Date of Award

Spring 2021

Access Restriction

Campus Access only Theses

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Yoga Studies

School or College

Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Christopher Chapple


Traditional heteronormative gender narratives in the Hindu religion, such as pativratā, do not always provide a clear basis for women’s empowerment within Hindu ritual. The Ṣoḍaśī-pūjā, in which Ramakrishna worshiped his wife Sarada Devi as the living goddess Ṣoḍaśī, provides a clear and subversive template to establish a unique form of feminism rooted in Kālī-bhakti. This paper seeks to develop a novel Hindu feminism called Strī-Śakti-Bhāva according to a four-fold tantric empowerment: (1) strī-śakti, (2) śaktipāta, (3) devībhāva, and (4) śakti-sevā. This study draws upon various English translations of Bengali hagiographies in the Ramakrishna tradition and contemporary research materials from Indian feminist scholars. Since the Ṣoḍaśī-pūjā empowered Sarada Devi to serve as the spiritual mother of the Ramakrishna Order, this paper concludes that Ṣoḍaśī-pūjā certainly provides a mechanism of women’s empowerment that is uniquely situated within the Hindu religion.

Available for download on Thursday, May 26, 2022