The book was published in 2007. The ‘Shri Akkalkot Swami Samartha Mutt, Pune’, rendered financial support for the publication. A short note giving details about the Trust also appears in the beginning.
As the author mentions in the preface, the book provides information collected by him from time to time over a span of fifty years of inquiry and research. Fired by an inner impulse to present that information and share his views, he expresses a sense of fulfillment on having completed, in the latter part of his career, the task of setting out the immense religious, cultural, nationalistic as well as political significance that the Goddess has had for the Indian people.
It is moving to note how the loss of his own mother, when he was barely five, prompted Dr.Dhere to see her in the Goddess – the Eternal Mother – and attempt to fill the void of maternal love, which had denied to him. He admits he underwent an emotionally charged experience as he was writing the book.
Just as the entire bhakti tradition in Maharashtra views Vitthal (or Pandurang) as mauli (or ‘mother’), it assigns the same maternal role to Dnyaneshwar despite the fact that both are male. The underlying principle, of course, is that none cares as earnestly and purely as does a mother, and further that the Eternal Brahma is both male and female and even transcends that classification.
The author confesses his sentimental or passionate lapses at places in the book. But he assures readers that he has not compromised either on fidelity to resources or in his efforts to acquire as many of them as he could. The latter effort involved extensive travel to famed places of Devi worship, research into works by past scholars, meeting knowledgeable persons currently involved in research and wide study of published material on the subject. He points out with a note of regret that scholars had done nothing to add to the pioneering research undertaken by Dattatreya Madhav Kulkarni of Tuljapur (1920). Although researchers like Kamalakar Bhagwan Prayag, Ganesh Hari Khare, Narahar Sheshrao Pohanerkar and D.R.Amaladi did some writing from an objective, historical perspective, they presented their work in the form of nothing more elaborate than booklets which did no justice to the entirety of the subject.
Gratefully acknowledging and responsibly using such earlier research, nevertheless, the author attempts to present in the book a comprehensive picture of the Deity. It would be the experience of every respectable researcher of religious history that subjects involving human faith can be unraveled only when one explores collective social beliefs with some deference. Man lives out a meaningful life only on the basis of sentiments that are governed by intellect and discretion, which fact renders sentiment-based realism more potent, influential and inspirational than its logically dictated counterpart. The ability of a myth to influence people depends on sentiment-based perception, as the author has shown in many of his research writings.
Tulaja Bhavani is viewed in popular perception as ‘Mahishasuramardini Durga’ who wields weapons of offence and defense in her eight hands, not only to destroy asuras
(evildoers) but also to protect the righteous with limitless love and maternal care. While this imagery described in the ‘Saptashati’ became the subject of the deepest spiritual inspiration for Dnyandeo, it equally motivated Shivaji in the 17th Century. Contemporary bards, poets and chroniclers saw in the killing of Afzal Khan by Shivaji a re-enactment of that of Mahishasura by Durga. The same popular myth was used for arousing nationalistic fervor during the 19th and 20th Centuries. One poet of the period, in fact, chose to call a ballad he composed on the independence struggle by the name ‘Mahishasuramardan’ (or, ‘Killing of Mahishasura’). Dr. Dhere draws attention to the remarkable fact that an ancient myth can become a source of motivation for an entire nation – spiritually, socially and politically. Not only did it provide untold inspiration for individual elevation to millions through the ages, being described by Dnyaneshwar and philosophers in his tradition as ‘destroyer of human weakness’, but it also became the prime mover for nationalistic rejuvenation, as regarded by Aurobindo and others.