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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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Tridevi - the three supreme Goddess in Hinduism

The Tridevi (त्रिदेवी) is a concept in Hinduism conjoining the three consorts of the Trimurti (Great Trinity), that are personified by the forms of Hindu Goddesses: Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati or Durga. They are the manifestations of the Adi Parashakti, the Supreme Being and Divine Mother in Shaktism.

Saraswati:

Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge
Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge

Saraswati is the goddess of learning and arts, cultural fulfillment (consort of Brahma the creator). She is the cosmic intelligence, cosmic consciousness,and cosmic knowledge.

Lakshmi:

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth
Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth

Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and fertility, material fulfillment (consort of Vishnu the maintainer or preserver). However, she does not signify mere material wealth like gold, cattle, etc. All kinds of prosperity, glory, magnificence, joy, exaltation, or greatness come under Lakshmi.

Parvati or Durga:

Durga
Durga

Parvati/ Mahakali (or in her demon-fighting aspect Durga) the goddess of power and love, spiritual fulfillment (consort of Shiva the destroyer or transformer). She also depicts the transformational power of divinity, the power that dissolves multiplicity in unity.

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Well, there are many reasons why people ask this  question and there are many answers to the question. People ask this question out of  genuine interest, genuine curiosity, genuine confusion and even out of meanness. So, here are the many answers for why are there many Gods in Hinduism.

Lalbaug Cha Raja
Lalbabu Cha Raja Ganpati and His Millions of Followers

1. There are ‘no-god’ religions, ‘one-god’ religions and ‘many-gods’ religions in this world. ‘Many-gods’ religions are as natural as the  ‘no-god’ religions and ‘one-god’ religions. They just evolved, because God / Nature loves variety. As simple as that.

2. Let us turn this question around. If you are asking  why there are multiple gods in Hinduism, you should also ask why there is only one-god in Abrahamic religions? Why? Why? Why only one God?

3. The ‘one-god’ religions truly do not have one-god. They had many gods and the followers of each God fought with the followers of other gods literally to establish their own superiority  and they made their god as the ‘only available  God’ and called it ‘One-God’. And the story doesn’t stop  there. Whenever there is in-fighting, a new branch of the religion gets created. All the hundreds of branches have different  notions of the same God and fight over their differences. Major branches actually kill and heap abusing each other.

4. The One-God religions are like political parties. The followers rally behind  their God like captive voters of political parties follow their leaders. They want to argue that their God is ‘true’ God and everyone else’s God is ‘false’. How can there be ‘true’ or ‘false’ Gods, if there is only one God?

5. Hinduism is not like a political party. Hindu Gods do not ask for  ‘acceptance’ or ‘belief’, just like Sun, who doesn’t need your or my acceptance or belief for his existence. There is no ‘true’ Sun or false ‘Sun’.   Hinduism is about contemplating and understanding  the oneness of Universe. It is called Brahman, Tat or Aum and by  many other names. But you may ask, why so many names? Because all Natural  objects have multiple names. Sun has many names in many languages. Water has many names in many languages. Only man-made objects have ‘one’ name. For example, Coke, a man-made name is same in  every language.  Toyota, a man-made entity, is the same in every language. The religions that have only one-God that goes by only  one-name must have been man-made religions.

6. The Universe is big. It is not only big in  size, but also in its aspects and  qualities. Each aspect is deep in itself to understand.  For example, the universe regenerates itself continuously. That is one aspect. The universe maintains itself in a state of equilibrium. That is another aspect. The universe gives raise to a diverse set of organisms. That is yet another aspect. The  universe has energy and it moves. That is one more aspect. But also the  universe stays as is  for long time. That  is another aspect. Each God of Hinduism represents one aspect of the Universe.

7. Since our minds are small, we cannot hold the full image of God. Therefore the god you see and the god your brother or sister sees is  going to be different. In stead of fighting over and branch out into multiple religions and denominations, Hinduism says that your image of God is what you can relate to, so go with it. And similarly your brother’s image of God is what he can relate to, so he will have to go with it. You have no business about  your brother’s image of God and your brother has no business about your image of God. You can leave it at that. But if you are a friendly person and if you value your brother as much as you value yourself, you would be curious about his image of god and he would be curious about your image of god. When you exchange each other’s image of God, you will both see a ‘bigger picture’ of God. So for the sake comfort, keep your image of God. For  the sake of  growing, gain a better image of God, by exchanging your ideas of God with your brother. Once you keep growing and your brother keeps growing, both of your images converge to the  same infinite god. No need to fight. Just keep all the Gods. This is the most beautiful and open concept about gods that mankind has ever created. It is free for you to take. What are you waiting for ?

Do read our post: Are there really 330 million Gods in hinduism?