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The Hindu goddess Kali - the first of the Mahavidyas.


Sati, the better-half of Lord Shiva, was the daughter of the Daksha Prajapati. and Daksha Prajapati was a direct descendant of Lord Brahma. Sati married Lord Shiva against her father's wishes. Because of this, and with a view to insult Lord Shiva, the vain king Daksha performed a great havana ritual, which he invited all the gods and goddesses to - but he intentionally did not invite his son-in-law, Mahadev Shiva and his daughter, Sati.

Sati came to know about the yajna from Narad Muni and she sought Lord Shiva’s permission to attend. She argued that she, being the king's daughter, did not require any invitation from her father. Shiva realised that Daksha had the intention of insulting him. He also added that the sacrifice would not be fruitful even if Sati attended it. So He forbade Sati from attending.

Shiva's judgement infuriated Sati. She thought that Lord Shiva was treating her as an ignorant lady and not as the powerful mother of the universe which she was. To prove herself, she assumed the different forms of the Divine Mother. The mountains shook, the oceans raged and the entire world was mesmerised by her forms.

The frightened Shiva began to shake in anticipation of what was to come and tried to flee but was cut off by the different forms of the Divine Mother in every direction he went. She had multiplied herself in the ten different forms, known as Mahavidyas, thus guarding every direction. She blocked every path of Shiva and he had nowhere to flee.

The ten forms of the omnipotent Divine Mother are called the Das Mahavidyas. Every form has its own name, quality, story and mantras. The Mahavidyas are Goddesses of Wisdom. The term can be broken into three parts: 'Das', meaning 'ten', 'maha', meaning 'great' and 'vidya', meaning 'wisdom'. The first Mahavidya is Kali and the other Mahavidyas are Tara, Sodoshi, Bhubaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bogola, Matangi and Kamala.

She is the only Mahavidya that holds a sarod (an instrument like a veena or a sitar). Who is she?
Matangi, or the Tantric Saraswati, is depicted as holding a noose, goad, a sarod, and a sword. She is closely associated with Saraswati and Parvati and is worshipped as Meenakshi Devi in the southern parts of India
The body of which of the Mahavidyas is believed to be the cosmos? Her complexion is reddish in colour.
Bhuvaneshwari is considered to be beautiful, and it is believed that the whole cosmos resides in her body
Which Mahavidya is considered to be the Tantric incarnation of goddess Lakshmi?
Kamala, also known as Kamalatmika, is the Tantric manifestation of the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, wealth, prosperity, luck and beauty. She is represented as sitting on a lotus, with four arms, and with elephants sprinkling water over her
Which of the Mahavidyas, also known as Shubmkari, has two forms - one as a calm and caring mother and another as a wrathful goddess, so fearful that even demons are frightened of her?
Bhairavi is considered to be the female equivalent of Bhairava, or the angry manifestation of Shiva. The name Shubmkari means that she behaves excellently toward good people, and she is the most terrible nightmare to bad ones
Which of the Mahavidyas is the goddess of paralysing enemies?
Baglamukhi is portrayed as wearing yellow and she is shown holding the tongue of a demon, hence paralysing his speech. In her other hand she holds a "gada" or a mace
Which Mahavidya is also known as Shodashi?
Lalita Tripurasundari
Maha Lata Devi
Lalita Kamakshi Rupini
Lalita Tripurasundari is the Tantric manifestation of Parvati, and is also the goddess of plants and flowers. She is seated over Shiva, and in her four arms holds a noose, a goad, a bow made of sugarcane, and five flower arrows
Which Mahavidya is the only widow goddess?
Dhumavati is portrayed as an old woman, wearing white, since she is considered a widow. She holds a winnowing basket and sits in a chariot, on which many crows are seated
Which of the Mahavidyas has a name meaning 'the Black One'?
Kali is the first Mahavidya and the most famous of them all. She is depicted as standing on Shiva, with her pets, a snake, a jackal, and a tiger. She wears a skirt made from the hands of demons. She also wears a garland of skulls (mundmala), and her tongue is lolling out. She holds in her arms a trident (trishul), a sword (talwar), a skull bowl (kapala), and the severed head of a demon (mundi). She is the most fierce goddess of all, but is also very kind hearted and motherly. Her complexion is very dark, too
Which of the Mahavidyas is portrayed as headless, with two of her attendants drinking her blood?
Chhinnamasta, also known as Chinamastika or Chintapurni, is an incarnation of Kali. In this incarnation she is headless, and two of her attendants drink her blood, while she stands over Kama and Rati making love. The legend says that once, when Kali was returning from a fight with her attendants, her attendants demanded blood to fulfil their thirst. So Kali cut off her own head and fed her attendants with her blood
Which of the Mahavidyas is also referred to as Neel Saraswati?
Tara is the Tantric manifestation of Kali. She is represented as standing on Shiva just like Kali, and also wears a garland of skulls. But, unlike Kali, she also wears a skirt of tiger skin, and in her four hands she holds a pair of scissors, a lotus, a scythe, and a skull bowl


Author:  Siddarth Bhattacharjee

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