The energy of the goddess fills every facet of Indian life. To her devotees, the goddess appears in myriad forms: a mother, boon-giver destroyer of evil, a divine lover a protector and/ or a bloodthirsty ogress. The more we discover about her, the more teasingly complex and multivalent the Devi appears. She is constant and changing loved and feared worshipped and forgotten only to be re-discovered and worshipped.
In this book for the first time, ten Australian researchers working on many aspects of the Devi have come together and offered in a single collection new research on the divine female. This book is the beginning of a renewed quest for the iconic Devi who continues to emerge in her many unpredictably powerful.
Jayant Bapat holds doctorates in Organic chemistry and Social Anthropology and is a research fellow at the Monash Asia Institute. His current research interests include Hindu temple architecture temple priest, the Pura, as, goddess cults and gods goddesses of the Ko.i fisher folk of Mumbai.
Lan Mabbett is a research fellow at the Monash Asia Institute. As a member of the Monash school of Historical studies, he has taught subjects dealing with South Asian and Southeast Asian history and religion. His research interests are in ancient Indian history and religion, especially the history and philosophy of Buddhism. He is co-author of the sociology of Indian Buddhism, with Greg Bailey.
This exuberant collection of ten essays about the Devi is the work of Australian scholars who have been engaged in extensive fieldwork in India over many decades –the youngest of us has worked in India for only 20 year and the oldest for 60 years. We have not attempted to systematise our work on the Devi because as the first chapter argues such systematisation defies the complexity of Indian goddesses. Rather this book reflects the celebrated diversity of India over time, regions, beliefs, ethnicities and practices. The Devi is not a static entity-in her many manifestations she lives, dies and is reborn continuously and unpredictably. The naked, headless Goddess Lajjagauri may have only been worshipped up to the 7th century, but new goddesses are constantly appearing while hundreds of old goddesses continue to evolve in direction that ensure the enduring power of the Devi in a rapidly modernising India.
Five years ago the Monash Asia Institute at Monash University in Melbourne (Australia) organised a one –day symposium to bring together Australian scholars working on Indian goddesses. Only a small selection of those present at that gathering have essays in the collection –further collections will be published in the coming years. Other symposia followed that initial meeting with the result the most of the authors contributing of the present volume are engaged in larger monographs about Indian goddesses.
This collection also represents the first book on Indian religions to be published by Monash University Press a subdivision of the Monash Asia Institute. The press adheres to a strict process of external peer review, as a result of which we thank the various referees who kindly read earlier versions of theses chapters and gave us very useful feedback. We also thank Jenny Hall, Publishers Officer of the Monash Asia Institute for her editing of the text and design of the front cover. Her professional standards, creative instincts and good humour have made her into a delightful member of our team. I would also like to thank the editors –lan Mabbett and Jayant Bapat –who have been wonderful and persistent colleagues, totally dedicated to the task of bringing this book out in time. This Indian edition is being released on the occasion of Diwali, the festival of lights.
Throughout the world Indology, or the study of Indian cultures has been at a low ebb for two decades. Basham’s wonderful work on India a hallmark of Indological studies, appeared to have been eclipsed by doom and gloom. But the contributors to this volume are great optimists –the energy that drove Basham’s work out of the base in Canberra, is re-emerging. In the last few years, India has suddenly re-appeared on the world stage as a rising global power. Business studies on India are booming especially in Australia where the bilateral relationship has been reinvigorated. The energy that drives that relationship is spreading and has given Australian scholars of Indian culture a new determination to increase the appreciation of Indian culture amongst all communities that seek to engage with India and the growing Indian diaspora. This collection of essays will, we hop, contribute to that cultural re-engagement.
This book has experienced a gestation of well over five years since its original conception and it gives us immense pleasure to see it in print after such a long period. It is particularly agreeable foe us to thank all those individuals whose help has been invaluable. Professor Marika Vicziany, the director of Monash Asia Institute, deserves a special mention, as she inspired the project and her constant involvement and encouragement have made our task easier and have been a major factor in the volume’s eventual successful completion. It has benefited also from the work of Emma Hegarty, who as publications officer for the Monash Asia Institute was responsible for steering the work successfully through all its earlier stages with helpfulness and professionalism; in the later stages Jenny Hall combined the roles of artist, chief editor, proof-reader, secretary, receptionist and organiser, and her impressive range of talents has been of great help to us both. We warmly thank all authors who met their deadlines and still produced excellent chapters. Thanks are also due to the Monash Asia Institute publication committee which supported our endeavour.
Jayant Bhalchandra Bapat and Ian Mabbett
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