Daśa Mahāvidyā दश महाविद्या

5. छिन्नमस्ता Chinnamastā

(Readers’ discretion is advised for this article).

Chinnamasta is the fifth of ten Mahāvidyā-s. Chinna means cutoff or chopped off. In this form, Devi is holding her chopped head in her left hand. This form is slightly disturbing to look at, from the point of view of appearance and description. She is depicted in nude and drinking blood gushing out from her body, after chopping off her head. Though she is nude, nobody is able to see her like this, as her body is several times radiating than sun, as she is described to be seated in the disc of the sun (disc of the sun is described as Aten, often referred as Egyptian deity). Out of her chopped head, blood flows from her trunk through iḍa, piṅgala and suṣumna. The flow of blood from suṣumna is drunk by her and blood flow from iḍa and piṅgala are drunk by her two attendants, Ḍākinī and Varṇinī appearing in her posture. She is known as Chinnamuṇḍa in Buddhism. She is often described in standing posture with one foot forward on the intertwined bodies of Manmatha and his wife Rati. Understanding Her depends upon how one can interpret Her form. She is known as Vajrayoginī in Buddhism.

There are mythological stories about Her form. According to the first story, Pārvatī, Shiva’s Consort went to take bath in a river along with her two attendants and got engrossed in concupiscent thoughts about Shiva for a very long time. Her attendants (also known as Jayā and Vijayā) asked her food, as they were hungry. In spite of their repeated attempts, she did not come out of her thoughts. When they could no longer withstand their hunger, they finally told her that she has to give them food as it is her responsibility to take care of them. Suddenly Pārvatī realized her mistake and using her finger nails, she chopped off her head. The chopped head fell on her left palm and thereafter three blood streams began to gush out from her throat (from where her head was chopped off) and one stream fell into the mouth of Jayā (also known as Ḍākinī) and the other on the mouth of Vijayā (also known as Varṇinī). These two streams are referred as iḍa and piṅgala nāḍi-s. Central stream fell into her own mouth and this stream is referred as suṣumna nāḍi.

There are few things that can be interpreted from this story. Merely praying to her is not enough. Only surrendering to her alone makes her to shower her grace. The two attendants asked her for food repeatedly and she did not even listen to them. When they thought that they have no other way except to surrender to her, she did listen to their cries and gave her own blood to them. The concept of surrender is implied here. Lalitā Sahasranāma (546) worships her as Bandha-mocanī (She liberates from bondage.  Bondage is caused by ignorance or avidyā.  Bondage means a soul remaining afflicted by desires and attachments.  She removes such bondage for those who surrender to Her, beginning of the process of liberation.) Saundaryalaharī, verse 27 explains how to surrender “Let my speech be your japa, my movement of hands be your mudras, my locomotion be circumambulation for you, my eating and drinking be fire oblations for you, my lying down be prostrations for you, all my enjoyments be my surrender to You and let these actions of mine become the main part of Your worship.”

Secondly, it also implies that at the time of kuṇḍalinī ascension, all the three nāḍi-s have to be active though in different proportions. Kuṇḍalinī surges through suṣumna nāḍi, though prāṇa supports the ascension of kuṇḍalinī through suṣumna, by remaining active in both iḍa and piṅgala nāḍi-s.

Thirdly, by describing her as the one immersed in amatory thoughts, it is said that conjugal relationship is part of worshipping her. It sets aside illogical teaching that conjugal relationship should not be entertained while worshipping her. Worshipping her does not mean that one should follow celibacy. In fact, it has been explained in many Scriptures that kuṇḍalinī can be awakened during conjugation. It must always be remembered that spiritual world does not exist outside the material world. It is like mind existing within the body. At the same time, Scriptures also prescribe certain restrictions and prohibitions on overdoing any act. In the case of Manmatha and his wife Rati, by standing on their uncovered bodies, she teaches them a lesson by crushing them under her feet. (Bhagavadgītā IV. 7 to 9 says” Whenever virtues (dharma) decline and immorality (adharma) looms, I embody as an avatar.  To sustain the pious, to eliminate the sinners and to protect dharma I incarnate in every yug.  Arjuna! My avatar and actions are divine.  The one who understands this principle is not born again and reaches me when he dies.”

There is another mythological story which goes like this, but does not differ from the first one much. Here it is said that during conjugation of Śiva and Śakti (here her form is described as Caṇḍikā), her two attendants, Jayā (also known as Ḍākinī) and Vijayā (also known as Varṇinī) were born out of procreative fluid of Shiva. The story further talks about the origin of Krodha Bhairava, etc. The one important difference between the previous story and this one is that in the first one, Shiva is said to be very powerful and in the second one, Caṇḍikā is said to be powerful in terms of their positioning of their respective bodies. This goes to prove, that both Śiva and Śakti are equally powerful and sometime, Śiva is powerful and sometimes Śakti is powerful depending upon the prevailing circumstances.

There are contradictory opinions whether she is eligible to find a place in ten Mahāvidyā-s. Even today there are different opinions about her and some even call her as durdevata (evil deity) or lower class of deity due to her headless form, amorous thoughts and nudity. Some are of the opinion that she should be worshiped only through vāmācāra or left hand practice. But for a realized person, these shapes and forms do not matter. What matters to a practitioner is only his consciousness. He needs to purify his consciousness using his breath and mind and once consciousness is purified, it goes out of the body which leads to his universal realization. Her form also describes this subtle conveyance. Mind and individual consciousness is restricted only to the body. When mind is cleansed and consciousness goes out of the body through brahmarandhra at sahasrāra, all his or her dualistic mind set is destroyed and finally realizes the omnipresent Śiva. Drinking of blood by her also signifies absorption unto her. Some also describe her as goddess of annihilation or mahāpralaya. Lalitā Sahasranāma 571 says Mahā-pralaya-sakṣiṇī. Saundarya Laharī (verse 26) describes this event. “Brahma, Viṣṇu, Yama, Kubera, Indra all get annihilated.  But your consort Śiva plays around with you.”

The ultimate aim of this iconic representation of this goddess reveals that nothing is right and nothing is wrong, as Brahman encompasses both good and bad. Obviously we cannot say good Brahman and bad Brahman. Brahman is eternal and omnipresent, irrespective of the shapes and forms we worship. Her uncovered form clearly says that one has to transcend the attraction of physical bodies and has to go beyond one’s body to realize the omnipresence of Shiva.

{Further reading: What is out of body consciousness? According to Dr. Frederic Aardema, “There is certain coherency to the idea that the further your consciousness move away from physical existence, the less involved your brain will be, ultimately resembling death. At the same time, most strikingly, your sense of being never appears to come to an end. You may lose many mental and perpetual faculties we so often associate with consciousness, yet you continue to exist.}


(In these three mantras prefixed bījākṣara-s are placed in different positions)

1. ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं ह्रीं वज्र वैरोचनीये ह्रीं ह्रीं फट् स्वाहा॥

     om śrīṁ hrīṁ hrīṁ vajra vairocanīye hrīṁ hrīṁ phaṭ svāhā ||

2. ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं ह्रीं ऐं वज्र वैरोचनीये ह्रीं ह्रीं फट् स्वाहा॥

    om śrīṁ hrīṁ hrīṁ aiṁ vajra vairocanīye hrīṁ hrīṁ phaṭ svāhā ||

3. ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं वज्र वैरोचनीये ह्रीं ह्रीं फट् स्वाहा॥

    om śrīṁ hrīṁ hrīṁ klīṁ aiṁ vajra vairocanīye hrīṁ hrīṁ phaṭ svāhā ||

The following four mantras are known as प्रचण्डचण्डिका pracaṇḍacaṇḍikā mantras:

(In these four mantras prefixed bījākṣara-s are placed in different positions)

1. ॐ श्रीं क्लीं ह्रीं ऐं वज्र वैरोचनीये ह्रीं ह्रीं फट् स्वाहा॥

    om śrīṁ klīṁ hrīṁ aiṁ vajra vairocanīye hrīṁ hrīṁ phaṭ svāhā ||

2. ॐ क्लीं श्रीं ह्रीं ऐं वज्र वैरोचनीये ह्रीं ह्रीं फट् स्वाहा॥

    om klīṁ śrīṁ hrīṁ aiṁ vajra vairocanīye hrīṁ hrīṁ phaṭ svāhā ||

3. ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं क्लीं ह्रीं ऐं वज्र वैरोचनीये ह्रीं ह्रीं फट् स्वाहा॥

    om hrīṁ śrīṁ klīṁ hrīṁ aiṁ vajra vairocanīye hrīṁ hrīṁ phaṭ svāhā ||

4. ॐ ऐं श्रीं क्लीं ह्रीं ऐं वज्र वैरोचनीये ह्रीं ह्रीं फट् स्वाहा॥

    om aiṁ śrīṁ klīṁ hrīṁ aiṁ vajra vairocanīye hrīṁ hrīṁ phaṭ svāhā ||

It can be found from the above mantras only the following bījākṣara-s are repeatedly transposed.

1. श्रीं śrīṁ -- This is known as Lakṣmī bīja and mostly placed along with ह्रीं (hrīṁ).  Apart from causing auspiciousness, this bīja produces enough solar energy within the body and makes the mind calm and tranquil. If this bīja is added to Pañcadaśī mantra at the end, we get Laghu Ṣodaśī mantra. This bīja works along with sauḥ (सौः) in offering Liberation. Again श्रीं (śrīṁ) consists of three letters śa, ra and ī and nāda and bindu. Śa refers to Goddess of wealth Lakṣmī and ra is wealth itself, Ī refers to satisfaction, nāda is apara (having nothing beyond or after, having no rival or superior) and bindu dispels sorrow. This clearly explains that Mahāṣoḍaśī Mantra not only gives Liberation, but also gives material prosperity, peace of mind and satisfaction in life.

2. ह्रीं hrīṁ -- This is known as māyā bīja. ह्रीं (hrīṁ) and श्रीं (śrīṁ) are often placed together. Ha meansŚiva, ra means Prakṛti, Ī means mahāmāya (She is Prakāśa-vimarśa- mahāmāya- svarūpinī). Nāda is Divine Mother (mother of universe) and bindu is the dispeller of sorrow. (Interpretations always vary according to bīja-s. For example, it is said in śrīṁ that ra is wealth, whereas here it is explained that ra isPrakṛti. It all depends upon context and conjunction.) It is also said that hrīṁ produces solar energy within the body. This bīja causes Bliss (There are six ह्रीं (hrīṁ) in Mahāṣoḍaśī Mantra). Śiva speaks a lot about usage of ह्रीं (hrīṁ) in Mahānirvāṇa Tantra, particularly in kali yuga.

3. ऐं aiṁ -- This is known as Sarasvatī bīja. ai (ऐ) refers to Sarasvatī and bindu as usual is the dispeller of sorrow and miseries. It is sometimes called Guru bīja, which implies that this bīja endows knowledge. This bīja establishes a strong connection between the deity and mantra, as this bīja works on buddhi (intellect).

4. क्लीं klīṁ -- This is known as kāma bīja. It is the bīja for attraction. This bīja in fact promotes the potency of other bīja-s and the mantra as a whole. It works on heart chakra and kindles love for fellow beings. This helps us to achieve our material desires, when placed with other bīja-s. Ka refers to Manmatha, also known as Kāmadeva. There are references that ka also refers to Lord Kṛṣṇa; la refers to Indra, the chief gods and goddesses, Ī refers to contentment and satisfaction and the bindu here gives both happiness and sorrow. This is the effect of materialistic desires, which consists of both happiness and sorrow. This bīja acts in a strange way. It induces desires and at the same time if one is not satisfied with what is given, it also causes miseries.

All these mantras have in common “vajra vairocanīye”. Vajra means thunderbolt, which refers to a weaponry of Indra, which was made out of spine of Sage Dadhīca (also known as Dadhīci). Vajra also refers to the lightning evolved from the centrifugal energy of the circular thunderbolt of Indra when launched at a foe. Vairocana means the disc belonging to the sun, the central point of the sun where She is supposed to reside. It is conveyed through “vairocanīye” that one gets Self-realized by perceptive illumination when one’s kuṇḍalinī is activated either through love for the Divine or through kuṇḍalinī meditation, to hasten the process of illumination. Vairocana also means world of Buddhists. Upaniṣad-s also describe Brahman in the form of lightning. This is because, Brahman reveals Himself only in the form lightning which lasts only for a few seconds.