There was a goddess called Harsiddhi Mata who resided atop a hill, overlooking the sea in the coastal areas of Gujarat and Sindh and would see ships sailing by. There were those who would see her temple and not venerate her. So, casting a malevolent eye, she would wreck the ships. Realising her power, the sailors went to her shrine and apologised to her. They called her Vahanavati-mata and enabled movement of ships. They made offerings to her and requested that her temple be brought down from the hill to lower ground. They did this so that she would not cause any more shipwrecks. The goddess agreed, with a condition. For every step taken down, they needed to sacrifice buffaloes in her honour. The sailors did so. The goddess moved her temple, from the hill overlooking the sea, to the shrines on the ground below.Even today, the goddess is offered goats as gifts. It is a reminder of her ancient maritime relationship with the shipping communities of Arabian Sea. These communities used to trade with Arabs and Africa for spices. The goddess is sometimes called Sikotar Mata. Her name actually draws attention to a Yemeni island of Socotra, known for its treacherous shoreline.The name Sikotar may come from ‘Sukhadhara’ which means ‘providing bliss’. India’s coastal regions were associated with sea trade, as per a 2000-year-old Greek text, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. It mentions trade from the Red Sea, along the Horn of Africa, to Arabia and the western coast of India. It refers to the trade with Bharuch, the land ruled by the Chera and Pandya kings.By Devdutt Pattanaik
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