Monday, January 25, 2010



This blog is being written based on an idea that came to my mind during an early morning 'chat' with Amit Guha on 25/01/2010, my young friend from London. He is an enthusiast about terra cotta temples of Bengal. We were talking about motifs and icons when I told him about not so many 'Dasa MahaVidya' images being seen in our terra cotta temples.

Later during the evening, I searched 'Dasa MahaVidya' in the internet and found a lot of material regarding the tantric side of 'Dasa MahaVidya', the 'Yantras' et all. One can do one's own search and read whatever s/he likes. I have the simple story here for Amit and a few terra cotta panels.

The story I read as a child is this : Sati, daughter of Daksha the king, married Shiva against her father's will. To humiliate the couple, Daksha organised a very large gathering around a religious pyre ("Yagna') . Here, the rich and famous of that era were invited , but for Shiva and Sati.

Sati was keen to be present at this 'Yagna' ,even though she was not invited . Shiva vehemently opposed her decision. The quarrel reached its peak when Sati transformed herself into multiple ( ten) appearances. Shiva was thus subdued and allowed Sati to join her father's 'Yagna'. This led to a tragedy as Sati committed suicide after being insulted by her father in front of distinguished guests. Shiva came to tremendous grief , stormed into the gathering and ransacked the place by ' Tandava'. The ten manifestations of Sati are called 'Dasa MahaVidya'...ten ' supreme' knowledge or revelations.

The ten manifestations are linked with 9 planets and 'Lagna' by tantric devotees. They vary from fierce to benign . Tantric scripture have paean devoted to each of these ten 'Maha Vidya's. I shall post three from my collection of photos here:

Left to right : Top row - Matangi (Planet Sun), Shoroshee (Planet Mercury) and Kamala (Planet Venus). Middle row - Bagala (Planet Mars), Tara (Planet Jupiter) and very likely Barahi ( a Matrika, not one of the 'Maha Vidyas'). Bottom row - Kali (Planet Saturn ), Durga and Chhinnamasta (Planet Rahu ).

'Shoroshee' rests on a lotus rising from the navel of Shiva.Lotus in her upper left hand , blessing in her lower right hand, she is a beautiful woman .

'Dhumavati' (Planet Ketu ) is the only manifestation who is a widow. She is old,ugly with her breasts hanging out and she has fumes all around , being fanned and spread by a 'kulo', a flat contraption used for segregating grains. She rides a chariot pulled by a crow.

1 comment:

amitguha said...

Thanks for this post and the photograph.

This panel is mentioned in Pika Ghosh's book in an interesting context: the juxtaposition of Devi-Tantric art and Vaishnava art.

I found some more photos of the Mahavidyas in the following article: