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The Role of the Mahadevi in the Hindu Patriarchy

1 January 2011


[From the introduction]

The Hindu religious tradition contains over three hundred and thirty million gods, all of which represent a particular aspect of the Supreme Being. I focus on the divine creative feminine force, known by Hindus as Shakti. In the Hindu pantheon, Shakti manifests itself in the form of the Mahadevi, the supreme goddess. In turn, the Mahadevi manifests herself through many different avatars, or deities. The devi, or goddess, that my study focuses on is Durga, or Maa Durga (Mother Durga). My interest in Durga stems from her warrior persona and her existence in the state of Svātantrya, or the ultimate state of self-sufficiency and independence from anything and anyone in the universe. Durga's “primary mythological function is to combat demons who threaten the stability of the cosmos” (Kinsley 1986:95). Likewise, while all other Hindu goddesses are associated with a consort, or male counterpart, Durga stands alone. My study examines how a goddess such as this is able to exist within a patriarchal religion and society. Similarly, my study also investigates the social roles in which women are able to emulate Durga within the patriarchal framework.


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