What is Dasamahavidya in Hinduism

English Title: The goddess Dhumavati: Transformations from the Tantric origin to a Hindu goddess of a city quarter in Benares

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The ethno-indological dissertation examines the textual history as well as recent representation (s) and ritual of the Hindu-tantric goddess Dhumavati, a member of the goddess group of the Dasamahavidyas. Through a combination of source and empirical field studies, radical transformation processes of the goddess in representation, ritual, mythology and areas of activity from the first mention in the 11th century to the present are demonstrated and subsequently analyzed in detail. The first focus of the work documents and analyzes the complete source history of Dhumavati and reveals the most important text on the goddess to date, the Dhumavatitantra, which appears almost identical in Mantramaharnava and Saktapramoda, in an annotated first translation from Sanskrit. It can be seen that the text sources present Dhumavati exclusively in a tantric frame of reference and essentially uniformly as exceptionally dangerous and disastrous. A second focus is a detailed ethnological study of the representation (s) and worship of the goddess in modern Benares. It documents a goddess who has been significantly transformed in comparison to the source representations, who is recently worshiped almost without exception as a mild, benevolent and protective city district deity, mohalla devi. Using Dhumavati as an example, the meaning and functions of urban district deities in recent Benares and South Asia are discussed in general; they play an essential role for the internal religious and social structures in the mohalla and partly beyond. The thesis discusses the transformation processes of Dhumavati in the context of significant developments in South Asian religious history. On the one hand, they are part of the assimilation and integration processes of tantric heteropraxia in Hindu orthopraxia, which often and so also with Dhumavati do not (immediately) lead to a complete integration, but run with ongoing partial juxtaposition of exoteric and esoteric deity representations and ritual practices. In the Dhupcandi temple in Benares, too, there is a simultaneity of this kind, which is still partially recognizable, of tantric goddess representations unified with Hindu orthopraxis; these are developments with inclusivist features. On the other hand - and this dominates the recent developments in Benares - the transformations of Dhumavati are to be integrated into both processes of 'Saumyaization' and pacification of devis, especially with considerable Ugra potential, as well as in general unification tendencies concerning many goddesses, as they have been especially for Durga since then appear in the early Middle Ages and increasingly in modern Hinduism. In this context, goddesses interpreted as 'deviating from the norm' by the Sanskrit-speaking Hindu orthopraxis are primarily pacified and assimilated into the pan-Hindu pantheon. This study and its results are primarily intended to contribute to further scientific research and presentation, discussion and analysis of (a) medieval tantric sources, the ritual practice formulated therein and representations especially of goddesses and Dasamahavidya, of (b) transformation processes in individual representations of goddesses , especially in recent religion and from (c) developments to specific functions and increasing importance of neighborhood deities in modern Hindu society.

Translation of abstract (English)

The ethno-indological dissertation analyzes the textual history as well as the recent representation (s) and ritual of the Hindu Tantric goddess Dhumavati who is part of the goddess-formation, the Dasamahavidya. The combination of textual and ethnological studies allows to identify and, subsequently, to analyze processes of radical transformations in representation, ritual, mythology, and function of the goddess from the 11th century up to the present. In a first focus the study documents and surveys the textual history of Dhumavati and gives a commented translation of the most important text up to date, of the Dhumavatitantra in Mantramaharnava and Saktapramoda. The textual sources present Dhumavati exclusively in a Tantric frame of reference and, basically, as markedly dangerous and even as malign. In a second focus the dissertation presents a detailed ethnological study on the representation (s) and ritual of Dhumavati in contemporary Benares, disclosing a substantially transformed goddess as compared to the textual background. Recently the goddess is nearly exclusively worshiped as the presiding deity of a city quarter, as a mild, benign and protecting mohalla devi. Referring to Dhumavati as an example, also the general importance and function of mohalla deities in modern Benares and South Asia is paradigmatically discussed. Such deities play an essential role for internal religious and social structures of a mohalla and even beyond. The study discusses Dhumavati’s transformations also within the framework of significant tendencies in Hindu traditions. On the one hand, these transformations are part of processes of assimilation and integration of Tantric heteropraxis into Hindu orthopraxis, which often and also in the case of Dhumavati do not result in (instant) incorporation, but rather involve a continuous coexistence of exoteric and esoteric representation of deities and ritual practices. The temple Dhupcandi in Benares shows representations of the goddess from a Tantric as well as a Hindu background. On the other hand, and this dominates the recent developments in Benares, Dhumavati's transformations are part of 'saumyaization' and pacification processes mainly concerning devis with a strong ugra potential, as well as of general tendencies of standardization and unification which are especially noticeable for Durga . Such tendencies are traceable from the early medieval period on but reach a new climax in recent Hindu traditions. Goddesses interpreted as deviant from a ‘norm’ set by sanskritisized Hindu orthopraxis are pacified and incorporated into the panhindu pantheon. This study hopes to contribute to the further academic study of (a) medieval Tantric textual sources, Tantric ritual and Tantric representations of goddesses, especially of the Dasamahavidya, (b) transformation processes in representations of goddesses, especially in recent South Asian religion, and (c) developments, specific functions and the increasing importance of mohalla deities in modern Hindu traditions.

Item Type: dissertation
Supervisor:Michaels, Prof. Dr. Axel
Date of thesis defense:April 30, 2009
Date Deposited:14 Jun 2011 14:55
Faculties / Institutes:Service facilities> South Asia Institute (SAI)
Subjects:290 Other and comparative religions
Controlled Keywords:Hinduism, Tantrism, Varanasi, district, ritual
Uncontrolled keywords:Tantra, Benares, Ethno-Indology, Mahavidya, mohallaTantra, Benares, Ethno-Indology, Mahavidya, mohalla