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Chinnamasta: The Goddess Without A Head

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Chinnamasta, also known as Chhinnamastika and Prachanda Chandika is one of the Tantric goddesses in Hinduism. In Tantric Buddhism she is known as Chinnamunda. Chinnamasta devi is a form of Shakti who is ferocious and Chinnamasta means, 'severed head'. The Hindu Divine Mother is commonly identified with her fearsome iconography.

Chinnamasta is one of the most outrageous forms of divinity in Hinduism. The self-decapitating Goddess is one of the important and worshipped Shaktipat goddess. Chinnamasta symbolises both life-giver and life-taker. One of the goddesses of Mahavidyas, Chinnamasta is considered both as a symbol of self-control on sexual desire as well as an embodiment of sexual energy, depending upon interpretation.

Chinnamasta: The Goddess Without A Head

The mythology emphasizes her sacrifice with maternal element, her sexual dominance and her self-destructive fury. As her approach is dangerous and ferocious, she is not worshipped everywhere. Her temples are mostly found in Northern India and Nepal. So She is recognised by both Hindus and Buddhists. Chinnamasta is closely related to Chinnamunda - the severed-headed form of the Tibetan Buddhist goddess, Vajrayogini.

Chinnamasta is mostly depicted nude and with dishevelled hair in blood red or black coloured body. In the texts, She is described to be a sixteen-year-old girl with full breasts and has a blue lotus near her heart. She is standing over a naked couple. The couple is said to be Rati, Goddess of sexual desire, and her husband Kama, God of love. Chhinnamasta is depicted wearing a serpent as a sacred thread and a garland of skulls or severed heads and bones like Maa Kali. Blood streams out of her neck and Her two female attendants Dakini and Varnini (also called Jaya and Vijaya) are drinking the blood.

On the left hand, She carries her own severed head (in a platter or a skull-bowl). On the right hand, She holds a khatri (a scimitar or knife) by which she decapitated herself.


There are many stories about the birth of Chinnamasta Devi. One legends of Narada-pancharatra narrates this story- Once while having bath in Mandakini river, Goddess Parvati got sexually excited and turned black. Meanwhile Her two attendants Dakini and Varnini (also called Jaya and Vijaya) get hungry and ask the goddess to satisfy their hunger. Goddess Parvati looks around but couldn't find anything to eat. So She severes her head and the blood flows in 3 directions; one in Jaya's mouth, other in Vijaya's mouth and the third in Parvati's mouth.

Another story shows Chinnamasta who is standing over a naked couple which is said to be Rati and Kama. Standing on the body, the goddess masters the physical body, and to free her mind from this, Chinnamasta cuts her head.

Chinnamasta signifies that life, death and sex- three forms of transformation, three parts of the cycle . Chinnamasta is not that popular as an individual goddess. Tantric practitioners worship Chhinnamasta for acquiring siddhis or supernatural powers. Her mantra is, Srim hrim klim aim Vajravairocaniye hum hum phat svaha.

Read more about: hinduism, gods
Story first published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 14:30 [IST]
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