Mahavidya Chinnamasta  

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Chhinnamasta , often spelled Chinnamasta and also called Chhinnamastika and Prachanda Chandika, is one of the Mahavidyas, ten Tantric goddesses and a ferocious aspect of Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother. Chhinnamasta can be easily identified by her fearsome iconography. The self-decapitated goddess holds her own severed head in one hand, a scimitar in another. Three jets of blood spurt out of her bleeding neck and are drunk by her severed head and two attendants. Chhinnamasta is usually depicted standing on a copulating couple.

Chhinnamasta is associated with the concept of self-sacrifice as well as the awakening of the kundalini – spiritual energy. She is considered both as a symbol of self-control on sexual desire as well as an embodiment of sexual energy, depending upon interpretation. She symbolizes both aspects of Devi: a life-giver and a life-taker. Her legends emphasize her sacrifice – sometimes with a maternal element, her sexual dominance and her self-destructive fury. Though she enjoys patronage as part of the Mahavidyas, her individual temples – mostly found in Northern India and Nepal – and individual public worship is rare, due to her ferocious nature and her reputation of being dangerous to approach and worship. Her individual worship is restricted to heroic, Tantric worship by Tantrikas, yogis and world renouncers.

Chhinnamasta is recognized by both Hindus and Buddhists. She is closely related to Chinnamunda – the severed-headed form of the Tibetan Buddhist goddess Vajrayogini.

Chhinnamasta is popular in Tantric and Tibetan Buddhism, where she is called Chinnamunda ("she with a severed-head") – the severed-head form of goddess Vajrayogini or Vajravarahi – a ferocious form of the latter, who is depicted similar to Chhinnamasta.

Buddhist texts tell of the birth of the Buddhist Chinnamunda. A tale tells of Krishnacharya's disciples, two Mahasiddha sisters, Mekhala and Kankhala, who cut their heads, offered them to their guru and then danced. The goddess Vajrayogini also appeared in this form and danced with them. Another story recalls princess Lakshminkara, who was a previous incarnation of a devotee of Padmasambhava, cut off her head as a punishment from the king and roamed with it in the city, where citizens extolled her as Chinnamunda-Vajravarahi.

While she is easily identified by most Hindus and often worshipped and depicted as part of the Mahavidya group in goddess temples, Chhinnamasta is not so popular as an individual goddess. Her individual temples as well as her public worship are rare. Her individual worship is restricted to heroic, Tantric worship by Tantrikas (a type of Tantric practitioners), yogis and world renouncers. The lack of her worship is attributed by Kinsley to her ferocious nature and her reputation of being dangerous to approach and worship. Her hundred-name hymn and thousand-name hymn describe her fierce nature and wrath. The names describe her as served by ghosts and as gulping blood. She is pleased by human blood, human flesh and meat, and worshipped by body hair, flesh and fierce mantras.

Tantric practitioners worship Chhinnamasta for acquiring siddhis or supernatural powers. Chhinnamasta's mantra Srim hrim klim aim Vajravairocaniye hum hum phat svaha is to be invoked to attract and subjugate women. Another goal of her worship is to cast spells and cause harm to someone. Other goals common to worship of all mahavidyas are: poetic speech, well-being, control of one's foes, removal of obstacles, ability to sway kings, ability to attract others, conquest over other kings and finally, moksha (salvation).

The Tantric texts Tantrasara, Shakta-pramoda and Mantra-mahodadhih (1589 CE) give details about the worship of Chhinnamasta and other Mahavidyas, including her yantra, mantra and her meditative/iconographic forms (dhyanas). Tantric texts tells the worshipper to imagine a red sun orb – signifying a yoni triangle – in his own navel. In the orb, the popular form of Chhinnamasta is imagined to reside. Tantrasara cautions a householder-man to invoke the goddess only in "abstract terms". It further tells that if woman invokes Chhinnamasta by her mantra, the woman will become a dakini and lose her husband and son, thereby becoming a perfect yogini.

Shaktisamgama-tantra prescribes her worship only by the left-handed path (Vamamarga). Mantra-mahodadhih declares that such worship involves having sexual intercourse with a woman, who is not one's wife. Shakta-pramoda tells the same, adding fire offerings, wine and meat offerings at night. Some hymns narrate that she likes blood and as such, is offered blood sacrifices at some shrines. Shaktisamgama-tantra says that only brave souls (viras) should follow Vamamarga worship to the goddess. Shakta-pramoda warns that improper worship would have severe consequences: Chhinnamasta would severe the head of such a person and drink his blood. It further categorizes worship for Chhinnamasta to followed by householders and renouncers.

The Chintapurni, Himachal Pradesh temple to Chhinnamasta claims to be one of the Shakti Peeths and where the goddess Sati's forehead (mastaka) fell. Here, Chhinnamasta is interpreted as the severed-headed one as well as the foreheaded-one. A shrine dedicated to Chhinnamasta exists in Ramnagar, near Varanasi, where tantrikas worship her using corpses. There are Chhinnamasta shrines in Jharkhand (formerly Bihar) on the hill Nandan Parvat near Deoghar (Vaidyanath) and in Ranchi, along with other Mahavidyas. Her shrine is situated in the Kamakhya Temple complex, Assam, along with other Mahavidyas. A temple to Chhinnamasta is present in Vishnupur (Bishnupur), West Bengal. Chhinnamasta's shrines are also found in Nepal's Kathmandu Valley, notably near the Changu Narayan temple. The earliest of these temples is dated by Benard to the late 17th century.

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This entry was posted on 7 May 2009 at Thursday, May 07, 2009 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the .