The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition

By Tracy Pintchman

Subjects: Hindu Studies
Paperback : 9780791421123, 300 pages, October 1994
Hardcover : 9780791421116, 300 pages, November 1994

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Table of contents



Setting the Stage

Textual Issues

Summary of the Book

One The Feminine Principle in The Vedas

Cosmogony, Cosmology, and Goddesses in the Vedas


The Waters




Vac (and Sarasvati)



The Waters





The Waters



Two Prakrti, Maya, and Sakti: The Feminine Principle in Philosophical Discourse


The Term Prakrti In Early Vedic, Grammatical, And Ritual Contexts

Prakrti As A Material Principle

Prakrti In Vedic And Proto-Samkhya Contexts

The Marriage Of Vedic And Proto-Samkhya Materials In The Mahabharata

Prakrti In Classical Samkhya


Maya In Vedic And Early Post-Vedic Contexts

Maya In Advaita Vedanta


Vedic Roots

Sakti In Philosophical Literature

Sakti In Grammatical Literature

Sakti In Tantric Literature

Three The Feminine Principle In Puranic Cosmogony and Cosmology

Introduction To The Goddess Materials In The Epics And Puranas

The Devi-Mahatmya

Cosmogony And Goddesses In The Puranas

Primary Creation (Sarga): Basic Cosmogony

Samkhya-Type Accounts Of Cosmogony

Reconciliation Of Competing Philosophical Systems In Accounts Of Primary Creation

Secondary Creation (Pratisarga)

Creation Of The Worlds

Creation Of Progeny

The Explicit Introduction Of The Feminine Element In Creation: Prakrti/Sakti As The Consort Of God

References Outside Of Accounts Of Cosmogony

Integration Of The Feminine Principle In Accounts Of Cosmogony: Sarga And Pratisarga

Vaisnava Puranas And Vaisnava Sections Of Cross-Sectarian Puranas

Saiva Puranas And Saiva Sections Of Cross-Sectarian Puranas

Sakta Puranas

Four Concluding Remarks


Contextual Issues

Thematic Issues

Historical Issues

Interpretive Issues

Further Implications Of The Study: Historical And Socio-Political Implications

Further Implications Of The Study: Cultural Implications

The Relationship Between Goddesses And Women

The Ambiguous Goddess



The Ambiguous Female: From Divine To Human

Women And Creation Of The Social Order

Women And Maintenance Of The Social Order





This book explores the rise of the Great Goddess by focusing on the development of saakti (creative energy), maya (objective illusion), and prakr(materiality) from Vedic times to the late Puranic period, clarifying how these principles became central to her theology.

Tracy Pintchman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology at Loyola University of Chicago.


"I like very much the way in which Pintchman carefully establishes the interrelationships between saakti, maya, and prakrti concepts that might not at first appear to be closely connected. This book nicely reveals their organic integration, an integration that Hindu culture itself recognized and elaborated only gradually over the centuries. She avoids reading later Sakta or Tantric theological ideas back into the earlier literature, yet she convincingly demonstrates how the later ideas are firmly rooted in the ancient traditions. Thus, the book provides the reader with a sense both of the continuities involved in the development of the Great Goddess concept, as well as the major transformations of tradition that such a development entailed. " -- C. Mackenzie Brown

"There are two complementary, arresting features of this book. One is the broad sweep of the author's inquiry into the history of three concepts that are fundamental to the Great Goddess. She follows a thread of continuity that has never been so crisply delineated. The result is kind of a conceptual "adventure story" told in flashbacks: we know what the mature conception is, as it is now common knowledge. Where it came from makes for very interesting reading. The second striking feature is the provocative, suggestive linking of this history to contemporary issues regarding gender and women. " -- Thomas B. Coburn

"The author provides a thorough discussion of the main concepts relating to the feminine principle in the intellectual, literary traditions of Hinduism. She shows that goddess worship is not a marginal expression but is central to even the most orthodox elements of Hinduism. She also brings together much far-flung scholarship from India, Europe, and the United States without duplicating any of it. " -- Kathleen M. Erndl