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Visions and Revisions of the Hindu Goddess: Sound, Structure, and Artful Ambivalence in the Devī Māhātmya

School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 1A1, Canada
Religions 2019, 10(5), 322;
Received: 27 February 2019 / Revised: 16 April 2019 / Accepted: 30 April 2019 / Published: 14 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue On Violence: Voices and Visions from Hindu Goddess Traditions)
PDF [251 KB, uploaded 14 May 2019]


The Hindu Goddess makes her Brahmanical debut circa 5th century CE in the Sanskrit narrative work Devī Māhātmya, the “Greatness of the Goddess” (henceforth DM). This monumental mythic moment enshrines the first Indic articulation of ultimate divinity as feminine. That she is perennially feminine and ever omnipotent, there can be no doubt. But how do we further characterize this feminine face? This study performs a close synchronic examination of the DM to demonstrate the extent to which it encodes an ambivalence on behalf of the Devī (Goddess) between violent wrath and compassionate care. Preserving paradox as only narrative can, the DM dispenses with neither face of the supreme Goddess—yet it posits her benign visage as ultimately supreme. This paper firstly examines the use of sound throughout the DM as expressive of the Devī’s sacrality and virulence alike. While violent sound is something the Devī deploys, sacred sound is something the Devī is. It then proceeds to analyze the second of the four hymns within the DM—the Śakrādi Stuti, occupying Chapter 4—to demonstrate the artful manner in which the hymn encodes the Devi’s ambivalence through its sophisticated design. This paper ultimately suggests that this ambivalence of the Devī finds an earthly analogue in the Indian king. View Full-Text
Keywords: Devī Māhātmya; Mahādevī; kingship; narrative design Devī Māhātmya; Mahādevī; kingship; narrative design
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Balkaran, R. Visions and Revisions of the Hindu Goddess: Sound, Structure, and Artful Ambivalence in the Devī Māhātmya. Religions 2019, 10, 322.

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