Lecture tag: Goddesses

Legends of the Goddess: Ānṭāḷ Stories in the Śrīvaiṣṇava Traditions

This paper examines Ānṭāḷ’s story as it circulates in both textual and oral sources since the 12 century, with a particular emphasis on the Manipravala Guruparamparaprābhavam 6000 and 3000 and the Sanskrit Divyasūricaritam. I explore issues of genre, style and language choice as I chart the changes in Ānṭāḷ’s story, and the history that such alterations both reveal and conceal.

The Concept of Laksmi in Srivaisnavism

This lecture aims at presenting a holistic picture of Laksmi covering the earliest and later phases of the development of this concept. She, known by another popular name Sri, is the embodiment of all the powers which make the Lord her consort, a veritable ruler of the world. She, as the repository of benign love, plays the role of mother of all living beings. She plays a vital role in the redemption of the erring humanity by interceding on their behalf and mitigating the rightful wrath of the Lord in which act her motherly nature gets fully manifested. Founder Professor and Head (Retired), Department of Vaishnavism, University of Madras, India. His specialist subjects include the Pre-Ramanuja Religion and Philosophy, Pancharatra Agama Literature, Telugu and Sanskrit Literature and popularisation of Sanskrit as a spoken tongue. He has published a number of articles and monographs in academic journals on topics such as the Samskrita Svapnah, Bhakti and Prapatti in Srivaishnava Philosophy and the Pancaratra-kantakoddhara. Important Publications include: The Contribution of Yaamuna to Visistadvaita [Pub; Jayalakshmi Publications, Hyderabad]; Critical Edition and Study of Yaamuna’s Aagamapraamaanya [pub: Gaekwad’s Oriental Series, Baroda]; and an English translation of Sri Vedanta Desika’s Padukasahasram and all of his 32 Stotras. Prof. Narasimhachary received the Certificate of Honour for Proficiency in Sanskrit from the President of India for the year 2004.

To Be or Not-To-Be: The Rise of Durga in Bengal

According to popular belief, the celebration of Durga Puja in Bengal, as the great festival of Bengalis, started roughly from the late medieval period onwards. This paper shows that the celebration of the great festival of goddesses in autumn had been prevalent in the region for more than fifteen hundred centuries, and that the practice itself was pluralistic. It looks into four Upapuranas of early medieval Bengal and delineates the politics of the appropriation of local goddesses by brahmanism. The paper argues that the process of emergence of Durga as the brahmanical Great goddess of the region was essentially linked with the loss of the local goddess matrix, and the meanings and symbolisms related to it. Brahmanical patriarchy in early medieval Bengal retained the local goddesses as the primary symbol of the Ultimate, but played down their earlier subjectivities and the cultural ethos which had sustained them. The paper focuses on four brahmanical strategies through which the making of Durga was achieved: ‘identification’, ‘hyphenated- disjuncture’, ‘disembodiment’, and ‘circumscription of the goddesses within family relationships’. It explores traits and trails of other local goddesses that were either wiped off or modified in the process and locates various levels of changes in the mythic and ritual content of the goddesses in the Upapuranas.

Susmita Chatterjee is a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, the University of Edinburgh. Currently, she is working on the the ritual of Kumari Puja in contemporary Bengal and exploring discursive modalities of treating the female as divine. She has completed her Ph.D. at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Her Ph.D. thesis, entitled, “The Politics of Subordination: Transformations of the goddess and worship of Durga in Bengal” focused on the making of Durga as the brahmanical Great Goddess of the region at the cost of the local goddess matrix and its cultural ethos. It looked into the changing mythic and ritual content of the worship of the goddesses in four Sakta Upapuranas of Bengal and historicized the transformations in the phenomenological and gender roles of the goddesses in the context of early medieval Bengal.

The origins and development of Shaktism

This seminar will explore traditions focused on the Goddess and examine the boundaries of Shakta traditions. The seminar will examine different kinds of Shakta tradition, those within the boundary of Brahmanical orthodoxy and those outside of that boundary. The seminar will raise critical questions about tradition, about etic and emic accounts, and about the relation of Indology to Anthropology. Bjarne Wernicke Olesen has a degree in Classical Indology and the Study of Religions from the University of Aarhus where he now teaches Sanskrit and Hinduism in the Department of the Study of Religions. He is currently undertaking doctoral research in the area of Shaktism.

The Lion of Durga

Dr Robinson did his D.Phil. research on the Worship of Clay Images in West Bengal. An important part of this was the study of Hindu iconography and the festivals of West Bengal, including Durga puja. Recently he has become a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and is working on an article on an ivory figure of Durga in the V&A which was part of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Photographs taken during fieldwork in Bengal and amongst the Bengali community in the UK are now in the British Museum Asia collection and in the archives of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Items such as pata paintings and saras collected during my research in Bengal are also in the Asia collection of the British Museum. He is currently a teacher of Religious Education in Oxfordshire. His fascination with Durga started from a very early age in India where he was born and brought up and he is now particularly interested in researching Durga puja in Calcutta during the British period from 18th–20th centuries.