The Devīmāhātmya, the core text of Hindu Śāktism, exist in numerous editions today and is one of the most popular ritual texts among practicing Hindus. While it has been studied extensively for its “crystallization” of the Goddess tradition and importance for the formation of a Śākta theology, less attention has been paid to the role, function and reception of the Devīmāhātmya as a ritual text in mainstream Hinduism. Based on textual analysis and ethnographic fieldwork, this lecture will discuss the practice of ritually reciting the Devīmāhātmya and its interpretation among contemporary practitioners in Varanasi. Particular attention is given to the paratextual elements that figures in the manuscripts and printed editions that circulates in present-day Varanasi, and how they impact the reception of the text. A broader question addressed in the lecture is how we can understand the role and function of Sanskrit texts in popular Hinduism.
Silje Lyngar Einarsen is an Associate Professor at Oslo Metropolitan University and co-manager for the Śākta Traditions research programme at the OCHS. Her research is concerned with the relationship between Hindu scriptures and religious practice. She has conducted research on the role of Śākta texts and ritual performances during Navarātri in Benares, combining textual and ethnographic research methods. She is co-author on a Danish standard introduction to Hinduism with a focus on Varanasi (Systime, 2015) and is currently working on a Danish translation of the Haṭhapradīpikā. She has also published articles on the Navarātri festival and the Devīmāhātmya.