(Last Updated on : 20/01/2011)
The concept of Shaktism witnessed a remarkable development during the age of the Puranas which dates back to 300 A.D. This remarkable development in Shaktism gave rise to Tantric Literature. The Tantras consist of ritualistic matter. The destructive and the beneficial side of a divine force have been discussed. God has been figuratively represented as the Eternal Mother and it has also been shown how one can attain salvation by performing various rituals. Shaktism is a Sanskrit term and means "doctrine of power" or `doctrine of the Goddess. `
Shaktism is a result of the Aryanization of non-Aryan cults and beliefs of previous eras. Shaktism has had an incalculable influence on Hindu ritual and practices. It has had even some influence on Buddhism
too. Shaktism had affected the religious practices of all sects. However the very concept of Shaktism was influenced by the Samkhya and Vedanta philosophies. Tantras teach that ultimately the person who worships Devi becomes Devi herself. It is exemplified by the female principle, the female reproductive organs, or the goddess Shakti
, who is considered to be the wife of Shiva. Shakti or energy is viewed as the merging of powers emanating from male gods, and it is possessed by each person.
The worship of the supreme goddess Shakti is called Shaktism. It is one of the major forms of Hinduism. Devotees of the Goddess are generally called Saktas: the followers of Shakti, a name for the Goddess denoting the female `power` or `energy` of the universe. The Shaktism is, however, less clearly defined than Shaivism
. With Shakta texts this feminized religion becomes overt in both puranic and Tantric manifestations.
The Goddess is a contradictory and ambivalent figure in Hinduism
. On the one hand she is the source of life, the benevolent mother who is giving and overflowing, yet on the other she is a terrible malevolent force who demands offerings of blood, meat and alcohol to placate her wrath.
The most important manifestation of Devi is Goddess Durga, the warrior goddess who slays the buffalo demon Mahisa. She can be approached and worshipped in many forms, in natural phenomena, or in human forms as a mother, a wife, an old woman, or a young girl. The representations of Shakti that are found in Puranas and Tantric philosophies are Durga, slayer of the buffalo-demon (Mahishasura), seated on or attended by a lion or tiger (when she is called Ambika). Goddess Kali
is surrounded with other terrible manifestations, such as Chamunda. They are emaciated, blood-drinking and violent forms who haunt the cremation grounds.
Shaktism is the demonstration of the eternal power of both animate and inanimate world and the origin of all creation. Shakti or the worship of Shakti comprises the awakening and strengthening of the three layers of human body-physical, subtle and casual; the five `koshas` (shells) - annamaya, pranmaya, manomaya, vigyamaya and anandmaya accomplish various types of currents of Shakti.
Shaktism encompasses a nearly endless variety of practices from primitive animism to philosophical speculation of the highest order that seek to access the Shakti or Divine Energy or Power. There are two largest schools that follow the principles of Shaktism that include- the Srikula (family of Sri), prominent in South India, and the Kalkula (family of Kali), which prevails in northern and eastern India. The main Deities of Shaktism in Hindu mythology are the powerful male Gods - Vishnu and Shiva. Shaktism is also related to the female counterpart of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva
, goddess Lakshmi
and goddess Parvati
Another Tantric goddess who is the focus of a group of Tantras of the western Kaula transmission is Kubjika, the `Crooked One`. This school originated in the western Himalayas, possibly in Kashmir, is known to have existed in Nepal by the twelfth century.
Another cult of Shaktism is the Sri Vidya is the cult of Lalita Tripura sundari or simply Tripura sundari (`Beautiful Goddess of the Three Cities`), a Tantric form of Sri Lakshmi, who is worshipped in the form of a sacred diagram or yantra of nine intersecting triangles. The Tripura sundari cult can be classified, in its earliest phase, as the latest level of the Mantramarga, the `Path of Mantra`.