10 Mahavidya Introduction and Background

10 Mahavidya

The elusive idea of Liberation

Man confronts difficulties and challenges all along, from birth right up to his grave.

He either faces problems in his family relationships or becomes bogged down with challenges at work.

Sometimes self-pride rattles him and at other times economic hassles get the better of him.

Most times ambitions and unfulfilled desires keep chasing the man.

Man wants to rid himself of all these problems and somehow liberate himself from the chain of rebirth.

Whether he becomes conscious or not, every man knowingly or unknowingly chases the dream of Liberation.

This idea of liberation finds no other equivalent.

Dashamahavidya can lead to Liberation

If at all one wants to liberate himself from the seemingly endless cycles of existence, Tantra recommends something tangible.

The channel of the 10 Mahavidyas open to man, can make him gallop towards this ultimate goal of liberation.

At the very annals of creation, at the rudiments of the universe, exists the great secret of the 10 Mahavidyas.

By performing sadhana or undertaking the right spiritual discipline of attainment of the 10 Mahavidyas, a man easily transcends the challenges of this world.

Yogini Sadhana represents another type of Sadhana that attracts the servitors of the 10 Mahavidya.

He thus succeeds in attaining liberation too.

Significance of the number 10

Sanatana Dharma values numbers from 1 to 10 the most.

The number 10 holds special significance in Dharma.

10 directions define the coordinates of the visible universe.

Without numbers from 1 to 10, numbers cannot have held any meaning.

Without the 10 Mahavidyas, Prakriti or Mother Nature cannot exist.

A study of Prakriti can also give one an insight into the formulation of this world.

The Shastra proclaims the 10 Mahavidyas as the 10 main forms among other innumerable forms of Devi Shakti or Mother Parvati also called Paramba.

10 Mahavidyas fundamentally represent the 10 different directions or the coordinates of the universe.


Direction and positions of 10 Mahavidyas

Bhagawathi Kali and Mother Tara represent the Northern Direction.

Sri Vidya or Shodashini represents the North-Eastern direction.

Devi Bhuvaneshwari represents the Western Direction.

Sri Tripura Bhairavi symbolizes the southern direction.

Mother Chinnamasta represents the eastern direction.

Sri Dhoomavati represents the Eastern direction.

Mata Bagalamukhi stands for the south.

Devi Matangi represents the North-West Direction.

Mata Kamala Devi represents the southwest direction.

Ancestry line of Devi

These deities represent the deity form of the directions too and sometimes people address them as the presiding deities of the directions.

Sometimes people also talk of 24 Mahavidyas instead of 10.

However, people only talk of the 10 Mahavidyas in current times.

Fundamentally, Devi Powers distribute themselves along two ancestry lines.

 Sri Kula and Kali Kula represent these two ancestry lines.

People believe that 9 Devis fall under each of the two ancestries and thereby the total number of Devis becomes 18.


Ugra and Saumya Forms of Devi

Rishis or sages have sometimes categorized these powerful Mahavidyas in three moods.

Sadhakas recognize these three forms or moods as Aggressive (Ugra), Pleasant (Saumya), and Mixed (Saumya-Ugra) forms.

The Ugra forms include Devi Kali, Devi Chinnamasta, Dhoomavati, and Bagalamukhi forms.

In the Saumya forms Devis such as Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Matangi as well as Kamala or Maha Laxmi have their presence.

In the Ugra-Saumya forms, Devi Tara and Bhairavi have their presence.

Although Devi has infinite forms, people in India worship the forms of Devi Tara, Kali, and Shodashini to a large extent.

Other than Tantra even the Vedas talk about the worship of these three forms of Mother Parvati.

Bhagawathi Incarnates on Earth from time to time

Mother Bhagawathi has many reasons for incarnating on earth.

The main reason for her incarnation can be no other than the welfare of the world.

She loves and dotes on her devotees.

She destroys the ill-doers and demons and ensures that goodness prevails even when evil rules the roost within the cosmos.

The Puranas describe a popular story that once transpired between Mother Parvati and Mahadeva.


Parvati Angry With Shiva

Once Parvati Devi developed anger towards Lord Shiva, having fought with him on a technical point.

Mother Parvati started becoming dark on account of developing extreme anger.

In order that Mother Parvati regains her composure, Lord Shiva walked away.

Strangely as Lord Shiva moved in one direction, he confronted a certain divine form of Mother Parvati.

He proceeded in another direction.

Again he saw another transcendental form of the Mother.

Lord Shiva changed paths in 10 different directions and strangely he confronted 10 different forms of Mother Parvati.

Lord Shiva stood dumbfounded for a while.

He had never ever confronted such divine forms of Mother Parvati before.

Shiva remembers Parvati

Then He remembered His eternal consort Parvati, thinking whether these forms may well be Devi Parvathi’s expansions.

He approached Parvati Devi and inquired about the various forms that he had just confronted.

Mother Parvati then gave detailed descriptions of the various forms of the 10 Mahavidyas to Lord Shiva.

She further gave the significance of all Her 10 forms and their various purposes for the welfare of mankind at large.

With Lord Shiva’s prayer, all the forms finally merged into the form of Mother Parvati.


Sati Angry with Shiva

Another popular story of the Puranas relates to the same event of Mother Sati blocking Lord Shiva’s path.

However, the context here appears to be a little different.

Mother Sati wanted to attend a certain function at her father’s home, the great Prajapati Daksha.

However, Daksha never considered Lord Shiva and did not invite his daughter for the function.

Lord Shiva did not bother about his insult and continued to live calmly in Kailash.

However, Mother Sati wanted to see her father and mother and also wanted to attend the function at Daksha’s place, although uninvited.

Sati creates unbalance in the world

Lord Shiva discouraged her from going and said that catastrophe would befall them if Mother Sati attended the event uninvited.

Mother Sati felt demeaned by Shiva’s behavior and advice.

She felt that Lord Shiva treated her like an ordinary woman and not as the Mother of the universe.

She took some fierce forms in order to express her angry feelings to Lord Shiva.

As she attained various powerful forms, the entire universe started losing its balance.

A tsunami rocked the oceans and volcanoes started erupting.


Cyclones started disrupting the affairs of the world.

Lord Shiva stood petrified beholding the disruption and chaos that surrounded him.

He started moving away from his position.

As he walked away, he found various forms of Mother Sati taking fierce female shapes.

Lord Shiva moved from East to West to North to South.

He moved in the 10 directions and yet he found a different form of Devi in each of the directions that blocked his way.

These 10 forms of Devi in each direction represent the 10 Mahavidyas.

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