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Encountering the Goddess: A Translation of the Devi-Mahatmya and a Study of Its Interpretation.

This is an English translation of a famous Hindu goddess text and a discussion of the religious roles the text has played and plays in the Hindu tradition. The work represents a continuation of the author's previous research on this text (The Devi-Mahatmya: The Crystallization of the Goddess Tradition, 1988) and supplements that work very well.

An English translation of this text in contemporary idiom that is sensitive to the historical context of the work is most welcome. The translations of several ancillary texts that have been associated with the DM for many centuries ("The Armour," "The Stopper," and "The Bolt") are also welcome. The translation itself, a clear improvement over earlier versions, stays close to the Sanskrit, which at times lends the translation a somewhat infelicitous quality. For example: "And (her) lion, tossing its mane and uttering a terrible roar, / Rooted around searching for breaths still coming from the bodies of the enemies of the gods" (2.67, p. 44). While accurate, it might have been more felicitous to have said something like " . . . for signs of life among the enemy bodies." But this is a quibble and for the most part the translation reads well.

The author's attempt to place the text in liturgical context, and to discuss the ways in which the text is viewed and employed as a sacred text, includes both a study of traditional commentaries on the text and a description of its contemporary recitation in differing contexts. The author makes clear that for most goddess devotees the text is viewed as powerful as such. It is recited in liturgical contexts and the verses themselves, individually or together, when invoked, are believed to have extraordinary power. The text (as is clearly the case with scriptures in nearly every literate religious tradition) is not so much read for its context as recited and invoked on sacred occasions in sacred places for its power to achieve specific ends.

The author also includes extensive comments by goddess devotees concerning the meaning and use of the text. The contrasting views of the two principal informants (one tending to a monistic interpretation of the text and the other a devotional interpretation) help bring the text alive in the context of contemporary Hinduism and suggest the intensity of reverence in which the text is held my many Hindus.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Oriental Society
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kinsley, David
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Words:387
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