Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge

Conceiving the Goddess:
Transformation and Appropriation in Indic Religions

Edited by Jayant Bhalchandra Bapat and Ian Mabbett


The e-book is available from key e-book vendors including Apple (iBooks), Amazon (Kindle) and Kobo.

‘This wonderful volume brings together substantial new contributions to the burgeoning scholarship on goddesses in South Asia. Jayant Bapat and Ian Mabbett, along with the other contributors, deepen our understanding of the dynamics of Indic goddess traditions.’
— Anne Feldhaus, Distinguished Foundation Professor of Religious Studies, Arizona State University, Tempe, USA

Conceiving the Goddess is a multidisciplinary exploration of goddess cults in South Asia focusing on the theme of appropriation – when one religious group adopts a religious belief or practice not formerly its own.

What are the motivations behind religious appropriation? Is this appropriation an attempt to dominate – or perhaps it is to resist the domination of others? Is is about adapting to changing social circumstances? Or is it simply to enrich the religious experience of a group’s members?

Conceiving the Goddess explores these questions while examining a variety of South Asian goddesses and situations: a Jain goddess lurking in a Brahminical temple; a village goddess who became the patroness of the powerful Peshwa lords; the millennia-long story of the goddess Ekveera who was adopted by a fishing community; the mythology of Pārvatī, consort of the great god Śiva; the fraught relationship between the humble Camār caste and the river goddess Gaṅgā; the changing political roles of Durgā in the annual celebrations of her cult; the mutual appropriation of disciple and goddess in the tantric exercises of Kashmiri Śaivism; and the alarming self-decapitation of the fierce goddess Chinnamastā.

A rich study, this book will appeal to scholars and students of South Asian religions and all those interested in goddess worship.


  1. On Appropriation and Transformation
    I.W. Mabbett and Jayant Bhalchandra Bapat

  2. Crowns, Horns and Goddesses: Appropriation of Symbols in Gandhāra and Beyond
    Angelo Andrea Di Castro

  3. The Appropriation of the Goddess into the Purāṇic Narrative: Integration/Appropriation in the Vāmanapurāṇa
    Greg Bailey

  4. The Yakṣiṇī Devī of Mangaon: Appropriation of a Jain Goddess by Brāhminic Hinduism
    Jayant Bhalchandra Bapat

  5. Appropriating the Inappropriate
    John R. Dupuche

  6. Ravidās and the Gaṅgā: Appropriation or Contestation?
    Peter Friedlander

  7. The Goddess Chinnamastā’s Severed Head as a Re-Appropriation of the Cosmic Sacrifice
    Ian Mabbett

  8. The Appropriation of Durgā
    Pratish Bandopadhayay

  9. From a Śaktipīṭha to Kuladaivata: The Appropriation of Goddess Jogāī of Ambe
    Madhavi Narsalay

  10. The Female Protector of Yolmo’s Hidden Land
    David Templeman

  11. Ekveera Devi and the Son Kolis of Mumbai: Have the Kolis Appropriated the Karle Buddhist Chaitya?
    Marika Vicziany, Jayant Bhalchandra Bapat and Sanjay Ranade

  12. Modern Appropriations of Devī
    Martin Hříbek

About the Editors

Jayant Bhalchandra Bapat

Jayant Bapat holds doctorates in Organic Chemistry and Indology and is an adjunct research fellow at the Monash Asia Institute at Monash University. His research interests include Hinduism, Goddess cults, the Fisher community of Mumbai, and Jainism, and he has published widely in these areas. He is co-editor of The Iconic Female: Goddesses of India, Nepal and Tibet (Monash University Press, 2008) with Ian Mabbett, and The Indian Diaspora: Hindus and Sikhs in Australia (DK Printworld, 2015). For his work in education and for the Indian community, Jayant was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2011.

Ian Mabbett

Ian Mabbett, an adjunct research fellow at Monash University, has taught there since 1965 in courses on Asian history and conducted teaching and research in Singapore, Princeton and Nagoya. His main research interests are in ancient Indian history, Buddhist philosophy and history, and the comparative study of Asian religions. He is co-editor of The Iconic Female: Goddesses of India, Nepal and Tibet (Monash University Press, 2008) with Jayant Bapat. Ian is also the co-author of The Sociology of Indian Buddhism with Greg Bailey (2003) and editor of Prācyaprajñāpradīpa (2012), a volume that felicitates Professor Samaresh Bandyopadhyay.

About the Contributors

Angelo Andrea Di Castro

Angelo Andrea Di Castro has conducted archaeological investigations in Italy, Nepal and China. He is a specialist in the archaeology of South and Central Asia, in particular Gandhara and the Himalayan regions of India. Andrea has lectured in archaeology at Monash University. His current research projects include the Silk Road oasis of Kashgar, the connection between religion and archaeology, and the history of cultural exchange between India, China and the Western world.

David Templeman

David is an adjunct research fellow at the Monash Asia Institute at Monash University. He has worked for many years on the writings of 17th-century Tibetan prelate Tāranātha, especially his autobiography. David’s most recent works have been A Historical Dictionary of Tibet (Scarecrow Press, 2012), with John Powers, and Asian Horizons: Giuseppe Tucci’s Buddhist, Indian, Himalayan and Central Asian Studies (Monash University Publishing, 2015), with Andrea Di Castro.

Greg Bailey

Greg, formerly a reader in Sanskrit, is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Program in Asian Studies, La Trobe University, Melbourne. He has published translations and studies of the Gaṇeśa Purāṇa, Bhartṛhari’s Śatakatrayam and books on the god Brahmā and early Buddhism. Greg has also published many articles on Sanskrit literature.

John Dupuche

The Reverend Dr John Dupuche is a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctoral studies are in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is the author of Abhinavagupta: The Kula Ritual as Elaborated in Chapter 29 of the Tantrāloka (Motilal Banarsidass Publishing, 2003), Jesus, the Mantra of God (David Lovell Publishing, 2005), and Towards a Christian Tantra (David Lovell Publishing, 2009).

Martin Hříbek

Martin Hříbek is assistant professor in Bengali and Indian Studies at the Institute of South and Central Asia, Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. Trained in both ethnology and modern Indology, he works on contemporary goddess worship in India, nature symbolism in Bengali literature, and Czech representations of the Orient.

Madhavi Narsalay

Madhavi Narsalay is an assistant professor and Head of the Department of Sanskrit, University of Mumbai. She specialises in the areas of Veda and Religious Studies. She has twenty-five publications to her credit, including a book titled Epics and Mahāpurāṇas on the Vedic Sacrifice (Aryan Books International, 2015).

Peter Friedlander

Peter Friedlander is a senior lecturer in Hindi-Urdu at the Australian National University. He did his PhD at London on the poet-saint Ravidas and has taught at La Trobe University in Melbourne and the National University of Singapore. He was honoured for his contributions to Hindi at the Vishva Hindi Sammelan in 2012 and was the invited keynote speaker at World Hindi day in Mauritius in 2016. Recent publications include book chapters on Hinduism, Buddhism and politics in the second edition of the Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics (2016), journal articles on Kabir (Oral Tradition 29 (2) October 2015), Hindi detective fiction (Situations 8 (2) 2015) and a book with Harry Aveling on the poet-saint Charandas (Prestige, 2014).

Pratish Bandopadhayay

Pratish Bandopadhayay is a Hindu priest from Bengal and has an academic interest in the social and historical context of the practice of Durgā Pūjā in Bengal. In his previous career, he was a principal research scientist with CSIRO (Melbourne, Australia), where he worked for over thirty years.

Marika Vicziany

Marika Vicziany is Professor Emerita and Director of the National Centre for South Asian Studies in the Faculty of Arts, Monash University. For over forty years she has published on India, particularly on long-term economic development, international trade/investment, poverty and religious/ethnic minorities. Among her recent publications is The European Union and India: Rhetoric or Meaningful Partnership? (Edward Elgar, 2015), with Pascale Winand and Poonam Datar.

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Last updated 30/08/2016.