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Heroic ShāktismThe Cult of Durgā in Ancient Indian Kingship$
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Bihani Sarkar

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266106

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266106.001.0001

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The Cult of Nidrā-Kālarātri, Goddess of Sleep, Swoon, Death and the Night (c. 3rd to 5th Century)

The Cult of Nidrā-Kālarātri, Goddess of Sleep, Swoon, Death and the Night (c. 3rd to 5th Century)

(p.41) Chapter 1 The Cult of Nidrā-Kālarātri, Goddess of Sleep, Swoon, Death and the Night (c. 3rd to 5th Century)
Heroic Shāktism

Bihani Sarkar

British Academy

Assessing early Vaiṣṇava, epic, ritualistic and literary sources and iconographic evidence, this chapter discusses how an archetypical cult of an early Durgā, the form of the goddess prior to her absorption of other identities, acquired prestige from obscure origins between the 3rd and 5th centuries, while empire under the Guptas was in its heyday. Beginning in the 3rd century, the chapter examines the roots of Durgā in the black-hued, yellow-robed, ghost-encircled, liquour-loving, peacock-feather crested Vaiṣṇava goddess of Death, Time and Sleep, Nidrā-Māyā-Kālarātri-Kālī and examines her cult of averting dangers in that period. Within Vaiṣṇava thought, Kālarātri-Nidrā is Viṣṇu's yogic sleep and creative, active magical power (māyā) embodied, the great night of aeonic destruction too, while in her earthly form, she is Kṛṣṇa's savior from Kaṃsa, the intercessory salvific sister Nidrā born on the dark Navamī, who puts beings to sleep and is also responsible for their deaths at the end of their lifetimes. This goddess, who was also worshipped in Cambodia and Indonesia, her belief systems and her ritual worship with buffalo sacrifice on Navamī, the Dark Ninth of Śrāvaṇa, provided the idea-matrix—the classical archetype—for Durgā's later characterizations and ritual modifications.

Keywords:   Kālī, Kālarātri, Nidrā, Harivaṃśa, Durgā, Vindhyavāsinī

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