Modern Day Matas:

The Hindu Goddess In Changing Times

One of the reasons that goddess worship in India is so fascinating is that it is not just something from Indian history. Stretching back for centuries, the goddess tradition is still prevalent in India today. It has survived through social, culture and economic change and increasingly globalization. Like any living tradition, it is constantly evolving, absorping new elements and re-defining itself.

The influence of popular culture can be seen in her many contemporary manifestations. The Goddess has appeared in popular cinema, her temples have been transported to the realm of cyberspace and her iconography has undergone a great deal of change from its traditional forms. Devotional festivals - from all-night jagrata performances to Calcutta's annual Durga Puja - increasingly use modern technology and mass media for religious ends.

The Goddess' relation to modernization and the material realm is not as troubled as one might initially assume. Shakti theology helps to reconcile the divine realm of the Goddess with what some might consider to be the profane realm of pop culture and modern technology.

Further, Hinduism and the Goddess tradition in particular are not necessarily at odds with material concerns. It is clear that the face of Goddess worship is changing as modernization sweeps India. But, it is not entirely clear what the future will bring for the Goddess. And the answer you get might depend on who you ask. Some believe the changes threaten the religious nature of the tradition by secularizing it while others maintain they are merely a reflection of its increasingly democratic bent.

Return to the Vassar College Goddess Homepage