Dasha Mahavidya – Part Four

06 Oct

Continued from Part Three – Bhuvanesvari, Chinnamasta and Bhairavi 

Please also read the introduction to Mahavidyas

Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala

VII. Dhumavati

42.1. Dhumavati , whose nature is smoke, is again a Mahavidya who is not known outside the Mahavidya cult. There are no references to her in the earlier mythologies. She , unlike most other Mahavidya, is old, ugly and sulking. She is the only Mahavidya without a consort. She is a widow associated with strife, loneliness, unfulfilled desires and inauspicious things of life.

Dhumavati shares some of her characteristics with three other ancient goddesses – Nirriti, Jyeshta and Alakshmi – who personified disorder, decay, poverty, misfortune, dissension, sickness, and the whole range of life’s ills, culminating in death.

Nirriti in Rig Veda is the opposite of Rta the order, harmony and well-being in nature. Nirriti in contrast to Rta stands for anger, disorder, death, decay and destruction.

Jyeshta, the elder, is dark and ugly.  She indulges in quarrels and is intolerant of anything that is auspicious. . She is instinctively drawn to households in which there is strife—where family members quarrel or where the adults feed themselves and disregard the hunger of their children.

Alakshmi is the dark – reverse image of Lakshmi. She is everything that Lakshmi is not. Alakshmi symbolizes bad temper, hunger, thirst, need, poverty and all the misfortunes of life.

42.2. While there are similarities between Dhumavati and the above three goddesses, there are also some differences. Unlike those goddesses, Dhumavati is a widow; she is ugly and old. Dhumavati is also said to be fierce, frightening and fond of blood. She has, however, certain positive characteristics such as: guiding the devotee along the spiritual path to help him/her attain liberation; granting Siddihis and rescuing her devotees from troubles.


43.1. The Dhumavati Tantra describes her as an old and ugly widow. She is thin, tall, unhealthy, and has a pale complexion. She is described as restless and wicked. Unadorned with any jewel, she wears old, dirty clothes and has disheveled hair. Her eyes are fearsome, her nose long and crooked, and some of her long fang-like teeth have fallen out, leaving her smile with gaps. Her ears are ugly and rough; her breasts hang down. In one of her trembling hands, she holds a winnowing basket, while the other makes a boon-conferring gesture (varada-mudra) or knowledge-giving gesture (chinmudra). She rides in a horseless chariot bearing an emblem of a crow as her banner. She is astute and crafty. Always hungry and thirsty, Dhumavati initiates quarrels and invokes fear.

Dhumavati - Mahavidhya

43.3. The symbolisms associated with Dhumavati explain that she points out to the negative aspects of life, asking us to develop a sense of detachment . The bowl of fire she holds burns ignorance and also indicates that all things are eventually destroyed. The winnowing basket is viveka the power of discrimination that separates the grain (real) from the chaff (unreal). On an outer level ,  she seems like poverty, destitution, and suffering, the great misfortunes that we all fear in life. But in truth, she directs us to look beyond the small ambitions.


43.2. In the Prapanca-sara-sara-samgraha, Dhumavati is described as having a black complexion and wearing ornaments made of snakes. Her dress is made of rags taken from cremation grounds. She holds a spear and a skull-cup (kapala) in her two hands. The spear is sometimes replaced by a sword. Another description in the same text says Dhumavati is aged with a wrinkled, angry face and cloud-like complexion. Her nose, eyes, and throat resemble that of a crow’s. She holds a broom, a winnowing fan, a torch, and a club. She is cruel and frowning. Her hair appears dishevelled and she wears the simple clothes of a beggar. Her breasts are dry. Her hair is grey, her teeth crooked and missing, and her clothes old and worn.

43.4. There are also unusual descriptions of Dhumavati where she is shown as a good-looking young woman full of life with attractive features. She is not a widow. She is holding a winnowing basket while riding a huge crow. She is adorned with ornaments, bracelets, arm-bands, necklaces, and pendants. She is elegantly dressed. Her appearance here is in total contrast to the descriptions of her as ugly and old wearing soiled rags.

43.5. Dhumavati is worshipped by the Tantrics for attainment of Siddhis (magical powers). Though Dhumavati’s worship is considered ideal for bachelors, widows, Sanyasins and   Tantrics, the householder too flock to her seeking blessings and fulfilment of their desires.

44.1. If Sodasi and Bhuvanesvari represent the sparkling vivacious stage in woman’s life, Dhumavati projects the end and the miserable part of woman’s life. She is an old and a sulking widow who has nowhere to go. She is lonely, a social outcast; but, free from its obligations and constraints. She lives in a cremation ground surrounded by burning funeral pyres. She is often hungry and thirsty; and, is rankled by unsatisfied desires and the memory of many things she missed in her life.  The crow which is her emblem and on which she is shown riding is a scavenger bird feeding on half-burnt corpse; it is a symbol of death and inauspiciousness.

44.2. Smoke billowing out of a quenched fire is her nature .Dhumavati’s youth and freshness are burnt out; and what remains is the smoke of her spent life. And like smoke she is restless and wandering. Her nature is not brightness.  The smoke usually is dark, polluting and concealing.

Another interpretation is that Dhumavati is a good teacher. By obscuring or covering all that is known, Dhumavati reveals the depth of the unknown. Dhumavati obscures what is evident in order to reveal the hidden and the profound.

44.3. She favors the unmarried, the single and the widowed. She instils a desire to be alone and an aversion to worldly things. She encourages a certain kind of aloofness and independence; and sets one on the spiritual path.

Dhumavati represents a typical old widow of the orthodox society. Although a widow was considered unfortunate or inauspicious, she was free to undertake spiritual pursuits such as pilgrimages and vratas that were not easily possible in her younger days while she had to shoulder family responsibilities. For some of those women who found their married life oppressive, widowhood might come as a sort of relief. Like the traditional sanyasin, a pious widow is outside the society free from its constraints and obligations.

44.4. Dhumavati symbolically portrays the disappointments, frustrations, humiliation, defeat, loss, sorrow and loneliness that a woman endures.  She is the knowledge that comes through hard experiences, after the youthful desires and fantasies are put behind. Dhumavati thus represents a stage of woman’s life that is beyond worldly desires, beyond the conventional taboos of what is polluting or inauspicious. She desires to be free and at the same time she likes to be useful to the family and to the society.

44.5. In her temples near Varanasi, Dhumavati despite her aloofness is regarded as a guardian deity who looks after the village folk and blesses with worldly happiness. She is no longer the inauspicious and dangerous goddess approached only by the Tantrics.

Devim-Koteshwarim- Suddham-papaghnim- Kamaroopinim

Namami Mukti-kamaya Dehi Muktim Harapriye

Dhum Dhum Dhumavati Swaha

VIII. Bagalamukhi

45.1. Just as Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi or Bagala is not well known outside the Mahavidya cult. She however is mentioned in myths associated with Shiva and Vishnu. These myths belong to recent centuries. The exact origins of her name are not certain. Some say; ’Bagala’ is derived from the Sanskrit term Valga meaning ‘to control’; and she was originally known as Valgamukhi.  That was meant to signify that she had that power in her face which could capture or control or even paralyze her opponents. It is also said that Bagalamukhi means the goddess with the ‘face of a crane (Baka)’. The crane with its ability to stand still attracts its prey, lures it into a false sense of safety and then snaps it up quickly. Bagalamukhi’s strength is said to be her magical attraction, to immobilize and strike the enemy.

But, none of her iconographic descriptions makes a mention her having a crane head. Bagalamukhi is portrayed as a woman of immense beauty who can transfix anyone. Perhaps her assumed association with crane was merely to highlight her ‘deceitful’ trait. It is explained; a secret desire to kill resides in hearts of all beings. That concealed desire might many times influence our actions. Bagalamukhi, like the gentle faced crane – the most deceitful of all- personifies that hidden desire to kill.

Elsewhere it is said, she has the head of a duck and the nose of a parrot, signifying her ability to grant vak-siddhi, the power to make everything one utters come true.


46.1. Bagalamukhi is often called Pitambari or Pitambari Devi, the one who wears yellow clothes. Her Dhyana – sloka graphically portrays her preference to yellow colour. Her complexion, clothing, ornaments and garlands are in varying shades of yellow. Her devotees are dressed in yellow, wear mala strings of turmeric (haldi) and offer her yellow things.  Even her temples are painted yellow. Bright yellow is usually associated with sun and gold. But, in the context of Bagalamukhi the significance of her preference for yellow has not been explained. Further, in her pictorial representations, Bagalamukhi is usually shown wearing red or orange; and not much of yellow.

46.2. The one other name of Bagalamukhi is Brahmastra Roopini meaning that she exercises her magical powers of delusion (bhrama) as a weapon (astra) to confuse and confound. With that she makes everything look like it’s opposite. She turns speech into silence, knowledge into ignorance, power into impotence, and defeat into victory. It is explained; she represents the knowledge whereby each thing must in time become its opposite. To see the failure hidden in success, the death hidden in life or the joy hidden in sorrow is the way of understanding her reality. Bagalamukhi is the secret presence of the opposites wherein each thing is dissolved back into its un-manifest state.

Bagalamukhi is also said to bestow the power of attracting others and infuse in them sexual desire.

46.3. More than any other Mahavidya, Bagalamukhi is associated with magical powers. , which sometimes are termed Siddhi or attainments. A particular Siddhi of Bagalamukhi is her magical power of Stambhana the power to transfix, immobilize or paralyze a person into silence. An explanation based in yoga interprets Stambhana as the control over the vital-breaths (prana); and states that Bagalamukhi exercises control over the vital breaths; she enables one to conquer the tongue, which means self-control over greed, speech and taste.

Thus, Bagalamukhi, just as the other Mahavidyas, displays both negative and positive virtues.

47.1. The Bagalamukhi – iconography presents her as goddess with a golden complexion dressed in yellow. She sits in a golden throne in the midst of an ocean of nectar full of lotuses. A crescent moon adorns her head. She is decked with gems and Champaka blossoms.

Bagalamuki - Mahavidya

47.2. The Dwi-Bhuja (with two arms) depiction is  Soumya or milder. Her complexion is golden. She is elegantly attired and bejewelled. She holds a club in her right hand with which she beats a demon, while pulling his tongue out with her left hand. This image is sometimes interpreted as an exhibition of stambhana, the power to stun or paralyse an enemy into silence. This is one of the boons for which Bagalamukhi’s devotees worship her.

47.3. In her Chaturbhuja (four armed) form, according to the Sri Tatwanidhi, she sits upon a golden throne. She is of yellow complexion and is three-eyed. In her four hands she holds a trident, a cup, a mace and the tongue of the demon. With her right hand she strikes him on his head. She has the features of a beautiful woman. She is adorned with garlands and ornaments. Bagala symbolizes cessation of all dualities or dwandas, at the realization of which pure consciousness emerges.

47.4. Another depiction presents Bagalamukhi as sitting upon a supine corpse laid out on her throne. She wears a diadem, a nose ring, and a garland;  she rests her right foot on a lotus flower, and her bent left foot ankle on her right lower thigh; pulls the tongue of the male by her left hand and holds aloft a club by the raised right hand ready to strike.

48.1. Bagalamukhi is related to Mahavidya Tara, as both are goddesses of speech. Bagalamukhi represents the power of speech that stuns others and leaves them gasping for words. Therefore she is invoked for granting success in debates and bargains.

48.2. Bagalamukhi wrenching the tongue of the demon is symbolic of removing the impurities associated with speech and tongue. The tongue is the organ of speech and taste. And, often it is involved in telling lies or concealing the truth. The tongue therefore could unwittingly get caught up with mischief, vanity and deceit. The pulling of the tongue is a symbolic act of  punishing the demon and cleansing his impurities.

48.3. Bagalamukhi sitting upon a corpse while pulling the tongue of the ‘enemy’ is interpreted in many ways. The corpse stands for inert or static matter, as also for ignorance. The death of the flesh also means liberation of the spirit. A corpse is therefore a symbol of death and a new beginning for the spirit. Shiva as Shava (corpse) under the feet of Kali is a inert potent life that is just about to wake up to new life. The other Mahavidyas – Kali and Tara- also sit or stand upon corpse. Chinnamasta and Dhumavati too are associated with corpse and cremation grounds.

48.4. The image of Bagalamukhi sitting upon a corpse is also said to be associated with the extreme tantric ritual of Shava-sadhana. It is a ritual where the adept (sadhaka) sits upon the chest of a fresh corpse at the dead of the night in middle of cremation ground and tries to overcome or control the dead person’s preta (spirit).Through that he hopes to gain magical powers.The esoteric view of this tantric ritual is that it transforms the aspirant, awakening in him or her to an expanded consciousness; and grants him a new identity.

Shivasysa Dayitam Shuddham Kamakhyam Kamaroopi

Om Hleem Sarva Dusthaanaam Vaacham Mukham Paadam s

tambhaya jihvyamkilaya

buddhim vinaashaya Hleem Om Swaha


IX. Matangi

49.1. The myths and legends associated with Matangi suggest that her origins are in the tribal traditions. Though there are various versions of her myths, in the Hindu and the Buddhist lore, they together contribute to form the picture of Matangi. She appears to have been the daughter of Matanga who according to some was a chieftain of tribal elephant hunters (Maatanga –raja). He belonged to the low caste of Chandalas. Thus, Matangi, right from her early stage, became closely associated with birds, forests, wilderness, elephant hunting culture and Chandala way of living; as also with casting magic-spells.

[Matangi also appears in a Buddhist Jataka, where she is the daughter of elephant hunter king Matanga, a tribal (Chandala) chieftain. Rabindranath Tagore reworked her legend into his play Chandalika, who falls in love with Ananda, the chief disciple of the Buddha.]

49.2. Matangi’s origins are also associated with the tribal goddess Savaresvari (Savara = Svara ; the goddess of Svara, musical notes) who is described as sixteen, smiling and short in stature .She is dressed in leaves wearing creepers as earrings and  a garland made of gunja seeds. She collects in her basket fruits while singing to herself.

And, Savari who enjoys dwelling in the forests and loves singing is one of the many names of Matangi. Further, Raja-Matangi is said to listen to the chattering of green parrots, to play on veena, to wears flowers and garlands and to have conch- shell earrings.

All these elements of various stories characterize the nature of Matangi Mahavidya. They affirm her tribal origins and her identity with tribal culture which is different from the tradition bound way of living.

At another level , she is also associated with music , poetry and fine arts.The Lalithopakhyana  calls Matangi by a variety of names . She is :

Sangeeta yogini ; shyama; shyamala ; mantra nayika;
mantrini;  sachiveshani;  pradhaneshi;  shukapriya;
vina vati vainiki cha mudrini ; priyakapriya;
nipapriya ; kadambeshi ; kadamba vanavasini’

sadamada ; cha namani shodashaitaini;  kumbhaja.

50.1. The Mahavidya Matangi, the erotically powerful intoxicated with passion like a female elephant in heat (masth) is described as a sixteen-year – young girl in the flush of her youth seated on an altar. She has full breasts and a very slim waist. Her complexion is greenish. She is impassioned.  Her eyes are intoxicated while a gentle smile plays upon her lips. She is perspiring slightly around her face, which makes her all the more exiting and desirable. Below her navel are three horizontal folds of skin and a thin vertical line of fine hair.  Her hair on the head is long and wild, and the disc of the moon adorns her forehead. She favors red; her dress and ornaments are in various shades of red. She wears a girdle of jewelled ornaments, as well as bracelets, armlets, and earrings. She is adorned with garlands of wild Kadamba flowers. She holds in her hands a skull and a chopping blade dripping blood. With the other hand, she holds an ornate musical string instrument, veena.  She is flanked by two parrots. She represents sixty-four arts.

50.2. Matangi is also Raja-Shyamala, dark with blue as the cloud filled with water. She is seated on the gem-studded throne, listens to the sweet utterances of the parrot, is aglow with youth, has one foot on the lotus, has her forehead bedecked with the crescent moon, plays on the veena, has a garland of jasmine flowers,  wears red garments,  has a conch-vessel.  Matangi, lustrous like sapphires in her self-glory plays the ruby-bejewelled veena.

50 .3 She is also Rajamatangi adorned with a crescent moon on her crown which is tied with a garland of blue lilies, a bright vermilion mark on her forehead and she is richly ornamented. The goddess of dark or blue complexion, listening to a parrot talking to her, is seated upon a throne set with rubies, with one of her feet placed upon a lotus while holding a veena. Such is the majesty of Raja-matangi the queen of all.

According to the Shyamaladandakam, Matangi plays a ruby-studded veena and speaks sweetly. The Dhyana Mantra describes her to be four-armed, with a dark emerald complexion, full breasts anointed with red kumkum powder, and a crescent moon on her forehead. She carries a noose, a goad, a sugar-cane bow and flower arrows, which the goddess Tripura Sundari is often described to hold. She is also described to love the parrot and is embodied in the nectar of song.

Sri Raja Mathangi travels in Gaya chakra, a chariot which when moves, the atmosphere will be vibrating with sweet music. She is the embodiment of Nada (Sound). She stands for the propagation of Jnana (Knowledge), art, education, music and so on.

In Sri Vidya, Raja Matangi is known as Manthrini. She also presides over all the mantra svaras or the articulation of mantras. Matangi is emerald green in colour. She plays the Veena that represents the Nada or Primordial Sound in the form of Vibration. She is said to have Parrot in her Hands. Raja Matangi is the Deity of Thought. This Thought is the Source of Word or Speech. Hence, she is called Jnana Shakthi of Tripurasundari. As Manthrini, Sri Raja Mathangi is the symbol of knowledge. She is also an amsa of Sri Meenakshi of Madurai and Sri Saraswathi.


50.4. Another description says: Matangi is blue in color and dressed in red. Her waist is slim and her breasts well-developed. The crescent moon adorns her forehead. She has three eyes and a smiling face. She is bejewelled and is seated on a lotus throne. In her four arms, she carries a skull, a sword, and a veena. She is Modini the goddess who grants worldly pleasures.

50.5. There is also an extreme tantric form of Matangi. It describes Matangi as a highly impassioned girl of sixteen with fully developed breasts. She sits on a corpse wearing a bright red garment. She wears red jewellery and a garland made of gunja berries (a small forest seed) .She holds in her hands  a skull-bowl, a sword or scissors . She prefers offerings of leftovers (ucchista) and polluted things such as pieces of cloths stained with blots of menstrual discharge.  Such is the fierce form of Ucchishta-Matangini.

50.6. In sharp contrast to her tantric form there is a classy description of her benign form. Matangi, here, is described as seated, in all her glory and charm, on a gem-studded throne, listening to the sweet utterances of parrots. She is stunningly beautiful, glowing in her emerald complexion. Her limbs are delicate and soft; lustrous like sapphires.  She is aglow with youth. As the evening is lit up with golden yellow, she having just had a drink of honey- sweet wine places one foot on the lotus and delicately holds in her hands a ruby-red bejewelled veena, leisurely; and sings in her sweet voice songs of great charm and melody. There is a dreamy expression in Matangi’s eyes (madhura madhu madaam). Two lotus flowers tied to the upper part of the veena swing rhythmically as she plays on it. She is dressed in delicate clothes of mild red; has a fitting bodice covering her delicate breasts. She is decked with garland of fragment jasmine flowers. On her head is a diadem with crescent moon; and blow that is bright vermillion mark adding lustre to her glowing countenance. The conch shell she holds and the birds surrounding her are in white. The sweet-charming glory of Matangi the daughter of sage Matanga is truly matchless.

51.1. The last mentioned is the benign and pleasing aspect of Matangi. But, that is not the form in which Matangi is depicted as a Mahavidya. Let me mention that there are several representations of Matangi depending upon the class of Tantra that is talked about. For instance, in the Sri Vidya tradition, Matangi is the Mantrini the minister or counsellor of the Supreme Queen (Para bhattarika) Sri Rajarajeswari.  Matangi is also identified with Devi Meenakshi of Madurai.


And, Matangi is also called Tantric-Sarasvati and Tantric Ganesha .Her complexion too varies from white, black, brown, blue or to green depending on the context, says as Ucchista Matangini, Ucchista-Chandalini, Raja Matangini, Sumukhi Matangini, Vasya Matangini or Karna Matangini.

51.2. But, Matangi as Mahavidya is a Siddha Vidya, the Tantra personified. She brings focus, rather very disturbingly, on the notions of distinctions between purity-impurity; clean-polluted; auspicious-inauspicious; puritanical notions- unrestrained sex; high caste-low caste; and civilized society- hunting tribes of forests.

She is depicted as a domineering, fearful tantric deity, who is outside the pale of the traditional society; who wields magical powers; who is pleased with the offering of leftovers and polluted things; and who enjoys sex.

52.1. The myths associated with Matangi project her as a Chandalika (daughter of a Chandala) who loves leftover or partially-eaten food (Ucchishta- Chandalini) and polluted things. Her preference for pollution, it is said, extends over many things, such as: food, sex, dress, dwelling and habits etc. The Nepali tradition mentions that Matangi lives among the low caste, near garbage dumps, prefers Ucchishta offered by devotees who are unkempt and unwashed; and she admires them for not rinsing the mouth and washing the hands after eating.

52.2. The central message of this myth is to set free the Tantric devotee from the strangling obsession with ‘purity’ which can be dangerous and destructive. Ucchishta Matangini as the embodiment of all that is impure and polluted is the goddess who helps in coming to terms with, and transcends the   apparent dualities in the existence. She, in her own manner, emphasizes the importance of inner purity over external cleanliness.  Matangi is therefore a great teacher; and powerful and liberating goddess.

53.1. Mahavidya Bagalamukhi and Matangi are worshipped to gain magical or psychic powers. Matangi is associated, in particular, with magical powers that exercise control over enemies.

53.2. Matangi is considered by some as the Tantric form of Sarasvati the goddess of speech (vak) and learning. Both the goddesses are associated with music and speech. They, however, differ in certain aspects. Sarasvati is sattvic in nature and represents the Vedic learning. Matangi is tamasic and is related to magical powers. While Sarasvati is the power or the awareness that generates speech, Matangi is the articulated speech (vaikhari vak), while Mahavidya Tara is the un-manifest speech that resides in breath (madhyama-vak) .Matangi is posited in the throat centre (visuddhi). The parrot which she holds (keera kara) signifies the ability to talk.

53.3. Matangi and Ganesha are both related to elephants. The terms – matanga, maatanga and matanga raja – all refer to the elephant.  Matangi had her origin amidst the elephant huntress and she holds a hook (ankusha) that controls an elephant. Ganesha as para-vak the un-manifest word is at muladhara, while Matangi as vaikhari –vak is at visuddhi. The tantric sadhana regards Matangi as the female counterpart of Ucchishta Ganapathi.

The Ucchishta Ganapathi is a tantric form of Ganesha .He is depicted as red in colour, naked and intoxicated. In some forms he is shown amorously playing with his consort seated on his left lap (nari-yoni-rasasvada lolupam, Kama mohitam).Like Matangi, the Ucchishta-Ganapati too is associated with unclean things.

Matangi Bengal hand coloured lithograph 1880

54.1. But, basically, Matangi as Mahavidya severs attachment to the limited understanding of the world in terms of ‘pure’ or ‘impure’. She challenges the normally accepted concepts and values in an established social order. She brings into question the very notions of beauty, goodness, honour, respect, decency, cleanliness and physical comfort etc. She instils in the heart of the Sadhaka the faith that all existence is pervaded by the goddess and there is nothing that is outside the goddess; She pervades all; and within her there are no distinctions of ‘pure’ or ‘impure’. She guides the Sadhaka to transcend the artificial – manmade’ demarcations of beauty-ugliness, cleanliness – polluted or pure -profane etc. Her message forms the very core of the Tantra ideology.


Saraswatyaya Namo Nityam Bhadrakalyaya Namo Namah

Vedavedantavedanga Vidyasthanebhya Eva Cha

Ucchisthachandali Sri Matangeswari

Sarvagyanavashamkari Swaha

X. Kamala

55.1. Kamala or Kamalatmika is reckoned as the tenth or the last of the Mahavidyas, while Kali is the first and the foremost Mahavidya. It is often asserted that there are no distinctions of superiority/inferiority among the Mahavidya, yet Kamala is not as important as kali in the Mahavidya tradition. While Kali represents the highest state of consciousness, Kamala is related to material wellbeing and worldly comforts. She represents the mundane state of consciousness that the Sadhaka seeks to restrain and finally overcome. Kali is transcendental experience, while Kamala is what is ‘here –and-now’. Kamala Mahavidya is one who binds to the world; and is not seen as a liberator. The Kali is the liberator (mukti dayani); and the Kali-consciousness is the ultimate.

56.1. Some wonder how Kamala who is derived from auspicious aspects of Lakshmi the bestower of wealth and good luck could be included in the group of tantric goddesses. However, the Mahavidya texts explain that Kamala as Mahavidya is not the same as Shri or Lakshmi. She differs from them in many aspects; and she indeed is a Mahavidya in her own right. Kamala Mahavidya is not the spouse or the beloved of Vishnu. She is an independent goddess and does not play the role of a spouse. Kamala is associated with the Shiva-cult just as the other Mahavidyas. She is, at times, addressed as Raudri, Sati, Kapali and Gauri. Although benign and auspicious qualities are prominent in her character, there are many fearsome and dangerous aspects to her nature. Kamala is a destroyer of demons. Similar to some other Mahavidya: Kamala wears garlands of skulls (runda-mala); her form is awful (ghora), terrible (bhima) and of a negative nature (tamasi). One of her many names refers to her as Kalaratri, a fearsome aspect of kali. Kamala is also said to share some of the characteristics of Matangi, Dhumavati, and Bhairavi who are noted for their scary aspects.

55.2. Kamala as Mahavidya is said to be a reflection of Shri the Vedic deity as also of Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and beauty. Mahalakshmi is celebrated in the Devi Mahatmya as the Supreme Goddess manifesting herself as Maha-Sarasvathi (Sattva), Mahalakshmi (Rajas) and as Maha-Kali (Tamas);    and as one who presides over every aspect of the Universe. And, Kamala in the Sri Vidya tradition represents the Supreme Mother herself. Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar in his most magnificent set of Kamalamba Navavarana kritis celebrated the glory of Sri Kamalamba.

All these deities are widely worshipped. But, Mahavidya Kamala is different from all of them. Kamala here is not endowed with the powers of Mahalakshmi; she enjoys neither the prestige of Mahalakshmi in the Tantra tradition, nor the wide acceptance of Lakshmi in the orthodox tradition. Kamala as Mahavidya is a tantric deity who is invoked mainly in rituals seeking wealth, power and   hidden treasures.

Kamala by Basudha Nandy

Kamala by Basudha Nandy

56.2. The formulators of the Mahavidya cult, it appears, modified or downplayed the essential benign aspects of Shri and Lakshmi in order to render Kamala more suitable to be included in the Mahavidya group. They stressed her independence (svatantrya), minimized her role as a spouse and gave her terrible forms that are associated with the deities of the Shiva cult. Thus, Kamala retains the character of Lakshmi; and definitely is linked to Lakshmi; yet, she is different from Lakshmi. Kamala‘s portrait has been drawn selectively. Kamala, the Tantric form of Lakshmi, combines in herself many auspicious virtues and attributes along with a few terrible aspects. Like Kali, the Tantric Kamala embraces the light and the darkness, for she is the totality. She can be propitiated both for worldly goals and for spiritual attainments.

57.1. The iconographies of Mahavidya Kamala  (she of the lotus ) describe her as   strikingly beautiful  glowing in her golden complexion , as  a powerful goddess in her own might sitting alone (not accompanied by the spouse) on a lotus amidst a pond.


And, sometimes she is flanked by two or four elephants showering water or nectar over her from bejewelled pots held in their upraised trunks. She holds two lotuses in her two upper hands; wears a crown sparkling with gems. Kamala gestures mudras bestowing boons (varada) and fearlessness (abhaya). Kamala is presented as the goddess who destroys poverty, and as one who grants wellbeing, prosperity and fertility.


57.2 Kamala indeed resembles Gaja-Lakshmi. The lotus on which she is seated denotes fertility and life. It also suggests spirituality, power and authority. The elephants stand for royal authority, wealth and magnificence. They are also related to clouds, rain and fertility.

“She has a beautiful golden complexion. She is being bathed by four large elephants who pour jars of nectar over her.  In her four hands she holds two lotuses and makes the signs of granting boons and giving assurance.  She wears a resplendent crown and a silken dress. I pay obeisance to Her who is seated on a lotus in a lotus posture.”

58.1. Kamala is the beginning and the end of our worship of the Great Goddess. We initially approach the Mother seeking help in achieving human needs and desires like health, prosperity, and a happy family. We complete our understanding of the Mother by seeing her presence even in the ordinary things and experiences of life; and in realizing there is nothing that is outside her. She is in everything and she transcends everything.

Sadachara Priye Devi Shuklapushpamvarapriye

Gomayadishuchiprite Mahalakshmi Namostu Te

Hasauh Jagatprayutai Swaha

Sources and references

1. Tantric Visions and Divine Feminine by David Kinsley.

2. Ten Mahavidyas: Manifestations of cosmic female energy by Dr. PC Jain and Dr. Daljit

3. The Dasa (ten) Mahavidyas

4. Dus Mahavidyas: the ten forms of the Devi by Saipriya Viswanathan.

5. The ten Mahavidyas by Hancock-Jaime

6. The Tantric way- Art, Science and Ritual by Ajit Mookerji and Madhu Khanna

7. Mahavidyas by Veeraswamy Krishnaraj

8. The Mahavidya: the powers of consciousness conceptualized by Devadatta kali

9. Wisdom Goddesses: Mahavidyas and the Assertion of Femininity in Indian Thought

10. Dus Mahavidya

The pictures are taken from internet


Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Mahavidya


Tags: , , ,

13 responses to “Dasha Mahavidya – Part Four

  1. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 1:23 am

    It is all very complicated but made a very interesting read..
    Very well reasearched and given to us in simple form.

    Tantra is beyond simple human comprehension. Unless one is steeped in Sri Vidya Upasana.


    • sreenivasaraos

      March 18, 2015 at 1:24 am

      Dear Usha, Thank you. The way of the Mahavidya is an extreme tantric form (vamachara).It is not suitable for normal householders.

      The Sri Vidya tradition, especially the Kadi matha, which you are familiar with, is of a totally different kind.The Kadi_ matha (with its mantra starting with letter Ka) is regarded the oldest ; and its attitude and worship is Sattvic. It insists on virtue, discipline and purity of rituals. The Kadi_ matha is known as Para Vidya where the worship (archana) is conducted in the space of one’s heart (hrudayakasha madhye).

      Sri Muthuswami Dikshitarwas initiated into Srividya Maha Shodasakshari Diksha of the Kadi matha: maatmaka kadi mathanusthano. Sri Dikshitar followed the Kadi practice of worship of Sri Chakra from Bhupura the outer square to the Bindu the central point. He had a certain pride in his tradition; in his kriti Kamalambikai, he states “prabala guruguha sampradaya anthah karayayai” referring to his hallowed tradition.

  2. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 1:26 am

    Can you please give the English meaning of this sloka?

    Dhyayeyam rathna peede suka kala padidham Shrunvathim shyamalanghim
    Nyasthaikangrim sasi sakaladaram Vallagim Vadhayanthim
    Kalhara Bathamalaam Niyamidha vilasath Cholikam Raktha vasthram
    Mathangeem Sangapaathram madhura madhumitham chitrakothbasibalaam


    • sreenivasaraos

      March 18, 2015 at 1:26 am

      Dear Bala, I am delighted to see you. I think of you often, whenever I came across a classic Tanjore painting. I trust you are doing well at home and in your art career as well.

      The sloka you quoted is one of the Dhyana-slokas of Matangi in her benign form. I understand it is taken from Sarada-Tilka Tantra (12.128) a tantric treatise which deals with worship of gods and goddesses attributed to Laksmana Desikendra. It could be freely translated as “I meditate on Matangi, Who, seated on a gem-studded throne, listens to the sweet utterances of the parrot, is aglow with youth, has one foot on the lotus, has her forehead bedecked with the crescent moon, plays on the veena, has a garland of jasmine flowers, has a fitting bodice adorning her, wears red garments, has a conch-vessel, is inebriated with honey sweet wine, has the vermilion mark on her forehead adding luster to it. Matangi, the daughter of sage Matanga, supportively plays the ruby-bejeweled veena leisurely in her self-glory charming in her sweet vocal expression of song her delicately soft limbs, lustrous like sapphires”.

      I have slightly expanded it under Paragraph 50.5.of Part Four of the post.

      Please do start with Part One –Introduction; then follow in sequence.

      Please keep in touch.

      Warm Regards

  3. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 1:28 am

    Dear Rao,

    Yesterday 2 parts – this morning one – in the afternoon one..

    Did not know earlier about these blogs from you.

    My wife has also read the first two , Very informative.Awesome is the correct description.

    So many cults and practices makes India a melting pot of cultures. Amazing.

    I have heard about Devi Upachakars in TN. Barathi spent few years in Banaras Hindu University studying sanskrit – and had Bengali connection there and became Kali Baktha too.

    Will even read it again too – and the colorful illustrations makes it a solid research paper.Thank you.

    Regards, NKR

    • sreenivasaraos

      March 18, 2015 at 1:29 am

      Dear Mr. and Mrs.Ravi , I am grateful to both of you.


  4. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Dear manyanbala, It is always a delight to talk to you.

    As regards the post you just read, it is about Mahavidya the tantric deities. Matangi one of the Mahavidya and in that tradition she is depicted as a Tantric goddess. Her iconography in other texts and traditions are, however, different. For your purpose, her Mahavidya form might not be suitable. You may have to adopt the orthodox forms.

    (i)The goddess of dark or blue complexion should be seated upon a throne set with rubies, with one of her feet placed upon a lotus while holding a veena.The goddess is also listening to a parrot talking to her. Rajamatangi is adorned with a crescent moon on her crown which is tied with a garland of blue lilies, a bright vermilion mark on her forehead and she is richly ornamented.

    (ii) According to the Shyamaladandakam, Matangi plays a ruby-studded veena and speaks sweetly. The Dhyana Mantra describes her to be four-armed, with a dark emerald complexion, full breasts anointed with red kumkum powder, and a crescent moon on her forehead. She carries a noose, a goad, a sugarcane bow and flower arrows, which the goddess Tripura Sundari is often described to holdShe is also described to love the parrot and is embodied in the nectar of song.

    (iii) Sri Raja Mathangi travels in Gayachakra, a chariot which when moves, the atmosphere will be vibrating with sweet music. She is the embodiment of Nada (Sound). She stands for the propagation of Jnana (Knowledge) , art, education, music and so on.

    In Sri Vidya, Raja Matangi is known as Manthrini. She also presides over all the mantra svaras or the articulation of mantras. Matangi is emerald green in color. She plays the Veena that represents the Nada or Primordial Sound in the form of Vibration. She is said to have Parrot in her Hands. Raja Matangi is the Deity of Thought. This Thought is the Source of Word or Speech. Hence, she is called Jnana Sakti of Tripurasundari. As Manthrini, Sri Raja Mathangi is the symbol of knowledge. She is also an amsa of Sri Meenakshi of Madurai and Sri Saraswathi.

    Please also check the following links and see the picture attached fro Sritattvanidhi a compilation made in 19th century by the then Maharaja of Mysore.

    Please keep talking


  5. sreenivasaraos

    March 18, 2015 at 1:32 am

    this was one of ur superb series – wud like to see this in a book – so much to know, so much to learn – i know so little and its always great to learn from ur enlightening posts,

    well this detachment aspect of Dhumavati – and not liking others being happy – amking people become spiritual having lost interest in life’s own pleasures- etc bears resemblence to some male Gods – i suppose – Lord Saturn eg and also an aspect of Vishnu or Narayan also is said to have this aspect too – amking people renounce world’s pleasure by giving enough suffering!

    the other version with riding on a crow – also links to death – as crow does – meaning wordlly pleasures of beauty etc lead to death?

    quite right – somebody as cynical as Dhumavati granting someone’s desires and wishes – is something worth acheiving free from the hands of devil as they hv passed thru Dhumavati

    in the path of uniting with THe One – thru dasha Mahavidyas – bagalmukhi is required too – to know the oppposites so as to dissolve them – to unite the One and Only,

    self control is alo a way to Sidhi to unite with the one,

    enemy into silence is also required to overcome obstacles in this world to traverse beyond – this dasha Mahavidyas simultaneously provide means for spiritual and wolrdly gains as in all Tantras

    as u know there are many types of Saraswati – and one with peacocks too – i hv some books only on Saraswati – where one form resembles this matangi form – another form has similarity from this chaushatti (64) kala aspect

    yes tantric Saraswati – u r right – but that too another variation yet distictly different different – the ultimate Saraswati that we today know is said to be the highest sublime forrm, and as

    some schools of thought portray Gnaesha – not the Ucchista one – but soem other i dont remeber is depicted as Saraswati’s consort too

    yes kamala is needed too as a Mahavidya – to show this side – very much a part of life that one has to go thru – and so as u said thus she should be very much independent as all mahavidyas – are – independent yet avatars of kali – showing the transcendental path to divinity – rising above all to unite iwth the one and only SUPREME ONE ,

    a very very well written post

    u know that we from our fathers side are shevaks of Klaighat temple of Cal –

    and this was also from a female’s side inheritance – shows the imporatnce of females as always and also from my mom’s side am descendent of RR Roy – where also beleives that one descends from females too – that doesnt necessairly mean that they beleive in matriarchal soceities but imporatnce to both parents a sshould be if seen from scientific side too – we inherit genes from bith sides – the 22 /+1 pairs of chromosomes

    anyway nd also from my music side hv to riyaz Aum too but i do skip and end up being rebuked by my music teacher

    anyway i know very little on these – so i pester u with questions – that i know little is evident from such long comments – empty vessels sound much – u must be thinking – but pls do excuse me if i ask u too much – but i ask becoz of my ignorance and so pls pardon me,



    • sreenivasaraos

      March 18, 2015 at 1:32 am

      Dear Sreechandra, I am glad you found time to read through the series. Thank you for raising a few issues.


  6. sacs hermes kelly pour femme imitation

    July 28, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Wow you have some great friends! I am drooling!
    sacs hermes kelly pour femme imitation

  7. Aravind T R

    November 22, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    Great work sir. I was pondering with an expression seen in a kriti of Deekshitar. This post gave a partial answer. Again few new questions arose. My doubts are due to my ignorance and not to be considered as a defect on the part of this article. Thank you !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: