Śākta Traditions Lecture Series.
Hinduism cannot be understood without the Goddess and the goddess-oriented Śākta traditions. Worship of the Goddess pervades Hinduism at all levels, from village deities to high-caste pan-Hindu goddesses to esoteric, tantric goddesses. Nevertheless, these highly influential forms of South Asian religion have only recently begun to draw a more broad scholarly attention. The Goddess and her network of Śākta traditions is often subsumed under the broad category of ‘Śāktism’, which is by many considered one of the major branches of Hinduism next to Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism. Śāktism is, however, less clearly defined than the other major branches and sometimes surprisingly difficult to discern from Śaivism in its tantric forms. These sometimes very complex and challenging forms of Śākta religion therefore provide a test case for our understanding of Hinduism and raise important theoretical questions with regard to the study of religious traditions in South Asia.
In this lecture I wish to go up from the particular and provide a brief overview of the state of research. I will address some of the problems and challenges we face in the study of Śākta traditions and propose a model for how we may meaningfully speak of Śāktism as a major Hindu tradition, relating textual details with broader theoretical questions and the longue durée of the history of Śākta traditions.