Goddesses and Women in the Indic Religious Tradition

Goddesses and Women in the Indic Religious Tradition

Goddesses and Women in the Indic Religious Tradition

Goddesses and Women in the Indic Religious Tradition


Goddesses and Women in the Indic Religious Tradition goes beyond the traditional sources that lie at the basis for determining the position of goddesses and women in India. Following the lead of a hermeneutics of surprise the book identifies, indeed, surprising new material and conclusions; for example the analysis of Vedic rauta ritual. Or by offering surprising conclusions, when the location is obviously one involving women and goddesses, or anthropology discovers that the worship of the Great Goddess temporarily elevates the position of women. Other examples of the effectivity of the hermeneutics of surprise are seen when applied to the role of kin s, akti worship, the Marathi Sant tradition,and to a kara's commentaries.


Fokke Dijkema approached me several years ago to put together a book on the theme of goddesses and women in the Indic religious tradition. At the time, I was inclined to demur for fear that the field may have been harvested to the point of diminishing returns. But now that the volume is ready I am glad that I allowed myself to be persuaded. This transformation in my attitude is the result of what the distinguished contributors to this volume have accomplished in these essays. Apparently the field is more fecund than I had taken it to be.

In the first essay we are offered a glimpse of how even initially unpromising material of the kind associated with ritual minutiae can reward scholarly perseverance. Stephanie W. Jamison demonstrates how such investigation sheds new light on the status of women. It also allows us to see earlier conclusions in this respect in a new light.

With the second essay we enter a magic garden, as it were, inhabited by the Buddhist “fairies.” This paper explores a realm often neglected, the realm which lies between the mundane and the transcendent. Victoria K. Urubshurow dis-closes how vital a role ḍākinīs, who inhabit this in-between world, play in the ascent from the mundane to the transcendent in Tibetan Buddhism.

The third essay deals with “embodied knowledge,” wherein Kartikeya C. Patel offers a new paradigm of viewing the relationship between women, earth and the Goddess.

The fourth essay, by comparison, is more conventional and deals with women and the worship of the Goddess, at the end of which Hillary Rodrigues offers the interesting conclusion that the entire period of festivities brings about “a temporary status elevation” for women. It represents a period during which “woman hood is transformed and purified, elevated in auspiciousness and venerated.”

The fifth essay discusses what happens to ordinary women of the family when the families become God-intoxicated. Vidyut Aklujkar illustrates their fate with the help of biographical details from the lives of Nāmdev and Tukārām.

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