History of Shaktism - Early Origins

Early Origins

To date, the earliest Mother Goddess figurine unearthed in India (near Allahabad) belongs to the Upper Paleolithic, and carbon-dates to approximately 20,000 - 23,000 BCE. Also belonging to that period are some collections of colorful stones marked with natural triangles. Discovered near Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, they are similar to stones still worshiped as Devi by tribal groups in the area. Moreover, they "may demonstrate connections to the later Tantric use of yantras, in which triangles manifest a vital symbolism connected with fertility."

Thousands of female statuettes dated as early as c. 5500 BCE have been recovered at Mehrgarh, one of the most important Neolithic sites in world archeology, and a precursor to the great Indus Valley Civilization. In Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, major cities of the Indus valley civilization, female figurines were found in almost all households indicating the presence of cults of goddess worship. Most figurines are naked and have elaborate coiffures. Some figurines have ornaments or horns on the head and a few are in poses that expose the genitals. Several small circular objects with holes in middle, possibly representing yoni, were also found. The objects and images found suggest that the goddess cults of Indus valley civilization were associated with fertility. A seal shows a male figure standing over a seated female figure with a sickle. It probably suggests an association between the female figure and crops, and possibly implies a ritual sacrifice where the blood of the victim was offered to the goddess for ensuring agricultural productivity.

Bhattacharya links the archaeological discoveries of Indus valley civilization to present-day Shaktism of later Hindu religion. Other scholars like David Kinsley and Lynn Foulston acknowledge some similarities between the cult of goddess in Indus valley civilization and Shaktism, but think that there is no conclusive evidence that proves a link between them.

According to Bhattacharya:

The later Indus Valley population centers of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro (c. 3300 - 1600 BCE) "sheltered a mixed population, the major section of which came from the adjacent villages to seek their fortune in the great cities. They also brought with them their own cults and rituals, the Female Principle of the agricultural communities, which formed the basis of Harappan religion. Some of the cults and rituals of the simpler peoples were adopted by the higher, but probably not in the original, unsophisticated form. They were given an aristocratic colour elevated position in the society."

As these philosophies and rituals evolved in the northern reaches of the subcontinent, additional layers of Goddess-focused tradition were expanding outward from the sophisticated Dravidian civilizations of the south. The "cult of the Female Principle was a major aspect of Dravidian religion," Bhattacharyya notes. "The concept of Shakti was an integral part of their religion and their female deities eventually came to be identified with the Puranic Parvati, Durga or Kali. The cult of the Sapta Matrika, or Seven Divine Mothers, which is an integral part of the Shakta religion, may be of Dravidian inspiration."

Read more about this topic:  History Of Shaktism

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