Deluge of Atlantis

Deluge of Atlantis
Deluge of Atlantis

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Origin of Easter from Ishtar and Ishtar from Hindu Goddess.(part-2)

Origin of Easter from Ishtar and Ishtar from Hindu Goddess.(part-2)
Sunday, March 31, 2013
[Guest Blogger Jayasree continues. Part 3 follows tomorrow-DD]

Let us see the Ishtar image once again.

She is standing on lions. There are owls on her sides.

In Hindu depictions, the female (mother) Goddess can be seen standing or sitting on tiger or lion or crocodile. She can be seen standing on corpse, buffalo or bull's head after killing that. The symbolism that is conveyed by all these is that the mother springs up into action when her children are threatened by any of the above mentioned entities. There is an olden saying in Tamil texts that the woman of the Tamil sangam times was so brave that she used to chase away the tiger by the grain- pad (called as 'MuRAm' in Tamil) she uses for cleaning grains. (This is how this pad looks! This is in use in Indian households even today.)

One wonders how this was possible. But thinking of the lifestyle of the ancients, the men-folk had gone out for collecting food and the women were at home taking care of their kids. The hamlets must have been surrounded by forests from which there was a constant threat from animals like lion and tiger. The brave mother must have been ever vigilant and could have never hesitated to push away the animal when it came near the house or her child. By nature the womenfolk of those early times must have been daring, strong and quick to respond to threats from animals to their children . That is why the adage on Tamil woman chasing the tiger with the pad had come to stay.

These women might have even learnt the tricks of taming tigers and lions so that they do not cause harm to her children. That is how the depiction of these animals as having been conquered by her had come to stay – which was shown by her either standing or sitting on these animals.

A depiction of this idea of female / mother power in tackling tigers and other animals is seen in the Indus tablets.

Woman (and not man) fighting with tiger with bare hands is seen in the Indus tablets.

Such show of power and protection came to be ultimately depicted as a "Tiger Woman" as seen in the Indus tablet below.

Look at the trident symbol on the left side of the tablet. Even today this trident is the symbol of this female goddess called variously as Kali, Durga and so on, but always as a manifestation of Shakthi which means power.

Trident in Kali temple in Tamilnadu.

Shakthi is the consort of Shiva. If Shiva symbolises destruction at cosmic level, Shakthi symbolises destruction at mundane level “ done for the sake of protecting her children (dependants / devotees)".

Yet another Indus tablet shows how this female power destroys threat from any source (shown in the form of dreadful animals). This also shows the status as a deity with the accompanying Ashta mangala symbols. Take a look at the Indus tablet below.

The female holds out her hands to destroy the dreadful animals. The elephant and the wheel lend the Royal or supreme authority to her as mangal or auspicious symbols. This is perhaps the oldest available image of Shakthi (mother Goddess) for worship.

The concept of iconography was developed by symbolisms in the form of objects or images associated with a given concept of exceptional power or authority that had an effect on human life. The presently available image of this Goddess on tiger looks like this.

Kali on lion.

In all expeditions of war and hunting and even in stealing of cattle, the image of the mother Goddess with lion was worshiped. The Lion flag was held by the warriors while going for battle. In the 2nd century poetry of Tamil, Silappadhikaram, there is a chapter on the worship of this image, by hunters who successfully completed their expedition by carrying the lion-flag. As a way of celebrating the success, they chose a young girl from the community having specific characteristics and dressed her like Goddess Durga. The dressing up is similar to what we hear of the Kumari of Nepal. A third eye was also painted on her forehead.

Kumari of Nepal

Even the famous Durga Puja of Kolkatta arose in the period later to the work of above mentioned Tamil work. We can say that the North Indian Durga Puja had its connection to an earlier worship of the same type in the tip of South India which got it from an earlier – but now submerged land of people. The name Kumari for this girl also indicates a previous connection to this mode of worship which I will discuss at the end of this article.

Raising the two hands up in the images of female deities of Central Asia and Europe seems to be a continuation of the idea of the Mother holding up the threatening ones away and subsequently driving them out or killing them. This image of Jewish Asherah is similar to the Indus woman.

A similar looking image from the Minoan culture is shown below. One is a lion and another is a buffalo. Thus it depends on the kind of threat at a particular location. But the idea of the mother as the powerful fighter and the style of iconography are the same as in Indus or Hindu depictions.

Yet another one from the Minoan culture.

The following image shows Sumerian Inanna overpowering the lion.

These kind of depictions are possible only in the region where there is a predominant threat from these animals. Interestingly both tigers and lions are not dominant in Europe or Middle east where these images are seen. Tigers are predominant in India and South East Asia while lions are predominant in Africa and India. The development of this concept of overpowering of lions and tigers could have originated only in the regions where the threat from them was serious and frequent. By this logic, we deduce that the images in Middle East and Europe were imported ideas or not developed in the regions where are found. But they were further modified and developed over time.

There is one more animal, namely the snake which is found frequently associated with these images. Before analysing that, let me write about a couple of other issues.

The Ishtar image has a pair of owls along with her. The wiki article on owls has just a single liner about Indian connections, but owls are mentioned in many places in the Vedas and the Epics. There is an interesting episode in the 7th chapter of Ramayana on evolution of life on earth which was described using the story of an owl and vulture. (Chapter 7-72). The most important relevance of owls comes along with destruction by stealth ways.

This finds mention in the Hindu Epic Mahabharata. The war was almost over. The Pandavas had won the Kauravas. On that night when the Pandavas were having a satisfactory rest and sleep, Ashwatthama of the opposite camp was not sleeping. He was seething with anger in the way his father was put to death in the war and his patron Kauravas were routed. He wanted to somehow take revenge on the Pandavas. While wandering in the dark night outside, he saw an owl stealthily and suddenly attacking the sleeping birds and devouring them. Inspired by the owl, he too attacked the Pandava sons and killed them in the dark of the night. Such kind of slaying, death and destruction is known as the dance of Kali or Kalaratri (demoness of night). The owl comes to symbolise the deadly night of Kalaratri.

Connecting the symbolism of owl and lions in the image of Ishtar, the image does not go with the ideas of love, fertility and sacred prostitution. Some loss of touch with the original concept is seen. Perhaps from time to time, the concepts have undergone changes for the same image and it finally came to rest with revival of spring about 2000 years ago.



  1. What is your reason for concluding the Goddess is fighting the beasts? Is there any corroborative textual evidence that this is the case? Also, the word "easter" seems to be a word that may have been from a priestly or ritual language overlay that was independent of regional language origin. I understand why you may not want to speculate as to its origin but then how are we ever to truly understand its meaning? Easter,Ishtar, Ester, Ashera are all surely derived from the same source. I would also add the modern "Hester". What would you say is the etymology of this word?

  2. Add to the related words; Ashtoreth, Astarte, star, aster.

  3. Just for purposes of clarification, you are asking these questions of Guest Blogger Jayasree. I shall give him the option to answer first before offering any opinions of my own.

  4. 2 issues are raised in the comment of Ms Susan Burns. (1) the idea of Goddess fighting the beasts (2) linguistic connections.

    Taking up the second one first, I am not at all going into the linguistic commonalities but only showing how the depiction of the idea or symbolism is same or evolved from one to another, given that the Indus woman predates all these depictions of raised hands holding animals.

    On the first issue, yes, Goddesses are always shown in the company of animals and beasts in Hindu iconography. In the case of over-powering the animal (or a symbolism depicted by that animal)the animal would be seen killed by her or she would be seen standing on that animal. In the case of taming animals, she would be seen riding on that or that animal would be shown doing her some service. The grain pad adage on the woman chasing the tiger with the pad still exists in Tamilnadu today. How could you explain it other than the way I have written?

    There are number of literary evidences to substantiate this kind of depiction of female Goddesses. There are a number of such Goddesses in rural India, Though most of them have been destroyed by Muslim invasions, plenty are still there in Tamilnadu which was not much affected by Muslim invasions.

    The ancient Grammar work of Tamil by name Tholkappiyam has an aphorism on how and when deification can happen. It is a 4-some process by which a God is established, called by this Grammar work as "Kaatchi, kaalkOL, nIrppadai and nadugal".

    * The 1st requirement is that if someone had exhibited a brave or exemplary act and died in the process or had some wonders were cited at the place after her death, then the community decides that she is fit to be worshiped as a deity (this holds good for men too).

    * Once it is decided, then the 2nd step is to treat that place where she died in that act or where the wonders were seen as the sacred place where she must be consecrated.

    * The 3rd step is to make her image in stone and sanctify it by means of water from sacred rivers and puja.

    * The 4th step is to install that stone in the place selected in the 1st step and initiate worship.

    This holds good for men too. In the case of men, it is mostly an act of bravery shown in a war or in protecting the community or country from an invading army. So these entities are shown with weapons and not animals. But in the case of women, most of them had died in the process of protecting their children - and on most occasions from wild animals. That is how the early depiction of mother goddess must have evolved as a fighter of animals.

    The 2nd century AD Tamil Epic (Silappadhikaram) has a full chapter on the Goddess who killed the wild Buffalo named Mahisha. It is in this name the Goddess is known as Mahishasura-mardhini. The place where she overpowered Mahisha still exists by that name Mahishur - later turned into Mysore. There are cross references available in sangam Tamil texts. This deity and the worship that is detailed in the Tamil Epic of Silappadhikaram was a pre-cursor to Durga Puja of Kolkatta and Nepal.

    If you read "Mayamatham" (I wish scholars working on Mayan must read Mayamatham and Surya Siddhantha, the two texts authored by Mayan on architecture and astronomy respectively), you wold come across a chapter on iconography of Hindu Gods and Goddesses in which you would find that almost all the 7 mother goddesses (sapta mata) have animal(s) and a specific tree connected to them.

    I would even relate the 11,000 year old star chart of Egypt that Mr Dale posted in the link below to Mayan of Surya Siddhantha fame.

    I will write that in my article on 'Mayan in Indian sources'. Once it is written I would send a copy to Mr Dale.


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