Dasa Mahavidya, the ten revered forms of Goddess Durga
The Dasa Mahavidya are ten Hindu Goddesses, namely – Kali, Tara, Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Chhinnamasta, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala. Each Mahavidya is a form of the Adi Shakti.
Hindus worship the Nari Shakti (women power) in all her furious as well as beautiful forms. The Dasa Mahavidya (dasa – ten; maha – great; vidya – wisdoms) are ten Hindu Goddesses, namely – Kali, Tara, Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Chhinnamasta, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala. Each Mahavidya is a form of the Adi Shakti.
The Origin of Dasa Mahavidya:
It is believed that Sati, the daughter of Prajapati Daksha, married Shiva against her father’s wish and permission. To take a revenge, with the sole aim of insulting Shiva, Daksha organised a great yagna (fire sacrifice). Except Shiva and Sati, all the Gods and Goddesses were invited.
When Sati came to know about the yagna, she wanted to attend it saying, “A daughter doesn’t require an invitation from her father”. Moreover, she wanted to ask her father why her husband was not invited. Shiva did not want that to happen. He tried to dissuade her in every possible way. Being the Mother of the Universe, Sati became furious by Shiva’s actions. Her fury transformed her into the Dasa Mahavidya.
Shiva tried to flee. But for every direction (North, South, West, East, North-East, South-East, South-West, North-West, upward and downward) there was a Mahavidya stopping him. Finally, Shiva had to give her the permission and the consequences are known to all.
Daksha insulted Sati and her husband. To uphold the honour of her husband, the humiliation made her kill herself by self-immortalization in the yagna.
THE DASA MAHAVIDYA –
1. Kali or Mahakali:
Goddess Kali, also known as Mahakali, Bhadrakali and Kalika, is believed to be the most superior one among the Dasa Mahavidya. The earliest appearance of Kali is from Shiva. She is the Shakti of Shiva. Mahakali is the Goddess of war, anger, time, change, creation, destruction and power. The Goddess destroys the evil to save the innocents. She is the divine protector who bestows moksha (liberation).
The other roopa (forms) of Kali are – Dakshina Kali, Samhara Kali, Bhima Kali, Raksha Kali, Bhadra Kali, Guhya Kali.
According to different traditions, Kali is believed to have 8, 12 and 21 different forms. The popular among them are – Adya Kali, Chintamani Kali, Sparshamani Kali, Santati Kali, Siddhi Kali, Dakshina Kali, Bhadra Kali, Smashana Kali, Adharvana Bhadra Kali, Kamakala Kali, Guhya Kali, Hamsa Kali, Shyama Kali, and Kalasankarshini Kali.
2. Tara or Neela Saraswati:
Goddess Tara is the goddess of compassion and protection. She is worshiped both in
Hinduism and Buddhism. She is sometimes considered as the female Buddha too.
During Samudramanthan (churning of the sea), when poison came out and Shiva drank it
to save the universe, he fell unconscious. Devi Durga, taking the form of goddess Tara,
appeared. To diminish the effect of the poison, she took Shiva on her lap and breastfed
him. Devi Tara is worshiped for her maternal instinct.
3. Tripura Sundari:
Goddess Tripura Sundari, also known as Shodashi, is the most beautiful one in the trilok (three worlds). She represents Devi Parvati, the wife of Mahadev. Her complexion shines with the light of the rising sun. The rosy radiance represents joy, compassion and illumination. She has four arms in which she holds five arrows of flowers (represents the five sense organs), a noose (represents attachment), a goad (represents repulsion) and sugarcane as a bow (represents the mind).
Devi Tripura Sundari is also known as Lalita, the one who plays, and Rajarajeshwari, the queen of the queens. She represents sadasivatattva (the state of awareness).
Goddess Tripura Sundari is the beauty that we see in the world around us.
Goddess Bhuvaneshwari (bhuvana = the living world; ishwari = the female ruler) is considered as the ‘Mistress of the Entire Universe’. She is the Supreme Empress of Manifested Existence, the exposer of consciousness. She resides in the heart of Shiva.
Devi Bhuvaneshwari holds a noose (paasham) and a curved sword (ankusham) in two of her hands and the other two assume the mudras of blessing and freedom from fear.
She is also popular by the names Mahamaya (the one with great magical powers), Sarvarupa (the one who is everything) and Viswarupa (the one who appears as the universe).
According to Pranatoshini Grantha, when Lord Brahma created the universe, he invoked Devi Bhuvaneshwari.
Devi Chhinnamasta is both a life-giver and a life-taker. She is also known as Prachanda Chandika and Jogani Maa.
Once, Devi Parvati went to take bath in the Mandakini River along with Dakini and Varnini (also known as Jaya and Vijaya). While returning, Jaya and Vijaya became hungry and asked Parvati for food. Parvati asked them to wait until they reach home. They could not bear their hunger. Devi then cut her own head with her fingernails and offered her blood to satisfy their hunger.
Devi Chhinnamasta‘s blood represents the prana (life force).
Devi Bhairavi is known as the fierce Goddess, the female counterpart of Bhairav.
Like Kali, she has four hands. According to the best known iconography, she holds a sword, a demon’s head and a book signifying knowledge in her three hands. The forth hand presents abhayamudra, urging devotees to have no fear and anxiety. Devi Bhairavi is also called Sakalasiddhibhairavi, the provider of all the perfections.
Terminologically “Dhumavati” means “she who is made of smoke”. Dhumavati, who arises when Lord Shiva cursed Devi Sati to be a widow for swallowing him to satisfy her excessive hunger and then disgorging him, is associated with darkness of life, negativity, anger, hunger, misery, fear, exhaustion, restlessness, poverty.
For being characterized as a widow, Dhumavati possesses a distinct nature as a Mahavidya. She is often portrayed riding a huge crow or sitting on a horse-less chariot with an emblem of a crow as a banner. Dhumavati delivers the lesson of seeking our eternal truth.
8. Bagalamukhi or Pitambari:
Devi Bagalamukhi, also called “The Vanquish”, is the Goddess who paralyzes and silences her enemies, controls the tongues of all evil beings. The name is derived from “Bagala” meaning the bridle used to control a horse. She is shown pulling out a demon’s tongue with her left hand and beating him with a cudgel in her right hand.
She is also known as “Pitambari” for her yellowish complexion. According to the mythology, the Gods did sadhna (propitiation) to yellow water, after being very anxious by the activities of a very powerful ashura, Ruru, who performed various penance to please Brahma. Being pleased with their sadhna, the Divine Mother appeared from the “pita” (yellow) water as Bagalamukhi.
Goddess Matangi is also known as Chandalini, the Goddess of the outcastes. According to the mythology, once Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi visited Shiva and Parvati. While eating they dropped some food on the ground. From the “ucchishta” (leftovers) a maiden appeared and asked for their leftovers. From the day she was known as Ucchishta-Matangi or Ucchishta-Chandalini.
She is representative of lower caste Hindu society and associated with pollution. Matangi, The Tantric form of Saraswati, is also the Devi of knowledge, music and art. She incorporates the knowledge which is beyond mainstream Hindu society.
Devi Kamala (The Lotus Goddess), the Tantric form of Lakshmi, is one of the most important and widely worshiped Goddesses in Hinduism. She is the Devi of wealth and prosperity, daughter of sage Bhrigu.
Kamala has four hands. She sits on a “kamal” (lotus) in Padmasana Posture, generally surrounded by two elephants and holds two lotus flowers in her two upper hands. Lower two hands display ‘varamudra’ (boon-giving) and ‘abhyamudra’ (having no fear) gestures. Her other forms are Rudra (the howling one), Ghora (the terrifying one), Tamasi (the dark one).
Though often considered as Devi Lakshmi, Kamala has distinct differences with Lakshmi according to Dasa Mahavidya. Kamala is only a giver, who performs to ensure devotee’s prosperity.