Ten Mahavidyas (great wisdoms), the charismatic goddesses of Hindu pantheon looked at with great curiosity world over, more than any other group of divinities, are rather the late entrants into ritual-religio-cultural stream of Indian thought and theology. Identically conceived in many things, as a group of divinities having bizarre forms and exotic character, and pregnant with strange magical powers, these goddesses, invariably numbering ten, make a debut at their earliest in around eleventh-twelfth centuries, though it is rather in fourteenth century Shakta texts that their emergence is more decisive and it is here that they are identified as Mahavidyas in unambiguous terms. These Shakta texts, ‘upa’ or subordinate ‘puranas’ as they are called in the scriptural tradition, are largely the collections of hymns – ‘nama-strotas’, dedicated to each of these goddesses and recited to invoke them for accomplishing a desired objective. These early ‘nama-strota’ texts reveal iconographic form and basic nature of each of the ten Mahavidyas, and sometimes each one’s power to fulfill a prayer. However, in these texts or rather in the entire body of the Mahavidyas-related literature, barring a few narratives in regard to their origin or allusions to their exploits in various fields appearing here and there, an effort at exploring their conceptual aspect, metaphysical meaning, symbolic dimensions or even theological status, hardly ever reveals.
Some early Goddesses int their role as Mahavidyas
Not that all goddesses of the group had late emergence, the black goddess Kali, lotus goddess Kamala, or even Tara, had very early presence in religious streams of India and were widely worshipped. Kamala is rather a Rig-Vedic deity and as Shri a full Rig-Vedic Sukta has been devoted to her. However, in their role as Mahavidyas, individually and as a group, they make their presence felt from around fourteenth century, or a little early. With a different role and form, something like a post-puranic proliferation of the cult, even Kali, Kamala or Tara emerge as their own antimodels. As a matter of fact, at least in their visual representations the postMahavidya iconographic forms of Kali and Tara – horror-striking naked figures standing on Shiva’s supine body, so overwhelmed the scenario that their preMahavidya forms were only rarely seen.
In their Puranic models maintaining cosmic order was the primary role of Kali, Kamala, or even Tara; in their forms as Mahavidyas such role in regard to them becomes subsidiary or rather insignificant. In her Mahavidya form Kamala, Vishnu’s consort in Puranic tradition, is rarely invoked or visually represented with Vishnu, her spouse. In her Mahavidya-transform this Vaishnavite goddess of the Vedas, and Puranas in the Vedic line, seems to tilt, at least in her bearing, to Shaivite side. In their related hymns other Mahavidyas are also lauded as spouses of male gods; however, this spousal aspect in case of them all is weak and insignificant. Too independent to be in a wife’s frame, besides gender they have in them little which is consort-like; they all are rather stubborn and over-dominating possessed of, or rather obsessed by, a desire to bend their male partners to their will and to have a final say in everything.
Mahavidyas : Appearance, nature and metaphysical meaning
The goddesses of unusual type, all of them are conceived with fearful demeanour and agitating mind, and as destructionloving, though at times they are also amorous and benevolent, and peacefully poised. In some of them, as in Tripura-Sundari who has been conceived triply, as Tripurabala – the virgin, as TripuraSundari – the beauteous, and as Tripura-Bhairavi – the terrible, such diversity better manifests.
Collectively they seem to represent stages in a woman’s life cycle except her motherhood. They are hardly ever lauded or visually represented as mothers or with motherly attributes – a child in arms as have Matrikas, or with breasts filled with milk as has Ambika, Annapurna or Mother-goddess.
Metaphysically interpreted, Mahavidyas represent cosmic reality, both its dynamic and static forms prevailing over all seen and unseen spaces, all directions, as also all elemental regions, summed up as ten. Mahavidyas, ten manifestations of the Divine Female, preside over ten elemental regions of this cosmic reality, as also its absolute nature – dynamic as well as static. In metaphysical terms, Kali, Tara, Bagala, Bhairavi, Tripura-Sundari, and sometimes Chinnamasta represent its dynamics while Dhumavati, Matangi, Kamala and Bhuwaneshvari, its statics
Shaivite and Tantrika Links of Mahavidyas
Mahavidyas, the product of Shaktism, more especially of Tantrika Shaktism, with their strong links with Sati, Parvati and Kali – all Shiva’s spouses, are Shaivite in nature, though contrarily, in myths, as well as conceptually, tradition subordinates Shiva to them, not them to Shiva. As a rule they are represented as Shiva’s superior. The cult of Shiva’s subordination to them has its roots in various myths related to Mahavidyas’ origin. In Sati-related myth Sati’s will prevails over Shiva, while in Kali-related myth Shiva, fed up with Kali’s untidy habits, tries to flee from her but with all exits blocked by her he helplessly submits to her will. Mahavidyas have fierce forms, untidy habits, destructive nature, mystic dimensions and strange magical, meditative and Yogik powers. In most Tantras they are the presiding deities of the Tantrika rituals. Though Mahavidyas are endowed with masculine build too rough and tough for a woman, they often manifest a feminine mind agitating against every type of masculine arrogance, particularly when a male, whether a father or husband, abuses, ignores, slights, or even tries to dominate them. This agitation often transforms into dreadful wrath, which truly defines all Mahavidyas.
Mahavidyas: Their own contrantictions
Mahavidyas have strange contradictions. They are individualistic in nature, yet their identity better reveals as a group. Many forms with diverse nature as the Mahavidyas are, they are essentially the manifestations of one Divine Being. They are truly the concrete expression of the idea of many forms of the One. Some of the Mahavidyas with their association with cremation ground, corpses and destruction represent death on one hand, and with their naked figures sometimes engaged in copulation with an inert body lying under them represent sex and fertility on the other, and thus a strange synthesis of opposites, the death and the sex – cessation and creation. In an ambience where death and destruction reigns, Mahavidyas represent what defines the life, the timeless youth, the body’s kinetic energy and the desire to produce, of which sex is the incessant source, and the creation. The benevolent ones, Mahavidyas bless an adept but often by destroying or harming someone, one of their adept’s enemies or opponents, thus destruction being often Mahavidyas’ mode of blessing.
Mahavidyas: The meaning of term
The broad meaning of the term ‘Mahavidya’ is ‘great knowledge’. In its wider sense the term might be taken to mean complete, supreme, absolute, or ultimate knowledge. Tantrikas claim that ten Mahavidyas stand for ‘ten great mantras’, for a ‘mantra’ and ‘vidya’ are the same. They assert that a mantra is the deity manifest as the deity, at least in Tantrika way, does not emerge unless invoked through a mantra. They claim that the deity emerges from the mantra if it is correctly pronounced. Not merely the deity’s vehicle, mantra is her body, being and essence. Thus, even if the deity exists beyond it, it is in the mantra dedicated to her, defining her form, attributes and powers, that she becomes manifest and is realised.
Hence, ten mantras are ten manifestations of the deity – the Divine Female. Such Tantrika thesis is just the extension of the ancient Indian cult of the ‘shabdabrahma’ which claims ‘shabda’ – sound, to be the essence of the total reality – the Ultimate that the term ‘Brahma’ defines. The mantra – the sound condensed into sacred syllabic utterance, manifests thus an aspect of the Ultimate, and ten mantras, Ultimate’s all ten dimensions. Under another sound-based Indian theory of Sphota – explosion of sound, which claims sound to be the manifestation of cosmic power, this Tantrika assumption is interpreted in a slightly different way. If a Mahavidya is a mantra, the most intense condensation of sound, and as mantra she manifests one aspect of cosmic power, ten Mahavidyas – the ten mantras, manifest cosmic power in aggregate. Under yet another theory, Mahavidyas are sometimes seen as the source of ultimate knowledge – all that is to be known. It views Mahavidyas as representing transcendental knowledge, summed up into ten stages or objects, each of which one Mahavidya represents.
Origin of Mahavidyas
As regards the origin of Mahavidyas, the tradition has five myths in prevalence; however, among them the one that relates to Sati, Shiva’s consort and the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, one of the Brahma’s sons, is the main and more widely known. Other four relate to Parvati, Kali, Durga and Sharakshi, identified also as Shakambhari. The Sati-related myth emerges with pre-eminence in Brahaddharma Purana and Mahabhagavata Purana. Myth’s versions appearing in later texts are almost identical to them. Sati, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, had married Shiva against the will of her father who had great dislike for Shiva. For such act of Sati Daksha was as much annoyed with his daughter and had split all ties with her. Once, Daksha Prajapati organised a great yajna – sacrifice. He invited people from far and wide but to slight Shiva and Sati did not invite them. Shiva felt insulted but was indifferent to it. However, Sati, not in a mood to forgive her father for the insult, decided to go to her father’s house and disrupt the yajna. Her anguish was so deep that when Shiva forbade her from doing it, her wrath turned from her father to him. Besides accusing him of neglecting her and thrusting his decisions upon her, in fury her limbs began trembling and eyes – turned red and bright as if emitting fire.
Frightened Shiva closed his eyes but when he opened them, he was dismayed to see standing before him a woman with a fierce form. The moment he looked at her, she began growing old. Her feminine charms began disappearing, and her arms, branching into four. She had disheveled hair, fiery complexion and a lolling tongue moving from one side to other over sweat-smeared lips. She wore a crescent as her crown. Except what a garland of severed hands covered her figure was naked. Her form blazed and from it emitted brilliance of a million rising suns. With her laughter she shattered the earth and filled with awe the world from one end to other. Frightened Shiva tried to flee from one direction to other but a burst of laughter obstructed him on every side, and dismayed and frightened he submitted. To further ensure that he did not slip the woman, obviously Sati’s transform, filled all directions around him with ten different forms. These ten forms of Sati were ten Mahavidyas. On his query Shiva was revealed their names and also their identity by Sati herself in some versions of the myth as Sati’s friends, and in other, as her own forms. A frightened Shiva allowed her to join her father’s yajna and do as she chose. The rest of the myth is the same as in other contexts. In annoyance an insulted and disgraced Sati jumped into Daksha’s yajna and destroyed herself as well as the yajna.
Parvati-related myth is largely the creation of oral tradition prevalent in Tantrika world. Parvati was Sati in her re-birth after she had killed herself in the course of the yajna that her father Daksha Prajapati had organised. Broken by Sati’s death Shiva had decided not to marry again. However, Parvati, by her great penance, subdued him to marry her. She was thus his second wife. One day Shiva decided to leave Parvati. Parvati prayed him not to go away from her but he did not concede. Finally, Parvati transformed herself into ten forms and with them blocked all the ten doors of the house and foiled his attempt to leave. Interpreted in Tantrika way the allegory suggests that the body is the house, Shiva, the self, ten doors, body’s ten openings – two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, anus, penis or vagina, and ‘brahmarandhra’ – an aperture at the top of the head, and Parvati’s ten forms with which these ten doors were blocked, the ten Mahavidyas. Allegorically, with the help of Mahavidyas the adept can lock self into the body ensuring long life.
Kali-related myth is a more recent tradition appearing in a section of contemporary vernacular Tantrika literature. As the myth goes, in Sata or Satya-yuga, Shiva lived with Kali. One day Shiva declared that he was tired of Kali’s untidy habits and would not live with her anymore. Kali did not react nor stopped him from doing so. Shivawent away and roamed from one place to other; however, wherever he went he found a form of Kali facing him. Not Kali alone, nine other forms, many of them identical to Kali, encountered him. The Shakta tradition acclaims that from his encounter with these forms Shiva attained ultimate knowledge – ‘maha vidya’ in its ten forms. He realised that in one form or the other the Great Goddess was present everywhere and at all times. These forms thus became known as Mahavidyas.
Some iconographic representations, in many of which the centrally located Devi, usually Mahishasuramardini Durga, has Mahavidyas surrounding her, link the origin of Mahavidyas with Mahadevi’s battle against demons. In one set of illustrations such demon is Mahisha, and in other, these are Shumbha and Nishumbha. As various myths contained in the Devi-Mahatmya and other early Puranas have it, once the mighty demon Mahisha, or identically the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha, defeated gods and ousted them from their land. Unable to confront them gods approached Brahma who disclosed that no male shall ever be able to kill these demons. Thereupon gods approached Mahadevi and prayed her for rescuing them and their land from the notorious demons. Mahadevi promised them to help and waged a war against demons. As the third Canto of the Devi-Mahatmya has it, too formidable to defeat, Mahadevi created her own different forms, mainly SaptaMatrikas and Nava Durgas for confronting them. Shumbha challenged Mahadevi to combat him singly which she accepted adding that her battle companions were just her different forms. The third Canto also mentions creation of a group of goddesses having resemblance with Mahavidyas, though the text does not name them as such. However, the tradition developed from various iconographic representations of Mahavidyas contends that it is either from Nava (nine) Durgas, that is, nine plus one, or from the group of goddesses mentioned in the third Canto that the concept of Mahavidyas evolved.
In yet another myth the origin of Mahavidyas is linked with Shatakshi, the goddess having one hundred eyes. Shatakshi and demon Durgama related myth occurs in the DeviBhagavata Purana. Once upon a time, demon Durgama gained control over the universe and forced gods into subservience. They appealed to Mahadevi to redeem them from Durgama’s clutches. On their prayer Mahadevi appeared in a female form having one hundred eyes. The pitiable plight of gods, human beings and the earth moved her to tears. She produced from her body fruits and vegetables and distributed them among the starving beings suffering from drought. This gave her Shakambhari name. After so relieving the mankind, gods and all beings she resorted to arms against demons and a fierce battle ensued. In its course the goddess created several groups of subsidiary goddesses, Mahavidyas being among them. Around its concluding part the text alludes to Mahadevi as Durga, obviously for defeating demon Durgama.
Number Names and Nature of Mahavidyas
The number and names of Mahavidyas appearing in the Brahaddharma Purana and Maha Bhagavata Purana are almost unanimously accepted. Accordingly, Mahavidyas are ten in number and their names, as appear in these texts, are Kali, Tara, Chinnamasta, Bhuwaneshvari, Bagala, Dhumavati, Kamala, Matangi, Sodashi and Bhairavi. The tradition also has some variants. Niruttara Tantra talks of eighteen Mahavidyas, and Narada Pancharatna speaks of their innumerable forms, at least seventy lacs. Devi Bhagavata also deviates from Maha Bhagavata Purana and Brahaddharma Purana. Devi Bhagavata contends their number to be thirteen and their names as Kalika, Tarini, Tripura, Bhairavi, Kamala, Bagala, Matangi, Tripura-Sundari, Kamaksha, Tuleja-devi, Jambhini, Mohini, and Chinnamasta.
Kali, the foremost of Mahavidyas, is not merely the first of them but also the prototype of the group. Other Mahavidyas are sometimes considered as only Kali’s forms. In general, Kali is perceived as having awful appearance with a figure jet black in complexion, gaunt, wrinkled and uglylooking. She has repulsive fangs, shakes the world with her laughter, dances madly, wears garlands of corpses, sits or stands on a dead body, usually Shiva’s supine figure, feeds herself on fresh human blood and lives in cremation ground. She takes delight in imparting destruction and working for instability.
However, despite her ugly appearance Kali has not been for centuries the favorite deity merely of violence-edict warriors, thieves, plunderers, insensitive tribes and charmers but also of poets, dramatists, sculptors and others all over the land. By one name or other she features in Kadambari, a play by the seventh century dramatist Banabhatta, in another seventh century work Gaudavaho by Vakpati, and in Malati-Madhava, a Sanskrit classic by the eighth century poet Bhavabhuti.
The eleventh century temple at Padaoli in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh has a large size sculptural panel devoted to her, and the Sikhs’ tenth guru Guru Gobind Singh dedicated to her a long narrative poem. The Kali-cult emerged so powerfully in Bengal that it completely transformed its art, textile designing and the character of rituals.
The tradition perceives black goddess Kali as the power of time for it is her who releases and withdraws it. She signifies abyssal darkness which contains all unknown, all known and all that can be known, and thus she is the ultimate knowledge; it is from this abyssal darkness that all forms rise and into which they disappear and thus she is the ultimate reality. She manifests the truth of contrasts, the death and the sex, the ugly and the beauteous, the timed and the timeless. Kali is personified wrath, whether Sati’s or that of Durga, Parvati or of other goddesses. Wrath is not merely her instrument for undoing a wrong. She herself is the wrath, the cosmic rage against a wrong, and this is truly Kali’s essence. She does not attempt at winning over the male, his ego, arrogance or wrong, by any bewitching female charms or grace but by obstructing, terrifying and undoing him.
The unpredictable Kali stands on a point ahead of which on one side is the accepted, and on the other, ‘not acceptable’, loathsome, polluting, feared or forbidden. While she challenges and shatters the accepted, she embodies into her being the polluted, loathed and feared and thus, when meditated on, releases the adept from clutches of conventionality, all that is worn out, has rotted or is rotting, and prepares his mind to accept the reality as a whole, ugly and fierce in special. When invoked and pleased, she endows the Tantrika with such powers as undo every kind of wrong, whether affected by man or by nature in any form whatever.
Tara, who as a rule is listed as number two among Mahavidyas, is second to none among them except Kali. Not so much in Hindu or Brahmanical pantheon as in the Buddhist, Tara has a much wider presence outside the Mahavidyaperiphery. Alike she has an early presence datable to around the fourthfifth centuries of the Common Era and emerges thus much before the Mahavidya-cult evolved. With an appearance identical to Kali she has always enjoyed considerable popularity and importance in Hindu pantheon, especially among Tantrika deities. In iconographic manifestations, like Kali, the naked bodied Tara is also associated with Shiva and is often represented as standing on his supine body, and sometimes as copulating. Of the Tantra Tara is as potential a deity as Kali. Besides her place in Hindu tradition she is the central deity of the Buddhism, especially the Tibetan, where she is worshipped almost like a national deity. Tara also occupies a significant position and wields considerable influence in Jainism. She has strong Vaishnava links and is claimed to have been created to defeat the thousand headed Ravana.\
Not merely in the Buddhist myths that portray Tara as the goddess of tempestuous seas helping the masses wade their path to safety and redemption, even in Hindu and Jain traditions she is revered as the goddess who guides out of troubles and all kinds of turmoil. Almost all theologies equate sea with life, miseries, misfortunes and trials with sea’s uncertainties and upheavals, and a being, with the sailor paddling a boat across it. Thus, allegorically Tara, the goddess of tempestuous oceans, is also the goddess who helps the being wade across all difficulties and misfortunes occurring in life and attain salvation. In some texts, Tara is also seen as the potential of re-creation, which equates her with Saraswati possessing such potential in Hindu tradition. In Jain tradition Tara and Saraswati merge into each other. Here Tara has highly diversified role and form. Brahaddharma purana perceives Tara as representing time, the same as does Kali.
Apart such similarities, the Buddhist Tara is somewhat different from the Tara in Hindu tradition, particularly the Tantrika. Except rarely, in Buddhism, Tara has been conceived as a benevolent, compassionate, gentle and spirited young woman eager to help her devotees and to protect them from every harm.
On the contrary, as one of the Mahavidyas, which is essentially a Hindu context, Tara is always fierce, often having a form which strikes with horror, and as exceptionally moody and harmful. Wrath is not unknown to Buddhist Tara. She sometimes gets angry and plunders harm. In the like way, though rarely, Hindu Tara is benevolent and compassionate.
Chinnamasta, one of the three most popular deities of Tantrism, other two being Kali and Tara, seems to have developed out of Vajrayogini cult of Tibetan Buddhism. Vajrayogini, an early Tantrika deity of the Tibetan Buddhism, has a form exactly identical to Chinnamasta. Chinnamasta is a creation of shocking imagery – gruesome decapitation of her own being representing life’s cessation for feeding further life, copulating couple under her feet perceived as feeding the goddess with life’s energy, bloodconsuming nude females and cremation ground all around. In her form she combines life, sex and death, and all in a dramatic and stunning manner manifesting the ages-old idea that they – life, sex and death, are inseparably entwined and are parts of a unified system. Chinnamasta manifests the truth that it is in destruction of life that the life is nourished, that life necessitates death, and that sex is the ultimate instrument of perpetuating more life; and further, that this life would decay and pave the way for death, and then again from death to life.
Chinnamasta is thus the symbol of the process of recycle from life to death and back and all in unceasing continuity. Various Tantrika hymns invoke Chinnamasta as Digambari – nude, symbolically the one with no coverings of illusion, and as full-breasted, suggestive of the motherhood being ceaseless in her and of her role as the eternal preserver. She wears a garland of severed human heads symbolising wisdom and power and sometimes a pair of shears or a sword. Texts have prescribed for her blood red complexion with which she symbolises life in its incessant flow. In her usual iconography she holds her severed head in her left hand. One of the three jets of blood that spurt from her neck streams back into the mouth of her own severed head, and other two, into those of the yoginis – Dakini and Varnini, all suggesting that death nourishes life and thus the process of recycle continues. The copulating couple under the feet of the goddess is usually Kamadeva, the personified sexual desire, and his wife Rati. Chinnamasta, standing on their backs draws from the couple, as also from the lotus on which the couple lies, life’s energy and channels it for perpetuating more life.
Amongst all Devi forms, even Durga and Kali who sustain and promote life from the sacrifice offered to them by their devotees, Chinnamasta destroys her own life to sustain and promote it beyond her in forms other than her. More than Annapurna or Shatakshi who only gives, Chinnamasta is one who receives life from the copulating couple and with far greater vigour passes it on to others and is thus a greater giver and more accomplished model of cosmic unity – the life that the lovemaking couple represents, the death which reveals in decapitating herself and the nourishment which manifests in feeding the flanking yoginis.
Other seven Mahavidyas, namely, Sodashi or Tripura-Sundari, Bhuwaneshvari, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagala, Matangi and Kamala, have relatively limited role and significance both in Tantrika practices as well as worship traditions.
Sodashi, also alluded to in some texts as Tripura Sundari, the most beauteous in three worlds, and as such having three forms defining three stages – Tripura-bala, the virgin, TripuraSundari, the beauteous, and Tripura Bhairavi, the terrible, is perceived as one with timeless youth and beauty, though not without frowns or angry looks. She is sometimes seen as the embodiment of sixteen modifications of desire and at other time as one created to arouse Shiva to sexual activity so that his creative powers could stimulate the world. In Hindu pantheon she seems to have emerged in around eleventh-twelfth centuries and had perhaps a few temples too, with one at Tehara near Bheraghat, Jabalpur, in Madhya Pradesh, devoted to her. Like Kali and Tara, Tripura-Sundari is also perceived as swaying all gods, though perhaps with her paramount beauty, not by Kali-like superior power. This superior position of Sodashi reflects in her iconography in which Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Indra or Yama are represented as supporting on them the throne on which she sits as its four legs.
The lotus goddess Kamala as Shri makes a debut in the Shri Sukta in the Rig-Veda; as Lakshmi she has considerable presence in Buddhist sculptures datable to third-second century B. C. to second century A. D. and in Hindu pantheon and Puranas all through from fifth-sixth century onwards. The DeviMahatmya part of the Markandeya Purana has devoted to her a full Canto by the name Mahalakshmi. As Mahavidya she does not enjoy the same prestige as she enjoys as Lakshmi in worship tradition. As in Vaishnava tradition, Kamala is invoked in Tantrika rituals for riches, especially the hidden treasures of bygone days.
Like Chinnamasta Bagalamukhi, Dhumavati and Matangi are rarely mentioned except as Mahavidyas. They are broadly Tantrika deities and are seen mostly in Tantrika contexts. Except that in some of the Tantrika pithas – seats, such as at the Pitambara Pitha, Datia, in Madhya Pradesh, where Dhumavati has her independent shrine, an individual structure devoted to any of them, or even a smaller one of the status of a sub-shrine, is a rarity. At some Tantrika pithas these goddesses along with other Mahavidyas are carved or painted, inside or outside, on the sanctum walls of the main deity shrine. In Himalayan regions such representations are more common. Bagala, the goddess with a crane-like face, goldcomplexioned and elegantly attired and bejewelled, is a powerful Tantrika deity who paralyses and thus destroys all negative forces that obstructs adept’s progress or well being. Toothless Dhumavati with long pendulous breasts, having pale complexion, wearing white but mudded attire, and riding a crow-driven cart, manifests unsatisfied desires and hence has been conceived as a widow. She has a largecrooked nose and quarrelsome nature and uses diseases as her weapon to punish the wicked.
The tradition considers her as an outcaste goddess. Bhairavi, capable of multiplying herself into infinity of beings and forms and broadly a fierce goddess, the consort of Bhairava, has been conceived identically to Bhairava, both in form as well as mental frame. She has complexion as bright as a thousand rising suns. She wears garland of skulls and garments made from skins of demons she killed and she has her feet and breasts covered with blood.
Though better known as the goddess of the Mahavidya group, Bhuwaneshvari is also known in context to Vishnu’s boar incarnation and a few other myths. Broadly, the large breasted and pleasantly smiling Bhuwaneshvari represents substantial forces of the material world and is revered as one the world is whose extension.
Worship of Mahavidyas
Except Kali, Tara and Tripura-Sundari, as also Kamakhya, a Mahavidya in some texts, who are in worship from early times the tradition of Mahavidyas’ temple worship has never been not in prevalence. The Mahavidyas are usually the objects of Tantrika worship of which there are many methods, the more popular among them being Vamachara path characterised primarily by the Pancha tattva, or pancha makara – the ritual performed by five forbidden or highly polluting things, namely, meat, fish, wine, ‘mudra’, a type of grain that has hallucinogenic properties, and intercourse with a woman.
FOR FURTHER STUDY: • Tantrasara • Shaktapramoda • Shaktisangama-tantra • Guhyatiguhya-Tantra • Chamunda-tantra • Shrimad Devi Bhagavata, Chaukhambha Sanskrit Pratishthan, Delhi • Devimahatmyam, tr. By Devadatta Kali, Delhi • Dahejia, Vidya : Devi, The Great Goddess, Washington D.C. • Menzies, Jackie : Goddess, Divine Energy, Art Gallery, NSW • Kinsley, David : Hindu Goddesses, Delhi • Hawley, J. S. & Wulff, Monna Marie (ed) : Devi, Goddesses of India, Delhi • Rosen, Steven J. (ed) : Vaishnavi, Delhi • Mookarjee, Ajit & Khanna, Madhu : The Tantrika Way, Boston • Kanwar Lal : Kanya and the Yogi, Delhi • Daljeet Dr., and Jain, P. C. : Indian Miniature Painting, New Delhi • Jain, P. C. : The Magic Makers, New Delhi • Upadhyaya, Padma : Female Images in Museums of Uttar Pradesh and Their Social Background, Delhi
This article by Dr. P. C. JAIN AND DR. DALJEET