What is Dasa Mahavidya?

The feminine divinity is a powerful entity. From mother nurturers to destroyers, from knowledge to wealth, they encompass every aspect of the physical and spiritual realm. A part of such a powerful entity is the Mahavidya.
The ten Mahavidyas, or Wisdom Goddesses, represent distinct aspects of divinity intent on guiding the spiritual seeker toward liberation. For the devotionally minded seeker, these forms can be approached in a spirit of reverence, love, and increasing intimacy. For a knowledge-oriented seeker, these same forms can represent various states of inner awakening along the path to enlightenment.
A Dasa Mahavidya is one of the 10 wisdom goddesses in Hinduism. The term comes from the Sanskrit, Dasa, meaning “ten,” maha, meaning “great” and Vidya, meaning “knowledge.” Each Mahavidya is a form of the Divine Mother. In Hindu religious scripts, the Dasa Mahavidya was created after a disagreement between Lord Shiva and Sati (a form of Shakti). The Dasa Mahavidya are as follows:-

  1. Kali – The ultimate form of Brahman, “Devourer of Time” (Supreme Deity of Kalikula systems). Mahakali is of a pitch black complexion, darkest than the dark of the Death Night. She had three eyes, representing the past, present and future. She has shining white, fang-like teeth, a gaping mouth, and her red, bloody tongue hanging from there. She has unbound dishevelled hair. She was wearing tiger skins as her garments, a garland of skulls and a garland of rosy red flowers around her neck, and on her belt, she was adorned with skeletal bones, skeletal hands as well as severed arms and hands as her ornamentation. She has four hands, two of them were empty and two others carried a sword and demon head.
  2. Tara – The Goddess as Guide and Protector, or Who Saves. Who offers the ultimate knowledge which gives salvation. She is the goddess of all sources of energy. The energy of the sun is also a grant from her. She manifested as the mother of Lord Shiva after the incident of Samudra Manthan to heal him as her child. Tara is of a light blue complexion. She has dishevelled hair and wears a crown decorated with the digit of the half-moon. She has three eyes, a snake coiled comfortably around her throat, wearing the skins of tigers, ornamented with a garland of skulls. She is also seen wearing a belt, supporting her skirt made of tiger skin. Her four hands carried a lotus, scimitar, demon head and scissors. She had her left foot resting on the corpse of Shiva
  3. Tripura Sundari (Shodashi) – The Goddess Who is “Beautiful in the Three Worlds” (Supreme Deity of Srikula systems); the “Tantric Parvati” or the “Moksha Mukta”. She is the head of manidweep. Shodashi is seen with a molten gold complexion, three placid eyes, a calm mien, wearing red and pink vestments, adorned with ornaments on her divine limbs and four hands, each holding a goad, lotus, bow and arrow. She is seated on a throne.
  4. Bhuvaneshvari – The Goddess as World Mother, or Whose Body is all 14 lokas (whole cosmos). Bhuvaneshwari is of a fair, golden complexion, with three content eyes as well as a calm mien. She wears red and yellow garments, decorated with ornaments on her limbs and has four hands. Two of her four hands hold a goad and noose while her other two hands are open. She is seated on a divine, celestial throne.
  5. Bhairavi – The Fierce Goddess. The female version of Bhairav. Bhairavi is of a fiery, volcanic red complexion, with three, furious eyes, and dishevelled hairs. Her hair was matted and tied up in a bun, decorated by a crescent moon as well as two devil horns sticking out from each side. She has two protruding tusks hanging out from the ends of her bloody mouth. She wears red and blue garments and is adorned with a garland of skulls around her neck. She also wears a belt decorated with severed hands and bones attached to it. She is also decked with snakes and serpents too as her ornamentation, rarely she is seen wearing any jewellery on her limbs. She has four hands, two of which are open and two of which hold a rosary and book.
  6. Chhinnamasta – The self-decapitated Goddess. She chopped her own head off in order to satisfy Jaya and Vijaya (metaphors of Rajas and Tamas – part of the trigunas). Chinnamasta is of a red complexion, embodied with a frightful appearance. She had dishevelled hair. She has four hands, two of which held a sword and another hand held her own severed head, with three blazing eyes with a frightful mien, wearing a crown, and two of her other hands held a lasso and drinking bowl. She is a partially clothed lady, adorned with ornaments on her limbs and wearing a garland of skulls on her body. She is mounted upon the back of a ferocious lion.
  7. Dhumavati – The Widow Goddess. Dhumavati is of a very smoky dark brown complexion, her skin is wrinkled, her mouth is dry, some of her teeth have fallen out, her long dishevelled hairs are grey, her eyes are seen as bloodshot and she has a frightening mien, which is seen as a combined source of anger, misery, fear, exhaustion, restlessness, constant hunger and thirst. She wears white clothes, donned in the attire of a widow. She is sitting in a horseless chariot as her vehicle of transportation and on top of the chariot, there is an emblem of a crow as well as a banner. She has two trembling hands, one hand bestows boons and/or knowledge and the other holds a winnowing basket.
  8. Bagalamukhi – The Goddess Who Paralyzes Enemies. Goddess Bagalamukhi has a molten gold complexion with three bright eyes, lush black hair and a benign mien. She is seen wearing yellow garments and apparel. She is decked with yellow ornaments on her limbs. Her two hands held a mace and the tongue of demon Madanasur, as he was in paralysis. She is depicted seated on either a throne or on the back of a crane.
  9. Matangi – the Prime Minister of Lalita (in Srikula systems), sometimes called the “Tantric Saraswati”. Matangi is depicted as emerald green in complexion, with lush, dishevelled black hairs, three placid eyes and a calm look on her face. She is seen wearing red garments and apparel and is bedecked with various types of ornaments all over her delicate limbs. She is seated on a royal throne and she has four hands, three of which hold a sword or scimitar, a skull and a veena as a musical instrument. Her one hand bestows boons to her devotees.
  10. Kamala ( Kamalatmika) – The Lotus Goddess; sometimes called the “Tantric Lakshmi”. Kamala is of a molten gold complexion with lush black hair, three bright, placid eyes, and a benevolent mien on her face. She is seen wearing red and pink garments and apparel and is bedecked with various types of ornaments and lotuses all over her limbs. She is seated on a fully bloomed lotus and has four hands, two of which held lotuses while two others granted her devotees’ wishes and assured protection from fear.

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