The recognition of women as the source of life is at the centre of Hindu religious thought and encapsulated in the concept of a feminine divinity, the goddess, imagined in many forms, who is the active source of creation and its motive force.
In principle, all women represent her in varying degrees, but since they do so mainly in her protective and nurturing functions, women’s social worth is measured in terms of their self-effacing service to their families.
This selective application of religious thought has confined women’s roles within the home and the family, leaving them bereft of action and authority in the larger world. In recent decades women in Hindu society have attempted to reverse this power imbalance by asserting the unity of femininity and powerful goddesses, especially Kālī and Durgā.
In this presentation I will examine the idea of the divine feminine and trace how it has shaped the lives of women in Hindu society.