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Book Review of Sorts: Chinnamasta

From: "Ahirbudhnyad" 
Subject: Book Review of Sorts: Chinnamasta
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 06:15:04 -0700

Just got through reading "Chinnamasta:  The Aweful Buddhist and Hindu
Tantric Goddess", by Elisabeth Anne Benard (Motilal Banarsidass, 1994, ISBN:
81-208-1065-1).  It's not a new book, but as I've never seen anyone mention
it online and was very impressed with it myself, I wanted to give it a

Benard draws upon sources from literature and field experience to compile
this thorough and easily-readable collection information regarding
Chinnamasta, the self-decapitated goddess found in both Hindu and Buddhist
Tantra (as Chinnamunda in the latter).  The book discusses in some detail
the iconography, mythology and Tantric ritual associated with her.  Until
this book, such a concise source on Chinnamasta wasn't available.  Benard
does a wonderful job of pulling together ancient and modern sources, from
the Upanishads to David Kinsley, as well as translating into English for the
first time such materials as the Chinnamastatantra from the Shakta Pramoda,
the Chinnamunda Vajravarahisadhana and the Trikayavjrayoginistuti.  She also
makes several keen observations of her own regarding iconography and the
9-Rasa classification of Chinnamasta's 108 and 1,000 names.  The several
photographs of pictures and murtis of Chinnamasta, as well as brief accounts
of her own experience at the temples and shrines of Chinnamasta in India,
round it all out perfectly.

For anyone interested in Chinnamasta, in the Mahavidyas, in Tantra in
general, or even those with a general interest in ancient religions and
mysticism, would do well to get a copy of this book about one of the most
unique god-forms in existence.

The author's pedigree, from the cover-flap of the book:

"Elisabeth Benard became interested in India at the age of twelve years when
her father first brought back Hindu images from a trip to India.  For many
years she looked at these images in her family library never dreaming that
one day she would become a scholar in Indian religions.  She researched in
India under the auspices of the American Institute of Indian Studies and
received her doctorate from Columbia University.  She has lectured widely in
the United States, including at the Smithsonian Institute and Asia Society,
as well as in India and Japan.  She has taught at Princeton, Rutgers
University, College of Wooster and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Presently she is teaching Hinduism, Women in Religion, and Asian Religions
at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas."

           Tzimon Yliaster
          Tools of CHAOS
            PO Box 26362,
     San Francisco, CA 94126

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