Mythological goddesses from around the world

Chinmay Prasun Biswas

26 February, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Those who are worshipped are normally called gods and goddess. Goddess, a feminine word (the masculine word is god), is the Sanskrit synonym of Ishwari. In traditional religion goddess signifies divinity, supremacy, purity, beauty and motherhood. Method and concept of worship of goddesses are mentioned in the Vedas written around 2000 years BC, but any shape or image of these goddesses was not mentioned. May be these goddesses did not appear as central character till that time.  Goddesses have been mentioned in Puranic age through various religious epics like Puran, Upanishads etc. Worship of goddesses is a much later practice. Myths about gods and goddesses and their sayings were referred to in medieval mythology and literature as well. For instance, Goddess Mahamaya appeared at this time as the guarantor of eternal truth and absolute power and established the Shakta sect of the traditional religion.

As one of the major religions of the world, gods and goddesses mean something celestial and extra ordinary in Sanaton Dharmo. According to Douglas Harper the word dev means one who is bright which has been derived from divine. Etymologically, the Hindu goddesses are more or less similar to the Latin dea and Greek thea. Practically, in traditional religions, the goddess is considered to be the heavenly mother. Sometimes the word devi is used as devika and dev deity women is very strong in the traditional religion from ancient times to the present. Even Shakta and Shaivism are mainly centered on the goddess. According to Vedic literature goddesses are embodiment of natural power. 

Names of six goddesses viz. Aditi, Bak, Bhumi, Aranyani, Ratri and Usha are found in Rig Veda. However, these goddesses were not so popular like gods and goddess at the end of the Vedic age and before the beginning of Buddha age the name of Laxmi is found in the Vedic verses. Although all the deities were depicted in the Vedic age, they were considered as the manifestation of the single almighty goddess in the Middle Ages.

From such many goddesses a different type of philosophy was presented in traditional religious texts such as the Devi Upanishads. From Upanishad we come to know that Shaktipeeth (holy person of power) is originally Brahmin which has originated from nature and manhood, happiness and sorrow, birth and rebirth. According to some beliefs, it is also the origin of the universe. He is the creative force of Shiv and these matters are also found in Tripura Upanishad and Guhyakali Upanishad.

It is found in the Devi Upanishad that in response to God’s question the goddess refers to herself as a Brahmin saying that she rules the world, worships and gives soul to the person. The goddess claims that she is the creator of the sky, the earth and the people living there. As a source of creation, she declares the sky as her father and the sea as her mother that is manifested as Paramatma (the ultimate soul). Her creation did not take place under anybody’s direction, but she is the one who exists in the midst of creation. Among the major religions of the world, the idea of a goddess in the traditional religion is divine which has had a sound presence since ancient times. In ancient and mediaeval scriptures, human body has been described as a temple and gods and goddesses reside there

Parbati is the goddess of strength, victorious over the asurs (demons), love, fertility and devotion of Hindus. She is the epitome of politeness and humility, she is the primordial goddess. All her aspects are expressed through different names. Literally, the word Parbati means daughter of the mountain. The king of the mountains is called Parbat and as she is the daughter of the Himalayas. The other names of Parbati are synonymous to a Himalayan girl such as Shailja (mountain born or made of stone), Adrija (born of a mountain), Nagja, Shailaputri (daughter of hill), Haimabati (goddess of hill), Girija (born of hell) or Giriputri (daughter of mountain). She is sometimes called “holy.” Along with Laxmi and Saraswati she is called the Triune Goddess.  Parbati is the wife of Shiv and the original superpower. She is the sister of Vishnu, because Goddess Parbati is the eternal Maya form of Vishnu. He has many features and aspects. She is the mother goddess in Hinduism and the mother of Ganesh and Kartik

Parbati has many other names among which Uma and Aparna are well known. She is also known as Gouri (a fair complexioned woman). Other goddesses are sometimes believed to be born from her part or her incarnation. Although Dakshayani is called Uma in some ancient scriptures, Parbati has been called Uma in Ramayan. She has been first called Aparna (woman who has faced great austerities) and later Uma in the Harivansh. Observing her austerities her mother Menoka exclaimed, “U ma!” meaning no more. Since then Parbati’s other name is Uma. Apart from it she is collectively called Gauri (fair complexioned). Besides these, she is also called Kali or Shyama (the black goddess) as normally she is a quiet wife i.e. Uma, but at the time of danger she is terrible like Kali. These two contradictory forms indicate two opposite types of nature of Parbati. Again in another form she is the goddess of devotion.

Rita Gross mentions that in Indian mythology, the scene of Parbati as the only ideal wife and mother is considered as an incomplete symbolism of feminine power. Parbati, along with other goddesses, is involved in a wide range of cultural purposes and activities. Her connection with motherhood and female sexuality in Hindu literature is not limited to femininity. She becomes harmonious by taking the form of Durga, who is capable without compromising with femininity. Many aspects of Parbati mention that femininity is universal and cannot be narrowed down to gender.

In Indian legend, the goddess is portrayed as the ideal wife, mother and housewife. In Indian art, the idea of an ideal couple has been derived from Shiv and Parbati. In ancient Indian literature, Parbati is widely found and her ancient and medieval sculptures and statues are found in many temples in South Asia and Southeast Asia. She is commonly known as Durga and in Bangladesh and some other states of India, Durga puja is the biggest festival of the Hindus. 


The writer is a former Commissioner of Taxes