Is Udupi Krishna actually Subrahmanya?

Udupi Krishna

There has been an ongoing discussion whether the idol of śrīnivāsa at Tirupati is that of Viṣṇu. On similar lines, a controversy seems to have erupted in Karnataka regarding the idol of Kṛṣṇa in the famous Mādhva shrine at Udupi.

The knowers of Shilpa śāstra suggest that the idol of Kṛṣṇa in the shrine at Udupi does not confirm to the lakṣaṇas laid out in the āgamas for an idol of Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. The idol, according to some experts of iconography, is of Skanda or Subrahmanya.

According to popular belief, this idol was originally from the fabled city of Dvārakā and was obtained by Madhvācārya through a sailor. The idol, known to have been covered with gopīcandana, was consecrated and installed in the shrine at Udupi by Madhvācārya, the founder of Dvaita Vedānta.

There is also the popular tale of Kanakadāsa, pleased with whose devotion, the idol is said to have turned towards the western direction within the shrine at Udupi. But it is now pointed out that the consecration of the original idol was done facing the west and that the tale of Kanakadāsa probably was created during the time (fifteenth century) of prominence of the Kuruba community (shepherds) to which Kanakadāsa belonged. As the idol arrived from the sea which faces the west, it is said to have been consecrated facing the same direction.

This controversy is nothing new, but seems to have gained a new momentum due to discussions on digital and social mediums. Many of the points outlined below are recorded in a Kannada book published by the Indian Archaeological Society named - ‘Udupi: Itihasa and Puratattva’. A researcher and writer named Manjeshwara Mukunda Prabhu has spent more than a decade investigating this subject and has collected various opinions from different research scholars which indicate that the idol is indeed of Subrahmaṇya and not Kṛṣṇa. He published an article for the first time in 1985 with his study which had then created a big controversy. Some of the noted scholars who have studied the idol and its history in depth and conclusively opine that it is indeed an idol of Skanda are:

- Dr. G N Panth, Director, National Museum, New Delhi
- Dr. R C Sharma, Director, Indian Museum, Calcutta
- T V G Shastri, Director, Birla Archaeological and Cultural Research Center, Hyderabad
- Dr V V Krishna Shastri, Director, Government Museum, Mangalore
- Thiru N Harinarayana, Director and Research Scholar, Government Museum, Hyderabad

All these reputed scholars have published their studies supplemented by verifiable proof. P Gururaja Bhatt, in his book, Studies in Tuluva History and Culture (page 331), notes: ‘the absence of kirīṭa is another feature and owing to the impact of age, the face is worn out”. He posits that the idol is much older than the time of Madhvācārya with several interesting implications.

Following are some of the key arguments put forth by these various scholars.

Udupi was originally a śaiva kṣetra

Researchers are of the opinion that Udupi, to begin with, was a śaiva kṣetra. The place gets its name ‘Udupi’ after Chandra (moon) - (Udu+pa = nakṣatrādhipati) who is said to have performed a penance here to please śiva to rid himself of leprosy which he contracted due to a curse from Dakṣa prajāpati. Lord Shiva is said to have appeared here to Chandra, cured him of his affliction and worn him as an ornament, thereby appearing as Chandramaulīśvara. Two ancient temples in Udupi are of Ananteśvara and Chandramaulīśvara. Shivalli, a place near Udupi (known for Shivalli Brahmins) was a famous center of śaiva worship before the time of Madhvācārya. There are references available today that speak of four shrines dedicated to śakti and to Skanda in four directions surrounding the temple of Ananteśvara. Of these, one of the temples of Skanda is missing today, and as recorded in an issue of the Archaeological Gazette of India, the current temple of Kṛṣṇa is known to originally have been this now missing shrine of Skanda.

Iconography of Kṛṣṇa and Skanda idols

It is pointed out that the pose of the idol holding what is alleged to be a churning rod in one hand, with his other hand on his waist - is not associated with idols of Kṛṣṇa and such an idol is not seen elsewhere in India.

(a) The idol sporting a daṇḍa in one hand, is stationed in the heroic pose of ekabhaṅgi or samabhaṅgi (a straight posture with no bends) rather than the tribhaṅgi (three bends of the body at the waist, neck and the knee) which is commonly associated with idols of Kṛṣṇa. Even the aṣṭottara used in the temple of Kṛṣṇa today includes the name: tribhaṅgine namaḥ. Various forms of Kṛṣṇa such as Nartana Kṛṣṇa (dancing posture), Govardhanadhāra (lifting mount Govardhana), Kāliṅgamardana - none of these are seen in samabhaṅgi.

(b) The chief object associated with the idol of Kṛṣṇa is the flute which is also missing in the idol at Udupi. The iconographical details hence seem to match those of Subrahmaṇya instead who is frequently depicted as Daṇḍāyudhapāṇi (bearing a staff in his hand).

(c) According to āgama and shilpa śāstras, some of the common characteristics of an idol or icon of Kṛṣṇa are: śaṅkha and cakra, mukuṭa (crown), peacock feather, vanamālā, śrīvatsa lāñchana, pītāmbara (the idol in Udupi on the other hand is clad in kaupīna - associated with Skanda) and flute. Now, the reasons why this idol is that of Skanda are: samabhaṅgi (discussed earlier), daṇḍāyudha in the hand, kaṭihasta (hand on the waist), kaupīna (loin cloth) and keśālaṅkāra (as opposed to hair covered by a crown in the case of Kṛṣṇa vigrahas).

The idol at Udupi perfectly fits the below popular pratimā lakṣaṇa of a Skanda vigraha from Kumara Tantra:

कल्पद्रुमं प्रणमतां कमलारुणाभं
स्कन्दं भुजद्वयमनामयमेकवक्त्रम् |
कात्यायनीसुतमहं कटिबद्धदाम-
कौपीनदण्डधरदक्षिणहस्तमीडे ||

kalpadrumaṃ praṇamatāṃ kamalāruṇābhaṃ
skandaṃ bhujadvayamanāmayamekavaktram |
kātyāyanīsutamahaṃ kaṭibaddhadāma-
kaupīnadaṇḍadharadakṣiṇahastamīḍe ||

Another similar verse can be seen from the ancient Kāmikāgama:

द्विहस्तो यज्ञसूत्राढ्यः सशिखस्त्रिमेखलः |
कौपीनदण्डधृक् सव्यपाणः कट्याश्रितो अपरः ||

dvihasto yajñasūtrāḍhyaḥ saśikhastrimekhalaḥ |
kaupīnadaṇḍadhṛk savyapāṇḥ kaṭyāśrito aparaḥ ||

Agencies associated with the Kṛṣṇa Maṭha of Udupi deny this theory and insist that the idol follows the guidelines of the work Tantrasārasaṃgraha of Madhvācārya and hence argue that it is no big deal if it defies the well-known rules of āgama and śilpaśāstra. However, this argument makes no sense as the idol (according to the narrative of the Mādhva votaries themselves) existed much before the birth of Madhvācārya, and hence also predates the work Tantrasārasaṃgraha. The very first reference to a churning rod (in the hands of this idol of Kṛṣṇa ) seems to have started from the time of Vādirāja (1480), a Mādhva Yati who first interpreted the daṇḍa as a churning-rod and the channavīta.

Dr. Selvapillai Iyengar, who has a doctorate in śilpaśāstra and is currently serving as a research scholar at KSOU, asks the following questions:

(a) Kṛṣṇa is generally depicted as wearing an urudāma (a thread around the waist or hip, which most traditional Hindus wear to this day), but never holding a rope in his left hand.
(b) Even if the idol did depict a rope, why is it held in left hand and not tied to the churning rod?
(c) Why is the churning rod, if it indeed was one, held in an inverted fashion with the churning end pointed upwards?

Subrahmanya worship in Dakshina Kannada

The idol said to be of Balarāma which also was retreived by Madhvācārya from the ship and installed at Vaḍabhāṇḍeśvara, is again very similar to the idol of Skanda and does not confirm to any lakṣaṇas of an icon of Balarāma. Both idols, researchers opine, are of Skanda and resemble numerous such idols found throughout the region of Dakshina Kannada where the worship of Subrahmaṇya was very popular in the past. Shown below is one such image of Skanda which closely resembles the idol in Udupi alleged to be a Kṛṣṇa vigraha.

Skanda Ido from Dakshina Kannada

Some experts also draw attention to the shrine of Kukke Subrahmaṇya, also situated in the coastal belt of Karnataka, which houses a vigraha that resembles the idol at Udupi. Both these idols exhibit very similar iconographical details popular in the region in the eighth century when Subrahmaṇya worship was at its peak. Also, an expert of iconography from Udupi named P Gururaja Bhatt points out that the daṇḍa, over a period of time, had worn off giving it the appearance of a churning rod, and it is actually a snake, that is mistaken for a rope (talk of adhyāsa!) Alternately, based on the lakṣaṇas of Skanda idols, this is recognized as channavīta. The coastal belt, where primary adherence was to śaiva customs, is recorded to have been effectively influenced to worship Viṣṇu after the establishment of Kṛṣṇa Maṭha by Madhvācārya.

Hagiographical Accounts

There is proof for the existence of the idol (now believed to have been consecrated by Madhva) even before the times of Madhvācārya. Also, the hagiographical Madhvavijaya of Nārāyaṇapaṇḍitācārya does not speak of an idol which bears a churning rod in its hand. This work which provides a keśādipādānta description of Kṛṣṇa, makes absolutely no reference to a churning rod, which is the most significant aspect of the idol at Udupi. Also, other than works of āgama and Tantra which make no mention of a mūrti bearing a churning rod and rope in its hands, Purāṇas such as Brahma, Brahmavaivarta, Bhāgavata, Viṣṇu etc. also do not illustrate such a form of Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu.

The earliest reference to the idol of Kṛṣṇa - even before Vādirāja’s popular narrative, is seen the hagiography Sumadhva Vijaya by one Nārayaṇa paṇḍitācārya, said to be a direct disciple of Madhvācārya:

गोपिकाप्रणयिनः श्रियः पते-
राकृतिं दशमतिः शिलामयीम् |
शोधयन्निह ततो व्यगाहयत् ||
सन्निधानपदतां गतं हरेः |
त्रिंशदुद्यतनरैः सुदुर्धरां
लीलयाऽनयदिमामसौ मठम् || (9.41-42)

gopikāpraṇayinaḥ śriyaḥ pate-
rākṛtiṃ daśamatiḥ śilāmayīm |
śodhayanniha tato vyagāhayat ||
sannidhānapadatāṃ gataṃ hareḥ |
triṃśadudyatanaraiḥ sudurdharāṃ
līlayā.anayadimāmasau maṭham || (9.41-42)

According to popular tradition, Madhvācārya rescued a ship that arrived on the shores of Malpe by waving his saffron robes and guided it to safety in a raging storm. When the owner of the ship offered anything from the ship as a gift for saving his life, Madhvācārya is said to have chosen two logs of gopīcandana which concealed the idols of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. It is this idol that is currently believed to be installed in the temple at Udupi. However, none of the older works, especially the Sumadhvavijaya, make any mention of this tale. According to Nārayaṇa paṇḍitācārya believed to be the direct disciple of Madhvācārya, the idol was retrieved from the depths of the sea by Madhva with the help of his disciples and subsequently installed at the Kṛṣṇna maṭha at Udupi. As clearly seen from the above verses of Sumadhvavijaya, the popular story of the idol arriving in a ship from Dvārakā seems to be a later spinoff.

Based on the hagiographical śaṅkaravijaya, Hastāmalakācārya, a disciple of śaṅkara, who was from this region, is known to have established the earliest idol of Kṛṣṇa in Udupi, which is today rumored to be the ‘Taila Kṛṣṇa' worshipped in the Kangu Maṭha of the Mādhvas. A picture of this idol is shown below.

Majeshwara Mukunda Prabhu posits that Tantrasārasaṃgraha indicates Madhvācārya’s familiarity with āgama and śilpaśāstra and hence it is difficult to believe that he mistook the idol of Skanda for Kṛṣṇa. Also, after the establishment of this idol, for the next 300 years, there seems to have been no dhyāna ślokas composed on the deity by the pontiffs of the Kṛṣṇa Maṭha at Udupi, till the time of Vādirāja in 1500. Prabhu argues that Vādirāja camouflaged the idol with various alaṅkāras (decorations) - one of which happens to be Skandālaṅkāra, and composed verses and songs to popularize the deity as Kṛṣṇa. Below is a verse composed by Vādirāja which seems to be the first description of the idol as Kṛṣṇa which calls the daṇḍa as ‘mantha (churning rod):

कृष्णं वन्दे मन्थपाशधरं दिव्यार्भकाकृतिम् |
शिखाबन्धत्रयोपेतं भैष्मीमध्वकरार्चितम् ||

kṛṣṇaṃ vande manthapāśadharaṃ divyārbhakākṛtim |
śikhābandhatrayopetaṃ bhaiṣmīmadhvakarārcitam ||


The Rites of Protection

The process of protecting oneself, from internal and external foes, is an important aspect of upāsanā. The deities invoked for this purpose are generally of ferocious countenance invoking terror in the minds of the unprepared and undeserving. The primary goal of an upāsaka is the attainment of complete oneness with the Deity, represented by Lalitā Parābhaṭṭārikā in the case of śrīvidyā. Without experiencing both the peaceful and fierce aspects of life, the true Knowledge of the Deity cannot arise within the upāsaka. The human life, subject to the sphere of influence of the five senses and their sensory objects, is obstructed from attaining oneness with the Deity, due to avidyā or ignorance. The refinement of these is essential to overcoming avidyā, and this cannot happen without a full gamut of self-experience - involving both the peaceful and fierce aspects of life (represented by specific deities of significance, skillfully invoked in upāsanā following a definitive scheme).

While many of those deities have their own retinue and systems where they assume a central position, in śrīvidyā, they occupy the position of protective deities within the bigger family of Rājarājēśvarī. They exhibit both the aspects of nigraha and anugraha. While the destruction of enemies and obstacles (ari and vighna) is their aspect of nigraha, protecting the upāsaka characterizes their aspect of anugraha. The enemies can be internal (physical aspects such as lethargy, sleep, inattentiveness, bodily unsteadiness etc.) or external (supernatural forces, material foes etc.) The same applies to obstacles as well. By systematic invocation of these deities before upāsanā of the main deity, one attains Siddhi.

In Bimbāmbikā sampradāya, there are three types of rakṣā vidhis:

1. Nitya - daily practice, which is detailed below
2. Naimittika - followed on special occasions such as Navarātri etc. This employs one of the three groups of sixty-four Yōginī and Bhairavas (classified based on the yōginīkulas of Lalitā of Dakṣiṇāmnāya, Guhyakālī of uttarāmnāya and Chaṇḍikā of upāmnāya)
3. Viśēṣa - (also known as asādhāraṇa) employed in extraordinary circumstances when everything else fails. This involves the difficult prayoga of Mahāgaṇḍabhēruṇḍa Nr̥siṁha accompanied by Guhyakālī, surrounded by a retinue of twenty-five Nr̥simhas (Jvālāmālī & Dhūmakālī to Sarvatejomaya-nr̥simha & Unmattakālī)

As Sampradāya prohibits the discussion of the last two, we can deal with the first and the most important one here.

The four chief deities invoked before upāsanā are:

durgā vighnaṁ ca śarabhamaghōraṁ ca sudarśanam |
ētā samayavidyāstu japēt pratyūhaśāntayē ||

And additionally:

vīrārdanaḥ krōdhasiṁhastathā pāśupatāstrakaḥ |
khaḍgarāvaṇamantraiśca mahābalayugaistathā ||

Thus, the deities to be invoked at the beginning of upāsanā are:

1 Vighnarāja - 4 letters (gaṇaka, gāyatrī)
2 Jayadurgā - 11 letters (nārada, gāyatrī)
3 Sharabhēśvara - 44 letters (kālāgnirudraḥ, jagatī)
4 Aghora - 52 letters (aghōraḥ, triṣṭup)
5 Sudarśana - 19 letters (jayantaḥ, gāyatrī)
6 Vīrārdana - 53 letters (dakṣiṇākālī, atijagatī)
7 Krodhabhairava - 33 letters (pratyaṅgirā, triṣṭup)
8 Mahāsimha - 22 letters (trailōkyamōhanamahāviṣṇuḥ, gāyatryuṣṇiganuṣṭup)
9 Pāśupatāstra - 12 letters (gautamaḥ, paṅktiḥ)
10 Khaḍgarāvaṇa - 17 letters (khaḍgarāvaṇaḥ, triṣṭup)
11 Atibalā and Balā - (virāṭpuruṣaḥ, gāyatrī)

Women replace Khaḍgarāvaṇa mantra with Svarṇākarṣaṇa Bhairava.

Tipu Sultan and the Mass Murder of Mandyam Iyengars

आत्मीयस्थिरजङ्गमाङ्गचरणां प्रादुर्भवद्वह्निना
विश्वारातिमनः शरीरवचसां मार्गं निरुध्य क्षणात्‌ ।
भक्ताभीष्टवरप्रदाननिरतैर्दिव्यैर्भटैः संवृतां
देवीं भैरववामपक्षनिलयां ध्यायेन्महाशूलिनीम्‌ ॥

Karnataka, my home state, shamefully is beginning to celebrate the tyrant Tipu Sultan’s evil birth, yet again - so tell me my friends and students in India. What is even more disheartening is the fact that they are doing it right after Deepavali!

We keep hearing anecdotes of how Tipu Sultan gave money to Sringeri Sharada Peetham etc. It is believed that he reinstated Sacchidananda Bharati who had fled Sringeri after a Maratha attack, and some people even believe that the Chandarmaulishvara Linga worshiped today was a much recent Sphatika Linga gifted by Tipu Sultan (note that it hardly matters to the Glory of Parameshvara who manifested as the all-encompassing Jvala-linga). Whatever may be the extent of his “charity” to Sringeri Mutt, the main reason behind his fraudulent benevolence was the mastermind of Deewan Poornaiah and Tipu’s own anti-Maratha politics. The fact that Sringeri Mutt or one of its seers abandoned their basic sanctity and principles due to greed for money and compulsions of self-preservation by cozying up to a tuchcha turuShka does not make Tipu Sultan a great protector of Hindu Dharma; nor does it make him any less a tyrant and a barbarian. Also, many kupamanduka internet brahmakshatras who debate endlessly, quoting grammatically incorrect verses on sishtachara and issue certificates to others while making twisted, scornful (admittedly funny) expressions of holy admonishment, as though in tivra jathara badha - blindly throng to such mutts and institutions which have dubious records in terms of such unholy allegiances. If several dharma shastras are examined, associating with such institutions which at any point were under the patronage of turushkas makes one patita as well! Who knows, perhaps shuddhi and prayashchitta karma acceptable to these anukulasindhu brahmanas were performed? No wonder, our Gurunatha, after decades of association with several such Mutts gave us one golden instruction - stay away from those places!

Anyway, ranting aside, Tipu was angry at Tirumalaiyyangar, the Governor of Madras state, who was negotiating with the British under the directions of Lakshmammanni of Mysore Royal Family, to put an end to Tipu’s barbaric rule. As retribution, on the day of Naraka Chaturdashi, Tipu’s army attacked Melkote and brutally murdered 800 Mandyam Iyengars along with their young children and wives.

Even to this day, I know several close friends who are Mandyam Iyengars that refuse to celebrate Deepavali. Not celebrating Deepavali since the day of the genocide of Mandyam Iyengars at the hands of Tipu Sultan is a practice that continues to this day in most families from Melkote.

An old dairy of Francois Fidele Ripped de Montaudevert, a French sailor who stayed in Tipu’s court for some time, was found in 1988 in Paris. It reveals several facts conveniently forgotten by our “secular’ historians.

In his diary entry of January 14, 1799, he writes: “I’m disturbed by Tipu Sultan’s treatment of these most gentle souls, the Hindus. During the siege of Mangalore, Tipu’s soldiers daily exposed the heads of many innocent Brahmins within sight from the fort for the Zamorin and his Hindu followers to see.”

We find another diary entry in which Ripaud is appalled at what he witnessed in Calicut (Kozhikode): “Most of the Hindu men and women were hanged...first mothers were hanged with their children tied to their necks. That barbarian Tipu Sultan tied the naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made the elephants move around till the bodies of the helpless victims were torn to pieces.  Temples and churches were ordered to be burned down, desecrated and des­troyed. Christian and Hindu women were forced to marry Mohammedans, and similarly, their men (after conversion to Islam) were forced to marry Moha­mm­edan women.”

Of course, none of this matters to the bhrashtas who run Karnataka today. However, the change has to come from within! When we have Hindu institutions like the Sringeri Mutt gushing over their association with this patita turushka (related links below) and possibly still employing gifts from this tyrant in their daily ritualistic observances, we Hindus end up with no moral authority to complain against the imbeciles who currently govern Karnataka.

Note 1: From Sringeri Mutt website
Note 2: List of records from Sringeri Mutt
Note 3: Sandeep Balakrishna's book Tipu Sultan - The Tyrant of Mysore - is a good read on this topic

Celebration of 1000th year of the Genius of Acharya Abhinavagupta

1. Dr. Padma Subramaniam - Welcome Address
2. Dr. N Gopalaswami (former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Chairman of Kalakshetra) - Inaugural Address
3. Dr. Bharat Gupt (University of Delhi, Musicologist) - Introduction to Vyakhyā
4. Dr. K D Tripathi (Scholar of Kashmira Shaiva Darshana, Tantra, Sanskrit, Agama and Natyashastra - Banaras Hindu University) - Keynote Address
5. Dr. Shatavadhani R Ganesh - Alaṅkāra śāstra and Dhvanyālōka
6. Dr. C S Radhakrishnan (Dept of Sanskrit, University of Pondicherry) - Is Dhvani confined only to the domain of Aesthetics?
7. Dr. Pappu Venugopala Rao (Ashtavadhani, Musicologist) - Tantālōka
8. Dr. R Nagaswamy Shastri (Historian, archaeologist & epigraphist) - Tantra and Temples of Kashmir
9. Dr. Godabarisha Mishra (HOD of Dept of Philosophy, University of Madras) - Brahmādvaita and Saṁvidādvaya
10. Dr. Venugopalan (Dept of Sanskrit & German, Chandrashekharendra Sarasvati Vishvavidyalaya, Kanchipuram) - Reflections of Pratyabhijñā School in Gītārthasaṅgraha of ācārya Abhinavagupta
11. Dr. Rajashree Vasudevan (Doctorate in Philosophy - Aesthetics & Poetry, University of Madras & Kalakshetra) - Abhinavagupta and Aesthetics in Pratyabhijñā śaiva darśana
12. Prof. Siniruddha Das (Director, KVS Research Foundation) - Abhinavagupta’s unpublished commentary on Prabodhapañcadaśikā
13. Dr. Advaitavadini Kaul - Reflections on the Genius of Abhinavagupta

Kumari Puja

Chidambaram Kali

Worship of Bhagavatī is incomplete without the worship of Kumārī. The Tattva of Kumārī is not only represented by Bālā Paramēśvarī, but also in the form of Chaṇḍīkā of Saptaśatī. Kumarī is the Primordial state of Parā which is the original state before the creation of names & forms, and the final state that remains after the dissolution of names & forms. Every state, including that of Shiva, emerges and dissolves with the great Kumārī. Though she appears in Mātr̥bhāva due to the origin of thirty-six tattvas including Shiva from within her, she forever remains a virgin and her Kumārītva remains intact. As stated in the Shivasūtra, icchāśaktirūpā kumārī - her will reigns supreme.

The worship of Kumārī can be done for physical and material well-being based on Aparātantra, usually during the evening following smārta procedures. To attain the complete grace of Mahāmāyā, one should worship Kumārī also through the procedures of Kulāmnāya as detailed in the Mahākāla Samhitā during the night.

By definition, Kumārī is a girl child before the awakening of kāmavāsanā. The worshiper should be in a similar state of mind during the worship, failing which, immense harm will come to him. Generally, a child of seven to nine years with both parents alive is chosen.

The tantras go into great detail regarding the worship of Kumārī. As the Primordial state before creation is that of Kumārī, she is considered to be ādyā. This is the reason Kāmākṣī at Kāñcīpura is considered ādikumārī and not consort of any male deities that are created by Her. For the purposes of worship, an odd number of children are to be selected: five, seven, nine or eleven. After having decked the Kumārīs with colorful clothes, ornaments, and jewelry, they are made to sit in a row on comfortable seats. The sādhaka performs prāṇāyāma, gurupādukānusandhāna, saṅkalpa, bhūtāpasaraṇa etc. Then the feet of the Kumārīs are washed with lukewarm perfumed water, and the feet are dried with one’s own uttarīya. There is a procedure to perform bhūtāpasaraṇa again at this point as it believed that various other deities arrive to worship the Kumārī in their subtle forms along with their retinue of deities, and some of these companion demigods can be mischievous by nature.

Kumārī nyāsa is performed in different organs by invoking the below deities through their mantras:

Mahācaṇḍayōgēśvarī - head
Siddhikarālī - face
Siddhivikarālī - eyes
Mahāntāmārī - ears
Vajrakapālinī - nose
Muṇḍamālinī - cheeks
Aṭṭahāsinī - teeth
Chaṇḍakapālinī - shoulders
Kālacakrēśvarī - heart
Guhyakālī - arms
Kātyāyanī - stomach
Kāmākhyā - mūlādhāra
Chāmuṇḍā - back
Siddhalakṣmī - thighs
Kubjikā - knees
Mātaṅgī - calves
Chaṇḍēśvarī - head
Kaumārī - full body

The nine Kumārīs worshipped, aged one to nine are:

1. Sandhyā
2. Sarasvatī
3. Trimūrti
4. Kālikā
5. Subhagā
6. Umā
7. Mālinī
8. Kubjikā
9. Kālasaṅkarṣiṇī

It is also important to worship a five-year-old boy as Vaṭuka and a nine-year-old boy as Gaṇapati, as they are considered to be sons of Mahādurgā.

When doing elaborate worship, there is also the practice to invoke the eight Mātrikā Bhairava mithuna:

1. Asitāṅgabhairava and Mahāmāyā
2. Rurubhairava and Kālarātri
3. Chaṇḍabhairava and Sarvamaṅgalā
4. Krodhabhairava and Damarukā
5. Unmattabhairava and Rājēśvarī
6. Kapālabhairava and Sampatpradā
7. Bhīṣaṇabhairava and Bhagavatī
8. Samhārabhairava and Kumārī

The Kumārīs are worshiped through sixteen upacāras, fed with delicacies of their choice and propitiated through stotras.

There is also the procedure to worship, during Sharannavarātra, the nine aspects of Kumārīs as the Navadurgās, one per night. This gives a special characteristic to the festivities - Kumārīnavarātrōtsava.

1. Hr̥llēkhā
2. Gaganā
3. Raktā
4. Mahāśrayā
5. Karālikā
6. Icchā
7. Jñānātmikā
8. Kriyā
9. Durgā

Sri Kamalambika

Sri Kamalambika

अष्टाविंशतिमन्त्रात्मफलकाकीलितासनायै नमः
कारणेशपरित्यागनित्यानन्दनिजासनायै नमः
उपसंहारसायाह्ननीराजनसुरक्षितायै नमः
वरप्रासादचक्रस्थकालकल्पितविग्रहायै नमः
सप्तकोटिमहामन्त्रजनन्यै चित्परायै नमः
व्योमव्यापिमहामन्त्रवर्णितानेकशक्तिकायै नमः
परापरमहामन्त्रनायकस्तुतवैभवायै नमः
मन्त्रमाहेश्वरप्रोक्तमहावैभवमण्डितायै नमः
शुद्धपञ्चाक्षरज्योतिःसंस्थितानन्दविग्रहायै नमः
दुर्वासोमुनिनाक्लृप्तस्वागमार्चनपूजितायै नमः
दुर्वासोमुनिनाक्लृप्तस्वतन्त्रविषयाद्भुतायै नमः
मूलादिद्वादशान्तस्थमन्त्रसिंहासनस्थितायै नमः
पातालबुद्बुदाकारतेजोलिङ्गमहाकृतये नमः
महाविष्णुमहारुद्रश्रीकण्ठानन्दतुन्दिलायै नमः
आसीनोत्थाननटननानाताण्डवपण्डितायै नमः
एकादशमहाकोटिरुद्रावरणसंस्थितायै नमः
वाग्बीजकामराजाख्यपराबीजत्रयाभिधायै नमः
सविमर्शप्रकाशात्मसहजानन्दविग्रहायै नमः
मार्ताण्डभैरवाराध्यवीरखड्गविराजितायै नमः
कमलालयमध्यस्थ्य चक्रराजनिकेतनायै नमः

aṣṭāviṁśatimantrātmaphalakākīlitāsanāyai namaḥ
kāraṇēśaparityāganityānandanijāsanāyai namaḥ
upasaṁhārasāyāhnanīrājanasurakṣitāyai namaḥ
varaprāsādacakrasthakālakalpitavigrahāyai namaḥ
saptakōṭimahāmantrajananyai citparāyai namaḥ
vyōmavyāpimahāmantravarṇitānēkaśaktikāyai namaḥ
parāparamahāmantranāyakastutavaibhavāyai namaḥ
mantramāhēśvaraprōktamahāvaibhavamaṇḍitāyai namaḥ
śuddhapañcākṣarajyōtiḥsaṁsthitānandavigrahāyai namaḥ
durvāsōmunināklr̥ptasvāgamārcanapūjitāyai namaḥ
durvāsōmunināklr̥ptasvatantraviṣayādbhutāyai namaḥ
mūlādidvādaśāntasthamantrasiṁhāsanasthitāyai namaḥ
pātālabudbudākāratējōliṅgamahākr̥tayē namaḥ
mahāviṣṇumahārudraśrīkaṇṭhānandatundilāyai namaḥ
āsīnōtthānanaṭananānātāṇḍavapaṇḍitāyai namaḥ
ēkādaśamahākōṭirudrāvaraṇasaṁsthitāyai namaḥ
vāgbījakāmarājākhyaparābījatrayābhidhāyai namaḥ
savimarśaprakāśātmasahajānandavigrahāyai namaḥ
mārtāṇḍabhairavārādhyavīrakhaḍgavirājitāyai namaḥ
kamalālayamadhyasthya cakrarājanikētanāyai namaḥ

Mahabhairavachandograghora Kali

Sri Lalita Parameshvari

शत्रुव्यूहभयङ्करं जनिमृतिध्वंसं रसज्ञाकृतिं
मायाकार्यदवानलं सुरतरुं सत्यं शिवं श्रीकरम्‌ ।
उग्रं दक्षिणकालिकाकरलसन्तं सर्वशक्त्यात्मकं
ध्यायेत्तं वरखड्गदेवमनिशं भद्रात्मजं सुन्दरम्‌ ॥

Not all āgamas agree that the number of Kālīs are twelve; some declare they are thirteen. But twelve, resulting as it does from the multiplication of the two sacred numbers 3 and 4 - is generally agreed upon. These Kālīs are divided into three groups of four:

- The first of the prameya or the known
- The second of the pramāṇa or means of knowledge
- The third of the pramātr̥ or the knower

The śaktis of the Prameya that manifest the states of creation, conservation, destruction, and ineffability are respectively Sr̥ṣṭikālī, Raktakālī, Sthitināśakālī and Yamakālī. These deities call attention to the self-sufficiency of Shiva and complete power over the individual’s existence. Arising from the divine recesses, the four goddesses of this group perform the functions of the limitation of the subject as well as of the creation, maintenance, and destruction of empirical objects. Sr̥ṣṭikālī is the creative power. Raktakālī is the power of assuming the means of sensory knowledge, of judgment (buddhi), of the sense of “I” (ahaṅkāra) and of attentive capacity or manas, which however are only the external forms of the subject. This is indeed the sustenance of the empirical individual. The third, Sthitināśakālī, is the power of annihilation of the object, which is absorbed into the subject’s consciousness through self-contraction. Such a notion presupposes that all aspects of knowledge - subject, object, and means - are momentary. Consequently, as soon as the object is known it becomes the content of subjective mind. The fourth, Yamakālī, allows for the rise of doubt towards an object of experience. It is a self-assumed limitation of the subject, which is then destroyed. These four śaktis produce the potential creation of the individual and the world, their actual creation and maintenance, the re-absorption of the objectivity into the individual, subjective doubt with respect to the objectivity, and finally, the absorption of this doubt.

The śakti of pramāṇa manifesting those very states are, in order, Samhārakālī, Rudrakālī and Mārtāṇḍakālī. This second group of four śaktis accentuates the destruction of the individual’s means of knowledge. Samhārakālī terminates the apprehension of objectivity as dependent on the means of knowledge. The resultant understanding views the object as interiorly grasped within the subject or puruṣa, and is expressed in the notion - ‘the objects of experience are non-different from me’. Mr̥tyukālī is an even stronger power! She goes beyond the non-dual relation of the object to the subject and makes the object merge into the subject. The seventh śakti, Rudrakālī, generates the subject with a relation towards a mental object. She is discursive, and still on the level of duality, although the group to which she belongs is in the process towards unity. This seventh śakti, embodying as she does a discursive relation, lessens the transcendental integrity of her group. The eight śakti, Mārtāṇḍakālī effects the identification of the five perceptual capacities or jñānēndriyas, the five active capacities or karmendriyas, the attentive capacity or manas, judgment or buddhi, along with the “I” sense or ahaṅkāra; so that a concentration in the “I” sense alone remains. Now, this perception as “I” exists neither in the empirical nor in the transcendental sense, but in a re-orientation of the first towards the second. Through her achievement of the partial involution of categories, the self becomes poised for complete involution. This is a preparatory stage for the full realization accomplished by the following group of śaktis.

The śaktis of the pramātr̥ are Paramārkakālī, Kālānalārudrakālī, Mahākālakālī and Mahābhairavacanḍōgraghōrakālī. This last and most transcendental group of four śaktis engenders liberation through the destruction of the limited subject. The ninth śakti, Paramārkakālī, causes the merging of the “I” sense into the limited subject. The tenth śakti, Kālānalārudrakālī, produces the identification of the limited self and the Supreme as expressed in the sentence, “I am all this!” This is the pure wisdom category of Shiva’s transcendental aspect. The eleventh, Mahākālakālī, is the experience of “I am all this”, with the object having so fused with the subject that the “I” is almost completely self-sufficient. Finally, the twelfth, Mahābhairavacandōgraghōrakālī, is the ineffable vibration of Shiva, the liberating vision of one’s own divinity, through which the category of Divine Power is attained.

The Effect of Music

Panchamundi - Navamundi Asana and Kali, Tara & Srividya


In Pañcamuṇḍī āsana, Kālī stands on Sadāśiva, the fifth part of the āsana. The yogin who identifies with this image performs the sādhanā of the dark fortnight of the kālacakra. It developed from the first night of the dark fortnight to the new moon night. This dark fortnight is associated with the yogic experience of the stages of Bindu or Ardhacandra. In the final stage of Unamanā, represented by the night of the new moon, Mind no longer exists, only the great Void or Mahāśūnya remains. The yogin can proceed this far by his own effort but finds Mahāśūnya a great obstacle. Without the grace of Mahāśakti, the yogin cannot ascend further into the kingdom of citśakti. The image of Kālī standing on the Pañcamuṇḍī āsana represents the yogic work of piercing this Mahāśūnya.

In the Navamūṇdī āsana, Paramaśiva is the āsana#; he is not in the form of a corpse, but only asleep over the corpses of the five deities. Arising from the lotus born of his navel is Rājarājēśvarī or Lalitā who presides over him. In the Pañcamuṇḍī āsana, Kālī symbolizes the new moon and the yogin arrives at the foot of the Goddess, but in the Navamūṇdī āsana, Rājarājēśvarī symbolizes the full moon, where the yogin attains the lap of the Great Goddess. The Pañcamuṇḍī āsana is on this side of Mahāśūnya, but the Navamūṇdī āsana is on the other side of it. The goddess Tārā has a position somewhere between these two Great Goddesses, though Mahāmahōpādhyāya Gopinath Kaviraj has not specified her role in his writings.

We can trace the symbolism associated with these three Great Goddesses to several texts where Krama Dīkṣā is followed by the sādhanā of triśakti - Kālī, Tārā, and Srīvidyā, the three most important Goddesses among the maṇḍala of the ten Mahāvidyās. They are worshiped in succession for the sake of transcending Mahāśūnya. Kālī stands in the cremation-ground signifying the dissolution of the universe; she signifies the end of the fifteen kalās. Srīvidyā is also called ṣōḍaśī, or the stage of sixteen kalās. Tārā is between fifteen and sixteen; some say she is between the yogic experiences of samanā and unmanā. Tārā is the Goddess who leads across to the other shore beyond time; she presides over the transformative process. Tārā, then, would be associated with the coagulation and melting of samskāras, i.e., the repeated ascent and descent of mind that precedes the attainment of the sixteenth kalā as yugala.

Kaviraj specifies that there is indeed the need to cross Mahāśūnya but this is beyond the four aṇḍas of the universe. The Pañcamuṇḍī āsana is said to exist in the causal ocean which is also known as cidākāśa. Sleeping in that ocean is the kṣara puruṣa who contains within himself the five adhikāri dēvatās - Brahmā etc. Beyond him is the akṣara puruṣa who sleeps in the super causal ocean or śuddhākāśa. He is none but Paramaśiva who sleeps because he is deluded by akṣarā prakr̥ti who arises from him to create a dream-universe. The aim of Navamūṇdī āsana is to awaken Paramaśiva which will dispel that dream.

Thus, the akṣara puruṣa is the target of the Navamūṇdī āsana. His sleep is the root-ignorance which must be dispelled forever. Since creation began, the akṣara puruṣa has been separate from the līlā of Parā Prakr̥ti. If he wishes to enter that līlā, he shall have to give up his nature as puruṣa, i.e., he shall have to become a higher order prakr̥ti or Paramā Prakr̥ti Herself. This can be achieved only if he can effect a permanent union with akṣarā prakr̥ti because the union is fusion or synthesis which results in ontic transformation symbolized here as the awakening of Paramaśiva. If viewed within a certain context, we can observe that Kaviraj has homologized akṣarā prakr̥ti with Pūrṇāhantā.

Given the importance of Pūrṇāhantā as a central goal in the traditional schools of Tantra, it is striking to discover that in his discussions, Kaviraj refers to Pūrṇāhantā itself as the basic form of ignorance - it is that which blocks the attainment of collective liberation. Pūrṇāhantā is sakala mahābindu which is the śākta symbolism related to the mystic theory of kāmakalā, is called the sun (sūrya), itself the product of the amorous union of fire (Agni) and moon (Soma), or śiva and śakti. In the śākta tantras, Mahābindu is called the divine desire or aprākr̥ta kāma. The universe appears like a child in the womb of Mahāśakti due to this aprākr̥ta kāma.

If the sleeping Paramaśiva is to awaken from his dream, yōgamāyā or pūrṇāhantā as the root-ignorance must be pierced. As in all Tantra sādhanas as distinguished from darśanas such as Advaita Vedānta and Mahāyāna, ignorance is not only merely to be transcended, but also to be transformed and united with higher principles in a new integration.