Out of This World or Material Girl?

The Role of the Goddess in Addressing Practical Concerns

O power of creation, preservation, and destruction, O eternal one,
O basis of all qualities of matter, O one who is filled with qualities
   of matter, O Narayani, praise be to you.
O one whose hands and feet are everywhere, whose eyes, head and
    mouth are everywhere,
O one whose ears and nose are everywhere, O Narayani, praise be
    to you.
O one whose form is everything, O Queen of all, O one endowed
    with all powers.
Be gracious to those who have bowed before you, O Goddess, O
    remover of the misfortune of the universe.
O you who are worthy of praise by the dwellers of the three
    worlds, be a boon giver to the worlds.

- selected verses from the "Narayani Stuti" of the Devi Mahatmya

Moksa, or ultimate liberation, is one of the possible goals of a devout Hindu. However, arta (the accumulation of power and wealth) as well as kama (the cultivation of earthly pleasures) are also paths a Hindu could follow to reach her full spiritual potential. And, as the verses from the "Narayani Stuti" of the Devi Mahatmya illustrate, the Goddess is not necessarily at odds with the material world and participation in it.

In fact, the Goddess is understood as being ever-present and very much rooted in the earth. India itself is said to be the body of the living goddess. Since the Goddess is shakti, present in all matter and all of the earth, anything can be a manifestation of her divine energy - even material things like movies or computers which might otherwise be thought of as commonplace. The presence of the Goddess in this world and in all matter is thought to make her accessible to devotees and more sensitive to their material, practical and worldly concerns regarding issues like health, fertility and finances. (David R. Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition, 186)

While the Goddess can act as a force to help one transcend the material world, she is for many Hindus a granter of boons, a cheater of death, and a remover of misfortune and disease who helps to make her devotees' earthly existance bearable. It is perfectly acceptable for devotees to go to the Goddess [usually by making an offering to her at a temple or festival] to ask for luck on an exam, the end to an illness or the resolution of a family problem. Jagratas, all-night devotional festivals are frequently held in order to thank her for past blessings or to ask for help or advice with any number of this-worldly concerns.

In an increasingly practical, material-centered world, many may want to know "what's in it for me". When it comes to the changing world, the Goddess is a modern woman who has much to offer.

Return to Main Index

Go to the Vassar College Goddess Homepage