MYTHOLOGY: Hiranyakasipu is killed by Lord Vishnu in his Nrisimha avatara. His son Prahlada became a Vishnu devotee. Andhakasura began to rule the asuras after him. He does long austerities and obtains several boons from Brahma only to cause annoyance to the Devas. The Asura chief’s mischief is brought to the attention of Lord Siva in Kailas. While the complaint was being heard, Andhaka appears to carry Parvathi from Kailash. Siva creates three serpents Vasuki, Takshaka and Dhananjay to serve as his beltsand bracelets. Now, another asura, Nila, taking an elephant form, tries to settle his scores at this moment. Nandi informs Virabhadra who takes the form of a lion and attacks Nila. His skin is presented by Virabhadra to Siva. This lion skin becomes Siva’s upper garment.
Clad with lion garment and serpents, Siva wields his Trishulam to attack Andhaka and the Ganas. In the struggle Vishnu and the Devas run away. Siva wounds Andhaka and each drop of blood gave rise to thousands of Andhaka asuras to fight Siva. The original Andhaka sees his fate by the Siva’s Trishula when the Lord has gone into Thandava mode. But the secondary asuras keep creating asuras from their blood-drops. Now, Vishnu returns with his Chakrayutha. But blood keeps flowing to the earth. To stop this Lord Siva created a Shakti called Yogeswari from the flames of his mouth. Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara, Kumara, Varaha, Indra and Yama sent their saktis to follow Yogeswari in stopping the blood. They are armed with the same weapons, wear the same ornaments and ride the same Vahanas and carry the same banners as the corresponding male gods do. Thus Brihat Samhita Varahamihira states that ‘Mothers are to be made with cognizance of gods corresponding to their names; they are associated with these gods as their spouses or their Shaktis, the energies”. Tha Sapta Matrikas are Bahmani, Maheswari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi,Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda. Thus the Sapta Matrikas originated and Andhkasura finally lost his power and Lord Siva defeats them all.
KURMA PURANA: This Purana extends the mythology of the Matrikas. After Andhaka is chastised, Lord Siva commanded Bhairava and the Matrikas to retire in Patala Lokha. This is the abode of the Tamasic and destructive Vishnu Nrisimha. However, Bhairava is only an Amsa or part of Siva became. He merges in Siva. The Matrikas who were left alone without any means of subsistence began to destroy everything in the universe for the purpose of feeding themselves. Bhairava prays to Nrisimha to abstract from the destructive nature of the Matrikas which was so done.
ALLEGORY IN VARAHA PURANA : The Varaha Purana, stating them to be eight in number by including Goddess Yogeswari. They represent eight mental qualities which are morally wanting: 1.Yogeswari – kama or desire; Maheswari – krodh or anger; Vaishnavi – lobha or coveatness; Brahmani – mada or pride; Kaumari – Moha or illusion; Indrani – Matsarya or fault finding; Yami (Chamunda) – tale bearing and Varahi – asuya or envy.
The Sapta-Matrikas portray beautiful allegory. Siva is the spirit of Vidya, knowledge. Andhaka represents, ignorance or the darkness of of Avidya. The more Vidya attacks Avidya the more it tends to arise and increase. This is represented by the multiplication of Andhaka and secondary asuras. Unless the eight evil qualities, kama, krodha, lobha, mada, moha, matsarya, paisunya and asuya are completely brought under the control of Vidya and kept under restraint, it can never succeed in putting down Andhakara. The Varaha Purana state that the Matrikas are Atma-Vidya warring against Andhakara. the darkness of ignorance: “Etate-te Sarvam-akyatamatma-vidyamritam”
SHAKTAM and TANTRA: It is said the concept of Sapta Matrika has its origins in Shakti worship which emanated from the south with dravidian influence. Prevalence of the worship of divine mothers is believed to be as early as 3rd millenieum BC when the Indus Valley civilization flourished. They were connected to the Tamil-kadavul, Tamil God Skanda and later associated with Shiva worship. InTantrism they are specifically described as assisting Goddess Shakta Devi in fighting the demons. Their details are contained in Svachhanda Tantra and Yogini Hridaya. They are stated to be sitting in lalitatasana posture adorned with heavy ornaments, necklaces and ear-rings. There are writings to the extent the Matrikas originated from the 64 Yoginis of the ten Mahavidyas. This tantric aspect also entered the Buddhist fold.
WORSHIP and TEMPLES: The Devi Purana mentions the names of the flowers used for the worship of Matrikas. The Saptamatrika images are worshipped by women on Pithori - new moon day, with the 64 yoginis represented by rice flour images or supari nuts. The goddesses are worshipped by ceremonial offerings of fruit and flower and mantras. It is believed that when the Matrikas are angry, they make women barren or strike newborns with fatal fevers. Thus mothers quick with child or prospective mothers pray to the Matrikas for health and happiness. The Saptamatrikas are also prayed to get rid of the evil effects of witchcraft.
Usually in Saptamatrikas worship, Chamunda replaces Narasimhi as the last Mother. The Dhatus or body substances ruled by the Matrikas are Brahmani: skin, Maheshvari: blood, Kaumari: muscle, Vaishnavi: fat, Varahi: bone, Aindri: marrow and Chamunda: semen. In Nepal, the Matrikas are placed according to the eight compass directions. North-west, is assigned to Durga Mahalakshmi, from whom the Matrikas emerged.
BRAHMANI This goddess has four faces and a body bright as gold. In the back right hand, she carries the Sula and in the back left hand as Akshamala; the front right hand is in the Abhaya pose and the front left hand in the Varada pose. She is seated upon a red Lotus and has the Hamsa as her Vahana as also the emblem of her banner. She wears a Pitambara or yellow garment. Her head is adorned with a Karandmakuta. Her situation is under a palasa tree. Such is the description of her in the Amsumadbhedagama.
VAISHNAVI. Vaishnavi holds the Chakra and Sankha in her right and left hands. The other hands are held in the Abhaya and the Varada poses. She has a lovely face and beautiful breasts and is of dark complexion. Her eyes are pretty, and she wears a yellow garment. On her head is a Kirita-makuta. She is adorned with all the ornaments generally worn by Vishnu, and the emblem of her banner. Her vahana is the Garuda. Her place is under a Rajavriksha. In Devi Purana, she is represented as possessing four hands in which she carries the Sankha, Chakra, Gada and Padma. She wears Vishnu’s garland, the Vannamala.
INDRANI. The figure of Indrani has three eyes and four arms; in two of her hands she carries the Vajra and Sakthi, the two other hands being respectively held in the Varada and Abhaya poses. The colour of goddess is red, and she has on her head a Kirita Makuta. The color of her body is red. She is heavily ornamented. Her vahana as well as the emblem of her banner is the elephant. Her abode is under the Kalpaka tree. The Devi-purana states that she carries the Ankusa and the Vajra only, the Purvakaranagama mentions that she has only two eyes which is slightly different from Vishnudharmottara which states that she has a thousand eyes. According to the last authority, the Goddess Indrani holds a lotus in one of her hands.
CHAMUNDA. The Goddess Chamunda has four arms and three eyes and is red in colour. Her hair is abundant and thick and bristles upwards. She has Kapala,Skull in one hand and Sula in another while the other two hands are respectively in the Abhaya and Varada poses. She wears a garland of sculls in the manner of the Yajnopavita and is seated upon Padmasana. Her garment is the tiger skin, and her bode is under a fig tree. Her seat, it is said in the Vishnudharmottara, is the dead body of a human being, and she has a terrific face with powerful tusks. She has a very emaciated body and sunken eyes and ten hands. The belly of this goddess is thin and apparently empty. She carries in her hand the following things: Musala, Kavacha, Bana, Ankusa, Khadga, Khetaka, Dhanus, Danda and Parasu.
MAHESVARI. She is of white complexion. Mahesvari has four arms; two of which are in the Abhaya and Varada Poses while the remaining two hands carry the Sula and Akshamala. Her Vahana is the Bull. This Goddess is said in the Vishnudharmottara to have five faces, each possessing three eyes and she wears on her crown the crescent moon. She has six arms; in four of the hands she carries the Sutra, Damaru, Sula and Ghanta, the two remaining hands being respectively in the Abhaya and Varada poses, her head is adorned with the jata-makuta. Her banner also has the Bull for its emblem.
KUMARI. She is of yellow complexion. She is the female manifestation of Lord Subrahmanya who is known as Kumara. Kumari has four hands, in two of which she carries the Sakti and the Kukkuta, the remaining two hands being respectively in the Abhaya and Varada poses. Her Vahana, like that of Kumara, is the Peacock, which is also the emblem on her banner. She has a Jata Makuta said to be bound with Vasika or Vachika. Her abode is under an Udumbara or Fig tree. She has, according to the Vishnudharmottara, six faces and twelve arms, two of her hands being respectively held in the Abhaya and Varada poses, and she carries the Sakti, Dhvaja, Danda, Dhanus, Bana, Ghanta, Padma, Patra and Parasu in her other hands. The Devi Purana adds that her garland is made of red flowers. She is sculptured to suggest the ideas of Valour and Courage.
VARAHI. Varahi has the face of a boar and the colour of the storm-cloud. As such, she is dark complexioned. She wears on her head a Karanda-Makuta and is adorned with ornaments made of corals. She wields the Hala and Sakti and is seated under a Kalpaka tree. Her Vahana as well as the emblem on her banner is the elephant. To this description the Vishnudharmottara adds that she has a big belly. According to this authority, she has six hands in four of which she carries the Danda, Khadga, Khetaka and Pasa,the two remaining hands being respectively held in the Abhaya and Varada poses. The Purvakaranagama says that she carries the Saringapdhanus, the Hala and Musala as her weapons. She wears on her legs Nupura-anklets.
SCULPTURES: This is prescribed in Suprabheda Agama. The sculptures are referred to as ‘Krityaratnakara’. The sculpturing of the sapta-matrika group of Gods and Goddesses are described in the Suprabhedagama. Their sculptures in the cave temples of Ellora conform largely to the descriptions in this text. The Sapta Matrikas are to take the forms of their consorts. Thus Brahmani should be sculptured like Brahma; Maheswari like Mahesvara, Vaishnavi like Vishnu, Varahi as a short woman with an angry face and bearing a plough as her weapon; Indrani like Indra. Chamundi, the lst description is to be depicted as a terrific goddess in disheveled condition and wield Trisula in one of her hands and carry a kapala in another. They are shown seated upon Padmasanas in the sculptures and hands held in the Varada and Abhaya poses or carry appropriate weapons.