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Pre-Vedic Goddess Worship - Matriarchal societies, etc.?

Tapati - Fri, 31 Dec 2004 15:58:39 +0530
In my Cultures of India class I remembered reading that the pre-Vedic, pre-"Aryan" culture was likely to be matrilineal and perhaps matriarchal, and that the Goddess predominated their tradition. Women were said to be held in much higher esteem, at any rate. The text said that traces of that could be found today in worship of Durga in some areas in the north. So tonight I was poking around Wikipedia and found this:

Thus, the immensely popular goddess Durga was a pre-Vedic goddess who was later fused with Parvati, a processs that can be traced through texts such as Kalikapurana (10th century), Durgabhaktitarangini (Vidyapati 15th century), Chandimangal (16th century) etc.

at this link:

I wish I had kept all my books for that class but I resold them all for cash. wink.gif

Maybe I can dig around my notes (I am going through old papers this winter) and find the reading list and buy the book again.

One of the books of our class was May You Be The Mother Of A Hundred Sons by Elisabeth Bumiller. It was a fascinating look at the lives of women in India.
Chanahari - Fri, 31 Dec 2004 16:19:40 +0530
Tapati, I wait eagerly and hope you can dig up something of your notes. smile.gif
Tapati - Fri, 31 Dec 2004 16:31:26 +0530

In that vein, my dear friend Chanahari, I think you will appreciate this site:

I have to say it does my heart good to see the same high flown language used to describe the glories of a Hindu Goddess as supreme!

Also, the following passage talks about the history of shaktas, or Goddess followers in India:

History  Goddess worship may go back to the Indus valley civilisation. The Hindu revelation, the Veda, contains some hymns to different Goddesses, but literary evidence for an all-encompassing great goddess only comes with the Epics and Puranas (3rd cent BCE- 10th cent CE). These texts, particularly the Devibhagavata Purana and Devimahatmya, tell the myth of the goddess Durga, how she slays the buffalo demon and is superior to all the gods. The goddess becomes particularly important with Tantrism and there are Tantras to the ferocious Kali as well as Tantras to the gentle Tripurasundari. The Kali cults tended to be associated with the cremation ground asceticism of the skull-bearing Kapalikas, though worship of Kali was not restricted to these groups and today is very popular, especially in Nepal and Bengal. Indeed, the famous Hindu mystic Ramakrishna (1834-86) was a devotee of Kali and the Bengali poet Ramprasad Sen composed devotional poetry to her. Worship of Tripurasundari is the focus of the Shri Vidya tradition.


Also consider this site, which comes from the Shakta viewpoint and discusses the Shiva/Shakta dynamic of balance:

and finally:

yet another site discussing India's Goddess tradition, from which I draw this quote with deep appreciation:

In reaction perhaps to all of this, a stream of Goddess worship exploded about a thousand years ago that flamboyantly proclaimed her to be the Supreme Deity. These people were having no truck with the usual compromises that the forces of the establishment were offering - respect, and a subordinate status for the goddess, if she agreed to be potrayed as the wife of Shiva, and sometimes Vishnu. They wrote their own Puranas to combat those written by the followers of Shiva and Vishnu, and in them the Goddess or Devi, to be exact, rose to becoming the Mahadevi - The Great Goddess.

Who knew that the real battle in the background all these years has really been between the Bhaktas and the Shaktas!

Tapati - Fri, 31 Dec 2004 16:43:55 +0530

I do admit I have a personal history with Durga appearing in my life in an interesting way.

I was at a shop that was having a moving sale. It carried various imported goods as well as herbs, natural medicines, etc.

I was searching through the jewelry when a gleam of silver caught my eye. It was a badly tarnished, flat pendant and all I could make out where what looked like multiple arms. "Ah, " I thought, "This must be Indian."

I proceeded to buff it as best I could to try to make out the image. It turned out to be Durga. I bought Her on the spot! I took Her home and immediately cleaned Her up. Whenever I have need of Her warrior energy I wear this pendant. I wore Her to court when I had to represent myself against my landlady.

This is making me curious about the origins of Goddess worship in India, other than the official Vaishnava take on Her. I will prioritize finding that book.
Tapati - Fri, 31 Dec 2004 16:50:11 +0530

Godess Parvati is the appearance of Prakriti (Nature) also besides being shakti and the mother of the universe. All the organisms have arisen out of the Nature, hence She is called as Jagadamba. Mother Parvati s also known by other names viz : Durga, Kaali etc. But despite having so many names she is one in appearance.



Meaning : I pray to Goddess Durga, who has a shinning like a moon; who rides the lion,who holds many types of weapons; who has a fire like flare, who bears the moon, I pray to such Goddess Durga.


Lion is also known as Mrigaraj. The greatest merit of the lion is that it mates only once in a year. Hence it is not a sexy animal. Thus riding the lion, Bhagawati preaches the people that if they suppress their sensual desires, they will soon find an abode in Shiva Loka near Lord Shiva. Otherwise, they will remain wandering in the never-ending search of their sensual desires only.


With those weapons, Goddess had exterminated many formidable demons like Mahishasura that symbolized darkness. Thus she hints that no one must take women for granted, and never take them as powerless, dependent,and meant for fulfillment of their lust. They are second to none in bravery and are  meant to assure a place in the second world (Paraloka).Hence, the weapons in the hands of Bhagawati hint to honor the women or they may break upon you as calamities. Hence it is better to see them as mother, sister and daughter. Policy also says:


Meaning : One who sees the other women as his mother, the others wealth as a lump of earth, is definitely the most virtues (Mahapandita)

The beautiful Goddess Mother Bhagawati or Durga, who represents the combined powers of all the gods, holds divine weapons in all of her eight arms that guard the eight directions. This is the main appearance of Shakti.

The adi-feminist? Definitely my kind of Goddess!
Indranila - Fri, 31 Dec 2004 19:24:41 +0530
Here something more for Tapati's pleasure: (Prayers to the Goddess Mother by Shankaracharya)

and: (Shri Krishna as Kali).