Many Faces of the Hindu Goddess: Lecture Series


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Many Faces of the Hindu Goddess: Lecture Series

Between Cosmology and Society: the Sarāhan Praśasti and Gender

Sacrifice to the Goddess: Bhakti, Tantra, Blood The Sarāhan Praśasti, a Sanskrit poem carved on a slab near the Candraśekhara temple in Himachal Pradesh, describes the foundation of the temple by a donor, Sātyaki. The poem praises Sātyaki’s wife Somaprabhā as the supreme goddess Śakti, for whom the temple appears to have been built in the first place. Here is an example in which ideas of the feminine divine, or cosmology, are directly connected to a real woman. We explore the extent to which material culture can allow us to navigate the gap between Śākta ideas of female agency and the lived experience of women in that period.

Tutor: Dr Bihani Sarkar

The Global Goddess: The Hindu Divine Mother in Michigan

The Global Goddess: The Hindu Divine Mother in Michigan In this talk we explore a North American Hindu Goddess Temple, the Parashakthi Temple, in Pontiac, Michigan. Founded in 1999, the temple serves the Hindu goddess in her form as Karumariamman, ‘black Mariamman’, a South Indian village goddess. This talk highlights ways the Parashakthi Temple fashions a religiosity rooted in Indian goddess traditions but recreated for an American context. The Goddess and her temple in Pontiac reflect larger exchanges and transformations that occur in many contemporary lives.

Tutor: Dr Tracy Pintchman

Daughter of the Ocean, Born of the Earth: Lakṣmī and Andal in the Sri Vaishnava Tradition

Daughter of the Ocean, Born of the Earth: Lakṣmī and Andal in the Sri Vaishnava Tradition Two goddesses inseparable from Viṣṇu: one – Śrī-Lakṣmī – who is a supreme deity and another – Andal – who is simultaneously human and divine. Śrī-Lakṣmī is one of the best-known deities in Hinduism. Giver of worldly fortune, bestower of liberation from the cycle of life and death, conferring happiness on all she looks at, she is the embodiment of auspiciousness. Andal, a ninth-century woman poet-saint, wanted to marry only Ranganatha, the manifestation of Vishnu in the Srirangam temple. We find her icon in many South-Indian-style temples and her poems are recited regularly at home and public spaces. Although a historical figure, she is identified as a manifestation of Bhu-devi, the earth goddess, and sometimes as Nila Devi, another consort of Viṣṇu. Is Andal a human who ascended to be a goddess or a goddess who descended to be human?

Tutor: Dr Vasudha Narayanan

Who is Rādhā?

Who is Rādhā? Is Rādhā a gopī or a goddess or both? We examine this question using passages from the Gītagovinda that describe Rādhā and her relationship with Krishna. Placing Rādhā within a larger context of Krishna-bhakti beginning with the Bhagavad-gītā and including the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, we will examine how devotees cultivate intimate relationships with Krishna, and we will thus contemplate the power of love to humanise and divinise simultaneously.

Tutor: Dr Tracy Coleman

Mother of Compassion, Mother of Wrath: Integrating Opposed Faces of the Goddess in the Devī Māhātmya

Mother of Compassion, Mother of Wrath: Integrating Opposed Faces of the Goddess in the Devī Māhātmya The Hindu Goddess enters the Brahminic fold via the Sanskrit narrative work Devī Māhātmya, the ‘Greatness of the Goddess’. How is the Goddess portrayed therein? The Devī Māhātmya features divergent faces of the Hindu Goddess – one of violent wrath and another of compassionate care. Preserving paradox as only narrative can, the Devī Māhātmya dispenses with neither face of the supreme Goddess. This presentation analyses one of the four hymns within the Devī Māhātmya  – the Śakrādi Stuti, sung by Indra and the gods in thanksgiving after the Devī’s triumph over Mahiṣa in Episode II – to demonstrate the artful manner in which the text integrates the Devi’s divergent faces through its sophisticated structure.

Tutor: Dr Raj Balkaran

Fire that Scourges, Fire that Purges: The Compassion and Wrath of the Hindu Goddess

Fire that Scourges, Fire that Purges: The Compassion and Wrath of the Hindu Goddess Feminine divinity in Hindu traditions has often been understood in terms of benevolence or malevolence. Wrathful, independent, and fiery characters are contrasted with compassionate and benign figures; mothers are put opposite warriors. But this dichotomy does not fully show the diversity of Hindu goddess worship. In this talk we will explore how both wrath and compassion are woven through narrative and ritual of the fierce Hindu goddess. From the supreme Goddess of the pan-India Devīmāhātmya, to the regional goddess Bhadrakāḷī, from text to practice, from the mother to warrior, and back.

Tutor: Noor van Brussel

Singing the Goddess into Place: Folksongs of Chamundi and Uttanahalli from Southern Karnataka

Singing the Goddess into Place: Folksongs of Chamundi and Uttanahalli from Southern Karnataka This talk examines the local Kannada folksongs that tell the story of Mysore’s goddess Cāmuṇḍi and her marriage to Nañjuṇḍēśvara, the local form of Śiva. In addition to discovering a local iteration of Goddess and Śaiva mythology, we see how these folksongs are embedded with local knowledge that relates the city’s and region’s mythological and urban histories. Additionally, these songs allow us to rethink the relationship between local and Pan-Indian traditions, rituals, and myth.

Tutor: Dr Caleb Simmons

Dangerous Power: The Goddess Durga in Java and Bali

Dangerous Power: The Goddess Durga in Java and Bali Although Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country, worship of the Hindu goddess Durga endures in small pockets of the archipelago. This session will touch on three examples: Durga’s abode in the dangerous but empowering Krendawahana Forest in Central Java, the beliefs of the Tenggerese Hindu communities on the volcanic caldera of Mount Bromo in East Java, and Durga’s persona as the goddess of disease and death on the island of Bali. Besides revealing uncommon manifestations of Hindu goddess worship, this session examines the transformation of Durga’s persona, from a protective deity to a deadly one, as her cult migrated from Java to Bali.

Tutor: Dr Hillary Rodrigues

The Great Hindu Goddess and Her Local Forms: Sixty Years of Research in the Villages of Tamil Nadu

The Great Hindu Goddess and Her Local Forms: Sixty Years of Research in the Villages of Tamil Nadu In this talk we see many of the key forms of the goddess, images of her in pottery and folk painting, and her presence in temples and local festivals. We will also look at goddesses in myths and texts and will conclude with a few images of her from India’s very early Indus Valley civilisation.

Tutor: Dr Brenda Beck

Sacrifice to the Goddess: Bhakti, Tantra, Blood

Sacrifice to the Goddess: Bhakti, Tantra, Blood Blood sacrifice (bali) is characteristic of goddess traditions from the village level to Sanskrit texts. Rituals involving blood are often associated with Tantra, yet blood sacrifice is also part of a particular Śākta devotion (bhakti). We will explore the role and rationale of bali in selected texts of the Goddess, with particular attention to the so-called ‘blood chapter’ of the Kālikā-purāṇa.

Tutor: Dr Silje Lyngar Einarsen

Your Tutors

Raj Balkaran

Dr Raj Balkaran

Dr Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts and the author of The Goddess and the King in Indian Myth (Routledge 2018), The Goddess and the Sun in Indian Myth (Routledge 2020). Having taught comparative religion and mythology at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies for a decade, he now Tutors at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies where he also serves on the Continuing Education Department’s Course Development Board. Alongside his academic training, he has received extensive spiritual training as part of an oral tradition dedicated to the transmission of Indian wisdom teachings. Integrating his academic and spiritual training, he has founded the online School of Indian Wisdom where he designs and delivers original online courses centred on the practical life wisdom to be found in the philosophical, mythological and spiritual traditions of ancient India. Beyond teaching and research, Dr Balkaran runs a thriving life consulting practice and hosts the New Books in Indian Religions podcast.  

Dr Brenda Beck 1

Dr Brenda Beck

Brenda Beck holds a D.Phil. from Oxford (1968). Her thesis built around several years of research work in the villages of Tamil Nadu. Since then, she has taught at several North American universities and lectured at many more around the world. She has twice been a Guest Lecturer in India courtesy of the Indian Government. She has authored and/or edited eight books and more than fifty articles, mainly focused on the rich traditions and beliefs shared by Hindus in the rural areas of Kongu Nadu, a part of Tamil Nadu.

Dr Tracy Coleman 2

Dr Tracy Coleman

Tracy Coleman is Professor of Religion at Colorado College in Colorado, USA, and the editor of Oxford Bibliographies: Hinduism. She is a scholar of gender and bhakti traditions, especially Krishna-bhakti in the Sanskrit epics and purāṇas, and has published studies on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, the Gītagovinda, and Sanskrit commentary. 

Dr Silje Lyngar Einarsen 3

Dr Silje Lyngar Einarsen

Silje Lyngar Einarsen is co-manager of the Śākta Traditions research programme at the OCHS and postdoctoral fellow at MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society. Her Ph.D. thesis treated the ritual role and reception of the Devīmāhātmya, combining textual research and fieldwork methods. She is co-author of a Danish standard introduction to Hinduism and an upcoming new translation of the Haṭhapradīpikā. Her current research project is on the Kālikāpurāṇa.

Dr Vasudha Narayanan 4

Dr Vasudha Narayanan

Vasudha Narayanan is Distinguished Professor of Religion and the Director for the Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions (CHiTra) at the University of Florida, and a past President of the American Academy of Religion. She is an associate editor of the six-volume Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Her research has been supported by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation,  the Centre for Khmer Studies, the American Council of Learned Societies, National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Institute of Indian Studies/ Smithsonian, and the Social Science Research Council. She is the author or editor of several books and numerous articles and chapters in books.

Dr Tracy Pintchman 5

Dr Tracy Pintchman

Tracy Pintchman is a professor of religious studies and director of the Global and International Studies Program at Loyola University of Chicago. Her scholarly publications include five edited and coedited volumes and two books. Her current book, Goddess Beyond Boundaries: Worshipping the Eternal Mother at a North American Hindu Temple, is under contract with Oxford University Press.

Dr Hillary Rodrigues 6

Dr Hillary Rodrigues

Hillary Rodrigues is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge. His books include Ritual Worship of the Great Goddess and the co-edited Nine Nights of the Goddess. His digital publications include Hinduism-the eBook and Eastern Religions: Understanding Our Religious World. He has been honoured with his institution’s Distinguished Teaching Medal.

Dr Bihani Sarkar

Dr Bihani Sarkar

Bihani Sarkar holds an associate faculty membership of the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford, a Research Membership of the Senior Common Room, Wolfson College, University of Oxford and a part time fixed term Lectureship in Religious Studies: Hinduism and Buddhism at the University of Winchester. At Winchester she convenes two undergraduate modules, ‘Living Religions: Hinduism and Buddhism’, and ‘Hinduism and Modernity’. She is the author of Heroic Shāktism: the cult of Durgā in Ancient Indian Kingship and Classical Sanskrit Tragedy: the concept of suffering and pathos in medieval India

Dr Caleb Simmons 7

Dr Caleb Simmons

Caleb Simmons is an associate professor of Religious Studies and specialises in religion in South Asia, especially Hinduism. He is the author of Devotional Sovereignty: Kingship and Religion in India, and edited (with Moumita Sen and Hillary Rodrigues) the scholarly collection of essays titled Nine Nights of the Goddess: The Navarātri Festival in South Asia.

Noor van Brussel 8

Noor van Brussel

Noor van Brussel combines a research position at the Erasmus University Brussels with lecturing Sanskrit at Ghent University. Her scholarship focuses on regional goddess worship, exploring the relationships between pre-modern religious text and contemporary ritual practice. She has authored several publications on narrative strategy in the Bhadrakāḷīmāhātmya, a South Indian purāṇa devoted to the regional goddess Bhadrakāḷī slaying her asura opponent.

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Many Faces of the Hindu Goddess: Lecture Series
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