Ashtamatrikas- Eight Tantric Goddess

Contents

  • Matrikas-Introduction
  • Origin of Matrikas
  • Worship of Matrikas
  • Names of Matrikas
  • Brahmani
  • Vaishnavi
  • Maheshwari
  • Indrani
  • Kaumari
  • Varahi
  • Narsimhi
  • Chamunda

Matrikas

Matrikas are very ancient Goddess of battlefield.They play an important role in Tantra and Shaktism. Their number varies from scriptures to scriptures .However the Ashtamatrikas (eight ) and Saptamatrikas(seven)  are most popular. The importance and significance of Matrikas in worship has changed from time to time, during rule of various rulers in ancient India.

Matrikas are the female energies of the Vishnu ,Shiva,Brahma and Indra.
Brahma generated Brahmani,
Vishnu generated Vaishnavi,
Shiva generated Maheshwari,
Indra generated Indrani,
Skanda generated Kaumari,
Varaha generated Varahi,
Narsimha generated Narsimhi
Chamunda emerges from  Devi Bhagwati(Parvati) .
They are mentioned several times in various scriptures like Mahabharata, Vaman Purana,Markandeya Purana, Devi bhagwatam. 
These scriptures mentions stories when Matrikas are generated from the body of Trinities , whenever there is need of extremely powerful warriors in battlefield. 
Matrikas were worshipped by the rulers of Hindu dynasties of India during wars. They are always seen as ferocious and in a frightful form wearing garlands of skulls, their body decorated with snakes etc.

The eight goddesses played a major role in killing demons like Andhaka ,Raktabeej and Shumbha-Nishumbha.

Origin of Matrikas

Since Matrikas are female energies of Trinties , they have no orgin and no birth.They have always existed . However , their are incidents when they are generated by the Gods to fight in the battlefield. 
Two major incidents are:

1.Killing of Raktabeej

When Shumbha and Nishumbha decided to capture Devi Parvati ( in the form of Kaushiki), they sent Raktabeej to attack her.They were confronted with two forms of Parvati called Bhagwati(Chandika) and Kali.
Raktabeej and his vast army surrounded Kali and Chandi. To help them, Shiva ,Vishnu ,Brahma and Indra sent their eight female energies in the battlefield .These were known as Matrikas. 
They destroyed the countless army of Raktabeej . Meanwhile, Chandika pierced the head of Raktabeej with her trident and Kali drank every drop of blood that fell from his body. (Raktabeej had a boon to generate his clone from every blood drop that fell on ground).

In this way the whole army got vanished with the help of Matrikas. When Shumbha challenged Devi for a solo war, she combined all Matrikas and Kali within herself and said that they are her own manifestations, non different from her. Shumbha and Nishumbha were slayed in the same battle.

2.Death of Andhaka

Andhak was a son of Shiv and Parvati , born from the sweat of Shiva when his eyes were closed by Parvati. Thus , Andhak was born as a blind.
He was given to Hiranyaksa , the demon king by Shiva, and he grew up to be a very powerful ruler. He pleased Brahma with his penance and got a boon that no other being except could kill him.
As, a result he caused havoc everywhere, and at once decided to abduct Parvati. 

Shiva confronted him in the battle with his ‘ Ganas’. However , he possessed a similar power like Raktabeej to generate his clones from his blood drops. 
Soon, there emerged multiple Andhaka in the battlefield. 
To help Shiva, Vishnu generated the Ashtamatrikas , and sent them to the battlefield. These eight warrior goddesses drank the blood of Andhaka before it fell on the ground.
At the end Shiva chopped of the head of Andhaka with his trident. 

Worship of Matrikas

Rigveda mentions the seven group of Goddesses who control the creation of Soma( an auspicious drink mentioned in Vedic scriptures). Refrence to Matrikas are found from the time of Indus valley civilisation. Seals representing seven goddesses have been found in the excavation.

Worship of Matrikas is generally linked to the tradition of Shavism and Shaktism, where they are worshipped as Tantric deities.
During the period of Gupta dynasty ( from 3rd to 6th century), Matrikas became an important deity and were worshipped as the protective Goddess, one who bestows victory in the battlefield.
Worship of Matrikas is not directly linked to the mainstream worship of Devi or Shakti.They are worshipped by a particular community or in a special geographical region, and especially by the people involved in the practices of Tantra.

Like the other female Goddesses Matrikas do not represent the benevolent female aspects. Instead , they are mostly believed to the cause of diseases in children .Furthermore, it is only the Matrikas and related goddesses who can navigate boundary places within and around the city such as crossroads, cremation grounds, and the city’s marked periphery without becoming afflicted by the powers in these places.

They are also worshipped in various parts of India as Yogini . Yogini are matrikas along with their daughters. Each Matrikas originates 8 daughters ,thus making a system of 81 Yogini.

Every part of the natural world is imbued with the sacred, yet over time humans’ relationship to these sites has created the bounds within which they exist today. The Goddess has been worshiped in aniconic form at crossroads, hilltops, rivers, cremation grounds, seas, mountains, forests, groves, and places marking the periphery of communities for millennia. It is exactly in such places that legend, myth, and human experience show is where the Matrikas, Mais and Ajimas dwell. 

The Eight Matrikas

  • Brahmani
  • Vaishnavi
  • Maheshwari
  • Indrani
  • Kaumari
  • Varahi
  • Narsimhi
  • Chamunda

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