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Vicissitudes of the GoddessReconstructions of the Gramadevata in India's Religious Traditions$

Sree Padma

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199325023

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199325023.001.0001

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Goddess Explained—Perspectives from the West

Goddess Explained—Perspectives from the West

(p.9) 1 Goddess Explained—Perspectives from the West
Vicissitudes of the Goddess

Sree Padma

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

One of the aims of this chapter is to discern reasons for the historical discrepancy between the veritable and sustained popularity of village goddesses on the one hand, and the reluctance to acknowledge the status of goddesses as independent deities by religious leaders, missionaries and academic cultural and religious historians on the other. The second aim is to show how post colonial scholarship, for the most part, critiqued colonial scholarly categories of the religion involving gramadevatas and proposed newer ones with the intention of interpreting Indian society and religion in more realistic terms. This chapter also discusses the methodology followed in the successive chapters.

Keywords:   christian missionaries, colonial scholarship, indology, aryan, dravidian, indus, vedic, puranic, sanskritic, popular goddess, village goddesses

for many centuries India remained a very exotic land in western imaginations. Accounts such as Nearchus’s and Megasthenese’s that were written during the time of Alexander’s invasion were quoted and recycled by late medieval and early modern European historians, regarded for centuries as authentic sources of knowledge about India.1 Indeed, there was a paucity of direct observations of India by Europeans until the twelfth and thirteenth century CE, when a few curious travelers drifted into different regions of the country. Their observations were a jumbled mix about whatever caught their fancies. European Christian missionaries to India in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries made the first serious and systematic attempts to describe the indigenous religions of the subcontinent. They did so in order to dismiss Indian’s religious traditions and to promote their own. Next came colonial administrators who, for a variety of reasons, became the first proponents of an emerging western academic Indology. I discuss how these westerners portrayed the popular goddess (whose origins lie in village religion) and with what intentions and motivations they recorded their observations. Some of their views continue to be propounded today, mainly to buttress Eurocentric and evangelical Christian perspectives. Post-colonial scholarship, as I intend to show in the latter portions of this chapter as a way of strategizing my own study, critiqued pre-colonial western understandings and proposed novel approaches to study Indian culture and society including its goddess religion. The chapter ends with a debate on the source of goddess traditions to set the context for the following chapters. Although my main focus is on the scholarship of the goddess in south India, which includes the present state of Andhra Pradesh, the geographical area of my study, I also consider writings about the goddess in other regions of the Indian subcontinent, so far as those are useful to my emerging argument.

(p.10) Early Encounters with the West: Ziegenbalg’s Rendering of South Indian Popular Goddesses

Among missionary studies of Indian religions, the first clear attempt to study village goddess religion in south India is an early eighteenth-century work entitled “Genealogy of the South-Indian Gods,” composed by Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, who lived in south India in his capacity as a Lutheran missionary.2 The importance of Zieganbalg’s ethnographic work to my discussion lies specifically in the material that he presented about gramadevatas (village goddesses):

Besides the gods and goddesses that have been described in the second part of this Geneology, these heathens worship also another set of deities, called…Gramadevatas, i.e. tutelary deities, which are supposed to protect the fields, villages, and towns from evil spirits, and to ward off all sorts of plagues, famine, pestilence, war, conflagration, and inundation, and are, in short, regarded as beings who, though they cannot bestow positive blessings, are able to prevent evil.3

While the issue of whether the gramadevatas can or cannot bestow positive blessings is highly debatable, Zieganbalg’s work was unique in many ways. As a foreigner and a Christian missionary, he presented information on the worship and nature of various gods and goddesses of south India that was collected from indigenous sources, oral and textual.4 Although he was preceded by a host of Jesuit missionaries who published their own studies about Indian culture and religion, it was Zieganbalg who first recognized the importance of gramadevatas within the pantheon of south Indian deities. He ascertained that gramadevatas were worshiped by almost all people within villages, especially those of its lowest castes,5 and regardless of sectarian affiliation. Ziegenbalg knew fairly well that the information he compiled was relevant not just in and around Tranquebar, where he was stationed, but throughout the whole of peninsular India, as well as on the island of Sri Lanka.6 That was why he was convinced that future Christian missionaries ought to possess knowledge of this widespread popular religious orientation in order to learn how to pitch the Christian gospel more successfully.

The Beginnings of a Pioneer’s Work. In July 1706, Ziegenbalg, accompanied by his missionary colleague Henry Pluetschau, arrived as an evangelical Lutheran minister at the Danish Colony at Tranquebar to start his first mission. Trained as a pietistic minister at the Halle University in Germany with professors August Hermann Francke (1663–1727), Joachim Lange (1670–1744), (p.11) and Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen (1670–1739), Ziegenbalg brought with him a confessional zeal that fueled his determination.

Initially, like other pietists of this time, August Hermann Francke was afraid that the purity of the Bible and its teachings would be perverted if Christianity were to spread outside of Europe. The fear of these pietists was directly related to the perceived compromises that earlier Jesuit missionaries had made in relation to Christian ideals in Asia in order to convert heathens to Christianity. Ziegenbalg had been greatly influenced by the ideas of pietists, especially Francke’s understanding of the Bible as direct and inspired revelation. He was determined that he would not fall into the rut that Jesuits had created by making various compromises.

By the time of Ziegenbalg’s arrival, Jesuit missionaries had worked among south Indians for nearly a century and a half since the time that the Portuguese had begun to occupy Goa. During this long period of time, their regard for south Indian religious culture took many different twists and turns: from loathing it to embracing it. To speed up the rate of conversions, on the recommendation of one of the first Jesuit missionaries, the famed Francis Xavier (1502–1552), the Portuguese imposed an inquisition that lasted for more than a century and a half from 1560 CE to 1712 CE.7 The inquisition was so severe that it created something of a controversy in Europe, the general sentiment of which was expressed by French philosopher Voltaire (1694–1778) in the following words:

Goa is sadly famous for its inquisition, which is contrary to humanity as much as to commerce. The Portuguese monks deluded us into believing that the Indian populace was worshipping The Devil, while it is they who served him.8

Branding Indian gods and goddesses as devilish in nature gave the Portuguese and the Jesuits a moral authority to be intolerant toward many expressions of Indian religiosity.9

Given Xavier’s low opinion of the natives and their cultures, it was hardly a secret that he did not have any interest or curiosity in learning anything about Indians except for their language, the essential component he needed to communicate his version of the gospel.10 Unlike Xavier, Alessandro Valignano (1539–1606), an educated aristocrat turned missionary, in an attempt to assist missionary work, wrote an elaborate but prejudiced account of the sub-cultures that he observed while traveling along the peninsula of India’s west coast from Diu to Cape Comorin.11 Valignano’s racist view of Indians may have stemmed from failed attempts to evangelize high-caste Indians. Following his predecessor Xavier, he later decided to move on to Japan and China. (p.12)

Even though Valignano and Xavier gave up in frustration in their attempts to convert Indians, there were other Jesuit enthusiasts who came to India with different strategies. Supported by a liberal pope, a number of other Jesuit missionaries, such as the Englishman Thomas Stephens (1549–1619) and the Italian Roberto de Nobili (1577–1656), educated themselves in south Indian cultures by studying south Indian languages and Sanskrit texts. Both wrote Christian propaganda tracts in local languages. Obviously, religious culture and language cannot be completely decoupled. Although Stephens developed a love for the local languages, he was clear in noting the difference between the Hindu religion and Christianity: “…as great as that which exists between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, heaven and hell, God and the devil.”12 De Nobili took a step further by becoming enamored with the brahman way of life, especially many aspects of Hindu ascetic lifestyle, a lifestyle that he, himself, came to adopt. In the same way that Stephens had separated language from religion, de Nobili separated brahman lifestyle from the idolatrous religion that brahmans subscribed to, a religion he labeled “gentilism” or “gentile religion.” His explanation and defense for adopting the lifestyle of brahman ascetics was to attract brahmans, the gentiles, to the Christian faith.13 To put this in perspective, even Ziegenbalg in the next century would not have chosen de Nobili’s path, although he might have agreed with Nobili about the direct correlation between studying Indian religious texts and achieving effective Christian missionary work. In fact, by adopting revolutionary lifestyles and by introducing indigenous forms of worship and rituals into the Christian church service, de Nobili and his followers created a controversy among their fellow Jesuit missionaries and an outrage among future Protestant groups such as the Halle Pietists.

Although de Nobili’s aim was the same as other Jesuits, his approach was a significant departure from theirs. While his observations on south Indian religion were not apologetic, it was not in any way sympathetic either.14 In fact, de Nobili used his understanding of Hindu religious aspects effectively in his several publications to argue for the superiority of Christianity.15 With his sophisticated theological arguments, he won over some influential brahmans locally. Because of his effective missionary work, de Nobili managed to convince the pope of his strategy. Thus, with Rome’s support, a certain number of “Malabarian rites” were allowed into Madurai churches. This conciliation with south Indian forms of religious culture was ridiculed by Protestants in Europe. They scorned how Catholic missionaries in the name of conversion corrupted the Christian faith and compromised the Christian value system.16 It seems that in the beginning of his mission, Ziegenbalg was in agreement with Halle pietists on this matter. What factors influenced a change in his view and consequently how he revised his missionary strategies are now addressed. (p.13)

Onsite Lessons Learned. In spite of the reluctance of Danish authorities to welcome him and his colleague, Ziegenbalg started his missionary work with great enthusiasm and with an ambition of converting as many people to Christianity as quickly as possible.17 Like his Jesuit predecessors, Ziegenbalg arrived in south India without any knowledge of the local language but with a particular trait of temperament that led his biographer to call him a “hot head.”18 His own report to his Halle authorities shows both his inability to understand local religious sentiments as well as his tactlessness in how to express his feelings:

Yesterday taking a Walk in the Country, we came to an Idol-Temple, wherein Ispara’s [Isvara’s] Lady (he being one of their first-rate Gods) is worshipped. Her Ladyship was surrounded with abundance of other Gods made of Porcellain. We, being deeply affected with the Sight of so foppish a Set of Gods, threw some down to the Ground, and striking off the Heads of others, endeavour’d to convince this deluded People that their images were nothing but impotent and still Idols, utterly unable to protect themselves, and much less their Worshippers.19 [brackets mine]

It is not a surprise that Zieganbalg’s eagerness to convert too many locals in too little time to Christianity without understanding local sentiment resulted in a rebellion by a certain section of Hindus. Because of this, within a year of his arrival, Ziegenbalg found himself jailed by the Danish authorities for disturbing the social equilibrium.20 At this juncture, Ziegenbalg seemed to begin in earnest a serious and sustained reflection upon his frustrated methods of conversion. For, upon release, his next step toward understanding south Indian society, its religion, ethics, and culture, was to start studying Tamil and Tamil manuscripts. This study turned out to be an eye-opener. Zieganbalg was impressed by Tamil Saiva bhakti (devotional) works that question the religious authority of brahmans. Other Tamil texts on ethics seemed to astonish him, as he saw how closely they compared to his own pietistic principles.21

Zeigenbalg’s studies of Tamil literature were followed by his discussions with Tamil scholars who would teach him about local practices, especially religious rituals and worship. Ironically, it was the nature of his German pietistic devotional background that helped him to see potential among Tamils, including their lower castes, a potential that he understood was dormant because of their unacceptable ways of heathenish ritual observance. Tensions with Halle pietists began when Ziegenbalg, influenced by the Enlightenment belief in natural religion imbued in all people, put his ideas into experimental practice in Tranquebar.22 (p.14)

Experience Rejected. Ziegenbalg achieved a measure of success in converting south Indians among the lower castes by educating their children of both sexes and by translating the New Testament into colloquial Tamil. Attributing his accomplishment to his acquaintance of native people and their culture, he wanted future generations of missionaries to understand the nature of south Indian religions so that “they will learn to grow in grace and truth and defeat the devil forcefully in his kingdom of darkness through him [i.e., Jesus Christ].”23 With this inspiration he collected information from locals about their gods and goddesses.

In Europe, as he [Ziegenbalg] puts it, they had such “strange ideas about the Malabarees”. They considered them to be not “reasonable, sensible, and clever people, but wild, untamed and coarse folks, whom one could never bring under a human order, let alone to Christianity”. In spite of the “darkness of Satan” which he saw and all the “horrible errors, the beloved reader in Europe could readily see” how far they had come by the light of their reason in the knowledge of God and of the natural order, and how by their natural powers, they often put to shame many Christians by their upright life, also showing a much greater striving for the future life”.24 [brackets mine]

Ziegenbalg himself had shared those “strange” notions when he first came to south India and had thought that Europeans Christians could change the heathen. But now he wanted to share the transformation of his outlook with ministerial colleagues and the European public so that they could understand how the south Indian field was a fertile ground for receiving the gospel. In his own mind, he believed that the ethical principles of the south Indians were good, but that what he understood separately to be their religious beliefs needed to be changed. Here it is interesting to note the proverbial bifurcation between ethics and religion reflective of the preponderant Protestant reliance upon faith or belief, in contrast to an understanding of good works being basically constitutive of the Christian religious path. And, for this reason, although it was unpleasant, Ziegenbalg had thus claimed that, because of what he had learned, the onus was upon him to compile an account of south Indian religious beliefs to be published for European consumption so that the European Christian community would be motivated to take mercy on south Indians in order to bring them out of their stupidity, their absence of faith in the one true god.25

However strong and compelling his petition might be, when his manuscript arrived at Halle, pietists such as his mentor Francke denigrated it, saying that the missionaries were sent out to extirpate heathenism, and not to spread (p.15) such heathenish nonsense in Europe.26 Francke’s view also corresponded to the position of sola scriptura and absolute faith in the god who had inspired it27 Eventually, following Ziegenbalg’s repeated positions, the Halle authorities would publish a highly truncated and modified version of Ziegenbalg’s manuscript under a different title, in which the author’s name was mentioned only casually toward the end as a provider of the content.28 With Sanskrit studies on the rise, European scholars were interested almost exclusively in learning about the more philosophical aspects of India’s religious traditions and considered Ziegenbalg’s Halle reports, which contained popular religious aspects, as naive and worthless to be considered.29 Another century elapsed before Halle revised its opinion of Ziegenbalg’s work, after it began to recognize its ethnographic significance. What had changed during this century is what I will consider next.

The Lead of “Oriental Jones.” By the late eighteenth century, the English East India Company, profiteers in trade, found itself unwittingly in control of vast Indian provinces. To administrate them effectively and to continue to amass great profits without getting into trouble, the company’s lead officials eventually realized a dire need to understand Indian people and their culture. With the company’s blessings, Sir William Jones (1746–1794), a philologist, who came to India as a British jurist with a background in classical languages, learned Sanskrit rapidly and proceeded to found the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1783.

On the third anniversary of the Asiatic Society, after a considerable comparison of the languages he had learned, Jones proclaimed that Sanskrit shared a common heritage with Greek, Latin, and probably with Gothic and Celtic languages.30 While this statement made him famous in the philological world, this very statement also bore the seeds for later racial theories. He also believed that as English derived from Greek and Latin, Sanskrit, by extension, was also part of the variegated inheritance of the British. For Jones, aspects of Hinduism based on Sanskrit texts were part of his own past heritage, as much as it was India’s, and thereby needed to be preserved and defended. His paternalistic European view extended as well to the Sanskritic Hindu goddesses Padma, Lakshmi, Parvati, Kali, Durga, Bhavani, Ganga, and Saraswati, all of whom he equated with various European deities.31 He treated popular goddesses Durga and Kali as one and the same. Since he believed that the higher philosophical aspects of Hinduism could contribute to the great European heritage, he attributed the negative qualities of Kali or Durga not so much to the nature of the goddess per se, but rather to deceitful clerics:

With all my admiration of the truly learned Brahmens, I abhor the sordid priestcraft of Durga’s ministers, but such fraud no more affects the (p.16) sound religion of the Hindus, than the lady of Loretto and the Romish impositions that affect our own rational faith.32

In this way, Jones protected “his” ancient religion from where, according to him, goddesses like Durga and Kali take their origin, as well as the Protestant form of Christianity to which he belonged, while criticizing effectively both the Roman Catholic clerics and the priests of popular goddess cults for encouraging base forms of ritual. Jones’s idea of Vedic Aryans sharing their culture with other European ancestors did not catch on among many orientalist scholars until well into the nineteenth century.

Repudiating Missionaries. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, encouraged by the success of Ziegenbalg’s first Danish mission in Tranquebar, a second mission was established in Serampore with William Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward as its first missionaries. Ward used negative descriptions of the rituals and worship of the goddess Durga to prove how the British had placed themselves in a unique position to uplift the popular Hindu morality from its shockingly deplorable state.

The songs and dances which the author has witnessed in the Hindoo temples at the time of the Doorga festival, at midnight, would disgrace a house of ill-fame….This is the religion of the Hindoo!

The author himself one year saw, from his own window at Serampore, in a procession on the river Ganges of the images of Doorga, sights so shockingly detestable…. Can we wonder, after this, that the Hindoos should be notoriously the most corrupt nation at present existing on the earth?33

Around the same time (1792–1823), a French missionary, Abbe J. A., Dubois, who was living in south India, studied Tamil and Sanskrit and composed a book on Hindu manners, customs, and ceremonies through his interviews with locals. He was paternalistic, as well as disparaging, in saying how the notion of God conceived originally by the Hindus was promising but how in the absence of “revelation,” it had devolved into “darkness.”34 He highlighted the popular idolatrous religious practices in brahmanic temples as well as the worship of gramadevatas, such as Tipamma and her six sisters. These he regarded as examples of this degeneration.

The goddess, placed in a beautifully ornamented palanquin, is carried in procession through the streets. In front of her there is another (p.17) divinity, a male. These two idols, which are entirely nude, are placed in immodest postures, and by help of a mechanism a disgusting movement is imparted to them as long as the procession continues. This disgusting spectacle, which is worthy of the depraved persons who look upon it, excites transports of mirth, manifested by shouts and bursts of laughter.. .

The goddess Tipamma of Mogur is not the only member of her family. She has six sisters, who are not in any way inferior to her in point of decency and politeness… .

There are temples in certain isolated places, too, where the most disgusting debauchery is the only service agreeable to the presiding deity.35

Dubois’s intention in reporting the spectacle as he observed it was obviously to lead his readers to the “consoling…religion of Jesus Christ.”36

Company Officials Follow Along. Some British administrators took cues from the missionaries, as well as from misconceived observations, to declare the follies of the uncivilized nature of natives and the disastrous effects of worship of female divinities. They postured themselves as saviors whose mission was to bring civilization to the brown man’s doorstep. Administrators such as William Sleeman in the middle of the nineteenth century wanted to elevate his own position in the colonial government by parading himself as a hero who had suppressed a seditious group guided by an uncouth female goddess.37 Supporting the rhetoric of evangelicals, he blamed the culture of devotion to the goddess Kali/Durga/Bhavani as a threat to the basis of humanity.38

A Change of Strategy Required. Meanwhile, following William Jones, in the final years of the eighteenth century and then well into the nineteenth, much progress was made in western Indological studies by scholars like Henry Colebrooke, Nathaniel Halhead, Charles Wilkins, and others who were translating Sanskrit works and then offering their interpretations of Indian religions.39 The learned attempts by these colonial scholars to interpret India’s past, as well as their stated rationales for doing so, created a telling effect on the latest generation of Christian missionaries who were officially allowed into British colonial domains.40 If they were to change India, missionaries like Rev. Alexander Duff understood the importance of gaining a deeper knowledge about Indian tradition.41 In this process, some missionaries turned into philologists and scholars of India’s past.

Prominent among these was Rev. Robert Caldwell, who had studied south Indian languages and published his study on Dravidian grammar in 1856. This work obviously was aimed at helping the missionaries to study south (p.18) Indian culture, while at the same time endorsing Jones’s line of thought that Rg Vedic culture indicates a superior but now lost understanding of religion.42 While Caldwell identified the legacy of brahmans as responsible for the preservation of civilized and more rational aspects of Hindu religion, he vilified the religious devotion of ammans (mothers or gramadevatas) as sharing many common traits with devils.43 However, whether Caldwell intended it or not, his study of Dravidian language helped, to some extent, to recognize the independence and ancient character of Dravidian literature while thereby attracting other missionaries and administrators, albeit for the cause of Christianity, to study popular south Indian traditions. It was precisely within this context that the value of Ziegenbalg’s work was finally recognized.

Zieganbalg’s Work Exhumed. So, now, a century and a half later, the time was ripe to take up Ziegenbalg’s work by German missionaries like Dr. Wilhelm Germann, and Rev. G. J. Metzger, who undertook to edit and publish the full extent of Ziegenbalg’s work and to translate it into English.44 Although progress in Indological studies had changed the atmosphere such that a need to publish Ziegenbalg’s work was palpable, obviously this historical era also provided its own sets of biases and conditions that prohibited Zieganbalg’s work from being published without some revisions. Germann, who added some additional material to the original work, presumably to give it more clarity, and Metzger, who took many liberties in editing and translating the manuscript into English, in the process removed some information that he claimed was repetitious, rewrote the introduction, and added appendices. Caldwell, who then reviewed Ziegenbalg’s work in this newly edited form, did not find it as objectionable to change the original content, although he did praise Ziegenbalg’s study as invaluable because it recorded the statements and ideas of the local people who at that time were free of any contemporary European influences.45 The irony here is that although both Germann and Metzger agreed that the elapsed century and a half had not resulted in any change in the relevant aspects of local practice in Hindu religion since Ziegenbalg first recorded his observations, the pretext to change his original composition was to make it more presentable for the nineteenth-century readers who were of a different mindset than Europeans of the previous century. Indeed, what certainly had not changed during the elapsed time period, as it turned out, was the zeal of the missionaries to propagate Christianity or their view of Indians as depraved heathens who needed to be rescued earnestly.46

What had changed in a century and a half? As I have noted above, scholarly understanding of Indians and their culture by the west had changed (p.19) significantly. Indeed, the second half of the nineteenth century saw an increasing number of scholars of mostly European, though some of Indian, origin, contributing to Indological studies either by translating texts like the Vedas, epics and Puranas, or by interpreting the past with the help of ancient Indian texts. These texts were acknowledged implicitly or explicitly as having derived from an Aryan or Indo-European heritage and hence were viewed as superior to the popular religious culture of south India, regarded as a lower form of religion originating from a non-Aryan source.47 Whereas Ziegenbalg had acknowledged that the worship and ritual of gramadevatas was different from that of the gods and goddesses in urban major temples in important ways, he did not in any way indicate that the two forms had derived from different ethnic or racial origins. Here is an example of the type of comparison that Ziegenbalg offered:

They [the Gramadevatas and the local goddesses] are not respected in the same way as the Mummurttis [Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva] and also worshipped with entirely different offerings. As a sign that they rule over and deal with devils the South Indians offer them animals which they consider impure, such as swine, goats and other animals. None from the Brahmin-caste serves as priest in the temples of these gods, because people from this caste do not even kill anything that has life and thus allow themselves to be [ritually] polluted.48

But a century and a half later, Metzger, like his contemporaries who were influenced by the Aryan theory of Vedic superiority over other forms of Indian religion, added a footnote in his English translation of Ziegenbalg’s work to make it apparent that the two forms of religion were idiosyncratic:

The worship of the tutelar deities and the demons that are associated with them forms, in fact, a distinct religion, which differs very much from that of Siva and Vishnu…The Brahmans and others of higher castes are, in general, ashamed of worshipping the Gramadevatas and their associates.”49

This separation of popular religion from the brahmanic form was a clear shift from an age of innocence when there was no notion of Aryans as the authors of the Vedas or their connections to Europeans. This change of view of Indian society as constituting two divergent forms was what determined, to a large degree, the course of the study and the estimation of popular goddess cults for the next century.

(p.20) Perceptions of the Goddess: Colonial Interpretations of the Other

In this section, I will explore the appearance of a dominant theoretical pattern of Indological studies that surfaced between the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries in order to determine motivations for and assumptions of colonial interpretations regarding Hinduism, particularly in relation to popular goddesses. In my two-pronged approach, I will argue: 1) how the seeds sowed by the late eighteenth-century Indological studies starting from William Jones developed into a fully fledged theory by Max Muller that set the tone for his successors; and 2) how these theories portrayed popular Hindu goddesses in relation to Vedic religion; further, how these opinions matched their theoretical propositions and aims. These two inquiries are then applied to the rest of my discussion of the writings of British scholars, administrators, missionaries, and archaeologists of the twentieth century to assess whether or not, or in what ways, racial biases influenced their interpretations of popular Hinduism and goddess traditions, especially south Indian goddess traditions. The ramifications of this are discussed in the last section to indicate their relevance to my study in the following chapters.

Max Muller’s Trademark. Max Muller’s public persona was such that he appears as an Aryan supremacist promoting Sanskrit culture. Muller, who never set foot in India, showed in his personal letters his real intention in translating the Rg Veda into English:

It [the Rg Veda] is the root of their religion and to show them what the root is, I am sure, the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last three thousand years.50 [brackets mine]

While this was his private confession, Vedic literature and the ancient Indian past did receive some credibility in his public lectures. But when it came to the subject of Hindu goddesses, he believed that the goddesses were decidedly of “a non-Vedic spirit,” and a “non-Aryan pollution of the true Hindu tradition,” a racial slur not only to goddess worship itself but also to the entirety of what was called non-Vedic culture.51 But then, Muller was not the first linguist who had dismissed the significance of Hindu goddesses. His predecessor, Colebrooke, had expressed the same view. David Kopf has stated that both Muller and Colbrooke held the Vedic world in high esteem but regarded contemporary Hindu practices as pantheistic and especially viewed the worship of fertility goddesses and the popular goddess Kali as a personification of evil.52 What was essentially a racially biased attitude toward popular goddesses, such (p.21) as Kali and others, slowly but surely spread to make its mark by the end of twentieth century, as well as throughout much of twentieth-century western scholarship.

As I mentioned above, Muller’s theory did not seem to make much impact upon his hardworking contemporary, Sir Monier Monier-Williams, who as the Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University in 1831 was dedicated to promoting Christianity through his translations and interpretations of Sanskrit works. As Boden Professor, Monier-Williams had been expected to follow the trajectory established by H. H. Wilson.

H. H. Wilson, true to his vocational aim of demonstrating the superiority of Christianity, opined that “the Vedas are human and very ordinary writings, that the Puranas are modern and unauthentic, and even that the Tantras are not entitled to respect.”53 In that order of deterioration, Wilson went on to assert that most of the aspects of the practical religion of Hindus are “of an exceedingly mischievous and disgraceful nature.” He referred to Kali as an “impure goddess.” One can see his work as resonating with the sentiments of contemporary Christian missionaries.54 In showing cracks in Hinduism, Wilson’s mission was to help the Christian cause and not to emphasize or elevate the contribution of Aryans.

Succeeding Wilson, Monier-Williams’s rationale for scholarship was really not very different from Wilson’s.55 What was different, however, is that Monier-Williams did not seem to overly concern himself with showing the dominance of Aryans over non-Aryans. Agreeing somewhat with Jones, but with no passionate tone or suggestion of ancestral links, Monier-Williams suggested the probability that popular Hindu goddesses, who he called “Mothers” and whose variety and extension of worship he enumerated with greater detail, originated from Aryan culture itself.56 By suggesting this probability, Monier-Williams, in a way, had rebuffed the racially based theory articulated by Muller that there is a major divide in Hinduism along Aryan and non-Aryan racial lines and that the Hindu goddess is non-Aryan. Also, Monier-Williams did not see any inherent contradictions between the Saivite Hindu theistic conception of interrelated male and female energy on the one hand, and the commonplace practical worship by Hindu laity of village mothers in the form of a stone. In this sense Monier-Williams had achieved a remarkably sophisticated understanding of the integration of Hindu religious thought and popular cultic practice.57

In spite of his specific agenda to study Hindu culture for the purpose of eventually proving the superiority of Christianity, Monier-Williams’s descriptive and analytical portrayal was, by some measure, the most objective and complete understanding rendered when compared to his Indological predecessors and as well as many of his successors. (p.22)

Muller Deployed. Unlike Monier-Williams, Rev. Robert Caldwell seemed to authenticate the view that the Dravidians, despite being the first inhabitants of India, were indebted to their Aryan counterparts for the sophisticated aspects of Indian civilization. Assisting the British administration as well as the Christian missionaries in the late nineteenth century, John Murdoch, an educator who prepared school textbooks for south Indian students attending Christian missionary schools, took Caldwell’s proposition of Dravidian cultural subordination to a further level. The general theme that Murdoch wanted to popularize among south Indian youth was that the civilized presence in the south has been the brahman “race” who came from outside, just like the British, with the high probability that these brahmans share in the same racial Aryan component as the British.58 Setting this tone, in one of his textbooks, Murdoch stressed the evils of a degraded popular Hinduism:

A tutelary god among the Hindus is one that delivers from the calamities believed to be due to demons. The village deities (grama-devata) probably represent the local fetiches (A fetich or fetish is any object, living or inanimate, looked upon as the representative or dwelling place of a god) once held in veneration by uncivilized aboriginal tribes…59

For Murdoch, the veneration of Dravidian deities was commensurate with the loss of religious credibility. As he put it: “Truly Hinduism is a mixture of sin and folly.”60 Murdoch’s proposal, therefore, was whether brahmans or Dravidians, that there is only one way for Hindus to redeem themselves from their depraved conditions: to renounce Hinduism and Hindu culture and to embrace Christianity.

Although Max Muller eventually rescinded his racial theory, his successors continued to use it as a basis to study Indian culture. Isaac Taylor was one of those who employed new discoveries in race science to question Max Muller’s statement about equating languages with races but not his opinion about the racial superiority of Aryans over their Dravidian counterparts or their “foul Dravidian worship of Siva and Kali, and the adoration of the lingam and the snake.”61

Gustav Oppert, a professor of philology at the University of Madras and a Telugu language translator for the British Indian government at Madras, was one of the few scholars who did an elaborate study on south Indian culture, using linguistic evidence as well as ethnological observations.62 He identified south Indians as “Gauda-Dravidians” and made links to European origins.63 But, at the same time, like Caldwell, he thoroughly bought into the idea of the racial supremacy of Aryans, which led to him to say that the “Gauda-Dravidian” (p.23) race possesses ugly features, is rude and has inherited a superstitious religious culture, clearly indicating Oppert’s derogative stance toward them and their worship of popular deities.64 In spite of centuries of intermingling between two races, he opined that some Dravidian religious features were still prominent in villages in the form of the worship of gramadevatas as chief local goddesses, with Aiyanar as a supreme deity.65

Whether they hated the British or considered British rule as a blessing, many English-educated Hindus, in response to the colonial criticism of many aspects of Hindu religion, wanted to rationalize their religion so that it could withstand criticism and meet western standards of rationality. Representing this latter group was an anthropologist, T. Ramakrishna, who documented village life in Andhra at the end of the nineteenth century with the encouragement of a British official, Sir M. E. Grant Duff, the Chancellor of Madras University. Like his colonial masters, Ramakrishna believed that the real Hindu religion was based on Sanskrit Hindu scriptures, while all folk forms were mere aberrations generated by the wicked and followed by the ignorant. His documentation of an Andhra village reveals his view of how well a hierarchical yet interdependent small village society could function if it only could follow hereditary caste professions as prescribed by sacred Hindu scriptures instead of succumbing to deviations such as worshiping the village goddess:

Worship in the temple of the village goddess is of a very low kind. Animals are sacrificed, intoxicating drugs are taken and crude songs are sung. Hideous dances also form part of the worship.66

Ramakrishna hoped that with the help of British education, ignorance could be driven out of the country.67 However, unlike his western counterparts, the difference with Ramakrishna was that he did not perceive Hindu religion along racial lines. As a native who was put in a defensive situation, it is not surprising that Ramakrishna would be eager to reform those aspects of his society that did not meet the British standards.

Drumming for the British. At the same time, not every colonialist needed the tool of Aryan racial theory to prove the greatness of the British. At the turn of the twentieth century, Edgar Thurston, a British official, compiled an exhaustive ethnographic account of south Indians through culling the British administrative records and consulting ethnological documentaries such as that of Ramakrishna’s.68 In his account, Thurston’s aim was to show the changes the British government had wrought in reforming the common people of their superstitions and their practice of “hair raising” rituals to fulfill vows made to village goddesses. Thurston cites the reports of the Government (p.24) of Madras, which were collected in 1854, to rationalize the government’s interference by banning religious acts such as swinging from iron hooks inserted through the skin of one’s back.69 Thurston’s job in documenting this information was, on the one hand, to show to educated Indians like Ramakrishna what a noble cause this was and, on the other, to encourage British magistrates to use their skills in persuading the public that the British government was working for a just cause.

In treating Aryan heritage as related to their own, European Indologists regarded popular goddess religion as boorish at best. Scholars like Arthur Berriedale Keith, who published Religion and Philosophy of the Vedas and Upanisads, argued how Vedic religion became so tolerant in absorbing various lower forms that it lost its character when the religion of goddesses was merged.70 With this approach, Keith relegated the local goddesses of sickness under the category of “evil beings” who were nothing but “disease demons.”71

While the above authors treated the subject of popular goddesses as a subheading of their broader study areas, it was Henry Whitehead, an Anglican bishop of Madras in the early twentieth century, who attempted, for the first time, an extended study focused exclusively on popular village religion. He published his work with the title The Village Gods of South India.72 As a missionary, Whitehead studied village religion with the same conviction as Ziegenbalg.

To the Christian the study has a still greater interest, because, amid all their repulsive features, these rites contain instinctive ideas and yearnings which find their satisfaction in the highest truths of Christianity.73

Village Hinduism prepared, Christianity completed. Make no mistake, Whitehead agreed with Muller and his followers in identifying Hinduism as containing “a strange medley of the most diverse forms of religion, ranging from the most subtle and abstruse systems of philosophy to primitive forms of animism,” the former being the contribution of Aryans who had felt the burden of civilizing the “simple Dravidian folk” so that “the primitive forms of Dravidian religion have been modified to certain extant [so] that now both forms of religion [are] followed by all south Indians except the isolated hill tribes.”74 [brackets mine]

Overlapping with Whitehead’s work, W. T. Elmore, an American who came to south India to study village religion for the first time with purely scholarly interest, published his own study. Elmore was not a missionary but he, nonetheless, was convinced that the south Indian village religion was purely (p.25) Dravidian, as exemplified by the title he gave to his book, Dravidian Gods in Modern Hinduism: A Study of Local and Village Deities in South India.75 As far as the historical relationship between Aryans and Dravidians was concerned, he shared the same views as his missionary contemporary Whitehead, and other British colonial predecessors like Oppert and Baden-Powell:

Although the Dravidians were worshippers of “mad gods,” they were most tenacious of their religious rites. The Aryans did not attempt to compel them to give up their gods, but adopted the policy of bringing the people with their religion in to the fold of Hinduism.76

Elmore did not stop at branding Dravidian deities as “mad.” Whether it was his complete ignorance of the Dravidian literary past or whether he was audacious enough to disregard the works of Caldwell and others, he stated:

The Dravidians are not a literary people, and their religion has no literature. There are no Vedas or other writings telling of their gods.77

Somewhat contemporary to Whitehead and Elmore was W. Crooke, who reiterated the normative view regarding the civilizing influence of Aryans on non-Aryan races. Crooke, comparing the scholarship on the subject of goddesses from the time of Ziegenbalg to Bishop Whitehead, mapped out various local goddess traditions in the Indian subcontinent to argue that the worship of cruder and brutal forms of goddesses was the norm in those areas where there is less Aryan influence:

These cults, in their more ecstatic or hysterical form, prevail chiefly among the Dravidians of the south, where they are connected with practices like devil-dancing, spirit possession and the like, which is less common among the more sober and less excitable races of northern India. In that part of the country it is only in places outside Aryavarta, the original Holy Land in the south-western Panjab, that the more brutal forms of animal sacrifice and ecstatic rites are found, as at the shrine of Kali in Calcutta, Kamakhya in Assam, Devi Patan in northern Oudh, and in Nepal.78

Crooke’s view was fully consistent with many colonial scholars and missionaries who portrayed non-Aryan forms of religiosity, such as the rituals connected with the worship of goddesses, as vulgar and rough, with the rituals’ central location being south India. (p.26)

No Dichotomies Employed. H. Krishna Sastri, an archaeologist who belonged to the same time period as Whitehead and Elmore but a quarter-century later than Ramakrishna, was one of the very few scholars who studied the images of gods and goddesses both in the large urban Hindu temples and in those worshiped by villagers in humble rural settings. Unlike Ramakrishna, his book aimed not to glorify any particular group, but only to record strictly the iconography, rituals, and mythologies of the images of gods and goddesses as he observed them. He differentiated the worship in the big temples as “orthodox” from the worship at small humble shrines as “village,” where he explained how different caste groups of priests, “Brahman” in the former, and “non-Brahman” or “Sudra” in the latter, served:

In the temples dedicated to the village deities the ceremonial is not much different. Brahmans however rarely officiate and animal sacrifices are generally offered, especially when the village is threatened with an epidemic or with serious scarcity or famine. Vedic incantations are not uttered in these temples.79

To show how these two forms of worship are not exclusive, Krishna Sastri also documented the overlap between these two traditions.

The worship in the shrines of village goddesses is generally performed by non-Brahmans….Sometimes, but very rarely, Brahmans also worship these fearful goddesses installed even within the sacred precincts of orthodox temples….On such occasions it is stated that the Sudra priest takes the place of the usual Brahmana and an entrance opening directly into the outer courtyard of the temple—kept closed on the other days of the year—is now thrown open for the goddess to receive animal sacrifices and worship from her Sudra or other devotees.80

Scholars like Krishna Sastri represented a section of Indian scholarship that relied in their interpretations mostly on iconographic manuals as well as contemporary practices, and yet did not seem to be convinced about the racial categories with which the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Indologists had been obsessed.81

Possible Goddess Origins and Indus Culture. The chance discovery in the 1920s of the ruins of the cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro along the Indus River and its tributaries provided a different twist to the existing understanding of races and their role in India’s past, as well as the historicity of its goddess worship. Aspects of this crucial discovery of a civilization unearthed in (p.27) Harappa and Mohenjodaro were first published in 1924 by John Marshall and later substantiated by Henry Sayce and others.82 These studies pushed the age of the Indus civilization back to 3000 BCE, along with its worship of fertility cults. It also forced the consideration of the possible antiquity of Dravidian speaking groups in India and their capability of developing a high civilization before the migration of Aryan peoples into the region.83

Although Marshall believed in the simplistic conception of Aryans as handsome and Dravidians as ugly, as per colonial Vedic translations, he admitted that there was no sufficient archaeological proof to figure out the physical characteristics of those who formed the population of the Indus civilization. Leaving this issue aside, the religion Marshall observed in the ruins of the first great civilization was at odds with that of the Vedas.

In the Vedic pantheon the female element is almost wholly subordinate to the male, and neither the Mother Goddess nor Siva [with whom, however, the Vedic Rudra was afterwards to be identified] has any place among its members. Among the Indus cults those of the Mother Goddess and Siva are prominent, and the female elements appear to be co-equal with, if not to predominate over, the male.84 [brackets mine]

Marshall’s observations pushed back into the hoary past to find the antiquity of fertility cults in the form of the worship of a “mother goddess” as a central part of the Indus civilization. The unearthed female terracotta figurines, either pregnant or carrying a child, were seen as physical evidence pointing in this direction.85 In any case, while the antiquity of goddess origins was an impressive find, its association with Dravidians, who continued to be seen as subordinate to Aryans, did not make it a sophisticated religion either. The discovery of Indus civilization eventually led to a healthy debate about the source of goddess traditions that is useful to understand my study, and which I will take up in the next section.

Thus, the use of terms “Aryan,” “non-Aryan,” and “Dravidian” had become standard by the second half of the twentieth century, although the racial connotations of these words changed significantly since their first application in the eighteenth century. It should also be clear by now, with some exceptions, why it is that goddesses have been viewed in general as marginally religious (or “heathen”), and therefore why it is that only recently the study of goddesses has emerged as an important line of inquiry, both in western and Indian academic contexts. Most Indians, particularly from the south, and most western academics who are well acquainted with Indian religious culture, know that goddesses are the most ubiquitous form of deity veneration in so-called Hindu (p.28) tradition. Why their study has been neglected historically in western academic circles is blatantly clear from the assumptions intrinsic to the European perspectives that I have outlined so far. Below I discuss how most of the germane post-colonial scholarship has generated different frameworks to study Indian culture and how this framework helped to interpret goddess traditions in a more realistic light. This discussion also indicates the interpretive strategies I have adopted in writing this book.

Goddesses Framed: (Within Theories about Hinduism)

The middle of the twentieth century was a period of experimentation in terms of finding a proper framework to analyze Indian society and Hindu religion. While some scholars in the post-colonial era continued to use “Aryan and Dravidian” either loosely to distinguish north from south or with an agenda to defend a weaker group, others found these terms inadequate or distorting. To interpret their field data effectively, these scholars proposed newer and, in some cases, more accurate and appropriate categories. I quote Louis Dumont in this regard who, while working to understand south Indian village gods and goddesses, found that earlier scholarship on the subject was distorting the present reality. Pointing out how a popular south Indian deity, Aiyanar, was portrayed first by Ziegenbalg and later by Oppert and Whitehead with very different, contrasting opinions and confusing assertions, Dumont reacted in the following manner:

But the result first of all from hasty interpretations rooted in the idea, which has done so much harm, [is] that Indian culture is merely a juxtaposition of Aryan and so-called Dravidian or other elements.[brackets mine]86

That India’s religious culture cannot be simply reduced to the interplay of “Aryan and Dravidian” became one of the underlying issues for much of post-colonial scholarship in efforts to explore new ways of interpreting the religion and society encountered in Indian villages.

There has been a veritable explosion of goddess studies, especially in the last three decades, that have articulated some promising theories and analyses. What I attempt in this section is a broad-strokes description of the frameworks used by post-colonial and post-modern scholarship to interpret the significance of goddess traditions focused on village and popular goddesses such as Kali or Durga. My aim is to assess how various goddesses have been portrayed and understood by more recent scholarship in order to begin to strategize the vocabulary that I will employ in the following chapters. (p.29)

My discussion of various models of interpretation that have been proposed by various scholars in the following pages does not fit into any neat chronological order, as often there are many overlaps with one group of scholars following one model for a few decades with others arguing this same model and applying alternatives in their own studies. As such, the material is treated not so much in chronological sequence but under the categories that the scholars proposed.

Sanskritization. “Sanskritization” has been understood by many scholars as a social process that has influenced various levels of hierarchical Indian society, a yardstick to measure how various components of literary and ritual brahmanical Hinduism have been deployed within local contexts to bolster status. M. N. Srinivas, a native anthropologist, was first to coin the term to explain how some castes manage to climb up the social ladder by Sanskritizing their life style. Srinivas further identified “Sanskritization” as a process that influenced “[t]‌he rites and beliefs of the castes occupying the lower rungs of the caste-ladder as well as the rites and beliefs of outlying communities hidden away in the forest-clothed mountains of India” and gave rise to various forms of Hinduism.87 At the same time Srinivas also recognized the fusion that occurs between Sanskritic and non-Sanskritic systems of rituals and beliefs with brahmans and untouchables represented on either end of the hierarchical system, resulting in various new articulations of Hindu tradition.

Geographical Division. Srinivas attempted to classify various forms of Hinduism by geographical division, and suggested the categories of “‘All-India Hinduism,’ ‘Peninsular Hinduism,’ ‘Regional Hinduism,’ and finally purely ‘Local Hinduism.’”88 In this analysis, the brahman caste is seen as the bastion and promoter of the “Sanskritization” process. For Srinivas, many cultural expressions, including local “blood-thirsty goddesses” as the lowest of the categories at the receiving end, can be subjected to this process.89 Srinivas traced this extensive influence of “Sanskritization” to the propaganda of reformist movements and improvement in the modern communication system. From my own field observations, I think that Srinivas is right about the cause and extent of the recent Sanskritization process.

“Low and High” Culture. Some twenty years after he proposed the “geographical division” in Coorg, Srinivas studied a multi-caste village in the same state of Karnataka. In this study, he ranked the local cultures as “higher/lower” or “superior/inferior,” in which “the articulated criteria of ranking were usually ritual, religious or moral resulting in concealing the importance of secular criteria.”90 In this sense, those caste groups that have numerical and economic strength, borrow the customs, ritual, and lifestyle of the higher and more Sanskritized castes to move up the ladder of the caste hierarchy. (p.30) In this context, Srinivas wondered whether improved health services, which effectively tackled epidemics, had an impact on the worship of gramadevatas and helped to increase the popularity of Sanskritic deities. My study in the following chapters reveals that although Sanskritization is a process influencing many dimensions of the society, including the worship of gramadevatas, the improved health services for human beings and domestic animals did not alleviate the need of worshiping gramadevatas.

Great and Little Traditions. The categories of “little and great” traditions to distinguish different Hinduisms were originally proposed by Robert Redfield and Milton Singer and were later followed by a host of scholars.91

Paul Wiebe, in his study of religious changes in a small town called Peddur in Andhra Pradesh, using Sanskritization as a measure, employed these categories to show how the worship of goddesses and spirits gain more importance among lower castes.92

By following great and little traditions on the basis of Sanskritization, Wiebe identified the worship of goddesses and spirits in village Andhra as a “little tradition” containing very little or no Sanskritization that was, therefore, mostly followed by the lowest spectrum of the society in Peddur. It is not clear whether Wiebe was including goddesses like Lakshmi, who is worshiped during certain calendrical festivals by higher castes, in this equation. Wiebe noted that Sanskritization is gaining ground with male deities receiving increasing importance at the cost of the goddesses. In general, goddesses and low castes on the one hand were fit into the little tradition category and male deities and high castes on the other were fit into the great tradition. An interesting question that could be posed at this juncture is this: since it is actually the worship of the gramadevatas that is so ubiquitous throughout south India when compared to the cultic presence of the so-called “higher,” or Sanskrit deities, which are male deities who are buttressed by extensive literary traditions, doesn’t the goddess tradition itself form something of a “great tradition” in its own right, especially since it is far more prevalent throughout the various strata of religious culture?

Parochialization vs. Universalization. Studying Kishan Garhi village, Marriott noticed certain processes that he called “parochialization” and “universalization,” which helped to keep both “little” and “great” traditions in coexistence and equilibrium. “Parochialization” occurs as a “downward movement and transformation of contents between great and little traditions,” whereas “universalization” happens when a deified spirit of a family becomes public and at times spreads beyond the village.93 Nav Durga of great tradition, worshiped as “the local female godling Naurtha,” serves as example of parochialization, while a deified ascetic of the next district becomes the deity of Kishan Garhi as part of universalization. (p.31)

While the terminology applied to differentiate the deities of local relevance and the goddesses of pan-India is not as relevant to this study, the processes that Marriott noted hold true in many villages and towns of Andhra, as is illustrated through some examples I discuss in the next two chapters.

Aryan and non-Aryan/Dravidian. Following somewhat in the footsteps of Srinivas was S. C. Dube, who studied a village in Andhra, but who also believed that there was great Aryan fusion with non-Aryan groups, leading to the consolidation of Indian society and its Hindu religion.94 Even so, he did not seem to perceive how any aspects of village life, including its religion, are divided along Aryan/non-Aryan lines. Instead, like Srinivas, what he identified was various shades of Hinduism fitting into a geographical division, with some deities worshiped at the village level, others in large urban areas, and still others at the pan-Indian level.95

Similar to Dube, there were anthropologists like Alan Beals, whose main focus was the functional aspects of religious rituals and who continued to employ terms such as “Dravidian” to imply “non-Brahmanical and non-Sanskritic” origins of the goddesses who accept non-vegetarian offerings. While the diet of the divinities played an important role for Beals in deciding whether their origins were either Aryan or Dravidian, the geographical division as proposed by Srinivas came in handy to substantiate the same.

Each jatra honors a different deity: Mariamma is the goddess of cholera and presumably of Dravidian or at least non-Brahminical origin; Ca Hussayn is a Muslim deity; Mallayya and Bhimayya both seem to be of Sanskritic or Brahminical origin although Mallayya’s antecedents are not so easily traced. Mallayya and Bhimayya both receive vegetarian offerings, while Mariamma and Ca Hussayn receive offerings of meat.

The myth and ritual of these jatras involve a weaving together of local, regional, and pan-Indian tradition.96

It is clear that the tribal background of deities like Mallayya and Bhimayya was not taken into account by Beals when categorizing them as Sanskritic or brahmanic deities. In chapter 4, with the help of some specific cases, I have illustrated the historical process of how tribal cults have been assimilated into mainstream Hinduism.

While introducing the classic text Devi Mahatmya, the first exhaustive account of the great goddess written in Sanskrit, Thomas Coburn says that the work “takes as its point of departure the affirmation that the heartbeat of India culture has been the on-going and continuous interplay of the indigenous culture with that of the invading Aryans….”97 He asserts that he is (p.32) following “the opinion of scholarship, both Indian and Western” which “is virtually unanimous.”98 In addition, Coburn also noted that there is much Indian and western scholarship that traces the origins of the goddess to non-Aryan sources, and at times, specifically to Dravidian, but without going into any racial descriptions and their implications.99

Scholars like Norman Brown also employed the categories of pre-Aryan/non-Aryan as a matter of fact to identify certain components of Hinduism, such as the worship of mother goddesses as “pre-Aryan, or at least non-Aryan.”100

Not only Sanskritization. Raising the issue of the unity of Hinduism, Milton Singer argued how “Srinivas’s ideas on ‘Sanskritization’ and ‘All-India spread’ offer one approach to the problem,” but do not address the all-India spread of other beliefs and practices, including the forms of “popular Hinduism” that could be either a diluted form of Sanskritic Hinduism or a form that is ancient/indigenous but has incorporated Sanskrit elements.101 Singer had a critical eye not only in identifying other divergent streams flowing into Hinduism, but also the probability of the existence of another widespread form which he named “popular Hinduism.”102 However, his categorizing this form as a “little” tradition posed further problems.

For example, scholars like David Mandelbaum questioned the usage of categories such as “little” and “great” traditions by arguing how their deployment could lead to a misrepresentation of people’s religious practices, since these two traditions are practiced universally in rural India.103 This is a legitimate concern: rarely does a Hindu worship only local deities without incorporating the deities of all-India significance.

Transcendental and Pragmatic. Mandelbaum’s argument was based on the fact that these distinctive aspects of religion are followed by the same people cutting across the hierarchical caste system, irrespective of their position in the order. To explain this phenomenon, he proposed “pragmatic” and “transcendental” complexes. Using a functionalist argument, Mandelbaum asserted that the pragmatic complex is defined as worship for personal gains and local needs, while the transcendental complex is meant for the welfare of community at large and for ultimate human goals, including “salvation.” He further discussed the idiosyncratic nature of these two types and their applicability to one and the same divinity, thus changing the divinity’s attributes in some minor ways.104

Mandelbaum explains how the two modes of worship fit into the realm of a goddess religiosity either at the village level or at the pan-Indian level. If these two complexes are complementary to each other and are applicable to all of the deities, then the question is whether it is necessary to have these markers at all.

Pauline Mahar Kolenda, who published her study earlier than Wiebe, noted a disparity in the observation of two different religious practices among a caste (p.33) group. Discussing the applicability of the theory of fate among a north Indian sweeper caste, Kolenda noticed an infraction, which she described as “parochialization of philosophical concepts.”105 In this “parochialization,” Kolenda stated that the sweepers resolve their paradoxical understanding of sudden deaths before their fated time and their concomitant worship of “supernaturals” (“the mother goddesses, godlings, and bhuut-preets”) as a function of differences between “fate and God”.106 Kolenda argued that the gap between the “Philosophical Hinduism” and the religion practiced by sweepers was due more to the difference between ideals and their real applicability in day-to-day lives. For example, she reports that although educated men of the sweeper caste under the influence of the Arya Samaj insist that their caste people should believe in only one god, they acquiesced to their worried wives who continued approaching goddesses, godlings, and others to help in critical matters of life and death. This phenomenon of contradictions between theory and practice is present at many levels in popular Hinduism. In my study, I attribute many of these paradoxes to the historical occurrence of the merging of various religious traditions.

Sanskritic and Non-Sanskritic/Textual and Local. In 1959, Edward Harper, in his study of the Totagadde village in the Western Ghats of Mysore State, categorized the supernaturals of the village into what he called “a tentative typology, purposely oversimplified to bring some order to otherwise chaotic data.” Devaru (vegetarian gods) were considered as ritually pure, devate (meat-eating deities), and devva (blood-demanding spirits) corresponded to the division of Sanskritic gods, local or secondary deities, and malevolent spirits, in that order.107 Even though Harper identified devaru as “Sanskritic” gods in order to “refer to the way the supernatural realm is organized by contemporary inhabitants of a village,” he was not convinced that the categorization of gods into Sanskritic and non-Sanskritic was methodologically sound.108

Lawrence Babb identified the religion practiced in his field area of the Chhattisgarh region of eastern Madhya Pradesh on two levels, the gods based on Sanskrit texts attended by Brahman priests as “Sanskrit” and those “primarily” found in villages attended by a “non-Brahman priesthood” with regional lore and usage as “non-Sanskritic.”109 Alternately, Babb also used the terms “textual,” represented by a brahman priest and “local,” with the role of a Baiga (non-brahman) as two opposing complexes. Babb made it clear that “local” does not mean unique to any particular locality but rather that it is an “essential parochialism of its [the Baiga complex’s] manifestations and functions.”110 Although there is a distinction between these two religious complexes, Babb noted how the sophisticated as well as illiterate villagers recognize that all the deities of different characteristics in the end are one and the same. Babb’s (p.34) report is similar to what I encountered in coastal villages of Andhra, where all the gramadevatas are increasingly seen as forms of the goddess Durga. This recognition does not prevent villagers from approaching each of their goddesses differently and attributing to them specific characteristics and functions.

Benevolence and Malevolence. The theme of malevolence vs. benevolence was not new, as it had already been explored by several scholars, including Lawrence Babb. Comparing and contrasting the qualities of male and female divinities in both “textual” and “local” complexes, Babb identified females as “destructive” and males as using their power to restrain the destructive female attitude.111

Harper, on the other hand, had identified the upper castes and their gods as ritually pure as compared to the blood-demanding spirits who were likened by him to untouchable castes in terms of their ritually defiled state. In the same way, goddesses such as Mariamma were described as ambivalent deities, “who help and protect people, but who also may cause harm.”112 In Harper’s analysis of social hierarchy, which corresponded to the divine hierarchy, what is significant is that Mariamma is described not just as “malevolent,” but as “ambivalent,” having the potential for both. The water begins to get muddy.

Susan Wadley employed the categories of benevolence and malevolence in a way to analyze the nature of supernatural beings in her study of religion in the north Indian village of Karimpur. Criticizing Babb’s inadequate definition of the concept of “supernatural” and Harper’s lack of defining the same, Wadley asserted that “the basic characteristic of any god, demon, or ghost is the powers which he/she controls and represents—the fact that he/she is in essence, power.”113 On this basis, Wadley organized the multiple number of powerful beings of Karimpur village under three groups in descending hierarchical order to show how they perform their actions in relation to “salvation,” “shelter,” and “rescue,” containing negative and/or positive involvement with various good and bad results.114 However, as far as goddesses are concerned, Wadley basically agrees about their impulsive nature and their subordination to male deities: “Their potential for malevolent action makes them more suspect than male deities.”115

There are anthropologists like Susan A. Bean who took a different route in discussing the character of female deities. In her research on female energy (sakti) in the context of a Kannada village, Bean explained how female energy is expressed through mothers, women, and goddesses. In her assessment, she has transported the status of women to the realm of goddesses. In this scenario, goddesses fall into two categories, either benevolent or malevolent, depending on their relations to male deities.116 (p.35)

Like Bean, many scholars pursued the theme of how independent and unmarried goddesses are viewed as powerful and potentially destructive, while married goddesses are seen as subdued. By taking into consideration not only particular contexts but also their historical background, in my study of some specific goddesses I came to understand that the reasons for this potential destructiveness of goddesses are complex and quite varied according to situations.

Pure and Impure. Edward Harper, in his study of social and religious culture in the Malnad region of Karnataka, explored the malevolence of female deities by deploying the concepts of purity and pollution.117 In this study, he argued how impurity angers the blood-demanding goddesses (devates) such as Mariamma, the “village guarding” smallpox goddess, more than her vegetarian counterparts and how she causes harm as a result.118 He analyzed goddess anger as issuing from the imagination of ambivalent sudras who view any misfortune as a punishment given for their ritual impurity.119

On the other hand, he states that brahmans were not worried that their gods would take any retribution if they were inadvertently defiled, because it was “not generally part of the religious complex associated with these more pure gods.”120 This is ironic but consistent with my study of the goddesses like Mariamma and other deified goddesses, who help to reiterate the notions of caste hierarchy and patriarchy. The anger of Mariamma in Karnataka, as reported by Harper, reinforces the caste hierarchy, just as in Andhra villages, the appeasement of an angry goddess ennobles caste as well as gender hierarchy.

The notion of purity and impurity in Hindu religion has been explored in many different ritual contexts. Harper has employed this category to separate deities, including goddesses of different kinds, on the basis of the offerings that they receive. Louis Dumont explored the categories of “purity and impurity” further in his various works devoted to the study of south Indian societies. Mentioning the pantheon of deities worshiped by a caste group in the state of Tamilnadu, Dumont categorized them as “the pure (suttam) gods who do not eat meat, and the meat-eating gods who are impure (asuttam)” and that their relation is the same as the relation between meat-eating and non-meat-eating castes.121 Stating that “the structure of the divine needs to be considered in relation to the social order,” Dumont identified purity and impurity as both caste and divine markers.122

Dumont’s argument of socially “impure” preferring “impure” deities has come under criticism by some scholars. Gabriella Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi argued “that a god’s purity or impurity is a consequence primarily of his food habits and only secondarily of his character,” in a study on food offerings in the four (p.36) south Indian states of Tamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, and she noted an anomaly of a Harijan caste group that traditionally falls lowest in the caste hierarchy, and hence was considered “impure,” turning its “impure” goddess into “pure” by changing her diet.123 However, treating this as an anomaly, she lays out the stereotypical division in the following words:

In Hindu religion, several pairs of opposites are discernible….The pure deities include all the gods and goddesses of the great Sanskritic tradition of Hinduism, whereas village deities normally fall into the impure category. As a rule, pure and impure deities also differ in character: pure deities tend to be benevolent…, while impure deities are ferocious, causing disease and drought if not propitiated. There are borderline cases; Siva, for example, is not altogether benevolent, nor is Narasimha, the man-lion avatar of Vishnu.124

This categorization not only puts the gramadevata into a boxed category, but also treats her as a lower kind of deity. However, what is interesting in this division is the recognition of the ambivalent nature among some vegetarian male Sanskritic deities, such as Siva and Narasimha. This is an important observation to show how the ambivalent attitude in the divine arena is not gender-specific.

While fundamentally agreeing with Dumont’s theory of divine hierarchy based upon the concepts of purity and impurity, Michael Moffat, in his study of a Harijan village in south India, also expressed some reservations. Moffat agreed to a large extent with Harper and Wadley as well, in that not only do the powers of divine beings diminish as they go down in the divine order, but also their beneficent attitude decreases. But a problem arises, he points out in his explanation, in that there is a possibility that different social hierarchical groups worship the same gods.125 This “possibility,” according to Moffat, does not always lead to a neat pairing of the “pure” caste groups worshiping “pure” deities or their lower caste counterparts worshiping only the “impure” deities.126 Moffat’s hesitation seems well-grounded not just in my own Andhra study area but elsewhere; Mandelbaum, earlier on, pointed out that those who worship gramadevatas also worship pan-Indian deities and vice versa.

Questioning Binaries. Bryan Pfaffenberger, a student of Mandelbaum’s, questioned the dual categories used by Mandelbaum, Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi, and Babb, saying that these categories do not pay much attention to various Hindu social contexts. Pfaffenberger demonstrated, in his case study of south Indian Hinduism practiced among the Tamil folk in Sri Lanka’s Jaffna (p.37) peninsula, how these binaries would not make sense without taking into consideration the local social framework.127

I cannot agree more with Pfaffenberger on this point. This is much like the strategy of Diane Mines, when she categorizes various deities of the village Yanaimangalam in Tamilnadu:

Scholars have sometimes described the distinction between universally recognized gods and strictly local ones as a distinction between a “great tradition” and a “little tradition” of Hinduism. But residents of Yanaimangalam have their own set of distinctions. They distinguish among three kinds of gods, what I will gloss here as Brahmanical gods (pirmanka tevarkal), village goddesses (ur ammankal), and fierce gods (matan or pey, lit. “ghost”).128

Also focusing on local frameworks was the study conducted by Bruce Elliot Tapper in a Telugu village, Aripaka. In this study, Tapper argued that “certain cultural ideas about female personality” are used to “conceptualize deities which control human health.”129 The rationalization of females needing male control surfaces because of perceived female “excessive compulsiveness and passion,” traits reinforced by ritual symbolism during festivals to the gramadevatas.130 Because Tapper’s study incorporates the geographical area, as well as some of the themes I pursue in my study, his findings are quite applicable to my own work.

Peasant Studies. Somewhat relevant to some of the themes I pursue are those “peasant studies” that have explored the diversity of people who inhabit villages and small towns of south India. Brenda Beck, who undertook the study of peasant society in Konku in the state of Tamilnadu in the 1970s, explained the centrally important theme that constituted this new approach:

Fundamental to this newer historiography is the notion that a group of prior residents, who were tribally organized, pastoral people, were gradually displaced from India’s forests and uplands by caste organized, village based communities. The colonization and settlement of new lands by peasant cultivators thus emerges as one of the important themes in the historical development of the south.131

In this newer framework, with a focus on a particular region in south India, the terms Aryan and Dravidian and their associated gods were not seen as determinative as terms such as brahman and other caste names in order to differentiate each group and their hierarchical order. The social order of castes (p.38) depends on which caste group is politically or economically dominant at that particular locale and time. Whenever there is a shift in the power of caste groups, it is reflected in the way they worship their local clan goddesses.132

While clan deities are rarely seen in Andhra, rituals to the gramadevatas do serve as venues to establish and reinforce the social hierarchy. However, power shifts in a typical Andhra village where people pursue traditional occupations is not a frequent phenomenon.

Great vs. Independent and Left vs. Right. Identifying brahmanic temples as “great” and “official” and local goddesses such as Mariamman as “independent females” in “lesser” temples, Beck explained how the degree of participation in these temples is divided along local caste divisions such as “left” and “right.”133 Exploring the differences in the ritual roles of brahman and various non-brahman caste groups, Beck discussed how the division of social order extended to the deities of their caste and clan in Konku.134 Beck’s study suggests that while the goddess remained the focus of worship for all castes, villagers view their goddesses primarily in a way that is dependent on the division of castes to which they belong. In other words, this religiosity emphasizes the local rootedness of peasant castes.

It is interesting to note that most of the peasants under study who purportedly formed alliances with brahmans to promote their gods and goddesses migrated from coastal parts of Andhra. I will mention how these migrations play a role in spreading the tradition of sati in chapter 8.

Sanskritization/Aryanization? In attempting to define south Indian Hindu religion, Stein reopened the discussion of the relevance of using these traditional categories.135 He started by questioning the historical origins of brahmans of south India in the “pure land” of the Aryans in the north, so called “Aryavarta,” and stated that Aryavarta is a myth perpetuated by European and brahman scholars over the years. While agreeing that the ancestors of most of the populations, including brahmans in peninsular India, came from outside, Stein pointed out that there is no evidence to prove that brahmans belonged to a separate ethnic group. The usage of terms like “Aryanization,” and “Sanskritization” are misleading for Stein; for it is the mutual interaction of Sanskrit and Dravidian cultures that helped to create a south Indian Sanskritic tradition. For Stein, the “Dravidian culture,” as practiced in pre-modern south India in the absence of any major cities, is neither merely folk, nor simply village, nor only rural. The south Indian Hindu religion, according to Stein, started in the medieval period under the patronage of Pallava and Chola rulers, as the product of a peasant/brahman alliance and then came to incorporate many divergent elements such as Vedic lore, heretical sects, and folk elements.136 While I agree with the assertions that Stein made about (p.39) pre-modern south India and the development of temple culture as a result of peasant/Brahman alliance, I argue in this book that although there are some high and low periods of cultural amalgamation, the process can be traced as early as to the first civilization that existed in the northwestern parts of Indian sub-continent.

In general, my studies in the following chapters are more radical historically, in that I endeavor to show that the origins of fertility goddess cults go back to pre-Buddhist and pre-brahmanic times. I will illustrate how the goddesses of Saivite and Vaishnavite traditions are borrowings from the cults of fertility goddesses.

Pure and High vs. Power Divinities. While Stein argued that there were no separate traditions such as Dravidian and Sanskrit because of their thorough mixture by the thirteenth century, Susan Bayly refuted this by saying that the two traditions remained separate until as late as the fourteenth century. According to Bayly, “the focus on divinities of blood and terror is clearly an ancient feature of south Indian religion” and these power divinities “were never wholly beneficent like some of the region’s so-called ‘pure’ or ‘high’ gods.”137 Attributing the sudden rise in status of the south Indian goddess and her widespread worship from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century due to the growing power of the newly immigrant martial groups, Bayly argued that this involved neither the “Sanskritization” nor “cultural interaction” processes suggested by Stein.

“This was not the ‘Sanskritization’, a term which has been used to describe a shift towards uniformly ‘orthodox’ and Brahmanical forms of Hindu worship. Here the dominant model came from the world of the warrior and the segmentary clan-based forest and plains dweller.”138

When the two traditions came to interact with each other, Bayly argued, “it was neither the suppression of one tradition in favor of another, nor was there an attempt to ‘purify’ or brahmanize the worship of ammans and other power deities,” although “the relationships were often ambivalent and contentious.”139

To a certain degree, my argument will agree with Bayly’s. In the following two chapters I trace the origins of many symbols employed by major religious orientations such as Buddhist, Jaina, Saiva, and Vaishnava to the fertility cult that is worshiped by the agricultural folk. In this sense, the fertility cult serves as a “dominant model” to these different religious traditions. Many surviving goddess mythologies in Andhra that I discuss in the following chapters do display “ambivalent and contentious” relationships between the goddess tradition and other traditions that I mentioned above. (p.40)

Exclusive goddess studies. Some of the scholarship that focuses exclusively on the traditions of goddesses, either through literature or through ritual observations, has been involved in the debate about whether the goddesses are traced to Vedic or to Indus origins. David Kinsley belonged to the group who traced the majority of goddess traditions to the Vedic or later Vedic contexts.140Although Kinsley did not subscribe to the theory of Indian goddesses originating in the Indus civilization very enthusiastically, if at all, he did differentiate village goddess from that of the “Sanskritic” by referring to this latter category as “great” deities worshiped in large temples.141 Kinsley also identified popular goddesses like Kali as non-Vedic by labeling them as “non-Aryan/non-Brahmanic” because of their dark complexion and their association with caves and mountains.142 While the term “non-Aryan” and its association with dark complexion is problematic for the reasons discussed earlier, the category “non-brahmanic” is what I employed to differentiate goddesses whose origins lie in hunting or agricultural groups who spoke languages unrelated to Sanskrit.

There are other scholars who agreed with Kinsley in stating that there is no clear evidence to show that the Indus was the source for existing Hindu goddess traditions. Gavin Flood, who understood that Indus culture was primarily Dravidian and that Vedic culture was Aryan, was not quite sure that the Hindu goddess tradition was necessarily the product of Indus civilization.143 On the other hand, Flood agreed that “there is strong supporting evidence to show that the language of the Indus valley civilization was Dravidian” and “Aryan culture itself, including the Sanskrit language, has absorbed Dravidian elements.”144 Kinsley and Flood may be right in not finding similarities between Indus goddess figures and the later brahmanic Hindu goddess figures associated with male deities, but the similarities in concepts and symbolisms in relation to gramadevatas can hardly be ignored.

Vedic vs. Indus. Taking the argument of Kinsley and Flood further, scholars like Madeleine Biardeau traced the mythology, worship, and ritual of folk goddesses not so much to Dravidian religiosity but to the core of Aryan identity, the Vedas. Although this scholarship acknowledged the presence of divergent strains in Hindu religion, it argued that the basic structure of the religion, even in its folk form, was based on Vedic and classical patterns of ritual and mythology.

Biardeau, in her revolutionary study Stories about Posts, argued that the rituals, mythology, and the present and past practices connected to the goddess point to their origins in Vedic sacrifice.145 Although Biardeau was not certain about the Aryan identity of brahmans, she did find the source of much of the present Hindu religious culture, both its folk and established forms with all its contradictions, in the Vedas.146 (p.41)

This contradiction is what Biardeau argued was present in contemporary folk rituals to the goddess Mariamma as well as in the worship of the brahmanic god Aiyanar.147 The deities that are separated as non-Vedic, however, are the meat-eating demons. Finding striking similarities between the asvamedha sacrifice mentioned in the Puranas and contemporary goddess festivals, Biardeau argued that one must look at the worship and ritual of gramadevatas to understand the essence of opposing notions in Hinduism that are found in Vedic sacrifices. The reasons for these opposing similarities embedded in the Vedic sacrifices find a different explanation in Asko Parpola’s argument, which I will relate shortly.

David Knipe followed the same route as Biardeau in his comparative study of the animal sacrifices to the gramadevatas and the ancient sacrifices to Vedic gods as they were performed in contemporary coastal Andhra Pradesh by arguing how the folk rituals to goddesses owe their origins to Vedas.148

Alf Hiltebeitel’s studies fit into this category as well. Hiltebeitel’s study of the Draupadi cult is focused on south Indian local mythologies and cultic veneration in the context of establishing their connections to the stories mentioned in the Mahabharata. His underlying argument throughout is that the local mythologies might incorporate divergent local elements depending on past history and culture, but ultimately the source for these mythologies lies in the epics whose cultic rituals follow the pattern of Vedic sacrifices.149

At a seemingly opposite spectrum of this scholarly argument are philologists such as Asko Parpola, whose focus has been to unpack the mystery of Indus civilization and culture through the decipherment of its script. There are several other scholars prior to Parpola who have traced goddess traditions to the Indus Valley, citing Indus seals and sealings as pictographic evidence.150 What is new, however, was that with the decipherment of seals and sealings, Parpola illustrated clearly how various concepts and ideas, including the concept of auspicious goddesses, were actually practiced in the Indus Valley by Dravidian-speaking people and then how these got into Vedic and later Vedic culture. According to Parpola, there is, at least, a little less than a millennium separation between the end of the Indus period and the composition of the Rg Veda and that this long period of interaction between these two linguistic groups, Aryan and Dravidian, is what is reflected in Rg Vedic composition itself.151

Parpola’s argument, with the theory of the introduction of Megalithic culture by horse-riding and warring nomads who spoke an Aryan language that belonged to the Iranian branch and who adopted the local language (Dravidian) and Black and Red Ware (BRW) culture, is relevant as far as the south Indian context is concerned.152 This particular point of Parpola’s is very (p.42) significant because it points out once again how languages and racial groups, contra Muller, could be very different. This point, in fact, substantiates the earlier theory put forward by Andree Sjoberg and Clarence Maloney about how Dravidian languages came to be spoken by an amalgam of peoples.153

As far as the goddess tradition in Indus Valley is concerned, Parpola compared Indus seals and symbols with contemporary civilizations as well as the Vedic and later Vedic Sanskrit resources to prove the prevalence of goddess worship. What he shows is that some of these goddesses were not just of the gramadevata type, but that the prototypes of those later labeled as Sanskritic goddesses, such as Savitri, Arundhati, Durga, Sashthi, Prabhasa, Bhutamata, Parvati, Lakshmi, and Rohini, can be identified together with their ancient associations with trees, stars, and animals.154 Parpola’s arguments were supported and used by other Indus scholars such as Jane Mcintosh.155

My own study agrees with Parpola’s findings only insofar as it is based largely on evidence drawn from material culture, and some of that material evidence is drawn from the remnants of the Indus civilization. Whether the linguistic research of Parpola and others is deemed completely scientific or not, it cannot be disputed that nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes like the Vedic Sanskrit speaking groups came into contact with other nomadic or isolated tribes. History tells us time and again how these groups, either through war or by trade, intermingled and influenced each other’s ideas and concepts. Given this scenario, it is not unreasonable to assume that the high culture that appeared in the Indus River Valley must have left some impression on these texts. But given the fuzziness, I apply restraint in claiming that elaborate Hindu rituals known from later times were followed in the Indus, as has been argued by Parpola at times. In this sense, I follow Kinsley’s approach of exercising caution in interpreting the Indus data.156 At the same time, I do not think categorizing goddesses as “Aryan” and “non-Aryan” deities is justifiable, given the complexity of how goddess religious culture evolved. For this reason, my discussions in the next three chapters constitute a comparative study of the pre- and proto-historic goddess symbols and images of Andhra, in which I draw on many similarities with evidence from the Indus. This is to argue how some religious symbols and elements of goddess imagery may derive their origins from the Indus and retain some basic original features, in spite of their constant flux as they interacted with various emerging Indic religions on the one hand and other goddess cults of migrant and isolated groups on the other.

Feminist Theories. The words “Dravidian” and “Aryan” have yet to grow out of usage. Feminist scholars have advanced theories redefining the words Aryan and Dravidian. In one of these theories, women have been regarded as (p.43) the introducers of goddess religion, who officiated over goddess rituals and continued to play a dominant role until brahmanic forces entered the scene. Lynn E. Gatwood described Aryans as bringing “patrifocal values” and a “war-like pantheon of gods” into village contexts that were originally based on peaceful Indus agricultural traditions.157 In this equation, the Indus civilization stood for egalitarian values over and against the Aryan patriarchal culture that succeeded it. The interaction between these two cultures, Gatwood argued, resulted in a gradual acceptance of the goddess, first in a subordinated spousal position and much later emerging as the independent goddess, Mahadevi.

In a second interpretation, the meaning of the word “Aryan” extended not just to male gender, but to any oppressor. Representing this scholarship is Sarah Caldwell, who assessed the process of subduing goddess religion in two ways: 1) on the one hand, the patriarchal texts in Jaina, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions relegated goddess religion in a negative light; 2) on the other, there has been an attempt, especially by Sanskrit tradition, to incorporate and tame the goddess, as well as the tribal and low-caste women who officiate and participate in goddess rituals, under the umbrella of Sakta Tantrism.158 In order to explain how and when the process of taming occurred, Caldwell, following in the footsteps of earlier scholarship, employs the word Aryan.

…Brahman influence began to be keenly felt due to extensive immigration of upper-caste Aryan groups into the south following the fall of the Gupta empire to the north.159

Aryan, in this context, stands for all those who have been oppressors of women in the past two millennia, the authors of patriarchal religions, (Jaina, Buddhist, and Hindu), as well as the patriarchal Mughals, the British colonialists, the founders of various reformist Hindu movements, and, presently, the high-caste groups. On the other hand, the women who were seen as oppressed are equated with those who are recognized as marginal, or at the lower stratum of the society, that is, the aboriginal, Dalit, untouchable, and other low-caste groups.

There are studies also focusing on specific goddess traditions, such as those conducted by Kathleen Erndl and William Sax, or exploring the religious traditions of sati in specific contexts, by scholars such as Lindsey Harlan. In a relatively recent book, At The Feet of The Goddess, Lynn Foulston conducted an innovative study by comparing local goddesses in two contrasting settlements of Orissa and Tamilnadu to show not just their shared features but also the complexities that make them impossible to compartmentalize.160

While there is so much more of relevance written on goddesses by feminists and others, here I will turn to Eveline Meyer, who studied the goddess (p.44) Ankalamma in Tamilnadu. In the long quote below, she has captured perfectly the dilemmas I have encountered in my own study:

A major problem in dealing with “folk” Hinduism is the choice of terms. Since Hinduism operates on many levels or combines elements from various levels or strata in the so-called process of “sanskritization”, one is somewhat at a loss as to which terms should be applied to these levels. V. Das [Veena Das, Structure and Cognition, (1982)] has shown how terms of opposites such as “Sanskritic”, “non-sanskritic”, “sacred”, “profane”, “good-sacred”, “bad-sacred” may be confusing, if not confined to a particular context. The same may be said for “little” and “big” traditions or for “village” gods….According to V. Das, who uses the terms left (death, inauspiciousness) and right (life, auspiciousness) over pure, bounded (articulated) and impure, liminal (disarticulated), Ankalamman is a goddess who fits only the left category, but both aspects of it (the impure, liminal as well as the pure, bounded) [Ibid., p.102-3, 143, 147]….Although these categories give room for a more precise description of particular aspects of goddesses, they do not suffice to describe a goddess as a whole, especially since a goddess may move from one category to another or even, in her various aspects, take part in all categories at the same time. To place Ankalamman into the left side is telling only half her story, at least with regard to her image in the myths. The myths make clear the problematics of any classification. They show that the goddess can be anything from a sophisticated cosmogonic concept to a very localized and socially clearly defined female deity, that she can be both benevolent and malevolent, pure and impure.161

These dilemmas have increased as the theories and categories put forward in the last two and a half decades have made the analytical picture far more complex, which I have discovered while I have proceeded with my own study. After much thought and reflection, and while I have indicated in this summary where some theoretical stances resonate with my findings, I have decided to let my material speak for itself as much as possible.

What follows in the ensuing chapters is my humble attempt to be analytically precise, but not overly preoccupied with theoretical matters. In my reprise of theoretical approaches that constitutes the first part of my book, various elements from recent theories that I have reviewed in this chapter will come to bear in specific instances I have analyzed, but they will not supplant (p.45) the indigenous categories in play on the village ground. If I have relied in any way on one of the more general trajectories of approach reflected in previous studies, my own approach, as will be seen, is decidedly more historical.

At the same time that I have traced out the trajectories of post-modern and post-colonial scholarship and its relevance to my study, I hope that I have also successfully exposed the very serious problems intrinsic to the scholarship conducted by missionaries and colonials for their mercenary reasons. A closer review of post-modern and post-colonial scholarship might indeed identify traces of residues from earlier European and American scholarship. But suffice it to say that we are now on an improved track, and my hope in the chapters that follow is to make a contribution in that more favorable direction.


(1.) Romila Thapar, Early India (Berkeley: University of California Press: 2002–2004), pp. 157–159.

(2.) Two versions of his manuscript have been published: 1. B. Ziegenbalg, Genealogy of the South-Indian Gods (Delhi: Unity Book Service, 1984, First Edition: 1869); 2. Daniel Jeyaraj, Genealogy of the South Indian Deities (London: Routledge Curzon, 2003).

(3.) Ziegenbalg, 131.

(4.) Jeyaraj, 210.

(5.) Jeyaraj, 45–46 & 114–143.

(6.) Jeyaraj, 6.

(7.) Theodor Griesinger. The Jesuits: A Complete History vol I (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1883), p. 92.

(8.) Voltaire, Lettres sur l’origine des sciences et sur celle des peuples de l’Asie (Paris: de Bure, 1777), letter of December 15, 1775 in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goa_Inquisition.

(9.) Griesinger, 90–92; Ram Chandra Prasad, Early English Travellers In India, (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1965), pp. 6–7 & 13.

(10.) Griesinger, 88–89; John Patrick Donnelly, ed. & tr. Jesuit Writings of the Early Modern Period, 1540–1640 (Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2006), p.67; a quote from Xavier’s letter: “After they had helped me with great toil for many days, we translated the prayers from Latin into Malabar, beginning with the sign of the Cross, confessing that there are three persons in one sole God, then the Creed, the Commandments, the Our Father, Hail Mary, Salve Regina and the Confiteor.” See also fn. 5; http://www.global12project.com/2004/profiles/a_code/hindu3.html.

(11.) Joan- Pau Rubies, Travel and Ethnology in the Renaissance: South India Through European Eyes,1250–1625 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2002), p.7, fn.13.

(12.) Ram Chandra Prasad, 17.

(13.) Rubies, 321.

(14.) Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3, p. 844.

(15.) John Patrick Donnelly, ed. & tr. Jesuit Writings of the Early Modern Period, 1540–1640 (Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2006), pp. 101–111.

(16.) Henriette Bugge, Mission and Tamil Society: Social and Religious Change in South India (1840–1900) (Richmond: Curzon Press Ltd. 1994), p. 45.

(17.) Stephen Neill. A History of Christianity in India 1707–1858. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1985), pp. 28–29 & 35–36.

(18.) Arno Lehmann, It Began at Tranquebar (Madras: The Christian Literature Society, 1956), p.7.

(19.) Hudson, 17.

(20.) Neill, 33. Also see Matthew Atmore Sherring. The History of Protestant Missions in India: From their commencement in 1706 to 1871 (London: Trubner & Co., 1875), p. 2.

(21.) Jeyaraj, 351.

(22.) Bugge, 57.

(23.) Jeyaraj, 36–37

(24.) Neill, 31–32.

(25.) Jeyaraj, 40.

(26.) Ziegenbalg, xv.

(27.) Jeyaraj, 9. For example, “[h]‌e asked his teachers to explain ancient Greek and Roman architecture in such a way that they leave out the ‘fables [i.e., religious mythologies] that might mislead or confuse the minds’ (Francke, 1702, 56 f.) of the students because they were nothing but mere concocted stories [brackets mine].”

(28.) Jeyaraj, 235–236.

(29.) Jeyaraj, 235.

(30.) Asiatic Researches, Vol I, 1788, pp.415–431.

(31.) Cynthia Ann Humes, “Wrestling with Kali, South Asian and British Constructions of the Dark Goddess,” in Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey Kripal eds., Encountering Kali (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), pp.145–168.

(32.) Garland Cannon ed., The Letters of Sir William Jones, vol. II (Oxford: The Clarendon Press: 1970), p. 856. fn. 3. “The Santa Casa, Mary’s Nazareth house, is said to have been miraculously transported by angels to a spot near Loretto in 1294, after the Virgin’s appearance.”

(33.) Ward, p. xxxviii.

(34.) Dubois, 609–610.

(35.) Dubois, 595–596

(36.) Dubois, 606.

(37.) George Bruce, The Stranglers (London: Longmans, 1968), p. 183. “For Kali, like Satan tempting Christ with riches on the high mountain, offered all the treasure in India to those of her followers ready to kill for her. In contrast to Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, she imposed no moral code, set down no limits to man’s animal nature, made no call to his flickering spiritual being to burn with a flame so bright and hard that he would live in illumination. On the contrary, her creed amounted to defiance of all that true religion held sacred.”

(38.) Humes, 155–161. In this chapter, Humes enumerated the Indian literary sources criticizing the goddess Kali to show where Sleeman drew his source for his account. Humes also argued how Sleeman’s claims were manufactured in such a way to show that the culture of worshiping a female Goddess as against a male God is amoral. Humes also discusses how the goddess Kali was imagined by the British as “murderous,” “inhuman,” “sexualized she-devil and consort attacker,” symbolizing the darker Hindu woman who was marginalized by the British male as a sex partner.

(39.) Thapar, 3 & 11; Ram Sharan Sharma, Sudras in Ancient India (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1958), p. 3. Revealing the real intentions behind Jones’s Sanskrit translations, Sharma quoted Jones supporting the English Company’s mission of adopting original institutes in India so as to please the millions of India and help the British to amass wealth.

(40.) The East India Company’s charter in 1813 was amended to allow for missionary activity.

(41.) Rev. Alexander Duff, India and India Missions: Including Sketches of the Gigantic System of Hinduism, Both in Theory and Practice, 2nd ed., Edinburgh: John Johnstone, Hunter Square, 1840, pp. 50–52: “The decree hath gone forth—and who can stay its execution?—that India shall be the Lord’s,—that Asia shall be the Lord’s; yea, that all the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ!…[T]‌hey [the missionaries] must become acquainted with the learned language of the country, and through it with the real and original sources of all prevailing opinions and observances, sacred and civil;—and have not our Joneses [William Jones and other contemporary Indologists], and our Colebrookes [H. T. Colebrooke and other philologists] the whole, to prove subservient to the cause of the Christian philanthropist?” [brackets mine].

(42.) Robert Caldwell, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages (Madras: University of Madras, 1856), p. 108: “The introduction of the Dravidians within the pale of Hinduism and the consequent change of their appellation from Mlechchas to that of Sudras appears to have originated, not in conquest, but in the peaceable process of colonization and progressive civilization….All existing traditions, and the names by which the Brahmanical race is distinguished in Tamil, viz., ‘Eiyar,’ instructors, fathers, and ‘Parppar,’ overseers, (probably the episkopoi of Arrian), tend to show that the Brahmans acquired their ascendancy by their intelligence and their administrative skill.” This quote clearly shows Caldwell’s intention of elevating brahmins as a race of intelligent people and the descendants of Aryans who helped to civilize the Dravidians in just the same way as the British and the Christian missionaries in the contemporary period.

(43.) John Murdoch, Religious Reform: Popular Hinduism, 3rd ed. (London: The Christian Literature Society for India, 1896), p. 10.

(44.) Jeyaraj. 242–245.

(45.) Ziegenbalg, x; also see, Genealogy of the South-Indian Gods Published in the Original German, Text with Notes and Addition by the Rev. W. Germann, Late of the Leipsic Missionary Society (Madras: Higginbotham and Co., 1869); page xvi, Rev. Germann said: “The name of the venerable author secured an interest for the work in various directions. The Right Reverend Dr. Gell, Lord Bishop of Madras, by his kind encouragement in word and deed, strengthened my resolution to have the work printed; and the Rev. Mr. Kenneth, Secretary to the Christian Knowledge Society (the same Society which once aided Ziegenbalg so well), managed to remove all hindrances to the printing.”

(46.) Ziegenbalg, xiv. Metzger says this clearly in his translator’s note, “…and one Mediator between God and men, the holy God-man Christ Jesus, in whom God reconciled the fallen and rebellious world unto Himself, and without whom no man can come to the Father. And that also this little work may, by its faithful exposure of the religious errors of the Hindus, be subservient (p.277) to the spreading of the saving knowledge of the Truth, is the earnest prayer of the translator.” P. xvi: Germann supports the belief indirectly in a simple statement as a conclusion to his preface, “May the blessing of God rest on the great work of propagating the Gospel in India and on all faithful labourers in churches and schools, near and dear to me…”

(47.) Some of the works include: H. H. Wilson. Trans. Vishnu Purana (London: John Murray, 1840); Max Muller edited Sacred Books of the East, translated by various Oriental scholars (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879–1910); Gustav Oppert, On the Original Inhabitants of Bharatavarsa or India (Westminister: A Constable & Co., 1893; 2nd ed., New York: Arno Press, 1978); Sir H. M. Elliot, The Races of the North-West Provinces of India, 2 vols. (London: Trübner, 1879).

(48.) Jeyaraj, 114–115.

(49.) Jeyaraj, 131, footnote.

(50.) Life and Letters of the Rt. Hon. Friederich Max Muller, Vol. I (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1902), p. 328.

(51.) Hugh B. Urban, “India’s Darkest Heart,” in Rachel Fell Dermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal. eds., Encountering Kali (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), p. 174 and fn. 23.

(52.) David Kopf, “British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance: the Orientalist in Search of a Golden Age,” in Thomas R. Metcalf, ed. Modern India (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 1992 [first edition, 1990]), pp. 35–37.

(53.) Kopf (1992: 80).

(54.) Kopf (1992: 79–82).

(55.) Sir Monier Monier-Williams, Indian Wisdom 3rd edition (London: Wm. H. Allen & Co., 13, Waterloo Place, S.W., Oxford, 1876), pp. ix-x.

(56.) Williams (1891: 223).

(57.) Williams (1891: 225): “I need not repeat here that the god’s energy is supposed to be located more especially in the female half of his nature, and that the divine mothers are variously classified according to various degrees of participation in that energy, the highest being identified with different forms of his supposed consort, the lowest including human mothers downwards, who are all worshipped as incarnations of the one divine productive capacity of nature….In all likelihood every one of these, though declared by the Brahmans to be separate forms of Siva’s consort Kali, is really the representative of some local deity (Grama-devata), worshipped by the inhabitants from time immemorial.”

(58.) Murdoch (1896: iv). Also mentioned by Caldwell (1856): 75 & 79.

(59.) Murdoch (1896: 8).

(60.) Murdoch (1896: 3–38).

(61.) Isaac Taylor, The Origin of the Aryans: An Account of the Prehistoric Ethnology and Civilization of Europe (New York: Scribner & Welford, 1890), p. 212.

(62.) Gustav Oppert, On The Original Inhabitants of Bharatavarsa or India (1893; New York: Arno Press, 1978).

(63.) Oppert (1893: v-vii & 9–13 & 451–452).

(64.) Oppert (1893: 12, 451 & 503–04): “The outward appearance of the Dasas or Dasyus—these were the names with which the new-comers honoured their opponents—was not such as to create a favourable impression, and they were in consequence taunted with their black colour and flat noses, which latter made their faces appear as if they had no noses…Neither it can be denied that the worship of the aborigines has secured access into Brahmanism, with the result that not only did the Kshetradevatas enter into the Brahmanic liturgy, but also that superstitious Brahmans still sacrifice at the shrines of the popular deities of the lower orders….[T]‌he presence and assistance of Brahmans at the feasts of the Gramadevatas, a participation which may be scorned by many pious and intelligent Brahmans, but which is nevertheless a well-known fact, proving the influence which superstition exercises on the human mind, however free it may boast to be.”

(65.) Oppert (1893: viii-ix).

(66.) Ramakrishna, T., Life in an Indian Village (London: T. Fisher Unwin [Unwin Brothers], The Gresham Press. 1891, p. 67.

(67.) Ramakrishna (1891:73).

(68.) Edgar Thurston, Castes and Tribes of Southern India. 7 vols. (Madras: Government Press, 1909).

(69.) Edgar Thurston, Ethnographic Notes in Southern India. (Madras: Government of Madras, 1906), pp. 487–501: “In some cases it would appear that the observance has led to loss of life. This would, of course, justify the interference of the magistracy, and in future, any occurrence of this nature should lead to the prohibition of the ceremony of the village where it happened. The best method of discouraging this objectionable practice must be left to the discretion of the different magistrates, but the Governor in Council feels confident that, if it be properly explained that the object of Government is not to interfere with any religious observances of its subjects, but to abolish a cruel and revolting practice, the efforts of the magistracy will be willingly seconded by the influence of the great mass of the community, and more particularly of the wealthy and intelligent classes who do not seem to countenance or support the swinging ceremony.”

(70.) A. Berriedale Keith, “Indian Mythology” in Louis Herbert Gray, ed., The Mythology of All Races. 13 vols.), Vol. VI (Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1916) pp. 230–232.

(71.) Keith (1916: 245).

(72.) Henry Whitehead, The Village Gods of South India (New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1980; reprint of the 2nd ed., 1921).

(73.) Whitehead (1980: 13).

(74.) Whitehead (1980: 11–13).

(75.) Elmore, 1915.

(76.) Elmore (1915): 10–11.

(77.) Elmore (1915): 6.

(78.) W. Crooke, “The Cults of the Mother Goddess in India,” Folklore 39 (1918), p. 302. The last sentence was footnoted to, W. Ward, The Hindoos, 2nd ed., ii., 115 et seq.; Gazetteer of Oudh, 1877, i., 367 et seq.; H. H. Oldfield, Sketches from Nepal, ii., 293 et seq.

(79.) H. Krishna Sastri, South-Indian Images of Gods and Goddesses (Delhi: Bharatiya Publishing House, 1916; reprinted in 1974 by Asian Educational Services, Madras), p. 7.

(80.) Sastri (1974: 226).

(81.) Sastri (1974: 227), footnote 1: “Some of these inhuman practices seem to be but remnants of the older human sacrifices which were once quite a common feature of Sakti worship. Epigraphical evidence has been adduced to show that voluntary human sacrifices were offered even to the male deity Virabhadra.”

(82.) John Marshall, “First Light on a Long Forgotten Civilization,” Illustrated London News 20 (September, 1924), pp. 528–532 & 548. Within a week of Marshall’s publication, Henry Sayce, a professor of Assyriology, wrote a letter to the editor in which he established Indus relations with Susa of 3000 BCE, thereby putting Indus in that time slot. In another week, two Sumerian archaeologists reconfirmed Sayce’s opinion by quoting the location of Proto-Elamite tablets in the sites of Susa and Babylonia. See C. J. Gadd and S. Smith, “The New Links between Indian and Babylonian Civilizations.” The Illustrated London New s 4 (October, 1924): 614–616.

(83.) Sir John Marshall, ed., Mohenjo-daro and the Indus Civilization 3 vols. (London: A. Probsthain, 1931; reprinted by Asian Educational Services, 1996).

(84.) Marshall (1996: vol I: 111).

(85.) Mortimer Wheeler, The Indus Civilization (Cambridge: University Press, 1953), pp. 83.

(86.) Louis Dumont. Religion/Politics and History in India (Paris: Mouton Publishers, 1970), p. 21.

(87.) M. N. Srinivas, Religion and Society Among the Coorgs of South India (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1952; reprint, 1965), pp. 213–214.

(88.) Srinivas (1965: 214–215).

(89.) Srinivas (1965: 225).

(90.) M. N. Srinivas, The Remembered Village (Berkeley: University of California, 1976), pp. 167–176.

(91.) McKim Marriott, ed. Village India. Studies in the Little Community (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1955, reprint, 1986), pp. 217–18; Surajit Sinha, “Tribal Cultures of Peninsular India as a Dimension of Little Tradition in the (p.280) Study of Indian Civilization: A Preliminary Statement,” in Milton Singer, ed., Traditional India (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1959), pp. 298–312.

(92.) Paul C. Wiebe, “Religious Change in South India: Perspectives From a Small Town,” in Religion and Society 22 (1975): 27–46.

(93.) McKim Marriott, ed., Village India: Studies in the Little Community (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955; reprint, 1986), pp. 211–212.

(94.) S. C. Dube, Indian Village (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD, 1959; originally published in 1955), pp. 38–39: “It is probable that their social exclusiveness reflects an attitude which was developed in ancient times when a great fusion of Aryan and non-Aryan groups was taking place in Indian society and Hinduism was consolidating itself.”

(95.) Dube, 94.

(96.) Alan Beals, “Conflict and Interlocal Festivals in a South Indian Region,” The Journal of Asian Studies 13 (1964): 99–113.

(97.) Thomas Coburn. Devi-Mahatmya: The Crystallization of the Goddess Tradition (Columbia, Missouri: South Asia Books: 1985), p. 8.

(98.) Coburn (1985: 7). As a representative sample, Coburn quotes the following works: A.L. Basham. The Wonder That Was India (New York: Grove Press, 1959), p. 311; R. G. Bhandarker, Vaisnavism, Saivism, and Minor Religious Systems (Varanasi: Indological Book House, 1965) p. 142–143); A. K. Bhattacharya, in “A non-Aryan Aspect of the Devi” in D. C. Sircar, ed., The Sakti Cult and Tara (Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1971), pp 56–60; Brown (1961), p. 5); Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya, Evolution of Hindu Sects (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1970), pp. 151–52.

(99.) Some more examples of these are: Eva Rudy Jansen, The Book of Hindu Mythology (Diever: Holland: Benkey Kok Publications, 1993), p. 127; John R. Hinnells & Eric J. Sharpe, ed., Hinduism (New Castle upon Tyne, England: Oriel Press, 1972), p. 52; Jitendra Nath Benerjea, “The Hindu Concept of the Natural World,” in Kenneth M. Morgan, ed., The Religion of Hindus (New York: The Ronald Press Company, 1953), p. 66.

(100.) Norman Brown, “Mythology of India,” in Samuel Noah Kramer, ed., Mythologies of the Ancient World (Garden City, NY: Double Day and Co., 1961) p. 311.

(101.) Milton Singer, When A Great Tradition Modernizes (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1972), pp. 43–44.

(102.) Singer, 45.

(103.) David Mandelbaum, “Introduction: Process and Structure in South Asian Religion,” in The Journal of Asian Studies 13 (1964): 5–20.

(104.) David Mandelbaum, “Transcendental and Pragmatic Aspects of Religion,” American Anthropologist 68 (1966): 1174–1198.

(105.) Pauline Mahar Kolenda, “Aspects of Religion in South Asia,” The Journal of Asian Studies 13 (1964): 71–81.

(106.) Kolenda: 71–81.

(107.) Edward Harper, “A Hindu Pantheon,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 15 (1959): 227–234.

(108.) Harper (1959), 228.

(109.) Lawrence Babb, “Marriage and Malevolence: The Uses of Sexual Opposition in a Hindu Pantheon,” in Ethnology 9 (1970): 138.

(110.) Lawrence Babb, The Divine Hierarchy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), p. 212.

(111.) Babb (1975): 229.

(112.) Harper (1959): 227–234).

(113.) Susan Snow Wadley, Shakti: Power in the Conceptual Structure of Karimpur Religion (Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1975), p. 54.

(114.) Wadley, 107–145.

(115.) Wadley, 121.

(116.) Susan A. Bean, “Referential and Indexical Meanings of Amma in Kannada: Mother, Woman, Goddess, Pox, and Help!,” in Journal of Anthropological Research 31 (1975): 313–330.

(117.) Edward Harper, “Ritual Pollution as an Integrator of Caste and Religion,” Journal of Asian Studies, 13 (1964): 151–197.

(118.) Harper (1964):185.

(119.) Harper, 1964.

(120.) Harper, (1964): 184.

(121.) Dumont (1970): 28.

(122.) Dumont (1970): 28.

(123.) Gabriella Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi, “Ritual as Language: The Case of South Indian Food Offerings,” in Current Anthropology 18 (1977): 509.

(124.) Ferro-Luzzi, 509.

(125.) Michael Moffatt, An Untouchable Community in South India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 219–220.

(126.) Moffatt, 220–221.

(127.) Bryan Pfaffenberger, “Social Communication in Dravidian Ritual,” Journal of Anthropological Research 36 (1980): 196–219.

(128.) Diane Mines, Fierce Gods (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005), p. 17.

(129.) Tapper (1979): 1–31.

(130.) Tapper (1979): 1–31.

(131.) Brenda E. F. Beck, Perspectives On a Regional Culture (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd, 1979), p. 5.

(132.) Brenda E. F. Beck, Peasant Society in Konku (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press,1972), p. 79.

(133.) Beck (1972):111–116.

(134.) Beck (1972: 99). F. J. Richards has provided a suggestive parallel here in his article “Village Deities of Nellore Taluk, North Arcot District,” The Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society 10 (1920): 116.

(135.) Stein (1980): 173–215.

(136.) Stein (1980): 78–86 & 323–331.

(137.) Susan Bayly, Saints, Goddesses and Kings Muslims and Christians in South Indian Society 1700–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 27–30.

(138.) Bayly, 30.

(139.) Bayly, 45–46. Although an effort had been made to preserve some independence of Sanskrit and various Dravidian traditions during the medieval period, Stein opines that the existence of two independent traditions—Sanskrit and Dravidian—was a false conception and so was the notion that brahmins were outsiders. Stein admits that there were tensions between brahmin and non-brahmin savants and religious teachers in the thirteenth century, but the issues were not related to indigenous culture versus outside culture, as there were brahmins who were advocates and transmitters of non-Sanskritic cultural variations, while there were a number of non-brahmin Sanskrit scholars as well. So, the competition, as he states, was primarily among the upholders of cultural variants to gain the approval from the powerful. See Stein, 51–52.

(140.) David Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988) p. 217.

(141.) Kinsley (1988): 197–211.

(142.) Kinsley (1988): 155.

(143.) Gavin Flood. An Introduction to Hinduism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 23–50.

(144.) Flood, 50.

(145.) Madeleine Biardeau, Stories about Posts Trans. by Alf Hiltebeitel (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004): passim.

(146.) Biardeau (2004): 307–308.

(147.) Madeleine Biardeau, “Brahman and Meat-Eating Gods,” in Alf Hiltebeitel, ed., Criminal Gods and Demon Devotees (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1989) pp. 20–21.

(148.) David Knipe, “Goats Are Food Divine: A Comparison of Contemporary Vedic God and Hindu Goddess Sacrifices in Coastal Andhra,” 29th Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin—Madison, October 13, 2000.

(149.) Alf Hiltebeitel, “Draupadi’s Two Guardians: The Buffalo King and the Muslim Devotee,” in Alf Hiltebeitel ed. Criminal Gods and Demon Devotees, pp. 362–363.

(150.) Narendra Nath Bhattacharyya, The Indian Mother Goddess (New Delhi: South Asia Books, 2nd edition, 1997 [first 1970]); Jitendra Nath Banerjea, The Development of Hindu Iconography (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1974); Shantilal Nagar, Indian Gods and Goddesses vol. I (Delhi: B. R. Publishing House, 1998).

(151.) Parpola (1994):168.

(152.) Parpola (1994):172.

(153.) Sjoberg (1971): 240–272 and Maloney (1975): 1–40.

(154.) Sjoberg (1971): 240–272.

(155.) Jane McIntosh, A Peaceful Realm (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002), pp. 116–117.

(156.) David Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 212–220.

(157.) Lynn E. Gatwood, Devi and the Spouse Goddess (Riverdale: Riverdale Co., 1985).

(158.) Sara Caldwell, “Margins at the Center, Tracing Kali Through Time, Space, and Culture,” in Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey Kripal, eds., Encountering Kali. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), pp. 251–253.

(159.) Caldwell (2003): 251–253. See also Friedhelm Hardy, Viraha-bhakti: The Early History of Krsna Devotion in South India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 123.

(160.) Lynn Foulston, At the Feet of the Goddess. The Divine Feminine in Local Hindu Religion (New Delhi: Sussex Academic Press, 2003).

(161.) Eveline Meyer, Ankalaparamecuvari, A Goddess of Tamilnadu, Her Myths and Cult (Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GMBH, 1986), pp. 39–40.