The worship of the Mother Goddess is well known as an important feature of Ancient Indian Religious life. The present work attempts to make a systematic study of the subject. The work is clearly divisible into three parts. The first part consisting of the first four chapters begins with the general aspects of the wide prevalance of belief in female deities and the gradual evolution of the cult of the Great Goddess. The next two chapters, i.e. 2nd and 3rd seek to trace the evolution of the goddesses through the long span of the Vedic period. The fourth chapter seeks to analyse the culmination of the goddesses as it developed in the Epic-puranic period. The most important concept of this period is that of 'Sakti" (power).
The second part of the work consisting of the fifth and sixth chapters is devoted to the goddesses in Jainism and Budhism. The goddesses as worshipped in Jain and Buddhist religions are to a large extent direct copies of the Brahmanical goddesses.
The third part of the book comprising the seventh chapter is devoted to the worship of popular goddesses such as Matrs and various local deities worshipped in the different regions.
The work seeks to utilise archaeological as well as literary evidence and traces the evolution of various forms of Mother Worship from prehistoric times.
Dr. Savitri Dhawan (Nee Savitri Madan) passed her B.A. Hons, History (1966), M.A. History (1968) from the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. She topped at the P.G. Diploma Examination in Indian Culture (1968). She also did a Diploma in Sanskrit (1971) and Certificate Course in German (1972) from the University of Rajasthan since 1968 with a break of one session (1969-70) when she taught in the Govt. Lohia College, Churu. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Indian Culture, University of Rajasthan since 1991. She has published several research papers in various reputed journals.
The aim of the present work is to study some significant aspects of Mother Goddesses in early Indian religions. The worship of female deities appears in varied forms and numerous branches in the religions of India. It is in fact, an important and fascinating aspect of the history of not only Indian religions but of the world religions. In tracing the evolution of the Mother Goddess worship two type of evidence literary and archaeological have been used.
The work is clearly divisible into three parts. The first part consisting of the first four chapters begins with the general aspects of the wide prevalance of belief in female deities and the gradual evolution of the cult of the Great Goddess. The next two chapters i.e. 2nd and 3rd seek to trace the evolution of the worship of goddesses through the long span of the Vedic Period. The fourth chapter seeks to analyse in detail the culmination of the worship of goddesses as it developed in the Epic-Puranic period. However, the most important concept of this period is that of Sakti(Power). The worshipper of Saktism do not believe in any other power except that of the Devi.
The second part of the work consisting of the fifth and sixth chapters is devoted to the goddesses in Jainism and Budhism. The goddesses as worshipped in Jain and Buddhist patheon are to a large extent direct copies of the Brahamanical goddesses. The names and symbols of some of the Sasana devies such as Cakresvari, Nirvani Devi, Ambika share a great measure of form of the Brahmanic counterparts. In the process of the development of Mahayana Buddhism goddesses came to exert great influence. Goddesses in Buddhism were not widely known before the 8th century and it was, perhaps, a result of contact with the Brahmanic deities. The Buddhist Tara and Brahmanic goddesses Manasa are manifested with snakes. It is most likely that the conditions between the Jain Padmavati, Buddhist Tara, and the Brahmanic Manasa originated from a common legend.
The'third part of the work, comprising the seventh chapter is devoted to the popular goddesses or minor deities. Among these goddesses are such as Matrs and different local deities worshipped in the different regions. Among these deities mention may be made of Sitala - the smallpox goddess, the cholera mothers, Apsaras, the snake mother Manasa, Sasti, Yaksinis, and some cure goddesses. One good example of it is Lajja Gauri, who is worshipped locally by their different names. The work ends with the epilogue in which an attempt has been made to present critical reappraisal of deities during the different phases of the history of religions in Ancient India.
In striving to complete the work the chief assistance was rendered by my teachers Prof. G.C. Pande, (formerly Tagore Progessor and Head of the Department of History and Indian Culture and Vice-Chancellor, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur) and Prof. S.N. Dube, Tagore Professor and Head of the Department of History and Indian Culture, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. I am deeply grateful to them.
I am thankful to all my colleagues, specially to Dr. Neelima Vashistha, Associate Professor in Fine Arts, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur for the co-operation.
Apart from the publisher Mr. Devendra Malik, National Publishing House, Chaura Rasta, Jaipur, I owe a deep sense of gratefulness to my mother Smt. Saraswati Devi, and father Shri J.N. Madan all of whom contributed in their own way in making this venture a success.
Above all, I take pleasure in acknowledging the help of my husband Shri Subhash Dhawan and son Sumit, both of whom continued to prompt me to complete this work in the shortest possible time and saw to it that I get every convenience they could provide.
I am personally responsible for any misprint and omission that have crept into the work inspite of my best efforts and care and for this I crave the indulgence of the readers.
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