Exaltation of the Goddess: Narrative Expressions of the Feminine Divine in the Devipurana

Pierce, James, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Nemec, John, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This work comprises a translation and study of the Devīpurāṇa, an understudied Śākta Purāṇa heretofore untranslated into English. Literary analyses of the narrative portions of the text demonstrate the novel negotiations of gender, power, and authority prompted by the integration of a burgeoning feminine divine within a Brahmanical religious frame. The introductory chapter introduces the text and situates it within its historical context of early medieval Bengal, while chapter one orients the study of the Devīpurāṇa within broader trends of Śākta and Upa/Purāṇa scholarship. Chapter two employs an intratextual approach to reveal a milieu which simultaneously exalts the Goddess in her various manifestations but regulates those feminine forces through Brahmanical male oversight; the intertextual analysis of chapter three emphasizes this distinct vision of the Goddess’s tenuous position in the Devīpurāṇa in comparison with her unequivocal supremacy as posited by other Śākta Purāṇas. The fourth chapter considers other liminal figures in the text, such as Asuras and Vināyaka, to demonstrate how elements of the cultural fringe are ushered into the orthodox sphere in a manner consonant with the incorporation of the feminine divine. Lastly, chapter five, which focuses on the Tantric influences of the text, contends that the Devīpurāṇa enjoins the practitioner to praise the supremacy of the Goddess, to delight in her ferocious power, and through esoteric means to direct her feminine energies along fruitful spiritual pathways.
The second part of the dissertation offers a translation of more than one-third of the Devīpurāṇa, with attention to the text’s four primary narrative arcs.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
South Asian Religion, Devi, Feminine Divine, Mythology, Purana
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