As mentioned earlier in my explorations of the maharaTTa country with shUdra-shreShTha, S and Mis-creant I came across several aniconic padmAvatI stones painted orange with a lead paint. However, in the exploration of Satmala we did see a couple of iconic padmavatI images. One of them was still in worship and another was largely in neglect in a dung-ridden area. This image was strange in having a nAstIka arihant inscribed on her. A drAviDa nastIka savant brought to my attention that they worshiped padmAvatI as a shasana devI, that is an agent of a nAstIka tirthankara. He gave me a print of the jaina version of the deity that resembled the weathered image in part. This suggests that padmAvatI was worshiped by nAstIka-s as well as astIka-s and tribes in that region. I wonder if the padmAvatI at Venkatadri is also a syncretized version of the old padmAvatI widely worshiped throughout the Deccan in the early medieaval period.
So what her origins? We get a clue for this in the archaic section of the gobhila smR^iti (1.11-12) that mentions that 13 mothers are worshiped:
1) gaurI (wife of rudra) 2) padmAvatI 3) shachI (wife of indra) 4) & 5) medhA and sAvitrI (the sarasvatI derived “veda” goddesses) 6) & 7) jayA and vijayA 8) devasenA (wife of skanda) 9) & 10) svAhA and svadhA (wives of agni) 11) dhR^iti 12) tuShTi 13) puShTi (the last 3 may or at least the last 2 may be lakShmI like manifestations)
Thus there was a distinct padmavatI in an ancient list of goddesses.
As I stood atop the massif of the nine nAthA-s in the Satmala the wind was howling fiercely in the late evening hour. Various animals and birds made loud howling noises. Then to my mind came the yajur-vedic mantra:
ehy avakrAmann áshastI rudrásya gÁNapatyAn mayobhÚr éhi|
urv àntárikSham ánv ihi svastí gavyUtir ábhayAni kR^iNván ||