Some Shakti Upanishads – Goddess Worship

Categories : Spirituality

There is a long tradition of worshipping Goddesses as manifestations of female power/energy. About 5000 years ago the Harappans used to worship female fertility goddesses. This has been proved by the discovery of terracotta figurines found in the ruins of the civilization. In the Rig Veda also we find references to Aditi, Usha, Shri, Lakshmi, Saraswati etc. who represent Shakti. In the Devi Sukta of Rigveda (10/125) Devi asserts that she is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the Universe and it is her plan and will which gets implemented through Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Uma who is the consort of Shiva is taken as primordial energy (Adishakti) responsible for everything happening in Brahmanda (universe). Therefore, Shakti Upasana is coming down from ages in Hinduism.

Shakti is worshipped in three forms as described in religious scriptures.

  1. Shaanta or Saumya mudra (exhibiting peace)
  2. Ugra or Prachanda mudra (exhibiting anger)
  3. Kama Pradhan (exhibiting Sensuousness)

It is the Shanta Mudra which is worshipped widely as Uma, Parvati, Lakshmi, Saraswati etc. and they form the foundations of Shakta Upanishads (e.g., Radha, Sita, Lakshmi Devi etc.). The Ugra form known as Durga Chandi, Kapali, Kali, and Bhairavi are also worshipped for which renowned temples exist. The sensuous forms are worshipped as Anand Bhairavi, Tripura Sundari, Lalita etc. Shiva and Shakti are closely related.

A reference to the manifestation of Mahadevi as Uma before Indra is also found in Kenopanishad (chapter III Mantra 12).

Shaiva Upanishads and Shakta Upanishads are also closely related. This is because of Uma who is the source of female energy and also the consort of Shiva. The Shakti cult has closely mingled with the Tantric cult from about early medieval period and most of the temples built subsequently depict Tantric cults. The Upanishads have also assimilated tantric methods. Some Shakti cult Upanishads are described below.

Sri Radhopanishad:

This is a small Upanishad belonging to Rigveda having only one chapter. This covers the discourse between Bramha and the various Rishis led by Shaunak. In reply to a question posed by Shaunak, Shri Bramhaji disclosed the importance of Radha for Sri Krishna / Narayan. He said that Krishna is endowed with various qualities like delight knowledge, action etc. Radha represents the symbol of delight for Krishna because he remains happiest when he finds Radha.

The Upanishad describes 28 names of Radha like Radha, Raseshwari, Ramya, Krishna-Mantradhiveta, Sarvadya, Sarvavandya, Vrindaban Viharini etc. Bramha teaches that Radha and Krishna have become separate entities due to the requirements of the Mrityuloka. They are not separate at all because Radha represents the quality of delight and power which Krishna exhibits profusely. Her other powers are reflected in her friends (the Gopis), her parents, her home, her playground in Vrindavan and the entire creation around Vrindavan. She is the manifestation of Triguni Maya herself.

Sri Radhika Tapaniya Upanishad:

The Upanishad belonging to Atharvaveda is small having one chapter containing 12 shlokas. The glory of Radha has been sung by the Shrutis in this Upanishad. Vedic literature is known as Shruti. This means that the glory of Radha has been described by the Vedas themselves. The Suryadeva, the knower of Vedas brings forth the message about Radha.

The 12 slokas are in the form of prayer to Radha who has been depicted as the main energy behind Krishna. It has been described how during Ras Lila she was able to extend the duration of the night for a month with the help of musical Ragas like Rishava, Gandhar etc. for all those Gopis who were engaged in Ras Lila with Krishna. This Upanishad also emphasizes the oneness of Radha and Krishna.

The knowledge about this Upanishad was provided to Brihaspati by Vashishtha. Thereafter, this Upanishad has come to be known as Varhaspatya.


This Upanishad is in the form of a discourse between Prajapati and gods. The Upanishad belongs to Atharvaveda and has one chapter with details. The Upanishad describes the inherent power of Mahalaxmi who incarnated as Sita for Ram while her father Janak was preparing the ground for sacrificial purpose with the help of a plough. She has been considered the all-pervading divine energy responsible for the birth, sustenance and annihilation of the universe.

The Upanishad says that her creative energy emanated from the mouth of Narayan as AUM which reflected in the total creation of the universe. In this process, the Upanishad describes the religious scriptures which were provided to the world for their proper functioning and regulations such scriptures include the following (in detail).

Four Vedas: Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samveda and Atharvaveda.

Six Vedangas: Shiksha (Akshara Shuddhi – Syllable Purity), Vyakaran (Grammar), Chhandas (Meter or Rhyme), Nirukta (Etymology – Word Analysis), Jyotisha (Astrology – eyes of Vedas) and Kalpa (Rules for rituals).

Four Upavedas: Ayurveda, Arthashastra, Dhanurveda and Gandharvaveda

Six Philosophical Treaties: Sankhya Yoga, Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Poorva Mimansa and Uttar Mimansa

Eighteen Mahapuran: Brahma, Padma, Vishnu, Vayu, Bhagvat, Naradiya, Markandeya, Agni, Bhavisya, Brahmavaivarta, Linga, Varah, Skand, Vaman Kurma, Matsya, Garud, Brahmandapuran.

Eighteen Upa Puranas: Sanatkumar, Narsimha, Siva, Durvasa, Kapila, Manav, Varun, Kalika, Maheshvar, Samba, Parasara, Devi Bhagavat, Aditya, Vashistha etc.

Two Itihas Puran: Ramayana and Mahabharat.

Three Sutras: Shraut Sutras for large-scale sacrifices in open areas, Griha Sutras for household rituals and agnihotra, Dharma Sutras for specifying obligatory duties and rules of righteousness.

Smritis and Dharmshastras: These were written by Manu, Vishnu dharma, Yagyavalkya, Parashar, Apasthamba, Harita, Katyayana, Yama, Gautam, Bodhyan, Sankhalikhita, Vasistha, Angiras, Sandilya, Bharadwaj, Satatapa etc.

Since Sita is considered an incarnation of Adi Shakti (Uma) she is endowed with all the capabilities related to the supreme energy for which she must be eulogized.

Saubhagya Lakshmi Upanishad:

“Shri” is the name of Lakshmi. This is found in Rigveda. The 15 mantras Sri Sukta are for the prayer of Lakshmi. This Upanishad is related to the Rig-Vediya Sri Sukta and thus the Upanishad itself belongs to Rigveda.

The Upanishad says that out of 15 Suktas, the first one was composed by Indira and the remaining 14 were heard by Ananda, Kardam and Chikkalita. All the latter three were offsprings of the first i.e., Lakshmi. The first three mantras are in Anushtupachhanda. The fourth is in Brihatti and the fifth and the sixth are in Trishtupa Chhanda. The remaining mantras are again in Anushtupa.

A detailed description of anga-nyas and hridayadi-nyas has been given for the Upasana of Sri Sukta. Instructions for making Sri Yantra have also been given. Mantra and Yantra puja methods have been described with which the first chapter concludes.

The second chapter provides some instructions relating to yoga. Some asanas for yoga have also been described.

The third chapter of the Upanishad touches the Chakras found in the human body beginning with the Muladhar chakra and gradually ascending upwards towards the head.

The Sri Sukta containing the 15 original mantras are found separately.


This is a small Rigvediya Upanishad having one chapter only. The Upanishad describes one by one the origin of devatas and the universe from the deity herself including Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Rigvediya Devi Sukta has also a similar tone.

The last part of the Upanishad establishes the Devi as the conceptualized Brahma and relates the Mahavakyas like Pragyanam Brahma, Tat Tvam Asi, Aham Brahmasmi and other similar messages with the Devi.

Mahatripur Sundari and Lalita are the two names ascribed to the Supreme energy described in this Upanishad.


This Atharvavediya Upanishad is also small having one chapter. It describes the supreme deity in ways similar to the narrations found in Markandeya Puran. The details of the mantra Aum Aim Hreem Kleem Chamundaye Vicche have been explained. The Mantra belongs to Mahasaraswati, Mahalaxmi and Mahakali which have been invoked in the Upanishad for Mahatripur Sundari.

The devi has been described as Agyeya (not knowable), Ananta (infinite), Alakshya (beyond comprehension), Alka (single entity pervading all places), Aja (birth not knowable). She is known as Durga who can be attained only with great effort.


  1. The Vedas – Sri Chandrashekharendra Saraswati, Sankaracharya of Kanchi, Kamkoti Peetham
  2. Kalyan – Upanishad Special edition, Gitapress, Gorakhpur