In this chapter Doniger starts off by introducing us to the Age of Gold and the Guptas. She continues with some historical background what was going on during the time and references to the Gupta style and it’s Imperialistic mark. Supposedly someone invented chess in India at this time. After couple of pages Doniger starts with her section Diversity and Sectarian worship, she starts referencing Vishnu sponsoring the Gupta Empire according to Gupta kings. Also around the time of the fifth and sixth century CE, this was when the Puranas came into creation. She goes on describing that the Puranas are “more relaxed“ than the Vedic texts or the Mahabharata. She says that they are not what they say they are about, they say they are about the five signs but she says they are about open-mindedness and opening these rituals to everyone regardless of caste or gender. The Puranas where then put through a Brahmin filter because they were in between oral traditions and the use of Sanskrit. Doniger then soon talks about how women protagonists in the Puranas start becoming very prevalent and then she mentions Puranic Goddesses like Chandika, The Buffalo Crusher. After she talks about Chandika, she continues to talk about “goddesses of the tooth and goddesses of the breast” meaning wives of gods and killers. Doniger talks about the goddess Parvati and her splitting between Gauri, goddess of breast, and Kali, goddess of tooth. Doniger finally wraps up the chapter by talking about animals as vehicles for gods and goddesses and even for summer half animal deities such as Ganesha, and horse sacrifice and the story of Janamejaya and Indra.
Analysis: when I first started reading this chapter I should’ve expected that Doniger wouldn’t talk about what the chapter was titled as right away. At First it was very confusing, as most of her chapters are, but once she started describing the Puranas, things got a lot easier to understand. She calls it the “hip-hop of the medieval world” and that makes sense to me because it seems that the Puranas are clashing against Vedic traditions because of how liberal it is. The fact that it says they do not require the mediation of a Brahmin priest is a fairly large step even if the Brahmins to try to interfere and “fix” it.
I find it quite sad that when talking about Chandika’s power that it unfortunately came from men, this shows that even though Doniger talks about women becoming protagonists, it doesn’t really seem like they are because they don’t have their own true power. Also on the topic of shakti, this part got a little confusing as well. If a God has it and the goddess is it, does that mean that all gods have goddesses? Doniger says that many of the female goddesses become “wedded” to other gods to become their Shaktis, they lose some sort of agency.
I don’t really like how she generalizes the Puranas right at the end with her final sentence “In the Puranas, there is a cure for everything” because as much as it makes sense I don’t think generalization such as that could be taken seriously. Maybe she doesn’t want it to be taken seriously but I still don’t think it was a smart move to end on such a hyperbole.
- Do you think there are enough examples of goddesses in this chapter, and did she talk about goddesses in the way that you were expecting?
- Doniger says the Puranas are like the “hip-hop of the medieval world” what metaphor would you use to describe the Puranas?
- How has your view on Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva changed after reading this chapter?