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Clockwise from top : 1.Chamunda depicted in a skeletal form in the Kalingan style. A flame crowns her while she sits upon a corpse wearing a skull-garland. Below her, jackals feed on the dying man's entrails.
2. Close-up of cut-off head
3. Chamunda's face
9th-century sculpture from Jajpur, Odisha, currently in the Odisha State Museum
Affiliation Parvati, Devi, Matrika
Abode Cremation grounds or fig trees
Mantra Om Jai Chamunda Devi
Weapon Trident and sword
Mount Preta
Consort Bhishana Bhairava

Chamunda (Sanskrit: चामुण्डा, IAST: Cāmuṇḍā) also known as Chamundi, Chamundeshwari, Rakta Kali is a fearsome aspect of the Devi and one of the Matrikas also considered as Divine Mother in Hinduism.

She is also one of the chief Yoginis, a group of sixty-four or eighty-one Tantric goddesses, who are attendants of the warrior goddess Durga.[1] The name is a combination of Chanda and Munda, two monsters whom Chamunda killed. She is closely associated with Kali, another fierce aspect of Devi.[2] She is sometimes identified with goddesses Parvati, Chandi or Durga as well.


Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar says that Chamunda was originally a form of Devi worshipped by the Munda peoples of the Vindhya range of central India. These tribes were known to offer goddesses animal sacrifices along with ritual offerings of liquor. These methods of worship were retained in Tantric worship of Chamunda. He proposes the fierce nature of this goddess is due of her association with Vedic Rudra (identified as Shiva in modern Hinduism), identified with fire god Agni at times.[3]


Chamunda, 11th-12th century, National Museum, Delhi. The ten-armed Chamunda is seated on a corpse, wearing a necklace of severed heads.

The black or red coloured Chamunda is described as wearing a garland of severed heads or skulls (Mundamala). She is described as having four, eight, ten or twelve arms, holding a Damaru (drum), trishula (trident), sword, a snake, skull-mace (khatvanga), thunderbolt, a severed head and panapatra (drinking vessel, wine cup) or skull-cup (kapala), filled with blood. Standing on a corpse of a man (shava or preta) or seated on a defeated demon or corpse (pretasana). Chamunda is depicted adorned by ornaments of bones, skulls, serpents. She also wears a Yajnopavita (a sacred thread worn by mostly Hindu priests) of skulls. She wears a jata mukuta, that is, headdress formed of piled, matted hair tied with snakes or skull ornaments. Sometimes, a crescent moon is seen on her head.[4][5] Her socket eyes are described as so intense that it burns the evil of all three worlds. She is accompanied by fiends and goblins.[5][6] She is also shown to be surrounded by skeletons or ghosts and beasts like jackals, who are shown eating the flesh of the corpse which the goddess sits or stands on. The jackal are her fearsome companions. The severed head and corpse represents the severing of the ego. The corpse hence is conquered by the Devi, showing that the Ego is conquered. The symbolism of the Devi is made as to where one is given the impression of the reality of life. This form as well as many of the other Eight Matrikas all show the reality of life. They show the bareness, non sugar coated version of reality.[7] At times, she is depicted seated on a Preta, her vahana (mount or vehicle).[citation needed]

Hindu legends[edit]

The Goddess Ambika (here identified with: Durga or Chandi) leading the Eight Matrikas in Battle Against the Demon Raktabija, Folio from a Devi Mahatmya - (top row, from the left) Narashmi, Vaishnavi, Kumari, Maheshvari, Brahmi. (bottom row, from left) Varahi, Aindri and Chamunda, drinking the blood of demons (on right) arising from Raktabija's blood and Ambika.

In Hindu scripture Devi Mahatmya, Chamunda emerged as Chandika Jayasundara from an eyebrow of goddess Kaushiki, a goddess created from "sheath" of Durga and was assigned the task of eliminating the demons Chanda and Munda, generals of demon kings Shumbha-Nishumbha. She fought a fierce battle with the demons, ultimately killing them.[8] Goddess Chandika Jayasundara took the slain heads of the two demons to goddess Kaushiki, who became immensely pleased. Kaushiki blessed Chandika Jayasundara and bestowed upon her the title of “Chamunda", to commemorate the latter's victory over the demons.[citation needed]

According to a later episode of Devi Mahatmya, Durga created Matrikas from herself and with their help slaughtered the demon army of Shumbha-Nisumha. In this version, Kali is described as a Matrika who sucked all the blood of the demon Raktabija. Kali is given the epithet Chamunda in the text.[9] Thus, the Devi Mahatmya identifies Chamunda with Kali.[10]

In Varaha Purana, the story of Raktabija is retold, but here each of Matrikas appears from the body of another Matrika. Chamunda appears from the foot of the lion-headed goddess Narasimhi. Here, Chamunda is considered a representation of the vice of tale-telling (pasunya). The Varaha Purana text clearly mentions two separate goddesses Chamunda and Kali, unlike Devi Mahatmya.[5]

According to another legend, Chamunda appeared from the frown of the benign goddess Parvati to kill demons Chanda and Munda. Here, Chamunda is viewed as a form of Parvati.[11]

Matsya Purana tells a different story of Chamunda's origins. She with other matrikas was created by Shiva to help him kill the demon Andhakasura, who has an ability - like Raktabija - to generate from his dripping blood. Chamunda with the other matrikas drinks the blood of the demon ultimately helping Shiva kill him.[5] Ratnakara, in his text Haravijaya, also describes this feat of Chamunda, but solely credits Chamunda, not the other matrikas of sipping the blood of Andhaka. Having drunk the blood, Chamunda's complexion changed to blood-red.[12] The text further says that Chamunda does a dance of destruction, playing a musical instrument whose shaft is Mount Meru, the spring is the cosmic snake Shesha and gourd is the crescent moon. She plays the instrument during the deluge that drowns the world.[6]

Once there were two demons named Shumbha and Nishumbha, who invaded devaloka and defeated the demigods. Indra the ruler of the gods, along with the demigods went to the Himalayas to get Lord Shiva's help in retrieving their abode. Together, they prayed to Goddess Parvati (Durga). Parvati heard their prayer while she was bathing, so she created another goddess, Chandi (Ambika) to assist the gods by vanquishing the demons. Chanda and Munda were two demon generals sent by Shumbha and Nishumbha. When they came to battle her, Goddess Chandi created a dark goddess, Kali (in some accounts, called Kaalratri). Kali/Kaalratri killed them, thereby acquiring the name hamunda.

Thereupon, a demon named Raktabija arrived. Raktabija had the boon that if any drop of blood of his fell onto the ground, a clone of him would be created. When Kaalratri attacked on him, his spilt blood gave rise to several clones of him. As such, it became impossible to defeat him. So while battling, Kaalratri furious at this, drank his blood to prevent it from falling down, eventually killing Raktabija and helping goddess Chandi to kill his commanders, Shumbha and Nishumbha. Another legend says that Goddess Chamunda (Kali) was creator of Devi Kaalratri. Riding a powerful donkey, Kalraatri chased the demons Chanda and Munda and brought them to Kali after catching and incarcerating them. Then these demons were killed by goddess Chamunda. This story is closely related with another goddess named Chandamari.

Association with Matrikas[edit]

Chamunda, British Museum. Odisha, 8th - 9th century AD India.

Chamunda is included in the Saptamatrika (seven Matrikas or mothers) lists in the Hindu texts like Mahabharata (Chapter 'Vana-parva'), Devi Purana and Vishnudharmottara Purana. She is often depicted in the Saptamatrika group in sculptures, examples of which are Ellora and Elephanta caves. Though she is always portrayed last (rightmost) in the group, she is sometimes referred to as the leader of the group.[13] While other Matrikas are considered as Shaktis (powers) of male divinities and resemble them in their appearance, Chamunda is the only Matrika who is a Shakti of the great Goddess Devi rather than a male god. She is also the only Matrika who enjoys independent worship of her own; all other Matrikas are always worshipped together.[14]

Devi Purana describe a pentad of Matrikas who help Ganesha to kill demons.[15] Further, sage Mandavya is described as worshipping the Māṭrpaňcaka (the five mothers), Chamunda being one of them. The mothers are described as established by creator god Brahma for saving king Harishchandra from calamities.[16] Apart from usual meaning of Chamunda as slayer of demons Chanda and Munda, Devi Purana gives a different explanation: Chanda means terrible while Munda stands for Brahma's head or lord or husband.[17]

Every matrika is considered guardian of a compas direction. Chamunda is assigned the direction of south-west.[11] Chamunda, being a Matrika, is considered one of the chief Yoginis, who are considered to be daughters or manifestations of the Matrikas. In the context of a group of sixty-four yoginis, Chamunda is believed to have created seven other yoginis, together forming a group of eight. In the context of eighty-one yoginis, Chamunda heads a group of nine yoginis.[1]

Hindu worship[edit]

A South Indian inscription describes ritual sacrifices of sheep to Chamunda.[18] In Bhavabhuti's eighth century Sanskrit play, Malatimadhva describes a devotee of the goddess trying to sacrifice the heroine to Chamunda's temple, near a cremation ground, where the goddess temple is.[19] A stone inscription at Gangadhar, Rajasthan, deals with a construction to a shrine to Chamunda and the other Matrikas, "who are attended by Dakinis" (female demons) and rituals of daily Tantric worship (Tantrobhuta) like the ritual of Bali (offering of grain).[20]

Many Kshatriyas and even the Jain community worship her as her Kuladevi "family deity". The Chapa dynasty worshiped her as their kuladevi. The Kutch Gurjar Kshatriyas worship her as kuladevi and temples are in Sinugra and Chandiya. Alungal family, a lineage of Mukkuva caste — (Hindu caste of Shudra origin) in Kerala — worship chamundi in Chandika form, as Kuladevta and temple is in Thalikulam village of Thrissur, Kerala. This is an example of Chamunda worship across caste sects.


8th-century Baitala Deula in Bhubaneswar, Odisha dedicated to Chamunda
Jodhpur temple

In the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, around 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) west of Palampur, is the renowned Chamunda Devi Temple which depicts scenes from the Devi Mahatmya, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The goddess's image is flanked by the images of Hanuman and Bhairava. Another temple, Chamunda Nandikeshwar Dham, also found in Kangra, is dedicated to Shiva and Chamunda. According to a legend, Chamunda was enshrined as chief deity "Rudra Chamunda", in the battle between the demon Jalandhara and Shiva.

In Gujarat, two Chamunda shrines are on the hills of Chotila and Parnera.

There are multiple Chamunda temples in Odisha. The 8th-century Baitala Deula is the most prominent of them, also being one of the earliest temples in Bhubaneswar. The Mohini temple and Chitrakarini temple in Bhubaneswar are also dedicated to Chamunda. Kichakeshwari Temple, near the Baripada and Charchika Temple, near Banki enshrine forms of Chamunda.

Another temple is Chamundeshwari Temple on Chamundi Hill, Mysore. Here, the goddess is identified with Durga, who killed the buffalo demon. Chamundeshwari or Durga, the fierce form of Shakti, a tutelary deity held in reverence for centuries by the Maharaja of Mysore.

The Chamunda Mataji temple in Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, was established in 1460 after the idol of the goddess Chamunda — the Kuladevi and iṣṭa-devatā (tutelary deity) of the Parihar rulers — was moved from the old capital of Mandore by the then-ruler Jodha of Mandore. The goddess is still worshiped by the royal family of Jodhpur and other citizens of the city. The temple witnesses festivities in Dussehra: the festival of the goddess.

Another temple, Sri Chamundeshwari Kshetram is near Jogipet, in Medak District in Telangana State.

In Jainism[edit]

Early Jainism was dismissive of Chamunda, a goddess who demands blood sacrifice, which is against the principle of Jain vegetarianism. Some Jain legends portray Chamunda as a goddess defeated by monks like Jinadattasuri and Jinaprabhasuri.[21]

Another legend tells the story of conversion of Chamunda into a Jain goddess. According to this story, Chamunda sculpted the Mahavira image for the temple in Osian, Jodhpur and was happy with the conversions of the Oswals to Jainism. At the time of Navratri, a festival that celebrates the Divine Mother, Chamunda expected animal sacrifices from the converted Jains. The vegetarian Jains, however, were unable to meet her demand. Ratnaprabhasuri intervened, and as a result, Chamunda accepted vegetarian offerings, forgoing her demand for meat and liquor. Ratnaprabhsuri further named her Sacciya, one who had told the truth, as Chamunda had told him the truth that a rainy season stay in Osian would be beneficial for him. She also became the protective goddess of the temple and remained the clan goddess, Kuladevi, of the Oswals. The Sachiya Mata Temple in Osian was built in her honour.[22] Some Jain scriptures warn of dire consequences of worship of Chamunda by the Hindu rites and rituals.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wangu p.114
  2. ^ Wangu p.72
  3. ^ Vaisnavism Saivism and Minor Religious Systems By Ramkrishna G. Bhandarkar, p.205, Published 1995, Asian Educational Services, ISBN 81-206-0122-X
  4. ^ See:
  5. ^ a b c d Goswami, Meghali; Gupta, Ila; Jha, P. (March 2005). "Sapta Matrikas In Indian Art and their significance in Indian Sculpture and Ethos: A Critical Study" (PDF). Anistoriton Journal. Anistoriton. Retrieved 2008-01-08.  "Anistoriton is an electronic Journal of History, Archaeology and ArtHistory. It publishes scholarly papers since 1997 and it is freely available on the Internet. All papers and images since vol. 1 (1997) are available on line as well as on the free Anistorion CD-ROM edition."
  6. ^ a b Kinsley p.147
  7. ^ "Durga: Avenging Goddess, Nurturing Mother ch.3, Chamunda". Norton Simon Museum. Archived from the original on 2006-10-03. 
  8. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 81. 
  9. ^ Kinsley p. 158, Devi Mahatmya verses 10.2-5
  10. ^ "Devi: The Great Goddess". Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  11. ^ a b Moor p.118
  12. ^ Handelman pp.132–33
  13. ^ Handelman p.118
  14. ^ Kinsley p.241 Footnotes
  15. ^ Pal in Singh p.1840, Chapters 111-116
  16. ^ Pal in Singh p.1840, Chapter 116(82-86)
  17. ^ Pal p.1844
  18. ^ Kinsley p.146
  19. ^ Kinsley p.117
  20. ^ Joshi, M.C. in Harper and Brown, p.48
  21. ^ Encyclopaedia of Jainism By Narendra Singh, Published 2001, Anmol Publications PVT. LTD., ISBN 81-261-0691-3, p.705
  22. ^ Babb, Lawrence A. Alchemies of Violence: Myths of Identity and the Life of Trade in Western India, Published 2004, 254 pages, ISBN 0-7619-3223-2 pp.168–9, 177-178.
  23. ^ Encyclopaedia of Jainism By Narendra Singh p.698

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]