Daśa Mahāvidyā दश महाविद्या
4. भुवनेश्वरि Bhuvaneśvari
Bhuvaneśvari is the fourth of ten Mahāvidyā-s. Bhuvaneśvara means Lord of the universe (Śiva) and His Consort is Bhuvaneśvari; it is like Bhairava and Bhairavi. She represents ākaśa or space tattva. According to Taittirīya Upaniṣad (II.1) ākaśa is the first amongst creation. It says. “From this Self comes space; from space, air; from air fire; from fire water, from water earth; from earth plants and herbs; from plants and herbs food and from food, human beings.” Since She represents space or ākaśa, it is obvious, that She is the cause of creation. She is also known as Vimarśa (consideration and reasoning), which also goes to prove that She is the creator. Creation is made out of Śiva’s power, which is also known as Vimarśa. In this form, She is not with Śiva’s lap as Her right leg is down and Her left leg is folded when compared to Lalitāmbikā, where She is seated with Her left leg down.
Lalitā Sahasranāma 294 is Bhuvaneśvarī is explained like this: Bhuvana means the universe. She is the ruler (Īśvari) of this universe. Seven worlds below the planet earth including earth and seven worlds above the earth are together called universe. These fourteen represent the products of the five tattva-s and antaḥkaraṇa. “hrīṃ” (ह्रीं) is known as Bhuvaneśvari bīja, also known as māyā bīja. This bīja has the potency of creation and is considered as one of the powerful bīja-s, as it is the combination of Śiva bīja (ह), Agni (रं) bīja and kāmakalā (ईं). When She is enjoying all the luxuries, She ought to be a great ruler and this is what is stressed here. Bhuvaneśvara is Śiva and His wife is Bhuvaneśvarī.
It is said that She is Aditi referred by Vedas. Aditi is boundlessness, immensity, inexhaustible abundance, unimpaired condition, perfection, creative power. She is said to be of one of the most ancient of the Indian goddesses mentioned in Rig Veda. She is also mentioned as the daughter of Dakṣa and wife of Kaśyapa, mother of the Ādityas and of the gods. By all the gods it is implied that She is Universal Mother. Since She is considered as the cause of creation, She also represents māyā, the illusion. Māyā is explained in Lalitā Sahasranāma 716 and is explained thus: She is māyā. Māyā is illusion. The root of māyā is ma. Ma means ‘to measure’. It also means ‘leading to the idea of illusion’. Brahman is immeasurable but due to the influence of māyā, Brahman appears to be measurable. In other words, Brahman is beyond time and space but due to the influence of māyā Brahman appears as if bound by time and space. For easier understanding, Brahman is said to have two aspects – saguṇa (with attributes) and nirguṇa (without attributes). Nirguṇa Brahman in conjunction with māyā becomes saguṇa Brahman. The appearance of the universe is due to the projection by māyā. From the point of view of Vedānta consciousness is the subtlest of all existents. Pure consciousness is the basis of varied existence of the universe. All these variations are due to the superimposition of names and forms by māyā which is the principle of appearance that is neither real nor unreal. The Self-illuminating Brahman which is pure and limitless consciousness manifests as manifold souls in living organisms. The manifestation of the Brahman is noticeable only in the living beings, whereas it stands hidden in non-livings. In the case of human beings, the pure and limitless consciousness manifest as self with independent mind. Māyā is a mystery of omnipresent power that works like a supreme faculty of self- transformation. It appears in the form of deceptive masks producing only illusionary effects. Māyā covers the Brahman that exists in all beings in this universe. This covering is like a sheath or a veil. Unless this veil is removed, the Brahman cannot be realized. For removing this veil, knowledge is required. As long as the veil continues to remain, one continues to remain ignorant (avidyā). Macro-cosmic reflection of the Brahman is māyā. Śiva is the Brahman and Śaktī is māyā. Unless, Śaktī clears the path, Śiva cannot be realized and it is only Śaktī, who is capable of revealing Śiva. She reveals Śiva only if impurities of physical bodies, subtle bodies and casual bodies are totally removed. Hence, Śaktī worship is considered as important. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gīta (VII.14) “For this most wonderful māyā of Mine, consisting of three guṇa-s (sattva, rajas and tamas), is extremely difficult to break through. Those who constantly adore me are able to cross it.”
She is represented by bīja hrīṁ (ह्रीं). This is explained in Lalitā Sahasranāma 301. She is in the form of māyā bīja hrīṁ. Hrīṁ is also called śākta praṇava or śaktī praṇava, which means that the worshippers of śaktī, call hrīṁ as praṇava bīja of Śaktī. This is also known as Bhuvaneśvarī bījā (Nāma 294 is Bhuvaneśvarī). Praṇava is the supreme ॐ. The power of hrīṁ bīja is as powerful as ॐ. That is why in Pañcadaśī mantra every kūṭa or group ends with the bīja hrīṁ. Hrīṁ is the combination of ha (ह) + ra (र) + ī (ई) + ma (म) + bindu ('). Ha refers to manifestation, ra indicates involution (action of enfolding, the action of māyā), ī indicates perfection and the bindu, a dot on top of the bīja controls all the three. Therefore hrīṁ means manifestation, involution and perfection. The appearance of the bodily form enfolded by perfection is the literal meaning of the bīja hrīṁ. This means that māyā or illusion is causing a veil around the Brahman and this veil can be removed only if one realizes the Supreme Consciousness of Śaktī. Unless the kinetic energy (Śaktī) is fully realized, it is not possible to feel the pulsation of Śiva, the static energy. In fact this bīja can also be called as Śiva-Śaktī bīja as ha stands for Śiva bījā and kāmakalā - īṁ (ईं) stands for Śaktī bīja. The bīja ra (र) conjoins these two bīja-s to form a single Śiva-Śaktī bīja. The role of ra in any bīja is significant. The sound of ra is the chief of all the sounds. Whenever hrīṁ is chanted, it endues peace and auspiciousness. In any bīja the bindu is important and most of the bīja-s have bindu. For example take the letter ha (ह). When a dot is placed at the top of this ha it becomes haṁ (हं). Without bindu an alphabet remains as an alphabet and becomes a bījā only if a ‘dot’ is placed above the alphabet. The bindu though tiny, is yet very powerful. There are three major sub divisions in a bindu leading to the union of Śiva and Śaktī, from where the three exclusive actions of the Brahman viz. creation, sustenance and destruction originate. The three major sub divisions are bindu representing Śiva, bīja representing Śaktī and nāda representing their union. A bindu above ha, one of the alphabets of hrīṁ spells like haṁ. This bīja haṁ, a component of hrīṁ represents creation (h), sustenance (a) and destruction (ṁ) the three functions of the Brahman. The bindu undergoes subtle changes from its origin to delivery. It originates as Parā Śaktī and gets modified as paśyantī, madhyamā and delivered at vaikari, (Please refer nāma 299 for additional details.) At the time of delivery it undergoes modifications through eight stages) by deriving power from five basic elements and gets blessed by Brahma, Viṣṇu and Rudra. It begins its journey from the heart cakra with the letter ‘a’ (अ), moves to the throat cakra and conjoins with ‘u’(उ) and further goes up to palate where it conjoins with ‘ṁ’ (मं), the three components of OM (a + u + ṁ). From the palate it moves to forehead where it derives its cosmic energy received through the crown cakra, enters the world of śūnya ( cosmic vacuum) where no energy operates, moves further up towards the top of the skull establishing a link through brahmarandhra with mahā śūnya (the great cosmic vacuum), where the Creation takes place. When it moves further, the creation becomes transcendental energy and the life begins to exist out of the Self illuminating cosmic brilliance. That is why bindu is said to be in the form of a luminous dot like the sun, born out of the union of Śiva and Śaktī. There is no differentiation between the bīja hrīṁ and Śiva-Śaktī combine, the point of origin and the point of annihilation of this universe.
Bhuvaneśvari is described with four arms and various anagoges describe different weaponries. In general, She holds goad and noose, as in the case of Lalitāmbikā. She also holds abhaya mudra, a symbol of offering security and offering peace, safety and security. In another hand She holds a chisel. Chisel is the symbolic representation of annihilation of sinners. In some of the descriptions, chisel is not described and instead varada mudra, which symbolizes granting of boons is described.
1. Single letter mantra, known as ekākṣara mantra, which is ह्रीं hrīṁ
2. Three letter mantra known as trakṣara mantra, which is ऐं ह्रीं श्रीं aiṁ hrīṁ śrīṁ. Here Bhuvaneśvari bīja is encased (sampuṭīkaraṇa) between Sarasvatī and Lakṣmī bīja-s in the beginning and at the end respectively.