The Eight 'Matrikas of Durga'

 January 29th, 2013

  • Matrikas are a group of Hindu goddesses who emerged out of Durga Mahalakshmi and are always depicted together. Since they are usually depicted as a heptad, a set of seven and are called Saptamatrikas. The Matrikas are described as having inauspicious qualities and often described as dangerous. They represent the prodigiously rich aspect of nature as well as its destructive force.  

  • However, in the Mahabharata, all the seven mothers are described as fatal or serve as threats to foetuses or infants. They are described as living in trees, crossroads, caves and funeral grounds and they are terrible as well as beautiful. They are armed with the same weapons, wear the same ornaments, and ride the same vahanas and carry the same banners as their corresponding male deities.      

  • Matrika Brahmani is the Shakti (power) of the creator god Brahma. She is depicted yellow in colour and with four heads. She may be depicted with four or six arms. Like Brahma, she holds a rosary or noose and kamandalu (water pot) or lotus stalk or a book or bell and is seated on a Hamsa (identified with a swan or goose) as her vahana (mount or vehicle). She is also shown seated on a lotus with the hamsa on her banner. She wears various ornaments and is distinguished by her basket-shaped crown called Karna Mukuta. Her place is under a Palas tree. During the great battle between Maha devi and the demons Shumb- Nishumb, Brahmi Devi vanquished the demon armies by sprinkling holy water from her kamandal while riding on her swan. 

  • Matrika Vaishnavi, the power of the preserver-god Vishnu, is described as seated on the Garuda (eagle-man) and having four or six arms. She holds Shankha (conch), Chakra (Discus), mace & lotus and bow & sword or her two arms are in varada mudra (Blessing hand gesture) and abhaya mudra ("No-fear" hand gesture). Like Vishnu, she is heavily adorned with ornaments like necklaces, anklets, earrings, bangles etc. and a cylindrical crown called Kritika Mukuta.

  • Mantrika Indrani, also known as Mahendri, Shakri and Vajri, is the power of the Indra, the Lord of the heaven. She is depicted as having two or three or like Indra, a thousand eyes. She is armed with the Vajra (thunderbolt), goad, noose and lotus stalk. Adorned with variety of ornaments, she wears the Kritika Mukuta.

  • Mantrika Varahi or Vairali is described as the power of Varaha - the boar-headed form of Vishnu or Yama - the god of death, has a boar head on a human body and rides a ram or a buffalo. She wears a crown called Karna Mukuta  with other ornaments.

  • Mantrika Chamunda, also known as Chamundi and Charchika is the power of Devi (Chandi). She is very often identified with Kali and is similar in her appearance and habit. The identification with Kali is explicit in Devi Mahatmya. The black coloured Chamunda is described as wearing a garland of severed heads or skulls (Mundamala) and holding a damaru, trishula, sword and panapatra. 

  • Mantrika Narasimhani, power of Narasimha (lion-man form of Vishnu), is a woman-lion and throws the stars into disarray by shaking her lion mane.

  • Kaumari , also known as Kumari, Karttikeyani and Ambika is the power of Kumara (Kartikeya or Skanda), the god of war. Kaumari rides a peacock and has four or twelve arms. She holds a spear, axe, a Shakti (power) or Tanka (silver coins) and bow. She is sometimes depicted six-headed like Kumara and wears the cylindrical crown.  

  • Maheshvari is the power of god Shiva, also known as Maheshvara. Maheshvari is also known by the names Raudri, Rudrani and Maheshi, derived from Shiva's names Rudra and Mahesh. Maheshvari is depicted seated on Nandi (the bull) and has four arms. The white complexioned & with trinetra (threeeyed), holds the trident just like Lord Shiva and a damarukam similar to him in her two hands. Her other two hands are in the abhaya and varada mudra. She is adorned with serpent bracelets, the crescent moon and the jaṭa mukuṭa (A head dress formed of piled, matted hair).

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