Mother Goddesses have been worshiped at all the times of history by the Hindus. They were mostly worshiped as the spouses of the Gods. From Harappa period to Gupta Period, their worship was only little known. Only in the Middle ages they emerged from obscurity as the upper classes of society began worshiping them.
She was considered as the Sakti, the strength or potency of her male counterpart. While the God was inactive and transcendent, she was active and immanent. By Gupta period, many of these Goddesses acquired their own independent identity and began to be venerated at special temples. Even today their cult is most strong in Bengal and Assam.
Chief form of the mother Goddess is Parvati, the wife of God Siva. Parvati means the daughter of mountain. Other names are Mahadevi– the great goddess, Sati– the virtuous, Gauri- The fair one, Annapurna- giver of much food, or simply the mother (Mata) or Ammai as in Tamil.
The mother goddess has another form which is grim aspect. Here she is known as Durga- inaccessible, Kali– the black one and Chandi- the fierce. In Tamilnadu, another goddess called Koravai- the war goddess who like Kali danced among the slain on the battlefield and ate their flesh.
In her fierce aspect she is depicted as a horrible hag, frequently having many arms in which she holds many weapons, a red tongue lolling from her mouth and sometimes as a stern beautiful woman riding and lion and shown slaying a buffalo-headed demon.
She has gentle aspect in which she is a beautiful woman sitting along with her husband Siva. As Lord Siva is worshipped in the form of a phallic emblem, she is worshipped as a Yoni emblem.
There is a legend, Parvati in her early incarnation was born as Sati to sage Daksha who gave her hand very grudgingly to Lord Siva. But he never missed any opportunity to humiliate Siva. During one such occasion in which a puja was being conducted, only she was invited by her father. In a fit of rage, she flung herself into flames. Siva became so numb with pain on her death that he carried the dead body of Sati all the times. It was feared that if Siva began his cosmic dance of Tandava whole universe shall collapse. So Vishnu cut the body of Sati into many smaller parts and scattered them all over the earth. The places are called pithas or sacred shrines.
North West of Indian subcontinent has been the cradle of one of the great civilizations that flourished in the world once upon a time. The great Indus Valley Civilization existed here. Although the name suggests that it might have been situated along the coast of Indus valley because two sites namely Harrapa in Punjab and Mohenjo Daro have been found along the great river. And why not the river? Because river nourishes life. Early civilizations when population pressure was not much tended to settle down near the rivers.
It has been now established that the civilization was not confined to this small area but spread over a much bigger area extending almost to Gujarat coast and west side of Ganges. It is also taught to us from school that this civilization was run over by the hordes of people who entered India from West and were called Aryans. There are no conclusive proofs of this. Indus civilization was urban in nature which results when there are people who have become powerful and can control much larger population. Agriculture surplus provides the food for people in cities. There are specialists like goldsmiths, iron smiths etc which have their works inside the city’s boundary.
At that time there are Gods which had be venerated to keep the good times going on. There were Gods for every occasion and which controlled the nature’s activities. Like Gods of water called Varuna, Sun and Moon (Soma), rivers were mostly female deities. One such God is Lord Shiva who is the most loved God in the Hindu mythology. He is a complete ascetic and most of the times shown meditating on the Kailash mountain with his eyes closed for hundreds of years.
Shiva has Sati, also called Dakshayani, as his wife. She has earned the displeasure of his father Daksha in marrying Shiva. He did not approve of Shiva because of his unusual attire and ascetic nature. But it was preordained by Brahma that Sati shall marry Shiva and bring him back to the worldly ways to have a son by him who was supposed to kill some demon. Anyway, both loved each other and she was very happy.
But Daksha, the father of Sati, once arranged a yagna for which he invited everyone except Sati and Shiva. Sati assumed out of fatherly love that her father might not have felt the need to formally invite them because she was his daughter and there was no place for formality. Shiva dissuaded her but she went to her father’s home. But she was wrong because her father began denigrating Shiva. She could not tolerate and performed the self immolation. Shiva who knew everything was in a rage on hearing the news. He went there and carried the body of Sati and began the Tandva dance. When the God who is so gentle and gullible is in rage then he can destroy the world. Fearing the end of world, Vishnu cut the body of Sati into 51 parts and scattered them in different directions. With this the anger of Shiva subsided. The places where the severed limbs fell are known as Shakti Peethas and are places where Sati is venerated. One such place where her head replete with vermilion fell is called Hinglaj and is now situated in Baluchistan province of Pakistan. But despite the fact that the inhabitants of Pakistan who does believe in idol worship and rever only one God, the temple has survived. The few Hindus who are still in Pakistan visit the place. The area is very inhospitable with scorching heat and flash floods. There are goats and scorpions and snakes infesting the area. Even the Muslims respect the Sati and call the temple “Nani Ki Mandir”.
A Bengali tantrik Kalikananda Abhadut who made the journey to the pilgrimage wrote a book called “Marutiratha Hinglaj” based on his experiences during the journey. A very successful movie of the same name was made starring Uttam Kumar. The background music was scored by Hemanta Kumar who created some immortal songs. Later on when he scored the music of Hollywood film “Siddhartha”, he used the song for background echoing the longing and restlessness of the protagonist during his search for the truth. He is on the river for long long while and still his destination seems to elude him. In the song, the pilgrim also beseeches the Goddess to appear and bless him.
Baluchistan is the sore of Pakistan with its people being unbridled and fiercely independent. Even the British could not subdue them. Pakistan accuses India of fomenting the dissensions among the populace. The area is out of bound for all the foreigners. So many of the Hindus devotees in India, particularly in Rajasthan, must be longing to visit the pilgrimage. It is just like the restrictions faced by Sikhs in India who wish to visit the birth place of Guru Nanak which is called Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.
Joymati released in 1935, was the first ever Assamese langauge film. Based on Lakhminath Bezbaruah’s play on the 17th century story of Sati Joymati, the film was produced and directed by the noted Assam poet Joytiprasad Agarwala, and starred Adieu Handique and acclaimed stage actor and playwright Phani Sharma. Incidentally, Agarwala’s forefathers came to Assam from Marwar in search of setting the business in Assam.
Legend of Joymati
Joymati was the wife of the Ahom prince Gadapani. During the purge of the princes from 1679 to 1681 under King Sulikphaa (Loraa Roja) instigated by Laluk Sola, Gadapani took flight. At various times he took shelter at Sattras and the adjoining hills outside the Ahom kingdom. Failing to trace Prince Gadapani, Sulikphaa’s soldiers picked up his wife Joymati. Despite brutal and inhuman torture, the princess did not reveal the whereabouts of her husband. After continuous torture for several days she expired.
Joymati’s self-sacrifice bore fruit later. Laluk was murdered in November 1680 by a disgruntled body of household retainers. The ministers were now roused to a sense of patriotism, they made a search for Gadapani. Gadapani gathered strength came back from his exile in Garo hills to oust Sulikphaa from the throne. Joymati knew that her husband was the only person who could end Sulikphaa-Laluk terror rule. For her love and supreme sacrifice for her husband and the country, folk accounts refer to her as a Sati