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Is god female-Yes or No
Posted By Sarin on Oct 17, 2012     RSS Feeds     Latest Hinduism news

goddess If you ask this question to the follower of abrahmic religions, then the answer would be straight ‘No’. Most of the western religion is based on the masculine god, with flowing white beard, long golden hair sitting on a golden throne in a heaven surrounded by white clouds.
On the contrary, if the same question is asked to follower of eastern religions, then the most probabilistic answer would be ‘YES’ as most of the eastern religion treat both the masculine and feminine aspect as the manifestation of the same supreme god. For example, Hindu believes god to be a equal proportion of male and female aspects of divinity, commonly known as Shiva (Purush) and shakti(Prakriti).
Even many religious scriptures mentions Lord Krishna incomplete without radha and Radha & Krishna together are considered as one soul
Although the Christianity treat the masculine gender Jesus as their god but it is surprising to note that a bible verse states “God created human beings in his own image”. Now without any offence, the masculine aspect of human beings in Jesus is quite understandable but the question arises in my mind on the feminine aspect in image of Jesus.
If we look into some other cultures then Goddesses are associated with love, motherhood, earth and household whereas some cultures worship goddess for death, salvation, healing, death and destruction.
In this festive season of dussheraa, we will go through ancient scriptures to understand Goddess worship not only from an Indian perspective, but also from western perception of goddesses.  
Greek, Romans, Native Americans and Egyptians had a deep tradition of goddess worship in their cultures. It is surprising to note that in ancient times, Goddess worship was more prevalent in the western world than it is now.. Recent excavation in the western world has produced more than 50 feminine figures with some dating more than 20,000 years ago, the most famous being Venus of willendorf. To have a brief idea, let us look at some of their revered goddesses-
  •   Abnoba- a Celt goddess of natural forest and rivers
  • Agrona- the goddess of war;  
  • Rhea -  Greek Goddesses as Mother of all Gods;  
  • Aphrodite - the goddess of beauty and love  
  • Athena- the goddess of War and Wisdom.
  • Bast - the Egyptians goddesses who protects the pharaoh and  
  • Isis - the Egyptian goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility.
    Goddesses in World religions

    Similarly, Jews worships Lilith as Adam first wife who refused to return to Garden of Eden after mating with archangel Samael. Outside Jewish community, Lilith is revered as Mother Inana, also known as  Ishtar and  Asherah. Story further continues with Adam marrying Eve and in jealousy, Lilith takes the form of serpent to trick Eve to eat the fruit of knowledge, which was responsible for degradation of mankind. Some of the other deities mentioned in Jewish Hebrew texts are:
    § Agrat Bat Mahlat
    § Anath
    § Asherah
    § Ashima
    § Astarte
    § Eisheth
    In Christianity, Mary, mother of Jesus Christ is venerated as a saint. Though not as a deity, but her veneration as Mother of god, mother of church, lady of sea etc has continued since the inception of Christianity. In some orthodox Christian community, Sophia is mentioned as the embodiment of divine wisdom like a divine female spirit or Goddess
    There are many similar examples in Chinese, American, Japanese and Polynesian mythologies indicating the importance of feminine aspect of god. These similarities are strikingly similar to Indian mythology since most of the western worlds are goddesses or guardian of natural element similar to the connotation of Mother Goddess (Bharat Mata) in Indian Subcontinent.
    For example, there is a temple dedicated to goddesses in Penang, Malaysia. Although this deity is worshipped as a form if Buddha, but its name, depiction and historical evidences clearly refers it to Goddess Chandi, which is manifestation of Goddess Durga. In ancient Egypt, there was the goddess Nut representing the whole universe.
     Chundi Bodhisattva in Penang, Malaysia
    Ancient puranic texts are abundant with examples of goddesses like Durga, kali, shakti etc. Further, excavations from the ancient Indus-Saraswati Civilization, have further suggested the importance of goddess worship through various seals, idols and and feminine figures. One of the seal shows a male god or some kinda tribal chief worshipping goddesses while on other seals, there are seven attendants accompanying the central goddess.

    Man bowing to a Goddess
    Feminine figures found in Terracotta, Mohenjo-Daro is similar to artifacts excavated from many other ancient Asian and western nations like Baluchistan, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Palestine, Syria, Crete, Transcaspia, Cyprus, the Balkans and Egypt.
    Famous archaeologist cum anthropologist, James George Frazer, said that goddess worship in whole of Europe and Africa has their origin in the Indian Neolithic culture. These excavated figures also shows and fertility aspect which suggest the goddesses as the mother of all gods and creation-the tradition still prevalent in Hinduism.
    If we just have a deep glance at our nature, then we will find that Correlation earth as mother or goddess makes more sense. Similar to women give birth to Humans and look after her, earth give birth to various plant and nourish her. Human baby consume all its energy from mother milk while plants derives all its energies from earth. In fact, in the earliest agricultural civilization near the fertile river Nile, Goddess is expressed as the dominant mythic form.  
    Mother Goddess from the Indus-Valley

    Hinduism is a complex belief system which perceives many gods and goddesses as being emanated from the same supreme Brahman. Adi Shankara said “there is only one Supreme ParaBrahman and all the other are forms and expansion of this Para-Brahman.
    This Para-Brahman is often understood as the dual male female pair:  Lakshmi-Vishnu,  Radha-Krishna,  Shiva-Shakti, Brahma-Saraswati, Ram-Sita, etc. which has its own significant meaning. Being a creator, Brahma needs knowledge or goddess  Saraswati (Vaak) to create. Similarly, the Preserver, Lord Vishnu needs the goddess of prosperity and wealth, goddess  Lakshmi to preserve. Finally, the destroyer, lord shiva needs power to destroy. So he needs goddess  Parvati, Durga, or  Kali  for power. Some of the scriptures refer these dual male-female pairs as the manifestations of Goddess Adi Parashakti , the Supreme mother. It also perfectly fits the Vedic notion "Truth is one; the wise call it by various names"”
    Since Hinduism Grants its follower the freedom to worship god in the way they want, it should not be surprising to note that the cruel form of worship which requires sacrifice is also followed to some extent especially in tribal areas. In context, below are four major sects of Hinduism.
    Vaishnavism, Worship Lord Vishnu and its avatars as supreme god
    Shaivism, worship of Lord Shiva as supreme god
    Shaktism , worshipping the Goddess or Devi
    Smartism , nonsectarian worship and treating all gods as different form of the same supreme god-Brahman
    Most of the Hindus falls in the smartism sects and consider worshipping all gods including the western Jesus, eastern Buddha, jain tirthankars etc. Each of these sects follows their own rituals, tradition and spiritual exercises to worship their god although each one is more or less similar to the other. Shaktism and Shaivism believe in goddess as consort of lord shiva. Lord Shiva forms the supreme half, while the other half is Goddess shakti.  
    Vaishnavi sects consider Lord Vishnu feminine aspect Yogmaya, who takes the form of Goddess Durga to look after the materialistic creation of lord Vishnu as her own child.  
    A Smartism have no problem in worshipping lord Vishnu or lord Shiva or even Jesus Christ for that they believe these different names to be the manifestations of the same supreme God(ParaBrahman).On the contrary, A vaishnavite considers only lord Vishnu as the one supreme god worthy of worship and others are his subordinate. Similarly, Shaivite considers lord Shiva as one supreme god and other as his subordinate. However to me, smartism makes the most perfect sense which is also responsible for the spread of Hinduism across the western countries.  

    Coming back to goddess worship, Goddess is worshipped by devotees in five approaches or five ways
    The FIRST one we have already seen repeatedly in all ancient civilizations which symbolize divinity as mother goddess. Rigveda mentions her as Aditi, meaning Mother of Gods, Mahimata, meaning Mother Earth; and Viraja, meaning Universal Mother.
    Rigveda verse 7.8.4 addresses the Goddess Usha (Goddess of Dawn) as “Vayam syama maturna sunavah”.

    Mahimata, the Mother of Creation
    In the second approach, Goddess is realized as ‘Shakti’, which is cosmic energy- Source of all creation. All creation of this universe - materialistic or abstract is the manifestation of the divine female goddesses.
    Vedas, Upanishads, puranas and other ancient texts contains innumerous refrences to goddesses as divine Shakti. Mahabharat decsribes Yudhishthira worshipping Goddess Durga, Arjuna worshipping Yogmaya, Pradyumna worshipping Goddess Katyayani, Aniruddha worshipping Goddess Chandi and so on.

    Aadi-Shakti, Cosmic Energy of the Universe
    Adi Shakti is the personification of divine feminine creative power commonly referred as 'The Great Divine Mother'. She is regarded as the controller of all planets, Deities, and other heavenly bodies. Scriptures refers adi-Shakti as the originator of all creation of this universe. Scientifically, Energy can neither be created nor be destroyed but changes from one form to another. Adi, meaning Never Ending represent this Para (Beyond) shakti(Energy). I.e. divine energy beyond universe. There is difference between Shakti and Adi Parashakti. Shakti refers to power of diety like Parvati, durga, kali etc but Adi Shakti refers to power of Param Brahman.

    In third approach, goddess is identified as Dash-Mahavidyas(Ten Wisdom Goddesses), representing the range of feminine divinity from the most horrifyoing goddess at one end to the most beautiful at the other end just like the lord Krishna vishwa-roop darshan. This third approach is usually followed by Tantrics and the leading goddess of this tantric worship s Goddess maha kali, the dangerous of all goddesses. All these ten goddesses represent different aspect of the same supreme goddess. These ten goddesses are:  Kali, Shodashi, Tara, Bhuvaneshwari, Matangi, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Chhinnamasta, Bagala, and Kamala.

    Dash Mahavidyas  
    In the fourth approach, Goddess is devotional, yet worshipped as patron of warriors. These goddesses are worshipped by warriors to seek blessings for victory before going to war. These warrior goddesses are expansions of Goddess Durga and are known as Saptamtrikas, meaning Seven Mothers.
    These seven goddesses include all the warrior avatars of warriors goddesses including goddess Saraswati and Goddess Lakshmi but in this Matrika cult, Brahma consort ‘Saraswati’ is called as Brahmani, Shiva's consort ‘Parvati’ as Maheshwari and Vishnu's consort ‘Lakshmi’ as Vaishnavi.
    The fierce Matrikas in battle mode
    Indus saraswati seal depicted before where we saw seven attendants of central goddesses are actually these seven goddesses, commonly known as Matrika.

    Indus-Saraswati Durga and Saptamatrikas
    Later temple relief depicting the Sapta-Matrikas
    Fifth approach is taken from various puranas like the Brahmavaivarta Puraan, Skanda Puraan, Prapancha-saratantra, Devi Bhagwat Puraan, Linga Puraan etc. According to this approach, goddesses are consort of male gods.
    Goddess Durga is the core goddess while other goddesses are her expansion representing the Energy (Shakti) of the male gods without which it is impossible for any male god to destroy or kill the demons.
     This fifth approach also covers millions of local goddesses worshipped across Indian towns and villages, with each of them worshipped as the manifestation of the supreme goddess Durga. Three principal forms of Goddesses, distributed according to their gunas are Maha-Saraswati., Maha-Lakshmi and Maha-Kali,

    Female Hindu Holy Trinity
    The Supreme Goddess DURGA
    Most vivid description of goddesses can be found in Devi Mahatmya, which is derived from Markandeya PuraanIn this book, Goddess is conceptualized, adored and celebrated as the supreme divinity.
    Goddess Durga is commonly referred as Chandi Mata, the fiercest goddess responsible to destroy all the evil Asuras(Demons). Goddess Durga is also worshipped as Jagaddhatri, meaning upholder of the world and Annapurna, meaning giver of food.  Book ‘Devi Kavacha’, derivation of the Mahatmya conceives Devi as Navdurga (Nine forms). These nine forms are
          1.    Shailputri, daughter of the mountains;  
          2.    Brahmacharini, dwelling in Brahman;  
        3.    Chandraghanta, who has the moon for her bell;  
        4.    Kushmanda, the fertility goddess;  
        5.    Skandamata, mother of the war god Skanda;  
        6.    Katyayani, the daughter of Rishi Katyayana;  
        7.    Kalaratri, the dark night of dissolution;  
        8.    Mahagauri, the light of knowledge; and  
        9.    Siddhidatri, the bestower of success.  
    Oldest of all stories regarding the first appearance of goddess is the story of Demon ‘Mahisasur’. Mahisasur was an evil buffalo-demon who conquered all the three worlds and treated all demi-gods and human as slaves. The reason behind his victory was the boon from lord brahma according to which he is invincible against any male, maybe it’s a beast, humans or even demi-gods
    Mahishasur, the Minotaur
        Afraid of the tyranny of Mahisasur, demigods approached Brahma and begged for help. Brahma advised them to create a female warrior to vanquish Mahisasur. All the demi gods merged their creative and destructive powers and from these combined energies, finally a beautiful goddess was created who was named as Devi Durga.

    Goddess Durga emerges from the Energy of Gods

    Devi durga was then gifted various weapons by all demi gods and was sent for a mission to destroy mahisasur. As soon as Mahisqsur saw Feminine Devi durga, he understood the trap of demigods but still fighted with her.
      Rishi Markandeya, describe Devi Durga batlle with the demon Mahisasur army and slaying of mahisasur in 700 verses. These Verses became the foundation of all devotees and are chanted religiously during the nine day long festival of Durga Puja.

    After a long battle, Buffalo demon ‘Mahisasur’ was finally slayed and henceforth, goddess durga was given the epithet ‘Mahishasur Mardini', meaning slayer of Mahish. This incident is most widely shown in art and symbolic depiction of goddess ‘Durga’ during the nine day Navratri festival.
    This incident of vanquishing buffalo demon teaches us to remove our own animal instinct to get rid of inner demons or be ready to suffer or get killed by the goddesses.  

    Goddess Durga slaying Mahishasur

    Above image perfectly reflects the slaying of male ego by feminine divinity to keep the creation balanced and prevents the destruction of this world.
    Murder, Rape, development and firing of nuclear bomb, Attack of one country on another like Iraq on Kuwait, America on Iraq, and Pakistan on Kashmir are all example of evil animal instincts and male ego. So, goddess durga urges us to stray away from the path of destructive path and Divert your mind into spiritual development and progress.

    In this modern Era, women’s are given equal opportunities and are treated as same as their male counterparts in many developing economies. Many hands of Goddess can easily represent the multitasking capabilities of woman.
                    Traditional Goddess                                                          Modern Goddess

    Above image was just for adding humor. By multi tasking, I actually meant working at office and at the same time Cooking food, cleaning house, taking care of baby, etc.
    So, the men of today should forget their Ego and should acknowledge and respect the women’s around us just like we do for the goddesses in temples. Only then the cases of woman inequality, crimes like rape, molestation etc can come to an end.  
    India is a land of goddesses and these goddesses plays an important role in bringing all the Indians together in religious festivals like navratri. Such religious festivals give the people an opportunity to celebrate in their hectic life so as to feel relief from worldly attachments and mundane life. These goddesses should be worshipped with great reverence and devotion because they are the creator, preserver and destroyer of the world, the conferrer of wealth, health, spiritual progress and prosperity
    So, before I end let us pray to Goddess Durga to destroy our inner evil desires, purify our soul and re-establish the status of women accorded millennium ago in ancient India or as mentioned in ancient spiritual scriptures.  

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