Dasa Mahavidyas are ten Goddesses who are the manifestations of the Divine Mother. They are also called the Wisdom Goddesses as Maha denotes great and vidya means knowledge. During the Navratri festival, Hindus worship these Goddesses with grand celebrations.
How did these Goddesses come into being? It is a very interesting tale.
Daksha Prajapathi was the father of Sati, who was Lord Shiva’s consort. He decided to conduct a grand Yagya to which he invited many eminent personages. But he did not invite his own son-in-law, Shiva. It was a deliberate snub.
To Daksha, Shiva was an uncouth person as he spent his time in the cremation ground and dressed in rags. He had never wanted Sati to marry him. So he wanted to insult Shiva by not inviting him to the Yagya. Shiva asked Sati not to attend the Yagya, but she proved stubborn. When he compelled her, she became furious, and her eyes turned red.
When he saw her wrath, Shiva closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he was stunned to see a fearful form before him. She had four arms, her complexion was dark, her hair disheveled, her lips sweaty, and her tongue lolled out. She was naked except for a garland of skulls. The half-moon was her crown. She shone like a million suns, and the whole world trembled when she laughed. Frightened, Shiva tried to escape, but he was stopped by ten forms as he tried to flee via ten different exit points. These ten aspects of the Divine Mother are the Mahavidyas.
The Wisdom Goddesses can be fierce or calm in their manifestations. They are much revered by Tantriks.
The 10 Dasa Mahavidyas are Kali, Tara, Tripurasundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chinnamastha, Dhumavathi, Bagalamukhi, Mathangi, and Kamala.
Each of these Goddesses has a specific trait. They are as follows:
Maha Kali – She destroys evil powers.
Tara Devi – She is the universe bearer and boundless space
Sadhoshi/ Tripurasundari – She represents purity and wholesomeness
Bhuvaneshwari – She is the symbol of anti-materialism.
Bhairavi – She is the teacher of a desireless and temptationless world
Chinnamastha – She represents self-sustenance.
Dhumavathi – She preaches destruction by fire against evil.
Bagalamukhi – She teaches us to shun jealousy, hatred, and cruelty.
Matangi – She signifies the power of domination.
Kamala – She is the Goddess of fortune.
She is dark and denotes the womb of the universe. All creatures are conceived within this womb, and they will finally return to it. Her hair is loose, and one of her four hands holds a demon’s severed head that drips blood. The other has a curved sword that represents knowledge. Around her neck is a garland of 51 skulls and on her waist is a girdle of dismembered arms. These indicate that the body is false while the soul is real. Her color denotes pure and invisible energy. She always appears when evil threatens the world. She destroys it and restores righteousness.
Tara is blue in color. Her tongue lolls out, making her look terrifying. Her hair is tangled, and she wears a tiger’s skin. Five half-moons adorn her head. She has 3 eyes, 4 arms, a large protruding belly, and stands atop a corpse. In her arms, she holds a lotus, a sword, a drinking bowl, and a bell. Tara is an illuminator because she lights up all our attitudes. Kali and Tara are quite similar.
She is supposedly the most beautiful in all the three worlds. This is what her name means. She is portrayed as a 16-year-old girl who personifies 16 kinds of desires. Her Mantra, too, consists of 16 syllables. On her body are many fine ornaments. She represents creation, preservation, and destruction. She sits on a lotus that is on a throne. She emerges from Shiva’s third eye.
She is the most important Mahavidya and combines grace, knowledge, and determination.
Bhuvaneswari has a smiling face. She has four hands. Two hands bless her devotees. The other two hold the paasa or noose to draw the devotee closer to her. She uses her goad to remove her devotee’s suffering. This Goddess is associated with the earth and the physical world. She has many noble qualities and fulfills the wishes of her devotees.
She has 3 eyes and a radiant complexion. Sometimes she has a black color. A crescent moon adorns her forehead. On her neck is a garland of human skulls, with snakes crawling around and also rudraksha beads. Her hair is untidy. In 2 of her 4 hands, she holds a sword and a bowl. The 3rd and 4th show Varada mudra. She lives in cremation grounds and is unconquerable.
She is decapitated and holds her own head in one hand. In the other hand is a blood-stained sword. From her neck spurts out three fountains of blood. Two flow into the mouths of her friends, Dakini and Varnini, and the third flows into her own head. She has great self-control and is a yogi. She represents supreme sacrifice, freedom from desire, and spiritual advancement.
She emerges from smoke, which is what her name means. She lacks grace, wealth, charm, or radiance. Her clothes are dirty and her hair untidy. As per mythology, she devoured Lord Shiva due to extreme hunger. As Shiva represented the entire universe, she had nothing left to eat. She vomited him out, but he cursed her. So she had to roam forlorn and desolate as an eternal widow. She has the power to help us get rid of foes. She bestows relief from diseases, poverty, and negative situations. Her worship can nullify negative planetary effects.
Her name means ‘one whose face has the power to conquer or control’. She is the ultimate weapon to destroy foes. She can paralyze all evil powers. Many view her as the Goddess of black magic. She protects people from evil forces and destroys enemies. She is a beautiful goddess despite her fierceness. She is the Goddess of poisons and controls the tongue and the mind. The Goddess bestows great power, supremacy, dominance, and the ability to influence others.
She is an outcast goddess. She helps devotees to conquer their enemies and bestows knowledge in education and arts. She also gives good listening and speaking skills. She offers health, will-power and enables one to inherit ancestral property.
This Goddess is very beautiful and is called Tantrik Lakshmi. She signifies wealth, prosperity, fertility, and good luck. She dwells in pure and holy places. She sits or sleeps on a lotus that is a symbol of purity, perfection, and auspiciousness.
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