The Goddess Bhairavi Devi with Shiva (detail of goddess), Indian, c. 1635.
chinnamasta. I love my headless mommy.
Bhavani, a fierce aspect of Parvati, is flanked by two attendant figures. The eight-armed goddess holds an associated attribute in each hand: in one she holds the head of the demon Mahishasura, in another a sword. She is the tutelary deity of the Maratha ruler Shivaji, to whom she is said to have once presented a sword. All three figures hold a trident, associating the image with Śiva-worship, as Parvati is Śiva’s wife.
Gouache painting on paper
© Trustees of the British Museum
With Indra’s city still under siege, the gods arrange the marriage of Siva and Tripura-sundari. After some time the goddess, with her female associates (saktis), goes off to battle Bhanda and his army. Tripura-sundari produces many weapons from the noose and goad that she carries in her hands. Bhanda is amused by the army of females and predicts that they will be as ineffective in battle as the name of their leader, Lalita (soft and delicate), suggests. Tripura-sundari and her army, however, turn out to be superior to Bhanda and his army. In the course of the battle the two chief protagonists, Tripura-sundari and Bhanda, produce various beings from their bodies. Bhanda creates a number of demons that are well known in Hindu mythology, and Tripura-sundari counters by bringing forth a corresponding deity or avatara to defeat the demon. Bhanda, for example, creates Hiranyakasipu. Lalita in turn produces Prahlada, who in the well-known Vaisnava myth defeats Hiranyakasipu. Bhanda brings forth Ravana, and Tripura-sundari creates Rama from one of her fingernails. In the course of the battle Bhanda also creates Mahisasura. The goddess responds by producing Durga, who is ornamented with jewelry given to her by many male gods. Durga then slays Mahisasura, as she does in the famous Devi-mahatmya. Finally, the goddess defeats Bhanda himself. After the battle, the gods, led by Kama-deva’s wife, Rati, implore Tripura-sundari to restore the god of love, whom Siva had destroyed. She does so, and desire is restored to the world. The gods praise her in unison.
Come, Mother, come!
The Goddess Vasurimala
Mid 19th Century
Indian Art Collection
Peabody Essex Museum
Sex & Death
Random clipping from my bedroom wall
Chhinamasta, “She Whose head is severed”