Within the diverse tapestry of Hinduism, there exists a sect known as Tantrism, characterized by its esoteric practices and beliefs surrounding liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
This sect, in contrast to the Vedic philosophy, introduces the concept of mukhsa, emphasizing worship of special tantric deities and secretive rituals. Despite this divergence, both Tantrism and Vedic religion coexist under the expansive umbrella of Hinduism.
History of Tantrism
Tantrism, a distinct section of Hinduism, is believed to have originated around 400–600 A.D., although debates persist regarding its precise inception. Some scholars argue for its existence even before the Indus Valley civilization, asserting its integral role in Indian culture. Central to Tantrism is the worship of Devi Shakti, the feminine energy representing the absolute creative force of the universe.
Devi Shakti and Dasa Mahavidyas
The entire Tantric philosophy revolves around Devi Shakti, considered the supreme deity and divine mother. Dasa Mahavidyas, translating to the ten great pearls of wisdom, are ten goddesses representing different facets of feminine energy. Devi Shakti, particularly in the form of Kali, is revered for her capacity to grant both Mukti (liberation) and Bhukti (worldly happiness).
Goddesses of Dasa Mahavidyas
Symbolizing ultimate destruction and the remover of material attachment and fears, Kali challenges conventional perceptions with her fearsome appearance, signifying the rejection of the ordinary.
Often regarded as a form of Adishakti and a tantric manifestation of Goddess Parvati, Tara’s presence is notably mentioned in the Devi-Bhagavata Purana. Resembling Kali, Tara is associated with violent forms in tantric practices.
Also known as Rajarajeshwari, Shodashi, and Lalita, Tripura Sundari is glorified outside Tantrism in the Lalita Sahasranama. She holds a prominent place in southern India with temples dedicated to her.
Considered the earliest form of Shakti, Bhuvaneshvari is known as Adi Parashakti. Temples dedicated to her can be found across India, with the oldest located in Gunja, north Gujarat.
Representing the goddess of decay, Bhairavi is the destroyer of impediments that obstruct the mind from eliminating evil thoughts.
The goddess depicted as severing her own head to feed her daughters, Chhinnamasta, is associated with stagnating negative mental activities and removing ignorance.
Portrayed as an old and ugly widow bringing destruction, hunger, and thirst, Dhumavati is worshipped by serious practitioners of secretive tantric rituals.
Invoked to obtain supernormal powers, Bagalamukhi is depicted holding the tongue of a demon, symbolizing prevention of evil speeches.
Symbolizing death and impurity through her association with music and learning, Matangi is worshipped by Tantric practitioners to acquire supernatural powers, particularly control over enemies.
The final goddess of Dasa Mahavidya, Kamala, is described as a beautiful deity with a golden complexion, capable of granting power, peace, and prosperity to devotees when pleased.
The intricate tapestry of Hinduism encompasses diverse sects, each with its unique practices and philosophies. Tantrism, with its emphasis on esoteric rituals and the worship of Devi Shakti through the Dasa Mahavidyas, provides a distinct perspective within the broader Hindu tradition. Exploring these goddesses reveals a rich and complex spiritual landscape, where each deity represents facets of feminine energy and aspects of the cosmic divine.