Daughters of the Goddess: The Female Saints of India (Book Review)

Linda Johnsen
128 pages
Yes International Publishers (Minnesota, USA)


daughters“India has produced more saints per capita than any other culture in history, but why aren’t there any Indian women saints?”

‘Daughters of the Goddess’ begins with the author recounting this question, which she posed to a Pandit in India many years ago.

The Pandit was surprised. “There are thousands of lady saints in India. You think because there are no books about them, they do not exist.” This conversation seemed to have spurred Linda Johnsen into action, and serves as a backdrop to this fascinating and highly readable book, consisting of a selection of stories, insights, accounts and interviews of great female Hindu saints from ancient to modern times, as well as an explanation of Goddess philosophy in the Hindu tradition. Thus ‘Daughters of the Goddess’ reveals the feminine face of Hinduism in all its glory.

There is particular emphasis on accounts of contemporary female saints, with the intention that sincere individuals can actually seek out and meet these tremendous women if they so desire. The author takes great pains to point out that meeting enlightened teachers in real life is much more fascinating and rewarding than just reading about them in books.

Linda Johnsen’s account challenges the western stereotype of Hinduism as a male dominated religion; pointing out that despite the (sometimes serious) gender issues that exist in Hindu society, in no other religion do women form such a large number of the most revered religious figures, both human saints and archetypal deities. She explains, “It is no accident that in India, the deity who governs education, the arts, and religious knowledge is Sarasvati; the deity associated with strength and protection is Durga; the deity who rules wealth and commerce is Lakshmi – all are Goddesses.”

She also contrasts India’s ‘women of spirit’ with western role models of feminism: “I wonder what it might have been like growing up not with Cinderella or Sleeping beauty as role models, but Lallesvari or Mira Bai. Suppose instead of aspiring to be presidents of software firms, ultra thin models, or successful artists and scholars, we women of the West could also picture ourselves as divine beings who could move at will through the inner corridors of the universe?”

Overall, Daughters of the Goddess is an engrossing and charming book. At only 128 pages, and written in a lively and fast paced format, it is sure to reach out to a wide audience. The only downside is that the liberal use of technical Sanskrit terms may baffle some readers (although this is remedied by the glossary). Overall, however, I am sure that this book is destined to change many lives, and highly recommend it to anybody sincerely interested in the subject matter.

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Comments

  1. As India is my second home and therefore affiliated with it’s culture, I share this link into free online read of the ancient, yet timeless Vedic texts I hope you will find interesting. http://vedabase.com/en Namaste 🙂

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