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THE MYSTERY OF MAHAVIDYA'S ;- 08 FACTS;- 1-There is a deep quintessential need in the human psyche for a mother. It is said; the Goddess was humankind’s earliest conception of divinity. Among the Shakthas who worship Mother Goddess, the source of all existence is female. God is woman. She is the principle representation of Divinity. She is that power which resides in all life as consciousness, mind, matter, energy, silence, joy as also disturbance and violence. She is the vibrant energy that makes everything alive, fascinating and wonderful. She is inherent in everything and at the same time transcends everything. Her true nature is beyond mind and matter; she is not bound by any limitation. 2-She is Arupa. When she is represented in a form, her intense representation is a Bindu the dimensionless point about to expand immensely. The Bindu symbolizes her most subtle micro form as the universal Mother, womb, yoni, creator, retainer and also the receiver of the universe. 3-The Goddess in Tantra as “Bindu” denotes what is hidden; the secret, the subtle and the most sensitive. She represents the source of all that is to be known, to be searched and to be attained with dedication and effort; she is Durga. The seeker is drawn by a fascination to know her. She is the mystery and allure of all knowledge. She is at once the inner guiding power, the knowledge and its comprehension. 4-She is Vidya. Ordinarily, Vidya stands for knowledge, learning, discipline and a system of thought. But, in the context of Tantra it has an extended meaning. Here, it variously refers to a female deity, to the personification of her consciousness; or to the manifestation of her wide variety of powers in specific forms at different times for different purposes. Her varied forms-dynamic and static- are interpreted as explicit instances of her absolute nature. And each of her Vidya is an illustration of her primordial energy as Adi prakrithi or Adi parashakthi. 5-The Devi, in the Tantra represents consciousness functioning at different levels of the universe -inward and outward. She also is the source of diverse principles, energies and faculties which make the manifested and unmanifested universe. When the countless diversity that occurs in nature, in humans and in all existence, is personified they are visualized by the Tantric through idioms that are familiar to him. 6-He views each of that as a specific manifestation of the Devi. He recognizes each expression of her as a Vidya. Those symbolic Tantric visualizations are named Mahavidya, in awe and reverence. Though Her Vidya is infinite, for the purpose of Tantric Sadhana, they are usually classified as being ten: Dasha Mahavidya. Each tradition of Tantra has its own set of Dasha Mahavidyas. 7-Generally, the ten important Mahavidyas enumerated in the shaktha upa-puranas, Maha Bhagavata Purana and Brahaddharma Purana are taken as standard forms ( Ma Kali, Tara, Tripura Sundari (Sodashi), Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala). They are described as the ten great gupta ( secret ) Mahavidyas. 8- Further, each of the ten has within itself many layers; each carries many names; and, each form has its own sub-variations. Whatever is their numbers, names, order of appearance or their diverse forms, all represent the natures of one and the same reality. Kali is included in all the enumerations and she is regarded the Adi (primary) Mahavidya. Each of the other Mahavidya shares some of her characteristics. THE CULT OF MAHAVIDYA'S ;-- 13 FACTS;-- 1-THERE ARE THREE CULT .. 1-1-MAHAVIDYA >> the extraordinary Vidyas, consisting MA Kali and MA Tara; 1-2-VIDYA >> the normal Vidyas consist deities MA Shodashi (or Tripura), MA Bhuvaneshwari, MA Bhairavi, MA Chinnamasta and MA Dhumavati; 1-3-SIDDHA VIDYA >> the Vidya for adepts refers to MA Kamala, MA Matangi and MA Bagalamukhi. 2- The tantric text Mundamala-tantra, however, makes a sub –classification in three levels. The text does not explain the significance of the three-way classification made or the differences it implies. It is also said that Mahavidyas are indeed various expressions of the Mother: Kali is Time; Bhuvaneshwari is space; the piercing word is Tara; the flaming word is Bhairavi; and expressed word is Matangi.

3-Chinnamasta combines light and sound in her thunderclap; Bagalamukhi stuns and stifles the flow free flow of things. The luminous desire is Sundari; and the delightful beauty is Kamala. The Sadhaka prays to Kali to grant him virtues of : the generosity of Chinnamasta; the valor in battle of Bagalamukhi; the wrath of Dhumavati; the majestic stature of Tripura Sundari; the forbearance of Bhuvaneswari; and control over enemies like Matangi. 4-The origin of Mahavidyas as a group is unclear. There are various explanations based in mythologies of the Mahadevi the Great Goddess and in the Tantra texts. But all explanations seem to suggest that the Mahavidyas, as a group of ten, is of comparatively recent origin. 5-The Mahavidyas is a combination of three well established deities –Kali, Tara and Kamala; couple of deities that already had marginal presence; and other deities, perhaps of local origin, who figure exclusively in the Tantric Mahavidya cult. All the Mahavidyas, whatever might be their origins and individual dispositions, are associated with the Shiva cult. As a rule, they are depicted as dominating over Shiva, the male. 6-THE CULT OF MA KALI----Among the Mahavidyas, Kali is the foremost. Though Kali makes her specific appearance in the Devi-Mahatmya as an emanation of Durga, she combines in herself the virtues and powers of many Vedic deities. She inherits the all – pervasive sovereign power and splendor of Devi, the mystery and darkness of Rathri, dark as the bright starlit night who is Mayobhu (delighting), Kanya (virgin), Yosha Yuvathi (youthful) , Revathi (opulent), Bhadra Shiva (auspicious) and Pashahasta (holding a noose);

6-1-The mercy of Durga who transports her devotee over all the difficulties; the occult power and delusion of Viraj the Maha-Maya , the goddess of heaven (divi maayeva devata) and the Dhirgajihvi (long tongued) ; the death, destruction and dissolution of Nirrti; and the timelessness of Kala. Kali is also one of the seven tongues of Agni (Kali, Karali, Manojava, Sulohita, Sudhumravarna, Suphulingini and Visvaruchi). Kali is thus associated with darkness, night, time, mystery, fire, and immense power of attraction. She is also the source and the residue of all energies. 7-THE CULT OF MA TARA--Tara the savior (Taarini) is as potent as Kali. She is said to be the form that Mahadevi took in order to destroy the thousand-headed –Ravana. Tara has strong presence in the Buddhism (especially the Tibetan Buddhism) and in Jain pantheons also. Among the Mahavidyas, Tara is next only to Kali; and she resembles Kali in appearance more than any other Mahavidya. Tara as Mahavidya is not entirely benign (gentle and kind). ; she could be fierce and horrifying. 8-THE CULT OF MA KAMALA-----Among the Mahavidyas, Kamala is the best known and adored even outside the cult. Kamala of the Mahavidya is a reflection of Shri for whom a Suktha of fifteen riks is devoted in the khilani attached to the fifth Mandala of Rig Veda. The Devi Mahatmya which is a part of the Markandeya Purana celebrates Mahalakshmi as the immense potential (sarva-sadhya) and the mighty Shakti of Devi, the destroyer of Mahisha.

8-1-However, as Mahavidya, Kamala is not endowed with all those powers nor does she enjoy the same prestige as Mahalakshmi in Tantra or Lakshmi in the orthodox tradition. Kamala is invoked mainly in rituals seeking wealth, power and hidden treasures. Ma Kamala in her Mahavidya form is associated with Shiva and not with Vishnu. 9-THE CULT OF MA TRIPURSUNDARI---Sodashi as Mahavidya is also referred to as Tripura Sundari the most beauteous in all the three worlds. She along with Ma Kali and Tara is reckoned as Adi (primordial) Mahavidya. She is associated with sixteen phases of the moon or sixteen modifications of desire. Sodashi as Tripura Sundari, Lalita and Rajarajeshwari are the important goddess in the Sri Vidya tradition. But, as Mahavidya her belligerent aspect as Tripura Bhairavi is stressed. 10--MA Bhuvaneshwari is related to Prithvi (the Mother Earth). In the Puranas she is associated especially with Varaha Avatar of Vishnu. Broadly, Bhuvaneshwari, whose extension is the world, represents substantial forces of the material world. The other Mahavidyas: Chinnamasta, Bagalamukhi, Dhumavati and Matangi are rarely mentioned except as Mahavidyas. These along with Bhairavi are primarily tantric deities of funeral pyres and graveyards. 11-Attempts were made to bring Mahavidyas into the main stream of Shaktha legends through the Devi Mahatmya. The third Canto of the Devi Mahatmya mentions that Mahadevi, the united force of all the gods, in her battle against the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha created multiple groups of female warriors displaying various facets of her ferocious nature. Among the groups mentioned, the Saptha Matrikas and the Nava Durgas are prominent. Devi Mahatmya also refers to a group of goddesses having resemblance with Mahavidyas, though the text does not name them as such. 12-But, in the Sahasranama –stotra (garland of thousand names) of the Mahavidyas as given in Sakta-pramoda the names of the Saptha Matrikas and the Mahavidyas have got terribly mixed up. There was also a suggestion, elsewhere, that the Mahavidyas emanated from the Nava Durgas. 13- The Devi Bhagavata and other Devi related puranas, in general, elaborate on the glory and splendor of Mahadevi the Great Goddess as the upholder of the cosmic order and the destroyer of the demons. But, the Mahavidya tradition is concerned, in particular, with the nature of the many diverse forms of Devi that pervade all aspects of reality.

THE MYSTERY OF WORSHIP (OF TEN MAHAVIDYAS );- 32 FACTS;-- 1 - As said, The Mahavidyas are not goddesses in the normal sense of the term. The worship of Mahavidyas - as a group- is generally not temple oriented; but, there are many pilgrim center (Tirtha) associated with the Dasha Mahavidyas- group----- may be VINDHACHAL OR other SHAKTIPEETH. They are not associated with prominent geographical features such as hills, rivers, river-banks or trees.

2-Mahavidya temple are very common in the funeral Ghats The pictures of Mahavidyas are painted on the walls of Devi temples. They are also depicted as decorative figures surrounding the centrally located figure of Devi -Mahishasuramardini -Durga, sculpted for worship during Navaratri. There are temples dedicated to the prominent Vidyas such asMA Kali,MA Kamakhya and MA Tara, as in the case of other Hindu or Buddhist goddesses; and their temple-towns are well known Tirthas.

3-As for the other Mahavidyas who are not well known outside the group ( MA Dhumavati, MA Bagalamukhi and MA Chinnamasta) there are just a few temples dedicated specially to them.As regards MA Kamala and MA Sundari, the temples (especially in south India) are dedicated only to their benign, most beautiful and magnificent aspects as MA Lakshmi; or MA Tripura Sundari or Sri Rajarajeshwari who is the presiding deity of the Sri Vidya tradition. 4-In northeast, in Bengal the cult of MA Kali is supreme. In far north and northwest in Tibet and Kashmir regions the cult of MA Tara is popular. In the South the Vidya of Sundari, Sri Vidya is vogue. Lakshmi is commonly worshipped. Thus, the whole of India is soaked in the adoration of the Mother: the might of the MA kali, the wisdom of MA Tara, the beauty ofMA Sundari and the grace of MA Kamala. 5- The worship of one Mahavidya might differ from that of the others.TheTantra texts (say, ShaktisamagamaTantra) specify which path should be taken in worshipping a particular Mahavidya. For instance, the worship of goddess Kali, Kamakhya , Tara, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Matangi and Bagala involve strongly individualized left-handed tantric rituals, rooted in their specific Mantras and Yantras, conducted in secrecy.

6-The worship of these divinities requires great rigor, austerity, devotion, persistence and a sort of ruthless detachment. The left-handedworship- practice of Mahavidya is very difficult and is filled with risks and dangers. Its practice is not considered either safe or suitable for common householders, as it involves rituals that cannot be practiced normally. The text mentions that goddess Shodasi, Kamala and Bhuvaneshwari prefer right-handed worship practices. 7-The text , at the same time, clarifies that both the paths are appropriate .And Mahavidya could be worshipped in either manner depending upon the inclination and the nature of the worshipper. 8-Though some of the Mahavidyas are worshipped in their temples, the private places marked out in the cremation grounds seem to be favored places for tantric rituals, especially in the case of goddess Kali, Tara, Bagalamukhi, Chinnamasta and Dhumavati. In the extreme forms of this class of worship (vamachara) the deities, the Sadhakas and the ritual practices are associated with blood and corpses.

9-Their worship is characterized by the pancha tattva or pancha makaara (five ‘Ms’) –rituals performed employing five forbidden or highly polluting elements: madya (liquor) , mamasa (meat), matsysa (fish), mudraa ( ritual gestures or parched grains causing hallucinations) and maithuna ( sex). By partaking the polluted and forbidden things the Sadhaka affirms his faith that there is nothing in this world that is outside the goddess; she pervades all; and within her there are no distinctions of ‘pure’ or ‘impure’. He attempts to erase ‘the artificial – manmade’ distinctions and be one with his goddess. 10-Todala Tantra, a tantric text, interprets the nature of the five elements (pancha tattva) in various ways. It explains that Devi can be worshipped at different ‘levels’. As per the text, these five elements carry various esoteric interpretations according to the nature of worship undertaken: tamasika (pashvachara), rajasika (vichara), or divya (sattvika sadhana). NOTE;-

[Sri Ramakrishna however emphasized and demonstrated that madya, maithuna and intoxicating substances are indeed not necessary in tantric-sadhana . THERE IS A HIDDEN PIOUS SENSE OF IT---SEE POST]

11-The Mahavidya texts - such as Tantrasara, Shakta-pramoda and Shakthisamgama-tantra - elaborately narrate the various mythical origins and the legends of the Mahavidyas. They provide exhaustive iconographic details of each of the Mahavidyas. They also speak of the worship details, yantras, mantras and astrological (jothishya) as also yogic significances of the Mahavidyas.

12-But, sadly, they do not spend much time in explaining the principles, the logic and the conceptual aspects which lie beneath the bizarre appearances of the Mahavidyas, or their metaphysical significances and meanings, or their symbolisms. It therefore becomes rather difficult to explain the outrageous appearances and habits of these goddesses: why one goddess adorns herself with garland of skulls, another dress herself with severed body parts, and why the third delights in cutting off her head letting the sprouting streams of blood fall into the mouth of her own severed head.

13-There are also the ones who seated on a corpse pluck out a demon’s tongue, another who straddles an inert male stretched on a funeral pyre, and yet another who loves to be worshipped with rotten and polluted things. Why would anyone care to worship a sulking old widow riding a crow? ONLY THOSE SADHAK WHO ARE WILLING TO GET THE ESSENCE OF DHARMA & SALVATION ...MAKE SEARCH FOR HER ......... 14-Unless we are willing to look deeper we are likely to be trapped in the maze of hideous appearances and repulsive behaviors. I have tried to put together a few explanations I know and some others I came across. I am sure there are many more. What I say here is as I understood it; and that could be inadequate or wrong. But, before we get into Mahavidyas per se( 'in itself'), we need to talk of few other things. 15-The Mahavidya faith, some say, originated as a rebellious cult intolerant of the Brahmanical puritan notions of ‘pure-impure’, ‘good-bad’, ‘right-wrong ’and ‘beautiful-ugly’ etc. It attempted to erase the distinctions between the sublime and the profane; between ' the noblest and most precious' and the 'basest and most common ‘. It was, however, not a religious movement. In fact, it arose out of a strong desire to break free and be independent of all abstruse metaphysical speculations and religious faiths.It is based upon human experience and in the very act of living.

16-The Mahavidya cult defies religion and tradition. It is neither Hindu nor Buddhist in its origin, though it later influenced the Tantric traditions of both the regions. It is neither religion nor mysticism but an empirical-experiential method. It is practical, it lights the torch and shows the way. Its approach to life is anti ascetic, anti-speculative and entirely without conventional perfectionist clichés's (a lack of original thought)cult practices cut across the class and social boundaries.

17-Because of its nonsectarian spirit, concept of God as woman, acceptance of Sudras in all rites, assigning a position of honor to women and recognizing them as Gurus, and its strong faith in local customs and rituals, Mahavidya cult gained wide acceptable ; and it spread even into orthodox traditions....a lack of original thought.Mahavidya cult originated outside the establishment; and in due course it was absorbed into tradition. But, it manged to retain its own independent outlook. 18- As the Mahavidyas gained popularity it was absorbed into Shakta Tantric tradition. Its theme was expanded, elaborated in upa (subsidiary) puranas by linking them to legends of the Devi and Shiva. The Puranas asserted that the ten Mahavidyas are indeed the manifestations of ‘ten great mantras’, for a 'mantra' and 'vidya' are the same. The Sanskritized texts formalized the worship practices by structuring it in three levels:pasu (animal), vira (heroic) and divya (divine).Attempts were also made to provide these goddesses with mythological backgrounds, theological status,metaphysical meanings, and symbolic representations. 19-The Mahavidya cult found strong resonance in the Shakta Tantric School which reveres the Goddess as the Supreme. The Mahavidyas could readily fit into its scheme. The central theme of the Shakta Sadhana is identification with his goddess. Simply put; the aim of the Shaktha Tantric is to become one with the goddess.

20-According to its logic, if one is able to become the goddess, one can obtain that which she possesses, be it knowledge or wealth or magical power or the power to annihilate ones enemies. But, if one has to become the goddess one has necessarily to be rid of all sorts of inhibitions, conceits and prejudices that imprison his mind. That is to say; kill the ego and become nothing but the feminine goddess. 21-Tantra identifies the power of Shakthi with the Absolute or the One. The female principle is all important because it offers the key to creative life and salvation. A woman is seen as the reflection of female principles; and she, therefore, becomes an object of worship and veneration in the Tantra-Shakta -Sadhana.In the rituals – Kumari Puja or Shakthi Upasana- the woman is treated as an image of the goddess; she no longer is an ordinary woman.

22-That is to say; the woman is symbolically transformed into a goddess through rituals. In his attempt to be one with the goddess, in spirit, the male aspirant will also have to awaken and realize the female principles latent in him. He learns to sublimate his lower-nature and attune it to that of the goddess. Only by becoming a woman in spirit and consciousness can a Shakta hope to attain his goal. In the last stage of the Shaktha-sadhana the worshipper and the worshipped become one. 23- Towards this end he employs physical, mental, ritualistic and occult techniques. But, in its extreme stages the technical and esoteric aspects of the rituals prescribed by the class of Shakta practices we are now discussing become grotesque and socially not-acceptable. Because, as a way of asserting his faith that all existence is pervaded by the goddess and there are no distinctions of ‘pure’ or ‘impure’ within her, the Shakta erases the ‘the artificial – manmade’ demarcations of beauty-ugliness, cleanliness –polluted, or goodness-profane etc . In fact, he overstates his intensions by resorting to whatever that is repulsive or that which is looked down by the ‘gentle society’.

24-In the process, an intense Shakta adept overrides moral judgments and social customs; and discards attachment to accepted notions and ethics.Thus, the left-hand Shakta Sadhana of the Mahavidyas which does not respect the social morality or the conventional standard of ethics is , by its very nature, rebellious. It defies society, religion and their authoritative patriarchal system designed by the orthodox Bramhanical traditions. 25-The Shakta texts explain that such breaking away from approved social norms, roles and expectations is the primary way to stretch ones consciousness beyond the relative world of contradictions. It is here the bizarre ‘outsider’ goddesses, the Mahavidya, have their relevance. By accepting what is forbidden or marginalized as one of the realities of life the adept may gain a new perspective to life and existence. It might liberate him from the inherited, imposed and narrow prejudices, and transform him into a liberated person. The Mahavidyas are thus states of awakening.

26- The Mahavidyas in general are said to possess terrifying forms. But, the two Mahavidyas Sodasi and Kamala are not pictured in frightening forms. There is also a method of grouping of the Mahavidyas as falling under the category of either fierce (raudra) or benign (saumya) forms. But, that explanation too is found wanting as the Mahavidyas combine in themselves both types of dispositions. 27-There are also explanations attempting to classify the Mahavidyas as those falling under the three Gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) or three colors (white, red and black) or three dispositions (amorous, angry and benevolent) . But , these classifications also do not satisfactorily explain the natures of all the ten Mahavidyas. 28- Another way of classifying the Mahavidyas is to treat them as dynamic or static principles in nature. The Mahavidya shown as standing or striding over or dominating a male figure is identified as dynamic aspects( GODDESS Kali, Tara, Bagala, Bhairavi, Tripura-Sundari, and sometimes Chinnamasta) ; while the others are identified as static aspects (GODDESS Dhumavati, Matangi, Kamala and Bhuvaneshvari). But, many of the Mahavidyas are dynamic and static depending upon their disposition at different times (e.g. GODDESS Sundari, Tara, and even MA Kali). 29- One other explanation mentions that Mahavidyas represent stages in a woman’s life. While Sodasi, Bhuvaneshvari and Matangi are the sixteen year young girls; Dhumavati the old widow is at the other end of life; and the rest fall in between. But there is little or no mention of Motherhood of the Mahavidyas.Another explanation interprets Mahavidyas as stages or hierarchical states of consciousness associated with the seven chakras of the Kundalini yoga. 30- Some Tantric texts (Guhyatiguhya tantra, Mundamala tantra and Todala tantra) identify the ten Mahavidyas with the ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu :----ma Kali with Krishna; ma Tara with Rama ; ma Bhuvanesvari with Varaha; ma Chinnamasta with Narasimha and so on . 31- The Mahavidyas, in any case, are powerful goddesses that provide a totally different but realistic perspective of life .Though it asserts the female superiority, it opens a vista and a field of experience for all. By subverting or rejecting the conventional social norms and morality it seeks to expand the awareness of the adept and liberate her or him from narrow prejudices and inhibitions that imprison the human mind.