Tag Archives: Matrika

Nabhi -Vidya: Part Three

Continued from Part Two


In Part two, we read about the 24 Mantras of the Purvanga-Vidya; arranged in three sets, each having 8 Mantras  (3×8)

In the present part (Part Three), let’s look at the eight Mantras of the Raja-Vidya; and 4 Mantras of the Nrupathi-Vidya (8+4 =12).  These together with the 24 Mantras of the Purvanga-Vidya (24+12 = 36) form the main body of the Nabhi-Vidya.

Further, we will also talk about the four independent Mantras (Mantras from 37 to 40): Matruka; Guru-natha-paduka; Baala; and Para. With these, we would be completing 40 Mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya

And, there is The Epilogue (Uttara-bhaga), which appears following the 40 Mantras, instructing the ardent Sadhaka to chant (Japa) the Mantras, structured as per the formats of the Kadi and Hadi-Vidya-s, as many times as possible (Yethah Vidyaya yatha-shakthi-japet-nityam) – at least a hundred times in a day.

And, in the Phala-sruthi, it is assured that Nabhi-Vidya is so powerful as that reciting the Nabhi-Vidya once is equivalent to repetition (Japa) of the Pancha-dashi Mantra one Lakh times.  It would also bestow prosperity both here (Iha) and in hereafter (Para); and, will also grant the unshakable (a-chanchala) Self-knowledge (Atma-jnana).

Devi Yantra by Pieter Weltevrede

Raja-Vidya and Nrupathi-Vidya

The terms Raja (राजा) and Nrupathi (नृपति) the Lord of men, both refer to the Kings. In the context of the Puranas, the Kings of the bygone eras are counted as sixteen. According to some, these sixteen Kings or Royal Sages are:

(1) Gaya;(2) Ambarisha;(3) Shashi-bindu;(4) Anga;(5) Pruthu; (6) Maruthi;(7) Sahrothra; (8) Parasurama;(9) Sri Rama; (10) Bharatha;(11) Dilipa;(12) Brighu;(13) Ranthideva;(14) Hayashi;(15) Mandatha; and, (16) Bhagiratha.

The number Sixteen also indicates the sixteen lettered Shodashi-Mantra.

Nabhi vidya drawing

The Raja-Vidya (8) and Nrupathi Vidya (4) together have twelve Mantras.

In the Key-sloka, appearing at the beginning, the terms Sthana (Breasts) and Yugma (a pair or twice) are used (Bala pica ru-ru yugmam Raja-vidyaya shtanabha). These terms hold out various suggestions.

These imply that the Mantras involve both the Shodashi and Para-Shodashi-Mantras; the Kadi and Hadi Vidya and the mixture of the twos; and, also the repetition of the Hrllekha (Hrim) at the end of each Kuta.

Accordingly, there will be three types of Shodashi-Mantras: as in the Kadi, Hadi and in the combination of both (Kadi-Hadi).

Similarly, the Para-Shodashi-Mantra will be of another three types: in Kadi, Hadi and the combinations of the both (Kadi-Hadi).

Thus, the Shodashi-Mantra for three times; and also, Para-Shodashi mantra for three times (a total of 6 times) will have to recited.

These along with the repletion of the Hrllekha at the end of each Kuta (2), will together amount to 12 (3x2x2) Mantras of the Raja-Vidya and the Nrupathi-Vidya.  

These 12 of Raja-Vidya and Nrupathi-Vidya, together with the 24 of the Purvanga-Vidya, will amount to 36.

Design Pieter Weltevrede


As per the text of the Nabhi-Vidya, the eight Mantras of the Raja-Vidya (numbering from 25 to 32), are composed of the Shodashi and Para-Shodashi Mantras, according to both the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas, in their proper order. Each has to be rendered twice.

The Hrllekha (ह्रीँ) will appears twice at the end of the second rendering of the Kadi-Shodashi; Kadi-Para-Shodashi; Hadi-Shodashi; and, Hadi-Para-Shodashi.

Raja Vidya

The expansion of the  formats , prescribed as above, would yield the sets of Mantras as under :

Raja vidya 25 Kadi Shodasi

Raja Vidya 26 Kadi Shodashi Hrllekha dwayam

Raja Vidya 27 Kadi Para Shodashi

Raja Vidya 28 Kadi Para shodasi Hrllekha dwayam

Raja Vidya 29 Hadi Shodashi

Raja Vidya 30 Hadi Shodasi Hrllekha Dwayam

Raja Vidya 32 Hadi Para shodashi Hrllekha Dwayam

[ I acknowledge with gratitude the Source : ]

Devi Yantra by Pieter Weltevrede


As regards the Nrupathi-Vidya – the set of four Mantras from 33 to 36 – it follows a slightly more complicated sequence.

Here, Maha-Shodashi -Mantra of the Kadi-Vidya is first rendered as per its right sequential order (Anuloma); and, that is followed by Maha-Shodashi-Mantra as per the Hadi-Vidya; but, in its reverse order (Viloma).  

The, Maha-Shodashi-Mantra of the Kadi-Vidya is rendered in its regular order (Anuloma); and is then followed by its Hadi-Vidya version; but, in its reverse order (Viloma). At the end the Hrllekha (ह्रीँ) is repeated (Dvyam).

Next, the Para-Shodashi-Mantra of the Hadi-Vidya in its proper order (Anuloma); and then its Kadi-Vidya version in its reverse order (Viloma): Nrupathi yuga vathamsa.

And, finally, Para-Shodashi-Mantra of Hadi-Vidya is rendered in its regular order (Anuloma); and, that is followed by its Kadi-Vidya version; but, in reverse order (Viloma). And, the Hrllekha (ह्रीँ)) will appear twice (Dvyam) at the end.

There would, thus, be four Mantras in the Nrupathi-Vidya.

[There is a faith that by rendering a Mantra in Anuloma; and following it up with Viloma will enhance its power]

Nrpathi Vidya

As per the above format , the composition of the Nrupathi-Vidya-Mantras would be as under :

Nrupathi Vidya 33 Kadi Anuloma Hadi Viloma Shodashi

Nrpathi Vidya 24 Kadi Anuloma Hadi Viloma

Nrupathi Vidya 35 Hadi Anuloma Kadi Viloma

Devi Yantra by Pieter Weltevrede


The number 36 is said to have a symbolic significance. These are said to represent the 36 Tattva-s, the elements or the building blocks of the created world (Prapancha);

36 tattvas

The 37th Mantra (Matrika-vidya) is said to symbolize the emergence of the created world; following the principle of Pancikarana (पञ्चीकरण), which is the creation of the elements (bhūtasarga) by a process in which subtle matter transforms itself into gross matter.

The 38th Mantra (Guru-Natha-Vidya) represents the appearance of the Maha-Guru in the presence of the Sadhaka, the Devotee.

The 39th Mantra (Baala-Vidya) is the initiation (Upadesha) into the Baala-mantra, the primary Mantra of the Srividya Upasana.

And, the 40th Mantra (Para-Vidya) is the culmination, the highest bliss, the realization of the identity with the Supreme Mother Principle.


There is also the concept of Adhvan (अध्वन्). The term Adhvan (अध्वन्) refers to the path or to the hierarchy of levels (of emanation as also of withdrawal). it is either the path on which one treads; or the path which one must discard.

The six ways in which the Absolute manifests Itself in the process of creation (aadhvan). Each of them represents a different aspect of energy. Each path consists of a particular number of entities which lead to the successive stages in the evolutionary process, from the most subtle to the gross. In reverse order, from the gross to the subtle, they symbolize the process of involution (or, Sahāra) and serve as a means of attaining liberation or reintegration.

The combination of all of these six Adhvan-s: the three objective Adhvan-s; and, the three subjective Adhvan-s is called Shad-adhvan, the sixfold Adhvan-s. The six Adhvan-s (Shad-adhvan) are said to be grouped in two sets; each having three Adhvan-s:

(1) An internal path, utilizing linguistics to represent inner realities (Vara-adhvan, Pada-adhvan, Mantra-adhvan)

The Matrka-akshara is said to correspond to Varna-adhvan (syllable or alphabet). The different Kuta combinations will show the Pada-adhva (the word-formation); and, the combinations of all these Padas are seen in the Greatest Shodashi Mantra revealing the Mantra-adhva.

This course of the threefold Adhvan-s is called Vācyā-adhva (Sentence). The term Vācya also means ‘that which is observed, seen, realized’.

(2) And an external path, representing the structure of the objective universe (Bhuvanā-adhva, Tattva-adhvan, Kaala-adhva). The pathway of the worlds (Bhuvanādhvan); the pathway of elements (Tattvādhvan); and, the pathway leading through multiple phases (Kalādhvan)

These Adhvan-s (first Bhuvanā, then Tattvā and finally Kaalā) are hierarchically graded as gross (sthūla), subtle (sūkma), and, subtlest (para). The gross path is called Bhuvanā-dhva; the subtle path Tattvā-dhva; and, the subtlest path Kalā-dhva.

The 36 Tattvas (elements) are said to be the building blocks of creation. Their complete system is called Tattva-adhvan: the course of all elements. This path is subtle (sūkma).

The path (Adhvan), which is more refined than Tattva-adhvan is Kaala-adhva.   This path is the subtlest; and, encompasses all the thirty-six elements.

It is said; the LaghuShodashi; the Maha-Shodashi; and, the Para-Shodashi Mantras will lead the Devotee to realize the Kaala-adhva.

 devi 2222

Following the 36 Mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya (24-Purvanaga Vidya + 8-Raja Vidya + 4 Nrupathi Vidya), come four independent Mantras: (1) Matrika-Vidya; (2) Natha-Vidya (Sri Maha-Paduka); (3) Baala Mantra; and, (4) Para-Vidya.  All these together make the 40 Mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya.

It is said; the 36 Mantras of the Purvanga-Vidya, Raja-Vidya and the Nrupathi-Vidya, essentially, pray for the removal of ignorance and the emergence of true knowledge. The next four Mantras are about experience of the world through sounds; the emergence of divine grace in the form of the Guru; his initiation into Bala-Mantra; and, the realization of the highest state ‘Para’. Thus, the Nabhi-Vidya traces the path of the Sadhana, in all its phases, to attain liberation.


Matruka (मातृका) Vidya

In Tantra, the fifty or fifty-one letters including vowels as well as consonants from A to Ksha, of the Devanagari alphabet, the Varnamala, are believed to be the Matrikas themselves. It is believed that they are infused with the power of the Divine Mother herself. The Matrikas are considered to be the subtle form of the letters (varna). These letters, combined, make up syllables (pada), which are put together to make a sentence (vakya).  And, it is of these elements that a mantra is composed. It is believed that the power of mantra derives from the fact that the letters of the alphabet are, in fact, forms of the goddess.

Matrika or Matruka (मातृका) is the collective term for all letters and sounds. They are Mother-like; because, they form the basis or the source for all forms of knowledge as also of the planes of existence (Lokas). Matrika-s are the subtle form of force that is behind every thought, speech and Mantra.

It is said; the Matrika is the binding energy that makes it possible to understand words or symbols strung together as language. The text Siva-Sutra defines Matrika as ‘the ground of all knowledge’ (jñānādhisthāna-mātrikā– Shiva Sutra:1-4).

And in Shaktha traditions, Matrikas, the sounds, their vibrations and the combination of vibrations interacting with one another is regarded as   Matrika-Shakthi, the creative energies that manifest. It is believed that they are infused with the power of the Divine Mother herself; and, are, in fact, the varied forms of the Mother-goddess.

The Matrika-Shakthi is also said to be the power of sound that is the matrix of the cosmos; and, manifests as the letters in the alphabet. All things are forms of that creative energy, the Matrika Shakthi, which is never separate from Shiva, the Absolute.

It is also said; in the Matrika Chakra, the sixteen vowels from ‘a’ to ‘ah’ represent the energies of Shiva. And their unity with Matrika ‘m’ creates the universal mantra of Shiva ‘Aham’.


In Tantra, Sri, revered as Devi, is Matrika, the Mother (Matrika-mayi), the Supreme Mother Goddess (Deveem Mataram Sriyam). She is also the power of sound (Matrika Shakti) , the matrix of the cosmos manifest as the alphabets. The phrase ‘Suvarna-rajata-srajaam’ is also understood to mean that Sri is adorned with Matrika-Mala, the garland of letters/alphabets woven with vowels (Suvarna) and consonants (Rajata). Sri is thus Mantra-mayi, the origin; and, the essence of all Mantras.

The Mātka deities (divine mothers) are associated with every letter of the Sanskrit alphabet and represent a certain energy or set of energies and denote various characteristics inherent in the power of the respective alphabet.


The Matrika-Mantra, as it appears in the Nabhi-Vidya (as Mantra number 37), reads:

ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं ऐं क्लीं सौः ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं  / अँ आँ इँ ईँ  उँ ऊँ …. ळँ क्षँ सौः ऐं  क्लीं  ह्रीं श्रीं  //

Om srim hrim klim sauh hrim srim / am̐ ām̐ im̐ īm̐ um̐ ūm̐ … ḻam̐ kṣam̐ sauh  aim klim hrim srim  

The Matrika-Mantra is, essentially, a prayer, a submission to the Supreme Mother Goddess seeking her blessings to help overcome one’s deficiencies; to grant divine grace and pardon; to expand one’s consciousness; to energise; to grant emancipation; and, to realize one’s true identity with the Mother Goddess.

Guru Paduka 2

Natha-Vidya (Sri Maha-paduka)

Guru-paduka is a mantra that brings the grace of the Guru on the initiate. During the process of initiation (dīkṣhā) , the names of the three generations of  Gurus are revealed to the disciple. Three Gurus that are worshipped in the Guru-paduka-mantra are: one’s own Guru (Sva-Guru); Guru’s Guru (Parama -Guru); and, that Guru’s Guru (Parameṣṭhi Guru).

[The term Paduka is at times interpreted to mean the state of equilibrium (Samarasya) between the principles of Siva-Shakthi]

One’s own Guru enlightens the disciple about the nature of the Self. The Parama-Guru make one to reflect on the teachings of the Guru; and, realize its glory. The Parameṣṭhi Guru will enable the ardent disciple to experience the divine bliss of the self, while the disciple is still being in her/his body.

Guru paduka 3

There are different mantras for the Guru, the Paramaguru and the Parameṣṭhi Guru. At the time of initiation, the Guru, apart from initiating a mantra, also gives Guru-pādukā-mantra.The Guru-pādukā -mantra is given for the worship of the Guru who is initiating the disciple.

  The Mahā-pādukkā Mantra as per the Natha-vidya of the Nabhi- Vidya reads:

श्रीं  ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः  ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं  /  हंसः  सोहं  हसक्षमलवरयूं   / सौः  क्लीं  ऐं  सहक्षमलवरयीं  हंसः सोहं हंसः / श्री गुरु नाथय नमः॥

śrī hrī klī ai sau hrī śrī / hasa soha hasakamalavarayū / sau klī sahakamalavarayī  hasa soha hasa / Sri Guru-nathaya namaha //


At the end of the Guru-Mandala, salutations are submitted to the lineage of the Gurus (Guru-Parampara), beginning from the Adi-Guru, the ever-auspicious Lord Sadashiva; in the midst of which Sri Shankaracharya; and, thereon up to my Guru. I pay my obeisance to all the Gurus.

Sadāśivasam-ārambhā śakarācārya-madhyamā | Asmad-ācārya-paryanta vande Guru paraparā ||

सदाशिवसमारम्भां शंकराचार्यमध्यमां। अस्मदाचार्यपर्यन्तं वन्दे गुरु परंपरां॥



The Bala-mantra is the basic mantra of the Sri Vidya Upasana.  When an ardent devotee is initiated into the Srividya, the Guru, initially, teaches her / him the worship of the young Bala-Sundari, with Bala-mantra of three Bijakshara-s: Aim (ऐँ -Vac-Bija); Klim (क्लीँ Kamaraja-Bija); and, Sau (सौः -Shakthi-Bija): (Aim of speech, Klim of wish; and Sauh of Shakthi).

Vac-bhavam Prathama-Bijam / Kamarajam Dwithiyakam / Trithiyam Shakthi-Kutakhyam / Nigama tri-yodhrutham/ Ittham Kumari-Vidya Bija-trayam-udiritham //

Its Rishi is Sri Dakshinamurthi; its Chhandas is Gayatri; and, its Deity (Devatha) is Baala-Tripura-Sundari. Ai bīja; Sau śhakti; klī kīlakam.


After the practice of this Mantra for a considerable length of time, the devotee is lead into the fifteen -lettered Pancha-dashi-Mantra. Thereafter, the Sadhaka practices the sixteen-letters Shodashi-Mantra; the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra and the Para-Shodashi -Mantra, for the worship of Tripura-Sundari. . From thereafter, the Sadhaka gains authority to practice the most secret and more complicated modes of Srividya-sadhanas.


Apart for its basic form, the Baala-mantra is said to have two others

Bālā-tripura-sundarī -mantra of six Bījākara-s

 – ऐंक्लींसौःसौःक्लीं ऐं

(om – ai – klī – sau — sau – klī – ai)


Bālā-navākarī-mantra of nine Bījākara-s

 – ऐंक्लींसौःसौःक्लींऐंऐंक्लीं सौः

( Om – ai – klī – sau — sau – klī – ai — ai – klī – sau)

  Bālā navākarī mantra is one of the most powerful mantras in Śrī Vidyā Upasana.


The Baala-Mantra, as it appears in the text of the Nabhi-Vidya, composed of three Bījākaras ऐं – क्लीं – सौः (ai – klī – sau) reads:

ऐं ऐं ऐं / क्लीं क्लीं क्लीं /  सौः सौः सौः  ऐं //

ai ai ai / klī klī klī / sau sau sau  ai //

The Bīja ऐं (ai), known as Vāg-bhava-bīja, helps in attaining true knowledge. The second Bīja क्लीं (klī), known as Kāma-bīja, ignites the desire to attain Her feet; and, the third Bīja isसौः (sau), also known as Parabīja, is regarded as the Mantra of the Supreme Goddess Parā-śhaktī. This Bīja energises the aspirant to realize her/his true Self.



The Supreme (Anuttar-tattva) Mantra which is beyond mundane explanations; the culmination of all the Upadesha-s; and, one which leads to supreme bliss, is said to be the Para-Mantra. The text of the Nabhi-Vidya concludes with the Para-Mantra.

   श्रीं  सौः श्रीं (Om-Srim-Sauh-Srim-Om)

Devi Yantra by Pieter Weltevrede

Uttara-bhagha (Epilogue)

The Uttara-bhagha (Epilogue) contains a series of Mantras for contemplation on and worship of the Rishis (Rishyadi-manasa-pujyanta-vidya).  And, in the Devi-Puja-kalpa there are details of the worship-procedures (Kara-nyasa, Anga-nyasa, Dhyana-slokas etc) for the Sadhana of the Srividya Shodasha-akshari; Srividya Maha-Shodasha-akshari; and Srividya Para-Shodasha-askshari Mantras.

 It is assured one who practices (Japa-Sadhana) the sacred Nabhi-Mantra, with utmost diligence and dedication (नित्यं जपे विनियोगः), to the best one’s ability (Yatha-shakthi), will undoubtedly achieve the most fabulous results – एतद् विद्याय ध्यान यथा-शक्ति जपेत्.

And, in the Phala-sruthi, it is assured that Nabhi-Vidya is so powerful as that reciting the Nabhi-Vidya once is equivalent to repetition (Japa) of the Pancha-dashi Mantra one Lakh times.  It would also bestow prosperity both here (Iha) and in hereafter (Para); and, will also grant the unshakable (a-chanchala) Self-knowledge (Atma-jnana).

lotus offering

Asya Sri Nabhi-Vidya Maha -Mantrasysa Ananda-Bhairava-Rishihi / Amruta-Virat-Gayatri-Chandhaha / Sri-Maha-Tripura-Sundari Raja-Rajeshwari Devatha / Aim, Bijam / Sau Shakthi-hi / Klim kilakam / Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari Anugraha-prasada sidyarthe jape-viniyogaha //Balaya-nyasaha / Lalithyadi Pancha Puja //




मस्त सन् मंगलानि भवंतु  / लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनोभवंतु

र्वे सन्तु निरामयाः सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः

भवंतावश्विनौ भवंति भवंतु भवंतो भवंतौ 

मंगल मंगलं मंगलः मंगलस्य मंगला मंगलाः

तत् सत्

शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः |


श्री महात्रिपुरसुन्दरीये  नमः

lotus red


Sources and References

  1. The Tantra of Sri Chakra by Prof. S.K. Ramachandra Rao (Sharada Prakashana, Bangalore,1983)
  2. .Srividya Shodasha-Maha-Mantramulu by Dr. Krovi Parthasarathy (Vijayawada-2020)
  3. Nabhi-Vidya (Short Works)
  4. Nabhi-Vidya ( a discussion)  by Purnananda Lahiri


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Posted by on January 31, 2022 in Nabhi Vidya, Sri Vidya


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Nabhi Vidya -Part Two


Nabhi Vidya -Part Two

Continued from Part One

Shiva shakthi

Just to recapitulate,

As mentioned in the Earlier Part, Nabhi-vidya is one of the lesser-known texts of the Sri Vidya tradition. There is no definite information either about its date or its author.

Its text is in the traditional format of conversation (Samvada); and, it takes place between Sri Hayagriva and Sage Agastya. And, it is, by no means, a lucid text; and, is not easy either to understand or to follow. It calls for enormous effort, discipline and dedication, over a long period of time, to practice Nabhi-Vidya-Sadhana. Further, since the Nabhi-Vidya is associated with the Vama-achara modes of worship, it is not in common practice either.

The Nabhi-Vidya, basically, is related to Shodashi-Maha-Shodashi-Mantras; which bestow true knowledge and leads to liberation (Jnana-prada, Moksha-karaka). It is hailed as the most sacred, secretive and powerful Mantra.

In the Nabhi -Vidya, the Shodashi, Maha- Para-Shodashi Mantras of Hadi Vidya, Kadi Vidya and Hadi-Kadi Vidya are mixed and combined in various patterns; out of which, 36 Mantras are generated.

In the Purva-bagha a total of 24 Mantras are elucidated, in three sections; with eight Mantras in each section. These set of 24 Mantras are called as Purvanga-Vidya. This is followed by Raja-Vidya (8 Mantras); and, Nrupathi-Vidya (4 Mantras). These amount to 36 Mantras (24+8+4).

The Mantras from 37 to 40 are four independent Mantras (Matruka; Guru-natha-paduka; Baala; and Para). Thus, there are, in all, 40 Mantras in the Nabhi-Vidya (Matruka, Natha, Baala, Para-yuvathi sametha pathu maam Nabhi-vidyaya ).

The Nabhi-vidya is a compilation of a varied sets of Mantras, related to Srividya, arranged according to a pre-determined order. The Nabhi-Vidya, primarily and essentially, is meant for practice (Sadhana) of Srividya.  There is not much philosophical discussion or theoretical speculation here.

The Epilogue (Uttara-bhaga), which appears following the 40 Mantras, instructs the ardent Sadhaka to chant (Japa) the recommended sets of Mantras, structured as per the formats of the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas, as many times as possible (Yethah Vidyaya yatha-shakthi-japet-nityam) – at least a hundred times in a day.

And, in the Phala-sruthi, it is assured that Nabhi-Vidya is so powerful as that reciting the Nabhi-Vidya once is equivalent to repetition (Japa) of the Pancha-dashi Mantra one Lakh times.  It would also bestow prosperity both here (Iha) and in hereafter (Para); and, will also grant the unshakable (a-chanchala) Self-knowledge (Atma-jnana).




The Nabhi-Vidya-Dhyana-Sloka, which appears at the commencement of the text, provides the key to its structure; as also to the composition and the arrangement of the verses within it.

The Purvanga-Vidya, the first Part of the Nabhi-Vidya, is composed of three sets, each having eight Mantras (3×8). The clue to its structure is given in the following Dhyana-sloka.

Dhyana sloka

Here, the Katapayadi technique of hashing comes into play; where, certain alphabets carry their numerical values.

Pi (1); Ka (1); Ru (2); Ru (2); Ba (3); La (3):

 It would then read as: 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3.

This relates to the Shodashi-Mantra.

As can be seen, the numerical 1 (one) appears twice. Of these, the first one (1) is said to be associated with the Bija of the Vac (Vac-bija- Aim); and, the latter (1) with Kuta of Vac (Vac-kuta). The sequence would then read as: Aim, Ka, Ye, Ee, La, Hrim. This sequence indicates the first segment of the Shodashi Mantra.

The numeral 2 (two) appears twice. Of these, the first instance of 2 indicates the Bija of Kamaraja (kamaraja-bija- Klim); and, the second (2), the Kamaraja kuta. And, this could be read as Klim, Ha, Sa, Ka, Ha, La, Hrim

The numeral 3 (three) also appears twice. Of these, the first 3 is said be associated with the Bija of the Shakthi (Sau); and, the latter one (3) with the Shakthi Kuta. And, it would then read as: Sau, Sa, Ka, La, Hrim

At the end of these sequences, the Bijakshara Srim would appear.


The combination of the three Kutas results in the sixteen-lettered Shodashi-Mantra, as per the Kadi-Vidya. While repeating; the first Kuta will not have its Hllekha (हृल्लेख)Hrim (ह्रीं).

The following would the resultant sequence of the Bijakshara of the Shodashi Mantra as per the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas.

Kadi: Aim, Ka, Ye, Ee, La, Hrim / Klim, Ha, Sa, Ka, Ha, La, Hrim / Sau, Sa, Ka, La, Hrim

ऐं ह्रीं / क्लीं ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / सौः स क ल ह्रीं / श्रीं

Hadi: Aim- Ha-Sa-Ka-La Hrim / Klim- Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Hrim / Sauh- Sa-Ka-La/ Hrim … Srim

ऐं ह्रीं / क्लीं   ह्रीं / सौः ह्रीं / श्रीं


Then, there is the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra, which in fact is composed of 28 Aksharas. Here, the Panchadashi-Mantra of 15 syllables is preceded by 8 letters regarded as Om- kara -pranavas; and, succeeded by 5 letters regarded as Shakthi-pranavas (8+15+5 =28).

Srim, Hrim, Klim, Aim, Sauh; (2) Aum, Hrim, Srim; (3) Ka-Ye-Ee-La-Hrim; (4) Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Hrim; (5) Sa-Ka-La- Hrim; and, (6) Sauh, Aim, Klim, Hrim, Srim

श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः (5 bīja-s) / ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं (3 bīja-s) / क ए ई ल ह्रीं (5 bīja-s) / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं (6 bīja-s) / स क ल ह्रीं (4 bīja-s) / सौः ऐं क्लीं ह्रीं श्रीं (5 bīja-s )


The opening Dhyana-sloka of the Nabhi-Vidya mentions the term Yugma (युग्म), meaning a pair, two or twice. That is meant to suggest that each Kuta of the Mantra has to be uttered twice. Its first utterance should not have the syllable Hrim (ह्रीं). But, when it is uttered second time it should have the Hrim-kara (ह्रीं), which term is named as Hllekha (हृल्लेख).

Such mode of recitation has to be applied to each Kuta.

The term Yugma (युग्म) is also meant to suggest that each of such pair of utterances have to be made in the Mantras of both the Kadi and the Hadi Vidyas. And, Hrim-kara (ह्रीं) should be uttered twice at the end of each of its Kuta-s. [ क ए ई ल क ए ई ल ह्रीं  ]

In this manner, every Kuta has to be repeated twice – both in their Kadi and Hadi forms.


As per the aforesaid procedures, the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra of the Kadi-Vidya would now be read as:

ऐँ ह्रीँ श्रीँ ऐँ क्लीँ सौः / ऐँ ऐँ / ह्रीँ ह्रीँ / क्लीँ क्लीँ / ह्रीँ ह्रीँ / सौः सौः / ह्रीँ ह्रीँ / श्रीँ श्रीँ / सौः क्लीँ ऐँ / श्रीँ ह्रीँ ऐँ //

Aum- Aim- Hrim- Srim-Aim- Klim-Sauh / Aim- Aim / Ka-Ye-Ee-La Ka-Ye-Ee-La Hrim -Hrim / Klim- Klim / Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Srim- Srim / Sauh- Sauh / Sa-Ka-La- Sa-Ka-La – Hrim – Hrim / Srim- Srim / Sauh- Klim-Aim / Srim- Hrim-Aim-Aum //

The Mantra in the Hadi-Vidya will also have to be repeated in a similar manner.


Now, the opening key sloka mentions the syllable Bha (), indicating the number 4. That is meant to say that the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra has to be repeated four times. Each time, as per both the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas. Then, one would have repeated it 8 (4×2) times. While doing so, at the end of the second rendering in each case, the Hrllekha (ह्रीँ) has to be uttered twice (Hrllekha-dvayam).

Further, these eight forms of the Mantras have to be rendered (1) in the sequential order of their letters (Anuloma); (2) in the reverse order of the letters (Viloma); and, (3) in the mixed order (Anuloma-Viloma). That means, three types of recitations for each of the eight mantras.

That would result in (4×2) = 8 x 3 = 24 Mantras.

stuti kusumanjali

Arrangement of the Purvanga-vidya

According to these sets of complicated instructions, the patterns, the combinations, the arrangements and the contents of the 24 Mantras (in three sets of eight each) of the Purvanga-Vidya of the Nabhi-Vidya would be as under:

Purvanga Vidya

Purvanga Vidya 2

Purvanga Vidya 3


Combinations and Compositions of the Mantras of the Purvanga-Vidya

As per the above-mentioned patterns for arrangement of the Bijakshara-s, the following would be the actual Mantras, in each case:

Purvanga Vidya _kadi sva Anuloma

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Sva Anuloma 2

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Hadi Anuloma 3

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Hadi Anuloma 4

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Hadi Anuloma 5

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Sva Anuloma 6

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Kadi Anuloma 7

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Kadi Anuloma 8

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Sva Anuloma 9

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Sva Anuloma 10


Purvanga Vidya Kadi Anuloma 11

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Anuloma 12

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Anuloma 13

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Sva Anuloma 14

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Anuloma 15

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Anuloma 16

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Sva Anuloma 17

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Sva Viloma 18

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Hadi Viloma 19

Purvanga Vidya Kadi Hadi Viloma 20

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Sva Viloma 21

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Sva Viloma 22

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Kadi Viloma 23

Purvanga Vidya Hadi Kadi Viloma 24

[ I acknowledge with gratitude the Source : ]

sri yantra

In the next part , let us take a look at the Raja-Vidya; Nrupathi -Vidya ; the four Mantras (from 37 to 40) as also at The Epilogue (Uttara-bhaga),

Navadurga 4




Part Three

Sources and References

1.The Tantra of Sri Chakra by Prof. S.K. Ramachandra Rao (Sharada Prakashana, Bangalore,1983)

2.Srividya Shodasha-Maha-Mantramulu by Dr. Krovi Parthasarathy (Vijayawada-2020)

Nabhi-Vidya (Short Works)

Nabhi-Vidya ( a discussion) by Purnananda Lahiri




Posted by on January 31, 2022 in Nabhi Vidya, Sri Vidya


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Nabhi Vidya -Part One


Dec 22, 2021

Please enlighten full details of NABHI-VIDYA.


Dear Sri Murthy

I started this as a reply to your comment. But, since it grew rather lengthy, I am posting it separately, as a blog. Pardon me for the delay in responding.

The subject, to say the least, is rather obscure; its text is also not widely known; and, not many have written about it. And, the manner in which the Nabhi-Vidya has been expounded is, indeed, very complicated.  I have attempted to write about its structure, as I have understood. I am aware, my presentation could be inadequate  at places. Please pardon me.

In case you are deeply interested in the subject, you may treat this as prompter; and, seek further guidance from a truly learned person.

I trust you will have the patience to read through this somewhat tedious post.

OK. Here we go ]

Shodashi Nabhi vidya. 2 jpg


The Nabhi-vidya is one of the lesser-known texts of the Sri Vidya lore. It, basically, is related to Shodashi and MahaShodashi-Mantras; there is also a brief use of the Para-Shodashi-Mantra, the highest, which bestows true knowledge and leads to liberation (Jnana-prada, Mukti-prada). The various combinations of these Mantras, constructed in their regular order (Anuloma) as also in their reverse order (Viloma), as per their formats in the Kadi, Hadi Vidyas and in the mixture of the two (Kadi-Hadi), are hailed as the most sacred, secretive and powerful Mantras.

However, there is no definite information either about its date or its author. And, the text, to say the least, is needlessly made complicated by admixing varieties of Mantra-formats of various Schools; combining them with intricate sets of meters; and, encrypting the verses by resorting to the Katapayadi technique of hashing. It could be interpreted in more than one way.

Nabhi-Vidya is, by no means, a lucid text; and, is not easy either to understand or to follow. It is not a text which expounds a philosophy. It is constructed as a set of Mantras, which the adherent has to earnestly and repeatedly recite (Japa), as a part of her / his Sadhana or Upasana-krama. Further, since the Nabhi-Vidya is associated with the Vama-achara modes of worship, it is not in common practice either.

Its text is in the traditional format of conversation (Samvada); and, it takes place between Sri Hayagriva and Sage Agastya. Here, Agastya requests the most learned (Sarva-shastra-visharada) Guru Hayagriva to impart to him the knowledge about the Self (Atma-jnana), which is pristine, most delightful (Ananda-rasa-sambrutham), eternal; and, unwavering (a-chanchala).

Hayagriva Daya-sindhau, Sarva-shastra-visharada / kena prapnothi niyata-mathma jnanam a-chanchalam / kena samprapnoya sakshmam Ananda-rasa sambrutham //

Then, Guru Hayagriva recounts a similar request made earlier by Devi Sri Parvathi to Lord Shiva, to reveal to her the secret knowledge about his true nature.

Deva-Deva-Mahadeva Sat-chidananda-vigraha / Yad-gopyam tava sarvasvam kathayasva mama-prabhuo //

In response to Devi’s request, the Supreme Lord Mahadeva reveals and teaches Devi Parvathi the ancient and hitherto hidden knowledge, the Nabhi Vidya.

Shrunu Devi pravakshyami rahasyam yad-vachoduna / Gopaniyam prayatnena purna-hanta maya-param //

Shiva teaching Parvathi

Further, Shiva mentions that the rare and precious (Tri-lokya-durlabham) Nabhi-Vidya consists thirty-six mantras (Nabhi-vidyatmakam-divya-shat-trishatu-tattva samkhyakam) representing thirty-six elements (tattva); together with Matruka, Natha, Baala and Para-Vidyas, it amounts to forty mantras (Matruka-Natha-Baalabhir-Paraya saha / chatvarimsat samkhyabhi aakhya Nabhi-iritha). These are arranged in varied combinations following the principles of Kadi and Hadi Vidyas, as indicated cryptically (Rahasya-sanketha).

Pica-ru-ru Bala yugmam kambhuka trimbakabha / Bala pica ru-ru yugmam Raja-vidyaya shtanabha / Nrupathi yuga vathamsa Matruka Natha Baala / Para-yuvathi sametha pathu maam Nabhi-vidyaya //

Dhyana sloka

Later, the Devi teaches Sage Hayagriva the Nabhi Vidya, composed of the Shodashi and Maha-Shodashi Mantras, each of which set to Kadi, Hadi and also to the combinations of the two (Kadi-Hadi). These twenty-four, along with the twelve arrived at with the doubling of the Hrillekhas (Srim- ह्रीं)) at the end of each Kuta (group), amount to thirty-six mantras (Shat-trimshat-tattva-sankhya). And, the other four being explicit Matruka, Natha, Baala and Para Mantras.

And, Hayagriva thereafter initiates Agastya into the sacred and hidden Nabhi-Vidya (Shiva-Shivaa rahsyam cha etad gopyam)

Guru Hayagriva mentions; if the Mantra is practiced earnestly and properly, it will lead to the realization of one’s true Self (Pujayitva yatha-vidhi, nija-swarupam vijnathu Iccha -phalitha manasa)


It is said that the Nabhi-Vidya, being at the center of all the Maha-Mantras, connects the devotee to the Universal Mother (Vishva-matha) Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari; and, seeks her blessings.

The Rishi of the Mantra is Ananda-Bhairava; its Devatha is Sri-Vidya-Maha-Tripura-Sundari Raja-Rajeshwari; its Chhandas is Amruta-Virat-Gayatri; and, its viniyoga is securing the grace and the blessings of the Supreme Mother Goddess Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari.

Asya Sri Nabhi-Vidya shodasakshari Tripura-Sundari Brahma-vidya Mantra-raja Maha -Mantrasysa Ananda-Bhairava-Rishihi / Amruta-Virat-Gayatri-Chandhaha / Sri-Vidya -Maha-Tripura-Sundari Raja-Rajeshwari Devatha / Aim, ka, ye, ela, hrim Bijam / Sau skala hrim Shakthi-hi / Klim hasa-kapala hrim kilakam / Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari Anugraha-prasada sidyarthe jape-viniyogaha //



In the Nabhi-Vidya, the Shodashi, Maha-Para-Shodashi Mantras of Hadi Vidya, Kadi Vidya and Hadi-Kadi Vidya are mixed and combined in various patterns; out of which, 36 Mantras are generated. These are followed by 4 separate Mantras (37-40).

Almost the entire body of the thirty-six elements of the Nabhi-Vidya (composed of the Purvanga-vidya-24; Raja-Vidya-12; and, Nrpathi-vidya-4) is comprised by the sets of instructions for the arrangement/recitation (Japa) of the complicated pattern of the mixture of the selected segments of the Shodashi, MahaShodashi and Para-Shodashi Mantras, as per the Kadi , Hadi and Hadi-Kadi Vidya-s, in their proper sequence (Anuloma) / reverse order (Viloma); with specified numbers of repetitions of the Hrim-kara (ह्रीं-Hrillekha-dwayam) .

Thus, the Nabhi-vidya is a compilation of a varied sets of Mantras, related to Srividya, arranged according to a pre-determined order. The Nabhi-Vidya, primarily and essentially, is meant for practice (Sadhana) of Srividya.  There is not much philosophical discussion or expounding of theoretical principles here. It, indeed, is a practical guide for worship (Puja-vidhi) of Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari through the medium of the Sri-chakra.

The Mantras from 37 to 40 , are four independent Mantras (Matruka; Guru-natha-paduka; Baala; and Para).

This is followed by an Epilogue (Uttara-bhaga) detailing the instructions to chant the Mantras as per both the Kadi and Hadi-Vidyas , as many times as possible (Yethah Vidyaya yatha-shakthi-japet-nityam) – at least a hundred times in a day.  And, in the concluding Devi-Puja-kalpa there are details of the worship-procedures (Kara-nyasa, Anga-nyasa, Dhyana-slokas etc) for the Sadhana of the Srividya Shodasha-akshari; Srividya Maha-Shodasha-akshari; and Srividya Para-Shodasha-askshari Mantras.

And, in the Phala-sruthi, it is assured that Nabhi-Vidya is so powerful as that reciting the Nabhi-Vidya once is equivalent to repetition (Japa) of the Pancha-dashi Mantra one Lakh times.  It would also bestow prosperity both here (Iha) and in hereafter (Para); and, will also grant the unshakable (a-chanchala) Self-knowledge (Atma-jnana).

Nabhi Vidya.2 jpg

Before we come to the text of the Nabhi-Vidya, let us try to get familiar with some of its terms.


Several explanations are offered to say why this set of mantras is celebrated as Nabhi-Vidya.

(1) The term Nabhi(नाभि), according to the ancient Katapayadi system or technique of hashing, for assigning numerical values to certain alphabets of Sanskrit Grammar (briefly explained a bit later), works out to the number 40. Here, the letter ‘Na’ (ना) stands for 0 (zero); and, ‘Bha’() for 4. And, when the resultant values are placed in the reverse order (as is usually done), it read as 40.  Following that, there are 40 mantras in the Nabhi-Vidya.

nabhi vidya 3

Of the 40 Mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya, 36 associated with the Kadi and Hadi Vidya traditions, are set to the various combinations of Shodashi and Maha-Shodashi Mantras. The rest four mantras are made up of Matraka; Guru-pada (Natha); Baala; and, Para mantras.


(2) Nabhi, its inadequate equivalent in English is navel; the depressed point in the middle of the abdomen. It is the Scar that marks the spot that once attached the umbilical cord to the foetus.

When the foetus is in its mother’s womb; it is thorough the umbilical cord, connected to its navel, that it gets nourishment. It is the ‘navel’ that, figuratively and also really, constructs a concreate relationship with its mother.  This cord is a part of both the foetus and of the mother as well, for a period of Forty weeks.

It is said that the Nabhi-Vidya, being at the centre of all the Maha-Mantras, connects the devotee to the Universal Mother (Vishva-matha).


(3) Nābhi (नाभि), the ‘navel’, representing one of the sixteen vital centres of the body (i.e., ādhāra), is regarded as a seat of vital function. Nabhi is also the center of Paravak, the vibratory energy and the primordial source of all sounds.

shat-chakra(4) Nābhi (नाभि) refers to one of the seventeen stages in the rise of kundalini-Shakthi. The seventeen syllables (saptadaśā-akṣhara) of Mantra-mātā (मन्त्रमाता) are said to be arranged in as many locations along the axis of the subtle body.

Bindu or the centre of the body is considered to be the Nabhi. This is also understood as the hub of a wheel i.e., Nabhi Chakra.

The Nabhi-chakra is a vortex, the third of the seven major Chakras rising from the base of the spine to the crown of the head; and, is located above the navel.  It is named as मणिपूर (Maipūra), the resplendent or lustrous gem; having ten petals, bearing the Sanskrit letters ahaatathadadhanapa, and pha. The Bija-akshara in the centre is ram. Its Tattwa, the element, is Fire-Agni. The Chakra is associated with bright yellow (much like that of the Sun-flower).

Yoga believes that with the opening of this Chakra, the yogi attains a clear sense of self and purpose.

Manipura chakra

The Manipura-chakra, located under the solar plexus, is said to have a profound impact on the central nervous system, the optic nerves; and, on one’s digestive system as well. It balances the body functions. And, it also is said to regulate one’s will power.

निम्ननाभिः (nimnanābhi): अरा इव रथनाभौ प्राणे सर्वं प्रतिष्ठितम् (arā iva rathanābhau prāe sarva pratiṣṭhitam) – Praśn. Up. 2.6

Nabhi Chakra

(5) Sri Lalita Tripura Sundarī protects from the navel region to the head, signifying the activation of the navel cakra to the Ajñā cakra.

सुन्दरी नाभि देशेऽव्याच्छीर्षिका सकला सदा । sundarī nābhi deśe’vyācchīrikā sakalā sadā

(6) Lord Vishnu, the protector of life, is also referred to as Padmanabha, the one who sprouts the lotus of creation.

Vishnu is depicted with a lotus emerging out of his navel. It is believed to be the centre of creative energy. The phenomenal universe is symbolized by Brahma, the creator, atop the lotus emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu; the Navel being symbolized as the cause of creation 


(6) The Natya and Shilpa shastras developed a remarkable approach to the structure of the human body; and delineated the relation between its central point (Nabhi, the navel), the verticals and horizontals. Based on these principles, Natya-shastra enumerated many standing and sitting positions, with reference to the navel.


(7) Finally: Central to Tantra-faith is the concept of duality that culminates in unity; as being essentially non-dual (abheda). Shiva the pure consciousness and Shakthi its creative power; the pure-light of consciousness (Prakasha) and its power of illumination (Vimarsha) are eternally conjoined. The one cannot be differentiated from the other. The Tantra ideology explains that Shiva-Shakthi are essentially two aspects of One principle. In reality, the whole of existence, the range of manifold experiences in the world are but the expressions of Shiva-Shakthi combine. This Shakthi is all powerful and infinite.  It is only in the relative plane that Shiva-Shakti might appear as separate entities. But the Reality is unity, an indivisible whole.

Shiva Parvathi2


It is said; the term Vidya, ordinarily stands for knowledge (vid = to know). But, in the context of Sri Vidya, it indeed refers to the Mother Goddess, who resides as wisdom in all the beings (Ya Devi sarva-bhuteshu Vidya-rupena samsthitha). Her form of Vidya (Sri Vidya) is explained as the Vidya that leads to liberation (Sa Vidya parama-mukther-hetu-bhutva-sanatani). Bhagavathi, the Devi, is verily the highest divinity (Vidya-si sa Bhagavathi parama-hi Devi). And, the form of her Vidya is the primordial energy Adi prakriti.

Sri Vidya is also the Vidya that yields Sri (prosperity). Sri Vidya is thus Bhukthi-Mukthi prada, the bestower of well-being, prosperity and liberation. Sri Vidya is the path and also the goal.

The sacred (Divya) Nabhi-Vidya composed of the combination of the letters or the syllables (Bijakshara) of Shodashi and Maha-Shodashi mantras, set to the segments (Kūa) of the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas, is said to be very embodiment of the Devi.

Shodashi is the first among the Vidya-s. She is otherwise known as Sri Vidya. She is identified with deities Lalitha, Raja-Rajeshwari, Sundari, Kameshwari and Baala. Lalitha is the playful one; all creation, manifestation and dissolution is her play. She is Maha-Tripura-Sundari, the most magnificent transcendental beauty without a parallel in all the three worlds. She is the conqueror of three levels of existence.

Each of her forms emphasizes a particular quality or function. In Sri Vidya, the Goddess is worshiped in her benign (saumya) and beautiful (soundarya) aspects, following the Sri Kula (family of Sri) tradition (sampradaya).

Shodashi the Goddess who is Sixteen Years Old

Kadi-matha and Hadi-matha

The Sri Vidya tradition which centres on the worship of Sri Chakra, considers the following twelve gods and sages as its principal Gurus (mukhya-upaskaha): Manu, Chandra, Kubera, Lopamudra, Manmatha, Agasthya, Nandisha, Surya, Vishnu, Skanda, Shiva and Durvasa.

Manu-Chandra-Kuberascha-Lopamudra-cha-Manmathaha/Agathya-Nandi-Suryascha -Indro -Vishnu-Shiva-thatha / Krodha-Bhattaraco -Devya-yete-mukhya-upaskaha //

It is said; each of the twelve Gurus propagated a school with regard to the worship and the significance of Sri Chakra.  Of these, only two schools have survived to this day; one is the school started by Manmatha (also called Kamaraja) – known as Kadi-matha (also as Kamaraja-vidya, Madhumathi-matha; and, Kaali-krama). The Kadi tradition was continued by Sage Agastya. The Kadi-Vidya commences with the Bijakshara Ka () –     ह्रीं.

The other school is Hadi-matha (Sundari-krama), commencing with the Bijakshara () –      ह्रीं. This tradition was brought into practice by Lopamudra, wife of the Sage Agastya. And, some mention (?) that it was followed by five Upasaka-s: Manu, Kamaraja, Indra, Durvasa and Kubera.

Hadisthu Lopamudrashya, Kamarajasthu Kadikaha / tayosthu Kamarajam siddhi dau Bhakthi-shalini //

[An interesting aspect is that the vowels (aa, e, i etc.,) are regarded as representations of Shakthi; while the 35 consonants are basically inert and depend on vowels (just as Shiva depends on Shakthi) to manifest in a meaningful form. It is only when the germinating power (Bija) of the vowels is infused with consonants, the latter gain meaning. That is the reasons the vowels are Bija-aksharas. They transform ordinary letters into mother like condition (Matrika); that is, they impregnate ordinary letters with meaning and power.]


There is also a mention of an obscure third school called Sadi-matha (Tara-krama), commencing with the Bijakshara Sa () –    ह्रीं; and, this school, not recommended for householders, it appears, is no longer in current practice, externally.


Of the three, the Kadi- matha (with its mantra starting with letter Ka) is regarded the oldest; and, its attitude and worship is Sattvic; and, is considered more suitable for pious practice. (Kamarajam siddhi dau Bhakthi-shalini). It insists on virtue, discipline and purity of rituals. The prominent Gurus of this School are Paramashiva, Durvasa, Hayagriva and Agasthya. And, as such, Kadi-matha is regarded more important.

Of the other two schools, Hadi-matha is Rajasic; and, the Sadi-matha is Tamasic.

Devi sri chakra

Kadi-matha accepts Vedic authority; and, formulates its position in accordance with the Vedic tradition. The other School is considered different (iyam-anya cha vidya). The term Samaya also means Vedic convention; as orthodox and valid. Hence Kadi School came to be known as Samaya.

The Samaya believes in identity of Shiva and Shakthi; and, its form of worship is purely internal. Hence, Kadi School is also known as Para-Vidya, where the worship (Archana) is conducted in the space of one’s heart (hrudaya-akasha-madhye).

The external worship conducted, say by the Tantric Kaulas, lays greater importance on the Muladhara and Svadhistana Chakras, which are said to be situated at the base of the spinal column; and, which relate essentially to physiological needs and psychological urges.

The Samaya School, on the other hand, prescribes that the internal worship (Antar- Aradhana) be conducted at higher levels, viz., from Manipura to Sahasra. The seat of Tripura is at Sahasra, beyond the six Chakras. It is also the seat of supreme consciousness, Shiva, from which Shakthi springs forth.

Samaya is centered on knowledge (jnana), which is the realization of the identity of Shiva and Shakthi (Sri Shiva-Shakthi rupini Lalithambika). Sri Dakshinamurthi is a revered seer of the Kadi (Samaya) School.

Sri Chakra is the main device employed by Kadi (Samaya) school; the worship is mainly through symbolism; and, successive identifications. The symbolism involves identification (saamaya) of the arrangements and the lines of the diagram with the structure of the Universe; the psycho-physical aspects of the devotee with the spatial arrangement of the diagram representing the goddess; and identifying the Mantra with the Yantra.

Sri Yantra 2

As regards the worship of Sri Chakra, there are three recognized procedures:

: – Hayagriva tradition, regarded as Dakshina-chara, the right-handed method, reciting Lalitha-sahasra-nama and Lalita Trisathi, offering Kumkum.

: – Anandabhirava tradition, a Vama-chara, a left-handed method; and

: – Dakshinamurthi tradition, a doctrinal school-Samaya-chara.

Of the three, the last one is considered the best.

The Nabhi-Vidya, the Rishi of which is Anandabhirava, is classified under Vama-chara-vidya.

Guru-Dakshinamurtthi Dakshina-chara-pravarthakaha ; Hayagriva thatha chaivam / Vamecha-Ananadabhairava //

It is said; in the past, Nabhi-Vidya was practiced only by Chandra and Nandi (out of the twelve Upasakas). The Nabhi-Vidya does not appear to be in much circulation even during the present times.

Kamakshi Rotterdam Peetam0002

 Pancha-dashi and Shodashi Mantras


In the Sri-Vidya tradition, the Panchadashi (Pancha-dasakshari) and the Shodashi are the cardinal and exclusive (rahasya) Mantras.

The Panchadashi-mantra of very potent fifteen letters or syllables (Bijakshara), composed of three segments (Kūa) , is indeed the very heart of the Sri Vidya Upasana. It bestows true-knowledge (Jnana-dayaka) and liberation (Moksha-karaka).

The basic mantra is composed of three groups – Kuta or Khanda (segments) of Bijas.  The three groups together make up fifteen syllables (pancha-dasakshari mantra). This mantra is implicit.

Its three as are:

Vāgbhava-kūa of five Bīja-s (ka- e – ī – la-hrī,    ह्रीं);

Madhya or Kamaraja kūa of six Bīja-s (ha- sa- ka- ha- la- hrī,      ह्रीं); and,

the Shakti kūa of four Bīja-s (sa- ka- la -hrī,   ह्रीं).

Vāgbhavam Prathama Bijam / Kamarajam dwitiyakam / Trithiyam Shakthi Kutam / Nigama tritayodrutham, ittham Kumari-Vidyaya Bija-traya-mudiritham //


Aim (ऐं) is Vāgbhava-Bija; Klim (क्लीं) is Kamaraja-Bija; and, Sau (सौ) is the Shakthi-Bija. These three Bija-s together form Baala-mantra.

Its Rishi is Sri Dakshinamurthi; its Chhandas is Gayatri; and, its Deity (Devatha) is Baala-Tripura-Sundari

Lalitha -saharanamavali at 85,86, and 87 mention:

      1. shreemad-vaagbhavakoot’aik-asvaroopa-mukha-pankajaa;
      2.  kant’haadhahi-kat’i-paryanta-madhya-koot’a-svaroopinee;
      3.  haktikoot’aikataapannakat’yadho-bhaaga-dhaarinee


There is also a view that the first group starting with Ka is kadi-matha; the second group starting with Ha represents Hadi-matha; and, the third group starting with Sa is Sadi-matha.

The Rishis of the three practices are said to be: Sri Dakshinamaurthi; Hayagriva; and Anandabhairava, respectively.

Of these, Sri Dakshinamurthi and Hayagriva are said to have practiced Dakshina-chara (right method) ; while , Anandabhairava followed the Vama-chara (left-handed method)

Guru-Dakshinamurtthi Dakshina-chara-pravarthakaha ; Hayagriva thatha chaivam / Vamecha-Ananadabhairava //


The first Kuta of the Pancha-dashi -Mantra is said to be a prayer for removal of ignorance; the second, a prayer for grant of true knowledge; and, the third is the prayer seeking  experience of the identity with Shiva-Shakthi, the Devi.

The mantra is composed of a series of individual Bija-Akshara (syllables), each having its own identify and association; and, each representing a certain aspect of the Goddess. But, when these Bija-aksharas are taken together, they manifest the subtle form (Sukshma-rupa) of the Mother Goddess.

Lalitha-sahasranamavali at 88 and 89 mention: Moola-mantra-atmikaa; Moola-Kuta-traya-kalevaraa


The Kadi-matha (Kadi-Vidya) says that the Panchadashi-Mantra consists fifteen visible syllables (ka- e – ī – la-hrīṁ /  ha- sa- ka- ha- la- hrī / sa- ka- la -hrī).

ए ई ल ह्रीं / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / क ल ह्रीं

The Hadi-matha version of the Panchadashi-Mantra is said to be (as hinted in sloka 32 of Soundarya-Lahari ) : 

ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / स क ल ह्रीं


The Panchadashi-Mantra, as per Kadi -Vidya, is composed of 3 -s; 2 -s (the 5 together relate to Shiva); 3 ह्रीं-s (relate to Shiva-and-Shakthi); and, the seven others relate to Shakthi (ए ई ल ). Thus, the Mantra signifies the unison of Shiva and Shakthi.


It is also said that in  the Panchadashi-Mantra of the Kadi-matha (Kadi-Vidya) , which consists fifteen visible syllables (ka e i la hrim; ha sa ka ha la hrim; sa ka la hrim- क ए ई ल ह्रीं / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / स क ल ह्रीं);  Ka represents the air; ha the fire; sa the water; la the earth; and, e the space. The fifteen syllables are: one of space, two of air; three of fire; four of water; and five of earth.

These fifteen lettered Pancha-dasaksharimantra, celebrated as Kamaraja-mantra or Kadi-Vidya, is revered as the verbal form of the Mother Goddess.

Ka is the first letter in the fifteen-lettered (Pancha-dashi) mantra of the Devi in the Kadi-vidya of Sri Vidya tradition. Ka is an important syllable in the fifteen-lettered mantra; for it appears three times. Here, Ka variously stands for the principle from which everything arises; for illumination (Kan-dipatu); or for the principle of consciousness (buddhi) in beings; and, also for the symbol of Self.  And, Ka also stands for the form-less Brahman (ka iti Brahmano naamah). 



Shodashi literally means a ‘girl of sixteen years’; who is at a delightful stage of a woman’s life. Her nature is to play, to seek new experiences, and to charm others to her. Her innocence attracts all towards her. And, in Tantra, as also in Sri Vidya, the term refers to deities like Lalitha, Raja-Rajeshwari, Tripura-Sundari, Kameshwari and Baala et al.

Her mantra is called Shodashi mantra. Another reason for calling her mantra by that name is that it is made up of sixteen Bija-Akshara (seed-syllables).

The fifteen lettered (panch-dasha-akshari) Mantra is considered the verbal form of the Devi. But it is implicit or hidden. By adding   to the Pancha-dasakshari -mantra the sacred syllable S (श्रीं) it is transformed into the sixteen lettered Shodashi-mantra. It then becomes explicit.

The Bijakshara Srī (श्रीं) is regarded as the visual expression, the original or the own form of the Mother Goddess Sri. And, with the sixteenth syllable (Srim) She comes to be celebrated as Sri-vidya.

Kamaraja-mantrante Shrim-Bijena samanvitha / Shodasakshari Vidyeyam Sri-Vidyethi prakirthita //

And, the mantra itself becomes the body of the Mother Goddess. She manifests the un-manifest. She is Prakriti. The auspicious Sri (Srim) is thus revered as Saguna-Brahman, the Sa-kara approach to the absolute principle of the Devi.


The mantra (fifteen or sixteen letters) is, thus, an expression of Sri Vidya. The verbal expression (nada or sound) of the Vidya is mantra; and, its visual expression is the Sri Chakra Yantra. The two are essentially the same. Both are the means to realize the identity of one’s consciousness with Maha Tripura Sundari.

The Shodasha-akshari-mantra is revered as Brahma-Vidya, which bestows Bhukthi (prosperity), Bhakthi (devotion) and also Mukthi (liberation).


It is also said; this mantra is known as hoaśhī or Shodasha-kala-vidya, because each of its sixteen Bīja-s represents a phase (Kalā) of the moon. They are the sixteen individualized aspects, kalas or sixteen phases of moon (Shodasha kalaa). And, therefore this Vidya is also known as Chandra-kala- vidya, the wisdom of the lunar digits. 

This school of Sri Vidya explains that the fifteen letters of the mantra correspond to fifteen digits of the moon in each fortnight, commencing from prathipada, (Padyami) the first day of the brighter half (Shukla-paksha), when the moon “comes out of the sun”; and, ending with the full moon on the fifteenth day.

Similarly, in the dark half of the moon cycles (Krishna-paksha), all digits “return to the sun”. The emanation of the fifteen digits of the moon from the Sun culminates in the full moon (Purnima); while the absorption of the digits into the Sun results in new moon (Amavasya).

The sixteenth letter (Shodasha kala or Srim) is said to be present in each of the digits which are called Kalas or Nityas.

The Nityas are the primary Devatas represented in the triple-girdle (Tri-vrtta), between the outermost enclosure (Bhupura) and the sixteen—petalled -lotus (Asta-dala-padma of the second enclosure), in the form of sixteen vowels, each of them inscribed on a petal, in an anti-clock sequence. They are sixteen in number.

[In the Sri Vidya tradition, the sixteen guardian deities, named as Nityas, who form the entourage, of the Devi, are identified with the phases of the moon (Chandra-kalaa); and each Nitya corresponds to a day (tithi) or the aspect of the moon during the fortnight. The sixteen Nityas are: Kameshvari, Bhagamalini, Nityaklinna, Bherunda, Vahnivasini, Mahavajeshvari, Dooti, Tvarita, Kulasundari, Nitya, Nilapataka, Vijaya, Sarvamangala, Jwalamalinika and Maha-Nitya (Vichitra]

The Kalas or Nityas are invoked as forms of the Mother Goddess. They are worshipped during the brighter half of the month (Shukla-paksha), in a sequential order (Anuloma): Kameshvari on the first day; Bhagamalini on the second day; and, so on, till the fifteenth day. But, during the darker half of the month (Krishna-paksha), the worship sequence is reversed (Viloma), starting with Maha-nitya (Vichitra), the sixteenth Nitya. 

The full-moon or the New-moon represent the culmination of all the phases (Kalas) of the moon or of the Nityas. The sixteenth aspect of the moon (Shodashi) is looked upon as Maha-Tripura-Sundari (or Lalitha), represented by the central point (Bindu) of the Sri Chakra. 


The Shodashi-mantra in Kadi and Hadi-Vidya-s, would be

Kadi: Ka-Ye-Ee-La/ Hrim / Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La / Hrim / Sa-Ka-La / Hrim / …Srim

ह्रीं (5 Bīja-s) / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं (6 Bīja-s) / स क ल ह्रीं (4 Bīja-s)- श्रीं

Hadi: Ha-Sa-Ka-La / Hrim / Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La / Hrim / Sa-Ka-La/ Hrim … Srim

ह्रीं (5 Bija-s) / ह्रीं (6 Bīja-s) / ह्रीं (4 Bīja-s) श्रीं



Then there is the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra

The Mahā-Shoaśhī-Mantra is actually not sixteen; but it is a Mantra of 28 Bijakshara-s, set in three Kutas (segments): (Vac-Bija; Kamaraja-Bija; and, Shakthi-Bija). Here, each segment is counted as one Bijakshara. And, when it is hemmed on either side by eight and five Bijakshara-s, it would then be Maha-Shodashi-mantra of sixteen Bijakshara-s (8+3+5).

Ashta Bijaksharanyadau paschath panchadashi tathaha / panch-bijakshra seshya Sri-Maha-Shodashi mathaha //

It is said; when the fifteen lettered Pancha-dashi-Mantra is preceded by eight letters regarded as Om kara -pranavas (Srim, Hrim, Klim, Aim, Sauh, Aum, Hrim, Srim); and, is later succeeded by five letters regarded as Shakthi-pranavas (Sauh, Aim, Klim, Hrim, Srim), it would be transformed into Maha-Shodashi-Mantra. It will be a Mantra of 28 Bijakshara-s (8+15+5). This is revered as Brahma-vidya or Moksha-vidya.

(1) Srim, Hrim, Klim, Aim, Sauh; (2) Aum, Hrim, Srim; (3) Ka-Ye-Ee-La-Hrim; (4) Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Hrim; (5) Sa-Ka-La- Hrim; and, (6) Sauh, Aim, Klim, Hrim, Srim

श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः  ( 5 bīja-s); ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं ( 3 bīja-s); क ए ई ल ह्रीं ( 5 bīja-s); ह स क ह ल ह्रीं ( 6 bīja-s); स क ल ह्रीं ( 4 bīja-s); सौः ऐं क्लीं ह्रीं श्रीं ( 5 bīja-s)  .. (5+3+5+6+4+5 = 28)


Srim-Bijam-maya-smara-yoni-shakthihi sarvam cha maya kamalathma-vidya / Shakthyadi  bijani vilo-vitani Sri-shad-sharna-Para-Devatha //


The presiding deity of the Maha-Shodashi-mantra is Lalitha-Tripura-sundari; Raja-Rajeshwari-Para-Bhattarika.


The Navarna (also known as Navakshari and Chandi Gayatri) mantra of nine syllables is closely related to the extended Maha-Shodashi mantra of twenty-eight Bīja-s of Sri Lalitha tradition. Both are Navarna; as they are worshiped in nine levels (Navaavarana), where the Devi is worshipped in her nine forms. It is described as a mantra that grants the highest bliss – Mahad Ananda dayakah.

The Navārna-mantra (Śrī-Chaṇḍi-Navākharī-Mantra) is composed of the following syllables:

Om ai hrī klī cāmuṇḍāyai vicce –  ऐं ह्रीं क्लीं चामुण्डायै विच्चे  

The syllables of the Navārna-mantra are taken from the first line of the Mahāoaśī mantra – Srī– Hrī– Klī -Ai -Sau ( श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः)

[For more on Navavarana-Mantra, please click here]



Śrī Parāoahśī-mantra is associated with the ūrdhvāmnāya (Upper or higher) tradition of Śrī Vidya. 

The Rishi of the mantra is Narayana. Its Chhandas is Gayatri; Para Sri Devatha is the deity. Its Bija is Srim; Shakthi is Hrim; and, Keelaka (key) is Klim. Its resolve is to seek liberation – Jīvan mukthi 

Om̐ asya śrī parā oaśī mahā mantrasya; Nārāyaa ṛṣi  Gāyatrī chanda  Parā śrīrdevatā  Srīm̐ bīja  Hrīm̐ śakti  Klīm̐ kīlaka  jīvan mukti prasādaye jape viniyoga 

The Para-Shodashi-Mantra is composed of 28 letters:

Śrī Parā-oaśhī Aṣṭa-viśadyakara Mantra (श्री पराषोडशी अष्ट विंशद्यक्षर मन्त्रः)

 śrīm̐ sau klīm̐ aim̐ hrī / om̐ hrī śrī / sa ka la hrīm̐ / ha sa ka ha la hrīm̐ / ka e ī la hrī / hrīm̐ aim̐ klī sau śrīm̐ 

श्रीँ सौः क्लीँ ऐँ ह्रीँ / ॐ ह्रीँ श्रीँ / स क ल ह्रीँ / ह स क ह ल ह्रीँ / क ए ई ल ह्रीं / ह्रीँ ऐँ क्लीँ सौः श्रीँ /

The mantra has six parts (a-s). The first Kūa is reversed in the last a, which is meant to purify the process in the practice of one’s mantra-japa. The first Kūa and second Kūa have the same significance as in the Mahā-Shoaśhī-mantra, although the seed syllables (Bīja-s) are in a different order, with the liberation being the main objective.

This mantra is very similar to the Mahā-Shoaśhī-mantra ; and, contains the same set of seed syllables used in that mantra as well. Here, the Pañcha-daśhī-mantra is reversed.

The object of the Mahā-Shoaśhī-mantra is the elevation from the mundane existence to the spiritual, by gaining of the correct knowledge, leading to the realization of the Absolute. This is the Sristi-krama, progressing from the gross to the most subtle. In contrast, the Para-Shodashi-mantra adopts the Samhara-krama, progressing further from subtle to the Absolute.

Devi painting

As mentioned earlier, the text of the Nabhi-Vidya is composed of a series of Kadi and Hadi-Vidya Kutas set to varied combinations of Shodashi, Maha-Shodashi and Para-Shodashi Mantras. Such diverse combinations of the Mantras are thirty-six in number. In addition, there are four other Mantras: Matrka; Guru-paduka; Baala; and, Para-Mantras. Thus, bringing up the forty mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya


When an ardent devotee is initiated into the Srividya, the Guru, initially, teaches her / him the worship of the young Bala-Sundari, with Bala-mantra of three Bijas (Aim of speech, Klim of wish; and Sauh of Sha). After the practice of this Mantra for a considerable time, the devotee is lead into the fifteen -lettered Pancha-dashi-Mantra.

Thereafter, the Sadhaka practices the sixteen-lettered Shodashi-Mantra, which is the essence of the earlier two Mantras. After the due practice of the Shodashi Mantra, the Devotee is initiated into the Mantras each having twenty-eight syllables: the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra and the Para-Shodashi-Mantra, for the worship of Tripura-Sundari. From hereafter, the Sadhaka gains authority to practice the most secret and complicated modes of Srividya-sadhanas.

There is also a gradation among the Laghu-Shodashi, the Maha-Shodashi and the Para-Shodashi; each more subtle than its previous one. It progresses from the subtle, to subtler and the subtest.  (Sukshma, Sukshma-tara and Ati-Sukshma or Para),

These stages are also considered as progressions in the awakening of the Kundalini; leading to the realization of the identity with Shiva-Shakthi.

shiva shakthi 3

ka-Ta-pa-ya Sutra

The “ka-Ta-pa-ya Sutra”, the numerical notation or encoding system, used by ancient Indian mathematicians and grammarians, is a tool to map letters to numbers. This is the world’s most ancient Hashing Algorithm known; and, has its origin in India. This system is used in several types of ancient Sanskrit texts, as an Encryption technique.

By assigning a number to each consonant of the Sanskrit alphabet, arranged as four groups, with “ka, Ta, pa, ya” as the beginning letters of the groups, we get this Katapayadi table. This is the reason why this system is called Katapayadi. Ka=Ta=Pa=Ya=1

Katapayadi Sutra

According to the scheme, the consonants have numerals assigned as per the above table. All stand-alone vowels like a () and  () are assigned to zero. In case of a conjunct, consonants attached to a non-vowel will not be valueless. The only consonant standing with a vowel is ya ().  So, the corresponding numeral for kya (क्या) will be 1. There is no way of representing Decimal separator in the system

Now, each letter of the group is numbered from 1 through 9 and 0 for the tenth letter. Thus, ka is 1, sa is 7, ma is 5, na is 0 and so on.

However, in the Indian tradition, the digits of a number are written left to right in the increasing order of their place value – exactly opposite the way we are used to writing in the western way.

For instance; Mahabharata is called ‘Jaya’, where Ja equates to numerical 8; and, Ya to 1. When placed together it would read as 81. But when reversed it would result in 18. And, Mahabharata contains of 18 Parvan-s (Mega-Chapters).

One can also convert a number into a word. Let’s say 53. It could be indicated using letters in the 5th and 3rd positions of the group. Say; Nga, Ga. And, when it is reversed, it would read as Ganga.


In the next two parts, let us take a look at the structure of the text of the Nabhi-Vidya (Nabhi-vidya-Mantrah नाभिविद्यामन्त्रः); and, the patterns of the arrangements of its Mantras

[ I am particularly grateful to the erudite scholar Dr. Krovi Parthasarathy.]




Part Two

Sources and References

1.The Tantra of Sri Chakra by Prof. S.K. Ramachandra Rao (Sharada Prakashana, Bangalore,1983)

2.Srividya Shodasha-Maha-Mantramulu by Dr. Krovi Parthasarathy (Vijayawada-2020)

Nabhi-Vidya (Short Works)

Nabhi-Vidya ( a discussion) by Purnananda Lahiri



Posted by on January 30, 2022 in Nabhi Vidya, Sri Vidya


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Saptamatrka – Part Four

Continued from Part Three

Radiant Goddesses

41.1. The group of seven mother-like goddesses, Matrikas, as commonly accepted, consist Brahmi, Vaishnavi, Maheshwari, Kaumari, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda.

ब्राह्मी माहेश्वरी चैव कौमारी वैष्णवी तथा । वाराही च तथेन्द्राणी चामुण्डा सप्तमातरः ॥

According to a version of their origin, as narrated in Devi Mahatmya, it is said, the Matrka goddesses were created by male Gods in order to aid Mahadevi in her battle against the demons Shumba and Nishumba.

The Matrkas emerge as Shakthis from out of the bodies of the gods: Brahmi form Brahma; Vaishnavi from Vishnu; Maheshwari from Shiva; Kaumari from Skanda; Varahi from Varaha; and Indrani from Indra. They are armed with the same weapons, wear the same ornaments and ride the same vahanas and also carry the same banners like their corresponding male Gods do.

Saptamatrkas as a group indicate transformation of the male identities of gods into goddesses.

These seven mother goddesses, celebrated as a group, are an embodiment of the female principle of prakrti, the counterpart of purusha.

Group composition

41.2. The Saptamatrka group is, thus, composed of: two Vaishnava Shakthis (Vaishnavi and Varahi); two Shaiva Shakthis (Maheshwari and Kaumari); one Brahmi Shakthi, in addition to Indrani (Aindri) and Chamunda. It is a group of six Deva Shakthis and one Devi Shakthi, making it into an integrated unit of seven.

42.1. Many have attempted to explain the rationale in the composition of Saptamatrka group.

One explanation mentions that the group of seven goddesses was derived from the gods that were considered important during the Gupta period. By then, the major gods – Shiva and Vishnu – had already attained independent – super status within the Vedic pantheon. Brahma was in any case one among the trinity, though a less impressive one. And, Skanda had risen into prominence since the time of Kushanas when he was absorbed into Shiva pantheon; and he developed further during the Gupta era. Varahi the counterpart of Varaha was more popular during the Gupta period than any other avatar of Vishnu. Aindri is the only counterpart of the Vedic gods who by then had lost their importance. Chamunda, of course, represents the principal feminine force.

The omission of the counter part of Surya who was a major god, acceptable to all sects, during the Gupta period is rather surprising. Similarly, of Ganapathi who was just beginning to rise to prominence.

42.2. The Saptamatrkas were earlier connected with Skanda (Kumara), but in later times were absorbed into the sect of Shiva himself. Aptly, the Saptamatrka panel begins with Ganesha, the son of Shiva; and ends with an aspect of Shiva such as Bhirava or Virabhadra. Sometimes, Natesha or Vinadhara – Dakshinamurthy represents Shiva. 

The presence of Ganesha at the beginning of the panel, it is explained, is prompted by the faith that Ganesha as the Lord of the Ganas would remove obstacles; help the devotee in his pursuit; and guide him along   his endeavour. From the sixth century onwards inclusion of Ganesha in the format became a standard practice. Thereafter, depiction of Ganesha and Shiva, and sometimes along with Skanda, became quite common. For instance, In the Matrka panels at Aihole and Elephanta caves Ganesha and Skanda are shown as child gods along with Shiva.

Thus, in association with Chamunda, the Saptamatrka panel was rendered into a composite unity.

43.1. As regards the presence of Ganesha and Virabhadra at either ends of the Saptamatrka   panel, Shri DSampath observes, elsewhere: The Saptamatrikas symbolically represent the seven different aggressive tendencies of the female part of a human being. When unleashed; they tend to destroy the wellness that comes out of a fostering mother. Children below the adolescent age are likely to be influenced by such harmful energies. Those adverse influences breed in kids a sort of ’non- motherly’ destructive attitude. And, these aggressive tendencies (energies) are meant to be contained and held in check by the two male energies: of Vinayaka who was ‘mother- born’ and who regarded all women as mothers; and of Virbhadra who could invoke motherly virtues in any woman. Between the manifestation of rational Vinayaka and the fiery Virabhadra these female energies were to be harnessed.

43.2. The other significant aspect about the Saptamatrka group formation is the order in which they appear in the traditional texts. The order symbolizes the cycle of creation and its cessation; and presents it as the functions of female power-Shakthi.

The order of the Saptamatrka usually begins with Brahmi symbolizing creation. It is often represented by the all-comprehensive primordial Nada Om (pranava).Then, Vaishnavi provides the created world with symmetry, beauty and order. Maheshwari, who resides in the hearts of all beings, breaths in life and individuality. Kaumari, Guru-guha, the intimate guide in the cave of one’s heart, inspires aspirations to develop and evolve.  Varahi is the power and aggressive intent to go after enjoyment. Indrani is the sovereignty intolerant of opposition and disorder . Chamunda is the destroyer of delusions and evil tendencies, paving way for spiritual awakening.

Matrika yantra

[ The number seven was found significant in understanding the composition of human body, which is made of seven types of bodily substances (Saptha-Dhatu).

Ayurveda has the concept of Dhatu-s i.e., Dhatu Siddhantha (theory of tissues formation and differentiation).

Ayurveda classifies the human body into seven constituents, or Saptha-dhatu. These are the elements in the human body that nourish, enable growth and support the body and mind. The seven dhatus are:

    1. Rasa/Twaca-Dhatu: (Plasma/lymph fluid/skin) – covers the body, circulates nutrients, hormones and proteins throughout the body;
    2. Raktha-Dhatu (Blood); preserves human life by transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout the body
    3. Mamsa-Dhatu (Muscles); it is the tissue that covers all organs and is related to strength and stability
    4. Medha-Dhatu (Fat); It is the storage site for excess fat in the body.
    5. Asthi Dhatu (Bones); it gives a structure and makes the human body strong
    6. Majja-Dhatu (Bone marrow); it is associated with the nervous system; govern metabolic process in the brain and the spinal cord.
    7. Shukra-Dhatu (Reproductive fluid or Semen); it is responsible for life, vitality and energy.


The seven types of bodily tissues (Saptha-Dhatus) are said to be symbolically associated the Saptha-Matrkas.

Each of the seven Dhatus is said to be ruled by a Matrka:

    1.  Brahmi (Rasa/Twaca-skin);
    2. Maheshvari: (Raktha-blood);
    3. Kaumari (Mamsa-muscle);
    4. Vaishnavi (Medha-fat);
    5. Varahi (Asthi-bone) ;
    6. Aindri (Majja- bone marrow) and,
    7. Chamunda (Shukra-semen, vitality and energy)

The Matrka-Vaishnavi (akin to Lakshmi), who rules over Medha-Dhatu (fat) and abundance ; and one who  assures wealth and prosperity is traditionally placed at the center of the Matrka panel.]


43.3. The most important significance of Saptamatrka symbolism is the implication of the cyclical universal time and its cessation. In the standard versions, Brahmi symbolizes creation; Vaishnavi the preserver occupies the central position flanked by three goddesses on each side. The cycle of periodic time ends with dissolution symbolized by Chamunda. She is the only Devi Shakthi among the Matrkas. She is at times depicted as one who exists beyond death and time. Kalabhairava, who usually appears at the end of the Saptamatrka panel, symbolizes liberation from cycle of birth and death. Thus, it is said, Saptamatrkas epitomize the process of creation, preservation and death; and, the final liberation that takes one beyond time. This is in tune with the Shaktha theology which rationalizes creation, preservation and destruction of the world as the functions of female power-the Shakthi.

In Sri Chakra

44.1. In the Sri Chakra, Chatushra the outermost four-sided square field (bhupura – the earth stretch) known as Trailokya-mohana-chakra is composed of three lines which make way for four doors (dwara) on four directions.  These sets of lines are also described as the layers of the enclosure wall which surround the city of the Devi (Tripura). The three lines are understood to represent three planes of existence: attainments, obstructions and powers. The three planes are related to the body-mind complex and its experiences with the world around. The associated goddesses are worshiped by the aspirant seeking protection and guidance as he/she enters into Sri Chakra.

44.2. Along the outer line the ten Siddhis (attainment-divinities) reside; along the middle line reside eight Matraka  the Mother-like powers; and, and along the inner line are the ten Mudra-devatas (goddess who empower).

44.3. As said; the middle wall (line) is guarded by the Matrkas. The wall is red in colour; the red of the rising sun, signifying the  Rajo guna of the Matrkas who are said to represent eight types of passions. The Matrkas, according to Bhavanopanishad of Bhaskararaya Makhin, are said to be dark blue in color; wearing red garments; carrying a red lotus and a bowl filled with nectar.

44. 4. The Bhavanopanishad (9) recognizes Matrkas as eight types of un-favorable dispositions, such as: desire, anger, greed, delusion, pride, jealousy, demerit and merit. 

Tantra-raja-tantra (36; 15-16) expands on that and  identifies :

  • Brahmi with desire (Kama);
  • Maheshwari with the tendency to degenerate and dissipate (krodha);
  • Kaumari with youthful longings to enjoy (lobha);
  • Vaishnavi with power to fascinate and delude (moha);
  • Varahi with pride and arrogance (mada);
  • Indrani with jealousy and envy (matsarya);
  • Chamunda with urge to sin (papa) and hurt (abhichara); and ,
  • Mahalakshmi with doing good (punya) with other than altruistic reasons.

Matrkas who rule over such un-favourable dispositions are worshipped by the Sadhaka with prayers to suppress and overcome the evil tendencies that obstruct his progress.

44.5. According to Khadgamala (vamachara) tradition of Sri Vidya, the eight Matrkas are located along the wall (four at the doors and four at the corners) guarding the city (Tripura) on all eight directions:

  • Brahmi on the West;
  • Maheshwari on the North;
  • Kaumari on the East;
  • Vaishnavi on the South;
  • Varahi on North-west;
  • Aindri on the North-east;
  • Chamunda on the South-east; and,
  • Mahalakshmi on the South-west.

Please see the figure below.

44.6. As you may notice, the Matrkas of Rajo–guna who govern over human passions are on the outer layer of the Sri Yantra. This signifies that the Sadhaka should get past passions and prejudices before he enters into the city of the Devi.



Hamsarudha prakarrtavaya sukastraka-mandala
Sutram cha pusthakam ghate urdhva-hastha advaye shubhe (Rupamandana)


45.1. Brahmi or Brahmani the first Matrka is the shakthi of Brahma. She is depicted in bright golden complexion, having four faces and four hands. In her back- right hand, she carries a kamandalu and in the back- left hand an Akshamala. The front- right hand gestures Abhaya and the front- left hand bestows Varada. She is seated under a Palasha tree,   upon a red lotus. She is adorned in a mellow bright garment (Pitambara) and various ornaments; and, has on her head karanda-makuta. Her vahana and her emblem is the swan (Hamsa): (Amsumadbhedagama and Purva-karanagama).

45.2. The Vishnudharmottara describes Brahmi as having six hands. Of the three hands on the left, the lowest one gestures Abhaya; while the other two hold Pustaka (book) and kamandalu. On her right, the lowest hand gestures Varada; while the other two hold Sutra and Sruva (a ladle for pouring oblations of ghee into fire). It also mentions deer-skin as a part of her attire.

Aum Dhevee Brahmani Vidmahe

Maha-shakthiyai Cha Dhimahee
Thanno Dhevee Prachodayath


Vaishnavi Vishnu saddasi Garudapasi samsthitha

Chaturbhuja varada shankha chakra gadadhara (Rupamandana)

46.1. Vaishnavi is the Shakthi of Vishnu. She is seated upon a lotus, under a Raja – vriksha, the great tree. She is dark in complexion. She has a lovely face, pretty eyes and wears a bright yellow garment. Her head is adorned with kirita-makuta. She is richly decorated with ornaments generally worn by Vishnu. She wears the Vanamala, the characteristic garland of Vishnu. The emblem on her banner as well as her vahana is the Garuda. When depicted with four arms, she carries in one of her hands the chakra and in the corresponding left hand the shankha; her two other hands are held in the Abhaya and the Varada mudra. (Devi-Purana and Purvakaranagama)

46.2. The Vishnudharmottara states that like Brahmani, Vaishnavi also has six hands; the right hands are characterized by the Gada, Padma and Abhaya and the left ones by Shankha, Chakra and Varada.

Aum Thaarksh Yathwajaaya Vidmahe

Chakra Hasthaya Dhimahee

Thanno Vaishnavi Prachodayath


Maheshwari prakarrtavaya Vrishabasana samasthitha

Kapala shula khatvanga varada cha chaturbhuja  (Rupamandana)

47.1. Maheshwari also known as   Raudri, Rudrani and Maheshi is the Shakthi of Shiva. She is white in complexion; and has   three eyes. She is depicted with four arms; two of which are in the Varada and the Abhaya mudra, while the other two hands hold the Trishula and Akshamala .Sometimes, she is also shown holding Panapatra (drinking vessel) or axe or an antelope or a kapala (skull-bowl) or a serpent. Her banner as well as the vahana is Nandi (bull). She wears snake-bracelets; and   Jata -makuta on her head.

47.2. The Vishnudharmottara mentions that Goddess Maheshwari should be depicted with five faces, each possessing three eyes and each adorned with jata-makuta crown and crescent moon. Her complexion is white. She is depicted with six arms. In four of the hands she carries the Sutra, Damaru, Shula and Ghanta. The other two hands gesture Abhaya and Varada mudra. Her banner also has the Bull for its emblem.

Aum Vrushath-vajaaya Vidmahe

Miruga Hasthaya Dhimahee

Thanno Maheshwari Prachodayath


Indrani Indra-sadrishi vajra-shlu-gada dhara

Gajasngata Devi lochanirvasu bhivrta (Rupamandana)


48.1. Aindri, also known as Indrani, Mahendri, Shakri and Vajri, is the shakthi of Indra; her complexion is dark- red. She is seated under the Kalpaka tree. She is depicted as having two or three or a thousand eyes, like Indra. The Indrani is depicted with four arms. In two of her hands she carries the Vajra (thunderbolt) and the shakthi; while the other   two gesture Varada and Abhaya mudra. Sometimes, she is shown holding Ankusha (goad) and lotus. She is richly ornamented; and adorned with Kirita Makuta. Her vahana as well as the emblem on her banner is the charging elephant. (Devi-purana and Purvakaranagama)

48.2. According to the Vishnudharmottara, Indrani should be depicted with thousand eyes; and she should be of golden colour. She should have six arms, four of the hands carrying the sutra, Vajra, Kalasa (a pot) and Patra (a drinking cup) and the remaining hands being held in Abhaya and Varada mudra.

Aum Gajath-vajaayai Vidmahe

Vajra Hasthaya Dhimahee

Thanno Indrani Prachodayath


Varahim tu pravakshyami mahiso rismsthtam
Varaha-sadrisham ghantanada chamara-dharini
Ghanta chakra gada-dhara padma danvendra vighatini
Lokanamcha hitarthaya sarvavyadhi vinasini (Rupamandana)


49.1. Varahi is the Shakthi of Varaha, an incarnation of Vishnu. The Markendeya Purana praises Varahi as a granter of boons and the regent of the northern direction.  Varahi is shown with the face of a boar and having dark complexion resembling the storm cloud. She is sometimes called Dhruma Varahi (dark Varahi) and Dhumavati (goddess of darkness). Varahi is seated under Kalpaka tree. And, her Vahana as well as the emblem on her banner is an elephant. She wears on her head a Karanda Makuta and is adorned with ornaments made of corals. She wears on her legs Nupura-anklets. She wields the hala and the shakthi and is seated under a Kalpaka tree. The PurvaKaranayama says that she carries Sarnga-Dhanush (bow), the hala (plough) and musula (pestle) as her weapons.

49.2. In other descriptions, Varahi is identified as the Yami, the shakthi of Yama. Varahi is described holding a Danda (rod of punishment) or plough, goad, a Vajra or a sword, and a Panapatra. Sometimes, she is said to carry a bell, chakra, chamara (bunch of yak’s hair  used as flywhisk) and a bow; and riding a buffalo.

49.3. In the Raktabija episode of Devi Purana, Varahi is described as having a boar form, fighting demons with her tusks while seated on a preta (ghoul).

49.4. To this description the Vishnudharmottara adds that Varahi has a big belly and six hands, in four of which she carries the Danda (staff of punishment), khetaka (shield), khadga (sword), and pasha (noose); while the two other hands gesture Abhaya and Varada mudra-s.


49.5. When depicted as part of the Sapta-Matrika group, Varahi who is called Panchami (the Fivefold One) is always in the fifth position in the row of Matrikas. It is explained; Varahi summarizes fivefold elements: water, fire, earth, air and ether. Each of these elements is related to lion, tiger, elephant, horse and Garuda (bird-human) which serve as vehicles of Vishnu. Varahi as the shakthi of Vishnu is depicted with head of a boar having three eyes and eight arms holding in her six hands a discus, conch-shell, mace, lotus, noose and plough; while the other two hands gesture Abhaya and Varada mudra-s. She is depicted as riding, alternatively, a Garuda, a tiger, a lion, an elephant or a horse.


49.6. In the Sri Vidya tradition, Varahi occupies a special position as Para-Vidya (superior power) .She is described as Dandanayika or Dandanatha – the commander-general of goddess Tripurasundari’s army. She is also the chief- counsellor (maha-mantrini) to the Devi. Varahi is also said to stand in a ‘father’ position to the Devi, while Kurukulla is the ‘mother’.

49.7. Varahi has presence in the Buddhist Tantric lore, also. There, she is described as the fierce Vajra-varahi or Vajra-yogini.

Aum Varaaha-muhi Vidmahe

Aanthra-shani Dhimahee

Thanno Yamuna Prachodayath


Kumaara rupa Kaumari mayura bar vahana
Raktha vastra dhara padma-shula-shakthi-gandhara eti Kaumari (Rupamandana)

50.1. Kaumari also known as Kumari, Karttikeyani and Ambika is the power of Kumara or Skanda; the war – god .Her depictions resemble that of Kumara. She is ever youthful, representing aspirations in life. Kaumari is also regarded as Guru-Guha the intimate guide who resides in the cave of one’s heart. She is shown seated under a fig tree (Oudumbara) riding a peacock, which is also her emblem.  Her complexion is golden yellow; and is dressed in red garments. She wears garland of red flowers. Kaumari has four hands; and carries Shakthi and Kukkuta (cockerel) or Ankusha (goad). The other two hands gesture Abhaya and Varada mudras. She is adorned with a makuta said to be bound with Vasika or Vachika. She embodies ideas of valour and courage. (Purvakaranagama and Devi Purana).

50.2. According to the Vishnudharmottara, Kaumari should be shown with six faces and twelve arms; two of her hands gesturing Abhaya and Varada mudras.  In her other hands she carries the Shakthi, Dhvaja, Danda, Dhanus, Bana, Ghanta, Padma, Patra and Parasu. Each of her heads has three eyes; and is adorned with karanda-makuta.

Aum Sikid-vajaaya Vidmahe

Vajra Hasthaya Dhimahee

Thanno Kowmari Prachodayath


Dastrala kshindeha chagatrakarshana bhimrudani

Dig-bahuksham kushisa musalan chakra marganaum//
Ankusha bibharti khadgam daksnesvatah
Khetaasa dhanurdandam kutharam chalti bibarti//
Chamunda pretaga raktha bikratasyahi bhusanath
Dvibhuja prakatray kartika karyamnuintra //


51.1. Chamunda also known as Chamundi; and, Charchika is the Shakthi of Devi (Chandi). She is the destructive form of Devi; and is similar in appearance and habits to Kali.  Devi Mahatmya recounts that in the course of her fight with demons Chanda and Munda, Devi created from her forehead the terrible form of Chamunda.

There are , however,  alternate explanations.

According to the text of the Devi Mahatmya, Kali is celebrated as Chamunda after she overpowers and beheads Chanda and Munda.

śiraścaṇḍasya kālī ca ghītvā muṇḍameva ca  prāha pracaṇḍā aṭṭahāsa miśra mabhyetya caṇḍikām  7.23॥

The Devi, then, declares that since Kali presented her with the heads of these two demons, she would henceforth be renowned in the world as Chamunda – cāmuṇḍeti tato loke khyātā Devī bhaviyasi .Thereafter in the text, Kali and Chamunda become synonyms.

Yasmāc-Caṇḍa ca Muṇḍa ca ghītvā tvamupāgatā  Cāmuṇḍeti tato loke khyātā Devī bhaviyasi  7.27

Bhaskararaya Makhin, however, interprets the term Chamunda, differently, as: ‘chamum, ‘army’ and lati, ‘eats’; meaning that Chamunda is literally ‘she who eats armies’—a reference to Kali as Chamunda who drinks the blood of the army of the demon Raktabija.

jaghāna raktabīja ta cāmuṇḍā apītaśoitam  sa papāta mahīpṛṣṭhe śastra saghasam āhata  8.61

He regards the Mahadevi Chamunda, in her integrated form (Samasti), as of the nature of the Brahman- Brahma-svarupini. She combines in herself her other diversified (Vyasti) forms of Mahalakshmi (Aim); Mahasarasvathi (Hrim); and, Mahakali (Kilm). 

51.2. Coming back to Chamunda as as a Matrika, unlike other Matrikas, Chamunda is an independent goddess. She is also praised as the fertility goddess of Vindhya Mountains She is also associated with Yama.

The descriptions of Chamunda are varied.

One of the descriptions of Chamunda mention of her as a goddess of terrible countenance, black and scowling, with drawn sword and lasso, holding a Khatvanga, wearing a garland of severed heads  (munda-mala) suspended by their hair. Chamunda is clad in a tiger skin, hungry and emaciated, mouth hideously distorted and the tongue protruding out. She sits upon a seat made of three skulls; and has a cadaver for footrest. She plucked off the heads of Chanda and Munda and presented both heads to Kausiki.

51.3. In other descriptions, a bear’s skin is tied over Chamunda’s clinging skirt, with its head and legs dangling on her back. She wears the skin of an elephant as a cape and grasps two of the animal’s feet in her uppermost hands. In her other hands she brandishes an array of weapons and awe-inspiring objects.

51.4. Chamunda is often depicted as dark in colour with very emaciated body, having three eyes, sunken belly and a terrifying face with a wide grin. Her hair is abundant and thick and bristles upwards. Her abode is under fig (oudumbara) tree. On her sunken chest, swings garland of skulls (mundamala) in the manner of a Yajnopavita. She wears a very heavy jata-makuta formed of piled, matted hair tied with snakes or skull ornaments. Sometimes, a crescent moon is seen on her head. Her garment is the tiger skin. Chamunda is depicted adorned by ornaments of bones, skulls, serpents and scorpions, symbols of disease and death. And in her four hands she holds damaru (drum), trishula (trident), khadga (sword) and panapatra (drink-vessel). She is riding a Jackal; or is seated in Padmasana or is standing on a corpse of a male (shava or preta).She is accompanied by fiends and goblins. She is surrounded by skeletons or ghosts and beasts like jackals, who eat the flesh of the corpse that the goddess sits or stands on. The jackals and her fearsome companions are sometimes depicted as drinking blood from the skull-cup or blood dripping from the severed head.

51.5. Purva-karanagama mentions that Chamunda, red in colour, should be depicted with wide open mouth set in a terrifying face having three eyes. Her socket eyes are described as burning like flames. She has a sunken belly; and, wears on her head the digit of the moon as Siva does. She has four arms. The black or red coloured Chamunda 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-bowl (kapala), filled with blood, an urn of fire. She wears in her ears Kundla-s made of Conch shell (Sankha Patra). Her Vahana is an Owl; and the emblem of her banner an Eagle.

51.6. Vishnudharmottara describes Chamunda as having a terrific face with powerful tusks and seated upon a male corpse. She has a very emaciated body and sunken eyes and ten hands. The belly of this goddess is thin and apparently empty. She carries in her ten hands: Musala, Kavacha, Bana, Ankusha, Khadga, Khetaka, Dhanus, Danda and Parasu.

Aum Pisaasath-vajaaya Vidmahe

Soola Hasthaya Dhimahee

Thanno Kali Prachodayath


52.1. In the Devi Mahatmya, the Saptamatrkas (the seven Matrkas) mentioned are: Brahmi, Maheshwari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda. At times, Narasimhi is mentioned in place of Chamunda. In some versions, the Martkas are counted as eight (Ashta-Matara) by including Narasimhi. There is also a tradition of Ashtamatrikas, eight Matrkas, which is prevalent in Nepal region. In Nepal, the eighth Matrka is Maha-Lakshmi (she is different from Vaishnavi). Narasimhi does not figure in the lists of Devi Purana and in Nepal.

52.2. Narasimhi or Narasimhini or Narasimhika with the face of a lion, fierce claws and four arms is the shakthi of Narasimha. She is said to have came out from the heart of the Devi. As Matrka, Narasimhi is regarded as an independent deity; and not as a female counterpart of Narasimha. In The Vaishnava School, she is believed to be an aspect of Lakshmi who pacified the ferocious Narasimha.

52.3. In Devi Mahatmya, Narasimhi accompanies Devi in the fight against demons Shumbha and Nishumba. There Narasimhi is described as a ferocious warrior: Narasimhi arrived there, assuming a body like that of a Narasimha throwing the stars into disarray, bringing down the constellations by the toss of her mane (DM: 20) . And, Narasimhi, filling all the quarters and the sky with her roars, roamed about in the battle, devouring other great asuras torn by her claws (DM: 37).

52.4. Narasimhi is sometimes identified with Pratyangira who is endowed with four arms and a face as terrible as that of a lion. Her head is that of a male lion and her body is that of a human-female. Her hair stands erect on her head. In her hands she holds a skull, trident, Damaru and the noose (nagapasa).  She is seated on a lion and by her power destroys all enemies.

52.5. In Tantric worship, Pratyangira is shown with a dark complexion, ferocious in aspect, having a lion’s face with reddened eyes and riding a lion wearing black garments, she wears a garland of human skulls; her hair strands on end, and she holds a trident, a serpent in the form of a noose, a hand-drum and a skull in her four hands. She is also associated with Bhairava, as Atharvana-Bhadra-Kali.

Sri Pratyangira Devi is also associated with Sri Chakra. She protects the devotees and guides him/her along the right path.

52.6. The Shaiva School suggests that Pratyangira sprung from the wings of Lord Sharabesha, the bird-lion-human form that Shiva assumed to pacify (subdue) the ferocious Narasimha.

[According to Kalikagama, the body of Sharabha should be that of a bird of golden hue, having two red eyes; and it should have two up-lifted wings and eight limbs. Sharabha, which is said to be mightier than an elephant, should have the fierce face of a lion grinning widely, having tusks and   wearing kirita makuta. The torso of Sharabha resembles that of human male having four hands .The lower part of its body should resemble that of a lion having four legs, sharp claws and a tail. Sharabha should be shown carrying the figure of Narasimha in his human form with upraised folded hands, anjali mudra. ]


53.1. Mahalakshmi is counted as the eighth Matrika in the Asta-matrika tradition followed in the Nepal region. Mahalakshmi, as Matrka, is not derived from Devi Mahatmya, although she is described as “Universal Mother’ in other contexts. As Matrka, Mahalakshmi is regarded as an aspect of Durga; not as Lakshmi the consort of Vishnu. Mahalakshmi here represents her subtle aspect as Mind, specially her Sovereignty.

53.2. In the Shaktha tradition, Mahalakshmi is an independent Supreme Divinity manifesting herself as Maha-Sarasvathi (Sattva), Mahalakshmi (Rajas) and as Maha-Kali (Tamas).

Devi Mahatmya explains Mahalakshmi as Devi in her universal form as Shakthi. She is the primordial energy and was the first to appear before everything (sarva-sadhya); she is both devoid of form (nirakara) and filled with forms (sakara);   she is both manifest and un-manifest; She is the essence of all things (sarva sattva mayi). She creates and governs all existence (Isvari), and is known by various names (nana-abhidana-brut). She is the ultimate goal of yoga.  Mahalakshmi is the creator of the Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra.

53.3. Mahalakshmi is the presiding Goddess of the Middle episode (Chapters 2-4) of Devi Mahatmya. In her manifestation as Mahalakshmi, the Devi destroys the demon Mahishasura. The Goddess fought the demon for nine days starting from prathipath (the first day of the brighter halfof the month of Ashvayuja; and killed the demon on the tenth day Vijaya-Dashami ending his reign of evil and terror. Her victory symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

53.4. Mahalakshmi described as having been created by the effulgence of all the gods is depicted as Ashtadasha Bhuja Mahalakshmi, with eighteen arms.

Skanda Purana (Sahyadri khanda) describes Mahalakshmi as: “She who springs from the body of all gods has a thousand or indeed countless arms, although her image is shown with eighteen hands. Her face is white made from the light streaming from the face of Shiva. Her arms are made of substance of Vishnu are deep blue; her round breasts made of Soma are white. Her waist is Indra and is red. Her feet sprung from Brahma are also red; while her calves’ and thigh sprung from Varuna are blue. She wears a gaily coloured lower garment, brilliant garlands and a veil. In her eighteen arms, starting from the lower left, she holds in her hands : a rosary, a lotus, an arrow, a sword, a hatchet, a club, a discus, an ax, a trident, a conch, a bell, , a noose, a sphere, a stick, a hide, a bow, a chalice and a water pot.”

The Chandi Kalpa adds that Mahalakshmi should be seated upon a lotus (saroja sthitha) and her complexion must be that of coral (pravala prabha).

54.4. When she is shown with four hands, Mahalakshmi is depicted as seated on a lotus throne, holding padma, shankha, a kalasha and a fruit (bilva or maatulunga). Her four hands signify her power to grant the four types (chatur vidha) of human attainments (purushartha): dharma, artha, Kama and moksha.

54.5. The Shilpa text Rupa-mandana suggests Mahalakshmi with four arms (chatur-bhuja) should be depicted in the colour of molten-gold (taptha-kanchana-sannibha) and decorated with golden ornaments (kanchana bhushana). She is also described as having complexion of coral; and seated on a lotus. Her four hands carry matulunga fruit, mace, shield and bowl of liquor. Her head must be adorned with snake-hood and a linga.

[Note: 1.

The head-gears mentioned for the Matrkas are commonly the Kirita -makutaKaranda-makuta and Jata-makutaMansara, the ancient text of Shilpa shastra, classifies these types of head-gears under the term makuta or mouli (MansaraMauli-lakshanam: 49; 1-232). For all makuta-s, the width commencing from the bottom should be gradually made lesser and lesser towards the top.

Among these, the Kirita-makuta is an elaborate crown that adorns major gods such as Vishnu and his forms (Narayana) and also emperors (Sarvabhouma).It has the appearance of Taranga-s (waves) and its middle is made into the shape of flowers and adorned with precious stones. The base of the Kirita-makuta should be curved like a crescent (ardha-chandra) just above the forehead. The height of the Kirita-makuta should be two or three times the length of the wearer’s face.

The Karanda-makuta is prescribed for lesser gods and for goddesses when depicted along with their spouse. It is simpler and shallower as compared to Kirita-makuta. The Karanda-makuta is a small conical cornet receding in tier. It is   shaped like an inverted flowerpot, tapering from the bottom upwards and ending in a bud. The width of a Karanda-makuta at the top should, however, be only one-half or one-third less than that at its base.

The jata- makuta is suitable according to Mansara for Brahma and Rudra, as also for consorts of Shiva. Jata-makuta, is made up of jata or matted locks, which are twisted into encircling braids of spiral curls and tied into a knot looped at the top. It is held in place by a patta (band); and is adorned with forest flowers and by a number of ornamental discs like the makara-kutapatra-kuta, and the ratna-kuta. In the case of Shiva, the jata-makuta is adorned with a crescent of the moon, a cobra and the Ganga.

In the case of Matrkas:  Vaishnavi and Aindri are adorned with kirita-makuta; Brahmi, Varahi and Kaumari with karanda-makuta; while Maheshwari and Chamunda are adorned with jata-makuta.


Note: 2.

Among the ayudhas carried by the Matrka deities the following are commonly mentioned: Khadga (Sword) ; Trishula (Trident) ; (Chakra Thunder – disc) Gada or Khitaka (Mace) ; Dhanush (Bow) ; Bana (Arrow ); Javelin (Bharji) ; Parashu (Battle- Axe) ;  Musula (pestle) ;  Danda (staff);khatvanga (skull-mace), khetaka or Sipar (shield); Ankusha (Goad) ; Sutra or Pasha(Noose or lasso); Damaru (drum); Panapatra (drinking cup); Ghanta (Bell) ; Akshamala (rosary) ;  Pustaka (book) ; kamandalu (water pot) ; and Vanamala (garland of forest-flowers ). ]

References and Sources

The iconography of the saptamatrikas: by Katherine Anne Harper: Edwin Mellen press ltd (1989-10)

Saptamatrka Worship and Sculptures by Shivaji K Panikkar; DK Print World (1997).

The Roots of Tantra by Katherine Anne Harper (2002)

Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions by David Kinsley; (1987)

Tribal Roots of Hinduism by SK Tiwari; Sarup and Sons (2002)

The Portrait of the Goddess in the Devī-māhātmya by David Kinsley

The Little Goddesses (Matrikas) by Aryan, K.C; Rekha Prakashan (1980)

Goddesses in Ancient India by P K Agrawala; Abhinav Publications (1984)

The Tantra of Sri Chakra by Prof. SK Ramachandra Rao ; Sharada Prakashana (1983)


Sapta Matrikas and Matrikas

The mother goddess in Indian sculpture By Cyril Veliath

Some discussions on the Skanda – Tantra and Balagrahas

The Mahabharata of Krishna –Dwaipayana Vyasa (Book 3, Part 2) Section 229

Devis of the first enclosure

All pictures are from Internet


Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Devi, Saptamatrka


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Saptamatrka – Part Two

Continued from Part One

Origins and the Overview

10.1. The Saptamatrkas briefly referred to, earlier, in Part One in the context of Devi’s battle with the Asuras have indeed a very long history. They have their origins in various myths, legends as also in the beliefs and practices of the distant tribal mores. The Matrkas, perhaps, originated in the tribal traditions and folk cultures. They were the local goddesses who protected the village boundaries and fertility; took care of child growth, diseases, etc. They come in myriad names, forms and attributes.

10.2. The cult of the mother-goddess is woven into the fabric of our social, cultural and religious history. The Mother-goddesses have universal acceptance as well as a local relevance. They find more spontaneous expressions in rural communities. The faith in the mothers or spirits which afflict people, especially the children, is an ancient one; but, its epic forms came later. There are many different myths about the origins of the Matrkas in the Puranas and in the Tantra lore. Different versions of their origins are narrated in Mahabharata, Devi Mahatmya, Linga-purana, Matsya – purana, Bhagavata purana and Visnudharmottara purana.

Mohenjo-Daro seal

10.3. There are also attempts to trace back the origin of the Saptamatrkas to hymns of Rig-Veda and to the Indus seals. At several places in Rig Veda there are references to groups of goddesses or maids, in sets of three, seven or ten. But, they have no independent identity and have no distinct functions or names. For instance, there is a mention of Ten young unwed daughters of Tvashta, who together hold the babe, the new-born infant (RV: 3.29.13).There are references to seven red-sisters associated with Agni as his mothers or sisters. But, they are generally interpreted as seven tongues or flames of Agni. And again, there is the group of female deities referred to as mothers who supervise the preparation of Soma (RV: 10.102.4).

There is also another set of seven sisters, singing in chorus, who are invoked in charm against poison or snakebite; and who ‘carry away the venom, as far away, as the girls bear the water in their jars’ (RV: 1.164.3). Some have tried identifying these sets of Mothers or sisters as Saptamatrkas. Similarly, the seven female figures on the four seals of the Indus valley are also taken to represent Saptamatrkas.

I, however, reckon that all such readings are mere conjectures. And, both the sets of questions are rather vexed. At the most, the female figures on Indus seals might point to the then prevailing belief system and practices involving worship of female deities.

[The study of Indian religious traditions has to be approached today with some sensitivity and care. Today’s Hindus, Buddhists and Jains have their own traditions of scholarship and study, and their own ways of understanding themselves and their religions. At the same time, Western societies   have developed their own modes of understanding Asian religions, both popular and academic, and these undoubtedly have their own flaws and limitations.

It is therefore important to approach this subject-matter, rather cautiously , as if stepping into an unknown large and complex area, At the same time we also need to be unbiased; and, recognize the limits of our knowledge and insight into the very ancient bygone practices of the forgotten periods of pre-history. That problem is exacerbated by the horribly mixed up chronological conjectures based on scanty unreliable evidences. .

Therefore, no single point of view- textual, anthropological, internal or external – can be taken as absolute or primary. All or each of these may have some truth-content. It would, perhaps, be better to take a reasonably balanced view, integrating diverse perspectives. Such an approach, which tries to harmonize the key points of varied perspectives might, hopefully, lead us to broader understanding of the issue.]

10.4. The scholars, generally, are inclined towards the view that the Matrkas perhaps originated in the tribal traditions, as extension of the Mother-Goddess cult dating back to the time-less past. Matrkas, it is said, were originally, the village deities who came from non-Aryan beliefs and practices where they were looked upon as guardians of the house and village, presiding over childbirth and taking care of the children and preventing diseases. And, the village deities were later absorbed into the higher traditions and rendered as goddesses in the orthodox texts.

[The term ‘non-Aryan’ should not be construed to mean aboriginal or savage. We should bear in mind whatever is non-Vedic is not necessarily non-Aryan; and that the Vedic beliefs may not represent the whole of the old Aryan communities. Now, look at it in the other way:  idol-worship may not be Aryan; but, it is definitely a part of what is now known as Hinduism. And, Hinduism is enriched by countless tribal cultures and elements that are ’non-Aryan’.]

To explain: What is now called Hinduism was not made; but, it has grown over the centuries by absorbing, transforming and reforming various cult and tribal beliefs and practices, many of which were vague and amorphous. The Hindu culture, philosophy and rituals are greatly enriched by countless tribal cultures. But, all the while it did retain the ancient concept of an all-pervading, Universal entity from which everything emanates and into which everything eventually returns. Some describe Hinduism as an inverted tree or a jungle; but not a strictly planned structural building.

The Hinduism of today is perhaps closer to the religion that existed during the Mahabharata times. But, it is far removed from the esoteric religion of the Rig Veda or the strict Vedic concept propagated by Swami Dayananada Sarasvathi.]

10.5. The Matrkas could be the synthesis of various Vedic and non-Vedic deities having relevance in their regional contexts, worshipped over a long period of time.



11.1. Among the diverse sources of the Matrka cult, the old belief in Balagraha (Baala = child; graha = seizers) is an important one. They are basically a group of nameless fearsome seizers who ‘possess’ or afflict children until their age of five (or sixteen, as per some beliefs). They are seen as threats to wellbeing of children; even having a tendency to steal children (Harti).

[Interestingly, Harati the child-snatcher also figures in Buddhist tales. According to the Buddhist legends, the childless victims of Hariti beg the Buddha to save them from her cruelty. The Buddha then, it is said, arranges to hide away Harati’s child in a secret place. After having lost her child, Harati in desperation,  searches all over the earth – in the cities, villages, forests, mountains, rivers  and islands etc. She even searches in the kingdoms of gods and Demons. At the end, after exhausting all other options, she appeals to the Buddha for help in retrieving her lost child. He points out that her suffering is insignificant compared to the combined suffering of all the mothers whose children she  killed. She agrees, though reluctantly, to give up her nasty habit of snatching away the children; and also promises to protect children, henceforth. At that, the Buddha returns her child, safe and sound.  Thereafter, Hariti becomes a disciple of the Buddha and joins the Sangha. Harati in Buddhism becomes a spirit (Yakshi) of fertility, childbirth, motherhood, and the protector of children ;and also  a Yakshi of healing.


These tutelary deities or spirits, including Nagas, Pisachas and Yakshas, are derived from Lower Tradition. These are also addressed as goddesses, because, interestingly, the concept of Deva or god embraces all supernatural beings. It is said; all beings right from Brahma down to Pisachas are ‘gods’ (Brahmadayah Pisachanta yam hi deva upasate).

11.2. The Balagraha spirits are said to dwell in cross-roads, in cemeteries, on mountains, in caves, and on trees (vrikshi). Adorned with diverse kinds of ornaments, strange attire and speaking verities of languages they strike terror in the hearts of foes. They are feared because they are believed to endanger foetuses or infants; to hinder as also to aid conception, birth, ailments and protection of children. These deities perhaps symbolized the mixture of exhilaration, anxiety and fears of the risks associated with pregnancy; the innocence and joy of childhood; the horror of infant mortality; and the bewildering mystery in which these joys and fears are shrouded.

At another level, they personified the faith in tremendous powers of the folk deities to nurture or to destroy. The Balagraha were, naturally, feared and respected. And, the worship practices, prayers and offerings submitted to these spirits during formal rituals were motivated, mainly, by the anxiety and preoccupation with progeny; the propitiation of fertility and warding away of forces inimical to children.

[The ancient medical practitioners such as Charaka and Shushruta (Ca. 400 – 200 BCE) as also Vagbhata (Astanga-samgraha) deal with the diseases that afflict the children [K (a) umAratantra]. Some of the kumAra ailments are inherited while the others that cause disturbance of mind, depression and other psychic conditions are acquired from apparently unknown causes which defy explanations. The Uttara Tantra of a latter period (chapters 27 to 29)   prescribes medicines (oshadhi) to combat the kumAra afflictions, in addition to mantra-s (mantra prayoga) and ritual oblations, to appease the offending Bala graha-s (bhuta vidya).]

Kushana period

12.1. The Balagraha tradition seemed to prevail even during the Kushana period. But, The Kushana period (1st to 3rd century) was also the age of assimilation of various beliefs, concepts and practices surrounding the diverse types of deities. In this process, the Balagraha deities from Lower Tradition got entwined with the many legends surrounding the birth of Skanda or Kumara or Kartikeya. The Balagraha beliefs played a pivotal role in the formation of motif of mother and child. The Kushanas as also Yahudeya warriors who brought down Kushana Empire were worshippers of Skanda. And, the tutelary deities Lokamatas associated with Skanda gained upward mobility from folk traditions.

12.2. The Kushana period sculptures depict groups of female deities in varying numbers having animal or human faces and carrying children .These figures came to be recognized as Matrka images. Their sculptures combined in themselves mutually opposing features: the maternal protection and the destructive wrath. These divergent aspects were symbolized by the child in their lap and by the weapons of war they carried. But, one of the major problems with the Kushana sculptures is in relating them to the goddesses portrayed in the texts.

Gupta period

13.1. The Gupta kings(400-600 AD)had a special affinity towards Skanda the Commander of the godly forces (Deva-senapati). The Gupta warriors adopted Skanda, the war god, as their mascot. Some of their kings took the names of Skanda. It was during the reign of Skanda Gupta (455- 467 AD) and Kumara Gupta (473-476 AD) that along with Skanda, the Devi and other goddesses associated with him gained prominence. A full-fledged goddess pantheon was brought forth. Various folk and tribal goddesses, each with a distinct nature and form, were absorbed into the ambit of the Devi lore; and, they all converged to project one Great Mother Goddess Mahadevi. In another manner, various powerful and personified individual goddesses came to be regarded as her emanations.

13.2. During the Gupta period, a link was forged between Skanda, Kartikeya or Kumara and the Matrkas as his foster mothers. In the process, the Matrkas as also the other folk and tribal goddesses were elevated into the Higher Tradition. The Matrkas were raised to the nobility of court goddesses. And, their myths and legends were rendered into Sanskrit texts. Their iconic forms were standardized and developed into sculptural /iconographic depictions. Powerful and innovative images of the seven mothers started appearing   in various sculptures. Saptamatrkas, as a group, were depicted as beneficent goddesses but yet associated with fearsome aspects. In their individual portrayals only their benevolent aspects were projected.

It is said; one Mayuraksha, a minister of Visvavarman (contemporary of Kumara Gupta (473-476 AD), built a temple in honour of the seven divine Mothers. The repeated appearances of Saptamatrkas in the Gupta period emphasize their importance in the religious life of its common people.

13.3. The continued acceptance of the Matrkas as worship worthy deities   over long periods is also evidenced by their mention in Dramas and other texts of even the earlier periods. For instance, in poet Bhasa’s (second century BC to second century AD) unfinished play Daridra-Charudatta (Charudatta in poverty) and in its elaboration Mṛcchakaṭika (The Little Clay Cart) scripted by Sudraka (second century BC) there are scenes depicting worship of Matrkas. And, Natyasastra of Bharata, also around second century BC, recommends worship of Matrka, Natya-mata, as a part of consecration of the stage and the play-house (natya-griha).

And in much later times, it is said, the early Kadambas of Banavasi (345–525 AD) and their subordinates the early Chalukyas (543–753 AD) worshipped Matrkas. Later, Banabhatta’s monumental poem Kadambari (606–647 AD) also refers to Matrka worship by the forest dwelling tribes Shabaras. And, mentions that their chieftain was an ardent believer of mother goddess Katyayani. Incidentally, the Shabara tribe played an important role in the political history of ancient India. They aided the foundation of Maurya Empire (see Visakhadatta’s Mudra-rakshasa).

14.1. When you look back, you find that during the Kushana period along with the acceptance of Skanda and different mothers into the Vedic fold it also led to taming of the dangerous Balagrahas through the infant. The Kushana figures were inspired by the mother and child motif of the Balagraha traditions. The Gupta period improved upon the Kushana figures and rendered them into classy sculptures naming them as Saptamatrkas. The Ayudha-purusha the arm-bearing guards of the Kushana figures were replaced during the Gupta period by Ganesha and Veerabhadra.

The concept of Saptamatrka was however derived from Devi Mahatmya and Puranas, where the Saptamatrkas are basically ferocious looking female warriors. They are fundamentally different from the Balagraha deities that hinder the child. Yet, the Saptamatrka sculptures were patterned after the Balagraha depictions. Conceptually, the Saptamatrka of the later traditions have nothing or very little to do with Balagraha. Amidst these contradictions, it is the child that links the three traditions.


15. It is in the Puranas that the Matrkas find their definite forms and acquire distinct personalities. Most of the Puranas, it is believed, came to be written by about 250 AD, though exact periods are not known. During the Gupta period (400-600 AD), hailed as the Golden Age, innovations were made in art and literature. In the words of Ananda Coomaraswamy “it was indeed the classic phase of Indian art, at once serene, energetic and voluptuous”. It was an age of revivalism. This was also the period when Puranas were expanded or reinterpreted. This literarily production was ground breaking; bringing the lore of gods and goddesses closer to common people.

The battles

15. 1. The one myth that is of great importance in the conception of Saptamatrka is the recurring battles between the Devas and Demons. The conflict is so fundamental that the theme persists as a central motif throughout the evolution of the orthodox religion and particularly that of the Shaktha sect. The conflict finds its reflection in a variety of shades of interpretations. It also provides legends explaining the origin of various groups of deities such as: Dasha Mahavidya; Navadurga; Matrkas and others.

The appearance of the Saptamatrkas to assist Devi in her battle with the Asuras, as detailed in Devi Mahatmya (a portion of Markandeya purana), is one among the many versions of their origins associated with battles against the Demons.

Here, Matrkas arise from different parts of Devi; and are described as militant, ferocious, goddesses of the battlefield having sinister as well as propitious characteristics. After the battle, the Matrkas dance drunk with their victim’s blood.

15.2. According to another version, during the battle against demons Shumba and Nishumba, the Matrkas emerge from the bodies of gods- Brahma, Vishnu Shiva, Skanda and Indra.

15.3. As per the narration in Matsya Purana, Shiva created the seven Matrkas to assist him in his combat against the demon Andhaka. After the battle, the Matrkas go on a rampage destroying the beings of the world. The destructive Matrkas are eventually pacified by the benign goddesses created by Lord Narasimha.

15.4. In the Suprabhedagama it is said these seven Matrkas were created by Brahma the purpose of killing the Demon Nirrita.

15. 5. Varaha Purana carries an interesting sidelight. It mentions that the Matrkas were created from the distracted mind of goddess Vaishnavi while she was trying hard to meditate. These Matrkas are described as lovely looking attendants assisting the goddess on the battlefield.

15.6. Similarly, in the battles carried out by Skanda –Kartikeya as the Supreme commander of the Army of Devas, replacing Indra, Mahabharata (Book 9; Shalya parva; Section 46) mentions that as many as ninety-two or more female warriors assist him (Please click here for the list); and fight the demons along with him. Among the unwieldy group of female warriors were a cluster of goddesses – Matrkas. Some of these Matrkas are described as having youthful lovely form, cheerful demeanour and fair skin; while the others were having long nails, large teeth and protruding lips, striking terror. They all were valiant like Indra in battle.

Other accounts

16.1. Apart from such wide-ranging narrations which are related with battles, there are other accounts connecting Matrkas with Skanda. In one of the legends associated with Skanda detailed in the Vana-parva (215.16) of Mahabharata, the Matrkas known as Lokamatas are a host of ferocious and terrifying beings sent by Indra to kill the infant Skanda, shortly after his birth. They function as a group and all references to them are as a group. They are inauspicious beings with loathsome qualities and untidy habits.

16.2. The subsequent episode related with Skanda (in the same text) mentions that the Matrkas emanated from the sides of Skanda when struck by Indra’s thunderbolt. Skanda divides the host of fierce goddess into Shiva (auspicious) and A-Shiva (inauspicious) groups. Yet all were said to be of rather malicious nature.

16.3. Yet another version mentions them as Krittikas, the desolate wives of six sages (Rishi) driven out by their husbands; and then adopted by Kartikeya as his foster mothers. They come to be known as Maha -matrkas.

Malevolent nature of early Matrkas

17.1. Most references in Mahabharata state that the Matrkas are inauspicious; and are dangerous to children. Though they eventually serve Kartikeya as his mother, their initial task was to kill him.

17.2. The malevolent nature of the Matrkas is also seen in several passages of Bhagavata Purana, where they are listed under Ugras, Rakshasas, Pisachas, Bhutas and other dangerous kind of beings (BP: 2.10.37-39). Elsewhere in Bhagavata Purana they are mentioned along with Bhutas, Dakinis, Vetala , Pretas and Pisachas and other terrible beings as parts of Shiva’s  entourage (BP:10.83.6.ff). They are commonly understood as dangerous groups of female spirits or goddesses.

17.3. In the same vein, another list of ten female sprits is mentioned. All of them serve inauspicious purposes and have hideous forms tormenting children until they are sixteen years of age.

Unfolding of the Matrka cult

18.1. The various accounts of the Puranas if taken together suggest an evolution, assimilation and the gradual unfolding of the Matrka worship. Their association with Skanda enabled the upper mobility of the tutelary goddesses. And, as Skanda began to assume an independent godhead status in the neo-Vedic pantheon, the Matrkas came to be increasingly associated with Ambika or Durga whose cult was gaining ascendency during the ideological consolidation that was taking place during the Gupta period.

During the process of assimilation, over a period, the groups of untamed destructive female forces were reformed and brought into the broad theological view cantered upon the concept of Shakthi. The Vedic preoccupation with number seven (the concept of heptads) crept in, and the Matrkas were crystallized into Saptamatrka, a group of seven goddesses.

Thus, the innumerable tutelary mother goddesses who were accepted into the family of Skanda were supplanted by the new standard seven mothers. The names of the previous mother goddesses gradually faded into background and finally disappeared. The Saptamatrkas are thus the systematized and refined forms of the earlier Matrkas


19.1. The Krittikas and others were not regarded as worship worthy goddesses. The Puranas also do not specifically recognize them as powers though they assert that all feminine principles are aspects of Devi.

19.2. Therefore, the concept of Saptamatrka as Shakthi was not derived from these Puranas. It came up through another source, which is the Tantra ideology. The study of the development of Shakthi cult might enable us to locate the origins of the Matrka concept in that tradition. Here, the embodiment of potent feminine forces (shakthi) are generally named matr or matri; and in group as matrgana. They are called Matrka (mata iva), meaning mother (matr)-like (ka).

The term Matrkas, therefore, generally refers to groups of mother-like deities. They are the personified energies of the gods (Deva Shakthi) and are described as universal mothers (vishvasya mataraha).

9.3. In Tantra, Matra also refers to the letters of the alphabets that are regarded as the perceptible forms or the aspects of the Mother; and hence are termed as Matrkas, the mother-like who attend on the Great Mother and approximate her to some extent. It is believed that the fifty-two alphabets of the Sanskrit language emanated from the Mother (matrka-mayi); and she takes the name in every one of them*.

During the ritual worship of the Mother, her presence is invoked in the body of the Sadhaka through a procedure known as anga-nyasa or consecration of the different parts of the body. The invoking of the Mother – Matrika Nyasa – along with the five elements is a significant ritual. It is meant to emphasize   that you belong to the Mother; and you are sanctified by her presence in you.

[* For the purpose of daily recitations, each of the fifty-one alphabetic letters (Matrika) is extended , in the given order,  into a name of the Devi: .]

Amrita Aakarshini Indrani Iishani
Uma Urdhva-keshini Ekapadini Aishvari
Omkarini Aishadhantika Ambika Aksharatmika
Kalaratri Khatita Gayatri Ghantadharini
Narnatmika Chanda Chaya Jaya
Jhankarini Jnanarupa Thankahasta Thamkarini
Damri Dhamkarini Namini Tamasi
Thamini Dakshayani Dhatri Nanda
Parvati Phatkarini Bandhini Bhadrakali
Mahakaya Yashasvini Rakta Lambobosti
Varada Shashini Sarasvathi Hamsavathi
and Kshamavathi


Another explanation is also based in the structure of the Devanagari alphabet. First is the (a) group (varga) which contains the vowels, then the (ka), (cha), (ta), (ta), (pa), (ya) and (ksha) groups. It is believed; the seven mother goddesses (Saptamatrka) correspond to the seven consonant groups (Vargas); and, when the vocalic (a) group is added, the eight mother goddesses (ashtamatrkas) are obtained.

In this grouping;

  • Brahmi is associated with ka-varga,
  • Maheshwari with Cha-varga,
  • Kaumari with Ta-varga,
  • Vaishnavi with Tta –varga,
  • Varahi with Pa-varga,
  • Indrani with Ya-varga and
  • Chamunda with Ksha-varga.

It is said, the eighth Matrika, Mahalakshmi is the presiding deity of A-varga.

19.5. Kashmir Shaivism (around eleventh century) explains Matrka as the binding energy that makes it possible to understand words or symbols strung together as language. Its text Siva Sutra defines Matrika as ‘the ground of all knowledge ’(jñānādhisthāna mātrikā- Shiva Sutra:1-4).Matrika is the subtle force behind thought and speech.

19.6. One of the fundamental concepts of Kashmir Shaivism is that our mind, in the form of words, concepts, and ideas, is the source of bondage and suffering. And, as long as we do not understand the true nature of matrika, we are bound by worldly actions and feelings ­, without ever really understanding the source of their power over us.

19.7. Another Tantra-text Lakshmi Tantra declares “Matrika is the source of all mantras, the origin of all sciences and the soil from which all the principles, all the sages and all knowledge are born.” Matrika Shakthi is the power of sound that is the matrix of the cosmos; and manifests as the letters in the alphabet.

Tantra Shastra says that Devata and Mantra composed of letters (Matrika), are indeed one. Matrika is Shakthi and Shakthi is Shiva.

19.8. In Tantra, Matrika chakra formed by the group of letters is based on the understanding of the essential power of the word; and by regarding the word as god. Each letter, Matrika, is a power in its own right. Each is a microcosm that holds within it the macrocosm. That is the reason; the whole of Matrika chakra is looked upon by some as the primal alphabet, the essence of all alphabets. And, from this alphabet, according to this tradition, the whole universe arises.

It is also said; in the Matrika Chakra, the sixteen vowels from ‘a’ to ‘ah’ represent the energies of Shiva. And their unity with Matrika ‘m’ creates the universal mantra of Shiva ‘aham’.

19.9. And in Shaktha traditions, Matrkas, the sounds, their vibrations and the combination of vibrations interacting with one another is regarded as   Matrika Shakthi the creative energies that manifest. All things are forms of creative energy, the Shakthi, which is never separate from Shiva, the Absolute.

As regards the Saptamatrkas, in particular, it is said; they represent the seven seed (bija) sounds, comprising five pure-vowels (a, i, u, r, lr) and two compound vowels (e and o).

19.10. Durga the great goddess and the Saptamatrka share certain common features; and also have certain differences. Both were created by the Will of the Gods; and both are the feminine aspects of the energies (tejas) of the Gods. However, in Durga the diverse energies converge to form a unified powerhouse; while in the case of Saptamatrkas various energies remain independent though bound into a group. The seven goddesses are not consorts of male gods, but are the independent aspects of Devi.

20.1. Thus, it is the Shaktha and Tantra ideology, its magical rites and esoteric exercises that provide a distinct significance and life to the cult of Matrkas. In the Tantra, Matrkas emphasize the primacy of the female over the male principle. Usually, they are known as a group; and, are visualized primarily as Shakthi’s potent power of male gods. Their numbers are often indeterminate; although some texts mention them as five, seven, eight, eleven or sixteen. 

They have common attributes and forms associated with the auspicious and, often, with the inauspicious. The various references and epithets of goddesses in the later Vedic and Tantra texts belong either to the sphere of militant goddesses or to the benevolent motherly, fertility deities.



21.1. The Saptamatrka symbolisms were rationalized in the Tantra and Yoga theories. The infant who nestles in the lap of each Matrika is indeed the Sadhaka in care of the Mother. He is reborn at each stage of his pursuit. The weapons held by the goddesses are symbolic of the wars waged on ego and ignorance, as the Sadhaka strives to overcome them.

The Sadhakas such as Ramaprasad and Sri Ramakrishna described themselves as children in the lap of their mother. Even while the mother is angry the child clings to her for love, warmth and protection. In the words of Ramaprasad; you can never separate the bond between a child and a mother. Though she beats it, the child clings to its mother crying, “mother, oh mother”.

21.2. The infant was also seen as a symbol of the benign energy needed to counteract and balance between the negative and the positives forces

21.3. Varaha Purana interpreted the Matrkas as symbols of Atma Vidya or spiritual wisdom that fought against the dark forces of ignorance embodied by the Demon Andhakasura.

21.4. The Tantra-text Tantra-raja-tantra (27; 56 ) relates Matrkas to eight types of vices or inauspicious emotions like envy, pride, anger etc: 

  • Brahmi of pride (mada);
  • Maheswari of anger (krodha);
  • Vaishnavi of greed (lobha);
  • Varahi of envy (asuya);
  • Kaumari of attachment (moha);
  • Aindri of jealousy (matsarya); 
  • Chamunda of depravity (paisunya); and
  • the eighth Yogeshwari represents lust (kama).

Vishnudharmottara Purana and Varaha Purana (17.33-37) also carry similar narrations.

But, Tantra-raja-tantra (36; 15-16) at another place identifies :

  • Brahmi with the primordial desire to create (Kama);
  • Maheshwari with the tendency to degenerate and dissipate (krodha);
  • Kaumari with the youthful longings to be and to enjoy (lobha);
  • Vaishnavi with power to fascinate and delude (moha);
  • Varahi with pride and arrogance (mada);
  • Indrani with jealousy and envy (matsarya);
  • Chamunda with urge to sin (papa) and hurt (abhichara); and ,
  • Mahalakshmi with doing good (punya) for selfish reasons.

21.5. In Tantra and Yoga rituals the Matrkas are worshipped with prayers to suppress and overcome the evil tendencies that obstruct the progress of the devotee .Thus, Matrkas and Yoginis perform vital roles in the Diksha rituals of the adepts.

21.6. In the Sri Vidya tradition, the Matrkas are regarded as the guardians   and are seen as residing in the second line of Bhupura of Sri Chakra, in each direction. They are the guides, protectors and removers of obstructions .The the Sadhaka worships and prays to them as she/he enters into Sri Chakra on her / his way seeking identity with the Great Goddess.

21.7. Mahanirvana Tantra however regards the Matrika –Trinity of Brahmi, Vaishnavi and Maheshwari in an entirely different light. They are worshipped as three aspects of Goddess Gayatri. It asks the Sadhaka :

“In the morning meditate upon Her ( Devi Gayatri)  in Her Brahmi form, as a Maiden of ruddy hue, with a pure smile, with two hands, holding a gourd full of holy water, garlanded with crystal beads, clad in the skin of a black antelope, seated on a Swan (56).

At midday meditate upon Her in Her Vaishnavi form, of the colour of pure gold, youthful, with full and rising breasts, situated in the Solar disc, with four hands holding the conch-shell, discus, mace, and lotus, seated on Garuda, garlanded with wild-flowers (57-58).

In the evening meditate upon Her Maheshwari as of a white colour, clad in white raiment, old and long past her youth, with three eyes, beneficent, propitious, seated on a Bull, holding in Her lotus-like hands a noose, a trident, a lance, and a skull (59-60).  

[Mahanirvana Tantra -Translated by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe)-1913]

22.1. In Yoga, the seven mothers are the symbols of progress as the Sadhaka aims to refine his consciousness.

 Each Matrkas is identified with a level of existence, a state of consciousness and Chakra, the energy centres in the subtle body.

nd, each associated with an alphabet (Matra) is a Matrika Shakthi. They are viewed as parallels of Sat-chakras raising the consciousness to the seventh point- the Sahasrara.

The seven padmas (lotus) along the shusumna are visualized as the seven seats of feminine power (shakthi) – the Kundalini.

To pass from one Matrika to the next is to be born afresh. To reach and surpass the seventh mother is his final birth, that of non-birth which is the release (moksha).

[The Tantric Buddhism also adopted Saptamatrikas in its practices. The powers, attributes and functions of the Buddhist Matrikas are in line with those of their Vedic counterparts. The composite figures of seven-mothers appear in Nalanda. And, the Buddhist goddesses Vajravarahi and Marichi are believed to have their origins in Varahi the Matrika.

Similarly, the Jain mother-goddesses having names of Chakreshvari, Ambika, Padmavathi and Sidhayika are similar, in nature, to Matrikas.]

Conflicts and resolutions

23.1. Taken together, over a long period, one can see that the Matrkas are dichotomous personalities. There are layers and layers of their identities. They are complex deities who bring together the opposing concepts of death and fertility; autonomous female warriors and consorts; protective mothers and those who endanger children. And, later they are transformed into spiritual guides and protectors.

23.2. Sometimes, they are described feminine forces who derive their names and attributes from male gods; hence, they are taken to imply the coexistence of male and female principles. Yet the female is dominant. Matrkas, unlike the consorts of male gods, are relatively independent goddesses. When portrayed individually they are depicted as benevolent and graceful mother-like goddesses. But, in group they appear as warriors.

23.3. Among the sets of contradictions that are bundled together within the Matrkas is the manner they are depicted in sculptures. There is an obvious mismatch between their descriptions in the Puranas and their depictions in sculptures. The icons are hardly related to the narrative content. The Matrkas of the Puranas are basically militant, ferocious, blood-drinking warriors on the battle field, assisting Devi, Shiva or Skanda in their battles against the Demons. They are not referred to as mothers; nor is there a reference to their ‘motherly-qualities’.

Yet, in their sculptural portrayals they are depicted as benevolent, caring mothers. Their motherliness is often emphasized by the playful attitude towards the children they carry on their laps. These Mothers are radiant and graceful and expressive, conveying a refined simplicity. At the same time, the Ayudhas they hold imply quite a different kind of attributes.

There is basic conflict in their projection right from their earliest stages. And, yet their associated symbolisms are retained; and there is harmony in their overall structure and countenance.

23.4. Thus, over the ages, in the course of their long and protracted stages of evolution, the Matrka deities acquired a wide range of ideological, literary, visual and ritual representations. They have become an integral part of the religious and historical process of the Indian society. Initially they were feared as being inauspicious or sometimes even as dangerous spirits; but later, they were the guardians or benefactors, the mothers who watch over children with care and concern.

They also came to be worshipped as guiding divinities on the way to ones spiritual attainments.

That became possible, perhaps, because they managed to harmonize several sets of contradictions; and internalized varied conflicts at each stage of their development. Their character and nature too modulated to be in tune with the context of different periods.

23.5. Conflicts and resolutions mark the story of their evolution from tribal –folk deities to the guardian Shakthis of Tantra and Sri Vidya. They epitomize the coexistence of disparate elements and stages of religion from primitive to the sophisticated.


24.1. The formative stages of the Saptamatrka cult unfold at the beginning of Kushana period and during the Gupta period. The Matrkas gained importance in the Higher Tradition during times of Kushanas (1st to 3rd century). And, during the reign of Guptas (3rd to 6th century) the Matrkas were elevated as foster-mothers of Skanda; and upgraded to court goddesses. They are brought into orthodox fold through various Puranas. They are grouped into the auspicious number of seven (Saptamatrkas) and rendered into worship worthy goddesses.

24.2. In the medieval periods the numbers and names become standardized. In this period, they take on the names and characteristics of the male gods. Despite their names and associations with the male gods they are not treated as consorts of male gods; but are regarded as extensions of Devi herself.    

Their appearances and dispositions too get modified. Matrkas are, now, no longer warrior deities or those spirits that harm children; but are goddesses and benign guardians who act as guides in Tantric Sadhana. They are recognized as inherent powers residing in the major Devas (Deva Shakthis); and, are worshipped for spiritual uplift (Mukthi) as also for earthly comforts (Bhukthi).

24.3. They as an auspicious group of seven (Saptamatrkas) are depicted on temple walls. The Pallava temples (7th – 8th century) like Sri Kailasanatha carry panels of Sapta Matrkas. The later Chola temples continued on the tradition by depicting them in rows or in panels either standing or dancing, flanked by Ganapathi on one side and Veerabhadra or Shiva on the other.

25.1. The evolution from the Balagraha deities to the conceptions of varied Matrkas of Kushana period; then to the court goddess of the Gupta era; and then on to the Saptamatrka divinities of the medieval times is viewed as a natural process. It is a process of shift from Lower Tradition towards the worship of Shakthi as the embodiment of energies inherent in the gods and in all nature. The Saptamatrka worship further evolved within the Shaktha sect through its theologies of Higher Tradition. The developments within the Tantra and Yoga ideologies accorded greater importance to Saptamatrkas.

25.2. The Matrkas, however, lost much of their significance and position in the popular religious practices during the middle centuries. But, they continued to appear in temple panels and niches. Today, they linger on the fringes of the Hindu pantheon.

In the next part let’s take a look at the textual sources and references to Matrikas.

Continued in Part Three

References and Sources

The iconography of the saptamatrikas: by Katherine Anne HarperEdwin Mellen press ltd (1989-10)

Saptamatrka Worship and Sculptures by Shivaji K Panikkar; DK Print World (1997).

The Roots of Tantra by Katherine Anne Harper (2002)

Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions by David Kinsley; (1987)

Tribal Roots of Hinduism by SK Tiwari; Sarup and Sons (2002)

The Portrait of the Goddess in the Devī-māhātmya by David Kinsley

The Little Goddesses (Matrikas) by Aryan, K.C; Rekha Prakashan (1980)

Goddesses in Ancient India by P K Agrawala; Abhinav Publications (1984)

The Tantra of Sri Chakra by Prof. SK Ramachandra Rao; Sharada Prakashana (1983)


Sapta Matrikas and Matrikas

The mother goddess in Indian sculpture By Cyril Veliath

Some discussions on the Skanda – Tantra and Balagrahas

The Mahabharata of Krishna –Dwaipayana Vyasa (Book 3, Part 2) Section 229

Devis of the first enclosure

 All pictures are from Internet


Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Devi, Saptamatrka


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