Across cultures, the mother goddess is invoked during harvest festivals. She is associated with the earth, with fertility and is worshipped as a symbol of fecundity and prosperity. This is a practice recorded from North India, particularly from the states of Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. It was a common practice followed by farmer communities (when it was recorded in the early 1900s) and involves the worship of Macandri Mata. This is done after the completion of the sowing season.
The ritual/prayer is carried out by the farmer/cultivator and does not involve any brahmin or priest. This is what he does:
At the edge of his field, a farmer puts up a three-sided wall of mud (a semi-circular structure) about a foot high. It is meant to represent a hut. The structure is covered with green khus grass (vetiver) and at the two ends of the hut two parts of a Palasa wood are struck into the ground. Interestingly, the palasa tree has great significance in many Indian rituals and gods are said to prefer their offerings in vessels made from its wood.
The two parts of the wood are crowned with a bunch of leaves—much like what is done during several marriage rituals across India. And the wood is then tied to the thatch with a red string. The centre of the house is where the goddess Macandri is supposed to reside and the farmers make a small fire there and place a pot of milk on top. The milk is placed in an earthen pot and it is allowed to boil over to show abundance.
While this goes on, the ploughmen take the bullocks on to the field and drive them to a sharp trot, striking them wildly. The farmer then offers a little rice, molasses and saffron to Macandri Devi and makes two tiny holes in the ground that represent granaries. Into the holes he drops a few grains and then covers them over. This is a prayer to the goddess that may his granary may always be filled from produce from the land.
STORY COLLECTED BY: ARUNDHUTI DASGUPTA
SOURCE: The Indian mother goddess by Narendra Nath Bhattacharya