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Sakti (Shakti) Cult in Orissa

Sakti (Shakti) Cult in Orissa
Item Code: IDD202
Author: Francesco Brighenti
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2001
ISBN: 8124601798
Pages: 510 {66 Illustrations in B/W & 33 plates in Colour}
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 11.1" X 8.8"
weight of the book: 1.8 kg


The subject, 'Sakti Cult in Orissa" has been studied after thorough survey of the Sakta sites of archaeological, historical and religious importance in the State in a span of three years. My research work, based on a historical approach, covers chronologically the period going from the pre- and proto-historic epoch to the close of the medieval epoch touching upon the continuity of the cult till the modern period.

My study shows that Saktism, both in the all-India and Orissa's contexts, not only developed as an independent religious fact, but also crept into the mainspring of Indian religions. I have attempted to systematically depict the rise and spread of Sakti cult with its multifarious, both national and local manifestations in the sacred land of Orissa, incorporating the non-Aryan and Aryan trends which evolved and developed in the country over the ages.

The work is based on my field study as well as the reference to the published and unpublished works in the line that were available to me. Interpretations and conclusions made in the appropriate places are of mine, based on my observations relating to the theoretical concepts and the viewpoints of the scholars.

I may make it clear here that I have not used the diacritical marks on the place or locality names (towns, villages, rivers, mountains, sites, etc.) but used them appropriately in the names of the deities, temples, literary works, rites and festivals and Sanskrit or typical Oriya words. As regards the footnotes referring to articles from journals or miscellaneous works, I have used the abbreviation 'art. Cit.' (article cited) instead of 'op. cit.' (work cited) as generally used in the case of referring to books. The abbreviation 'ca.' (circa) has been here used instead of 'c.' as customarily used by many scholars. Finally, I have discussed the Sakti cult of Orissa with reference to the old thirteen districts (which have in the meantime been divided into thirty).

I feel it expedient to extend y heart-felt thanks to scholars, friends and the institutions for their help and assistance in undertaking this work. I am extremely grateful to Dr. H. C. Das, my Ph. D. Guide, for extending his unstinted help and guidance from the beginning till the completion of the work. I am thankful to Dr. K. S. Behera, Senior Professor of History, Utkal University for inspiring me to take up this subject for Ph. D. My thanks are due to Prof. J. K. Das, Vice-Chancellor, Utkal University for allowing me to register as a Ph. D. candidate in his University. My special thanks are accorded to Dr. G. G. Filippi, Professor of History and Indology, Ca 'Foscari University, Venice for his suggestions and ungrudging help, particularly in regard to providing Italian source books for my research work. I am extremely grateful to the Superintendent of the Orissa State Museum, the Librarian, Sri M. K. Samal, and the photographer of the Museum, Sri S. K. Patnaik, for providing bibliographic indications, library facilities and allowing me to photograph the sculptures preserved in the Museum. Particularly Sri Patnaik, who is well acquainted with most of the archaeological sites of Orissa, has helped me a lot in providing me the background materials. My thanks are due to several friends of Old Town, Bhubaneswar who have given me encouragement in the work as well as accompanied me to visit several sites. Lastly I accord my thanks to my wife Roberta, my brother, father, mother and family members, and finally to my father-in-law for their constant encouragement and support, save which the work could not have been completed.


In course of my visits to the Indian sub-continent and studying the books on Indian culture, in was attracted to Saktism and other important facets of Hinduism or Brahmanical religion. India is a land of multifaceted religions; in all such forms, whether it is folk, tribal or classic one, Sakti is present and over the ages it became an integral part of the different religious systems which together earned he distinction of what we term Indian religion.

I have traveled many States of India, from south to north, and visited the archaeological and historical sites and also the museums of archaeology. Gradually I was attracted to the subject Saktism and the anthropomorphic emanations of the Goddess found in different parts of the country, depicting the art styles of various schools and the peculiar iconographic features. It was, no doubt, an awe-inspiring experience, but illusive to comprehend the subject and the deep rootedness of Sakti cult in India.

In my second visit to the present State of Orissa, which is known as the land of excellence of art and famous for the cult of Jagannatha, the rastra-devata of the country and the quintessence of the mainspring of Indian religions, and which is also the land of tribals (forming about tone-fourth of its total population), I was surprised to see the myriads of sculptures in nooks and corners of the State and the magnificent temples, monasteries and caves. I am tempted to note here that the statement of Fergusson that Orissa preserves about half of the total Hindu monuments of India is true here as one goes round the places.

It was under these circumstances I deemed it wise to concentrate my study upon the cult of Sakti in this sacred land of art, which astonishingly preserves the archaeological treasures from about the third century BC to the late medieval period. But I was at a loss to decide what to do, how to study this unknown and complicated subject in a land alien to me. Fortunately Dr. K.S. Behera, Senior Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology, whom I met in 1994 to find out a solution to my inquisitiveness, suggested e to contact Dr. H.C. Das, Superintendent of Museums, Orissa, who has done some work on Sakti cult and the tribals based on thorough fieldwork. Then actually came the chance for me to study the subject. The guidance of Dr. Das, with the suggestion to take up this subject in a comprehensive manner, keeping in view to the chronology and typology of Saktis historically, rendered an invaluable service to me. Accordingly, the prepared scheme for my Ph. D. 'Sakti Cult in Orissa' under the guidance of Dr. H. C. Das was submitted to the Utkal University, Bhubaneswar for approval.

It was then my responsibility to go through the books and journals relating to the subject in the Indian and Orissan contexts and to take up the field study site by site from one district to the other. Gradually I equipped myself with theoretical knowledge on Saktism and the interrelated religions, supplemented by the field experience. In this connection, J.N. Banerjea's Development of Hindu Iconography, N.N. Bhattacharyya's History of the Sakta Religion, P. Kumar's Sakti Cult in Ancient India, D. Kinsley's Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition, R. C. Hazra's Studies in the Upapuranas, D. C. Sircar's The Sakti Cult and Tara and The Sakta Pithas, the English translations of some Mahapuranas, etc., were of immense help in my work.

The theoretical aspects along with the mythological stories and legends have been used indirectly as the bases of my work, but my main concentration has been to trace out the origin, evolution, historical development, iconography, ritualistic pattern, etc., of the Sakti cult in the context of Orissa as a separate entity. In fact, overlapping in this respect is but natural inasmuch as the political demarcation of Orissa, which formed in the past parts of the Odra, Utkala, Kalinga, Kosala regions, varied from time to time. It is expedient to mention that Odra, in the eighth-ninth centuries AD, was a small kingdom in the coastal region, Utkala a vast kingdom under the Bhauma-karas and the Somavamsis, Kosala a kingdom in the hinterland under the Panduvamsis, Sarabhapuriyas, Nalas and Cauhans, and Kalinga, a vast empire under the Imperial Gangas and the Suryavamsis. All of these Orissan royal dynasties have, in course of ages, nurtured the religious faiths, developed and erected the monuments, carved the intricate sculptures based on iconography, introduced the complicate ritualistic patterns, elaborated and associated the all-India and local myths in their own styles to turn their faiths more acceptable to the people at large. In my work, however, I have frequently used the term 'Kalinga', which finds mention on works at least from the time of the Mahabharata, to indicate legibly the coastal belts of present Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and parts of West Bengal.

For the above reasons, it is profitable to highlight the Sakta tradition, which is more or less the same in the geographical region conventionally termed as Kalinga, without referring to the tends prevalent in other regions of India.

I sincerely felt as the work progressed, though slowly, that Orissa is an enchanting land of art, religion and culture, which are preserved in pristine forms despite the impact of modern forces. But it is surprising to me that, so far, most of the scholars of Orissa as well as of India have written volumes unfortunately without visiting many interesting sites connected with Sakti cult. The field-notes of Western scholars such as Kittoe, Stirling, Fergusson, Hunter, Beglar, Risley and a few others were mainly the bases of earlier works done by Indian and Orissan scholars on the religious aspects of Orissa. Thanks to Prof. K. C. Panigrahi, Prof. N. K. Sahu, P. Acharya, K. N. Mohapatra, Dr. S. N. Rajaguru, Dr. R. P. Mohapatra, Prof. K.S. Behera, Prof. M. N. Das, Dr. M.P. Dash, Dr. P.K. Ray Dr. H. C. Das, Prof. S.C. Panda, and a few others some substantial works were produced in the line. The works of these scholars, though not complete to my view, are significant for my study, providing a lot of information to understand the sites and icons along with their history. Particularly the stupendous work of T. E. Donaldson entitled Hindu Temple Art of Orissa, in three volumes, which has been done for the first time through thorough survey and exploration of many archaeological sites of Orissa, is a compendium for further study of Sakti cult. The recently published book of Dr. H. C. Das Iconography of Sakta Divinities, in two volumes, could not unfortunately be utilized for my purpose as I got it after I had completed my this research.

Despite these most valuable works, I feel, much remains to be touched upon sincerely and systematically. I believe, the present work of mine is the result of my three years sincere and laborious attempt.



It is in this context I take up the subject of my study. The scholars in the disciplines of religion and culture, particularly in the Indian context, will agree with me that Sakti, the primordial energy of the universe, has been an immanent force both in the animate and inanimate aspects of life. Such an inconceivable, unknowable, omnipotent, omni-present force is taken as the basis of all religious faiths. Sakti or cosmic energy is the binding force particularly in respect of the Indian religious arcane, which is multilinear in its scope unlike the unilinear Muslim or Christian thought. In a multilinear religious system, this conceived concept interacts intermittently keeping the former alive and continue, uninterruptedly growing in dimensions.

Various schools of thought of Indian religions have put forth their views in regard to the origin and spread of Sakti in the religious phenomena in their own ways, but no consensus has emerged yet. It is significant to note here that, of all the schools of thought in this regard, the viewpoint of the Siva-Sakti school is ore appropriate to understand the significance of the Sakti. The Agamas, Nigamas, Sakta Puranas and Upapuranas, while elucidating the all-powerful Sakti, have gone far to relate that minus her, in any form, the male manifestations of the godhead are powerless.

Another school of thought is of the opinion that the concept of Sakti was directly originated from the primitive mother-goddess cult, which was a prominent feature I the prehistoric religions, and that it gradually crept into the tribal and folk communities and subsequently into the mainstream of Indian religions, incorporating through a slow process local godlings, diverse heterogeneous elements, customs, rites, worship patterns, myths and legends of multifarious nature. Thus, in the view of this school, no other living religion can claim to have such an ancient, continuous and colourful history with richest sources of mythology and theology along with numerous manifestations depicting malevolent and benevolent aspects of the Sakti.

The peculiarity of Saktism, in contrast to other Indian religions, lies in its prolificity and universality by throwing its doors open invariably to the people of all castes, creed and sects. As a result, the Sakta religion could have devotees or followers from all strata of the society and had wider acceptability to other religions (and vice versa). Tantrism in particular, a well-known trend in religious efflorescence, finds its flowering I amalgamation with Saktism, at a particular time of history, indeed, both the trends of thought were so inextricably integrated that one could not possibly be separated from the other.

In the early medieval period the Puranas (composed and compiled mostly during the Gupta period) and Upapuranas highlighted the female principle to such an extent that Saktism could flourish as an independent religion. The Mahasakti, Mahadevi Durga, born out of the concerted energies of the great gods as conceived in the Devi-Mahatmya section of the Markandeya Purana and also in other Puranas, became the all-powerful and all-pervasive great Goddess capable to annihilate the dangerous and powerful demons. This is just one example bespeaking the glory of the Mahasakti that pervaded the whole religious arcane of the Hindu world. All the other gods, who created her, became subservient to her, acting upon at her direction. In order to help the Mahadevi in her combat against the turbulent enemies and to protect the universe and dharma, many more female manifestations were created by the gods and also by the Mahadevi herself at particular situations in accordance with necessity. Historically speaking, around the fifth-sixth centuries AD the pantheon of Sakta goddesses in Hinduism with iconographic and literary sources was remarkably far excelling the manifestations of other allied religions. This indicates a wider acceptance of goddess-worship in the Hindu world. As a consequence of proliferation of the faith, some of the older goddesses of the Vedas, who were subordinate to the male gods, emerged with new vigour. The pantheon was further multiplied with the addition of Sanskritised and anthropomorphized tribal and folk goddesses of ancient origin.

The concept of bhakti inculcated in Vaisnavism, which became a part of the Sakti-sadhana, further heightened its importance. Thus, Saktism became the most popular religion, having the highest following. Therefore, the study of Saktism is not just merely a study of one aspect of Indian religious thought, but, in essence, it is the depiction of Indian tradition itself. With this at the background, I have touched upon the Sakti cult of Orissa microcosmically.



It may be reasonable to point out that my approach to Sakti cult, which is an admixture of heterogeneous elements of the non-Aryan and Aryan origin through permutation and combination coming to a stage – what we term as standardized Sakti cult of a particular region, more appropriately in the historical period -, is a little digression from the traditional historical approach; in essence, it is an ethno-historical approach.

The historians of Orissa who have studied this interesting but complicated Sakti cult have concentrated themselves to its development only during the historical period, leaving aside the aspects in the pre- and proto-historic epoch and in the pre-literate and primitive tribal communities that also nurtured the faith in different forms. Keeping in view to my scope of study, I have initiated my discussion from the pre- and proto-historic and folk-tribal levels. Thus, the first chapter, entitled 'Autochthonous Roots of Orissan Saktism', deals in short with the migrations and emigrations of the Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian and lastly Aryan ethnic groups, tracing their origin to the pre- and proto-historic epoch, the worship of the female principle in the matriarchal societies, the propitiation of female deities among the primitive tribal communities, the origin and development of goddesses in aniconic forms, tracing the similar developments in other civilizations of the world, the interrelations Sakti with Naga and Yaksa cults, that found their emergence in the early historical period, the multifarious contributions of tribal shamanism to the development of the Sakta efflorescence and, finally, the worship of pillar-and pole-goddesses of the pre-literate societies and the incorporation of these deities into the fold of Saktism. My concentration in this section is basically limited to Orissa in the wider context of the neighbouring regions of eastern India, which has been the cradle-ground of Saktism.

The history of Orissa virtually starts from the fourth century BC with the invasion of a Nanda king of Magadha for the purpose of taking away the Kalinga-jinasana (the national religious symbol of the then kingdom). This was perhaps the first known event of the contact of Kalinga with some other region of the country. The second invasion, led by the Magadhan emperor Asoka in 261 BC, was the greater landmark, not only in the history of Orissa but of India too, and also in the religious history, as this was a turning point in the spread of Buddhism in particular, in the country as well as a turning point in the spread of Buddhism in particular, in the country as well as abroad. It is extremely important that Asoka led the foundation of Buddhistic sculptural art, particularly at Bhubaneswar, wherein we come across the depiction of female figures in the railing stones (recovered in large number from Bhubaneswar and its environment) and the voluptuous figures of naga-nagi and yaksa-yaksi (the earliest Sakta icons of the historical period in Orissa), belonging to the post-Mauryan epoch.

The next stage of development of this sculptural representation is noticed in the caves of Udaygiri and Khandagiri (Bhubaneswar), dug out during the reign of Mahameghavahana Kharavela in around the first century BC. These caves, which were exclusively meant for Jaina recluses, give in rilievo style the development of sculptural art, which in the subsequent period was the main medium of depicting the gods and goddesses. Thus, this peculiar ancient cave art and architecture of Orissa is basically the precursor of the temple art and architecture that emerged successively from the following centuries.

Unfortunately after Kharavela till the rise of the Guptas the history of Orissa as well as of its religions is somewhat hazy, as no systematic attempt has been made by the scholars to enlighten us. To our good fortune, a stone inscription of Maharaja Gana discovered from a tank near the present shrine of Bhadrakali at Bhadrak, inscribing the name of the goddess Parnadevati (the Female-Deity-of-Leaves) and datable to the third century AD, speaks of the continuity of Sakti cult in Orissa in its so-called 'dark period'. Some copper-plate grants of the Matharas, Vasisthas, etc., who were ruling in small principalities, give a faint idea of the cult of Visnu that developed in those regions in about the fourth century AD (Gupta period).

It is an established fact that the Guptas, in the fourth century AD, built a far-flung empire bringing about a renaissance in all aspects of culture. We are not sure whether the Guptas invaded Orissa, but the impact of their cultural insurgence was certainly felt in this region during their times as well as in the subsequent periods. The Gupta style of art and architecture was very much developed during this period. The two-armed Mahisamardini image representing the goddess Viraja at Jajpur and the flat-roofed brick temple (the remains of which are to be seen at Kalaspur, the original shrine of Viraja at a distance of two km to the south of Jajpur), assigned to the early Gupta period, respectively depict the evolution of Sakti cult and form the nucleus of early Hindu architecture in the first centuries of the Christian era. In the first section of the second chapter I have attempted to pay special attention to the origin of the cult of goddess Viraja, being the earliest known Sakta deity of Orissa.

In the next sections my attention is respectively focused on the cult in the post-Gupta period and in the Bhauma-kara epoch, which was responsible in incorporating the Tantric elements into the fold of Saivism, Saktism and Buddhism and carving out the iconic images of numerous gods and goddesses; the Saiva-Sakta sects, particularly those of the Kapalikas and Kaulas, were associated in the same epoch with the Sakta temples in performing Tantric rituals.

The next section in the chronological order discusses the development of Saktism under the Somavamsi rulers who succeeded the Bhauma-karas with their capital at Jajpur, the famous seat of Viraja. They were responsible in bringing about a revolutionary change in the sphere of religion by eliminating most of the vamacara Tantric elements but also by developing Sakti cult in a more prolific way by carving the masterpieces of images of Mahisamardini, Saptamatrkas, Parvati and numerous other sculptures with exquisite workmanship. These monarchs also built-up the most magnificent Hindu temples of Orissa, citing for example, the Muktesvara, Rajarani, Brahmesvara, and finally the sky-kissing Lingaraja temple at Bhubaneswar, and surprisingly introduced the images of nayikas, the erotic couples in various seductive poses, and the dancing and singing by the damsels (known as devadasis) as a part of the temple rituals (first introduced in the temple of Brahmesvara at Bhubaneswar). In essence, the illustrious Somavamsi kings developed and spread Saktism to an unprecedented degree on the foundation of which, during the rule of the successive dynasties of Orissa, the flowering of Saktism as well as of other religions reached the zenith.

The Imperial Ganga and Suryavamsi epochs (ca. AD 1110-1540) are marked for territorial expansion to all sides of the Kalingan empire, economic prosperity, development of art and architecture (particularly during the Ganga period), rise of the bhakti movement with the advent of the great religious savants like Ramanuja, Sri Caitanya, etc., to Puri (the seat of the far-famed cult of Jagannatha), the emergence of syncretistic cult with Sri Jagannatha at the apex, the spread of Jagannatha culture far beyond the borders of the Kalingan empire, military expansionism, unification of the feudal hierarchy, etc. in the true sense, the long period of reign of these two dynasties for a span of about five hundred years, which may rightly be termed as the golden period in the history of Orissa, witnessed remarkable development in all aspects of culture.

Architecture in this period reached the highest watermark of development, as can be envisioned, for example, in the stupendous monuments of Jagannatha temple at Puri and the world-famous Sun temple at Konarka. The accumulated experience of the artists for centuries was reflected in the life-or over-life-size sculptures of the cult images and in other divine and human figures along with numerous narrations and motifs in the temple walls. In fact, the sculptural depiction in the temples was remarkably superb and enchanting.

This period also witnessed the amalgamation of Saivism and Saktism with Vaisnavism (the main trend of the age), bringing to light a sort of syncretistic religion accepting Jagannatha as the pivot. The trends of thought prevalent in Saktism found place in the Vaisnavite ritualistic pattern. The preaching of eminent religious saints, the composition of Vaisnavite literature in regional language, and especially the spread of kirtana (singing of devotional songs in accompaniment of mrdanga and cymbal by the Vaisnava devotees), introduced by Sri Caitanya, further accelerated the Vaisnava movement, thus, making it a mass religion.

Similarly, in the sculptural representation Mahisamardini Durga, Sivalinga and Jagannatha were depicted together to mark the syncreticism. With the construction of the great Sun temple, the Pancadevata-upasana (adoration of the five deities of the traditional Hindu pentad, namely, Siva-Sakti-Visnu-Surya-Ganesa) became a fundamental aspect of Orissan religious culture. Sri Jagannatha, the cult hero, conceived by the later Gangas and the Suryavamsi Gajapatis as the head of the State or rastradevata, became the supreme religious authority sanctioning the political actions of the monarchs of Orissa. This strong religious policy in the name of Sri Jagannatha was essential to control and unite the heterogeneous feudatories of the empire.

The manifestations of Sakti in this period mostly find their expression in association with Vaisnavite male deities in the composite forms of Laksmi-Narayana, Laksmi-Varaha, Laksmi-Nrsimha, leaving aside, of course, the Siva-Sakti union, although independent Sakta shrines were also established and temples erected.

It the last section of the second chapter I have dealt with several other ruling families of Orissa who had their patron goddesses under different names, but all propitiated as the protectress goddess Mahadevi Durga. Most of the Sakta goddesses installed or highlighted in the medieval period are still continuing as the presiding deities of the living shrines of Orissa.

In the third chapter, entitled 'Important Sakta Centres of Orissa', I have attempted to discuss those which have earned eminence with large following and those, which are still in working order as the Sakta pithas. I have in the discussion not touched upon the traditional concept of the so-called Sakta pithas, which are usually associated with portions of the Devi's body fallen from the shoulders of Mahadeva while roaming madly with the dead body of Sati, and with forms of Bhairava. From this point of view, the ksetras of Viraja, Ekamra and Purusottama with Vimala find mention in the lists of Sakta pithas enumerated differently by different Puranas (from eight to one hundred-eight pithas), but in Orissa some other great Sakta centers, although they have not been linked with a form of Bhairava (supposed to be in the pitha as the consort of Sakti), are none the less the great centers of Saktism as well as of other associated religions. I have avoided to speak of the minor Sakta centers, numerous in Orissa, as these have been directly or indirectly discussed in appropriated places. The eight so selected far-famed religious centers discussed in the Book are described in Orissa as the eight traditional Candi pithas with important goddesses enshrined in the strategic locations of the State.

Chapter four deals with the main manifestations of Sakti in Orissa such as Mahisamardini Durga, Simhavahini Durga, Camunda, the Divine Mothers, Varahi, sixty-four Yoginis, serpent goddesses, Parvati and Laksmi, delineating their development with different iconographic features – having of course the regional variations based on mythology and local traditions – and their spread over different areas of the State. For each such manifestation I have endeavoured to offer my viewpoint in the regional and all-India contexts as these deities are prevalent in all parts of the country, showing the differences in the artistic representation and ode of worship. As regards the river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna, who are depicted in the role of doorkeepers in almost all the medieval Saiva and Sakta temples of Orissa as auspicious symbols, I have omitted to deal with them as they have not enjoyed here the cult status. I may also benignly mention that I have avoided, as far as possible the complicated iconographies of the goddesses recorded in the Puranas and Tantras, emphasizing only those which are essential in the context of the iconographic representation of the goddesses of Orissa.

The last chapter of the work discusses the interesting Sakta festivals and the intricate rituals, some of which are still in vogue in Orissa, signifying the continuity of Saktism here as a mass religion. The Sakta festivals of Orissa are numerous, but I have selected for discussion the important ones in cyclic order starting from the month of the New Year, Caitra (March-April) and ending with the human and animal sacrifices connected with Sakti cult as a part of rituals. Once again, I may humbly relate that, in course of the discussion, I have often given my personal interpretations of some typical rites and festivals theologically and sociologically in the wider context.

. Lastly I believe that my sincere attempt to deal with the complicate subject, which was totally alien to me in the beginning, will be of some help to the scholars and students in history, archaeology, history of art and of religion as well. I crave the indulgence of the scholars for errors of omissions and commissions, which must have come in the course of my discussion.

From the Jacket

In the Hindu worldview, sakti is the Mother of the Universe: the highest primal power. She is accordingly, the all-prevading , intangible energy principle that propels the cosmos and its endless human dimensions with the life-throbs of activity and culture. Many are her songs, countless her stories, numerous her names. Worship of Sakti, as a pan-Indian phenomenon, predates Sanskritic influences of every kind. Combining his extensive fieldwork with diverse published and unpublished sources: archaeological, historical and religious, Francesco Brighenti's study traces its presence in Orissa. Which, perhaps provides the best paradigm of an age-old Goddess cult, deeply rooted in the autochthonous religious traditions of Eastern India.

It is the first all encompassing study, in an ethono-historical perspective, exploring the multi-linear evolution of Sakti worship in Orissa: from the pre proto-historical times to the late medieval epoch and even its continuity into the modern period-with contextual focus on its probable genesis, historical development, festivals, ritualistic patterns, and cultural sources including myths, legends and folklore. The book also incorporates, besides a description of important Sakta centres in Orissa, a study of the Divine Mother's iconography features in her multifarious manifestations.

Together with around hundred illustration highlighting the varied representations of Sakti in sculpture, this study will interest not only the scholars of archaeology, history and religion, but historians of art as well.

About the Author

Francesco Brighenti has traveled extensively in India in pursuit of his academic concerns around the living traditions of Hinduism. And, resultantly, having worked on the goddess-cult of Orissa during 1995-97, he took his PhD from the Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, earlier, in 1991, he graduated in history form the University of Venice.

As a member of the Venitian Academy of Indian studies: an Association of Indologists affiliated to the Department of Studies of Eastern Asia, University of Venice, Dr. Brighenti is presently researching upon the religious cults practised by different tribes of Orissa, like the Hill Saoras and the Kondhs, and their relation to the regional typologies of Hindu Cults.


  Preface vii
  List of B/W Figures xv
  List of Coloured Illustrations xix


1 The Austro-Asiatic Cultural Heritage of Orissa 12
2 The Dravidian Cultural Heritage of Orissa 18
3 Worship of the Female principle in Pre-Patriarchal Societies 23
4 Worship of Malevolent Female Deities and Spirits 25
5 Aniconic Representation of Goddesses 28
6 Links between Sakti and Naga Cults 35
7 Links between Sakti and Yaksa Cults 45
8 Sakti Cult and Tribal Shamanism 52


1 Rise of Sakti Cult in the Gupta Age 68
2 Sakti Cult in the Post-Gupta Period 80
3 Sakta Tantrism in the Bhauma Epoch 89
4 The Kapalikas and Kaulas in Orissa 116
5 Sakti Cult in the Somavamsi Period 130
6 Cult Syncreticism in the Ganga and Suryavamsi Periods 140
7 Proliferation of Royal Goddesses in the Later Medieval Period 155
8 Final Considerations 169


1 Jajpur 172
2 Purusottama or Puri 179
3 Kakatpur 185
4 Jahankad 193
5 Banki 198
6 Gopalprasad, Talcher 201
7 Banpur 204
8 Ekamra or Bhubaneswar 207


1 Durga 214
2 Camunda 237
3 The Divine Mothers 259
4 Varahi 283
5 64 Yoginis 293
6 Serpent Goddesses 307
7 Parvati 317
8 Sri-Lakshmi 327


1 The Cycle of the Caitra Festivals 338
2 The Cycle of the Asvina and Karttika Festivals 356
3 Other important Sakta Festivals of Orissa 372
4 The Tradition of Human sacrifice in Orissa 393
  Conclusion 411
  B/W Figures 419
  Colour Plates 459
  Glossary 479
  Bibliography 493
  Index 499

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