Within the Hindu pantheon manifested a fierce, emaciated and terrifying Dark Mother called Chamunda. She was revered among Shaktas, believers in the primacy of Divine Feminine. Chamunda historically found favour at al...l levels of Hindu society. Mother is also called Chamundi, Chamundeshwari, Chandika and Charchika. As the fierce aspect of Devi closely associated with Kali, she is one of the chief Yoginis and also one of the seven Matrikas. She is also associated with Mother Parvati and Durga.
Often she is linked to Vedic Rudra, the fierce manifestation of Shiva and Tantric worship involving animal rituals and with wine and blood. She is also identified with Agni, the fire god. One would wonder how she could be figured as a Matrika. Well, Mother is also nurturing and life-giving. Mother Chamunda shakes up one deep inside and stuns the bhakta. One is mystified what she has to offer. One can feel Mother’s incredible power and her oddities by understanding her terrible form.
DEPICTION: In her dark black or red complexion, Chamunda is nothing less than terrifying with her skull garlands called ‘mundamala’ while she stands on a shava or pretham. Otherwise she is in pretashanam or seated on a corpse of a demon. Her hair is piled as jata mukuta and sometimes a crescent moon is present.
Mother has three eyes or a terrifying face with protruding teeth. Her socket eyes burn with fire. Her body
is skeletal and she is shown to have drooping breasts and a sunken belly as if she has been starving. This is contrasted a full motherly breasts to symbolise old age, death and destruction. Mother is depicted with four, eight, ten or twelve hands. Mother holds: Damaru-drum, Trishula-trident, sword, serpent, khatvanga-skull mace, thunderbolt, panapatra-wine cup and kapala-skull cup filled with blood. Blood is characteristic of Matrikas in general. Her vahana is said to be the Owl, the wisdom bird. She has an eagle on her banners. Flesh
eating jackals or beasts and fearsome associates such as serpents and scorpions are shown as companions.
CHAMUNDA AND KALI:
Both Mothers are alike in many respects, related by theor transformative abilities and their stature as
Crones. While Mother Kali manifests the power of time, death and destruction,
Mother Chamunda holds infinity and eternity. Both depict intensely frightening
images of death and feminine power. This concept may not be comprehensible to
those unaccustomed to dealing with Dark Goddesses. Both are usually shown in
cremation grounds, seated or stepping upon a corpse engaging in Tantric rituals
sometimes involving Maithuna, blood and death. This is the characteristics of
the evolution from the inside of them to transform the world outside.
DURGA: Chamunda is the most popular form of Goddess Durga. She is mentioned in
the Devi Mahatmya and Markendeya Purana. While Durga was engaged in a battle
with demons Chanda and Munda, Kali is said to have emerged from her forehead to
kill the asuras, Pleased with, it is said that Mother Durga called Kali as
MARKANDEYA PURANA: Devi Mahatmyam is a portion of this
Purana. Devi Mahatmyam literally means Glory of Goddess. It is a highly occult
text – Only those who have their inner eyes will perceive the hidden truths;
others know not. Markendeya, the seer of this myth had seen the ever-existent
glory of the goddess with the inner eye. Devi Mahatmyam is variously known as
Sri Durga Saptashati; Sri Chandi or Saptashati. It is more popularly known as
Chandi because it describes the glory of Goddess Chandika, the terrible. By Devi
Mahatmya accounts, Chamunda emerged as Chandika Jayasundara from the eyebrow of
goddess Kaushiki, a goddess created from ‘sheath’ of Durga. Chandika Jayasundra
took the task of eliminating the demons Chanda and Munda, generals of demon
kings Shumbha-Nishumbha. Goddess Kaushiki was pleased when Chandika Jayasundra
entered into battle and brought back the heads of the demons. Hence she was
bestowed the title ‘Chamunda.’ However, the later versions of Devi Mahatmya
states that Mother Durga created the Matrikas to kill the demon army of
Shumbha-Nisumha. Matrika Kali is supposed to have suckled all the blood of
Raktabija demon, a plot yet again linking Mother Kali and Chamunda.
VARAHA PURANA: This Purana gives a different version on the killing of
Raktabija. Here Matrikas emerged and divided from their own bodies. Apparently
Chamunda appeared from Narshmi’s foot. This Purana, unlike Devi Mahatmya,
clearly shows that Chamunda and Kali appear as separate Goddesses. There is also
a version that Chamunda was a manifestation of Goddess Parvathi to slaughter
Chanda and Munda. Thus Chamunda is Parvathi and is neither Durga or Kali.
MATSYA PURANA: Lord Shiva creates the Matrikas to assist in the killing of
Andhakasura. Like Raktabija, this demon also generates himself from his own
dripping blood. Chamunda and the other Matrikas counter this reproduction.
Chamunda spreads her protruding tongue to lick up the blood so that it does not
drip to the ground. Her body thereafter takes a red complexion from her black
nature. To celebrate her success, she does a thandava dance of destruction.
During this performance, Mother Chamunda used the shaft of Mount Meru as the
musical instrument. Shesha the cosmic serpent is the spring. The crescent moon
is the gourd. This is the time the world drowns in deluge.
Chamunda, as Matrika, is mentioned in Mahabaratha, Vana Parva Chapter,
the Devi Purana and Vishnudharmottara Purana. She is depicted as a leader of the
Matrikas. The Matrikas share the attributes of their male consorts and are their
Shaktis. However, Chamunda represents the Shakti of Goddess Devi rather than a
male consort. Similar to Kali and Durga worship, Goddess Chamunda enjoys
The Matrikas also assist Lord Ganesha to slay the demons according to Sevi Purana. Also the Matrapancaka, the Five Mothers are worshiped by the sage Mandavya which list includes Goddess Chamunda. The Matrapancaka were established by Lord Brahma to save King Harishchandra from upcoming dangers. In the Devi Purana, Chanda means terrible and Munda means Brahma’s head or husband.
From the Vishnudhamottara Purana, one gleams that Chamunda represents depravity. She
symbolises death and destruction. Each Matrika is a guardian of a compass direction and Chamunda is assigned the direction of the south-west.
Charuhsasthi, Chausanth or Chausati means sixty four referring to 64 Yoginis. This was a mystical female cult of the 9nth century. It is a popular belief that the yoginis had their origins in animistic traditions of Adivasis or aboriginal people. They worshipped grama devatis. They are mentioned in the Skanda Purana variously as yoginis, dakinis, shaktis or bhairavis. Dakini is a term used to describe a ‘sky dancer’, female messenger
or attendant with supernatural abilities practicing various forms of secret tantras.
Later, the term yogini, as used in the Chandi Purana referred to the form of Devi, the Supreme Goddess. Each of the yogini was seen as a different part of Devi’s body. Around the 7th century, the belief seems to have
blended with Shakti cult and tantrism. The term dakini is still retained in the Buddhist tradition. In literature it even refers to sorceress, witch or even ghoul. It is said that they were a secret organisation with a secret
communication called sandhya bhasa.
The purpose of the cult was to develop supernatural powers. They considered themselves as servants of Mother
Divine. They were devotional in nature. It is said that they had tremendous supernatural abilities. These yoginis are linked to black tantrism using the destructive energies of Kali and Bhairavi but that hardly makes them witches! The saddhaka or practioner aspires to control body and mind to regulate the
panchabhutas for material gains and also to acquire destructive powers. Their central focus of worship was Bhairavi, Kali and Shiva Bhairava. They used destructive energies of Kali or Bhairavi with a positive goal. In the context of a group of sixty-four yoginis, Chamunda is believed to have created seven other
yoginis, together forming a group of eight. In the context of eighty-one yoginis, Chamunda heads a group of nine yoginis.
There are various theories as to the number 64. But they are also enumerated as 60, 64 or
65 and even 81. The number 64 correlates to the currents or wind of human body
as type of unproductive tendency. 64 also has its mystical use in Tantric
rituals and numerology to get magical powers. The Matrikas are aspects of Devi.
Ashta Matrikas are the eight mothers who arrive with their eight attendants. The
Sapta Matrikas are seven Mothers. With a leading goddess in every group, making
it eight the whole group counted to 64 yoginis.
Hara Hara Mahadeva.
Yogi Ananda Saraswathi