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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shakti (Devanagari: शक्ति, IAST: Śakti; lit. "energy, ability, strength, effort, power, might, capability"[1]) in Hinduism, is the fundamental esoteric energy that underlies and sustains all existence. In Hindu theological view, Shakti is the energizing power of Hindu Gods. Conceived of as feminine in essence, Shakti is generally personified as the wife of a particular Hindu deity, especially of Shiva.

Shiva and Shakti are held as the masculine and feminine principles that are complementary to each other. Shakti, as prakriti (nature) is believed to have brought the primal male (purusha) into existence. The feminine Shakti comes into being as part of the "lila" (divine play) with the masculine (Shiva), who is considered a passive complementary to the all-powerful active feminine. The God Shiva being "nonactivated Eternity", while the Shakti "activated Time". "Shiva without Shakti is but a corpse, it is said." The God Shiva says: "O Goddess I am the body (deha) and you are the conscious spirit within the body (dehin)". In Jungian psychological view, the concept of Anima/animus that animates all humans, is considered the "spiritual equivalent" of Shakti.

The concept of the absolute Brahman in Hinduism is considered the same as Shakti, it is said "Brahman is static Shakti and Shakti is dynamic Brahman." In the smarta tradition of Hinduism, Shakti as Adi shakti, is one of five equal forms of God, which was advocated by Adi shankara to promote domestic worship and unity amongst the diverse Hindu philosophies. The term Shakta is used for the description of people and customs associated with the worship of Shakti.


According to the Monier-Williams dictionary, Shakti (Śakti) is the Sanskrit feminine term meaning "energy, ability, strength, effort, power, might, capability".[1]

Relatedly, the term Shakta (Sanskrit: शक्त, Śakta) is used for people and customs associated with Shakti worship.[2] The term Shakta became popular from the ninth-century onwards, before that the term Kula or Kaula, which referred to clans of female ancestory, besides to the menstrual and sexual fluids of females, was used to describe Shakti followers.[2]


The origins of the Shakti concept are prevedic.[3] Shakti worship customs were found in Paleolithic context in the Son River valley, where a triangular stone known as the Baghor stone, estimated to have been created around 9,000–8,000 BCE was found.[4] The representation of Shakti in a stone is considered an early example of a yantra.[5] Kenoyer, part of the team that excavated the stone, considered it is highly probable that the stone was associated with Shakti.[6]

Shakti became a prominent idea from the classical period of Hinduism, during which she was personified as Devi, a goddess.[3] Scriptural texts such as Devi Bhagavata Purana, Kalika Purana, Markandeya Purana, and Mahabhagavata Purana held Shakti as the supreme over all deities and promoted her worship.[3]


In Hinduism, Shakti (Śakti), the Sanskrit word for "energy" or "power", is the "energizing material power" of the Hindu Gods.[7] As the energy corresponding with Vishnu, she is Lakshmi.[8] Shakti is generally personified as the wife of a specific Hindu god, particularly Shiva, for whom she took forms as Durga, Kali, and Parvati.[9][10] In Hindu custom, the wife of a man is considered his Shakti. In the Ramayana, Sita, the wife of Rama was his Shakti; in the Mahabharata, Draupadi was the Shakti of the Pandavas.[8]

As prakriti (nature), Shakti is believed to had brought the primal male (purusha) into existence.[8] The feminine (shakti) is believed to come into being as part of the "lila" (divine play) with the masculine (shiva).[11] Shiva and Shakti are considered complementary principles to each other.[11] The masculine shiva being "nonactivated Eternity", while the feminine Shakti being "activated Time".[8]

In the Hindu tantric view, Shakti correlates with the Kundalini energy.[12] Shakti is considered the "creative dynamic energy" that permeates and "animates" all existence.[13][14] In the Brihannila Tantra, the God Shiva says: "O Goddess I am the body (deha) and you are the conscious spirit within the body (dehin)".[15] "Shiva without Shakti is but a corpse, it is said."[16] In the Jungian analytical psychology, the concept of Anima/animus that animates all humans, is considered the "spiritual equivalent" of Shakti.[8]

Smarta Advaita

In the Smarta Advaita sect of Hinduism, Shakti is one of the five equal personal forms of God, as in the panchadeva system, advocated by Adi Shankara.[17] The Smarta tradition, also called Smartism, is a movement in Hinduism that developed and expanded with the Puranas genre of literature. It reflects a synthesis of four philosophical strands, namely Mimamsa, Advaita, Yoga, and theism. The Smarta tradition rejects theistic sectarianism, and is notable for the domestic worship of five shrines with five deities, all treated as equal—Ganesha, Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu and Surya. The Smarta tradition contrasted with the older Shrauta tradition, which was based on elaborate rituals and rites. There has been a considerable overlap in the ideas and practices of the Smarta tradition with other significant historic movements within Hinduism, namely Shaivism, Brahmanism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.[18][19][20]


Sri Guru Amritananda Nath Saraswati, performing the Navavarana Puja, an important ritual in Srividya Tantric Shaktism, at the Sahasrakshi Meru Temple at Devipuram, Andhra Pradesh, India

Shaktism regards Shakti as the Supreme Brahman, with all forms of divinity considered merely her manifestations. In the details of its philosophy and practice, Shaktism resembles Shaivism. However Shaktas focus most or all worship on Shakti as the dynamic feminine aspect of the Supreme Divine.[21] According to V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar (Professor of Indian history), in Shakta theology: "Brahman is static Shakti and Shakti is dynamic Brahman."[22] The Shakta Upanishads and the Shakta Tantras equated Brahman with Shakti, and held them inseparable.[3]

From Devi-Mahatmya:

By you this universe is borne,
By you this world is created,
Oh Devi, by you it is protected.[23]

From Shaktisangama Tantra:

Woman is the creator of the universe,
the universe is her form;
woman is the foundation of the world,
she is the true form of the body.

In woman is the form of all things,
of all that lives and moves in the world.
There is no jewel rarer than woman,
no condition superior to that of a woman.[24]

Adi Parashakti

Adi Shakti, the supreme feminine spirit

Mahadevi (Sanskrit: महादेवी, IAST: Mahādevī), also referred to as Adi Parashakti, Adi Shakti, and Abhaya Shakti, is the supreme goddess in the Shaktism sect of Hinduism. According to this tradition, all Hindu goddesses are considered manifestations of this single great Goddess, who is comparable to the deities Vishnu and Shiva as Para Brahman. Vaishnavas consider her to be Lakshmi, whereas Shaivas consider her to be Parvati, Durga, Lalita and Kali, while Shaktas consider her to be Durga, Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshvari, and Kali. Author Helen T. Boursier says: "In Hindu philosophy, both Lakshmi and Parvati are identified with the great goddess—Mahadevi—and the Shakti or divine power".[25]

See also

  • Ammavaru – Hindu goddess
  • Iccha-shakti – Sanskrit term for willpower
  • Kundalini – Form of divine energy in Hindu mysticism
  • Mariamman – Hindu goddess of weather
  • Mohini – Hindu goddess of enchantment, the only female avatar of Vishnu
  • Prakṛti – Nature in Hinduism
  • Purusha – Concept in Hindu philosophy
  • Shakti Pitha – Shrines in Shaktism, goddess-focused Hinduism
  • Tridevi – Trinity of chief goddesses in Hinduism



  1. ^ a b Monier-Williams 2017.
  2. ^ a b Jones & Ryan 2007, p. 397.
  3. ^ a b c d Jones & Ryan 2007, p. 399.
  4. ^ Insoll 2002, p. 36.
  5. ^ Harper & Brown 2012, p. 39.
  6. ^ Kenoyer et al. 1983, p. 93.
  7. ^ Leeming 2014, p. 1646.
  8. ^ a b c d e Leeming 2014, p. 1647.
  9. ^ Rosen 2006, p. 166.
  10. ^ Leeming 2014, p. 1646-1647.
  11. ^ a b Jones & Ryan 2007, pp. 398–399.
  12. ^ Leeming 2014, p. 1777.
  13. ^ Leeming 2014, p. 546.
  14. ^ Datta & Lowitz 2005, p. 111.
  15. ^ Biernacki 2006, p. 202.
  16. ^ Jones & Ryan 2007, p. 398.
  17. ^ Smarta 2008.
  18. ^ Flood 1996, pp. 113, 134, 155–161, 167–168.
  19. ^ Sanderson 2009, pp. 276–277.
  20. ^ Shephard 2009, p. 186.
  21. ^ Subramuniyaswami, p. 1211[full citation needed]
  22. ^ Dikshitar 1999, pp. 77–78.
  23. ^ Klostermaier 1989, pp. 261, 473 footnote [1].
  24. ^ Bose 2000, p. 115.
  25. ^ Boursier 2021, p. 30.

Sources cited


  • Bose, Mandakranta (2000). Faces of the Feminine in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern India. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195352777. OCLC 560196442.
  • Boursier, Helen T., ed. (2021). The Rowman & Littlefield Handbook of Women's Studies in Religion. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1538154458.
  • Datta, Reema; Lowitz, Lisa (2005). Sacred Sanskrit Words. Berkeley, CA: Stonebridge Press.
  • Dikshitar, V. R. Ramachandra (1999) [1942]. The Lalita Cult. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
  • Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521438780.
  • Harper, Katherine Anne; Brown, Robert L. (2012). The Roots of Tantra. SUNY Press. ISBN 9780791488904. Archived from the original on 5 May 2022. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  • Insoll, Timothy (2002). Archaeology and World Religion. Routledge. ISBN 9781134597987. Archived from the original on 5 May 2022. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  • Jones, Constance; Ryan, James D. (2007). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Encyclopedia of World Religions. New York: Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9780816054589.
  • Klostermaier, Klaus K. (1989). A Survey of Hinduism. New York, NY: SUNY Press.
  • Leeming, David A. (2014). Leeming, David A. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion (second ed.). New York: Springer. ISBN 9781461460855.
  • Rosen, Steven (2006). Essential Hinduism. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
  • Sanderson, Alexis (2009). "The Saiva Age: The Rise And Dominance Of Saivism During The Early Medieval Period". In Einoo, Shingo (ed.). Genesis And Development of Tantrism. Institute Of Oriental Culture, University Of Tokyo.
  • Shephard, John (2009). Ninian Smart On World Religions. Ashgate. ISBN 978-0754666387.



Further reading

External links

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