Shaktism and the Devi: A Female Faith


Shaktism is a major tradition of Hinduism that is centered around a Goddess called Devi, making the source of divinity and the metaphysical reality female. It is one of the three major schools within Hinduism, along with Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Shaktism is different than the other two in that it believes the Goddess Devi to be the driving spiritual force and cosmic energy surrounding all of existence. Other traditions simply recognize Devi as the female partner to Shiva, but Shaktism elevates her status to Supreme. While Shaktism has been cited to worship all female deities within hinduism, it specifically worships Devi and all of her forms, which include Parvati, Durga, and Kali. While the goddess initially appeared in the Vedas, she did not gain her mainstream following until the Epics and Puranas, with her role of the Supreme becoming evident in the Markandeya Purana and the Tantras. The magnitude and significance afforded to Shaktism illustrates the theological reverence for the female within the Hindu tradition.

Many Hindus recognize the legitimacy of Shaktism and often recite praise to Devi and her forms. For example, two of Devi’s forms, Sarasvati and Lakshmi, join to assert the Devi’s status as Supreme in the famous Rigvedic hymn, called Devi Sukta, declaring, “I am the Sovereign Queen; ..the chief of all objects of worship; whose all-pervading Self manifests all gods and goddesses; ..who in breathing forth gives birth to all created worlds, and yet extends beyond them, so vast am I in greatness.” (Rigveda). The two voices are proclaiming that Devi is the Supreme entity, meaning that she is the driving cosmic force behind all worlds and all divine beings. In other words, Devi is calling herself the mother of the universe.

Historically, Goddess worship was not exclusively Hindu, but also seen in Greek, Roman, and Celtic theologies, as well as many more. This, however, was before the rise of the Abrahamic religions, which replaced the image of the divine feminine with the image of a male God. Fortunately, Hinduism and Shaktism have survived the trials of time, and are still vastly followed internationally today. Some may counter Shaktism with the idea that men and women should be represented and regarded as equals within religion, meaning that both women and men should be empowered. While Shaktism does only allow for a female entity of power, it does not discriminate against or degrade men in any way shape or form. Shaktism simply provides a template and modern setting for the worship of the Divine Feminine, while still encompassing Hindu beliefs. For a gender neutral religion, one should look towards Deism.

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