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The Evolution of Worship: From Ancestors to Deities and Goddesses

The Evolution of Worship: From Ancestors to Deities and Goddesses


Around 10,000-12,000 years ago, human civilization embarked on a revolutionary journey that would change the course of history. The discovery of agriculture marked the initial phase of this transformation, with paddy (rice), maize, corn, and wheat taking centre stage. With the ability to cultivate their crops, humans no longer needed to rely solely on hunting and gathering. As a result, people began to build permanent settlements, laying the foundation for the development of villages and communities. Concurrently, the practice of domesticating animals for farming and security purposes emerged, giving rise to new opportunities and challenges.

The Impact of Farming:

The shift to agriculture altered how humans sourced their food and had significant health implications. As grain production increased, the need for hunting diminished, and people began experiencing joint disorders and arthritis due to the physical demands of farming. Additionally, the shift in diet towards rice, corn, maize, and wheat contributed to metabolic disorders, including diabetes.

The Rise of Communicable Diseases:

Living in larger groups and domesticating animals led to increased contact between humans and their domesticated animals, as well as an uptick in communicable diseases. Both diseases transmitted by humans to other humans and those passed from animals to humans became more prevalent. Consumption of raw milk from diseased animals and the infestation of rats and mosquitoes in agricultural fields further compounded the problem. Tuberculosis, malaria, plague, and other deadly diseases began to spread, while metabolic disorders weakened individuals' ability to fight off these illnesses.

The Emergence of Ancestor Worship:

Amidst this backdrop of hardships and disasters, humans began to seek explanations for their suffering. It is believed that during this time, people started attributing these calamities to some form of divine wrath, perhaps linked to their own mistakes. The practice of burying the deceased within homes and later worshipping the ancestors' remains gradually evolved. People believed that appeasing these ancestral spirits could protect their settlements from disasters.

The Transition to Deities:

As humans continuously grappled with microbial threats, they developed natural resistance to these pathogens. While disasters remained beyond their control, they could partially mitigate their effects. This led to the belief that ancestral worship played a role in averting these calamities. Over time, ancestors began to be seen as deities, and a fusion of belief and reality emerged.

Nature Worship:

Concurrently, humans began to revere and worship nature in various forms, including the sun, moon, fire, land, ocean, rivers, ponds, trees, and animals. Anything from which humans could gain favour or protection was venerated. Efforts were made to appease even potential threats.

The Evolution of Stories:

As experiences accumulated, they were passed down through stories to future generations. Ancestors transformed into deities, and some individuals in settlements or cities performed such extraordinary deeds that they were considered divine incarnations or avatars. In Indian history, figures like Rama and Krishna are believed to be such avatars. In other civilizations, rulers even declared themselves as gods or divine avatars. However, the tradition of venerating ancestors as deities persisted.

The Emergence of Goddesses:

In this lineage of belief, the concept of goddesses emerged. These goddesses represented feminine power and protected families, communities, villages, and cities from various calamities, crises, and adversities. In ancient civilizations like the Indus Valley, "Matrika" worship was practised. Scholars debate whether Matrikas originated from non-Aryan traditions or were influenced by the Yaksha tradition. The number of Matrikas varies, with some traditions recognizing seven or eight, especially in places like Nepal.

Continuing Traditions:

Since ancient times, the worship of ancestors has taken the form of "Devata Pujan," while the worship of feminine power is expressed through "Matrika Pujan." "Devta Poojan" is performed at a child's birth, while "Matrika Puja" is conducted during Yajnopavit (Yagyopaveet/Janeyu) and marriage ceremonies. These rituals bring clans together to worship their ancestral deities and Matrikas, seeking protection and the removal of obstacles. The practice symbolizes clan members' spiritual, physical, and genetic connection. It is important to note that most cultures have their own variations of ancestor worship and remembrance.


The evolution of human beliefs and practices, from the early days of farming to the worship of ancestors, deities, and goddesses, reflects the dynamic relationship between culture, environment, and human survival. These traditions continue to shape societies, offering insights into our shared history and the enduring power of faith and community.

Dr Deepak Chaturvedi, MD, Internal Medicine.


The content of this article/blog is entirely the author's personal opinion and does not claim to be a historical document of any kind. It is intended to shed some light on the possible cultural evolution of humans over time.


dr malay
dr malay
Jan 21

Outstanding, really great knowledge shared,,,,,keep it up with touch of midas within you....


Jitendra Chaturvedi
Jitendra Chaturvedi
Oct 17, 2023

Very Nice Article

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