and death is envisaged the tamas guna is to the fore.
The Goddess (Devi)
Rig Vedic goddesses, their attributes and what they smybolise, are given as
follows: (a) Ida represents the sacrificial food or libations, (b) Hotra and
Svaha are personifications of the ritual invocations, (c) Although the Rig
Veda implies that the goddesses are subordinate to the gods, Aditi
nonetheless stands out from the rest. She represents freedom and infinity that
contains everything else including the gods. Her twelve sons, collectively
called the Adityas, represent the months of the solar years and are invoked to
bestow benefits on mankind, (d) Another goddess to whom about twenty five
hymns are addressed is Ushas, the rosy goddess of the dawn, who signifies
the victory of light over darkness and that of life over death.
Other Vedic goddesses include (i) Prithvi, the personification of Earth;
(ii) Diti, the mother of the Daityas; (iii) Aranyani, the elusive goddess of
forests and wild creatures; (iv) Vac (Speech); (v) Puramdhi and Dhisana,
both representing abundance; (vi) Raka and Sinivali, beneficent goddesses;
(vii) lla, the ‘mother of the cattle herds; and (viii) Nirrti, goddess of
misfortune, decay and death.
In the Sakta and Tantric cults the goddess, as Sakti, represents the visible
universe arising from the universal Brahman. In other words, the ultimate
principle of the universe is regarded as female. Sakti is the overflowing
cosmic energy through which gods, world and all creatures come into being.
In fact, she is indistinguishable from nature (prakriti).
In post-Vedic times Sakti is conceived as the power (sakti) of the gods
and is associated with them in the form of their consorts. Literary references
to her become more frequent from the 7th century onwards when she became
Siva’s consort. Her gentle forms are called Parvati, Uma, Padma and Gauri;
and her Fierce forms are Syama, Bhairavi, Chamunda, Kali and Durga.
The skull-garlanded goddess Kali is especially popular in Bengal, where
her cult has somewhat overshadowed many of the local deities such as
Manasa (the goddess of snakes), Sitala (goddess of smallpox), Chandi
(goddess of hunters), and others. Kali also includes among her many
manifestations the ten mahavidyas, the Seven Mothers, the sixty four Yoginis,