Seeking Mahādevī

Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess

Edited by Tracy Pintchman

Subjects: Asian Studies
Paperback : 9780791450086, 268 pages, June 2001
Hardcover : 9780791450079, 268 pages, June 2001

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


Note on Transliteration and Pronunciation

Introduction: Identity Construction and the Hindu Great Goddess
Tracy Pintchman

1. The Tantric andVedantic Identity of the Great Goddess in the Devi Gita of the Devi-Bhagavata Purana
C. Machenzie Brown

2. Mahadevi as Mother: The Oriya Hindu Vision of Reality
Usha Menon

3. Ambiguous and Definitive: The Greatness of Goddess Vaisno Devi
Mark Edwin Rohe

4. The Goddess as Fount of the Universe: Shared Visions and Negotiated Allegiances in Puranic Accounts of Cosmogenesis
Tracy Pintchman

5. Waves of Beauty, Rivers of Blood: Constructing the Goddess in Kerala
Sarah Caldwell

6. From Village to City: Transforming Goddesses in Urban Andhra Pradesh
Sree Padma

7. Reconstructing the Split Goddess as Sakti in a Tamil Village
Elaine Craddock

8. Perfecting the Mother's Silence: Dream, Devotion, and Family in the Deification of Sharada Devi
Jeffrey J. Kripal

9. Goddesses and the Goddess in Hinduism: Constructing the Goddess through Religious Experience
Kathleen M. Erndl

10. What Is a “Goddess” and What Does it Mean to “Construct” One?
Thomas B. Coburn



List of Contributors


Explores the identity of the Hindu Great Goddess and how it relates to the many goddesses worshipped in India.


While Hindus recognize and revere a variety of different goddesses, they also tend to speak of one Great Goddess, Mahadevi, as a singular divine being who is the unity underlying all female deities. In this book, ten scholars reflect on both the diverse depictions of Mahadevi found in textual and devotional environments and the ways that the singularity and multiplicity of the divine Hindu feminine are negotiated. Seeking Mahadevicovers various geographical locations, from the Punjab and Bengal in North India to Kerala and Tamilnadu in the South, and makes use of evidence from ancient texts and contemporary interviews, male-authored documents and women's possession experiences, myth, ritual, and folklore. Arguing that Mahadevi has multiple, context-dependent identities that are constructed through human interpretive activity, this book highlights the great diversity of ways that those who worship Mahadevi conceive of and portray her.

Contributors include C. Mackenzie Brown, Sarah Caldwell, Thomas Coburn, Elaine Craddock, Kathleen M. Erndl, Jeffrey J. Kripal, Usha Menon, Tracy Pintchman, Andhra Pradesh, and Mark Edwin Rohe.

Tracy Pintchman is Associate Professor of Hindu Studies at Loyola University Chicago. She is the author of The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition, also published by SUNY Press.


"The creativity of these essays, as well as their ability to point to possible future paths of study, will be greatly welcome to general scholars of Indology as well as those interested in gender and religion and South Asia. After reading them, one wants to continue to seek Mahadevi in all her changing forms. " — Journal of the American Oriental Society

"I like the way the book addresses the issue of unity and diversity (is there one Goddess or several) which is done explicitly in a few chapters and implicitly in others. " -- David Kinsley, author of The Goddesses' Mirror: Visions of the Divine from East and West

"There is great popular and scholarly interest in the topic of the imaging of feminine divinity in general, and Hindu goddesses in particular. Many of the contributors present material on contemporary religious practices, as well as 'images,' and such material is always welcome in the field of the study of Indian religion. " -- Leslie C. Orr, author of Donors, Devotees, and Daughters of God: Temple Women in Medieval Tamilnadu