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The Devīpurāṇa and the Rise of the Goddess in Indian History: Text, Culture and Female Persona in Ancient India

Project: Research


The project shall establish the first full critical edition of the text of the Devīpurāṇa, have catalogued and studied the considerable liturgical forms of this work that appeared in the medieval period, organized a multidisciplinary symposium including historians and ethnographers, produced a volume of historical studies, and, by using anthropological study, how rituals and ideas described in this work and in its liturgies influence worship and culture in North Bengal and Nepal, where the scripture was particularly popular given the large number of manuscripts found in that region.

Layperson's description

The Goddess is prominently present in South Asian traditions both as an autonomous supreme deity and as different goddesses of every appearance and temperament considered her emanations. The project will assess how a single theological idea the ‘Goddess’ arose from the veneration of various goddesses from indigenous locales and traditions to become a major force in the South Asian religious experience. Central to this new vision of a ‘Goddess’ is her ferocity, which co-exists with her maternal benevolence and registers her autonomy. The project shall be the first to combine three different approaches to study this complex issue that finds historical expression in text and practice. It will include: (i) a close assessment of the Devīpurāṇa (The Lore of the Goddess) a profoundly influential scriptural work in Sanskrit from c. the 9th century CE marking the apogee of the rise of a Goddess; (ii) a close assessment of related liturgical materials reflecting how the traditions of the Goddess influenced the form of worship in the medieval period; and (iii) a close assessment of current rituals of the Goddess, linked to the tradition of the Devīpurāṇa, which still thrive in north Bengal and Nepal

Key findings

The specific outputs of the project will be a critical edition of the ‘Devīpurāṇa’, a conference on the social and historical context of this work and its liturgical materials, and an edited volume of articles resulting from the conference.The wider intellectual outcome of the project within five years will be a more nuanced, historical understanding of the salience of the Goddess in South Asian cultural history and current practice.The critical edition and its accompanying historical and ethnographic studies would be the first concrete contributions to this wider understanding.
Effective start/end date1/10/20 → …