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The Triumph of the Goddess: The Canonical Models and Theological Visions of the Devi-Bhagavata Purana

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From the Jacket :

The author of the Devi-Bhagavata Purana endeavored to demonstrate the superiority of the Devi over competing masculine deities, and to articulate in new ways the manifold nature of the Goddess. Brown's book sets out to examine how the Purana pursues these ends. The Devi-Bhagavata employ many ancient myths and motifs from older masculine theologies, incorporating them into a thoroughly "feminized" theological framework. The text also seeks to supplant older "masculine" canonical authorities. Part I of Brown's study explores these strategies by focusing on the Purana's self-conscious endeavor to supersede the famous Vaisnava Bhagavata-Purana

The Devi-Bhagavata also re-envisions older mythological traditions about the Goddess, especially those in the first great Sanskritic glorification of the Goddess, the Devi Mahatmya. Brown shows in Part II how this re-envisioning process transforms the Devi from a primarily martial and erotic goddess into the World-Mother of infinite compassion.

Part III examines the Devi-Gita, the philosophical climax of the Purana modeled upon the Bhagavata Gita. The Devi Gita while confirming that ultimate reality is the Devine Mother, avows that her highest form as consciousness encompasses all gender, thereby suggesting the final triumph of the Goddess. It is not simply that she is superior to the male gods, but rather that She transcends. Her own sexuality without denying it.

Excerpts From Reviews:

"In this Purana the apotheosis of the Goddess in India is most fully presented. Given the intense interest in the Goddess, and in goddesses generally, it is important to have Brown's close study of the Devi-Bhagavata. One entire area of readership will be those interested in the construction of the Ultimate Reality on feminine terms."

- Diana L. Eck, Harvard University

" He has accomplished an unprecedented task, that of seeing this Purana's vision whole, against its historical backdrop, with a sharp eye for how its vision reworks familiar material. The scope and importance of what he accomplishes should not be underestimated. Hindu worship of the Goddess has been especially resistant to historical analysis and is therefore of particular interest, both to indologists and to those with an interest in gender studies. :

- Thomas B. Coburn, St. Lawrence University
- C. Mackenzie Brown is Professor of Religion, Trinity University.

 

Preface

Interest in the feminine dimensions of transcendence as revealed in mythologies, theologies, and cults of goddess figures throughout the world has been keen in recent years both among those concerned with "Women Studies" and among religion scholars generally. The Hindu tradition in particular has attracted considerable attention because of its rich development of religious perspectives that emphasize the feminine aspect of ultimate reality.

The Great Goddess, or Maha-Devi as she is known in India, burst onto the Hindu religious stage in the middle of the first millennium of the Christian era. Prior to that time, there were many goddess traditions in India. But it is in the Devi-Mahatmya (C. A.D. 500-600) of the Markandey Purana that the various mythic, cuitic, and theological elements relating to diverse female divinities were brought together in what has been called the "crystallization of the Goddess tradition." After that time, there were few if any attempts by Hindus to elucidate the nature of the Goddess and her activities that did not take the Devi-Mahatmya's vision of the Devi directly or indirectly into account. This study is concerned with a text, the Devi-Bhagavata Purana, composed and compiled some five to ten centuries later, whose roots are deeply embedded in the soil of the Devi-Mahatmya. The Devi-Bhagavata in many ways represents a justification or vindication of the Goddess tradition, as well as an elaboration of it.

I came to this work from somewhat the opposite direction of the historical development indicated above. My original immersion into the world of the Hindu Goddess came with an investigation into a late Krsnaite text, the Brahmavaivarta Purana (c. fourteenth to sixteenth century). While the supreme reality, according to this work, is the cowherd god Krsna, the primary soteriological figure is that of his amorous consort Radha, who emanated from her spouse's left side at the beginning of creation. Through worshipping her, one may attain salvation quickly and easily, while devotion to Krsna is arduous and time consuming. In developing the soteriological dimensions of the divine feminine, the Brahmavaivarta availed itself of many older Sakta notions, identifying Radha with sakti (power), maya (illusion), and especially prakrti (nature). The Brahmavaivarta clearly was familiar with many of the themes and stories of the Devi-Mahatmya, but assimilated them into a Vaisnava-Krsnaita framework that ontologically if not devotionally subordinated the feminine to the masculine.

One of the most intriguing sections of the Brahmavaivarta Purana is its second book, the "Prakrti Khanda," which serves as a kind of encyclopedia of goddesses, telling their major myths and providing a comprehensive structure that unites all the goddesses as manifestations of Prakrti. My earlier study of the Brahmavaivarta focussed on this book. An interesting fact I stumbled upon in the course of the research was that the "Prakrti Khanda" had been taken over, in large part verbatim, by another Purana, the Devi-Bhagavata, forming the latter's ninth book. Here was my introduction to this Sakta text. I immediately formed in my mind the idea of someday comparing the conception of the divine feminine in these two Puranas, the Krsnaite text emphasizing the amorous side of the feminine, the Sakta work stressing the maternal.

As I began work on the Devi-Bhagavata, I soon found my focus of attention shifting. The ninth book (the "Prakrti Khanda" slightly adapted to its new Sakta context) was in many ways anomalous, representing a very late addition to a more fundamental core. As I became familiar with the older parts of the text, it became evident, from a historical point of view at least, that a comparison of the Devi-Bhagavata with the famous Vaisnava Bhagavata Purana (c. tenth century A.D.) would prove more illuminating. For the original portions of the Devi-Bhagavata, I concluded, were composed in part as a reponse to the Bhagavata. Moreover, the inspirational seed of the Devi-Bhagavata was clearly the Devi-Mahatmya, suggesting the need for a careful comparison between these two texts. This double shifting of focus is reflected in the first two parts of this book, constituting the bulk, which are devoted to elucidating the relationships between the Devi-Bhagavata on the one hand, and the Bhagavata and Devi-Mahatmya respectively on the other.

My interest in examining these relationships was not purely, nor even primarily, historical but theological. That is, I wished to evoke from the comparison of these texts, especially from their mythological materials, the distinctive, vision of the Goddess that is the Devi- Bhagavata's. My use of a text-historical approach thus differs in intent from that of certain scholars in the past who utilized such a method in hopes of discovering some pristine, original version of a myth or myths, enabling these scholars (they thought) to discard later additions as irrelevant accretions. Today, however, for an increasing number of students of mythology, the "later additions" may represent interesting and valid new insights into the older versions, or even reveal new insights into aspects of reality obscured in the earlier myths.

Admittedly, the application of a text-historical method in the realm o[/product_description] [product_video]
Item Code: IDF841
Cover: Hardcover
Edition: 1992
Publisher: Sri Satguru Publications
ISBN: 8170303052
Language: English
Size: 8.7" X 5.7"
Pages: 342[/product_video]

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