SaptaMatrikas and Matrikas

Nora
They are indeed an interesting group of goddess, and in the hindus perception of divine feminine, they occupy an important place. Nevertheless the myth about the Matrkas does not only confine in vast hindu pantheon, but also in the others culture

" Mother womb
create of destiny,
queen of the earth mountain
queen who allots the facts
Queen who bear
Women who open the womb"
[ from an ancient Iraqi invocation over clay pieces of the Seven creating women and seven child bearing woman]

Its seem hard not to associate these invocation to the SaptaMatrkas.Again it is said that the 51 skulls that's Kali wears represent the 51 Matrkas [ letters of the Sanskrit Alphabet ] which constitutes the Goddess in the form of sound. These letters too are shown on the petals of the six charkas.And according to the lore of Tantra Yoga, "The Matrkas are sure to gather round the Yogi who unwaveringly clings to the meditative solitude" [ biography of Milarepa]

So this brings us back to the main questions : Who are these Matrkas? Their association ? Their Characteristic and their functions?

Candamunda is one of the Matrkas and also one of the 64 yoginis who are themselves daughters of the SaptaMatrkas. There are many different myths about the origins of the Matrkas. They are being mentioned several times in several text namely the Mahabrahta, Devi Mahatmya, Linga-purana, matsya purana, Bhagavata purana and Visnudharmottara purana. They have a common attributes namely the auspicious and the inauspicious form. More often they are being known for their inauspicious form. By and large they always function as a group and shared a common attributes. And they are unspecified in numbers. As auspicious form they function as a supportive role in maintaining dharmic cosmic order as:
1) Warrior Goddesses.

a) In Devi Mahatmya : As Seven Mothers, they battle together with Durga, Sivaduti and Camunda against Subha and Nisumbha.

b) Matsya purana they assist Siva in combating against Andhaka.

c) In association with Karttikeya [ Murugan], they fought with him against demon.

In relation to the battle they fought together with Karttikeya, some of these Matrkas are described as having lovely form, cheerful, fair skin and youthful. Others are often depicted as having long nails, large teeth and protruding lips. They inspire their foes with terror, and they are like Indra in battle. They live in trees, at crossroads, on mountains, at spring, in burning grounds, and they speak a variety of language. More often they are dark skin.

2) As Mothers, there several myth about the role the Matrkas played especially with Hanuman and Karttikeya

a) Karttikeya : Its is said Karttikeya was born from the spark of Sivans third eye into six babies. He was looked after by six Mothers [ possibly gauris ] till he is a young boy. Parvathi then came, and merge all these six babies into One : Murugan. These six mother then became stars. And it is said that during Karthegei night, these six stars are visible in the night sky.

b) A myth tells a story of two sisters give birth to half a child, they abandoned the deformed creatures at cross roads. Jara, a demon goddess { she feeds on flesh and blood } take the child away, combined the two infants into a whole being and she gives the whole child to the king. In gratitude the king orders that she be worshipped throughout the region at a great festival in her honour.

As inauspicious form ( of which they are commonly referred to ) they are often depicted as ferocious , terrible , dangerous to children and pregnant woman. There are several myths to this association with children, more often with Karttikeya

The Matrkas are being send by Indra to kill the youth Karttikeya shortly after his birth. When theyapproached the child, however their breast ooze milk and they asked him to adopt them as his mothers.

Two of these goddess are described as

a) born of anger and to carry a spike on her head

b) bad tempered of red complexion, a daughter of the sea and live on blood.

Another myth in association with Karttikeya : mention about a host of ferocious and terrifying ones , born from the child when Indra strikes hi with his thunderbolt. These goddess are as follows : Kaki, Halima, Malini. Brhali, Aryu, Palala, and Vaimitra. Karttikeya eventually adopt them as his mothers.

With regards to the Six mothers who take care of baby Karttikeya, there is another myth to the story. It is said that the six mothers who take care of Karttikeya are the wives of six sages. They have been wrongly accused for being Karttikeya real mothers. They are being divorced by their husbands. They came to Karttikeya and appeal to him to adopt them as their mother. As a group they are being called the MahaMatrkas [ the great mother].

He agrees to become their adopted son and asked them if they have any wishes . They made two wishes namely to be recognized and worshipped as the great goddess and to live off the children of men because they themselves have been divorced and cheated of having a children of their own. Karttikeya however refused to grant them the second wish, but instead told them that they can play a "protective" role as mothers to these children. Karttikeya later told them that they can torment children until they reach 16 year old.

Another group of 10 goddess are also being mentioned : Vinata, Putana, Raksasi, Aditi ( or Revati ), Diti, Surabhi, Saraa, Karu, Lohitayani, Arya. These group of goddess are said to afflict children or pregnant women.

Its hard to think of goddess inflicting on Children and Pregnant Women. As goddess they should be a protective, but the reverse with regards to these group of Matrkas. But if you think about it especially in India where there is lack of medical facilities [especially in rural areas] and inoculation especially for children, and there is increase in infant death, in such an unfair situation, you have to blame on someone.

Accepting death of a child is always hard. Children are more prey to disease, and the silent thieves in the night that steal their lives away need to be given faces and some reason to their death. Its something they can rail against and direct their anger towards.

So who else can take the blame and anger but the Goddess themselves.!!!

It is said they prey on children until they reach sixteen years old when they go through a reversal and become protectors. Once a child survives into adulthood [ sixteen yrs of age] they fall under the Matrkas protection. Then they become benevolent surrogate mothers to these almost-adults.

Perhaps this explain the famous quotation : What does not kill you makes you stronger.

devi_bhakta

Nora, you point out that "they are born when the Devi loses control of her concentration. This suggests the Matrkas' essentially uncontrolled natures. Born from lack of mental control, they lack control themselves." In another post, you list their association with the human vices.

Just as Maryamman is associated with disease, the Matrikas are seen as being behind the illness and death of children.

Since Devi is All, it is inevitable that some of Her forms will represent the most fearful elements of Nature.

The Hindu scholar Devdutt Pattanaik notes that the Seven Mothers are the "handmaidens of Chandi [Durga or Parvati], Who "declared Her seven handmaidens would be worshipped as virgin mothers."

Pattanaik adds, "The cult of the Seven Mothers is found all over India. ... Pregnant women and nursing mothers worship them. When these goddesses are angry, they make women barren and strike newborns with fatal fevers. When they are appeased, they ensure the health and happiness of children."

This is what I don't understand: If the Matrikas "lack control themselves," how are we supposed to appease them? Should we even try? It seems to me that they are an acknowledgement that the whims and disasters of Nature cannot be avoided. So why do we approach them at all? Why do we not focus all of our energies on more positive images of Devi? Thanks to Nora and any other members for their thoughts on this question!

Aum Maatangyai Namaha

Nora
" If the Matrikas "lack control themselves," how are we supposed to appease them? Should we even try?

Well they say the same for Maa Kali

"… is a goddess who threatens stability and order. Although she may be said to serve order in her role as slayer of demons, more often then not she becomes frenzied on the battlefield, usually becoming drunk on the blood of her victims, that she herself begins to destroy the world that she is supposed to protect"

And Maa Kali is not short of admirers what more faithful followers. Why would any one wants to worship Maa Kali in the first place if she too always seems to "run out of control herself" and as we know she did not "run out of control" for a long time, because then comes Siva, who somehow finds a way of how to encounter Kali's fury and wrath.

a) Siva becomes a corpse: to stop her rampage, Siva lay down on the battlefield like a corpse so that when she dance on his body she would stop, recognizing him as her husband.

b) Siva becoming an infant: by invoking the maternal instinct of Kali. As a true mother, as soon as Kali heard the cries of an infant in distress, she stopped her dancing, pick up the infant and nurse him.

These two instances tell us that we can therefore approach Maa Kali in two forms: as a corpse or as an infant. As infant: approaching Maa Kali as a helpless child. Even though the mother can be fearsome and sometime hostile, a child would still cling and return to the mother for protection, security and warmth. As the saying goes: you can never separate the bond between a child and a mother .

"Though she beat it, the child clings to its mother crying, "mother" " Ramprasad.

The infant too symbolizes the benign energy needed to counteract and maintain the "equilibrium" between the negative and the positives forces.

As a corpse: Maa Kali herself conveys death, destruction, fear and terror. Like in my previous post on Camunda, basic psychological message convey is 'to overcome the fear". The fear of death itself. Corpse too symbolizes our detachment from the materialistic world. Because once you are dead: you become the ashes (if cremated) or just a skeleton (buried). Your entity or your "self" ceased to exist. You became part of the universal or the great soul.

The corpse too is food for Maa Kali. She is said to adorn herself with pieces of human corpse, baths in river of blood, and uses human skull as drinking vessels. Having said all that about Maa Kali, lets get back to the Matrkas. To me the behaviors of the Matrkas are no different than what is portrayed of Maa Kali. The Matrkas are too part of Mother. In Devi Purana they are said to be the multiform of the Mahavidyas. Now to say that the Matrkas are totally out of control is not true because they too have their limitations. Its when they go beyond the limits that they become Demons and Asuras, thereafter need to be punished. The following instances explain as to why I say the Matrkas is not totally uncontrollable:

1) After the battle the Matrkas announce they will now proceed to devour all the gods, demons and people around the world. Siva commands them not to do this, but they ignore him and begin a rampage of destruction. Siva summon Narasimha, Vishnu's man-lion who creates a host of benign goddess, they in turn calm down the terrible Matrkas and stop their destruction, of which they did.

2) The demon Sumbha has accused Devi of false pride an haughtiness, for in the foregoing encounters she has relied not on her own strength but on that of others. At this point, Devi proclaims her relation to the apparently heterogeneous forms of the Goddess: " I alone exist here in the world, what second, other than I, is there? O wicked one, behold these are my hierophanies (or extraordinary powers) entering back into me…. Thereupon, all the goddesses, ledby Brahmani, went to their resting place in the body of Devi, then there was just Devi alone. Subsequently, Devi throws own the gauntlet for the final combat:"when I was established here in many forms, it was by means of my extraordinary power. That is now been withdrawn by me. I stand utterly alone. May you be resolute in combat"

So back to the question as to: should we even try?

Its not 'try" but do we want to. It still boils down to each individual as to weather they feel connected to the Divine Mother in her auspicious form like Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parashakti etc, or in her inauspicious form like Kali and Camunda. In her inauspicious form, we are reminded to look beyond the terrifying and fearsome physical appearance. If you were in love with someone, you would not care as to how she/he looks like, but what that persons mean to you. The same for Maa Kali , Maa Camunda and the Matrkas too. It is true that we cannot avoid the whims and disasters of Nature, but in my opinion, the Matrkas too is like a reminder to us that the state of stability and peace is not permanent. Often we forget this. To think that this stability is permanent is an illusion/Maya. This is to tell us that Mother can strike us in her most merciless form like earthquake, floods, droughts etc and able to kill thousands. It is how we handle such disaster. We are well aware that such natural calamities are not permanent. It usually occurs for short period of time after which we will find a way of how to overcome it or to rebuild our lives back again.

Now go down to a personal level. How do we handle personal crises? When we are faced with for example a sudden death of a loved one or have lost our property etc.



The Saptamarkas as mention in the Devi Mahatmyam
[ Glory of the Divine Mother ]
The 700 mantras on Sri Durga
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