Shakti is quite literally an ambiguous term. It can either refer to a Goddess, all the Goddesses or the feminine creative divine power behind the ‘absolute being’. However overall, we get the idea that within Hinduism there is a form of female deity worship- something unique to Hinduism as a religion. Krishna on the other hand, is taken as the eighth incarnation, or avatar, of Vishnu. The word avatar itself means ‘down coming’ and stories about the down coming of Krishna can be found in the Puranas as well as the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna is often depicted and worshipped as either; a mischievous child, a lover, or a warrior and spiritual leader.
It is difficult to give a precise definition of Shakti, as Jamison says, ‘this unique emphasis on the female power of the divine needs some exploration, as it is not always... straightforward.’ (Hinduism) However we can divide the ideology of Shakti into certain distinct features. One of these distinct features being Shakti as the Divine Mother. Shakti is often depicted in the stance of mudra with one arm raised in a ‘do not fear, I will protect you’ sort of manner, which emphasises her role as a protective mother. As Jamison says, she takes on many forms to save her children (her devotees) from ‘those who would imperil her devotees’ (Hinduism) Like nature, Shakti is both nurturing and bountiful yet also cruel and dangerous. Shakti destroys evil and destructive forces in order to restore balance, Jamison states that the Goddesses expressions of violence ‘are symbols of the Goddesses’ love’ (Hinduism) This once again reflects the great protection Shakti has over her children and the great lengths she is ready to go to for their protection.
Another distinctive feature of Shakti is her as a Goddess in her own right. Shakti seems to embody all of the goddesses within Hinduism, which is interesting as Shakti acts as one great overall power to the partners of certain avatars, who of which are all a form of Vishnu as an overall power. Zaehner describes how Shakti is ‘variously called Parvati, Uma, Kali or Durga,’ (Hinduism). All the Goddesses Shakti is a part of seem to be quite diverse when put together. For example, as Durga she is the goddess of war, as Uma she has quite a mild personality, as Kali she is a terrifying dominator of Shiva .
A main feature is Shakti as the divine creative energy. Shakti itself means force, power or energy and is the Hindu personification of the female aspects of God. Zaehner emphasises this ambiguity in form when he says that ‘there is no distinction of persons [in Shiva], male and female coalesce into wholeness.’ (Hinduism) Whereas Shiva is represented by the lingam symbol, Shakti is represented by the yoni which is a symbol for the female reproductive organ. Zaehner points out that ‘the lingam and yoni.. represent the totality of all created existence,’ (Hinduism) Together the lingam and yoni symbolise the power of divine in both male and female forms.
The first distinctive feature of Krishna that I will look at is Krishna as a child. The Puranas contains many stories about Krishna’s mischievous childhood, as well as the way in which he revealed himself to be a deity. In one story, Krishna’s foster mother Yashoda chased Krishna for stealing butter, a common habit of his, but as Jamison puts it ‘when she looked in the child’s mouth she saw the entire universe’ (Hinduism) Thus revealing to the world his divine nature. All the heart warming stories of Krishna as a child are popular with Hindus because they create a very personal God with whom they can relate and feel close to.
The Puranas also describe Krishna’s flirtatious behaviour, which leads into the third distinctive feature of Krishna as a lover. As a child, Krishna was very jealous of Radha’s fair complexion as he himself was quite dark. To consolidate her crying son, Yashoda told Krishna to go and colour Radha’s face any…