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In this study, I will examine the iconography of Mahisâsuramardinî, the slayer of the buffalo demon. The imagery emerges from a narrative tradition in which the goddess wages war with the demon. I will evaluate representations of Mahisâsuramardinî throughout its history within the contexts produced. The interpretations of divinity and its relationship with humanity within the periods of production will illuminate the theological understanding of the deity within its era. The iconography will be explored in three distict contexts. The first context will be from within the religious tradition with which it is most commonly associated – Brahminical Hinduism. I will show how the image emerged from a mundane representation and was elaborated to fit the mold of the celestial Brahminical pantheon. Next, I will evaluate depictions of the goddess in traditions with which the deity is not typically associated. I will discuss the iconography of the Jain yaksî Jvâlâmâlinî to display the appropriation of Mahisâsuramardinî, a martial deity in to a religion that emphasizes non-violence. I will also discuss the appropriation of the image into Javanese ancestor traditions and other traditions. Lastly, the imagery will be discussed in the modern context as the depictions become categorized as 'art.' I will show the modern categorization to alter the perception and usage of the image. I will demonstrate how the image ceases to have the same ritual life as in antiquity but becomes a symbol of cultural identity
Divinity, Goddess, Durga, Iconography, Hinduism, Art, Religion, India, South Asia, Identity
Date of Defense
April 8, 2008.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Religion in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master’S of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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