Devi: The Great Goddess

Devi (in Sanskrit and in English)
HomepageInterpreting Devi
Worshiping Devi
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Mumba Devi temple. Photo by Neil Greentree.
Worshiping Devi
The rituals surrounding worship of the goddess vary widely throughout India. Goddesses are venerated as consorts of gods and they are worshiped together or in adjacent temples. But goddesses are also worshiped separately, often within shrines of wood, mud and thatch. The importance of visual images of the Great Goddess is emphasized by the context of worship across the Indian subcontinent. Hindu worship is called puja. Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god or goddess through divine invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals.
An essential part of puja is making a spiritual connection with the divine and most often that is facilitated by darshan, or "seeing" an image of a god or goddess. Darshan, however, is not merely "seeing" but is a dynamic exchange between the devotee and the deity. While the devotee "sees," Devi also presents herself for darshan and bestows blessings upon worshipers, who by their act of seeing, have made themselves receptive to the transfer of grace. It is this concept of the dynamic interaction between devotee and Devi that lies at the heart of the creation of images of the Great Goddess and her temples. Click for full image and description.
Full image and description.
Sanctum of the Black goddess. Photo by Dick Waghorne.
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Full image and description.
Festival to the goddess Mariamman. Photo by Dick Waghorne.
Throughout history, even in areas where worship of the Great Goddess did not gain primacy, her main forms as a wish-bestower, especially Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, and Sarasvati, goddess of learning, have been important. Devi is worshiped as a mother who always desires the well being of her children. Supplicants may request specific help: that a disease be healed, an examination passed, or a job secured.
While some forms of Devi worship are common throughout India, others are regional. Worship of forms such as Draupadi, heroine of the Mahabharata and Radha, beloved of Krishna, are restricted to specific geographical locations. Temples and festivals for Draupadi are found in south India, while Radha is celebrated in the north.
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