“Thereupon Ambika became terribly angry with those foes, and in her anger her countenance then became dark as ink. Out from the surface of her forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance. ”
— Devimahatmya, Chapter 7
The prevalence of Goddess worship in South Asia has not only been parodied in Indiana Jones movies and in crime novels centering around obscure and fearsome Indian cults but, on a more serious vein, it has been the source of inspiration for Western feminist religious scholarship trying to retrieve its own Goddess traditions. It has also been the focus of psychoanalytical theories regarding Indian mothers, their male off-spring, masculinity and sexuality. In this course we are going to examine what exactly the South Asian religious tradition says about the Goddess. We are going to pose questions about the antiquity of the tradition, and its endless capacity for re-invention and renewal in contemporary religious practice and how it thrives in South Asian culture, with living women saints and goddesses. We are going to ask if the Goddess is a feminist. We might also want to ponder the paradox of South Asian Goddess veneration co-existing with the scriptural and very real social subordination of women. Through exploring these various questions we are going to follow the story of the Goddess in the South Asian religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.