Mahavidya

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Mahavidyas (Great Wisdoms) or Dasa Mahavidyas are a group of ten aspects of the Divine Mother or Devi in Hinduism. The Ten Mahavidyas are Wisdom Goddesses, who represent a spectrum of feminine divinity, from horrific goddesses at one end, to the ravishingly beautiful at the other [1].

The development of Mahvidyas represents an important turning point in the history of Shaktism as it marks the rise of Bhakti aspect in Shaktism, which reached its zenith in 1700 CE. First sprung forth in the post-Puranic age, around 6th century C.E., it was a new theistic movement in which the supreme being was envisioned as female. A fact epitomized by texts like Devi-Bhagavata Purana, especially its last nine chapters (31-40) of the seventh skandha, which are known as the Devi Gita, and soon became central texts of Shaktism [2].

Contents

Etymology

The name Mahavidyas comes from the Sanskrit roots, with maha meaning 'great' and vidya meaning, 'revelation, manifestation, knowledge, or wisdom [2].

Names

Shaktas believe, "the one Truth is sensed in ten different facets; the Divine Mother is adored and approached as ten cosmic personalities," the Dasa-Mahavidya ("ten-Mahavidyas").[3] The Mahavidyas are considered Tantric in nature, and are usually identified as:[4]

The Mahabhagavata Purana and Brhaddharma Purana however, list Shodashi (Sodasi) as Tripura Sundari, her another name.[1]. The Guhyatiguyha-tantra associates the Mahavidyas with the ten avatars of Vishnu, and states that the Mahavidyas are the source from which the avatars of Vishnu arose. All ten forms of the Goddess, whether gentle or terrifying, are worshiped as the universal Mother.

Legend

The 'Mahabhagvata Purana', describes the origin of Mahavidyas, as the result of an argument between Shiva and Sati (Dakshayani), an earlier incarnation of Parvati. When Shiva and Sati were wed, Sati's father Daksha disapproved of the match and organized a great sacrifice to which he invited everyone except for the newlywed couple. Sati, incensed, insisted on attending the sacrifice, which Shiva forbade until Sati transformed herself into a terrible appearance and multiplied into the ten Mahavidyas, whereby she subdued Shiva's resistance and attended the sacrifice.[2]

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