Among original features are now unintelligible. When these

Among ancient men in all societies,
the domination of the feminine principle in the process of the creation was
most obvious.  The worship related to the
mother goddess must be the oldest and longest surviving ingredients of the
religions of the ancient world1.

The origin of mother goddess worship
is a fascinating one. it has been answered, by all religions in different ways.Whatever
be the answer in the religious thinking the belief in the supernatural being is
seen in all the religions.the origin of the mother goddess is to be traced in
the early Neolithic societies of the stone age2.

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The study of the Indian Mother cults is for
many reasons difficult. In their earliest forms they are aniconic and
unco-ordinated, and literary evidence of the more primitive Dravidian cults is,
of course, wanting. When they have been taken over by the Br?hmans they have
been so worked over and metamorphosed that many of their original features are
now unintelligible. When these deities influence fertility the cultus is to a
large extent magical, and as magic necessarily involves secrecy, enquirers of a
different faith are unable to investigate it. In the case of Saktism, the
latest development, these difficulties are increased, because the worship of
the female productive energies offends the nobler and more sober instincts of
Hindus, and the rites are necessarily conducted with precautions against the
intrusion of outsiders in the mysteries3.

 

Hinduism is unique among the world religions,
its rich tradition of goddess worship.  In India  mother goddess have been worshipped  from antique past as the guardian and
punishing the believers, protectors of community and society, solver of human
problems, example of virginity and purity, the mother of fertility of the crops
and human beings,supporter and mediator between human being and deities  

The
worship of goddess in India  has invited
the attention of Indian and foreign scholars. The different aspects of the
female deities and the evolution of goddess cult have been studied in various perspectives.
The historians have put forward various interpretations regarding the evolution
of  goddesses and there cult in the framework
of their involvement on the social course. 

The
cult of the goddesses in the primitive society and her influence on women, her
universal acceptance in most of the early societies, the psychological representation,
feminism and the goddess’s naturalism and the material reasons for the adoption
of the goddesses are some important theories propounded to assess the existence
of goddesses in the context of the social practices.

 The mother goddess cult in primitive society
has been theorized by the social scientist in terms of its impact upon the
status of women in the society.According to the social  scientist J. Bamberger (FN1974)  “both the goddesses and the women had a predominant
position in primitive society”4.In
the view of R. Eisler’sl (1990)  “points
out that the equality in partnership between man and woman some five thousand
years ago was noteworthy”. According to him the elevated social status of women
in primitive society, he accepts, was due to the impact of predominant status
of mothercult5.
Bambarger and Lamphere(1974) states, “that there was the common notion of the
people that the females had some elements of mother goddesses and, hence, the
women were honored in the society”. The  worship of Mother-goddess in pre-historic
times have been traced in countries like India,Egypt,Mesopotamia  .The feasibility of material perspective in
introspecting growing and changing faces of the female deities has been
elaborately discussed by N.N.Bhattacharyya15 (1999, 1974). He has probed in
detail the material reasons for the adoption and the adaptation of the female
deities. To him the material mode of human life played an important role in the
origin and acceptance of deities in the society. It is the “material need
of any community that provides rationale for the type of deity and the manner
of worship”, he says. In every place the mother goddess is mainly concerned
with vegetation and fertility6.

 

 

The
cult of Mother Goddess that prevailed in India in the Prehistoric times
continued to dominate the Indian  thought
in the times to come. As N.N. Bhattacharya4 puts it, “In primitive society, the
clan centered on woman on whose responsibility rested the essentially important
function of rearing up the young and of imparting to them whatever could be characterized
as the human heritage at the pre-hunting stage. All cultural traits, including
habits, norms of behavior, inherited traditions, etc. were formed by and
transmitted through the females. The woman was not only the symbol of
generation, but also the actual producer of life. Her organs and attributes
were thought to be endowed with generative power, and so, they had been the
life giving symbols. In the earliest phases of social evolution, it was this
maternity that held the field, the life  producing mother being the central figure of
religion”7.

 

THE worship of mother goddess or earth goddess was
an essential feature of harappan religion.the three aspects of the mother
goddess as creator,preserver and destroyer were clearly indicated by the mother
goddess figurines excavated from the sites. Since the Harappan script
still remains un-deciphered, assumptions with regard to their political,
economic and religious life are based totally on the numerous clay figurines,
seals, amulets and phallic symbols discovered from the various Indus sites.
From the motifs occurring on the seals and sealings and the figurines excavated,
it has been accepted that the Harappan religion centered mainly around the
worship of the feminine principle and that the main deity of the Harappans was
a Mother Goddess. Holding his belief in the cultural diffusion theory, Sir John
Marshall observes: “The generally accepted view concerning them is that they
represent the Great Mother or Nature Goddess whose cult is believed to have
originated in Anatolia (probably in Phrygia) and spread thence throughout most
of Western Asia8.

 The worship of Mother Goddess or the Earth
Goddess was an essential feature of Harappan religion. In the words of Oppert,
the Indus Valley people, “believed in the existence of one supreme spirit of
Heaven with whom was associated and admitted to an equal and eventually even
superior share of power, i.e., the Goddess of Earth.”9
 .

The
Mother Goddess figurines from Indus valley sites  are commonly of  the same type . Terracotta figurines are
commonly excavated from the sites along with statues of metals like the
“dancing girl”, which was made of bronze and proficiently crafted  . Irene Gajjar points out that, “the
terracotta tradition of Indus Valley, as regards its relationship with western
cultures, shows evidence of fundamental links, especially with reference to
the   Mother Goddess cult.The similarity is not so
much in form as it is in the underlying concept- the concept of fertility and
plenty”. Crudeness in modeling is another characteristic feature of these Indus
Mother Goddess figurines. The faces seem to have been stuck together in a
hurry, “the features often being represented by lumps of clay stuck onto the
face”. A few of the terracotta figurines also have horns attached to them.
While the figurines from Mohenjodaro are painted with red slip or wash as in
ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Malta, those from Harappa retain no trace of
paint. Sir John Marshall calls these figurines as representations of “Mother”
or the “Great Mother”, the prototype of power “Prakriti” which developed into
that of Shakti in India. She is represented by the “gramadevatas”, who
personify the same power 10.
Ernst Mackay reveals the relation between the Indus Valley Mother Goddess and
the present day village deities. According to him, “in India today, she is the
guardian of the house and the village who presides over child-birth and takes a
more human interest in their needs. She is altogether closer to her worshippers
than any of the recognized Hindu Gods” 11
. An interesting factor is that these MotherGoddess figurines, found at all
levels of habitation suggest that they were also the objects of daily domestic
worship . The Mother Goddess figurines from Chanhudaro are also of the
Mohenjodaro type, the only difference being that they stand upon a flat, more
or less open base which recalls the figurines from the pre-Harappan sites of
Northern and Southern Baluchistan  . The
fan-shaped headdress ( is a unique and rare feature of the Indus Mother Goddess
figurines. According to Mackay, ” this portion is quite unique outside India,
and at Mohenjodaro, it appears to be confined to the figurines of Mother
Goddess. A band round the forehead, apparently of some kind of woven material
served to support them…in some of them, soot-like stains still remain…”  12.
This remarkable headdress stretched over the ears made the wearing of earrings
or fashioning of the ears almost impracticable. According to Marshall, “the
head-dress worn by these figures (female figures) was also that worn by the
better class inhabitants of Mohenjodaro, for it has always been customary to dress
a deity in a familiar costume. It is probable that she was a Goddess with
attributes very similar to those of the Great Mother Goddess, “Lady of Heaven”
and the special patroness of women, whose images are found in large numbers at
many early sites in Elam, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean”13
.The unique headdress, hairstyles and ornamentations of the Indus Valley
figurines have been dealt in detail by E.C.L. Casper  . According to him, “a larger study at present
in progress reveals an astonishing proliferation of head-dresses and
hair-styles among these terracottas”. Mackay also puts forth that this hair
dress was a feature of Mother Goddess figurines, ” In fact, what are generally
regarded as images of an Earth or Mother Goddess are practically always nude,
save for quantities of jewellery, a wide girdle and their remarkable
head-dress”14  .The clay figurines were kept in every house
and streets of Harappa and Mohenjodaro  as a tutelary deity much as the Mother
Goddess. They are still followed in India as the guardian of the house and the
village with offerings for daily needs.

These
may be the manifestations of Mother goddess whose worship is prevalent even today
in most parts of India  .Some nude
figurines of the Mother Goddess from Indus Valley,has been excavated which
shows the goddess in a stage of pregnancy. The most important feature of this
type of figurines is that  the head of
the goddess is in the shape of an animal while the body is shape like that of a
human (fig.22). A few mother and child figurines have also been discovered from
Indus valley  . These remains shows  the motherly feature of the Goddess. The
responsibilities of mother has been well illustrated in these figurines. A
number of legless figurines discovered from the Harappan sites have been
identified with the Goddess Earth by Sir Aurel Stein  on the basis of Buddhist and Hellinic
iconography15.Mackay
 , on the other hand, considers these
figurines as “household deities kept on a shelf or a little recess in the wall”16.
Piggot 147 regards these figurines as “a grim embodiment of the Mother Goddess
who is also the guardian of the dead as an underworld deity concerned alike
with the corpse and the seed buried beneath the earth”. It seems that these are
similar to the Earth Goddess figurines of later Hinduism where she is portrayed
as half emerging from the ground 17
.

 Along
with the terracotta figurines, the Mother Goddess images also seen on the seals
discovered from the Indus Valley sites.Some seals  show Mother Goddess figures proving the existence
of a Mother cult of the period. In the seals Mother Goddess is usually connected
with trees and animals, the a good number of frequent trees being Pipal and
Acacia and the foremost animals associated with the Goddess were tiger, buffalo
and the unicorn.

1
Cultural heritage of india,vol.I,pp79-0

2
Marshall.j.,mohenjodaro and theindus civilization,vol.I,p.48

3 The Cults of the Mother Goddesses
in India, Willam Crooke, Folk-Lore/Volume 30/The Cults of the Mother Goddesses in India

 

4 Bamberger,
‘Woman, Culture and Society’ in M.z. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere (ed.) The myth of

matriarchy: why
men rule in primitive society, Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1974

 

5
R. Eisler, The
Chalice and the Blade, London:
Unwin, 1990

6 N.N.
Bhattacharyya, The
Indian Mother Goddess, 1999, Manohar, New Delhi
& History
ofSakta

Religion, Munshiram
Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1974+

 

7 7 Bhattacharya,
N.N.; Indian Mother Goddess, Manohar Book Service, New

Delhi,1977, p.1.

 

8
John marshall

9Sir john marshall(edt),Mohenjodaro
and the Indus valley civilization,an official account of archaeological
excavations at Mohenjodaro carried out by govt of india between 1922 and
1927,p.48

.

 

10
John marshall

11
mackay

12
mackay

13
johnmarshall

14
ibid

15
shodganga

16
mackay

17
ibid