Saptamātrkās

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Saptamatrkas, SaptamAtrkAs, Saptamaatrkaas


Saptamātrkās literally means ‘seven goddesses’.

According to the Durgāsaptaśatī,[1] when Kauśikī Durgā was fighting the demon Raktabīja whose blood, if spilled, could produce demons similar to him, she manifested out of herself seven emanations. These are usually called the Saptamātṛkas or the ‘Seven little Mothers’. They are:

  1. Brāhmī or Brahmāṇī - She is the śakti of Brahmā.
  2. Māheśvarī - She is the śakti of Īśvara.
  3. Kaumārī - She is the śakti of Kumāra.[2]
  4. Vaiṣṇavī - She is the śakti of Viṣṇu.
  5. Vārāhī - She is the śakti of Varāha.
  6. Nārasimhī - She is the śakti of Narasiiñha.
  7. Aindrī or Indrāṇī - She is the śakti of Indra.

Hence they have the same forms, weapons and vehicles as their lords. Since the Devī was formed out of the combined energies of all gods, the theory of Saptamātṛkas becomes intelligible to us.

Saptamātrkās as per Tantraśāstra

Sometimes, Nārasimhī is substituted by Cāmuṇdā or Cāmuṇdi. Along with the original deity called Durgā Mahālakṣmī. Then they are counted as eight. Sometimes, an esoteric interpretation is given by the followers of Tantraśāstra with regard to these seven mātṛkās.

Significance of Brāhmī

Brāhmī represents the primordial Nāda, the energy in which even the first throb has not yet appeared. This is the unmanifest sound,[3] the origin of all creation. It is the same as the substance or energy represented by the Praṇava.[4] When Brāhmi creates the universe, the power of Vaiṣṇavī gives it a definite shape.

Significance of Vaiṣṇavī

The symmetry, beauty, organisation and order in the universe are the work of Vaiṣṇavī.

Significance of Māheśvarī

Māheśvarī stands for the power that gives individuality to the created beings. She resides in the hearts of all and makes them play like the dolls mounted on a machine.

Significance of Kaumārī

Kaumārī, the ever youthful deity, represents the ever present force of aspiration of the evolving soul. She is Guruguhā,[5] the ‘guru’[6] in the ‘guhā’.[7]

Significance of Vārāhī

Vārāhī is the all-consuming power of assimilation and enjoyment. Because of her, the living beings get their food and all physical enjoyments.

Significance of Indrāṇī

Aindrī or Indrāṇī symbolizes the terrible power that destroys all that opposes the cosmic law.

Significance of Cāmuṇḍā

Cāmuṇḍā is the force of concentrated awareness, the power of spiritual awakening in the heart, that devours the ceaseless activity of the immature mind and uplifts it to the highest level.

Relevance of Raktabijāsura

Raktabijāsura is actually the mind, each wave of which gives rise to other waves. Killing of this Raktabījā by Cāmuṇḍā means the destruction of the mental modifications by the awakening of spiritual consciousness.

Representation of Saptamātrkās

These deities are generally represented as red in color and with two hands holding a skull and a lotus. However, since they are Śaktis of the above-mentioned gods, they are shown more often as female replicas of the male deities. Sometimes each deity is assigned a tree as specially sacred to it. For instance:

  1. Udumbara, fig tree for Kaumārī
  2. Aśvattha, peepal tree for Vaiṣṇavī
  3. Karañja, Indian beech for Vārāhī

Temples of Saptamātrkās

They are usually grouped together with Gaṇeśa and Vīrabhadra flanking on either side and shown on panels in the Śiva temples. Occasionally they have a separate shrine built for them. The order or arrangement varies according to the desired effect.

  • If the safety of the village is desired Brāhmī is installed in the center.
  • If increase in the population is the goal, Cāmuṇḍā occupies the central place.


References

  1. It is one of the basic texts on the Mother-sect.
  2. He is the Skanda.
  3. These are the logos.
  4. It means Om.
  5. Guruguha being one of the names of Kumāra or Skanda whose energy she is.
  6. It means guide, teacher.
  7. Guhā is the cave of the heart, the intellect.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore