shakthi worship & philosophy
The Series:feminism in indian culture
the origins of a tradition
shakthi worship and philosophy
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the sanskrit word shakthi means force, the feminine energy. it is regarded as the primordial creative principle that underlies the cosmos, and as the energising force behind all divinity, creatures and beings.
in several scriptures, the personification of shakthi - kali - was said to be the source of the three aspects in divinity,ie creation, protection and transformation. (for example the niravana tantra narrates how brahma, vishnu and shiva were all born of kali; in the kamanda tantra kali is considered to be brahman personified.)
the ritualistic aspects of shaktha philosophy is marked by the pantheon of female deities, each created to worship a different aspect of feminine power. the breasts, bellies, and yonic* entrances of the goddesses are worshipped and touched reverentially as symbols of the source of all life and the focus of cosmic energy. several vessels are used in worship, signifying the shaping of life, and rebirth. the vessels are also a symbol for the idea that the human body is as a vessel for spiritual transformation.
mainstream hinduism retains traces of shaktha philosophy and rituals as well. even now, the main chambers of temples are built as wombs (garba graha - the womb chamber), the overall structure signifying the yonic passage. (emerging from the chamber thus denotes the "reborn" person.) and all our gods and goddesses have bodies which emphasise their feminine nature - wide hips and thighs and so on.
shiva as natraja with feminine thighs and hips
* yoni - (sanskrit) vagina