Goddesses are a dynamic repository of the values, beliefs, cultural practices, and sociopolitical ambitions that held sway at different points of time in public and private lives of men and women of diverse religious cults that inhabited the Indian subcontinent. Far from being achromatic entities, goddesses have gathered around them manifold layers of attributes ascribed by the cultures that cherished them. On account of multiple and complex genealogies associated with individual goddesses, there is no consensus regarding the exact number or names of goddesses. This is further complicated by the fact that most goddesses described in ancient religious texts have either disappeared or have been greatly transformed in popular worship. Conversely, there are instances of many popular goddesses whose genesis cannot be traced back to early religious writings.
The primordial female principle central to the idea of the goddesses has manifested itself in many forms. Goddesses are...