On Goddesses and the Category Śakti in Early Tantric Śaivism: the case of the Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā
This presentation explores the nature and historical development of goddesses and the category of Śiva’s “power(s)” (śakti) in the archaic Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā. It is observed that while female deities have limited cultic importance, their significance increases in the later strata of the text, especially the Guhyasūtra. A shift from apotheoses of feminine-gendered cosmological categories to embodied goddesses appears evident, as are early developments in characteristic Śaiva doctrines concerning the roles of śakti in cosmogony and grace. The presentation also highlights some of the ways in which ritual forms and concerns of the Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā presage those of early śākta-oriented tantric systems.