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Paintings > Hindu > Goddess > The Tantrik Sadhana of Mahavidya Chinnamasta
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The Tantrik Sadhana of Mahavidya Chinnamasta

The Tantrik Sadhana of Mahavidya Chinnamasta

The Tantrik Sadhana of Mahavidya Chinnamasta

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Watercolor On Paper
Artist Kailash Raj

7.0 inches X 10.5 inches
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HH56
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The Tantrik Sadhana of Mahavidya Chinnamasta

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Viewed 28295 times since 23rd Feb, 2010
This shocking image of the headless female and her two companions, drinking blood gushing from her torso, rendered against an opaque pale background, is a 'tantrika' manifestation of the Divine female. This form of the Divine female is widely known as Chhinnamasta. As suggests her name, Chhinnamasta, one of the ten 'Mahavidyas', is the goddess who severs her head – 'mastaka', by her own hands to feed her devotees. Chhinnamasta, despite of decapitation, does not symbolise death, dissolution or end, but only life, which she sustains by feeding the severed head, as well as others, with her own blood. Biologically, everyone feeds one's head with one's blood. But, centred on himself, he feeds only his own head. Chhinnamasta cuts off her head – symbolically, the centredness, and this enables her to also feed others besides herself. The form of Chhinnamasta inspires the 'tantrika' to cut off his head, that is, to relinquish his centredness, as this alone would give him the power to live beyond death, to live across decapitation. Deity's own prominently depicted sex organ and breasts, one bearing life and the other nourishing this life, subordinate death to life.

Chhinnamasta stands – and this form is in exact adherence to the established tradition, on the figures of Kamadeva and Rati, respectively the god of love and his consort, engaged in the unbroken act of sexual intercourse. There are her devotee-companions, Varnini on the right side and Dakini on the left. Varnini stands for 'Satoguna' – brighter aspects, and Dakini, for 'Rajoguna' – darker aspects. A 'tantrika' believes that a body charged in intercourse alone is capable of harbouring such energies which lead to spiritual sublimation. Chhinnamasta, by her bodily contact with Rati and Kamadeva, is infusing or rather sucking into her blood the energies that Rati and Kamadeva are generating and the same she is transferring, through her blood, into the forms of her devotee companions. Sex in Chhinnamasta-cult is the ultimate instrument that perpetuates greater life.

The rendition is largely in adherence to textual prescriptions. Chhinnamasta has the same body complexion corresponding to the red hibiscus flowers.The goddess has her severed head with a gaping mouth swallowing blood gushing from her neck, in her left hand and a sword in the right, as texts prescribe. Blood is flowing from her torso in three streams reaching three mouths. The entire drama is enacted on the base consisting of a lotus. An inverted triangle contains the figures of Rati and Kamadeva engaged in inverted firing, that is, Rati riding over Kamadeva. Though some headless nude female sculptures are reported from early times, a regular Chhinnamasta form becomes available only from around 12th century. This 'tantrika' form emerged as quite popular in both, Brahmanism and Buddhism, especially in Tibetan Buddhism, instantly. In Buddhism, it was identified as Vajrayogini, a name suggestive of great energy and effectiveness. The 'sadhana', rendered to Chhinnamasta, makes strides more steady and firm, and the mind more resolute.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.

Another Description:

One day Parvati went to bathe in the Mandakini River with her two attendants, Jaya and Vijaya. After bathing, the great goddess's color became black because she was sexually aroused. After some time, her two attendants asked her, "Give us some food. We are hungry." She replied, "I shall give you food but please wait." After awhile, again they asked her. She replied, "Please wait, I am thinking about some matters." Waiting awhile, they implored her, "You are the mother of the universe. A child asks everything from her mother. The mother gives her children not only food but also coverings for the body. So that is why we are praying to you for food. You are known for your mercy; please give us food." Hearing this, the consort of Shiva told them that she would give anything when they reached home. But again her two attendants begged her, "We are overpowered with hunger, O Mother of the Universe. Give us food so we may be satisfied, O Merciful One, Bestower of Boons and Fulfiller of Desires."

Hearing this true statement, the merciful goddess smiled and severed her own head. As soon as she severed her head, it fell on the palm of her left hand. Three bloodstreams emerged from her throat; the left and right fell respectively into the mouths of her flanking attendants and the center one fell into her mouth.

After performing this, all were satisfied and later returned home. (From this act) Parvati became known as Chinnamasta.

In visual imagery, Chinnamasta is shown standing on the copulating couple of Kamadeva and Rati, with Rati on the top. They are shown lying on a lotus.

There are two different interpretations of this aspect of Chinnamasta's iconography. One understands it as a symbol of control of sexual desire, the other as a symbol of the goddess's embodiment of sexual energy.

The most common interpretation is one where she is believed to be defeating what Kamadeva and Rati represent, namely sexual desire and energy. In this school of thought she signifies self-control, believed to be the hallmark of a successful yogi.

The other, quite different interpretation states that the presence of the copulating couple is a symbol of the goddess being charged by their sexual energy. Just as a lotus seat is believed to confer upon the deity seated atop it's qualities of auspiciousness and purity, Kamadeva and Rati impart to the Goddess standing over them the power and energy generated by their lovemaking. Gushing up through her body, this energy spouts out of her headless torso to feed her devotees and also replenish herself. Significantly here the mating couple is not opposed to the goddess, but an integral part of the rhythmic flow of energy making up the Chinnamasta icon.

The image of Chinnamasta is a composite one, conveying reality as an amalgamation of sex, death, creation, destruction and regeneration. It is stunning representation of the fact that life, sex, and death are an intrinsic part of the grand unified scheme that makes up the manifested universe. The stark contrasts in this iconographic scenario-the gruesome decapitation, the copulating couple, the drinking of fresh blood, all arranged in a delicate, harmonious pattern - jolt the viewer into an awareness of the truths that life feeds on death, is nourished by death, and necessitates death and that the ultimate destiny of sex is to perpetuate more life, which in turn will decay and die in order to feed more life. As arranged in most renditions of the icon, the lotus and the pairing couple appear to channel a powerful life force into the goddess. The couple enjoying sex convey an insistent, vital urge to the goddess; they seem to pump her with energy. And at the top, like an overflowing fountain, her blood spurts from her severed neck, the life force leaving her, but streaming into the mouths of her devotes (and into her own mouth as well) to nourish and sustain them. The cycle is starkly portrayed: life (the couple making love), death (the decapitated goddess), and nourishment (the flanking yoginis drinking her blood).


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