Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Shakti Garbha as Ark of the Covenant at an American Hindu Goddess Temple

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Magnolia, Lower Ground Floor

The Parashakthi Temple in Pontiac, is dedicated to worship of the goddess Karumariamman, "Black Mariyamman," who, the temple website asserts, has manifested herself both in the village of Thiruverkadu, just outside Chennai in Tamil Nadu, and at the Parashakthi temple in Pontiac. The temple operates under the guidance of a spiritual director, Dr. G. Krishna Kumar, who is a practicing gastroenterologist and self-described mystic. In 2012, the Parashakthi Temple started construction on a grand Rajagopuram, or "royal tower.” It was completed in 2015 and now stands at the front of the temple's entrance adorned with 520 images, or vigrahas, of Hindu deities. Kumar asserts that the Goddess herself asked that the Rajagopuram be constructed according to her precise directions in order to channel healing and protective energy to the western world. In 2013, Krishna Kumar, brought back from India a golden box that he deemed the "shakti garbha," or "womb of Shakti (the goddess)." It was placed at the base of the Rajagopuram during construction. This box, which is filled with 60 different substances, was said to contain the energy needed to enliven the Rajagopuram and make it effective. Temple discourse equates the Shakti Garbha with the Jewish "Ark of the Covenant." This talk will explore the dynamics surrounding the Shakti Garbha/ Ark of the Covenant equation made in this context.  I argue that the imagery invoked is intended to suggest that the Parashakthi Temple has succeeded the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and replaced it.


Tracy Pintchman

Loyola University, Chicago, United States

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3 - Shakti Garbha as Ark of the Covenant at an American Hindu Goddess Temple



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