Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas / Edition 1

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Overview


The Hindu pantheon is rich in images of the divine feminine—deities representing a wide range of symbolic, social, and meditative meanings. David Kinsley's new book documents a highly unusual group of ten Hindu tantric goddesses, the Mahavidyas, many of whom are strongly associated with sexuality and violence. What is one to make of a goddess who cuts her own head off, or one who prefers sex with a corpse? The Mahavidyas embody habits, attributes, or identities usually considered repulsive or socially subversive and can be viewed as "antimodels" for women. Yet it is within the context of tantric worship that devotees seek to identify themselves with these forbidding goddesses. The Mahavidyas seem to function as "awakeners"—symbols which help to project one's consciousness beyond the socially acceptable or predictable.

Drawing on a broad range of Sanskrit and vernacular texts as well as extensive research in India, including written and oral interpretations of contemporary Hindu practitioners, Kinsley describes the unusual qualities of each of the Mahavidyas and traces the parallels between their underlying themes. Especially valuable are the many rare and fascinating images he presents—each important to grasping the significance of the goddesses. Written in an accessible, engaging style, Kinsley's book provides a comprehensive understanding of the Mahavidyas and is also an overview of Hindu tantric practice.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520204997
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 8/18/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 289
  • Sales rank: 1,316,735
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author


David Kinsley is Professor of Religion at McMaster University, Canada. He is the author of Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition (California, 1985), and The Sword and the Flute: Kali and Krisna, Dark Visions of the Terrible and Sublime in Hindu Mythology (California, 1975).
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Read an Excerpt

Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine

The Ten Mahavidyas
By David R. Kinsley

The University of California Press

ISBN: 0-520-20499-9


Chapter One

Ten Hindu goddesses form a group known as the Mahavidyas. This group is important in tantric Hinduism and contains a few very well known goddesses, such a Kali and Kamala (Laksmi), and several obscure goddesses, such a Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, and Matangi. The book first deals with the group as a whole, discussing several theories and theological structures that might shed light on the goddesses as a unified collective. It then looks at each of the ten goddesses individually, tracing her history, describing her nature, and interpreting her meaning within Hindu tantra. Distinctive characteristics or themes emerge as central in Mahavidya theology and iconography. Several of the goddesses vividly represent inauspicious, polluting, or dangerous qualities. Several seem to represent "antimodels" for women, that is, they display characteristics that are opposed to the virtuous qualities of women as described in Hindu scriptures. Both sex and death feature prominently, and in conjunction with each other, in Mahavidya iconography. The book interprets the Mahavidyas as "awakeners," as spriritual "devices" that tantric adepts might employ to stretch their categories or expand their awareness beyond the conventional. The Mahavidyas have the potential to deconstruct accepted moral, religious, and social paradigmsby elevating for reverence goddesses that embody the forbidden, polluted, and marginal elements of Hindu culture.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine by David R. Kinsley Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Pt. I The Mahavidyas as a Group
Pt. II The Individual Mahavidyas
Kali: The Black Goddess 67
Tara: The Goddess Who Guides through Troubles 92
Tripura-sundari: She Who Is Lovely in the Three Worlds 112
Bhuvanesvari: She Whose Body Is the World 129
Chinnamasta: The Self-Decapitated Goddess 144
Bhairavi: The Fierce One 167
Dhumavati: The Widow Goddess 176
Bagalamukhi: The Paralyzer 193
Matangi: The Outcaste Goddess 209
Kamala: The Lotus Goddess 223
Pt. III Concluding Reflections
Notes 253
Glossary 281
Bibliography 289
Index 299
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