7 Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik


7 Secrets of the Goddess popped up on online book stores when I was reading Devi Mahatmay. I was looking for commentaries on the text and Devdutt being the popular author was being pushed. So, I gave in, in the hope of getting some insight into the story of Devi or the Goddess.

7 Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt PattanaikIn its 7 chapters, the author had to get the 7 different goddesses’ in his title. 3 are easy to choose – Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. He adds Gauri and Kali to this list, but he still needs 2 more to fit in his series. So, he adds Gaia from Greek mythology. Well, if you are going global, there could be deities from Japanese and Chinese mythologies as well.

Devdutt has a favorite theory of nature vs wild or wild vs domesticated. So, all Goddesses must fall into one of the categories created by him. So, it becomes Kali vs Gauri – the former being wild and the later being domesticated. He goes on to explain the imagery and the differences like wild open hair of Kali vs the neatly tied hair of Gauri or how the former is naked while the latter well adorned.

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Honestly, I did not see the chapters focussed on the Devi is described. The same arguments keep on repeating in almost every chapter. The fact that all the Devis are manifestations or Maya of one single Devi called Mahalaxmi in Devi Mahatmay is not even mentioned.

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He does take us through the Goddesses in Buddhism and Jainism a bit. Just as he tells us the names of the Goddesses in Vedas. Folk goddesses like Yellamma, goddesses associated with diseases also get a mention as do lesser known Devis like Lakshmi Hayagriva.

Lovely Artwork on Devi

The book is full of artworks depicting the Devi. These are the best part of the book. To see the miniature paintings, depict the various episode of Devi stories is a delight. To be able to see Devi in a visual form as she is described in the texts is like watching the text come alive. Especially when you see all her Ayudhas or weapons in all her hands.

I loved the image of Durga and Kali fighting the asura Raktabeeja, the image of Durga killing Mahishasura, Gajalakshmi with two elephants of different colors. There is a stunning image of Saraswati in the Mysore style of painting. Then, there are Radha Krishna paintings – the favorite of the miniature painters.

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Calendar Art & Images

There is Calendar art, much of which can be attributed to Raja Ravi Varma, at least stylistically if not in original. With pop up boxes, the author points out the nuances that the calendar art is trying to depict, making it more meaningful for an average reader. For example, when you see the Kali image of the Kalighat temple in Kolkata.

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There are images from ancient cultures including the Sindhu Sarasvati Civilization. There are well known Matrika figures and the lesser-known images on tablets with scripts. Chola Bronze images of Kali or Parvati as Yogini are there too. I wish he had mentioned where these images can be seen. I definitely want to see it.

Poster of Kali

There is a lovely poster image of Kali with 10 Mahavidyas. I wish he had explained the origin and purpose of these 10 Goddesses that are always seen together. Kali gets a lot of space in the book with her avatars like Bhadrakali and Shamshan Kali. I did not really get the relevance of Radha in the chapter on Kali or Bhairavi in the Gauri chapter.

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Pick 7 Secrets of the Goddess for the images it has. It is not easy to find all those images in one place.

Read the text if you know nothing about Indian Goddesses or the Devi. Or else, read the original texts like Devi Mahatamay, Lalita Sahastranam, Devi Bhagwat or Kalika Puran.

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