Shakti (Divine Energy) Origin and Meaning



1. Introduction

        Shak (शक्) means to become capable or be capable. The word Shakti (शक्ती) is derived by suffixing ‘ktin (क्तिन्)’ to the root word ‘shak’ (शक्). It mainly means power, valour and vital energy. ‘Shakti’ (Divine Energy) is thus the attribute inherent in every object, which is necessary for its functioning and which does not exist independent of it. For example, fire is the possessor of energy and heat is its energy. Heat cannot exist independent of fire. Each object has its inseparable energy coexisting with it. Since objects are infinite, so are energies.

2. Nature of origin and flow of Shakti (Divine Energy)

        There are two main forms of Deity Shiva. His first form is all-pervasive, pure, knowledgeable, blissful, full of Chaitanya (Divine consciousness) and absolute; in other words, it is the perpetually stable Parabrahman (Supreme God). His second form is Shaktitattva (Divine Energy Principle), which is always functioning in the universe. This Principle manifests itself through all the animate and inanimate objects in nature. The origin of Shakti is in the form of vibrations. Shakti is not separate from Deity Shiva but is a part of Deity Shiva. Shakti’s function is to activate Shiva who is in an inactive state. Creation-Sustenance-Dissolution are the attributes of Shakti. The cycle of Creation-Sustenance-Dissolution is unending.

3. Bestowing divinity to Shakti (Divine Energy)

        The Shakti (Divine energy) present in every Devata (Male Deity) was bestowed with divinity and that Shakti form was then referred to as Devi (Female Deity) or Shakti. Followers of the Shakta sect (Worshippers of Shakti) honoured Her as Adimaya (Primal Energy) or Jagadamba (Mother of the universe). Ordinary people, too, view Shakti as mother. Jagadamba is associated with all Deities including Brahma, Vishṇu & Mahesh.

4. Confusion about Names, power and attributes of Shakti

4A. The devotee of every Deity considers his Deity of worship to be supreme and that all other Deities have originated from Her.

For example,

  • Tripurasundari is the supreme Deity as She is the confluence of Shri Saraswati, Shri Lakshmi and Kalimata.

  • Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati are the main forms of Durga according to the Shri Durgasaptashati, a Holy text.

4B. The Name Shri Lakshmi is associated with both superior as well as subordinate Deity. The Information in this article refers to superior Shri Lakshmi.

4C. The Matsyapuraṇa describes Mahishasurmardini to have been created from the combined Shakti of Deities Brahma, Vishṇu and Mahesh; whereas, the Markandeyapuraṇa quotes Her to have been created from parts of all Deities.

4D. Name, attribute and mission of the Deity

Name Main component  Mission
One school of thought Another school of thought
1. Mahasaraswati Sattva Raja Creation of the universe
2. Mahalakshmi Raja Sattva Nurture, Sustenance and wealth
3. Mahakali Tama Tama Vanquishing obstacles, destroying the enemy

5. Creation of Shaktis

5A. Creation by a Devata

        A demon, Andhakasur, used to harass the Devatas. On one occasion, he abducted Parvati, the consort of Deity Shiva. Deity Shiva waged a war against the demon. From every drop of blood that the wounded Andhakasur shed, a new Andhakasur was created. Consequently, the army of Deities was on the verge of defeat. Then, Deity Shiva created Maheshwari and a type of Matrukas. They began drinking Andhakasur’s blood before it could fall to the ground. This arrested the creation of new Andhakasurs. Thereafter, Deity Shiva killed Andhakasur with ease.

5B. Creation from the union of energies of Devatas

  • Once the demon Mahishasur became very powerful. He waged a war against the Deities and, defeating Indra, occupied His throne. Under the leadership of Deity Brahma, all the Deities approached Shrivishṇu and Deity Shankar. Hearing of Mahishasur’s atrocities Shrivishṇu, Deity Shankar and all other Deities were enraged and a flow of radiance emanated from their bodies. The cumulative effect of this radiance resulted in the creation of a Devi. She was Mahalakshmi. The Deities greeted Her with praises, presented Her with their respective weapons and prayed to Her to slay Mahishasur.

  • The Markandeyapuraṇa describes how various parts of the body of Devi Shri Durga were created. Her face was created from the radiance of Deity Shankar, Deity Yama’s radiance helped in creating Her scalp hair, Shrivishṇu’s radiance created hands, radiance of the moon Principle created the breasts. The waist was created from the radiance of Deity Indra, the thighs and calves from that of Varuṇ, the buttocks from the radiance of the earth, the feet, toes and fingers from the radiance of Deity Brahma, Surya (Sun) and the Vasus (Deities of directions) respectively. The radiance of Kuber created the nose, that of Prajapati, the teeth and that of Agni (Fire), the three eyes. The eyebrows were created from the radiance of twilight and Vayu (Air) created the ears with His radiance. Several other Deities contributed their radiance towards Her form. She was bestowed with a weapon by each Deity – a trident by Deity Shiva, a Sudarshan-chakra by Shrivishṇu, a Vajra (Divine thunderbolt) by Deity Indra and a sword by Kaladevata (Deity of time). Thus, the Devi was equipped with twenty different kinds of weapons.

Reference : Sanatan Sanstha’s Holy text ‘Shakti (Part 1) Introduction to Divine Energy’ and ‘Shakti (Part 2) Worship of Divine Energy

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