The goddess of India
Shakti The goddess of India- The concept of the Indian female goddess is one of the most dominant concepts in the religious sphere of India. When travelling in different parts of the sub-continent, one can see many different icons and manifestations of the concept of Shakti – the female energy. This energy, it’s believed, is the force that moves the earthly world. In order to understand more about the religious daily life of India, we need to understand the essence of the admiration of the feminine power and highlight a number of aspects in the character of the Goddess, her iconization and her roles in the Hindu tradition.
History of Shakti
In a number of places around the world it’s possible to find remains and archaeological artefacts from the Neolithic period dating back tens of thousands years pointing towards a universal phenomenon of worshiping female gods. For the most part these matriarchal relics were related to fertility rituals. Remains of female icons of mother-goddesses were found in the Indus Valley area. The clay pots that are commonly found in the archaeological digs are of large-breasted females images with thick thighs adorned with pieces of jewellery and mitres. It is seems that throughout the centuries the role of the Goddess-mother grew more and more in India, and that people continued to worship the female in diverse forms.
The Goddess of India: Character
In essence, her character is that of a builder as well as destroyer. She is the womb of life from which all has come from, but she is also the vicious robber of the life, the same life she offered to her human descendants. The rituals of the Goddess-mother are a mythological story of endless cycles of life and death. The two faces of the Goddess-mother are the sexual creative aspect and the aspect which destroys and symbolises death. The Goddess takes a central role and she is attributed with enormous forces of creativity and destruction. With the development of the Hindu Pantheon of gods this force centralises around worship of the Goddess named Devi. The unreachable Devi appears in different forms of Avatars such as Durga, Parvati, Kali, Sati and Tara. The Goddess holds within her the female power – the divine Shakti which is integral part of the core identity of the gods. For example, Lord Shiva needs this Shakti force as a female aspect of his being in order to put the world into motion and to bring his strength into action. Lord Shiva is not whole without these dual components comprising his being. In different times Shiva can have his female energy as Parvati, the beautiful and gentle daughter of the mountains, a perfect wife and mother. In other cases the Shakti can be in the form of Durga or Kali, frightening, fearsome and a dangerous goddesses. With the development of different schools in Hinduism, the persistence of this male-female duality becomes relevant also in the philosophical discourse of self-awakening. It can also be found as sexual energy of the Shakti in the Tantra movement and practices.
The Goddess of the South of India
An interesting specific case is the Goddess that originates from the South of India. The southern Goddess embodies female power in diverse shades of evil, wild violence, and unrestrained sexual energy. She is a filthy blood Goddess, dark, hot and has supernatural wild energies. The rich duality of this Goddess is also seen in her physical aspects. Her right side symbolizes the ‘establishment’, or the ‘dharma’, the correct social order. Her left hand, though, is holding a sword. This Goddess is dark, menacing, deadly and filled with mystical eroticism. Her iconic description emphasizes the sexual elements of the female body such as the breasts, genitals and loins. This woman Goddess body is ambivalent: on the one hand the Goddess energy is robust, frightening and terrorizing as it threatens to lose control and to destroy every living thing. Yet on the other hand, this energy is vital for life, for fertility, agriculture and reproductive life. In the state of Kerala the worshiping of the Goddess has a direct link to the ancient Dravidic religion, which describes ambivalent forces of war, bloodshed and bursts of sexuality. The Kerala worship practice merges tribal practices with the faiths and Hindu practices that were popular at the time. The Goddess in Kerala embodies forms of fertility with elements of agricultural life and healing abilities.
The meaning of the Goddess to her Followers
It is interesting to see that the Goddess is not only a spiritual force of protection or a mythical creature. For her followers, she contains a practical earthly meaning. She accompanies her congregation in every stage of their lives and she is active and present everywhere. Almost every community in Kerala developed rituals and specific themes for worshipping her in temples, festivals, in art and in theatre. For the people of the mountain communities she is the wind; for the farmers in the planes she fertilizes fields and crops; she provides energy for the land and beauty for the flowers. This devotion still exists in India, and a journey to Kerala can be a fascinating glimpse of a generations old rich tradition of love and adoration for the guardian mother.