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The 10 Mahavidyas in Hinduism

The 10 Mahavidyas are Wisdom Goddesses, who represent a spectrum of  feminine divinity, from horrific goddesses at one end, to the gentle at  the other.

The name Mahavidyas comes from the Sanskrit roots, with maha meaning ‘great’ and vidya meaning, ‘revelation, manifestation, knowledge, or wisdom

Mahavidyas (Great Wisdoms) or Dasha-Mahavidyas are a group of ten aspects of the Divine Mother Durga or Kali herself or Devi in Hinduism. The 10 Mahavidyas are Wisdom Goddesses, who represent a spectrum of feminine divinity, from horrific goddesses at one end, to the gentle at the other.

Shaktas believe, “the one Truth is sensed in ten different facets; the Divine Mother is adored and approached as ten cosmic personalities,” the Dasa-Mahavidya (“ten-Mahavidyas”). The Mahavidyas are considered Tantric in nature, and are usually identified as:

Kali:

Kali is the Hindu goddess associated with empowerment
Kali is the Hindu goddess associated with empowerment

The ultimate form of Brahman, “Devourer of Time” (Supreme Deity of Kalikula systems)
kali is the Hindu goddess associated with empowerment, shakti. She is the fierce aspect of the goddess Durga (Parvati). The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death

Tara: The Protector

Tara The Protector
Tara The Protector

The Goddess as Guide and Protector, or Who Saves.Who offers the ultimate knowledge which gives salvation (also known as Neel Saraswati).
tara meaning “star”. As the star is seen as a beautiful but perpetually self-combusting thing, so Tara is perceived at core as the absolute, unquenchable hunger that propels all life.

Tripura Sundari (Shodashi):

Tripura Sundari
Tripura Sundari

The Goddess Who is “Beautiful in the Three Worlds” (Supreme Deity of Srikula systems) or Beautiful Goddess of the Three Cities; the “Tantric Parvati” or the “Moksha Mukta”.
As Shodashi, Tripurasundari is represented as a sixteen-year-old girl, and is believed to embody sixteen types of desire. Shodashi also refers to the sixteen syllable mantra, which consists of the fifteen syllable (panchadasakshari) mantra plus a final seed syllable.
Bhuvaneshvari: The Goddess Whose Body is the Cosmos

Bhuvaneshvari
Bhuvaneshvari

The Goddess as World Mother, or Whose Body is the Cosmos.
The Queen of the Universe. Bhuvaneshwari means the Queen or ruler of the Universe. She is the Divine Mother as the Queen of all the worlds. All the Universe is her body and all beings are ornaments on her infinite being. She carries all the worlds as a flowering of her own Self-nature. She is thus related to Sundari and to Rajarajeshwari, the supreme Lady of the Universe. She is capable of turning situations according to her wish. It is considered that even the navagrahas and Trimurti cannot stop her from doing anything.
Bhairavi: The Fierce Goddess

Bhairavi The Fierce Goddess
Bhairavi The Fierce Goddess

She is also called Shubhamkari, good mother to good people and terrible to bad ones. She is seen holding book, rosary, and making fear-dispelling and boon-conferring gestures. She is also known as Baala or Tripurabhairavi. It is believed that when Bhairavi entered the battle field, her horrible appearance made the demons become weak and very feeble, and it is also believed that most of the demons started panicking as soon as they saw her. Bhairavi is seen mainly as the Chandi in the Durga Saptashati version of slaying Shumbha and Nishumbha. However, she kills and drinks the blood of Chanda and Munda the Chieftains of asuras, so the Goddess Parvati gives her a boon that she would be called Chamundeshwari.
Chhinnamasta: The self-decapitated Goddess.

Chhinnamasta The self-decapitated Goddess.
Chhinnamasta The self-decapitated Goddess.

Chhinnamasta can be easily identified by her fearsome iconography. The self-decapitated goddess holds her own severed head in one hand, a scimitar in another. Three jets of blood spurt out of her bleeding neck and are drunk by her severed head and two attendants. Chhinnamasta is usually depicted standing on a copulating couple.
Chhinnamasta is associated with the concept of self-sacrifice as well as the awakening of the kundalini – spiritual energy. She is considered both as a symbol of self-control on sexual desire as well as an embodiment of sexual energy, depending upon interpretation. She symbolizes both aspects of Devi: a life-giver and a life-taker. Her legends emphasize her sacrifice – sometimes with a maternal element, her sexual dominance and her self-destructive fury.
Dhumavati: The Widow Goddess,or the Goddess of death.

Dhumavati The Widow Goddess
Dhumavati The Widow Goddess

She is often portrayed as an old, ugly widow, and is associated with things considered inauspicious and unattractive in Hinduism, such as the crow and the Chaturmas period. The goddess is often depicted on a horseless chariot or riding a crow, usually in a cremation ground.
Dhumavati is said to manifest herself at the time of cosmic dissolution (pralaya) and is “the Void” that exists before creation and after dissolution. She is often called tender-hearted and a bestower of boons. Dhumavati is described as a great teacher, one who reveals ultimate knowledge of the universe, which is beyond the illusory divisions, like auspicious and inauspicious. Her ugly form teaches the devotee to look beyond the superficial, to look inwards and seek the inner truths of life.
Dhumavati is described as a giver of siddhis (supernatural powers), a rescuer from all troubles, and a granter of all desires and rewards, including ultimate knowledge and moksha (salvation).
Bagalamukhi: The Goddess Who Paralyzes Enemies

Bagalamukhi
Bagalamukhi

Bagalamukhi Devi smashes the devotee’s misconceptions and delusions (or the devotee’s enemies) with her cudgel.
Matangi: – the Prime Minister of Lalita (in Srikula systems)

Matangi
Matangi

She is considered to be the Tantric form of Sarasvati, the goddess of music and learning. Like Sarasvati, Matangi governs speech, music, knowledge and the arts. Her worship is prescribed to acquire supernatural powers, especially gaining control over enemies, attracting people to oneself, acquiring mastery over the arts and gaining supreme knowledge.
Kamalatmika: The Lotus Goddess; the “Tantric Lakshmi”

Kamalatmika
Kamalatmika

Kamalatmika has a golden complexion. She is being bathed by four large elephants, who pour kalashas (jars) of amrita (nectar) over her. She has four hands. In two hands, she holds two lotuses and her other two hands are in abhayamudra (gesture of giving assurance) and varamudra (gesture of conferring boons) respectively. She is shown as seated in padmasana (lotus posture) on a lotus,[1] symbol of purity.
The name Kamala means “she of the lotus” and is a common epithet of Goddess Lakshmi. Lakshmi is linked with three important and interrelated themes: prosperity and wealth, fertility and crops, and good luck during the coming year.

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Please do read our previous post “What are the similarities between Hinduism and Greek mythology? Part 1

So lets continue……
The next Similarity is between-

Jatayu And Icarus :In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a master inventor and craftsman who designed wings that could be worn by humans so they can fly. His son Icarus was fitted with wings, and Daedalus instructed him to fly low as the wax wings would melt in proximity to the sun. After he starts flying, Icarus forgets himself in the ecstasy of flight, wanders too close to the sun and with the wings failing him, falls to his death.

Icarus And Jatayu
Icarus And Jatayu

In Hindu mythology, Sampati and Jatayu were the two sons of Garuda – represented as eagles or vultures. The two sons always competed with each other as to who can fly higher, and at one such time Jatayu flew too close to the sun. Sampati intervened, protecting his little brother from the fiery sun, but gets burnt in the process, loses his wings and falls to the earth.

Theseus And Bhima: In Greek mythology, to prevent Crete from waging war on Athens, a treaty was signed that every nine years, seven young men and seven young women from Athens would be sent to Crete, into the Labyrinth of Minos and ultimately feasted upon by the monster known as the Minotaur. Theseus volunteers as one of the sacrifices, navigates the Labyrinth successfully (with the help of Ariadne) and slays the Minotaur.

Bhima And Theseus
Bhima And Theseus

In Hindu mythology, at the outskirts of the city of Ekachakra lived the monster called Bakasura who threatened to destroy the city. As a compromise, the people agreed to send a cartload of provisions once a month to the demon, who ate not only the food, but also the bulls that pulled the cart and the man who brought it. During this time, the Pandavas were in hiding in one of the houses, and when it was the house’s turn to send the cart, Bhima volunteered to go. As you can guess, Bakasura was killed by Bhima.

Ambrosia and Amrit: The Ambrosia in Greek Mythology, and the Amrita in Hindu Mythology were the food/drink of the gods which conferred immortality on those who consume it. The words even sound alike, and it’s possible that they share an etymology.

Kamadhenu And Cornucopia: In Greek mythology, the newborn Zeus was nursed by many, one of which was the goat Amalthea who was considered sacred. Once, Zeus accidentally breaks off Amalthea’s horn, which became the Cornucopia, the horn of plenty that provided never-ending nourishment.
In Hindu mythology, cows are held sacred as they represent Kamadhenu, usually depicted as a cow with a woman’s head and containing all the deities within her. The Hindu equivalent of the cornucopia, is the Akshaya patra that was provided to the Pandavas,  producing unlimited quantities of food till they were all nourished.

Mt.Olympus and Mt.Kailash : Most major gods in Greek mythology take up residence in Mount Olympus, a real mountain in Greece, believed to be the realm of the gods. One of the different lokas in Hindu mythology where deities resided was called the Shiva loka, represented by Mount Kailash – a real mountain in Tibet with great religious significance.

Aegeus And Drona: This is somewhat of a stretch, as the common theme here is that a father is led to falsely believe that his son is dead, and as a result dies himself.

In Greek mythology, before Theseus left to kill the Minotaur, his father Aegeus asked him to raise white sails in his ship if he returns safely. After Theseus successfully slays the Minotaur in Crete, he returns to Athens but forgets to change his sails from black to white. Aegeus sees Theseus’ ship approaching with black sails, presumes him dead, and in an uncontrollable bout of grief jumps off the battlements into the sea and dies.

Dronacharya And Aegeus
Dronacharya And Aegeus

In Hindu mythology, during the Kurukshetra War, Krishna comes up with a plan to defeat Dronacharya, one of the greatest generals in the enemy camp. Bhima kills an elephant called Ashwattama, and runs around celebrating that he has killed Ashwattama. As it’s the name of his only son, Drona goes to ask Yudhistra if this was true – because he never lies. Yudhistra says that Ashwattama is dead, and as he continued saying that it’s not his son but an elephant,  Krishna blows his conch to muffle Yudhistra’s words. Stunned that his son has been killed, Drona drops his bow and using the opportunity Dhrishtadyumna beheads him.

War on Lanka And War on Troy: A thematic similarity between the War on Troy in the Iliad, and the War on Lanka in the Ramayana. One was incited when a prince abducts a king’s wife with her approval, and another when a king abducts a prince’s wife against her will. Both resulted in a major conflict where an army crossed the sea to fight a battle that destroyed the capital city and the return of the princess. Both wars have been immortalized as epic poetry singing the praises of warriors from both sides for thousands of years.

Afterlife and Rebirth: In both mythologies, the souls of the deceased are judged according to their actions and sentenced to different places. Souls judged as wicked were sent to the Fields of Punishment in Greek mythology, or Naraka in Hindu mythology where they were punished as befits their crimes. Souls judged as (exceptionally, in Greek) good were sent to the Elysian Fields in Greek mythology, or Svarga in Hindu mythology. The Greeks also had the Asphodel Meadows for those who lived ordinary lives, neither wicked nor heroic, and Tartarus as the ultimate concept of Hell. Hindu scriptures define various planes of existence as lokas among other things.

The important difference between the two afterlives is that the Greek version is eternal, but the Hindu version is transient. Both Svarga and Naraka last only till the duration of the sentence, after which the person is reborn, for either redemption or improvement. The similarity comes in that consistent attainment of Svarga will result in a soul achieving moksha, the ultimate goal. Greek souls in Elysium have the option to be reborn three times, and once they achieve Elysium all three times, they are sent to the Isles of the Blessed, the Greek version of Paradise.

Also, the entrance to the Greek underworld is guarded by Hades’ three-headed dog Cerberus, and the entrance to Svarga by Indra’s white elephant Airavata.

Demigods and Divinity: Even if the concept of gods being born, living and dying as mortal beings (avatars) is not present in Greek mythology, both sides have gods descending among men for short periods of time for various reasons. There is also the concept of children born to two deities becoming deities (like Ares or Ganesh), and also the idea of demigod children born to a god and a mortal (like Perseus or Arjuna). Instances of demigod heroes raised to the status of gods were also common (like Heracles and Hanuman).

Heracles and Shri Krishna:

Heracles and Shri Krishna
Heracles and Shri Krishna


Heracles Fighting With Serpentine Hydra and Lord Krishna Defeating Serpent Kaliya. Lord Krishna didn’t kill Kalingarayan (Serpent kaliya), instead he asked him to leave the Yamuna river and go away from Brindavan. Simialrly, Heracles did not kill Serpent hydra, he only placed a huge stone over his head.


Killing of Stymphalian And Bakasur: The Stymphalian Birds are man-eating birds with beaks of bronze, sharp metallic feathers they could launch at their victims, and poisonous dung. They were pets of Ares, the god of war. They migrated to a marsh in Arcadia to escape a pack of wolves. There they bred quickly and swarmed over the countryside, destroying crops, fruit trees, and townspeople. They were killed by Heracles.

Killing of Stymphalian And Bakasur
Killing of Bakasur And Stymphalian

Bakasura, the Crane Demon, simply got greedy.  Lured by Kamsa’s promises of rich and swanky rewards, Bakasura “tricked” Krishna to come close – only to betray the boy by swallowing him.  Krishna forced his way out of course and put an end to him.

Killing of Cretan Bull And Arishtasura : Cretan bull had been wreaking havoc on Crete by uprooting crops and leveling orchard walls. Heracles sneaked up behind the bull and then used his hands to strangle it, and then shipped it to Eurystheus in Tiryns.

Killing of Arishtasura And Cretan Bull
Killing of Arishtasura And Cretan Bull

A true bull-y in every sense of the word.  Aristasur the Bull Demon stormed into town and challenged Krishna to a bull fight that all the heavens watched.

Killing of Horses Of Diomedes and keshi : Horses Of Diomedes were four man-eating horses in Greek mythology. Magnificent, wild, and uncontrollable, they belonged to the giant Diomedes, king of Thrace who lived on the shores of the Black Sea. Bucephalus, Alexander the Great’s horse, was said to be descended from these mares. Heracles the Greek hero slays the horses of Diomedes.

Killing of Keshi the demon horse And Horses Of Diomedes
Killing of Keshi the demon horse And Horses Of Diomedes

Keshi the Horse Demon was apparently mourning the loss of so many of his fellow rakshasa friends, so he approached Kamsa to sponsor his battle against Krishna. Shri Krishna Killed him.

Please do read our previous post “What are the similarities between Hinduism and Greek mythology? Part 1

Post Credits:
Sunil Kumar Gopal
HinduFAQ’s Krishna

Image Credits:
To the owner

There are many similarities among different mythical characters of different epics. I dont know whether they are same or related to each other. Same thing is there in Mahabharata and Trojan war. I wonder if our mythology is influenced by theirs or theirs by ours! I guess we used to live in the same area and now we had different versions of same epic. Here I have compared some of the characters and I tell you this is very interesting.

The most obvious parallel is between Zeus and Indra:

Indra and Zeus
Indra and Zeus

Zeus, the God of rains and thunder is the most worshipped God in Greek Pantheon. He is the king of Gods. He carries with himself a thunderbolt.Indra is the God of rains and thunder and he too carries a thunderbolt called Vajra. He is also the king of Gods.

Yama and Hades
Yama and Hades

Hades and Yamraj : Hades is the God of the netherworld and death. A similar role is carried by Yama in the Indian Mythology.

Achilles and Lord Krishna: I think Krishna and Achilles both were the same. Both were killed by an arrow piercing their heel and both are the heroes of the two of the world’s greatest epics. Achilles heels and Krishna’s heels were the only vulnerable point on their bodies and the reason of their deaths.

Achilles and Lord Krishna
Achilles and Lord Krishna

Krishna dies when Jara’s arrow pierces his heel. Achilles death was caused by an arrow in his heel too.

Atlantis and Dwarka:
Atlantis is a legendary island. It is said that after a failed attempt to invade Athens, Atlantis sank into the ocean “in a single day and night of misfortune.” In Hindu Mythology, Dwarka, a city built by Vishwakarma on the order of Lord Krishna is supposed to have suffered a similar fate of submersion into the sea after a war among the Yadavas, the descendants of Lord Krishna.

Karna and Achilles: Karna’s kawach (armour) has been compared with that of Achilles’s Styx-coated body. He has been compared to the Greek character Achilles on various occasions as they both have powers but lack status.

Krishna and Odysseus: It is the character of Odysseus that is a lot more like Krishna. He convinces a reluctant Achilles to fight for Agamemnon – a war the Greek hero did not want to fight. Krishna did the same with Arjuna.

Duryodhana and Achilles: Achilles mother, Thetis, had dipped the infant Achilles in the river Styx, holding him by his heel and he became invincible where the waters touched him—that is, everywhere but the areas covered by her thumb and forefinger, implying that only a heel wound could have been his downfall and as anyone could have predicted he was killed when an arrow shot by Paris and guided by Apollo punctures his heel.

Duryodhan and achilles
Duryodhan and achilles

Similarly, in Mahabharata, Gandhari decides to help Duryodhana triumph. Asking him to bathe and enter her tent naked, she prepares to use the great mystic power of her eyes, blind-folded for many years out of respect for her blind husband, to make his body invincible to all attack in every portion. But when Krishna, who is returning after paying the queen a visit, runs into a naked Duryodhana coming to the pavilion, he mockingly rebukes him for his intention to emerge so before his own mother. Knowing of Gandhari’s intentions, Krishna criticizes Duryodhana, who sheepishly covers his groin before entering the tent. When Gandhari’s eyes fall upon Duryodhana, they mystically make each part of his body invincible. She is shocked to see that Duryodhana had covered his groin, which was thus not protected by her mystic power.

Helen of Troy and Draupadi:

Helen of Troy and Draupadi
Helen of Troy and Draupadi

In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy has always been projected as a seductress who eloped with young Paris, forcing her despairing husband to fight the war of Troy to get her back. This war resulted in the burning of the beautiful city. Helen was held accountable for this annihilation. We also hear of Draupadi being blamed for Mahabharata.

Brahma and Zeus: We have Brahma changing into a swan to seduce Saraswati, and Greek mythology has Zeus changing himself into many forms (including a swan) to seduce Leda.

Persephone and Sita:

Persephone and Sita
Persephone and Sita


Both were both forcibly abducted and wooed, and both (in different circumstances) disappeared under the Earth.

Arjuna and Achilees: When the war starts out, Arjuna is unwilling to fight. Similarly, when the Trojan War starts, Achilees does not want to fight. The lamentations of Achilles over the dead body of Patroclus are similar to lamentations of Arjuna over the dead body of his son Abhimanyu. Arjuna laments over the dead body of his son Abhimanyu and pledges to kill Jaydrath the following day. Achilles laments on the dead pody of his brother Patroculus, and pledges to kill Hector the following day.

Karna and Hector:

Karna and Hector:
Karna and Hector:

Draupadi, although loves Arjuna, begins to have a soft corner for Karna. Helen, although loves Paris, begins to have a soft corner for Hector, for she knows that Paris is useless and not respected while Hector is the warrior and well respected.

Please do read our Next post “What are the similarities between Hinduism and Greek mythology? Part 2” to continue reading.