Devi or Mother Goddess

Though the term Devi refers generally to a Hindu goddess, it signifies specifically a synonym for Shakti or power, the consort of Shiva, the super god. Shakti worship is a significant element of the Hindu philosophy. Without Shakti there is no Shiva. The energy in Shiva becomes meaningful and complete only when Shakti, the female energy, joins him. Shiva is only half of the whole. In other words, the male is only half of the creations. The other half is female. The Hindu concept of Arthanarisvara is nothing but the synthesis of the masculine and the feminine energies.

When Shiva assumes a particular role or form from the various ones he has, the consort too changes her nature into a suitable one. As her role changes, her name too changes, like Sati, Parvati, Durga or Kali. Whether it be Shakti or Sati, Parvati or Durga or Kali, the consorts of Shiva are worshipped as mother goddesses and are addressed as Devis. These roles range from very mild ones to very rough and fierce ones. Originally these roles were all rolled into one, suggest historians and other scholars. They re-construct the role backwards to the pre-Aryan days when the mother goddess was the bringer of fertility and fortune, as well as being a tough demander of living sacrifice.

Kali occupies an important space in the Devi-legend. She is black and represents the creative and destructive energies of the goddess, and is a prominent factor in the destruction of the Asuras (the enemies of the gods). Kali also symbolizes the unknown factor of Shakti. The city of Kolkatta is considered to be named after Kali, its original name being Kalighatta (the bathing ghat of Kali).

Goddess Shakti was the strength of Shiva, and embodiment of female energy. Her benevolent aspect was in Parvati (Daughter of the Mountain King, Himalaya), Mahadevi (the Great goddess), Sati (the Virtuous), Gauri (the white and beautiful one), Annapurna (Bestower of sumptuous food), or just Mother (Ammai in Tamil). In her other aspect, the tough and the fierce, she is Durga (the Inaccessible, with several hands and in frightening form, ready to kill her enemy, the mahishasura), Kali (the Black One), and Chandi (the Fierce). In the Chandi form she is terrific. She is with many arms. Each arm bears different weapons. A red tongue hangs lazily from her mouth. She wears a garland of skulls. Her mount is a lion. She is sometimes shown as a sternly beautiful woman, slaying a buffalo-headed demon. This is her portrait as given in certain texts on her fierce form.

Legends are many on the different incarnations and forms of Shakti, which have become themes for creative contributions in art and literature in Indiapaintings, sculptures, idols, songs, dance-dramas, movies, and literature at large. Temples dedicated to each of the forms of Shiva’s consort are many. Festivals on special occasions are a time for people to offer their prayers and celebrate. On such occasions, famous temples are crowded by thousands of devotees from various places. Offering ponkal to Devi is the most important form of worship in the temples dedicated to the mother goddess.

There are suggestions from some expert scholars that the cult of the Great Mother can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization. So does it mean that not only Shiva, but his consort Shakti too has a pre-Aryan, Pre-Dravidian origin?