Special Issue "On Violence: Voices and Visions from Hindu Goddess Traditions"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 May 2019

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Patricia Dold

Department of Religious Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL A1C 5S7, Canada
Website | E-Mail

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

During the first decade of the 21st century, the many-year efforts of Manushi to promote justice and rights of street vendors included the establishment of a new deity, Swaccha Narayani in her abode in the Sewa Nagar street market:

On 12 March, 2005, a new broom wielding deity, MANUSHI Swachha Narayani, Goddess of Good Governance and Citizenship Rights, chose Sewa Nagar street hawker market as her abode. At the time, Sewa Nagar was being developed by MANUSHI as a model market for street vendors. The Goddess took her avatar in form to lend strength to MANUSHI's long battle to protect street hawkers from routine human rights abuses, assaults on their livelihood and huge extortion rackets legitimized by archaic laws which treat their legitimate occupation as an "illegal activity" despite the fact that the city cannot function without street vendors. (Kishwar, Madhu Purnima, Part I: The Making and Unmaking of a Model Market for Street Vendors, Manushi: Forum for Women’s Rights and Democratic Reforms, posted Feb. 29, 2012 http://manushi.in/articles.php?articleId=1586&ptype=campaigns#.W04KUthKgk4 accessed July 17, 2018.)

In two Manushi articles (see also manushi.in/articles.php?articleId=1587#.W04OithKgk4), Madhu Kishwar documents the successes of the Sewa Nagar civic project as well as the challenges and even violence faced by herself and her fellow activists and how the movement created and developed its own local Goddess.

In 2006, the “Save our Sisters” campaign against domestic violence released ads depicting Hindu Goddesses, their faces bruised and cut.  The ads won awards and sparked controversy in various quarters including among Indian feminists. (See Karnika Kohli, “Brusied, battered Goddesses feature in campaign against domestic violence,” Times of India, updated Sept 10, 2013 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Bruised-battered-goddesses-feature-in-campaign-against-domestic-violence/articleshow/22461046.cms, accessed July 17 2018; and Suddha Tilak, “’Bruised goddesses’ hurt Indian feminists,” Al Jazeera, Oct. 10, 2013 https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/10/goddesses-hurt-indian-feminists-2013105104822923415.html accessed July 17, 2018.)

Like the “Save our Sisters” campaign, the creation of Priya’s Shakti was sparked by the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi in 2012 and features the superhero Priya, who mobilizes her Shakti to secure justice for herself as a survivor of rape and to assist other women who have been targets of abuse and violence (see www.priyashakti.com).

Submissions are sought for a Special Issue to explore a broad range of responses to violence in or through Hindu Goddess traditions.  Primary data can be modern or pre-modern; it can be text, visual media and/or performance.  Usage or presentational context of the data might be religious or secular.  Historical, social, and/or cultural contexts, however, should be well-focused, that is, there is a preference here for the specific over the sweeping.  Critical scholarly analysis must engage with emic interpretations of the data and must avoid imposition of essentialist gender stereotypes, as well as orientalist assumptions.

Violence here is broadly understood to include physical harm or destruction but also non-physical forms of harm such as emotional abuse, systemic social violence, racism, xenophobia, environmental violence, and/or violence against non-human animals. Traditions is understood to include any manner of established phenomena and is not meant to evoke only formal institutions. It is also acknowledged that what is Hindu is not always clearly marked or differentiated from what is non-Hindu.

Prof. Patricia Dold
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charges (APCs) of 550 CHF (Swiss Francs) per published paper are partially funded by institutions through Knowledge Unlatched for a limited number of papers per year. Please contact the editorial office before submission to check whether KU waivers, or discounts are still available. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Hindu goddesses
  • justice
  • violence
  • Śakti
  • Śākta(s)
  • Śāktism
  • Devīs

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Durgā’s Destruction: Breaking Through the Breast-Tooth Binary

Abstract: The Goddess of the Devī Māhātmya is characterized in scholarship as the paradigmatic goddess of the tooth as compared to, e.g., the ever-mind Lakṣmī, paradigmatic goddess of the breast.  While the breast-tooth typology may prove useful in grappling with Indian Goddesses as a whole, it fails to account for the ambivalence of the vision of the feminine divine we see in the DM: Durgā is font of compassion and wrath alike. This paper performs a close synchronic analysis of the characterization of the Goddess of the DM to demonstrate that her wrath is actually in service of her compassion, that her ‘tooth’ function is deployed so as the secure her ‘breast’ function.  Despite the devastation Durgā brings, in characterizing her as a goddess of the tooth, we lose sight of her ultimately benign face, and her vital role as a compassionate instrument of order. 

Title: Mobilizing Shakti: Hindu goddesses and campaigns against gender-based violence

Abstract: Hindu goddesses have been mobilized as powerful symbols by various groups of activists in both visual and verbal campaigns in India. Although these mobilizations often have different motivations and goals, they have frequently emphasized the theological association between goddesses and women, connected through their common possession of Shakti (power). These campaigns commonly highlight the idea that both goddesses and Hindu women share in this power in order to inspire women to re-conceptualize their place in the public sphere in particular ways. While this association has largely been used as a campaign strategy by Hindu right-wing women's organizations in India, it has also become a strategy employed in particular feminist campaigns as well. This article offers a discourse analysis of two online activist campaigns (Priya's Shakti and Abused Goddesses) which mobilize Hindu goddesses (and their power) in order to raise awareness about gender-based violence in India. I examine whether marginalized identities of women in India, in relation to caste, class and religious identity, are represented in the texts and images. To do so, I analyze how politically-charged, normative imaginings of Indian women are constructed (or maintained). Based on my analysis, I question the usefulness of employing Hindu goddesses as feminist symbols, particularly in contemporary Indian society, in which communal and caste-based tensions are elevated.

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