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Mother Goddess Worship in Hinduism - History - Goddess Worship in Vedas

The earliest archeological evidence of Mother Goddess worship in India is found in the Indus Valley Civilization. Goddesses are also mentioned in Vedic hymns and Samhitas. The maximum number of Goddesses is found in the Atharva Veda. Then there are numerous goddesses of folk origin whose antiquity and origin are unknown. Many of them continue to be worshipped even today.

Aditi, Apo-devi, Ushas, Prithvi, Vak, Ratri, Sri, Nishthigri, Urvasi, Saraswati, Sandhya, Sinivali, Sraddha, Gayatri, Savitri, Indrani, Godha, Ghosha, Juhu, Dakshina, Medha, Yami, Sarama, Sarva-rajni, Lokshya, Romasa, Visva-vara and Durga are goddesses mentioned in the Vedas.

Most of the Goddesses represent the different aspects of nature. Some are protectors and some personifications of diseases. Some represent fertility and nourishment. Then there are humans who have attained the status of Goddesses. Some folk goddesses have special powers to cure small pox, snake poison etc. Some goddesses are ‘gramadevata’ or protector of village.

Over a period of time, the folk goddesses were included in the Puranas. Goddesses are usually mentioned in groups in the Puranas. Thus we have Ashta Durga, Nava Chandi, Sapta Matrka, Pancha Kanya and sixty four yoginis. Matsya Purana talks about nine goddesses who are the ‘mothers of the world.’ Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali find prominence in the Puranas and were associated with the Trimurtis – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

But the most popular Goddess in the Puranas is Durga, usually referred as Devi. Thousands of verses are dedicated to Durga in the Devi Purana, Markandeya Purana and Devi Bhagavata. These Puranas even goes to the extent of saying that the Trimurtis are subservient to Devi, who is Jagadamba and Jagaddhatri (mother and protector).

Durga in one form or the other is worshipped all over India. She is worshipped by tribal people, hunters, warriors, thugs, and rishis (sages). She is in the terrific, pacific and benign form. Sometimes she is a young girl, sometimes primordial energy, sometimes beauty unparalleled and at other times bloodthirsty with many arms.