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Religion Library: Shakta Hinduism

Quick Facts

Formed300 CE
DeityDevi, Durga, Kali, multiple goddesses
Sacred TextsPuranas, Tantras, Devimahatmya

Shakti Hinduism, also known as Shakta or Shaktism, is a term used to describe a diverse group of goddess traditions that have emerged in South Asia as the Hindu tradition has developed. Many followers of Shaktism believe that the multiple goddesses within the Hindu pantheon are all manifestations of Shakti, the "Great Goddess." She has a variety of names and forms, including Devi, Uma, Parvati, Ambika, Kali, Durga, Shitala, and Lakshmi - among many others - with multiple regional variations. Followers of Shakti Hinduism (Shaktas) are often characterized by their attempts to attain, control, and make manifest the powers of Shakti within their own bodies. In some forms of Shakti thought and practice, it is held that Shakti dwells within the human body as a sleeping, coiled serpent that must be awakened in order to attain enlightenment. In order to arouse Shakti, some followers perform complex rituals which awaken the "serpent," which then moves up through the body and unites with her lover Shiva, at which point the Shakta practitioner enters an ecstatic-mystical trance and the body is flooded with intense pleasure. These forms of Shaktism are often associated with Tantric Hinduism. Shakti Hinduism is particularly prevalent in places such as Kashmir, Bengal, and Assam, and in recent decades some of these practices - often in considerably altered forms, have emerged in the West. Such westernized forms of Shaktism have particularly been associated with various feminist and "New Age" traditions.