- Shakti is the primordial creative, sustaining and destructive power of all existence. Although con-ceived as female in nature, Shakti is not an indi-vidual goddess, but rather a dynamic quality that all goddesses (and even all women, at least within the SHAKTA TANTRIC tradition) are said to possess. Unbridled, uncontainable, spontaneous, ecstatic, blissful, and fierce, Shakti flows from manifesta-tion to dissolution. She is the power to give forth and to withdraw.The concept of Shakti is an ancient one and has pre-VEDIC, prepatriarchal origins. She is often traced to archaeological discoveries from the INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION (3500–1700 B.C.E.) and to other prehistoric cultures throughout western and central Asia. In India the belief and worship of her all-pervading nature were pushed under-ground during the Vedic period. Shakti regains importance in classical and medieval Hinduism, in which in many cases this primordial power is personified as Devi, the GODDESS, and held in even higher regard than the male deities. Epic texts such as the Devi Bhagavata, Devi Purana, Kalika Purana, Markandeya Purana, and Mahabhagavata Purana accept and worship Shakti as the supreme nature of reality.From earliest times the concept of Shakti appears in discussions of fertility as well as in reverence of the divine as mother of nature and cosmos. In the RIG VEDA the term Shakti is not mentioned; however, various goddess manifesta-tions (Ratri, USHAS, ADITI, PRITHIVI, Vac-Sarasvati, goddesses) indicate the presence and influence that would later develop into the central figures of the Shakti cult (KALI, DURGA, Ambika, Uma) that are worshipped today.The later Shakta Upanishads and tantras (see TANTRISM) contain philosophical references to Shakti that equate her with BRAHMAN. In these texts the dynamic, all-pervading nature of brahman and Shakti as the fabric underlying all existence cannot be separated into two. In the Shakta UPA-NISHADS as well as in the later Shakta tantras we find references to Shakti’s independent omnipo-tent nature where the complementary receptive qualities of the masculine force as Shiva are “but a corpse” without her activating power.In the epic RAMAYANA, Shakti does not have the independent cult status that we find in the later epics; however, she is held in high regard. In the MAHABHARATA, Shakti once again regains the agency and importance that are evident in the prepatriarchal traditions. Here we learn of her invincible power as Durga and the Matrikas. She is also referred to as Kalika, Ambika, Bhadrakali, Parvati, Mahadevi, and by other names.Shakti continues to gain importance in the puranic texts, the earliest of which, the Mar-kandeya Purana, with its 13 chapters called the Durga Saptasai and Devi Mahatmya, elaborate the primordial all-pervading power of Devi. Here she is philosophically conceived as pure conscious-ness; the creator, preserver, and destroyer; the one and the many manifestations of supreme divinity. Shakti is both immanent and transcendent, illu-sive and manifest, moving and unmoving. She is knowledge, will, and action behind all existence. Here we find Goddess as the absolute reality, and yet she incarnates from time to time to help the gods to carry out her divine work. She also appears to help her devotees conquer the bonds of human suffering and the limitations of the physi-cal realm in order to achieve liberation.In the Markandeya Purana, the goddess is identified with PRAKRITI, the natural sustaining power of existence. She takes on various roles as mother, nurturer, warrior, lover to experience the LILA (play) of her divine consciousness. In the Devi Bhagavata Purana, Shakti is divided into three forms or qualities of existence: sattva (purity), rajas (passion), tamas (inertia).As Mahasarasvati, Mahalakshmi, Mahakali, the Goddess takes the universe from creation to destruction and back to creation again. The Goddess’s distinct iconographic forms are expres-sions of her multiple nature. She has both benevo-lent and pacific as well as wrathful and terrifying qualities. Her benevolent manifestations include Uma, Gauri, Parvati, Lakshmi, Sarasvati; her ter-rifying ones include Chamunda, Kali, Durga, the Mahavidyas, the Yoginis, and Matrikas.In the Shakta tantras Shakti becomes Para-shakti, the supreme reality who before manifest-ing through the physical world remains in a state of unmanifest repose. In this respect she is ineffable and indescribable. She is worshipped as Mahamaya or Mahadevi in addition to the numer-ous epithets that emphasize the myriad facets of her all-pervading nature.The acknowledgment and worship of the nature of reality as female, as the mobilizing energizing primordial force called Shakti, speaks strongly to the inherently autonomous nature of women. This concept of divinity as female ulti-mately lies in the biological reality of the female body, in particular the power of the womb. Today statues, YANTRAS, and other iconic objects of Shakti worship are not mere representations of Goddess and her ultimate power, but rather embodiments of her Shakti.Further reading: Narendra Nath Bhattacharya, His-tory of the Shakta Religion (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharial, 1996); Pushpendra Kumar, Shakti Cult in Ancient India (Varanasi: Bhartiya Publishing House, 1974); Ajit Mookerjee, Kali: The Feminine Force (New York: Destiny Books, 1988); Jadunath Sinha, Shakta Monism: The Cult of Shakti (Calcutta: Sinha Publishing House, 1966); Jagdish Narain Tiwari, Goddess Cults in Ancient India (with special reference to the first seven cen-turies A.D.) (Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan, 1985); David Gordon White, Kiss of the Yogini (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2003); Sir John Wood-roffe, Sakti and Sakta: Essays and Addresses (Madras: Ganesh, 1965).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.
Look at other dictionaries:
Shakti — Shakti, meaning sacred force , power , or energy , is the Hindu concept or personification of the divine feminine aspect, sometimes referred to as The Divine Mother . Shakti represents the active, dynamic principles of feminine power. In Shaktism … Wikipedia
Shakti — als Durga, die den Büffeldämon, Verkörperung des Übels, besiegt Shakti (Sanskrit, f., शक्ति, śakti, Kraft) steht im Hinduismus für die weibliche Urkraft des Universums, die die aktive Energie darstellt. Die unzähligen indischen Göttinnen werden… … Deutsch Wikipedia
shakti — ● shakti ou çakti nom féminin (mot sanskrit) Dans l hindouisme, l énergie féminine active. (Le culte des shakti s est étendu au bouddhisme par la voie du tantrisme.) … Encyclopédie Universelle
Shakti — [shuk′tē] n. [Sans s̍akti] Hinduism divine power or energy worshiped in the person of the female consort of Siva or another god Shaktism n … English World dictionary
Shaktí — Para el grupo de jazz fusión, véase Shakti (banda). En el marco del hinduismo, el término sánscrito shaktí designa a la energía o potencia activa de un deva (dios masculino), personificada como su esposa. Estatua de bronce de la diosa Adi Shakti… … Wikipedia Español
Shakti — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Le mot Shakti désigne : dans le vocabulaire védique, l énergie et plusieurs sens dérivés, voir Shakti (hindouisme); la femme de Shiva selon les… … Wikipédia en Français
Shakti — /shuk tee/, n. Hinduism. 1. the female principle or organ of generative power. 2. the wife of a deity, esp. of Shiva. Cf. Divine Mother. Also, Sakti. [ < Skt sakti] * * * or sakti In Hinduism, the creative energy inherent in and proceeding from… … Universalium
Shakti — noun Meaning sacred force, power or energy, it represents the Hindu concept or personification of the divine feminine aspect, sometimes referred to as The Divine Mother. Shakti represents the active, dynamic principles of feminine power. In… … Wiktionary
Shakti — Shạkti [ʃ ; Sanskrit »Energie«, »Kraft«] die, , eigentlich die Urkraft, von der Kosmos und Götter abhängig sind. In einigen indischen Religionen wird die Gattin eines Gottes als seine Shakti verehrt. Sie kann als »göttliche Mutter« auch über… … Universal-Lexikon
Shakti — noun the female or generative principle; wife of Siva and a benevolent form of Devi • Syn: ↑Sakti • Instance Hypernyms: ↑Hindu deity * * * Shakti var. Sakti … Useful english dictionary