In a small corner of what was once a mighty port 5000 years back- Lothal, stands a temple dedicated to the ‘Goddess of the Sea’.
A small clutch of regulars visit this temple even today, and so should you, because some experts believe, that the residing goddess here, ‘Sikotari Mata’ was worshipped even in the Harappan times. This would make her the one of the oldest worshiped deities in India!
The modern design and the recently built Shivling close to the temple mask the antiquity of the original Sikotari Mata temple.
Lothal’s residing goddess, ‘Sikotari Mata’ was worshipped even in the Harappan times
Till the 1950s, before the excavations at Lothal, the original temple dedicated to Sikotari Mata, sat on top of a mound. In 1954, when excavations of this mound began under the noted archaeologist Dr. SR Rao, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) team used the help of local villagers, to build a new temple, and move the deity there. The digging of the mound, under the original temple, eventually led to the significant discovery of a massive Harappan era warehouse underneath. As many as 54 extremely rare Harappan seals were found in it.
Sadly, because the original Sikotari Mata temple was dismantled during the excavation, we don’t know when it was built. But historians emphasize some indicators that point to the very ancient origins of the goddess.
Firstly, the name of the Goddess Sikotari Mata, was in all probability derived from the islands of Socotra in the Red sea. In Harappan times and the period that followed, Socotra had a thriving settlement of Indian merchants, and this is well chronicled in the Roman records.
Secondly, the temple which overlooks the old dock, is still the first port of call for any sailor landing on the shores near Lothal . It indicates, that this may be a leftover legacy from a time when Lothal was a bustling port 5000 years ago.
Lothal was a bustling port 5000 years ago
Finally, supporting the argument that this Sea Goddess may have her origins as a Harappan deity, is the fact that there are several shrines dedicated to this Goddess, along the Gujarat coast. All these, correspond to ancient and important ports of the Harappans near Gogha, Bharuch and Surat.
Visit Lothal today and it is hard to imagine that this silent expanse was a bustling port - the biggest, on the Indian subcontinent - 5000 years ago. It is even harder to believe that we still don't know what Lothal was called by the Harappans, who used this as a gateway to the wider world.
In fact, despite years of research, the Harappan Civilization, the largest of its time, is still a mystery in many ways… and so it seems, is the presence of the Goddess who presides at Lothal.
Worshipped even today, Sikotari Mata is just a silent witness to the passage of time. Only she knows the many secrets Lothal hides!
With Inputs from Lothal and the Indus Valley Civilization by Dr S.R Rao,
LHI TRAVEL GUIDE
The Harappan port-town of Lothal is in the small village of Sagarwala in Ahmedabad district of Gujarat. The nearest airport to Lothal is Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel airport, Ahemdabad which is 89 kms away from Lothal. The nearest railway station is Burkhi on the Ahmedabad - Bhavnagar railway line and the archaeological site of Lothal is 8 kms away from the railway station.