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Kulachudamani Tantra - Introduction

Adherents of other Schools [that are not Vamachara] will have none of them. Thus Lakshmidhara, commentator of the Anandalahari and follower of the Samayachara school which recognises only the so-called Shubhagamas, says that the mind is soiled by even the remembrance of such men; and that the Panchatattva rites in their literal form are followed only by Shudras of an inferior kind - Introduction to Kalivilasa, Arthur Avalon

This is the introduction to volume IV of Arthur Avalon's Tantrik Texts, published by Luzac in 1916 and now out of copyright.

A part translation (patalas one to six, of seven) may also be found on this site, which you can find by clicking here.

As we point out in our preface to that translation, a reader might be forgiven for thinking that the introduction below refers to a completely different text. In fact, it doesn't, and we can only add that the climate in 1916 quite possibly precluded any mention of the vamachari themes which are part of this Kaula text.

Given that, this introduction is still very useful. Although most of it is written by associates of Sir John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon), he also contributed to translations of the two hymns which are part of the text and to the footnotes associated with them.


This first edition of the hitherto unpublished Kulachudamani has been prepared with the help of manuscripts (marked ka and kha) collected by the Varendra Anusandhana Samiti of Rajshahi from reputed centres of Tantrika worship in Bengal. The text has been compared in several cases with other manuscripts, access to which was given by Tantrika Gurus to the travelling Pandit of the Samiti. The work consists of seven Patalas (chapters).

This Tantra is of a different type from that published in the last volume.

The Kulachudamani-tantra or "crest-jewel" of the Kulachara division of Tantrika Sadhakas is included in the list of revealed works, which according to the Vamakeshvara Tantra, are considered to be the chief amongst those which deal with the worship of Shakti. It is accordingly found frequently referred to as an authority in many compilations though the Kulachudamani itself (II, 8) refers us, for all technical terms, to the Bhairavi Tantra, which is, however now known chiefly from quotations made from it.

Like all original works on Tantrika worship, the Kulachudamani is cast in the form of a dialogue - the Shastra being revealed by the Devi in Her form as Bhairavi, in answer to questions put to Her by Shiva in His form as Bhairava. For this reason the book is included in the class which goes by the name of Nigama as opposed to Agama, in which the Shastra is revealed by Shiva Himself. The form in which a Shastra presented whether as the Revelation of Shiva or Shakti is mere Lila. Since Shiva and Shakti are one and the same and it is Shiva who reveals, Shiva is the revealer of the Shastra in all cases, though in some He figures as Shishya and in otehrs as Guru. The Svachchanda Tantra puts this clearly in the following verse:

Guru shishyapade sthitva svayameva mahesvarah
Prashnottara-padair vakyaistantrang samavatarayat

The Tantra according to this verse, was originally revealed by Mahesvara (Shiva) who Himself stood for that purpose in the position of the Guru as well as that of the Shishya. This is also stated in the last chapter (VII, 79) of the Kulachudamani where the Devi addressing Her lord says:-
Gurustvam sarvatantranam.

Kulachara has been called a secret doctrine and practice. The Bhairavi in discoursing of it in the Kulachudamani says at the outset (I,31) that it had not been told to Vishnu nor to Brahma nor to Ganapa.

Kaula knowledge, says the text (II, 25) must not be divulged to atheists, fools, Pashus or to persons of the twice-born caste. The secret teaching appears to have been transmitted for a long time "from mouth to mouth" (Vaktrat vaktrantaram) and even when it came in part to be reduced into writing, sufficient precaution was taken to conceal it from the uninitiated under technical terms, the import of which could only be learnt from the Guru. The general features may, however, be summed up as follows.

Although the word Kula in ordinary parlance means a family or clan, its technical sense has been defined by the Tararahasyavrittika to be "Kulam=matri-mana-meyam". The term thus combines the meaning of the three other words which are further explained to mean Jiva (Mata), Jnana (Manam) and the manifold universe or Vishva (Meyam). The gist (Sangkalitartha) therefore is said to be Shakti. As Shakti is Kula so Shiva (as distinguished from Shakti) is spoken of as Akula. Kulachara is one of the seven Acharas enumerated by the Kularnava, one of the leading Tantras of the division of Sadhakas of this school called Kaulas. According to the last named Tantra it occupies the highest rank. "The Vaidikachara" it says, "is no doubt higher than all, but Vaishnavachara is higher than Vaidikachara; Shaivachara is higher than Vaishnavachara; Dakshinachara is higher than Shaivachara; Vamachara is higher than Dakshinachara; Siddhantachara is higher than the last and Kulachara is superior to all."

As Kulachara is thus said to be the highest of the Acharas, only those Sadhakas are qualified therefor who in this or another birth have graduated in the preceding Acharas which are regarded as stepping stones to it. Such a Sadhaka is called Kaulika or Kulina. Being the final stage of Sadhana this Achara knows no distinction of race, colour, caste, or sect. But the esoteric character of its doctrine and practice is such that it was never meant for the ordinary man of the world. On the contrary, the difficulties of its true practice are said to be such that according to the doctrine "it is easier to walk on a drawn sword," than to be a true Kaula. It is expressly stated (I, 42) that the Adhikari must be a Kulina, that is one who is capable of realizing that every person, thing and act is a manifestation of the Mother or Shakti (Striyamancha jagatsarvam). An essential feature of this Achara is the attainment of the knowledge that the Mother who is worshipped under different forms as Tripura, Kalika and so forth with differing rituals is She from whom all creation proceeds and who is all in all. This is very aptly set forth in the text (I, 24) which says "Oh All-knowing One, if Thou knowest Me then of what use are the Amnayas (revealed teachings) and Yajanam (sacrifices: ritual). If Thou knowest Me not, then of what use are Amnaya and Yajanam."
Yadi mang viddhi sarvajna kva chamnayah kva yajanam,
Na viddhi mang chet sarvajna kva chamnayah kva yajanam.

This teaching has found its way into popular Bengali songs which say.
"Tell me what will japa, tapa, yoga and yaga do for a man in whom Kulakundalini awakens and for the man in whom She awakens not." Supremacy is claimed for Kulachara on the grounds that it is the final stage of Sadhana in which Knowledge is realised to be superior to ritual. Kuladharma is accordingly said to weigh more than all Yajnas and Vratas put together in the scale against it though such rituals are necessary in the preliminary Acharas which qualify for the last. As Jnana alone secures liberation the Kularnava Tantra affirms that without Kuladharma liberation is not possible. With the question whether this claim is well founded I am not concerned but with the statement of the historical facts. As being the Achara which is claimed to be at the entry of liberation it is regarded by Kaulas as supreme and the end for those which precede it. Other schools take a different view of the Kaula claims.

Chapter I

The book opens with an enumeration of the Kula-sundaris or Devis who are said to be innumerable under the names of Tripura, Kalika, Vagishvari, Sukula, Kula, Matanggini, Purna, Vimala, Chandanayika, Ekajata, Durga and others. Several doctrines also such as Vaishnava, Ganapatya and others are mentioned.

The names of a number of Tantras belonging to the sixty-four are next given. A complete list has been quoted in teh footnotes (pages 2-3) from the Vamakeshvara-tantra, according to which each of the eight Bhairavas has a Tantra of his own, all of which are collectively known as the Bhairavashtakam. Similary the Tantras relating to the seven Matrikas the Shivadutis are collectively called Bahurupashtakam. The Yamalas are eight in number. These three classes give us 24 works, while the rest are those named in the list.

The 64 Tantras given in the Vamakeshvara are as follows:-
1 Mahamaya
*2 Shambhara
3 Yoginijala-shambhara
4 Tattva-shambhara
5-12 Bhairavashtaka - a) Asitangga
b) Ruru
c) Chanda
d) Krodha
e) Unmatta
f) Kapali
g) Bhishana
h) Sanghara
13-20 Bahurupashtaka - the eight Tantras of the seven Matrikas and Shivadutis
21-28 Yamalashtaka - a) Brahmayamala
b) Vishnuyamala
c) Rudrayamala
d) Lakshmiyamala
e) Umayamala
f) Skandayamala (Bhaskara substitutes Jayadrathayamala)
g) Ganeshayamala
h) Grahayamala
*29 Mahochchushya
*30 Vatula
*31 Vatullotara
32 Hridbheda
*33 Tantrabheda
34 Guhyatantra
35 Kamika
36 Kalavada
37 Kalasara
38 Kubjikamata
*39 Tantrottara
40 Vinatantra
41 Trodala
42 Trodalottara
43 Panchamrita
44 Rupabheda
45 Bhutoddamara
46 Kulasara
47 Kuloddhisha
*48 Kulachudamani
49 Sarvajnottara
*50 Mahakalimata
51 Mahalakshmimata
52 Siddhayogeshvarimata
53 Kurupikamata
54 Devarupikamata
55 Sarvaviramata
56 Vimalamata
57 (a) Purvamnaya
(b) Pashchimamnaya
(c) Dakshinamnaya
(d) Uttaramnaya
58 Niruttara
59 Vaisheshika
60 Jnanarnava
*61 Virabali
62 Arunesha
63 Mohinisha
64 Vishuddesvara

It has not been found possible to identify with certainty all items in the list given in this work with that of the Vamakeshvara and in some respects the list differs. If, however, we take Mayottara, Kalapaka or Kalapada, Sarvajnatmaka and Vishudeshvara which occur in the Kulachudamani to refer to items 1, 36, 48 and 64 respectively of the Vamakeshvara list, then the two lists correspond except as to the 9 items marked with an asterisk. In the place of those last the present work appears to give the names of the following Tantras:- Mahasarasvata, Tantrajnana, Vasuki, Mahasammohana, Mahasukshma, Vahana, Vahanottara, Matribheda, Vishvatmaka Shivavali. If however we thus count them we get to (sic) Tantras or one too many. Possibly Mahasukshma may be part of the title of the Vahana Tantra which succeeds it, in which case it may be eliminated.

The Bhairava then says that He knows all these Kulasundaris, doctrines and Tantras but has nevertheless not attained bliss (Ananda). He asks the Bhairavi why this is so?

In reply the Bhairavi first gives some general philosophical instruction in eleven verses (I, 16-26) to the Bhairava whom She addresses as the most Supreme Kula the ocean of Tantrika Kula knowledge (Tantrajnanakularnava) which, since He apparently seeks instruction, has for the moment been obscured by her Maya. This portion may be divided into three sections. The first (vv 16-17) refers to that primordial state when She as Prakriti was hidden in Chidananda (Ahang Prakritirupa chech chidanandaparayana). In this state there is neither creation, maintenance or destruction; neither brahma, Hari or Shambhu or other Devas, neither attachment, suffering nor liberation; neither piety, Theism or Atheism, Japa, Guru or Shishya.

The second state (vv 17-24) is that in which the Devi covering Herself with Her own Maya becomes desirous of creation (Unmukhi) and threefold. Then joyful in the mad delight which comes of Her union with the supreme Akula She becomes Vikarini; that is the Vikaras or Tattvas arise in Mulaprakriti.
Mayayachchhadya chatmanang tridha bhutva yadonmukhi
Parakularasonmadamodini cha vikarini

At this second stage Brahma, Hari, Shambhu appear and with them the Worlds (Loka) and the Elements (Panchabhutani) of which they are composed. By the differentiation of Shiva and SHakti the Gunas commence to operate (Shivashakti-prabhedena gunotpattistu jayate). Brahma and the others are not distinct entities. They are all one and the same as parts of Her. The creation which is Matratmaka appears and then disappears in Pralaya.

In the third section (vv 24-26) the Devi teaches the great lesson that all scripture and ritual are unneeded where She is known; as they are unneeded where She is not known. For scriptural teaching is a means to an end: - knowledge of Her. It therefore has no use where She is known. If on the other hand religious disposition is wholly wanting these means alone will not evoke it, though they are not without their uses in educating a latent piety in the disciple. The Bhairavi then says "I manifest myself as woman (that is in female form or Shakti) which is my own Self and the very essence of creation (Narirupang samasthaya shrishtisaram madatmakam) in order to know Thee Bhairava, the Guru who are united with Me (Bhavayogastham)". She adds that even when all this is said Her Tattva is not known.

The Devi then speaks of the methods (Upaya) of attaining liberation which is the essence of all Tantras and is honoured by all Devatas. These means secure knowledge and awaken Tattvabodha. They destroy both merit and demerit and (v 29) give both enjoyment and liberation (Bhogamuktipradayakam). This doctrine is said to have been kept as a profound secret so that it had not been divulged even to Vishnu, Brahma nor Ganapa. It should be concealed in the heart (Gopaniyantu hridaye). "This wonderful secret, my child, should be kept from Pashus" (v 40. Rahasyam adbhutang vatsa gopavyam pashushangkate). The Devi speaking of this doctrine thus addresses the Bhairava "Child (Vatsa) it strikes me with wonder and bewilders even the wise. It is replete with numerous and bewildering meanings and is the final resting place of all good disciples (Sachchhishya-paramaspadam). It is Sadachara according to all doctrines (Sarvavadisadachara) and is at the same time blamed or reprobated by all doctrines (Sarvavadivigarhita). It can be learnt only from a good teacher (Sadacharyyaparijnaptam). Follow it with care."

To begin with, the Devi speaks of the necessity for the acquisition of Jnanashuddhi, the purification of knowledge, and for this purpose She refers to the daily observances beginning with the morning rites. The Sadhaka should rise in themorning, make his Pranama to the Kula trees (Kulavriksha), and contemplate upon the Kula (Shakti) from the Muladhara to the Brahmarandhra and meditate on the Guru.

The Kulavrikshas according to the Kameshvara Tantra are Sleshmataka, Karanja, Nimba, Ashvattha, Kadamba, Vilva, Vata, Ashoka. The Tararahasyavrittika quoting the above verse from the Kameshvara Tantra adds that the baove are those usually enumerated but that a ninth is added by some namely the Chincha. The printed Tantrasara however gives a list of ten trees, viz, the first seven mentioned together with Udumbara, Dhatri and Chincha. From which it would appear that whilst Shleshmataka, Karanja, Vilva, Asvattha, Kadamba, Nimba and Vata are generally recognised as Kula trees, Udumbara, Dhatri, Chincha and Ashoka are only exceptionally so. Then follows the mental worship of the eight Kulanathas, namely Prahladananda, Sanakananda, Kumarananda, Vashishtananda, Krodhananda, Sukhananda, Jnanananda and Bodhananda. Their Dhyana is given in two verses. They are those whose eyes betray the bliss in their hearts which comes from the great Rasa (Maharasarasollasahridayanandalochanah); whose darkness (Tamas) has been cut and crushed by embracing Kula; the dispellers of fear who know the meaning of all the Kula tantras (I, 36-37). The Chapter closes with the instruction that the Guru fit to initiate a disciple in this system must be a Kulina and no other. The Kulina is Adhikari of all Vidyas and is competent to initiate in all Mantras (Dikshaprabhuh sa evatra sarvamantrasya naparah). The work of those who leave the Kulaguru is stated to be mere Abhichara.

Chapter II

This chapter begins with the ablution-rites (Snana) and states the Shastric rules which must be followed. The devotee, after ablution, is directed to wear two pieces of cloth (II, 12). This is strictly in accordance with the rules laid down by Yogi Yajnavalkya. A departure from this rule constitutes, according to Bhrigu, nakedness, which disqualifies for the performance of religious rites. The devotee is next directed to worship Shakti with offerings of flowers, incense, perfumed betel and other desirable articles. Then follows the worship with Yantra and the contemplation of Oneness with the Mother. The worship of the Sadhaka's wife (Nijakantam II, 30) is described with the details of her initiation to be given where She has previously been uninitiated.

Chapter III

The rites prescribed for the night are disclosed in this Chapter. If the devotee worships a Parashakti, he should first initiate her if she happens to be uninitiated. The mantra for such initiation is referred to in three verses (III, 13-15). The food to be offered to Shakti during the Purashcharana ceremony is enumerated at length (III, 22-26). The Shaktis worshipped are to be looked upon as eight Matrikas, and they should be named accordingly. The hymn to be recited in their worship is given, which shows that each of them is to be addressed as one of the aspects of the Mother Herself.

The hymn is called Karnejapa-stotra from the fact that each verse addressed to each of the Matrikas is whispered into her ear. In this worship the elder may bow down to the younger, one of superior caste to one of inferior caste, for the Shaktis selected for worship are each and all manifestations of the Mother. The following translation and accompanying notes are by the General Editor.
Obeisance to Thee O Mother! O Devi!
The pure One (1) Who art Brahma (2)
Remove by Thy mercy all obstacles (3) which beset me
And grant me liberation (4)

Our great Lady! (5) Bestower of blessings!
Oh Devi! Who art the Supreme Bliss (6)
Remove by Thy mercy all obstacles which beset me
And grant me liberation

Kaumari! (7) beautiful Playmate of Kumara!
The sovereign Mistress of all Vidyas! (8)
Remove by Thy mercy all obstacles which beset me
And grant me liberation

O Devi! Who borne by the son of Vinata (9)
Art Vishu (10)
Remove by Thy mercy all obstacles which beset me
And grant me liberation

Oh Devi! Bestower of blessings! Who art Varahi (10)
By Whom the earth was lifted on Thy tusks (11)
Remove by Thy mercy all obstacles which beset me
And grant me liberation

Oh Devi! Who art Shakra (12)
Who art worshipped by Shakra and other Suras (13)
Remove by Thy mercy all obstacles which beset me
And grant me liberation

Chamunda! (14) besmeared with blood wearing a garland of severed heads
Destructress of fear!
Remove by Thy mercy all obstacles which beset me
And grant me liberation

Mahalakshmi! Mahamaya! (15)
Destructress of anguish and sorrow!
Remove by Thy mercy all obstacles which beset me
And grant me liberation

Thou art O Devi! the Father and Mother of all (16)
And art to us in the place of Father and Mother (17)
One Thou art yet manifold (18) in the form of the Universe (19)
Obeisance, Oh Devi! to Thee.

With the recitation of this hymn ends the Puja of the Shaktis; the worship of at least one of whom is enjoined. Other rites are enumerated in the subsequent chapters.


1 Anaghe
2 Brahmarupadhare i.e., Shakti of Brahma or Brahmi Shakti.
3 Vighnam; that is obstacles standing in the way of liberation.
4 Siddhi; the greatest of which liberation (Moksha) is. The refrain runs:- Kripaya hara vighnam me mama siddhing prayachchha me.
5 Maheshi, Shakti of Mahesha or Shiva: Shaiva Shakti.
6 Paramanandarupini: for She is according to Tantra one with the Supreme Brahman Who is Bliss Itself.
7 Shakti of Kumara.
8 Sarvavidyeshi; the Vidyas are various manifestations of Mahashakti.
9 That is the bird-king Garuda the vehicle of Vishnu.
10 Vishnurupadhare, i.e. Vaishnavi Shakti.
11 Shakti of Varaha the Boar incarnation of Vishnu.
12 The Varaha Avatara which succeeded the Kurmma and raised the earth from the waters in which it was submerged.
13 Indra, the Devi is here addressed as the Shakti of Indra or Aindri Shakti.
14 The Devas.
15 One of the Sangharini manifestations of Devi.
16 Mahamohe. As such the Mother is the Destructress of Avidya and therefore as the verse says destructress of all the anguish and sorrow which proceed from it.
17 Pitrimatrimaye.
18 Pitrimatrivahishkrite. The earthly father and mother which are mere Angshashaktis are put aside to revere Her as the real Father and Mother of all.
19 Eke bahuvidhe.
20 Vishvarupe.

Chapter IV

The devotee should we well versed in Vaishnavachara that is in Bhaktimarga before he can be permitted to adopt any of the special rites. He should be Udarachittah (large minded), Paraninda-sahishnuh (patient of ill said of him) and Upakararatah (one who does good to others). He is required to recite his Mula-mantra if he happens to come across a deserted temple, junction of four roads and such other places which are said to be fit for worship. He is directed also to bow unnnoticed to Mahakali if he sees certain birds and animals; Gridhra (vulture), Kshemangkari (Brahmani kite), Jambuki (she-jackal), Yamadutika (raven), Kurara (osprey), Shyena (hawk, eagle or falcon), a crow and a black cat. He is further directed to do circumambulation (Pradakshina) of a corpse and the cremation ground. The Mantras to be recited on such occasions are noted. Obeisance must also be made when he sees a black flower, red cloth, a king, a prince, an elephant, a horse, a chariot, weapons of war, valorous man (Virapurusha), a buffalo, a Kaulika or an image of Mahishamardini. If he sees a jar of wine, fish or flesh, or a beautiful woman, or a Devi Bhairavi, he must bow and recite a special mantra. The Nilatantra gives a fuller list of objects to which obeisance is to be made in this way. Then comes the ritual prescribed for the worship of Kali in the cremation ground. The Dhyana is revealed in seven verses (IV, 39-45). As this Devi fulfils all Siddhis She is called Dakshinakali.

Chapter V

This Chapter deals with rites which are performed for the development of powers enabling the devotee to draw towards him any Deva, lower Spirits or human being he wishes. Vv 7-8 say that if anything is taken from the subject of the rite which belongs to him or he or she are ill-treated or deceived in any way the Sadhaka is fallen (Bhrashta) and dies. Harm also happens to his family from such magic (Abhichara). The rite consists of the worship of Dakshinakali. The Rishi of the Mantra is Bhairava and Chhanda is Ushnik. The first Vija is the supreme Shakti (Purvang vijang parashakti). The Angganyasa is directed to be performed with the Vija coupled with the six long vowels. In this rite the Brahmana Sadhaka is directed to substitute for wine (where is this is mentioned) honey in a vessel of copper (v 78) or he may perform the Kulapuja with Kula wine.

Chapter VI

This part is concerned with the method of acquiring powers (Vetalasiddhi) enabling the devotee to go anywhere he pleases. It consists in the worship of Yoganidra, Katyayani, Purneshi, Chandi, Kamakhya and Dikkaravasini. The special rite of Sadhana which goes by the name of Shavasadhana is described in this chapter (vv 19-28). The object of this Sadhana in this special instance is the acquisition of the power with which the Chapter deals.

Chapter VII

This, the last chapter describes the worship of Mahishamardini which, from the large number of stone and metal images discovered in various places, seems to have been very popular at one time. The worship of Mahishamardini appears to have undergone gradual changes. This is indicated by the Mantra as disclosed in the Kulachudamani. The Mantra has been revealed in the usual Tantrika garb by the following verse:-

Trailokyavijabhutante sambodhanapadang tatah
Srishtisangharakau varnau vidya mahishamardini

This yields a mantra of nine syllables, namely

Ong Mahishamardini Svaha

But the text (VII, 5) ordains that if the Mantra and its Sadhana is disclosed at all, it may be disclosed to one who is extremely obedient to his Guru, but even then not with its Vija. Only eight syllables should be disclosed, thus reducing the mantra to

Mahishamardini Svaha.

It is said that the Mantra of nine syllables should not be imparted but should in the Kali age be kept concealed, and that eight syllables alone should be disclosed with the Mantra, Svaha, but never with the Mantra Namah.

It would appear from the Sharadatilaka, a compilation by Lakshmana Deshika of the eleventh century AD that in his day the Mantra of eight syllables alone was known. The Mantra of ten syllables is not mentioned even by the Kulachudamani. This may be taken to suggest that the worship of Mahishamardini is of great antiquity. Originally the mantra was of eight, nine and ten syllables. But in course of time (at the date when the Kulachudamani was reduced into writing) the Mantra of ten syllables had already fallen into disuse, while the Mantra of nine syllables was discontinued. In the eleventh century AD (at the daye of the compilation of Sharadatilaka), the Mantra of eight syllables only was known.

Another important change is noticeable in the Rishi and Chhanda of this Mantra. The Rishi according to Raghava's Commentary on the Sharadatilaka, is said to be Shakavatsa; the Chhanda according to it is Prakriti. The Commentator also notices that in his day according to some the Rishi was also said to be Markandeya. But the Kulachudamani (VII, 11) distinctly says that the Rishi is Narada and the Chhanda is Gayatri. It is noticeable that the Rishi and Chhanda of the Mantra for the worship of Durga are Narada and Gayatri. May it be that the worship of Mahishamardini was gradually sought to be cast into the same form as the worship of Durga? This seems highly probably from another circumstance that according to the Sharadatilaka-tika of Raghava Bhatta, the Pithapuja should be performed as ordained for the worship of Durga.

The image of Mahishamardini is however different from that of Durga. Mahishamardini according to Kulachudamani (VII, 13) has eight hands holding on the right side Chakra (discus), Khadga (sacrificial sword), Vana (arrow), Shula (trident), and on the left side Khadga, Charma (shield), Dhanu (bow) and Tarjani-mudra (vide post). The Devi is said to be of black colour, wearing yellow cloth, and is placed on the body of a black buffalo.

This Dhyana does not exactly correspond with the one which is noted in the Sharadatilaka. According to it, the Devi holds in Her hands Chakra, Shangkha (conch shell), Kripana (sword), Khetaka (club), Vana, Karmuka (bow), Shula and Tarjani-mudra. The Devi who is said to be of the colour of Garuda stone (emerald) and bedecked with the crescent moon is described as sitting on the head of the buffalo.

In the Hymn incorporated with the text of the Kulachudamani (VII, 33) the Devi is said to be black of colour, resembling crushed antimony and is described as holding Chakra, Dara (Shankha), Kartrika (small sword), Kheta (club), Vana, Dhanu, Trishula and Abhaya-mudra. So far as this Mudra is concerned, Raghava cites an authority to show that Tarjani-mudra is the same as the Abhaya-mudra. It appears from the Tantrasara that the Devi is to be worshipped now in this form.

The Kulachudamani gives no Shangkha, or Khetaka or Katrika. It has instead two Khadgas and Charma. The Sharadatilaka mentions no Charma or double sword. It introduces Shangkha and Khetaka. The Hymn makes a further departure by changing the Khadga into Katrika. This is exactly what appears to have been in vogue when the Tantrasara came to be compiled about 400 years ago. The Hymn therefore appears to be of a date later than this.

While the images appear to have changed in this way, the mode of worship has remained pretty fairly the same. The details are given with a view to help the reader to follow the ritual.

The worship of Mahishamardini is in general performed in the usual Tantrika way. The text only notices the points of difference which constitute its special features. The most noticeable of these is the Angganyasa which usually embraces six Anggas. In the case of the worship of Mahishamardini the text (VII, 15-17) mentions only five Anggas. The Sharadatilaka (XI, 25) says that in this worship Nyasa is made only upon five Anggas, leaving out the Nyasa of the eyes. The Dhyana is given in verses 12-14. The Yantra is composed of a lotus of eight petals, in each of which (VII, 18) eight Devis are worshipped, described generally as Durga and others (Durgadya). Their names are given in the Sharadatilaka (XI, 29) as Durga, Varavarnini, Arya, Kanakaprabha, Krittika, Abhayaprada, Kanya and Surupa. They are worshipped with the long vowels a, i, u, ri, lri, ai, au and ah. Thus:- Ang Durgayai namah; ing Varavarninyai namah; ung Aryayai namah; ring Kanakaprabhayai namah; Lring Krittikaryai namah; Aing Abhayapradayai namah; Aung Kanyayai namah; Ah Surupayai namah. The Sharadatilaka-tika of Raghava Bhatta says that in selecting the long vowels, ri, lri should be rejected as neuter vowels. The Tantrasara, however, gives the long vowels as a, i, u, ri, lri, ai, au, ah. The weapons are also be worshipped along with the consonants beginning with ya or in other words the consonants beginning with ya, that is ya, ra, la, va, sha, sha, sa and ha are selected.

The hymn to Mahishamardini incorporated in the Kulachudamani is recited by Bhairava. The text of this hymn appears to have grown defective in course of time. Reference had accordingly to be made not only to the printed edition but to Ms. copies of the Tantrasara in which it is quoted. One Ms. dated 1604 Shaka year found in the district of Mymensing by the travelling Pandit of the Varendra Research Society, was of great help in restoring the correct reading. The text, as printed herein may, therefore be taken as fairly accurate. From the hymn (vv 22-35) it appears that whilst the worship of Vishnu and Shiva was popular, and their votaries were applauded, the Kulachara was blamed. A translation of this hymn in English was printed in the volume entitled "Hymns to the Goddess" by A.&E. Avalon. As was there pointed out, the text of the Tantrasara used for this translation was in parts corrupt and unintelligble and in others of doubtful meaning. A further translation with commentary has therefore been here made by A. Avalon of the text as it has now been revised; and the opportunity has been availed of to correct some errors. The following translation and accompanying notes are by the General Editor.

Mahishamardini (1) Stotra


O Chandi! (2)
By Whom the act of the wicked and formidable Asura (3) was shattered.
Do Thou wander in my heart.
Destroy my selfishness and the calamities which deeply pierce me,
Arising from the mass of malice and fears (which assail me),
So that, free from danger,
And protected by the lotus cluster of Thy feet,
My swan-like (4) mind may swim and rejoice in the Ocean of Bliss.


What fear of enemies has he who worships Thee?
The Devas who worship Thy feet
Having abandoned the form of Nrisingha (5)
Whose towering mane rivals in splendour and height towering Mount Sumeru,
And whose fingers are outstretched to tear (the breast of) Hiranyakashipu (6)
Now worship (the lion) (7) the enemy of the elephant (8)
Server of Thy feet which destroy the bonds of hte Pashu


O Chandi! when the syllables, the letters of which speak of Thee,
Reach the ear, then Brahma and other Devas
Sing the truth, touching Purusha and Prakriti (9).
O Devi! be today gracious to me,
Devoted as I am to the kissing of Thy sacred lotus feet,
The one and only glittering abode of the essence of the nectar of all Devatas.

If, because of my following Your way of Kula (10),
I suffer reproach, better is it that I shall thus be without fame.
Let me not have that which comes of the worship of Keshava (11) and Kaushika (12);
Rather, O Mother! let my heart rest in meditation on Thy lotus feet,
Worshipped by Brahma, Hari (13) and the Enemy of Smara (14)
By the Eater of oblations (15) and the Enemy of the Daitya (16).


O Mother! If I be engaged in the constant contemplation of Thy lotus feet,
Then what is there which Siddhas have (16) which I have not
May Thy lotus Feet be ever present to my blissful mind (17)
They feet from which exceeding mercy flows!
O propitious Mother! do Thou forgive me.


Verily and without doubt, even the Lord of Bhutas (18) would have perished (19)
Maddened as He was with the joy of the embrace of (Thee Who art) His own self (20)
Had He not been freshened by the lotus fragrance of Thy feet,
Bathed in the honey which flows within
From the union of Shiva and Shakti (21).


O Mother! let the stream of heavy showers of holy devotion towards Thee
Be ever shed upon me,
Struggling and drowning (22), alas! as I am in the endless Ocean of Illusion
Without taste of the water of the Bliss of Brahman
Which devotion dispels the weight of anguish from numbers of Devas.


May the glory of Thy feet dark as a rainladen cloud,
Be every in my heart
Dispelling by its lustre as of ten million suns
The darkness which overspreads my mind.
From its glittering womb were born the three Devatas,
Who create, maintain, and destroy the world,
Whose substance is pure consciousness and bliss.


May (23) Devi Durga Who gives victory and happiness
Dispeller of fear, Victrix of fortresses and ill-fortune
Who had power to destroy the proud enemies of the Devatas,
And Who strikes terror into the hearts of thousands (of Her foes)
Ever conquer!
She it was Who, having severed the head of the Asura Mahisha,
Crushed and killed under Her feet him who assumed the form of a buffalo
Now bellowing, now charging, and again retreating
And from whose mouth the Asura issued.


In the red ocean vast and surging
Danced the great shields, weapons and streamers (24) of the enemy
(An ocean) clouded by the flight of discus
And the arrows of the heaving multitude of soldiers
There lay the heads of the proud and wicked Asuras
Broken and cut to pieces, tossed about by the storm of battle,
(The sight of which) sharpened the thirst and hunger of the birds of carrion.


I meditate (25) upon Devi Mahishamardini,
Rushing in frenzy now here, now there on that wondrous field of battle (for the slaughter of the enemies)
Attended by eight companion Matris (26)
And on the Mantra and Badhu Vija (27) in the lotus of eight petals (28).
Within the two horns of the fierce and terrible restless and challenging head
Bent low and slanting (29) of the maddened buffalo.


Let the Sadhaka meditate on the dark Shiva (Mahishamardini),
Holding in Her hands discus, lance, axe, shield, arrow, bow and trident,
Making the gesture (30) which dispels fear;
Her mass of hair is like a bank of cloud entwined up on Her head,
Her face most formidable awes (Her foes)
Making even the defiant falter
Her laugh is loud and terrible.


O Devi! such as in this manner
Meditate upon this Thy faultless form
Or upon Thee as Durga or other form of Thine
Worshipped by Indra and other Devas,
To them it is given to attack the cities of their foes,
And conquering their enemies, to gain a kingdom;
They too, acquire the nectar of the knowledge of poesy,
And power to arrest, banish, and slay (31).


Whosoever reads or hears this Hymn
Made by me in rapt meditation upon Thy lotus feet,
Wherein is said Thy Kula worship and Mantra in hidden form (32)
In the palms of the hands of all such
Are forthwith wealth, fulfilment of desire and liberation.
O Mother! salutation to Thee!
May Thou conquer!

In the concluding portion of this Chapter the Devi says that Her chief forms are represented by Mahishamardini, Kali and Tripurabhairavi, the last being considered the primary manifestation (VII, 37). This work inculcates the worship of Yoginis as a part of Kula-worship, on Kula-days (Kulavara) and Kula-tithis, especially on the 14th day of the moon.

[The Kulavaras have been described in the Yamalas from which they have been quoted in the Tantrasara as follows. "Tuesday and Friday are Kula days while Wednesday is noth Kula and Akula, the rest being all Akula". (33). Again all Tithis with an uneven number are Akula; with an even number Kula with the exception of the second, sixth and tenth which are both Kula and Akula.] (34)

The evening rite, consisting in the offering of food to jackals, is described at length. The Devi towards the end says "Thou art the Guru of all the Tantras and neither I nor Hari. Therefore Thou art the Revealer of the Tantras. I entered into Thy body (as Shakti) and thereby Thou didst become the Lord (Prabhu). There is none but Myself who is the Mother to create (Karyyavibhavani) (35) and therefore it is when creation takes place that sonship is in Thee. Thou alone art the Father who wills what I do (Karyyavibhavaka) and none else.

Mang vina janani kapi naiva karyyavibhavini
Atah karyye samutpanne putratvang tvayi vartate
Tvang vina janakah ko'pi naiva karyya-vibhavakah
Atastvameva janako nastyanyo'pi kathanchana

"At times Thou art hte father; at others the son; at times Thou are the Guru; at other the disciple. By the union of Shiva and Shakti creation comes (Shivashakti-samayogat jayate srishtikalpana). As all in this universe is both Shiva and Shakti (Shivashaktimaya) therefore, Oh Maheshvara! Thou art in every place and I am in every place. Thou art in all and I am in all."


1 A title of the Shakti of Shiva as the powerful victrix of demons. She is Mahishamardini, as the slayer of Mahisha. The Daitya Shumbha attacked Her in the form of a buffalo (Mahisha). See Chandi.
2 A form of the Devi assumed for the destruction of the Daitya Chanda, and who assisted in the destruction of the demon Raktavija; see Markandeya Purana.
3 Mahisha
4 Manohangsa; the Hangsa is variously described as a swan, gander, and flamingo.
5 The Man-lion incarnation (Avatara) of Vishnu, in which He destroyed the Daitya Hiranyakashipu, father of His devotee Prahlada.
6 The Avatara is generally represented with the King of the Daityas across his knees, tearing asunder with His hands and claws the latter's belly.
7 Which accompanies the Devi as Durga. After the destruction of Hiranyakashipu, Vishu's wrath was not appeased. The world trembled, fearing what He might do. The Devas asked the help of Shiva, who assumed the Sharabha form - that of a lion with wings and eight feet - who caught up Vishnu into the air and held him there until he had become powerless. The lion then went to the feet of Durga, whom he accompanies.
8 Kari the elephant form subsequently assumed by the Asura Mahisha. Karivairi = enemy of elephant = lion.
9 Shiva and Shakti; the "male" and "female" from whose union springs the universe.
10 That is Kulachara, one of the divisions of Tantrik worshippers, who, the verse says, are misunderstood, and therefore subject of reproach; and which is contrasted in the next line but one with the more popular and conventional worship of Keshava and Kaushika.
11 Vishnu
12 Indra
13 Vishnu
14 Smara, the God of Love; Shiva, who slew him, is his "enemy".
15 That is Fire.
16 Daityari; usually an epithet of Lord Krishna, but as Hari has already been mentioned, possibly the reference may be to Indra. According to Medini, Daityari = Devata.
17 Siddhaspada.
18 This "mind" has a qualifying adjective viz:- "Akshatasampadi", "of uninterrupted happiness." It is so because the Devi is dancing there.
19 Shiva is Bhuteshvara or Bhutanatha. Bhuta, which in a general sense means "beings," specifically refers to the Spirits by whom Shiva is surrounded, and of whom He is Master.
20 It is by the Devi's aid that Shiva is Parameshvara, for without Shakti he is nothing, and without Her life-giving energy and support cannot exist. As the Kubjika Tantra says: "Without their Shaktis the husbands are but Preta (inert corpses." So also the Jnanarnava: "O beloved, pure Sadashiva, without Shakti, is without motion like a corpse, for without Shakti He can do nothing."
21 Svatmanam parirabhya. Literally, having embraced himself. The Devi is however, in a dualistic sense, His sacred half, and in reality one with Him and his own self (see Mahanirvana Tantra, Chap I). Cf. Atmaratipriyah (Shatchakra, p 64.).
22 Daivadvichyutachandrachandanarasapralbhyagarbhasravat. The meaning is not clear but Chandra (moon) seems to stand for the Vija of Shiva (which it also means): and Chandanarasa (liquid sandal flow) issues from Devi. Therefore the union of Shiva and Shakti in the Sahasrara appears to be indicated.
23 Mohajaladhi-vyahara-viddha, lit: "pierced by the mockery of the ocean of illusion."
24 See Markandeya Chandi vv. 38, 39.
25 Chamara.
26 Reading Smare for Vare in text.
27 The Devis so called vide ante the Karnejapa-Stotra.
28 String the Mantra may be said with this or the Tara (Ong) Maya (Hring) Kama (Kling) or Vagbhava Vija (Aing).
29 On the petals are the eight syllables Mahishamardini svaha; "Salutation to the Devi slayer of Mahisha".
30 The buffalo when charging puts its head askew. The Mantra is thought of as placed between the two horns.
31 The Abhayamudra.
32 Stambhanam, Uchchatanam and Maranam; three of the Tantrik Shatkarma.
33 The Mantra Mahishamardini svaha may be spelt out from the first six verses from the following words which respectively commence them. Machchitte (Ma) Hitva (Hi) Chanditadvishayantara (Sha) Manninda (Ma) Nirddishto'smi (Rdini) Svatmanam and not atmanam as given in the text (Sva) and Haha (Ha).
34 Ravichandrau guru saurish chattvarashchakula matah
Bhaumashukrau kulakhyau tu budhavarah kulakulah. See Patala VII, 38.
35 Dvitiya dashami shashthi kulakulamudahritam
Vishamashchakulah sarvah sheshashcha tithayah kulah

Similarly all Nakshatras with an even number are Kula:
Varunardrabhijinmulang kulakulamudahritam
Kulani samadhishnyani sheshabhany akulani cha.
35 That is She has the disposition to act or to carry out what He wills. She alone has Kartritta for the Father as efficient cause does not act, but the Mother in whose womb the seed of the world is sown alone does so.

Varendra Research Samiti, Rajshahi
August 1915

Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1995. Translations are © Mike Magee 1995. Questions or comments to [email protected]

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