Mother Shodashi is an aspect of Mother Lalitha Tripura Sundari represented as a sixteen-year-old girl, believed to actualize sixteen types of desires. Shodashi also means ‘vermillion hued.’ As Sundari, She is one of the ...Dasha Mahavidyas. It is sometimes written that Goddess Shodashi is Bala Tripurasundari or that Shodashi is another name for Mother Lalitha Tripurasundari. It is conceded that Bala and Shodasi are aspects of the Devi. However Bala is the 9 year old virgin form of a young girl. Shodasi, in Sanskrit means 16, implying a teenage form. They both have legends and myths to support their respective roles to different levels of bhaktas. Shodasi’s story links Lord Siva and Mother Kali. A devotee who takes her refuge achieves great divinity. Even the Vedas are incapable of describing her greatness. Being pleased with her devotee she gives more than he demands.
Shodashi also refers to the sixteen syllable mantra, which consists of the fifteen syllable panchadasakshari mantra plus a final seed syllable. Indeed sixteen days form the completed lunar cycle from the new moon to the full moon. The full moon is the moon of sixteen days. This girl of sixteen rules over all that is perfect, complete, beautiful.The Shodashi Tantra refers to Shodashi as the "Beauty of the Three Cities," or which is literally Tripurasundari. It also means 'One who is beautiful in the three realms.' The three worlds are Swarkalokha, Bhulokha and Patalalokha.
So Shadoshi is the most beautiful girl in all these three places. It is also said that her body is is the collective Shaktis of Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra being Brahmani, Vaishnavi and Rudrani respectively. Shodasi is also said to be the radiant light in the eyes of Shiva. Her other name 'Lalita' implies softness. These two qualities give
rise to images that depict her as ravishingly beautiful and of unsurpassed splendor. The Divine mother is to be meditated upon as shining in a vermilion-red body, with three eyes, sporting a crown of rubies studded with the
crescent moon, a face all smiles, a splendid bust, one hand holding a jewel-cup brimming with mead, and the other twirling a red lotus.
DEPICTION: The word Shodashi literally means sixteen in Sanskrit. She is thus visualized as a sweet girl of sixteen. She is depicted in several ways. As Kali, she sits naked and shares the features of the ferocious mother. She has four hands and three eyes. Otherwise She is also shown seated on the lotus, which is placed on the
supine body of Shiva who is lying in a peaceful posture, who in turn lies on a throne supported by legs in the form of Lord Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Rudra. She holds a noose, a goad, a bow and an arrow in each of her hands. Symbolically the noose represents attachment; the goad represents repulsion; the sugarcane
bow represents the mind and desires and the flowery arrows are the five sense objects.The bow significantly is made of sugarcane, so it is also a symbol of sweetness. Her darts thus are sweetness personified. Her appearance is completely sober and gentle, her heart is full of compassion and she is ravishingly beautiful and of unsurpassed splendour.
Sixteen is s sweet age. In human life it represents an age of accomplished perfection. Goddess Shodasi is visualized as a sweet girl of sixteen with an interesting story behind her supreme beauty. According to that story, Once Lord Shiva referred to his consort, Kali by her name in front of some heavenly aspara damsels of exquisite beauty with fair and shining complexion who had come to visit, calling her Kali, Kali implying blackie, blackie in jest. The Tamil version of this ‘karupayee, karupayee’ which has the same purport. Karupayee is the rural name for a Kali deity and ‘karuppu’ means black. This remark by Shiva was uncalled for especially when done so in front of third parties. Kali took to be a slur against her dark complexion.
Kali was extremely angered by the insult. She left Lord Shiva and hid herself for a prolonged period in utter
asceticism and severe meditation, resolved to rid herself of her dark complexion. The sage Narada visits Shiva only to see him alone and lamenting alone. Shiva complained that she had abandoned him and vanished. Through his yogic powers Narada discovered Kali still in meditative posture, living north of Mount Sumeru. He takes it upon himself and travels to Mount Sumeru and convinced her return to Lord Shiva.
Narada had to play a trick as Kali was still harboring anger. He told a white lie that Lord Shiva was contemplating marriage with another goddess. If she wanted that to be stopped, then she had to return to Kailasa, he said. By then Lord Brahma had given her a boon and that changed her complexion. But she had not realized that. She returns to Kailasa and arriving in the presence of Lord Shiva, she saw a reflection of herself with a light complexion in Shiva's heart. At once, her envy and anger surges again.
Lord Shiva smiled at her and advised that she look more carefully, this time with the eye of jnana, knowledge. Then she would see what she is supposed to see. What Kali then saw in Shiva’s heart was her own reflection.
When one is clouded in the mind one often sees the wrong reflection of the clouded mind. Jnana clears such clouds of illusion. The Lord then tells to the transformed Kali "As you have assumed a very beautiful form, beautiful in the three worlds, your name will be Tripura Sundari. However this new form that
stands before me shall always remain sixteen years old and hereafter shall be called by the name Shodashi."
Sri Shodashi is said to keep ‘you’ at 16 always. Lalitha Tripurasundari is the goddess associated with Sri Vidya. The three aspects of it are Mantra, the chanting aspect; Yantra, the symbolic representation of Mantra and Tantra comprising mental concentration and focusing, rituals and Kundalini Yoga. The Shodasi Tantra is an important source of information about Tripura Sundari in Tripura. According to this source, Tripura Sundari is actually the illumination in the eyes of Lord Shiva.These are learnt and practiced with the blessings of a guru. It is most certainly not a supermarket manual based discipline and that is more than an admonition.
The Panchadashakshari mantra is the most guarded secrets of Sri Vidya. Only a highly deserving candidate is given this mantra by a guru. It is advised in Lalitha Sahasranama that this divine knowledge or vidya should not be taught or given to a person who is wicked, depraved or unfaithful - 'Na shathaya na dushtaya na vishwasaya karhichith sri mathra bhakti yuktaya sri vidya raja vediney.' Panchadashakshri mantra is said to be the King of all Vidyas.
There are three stages Sri Vidya Upasana: 1. Sri Bala Tripura Sundari, 2. Sri Shutha Panchadasi, 3. Sri Maha Shodasi. Before this mantra is given, the aspirant is given Bala Mantra where the goddess is visualized as 9 year old in her Bala form. Sri Maha Shodashi is the embodiment of 16 desires. The goddess Tripura Sundari in her aspect as Shodasi is believed to actualize sixteen types of desire. After Pachadashakshari Mantra is given to the bhakta, in stages , the Maha Shodashi Mantra is given. At the advances stage there is also Kameswari and
Kameswara vidya which is a sixty-four lettered mantra. All these remain secretive and is imparted only to deserving disciples. The final stage reaches where the disciple is announced as Para Bhattaraka which means the Emperor of the whole universe.
Hara Hara Mahadeva.
(Draft: Chap 9 Gods and
Yogi Ananda Sarawathi