“Ma… mujhe shakti do ma…!“
This is not just a filmy dialogue. Worship of the female deity as a mother goddess was very much prevalent in ancient times. Various archeological findings have revealed that the worship of the female goddess as Mother Earth was not confined only to India; from Egypt to Rome, the mother goddess has been revered. In ancient times, priestesses had equal roles as priests in performing social or religious ceremonies.
Archeological excavations have revealed various figurines depicting the mother goddess. Characterized by magnified breasts and hips, the mother goddess or Earth mother was worshiped as a deity of fertility.
She has been worshiped across time and culture. In Egypt, images of the mother goddess have been discovered dating back to the earliest of times. The early goddesses of Egypt have been associated with animals who are seen as good mothers, such as the lioness, cat, cobra, cow, etc, as well as life giving elements of nature such as water, the sun, and the Earth herself.
In Christianity, although Mary is held as a “spiritual mother”, she is not formally worshiped as a “mother goddess”. Catholics have titled the Virgin Mary with various names such as Queen of Heaven and Star of the Sea, which share a similarity with eastern traditions. Medieval images of Mother Mary with baby Jesus share a similarity with the image of the Egyptian goddess Isis with her child Horus sitting on her lap.
Many primeval pagan religions, such as Wicca and Neo-Paganism, worshiped the mother goddess. Usually viewed as the Maiden, the Mother and Crone archetypes, she is worshiped as a Triple Goddess. Even among those who are not Pagan, expressions such as Mother Nature and Mother Earth are commonly used, indicating the Earth’s fertility and her ability to sustain life. The Turkic Siberian goddess, Umai, or Ymai, is depicted as having sixty golden tresses, resembling the rays of the sun.
The Neolithic settlement of Catalhoyuk, of around 7500 BC, has yielded many examples of the worship of mother goddess. Excavations show that female deities were worshiped much more than the male deity. Hera and Demeter, the Olympian goddesses of classical Greece had many characteristics similar with mother goddess. Another Greek goddess, Minoan, is believed to be of a mother goddess type.
In roman mythology, Aphrodite’s counterpart Venus was eventually adopted as a mother goddess figure. Seen as the mother of roman people, being the mother of Rome’s ancestor, Aeneas, and hence subsequent rulers by Julius Caesar’s era, she was titled Venus Genetrix, meaning Mother Venus.
And coming to our very own religion, Hinduism, the Mother deity has been worshiped since the earliest of times. In Rigveda, there is a term Mahimata which literally means Mother Earth. Goddess Durga and her various incarnations, such as Kali, Parvati, and many more are worshipped as mother goddesses by Hindus. All forms of the female deity are incarnations of the same female Divine form.
But out of all these religions and cultures, it is only Hinduism today which reveres the Mother Goddess. In almost all religions across the world, the importance of female deities seems to have faded. One is left wondering what happened to these the Mother Goddess, once respected above all, now just a thing of the past – a mere historical phenomenon.