The motif of immaculate conception is prominently associated with the birth of Jesus Christ. However in many tribal myths in India one finds a similar motif wherein their supreme god is conceived through immaculate conception.

Mythologies across the world often subscribe to such births as supernatural births often to justify godhood to their heroes. Here is such a tale from the Dhangar community belonging to Solapur district in rural Maharashtra. Dhangars are primarily pastoral people who tend livestock and are classified as a nomadic tribe.

According to this story, once upon a time a farmer ( Kunbi) while tilling the land stumbled upon a beautifully carved wooden casket. Curious to find what was inside the casket he opened it, and to his surprise found a beautiful girl child swathed in the finest linen. Awed by her beauty, he was convinced that the girl child must be a divine gift from the gods. The farmer ran across the fields and arrived at the palace gates and handed over the radiant girl child to the King. He too fell in love with the little baby the moment he set his eyes on her and decided to adopt and bring her up as his own daughter . The King named her Ganga Survanti.

Years passed and the girl grew up into a very beautiful woman. News of her beauty spread far and wide. Princes from neighbouring kingdoms started approaching the King offering marriage proposals to Ganga Survanti. But Ganga Survanti had no interest in men. In fact she despised male company, and she declared to her father that she is not interested in marriage.

The King was very disappointed, but as Ganga Survanti was adamant about her decision. King gave into his beloved daughter’s wishes. He built a huge palatial house in the deep jungle where no men would ever venture in. Only female attendants were retained to serve and take care of the princess, and all male presence and contact was eliminated from Ganga Survanti’s life.

Ganga Survanti thus lived happily in her remote palatial dwelling. One day a herd of wild cows were passing by her home and one of the cows stated crying loudly. Ganga Survanti got curious and peeped out her window. She saw a cow delivering a calf and the mother cow started feeding milk to her newborn calf . Observing this event Ganga Survanti was engulfed by feelings of maternal love and she longed to experience the joy of motherhood.

‘How could I become a mother without being touched of a man?’ She wondered.
She became obsessed by the thought of motherhood but at the same time she was averse to the very thought male presence. She began a severe penance to attain motherhood. Years passed, and Ganga Survanti did not budge from her goal. She had set her mind on attaining three wishes through her penance- grains grown without rain water, fruit borne without a flower, and a son born without sexual contact.

Finally Shiva and Parvati were pleased with Ganga Survanti’ s penance and decided to grant her wishes. Parvati gave her few grains that were cultivated without rain waters. She also gave her a fruit borne without a flower. Ganga Survanti prepared a bread out of grain that was cultvated without rain water, and she ate the fruit that was borne without a flower and bread.

As soon as she consumed the fruit and bread she became pregnant and delivered a baby boy in due course of time and she was overjoyed to experience motherhood.

This boy grew into God Viroba of the Dhangar tribe.

Story Collected by : Vidya Kamat
Text: Folktales from Maharashtra by Durga Bhagwat
Location – Maharashtra
Image: Krishna and Yashoda, Chola Bronze
Image Source: Wikimedia