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'Beauty, Power & Grace: The Book of Hindu Goddesses' By Krishna Dharma (PHOTOS AND EXCERPT)

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One of Hinduism's most fundamental aspects is the varied manifestation of divinity. Krishna Sharma's Beauty, Power & Grace: The Book of Hindu Goddesses captures the stories and depictions of Hindu goddesses with stunning illustrations by B.G. Sharma and Mahaveer Swami.

"In Vedic tradition, these depictions of the Goddess reflect the belief that male and female are simply different expressions of one supreme, absolute truth," wrote Mandala Publishing in a release to The Huffington Post.

Dharma is a practicing Hindu priest who has translated Indian epics the Mahabarata and the Ramayana. Sharma, a winner of India's National Art Award, is a master in the traditional styles of Kangra, Kishangarh, and Mughal painting. Swami is a miniatures artist devoted to the traditional Bikaneri painting style.

Text excerpted from "Beauty, Power & Grace: The Book of Hindu Goddesses" by Krishna Dharma with illustrations by B.G. Sharma and Mahaveer Swami, published by Mandala Publishing © 2014.

  • Saraswati
    B.G. Sharma & Mahaveer Swami / Mandala Publishing
    "The goddess Saraswati is primarily known as the giver of knowledge. But she is actually much more than that. Another of her names is Vak, which means speech. At its most subtle level, this means the original sound vibration that brings about creation. For the Vedas say that all things originate with sound, specifically the Vedic mantra Om. In all her features, the Goddess is always intimately involved with creation, suffusing it with her own being in many different ways. All the names and forms of the manifest world have their origin in Saraswati, who inspires the sages to compose mantras that form the basis of the creative ritual language of the Vedic tradition. Indeed, poets in all traditions have recognized the presence of the Muse, the divine Goddess who inspires their creations."
  • Sita
    B.G. Sharma & Mahaveer Swami / Mandala Publishing
    "Among Hindus, the popularity of the Mahabharata is rivaled only by the glories of the Ramayana. Known in Sanskrit as the Adi Kavya, or the original poem, this ancient epic describes the earthly activities of Rama and Sita, who are considered to be divine incarnations of the Supreme Lord and the Goddess. Recitations of its 24,000 verses over a seven-day period regularly take place all over India and attract tens of thousands of listeners. Probably the best known of the numerous Hindu festivals is Diwali, which celebrates Rama’s recovery of Sita from the fierce demon Ravana."
  • Parvati
    B.G. Sharma & Mahaveer Swami / Mandala Publishing
    "Parvati is the form of the Goddess most closely associated with Shiva. In many popular images, the two are shown locked in a sensuous embrace. According to Hindu scripture, Parvati took birth at the behest of Brahma for the very purpose of luring Shiva into marriage and having his child. These accounts indicate that she had a previous incarnation as Sati, who had also been Shiva’s consort. In that life she had immolated herself after hearing her husband insulted, thus lending her name to the now infamous rite of suttee, or sati as it is known in Sanskrit, where a widow enters her dead husband’s funeral pyre as a final and consummate act of loyalty and devotion."
  • Lakshmi
    B.G. Sharma & Mahaveer Swami / Mandala Publishing
    "For most Hindu families today, Lakshmi is the goddess of the household. The scriptures describe her as the goddess of prosperity, splendor, luminosity and fortune. Her auspicious nature and reputation for granting fertility, good fortune, wealth and well-being attract devotees in every Indian village. Although there are very few temples dedicated to her worship alone, she is often seen on altars standing by the side of Vishnu. According to the Vedas, Lakshmi accompanies Vishnu as his companion whenever he incarnates within the world. Her names, likenesses and symbols are seen on the doors, walls, pillars and niches of temples everywhere, no matter which deity that shrine might be dedicated to."
  • Durga
    B.G. Sharma & Mahaveer Swami / Mandala Publishing
    "Generally Hinduism is divided into three broad strands, according to the particular vision of the deity held by its devotees. The Vaishnavas worship Vishnu as the supreme personal God; the Shaivites similarly worship Lord Shiva; and the Shaktas worship the Supreme as the goddess Durga. The term shakta derives from shakti, the Sanskrit word for power or energy. Durga is thus identified as the supreme divine power. She strikes a powerful pose in her typical manifestation, mounted upon a lion or tiger, her numerous arms wielding a fearsome array of weapons. Appearing as a beautiful woman, she attracts the demons toward her only to annihilate them."

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