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Story and Symbolism of Saptamatrika

When Goddess Durga was fighting the demons, She had seven female Saptamatrikas (seven companions mothers) helping her. The story and symbolism of Saptamatrika is found in the Devi Mahatmya. The names of Saptamatrika are:
  • Brahmani
  • Maheshvari,
  • Kaumari,
  • Vaishnavi,
  • Varahi
  • Indrani
  • Chamundi or Kali

Symbolism of Saptamatrika

In the Saptamatrika goddess cluster, the infant seated on Brahmani’s lap represents the initiate or a devotee who is spiritually only a newborn.

Brahmani signifies the lowest chakra (personified energy centers). She is just initiated into the world of spirituality and Tantra. Maheshvari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi and Indrani are the five middle chakras. They symbolically represents the five rungs of the ladder toward liberation, which the devotee must ascend.

As the spiritual infant passes from one matrika to the next, the spiritual aspirant is progressing along the road to emancipation. Kali or Chamunda represents the uppermost chakra and completes the initiate’s ascent.

Story of Saptamatrika in Devi Mahatmya

Saptamatrikas appeared to help Goddess Durga when she wounded Demon Raktabija, an ally of demons Shumbha and Nisumbha. The blood of Raktabija was semen. This demon had the ability to reproduce himself instantly whenever a drop of his blood fell to the ground.

Durga had already wounded the demon Raktabija, and the drops of his blood that were falling onto the earth were forming additional, duplicate images of him. This time, Durga’s anger knew no bounds.

Saptamatrika helped Goddess Durga to annihilate demon Raktabija and his duplicates. Goddess Chamunda, the personification of Durga’s her rage, emerged from her. I She assisted Durga by sucking all the blood from each demon’s body before any of it could touch the ground. With her gigantic tongue outstretched, she drew the countless duplicates into her mouth and devoured them.

Origin of Saptamatrika in Scriptures

In Vedic texts, the seven mother Goddess originated as the inner power (shakti) of the gods.

Our names were derived by using female suffixes at the end of the names of the gods:
  1. Brahmani from Brahma;
  2. Mahesvari from Mahesvara;
  3. Kaumari from Kumar (or Krittakeyi fromKrittakeya);
  4. Vaisnavi from Vishnu;
  5. Varahi from Varaha;
  6. Indrani from Indra;
  7. and Kali from Kala.
Together, they assisted the great gods in their battles against the dreadful demons.

Saptamatrikas are often depicted in the company of infants, whom we carry on our hips or hold by the hand. Their images integrate aristocratic elegance and maternal love.

Even the terrifying and gruesome, Goddess Kali is depicted as kind and loving mother when she is represented in the midst of Saptamatrikas.

Bibliography - From Curiousity to Devotion The Many Meanings of Kali by Madhu Bazaz Wangu.