Artwork of A Garland of Forgotten Goddesses, Part 6 of 12
The sixth chapter of A Garland of Forgotten Goddesses continues with the theme of this section: relationships between goddesses and their devotees. R. Jeremy Saul is the translator and author of this chapter on Kailā Devī, a popular goddess in eastern Rajasthan state renowned for granting miracles and intervening in daily life when evil starts to get the upper hand.
The image below features her with her sister, the goddess Cāmuṇḍā, who likely existed at this site before Kailā Devī herself arrived. Indeed, according to the story translated in this chapter, the stone image of Kailā Devī was brought to its present location from another region, many centuries ago. In the image below, as in the icons at the temple itself, Kailā Devī inclines away from her sister slightly. People say this is because of her disapproval of Cāmuṇḍā’s dietary preference for meat (Kailā Devī herself is strictly vegetarian). Despite this small tension in their relationship, the two goddesses are worshiped together, and generally regarded as different aspects of the singular Divine Mother.
The following excerpt is one of a dozen or so continuous vignettes from Kailā Devī’s local lore that we selected for translation from the original Hindi. The section is titled Ma Saves a Merchant’s Boat and Becomes Absorbed in Thought. Baba Kedargiri is a holy man who had a special relationship with the goddess.
One day, Mother was playing dice with Kedargiri, as she was fond of doing, when suddenly the dice fell from her hand and she became very still. After some time, she returned to her normal state and started playing again. At first it seemed to Baba that nothing had happened and all was normal, but suddenly he noticed water dripping from Mother’s hair. He asked in surprise, “Mother, what is happening? There is water dripping from your hair!” Mother said, “It is nothing, Baba. Just play. What are you getting at with these words?” But the baba could not forget this matter, instead thinking to himself, “Mother will surely explain this to me.” Mother then said, “Baba, I am telling you, you will not be able to see me in this form a second time.” And she added, “Look Baba, you can see I have various devotees like you, and from time to time I come to help and protect them. Today, one devotee of mine had brought his goods by boat in the Yamuna River, but the boat got stuck in a whirlpool. In this time of trouble, that merchant devotee remembered me, so I went there to assist him. I saved him from the whirlpool, and that is why my hair is full of water from the Yamuna. Baba, don’t be wondering how I could go so far from here and how I could rescue that boat. For me, this is all easy work. I am present in all places, and in accordance with what I said above, I will henceforth not be visible to you in this form.” Having said this, the goddess disappeared! It is said that this happened in 1428 CE.
—A Garland of Forgotten Goddesses, UC Press 2021