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The Mahavidya (Sanskrit: महाविद्या, IAST: Mahāvidyā, lit. Great Wisdoms) are a group of ten aspects of Devī in Hinduism. The 10 Mahavidyas are Kali, Tara, Tripura Sundari (Shodashi), Bhuvaneshvari, Tripura Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala.
The development of the Mahavidyas represent an important turning point in the history of Shaktism as it marks the rise of the Bhakti aspect in Shaktism, which reached its zenith in 1700 CE. First sprung forth in the post-Puranic age, around 6th century C.E., it was a new theistic movement in which the supreme being was envisioned as female. A fact epitomized by texts like Devi-Bhagavata Purana, especially its last nine chapters (31-40) of the seventh skandha, which are known as the Devi Gita, and soon became central texts of Shaktism. In a story from the Shakta Maha-Bhagavata Purana, which narrates the creation of all the Mahavidyas, Sati, the daughter of Daksha and first wife of god Shiva, feels insulted that she and Shiva are not invited to Daksha's yagna ("fire sacrifice") and insists on going there, despite Shiva's protests. After futile attempts to convince Shiva, the enraged Sati transforms into the Mahavidyas, who surround Shiva from the ten cardinal directions.
Shaktas believe, "the one Truth is sensed in ten different facets; the Divine Mother is adored and approached as ten cosmic personalities," the Dasa-Mahavidya ("ten-Mahavidyas").As per another school of thought in Shaktism Mahavidyas are considered to be form of Mahakali. The Mahavidyas are considered Tantric in nature, and are usually identified as:
1.Kali (Mahakaali, Kalika): The ultimate form of Brahman (Para Brahman), one who is beyond the Kaal (time) and its rules, "Devourer of Time" (Supreme Deity of Kalikula systems). Mahakaali is of a pitch black complexion, darkest than the dark of the Death-Night. She had three eyes, representing the past, present and future. She has shining white, fang-like teeth, a gaping mouth, and her red, bloody tongue hanging from there. She has unbound, disheveled hairs. She wears a garland of human heads around her neck, and on her belt, she was adorned with severed arms and hands as her ornamentation. She has four hands, two of them were empty and two others carried a sword and demon head.
2.Tara: The Goddess as Guide and Protector, or Who Saves. Who offers the ultimate knowledge which gives salvation (Moksha). She is the goddess of all sources of energy. The energy of the sun is also a grant from her. She manifested as the mother of Lord Shiva after the incident of Samudra manthan to heal him as her child. Tara is of a light blue complexion. She has disheveled hair, wearing a crown decorated with the digit of the half-moon. She has three eyes, a snake coiled comfortably around her throat, wearing the skins of tigers, and a garland of skulls. She is also seen wearing a belt supporting her skirt made of tiger-skin. Her four hands carry a lotus, scimitar, skull and scissors. Her left foot rests on the corpse of Shiva.
3.Tripura Sundari (Shodashi, Lalita Parameshwari): The Goddess Who is "Beautiful in the Three Worlds" (Supreme Deity of Srikula systems); the "Tantric Parvati" or the "Moksha Mukta". She is the head of Manidweepa, the eternal supreme abode of the goddess. Shodashi is seen with a molten gold complexion, three placid eyes, a calm mien, wearing red and pink vestments, adorned with ornaments on her divine limbs and four hands, each holding a goad, noose, a bow and arrow. She is seated on a throne.
4.Bhuvaneshvari: The Goddess as World Mother, or Whose Body is all 14 lokas (whole cosmos). Bhuvaneshwari is of a fair, golden complexion, with three content eyes as well as a calm mien. She wears red and yellow garments, decorated with ornaments on her limbs and has four hands. Two of her four hands hold a goad and noose while her other two hands are open. She is seated on a divine, celestial throne. She is the creator of the universe.
5.Bhairavi: The Fierce Goddess. The female version of Bhairav. Bhairavi is of a fiery, volcanic red complexion, with three furious eyes, and disheveled hair. Her hair is matted, tied up in a bun, decorated by a crescent moon. She wears red garments and is adorned with a garland of skulls around her neck. Of her four hands, two are open and two hold a rosary and book. She is the goddess who establishes the system of death and rebirth.
6.Chhinnamasta: The self-decapitated Goddess. She chopped her own head off in order to satisfy Jaya and Vijaya (metaphors of Rajas and Tamas - part of the trigunas while her own severed head signifies Sattva). Chinnamasta has a red complexion, embodied with a frightful appearance. She has disheveled hair. She has two hands, which hold a sword and another hand holding her own severed head; three blazing eyes with a frightful mien, wearing a crown. She is a partially clothed lady, adorned with ornaments on her limbs and wearing a garland of skulls on her body. She is mounted upon the back of Rati and Kamdev.
7.Dhumavati (The widow goddess): Dhumavati is of a smoky dark brown complexion, her skin is wrinkled, her mouth is dry, some of her teeth have fallen out, her long disheveled hair is gray, her eyes are seen as bloodshot and she has a frightening mien, which is seen as a combined source of anger, misery, fear, exhaustion, restlessness, constant hunger and thirst. She wears white clothes, donned in the attire of a widow. She is sitting in a horseless chariot as her vehicle of transportation and on top of the chariot, there is an emblem of a crow as well as a banner. She has two trembling hands, her one hand bestows boons and/or knowledge and the other holds a winnowing basket.
8.Bagalamukhi: The Goddess Who Paralyzes Enemies. Goddess Bagalamukhi has a molten gold complexion with three bright eyes, lush black hair and a benign mien. She is seen wearing yellow garments and apparel. She is decked with yellow ornaments on her limbs. Her two hands hold a mace or club and holds demon Madanasur by the tongue to keep him at bay. She is shown seated on either a throne or on the back of a crane. She destroys all evil thoughts (Shatrubuddhinashini), demolishes all wicked words and paralyzes those tongues which speak foul.
9.Matangi: The Prime Minister of Lalita Parameshwari (in Srikula systems), sometimes called the "Tantric Saraswati". Matangi is depicted as emerald green in complexion, with lush, disheveled black hair, three placid eyes and a calm look on her face. Her green complexion signifies the beauty and bounty of the nature. She is Rajshyamala and is often surrounded by the divine parrots. She is seen wearing red garments and apparel, bedecked with various ornaments all over her delicate limbs. She is seated on a royal throne and she has four hands, three of which hold a sword or scimitar, a skull and a Veena (a musical instrument). Her one hand bestows boons to her devotees.
10.Kamalatmika(Kamala): The Lotus Goddess. Kamalatmika or Kamalekamini is of a gold complexion with lush black hair, three bright, placid eyes, and a benevolent expression. She is seen wearing golden garments and apparel and bedecked with various ornaments and lotuses all over her limbs. She is seated on a fully bloomed lotus, while with her four hands, two hold lotuses while two grant her devotees' wishes and assures protection from fear.
All these Mahavidyas reside in Manidweepa.
The Maha bhagavata Purana and Brihaddharma Purana however, list Shodashi (Sodasi) as Tripura Sundari, which is simply another name for the same goddess. The Guhyati guyha-tantra associates the Mahavidyas with the ten Avatars of Vishnu, and states that the Mahavidyas are the source from which the avatars of Vishnu arose.
|no.||Goddess names||Avatar names|
|3.||Lalita Tripura Sundari||Vamana|
All ten forms of the Goddess, whether gentle or terrifying, are worshiped as the universal Mother. All ten forms of the Goddess are concluded and worshiped in the Shri Chakra and Tripura Sundari is considered the Adi Parashakti. There is another school of thought which says Mahavidyas are 12 in number with the addition of Durga and Annapurna and that they are guarded by 11 bhairavas.
|no.||Goddess names||Bhairava names|
|3.||Lalita Tripura Sundari||Panchavaktra|
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