Sri Matangi Devi is not one of the more commonly known goddess forms; however, She appears in varying conceptions all across the Indian subcontinent, from the frigid mountains of Tibet to the steaming jungles of Tamil Nadu. Her Dhyanas are very diverse, and change quite a lot depending on the Tantra consulted -- Her complexion can range from white (She is the Tantric Saraswati) to brown or black (She is a tribal Chandala; an outcaste) to blue or green (She is Meenakshi Madurai, and also a form of Kali); with two or four arms, holding various different weapons and other items -- most often a veena (Indian lute).
The top illustration at right is a painting I made in an attempt to express Her totality, combining common elements of the dhyana mantras for Ucchista Maatangini from the Brihat Tantrasaara, Maatangi from the Purashcharyaarnava, and Raja-Maatangi from the Purashcharyaarnava and Saaradaa-tilaka. The second picture illustrates a very different Matangi dhyana, set out fully in its caption. The third shows yet another traditional conception.
She is seated on an altar and has a smiling face and a green complexion. Her eyes are intoxicated. Her clothes and all of Her ornaments are red. Around Her neck is a garland of kadamba flowers. She is sixteen years old and has very full breasts and a very slim waist. She holds a skull on Her left side and a bloodied chopping blade on Her right, And She plays a jewel-encrusted veena. Her hair is long and wild, and the disc of the moon adorns Her forehead. She perspires slightly around Her face, which makes Her all the more beautiful and bright. Below Her navel are three horizontal folds of skin and a thin vertical line of fine hair. She wears a girdle of jeweled ornaments, as well as bracelets, armlets, and earrings. She represents the 64 arts and She is flanked by two parrots.
I meditate on Matangi,Who, seated on a gem-studded throne, listens to the sweet utterances of the parrot,is aglow with youth,has one foot on the lotus, has her forehead bedecked with the crescent moon,plays on the veena,has a garland of jasmine flowers, has a fitting bodice adorning her,wears red garments,has a conch-vessel,is inebriated with honey sweet wine, has the vermilion mark on her forehead adding luster to it.Matangi, the daughter of sage Matanga, supportively plays the ruby-bejeweled veenaleisurely in her self-glorycharming in her sweet vocal expression of song her delicately soft limbs, lustrous like sapphires.
Matangi is a primary form of the all-powerful Goddess known in Hinduism as Devi. She appears most prominently as one of the Dasha Mahavidyas (Ten Wisdom Goddesses) of Tantric Hinduism, but may also be considered a more primal and fearful form of the popular Goddess Saraswati.
Whereas Saraswati presides only over Creation, governing traditional knowledge and arts, Matangi also contains elements of Destruction -- by which She severs the attachments that bind humans to the mundane world, paving the way for more unorthodox and revolutionary forms of Creation, knowledge and art.
She is called the Outcaste Goddess because She prefers to dwell outside the mainstream, and also because She facilitates the "polluting" process by which Divine Unstruck Sound is manifested on Earth in the form of human speech, literature and music. Meditation upon the esoteric aspects of Matangi provides a bottomless source of meaning, insight, and inspiration.
Goddess Parvati (Devi) was away visiting Her father Himalaya, when Her consort Lord Shiva began longing for Her, and growing jealous in Her absence. So Shiva disguised Himself as an ornament vendor and appeared at Himalaya s door. Parvati selected a few shell ornaments, but when She asked the merchant his price he asked Her to pay him with sexual favors. Outraged at his presumption, Parvati was about to curse the man when Her divine intuition revealed he was actually Shiva in disguise, apparently out to test Her fidelity. Concealing Her knowledge of His true identity, She replied, "Yes, fine, I agree. But not just now." And She sent Shiva on His way.
Later, as Shiva prepared for His evening prayers on the shores of Manas Lake, Parvati came to teach Him a lesson. She took the form of a beautiful outcaste girl, a member of the wild hunter-gatherer tribe known as the Chandalas. She was dressed all in red, Her body lean, Her eyes large, Her breasts full -- and She began a seductive dance by the lakeside, near the place where Shiva sat.
Enthralled, Shiva asked Her, "Who are you?" She replied, "I am Matangi, daughter of the Chandalas. I have come here to do penance." Shiva smiled. "I am the One who gives fruits to those who do penance," He said, and he took Her hand and kissed Her, and then He made love to Her. While they were thus engaged, however, Parvati abruptly transformed Shiva into an outcaste Chandala Himself -- whereupon He immediately realized that Matangi was his wife.
Parvati told Him, "Since You made love to Me in the form of a Chandala girl, She will henceforth be one of My permanent forms, to be known as Ucchista Chandalini." That is, Matangi, the Outcaste Goddess, who governs all that is leftover and polluted. And so Matangi took Her place as one of the Ten Wisdom Goddesses, the primary forms of Devi/Parvati. And some time later, when Parvati and Shiva argued and He threatened to leave, Matangi joined the other Mahavidyas in blocking His every exit, thereby demonstrating (among many other things) Devi's ultimate power over Shiva -- and His utter inseparability from Her.
This is only one of the many beautiful myths surrounding Matangi and Her origins. It is taken from the Praanatosini-tantra and other sources. Additional versions relate Her to such pan-Hindu Goddesses as Kali and Lalita Tripurasundari, as well as to more localized deities -- most notably, Tamil Nadu's Meenakshi Madurai.
If you would like to read more about Matangi Devi, here is a longish essay I wrote about Her some time ago.
If you would like to hear some hymns to Matangi Devi, the prodigiously talented Carnatic (South Indian) classical vocalist Nithyasree Mahadevan has released a CD of hymns to Meenakshi Madurai, two of which focus on Matangi. The album is volume two of Chasur's "Ksetra" series, and is entitled, Kshetra: Sri Minakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Madurai
Here's a track listing, along with purchase information.
|ANOTHER DESCRIPTION OF MATANGI
(Here is another discussion of Matangi, courtesy of "Exotic India.")
The Goddess Matangi is one of the Dasha Mahavidyas (Ten Wisdom Goddesses). She is Siddha Vidya or Tantra personified, thus commanding occult power. On the mundane level, she is the daughter of the sage Matanga, who is said to have been the preceptor of Shabari of the Ramayana fame.
At the edge of her throne sits a parrot seemingly rapt in the music she is creating. Beside her is a conch-shell. The gentle intoxication caused by the honey-sweet wine mentioned in Her dhyana-shloka (set out below the image)> Madhur Madhu Madaam is suggested by the dreamy expression in Matangi's eyes. Two birds are artistically positioned and the subtle juxtaposition of light and shade makes the color scheme effective. The lotus flower under the feet of the Devi is in full glory of bloom.
Being a goddess of the Tantra system, the crescent moon on Matangi's forehead here reminds the aspirant on the path of Tantra of the sacrifices he will have to make to obtain siddhis. The veena tells us of her mastery over music, rather of the symphony of life in this universe, and of man's need to harmonize his life to avoid all jarring extremes. The old folk saying, "Tighten it not so much that it breaks, Loosen it not so much that no music emanates," is equally applicable to life.
The parrot, with its tendency to repeat all it hears, symbolizes the inexorable law of karma, the belief that one cannot escape the consequences of one's acts. It also represents the world of nature. With one foot on the lotus, the Goddess controls the terrestrial world in tranquility and serenity, while the other foot, lifted on to her throne, represents her sovereignty over the celestial domains. The devotee invokes her with the following verse:
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