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Manasa Devi

The goddess Manasā in a dense jungle landscape with cobra and swan

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Shakti (Devanagari: शक्ति; from Sanskrit shak, "to be able"), meaning sacred force or empowerment, is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism.[1] Shakti is the concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as 'The Great Divine Mother' in Hinduism. On the earthly plane, Shakti most actively manifests through female embodiment and creativity/fertility, though it is also present in males in its potential, unmanifest form.[2]

Not only is the Shakti responsible for creation, it is also the agent of all change. Shakti is cosmic existence as well as liberation, its most significant form being the Kundalini Shakti,[3] a mysterious psychospiritual force.[4] Shakti exists in a state of svātantrya, dependence on no-one, being interdependent with the entire universe.

In Shaktism, Shakti is worshipped as the Supreme Being. However, in other Hindu traditions of Shaivism and Vaishnavism, Shakti embodies the active feminine energy Prakriti of Purusha, who is Vishnu in Vaishnavism or Shiva in Shaivism. Vishnu's female counterpart is called Lakshmi, with Parvati being the female half of Shiva.



The Kundalini-shakti from the Yoga tradition: life force/sexual energy that can be awakened for conscious creativity.

Female teacher Swami Mayatitananda notes that at the beginning of Creation, as it is written in the Shakta Advaita, the Divine Mother took form and set in motion the wheel of manifestation. She bestowed her healing spirit into the womb and regenerative energy of every female of every species of the earth.[5] According to the Vedas (as written or sung by the rishika), a woman's femininity cannot exist apart from her Shakti, and Shakti is a metaphor for womanhood.[6]

David Kinsley believes that the concept of "Shakti" may be derived from Lord Indra's consort Sachi (Indrani), meaning power.[7] Indrani is part of a group of seven or eight mother goddesses called the Matrikas (Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Maheshvari, Indrani, Kumari, Varahi and Chamunda and/or Narasimhi), who are considered shaktis of major Hindu gods (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Indra, Skanda, Varaha/Yama and Devi and Narasimha respectively).

Garlanded Devi

A goddess statue at the Jain temple of Sravanbelagola, India

The Shakti goddess is also known as Amma (meaning 'mother') in south India, especially in the states of Karnataka,Tamil Nadu,Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. There are many temples devoted to various incarnations of the Shakti goddess in most of the villages in South India. The rural people believe that Shakti is the protector of the village, the punisher of evil people, the curer of diseases, and the one who gives welfare to the village. They celebrate Shakti Jataras with a lot of hue and great interest once a year. Some examples of incarnations are Gangamma, Aarti, Kamakshamma, Kanakadurga, Mahalakshmammma, Meeenakshamma, Poleramma and Perantalamma.

Shakti/Parvati/Sati Peethas

There are 4 Adi Shakti Pith and 51 important centres of Shakti worship located in the Indian sub-continent, which are located in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Tibet and Pakistan. These are called Shakti Peethas. Most Shakti peethas have since developed into famous temple complexes, including: Jwalaji (Himachal), Tara Tarini (Berhampur, Orissa), Katyayani (Chattarpur, Delhi), Kamakhya (Assam), Naina Devi (Himachal), Manasa devi (Chandigarh).

Main pithas in Maharashtra are Tuljapur (Jagdamba), Kolhapur (Mahalaxmi), vani-Nashik (Saptashrungi) and Mahurgadh (Renukamata).

Hindu Goddess 002

Hindu Goddess.

Adi Parashakti

Adi-Shakti or Adi parashakti is a Hindu concept of the Ultimate Shakti, the ultimate power inherent in all Creation. This is especially prevalent in the Shakta denomination within Hinduism, which worships the Goddess Devi in all Her manifestations.

Bhajans and Mantras

There are many ancient Shakti devotional songs and vibrational chants in the Hindu and Sikh traditions (found in Sarbloh Granth). The recitation of the Sanskrit bij mantra MA is commonly used to call upon the Divine Mother, the Shakti, as well as the Moon.

Kundalini-Shakti-Bhakti Mantra

Adi Shakti, Adi Shakti, Adi Shakti, Namo Namo!
Sarab Shakti, Sarab Shakti, Sarab Shakti, Namo Namo!
Prithum Bhagvati, Prithum Bhagvati, Prithum Bhagvati, Namo Namo!
Kundalini Mata Shakti, Mata Shakti, Namo Namo!


Primal Shakti, I bow to Thee!
All-Encompassing Shakti, I bow to Thee!
That through which Divine Creates, I bow to Thee!
Creative Power of the Kundalini, Mother of all Mother Power, To Thee I Bow! [8]

"Merge in the Maha Shakti. This is enough to take away your misfortune. This will carve out of you a woman. Woman needs her own Shakti, not anybody else will do it… When a woman chants the Kundalini Bhakti mantra, God clears the way. This is not a religion, it is a reality. Woman is not born to suffer, and woman needs her own power.”

“When India and Indian women knew this mantra, it dwelt in the land of milk and honey.”

~ Yogi Bhajan (Harbhajan Singh) [9]


Guruji puja

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

Shaktism regards Devi (lit., "the Goddess") as the Supreme Brahman itself, the "one without a second", with all other forms of divinity, female or male, considered to be merely Her diverse manifestations. In the details of its philosophy and practice, Shaktism resembles Saivism. However, Shaktas (Sanskrit: Śakta, शक्त), practitioners of Shaktism, focus most or all worship on Shakti, as the dynamic feminine aspect of the Supreme Divine. Shiva, the masculine aspect of divinity,[original research?] is considered solely transcendent, and Shiva's worship is generally relegated to an auxiliary role.[10]

from Devi-Mahatmya -

By you this universe is borne, By you this world is created, Oh Devi, by you it is protected

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.


Like Shiva-associated Shaktism, Shakti embodies the dynamic feminine aspect Vishnuembodies the male static aspect in Vaishnavism. Vishnu's Shakti is called Goddess Lakshmi. However, in Srivaishnavism, a school of Vaishnavism, Lakshmi or Sri does not play any particular part in the creative function of the Lord, because Prakriti is the manifest aspect of the Lord.[11] In Srivaishnavism, Vishnu alone is the great creator, although Sri is coeval with Him.[12] As Vishnu is the Father who stands for absolute justice, Sri is the Mother of the universe and is considered to be important element in the redemption of mankind, and is the interceder with Vishnu on behalf of spiritual seekers.[12]

Smarta Advaita

In the Smarta Advaita sect of Hinduism, Shakti is considered to be one of five equal bonafide personal forms of God in the panchadeva system advocated by Adi Shankara.[13]

Shakti force: Devi Prakriti

Devi Prakriti (a Shakti) in the context of Shaktis as forces unifies Kundalini, Kriya, Itcha, Para, Jnana, Mantrika Shaktis. Each is in a chakra.

Standard representation

The Adi Shakti has a Unicode representation of U+262C () on the Miscellaneous Symbols table. This symbol is also known as the Khanda used in Sikhism.


  1. Sacred Sanskrit words, p.111
  2. Tiwari, Path of Practice, p. 55
  3. The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga, p.270
  4. Ibid, p.162
  5. Tiwari, Path of Practice p.54
  6. Tiwari, Path of Practice, p.54
  7. Hindu Goddesses Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Tradition by David Kinsley page 17 minor vedic Goddesses
  8. Yogi Bhajan as quoted in the Conscious Pregnancy Yoga Teacher's Manual by Tarn Tarn Kaur, Espanola, New Mexico p. 79
  9. Ibid
  10. Subramuniyaswami, p. 1211.
  11. Swami Tapasyananda, Bhakti Schools of Vedanta, pg. 52, Ramakrishna Mission
  12. 12.0 12.1 Swami Tapasyananda, Bhakti Schools of Vedanta, pg. 53, Ramakrishna Mission

Further reading

  • Shakti and Shakta, by John Woodroffe, Published by Forgotten Books, 1910. ISBN 1-60620-145-X.
  • Hymns to the Goddess, Translated by John George Woodroffe, Ellen Elizabeth (Grimson) Woodroffe, Published by Forgotten Books, 1952 (org 1913). ISBN 1-60620-146-8.
  • Hymn to Kali:Karpuradi Stotra, by Sir John Woodroffe. Published by Forgotten Books. 1922. ISBN 1-60620-147-6.
  • McDaniel, June (2004). Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  • Datta, Reema and Lowitz, Lisa. Sacred Sanskrit Words, Stonebridge Press, Berkeley, 2005.
  • Feuerstein, Georg. The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga, Shambhala Publications, Boston, 2000
  • Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1994
  • Tiwari, Bri. Maya. The Path of Practice: A Woman's Book of Ayurvedic Healing, Motilal Banarsidass Press, 2002
  • Shakti : Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Women’s Empowerment in India/edited by Ranjana Harish and V. Bharathi Harishankar. New Delhi, Rawat, 2003, ISBN 81-7033-793-3.

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