Goddess Worship in Hinduism

Hinduism is perhaps the only living religion that has a long and thriving tradition of Goddess Worship dating from ancient times. The Worship of Mother Goddess is found in the Indus valley civilization and terracotta Mother Goddess figures dating back to 1000 BC has been found in other parts of India. Goddess Worshipped in Hindu religion is associated with procreation, motherly care, preservation, fertility, nourishment, knowledge, wealth, savior in times of difficulty, love and compassion. Along with her positive traits, she can also be a terror, who will unleash calamity; she can cause and cure distresses. Thus Mother Goddess is also believed to be a personification of Nature – she is Shakti – nothing exists without Her.

It must be noted here that that Mother Goddess cult developed and flourished in India before the arrival of the idea of religion. The idea of religion was alien to India and was introduced by Muslim invaders and later on by Europeans and Christian missionaries.

Rig Veda considered to be the earliest religious text has several goddesses like Gayatri, Sarasvati (River Goddess), Aditi (mother of Devas or demi gods) and Prithvi (Earth). The long list of Goddesses in Rig Veda indicates that there existed a strong worship of Goddess in India or Bharat.

Most of the Goddesses worshipped in India are of great antiquity and of uncertain origin. They are still worshipped in rural India and are personifications of disease or protectors. Each village in India is believed to have had a Guardian Goddess and many modern day villages and towns are named after Goddesses.

All the popular Goddesses were incorporated in the Atharva Veda and in the Puranas in the middle ages. During the same period, the Shakti cult emerged which claimed that She is one without a second and everything in the universe is but a tiny expression of her power. Brahman – the core concept of Santana Dharma – was visualized in female energy – Shakthi.

The various forms of Goddesses worshipped is known in groups like Nava Durga (nine forms of Durga), the sixty four yoginis in Orissa, Bengal, Tripura etc, Sapta Matrika (seven mother goddesses), Nava Chandi, Ashta Durga, Pancha Kanya and Dasa Vidya.

The most popular group that became celebrated in Hinduism is the triad of Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Parvati. They are associated with Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. Parvati is Shakti and majority of the Goddesses are her incarnation or associated with Shiva like Kali.

The most popular Goddess in modern times is Durga. She is sometimes considered as female counterpart of Shiva. But she is also believed to have an independent existence and is believed be the source of all. Yet again an attempt to give form to Brahman. In fact, the origin of Durga is mentioned in such a way that she is formed from the power of all Gods to annihilate Mahisha and thus she is the most powerful.

Even today the form of Goddess in Hinduism is of folk and tribal origin. There name and form are different but there is a common factor – all Goddesses are an attempt to give form to the various aspects of Nature or to give form to Brahman – the formless.

On meditating on Goddess, we will see the different aspects of Nature. Soon it will be replaced by silence and then there is the unexplained state of ‘That.’