Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas

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University of California Press, Aug 18, 1997 - Religion - 289 pages
The Hindu pantheon is rich in images of the divine feminine—deities representing a wide range of symbolic, social, and meditative meanings. David Kinsley's new book documents a highly unusual group of ten Hindu tantric goddesses, the Mahavidyas, many of whom are strongly associated with sexuality and violence. What is one to make of a goddess who cuts her own head off, or one who prefers sex with a corpse? The Mahavidyas embody habits, attributes, or identities usually considered repulsive or socially subversive and can be viewed as "antimodels" for women. Yet it is within the context of tantric worship that devotees seek to identify themselves with these forbidding goddesses. The Mahavidyas seem to function as "awakeners"—symbols which help to project one's consciousness beyond the socially acceptable or predictable.

Drawing on a broad range of Sanskrit and vernacular texts as well as extensive research in India, including written and oral interpretations of contemporary Hindu practitioners, Kinsley describes the unusual qualities of each of the Mahavidyas and traces the parallels between their underlying themes. Especially valuable are the many rare and fascinating images he presents—each important to grasping the significance of the goddesses. Written in an accessible, engaging style, Kinsley's book provides a comprehensive understanding of the Mahavidyas and is also an overview of Hindu tantric practice.
 

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Contents

III
7
IV
12
V
16
VI
20
VII
36
VIII
47
IX
53
The Mahavidyas and Magical Powers
55
XIX
174
XX
191
XXI
207
XXII
221
XXIII
231
XXIV
236
XXV
239
XXVI
242

X
59
XI
63
The Individual Mahavidyas
65
XII
90
XIV
110
XVI
127
XVII
142
XVIII
165
The Conjunction of Death and Sexual Imagery
244
XXVII
249
The Potentially Liberating Nature of Social Antimodels
251
XXVIII
279
XXIX
287
XXX
297
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About the author (1997)

David Kinsley is Professor of Religion at McMaster University, Canada. He is the author of Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition (California, 1985), and The Sword and the Flute: Kali and Krisna, Dark Visions of the Terrible and Sublime in Hindu Mythology (California, 1975).

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