- Published: January 25, 2022
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Among ancient men in all societies, the domination of the feminine principle in the process of the creation wasmost obvious.
The worship related to themother goddess must be the oldest and longest surviving ingredients of thereligions of the ancient world1. The origin of mother goddess worshipis a fascinating one. it has been answered, by all religions in different ways. Whateverbe the answer in the religious thinking the belief in the supernatural being isseen in all the religions. the origin of the mother goddess is to be traced inthe early Neolithic societies of the stone age2Hinduism 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 andpunishing the believers, protectors of community and society, solver of humanproblems, example of virginity and purity, the mother of fertility of the cropsand human beings, supporter and mediator between human being and deities Theworship of goddess in India has invitedthe attention of Indian and foreign scholars. The different aspects of thefemale deities and the evolution of goddess cult have been studied in various perspectives. The historians have put forward various interpretations regarding the evolutionof goddesses and there cult in the frameworkof their involvement on the social course.
Thecult of the goddesses in the primitive society and her influence on women, heruniversal acceptance in most of the early societies, the psychological representation, feminism and the goddess’s naturalism and the material reasons for the adoptionof the goddesses are some important theories propounded to assess the existenceof goddesses in the context of the social practices. The mother goddess cult in primitive societyhas been theorized by the social scientist in terms of its impact upon thestatus of women in the society. According to the social scientist J. Bamberger (FN1974) “ both the goddesses and the women had a predominantposition in primitive society” 3. Inthe view of R.
Eisler’sl (1990) “ pointsout that the equality in partnership between man and woman some five thousandyears ago was noteworthy”. According to him the elevated social status of womenin primitive society, he accepts, was due to the impact of predominant statusof mothercult4. Bambarger and Lamphere(1974) states, “ that there was the common notion of thepeople that the females had some elements of mother goddesses and, hence, thewomen were honored in the society”. The worship of Mother-goddess in pre-historictimes has been traced in countries like India, Egypt, Mesopotamia . The feasibility of material perspective inintrospecting growing and changing faces of the female deities has beenelaborately discussed by N. N. Bhattacharyya15 (1999, 1974).
He has probed indetail the material reasons for the adoption and the adaptation of the femaledeities. To him the material mode of human life played an important role in theorigin and acceptance of deities in the society. It is the “ material needof any community that provides rationale for the type of deity and the mannerof worship”, he says. In every place the mother goddess is mainly concernedwith vegetation and fertility5. Thecult of Mother Goddess that prevailed in India in the Prehistoric timescontinued to dominate the Indian thoughtin the times to come. As N. N.
Bhattacharya4 puts it, “ In primitive society, theclan centered on woman on whose responsibility rested the essentially importantfunction of rearing up the young and of imparting to them whatever could be characterizedas the human heritage at the pre-hunting stage. All cultural traits, includinghabits, norms of behavior, inherited traditions, etc. were formed by andtransmitted through the females.
The woman was not only the symbol ofgeneration, but also the actual producer of life. Her organs and attributeswere thought to be endowed with generative power, and so, they had been thelife giving symbols. In the earliest phases of social evolution, it was thismaternity that held the field, the life producing mother being the central figure ofreligion” 6. THE worship of mother goddess or earth goddess wasan essential feature of harappan religion. the three aspects of the mothergoddess as creator, preserver and destroyer were clearly indicated by the mothergoddess figurines excavated from the sites. Since the Harappan scriptstill 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 theworship of the feminine principle and that the main deity of the Harappans wasa Mother Goddess.
Holding his belief in the cultural diffusion theory, Sir JohnMarshall observes: “ The generally accepted view concerning them is that theyrepresent the Great Mother or Nature Goddess whose cult is believed to haveoriginated in Anatolia (probably in Phrygia) and spread thence throughout mostof Western Asia7. The worship of Mother Goddess or the EarthGoddess was an essential feature of Harappan religion. In the words of Oppert, the Indus Valley people, “ believed in the existence of one supreme spirit ofHeaven with whom was associated and admitted to an equal and eventually evensuperior share of power, i. e.
, the Goddess of Earth.” 8 . TheMother Goddess figurines from Indus valley sites are commonly of the same type . Terracotta figurines arecommonly 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, “ theterracotta tradition of Indus Valley, as regards its relationship with westerncultures, shows evidence of fundamental links, especially with reference tothe Mother Goddess cult. The similarity is not somuch in form as it is in the underlying concept- the concept of fertility andplenty”. Crudeness in modeling is another characteristic feature of these IndusMother Goddess figurines.
The faces seem to have been stuck together in ahurry, “ the features often being represented by lumps of clay stuck onto theface”. 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 inancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Malta, those from Harappa retain no trace ofpaint. Sir John Marshall calls these figurines as representations of “ Mother” or the “ Great Mother”, the prototype of power “ Prakriti” which developed intothat of Shakti in India.
She is represented by the “ gramadevatas”, whopersonify the same power 9. Ernst Mackay reveals the relation between the Indus Valley Mother Goddess andthe present day village deities. According to him, “ in India today, she is theguardian of the house and the village who presides over child-birth and takes amore human interest in their needs. She is altogether closer to her worshippersthan any of the recognized Hindu Gods” 10. An interesting factor is that these MotherGoddess figurines, found at alllevels of habitation suggest that they were also the objects of daily domesticworship .
The Mother Goddess figurines from Chanhudaro are also of theMohenjodaro type, the only difference being that they stand upon a flat, moreor less open base which recalls the figurines from the pre-Harappan sites ofNorthern and Southern Baluchistan . Thefan-shaped headdress ( is a unique and rare feature of the Indus Mother Goddessfigurines. According to Mackay, ” this portion is quite unique outside India, and at Mohenjodaro, it appears to be confined to the figurines of MotherGoddess. A band round the forehead, apparently of some kind of woven materialserved to support them…in some of them, soot-like stains still remain…” 11. This remarkable headdress stretched over the ears made the wearing of earringsor fashioning of the ears almost impracticable.
According to Marshall, “ thehead-dress worn by these figures (female figures) was also that worn by thebetter class inhabitants of Mohenjodaro, for it has always been customary to dressa deity in a familiar costume. It is probable that she was a Goddess withattributes 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 atmany early sites in Elam, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean” 12. The unique headdress, hairstyles and ornamentations of the Indus Valleyfigurines have been dealt in detail by E. C. L.
Casper . According to him, “ a larger study at presentin progress reveals an astonishing proliferation of head-dresses andhair-styles among these terracottas”. Mackay also puts forth that this hairdress was a feature of Mother Goddess figurines, ” In fact, what are generallyregarded as images of an Earth or Mother Goddess are practically always nude, save for quantities of jewellery, a wide girdle and their remarkablehead-dress” 13 . The clay figurines were kept in every houseand streets of Harappa and Mohenjodaro as a tutelary deity much as the MotherGoddess. They are still followed in India as the guardian of the house and thevillage with offerings for daily needs. Thesemay be the manifestations of Mother goddess whose worship is prevalent even todayin most parts of India . Some nudefigurines of the Mother Goddess from Indus Valley, has been excavated whichshows the goddess in a stage of pregnancy. The most important feature of thistype of figurines is that the head ofthe goddess is in the shape of an animal while the body is shape like that of ahuman (fig.
22). A few mother and child figurines have also been discovered fromIndus valley . These remains shows the motherly feature of the Goddess. Theresponsibilities of mother has been well illustrated in these figurines. Anumber of legless figurines discovered from the Harappan sites have beenidentified with the Goddess Earth by Sir Aurel Stein on the basis of Buddhist and Helliniciconography14. Mackay , on the other hand, considers thesefigurines as “ household deities kept on a shelf or a little recess in the wall” 15. Piggot 147 regards these figurines as “ a grim embodiment of Mother Goddess whois also the guardian of the dead as underworld deity concerned alike with thecorpse and the seed buried beneath the earth”.
It seems that these are similarto the Earth Goddess figurines of later Hinduism where she is portrayed as halfemerging from the ground 16. Alongwith the terracotta figurines, the Mother Goddess images also seen on the sealsdiscovered from the Indus Valley sites. Some seals shows Mother Goddess figures proving the existenceof Mother cult of the period.
In the seals Mother Goddess is usually connectedwith trees and animals, the a good number of frequent trees being Pipal andAcacia and the foremost animals associated with the Goddess were tiger, buffaloand the unicorn. 1Cultural heritage of india, vol. I, pp79-02Marshall. j., mohenjodaro and theindus civilization, vol.
I, p. 483 Bamberger,’Woman, Culture and Society’ in M. z. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere (ed.) The myth ofmatriarchy: whymen rule in primitive society, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974 4R.
Eisler, TheChalice and the Blade, London: Unwin, 19905 N. N. Bhattacharyya, TheIndian Mother Goddess, 1999, Manohar, New Delhi& HistoryofSaktaReligion, MunshiramManoharlal, New Delhi, 1974+ 6 6 Bhattacharya, N. N.; Indian Mother Goddess, Manohar Book Service, NewDelhi, 1977, p.
1. 7John marshall8Sir john marshall(edt), Mohenjodaroand the Indus valley civilization, an official account of archaeologicalexcavations at Mohenjodaro carried out by govt of india between 1922 and1927, p. 48. 9John marshall10mackay11mackay12johnmarshall13ibid14shodganga15mackay16ibid
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