which explains why some of her chronicles are called Padmapurāna, : especially those that originated in East Bengal. Once Śiva saw Manasā seated on a lotus and was enthralled by her beauty but Manasā proved to him that she was his daughter. Śiva then took her to his home Alakāpurī and hid her under flowers. When Śiva’s wife Canḍ : ī detected her, she suspected that Śiva had brought this beautiful maiden to enjoy her and in anger fought with her and burnt her left eye so that Manasā became blind in one eye, a kānī (pp. 19–20). Śiva then took her to Sijuyā mountain and built a palace for her there and created a companion for her named Netā from his tears of remorse. Netā was asked to serve as the washerwoman of the gods (pp. 24–7). He also gave Manasā a boon and declared that she would be worshipped by all. But it was not easy to bring this boon to fruition, for Manasā was told that to be accepted as a goddess, she would first have to win worship from Cānd sadāgar (a merchant) who was a trader of the Gandhavanik : community residing in the city of Champāi and a devotee of Śiva. The idea that he should worship Manasā proved to be so intolerable to Cānd that he refused to offer her any pūjā. Ultimately, his youngest son and his daughter-in-law would establish the worship of Manasā in the world. This story is followed by a more elaborate tale in Ketakadāsa’s narrative. This is the story of the churning of the ocean and the conflict that ensued between the gods and asuras over their respective shares of amr: ta (pp. 55–60). When the ocean was first churned, a deadly poison known as kālakut ạ had come out and there was no one who could get rid of the poison nor was there any place where that poison could be stored. To save the universe from the poison Śiva drank it but lost consciousness and collapsed. Śiva’s wife intended to die along with Śiva in the same pyre but suddenly remembered that Manasā had the power of extracting poison and reviving the dead. On her instruction Manasā was brought from the Sijuyā mountain and Śiva was saved, whereupon he distributed the poison among serpents (pp. 61–71). Afterwards Śiva arranged the marriage of Manasā with Jaratkāru. On the wedding night Manasā took Canḍ : ī’s deliberately malicious advice to adorn herself with serpents all over her body, which terrified Jaratkāru. Playing yet another nasty trick, Canḍ : ī offered an artificial frog to Jaratkāru as a wedding present, which created a commotion among the serpents. In his fright Jaratkāru ran away from the wedding site. Although he returned after a while, he went : ⁵ All page references to the Manasāmangala are to Ketakadasa’s version.

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back to his ascetic life. However, before he left Manasā finally, Jartkāru touched her navel and a son was born, who was named Āstika (pp. 79–82). Manasā was very eager to receive worship just like any other goddess and sought advice from Netā who told her that nobody was ready to worship her without being coerced: “biḍambanā bine e tin bhubane nā pūjibe kon janā” (p. 85). Coercion would of course have to be complemented with boons. To put this plan into action, Manasā and Netā descended to earth. Manasā told Netā that she would offer to eliminate the enemies of those who would worship her. She added that she would confront those who would not worship her, threatening them with her serpents. e tin bhuvan mājhe ye jan manasā pūje / tār ripu kari kṣyay sarva thāni tār jay // ye jan āmā nā pūje t ḥ ekāyiyā phanirāje / : tāhā sane vād kari jāne yena viṣaharī // Whoever within these three worlds worships Manasā I [Manasā] destroy his enemies and ensure his victory everywhere // He who does not worship me and spurns the ruler of serpents / I hold him as my enemy: thus holds Viṣaharī // (p. 88)

Manasā and Netā went to the city of Champāi, where Manasā intimidated and cajoled many local people into becoming her adherents, among whom were cowherd youths (pp. 91–104), local rulers Hāsān and Husain (pp. 104–30), two fishermen, Jālu and Mālu (pp. 14–147), a mālinī or flower-selling woman called Kājlā (pp. 153–6), and many others. But even with all her stratagems she could not bend to her will the rich merchant Cānd, without whose submission she would not be able to achieve the status of goddess. Cānd’s wife Sanakā made arrangements for the worship of Manasā, but it was disrupted and : stopped by Cānd, who contemptuously called Manasā a “chengmuḍī kānī,” mocking her for having a misshapen head and for being blind in one eye (kānī). Enraged by his insults, Manasā killed six of Cānd’s sons with the deadly venom of her serpents (pp. 187–8). In spite of such tribulations Cānd refused to yield to her and, adamantly defiant, he set out on a voyage with his fleet of seven ships, named Madhukara, brushing aside Sanakā’s pleas not to go (pp. 222–4). Predictably, while Cānd was returning home with a ship filled with treasure, Manasā sent a gale and destroyed his ship. Cānd fell into a pitiable state but still did not surrender to Manasā (pp. 230–6). Another story is introduced here that leads back to Cānd’s travails. Through Manasā’s intrigue and by Śiva’s curse, a celestial couple named Aniruddha and Uṣā were sentenced to be born on earth as Lakhāi and Behulā. Manasā seized this opportunity to force them to preach the need for worshipping Manasā. Lakhāi was born as the son of Cānd and his wife Sanakā. Behulā was born in the city of Nicchani as the daughter of a trader

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belonging to the Sāhā community and his wife Amalā (pp. 237–9). In due time Lakhāi and Behulā were married. Cānd built a wedding chamber of iron so that no serpent could enter where Lakhāi and Behulā would be staying (pp. 250–3). But Manasā sent a serpent named Kālanāginī who entered the : marriage chamber through a tiny hole and bit Lakhaī. Behulā threw her jāmti (a nut-chopper that a new bride carries during the wedding period) at the serpent and a portion of the tail of Kālanāginī was cut off, which Behulā kept by her. But the deadly poison killed Lakhāi and Behulā began to wail (pp. 253–9). Knowing that Lakhāi had died in spite of all his efforts to avert the catastrophe, Cānd went mad and wailed in grief. In his despair he thought that it was better that Lakhāi had died, bringing to an end all : quarrels with “chengmuḍī kānī” Manasā: bhāla haila putra maila ki tār viṣād / : chengmuḍī kānī sane ghucila mor vivād // It is well that my son died, what grief is there for that? Now the quarrel with that one-eyed, fish-headed female is over. (p. 259)

But Behulā proved to be more resolute. Determined not to resign herself to her husband’s death, she placed his body on a raft made of banana tree trunks and : sailed down the river Gangur in order to find Manasā and plead for Lakhāi’s resuscitation. On the third day Behulā’s raft broke up and ferocious aquatic creatures rushed to feed upon her dead husband’s body. Behulā appealed to Manasā by meditating on her; Manasā took pity on Behulā and averted the danger. Behulā had to face many other dangers and hardships but was saved each time by uttering the name of the goddess Manasā. Gradually, the dead body of her husband became decomposed and a portion of the knee was swallowed by a great bodāliyā (or boyāl) fish. Behulā hid the rest of her dead husband’s bones in her loincloth and continued her voyage for six more months till she reached the confluence of three rivers called Tripinī : or Trivenī : (pp. 260–71). Behulā bathed in the river Jāhnavī and uttered the name of Manasā. There she saw a woman washing clothes, who killed a little boy, her son, who was distracting her from her work. But when her work was over, the woman lightly slapped the back of her son and he came back to life. Impressed by the woman’s power over life and death, Behulā entreated her to restore her husband’s life. In exchange she would wash the clothes. Actually, this woman was Netā who worked as the washerwoman of the gods. She took Behulā to the assembly of gods where Behulā pleased all the gods with her dance. Later, Behulā promised Manasā that her father-in-law would worship Manasā. Manasā was pleased. By her grace all the sons of Cānd were restored to life (pp. 271–6). Behulā returned to the city of Campāi with her resurrected husband Lakhāi and his six brothers. Cānd’s fleet of seven ships also returned, their store of

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treasures doubled in size (pp. 277–80). Sanakā entreated Cānd to worship Manasā. Cānd was initially hesitant and said to himself: : cengmuḍī kānī bole jāre dinu gāli/ kon lāje tare haiba put ạ̄ ñjalī // yei hate pūjinu sonar gandheśvarī / kemane pūjiba tāy jay Viṣaharī// How shameful would it be to worship with folded hands She whom I have reviled as a fish-head wrapped in rags? How can I worship Viṣaharī with the same hands With which I have worshipped the golden Gandheśvarī? (p. 290)

But Cānd was in fear of losing his sons and his wealth once more if he did not submit to Manasā. So he reluctantly relented and agreed to worship Manasā by offering a floral wreath to her in front of a Sij tree as proper to the ritual and Manasā was appeased. Thus the practice of worshipping Manasā became established from then on in every home in the city of Campāi. A great festival was arranged with music all around, some people played the ḍhol (a drum), the ojhās or poison healers played with snakes, some people slaughtered goats and lambs to offer as sacrifice, and everybody worshipped Viṣaharī Manasā by placing floral wreaths on Sij tree branches. From that day on, following Cānd’s worship of Manasā Devī, Manasā Pūjā became popular: sei din manasār pūjā haila pracār / yei din pūjila cānd sadāgar // That was the day when Manasā’s worship spread everywhere / The day on which Cānd the trader paid homage to Manasā// (p. 292)

Going a long way back in time as it does, this legend suggests that Manasā was originally a local goddess worshipped by non-Aryan communities, as we may gather from the tales of her worship by cowherds and fishermen. That the practice was also prevalent among farmers is evident in the text of a late : fifteenth-century Manasā saga of great renown, the Manasāmangala (also known as Manasāvijaya, or the triumph of Manasā) of Vipradāsa. That this group of people from a lower social class, largely constituted of non-Aryan indigenous people, should have been early worshippers of Manasā is understandable when we note that their work in the fields laid them open to the risk of snakebites. There is thus good reason to believe that the goddess Manasā was originally a non-brahminical deity who commanded a following among non-Aryan people. But she was not accepted widely as a deity of substance and power capable of meting out punishment as well as rewards till she brought calamity to the leader of a trading community who refused to worship her. Gradually she gained popularity and came to be worshipped by upper-caste

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women and eventually by upper-caste men, including brahmins, as we find in the Purānas. In this process of moving to the upper reaches of society, : Manasā’s story came to serve that society’s moral imperatives and set up certain standards of virtue, most notably that of female chastity and wifely devotion, as embodied in Behulā, who brought her dead husband back to life. In addition to preaching these moral lessons, the legend also ventures on political fantasy in most of its renditions. In a long episode narrating a confrontation between Manasā’s cowherd devotees and their Muslim overlords Hasan and Husain, Ketakadāsa describes—as does Virpadāsa—how the repeated attempts of the powerful Muslims to eradicate what they call the “devil worship” of the Hindus are met by Manasā’s army of venomous creatures who kill vast numbers of the oppressors and finally drive them out of their territories. It is impossible to discover whether there was ever any historical reality beneath these wish-fulfilling inventions, but it is known that Manasā’s influence did extend over non-Hindus at that time. Pradyot Kumar Maity tells us that “the cult became so popular that the goddess was respected by the followers of the Prophet. Thus the non-Aryans may take to themselves the credit of having added to the Hindu pantheon a goddess who is worshipped by people of all classes.”⁶ He further says that “it is not surprising to find the Bengali Muslims worshipping Manasā. Snakes are objects of fear to all people, so it is to be expected that Manasā should be worshipped by all castes and creeds to guard against snake bite in a country where many people die from it each year.”⁷ Maity quotes an observation by E. O. James that “a higher living religion like Christianity, Judaism Islam or Hinduism, by incorporating folk material into its own faith and practice, has given a new vigour, meaning, significance and function to popular belief and customs, and so enabled them to acquire a fresh survival value.”⁸ Maity adds that this same tendency is found in the case of the local goddess Manasā who appears at times in epic and Purānic : garb. The reason behind the incorporation of the epic and Purānic : stories in the literary and folk legends of Manasā was to give the goddess the same social status accorded to the major gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon and to validate her position by showing that she had roots in antiquity. It was to serve this purpose that Manasā came to be identified with Jaratkāru, the sister of Vāsuki in the Mahābhārata story.⁹ Attempts to place Manasā in antiquity have been numerous. Probing the mythic background of the Manasā legend, Sukumar Sen thinks that the name Manasā has Vedic connections because in the RgVeda the term manā has been : used to signify the anger of Rudra. Gradually, Rudra’s anger (manā) took shape as the goddess Manasā.¹⁰ Kshitimohan Sen’s effort to trace the origin of ⁶ Maity 1966: 182. ⁷ Maity 1966: 185. ⁸ Maity 1966: 117; citing James 1962: 15. ⁹ Maity 1966: 117. ¹⁰ S. Sen 1978: Prathama khanḍ : a, Pūrvārdha, p. 182.

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Manasā led him to the South Indian cult of the female serpent Mañcāmmā, who is worshipped on the nāgapañcamī day in Kanada in South India. He states that this serpent is the source of the idea of Manasā.¹¹ Nihar Ranjan Roy supports this view and argues that on the basis of historical evidence it can be said that the worship of Manasā came into vogue in Bengal during the reign of the Sena kings of Bengal who came from South India.¹² Sukumar Sen, however, opposes this contention. He states that the term “Manasā mā” did not come from the Dravidian Kanada language mañcāmmā; on the contrary, he says, mañcāmmā was derived from Manasā. He states that Pānini : formulated a sūtra or aphorism, namely “manosonāmni,” to explain the formation of the word Manasā. This sūtra was taken from Pānini : into the Cāndra vyākarana, : which Dharmadāsa used as an example when citing the term “Manasā Devī” in his vr: tti. Sukumar Sen offers this chain of linguistic and grammatical development as evidence of the ancient origin of Manasā.¹³ He further argues for the antiquity of the figure of Manasā by pointing out that though Manasā is the goddess of serpents, she does not have the form of a serpent but appears in human form just like other gods and goddesses.¹⁴ This argument, however, does not have much force, for were we to accept it we would have to wonder why Paśupati Śiva does not appear in the form of an animal, given that he is the Lord of Beasts, except for wearing animal emblems, such as horns, as does Manasā who is often portrayed either wearing a helmet of hooded snakes or holding a snake or sitting on a snake. Disputes over the conception and characteristics of Manasā do not end with the derivation of her name. There is controversy regarding the meaning of the : appellation cengmuḍī, derisively employed by Cānd. According to Sukumar : Sen the word literally means “one having a head like the head of a ceng fish.” In this sense, though, it is hard to see how the word could be applied to Manasā, : for her head or face is not the least like the ceng fish (Channa orientalis), which is found in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Kshitimohan Sen says that in the Āyurveda text Bhāvaprakāśa, the tree associated with Manasā’s worship ritual : is known as cengmuḍu in the Telugu language, its modern form being cemuḍu : or jemuḍu.¹⁵ On this basis he argues that the word cengmuḍī is of Dravidian origin. This view is rejected by Sukumar Sen, who points out that South India has no custom of including the plant mentioned by Kshitimohan Sen (known in Bengal as the Sij tree) in worship rituals, nor is there any connection between the Southern practice of worshipping living serpents and the Northern practice of worshipping serpents symbolically. Along with his own sup: position that cengmuḍī means “fish-headed,” Sukumar Sen adds a second : conjecture, pointing out that the word ceng in Bengali means bamboo and : kāni means cloth, so that cengmuḍī kāni may denote a piece of bamboo ¹¹ K. Sen 1922: 391. ¹⁴ S. Sen 1978: 229.

¹² Roy 1949: 489. ¹⁵ K. Sen 1922: 394.

¹³ S. Sen 1978: 224–5.

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wrapped in cloth,¹⁶ which would stand as a derogatory description of Manasā adopted by Cānd in his denigration of Manasā, as he faces the quandary of being forced to worship her: : cengmuḍī kānī bole yare dinu gāli/ kon lāje tāhāre hoibo put ạ̄ ñjali// How shameful would it be to worship with folded hands She whom I have reviled as a fish-head wrapped in rags! (p. 290)

As already mentioned, the worship rites of Manasā took place in front of a snuhī tree, or if there is no such tree, then in front of an earthen pitcher or in water. Nihar Ranjan Roy states that in Bengal it was a common custom to worship Manasā in front of an earthen pitcher filled with unhusked rice and adorned with a picture of Manasā holding a serpent, or with serpents around her. Alternatively, the rites could be performed in front of a pat ạ (picture/ scroll) depicting the goddess and tales taken from her saga. Images of Manasā were worshipped even before the eleventh century in Bengal, their design often being complex. Along with almost every image of Manasā found in Bengal there also appear images of more than one serpent, of a child on her lap, of a fruit, and in some cases of an image of a fully filled earthen pot. Roy claims that there is enough historical evidence to hold that the worship of Manasā was fully in vogue in Bengal during the reign of the Sena Vaman kings.¹⁷ Pradyot Kumar Maity has referred to various serpent-hooded images of Manasā in different museums. He classifies the images of Manasā broadly into two categories according to the number of their arms. There are five fourarmed images (see Figure 11.1). Maity states that all the images are adorned : with similar ornaments, such as kankanas (bracelets), hāras (necklaces), upavīta (sacred thread), kat ị bandha (girdle), kat ị sūtra (chain around the waist), and patrakunḍ : alas (dangling eardrops).¹⁸ There is no lack of images of Manasā in museums, as noted by Hamsa Narayan Bhattacharya.¹⁹ Several images found in Bengal, currently in museums in Dhaka, show Mansā seated in the padmāsana posture, sheltered by a canopy of seven snake hoods, while she holds a serpent in her left hand and a fruit in her right hand. In an image in the Rajshahi Archeological Museum, Manasā is a four-armed figure seated on a double-petalled lotus in the baddhapadmāsana position, holding a japamāla or rosary and a snake in one hand. In another image, which was found in Rajshahi but is now in the Calcutta Archeological Museum, the goddess is seated in a lalitāsana posture on the hood of a snake, holding a child on her left lap and a leafy branch of a tree in her right hand. In popular practice a clay

¹⁶ S. Sen 1978: 229. ¹⁸ Maity 1966: 207–11.

¹⁷ Roy 1949: 489. ¹⁹ H. N. Bhattacharya 1986: 127.

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Figure 11.1. Four-armed snake goddess Manasā seated under the hood of a cobra From the collection of Mandakranta Bose

pot painted with Manasā surrounded by snakes is still used for pūjā purposes. The painted scrolls of Manasā by Medinipur pat ụ ā artists are still being produced and used for the rituals of Manasā Pūjā. Manasā has similarities with several goddesses but most closely with : Sarasvatī and Jāguli or Jānguli. Describing her similarity with Sarasvatī, Sukumar Sen points out the obvious difference that Sarasvatī is unmarried (although according to another view, she is the wife of Viṣnu); on the other :

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hand, Manasā is an independent goddess as is Sarasvatī, her marriage to Jaratkāru being merely a formality. Again, just as the creator god Brahmā desired his daughter Sarasvatī (RV : 7.33.1), Manasā’s father Śiva desired Manasā. Sarasvatī is the goddess of learning and Manasā too is the deity of one kind of learning, namely the knowledge of poison. Sarasvatī is the goddess of song and music; Manasā is partial to music and dance, as we see when she is propitiated by Behulā’s singing and dancing.²⁰ The similarity appears to be part of popular belief as evidenced by several modern representations of Manasā, as seated on a swan, which is Sarasvatī’s vehicle. Another source of Manasā’s pedigree is identified by Sukumar Sen, who : says that Buddhist Mahāyāna legends mention a goddess called Jāngulikā who : is the healer of poison, the word jāngulī meaning knowledge of poison. : Gradually, the name jāngulī devolved into a connotation of Manasā. It is : : : from the word jāngulī that the name Jāngulika or Jāngulīka was derived, meaning a healer of poison. Given that meaning, it is not surprising that : sometime later Jāngulī and Manasā should have become one and the same, Manasā being called Jāguli in Vipradāsa’s Manasāvijaya.²¹ Ashutosh Bhattacharya states that in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the serpent goddess : continued to be known as Jāngulī in some parts of Bengal, although the name Manasā was in common use and gained prominence at least 200 years ago in : place of Jāngulī. Referring to the name Jāgulī as found in the text of Vipradāsa, : Bhattacharya says that this Jāgulī and the Jāngulī of Buddhist legends and Manasā are one and the same. After the end of the Buddhist Pāla dynasty, : when the Hindu Sena dynasty was established, the serpent goddess Jāngulī who was worshipped by the Buddhist Mahāyāna group came to be known as Manasā.²² According to Nihar Ranjan Roy there is a similarity between Manasā : and Jāngulī, who resides in the forest and is a Śabara maiden, belonging to the hunter tribe. This folk goddess can play the vīnā : and like Manasā she can eradicate all poisons. Roy draws attention to the Vedic Sarasvatī who too is a healer of poison and a Śabara maiden. In view of these similarities it is difficult : not to regard the brahminic Manasā and Buddhist Jāngulī as the same goddess and note her similarity with the Vedic goddess Sarasvatī.²³ It has already been observed that Manasā is mainly worshipped in Bengal but her cult is also found in South India, where the form of worship is similar. P. V. Kane has stated that “In Bengal and South India (but not in Maharastra) there is worship of Manasādevī in one’s own courtyard performed on a branch of Snuhī plant on the fifth day of Śrāvana, : the dark half of the moon.”²⁴ The Manasā cult is less evident elsewhere in India but Ashutosh Bhattacharya mentions two snake temples in the district of Ambala and Gurgaon in East Punjab, the latter now in Haryana. The presiding deity of the temples is called ²⁰ S. Sen 1978: 189. ²³ Roy 1949: 489.

²¹ S. Sen 1978: 227–8. ²² A. Bhattacharya [n.d.]: 258. ²⁴ Kane 1958: vol. 5, pt. 1, p. 125.

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Manasā. Bhattacharya also states that among the Oraon tribe of the Ranchi district of Chotanagpur, Manasā is known as the goddess of serpents, as also among the Ho tribe of a contiguous region.²⁵ These observations suggest that the Manasā cult is by no means unknown in many parts of India. Bhattacharya refers to Bihulā Kathā in the Bhojpurī language of western Bihar and the works of two Assamese authors, Mānkar and Durgāvar, of the Kamta Kamrup region. The former is the author of Poñār Pāñcālī and the latter of Poñā : Behulīmangal, both of them verse renditions of the Manasā legend. In these works Manasā is called Poñā, a word derived from the Sanskrit word Padmā, which is one of the names by which Manasā is known.²⁶ However, both in the past and at present, the observance of the Manasā cult has been widest in what was once called Bengal and is now West Bengal and Bangladesh, as evidenced by the continuing practice of the worship of Manasā and the number of : Bengali Mangalakāvyas celebrating her. Her popularity finds no match elsewhere in India. As this survey shows, Manasā is and has always been an object of devotion for common folk, both rich and poor, weak and powerful, rather than for an exclusive group of devotees. Her power is simple to explain: she savagely persecutes those who refuse to worship her and she munificently rewards those who worship her. The dual pull of punishment and benevolence is a simple formula and instantly comprehensible to all, from youthful cowherds to seasoned merchants, and requires no priestly instruction. It is particularly easy to accept because she is as easily placated as she is quick to anger, satisfied with rites and offerings that might be elaborate or unostentatious, performed by a priest or by common men and women of the family. Although the : Mangalakāvyas attempt to authenticate Manasā’s divine states by weaving her into the customary legends of Hindu theogony, it is clear both from these literary maneuvers and from the worship protocols that she has no place in the metaphysical mystery of the divine feminine at the heart of Hindu religious philosophy. Unlike goddesses from the upper reaches of the Hindu belief system such as Durgā, Kālī, or Lakṣmī, who are conceptualized as expressions of Śakti or primordial energy, Manasā is not an abstraction but a material expression of human fears and desires on the most basic level of concrete earthly life. Manasā’s hold is greatest in snake-infested regions; little wonder then that submission to her should arrive from the push and pull of the fear of snakes and relief from them. Like other such conceptions of divinity rooted in common earthly experience, such as the goddess Śītalā, the goddess of smallpox, Manasā is the embodiment of the way in which earthly experience can be sublimated into the supranormal figure of a divine being who is at once of the earth and above it.

²⁵ A. Bhattacharya [n.d.]: 260.

²⁶ A. Bhattacharya [n.d.]: 235.

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Primary Sources : Aṣt ạ̄ vimśatitattvam of Raghunandana, ed. Shyamakanta Vidyabhushan. New edn. Kalikata: Shri Bholanath Devasharman, 1940 (Bengali year 1347). Bhaviṣya Purānam, ed. Shri Rama Shastri. Bareli: Sanskrit Sansthana, 1968. : Brahmavaivarta Purāna, : ed. Pañcānana Tarkaratna. Kolkata: Nababharat Publishers, 1994 (Bengali year 1401). Devībhāgavatam, ed. Pañcānana Tarkaratna. Kolkata: Nababharat Publishers, 1984 (Bengali year 1391). Kālaviveka of Jīmūtavāhana, ed. Pramathanath Tarkabhushan. Kalikata: n.pub., n.d. : Ketakādāsa. Ketakādāsa Kṣemānanda racita Manasāmangala, eds. Akshay Kumar Kayal and Chitra Deb. Kalikata: Lekhapara, 1977 (Bengali year 1384). Kr: tyaratnākara of Canḍ : eśvara Ṭ hakkura, ed. Kamalkrishna Smrititirtha. Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1925. The Mahābhārata of Vedavyāsa, ed. V. S. Sukthankar. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1933–66. Samayapradīpa of Śrīdatta Upādhyāya, ed. Ashok Chatterjee Shastri. Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1971. Secondary Sources : : Bhattacharya, Ashutosh. [n.d.] Bānglā Mangalakāvyer Itihās. 5th edn. Kalikata: A. Mukherji. : Bhattacharya, Ashutosh. 1975. “The Mangala Literature.” In The Cultural Heritage of India, vol. 5. Calcutta: Ramkrishna Mission Institute of Culture [reprint]. Bhattacharya, Hamsa Narayan. 1986. Hinduder Devdevī: Udbhav O Kramavikāś. Tr: tiya Parva. Kalikata: Firma KLM. James, E. O. 1962. “The Influence of Folklore on the History of Religion.” Numen, 9/1: 1–16. Kane, P. V. 1958. History of Dharmaśāstra, vol. 5, pt. 1. Poona: Bhandarkar Research Institute. Maity, Pradyot Kumar. 1966. Historical Studies in the Cult of Manasā: A SocioCultural Study. Calcutta: Punthi Pustak. : Roy, Nihar Ranjan. 1949. Bāngālīr Itihās: Ādiparva. Kalikata: Dey’s Publishing. : Sen, Kshitimohan. 1922. “Bānglāy Manasā Pūjā.” Pravāsī, Āṣāḍh (Bengali year 1329), 384–95. : Sen, Sukumar. 1978. Bānglā Sāhityer Itihās. Prathama Khanḍ : a, Pūrvārdha. 6th edn. Kalikata: Eastern Publishers.

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12 Domestication of the Disorderly Devī : The Canḍ : ī Mangalakāvya of Bengal Saswati Sengupta

I N T R O D U C TI O N Abāk Canḍ : ī, Uddhār Canḍ : ī, Olāi Canḍ : ī, Kakāi Canḍ : ī, Kalāi Canḍ : ī, Kulāi Canḍ :: ī, Khār: ā Canḍ : ī, Ghorā Canḍ : ī, Ḍhelāi Canḍ : ī, Dhara Canḍ : ī, Basan Canḍ : ī, Mangala Canḍ : ī, Mehāi Canḍ : ī, Rathāi Canḍ : ī, Rana : Canḍ : ī, Śubha Canḍ : ī... The list of the ubiquitous goddesses dotting the landscape of Bengal could go on.¹ Their representations vary from the aniconic fetish—stones, trees, tridents, ghat ̣ (a brass, copper, or earthen urn—not ghāt ,̣ steps down to the water)—to the anthropomorphic female icons. The field of play and the characters of the goddesses, who are often also the tutelary deities of villages, are equally varied as they relate to forests, agriculture, fertility, battle, general wellbeing, death, and diseases such as cholera, pox and cattle ailments. Their worship requirement ranges from the occasional cattle and bird sacrifice to the ordinary objects of everyday life such as straw, bracken, a lump of clay, fruits, flowers, durbā grass (Panicum dactylon), oil, and vermillion. Women, and in several instances men as well, ritually access these deities directly. Priests when required for village ceremonies are drawn from all castes, quite contrary to the practices of “official” Hinduism. The non-brahmin priests of different caste groups—including those considered “low” from a brahminical perspective, such as the Bāgdī—are usually referred to as deyāsīs.² ¹ Dasgupta 1960: 6; A. Bhattacharya 1942/1975: 298. Bengali speech and writing do not distinguish between the Sanskrit labiodentals spirant v and the bilabial b and this has been followed when quoting a Bengali source. However, Sanskrit spelling and transliteration conventions have been used for Sanskrit words in common circulation, such as Śiva, Dvija, and vyādha. All translations in the essay are mine unless otherwise stated. ² Mandal 1968: 17. The terms “low” and “high”/“upper” castes signal the perspective and practice of hierarchical differences and have been retained in the essay to emphasize how an a

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The meanings of the prefixes of these deities may range from a lump of clay (ḍhelāi) to war (rana) : but the umbrella term of the common suffix canḍ : ī halts the play. What difference does it make, this fracturing of names into prefix and suffix, one may well ask: do they not refer to the same goddess Canḍ : ī who is a manifestation of Śakti, the phenomenon of the deification of the female principle within Hinduism? It does indeed, the suffix (canḍ : ī) holding semantic circumambulations in check. But Canḍ ī herself is an ever-widening litany of : associated names: Annadā, Elokeśī, Umā, Kātyāyanī, Gaurī, Durgā, Pārvatī, Māyā, Mahodarī, Satī, Śākhambharī . . . Canḍ : ī thus evokes a rush of images which are contradictory: Virgin. Warrior. Mother. The goddess of plenty. The wife of a cannabis-addicted mendicant. Fair. Dark. Roaming mountains and jungles. Protecting groves. Ensuring fertility. Rituals of blood and sacrifice. A wife giving up her life for her husband. By scholarly consensus Canḍ : ī is not a Vedic deity and the word itself possibly has an Austric or Dravidian root.³ But whatever her origin, the name signals today a polysemic mother goddess who straddles several identities. The ubiquity of the Hindu theory of avatāra, the intellectual weight of monotheism, the existence of Hinduism as a collage of cults, deities, and rituals affected by the emergence and consolidation of two empowering loci—the Sanskrit language and the male Brahman—lull the goddesses into a realm that appears amorphous but which is understood hegemonically through the Brahman’s perspective and his śāstras associated with the Sanskrit scriptures.⁴ Both the caste-gendered figure and the language mark the exile of women and low castes from the privileged religious realm with implications also for the divine feminine. Could it be possible that the different names and images of “the Devī” indicate different goddesses who owe their conceptions to different historical conditions but are accommodated within the brahminically ordained śāstric pantheon as yet another manifestation of the great compound mother goddess who is almost always represented as the wife of Śiva?⁵ There are religious practices and beliefs under the broad rubric of Hinduism that are neither governed by the male Brahman nor articulated in Sanskrit.

priori moral, political, economic, and social degradation is ideologically embedded in the very language of a historically constructed social structure sanctioned by brahminical Hinduism. ³ A. Bhattacharya 1942/1975: 299; Hazra 1963: 4–17; Bhattacharyya 1974/1996: 77. ⁴ The use of Sanskrit in religious rituals, its monopolized usage by the brahmin, and its propagation in expressing the political power of the ruling elite from about the fourth century CE has encrusted the language with elite exclusivity (Pollock 2006: 2–9). ⁵ Śiva was always part of the laukika tradition and therefore presented the greatest potential for absorbing the mother goddess elements.

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These are usually referred to as the laukika—temporal, secular, or pertaining to the everyday life—traditions as opposed to the śāstric. In the mapping of the relationship between the laukika and the śāstric traditions it needs to be remembered that the upper-caste norms, especially those pertaining to gender, are sometimes adopted by upwardly mobile castes to improve status. Theoretical concepts such as Hinduization, Aryanization, and Sankritization represent partial recognition of this process by which marks and rituals of a śāstric culture are adopted by low Hindu castes, tribal, or other groups in a society of oppressive hierarchies.⁶ The laukika too is selectively given śāstric sanction for politic amalgamation in order to expand the brahminical base in society. The complex commerce between the laukika and the śāstric is always a mark of the politics of the period. : The Canḍ : ī Mangalakāvya, a canonical genre composed in Bengali between the sixteenth and the eighteenth century, represents one such instance of the negotiation between the śāstric prescriptions and the laukika traditions of the region during the crucial period of its transition from medieval to modern. : The rubric Canḍ : ī in the mangalakāvya holds several goddesses who may have had independent rituals and narratives. The prolific compositions of the : mangalakāvya by male poets, overwhelmingly upper-caste in the preserved archive, helped propagate the sanctioned śāstric framing of these popular laukika deities. Thus, independent goddesses often associated with forests, rice fields, mountains, seas, and battlefields are aligned to the divine feminine as the obedient daughter and sacrificing wife, grist to the mill of domestic labor to preserve the gendered ideals of caste-Hindu tradition. The goddesses too are subjected to the Brahman’s male authority in caste-patriarchal societies and inscribed within a system of gender and caste hierarchies.

PURPOSE AND DESIGN : The genre mangalakāvya, as preserved, is constituted by sectarian long poems composed almost entirely by men. It narrates the spread of worship, the miracles and the glory of particular deities, and forms one of the most important strands of premodern Bengali literature that circulated, indeed dominated, the imagination of the people in the region roughly from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century.⁷ Inspired possibly by the kathā-narratives that accompanied the vrata-rituals of propitiation and originally performative, : the Canḍ : ī Mangalakāvya accompanied the ritual worship of the eponymous ⁶ Srinivas 1956: 481–96; Singer 1971: 167. : ⁷ The earliest exemplar of the genre is the Manasā Mangalakāvya.

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: goddess that was often spread over eight days. The appeal of the mangalakāvya lay not so much in the novelty of plot and character but the narrative re-presentation of familiar and circulating tales in celebration of the power of : the deity. The poetic compositions of the generic Canḍ : ī Mangalakāvya, also : referred to as the Canḍ : īmangal, articulate the origin of male and female power and relationships, straddle the laukika and the śāstric myths of Canḍ : ī, and force a patriarchal meaning upon the discrete goddesses who are represented as the various forms of the eponymous deity. : The narratives preserved under the rubric of Canḍ : ī Mangalakāvya usually have three sections that are referred to as the Deva khanḍ : a (a prefatory section about Canḍ : ī’s location within the pantheon of brahminical Hinduism), the Ākhetik khanḍ : a (a section about a hunter devotee of the goddess), and the Banik kha nḍ : : a (a section about a merchant accepting his wife’s devotion to the goddess). The Deva khanḍ : a carries the bulk of the śāstric prescription through recycled Purānic matter and frames the goddesses who appear in the : subsequent sections of the narratives, which are actually quite independent of each other. The protagonists of the Ākhetik khanḍ : a and the Banik : khanḍ : a are all non-brahmin which suggests their possible origin outside the śāstric traditions. The laukika origin of these two narratives is also suggested through linguistic evidence: names such as Phullorā and Khullonā belong to the : laukika/prāk-bānglā/pre-Bengali linguistic formation.⁸ Table 12.1 charts most of the surviving and seminal compositions of the : Canḍ : ī Mangalakāvya. These texts have been put together by later scholars— also male and overwhelmingly upper-caste—from the handwritten puñthis (manuscripts), which were often fragmented and in varied states of advanced decay. More must have been lost through the ravages of time. Admittedly a reconstructed archive, the table suggests that the preservation of the tradition has been overwhelmingly through male brahmin authors. This paradox of celebrating a female deity by marginalizing the female has been domesticated over the ages by the sheer frequency of its occurrence in orthodox Hindu culture. Even the non-brahmin poets of the genre represent the acceptance of caste-patriarchy as suggested by their ideological appellation of kulīna or the pure and superior clan claim within upper-caste groups based upon the policed eugenics of arranged marriages.⁹

⁸ Pāli, Prākr: t, and Apabhramśa : were current in Bengal during the period 500 BCE–1000 CE. During the last 500 years of this period, Prākr: t were gradually replaced by Apabhramśa and in its later phase by laukika or Apabhraśt ḥ a; see Sen 1940/2000: 415; Majumdar 1971: 391. ⁹ The title kulīna had been in existence in Bengal at least a century before Ballālsena of the twelfth century and used by Cakrapānidatta, a physician of the Pāla court in Cikitsāsamgraha, : : according to Nripendra Dutt, Principal of the Sanskrit College, Calcutta, who also helped prepare the Census Report on Bengal in 1931 (Dutt 1965: 2). The term “caste-patriarchy” has been used in this book as a synonym for brahminical patriarchy but more often to suggest the upper and upwardly mobile castes’ acceptance and practice of the constructed ideas of hierarchy.

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Table 12.1 Author and Date of composition

Gender/ Caste

a Mānik : Datta 16th century

Male

Dvija Mādhabb 1579?

Male/ Brahmin

Mukunda Chakrabartic 1594–1600

Male/ Brahmin

Rāmdebd 1657–8?

Male/ Brahmin

Dvija Harirāme end 17th century

Male/ Brahmin

Akincan : Chakrabartif end 17th century

Male/ Brahmin

Bhāratcandrag 1752

Male/ Brahmin

Rāmānanda Jatih 1766

Male

Muktārām Seni 1774

Male/ Kulīna Baidya

Jaynārāyan: Senj mid-18th century

Male/ Baidya

k Bhabānīśankar : 1779

Male/ Kulīna Kāyastha

Janārdanal 18th century?

Male

a b c d e f g h i j k l

Ākhetik khanḍ : a

Banik : khanḍ : a

: Mangalcanḍ : ī

Yes

Yes

: Saradācarit or Saradāmangal

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Abhayāmañgal

Yes

Yes

: Canḍ : īmangal

Yes

Yes

: Canḍ : ir Nutan Mangal

Yes

Yes

: : Annadāmangal, Annapurnāma ngal :

Absent

Absent

: Canḍ : īmangal

Yes

Yes

: : Saradāmangal, ̣ Aṣtamangalār Catuṣrpaharī-pāñcālī

Yes

Yes

: Canḍ : īmangal

Yes

Yes

: Canḍ : īmangalgīt, Jāgaranp̃ : unthi

Yes

Yes

Canḍ : ī

Yes

Yes

Title

: : Abhayāmangal, Ambikāmangal, : : Gaurīimangal, Canḍ ī kāma ngal, : : Canḍ : īmangal

Chakrabarty and Palit 1904: 11: 31–6; Chaudhury 1913: 290–6. : Dvija Mādhava Racita Mangalcanḍ : īr Gīta, ed. Bhattacharya. KKCM, ed. Sen. : Abhayāmangal, ed. Das. A. Bhattacharya 1942/1975: 409. Roy, n.d.: 917–21. B. Bandyopadhyay and Das 1943/1962. : Rāmānanda Jati biracita Canḍ īmangal, ed. Gangopadhyay. : : : Sāradāmangal bā Aṣtamangalār Catuṣpraharī Pāñcālī, ed. Karim. A. Bhattacharya 1942/1975: 435. A. Bhattacharya 1942/1975: 438. A. Bhattacharya 1942/1975: 441.

: In narrating the common elements of the Canḍ : īmangal, I refer primarily to : Kabikankan: Mukunda Cakrabarti’s narrative (1586/94–1600/4), which is critically considered to be the prime example of the genre. The appellation : kabikankan: signifies a poet who performs wearing bells around either his : hands or feet. Mukunda’s Canḍ : īmangal remains one of the most popular texts

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that propagate the “truth” about the goddess in Bengali. It was first printed in 1823–4 and at least twenty more editions were published through the course of the nineteenth century.¹⁰ : The prefatic Deva-khanḍ : a of the Canḍ : īmangal begins by narrating the origin of the goddess Canḍ : ī: ādyadeber nityaśaktī bhubanmohan-mūrti urilen sr: iṣtir kārinī : The primary god’s energy produced the world-bewitching icon for the cause of creation (KKCM, ed. Sen, p. 6)

The narrative establishes male energy as the original impulse of creation and the male deity is referred to as “the primary god.” This narrative expedient facilitates the śāstric ideology of ultimately surrendering all laukika goddesses into one greater female divinity who is subservient to the male deity. The patriarchal marriage of the goddess is another major trope for containing difference and dissidence. The Purānas, a corpus composed with a view to : widening the social base of Brahminism, had already invoked and popularized the formula of pressing the myths of goddesses like Umā and Satī into the service of domesticating other independent goddesses.¹¹ According to the popular Purānic : stories, the wealthy father of Satī organizes a celestial yajña and invites all the gods but Satī’s husband Śiva for the ceremony. Anger and shame at her husband’s irresponsibilities turn into the wrath of a chaste wife when his shortcomings are criticized by her own father. She protests by giving up her own life at which the carefree Śiva transforms into the terrifying deity of wrath and destruction. He unleashes his grief-stricken fury at the yajña while holding onto his dead wife’s body and is restored to his senses by the severing of Satī’s body by Nārāyana. : This narrative trope is pressed into sanctifying many cults of laukika goddesses at the altar of the self-sacrificing wife of the śāstric tradition. Satī in the popular and Purānic : stories is reborn as Umā, herself a layered deity, who shakes Mahādeva out of his grief-stricken asceticism.¹² ¹⁰ KKCM, ed. Sen, pp. 12–13 (editor’s introduction). ¹¹ The eighteen mahāpurānas : have undergone continual and substantial re-editions accommodating the needs of changing social conditions and scholars often find it difficult to fix their chronology. It is accepted, however, that all are later than the epics with the cores of several being composed during the Gupta period, i.e. fourth–fifth century CE. ¹² The Devī sūkta belonging to the latter portion of the RgVeda (10.125) is held to be the : oldest hymn to the goddess within brahminical Hinduism. The hymn attributed to Vāc, or personified speech, celebrates the goddess as mother and not wife. Here she is the controller of the universe, bestower of wealth, and greatest among the objects of sacrifice. Later śāstric texts propagate the goddess as wife of Śiva. Kālidāsa’s Kumārsambhava, possibly in fourth century CE, wove the myths of Satī and Umā together with the explicit purpose of the goddess’s union with Mahādeva to ensure the birth of Kārtikeya, who would become the general of the devas against

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In describing Canḍ : ī as the docile daughter Umā and devoted wife Satī, the Deva khanḍ : path and also thickens : a moves in the prescribed Purānic the myths with the quotidian reality of ordinary lives. These narratives composed in Bengali, the language of the people as opposed to Sanskrit, describe how the rich and chaste Satī struggles daily in the poverty-stricken : household of the hemp-smoking, unworldly Śiva. The Canḍ : īmangala represents one of the earliest descriptions of marriage in the contingent, palpable world of medieval Bengal in conjunction with the Purānic prescriptions of : : ideal wifehood. The critical analyses of the Canḍ : īmangala in the 1950s and 1960s foreground this representation of the deity—as the virtuous wife of a mendicant and carefree Śiva and the mother of a poverty-stricken family—as crucial to her easy and rapid acceptance across gender and caste.¹³ Narrative positioning is one way in which meanings are made. The Deva khanḍ : a’s form of reasoning frames the Ākhetik khanḍ a and the Ba nik kha nḍ a , ensures : : : the continual slippage of female energy in the service of the husband and children, and propagates the “good” wife as the ubiquitous female icon of caste patriarchy. Thus behind the aggressively visible independent goddesses of the two sections that follow lurks the chaste housewife assuredly, the anchor at home. The Ākhetik khanḍ : a is the story of Kālketu, a vyādha (hunter). He is married to Phullorā who skins the animals and goes to the market to sell the various animal parts. The animals of the forest appeal to Canḍ : ī for protection from Kālketu. The goddess hides them and, as a result, the hunter and his wife go hungry. When Kālketu goes to the forest again Canḍ : ī appears before him in the form of a svarnagodhikā or golden iguana.¹⁴ Kālketu takes the iguana : home. When Phullorā returns, the protean Canḍ : ī becomes a beautiful 16-year old girl bearing the signs of an upper-caste Hindu wife. She tells Phullorā that she has been brought there by Kālketu and a suspicious Phullorā pours out a litany of woes that comes to be known as Phullorā’s bāromāsī—her lot as a hunter’s wife through the twelve-month cycle of seasons. But it fails to

the asuras and replace the goddess as warrior. Subsequent Purānas : embellished the trope further, the most significant of which is the self-willed death of Satī at the yajña/fire sacrifice organized by her father. In the śāstric tradition the slaying of the demons by the goddess is narrated in the Devīmāhātmya, ch. 13 of the Mārkāndeya Purāna : : (third–fourth century CE) the text that most influenced the Śāktas in Bengal. But in the frame narrative, the goddess is shown to be formed by the combined tejas (energy) of all the devas and gradually becomes a generic deity identified then as the consort of Śiva; see Mārkāndeya Purāna, : : trans. Pargiter, p. xx (translator’s introduction); Hazra 1940: 12–13, 114, 126; Kumārsambhavam, ed. Rajan, pp. 107–290; Coburn 1984/2002: : 51–3 and 1991: 8. ¹³ Bandopadhyay and Chaudhuri 1962: 5. ¹⁴ The Brhaddharma Purāna : : and the Kālikā Purāna : composed in the eastern regions of India recognize the association of the deity and the iguana. A few icons of a mother goddess with an iguana, dating back to the eleventh century, have also been found in the region (Dasgupta 1960: 185–7).

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persuade the goddess to leave. Phullorā rushes to her husband in anger and grief. An amazed Kālketu returns home and Canḍ : ī then reveals herself as a goddess and grants a boon to the hunter. Kālketu founds the city of Gujarat.¹⁵ Bhāñru Datta, a greedy and scheming Kāyastha who comes to this new settlement, sows ill will in the heart of the king of Kalinga, : with whom Kālketu becomes locked in a struggle and is imprisoned after an initial victory through Bhāñru Datta’s treachery. He is freed, however, by the grace of Canḍ : ī and restored to his former glory. : Canḍ : ī’s first devotees in the mangalakāvya are Kālketu and Phullorā, a vyādha couple for whom hunting is not the recreational expertise of the upper-class/caste Kṣatriya but the means of livelihood.¹⁶ The ideological representation of the hunter/trapper in the influential brahminical Manusmrti : (200 BCE–200 CE) is as one “born from the priest in a daughter of a servant . . . traditionally regarded as (an) outcaste” who engages in a “reviled” occupation (Law of Manu, trans. Doniger and Smith, 10.8, p. 235). The vyādhas in the Brahmavaivartapurāna¹⁷ : belong to the untouchable level and are described as a mixed caste deriving from a Kṣatriya father and a Sarvasvinī mother; that is, an offspring of mixed parentage, of a nāpit (barber) father and a gopī (cowherd) : mother.¹⁸ The sections of the Canḍ : īmangala that foreground the class and caste positions of Kālketu and Phullorā are often encrusted with the inherent : prejudice of the upper-caste poets. In Dvija Mādhab’s Canḍ : īmangal (1579), Bhāñru Datta argues that Kālketu must have acquired his position of wealth through unsavory means as he is a low-caste man: t ḥ ākur je alpa jāti ki baliba tore| . . . . . . ekhon parer dhane haicho t ḥ ākurāl || Ṭ hākur you are low-born, what can I say to you, It is on the strength of someone else’s wealth that you now have acquired status. : (Dvija Mādhava Racita Mangalcanḍ : īr Gīta, ed. Bhattacharya, p. 82)

: In Mukunda’s Canḍ : īmangal (1594–1600), Kālketu is unable to have a caste Hindu settlement in his new nagara (city) and eventually a flood in the neighborhood and enticements in the form of tax incentives help overcome caste inhibitions:

¹⁵ This is not the state in western India, to which it just lends its name, known to the Bengalis through trade, to possibly enhance the status of Kālketu’s fictional nagara. : ¹⁶ The reading of the mangalakāvyas foregrounding that the “audiences were expected to evaluate the arguments between different characters, as logically sound or not, and as morally correct or not” (Curley 2008: 11) overlooks caste and gender positions and prejudices as embedded in the understanding of logic and morality. ¹⁷ The core of the BVP may have been available in the eighth century CE but “from about the tenth century it began to be changed by the interfering hands of the Bengal authors who recast it to its present form and contents in the sixteenth century” (Hazra 1938: 76). ¹⁸ Rocher 1986: 255.

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āmār nagare bais jato bhumi cāṣ cāṣā sāt san bai diyo kar | hāl piche ek tankā nā kariha kāre śankā : : pātāye nisān mor dhara || Come and settle on my land, plow as much as you can, pay tax only after seven years, one tankā : per plow you pay fear no one I say let the lease of land my mark bear. (KKCM, ed. Sen, p. 76)

By 1766, Rāmānanda Jati’s Kālketu must ask the deity herself: āmi vyādh nīc ati tumi māg kulbatī . . . . . . vyādher bārite kibā hetu || I am a vyādh low born you are a woman of a high clan . . . . . . What brings you to a vyādh’s house? : (Rāmānanda Jati biracita Canḍ : īmangal, ed. Gangopadhyay, p. 169)

: Canḍ : ī’s first female devotee in the mangalakāvya is Phullorā who inhabits the public space to sell the skin and meat of the animals that Kālketu hunts.¹⁹ Gender is often the crucial signifier of class and caste within Hinduism and female labor in public is interpreted as the sign of low-caste and -class status from the brahminical perspective. Female figures, whose movements are unrestricted, like the demonesses and apsaras-es, are viewed with suspicion in brahminical literature which prescribes stringent control of women’s movements since caste purity as well as patrilineal succession is contingent upon the wombs of women who have “fickle minds” (Law of Manu, trans. Doniger and Smith, 9.15, p. 198). But Phullorā is not the only one who transgresses the gendered spatial boundaries. The goddess of the Ākhetik khanḍ : a, the female deity of the forest, exhibits a similar disregard for such patriarchal divisions. In Rāmānanda Jati’s version, she says: mā balen putra āmi bati kirātinī| śiśukāl haite āmi phiri ekākinī|| The mother says I am a Kirātinī, son, from childhood onwards I wander on my own. : (Rāmānanda Jati biracita Canḍ : īmangal, ed. Gangopadhyay, p. 170)

The representation of the Kirāt in the Manusmriti : is as one who “by failing to perform the rituals or to seek audiences with priests . . . (has) gradually sunk in ¹⁹ The same brahmin who “outcastes” Phullorā needs to buy the horns of the rhinoceros from her in order to make the sacramental offering of water.

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the world to the rank of servants” (Law of Manu, trans. Doniger and Smith, 10.43–5, p. 241). The goddess as Kirātinī thus suggests a paradoxical liminal presence in these caste Hindu narratives. The deity and the devotees of the Ākhetik khanḍ : a signal a worldview different from the caste-gender norms of brahminism. The disjunction could implode the narrative of the unitary goddess but for the strategic scripting of the Devī’s upper-caste lineament in the Deva khanḍ : a prior to her appearance in the Ākhetik khanḍ : a. The Deva khanḍ : a also crafts the “true” identities of the non-brahmin protagonists and introduces Kālketu as Nīlāmbar, the son of Indra who is the king of the gods. Nīlāmbar, entrusted with picking flowers for Śiva, makes a mistake and enrages the god. The device of the curse is then employed to explain Kālketu’s life as the earthly tenure of Nīlāmbar. Nīlāmbar’s wife, in keeping with the ideals of the sacrificing woman, follows her husband to share his earthly lot as Phullorā. The laukika kathā of divine grace for a vyādha and his wife is thus packaged in a genealogical account of the “real” identities of the laukika protagonists. A sleight of hand in the upper-caste script thus ensures that the vyādhas and their deity represent not their own caste/class but a moment in the lives of the upper-caste Nilāmbar, his wife, and the great Hindu polysemic Devī.

SHIFTS AND COMMUNITIES : The second laukika narrative, the Banik : khanḍ : a of the Canḍ : īmangal, marks a different social world. The protagonist of this section, Khullonā, is the second wife of Dhanapati, a merchant. Dhanapati is already married to Lahanā when he falls in love with her young niece, Khullonā, and marries her against the wishes of both Khullonā’s mother and his own wife. Soon after the marriage Dhanapati sets sail. In his absence Khullonā is cruelly harassed by Lahanā: she is made to sleep on the floor, given rotten food to eat, and sent out to graze the goats. One day a tired Khullonā falls asleep and her goat is lost. She is terrified of Lahanā’s wrath and while searching for her goat in the forest she comes across a group of women from whom she learns of the vrata-ritual of : propitiating Mangala Canḍ : ī. The vrata restores her goat. Dhanapati returns too, and Khullonā knows peace for a while. But the merchant clan demands that Dhanapati has to a pay a fine as his wife Khullonā had transgressed the norms of society by leaving the prescribed confines of the domestic realm to graze cattle. Khullonā states that she prefers to face a trial of chastity and she : triumphs because of her devotion to Mangala Canḍ : ī. : Dhanapati has to set sail again. Khullonā observes the vrata of Mangala Candī : even as Lahanā organizes the ritual leave-taking for the merchant. Noticing the absence of Khullonā, an enraged Dhanapati stomps inside the

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house and finds her engaged in the vrata of a strange female deity. The ghat ̣ (urn) is kicked aside and Khullonā is dragged by her hair and physically chastised. The wrath of the goddess now lies in wait for Dhanapati. His ships sink even as he has a strange vision of a goddess on a lotus in the middle of the ocean, who alternately swallows and regurgitates an elephant. : Dhanapati reaches Simhala where the king arrests him for lying about a vision that he cannot prove. Khullonā meanwhile gives birth to a son, Śrimanta. Lahanā too loves the child. Time goes by. Śrimanta, taunted about his paternity, sets sail in search of his missing father. His mother reminds him : of the power and grace of Mangala Canḍ : ī. Śrimanta, like his father, reaches : Simhala having lost everything and being granted the same vision at sea which he cannot conjure for the king in order to prove his innocence. He is sentenced to death unlike his father who languishes in prison. At the cremation ground, : Śrimanta prays to Mangala Canḍ : ī who appears in the guise of an old woman and calls forth an army of terrifying female companions who savage the king’s company. The king recognizes the power of the deity as does Dhanapati. : Dhanapati, after returning home with his son, sanctions the vrata of Mangala Canḍ : ī for women. The deity in this section of the narrative appears different from the hunter’s : goddess even though Khullonā learns of the Vrata of Mangala Canḍ : ī in the forest. A group of women initiate Khullonā into the ritual for which neither a priest nor the sacrificial fire is required. The location, the mode of worship, and the gender of the acolytes suggest the non-śāstric origin of this vrata and the deity: aṣtatandul : :dūrbā nite nite niñā| pūjiha mangalbāre joy joy diyā|| Eight grains of paddy and durbā grass daily collect, worship [Canḍ : ī] on Tuesdays and ululate her glory. (KKCM, ed. Sen, p. 148)

The aṣtatanḍ : ul or the eight grains of unhusked rice, the ghat ,̣ and the durbā grass suggest the association of the goddess with fertility of the field, which marks a transition from hunting for a living. The centrality of women in the ritual propitiation of the goddess that Khullonā observes is reminiscent of the primitive agrarian societies that equated the female body with the earth as mother and initiated several female rituals in an attempt to ensure the fertility of the earth through sympathetic magic. Rice cultivation in the region is recognized to be part of its Austric influence, which is also signaled by the mention of the custom of ululation in the ritual.²⁰ The upapurānas : of the region, such as the Brahamavaivartapurāna, catalogue the deity worshipped :

²⁰ Ray (trans. Wood) 1949/1994: 362.

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by Khullonā (BrP, ed. Pancānan Tarkaratna, Prakriti khanḍ : : a, 44.35–41, pp. 159–60). Raghunandana’s mention of this “ṣoṣitām iṣt ạ devatā”—the one who is worshipped by women—in the Tithitattva, a smrti : text of fifteenth– sixteenth-century Bengal—also suggests the goddess’s laukika origin.²¹ The : prefatic Deva khanḍ : a of the Canḍ : īmangal, however, has already declared that the goddess is but another form of the śāstric Devī and as in the case of Kālketu, an a priori upper-caste identity is fabricated for Khullonā. Her “original” identity is that of Ratnamālā, who is punished for missing her beat while dancing to entertain the gods, and sent to earth with the express purpose of spreading the goddess’s cult amongst women. The non-brahmin laukika characters and their deities are thus preserved in a web of caste: patriarchal weaving in the Bengali compositions of the Canḍ : īmangal. But the goddess’s origin outside the merchant community is evident in that she has to slip into the household of Dhanapati: she is a stranger who is kicked aside by the merchant and who needs to establish her prowess in order to obtain sanction for her cult from the upwardly mobile male. Another goddess is encountered in the second section of the Banik : khanḍ : a that deals with Khullonā’s son’s voyage in search of his father. She is Kamalekāminī—the lady seated on a lotus who is glimpsed mid-sea, swallowing then regurgitating an elephant, an animal with regal associations in Eastern India. Narendra Nath Bhattacharyya mentions the goddess Manimekhalā, who : appears in Pāli literature in the context of South Indian cults.²² She is the goddess of the ocean who protects people from shipwreck. Buddhist encouragement to the seafaring merchants perhaps facilitated the conception of this goddess and adherence to her, but her place was later taken by Tārā as the goddess of navigation. Manimekhalā, mentioned in both the Mahājanaka : : and the Sankha jātakas, appears “in a variety of Sinhala texts of the twelfth through fourteenth centuries.”²³ Popular fables about her from coastal South India must have traveled with the sailors as trade links between these regions had long been in existence. Shashibhushan Dasgupta suggests that the legends of the Buddha’s birth—his mother Māyā Devī dreamt of swallowing and regurgitating an elephant—could also be at the hinterland of this figuration of the goddess as Kamalekāminī.²⁴ Associating the deity with elephants may also have been inspired by the fables of Gajalakṣmī, a form of Lakṣmī, goddess of wealth, royal power, and fertility, whose popularity is suggested by numismatic evidence.²⁵ The icons of Gajalakṣmī usually depict Lakṣmī seated on an enormous lotus in the sea with two elephants on either side showering her with water.

²¹ Rughoonandan 1834: 1: 25. ²² Bhattacharyya 1974/1996: 82. ²³ Monius 2001: 111. ²⁴ Dasgupta 1952/1963: 56. ²⁵ Dasgupta, 1960: 188–9; Bhattacharyya 1974/1996: 71–2.

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: The Canḍ 271 : ī Mangalakāvya of Bengal : The deity Kamalekāminī in the Canḍ : īmangala is thus layered with histories of the deification of the goddess in various strands of Buddhist and Hindu thought as life, fertility, purity, success in navigation, and royal power. The : Banik : khanḍ : a of the Canḍ : īmangala further circumscribes her within brahminical patriarchy by invoking her as a manifestation of the layered Canḍ : ī— goddess, wife, and mother. Kamalekāminī, whose lotus and elephants signify social prestige and power, does not carry any threatening caste or class connotations and finds its way into the popular imagination of the Bengali through the Canḍ and flourishes unlike Kālketu’s totemic deity. The : īmangal : goddess may be a lone figure here but Canḍ : ī as/or Lakṣmī comes to be so firmly ensconced in the Hindu imagination as wife of Śiva and Viṣnu : respectively that it is difficult to recognize that she may have had an existence outside of her association with the male gods. An old woman who metamorphoses into a terrifying goddess of death and : war appears twice in the Canḍ : īmangal: in the Ākhetic khanḍ : a she terrorizes the king of Kalinga : in a dream and in the Banik : khanḍ : a she inhabits the maśān (the arena for capital punishment) in order to rescue Śrimanta.²⁶ The goddess in her militant form is samare durantā abhayā bhīṣanadaśanā | : Ferocious in battles, Abhayā is terrifying to behold. (KKCM, ed. Sen, p. 269)

The “terrifying” aspects of the polysemic goddess is often signified in the brahminical imagination through dark skin, disheveled hair, loud laughter, prowess as hunter and warrior, and fondness for wine and flesh. This representation perhaps signals the layered chthonic goddesses of the social groups outside caste Hinduism as viewed through the prism of śāstric Hinduism. The Harivamśa, for instance, a supplement of the Māhābhārata composed not : earlier than the first century CE, mentions them in a section that invokes the compound mother goddess by numerous names and epithets that suggest the usurpation of the imagined deities of the different tribal societies such as Kātyāyanī of the Kātya tribe or Kauśikī of the Kuśiks, the mother goddesses of Niṣādas, Śabaras, Kirātas and Pulindas (Harivamśa, Viṣnuparva, III). These : : goddesses who subsequently became part of the śāstric pantheon as Nir: r: ti, Cāmundā, Kālī and Durgā never completely lose their “strangeness.”²⁷ At times, in the narratives of the Canḍ too, the prism cracks, unable to hold : īmangal : the opposing forces of womanhood: the independent, self-sufficient martial ²⁶ The mother goddesses of fertility were also associated with death and regeneration that were intimately coupled with the earth. ²⁷ Bhattacharji 1970/2000: 160, 165, 174.

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: goddesses and the self-negating married deities. In Mukunda’s poem, Gangā the second wife of Śiva, taunts Canḍ : ī: strī hai karile ran: badhile asuragan: samare karile pān surā | A woman yet you gave battle, killed many asuras, And drank wine during combat. (KKCM, ed. Sen, p. 73)

In an ode to the all-pervasive totality of Hindu philosophy, female figures—the wife and the warrior, the fair skin and the dark, the benevolent and the malevolent—are lauded in the realm of metaphysics. In the realm of material existence, however, this eruption of militant female energy is classified as transgressive. In the Bengali language, for instance, Rana : (war) Canḍ : ī, and Ugra (severe/loud/wrathful) Canḍ ī are popular pejorative terms of chastise: ment for the unfeminine women who spell destruction of the domestic realm. And yet the potential of female militancy is retained in the deified Canḍ : ī and allowed to claim the public space for the restitution of what is articulated as the “right” cause by upper-caste phallocentricity when it is explicitly a response to external threats and not to any inherent opposition within the family as was done in the narratives of nineteenth-century anti-colonial nationalism.

THE DECLINE OF CAṆ Ḍ Ī The alien characteristics of the independent laukika goddesses, manifest in the : mangalakāvyas despite the śāstric layering-over, is explained in the dominant critical reception of the genre thus: [the] section in society that existed at a distance from the aryanised upper caste and engaged in low income occupations, clung onto some of the earlier and preAryan rituals and religious beliefs. Canḍ : ī and Manasā are deities of this period. Later these goddesses, Sanskritised and refined, did find a place in the Aryan pantheon but the harshness, cruelty, selfishness and arrogance that could be observed in their character and behaviour indicate the influence of pre-Aryan unrefined and rough life force.²⁸

: The mangalakāvyas are thus acknowledged to be the result of the interpenetration of two cultures—the laukika and the śāstric—but from a perspective that accepts the episteme of hierarchized binary oppositions of the “Sanskritized” and the “unrefined and rough.”

²⁸ A. K. Bandyopadhyay 1966/1980: 63.

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The urgency and power of a genre emanates from its historical location. Inserting the genre in the context of its formation helps understand the central : contradiction in the Canḍ : īmangal: the need to preserve the laukika goddesses and their low-caste and female devotees in the quasi-religious texts whose : antipathy to them is evident. The shaping of the genre of Canḍ : īmangal, where laukika goddesses are submitted to śāstric prescriptions, closely trails the period in Bengal when “there was a very strong endeavour amongst scholars to make the current system of religion and society consistent with the scrip: tural precepts.”²⁹ The developed Canḍ : īmangal started appearing in the region when the Afghan sultanate of Bengal was incorporated into the Mughal Empire under Akbar.³⁰ The genre proliferated in the seventeenth century as the Mughal conquest was consolidated but it stagnated through a sterile repetition of the formulaic by the end of the eighteenth century as the Mughal Empire began to disintegrate and the British colonization of the region commenced with the East India Company obtaining the right to collect the territorial and custom revenues of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa in 1765. The genre was thus formulated at a time when the establishment of Muslim rule in the region meant that the brahminical stranglehold on society could not depend on a state machinery to enforce its power and Islam was a viable alternative for the oppressed castes of Hinduism. Bengal’s Vaiṣnavaism : under Caitanya (1486–1533), with its emphasis on individual and emotive expressions of love and piety, was another religious alternative available to the oppressed of Bengal’s Hindu society from the sixteenth century that endangered the strict caste and gender rules of brahminical patriarchy.³¹ Ironically, the Mughal rule contributed indirectly to the formation of Bengal Vaiṣnavism : as it opened the path to Vrindaban and Puri that were central to its cultic imagination.³² It drew Bengal’s lower and middle artisan and cultivating castes as well as numerous high-caste families, though the theorizing of Bengal Vaiṣnavaism at the hands of brahmin writers such as Rūpa (fl. 1533–50) : and Sanātana (fl. as late as 1554) was instrumental in halting the Caitanya movement from developing into a revolution that could radically change the : structure of society. The period of the growth of the Canḍ : īmangal also witnessed a rapid expansion in the European and Asian markets for Bengal’s cotton and silk goods and food products even as the bulk of Bengal’s overseas trade passed into the hands of European companies. During this period, Christian missionaries began to move along the coasts of India; among the first to arrive in Bengal were the Augustinians from Goa in the second half of

²⁹ Ray 1949/1994: 164. ³⁰ Munim Khan defeated Daud Karrani on March 3, 1575 at the battle of Tukaroi (Midnapore) and Mughal rule was founded in Bengal. ³¹ Ray 1997: 229–33; S. Bandyopadhyay 1997: 31. ³² Raychaudhuri 1953: 87.

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the sixteenth century.³³ Churches began to get built, missionary activities got an incentive, and the Portuguese built an almshouse, Casa de Misericordia, in Hooghly which was the first of its kind in Bengal.³⁴ The upper-caste poetic acknowledgment of the presence of Canḍ : ī at low-caste Kālketu’s house or its recognition of Khullonā’s goddess from the forest is thus not only a sprititual urge but also the result of historical pressures: the anxiety of the upper-caste Hindu translating into a politic recognition of the laukika goddesses and their followers. An ideological silence, however, shrouds the detrimental implications of this patronizing project of Sanskritization on customary caste and gender practices of the followers of the laukika goddesses: (the) amalgamation of the gods and goddesses are often passed off as synthesis; but amalgamation does not necessarily mean synthesis . . . over the years it is Paurānik : Canḍ : ī whose influence has grown.³⁵

: Bhāratcandra’s Annadāmangal (1752) is a text of the genre that acquired cult : status.³⁶ The title Annadāmangal is in itself an important signpost of Canḍ : ī’s mutation as the liminal qualities of the mother goddesses are smothered in this image of the feminine as the provider of anna, the grain of rice, Bengal’s staple cereal. A group of texts, also in praise of the goddess, started proliferating from the latter half of the eighteenth century though none acquired the popularity : of the earlier articulations of the Canḍ : īmangal. In critical reference catalogued : as Durgāmangal, these more or less followed the Mārkanḍ : eya Purāna : and augmented the image of the deity as sanctioned by brahminical patriarchy. Meanwhile, by the end of the eighteenth century there was a shift in the profile of the Bengali merchants. Commerce as a caste occupation was largely a monopoly of the merchants called Baniks : who were placed much lower in the brahminical caste hierarchy despite their importance in the region.³⁷ They were favored by the trade-friendly Pālas but faced hostility from the caste-conscious Senas who were supposed to have degraded them to the Patit or Asat Śudra caste.³⁸ The new Bengali comprador elite who engaged in trade with the English in colonized Bengal—such as the Tagores of Pathuriaghata, Ghoshals of Kidderpore, Singhas of Jorasanko and Paikpara, and Devs of Sovabazaar—were all predominantly upper-caste Hindus whose traditional caste occupation was not commerce (the only notable exception of the time being Motilal Seal).³⁹ Collectively these factors helped in the gradual erasure of the earlier narratives and their recognition, however muffled, of the goddesses outside the caste-patriarchal moral framework and their devotees. ³³ O’Malley 1912: 110. ³⁴ Raychaudhuri 1953: 115. ³⁵ Haldar 1954/1956: 105–6. ³⁶ Numerous puñthis of his work have been found. It was Bengal’s first printed and illustrated text (1816) and inspired several other narrations across genres. ³⁷ J. N. Bhattacharya 1896/1968: 158–61. ³⁸ Dutt 1965: 109. ³⁹ King 1976/1981: 270; Chaudhuri 1972: 15–17.

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: The Canḍ 275 : ī Mangalakāvya of Bengal : The independent laukika deities of the Canḍ : īmangal receded gradually from the literature and art of modern Bengal, except for the occasional mention in the popular songs of the kabiwāllās (poets who entertained at public performances) of nineteenth-century Bābu Calcutta, where in any case the goddess was dominantly represented as wife to Śiva. In Brajendra Kumar : Dey’s play Canḍ : ī Mangal (1960), Kālketu turns away from the deity, now worshipped in the temple by the brahmin priest, in tragic recognition that e baroloker mā, chotoloker keu noye She is mother to the rich; she has nothing to do with lowly folk : (Canḍ : ī Mangal, ed. Dey, 1.1, p. 25)

REFERENCES Primary Sources : Abhayāmangal, ed. Ashutosh Das. Calcutta: Calcutta University, 1957. Brahmavaivarta Purāna, Tarkaratna. Calcutta: Natabar Prakashan, 1905. : : ed. Pancānan Brahmavaivarta-purāna, trans. Mathurānāth Tarkaratna. Calcutta: n.pub., 1885. : : Canḍ Kumar Dey. Calcutta: Nirmal Sahitya Mandir, 1960. : ī Mangal, ed. Brajendra : Dvija Mādhava Racita Mangalcanḍ : īr Gīta, ed. Sudhibushan Bhattacharya. Calcutta: Calcutta University, 1965. Harivamśa, Viṣnuparva, III. mahabharata-resources.org/harivamsa. : : : Kabikankan: biracita Canḍ : īmangal, ed. Sukumar Sen. 1975; New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1993. Kumārsambhavam, ed. Chandra Rajan. The Complete Works of Kālidasā, vol. 1. : New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1997. The Laws of Manu, trans. Wendy Doniger and Brian K. Smith. 1991; London: Penguin, 2000. The Mārkanḍ : eya Purāna, : trans. with notes by F. Eden Pargiter. Bibliotheca Indica: A Collection of Oriental Works. Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1904. : Rāmānanda Jati biracita Canḍ : īmangal, ed. Anilbaran Gangopadhyay. Calcutta: Calcutta University, 1969. : RgVeda Samhitā. Manḍ : : alas :1–10, ed. K. L. Joshi. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Orientalia, 2000. : Sāradāmangal bā Aṣtamangalār Catuṣpraharī Pāñcālī., ed. Abdul Karim. Calcutta: : Bangiya Sāhitya Pariṣat, 1917. Secondary Sources : Bandyopadhyay, Asit K. 1966/1980. Bānglā Sāhityer Itibr: tta. Vol. 2. Calcutta: Modern Book Agency. Bandyopadhyay, Brajendranath, and Sajanikanta Das. (Eds.) 1943/1962. BhāratcandraGranthābalī. Calcutta: Bangiya Sāhitya Pariṣat. :

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Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar. 1997. Caste, Protest and Identity in Colonial India: The Namasudras of Bengal, 1872–1947. Richmond: Curzon. Bandyopadhyay, Srikumar, and Bishwapati Chaudhuri. (Eds.) 1962. Kabikanka : n: Canḍ ī Kabi Mukundarām Biracita. Pt. 1. Calcutta: Calcutta University. : Bhattacharji, Sukumari. 1970/2000. The Indian Theogony: Brahmā, Viṣnu : & Śiva. New Delhi: Penguin. : : Bhattacharya, Ashutosh. 1942/1975. Bānglā Mangalakāvyer Itihās. Calcutta: A.Mukherji & Co. Bhattacharya, Jogendra Nath. 1896/1968. Hindu Castes and Sects. Calcutta: Editions India. Bhattacharyya, Narendranath. 1974/1996. History of the Śākta Religion. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. Chakrabarty, Rajanikanta, and Haridas Palit. (Eds.) 1904 (Bengali year 1311). “Mānik : Datter Mangal Canḍ : ī.” Sāhitya Pariṣat Patrikā, 11: 31–6. Chaudhuri, Sashibhushan. 1972. “The Political Framework.” Renascent Bengal (1817–1857), 1–11. Proceedings of a Seminar Organized by the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1971. Calcutta: Asiatic Society. : Chaudhury, Bhabendranarayan. 1913. “Mānikdatter Mangalcanḍ : ī.” Pratibha, AgrahayanPaus [October–November], 290–6. Coburn, Thomas B. 1991. Encountering the Goddess: A Translation of the Devī Māhātmya and a Study of Its Interpretation. Albany, NY:SUNY Press. Coburn, Thomas B. 1984/2002. Devī Māhātmya: The Crystallization of the Goddess Tradition. Delhi: Motilal Banarassidas. : Curley, David L. 2008. Poetry and History: Bengali Mangalakāvya and Social Change in Pre-colonial Bengal. New Delhi: Chronicle Books. Dasgupta, Shashibhushan. 1952/1963. Śrī Rādhār Kr: amabikāś: Darśane O Sāhitye. Calcutta: A. Mukherji & Co. Dasgupta, Shashibhushan. 1960. Bhārater Śaktī Sādhanā O Śaktā Sāhitya. Calcutta: Sahitya Parishad. Dutt, Nripendra Kumar. 1965. Origin and Growth of Caste in India. Vol. 2. Castes in Bengal. Calcutta: Firma K.L.Mukhopadhyay. : Haldar, Gopal. 1954/1956. Bānglā Sāhityer Rūprekhā. Vol. 1 Calcutta: A. Mukherji. Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Hazra, R. C. 1938. “Some Minor Purānas.” : Institute, 19/1: 69–79. Hazra, R. C. 1940. The Purānic : Records on Hindu Rites and Customs. Dhaka: University of Dhaka. Hazra, R. C. 1963. Studies in the Upapurānas. : Vol. 2. Calcutta: Sanskrit College. King, Blair B. 1976/1981. Partner in Empire: Dwarkanath Tagore and the Age of Enterprise in Eastern India. Calcutta: Firma KLM. Majumdar, R. C. 1971. History of Ancient Bengal. Calcutta: G. Bharadwaj. : Mandal, Panchanan. 1968. “Bānglā Puñthi: Rabindranāth O Bisvabhāratīr Puñthi : Bibhāg.” Bangiya Sāhitya Pariṣad Patrikā, 17: 11–29. Monius, Annie E. 2001. Imagining a Place for Buddhism: Literary Culture and Religious Community in Tamil-Speaking South India. Oxford: Oxford University Press. O’Malley, L. S. S. 1912. The Bengal District Gazetteers: Hooghly. Vol. 24, Pt. 1. Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Book Depot.

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Pollock, Sheldon. 2006. The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India. New Delhi: Permanent Black. Ray, Aniruddha. 1997. “Middle Bengali Literature: A Source for the Study of Bengal in the Age of Akbar.” In Akbar and His India, ed. Irfan Habib, 225–42. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Ray, Niharranjan. 1949/1994. History of the Bengali People, trans. John Wood. London: Orient Longman. Raychaudhuri, Tapan. 1953. Bengal under Akbar and Jahangir: An Introductory Study in Social History. Calcutta: A. Mukherjee. Rocher, Ludo. “Mixed Castes in the Brahmavaivartapurāna.” : Journal of the American Oriental Society, 106/2 (Apr.–June 1986): 253–5. Roy, Pranab. n.d. “Āt ḥ araśataker Kabi Akincan Cakrabarti.” Amrita (11th Year, 20th : Volume) 917–21. Rughoonandan. 1834. Institutes of the Hindu Religion. Vol. 1. Srirampur: Srirampur Press, 1834. Sen, Sukumar. 1940/2000. Bānglā Sāhityer Itihās. Vol. 1. Calcutta: Ananda Publishers. : Singer, Milton. 1971. “Beyond Tradition and Modernity in Madras.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 13/2, Special Issue on Tradition and Modernity (April), 160–95. Srinivas, M. N. 1956. “Sanskritization and Westernization.” Far Eastern Quarterly, 15/4 (August): 481–96.

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Part IV Devī in the Modern World

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13 A “Muslim” Poet in the Lap of a “Hindu” Mother Kazi Nazrul Islam and the Goddess Kālī Rachel Fell McDermott

DI SCOV ERI NG N AZ RUL, F I NDI NG KĀL Ī ANEW I didn’t mean to find Nazrul as a subject of research. I was minding my own business in the late 1980s to late 1990s, working on various aspects of the Śākta tradition of West Bengal, when, in compiling a comprehensive anthology of : Śyāmā Sangīt, or sung devotional poetry to the goddess Kālī, I discovered to my surprise that perhaps the best and most popular of all the composers of the genre was an Indian Muslim poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam. Sometimes when : I interviewed singers and asked them to perform their favorite Śyāmā Sangīt for me, they would sing Nazrul only.¹ One young man in Barddhaman, in West Bengal, refused to sing entirely, and instead recited one of Nazrul’s most famous poems, “Bidrohī” (“The Rebel”), written in 1921. When I heard the poem’s mixed Hindu and Muslim referents—Khodā (Creator), Ghengis Khān, and Tāji Borrāk (the winged horse that took Muhammad to Allah), interleaved with Bhagavān, the dancing Śiva, Kr: ṣna, : and the goddess Canḍ : ī—I thought: Who is this Nazrul? Soon after, starting in 2004, I began to travel to Dhaka. On my second trip I was taken by our local hosts to see Nazrul’s grave, which is on the campus of Dhaka University. But I had thought that he was a West Bengali poet. How did he get over here? I began inextricably to be drawn into the absorbing, pathos-filled life of Kazi Nazrul Islam. ¹ Sometimes Nazrul was compared favorably over famed Kālī-devotees like Ramprasad Sen and Kamalakanta Bhattacarya. I was so impressed by these songs that I translated ten of them in my anthology of goddess-centered Bengali poems (McDermott 2001b). In this essay, unless indicated otherwise, all the poetry translations are my own. Let me also acknowledge the help of : Protima Dutt and Hena Basu, who read the Śyāmā Sangīt with me in the summer of 2017.

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Figure 13.1. Photograph of Kazi Nazrul Islam

Nazrul Islam (1899–1976) is a Bengali poet (see Figure 13.1) whose life spanned the formative events of twentieth-century Bengal: he was born in the western part of undivided Bengal, just before the First Partition of Bengal in 1905 and the founding of the Muslim League in 1906; he came of age during World War I, when he enlisted for the British Army; he participated in the anti-colonial fervor of 1920s and 1930s India; and he lived through World War II and the Partition of India—and then through the Partition of Pakistan, through which Bangladesh was born in 1971. He died five years later in Dhaka. A prodigious composer of poetry, songs, essays, and short stories, and an actor, director, and composer of musical scores for films, Nazrul is known principally as the “Rebel Poet,” the young man who tore down boundaries, railed against injustice, and cried out for the disadvantaged. He also built bridges—between elite and folk, Muslim and Hindu, West and East, Persian and Bengali—and garnered both lavish praise and vituperative condemnation for his efforts to join the Kept Apart. Nazrul is understudied—not only because he was and remains overshadowed by his older contemporary Rabindranath Tagore, but also because of his poverty, his lack of institutional patronage, his neglect in India after

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Independence, the relative untranslated character of the twelve volumes of his oeuvre,² and prejudice concerning what has been whispered into my ear about his “bohemian” lifestyle and the fact that he was Muslim. Indeed, there is a paucity of scholarly literature about Nazrul in any language other than Bengali, although this is slowly changing. The biggest impetus behind what growth there is in Nazrul Studies is the fact that Nazrul has been named the National Poet of Bangladesh.³ Nazrul has been called a pioneer of Muslim regeneration, as well as an extremely sensitive interpreter of the Bengali Rādhā–Kr: ṣna : tradition. In this chapter, however, I wish to look more closely at Nazrul’s recourse to Kālī—his literary, political, and—if one can be so bold as to infer from his work— emotional attachments to the goddess. What kind of Kālī devotee was he? How have people reacted to his warmth for her? And what can we learn about Kālī worship in general in Bengal by looking at this singular, and singularly interesting, example?

“ I BRING REVOLUTION” : THE CYCLONIC P OET OF TH E 1 920s AND 1930s, AND HIS RADICAL LIFE Nazrul’s interest in the Hindu goddess has a life context, of course. Born in 1899 in Churulia, Barddhaman district, West Bengal, Nazrul lost his father early, and due to poverty received no more than a tenth-grade education. In 1917 he joined the British Indian Army and was posted to Karachi, where— on the side—he learned Persian poetry and began to write short stories and poems. Upon his return to Calcutta in 1920, he entered the city’s literary scene and for the next six years was actively involved in anti-colonial ² The Bangladeshi edition of Nazrul’s works contains 12 volumes, and the West Bengali version a set of slightly fatter 7 volumes. See Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam, 12 vols. (Dhaka: Bangla Academy, 2008), and Kājī Najrul Islām Racanāsamagra, ed. Sanatkumar Cattopadhyay, 7 vols. (Kolkata: Pascimbanga Bangla Academy, 2004). ³ One has to dig quite deep into specialized histories of South Asia to find references to Nazrul, either to his poetry or to his views. This has always struck me as odd, because he is such a good poet, and he is so influential in both Bangladesh and India. Of course, there are a few books in English that one can consult. The Nazrul Institute in Dhaka has done wonderful service in bringing out anthologies of collected translations, in several languages. In English, one can find translators such as Gulshan Ara, Sirajul Islam Choudhury, Kabir Chowdhury, Labiba Hassan, Muhammad Nurul Huda, Syed Mujibul Huq, Rafiqul Islam, Nashid Kamal, Sajed Kamal, Mizanur Rahman, and Rezaul Karim Talukdar. Although there are quite a few names here, overall less than a seventh of all of Nazrul’s works has been translated, leaving a serious need for qualified translators and commentators. Also available in English are Bose (2014); Kar (2010); Langley (2008); Mitra, (2007); and Sen (2003). These concentrate mainly on Nazrul the rebel freedom-fighter in the 1920s and 1930s, or Nazrul the symbol of human rights.

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movements.⁴ His essays, stories, and poems from this period breathe a revolutionary fire, aimed in three directions. The first was against British rule. It is true that overt references to the British are rare in his poems, for obvious reasons; nevertheless, one can tell from his language that he intended political subversion. Here are a few lines from “Bidrohī”: I am the tempest’s ferocity, the breath of the cyclone, Ruin’s image, a terror, irresistible, impetuous, uncontrollable. I trample on bonds, obey no law, recognize no rule.⁵

A second theme of this early revolutionary period is his passionate concern for social justice and social equality. He collaborated in founding the Communistleaning Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, in 1925 he became the director of a : new weekly paper called the Lāngal (Plow), and this became the forum for a new series of nine poems called “Sāmyabādī” (“Songs of Equality”). In these poems, he championed the downtrodden—dacoits, prostitutes, coolies, peasants, and those degraded by poverty. These are among his most quoted and translated poems. The third focus of Nazrul’s ire in the 1920s was what we would now call communal hatred, between Hindus and Muslims. This dedication to the ideal of universal amity and harmony derives squarely from his emphasis on brotherhood: in one of his songs of equality, he begins with the following: Of equality I sing: where all barriers and differences between man and man have vanished, Where Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians have mingled together.⁶

“Mingled” (the Bengali verb form is miśāno) is an interesting word, and captures precisely Nazrul’s compositional techniques and political consciousness in the 1920s and 1930s. All of his revolutionary poems, most of his poems on social equality, and even some of his poems ostensibly on separate Hindu and Islamic themes incorporated Hindu and Muslim imagery, in the same poems, in the same lines, or in lines that follow one from the other. A particularly famous instance of Muslim names in a “Hindu” poem is one ⁴ In this chapter I use the spelling “Calcutta” until 2001, when the name of the city officially changed to “Kolkata.” ⁵ From “The Rebel Eternal: A Rhapsody,” trans. Syed Sajjad Husain, in Poetry of Kazi Nazrul Islam in English Translation, vol. 1, ed. Mohammad Nurul Huda (Dhaka: Nazrul Institute, 1997), 22. ⁶ From “Sāmyabādī,” trans. Basudha Cakravarty, in Nazrul in Translation, ed. Huda, 249.

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of his most controversial, “Ānandamayīr Āgamane” (“The Coming of the Bliss-Filled Mother”), for which he was imprisoned by the British in 1923. He implores the goddess to demand the blood of her sons in order to fulfill the sacrifices made by both the Hindu Rani of Jhansi and the Muslim Siraj-ud-daula, Tipu Sultan, and Mir Kassim. In a move characteristic of many of his early political poems of outrage and fervor, he invites Kālī to save the country in her horrific, angry form, not only from oppressors but also from weak Indian cowards: Slice off, Mā, this hoax of a castrated man’s love! Strike with your scimitar, bring on the battle, teach us the mantra of immortality. Make men of the effeminate, give blood, Mā; show blood! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Come alone, mad girl, dancing the tānḍ : ava—“tā thai tā thai!” Thirsting for blood, chanting the lamentation, “I am hungry!,” Chinnamastā, mad for blood, “I am hungry,” come, Mā Kālī. . . . . . . . . . . . . . In vain did Siraj, Tipu, and Mir Kasim sacrifice themselves, Canḍ ī ! : You took your form of illusion; everyone said it was the law of destiny. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Suddenly when that rebel the Rani of Jhansi burst into rage, Even when that crazy girl pleaded with you, you did not come, Mā Bhavānī. If you act such and play tricks, how much longer will you be worshipped? You are the stony daughter of a stony father; come now, Ten-armed Mā! Acting like this year after year—this is your disgrace; this is no worship. What blessing is this that you give—cheating in return for the salutations of crores of children? You have eaten many goats and buffalos; Oh Rākṣasī, but your appetite isn’t satiated yet. Come, Stony Woman, now take the blood-nectar of your own sons!⁷

To our modern eyes, the fact that a Muslim poet was jailed for his use of Hindu imagery is quite astounding.⁸ Perhaps his most famous anti-communal poem was written in the midst of Hindu–Muslim violence in Calcutta in 1926, over the issue of Hindu processions in front of mosques during the annual festival of Durgā Pūjā. In “Kānḍ : ārī Huñśiyār” (“Helmsman, Beware!”), Nazrul addresses the reader as the boatman, the captain, or the helmsman who must cross the tempestuous

⁷ This poem was written for the 9th Āśvin number of the Dhūmketu magazine. See Kājī Najrul Islām Racanāsamagra, ed. Cattopadhyay, 1: 204–6. ⁸ In another poem of this ilk, “Kr: ṣāner Gān” (“The Song of the Peasant”), published in 1925 in : Lāngol, he likens the innocence of the exploited agricultural laborers both to figures from the Hindu epic the Rāmāyana : and to actors in the Muslim narrative about the martyrdom of Hussain at Karbala.

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ocean to save the nation, which he calls the Mother, but the boat is in danger of capsizing because of the infighting of its passengers. The helpless nation is drowning but knows not how to swim! Captain! Here is the test of your vow to deliver this land. “Are they Hindus or Muslims?” Who asks this question? Captain! Say: “Man is drowning— the sons of the Motherland!”⁹

There is a multivocality to Nazrul’s oeuvre that is impressive and aweinspiring. The same is true of his personal life. After a first near-marriage to a young Muslim girl, he fell in love with a Hindu girl, Ashalata Sengupta, whose family had hosted him when he periodically went to Comilla. He renamed Ashalata “Pramila,” after the wife of Rāvana’s son Meghanāda, a character created by Michael Madhusudan Datta in his famed Bengali rendition of the Rāmāyana : from 1861. According to Sujata Sengupta, Ashalata’s cousin’s daughter, Ashalata’s family had loved, supported, and even protected Nazrul, but this proposal of marriage was “like a thunderbolt without clouds”— in other words, a shock without prior warning. “They loved this gentle-hearted, affection-craving, always smiling young man, but could they accept a vagabond, undisciplined, unemployed man as a son-in-law?” Even worse was the conservative society of the time, which could not countenance a marriage across sampradāyas, or communities. No one from the entire Sengupta family supported the wedding except for Ashalata’s widowed mother, Giribala, who took Nazrul and Ashalata to Calcutta and quietly got them married. Nazrul did not want Ashalata to convert, so Giribala arranged that they could be married in the way that the Mughals wed Rajput women, considering their wives “People of the Book.”¹⁰ This marriage generated a negative reaction among both Hindu and Muslim communities. Even many Brahmo were scandalized by it.¹¹ Pramila’s family in Comilla had to leave their home and move to Calcutta. After the marriage it seems as though neither Nazrul nor Pramila involved themselves much in religious community or ritual life at all. They gave their sons double-barreled ⁹ Selected verses translated (with slight emendations) by Mizanur Rahman, in Some Ghazals of Nazrul Islam, ed. Mujibur Rahman Khan (Dhaka: Islamic Foundation Library, 1983), p. xii. ¹⁰ Sengupta 2012: 27–46. The thunderbolt quotation comes from p. 44. ¹¹ Ramananda Cattopadhyay, a Brahmo who edited the monthly magazine Prabāsī, had printed Nazrul’s poems and gotten a large amount of money for them. But after the marriage the printing of Nazrul’s poems in his magazine was completely stopped. But Dr. Bidhancandra Ray, even though a Brahmo, was very sympathetic to Nazrul. Years later, after becoming the chief minister of Bengal, he made arrangements for the healthcare of the ailing Nazrul. Sengupta 2012: 45.

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names, like Krishna Muhammad (d. 1923), Arindam Khaled [Bulbul] (1926–30), Kazi Sabyasachi (1929–79), and Kazi Aniruddha (1930–74), and their home was open to friends of all backgrounds and persuasions. Nazrul’s hospitality was legendary, even when he was in a state of absolute penury.¹² In some ways, his living environment was very Hindu. Giribala Devi, who lived with them during most of their married life,¹³ performed Lakṣmī Pūjā every Thursday in their home, and Nazrul inaugurated several Durgā Pūjā celebrations over the course of his life. He even joined a hunger fast in 1924 to protest the unseemly behavior of a Hindu mahānt at the Tarakeshwar Temple. When Birajasundari Devi, his wife’s aunt, was dying in 1938, he visited her daily, and at her request he sang “Hari-nām” to her constantly.¹⁴ When Pramila herself was dying in June 1962, after having been paralyzed from the waist down for twenty-three years, their son Kazi Sabyasachi asked Muzaffar Ahmed how he should conduct her funeral rites. Even though Pramila had always worn the signs of a married Hindu woman and put sindūr in her hair parting and on her forehead, no one had ever seen her observe any religious rites.¹⁵ Ahmed assured Sabyasachi that he could cremate his mother if he wanted, since she had never converted. But apparently Pramila’s dying wish was that she be buried, not cremated, so that she could lie in Churuliya next to Nazrul, when his time came.¹⁶ Nazrul’s catholic attitude was not a passive acceptance; he seems to have been able to move effortlessly and with enthusiasm between different cultural, linguistic, and religious worlds. He knew enough about Hindu mythology and belief—perhaps gained from his youthful reading and his involvement in a let ọ poetry group—to compose music and songs for plays and films on Hindu : figures and themes.¹⁷ He began to write a series of moving Śyāmā Sangīt (songs on and to Kālī), from the early 1930s; they were almost immediately recorded by leading artists and sold to great acclaim.¹⁸ In letters he wrote to Birajasundari Devi, he refers to God as Bhagavān, Jagajjananī (the Mother of the World), Ambikā (Mother), says that he wants to lie at the feet of the goddess (“Mā Ambikār śrīcarane”), refers to the words of his gurudev, and : takes on board for himself concepts like the līlā (play) of the divine and his

¹² If one reads the biographies of Nazrul, one is struck by his absolute catholicity: along with scores of Muslim names, such as Muzaffar Ahmed (one of his closest friends and a Communist), Abdul Hakim, Jasimuddin, and Moinuddin Hossein, one also finds references to Sailajananda Mukhopadhyay, Nripendrakrishna Cattopadhyay, Dhiren Das, Pabitra Gangopadhyay, Bhupati Majumdar, Gispati Bhattacharya, Subodh Ray, Manibhushan Mukhopadhyay, and Hemantakumar Sarkar, to name just a very few. ¹³ Giribala Devi left abruptly on May 10, 1948, never to be seen again. See Sengupta 2012: 90–3. ¹⁴ Sengupta 2012: 86–7. ¹⁵ Sengupta 2012: 116. ¹⁶ Sengupta 2012: 77. ¹⁷ e.g. Caitanya (1939), Durgā (1939), and Annapūrnā, : Pārvatī, and Arjuna (1940). ¹⁸ Nazrul composed a total of more than 150 songs to Kālī and Umā, along with another nearly 400 on Rādhā and Kr: ṣna, : bringing those songs categorized as (Hindu) bhakti-gīti to a full 28 percent of Nazrul’s entire song output.

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Figure 13.2. Nazrul Islam’s Kālī

own past lives.¹⁹ In a series of three letters in August and September 1938, written to Baradacaran Majumdar, his Śākta Tantric guru, when Pramila had first been attacked by paralysis, he addresses him as Śrī Śrī Caranārabindeṣ u, : calls him the embodiment of Lord Śiva, begs for his darśan, and thanks him for his care of him in life after life.²⁰ When no medicine seemed to help Pramila, Nazrul went on a pilgrimage to the Tarakeshwar Temple; he also frequented Dakshineshwar Temple and the nearby Shyambazar Kālī Temple. Baradacaran Majumdar was a householder yogi who taught in a local high school; he initiated Nazrul into Tantric ritual, which, apparently, Nazrul used to practice on the roof of his house.²¹ When Nazrul left Calcutta for Dhaka in 1972, in his effects, left behind, was the image of Kālī that he kept in his room (see Figure 13.2). Lest one become convinced, however, that Nazrul was a goddess-worshipper to the exclusion of other forms of religious devotion, it ¹⁹ “What I was in my last life, I don’t know” (“pūrbajanme ki chilām, jāni nā”); NajrulRacanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam, 9: 256–7. ²⁰ August 22, 1938, and two letters on September 4, 1938. Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam, 9: 266–9. ²¹ Sanyal 2014.

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should be remembered that his Kr: ṣna-kīrtan and his Islamic songs also derive : from this same introspective and agonized period in his life. In spite of the seeming ease with which Nazrul moved, emotionally and conceptually, between the various Hindu and Muslim worlds in which he lived, neither Hindu nor Muslim society always returned the compliment. He recognized, in a letter to Ibrahim Khan, that the fact of his being Muslim was, to many Hindus, an offense, no matter how non-communal he was.²² Perhaps most tragic in this regard is the story of a young Hindu girl, who, being fired up with enthusiasm at hearing Nazrul speak and throwing him her necklace in gratitude, was so hounded by Hindu society for showing favor, publicly, to a Muslim that she was eventually forced to commit suicide.²³ Nazrul was critical of this communal consciousness, and was just as scathing about empty Hindu ritual as he was of slavish adherence to Muslim custom. In an essay published in 1923 called “Hindu and Muslim,” he wrote in a most provocative fashion about the bestial nature of Hindu and Muslim clerics, whose ferocious “tails” were manifesting as ponytails (for pundits) and beards (for mullahs). Today’s fight, he said, is not between Hindus and Muslims, but between ponytail-ism and beard-ism.²⁴ The conservatives on both sides fought back. Even before 1926, Nazrul had been criticized for the amount of Hindu imagery he wove into his poetry. His famous poem “Bidrohī” evoked sarcasm from one vocal Munshi, Mohammad Reyazuddin Ahmed, who wrote an article called “Loktā Musalmān nā Śaytān?” (“Is the Man a Muslim or a Devil?”).²⁵ Nazrul replied by declaring that he was indeed a Muslim, but that his poetry was for all countries, for all times, for all nations. For twenty years, then, he was a prolific composer, musician, public artist, and voice for justice. By the early 1940s he had composed many volumes of poetry, more than 2,600 lyrical songs, several collections of essays, and his own style of singing, which he utilized in theater, in films, and on the performance stage. In 1940 he became the chief editor of a daily newspaper. But tragedy stalked Nazrul. His mother and second son Bulbul died within months of each other in 1928–30, his wife became paralyzed from the waist down in 1939, and Nazrul himself experienced a rapid loss of mental function in 1942, after which memory, and voice, faded.²⁶ After World War II and Independence, in the early 1950s friends banded together to send both Nazrul

²² See the July–August 1927 (Bhadra 1334) number of Naoroj (New Day), where a letter to Nazrul Islam by Principal Ibrahim Khan was published; the reply was published in the December 1927–January 1928 (Pauṣ 1334) issue of Saogāt. See Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam, 9: 183. ²³ Sengupta 2012: 62. : ²⁴ “Hindu-Musalmān,” in Rudra-Mangal; see Kājī Najrul Islām Racanāsamagra, ed. Cattopadhyay, 2: 445–7. ²⁵ See M. R. Ahmed 1922. ²⁶ On July 9, 1942, while doing a program at the Calcutta station of All Indian Radio, his tongue froze and words failed him. Soon he lost control of his brain as well.

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and Pramila to doctors in London and Vienna for treatment, but there was apparently no hope for recovery. On May 24, 1972, after the Independence of Bangladesh, as a gesture of friendship India transferred Nazrul to Dhaka, where he was made an honorary citizen. He died in 1976 after more than thirty-four years of mental vacuity, and was buried in Dhaka, separated from his wife, who remained, waiting for him, so to speak, in Churuliya, West Bengal. There is much in this biography that unites Bengali admirers of the poet, whether in West Bengal or Bangladesh. During his lifetime he spent time in both eastern and western Bengal; his songs inspired generations of South Asian zealots, whether against the British or during the Sino-Indian War of 1962 or in the Liberation War of 1971; his language was thoroughly local and Bengali; and he received honorary DLitt degrees and national awards from both countries.²⁷ In Kolkata there is a Nazrul Academy, and in Dhaka a Nazrul Institute and a Nazrul Academy. There are universities named after him in both countries, too. Sorrow and pity over his personal tragedy also unify people on both sides of the border, for his fate continues to haunt people.

“ BLISSFUL DARLING, BREAK THIS PLAYROOM OF ILLUSION” Let me return to Kālī.²⁸ How do we assess the nearly 150 songs, or Śyāmā : Sangīt, that Nazrul penned on the goddess,²⁹ in addition to the many political poems in which she appears as a goad to revolution?³⁰ ²⁷ In 1960 the Indian government gave him the Padmabhūṣan, : the third highest award of the country. In 1969 Rabindra Bharati University awarded him an honorary DLitt degree. After he was moved to Bangladesh, he received more awards: a second DLitt degree, this time from Dhaka University, in 1974, and the Ekuśe Padak on February 21, 1976. : ²⁸ The quotation which forms the heading of this section is taken from Rāngā Jabā, song 45, in Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam. ²⁹ Note that Nazrul also wrote several poems on the story of Umā’s return home in the autumn; these are termed āgamanī and bijayā poems, on the themes of Umā’s coming and : leaving five days later, respectively. See Rāngā Jabā, poems 2, 9, 10, 21, 25, 50, 54, 58, 59, 60, 62, 64, 90, 91, 92, in Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam. Also included in this longer Bangladeshi edition are poems in which Kālī and Kr: ṣna : are said to be the same, and poems in which Śiva himself is celebrated. See poems 65, 69, 88, 94, 95, 96, 97. : : ³⁰ The bulk of Nazrul’s Śyāmā Sangīt is available in Rāngā Jabā, his twenty-second printed song collection. It was first published in April 1966 in the form of a collection of bhakti-gīti songs, in order to help the impoverished condition of Nazrul and his family during his illness. The book had ninety-nine songs, all of which had been written in the 1930s or early 1940s and eighty-one of which had been released on gramophone records or played on radio soon after their composition, : from 1933 to 1943 or even after. Subsequent editors of Rāngā Jabā have added and removed songs. The current edition in the Dhaka-published collected works (Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam, 7: 215–70) has ninety-nine songs, though not all the same as the original ninety-nine, whereas that

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291 : Nazrul’s Kālī is in many ways similar to the goddess of the Śyāmā Sangīt tradition that had been initiated by Ramprasad Sen and his contemporaries in the mid-eighteenth century.³¹ She is the goddess of the Tantric meditational depictions, or dhyānas, with her stance on Śiva in the cremation grounds; her nakedness covered slightly by a threaded necklace of cut heads and a skirt of cut arms; a scimitar and severed head in her left set of hands and boon- and fearlessness-bestowing gestures in her right; and a beautiful/horrible face, with bloodshot eyes, a lolling tongue, and blood trickling from the sides of her mouth, a mouth that enchants with her charming smile. Kālī is dancing, her ankleted feet making tinkling, thudding noises on the ground. This goddess is the inspiration for many of his early patriotic poems from the early 1920s, for it is Kālī’s aggression, her thirst for blood, her mad, destructive dancing, and her deafening, devastating screams that make her an apt symbol of the revolt that Nazrul aims to whip up in his young readers and listeners.³² In the devotional bhakti-gīti of the 1930s, however, a more seasoned, wounded poet—one who has suffered much—emphasizes less the goddess’s battle fervor and more her ability to offer succor. He features aspects of Kālī’s character that are well known to the literary tradition—her mercy; her delusory, fickle nature; the salvific quality of her name; her sweetness and beauty; her motherliness and ability to comfort by her embrace; and her tendency to withhold not only herself but also the good things of life. Images abound of the Mother’s feet, surrounded by the jabā red flowers of his heart’s devotion or blood-pain; her lap, into which he yearns to climb or be lifted; her black beauty, which paradoxically outshines the sun, moon, and stars by its radiance; and the tricks and artifices she uses to evade her son, such as hiding behind planets and stars in the universe, throwing him off her lap, or even stabbing his heart with cruel neglect. True to the genre, such songs of complaint and pique are typically concluded with cries of dejection, pleas for mercy, and trust in her ultimate salvation. Interestingly—and this is not consistent with the genre as a whole— Nazrul nearly always refers to the goddess as tui, the intimate and boldly familiar form of “you” in Bengali.

in the Kolkata-based collected works (Kājī Najrul Islām Racanāsamagra, ed. Cattopadhyay, 5: 259–304) has only eighty-three. Some of the songs were tuned and given melodies by Nazrul himself, but the majority were set to music by others, principally by his friend Kamal Dasgupta. The most famous singers to record them, in the 1930s and early 1940s in sets of two, were Mrinal Kanti Ghosh and K. Mallik, but at least twenty-seven other individual artists also released albums : : of Nazrul’s Śyāmā Sangīt before 1945. Apart from the songs in Rāngā Jabā, there are anywhere from thirty to fifty other previously unpublished songs brought together in Najrul-Racanābalī and Kājī Najrul Islām Racanāsamagra. ³¹ For an introduction to and survey of that tradition, see McDermott 2001a. ³² Examples include “Raktāmbardhārinī : Mā” and “Āgamani,” both from his first published book, Agnibīnā : (1923), and “Āj Sr: ṣt ị sukher Ullāse,” from Dolan-Cāmpā (also 1923).

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Rachel Fell McDermott Tell me, Śyāmā, tell me—how much illusion does your image know? Wherever I look I weep; for I see your form in every place. Just as when a motherless boy sees a picture of his mother, cannot tear his eyes away, and keeps the picture in his heart, crying, so your image draws me, strongly pulling me. O Mā, at night overcome with sleep, I always see you in my heart, as if your image, like a mother, is embracing me. When I wake up in the dark room and cry for you—I see your image crying, staring in my direction. Going to look at my face in the mirror, I see your image shining. If I close my eyes, I see your image in my heart. How much longer with your picture will you bewitch me, Mā? When will I get your lap? When will I get peace in my heart?³³

In general, and unlike the larger corpus, his songs contain almost no references to Tantra and, with one important exception—Nazrul the debtor (discussed later)—do not present single metaphors, of the poet as a farmer, a laborer, or a gambler, for example. However, several of his compositions contain themes that are unique to him: he makes his own body an incense stick in devotion for Śyāmā’s name; describes his various body parts as living ritual instruments for her worship; addresses the goddess as Ḍākāt Kālī, the Robber, and begs her to loot his house of everything; and portrays the world as the goddess’s playroom and complains that she has deluded him with various glittering toys.³⁴ He was clearly knowledgeable about the Hindu tradition: he wrote a song on Ramakrishna (1836–86), the Hindu saint who worshipped Kālī at Dakshineshwar Temple in Calcutta, he utilized the names and storyline of the famous sixth-century goddess-centered Sanskrit “Devīmāhātmya” section of the Mārkanḍ : eya Purāna, : and he incorporated the names of Hindu ritual items, such as the food offered to and received back from the temple image (bhog and prasād), the fire sacrifice (homa), and even the Sanskrit mantra of offering into the fire (svāhā!).³⁵ In addition to these obvious illustrations of his familiarity with the literary and devotional tradition, it is : possible—if a potential overinterpretation—to see in the Śyāmā Sangīt hints of Nazrul’s own life. For his songs contains a number of words for the suffering and misery that the poet experiences and from which he seeks deliverance— kṣati, duḥkha, kleś, byāthā, dāhan, pīran, śok—many of which are generic to : the genre. But others are not: scarcity (abhāb), debts (r: n), : illness (rog), the burden of worry (bhābanā bhār), and slander (glāni).³⁶ The 1930s, recall, was : ³³ “Bal re Śyāmā Bal,” in Rāngā Jabā, song 56. Note that the last five lines of the song are not contained in the Bangladeshi edition, but come from the West Bengal edition. : : ³⁴ Rāngā Jabā, songs 73, 87, 79, 31, 32, and 45. ³⁵ Rāngā Jabā, songs 18, 17, 19, and 21. : ³⁶ Rāngā Jabā, songs 16, 28, 30, 36, 39, and 43.

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a decade in which he lost several loved ones, went into debt to pay (in vain) for his wife’s treatment, found himself the butt of vituperative criticism for his poetic language and imagery, and became increasingly ill himself. Oh Mā, whatever suffering, scarcity, and debt I have I’ve placed it all at your feet. Repay now, Mā, all your devotee’s debts. Since you took responsibility for your child’s debts, Mā, if my creditors with summons in their hands come to grab me, the manacles will be fastened onto your feet. Oh Mā, because of interest and loans in this world, debts keep increasing. Now take the responsibility of releasing me from debt; I’ll be bought out by you. I no longer belong to myself but am already offered at your feet. Now you’ve become my surety; make them understand.³⁷

: Perhaps the most significant deviation of Nazrul’s Śyāmā Sangīt from that of the Hindu writers of the genre is his politicization of the imagery. India, he says, has become the goddess’s cremation ground.³⁸ Furthermore, Kālī is no private goddess, belonging to Hindus; in Nazrul’s voice she is made the mother of all children—the weak, the servants, the sick, the starving, the laborer—even the Canḍ : āla, or outcaste, and children (perhaps Muslims, like him?) who fall beyond the category of normative dharma.³⁹ In the following song, the pūjā referred to is the annual Durgā Pūjā, or Bengali version of Navarātrī, that occurs in September–October, when the goddess returns, in her once-annual visitation home. Come outcaste, come fallen— now is the Mother’s Pūjā. Wherever men of all castes can touch her feet without fear there is the Mother’s Pūjā. There is no temple, no priest, no scripture, no doorkeeper, where whoever comes, calling Mā, she takes to her lap.

: ³⁷ “O Mā, duḥkha abhāb r: n: yata mor,” in Rāngā Jabā, song 5. : : ³⁸ Rāngā Jabā, songs 34, 71, and 82. ³⁹ Rāngā Jabā, songs 47, 48, 49, 50, 52, 76, and 93.

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Rachel Fell McDermott Look at Mā, descending from her lion-throne to sit on the dust; her consecrated pitcher will be filled with the water touched by all. We have not seen the Mother; that is why brother has struck brother. But today, having seen her, you understand we are all children of the same mother. Now in the sounds of the Mother’s mantra the clarion call will reverberate over the three worlds: “Fear not.”⁴⁰

WHY KĀ LĪ ? I N T E R P R ETI N G NA Z RU L It is, at the very least, surprising to find a Muslim—even a very catholic one who did not wish to be confined to religious categories—writing patriotic poems about, and devotional songs to, a Hindu deity. In this section I offer some interpretive frames for his life and attempt to make sense of his most unusual religious sensibility. In some ways, of course, Nazrul’s ease of travel between Hindu and Muslim contexts is representative of what has been called the “syncretistic tradition” of Bengal. Indeed, Bengal has long been noted as a place where, so the narrative goes, until the Islamic reformist movements of the late nineteenth century but especially after the First Partition of Bengal and then again in the 1920s, Bengal tended toward a composite, hybrid, integrated culture. Richard Eaton and Rafiuddin Ahmed have severally explained the creation and spread of this type of accommodative religiosity,⁴¹ and many scholars since the 1980s have explored the changes and developments in it due to colonial and reformist attitudes. The same push for a united, composite Bengal can be seen in the political sphere; one is reminded of the fiercely non-communal Swaraj Party of C. R. Das in the 1920s or the drive for a United Bengal under Saratcandra Bose and Fazlul Haque in the 1940s. Likewise, one could view Nazrul as a modernday analog of the North Indian poet Kabir (1440–1518), beloved for his boundary-crossing, tolerant spirit. But apart from comments about Nazrul’s larger context, what can we say about his personal motivations? I do not think that we can impute to Nazrul some sort of a mystical belief in the spiritual unity of all religions or the heights of union achieved through mystic realization. He was no follower of a Sufi tariqa, as far I am aware; the closest he comes to this are his meditation experiences with Baradacaran Majumdar. The only hint so far that I have been able to find indicating that : ⁴⁰ “Āy aśuchi āy re patita,” in Rāngā Jabā, song 47.

⁴¹ Eaton 1993; R. Ahmed 1981.

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he thinks of philosophical concepts in relation to communal harmony occurs in a letter written on December 21, 1940, to the conveners of the Calcutta Muslim Student Conference. He writes, “my mantra is [a famous sura from the Qur’an]: ‘it is you alone we worship, and you alone we ask for help.’ ” “I am the servant of God,” Nazrul continues; I am not willing to be the servant of anyone else—I only crave strength from Him. I am a fakir, a supreme beggar at Allah’s door—if I gain strength and mercy from him, inshallah, then the sound of the drum of truth will sound, not in India only but in the whole world. Then the flood of the nectar of the monists, of tauhid, will flow. All men of the world will come together in this advaita doctrine.⁴²

Such a statement, joining the Muslim concept of tauhid, or the oneness of God, with the Hindu philosophy of monistic awareness, or advaita, demonstrates to me that Nazrul did understand the claims of non-dual experience from both Muslim and Hindu traditions, and that he found them fruitful in expressing what he hoped, politically, for human understanding and cooperation. Nevertheless, Nazrul was not a systematic theologian or philosopher, and his tolerance was not generally articulated in such language. However, what we do see from a reading of his biographies is that Nazrul’s a-sampradayik (non-communal) character emerged organically from his life— from those he loved, the people he met, his reading of religious texts, his innate sense of justice, and his large-heartedness. Time after time in the published reminiscences of Nazrul by people who knew him, he is characterized as immensely devoted to his friends, as impetuous, excitable, open, unrestrained, and uncontained. Sometimes this impulsive trait caused him trouble, as for example when he spent a financial windfall on a car and chauffeur, only to have to lose both because of new debts. But his open affection also meant that he accepted others without erecting boundaries, and rarely held grudges. His failure at political work is a testament to his inability to think communally: when he was living in Krishnanagar in 1926, his friends urged him to stand for election in the reserved seat for Muslims in the Central Legislative Committee. But it was very difficult for a truly non-sectarian person to win from a reserved seat, and he was defeated. But can we say anything more about the motivations for his “mixed” poems, even his “mixed” life? In fact, we can. In his already-mentioned lengthy letter to Ibrahim Khan from December 1927, he stated clearly that literature is the only way to eliminate distrust between Hindus and Muslims, and that he purposely introduced Hindu and Muslim imagery in his revolutionary poems in order to knock down barriers and to raise up a common sensibility.

⁴² Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam, 9: 270–1.

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Even if Bengali literature is not the daughter of Sanskrit, it is the step- or fosterdaughter. As a result, the stream of Hindu feeling has piled up so thoroughly that if one separates it out, half of the Bengali language will be destroyed. The idea of separating Greek history from English literature—no one would think of this. Bengali literature is the literature of both Hindus and Muslims. If Muslims see the names of Hindu devas and devīs in it they will get angry, just as Hindus contract their eyebrows if they see everyday Muslim words in their literature. I am a complete believer in the mixing of Hindu and Muslim. That is why, in order to strike blows at these customs, I use Muslim words as well as the names of Hindu devas and devīs. Because of this, the beauty of my poetry has certainly been hurt. But I have done it, aware of the consequences.⁴³

So in the 1920s, Nazrul self-consciously joined the riches of two religious traditions in single poems in order to shock people into new consciousness. Not just any poet could have pulled off this most unusual literary experiment: it arose from a man with a composite life, a liberal interpretation of Islam, and a non-communal, a-sampradayik orientation. In some sense, therefore, Nazrul’s “Hindu” and “Muslim” sides were a purposeful political construction, and he a consummate innovator. Scholars who write about the creative process argue that creative advances often involve the bringing together of independent cultural streams—elements that do not usually go together. Such thinking yields ideas that may seem familiar, but in a new setting or with new implications. Arthur Koestler, in his magnum opus The Act of Creation (1964), calls this process of linking two things that have not been joined before “bisociation.” Describing the same phenomenon in different vocabulary, Robert W. Weisberg, in his book Creativity: Understanding Innovation (2006), attributes creativity to “divergent thinking.”⁴⁴ I venture to propose that in the 1930s, when Nazrul moved from writing poetry to composing songs, his earlier recourse to Hindu imagery bore fruit internally; he seems to have been fully fluent in the “Hindu” medium, and his Tantric guru, his frequenting of Kālī temples, his love for his Hindu friends, and his outpouring of goddess-centered songs in his time of distress, are evidence that the Hindu goddess tradition genuinely appealed to him. In other words, a conscious literary strategy in the 1920s became an inward solace in the 1930s. The fascinating thing about Nazrul’s inventiveness, mixed language, and boundary-crossing affect is its nearly stand-alone character. When Rammohan Roy started patronizing Bengali journalism in 1821—in essence a British genre in a Bengali medium—it gave rise to a long and successful trajectory of journalism in the Bengali language. Likewise, the Bengali novel, pioneered by Bankimcandra Chatterjee in 1865, was a new form, written in prose style, also new, and evincing a new sensibility. And yet Chatterjee was soon followed by great literary masters such as Rabindranath Tagore, Manik Bandopadhyay, ⁴³ Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam, 9: 189.

⁴⁴ Koestler 1964; Weisberg 2006.

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Tarasankar Bandopadhyay, and Saratchandra Chattopadhyay, who developed further the new genre of the novel. To my knowledge, Nazrul has left no literary heirs of this sort. To be sure, patriotic poetry, children’s poetry, essays, modern Bengali songs, and other genres that Nazrul wrote in are still alive and : well. Śyāmā Sangīt is still being written today in India and Bangladesh, but I know of no Muslim poet or lyricist who has followed Nazrul in crossing into this genre. Perhaps the precedent set by Nazrul is resisted as threatening, undesirable, or even worthy of censure. Another way of addressing the same misfit is by recourse to the idea of “private symbols,” as discussed by Gananath Obeyesekere in his study of Sri Lanka.⁴⁵ He describes Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in Sri Lanka who carve out revered positions for themselves in their society by taking on symbols that typically belong to other religious groups. For instance, he writes about a Muslim who developed a reputation as a hook-swinger—an activity that occurs in a Śaiva festival context. The Muslim man did it originally to resolve his own personal psychic conflicts, but he became so unusual that people came to him for healing and consultation. While such behavior won individual respect from people of all communities, because the symbol systems he adopted (in Obeyesekere’s case, Śaiva symbols) were not normative in his own Muslim context, the symbols could not result in community healing or acceptance among Muslims. In other words, perhaps Nazrul, as a maverick Muslim who enjoyed experimenting with Hindu genres, was revered for his accomplishments but not able to blaze a trail that other Muslims could recognize as their own, because the symbols he utilized were not widely shared. However one interprets the inner motivations for Nazrul’s fascination with Kālī, the evidence points, at the very least, to Nazrul’s deep knowledge of the Hindu tradition, his judgment that it could be fruitful in his patriotic rhetoric, and his ability to enter into the spirit of the goddess’s devotional tradition.

THE L IVES OF NAZRUL ’S KĀL Ī We already have a sense of people’s reactions to Nazrul during his lifetime. What has happened to Nazrul and his goddess in the years since his death in 1976? The answers are varied and intriguing, and tend to be divided by geography: he is remembered and valued differently in West Bengal, India, than he is in Bangladesh. West Bengal is studded with places beloved of Nazrul, and he lived much of his adult life in Calcutta, where many families and singing ⁴⁵ Obeyesekere 1981.

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schools celebrate their association with him. In India, it is Nazrul’s bhakti-gīti, kābya-gīti, poems of revolutionary fervor, and message of hope to the down: trodden that seem to command most popularity. His Śyāmā Sangīt is a living genre in West Bengal, with new CDs or the equivalent marketed successfully, especially during the annual goddess festival season. Although I have interviewed relatively few people, the overwhelming impression I get is that Nazrul in West Bengal is viewed as a secular icon. Professor Rajarshi Ghose, of the Center for Social Science Research in Kolkata, said: “for us, who are Hindu, secularized Bengalis,” we are “extremely comfortable with Nazrul”; he “represents our viewpoint.” Nazrul “has always been important to the secular psyche of Bengal.”⁴⁶ Nazrul biographer and scholar Azharuddin Khan commented, “Nazrul’s most important contribution was his stance on the union of Hindu and Muslim [Hindu-Musalmān milaner pad].”⁴⁷ Kolkata-based documentary filmmaker Mujibar Rahman, who prepared a feature film on Nazrul, says that Nazrul is like a prism with many dimensions. “It is more important now than ever to have Nazrul’s noncommunal, humanistic philosophies spread among the people.”⁴⁸ Even Indian Dalits have used his songs and poems in their activism.⁴⁹ Nazrul’s “Hindu” side is also evoking an opposite reaction in India: members of the Sangh Parivar, calling themselves secular, have tried to claim him as their own. In May of 1999 and again in the winter of 2014, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate, both representing the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, came to Asansol, the poet’s ancestral home, to claim Nazrul as a symbol for secularism. More recently, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is eulogizing Nazrul as a “good Hindu,” projecting him as a role model for Indian Muslims, and translating his poems into twenty-two Indian languages. In this venture, Nazrul’s writings on the goddess Kālī are becoming a cudgel to show Indian Muslims how they ought to behave.⁵⁰ One suspects that Nazrul would not approve of this interpretation of his religious sensibility. The situation in Bangladesh is, I feel, more complex. While there are many voices—some artistic, some popular, and some academic—who agree that Nazrul is a symbol of care for the poor and the downtrodden, or a liberal

⁴⁶ Interview, February 17, 2014. ⁴⁷ Interview, February 24, 2014. ⁴⁸ Ferdous 2017. Rahman has created an English and a longer Bengali version of the film, both of which incorporate extensive interviews from both West Bengal and Bangladesh. Interview, July 7, 2017. ⁴⁹ e.g. in 2004, a slightly altered “Bidrohī” poem, with language tweaked to include references to Dalits, was made the backdrop to a documentary film about the life of Suresh Lelle, a Telegu Dalit activist. Mahadiga: The Man Descending from Above, directed by Suresh Lelle and Sabrina Francis, produced by Chindu: A Dalit Cultural Resource Center, based in Hyderabad (2004). I am grateful to Joel Lee for alerting me to this film and the use of Nazrul’s poetry therein. ⁵⁰ See Mukhopadhyaya 2017: 5; and Ramachandran 2017.

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(udār) icon of non-communal national life,⁵¹ there are many others, perhaps of a more conservative leaning, who struggle with what it means to have a National Poet who is not quite the sort of Muslim one might ideally want. As early as 1957, when the poet was still alive, if silent and living in penury in West Bengal, the famed intellectual of then East Pakistan, Dr. Anisuzzaman, wrote that as far as Muslims are concerned, Nazrul had two aims: to awaken them and to criticize their outworn custom and conservatism.⁵² Indeed, while it is abundantly clear that Nazrul cared about all of Bengal, he perhaps paid most attention to the uplifting of Muslim youth. He wrote many poems and songs that are devoted entirely to Islamic themes, heroes, events, and hopes. In several famous poems he idolizes Kemal Pasha, the architect of modern Turkey; describes the pathos of the death of the Prophet; writes of his devotion to the Prophet, his teachings, and the holy days of the religious calendar; and signals his pride in the social achievements of true Islam. His introduction of the Persian ghazal form into the Bengali language in 1926; his innovation, from 1932, of composing and recording Islamic devotional songs in Bengali; his personal support for Bengali Muslim student and youth movements; and his call for Muslims to awaken to political consciousness—all of these bespeak his care of and identification with the Muslim community. His specific criticism of Muslim society was what he considered its superstitions, fanaticism, and bigotry. “Those who believe that I am rebelling against the truth or am speaking against Islam are unreasonable and make a mistake.” “Whether Bengali Muslim society is poor in wealth I do not know, but I have been feeling for a long time and with pain that it is poor in mind. Muslim society has rewarded me with the title ‘kafir’ and I have accepted it.”⁵³ “But I am embarrassed, thinking that I am considered big enough to have the title ‘kafir’ applied to me. Do they think that if anyone utters the names of Hindu gods and goddesses he is a kafir? Then Bengali literature will never be enriched by Muslim authors.”⁵⁴ Nazrul described the Muslim society of his day as “deserving of fear. It always has a raised lathi . . . How many brickbats have not been thrown at me?”⁵⁵

⁵¹ For a statement to this effect, see Rafiqul Islam 2015. He claims that what Nazrul epitomizes is the victory of humanism. To give another example, the editors of the global anthology Language for a New Century (Chang, Handal, and Shankar 2008), chose one of Nazrul’s sāmyabādī poems to represent his entire oeuvre. ⁵² Anisuzzaman, “Najrul Islām o Tār Kabitā” (1957), in Anisuzzman 2015: 156–64. ⁵³ From the letter to Ibrahim Khan, in Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam, 9: 187. ⁵⁴ Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam, 9: 182. ⁵⁵ Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam, 9: 183. Five separate things antagonized Nazrul’s orthodox Muslim critics: (1) his use of Hindu terminology and genres in his oeuvre; (2) his refusal to champion a communal Muslim identity; (3) his unconventional personal life; (4) his symbolic interpretation of many Islamic rituals and customs (e.g. in “Sahid-Id,” or “The Martyr’s Id,” he challenges his fellow Muslims not to offer animals to God in Id but “rather [to] put to death the beasts that lurk in your heart” (trans. Kabir Chowdhury, in Nazrul in Translation, ed. Huda, 188); and (5) his refusal to use his poetic output to strengthen adherence to Muslim law.

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Nazrul refused to join either the Congress or the Muslim League, and he found the idea of Partition repugnant. In fact, everything we know about Nazrul up until 1942, when he was overcome by illness, indicates that, while he would have welcomed Independence, he would not have wanted Bengal to be cut into two. But in what Bengalis call the Pakistan amal, the Pakistan era from 1947 to 1971, Nazrul Islam had to be interpreted properly to fit the aspirations of the new Muslim homeland. When he was not being denounced as a Bengali kafir, he was lauded as a pioneer of Bengali Muslim regeneration, and the East Pakistan government sent him a monthly cheque as a contribution toward his welfare. Already by 1951, just four years after Pakistan’s independence, scholar Mizanur Rahman admitted that although Nazrul never attached himself to the Muslim League, because he revered the same sentiments that were foundational to Jinnah’s concept of freedom and equality, Nazrul could be interpreted as supporting Pakistan.⁵⁶ Such Islamicizing of Nazrul was aided by the Pakistanera bowdlerizing translations of Nazrul’s poetry into English. Already during his own lifetime people were cleansing his poems of their Hindu images. In June 1924, when the poet Satyendra Nath Datta passed away, Nazrul wrote an impassioned editorial for a Bengali paper with a Muslim editor, using Hindu imagery. When the publisher took out all the Hindu language before printing it, Nazrul vowed never to contribute anything to that paper again.⁵⁷ That same fate awaited Nazrul’s poetry in the 1960s and 1970s. During the lead-up to the Independence War in 1971, both Rabindranath Tagore and Nazrul Islam were held on to as symbols of the sort of composite Bengali culture that East Pakistan was fighting to retain, and since the birth of Bangladesh, Nazrul has enjoyed more freedom of movement, as it were; he is not so straitjacketed. Nonetheless, in modern Bangladesh, not surprisingly, Nazrul’s Islamic poetry, songs, and persona have tended to be emphasized. Nazrul’s “Hindu” sides are sometimes celebrated in Bangladesh—I have been : told by certain singers that they love to perform his Śyāmā Sangīt. More often, however, they are de-emphasized in favor of his Islamic aspects, and sometimes downright denied or denounced. A prominent singer told me that a fundamentalist TV station, now banned, had invited her to sing Nazrul but debarred her from singing anything with Hindu content.⁵⁸ In 2014 I listened to a TV interview with a Jama’at leader in Dhaka, who said that Nazrul was Muslim and should be celebrated only as such; a Bangladeshi colleague added that in public the Jama’at will assert that Nazrul disowned all the Hindu elements in his life.⁵⁹ We can recognize in these examples hints of Nazrul’s trajectory in Bangladesh. How he has and will continue to be understood will depend on the “work” ⁵⁶ ⁵⁷ ⁵⁸ ⁵⁹

Rahman 1951: 3–5. Mitra 2007: 54–5. The Śebak’s editor was Maulana Akram Khan. Nashid Kamal, interview, June 23, 2014. Muhammad Nurul Huda, interview, June 24, 2014.

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he must do in Bangladesh; whether to uphold a program of increasing Islamization, to help undergird a secular state, or to do something else entirely. National poets are by definition “multiple,” in that they are capacious enough to be meaningful in many national circumstances, even though at any one time the interpretation may claim to be monolithic. For the new nation of Bangladesh, Nazrul would seem to be integral to the cohesion of a group identity, even if, in the process, and for the moment, certain aspects of his actual history seem not to have been emphasized as integral to the “memory” being preserved.

CO NCLUSION I think it no surprise, ultimately, that it is the Bengali Hindu goddess Kālī whom Nazrul adopted as his own. The Śākta tradition in Bengal is theologically flexible, accommodating, and encompassing. This odd “motherless boy” is not a theological anomaly, from a Śākta perspective. But practically and politically, as I hope to have shown in this brief chapter, Nazrul’s attachment to the Hindu goddess Kālī both inspired and horrified his contemporaries, and continues to evoke the same reactions among Bengalis today. Moreover, especially in our contemporary political climate, with Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh both vigorously promoting Nazrul, with the governments of India and Bangladesh cooperating in joint birth and death commemorations of Rabindranath and Nazrul, and with a new ease of cross-border travel for artists, scholars, and even tourists, the Nazruls of both states are influencing one another. In the end, whether or not one agrees with Abul Bashar, who wrote in the Kolkata newspaper Rabibār in 2015 that Nazrul was Hindu in his bhāb (feeling) but Muslim in his dharma,⁶⁰ Nazrul will always create problems for his audiences, either in holding up a near-impossible model of secular communal harmony in our times, or in being an irritant for those who would emphasize one side of him only. But precisely because of his complexity, he inspires unbroken fascination and endless pathos. Nazrul evokes pity in us. We feel with him, when he calls to the goddess and reaches for her lap: This toy is a burden, Mā; take it back. Evening has come, darkness descends. Cover me with your sārī, and put me to sleep.⁶¹ ⁶⁰ Bashar 2015: 2. : ⁶¹ From “Kothāy geli Mā go āmār,” in Rāngā Jabā, song 31. I am grateful to the audience of the Kazi Nazrul University, Asansol, West Bengal, who heard the first version of this paper, in Bengali, and who made valuable comments, on July 29, 2017.

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Rachel Fell McDermott REFERENCES

Primary Sources Islam, Kazi Nazrul, Poetry of Kazi Nazrul Islam in English Translation, ed. Mohammad Nurul Huda, vol. 1. Dhaka: Nazrul Institute, 1997. Islam, Kazi Nazrul, Kājī Najrul Islām Racanāsamagra, ed. Sanatkumar Cattopadhyay. 7 vols. Kolkata: Pascimbanga Bangla Academy, 2004. Islam, Kazi Nazrul, Najrul-Racanābalī, ed. Rafiqul Islam. 12 vols. Dhaka: Bangla Academy, 2008. Islam, Kazi Nazrul, Some Ghazals of Nazrul Islam, ed. Mujibur Rahman Khan. Dhaka: Islamic Foundation Library, 1983.

Secondary Sources Ahmed, Mohammad Reyazuddin. 1922. [bangabda 1329]. “Loktā Musalmān nā Śaytān?” Islām Darśan 3/2. Ahmed, Rafiuddin. 1981. The Bengal Muslims, 1871–1906: A Quest for Identity. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Anisuzzaman. 2015. “Najrul Islām o Tār Kabitā.” In Śrestha Prabandha, 156–64. Dhaka: Katha Prokash. Bashar, Abul. 2015. “Khabarer Ceye Beśi,” Rabibār, Dec. 6, p. 2. Bose, Neilesh. 2014. Recasting the Region: Language, Culture, and Islam in Colonial Bengal. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Chang, Tina, Nathalie Handal, and Ravi Shankar. (Eds.) 2008. Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond. New York: Norton. Eaton, Richard. 1993. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Ferdous, Fahmim. 2017. “Nazrul Is Like a Prison.” Daily Star, June 9. http://www. thedailystar.net/arts-entertainment/nazrul-prism-1417441. : Islam, Rafiqul. 2015. “Ekuś śatake Najruler prāsangikatā,” Jātīya Najrul-Sammelan, June 5–8. Kar, Sisir. 2010. The British Raj and the Rebel Poet Nazrul. Dhaka: Nazrul Institute. Koestler, Arthur. 1964. The Act of Creation. New York: Macmillan. Langley, Winston. 2008. Kazi Nazrul Islam: The Voice of Poetry and the Struggle for Human Wholeness. Dhaka: Nazrul Institute. McDermott, Rachel. 2001a. Mother of My Heart, Daughter of My Dreams: Kālī and Umā in the Devotional Poetry of Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press. McDermott, Rachel. 2001b. Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kālī and Umā from Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press. Mitra, Priti Kumar. 2007. The Dissent of Nazrul Islam: Poetry and History. New Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press. Mukhopadhyaya, Roshni. 2017. Article in Ānanda Bājār Patrikā. May 25, p. 5. Obeyesekere, Gananth. 1981. Medusa’s Hair: An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Ramachandran, Smriti Kak. 2017. “RSS to Eulogise Bangladeshi’s National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam as ‘Good Hindu.’ ” Hindustan Times, April 23. Rahman, Mizanur. 1951. “Pākistāner Pat-bhūmikāy Kājī Najrul Islām.” Māhe-nao, 3/2 (May), 3–5. Sanyal, Nishesh Bhushan. 2014. Yogībar Baradācaran. : Kolkata: Bhāṣālipi. Sen, Sumanta. 2003. Kazi Nazrul Islam: Freedom’s Poet. New Delhi: Rupa. Sengupta, Sujata. 2012. Kājī Najrul Islām o Āmār Māmābāri. Haorah: Sahajpath. Weisberg, Robert W. 2006. Creativity: Understanding Innovation in Problem Solving, Science, Invention, and the Arts. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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14 The Divine Mother Comes to Michigan Tracy Pintchman

The Parashakthi Temple in Pontiac, Michigan, known in English as the Eternal Mother Temple, was established on 16 acres of undeveloped wooded land in the year 1999, just before the turn of the millennium, although it has been greatly expanded from its original form. The temple’s website describes the temple as “a tirtha peetham (pilgrimage) in the west for Devi Adi Parashakti Durga worshipers” with numerous deities who are the goddess’s “various vibratory entities.”¹ The goddess honored in this temple is the goddess Karumāriyamma_ n, “Black Māriyamma_ n,” who, according to the Parashakthi Temple website, has manifested herself both in the village of Thiruverkadu, just outside Chennai in Tamilnadu, and at the Parashakthi Temple in Pontiac.² Karumāriyamma_ n is a specifically Tamil goddess in her original South Indian context, and her temple in Thiruverkadu serves mostly Tamil-speaking Hindu devotees. The form she assumes in her temple in Michigan, however, is as a universal goddess who has come to the West for the benefit of all beings. The temple website proclaims that the Divine Mother wished to have a house of worship built in the United States so she could give her “Eternal Grace to her devotees and protect them from harm and tragedies which may befall” the world at large. The site further declares this goddess to be “supreme divine consciousness” and the “Eternal Universal Mother” who has been worshipped “in all cultures, the world over, since earliest of times . . . known to us from the ancient written records of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and India.”³ She is, however, simultaneously, the goddess of Thiruverkadu. In this chapter, I examine the nature of Karumāriyamma_ n in India as well as in her temple in Michigan. I delineate her roots in Tamil village temple

¹ http://www.parashakthitemple.org. ² http://www.parashakthitemple.org/t/shakthi-worship, accessed May 2017. ³ http://www.parashakthitemple.org/t/shakthi-worship, accessed May 2017.

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culture and the transformations she has undergone in India in recent decades. And I explore ways the Michigan temple leadership, following instructions understood to have come directly from the goddess herself, helps fashion a temple and a form of religiosity that is rooted in Indian Hindu vernacular goddess traditions but transforms such traditions in dynamic conversation with the temple’s American context. Ritual practices performed at the temple remain for the most part conventionally Hindu, and largely South Indian Hindu. The theology of the temple, however, moves decidedly into the realm of Tantra, yoga, and New Age discourse. Finally, I ponder the theological and narrative processes that come into play when the goddess and the divine power she embodies take up residence in a new land. Miracles play a very important role in this process and help define both goddess and temple as entities that intentionally disrupt geographical, religious, and social categories that characterize the mundane human world. In the sacred history of the Parashakthi Temple, miracles do something that they do not necessarily do at other places: they facilitate the emplacement of the goddess and the temple specifically in the American landscape, and they do so in a way that participates in a transcultural, transnational, and transhistorical economy of divine power, thus placing the goddess and her sanctified space beyond spatial and cultural boundaries.

M ĀRIYAMMAN AND KARUMĀRIYAMMA N In Tamilnadu, Karumāriyamma_ n is widely understood to be a form of Māriyamma_ n, “Mother Mari.” Māriyamma_ n is revered in South India and is widely, although not always accurately, associated with illness. She is most commonly known as the goddess of smallpox, but the list of illnesses with which she is associated includes at least sixteen different varieties of poxes and measles.⁴ As a goddess of disease, she has the power both to afflict humans with illness and to remove illness. Elaine Craddock notes that she is often depicted “as a fierce, angry goddess with a voracious appetite for blood sacrifice and a capricious character, a vivid manifestation of ambivalent power.”⁵ Devotees understand that Māriyamma_ n, like all goddesses, is a mother goddess and a form of Śakti, the divine, transcendent female power that creates and sustains the universe. Since the worldwide eradication of smallpox, Māriyamma_ n’s specific association with pox illnesses has receded, but her nature as a mother goddess who can both punish and reward her human worshippers has remained a central characteristic of her personality. She is

⁴ Srinivasan 2009: 4.

⁵ Craddock 2001: 146.

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known especially for possessing devotees both with and without their assent. William Harman notes that planned possessions often occur at auspicious festival events such that Māriyamma_ n festivals sometimes “turn into events of major ecstatic trance-possession that can spread contagiously, as do many fever-inducing illnesses attributed to her.”⁶ Māriyamma_ n is furthermore a goddess of fertility. She manifests as rain or water and as general wellbeing or auspiciousness. The term ammai is used not only to indicate the goddess herself and the sixteen varieties of poxes and measles that she governs, but also to refer to her auspicious qualities.⁷ She can assume the form of snakes and anthills as well. Perundevi Srinivasan observes that the “image of an anthill with holes and serpents strikes an obvious sympathetic correspondence with a body having ammai in the form of pustules.”⁸ She is also implicated in processes of regeneration and rebirth,⁹ especially with respect to a well-known story recounted in the Mahābhārata (3.116.1–18) and retold countless times, in numerous versions, concerning Māriyamma_ n’s origins from Renukā, a human woman. Renukā is a virtuous, : : high-caste wife whose vow (vrata) of chastity gives her the power to carry water without using a pot. One day, she observes in a river the reflection of a gandharva, a heavenly musician, and feels admiration for his beauty. This act of perceived immodesty causes her to lose her water-carrying power. Her husband, Jamadagni, becomes enraged that she has lost the power that her chastity has conferred upon her, so he orders their son, Paraśurāma, to kill her, granting him a boon if he will do so. Paraśurāma finds his mother in the home of an untouchable woman, where Renukā has gone to hide, and kills : both women by chopping off their heads with his ax. He then, however, requests as his boon that his mother be brought back to life. Paraśurāma attaches the women’s heads back onto the bodies and sprinkles them with water, revivifying them, but he accidentally attaches his mother’s head to the untouchable woman’s body and vice versa. Renukā in this hybrid form : becomes the goddess, a form of Māriyamma_ n. Craddock’s notes on this story: Renukā is like a sacrificial victim; her violent death catalyzes her regeneration in a : more powerful form, as the Goddess . . . . the fierce power that Renukā gains : through her suffering is transformed when Renukā becomes Bavā_ niamma_ n, : whose fierce power is viewed by her worshipers as a protective potency that demonstrates a mother’s supreme love.¹⁰

The Renukā story reveals Māriyamma_ n’s affiliation with processes of trans: formation as well as boundary transgression, processes that are embodied in her corporeal reconstruction as half untouchable, half high-caste goddess.

⁶ Harman 2010: 189. ⁷ Srinivasan 2009: 4. ⁸ Srinivasan 2009: 146. ⁹ Craddock 2001: 159; cf. Srinivasan 2009. ¹⁰ Craddock 2001: 150.

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William Harman notes that while the term “Māri” can mean “disease” or “rain,” it can also signify “change.”¹¹ Māriyamma_ n is indeed a goddess capable of great change. In the past several decades, she has moved out of villages and away from her humble roots as a low-caste goddess and has begun to appeal also to middle-class and high-caste devotees.¹² Joanne Waghorne observes that Māriyamma_ n and other local Tamil goddesses “are fomenting a new solidarity that,” she argues, “cuts across caste lines, crosses class distinctions, and bridges the urban–rural divide—all under the banner of new middle-class respectability.”¹³ She refers to this process as it occurs in India as the “bourgeoisification” of the goddess. Waghorne is especially interested in the globalization of local temple traditions as originally locally situated deities are “transported with their wandering devotees into a global context.”¹⁴ She argues that Tamil goddesses are especially appealing to diaspora Hindus because they generally are portrayed as intruding directly into the lives of devotees: they are not impersonal deities but instead act as “living energy, the vibration of the universe and the pulse of the devotee.”¹⁵ This is exactly how devotees tend to view the goddess who has taken up residence at the Parashakthi Temple. As a form of Māriyamma_ n, Karumāriyamma_ n, the goddess of the temple in Thiruverkadu, Tamilnadu, embodies Māriyamma_ n’s traits. Like Māriyamma_ n, Karumāriyamma_ n, too, is a goddess who manifests in and as pox illnesses, rain, processes of change, fertility, and auspiciousness. She is held to reside inside an anthill in Thiruverkadu although she also appears to devotees in the form of a cobra.¹⁶ Srinivasan recounts a story that one of the priests of the temple in Thiruverkadu tells about Karumāriyamma_ n: The goddess was first born as the daughter of the Pandiyan king of Madurai: she was Mīnākṣī. In the next yuga, she was . . . Parvati. In this Kaliyuga, she is born not from a fetus (karu) but she has assumed a changed (mari) form, which is that of a snake in the anthill.¹⁷

Today the Karumāriyamma_ n temple in Thiruverkadu is under government administration, with formally trained, high-caste pujaris performing ritual worship. Yet the temple has roots in the Paraiyar (“Scheduled Caste” or ādidrāviḍa) community and is reported to have been for many generations a place of prophecy and healing. One of the main priests at the temple, Ganesha Gurukkal, who claimed to have served at the temple for twenty-eight years when I interviewed him in January 2009, noted that the change in the temple from Paraiyar to state control occurred in the 1960s when one of the Shankaracaryas allegedly came to the temple, installed a mūrti (icon) according to ¹¹ Harman 2010: 285. ¹³ Waghorne 2004: 133–4. ¹⁵ Waghorne 2004: 227.

¹² Harman 2010; Craddock 2001. ¹⁴ Waghorne 2004: 146, 173. ¹⁶ Srinivasan 2009: 159. ¹⁷ Srinivasan 2009: 159–60.

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“proper”—meaning Sanskritic—methods, and wrested control of the temple away from the Paraiyar family that had run it for several generations. Before that time, the goddess’s form in the temple was simply an image of her head, as is true also of other amman temples in Tamilnadu. Srinivasan reports that the main priest of the Thiruverkadu Temple, Nagaraja Gurukkal, told her that until the 1950s, an earthen pot filled with water and adorned with turmeric paste and Margosa leaves was kept upon an anthill and was the major object of regular worship.¹⁸ At least two members of that original family still live in Thiruverkadu and continue to run their own, albeit smaller and much less visited, Karumāriyamma_ n temples where the goddess possesses them to prophesize and perform healings. The granddaughter of the Karumāriyamma_ n temple’s founder, a woman called Mariammal Sami, runs a small temple within walking distance of the main temple in Thiruverkadu. When I met and interviewed her in January of 2009, she affirmed that the change in temple administration took place in the early 1960s. Mariammal claims that before the change her own father had presided over the main temple, having taken over its administration from his father, who was Mariammal’s grandfather. The goddess used to “come into” Mariammal’s father and prophesize, but when he died, the goddess instead came into Mariammal’s brother and then, later, her. She claimed at the time I interviewed her that the goddess had been “coming into her” for forty-three years. Ganesha Gurukkal recounted to me that the person most responsible for helping popularize the worship of Karumāriyamma_ n in the region since the 1960s was a temple priest named Ramdass, who, he thinks, served as assistant to Mariammal’s father. Ramdass was no longer alive when I was in Thiruverkadu in 2009, but it seems he played an important role in helping launch the Parashakthi Temple.

THE P ARASHAKHTHI TEMPLE I N P ONTIAC, MICHIGAN I became interested in doing research on the Parashakthi Temple in 2006 when I first stumbled upon the temple’s website. I was especially intrigued that the website described the temple as a place of many miracles; indeed, the occurrence of miracles at the temple is very much part of its identity, as described in its newsletters. I also noted that, at the time, ten out of the sixteen members of the temple board listed on the website were Caucasian American, with only six

¹⁸ Srinivasan 2009: 215.

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listed board members being clearly of Indian heritage.¹⁹ This seemed to me to be quite unusual since Hindu temples in the United States are mostly founded by and for the American Hindu community of South Asian heritage. The founder and spiritual director of the Parashakthi Temple is Dr. G. Krishna Kumar, a gastroenterologist on staff at William Beaumont Hospital. During the summer of 2007, when I found out I would be traveling to Michigan to attend a conference in the fall of that year, I decided to visit the temple. I left several phone messages asking for Dr. Kumar’s contact information, all to no avail. Finally, I sent a letter expressing my interest, along with several of my publications, to Dr. Kumar at the temple’s address. A couple of weeks later, a temple devotee called and left a message on my voicemail at work asking me to call Dr. Kumar at his medical office. I first met with Kumar and some of the individuals most closely involved with the temple in September 2007. I have returned numerous times over the last decade to conduct field research and interviews. The Parashakthi Temple, like the Rajarajeshvari Temple in New York State that Corinne Dempsey has written about,²⁰ diverges in important ways from the patterns to which Hindu temples in the United States tend to conform. Like other American Hindu temples, it has a governing temple committee; it is, however, the only American Hindu temple I know of where a majority of the members of the governing body are not of Indian descent. Although the temple’s focus is on Karumāriyamma_ n as Divine Mother, numerous other deities have also been installed over the years; their presence in the temple, however, is a result not of committee discussion²¹ but instead the direct command of the goddess. Deity icons are described in temple discourse as the material manifestations of the Divine Mother’s vibrations (spanda). Finally, unlike in many American Hindu temples, religious life in the Parashakthi Temple is guided directly and steadfastly by a charismatic leader, Dr. Kumar, who also serves as the committee’s president. While Kumar is the temple’s acknowledged spiritual director and is extolled by many temple devotees as a mystic and religious visionary, he resists the title “guru,” insisting that he is instead mostly a “mailman” whose role is to deliver instructions and truths that he has received directly from Divine Mother. Kumar was also one of the principal founders of the temple. Many individuals were involved in establishing the temple, and many members of that initial group remain engaged in temple activities and continue to support the temple financially. However, no one else plays the kind of central role that Kumar does in guiding the temple’s ongoing religious life. The story of the founding of the Parashakthi Temple is a story replete with miracles. Here I draw upon Richard Davis’s understanding of miracles as ¹⁹ For a list of committee members, please see http://www.parashakthitemple.org/t/committee. ²⁰ Dempsey 2006. ²¹ Narayanan 1992: 175.

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“actions or events that so differ from the expected course of things that they evoke astonishment and wonder.”²² The “expected course of things” I understand as that which refers to the “orderly . . . and empirically intelligible” realm of the natural world.²³ The important role given to the miraculous in the establishment of the Parashakthi Temple is certainly not unique, for miracles play an important role in the sthala-purānas, : the origin narratives, of many temples in India. In the sacred history of the Parashakthi Temple, however, miracles that the goddess is seen as perpetuating at this location do something that they do not necessarily do at other places: they facilitate the emplacement of this goddess and her temple specifically in the American landscape, helping define both goddess and temple as entities that simultaneously embody and transcend the kinds of boundaries that characterize the everyday human world. Just as those most intimately involved in founding the temple understand the goddess herself to be both local (as Karumāriyamma_ n) and universal (as Parashakthi, “Shakti of All”), South Indian and American, Hindu and pan-religious, the miracles that enabled the temple to be built in the first place similarly cross these borders, reflecting the boundary-transgressing nature of the goddess herself. Kumar reports that he came from India to the United States from Tamilnadu, South India in the mid-1960s to do his medical internship. During his first decade in the United States, he reports that he was not particularly religious but was instead absorbed in developing his career. Sometime in the early 1970s, he began to feel as if something important were missing from his life. A friend of his offered to take him to an astrologer in Tamilnadu, and Kumar agreed. Kumar reports that this astrologer, A. N. K. Swamy—or just A.N.K., as Kumar calls him—revealed that Kumar would eventually be called upon to build a temple for the goddess, although Kumar says he did not know at the time what that would entail. Here is how Kumar described the reading to me in an interview in 2008: That was Mīnākṣī, mother Mīnākṣī . . . [She said] you will not call me Mīnākṣī because [as such] I am a ritualistic vibration. But you will build [a temple] in another country, so I will come as Parashakthi Karumāriyamma_ n . . . where I am not ritualistic but will accept anybody, whether they eat meat or do not eat meat, are ritualistic or have no āgama life. I’ll accept everyone . . . So you will build the temple for me, but you won’t call me Mīnākṣī.

After this event, Kumar says he became increasingly interested in religion, taking up a practice of meditation and researching a wide range of religious topics. He reports he returned to India frequently during the 1970s and 1980s, often meeting with A.N.K. and having astrological chart readings done on his own behalf and on behalf of others. During this period Kumar also began to ²² Davis 1998: 4.

²³ Davis 1998: 5.

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develop an important spiritual relationship with a Caucasian female colleague of his, whom I shall call Jane. Kumar claims that one day, when passing him in the hall, Jane greeted him and teased him that he rarely stopped to say hello to her in the material world, but, she told him, he was coming to her frequently in dreams and offering her religious teachings. Kumar says he was surprised to hear this and didn’t believe her. But when he next returned to India, sometime in the late 1980s, he brought Jane’s biodata with him and had an astrological reading done for her. A.N.K. allegedly confirmed that Kumar had indeed been going to Jane and offering her spiritual instruction in her sleep. After that, the two developed a friendship and close spiritual relationship. Jane and her husband, who has also played a major role in creating and sustaining the temple, had a number of Caucasian friends who were spiritual seekers, and Kumar became friendly with them as well. The really formative moment for Kumar and the temple came in 1994, when the goddess first appeared directly to him in a vision while he was in a deep meditative state. Kumar described the event in an interview I conducted with him in 2009: KUMAR: From ‘72 to the ‘80s I was studying these mystical things . . . but I really did not communicate [with Divine Mother] . . . in ‘94, when Mother appeared . . . at first I didn’t know who she was. I was just meditating and this form came (and said), “Build a house for me, because the world is going to go through major turmoil beginning 2000. So install me, build the house for me, and I’ll protect the earth.” TRACY: Had you had visions like that before? KUMAR: I had visions, but not so specific like that. I had it 27 times, same thing. Then I knew it was something genuine. The number 27 is significant in this context. Hindu astrology recognizes 27 fixed nakṣatras, minor constellations—also called “asterisms” or “lunar mansions.” The nakṣatras occupy fixed positions in the sky, and altogether they complete the entire 360 degrees of the zodiac. As the earth rotates, the moon seems to move over time to a different portion of the sky and hence appears to move through all the different nakṣatras over the course of the year. When a person is born, that person’s astrological energy is governed by the nakṣatra that appears in conjunction with the moon at the time of their birth. Every nakṣatra is also linked to a particular deity. Hence the number 27 indicates the totality of all people, all deities, and all entities in the entire universe. Kumar’s claim that the vision occurred to him 27 times points to the Goddess’s desire to bring the totality of the universe into her protection with the energy that would emanate from the construction of her new American house. After experiencing the visions, Kumar conferred with A.N.K. who then confirmed that the goddess in her form as Karumāriyamma_ n was calling upon Kumar. A.N.K. sent to Kumar a picture of Karumāriyamma_ n’s mūrti. Kumar

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maintains he was not at all familiar with this form of the goddess until she appeared to him in the vision. Around this time, too, Jane told Kumar that some goddess had been appearing to her and insisting that she and Kumar build a temple for her. When Jane came to Kumar’s office one day, Kumar showed her the photo of Karumāriyamma_ n that A. N. K. Swamy had sent him from India. Jane reportedly confirmed that it was indeed the same goddess who had also been appearing to her. Hence, Kumar reports, they both knew it was incumbent upon them to build the temple. Prema Kurien notes that in many cases, the initial impetus for the building of a Hindu temple, whether in India or abroad, is often an injunction sent by a deity in a dream or vision demanding a home.²⁴ In this case, the injunction came independently to two different actors who perceived the Mother’s direct appearance to them in a form with which neither of them was familiar as a clear sign that they now had no choice but to do the Mother’s bidding. When Kumar went to India and visited the Karumāriyamma_ n temple in Thiruverkadu for the first time in the mid-1990s, he reports that he met Ramdass, the priest who, Ganesha Gurukkal claims, was of great importance in spreading the popularity of the Karumāriyamma_ n temple in Thiruverkadu. Kumar reports he was walking in the temple when Ramdass, whom he had not met before, approached him and told him that Divine Mother wanted Kumar to pay for her chariot. As Kumar tells the story, Karumāriyamma_ n had revealed to Ramdass in a vision that she wanted a temple chariot to be built to process her icon outside of the temple on festival days. Although many devotees offered to pay for it, the goddess would not allow anyone to have it constructed for her until Kumar came to Thiruverkadu. She then revealed to Ramdass that Kumar was the person she had chosen to sponsor the chariot, and Kumar says he agreed to fund it. When he returned to the United States and was back in his home meditating, Kumar says, the goddess came to him again to reveal that the chariot had larger significance: it was symbolic of her desire to be transported out of the Thiruverkadu temple, taken to Michigan, and installed in a temple there (see Figure 14.1). The goddess’s miraculous appearances in 1994 crossed ethnic and religious boundaries between Indian Hindu and Caucasian American non-Hindu, appearing to both Kumar and Jane and enjoining both of them to build her a house. These communications to her human agents, furthermore, took place across time and space, spanning decades and the distance between India and the United States. The goddess revealed her will through both the 1972 astrological reading in India and the 1994 visions occurring in Michigan, both of which came to be filtered through A. N. K. Swamy’s interpretations and as Ramdass’s visions. A close associate of Dr. Kumar’s, whom I shall call

²⁴ Kurien 2007: 88.

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Figure 14.1. The Goddess at the Parashakthi Temple in Pontiac, Michigan © Tracy Pintchman

Barbara and who continues to be actively involved in the temple, tells a similar story of being called by the Divine Mother. Barbara, like Jane, is a Caucasian American. She had been raised Baptist but converted to Catholicism in the 1970s, and her children had been raised Christian. Barbara reports that she was only peripherally involved in the planning or building of the Parashakthi Temple until 2000. At that time, the temple construction was underway and had encountered several problems with zoning and regulations, and Barbara offered her assistance with some of the logistics. She maintains that one day, as she was leaving the temple, she got into her car and looked into the rear-view mirror. The Divine Mother was there: BARBARA: It was the Divine as Goddess that I saw. . . . and she said to me, “I am She whom you call the Virgin Mary,” but she was a combination— well . . . my third eye opened up. I heard electricity, heard something pop. It was just very strange, and I could see this blue light. TRACY: And you looked in the rear-view mirror? BARBARA: Yes . . . and I thought I’d look in a different direction and she’d go away, but no matter which way I turned, she was just still there. I thought,

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Tracy Pintchman Okay, either I’m crazy, or—this is just such a strange experience. So I’ll just sit here and she’ll go away. But she didn’t go away. So then I thought I would see what it’s all about, because she was just so beautiful, like I said. In some of my meditation, I used to think that if I ever had a vision, how would I know the difference [whether the vision is divine or demonic]? And this little teacher voice that I have inside said, “if it’s from God, you’ll feel love. The devil cannot possibly make you feel love because he cannot experience love.” And I thought, that’s so simple, and yet so profound. I wouldn’t have thought of something like that. But it’s so logical. I don’t know if it’s the truth or not, but to me it’s a logical thing. When I was looking at her, I felt love in a different form. . . . She was dressed in North Indian style, but she had no blouse. The sari came across and over her head. It appeared to be almost ancient Judaic, like the Virgin Mary might have dressed. So she was a combination . . . And she said, “I am she whom you call the Virgin Mary.” And I just said, “What can I do for you?” And she said, “I have need of you at my temple.”

In Barbara’s vision, the Divine Mother appears miraculously in a hybrid form that is meaningful to her, forming a bridge between her Catholic background of Marian devotion and the Indian Hindu goddess tradition. After having this vision, Barbara became deeply involved in the life of the temple, and several devotees report that she was instrumental in solving the many problems that arose during the construction process. Another striking example of the way that miracle narratives surrounding the temple point to the transcending of ethnic and religious boundaries has to do the process of acquiring the permit to build the temple after the land was purchased. Three individuals closely involved in the founding of the temple reported to me that on the night of the hearing for the permit, the city council meeting where the temple’s fate was to be decided ran unusually late. Ultimately the permit was approved sometime around 1 a.m. Kumar claims that more than a year later, an individual involved in the process told him a story about what happened that night. Pontiac is heavily African American, and this individual was an African American man involved in the permitting process. I will call him Joe. Some years earlier Joe had been in New Orleans for work reasons and had gone to services at a Christian church where, once a month, the Holy Spirit would enter the body of the presiding minister, and the minister would make predictions. On that occasion, the Holy Spirit entered the minister, who approached Joe and told him to stand up. The Holy Spirit then declared to everyone present that in Joe’s city, “A man from the East” would come and build a house of worship, “and I (the Holy Spirit) will be there; and as soon as it’s done, your city [Pontiac] will grow luxuriously.” Kumar reports Joe told him he had been expecting a member of the sizeable Middle Eastern community nearby in Dearborn, Michigan to request a

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mosque, but when the permit for the Hindu temple was requested, he realized this was the house of worship that the Holy Spirit had predicted would come. Hence Joe worked behind the scenes to convince those involved in the process to grant the permit, making sure that everyone stayed that night until it was approved. Joe said he wanted to make sure the Parashakthi Temple got built because the presence of Jesus would be there, as predicted by the Holy Spirit speaking through the body of the Southern minister. Kumar writes in the temple’s first newsletter²⁵ that A. N. K. Swamy had described to him the land on which the temple would come to be built when he performed Kumar’s first astrological reading in 1972. After Kumar’s lifealtering vision in 1994, he began to search for this land. An Indian American acquaintance who was a real-estate broker called Kumar one day and told him he had located a plot of 16 acres of undeveloped land in the middle of Pontiac that was for sale. It was topographically similar to the site of the Mīnākṣī Temple in Madurai, and Kumar knew that this was the land the Divine Mother wanted. The owner is reported to have been an elderly Caucasian man who had moved to Florida, and when Kumar expressed interest in buying it, the owner insisted that Kumar come to Florida to discuss the matter. This all occurred during the month of January, when the weather is very cold and harsh in Michigan, but Kumar was busy with patients and could not travel. Inexplicably, according to Kumar, the owner agreed to come to Michigan and ended up selling the land to Kumar even though the owner had bigger offers on the table. When I interviewed him in Chennai in 2009, A. N. K. Swamy made particular note of the similarity between the name “Pontiac,” the town in Michigan, and the name “Pānḍ : ya,” the empire that was responsible for building the Mīnākṣī Temple, claiming that Pontiac is the New World recreation of the Pānḍ : yan Empire, a South Indian Tamil dynasty that ruled parts of South India until the fifteenth century. Significant in this regard, too, is the reported role played by Dr. V. V. Svarnavenkatesha Dikshitar, one of the main priests of the Śaiva Chidambaram Temple, also in Tamilnadu. Kumar reports that Divine Mother told him in the 1994 astrological reading that he should seek out for help the brahmin Dikshitar, whom Kumar had never met. Kumar recounts that A.N.K. took him to meet Dikshitar, who at first rejected Kumar. However, Kumar reports that Divine Mother had given him secret information about a yantra in Dikshitar’s possession, information that he revealed to Dikshitar, who then told his guests to leave and return the next day. When they returned, Kumar reports, Dikshitar accepted the meeting with them and explained that Ganesha himself had told Dikshitar that Kumar was worthy of his attention. Kumar reports also that Dikshitar was a powerful

²⁵ Kumar 2001.

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Tantrika and master yantra maker. Dikshitar came to Michigan in 1999 to oversee the installation of the first yantras and mūrtis in the Parashakthi Temple, beginning with the yantra and mūrti of Divine Mother herself. A photo of Dikshitar hangs in the temple, and Kumar continues to refer to Dikshitar as his guru. A. N. K. Swamy’s astrological reading predicted that the land on which the temple would be constructed would have formerly been occupied by priests of another religion. Kumar and others intimately involved in establishing the Parashakthi Temple insist that the temple grounds had previously been sacred to Native Americans in the area and had been a site of powerful shamanic activity. Kumar reports that the presence of Native American shamanic spirits was revealed to him one day when he was in deep meditation, long after he had purchased the land. One devotee recounted that she and a friend were walking on the land one day before the construction of the temple began, and the friend went into the woods. This friend came out a few minutes later visibly frightened because she had heard the sound of drumming in a particular pattern, as well as voices singing in a language she had never before heard, sounds that this devotee understood to be the music and voices of Native American spirits inhabiting the area. Kumar insists that the Divine Mother herself had already been present in the land before he acquired it and set up the shamanic spirits that remain in the land around the temple. He also reports that he and others have seen on temple grounds large deer with enormous antlers, which are invisible to most humans but are the spirits of the deceased shamans. The land’s connection to its reported Native American past has become well established in public narratives about the temple. For example, a column that a temple devotee who is close to Kumar wrote for the first newsletter on the temple’s origins notes, “Local Native American Indians were drawn to the power of the land and selected it for their sacred worship site. Several devotees have commented on feeling the presence of these ancient spirits.”²⁶ It is significant that devotees experience the land chosen for the Divine Mother’s house in the West, situated in a largely African American city, as imbued with the religious power of spirits of deceased Native American shamans, and also as imitative of South Indian Hindu landscapes, specifically that of the Mīnākṣī Temple in Madurai. The Parashakthi Temple serves as both a Tamil Hindu goddess temple and a divine power-spot that crosses boundaries and transcends its Tamil, Indian, and Hindu trappings. In fact, several individuals closely involved in the establishment of the temple have told me that the original intention was to construct the temple as a sanctuary for the divine feminine in all religions, with shrines to Mary and goddesses

²⁶ Costa 2001: 12.

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from other traditions, but Divine Mother appeared to Kumar in a dream after the initial structure had been built and consecrated and told him that she did not want him and the other founders to fulfill that initial plan. The land on which the temple itself was built is described in temple discourse as chosen and prepared over the course of many centuries by Divine Mother herself, imbued in a unique way with her concentrated energy. In the temple’s first newsletter, devotee Pamela Costa writes, “Modern day visionaries have also been attracted to the land’s power and sacred past. It is apparent to many that a vortex of energy exists at the site. We, at the Eternal Mother Temple, believe the Holy Land is aligned with the various planetary and star systems in such a way so as to heighten the energies at the present day site.”²⁷ Temple spokespersons continue to describe the temple to congregants who attend public temple events as a vortex and a place where communication with the Divine Mother comes by means of a “faster cable” than at other places. Similarly, Kumar and others involved closely with the temple describe the deities (devatās) as vibratory cosmic forces whose power the temple has come to embody when their icons (mūrtis) are ritually consecrated in installation ceremonies. The nature of the temple as an energy vortex is important with respect to the major impetus for building the temple in Pontiac in 1999: it was constructed at the time of transition between millennia to protect the Western world from danger during the first part of the twenty-first century. Temple literature now describes the main mission of the Parashakthi Temple as sharing Divine Mother’s grace with those who are able to receive it. This mission was modified a few years ago to include also “experiencing and exploring the Divine.” But the original mission was one of protection. Kumar has noted on a number of public occasions that the goddess orchestrated the construction of the temple because the world would go through a catastrophic period during the first two decades of the twenty-first century, and the energy installed at the temple would protect humans and the earth from potential disaster. Kumar speaks frequently at the temple of demons (asuras) as active, malevolent forces that can be overcome with positive divine energy. In this regard, the Divine Mother of the Parashakthi Temple assumes the protective function often associated more traditionally with the Hindu goddess as she is portrayed in texts like the Devīmāhātmya. In fact, the mūrti pratiṣt ḥ a, the day the goddess’s image was first installed in 1999 (October 19), was the day of Vijayā Daśamī, “Victory Tenth,” which commemorates the moment in the Devīmāhātmya when the goddess vanquished her demonic rival, a buffalo-demon named Mahiṣa, and restored moral order or dharma to the world.

²⁷ Costa 2001: 4.

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At the Parashakthi Temple, a Tamil village goddess comes to claim universal status, participating in what Joanne Waghorne calls “the globalization of more localized temple traditions.”²⁸ Waghorne describes this process as one by which deities of local and regional Indian temples come to be transported outside of India, generating “a new kind of transnational religion that functions as an alternative to other forms of transnational Hinduism,” “such as the ever-present neo-hinduisms and hindu-nationalisms.”²⁹ Waghorne observes that both Murugan and Tamil goddesses act as predominant “icons of locality” even as they globalize. She argues further that the contemporary return to the local, even a nostalgia for the local in matters religious, openly returns . . . to religious experience that can be loosely termed ‘magic’ or, in the old Weberian term, ‘enchantment’—the sense that the concrete world becomes the site for divine powers to interact with human devotees, for curing pain in the body and agony in the mind, for financial success, for general : mangalam (auspiciousness).³⁰

In responding to Waghorne’s astute observations, I argue that in the case of the Parashakthi Temple, it would be more accurate to view “the local” or “locality” less as an attribute to which those most involved with the temple return and more as one they construct, creatively, in conversation with the American landscape, American history, Hindu goddess traditions derived from Sanskrit texts, and South Indian goddess traditions surrounding Māriyamma_ n and Karumāriyamma_ n.³¹ The goddess’s reported miraculous powers remain a central part of this identity. The goddess’s power has had to take up residence and inject itself into the American landscape, as is repeatedly emphasized in temple literature and in the numerous public talks that Kumar gives, to protect the Western world as well as India from disaster. The goddess does not just move from one place to the other but creates herself anew in a fresh paradigm more suitable for the new context and the primary role she is to play in this context. In the volume on modern miracles in South Asian religious traditions that she has edited with Selva Raj, Corinne Dempsey articulates the book’s main theme concerning the miraculous to be “miracle as conundrum.” In modernity, certainly, the very existence or possibility of miracles has been hotly contested such that “miracles in the modern context . . . rarely cease to be a conundrum for their supporters who, more elaborately than their predecessors, must work to give validity and respectability to their beliefs.”³² From what I have observed at the Parashakthi Temple, however, there is little sense there of the miraculous as posing any kind of serious conundrum to those most intimately involved with the place. Instead, like at least some other modern supporters of the possibility of the miraculous, as Dempsey describes, temple devotees often make room for ²⁸ Waghorne 2004: 172. ³¹ Pintchman 2014.

²⁹ Waghorne 2004: 173, 177. ³² Dempsey 2008: 10.

³⁰ Waghorne 2004: 181.

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the miraculous by maintaining that “divinity and divine powers are realities” that may “make their presence known . . . to the empirical world” through miraculous occurrences.³³ Perhaps a more usefully descriptive term to describe the role of the miraculous in this context, and one that individuals at the temple invoke themselves, would be “communication.” Communication has less to do with what miracles are than with what miracles do, at least in this context. The Divine Mother communicates directly to those who are “touched” by her, as Kumar would put it, and she does so frequently through miracles, to make her will known and to impose it on human actors. These miracles in turn communicate the elasticity of ethnic, religious, and geographical boundaries to the Divine Mother, mirroring the elasticity of such boundaries in the lives of many of the temple’s core devotees. The goddess intervenes to direct the actions of not just Indians or Indian American Hindus, but also Caucasian American and African American non-Hindus; they, too, are touched by Mother and called to her service in seeing that her temple gets built. The land chosen for the Divine Mother’s house in the West, situated in a largely African American city, is declared to be infused with the religious power of the spirits of deceased Native American shamans and also imitative of South Indian Hindu landscape, specifically that of the Mīnākṣī Temple in Madurai. The temple functions as both a Tamil Hindu temple and a divine American power-spot that transcends its Tamil and Hindu origins. In his book chapter “An Ethnographic Encounter with the Wondrous in a South Indian Catholic Shrine,” Selva Raj cites Robert Mullin’s argument that The tenacity of the idea of the miraculous lies in the fact that it is linked in the religious imagination to a number of cherished beliefs such as the reality of a spiritual realm, the meaningfulness of prayer, and the ability of a personal God to respond to the Word. Whereas outside of the religious world view the idea of a miracle might appear meaningless, from within it is not.³⁴

Contra Mullin, Raj argues that the tenacity of the miraculous is not only due to a particular worldview or religious imagination but to “something more concrete—experience.”³⁵ Raj is speaking in particular of miracles that cross religious boundaries and are experienced by both Hindus and Christians at a South Indian shrine to St Anthony, but he also draws on Joyce Flueckiger’s study of healing practices among South Indian Hindus and Muslims, where Flueckiger notes, “Why and how religious healing works across religious boundaries is implicitly assumed and understood by patients; these issues are of more concern to scholars and students outside this local context than to Muslim and Hindu participants.”³⁶ At the Parashakthi Temple, the ³³ Dempsey 2008: 10–11. ³⁴ Raj 2008: 160; citing Mulling 1966: 4–5. ³⁵ Raj 2008: 160. ³⁶ Flueckiger 2006: 9.

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experience of the Divine Mother’s desire and ability to communicate her will across religious, geographic, historical, and ethnic boundaries is sustained in miracle narratives that persist in nourishing the religious life of devotees who remain committed to her worship.

REFERENCES Primary Sources http://www.parashakthitemple.org. Secondary Sources Costa, Pamela. 2001. “Mystical Origins.” Om Shakthi 1/1 (Jan.–Mar.): 12. Craddock, Elaine. 2001. “Reconstructing the Split Goddess as Śakti in a Tamil Village.” In Seeking Mahādevī: Constructing the Identities of Hindu Great Goddess, ed. Tracy Pintchman, 145–69. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2001. Davis, Richard. 1998. “Introduction: Miracles as Social Acts.” In Images, Miracles and Authority in Asian Religious Traditions, ed. Richard Davis, 1–22. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Dempsey, Corinne G. 2006. The Goddess Lives in Upstate New York: Breaking Convention and Making Home at a North American Hindu Temple. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Dempsey, Corinne G. 2008. “Introduction: Divine Proof or Tenacious Embarrassment? The Wonders of the Modern Miraculous.” In Miracle as Modern Conundrum in South Asian Religious Traditions, eds. Corinne Dempsey and Selva Raj, 1–22. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Flueckeger, Joyce. 2006. In Amma’s Healing Room. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Harman, William. 2010. “Possession as Protection and Affliction: The Goddess Mariyamman’s Fierce Grace.” In Health and Religious Rituals in South Asia: Disease, Possession, and Healing, ed. Fabrizio Ferrari, 188–98. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis. Kumar, Dr. G. Krishna. 2001. “Personal Note from Dr. G. Krishna Kumar.” Om Shakthi 1/1 (Jan.–Mar. 2001): 4. Kurien, Prema A. 2007. A Place at the Multicultural Table: The Development of an American Hinduism. Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Mullin, Robert Bruce. 1996. Miracles and the Modern Religious Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press. Narayanan, Vasudha. 1992. “Creating South Indian Hindu Experience in the United Stages.” In A Sacred Thread: Modern Transmission of Hindu Traditions in India and Abroad, ed. R. B. Williams, 147–96. Chambersburg, PA: Anima Publications. Pintchman, Tracy. 2014. “From Local Goddess to Locale Goddess: Karumariamman as Divine Mother at a North American Hindu Temple.” In Inventing and Reinventing

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the Local Goddess: Contemporary Iterations of Hindu Deities on the Move, ed. Sree Padma, 89–103. Boulder, CO: Lexington Books. Raj, Selva J. 2008. “An Ethnographic Encounter with the Wondrous in a South Indian Catholic Shrine.” In Miracle as Modern Conundrum in South Asian Religious Traditions, eds. Corinne Dempsey and Selva Raj, 141–65. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Srinivasan, Perundevi. 2009. “Stories of the Flesh: Colonial and Anthropological Discourses on the South Indian Goddess Mariyamman.” PhD diss.: George Washington University. Waghorne, Joanne Punzo. 2004. Diaspora of the Gods: Modern Hindu Temples in an Urban Middle-Class World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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Afterword Mandakranta Bose

The first thing that comes to mind when talking about Hindu goddesses is their extraordinary longevity: goddess worship among Hindus began at least as early as the second millennia BCE and continues with unflagging—indeed mounting—vigor wherever in the world Hindus live. But antiquity and continuity are by no means the main indicators of their importance. Rather, the conception and worship practices of Hindu goddesses are founded on some of the most abstruse and challenging philosophical concepts in any culture at any time while they interpenetrate the material culture and social life of Hindus at every level. Yet it would be a mistake to think of these goddesses solely or primarily as philosophical subjects, even though it is always tempting to pursue mysteries that have resisted for millennia the most sophisticated debates of theory and exegesis imaginable, as Bihani Sarkar demonstrates in her chapter. Absorbing as such debates are, goddesses do occupy the minds and hearts of people other than scholars and they step out of theses and seminars to pervade domestic and public spaces, swaying private hopes and public policy alike. Tracy Pintchman rightly observes that there is no area of Hindu sensibility and life experience that is mundane or profane but is associated with some sense of female divinity. A commonplace of public discourse is that Hindus are given to introducing gods and goddesses and figures of myth and legend into every situation, their everyday conversation laced with invocations and allusions to realities beyond their own. Whether the speaker is devout or a believer is not the issue. What matters is that the religious culture of Hindus is peopled with deities, unseen or unfelt though they may be. As for the felt reality of Hindu social life, the place of goddesses continues to be entirely secure. Whether the object of veneration is the Great Goddess or one or more of her manifest forms, goddess worship spans religious as well as social ideology, gender ideology in particular because of the ascription of gender to these deities. There is a communal readiness to match goddesses

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to women, whereby goddesses are cast in idealized gender roles within family structures, such as mothers, wives, and daughters, nurturers and conservers of family integrity. At the worldly end of the spectrum, women are expected as mothers and wives to emulate goddess-like virtues of holding the family together and keeping authorized family relationships sacrosanct. The goddess persona has thus become a social archetype, of which no more persuasive example can be offered than the domestication of goddess Lakṣmī, as I argue in my chapter. At the same time, the idealized virtues expected of women go far in the construction of goddesses in the Hindu imagination. In The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition Pintchman puts this succinctly when she observes: “structures pertaining to the Goddess may help shape conceptions of the female gender, the treatment of women in Hindu society, and the roles that women are assigned.”¹ The patterns and substance of that shaping and its correlation with the treatment of women have been studied in this volume by Heidi Pauwels in her chapter on Sītā while the stamp of the goddess persona on a woman has been delineated in Brenda Beck’s documentation of how women may become goddesses. Delving into similar uses of tradition but from the viewpoint of their social relevance, Madhu Khanna shows how the investiture of young girls as goddesses is underwritten by myths and Tantric principles, thus countering the denigration of women in general. But it is also true that the two-way process connecting goddesses and women leads to the humanizing of the goddess and brings comfort to her devotees by forging bonds not only of reverence but also of affection. This is seen in Prabhavati Reddy’s account of the Bathukamma festival of Telengana. Not that the preferred traits in women necessarily define all goddesses, for the conception of some goddesses rests on some atavistic anxiety about women’s potential for willfulness and aggression. These fears and the awed reverence they generate are related by Krishna Datta in her study of Manasā, the snake goddess, and by Saswati Sengupta in her examination of the literature exalting Devī Canḍ : ī. That this association between goddesses and women has not always been of advantage to women is a fact only too evident in women’s lives. Yet the correlation between divine and mortal females is not the entire truth about Hindu goddesses whose conception is far more layered than that of anthropomorphic idealizations, which is only one way of explaining something that is at once sublime, mysterious, and exciting. In her chapter Pintchman seeks to correlate the Great Goddess as an abstraction that holds together all existence with perceptions of that singularity expressed as multiple forms worthy of devotion in themselves, and examines how the idea of the goddess has come to provide role models for women. Focusing more specifically on the nature of the goddess as the supreme reality, Sarkar examines early texts to ¹ Pintchman 1994: 18.

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demonstrate the difficulties of unveiling the nature of the deity by arcane linguistic and logical reasoning. Despite the brilliance of such arguments, goddesses remain numinous in the multiple identities conferred upon them by their genesis within the supreme reality of the cosmos and resist definition, as Elizabeth Rohlman shows in her study of Sarasvatī who is both goddess and river. Much of speculative thought has centered on the Śakti aspect of the divine feminine, coalescing into the philosophy and practice of Tantra, to which Sanjukta Gupta draws attention in her study of Lalitā/Tripurasundarī, a goddess whose dual identity reconciles what might seem contradictions in imagining Devī. Devotion here does gain impetus from disciplined philosophical enquiry. Devotion as a personal condition may, however, bypass intellectual approaches to divinity altogether and thrive on intuitive perception; driven to extremes of sensibility, it may lead to transgressive conduct. A moving example of this is the love of Rādhā for Kr: ṣna, : whose myth validates human passion as the surest way to union with divinity even though such passion violates key social ordinances; as Tracy Coleman demonstrates, the very intensity of love empowers Rādhā to the extent of transforming sensual attachment into spiritual union and merging her into godhead, whereby she is transformed into an object of worship herself. While not every such instance of a consuming passion leads to the seeker’s apotheosis as does Rādhā’s, sometimes spiritual fervency can become a tool for correlating religion and politics that takes one beyond social custom and countervailing tradition. A case in point is the poet Kazi Nazrul Islam’s preoccupation with goddess Kāli, which placed him outside his natal Islamic tradition in a space of personal freedom, as Rachel McDermott shows in her review of his poetical, political, and personal life as a rebel. Evidently, yearning for Kāli can burst boundaries with ease. In a far less revolutionary sense but with equally telling effect in the public sphere, Hindu religious initiatives today are striving to situate the Great Goddess on earth, expanding her territories, which Pintchman describes in her report on a modern temple to the Great Goddess in the USA. In these widely varied ways, then, goddesses claim enthralling attention on the intellectual as well as emotional register. It is not only the nature of the divine feminine that continues to stimulate ceaseless interrogation, debate, and exegeses, it is also the nature of her action in the world that leaves her devotees in a fog of uncertain readings. That is why the studies in this volume seek to understand the idea of goddesses and to map their presence in everyday life. Ultimately there is no accounting for belief in something that continually eludes tests of reason. Perhaps belief by itself creates believability. The animating power of belief comes in a particularly affecting form in a story from Bengal. In a village there was a temple to goddess Kāli, whose worship rites were devoutly carried out by

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the village priest. One day a seller of conch-shell bangles came to the village, going from door to door, but found no one to buy his wares until a little girl came out and asked for bangles. The bangles fitted her tiny wrists perfectly, pleasing both her and the bangle seller. When he asked to be paid, she told him she was going to the village tank for bathing but her father the priest would pay. Satisfied, the bangle seller sought out the priest who, however, did not believe him, saying he did not have a daughter. Insisting that he did put bangles on the child’s wrists, the bangle seller led the priest to the village tank. No girl was there. Desperate to prove himself truthful, the bangle seller cried out, “Mother, tell him I am not lying.” From the waters of the tank arose two small arms, each ornamented with the bangles. The priest fell to his knees, crying, “Mother, you never granted me the boon of seeing you after a lifetime of worship! And now you come in answer to this unlettered man’s call just because he asked!” Such is the play of Devī’s māyā. It is this play of yearning and assurance that has kept the idea of goddesses burning bright for Hindus through millennia.

REFERENCES Pintchman, Tracy. 1994. The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

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Index Abhinavagupta 66, 68 Abu (forest) 108 Acharya, Diwakar 50n.11, 51n.12, 52n.13, 55n.16, 61n.20, 91n.23 Adbhuta Rāmāyana : 9, 152, 154 Adhakumārī 187 Adhyātma Rāmāyana : 152, 157n.64, 161 Ādi drāviḍ a 307 Ādikārana : 68 Ādikāvya 151 Ādi Parāshakti Durgā 304 Ādi Varāha 67 Ādiśakti 186 Aditi 3 Adultery, adulteress 8–9, 116–21, 125–9, 141, 153 Advaita/Advaitin 18, 60, 149, 152, 161, 190, 295 Afghan Sultanate 273 African-American 314 Āgama 73, 190 Āgamavāgīśa, Śrīkr: ṣna : 180n.17 “Āgamanī” 291n.32 Aghoraśiva 45, 47–51, 52n.13, 53–7, 61 Agni 1, 4, 161 Agni Purāna : 86 Agnibīnā : 291n.32 Agniparīkṣā 147, 149, 153, 154, 161, 162, 166 Ahalyā 128, 128n.37 : Ahankāra 52 Ahirbudhnya Samhitā 72 Ahmed, Mohammad Reyazuddin 289 Ahmed, Muzaffar 287 Ahmed, Rafiuddin 294 Airāvat 84 Airi, Raghunath 101n.12, 102 “Āj Sr: ṣt ị sukher Ullāse” 291n.32 Akbar (Emperor) 273 Ākhet ị k khanḍ : a 262, 265, 267, 268, 271 Aklujkar, Vidyut 152n.35, 153n.41, 154n.46, 156n.61, 164n.96 Alakāpurī 248 Alakṣmī 83, 83n.14, 84, 93 : Alamkāra 69 Allen, Michael 152n.28, 159n.73, 161n.83, 181n.18 Alley, Kelly 31 Altekar, A. S. 173n.1, 177n.10 Amalā 250

Amāvasyā 91 Ambā 69, 180, 237 Ambāpuram/Ambi 67 Ambedkar, B. R. 165 Ambikā 180, 237, 287 American Hindu Temples 309 Amma (Bathukamma) 228, 231 Āmmā (Mata Amritanandamayi) 201–6, 215, 216, 222, 223, 224, 225 Ammai 306 Amman (mother) 147 temples 308 Amr: ta 85–6, 242, 245, 248 Amr: tānanda 68 Anāmaka-rāja Jātaka 151 Anand, Madhureeta 167 Anand, Subhash 178n.12 Ānanda Rāmāyana : 163 Ānandamat ḥ 31 “Ānandamayīr Āgamane” 285 : Anangotsavam 120 Ananta 183, 246 Anasūyā 158 Androgyny 33 : Angirasa 239 Aniruddha 249 Anisuzzaman 299 Añjali 92 Annadā 246 : Annadāmangal 274 Annakūt ạ 30 Annapūrnā : 30 Anugraha 89 : Anuṣanga 65n.2 Anuttarā 68–9 Aparā 72 Āranayaka 82 : Āranyaka-parvan 178 : Ardhanārīśvara 69n.17 Artha 27 Aśokavāt ị kā 160 : Aṣt ạ̄ vimśatitattvam 245 Āstika 243, 244, 249 Āstikamātā 244 Aśuddhādhvan 45, 56 Asura 42, 107, 108, 248 Aṣt ạ bhujā 186 Aśvapati 178 Aśvayuja (October) 228

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328 Atharva Veda 29, 84, 174n.4 Atri 239 A-U-M (eternal syllable, also Om) 43, 81 Avalon, Arthur 180 Avalon, Ellen 180 Avatāra 85, 109, 133, 147, 148, 260 Avidyā 18 Ayodhyā 147, 148, 156, 157, 162, 165 Ayodhyākānḍ : a 178 Āyurveda 30, 253 Babb, Lawrence 24–5 Baddhapadmāsana 254 Badrīnāth 30 Bāgdī 259 Bahucarā devī 181 Bajpei, K. B. 101n.12 Bālakānḍ : a 156n.59 Bālā 173–96 Bālā Tripurasundarī 65, 74, 189–91, 191n.26, 193 Bālamba 190 Balarāma 99, 173, 182 Bali 82, 84 Bāna/Bā nāsura 188–9 : : Bandyopadhyay, A. K. 272n.28 Bandyopadhyay, Manik 296 Bandyopadhyay, Tarashankar 297 Banduru, Sujatha 229n.4 Banerjee, Mamata 310 Banerjee, Sumanta 119n.16, 128n.38, 131, 133 Bangladesh 12, 13, 253, 257, 282, 297, 298, 300, 301 liberation 290 Banik : khanḍ : a 262, 265, 268, 270, 271 Bāromāsī 265 Barrenness/fertility 212–13, 216, 223, 225 Barua, Mahasveta 167n.116 Bashar, Abul 301 Basu, Hena 281n.1 Bathukamma 11, 228–40, 323 festivals: Bangāru, Kōt ị 231 songs 230–1, 235, 236, 238 Battu Narasimha Kavi 238 Bavāniamman: 306 Bawa, Seema 184n.20 Beck, Brenda 10, 26n.34, 202n.2, 211n.7, 212, 215n.9, 217, 218, 220, 221, 323 Bedi, Kiran 35 Behulā 247–56 : Behuli Mangal 257 Belur Math 193 Bengali 40 Bengali elite 274 Besant, Annie 166

Index Bet ị bachao beti padhao 175, 175n.8 : Bhabāniśankar 263 Bhadrakālī 180 Bhagavan 221, 281 Bhāgavata melā 178 Bhāgavata Purāna : 60, 85, 109, 110, 119, 119n.17, 124, 126, 127, 136, 137, 138, 139, 185 Bhagīratha 223, 224 Bhairava 179, 187, 188 Bhairon Ghāt ị̄ 187–8 Bhakta 124, 125 Bhakti 8, 9, 71, 76, 101, 102, 103, 111, 117, 128, 129, 131, 132, 134, 136, 137, 138, 138n.60 darśana 156 śravana : 156 Bhakti-gīti 287n.18, 290n.30, 291, 298 Bhanḍ : a/Bhanḍ : āsura 69–70, 72, 74, 76, 190, 191 : Bhānru Datta 266 Bharadvāja 109 Bharat Bhushan 232 Bharata 161 Bhāratcandra 274 Bhārat Mātā/Mother India 31, 32, 166 Bhāratī/Jina-Bhāratī 75 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 153, 298 Bhārhut 81, 101, 101n.14 Bhasin, Kamla 166n.113 Bhāskararāya 68 Bhatt, G. H. 178 Bhat ṭ ạ , Devala 177 Bhat ṭ ạ , Kamalakara 177n.11 Bhat ṭ ạ Rāmakant : ḥ a 53, 54–8 Bhattacharji, Sukumari 80, 81n.7, 271n.27 Bhattacharya, Ashutosh 246, 247, 256, 257, 259n.1, 260n.3 Bhattacharya, Deben 118, 121, 122, 123, 124nn.19–21 Bhattacharya, Hamsa Narayan 254 Bhattacharya, Kamalakanta 281n.1 Bhattacharya, Kanailal 101n.14, 102 Bhattacharyya, Narendranath 270 Bhat ṭ ạ r, Parāśar 149 Bhāva 50 Bhavabhūti 151, 163, 164 Bhaviṣỵa Purāna : 243 Bhāvaprakāśa (Ayruvedic text) 253 Bhīmā 179 Bhog/bhoga (experience, pleasure) 45–6, 49 Bhogakārikā 46–7, 50, 50n.11, 61 Bhramarī 179 Bhubaneswar 33 Bhūmi 29 Bhuradeva 179

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Index Bhūti 93 Bhuṣunḍ : ī 42 Bhuvana 50 Bible (Genesis) 22 “Bidrohī” [“The Rebel”] 281, 284, 289 Bihulā Kathā 257 Bīja (“cosmic seed”) 22 Bilakeśa 67 Bindu 50, 53 Bindusāras 110 Birudu, Ramaraja 238n.24 Blackburn, Stuart 153n.38 Blood 203, 210, 222, 223, 224 Bodāliyā (Boyāl) 250 Body metaphor 23, 29, 33, 292 Bose, Mandakranta 1, 90n.21, 126n.30, 150n.16, 152n.34, 176n.9, 177n.11, 323 Bose, Neilesh 302 Bose, Saratcandra 294 Brahmā/Brahma 26, 42, 60–1, 69–70, 74, 84, 86, 101, 102, 107, 108, 110, 182, 243, 256 Brahman 1, 2, 4, 18, 20, 21, 22, 33, 53, 59, 60, 152 Brāhmana : 26, 82, 84, 85, 87, 99, 100, 101, 104, 252 Brahmānḍ 6, 65, 65n.2, 85, : a Purāna(BrP) : 190n.25, 243 Brahminical 12, 18, 26, 27, 132, 133, 150, 173, 175, 178, 191, 206, 260, 264, 273, 274 Brahmasūtra 59 Brahmavādinī 176, (list of) 177 Brahmavaivarta Purāna : 86, 103, 134n.54, 244, 245, 266, 269, 270 Brahmo 286 Brhadāra nyaka Upaniṣad 70, 176 : : Brhaddevatā 177 : Br: hadtrikona-yantra 186 : Brhaddharmapurā na : : 265n.14 Br: haspati 49, 107 Brhattantrasāra 180n.17 : Bride-burning 162, 166 Brockington, John 150n.18 Brooks, Douglas Renfrew 66n.5, 67, 67n.14 Brown, C. Mackenzie 21nn.9–11, 22n.13, 23n.17, 25, 29n.57, 103, 134n.54 Brown, Robert 224n.17 Buddhist 270–1 Mahāyāna texts 101, 102, 256 Burghart, Richard 148n.4 Butalia, Urvashi 34 Caitanya 118, 132, 133, 273, 287n.17 Cakra 72 Chakrabarti, Akiñcan 263 : Chakrabarti, Kabikankan Mukunda 263–72; see also KKCM

329

: Cakrānka 239 Cakrapānidatta 262n.9 : Cakratīrtha 188 Calā 93 Calcutta/Kolkata 188, 193, 283, 284n.4, 285, 286, 289n.26, 290, 291n.30, 292, 295, 297, 298, 301 Calcutta Archaeological Museum 254 Caldwell, Sarah 34, 35n.78, 181n.19 Campāi 248–50 Cāmunḍ : ā 279 Candrakalā/Samayā 73 Cañcalā 83 : : Cānd/Cānd Sadāgar 248–55 Canḍ : ā Sītā 152 Canḍ : āla 192 Canḍ : eśvara 245 Canḍ : ī 12, 248, 259–77, 281, 285, 323 other names 259, 260 Canḍ : īdāsa 118, 128n.38 Canḍ : ikā :192 Canḍ : īmangalakāvya 12, 259–75 early authors 263 of Brajendra Kumar Dey 275 Cāndra Vyākarana : 253 Candrāvatī 152 : Carana : Gangā 187 Caste 9, 12, 165, 166, 176, 191, 192, 196, 202, 206, 211, 230, 251–2, 259, 260, 261–2, 265, 266, 267, 268, 270, 271, 272, 273, 274, 293, 307 Caturartha 27 Caturmāsa 30 : : Chengmuḍ ī kānī/cenmuḍ u 249–53 Census Report on Bengal, 1931 262n.9 Ceruvulu 232 Chakravarti, Uma 150n.20, 158n.69, 165n.99 Chhalia 153 Chandamāma 238, 238n.26 Chang, Tina 299n.51 Chastity 180, 222, 247, 268 Chatterjee, Bandana 108, 108n.29 Chatterjee, Bankim Chandra 31, 296 Chattopadhyay, Ramananda 285n.7, n.11 Chattopadhyay, Saratchandra 297 Chāyā/māyā Sītā 159, 160n.77, 161 Chidambaram Temple 315 Chikhlia, Dipika 153 Chindu (Dalit Cultural Resource Centre) 298 Chinnamastā 285 Chintamani 74 Citrakut/Chitrakuta 149, 158 Chola 67, 238–49 Kandaru 239 Telugu 248 Cid/cit 69n17, 73

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Index

Cidāgnisambhūtā 69 Cikitsāsamgraha 262n.9 : Citrakarma 69 Class 206, 251, 252, 266, 267, 268, 271, 307; see also caste Coburn, Thomas 18, 19, 24, 27, 32, 87n.17, 152n.29, 236n.19 Coleman, Tracy 8, 9, 116, 119n.17, 137n.59, 324 Comārī/Comāriā Akron 181 Corbridge, Stuart 98n.1 Cosmogenesis 20, 21, 22 śaiva 22 vaiṣnava 22 : Cosmology, Cosmogony 6, 17–35, 90, 185–6, 191, 323 Costa, Pamela 316n.26, 317 Courtright, Paul 237n.21 Cradock, Elaine 305, 306, 307n.12 Creation 4, 7, 22–3, 43, 47, 49, 50–2, 57–9, 61, 70, 73, 80, 85, 86, 89, 90, 187, 238, 240 Creatrix 2, 43, 69, 75, 80, 216 Curley, David 266n.16 Dadhīci 106, 107, 108 Dākāt Kālī 292 Dakṣa Prajāpati 242 Dakshineswar Temple 292 Dalit 154, 165 Danḍ : anātha 72, 74 Danḍ : inī 72 Darśana/Darshan 136, 204, 205 Das, C. R. 294 Das, R. K. 189n.24 Daśaratha 151 Daśaratha Jātaka 151 Dasgupta, Kamal 98n.2, 291n.30 Dasgupta, Shashibhusan 259n.1, 270 Datta, Michael Madhusudan 286 Datta, Satyendra Nath 300 Daughters desired 176–9 neglect of 173–4 Davids, K. F. Rhys 173 Davis, Richard 309, 310n.22, n.23 Daya Meiju 207–10, 221 De Clercq, Eva 151n.24 Dehejia, Vidyā 4, 101 Deification 175, 194, 201–6, 260, 271 Dempsey, Corinne 309, 318–19 Deogarh 148 Derné, Steve 166n.112 Detienne, Marcel 3n.3 Dev Sen, Nabaneeta 174 Deva khanḍ : a 262, 264, 265, 268, 270

Devahūti 109, 110 Devakī 182–3, 184 Devas/gods 108 Devī 2, 4–7, 10–11, 13, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 33, 86–7, 88, 90, 93, 103, 229, 238, 240, 268, 270, 324, 325 as transcendent 19 Bhagavatī 40, 80 Devi Adi Parashakthi Durga 304 Devī Gītā 21, 29 Devī Purāna : 181, 185 Devī Sūkta 2, 4, 264n.12 Devi, Birajasundari 287 Devībhāgavata Purāna : 21, 22, 25, 29, 33, 86, 87, 88–9, 244 Devīmāhātmya 6, 18–19, 21, 25, 27, 32, 39–46, 58–61, 74, 80, 87, 148, 152, 265n.12, 292, 317 Devotee, devotion 5, 8, 9, 12, 138, 148, 156, 160, 247, 262, 288, 291, 292, 294, 297, 299 Dewi Siri 81n.7 Deyāsīs 259 Dhaka 281, 282, 283n.2, n.3, 284n.5, 286n.9, 288, 289, 290, 300 Dhal, U. P. 82n.10, 83n.12, n.13 Dhām (divine abode) 30 Dhanapati 268, 269, 270 Dhanvantarī 245 Dharma 25, 27, 35, 82, 84, 90, 118, 126, 127, 129, 130, 134, 139, 167, 246, 293 : Dharmānga 238, 253 Dharmadāsa 253 Dharmaśāstra 140, 177, 191, 247 Dhārmik 82, 126, 127 Dhumketu (periodical) 285n.7 Dhvanyāloka 66 Dhyāna 74, 136, 190, 291 Diaspora (Hindu) 307 Dice 91 Dikshitar, V. R. Ramachandra 70n.20, 72n.24, 74n.28 Dikshitar, V. V. Svarnavenkatesha 315–16 Dikṣitār, Muttusvāmī 65, 70, 72n.23, 75 Dimock, Edward 118, 119n.12, n.13, n.14, n.15, 122, 124, 125, 132n.46, 133n.50, n.53 Dingnāga 164n.95 Dīpāvalī 83n.14, 91 Divine grace 1–11, 13 Divine Mother 17, 31, 238, 304–20 Dold, Patricia 28 Dolan Cāmpā 291n.32 Doniger, Wendy, see O’Flaherty Doordarshan 153 Dowry murders 166

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Index Durgā 11, 12, 35, 39–40, 42, 58, 61, 69, 71, 73, 75, 78, 81, 87, 152, 179, 180, 192, 204, 207, 208, 211, 213, 225, 229, 235, 236, 236n.19, 257, 271, 287 Durgā Pūjā 193, 195, 285, 287, 293 Durgam, Ravinder 231n.8, 232n.10, n.11, 233n.13, 235n.17 : Durgāmangal 274 Durgāsaptaśatī 87 Durgāśatanāmastotra 180n.17 Durgāstotra 180 Durgāvar 257 Durlavasāra 125 Durbā (grass) 259 Durvāsā 84–5 Dutt, Nripendra 262n.9 Dutt, Pratima 281n.1 Dvāpara 150 Dvija Hariram 263 Dvija Mādhava 266 Dvivedi, Vrajaballabha 68n.14 Earthquake (Gujarat) 98, 104, 112 East India Company 273 Eaton, Richard 294 Eck, Diana 29 Ecofeminism 30–31 Ekāmreśvara 70n.20 Ekapatnīvrata 156 Eller, Cynthia 31n.66 Elmore, W. T. 237n.22 Environment 30–1 Erndl, Kathleen 24, 25, 31n.64, 32n.70, 158n.68, 236n.19 Eternal Mother Temple 304–17 Feldhaus, Anne 30, 108, 112n.32, 148n.5, n.6 Female femaleness 33 foeticide 173 militancy 133, 272 solidarity 175 feminine divine 1–5, 11, 20–2, 100, 240 Feminine energy/principle 1, 2, 5, 7, 10, 18, 20–2, 183, 185–6, 187, 189, 229, 240, 257 Feminist critiques 35, 174 Indian 32, 34, 183, 184 readings of Kali 28 scholarship 9, 10 Sītā 166 spirituality 31 Ferdaus, Fahmim 298n.48 Fertility 271n.26 ritual 150 Ferrari, Fabrizio M. 25, 26n.33

331

Fire/heat/ritual 26, 34, 56, 68–9, 83, 88, 92, 107, 212, 213, 215, 218, 219, 222, 223, 224, 225 First Partition of Bengal 282 Flood, Gavin 23, 33 Flower-garden (phūlvāt ị kā) 156 Flower Goddess 228–40 Flower-shrine 11, 237 Flueckiger, Joyce 179n.15, 237n.22, 319 Folk epic 202–15 lore 11, 12, 239n.28 songs 228–40 Francis, Sabrina 298n.49 Frawley, David 225n.19 Fuller, C. J. 26 Funeral rites 219, 221 Gajalakṣmī 270 Gandharva 183 Gandhavanik : 248 Gandheśvarī 251 Gandhi, Indira 35 Gandhi, M. K. 159, 165 Ganeśa/Ganesha 81, 173, 189, 315 : Ganesha Gurukkal 307, 308, 312 : Gangā/Ganges 29, 31, 92, 101, 107, 113, 185, 187, 223, 224, 237, 272 : Gangotrī 29 Gangur (River) 250 Garbhayoni 187 Gārgī 177 Gaur, D. R. 177n.11 Gauramma (pārvatī) 233, 235, 236, 237 Gaurī 11, 222, 229, 233, 237 Gāyatrīmantra 43 Gender 3, 9–10, 14, 20, 32, 34, 35, 87, 141–2, 147, 206, 229, 269, 323 caste and 260, 261, 265, 266, 267, 268, 273, 274 class and 267 complementarity 23 crossing 141, 142, 143, 144 equality 33 mutuality 121, 124, 130, 132, 136, 138, 140 status 261 Gengis Khan 281 Geography, sacred 28, 31, 99–113, 186–7 Geyacakraratha 74 Ghazal 286n.9, 299 Ghose, Rajarshi 298 Ghosh, Niranjan 99n.5, 102 Gimbutas, Marija 3n.3 Girl child 10, 11, 155, 173–96, 206–8, 210, 211 caste origins 192

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Index

Gītagovinda 8, 117nn.3–5, 118, 119, 121, 122, 123, 124, 127, 129, 130, 131, 131n.45, 133, 134, 136, 138, 139, 139n.62, 141, 142, 143, 144 Gītāvalī 158n.69 Gīticakraratha 74 Godavari River 148 Goddess beneficent/malevolent 24–8, 204–1, 272 boons 94, 213, 214, 220, 223, 325 compassion 6, 40, 42, 76, 78, 90, 149, 158, 160, 205, 210, 219, 226 concept 17, 22 cosmic body 29 cosmogonic causation 42 forms/manifestations 2, 3, 5, 6, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23–8, 39, 42, 47, 51, 53, 59, 60, 66, 68, 69, 71, 73, 74, 75, 80, 88, 132, 149,187, 205, 206, 207, 222, 245, 253, 262, 265, 270, 271 magnificent 19 married/unmarried 24 mother 2, 3, 11, 12, 17, 23, 24, 25, 29, 31–2, 43, 69, 80, 81, 134n.54, 149, 153, 164, 175, 196, 205, 226, 228, 229, 231, 232, 235, 236, 237, 246, 281, 285–7, 291, 292–4, 304–21 natural phenomena 29–31 nurturer 3 plants 30 protector 19, 26, 43, 69, 191, 196 river 110 theology 18–24 traditions 17, 28, 30, 32 ultimate power 18, 20 virgin 175, 181, 202, 207, 210 warrior 74, 195, 204, 260, 271–2 wife/consort 9, 26, 27, 69, 70, 81–2, 90, 92, 107, 147, 180, 181, 182 Gogi Saroj Pal, feminist paintings 184 Golden deer 158 Goldman, Robert 127n.34, 129n.40, 150n.17, 157n.62 Goldman, Sally Sutherland 128n.37, 129n.40, 150n.18, 156n.59, 157n.63, 160n.78, n.79, n.80, 165n.98 Gonda, J. L. 89 Goodall, Dominique 44nn.3–4, 45nn.5–10, 52n.13, 53n.14, 58n.17, 59n.18 Gopavadhu 117, 117n.5 Gopī 8, 117, 119, 124, 126, 127, 131, 132, 134, 136, 137, 139, 143, 203, 266 Gosvāmin, Jīva 131–2, 273 Gosvāmin, Rūpa and Sanātana 131–2, 273 Goswami, Shrivatsa 132, 133 Gotra 191 Goudriaan, Teun 73n.26, 75n.30

Govil, Arun 153 Govinda 117 Govindapur 179 Grace 6, 9, 65–6, 69, 71, 75, 89–91, 108–10, 143, 190, 244, 266–9, 304, 317 Grāmadevatā 228n.3 Great Goddess 2, 4–7, 10–11, 80, 87, 88, 204, 213, 218, 322, 323, 324 Greek mythology 3n.3 Gr: haddevatā 177 Gr: hatantraviṣayam 176 Gr: hyasūtra 150 Guha, Phulrenu 166n.110 Gujjaramanḍ : ala 108 Gujarat/Gurjaradeśa 99, 104, 105, 106, 107, 110, 111, 113 Gujarati 98, 108, 110, 112 Gumrah 153 Guna : (sattva, rajas, tamas) 20, 43 Gunaratnakoṣ a 149n.11 : Gupta, Roxanne Kamayani 28 Gupta, Sanjukta 6, 28n.54, 66n.7, 71nn.22–3, 72n.24, 75n.30, 76n.31, 87n.16, 89, 90n.20, 324 Gurukkal, Ganesha 307 Gurukkal, Nagaraja 308 Haberman, David 31 Hādimata 66, 68, 72 Haimavatī 1 Hāla 135n.55 Hamsasandeśa 149n.13 : Handal, Nathalie 299n.51 Hanumān 160, 179 Haque, Fazlul 294 Hardy, Friedhelm 67n.12, 76n.31 Hari 42 Haripriyā 92 Hārita 177 : Harivamśa 60, 108, 186, 271 Harlan, Lindsay 237n.21 Harman, William 306, 307 Harper, Katherine Anne 224n.17 Hart, George 152n.32, 159 Hasan and Husain 249–52 Havana 92 Hawley, J. S. 17, 237n.21 Hazra, R. C. 260n.3, 266n.17 Healing 222, 226, 307, 308, 319, 320 Hegarty, James 101n.11, 103 Heifetz, Hank 152n.32, 159 Hemacandra 75 Herman, Phyllis K. 148n.6, 149n.8, 163n.93, 166n.107 Hess, Linda 147n.1, 162n.84, n.86 Hiltebeitel, Alf 32n.70, 99n.3, 103, 236n.19

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Index Himalayas 106 Himavantha 237 Himavat 1, 2 Hīnakanyā 192 Hindu artefacts 81 astrology 311 belief 119, 134, 247, 272 caste 9, 12, 34, 165–6, 176, 191–2, 196, 202, 206, 211, 230, 251–2, 259–75, 293, 306–8 community 286, 287, 297, 298, 312, 314 culture 8, 9, 93, 102, 106, 126, 246, 322 denominations 147, 305 devotion 118, 288 environment 24 gender views 10, 133, 260, 322 history 32, 90, 110 ideals 27, 140, 273, 311 identity 13, 99 imagination 81, 100, 104, 110, 112, 319 kingship 111 literature and texts 17, 39, 40, 90, 98, 101, 126, 175, 246, 273, 295 mendicants 215 movements 111 nationalism 166 occasions 195, 232 order 116 philosophy 1–7, 11, 13, 257 politics 99, 324 practice 18, 105, 215, 224, 247, 260, 287, 299, 305 religious life 5, 17, 175, 238, 309 sensibility 294, 298 symbols 24, 33, 35, 36 system 53, 88 traditions 5, 17, 24, 296 Hindu-Buddhist iconography 79, 101n.14 Hindu-Muslim common culture 281, 282, 284–5 disharmony 32, 284, 285, 295 Hindu temples, USA 309 Hindutva 165 Hlādinī śakti 132, 133, 156 Ho tribe 257 Homa/havana 206 Huda, Mohammad Nurul 300n.59 Hugging goddess 202 Hum aap ke hain koun…! 154 Hum Saath Saath Hain 154 Human goddess 204 Humes, Cynthia 186n.21 Hussain of Karbala 285n.8 Ibn Battuta 188 Ibrahim, Farhana 98n.1

333

Ilakkumi 81 Immanence 5, 17 Indian Council for Child Welfare 195, 195n.30 Indra 1, 4, 82, 84, 85, 207, 210, 268 Indrajit 160n.77 Irāmāvatāram 152, 155, 159 Islam, Kazi Nazrul 12, 281–301, 324 (see also) Nazrul anti-colonialism 283–5 anti-communalism 284–6 artistic heritage 297 awards 290n.27 Bangladeshi responses 298, 300–31 bhakti songs 287n.18, 291 biographers, editors and translators 283n.3 criticism of Muslim society 299 devotion to Kāli 283, 287–8, 290–3, 301 family 286–7 friends 287n.12 funeral 287 Hindu responses to 289, 298 Islamic songs 289, 299–300 Islamization 300 Kr: ṣna : kīrtana 289 marriage 286–7 Muslim responses to 289, 298 political alignments 300 religious alienation 289, 297 reputation 297–8 revolutionary stand 283–6 Islam, Rafiqul 295n.42, 296n.43, 299nn.53–55 Islamic cultural forms 284, 289, 294, 299 Iśvara/Isvara 45, 74 Īśvarakr: ṣna : 61 Īśvarī 93 Itihāsapurāna : 103 Jagadambā 164, 237 Jagadgaurī 244 Jagadīśa 142, 144 Jai Santoshi Maa 28 Jaina Rāmāyana : 151, 155, 163, 164, 165 Jagajjananī 287 Jagajjīvana 247 Jāhnavī 250 Jālu & Mālu 249 Jamadagni 189, 306 James, E. O. 252 Janaka 147, 154, 155, 160, 178 Jānakī 147, 154 Rāmānandī sect 149 Jānakīnavamī 148 Janakpur 148 Janārdana 263

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: : : Jāngulī/Jāngulika/ Jangulikā/Jāgulī 255, 256 Janmāṣt ạ mī 185 Janmejaya 242, 243 Japamala 254 Jaratkāru 242, 243, 244, 248, 252 Jaratkārupriyā 244 Jasimuddin 287n.12 Jātaveda 83 Jāti 191 Jāti Purānas : 111 Jayadeva (poet) 117, 120, 121, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 138n.61, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144 Jayadeva II (king) 156 Jhānkī 163 Jīmūtavāhana 245 Jīva 161 Jones, M. B. 150n.16 Joshi, Sharad 165 Kabir 294 Kabiwālā 275 Kādimata 66 Kadru 242, 243 Kailāsa, Kailash 218, 221, 244 Kait ạ bha 42 Kājī Najrul Islām Racanāsamagra 283n.2 Kājlā 249 Kakar, Sudhir 141, 143 Kakatiya 232 Kala, Satish Chandra 148n.2 Kalā 45, 47, 53, 56 Kāla 45, 52 Kālakut ạ 85, 248 Kālanāginī 250 Kālanemī 182 Kalānidhi 74 Kālaviveka 245 Kālī 12, 27–8, 31, 78, 88, 91, 152, 180, 188, 204, 205, 257, 271, 281, 283, 285, 288, 290, 290n.29, 291, 292, 293, 294, 324 feminist readings 28, 34 Kālī for Women 34 Kali Yuga 117, 138, 138n.61, 139, 141, 143, 307 Kālidāsa 151, 264n.12 Kalighat 188 Kālikā 192 Kālikā Purāna : 29, 265n.14 Kālīkoh 186 Kālīmata 66 Kalinga 271 Kālketu 265–8, 271, 274, 275 Kalkī 187 Kalyānī : 94, 192 Kāma 6, 27, 69–71, 76, 118, 119, 120, 124, 137, 138

Kāmākṣī 67, 69, 71, 76 Kamalā/Śrī 7, 65, 75, 79, 83, 93 Kamalāmbikā 65 Kamale Kāminī 270, 271 Kāmasūtra 141 Kāmeśvara 69–70, 73, 74 Kāmeśvarī 65, 69–70, 73 Kāmākṣī 67, 76 Kampan/Kamban 152, 155, 159 : Kamsa 135, 182–5 Kamta Kamrup 257 Kanaka Bhavan 148 Kanaka Sītā 163 Kāñcī 67, 70n.20, 72 Kāñcī Māhātmya 67 Kāñcipuram, Goddess 65, 67, 69 Kañcuka 45, 51, 54, 59 “Kānḍ : ārī Huñśiyār” [“Helmsman, Beware!”] 285 Kane, P. V. 65n.2, 99n.3, 112, 174n.3, 247, 256 : Kānī, see Chengmuḍ ī Kannimar 218 Kanta Kamrup 257 Kanyā 173–96 Kanyā devī 181 Kanyākumārī 181, 188, 189, 194 Kanyātīrtha 188 Kanyāyajña 179 Kapāla 180 Kāpālika 192 Kapila 109, 110, 239 Kapur, Anuradha 153n.39, n.40 Karanī : Mātā 181 Kardama rṣ : i 109, 110 Karmendriya Karma/karman 6, 45 Kārtika/Kārtikeya 81, 91, 173, 264n.12 Kārtikamāhātmya 91 Karumariamman (Black Mariyamman) 304, 307–9, 318 Kashmir Śaivism 23 Kashmir, Kashmiri 6, 40, 58, 65, 67 Kāśī Viśvanātha 188 Kaśyapa 239, 242, 243, 244 Katakam, Anupama 149n.7 Kathā 261, 268 : Kat ḥ aka Samhitā 83 Kathāsaritsāgara 164 Kātyāyanī 271 Kaula 6, 7, 65, 67–8, 72 Kausambi, D. D. 148n.2 Kauśikī 271 Kaustava 85 Kaviraj, Gopinath 66n.3, n.4 Kāvyālāpavinodinī 74 Kāvyānuśāsanam 75

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Index Kāvyamimāmsā 75 : Kāvyaprakāśa 75 Kāvyaśāstra 66, 75 Kayastha 263, 266 Kazi Nazrul Islam, see Islam, Kazi Nazrul Kazi Nazrul University 301n.61 Kedārnāth 30 Kenopaniṣad 1, 3, 4 Keśava 135 Kessler, Rochelle 142 Ketakadāsa Kṣemānanda 247, 248, 252 Khan, Azharuddin 298 Khan, Ibrahim 289, 295, 299 Khan, Mohammad I. 99n.5, 102 Khanna, Madhu 10, 173–98, 175n.7, 178n.13, 323 Khila 83, 93 Khoroche, Peter 135n.55 Khullonā 262, 268, 269, 270, 274 Kinsley, David 24, 26, 27n.44, 28n.49, n.50, 29n.56, 78n.1, 79, 82n.11, 89n.19, 90n.20, 101nn.7–8, 102, 103, 104nn.25–6, 112, 127, 128, 132n.46, 237n.21 Kirāt 267, 271 Kirātinī 267, 268 Kiricakreśvarī 74 Kishwar, Madhu 159n.74, 165nn.103–6, 166n.114, 167 Kiśorī 180 : : KKCM (Kabikankan Canḍ : ī Mangala) 263–7, 271, 272 Klostermaier, K. K. 81n.5, 86n.15, 87n.16 Knowledge knowledge through sense faculties 41 pure/sound 56 ultimate 40 Koestler, Arthur 296 Kojāgarī 83n.14, 91, 91n.22 Kot ṭ ravai 221 Krauñcavadha 156n.59 Kripal, J. J. 28n.53 Krittibās 152 Krpā 6; see also grace : Kr: ṣāner : Gān 285n.8 Kr: ṣna : 30, 60, 66n.4, 93, 116, 117, 117n.5, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 173, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 203, 222, 244, 281, 290n.29, 324 Krṣ 289 : na–kīrtan : Kr: tsamāra (Mt.) 107, 113 Krtyaratnākara 245 : Krtyatattva 245, 246 : Kriyāśakti 6, 53–4

335

Kruszewska, Malgorzata 101n.10, 103 Kṣatriya 266 Kubera 82 Kubjikāmata 77 Kula 191 Kuladevī 111 Kulīna 262, 262n.9 Kulkarni, V. M. 151n.24, 163n.90 Kumar, Arvind 162 Kumar, Dr. G. Krishna 309–19 Kumar, Pratap 149nn.10–12 Kumāra 180, 190, 191, 194 : Kumārasambhava 264n.12, 265n.12 Kumārī 10, 11, 173–96, 206–10, 220, 223, 224, 226 ritual 192 social ranking 192 Kumārī Tantra 192 Kumārikā 190, 191 Kumarīkathā 190 Kumārīpūjā 191–3 Kumbhamelā 101 Kundalinī 53 : Kunḍ : alinī-yoga 23, 75 Kundamālā 164n.95 Kuntī 177, 215 Kuppuswami, Appiah 76 Kurien, Prema 55, 312 Kūrma Purāna : 152, 159 Kurtz, Stanley 25, 28n.52 Kūt ị yāt ṭ ạ m 152 Kutubshahi dynasty 67 Lahanā 268 Lajjā 154, 155, 163 Lakhāi 249–50 Lakshmi Mukti campaign 165 Lakṣma 84 Lakṣmana : 158, 160n.77, 161, 163 Lakṣmana rekhā 158 Lakṣmī/Śrī 7, 27, 78–97, 139, 222, 229, 238, 239, 257, 270, 271, 323 embodiments of 27, 28, 30, 31, 75, 131, 148, 212 purānic : 80 Lakṣmī Pūjā 91, 287 Lakṣmī Tantra 89, 90, 90n.20 Lakṣmīdhara 66n.8, 72, 73 Lakshminarayana, Satttiraju 153 Lakṣmīra Parīkṣā 94 : Lakṣmīstotra 92 Lalitā 6, 7, 65–6, 69, 69n.17, 70–1, 70n.20, 72, 73, 75–6, 190, 205, 222, 324 cult 68, 72 names 67–76 theology 68

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336

Index

Lalitā Tripurasundarī 65, 190 Lalitasahasranāmam 6, 74 Lalitāsana 254 Lalitopākhyāna (LU) 65–71, 70n.20, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 190, 190n.25 Langley, Winston 283n.3 “Lāngol” (periodical) 284, 285n.8 : Lankā 147, 159, 160, 187 Laukika 260–74 Lav-Kush 153 Lee, Joel 298n.49 Lelle, Suresh 298n.49 Leslie, Julia 82n.8, n.9, 237n.21 Leto songs 287n.17 Levertov, Denise 118, 122, 124n.19 Liberation 40; see also mokṣa Liberation War of 1971 Līlā 73, 139 Linder, Silvia Schwartz 73n.26 Living goddess 201, 202, 211 Locanadāsa 125 Lokācāra 90 Lolla Lakṣmīdhara 73 : Lopāmudrā 177 Lucia, Amanda 202, 204n.3 Ludvik, Catherine 100n.6, 101n.9, 102, 103 Lutgendorf, Philip 149n.15, 152n.36, 153nn.37–45, 160n.81, 165n.101 Macdonell, A. A. 26n.38, 177 Madana 73 Mādhava 118, 120, 121, 134, 135, 138, 144 Mādhava Kandalī 152 Madhu and Kait ạ bha 42 Madhukara 249 Madurai, (Nayaka king of) 67 Magic/Supreme Magic 39–61; see also māyā Mahābhārata 8, 27, 82, 85, 99, 100, 101, 103, 103n.21, 104, 128n.37, 150, 150n.21, 177, 178, 180, 186, 188, 215, 230, 242, 243, 252, 271, 306 Mahābhāva 132 Mahādeva 244, 264, 264n.12 Mahādevī 17, 21, 80 Mahadiga (film) 298n.49 Mahājanaka Jātaka 270 Mahājñānayuktā 244 Mahākālī 88, 187 Mahālakṣmī 75, 88, 92, 187 Mahāmāyā 6, 19, 21, 39–42, 44–6, 52, 52n.13, 183 as śuddhavidyā 53, 54–60 Mahānt 287 Mahāpurāna : 19n.4, 85, 87, 108, 264n.11 Maharashtra 30, 104, 105, 106, 112, 247, 256

Mahāśakti 186 Mahāśakti-ādikumārī 188 Mahāsarasvatī 88, 187 Māhātmyas (sacred texts) 104, 105, 108, 112 Mahāyāna 101, 102 Maheśvarānanda 72 Mahiṣa 204, 236, 317 Mahiṣāsura 88, 317 Maithilī 147, 154 songs 121 Maitrāyaniyopaniṣad 56 : Maitrāyani Samhitā 83 Maitreyī 177 Maity, Pradyot Kumar 247, 252, 254 Majumdar, A. K. 118, 131 Majumdar, Barada Charan 287–8, 294 Majumdar, R. C. 262n.8 Mala (impurity) 45, 51 Mālinī 53 Malla dynasty of Nepal 209 Mamatā 42 Mammat ạ 75 Manasā 11, 12, 242–57, 272, 323 names 244 : Manasamangala 247, 248, 248n.5, 251, 261n.7 Manasāvijaya of Vipradāsa 247, 251, 256 Mancāmmā 253 Manḍ : ala 83, 259–60n.2 Mandāra (forest) 180 Mandodarī 160 : Mangala Canḍ : ī 268 : Mangalakāvya 12, 246, 247, 261, 262, 266, 272 deities celebrated 246 Mānik : Datta 263 Manimekhalā 270 : Mañjarī 149 Mānkar 257 Manosonāmnī 253 Mantra 73, 74, 92, 93 Mantranātha 72 Manu 81, 109, 126 Manushi 166, 167 Manusmr: ti 79, 266–8 Marco Polo 188 Marglin, Frédérique Apffel 27 Mariammal Sami 308 Marīci 110 Mārīyāmman 13, 215, 216, 305–6, 318 Mārkanḍ : eya 108 Mārkanḍ : eya Purāna : 18, 87, 265n.12, 274 Marxist approaches 174 Mata, see Mata Amritanandamayi Matter 39, 43, 45, 52, 59, 60

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Index Masculinity 116, 117, 124, 125, 126, 128, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144 Materiality 5, 18, 20 Mat ḥ ikā 68n.15 Mathura 129, 133, 140, 182 Mātr: kā 74 Matsya Purāna : 85 Māyā cause of reality 39 illusion 19, 30, 42, 60, 325 meanings 40 occult powers 61 as Prakr: ti 3, 5, 6, 17–18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 33, 39–40, 50, 58–61, 87, 87n.16, 89, 161 Śaiva Siddhānta 44–55, 57–8 source of knowledge 44 in Vedānta 60–1 Māyādevī (mother of Buddha) 270 McDaniel, June 237n.22 McDermott, Rachel 28n.53, 34, 291n.31, 324 McGilvray, Dennis. B. 25n.30 McKean, Lise 31, 32 Medhā Rishi 179 Meghanāda 286 Menon, Ritu 34, 166n.113 Menon, Usha 28n.54, 33 Michigan 304–21 Middle Eastern community 314 Militant goddess 272 Miller, Barbara Stoler 117nn.2–5, 120, 130n.41, 131, 135, 136n.56, 138n.60, 141, 143 Mīnākṣī/Meenakshi 218, 307, 310 Temple 315, 316, 319 Mir Kasim 285 Miracle 212, 305, 308–10, 314, 318–20 Mistry, Babubhai 153, 164 Mithila 147, 148 Mitra, Priti Kumar 300n.57 Mleccha 186, 191 Model devotee 148 Modi, Narendra 98n.2, 298 Moha 40–3 Mokṣa 27 Monier-Williams, Monier 99n.4, 180n.16 Mor, Barbara 30n.61 Morphological collocations 40 Mother India 31, 32 “Mother Mari” (disease, rain) 305 Mr: gendratantra 51 Mudrās 207 Mugdha-vadhu 117n.5 Mughal Empire 273 Muka 188 Mukherjee, Minakshi 166n.111

337

Mukhopadhyay, S. K. 237n.22 Mūlaprakrti : 19 Mullin, Robert Bruce 319 Mumme, Patricia 149n.14 Murphy, Anne 163n.93 Mūrti 307, 311, 316–17 Murugan 318 Museums (Calcutta, Dhaka, Rajshahi) 254 Muslims 252 Muslim League 282 Muslim Students Conference 295 regeneration 283 rule 111, 252 sensibility 12, 13 Myth/mythological 3n3, 6, 10, 153 Nāda/paranāda 53–8 Nādakārikā 52, 55, 61n.20 Nāgapañcamī 253 Nagar, Shantilal 3n.2 Nagarajan, Vijaya 31 Nagarjunakonda 148 Nāgeśvarī 244 Nāgabhaginī 244 Naidu, Sarojini 33–4, 166 Nakṣatra 311 Nandā Devī 181 Nārada 182, 189 Nāradasmr: ti 90 Nārāyana : 135, 264 Nārāyanadeva 247 : Nārāyanaka : nt : ḥ a 58 Narayanan, Vasudha 309n.21 Narmada Dam 98n.2 Nasik 148 Nat ẹ śvarī 74 Native American shamanism 12, 316 National Poet of Bangladesh 283 Nature, sacralisation of 28, 31 Navāvarana : Kīrtana 65 Navarātrī 293 Nazrul Nazrul Academy (Calcutta, Dhaka) 290 Nazrul Institute of Dhaka 290 Nazrul Racanabali 283n.2 NCERT 174n.5 Neilsson, Usha 154n.49 Nepal 11, 40, 91, 181 Nepalese kumārī (Royal Kumārī) 10, 11, 202–11, 225 Netā (Manasā’s attendant) 248, 249 New Age discourse 34 Newar/Newarī 181, 207 Nicchani 249 Nidrā/Yoganidrā 42, 60 Nigraha 89

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338

Index

Nīlāmbar 268 Nimal, C. N. 201n.1, 208n.5, 209n.6, 210n.7 Nimitta 22 Nirguna : Brahman 20 prakrti : 21 śakti 21 Nirnayasindhu 177n.11 : Nir: r: ti 271 Niṣāda 186, 271 Niśumbha 186 Nityaṣoḍ aśīkārnava Tantra 65, 68 : Niyati 45 Non-violence 151, 158, 159, 165, 166 Nurturers 3 Nyāya 52 Obeyesekere, Gananath 297 Odisha, Orissa 33, 273 Oedipal 155 O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger 25, 33, 79, 141, 161, 266, 268 Oldenburg, Veena T. 167n.117 Ommo (goddess) 80 Padma (Jaina name for Rāma) 151 Padma, Sree 230n.5, 237n.22 Padmā 79, 83, 92, 93 Padma Purāna : 85, 152, 165, 245, 248 Padmālayā 92, 93 Padmāsana 151 Padmāvatī 131 (Manasā) 248 Pāla 262n.9, 274 Pāli 40 literature 270 Pallava kings 6, 67 Pan-Indic tradition 106, 109 : Pañcagangā 112 Pañcakrośī yātrā 186 Pañcavāt ị 158 Pāñcālī 93 Pañcarātra/Pāñcarātra 72, 88, 89–90, 94 Pañcavatī 164 Pānḍ : ava 101, 242 Pandey, R. B. 174n.4 Panḍ : itā 176 Pānḍ : ityam 176 Pandiyan Empire 315 Panagal 239n.27 Pānini 253 :: Pankajarānī : 237 Panniru 237 Pāpīlakṣmī 84 Parā 67, 72 Parabrahman 69

Paraiyar 307–8 parakīya, parakīyā, paroḍ hā 9, 116, 118, 125, 126, 127, 128, 141, 156 Parameśvara 244 Paramasivan, Vasudha 149n.15, 156n.61 Parāparā 72 Parāshakthi Karumāriyamman 301, 308 Parashakthi Temple 13, 301–21 Paraśurāma 189, 306 Paraśurāmakalpasūtra 75 Pārijāt 84 Parmar, Arjunsinh 126n.31 Parrot 73 Parsi theatre 153 Partition India/Pakistan, 282 1st Partition of Bengal 294 Pārvatī 28, 70, 70n.19, 71, 139, 152, 205, 211, 212, 216, 217, 221, 229, 233, 235, 237, 240, 244, 307 Pasha, Kemal 299 Paśupati Śiva 253 Patan 105, 108, 109 Pat ạ (painted dishes) 92 (painted scrolls) 254 of Medinipur 255 Pativratā 82, 116, 122, 126, 127, 128, 129, 140, 144, 147, 167, 230 wifely faithfulness 8 Patrakunḍ : ala 254 Patriarchy 9, 32, 79, 81, 94, 116, 125–6, 133, 143–4, 150, 159, 166, 173, 175–6, 184, 194 caste 261–74 Paumacariya 151 Pauwels, Heidi 9, 116n.1, 125n.25, 129, 153n.43, 154n.47, 156nn.55–8, 157n.62, 158n.67, 159n.70, 166n.109, 323 Pavanakumārī 188 Perantallu (pativratā) 230, 230n.5, 239n.28 Persian poetry 283 Phulavāt ị kā 156 Phulan Devi “Bandit Queen” 34–5 Phullorā 262, 265–8 Pindī : 187 Pintchman, Tracy 5, 7, 13, 18n.2, 20n.8, 22n.12, 25n.29, 26nn.39–40, 30n.60, 87n.16, 236n.19, 237n.21, 318n.31, 322, 323 Pippalāda 107 Pīt ḥ a 29 Pitr: pūjā 91 Pollock, Sheldon 101n.11, 103, 165n.100, 260n.4 Poñā (Padmā, i.e., Manasā) 257 Ponnivala 10, 202, 211–18, 223, 225

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Index Pontiac (Michigan) 13, 304–20 Portuguese alms house 274 Possession/trance 203–6, 212, 223, 225, 306 Power 18 Prabāsī 286n.11 Prabhāsakhanḍ : a 106, 107 Prabodhinī Ekādaśi 30 Prahlāda 82, 84 Prajāpati 84 Prakāśa (consciousness) 70 Prakriyā 65n.2 Prākr: t 40, 43, 59 Prakr: ti/pradhāna 3, 5, 17–18, 20–4, 28, 33, 43, 58, 59, 59n.18, 80, 87, 87n.16, 89, 149, 152, 161, 186 Prakrti : Khanḍ : a 270 Pramila, see Sengupta, Ashalata Prāna 70 Prapatti 72, 76 Prasāda 206, 292 Prasannarāghava 156 Pratibhā 75 Pratyabhijñā 65, 68, 190 Prema 9, 117, 118, 119, 119n.16, 120, 124, 125, 126, 138 Pr: thivī 29 Protectors/protection 3, 7, 10, 12–13 Pr: thvī-dāna 177 Ptolemy 181 Puberty 11, 180, 206, 210 Pūla Bathukamma 233 Pulinda 271 : Pumsavana 174 Punyalakṣ mī 84 : Purāna : 18–19, 20, 21, 22, 27, 33, 65n.2, 67n.12, 85, 87, 88, 92, 100, 101, 102, 104, 108, 108n.29, 112, 230, 243, 264, 265n.12 Purānic : 19, 23, 82, 105, 107, 112, 237, 243, 252, 262, 264 Puri 273 Pūrnimā 3 : Puruṣa 20, 22, 23, 59, 59n.18, 152 Puṣpākṣī 189 Puṣpāñjalī 92 Purohitadarpana : 92, 93 Putrakāmeṣt ị yajña 178 Qur’an, The Holy 295 Rabibār (newspaper) 301 Rabindra Bharati University 290n.27 Rādhā 8, 9, 116–46, 324 Rādhā-Kr: ṣna : narrative 119 tradition 283 Rādhā-Mādhava 117, 131, 139, 140

339

Rāga 45, 56 Raghunandana 245, 246, 270 Raghu 156, 165 Raghuvamśa 151 : Rahman, Mizanur 300 Rahman, Mujibar (filmmaker) 298 Raina, Anil K. 31n.65 Raj, Selva J. 318–19 Rajamatangi 74 Rajarajan, K. K. 159n.71 Rājarājeśvarī Temple 309 Rājaśekhara 75 Rajas 87 Rākṣasī (female demons) 160 “Raktāmbaradhārinī : Mā” 291n.32 Rām-carit-mānas 152, 156, 157, 158n.69, 159, 165n.101 Rām-līlā 153, 154, 158n.69, 160, 162n.86 Rām-rasik 149 Rāma 9, 116, 119, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 139, 143, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 160n.77, 161, 162, 162n.86, 163, 164, 165, 167, 187 Ramakrishna 292 Ramakrishna Mission 193 Ramanand Sagar 153, 156 Rāmānanda/Rāmānandī 148, 149, 152 Rāmānanda Jāti, 267 Rāmānuja 149 Ramanujan, A. K. 24–5, 33n.74, 156n.57, 157n.64 Ramaraju 238 Ramaswami, E. V. 165 Rāmāyana : 9, 85, 123, 124, 125, 126n.31, 127, 128, 128n.37, 132, 133, 140, 143, 147, 148, 148n.2, 149, 150, 153, 154, 157, 162, 163, 164, 165, 176n.9, 178, 230, 286 Ramdass 308, 312 Ramdeb 263 Ramesan, N. 67n.12 Rāmopakhyāna 150 Ranade, Pandita Ramabai 166 : “Rāngā Jabā” 290nn.28–9, n.30, 292n.33, 293n.37 Rani of Jhansi 285 Rann (of Kutch) 98, 104 Rao, K. Chandrashekar 230n.6 Rao, V. Narayana 112, 149nn.13–14, 150n.20, 154n.48, 160n.79, n.82, 164n.94, n.95, 165n.98 Rashmila Shakya 206–10 Raskumārī 188 Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) 149, 298 Ratnamālā 270 Ratnasāgar 187

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340

Index

Ratté, Lou 34n.75 : Rauravasūtrasangraha 52, 55 Rāvana/Rāvanan 123, 147, 149, 151, 152, 153, : 154, 155, 158, 159, 160, 160n.77, 163, 165, 166, 286 Ravi Shankar 299n.51 Ray, Bidhan Chandra 286n.11 Ray, Himanshu Prabha 148n.2 Ray, Rammohan 296 Renukā 128, 128n.37, 306 Reynolds, Frank 151n.23 Reynolds, Holly Baker 237n.22 RgVeda 2, 4, 61, 83, 86, 93, 100, 101, 102, 103, : 103n.20, 112, 150, 177, 252, 264n.12 RgVedic hymn 75 : RgVedic scholars 83n.13, 84 : Rgvidhāna 83n.13 : Rhodes, Constantina 27n.43, n.47 Richman, Paula 165n.104, 218n.10 Ricoeur, Paul 32 Rṣ : ikā, see brahmavādinī Ritter, Valerie 129 Ritual temperature 25–6 Rivers, divine 29 Rocher, Ludo 65n.2 Rohe, Mark Edwin 31n.64 Rohinī : 183, 192 Rohlman, Elizabeth 324 Role model 5 Roy (Ray), Nihar Ranjan 253, 254, 256, 269n.20 Roy, S. N. 65n.2 Rudra 74, 180, 252 : Rudra-Mangal 189n.24 Rudrayāmala Tantra 191, 192 Rūpa 273 Śabara 256, 271 Sacralization 28, 31 Śadāśiva 45 Sādhaka 66 Sadyojyotiḥ 44–51, 51n.12, 61 Sadyovadhū 177 Sagar, Ramanand 153, 156 Saguna : 21 Saha (community) 250 Sahara 167 : Sahasralinga 110 Saheli 167 Śaiva 106, 108, 111, 188, 194 contesting vaiṣnavas 194 : Kashmiri śaiva 66 myths 188 śākta oriented śaiva systems 53 Siddhānta 44–6, 45nn.5–6, 52, 56, 58, 61, 61n.20

text 19 theology 110 Śaivādvaita-āgama 190 Śaivī 244 Śaivism 23, 111 Śākambharī 179, 179n.14, 181, 193 Śākta 6, 9, 24, 152, 154, 179, 180, 184, 189, 190, 191, 195, 288 tantra 1, 173, 175, 191, 194 Tantric guru 296 texts 18–19, 53, 185, 188 tradition 61, 281 Śāktapramodaḥ 191nn.26–7, 194n.29 Śakti 3, 5, 6, 17–19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 28, 33, 43, 46, 66, 66n.3, 70, 73, 74, 78, 87, 87n.16, 89, 94, 111, 175, 180, 181, 187, 205, 229, 246, 257, 305 Śaktimat 48 : Śaktisangama Tantra 66n.4 Śaktisenā 194 Samādhi 188 character in the Devīmāhātmya 41 Samayā/Candrakalā 73 Samaya mata 67 Samayapradīpa 245 : Śāmbhavī 192, 237 : Samhitās 29, 83 Sami, Mariammal 308 : Sāmkhya 4, 5, 6, 20, 44–5, 47 prakr: ti 58, 59–61, 62n20 Sāmkhyakārikā 54n.15, 59, 59n.18, 60 : Sampoorn Ramayan 153, 164 Sāmrājyeśvarī 71 : Samsāra 39, 42, 51, 66, 188 Samudramanthana 85–6 Sāmyabādī 284 : Samyutta Nikāya 173 Sanakā 249 Sanātana 273 Sanchi 81 Sanderson, Alexis 65n.1, 66, 66n.10, 68nn.14–16, 73n.25 Sangh Parivar 298 : Sangītavidyā 74 : : Śankara/Śankarācārya/ Shankaracharya 59–60, 65, 67, 71, 72, 73, 149, 176, 190 : Śankarī 237 : Sankha-jātakas 270 Santoṣī Mā 28 Sarnath 101 Saramā 160 Sarasvatī feminist symbol 101 goddess 3, 7, 8, 26, 27, 30, 31, 81, 88, 98–113, 255–6

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Index river 98–113 tradition 100 Vedic and Purānic : 102 Sarasvatī Māhātmya 99, 100, 112 Sarasvatī Purāna : 99, 100, 104, 105, 105n.26, 106–13 Sarasvatī Vratakathā 100 Sarkar, Bihani 5, 6, 39, 322, 323 Sarnath 101 Sarvānī : 237 Sarvasvinī 266 Śāstra 90, 101 Sastrigal, C. V. Svami 74 Śatākṣī 179 Śatapatha Brāhmana : 84, 86, 88, 89, 177 Śatarudrīya 69 : Śatasr: ngī mountain 187 Satī 264, 264n.12, 265 sacrificial victim 29, 162, 218 Sattva 26, 87 Satyavān 34 Satyavatī 238, 239 Śaunaka 174n.4, 177 Saundaryalaharī 6, 65–8, 72, 73, 75 Sāvitrī 33–4, 178, 237 Sāvitrī-mantra 178 Sax, William 237n.21 Scharf, Peter 150n.22 Schoff, William E. 181n.18 Schuler, Barbara 237n.22 Seeta Swayamvar 153n.42 Sen, Jaynārāyan: 263 Sen, Kṣitimohan 252, 253 Sen, Muktārām 263 Sen, Ramprasad 281n.1, 291 Sen, Sukumar 150n.21, 151n.23, 167n.118, 252, 253, 255, 256, 262n.8 Senavarman (king) 254 Sengupta, Ashalata 286 Sengupta, Giribala 286 Sengupta, Saswati 12 Sengupta, Sujata 286 : Śerānvālī (“Lion Rider” goddess) 25 Sexuality 9, 24–8, 116–18, 119, 121–2, 124–6, 129–34, 136–9, 141, 143–4, 189, 193 Shah, Tara 67 Shakya, Rashmila 206–7, 209–10 Shankar, Ravi 299n.51 Sharma, Arvind 34 Sharma, Anita 31n.65 Sheikh Hasina 301 Sheikh, Samira 111 Shinn, Larry. D. 35 Sippy, Shana 163n.92 Shweder, Richard A. 28n.54

341

Shulman, David 24, 151n.26, 152nn.30–2, 154n.50, 155nn.53–4, 164 Shyambazar/Śyāmbāzār Kali Temple 288 Siddhapit ḥ ̣a 187 Siddhapur 105 Siddhapur Patan 110 Siddharāja, King Jayasingh 105, 106, 108, 109, 110, 111 Siddhas 183, 244 Siddhilakṣmī 74 Siegel, Lee 120, 138n.60 Sij (tree) 251, 253 Sijuyā, Mt. 248 Silburn, Lilian 23n.16 Simpson, Edward 98n.1 Singaravelu, S. 155nn.51–52 Singer, Milton 148n.3, 261n.6 Singh, Vikram 34 Sino-Indian War 290 Siraj-ud-daula 285 Sircar, D. C. 29n.58 Sirimā 81 Sissa, Giulia 3n.3 Sītā 9, 33–4, 116, 116n.1, 119, 125, 126, 126n.31, 127, 128, 129, 130, 132, 139, 143, 147–68, 176n.9, 178, 323 abduction 141, 148n.2, 149–52, 154–5, 158–9, 161, 166 parentage 154 wedding 148, 153, 155–6 Sita Kalyanam 148n.3, 153, 156 Sītā-tyāga 147 Sītā-yajña 150 Śītalā 25–6, 246, 257 Śiva 4, 19, 28, 29, 33, 44–5, 54, 58, 69, 69n.17, 70, 70n.19, 71, 73, 74, 76, 85, 109, 111, 113, 137, 139, 147, 152, 181, 188–9, 205, 212, 213, 216, 217, 218, 223, 224, 237, 244, 247, 248, 260, 260n.5, 264, 264n.12, 265, 271, 272, 275, 281, 288, 291 Śiva Purāna : 19n.4, 29 Śivānanda 67–8, 72 Śivarāmamūrti 69n.18 Siyā Māī 147 Sjoo, Monica 30n.61 Skanda 70 Skanda Purāna : 106, 107, 107n.27, 188 Smallpox, see Śītalā Smith, Brian K. 79, 266, 268 Smith, William 152nn.31–33, 155nn.51–2, 156nn.60–61, 158n.66, 159nn.72–73, 160n.76, 162nn.87–8, 163nn.89–91, 164n.97 Smithsonian 101 Smriticandrikā 177 : Snuhī tree 245, 247

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342 Ṣoḍ aśī 65, 180, 189, 194 Ṣoḍ aśī Tantra 194n.29 Solanki 108, 109, 111 Soma 82, 84, 107, 108, 108n.29 Somnath 104 Songs of pregnancy and birth 154 Soul 9, 44 Spanda 70 Śrī 7, 68, 80, 131, 147, 149 Śrī Cakra 66 Śrī/Lakṣmī, see Lakṣmī Sri Lanka 148 Śrīmadbhāgavatam 192n.28 Śrīmanta 269 Śrī Śrī Bālā Kalpataru Canḍ : ī 191n.26 Śrī/Tripurā 66 Śrī/Tripurasundarī 6 Srinivas, M. N. 261n.6 Srinivasan, Doris 81n.6 Srinivasan, Perundevi 305n.4, 306, 307, 308 Sriṣt ị khanḍ : a 85 Śrīsūkta 83, 83n.13 Śrīvaiṣnava 7, 89–90, 94, 149, 160n.79 : Śrīvaiṣnavism 89 : Srivastava, I 154n.49 Srivathsan, A. 149n.9 Śrī Vidyā 66, 191 Śrīvidyā Śākta Tantrism 66–7, 72, 191 Śri Vijaya Gonda Gopala 66 Śriyā 179 Śrī Yantra 66–7 : Śr: ngāra rasa 66, 140 rūpa 70, 120 : Śrngārarasātmikā 71 : Śr: ngery 67, 72 Stewart, T. K. 237n.22 Sthalapurānas 104, 230, 310 Strīdharma 128, 129, 132, 134 Strīdharmapaddhati 82 Subhadrā 107, 192 Suchindram Temple 189 Śuddhādhvan 45, 52, 56 Śudra 274 Sufi 294 Sukhthankar, V. S. 180 Sullivan, Bruce 152n.27 : Sumangalā 53 : Sumangalī (married woman) 237 Sumati 108 Śumbha 186 Sumedhas (a seer) 41 Sundarī 65 Sundarakānḍ a 160n.78 Supreme being 2 creative power 2 deity 19, 43

Index feminine power 2 God 131 Goddess 24, 32, 43 illusion 42–3 intelligence 43 knowledge 43 love 42 magic 42–3, 58, 61 nāda 56–7 reality 6 Sura 107 Suratha 41 Śūrpanakhā 158 : Surya 246 Sutherland, Sally 129n.40 Svadhā 43 Svāhā 43 Svakīyā 118, 126, 156 svarga 43 Swaraj Party 294 Svarnagodhikā 265 : Svātantrya 71 Svayambhuvatantra 56 Svayamvara 155 : Śvetāśvetaropaniṣad 58 Swamigal, A. S. 67n.12 Swamy, A. N. K. 310–12, 315 Śyāmalā 73, 74 15 names of 73 Śyāmā 73, 292 : Śyāmā sangīta 12, 281, 290, 290n.30, 291, 293, 297 Symbols 32, 35 Tagare, G. V. 185 Tagore, Rabindranath 94, 282, 296 Taittiriya Āranyaka 180 :: Taittiriya Samhitā 83 Tāji Borrāk 281 Taleju Bhavānī 181 Taleju Durgā 209 Tamarai 211–25 Tamas 87 Tamil bardic narrative 10 Tānḍ ava 285 Tangal 217–21 Tanmātra 20 Tantra 191, 292, 324 Tantrāloka 68n.14 Tantrasāra 93 Tantric/Tāntrika 4, 5, 12, 33, 65, 66, 186, 190, 191, 224, 225, 288, 291, 296, 323 Tapas 70n.19, 106, 109 Tapasakāmākṣī 67 Tārā 107, 108, 108n.29, 270 Tāraka 70

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Index Tarakeshwar Temple 287, 288 Tatikonda, Visnumurthi 229n.4, 235n.16, 236n.18, 237n.23, 238n.25 Tattva 20 Tattvatātparyanirnaya 44 : Tattvasamgraha 44, 61n.20 : Tattvatrayanirnayaniv rtti : : 44, 44n.3, 53n.14, 54, 62n.20 Tauhid 295 Tejas 88 Telangana 228–40 Telangana Rashtriya Samithi (TRS) 230, 230n.6 Telugu Cholas 67, 239 folk songs 11 literature 228–9 temple 11 Tenkalai 149 Thiruverkadu 304, 306–8, 312 Tieken, Herman 135n.55 Tipu Sultan 285 Tirodhāna 89 Tiru (Śrī) 81 Tirumantiram 190 Tirumular 190 Tirupati 149 Tithitattva 245, 270 Tiwari, J. N. 2n.1 Tkatschow, Dwight A. 101n.14 Transcendent being 17 Tribes in Harivamsa 271 : Trijat ạ̄ 160 Trika 53, 67–8, 72, 190 Trikonama nḍ : : ala 186 Trikonayantra 186n.22 : Trikūt ạ Devī 187 Trimūrti 192 Tripathi, L. K. 81n.6 Tripathi, S. N. 153 Tripinī/Trivenī : 250 Tripurabhairavī Tantra 191n.26 Tripurā Cult 65–75 identity 66n.3 Tantra 72 Tripurā-Lalitā 6, 7, 67 Tripurārahasya 66, 66nn.3–4, 190, 190n.25 Tripurasundarī 6, 65–7, 71, 75, 191, 324 Tryambakayajvan 82 Tulasī 30, 92 Tulsīdās 152, 153, 156, 157, 158n.69, 162n.86 Turner 40, 61n.19 Uccaiśravā 242 Umā 1, 2, 4, 80, 264, 264n.12, 265

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Universal principle 17 Upadhyaya, Śrīdatta 245 Upanayana 177 Upaniṣad 60, 85, 87, 177 Upapurāna 19n.4, 85, 87, 108, 269 : : Upasamhāra 65n.2 Upodghāta 65n.2 Uṣā 249 Uttara-Kānḍ : a 153, 155, 160n.76 Uttararāmacarita 151, 163, 164 Vāc 3, 7, 26, 74, 75, 101 Vāk 58 Vāḍ ava/Vāḍ avānala 107 Vaidehī 147, 154 Vaikhārī 74 Vaikunt : ḥ a 93 Vaiṣnava 7, 9, 19, 60, 61, 67, 88, 89, 109, 111, : 118, 119, 124, 132, 150, 186, 187, 188, 193, 194 Vaiṣnavism : Bengal/Gauḍ īya 118, 127, 132–3, 273 medieval 125 Vaiṣnavī 183, 187, 188, 193, 244 : Vaiṣno : Devī 31, 181, 182, 187–8, 187n.23, 193, 194 : Vājasaneyī Samhitā 83 Vajpayee, Atal Bihari 298 Vālmīki 9, 125, 150, 151n.23, 153, 155, 156n.59, 158n.66, n.69, 159, 160n.76, 161, 164, 176n.9 Vālmīki Rāmāyana : 148, 150, 157, 161, 178 Vāmakeśvara Tantra 72, 73 Vanaparvan 150 Vanita, Ruth 166n.114 Vārāhī 74 Varna : 191 Vārānasī 188 Vardhamānapuram 239n.27 Varuna : 3 Vaṣat ̣ (eternal syllable) 43 Vasiṣt ḥ a 239 Dharmasūtra 126n.30 Vasudeva 131, 182–3 Vastu 43 Vāsuki 242, 243, 244, 247, 248, 252 Vat ạ kalai 149 Vatsyayana, Kapila 148n.2, 160n.75 Vāyu 1, 3, 4, 19n.4 Vāyu Purāna : 85 Vedas 1, 3, 4, 27, 82, 85, 87, 103, 112, 178, 179 hymns 27, 100, 177 Vedānta 44, 53, 59, 61, 73 Vedantin 59 Vedānta Deśika 90, 149n.13

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Index

Vedavatī 155 Vedic goddess 1–3, 150 hymn 42, 69, 206 incantations 42, 245 injunctions 191 knowledge 99 literature 40, 82, 177 rivers 100 sacrifices 69 Venkataratna Sastri 178 Vibāha pañcamī 148 Vibhīṣana : 149 Videha 147 Vidyā absolute knowledge 44 liberating 43–4 mahavidya 43 mantric knowledge 52–3 pure 40, 45, 53, 55, 56, 61 in Śaiva Siddhānta 40, 45, 55–6 sense-derived 45 traditions 66, 73 ultimate knowledge 48 Vidyāpati 118, 121–5, 128n.38 Vidyeśas 55 Vidyeśvara 50 Vielle, Christophe 67n.14 Vijayā-daśamī 153, 317 Vijayagupta 247 Vijayanagara 67, 149 Vimalasūri 151, 164 Vinā : 73 Vinatā 242–3 Vināyaka-Ganeśa 189 : Vindhya 181, 186 Vindhyācalamāhātmya 186, 186n.22 Vindhyācalanivāsinī/Vindhyavāsinī 181, 182, 185–94 Vindhyakṣetra 186 Vindhyakṣetramāhātmya 185, 186n.22 Vipradāsa 247, 251, 256 Viraha 116, 118–19, 124–6, 128–30, 133, 137–40, 142, 143 -bhakti 136, 139 Virādha 158 : Vīramitrodaya samskāra-prakāśa 174n.4 : Vīrānganā 195 Virgin, sacred 10 Virgin Mary 313–14 Viṣaharā/Viṣaharī 244, 251 Viśiṣt ạ̄ dvaita 149 Viṣnu/Vishnu 6, 7, 19, 21n.9, 27, 30, 42, 61, : 69–71, 74, 81, 82, 83, 85, 90, 93, 94, 106, 109, 111, 139, 147, 188, 212, 213, 216, 224, 239, 244, 255, 271 embodiments of 148, 182

Viṣnu : Purāna : 60, 85, 178, 182–3 Viṣnu : Kr: ṣna : 183 Viṣnudharmottara Purāna : : 86 Viṣnupāla 247 : Viṣnupriyā 83 : Viṣnusahasranāma-bhāṣā 149n.11 Viśvarūpa 92 Viśvasārā Tantra 180, 180n.17 Vivekananda, Swami 193 Vraja 129, 133 vraja-līlā 132 Vrata/Vratakathā 91, 93, 179, 237, 261, 268, 269, 306 Vrindavana 132, 273 Vr: tra 100 Wadley, Susan 24, 237n.21 Waghorne, Joanne Punzo 307, 318 Water 3, 4 and Bathukamma 232 Weisberg, Robert W. 296 West Bengal 12 White, David Gordon 23n.16, 225n.18 Widow burning 166 Wilson, H. H. 178 Woman empowerment 35 as goddess 9, 10, 32–3 purity/chastity 166 subjugation of 9–10 vessel of divinity 201–26 Workers’ and Peasants’ Party 284 Wulff, Donna 237n.21 Yajña 92 Yajurveda 83 black 180 Yamunā 29, 31, 101, 107, 113, 120, 184 Yamunotrī 29 Yantra 186, 315–16 Yaśodā 183 Yavana 191 Yāyāvaras 243 Yogamāyā 182–5, 187 Yoganidrā 182–3 Yogi 138 Yoginī 191 Yoginīhr: daya Tantra 65, 68 Yoginī Kaula 65 Yoni 186 Yuddhakānḍ : a 160n.77 Yukuchi, Yoko 62n.20 Yudhiṣt ḥ ira 150 Yuga 133 Zacharias, Usha 165n.102, 166n.108 Zvelebil, Kamil 152n.30