Chapter 1


The history of worship of ‘power’ (Shakti) is as old as the history of human beings. Maternal instinct/form, is perhaps the ab-initio divinity worshipped by humans. In India, this power- worship has been in practice from that of Aditi’s in Rigveda to the folk forms of Bhavani and Renuka. Their forms and manifestations reveal much about the contentions which folk elements had about them.

Vichitrarupa Devi: A fully naked form of goddess. Idols made from baked clay/earth. The feminine element displayed is only from the navel to below. To highlight the area of vagina, the idols are shown parting their knee-folded legs. In the four corners of the idol are seen four lotuses.  An elaborate discussion about the places where these idols are found, and a detailed description is given in the chapter.

Importance of Mahakootat - Shakambhari:  Mahakut is the place equally supposed to be adored by Shiva (the male element) and Shakti (the feminine element). ‘Shakambhari Mahatmya’ is a volume which describes the sacred geography of the goddess ‘Banashankari’ or ‘Shakambhari’. In this volume, one finds many references about ‘Mahakoot’. Mahakoot hosts thousands of ‘Shivlinga’s one amongst them, named ‘Lajjgaurishwar’ is significant in this regard.

The idol of Lajjagauri: The idol is naked, and lying on her back the position resembles a typical feminine posture during copulation. It is headless. Such idols have been found at Alampur, Nagarjun Kondda (Andhra Pradesh), Siddhankote, Sangameshwar, Vyagreshwari (Karnataka). Idols made in stone are found at Vadgaon (Satara, Maharashtra) and clay idols are found at Newase, Ter, Bhokardan (Maharashtra), Bheeta, Kaushambi (U.P.) and Nagarjunkonda as well.

Some idols depict the torso below the shoulder, while some display only the anatomy of parts below the navel. The idols in which the torso down the shoulder is displayed, have their hands resting in a separated position to signify the breasts. They are headless, and are intimately associated with Lotus and bull.

Worship of these goddesses assumes different forms.  However the motive it is uniform: to conceive. The idol in Marbal found at Nagarjunkonda is an inscripted one. It mentions its creator as Khanduvula- the wife of king Ehval Shantamul of Iksvaku dynashy who is ‘A – vidhawa’ (one whose husband is alive) and Jeevaputra (One whose son is alive).

Priorly, these idols have been studied and analysed by only four researchers – Stella Kramrisch, Marshall, Sankalia and Tiwari. Marshall has related it to the goddess of agriculture. Stella kramrisch has proposed their congruence to ‘Aditi’ – mother of the universe. Sankalia has put forth the thought that it is the Indigenisation of roman goddess ‘Baubo’, while Tiwari has supported Dr. Sankalia’s stand. All of these researchers, according to Dr. Dhere have grossly neglected the contentions of their worshippers. Dr. Dhere says that they have also neglected there by, the various stories about their origins.

Dr. Dhere argues that exploration of any deity will be incomplete, if one does not explore the minds of its worshippers. He puts forth some vital questions in this regard. The goddess is named ‘Lajjagauri’ at Mahakoot and Siddhankote. What are the other names she is known as in other places of her a bode? Why should these names differ? What is the explanation (available, if any) for these names?  What are the folk – lores associated with their origins?  How ancient are they (individually)? Was it worshipped in any other form? What is the reason of these goddesses being headless? Is there some kind of local peculiarity? Can we find a common cause of their worship all through India?

These are the questions which have been haunting the researchers. Dr. Dhere opines, that sound answers to these questions, is the only way to decide whether Kramrisch – Marshall school of thought is right, or the one that of Tiwari and Sankalia.

Importance of the idol at Mahakoot:  Stella Kramrisch has discussed in detail, about the sculptural beauty and symbolism associated with the goddess (idol) at Mahakoot. The picture/photograph given by her indicates that the idol has been subject to a lot of damage, and is not in one – piece, which it was (as per the earlier mentions).

As per Dr. Dhere, studying Mahakoot more, in order to explain and reveal the mystery behind her name will shed more light on necessary details.

‘Lanjikeshwar’ : This sacred place has two names - ‘Nandikeshwar’ and  ‘Mahakoot’.  Nandikeshwar is the same as Lajjagaurishwar. One Mangalesh, from the Chalukya dynasty at Badami is recorded to have donated a village named ‘Lanjishwar’. This is ‘Lanjikeshwar’ itself. ‘Nandikeshwar’ is its Sanskritization, keeping the phonetic similarity intact.

Lanjika and Lajjagauri : In the detailed analysis given in the chapter, Dr. Dhere shows that ‘Lanje’ in kannad is harlot, or a prostitute, in Kannada – or an adultress. ‘Lanja’ in Sanskrit means Laxmi or even prostitute. This means this original term indicates shamelessness and nudity. One of the meanings associated with Lajja is ‘Private parts’. May be that is hinted in ‘Lajjaguri’ as per Dr, Dhere. One finds the mention of village Lanjishwar, or Lanjikeshwar from sixth century. This means that the goddess was in unison with Shiva, even before sixth century.

Along with this propounding, Dr. Dhere goes on explaining another term in the colloquial Marathi parlance ‘Lanke Chi Parvati. He hints, that meanings of both the words ‘Lanka’ and ‘Lajja’ are same. The terms ‘Gauri’ and ‘Parvati’ are also one and the same. So, the true meaning of this term may be a woman without adornments or one who is not em bellished with artefacts of jewellary etc. It might have been metaphorically used, dropping the literary meaning ‘naked woman’ in the passage of time.

Thereafter in the chapter, Dr. Dhere elaborates on one narrative tale from devi – kosh explaining the name Lajjagauri.

The goddess at Mahakut, is also mentioned as ‘Makote Mukuteswhari in various scriptures like Devi Bhagwat, Skanda-Purana, Matsya – Purana, Brihan – neel – Tantra and Pran – Toshani – tantra. Dr. Dhere puts forth the thought that this ‘Makote Mukuteshwari is the same as the goddess in Mahakoot, and seems to have gained a place in the folk minds all over India. He cites reasons for this congruence. The pronunciation ‘Makote’ is as per the Kannada phonetics – Mahakote itself, he says. Also, the Mahakoot stone inscription of Mangalesh. mentions (one of) Shiva’s name as ‘Mukuteshwarnath’. While getting sanskritized, the name is likely to have changed to ‘Mukuteshwar’.

He further states, that one single place is being referred to as Nandikeshwar – Mahakoot & Lanjikeshwar – Mahakoteshwar. While delving in to the reasons for having such dual-names, he offers an explanation. If one leaves aside the adjectives ‘Maha’ and ‘Ishwari’ which indicate divinity, and also the words indicative of goddess – what remains is ‘Kot’ the word. In kannada ‘kotti’ means shameless. In Sanskrit, ‘kotwi’ means a naked woman. So both these words means a shameless god/goddess, says he ‘Lanjika’ is the ‘Mega-vagina, which has given birth to the entire being (Srushti) around us. By consuming the potion of life from her breasts, this biotic life cycle is continuing – and that, according to Dr. Dhere is the notion why the ogony of this idol has her vagina and breasts prominently shown. ‘Lotus’ symbolizes creation. The ox represent masculinity, semen and fatherhood. Like the ‘Shiva’ doesn’t need other physical details once expressed through the ‘linga’, similarly this manifestation as ‘vagina’ doesn’t need ‘head’ it is not right to call her ‘headless’ (as if some one has be-headed it)

About this goddess, Dr. Dhere then conduces that many other aspects need to be understood. How many places in India continued her worship? Out these at how many places does she exist as a form of Shakti? What are the similarities and differences between these various forms and manifestations? If the period of the idols is in the common era – why is it so? Is it because of some ‘Foreign’ influence? Had she assumed the form of divinity before such as influence? are these questionable aspects. He records a common observation for all these forms at all these places, that the ‘original’ form of the divinity, in all places has gone on a devoluting decline. For this again, he feels folk – beliefs need to be understood more.



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