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Shakti as Durga who defeats the buffalo demon, embodiment of evil

Shakti ( Sanskrit शक्ति sakti [ ʃʌktɪ .], Literally "force", "Energy"), also Shakti , is in Hinduism for the female elemental force of the universe - it is an active energy Countless Indian goddesses are considered a form of Shakti. .

Often the female counterpart of a male god is seen as his Shakti. The Hindu Trimurti - the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - has the following goddesses as a female side or wife:

  • For Brahma , the Creator / Giver, it is Sarasvati . Sarasvati is the goddess of art and science.
  • For Vishnu , the Sustainer / Transformer, it is Lakshmi . Lakshmi appears as the goddess of luck, wealth and beauty.
  • For Shiva , the destroyer / redeemer, it is Parvati . Parvati can appear as the gentle wife Uma or as the warrior Durga .

If the calamity increases in the universe, according to tradition, Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati combine to form Kali , the dark side of Shakti, which destroys everything on its way.

In Shaktism , the Shakti plays a central role as the dominant deity. In some directions of Shaktism, Shakti is considered to be the kinetic aspect of Brahman , the only true being who produces, is and rules the manifested world and all its appearances. In this form Shakti is mostly seen as Mahadevi .

In western neotantra , the term Shakti is mostly used as a synonym for woman .

The noun compound Shivashakti the divine father and the divine mother symbolize consciousness and power in one unity. Shakti and Shiva are considered to be the two poles of the universe in Tantra as well as in the various directions of Shaktism and Shaivism.

Origin and history

Some researchers suspect that Shakti could have its origins in the Indus culture , as many female figurines were found there that could represent goddesses. However, the Hindu concept of Shakti contains other essential influences.

Although the goddesses do not play a major role in the Vedas , important aspects of goddesses are already personified here. Vak is z. B. the goddess of speech, Aditi the mother of the gods, Prithivi the mother earth and Uṣas , the goddess of the dawn, is worshiped in many hymns. Likewise, feminine sides of the Vedic gods appear, Indrani z. B. is seen as Indra's power and strength.

In the post-Vedic period, non-Vedic goddesses were then generally spread and accepted through Sanskritization. Durga, Kali and other goddesses therefore became particularly important in new forms of religion.

In the classical period of Hinduism, the goddesses appeared in the Puranas as consorts of the male gods, but there they also represent the power and energy of the male god. In the classical period the goddesses were equated with three forces: Shakti (energy), Prakriti (original substance) and Maya (illusion).

In the later Shakti theology , two texts have a particularly important meaning. The Devi Mahatmya and the Devi Bhagavatam Purana . Both texts changed the meaning of Shakti in Hinduism. In Devi Mahatmya, the Goddess is the highest reality and embodies all positive and negative aspects of power and energy. It is seen as creative, sustaining and destructive. The male gods, the Trimurti , are still seen in this text as deities of creation, preservation and destruction, but Mahadevi is seen as the power that underlies the powers of the male gods, that is, their power and importance go beyond them .

In the Devi Bhagavatam Purana, Shakti is described as being completely independent of the male gods; in addition, all gods are completely dependent on Shakti's will, strength and power. Shakti itself is described as nirguna , as any form and appearance on the other side, and yet equated with the three Gunas as Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Kali . The goddess appears as Brahman herself, as the source of all existence and eternal. The individual goddesses of Hinduism appear in the Devi Bhagavatam Purana all as aspects and appearances of Shakti itself. Purusha and Prakriti are also both regarded as Shakti or Mahadevi.

In general, the goddesses who personify Shakti appear not only to be benevolent and beneficial, but they also have evil, destructive sides. So apply z. B. the Mahavidyas as terrible and angry goddesses and also Kali and Durga have such aspects. Likewise, goddesses not only appear in their Brahmanistic form, they are also represented in large numbers in Indian folk religion and are connected to the Shakti concept.

Relief with the Devi Matrikas , flanked by Shiva (outside left) and third from the right Varahi and Ganesha (outside right), they all represent the different "Shakti aspects", from the 9th century Madhya Pradesh


  • David R. Kinsley: The Indian Goddesses. Female deities in Hinduism ("Hindu Goddesses", 1986). Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt / M. 2000, ISBN 3-458-34316-4 .
  • Denise Cush, Catherine Robinson, Michael York (Eds.): Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Routledge, London 2008, ISBN 978-0-7007-1267-0 .

Individual evidence

  1. Duden | Shakti | Spelling, meaning, definition, origin. Retrieved April 9, 2020 .
  2. ^ John Dowson: A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion - Geography, History and Religion. Rupa Publications, New Delhi, India 2009, ISBN 978-0-00100-015-5