Dr. Agrawala's present work largely represents his Ph.D. thesis (approved by the Banaras Hindu University) in a revised up-to-date form. He has brought out a most comprehensive and thorough analysis of the material on the worship of goddesses in the Proto-historic and Vedic periods of India. A vast amount of archaeological evidence is carefully sifted and analysed by him in a truer cultic perspective as throwing new light on the role of mother-goddesses in the protohistoric cultures ranging from small agricultural communities of Baluchistan foot-hills to the highly developed Harappan. Dr. Agrawala has also identified and discussed in a systematic manner varied motifs and concepts of fertility cultus in the Rgveda and later Vedic texts which were subsequently formulated into definite images, personifications and attributes. He has marhsalled in a fully objective treatment all those references in the Vedic literature that go now to reveal numerous fresh aspects of this hitherto unexplored subject. One is able indeed to see through the present work how the Rgvedic goddesses, mostly abstractions, later on assumed mythical definitions in the pantheon and how the folk culture of India exercised its far-reaching influences on higher priestly religion not only by contributing its own share of goddesses but also through their more concrete identification with the already existing ones in myths and cult rituals.
Dr. P.K. Agrawala (b. 1943) is one of the most perceptive young scholars of Indian art history and symbolism. He received his school and university education at the Banaras Hindu University with a distinguished academic career throughout, winning gold-medals and first positions at B.A. (Hons.) and M.A. (1964). He obtained his Ph.D. degree (1971) in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology from the Banaras Hindu University for his thesis on the "Goddesses in Ancient India". Presently he is a permanent Lecturer in the Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, B.H.U. which post he joined in 1968.
Dr. Agrawala's authoritative contributions to the field of Indology have won him international repute. He is the author of numerous research books, including Purna-Kalasa - The Vase of Plenty; Mathura Railing Pillars; Skanda-Karttikeya; Gupta Temple Architecture; Srivatsa - The Babe of Goddess Sri; Early Indian Bronzes; Goddess Vinayaki, Rajghat Terracotta Human Figurines; Aesthetic Principles of Indian art; On the Sadanga Canons of Painting; The Unknown Kamasutras; Mithuna - The Male Female Symbol in Indian Art and Thought; etc. He is General Editor of the Indian Civilization Series published from Varanasi and has edited also several works of the late Prof.V.S. Agrawala, his father. He has been awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowhip to carry out his post-doctoral research during 1983-84 at the University of Bonn on the topic of "Sexo-Tantric Symbols in Indian Sculpture".
The present work represents my Ph.D. thesis approved by the Banaras Hindu University in 1971 which I have taken liberty of slightly revising in view of some lately accumulated material. The present endeavour has aimed to make a study of the evidence available for the worship of goddesses in early India, particularly in the Protohistoric and Vedic periods. In the present state of our knowledge, we do not, however, have adequate evidence in the Indian sub-continent for knowing the antecedents of the goddess cult prior to the Chalcolithic relics of the Baluchistan peasant-communities and the Harappan civilisation, or of prehistoric Central Indian and Deccan. Therefore we have to fall back on the Palaeolithic and Neolithic evidence at our disposal in Europe, Western Asia, the Russian steppe and Iran to capitulate the preceding traditions, if any, for the probable links of Indian religions in the common heritage of early mankind. Thus taking cue in the introductory survey from this source material for pre-Chalcolithic phase of man’s evolution to culture and religious thinking, we have attempted in the following pages to collect and interpret the early Indian evidence on the chosen problem from a more or less objective and analytical viewpoint.
I am extremely obliged to my teacher Professor A.K. Narain then of the Banaras Hindu University and now at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, U.S.A., under whose guidance and supervision the present study was carried out. Apart from the persistent encouragement and inspiration on his part, he has, throughout the prolonged undertaking of this work, been of immense help in critically under-taking the problem in its broader outlines and in carrying out its treatment in specific details.
The illustrations have been mostly taken from the published works, and to the respective authorities I express my gratefulness. I am also much obliged to my friend Shri O.P. Khaneja, photographer of the Department, for his able assistance. Lastly, I am to thank Shri Shakti Malik of the Abhinav Publications for undertaking this publication and giving it the present excellent shape.
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