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The numerous Tantras form the chief literature of the sect. Until none of these had appeared in translation in the West, and even in India it was not till about that the first English version of a Tantra was published. Of late years, however, a Western apologist for Saktism has issued a series of works which have prepared the way for a more scientific study of the movement.

Translations of Tantras, works on Sakta yoga, and general introductions to different phases of the subject have since come fast from the pen of a certain Arthur Avalon. Sir John Woodroffe has now acknowledged himself as chiefly responsible for these books, but as he was assisted by another writer, who prefers to remain anonymous, it seems better to quote sometimes Avalon and sometimes Woodroffe, according to the name on the title-page of the work in question, rather than to ascribe everything to the latter.


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Unfortunately, these books are far from easy to read; they are badly written, and are largely uncritical in method. The zeal of a convert often runs away with his judgment. Woodroffe refers in one of his works to his 'strong bent towards the clear and accurate statement of facts," but he is obviously interested far less in the history and development of ideas, far less in their truth, than in the meaning attached to them today by the average sincere and intelligent worshipper.

Students of Indian religion, how- ever, owe him a great debt for having opened up this important and difficult field. What he has already accomplish- ed may be seen by comparing the older accounts of the Saktas with those of Helmuth von Glasenapp in his various books on Hinduism, or with that from the pen of Sten Konow in the new edition of Chantepie de la Saussaye's Lehrbucb der Religionsgeschichte.

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Another German scholar, Heinrich Zimmer, has attempted to explain Indian ritual art in general by means of the principles laid down in these Tantras. This changed attitude is due almost entirely to the publi- cations of Arthur Avalon.

A beginning has also been made, however, with the translation of Sakta poetry, and new and rich material is placed at the disposal of the Western student. The three chief characteristics of Saktism are its idea of the Deity as Destroyer, its conception of God as Mother, and its attention to ceremonial. Each of these features can be paralleled in other forms of Hinduism, but nowhere are they so combined and emphasised as in this sect. The word Sakti means 'energy. From the primordial sakti every other form of activity proceeds. In its cult, it must be confessed at once, it has been connected with what has been generally and, in the main, rightly regarded as the most debased side of Hinduism.

The worshipper seeks to obtain 'power' by the most varied means. It has been, in many places, a religion of blind terror, of uncomprehended forces, of the terrible mystery of life and death. Awe, dread, propitiation have been its characteristic notes. Yet tenderness and love have also been present, and only these words can be used to express the attitude of many Saktas to their goddess. Side by side with the abominations of Saktism we have to set the poems of the great eighteenth century poet Ram Prasad. The first stage in the conversion of Ramakrishna , the famous Bengali saint and mystic, came when he began to frequent the temple of Kali one of the best known of the more terrible forms of the goddess at Dakshinesvara, and although he passed through various phases, in which Vaishnavas, Muhammadans and Christians influenced him, yet he always regarded Kali as the chief manifestation of God, and as the Divine Mother of the Universe, and before her idols he worshipped.

The influence of Sakta ideas, mediated probably by Ramakrishna, can also be traced in the references to God as Mother to be found in the writings and addresses of Keshub Chunder Sen , and the Swami Vivekananda The same line of thought con- tinues in the writings of Sister Nivedita, the enthusiastic disciple of Vivekananda, and in a different direction, though quite distinctly, in that curious one-time Roman Catholic, Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya The appeal which Sakta ideas have made to men and women like these has been insufficiently recognised.

Nor has the more philosophical side of the sect received due attention. But this is for worship. God is no more female than male or neuter.

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God is beyond sex. In her static transcendent aspect the Mother, or Sakti, is Siva or the Good. That is, philosophically speaking, Siva is the unchanging Consciousness and Sakti is its changing Power appearing as mind and matter. In Saktism, indeed, as elsewhere in Hinduism, we have two orders of religion living side by side. They are mutually tolerant, indeed each assumes the other to be a phase of itself; one is philosophic, the other popular; one universalistic, the other local; one spiritual, the other magical.

Too often Western writers have concentrated their attention on the second. Yet it is equally unsatisfactory to look only at the higher side. The sect has had most of its adherents among the more primitive peoples of India. Nowhere have the sexual emotions been more deliberately exploited in the name of religion, nowhere have the animal instincts and dark imaginings of early man been given greater scope. Saktism is a movement as complex as any within Hinduism. We propose first of all to describe the sect, and to outline its practices; then to consider the rise of Sakta ideas in the religious literature of Hinduism.

An attempt will be made to indicate some of the possible causes of its popularity, and the origin of some of its beliefs. The background in Bengal and Assam will then be filled in in greater detail, for only with that background in mind are we in a position to understand the fine examples of intense devotion and touching faith to be found among the Saktas, Moreover, it is this background which helps to explain the close connection in certain places between Saktism and some of the extremer phases of the modem Nationalist movement.

Finally, with the object of the better understanding of the sect, some comparisons with other systems of belief and practice will be made.


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    By subscribing, you will receive our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. All emails will be sent by Exotic India using the email address info exoticindia. Share our website with your friends. Pages from the book. The Saktas An introductory and comparative study. Item Code:. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Euro Look Inside the Book. Add to Wishlist. Send as free online greeting card. Verify the characters on the left.

    You will be informed as and when your card is viewed. Please note that your card will be active in the system for 30 days. Viewed times since 20th Nov, How a devotee perceives it. Devotee does not think about the revelation about death made by Kali, the forbidden truths, where every body treads cautiously, approaches to Kali like a child. The myth about Dakshnakali pose of Kali also relates to motherhood. In this story Kali again defeated her enemies on the battlefield and began to dance out of those she killed.

    Then she suckled him at the breast. Linga Purana 1. Here we find a faint affinity after the merging of the concept of motherhood and consort ship. Radha, who has always been celebrated as Nayika, heroin finally becomes mother of the universe even mother of Vishnu in the Brahmavaivarta Purana. Here Kali in this myth becomes the mother of Shiva. The myth wanted to convey that the motherly instincts will always be present in the Goddess. This attitude is even present in Durga, as during Durga festival of Bengal the idol of Durga is flanked by her both children Ganesh and Kartikeya.

    A very beautiful instance of this aspect can be seen in the Sanskrit literature. The poets also seek blessings from the Goddess as mother. Poet Bhavabhuti is known for his unsympathetic views towards Shaktism, but he also celebrates the motherhood and seeks compassion in the ferocious dance of Chamunda. The new trends that have come to the surface advocate the feminine experience of the religions.

    It is often alleged that Indian society may be overwhelmingly patriarchal, but in religion the scene is complex. The new approaches say that before the champions of patriarchy could suppress her, could she not be discovered again. The independent Goddess who unlike her consort, overpower their male counter part, bringing them to center stage.