The Ten Mahavidyas – Shakti Cult

Categories : Spirituality

Among the followers of Hinduism, the largest number are followers of Shakti. There are thousands of names depending upon folklore and local traditions for reverence of the Devi Shakti. Vaishno Devi in Jammu, Mumba Devi in Mumbai, Tulja Bhavani of Shivaji in Maharashtra, Chamunda of Mysore, Meenakshi of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Kali of Kolkata and Kamakhya temple in Assam are centres of Shakti cult. In almost every other village we find a small “Devi Sthan” for worshipping the Shakti Tatva or the female power. The traditional concept is that the Devi Shakti manifested everywhere is the Shakti of Parvati/Uma, the Shakti of Shiva.

The details of Das Vidya (Ten Powers) are also related to Parvati/ Uma. She wanted to participate in the sacrificial ceremony organized by Her father Daksha. Shiva however did not agree because Daksha had neither invited Shiva nor her daughter Uma for the Ceremony. Uma was displeased by the denial of permission by Shiva and exhibited her powerful manifestations on all the ten sides which are known as Ten Vidyas. Stories vary in this respect but ten Mahavidyas are known as Mahakali, Ugra Tara, Shodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Chhinnamasta, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Baglamukhi, Matangi and Kamla. The spiritual details found in the scriptures have been given in the table. The names of Shakti vary but the Purush Tatva is Shiva with all except one. Only an introduction has been attempted in this article.

NumberPowerAlternative NameRatri NameVidyaShiva  
2TaraKrodhratriSri VidyaAkshobhya
3ShodashiTripur SundariDibyaratriSiddhavidyaPanch Vaktra Shiva
4BhuvaneshwariRaj RajeshwariSiddharatriSiddhavidyaTrayambak
5Chhinnamasta VeeraratriVidyaKabandha
6BhairaviTripur BhairaviKalratriSiddhavidyaDakshinamurti Kalbhairava
7DhumavatiAlakshmiDarunratriVidya (Widow)
8BalgamukhiBaglamukhiVeeraratriSiddhavidyaEkvaktra Maharudra
9Matangi MaharatriVidyaMatanga
10KamalaLakshmiMaharatriVidyaSadashiva Vishnu

The significant powers among these have been described below. All ten of these powers have been merged in Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Maha Saraswati for Upasana. Separate Upasana for all of them also continues.


Mahakali rules over the night of dissolution. Her sway begins at midnight and continues for about six hours. She is the fiercest manifestation of Shakti. Kali remains when nothing remains on the earth. The male counterpart of Mahakali is Mahakal. Whose powers of destruction are executed by Mahakali. The Mahakal temple of Ujjain has a system of Bhashma Aarati which is significant.

Mahakali rules over an earth on which living entities are absent. She is shown standing on the corpse with fearsome looks and almost naked when performing the work of Kaalratri.

Ugratara (Tara):

She is depicted as the next fiercest form of Shakti. Her period starts from the time of sunrise and her powers have links with the Sun. The sun is the manifestation of explosive activity inherent in the Sun itself. This explosive power is symbolized by Tara. She also has an association with corpses. She is shown sitting on an extensive span of bottomless deep waters. She is worshipped as a saviour from floods and destruction.

Tara is the most powerful deity worshipped by Buddhists, particularly in Tibet and her association with Hinduism may have some relationship with Buddhism. She is also worshipped by followers of Jainism in which the divinity is represented by Tirthankars. Vaam margi tantra Sadhana is closely associated with Kalratri and Tara. She represents the Shakti of Rudra whose nature is Akshobhya.


She takes over after the period of Tara when the full Sun becomes operative illuminating all directions. The Shiva of this period is called Panchavakra Shiva viewing all the five directions. Since the power of the Sun radiates all around, this is the period of full bloom for Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah. Therefore, Shodashi is also described as Tripur Sundari. She envelops everything and activates all entities to work and gain happiness. She keeps a tight vigil on all.


Time of Shodashi is succeeded by Bhuvaneshwari. Sun begins to get stronger after each passing hour compared to the morning. It is the period when the plant kingdom fully activates itself to absorb Sunlight. Flowers, fruits, and grains begin using sunlight for food preparation which provides nourishment to all humans as well as animals. This important period is represented by Bhuvaneshwari whose alternative name is Rajarajeshwari because she rules over a fully productive earth. Her male counterpart Shiva is known as Trayambka.


Chhinnamasta is both a sustainer as well as a destroyer of creation. The concept of Chhinnamasta (bereft of head) can be explained by an example. The sun is a vast ball of exploding gases. The energy produced by explosions gets divided into two parts. The first part is consumed by the Sun itself for its sustenance. The second part emitted through sunrays is utilized by the entities of the earth for their sustenance. The energy released from the Sun is called headless (bereft of head) because it remains in the form of heat even after the disappearance of the Sun. This heat nourishes all. This is the Chhinamasta energy to which scriptures refer. The Purush Tatva of Chhinnamasta is also a Shiva bereft of a head known as Kabandha.

Since there is a system of give and take in the realm of energy, Chhinnamasta is regarded as both a sustainer and destroyer and is awful.


Chhinnamasta has a relationship with annihilation which is evident from her destructive power. Bhairavi also represents destructive power. She is however related to the factors of life and death and decay which are observable daily. Rudra is known for His destructive power and this Shakti works for Rudra. It is represented by Dakshin Agni (Southern Fire) during a yagya. South is also the direction where Yama rules. Yama is the god of death. He is known as the Lokpal of the South.

The Purush Tatva of Bhairavi is known as Dakshin Murti Rudra or Kalbhairava. This Shakti has an alternative name of Kaalbhairavi.


She is considered the most inauspicious form of energy. She has no association with Shiva and can be considered a widow. People fear her because she is the cause of ailments, epidemics, sorrow, quarrels, non-productivity, poverty, thirst etc. which are negative features. In the scriptures, she is known as ‘Daridra’ she remains most powerful in Jyestha Nakshatra. Those born in Jyestha face difficulties. Niriti is worshipped to drive out the ill effects of Dhumavati.

The period from Ashadha Shukla Ekadashi to Kartika Shukla Ekadashi when Vishnu remains asleep is the period of activity of Dhumavati. The four months are known as Chaturmasha. Dhumavati is driven out from the house as Daridra after the night of Narka Chaturdashi when Lakshmi is welcomed on Deepavali day/night.


The original name is Balgamukhi which has changed into Baglamukhi. This power is the telepathic power of invisible energy which operates from a long distance. Present-day remote sensing is the same and controlled by remote sensors. The same type of effects has been shown in the Bollywood film “Judawan”. Baglamukhi is propitiated to activate divine powers from a distance and can be used for controlling enemies. Her Purush Tatva is Ekbaktra Mahadeva.


She is the shakti of Matanga Shiva when he remains in His Sat-Chit-Anand form. She also remains in ever happy state and bestows the demands of her devotees. She provides relief from the evil forces lurking during the night.


Dhumavati and Kamla are opposites. Dhumavati is elder and Kamla is younger. The former represents dwindling fortunes. The latter represents rising fortunes. The elder is known as Daridra, and the younger is known as Lakshmi. She resides in Rohini and Daridra in Jyestha. They are 180 degrees opposite to each other. Those born in Rohini are fortunate. Kamla is alternatively known as Lakshmi who provides health, wealth and happiness.

The Purush Tatva of Kamla is Sadashiva Vishnu which combines the powers of Vishnu and Shiva (Brahma).