By Deepthi K
Shaktism is the third largest tradition followed by Hindus after Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Unlike these two traditions, the followers of Shaktism known as Shaktas believe in the female divine power and consider a goddess as their principal deity.
The goddess is referred to as Shakti or Devi and is considered to be the consort of Lord Shiva. The term Shakti means strength, power, capacity, or force. Let’s take a dive into understanding more about this tradition.
Representation of the Deity
Shaktas pay their respect to their deity in several forms. The two forms of Shakti mostly worshipped by devotees are Goddess Parvati in a gentle form and Goddess Durga/Kali in a fierce form. The other common forms represented by Shakti are goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Tripurasundari.
A person is free to worship Devi in whichever form he/she would like to. This form is referred to as ishta-devi.
Monotheism or Polytheism
Shaktism is considered to be monotheistic by some followers while others consider it to be polytheistic. Those who are in favour of monotheism emphasise on the fact that there is only one goddess and all other goddesses are her different forms. On the other hand, Shaktas who support polytheism insist that multiple goddesses exist equally.
This nine-day Dussehra festival or Navratri is majorly followed in the north-eastern parts of India and a few southern states. This a key festival observed by her followers in these areas. Each day is dedicated to a distinct form of the goddess. The festival commences with prayers to Ma Shailputri on the first day and ends with paying obeisance to Ma Siddhidatri on the last day.
It is believed that a person who chants the Durga Chalisa or prays with full concentration to Devi on these days is bestowed with the ability to overcome obstacles in his/her path. He/she is also freed of negative thoughts and blessed with positive vibration around him/her.
The historical Smriti and Shruti texts illustrate the various principles of Shaktism. The Tantras portray her as the supreme entity in the universe.
Shaktas follow various religious texts such as Devi Mahatmaya, Devi Upanishad, Kalika Purana and Devi Bhagavata Purana. The Devi Mahatma is said to be as important to them as the Bhagavad Gita is to Vaishnavites.
Devotees recite several mantras in praise of Shakti or Devi. There are different mantras for each form of the goddess. The Ma Durga Dhyan mantra and the Durga Shatru-Shanti mantra are two mantras associated with Maa Durga. On the other hand, the Lakshmi Beej and Lakshmi Kubera mantras are chanted in honour of Maa Lakshmi. Similarly, there are several other mantras dedicated to her other forms.
Day Dedicated to the Deity
There is no specific day dedicated to the goddess. Like the mantras, there is a separate day for each form. While her followers consider Tuesday as an auspicious day for her Durga or Kali form, Friday is dedicated to her Lakshmi form. Devotees of Ma Parvathi worship her on Mondays along with Lord Shiva.
There are various shrines dedicated to Ma Shakti across the country. These temples represent the goddess in different forms so that devotees can pray to their ishta-devi. For example, in the famous Meenakshi temple in Madurai, south India, she is portrayed as Meenakshi or Parvati. She is depicted as Kali in the famous Kalighat Kali temple in Kolkata. On the other hand, she is represented as Adi Parashakti in the south Indian Bhagavathi Kumari Amman temple in Kanyakumari. The Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu and Kashmir houses three idols to portray the deity as Mahakali, Mahasaraswathi, and Mahalakshmi.
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