Sati, the consort of Shiva was the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, a descendant of Brahma. Sati had married Shiva against the wishes of her father. The vain Daksha performed a great Yajna (Sanskrit: यज्ञ; IAST: yajñá) or Yagya(also Yagna) literally means “sacrifice, devotion, worship, offering” (with the sole aim of insulting Shiva), to which he invited all of the gods and goddesses except his son-in-law, Lord Shiva.
Sati learned about her father’s yajna from Narad Muni. She asked Shiva’s permission to attend the yajna, saying that a daughter did not need an invitation from her father. Shiva said that Daksha was trying to insult him, and so even if Sati attended the yajna, the fruit of the sacrifice would not be auspicious. Therefore he bade Sati not to attend the yajna.
Sati became furious – She thought that Shiva was treating her like an ignorant lady and not as the mother of the Universe. So to show Shiva who she really was, she assumed a different form – the one of the Divine Mother. The oceans raged, the mountains shook, and the atmosphere was filled with the wonder of her form.
Shiva began to shake and tried to flee. But inn every direction that he tried to flee, the Divine mother stopped him. The Divine Mother had multiplied herself into ten different forms, guarding each of the ten directions, and try as Shiva might, he could not escape from her, as she had blocked every escape route.
These ten forms of Divine Mother are known as the Das Mahavidyas. Each form has its own name, story, quality, and mantras.
The Das Mahavidyas are Wisdom Goddesses. Das means ten, maha means great, and vidya means wisdom. The Das Mahavidyas are considered forms of Divine Mother Kali, who is the first of the then Mahavidyas. Each Wisdom Goddess has her own name, story, quality, and mantras.
Each form of the Divine Mother Kali is a Mahavidya. The Das Mahavidyas are:
Read the story of the origin of the Das Mahavidyas. To learn the Bija Mantras and Gayatri’s of the Das Mahavidyas please see the Das Mahavidya Presentation.
First of all, Sati took the form of Kali. Her form was fearful, her hair untied and loose, her body the color of a dark cloud. She had deep-set eyes and eyebrows shaped like curved swords. She stood on a corpse, wore a garland of skulls, and earrings made from the bones of corpses. She had four hands – on one hand she had the head of a skull and the other a curved sword with blood dripping on it. She had mudras on her other two hands – one giving freedom from fear and the other giving blessings. She roared and the ten directions were filled with that ferocious sound. The exploits of this Goddess Kali are outlined in the Chandi Path. She is the Goddess that killed Chanda and Munda and also drank the blood of Raktabija. She is known as Kaushiki, who came from within, and is the Slayer of Shumbha and Nishumbha. Kali is the first of the Das Mahavidyas. She is beyond time. She takes away the darkness and fills us with the light of Wisdom, which is why She is the embodiment of Jnana Shakti. She resides in the cremation grounds, where all creation dissolves. To learn Her Bija Mantra and Gayatri please see the Das Mahavidyas Presentation.
Bagala is the second Mahavidya. Listen to her story. Once the creation was in turmoil and being destroyed in many places (Shree Maa adds, “like the present scenario in the world”). Brahma became worried about His creation and wondered what the outcome of this turmoil would be. He then meditated to bring peace to the universe. Not succeeding, He then performed severe tapasya to obtain the blessings of Tripurambika â€“ the Mother of the Three Worlds. Pleased with His austerities, She appeared before Him as Mother Bagala in a yellow form and gave him a boon. Bagala grants all kinds of perfection to devotees who pray to Her. Here is another story of Her origin. Once an asura named Ruru, the son of Durgam, performed severe penance to win the favor of Brahma. Since Ruru was already very powerful, the Gods became very apprehensive of what might happen if he obtained a boon from Brahma. So they did Aradhana (propitiation) to yellow water (Shree Maa says here, that yellow intuitively means peace). Pleased with their tapasya, the Divine Mother appeared as Bagala. Bagala is the Goddess who stops all motion at the appropriate time, silences the mouths and words of all evil beings, and controls their tongues. May that Goddess bless us with stillness when it is appropriate! To learn Her Bija Mantra and Gayatri please see the Das Mahavidyas Presentation.
The third Mahavidya is Cinnamasta. Listen to the story of Her origin from the Pancharatna Grantha. Once Parvati went with Her friends Dakini and Varnini to take a bath in the Mandakini River. Parvati was feeling very happy and a lot of love was welling up inside Her. Her complexion darkened and the feeling of love completely took over. Her friends on the other hand were hungry and asked Parvati to give them some food. Parvati requested them to wait and said that She would feed them after a while, and began walking. After a short while, Her friends once again appealed to Her, telling Her that She was the Mother of the Universe and they Her children, and asked to be fed quickly. Parvati replied that they should wait until they got home. Her friends could not wait any longer and demanded that their hunger be satisfied immediately. The compassionate Parvati laughed and with her fingernail cut Her own head. Immediately the blood spurted in three directions. Her two friends drank the blood from two of the directions and the Goddess herself drank the blood from the third direction. Since she cut Her own head, she is known as Cinnamasta. Cinnamasta shines like a lightning bolt from the Sun. She demonstrates the rare courage needed to make the highest conceivable sacrifice. May we imbue that very same courage from that daring Goddess! To learn Her Bija Mantra and Gayatri please see the Das Mahavidyas Presentation.
Bhuvanesvari is the fourth Mahavidya. Bhuvan means the Universe, and Iswari means the Ruler, and therefore She is the Ruler of the Universe. She is also known as Rajarajeswari and protects the Universe. Here is the story of her manifestation from the “Pranatoshini Grantha”. Brahma had the desire to create the Universe, and he did intense Tapasya to invite the energy of Creation, Kriya Shakti. Parameswari, pleased with his tapasya responded to his invitation and came as Bhu Devi or Bhuvanesvari. She is red in color, seated on a lotus flower. Her body is resplendent and shining with jewels. She holds a noose (paasham) and a curved sword (ankusham) in two of her hands and the other two assume the mudras of blessing and freedom from fear. She resides in Shiva’s heart. Bhuvanesvari is the Supreme Empress of Manifested Existence, the exposer of consciousness. To learn Her Bija Mantra and Gayatri please see the Das Mahavidyas Presentation.
The fifth Mahavidya is Matangi. Here is the story of her origin. One day Maheshwari went to Shiva to obtain permission to go to Her father’s house. Shiva wanted to go with Her but would not go without being invited. Parvati laughed and said the He should go with her. Shiva replied that He would not go with Her, but would come to escort Her back. In Her absence, Shiva began to long for Her and decided to visit Her in the disguise of an ornament vendor. When She selected the ornaments and asked for the price, Shiva told Her that if She fulfilled his desire, He would give Her the ornaments. Parvati was astounded that somebody would dare suggest such a thing to Her. Then She realized that the vendor was none other than Her Lord Shiva. She told Shiva that She would fulfill His desire, but not just then, and sent Him away. Later that evening, She went with a friend to where Mahadev was praying. She took the form of a beautiful outcast girl, a chandali, and approached him thinking that He would not recognize her. Seeing Her, Shiva called out, “Hey beautiful lady (Shubhangi), who are You and why have You come here?” Parvati said, “I am a chandali, I am here to do tapasya to become a Goddess, so please do not disturb me.” Then Shiva said, “I am Shiva, I give the fruit of tapasya. If you marry me, I will make you like Parvati, without a doubt.” Parvati understood that Shiva had seen through Her disguise and bowed to Him. She said, “Hey Devadi-deva, nobody can hide anything from You,” and was very happy with this interlude. Shiva said, “Devi, you took this form because you wanted to pray to me, and so I give you the name Matangi. Matangi is the measurement of all the limbs of creation and Supreme Goddess of all desires. Shree Maa says that anyone prays to Matangi will attain perfection. To learn Her Bija Mantra and Gayatri please see the Das Mahavidyas Presentation.
The sixth Mahavidya is Sorasi. This is the story of Her manifestation. When Parvati left Her form as Kali and assumed the form of Gauri, Shiva addressed Her as Kali again and again. Parvati was insulted and left that place. Shiva went into His own heart and began to remember the Goddess. But without seeing the Goddess in person, He became dismayed and wondered where She had gone. At that time Narad Muni came to where Shiva was meditating. Shiva narrated this occurrence to Narad and told him that Kali had left Him. Narad was very happy to hear of the differences between Shiva and Kali. In his meditation, Narad saw that Parvati was sitting in meditation on Sumeru Mountain in an inaccessible place. In order to increase the separation between Shiva and Parvati, Narad went to where Parvati was meditating and said that Shiva was entering into a relationship with another woman. It will be proper for you to stop Him. When the Goddess heard this from Narad’s mouth, She became filled with anger. In this great anger, the Goddess assumed the form of the most beautiful young lady of sixteen years, Sorasi, and presented Herself before Shiva. Seeing Her own shadow reflected upon Shiva’s chest, and thinking it to be another woman, She became even angrier, and said, “When we were married, You gave Your heart to me for my residence. How can you now give Your heart to another woman?” When Shiva heard Kali’s words, He replied, “Look closely at my heart. The woman you see in my heart is your reflection.” When the Goddess looked closely and meditated carefully, with great satisfaction She asked, “The woman that I just saw in your heart, by what name shall She be known?” Hearing Kali’s question, Shiva replied, “This new form of Yours is one of the Mahavidyas, and Her name will be Sorasi, She who manifests the sixteen. In this form, you will manifest excellence!” Sorasi unites the sixteen syllables of Siva and Sakti, the Supreme Goddess of all Desires. To learn Her Bija Mantra and Gayatri please see the Das Mahavidyas Presentation.
The seventh Mahavidya is Dhumavati. Here is the story of Her origin. One day Mahadev was sitting in Kailash and Parvati was on his lap. She told Shiva that She was very hungry and requested Him to get Her some food. Shiva asked Her to wait a while and so saying went back into meditation. Parvati once again asked Shiva, “Hey Father of the Universe, please give me some food, I cannot wait any longer”. When Shiva asked Her to wait a second time, Parvati was so hungry that She became aggressive. The third time this happened, Parvati could bear no more and she ate Shiva to appease Her hunger. Immediately smoke started to come from within Her body. Shiva, who was inside her body, had opened His third eye and He said to Parvati, “Without me, there is no Purusha in the universe, only Prakriti, as only You exist.” For this reason, this is the widow form of the Goddess known as Dhumavati. Dhuma means smoke, and She is depicted without any ornaments and in widow apparel. Dhumavati demonstrates renunciation and removes all frustration and agitation, and is free from disrepute. To learn Her Bija Mantra and Gayatri please see the Das Mahavidyas Presentation.
The eighth Mahavidya is Tripurasundari, also known as Kamala. A form of Mahalakshmi, She symbolizes wealth. Her body is golden in color and She is seated on a gold lotus. Here is the story of Her origin. One day Indra, the ruler of the heavens, saw Rambha and was lost watching her beauty. At that time, the fierce Rishi Durvasa appeared and gave a garland to Indra. But Indra, still mesmerized by Rambha, did not realize what he was doing and gave the garland to his elephant Airavat. Durvasa was angry with the disrespect shown to him and immediately cursed Indra thus, “You are the King of the Gods, but yet you are playing with women. You will lose Lakshmi. She will leave your kingdom.” Goddess Lakshmi, true to the curse, left the heavenly regions. All the Gods were saddened, and led by Indra went to Vishnu to get His counsel. Vishnu suggested that Lakshmi would appear if they churned the ocean of milk. Both devas and asuras arrived at the ocean of milk (Ksheera Samudra). They used Mount Mandara as the central axle and the serpent Anant Nag as a rope to move the mountain. Lord Vishnu took the form a large tortoise to support the Mountain. The asuras and the devas each took the opposite ends of the snake and churned the ocean. As they churned, a lot of beautiful beings and objects manifested including Ucchaisrava (the divine horse), Dhanvantari (the God of Medicine), the Sudharshana Chakra, the Parijata flower. And then came Lakshmi. When they saw Laksmi, the Gods offered Her an asan with the greatest respect. They did an abhishek to Her, offered Her a lotus garland, and entreated Her to stay with them, to which She agreed. She became known as Tripurasundari. Tri means three, Pura means a city, and Sundar means beautiful. Tripurasundari is the beautiful one of three cities or all the threes. She manifests the perfection of compassion in all Nature. To learn Her Bija Mantra and Gayatri please see the Das Mahavidyas Presentation.
When Lord Shiva bade Sati not to attend Her Father’s yajna, Sati became furious and assumed the fearful form of Kali causing Shiva to flee in another direction. Sati then assumed the form of the ninth Mahavidya, Tara. Tara is blue, Her tongue is fearfully sticking out, and Her face is terrifying. Her hair is tangled like snakes sticking straight up and She is dressed in a tiger’s skin. On Her head are five half-moons. She has three eyes, four arms, a large protruding belly, and stands on a corpse. She has four arms in which She holds a lotus, a sword, a drinking bowl, and a bell. Tara is the illuminator, She illuminates all our attitudes. To learn Her Bija Mantra and Gayatri please see the Das Mahavidyas Presentation.
The tenth form of Mahavidya is Bhairavi. She has many names including Tripura Bhairavi, Sampath Praja Bhairavi, Kaulesh Bhairavi, Siddhida Bhairavi, Bhay Vidwamsi Bhairavi, Chaitanya Bhairavi, Kameshwari Bhairavi, Nitya Bhairavi, and Rudra Bhairavi. Her body is the color of the rising sun. She wears a pearl necklace around her neck, has redbreasts, and has four hands in which She holds a Japa mala, pustak, and displays the mudras of blessing and freedom from fear. She has three eyes that are red in color and wears a moon on Her forehead. Bhairavi is the form of Kali that killed Chanda and Munda. She is free from all fear and frees us from all fear. To learn Her Bija Mantra and Gayatri please see the Das Mahavidyas Presentation.